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S., A. (1942). Applied: E. Isaac-Edersheim. 'Messias, Golem, Ahasver. Drei mythische Gestalten des Judentums.' ('The Messiah, Golem and Ahasuerus. Three Mythical Figures of the Jews.') Internationale Zeitschrift für Psychoanalyse und Imago, Bd. 26, Heft 1, S. 50–80, Heft 2, S. 177–213 and Heft 3/4, S. 287–315.. Int. J. Psycho-Anal., 23:89-90.
Psychoanalytic Electronic Publishing: Applied: E. Isaac-Edersheim. 'Messias, Golem, Ahasver. Drei mythische Gestalten des Judentums.' ('The Messiah, Golem and Ahasuerus. Three Mythical Figures of the Jews.') Internationale Zeitschrift für Psychoanalyse und Imago, Bd. 26, Heft 1, S. 50–80, Heft 2, S. 177–213 and Heft 3/4, S. 287–315.
(1942). International Journal of Psycho-Analysis, 23:89-90
The first part of this paper deals with the Messiah. It is largely deveoted to showing the significance of sacrificial anointing as a symbol of receiving the spiritual power of the God, king or father who has been killed. For this purpose it draws its facts and arguments from such varied sources as Robertson Smith, Spencer and Gillen, Frazer, Róheim and Freud in his Totem und Tabu. It also shows that the Messiah stands for three things: the hero who kills his father, king or God; the person who suffers for the guilt of that act; and the slain God, king or father who has come to life again.
The second part of the paper is concerned with the Golem. He, also, is in some sense a 'Saviour'. But he is an incomplete being, made by a man at the behest of God to protect the Jews from their persecutors. The main legend dates from the seventeenth century, at a time when the Jews in Central Europe were being hard pressed, and concerns the Golem of Prague, who was created out of clay by the Rabbi Löw. This legend has earlier prototypes and many later elaborations, and, of course, many parallels in non-Jewish stories and myths. The Golem was partly a 'good' figure, who helped his creator against his enemies, and partly a 'bad' one—a sinister, dumb, soulless creature who was apt to run amok and work destruction with his terrific strength, and who had, in the end, to be destroyed himself.
Some attempts at a non-analytic interpretation of the Golem have been made, but they do not as a rule go deeper than the conscious view of him as symbolizing God's help to the Jews against their enemy in time of trouble. An analytic interpretation would stress the importance of the rôle played by the creator of the Golem, the Rabbi Löw himself. This act of creation represents man's
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endeavour to usurp the place of God and form living beings as he does—i.e. it represents the child's wish to make children, like its father and mother. Such an underlying wish would account for the sense of sin which envelops the whole theme of the Golem.
The Golem-legend can be shown to occupy three levels of thought. The top level contains the accepted, conscious view of the Golem as a saviour of the Jews. The second level, not a conscious one, expresses man's desire to rebel against God and to create beings, just as God created him. The third level belongs to the deepest parts of the unconscious. Here, the Golem is actually God himself—partly as a result of a reversal of attributes, by which the Golem's unfinished, automatic and 'dead' state represents God's self-sufficient, all-knowing and immortal nature, and partly through man's inmost desire to debase God (i.e. his father) to a state far below himself.
The third part of the paper discusses the figure of Ahasuerus or the Wandering Jew. The story of the Wandering Jew first appeared in a book published in 1602. According to it, when Christ was carrying the Cross he leant to rest himself against the house of Ahasuerus; but Ahasuerus abused him and drove him away. As a punishment Christ condemned him to wander through the world till the Day of Judgement. After wandering for a hundred years Ahasuerus, who had repented, was allowed by God to live on as a witness of the sufferings of Christ and to help in the conversion of people to Christianity.
This book had a widespread success and was translated into almost every European language. Ahasuerus became a legendary figure, and, from the eighteenth century onward, as religious belief gave way to philosophic and literary interest, he took on many aspects, from the Flying Dutchman to Prometheus, the liberator of man and the victim of the spite of the gods. He is certainly also closely associated with Cain and Judas Iscariot.
Although the appeal of this legendary figure is profound and universal, no satisfactory elucidation of it has been made. No doubt the hatred of Christians for Jews is a constant factor; and the Reformation with its atmosphere of increased hatred, doubt and sense of guilt had an immediate effect in creating the story. But the legend has echoes far outside Jewry, and there is even a Buddhistic parallel to it.
Like the Messiah and the Golem, Ahasuerus is the projection of deeply repressed human desires. He represents the old God who has been driven out by the new God and returns to revenge himself, thus symbolizing the return of the repressed. He also represents the aspect of hatred and aggression in man's ambivalent attitude to his god which he feels as God's hatred and aggressiveness towards him. Within the field of the Jewish-Christian religion the more God became a Christian God, i.e. a God of love and mercy, the greater, naturally, would be the amount of repressed hatred that had to be projected on to this figure. Thus, to the Christian, Ahasuerus would stand for the harsh, vengeful God of the Hebrews who had been ousted by the milder god of Christianity, but who, by the law of Talion, was always threatening to return and dislodge his successful rival.
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S., A. (1942). Applied. Int. J. Psycho-Anal., 23:89-90