Infancy and Childhood, the Split … the Primal Scene;
which is VEIL THREE from *Dance of the Seven Veils I: Primal/Identity Psychology, Mythology, and Your Real Self* by Michael Adzema
Infancy and Childhood, the Split … the Primal Scene
“‘Child sacrifice’ — the natural self slain, the ego ‘is rewarded for being obsequious while the real self seethes in the prison of loneliness.’”
However important the Veil we just reviewed — that of adolescence and Identity — it, itself, is built upon an even earlier and more influential Veil. This earlier fall from grace represents an even more fundamental illusion of self and perversion of personality. For one needs to be prepared, to be readied, as it were, to be able or be amenable, to giving up one’s self to a culturally constructed one, especially one that is chosen for one.
How is that readiness brought about? Well, before one is willing to give up self and hand over one’s life to authorities, bosses, and to the protocols of society, one needs to have an experience of having already lost oneself at one time … of having already given up oneself. More than that, one needs to have had an experience where such a selling of Self, or soul, was imposed upon one … was “an offer one cannot refuse,” so to speak. This experience is what happens around the ages of four and five in a specific way; and it is stretched out more generally over the period three to six years old.
The primal scene — that definitive event that encapsulates the process in one distinct and memorable scene — occurs around four or five years old. This event creates what Janov termed the split. The split is the final creation of a self — termed by Janov the unreal self — that is inauthentic and in keeping with parents’ wishes; and one that is hidden, repressed, yet authentic, which Janov termed the real self.
However, the Oedipal and Electra crises, which are the larger categories of this process — regardless how outdated and misunderstood those concepts are — occurs over the period three to six.
Nonetheless, the basis even of that goes further back. It all begins in infancy, even as a neonate, where one, upon coming out of the womb, discovers one’s needs are not going to be adequately attended to. They will not be very well noticed. You will not be all that important to “them.” Not as important as you should be, if you were to get your needs satisfied and to thrive. Since the definition of being loved is having one’s needs taken care of, you will not feel loved for who you are.
With that in place in infancy, it is only a matter of time before one will begin to turn that into, “I cannot be loved for who I am, so who should I be, then?” These are the philosophic bands that arise at birth. One’s earlier human nature and innate Divinity are forgotten in the trauma of birth, leaving one an ego, one that is blank, a tabula rasa. And upon that blank slate will be imprinted the behaviors and messages from those behaviors that one gets from one’s parents, especially one’s mother.
This part of the book, Veil Three, will be considerably shorter than the last one, or, for that matter, than any of those to come. For this is the Veil that is most commonly known in psychology already. Arthur Janov detailed it exquisitely, especially in his first book, The Primal Scream (1970). He elaborated upon that one in many more over the last half century, directly up to today.
Alice Miller popularized the basic understandings of this Veil in her many works, as well. Alice Miller’s titles themselves are instructive — Thou Shalt Not Be Aware: Society’s Betrayal of the Child; For Your Own Good: Hidden Cruelty in Childrearing and the Roots of Violence; Prisoners Of Childhood: The Drama of the Gifted Child and the Search for the True Self; The Untouched Key: Tracing Childhood Trauma in Creativity and Destructiveness; Breaking Down the Wall of Silence: The Liberating Experience of Facing Painful Truth; Banished Knowledge: Facing Childhood Injuries; The Body Never Lies: The Lingering Effects of Hurtful Parenting; among still others.
Similarly, John Bradshaw (1988, 1990) has brought these issues into the common discourse. Others addressing this problem of the split, and its healing, include Jean Jenson, with her book Reclaiming Your Life: A Step-by-Step Guide to Using Regression Therapy to Overcome the Effects of Childhood Abuse (1996); Paul J. Hannig, with his book, Feeling People (1982); Elizabeth Noble, who wrote Primal Connections: How Our Experiences From Conception to Birth Influence Our Emotions, Behavior and Health (1993); and J. Konrad Stettbacher, the author of Making Sense of Suffering: The Healing Confrontation With Your Own Past (1991); among others.
Much earlier than all of these, we had the beginnings of this kind of thinking with Winnicott and his true self and false self; with the others along with him which I addressed in Chapter 2, dealing with the overview of the field of prenatal and perinatal psychology; and with Wilhelm Reich, especially regarding the way sexual repression, as a part of “normal” parenting, creates the “armored” personality. And many more.
While societies still have a lot to learn in regard to this Veil and about being more loving and less controlling and punishing of their children so as to optimize their life potentials and overall felicity; still, it is not a topic that needs addressing and bringing to awareness on the scale that all the other Veils do, which I cover in this three-volume work, Dance of the Seven Veils. Indeed, all the other Veils are addressed primarily, or solely, by myself, the one exception being Grof’s exposition of the Veil around birth; we’ll get to that in the Dance of the Seven Veils II. And while I add a different dimension to what he offers regarding Veil Four — birth and the perinatal — there is really no other person saying what I am regarding the Veil One of anthropocentrism; the Veil Two of Identity and wrong-headed rites of passage; Veil Five of prenatal hell; Veil Six of wombular templates on reality and religion; Veil Seven on the periconceptional structuring of human reality; nor of the No-Form State prior to that. And certainly no one puts it all together in this comprehensive way, which constitutes a new-paradigm of understanding, unto itself.
So I will address the issues of this Veil which has to do with the creation of the primal split and the loss of the real self at the primal scene; but I will focus on the aspects of it that need correction, elucidation, or which benefit from their inclusion in this larger context of Seven Veils. For the rest, I refer the reader to the books by the authors mentioned, whose seminal works have been restated as well by still others.
The Cultural Veil, the Primal Scene, Child Sacrifice … The Centaur Stage of Infant and Toddler Learning Involves Learning You Are Not Okay and Continues the Separation from Innate Divinity
The newborn is the Centaur — half human, half animal … half human, half Divine: The biosocial bands … the cultural veil.
At the age of four or five, giving up, we become “them”: Life is passed “performing rituals and mouthing incantations” in the service of others’ requirements.
Having become “them,” we are left forever asking “Who am I?” … the philosophic bands.
If not my self, who then to be? Surrendering one’s natural self and imprisoning Divinity in a Pandora ‘s Box within, one is plagued with wondering who to be.
The dynamic of feeling that one has to be someone else in order to get love is laid down early, right after birth. Before getting to the part where this entire process of increasing inauthenticity and forgetfulness of Self manifests as an “Oedipal conflict,” an “Electra complex,” and culminates in a defining moment of stark and dark revelation or a need to give up Self in order to survive, it might be good to overview the events leading up to it, starting after birth. Let’s begin with a look at that.
The Biosocial Bands
We are born, and beginning immediately we have the arising of what Ken Wilber (1977) has termed the biosocial bands of consciousness. These arise out of the postnatal, infantile, and early childhood experiences. While Wilber has a narrower conceptualization of them than I am advancing, his elaboration on them still holds. He writes, “The Biosocial Band, as the repository of sociological institutions such as language and logic, is basically, fundamentally, and above all else a matrix of distinctions, of forms and patterns conventionally delineating, dissecting, and dividing the seamless coat of the universe.
“Thus the Biosocial Band, if it isn’t directly responsible for all dualisms, nevertheless definitely reinforces all dualisms, and so perpetuates illusions that we would ordinarily see through…. The Biosocial Band, as a matrix of distinctions, is thus like a vast screen that we throw over reality.”1 The biosocial bands, then, in Wilber’s words are “a vast screen that we throw over reality.” Or one might say, as I am, this introjection of social and relational information, creates a Veil across reality.
Language is important in structuring experience, as well as are all the other factors of socialization alluded to by Wilber above.
Nursing and nurturing events create templates for later language and logic.
However, the fundamental biosocialization occurs at the mother’s breast, so to speak. Postnatal hospital experiences and nursing experiences are foremost events in the structuring and patterning of all later form, including that of language and logic. After that, weaning, toilet training, and other infant and early childhood experiences have secondary but still immensely strong influences in shaping the very way that reality is perceived and reacted to.
The Cultural Veil
However, compared to earlier experiences, which are biologically and bioculturally determined, these postnatal experiences are heavily culture-rooted. Therefore, they are hugely variable.
And these experiences in interaction with the outside world, which is predominately the family at this point, in turn serve eventually to shape the exoteric contents of culture. This is to be contrasted with biocultural influences at the transpersonal bands, the womb level, where (relatively) universal biology makes for relatively universal patterns and structures.2 Don’t worry, we’ll get to that.
This postnatal body-ego is “animalian” compared to “vegetative” in the womb.
At birth we have the beginnings of the idea that is the Ego. Yet, Wilber (1977) points out this is initially a body-ego. Therefore, if the womb could be called vegetative, this state of body-ego could be called animalian. The child is severed from direct transpersonal access, but these realities exist as bodily felt feelings. Through the emergence of the biosocial bands, however, that sense of bodily and transpersonal awareness is increasingly replaced with Ego consciousness and consciousness of cultural form.
The Centaur is the toddler — half human, half animal … half human, half Divine.
So this initial socialization is patterned upon a foundation of bodily feelings. This bodily “intuition,” if you will, itself comprises the remnants of transpersonal realities left after the birth trauma has obliterated direct access to the Divine.
