ORIGIN OF GOOD AND EVIL ( Book pages 109 – 149)
I. Cain and
At the center
of the analysis of destiny stands the Cain complex, which is condensed from the
story of Cain and Abel in Genesis Chapter Four of the Old Testament. The Cain
complex is defined as the son who hates the brother and loves the father. The
respective relationships are reversed for the daughter.
Cain are scattered throughout Szondi’s writings. He typically cites Cain as the
symbol of law-breaking, violence, killing, or evil. The most systematic
treatment of this biblical figure may be found in his
Cain, Forms of Evils (Kain, Gestalten des Bosen), which Szondi published in his
later period (1969). Only one translation has been published, and that is in
Spanish (1975a). A shorter version of Szondi’s interpretation of the Cain story
appears in one English language essay (1964). Two of my works contain
interpretations of the Cain complex, one psychoanalytically-oriented, the other
of the Cain story is shaped by literary, linguistic, and clinical sources. The
principal literary sources are the Law or Torah of the Old Testament, Jewish
mythologies and legends known as the Haggadah, and selected Medieval
Kabbalistic texts. Because of his reliance upon law and legend, Halakhah and
Haggadah, Szondi stands in the tradition of Rabbinic Judaism. He also views
Cain as a pivotal figure in the three monotheistic religions of Judaism,
Christianity, and Islam.
Cain and Abel
are mythic figures who represent semi-nomadic or sedentary tool-making cultures
and pastoral, nomadic peoples, respectively. One function of the story is to
describe the age-old conflict between these two ways of life, particularly the
blood feuds and tribal wars of ancient groups. By the end of the Stone Age, the
tool-maker or smith had
become an alien
and threatening figure in the eyes of pastoral peoples (Gaster 1969, 51-52).
The smith works with mysterious, metallic sub stances, which can be turned into
In the Old
Testament the Cain story belongs to the old epic writing, known as the J
strand, which was compiled about 950 B.C.E. The J strand represents Judea or the southern tradition of ancient Israel. The editor(s) of the J strand
shaped the story of Cain and Abel into an epic struggle between Cain the farmer
and Abel the shepherd. Other functions of the story are to account for the
origins of civilization and for the worship of God or Yahweh among the Kenites,
the so-called descendants of Cain.
the name Cain from the Hebrew root “kana,” which means both “created by God”
and “acquired through a purchase.” These meanings imply procreation and
acquisition, two qualities central to Szondi’s psychological portrayal of Cain.
He also acknowledges that in Aramaic Cain means “smith” (1964).
meanings of procreation and acquisition are implied in the biblical narration
of the birth of Cain: “I have produced a man with the help of the Lord”
(Gen.4:1). Although the Bible governs Szondi’s inter pretation, he cites an
haggadic text, stating that Cain is conceived by Samael, the evil angel of
Satan, and that Cain’s birth is revealed in a heavenly countenance (1969,20).
Samaci is the principal name of Satan in Judaism but, beginning with the Targum
Jonathan (Gen. 3:6), is identified as the angel of death in later literature.
This implies that the fatherhood of Adam begins not with the birth of Cain, but
with that of Abel.
Cain’s paternity to Satan alleviates humankind of respon sibility for evil. Yet
it creates uncertainty as to who the actual father of Cain is, Is it the evil
Samaci or is it God, whose help Eve claims in the birth? Still other sources
make both Cain and Abel sons of Satan, as does the Zohar, for example, the
principal text of Kabbalah. Whatever the version, the intent of the myth is to
ground good and evil in a pre-personal, primal depth of being.
however, favors the biblical view of Cain and Abel as the sons of Adam and Eve.
His intent is to say that Cain and Abel, by virtue of their descent, are of
mixed ancestry. They are capable of both good and evil, as are their parents.
So whether Eve conceives of Cain by Samael or by means of God’s help, she has
an inclination to both good and evil. Employing genetic metaphors, Szondi
describes Adam and Eve, Cain and
heterozygotes and not “pure blood” homozygotes. They are all
for good and evil.
Szondi goes on
to say that Cain and Abel are married, according to most sources. One exception
is that in Christian texts Abel is not married, because he serves as a
prototype for the celibate Jesus. Since there are no other families on earth,
the brothers’ wives must be their sisters, more precisely, their twin sisters.
Such marriages would ordinarily violate the prohibition against incest in the
Mosaic Law (Lev. 18:9; 20:17).
However, the Haggadah grants an exception; incest is permitted as an act of
grace, so that humankind can be procreated. Similarly, inbreeding is present in
the story of Jacob and Esau, which reflects that of Cain and Abel, since Jacob
is a shepherd and Esau a hunter (Gen. 25:27). Both Jacob and Esau, the sons of
Isaac, marry their cousins (Gen. 28:9; 29:15-30).
the human conditions lying behind the text, Szondi finds that the marriage of
brothers and sisters indicates the flexibility of the incest taboo in early
societies (1969,35). For example, we have discussed the fact, in chapter one,
that the island cultures of the Pacific maintain a unilateral incest taboo
within a matriarchal tribal organization. They also permit first cousin
marriages as a way to maintain the status for the son within the matriarchy.
Biblical society resembles this to a certain extent, except that it is
patriarchal. So Cain and Abel are sons of the father, and they marry whomever
the father designates as permissible. Further, the marriage of Cain and Abel to
their twin sisters reflects the psychological fact of incestuous attraction
between male and female identical twins, as demonstrated in Szondi’s family
studies (1978, 144-147).
the story, Cain and Abel present their first-fruit offerings to God (Gen.
4:3-4). Abel gives a portion of his flock, but Cain’s is not identified. God
accepts Abel’s offering and rejects Cain’s. No reason is stated in the Bible
for God’s action. In light of biblical culture, Cain’s offering ought to be
accepted, since he is the firstborn son. As a result of God’s rejection, “Cain
was very angry, and his countenance fell” (Gen. 4:5b). Unable to master his
anger, as God counsels, Cain accompanies his brother Abel into the field and
discusses at length the psychology of Cain’s crime. He identifies hatred and
envy as the basic motives, as disclosed in the following haggadic passage:
“Hatred and envy burned in Cain’s soul, because his offering was not accepted”
(1969, 27). Two other motives are identified, following the
portrayal of the brothers’ wives. We read in the Bible that Adam “had other
sons and daughters” (Gen. 5:4b). How many daughters did Adam have? According to
the Book of Jubilees (4:1, 8, 10) he had two daughters or twin sisters of the
two brothers, while an haggadic source identifies three daughters or twins. In
any case, Cain murders Abel to possess his wife, who is the most beautiful
woman; or Cain murders Abel because the latter has two wives and the former
only one. Thus, we find the additional motives of sexual jealousy and greed
(Szondi 1969, 24, 27). Szondi’s insight conforms to the general rabbinic
portrait of Cain as a man of jealousy and greed (Jew. Ency. III: 493).
murder, God looks for Abel and asks Cain where he is. Cain replies: “I do not
know; am I my brother’s keeper?” (Gen. 4:9). Szondi understands Cain’s answer
to be one of deception. God then realizes what Cain has done. The blood of Abel
cries out for revenge and soaks the earth. Cain laments: “My punishment is
greater than I can bear” (Gen. 4:13). He fears he will be hidden from the face
of God, become a fugitive and wanderer upon the earth, and be murdered by
story is a specific view of nature which is common to the Old Testament and to
primal religion. Nature is conceived as a whole, so that physical actions have
psychic correlates. The shedding of blood arouses fascination and horror,
because blood is the bearer of life. In the case of homicide a residue of life
in the blood calls for retaliation.
view of nature entails an “act-fate synthesis” (Koch 1955). This means that
actions, whether good or evil, reverberate outward from the actor to the
community and then rebound back upon the actor. The resonance of act and effect
presupposes a social network of internal relationships, in which persons
mutually participate in the lives of one another. The act-fate synthesis binds
human and physical nature in a relationship, as attested in the creation
narrative, according to which humankind (Adam) is formed from the ground
(Adamah) (Gen. 2:7).
The horror of
the story is that the bond between humankind and earth is shattered by the
shedding of blood. Consequently, the ground loses its fertility and becomes a
desert, alien and threatening, a zone of death. Cain is filled with dread,
since he can no longer farm the land. His fate is to become a homeless wanderer
on the desert, where being alone means one is as good as dead.
reading Cain is emotionally disturbed. He is neither sadistic, depressive, nor
psychotic. His hatred, anger, envy, and jealousy have intensified to the point of
killing. These homicidal emotions have triggered, as effects, anxiety over
punishment, instability, and endless flight (Szondi 1969, 28). This affective
act-fate synthesis is implicated in the Hebrew term for punishment (Ayon),
which means both subjective guilt and objective punishment.
fears he will be murdered, as he wanders across the face of the earth, God
declares: “Not so! Whoever kills Cain will suffer a sevenfold vengeance” (Gen.
4:15a). God places on Cain a sign, so that no one would kill him. The sign is a
mark, representing the ancient practice of branding cattle and reflecting the
mysterious sacral quality of the smith (Gaster 1969, 56).
