This section is from the book "Leonardo Da Vinci: A Psychosexual Study Of An Infantile Reminiscence", by Sigmund Freud. Also available from Amazon: Leonardo da Vinci: A Psychosexual Study of an Infantile Reminiscence.
One will not gain a correct understanding of the activities of the infantile sexuality, and probably will consider these communications unworthy of belief, if one does not relinquish the attitude of our cultural depreciation of the genitals and of the sexual functions in general. To understand die infantile psychic life one has to look to analogies from primitive times. For a long series of generations we have been in the habit of considering the genitals or pudenda as objects of shame, and in the case of more successful sexual repression as objects of disgust. The majority of those living to-day obey the laws of propagation only reluctantly, feeling thereby that their human dignity is being offended and degraded.
What exists among us of die odier conception of the sexual life is found only in the uncultivated and in die lower social strata. Among the higher and more refined types it is concealed as culturally inferior, and its activity is ventured only under the embittered admonition of a guilty conscience. It was quite different in the primitive times of the human race. From the laborious collections of students of civilization one gains the conviction that the genitals were originally the pride and hope of living beings, that they enjoyed divine worship, and that the divine nature of dieir functions was transported to all newly acquired activities of mankind. Through sublimation of sexual activity's essential elements there arose innumerable god-figures, and at die time when the relation of official religions to sexual activity was already hidden from die general consciousness, secret cults labored to preserve it alive among a number of the initiated. In die course of cultural development it finally happened that so much godliness and holiness had been extracted from sexuality that the exhausted remnant fell into contempt. But considering the indestructibility which is in die nature of all psychic impressions one need not wonder diat even die most primitive forms of genital worship could be demonstrated until quite recent times, and diat language, customs and superstitions of present day humanity contain the remnants of all phases of this course of development.41
Important biological analogies have taught us that the psychic development of the individual is a short repetition of the course of development of the race, and we shall therefore not find improbable what die psychoanalytic investigation of die child's psyche asserts concerning the infantile estimation of the genitals. The infantile assumption of the maternal penis is thus the common source of origin for the androgynous formation of the maternal deities like the Egyptian goddess Mut and the vulture's "coda" (tail) in Leonardo's childhood fantasy. As a matter of fact, it is only dirough misunderstanding diat these deistic representations are designated hermaphroditic in the medical sense of the word. In none of them is there a union of the true genitals of both sexes as drey are united in some deformed beings to the disgust of every human eye; but besides the breast as a mark of modierhood there is also the male member, just as it existed in the first imagination of the child about his mother's body. Mythology has retained for the faidiful diis revered and very early fancied bodily formation of the mother. The prominence given to the vulture-tail in Leonardo's fantasy we can now translate as follows: At that time when I directed my tender curiosity to my mother I still adjudged to her a genital like my own. A furdier testimonial of Leonardo's precocious sexual investigation, which in our opinion became decisive for his entire life.
A brief reflection now admonishes us that we should not be satisfied with the explanation of the vulture-tail in Leonardo's childhood fantasy. It seems as if it contained more dian we as yet understand. For its more striking feature really consisted in the fact that the nursing at the mother's breast was transformed into being nursed, that is into a passive act which thus gives the situation an undoubted homosexual character. Mindful of die historical probability that Leonardo behaved in life as a homosexual in feeling, die question obtrudes itself whether this fantasy does not point to a causal connection between Leonardo's childhood relations to his mother and the later manifest, if only ideal, homosexuality. We would not venture to draw such a conclusion from Leonardo's disfigured reminiscence were it not for die fact that we know from our psychoanalytic investigation of homosexual patients that such a relation exists, that it is indeed an intimate and necessary relation.
Homosexual men who in our times have started an energetic action against the legal limitations of their sexual activity are fond of representing themselves through theoretical spokesmen as evincing a sexual variation, which may be distinguished from die very beginning, as an intermediate stage of sex or as "a third sex." In odier words, diey maintain diat they are men who are forced by organic determinants originating in the germ to find that pleasure in the man which they cannot feel in die woman. As much as one would wish to subscribe to their demands out of humane considerations, one must nevertheless exercise reserve regarding their theories, which were formulated widiout regard for the psychic genesis of homosexuality. Psychoanalysis offers die means to fill diis gap and to put to die test the assertions of the homosexuals. It is true that psychoanalysis fulfilled diis task in only a small number of people, but all investigation thus far undertaken brought die same surprising results." In all our male homosexuals there was a very intensive erotic attachment to a feminine person, as a rule to the mother, which was manifest in the very first period of childhood and later entirely forgotten by the individual. This attachment was produced or favored by too much love from die modier herself, but was also furdiered by die retirement or absence of the father during the childhood period. Sadger emphasizes the fact that the mothers of his homosexual patients were often man-women, or women with energetic traits of character who were able to crowd out die father from die place allotted to him in die family. I have sometimes observed the same thing, but I was more impressed by those cases in which the fadier was absent from die beginning or disappeared early so that the boy was altogether under feminine influence. It almost seems diat die presence of a strong fadier would assure for die son the proper decision in die selection of his object from the opposite sex.