1. The Tale of Pinocchio and the Puberty Rites of Savages
It is already more than a century that the tale of Pinocchio has been charming children and adults alike. This touching tale has already passed the exams of time. But why do we find it so touching? What is it telling us between the lines, which penetrates us, without even passing through the threshold of conscience? A child is born. However, he is not a child but a puppet. And he is not born by a Mom, like every child, but from a bulk of wood. Where is his mother? How can a child be born without a mother? When he makes his first appearance, he is already a big child, at school age and beyond. All the most important stages of childhood evolution are skipped. Pinocchio has never felt maternal warmth, he has never been kissed, patted, or coaxed by a mommy, and he was only a piece of wood in need of maternal love. The first thing that he does is behaving badly and telling lies.
A child who receives the affection that he needs does not tell lies. Lies are told when reality is unacceptable; they are a fantasized substitute for it. The unacceptable reality to Pinocchio was that he had no mother. However, is it true? Is it the true story, or the tale conceals behind a screen a reality, which has been covered by the veil of repression. As, in Biblical myth, the screen opens on a Father-god, who bends on the earth to create the first Man out of it, in the same way the story of Pinocchio begins with a father bending on a bulk of wood, to create his son. As soon as Pinocchio begins moving and telling lies, his nose grows. We know from psychoanalytical research that the nose is a male phallic substitute.1 If Pinocchio’s nose grows, it means that he has an erection. Byzantine emperors, when they wanted to prevent from a relative or a competitor the possibility of ascending to the throne, they cut his nose, meaning they castrated him. In this way, they definitely excluded him from being a potential competitor.
What a strange story! A newborn child, who is not a child but a puppet, born from a bulk of wood by the hand of a carpenter-father, and who immediately has a lot of erections. And he is not behaving himself. Therefore, he has to be continuously admonished and punished. Where do we find in real life new born children, without a mother, made (i. e. born) from a father, already at puberty age, which have erections and are admonished and punished? Only in one place: in the camp of the young novices in the midst of the forest. Reik has studied the puberty rites of the savages, and he says:
Perhaps the most important prohibition they have to observe during this period is that which forbids association with women. The circumcised youths among the Amaxosa remain in their huts in isolation. If they leave the huts for a short time, they have to cover their faces in case they should see girls and women, and in particular, they must not see their own mothers.2
In the story of Pinocchio, the mother is indeed absent. He can only fantasize her in the image of the Blue Hair Fairy, who appears and disappears into the fine air, like in a dream. During those rites, mothers and sisters are told by the men of the tribe that the monster has eaten their sons and brothers. As Sarah died of grief while Isaac was passing his own puberty rite on the mountain, so the mother of Pinocchio, who in the tale condenses with that of the sister, dies of grief for the death of her son-brother.
Seized with a sad presentiment he began to run with all the strength he had left, and in a few minutes he reached the field where the little white house had once stood. But the little white house was no longer there. He saw instead a marble stone, on which were engraved these sad words:
Here lies the child with the blue hair who died from sorrow because she was abandoned by her little brother Pinocchio
I leave you to imagine the puppet’s feelings when he had with difficulty spelt out this epitaph. He fell with his face on the ground and, covering the tombstone with a thousand kisses, burst into an agony of tears. He cried all night, and when morning came he was still crying although he had no tears left, and his sobs and lamentations were so acute and heart-breaking that they roused the echoes in the surrounding hills. And as he wept he said: “Oh, little Fairy, why did you die?” (Chap. XXIII).3
The tale of Pinocchio is not the only one that speaks of an initiation saga where the sister dies, instead, or in condensation with the mother. Also, in “The Twelve Brothers”, by the Grimm Brothers, it is the sister who remains dumb (= dead) for seven years in order to let her brothers to resuscitate. In “The Six Swans”, it is the sister who intervenes to allow her brothers to be born again.
Once he has mourned the mother-sister, Pinocchio must return to his trials in the company of his father and brothers. Pinocchio is still mourning the death of the Blue Hair Fairy and just then a large pigeon flew over his head, and stopping with distended wings called down to him from a great height: “… do you happen to know a puppet who is called Pinocchio?” — “I am Pinocchio!”. The Pigeon at this answer descended rapidly to the ground. Then the puppet asks him about his father, and the
Pigeon: “ ”I left him three days ago on the sea-shore“. ”What was he doing?“ ”He was building a little boat for himself, to cross the ocean“”. Just like another Hero associated to another initiation rite, Noah. Noah himself is indeed associated with the Pigeon, which he delivered into the sea to discover whether God, the Father, had already pardoned his children. Pinocchio throws himself into the waves (XXIII). He throws himself into the waves of the sea, meaning, he is preparing to die and resurrect, this time from the father instead than from the mother. The Pigeon itself, as every bird, is the symbol of the genital, and as such, it appears also in other tales containing mnemonic traces of archaic puberty rites, as “The Ugly Duck” and “The Seven Crows”.
Reik describes the admonitions and the threats of the fathers to the young novices: “If we hear that you go after women and girls we shall cast you into the fire”.4
As soon as the play was over the showman went into the kitchen where a fine sheep, preparing for his supper, was turning slowly on the spit in front of the fire. As there was not enough wood to finish roasting and browning it, he called Harlequin and Punchinello, and said to them: “Bring that puppet here: you will find him hanging on a nail. It seems to me that he is made of very dry wood, and I am sure that if he was thrown on the fire he would make a beautiful blaze for the roast”. At first Harlequin and Punchinello hesitated; but appalled by a severe glance from their master, they obeyed. In a short time they returned to the kitchen carrying poor Pinocchio, who was wriggling like an eel taken out of water, and screaming desperately: “Papa! papa! Save me! I will not die, I will not die!” (X).
Harlequin and Punchinello represent, together with Pinocchio, the small group of novices who in the course of the initiation rite become blood-brothers. Indeed, in the next chapter the showman — Fire-eater (Mangiafuoco) — sneezes and pardons Pinocchio, who consequently defends his friend Harlequin from a similar death by fire (XI). During the rite, a group solidarity is created on the grounds of the terrifying common experiences. The youngsters initiated together will be one body for the rest of their lives.5 Reik continues:
The most important result of the instruction received in the bush is the changed attitude of the youths towards the men of the tribe. A young Karesau islander is told that he must no longer quarrel with men; and if his father reproves him, he is not to make opposition… In the Luritcha tribe the tatata (circumcised youth) is told impressively: “You are to be obedient as we are obedient. You are to conduct yourself as we do. We are very prone to anger; when a circumcised youth does not obey, then we kill him. If you wish to live, conduct yourself well, lest you be cast into the fire”.6
“Really”, said the puppet to himself as he resumed his journey, “how unfortunate we poor boys are. Everybody scolds us, everybody admonishes us, everybody gives us good advice. To let them talk, they would all take it into their heads to be our fathers and our masters — all: even the Talking — cricket. See now; because don’t choose to listen to that tiresome Cricket, who knows, according to him, how many misfortunes are to happen to me! I am even to meet with assassins!” (XIV).
Pinocchio, because he would not heed the good counsels of the Talking-Cricket, falls indeed amongst assassins, who without loss of time they tied his arms behind him, passed a running noose round his throat, and then hung him to the branch of a tree called the Big Oak (XV).