The sign of
Cain is central to Szondi’s psychology and ethics. He interprets it as an
ethical idea, a normative principle intended to prohibit any further killing
(1969, 36-37). His view has the virtue of representing the intent of the text,
namely, to show that God spares Cain’s life; God pardons him, in effect. God’s
action implies that the shedding of blood, which normally dictates a revenge
murder, becomes an act of expiation.
functions as a taboo, marking off a sphere of protection lasting for seven
generations, which is the meaning of the phrase “sevenfold vengeance.” In
Christian and Jewish history the sign has been portrayed as a horn on the
forehead. Szondi accepts this image of the horn as symbolically significant for
two reasons (1969, 36). One is that Moses, who committed crimes of passion, has
been portrayed with a horn on his forehead and the other is that the horn is a
sacred object in the Old Testament. The horn comes from the sacrifice of a
bull, which occurs during the ceremony of ordination of priests, when
sacrifices are made on altars with horns (Ex. 29:12). In the ancient world this
type of blood ritual was found only in the Sinai tradition and, therefore, it
was uniquely Mosaic (Weinfeld 1989, 104-105).
This line of
thought differs from that of another scholar, who argues that the sign as a
horn represents the bestial nature of its bearer (Mellinkoff 1981, 61). This
argument resembles the popular idea of the sign as a stigma or curse. Such a
notion presupposes the belief that Cain rebels from God and is punished for his
crimes. The punitive image of
the sign is,
however, post-biblical, since it does not fit the intent of the
the sign, Cain leaves the presence of God and journeys east of Eden. His wife bears him a son named
Enoch. Cain builds the first city and names it after his son. Following the
construction of the first city, the story presents a tribal genealogy,
comprising seven genera tions of Adam, Cain, Enoch, Irad, Mehujael, Methushael,
and Lamech (Gen. 4:17-22). This genealogy is characterized by a linear rather
than a branching descent, and it posits a single ancestor as the progenitor of
Implied in the
genealogy is the fact that Cain dies. There are three mythic sources for the
death of Cain: (1) his house falls upon him (Jub. 4:13); (2) he perishes in the flood (Test.
Benj. 12:7); or (3) he is killed by Lamech. The third is haggadic, and it has
joined the tradition of the sign of Cain as a bestial horn, becoming the
dominant view in modern times. The haggadic interpretation is consistent with
In the genealogy
Lamech has two wives, Adah and Zillah, who bear him three sons and one
daughter. Adah gives birth to Jabal and Jubal, Zillah to Tubal-Cain and his
sister Naamah. Jabal is the ancestor of shepherds, Jubal that of musicians, and
Tubal-Cain that of smiths.
In the Haggadah
Lamech is a blind hunter, who hunts with the aid of his son. One day he goes
hunting, and his son sees something horned in the distance. He positions his
father so as to shoot the arrow accurately. The shot hits the target. As they
walk toward the body, the son cries out that it is human not animal and that a
horn is on the forehead. Immediately Lamech realizes that he has murdered his
ancestor Cain; so in anguish he throws his hands together and inadvertently
kills his son. Lamech shouts that if Cain be protected sevenfold, then he would
be seventy sevenfold. Lamech’s boast is the “Song of the Sword” (Gen. 4:23-24),
celebrating an unconsciously driven reign of killing and lasting seventy-seven
generations, a virtually unlimited span of time.
of Lamech’s sons represent the tripartite origins of civilization from the
standpoint of nomadic tribes. The three vocations of the shepherd, musician,
and smith complement Cain’s role as the ancestor of those who build cities (I
Sam. 30:29). The tribal context is partly nomadic, partly sedentary. Inherent
in the tribal genealogy is typological thinking, which is common to primal
religion. Primitive thought posits
recur in subsequent generations of individuals with
rhythms of creation and recreation (Johnson 1988, 13).
of Cain are known as the Cainites. They repeat the homicidal intention of Cain
as a typology. The intent of the J strand is to narrate how evil spreads by
means of the Cainites and that outside paradise primevel history is a
succession of fall, fratricide, and vengeance (von Rad 1961, 108). The Cainites
have a connection with the Kenites, an ancient nomadic tribe related to the
Midianites. The Kenites were friendly with the Hebrew tribes, intermarried with
them, and worshipped Yahweh. First Chronicles (2:55) even links the Kenites to the
Rechabites, who were also devotees of Yahweh (Jer. 35).
acknowledges the theological interpretation of the J strand and distinguishes
sharply between the Cainites and the Kenites (1969, 38). He defines the
Cainites as all those who carry psychologically the homicidal intent of Cain,
but in one essay he erroneously calls the Kenites the Canaanites (1964, 52).
While Szondi’s distinction is correct, it should not be pushed too far. Cainite
genealogy was apparently closely related to the tradition of the Kenites (Num.
24: 21-22; Jgs. 4:11). Thus, the combined Cainite and Kenite tradition
comprises a self-contained literary unit (Johnson 1988, 11).
In the final
compilation of the Mosaic Law after the Babylonian Exile, the J strand was
reworked by the Priestly writing. This fact further illumines the conflict
between Cain and Abel in the haggadic tradition (Szondi 1969, 32). The field,
where Cain slays Abel, serves as the site of the First Temple in Jerusalem. The murder is the prototype of
the blood sacrifice performed by the priests in the temple. This presupposes
the belief that Abel’s offering had been a blood sacrifice and that Cain’s
murder had, in fact, become a blood sacrifice as well. When the prophets began
to criticize temple religion as corrupt, they proclaimed that its destruction
would be the punishment by God as a consequence of human sin. For example,
Micah announced (ca., 750 B.C.E.): “Therefore because of you Zion shall be plowed as a field; Jerusalem shall become a heap of ruins,
and the mountain of the house a wooded height” (3:12).
interprets the tribal genealogy of the Cainites as the bearer of ancestral
memories. There are ancestral traces, lying dormant in the familial unconscious
that erupt in times of crisis. The emergence of unconscious psychic traces
corresponds mythically to the return of the
typological thinking gives rise to genetic metaphors, which are useful in
explaining the negative traits of the ancestors that are conferred upon the
descendants. Generations of inbreeding facilitate the manifestation of lethal
and latent recessive genes. This is not to use primitive mythic thinking as
biological evidence but to provide comple mentary genetic metaphors to amplify
unconscious dynamics. Thus, by analogy the Cainites, through several
generations of inbreeding, become homozygous recessive with respect to the
homicidal intent of their ancestor
of Lamech’s sons illustrate the symbolic functions of genotropism and
sublimation in the myth. Shepherds, musicians, and smiths can be derived from
paroxysmal heredity. Lamech’s blindness symbolizes the absence of insight and
self-consciousness, which would censor violent unconscious impulses. Cain’s
building the first city exemplifies an introjective ego phase as well as a
In summary, the
profile of Cain is quite complex. He suffers a need for acceptance by the father
and by God-The-Father. As a defense of God’s rejection of his offering, Cain
reacts with crude, primitive emotions as a need for vindication. The murder
intensifies this need to the point of violent display of self-worth. After
committing the crime, the need for self-worth becomes that of deception,
followed by the self-concealing impulse of guilt and dread of punishment. The
latter tendency continues in the subsequent instability and restlessness.
discharges the paroxysmal-epileptoid root factor and the deception, guilt, and
fear the paroxysmal-hysteroid. To these primary motivations may be added
contributing factors. The need for acceptance is manic, desire for Abel’s wife
and aggression sexual, and the greed an introjective ego phase. Ego instability
is also illustrated by the initial despondency and the decision to kill as
negativist. Projection informs the deceptive question: “Ani I my brother’s
story of Cain and Abel expresses a fundamental impulse toward killing in human
experience. Everyone is capable of slaying the brother, both now and in
primeval times. With this fact in mind Szondi begins his book with a
provocative assertion: “Cain rules the world” (1969,
7). Anyone who
doubts this should read the histoiy of the world, he suggests.
contention, so reminiscent of St. Augustine’s theory of histoiy, grows out of his own experience of radical
evil. He explains that in times of rapid social change persons like Cain can
obtain political power and mobilize a latent homicidal intent in the masses.
Such a situation may be justified by an extreme nationalistic ideology which
turns into a delusion. Ideology is a form of delusion which, in opposition to
religious faith, distorts reality projectively, splitting the world into the
pure and impure, and exhibiting rigid either-or thinking. Out of an extreme
need for vindication a people becomes aroused and commits mass atrocities.
Aggression is discharged as an end in itself, without moving toward restitution.
The twentieth century is an arena, in which Cain political ideology has ruled
without restitution. The primary example has been Nazism.
through the Hungarian Counter Revolution, Szondi presents a model in the case
of Martin Zoldi, a 55 year old chief of police (1969, 61). As a child, Zoldi
suffered epileptic seizures. In his political career he was regarded as a
self-sacrificing patriot, who pursued his enemies relentlessly and
sadistically. During the Nazi era in Hungary, Zoldi had responsibility for investigating political activities in
the southern part of the country. Without any explicit order, he acted on his
own to exterminate more than a thousand Serbs and Jews, for which he was
honored as a hero. However, at the end of the Nazi period, Zoldi was arrested
and executed as a war criminal.
sexually disturbed. Psychoanalytically, he was fixed on a pre-genital,
polymorphously perverse, infantile stage. He engaged in sadomasochistic, anal
sadistic, bisexual, and exhibitionist activities. Zoldi belonged to a club of
sexual perverts that carried out mutual whippings. He wanted to sublimate his
sexual tendencies through service to the fatherland. Hence, out of his
masochism his patriotic service became a personal sacrifice.
