Page 1

Freud and circumcision, chronicle of an unconscious trauma1 Sigmund’s foreskin, had it not been cut, the whole psychoanalytical discovery would have been accelerated. (after Blaise Pascal)

Sigmund Freud’s example shows that circumcision does not prevent sons from incestuous envies, unconscious and sometimes conscious, without wronging their father for all that. He acknowledged the bisexuality of the sexual drive, which is definitely not adopting homophilia, which he called a perversion, but a report of the nature of drive, of its indifference with regard to the object. An opponent of circumcision, he has halfhearted reactions against it and his belief that autosexuality would be neurotizing testifies both of his state of circumcised and of his guilt of autosexuality. Being circumcised, he ignores half the enjoyment of it, to the point of advocating abstinence as contraceptive method2. His creeds as for sexual anatomy testify of an ignorance that goes up to despising the organs of autosexuality, the taboo of taboos. On one side he qualifies the clitoris an "inferior organ": "... the prototype of the inferior organ is the little real penis of woman, the clitoris." 3,

From the one who discovered the testicles of the male eel, this judgment of value opposed to reality is particularly aberrant. Disparaging the phallic and autosexual organ of woman, the unhappy circumcised man seems jealous. For, quite the contrary, the clitoris is the prototype of the organ of pleasure, without any other function since, at variance with the penis that protects the glans, it participates neither in micturition nor in reproduction. Considering a merely sexual organ, present with all mammals, as inferior is inadmissible. Freud precisely denies the reality of the fact that the clitoris is an organ of pure pleasure. He considers the most specific organ of autosexuality inferior because he considers autosexuality inferior, neurotizing and unreasonable. So, he is a victim of the massive repression of autosexuality in Judaic culture. That autosexuality should be neurotizing for a circumcised is unhappy. It is not astonishing but must not be generalized to the intact part of the population. Freud's great mistake is that he considers the phallic, erotic-erectile function, as masculine: "Taking into account the auto-erotic and masturbatory activities, it could be set up as a thesis that the sexuality of little girls is of a wholly masculine character." 4 1 This article is quoted in the article

"Circumcision controversies" of Wikipedia (quote 54): https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Circumcision_controversies 2 Roudinesco E. Préface de Correspondance Sigmund Freud – Anna Freud, 1904 – 1938. Paris : Fayard ; 2012. p. 12. 3 Fetichism. 1927. p. 157. 4 Freud S. Three essays on the theory of sexuality. SE, VII: 219.


Freud's sexual mutilation explains his dissymmetric, male chauvinist conception of sexuality. His statement according to which the little girl would suffer from being deprived of penis seems to be the projection upon woman of his own unconscious envy of vagina. On the other side, like all men circumcised in infancy, Freud disregards the reality and feminine nature of the foreskin. "A man, after all, only has one leading sexual zone, one sexual organ, whereas woman has two: the vagina – the female proper organ – and the clitoris, which is analogous to the male organ." "Woman is more bisexual than man because of her clitoris analogous to the penis." 5

as if the foreskin did not have, set aside erectility, an absolute functional symmetry with the clitoris, including the isolated and indefinitely repetitive anejaculatory orgasmic contractions, similar to clitoral orgasms, that most circumcised do not know. Those who do not own a foreskin cannot guess its value of second sexual organ of man, a very handy and erogenous pocket mini-vagina. – His own daughter was the main victim of his wrong theory that autosexuality would be neurotizing. She wrote him that she fought her autosexuality according to his wish. – Nevertheless, entering adult life, Sigismund Freud cuts a syllable of his first name off. This may be interpreted as taking, consciously or unconsciously, the opposite course of Abraham and as a rejection of circumcision and Judaism. His thoughts about circumcision concern its individual outcomes and its collective outcomes. Freud and the individual outcomes of circumcision Freud's thought about circumcision is made of an alternation of progresses and regressions. – In 1912, he brings together circumcision and castration: "When our children come to hear of ritual circumcision, they equate it with castration." 6

– In 1916, in the middle of the war, he builds up his optimistic theory making of circumcision a progress when compared with castration that primitive people would have practised: 5 About feminine sexuality. 1933. London: The Hogarth press; 1961. S.E. XXI, 228, 1st §. 6 Totem and taboo. 1912. London: The Hogarth press limited; 1964. S.E. XIII, p. 153, n. 1.


