MIchel Hervé Bertaux-Navoiseau
Chercheur en psychanayse, spécialiste des mutilations sexuelles
Abonné·e de Mediapart

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Billet de blog 15 août 2022

MIchel Hervé Bertaux-Navoiseau
Chercheur en psychanayse, spécialiste des mutilations sexuelles
Abonné·e de Mediapart

Circumcision, systemic, collective and reciprocal paranoia and racism

MIchel Hervé Bertaux-Navoiseau
Chercheur en psychanayse, spécialiste des mutilations sexuelles
Abonné·e de Mediapart

Ce blog est personnel, la rédaction n’est pas à l’origine de ses contenus.

(français : Circoncision, paranoïa systémique et racisme (Freud, en privé, n'y a pas échappé))

"I have long believed that circumcision is at the root of this obsession of finding enemies under every stone." Gabriella Ortiz-Monasterio

Having relived the trauma of his circumcision during his psychoanalysis, Leboyer is one of the few people to have become aware of the paranoia generated by the trauma of circumcision.

"How could a being who has been attacked in this way, while totally helpless, develop into a relaxed, loving, trusting person? Indeed, he will never be able to trust anyone in life, he will always be on the defensive, unable to open up to others and to life."1

We have seen that Roudinesco distorted Freud’s categorical stand against the Zionist racism and fanaticism2, which, prophetically, he considered responsible for the rise of Islamism. But his letter to pregnant Sabina Spielrein shows that he is speaking out of both sides of his mouth, whether he is speaking in private or in public and whether it is Christians or Muslims (his brothers in circumcision):

"... if your child is a boy... He has to be brown or, in any case, become brown; no more fair-haired head. We are and we remain Jewish. Others will only ever use us without ever understanding or respecting us."3

What if it’s a girl?! After Spielrein’s abject seduction by her anti-Semite analyst Jung and her break with him, that openly sexist and racist injunction (Freud’s racism founds itself on hair co-lour, not on circumcision status) is fiery with the suffering from anti-Jews racism and communitarian blindness. The latter bursts out in a heavily paranoid and megalomaniac generalization and certainty: "Others will only ever...". They risk offending some Justs. We must add that Freud's choice of words, still in private, is sometimes racist; he once used the xenophobic, scornful and insulting word "goyim" to designate outsiders to Jewishness and the xenophobic expression "chosen people":

"… my intention to melt together Jews and goyimin the service of psychoanalysis… "4

"... my only joy is the capture of Jerusalem and the experience that the English are attempting with the chosen people."5

Conversely, that declaration to Spielrein must be related to this one, public and a few years earlier:

"... little boys hear that the Jews have something cut off their penises – a piece of the penis, they think – and this gives them a right to despise the Jews." 6

There is a great contradiction between the affirmation of the despicable character of circumcision, which Freud thinks is a barbarous custom inherited from a primitively practised castration, and the bitterness of thinking that non-Jews would be unable to understand and respect Jews and would only use them and treat them as objects, precisely what circumcision does to children. That leaves no room for the Justs who understand and respect Jews while considering them sick of the collective madness that tortures and maims children.

Bonomi recalled that, like Freud's sons, “little Hans” was not circumcised7. However, Freud advised Max Graf, his father, to raise him in Judaism, and, according to Gérard Haddad, Lacan thought that that included circumcision, which is inaccurate, and impossible on Freud’s part. Spielrein, one of the first child psychoanalysts, could not ignore Freud’s condemnation of circumcision8 and his incitement to communitarianism certainly does not include male sexual mutilation. But Freud was unable to imitate the German reform rabbis of the 19thcentury to found with the psychoanalysts a Jewish movement against circumcision. We must think that his motive was economic: not to cut himself off from the potential clientele of Jewish neurotics, as, but for rare exceptions (Bettelheim, Dolto, Miller, Reich, Spitz, Szazs, This), do all psychoanalysts today, who practise an omerta on circumcision.

That anti-Christian fantasy might indicate a resurgence of the trauma of circumcision in the analyst who, however, as Spinoza had done, attributed antiJewism to circumcision:

“… the Jews having lived apart from all nations in such a way as to attract universal hatred, and this not only by observing exterior rites contrary to those of other nations, but by the sign of circumcision…”9.