It is fitting, therefore, that the symbol Wilber (1977) uses for this psychological stage, or state of consciousness, is the Centaur. The Centaur is half human, half animal; which is a way of saying that here, after birth, the conceptual, cultural, “civilized” portion, which we are here calling the biosocial bands and the cultural veil, is melded, as it were, to the remnants of transpersonal reality, which at this point are only experienced as bodily pushes and pulls, patterns of feelings, “instincts.”
Essentially, with body and animal — in this instance, horse — containing the transpersonal, the Centaur represents being half human and half Divine, as well. Which, incidentally, fits nicely with the mythology of the Centaur. For indeed, the most famous centaur is Chiron, who, being the son of a Titan and a sea nymph, could be said to be partially Divine and partially human.
The relation to transpersonal realities here is far from identification. We talk instead of attunement to cosmic rhythms or living in accordance with natural cycles. Relating developmental stages to cultural-historical ones, this corresponds to an agrarian type of culture. For such an “archaic” person — the person of pre-historical, what has been called matriarchal, cultures — these rhythms may be seasonal and related to agricultural processes and cycles of Nature and time.
The “archaic” person is to cycles of Nature as the baby is to mother’s routines for caring.
For the young child, these rhythms are biological and cultural. The newborn must find a way to strike a balance between its own cycles of hunger, thirst, sleep, defecation, play, and needs for touch and affection, and the cycles of its caretaker — whose rhythms, even under optimal conditions, are not going to synchronize with the newborn’s as perfectly as was the case in the womb.
It is no wonder that in its devolutional form, that of the prehistorical agrarian human, it is characterized by sacrifice, prayer, ritual, and worship — all directed toward getting in touch with the Divine forces of Nature and/or of orchestrating such forces toward desired results.
Becoming Other Than “I”
This tension, then, pushes the emergence of the biosocial bands. For with the passage of time this discrepancy widens. At first the parent makes an attempt to cater to the newborn’s requirements and its rhythms of needing. Yet more and more the infant is required to conform to external cycles: from feeding on demand to on a schedule, from nursing to weaning … eventually there is toilet training. At each stage the child is told, in unmistakable ways, that he or she is not okay the way that she or he is, that she or he must conform to outer patterns. This continues throughout the infant and toddler years until the age of about four or five.
Infancy and early childhood is about learning to forget and forgetting how to feel.
Thus, this process of layering of bands of biosocial learning — of learning to forget and forgetting how to feel one’s inner pushes, pulls, and feelings — widens, with each new repression, the wall between self and Divinity. And this depiction characterizes the state from birth on and through the infant and toddler years. It extends up until the time of another, even greater, separation — another major splitting or fall from grace, the creation of another major duality in consciousness. This phase occurs around the age of four or five and is called by Arthur Janov (1970) the primal scene.
The Primal Scene
The primal scene occurs at around the age of four or five years. It corresponds exactly with Wilber’s tertiary dualism, as also it correlates with the Oedipal struggle, using Freudian terms. It consolidates the formation of the Ego against the body, severing the Centaur into “a horseman divided from his horse”3 It may be likened to a third shutdown, a third stage in the removal of self from Divinity, a third denial of God — this time under the terrorizing influence of what might be called social or relationship trauma.
The Natural Self Is Slain
According to Arthur Janov (1970), at around the age of four or five there occurs a point at which the child perceives the hopelessness of ever being loved for him- or herself and becomes instead what the parents … and, by proxy, society … want. Their needs become her or his needs.
The real self — the “child within,” the natural self, our innate Divinity, the God within — is slain and buried in the unconscious, once again, and becomes the unconscious self. Janov (1970) explains this process of losing the real self in a systematic and detailed manner. He writes brilliantly and poetically in his description, and I will let his words do most of the talking here.
Janov points out, first of all, that “We are all creatures of need. We are born needing, and the vast majority of us die after a lifetime of struggle with many of our needs unfulfilled. These needs are not excessive — to be fed, kept warm and dry, to grow and develop at our own pace, to be held and caressed, and to be stimulated. These Primal needs are the central reality of the infant. The neurotic process begins when these needs go unmet for any length of time….
“Since the infant himself cannot overcome the sensation of hunger (that is, he cannot go to the refrigerator) or find substitute affection, he must separate his sensations (hunger; wanting to be held) from consciousness. This separation of oneself from one’s needs and feelings is an instinctive maneuver in order to shut off excessive pain. We call it the split.”4
The split evolves into the permanent disconnection between the real and the unreal selves — between the real, needing, “feeling” self and the self we must pretend to be in order to try to get some our needs satisfied.
“Demands for the child to be unreal are not often explicit. Nevertheless, parental needs become the child’s implicit demand. The child is born into his parents’ needs and begins struggling to fulfill them almost from the moment he is alive. He may be pushed to smile (to appear happy), to coo, to wave bye-bye, later to sit up and walk, still later to push himself so that his parents can have an advanced child. As the child develops, the requirements upon him become more complex. He will have to get A’s, to be helpful and do his chores, to be quiet and undemanding, not to talk too much, to say bright things, to be athletic. What he will not do is be himself. The thousands of operations that go on between parents and children which deny the natural Primal needs of the child mean that the child will hurt. They mean that he cannot be what he is and be loved….”5
The Prison of the “Body Snatchers”
The upshot of this process, then, as Sam Keen (1972) described it: “He knows he cannot both be himself and be loved. So he splits into a real and an unreal self. His real feelings are sealed in the throbbing vault of the lonely inner self and he begins to tailor his conduct to the expectations of his parents. His watchword becomes: I will be what you want me to be if you will only love me. Although I feel hurt, alone, fearful, and unlovely, I will act trustworthy, loyal, helpful…. Henceforth the budding neurotic child gets plastic approval but no genuine love. His unreal self is rewarded for being obsequious while his real self seethes in the prison of loneliness.”6
The primal scene itself, however, is that crystallizing event that for the child symbolizes the essential truth of all the accumulated interactions that from birth on have demonstrated that in order to get a semblance of one’s needs fulfilled one cannot simply be oneself but must instead struggle to please another — for now a parent or parents, later it will be a lover, a spouse, a boss, society in general.
Giving up, we become “them.”
Janov (1970) describes this primal scene: “As the assaults on the real system mount, they begin to crush the real person. One day an event will take place which, though not necessarily traumatic in itself — giving the child to a baby sitter for the hundredth time — will shift the balance between real and unreal and render the child neurotic. That event I call the major Primal Scene. It is a time in the young child’s life when all the past humiliations, negations, and deprivations accumulate into an inchoate realization: ‘There is no hope of being loved for what I am.’ It is then that the child defends himself against that catastrophic realization by becoming split from his feelings, and slips quietly into neurosis. The realization is not a conscious one. Rather, the child begins acting around his parents, and then elsewhere, in the manner expected by them. He says their words and does their thing. He acts unreal — i.e., not in accord with the reality of his own needs and desires. In a short time the neurotic behavior becomes automatic.
“Neurosis involves being split, disconnected from one’s feelings. The more assaults on the child by the parents, the deeper the chasm between real and unreal. He begins to speak and move in prescribed ways, not to touch his body in proscribed areas (not to feel himself literally), not to be exuberant or sad, and so on. The split, however, is necessary in a fragile child. It is the reflexive (i.e., automatic) way the organism maintains its sanity. Neurosis, then, is the defense against catastrophic reality in order to protect the development and psychophysical integrity of the organism.
“Neurosis involves being what one is not in order to get what doesn’t exist. If love existed, the child would be what he is, for that is love — letting someone be what he or she is. Then, nothing wildly traumatic need happen in order to produce neurosis. It can stem from forcing a child to punctuate every sentence with ‘please’ and ‘thank you, to prove how refined the parents are. It can also come from not allowing the child to complain when he is unhappy or to cry. Parents may rush in to quell sobs because of their anxiety. They may not permit anger — ‘nice girls don’t throw tantrums; nice boys don’t talk back’ — to prove how respected the parents are; neurosis may also arise from making a child perform, such as asking him to recite poems at a party or solve abstract problems. Whatever form it takes, the child gets the idea of what is required of him quite soon. Perform, or else. Be what they want, or else — no love, or what passes for love: approval, a smile, a wink. Eventually the act comes to dominate the child’s life, which is passed in performing rituals and mouthing incantations in the service of his parents’ requirements.”7
Isaac’s “primal scene” shows real meaning of “child sacrifice.”
A good mythic reflection of the dynamics of this third fall from grace with its aftermath of a Third Veil hiding what is real, or what is Naked Reality, is the Abraham and Isaac story in Genesis. In the story, God “tempts” Abraham by telling him to sacrifice his only son, Isaac. Therefore, the altar Isaac is to be sacrificed on is that of the parent’s own misapprehended growth needs.
Moreover, just as Isaac, the son, the child, is to be offered in sacrifice to Abraham’s relationship to the divine, to his supposed spiritual needs; so also we, the “vast majority” of us, are asked to forgo our own dreams, our own unique directions, for the unfulfilled dreams, desperate hopes, and ego vanity of another — usually the same-sex parent.
Philosophic Bands: Who to Be?
After the consolidation of the Ego, the unreal self, at the primal scene and its consequent severing of even the felt connection to transpersonal realities by way of the body through severance of Ego from body, one is no longer concerned with addressing one’s reality — that is to say, in terms of attempting to secure even the satisfaction of felt needs.