"It seems indubitable to me that circumcision…, is an equivalent of castration and comes to take over it."7

That theory seems issuing from the anguish of castration of a circumcised unconsciously looking for a justification to circumcision without seriously condemning it. A few lines further, he makes the obvious link between circumcision and punishment of autosexuality, but carefully places it either in dreams or with the primitives: "But that masturbation, or rather the punishment for it – castration – should be represented by the falling out or pulling out of teeth is especially remarkable, since there is a counterpart to it in anthropology which can be known to only a very small number of dreamers. There seems to me no doubt that the circumcision practised by so many peoples is an equivalent and substitute for castration. And we now learn that certain primitive tribes in Australia carry out circumcision as a puberty rite (at the festival to celebrate a boy’s attaining sexual maturity), while other tribes, their near neighbours, have replaced this act by the knocking out of a tooth." 8

It is obvious that the pulling out of a tooth in dreams does not symbolize either circumcision or castration but death (the part for the whole). Once again, the tree of circumcision hides Freud the forest of death. Terror settled as a political system by tyrannies is not the threat of castration but well the death threat. It is the same in dreams. – Similarly, his 1933 condemnation deals gently with the sensitivities of the Jewish community since it only concerns... the Anglo-Saxons: "... fear of castration is one of the commonest and strangest motives for repression and thus for the formation of neuroses. The analysis of cases in which circumcision though not, it is true, castration, has been carried out on boys as a cure or punishment of masturbation (a far from rare occurrence in Anglo-American society) has given our conviction a last degree of certainty."9

This is the first statement of Freud that circumcision is a beginning of realization of castration and therefore a threat of castration, nonverbal it is true, but still very real and distressing. Not being spread to circumcision at birth, that criticism remains weak. – In 1936, supporting his 1916 theory but regressing by comparison with his condemnation of 1909, he words his aberrant theory of circumcision as a symbolical castration and submission to the father: "Circumcision is the symbolical substitute for castration that the primal father once inflicted upon his sons... and whoever accepted that symbol was showing by it that he was prepared to submit to the father’s will..."10 7 Introductory lessons to psychoanalysis. 1916-17. London: The Hogarth press; 1961. S.E., XV, 164. 8 Introductory lessons to psychoanalysis. 1916-17. London: The Hogarth press; 1961. S.E., XV, 164. 9 New introductory lectures on psychoanalysis. 1933. London: The Hogarth press ltd.; 1964. S.E., XXII,

p. 86. 10 Moses and monotheism. 1936. London: The Hogarth press ltd.; 1964. S.E., XXIII, p.122.


Freud here joins Maimonides stating that circumcision is not alliance but submission: "… the father upon whom this commandment is imposed."

But he does not say that circumcision is a subjection of the whole family to the societal group, the grand-parents in particular, for fear of being excluded and disinherited, and that if circumcision is an alliance, it is between the father and the grand-father, against the son. That clumsiness testifies of Freud’s deep circumcision trauma. Considering a mutilation by torture as a beneficial symbolical submission is scandalous. Circumcisers submit themselves at the price of submitting their children through inhuman violence. That appalling thought is characteristic of the denial of reality deeply buried in the circumcised. Freud does not point out that circumcision is a particularly odious threat of castration and death, not a consented submission but subjection through terror. Doesn’t Alice Miller affirm that trauma provokes paralysis of the thought? It can be said that his false theory of circumcision as a progress in relation to a previously practised castration prevented Freud, till 1933, from framing the fact that circumcision is above all an extremely ferocious way of forbidding autosexuality. Nevertheless, he was not far from the solution in his thoughts of 1916 where he puts side by side on the one hand, the concepts of castration and circumcision, and, on the other hand, nightmares of loss of a tooth, nightmares of death that testify of a heavy reprobation of autosexuality (see the above quote). But he still thinks circumcision as a symbolical castration rather than both a real castration and a threat of total castration and death intended to prevent and forbid autosexuality through terror. That ambiguousness, that inability to utterly condemn the antique custom, are characteristic of the split of the thought created by the trauma of circumcision. Unconsciously, affectively, the circumcised believes himself castrated and sharply protests against the distressing mutilation, but intellectually, he deems the attack unimportant. As a result, his condemnation remains uncertain. It can be thought that living amidst sexually maimed men, Freud, like Muhammad, does not dare condemning circumcision openly and that he uses, to do it, oblique ways. Only after a long personal journey did he publish, one year before his death, his most elaborate thought about circumcision: "The results of the threat of castration are multifarious and incalculable; they affect the whole of a boy's relations with his father and mother and subsequently with men and women in general."11

with the following footnote that discreetly affirms that circumcision also is a threat of castration: 11 An outline of psychoanalysis. 1938. London: The Hogarth press ltd.; 1964. S.E., XXII, p. 189-191.


