"Brown reads Freud entirely differently, and from the hindsight of today, much more richly and insightfully. For Brown, Freud is the discoverer of the richness and plenitude of the unconscious mind, and the critic of just how narrow and restricted our conscious, “civilized” experience is. (Brown makes almost the same sharp criticisms of “ego psychology” that Jacques Lacan – unbeknownst to him — was making in France at the same time; though Brown could not be more different from Lacan in most ways, the two of them share a rejection of normative and normalizing approaches to psychoanalysis, and a commitment to taking seriously the speculative and philosophical dimensions of Freud’s texts). Brown emphasizes the role of desire, as against cognition, in how we relate to others and find our place in the world; he insists on the centrality of the body, and the need to understand Freudian mechanisms like repression and sublimation, and introjection and projection, in corporeal terms; he takes seriously such uncomfortable Freudian notions as the castration complex, anality, and the death instinct.
Brown is revising Freud, and using him to change the world, not just reverentially interpreting him; but he makes clear where he is following Freud, and where he is criticizing him, or extrapolating from him, or going beyond him. Basically, Brown draws radical conclusions from Freud’s admonition that the difference between neurosis and mental “health” is at best a matter of degree, and that everything we see in the minds of neurotics is present universally, in everybody’s psyche. Freud is very close to saying we are all neurotic; and Brown insists on this conclusion. Pushing further with something that Freud only said tentatively, Brown extrapolates these results from the individual to society in general: we can psychoanalyze cultures just as we can individual people, and trace social history just as psychoanalysis traces individual histories. Doing this, Brown says, we are led to the conclusion that society itself is neurotic; that human history in general is the history of a mass neurosis; and that psychoanalysis will never “cure” individuals unless it can radically change the society whose neurotic structure mirrors the individual’s own.
For some Freudians, changing society would mean a bit more openness about sexuality, and more liberal toilet training practices for small children — both of which have in fact happened in the time between the 1950s and today. But Brown scorns such reforms as petty, and says they don’t get at the main issue. Brown sees the denial of the body, the reign of repression, and deformations of desire as major structuring principles for all of Western culture, perhaps for all of human culture. The problem goes back to the basic psychological development and organization that for Freud take place in early childhood: the displacement of the “pleasure principle” by the “reality principle,” and the genital organization of the psyche. 20th century sex radicals like D H Lawrence and Wilhelm Reich in fact left sexual repression intact, Brown says, because they maintained the primacy of the orgasm and of genital sexuality. Brown calls instead for a return to polymorphous perversity, the state in which the entire body is eroticized, rather than there being a specific, specialized sexual function.
More generally, Brown mounts a remarkable attack upon the very notion of sublimation, which for Freud and orthodox Freudians was the goal of psychoanalysis and the one potential way out from neurotic suffering. Freud defines sublimation as the turning of sexual and aggressive impulses toward “higher” and more socially useful goals (I redirect my compulsions, and take control of them to become an artist or a politician instead of a neurotic); but it’s notorious that Freud has a very difficult time explaining what sublimation really is, and just how it works. Brown seizes upon this difficulty to argue that sublimation is largely a bogus category, and that it is not a substitute for repression but a continuation of it by different means. The very idea of sublimation — moving from something “lower” to something “higher” — involves stunting the potentialities of the body, and setting up a hierarchy between mind and body, or even a total Cartesian separation of mind from body. For Brown, a radical desublimation is the only way to go: a return to the wisdom of the polymorphously perverse body, a rejection of goal-oriented culture in favor of living in the moment; an acceptance of death as part of life, instead of our dread of death which ironically turns life itself into a living death.
I have less to say about Brown’s followup volume, Love’s Body (1966), because it strikes me as a much less powerful and interesting book. Brown here draws much more on ethnography and myth, in addition to psychoanalysis, and he strives for a fusion of the pagan/Dionysian with a radical Christian mysticism. (This latter is noteworthy, because it calls upon potentialities in Christianity that are far different either from the “liberal theology” of Brown’s day or from the heavy fundamentalism that is the main face of Christianity in America today. Brown’s emphasis on the joyousness of the Resurrection, on the “resurrection of the body,” is diametrically opposed to the sadomasochistic body hysteria/disgust of Mel Gibson’s Passion of the Christ). Brown also moves from the formidably learned and argumentative discourse of Life Against Death to a more poetic, more willfully fragmentary style of writing. Love’s Body is short on any concrete discussion of how we might get from here to there, from civilized repression to redemption in the body of Dionysus/Christ, but it’s ferociously visionary in a way that stands as a reproach to more timid social, cultural, and religious theorists."
"In Life Against Death: The Psychoanalytical Meaning of History (Wesleyan, 1959), Norman Brown carries the work of Freud to its logical conclusions in an attempt to arrive at a general psychoanalytic theory of history and culture. Making certain adjustments and reinterpretations of Freud's theories, Brown replaces Freud's pessimistic instinctual dualism with an instinctual dialectic that opens up the possibility of a solution to the problem of human neurosis. He takes us through the theory of repression, the development of Freud's theories of the instincts, the stages of infantile sexuality, and the important theories of sublimation and fantasy. Finally, Brown offers a "way out" through the reunification of the life and death instincts, a cessation of repression, and the "resurrection of the body" though the reinstatement of the natural Dionysian body-ego.
Brown begins with repression because he claims it is "the key to Freud's thought" (3). Repress ion creates the unconscious and the conscious as distinct; and psychoanalysis sis "nothing more than the discovery of the unconscious in mental life" (4). Repression implies conflict and conflict implies conflicting forces, so we must examine Freud's theory of instincts. In his early theory, Freud's opposing forces were the pleasure-principle and the reality-principle – the first being a natural impulse, the latter the frustrating demands of society. Where there is society, then, there is repression; and where there is repression, neurosis. From here, Brown begins his psychoanalysis of history, tracing the development of (repressive) civilization, which distinguishes man as an animal. In personal psychopathogenesis, the neuroses of the individual are seen to develop in response to the society into which the individual must adapt itself; as ontogeny recapitulates phylogeny, the history of neurosis (and the neurosis of history) can be traced in each neurotic – i.e., in each civilized man (13). The question arises as to whether it is possible to crate an ideal culture that does not require repression. This problem, Brown suggests, is "the central problem confronting both psychoanalysis and history" (15).
Repression of the pleasure-principle is repression of sexual desires. In earliest infancy, sexuality is unrepressed and is called (by Freud) "polymorphous perversity" because it is not yet organized around particular parts of the body but diffused throughout the body. All sensual stimulation is pleasurable (i.e., unless it is painful!). Sexual organization and repression were both thought to be imposed from outside society in this early theory.
In his later theory, Freud sees conflict as between the dual instincts of life and death. Repression then becomes self-repression, and man is thus seen to create society in order to repress himself (9). The progressive organizations of infantile sexuality mark the repression and socialization (or self-socialization, as it were, or self-civilization) of the human animal's natural life instinct (Eros), and these self-imposed organizations are a response to family life (the nuclear of society as we understand it). Therefore, the "solution" to neurosis will be found in the cessation of repression, the reconciliation of the instincts (which must then be dialectic and not dualistic), and perhaps in the (precedent and/or consequent) restructuring of society so as to prevent encouragement of repression in the infant.
In examining Freud's theory of infantile love or object-choice, Brown dissolves the distinction Freud made between identification or narcissistic object-choice and "true" or anaclitic object-choice. Instead, Brown sees the basic love relation as incorporation or being-one-with-the-world (42-3). Eros, then, "is fundamentally a desire for union (being one) with the objects of the world" (44). So, in the natural state, then infant does not distinguish between self and other but is one with the world (52). Further, there is a primordial instinctual fusion which Brown recognizes as evidence that Freud's dual instincts are not actually dualistic (unresolvable) but dialectical.
To understand repression, we said, we have to understand the two forces that are in conflict. Eros is the name given to the natural life force or life instance. Freud, in his later theory, thought that there was an instinctual ambivalence, a necessary dualism, between Eros and Death [Thanatos], between the life and death instincts. In fact, the death instinct is seen as the cause of repression of the life instinct. As evidence for the existence of a death instinct, Freud observes three sorts of phenomena: the tendency of organisms toward homeostasis (metabolic equilibrium)_, the so-called Nirvana –principle; the repetition-compulsion, seen here as a desire to return to the inorganic state of rest; and masochism (with its extroversion, sadism/aggression). Brown questions this evidence. As homeostasis is a biological urge toward internal harmony, Freud thought it evidenced an inherent instinct for self-annihilation (87). But really, homeostasis would seem to be the natural and healthy [optimal] functioning level of metabolic life. The repetition-compulsion is really an attempt to regain the equilibrium that has been lost, the original instinctual fusion. (In speaking oaf the natural state as involving a "fusion " already implies both the life and death instincts; we are not only questioning their duality but also the instinctuality of what Freud calls the death "instinct".) Masochism might be explained as atonement for guilt caused by repression of the life instinct (15). Thus, the death "instinct" is just an alternative name for repression – a repression of Eros that disrupts a natural equilibrium which one then seeks to reestablish through the dynamic of the pleasure-principle (90).
The disruption of primordial unity means discontent and the search for the lost state. History is thus a story of this search. And its is this discontent which, urging us on, prevents us from resting in the moment. (Freud sees the id, the unconscious repressed and the pool of instincts and (sexual) energies, as remaining in a timeless state (94).) The term Nirvana-principle, here used with more positive connotations and not as a will to death, is rather appropriate; in Buddhism, suffering (discontent) is caused by desire (which is frustrated because direct toward illusion s which are impermanent and so void of reality), and so the extinction of desire frees one form striving and reunifies one with the world. Here, desire is not the natural expression of the f life instinct but rather the striving of the pleasure-principle activated by repression. The Nirvana-principle now becomes a conscious tool, not to repress in turn the pleasure-principle, but to achieve the lost equilibrium through understanding and so extinguishing desire. In mysticism generally (and Brown links psychoanalysis with the mystical tradition (310)), mystical union involves the dissolution of time consequent to the stilling of the movement of desire in the mind.
Returning to the issue of the existence of a death instinct, Brown has the clever notion that the death instinct is an urge to die because it is an urge to be a separate individual (cp. Ernest Becker's Eros) and individuality means death (105) (i.e., what marks one off as an individual is precisely one's finitude). But this seems absurd; the urge to be an individual (i.e., what one is) need not be a conscious or unconscious but purposeful wish to die. Nevertheless, separation and death are organic facts, and these facts are usually denied. Repression is of anxiety – anxiety senses at the recognition of separation (from the mother) (109). Anxiety "is the ego's incapacity to accept death" (112), and so life itself (of which death is a part) is repressed. This repression has the psychophysical effect of the sexual organizations, through which erotic libido is focalized and partially denied (112). Another effect, Brown says, "of the incapacity to accept separation, individuality, and death" is "to erotize death – to activate a morbid wish to die" (115). . This wish is now the explanation given for masochism, sadism, and aggression.
But this would seem to indicate that the wish to die is a response to the absence (through denial) of the fact of death in one's repressed world. Death is then not an instinct, it seems, but merely a neurotic morbid reaction. The urge to be separate is not an urge to die but an urge to life (as an individual, which one is); only the denial of life through the denial of its death aspect can be called a "death instinct" and even then it is not an instinct but an anxious response. It is better to call it an urge not to live rather than an urge to die.
When the infant realizes his separation from the mother in the oral stage of sexuality, he denies separation (and thus external reality) and begins to invest in a dream of regainable pleasurable union. Negation of the external is an act of the death "instinct" (117). In the oral-sadistic and anal stages, aggression is directed toward others. There has now developed an ambivalence of passive dependence (Agape) and active aggression (in protest against weak dependence yet unacceptable separation). Anality involves the urge to control rather than to depend. In the Oedipal stage, the infant dreams of realizing a project of self-dependent creation in order to deny dependence on the external world. The Oedipal or causa sui project is to defy the father (the reality principle and perhaps also a reminder of the fact of separation and the need to develop self-responsibility) and to control the mother and become the father of oneself. This dream is shattered by the castration complex, the fear that the jealous father will ruin one's narcissistic pleasure and destroy the child's one hope of returning to the mother (through intercourse; thus the localization of the libido in the genitals in this "phallic" stage).
The three stages of infantile sexual self-organization are three attempts to control the world and so deny one's dependence on one's separation and weakness. First, one seeks to swallow the world; thumb sucking is a denial of separation from the mother. Second, one seeks to manipulate the world (through playing with the feces, stubborn retention, and aggressive expulsion of feces); feces are both oneself and one's created world (121). Third, one pursues the Oedipal project, already described. The fear of castration forces on e to separate from the mother, but a trauma is involved and one is unable to truly individualize and accept separation; thus one continues the causa sui project on other levels (129). This brings us to the theory of sublimation.
A principle of repression is that what is repressed does not "go away" – especially when it is a biologically based instinct. Instead, it seeks to be expressed in altered or disguised form. This is basically the theory of sublimation, the re-routing of frustrated Eros or libido, which produces, according to Freud, virtually all culture (135). To be so expended, the libido, which has been withdrawn "from people – and things – that were previously loved" (161), is first "desexualized," its object-directedness and sexual nature stripped off and denied. For fear of castration, the child represses Eros and the urge to unite. But since separation from the world cannot be accepted, the "object-lost" is reconstructed in fantasy and projected as if "real." This "reality" is culture and the whole process is sublimation (163). The character-structure of the ego is a shield, a set of defense mechanisms, whereby the memory of past gratifications of erotic desire is revitalized in fantasy-projection. IN such fantasy, the self is conceived in desexualized terms, and so the infantile body-ego of polymorphous perversity is distorted through progressive repressive localization and the self is identified with a non-bodily soul constituted by desexualized ego-libido (162-3). To see the self as a body-self is to see the fact of separation and death. But the price of sublimation is, ironically, "a more active form of dying" through negation – negation of world and thus of self. Life becomes "diluted to the point where we can bear it," but at the cost oaf living a pale reflection of a life (160).
A result of denial is fetishism, the reliance on objects symbolizing the lost objects of sexual desire. In fact, the sublimated life lived in the fantasy-project of culture is just a life of symbolic satisfaction – "the shadow of a dream" (168-9). Abstraction and mathematics are the highest forms of sublimation, along with religion, and these constitute the furthest withdrawal from the world of the body – thus Brown's critique of Platonism. Civilization, based on repression and sublimation, thus "moves towards the primacy of intellect and the atrophy of sexuality" (i.e., life) for Freud; in Ferenczi's terms, "pure intelligence is a product of dying" (173).
A long and tedious section of Brown's book is devoted to "Studies in Anality" (179-304), linking the sublime to the base, money to feces, the Protestant Lutheran Devil to the body and death, and generally strengthens the claim that sublimation involves negation of the body. Worship of money is sublimated anality. And main's fascination with excrement (evidenced by the extent of anality) is really fascination with death (295). By denying the death aspect of life, we dialectically affirm it and our subconscious morbidity comes out in our cultural emphasizes on order, cleanliness, and money. Analytic is the result of maladjustment to have a body and a denial of one's ultimately organic nature.
Brown's "solution" to man's problem is "the resurrection of the body" (Chapter XXVI) as the seat of the natural body-ego (for Freud, "the mental projection of the surface o the body" (159) – symbolic-sensual activity that does not separate itself as a self from the body). Sublimation must end in the "dominion of death-in-life" and so does not offer us a solution. "The way out" is an alternative suggested by the distinction between Apollo and Dionysius (Chapter XII). Apollo is "the god of sublimation;" Apollonian form is "form as the negation of instinct"(174). And so we see that sublimation and civilization go back to the Greeks. The alternative is simply to deny or negate, but to affirm the reality of the unity of life and death (175). But as self is a self-separated symbolic construct, Dionysian consciousness is "drunken" unselfconsciousness in which the Apollonian ego (or soul-fantasy) ahs been dissolved. We must assume that symbolization, which is useful and perhaps necessary, is still possible when needed; but this does not necessitate a self-symbol, or at any rate a neurotic identification with one."
"Brown offers an analysis of the problems associated with sexuality and human mortality, and solutions to them. Brown expounded "the underlying ambivalence of Freud's late instinctual dualism", in which "Eros and Death were seen as antagonistic psychological principles which constantly threatened to collapse into one another." Unlike Marcuse, however, who emphasized the antithetical nature of the two instincts, Brown stressed their underlying unity, since this approach suggested a way of escaping Freud's conclusion that aggression was inevitable. Brown argued that Freud did not consider aggression a basic psychological fact, but rather a secondary manifestation of a more fundamental instinctual force, the death instinct: it was "the external expression of an impulse originally directed against the self". In Brown's interpretation of Freud, aggression becomes a problem "because Eros could carry out its project of creating life only when the death instinct was frustrated in its original enterprise. In order that men might live (and love), they were inevitably forced to destroy, to direct the energies of the death instinct away from themselves onto their fellowmen."
Freud's analysis of the dynamics of Life and Death was mistaken, according to Brown, since Freud's discovery of the ultimate identity of the two instincts implied that there is no necessary antagonism between Eros and Thanatos: they exist in harmony at a deeper level of psychic life and aggression was therefore not inevitable. Brown believed that the death instinct need not be externalized in the form of aggression if "men could recapture the original undifferentiated harmony of Life and Death." Brown therefore called for an end to the "repression of death" that perpetuated aggression. People had to learn "how to die" or, more concretely, to learn "how to grow old." Robinson calls Brown's argument "daring", and stresses that it is a very different solution to the problem of aggression than that proposed by Marcuse, since it was a psychological solution that involved adopting a new attitude toward death and did not involve political or economic revolution. Robinson compares Brown and Marcuse's treatment of Reich: both criticize him for "misrepresenting the problem of repression as one of genital sexuality" and advocated polymorphous perversity instead, but Brown again provided an exclusively psychological argument.
Brown concluded that if undifferentiated sexuality is the ultimate measure of human happiness, then any form of sexual organization is already repressive. While Marcuse had in general "complained only of the tyranny of genital sexuality" and suggested that "the pregenital libidinal had to be reactivated in a nonrepressive civilization", Brown maintained that the pregenital organizations were "just as tyrannical as adult sexuality" and that the earlier organization of libidinal energy into oral, anal, phallic syndromes was "as foreign to the undifferentiated eroticism of early infancy" as genital sexuality. Brown thus did not accept Marcuse's "characterization of the sexual deviant as a prophet of polymorphous perversity". In a truly nonrepressive civilization, "sexuality would be completely undifferentiated" and even the distinction between the sexes would become insignificant.
Brown did not accept Freud's theory of an innate biological dynamic leading from undifferentiated sexuality to adult genitality, and suggested instead that the explanation of how mankind abandoned the "primeval happiness" of polymorphous perversity was to be found through an analysis of social history. Robinson comments that Brown in fact offered no such analysis, and instead produced an "exclusively ontogentic explanation", one he finds inconsistent with "the prophetic intentions" of Brown's larger argument. Brown explained repressive differentiation in terms of Freud's revised theory of anxiety, according to which anxiety produces repression rather than the reverse. Brown, like Róheim, saw the basic form of anxiety as separation anxiety, and also identified separation with death, a breakdown of the union of mother and child that he saw as "the essence of life." Robinson finds the identification of life with union and death with separation neither easy to understand nor essential to Brown's argument, seeing his crucial point as being that anxiety can be identified with separation, and that separation causes anxiety because the union between mother and child had been so long and lovingly indulged.
Children respond to the anxiety caused by separation through various projects to reestablish the original unity, projects Brown identified as "flights from death", but which Robinson believes could have been described more simply as flights from separation. These projects involve various organizations of the libido that Brown characterizes as repressive and which required abandoning the polymorphous perversity of earliest infancy. Examples are the oral project, in which children try to overcome separation through "the hypercathexis of the act of sucking", reuniting themselves with their mothers through the mouth (and in fantasy, ingesting them entirely), the anal project, in which children engage in "symbolic manipulation of feces as a magic instrument for restoring communion with the mother", and the phallic project, which is the attempt to reunite with the mother through the penis, identified with the entire body. These projects all involve reorganization of the libidinal economy, transferring sexual energy from the entire body to particular organs, and in all of them repression is self-imposed. The differentiation of sexuality occurs not because of an external force such as social or economic exigency, but because of "self-repression."
Brown argues that Luther's personality was based partly upon anal fantasies and that Luther achieved some of his spiritual breakthroughs while defecating. Brown suggests numerous similarities between Lutheran Protestantism and psychoanalysis. He also provides an appreciative study of Jonathan Swift, in which he denounces attempts to conceal Swift's interest in scatology and "housebreak this tiger of English literature." He is especially critical of Aldous Huxley and John Middleton Murry for their treatment of Swift. While giving Huxley and Murry credit for calling attention to Swift's "hatred of the bowels", he deplores their reduction of the theme to Swift's personal psychopathology and failure to see that Swift was calling attention to something significant. In the last chapter, Brown proposes "Dionysian consciousness" as a solution to humanity's problems.
Commenting on his intellectual development, Brown noted that, "My Marxist background had given me a healthy prejudice against moneymaking. Imagine my excitement when I discovered Sandor Ferenczi's article 'The Ontogenesis of the Interest in Money'; with its immortal conclusion, 'After what has been said money is seen to be nothing other than deodorized, dehydrated shit that has been made to shine.'"
That this shift of Brown's interests toward psychoanalysis led to the writing of Love's Body, which concluded that "there is only poetry", showed, according to Brown, that pursuing the implications of Freud's ideas consistently led to the breakdown of "categories of traditional 'rationality' still accepted as authoritative by both Marx and Freud; that massive breakdown...which Nietzsche baptized with the name of Dionysus." Brown wrote that he now realized that did not really know what he was saying when he called for "Dionysian consciousness" in the last chapter of Life Against Death. Brown added that it was clear to him in that work, "that at that deep level which can only be expressed in myth or metaphor, Freud's "instinct theory" needed to be remythologized in terms of Dionysus, that is to say in terms of instinctual dialectics rather than instinctual dualism. Or, to use another metaphor, in terms of Heraclitus rather than Empedocles." Brown concluded that the last chapter of Life Against Death was disfigured by the misleading idea that the world could be 'a pastoral scene of peace and pleasure, luxe calme et volupté, Baudelaire's utopian image invoked by Marcuse in Eros and Civilization'."
"Brown's message is an intellectual witches' brew of Freudianism, his own brand of wildly heterodox "Dionysian" Christianity, and big doses of Zen Buddhism. He calls for the abolition of all distinctions and boundaries in a united universe of mad chaos: The body to be realized is the body of the cosmic man, the body of the universe as one perfect man. ... As in schizophrenia: "What happens to the person's own body, is identical with what happens in the universe. ...Freedom is fire, overcoming this world by reducing it to a fluctuating chaos, as in schizophrenia; the chaos which is The eternal ground of creation.
Brown's desire for a Dionysian Christianity, in which the scripture is a dead letter to be made alive by spiritual (symbolical) interpretations; in which meaning is not fixed. but ever new and ever changing " . Meaning is made from the Abgrund (abyss). from the unconscious of the reader past the conscious intention of the author to the unconscious meaning; breaking the barrier of the ego and the barrier of the book.
He asserts that "To restore to words their full significance ... is to reduce them to nonsense.... Get the nothingness back into words ... Empty words, corresponding to the void in things.
Brown's running attack against meaningful language is often clothed in sexual symbolism. His notorious idea of "polymorphous perversity" means that each and every part of the body should be used in sexual play. The pornographic practices all around us today. Brown fully supports Freud's postulate of the unconscious, from which man's innermost instincts and desires allegedly arise. While Freud still believed that some of these desires and drives needed to be suppressed or sublimated (transformed into socially useful endeavors), Brown would impose no such restrictions and approves of them all. This is in total opposition to the words of Jesus Christ: "From within, out of the heart of man, proceed evil thoughts, adulteries, fornications, murders, thefts, covetousness, wickedness, deceit, lasciviousness, an evil eye, blasphemy, pride, foolishness: all these evil things come from within, and defile the man (Mark 7:21-23)," Christ clearly makes a difference between evil and good, defilement and cleanness. Brown wants to confound them utterly:
Overthrow the importance principle: turn it upside down. Put down the mighty from their seats, and exalt them of low degree (another perverted quote from Scripture, in this instance the prayer of Mary the mother of our Lord in Luke 1:52). Every throne a toilet seat, and every toilet seat a throne. The distinction between the sublime and the vulgar is abolished.. As above, so below (this is the motto of occultism and sorcery)... The way up is the way down; the penis a symbolic head, and vice versa."
Here is another typical example of Brown's call to madness perversely using biblical terminology including the name of Christ Himself:
The Pentecostal darkness: the sun shall be turned to darkness. To overcome the opposition of darkness and light, cleanliness and dirt, order and chaos, the marriage of heaven and hell (a concept borrowed from the heterodox mystic William Blake). To seduce the world to madness. Christ is within the wall of paradise, which is the wall of the law of contradiction, and the destruction of the law of contradiction is the supreme task of higher logic.