Since one has given up on being one’s self, all that remains is to decide who to be. In the struggle to decide who to be (in order to be loved), we have the emergence of Wilber’s philosophic bands. We have “developed” from the biosocial bands that began being laid upon our apprehension of reality after birth; through the primal scene, where the remainder of the real self is left behind, in favor of “getting by” somehow in the social arena given one; to the philosophic bands where one is then wondering, if one cannot be oneself, who then should one be?
Identity and Unmet Needs
However, the search for Identity is pushed by the pressure of all prior unmet needs. The emergence of this drive to find out who to be — these philosophic bands, or Veil, across reality — is driven by the built-up pain of deprivations and abuses:
At the stage of adolescent Identity formation, which creates Veil Two, this force comprises needs for simple acceptance, belongingness, self-esteem.
Further back, this compulsion to discover who to be, i.e., Identity, has roots in the energy of unmet biological needs at infancy and early childhood, which comprises Veil Three.
Even farther back, it is driven by the repressed dynamo of the fear of death inherent in the birth trauma, which encompasses Veil Four.
It is augmented and corrupted by the experiences that give rise to Veil Five, that of our prenatal hell.
Further back still, it arises from the energy — which is that of Pain and lost potential — of unaddressed transpersonal yearnings and directives which we still had access to in the womb, which is Veil Six.
In fact, this drive to discover who one is originates all the way back in the energy of the original act of creation of Wilber’s primary dualism, which as you will see is our coming into Form from No-Form in the creation of sperm and ovum around the event of conception … Veil Seven. Hence, we are driven by needs for acceptance, belongingness, self-esteem, at all stages of life, which are rooted in the energy of our personal “big bang” — our coming from No-Form into Form.
Furthermore, all our needs at later stages — outgrowths of our original intention in coming into Form — are corrupted in the process of the building up of the Veils. To discover who we are, we need to undo that corruption, to pull back those Veils to uncover clearer, more heart-driven, nobler, more Divine identities.
Recapping, the primary dualism is simply the creation of Form out of No-Form. More specifically, it is the emerging of sperm and ovum, of Form out of no-thing-ness. Which emergence, interestingly and from this perspective on the other side of all the subsequent blockages and repressions of Energy, is beginning to look like some kind of “big bang” at one’s absolute earliest beginnings.8
Divinity in Drag – the Id
However, at this point all this accumulated energy that pushes the emergence of the philosophic bands is called libido. Libido is the corrupted outgrowth of our original Divine identity, with all its powerful charge in coming into Form and its imprint of intention for being, which is called mission or destiny.
The natural self is relegated to a Pandora prison.
And as for the pitiful remnant of the Real in the personality — that is, of Mind, of Absolute Subjectivity, of archetypal pattern, of karmic direction and dharmic purposiveness, and of heartfelt human feeling: Well, that is relegated to a locked and dirty Pandora’s box called id — a shabby and distorted remnant, Divinity dressed in demonic drag clothing.
Summarizing, these years of childhood — marked by the defining event of loss of the real self at the primal scene — continue until the time at which culture and society, the Other, make another significant departure from the reality of self, requiring another radical adaptation. The latest and final duality, the fourth separation, splitting, and shutdown — and the Second Veil — occurs around the time of puberty. That is the Identity and adolescence phase of life, marked by its own kernel of an event — rites of passage. We saw what that amounted to in the part previous to this one, which dealt with Veil Two, about adolescence and cultural identity and the rituals of initiation into adulthood.
Now, in this part, let us look more closely at some of what amounts to the mythology around the primal scene and the Oedipal conflict. Naturally, we start with the ancient story of Oedipus.
The Assault of the Father Expresses the Way Patriarchs Feel About Their Sons
“…because they are crushed, they must crush the child. They are kitty-drowners and butterfly-mashers, and the child, the son, represents all the innocence, feeling, thriving, and felicity they cannot have. So it must be killed.”
“…the Oedipal conflict is not universal, but it is a constant in patriarchal cultures for indeed the father wants to kill the son … that is why the son wants to be with the mother and kill the father: For the father brutalizes both mother and son.”
“…at this point, having repressed how one was abused and robbed of a happy life, for no reason other than that it would be offensive to the feelings of the father, who had himself been deprived, one becomes another paternal abuser and thief of happiness for the next generation of sons.”
“…all this can be summed up as the assault of the fathers….”
You see how these Veils across reality represent, each, a further removal from an innate Divinity — one that is feminine, felicitous, and kind — to an increasingly neurotic condition, in which the inner Divinity is replaced by a patriarchal god figure, existing somewhere outside oneself. This god represents both a distorted version of innate Divinity as well as the combined results of the parental Veil, occurring at the primal scene, and the community Veil, imposed on the personality at the adolescence and Identity stage of life. This god outside is a not-too-disguised amalgamation of one’s own parents — in particular, one’s father — and the profile being demanded of all members of the community at the time they are to enter adulthood.
It is in the sense of this interpretation, then, that it can be said that the god outside oneself, who is, for example, the Yahweh of Abraham, is the god of Society — that is, of economic reality, of survival in this material world.1 More than that, however, this god represents conformity to that unreal reality as it was set up by a hierarchy with strongmen at the top and fathers at the peak of a corresponding pyramid in the family. Essentially, then, this patriarchal god is a product of the elites, creating, for the purposes of wealth and power, such a cultural-economic situation where survival would be linked with their largess … or at least, with their permission. Even further it is seen to be a result of an aggression by the father figure, mirroring the cultural vise of hierarchical societies constraining him, and so, acting out the overlooked side of the Oedipal crisis.
The Oedipal Conflict
With that context, let us look more deeply into this Oedipus complex. Traditionally, this Oedipal conflict, which is derived from Freud, involves the boy wanting the full attention of his mother, wanting indeed to sexually have his mother, and wishing his father dead and out of the way. This has been roundly disputed since Freud’s presentation of it. And by now, certainly, by looking cross-culturally we can see that the complex is a product of patriarchal cultures … only.
Why only patriarchal cultures? Well in all cultures there is this split of the real self from the unreal self at the primal scene. That is simply a product of not getting one’s needs completely met or not getting seen and attended to sufficiently by one’s parents. Always there is at least some gap between need and satisfaction, for reasons I get into, in particular, in Planetmates and Prodigal Human.
Now, while I do not want to distract the reader from our line of thinking about the primal scene being misconstrued as an Oedipal crisis, unfortunately I need to stress that less of a needs-satisfaction gap is better. Put another way, that more satisfaction of needs is better than less. For I need to beat back an objection in many minds, arising from this lingering notion that harshness, brutality, and deprivation are actually good for a person, making them … “tougher.” “Spare the rod, spoil the child” and all that.
I can hear the shouts in some readers’ minds of “spoiled brats!” at this very moment. For these folks are convinced it is greater gratification that is the problem, when actually it is greater identification with its loss of self that is the crux of adult dilemmas. Such people know not that “spoiled” children are a particular category of deprivation, where physical-material needs are maximized to offset the extreme emotional-affectional deprivations coming from what are often wealthy, disinterested, uninvolved, and aloof parents. The lack of love and attention is the deprivation, and it cannot be made up for with “toys.”
The fact that the parents of such children are often well-to-do — hence, focused on material things — would suggest that they likely “thingify” their children, as they do everything else in their lives. Such parents will often “manage” their children’s needs — having others to care for, breastfeed (wet nurses), and educate their children — and will be derelict in giving personal time and attention to their children, with their emotional and physical needs. The births and infancies of the children of the wealthy are often handled in the most “efficient” and least time-consuming ways and its tasks are routinely farmed out to strangers.
Traditionally, right up to modern times, the upper class will send their children off to be raised by others, too; and eventually off to boarding school, as was done with Donald Trump, who at the age of thirteen was enrolled in the New York Military Academy. The fact that these parenting practices of the wealthy have filtered down to the upper middle class and the middle classes of modern advanced societies — with earlier and earlier daycare becoming the norm … so as to “keep up” with the demands of highly competitive societies in creating better and more efficient cogs, as early as possible — is a sad fact of our times.
You see, “spoiled” children are the result of less attention to the needs of girls and boys and not more; never do loved children, of “permissive” parents become spoiled children. We can only wish Donald J. Trump would have had “permissive,” loving, and attentive parents; so we would not all now be subjected to his whining for attention and approval on a world stage, while enacting policies designed to punish and deprive the masses the way he was deprived, and specifically, not given attention or love by his father.
In addition, what often prevails in such situations is that the “spoiled” child is actually modeling the adult. You can say “Do as I say, not as I do” all you want, but children will do what you do. So it might be that what these folks are seeing in “spoiled” children are actually split off and repressed parts of their own personalities which they make sure never to notice about themselves. In which case, do not worry, when these children are older they will have all of their parents’ faults and personality deficits. And if you were privy to this development, you could conclude the parents’ to have been successful … in having produced junior sociopaths, just like them.
However, this deficiency of empathy — which is actually what is at the heart of the “spoiled brat” personality, and in this you can see how it would represent the earlier version of what will be the adult sociopath — could also be from traumas occurring not directly out of observable events; not obviously from nurture. There could easily be severe prenatal-perinatal trauma that “spoiled” children endured which could account for their actions now. The problem of becoming “spoiled children” often is a result of inhumane birthing practices and poor prenatal care and awareness. And this cannot be made up for afterward, after the child is born: It needed to be taken care of back then. If not, too late. Too bad. Such trauma is stamped upon their souls for life and cannot be undone with material possessions … or even love.