"(1) … The primaeval custom of circumcision, another substitute for castration, can only be understood as an expression of submission to the father's will… " (p. 190)

Freud and the collective outcomes of circumcision On several occasions, Freud condemned circumcision because of its repercussions on the psychology of masses: – His 1909 condemnation is the frankest. He exposes the barbarous human sacrifice of the Israelite ritual through declaring legitimate the reprobation of non-Jewish children: "... little boys hear that the Jews have something cut off in their penis – a piece of their penis, they think – and this gives them a right to despise the Jews." 12

That remark must be put together with the story of Jacob Freud’s bonnet knocked down by a Christian. Freud’s father picked up his bonnet without saying anything. Freud was strongly marked by that aggression alluding to circumcision. He learned from the event through justifying, with non-Jewish children, the infantilism of adults who despise the Jews instead of pitying their fate. That condemnation of circumcision would be more powerful if he had mentioned that boisterous children are told that in order to threaten them of castration. But Freud writes: "they think", as if he doubted that the foreskin would be an essential part of the penis. He seems to be hiding to himself that circumcision is both a partial castration and a threat of castration. – The use of the term "unheimlich" in his 1910 text: "… among the customs by which the Jews made themselves separate, that of circumcision has made a disagreeable, uncanny (unheimlich) impression, which is to be explained, no doubt, by its recalling the dreaded castration..." from 13,

gives evidence of the projective distress of a circumcised looking at his own circumcision. Strangeness refers back to psychosis and hallucination. For Freud’s hightened awareness, the so-called identity sign becomes that of a loss of all identity in a world of aberration. - In 1936, he takes again Spinoza's idea in order to frame a strong condemnation: circumcision generates antiJewism:

Analysis of a phobia on a five-years-old boy (Little Hans). 1909. London: The Hogarth press ltd.; 1955. S.E., X, p. 36, n. 13 Leonardo da Vinci and a memory of his childhood. 1910. London: The Hogarth press ltd.; 1957. S.E., XI. p. 95, n. 2. 12


"The hypothesis that a root of those hatreds of the Jews (Judenhasses) which occur in such primary ways and lead to such irrational behaviour among the nations of the West, must be sought here too, seems inescapable to me. Circumcision is unconsciously equated with castration."14

Freud's mistakes and symptoms due to his own circumcision - It is very likely that Freud's condemnation of autosexuality as neurotizing is due to his ignorance of the pleasures provided by the foreskin. – Freud was undoubtedly still instilled with Judaic thought. Indeed, towards the end of his life, in a speech answering Jung's antiJewism that, suffering, he had his daughter pronounce, he affirms his belief in a superiority of the Jews in matter of spirituality15. That, unconscious remembrance of the alleged superiority of the circumcised nearly caused Anna’s death; she was the only one, in Freud’s household, to be arrested by the Gestapo, very probably for having publicly uttered that foolishness. We are in the presence of a paradigm of the involuntary arrogance of the circumcised. – His way of decorating his flat evokes anew his unconscious regret for the loss of his foreskin: he was very proud of his collection of – ithyphallic – statues, the most beautiful pieces of which had pride of place on his desk, but he exerted himself to recover the other elements of his interior with various materials: "In his home, everything had to be covered with something. The furniture, the walls, the sofa were loaded with heavy Persian carpets, cushions, hangings..." 16

A clinical error due to his circumcision – His crude mistake of interpretation in the "Wolf-Man’s" case (one of his patients) consisted of projecting a "castration threat" that had been partially realized on the body of the analyst but that the latter denied for himself, upon his patient. The patient’s maid’s terms: "Children who do that (autosexuality) get a wound in this place." 17,

refer to biological punishment, a punishment by nature, not humans. Circumcision is a heavy threat of castration, aggravated by a beginning of realization. But that false prediction has nothing to do with castration; it is a malicious curse that tormented the patient till very late in his life. In addition, coming from a beloved adult, it was a threat of loss of love. The result was that the child gave up autosexuality. Years after the end of 14 Moses and monotheism. 1936. London: The Hogarth press ltd.; 1964. 15 Yerushalmi Y. Freud’s Moses.