Brown claims that the life instinct, called "Eros" by Freud, urges men to unification with each other one the universe, while the death instinct, Freud's "Thanatos," separates or divides. We must therefore "construct en erotic sense of reality. (To do so is) to become conscious of symbolism. Symbolism is mind making connections (correspondences) rather than distinctions (separations)."10 Now symbolism is an integral part of traditional language Os "a figure of speech" or "metaphor." Thus it makes perfect sense in traditional language to soy that old age is to life Os evening is to day, and Therefore to speak of old age as "life's evening" or Iife's "sunset." Symbolism used in this manner, that is properly .n conformity with created reality, may indeed provide great insights. joys and aesthetic pleasure, and it is a powerful tool of lawful human creativity. As Kathy Lynn Hutson has ably stated it,
In both the creation and evolution models (of the origin of man and language) ... man is dependent on metaphoric activity ... The difference n the models is the nature of that foundation. In evolution that word- foundation consists of arbitrary human sounds with no verifiable correspondence with the true nature of things. In the creation model, the base is the audible (not mystical) spoken words of God to men;
Brown adheres to the evolution model of origins and therefore sees nothing wrong with words as "arbitrary human sounds with no verifiable correspondence with the true nature of things." On the contrary, he deliberately uses symbolism to confound concrete and logical opposites: birth is death, male is female, the son is the father, the hero is the scapegoat, the criminal is the victim, human creativity is human excrement (the theme of two important and lengthy sections in Life Against Death), and so on. As in Freud, sexual symbolism is used indiscriminately everywhere
The Freudian Marxist Herbert Marcuse, who also greatly influenced the young revolutionaries of the 1960s, parts company with Brown over his use of symbolism when it comes to social and political action
Revolution, freedom, fulfillment in turn become symbolic - symbolic goals and events, Symbolic of what? The answer remains, must remain, shrouded in mystery, because Brown envisions an Absolute, a Totality, a Whole which swallows up all parts, and divisions, all tensions and all needs, that is to say, all life.
Marcuse senses the reductionism which underlies Brown's monism and robs it of all value. Brown in turn frequently distances himself from Marxism and 5 determinedly apolitical in his condemnation of all human action as nothing but satanic and "excrement." Of course his rejection of all social and political action also extends to Western free enterprise capitalism. Many leftist and anarchist pronouncements may be gleaned from his writings (for instance, the final chapter, "Filthy Lucre," of Life Against Death). There's a difference here between Christianity, Marxism and Brown: Christianity agrees that Western free enterprise capitalism is not perfect due to man's sinfulness after the fall, but it does not condemn free enterprise as such. On the contrary, it recognizes that man's biblical creation mandate (Genesis 1:28) is To each individual man and woman and very much includes economic creativity one stewardship under God. Marxism denies God, blames free enterprise ("private property") for all man's economic and social ills, and asserts that these can be cured only by the abolition of private enterprise and decision-making in a communist totalitarian state. The failure of this view ought to be clear To everyone from the dismal record of communist societies through history, especially since 1917 Brown denies both God and human action, reducing both to nothing.
Brown's peculiar style, especial y in Love's Body. is reminiscent of Nietzsche and the turgid writings of New Age "saint" Pierre Teilhard de Chardin. and hence very difficult to understand. Theodore Roszak. himself a leading "New Age" thinker, cannot help commenting that
Love's Body ... is, feel, a silly-brilliant effort... Brown has tried to discover a language beyond language. unrestricted by.. logicality, continuity, or even normal sentence structure. The result is a witch's caldron of puns, rhymes, etymological prestidigitation. and oracular outpouring.. . which could mean, at too many points, everything and nothing.
Brown would counter that his entire work is designed to undermine reliance upon human reason. Unlike Brown, Christians consider human reason when submitted To God's lordship and revealed knowledge and wisdom to be capable of great contributions to man's welfare. Brown would discard reason altogether because it is contrary to his irrational view of the self as equal to or absorbing the universe. In Brown's monistic and even solipsist view of the world as equal to the self, "love" can only be love of self. His "love" is a thoroughgoing narcissism. this is a total perversion of Christ's summary of God's law - to "love the Lord thy God with all thy heart. and with all Thy soul, and with all Thy mind ... and thy neighbor as thyself" (Matthew 22 37,39). For Brown God and neighbor are "thyself." For Christians love is already rooted ontologically in The Godhead as Trinity. three Persons in One Godhead. Brown denies the bin cal Christian doctrine of the Trinity as well as human personality and individuality. For him. "person" and "individuality" are masks donned under social pressure. and The true "Trinity" is the "primal scene" of the father in the act at begetting the embryo in the mother.
Freud himself was pessimistic about achieving lasting benefits for society through psychoanalysis because he believed that "Eros," the alleged life-giving or pleasure-seeking instinct in man, was not strong enough to overcome or perhaps actually served "Thanatos," The death instinct.16 But Brown, as we already saw, is not at all interested in producing mental health defined as adjustment to the "reality principle" in the form of society. On the contrary, he calls man's normal mental state or common, reality-oriented sense a "prejudice" and asserts that "The proper pasture is to listen to and learn from lunatics (because). The insane do not share `the normal prejudice in favor of external reality."'
The most striking features of Brown's call for cosmic merger with the self by madness, however. are shared with Zen Buddhism. Brown's idea of making "every throne a toilet seat," that is. the abolition of all respect for authority, echoes Zen Buddhist master Linchi's vehement command to his disciples to "Smash whatever you come across ... the buddha, Patriarchs ... your parents and all your relations.... This revolt against authority certainly appealed to the revolutionaries and hippies in the 1960s and 70s, some of whom are now teaching in American and West European universities and colleges. Brown's attack upon a literal interpretation of the Bible resembles Zen Buddhist convert, spokesman and erstwhile Episcopal priest Allan Watts' statement that "Godmanhood is to be discovered here and now inwardly, not in the letter of the Bible."
A crucial likeness between Zen and Brown 5 the "turning to inwardness," The very definition and essence of Zen. Lit-sen Chang, a Christian convert from Zen, writes:
This turning to "inwardness" has been the mainspring of all philosophy down through the ages in India, According to the Upanishads, to know "Other is self" ("other" is but the objectification of the self) is the ultimate wisdom or the highest joy. If one could comprehend "Tat Jvam Asi" (a phrase quoted repeatedly by Brown) ... (which means "that thou art" or "the other is yourself, ""the eternal is oneself,"" Thou art the Eternal"), he is delivered from bondage to freedom.
Zen Buddhism anticipates Brown's goal of insanity as it is "a technique by which to achieve a mental breakdown" and "a piling up intellectual frustrations that lead to the crumbling of the edifice of logical thought." Zen is "a revolt against reason, a breaking down of the mere intellectual images of the living reality knowable only by personal experience." Again, this precept is fundamental also to Brown's "Dionysian Christianity,"
Brown's use of perverse symbolism is also present in Zen. One Zen adept quoted his teacher assaying that "the practice of Zen is to be described as the gold and ordure method, Before it is comprehended, it is all like gold; after it is comprehended, it is all like ordure."23 Freud, too, spoke in this manner of his own teaching, writing to a friend, "I can hardly tell you how many things l - a new Midas - turn into filth." Faithful to his mentors, Brown teaches that all human action and creativity is "excrement."
Freudians including Brown postulate a collective unconscious directing man. Zen teaches this as well:
In Zen, will is more basic than the intellect because it is the principle that lies at the root of all existences and unites them all in the oneness of being. The one great will from which all infinitely varied wills flow. "Cosmic Unconscious," which is The Zen's reservoir of infinite possibilities.
Brown would abolish all "repressions" imposed upon man's desires. Zen does the same, declaring that "to avoid sin and evil by obedience to any moral law is only an idle attempt. Every being must act according to the Nature," For Brown as well as for Zen there is no distinction between good and evil: "Zen admonishes one not only to love God but also to love `devils'; . . a clinging to the `one true God,' the `one true religion,' the `one true principle,' is condemned as `narrow limitation.' Due to their coercive disciplines, their perversion and willful ignorance of rationality and reality, and their assertion of magical omnipotence. "many Zen masters in China got very odd qualities and are called 'Mo-wong' (literally means 'demon- king') which proves that they have become mentally deranged."28
As Marcuse recognized, Brown's mad monism is powerless to bring about political and social improvement. This is also true of Zen and Buddhism in general. Ernest Becker in his Zen: A Rational Critique (New York: Norton, 1961) writes that Zen is entirely "impotent to do something tangible to aid suffering humanity, judging by the cities and slums and rural misery of Asia " The American scholar Thomas Molnar visited Benares, the holy Hindu city where tens of thousands go annually for ritual cleansing in the Ganges River. Molnar, a world traveler familiar with poverty in urban slums around the globe, was appalled:
Benares dwarfs everything else I have seen. ... It is not "underdevelopment" which creates the horror, the revulsion, the stench; ii is, when all is said and done, the religion, which tolerates this indescribable squalor, filth, degradation, and animality. The dirty green river becomes bathroom, toilet, mouthwash, laundromat, drinking place for animal and man. Fully or half-immersed, people wash their hair, their underwear, rinse their mouths, and defecate, as the freely floating dung testifies. All this with the utmost matter-of-factness, without embarrassment… But the burning corpses in the busy mid-morning along the banks of The Ganges are enough to turn your stomach ... It's the utter degradation of the scene: the squalor, defecation, hashish, the pus-filled wounds on the backs of the holy men .. temples where a sweetish stench dominates aIl that, plus the dead. Hippies are drawn to this witches' brew from Scandinavia, Holland, America and elsewhere, ... What attracts and keeps them here is the degradation: of reason, of self-esteem, of vital forces, of faith in God and man. Here.. everybody may do his thing just like the monkeys and the cows,.. Intelligence and purposefulness dissolve on the trash heap, the body rots until it becomes one with the road, the grass, the dung. The great nothingness envelops all, and the ashes go into the river.
Molnar's concluding reference to the "great nothingness" at the end of all things parallels the last chapter, "Nothing," in Brown's Love `S Body. Brown's ultimate counsel comes straight from Zen: "Accept loss forever. To lose one's own soul. 'Satori, when the ego is broken, is not final victory but final defeat, the becoming like nothing. "
To reduce man to nothingness is Brown's "solution" to man's deepest problem, namely, his own existence. For Brown, as for Freud, "man's superiority over the other animals is his capacity for neurosis, and... Neurosis is an essential consequence of civilization or culture." Consistent with Brown's evolutionist faith man is but "another animal," not the unique creature made by God in His own image and likeness with dominion over the earth, as recorded in Genesis 1. Likewise, adherents of Zen "blame God "hat `the real human Tragedy began when nature was to be dominated by man (cf. Gen. 1:28) for when the idea of power, which is domination, comes in, all kinds of struggles arise."' Of course Zen, just as Freud and Brown, denies the biblical doctrine of the fall to which Christians attribute the struggles, disasters and pains in this present world. Christians look forward to the restoration of human creativity to the perfection of man's original pure likeness to God in Christ. For the believer this restoration already begins in this life, Brown, however, sees human creativity as producing "neurosis" in man the diseased animal and would therefore eradicate it altogether.
To the extent that the biblical Christian faith in the Triune God and Creator of Scripture has vanished in the West, the conditions Molnar reports from Benares now also prevail here. Descent into filth, degradation and self-destruction marked the drug culture of the 1960s, which aspired to Zen-type "enlightenment" by the psychedelic shortcut. In its consciousness- altering aspects this "enlightenment" resembles outright madness or schizophrenia, which Brown exalts as the right way of life. Schizophrenia is a True clinical illness whose physical causes are still little understood. It consists in the general breakdown of the thinking process. The patient begins to hear voices telling him to jump in front of a speeding automobile. He may see imaginary spirits. He may believe that his Thoughts are not his own but produced by computers or radios. A schizophrenic's symptoms may
barely allow him to exist in his own room ... He cannot easily solve the problems of ordinary living. Many schizophrenics can't even shop for groceries. Sometimes, when a schizophrenic is in a period of recovery, and life deals him a bad turn ... the stress may lead to all his symptoms returning in full force, He then suffers a schizophrenic episode. He may not ~ep h~mself clean; he may wander the streets, talking to himself, shouting at others. Researchers estimate that schizophrenia afflicts half of all the homeless living in the streets,
To anyone aware of these facts or personally acquainted with a schizophrenic, Brown's idea that schizophrenia should be in any sense a model for normal human behavior is ludicrous. Yet it is precisely the schizophrenic's loss of real~y perception and confounding the self with the other-than-self which Brown knows and recommends. He does so because "Schizophrenics pass beyond ordinary language (the language of the reality- principle) into a truer, more symbolic language" and "attain the mad truth." Brown even asserts that to hospitalize schizophrenics is a device to sustain the "normal prejudice in favor of external realty" and to "insulat(e) the so-called reality- principle from all evidence to the contrary." Brown's hatred of reality may seem absurd or even ridiculous to the average reader, yet this very teaching won him support among the young rebels and dropouts of the 1960s and continues to maintain his influence on college campuses today OS part of the overall "New Age" trend."
"One of the most conspicuous features of the cultural revolution that swept through America and Western Europe in the 1960s was the demand for sexual liberation. In some respects, of course, this demand was not new. The revolt against traditional sexual mores had been an important ingredient of advanced thinking at least since the 1920s. In essentials, it can be traced back to the early nineteenth century and the Romantic cult of feeling and spontaneity. Even the union of sexual liberation and radical politics—a hallmark of the 1960s— had important antecedents going back to such disparate apostles of liberation as Rousseau, Fourier, Blake, and Shelley.
Nevertheless, the Sixties were different. First of all, there was the matter of numbers. In the past, movements for sexual liberation had been sporadic and confined largely to a bohemian elite. In the 1960s— partly because of the perfection of the birth control pill and other reliable forms of contraception, partly because of greater affluence and mobility—sexual liberation suddenly became an everyday fact of middle-class life. What had been a fringe phenomenon became the established norm. There was also the matter of political rhetoric and quasi-philosophical baggage. If demands for sexual liberation were a regular, if not invariable, concomitant of revolutionary politics in the past, seldom had sexual emancipation been invested with such a forbidding panoply of political mystification and high-flown verbiage. Plenty of revolutionary movements have made sexual emancipation one of their causes; rarely has sexual gratification so thoroughly defined the content of revolutionary politics.
A large part of the credit—if “credit” is the mot juste—for this development must go to Wilhelm Reich, the Austrian-born psychiatrist, demobbed Communist, renegade Freudian, militant atheist, and all-around champion of the beneficent effects of sexual orgasm. At the center of Reich’s teachings were two convictions: that “the sexual question must be politicized,” as he put it in The Mass Psychology of Fascism (1933), and that establishing “a satisfactory genital sex life” was the key not only to individual but also to societal liberation and happiness, as he put it in The Function of the Orgasm (1942) and practically everything else he wrote. As one critic acknowledged, “Reich, in truth, did feel that sex was everything.”
As the political philosopher Harvey Mansfield pointed out in his essay “The Legacy of the Late Sixties” (1997), the sexual revolution depended on “an illicit, forced union between Freud and Marx in which Mr. Marx was compelled to yield his principle that economics, not sex, is the focus of liberation, and Mr. Freud was required to forsake his insistence that liberation from human nature is impossible.”
As is so often the case, contradiction has proved no bar to credulity. For Reich and his disciples and spiritual heirs, sex was the primary focus of political activism, and human nature was a harsh but dispensable fiction. Reich came too soon and was too much of a quack to see his ideas triumph in their original form. But by the early 1960s, variations on his core theories about sex and politics were everywhere. Norman Mailer’s infamous essay on “The White Negro” (1957), for example, with its adolescent radicalism and hymns to the “apocalyptic orgasm” is Reichean boilerplate gussied up with Mailerean bombast.
Mailer had a part to play in popularizing Reich. But the three men who really accomplished the Reichean gospel were the anarchist poet-psychologist Paul Goodman, the classicist turned neo-Freudian guru Norman O. Brown, and the Marxist philosopher Herbert Marcuse. None would have described himself as a follower of Reich, but all read and commented on his work. More to the point, whatever their disagreements with Reich or with each other, all absorbed the essential Reichean tenets about politicizing sex and investing it with a kind of redemptive significance. As Richard King noted in The Party of Eros: Radical Social Thought and the Realm of Freedom (1972), all three “sought to combine a concern for instinctual and erotic liberation with political and social radicalism, cultural with political concerns.”
It would be difficult to overestimate their influence. The critic Morris Dickstein--himself a slightly tarnished Sixties radical— was quite right to insist, in Gates of Eden: American Culture in the Sixties (1977), that Goodman, Brown, and Marcuse were prime catalysts in “the rise of a new sensibility,” the thinkers “whose work had the greatest impact on the new culture of the sixties.”
Goodman wrote essays on everything from city planning and decentralization to education, youth work camps, pornography (he was for it), Wilhelm Reich, and making antiwar films.
As the critic Joseph Epstein put it in 1978, “the good society, for Goodman, started at the groin.” Responding to Epstein’s criticism, a Goodman enthusiast quoted from a letter that Goodman had written some years before: “My own view … is that no sexual practices whatever, unless they are malicious or extremely guilt-ridden, do any harm to anybody, including children”—a statement that not only epitomizes Goodman’s philosophy, but also helps to explain why he became such an idolized figure for the counterculture of the 1960s.
Brown’s premise, in Life Against Death and in his other main book, an aphoristic mélange called Love’s Body (1966), is that there is an “intrinsic connection between social organization and neurosis.” His goal is to break that connection by abolishing “repression,” thus curing “the disease called man.” This, you see, is the way to affirm the “life instinct,” which “demands a union with others and the world around us based not on anxiety and aggression but on narcissism and erotic exuberance.”
Civilization, ruined by rationality, had to be “renewed by the discovery of new mysteries” and “magic.” What was needed, Brown told the newly elected key-holders, was “the blessed madness of the maenad and the bacchant.” He himself came seeking “supernatural powers.”
Brown’s great gift was infusing mystic pronouncements with a radical, anti-bourgeois animus and a febrile erotic charge. How nice to learn, for example, that time was simply the product of “neurosis.” Or that “all sublimations are desexualizations.” Or that the roots of “alienated consciouness” lay in “the compulsion to work” and that this compulsion was exacerbated by “capitalism,” which “has made us so stupid and one-sided that objects exist for us only if we can possess them or if they have utility.” How exciting to discover that “all thinking is nothing but a detour” and that the chief task now facing the spiritual vanguard was “the construction of a Dionysian ego” that would free us from the tyranny of “genital organization.” “The work of constructing a Dionysian ego is immense,” Brown acknowledges, as if he were talking about the Hoover Dam, “but there are signs that it is already under way.” Indeed.
Brown offered his readers a little of everything: the rhetoric of Christian eschatology and neo-Marxist radicalism and polymorphous sexuality. Was his vision of “body mysticism” littered with contradictions? No problem! Faced with contradiction one could always resort to Walt Whitman: “Do I contradict myself?/ Very well then I contradict myself,/ (I am large, I contain multitudes).” Or one could quote Brown himself: “We may therefore entertain the hypothesis that formal logic and the law of contradiction are the rules whereby the mind submits to operate under general conditions of repression.”
The writer John Passmore, in “Paradise Now,” a long article about Brown published in Encounter in 1970, summed it up well: “Freud presented a dilemma: either civilization, which rests on repression, or unrepressed enjoyment. When it came to the point he preferred civilization, if with some misgivings. Brown, in typical mystical fashion, chooses the other horn of the dilemma.” In fact, the choice is not even between civilization and “unrepressed enjoyment” but rather between the ordered enjoyments that civilization makes possible and the carnage and savagery of Dionysian—i.e., barbaric— chaos.
Brown everywhere talks about “abolishing” repression: in Love’s Body, for example he waxes prophetic about it: “The unconscious to be made conscious; a secret disclosed; a veil to be rent, a seal to be broke open; the seal which Freud called repression.” He tells us that art, if it is to fulfill its redemptive function, must be “subversive of civilization.” In other words, like all Romantics, Brown pretends that the alternative to civilization, with its tedious checks and balances, is paradise; in fact, as every real breakdown of civilization in history reminds us, the alternative to civilization is much closer to hell on earth.
Brown’s popularity rested on two points: his promise of an ecstatic world- and self-transforming sexuality and his attack on rationality. The two go together. Sex, in the world according to Brown, has little or nothing to do with the family or children; in the end it has little to do with sex as ordinarily understood. It is more a mystical than a carnal or emotional reality. Sex for Brown is a synecdoche for spiritual redemption, though his cerebral musings about polymorphous perversity and the abolition of repression inspired a great deal of distinctly more mundane activity among his acolytes. Likewise Brown’s attack on rationality. He asked his followers to dispense with “quantifying rationality” and “morbid” science whose aims were to gain “possession or mastery over objects.”
What would a nonmorbid science look like? It would presumably be erotic rather than (anal) sadistic in aim. Its aim would not be mastery over but union with nature. And its means would not be economizing but erotic exuberance. And finally, it would be based on the whole body and not just a part; that is to say, it would be based on the polymorphously perverse body.
That is to say, it would be based on a groundless fantasy about what constituted knowledge, a grotesque misunderstanding of nature, and a narcissistic worship of the body. Brown pretended that the alternative to rational thought (“formal logic,” “the law of contradiction”) was a “higher” knowledge. In fact, it was a lower form of ignorance: a word-besotted mysticism incapable of distinguishing verbal legerdemain from the claims of reality.
Like Brown, Marcuse blends Marx and Freud to produce an emancipatory vision based on polymorphous, narcissistic sexuality, anti-bourgeois animus, and quasi-mystical theories about art, redemption, and the abolition of repression.
The chief difference between them is one of tone. Brown poses as a visionary: William Blake with a Ph.D. For him, the revolution is primarily a cataclysm in consciousness. Marcuse makes more of an effort to keep his Marxist credentials in good order. Where Brown might quote the mystic Jacob Boehme, Marcuse will add a “Political Preface” to Eros and Civilization in order to announce “the gradual undermining of capitalistic enterprise in the course of automation.” Where Brown described himself as a seeker after “magic” and “supernatural powers,” Marcuse became the mentor of Angela Davis, whom he described as the best student he ever taught. In 1972, in Counter-Revolution and Revolt, Marcuse accused the “Western world” (i.e., the United States) of practicing “the horrors of the Nazi regime” and looked forward to “the fall of the capitalist superpower,” an event that he believed would allow the Chinese and Cuban revolutions “to go their own ways—freed from the suffocating blockade and the equally suffocating necessity of maintaining an ever more costly defensive machine.” Brown might agree, but one can hardly imagine him acknowledging the existence of Cuba without first quoting Paracelsus. In other words, both men were political simpletons, but Marcuse was more likely to insist on the real-world implications of his thought.
In a famous review of Love’s Body published in Commentary in 1967, Marcuse accused Brown of systematically “mystifying” love, politics, and human nature. He was quite right, but the charge applies equally to Marcuse. Both men were fantasists. Their world view proceeds from the assumption that human nature can be repealed. In Eros and Civilization—a book that became a bible of the counterculture—Marcuse spins a fairytale about the fate of man in industrial society. Like Brown, he conjures up the image of a “non-repressive reality principle” in which “the body in its entirety would become … an instrument of pleasure.” What this really amounts to is a form of infantilization. Marcuse speaks glowingly of “a resurgence of pregenital polymorphous sexuality” that “protests against the repressive order of procreative sexuality.” He recommends returning to a state of “primary narcissism” in which one will find “the redemption of pleasure, the halt of time, the absorption of death; silence, sleep, night, paradise—the Nirvana principle not as death but as life.” In other words, he looks forward to a community of solipsists.
Marcuse is much more explicit than Brown about the social implications of his experiment in narcissism. “This change in the value and scope of libidinal relations,” he writes, “would lead to a disintegration of the institutions in which the private interpersonal relations have been organized, particularly the monogamic and patriarchal family.” That is to say, ultimate liberation is indistinguishable from ultimate self-absorption. Of course, there are one or two impediments to fulfilling this dream. Mortality, for example. “The brute fact of death,” Marcuse admits, “denies once and for all the reality of a non-repressive existence.” But not to worry. A couple of pages after acknowledging this inconvenient reality, Marcuse assures us that the emancipation of eros means that “the instinctual value of death would have changed,” and he goes on to explain that “the necessity of death does not refute the possibility of final liberation. Like other necessities, it can be made rational—painless. Men can die without anxiety if they know that what they love is protected from misery and oblivion. After a fulfilled life, they may take it upon themselves to die—at a moment of their own choosing.” It is sad, really, that a man so extensively educated should be so naïve.
The philosopher Arthur Schopenhauer once observed that no one should read Hegel before the age of forty: the dangers of intellectual corruption were just too great. Marcuse is a case in point. He was so intoxicated by Hegel’s dialectic that he could no longer register the most commonplace realities. His Marxist view of the world mandated that capitalism led to oppression, ergo capitalist societies were monuments of misery and unfreedom: Q.E.D.
