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Van Teslaar, J.S. (1915). Imago: Zeitschrift für die Anwendung der Psychoanalyse auf die Geisteswissenschaften. Psychoanal. Rev., 2(3):341-346.
Psychoanalytic Electronic Publishing: Imago: Zeitschrift für die Anwendung der Psychoanalyse auf die Geisteswissenschaften

(1915). Psychoanalytic Review, 2(3):341-346


Imago: Zeitschrift für die Anwendung der Psychoanalyse auf die Geisteswissenschaften

J. S. Van TeslaarAuthor Information

(Vol. I, No. 5)

1.   The Influence of Sexual Factors on the Origin and Development of Language. Hans Sperber.

2.   The Meaning of Salt in Folklore. E. Jones.

3.   The Psychology of Travel. DR. Alfr. Frh. V. Winterstein.

4.   Psychoanalytic Notes on Goethe's Wahlverwandtschaften. J. Harnik.

5.   Philosophy and Psychoanalysis. S. Ferenczi.

6.   Reply to Dr. Ferenczi. J. J. Putnam.

1.   The Influence of Sexual Factors on the Origins and Development of Language.—The problem of the origins of language has led numerous investigators to the formulation of various theories. Most of the speculative theories on the subject have been reviewed recently by Borinski, in his Ursprung der Sprache (1911). A perusal of Borinski's monograph is sufficient to convince one that the subject is still in a chaotic state.

Psychologists are not wanting who doubt the relevance of the problem itself as a psychologic question. Wundt, for instance, to mention the most weighty instance of scepticism, points out that an inquiry into the origins of language implies the belief that at one time the human race was without language. As nothing we know about man's history warrants such a belief, the idea of a pre-glossal stage is entirely fictitious and to speak of the origins of language is to posit a problem which has no basis in fact.

Against this extreme scepticism Sperber takes exception. This writer holds that a psychological inquiry into the origins of language is perfectly legitimate. Such an inquiry need not concern itself necessarily with the very earliest beginnings, but may furnish valuable

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information about the dynamic factors which have rendered language the supreme tool of human intercommunication.

Language, Sperber contends, must have arisen upon the repeated observation that sounds emitted upon certain occasions or accompanying certain activities exert some definite influence upon one's neighbor.

The problem of the origins of language, then, resolves itself into an inquiry as to the conditions which may have favored such chance observations. Bearing in mind the peculiar mental structure of man's ancestors, the following conditions are postulated by Sperber as favoring the development of vocal intercommunication:

(a) An individual uttering some simple sound or cry under the stimulus of a heightened emotion of some sort; (b) another subject, within hearing distance, capable of being affected by such a sound; (c) the presence of a motive pleasurable, or at least useful, to the reacting subject, and thus, (d) linking the two individuals together in some common purpose. In addition to all that, the situation must be (e) of a simple character, permitting easy association, and (f) often repeated, thus favoring the establishment of lasting associations.

The usual conception that language began during the hunting period with the warning cry is faulty in the light of these prerequisites, unless we are willing to ascribe to primitive man some altruistic motive in warning his neighbor of the approach of danger. This conception also errs on the score of complexity: hunting is an operation not quite simple enough to lend itself to associations with vocal utterances.

Sperber argues that only two situations fulfill the requirements for the development of language as outlined above, namely, nursing of the infant at the breast, and sexual activity in its strictly physical sense.

The activity of nursing as a possible source of language may be dismissed at the outset. The adult does not learn the use of language from the infant; with the exception of the infant's first few reflex sounds, the reverse is the fact: the infant absorbs language from the adult. Moreover, the influence of child language on the development of language in general is very small.

Thus, by a process of exclusion, Sperber arrives at sexuality or sexual activity as the most logical—perhaps the main—source of language.

At this juncture the question arises: How does this theory explain the development of language, or its use, in non-sexual relations and activities?

In order to answer this question Sperber indulges in a very circuitous

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line of reasoning. Perhaps we may attempt here a restatement, in brief form, of his argumentation.

