RETURN OF THE
ANCESTOR. By Richard Hughes.
CHAPTER ONE: GENETICS
OF MARRIAGE CHOICE
( PAGES 17 -
The first pages
you will find when you press the picture of Szondi. We used these for
presentation of a Szondi biography. Your editor-
I. Concept of
Out of his
personal and professional experiences Szondi attempted to answer the question
of marriage choice. Why does one marry this person and no one else? From a
common sense perspective we normally understand marriage as resulting from
chance or from sharing common interests. Szondi, however, discovered some
significant patterns of marriage choice, which he formulated in his seminal
English language essay entitled “Contributions to ‘Fate Analysis” (1937).
to the phobic young wife, her husband, and mother-in-law, as described in the
introduction, Szondi asks:
tragedy of these three people be perhaps approached from a genealogical aspect?
Or...is it not the same ancestor - the genealogist would say, the same
recessive gene - who, reappearing, causes the common fate of mother, son and
daughter-in-law? Isn’t it possible that they are “gene-related,” their common
gene being that of the neurotic ancestor (1937, 6)?
Midway in the
essay Szondi proposes an ancestor theory of object choice. Marriage partners,
although appearing to be different, are actually attracted to each other by
virtue of a unique “identity.” Though not visible, this identity exists in the
latent recessive genes, which “direct instinctively and unconsciously our
choice in love and perhaps also our choice in other biological acts....”(1937,
this insight on the basis of the classical genetics of Gregor Mendel,
explaining that within a “heterozygotic gene couple” the relations between the
dominant and the recessive components are dynamic. The two genes of a
heterozygous individual are “as was originally meant by Mendel, antagonists,
adversaries, and the relation of the forces of the fighting parties decide upon
the phenotypical picture in which both
genes strive to come to effect” (1937, 39). Genes are linked to ancestors. In
the genetic struggle the “recessive ancestor” is defeated by the “dominant
ancestor.” Though not penetrating the phenotype, the latent recessive genes
retain an influence. They direct unconsciously our choice in love, friendship,
vocation, illness, and mode of death.
In a lecture in
Geneva, two years later, Szondi
announced that he has studied more than a thousand marriages and that he has
found the answer to the problem, namely, why people who are normal and healthy,
marry and produce feeble-minded, epileptic, or schizophrenic children. He then
presents a three-fold theory of object choice: (1) The object choice is that of
a gene-determined, biological drive process. (2) The reciprocal attraction is
conditioned through the same or related mode of latent recessive genes. ´
(3) This hitherto
unknown biological reality of the latent recessive genes is called genotropism
(Szondi 1939, 45).
that there are three kinds of genotropism. One is called libido-genotropism or,
more simply, libidotropism. It means that latent recessive genes guide one’s
sexual energy toward a love or marriage partner. The formula is Aa x Aa.
Several examples are provided in the lecture, and, of these, case #2 is one:
partners (family tree: #6,7) are healthy and psychologically normal. Of their
two children one (#10) is feeble- minded, the other healthy (#9). The question
for the analysis of destiny is: which hidden gene-relation ship has brought
their marriage together? Our investigation shows that the brother of the
husband (#5) and a son of the brother of the wife (#11) are feeble-minded
A second kind
is sociotropism, which means that latent recessive genes direct persons toward
others as ideals or friends. It is expressed as sympathy for and antipathy
against one another. The formula is Aa x aa.
A third kind
pertains to vocational choice, and it is called operotropism. Case #10 is an
A man (family
tree: #6) suffers schizophrenia (dementia paranoides) with lethal origin. His
brother (#7) struggles with the anxiety of also becoming ill with
schizophrenia. He remains healthy. His destiny unfolds in the following manner:
He falls in love with his cousin (#10, libidotropism), who later gets sick as a
paranoid schizophrenic and commits suicide. He will become a psychiatrist and
spend many years in a mental hospital. The chief object of his
research is schizophrenia (operotropism). (1939,55) In the same lecture Szondi
discusses the work of the Danish geneticist Wilhelm Johannsen. He takes over
Johannsen’s definitions of phenotype and genotype, which remain basic in
genetics. The phenotype is the content of all the characteristics existing in
the appearance of the organism. The genotype comprises the totality of heredity
given through the constitutions of both gametes. Genotypic manifestation occurs
when a gene appears in the phenotype. Dominance and recessive are the principal
modes of genotropic transmission.
uses Johannsen’s calculations of the frequency of carriers of latent recessive
genes. For example, Johannsen had determined that out of ten million people
approximately 1,800,000 would carry a single dosage gene for feeble-mindedness.
Szondi quotes (1939, 58) the following passage from Johannsen’s book (1926,
578): “It is certainly possible, indeed true, that a conscious or unconscious
preference of analogous Aa-individuals for one another has validity....”
Johannsen expresses the opinion that such marriages are not by chance. Szondi
agrees and suggests that the concept of genotropism provides a psychological
framework for the findings of Johannsen and Mendel.
concludes his lecture by reviewing the then current proposals for the
sterilization of defective persons in Nazi Germany, Great
Britain, and the United
States. In light of Johannsen’s calculations
sterilizing carriers of psychiatric disorders would virtually destroy society.
Szondi argues that genotropism is the opposite of sterilization. Carriers of
defective recessive genes can produce productive offspring. For example,
carriers of the gene for schizophrenia become psychiatrists. Since
schizophrenics, both manifest and latent, produce physicians, they should not
after his expulsion from Hungary, Szondi wrote: “The theory of genotropism - as we have expected - has
awakened a great resistance not only in genealogical and biological but also in
psychological circles.” He goes on to say: “The situation is astonishing that
in the past ten years to my knowledge not one single publication has appeared,
which has attempted to refute the thesis of genotropism on the basis of a
precise genetic analysis” (Szondi 1949b, 12).
proving genotropism, Szondi cites the following case:
twin sisters choose marriage partners. The one (twin #2) first marries a
lawyer, who is later persecuted by paranoid delusions like his father, a
lawyer, who had to be hospitalized for paranoia.