Marcuse admits that “extreme suspension of the right of free speech and free assembly is indeed justified only if the whole of society is in extreme danger,” but he goes on to note that “I maintain that our society is in such an emergency situation.”
Different opinions and “philosophies” can no longer compete peacefully for adherence and persuasion on rational grounds: the “marketplace of ideas” is organized and delimited by those who determine the national and the individual interest. In this society, for which the ideologists have proclaimed the “end of ideology,” the false consciousness has become the general consciousness—from the government down to its last objects.
No wonder Leszek Kolakowski concluded that Marcuse’s philosophy advocated “Marxism as a Totalitarian Utopia.” In the end, Kolakowski points out, Marcuse’s entire system “depends on replacing the tyranny of logic by a police tyranny… . The Marcusian union of Eros and Logos can only be realized in the form of a totalitarian state, established and governed by force; the freedom he advocates is non-freedom.”
The ideas put forward by people like Paul Goodman, Norman O. Brown, and Herbert Marcuse are so extravagant that one is tempted to dismiss them as ridiculous figments of a diseased understanding. The problem is that these figments, deceptive though they undoubtedly are, have been extolled as liberating wisdom by an entire generation. If they are no longer declared with the same proselytizing fervor that they were in the 1960s, that is because they have become part of the established intellectual and moral climate we live with. The unlikely marriage of Marx and Freud shows that it is a great mistake to believe that ideas, because untrue or even preposterous, cannot therefore do great harm. As the political commentator Irving Kristol points out in “Utopianism, Ancient and Modern,” “the truth is that ideas are all-important. The massive and seemingly solid institutions of any society … are always at the mercy of the ideas in the heads of the people who populate these institutions.” Goodman, Brown, and Marcuse promised boundless liberation. What they delivered was mystification and immorality. Edmund Burke was right: “liberty must be limited in order to be possessed.”
"Life Against Death insists that psychoanalysis can and must become a theory of culture rather than a psychotherapeutic device that explains character structure by reference to changes in toilet training or child-rearing, that is, by the character of the parent(s). The trans-historical infantile experiences of omnipotence and erasure, of instinctual defusion, and of polymorphous perversity—sexuality at its most extreme—are the raw clinical materials of the historical analysis, not the specific trauma of this or that childhood. The theoretical set-up of Parts I through IV stands as a long introduction, in other words, to the empirical study of the Protestant ethic and the reality of capitalism in Part V (“Studies in Anality”), in much the same way that Parts 1 through VI of Capital, Volume 1, stand as a theoretical introduction to the empirical study of enclosure, expropriation, and colonization which follows.
Psychoanalysis is throughout treated as a symptom of the return of the repressed—that is, as an insight into the origin of culture in the displacement of bodily experience, and the evolution of culture required by the sub/consequent translation of bodily experience into intelligible signs. Freud’s insight wasn’t new, in short, because all of religion and every work of art had already come up with it. In this sense, psychoanalysis was a philosophy of history that couldn’t dismiss religion as false consciousness, or ignore art as mere ornament on the tree of life. To put it more plainly, psychoanalysis was a theory of culture, and thus a philosophy of history, precisely because it was a way of acknowledging—and incorporating—the perverse truths of religion (and/or art) rather than dismissing or ignoring them as deviations from the truth afforded by reason and science (“modernity”).
“A reinterpretation of human history is not an appendage to psychoanalysis but an integral part of it. The empirical fact which compelled Freud to comprehend the whole of human history in the area [sic] of psychoanalysis is the appearance in dreams and in neurotic symptoms of themes substantially identical with major themes—both ritualistic and mythical—in the religious history of mankind. The link between the theory of neurosis and the theory of history is the theory of religion.”
Every symptom is an attempted cure. “Psychoanalysis must view religion both as neurosis and as that attempt to become conscious and to cure, inside the neurosis itself, on which Freud came at the end of his life to pin his hopes for therapy. Psychoanalysis is vulgarly interpreted as dismissing religion as an erroneous system of wishful thinking. In The Future of an Illusion, Freud does speak of religion as a ‘substitute-gratification’—the Freudian analogue of to the Marxian formula, ‘opiate of the people.’ But according to the whole doctrine of repression, ‘substitute-gratification’—a term which applies not only to poetry and religion but also to dreams and neurotic symptoms—contain truth; they are expressions, distorted by repression, of the immortal desires of the human heart. . . . Psychoanalysis can go beyond religion [and Marxism, another symptom] only if it sees itself as completing what religion tries to do, namely make the unconscious conscious; then psychoanalysis would be the science of original sin. Psychoanalysis is in a position to define the error in religion only after it has recognized [that] truth.”
Life Against Death is designed, then, as an exit strategy from the constraints of Marxism, which located the “compulsion to work” in a prior, externalcircumstance—primitive accumulation, class hierarchy, the superior power of the bourgeoisie, and so forth. The book’s strategy works by demonstrating that this compulsion is internally generated and reproduced in the deep structure of what we call character: it’s the central symptom of the “general neurosis of mankind,” which might be characterized as the irrepressible urge toward freedom, that is, the urge to reinstate the experience of infantile omnipotence, to reunite the desire and the capacity to make the world move in accordance with our words. Science, in these terms, is a rationalized version of the magical thinking that derives from our infantile glimpse of freedom. In the same terms, the “compulsion to work” is a trans-historical component of human nature, or rather the essential element in the development of this human nature (which of course takes different historical forms in the course of human civilization). Not incidentally, Marx said as much in Volume 1 of Capital: “The labour-process resolved . . . into its simple elementary factors, is human action with a view to the production of use-values, appropriation of natural substances to human requirements; . . .it is the everlasting Nature-imposed condition of human existence, and therefore is independent of every social phase of that existence, or rather, is common to every such phase.” (International ed., 1967, pp. 183-84)
Still, Brown has a point, and a purpose. “The necessity of a psychoanalytical approach to history is pressed upon the historian by one question: Why does man, alone of all animals, have a history? For man is distinguished from animals not simply by the possession and transmission from generation to generation of that suprabiological apparatus which is culture [cf. Geertz], but also, if history and changes in time are essential characteristics of human culture and therefore of man, by a desire to change his culture and so to change himself. . . . [The] historical process is sustained by man’s desire to become other than what he is. And man’s desire to become something different is essentially an unconscious desire. The actual changes in history neither result from nor correspond to the conscious desires of the human agents who bring them about. Every historian knows this, and the philosopher of history, Hegel, in his doctrine of the ‘cunning or reason,’ made it a fundamental point in his structural analysis of history.”
Life Against Death is also designed as a radical departure from Weber’s (thus Tawney’s) correlation of the Protestant ethic and the spirit of capitalism; in this sense, it’s a way of forcing us back to Marx and Hegel, or placing us alongside Tillich, in either case edging us toward a more fundamental critique of capitalism than we can derive from the “decadent Protestantism” of the 20th century, which won’t, or can’t, acknowledge the actuality of evil—and thus can’t map out the Kingdom of God on this earth.
Brown wants us to take Luther’s fear and hatred of the Devil as seriously as we take, say, Marx’s theory of alienation. For the Devil is the middle term that connects the privy—where Luther discovered the doctrine of justification by faith alone—to capitalism on the one hand and Protestantism on the other. “The Devil’s word is money,” and he rules the world, according to strict Lutheran usage. And this Devil himself is a monstrous, “materialized anality”—the incarnation of shit—who deploys the symbolic residue of feces we call money to seduce and control his victims. So by acknowledging the Devil’s sovereignty on earth, early Protestantism acknowledges the excremental rule of money—that is, the existence and the evil of capitalism as such. (pp. 202-30)
From this standpoint, Protestantism is a powerful constraint on the development of capitalism, not its enabling condition, as Weber would have it in explaining the “spirit of capitalism” (e.g., at pp. 40-46, 73-75, 104-14, 120-21, 161-63 of The Protestant Ethic, Scribner ed, trans. Parsons)—or rather it is a powerful constraint until it becomes an enabling condition in the very late 17th century, as the millennial hopes of the English Revolution recede, and, accordingly, as the gospel telling of the Kingdom of God on this earth begins to sound like news from nowhere.
But the centrality of anal compulsion in Part V of Life Against Death must sound either disgusting or hilarious—probably both—in the absence of Freud’s general theory of sublimation as recounted and enlarged by Brown. So herewith my summary of this theory.
Sublimation happens, Freud argued, insofar as particular bodily experiences are repressed and translated into the more accessible symbolic resources made available by the culture at large. Words and less complicated visual icons are the crucial symbolic resources in this sense, for we situate ourselves in the world beyond our bodies by talking or writing (or drawing), by depicting and changing the world with words and icons that others can understand. We feel and communicate our original bodily states or desires as sounds and gestures, because as infants we have no other way of making them—ourselves—known to others. At this stage of development, however, the world does move, occasionally at least, in accordance with the intention of these sounds and gestures: pain is relieved, food is delivered. Thus the imagined bliss of infantile omnipotence and the enduring belief in the greater magic of mere words. [on infantile omnipotence, Sandor Ferenzci, “Stages in the Development of a Sense of Reality” (1916), in First Contributions (1921)]
We grow up, then, as we grow out of our bodies by means of linguistic abstractions—we sublimate and sanitize those originally polymorphous experiences as we rise above our bodies by replacing sounds and gestures with words and icons. But of course the body’s urges always remain as ingredients in the mind’s eye.
Money is the only symbolic resource that is comparable in scope to language. It is the universal commodity that works like a primal metaphor, thus allowing us to recognize and negotiate difference by equating unlike things (reducing a whole person, for example, to a bodily orifice, as in “he’s a real asshole,” or acknowledging the equivalent value of an expensive car and a cheap house). Psychoanalysis follows the lead of anthropology, however, in treating money not as the epitome of economic utility but as the extremity of irrationality. In Freud’s terms, money is the sanitized, sublimated equivalent of shit. In other words, our desire for money—wealth in the abstract—is the enduring residue of the emotional attachment to excrement that comes with the anal-sadistic phase of infantile development, before the bodily sources of the child’s sexual pleasure are “elevated” and confined to the genitals by the rigors of the Oedipus complex.
The child’s feces are originally experienced and perceived as a detachable part of his body, as the first thing he can control with muscular effort and the first object he can give away as a gift—by the same token, it’s the first approximation of hisproperty, a separable, tangible, and fungible asset he owns outright, as his own end product. No wonder “anal erotism” organizes his infantile being: these feces are the material evidence of his differentiation from himself—his product—and from the external world, but they also measure his mastery over his body, which is all the identity he knows. As he inevitably learns to rise above the bodily pleasures of playing with the fecal masses he produces, that is, as he sanitizes the urge to accumulate and allocate more of his own shit, he gradually transfers his emotional attachment to other separate, tangible, and fungible objects or assets, like collectibles, coins, and, eventually, less solid forms of money.
By this psychoanalytical accounting, the anal-sadistic urges are trans-historical dimensions of human nature and human being, but they remain as recessive symptoms of infantile development—as signs of deviance or childishness—until the advent of a money economy, a market society, validates them as necessary, rational, even admirable character traits of adults. At that stage of human development, the anal-compulsive personality becomes normal; for where money mediates all social relations outside the family, no one can avoid the urge to accumulate—to abstain is to suffer poverty, social disgrace, perhaps even to starve to death.
Luther understood this stage, his own time, as a “rain of filth,” a perfect storm of shit: “money is the word of the Devil, through which he creates all things, the way God created through the true word.” Money ruled the world: “Usury lives securely and rages, as if he were God and lord in all lands.” In sum: “the world is the gaping anus” of the Devil himself. Luther experienced the demonic more directly than most 16th century individuals, and articulated it more immediately; but his correlation of the Trickster, the Devil, and the universalization of exchange value was by then a commonplace.
Here is how Brown summarizes his empirical findings.
“The Devil is a middle term connecting Protestantism and anality. As against the neo-Freudians, anality means real bodily anality . . As against the orthodox Freudians, the pathogenic factor in anality is not real bodily toilet training, but peculiar fantasies (the Devil) connected with the anal zone. Furthermore, these fantasies are not private or individual products, but exist as social projections into the world of culture. It follows that the precipitating facto in a psychological upheaval such as the Protestant Reformation is not any change in toilet-training patterns, but an irruption of fresh material from deeper strata of the unconscious made possible by a large-scale transformation in the structure of the projective system (the culture). The dynamic of history is the slow return of the repressed.”
There’s more: it gets better. “Luther’s vision of the dominion of death in life is correlative to his eschatological hope in the transformation of life on earth, and the transformation of the human body—the resurrection of the body, in a form, as Luther says, free from death and filth. Luther’s eschatology challenges psychoanalysis to formulate the conditions under which the dominion of death and anality could be abolished. In thus challenging psychoanalysis, Christianity would perform the function, proper to all religion, of voicing the substance of things hoped for, the [conviction] of things unseen [this is Hebrews 11].”
"Freud, of course, thinks that we must live with the difficult fact that, at a very basic level, we are against ourselves. The Ego is loyal (rightfully, to his mind) to cultural norms that require us to forego satisfying the urgent desires of the Id.
Brown deems this acquiescence to the inevitable necessity of repression “pessimistic.” We should not be satisfied with the grim and never-ending project of trying to manage the conflict between culture and instinct. We must take sides! The future of humanity hangs in the balance!
There can be no doubt which side Norman O. Brown took. The Pleasure Principle (another Freudian term for instinctual desire) is “our real inner being.” Elsewhere: “The essence of man consists, not, as Descartes maintained, in thinking, but in desiring.” We are truly ourselves in “practical-sensuous activity.” Therefore, we should cast our lot with “the body.”
There is a great deal of high theory in Life Against Death, but the basic agenda flows directly from Brown’s exaltation of “the body.” Civilization becomes the great enemy of humanity. Culture, Brown asserts, is collective neurosis. The goal of a true humanism is to destroy the repressive traditions of culture, which really means destroying culture itself. “The abolition of repression,” according to Brown, will lead to “the resurrection of the body.” The triumph of desire is the last, best hope for humanity. An unashamed loyalty to Eros will free us from the ugly, deforming, neurotic project of moral self-discipline. We should seek to be free from “history” and live in “the Sabbath of eternity,” which is “the mode of unrepressed bodies.”
I first read Life Against Death as college freshman thirty years ago. Re-reading it now, I think myself fortunate. Brown theorized a great of what I have experienced in my adult life. My early encounter with the vision of desire liberated—a vision so forthright and imbued with millennial fervor—inoculated me to its more ironical, winking postmodern iterations.
As Brown recognized, the Empire of Desire requires an attack on the traditional, disciplinary forms of culture. Brown offers furious theoretical dialectics in his long chapters on the “anality” of dominant culture forms. He claims to show, for example, that “money is excrement.” The analysis is hopelessly jejune, but the basic thrust comes clear. Brown wants to show that what seem like high ideals and noble principles are simply basic instincts dressed up in the rhetorical finery of culture.
Postmodern theory has many forms, but they all follow Brown’s pattern. A grand theoretical scheme underwrites a bold set of rhetorical gestures designed to unmask inherited culture. Patriarchy or power or heterosexism or colonialism—it does not really matter. The point is simple. Culture can make no legitimate claim on my desires, because all norms, ideals, and principles are nothing more than other peoples desires and instincts sublimated and redirected toward social domination.
Throughout Life Against Death, Brown equates purposeful action with neurosis. Progress and history become negative terms for him. “Only repressed life,” he writes, “is in time.” Brown treats the social sense that we should be more advanced—or even more just—as something like an attack of the collective super-ego.
These days, multiculturalists attack the very idea of a normative culture, but often with vague claims about “inclusion” and no clear idea of what sort of world they seek. In contrast, Brown sees clearly. Brown wants to release us from the tensions of history. Therefore, it is essential to let go of purpose. “The unrepressed animal,” he writes, “carries no instinctual project to change his own nature.” History is all about doing. In contrast, Brown wants us to affirm pure being, which he associates with the free, non-purposeful play of children. Or as he puts is elsewhere, we should embrace “that simple health that animals enjoy.”
A healthy, unrepressed humanity, according to Brown, also includes a desire for death, which Brown associates with sexual consummation as an image of perfectrest. In fact, an affirmation of death becomes the centerpiece of “the resurrection of the body,” because by his analysis the main driving force in culture is the effort to deny or somehow overcome death by way of collective achievements.
In Brown’s grand vision, therefore, humanity finds deliverance in the free play of “narcissism and erotic exuberance” married to a willingness to die. Put more simply, life is best when without cares and responsibilities, when nothing matters, when even death presents no threat. The ancient skeptics and Epicureans had a word for this ideal: ataraxia, a limpid state of freedom from any sort of worry, a condition of serene indifference."
"The concept and reality of boundary in its many functions, most basically as the endopsychic phenomenon permitting a distinction between the self and the object world, are dismissed by Brown as false and illusory. Likewise any, even descriptive, distinction between ego and id is declared to be anathema. What Brown seems unaware of, or chooses to ignore, is that the difference between normal and psychotic symbol formation is precisely the capacity of the symbol to act as a bridge, as it were, across a recognized and acknowledged boundary. It is unfortunate that Brown has not had the opportunity to work clinically with persons suffering from the very maladies which he holds out as the goal of humanity. The schizophrenic who cannot emotionally distinguish himself from others, who has not structured his impulses (the work of ego organization), who is unable to recognize functionally the world as structured (reality principle), is a profoundly lonely, terrified human being.
In this connection we may also note that to summarize psychoanalytic thought on the reality principle in the following fashion is to indulge in such gross simplification and error as to stun the reader:
Psychoanalysis begins on the side of imperialism, or enlightenment, invading the heart of darkness, carrying bright shafts of daylight … carrying the Bible and flag of the reality-principle. (Psychoanalysis ends in the recognition of the reality principle as Lucifer, the prince of darkness, the prince of this world, the governing principle, the ruler of darkness of this world.) The reality principle is the prince of darkness; its function is to scotomize, to spread darkness; to make walls of thick darkness, walls of separation and concealment. Psychoanalysis ends here: Freud remained officially faithful to the principle whose pretensions he finally exposed (p. 150).
How does one answer when Brown, attempting to explain genital organization of the person, evidences such concretization of thought as the following?
The outcome of the castration-complex is genital organization, the primacy of the penis, the identification of the whole person with the penis (italics added, p. 124).
And throughout all of this there are selected and apparently random quotations from M. Klein, Ferenczi and Freud.
The seductive poetry of the term “symbolic consciousness” should not be employed to mask the serious difficulties involved in Brown's panegyric of this concept.
For mature individuation is not a burden, but an achievement; symbiosis is not ultimate unity, but the deepest incapacity to grow. And love is only meaningful when it is given by one who does not dissolve in the giving, but has a self and a personal history with which to respond to and reach the other."
"What is the relation between the ego and the subject? According to Freud, the ego is an agency of the psyche,by means of which the subject aquires a sense of unity and identity, "a coherent organization of mental processes." (XIX,17.) Through consciousness , the ego is the site of differentiation between inside and outside, between "subjective" and "objective." The passage from the ego as biological individual to the ego as an agency: "such is the entire problematic of the derivation of the psychoanalytic ego . " (Jean Laplanche, Life and Death in Psychoanalysis, p. 76)
In Love's Body, Norman O. Brown turns psychoanalysis against itself to disclose the pathology of the process of construction of a self based on love and hate -- on the childish decision to claim all that the ego likes as "mine" and to repudiate all that the ego dislikes as "not mine." This process by which the self is constituted does not end at childhood but is a process of continuous creation. (a dissipative structure?) For Brown, "The erection of the boundary does not alter the fact that there is no boundary." (p.143) It results in alienation. He pursues this Freudo-Marxian synthesis by describing personality as the original private property, quoting Locke, who refers to "that property which men have in their persons as well as goods." Pursuing a military analogy of the "defense mechanisms" and "character armor" that fortify the false frontiers of the ego, Brown claims that "to have a self is to have enemies, and to be a self is to be at war." (p.149) These enemies are not only outside. Following Freud's account in "The Two Principles in Mental Functioning" (15n.) Brown identifies separation (on the outside) with repression (on the inside). The essence of repression, says Freud, is to treat an inner stimulus as if it were an outer one. (see unconscious)
For Brown, "The conclusion of the whole matter is, break down the boundaries." (p.149) "To give up boundaries is to give up the reality principle...the false boundary drawn between inside and outside, subject and object, real and imaginary, physical and mental." (see discussion of pleasure and reality principles in play.) But, according to Brown, "Freud remained officially faithful to the principle whose pretensions he finally exposed," describing the contents of the unconscious as "fantasy", and advocating that "adaption to reality" which abandons the over-valuation of mental processes as compared to reality. Instead, Brown claims that "The real world, which is not the world of the reality principle, is the world where thoughts are omnipotent, where no distinction is drawn between wish and deed." (see body thinking as Brown's alternative) "It is not schizophrenia but normality that is split-minded; in schizophrenia the false boundaries are disintegrating." (cf body image and BwO)(cf also psycho-sexual space) Most contemporary psychoanalytic thinking would describe such states as "dissociative."
Adventures in Ideas: Apollo and Dionysus Norman O. Brown
"Brown, N.O. (1960). Adventures in Ideas: Apollo and Dionysus. Psychoanal. Rev., 47A:3-23. (1960). Psychoanalytic Review, 47A:3-23
A sound instinct made Freud keep the term “sublimation,” with its age-old religious and poetical connotations. Sublimation is the use made of bodily energy by a soul which sets itself apart from the body; it is a “lifting up of the soul or its Faculties above Matter” (Swift's definition of religious enthusiasm). 1 “Writing poetry,” says Spender, “is a spiritual activity which makes one completely forget, for the time being, that one has a body. It is a disturbance of the balance of body and mind.” 2 “Mathematics,” says Bertrand Russell, “rightly viewed, possesses not only truth, but supreme beauty—a beauty cold and austere, like that of sculpture, without any appeal to our weaker nature… The true spirit of delight, the exaltation, the sense of being more than man, which is the touchstone of the highest excellence, is to be found in mathematics as surely as in poetry.” 3 And, like the doctrine of a soul distinct from the body, sublimation, as an attempt to be more than man, aims at immortality. “I shall not altogether die,” says Horace: “my sublimations will exalt me to the stars (sublimi feriam sidera vertice).”
Sublimation thus rests upon mind-body dualism, not as a philosophical doctrine but as a psychic fact implicit in the behavior of sublimators, no matter what their conscious philosophy may be. Hence Plato remains the truest philosopher, since he defined philosophy as sublimation and correctly articulated as its goal the elevation of Spirit above Matter. But, as Frazer showed, the doctrine of the external or separable soul is as old as humanity itself.
The original sublimator, the historical ancestor of philosopher and prophet and poet, is the primitive shaman, with his techniques for ecstatic departure from the body, soul-levitation, soul-transmigration, and celestial navigation. The history of sublimation has yet to be written, but from Cornford's pioneering work it is evident that Platonism, and hence all Western philosophy, is civilized shamanism —a continuation of the shamanistic quest for a higher mode of being —by new methods adapted to the requirements of urban life. The intermediate links are Pythagoras, with his soul-transmigrations, and Parmenides, the great rationalist whose rationalistic vision was vouchsafed to him by the goddess after a ride through the sky to the Palace of Night. 5The discovery of the shamanistic origins connects the historical investigation of Western philosophy with the psychoanalytical investigation. The shaman is far enough from us so that we can recognize that he is, to put it mildly, a little mad; and, as we have seen, psychoanalysis discerns an intrinsic insanity in sublimation. “Pure intelligence,” says Ferenczi, “is in principle madness.”
The aim of psychoanalysis—still unfulfilled, and still only half-conscious—is to return our souls to our bodies, to return ourselves to ourselves, and thus to overcome the human state of self-alienation. Hence since sublimation is the essential activity of soul divorced from body, psychoanalysis must return our sublimations to our bodies; and conversely, sublimation cannot be understood unless we understand the nature of the soul—in psychoanalytical terminology, the nature of the ego. Sublimation is the “ego-syntonic” way of disposing of libido. The deflection of libido from its original aim in sublimation is a deflection caused by the influence of the ego; the desexualization is the consequence of passing through the crucible of the ego. Sexual energy is bodily energy, and the desexualized is disembodied energy, or energy made soulful. Technically, therefore, we can ascribe the backwardness of the theory of sublimation to the backwardness of the psychoanalytical theory of the ego; but the backwardness of the psychoanalytical theory of the ego is really due to an existential factor —a hesitation to break with the great Western tradition of sublimation and the soul-body dualism on which it is based.
What orthodox psychoanalysis has in fact done is to re-introduce the soul-body dualism in its own new lingo, by hypostatizing the “ego” into a substantial essence which by means of “defense mechanisms” continues to do battle against the “id.” Sublimation is disposed of by listing it as a “successful” defense mechanism. In substantializing the ego, orthodox psychoanalysis follows the authority of Freud, who compared the relation of the ego to the id to that of a rider to his horse 8—a metaphor going back to Plato's Phaedrus and perpetuating the Platonic dualism. But Freud's genius always somewhere transcends itself. The proper starting point is his formula in The Ego and the Id: “The ego is first and foremost a body-ego,” “the mental projection of the surface of the body,” 9 originating in the perceptual system, and, like the perceptual system, having the function of mediating between the body and other bodies in the environment. If we can come to understand how that body-ego becomes a soul distinct from a body, we shall understand sublimation; and, by the same token, we shall understand the conditions under which the soul can recover its natural function and be again a body-ego.