Zoldi also felt
persecuted personally. Sublimating his paranoid delusions into his work as
police chief, he believed that the Serbian and Jewish minorities were a threat
to the country. By means of Fascist public policy he imposed his bestial sadism
upon his victims. When acting like
killer, his religious tendencies receded into the background. When hiding his
Cain nature, he displayed himself as a humble ascetic.
Zoldi was a perverted, paranoid Cain personality. Through out his life the Cain
intent took several forms. Beginning in epilepsy, it later mixed with sadism
and paranoia, which together blocked any ability to make restitution, and then
finally it culminated in superpatriotism and mass murder. Before his execution
by hanging, he was filled with death anxiety and religious delusions. Both
delusion and ideology arose from the same source as does religious faith,
namely, the need for spiritual participation beyond the threat of death.
Because they do not achieve genuine participation, neither delusion nor
ideology can escape the dread of death, Thus, the Cain personality has many
faces, which change periodically into delusion and ideology to fit social
conditions. Whatever form the Cain intent assumes, one can never be free until
resolving it at the level of faith.
The vision of
history as a struggle between Cain and Abel presupposes a specific origin of
good and evil, namely, the fundamental biological capacity for startle, for a
spontaneous discharge of emotion as a defense against shock. This is manifest
in the paroxysmal-epileptiform seizure pattern, which Szondi has developed. The
term paroxysmal derives from the Greek infinitive paroxunein, which means “to
urge on,” “stimulate,” “provoke to anger,” or “irritate.” The term epileptiform
derives from the Greek deponent verb epilarnbanornai, which means “to lay hold
of,” “grasp,” or “catch.”
together, the terms designate a two-fold seizure pattern. In the first, coarse
primitive emotions accumulate and become pent-up. The specific affects are
anger, rage, hatred, vengeance, envy, and jealousy; they are called the Cain
emotions. In the second, these Cain emotions, having intensified to a lethal
peak, explode in a seizure, in a sudden attack that lowers the threshold of
consciousness and forces the muscular system into involuntary stereotypic
varies in intensity and object relatedness. The emotional discharge may turn
into a killing attack, directed either at the self or another person. This is
the Cain intent. With decreasing intensity, the
outburst may go
towards inanimate targets or, in the absence of outlets, may assume the form of
pathological symptoms or behavioral patterns. At its most intense peak the
seizure expresses, metaphorically, the need to kill. With less intense attack
states pent-up emotions seek vindication or restitution.
seizure pattern culminates in a third phase, which is, properly speaking, that
of restitution. This is a need that is satisfied by the Abel tendency. After
the seizure, one feels remorse and wants to make amends so as to complete the
natural moral cycle. Altogether this three-fold paroxysmal pattern functions in
a cyclical manner, alternating between Cain and Abel phases in search of meaning
and value in experience. This natural pattern is both lawful and ethical.
recognize that this natural moral cycle may, on occasion, be broken. When
paranoia and/or sadism dominate, for example, the movement toward atonement
does not happen. With the blocking of the restitution need homicidal outbursts
become manic, aggressive ends in themselves. Cruelty, lust, and sheer
domination take place. This involves a Cain psychopathology, and it is
characterized by the absence of conscience, the projection of guilt and anxiety
onto others, and the inability to sustain relationships (Szondi 1952, 360).
paroxysmal-epileptiform pattern involves a broad continuum of various
manifestations and psychic equivalents. At one end of the continuum stands murder
as an extreme possibility. At the other end stands a group of pathologies
identified by the attack syndrome. One of the most common cluster of attack
sicknesses, serving as a psychic equivalent of the Cain intent, is the
so-called Szondi triad: epilepsy, migraines, and stuttering. These have their
own unique seizure phases and they follow recessive genetic patterns.
paroxysmal syndrome is epilepsy, particularly the temporal lobe type. Epilepsy
is a broad and complex term, referring to several varieties, such as grand mal
and petit mal seizures, absences, narcolepsy, and pyknolepsy, which brings on a
short lapse of consciousness without absences but with rhythmic bodily
movements (Szondi 1969, 55). Behavior ally, temporal lobe epilepsy features
emotional lability, including extremes of anger and hyperethical or
hyperreligious furor. The temporal lobe epileptic tends to lack sexual interest
or arousal, is ponderous or serious,
adhesive or perseverative, and may get paranormal insights into another world
(Blumer 1984, xi).
epilepsy represents one of the major endeavors of modern medicine as well as
one of the major controversies. At issue is the question of specialization,
involving psychiatry and neurology. Modern neurology arose in the nineteenth
century, when Hughlings Jackson observed the autopsy of his deceased patient
known as Dr. Z. Jackson concentrated on brain lesions and the neuro-chemical
layer of the organism, thereby founding neurology as a mechanistic science. Jackson ignored the biography of Dr. Z.,
thus promoting a split between neurology and psychiatry, a dichotomy that has
remained until the present day.
British scholars identified Dr. Z. as Arthur Myers, a London physician, and life-long bachelor who died by suicide at the age of
42 (Taylor and Marsh 1980). He was the brother of Frederic Myers, the eminent Cambridge classics scholar who pioneered
the development of the scientific studies of psychic ability. Arthur Myer’s
biography clearly illustrates characteristics common to temporal lobe
epileptics (Blumer 1984, 24-25). He was disciplined, good-natured, occasionally
irritable, celibate, and interested in the supernatural. His mode of death is
highly significant, since the suicide rate of temporal lobe epileptics is 25%
higher than that for the general population.
neurology has flourished, particularly after 1929 when the EEG was introduced
to map brain waves precisely. Advances in the neurological study of epilepsy
made possible the description of the brain as a tripartite hierarchy of the
cerebral cortex, midbrain, and brain stem (Penfield 1975). These advances have
been complemented by successful treatment of epileptics through hospitalization
and anti-convulsant drugs. Progress in neurology has led to the belief that
convulsions no longer occur and that the three-fold paroxysmal pattern of
epilepsy is obsolete.
neurology presupposes the prevailing subject-object orientation of modern
thought and a preference for epiphenomenal and monistic metaphysical
postulates. However, the reign of neurology is chal lenged by the clinical fact
that the paroxysmal nature of epilepsy has not disappeared. Even with medical
treatment psychiatric symptoms persist, especially in subtle and muted forms
(Blumer and Bensen 1982). Ironically, the more severe the epilepsy is the more
subtle the paroxysmal pattern is likely to be.
perspective is present in the current trend to unite neurology and psychiatry.
This goes beyond the subject-object dichotomy that has plagued medicine during
the mid twentieth century. Neuro psychiatry has a historical progenitor in the
nineteenth century epileptic and novelist Fyodor Dostoevsky. Unlike Arthur
Myers Dostoevsky left behind a large body of literature, richly endowed by
acute awareness of his own temporal lobe epilepsy.
The basic model
of epilepsy in Dostoevsky’s life and work consists of (1) foreboding
premonitions and ecstatic, erotic auras; (2) unconscious convulsive seizures;
(3) post-ictal psychoses, including a deep sense of guilt and feeling of having
committed evil long ago; and (4) inter-ictal disorders, such as fear, paranoia,
restlessness, agitation (Rice 1985, 43-44). The so-called Dostoevsky epilepsy
is uniquely characterized by profound religious aura and a moral struggle
between good and evil. The Dos toevsky aura has only recently been confirmed
clinically (Cirignotta, et.al., 1980). However, the most comprehensive
verification of the Dostoevsky epilepsy appears in the work of Dietrich Blumer
(1984), who studied under Szondi. Blumer is a leader in neuropsychiatiy and is
making known Szondi’s significant contributions to this field.
shown that, in addition to epilepsy, other paroxysmal-epilep tiform tendencies
or conditions include high blood pressure, allergies, asthma, hay fever,
eczema, neurodermatitis, glaucoma, and enuresis. Other equivalents of epilepsy
are acute paroxysmal manic or depressive phases; seizures by paranoid
persecution delusions or catatonic negativism, cleptomania, pyromania,
dipsomania, homicidal mania, and poriomania, which is an aimless wandering
without awareness of the environment. Accident proneness may also be added to
the list of epileptoid equivalents (Hedri 1963).
these psychopathologies epilepsy is susceptible to a psychosis. This includes
seizures, twilight states, and the behavioral characteristics noted above, but
it lacks the chronic mental deterioration as found in schizophrenia. Szondi
documents the epileptoid psychosis extensively, knowledge of which goes back to
the nineteenth century (1963a). Throughout his many writings Szondi describes
various relation ships between epilepsy and delusory states (Van Reeth 1981). A
classic British paper introduced the term “schizophrenic-like psychoses of
epilepsy,” without, however, acknowledging the pioneering contributions of
scholars (Slater and Beard 1963). Consequently, knowledge
psychosis cannot be regarded as a recent discovery.
for epileptoid psychoses by a theory of ego splitting (1963a, 426-433; 1969,
56-59). Psychotic behavior exhibits a rotation of split-off ego parts. On the
one hand, there could be schizoform inflative possession and, on the other,
paroxysmal-epileptiform seizures. As these phases rotate, each replaces the
other. For example, the schizoform inflative state might turn into migraines,
asthma, eczema, stuttering, or poriomania. Such splitting would be caused by
both epileptiform and schizoform heredity.