S.E., XXIII, p. 91.

16 Roudinesco E. L’analyse, l’archive. Paris : Bibliothèque nationale; 2001. p. 20. 17 An infantile neurosis. 1918. London : The Hogarth press ltd.; 1955. S.E., XVII, p. 24.


the analysis, the multiplication of dermatological injuries on the nose of the "Wolf-Man" will clearly prove that Freud was unable to ward off the enchantment. Freud projected his own castration phantasy upon his patient who could not be cured after a so-far-fromreality interpretation of the first repression of his sexuality. That error ruins the myth of transcultural analysis. It discloses to what point Freud, little advanced in this particular point of his autoanalysis, was powerless to make allowances between himself and his patient. In Europe, at the beginning of the twentieth century, only Israelite boys would endure a mutilating torture by way of threat of castration intended to repress autosexuality. Now, if he broaches the question of circumcision in several places of his work, Freud only worded very late his lifetime the obvious fact that circumcision, far from being a symbolic castration, is a very particularly harsh threat of castration since it consists in a partial indeed but well real castration. The prediction of the nanny resembled such a ferocious threat only from afar but its character of biologic truth has been very worrying for the child as for the adult. Theoretical mistakes Numerous Freud's theories are affected by his phantasies and infantile beliefs concerning circumcision. His theory of the Oedipus complex is biased, through projection of his own fantasy of circumcised upon Sophocles' work. That brings him to substitute a threat of castration inexistent with Sophocles for the death threat sole present in Oedipus. That error generalizes the phantasies of castration – frequent with the circumcised as he mentions it18 – into the concept of a "castration complex" closely connected with the Oedipus complex whereas the threat present in the latter, identical for the girl and the boy, is a death threat fantasized by the child. He projects upon Sophocles’ myth the idea of a paternal punishment by castration. That Freud should transform the metaphor of blinding, imagined by Sophocles to make us understand the existence of an unconscious psychological process, into a matter of castration, is the height of a… blindness deriving from an anguish of castration due to circumcision. – His second great theoretical mistake due to his circumcision is the absence of the concept or repression of autosexuality whereas he easily speaks of repression of homophilia. Since the repression of autosexuality is precisely responsible for homophilia, that serious mistake prevented him to cure homophilia. – His false theory of the " rock of castration", deus ex machina of a so-called impossible to analyze, is similar (the only rock is death). The mater is indeed the rock of circumcision: the impossible for Freud to analyse. New introductory lectures on psychoanalysis. 1933. London: The Hogarth press ltd.; 1964. S.E., XXII, p. 86. 18


– Similarly, his two wrong theories of the "penis neid" and of the masculinity of the libido result from his own circumcision trauma. On the one hand, he projects upon women his own lack of foreskin and envy of a vagina, on the other hand, ignoring the preputial enjoyment, the "feminine" enjoyment of man, he is unable to conceive the existence of a bisexual libido. Jean-Thierry Maertens19 reported the existence of an unconscious uterus envy with men, symmetrical to the unconscious penis envy of women. Freud did not become aware of it. That cultural flaw results from an unconscious denial of his circumcision. The question of knowing whether that wish of uterus or penis would not be a trite symptomatic consequence of repression of autosexuality remains unsolved. – Freud reached belatedly, in his Outline of psychoanalysis, the idea that circumcision is a threat of castration. As a result, he could never formulate the fact that, on the collective level, circumcision is a threat of extermination (theory of genocide 20). Five Freud's dreams about circumcision The psychoanalyst Wendy Colman21 discovered that the circumcision of Julius, the young brother of then one-and-a-half-year-old Freud, is the key of two of his dreams: "My son, the short-sighted (The dream of the madhouse)" 22 and "A hall with machines " 23. She remained shy in her interpretations and we add two other famous dreams about which we are going to see that they are involved in the same topic: the botanic monograph and the dead father. "My son, the short-sighted" "On account of certain events occurred in the city of Rome, it had become necessary to remove the children to safety, and this was done. The scene was then in front of a gateway, doubledoors in the ancient style (the "Porta Romana" at Sienna, as I was aware during the dream itself). I was sitting on the edge of a fountain and was greatly depressed and almost in tears. A female figure – an attendant or nun – brought two boys out and handed them over to their father who was not myself. The elder of the two was clearly my eldest son. I did not see the other one's face. The woman who brought out the boy asked him to kiss her good-bye. She was noticeable for having a red nose. The boy refused to kiss her, but, holding out his hand in farewell, said "AUF GESERES" to her, and then "AUF UNGESERES" to the two of us (or to one of us). I had a notion that this last phrase indicated a preference."

