belong to cenogenesis, but on the contrary they too represent a kind of recapit- ulation—the recapitulation, namely, of the environmental situations which have been experienced during the development of the species, (pp. 45–46)

But Ferenczi does not stop with a recapitulatory comparison of womb and ocean. If sexual intercourse expresses a longing for return to a tranquil ocean, its symbolic striving may not only be towards a piscine past, but further back towards the ultimate tranquility of a Precambrian world without life. The death wish is itself a memory of our inorganic ancestors: "We have represented in the sensation of orgasm not only the repose of the intrauterine state, the tranquil existence in a more friendly environment, but also the repose of the era before life originated, in other words, the deathlike repose of the inorganic world" (p. 63).

Thus, the recapitulatory cycle begins with coitus (= striving for death = the earth before life) followed by impregnation (= the dawn of life). The fetus then begins its embryonic life by repeating the earliest stages of an amoeboid past. Birth represents the colonization of land by tetrapods (even though any Haeckelian biologist would have argued that amphibian or reptilian stages were long superseded by this time). Believe it or not, the latency period following infant sexuality recapitulates the ice ages of our phyletic past (p. 70). (Though lest one wonder why we didn't do ourselves in by declining to copulate during cold times, Ferenczi assures us that the ice ages only redirected some of our genital drives to the development of "higher" intellectual and moral activity.)

Few intellectual movements have had as much influence (from national consciousness to cocktail party conversation) as twentieth- century psychoanalytic theory. I have tried to argue that these theories cannot be properly assessed or even understood without recognizing their links to the biogenetic law. Yet these links have rarely been mentioned because so few psychologists and historians have any inkling of Haeckel's doctrine and its impact.14 Millions of lives have been influenced or molded by theories shaped in the light of a basic tool for any "enlightened" late nineteenth-century thinker—recapitulation. I can offer no greater testimony to Haeckel's influence and no better demonstration of why it behooves us to study and to understand this abandoned doctrine.


If I may practice the historian's sin of judging the past in a current context, I find a tension throughout this chapter between two uses of recapitulation in nonbiological fields. On the one hand, recapitulation