One aspect of
extreme ego splitting is a struggle between good and evil as distinct forces.
This involves a distinction between the pure Cain and the pure Abel. The former
comprises the Cain emotions and an exhibi tionism, the latter the Abel emotions
as well as feeling of anxiety, fear of punishment, guilt, and/or shame (Szondi
1980, 160). The pure Cain displays evil, the Abel good. As shown above in the
case of Martin Zoldi, the pure Cain can mix with paranoia and sadism and also
be covered by an Abel mask. The Cain and Abel phases alternated in Zoldi’s life
until his execution as a war criminal.
Because of its
hereditary origin, Cain behavior may be present in children as well as adults.
For children the most common stimulus is abandonment or lack of love. Anxiety generates
rage or hatred against parents, whether in the form of actual killing or
paroxysmal symptoms. Cain reactions attain their maximal frequency (45-50%)
between ages three and six. After childhood, there may follow a cycle of
lowering and then rising in the 30s and 40s (20-25%), and then lowering and
rising in old age (40-45%). This cycle illustrates the fact that hostility may
appear with the onset of hormonal or biological changes in the organism.
determine the Cain equivalents Szondi offers the following criteria: (1) the
behavior must involve pent-up Cain emotions amid inner or outer threatening
stimuli; (2) the activity must occur in a twilight state, partly with limited
consciousness, partly with seizures; (3) psychological testing must yield data
in the paroxysmal range; and (4) the 123
IV. Cain and
well-known that psychoanalysis puts the Oedipus complex at the center of human
existence. It is defined as the son who hates the father and loves the mother.
Although Freud assigned priority to the Oedipus complex, Szondi believed that
both it and the Cain complex were co-active. The Cain complex provides a useful
formula in the diagnosis of certain neuroses. They derive from both existential
conflicts and the paroxysmal epileptiform gene group. Specifically, the Cain
complex can exist under three conditions: (1) conflict between the ego and a
hereditary epileptoid disposition; (2) conflict between a manifest Cain
personality and the moral and ethical environment; and (3) conflict within the
conscience of a Cain personality (Szondi 1969, 115).
With a Cain
complex one has two kinds of relationships. One is a love or bonding between
father and son, and the other is an irritability, hatred, or homicidal wish
toward the brother. These two psychological patterns require two specific
defenses: (1) projection and (2) negation, in the sense of self-destruction by
means of suicide ideation or intention, self-sabotaging inclination in work or
career, or preoccupation with the crude aspects of life.
The most common
neurotic symptoms of the Cain complex are (1) compulsion; (2) alienation; (3)
hypochondria; (4) active anal sadistic inversion; (5) projective-paranoid
neurosis; (6) perversions and exhibition ism; and (7) various psychosomatic disorders,
such as migraines, heart attack, hypertension, ulcers, diabetes, and intestinal
find, behind these symptoms, a love-hate ambivalence toward a domineering
person in early childhood, such as a sibling or parent. Because of the cruelty
of that person, one would like to kill him or her unconsciously. As a
substitute, the killing intent converts into a disease syndrome or is projected
onto an organ. Consequently, the illness masks the killing intent, often with
guilt and the dread of punishment like the mythic Cain. By means of the
neurosis one sacrifices oneself instead of the other person.
Cain neurosis may be difficult due to the lability of emotion. Hostility may be
intermittent or screened by an Abel mask, particularly during a psychological
interview. The same problem occurs with epileptics, who might have different
test results before, after, or
seizures. One trait of the epileptic is the ability to hide symptoms.
we must be alert to what Szondi calls the “camouflaged Cain” in an everyday
setting. One carries pent-up emotion and acquires a camouflage in the form of
social modesty, shy charming behavior, narcis sism, or participation in the
activities of churches, service, educational, or scientific organizations. Yet
despite the mask, the Cain nature shows through in rough, choppy speech,
muscular tension, irritability, or competitiveness. Some of the common ego
phases of the everyday Cain are the undisciplined autistic personality in the sense
of greed or hostility; inflative excitability; paranoid, compulsively
antisocial and stereotyped regimented individuals. Camouflaging is present
particularly with respect to sexuality and evil, and it may be exhibitionist
with a strong hysteroid disposition.
In order to
resolve the Cain complex there must be a movement toward restitution. This
requires a coming to terms with the brother and an introjection of the father
into one’s being. Such resolution takes place outside the family in that one is
capable of relating in a brotherhood or sisterhood. Restitution promotes
In contrast to
the Cain, the Oedipus complex involves a bonding with the mother and hostility
toward the father. This duality may be defended by repression, inhibition, and
alienation. The most common neurotic forms of the Oedipus complex are hysteria,
alienation, passive inversion, and such psychosomatic disturbances as
tachycardia, diarrhea, colitis, and impotence. Resolution of the complex takes
place within the family, as one introjects the mother in the power of having
and accepts the father. This complex revolves mainly around contact needs of
attachment and acquisition.
that the Oedipus complex should be viewed in terms of a three-generational
family system. The complex seems to be natural only under certain conditions.
Specifically, the father must see his mother in his daughter, and the mother
her father in her son (Szondi 1978, 149-150). In other words, the daughter
takes after the paternal grandmother or sister of the father; and the son takes
after the maternal grandfather or brother of the mother. As Szondi puts it,
when a woman brings a boy into the world, she gives birth to her father; and
when a man brings a girl into the world, he gives birth to his mother.
the Cain and Oedipus complexes could be argued on genetic grounds. Genes are
transmitted equally between parents and children, brothers and sisters. Hence,
parent-child relationships are not privileged genetically. Parents and
children, brothers and sisters carry half the genes of the other. Genetic
relationships between oneself and uncles and aunts, nephews and nieces,
grandparents and grandchildren, and half-siblings are one fourth. Those between
oneself and first cousins, great grandparents and great grandchildren are one
One of Szondi’s
early assessments of the Oedipus complex appeared in his pioneering paper on
marriage choice (1937, 58-60). The well-known story of Oedipus deals with the
murder of his father Laius and the incestuous marriage to his mother Jocasta.
This pattern accounts for the Oedipus complex as such; but the problem is that
Freud does not account for all the generations of the family in his
Oedipus has two
daughters and two sons. One son, Polyneikes, dies in combat, and his body is
left on a hill. His sister, Antigone, defies the King’s order by burying her
brother’s body. Antigone then kills herself in a love-death pact. Her lover is
Haemon who is the King’s son. He and Antigone are cousins; so they repeat the
incestuous love in a second generation.
Szondi asks why
the god Apollo initially denies children to Laius. According to the myth, Laius
is homosexual. He had seduced Chiysippus, Apollo’s lover. So the father of
Chrysippus arranges for Laius to be cursed by Apollo. Szondi concludes that the
“anal-sadistic (homosexual) character accounts also for the murder of blood
relatives. This was, according to the myth, the primary sin in the Labdykida
family, because of that the family had to perish” (1937, 60).
myths of Cain and Oedipus have fundamental moral differences. The cry of Cain,
that his punishment is greater than he can bear, evokes an intentional guilt.
One purpose. of the biblical writer(s) was to show how this moral
intentionality flowed down the generations and deteriorated in a tragic end.
Mythically, the first “Oedipus” is Lamech who slays his ancestor Cain
unintentionally and unconsciously (Szondi 1964, 54). The suffering of Oedipus
comes out of an unwitting sin, an unintentional missing the mark. Be defining
the human predicament in Oedipal terms, psychoanalysis fails to penetrate the
profound ethical conflicts that frequently inform mental disorders.
We have already
learned in chapter three, that paroxysmal families are associated with the
primal elements of air, earth, fire, and water and that their members may have
psychic abilities. Although he does not ac knowledge the paroxysmal pattern,
Erik Erikson illustrates some of these ideas in his classic study of Martin
Luther. Coal miners, from whom Luther descended, work underground and are
vulnerable to superstition and sudden death (Erikson 1962, 58). Coal miners
attack the earth with aggressive intensity, extracting material to be
transformed into energy. The earth is a collective soul, a psychic ground, in
which the volatile coal miner is embedded. Erikson found that steel workers in
the old Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania shared this mystical
conception of the earth (1962, 62). The fire of the steel mills produces smog
which, being a transformation of the earthen metals, means productivity. Many
of the old Pittsburghers were emigrees from Southeastern
Europe, where people believed that the application of
fire to earth assured fertility or employment.
reading of Carl Jung’s autobiography would be suggestive. Jung explains that as
a child he suffered eczema, accident proneness, desire for another world
through suicide ideation, fainting spells with a hint of epilepsy, twilight states,
and a worship of fire (1961, 7-9, 20, 30-31). He had a life-long attachment to
water and to the majesty of the Alps. All of these feelings and phases belong to the
paroxysmal-epileptiform hereditary circle, a fact that suggests a biological
grounding for correspond ing archetypal contents, which Jung fails to do.
critique is fruitful with respect to Freud’s psychology of religion. In his
classic essay on a seventeenth century demonic possession case, Freud derives
the figures of God and Satan from split-off images of the love and hatred of
the father, respectively (1923). The subject of the essay is Christoph
Haitzmann, who undergoes some dramatic experiences. They consisted of visions
and of loss of consciousness, during which he saw and experienced all manner of
things; also of “convulsive seizures accompanied by the most painful sensation;
on one occasion paralysis of the lower limbs occurred....” (1923, 77)
Freud goes on
to say that after an apparent resolution Haitzmann had a relapse, in which “a
great light appeared” to him, from which came the voice of Christ commanding
him “to forswear this wicked world....” (1923,
learned that his attacks were epileptic seizures and that they defended against
his own homicidal wishes. By constructing a genealogy, the patient realized
that he was a latent epileptic. His mother was the daughter of an epileptic
father, and she suffered migraines. As a child, the father stuttered, had fits
of rage, and engaged in periodic poriomania. He founded a religious sect and
became an itinerent preacher. Several members of the family also had religious
Out of the
familial phase of therapy a striking dream emerged, from which a few lines are
quoted: “I run in the twilight over a wooded hill, where I hope I can see. I
see people in the darkness.... But they are only families, no couples. At this
time there is a war or period of military occupation. Uniformed Romans or
Russians take possession of the land. We are in a house, I and many soldiers....”