Puberty rites are performed in savage tribes in all the continents, from the Americas to Africa and Australia and, although they differ in the details, such as for the age of the novices and the extension of their duration, they all contain the same common elements: 1) The youths are kidnapped by the fathers and taken from their mothers and sisters. 2) They are taken into a place like a cavern or a huge hut which symbolizes the womb, but which is called the “belly of the monster” (Balum for the Australians), where they remain for long periods of time. The adults tell to the women that the monster has devoured the youngsters. 3) They are circumcised or they are inflicted an equivalent mutilation, such as the extraction of a tooth. At the same time, they are threatened by death, admonished, and mistreated. 4) The monster eventually agrees to give them back to the women, in exchange to a certain amount of pigs (in the Biblical story a ram was sacrificed to the “Balum”, instead of a pig, to let Isaac go). The novices return to their village, and they pretend to be new born. They pretend not to remember anything, and they have to learn again even how to eat and walk.
The circumcision, tooth’ extraction or another mutilation, in Pinocchio is represented by the burning of his feet. The puppet is unable to walk and Geppetto must make his feet again (VII), and in its repetition in the “thousand large birds called Woodpeckers flew in at the window. They immediately perched on Pinocchio’s nose, and began to peck at it with such zeal that in a few minutes his enormous and ridiculous nose was reduced to its usual dimensions” (XVIII). Fire-eater (Mangiafuoco) is the monster Balum, his name condenses the eating of Balum with the threat of the adults to cast the youths into the fire. When he sneezes (= he throws up) it is a sign that he is giving up a child and demanding another:
The showman Fire-eater — for that was his name — looked, I must say, a terrible man, especially with his black beard that covered his chest and legs like an apron. On the whole, however, he had not a bad heart. In proof of this, when he saw poor Pinocchio brought before him, struggling and screaming, “I will not die, I will not die!” he was quite moved and felt very sorry for him. He tried to hold out, but after a little he could stand it no longer and he sneezed violently. When he heard the sneeze, Harlequin, who up to that moment had been in the deepest affliction, and bowed down like a weeping willow, became quite cheerful, and leaning towards Pinocchio he whispered to him softly: “Good news, brother. The showman has sneezed, and that is a sign that he pities you, and consequently you are saved. ”For you must know that whilst most men, when they feel compassion for somebody, either weep or at least pretend to dry their eyes, Fire-eater, on the contrary, whenever he was really overcome, had the habit of sneezing (XI).
However, he immediately demands Harlequin in place of Pinocchio, whom the former had called “brother”: “Take Harlequin, bind him securely, and then throw him on the fire to burn. I am determined that my mutton shall be well roasted”. The blood kinship among the novices comes in the following lines:
“For him there can be no pardon. As I have spared you he must be put on the fire, for I am determined that my mutton shall be well roasted”. “In that case”, cried Pinocchio, proudly, rising and throwing away his cap of bread crumb, “in that case I know my duty. Come on, gendarmes! Bind me and throw me amongst the flames. No, it is not just that poor Harlequin, my true friend, should die for me!” (XI).
At that point, all are very moved and the puppets are spared. We should not be surprised that Pinocchio was continuously admonished, punished and threatened, and that every time he was contrived only to fall again into new lies and new erections.
The latter were indeed the true reason for the admonitions and the threats. However there is a valve. Reik explains: “The young people on whom are impressed the laws of the tribe which they have henceforth to observe, are given the opportunity to ”have their fling“ once more. In Australia the boys throw mud at everyone they meet”.7 And Collodi: “At the news of the pardon the puppets all ran to the stage, and having lighted the lamps and chandeliers as if for a full-dress performance, they began to leap and to dance merrily. At dawn they were still dancing” (XI). Reik:
Among the Janude in the Cameroons the youths who are to be initiated destroy everything that falls into their hands; and in Darfur they steal fowls. The boys, who are often conducted by their teachers, make attacks by night on the villagers of their tribe and plunder them. The circumcised youths ravenously attack the paternal kraals, steal cattle, and misuse anyone who opposes them.8
In the Pinocchio’s story, like in dreams, there are a displacement and an inversion: the polecats are the ones that steal the fowls and the cattle, and it is Pinocchio the one captured by the farmer:
His astonishment was great when, having brought out his lantern from under his coat, he perceived that instead of a polecat a boy had been taken. “Ah, little thief!” said the angry peasant, “then it is you who carry off my chickens?” “No, it is not I; indeed it is not!” cried Pinocchio, sobbing. “I only came into the field to take two bunches of grapes!” “He who steals grapes is quite capable of stealing chickens. Leave it to me, I will give you a lesson that you will not forget in a hurry. ”Opening the trap, he seized the puppet by the collar, and carried him to his house as if he had been a young lamb… “You shall be my watch-dog. ”And taking a great collar covered with brass knobs, he strapped it tightly round his throat that he might not be able to draw his head out of it. A heavy chain attached to the collar was fastened to the wall (XXI).
The puberty rites, which in our prehistory were universal and left mnemonic traces which emerge in tales and myths, were performed as in the tale of Pinocchio. The fathers, who kidnapped the youths from the mothers, told them that the monster had demanded them in sacrifice. They were taken into the woods and staid there for long periods of time. They had to forget their mothers and sisters. They were taught the law of the clan through tortures and threats, to compel them to repress their incestuous and rebellious drives, and they were born again from the fathers, as in the Biblical myth and in the tale, where the maternal figure is repressed, and it is the Father who creates Man: Jahveh the potter and Geppetto the carpenter.
Pinocchio’s nose will stop growing only when, at the end of his puberty rite, he will successfully repress his incestuous drives. Only then, he will become a true child, meaning, a young man who overcame the rite. How much Pinocchio had wanted, during the long months segregated with other youths in the woods, to become a true child! And beyond all, he missed his mother, and the more he missed her, the more he did not behave properly, he told lies and his nose “was growing”. He still was a child and he was already compelled to become an adult, to forget his mother and to obey his carpenter father. All the elements of the rite are there in the tale. The detachment from the mother, the school books that Pinocchio sells for his entertainments, meaning the paternal teaching that he is trying to resist, the threats of death and the tortures, the solidarity among the terrorized novices, circumcision, the death and re-birth is repeated because “the unconscious behaves like the ancient languages. Both express the importance and significance of a process by means of repetition”.9
In the tales there are also elements, which belong to the myths of the peoples, after the rite itself had become obsolete. The traces remained in the deeds of the Heroes.
The confrontation between Pinocchio and the Serpent, the female phallic monster that the archaic heroes had to overcome and exorcise, like Moses, Orpheus, Perseus, Apollo of Ovidius, St. George, and Tamino of the Magic Flute:
“Excuse me, Sir Serpent, but would you be so good as to move a little to one side just enough to allow me to pass?” He might as well have spoken to the wall. Nobody moved. He began again in the same soft voice: “You must know, Sir Serpent, that I am on my way home, where my father is waiting for me, and it is such a long time since I saw him last! … Will you therefore allow me to continue my road?” He waited for a sign in answer to this request, but there was none: in fact, the Serpent, who up to that moment had been sprightly and full of life, became motionless and almost rigid. He shut his eyes and his tail ceased smoking. “Can he really be dead?” said Pinocchio, rubbing his hands with delight; and he determined to jump over him and reach the other side of the road. But just as he was going to leap the Serpent raised himself suddenly on end, like a spring set in motion; and the puppet, drawing back in his terror caught his feet and fell to the ground. And he fell so awkwardly that his head stuck in the mud and his legs went into the air (XX).