At the beginning of The Ego and the Id Freud says, “The ego has the task of bringing the external world to bear upon the id and its tendencies, and endeavours to substitute the reality-principle for the pleasure-principle which reigns supreme in the id… The ego represents what we call reason and sanity, in contrast to the id which contains the passions.” The passage suggests that the force which constitutes the essence of the ego, and which it applies when it influences the id, is simply the reality-principle. In other words, the ego is simply a transparent medium between the id and the environment, and the force which causes repression and sublimation is out there in the environment.
This naïve equation of the ego and the reality-principle (and of repression and external reality) disappears from Freud's later writings, but not from the textbooks of psychoanalysis. Thus Fenichel: “The origin of the ego and the origin of the sense of reality are but two aspects of one developmental step.” The truth of the matter, according to Freud's later theory, is that the peculiar structure of the human ego results from its incapacity to accept reality, specifically the supreme reality of death and separation. The real achievement of The Ego and the Id is the pioneering effort to make an instinctual analysis of the ego, to see what the ego does with Eros and Death. And in that analysis the point of departure for the human ego is death not accepted, or separation (from the environment, i.e., the mother) not accepted, or, in Freud's preferred terminology, object-loss not accepted.
The ego, to be sure, must always mediate between external reality and the id; but the human ego, not strong enough to accept the reality of death, can perform this mediating function only on condition of developing a certain opacity protecting the organism from reality. The way the human organism protects itself from the reality of living-and-dying is, ironically, by initiating a more active form of dying, and this more active form of dying is negation. The primal act of the human ego is a negative one—not to accept reality, specifically the separation of the child's body from the mother's body. This negative posture blossoms into negation of self (repression) and negation of the environment (aggression). But negation, as the dialectical logicians recognize, and as Freud himself came to recognize when he wrote the essay “On Negation,” is a dialectical or ambivalent phenomenon, containing always a distorted affirmation of what is officially denied. To quote Freud:
Thus the subject-matter of a repressed image or thought can make its way into consciousness on condition that it is denied. Negation is a way of taking account of what is repressed; indeed, it is actually a removal of the repression, though not, of course, an acceptance of what is repressed… Negation only assists in undoing one of the consequences of repression—namely the fact that the subject-matter of the image in question is unable to enter consciousness. The result is a kind of intellectual acceptance of what is repressed, though in all essentials the repression persists.
It is thus a general law of the ego not strong enough to die, and therefore not strong enough to live, that its consciousness of both its own inner world and the external world is sealed with the sign of negation; 13 and through negation life and death are diluted to the point that we can bear them. “The result is a kind of intellectual acceptance of what is repressed, though in all essentials the repression persists.” This dilution of life is desexualization. In other words, sublimation must be understood in the light of Freud's essay “On Negation.” Sublimations, as desexualizations, are not really deflections (changes of aim) of bodily Eros, but negations. Here again it becomes apparent that psychoanalysis, if it is to break through the barrier of repression, must break through the logic of simple negation, which is the logic of repression, and adopt a dialectical logic. The mode in which higher sublimations are connected with the lower regions of the body (as postulated by psychoanalytical theory) is the dialectical affirmation-by-negation. It is by being the negation of excrement that money is excrement; and it is by being the negation of the body (the soul) that the ego remains a body-ego.
The negative orientation of the human ego is inseparable from its involuted narcissism; both are consequences of separation not accepted. The point of departure for the human ego is object-loss: in fact, Freud once defined “the process of repression proper” as consisting in “a detachment of the libido from people—and things— that were previously loved.” But the object-loss is not accepted. To quote from The Ego and the Id again: “When it happens that a person has to give up a sexual object, there quite often ensues a modification in his ego which can only be described as a reinstatement of the object within the ego.” That is to say, the object is not “lost,” but has to be actively negated, and, by the dialectical principle of affirmation-by-negation, the object is still affirmed (the identification). Thus, as a result of object-loss not accepted, the natural self-love of the organism is transformed into the vain project of being both Self and Other, and this project supplies the human ego with its essential energy. When the beloved (parental) object is lost, the love that went out to it is redirected to the self; but since the loss of the beloved object is not accepted, the human ego is able to redirect the human libido to itself only by deluding the libido by representing itself as identical with the lost object. In Freud's words, “When the ego assumes the features of the object, it forces itself, so to speak, upon the id as a love-object and tries to make good the loss of that object by saying, ‘Look, I am so like the object, you can as well love me.’” 16 In technical Freudian terms, an identification replaces object-love, and by means of such identifications object-libido is transformed into narcissistic libido.
According to The Ego and the Id, the reservoir of narcissistic libido thus formed constitutes a store of “desexualized, neutral, dis-placeable energy” at the disposal of the ego, and it is this energy which is redirected outward to reality again in the form of sublimations. Thus desexualization is an intrinsic character not just of sublimations, but of the energy constituting the ego, and this desexualization is the consequence of substituting for bodily erotic union with the world the vain, shadowy project of having the world within the self. To quote Freud, “The transformation of object-libido into narcissistic libido which thus takes place obviously implies an abandonment of sexual aims, a process of desexualization; it is consequently a kind of sublimation.” Thus the soul is the shadowy substitute for a bodily relation to other bodies.
The lost objects reinstated in the human ego are past objects; the narcissistic orientation of the human ego is inseparable from its regressive orientation, and both are produced by the dialectic of negation. The separation in the present is denied by reactivating fantasies of past union, and thus the ego interposes the shadow of the past between itself and the full reality of life and death in the present. What we call “character” is this shell imprisoning the ego in the past: “The character of the ego is a precipitate of abandoned object-cathexes.” What we call “conscience” perpetuates inside of us our bondage to past objects now part of ourselves: the super-ego “unites in itself the influences of the present and the past. In the emergence of the super-ego we have before us, as it were, an example of the way in which the present is changed into the past.”
The regressive orientation keeps not only our moral personality (character, conscience) in bondage to the past, but also our cognitive faculty—in Freudian terminology, the ego's function of testing reality. The human ego, in its cognitive function, is no transparent mirror transmitting the reality-principle to the id; it has a more active, and distorting, role consequent upon its incapacity to bear the reality of life in the present. The starting point for the human form of cognitive activity is loss of a loved reality: “The essential precondition for the institution of the function of testing reality is that objects shall have been lost which have formerly afforded real satisfaction.” 21 But the lost objects are retained and are what the cognitive ego is looking for, so that human consciousness has essentially an anamnestic aim. To quote again the essay “On Negation”:
It is now no longer a question of whether something perceived (a thing) shall be taken into the ego or not, but of whether something which is present in the ego as an image can also be rediscovered in perception (that is, reality)… Thus the first and immediate aim of the process of testing reality is not to discover an object in real perception corresponding to what is imagined, but to rediscover such an object.
More generally, as stated in The Interpretation of Dreams: All thinking is nothing but a detour, departing from the memory of a gratification and following byways till it reaches the cathexis (Freud's word) of the identical memory, now reached by the path of motor action. 23 Despite Freud's formula about substituting the reality-principle for the pleasure-principle of the id, the ego does not abolish the pleasure-principle, but derives from it the energy sustaining its exploration of reality. Thus his fundamental theorem about the human libido—every object-finding is in reality a refinding 24—is true of consciousness as well. Hence also human consciousness is inseparable from an active attempt to alter reality, so as to “regain the lost objects.” 25 The reality which the ego thus constructs and perceives is culture; and culture, like sublimation (or neurosis) has the essential quality of being a “substitute-gratification,” a pale imitation of past pleasure substituting for present pleasure, and thus essentially desexualized.
The more specific and concrete mechanism whereby the body-ego becomes a soul is fantasy. Fantasy may be defined as a hallucination which cathects the memory of gratification; 26 it is of the same structure as the dream, and has the same relation to the id and to instinctual reality as the dream. Fantasy and dreaming do not present, much less satisfy, the instinctual demands of the id, which is of the body and seeks bodily erotic union with the world; they are essentially, like neurosis, “substitute gratifications.”
Fantasy is essentially regressive; it is not just a memory, but the hallucinatory reanimation of memory, a mode of self-delusion substituting the past for the present—or rather, by negation identifying past and present. In fact, this “hallucinatory cathexis of the memory of a gratification” alone makes possible the primal act of negation, and constitutes the hidden affirmative content behind every formal negation (including repression). It is through fantasy that the ego introjects lost objects and makes identifications. Identifications, as modes of preserving past object-cathexes and thus darkening life in the present with the shadow of the past, are fantasies. Identifications as modes of installing the Other inside the Self are fantasies. Identifications, as masks worn by the ego to substitute itself for reality and endear itself to the id, are fantasies. By the same token, fantasies are those images already present in the ego which the ego in its cognitive function is seeking to rediscover in reality.
Fantasy, according to The Interpretation of Dreams, is the product of the primary process, the human organism's first solution to the problem of frustration, and the raw material for the secondary process in which the excitation arising from the need-stimulus is led through a detour, ending in voluntary motor action so as to change the real world and produce in it the real perception of the gratifying object. Isaacs, who is one of the heretics in British psychoanalysis, is, despite the opposition of that stalwart defender of orthodoxy, Edward Glover, only carrying forward the thought of the later Freud when she says that “reality-thinking cannot operate without concurrent and supporting unconscious phantasies.” Fantasy is also the mechanism whereby the ego constructs the pregenital and genital sexual organizations. Again we follow Isaacs, who says that fantasy has the power to alter the body. Perhaps we can say that since life is of the body, fantasy as the negation of life must negate specific bodily organs, so that there can be no fantasy without negation-alteration of the body.
As we saw in a previous chapter, the pregenital and genital organizations are constituted by regressive fantasies of union with the mother, attached to the specific organs where the infantile drama of separation is enacted. For example, the prototype of all “transformation of object-libido into narcissistic libido,” and therefore the prototype of all sublimation (and probably the most satisfactory of all sublimations), is infantile thumb-sucking, in which, with the aid of fantasy or dream of union with the mother, the child makes himself into both himself and his mother's breast. Altogether, therefore, the world of fantasy is that opaque shield with which the ego protects himself from reality and through which the ego sees reality; it is by living in a world of fantasy that we lead a desexualized life. In sublimation the erotic component, what is projected is these infantile fantasies, not the reality of the id. Sublimation is the continuation not of infantile sexuality but of infantile dreaming; it comes to the same thing to say that what is sublimated is infantile sexuality not as polymorphously perverse, but as organized by fantasies into the sexual organizations.
“As long as man is suckled at a woman's breast,” says Anatole France, “he will be consecrated in the temple and initiated into some mystery of the divine. He will have his dream.” 30 Culture, therefore, the product of sublimation, is, in Plato's words, the imitation of an imitation; in Pindar's words, the shadow of a dream.
Fantasy is the clue to the human neurosis and a crux in psychoanalytical theory. Freud himself was somewhat equivocal on the question whether the ultimate pathogenic material in the human psyche was actual experience or fantasy. As late as 1918 he said that “this is the most ticklish question in the whole domain of psychoanalysis.” But it was a turning point in Freud's early career when he discovered that the buried cause of neurosis was not an actual event (for example, seduction in childhood) but fantasies:
One must never allow oneself to be misled into applying to the repressed creations of the mind the standards of reality; this might result in undervaluing the importance of phantasies in symptom-formation on the ground that they are not actualities; or in deriving a neurotic sense of guilt from another source because there is no proof of actual committal of any crime. One is bound to employ the currency that prevails in the country one is exploring; in our case it is the neurotic currency.
The neurotic currency is wishes and thoughts, given reality in magic and in neurosis by the narcissistic principle of the omnipotence of thought. Hence Freud can say, “It is not really a decisive matter whether one has killed one's father or abstained from the deed; one must feel guilty in either case”; and “It is not primarily a matter of whether castration is really performed: what is important is that the boy believes in it.” Hence more generally neurotic symptoms derive not from the facts of infantile sexual life but from the fantastic theories of sexuality developed by children, and expressing the narcissistic wish to be the father of oneself. In fact it is the efflorescence of fantasy in infantile sexuality that necessitates the final catastrophic repression. Infantile sexuality is doomed because “its wishes are incompatible with reality” and it “has no real aim.”
Self-styled materialists argue that Freud, in turning from the memory of a real event to fantasy as the cause of neurosis, made a fatal “repudiation of life-experience” and “transition to unabashed idealism.” The “repudiation of life experience” and “unabashed idealism” are not Freud's, but humanity's. The recognition that we are all in practice idealists, alienated from our bodies and pursuing, like infantile sexuality itself, “no real aim,” is the precondition for overcoming, in reality as well as in theory, the mind-body dualism. The real nature of the primal fantasies is revealed by the fact that they cannot be remembered, but only re-enacted. They exist only as a neurotic way of acting in the present, and only as long as the ego perpetuates the infantile flight from life-and-death and the infantile fantasy-substitutes for the reality of living-and-dying. Or to put it another way, they do not exist in memory or in the past, but only as hallucinations in the present, which have no meaning except as negations of the present.
In his later writings Freud repeats that “hysterical symptoms spring from phantasies, and not from real events,” but his interpretation of the “phylogenetic factor” or the “archaic heritage”— i.e., the factor not traceable to individual experience—in the etiology of neurosis causes fresh difficulties. He says that “all we can find in the prehistory of neurosis is that a child catches hold of this phylogenetic experience where his own experience fails him. He fills in gaps in individual truth with prehistoric truth.” 37 It is plain from the quotation that the “phylogenetic” element is the same as the element of fantasy; the term “phylogenetic experience” really means that Freud is deriving the element in fantasy not derivable from real events in the history of the individual from real events in the history of the human race. Thus Freud's concept of the “archaic heritage” makes fantasy a real memory once more, only now it is “memory-traces of the experience of former generations.”
This line of thought makes the Primal Father and the Primal Crime real historical events—real historical events which constitute the ultimate pathogenic material in the human psyche. But in an earlier chapter we argued that psychoanalysis breaks down if it has to explain neurosis by invoking history instead of explaining history as neurosis, and that the Primal Crime is a myth, a fantasy. It still remains true that each one of us is suffering from the trauma of becoming human, a trauma first enacted in the Ice Age and re-enacted in every individual born in the human family. But the legacy of the trauma is not an objective burden of guilt transmitted by an objective inheritance of acquired characteristics—as Freud actually postulated —and imposing repression in the organism from outside and from the past, but a fantasy of guilt perpetually reproduced by the ego so that the organism can repress itself. Freud's myth of the Primal Crime still asserts the reality of the fantasy, and still maintains the repression; but an ego strong enough to live would no longer need to hallucinate its way out of life, would need no fantasies, and would have no guilt.
Fantasy, as a hallucination of what is not there dialectically negating what is there, confers on reality a hidden level of meaning, and lends a symbolical quality to all experience. The animal symbolicum (Cassirer's definition of man) is animal sublimans, committed to substitute symbolical gratification of instincts for real gratification, the desexualized animal. By the same token the animal symbolicum is the animal which has lost its world and life, and which preserves in its symbol systems a map of the lost reality, guiding the search to recover it. Thus, as Ferenczi said, the tendency to rediscover what is loved in all the things of the hostile outer world is the primitive source of symbolism. And Freud's analysis of words as a halfway house on the road back to things discloses the substitutive and provisional status of the life of symbolic satisfactions. Sublimations satisfy the instincts to the same degree as maps satisfy the desire to travel. The animal symbolicum is man enacting fantasies, man still unable to find a path to real instinctual gratification, and therefore still caught in the dream solution discovered in infancy. Already in the construction of the infantile sexual organizations fantasy confers symbolical meaning on particular parts of the child's own body. In the oral phase the dream of union with the mother is supported by thumb-sucking, and in thumb-sucking the thumb is a symbolic breast. Similarly the anal organization involves the symbolic manipulation of feces. When infantile sexuality comes to its castastrophic end with the castration complex, the child, as Freud says, gives up the body but not the fantasies. 41 Nonbodily cultural objects (sublimations) inherit the fantasies, and thus man in culture, Homo sublimans, is man dreaming while awake (Charles Lamb's definition of the poet). LaBarres' epigram expresses the literal truth: “A dollar is a solemn Sir Roger de Coverley dance, a codified psychosis normal in one subspecies of this animal, an institutionalized dream that everyone is having at once.”
Sublimation perpetuates the negative, narcissistic, and regressive solution of the infantile ego to the problem of disposing of life and death—in a word, it perpetuates the infantile dream—and yet there is a difference between sublimations and the infantile sexual organizations out of which they arise and which they perpetuate. After the castration complex the ego loses the body but keeps the fantasies. But in losing the body, the ego must in some sense lose the fantasies too (hence Freud speaks of the total abrogation of the Oedipus complex).
Fantasies, like everything else, exist only in the present, as hallucinations in the present, and must be attached to objects in the present. According to psychoanalytical theory, after their detachment from the body (in Freud's blunt style, after masturbation is given up) they are projected into reality, forming that opaque medium called culture, through which we apprehend and manipulate reality.
How is this projection effected, and what is its significance? The answer is contained in Freud's late studies of denial, specifically fetishism as the result of denial. Starting from the castration complex, Freud shows that the fact of sexual differentiation both is and is not accepted, or rather that the fact of sexual differentiation from the mother is accepted only at the cost of finding in some other external object a symbolic substitute for the penis, “a compromise formed with the aid of displacement, such as we have been familiar with in dreams.” Sublimations are formed out of infantile sexuality by the mechanism of fetishism; sublimations are denials or negations of the fantasies of infantile sexuality, and affirm them in the mode of affirmation by negation. The original fantasies are negations; sublimations are negations of negations. The original activity of the infantile sexual organizations was symbolic; sublimations are symbols of symbols. Thus sublimation is a second and higher level of desexualization; the life in culture is the shadow of a dream.
It is this second level of desexualization or negation that gives us a soul distinct from the body. Freud points out that the simultaneous acceptance and denial in fetishism involves a split in the ego. 45 Of course there is a split inherent in the ego from the start by virtue of its origin in a trauma of separation not accepted and denied by fantasy. As Ferenczi says, “There is neither shock nor fright without some trace of splitting of personality … part of the person regresses into a state of happiness that existed prior to the trauma—a trauma which it endeavours to annul.” 46 But while the infantile bodyego works out compromises between its soul (i.e., fantasies) and its body (the infantile sexual organizations), and, as Freud said, the child remains its own ideal, 47 the adult body-ego, as structured by the castration complex, has to break itself in two because it is called upon to choose between body and soul; it cannot abandon the body, and is not strong enough to give up the soul. By a process of “narcissistic self-splitting” the ego is divorced from the super-ego: the whole stratum of abandoned object-cathexes (identifications) which form its own character becomes unconscious; and, in Schilder's terminology, the intellectual ego is split from the body-ego.
But the ego cannot get rid of the body: it can only negate it, and by negating it, dialectically affirm it. Hence all symbolism, even in the highest flights of sublimation, remains body symbolism. “The derisive remark was once made against psychoanalysis,” says Ferenczi, “that the unconscious sees a penis in every convex object and a vagina or anus in every concave one. I find that this sentence well characterizes the facts.” 49 Infantile sexuality (in the infantile sexual organizations) negates the world and attempts to make a world out of its own body. Sublimation negates the body of childhood and seeks to construct the lost body of childhood in the external world. Infantile sexuality is an autoplastic compensation for the loss of the Other; sublimation is an alloplastic compensation for the loss of Self.
Hence the hidden aims of sublimation and the cultural process is the progressive discovery of the lost body of childhood. As we saw in the last chapter, the repressed unconscious can become conscious only by being transformed into an external perception, by being projected. According to Freud, the mythological conception of the universe, which survives even in the most modern religions, is only psychology projected onto the outer world. 50 Not just mythology but the entirety of culture is projection. In the words of Spender, “The world which we create—the world of slums and telegrams and newspapers—is a kind of language of our inner wishes and thoughts.”
The first breakthrough of the insight which flowers into psychoanalysis occurs in German idealism, in Hegel's notion of the world as the creation of spirit and, even, more, in Novalis' notion of the world as the creation of the magic power of fantasy. In fact, there is a certain loss of insight reflected in the tendency of psychoanalysis to isolate the individual from culture. Once we recognize the limitations of talk from the couch, or rather, once we recognize that talk from the couch is still an activity in culture, it becomes plain that there is nothing for psychoanalysis to psychoanalyze except these projections—the world of slums and telegrams and newspapers—and thus psychoanalysis fulfills itself only when it becomes historical and cultural analysis. It also follows that consciousness of the repressed unconscious is itself a cultural and historical product, since the repressed unconscious can become conscious only by being transformed into an external perception in the form of a cultural projection.
Cultures therefore differ from each other not in the content of the repressed—which consists always in the archetypical fantasies generated by the universal nature of human infancy—but in the various kinds and levels of the return of the repressed in projections made possible by various kinds and levels of environment, technology, etc. Hence those psychoanalytically minded anthropologists who attempt to explain the varieties of culture from the variable actualities of infant-rearing practices are chasing a will-o'-the-wisp. The pathogenic material in culture, as in the individual, is not the real experience of childhood, but fantasy. Hence, on the other hand, psychoanalysis, as a new and higher mode of consciousness of the unconscious, was made possible by the industrial revolution and its new revelation, or projection, of human psychology. Psychoanalysis is part of the romantic reaction.
Sublimation is the search for lost life; it presupposes and perpetuates the loss of life and cannot be the mode in which life itself is lived. Sublimation is the mode of an organism which must discover life rather than live, must know rather than be. As a result of its origin in object-loss (first loss of the Other, then loss of Self) human consciousness (the ego) is burdened not only with a repressive function distinguishing men from other animals, but also with a cognitive function distinguishing men from animals. The human consciousness, in addition to the function of exploring the outside world, is burdened with the additional task of discovering the sequestered inner world. The result is an inevitable distortion of both the outer and the inner world. Projections, with their fetishistic displacement of inner fantasies, must distort the external world. In Freud's words, the boy saves his own penis at the cost of giving the lie to reality.
Projections bring the inner world to consciousness only under the general sign of negation or alienation; their relation to the inner world must be denied. Sublimation perpetuates the incapacity of the infantile ego to bear the full reality of living and dying, and continues the infantile mechanism (fantasy) for diluting (desexualizing) experience to the point where we can bear it. From the psychology of dreams Freud derived the basic law that the conscious system (the “secondary process”) can cathect an idea only when it is able to inhibit any pain that may arise from that idea. Sublimation inhibits pain by keeping experience at a distance and interposing a veil between consciousness and life. We project, says Freud, only those things about which we do not know and do not want to know, so that we can know without knowing all. Again quoting Freud:
To be thus able not only to recognize, but at the same time to rid himself of, reality is of great value to the individual, and he would wish to be equipped with a similar weapon against the often merciless claims of his instincts. That is why he takes such pains to project, i.e., to transfer outwards, all that becomes troublesome to him from within …
A particular way is adopted of dealing with any internal excitations which produce too great an increase of unpleasure: there is a tendency to treat them as though they were acting, not from the inside, but from the outside, so that it may be possible to bring the shield against stimuli into operation as a means of defence against them. This is the origin of projection, which is destined to play such a large part in the causation of pathological processes.
The basic mechanism for producing this desexualization of life, this holding of life at a distance, is, as we have seen, negation; sublimation is life entering consciousness on condition that it is denied. The negative moment in sublimation is plain in the inseparable connection between symbolism (in language, science, religion, and art) and abstraction. Abstraction, as Whitehead has taught us, is a denial of the living organ of experience, the living body as a whole; in Freud's words, “Subordinating sense-perception to an abstract idea was a triumph of spirituality [Geistigkeit] over the senses; more precisely an instinctual renunciation accompanied by its psychologically necessary consequences.” The dialectic of negation and alienation appears in the history of the sublimating consciousness as a law of ever increasing abstraction. Our deepest knowledge of ourselves is attained only on condition of the higher abstraction. Abstraction, as a mode of keeping life at a distance, is supported by that negation of the “lower” infantile sexual organizations which effects a general “displacement from below upwards” of organ eroticism to the head, especially to the eyes: 58 Os homini sublime dedit caelumque videre jussit. The audiovisual sphere is preferred by sublimation because it preserves distance; the incest taboo in effect says you may enjoy your mother only by looking at her from a distance. Whitehead too has criticized as a form of abstraction the restriction of cognition to “a few definite avenues of communication with the external world … preferably the eyes.” As life restricted to the seen, and by hallucinatory projection seen at a distance, and veiled by negation and distorted by symbolism, sublimation perpetuates and elaborates the infantile solution, the dream.
