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Edelheit, H. (1974). Crucifixion Fantasies and their Relation to the Primal Scene. Int. J. Psycho-Anal., 55:193-199.

(1974). International Journal of Psycho-Analysis, 55:193-199

Crucifixion Fantasies and their Relation to the Primal Scene Related Papers

Henry Edelheit


The primal scene schema is a construct based on Freud's classical formulations of psychosexual development. Primal scene fantasies are here regarded as expressions of the primal scene schema, with crucifixion fantasies and their alternates constituting an important class of primal scene fantasies.

The primary form of the primal scene schema is expressed in the child's double identification, simultaneous or alternating, with the copulating parents. A sadomasochistic interpretation of the sexual act is an expectable and usual concomitant of this identification. This primary form of the primal scene schema serves as the mental framework for male–female ambiguity as well as for normal expressions of psychic bisexuality.

A secondary (or regressed) form of the primal scene schema is expressed in the combined image of the nursing mother and child superimposed upon the image of the copulating parents. This form of the primal scene schema provides the mental framework for mother–child ambiguity, the prototype for fused identifications and other mental and cultural representations of self-dissolution.

The primal scene schema embraces all phases of instinctual development and seems to become manifest even in the absence of primal scene exposure. However, it may be possible to demonstrate the effects of actual exposure when it does occur and is in fact traumatic.

In crucifixion fantasies (which may be either conscious or unconscious) the figure of Christ nailed to the cross represents the combined image of the parents and at the same time, by way of the

double identification with the parents, it represents the helpless, observing child.

In the context of crucifixion fantasies, the secondary (regressed) form of the primal scene schema is represented in identifications with the Madonna, or with the Madonna and Child. The two forms (primary and secondary) find condensed expression in the Pietà—the image of the Virgin holding the dead Christ. Georg Groddeck (1951) has seen the same relationship in the crucifixion itself: 'Mother and son are nailed together, but can never draw near to each other.' (The Pietà with the sexes reversed can be seen in the image of Lear bearing the body of Cordelia.) The fact that the primal scene schema can embrace both the Crucifixion and the myth of Oedipus is an unexpected bonus and suggests that we are dealing with a psychological universal which is valid across cultural boundaries.

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