Her twin sister
(twin #1) marries a physician who appears to be healthy but whose father and
sister are paranoid. In the family of the marriage partner of twin #1 we find
with the male and female cousins, uncles and aunts, a number of paranoid ego
disturbances and character anomalies.
The analysis of
each family of the twins’ partners would confirm in every case a series of
paranoid illnesses. The father, a paternal aunt, and paternal cousin of each
were paranoid. On the other hand, three cousins were socially abnormal in a
paranoid sense. Likewise, a maternal aunt and her daughter were paranoid. Thus,
two identical twins, who are carriers of paranoid-schizo´phrenic factors,
choose marriage partners who are either manifestly paranoid themselves (in the
case of twin #2) or descend from a family that frequently exhibits paranoid
illnesses and character anomalies (in the case of twin #1).
chosen marriage partners of these twin sisters are reciprocally but also
genetically related to their wives. The twins, the chosen marriage partners,
further more, the parents of the twins and the two fathers-in-law were carriers
(with respect to the manifest illnesses) of the same abnormal genetic factors
In the same
essay Szondi explains that he is describing, primarily, the heterozygous
carrier, that is, one who has received in single dosage a lethal recessive gene
from one parent. In contrast, the noncarrier is either one who is totally free
of the inherited trait or is a “pure blood” homo zygous person, one who has
received the two recessive genes for the specific trait from both parents. If
two carriers marry and produce children the following percentages are in
effect: 25% chance of acquiring the trait, 25% chance of complete immunity, and
a 50% chance of being a carrier.
In the case of
a deleterious recessive condition, the homozygous person will suffer the ill
effects, but the heterozygous carrier will not. Szondi emphasizes that the
carrier has a superiority, which is known as heterosis or high Darwinian
vitality. Heterosis confers a selectional or genetic advantage upon the
carrier. The concept of heterosis came out of pioneering experiments conducted
by the Swedish geneticist Ake
1946. He demonstrated that single dosage recessive genes improve the vigor of
animals and plants, as in barley, for example. Subsequent research has
demonstrated other forms of heterosis, such as carriers of the recessive gene
for sickle cell anemia and for thalassemia are resistant to malaria (Milunsky
1977, 69). Genotropism is the human version of heterosis in the sense that
carriers choose vocational or friendship groups which provide socially
constructive outlets for latent lethal tendencies.
that the idea of a genetic load be revised in terms of a “familial load”
(familiäre Belastung). The genetic load means that all sexually reproducing
creatures acquire lethal or defective genes from mutations. Many mutations are
recessive and survive for several generations because they are concealed in
genotypes. All creatures, including humans, bear genetic loads in their
evolutionary histories. Normally, many generations elapse between the rise of
mutations and their elimination by natural selection.
of a familial genetic load represents a fundamental insight. It corresponds to
a shift in genetics from the classical model to the balancing model of the genetic
load. According to the classical model, the genotype produces a normal type,
from which mutant recessives deviate and lead to elimination because the load
is too heavy to bear. With the balancing model evolution has a balancing
selection which normalizes lethal traits and makes them beneficial. Heterosis
is one of the most important means of balancing selection. One reason for
heterotic balancing is that humans are heterozygous for several thousand genes
and because of this variety we can adapt to changing environments. The seminal
exposition of the balancing model may be found in the work of Theodosius
Dobzhansky (1970, 124-127). Dobzhansky’s explanation of the marriage of
carriers is the same as Szondi’s (1964, 131-135). The difference is that Szondi
posits a familial load on the basis of extensive pedigree studies.
II. Types of
the familial load more fully, let us return to Szondi’s original essay on
marriage choice (1937). He develops various categories of choice. One is
concordant and is designated by the formula “sick x sick??. It consists of
mutual attraction between two partners who have the same disease or defect.
Case #2 is an example.
man marries the stuttering daughter of his own sister. All the eight children
of this concordantly ill couple are stutterers. But stuttering can be found
also in the children of healthy parents, among the relatives. In the branch A
of this family, there are three stutterers among the children of parents of
normal speech. Similarly, the boy in the branch C of the family is a stutterer
with both parents healthy (1937, 9).
that he reviewed one hundred marriages of this defective category and found
only one concordant situation. Thus, concordant marriages represent only one
percent of human populations. Here the attraction is hidden, because one does
not intend to choose a partner who is manifestly defective.
A second kind
is discordant and is designated as “healthy x sick”. In families with
feeble-mindedness Szondi found 15-20% of cases, wherein a healthy person
marries a diseased or defective partner. Case #3 suggests an answer as to why
this might happen.
in every respect healthy girl (also of intact hearing) marries a man almost
entirely deaf. The latter’s deafness is of otoscierotic origin. The hereditary
genuine character of the defect is evident in view of the fact that one of his
sisters and [ of his] elder brothers are also deaf. From this discordant
marriage originated two children: the one, a boy, is hard of hearing, he has
remained a bachelor for life; the other child, a girl, was of normal hearing,
married a man and has now a 10 year old daughter. Szondi points out that this
girl is hard of hearing and communicates only by reading peoples’ lips. This
tragical case one cannot help asking how it could have happened that a healthy
woman knowingly married a deaf man transferring thereby the husband’s deafness
to the children and grandchildren. An explanation may,
derived from the study of the family tree of this woman; she herself though
entirely healthy, turned out to have had a deaf father and deaf sister (1937,
13). A third type is concordant, involving partners who remain healthy
throughout their lives but whose blood relatives bear hereditary disorders.