The same Mud of Mother Earth, from which had emerged the big Snake fought by Apollo, the initiation god (Ovidius, Mtm., I:435-445). The journey seems to be endless. Pinocchio arrives at the island of the “Industrious Bees” and he finds the Fairy again (XXIV), as Ulysses had found again the woman in Circes, Nausica and
Calypso reaching their islands, only to lose them again. Great fight between Pinocchio and his companions one of them is wounded, and Pinocchio is arrested by the gendarmes (XXVII), as it happens in the heroic deeds of the archaic heroes. The climax of the story is the re-birth, and the identification with the fathers-torturers.
With Reik’s words:
We recognize in all these rites the strong tendency to detach the youths from their mothers, to chain them more firmly to the community of men, and to seal more closely the union between father and son which has been loosened by the youth’s unconscious striving towards incest.10
Pinocchio, having been thrown into the sea, whilst he is swimming away to save his life he is swallowed by the terrible Dog-Fish (XXXIV), repetition of Mangiafuoco-Balum:
Pinocchio… began to grope his way in the dark through the body of the Dog-fish, taking a step at a time in the direction of the light that he saw shining dimly at a great distance. The farther he advanced the brighter became the light; and he walked and walked until at last he reached it: and when he reached it… what did he find? I will give you a thousand guesses. He found a little table spread out, and on it a lighted candle stuck into a green glass bottle, and seated at the table was a little old man… At this sight Pinocchio was filled with such great and unexpected joy that he became almost delirious. He wanted to laugh, he wanted to cry, he wanted to say a thousand things, and instead he could only stammer out a few confused and broken words. At last he succeeded in uttering a cry of joy, and opening his arms he threw them round the little old man’s neck, and began to shout: “Oh, my dear papa! I have found you at last! I will never leave you more, never more, never more!” “Then my eyes tell me true?” said the little old rubbing his eyes; “then you are really my dear Pinocchio?” (XXXV).
With the words of Reik, the completion of the rite is crowned by the “union between father and son which has been loosened by the youth’s unconscious striving towards incest”. The representation of Pinocchio “taking a step at a time in the direction of the light that he saw shining dimly at a great distance. The farther he advanced the brighter became the light; and he walked and walked until at last he reached it”, and the one of father and son, deep in belly of the Dog-Fish, with a candle on the table, is parallel to Plato’s image of the cavern (Rep., VII), that I have interpreted as a symbol of the maternal womb and of birth.11
Then Pinocchio tells to Geppetto all the misfortunes that had happened to him during his long initiation journey, as if his father had not already known them, and Geppetto, after having summed up to his son his own misadventures, says:
“But I have arrived at the end of my resources: there is nothing left in the larder, and this candle that you see burning is the last that remains…” “And after that?” “After that, dear boy, we shall both remain in the dark.” “Then, dear little papa, ” said Pinocchio, “there is no time to lose. We must think of escaping…” “Of escaping? … and how?” “We must escape through the mouth of the Dog-fish, throw ourselves into the sea and swim away.” “You talk well: but, dear Pinocchio, I don’t know how to swim.” “What does that matter? … I am a good swimmer, and you can get on my shoulders and I will carry you safely to shore” (XXXV).
As Eneas had saved his father Anchises, carrying him on his shoulders, in his own initiation rite,12 so Pinocchio takes on his shoulders his father, becoming, through the completion of the rite, his father’s father, and together they are vomited from the belly of the Dog-fish, the Balum of the Australian tribes. After a long swim (the heroic deed of the archaic hero = the struggle to be born again), son and father emerge from the waters, meaning, they are born again together, as a repetition of the peristaltic expulsion from the belly of the monster, in order to return together to their village, from where the fathers had previously kidnapped their own sons.
The puberty rites, which in the prehistory of mankind were universal, are not being performed in our society since thousands of years. However, the psychic tension, which engendered the need, is still there, and it has found its expression in the tale of Pinocchio. The authenticity, and therefore the beauty of this tale, comes from the description of unconscious events, concealed behind the screen of a fantastic story told by the mouth of a child who is telling us of the drama of the tensions of the latency and pubertal stages of evolution. We found the reason why the tale of Pinocchio continues touching us. Because it is the eternal story of the conflict and the reconciliation between fathers and sons, and as such, it is a true story.
2. The Puberty Rites and the Freudian Horde
We have seen how the archaic puberty rites, performed during our prehistory for tens of thousands of years, found their way from the repression into the tale of Pinocchio, through the vehicle of the philogenetic inheritance. We can’t imagine any other way those rites could reach a 19th century writer, who did not know anything about the puberty rites which are still performed even today by savage tribes in America, Asia, Africa and Australia, and that had been investigated and described by Frazer, Atkinson, Robertson Smith and decoded by Theodor Reik.
The tale helps us also in focusing on another aspect of those rites. When the youths were kidnapped by the fathers, separated from their mothers and sisters, compelled to live isolated and in small groups, under the constant threat of castration by their fathers, the situation triggered also a reactivating of the psychological contents peculiar to the primeval horde, described by Freud. At this point, we have also the correlation between the Prodigal Son, the youngest son, who returns home delegated by the rest of the horde to kill the Father13 (like in the primeval horde), and eventually acts out a reconciliation instead than a murder (like in the puberty rites). Those rites had, in this way, the purpose of staging again the primary event but, at the same time, of acting out its undoing through the different outcome: reconciliation instead of a murder.
There is also a correlation between the Prodigal Son, who had devoured his living (the paternal patrimony = sperm) with harlots (Luke, 15:30), while in exile (like the exile of the primeval horde) and what Freud said, quoting Atkinson: “The patriarch had only one enemy whom he should dread… a youthful band of brothers living together in forced celibacy, or at most in polyandrous relation with some single female captive”.14 Abraham found the association between patrimony and virility (sperm), telling us of one of his patients who had dreamed that her father had lost his patrimony and a leg, and that Abraham had interpreted as a wish of castration directed towards her father.15 In my opinion, patrimony stands for sperm, while leg stands for penis. It is almost a repetition of the same concept, but not quite. We are used to associate money (patrimony) with “liquidity”, and of a person who has ready money we say that he has liquidity. “Liquidity” is associated also to urine and enuresis. However, there is no contradiction, since the association between liquidity-sperm and urine is confirmed in Abraham’s essay dealing with premature ejaculation, where he states that premature ejaculation and urinating are psychically equivalent.16
The leg, on the other hand, associates to a hard and rigid object and therefore is fit to represent the penis itself. Pinocchio loses his legs and Geppetto make them again. The legs-penis are pars pro toto (a part for the whole), as children identify with their penis as if it were not a part of them but their whole body. The legs-penis are burned-castrated, namely Pinocchio is dead. It is the father-carpenter who makes them again and therefore he makes again Pinocchio himself. The story tells us of children perception of owning their life-penis to the Father. That perception of a Father, to whom we owe our life, is also the nucleus of every monotheistic religion.
Penis, life, sperm, and genital potency are therefore the absolute feud of the father, something that belongs only to him, and that children crave capturing and possessing. In this context, we have some enlightening Biblical associations.
According to Reik, the Tree of Knowledge (Etz HaD’at) represents God Himself.17 The primeval sin was therefore an act of cannibalism directed towards the body of god-Father. However, “Knowledge” in Hebrew is genital, as is written: “Now Adam knew Eve his wife, and she conceived and bore Cain” (Gn., 4:1), “Cain knew his wife, and she conceived and bore Enoch” (Gn., 4:17), “Bring them out to us, that we may know them” (Gn., 19:5), “Behold, I have two daughters who have not known man” (Gn., 19:8). Therefore, when Man ate the Tree of Knowledge, he ate the paternal genital, with the aim of introjecting and incorporating the sexual paternal potency that the brothers of the horde so craved and envied to their Father.
