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Swackhamer, G.V. (1934). Imago. Psychoanal. Rev., 21(1):98-103.
Psychoanalytic Electronic Publishing: Imago

(1934). Psychoanalytic Review, 21(1):98-103


Gladys V. Swackhamer

(Vol. IX, No. 4)

1.   Balint, A. Atl-tlachinolli, the Mexican War Hieroglyphic.

2.   Van Der Wolk, P. C. The Dance of Ciwa.

3.   Pfeifer, S. The Psychology of Music.

4.   Van Der Chijs, A. Infantilism in Painting.

1.   Balint, A. Atl-tlachinolli, the Mexican War Hieroglyphic.— Dr. Balint offers a detailed account of the symbolism in the religious picture writing of the early Mexican Indians. Research in this material was made possible largely through a Father Sahagun, who came to Mexico in 1529, and compiled an encyclopedia of the picture words with their meanings as communicated to him by the natives. The language abounds in myths and the writer has discovered in the interpretation of them the mental processes by which these Indians raised themselves to the position of a conqueror race.

Fear of killing results from a fear of retribution, of being killed in return. By means of a regression to the oral-anal level, death was done away with in their thinking, and war-making raised to an important religious act. The stages of the regression may be briefly indicated. “To kill “-is “to eat” and to eat means “to become fruitful.” In this way every slain (eaten) warrior becomes an embryo, and the slayer becomes the mother. Being killed in retaliation leads to rebirth, and the castration fear present in the fear of death is transformed into fear of birth. Not the death but the capture of the enemy was the goal; the captive was sacrificed, as a rule, eaten. The warrior who had taken a prisoner was therefore identified with the child-bearing woman. On the other hand, the enemy was also identified with the mother, and the captive was a symbol for the penis snatched from the mother, and likewise, for the child begotten with the mother. In the myth of the trinity, the figure of father and son merge together or the mother and children only appear, the father being present in the symbol of a feather ball. The filial sin of devouring the father, which would form the greatest hindrance to the identification of father and son, was shifted upon the mother. The father-devouring sons, who, according to Indian belief, had eaten up the sun at sunset, were more and more supplanted by the child-eating female demons. Their representative was the earth goddess, dwelling in the west, who at night swallowed the stone knife, the light, only to produce it again in the morning. The world concept of this primitive race may be expressed as follows: On the one hand existed a powerful mother imago, forever being destroyed through continuous conceptions and births, and yet indestructible, symbolized by the earth. Contrasting with her are a horde of other

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beings, preponderantly male, who, fertilizing her and born of her, pass and repass through her in an eternal revolution, symbolized by the rising and setting constellations.

2.   Van Der Wolk, P. C. The Dance of Ciwa.—” O Ciwa, you who with your dance destroy the bonds which bind our souls to death ! “This refrain accompanies the dance of Ciwa, god of Indian mythology. Ciwa dances are differentiated by special music, and associated with definite hours of the day, and with particular religious ceremonials. Festivals which lasted several days, and held a chief place in the ceremonial religious life of the old Hindus, included this dance, performed by priests, representing the god. The legends which had become attached to the different dances determined their form. One of the best known versions was the evening dance, performed upon a golden throne platform on the Himalaya at twilight. Other gods, playing upon instruments encircled the throne, heavenly choirs clapped and sang in rhythm, and mankind in the valleys below heard faintly Ciwa's dance of life which stilled their yearnings and pain.

The Tadawa dance of Ciwa represents him as a ten-armed fearful demon in a death struggle with a swarm of dwarfs who are powerless to harm him so long as he dances. It is night, and flames come from the earth. Often Ciwa dances with his consort, the goddess Durga, who personifies death. Accompanied by her lions, her cobra, and her bats, Durga's dance with Ciwa suggests a wild combat.

The best known Ciwa dance is the Nadanta, which takes place in the golden hall of the earth's center. According to the legend, Ciwa was sent to humble a colony of heretical monks. In their anger the monks conjured up a lion who was vanquished when Ciwa began to dance. A second time they used their magic to form a terrible snake which Ciwa broke and hung around his neck. In a final effort they fashioned a dwarf with death-dealing powers, but Ciwa trampled him under his dancing feet. The monks were humbled and Ciwa was importuned by the other gods to dance before all of Heaven at Tillai, in the earth's core. South Indian copper and bronze figures of earlier centuries most frequently portray this last dance. The dancing god, wearing a breech cloth and ornaments around his neck, arms and ankles and in his ears is striking down the dwarf or meeting the attack of the lion or the cobra. Three things always appear on the head of the god; in the center above the forehead a death's-head, left, an upright cobra, and right, the breasts of Durga. All are death symbols, intended to portray the death thoughts which torment the mind within.