19 Le corps sexionné. Paris: Aubier; 1978. p. 42. 20 21

"The scenes themselves which lie at the bottom of the story:" Julius, circumcision, and the castration complex. Psychoanalytic review, 1994 81 (4), 603-25. 22 The interpretation of dreams. 1900. London: The Hogarth press ltd.; 1971. S.E., IV, p. 269, 441-4. 23 The interpretation of dreams. 1900. London: The Hogarth press ltd.; 1971. S.E., IV, p. 336-7.


Colman's great finding is to have seen that the maid who holds the children out to the father accomplishes the ritual preceding the circumcision: the handing over of the son by the mother, across the doorways of the room that Colman gathers with the doorway of the dream. Orthodox, she associates circumcision, castration and blinding. Whereas the dream begins with speaking of a danger for children: "...it is necessary to put children in a safe place..." ,

Freud indicates the event of the day before that triggered the dream: "... a muddled set of thoughts created by the performance of a play: "Das neue Ghetto"... the Jewish question, the concern for the future of children..." ,

and makes the association between myope and Cyclope, which he links with a loss of "bilaterality". Actually, the matter is the loss of bisexuality and femininity resulting from circumcision. Neither Freud nor Colman indicate that the well, at the edge of which the dreamer is sitting, symbolizes the mother. Colman underlines that the red nose of the woman evokes the blood of the mutilation (more precisely the open wounded mucosa of the glans after the pulling of the foreskin out). That is both a reproach to the conniving mother and compassion for the victim of masculine domination of which the child, next to her, shares the fright. But she does not see that the refusal of the child to kiss the woman and the inversion of the "good-bye" express the great desire of the dream: not seeing the criminals again and, according to the beginning of the dream, stepping through the doors of the ghetto in order to escape circumcision. Through associating the Porta Romana of Sienna with a madhouse, Freud, without him knowing, gives us his deep feeling about circumcision. He also brings together "geseres" and "gesaĂźert ("raise"), which refers to the erection of the child of which Colman indicates that it is a prerequisite, provoked by the mohel, of circumcision. So, "ungeseres" tells us that the dreamer prefers flaccidness to circumcision! Unfortunately, the father of psychoanalysis could not become aware of it, but his associations very accurately evoke the loss to circumcision; the comparison between circumcision and the loss of an eye (myopia, cyclop) is very near the biological reality, in which the loss of the lip of the glans is comparable to that of the eyelid. His associations consider that loss as symbolical of that of femininity-bisexuality. The: "My son, the short-sighted" of the very beginning of a dream that likens circumcision with the loss of an eye and advocates the confinement of circumcisers must be translated by: "My brother, the circumcised. "A hall with machines" (The madhouse): "The place was a mixture of a private sanatorium and several other institutions. A manservant appeared to summon me to an examination. I knew in the dream that something had been missed and that the examination was due to a suspicion that I had appropriated the missing


article. (The analysis showed that the examination was to be taken in two senses and included a medical examination.) Conscious of my innocence and of the fact that I held the position of a consultant in the establishment, I accompanied the servant quietly. At the door, we were met by another servant, who said, pointing to me: "Why have you brought him? He's a respectable person." I then went, unattended, into a large hall, with machines standing in it, which reminded me of an Inferno with its hellish instruments of punishment. Stretched out on one apparatus I saw one of my colleagues, who had every reason to take some notice of me; but he paid no attention. I was then told I could go. But I could not find my hat and could not go after all."

That dream is a repetition of the dream "My son, the short-sighted". Indeed, the sanatorium, a hell this time, is the synagogue of which the precedent dream taught us that Freud considers it a mental home. Freud is the object of an investigation; he is suspected of having been party to the torture of the circumcision of his brother, which the dream very righteously likens to a theft. In fact, his conscience reproaches him not to have done anything to oppose the torture-mutilation of Julius. He reports the event of the day before the dream: he could not find his hat, put away by a servant. That is one of the discharging elements of the investigation: being deprived of the "hat" of his glans, he is not guilty. But circumcised or not, he is guilty... of autosexuality! The second discharging element is his being a doctor, and thus an eminent member of the Jewish community. The drawback is that as such, he has no advantage in quitting the community and cannot materially do it. His both alibis being invalid, he must stay in hell. "The botanic monograph"24 Freud dreams of having written "the monograph of a plant": "The book lay before me, I was at the moment turning over a folded colour plate. Bound up in each copy, there was a dried specimen of the plant, as though it had been taken from a herbarium.",