The tale of Pinocchio tells of a “a shrub [a tree] already pushing through the ground, with its branches quite loaded with money” (XVIII), which would eventually grow, if only the act of sacrilege had succeeded: “And if instead of a thousand gold pieces, I was to find on the branches of the tree two thousand?” (XIX). The Biblical Tree of Knowledge (God’s genital) emerges in the tale through the fantasy-wish of Pinocchio, after which, as in the Biblical myth, he repents in the utmost desperation.
Like the Prodigal Son, also Pinocchio “devours his living”, his father’s pieces of gold, namely, his father’s potency which belongs only to him.
The child, who experiences the first ejaculations, feels guilty because he perceives his first potency as an act of defiance towards his father, and hence fore his new-old terrors of castration. In the son’s fantasy, the father will not leave this act of hybris unpunished. It is not casual that Ulysses, after having deflowered the city of Troy, through the penetration of her walls by the horse he had planed himself, an obvious symbol of the penis, and the ejection from it of the Greeks heroes, symbol of the ejaculation of sperm, he was cursed by Poseidon, the god defender of Troy virginity (Cfr., in Gn., 49:3-4, the curse of Jacob to Reuben, his son, after he had sexual intercourse with his father’s concubine).
However, losing his father’s gold coins, condenses also an act of undoing of his own arrogance, under the weight of the sense of guilt and the terror of paternal retaliation. Every conflictual behavior, in which drives and counter-drives alternate, is the result of opposing internal forces pulling each one in a different direction, and hence the condensation. Therefore, burying the gold coins which belong to the father, in the same very action in which he gets rid of them in order to dispose of his sense of guilt (the gold coins are the product of the sinful appropriation), he also acts out his death wishes towards his father. After all, only the dead are buried into the ground. The outcome is a condensation between different drives and the sense of guilt: doing and undoing in the same acting out, as in neurotic symptoms.
3. The Harlots
Pinocchio, like the Prodigal Son, loses (the Gospel says “devours”) his father’s pieces of gold, and under the influence of the advice of two odd friends: the Cat and the Fox. Let us see how it happens:
Whilst they were thus talking, Pinocchio observed that the Cat was lame of her right leg, for in fact she had lost her paw with all its claws. He therefore asked her: “What have you done with your paw?”. The Cat tried to answer but became confused. Therefore, the Fox said immediately: “My friend is too modest, and that is why she doesn’t speak. I will answer for her. I must tell you that an hour ago we met an old wolf on the road, almost fainting from want of food, who asked alms of us. Not having so much as a fishbone to give him, what did my friend, who has really the heart of a Caesar, do? She bit off one of her fore paws, and threw it to that poor beast that he might appease his hunger.” And the Fox, in relating this, cried a tear. Pinocchio was also touched, and approaching the Cat he whispered into her ear: “If all cats resembled you, how fortunate the mice would be!” (XVIII).
The paw represents the penis. “The front right leg” is a repetition of the phallic concept, as the Christ who sits Dextera Patris (at the right of the father), as Jones writes to Freud on the 18 December 1909: “… also in Egyptian phallic worship that the right penis was the Father, the right testicle Horus (Christ) and the left Isis (Maria)”.18 The same concept of right = potency, virility, is expressed in the Bible: “The right hand of the Lord is exalted; the right hand of the Lord does valiantly” (Psalms, 118:16), namely, the right hand of the Lord is his penis. Mutius Scevola, the Roman hero, self-castrated putting on fire his right hand, not because, as the legend rationalizes, it had failed in its task of killing the king of the Etrusks, but because it had risen, namely, he had an erection against Porsenna who, as every king, symbolizes the Father. It is the phallic act of defiance, which deserved the punishment. The failure and the self castration were the consequence of the hybris-erection.
Therefore, according to the Fox’s lie, the Cat had given up his paw (he self-castrated) and had given it to the old wolf, which, like in the tales of Red Riding Hood, The Seven Kids, and The Three Little Pigs, represents the imago of the Father.
Making of it a masochist act of filial consideration towards the father, the Cat solves, through an inversion, his drive of castrating his father biting him and the subsequent dread of retaliation. Through that device, the Cat keeps his own narcissism: “It is not he who retaliated and bate my leg, it is I who gave it to him”.
Collodi had told us how the real events had taken place, and what the primary scene had been:
Then the shorter assassin drew out an ugly knife and tried to force it between his lips like a lever or chisel. But Pinocchio, as quick as lightning, caught his hand with his teeth, and with one bite bit it clean off and spat it out. Imagine his astonishment when instead of a hand he perceived that he had spat a cat’s paw on the ground (XIV).
However, there is another more significant level to the story, which links to the Prodigal Son, who had devoured the paternal patrimony with harlots, and to the one of the primal horde, “a youthful band of brothers living together in forced celibacy, or at most in polyandrous relation with some single female captive”, as quoted from Atkinson. Freud and Abraham told us what is the interpretation children make when they discover that females do not possess a penis like their own: they are convinced that the female genital is a wound, inflicted on her by the male during sexual intercourse. Heterosexual intercourse is interpreted as a violent act through which the female loses her penis, she is castrated, and that is the precondition for her femininity.19 In this context, therefore, the Cat lost his penis as a consequence of a rape after which he becomes a female. If we circumvent the inversion in the tale, according to which it had been the Cat who had “given” his penis to the father-wolf, we return to the primal scene fantasized by the child in which the female becomes such as a consequence of castration inflicted on her by the father. There are men who can be potent only with prostitutes or mutilated women, because in this way the inhibition to approach the female, which engenders in the scaring fantasy of the phallic woman, in a “castrated female” is removed. Having been castrated she has no more the fantasized penis, which had functioned, until then, as an apotropaic mean against the male genital drive. The Cat, who “gives” to the poor old wolf his penis in an act of self-castration, becomes, in the process, a female, and its wound becomes a vagina through which heterosexual intercourse may be consummated.
The Egyptian goddess Basti, the cat-headed goddess worshipped at Bubasti, is identified by Herodotos with Artemis (Hist., II/59), the virgin goddess who in Asia Minor was considered Great Mother, and as such was represented covered with many breasts (polymastos). Like Atena, the other virgin goddess and Mother and who held in her hand a spare as an apotropaic mean against genital penetration, Artemis held a bow and arrows for the same purpose. The virginity of the goddess should not induce us into error: she was Great Mother. The concept of virginity of the mother is only the other pole of the one as harlot. The other pole of the same concept, and not antithetic to it, as the child conceives the double image of the mother as virgin and as harlot in the same condensation. See Mary, the Virgin, and Mary Magdalene, the harlot, the same imago split into two images, apparently antithetic, but completing each other. See also the Israelite horde putting the siege on Jericho, behind whose walls there she is Rachab, the Harlot (Jos., 2), and the Achaean horde encircling the walls of Troy, behind which there she is, Helen the Queen. The same figure split into two different imagines, one idealized and the other despised.
