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Scheimann, E.J. (1951). The Evolution of the Psyche and the Unconscious: (Preliminary Report). Psychoanal. Rev., 38(4):318-333.

(1951). Psychoanalytic Review, 38(4):318-333

The Evolution of the Psyche and the Unconscious: (Preliminary Report)

E. J. Scheimann, M.D.

When Haeckel introduced his psycho-evolutionary theory, he was attacked by his contemporaries because they believed in a dualistic view. We can no longer dismiss Haeckel's theory on this ground because, today, in the era of psychosomatic medicine, few will deny that the body and mind have developed together through the stages of evolution in the relationship of junction and structure.

If we accept the theory of body evolution and the doctrine of recapitulation, we should apply the same principles to the psyche as well. Some embryonic organs are carried forward in rudimentary form but lie dormant and useless; likewise, the mental remnants of our earlier existence persist in primitive form, but often do not remain inactive and influence our behavior.

Bleuler, Freud, and their followers, while studying the unconscious, often reached a point which forced them to delve not only into the land of our childhood but into a prehistorical one, the cradle of us all. Ferenczi believed that the study of phylogenesis will help to establish the fixation points of all neuroses. Brill believes that without doubt some mental manifestations indicate a direct transition from the unconscious present to the primordial past. He thinks that “ontogeny is not only somewhat of a repetition of phylogeny, but that manifestations of the latter continue in distorted form in many human beings who live among them.

It is beyond the scope of this paper to deal with the different psycho-evolutionary conceptions. Our interest is to show some relation between the evolution of psyche and the unconscious.

The most commonly accepted proof is the dream symbolism. According to Freud: The era to which the dreamwork refers is ‘primitive’ in a double sense. In the first place, it indicates the early childhood days of the individual—and secondly, insofar as each individual repeats in an abbreviated process during childhood the entire course of the development of the human race, the reference is phylogenetic.

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