Case #5 is an
example of this “healthy x healthy” kind. A 21 year old man, metal worker,
falls in love with a girl two years older than he. From this marriage
originated eight children, one of them (8 years old) has neurotic symptoms and
enuresis, presents besides educational problems. Is there any “gene-relation”
between the parties? According to the findings of the family research the
father of the wife was blind, the father and a brother of the husband was of
very reduced sight, almost blind. One of the 4 children of the latter was born
completely blind (1937, 22). As this and many other case studies show,
heterozygous carriers tend to contract the “healthy x sick” discordant and
“healthy x healthy” concordant forms of marriage.
Monogamy, Rape, and Incest
rich case material, indicating that recessive genes are implicated in seemingly
abnormal situations. Case #50 concerns a 50 year old physician who married
three times. Each wife descended from criminal parents and exhibited sadistic
tendencies. His first wife was an intelligent, good-humoured woman of great
wit. She bore three children. The first child, a girl, died young. The two
others [ both sons,... [ the mother beat them often with a spiked stick. In the
ninth year of her marriage she got involved in a love affair with a man, who
finally shot her to death (1937,44).
husband later fell in love with and married an extremely cruel woman. She
mistreated her stepsons by locking them up in a room and then going out looking
for fun. They later became thieves. After eight years of marriage, the
physician divorced this woman. Within two years he married a third wife, who
was brutal toward the two sons. They hated her even more than the first two
mothers. The sons were eventually arrested for robbery.
the motivations for this choice behavior Szondi looks at the families of the
three wives. In the family of the first wife the father was a heavy drinker,
and a sister was a hysteric who gave birth to two insane daughters. The son of
another sister was a hard-core criminal. A third brother died of pneumonia.
A cousin of the
second wife was politically prominent, but he was arrested for embezzlement.
The mother of the third wife was a miser, the sister a lewd person, and the
brother a convicted thief and embezzler. The physician was a healthy man from a
distinguished family. His father died of cancer at an early age. The mother was
nervous, irritable, and sadistic, and she tormented her grandchildren. The
woman became a fortune teller and seller of herbs. The physician could not
relate well with his mother, so he left home at an early age to get married.
Szondi explains how the tragedy started.
Like the mythical Oedipus he also married his “mother” over and over again
three times. He married the person he tried to escape. We lay stress on three
points in this case: 1. the similarity between the characters of the three
wives; 2. the similarity between the character of the wives and that of the
mother; 3. the tallying as to criminality of the blood relatives of all three
wives and even of the children (1937, 45).
Szondi goes on
to analyze several rape cases and, of these, case #25 is an example. A seven
year old girl was raped by her maternal uncle, who, thereafter, maintained a
sexual relationship with her. The uncle lived in another city far away. The
attraction was so strong that the girl often ran away from home to visit her
uncle. She did this despite the fact that he beat her frequently and threatened
her with death, lest she reveal their relationship. Finally, after an argument,
she did expose the secret to another uncle. Szondi points out that the girl was
epileptic and that her epilepsy manifested itself also in some mental equivalents:
in compulsory running away and in poriomania. Her father was also epileptic.
The mother must have been heterozygote, since she bore the epileptic child.
Thus the maternal uncle who committed the stuprum might have been, with great
probability, heterozygote with respect to epilepsy too (1937,53).
considers incestuous relationships based upon case materials taken from the
Girls Correctional Institute in Budapest. Data
28% of non-virginal girls had had sexual intercourse with a brother, father, or
stepfather. Case #27 is an example that deals with a young boy who was raised
in an orphanage. He was sent to a foster home but was returned to the orphanage
after setting a fire. He had a sister, all the while he was at the orphanage
but was completely unaware of her existence until age 15. When he learned she
was his twin, he began to search for her. In the summer of 1918 he saw a girl
coming out of the Correctional Institute and recognized her immediately as his
sister. They fell in love with each other yet were told they could not marry.
He decided to support her, but he had to become established in a trade. They
continued to see each other, off and on, for ten years. They were separated for
a short period of time, while he was looking for work. During the separation,
she had a brief affair with another man and gave birth to a baby, who died
after three months.
returned and rejoined his sister, who had been released from the institute.
While away, he drank heavily and spent most of his money. After returning, he
became ill and was cared for by his sister. A mutual sexual desire arose and
intercourse began. They never felt they were committing a sin. They wanted to
marry but were informed by a priest and city officials that they could not. She
became pregnant four times, only succeeding with the last one. They had a girl
and were determined to legitimate her birth.
to their story, Szondi asked each to explain what the other meant. The brother
wrote a long statement, which includes the following: “I fell in love with her
at first sight. I felt my blood boiling, her kisses burnt my lips. In that
moment, I determined that she will belong to me and to no one else until my
death, since God created her for me” (1937,58). Similarly, the sister
confessed: “I should choose death rather than life without him, since my life
would then be only suffering....”
IV. Incest and
At the end of
his essay Szondi tests his theory with respect to the incest taboo. He
acknowledges that the meaning of incest varies. In biology incest means sexual
intercourse between parents and children, brothers and sisters, grandparents
and grandchildren. In civilized countries
includes sexual union with brothers-, sisters-, and mothers-in law. The meaning
of incest in tribal societies differs even further. These societies are
organized around a totem system. A totem is an animal that functions as an
ancestor and protector of the people in the tribe or clan. Descendants of the
totem are regarded as blood relatives, and they arc not allowed to marry or
have sexual relations with one another. Totemic organization correlates the
incest taboo with exogamy, the law of marrying outside the clan.
