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Elkin, H. (1958-1959). On the Origin of the Self. Psychoanal. Rev., 45D(4):57-76.

(1958-1959). Psychoanalytic Review, 45D(4):57-76

On the Origin of the Self

Henry Elkin, Ph.D.


a Horney's interest led her to make a trip to Japan in the summer of 1952. She was guided on her tour of Zen monasteries by Dr. Akahisa Kondo, a psychiatrist who had undergone Zen training. Her study of Zen continued till her death in December 1952.

Fromm has been lecturing and holding seminars on the relation of Zen to psychoanalysis. This material will be published shortly.

b Modern existentialism began with Kierkegaard, and can also be traced back to Nietzsche and Dostoevsky. The most representative contemporary existentialist philosophers are Martin Heidegger, Karl Jaspers, Martin Buber, Nicolas Berdyaev, Gabriel Marcel, and Paul Tillich. Jean-Paul Sartre, for the reason that follows in above text, can more properly be called an “inexistentialist” (see E. Mounier Introduction aux Existentialismes. Paris, 1947, p. 42). In existential psychotherapy, the Daseinsanalyse of Ludwig Binswanger and Medard Boss are based mainly on Heidegger; Victor Frankl acknowledges a debt to Jaspers; and Victor von Weizäcker, Hans Trüb, and also Ludwig Binswanger are among those influenced by Buber. (see F. Heinemann, Existentialism and the Modern Predicament. New York: Harper & Bros., 1958. Torchbook Series; T. Hora, “Existential Communication and Psychotherapy,” Psychoanalysis, Vol. 5, No. 4, 1958; and Existence: A New Dimension in Psychiatry and Psychology, edited by Rollo May, Ernest Angel and Henri F. Ellenberger. New York: Basic Books, 1958.)

c Collective is here used in its literal meaning of “formed by collection” (Oxford Dictionary) or “having plurality of origin” (Webster Dictionary), without the implications carried by Jung's use of the term (see above).

d Freud's patent misuse of the term sexual, together with his mistaking the issue of nomenclature as one merely of avoiding “concessions to faintheartedness” (Group Psychology and the Analysis of the Ego, 4th Ed., London, 1948. p. 39) reflect his pronounced obsession with sex. The conception of the erotic presented here-though recognizing that it is molded along the structural pattern of innate bodily sensibilities-is merely a reformulation of the conceptions derived from Eros which have always prevailed till the coming of Freud.

e Personal is here used in its customary sense, which corresponds to Jung's term individual, being regularly opposed to collective. This usage is held preferable for two reasons: (1) all psychic attributes, however collective, belong to biological individuals, and (2) it is desirable to retain the inherent relation between person, personal, and personality. Jung, however, uses “personal”, though not consistently, in the special sense of his concept persona, which has no methodical relation to his use of “person” and “personality” (see Psychological Types. 1923. pp. 561 and 590).

f Paul Schilder, using Freudian terminology and being unable to apply ego to the phenomenon that concerned him, suffered a lack of conceptual clarity in his valuable work on the body image (Image and Appearance of the Human Body. New York: International Univ. Press, 1950). He writes: “Since both (images of) the body and the world have to be built up and since the body in this respect is not different from the world, there must be a central function of the personality which is neither world nor body. There must be a more central sphere of personality.” (p. 124). This central, initial sphere of personality which precedes mental images of phenomenal reality-the world and the body-is the primordial self.

g Participation mystique, applied by Lévy-Bruhl to the “pre-logical” mentality of primitives (see La Mentalité Primitive. Paris, 1922.), was given broader psychological import by Jung. He defines it as “partial identity … based on an a priori one-ness of subject and object … a vestigial remainder of this primordial condition” (op. cit. pp. 572-3).

h Ernest Glover writes: “In the absence of individual traumatic experiences these [unconscious sexual anxieties of children], he maintained, can only be understood phylogenetically. In Moses and Monotheism (1939) … he asserted that ‘the archaic heritage of mankind includes not only archaic dispositions but also ideational contents, memory traces of the experience of former generations.’ Freud realized fully that the present attitude of biological science rejects the idea of acquired qualities being transmitted to descendants. Nothing daunted by this opposition, he maintained that he was unable to picture biological development without taking this into account.” (Freud or Jung. London: 1950. p. 40)

i A glaring example is Jung's characterization of Freud's theory as a “Jewish psychology,” not only in a psychological and cultural sense (which, given the necessary qualifications, could well be substantiated) but in terms of hereditary, racial differences in the “collective psyche.” (Two Essays in Analytical Psychology. Coll. Works, Vol. 7. New York: Pantheon, 1953. p. 149, footnote.)