There is also another tale, by the same Collodi, where the Cat is represented as a feminine imago, “The Cat with the Boots”, in which every illustration represents to us a cat with two big mustaches, displacement of the feminine pubic hair into the face, as had already happened with Medusa and her pubic hair (the snakes) displaced into the head. Indeed children do use drawing beard or mustaches on feminine images. The cat is wearing big boots, a vaginal symbol, as every big shoe in which the leg penetrates. The image of the cat with big mustache and boots brings us to the pornographic scenes in which the girl often wears boots, while she is wearing very little beyond them, as symbol of female castration. With the words of Baudrillard dealing with the stripteaseuse:
She wears gloves which cut her arms, stocks green red or black [or boots] which cut her at the height of the thigh… the body that the woman encircles with a sophisticated manipulation, an intense narcissistic discipline, without any weakness, makes of her and of her sacred body a living penis, which represents the real castration of the woman. Being castrated means being covered with phallic substitutes.20
The association woman = castration emerges from Baudrillard’s words too. The Cat was not only lame but also blind, repetition of castration (see Oedipus who blinds himself), and the Fox was lame as the Cat:
But he had not gone far when he met on the road a Fox lame of one foot, and a Cat blind of both eyes, which were going along helping each other like good companions in misfortune. The Fox, who was lame, walked leaning on the Cat, and the Cat, who was blind, was guided by the Fox…. “Look at me!” said the Fox. “Through my foolish passion for study I have lost a leg.” “Look at me!” said the Cat. “Through my foolish passion for study I have lost the sight of both my eyes” (XII).
Let us see what Abraham says of one-eyed, short-sighted, and lame women:
One of the patient’s most pleasurable phantasies was the idea of taking away her glasses from a short-sighted girl, or, better still, a one eyed girl, or depriving a young woman of her artificial leg, thereby making her helpless. His associations made it more and more evident that these ideas concerned displaced castration phantasies. Particularly important in this connection was the dream described above about a girl he knew by sight that could only see with one eye. His idea in the dream was that her missing eye had been knocked out by her father. From here his associations led to his own fear of losing an eye. This anxiety arose from two sources, namely, the idea of punishment for forbidden looking, and the displacement of castration anxiety from the genitals to the eye. This displacement is quite analogous to the one mentioned above from the female genitals to the eye. Both ideas clearly bear the significance of a talion. I have the satisfaction of knowing that my conclusions in this respect agree with Freud’s views, and also with those of other analysts.21
The Cat and the Fox, as we have seen, are the repetition of the castrated woman, and at the same time, they are two astute crooks cheating Pinocchio. In this scene emerges the mistrust towards the woman, felt by the child when he discovers that she has not a penis like his own. Before reaching the to him unavoidable conclusion that she has been castrated by the father, he suspects that she indeed has a penis, but she conceals it somewhere in her body. With Abraham’s words: “The perception that she hides a penis in her body, but very big”.22
There are also other associations which drive us to the conclusion that the Cat and the Fox of the tale of Pinocchio represent the mnemonic trace of the single females that “a youthful band of brothers living together in forced celibacy”, mentioned by Atkinson speaking of the primeval horde, had to share among themselves, the same harlots which emerge also in the parable of the Prodigal Son.
Of the snake is written: “Now the serpent was more subtle than any other wild creature that the Lord God had made” (Gn., 3:1). The same cunning of the Fox.
In my work I have reached the conclusion that the serpent is not, as stated by Abraham and Reik, the symbol of the penis, but it is the symbol of the phallic aspect of the woman, namely, her clitoris.[^23] One of the reasons which drove me to this conclusion is that through all my research in myths, tales and legends I have never found a serpent in direct association with males, gods or heroes, but only with women. Gods and Heroes, when they deal with serpents, they only touch them through a rod (Moses-Aescalepius), which is indeed the male phallic symbol.
Therefore we have the association: Fox = cunning = serpent = clitoris.
Furthermore, animals with a soft fur associate with the pubic hair of the female genital. It is not casual that women wear furs of foxes, beavers and minks, as a hint to the unconscious image of their own pubic hair.
Where are the harlots of the puberty rites of savages? Reik says:
Another characteristic of the puberty rites, which has hitherto been obscure, is now clear, namely, the sexual licence that takes place in many tribes after the period of the rites. It seems to run counter to the avoidance of women that in many tribes the puberty celebrations are accompanied by wild orgies. For instance, in the Amaxosa tribe it is customary for the circumcised youths to commit unrestrained excesses with girls. The final celebration of the circumcision among the Zulu Basutos and other people is also characterized by sexual excesses… The Kikuyu of West Africa believe that the first coitus which the newly circumcised youths perform leads to their death or that of their partner. They endeavor to avoid this gloomy fate by the following procedure. After the puberty rites have been carried out, fifteen or twenty men collect together, seize some old women in a lonely spot, misuse them sexually, and then kill them. The death of these women frees the youths from all danger.23
Doesn’t it remind us of good bourgeois fathers who take their pubertal sons to have their first experience with a prostitute, and to initiate them to “men’s ways”?
The renewed solidarity between fathers and sons is also the matrix of misogyny. As Reik says: “impulses of hate based on ambivalence of feelings must have manifested themselves against the woman on whose account the dreadful and fruitless deed was carried out [the patricide]”.24 The degradation of the woman to harlot had been, therefore, a consequence of the sense of guilt towards the father.
4. From the Archaic Puberty Rites to Christianity
We have seen how all the main elements of the existential condition of the primal horde reappear in the puberty rites of savages, in the story of the Prodigal Son and in the tale of Pinocchio through the vehicle of the philogenetic coercion to repeat, no matter how much it seems to us to have taken distance from those pivotal archaic mental contents.
Christianity, the result of the crisis of the ancient world which had overcome in due time the archaic puberty rites, in the process of regression triggered by the crisis itself, did a reactivating of the archaic puberty rites, with an innovation. The rite, instead of being inflicted on the all congregation of the youths, was delegated to their Vicar. Vicar of the sons to the Father, and not Vicar of the Father, like the Hero of Greek mythology who was sent in mission to the realm of the gods. Accepting the Vicar as their delegate, the rest of mankind was now exempted from passing the rite themselves in carne, thanks to the Christ, who has passed it on their behalf.
Indeed St. Paul exempted the believers from circumcision, the crudest symbol of the castration threats so underlined in those rites. Faith came in place of the rite, which it is the belief that the Vicar resurrected, namely that He successfully completed the puberty initiation rite in which the resurrection by the Father and from the Father is the climax of the all process. The one, who believes that the Christ resurrected and identifies with Him, is considered as he himself had passed the rite, and he is accepted into the Kingdom of Heaven, transfiguration of adult’s society.
We find in the Gospels all the elements that we found in the puberty rites described by Reik and in the tale of Pinocchio. Jesus, who came in the name of the Father, says: “Make friends quickly with your accuser, while you are going with him to court, lest your accuser hand you over to the judge, and the judge to the guard, and you be put in prison” (Matt., 5:25). The gendarmes arrest Pinocchio, he is brought to court, and he is put into prison (XIX). The novices were kidnapped by the fathers and put into the camp in the midst of the forest.
The Gospel says: “You have heard that it was said ”You shall not commit adultery.“ But I say to you that every one who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart’” (Matt., 5:27). And the savages described by Reik: “If we hear that that you go after women and girls we shall cast you into the fire”.25
The castration threats in the Gospel: “If your right eye causes you to sin, pluck it out and throw it away; it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body be thrown into hell” (Matt., 5:29). Pinocchio’s legs burn out, and the “Woodpeckers perch on Pinocchio’s nose, and peck at it until it was reduced to its usual dimensions” (XVIII).
The brotherhood preached by the Gospel is parallel to the solidarity among initiated together, like among Pinocchio, Harlequin and Punchinello.
The story of the boat and the tempest on the Lake of Galilee (Matt. 8, 23-27) is parallel to Pinocchio, who desperately tries to reach his daddy struggling among the waves.