The effects of harmful events occurring in the womb or at birth can only be lessened, not eliminated, with optimal parenting. Still, there is never any time nor any childhood in which more loving parents and better emotional-needs satisfaction is not assistive to the child — if not completely curative — as well as helpful to society in that these young ones will someday act within it. Let not that important detail be overlooked.
In any case, while the gap between emotional needs and the satisfaction of them can be mitigated by attentive parents, it occurs to at least some extent. And it will continue to. That is, until we have societies, as well as families and parents, that foster human expression and are human-value-oriented and loving. Not dominated by strongmen, wealthy elites, and their metaphysical ploys — the transcendent gods.
Assault of the Father
However, it takes the further devolution to a patriarchal society for innocent four-year-old boys, as depicted in the Oedipal conflict, to be so threatening to the fragile ego of the male parent. Men in civilization are humiliated outside the family unit, having to be sycophantic to higher ups. In ways subtle and not so subtle, they must deny their feelings and self-respect in conformity to those on whom their survival depends, of course, but also in other ways. They will, for example, be further abused and humiliated by clerical authorities and their anti-feeling and anti-body religious dictums; and they will be oppressed by the overwhelming load of work required for survival, as piled on them by their Controllers.
Because of these humiliations arising out of the many constraints on the aliveness of men arising with civilization, men feel deprivation to be their natural state: Think about it, expressed another way, this accounts for and can be described as the stoicism, unfeelingness, humorlessness (“don’t be silly!”), and self-denial required of them. Men will thereby be primed for jealousy of anyone not so oppressed, which includes their own sons in childhood. By contrast, there was never before, not in prehistory, such jealousy by fathers of the freedom, joie de vivre, cheeriness, and playfulness of their sons as there began to be with these patriarchal developments occurring in sedentary-hierarchical societies.
However, that is not the way Freud saw it. Still, he might have. For in Oedipus Rex — which informed Freud’s ideas on this — the father of Oedipus, King Laius, fearing his son, as a mere baby, pierced his ankles and tied them together so he could not crawl. Before you go providing dispensation for this and an apologia for the father, note here how, just like in the Abraham story, the telling of it leaves out the obvious: For Abraham, that was that he was a murderer. In this one King Laius is clearly revealed as a child abuser … horribly so, horribly abusive … in a way that would have gotten him put in prison, today.
Yet patriarchal cultures are wont to cover up the “sins of the father,” and this is what that is about. If nothing else, such complacency toward and dispensation of fathers undoubtedly is what kept Freud from seeing this obvious hint about the real message of the story.
Anyway, back to it. King Laius had received a prophecy that his son would kill him, so he, much like Abraham, again, who thought it okay to kill his son because of these supposed “supernatural” messages … which actually are some kind of psychosis … set out to kill his son instead. After the horrific tethering of the baby, he instructs a servant to leave the baby exposed to die on a mountainside. Quite the father. Yeah, I know.
Amazingly, this assault — actually this attempted homicide of the son by the father — did not either provide a clue to Sigmund Freud who first theorized the Oedipus complex. Child abuse and attempted murder, yet somehow the Oedipus complex for Freud centers on the son’s seemingly warrantless murder of the king. It even posits a hidden agenda to the child — a desire to possess the mother — when in truth it is parents who are crushed and pushed by hidden agendas, not relatively innocent four-year-olds.
These feelings of the father about the son are expressed, as well, in the Oedipus story, and in a stunningly revelatory way. For the father is killed, unwittingly, during a quarrel between the two, which occurs at a crossroads. Consider, any crossroads is going to suggest choices one has to make in one’s life. And, clearly, the most important choice involves who to be — to be oneself or to be a fake, a copy of someone else, even if it is one’s father.
Sure enough, the fight was about who should go first down the road. In this it is readily apparent the question is whether Oedipus should follow in his “father’s footsteps,” in allowing his father to go first, which means to lead, in life. Or whether Oedipus should take off on his own direction and wherewithal and go first and leave his father in his dust.
Well, clearly, Oedipus wants to be his own man (boy). Yet his father wants Oedipus to follow behind him and walk in his shadow. How perfect is that scene for bringing out the feelings of the father on his side of the Oedipal conflict. He wants his son below … or at least behind … him: Him in the lead; him getting the attention; his son being unseen and — if the father is lucky — so crushed (and abused) as to not present any competition to the father.
Father’s Jealousy and “Breaking” the Son
With this diminution of the paternal personality with patriarchy, fathers are not only jealous of their sons, they also cannot bear the message that in childhood their sons are enjoying the kind of life they secretly want but cannot have, wanted but were denied, by all the forces mentioned. In a sense, fathers’ fear of being “killed” by their sons is a symbolization of their fear that they will — as Nature demands — be replaced by their sons at some point.
Every son born is another reminder to a father of his mortality. For each new addition to another generation means that the ending of one’s own generation, and of one’s life, are ever more in sight. Whereas prior to this, as young men, the possibility of death could not be further from mind. So the invincibility that is assumed by all young men is, with the birth of a son, suddenly weakened, even lost. This happens in a way parallel to a mother’s feeling that a birth of a daughter augurs the end of her days of sexual desirability and male attention. We’ll get to that in a couple chapters, when we look at the Electra complex.
In any case, because fathers are crushed themselves, they must crush their sons. They are kitty-drowners and butterfly-mashers; and the child, the son, represents all the innocence, feeling, thriving, and felicity they cannot have. So that aliveness must be killed in the son; perhaps the son himself must be killed. The father might try to hobble the son — that is, put obstacles to growth and happiness in the boy’s way — like King Laius did in tying the child’s ankles together to prevent crawling. The father might, further, block the child’s success in a path of the boy’s own choosing — alike to blocking the road the son wants to go down, which happened to Oedipus at the crossroads.
But above all — and in a way exactly parallel to the way the Evil Stepmother at first tried to kill Snow White, then poisoned and crushed her, so as to remove her as a competitor (as we see in more detail coming up) — all else failing, the child must be killed. At least his life force, the son’s aliveness, must be. This is an intent often expressed in patriarchal cultures of fathers toward their sons, especially in mythology and in particular in the Abraham and Isaac one, the Oedipus one, and the Perseus-Polydectes one.
If a father is prevented from killing his son, he can ease his jealousy by killing the boy’s spirit. Just as with domestication of animals, where we humans took the wild horses and other planetmates of Nature and broke their spirit … demanding they be as unfree and miserable as our constrained, sedentary, trapped, and fearful selves … so also we “broke” our children for the same reason.
In sum, the Oedipal conflict is not universal, but it is a constant in patriarchal cultures for indeed the father wants to kill the son … that is why the son wants to ally with the mother and “kill” the father: For the father brutalizes both mother and son. And the son, while still free and unblinkered, can see this. Being sensitive and empathetic still … until such “softness” is beaten and broken out of him … naturally the son wants to protect the mother.
The child wants to do this for the same reason that Enkidu wanted to block Gilgamesh from raping the bride in that story, as mentioned in Chapter 37. And just as the narrator of that story, as I explained, does not understand why Enkidu would be upset about the bride being raped … after all, the gods! ordained it to be so … so also, after the “successful” breaking of the boy into the “man”ipulated man, adult males cannot see how they have been duped and ripped off of the actual felicity possible to them in life, but also of their inner Divinity … once again! At birth, once, and now, sadly, again.
So at this point, having repressed how one was abused and robbed of a happy life — for no reason other than that it would be offensive to the feelings of the father, who had himself been deprived — one becomes another paternal abuser and thief of happiness for the next generation of sons.
Now, all this can be summed up as the assault of the father. It is the actual genesis of the Oedipal crisis, which patriarchally damaged men like Sigmund Freud and Joseph Campbell and virtually all mainstream psychologists and psychiatrists mistakenly claim has its origins in the feelings of the child wanting to replace the father.
The Family Revolution
Yet we can see that desired overthrowing of oppression in the family by the son, that “revolution,” only arises in response to the father’s aggression.
Not knowing this, however, traditional understandings have it that this time of the boy wanting to overthrow the father receives a “healthy” resolution with the conceding of self to the father. That is to say, it is resolved through abject surrender; the son, like the horse, is broken. In the Oedipus myth, this would be symbolized in an event where Oedipus did end up conceding the road to his father.
What this “resolution,” this abandonment of self involves in actual life, however, is the repression of any of the natural and healthy urges for realness, felicity, authenticity, and pleasure in life in favor of the unreal neurotic society and its damaged product, the father. I cannot help but think about the way the elders of American society proclaimed that my Sixties generation of youth would “grow out” of all that idealistic stuff as we became older. As if we would with time become more “reasonable” … meaning (ahem) more like them … would follow down the “road” they had taken.
What they actually expected is that we — as they had done with their elders in their own youth — would concede to them and abandon our authenticity … “sell out.” We did not. Though that story will not be told for reasons I get into in Culture War, Class War. For one thing, beginning in 1971 in America the elderly elites sought and gained total control of all society’s information systems — media, education, religion. Indeed, with their money trumping our numbers, they retain them still. So this positive development — an evolution of consciousness, happening among the youth of that time — is not wanted by the powers-that-be; they will hardly broadcast its existence.
Regardless, in current times, we can see this entire dynamic of the familial “culture war” from another angle. Primal therapy and the primal scene in particular provide crucial keys in our understanding.
