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Ferenczi, S. (1934). Thalassa: A Theory of Genitality. Psychoanal Q., 3:1-29.

(1934). Psychoanalytic Quarterly, 3:1-29

Thalassa: A Theory of Genitality

Sándor Ferenczi



In order to avoid making the confession later on and to excuse beforehand our daring incursion into an alien scientific field, we should like to emphasize once and for all that the idea of seeking a kind of historical parallel to the individual experience of the catastrophe of birth and its repetition in the act of coitus was not imposed upon us by any of the facts of natural science, but only by psychoanalytic experience, in particular by observations in the sphere of symbolism. For if through observations a hundred times repeated one becomes confirmed in the preconception that in symbolic or indirect forms of expression on the part of the psyche or the body, there are preserved whole portions of buried and otherwise inaccessible history—much in the manner of hieroglyphic inscriptions from out of the prehistoric past—and if, an equal number of times, the deciphering of these symbols and characters in the history of the individual proves valid, it is perhaps understandable, and at the same time its own excuse, that one should also venture to make use of this method of cipher-reading to decode the vast secrets of the developmental history of the species. As our teacher Freud has often repeated in connection with similar attempts, it is certainly no disgrace if one goes astray in making such flights into the unknown. At the worst, one will have set up a warning signpost on the road one has traversed which will save others from similarly going wrong.


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