From the murder of the father to the master mind: Inherited paternity, elective paternity

By Jean-Jacques Wunenburger

In addition to being a biological process, kinship gives rise to metaphorical models and symbolic imitations of fatherhood and motherhood. A parental figure is above all an imposed inheritance. It is either internalized to the point where one melts into it, or rebelled against (killing the father, hating the mother). But a parent may also become a chosen authority and love figure. A child can be adopted, but what does it mean to adopt one’s parents? What does it mean to exchange a natural kinship for a bond one desires? To illustrate our ideas, we shall focus on the figure of the sons in relation to their fathers. How can the inherited relationship to the father be replaced or fulfilled by the (s) election of one or many symbolic fathers? To what degree does this “transference” produce spiritual release, or the opposite, subjugation? What is a spiritual father, a guru, a confessor, an idol? What risks and benefits go along with this symbolic fatherhood? How does multiple fatherhood enrich kinship? Should a man have one or many fathers? What is the symbolic function of the image of the father, source of my mimetic identity or matrix for the mediation and formation of a new identity in an individuation process? Under what conditions does the image of the father lead to the archetypal Father? How can we conceptualize the many relationships to fathers and to the imago Dei, in Jung’s definition?

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