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Schmideberg, M. (1930). The Rôle of Psychotic Mechanisms in Cultural Development. Int. J. Psycho-Anal., 11:387-418.

(1930). International Journal of Psycho-Analysis, 11:387-418

The Rôle of Psychotic Mechanisms in Cultural Development

Melitta Schmideberg

Insanity in individuals is something rare; in nations, groups, parties and epochs it is the rule.—NIETZSCHE.

Psycho-analysis has not only taught us to understand the individual better, but has also added considerably to our knowledge of the psychology of races. In his fundamental work, Totem and Tabu, Freud demonstrated several important corresponding processes in the mental life of savages and neurotics. In the following paper I intend to continue this line of thought, by examining whether there are resemblances between primitives and psychotics, and how far-reaching they are.

'In Korea the spirits are in possession of every quarter of the heavens and every foot of earth. They lie in wait for man by the road-side, in the trees, in the rocks, in the mountains, the valleys and the rivers. They spy upon him ceaselessly day and night. … They are ever about him, before and behind; they fly about his head; they call to him from the bowels of the earth. Even in his own house he has no refuge: the spirits are there also, in the plaster of the walls, and in the timber of the rooms. … Their presence in every spot is a hideous parody of the omnipresence of God'. 'The phantasy of the Oregons wanders terrified in a world of ghosts. … There are no rocks, no paths, no streams, where there are no ghosts'. 'So great is the fear of the imagined activities of the disease-maker, that the life of the people of Tamoia and Erromanga is embittered by constant anxiety and care'. 'In many villages of Bakongo, life becomes a torment because of the never-ceasing charges of sorcery'.

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