j This equation of soul with self is in keeping with its traditional meaning and with the use of “self” in eastern religions. Horney also uses “soul” and “real self” interchangeably (see Neurosis and Human Growth. New York: Norton, 1950. p. 39). This usage does not necessarily conflict with Jung's meaning. He states that he uses “the unhistorical term ‘self’ … not to trespass on other preserves, but to confine myself exclusively to the field of empirical psychology” (see Psychology and Religion: West and East. Coll. Works, Vol. II. New York; Pantheon, 1958. p. 264, footnote.). (However, Jung does use “soul” in another, unhistorical sense, as referring to “the inner personality … the inner attitude, the character, that is turned towards the unconscious” [Psychological Types. New York: Harcourt, Brace, 1923. p. 593], as well as in the usual literary manner, as equivalent to the psyche in general.)

k For a general survey and analysis of the subject, see Evelyn Underhill's Mysticism. New York: E. P. Dutton, 1911.

l The capitalized terms in the following text indicate the presence of this numinous power.

m The close parallel between mystical religious experience and psychopathology has been most sensibly treated by William James in his Varieties of Religious Experience (see p. 23ff. in the Modern Library edition). Pertinent here is the tersely meaningful phrase of Saint Paul, who knew from experience

whereof he spoke: “It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.” (Hebrews 10:31)

n “The initial state of man's mind is amazement.” H. Van der Leeuw, Religion in Essence and Manifestation. London: Allen & Unwin, 1938. p. 23).

o The mandala is a peripheral circle or square usually connected with a focal center by at least four radial lines set like the arms of a cross. Mandala forms are found universally in religious art, ritual, and architecture since paleolithic times. (see C. G. Jung, op. cit. 1958. p. 79 ff.)

p The following portrayal is based on our available knowledge of the most powerfully impressive and illuminating mystical experience. Though purely reflective-no empirical demonstration is possible-it appears to account most adequately for the highly dramatic qualities that characterize mystical religious, and psychotic, inner experience, and infantile outer behavior, all of which involve psychic activity that does not reflect the phenomenal world.

q These descriptively fitting terms are taken from R. Otto's phenomenological study of elemental religious experience, The Idea of the Holy. Oxford, 1929.

r The writer noted a sharp change in the behavior of his own child at eighteen weeks which points to the initial experience of primordial doubt and anxiety, impending despair, and spiritual resurrection. The infant, during hitherto quiet periods of rest, suddenly burst into panicky, fearful crying which ceased immediately upon his seeing a face and hearing a voice, began generally to show more expressiveness-especially signs of bliss-in human presence, and to stare with a new intensity at his surroundings. If this crucial turning point in infantile development has not previously been recorded, it is perhaps because a theoretical hypothesis, necessary for all scientific observation and discovery, has been lacking.

s The mother's significance in this regard is strikingly brought out by cases of normal, healthy infants who were hospitalized from the fourth to the thirteenth month, received adequate physical care, and yet later invariably showed a “psychiatric picture ranging from psychopathy to feeble-mindedness” (R. Spitz, “Diacritic and Coenesthetic Organizations.” Psychoanal. Rev., 1948. Vol. 32, no. 2.)

t Probably the most widely held viewpoint on this crucial issue in modern psychology is given explicitly in the following passage taken from the theoretical introduction to an otherwise notable work: “The child is almost immediately involved in our evaluation of things as good and bad. Having no system of his own (italics mine), he depends on the parents to establish what is good and bad. Good is what receives approval, bad what receives disapproval.” (S. Arieti, Interpretation of Schizophrenia. New York: Robert Brunner, 1955. p. 45.)

u Social collectivization arises from a subtle process of psychic interaction between mother and child which I hope to examine more fully at another time, both generally and with regard to the foundation of various forms of psychic abnormality. This process involves the formation of Freud's superego, especially as traced back to infancy by Melanie Klein (see The Psychoanalysis of Children. London: Hogarth. 3d. Ed., 1949).

v The foregoing, in effect, is a psychological exposition of Martin Buber's distinction between the “I-Thou” and the “I-it” relations. (For an introduction and general survey of Buber's writings see, M. Friedman, Martin Buber: The Life of Dialogue. Univ. of Chicago Press, 1955; and The Writings of Martin Buber, edited by Will Herberg. New York: Meridian Books, 1956>.) I am perhaps indebted to Buber's writings for the very inception of the line of thought presented here.

w In his reference to the “oceanic feeling” of oneness with the universe (Civilization and It's Discontents. London: Hogarth, 1930. pp. 13-14.)

x A similar thesis conceived in Jungian terms has been effectively treated by Erich Neumann in The Origins and History of Consciousness. New York: Pantheon, 1954.

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