(Szondi 1956, 98) The patient says he is holding a Roman sword in his hand and
that he must leave his friends and fight. “Nevertheless, I try to flee. I break
out, while I cut as many as possible. It is horrible, what I cause for a blood
bath. Beside me I hear someone whisper: ‘Amok!’ I have really run Amok!”
He tells how he
rages as a savage and how the soldiers fall like flies before his sword. They
stand in single column, so that he can cut them down more easily. Toward the
end of the dream the patient states that a “face comes near to mine; suddenly I
know. He is my father, and I see his face in mine: It is out of the fire; he is
the god of fire.” Finally, the patient cries out: “I wake up still burning in
the face” (Szondi 1956, 99).
The dream images
of twilight, wooded hill, fleeing, killing, blood, running amok, and fire
express a paroxysmal-epileptoid state. The dream content is both familial and
collective, particularly in the representation of the father as the god of
fire. The phrase “run amok” comes from the German psychiatrist Emil Kraepelin,
who visited Java in the early twentieth century. He observed natives suddenly
losing consciousness, ruthlessly stabbing themselves or anyone in their way,
and afterward remembering little or nothing. The twilight condition, described
by natives as a covering of the eyes, triggered a killing intent along with
restless agitation. Kraepelin believed that they who run amok are undiagnosed
The idea of
running amok also bears upon the mythic Cain. In Hellenistic Judaism Cain means
“loss of light,” which contrasts the fullness of light or heavenly countenance
with which he is born. Cain lost the fullness of light by virtue of his fall or
by procreation through the evil
The haggadic images of the loss of light and of Cain as “the dark one” mean a
twilight state, a falling away of consciousness. Pent-up emotion displaces a
lucid consciousness. Out of the darkness, the unconsciousness, a flame bursts
forth, burning with the passion for evil and for restitution.
Formation of Conscience
I. Method of
eightieth year of his life Szondi published a psychological study
Entitled Moses, Answer to Cain, it reveals a personal struggle to come to terms
with his own Jewish heritage (1973). The Moses is a sequel to his Cain. Szondi
admits it was difficult for him to realize that Cain stands at the center of
Mosaic religion and of Judaism.
In the Moses
Szondi intends to show how religion and killing are integrated. To explain the
relation between the two he draws upon his own ego psychology, specifically,
the concept of the pontifical ego that came out of his study of Hinduism. The
pontifical ego, the highest level of self-realization, is the bridge between
killing and faith, between primitive and high religion. In the context of
Judaism the pontifical ego functions as conscience. From his own experience
Szondi points out that only the one who has gone from Cain to Moses can cross
the bridge and form conscience.
carefully examines the evidence of the pre-Mosaic and Mosaic periods in the
history of Israel, relying
heavily upon the work of the older German scholars, such as the pioneering form
critic Hugo Gressmann, Gershom Scholem, and Martin Buber. For textual evidence
he uses Bible and legend, Halakhah and Haggadah, combining both the method of
Rabbinic Judaism and the spirit of Hasidism. Let us recall that Szondi survived
the Nazi terror and, therefore, his study of Moses indicates that observance of
the Law or Halakhah was adequate for the Holocaust. In Szondi’s experience no
post-Holocaust theology is necessary.
and sacred legend are projective aspects of human
History records certain extraordinary events or primal wonders
that erupt and
lay down memory traces in the familial and collective
Following Buber’s own study of Moses (1958), Szondi acknow ledges that such
events are objective, noncausal and yet they impart an abiding sense of
astonishment. They are shock events that imprint subsequent generations with
striking images. The collective memory is reducible neither to repression nor
to genetics as such. The collective memory endures as an essential wholeness,
as a morphic resonance in the life of the people. The psychological mechanism
is the law of participation.
recognizes that the doctrine of God includes anthropomorphic attributes but
that they are human projections. Projected attributes constitute the content of
religious belief. Projections do not create illusions; they establish a
divine-human relationship, culminating in a participation mystique. In the
mystical participation we can predicate neither being nor nonbeing, neither the
existence nor the non-existence of God (Szondi 1973, 26). Thus, in his study of
Moses we realize that Szondi’s psychology of religion is informed by the via
negativa, the negative theology of the mystic. With respect to Christianity
Szondi’s psychology of religion coincides with the apophatic theology of the
Greek Orthodox Church, according to which selfhood becomes manifest by
participation in the divine light. The Orthodox legacy of relational selfhood
is an elaboration of a famous saying by St. Maximus: Humankind becomes by
participation what the archetype is by nature (Oliver 1984, 156).
II. The Story
Moses as he is portrayed in the composite sources of Bible and sacred legend.
The birth of Moses is announced in dreams as a miraculous event. One dream
comes from Miriam, the sister of Moses; she is commanded by God to inform her
parents, Amram and Jochebed, of the birth. The English translation of the dream
is available in The
Legends of the
Jews: “Tell thy father and thy mother...that he who
shall be born
unto them, shall be cast into the waters, and through him the waters shall
become dry, and wonders and miracles shall be performed through him, and he
shall save my people Israel,
and be their leader forever” (Ginzberg 1980, 264).
comes from Pharaoh, who, dreaming that he is sitting on his throne, sees an old
man standing before him and holding a balance
his hand. On
one scale, the old man puts all the leaders of Egypt and, on the other, a child. The scale holding the child hangs below
that holding the Egyptians.
from his sleep and summons his three advisors, Balaam the magician, Jethro, and
Job the Uzite. Balaam explains that a child will be born who will defeat the
Egyptians and liberate the Hebrews. He recommends that Pharaoh kill all the
Hebrew male babies, because previously the Hebrews had been delivered from
threats of fire, sword, and hard labor. Job suggests that Pharaoh do what he
thinks best. Jethro advises against destroying the Hebrews and either leave
them alone or allow them to depart for Israel.
Balaam’s counsel, accuses Jethro of disgrace, and banishes him. Jethro goes to
Midian, where he will later become the father-in-law of Moses. Meanwhile,
Balaam will become the enemy of Moses in Egypt.
that this haggadic material presupposes knowledge of historical events and that
it projects psychological content (1973, 37-40). Specifically, the figures of
Jethro and Balaam project the respective tendencies of good and evil or Abel
and Cain. Following Carl Jung, Szondi interprets the old man as an archetype of
the spirit and the scale
justice. Thus, Pharaoh’s dream means that in the life of Moses the good will
outweigh the evil and that the Hebrew people will par ticipate in the divine
realm of the spirit. The people will become by participation what the figure of
Moses represents. The same meaning appears in the dream of Miriam.
records the fact that Pharaoh condemns all Hebrew male babies to death (Ex. 1:22). Amram and Jochebed give birth to a baby
boy and, hoping he might be saved, place him in a basket and set it in the
river. Bithiah, daughter of Pharaoh, finds the baby and decides to keep and
raise him, even though he is Hebrew. He is named Moses, which means: “I drew
him Out of the water” (Ex.2:lOb). The biblical text emphasizes the motifs of
water, descent, and ascent. In light of our discussions of symbolism, in
chapters three and six, these three may be regarded as symbolic forms derived
from paroxysmal-epileptiform familial
means of these symbols the text projects the need for restitution into the
birth of Moses.
The same need
is projected in the haggadic portrayal of Moses’ development. For example, when
Moses is three, he is sitting on his adoptive mother’s lap at dinner. Suddenly,
he grabs the King’s crown and puts it on his own head. Pharaoh is startled and
asks his advisors what it means. Balaam reminds him of his earlier dream,
pointing out that the boy is Hebrew and that he, like his ancestors, knows how
to deceive kings. Pharaoh wonders whether the boy should be put to death, lest
he grab his throne.
decide to test Moses’ intentions; so they place two objects before the boy, one
a precious jewel, the other a burning coal. If the child should seize the
jewel, then he would be plotting consciously against the King and should be put
to death; but if he should take the coal, he would be acting unconsciously and
innocently. One of the King’s advisors is the angel Gabriel in disguise. He
guides Moses’ hand toward the burning coal instead of the jewel. Thus, Moses
“lifted it up and touched it to his mouth, and burnt part of his lips and part
of his tongue, and for all his life he became slow of speech and of a slow
tongue” (Ginzberg 1980, 274).
view, the destiny of Moses actually begins to take shape when, as a young man,
he kills an Egyptian who is beating up a Hebrew (Ex. 2:11). Despite his Egyptian upbringing,
Moses feels the victim to be his brother. Moses only does what he sees being
done, namely, a beating to death. He repays an unjust act of killing with a
just act because he will become a liberator and not a martyr. Since Moses beats
the man to death in rage, he is one who slays in passion (Affekt-Totschlager).