If the mechanism of sublimation is the dream, the instinctual economy which sustains it is a primacy of death over life in the ego. The path which leads from infantile dreaming to sublimation originates in the ego's incapacity to accept the death of separation, and its inauguration of those morbid forms of dying—negation, repression, and narcissistic involution. The end result is to substitute for the reality of living-and-dying the desexualized or deadened life. This conclusion, so shattering to the hope of finding in sublimation a “way out”—and therefore omitted in the encyclopedias of psychoanalytical orthodoxy—is squarely faced and stated by Freud in The Ego and the Id: “By thus obtaining possession of the libido from the objectcathexes, setting itself up as the love-object, and desexualizing or sublimating the libido of the id, the ego is working in opposition to the purposes of Eros and placing itself at the service of the opposing instinctual trends.”
And since the dialectic of sublimation in civilization is cumulative, cumulatively abstract and cumulatively deadening, Freud's intuition that civilization moves toward the primacy of intellect and the atrophy of sexuality is correct. 62 At the end of the road is pure intelligence, and, in the aphoristic formula of Ferenczi, “Pure intelligence is a product of dying, or at least of becoming mentally insensitive.” But, as Freud also stated in The Ego and the Id, this solution disrupts the harmony between the two instincts, resulting in a “defusion of Eros into aggressiveness”: “After sublimation the erotic component no longer has the power to bind the whole of the destructive elements that were previously combined with it, and these are released in the form of inclinations to aggression and destruction.” Thus the path of cumulative sublimation is also the path of cumulative aggression and guilt, aggression being the revolt of the baffled instincts against the desexualized and inadequate world, and guilt being the revolt against the desexualized and inadequate self.
If there is a “way out” from the dialectic of cumulative repression, guilt, and aggression, it must lie not in sublimation but in an alternative to sublimation. To understand our present predicament we have to go back to its origins, to the beginning of Western civilization and to the Greeks, who taught and still teach how to sublimate, and who worshiped the god of sublimation, Apollo. Apollo is the god of form—of plastic form in art, of rational form in thought, of civilized form in life. But the Apollonian form is form as the negation of instinct. “Nothing too much,” says the Delphic wisdom; “Observe the limit, fear authority, bow before the divine.” Hence Apollonian form is form negating matter, immortal form; that is to say, by the irony that overtakes all flight from death, deathly form. Thus Plato, as well as his shamanistic predecessors Abaris and Aristeas, is a son of Apollo. Apollo is masculine; but, as Bachofen saw, his masculinity is the symbolical (or negative) masculinity of spirituality. Hence he is also the god who sustains “displacement from below upward,” who gave man a head sublime and told him to look at the stars. Hence his is the world of sunlight, not as nature symbol but as a sexual symbol of sublimation and of that sunlike eye which perceives but does not taste, which always keeps a distance, like Apollo himself, the Far-Darter. And, as Nietzsche divined, the stuff of which the Apollonian world is made is the dream. Apollo rules over the fair world of appearance as a projection of the inner world of fantasy; and the limit which he must observe, “that delicate boundary which the dream-picture must not overstep,” 65 is the boundary of repression separating the dream from instinctual reality.
But the Greeks, who gave up Apollo, also gave us the alternative, Nietzsche's Dionysus. Dionysus is not dream but drunkenness, not life kept at a distance and seen through a veil but life complete and immediate. Hence, says Nietzsche, “The entire symbolism of the body is called into play, not the mere symbolism of the lips, face, and speech, but the whole pantomime of dancing, forcing every member into rhythmic movement” (Rilke's “natural speech by means of the body” 67). The Dionysian “is no longer an artist, he has become a work of art.” 68 Hence Dionysus does not observe the limit, but overflows; for him the road of excess leads to the palace of wisdom; Nietzsche says that those who suffer from an overfullness of life want a Dionysian art. 69 Hence he does not negate any more. This, says, Nietzsche, is the essence of the Dionysian faith. 70 Instead of negating, he affirms the dialectical unity of the great instinctual opposites: Dionysus reunifies male and female, Self and Other, life and death. Dionysus is the image of the instinctual reality which psychoanalysis will find the other side of the veil. Freud saw that in the id there is no negation, only affirmation and eternity. In an earlier chapter we saw that the reality from which the neurotic animal flees in vain is the unity of life and death. In this chapter we have seen the dreams of infantile sexuality and of Apollonian sublimation are not, are negations of, the instinctual reality. The instinctual reality is Dionysian drunkenness; in Freud's words, “We can come nearer to the id with images, and call it a chaos, a cauldron of seething excitement.”
The human ego must face the Dionysian reality, and therefore a great work of self-transformation lies ahead of it. For Nietzsche was right in saying that the Apollonian preserves, the Dionysian destroys, self-consciousness. As long as the structure of the ego is Apollonian, Dionysian experience can only be bought at the price of egodissolution. Nor can the issue be resolved by a “synthesis” of the Apollonian and the Dionysian; the problem is the construction of a Dionysian ego. Hence the later Nietzsche preaches Dionysus, and to see in this Dionysus a synthesis of Apollo and Dionysus is to sacrifice insight for peace of mind. Not only does Dionysus without the Dionyian ego threaten us with dissolution of consciousness; he also threatens us with that “genuine witches' brew,” “that horrible mixture of sensuality and cruelty (Nietzsche again 73), which is the revolt of the Dionysian against the Apollonian, and an ambivalent mixture, but no fusion, between the instinctual opposites.
Since we are dealing with bodily realities, not abstract intellectual principles, it is well to listen to one who knew not only the life of the mind, but also the life of the body and the art of the body as we do not—Isadora Duncan, who tells how she experienced the Dionysian ecstasy as “the defeat of the intelligence,” “the final convulsion and sinking down into nothingness that often leads to the gravest disasters—for the intelligence and the spirit.” 74 But her Dionysian ecstasy is the orgasm—that one moment, she says, worth more and more desirable than all else in the universe. The Dionysian ego would be freed from genital organization and of that necessity of “ridding the organism of sexual cravings and concentrating these in the genital” (Ferenczi 75). While the Apollonian ego is the ego of genital organization, the Dionysian ego would be once more a body-ego and would not have to be dissolved in body-rapture.
The work of constructing a Dionysian ego is immense; but there are signs that it is already under way. If we can discern the Dionysian witches' brew in the upheavals of modern history—in the sexology of de Sade and the politics of Hitler—we can also discern in the romantic reaction the entry of Dionysus into consciousness. It was Blake who said that the road of excess leads to the palace of wisdom; Hegel was able to see the dialectic of reality as “the bacchanalian revel, in which no member is not drunk.” And the heirs of the romantics are Nietzsche and Freud. The only alternative to the witches' brew is psychoanalytical consciousness, which is not the Apollonian scholasticism of orthodox psychoanalysis, but consciousness embracing and affirming instinctual reality—Dionysian consciousness."
"Brown’s aim in Life Against Death, as in Hermes the Thief, is to “open up a new point of view.” In this case, his goal is “to renew psychoanalysis, and through psychoanalysis renew thought on the nature and destiny of man.” Brown turns to Freud at this stage in his career because “Psychoanalysis claims to be a breakthrough through phenomena to the hidden noumenal reality, at least with regard to knowledge of ourselves.” As in Hermes the Thief, Brown is interested in that which embodies an open/hidden dialectic, in this case, the “noumenal unconscious,” a “chaos, a cauldron of seething excitement,” which discloses itself indirectly in neurotic symptoms, dreams, and errors. The most salient characteristic of this “noumenal” unconscious is its drive for unity. The noumenal unconscious, driven by the pleasure principle seeks unity as a mode of being as a well as unification with others.
For Brown, unity is the hidden basis of reality, the key to personal happiness, and the precondition of a healthy society. In all of his work he begins from the premise that there is a hidden, underlying unity to all phenomena and that the dualisms that govern Western modes of perception—the distinction between soul and body, spirit and matter, self and other—are provisional mental constructions. In Life Against Death he seeks to unify the self by bringing the soul and the mind back to the body. He argues throughout his career that religious and philosophical discourse separates soul from body and makes spirit superior to matter. Enlightenment rationalism especially, as exemplified by Descartes in the cogito, separates mind from body, with devastating consequences. To Brown it is an “insane delusion that the true essence of man lies in disembodied mental activity.”
He believes that “we are nothing but body...life is of the body and only life creates values; all values are bodily values.” Because of his insistence on the body, Brown is not mystic in the traditional sense. He does not advocate flight from reality, or longing for the next world as a means to happiness. Instead he poses an alternative mysticism, Dionysian body-mysticism, “which stays with life, which is the body, and seeks to transform and perfect it.” Rather than being a Romantic, or an Utopian, Brown is more truly described as mythic and esoteric. He identifies Dionysus as the archetype of his body-mysticism because Dionysus reconciles opposites in his mythology: mind and body, self and other, life and death, east and west, animal and man, god and man, and male and female. In his conflict with and mastery of Pentheus in the Bacchae, Dionysus most clearly reflects the inevitable victory of the noumenal unconscious over quantifying, categorical rationality. Dionysus also signifies for Brown an irrepressible animating energy at the root of being, that by nature overflows. Brown achieved considerable notoriety in 1959 for calling for an erotic approach to reality, an approach based “not on anxiety and aggression but on narcissism and erotic exuberance.”
In his call to return the soul to the body, to bring play back to work, to deconstruct the sexual organization of the body, and to integrate “Dionysus,” the drunken principle of unity” into the daily life of the mind-body, Brown is not advocating anarchy or even sexual liberation, as he was frequently misconstrued, especially since one of the most radical claims in his book is that genital sexuality and even gender itself is a deformation of the body. Brown is interested in a mode of perception that recovers a primal sense of unity with the world, without rejecting the lived experience of separation and dying. Brown is looking for a this-world, body- centered, concrete sensual philosophy that reconciles mind-body dualism, while staying with the body. A Dionysian body, governed by an androgynous, all-Body Eros, rather than an ego that restricts libidinal energy to a specific zone would be noumenal, akin to the diamond body of the Taoists, or the hermaphroditic ideal of Rilke. Life is then experienced as “complete and “immediate.” The Dionysian then is not a higher mode of consciousness, but a more radical experience of presence. In accepting the life of the entire body, including its death, we magnify life.
Brown might also be considered a foundational thinker in the field of esotericism because he draws on the work of Jacob Boehme in his understanding of the human condition. In seeking an alternative to sublimation, “real instinctual gratification,” Brown draws on other esoteric sources as well: “the Christian Pauline notion of the spiritual body, the Jewish cabalistic notion of Adam’s perfect body before the Fall, and the alchemical notion of the subtle body.” These models, which unite in Boehme, Brown’s chief model, offer a form of body-mysticism that recognizes an “indestructible allegiance” to the pleasure principle: “the potent demand in our unconscious both for an androgynous mode of being and for a narcissistic mode of self-expression, as well as the corruption in our current use of the oral, anal, and genital functions.” But in uniting the polymorphously perverse body with the paradisical body, Brown goes beyond the “ambiguously immaterial” forms of his model. Boehme’s visions lack materiality because of his mystic’s refusal to accept a body that dies. Human Perfectibility, the Dionysian body-ego—the body satisfied— depends upon the ego facing death. This unifies the life and death instincts, and recovers the ego’s original nature as the sensitive surface of the entire body.
Brown unites in the Dionysian Body the id, “the knowledge of the active life of all the body,” and the ego,” the mental projection of the surface of the body.” The result is an hermaphroditic ideal, an erotic, playful approach to reality: concrete, sensual, lived experience guided by the pleasure principle: the unification of the self, and union with others. The human body becomes “polymorphously perverse, delighting in that full life of all the body which it now fears.” “The consciousness strong enough to endure full life would be no longer Apollonian but Dionysian-consciousness which does not observe the limit, but overflows; consciousness which does not negate anymore.” The result is the resurrection of the body, the “transformation of this bodily life into play.”
The unification of soul, mind, and body, id and ego translates into practical terms as exuberant lived experience expunged as much as possible of neuroses. The healthy, unified individual would exist in a state of radical presence liberated from an obsessive regard for the past or the future. The healthy individual would “delight in the active life of all the body.” Guided by the pleasure principle, or “erotic, creative self-enjoyment,” the healthy individual would not deny the body, repressed by Western rationality, which elevates mind over body, and reason over instinct. The activity most pregnant with the noumenal unconscious or life instinct is play.38 In a life governed by the pleasure principle the dichotomy between work and play is overcome: “In play life expresses itself in its fullness; therefore play as an end means that life itself has intrinsic value.” Finally, the healthy individual would embrace death and integrate the knowledge of death into his or her daily experience. The inability to live in the body, the denial of death and the drive to sublimate, which is the desire to be immortal, keeps experience at a distance. In practical terms, as a way of living, the reconciliation of life and death is “the possibility of activity (life) which is also at rest.” The “condition of equilibrium or rest of life that is a full life unrepressed and therefore satisfied with itself and affirming itself rather than changing itself.” The closest correlate to the Dionysian body, in which the life and death instincts, the ego and the id are unified is the Taoist tradition of doing-not-doing, where the do-er is so consumed with his activity that he does not have an awareness of time. In Brown’s formulation, life becomes an “Eternal Sabbath,” because the death instinct no longer drives one to change the self and make history.
As esotericist, Brown devotes much of his life to sundering the mind-body distinction endemic to Western culture and in challenging the integrity of the self as a discrete, separate entity from others. From Life Against Death to his final essays published in Apocalypse and/or Metamorphosis, Brown weaves an alternative concept of self-hood that is indebted to the esoteric philosophies of Spinoza, Giordano Bruno and Whitehead’s philosophy of organism. Brown absolutely dissolves the boundaries of the self—recognizing the “individual” as we know it to be an illusion: a largely linguistic reality buttressing a bourgeois investment in private property, the social contract, moral responsibility, and even the myth of amorous love (romantic love, writes Brown, is an affect, an amalgam of learned responses). The underlying principle of unity latent in the polymorphous human being finds its analogue in the principle of unity underlying the species. “The reality of our life, the reality of which we are ignorant, the reality which we do not want to accept, is our fluid membership and causal interdependence in the intercommunicating world of bodies.” Self and other are mutually constitutive as part in relation to whole: “Real individuality is the full presence of the whole in every part: in Giordano Bruno’s formula, ‘wholly in the whole and wholly in every part of the whole.’” Like Blake, Spinoza and Bruno, Brown believes that humans are not discrete bodies idenitified by form, function, and purpose but energy systems, “ratios of motion and rest, interacting affecting, and being affected,” “complicated energy systems in complex interaction with other energy systems.”
In this philosophy of organismic materialism the idea of purpose is replaced by the idea of process (immanent necessity), the idea of a self-expressive totality (God = Nature) expressing itself by self-differentiating individuation. Individuals have no independent, substantial existence; to realize the real potentialities of any individual thing is to activate it as a partial expression of the whole. Individual existence means to interact with the rest of existence in a flux of communicative exchange (the process). At every level individuality is constituted by being a whole composed of constituent individuals, itself in turn a constituent part of a larger whole.
Central to Brown’s work is his conviction that community is the salvation of our species. His ideal for the species is “the maximalization to the greatest possible degree, of the communist principle” – the mass revelation that we are all one body—Love’s Body. Isolation, atomization, the quantifying sensibility of Western rationality is a threat to the individual and to the species. The perfection of the individual and the fulfillment of personal happiness rests in the union of the individual with other bodies. For Brown, death makes us seem like individuals when we are actually collective parts of one body. Indeed, citing Dante, Brown observes that the human species, made in the image of God, is most like God when it is unified.
Brown’s vision of the collective human body is not totalitarian as one critic argues. His view of unity is in direct contrast to that established by the social contract which limits individual power in the interests of social cohesion: “The ‘common consent’ which establishes the social contract” writes Brown, “has nothing to do with the ideal unification based on the discovery of our identical human nature and common good. The ideal unification, which is the only real unification, does not surrender or diminish the powers of conjoining individuals but on the contrary is their expansion.” Brown never loses faith in the power of communitas. But he seeks political and social action guided by the pleasure principle, which unifies, as opposed to the reality principle, which separates. The goal is an expansion in power for each part and the simultaneous expansion in power of the whole.
To Brown, we are suffering not from a repressed longing for death but from excess of life. How shall we spend the energy? The problem, Brown argues, is not in the forces of production, as they were for Marx, but in the forces of consumption. Brown identifies Dionysian processes in Capitalism: “Its essential nature is to be out of control: exuberant energy, exploiting every opportunity, but without the supporting Dionysian body ego, capitalism is neurotic.” In 1990, in the context of global capitalism, Brown discerns an even more destructive form of sublimation, “the predominance of vicarious entertainment” in the “life of the masses”:
what Blake would call spectral enjoyment—everything on TV; the lifestyles of the rich and famous offering vicarious participation in spectacles of waste; spectator sports offering vicarious agonistics; democracy restricted to mass voting for media stars.
The excesses of late twentieth century capitalism promote sublimation. Life is held at an even further remove. The way out, finally, for Brown, is another vision of unity: the recognition that we are one body with the collective problem of surplus consumption.
Brown continues to maintain his faith in the possibility of unity while retaining a Marxist sensibility in “Dionysus in 1990.” He seeks the reconciliation of the antithesis between the mystic and concrete in his hopeful vision of humanity in the electronic age: “polymorphous intercommunication between all bodies and the maximilization to the highest possible degree of the communist principle.”63 Rather than “Romantic” or “Utopian,” Brown is esoteric in his emphasis on the reconciliation of opposites as an avenue to Truth. “The Point to be arrived at” he writes in Apocalypse and/or Metamorphosis is the coincidence of opposites—“Love Hath Reason, Reason none.”"[[You must be registered and logged in to see this link.]]
Lyssa Har Har Harr
Gender : Posts : 9031 Join date : 2012-03-01 Location : The Cockpit
"Freud did not discover the Unconscious. What he did do was to endow it with a language, a ritual, and a church. The general spirit of the language, which conveys that our instinctual needs are central to us, and that they operate in a hidden, devious and cunning manner, seems to me unquestionably sound. The more specific doctrines articulated in that idiom seem to me questionable, unproven, and above all inherently elusive: if true by chance on one occasion or another, there is no way of retaining or retrieving the truth or stiffening the link between assertion and fact, given the loose and slippery nature of the assertions. The obverse of the evasion of all contrary evidence, is that when analysis does stumble upon truth, the elusiveness of its concepts, their fragile links to reality, prevent any retrieval of the truth in analogous circumstances.
The basic picture presented by Freudianism is that the Unconscious is hidden behind an unscalable, impenetrable Wall; and that there is one legitimate and well-authenticated Checkpoint Charlie at which one can get through, namely psychoanalysis; and hence that, by using this exclusively controlled point of penetration, ailments rooted in our Unconscious (and without any doubt, there must be many such) can only or best be cured by availing ourselves of the good offices of the guards who are in control of Checkpoint Sigmund, as it should properly be called.
It is a very essential feature of psychoanalysis that it does not distinguish – and indeed does everything to obscure – the utter distinctiveness of the two theses: (a) the Wall exists, there is indeed a powerful and cunning Unconscious, and (b) Checkpoint Sigmund is an effective and trustworthy communications-point. (a) is true; (b) is not.
For various reasons, the amount of unconscious self-deception, by both partners, in the psychoanalytic therapeutic relationship, must be far greater even than that which is normal in most other intimate human situations. The reason why this must be so is that it has been so constructed as to be largely free of the normal extraneous and independent checks which in other situations help limit our self-deceit, and which alone are capable of doing it, while the incentives impelling the participants eventually to agree on a negotiated interpretation, optimally favourable to their self-images, are very strong.
It is indisputably true that prolonged free association in the prescribed situation engenders powerful emotions. It is also very plausible to suppose that intense emotion is connected with continuous and unconscious attitudes and conflicts. But it does not follow from these two propositions that free association reveals truths about the Unconscious, or that the recognition of such truths is therapeutically effective. It is probably true that this method reveals some emotionally septic areas; it is not at all evident that it either reveals all of them, or that it reveals truths about them, or that this process cures. The contrary inference is the central non sequitur of psychoanalysis." [The Psychoanalytic Movement: The Cunning of Unreason]
"Freudian terminology is an easy-to-learn, plausible jargon which sensitises one to this truth, and to that extent constitutes an improvement on other and older idioms. Here there is a striking parallel with Hegel (and his disciple Marx). He too invented an easy slide-off-the-tongue idiom which decoded not so much the psyche as history. He too returned meaning and hope to a disenchanted world, rejoined fact and value, saved the world from cold inquiry and handed it over to facile humanist peddlers of salvation.
Just as Hegelian-type doctrines, notably Marxism, have succeeded in restating social and political issues in the context of the recognition of deep and persistent historical change, which see man as part of history, so Freudianism has succeeded in offering a vision, ethic, and technique of pastoral care, which firmly place man in the context of nature. At the same time, however, it sins against another modern requirement: the need for cognitive growth, which in turn presupposes that each intellectual system be judged, in the end, by data not under its own control. Freudianism systematically controls its own data base.
The Unconscious is, among other things, a name for a certain relationship between substance and evidence. This daemon controls his own manifestations, the evidence about himself, and he is purposive and cunning. This relationship ensures both the persistence of the substance, and the loosening (to any required extent) of all operational precision of subsidiary theories.
Two Nobel prize-winners have put their assessment on record:
F. A. Hayek wrote:
". . . I believe men will look back on our age as an age of superstition, chiefly connected with the names of Karl Marx and Sigmund Freud."
P. Medawar wrote:
". . . psychoanalysts will continue to perpetrate the most ghastly blunders just so long as they persevere in their impudent and intellectually disabling belief that they enjoy a ‘privileged access to truth’ (M. H. Stern, International Journal of Psycho-analysis, 53, p. 13, 1972). The opinion is gaining ground that doctrinaire psychoanalytic theory is the most stupendous intellectual confidence trick of the twentieth century."
[The Psychoanalytic Movement: The Cunning of Unreason]
"Modern man (at any rate when living in the social regions which provide the normal catchment area of psychoanalysis) does not live in fear of hunger, nor of being the object of constant physical aggression. But, all the same, he does live in fear and trembling. What scares him is other people. Life is not a struggle for bread, but for attention and acceptance. He is terrified of being disliked and ignored – above all, perhaps, of being ignored. Give us this day our daily attention!
And what is by far the most important sign of being assessed favourably? That others really listen when you speak. We are social animals. The essence of our lives is not that we pursue aims dictated to us directly by our biological condition but, on the contrary, that we enact roles, which mediate between biology and society. Our contentment depends on being allowed to enact the roles we yearn to assume. We rather fancy our roles, and we act out our roles to a Generalised Other when no one else is about. We fear for our existence, like the tree in the quad, if our role is not perceived and accepted. But most of the time no one listens. We are not allowed to deliver our message, to play out our role . . .
If something is ardently desired but in short supply, the inevitable consequence is that some people will purchase that passionately sought commodity. In the case of sex, the result is prostitution. One of the latent but supremely important aspects of psychoanalysis, is that it provides the possibility of purchasing a regular supply of sustained, careful attention.
But there is an interesting difference between this aspect of the technique and prostitution: both in the case of sex and of attention, some shame attaches to buying that which attractive and prestigious people get for free. But the person who purchases the regular hour’s attention of a therapist does not need to concede, to himself or others, that it is attention he is buying, and that he is incapable of securing it by more conventional means. After all, the whole technique contains as part of its associated ideology, a plausible account of why the technique itself is used – and that account does not include an acknowl- edgement of the role of attention-starvation.
Psychoanalysis simultaneously swamps the patient with more attention than he has ever known before, thus enormously raising his sense of his own status; and at the very same time, wholly deprives him of any role, by ordering him to associate ‘freely’, i.e. to refrain from presenting any coherent façade. He is given the expectation, however, that a role will eventually be restored to him – but only if for the time being he cooperates in temporarily shedding any and every role. The exquisite pleasure of being (at long last) listened to by someone, and the eager hope of acquiring a role (and a better one to boot) in due course, keep him shackled inside the system. The attention saturation, coupled with total role-deprivation, and the slow, very slow role-granting, is probably the main key to the understanding of transference.
So nothing in the theory promises miraculous manipulation of external reality – a promise that would of course be absurd. Unlike Stoi- cism, psychoanalysis does not promise the good man that he will be happy even on the rack: but only that his unhappiness on the rack will be ordinary, and not neurotic. He will no longer be tormented by the unconscious meanings which the rack has for him.
The un-neurotic man knows how to manage the outer world; or if he fails; you can trust him to live with that occasional failure without neurotic, but merely with ordinary (hence tolerable), unhappiness. But most probably, once he has got himself sorted out, he won’t need to face that situation too often. In any case, given the overall situation (being at the mercy of the Unconscious we do not understand), the only sensible strategy is to get oneself sorted out first, and then deal with the outer world on optimal terms.