This brings one to the problem of the death instinct which the author believes was recognized by the ancient Indians as a powerful factor in life and its mental expression. The death's-head of Ciwa does not represent an external danger. The value of symbolism lies in the fact that the portrayal of unconscious factors in man's conflicts gives satisfaction and

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easement without bringing the problem to the surface. Ceremonial art, mysteries, and the great symbols of religion may be understood in this light. Ciwa embodies the life principle, Durga the death principle; they stand side by side and complement each other. Life represents a continuous reaction to stimuli, originally external, later transformed into inner stimuli. It is a secondary, artificial state, which strives against a condition of absolute balance and eternal rest, which we call death. This state of rest and inactivity is a primary force, existing in the protoplasm of all living organisms. Can the elementary death feeling be changed within the brain into death thoughts which may enter into consciousness? Many persons, shortly before their passing, have felt the approach of death with certainty, not as thoughts but as a state. Throughout life this death feeling is active, deep in the unconscious. Though physiological in origin it operates as an unconscious longing for death. The evidence of its workings are numberless, and may be recognized in accidents, catastrophes and in the martyrdom of body and spirit of some religions.

It is a new and difficult problem in the theory of repression, sublimation and symbolism to determine to what degree the conduct and mental life of man is rooted in the death feeling, and to what extent this feeling forms the superstructure of some psychoses. If the sexual conflict of a patient is rooted in death feelings, the analyst must penetrate to lower levels than those which lay bare the sexual conflict, and such penetration may be the key to the cure of yet incurable psychoses. Life must war against death with all of its might, and makes use of the transference, the safety valve of the unconscious, to aid itself. The transference finds in sexuality the force par excellence to carry over to another the death longings which harass, and to gain relief through the other person. This release is not a receiving, but a setting free of the individual from the unconscious obsessions, which threaten to possess and destroy the mental life. Sexuality appears to be a primary life instinct of the greatest potency; in reality it is the death instinct, which gives itself over transformed to another in order to maintain its own life. Thus sexuality has caused the division of living matter into male and female. It may be regarded as “sublimated” death instinct, since it has become serviceable to life and has replaced the socially wasteful act of manslaughter. The close relationship between sexuality and the death idea is evident in all the phases of sadism, and in the state of illness or approaching death. The so-called bestiality of war may be understood as the reflex from an unbearable tension of a body in the power of death feelings. With this interpretation of sexuality as the conqueror of the death wishes, the meaning of the Ciwa dance grows clearer. If the god, by the act of dancing personifies the destruction of death thoughts which beset him, then this dance is nothing other than a symbol of coitus. The dancing Ciwa becomes the god of life, the center of the orgies attached to the ancient Ciwa rites. The upright cobra, symbolic of erection, and the dancing Ciwa have

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become inseparable in legend, and in the ancient cult, a priest charmed a cobra with music while another, representing the god, performed the dance. Vestals and lesser priests participated in the dance, drank the white wine and smeared themselves with it, and in their intoxication took the lead in the orgiastic ceremonials which thousands followed. The author sees in the unbridled license of these ceremonies a degree of affect which is associated not with normal expression of sexuality, but with a hidden and suppressed wish, namely the death wish, of which the body would rid itself.

When Ciwa has ended his dance, he goes into Nirvana, the complete quiet of inactivity. Nirvana is Ciwa when his dance has ceased.