The two blinds, which go after Jesus and propose to Him to perform miracles (Matt., 9:27) are parallel to the Cat and the Fox who propose to Pinocchio to bury his father’s gold pieces in the Field of Miracles, on the assumption that a miracle will make them grow. The multiplication of fishes and loaves of bread is a repetition of other miracles and it is parallel to the assumed multiplication of Pinocchio’s pieces of gold.
It is not casual if we smile listening to the tale of Pinocchio, the Cat, the Fox, the Field of Miracles and the multiplication of the pieces of gold, because we unconsciously know that we have already heard that story. Now we can wink in disbelief, while the Evangelic saga imposed blind belief. Reik says that the adults, who tell stories of Balum and miracles to the women and children, laugh among themselves, because they know that they are telling lies. Those are the ways in a place named “Trap for blockheads” (Acchiappacitrulli).
The stories on Jesus, as the Gospels describe them, are a repetition of the adventures of Pinocchio and his companions, the young novices in the depth of the wood. The teaching in the Temple, where the Rabbis are no others than the pedant Talking-cricket, against whom Jesus rebels, his capture in the Gatsemani garden, the prison and the trial are a repetition of the same adventures occurred to the puppet.
For sure, the Gospels came before the tale of Pinocchio, and therefore we should say that the tale is a repetition of the narrative of the former. It is indeed so. However, we must remember that in dealing with unconscious contents there is no logic consequence of events. Psychical contents are a-temporal (timeless). We don’t think that Collodi had in mind the Gospel when he wrote his tale. We think that both, the Gospel and the tale, suck their energies from the common psychical pre-historic event (the primal horde and the puberty rites), and therefore they are both dependent on it in the same way, namely, on the original trauma, while they are independent of each other. There is no historical subsequence of events but there is the same psychical response to the stimulus which triggered the regression. Drives and emotions are timeless. The question should be what the I and the XIX centuries had in common to trigger the same response. It is a very important wondering, and we shall leave it to another essay.
Back to our endeavor. As long as Jesus is among his disciples, there is an apparent inversion, because He identifies with the precepts of the Father and He appears as the Vicar of the latter. Pinocchio, too, sustains through the all tale that he wants to obey to his father and to act out his will. However, the veil of the condensation falls with the Capture, the Process, and the Cross. Here His true nature as a Son-god, in contrast to the Father, and not in symbiosis with Him, becomes evident. The same Capture, Trial and Prison that Jesus had threatened his brothers, as Vicar of the Father, are now experienced by himself, as Vicar of the sons. The Trial of Pinocchio is a repetition of the Trial of Jesus:
The judge listened with great benignity; took a lively interest in the story; was much touched and moved; and when the puppet had nothing further to say he stretched out his hand and rang a bell. At this summon two mastiffs immediately appeared dressed as gendarmes. The judge then, pointing to Pinocchio, said to them: “That poor devil has been robbed of four gold pieces; take him up, and put him immediately into prison.” (XIX).
And the Gospel tells us: “Pilate said to him, ‘What is truth?’ After he had said that, he went out to the Jews again, and told them, ‘I find no crime in him’ (John, 18:38)… Then Pilate took Jesus and scourged him” (John, 19:1). Instead of setting free Jesus, Pilate sets free Barabba, the robber. In the same way Pinocchio is set free only when he declares himself a criminal: “’I beg your pardon’, replied Pinocchio, ‘I am also a criminal’. ‘In that case you are perfectly right’, said the jailor; and taking off his hat and bowing to him respectfully he opened the prison doors and let him escape” (XIX).
The 15th chapter of Pinocchio is the exact parallel of the 19th chapter of John. The Trial of Jesus and the trial of Pinocchio have in common the central event, which in both stories had been repressed, which emerges, nevertheless, through the verdict. Apparently, both are condemned because they are innocent. However, is it really so?
The sin of which no one speaks is that of which Jesus was guilty as Vicar of the horde of the brothers: patricide and incest. The first Man had captured the paternal potency eating of the Tree of Knowledge, which, as we have seen, represents the genital of the god. Now the Christ, as delegate of the horde, must atone for the sin, the same sin of Pinocchio, who had captured the gold coins of Geppetto and had buried them, as a symbol of his death-wishes towards his father.
Jesus and Pinocchio had not listened to the Rabbis — Talking-Cricket, and now the assassins arrive (XIV): now, “drawing out two long horrid knives as sharp as razors, clash… they attempted to stab him twice…” (XV). Exactly like the wound in the rib inflicted on Jesus by the Roman Centurion: “one of the soldiers pierced his side with a spear” (John, 19:34).
For Pinocchio: “’I see what we must do,’ said one of them. ‘He must be hung! let us hang him’ ‘Let us hang him!’ repeated the other” (XV). For Jesus: “When the chief priests and the officers saw him, they cried out, ‘Crucify him, crucify him!’” (John, 19:6).
And then they hung him to the branch of a tree called the Big Oak (XV). The Big Oak, as the Tree of Life is the Cross. Indeed, in Christian theology, the Cross is compared to the Tree of Life, and there are images in Catholic art where the Cross is represented with offshoots and leaves. Jesus is crucified to the Tree of Life because he had profaned the Tree of Knowledge, the genital of the Father. The Law of the Talion demands its part. As there were two companions to the puberty rite of Pinocchio, Harlequin, and Punchinello, so there were two companions to Jesus on the Golgota: three crosses, like three puppets.
Collodi: “The puppet, seeing death staring him in the face, was taken with such a violent fit of trembling that the joints of his wooden legs began to creak” (XV). And the Gospel: “The Jews asked Pilate that their legs might be broken” (John, 19:31).
Collodi: “… and the sovereigns hidden under his tongue to clink.” (XV). The Gospel: “… so they put a sponge full of vinegar on hyssop and held it to his mouth” (John, 19:29).
Pinocchio: “They then sat down on the grass and waited for his last struggle. But at the end of three hours the puppet’s eyes were still open, his mouth closed, and he was kicking more than ever” (XV). Just like the Roman soldiers, at the foot of the Cross, had been waiting for Jesus to give up his spirit. Pinocchio:
In the meantime, a tempestuous northerly wind began to blow and roar angrily, and it beat the poor puppet as he hung from side to side, making him swing violently like the clatter of a bell ringing for a wedding. And the swinging gives him atrocious spasms, and the running noose, becoming still tighter round his throat, took away his breath. Little by little, his eyes began to grow dim, but although he felt that death was near he still continued to hope that some charitable person would come to his assistance before it was too late. But when, after waiting and waiting, he found that no one came, absolutely no one, then he remembered his poor father, and thinking he was dying… he stammered out: “Oh, papa! papa! if only you were here!” His breath failed him and he could say no more. He shut his eyes, opened his mouth, stretched his legs, gave a long shudder, and hung stiff and insensible (XV).
And the Gospel:
Now from the sixth hour, there was darkness over all the land until the ninth hour. And about the ninth hour Jesus cried with a loud voice: “Eli, Eli lama sabach-tha-ni?” that is “My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?”… And Jesus cried again with a loud voice and yielded up his spirit (Matt., 27: 45-49).
At this point, in the tale of Pinocchio, the woman finally makes her apperance:
Whilst poor Pinocchio, suspended to a branch of the Big Oak, was apparently more dead than alive, the beautiful Child with blue hair came again to the window then she saw the unhappy puppet hanging by his throat, and dancing up and down in the gusts of the north wind, she was moved by compassion. Striking her hands together she made three little claps (XVI).