An interesting sidelight of this, by the way, is that these particular parents to the Sixties Generation were of the World War II Generation. That generation, in particular, was denied a chance at an adulthood, an identity, uniquely their own. More than most, they were required to relinquish any desires for personal fulfillment in order to mold themselves into what society needed: Which was warriors overseas and compliant obedient servants of the war effort at home — in whatever capacity they could.
Clearly and quite poignantly, this scenario is exactly portrayed in the beloved movie, It’s a Wonderful Life, with which most folks are familiar. The reason the movie so tugs at our heart strings is that we all — and the WWII Generation, especially — have had to give up our dreams, to at least some extent, in growing up. This happens for virtually all of us at the primal scene and for the vast majority of us in an even more constraining way at the Identity stage. The reason we somehow feel lifted up by the movie is that it identifies the common person’s tragedy and regret, then the movie goes on to comfort, like the fairy tale it is, by saying that it was all for the best, anyway. In other words, despite the lost potential and crushed dreams of everyone, they all lived “happily ever after,” in this concocted utopia of American community life of the 1940s.
Perseus … Oedipus Complex Revisioned
The revision of psychological dogma I am engaged in might be hard going down for the reader. Cognitive dissonance is a painful feeling, keeping us from growing. It is easier to rationalize the experiences one has had as being beneficial and the beliefs one has as being true, rather than — when confronted with the truth upending those “alternative facts” — to change one’s direction, one’s view. For to do that requires a lowering of Ego, which wants to control and master. Yet in this book we are learning how much we were taught was “ass-backwards,” as they say where I grew up. One has to experience the pain of cognitive dissonance and that of a lowering of Ego to be able to take in what is coming up here in the text.
For what becomes clear, from my analysis, is that Oedipus should not have been the model of the primary conflict of childhood for the boy. Electra should not have been the mythology exemplifying the girl’s dilemma. No, the proper mythologies are, among others, Perseus and Snow White, respectively. For these myths show the deeper truths of childhood dynamics. They should replace the patriarchal concoctions of Oedipus and Electra, in psychology, which arose out of male ego and its rationalizing of itself, its protection of itself, its defensiveness.
Reiterating about Oedipus, he is a fifth century BCE mythological figure who slew his father and married his mother. Thus the myth is said to exemplify the supposed desires of the boy child, between the ages of three and six, to possess his mother sexually and eliminate his father.
Whereas the correct reflection of the dynamics therein is portrayed in mythology, too … in Perseus and Snow White, among others. As we saw in other places, mythology gives us our truths, even if we do not understand them … just as dreams do. And perhaps it is only under different circumstances and different times, thousands of years distant … like today … that those messages of ancient stories can be seen, and those truths come to light.
The Assault of the Father:
Perseus, Oedipal Abuse, and Revision of the Oedipus Complex as the Primal Scene
“…the monster is really the father. Yet the father avoids being the target by redirecting that naturally occurring vengefulness and angst of the boy toward another target, who is made to be the monster. This is how men redirect the anger of youths, which would more appropriately be directed toward them, the male elders, instead toward women.”
“We must implicate proxy dads, and evil kings, foreign enemies and minorities, to portray the father we cannot bear to know really existed.”
So it is that the Perseus myth is the one, not the only one though, which actually reflects our childhood dynamic of the primal scene.
The Perseus myth, as we explored it in Chapter 19, is about a man who is tricked by his mother’s lover into making a mistake. You see, the older man wants more time with his amour, the younger man’s mother. Whereas, Perseus, the young man, does not approve of his mother’s suitor, Polydectes, and wants him not to come around so much. How Oedipal of him, right? The kid wants to “remove” or kill the “father” so he can “possess,” have sex with his mother, have her all to himself.
Nonetheless, from the revisionist psychology I am presenting, that desire to keep the man away from his mother is understandable. As I said, the child, clear-eyed seeing, would not approve of the way men treat women in a patriarchy any more than Enkidu did. And just like Enkidu, who also was given a “job” once he became seduced into civilization; as we saw in Chapter 19 about “the task,” the response of the patriarchy is to give the child something to do, to keep him busy, so he won’t be an element hampering the proclivities of the patriarch in regard to the mother. In the Gilgamesh epic, Enkidu is even further enlisted, once “tamed” or “broken,” this time into doing assaults on Nature and the Divine that he would have once abhorred doing. In the same way, young boys as well are given the tasks of manhood — of hard work, masculinity, feelings repression, and aggression — to take their minds off feelings, inconvenient to the elders, of empathy and morality.
Sure enough, for Perseus, this is what happens. According to the myth, with a ruse Polydectes manipulates Perseus into a task which requires him to leave and go off on a long journey. It gets him out of the way, you see? It is here where more clearly we see the assault of the father I have advanced. Importantly it is not only trickery that the father-figure uses, but the dissembling has to do with gifts. Let me explain why that is significant.
“He uses a ruse about gifts” as explaining the myth can be interpreted, in terms of the primal scene, to mean that the child is led to feel inferior and inadequate. Many sons know this strategem of the father, where the elder instills in the child that he is not living up to what is expected of him. The put-downs of the parent create an inferiority in the child. And at the primal scene — the “resolution” of the Oedipal crisis — the child accepts this evaluation of himself.
Rather than getting the necessary gift — which is respect and love from the father — the boy receives a fake substitute, which he is told to consider to be “love.” However, it far from fulfills the need that sons have at that age. This ploy of the father is familiar to many men and has been imposed on most. It gets even more specific. The elder instills in the child that he is not living up to what is expected of him. Some “gift,” huh? Not quite the support and encouragement all of us need at times in our lives.
At any rate, the put-downs of the parent create inferiority feelings in the child, along with a budding despair. Then at the primal scene — the supposed “resolution” of the Oedipal crisis — the child, feeling all is lost and there is no hope to be loved as he is, surrenders. It is not even begrudging surrender; it is total, without a shred of the light of Self in him. And so he accepts this evaluation of himself. We are speaking of sons here, as in the myth, but a parallel thing happens with girls and their parents, as I will get into next chapter with the Electra complex and Snow White.
Now, from the perspective of the assault of the fathers, we see in all this the reflections of the Perseus myth where Perseus is given a task that he, by his father-proxy, Polydectes, has been “fooled” into doing. So the task is a trick, as parents of both genders are wont to do in raising their children, to deflect attention away from the father figure’s actual intentions.
The task is to kill the Medusa, a monster, a Gorgon; Medusa is the defamed image of the feminine, the downward distortion of the patriarchy. This is telling us that the boy must begin the change of thinking and perception desired of men in a patriarchy regarding women — they are sluts and evil and dangerous. Yes, the supposed rites of passage of males includes an indoctrination into misogyny. And of a most severe kind, which involves women-hating, women-despising, and … my god this too is true … aggression against the female in all its forms — literal and symbolic.
Remember, Medusa is said to have become so ugly — she has a headful of serpents instead of hair, for one thing — as a punishment for that grave sacrilege of sleeping with Poseidon in Athena’s temple. Athena’s temple, no less. Athena the virgin, the male idea of “perfect” womanhood. It would be like having sex in the bed of a nun. She had sex with the god of the sea, Poseidon, too. Slumming it, anciently so.
Anyway, like Jezebel in The Bible, Medusa is crafted as a slut.
The rest of the Perseus story has all the elements of the psychological destruction a boy must do to himself in a patriarchy — i.e., learn to lie and cheat; learn to repress his feelings; learn to look away from the facts of things and to instead be directed by the reflected images of truth as come from the mouths of authorities; and most importantly, learn to kill. For the whole story, see my chapters on Perseus in Funny God. Also, refer back to Chapter 19 and subsequent chapters of this book, where I deal specifically with the elements of Perseus which have to do with the tasks as taken up in adolescence. Whereas here we are looking at its deeper fractal at the primal scene.
However, clearly you can see that this myth depicts a boy being forced out of the way by a father who is the one who actually wants to possess the woman who is the boy’s mother. It is significant that it is accomplished through trickery. Compare this with what was said in the chapter on “The Secret of Men.” Remember, the secret of men? It’s a lie. And it’s a falsehood intended to fool you into compliance.
As for someone wanting someone dead — as it is said sons want of their fathers — well, it is the father here who in putting the young man to a dangerous task is liable to get the kid killed! For fathers, whether the child dies or becomes just like him are the only two desired options. In either of them the boy is out of the way: The boy is either killed, or his soul, his actual identity, is murdered. Thereafter, he is daddy’s bitch … the paterfamilias’s little mini-me. Not a threat anymore, for he is simply now an extension of oneself. And he can be used now as chattel, as property, and to carry out the father’s wishes, not his own … just as the father must do in relation to the elites of the society in which he moves, outside the family.
A Dearth of Intimacy
A sad yet significant aspect of this entire process is that it is not just that fathers want to bully their sons away from their mothers, through rites of passage, it is that fathers are jealous of the close relationship their sons have with their wives. I mean that males — diminished as they have been in their own ways — are as adults socially disabled, intimacy-challenged, you might say, so they feel left out of the family affection. Yes, this too is what society does to men.