Note that all this must sound like the promise of bliss to our hero. He can’t cope very well with the external world; he has failed more than once, and plausibly suspects that the fault is in himself not in his stars; and he most certainly isn’t capable of accommodating himself to his failures with merely ‘ordinary’, un-neurotic, tolerable unhappiness. (In brief, he exemplifies the human condition.) He suspects that his failure to manipulate the outside world to his own satisfaction, and his failure to come to terms with his own lack of success without acute, ‘neurotic’ unhappiness, spring from the same source. He is certainly encouraged in this supposition. He is explicitly promised the ability to face reality, and implicitly he is more than half-promised a greater efficaciousness in attaining his ends. So is he not, in effect, promised a very great deal?
The indisputable chuzpah inheres not so much in people, but in a system of ideas and practices which has a marked unity and which needs to be understood. The claim to cognitive privilege has been made not only by practitioners, but also on occasion endorsed by philosophers.
The provision of human warmth and solace, much in demand in our society, is uncertain and precarious. In this situation, the vacuum principle operates: something must fill this crying need. It is psychologically impossible to tell sufferers that no help is available, even if it is true. And even if one told them, most of them would not be willing or able to accept it. A doctrine and organisation which confidently implies a promise of relief through the implication of its key ideas, and whose doctrinal orchestration and prima facie plausibility is greatly superior to that of its rivals, cannot but be heeded, especially when the technique itself supplies eagerly sought human contact and reassurance as part of the profound cure, and excludes critical assessment of itself by the implicit rules which succour-seekers must obey if the amelioration of their condition is to be attained. Once established, the Principle of Institutionalisation also operates very effectively. Any doctrine and practice which acquires a good institutional base, can thereafter survive even if its doctrinal claims are not substantiated, and, interestingly enough, even if it itself, sotto voce and in small print, disavows all its own erstwhile striking claims and promises. There are other very good examples of this." [The Psychoanalytic Movement: The Cunning of Unreason]
"Plato and Freud hold virtually the same theory of dreams. They hold all in all rather similar tripartite theories of the structure of the human soul/personality. In each case, the central piece of evidence for a personality composed of multiple and often warring elements, is the indisputable fact of inner conflict. Each of us must be many, if parts of us can and do defy and denounce other parts. Each offers mankind a recipe for salvation hinging on the adoption of a technique of moral regeneration/illumination patented and invented by themselves, and each has some difficulty in explaining his own unaided emergence into an as yet unregenerate world. Freud’s allegedly heroic self-analysis, overcoming the cunning and all-powerful hydra of the Unconscious, which presumably was having an off-day (or perhaps was not used to opponents as heroic and penetrating as our Sigmund), is as puzzling and mysterious as the birth of a pure philosophical soul, like Plato’s own, into a degenerate world, within which (according to the theory itself) there really was no longer any room for it.
But, interesting and suggestive as the direct parallels between Plato and Freud may be, what is really significant and illuminating is the inverse relationship between the two thinkers. In a really important sense, Freud constitutes the inversion of Plato: he is Plato stood-on- his-head.
Freud’s self-given task was in effect the same as Plato’s: to understand the human condition and extract the morality contained in it.
But the terms of reference within which they worked were different. Plato assumed a basically stable social order (or rather, one whose norm was stability, and within which change was pathological), with an in principle stable cognitive capital, and a fundamentally hierarchical ordering, which pervaded the soul, society, forms of pleasure, forms of knowledge and forms of being. Freud, on the contrary, lived in an egalitarian age which also assumed, needed and believed in cognitive growth, under the names of science and progress. But the most crucial difference of all was the naturalisation of man: the need to see man as part of nature. Plato could and did assume an inherent hierarchy in the very nature of things, and his entire strategy of the validation of norms hinged upon this: the higher kinds of entity were recognised by the higher elements of the soul, appealed to the higher tastes within the soul, and then ordained, in this circular self-validating manner, the commandments which Plato communicated to his audience. He assumed a value-loaded, hierarchical cosmos, not a rule-bound, morally neutral nature.
Naturalism makes any such Platonic approach impossible nowadays. It is naturalism which sets the terms of reference of Freud’s task, which altogether revises the background of the problem. The most conspicuous reflection of this is of course the difference between Plato’s and Freud’s treatment of the super-ego. Plato, whose perception of its psychodynamic role within the personality is much the same as Freud’s, takes it and its demands at face value. The self-proclaimed tyrant within the soul is taken at his own valuation and deferentially anointed. Freud does not do this: the essence of Freudianism is that the super-ego is seen as of this world, tainted by the same ailments, and above all with the same self-deception and irrationality as anything else. This is a crucial part of the Nietzschean heritage.
Deprived of a trust in the super-ego, deprived of an inherent, metaphysical hierarchy rooted in the very nature of things which could then dictate our values, how on earth can the Platonic task, of understand- ing ourselves and thereby learning what we should do, be accomplished? Freud was in many ways the son, and the voice, of a bourgeois age, and the first part of the Freudian message (repeated with even greater emphasis by some of his followers) was – in the republic of the soul, strengthen the middle class! The old autocratic despotism of the super-ego be damned, and, above all, it is to be weakened by having its disreputable sources and its disingenuity publicly laid bare; the secret misdeeds of the old rulers are widely publicised in the interests of undermining their authority; but the unruly proletariat must still be controlled or, better still, embourgeoised: ‘where id was, there shall ego be!’ Where there had been an undisciplined intra-psychic mob of the id, of unrestrained blind lust, a kind of new property-owning responsible democracy of enlightened self-interest, of desires wise to themselves and the opportunity cost of satisfactions, shall be established . . . Freud’s grand strategy for the psyche was in no way original, it was entirely of a piece with the typical enlightened middle-class attitude to the working classes. They are not to be suppressed; they are to be given the vote, encouraged to buy their own homes, to be responsible; but when we do so, ‘we must educate our masters!’ Otherwise they might well be dangerous.
Plato wanted to strengthen, purify and absolutise the aristocracy, harden it by military duty and make it rigid by what he considered to be philosophical and sustained education, and to ensure its incorruptibility, at least for as long as possible, by depriving it of wealth and kin. Freud by contrast wanted to fortify the middle class of the psyche, and extend it as much as possible, by including as much as possible of the old peremptory aristocracy, now enlightened, and of the old unruly mob, duly educated into consciousness, within the electorate of the mind . . .
But Freud, in doing his inverse-Plato act, reading off the nature of our salvation from the very nature of our psychic being, does face a grave difficulty which Plato did not have to face.
How on earth does one read moral injunctions off a set of facts? If those facts are inherently stratified into higher and lower kinds, as Plato believed they were, there is no problem: the higher facts give us our norms, the lower ones indicate what we should avoid. This was what Plato believed, and it provided him with an immediate solution.
But this way out is closed to Freud. For Freud and all of us nowadays, nature is both unitary and mute. It cannot speak through its own stratification, for it no longer has any. Facts are not stratified, they are all of a kind. So what’s to be done? Freud recommends the absorption of the old aristocracy and of the plebs of the psyche in the middle class: both the id and the super-ego are to be made conscious and incorporated in the newly conscious body politic. But having done so, he does not tell us very much about how much we should heed their demands. We have given both of them a vote and a voice in the inner conscious assembly; we hope this moderates them a bit, but should we also accede to their demands? Freud did have an answer.
Vulgar Freudianism consists of a doctrine of unrestrained permissiveness and a generalised anti-authoritarianism, but there is no warrant for this either in Freud’s words or in the logic of his ideas. But the whole point about Freudianism is that it is not exhausted by its doctrinal level. More than that: the doctrinal level is not even the most important part of the whole edifice.
There is no formula in the doctrine, telling us just how much indulgence to show to our instincts (or which ones) in the interests of appeasing them, nor how much to respect the super-ego as a buttress of civilisation. But in each individual analysis, each patient can and does obliquely negotiate his own inner contract or constitution with his own special guardian, and achieve precisely that compromise between the warring factions of his soul that fit his needs, his circumstances, his pocket, his particular moral environment.
The Freudian solution to the inverse-Platonic problem, to the eliciting of an ethic from our psychic nature in a naturalist age, has two incarnations: one doctrinal, theoretical, verbal, which doesn’t matter too much (unless of course someone indulges in heresy); and the practical, applied, real one, which is the only one mediated concretely in the contact between guardian and analysand. Each one of these concrete incarnations of the truth is individual and idiosyncratic, and adjusted to the special circumstances of the seeker after guidance. Hence there is no need for coherence from case to case. This ethical revelation is, in all its details, adjustable and adjusted to the requirements of each customer, and presumably each individual salesman.
Thus, and thus only, has Nietzsche’s problem – how to extract a new ethic from nature, from a more realistic understanding of our psyche – been solved. The transvaluation of values, virtually unmarketable when Nietzsche first launched it upon the world in an impersonal and general form, is now made to measure for individual customers. Analysis is the bespoke transvaluation of values. The demand for it is brisk.
The central ideological device is the same in Plato and in Freud: it is contained in Plato’s parable of the cave. Until liberated by truth, man is imprisoned in the cave, mistaking the shadows on its walls for reality. Only the sage can liberate him and lead him out, and show him the true forms of that which he had previously taken to be reality. The erstwhile reality is then seen for what it is – pale, and distorted, shadows. If this is our situation, then we must indeed revere and obey the sage: otherwise, we shall continue to languish in the cave, and remain helpless slaves of our delusions.
On all this, Plato and Freud are in total agreement. The only difference is – what is the cave for one, is the outer daylight for the other, and vice versa . . . It is only natural that they should be mirror-images of each other in this way: on the one side, the great metaphysician of a hierarchical reality, the arch-anti-naturalist, and, on the other, by far the most influential (though not the most profound) psychologist and commentator of the renaturalisation of man.
What is amusing is that their favoured method for eliciting the truth should be so similar and yet also inversely related. Each of them favours something that, in a generic sense, could be called the Socratic method. The truth is not outside; it is not independent; it is already inside us, though we know it not. But we do not know how to bring it out unaided: we can do so only with the help of a properly qualified midwife. Important truth is elicited not by extraneous research, but from inside, by well-qualified midwifery.
Plato did not merely take the super-ego at face value. He was also a rationalist, if of a somewhat mystical variety. He not only accepted the authority of the super-ego, but also endorsed the authority of the concepts, the ideas, which pervaded his culture, and notoriously credited these ideas with supra-terrestrial status. Thus the clusters of meanings, with their normative implications, which permeated the Hellenic ethos of his time, selectively reinterpreted by the philosopher in ques- tion, could be fed back to the Hellenes as supernaturally authoritative. But these ideas were supposedly apprehended by reason. So the appropriate method of eliciting these ideas, of midwifery, was the rational dialectic, roughly as practised by the Platonic Socrates in the Dialogues.
In the case of Freud, we are dealing with an inverse Platonic world: super-ego and ideas and reason are now all dethroned. Like an aristocracy after a popular revolution, their Lettres de Noblesse have lost all validity. They may even constitute a death warrant. The old aristos are ordinary citizens like anyone else, and with no authority whatso- ever, and lucky if allowed to survive.
The new verities are not sought out by the old methods. They still have to be summoned up from the deep (rather deeper, this time), but there is no question of doing it by the specific Socratic method of question and answer. That method was fine, if one wanted an accurate profile of a given idea, by seeing what it did and did not cover. But no one is now interested in manifest ideas. It is the deep and hidden meanings we want.
Free-association is the wholly appropriate Freudian inversion of the old Socratic, rationalistic question-and-answer midwifery. Newly renaturalised man is not investigated through carefully delimiting the precise pattern of what he thinks. It is the profiles of his deep feelings, and covert feelings at that, which are being pursued and elicited, not the surface outlines of overt concepts. They will not reveal themselves to direct questions; they will, it seems, reveal themselves by free, logically unrestrained flow of unselected ideas, and then to the emotional response to ‘interpretation’, which is a question of a kind . . . Free association indisputably engenders strong feelings. Strong feeling can most plausibly be credited with unconscious roots. So it is plausible to see free association (like dreams) as a way of access to the Unconscious. (Unfortunately, this does not follow, though this assumption is central to the system. We cannot conclude from the above premises either that the Unconscious has a determinate content – how can it have if there are no logical constraints within it? – or that it reveals itself when summoned from the Deep by this method.)
The New Socratic Method of Free Association is wholly appropriate for the New Cave and the New Sunlight.
They consist in the first instance of taking the patient from the public world in which he would test the efficacy of the therapy by public, extraneous criteria, to a world internal to the therapy itself, in which he may judge only when the therapy is complete, and when the (obscure and much contested) touchstone of termination includes both the consent of the therapist and the satisfaction of the client . . . Even as the therapy develops, the patient loses interest in the symptoms which had been the initial cause, or pretext, of his coming at all, and this counts as good progress. But, after all, only the elimination of these very symptoms could have made possible any kind of public evaluation of the therapy! If new criteria are to be invented and agreed afterwards, such an evaluation becomes impossibly difficult, which indeed it is often defensively claimed to be. The fact that the terminal criteria are basically Stoic in character helps to ensure, as we have seen, that a dissatisfied client who had properly completed the therapy, becomes a genuine contradiction in terms. A dissatisfied client is one who has not come to terms with reality: ergo, his therapy is not complete; ergo, he may not judge its efficacy.
As Freud and others have insisted, you cannot judge it unless you have been through it yourself. The criteria, and their application, seem to be something that can be handled only from the inside, by initiates.
R. Fliess wrote:
"It is scarcely to be expected that a student who has spent some years under the artificial and sometimes hothouse conditions of a training analysis and whose professional career depends on overcoming ‘resist- ance’ to the satisfaction of his training analyst, can be in a favourable position to defend his scientific integrity against his analyst’s theory and practice. And the longer he remains in training analysis, the less likely he is to do so. For according to his analyst the candidate’s objections to interpretations rate as ‘resistances’. In short there is a tendency inherent in the training situation to perpetuate error."
What of a system in which facts are trumped by interpretations, and interpretations by other interpretations, ad nauseam? In old Boston ‘. . . Cabots speak only to Lowells, and Lowells speak only to God . . .’
The interpretations seem never to be obliged to heed anything other than seniors. The ranking of interpretation is subject to nothing extraneous, but only to the hierarchy of interpreters, and partly by the political organisation and power relations within the guild.
The demerits of psychoanalysis are not very much in dispute, except perhaps on points of detail: what is at issue is how it should best be criticised. It is as if two toreadors were quarrelling not about whether the bull should be or has been slain, but which weapon was best or uniquely suited for the job. The untestability, or rather, the test-evasion charge does indeed remain the main and, in the end, valid charge against psychoanalysis; but nothing is gained, and much is obscured, if one formulates this charge in a crude, simplified, and unsophisticated form.
The work of Freud will never be safer than when it evokes hostility.
Edward Gibbon wrote:
"Our curiosity is naturally prompted to inquire by what means the Christian faith obtained so remarkable a victory over the established religions of the earth. To this inquiry an obvious but satisfactory answer may be returned; that it was owing to the convincing evidence of the doctrine itself, and to the ruling providence of its great Author. But as truth and reason seldom find so favourable a reception in the world and as the wisdom of Providence frequently condescends to use the passions of the human heart, and the general circumstances of mankind, as instruments to execute its purpose, we may still be permitted, though with becoming submission, to ask, not indeed what were the first, but what were the secondary causes of the rapid growth of the Christian church?" [Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire]
Psychoanalysis, like Christianity, is a founded or historic rather than a traditional system of beliefs and practices. It has an even more precise point of foundation than Christianity. Neither the identity nor the existence of its Founder is in doubt.
It made its entry on the world’s stage as a set of new and definite claims. The speed of the acceptance, partial or total, of its message, by at any rate a significant proportion of those to whom it was addressed and whom it could reach, was astonishing. The question which Gibbon asked about Christianity applies equally to psychoanalysis: by what means did the new vision obtain so remarkable a victory?
Gibbon mentions only the positive factors which can be expected to lead people to embrace the true faith. The case of psychoanalytic ideas is more complex. Not only does the truth of the ideas themselves exercise a positive attraction, but also, as is well known, the system of ideas also contains, as an integral part of itself, an explanation of the occasional failure of those ideas to secure conviction. The idea of resistance, which leads people in some cir- cumstances to reject the ideas in question, explains the occasional failure or delay of conversion as cogently as the truth of ideas can explain their eventual success.
In fact, it may even seem to do it a little more cogently: the unconscious forces which, according to the theory, have such a strong hold over us, but which apparently can recognise and fear (even in anticipation and at a distance) the doctrine which understands and may eventually tame them – these forces clearly have every incentive to resist, by all the formidable and elusive hidden means at their disposal, the acceptance of those doctrines. So perhaps the problem facing the historian of psychoanalytic ideas may even be the inverse of that which faced Gibbon and indeed any historian of a true belief: is he not redun- dant precisely when attempting to single out the social factors obstructing the recognition of truth? Has he not been anticipated by the theory itself? Does not the convincing evidence of the doctrine itself explain, better than anyone else can, its occasional failures? Whether this problem is the obverse or the accentuated, reduplicated form of the one which Gibbon described, there can be no doubt about a certain parallelism between the two situations." [The Psychoanalytic Movement: The Cunning of Unreason]
"It is possible to sketch out only very briefly the astounding set of fundamental problems which find their en passant, semi-conscious (but consequently all the more effective) solution in Freudianism, and which would now be finally solved were Freudianism valid.
1 The Plato/Nietzsche problem of extracting an ethic which would genuinely correspond to our real nature and its needs and possibilities. (This is of course a problem faced by very many thinkers; I have simply singled out the two who are most relevant.) Plato, working against the background of a stability-seeking and hierarchical society amenable to metaphysical belief, had no difficulty in extracting an ethic from a supposedly hierarchical structure of the soul, society, cognition and reality. Nietzsche, wishing to do the same against the background of a renaturalised world, found it much more difficult. Freud completed Nietzsche’s endeavours in this direction, by inventing a technique for individualised, private, yet expertly assisted and validated solutions, an individual-customer-adjusted re-establishment of a cosy link between Is and Ought.
2 The Cartesian problem of mind–body interaction, which is closely related to the problem of the relation of our ‘humanistic’ self-knowledge and ‘scientistic’ understanding of nature. It is also the problem of the communication between our blind passions and our powerless, abstract concepts. Descartes supposed that mind and body met in the pineal gland.
Freud’s new pineal gland is an enormous improvement on Descartes, and incidentally on Hume, or at any rate it sounds much more plausible. Our dark lusts and our meanings meet in the middle ground of the Unconscious. That sounds a good deal more plausible than the pineal gland. It has always been difficult to see how the crude destructive passions could mesh in with our complex and fragile, porcelain-like conceptual structures. Freud provided the answer. The Unconscious houses the dark powerful forces, but at the same time it speaks English – like a drunk. The crude, a-logical, uncategorial language spoken by the Unconscious, a kind of Pidgin-Human, is on the one hand crude enough to be understood by the dark forces and to act as their spokesman and ambassador, yet close enough to real human speech to exchange coded messages with consciousness . . . It all somehow has a certain plausibility. Hume had thought (absurdly) that our passions spoke polite eighteenth-century English, and could mesh in with ends and means articulated in such an elegant idiom. Freud’s version is much more credible. (However, Freud’s theory of cathexis is, for once, strikingly parallel to Hume’s vision of passions attaching themselves to emotively colourless facts.)
The problem has its social or cultural complement. Is man to be handed over to impersonal scientific explanation or understood in his own terms and in his full individuality? Psychoanalysis ensures that the answer is both/and. Man is part of the biological world, and his animal instincts receive full recognition: but their specific constellation in the heart of any one man is only approached individually, and by human meanings, not neurological or similar entities . . . All’s well.
As Donald Davidson puts it:
Donald Davidson wrote:
"It seems then, that there are two irreconcilable tendencies in Freud’s methodology. On the one hand he wanted to extend the range of phenomena subject to reason explanations, and on the other to treat these same phenomena as forces and states are treated in the natural sciences.’
Indeed; and various philosophers have been eager to help him be consistent and to eliminate one or the other element, to become more physicalist or more hermeneutic. But his system would never have possessed its great appeal, had it not been ambiguous or, if you like, ambivalent on this point. Dark forces without meanings are blind, meanings without drives are impotent. In the Unconscious, one can have both. A purely hermeneutic psychoanalysis would not sound like science, confer no power, and few men would turn to it in distress; a purely physicalist or biological psychoanalysis would have been too much like science, and no fun. But the plausible-sounding fusion of both is very different, and most attractive.
3 The Cartesian problem of the trustworthiness of our knowledge. How do we know we are not deluded? We do know that others delude themselves, and that their delusions are accompanied by the greatest assurance; why should we assume ourselves to be exempt?
Descartes invented the malignant daemon who deceives us, but it was, for him, only an intellectual, experimental device, a supposition. Freud discovered the daemon for real, not as a supposition to bring home that we might be deceived, but as a bitter reality which explained just how we were indeed deceived.
But he accompanied his discovery with a closely linked technique for outwitting him, for sorting our deception from truth, and for recovering full and, for the first time ever, justified confidence.
4 The Kantian problem of a reduplicated self, arising from the fact that in an age of effective science we see ourselves both as free agents and inquirers responsible for our decisions and conclusions, and as objects, parts of nature, subject to its laws and thus devoid of freedom and responsibility. Instead of the stressful and unbelievable doctrine that we are each of these two things simultaneously, Freud told us that we were one or the other, not simultaneously, but according to whether or not we submitted to his technique of liberation . . . Autonomy, which for Kant had to spring from inside, could now be assisted (nay, had to be assisted), possibly even on the Health Service.
5 The Weberian problem of a ‘disenchanted’, cold, impersonal world. The modern world is in fact bound to be such: cognitive growth goes jointly with specialised, single-strand cognitive inquiry, which inevitably separates the intellectual exploration of the world from personal relations, values, and the hierarchical ordering of society. Freud restored a form of cognition which, while articulated in an impeccably modern idiom, and seemingly part of medicine and science, was firmly locked in with a hierarchical and comforting personal relation, and with values and the hope of personal salvation. Thus a reality is re-enchanted, and its enchantment is permanently serviced, albeit at a price.
This is an aspect of Freudianism which is generally neglected by those who concentrate on its failure to be scientific. Of course it is fair to raise that criticism, in so far as the doctrine does loudly claim to be a science, and in so far as this claim is essential to its success as a belief system. Nevertheless, if one looks at it only as a system of scientific claims, one is liable to miss altogether most clues to its real functioning.
It is not a hypothesis, located in a wider world, whose fate and applicability is to be decided by the higher court of evidence. On the contrary, it sits in judgement on facts and decrees how they are to be interpreted (and only other interpretations of its own can sit in judgement on interpretations). Its truth, if it be such, does not modify a bit of the world: it is constitutive of the world, it pervades and defines it. It is not attained through evidence but by a deep inner experience, an inner revelation which is also a moral regeneration.
6 The Durkheimian problem of reuniting cognition, ritual, and social order. Psychoanalysis has or is an astoundingly effective ritual, adapted to an individualist age, engendering all those affective consequences which Durkheim associated with ritual, and indeed separating the sacred and profane with all the neatness which that theory postulated.
To offer a persuasive solution to so fundamental a set of problems, and to offer them in a way that the solution is lived out rather than merely thought, ratified by both ritual and an intense personal relationship, and generally not consciously thought out at all, is an astonishing achievement.
I am not claiming that the average middle-class educated man in Western society is knowingly preoccupied with the problems contained in the works of Plato, Descartes, Hume, Kant, Nietzsche, Durkheim and Weber. Rather, I am saying that the problems faced by these thinkers are those which also emerge from the inherent and pervasive intellectual tensions of our society and its thought-styles. Hence a theory which, with its accompanying technique/ritual and organisational underpinning, appears to solve them all, above all through the deployment of that very technique/ritual, and which offers adjustable, customer-specific salvation, is bound to have a great impact." [The Psychoanalytic Movement: The Cunning of Unreason]
My understanding of the "unconscious" is of a twofold source of data streaming into the brain which cannot process it and delves into its pool of memories - data already abstracted, processed - to symbolize them - metaphorically.
The first are internal organ, cellular (inter)activities, sending, through the nervous system, bio-energy pulses, the mind experiences as sensations, or intuitions. The second are come from the external, to the organism, world. Not all stimulation can be processed, or integrated into cohesive models (abstractions), particularly when they lack a pattern (chaos). Much of this (inter)activity is never integrated, and never becomes conscious; some is integrated in imagery, sensation, the organism uses to convert them into a form that can be integrated.
The less sophisticated a mind is the more it is plagued by patterns it cannot make sense of, that it can only feel, sense, viscerally, or process as dream, or (re)act to without knowing why or how. I include in this the paranormal, and how it affects simpler minds more than sophisticated ones: a way of processing, using an external will, or method, what is incomprehensible, to the mind; what it is unable to integrate into cohesive mental models.
Neurosis is the residual effect of energies that cannot be expunged. Unable to process all the stimulations and all the internal data flowing into the brain, the usual fight/flight mechanism kicks in, where the organism prepares for the worse. Some use chemicals or meditation, or hedonism to deal with this increasing stress accumulating in their muscle system. The nervous systems acts as a spigot, keeping it all under control, similar to the libidinal energies that when expunged result in spasmodic muscular movements, loss of neurological control (orgasm), when the nervous system is flooded with all this repressed stress energy due to their sudden release.