And the Gospel: “There were also many women there, looking on from afar” (Matt., 27:55). As in the tale, the women take over. Like in the puberty rites of the savages, the “dead” sons are given back to their mothers and sisters after the Balum had thrown them up, and they resurrect to new life, purified from their parricidal and incestuous fantasies. The number three, a sacred number, and according to Freud, itself the symbol of the genital,26 emerges in the Gospel through the tree crosses standing up on the Golgota. In the tale of Pinocchio it emerges again in the “three little claps”, after it had already made its appearance in the number of the three puppets.
5. Let the children come to me… for to such belongs the kingdom of heaven (Matt., 19:14)
Jesus had come in the name of the Father and had been spreading his knowledge, namely, his sexual potency, as we have seen that eating from the Tree of Knowledge means eating the father’s genital. Christ is also called “the second Adam”. Because of the hybris of substituting the Father and capturing his potency, he is condemned to pass the rite in carne. The crown of thorn, the scourging, the Cross, the breaking of the knees and the wound to the rib (Eve was created from a rib) synonymous of castration, the Tomb and the Resurrection, leave no doubts that a son he was, and not a father.
The identification with the Son, Vicar of the all congregation of sons, who is born again from the Father and in condensation with him, is Baptism, in which the new born is taken from the biological mother to be born again from the co-substantiality Father-Son. Therefore, the threat that the one who is not baptized, namely, who refuses to identify with new birth of the Son from the Father, will burn in the fire of Hell, is parallel to the threat of Eat-fire (Mangiafuoco) to throw Pinocchio into the fire and to the threat on the youths of the tribe of Luritcha, mentioned by Reik.
The rite, which in our prehistory had been the instrument meant to social salvation, with the crisis of the Western ancient world, was projected into the kingdom of heaven. The social estrangement into which the ancient world had found itself, after the ambandonment of the social cohesion peculiar to archaic societies, was translated into a device to reconstruct at a cosmic level, in the World of Heaven, the same cohesion and brotherhood that for the savages was part of the kinship of the clan, like the one which existed among Pinocchio, Harlequin and Punchinello.
No wonder that this solution was refused by the Jews. Those had never stopped to celebrate the cohesion of the clan in all their rites, which are the rites of the Father and his intransigent law. Therefore, they needed not to project a craved kinship into Heaven. The ram-god, the Totem of the clan and its primal father, is mourned in every Atonement Day, and the sound of his voice (the Shofar) still is heard in every synagogue in the most important festivities. Reik has exposited the similarity between Jewish rites and the totemic and puberty rites in Shofar27 and in Pagan Rites in Judaism.28 For the Jews salvation belonged to this world, through circumcision, the celebration of the Passover rite, and the atonement of the primal murder through the Kippur’s fast. In order to be allowed to pray, the Jews must be at least a group of ten men (beyond the age of the puberty rite) the Minian, namely, the Number. As a symbol of the minimal number of youths who had to be put together in order to be able to perform the rite.
The device of a Vicar, who will take on himself the pain and the guilt in the name of the all congregation, was rejected. They refused the solution of a Son who will represent them, ascend to heaven, and in this way implicitly dethroning the Father. Christ implicitly dethroned the Father because it is He who became the main instance in the kingdom of heaven. It is he who became the Last Judge. The Father-figure was relegated behind the scenes. In this way, the Jews brought on themselves the rage and the hatred of all the other sons of mankind, the ecumenical Greek-Roman world that had been only recently re-initiated, because those interpreted the Jews’ stance as if in the eternal and cosmic conflict between fathers and sons, they had taken the part of the fathers. Jew-Judas became synonymous. The Jew became the son who had betrayed his brothers.
Through the device of delegation of the pain and the guilt, the sons had been able to skip the crudeness of the rite and the responsibility of their murderous and incestuous drives. We can understand, now, why in the Old Testament miracles are always bestowed upon the collectivity, and never on the single, as it happens instead in the New Testament. Jewish salvation is always consummated through the group and through identification with it. The archaic puberty rite, even if sublimated, continues to conserve its authenticity and it was never transfigured into an abstraction which, as such, dilutes its effectiveness. Nietzsche had an intuition that faith is only a device whose purpose is skipping the rite, namely the concrete rules of life:
Closely examined, it appears that, despite all his “faith”, he has been ruled only by his instincts — and what instincts! In all ages — for example, in the case of Luther — “faith” has been no more than a cloak, a pretense, a curtain behind which the instincts have played their game — a shrewd blindness to the domination of certain of the instincts. I have already called “faith” the especially Christian form of shrewdness — people always talk of their “faith” and act according to their instincts… In the world of ideas of the Christian there is nothing that so much as touches reality: on the contrary, one recognizes an instinctive hatred of reality as the motive power, the only motive powering the bottom of Christianity (The Anti-Christ, 39).
As we have previously sustained, Christianity had been a regression of the Apollonian Greek-Roman culture to the archaic mental modus of his own archaic past, and had therefore triggered the reactivation of the same needs that in that archaic past had found their acting out in the puberty rites. However, once reactivated, those mental contents searched for a distillation from the crudeness of the rites, although keeping their nucleus. In hundreds of years the entire cultural context had changed, and the puberty rites of initiation could not be acted out in their original form.
In this way, all the Salvation ideology of Christianity took form. The rite and its pain, instead of being inflicted on the all congregation, which in the meantime had become
an ecumenical world, and was no more a clan, was inflicted on the delegate of that, now wordy, community. The identification with the Vicar was now considered enough to be saved, namely, to be accepted as initiated.
The Crucifixion and the Resurrection received the significance of the archaic puberty rite, and became the symbol of the collective initiation of the all mankind, which was ready to accept it. The initiation rite, which in the distant past of Western civilization had been the mean of salvation of the youths from their own parricidal an incestuous drives and their acceptance into the congregation of adults, became the instrument of the projection of social acceptance from the concrete level of this world into the abstract level of the kingdom of heaven, and transfigured into salvation of the soul.
According to the Gospels, Jesus had not come to abolish the Law. Paul, the real founder of Christianity, abolished all the 613 precepts of the Law declaring them outdated, and he abolished circumcision, the crudest symbol of the castration threatened during the puberty rites. The Crucifixion inflicted on the Vicar of all the sons of the world had indeed outdated it. The puberty rite was projected into heaven, and there the Final Judgment will be consummated, with its punishments and remuneration. The believers, namely, the ones who accept to be represented by the Savior, are also redeemed by his sacrifice, and therefore they are exempted from a further puberty rite = pains of Hell, which are the symbol of the tortures that the novice must endure in order to overcome the rite and be socially accepted.
That is the reason why faith in Christ became pivotal in Christianity for the sake of being saved from the pains of Hell. For Judaism, on the other hand, like in all primitive religions, faith has no meaning to the purpose of salvation, because identification occurs through the rites, and those are indeed necessary to the acceptance into the group. Faith is not part of the original apparatus of Judaism. Circumcision and identification with the collective rite are the sign that the former has been successfully consummated, and the “novice” becomes part of the congragation.
Spinoza, the more clamorous case of excommunication in Jewish history, was expelled from the congregation because he estranged himself from the common rites, had declared them invalid, and rejected the authority of community’s representatives. No one was interested whether he had faith or not. However, faith is essential to Christianity. The faith that the rite has been inflicted on the Vicar is the key to salvation. The fire of Hell is not threatened to the ones who have sinned, because sin, meaning, the presence of aggressive and incestuous drives. is discounted a priori, as for the youths in the camp of the novices, to the point that sin becomes a precondition for salvation. Christianity loves sinners. Almost all the Saints became such thanks to an act of faith, occurred after a sin.