The biblical text portrays Moses as a man of emotional turbulence, one who has
a passion against injustice.
On the next
day, Moses sees two Hebrews fighting between themselves, and he intervenes. One
says to Moses: “Who made you a ruler and judge over us? Do you mean to kill me
as you killed the Egyptian?” (Ex. 2:14a) Moses realizes that his crime is
widely known. Even Pharaoh learns of it and sentences Moses to death. Moses is
seized with fear and flees to the desert, to the land of the Midianites.
Jethro, priest of the Midianites, and tends sheep for him. Jethro has seven
daughters, and he gives one of them, Zippora, to Moses as his wife. She will
bear Moses two sons named Gershom and Elieser.
and the Bible (Ex. 6:14-25)
list the genealogy of Moses. The head of the paternal ancestry is Levi, and one
son is Kohath. Kohath fathers Amram, Izhar, Hebron, and Uzziel. Kohath has a sister Jochebed, who marries Amram. Thus,
Amram, the father of Moses, marries his aunt. Besides Moses, Amram and Jochebed
give birth to Miriam and Aaron.
Moses’ genealogy but, curiously, does not amplit it too much. However, there
are three aspects which, if developed, could strengthen a Szondian
interpretation. First, Moses’ father marries his own aunt. In light of his
treatment of the Cainite genealogy, we would expect Szondi to interpret this to
mean the flexibility of the incest taboo in early societies. More precisely,
marriages among relatives did occur in ancient Israel, although usually between cousins, in order to keep the blessing within
the family and transmit it to the next generation (Segal 1976, 2).
does not explain why Moses flees to the land of the Midianites in the desert.
He merely suggests that the flight is instrumental in placing Moses near Mt. Sinai, on which he receives the revelation (1973,50). The apparent reason
why Szondi neglects this point is that he depends on Buber, who rejects the
Kenite hypothesis. Nevertheless, the Midianites were related historically to
the Kenites, the people who claimed the mythic Cain as their ancestor (de Vaux
1978, 332-333). Moses’ mother Jochebed had a Kenite name due to the fact of
intermarriage between Midianites and Kenites (Rowley 1950, 169). This fact is
supported in the Judges tradition (1:16; 4:11).
father-in-law of Moses, Jethro, is also named Hobab in some texts (Num. 10:29; Jgs. 4:11). Hobab is a Kenite name. This implies that both Moses’ wife and
mother descend from Kenite stock and that his marriage is possibly a
cross-cousin type. So when Moses flees to the desert, he goes to his relatives.
Hence, his flight is genotropic.
sheep for Jethro, Moses receives a commission from God in the vision of the
burning bush. An angel of the Lord appears to Moses in a fire. Tne bush is
burning but is not consumed (Ex. 3:2). God speaks out of the fire, declaring
the ground to be holy and that Moses should remove his sandals. God reveals
himself as Yahwe/i: “I am who I am” (Ex. 3:14). The vision of the fire arouses great dread in Moses, so that he
must hide his face.
In the Cain
Szondi alludes to the mythic explanation as to why Moses
hides his face
(1969, 10-11). In both Haggadah and Kabbalah Abel is
Moses. In the late twelfth and thirteenth centuries the Kabbalah had a doctrine
of transmigration (gilgul), in which the soul of Abel transmigrated into that
of Moses (Scholem 1974, 345-348). In the haggadic version Abel dies because,
when bringing his offering to God, he tries to look into God’s face, which is
forbidden. Thus, Abel must be struck down. This further implies that Abel’s
soul must transmigrate for the purpose of purification. Consequently, when
Moses becomes afraid, he suddenly remembers what happened to Abel for
attempting to see God face to face. Szondi does not accept the medieval
doctrine of transmigra tion but interprets the mythic identification of Abel
with Moses as a projective insight into latent recessivity by ancient peoples.
God tells Moses
that his people, the Hebrews, still suffer oppression in Egypt. God selects Moses to return to Egypt and lead his people out of slavery
(Ex. 3:6). Liberation will take place by means of signs and wonders sent from
God. However, Moses offers four objections as to why he cannot be God’s agent.
Of these, the most significant one psycholog ically is as follows: “0 my Lord,
I have never been eloquent, neither in the past nor even now that you have
spoken to your servant; but I am slow of speech and slow of tongue” (Ex. 4:10).
The haggadic image of the infant Moses touching his lips with the burning coal
amplifies this trait.
objections trigger God’s anger. God says to Moses that his brother Aaron will
speak for him. Out of the shock of God’s presence Moses relents and agrees to
go back to Egypt. His journey
is interrupted, when God tries to slay Moses for not being circumcised. In
defense against the divine assault Zipporah circumcises Moses, declaring to
“Truly you are
a bridegroom of blood to me!” (Ex. 4:26) Szondi interprets this interlude to
mean that the demonic, homicidal character of God is enhanced (1973, 56).
commissioning reveals four specific characteristics, which are originally
stated by Buber (1958, 60): (1) murder committed by Moses and flight into a
foreign land; (2) acceptance by the Midianite kin and work as a shepherd; (3)
visions and auditions of God by Moses on a mountain; and (4) demonic
experiences of God without a metaphysical dualism (Szondi 1973, 58-59).
Moses and Aaron
return to Egypt and demand that
Pharaoh release their people, but he refuses. Through Aaron’s rod, God sends
the ten plagues of water turned to blood, frogs, gnats, flies, diseased
and hail, locusts, darkness, and after a warning death of the firstborn (Ex. 7:14-12:32). Szondi understands the plagues as
surcharged natural phenomena preserved by sacred legend, whose content obtains
from a collective, projective-participation state and whose purpose is to
resistance is not broken until the climax of the ten plagues, when at midnight
the “Lord struck down all the firstborn in the land of Egypt, from the
firstborn of Pharaoh...to the firstborn of the prisoner...and all the firstborn
of the livestock” (Ex. 12:29). Szondi could have streng thened his
interpretation by pointing to the act-fate structure of the drama, that the
infanticide befalling Pharaoh had been enacted by his original death sentence
for Hebrew male babies and that Yahweh brought the dramatic power of destiny to
a horrifying consummation.
The ritual setting
of the drama is the Passover, which includes the sacrifice of an unblemished
one year old male animal, whose roasted meat is eaten with bitter herbs and
unleavened bread. The Hebrews smear blood from the sacrificial victim onto the
door posts and frames of their houses, so that as God “passes over” Egypt their families are spared. As in
Moses’ circumcision, blood is shed to withstand the demonic cruelty of God, as
leave Egypt, crossing the Sea of Reeds, ahead of Pharaoh’s pursuing army. The shallow waters are driven
back by a wind, while the Egyptian army gets stuck in the mud. The people enter
the wilderness, led by a pillar of cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night.
This great event known as the Exodus is regarded as a historical wonder, yet
one that has been accomplished at the initiative of Yahweh.
perspective of depth psychology Szondi understands wondrous events or miracles
as examples of collective faith. The collective psyche reacts with a startle to
the objective actions of the Exodus. The startle includes pent-up emotion,
precipitated by Egyptian oppression, and an emotional discharge through the
oral and written traditions. Primitive Cain affects are aroused and projected
onto God as attributes of providen tial activity. Thus, God’s cruelty in the
Passover is not inherent in the divine nature but is the “consequence of a
collective, paroxysmal-projective psychic function” (Szondi 1973, 63).
finds significant is the psychological content of the historical wonders. Some
involve fire; for example, the call of Moses
takes place at
the burning bush. One of the plagues includes throwing ashes, “soot from the
kiln” (Ex. 9:8). God leads the people by a pillar of fire (Ex. 13:21). As we have already learned, fire is a
central paroxysmal epileptiform element.
Water is a
related paroxysmal element. The baby Moses is put into and taken out of water.
In the Exodus the people cross the Reed Sea, wherein the
Egyptians drown. Resuming the story, the people arrive in Merah and discover
that the water is bitter and cannot be drunk. God shows Moses a tree, which he
throws into the water, and it becomes sweet to drink. Receiving the water
brings an affirmation of divine redemption:
“for I am the
Lord, who heals you” (Ex. 15:26b). Szondi argues that these references
symbolize the healing properties of water, making restitution of the Cain
impulse of anger, hatred, and quarreling which the people feel toward one
another while in the desert with Moses.