Szondi takes up
an illustration used by Freud in his Totem and Taboo (1913). The example comes
from the Australian Aborigines, whose society is matrilineal. Suppose a man
from the Kangaroo clan marries a woman from the Emu clan. All their children
belong to the mother’s clan. Consequently, the incest taboo applies to the
children and their mother.
descends from the Kangaroo clan and is not regarded as a relative of the mother
and children. Because he belongs to another clan, he is a stranger, an
outsider, who is exempt from the incest taboo. He may have sexual union with
his daughter and, likewise, his son with his sister. Since the incest taboo is
strictly unilateral, the possibilities of familial sexual activity are
that totemism corresponds to his genetic theory of marriage choice. In our
society we may not marry blood relatives but, in actual practice, we marry gene
relatives. In this sense marital patterns are unilateral. Szondi’s argument
rests upon two asssumptions. First, totem, ancestor, and gene are identical.
The totem functions like heredity, defining a common descent. Second, what is
tabooed is desirable. Incest must be tabooed, because there is a natural desire
Freud’s example into a genetic formula. Under totemic organization the marriage
is discordant. So the Kangaroo man might be homozygous dominant (AA) and the
Emu woman homozygous recessive (aa). This discordant marriage pattern is AA x
aa. Were they to have two sons and two daughters, then the children would all be
children carry the concealed recessive gene (a) in their familial load. By
virtue of this recessive, the children are attracted only to the mother and not
to the father. The sons and daughters are attracted to
one another. Because
the attraction is on the mother’s side, the incest taboo is imposed upon the
What are the
implications of Szondi’s reasoning? Totemism implies a belief in the return of
the ancestor. Mythically, at death the soul leaves the body and waits for a
time to return to life. At conception the soul returns to the mother’s body,
since in primitive thought the role of paternity is unknown. The mythic return
of the ancestor conforms to the flow of recessive genes in the familial load.
In tribal society it is not easy to determine which ancestor has returned at
birth; so in the same way it is difficult for the geneticist to trace
recessives in the family.
the incest taboo is bilateral, applying both to the father’s and the mother’s
lines. Actual marriage practice demonstrates attraction among gene relatives.
Marrying gene relatives is in a sense gene incest. Thus, civilization
substitutes gene incest for blood incest. Whether blood related or gene
related, all love is incestuous.
V. Incest and
conclusions in his 1937 essay on marriage choice are provocative and need to be
reviewed in terms of recent research. The common biological explanation of the
incest taboo is that inbreeding leads to the manifestation of lethal traits
(Bischof 1972, 12). This assumes that recessives are mainly harmful and that
natural selection only works on manifest traits in the phenotype. The
sociological explanation is that the taboo prohibits the possession of females
in the family, promotes inter action with outsiders, and builds up the family
to avoid isolation. Thus, the incest taboo promotes genetic and social
estimate is that we all carry four to eight lethal recessive genes and,
therefore, that incest causes a five-fold increase in defective off spring
(Milunsky 1977, 80). This fact is a product of contemporary genetics and cannot
be ascribed to typological thinking of tribal society. Yet in any kind of
society the fact of defective offspring does not explain why incest is tabooed.
Further, the incest taboo cannot be regarded as completely universal. At least
96 societies permit incest (Fox 1980, 6). Hence, there can be no universal
horror of incest, as Freud thought.
Szondi points out, the desire for incest is a natural, innate, and collective
impulse (1956, 225). Whether matrilineal or patrilineal,
actually stimulates forbidden love through various outlets (Fox 1980, 63).
Violations of the taboo may take the form of magical incest. Among the
matrilineal Trobianders magical incest displays one’s power over against clan
morality (Malinowski 1929, 512). In African tribal society magical incest means
young men copulate with their mothers or sisters to gain power for heroic adventures
(Bischof 1985, 31-32). Thus, forbidden sexual intercourse co-exists with the
incest taboo. xxx
co-existence of magical incest and the incest taboo means that love involves
compromise. In civilization love motivates marriage choice on the basis of gene
relatedness. If we cannot find a gene relative to marry, then we tend to
regress and become fixed upon a blood relative, for instance, a son upon a
mother, as in a neurosis. Pathology shows a fixation upon primitive patterns of
conduct. Thus, a successful marriage enacts a compromise between blood and
genetic incestuous desire.
first cousin marriages are an example of such a compromise. In Trobriand
society this kind of marriage occurs when a father, Out of love, establishes a
permanent stability for his son. At birth he arranges for his son to marry his
sister’s daughter (Malinowski 1929, 97). The practice is a lawful compromise
between paternal love and matrilineal right. Szondi reviews Malinowski’s
material and observes that cross-cousin marriages reflect a specific
socio-economic organization, maintain the matrilineal incest taboo, and are not
regarded as incestuous
marriages are regularly contracted in Japan and Andhra Pradesh, a state in India. About ten percent of the population par ticipates, and the rate of
producing defective offspring is six to eight per cent (Milunsky 1977, 80).
Among high religions Islam promotes first cousin marriages, specifically
between the son and daughter of two brothers. Islamic endogamy is grounded in
an old Arab belief in dual descent. The South Arabian Tribes descend from one
ancestor, Qahtan, and the North Arabian Tribes from another, Adnan (Patai 1983,
216). Males must marry within their tribal lineage and be hostile to those of
the other. Islam encourages endogamy in relation to fratricide.
the evidence of dynastic incest in ancient Egypt, Peru, and Iran (1937, 68-69; 1956, 224-225). For
example, Iran had a long
standing practice of next-of-kin marriage. Cambyses, son of Cyrus The Great,
married two full sisters. He asked judges if this were lawful. They
that no law existed permitting incest, but that as king he could do whatever he
wished. So Cambyses sanctioned incest by law and defined it as a religious duty
(Boyce 1982, 75-76). Thereafter, father- daughter and brother-sister unions
became commonplace, bringing heavenly rewards. Interference with incest meant
punishment in hell.
illustrations indicate that when incest is socially approved the sanction
system is grounded in a religious cosmology. Whether the justification appears
in sacral kingship, reincarnation, or ancestral descent, incest is a means of
participating in the essential nature of the universe. As Szondi notes, theories
of genetic descent are relative to socio-political organization, physical
environment, and religious belief. Theories of genetics are not
cross-culturally or uniformly objective. Genetic systems are relativistic and
In order to
illustrate Szondi’s theory more precisely I choose tradi tional Hawaiian
religion as a sanction system that includes dynastic incest.
helps to update Szondi’s thinking.