Sperber points out, in the first place, that heretofore the distinction between the problem of the meaning of words or of particular groups of words has not been sufficiently distinguished from the larger problem of the origins of language itself. His hypothesis answers—satisfactorily, he believes—the latter problem. As to the question of the uses of language in non-sexual relations, it admits of an easy answer in the light of that hypothesis if we acquiesce in the additional presuppositions that man's non-sexual use of language developed probably when he reached the tool using stage and that the use of tools was almost invariably associated with lustful outcries on account of the well recognized erotic component of man's early activities.

Numerous words from various groups of languages relating to the primitive activities of man are examined by Sperber, and though they belong to widely scattered languages, their history shows that all such words have passed alike through a stage when their meaning and uses had a distinct sexual tinge; many such words still preserve their erotic by-meaning in various dialects, notably words relating to the tilling of the earth or designating agricultural implements, etc. Moreover, the roots of all such words designate activities and functions in terms of analogy with the sexual.

2.   The Meaning of Salt in Folklore.—In the portion of this study previously abstracted (see THE PSYCHOANALYTIC REVIEW, Vol. II, No. 2), Jones analyzed the superstitions and popular beliefs about salt as phenomena of ordinary symbolization. The present portion of the study is devoted to a study of the infantile roots of salt symbolism.

Freud's theory of infantile sexuality furnishes the basis as well as the framework for the synthetic work of Jones, specifically the theory that children formulate definite ideas or fancies concerning impregnation and childbirth and that these early fanciful notions are later forgotten or repressed. Numerous beliefs and customs involving salt appear to be nothing more than survivals of fanciful notions about impregnation through food, or through the admixture of solids with liquids, or through other equally fanciful means that suggest themselves to the mind of childhood. There are also beliefs about salt that point to some well known infantile sex theories involving the role of solid excreta and urine. The amount of data lending itself to such interpretation is overwhelmingly large.

It is highly probable, Jones argues, that watery solutions of salt came into use for religious, medicinal and other purposes, as a substitute for urine, salt representing in the watery admixture, the solid elements of urine, chief among which was counted the male impregnating,

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or life giving substance, semen. The substitution of urine, at a later period, by other bodily fluids, particularly by blood, is easily explained when we consider the associations of such fluids with the vital forces. Salt owes its fanciful qualities to its symbolic, unconscious representation in the popular mind of semen. Thus, back of most, possibly all, superstitions about salt stand certain infantile theories of sexuality.

Ambivalence is richly represented in salt symbolism. Such antinomial uses and qualities as fertility-barrenness, creation-destruction, worth-worthlessness, healthy-unhealthy, clean-unclean, are frequently encountered in salt folklore. This, like all other ambivalence, corresponds, roughly speaking, to the antithesis between the repressed and the unrepressed and is a characteristic feature of all ideas that have their roots in the unconscious. Thus, in the case of salt, the key to ambivalence is to be found in the contrast between the overvaluation during childhood of sexuality in general and particularly of the fanciful role ascribed “by the unconscious to the excretory processes in the functioning of sex when contrasted with the conscious repression of sex during the adult period and the turning away from excretory processes of the adult, conscious mind.

3.   The Psychology of Travel.—The desire to travel is so common, so universally shared that it is one of the tendencies likely to escape psychologic scrutiny. Its very universality may obscure from view the fact that Wanderlust, in its varied forms, represents an interesting problem to the student of human nature.

The ancient order of Paternians were aware of this; they called the lower bodily regions the seat of sexual pleasure and—strict localizationists, with a logic that betrays wisdom and insight—they assigned the same seat to the pleasures of travel. (It can be asserted positively that the ancient order of Paternians were not influenced in their observations or deductions by the psychoanalytic school.)

Moreover, poets at all times have asserted and reiterated such a relationship between Eros and Wanderlust. Every great drama and epic, ancient or modern, implies a strong association between the two. Thus, the travels of œdipus are intertwined with his love affairs; Tannhauser wanders on mons Veneris,—Venusberg; The Flying Dutchman, it will be recalled, wanders about, willy-nilly, till released, characteristically enough, by a woman; Faust inaugurates his new erotic life with a flight in a magic mantle in the company of Mephisto.