The Christian must feel as a sinner, like the novices described by Reik and like Pinocchio who must repent as a precondition for becoming a real child.
Christians self-exempt from the pubertal rite and by right of faith are accepted to the kingdom of heaven. However the latter becomes “the one of children”, sterilized from the tortures of the rite, thanks to the Son of God, the delegate, who had suffered them on their behalf. In this context the verse becomes clear: “And if your eye causes you to sin, pluck it out; it is better for you to enter the kingdom of God with one eye than with two eyes to be thrown into hell” (Mark, 9:47). The concept is that you must lose an eye in order to be accepted into Heaven. As we have seen in Oedipus, the eye is the symbol of the genital. In this way, the mnemonic trace of the archaic puberty rites emerges from the repression: the threat of castration.
Paul had exempted the believers from the actual circumcision, but the Gospel proposes instead the loss of an eye: the unconscious sense is the same. Nietzsche had perceived the sense implied by the proposition: “It is not exactly the eye that is meant” (The Anti-Christ, 45). In heaven, the novices will be accepted thanks to the faith that the rite had been already inflicted on the Christ. However a malaise was there, which was not overcome: the sensation that, without enduring in person the hardship, they will never become adults. The shortcut proposed by Christianity was not completely convincing, and the Unheimliche finds its way to the surface in the verse: “The kingdom of heaven belongs to children”, namely without the rite in carne, the novice would remain eternal children. The ideal of Christianity becomes, in this way, a mankind of children. The bright intuition of Nietzsche captured the substance of the problem:
What the “glad tidings” tell us is simply that there are no more contradictions; the kingdom of heaven belongs to children; the faith that is voiced here is no more an embattled faith — it is at hand, it has been from the beginning, it is a sort of recrudescent childishness of the spirit. The physiologists, at all events, are familiar with such a delayed and incomplete puberty in the living organism, the result of degeneration (The Anti-Christ, 32).
Nietzsche reminds us to what Zangrilli has said, in “The Prodigal Son”, on a society, which is not able to overcome the Pleasure Principle in favor of the Reality Principle:
While under the influence of the Pleasure Principle the human being considers only the acting out of endeavors which bring him instant gratification and a general lowering of tensions, under the influence of the Reality Principle man acquires the foundations of civilization: instinct satisfaction is granted through indirect ways and it is delayed accordingly to the requirements of the external world.29
Judaism, under the heavy weight of too a demanding Super-Ego and, therefore, of an intransigent interpretation of instinct renunciation and the Reality Principle, setting itself apart from a reasonable balance between Reality and Pleasure, due to the heavy burden of the sense of guilt inherent to their Father Religion, during the centuries became vulnerable to the coercive repetition of rite and to obsessive neurosis, while the Christian West, taking shelter in the delegation to the Vicar of their own drives, and aspiring to remain a mankind of children, thus denying the Reality Principle in favor of the Pleasure Principle, became vulnerable to paranoia and hallucinations.
How may be defined the Kingdom of the Child if not a hallucination?
As we have learned from the puberty rites of savages and from the tale of Pinocchio, children can become themselves adults, fathers, and kings only through a long and demanding process of identification with their fathers. Pinocchio concludes his initiation saga taking on his shoulders the old father, identifying with him, and becoming himself father of his own father. The Prodigal Son, on the other hand, returns home only in order to remain the child of his father, an eternal infant, exempt from the Reality Principle and his responsibilities, thanks to the labor of his elder brother, and to whom is promised the kingdom of heaven, because he was not able to live in this world.
Therefore, we are so convinced and fascinated by the tale of Pinocchio, and we remain skeptical to the truth of the Prodigal Son.
- Iakov Levi, Eva — Verginità e castrazione nel mito greco e nell’Oriente semitico, in <http://www.geocities.com/psychohistory2001/EvaPartePrima.html>.
Karl Abraham, “The Female Castration Complex” (1920), in Selected Papers of Karl Abraham, edited by Ernest Jones, translated by Douglas Bryan and Alix Strachey, Hogart Press, London 1927, p. 351. ↩︎
Theodor Reik, “The Puberty Rites of Savages”, in Ritual, Farrar & Strauss, New York 1946, chap. VII, p. 128. ↩︎
T. Reik, ibidem, p. 129. ↩︎
Ibidem, p. 141. ↩︎
Ibidem, pp. 134-5. ↩︎
Ibidem, p. 135. ↩︎
Ibidem, p. 135. ↩︎
Ibidem, p. 140. ↩︎
Ibidem, p. 145. ↩︎
Iakov Levi, “Sapere e conoscenza. Dai riti iniziatici alla filosofia platonica”, in Dialegesthai. Rivista telematica di filosofia | ISSN 1128-5478, <https://mondodomani.org/dialegesthai/iakov-levi-01> [Entered 29 aprile 2002]. ↩︎
For the initiation sagas of Greek heroes and Biblical Patriarchs see: Iakov Levi, Giacobbe, Giuseppe, Achille, Ulisse. Una coazione a ripetere, in <http://www.geocities.com/psychohistory2001/GiacobbeGiuseppe.html> [entered 2 May 2002]. ↩︎
For the Biblical parable of the Prodigal Son, as the mnemomic trace of the youngest son of the horde who, according to Freud, had been the delegate of the brothers to kill the tyrannical father, see: Iakov Levi, “Il figliol prodigo”, in “Forum”, in Scienza e psicoanalisi, rivista multimediale di psicoanalisi e scienze applicate, <http://www.psicoanalisi.it/forum/wwwboard.html>, [Entered 28 April 2002]. ↩︎
Sigmund Freud, “Totem and Taboo”, in The Standar Edition of the Complete Psychological Works of Sigmund Freud, Translated from the German under the General Editorship of James Strachey, The Hogart Press, London 1962, vol. XIII p. 142. ↩︎
K. Abraham, op. cit., p. 356. ↩︎
Cfr. K. Abraham, “Ejaculatio Praecox” (1917), in op. cit., pp. 34-44. ↩︎
T. Reik, Myth and Guilt, Braziller, New York 1957, chap. IX. ↩︎
in The Complete Correspondence of Sigmund Freud and Ernest Jones 1908-1939, Edited by R. Andrew Paskauskas, The Belknap Press of Harvard University Press Cambridge, Massachusetts and London 1993, p. 35. ↩︎
K. Abraham, “The Female Castration Complex” (1920), in op. cit., pp. 178-9. ↩︎
Jean Baudrillard, Lo scambio simbolico e la morte, Feltrinelli, Milano 1992, pp. 121 e 123. Translation from Italian is mine. ↩︎
K. Abraham, “Transformations of Scoptophilia” (1913), in op. cit., p. 179. ↩︎
K. Abraham, “An Infantile Sexual Theory not Hitherto Noted” (1925), in op. cit., p. 336. ↩︎
T. Reik, op. cit., pp. 130-1. ↩︎
Ibidem, p. 154. ↩︎
Ibidem, p. 129. ↩︎
S. Freud, “Symbolism in Dreams”, in Introductory Lectures on Psycho-Analysis (1917), Lecture 10. ↩︎
In Ritual, op. cit. ↩︎
Farrar and Strauss, New York 1964. ↩︎
Quirino Zangrilli, “Il figliol prodigo”, in Scienza e psicoanalisi. Rivista multimediale di scienza e psicoanalisi, <http://www.psicoanalisi.it/psicoanalisi/osservatorio/articoli/osserva11.htm>, [entered April 2002] [the translation from Italian is mine]. ↩︎