3.   Pfeifer, S. The Psychology of Music.—Most biologists and psychologists have recognized that music is biologic in origin. Darwin has noted that the music of animals stands in close relationship to their sexuality. In the three contributions to the sexual theory, the partial instincts are believed on the one hand, to introduce and lead up to the sex act, and on the other, to have been at one time in the course of form development adequate sexual activities. Stated biologically, this means that with each new position, the libido must run through its previous phases of development. It is known that it can remain at these levels or regress to them. Since music appears among the pleasure mechanisms of mating, in order to trace its development historically one must seek it somewhere preceding the genital level. The author attributes the origin of music to a stage in the evolution of sexuality when the narcissistic libido tension seeks a release at an intermediate stage before it has reached the object level. The libido is ejected by a substitute material, air, through a suitable opening, the throat, which is an erogenous zone. The biologic truth of this statement is attested by the increase in air pockets and air ejection as a form of libido outlet in frogs, in insects, and especially in birds. Restated, song is a projection of a stored up primary narcissistic and autoerotic libido on the part of a sexually aroused organism, which, however, has not yet arrived at object sexuality.

Most psychologists are agreed that music has no objective content, only feelings can be expressed by it. Although it appears to make use of phantasies and day dreams concerned with wish fulfillment in regard to an object, these phantasies and day dreams so essential to other forms of art, are secondary and complementary in music, and first formed in the psyche of the listener. In the objective art of painting, the effort toward the expression of a thought content is to be found in futurism, while an opposite trend, expressionism, seeks to avoid the object in order to accentuate the libido and ego processes. The experience of music would suggest that expressionism has the better prognosis, though it is as impossible for expressionism to become entirely objectless as for music to become objective. Music may appear to express processes of the object libido, but they are always merely parallel movements of the ego

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libido which are copied and expressed. Music can not express a particular coitus, but coitus in general, its pulsation, tension and pleasure. The object world mirrors itself in our music, for the development of an object level through centuries has left its traces upon music also. But the principle of narcissism could not be carried over. In music the object world is represented only as a disturber of the narcissistic state of contentment, a hindrance to wish fulfillment, generally by means of various contrasts, conflicts, dissonances and restraints. Again, music may appear to express bodily, particularly autonomic processes, which plainly appear when musical ideas are analyzed. These, however, owe their musical representation to the inner connection of their function with displacements and changes of the organ libido. Generally these organs are erogenous zones, so that the music remains true of its real nature, when it represents the libidinous processes of the autoerotic libido. Among them, the analerotic zone plays a notable part. The representation of body desire is the limit to which music can go in object representation.

The characteristic of music to remain upon the narcissistic level is what renders it strange to our objectively oriented thinking. Music possesses a world conception which conforms fully to its narcissistic and autoerotic libido orientation, namely, animism. In the highest development of music the feeling of animism is directly aroused through the musical tone. It attains to its particularly lifelike stamp in the melody, in the voices which awaken in us the impression of the living and the moving quickened into life by means of a special force. We are unaware that is a work method no longer tolerated by the mind. Hence the close tie between song and magic, the technique of animism. The chief tendency in music today is away from primary, narcissistic pleasure toward intricacy of melody and rhythm. In this direction music approaches speech which is a parallel work method of the psyche on an object and reality level. That music will never give up its character as an objectless art, however, is assured by the fact that its forward development and accommodation will always create new regression tensions, which will lead to new art forms.

4.   Van Der Chijs, A. Infantilism in Painting.—Staercke has expressed the opinion that the highest creations of genius arise from the deep rooted and unconscious infantilism of the artist. He believes it is a common characteristic of many great art works that they have incest as an object. The present writer questions the first statement, believing that when a neurosis is involved, self-knowledge and freedom can in the long run lead only to greater and richer creations. He finds the incest motive exemplified in the analysis of a painter treated for loss of creative ability. The history of the forty year old patient indicated a strong attachment to his mother, now dead, and a book of sketches testified to his longing for her. The breast motive plays in and out of his dreams and forms the

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basis of a philosophy which centers love and wisdom in the mother, as a child would do. His conflict lies in his adjustment of his instincts to spiritual values. He projects his personal struggle for cure upon mankind, struggling for light and freedom in a dark world, and expresses ideas of the rôle of the artist as prophet. He felt that in descending to commercial art to support his wife he had sacrificed his ego to her. This is pictured by a Christus. In contrast, his striving for creative expression is shown in many sketches of flowers, trees, butterflies in gay colors, filled with phallic imagery. One of these, embodying effort to free himself from the mother, is analyzed in detail by the writer. The plates of the artist's sketches add greatly to this study.

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Article Citation

Swackhamer, G.V. (1934). Imago. Psychoanal. Rev., 21(1):98-103

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