The story moves
to a climax, which is the revelation of the Law on Mt. Sinai, The Law is
a covenant, a reciprocal bonding between a stronger party and a weaker one, or
God and humankind. God promises care and has expectations, to which humankind
responds in loyalty and trust. Szondi follows Rabbinic theologians who argue
that the Law of Moses is not the first but is the fulfillment of the Genesis
Covenant with Adam, Noah, and Abraham. This four-fold covenantal structure
presupposes the chronology of the Priestly writings, which is an ordering of
four primeval ages into a great cycle (Johnson 1988, 30). Whereas tribal
genealogies, as in the Cainite lineage, deal with family interrelationships,
the Priestly genealogy raises descent to a theological purpose, namely, the origin
of the world as the foundation of law.
is a theophany, the drama of which intrigues Szondi. The stage is Mt. Sinai, the sacred mountain, set apart by a mysterious holiness. God
descends to the mountain in a storm of fire and smoke, while the sounds of
thunder, lightning, and trumpet reverberate. Moses ascends the mountain to meet
God. The people are filled with anxiety. Szondi points out that the motifs of
fire, ascent, and descent are symbolic forms projected from the collective
paroxysmal psychic layer.
At the center
of Law are the Ten Commandments, which describe human duties toward God and
toward one another. Based upon the ancient suzerainty type of treaty, the Ten
Commandments are inscribed on stone tablets and publicly witnessed by the
curses are attached and applicable to those who keep or break the commandments.
Keeping the commandments presupposes a state of freedom, which God has
actualized in the Exodus.
commandment reads: “You shall not murder” (Ex. 20:13). In Szondi’s view, it pertains to
the Cain intent, which would be an act of murder motivated by rage, hatred,
greed, and so forth. That murder is prohibited means that one task of the law
is to atone for the Cain intent. The sixth commandment, in particular,
satisfies the psychological need for restitution through the Abel phase.
Moses stays on
the mountain forty days and forty nights, a phrase designating long, indefinite
periods of time rather than specific days and nights. Meanwhile, the people
approach Aaron and conspire to make idols with their jewelry. They forge a
golden calf, which is a fertility symbol and which will lead the people through
the wilderness (Ex. 32:1-8). Moses descends from the mountain and angrily breaks
the tablets, when he sees the golden calf and the people dancing (Ex. 32:19).
Since Aaron, Moses’ brother, participates in the conspiracy, the Cain complex
obedience to the Law, God calls those who are on Moses’ side to go “back and
forth from gate to gate throughout the camp, and each of you kill your brother,
your friend, and your neighbor” (Ex. 32:27b). About three thousand men are
killed at Moses’ command. Here homicidal rage is released in service of God, so
that it would not be classified as murder. Divinely sanctioned killing is the
same as obedience to God.
commandments are re-inscribed on tablets and deposited in the Ark of the
Covenant. The Ark serves as a
sacred center, as the people journey through the wilderness for forty years.
The Ark evokes fear and hatred
among the enemies of Israel
(Num. 10:35-36). While in the
wilderness, the people begin to murmur about their misfortunes, and the “Lord
heard it and his anger was kindled. Then the fire of the Lord burned against
them, and consumed some outlying parts of the camp” (Num. 11:1). Once again,
the anger of God is symbolized by fire.
includes a complaint of Aaron and Miriam about the leadership of their brother
Moses. The issue is whether Moses’ wife is Hebrew or not (Num. 12:1). God calls
them to the tent of meeting, which is the symbol of divine transcendence in the
desert. God states that he speaks directly to Moses but indirectly to the
prophets through dreams and
12:6-8). This declaration is followed by an outburst of God’s anger against
murmur because they believe their wandering in the desert to be punishment and
death. In response to the murmuring God announces that “your dead bodies shall
fall in this wilderness. And your children shall be shepherds in the wilderness
for forty years, and shall suffer for your faithlessness, until the last of
your dead bodies lies in the wilderness” (Num. 14:32-33). We read in this passage the
theme of the earth as a symbol for a shock event. These chapters that deal with
rebellion (Ex. 34: Num. 14) belong to the J strand, and they record the
imposition of divine punishment upon the children and upon their children’s
children. The epic quality of the J is congenial to Szondi’s analysis of
The struggle in
the wilderness does not cease. The Levites who revolt under Korah are swallowed
by the earth and by fire (Num. 16: 31-35). Some give in to the prostitution of the Baal cult and fall
away from God; they are punished by hanging in the sun (Num. 25: 1-6). Moses
leads the people in a holy war against the Midianites, and his command to kill
correlates with the divine command of purification by fire and water (Num.
31:23). The frequent references to air, earth, water, and fire, as the content
of shock events, project paroxysmal-epileptiform psychic content.
is instructed to ascend Mt. Nebo and “die there on the mountain...and
be gathered to your kin, as your brother Aaron died on Mount Hor....” (Deut.
32:50). Moses is permitted to glimpse the land which God had promised to
Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, but he is not allowed to enter it. So Moses dies and
is buried in an unknown grave (Deut. 34:1-6).
Destiny of Moses
the story, it is appropriate to ask who Moses is in light of the analysis of
destiny. Is his destiny primarily that of a religious or political leader?
Following Buber, Szondi views Moses as a political figure who accomplished the
unification of the people. Moses did not so much found a new religion as
establish a theopolitical kingdom and an ethical principle. The idea of a
theopolitical kingdom means an inseparable unity
of religion and
politics (Buber 1958, 186). Thus, Moses is a law-giver and neither a priest nor
a prophet exclusively.
The destiny of
Moses unfolds through the stages of (1) prince, (2) shepherd, (3)
miracle-worker, (4) leader of the people, and (5) politician (Szondi 1973,
105). The princely phase is elaborated mainly by legends, which project onto
Moses unconscious content from the collective psyche. Moses is a heroic figure,
who as a three year old seizes the king’s crown and then burns his lips with a
coal. Taking the crown indicates an inflative claim common to religious
leaders. The burning of the lips and the characteristic “slow of speech and
slow of tongue” attest to stuttering. Both inflation and stuttering belong to
persons afflicted by shock suffering (Anfallsrnensch).
princely phase ends when Moses slays the Egyptian in a fit of rage. “He looked
this way and that, and seeing no one he killed the Egyptian and hid him in the
sand” (Ex. 2:12) and later
became afraid. The entire sequence projects a hysteriform vigilance before the
epileptoid killing and a hysteriform anxiety and hiding one’s face afterward.
The flight into the desert expresses the agitated, restless, and fearful
wandering of the Cain personality. Szondi points out that the murder is the
pivotal event in Moses’ destiny, the fundamental event that demands
restitution. There is no more profound experience than the taking of another’s
life. One is never the same again. So it is with the inflated Moses, whom the
quarreling Hebrews perceive as a judge and a leader.
The calling of
Moses takes place in the second stage, that of the shepherd, and it exhibits
three crucial characteristics: (1) God’s selection of an affect killer; (2) the
man chosen suffers the attack sickness of stuttering; and (3) he has visions
and auditions of God in the context of fire (Szondi 1973, 107). These paroxysmal-epileptiform
characteristics constitute the psychological profile of the Mosaic figure. The
visionary and auditory capability comes Out of trance states, and these are
facilitated by epileptiform pathologies.
The third phase
is that of the miracle-worker and is most prominent in the events surrounding
the Exodus, The miracles manifest a participa tion mystique as projections of
the divine-human covenant. Miracle-work ing exemplifies the drive for
participation, and the symbolic content shows that the realization of
participation is conditioned by the tribal paroxysmal heritage.
The fourth and
fifth phases, those of leader and politician, display an unbroken relationship
between God and Moses. His conducting holy wars projects his own Cain nature
(Kainitische Ungrund) onto God. Normally, the function of projection is to
establish relatedness in reality, but when the “object” is God, the projection
exalts participation to the highest level. The result is transpersonal
integration and transcendence. Moses becomes one with God and transfers his
power onto the divine reality. It is the transfer of power that opens up the
transcendent horizon. The participa tion is so strong that all other gods are
excluded. The gods are projec tions that do not create real relatedness. They
the gods involves a spiritual aggression made possible by the sublimation of
the Cain intent. The violence committed by Moses after the revelation of the
Law on Mt. Sinai means that the projective
participation satisfies the need for restitution. The Law is both covenant and
the structure of atonement. This truth is presupposed in the Sherna, the great
commandment: “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with
all your soul, and with all your might” (Deut. 6:5). The same truth is
summarized and refined in an old Hasidic saying, attributed to Rabbi Nachman of
Bratslav: “One can serve God with the evil drive, when one directs one’s
violent and covetous passion to God, and without the evil drive there is no
perfect service” (Szondi 1973, 120).
Szondi uses the
names of Cain and Moses to symbolize specific destinies. The names comprise a
complementarity, because they represent polar potentialities in human nature.
The names also have a personal sig nificance to Szondi, as he explained in a
letter to me (Dec. 8, 1978): “The Cain-Moses polarity with respect to religion
has been my favorite theme for a long time. (No wonder: I have two nephews and
one niece who are epileptic.)”
the respective characteristics of the Cain-Moses polarity as follows. The Cain
are unscrupulousness; power of having, drive toward having, knowing and being
all; intolerance; malevolence; insidiousness; malicious happiness; inclination
to hurt others; killing intent; godlessness; law-breaking; and the primal image
of evil. The Moses qualities are conscientiousness; capacity for renunciation;
helpfulness; inclination to heal; just intent; godliness; law-giving; and primal
image of justice.