The repression of infantile sexuality – sexual mutilation is the worst of all – is the fundamental cause of paranoia (cf. our writings "For autosexuality"10, “Circumcision and paranoia, the Olievenstein case"11. Contrary to what Freud thinks, the repression of homophilia is only an outcome of that primary cause. A survey of a hundred far-right students12showed that circumcision is one of the causes of their hatred of Jews. That paranoia is not symmetrical between intacts and circumciseds; on the one hand, a part of the latter suffers from post-traumatic stress, which makes it more acute, on the other hand, the collective, sexist and religious character of male sexual mutilation gives it a cultural justification that increases it tenfold by a group narcissism.

Trauma has serious consequences on narcissism; it is "a lived event which, in a short space of time, brings such a surge of excitement to the psychic life that its removal or assimilation by the normal channels becomes an impossible task, resulting in lasting disorders in the use of energy."13. As a key element of sexual mutilation, social or group narcissism replaces and increases individual narcissism tenfold. In social narcissism, "... the cohesion of the ego is ensured by submission to the norms of the group"14. That submission in no way lessens the effect of the trauma. So, a collective and transgenerational syndrome of Münchhausen by proxy15is the direct consequence of sexual mutilation. Matteoli highlighted the appalling collective narcissism in which the victims find honour, glory, power, community superiority and empathy of the group in the mutilation they endured. We can speak of a mass narcissistic perversion in which the social group, without the slightest guilt, perpetrates the monstrous crimes of circumcision and excision over an entire helpless age group. It is a perverse compulsion of adults to control youth. So, a double syndrome of collective madness accompanies the paranoia of circumcised peoples (cf. our writing Sexual mutilation, a dangerous cultural alienation: a Münchhausen syndrome by proxy and an aggravated since collective Stockholm syndrome).

Olievenstein wrote on that topic:

"In any society, there are collective delusions, or acute bouts of paranoia, depending on the circumstances, with a part of truth and a part of madness (what is exact or fantasized in the Israeli refusal of dialogue with the Arabs?)"

and, a little further on:

"The fewer opportunities individuals have to differentiate themselves from one another, while retaining (that is fundamental) a sense of belonging, the less capable they will be to react to the installation of a collective madness, above all if it justifies a great collective destiny in rational and especially emotional terms.",

Circumcision does not allow for differentiation, on the contrary.

"... paranoid society has the pressing need to build self-punitive mechanisms."

Circumcision is the worst of those mechanisms.

"The delirium is maintained by incessant propaganda and by a series of initiation rites and locks for progression up the social ladder. Whether it is the auto-da-fé or the Inquisition tribunal, the rite has a dark, unhealthy side, which more or less reveals the sexual part behind the mechanisms set in motion... That eroticization of the deeds allows the leader and his followers not to disarm or allow the heated state of the masses to be di-sarmed."16

That latter condemnation is almost explicitly aimed at circumcision.

The paranoid symptoms of certainty, megalomania and querulousness are systematically present in circumcising communities.

The delusional, megalomaniac certainty is strongly anchored in the mind by the religious belief in the moral superiority that circumcision would provide; the rabbis even see it as sanctity. Instead of facing temptation, that hypocritical sanctity, imposed on babies by the torture of the knife, imagines itself as less tempted and discriminates against children, the community and the rest of humanity. Itoften indulges in contempt, and, in the worst cases, repulsion for women, and even paedophilia, when it does not yield, in a position of strength, to a compulsion to rape exacerbated by a feeling of unconscious vengeance against the mother accomplice17, cf. the vast majority of circumciseds among the METOO attackers celebrities: Strauss-Kahn, Weinstein, Epstein, Polansky, Hamilton, Ramadan, many American Christians etc... It breaks out in the invading temperament of the circumcised peoples, which is systematically based on religious delusion: Palestine for Zionists, the whole world for Islamists.

Querulousness is expressed in the as delusional as collective claim for a right to circumcise children. It denies the rights of the child not to be tortured, to physical integrity and to religious freedom. It systematically goes to the outcry whenever that so-called right is challenged (Northern Europe countries, Germany notably). The strange mistake of two famous psychoanalysts testified to it during the outcry against the 2012 decision of the court of Cologne that ended circumcision in Germany for six months, till the law that eventually authorized it. Despite the children’s judge Jean-Pierre Rosenczveig’s stand, Eliacheff and Winter joined in by ascribing to Lacan to approve circumcision in a passage where, on the contrary, he denigrates it with an irony tinted with bitterness18.