Then tragically, out of that emptiness and jealousy fathers concoct rites to associate femininity and the mother with everything horrible … they create Medusas … as well they try to take over the role of the mother in the son’s life. They want the son to love them, and not the mother. Fine in the first part, creepy in the second. And how pathetic. Oh, what a horrific sight it is to overview the empty expanse of men’s inner lives and to see the trivialities, the windmill-tilting, the insanities and “alternative facts” they will raise up and deem important so as to hide from their inner despair.
Interesting it is, in that respect, that — as anthropologists in studying the brutal rites of passage of men will stress — boys’ rites of passage involve a man being born of men, not of women. Thus, a re-creation of birth is brought about in the rites — through men, this time. Circumcision and other penal mutilations involved in rites of passage, for example, have their natal analogue in the cutting of the umbilical cord. The umbilical cord was also thought of as part of oneself, like another limb. Hence a penis is its postnatal equivalent, and cutting the penis is cutting the umbilical cord and is a symbolic birth. Anthropologists relate how the words used by the cultural members often state exactly that: That through these rites the boy has been reborn, this time of men. For the reasons of the previous paragraph, again, how sad and pathetic.
The Wonder Years
I had a dream recently that graphically portrayed what I am getting at in this chapter. In it, I was trying to explain how war and such happens, to someone who was like a friend of mine from childhood. He is a friend who represents to me a person who rose up in life without a glitch, through childhood and adolescence, without a complaint on it all; therefore, someone thoroughly besotted and conforming. I was telling him how war is rooted in this Oedipal mind fuck….
I attempted to get my point across by trying to describe the young boy’s reality from before the brutal rites of passage. I described a boy, who had several brothers and several sisters, and who had this wonderful love with his sisters. With as much detail as I could I was trying to portray to him the richness of a life lived in communion with mutually loving siblings and the kind of world they viewed from that perspective: Which was alive and full of wonder and surrounded by waves of comfort and fun, smiling and embrace.
And I was about to describe what happens … as in, “away from the mother-world, forward to the father-world,” as Erich Neumann phrases it1 … where through one brutality after another sometimes going on for days, things like the subincision of the penis, the boy’s natural affection for and empathy with women is destroyed and is replaced by a substitute rage against others, including a deformed image of the feminine, just like Perseus was against the Medusa.
In the dream I was trying to convey to my friend the injustice and stupidity of the normal Oedipal resolution … the actual horror and injustice of it … through a narrative arrangement that began the story inside the family dynamic of harmony between male and female, boy and girl, before male adults come in with their neuroses to fuck it up. Perhaps I was trying to help him remember what he more than anyone had managed to completely forget. The feeling I had in the dream, which I was trying to convey to him, concerned the incredible contrast between the two worlds — let us call them matriarchal and patriarchal, or women and men’s — and the bluish cool blissful numinosity of the world before it has been trammeled into a brownish hazy daily grind of despair. Or of Neumann-osity, lol.
Clearly, this contrast between the world of the magical child and the crushed, conforming child explained both how men could war, kill, and rape — having been, like Persephone, relegated to such an underground themselves as children — as well as the tragedy … and yet promise! … of what was lost. But could now be regained.
“Oh, The Things We Do” … To Avoid Cognitive Dissonance
An important aspect of this is the way the father is depicted as a father proxy, not the biological father, in the Perseus myth. Here we see the common ploy of implicating a father substitute, rather than the father himself. Remember that father substitutes in myth, like stepmothers in fairy tales, represent the split-off “bad” and hurtful aspects of fatherhood, as the Ego’s way of trying to fend off the tragic realization of how his own father betrays him. The Ego splits it off so it does not have to deal with the conflict of a parent who is supposed to be loving but who does hateful and harmful things to one.
For to have that realization of the father’s actual betrayal — the father’s actual lack of love and respect for the son — would be the equivalent of a primal reliving of the primal scene and an emotional life-changing catharsis. Such knowledge, well, handle with gloves, let us say. However, it is the crucial connection and realization — tipping the scales away from the unreal self in the direction of the real one — to be had in deep experiential psychotherapy. It is the one, without which, nothing else.
Notice also, in all this, that the ogre is really the father. Yet the father avoids being the target by redirecting that naturally occurring vengefulness and angst of the boy toward another target, who is made to be the monster. This is how men redirect the anger of youths — which would more appropriately be directed toward them, the male elders — instead toward women. Men do to their male children in a way highly reminiscent of the way that elites contrive scapegoats and minorities to blame for their thievery. That is to say, covering up what would be righteous class conflict with bogus cultural divisions, i.e., with culture war. So here we have another example of how the sociocultural context of the male in a hierarchical-patriarchal society, which predicates particularly brutal and deformed personality sets upon its men at the Identity-adolescent stage, is replicated in the family even earlier, at the primal scene and all the events around it.
Also, notice how this paterfamilias is replicated at the adolescence and Identity Veil by the elder males in societies towards the larger world. In patriarchal societies, the elite, who are usually old men, redirect the anger — which should rightfully be directed at them — toward the men of other societies in war. They channel the youth’s natural anger toward them for the lack of needs satisfaction and the even greater affront of having been tricked and manipulated — just like Enkidu was tricked into civilization — into becoming something other than what they wanted to be. They channel and direct it toward an enemy comprised of other males. To sweeten the pot, after having made women an additional target, the Controllers allow that rape will be a reward for killing. As Marilyn French has written, “the enticement of rape has been the motivation of virtually all wars.”
And do you see also how in doing this the dad figure is split into good and bad and the bad placed elsewhere so as to shield the correct perpetrator? In the same way as in the childhood dynamic of sons, the wealthy in all societies will direct the natural anger, vengeful feelings, and angst of the population, arisen of the manipulation they do, into scapegoats in society. Class war is disguised as culture war. So the economic injustice of societies, just like the personal injustice perpetrated on sons and boys, will be redirected toward “monster” males — often depicted as raping, murdering (cf., Trump and Mexican “bad hombres”) — and to women characterizes as “whores” and “sluts” (no doubt, who therefore are open to having their pussies grabbed, as Trump so memorably explained to us).
Regardless, morality will be conjured — that of a sexual “morality” — to hide the economic injustice going on. Slutty women (“pussies,” in Trump’s mind) and raping, murdering men (“bad hombres,” in Trump’s mind) will be invoked to put up the smoke screen to the actions of the super-rich, who we can picture standing behind ordinary folk and picking their pockets … along with their self-respect, authenticity, and nobility, just as their fathers did to them.
So Polydectes is the bad dad, manipulating the son, ordering and demanding of the son, getting the son to act on the older man’s behalf and not on the volition or out of the desires of the son himself. Polydectes represents the politicians sending other’s children off to do battle in and be killed in wars as well as the stern father determining the career, profession, or adult roles of his children. And, essentially, well, just not loving his son. Not really. Not the way children, both little girls and little boys, need to be loved, respected, and appreciated for who they are … as we are only now in this century beginning to remember.
In any case, just as we must construct a devil, or a Satan, in order to be able to handle the atrocities we see in life … we cannot bear the thought that a god we say is loving might be responsible. So also we must concoct step-fathers to turn blame away from the real culprit. And in society, we will construct scapegoats, so folks will not see the rich as the real causes of their misery. We must implicate proxy dads, and evil kings, foreign enemies and minorities, to portray the father we cannot bear to know really existed.
We must also concoct stepmothers and evil queens for the same reason. Which we look at now.
Maternal Jealousy and Revision of the Electra Complex as the Primal Scene … The Assault of the Mother Expresses the Way Mothers, in Patriarchy, Are Likely to Feel About Their Daughters
“We have had mothers insisting their daughters be silent, be submissive, be non-obtrusive, be quiet and unassuming, be obedient to their mates, and limit their aspirations no higher than their mother’s, to raise their vision not above that of family life and child-caring and food processing. We have had mothers luci-fy their daughters, modeling how to ape non-intelligence and helplessness, silly as a Lucy Ricardo … and just as annoying … rather than blossom and bloom in all their potentiality. For that is what was done to them.”
“These cases together are the modern analogue to child sacrifice done at early times of history….”
Sure enough, a more accurate reflection of the primal scene, for the girl, is seen in mythology, too … more correctly, in a fairy tale. It is not Electra that reveals the truth of childhood dynamics for the girl but Snow White.
Electra Complex Revisioned
Briefly, the Electra complex, which was coined and proposed by Carl Jung, is related to Electra, in Greek mythology, who plotted to kill her mother, Clytemnestra, to avenge her mother’s participation in killing her father, King Agamemnon. You know what they say about the apple not falling far from the tree, heheh. Anyway, the psychological dynamic it represents is a mirror image of the Oedipus complex for the boy. The girl of three to six is said to want to kill and replace her mother in her father’s affections.
Now, let us compare that to what is really going on for girls at that age. In looking around, we find that a correct interpretation of the dynamics of the primal scene, erroneously expressed as an Electra complex, is found in the myth of Snow White. First, harkening back to what I wrote at the end of last chapter about Polydectes … about the “bad dad,” needing to be portrayed as a step-father or some other proxy dad figure … we see a parallel thing in Snow White.
As I am sure you remember, Snow White’s mother also was a step-parent. She is sometimes called the stepmother; sometimes, the evil queen. We see clearly the Ego here trying to not see what indeed it is trying, on the other hand, to tell itself with the story. Like myths, such stories reveal the truth, but it is hidden in a way to keep away the ones who are not ready to know it. Which, as we can see from the utter inability for anyone to have seen what is in this fairy tale, means people in Western society are not ready. Something to expand on later….