Without him knowing, he discloses some of his thoughts about circumcision. "Botanic" coming in place of sexuality, the monograph in question seems to be a book about the masculine sexual organ. The day before, he reads in a shop window the title of a book about a flower, the cyclamen, his wife’s favourite flower, the one she reproaches him about not offering to her often enough. He passes from a flower, which can be offered, to something that can be planted. But how not to read in this "Zyclamen"– that Freud employs rather than "Alpenveilchen" – not the "significant" cyclamen, but the word with all its connotations, among which the radical "cycle", the circle, the ring, the preputial ring? Various associations of thoughts follow, certain of which: tearing away the leaves of an artichoke (Freud’s favourite flower) or of the pages of a book by the child Freud and his young sister – a scene that Freud describes as a screen-memory without seeing that the matter is circumcision – precisely remind the latter. The first of those associations gathers the ideas of birthday and absence of love (the same phenomenon occurs with Doctor Olievenstein, cf. our article). 24 The interpretation of dreams. 1900. London: The Hogarth press ltd.; 1971. S.E., IV, p. 169.


In what he calls "a passionate plea in favour of my liberty of acting as I wish, of living my life as I like it (the right to remain intact)." Freud stands against the harshness of Judaism, he indirectly criticizes circumcision under the form of an auto-reproach: the price of his fantasies. The foreskin is the corolla of the phallus but he cannot offer it to his wife because he has been deprived of it. His book is an homage to the mutilated who will find an image in colour of their foreskin and even the foreskin itself embalmed and enshrined in it. The book of the dream also alludes to the monograph written by Freud about coca and its analgesic virtues. So that the devotees of circumcision will at least be able to anaesthetize their poor victims. Finally, writing a book is not tearing off but sticking pages together. We arrive at the main wish realized by the dream: sticking back, restoring Freud’s foreskin, the tool of infantile sexuality, which is, together with the unconscious, his great discovery. The dead father "These prohibited things You're dragging yourself to, They will belong to you On the day when you'll close The eyes of oppression." Léo Ferré

This dream must be read in Freud’s 2 November 1896 letter to Fliess 25 rather than in "The interpretation of dreams" that omits a major detail, which alone enables to interpret it. Sigismund – and we intentionally render him the forename of his "bris" – sees a poster in a dream: "YOU ARE REQUESTED TO CLOSE YOUR EYES (or ONE EYE)",

with the certainty that both literal and figurative senses are implied. He writes to his friend: "I at once recognized the place: it is the shop of the hairdresser where I go every day."

Freud at once recognizes the spot precisely because it is a place where, in life, he never goes: the Synagogue. He only went once, on the day of his circumcision, a scene forever engraved into his unconscious, from where comes the dreamer’s feeling of reality. Similarly, the barber’s shop is a place reserved to men, like that of circumcision. It is a place where blades are handled and armchairs can be found, like in the circumcision where there must be an armchair for the Godfather who holds the child and an empty one for Elijah. In addition, how not to associate the eyelids to the sheath of the glans? So that the poster is worth an exhortation to recap the glans and protest against circumcision 25 Extracts from the Fliess papers. London: The Hogarth press ltd.; 1966. S.E., I, p. 233.


that we otherwise know Freud reproves. How could it be possible to close the deceased’s eyes if he had been deprived of his eyelids? The same thing would be impossible too, without turning a blind eye to circumcision, which the father is responsible of. But the dream perfectly achieves its function of the guardian of sleep; it sarcastically pretends to condone the father’s fault much more than those the mourning son indulges in blaming himself. With caustic irony, the dreamer is actually delighted about the death of his executioner and congratulates himself on not having offered him a first class burial. The burial of the father being an excellent opportunity to demonstrate against that of the son’s foreskin, the wish realized by the dream is protesting against circumcision, publicly and through posting a sign. That is the second dream of Freud about circumcision where he sees a sheet of paper (foreskin-parchment), with an image in the first, a poster with a written sentence in the second. It is a repetitive dream – a proof of grave trauma – in which he relives and transcends the horror of his mutilation through denouncing it publicly but in a dream... The most audacious ones will see a dream of oedipal parricide in it. The dream of the "crumpled tinfoil" "The best that you know you can’t tell to the children." 26

