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Rickman, J. (1957). Appendix I. Need for Belief in God(1938). The International Psycho-Analytical Library, 52(1):384-390.

(1957). The International Psycho-Analytical Library, 52(1):384-390

Appendix I. Need for Belief in God(1938) Book Information Previous Up Next

John Rickman, M.D.

1. Introduction

Freud's classical work Totem and Taboo brought religion within the framework of the Oedipus complex and made clear the hitherto inexplicable connection between the totem feast and exogamy on the one hand and the human conscience on the other, but it does not explain several later developments of human custom, e.g. the endogamy which is almost obligatory in many religious communities; the obligation to marry someone who eats the same God in the same way, i.e. people who are joined in the Eucharist.

The psycho-analytical contribution to the study of religion falls into three confluent streams; these may be roughly classed as centring on

a)   the activities of the (Primal) Father.

b)   the influence of the Mother'S activity in the child'S conception of the primal scene; and

c)   the activity of the child'S own psychical processes particularly in respect to early direct relationships.

Theories are mainly associated with the work of (a) Freud, (b) Roheim-Ferenczi and (c) Klein, respectively. I shall deal almost entirely with the last.

The theories of the primal horde deal with the father'S interference with the sexual activity of the adolescent sons, their cannibalistic destruction of him and his return as a ghost in the pricks of conscience if the orphaned horde sought satisfaction from the females of the horde. The main figure in this primal drama is a ‘whole object’ and is external; when introjected as conscience or super-ego it behaves more or less as did the father figure in real life.

The typical punishment is castration, the typical method of avoiding trouble is to avoid the father'S women-folk.

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