Hawaiian social unit is the extended family (ohana), which incorporates both
blood relatives and in-laws. The family is interrelated through many
generations. Members of the same generation are regarded as brothers and
sisters. The family even includes the ancestors (aumakua), who arc divine and
various forms, such as sharks, lizards, stones, or volcanic fires. These
figures serve as totems and must be revered. Were they eaten, mutilated, or
disrupted in any way, sudden death would result. In Hawaiian psychiatry such a
death is the consequence of “clan allergy” (Pukui 1972, 38).
society comprises a hierarchy of common and royal families. Royalty consists of
extended families that transmit mana, which is a human power, tinged with
mystical quality, and emitted from the gods. In primitive thought mana
represents a “genetic inheritance” from the gods to the king and to his
descendants (Pukui 1972, 150). Royal incestuous marriages are a practical way
to preserve an undiluted transmission of mana. This is a mythic correlate of
“pure blood” homozygosis.
The king is the
mediator between humans and the gods. The basic royal ritual is the human
sacrifice. The king is the sacrificer and the victim is a transgressor, usually
a contender for the throne. By virtue of his social supremacy, the king participates
in the totality of being. He
union of heaven and earth, a fact symbolized by the rainbow crescent on his
There are no
clear rules of accession to the royal throne. As a result of continuous
intermarriage, birth ranks are relativized. For example, King Kamehameha The
Great had 21 wives. His successor, Liholiho, had five wives, one of whom was
his own sister and two of whom had been wives of his father. After King
Kamehameha died, his favorite wife, Kaahumanu, became “chief executive officer”
by claiming to speak for her deceased husband (Daws 1968, 56).
and maintenance of power are by political struggle. Contenders are relatives,
brothers or sisters. Thus, fratricide is the basic political law and is based
upon sacrifice. The slain victim is consecrated on the altar in the temple.
Fratricide is also linked to incest, because the sacrifice of the brother gives
the king the right to mate with his sister, so as to transmit mana in his “pure
This pattern is
well illustrated in Hawaiian history. For example, Kamehameha killed his rival
cousin or brother Keoua in order to gain control of the big island. The killing
was a sacrifice and had three characteristics: (1) The conflict was inevitable;
(2) expressed a contra diction inherent in kinship relations; and (3) displayed
a love-hate ambivalence between the two rivals (Valeri 1985, 163).
incest also appear in Hawaiian mythologies. One type, which reads like a Szondi
case study, concerns brothers and sisters who are raised separately. They meet
and fall in love, because they see their own images in the other. Another type
is of a father who orders his son and daughter to marry, because they are
identical and perfect. Each type expresses incest as a union of complementary
believe themselves to be dependent upon the creation story. According to the
story, the primal father (Wakea) is associated with the sky and the primal
mother (Papa) with the earth. They give birth to the islands. A child (Holoa)
is born prematurely and dies. He is buried but sprouts as Taro. A daughter
(Hookokuikalani) is born. The father marries his daughter, and she gives birth
to a son who is named after her deceased brother (Holoa). He is human and the
ancestor of royalty. Because of common descent humans and Taro are related.
becomes a beautiful woman. The father wishes to sleep with her but cannot
escape the sight of the mother. He creates a
I have read your
interesting work with satisfaction, in which you have conducted a study with an
analytic method. I am not in a position to confirm, in so far as your own
genetic thesis could be confirmed through your investigation. The theme is
strange to me. Certain objections to your material are obvious. Marriage choice
and love choice do not always go together, very often the free choice is
experience uncovers an appropriate variety of love conditions: the tie to a
very early love object and the imprinting acquired from it; the narcissis tic
tendency of everyone; often in the sexual part of the person that does not
mature (e.g., the boy who wishes to be a girl). The love relation can also show
system, involving a separation of the pure and impure. Women become impure and
must be separated from men, when they menstruate, give birth, and eat. The
father visits his daughter during a period of impurity, an action which is
tabooed. He is discovered by the mother; so he divorces her in anger.
Thereafter, the mother marries her grandson and, in turn, marries her
descendants through five generations.
shows that Hawaiian religion revolves around fratricide, incest, and sacrifice.
They are all aspects of a participatory cosmology. The role of incest in
foundation mythology strengthens the view that incestuous love is a
deeply-rooted, collective human need (Szondi 1956,224). The impulse toward
incest is one of participation in the primal ground of being, and it necessarily
entails fratricide and sacrifice, motifs which are central to Szondi’s theory
concept of genotropism was, then and now, a far-reaching idea. However, both
the 1937 essay on marriage choice and the 1939 lecture on genotropism were
essentially neglected. The apparent reasons for the neglect were the massive
disruption caused by the Second World War and the abuse of psychiatric genetics
under the Nazi regime.
two brief reviews appeared shortly before the war. Szondi sent a copy of his
paper on marriage choice to Freud, who replied in a note sent from Vienna on June 18, 1937 (Reprinted in Szondi 1968a,
Also as far away as possible from the incestuous image of the mother, sister.
raised by you could have played a role, but not the sole or decisive one.