I connect this repressed nervous energy with fight/flight for a very simple reason. In heterosexual copulation the act of penetration is a stressful one, particularly for the female that must accept the approach and imposition of a larger organism into her personal space. Nature evolved the inebriating chemicals to make this possible - a form of madness, lust we call it, alter love. This natural chemical calming makes the process possible, but the fight/flight energies are not dealt with, and this is where the orgasm serves its dual purpose, the one purpose shared by males and females, as the sensation of pleasure, as the sensation of releasing these libidinal energies, and for the male as muscles twitching that makes ejaculation possible, and for the female as muscle twitching that offers an advantage to a particular male's sperm.
Psychology is directly related to death and mortality. Sex is an evolved response to this.
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Freud developed a ritualized therapy, similar to how hypnotists practice their trade. The entire scene is to promote a parent/child comfort.
The patient lies down, relaxing him and placing on an equal level his genitals and his brain - his higher cognitive processes with the lower, primal, ones. The doctor asks questions, following linguistic strings of thought common in the answers given, delving deeper into the patient's internal processes seeking a trigger. This may take many sessions, depending on the therapists talent and the patients trust levels.
It is the patient that diagnosis himself, just as it is the hypnotized that places himself, with the direction of the performer, in a trance, just as it is the believer that "heals" himself, with the authoritative prodding of the faith healer. The patient will repeat the same patterns, sometimes in different context, using different metaphors. The therapist must (re)cognize the common theme and direct the patient with verbal stimulation.
Freud was right about sex being central in modern psychosis, but he could not understand what brought it about, because that would require diagnosing himself as a vehicle for what he was trying to understand. Crisis of Identity is but a small part, one symptom, of the memetic dis-ease, brought into the west by people like Freud and their idea(l)s. He was both carrier and healer, and yet he never healed a single one. Psychotherapy consists in diagnosing the symptom, without understanding the cause, and then medicating it to normalize it - which is to bring it in harmony with the principles, and the behaviours they impose, that caused it. Psychology remains a cross between mysticism and science. It can only report on the effects of causes that are not only a matter of nurturing. This Modern prejudice infecting many fields of human inquiry, is what prevents psychology from becoming a full scientific discipline, diagnosing and offering cures - cures that will be harsh and may take more than a generation to succeed. Dealing with the symptoms, and not the dis-ease is useless.
Recently more in-depth analysis has been developed in the fields of evolutionary psychology that connects diagnosis with a philosophical, and a biological component particular to the human species. Evolution Psychology is the study of biology particular to one species.
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"[Freud] invented a technique which devours and digests any external terms of reference or criteria, which could have judged the technique itself…"][The Psychoanalytic Movement]
By keeping external reality away, the technique of psychoanalysis could arrogate to itself self-referentially the 'healing' and 'well-being' of a patient within closed doors, where he could naturally come to believe, he was now in control of his daemons.
In short, Gellner's point is, 'Narcissism and Schizophrenia' and such were not dis/eases or 'psychohydrualics' under psychoanalytic jurisdiction, but psychoanalysis itself was a dis/ease and suspect-science of 'Narcissism and Schizophrenia' - an 'institutionalized' practice of auto-referentiality.
"The problem of technique pertaining to the latent negative transference is so important that it will be necessary to make a separate investigation of the forms in which this transference becomes manifest and how it is to be treated. At this time, I want merely to list a few typical cases in which we are most likely to encounter a latent negative transference. They are:
1. The obsequious, obtrusively friendly, implicitly trustful, in short, the “good” patients; those who are always in a positive transference and never show a disappointment reaction. (Usually passivefeminine characters or female hysterics having nymphomanic tendencies.)
2. Those who are always rigidly conventional and correct. They are usually compulsive characters who have converted their hatred into “being polite at all costs.”
3. Patients whose affects are paralyzed. Like those who are rigidly correct, these patients are characterized by an exaggerated but blocked aggressiveness. They, too, for the most part, are compulsive characters; however, female hysterics also show a surface affect-paralysis.
4. Patients who complain about the artificiality of their feelings and emotionality—patients, in short, who suffer from depersonalization. Among these we also have those patients who consciously and at the same time compulsively “play act,” i.e., who know at the back of their minds that they are deceiving the analyst. In such patients, who usually belong to the group of narcissistic neuroses of the hypochondriac type, we always discover a “secret chuckle” at everything and everybody, a chuckle which becomes a torture to the patient himself. It entails the greatest difficulties in analysis." [Character Analysis]
As long as the making conscious of the unconscious, i.e., the topographical process, was regarded as the sole task of analytic technique, the formula was justified that the patient’s unconscious manifestations had to be translated into the language of the conscious in the sequence in which they appeared. In this process, the dynamics of the analysis were left largely to chance, that is, whether the act of becoming conscious actually released the germane affect and whether the interpretation had anything more than an intellectual influence on the patient. The very inclusion of the dynamic factor, i.e., the demand that the patient had not only to remember but also to experience what he remembered, complicated the simple formula that “the unconscious had to be made conscious.” Since the dynamic effect of analysis depends not on the material which the patient produces but on the resistances which he brings into play against this material and on the emotional intensity with which they are mastered, the task of analysis undergoes no insignificant shift. Whereas it is sufficient, from the topographical point of view, to make the patient conscious of the clearest and most easily interpretable elements of the unconscious in the sequence in which they appear, in other words, to adhere to the pattern of the contents of the material, it is necessary, when the dynamic factor is taken into consideration, to relinquish this plan as a means of orientation in the analysis. Instead, another must be adopted, which embraces both the content of the material and the affect, namely the pattern of successive resistances. In pursuing this plan, however, a difficulty arises in most cases.
The neurotic symptom is sensed as something alien, and it engenders a feeling of being ill. On the other hand, the neurotic character trait, e.g., the exaggerated sense of order of the compulsive character or the anxious shyness of the hysterical character, is organically incorporated into the personality. One might complain of being shy, but one does not feel sick for that reason. Not until the characterological shyness becomes a pathological blushing or until the compulsive-neurotic sense of order becomes a compulsive ceremony, not until, in other words, the neurotic character exacerbates symptomatically, does one feel that one is sick.
Naturally, there are symptoms for which no insight, or insufficient insight, exists. They are regarded by patients as bad habits or something which has to be accepted (e.g., chronic constipation, mild ejaculatio praecox). Then there are some character traits which are sometimes felt to be pathological, e.g., irrational, violent fits of anger, gross negligence, a penchant for lying, drinking, splurging, and other such. Generally, however, an insight into the sickness is indicative of a neurotic symptom, whereas lack of insight points to a neurotic character trait.
In practical terms, the second important difference consists in the fact that symptoms never exhibit such complete and credible rationalizations as neurotic character traits. Neither hysterical vomiting nor abasia; neither compulsive counting nor compulsive thinking can be rationalized. There is no question about the senselessness of a symptom, whereas the neurotic character trait has a sufficiently rational motivation so as not to appear pathological or senseless.
Furthermore, there is a justification for neurotic character traits which is immediately rejected as absurd when it is applied to symptoms. We often hear it said: “That’s simply the way I am.” The implication here is that the person concerned was born that way; he simply cannot behave differently— that’s his character. However, this does not tally with the facts, for the analysis of its development shows that the character had to become what it is, and not something else, for very specific reasons. Fundamentally, therefore, it is capable of analysis and of being changed, just like the symptom. Occasionally, symptoms have become so ingrained in the personality that they are like character traits. An example is compulsive counting that is wholly absorbed within the framework of one’s need to be orderly, or compulsive methodicalness that is fulfilled in the rigid subdivisions of each day. The latter is especially true of the compulsion to work. Such modes of behavior are held to be indicative more of eccentricity or excessiveness than of pathology. Hence, we see that the concept of illness is highly flexible, that there are many shades, ranging from the symptom as an isolated foreign body through the neurotic character trait and the “wicked habit” to rationally sound behavior. However, in view of the fact that these shades are not very much help to us, the differentiation between symptom and neurotic character trait recommends itself, even insofar as rationalizations are concerned, notwithstanding the artificiality of all divisions.
With this reservation, another differentiation occurs to us with respect to the structure of the symptom and of the character trait. In the process of analysis, it is shown that, in terms of its meaning and origin, the symptom has a very simple structure compared with that of the character trait. True enough, the symptom too is indeterminate; but the more deeply we penetrate into its reasons, the more we move away from the actual compass of the symptom and the more clearly we perceive its basis in the character. Hence, theoretically, the reaction basis in the character can be worked out from any symptom. The symptom is directly determined by a limited number of unconscious attitudes; hysterical vomiting, for example, is based on a repressed fellatio desire or an oral desire for a child. Each of them is expressed in the character, the former in a kind of childishness, the latter in a maternal attitude. But the hysterical character, which determines the hysterical symptom, is based on a multiplicity of—to a large extent antagonistic—strivings, and is usually expressed in a specific attitude or mode of existence. It is not nearly so easy to analyze the attitude as it is to analyze the symptom; fundamentally, however, the former, like the latter, can be traced back to and understood on the basis of drives and experiences. Whereas the symptom corresponds solely to one definite experience or one circumscribed desire, the character, i.e., the person’s specific mode of existence, represents an expression of the person’s entire past. So a symptom can emerge quite suddenly, while the development of each individual character trait requires many years. We must also bear in mind that the symptom could not have suddenly emerged unless a neurotic reaction basis already existed in the character.
In the analysis, the neurotic character traits as a whole prove to be a compact defense mechanism against our therapeutic efforts, and when we trace the origin of this character “armor” analytically, we see that it also has a definite economic function. Such armor serves on the one hand as a defense against external stimuli; on the other hand it proves to be a means of gaining mastery over the libido, which is continuously pushing forward from the id, because libidinal and sadistic energy is used up in the neurotic reaction formations, compensations, etc. Anxiety is continually being bound in the processes which are at the bottom of the formation and preservation of this armor in the same way that, according to Freud’s description, anxiety is bound in the compulsive symptoms. We shall have more to say about the economy of the character formation.
Since, in its economic function as defensive armor, the neurotic character trait has established a certain, albeit neurotic balance, analysis constitutes a danger to this balance. It is from this narcissistic defense mechanism of the ego that the resistances originate which give the analysis of the individual case its special features. If, however, a person’s mode of behavior represents the result of a total development which is capable of analysis and resolution, then it must also be possible to deduce the technique of character analysis from that behavior." [Character Analysis]
"On the technique of analyzing the character resistance:
In addition to the dreams, associations, slips, and other communications of the patients, the way in which they recount their dreams, commit slips, produce associations, and make their communications, in short their bearing, deserves special attention.
Bad experiences in the analysis of some neurotic characters have taught us that, at the outset of such cases, the form of the communications is of greater importance than the content. We want merely to allude to the concealed resistances produced by the emotionally paralyzed, by the “good” men and women, the excessively polite and correct patients; by those patients, moreover, who always give evidence of a deceptive positive transference or, for that matter, by those who raise a passionate and monotonous cry for love; those who conceive of analysis as a kind of game; the eternally “armored” who laugh in their sleeve at anything and everything. The list could be extended indefinitely. Hence, one has no illusions about the painstaking work which the innumerable individual problems of technique will entail.
They hate the analyst (father) because they perceive in him the enemy who limits their pleasure, and each of them has the unconscious desire to dispose of him. While the phallic-sadistic character will ward off the danger of castration by means of vituperations, disparagements, and threats, the passivefeminine character will become more and more confiding, more and more passively devoted, and more and more accommodating. In both of them the character has become a resistance: the former wards off the danger aggressively; the latter gets out of its way by compromising his standards, by deceptiveness and devotion.
Naturally, the character resistance of the passive-feminine type is more dangerous, for he works with devious means. He produces material in abundance, recalls infantile experiences, appears to adapt himself beautifully—but at bottom he glosses over a secret obstinacy and hate. As long as he keeps this up, he will not have the courage to show his true nature. If the analyst does not pay any attention to his manner and merely enters into what the patient produces, then, according to experience, no analytic effort or elucidation will change his condition. It may even be that the patient will recall his hatred of his father, but he will not experience it unless the meaning of his deceptive behavior is consistently pointed out to him in the transference, before a deep interpretation of the father-hatred is begun.
The character armor is the molded expression of narcissistic defense chronically embedded in the psychic structure. In addition to the known resistances which are mobilized against each new piece of unconscious material, there is a constant resistance factor which has its roots in the unconscious and pertains not to content but to form. Because of its origin in the character, we call this constant resistance factor “character resistance.”
Character resistance is expressed not in terms of content but formally, in the way one typically behaves, in the manner in which one speaks, walks, and gestures; and in one’s characteristic habits (how one smiles or sneers, whether one speaks coherently or incoherently, how one is polite and how one is aggressive). It is not what the patient says and does that is indicative of character resistance, but how he speaks and acts; not what he reveals in dreams, but how he censors, distorts, condenses, etc.
In given situations, the patient’s character becomes a resistance. In everyday life, in other words, the character plays a role similar to the one it plays as a resistance in the treatment: that of a psychic defense apparatus. Hence, we speak of the “character armoring” of the ego against the outer world and the id. Thus, in the character resistance, the function of defense is combined with the projection of infantile relationships to the outer world.
Economically, the character in everyday life and the character resistance in the analysis serve as a means of avoiding what is unpleasant (Unlust), of establishing and preserving a psychic (even if neurotic) balance, and finally of consuming repressed quantities of instinctual energy and/or quantities which have eluded repression. The binding of free-floating anxiety or—what amounts to the same thing—the absorbing of dammed-up psychic energy, is one of the cardinal functions of the character. Just as the historical, i.e., the infantile, element is embodied and continues to live and operate in the neurotic symptom, so too it lives and operates and is embodied in the character. This explains why the consistent loosening of the character resistance provides a sure and direct approach to the central infantile conflict." [Character Analysis]
"Catatonic stupor is an example of a total insulation, while the impulsive character is a prime example of a wholly inadequate armoring of the character structure.
It is likely that every permanent conversion of object libido into narcissistic libido goes hand in hand with a strengthening and hardening of the ego armor. The affect blocked compulsive character has a rigid armor and but meager possibilities of establishing affective relationships with the outer world. Everything recoils from his smooth, hard surface. The garrulous aggressive character, on the other hand, has, it is true, a flexible armor, but it is always “bristling.” His relationships to the outer world are limited to paranoic-aggressive reactions. The passive-feminine character is an example of a third type of armoring. On the surface, he appears to have an acquiescent and mild disposition, but in analysis we get to know it as an armoring that is difficult to dissolve.
It is indicative of every character formation not only what it wards off but what instinctual forces it uses to accomplish this. In general, the ego molds its character by taking possession of a certain instinctual impulse, itself subject to repression at one time, in order to ward off, with its help, another instinctual impulse. Thus, for example, the phallic-sadistic character’s ego will use exaggerated masculine aggression to ward off feminine, passive, and anal strivings. By resorting to such measures, however, it changes itself, i.e., assumes chronically aggressive modes of reaction. Others frequently ward off their repressed aggression by “insinuating”—as one such patient once put it—themselves into the favor of any person capable of rousing their aggression. They become as “slippery” as eels, evade every straightforward reaction, can never be held fast. Usually, this “slipperiness” is also expressed in the intonation of their voice; they speak in a soft, modulated, cautious, and flattering way. In taking over anal interests for the purpose of warding off the aggressive impulses, the ego itself becomes “greasy” and “slimy,” and conceives of itself in this way. This causes the loss of self-confidence (one such patient felt himself to be “stinky”). Such people are driven to make renewed efforts to adapt themselves to the world, to gain possession of objects in any way possible. However, since they do not possess any genuine ability to adapt themselves and usually experience one frustration and rejection after the other, their aggression builds up and this, in turn, necessitates intensified anal-passive defense. In such cases, character-analytic work not only attacks the function of the defense but also exposes the means employed to accomplish this defense, i.e., anality in this case." [Character Analysis]
"If you tickle us, do we not laugh?" asks Shylock, defining himself as human as he begins to "feed" his revenge. And what is more ordinary in the child's life than his hunger for revenge and, indeed, the experience of being tickled? From a psycho analytic point of view it is curious that this common, perhaps universal, experience has rarely been thought about; and not surprising that once we look at it we can see so much.
An absolute of calculation and innocence, the adult's tick ling of the child is an obviously acceptable form of sensuous excitement between parents and children in the family. The child who will be able to feed himself, the child who will mas turbate, will never be able to tickle himself. It is the pleasure he cannot reproduce in the absence of the other. "From the fact that a child can hardly tickle itself," Darwin wrote in his Expres sion ofthe Emotions in Man and Animals, "or in a much less degree than when tickled by another person, it seems that the precise point to be touched must not be known. " An enigmatic conclu sion, which, though manifestly untrue-children know exactly, like adults, where they are ticklish-alerts us to the fact that these "precise points" are a kind of useless knowledge to the child, that they matter only as shared knowledge. They require the enacted recognition of the other.
Helpless with pleasure, and usually inviting this helpless ness, the child, in the ordinary, affectionate, perverse scenario of being tickled, is wholly exploitable. Specific adults know where the child is ticklish-it is, of course, only too easy to find out-but it is always idiosyncratic, a piece of personal history, and rarely what Freud called one of the "predestined erotogenic zones." Through tickling, the child will be initiated in a distinctive way into the helplessness and disarray of a cer tain primitive kind of pleasure, dependent on the adult to hold 1 and not to exploit the experience. And this means to stop at the blurred point, so acutely felt in tickling, at which plea sure becomes pain, and the child experiences an intensely anguished confusion; because the tickling narrative, unlike the sexual narrative, has no climax. It has to stop, or the real humiliation begins. The child, as the mother says, will get hys terical.
In English, the meaning of the word tickle is, so to speak, almost antithetical, employing, as Freud said of the dream work, "the same means of representation for expressing con traries." The Oxford English Dictionary cites, among nineteen definitions of the word, the following: "In unstable equilibrium, easily upset or overthrown, insecure, tottering, crazy . . . nicely poised." Other definitions describe a range of experience from excessive credulity to incontinence. The word speaks of the precarious, and so of the erotic. To tickle is, above all, to seduce, often by amusement. But of the two references to tickling in Freud (both in the Three Essays on the Theory ofSexuality), it is used as virtually synonymous with stroking: included, quite accurately and unobtrusively, as part of the child's ordinary sensuous life. Describing the characteristics of an erotogenic zone, Freud writes:
It is part of the skin or mucous membrane in which stimuli of a certain sort evoke a feeling of pleasure pos sessing a particular quality. There can be no doubt that the stimuli which produce the pleasure are governed by special conditions, though we do not know what those are. A rhythmic character must play a part among them and the analogy of tickling is forced upon our notice. It seems less certain whether the character of the pleasurable feeling evoked by the stimulus should be described as a "specific" one-a "specific" quality in which the sexual factor would precisely lie. Psychology is still so much in the dark in questions of pleasure and unpleasure that the most cautious assumption is the one most to be recommended.
Freud is certain here only of what he does not know.
Certainly there is no immediate pressing biological need in this intent, often frenetic contact that so quickly reinstates a distance, only equally quickly to create another invitation. Is the tickling scene, at its most reassuring, not a unique representation of the over displacement of desire and, at its most unsettling, a paradigm of the perverse contract? Does it not highlight, this delightful game, the impossibility of satisfaction and of reunion, with its continual reenactment of the irresistible attraction and the inevitable repulsion of the object, in which the final satisfaction is frustration?
A girl of eight who keeps "losing her stories" in the session because she has too much to say, who cannot keep still for a moment, suddenly interrupts herself by saying to me, "I can only think of you when I don't think of you." This same, endlessly elusive child-elusiveness, that is, the inverse of obsessionality-ends a session telling me, "When we play monsters, and mummy catches me, she never kills me, she only tickles me!"
"We can cause laughing by tickling the skin," Darwin noted of the only sensuous contact that makes one laugh. An extraordinary fact condensing so much of psychoanalytic interest, but one of which so little is spoken. Perhaps in the cumulative trauma that is development we have had the experience but deferred the meaning." [On Kissing, Tickling, and Being Bored: Psychoanalytic Essays on the Unexamined Life]
""His radical solutions were rendered vain by the conventionality of his problems."
- George Santayana, My Host the Worl
In his chapter "Instinct" in Psychology: The Briefer Course (1892), William James writes:
The progress from brute to man is characterised by nothing so much as by the decrease in frequency of proper occasions for fear. In civilised life, in particular, it has at last become possible for large numbers of people to pass from the cradle to the grave without ever having had a pang of genuine fear. Many of us need an attack of mental disease to teach us the meaning' of the word. Hence the possibility of so much blindly optimistic philosophy and religion.
For Freud, civilization compromises our desire; for James here, it compromises our fear. If civilization protects us, or overprotects us, the absence of danger can make us unrealistic. We may need an attack of mental disease as the only available reminder of "proper occa sions for fear." Without proper occasions we lose the meaning of an important word. This mental disease that James recom mends, partly from his own experience, or rather the real fear that it entails, should temper speculation, setting limits to the naive ambitions of metaphysics.
But fear, especially at its most irrational, perplexes James in an interesting way; it connects for him three of his most consis tent preoccupations: blindness, optimism, and the doing of phi losophy. Because, unlike Freud, he doesn't see fear and desire as inextricable, he is more openly puzzled. Even though "a certain amount of timidity obviously adapts us to the world we live in,"he writes, "the fear paroxysm is surely altogether harmful to him who is its prey. "After considering the virtues of immo bility-the insane and the terrified "feel safer and more comfort able"in their "statue-like, crouching immobility"-James refers at the very end of his chapter on fear to "the strange symptom which has been described of late years by the rather absurd name of agoraphobia."After describing the symptoms, which "have no utility in a civilised man,"he manages to make sense of this puzzling new phenomenon only by comparing it to the way in which both domestic cats and many small wild animals approach large open spaces. "When we see this,"he writes,
we are strongly tempted to ask whether such an odd kind of fear in us be not due to the accidental resurrection, through disease, of a sort of instinct which may in some of our more remote ancestors have had a permanent and on the whole a useful part to play. 2
The "disease"returns the patient to his instinctual heritage; but this heritage is now redundant because, in actuality, there is nothing to fear. Agoraphobics, James suggests, are living in the past, the evolutionary past ("the ordinary cock-sure evolu tionist,"James remarks in his droll way, "ought to have no difficulty in explaining these terrors"}.3 The agoraphobic is, as it were, speaking a dead language. So to understand agora phobia in James's terms, we have to recontextualize the fear, put it back in its proper place, or rather, time. There is nothing really irrational about phobic terror; it is an accurate recognition of something, something that Darwinian evolution can supply a picture for. Fear itself cannot be wrong, even if it is difficult to find out where it fits.
A phobia nevertheless is, perhaps in both senses, an im proper occasion for fear, an enforced suspension of disbelief.
James's description of the agoraphobic patient "seized with pal pitation and terror at the sight of any open place or broad street which he has to cross alone" is a vivid picture of a phobia as an impossible transition. And it can be linked-as a kind of cartoon-with one of James's famous notions of truth; the agoraphobic becoming, as it were, the compulsive saboteur of some of his own truth.
A phobia, in other words, protects a person from his own curiosity.
"Agoraphobia," Freud wrote in a letter to Wilhelm Fliess in 1 887, "seems to depend on a romance of prostitution. " Despite James's misgiving about its "rather absurd name," and despite its being Greeked for prestigious legitimation, agora phobia seems rather nicely named. The agora, after all, was that ancient place where words and goods and money were exchanged. Confronted with an open space, asJames and Freud both agree, the agoraphobic fears that something nasty is going to be exchanged: one state of mind for another, one desire for another. But the phobia ensures a repression of opportunity, a foreclosing of the possibilities for exchange ("a projection is dangerous," the psychoanalyst Andre Green has written, "when it prevents the simultaneous formation of an introjection"; in a phobia one is literally unable to take in what one has invented).
The agoraphobic, that is to say, knows-Freud would say unconsciously-what the space is for, or what he wants to use it for. It then ceases, as though by magic, to be an open space, or what James calls a pluralistic universe. It simply leads into the past, into the old world.
James and Freud use explanation in quite different ways.
For James the question is not so much, Is it true? as How would my life be better if I believed it? For Freud the first question the unconscious question, so to speak-is, What do I want? and then, What fantasies of truth do I need to legitimate it?
". . . a face which inspires fear or delight (the object of fear or delight) is not on that account its cause, but-one might say-its target."
- Ludwig Wittgenstein, Philosophical Investigations
The question of where the fear belongs-or what it is worth while to fear-is one that occupies both the phobic person and his interpreter. Freud himself at one point speculated that child hood phobias of small animals and thunder could be "the atrophied remainders of congenital preparation for real dangers that are so clearly developed in other animals. " 7 If Freud and James agree here, with Darwinian common sense, that phobias are derivative forms of self-protection, that phobic terror is irrational only insofar as it has missed its target, they radically disagree about what there is to fear and where it comes from. They fill the agoraphobic space-its empty page, so to speak in quite different ways.