Denial is obvious in the widespread belief that circumcision is not a mutilation. It showed up when, face to face, I told the psychoanalysts Haddad and Roudinesco that circumcision is a threat of castration; their first reaction was denial. Of course, I was wrong to speak of threat of castration when the matter is eviration, which is much more serious since eviration implies the loss of pleasure. That denial is present in Freud’s belief that circumcision would be a survival of castration, whereas it was not castration but eviration of eunuchs that was practised until the 19thcentury. Unconsciously and quite logically, Freud prefers the loss of the function of reproduction to that of pleasure.

Paranoid delusion is the worst of those symptoms. The Zionist delusion stigmatized by Freud results in the martyrdom of the Palestinians. We often hear the height of delusional querulousness that the extermination of the Jews by the Nazis would justify Zionism (cf. Roudinesco).

A major element of that paranoia is the unconscious compulsion for vengeance generated by circumcision. We could spot it in the two leading cases of the singers Leonard Cohen and Morice Benin19. That compulsion is systematically exerted over neighbouring ethnic groups and explains the tendency to genocide (the first in history are described in the Book of Joshua). There is never genocide between intact peoples; all are committed in the presence of circumcision on one side or the other and sometimes on both sides20. Unable to incriminate the authors of their mutilation (Stockholm syndrome), the sexually mutilated shift their revenge drive onto others, very especially women21.

"The sense of belonging is an intimate conviction that is self-evident. To impose it on someone is to deny their ability to define themselves freely." Fatou Diome

“We refuse to be what you wanted us to be, we are what we are.” Bob Marley

There is no symmetry between circumciseds and intacts; the latter legitimately abhor the crime against humanity of circumcision and its discriminatory eugenics. Circumcision rapes (in the legal sense according to the terms of articles 222-23 and 222-26 of the French criminal code) the physical integrity of the child.

An important trend of contemporary legal thought worked out on the right of the child to that integrity. Article 3, 2, b, of the Chart of fundamental rights of the European Union22 (December 7, 2000), strictly opposes customary sexual mutilation; it forbids “eugenic practices, notably those aiming at the selection of persons”. On 14 June 2013 at the Sorbonne, opening the founding meeting of "Excision, parlons-en", Mrs Christine Lazerges, the president of the French national consultative commission of human rights (CNCDH), declared that female and male sexual mutilation is discriminatory. On 1stOctober 2013, the Parliamentary Assembly of the European community passed a resolution condemning circumcision on the same basis as excision. In 2021, for the first time in history, a candidate for the French presidency included in her programme, in the chapter “FIGHT AGAINST ALL FORMS OF DISCRIMINATION”: “Children continue to be victims of violence. Notably, concerning female genital mutilation, circumcision of young boys for religious motive...”. A few weeks later, probably the victim of intimidation from religious people, Mrs Rousseau first withdraw that sentence from her chapter, then, the entire chapter after I published on Twitter the open letter of Droit au corps23asking her about the motive of that withdrawal. Mrs Rousseau did not reply, but later on, she put her chapter back suppressing the reference to excision and circumcision. We must think that she has removed her stand to avoid the risk of jeopardizing her political career by losing Jewish and Muslim votes, or even by enduring accusations of racism.That is an open dispute between culture (religion, tradition and folklore) and discrimination.

The discriminatory character of circumcision is above all condemnable. Maimonides rigorously exposed it as early as the twelfth century. He shrewdly began by lulling the fanatics whose narcissism he flattered by linking circumcision with the notion of the unity of God. That paradoxical linkage masks the stigmatization of circumcision, on the one hand, as discriminating against the community and the rest of humanity:

“In my opinion, circumcision has another very important motive: it makes those who profess that idea of the unity of God distinguish themselves by the same bodily sign which is imprinted on them all, so that he who does not belong to them cannot, being a stranger, pretend to belong to them.”

on the other hand, as worse than ordinary racism because accompanied by a pretence of moral superiority:

“This commandment has not been prescribed to correct a physical deficiency but a moral deficiency.”24

Freud did not publish his most elaborate thought about circumcision until only a year before his death and by allusion. Without using the term paranoia, it comes close and testifies to an awareness he did not have in 1913:

"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."25

The allusion to circumcision is in the footnote that discreetly suggests, in a way biased by the false theory of submission to the father, that circumcision is one of those destructuring threats:

"(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)

Actually, there is no submission to the father but submission of the father to society, notably to the grandparents (fear of disinheritance), to the religious and the puritanical tradition that poses the reprobation of an against-nature morality on autosexuality.