Apology for these under developed remarks.
actually clarifies four kinds of love choices: (1) incestuous; (2)
narcissistic, dependent; (3) immature; and (4) incest-avoidance.
surprised that Freud did not show more openness, because he had already
expressed interest in Lamarckian genetics, i.e., the theory of acquired
characteristics (Pongratz 1973, 422). Freud’s reply presupposes his well-known
view that marriage choice is determined by the imagos laid down in the closed
world of childhood before age six. “The people to whom he is in this way fixed
are his parents and his brothers and sisters.... All of his later choices of
friendship and love follow upon the basis of the memory-traces left behind by
these first prototypes” (Freud 1914, 243).
note, Szondi’s paper (1937) received a brief evaluation in a psychoanalytic
journal. The reviewer concludes: “The demonstration with the help of family
trees is fundamentally inadequate” (Grotjahn 1939, 342). This dismissal
presupposes the fact that psychoanalysis has no theory of genetics and that the
model of early childhood causality is definitive.
In The Analysis
of Destiny Szondi responds to the psychoanalytic critique (1978, 140-150).
Szondi offers extensive case material, showing how genotropism influences
incestuous, bisexual, active-narcissistic, passive homosexual,
incest-avoidance, and rational marriage choices. With reference to Freud in
particular, Szondi observes that in families with recessive disorders, there
are high frequencies of marriages between blood and gene relatives as well as
incestuous love relationships. In his experience of war and revolution many
families were torn apart, many siblings often separated from one another in
early childhood. He argues that brothers and sisters can fall in love with each
other, if they have been totally separated since age three. Without
interpersonal interaction images cannot be laid down and guide the subsequent
love choice. The attraction must be genotropic.
documents the fact that mathematically-ungifted daughters of great
mathematicians marry mathematicians or physicists. A Freudian would argue that
the daughter chooses her husband in the image of her mathematical father.
Szondi contends that the situation is not as obvious
as it seems.
The Freudian argument does not account for the lack of mathematical ability in
the daughter. Mathematical inadequacy is not a part of the psychic mechanism.
Rather heredity would account for both the presence and absence of mathematical
ability in the family.
Toward the end
of the war era, the first edition of The Analysis of
reviewed by a biologist. This volume defends the concept of genotropism on the
basis of family studies. Of the four editions of the book, only the first one
draws an analogy for genotropism from physics. Szondi compares the process of
genotropism to radiation. “We hope that the ‘genetic radiation’ will yet find
its ‘Madame Curie,’ who will be able to confirm experimentally the ‘genotropic
stuff and its emanation” (1944,15). The analogy was dropped from the second
edition without explanation.
The reviewer is
Monika Holzapfel-Meyer, a student of Konrad Lorenz, the pioneering ethologist.
She notes Szondi’s analogy with physics and recognizes that he tries to find
patterns in human heredity that determine object choice. This contrasts with
the ethologist who locates the causes of human choice in animal behavior. She
states that many of Szondi’s case studies demonstrate coincidences rather than
causal relationship and that he works primarily with monomerie recessive
factors, i.e., single gene pairs. In any case, it is impossible to verify that
abnormal conditions are transmitted through genotropism.
admits that Szondi’s research is important and that it should stimulate further
research. She then makes a revealing observation:
twins, who grew up in different environments, were to marry gene-related
partners in whose blood relatives similar pathological character properties
could also be shown, then one such case would have more confirmatory power than
many of the foregoing examples” (Holzapfel-Meyer 1945, 58). Szondi replies in
detail to this critique (1978, 238-244). However, let us recall that he has
already presented a twin study proving genotropism, namely, the case concerning
two twins who marry into paranoid families, cited above (Szondi 1949b, 12).
charge that Szondi works with monomerie recessive heredity is not entirely
correct. On reading his entire work we find that he deals with cases involving
dimerie and polymerie recessive genes, that is, two or more gene pairs,
particularly in his studies of epilepsy and its equivalents (Szondi 1978, 435-489).
The common rule, which Szondi
is that normal traits are conferred polygenetically but that severe
psychopathologies tend to show the classical Mendelian patterns of dominance
and recessive (1972,76). The contention that Szondi’s family studies are more
coincidental rather than causal presumes a principle of verification derived
from linear and objective causality. With the develop ment of field theory and
nonlocal and noncausal models of rela tivistic-quantum physics, the concept of
genotropism would become more intelligible.
few early reviews, Szondi’s concept of genotropism was neglected for about
forty years. At the present time, there is considerable interest in this idea,
particularly in the German-speaking areas of Europe. Edith Zerbin-ROdin has recently reopened the issue and provided a
helpful evaluation of Szondi’s idea. She states that contemporary geneticists
would confirm the following contributions made by Szondi: (1) Psychological
disturbances have hereditary origins; (2) recessive genes influence the
selection of mates and vocations; (3) genes and environments interact; and (4)
pathogenesis and etiology are differentiated (Zerbin-RUdin 1982, 318).
She repeats the
rule, as stated above, that Mendelian patterns occur mainly in exceptional
cases of hereditary illness. Yet not all disorders can be traced to recessive
genes, such as Huntingdon’s chorea, which derives from a single dominant gene.
Her principal criticism is that geneticists no longer speak of a gene struggle
at conception. To think of such an “ancestral struggle” is to personalize the
genes. Recessives are latent, not because they are conquered by dominants, but
because they are weaker and need a double-dosage to become manifest.
acknowledges the influences of recessive genes on choice behavior, the precise
nature of this fact needs to be explored by further research. Zerbin-RUdin
believes that it is impossible to veri1 objectively that healthy partners
choose one another on the basis of lethal genes. Even if recessives do
influence mate and vocational choices, then they are not entirely latent.
Nevertheless, she admits that it is good to make us consciously aware of our
In reply we
should ask the following question. Why should we become aware of our genetic
heritage? Is it not because actual genetic patterns exist which, although they
may not be fully objective or verifiable, show meaningful relationships? Is not
the significance of genotropism relational rather than precisely causal?