James's open space, for the agoraphobic, evokes phylo genetic memory; Freud's open space evokes personal memory (and memory for Freud is always of desire and the parented past). James's open space may be full of potential predators, but in Freud's open space a person may turn into a predator. "The anxiety felt in agoraphobia," Freud writes in 1926,
"(a subject that has been less thoroughly studied) seems to be the ego's fear of sexual temptation-a fear which, after all, must be connected in its origins with the fear of castration. As far as can be seen at present, the majority of phobias go back to an anxiety of this kind felt by the ego in regard to the demands of the libido."
For the agoraphobic the open space represents the setting for a possible incestuous sexual encounter punishable by castra tion. Because sexuality begins in incestuous fantasy, it always smacks of the forbidden. So the phobic scenario, in Freud's view, appears to invite an illicit reenactment from the past, a place where, quite unwittingly, a memory could be cast. For the agoraphobic to go out is to give the past a future, to bring it forward, so to speak. What the phobic fears, unconsciously, is not only the replication of this truant past, but also its mod ification in ways that cannot be anticipated. If one loses the replica, one might lose the original. These phobic scenarios are like antiepiphanies in which memory, rather than being released into images and atmospheres, is frozen into terror. Whereas the epiphany, in the Proustian sense, is contingent and surprising, the phobia is reliable. The phobia, which hoards the past, can be the one place in a person's life where meaning apparently never changes; but this depends upon one's never knowing what the meaning is.
Given the insistence and the mobility of the libido in Freud's account, any occasion might be a proper occasion for fear. Desire-or what we can, in a different language, call parts of the self-insofar as it is experienced as intolerable has to be put somewhere else, projected into hiding. There it can be acknowledged in terror, but never known about. The profoundest way of recognizing something, or the only way of recognizing some things, Freud will imply, is through hiding them from oneself. And what is profound, or rather of interest, is not only what one has hidden but also the ways one has of hiding it. We know only, of course-as in a phobia-about the repressions that break down. So it is as though, from a psycho analytic point of view, our unbearable self-knowledge leads a secret life; as though there is self-knowledge, but not for us. For Freud, what has to be explained is not why someone is phobic, but how anyone ever stops being anything other than phobic.
"A "no" from a person in analysis is quite as ambiguous as a "yes.""
- Sigmund Freud, Constructions in Analysis
Describing the way he made sketches, Bonnard wrote in his notebook: "The practice of cropping of the visual field almost always gives something which doesn't seem true. Com position at the second degree consists of bringing back certain elements which lie outside the rectangle."9 The phobic person is suspended between the first and the second degree of com position; he assumes, quite sensibly, that making the transition will break the frame rather than, as Bonnard intimates, making it a frame for something that seems true. He hovers in his terror, unable to make that decisive transition.
If horror, as WilliamJames wrote, is a "vertiginous baffling of the expectation," then phobic horror is a baffling of the awareness of expectation; there is nothing but paralysis or flight. But in thinking about phobias it's worth taking seriously the difference between a phobic situation and a phobic object like an insect. A phobic situation, broadly speaking, one can choose to avoid, but a phobic object can turn up unexpectedly. One might say, for example, that a person who imagines that his hate could turn up at any moment, like an unwanted guest who has to live in a state of continual internal vigilance to ensure that he will always be fair-might choose an object rather than a situation. A situation phobia is a controlled temp tation. And clearly the availability of, the potential for access to, the phobic object or situation is an essential factor, because it signifies access-and a person's attitude to this proximity-to otherwise repressed states of mind or versions of oneself.
For the phobic person the object or the situation that inspires the terror is beyond skepticism; he will behave as though he knows exactly what it is, however absurd this may seem to himself or other people. All his skep ticism is kept for the interpreters. In a phobia a person explicitly pretends to a private language, to a secretive exemption from shared meanings. The phobia reveals virtually nothing about the object except its supposed power to frighten; it baffles inquiry. Just as, in actuality, there is no repetition, only a wish for the idea of repetition as a way of familiarizing the present, so, with the phobic object or situation, the person thinks that he knows where he is. Better the devil you know than an angel you don't.
But it is, paradoxically, the very certainty of the phobic person that robs him of his autonomy (of course Freud would say that being a person robs him of his autonomy). Before the phobic object he submits to something akin to possession, to an experience without the mobility of perspectives. A phobia, like virtually nothing else, shows the capacity of the body to be gripped by occult meaning; it is like a state of somatic con viction. "The phobic object," Julia Kristeva writes in Powers of Horror, "is precisely avoidance of choice, it tries as long as pos sible to maintain the subject far from decision"; or from the notion that this could be a matter for decision. It is as though the object is issuing the orders, and the body responds even in anticipation of its presence. As the victim of terror the subject is as far as possible, in his own mind, from being the one who terrorizes. But he is sustaining a relationship, even in his avoid ance, constituted by terror. "Such avoidances," the psychoana lyst Roger Money-Kyrle remarked, "are superimposed upon seekings. "
If a phobia has the effect of empowering and disempower ing a person at the same time-like a kind of quotidian sublime, filling him with terror and rendering him helpless-it is also, by the same token, a way of making ordinary places and things extremely charged, like an unconscious estrangement tech nique. To be petrified by a pigeon is a way of making it new. The phobia is eroticization not so much of danger as of signifi cance. The creation toward the end of the nineteenth century of these new sexual objects-the familiar phobias became "symptoms" in the 1870s-the discovery that a panic akin to sexual excitement was felt by certain people when confronted with birds, rodents, insects, theaters, or open spaces, could be used as evidence of the idea of an unconscious mind; or of irrational selves inhabiting respectable selves, as in Jekyll and Hyde (Stevenson's tale was published in 1886). But those who made category mistakes-pigeons, after all, are not killers-had to be categorized. The advantage of pathologizing-and, of course, self-pathologizing-is that it appears to place the par ticipants in a structure of preexisting knowledge and authority.
The very absurdity of phobias, often even to the people who have them, could seem like a parody of the diagnostic process.
As symptoms, phobias provide a useful focus for what Donald Davidson has described as "the underlying paradox of irrationality"; "if we explain it too well," he writes, "we turn it into a concealed form of rationality; while if we assign inco herence too glibly, we merely compromise our ability to diag nose irrationality by withdrawing the background of rationality needed to justify any diagnosis at all. " One of the functions of a phobia is to fix such distinctions, to take the paradox out of them (phobia, ritualized as taboo, maintains a sensible uni verse). For the phobic person the phobia guarantees the differ ence-marks out a boundary-between the acceptably safe and the dangerously forbidden and exciting; and for his double, the interpreter, between the rational and the irrational (so one could ask, for example, "What would I have to say about one of my dislikes to make you think I was phobic of it, rather than just very discriminating?" or "Are we phobic of all the things we never do and all the places we never go, unconsciously phobic, as it were?"). The catastrophe that the phobic and his interpreter are both trying to avert is the collapse of their distinctions, the loss, or rather the mixing, of their categories. Practicing the martial arts of purity and danger, what can they do for each other beyond providing mutual reassurance?
Symptoms are a way of thinking about difficult things, thinking with the sound turned off, as it were. One of the reasons, perhaps, that Freud was so intrigued by phobias-sev eral of the great case histories are analyses of phobias-was that the making of a phobia was the model for the making of a theory. A phobia, like a psychoanalytic theory, is a story about where the wild things are. And these theories, like their phobic paradigm, organize themselves around a fantasy of the impos sible, the unacceptable in its most extreme form. Because Freud refused to assign incoherence too glibly-realizing that the rational and the irrational have to double for each other-he began to describe curiosity and knowledge, including, of course, the knowledge that is psychoanalytic theory, as reactive to fear; an attempt to master the phobia-the first recognition that by inaugurating consciousness depletes it. If terror is the object of knowledge, knowledge is counterphobic.
In order to become what Freud thinks of as a person, one has to become phobic; and one can become phobic only by believing that there are an external and an internal world that are discrete. "What is bad, what is alien to the ego and what is external are, to begin with, identical," Freud writes in "Nega tion," his extraordinary paper of 1925. For the ego to sustain itself as good, which means in Freud's terms for the ego to sustain itself, depends upon expelling everything experienced as bad into the outside world. The assumption is that at the very beginning unpleasure is soon intolerable and spells death and that consciousness is of unpleasure. The "bad"-or Melanie Klein would say the hate-is, pre-oedipally, the excess of desire that threatens to destroy the ego and, slightly later, the object; and oedipally, the forbidden incestuous desires. "In so far as the objects which are presented to it are sources of pleasure," Freud writes in "Instincts and Their Vicissitudes" (1915) , "the ego takes them into itself, 'introjects' them . . . and, on the other hand, it expels whatever within itself becomes a cause of unplea sure. " The first world we find outside is, in part, a repository for the terror inside us, an elsewhere for those desires and objects that bring unpleasure. And that world we make outside is the world we need to get away from. It is the place, or one of the places, where we put the objects and desires we wish did not belong to us. To be at home in the world we need to keep it inhospitable.
The ego needs a place elsewhere-which will be called outside-and another place elsewhere that Freud will call "the repressed unconscious," which is inside. And this matches, of course, the good/bad distinction (a different way of putting it might be to say: there's no such thing as an internal world-or an external world; there are just collections of words that seem to do justice to the complexity of what we feel). But in Freud's terms the ego, in this process of distributing the bad things, is depleting itself in the hopeless task of keeping itself what Freud calls a "pure pleasure ego." The developmental question, In Freud's view-conceived of, or rather enacted, before the indi vidual could describe it like this-is, what is unbearable about oneself and where is one going to put it? And the consequent preoccupation becomes, once one has supposedly got rid of it, how is one going to live in a state of such impoverishment, so emptied of oneself? The phobic object becomes the promise the (unconscious) gift returned, as it were-that has to be refused. But the refusal, of course, is a way of keeping the promIse.
If, as Freud believed, one is fundamentally unable-or ill equipped in childhood-to contain oneself, then it is part of the developmental project to find a phobia, to localize the impossi ble in oneself elsewhere. But of course for Freud fantasies-and the fantasy that makes a phobia-are forms of magical thinking; in the phobic fantasy you convince a part of yourself that the bad things are elsewhere only because there is really no else where (or the only real elsewhere is the place you cannot put parts of yourself) . Finding hate-objects may be every bit as essential as finding love-objects, but if one can tolerate some of one's badness-meaning recognize it as yours-then one can take some fear out of the world. In this psychoanalytic picture the treatment is a method of retrieval; almost, one might say, of the misplaced persons in oneself. With this picture, though, psychoanalysis can become unwittingly punitive, because each person has a limit to what he can take (not to mention the fact that there is a tyrannically omniscient fantasy at work here of what constitutes a "whole" person). In Freud's view, the ego depends upon its phobia. It is, so to speak, its first relationship, and one that is inevitably paranoid (paranoia being, as it were, a refusal to be left out).
The idea of the unconscious is, among other things, a way of describing the fact that there are things we didn't know we could say. A phobia is a conviction that bad things are unspeak able, and therefore that the unspeakable is always bad. And this makes tacit understandings for the phobic person always dan gerous. If you articulate the terror for the phobic person he may be persecuted by it again, and if you don't you collude with the notion that there is something truly unbearable.
Phobias, that is to say, confront the psychoanalyst very starkly, with the dilemma of cure. The art of psychoanalysis, for both the participants, is to produce interesting redescrip tions: redescriptions that the patient is free-can bear-to be interested in. Or to put it another way: the aim of psycho analysis is not to cure people but to show them that there is nothing wrong with them." [On Kissing, Tickling, and Being Bored: Psychoanalytic Essays on the Unexamined Life]
"An affinity for solitude is comparable only to one's affinity for certain other people. And yet one's first experience of solitude, like one's first experience of the other, is fraught with danger. "In children," Freud writes, "the first phobias relating to situa tions are those of darkness and solitude. The former of these often persists throughout life; both are involved when a child feels the absence of some loved person who looks after it its mother, that is to say." The absence of the visible and the absence of an object; and the risk, as in dreams, that inner most thoughts will come to light. For this reason, perhaps, it is the phobia relating to solitude that for some people per sists throughout life. Freud's preference here, toward darkness but away from solitude, reflects the fact that in his work, as opposed to his life, there is, as it were, a repression of solitude, of its theoretical elaboration. Although narcissism, the dream, mourning, the death work all testify to Freud's conception of the human subject as profoundly solitary, the index of the Standard Edition, for example, contains only two references to solitude. It is as though solitude itself, like the holding environ ment of early infancy, is taken for granted by Freud. It is perhaps the only risk of childhood whose counterpart in adult life he fails explicitly to consider.
Discussing other "situation phobias" in the Introductory Lectures, Freud uses examples of various kinds of journey:
"We know that there is more chance of an accident when we are on a railwayjourney than when we stay at home the chance of a collision; we know, too, that a ship may go down, in which case there is a possibility of being drowned; but we don't think of these dangers, and travel by rail and ship without anxiety. It cannot be disputed that we should fall into the river if the bridge collapsed at the moment we were crossing it; but that happens so exceedingly seldom that it does not arise as a danger. Solitude, too, has its dangers and in certain circumstances we avoid it; but there is no question of our not being able to tolerate it under any conditions even for a moment."
Solitude does not occur to us, perhaps, as being like ajourney, and journeys of the kind Freud mentions are usually spent in the presence of other people. Freud is overinsistent that we can tolerate solitude but silent about its dangers. From the logic of his examples we could infer, but only in the most speculative way, that the dangers of solitude were linked in his mind with being dropped (the idea, in D. W. Winnicott's sense, of being dropped as an infant). Freud, as we know, was made anxious by traveling; and in the Introductory Lectures themselves he associates journeys with death. "Dying , " he writes, in the Sec tion "Symbolism in Dreams," "is replaced in dreams by depar ture, by a trainjourney." Travelers, whether they acknowledge it or not, are traveling toward death. "The dramatist is using the same symbolic connection," he writes, "when he speaks of the after-life as 'the undiscovered country from whose bourne no traveller returns. ' ''3 The dream, after all, is the soliloquy of the unconscious, and it is clearly not gratuitous that Freud, to elucidate an element in the dream, uses here that most famous witnessed solitude of Hamlet's soliloquy.
It is the infant waiting too long fqr his mother that is traveling toward death because, unattended, he is in the solitary confinement of his body. Solitude is a journey, a potentially fataljourney, for an infant in the absence of sufficient maternal care. But it is worth remembering that the infant in the dark, the infant by himself, is not only waiting for the mother. Sleep, for example, is not exclusively a state of anticipation. It is, of course, difficult to conceive in psychoanalytic terms of an absence that is not, in some way, anticipatory.
Through desire the child discovers his solitude, and through solitude his desire. He depends upon a reliable but ultimately elusive object that can appease but never finally satisfy him. But from the very beginning, quite unwittingly, he has involved an object. "The subject,"Jacques Lacan writes, "has never done anything other than demand, he could not have survived otherwise; and we just follow on from there."
The clamorously dependent infant with a sufficiently atten tive mother ends up, so the normative story goes, as an adult with a capacity for solitude, for whom withdrawal is an escape not merely, or solely, from persecution, but toward a replenish ing privacy. But dependence, we assume, does not simply dis appear; somewhere, we think, there is an object, or the shadow of an object. So, in states of solitude what does the adult depend upon? To what does he risk entrusting himself?
The risks involved in traveling that Freud described could be tolerated, he suggested, because they were, in actual terms, minimal. But in the case of more serious kinds of risk-those which are not exclusively counterphobic-of which solitude can be one, the individual is attempting to find, often uncon sciously, that which is beyond his omnipotent control but not, by virtue of being so, persecutory. (A good example of this is Francis Bacon describing the point at which he needs to throw paint at his pictures as part of the process of composition.) I am referring here not to compulsive risk-taking, which js always constituted by a fantasy of what has already been lost-only the impossible, as we know, is addictive-:-but to the ordinary risks of adolescence that extend into adult life.
A sixteen-year old boy, for example, in his own words a "loner" and a "risk merchant," tells me in a session about the moment, at age ten, when he eventually learned to swim after having been terrified of water: "I knew I was safer out of my depth because even though I couldn't stand, there was more water to hold me up. " One of the central paradoxes for the adolescent is his discovery that only the object beyond his control can be found to be reliable. For the boy the risk of learning to swim was the risk of discovering that he, or rather his body, would float. The heart of swimming is that you can float. Standing within his depth, apparently in control, was the omnipotence born of anxiety; the opposite of omnipotence here was not impotence, as he had feared, but his being able to entrust himself to the water. The defense of vigilant self-holding precluded his being able to swim. He needed "a generous kind of negligence" with himself. It is possible to be too concerned about oneself.
This developmental process can be usefully understood in terms of epistemology, although of course it could hardly be experienced in these terms.
Approaching knowledge of the object is the act in which the subject rends the veil it is weaving around the object. It can do this only where, fearlessly passive, it entrusts itself to its own experience. " 6 In developmental terms the "hostile Other" can represent the failure of the holding environment. My patient could swim once the water was like an ordinary world-round-about-him, when he could be "fearlessly passive" out of his depth.
The infant depends on the mother and her care to prevent him from being out of his depth; in adolescence, as we know, this protection is both wished for and defied. Risks are taken as part of the mastery of noncompliance. One way the adoles cent differentiates himself, discovers his capacity for solitude for a self-reliance that is not merely a triumph over his need for the object-is by taking and making risks. He needs, uncon sciously, to endanger his body, to experiment with the rep resentations of it, and he does this out of the most primitive form of solitude, isolation. As Winnicott has written,
"The adolescent is essentially an isolate. It is from a position of isolation that he or she launches out into what may result in relationships . . . The adolescent is repeat ing an essential phase of infancy, for the infant too is an isolate, at least until he or she has been able to establish the capacity for relating to objects that are outside mag ical control. The infant becomes able to recognise and to welcome the existence of objects that are not part of the infant, but this is an achievement. The adolescent repeats this struggle."
The adolescent's body-and it is part of the adolescent project to inhabit and be inhabited by the body-can be experienced in its newfound sexuality as an object, and an object that is manifestly outside magical control. For the adolescent, Win nicott writes, "relationships must first be tried out on subjective objects."
To the adolescent it is, like the analyst in the transference, the most familiar stranger. In puberty the adolescent develops what can be accurately referred to as a transference to his own body; what crystallize in adolescence, what return partly as enactment through risk, are doubts about the mother and the holding environment of infancy. These doubts are transferred on to the body, turned against it, as it begins to represent a new kind of internal environment, a more solitary one. That is to say, the adolescent begins to realize that the original mother is his body.
It is not that the adolescent IS attempting to "own his body"-that absurd commodity of ego-psychology-as part of his separation from the mother, nor is he simply taking over her caregiving aspects. He is testing the representations of the body acquired through early experience. Is it a safe house? Is it reliable? Does it have other allegiances? What does it promise, and why does it refuse? These are the questions, and one can imagine others, that the infant, if he could, might ask of the mother, and that the adolescent re-presents as mood and enact ment. In the usual risks of adolescence-that stage of legitimate criminality and illicit solitude-the adolescent survives danger in a kind of virtual or "as if" absence of maternal care. And this, of course, has implications for treatment, since in the psychoanalytic literature an interest in risk-taking has usually been related to pathology; as integral, for example, to the per versions. (We may wonder, conversely, what the absence of risk signifies in a person's life.)
It may be, for example, that some perversions are an albeit sexualized way of keeping alive a risk-taking part of the self. When the adolescent, like the adult, is alone, he is alone in the presence of his own body, and his own body becomes at this stage an acute preoccupation. What kind of maternal and/or paternal object, or what other kind of object, does his body represents to him, and how does he find out? In the taking and making of bodily risks he begins to constitute his own possibility for a benign solitude, reliably alone in the presence of the body and its thoughts. The world and his body can feel as dangerous to the adolescent, and not only to the adolescent, as the risks he has failed to take with them. His capacity for a beneficent solitude will depend on his being able to entrust himself to his body as a sufficiently holding environment. And he will transfer on to his own body, recreate inside it, as it were, the holding environment of infancy in considerable detail.
A point comes in the treatment, Freud once said, when the patient must be encouraged to do the thing he most fears. It is this that the adolescent knows and refuses to know, and that his analyst finds more than a little difficult to deal with.
"I paid the price of solitude But at least I'm out of debt."
- Bob Dylan, "Dirge"
Adolescence, as we know, recapitulates something of infancy but in dramatically modified form. From adolescence onward the link between risk and solitude becomes a vivid and traumatic issue. But the pressing question of risk is clearly bound up with something that certain psychoanalysts after Freud have seen as central to early development: a capacity for concern. We create risk when we endanger something we value, whenever we test the relationship between thrills and virtues. So to understand, or make conscious, what constitutes a risk for us-our own personal repertoire of risks-is an important clue about what it is that we do value; and it also enjoins us to consider the plea sures of carelessness. It is a paradox of some interest that although psychoanalysis was, from the very beginning, about the relationship between justice and love, there is no explicit or coercive description in Freud's work of what constitutes a good life; and this is one of the many things that distinguishes him from his critics and followers.
It is therefore another interesting paradox in the development of psychoanalysis to note how much, for Winnicott, develop ment depended on the capacity to relinquish or suspend concern for the object. Indeed, where else can we go in psychoanalytic theory for descriptions of a benign disregard of objects that extends into adult life? I am not saying that Winnicott, in his writing, did not mention concern; indeed, one of the few developmental stages he dared name was a Stage of Concern. Nor am I saying that I think Winnicott was a proto-Nietzschean - although I do believe he has a truly frightening and exhilarating theory of development. But I am saying that Win nicott's writing, by virtue of being writing, is, like Freud's, riven with crosscurrents and packed with contradiction. And one of the insistent themes in his writing, though it is usually understated and always qualified, is that concern for an object is easily a compliant act and always potentially an obstacle to passionate intimacy and personal development. And this has interesting implications for the relationship that increasingly preoccupied Winnicott as he got older: the relationship one has with oneself. We could wonder, for example, what we are starving ourselves of by being too concerned about ourselves.
Writing to Countess de Solm-Laubach on August 3, 1907, the poet Rilke expressed in extreme form what may be, or could be, a common experience: "except for two short interruptions, I have not pronounced a single word for weeks; at last my solitude has closed in and I am in my work like a pit in its fruit. " The implication is that speaking-involvement with other people-would have held off this nurturing solitude in which his work could grow. He relinquishes an environment of exter nal objects and becomes the seed of himself.
In states of absorption, in the solitude of concentration, the other object that disappears is the body. The good-enough envi ronment of the body can be taken for granted; it is most reliably present by virtue of its absence. It does not, as it does in states of desire and illness, insist on its importance; in Maurice Blan chot's words, one "yields to the risk of the absence of time. " 19 A fertile solitude is a benign forgetting of the body that takes care of itself; and in this context desire becomes a remembering. In the dream, Freud tells us-that most solitary representa tion-the body must not be disturbed; we must not wake up to it. A productive solitude, the solitude in which what could never have been anticipated appears, is linked with a quality of attention. The excessive proximity of the object, or of the body as intrusive object, is always a preemptive presence. "That is why I go into solitude," Nietzsche wrote, "so as not to drink out of everybody's cistern. When I am among the many I live as the many do, and I do not think as I really think; after a time it always seems as though they want to banish me from myself and rob me of my soul." From the facilitating object to the object as usurping presence: somewhere here the analyst finds himself, placed in the patient's transference. But what of the journey from dependence to the wish for solitude, a wish that takes us beyond, or at least outside, the analytic situation? Although the wish for solitude can be a denial of dependence, a capacity for solitude may be its fullest acknowledgment.
For Winnicott the capacity to be alone depended upon the earlier experience of the child alone in the presence of the mother. He does not, of course, speak of the child alone in the presence of his father, nor in detail of what Masud Khan has called "the infant-in-care alone with himself."21 The precursor of the capacity for solitude is the child in the reliable, unimping ing presence of the mother who would cover the risks. If the mother is there, he can lose himself in a game; and optimally, in Winnicott's work, mother is always there presiding over our solitude. But the human subject in Freud-a desiring solitude lives between absence and conflict. Freud could not conceive, in his own psychoanalytic terms, of a solitude that was consti tuted as a full presence rather than as a lack; and psychoanalysis, of course, has an impoverished vocabulary for states of plenitude that are not considered pathological. For Freud sol itude could be described only as an absence, for Winnicott only as a presence. It is a significant measure of difference.
And still the question remains: to what do we risk entrust ing ourselves in solitude? Although God is no longer our per petual witness, we have our own available ghosts, our constitu tive psychoanalytic fictions-the unconscious, the good internal object, the developmental process, the body and its destiny, language. Perhaps in solitude we are, as we say, simply "on our own." Is it not, after all, the case that the patient comes to analysis to reconstitute his solitude through the other, the solitude that only he can know?" [On Kissing, Tickling, and Being Bored: Psychoanalytic Essays on the Unexamined Life]