Not only reflective writers and poets but systematic thinkers have also been impressed, at times, by the erotic import of the lust for travel. Weininger states that Kant “war so wenig erotisch, dass er nicht einmal das Bedürfnis hatte zu reisen.”

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Alfr. v. Winterstein attempts to delineate a few of the more important features through which we may recognize in the desire to travel a substitute for or sublimation of the erotic impulse.

The periodicity of Wanderlust is certainly noteworthy. Not only is the desire to travel strongest at certain seasons of the year, but it is likely to be uppermost at certain periods in life.

The wandering apprentices of the middle ages, the wandering students of universities, the young rambling cavaliers of Europe, the American and English travelers through Europe, represent various interesting phases of the Wanderlust. On the more strictly psychopathic side we have such interesting problems as the fugues, the circumscribed amnestic periods with ambulatory automatism, poriomania, dromomania, etc. Not the least interesting is the Ahasverus type of the well-to-do sightseer, who is continuously running away from and avoiding contact with his own painfully sensitive “self.”

4.   Psychoanalytic Notes on Goethe's Wahlverwandtschaften.—Goethe's story relates the love of a young woman for a man many years older than herself,—a relationship characteristic of certain family complexes well known to psychoanalysts through their clinical observations. For an understanding of this relationship the scientific world is indebted to Freud who was the first to make the genial observation that the earliest relations of children to their parents furnishes the matrix and the imago for all subsequent selections in love affairs. (Vid. Freud, Three Contributions to the Sexual Theory, translated by Brill, Nervous and Mental Disease Monograph Series, No. 7.)

Harnik points out how closely Goethe's Wahlverwandtschaften reconstructs in the details of its plot the conflicts that arise out of unconscious family complexes. It is proven that the heroine's love for the older man symbolizes her yearning after father-love; various symptomatic acts on the girl's part betray the fact that her love is conditioned by an infantile father-imago.

5.   Philosophy and Psychoanalysis.—In this essay Ferenczi argues that dependence upon a particular philosophic system must prove a handicap to any scientific discipline, particularly to a branch of science like psychoanalysis at a period when it has not yet achieved a systematic account of all the facts that may fall within its realm.

Instead of fusing its scope or its interests with those of some special philosophic doctrine among the many that are recognized now-a-days, psychoanalysis should take special pains to preserve a neutral attitude towards all philosophic doctrines and schools alike. The schools of philosophy yield problems that should be subjected to psychoanalytic research; that must remain, according to Ferenczi, the main relationship between psychoanalysis and philosophy.

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Ferenczi passes in review the main concepts of Dr. Putnam's philosophy as given by the latter in a previous issue (see, for abstract, THE PSYCHOANALYTIC REVIEW, Vol. I, No. 3), and maintains that psychoanalysis has nothing to gain through becoming philosophical in its outlook. “The further development of psychoanalysis,” he states, “must proceed independently of all philosophical systems.”

6.   Reply to Dr. Ferenczi.—Dr. Putnam finds himself misunderstood by Ferenczi in so far as the latter interprets Dr. Putnam's previous contribution as a plea for the welding of psychoanalysis to some particular philosophical doctrine. It is not Dr. Putnam's intention to have psychoanalysis subserve thus the interests of a definite or special school of philosophic thought. On the contrary, he agrees with Dr. Ferenczi that the classification of empirical data and the ascertainment of their relationships must remain the chief object of all psychoanalytic endeavors.

At the same time Dr. Putnam holds that a critical scrutiny of the facts and of their relationships in the broader light of their ultimate or philosophic implications must prove of immense advantage. Not only does such penetrating scrutiny promise important theoretic achievements, but it is bound to increase the practical efficiency of psychoanalysts in their daily tasks as well.

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Article Citation

Van Teslaar, J.S. (1915). Imago. Psychoanal. Rev., 2(3):341-346

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