The beginning of the dream, which ends in a nightmare, is of really direct reading but Freud's associations only unconsciously allude to circumcision. "The elder Brücke must have given me some task or other; strangely enough it relates to the preparation of my own lower body, pelvis and legs, which I see before me as though in the dissecting room, but without feeling my lack of body and without a trace of horror. Louise N. is standing near, and doing her work next to me. The pelvis is eviscerated; now the upper, now the lower view of the same is seen, and the two views mingle. Thick fleshy red lumps (which even in the dream make me think of haemorrhoids) are to be seen. Also something had to be carefully picked out, which lay over these and looked like crumpled tinfoil (footnote: stanniol, allusion to Stannius, the nervous system of fishes)…"

That is the most limpid of Freud's nightmares about circumcision ("preparation of the lower part of my own body"). The "thick fleshy red lumps" are Freud's sex and the "something which lay over these and looked like crumpled tinfoil" can only be the foreskin that "had to be carefully picked out". Freud several times insists on the strangeness of that dream. The event of the day before that triggered the dream is precisely "the strange novel in which the identity of a person is preserved through a series of generations covering two thousand years", so that that association very obviously refers to the Jewish "identity", got through the denial of human identity. But he also thinks that the dream "represent(s) my idea that perhaps the children will attain what has been denied to the fathers, which is an unconscious wish of abolishing circumcision. So, his main comment: 26 One of Freud's associations about that dream.


"The preparation of my own body, which I am ordered (our parenthesis: by God!), to make in the dream, is thus the self-analysis necessitated in the communication of my dreams." 27

is just a rationalization that precisely prevents the self-analysis that would have consisted in seeing that the so-called "preparation" (to Jewish life) "imposed" by "the elder Brücke" (his own father, God) is his own circumcision. The use of the term "preparation" designates the ritual necessary to become a Jew allowed to use his sex (getting married). The five dreams testify to Freud's circumcision trauma. They are heartfelt cries of what he never dared to say, namely that circumcision is an insane torture. Conclusion His circumcision traumatized Freud: it caused his false theories mentioned above. So doing, it prevented him from healing his most famous patient, Serge Pankejeff (the "Wolf-Man"). Nevertheless, Freud's strength of character allowed him to declare himself unable to "participate in nationalist ideals" 28 and to decline the invitations to publicly agree on the creation of the state of Israel done to him in 1930 by Einstein 29 and the Jewish Alliance: "It seems to me that it would have been much more reasonable to create a Jewish home in a land less encumbered with historical significance… I notice with regret that the unrealistic fanaticism of our people is partly responsible for the arousing of Arabs’ distrust. I can muster no sympathy whatever for the misguided piety that makes a national religion from the remains of the wall of Herod, so challenging the feelings of the local natives..." 30

Those prophetic words harshly reprove the fanaticism, colonialism and racism of Zionism. Discoverer of the fact that religions are symptoms of collective neurosis and so resolutely agnostic, he forbade his wife, a rabbi’s granddaughter, to carry out any ritual in their home, which is attested by Martin Freud: "... our eyes of children grew up in a total ignorance of the Jewish ritual." 31

27 Another associations by Freud.

28 Introduction to the Hebrew translation of Totem and taboo. 1934. Quoted by Gay P. in Freud, a life of our time. London - Melbourne: J. M. Dent & sons ltd.; 1988. 599. 29 Quoted par Gay P. in "Freud, a life of our time. London - Melbourne: J. M. Dent & sons ltd.; 1988. 599. 30 February 1930 letter to Chaim Koffler. Freudiana, 1973. 19. 31 Sigmund Freud, a man and a father. New York: The vanguard press; 1958. ch. I.


Freud did not have his sons circumcised. The proof lies in the Vienna city registers where the name of the mohel is missing in front of those of the three sons of Freud (as well as for Herbert Graf whose father had asked Freud about the religious education of his son) 32.

32 Bonomi C. The cut and the building of psychoanalysis. Reutledge, 2015. Introduction, p. 5.

https://www.academia.edu/11050450/Introduction_to_THE_CUT_AND_THE_BUILDING_OF_PSYCHO ANALYSIS_Volume_1

Freud and circumcision, chronicle of an unconscious trauma  
Freud and circumcision, chronicle of an unconscious trauma