That thought describes the acute paranoia provoked by sexual mutilation. It leaves out that repression of autosexuality (of which circumcision is an extreme form) and any kind of trauma may have the same outcome. It joins that of Leboyer in applying to Freud himself. He had a paranoid personality; his crude projection of circumcised inserting a threat of eviration into the Oedipus complex testifies to it (cf.26). It must also be read together with that statement that clearly situates circumcision as a collective madness:

"… among the customs by which the Jews isolated themselves, that of circumcision produced a disagreeable, uncanny (unheimlich) impression, which is probably explained by its recalling the dreaded castration..."from 27

In psychosis, affirmed Lacan, the unconscious is in the open. Yet the unconscious precisely ignores contradiction and does not shy away from affirming one thing and its opposite. So, Freud will affirm with great naivety in 1935:

"As long as the Jews will not be admitted in Christian circles…"28

Weird ambition on the part of an atheist.

The inventor of infantile sexuality quite obviously suffered from the savage repression he underwent at the time of his circumcision. The trauma generated by that repression did not only remain engraved on his body forever. It was also inscribed in his unconscious, in an amnesied way, but several of his dreams-nightmares bear witness to that29. That repression is a root cause of individual paranoia, powerfully amplified by a collective paranoia when sexual mutilation strikes the whole social group. Freud condemned Zionism as racist. So, he was not racist against the Arabs but his paranoia blames all Christians for the persecutions of Jews.

Circumcision creates a chasm of mutual and collective paranoia between circumciseds and intacts. That chasm is all the deeper as it is based on a blind, infantile creed in the equivalence between wisdom and parental authority. Confident and loving children quickly forgive their parents (Stockholm syndrome). The fact remains that the paranoia generated by circumcision does not only affect fundamentalists and terrorists, but also many intellectuals and psychoanalysts.

1Leboyer F. A copy of Fréderick Leboyer's letter to Rosemary Romberg-Weiner.

2Bertaux-Navoiseau M. A communitarian victim of circumcision, Roudinesco betrays Freud's thought; he always disengaged from Zionism in Palestine.

3Freud S. August 1913 letter to Sabina Spielrein.

4Freud S. 1912 letter to Ferenczi.

5Freud S. 10.12.1917 letter to Abraham. Freud Sigmund – Abraham Karl correspondance 1907-1926, Paris : Gallimard ; 1969, p. 268.

6 Analysis of a phobia in a five-year-old boy (Little Hans). 1909. London: The Hogarth press ltd.; 1955. S.E., X, p. 36, n.

7Bonomi C. Introduction to The cut and the building of psychoanalysis, Volume 1. Routledge; 2015. p. 5.

8Bertaux-Navoiseau M. Freud and circumcision, a chronicle of an unconscious trauma.

9Spinoza B. Politico-theological treatise. 1670. 3: 99.

10 Bertaux-Navoiseau M. (95) (DOC) For autosexuality | Michel Hervé Bertaux-Navoiseau – Academia.edu

11Bertaux-Navoiseau M. Circumcision and paranoia, the Olievenstein case

12 Frenkel-Brunswik E., Nevitt R. Anti-Semitism: A Social Disease, 1946.

13 Freud S. Introduction à la psychanalyse. Paris : Payot ; 1990. P. 256.

14 Denis P. Le narcissisme. Paris : PUF, Que sais-je ? 2012.

15 Matteoli R. Blood Ritual, the Münchhausen complex. Nunzio press; 2008.


16 Olievenstein C. L'homme parano. Odile Jacob. 1992. p. 104 s.

17 Bertaux-Navoiseau M. Honour crime, stoning, forced marriage, rape, polygamy, excision, dry sex, forced obesity, veil and circumcision,

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