As an example,
I submit the following case taken from my own teaching experience. In 1980 an
18 year old, female freshman enrolled in one of my classes. Her brother, a 21
year old senior, suffered cystic fibrosis, but she was not cystic. She reported
to me that her mother’s sister married her father’s brother. They were fully
aware of the cystic fibrosis in their siblings’ family. They had two daughters
who were not cystic. Believing that they were not carriers, that they had
escaped the familial fate, they had a third child, a daughter, who was
diagnosed as cystic at nine weeks of age.
parents are not blood relatives, they are in fact gene relatives. Cystic
fibrosis is an autosomal recessive genetic disease and common in Caucasian
populations. We may not be able to prove objectively that cystic genes caused
this marriage. However, cystic genes are the common factor between the parents,
their brother and sister, their daughter and nephew. This marriage is indeed
genotropic, and the parents must live with the suffering brought about by this
disease and with this fact - the knowledge that they might have already been
carriers by virtue of their sibling relationships.
suggests that if recessives influence choice, then they might not be entirely
latent. This idea raises the possibility of genetic variation with respect to
the degree of penetration of the phenotype. When discussing the genetic load,
Dobzhansky speaks of incomplete recessives, intermediate genes, semidominants,
and incomplete dominants (1970, 124). This implies that genetic information may
be transmitted in an intermediate range, which is neither recessive nor
dominant. Most variations occur with inherited dominant disorders but may be
found among the recessives (Milunsky 1977, 65). For example, cystic fibrosis
may vary among siblings. Still another example is Wilson disease, which is autosomal recessive and skips generations, going
from grandparent to grandchild (Jarvik 1976, 9)
investigations of post-traumatic epilepsy indicate the existence of threshold
genes (Niedermeyer 1984, 112). Suppose that two persons of the same age sustain
a trauma to the head but only one gets epilepsy. The victim has to be a carrier
of genes, which have attained a threshold in order to penetrate the phenotype.
When the trauma happens due to spouse abuse, as may often be the case, the
epileptic genes might even be implicated in the marriage choice. This and the
above illustrations suggest
genotropism is a threshold function; certain genes must evolve at an
appropriate level so as to activate choice behavior, whether recessive or
upon variability is also consistent with some of the changes in Szondi’s own
thinking. Szondi updated his theory of genetics in a series of lectures
delivered late in his career (1972, 73-89). The notion of a primordial gene
struggle, to which Zerbin-RUdin objects, is missing. This is due to the fact
that Szondi frequently referred to the ancestor metaphorically. Thus, the
concept of genotropism is not dependent upon the image of the ancestral
struggle. The image of the ancestor may be used to symbolize the recombination
of the genes at conception instead of denoting an actual struggle in a
lecture series gives evidence of a shift in the definition of genotropism
itself. “One calls genotropism the effect of genes which consists of the
attraction between two individuals possessing, in their genetic heritage,
identical or related genes, that is, homologies” (Szondi 1972, 73). This
definition means that genotropism is not confined to recessives. Szondi goes on
to add two variant definitions. One is cyto genotropism, which is the
attraction of homologous genes in identical chromosomes of the cells (1972,
80). The other is psycho-genotropism, which is an attraction between two
persons. Similarly, at the end of his life Szondi interprets genotropism as a
power of attraction between bearers of the same or similar genetic factors
(1980, 105). He cites support for this definition on the basis of global terms
for love in most languages, which imply that people who fall in love are
essentially identical or related to each other.
genotropism comprises patterns of attraction at the microscopic level of genes,
chromosomes, and cells as well as at the macroscopic level of psychological
interaction. Thus, genotropism is a function of the hierarchical organization
of the organism comprising multi-layered attraction processes. Because the
hierarchical organism contains levels of complexity, genotropism cannot be
reducible to a simple linear and causal model. Genotropism activates certain
relationships, depending on the particular threshold function in the organism.
definition of genotropism provides for better dialogue with the new genetic
findings, which Zerbin-Rtidin recommends. For example, ever since Franz
Kallmann began his pioneering investigations,
for hereditary manic-depression points toward a single dominant gene as the
cause (1953, 142). More recently, George Winokur found depression to be more
common among women than among men (1975, 14-18). The early onset female, one
who becomes depressed before age 40, shows a high degree of alcoholism among
her male relatives as well as an increase in depression among female relatives
over male relatives. With the late onset male, who contracts depression after
age 40, de is distributed equally among male and female relatives and
alcoholism is less frequent among male relatives.
the possibility, but not the proof, that early onset depression among females
might be sex-linked. Thus, the gene for early onset depression might be located
on the X chromosome. Since women inherit two X chromosomes, they would be more
susceptible to depression. Winokur also reports the established fact that the
gene for red-green color blindness occupies the X chromosome (1975, 14). On the
other hand, his evidence of late onset depression points away from sex-linked
to autosomal dominant transmission. Although Winokur’s work does not claim
conclusive causality, the demonstrated correlation of depressive females and
alcoholic males in the same family entails genotropic attraction.
study of Old Order Amish, in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania gives evidence of a
single dominant gene for depression on chromosome 11 (Egeland, et.al. 1988,
64). This study supports the view of autosomal dominance and penetration of the
gene at age 30 and above. The high incidence of depression in Amish families is
reinforced by endogamy, according to which marriage must occur in the Amish com
munity. Of 1850 couples in Lancaster County all but
three are related (Hostettler 1980, 321). About 250 couples are second cousins.
cumulative findings may be compared to one of Szondi’s own case studies,
dealing with incest as a form of depression (1980, 269-277). The patient is a
36 year old manual laborer, in whose family incest runs for three generations.
