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(1954). International Journal of Psychoanalysis. XXXIII, 1952: Stages in the Development of Control Over Fire. Alexander Grinstein. Pp. 416-420.. Psychoanal Q., 23:140-141.
Psychoanalytic Electronic Publishing: International Journal of Psychoanalysis. XXXIII, 1952: Stages in the Development of Control Over Fire. Alexander Grinstein. Pp. 416-420.

(1954). Psychoanalytic Quarterly, 23:140-141

International Journal of Psychoanalysis. XXXIII, 1952: Stages in the Development of Control Over Fire. Alexander Grinstein. Pp. 416-420.

Freud wrote: 'in order to possess himself of fire, it was necessary for man to renounce the homosexually tinged desire to extinguish it with a stream of urine'. Grinstein discusses three questions.

1. What forces were responsible for the renunciation of the urge to urinate on the fire? Grinstein suggests that the parents were the important agents. He cites numerous myths in which woman is regarded as the original owner of fire and her phallic power has to be destroyed for man to obtain the secret of fire. The emphasis on the aggression against the mother suggests that it was she who originally demanded instinctual renunciation from her children.

2. Does our knowledge of the stages of libidinal development suggest that

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any pregenital or preurethral controls were associated with the development of control over fire? Here the author offers much material relating the control of fire to the control of impulses, both libidinal and aggressive, characteristic of oral and anal levels of development. This is related to the gratification the mother supplies, and the renunciation she demands, of the pregenital impulses of the child. At the time of final attainment of the urethral inhibition emphasized by Freud, there had already developed a synthesis of the pregenital impulses with those of the higher phase.

3. What were the psychic reasons for man's learning the secret of starting a fire? Grinstein refers to the making of fire by striking objects together or by friction. The first method is related to the control over aggressive impulses. The second, the friction method, is related to the platonic version of the Prometheus myth which is suggestive of the primal scene. Only after man was able to inhibit and sublimate some of his phallic impulses could he work out with tools an expression of his incompletely gratified sexual longings, and thus learn to kindle fire.

The fact that in many myths it is the father figure from whom fire is stolen is related to the history of human development. Characteristically, in the myths in which fire is stolen from the father there is no allusion to pregenital functions, and hence these myths may be regarded as developmentally of a later stage in the control of fire than those in which fire is taken from a mother figure. These myths may refer to different stages in the development of civilization, when the tribe was under the domination of an omnipotent woman, or an omnipotent man, as in matriarchal or patriarchal society.

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Article Citation

(1954). International Journal of Psychoanalysis. XXXIII, 1952. Psychoanal. Q., 23:140-141

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