The human task
is to unite the Cain and Moses impulses, to lay down a bridge between them, so
that evil may be atoned. This is admittedly not easy to do, and, as Szondi
points out, not even the Bible synthesizes the two patterns. For example, Moses
kills in one moment and makes restitution in another, thus exhibiting an
alternating or turn-about style. Similarly, members of the helping professions,
such as clergy, may suffer the Cain complex or preach the love of God with
intense personal hatred.
society the execution of justice in the court system carries out the Mosaic
intent. The difference is that the law is a rational instrument of public
policy; whereas the biblical Moses is a figure of irrational seizure symptoms. On
the other hand, many who live in society are like neither Cain nor Moses,
neither purely good nor purely evil, spending their days in moral ambivalence
or obsessional neurosis. Some are able to sublimate the Cain intent in work
that requires killing, as in law-enforcement and the military.
V. Origin of
Toward the end
of the Moses Szondi raises the question of the origin of conscience. The
question is posed with respect to the history of religions, specifically to the
older literature of Egyptology, which provides evidence of moral insights
existing in the fourth millennium in Egypt. Szondi notes the classic phrase of James Breasted, “the dawn of
con science,” which implies the existence of conscience in the fourth millen
nium in Egypt and that it is the primary source of Jewish ethics in Israel. The
older Egyptian scholars like Breasted employed an evolutionary framework for
religious ideas, a method which has since been discredited by comparative
the originality of the Egyptian materials, Szondi claims that they do not
confront the problems of killing and guilt. These issues are taken up in the
Hebrew Bible. Szondi acknowledges correctly that biblical Hebrew lacks an
explicit term for conscience but that, nevertheless, the Bible is acutely aware
of conscience in the penitential experience. In Szondi’s view as a
psychiatrist, conscience is embodied in
symbol of the heart, including both an acknowledgment of unconscious evil
impulses and a rational defense against evil (e.g., Ps. 39). We could go
further and state that the Bible institutionalizes conscience in a liturgical
form, namely, in the Day of Atonement festival (Jaeger 1959, 212).
Judaism affirms the existence of two innate inclinations, the one toward the
good (yetzer toy) and the other toward the evil (yetzer ham). The Hebrew term
yetzer is normally translated as “formation” or “imagination.” In the
Septuagint or Greek translation of the Old Testament yetzer is usually translated
as dianoia, which means “understand ing,” “mind,” or “disposition.” In Hebrew
yetzer means to form or transform a thing into something else. The evil impulse
(yetzer hara) is basically or potentially good, and the good impulse (yerzer
toy) is what blocks the evil. Whether evil or good, the impulse is the same;
there is no dualism of inclinations. The biblical narrative posits the origin
of the evil impulse in primeval history: “The Lord saw that the wickedness of
humankind was great in the earth, and that every inclination of the thoughts of
their hearts was only evil continually” (Gen 6:5).
Judaism also maintains that the evil inclination dominates childhood; as the
Bible states “the inclination of the human heart is evil from youth....” (Gen.
8:21) The good inclination awakens at puberty and is represented by the Law.
Children take the mitzvah at about age thirteen in order to assimilate the Law
and actualize conscience. Since the Law or Torah represents the inner being of
humankind, to know it is to know conscience. Consequently, the people can
develop and educate themselves. Humankind may grow in the knowledge of good and
psychology conforms to that of Rabbinic Judaism, The Cain tendency is the evil
yetzer and the Abel the good yezzer. Both are rooted in the innate
paroxysmal-epileptiform factor; both are aspects of the need for restitution.
To say that evil dominates childhood is to agree with Szondi’s clinical
findings that 45-50% of children act out the Cain impulses, as reported in
chapter six. When Judaism requires the examination of evil deeds and
repentance, as on the Day of Atonement, this practice conforms to Szondi’s
interpretation of conscience as the restitution of the Cain intent. To affirm
that the task of the Jew is to love God with both tendencies is to develop
projectively a mystical participation in the realm of spirit.
The origin of
conscience is, therefore, the atonement of evil. Because evil has a biological
root and is subject to the human imagination, it may be confronted, conquered,
and redeemed. Since conscience arises out of the same root as does killing, it
cannot be located precisely in a historical origin. Szondi speculates that
conscience arose when the first murderer atoned for his act. When that occurred
is unknowable. Consequently, the origin of conscience, of good and evil, is
best represented by myth, as in the Creation Narrative in the Bible. Only
stories about our mythic ancestors like Cain and Abel point to the primeval
mystery of good and evil.
conscience is a complex function that takes shape in the lives of persons and
communities. Conscience is a function of knowledge comprising both social or
cultural conditioning and the directives of religious faith. Szondi analyzes
conscience as a synthetic censor system, which includes the following
functions: (1) a hysteriform based morality representing value and a capacity
for renunciation; (2) an epileptiform-based ethic manifesting a prohibition of
murder, acknowledg ment of guilt, and capability of confession; (3) critical
reality testing in the perspectival ego as a moral agent; and (4) high
spiritual life in the pontifical ego (1973, 152-153).
psychiatrist, Szondi has worked out a psychology of religion largely within the
heritage of Rabbinic and Hasidic Judaism. While his sources need to be updated,
he accurately penetrates a fundamental level of religious experience,
particularly that of the three great monotheistic religions, Judaism, Christianity,
and Islam. He emphasizes that the founders of these religions, namely, Moses,
Paul, and Muhammad, share paroxysmal-epileptiform characteristics. Their
respective destinies show a transformation of the Cain intent into a structure
Szondi’s theory awaits further validation within the history of religions, he
offers a particularly helpful insight into the nature of monotheism as such.
Let us recall that the essence of monotheism is not so much the affirmation of
a single, transcendent God as it is the rejection of other gods (Pettazzoni
1923). Rejection of other gods presupposes psychologically the sublimation of
the Cain intent onto God. Through the
of faith the Cain intent is transformed into a principle of restitution. The
resolution of evil through the highest level of selfhood becomes the driving
force behind monotheism.
out of the desert, particularly the Sinai Peninsula and the Edomite territory east of Egypt. Monotheism cannot be regarded as an Egyptian product, a fact
proven by recently discovered archeological evidence. King lists found at the Temple of Amon (1417-1379 B.C.E.) and at Amarah West (1304-1237 B.C.E.) identify
“the land of nomads [ Yahweh” in the desert areas east of Egypt (Weinfeld 1989, 100). The
documentary evidence points to the worship of Yahweh among the Hebrews,
Kenites, and Midianites. The patriarchal tradition confirms that the Midianites
were relatives of the Hebrews (Gen. 25:2) and also validates the evidence
pertaining to the Kenites, as presented above and in chapter six.
peoples, who were the historic bearers of monotheism, regarded themselves as
the descendants of Abraham. Abraham is both the principal ancestor as well as
the model of faith in the monotheistic reli gions. Inherent in the story of
Abraham is the ethos of the desert, the culture which originates monotheism.
The essence of the desert ethos is spiritual, and it may be summarized by the
phrase “welcoming the stranger” (Gen. 18:2-8). Why must the stranger be
welcomed? Hospitality must be given, so that the stranger will not become like
Cain, a wanderer and a fugitive upon the earth (Patai 1983, 85). Behind this
norm lies the fact that the descendants of Abraham are also strangers in an
alien land (Gen. 23:4). The Hebrews had been strangers in Egypt, and God granted them hospitality in
the form of the Covenant. For as it is stated in the Law of Moses: “You shall
not oppress a resident alien; you know the heart of an alien; for you were
aliens in the land of Egypt” (Ex. 23:9).
stranger is both an ethical command and a descriptive moral value. Integrating
the stranger in the community prohibits violence, because the desert is a place
of danger and being alone in the desert means to be essentially condemned to
death. Killing is one way to cope with the terror of the desert. The nomadic
personality corresponds to the extremes of the desert. Raphael Patai has
provided an astute portrayal of the desert personality, one which, from time to
time, is seized by pent-up emotions, driven to release intense hostility, and
possessed by a passive or remorseful phase (1983, 160-161). This is the same as
must have persons who bear attack sickness or shock suffering (1969, 78).
pattern; but Patai does not use this phrase because he relies too heavily on
stranger resolves the Cain complex. Hospitality creates a brotherhood or
sisterhood. The psychological need for restitution, as identified by Szondi
informs the biblical love command which grounds the structure of atonement in
the Law: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself’ (Lev. 19:18b). The neighbor
also includes the stranger (Lev. 19:33-34). The same ethical command is restated in the New Testament
(Matt. 6:38-48; Lk. 6:27-36; Rom. 12:14, 17, 19-21). In early Christianity
the resolution of the Cain complex occurs in the experience of the Apostle
Paul, when he became a missionary following his career as a persecutor of the
Church (Hughes 1982a). Paul’s autobiographical passages give evidence of a
paroxysmal-epileptiform personality like that of Moses.
monotheism retained elements of a nomadic culture within its spiritual essence.
It was borne by intense paroxysmal personalities and gave rise to fluid
reformist traditions. In as much as religious experience is conditioned by
heredity, we should conclude this chapter by considering the biological
implications of hospitality. When we welcome the stranger, we assimilate
diverse gene pools and promote genetic variety. Such diversity serves the needs
of survival by facilitating adaptability. Even when a group becomes settled and
acquires a sedentary culture, the principle of hospitality remains as a dynamic
force, promoting love and justice. As Szondi knew so long ago, the biblical
love command is not a superficial idea but represents the fundamental truth of
human existence. Resolution of the Cain complex brings freedom and dignity and
lays the foundation for a Just and responsible society.