So, this evil step-mother is jealous of the young girl. Sound familiar? The mother wants all the attention. She cannot bear the thought that the girl might be more beautiful than her. The fragile ego of the mother abounds here: Being deprived herself in childhood, she is still wanting the attention she did not get then. She is emotionally infantile … more common than any of us wants to know, by the way.
To continue, you know the drill, “Mirror, mirror on the wall, who’s the fairest one of all.” And at the point when the daughter actually becomes a rival, the mother sets out to kill her.
The Assaults of the Mother
Her evil royal-ness sends one of her male underlings, the Huntsman, to kill the child. Later, she herself, disguised as an old peddler, comes by to offer silky laced bodices to Snow White. Getting her to try one, she pulls the stay-laces so tight it causes Snow White to lose consciousness. The dwarves come home and loosen the stay laces. So, that failing, the evil queen arrives in the guise of a comb seller. She brings a poisoned comb to the girl. That also failing, finally she resorts to a poisoned apple.
It is to be noted here how each time the “step” mother (actually the mother) conceals herself as someone else to do it. This is the same way children must believe the bad things done them by their parents are really the perpetrations of someone else … some scapegoat, some “illuminati,” some liberals or hippies or hollywood. This is just the way mothers and fathers help young ones in that projection onto others, onto scapegoats, to cover up their own not-too-good actions against their children. And just the way, this is also, the elite blame scapegoats in society and create culture war between society’s elements to cast the eyes of the populace away from their red hands in the society’s dirty doings.
In any case the assaults of the mother unfold as follows. First, the evil stepmother, concealed as a comb seller, combs the child’s hair with a poisoned comb. This causes Snow White to faint. She does not die.
Subsequently, the step-evil-mother-queen disguised as a peddler selling lacy bodices, wraps the child up tight in a bodice inlaid with hard-as-bullets whale bones. This could not be a clearer depiction of how parents try to fit their children into personalities of the parents’ choosing, which are not fitted to the child at all … and the constrictions of which are painful to the child. With the squeezing of the child by the bodice — just as parents squeeze the life force, happiness, and joy juice out of their children, with hard as whalebones prohibitions and tight-as-bodice rules — the child’s life force, its joy of living, its natural happiness, love, and empathy for all and everyone, is diminished. Understandably, for this is exactly as happens in real life. Again, Snow White faints.
You see, Snow White faints in each of these attempts on her life — the poison of the comb and the constriction of the bodice. In the same way, each of us has the “little deaths” of shocking events of disrespect, abuse, and evidence of non-love and not being seen in infancy and toddlerhood prior to the big split at the primal scene.
Eventually the stepmother comes to the child as a farmer’s wife, disguised again, and deceives the child — remember how Perseus also was conned by the adult figure on the male side of this dynamic — into eating an apple. Quite the con, the farmer’s wife allays the child’s to-be-expected wariness by cutting the apple in two and eating the unpoisoned half.
The Diminution of Self, the Narrowing of Experience
Now, this sends Snow White into a stupor, this time. In this last and seemingly successful attempt, Snow White goes into a coma. Just like in the primal scene, the child succumbs to all the abuse and says, “Okay, you win. I’ll stop trying to be all I can be. I’ll limit myself to the amount of aliveness you can handle, way down there with your deathliness. I will kill my emotions, my feelings. I will slink back into the wallpaper and not be obvious, not be seen. I will die inside. And you can be the one who shines and gets the attention. I will not compete.”
So, the coma is the psychological equivalent of the aftermath of the primal scene for young girls. This could not more perfectly depict the young girl’s childhood and adolescence forthcoming. Inculcated with ideas about sexual repression and elimination of all non-lady-like behavior and mannerisms — all of which, when you think about it, are personality traits that would be threatening to the mother wishing to retain her supremacy as the desired female and the one upon which all attention should be directed — the girl has a period of morose suspension between the primal scene and the time at which she will leave the family cauldron. She lies in silent suspension, unmoving. Not literally, but, psychologically, yes.
Even psychoanalysts recognize this aspect of childhood, where the child is in a post-primal-scene shock, of sorts. Though they misunderstand its origin and evaluate it disastrously, they do portray in pre-adolescence a time of subdued “libido,” which they call the latency period. A reduced libido, which I would call a retreat of the child from his or her realness and selfhood — akin to the coma of Snow White.
In all kinds of ways, like boys, girls are told to not experience life, to hold back, and definitely to not experience pleasure and instead to project images of decency and self-sacrifice. And to attend to the wants and needs of the men in their lives.
We see this in the practice of clitoridectomy in a most brutal and extreme form….
In any case the girl is told to not have pleasure in life. And at least, in a way parallel to the boy, to not have any more than the mother was allowed to have in life. If adult males can be called kitty-drowners and butterfly-mashers, perhaps we can call such adult women flower-crushers and inspiration-snuffers.
If the girl does not submit, well, she is in the Medusa camp, you see. And if she does, she is Athena, that patriarchal wet dream, that doll of a person … not quite real, but pretty to look at. Women as eye candy and servants only.
The Girl’s Primal Scene
We see that the story of Snow White is full of psychological wisdom about the female primal scene. It says our infants and toddlers are hidden behind a mirror reflecting only the caregiver’s countenance — her needs — to herself. Just as Abraham, looking at Isaac, saw only a tool in his agenda with his deity, our babies are not often really seen by us; their needs are dimly ascertained, mixed and diluted thoroughly with our own.
“Who is the fairest one of all?” expresses that women are threatened by their babies, and jealous of them. For how dare these young girls come into the world, being beautiful and delightful and having needs of their own, when the mothers, in their obvious beauty and charm, still have not managed to get all they needed back then (or now)? The stepmother wants to hang on to being the desired one, the noticed one, the wanted one … in this fairy tale. In the same way, in real life, mothers and fathers, caregivers and adults of all kind, are ever and too caught up in their own struggles to be noticed, attended to, appreciated, and wanted, to really see another; let alone a struggling, needy, and crudely assertive other — a child. Remember how Isaac, directly in front of Abraham, was invisible to the older man; who was seeing only, as in a mirror, himself. The many dreams that folks have of being invisible, even in public places, traces back to this dynamic of early childhood. In our unconscious self, we all know we were not really seen.
Meanwhile, children are new to the attention and Ego games of adults, unpolished in their communications to express their needs, and riddled with mixed messages about whether they should even express them. So how can they compete with adults, who have decades of experience and thousands of hours of practice in the confused and complicated requirements of these games?
Guaranteed, children will be, to inhabit the bottoms of all totem poles and to be last on all lists of concern. Still, gifted with hereditary traits of charm and appeal, and extra abilities of cunning and excess mentation to devise new schemas of attracting needs attention, they have a fighting chance. And struggle they must, be clever they must, for all parenting is suffused with the emotional deprivation and resulting twisted consciousness of parents.
Pure and guileless babies, white as snow in intention and closest to Divinity, are offered the apple of nurture and need satisfaction, but it is poisoned. They are attended to by fully growns, however that attention to their bodily needs — like the comb is for Snow White when evil stepmother attends to her hair — is poisoned with the tainted intentions and self-centeredness of the caregiver.
And parents outfit children with a way of being — a skill and personality set like their own — to allow them to go out into the world and with which to interact with it. Yet, like the bodice given Snow White, it does not fit. It is too tight; it is laced in a way to be too constricting. It says “You can be who you want, but only to the extent I will allow. By fitting you in a bodice, I set the limit of your growth.” Unfortunately, for most young girls becoming women, that limit, like a tightly laced bodice, is set so close as to make movement impossible. Fainting, that is to say, dying a little inside, is the only response possible.
And how can it not be? For it is not crafted to fit the child, it is made to suit the adult: These are Ego, personality, and skill sets that the caregiver would impress upon the child to mold them into something which is desired by the adult and rarely wanted or helpful to the child him- or herself.
In all these ways, as expressed in the fairy tale, is shown the hidden desire to get rid of the child, indicated, historically, by infanticide and abandonment. Additionally, in all times and currently, the stepmother’s intentions are demonstrated by child abuse, child neglect, and poor parenting. If not in blatant ways, this ambivalence toward the child, containing the annoyance and irritation, as well as the even more secret jealousy and hatred, shows itself in the simple reluctance to attend to the needs of the child by having the baby “cry it out.”
It is seen in the decision to not breast feed the child at all; and if it is done, by pushing the weaning process. It manifests in the insistence on toilet training … not necessary in Nature or even among gatherer-hunter societies. And even early toilet training. Babies must poop properly! And they must learn to do it right away!
It is evident in circumcision and female genital mutilation and in all the many, many ways children are beaten into shape by humans to mold them into something not conducive to their thriving or happiness but simply to make them, for adults, less burdensome, less intrusive, more appealing, and … finally, even this — more useful.
The Pandora’s Jar of Childhood
Childhood, especially infancy, becomes that unseen, unknown land that we, as adults, seek to put behind us and push below us … happy just that we managed to get through it. We cannot remember much of our childhood, and almost nothing before the age of five. Why? Because we do not want to. We cannot bring it to mind, but a part of us is aware that it was difficult. Perhaps another part of us creates a rosy fantasy about it so as to repress the truth further down. That part pushes our mind to cover up those years, placing them behind and under a thick cloak of confabulation, heart shapes and unicorns, revision, and rationalization.