His father, paternal uncle, and paternal grandfather went to prison for sexual
abuse. The patient committed incest with his three sisters and his own
daughter, from her eleventh to her fifteenth year. His sexual abuse was
complemented by oral perversions and was usually performed under the influence
The patient is
alcoholic and addicted to drugs, as are his paternal grandfather, sister,
brother, and daughter. His wife has four female
had been sexually abused by their father. The mother’s family has five members
with red-green color blindness, specifically, the maternal grandfather,
patient’s brother, two maternal cousins, and the patient himself.
of the mother and the patient are genotropic. Some of the factors implicated
are red-green color blindness, alcoholism, and depression. As indicated above,
these are currently understood as a cluster of sex-linked and dominant
heredities. Thus, by expanding the definition of genotropism beyond
recessivity, greater coherence may be provided for the new findings and for
Szondi’s own case studies. Genotropism is a function of attraction based upon
the familial gene pool. It accounts for both individual choice and the patterns
of attraction traceable in the multi-generational family.
Genotropism and Genesmanship
One of Szondi’s
intentions in proposing the concept of genotropism was to develop the
psychological implications of the classical genetics of Mendel and Johannsen.
Forty years after it appeared, the German biologist Wolfgang Wickler observed
that the concept of genotropism has a significant role in the history of
genetics. Within that history the theory of natural selection, in particular,
evolved through the work of R. Fisher (1930) and J. Haldane (1932) to that of
W. D. Hamilton (1964), which led to sociobiology (Wilson 1975), on the one
hand, and to the concept of genesmanship, on the other (Dawkins 1976).
Genotropism anticipated the latter.
view, genesmanship means that “to understand the theory of natural selection
correctly we may visualize the genes as manipulating the behavior of
individuals and ultimately benefiting from it” (1979, 433). In the same
context, Wickler goes on to say the following: “Well versed in genetics, Szondi
carefully examined hundreds of families of mentally abnormal human individuals
and finally arrived at the theory of ‘genotrop ism’ (1944), claiming that
similar genes which by common descent come to inhabit different individuals
induce, among other things, cooperation of these individuals.”
What is the
relationship between genotropism and genesmanship? W.
D. Hamilton contends that genes can cause the
perception of like genes
organisms. This involves a process known as “assortative mating” and is defined
as “attraction between likes for the purposes of coopera tion....” (Hamilton
1964, 25) Persons can be attracted to likes for benefits and to unlikes for
socially negative effects. Beneficial attraction provides selectional advantage
and, among higher animals, involves discrimination based upon intimate familiarity.
the concept of genesmanship on the basis of Hamilton’s work, Richard Dawkins argues that genes facilitate their own
survival (1976). He says that the individual is the basic unit of evolution and
opposes the so-called “good of the species” arguments of sociobiology. Genes
group themselves together to form aggregates, because natural selection favors
genes that cooperate with one another. Genes create patterns of attraction
between individuals in order to promote their own interests. To induce
attraction genes must yield multiple effects. They must both confer a specific
trait and create a tendency to be altruistic toward those who cariy it.
illustrates the role of multiple effects with the idea of the “green beard
altruism effect” (1976,76). Suppose a gene causes a green beard to grow on
certain persons. The same gene also creates a tendency to be kind to people
with green beards. Thus, the gene prospers through reciprocal recognition of
copies of itself.
genes recognize copies of themselves? The answer is among kin. It is more
likely that relatives share the same or similar genes compared with the general
population. Genetically conferred traits evolve in individuals who live in
kinship groups. Kinship selection is a special form of gene selection. The
latter is a broader, more inclusive category, embracing both near and far
relatives. Let us recall that Szondi’s case studies demonstrate the cooperation
of similar and identical genes in families, indicating that genotropism is a
function of gene selection.
analogy for genesmanship, the “green beard altruism effect,” is quite benign.
What if the analogy were drawn with a lethal gene like that of cystic fibrosis?
It is estimated that one out of 16 white Indo-Euro peans is a carrier (Harris
and Super 1987, 13). Such a high frequency presupposes that a heterozygote
advantage must exist for carriers. Specialists theorize that the cystic gene in
single-dosage confers an increased resistance to influenza and possibly to
cholera (Harris and Super
1987, 74). This
advantage provides a further example of heterotic balancing selection as a
function of genesmanship.
observation, noted above, means that a historical line may be drawn from the
pioneers of the genetic theory of natural selection through Szondi and then to Hamilton and, finally, to Dawkins. This
line of thought deviates from the customary argument that sociobiology consum
mates the theory of natural selection, an argument that presumes that the “good
of the species” is the goal of evolution. Taken together the combined work of
Szondi and Dawkins demonstrates that the “good of the individual” is a natural
goal of evolution.
interpretation is supported by Rainer Knussmann, who made the first constructive
reference to genotropism in the post-war literature (1965,44). In footnote
number eight of his paper on partner choice he classifies genotropism as an
individual, endogenous, and autogenetic type of selection. He does not develop
its connection, however. Yet Knussmann’s insight implies that genotropism comes
out of the innate development of the individual and operates among gene
comparison of genotropism to genesmanship is essentially correct but breaks
down on one point. Dawkin’s understanding of genesmanship is reductionistic; he
describes genes as entities from which he infers the behavior of the whole
organism (Sheldrake 1988, 84-87). To account for the whole Dawkins posits a
so-called genetic program as a mediating term. The problem is that the
essential wholeness of the organism is not reducible to the parts. Dawkins
confuses the hierarchical nature of the organism.
genotropism is valid, but it is a relational concept. It functions like
genesmanship by accounting for relations established among gene relatives.
Genotropism presupposes that reality is fundamentally whole, that wholeness
pervades all space-time regions, that entities like genes derive from
relationships, and that attraction is a process of mutual participation. As
genes facilitate their own survival, through the creation of relationships,
they activate participation at appropriate threshold levels. Since genotropism
entails heterosis and balancing selection, it involves a multi-layered
hierarchical conception of relatedness within a participatory cosmology.