On the individual level, our childhood is a perfect Pandora’s Jar — something we fear, something that a part of us knows contains all the troubles of our lives, were we to open it. We sabotage ourselves this way: fleeing from the past only to manifest it, ever and again, as fate.
We have forgotten that this myth advises us on a more fruitful attitude toward this time. That is, that in opening the jar, or box, the troubles of the world — our world — come forth, yes. But in the myth, the last thing to come out of Pandora’s Jar, the thing lying at the bottom, is hope. The myth is telling us that it is futile to fear and repress our history, our actual one — not the fanciful, sugar-coated version we have come up with in order to kick out of our minds the truth. It is telling us that real change and progress can only come about through opening the jar and freeing the darkened impulses, thus bringing them into the light of day, of consciousness, where they can be seen and let go of. And that in doing this process, eventually … not immediately or even soon for anyone … real hope and real transformation can arise.
Death of a Girl’s Soul
However, while this process is occurring in childhood, this inability of the parent to see past their needs to those real and crucial needs of the child diminishes the daughter or son. It bludgeons their vitality and life force. Not quite killing the body, it murders the soul instead. In the tale of Snow White, we notice that each time Snow White is poisoned, or constricted with the tight lacing of the bodice, she faints. She does not die, but she becomes less alive. Sure enough, after the final attempt with the poisoned apple — akin to her primal scene, then — Snow White ends up in a deathly state because of all this. She exists in a coma-like state, which is a pretty good description of the kind of trance state that this kind of tainted parenting produces in the child.
The fairy tale then expresses the effect this primal scene has upon our adult personalities. For, in fact the dwarves think she is dead. Actually, we are told that the dwarves are unable to revive her. We see in this that all the good stuff inside her, all that was laid down in her through the good and nurturing experiences of her life, especially that in alliance with the good womb as a fetus, is of no avail in giving a girl life — i.e., happiness, joy, confidence in self — against the onslaught of all these attacks of the mother. She is even placed in a glass casket. Any of you thinking “seen but not heard” at this? Well, that would be accurate. For indeed young girls are told to look pretty and be demure — like the pinup models on the man-caves of men — but, more and more so as they get older, to not to be alive in any way threatening to older women, or any of men, either.
For the tale says Snow White remains in this half-alive state until she is awakened by the Prince. How this happens, well, wouldn’t you know it? He is attracted by her beauty. I mean she’s practically dead and she’s living in a coffin of restrictions on her aliveness imposed by the deadening influences on her short life, but damn, she’s pretty! That’s quite a telling depiction of the state of young romance after patriarchy.
In any case, “enchanted” by her beauty, the Prince falls in love with Snow White and engages with the dwarves to let him take her — mimicking the negotiations of men over young women, treated as property, down through history. In a coffin, mute and unmoving, the girl has absolutely no say in it. However, when the Prince goes to make off with the coffin … and picture the pathos in that, won’t you? As for men addicted to porn, the woman does not even have to be alive!
When the prince is moving the coffin, the poisoned piece of apple falls from Snow White’s mouth and she wakes up. No doubt many women can relate to this as being that time in their lives of their first love partnering. Finally free of the tight bodice of the natal family — and having been physically moved from the family by the intentions of the “enchanted” male, traditionally — for a spell she has a time of a reawakening of her aliveness, formerly suppressed. This coming to consciousness is had in the form of pleasure, sexuality, with luck some tenderness and attention, perhaps even some sort of love. All of which had been missing, however much desired, in her childhood.
So, Snow White wakes up. She says, “Where am I?” This expresses not only the fact that where she will live will not be determined by her, rather by the men in her life, but also something about the question we are all — male and female alike — left with after the primal scene. The question, after having been robbed of who we could have been in life and who we were destined to be — coming in with the unique set of skills and aspirations we each bring to the world — is, well then “Who am I?” Snow White’s “Where am I?” is only a second thought away.
Dispensation for the Mother … Identification with the Aggressor
Certainly this depicts the primal scene. The fairy tale says that upon awakening the Prince declares his love, a wedding is planned, and then this: The tale even stipulates that the wicked stepmother is invited to the wedding. So, just like after the primal scene, the perpetrator is forgotten to be who she or he is. Instead the young girl, and boy in the parallel development, puts the entire unwholly, unjust, and painful episode behind them and proceeds as if it never happened. Normality is forced down upon the spikes of early Pain, “killing” our children, but covering it up nicely with a concocted fairy tale ending of a young love that lasts forever, with the evil mother being now an applauding supportive mother at the wedding. And we might wonder if, in the child now being out of the picture through marriage and no longer a rival, this transformation of the mother into a supportive one might now, with marriage, finally be possible.
In any case, this awakening by a prince shows exactly how we project all of our childhood deprivations onto the love projects of our adult lives, seeking to garner from them what we could not get as children. We want our adult lovers to give us what we did not get as a child and thus save us from the diminished and numbed life that came of it.
Hence, like Snow White in this scenario, young girls do not die, but their souls are murdered. They become less alive. And these traits in the child are passed along, not through natural selection, but through the fact that the numbed child will become the adult who will do the same to his or her own child: It is passed on down through the generations unconsciously and through example. And the young girl, the snowy white and innocent self, will become the jealous evil mother to her own daughter, and eventually, the cycle coming round again, sit at her daughter’s wedding, only then relieved of the conflict.
This Electra complex, then, is really all about the parent; it emanates from the mother’s jealousy and fear. Just as the Oedipus complex is about the father and his jealousy and fear, which pushes him to diminish his son and then send him away.
In my saying the child becomes less alive, or numbed, I mean that the intensity of experience of life, natural in us all as children, is dampened, nearly extinguished, through the mechanisms of the primal scene and the other traumas and injustices of childhood and adolescence in “civilized” societies. By that I mean that with the excessive stipulations and pressures put upon our personhood that came with hierarchical societies, including today’s, our experience — along with our needs, emotions, and aliveness — became muted, dampened. Repressed and numb, our experience lacks the color, the extra flavors and magnificence, and intensity of our lives in Nature. We have no idea what we are missing in our lives. Though some folks will acknowledge a hole in their being, something pale or not real about their lives. Which, of course, is a realization that is put out of one’s mind as fast as possible. We have not an inkling how we cuddle with our chains and contribute to our increasing numbification over the course of our lives.
So, it is soul death, we are talking about. This is how we see in Snow White the true psychodynamics of childhood for little girls. There is more on this, relating to Snow White, in Funny God, too. And you can go there, for it. Here, however….
Love Them, Instead
In these examples we see how, for the boy, it is the father who wants all the attention of the child’s mother, his wife or lover, and wants to kill the child, not the other way around. We can see how it is, for the girl, the mother who, her bloom a fading by the year, desperately wants to maintain her central role in the father’s desires, so is jealous of her daughter and wishes her gone.
These truer depictions show how the child is innocent, until corrupted by the same processes that are employed to get the child away from the mother or the father. In this we see the essence of the rites of passage of all ages. These are rites that men and patriarchs — and sometimes mothers as in practices of clitoridectomy — concoct, the world around, to massage their fragile damaged egos and to eliminate the child of the same gender from the scene so they will not represent competition. And this, instead of the way one should parent a child — which is to be with them, give them attention, listen to them …
We see how instead fathers and the authorities in society want to send the young men off to do battles for them in order to get the son out of the way of the father possessing the mother. This is exactly the dynamic of the other side of the Oedipal conflict. We have sons being sent off to war, enlisted in all kinds of programs and schooling and military academies, not for them, not for their benefit; but mostly so the parent can get them out of the way….
We have mothers, more so than recently … and that should be a hint on who should be leading our cultural changes … We have had mothers insisting their daughters be silent, be submissive, be non-obtrusive, be quiet and unassuming, be obedient to their mates, and limit their aspirations no higher than their mother’s, to raise their vision not above that of family life and child-caring and food processing. We have had mothers luci-fy their daughters, modeling how to ape non-intelligence and helplessness, silly as a Lucy Ricardo … and just as annoying … rather than blossom and bloom in all their potentiality. For that is what was done to them.
These cases together are the modern analogue to child sacrifice done at early times of history….
Just as tragic….
Just as unnecessary….
End of Innocence — Perinatal Matrices
However, prior to this, this struggle was all laid down in an even more shattering event. Something has happened prior to the buildup of the Third Veil of the primal scene across the window to Reality and obscuring the doors to the experience of that greater Existence possible for us. This is according to biologists, pre- and perinatal psychologists, and the reports of experiential pioneers.
It involves what I have termed, the Second Fall from Grace,1 as it happens in the course of time after the first fall into existence of coming into Form from No-Form at conception. Reversing that, now, as we proceed “backwards in time,” figuratively speaking, and in the opposite direction of returning to awareness of that greater Reality once again, it involves the pulling to the side of the Fourth Veil. This has everything to do with the experience of birth. That’s next.
— from Veil Three, “Infancy and Childhood, the Split … the Primal Scene”
comprising Chapters 41 through 44
— of *Dance of the Seven Veils I: Primal/Identity Psychology, Mythology, and Your Real Self* by Michael Adzema, available at Amazon in print and e-book formats.
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ABOUT THE AUTHOR, Michael Adzema. Video below … interviewed by Michael Harrell
— Related: See also other published versions of these ideas….
*Dance of the Seven Veils I* (2017).
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