.... To Be Continued. But Only Forever....
A case in point is Chapter 4, The Modalities of Language. Here Bomford puts forth some novel ideas about how language may be used to express things that are beyond its reach, and to say what cannot be said about the modalities of the unconscious mind, including eternity, placelessness, non-contradiction, and the fusion (or non-separation) of reality and imagination.
What made this chapter especially interesting for me, is that I realized that I had employed many of these techniques in my own book (in particular, in the Cosmogenesis and Cosmobliteration sections) without being consciously aware of it. Rather, I was simply focussed on the reality I was attempting to contact and disclose, and the language came to me. You know, adequation, just like in any other science.
You might say that what I was trying to express had to invent the means -- and even the person! -- to express itself. But it turns out that the invention already existed, at least in its deep structure. (Speaking of blogging, which no one was, it also reminds me of how I first had to create an audience for my writing, or will all of you folks into being, which makes it difficult to sell books, since you can only create one Raccoon at a time.)
The one objection I have to Bomford's conception is that he regards the unconscious in a unitary manner, whereas I conceptualize it on a vertical scale, with an unconscious below and a supraconscious above. Both are "un" conscious, but in different ways. And again, it's not as if they lack consciousness -- obviously -- only that they lay (and often lie) outside conscious, egoic awareness.
The point is, Bomford sometimes falls into what Wilber calls the "pre-trans fallacy," that is, conflating the pre-personal and the transpersonal (Jung often did this as well). Nevertheless, he is correct that the same modalities generally apply to both, i.e, timelessness, placelessness, etc.
Let's begin with eternity, or timelessness. With symmetrical logic, if event B comes after event A, then event A also comes after event B. Again, we routinely see this logic play out in dreams, in which events from different times can be co-present. Ultimately, if this logic is taken to its extreme (up toward point 10, 10 in the upper right), it means that in the unconscious, all time is simultaneously present -- which is one of the defining characteristics of eternity.
I immediately think of Jesus' paradoxical statement that before Abraham was, I AM. This makes no sense from the standpoint of asymmetrical logic, but perfect nonsense from the standpoint of symmetrical logic. Likewise, that Jesus is "alpha and omega," or first and last.
As Bomford writes, "The most primitive and perhaps deepest expression of the eternity of the Unconscious that could be imagined is an unchanging cry of joy or scream of pain, something everlastingly the same. Such would express the dominance of a single extreme emotion pouring out in its most raw form from its unconscious root. The well-known painting by Edvard Munch entitled The Scream may serve as an icon of a state of this kind."
Alternatively, we might imagine my infinite despair when the Phillies scored two runs in the bottom of the ninth to defeat the Dodgers last Monday. It's like a never ending D'ohhhhhhhhhhhhhhh!!!, echoing into the cold and desolate Philadelphia night.
Now that I'm thinking of it, I have treated many cases of trauma, and this seems to be how post-traumatic stress operates. When a person endures a trauma -- say, a bank robbery, with a gun pointed directly at their head -- they are temporarily lifted out of time, partly as a sort of primitive defense mechanism. Often there is a sense of time standing still accompanied by depersonalization and derealization. In short, the body is there but the person is someplace else, either "dissolved" or dispersed. Their nervous system is still registering the event, but not "to" or "for" someone. The theatre is empty. Lights on, nobody home.
But as their person gradually reconstitutes and the lights come back on, they can expect to experience a number of characteristic symptoms such as nightmares and repeated flashbacks of the trauma. These are unbidden memories over which the person has no conscious control. I have always understood this as a way for the mind to try to "metabolize" an event that was too overwhelming at the time.
In other words, you might think of the flashbacks as a way to convert the eternal terror into mere garden variety fear, bit by bit, one piece at a time. I always tell patients that their symptoms are actually their mind's way of assimilating and coming to terms with what happened to them. When they start treatment, the trauma is remembering them, but with the passage of time, they will eventually be able to remember it. It will simply be a bad memory, instead of something that is grabbing them by the throat, so to speak. They will contain it, rather than vice versa.
This would also explain why the most catastrophic traumas are those that occur during childhood. Since a young child -- say, before the age of 5 -- is largely in eternity and not time, when a trauma occurs, it can be internalized in such a way that it lives on "forever."
(This reminds me of what happened to our cat after the 1994 earthquake. She just "vanished," and we didn't see a trace of her for several days. She was presumably hiding somewhere, but we checked every possible hideout. It was as if she were hibernating in an alternate dimension. She eventually reappeared out of nowhere, as if nothing had happened.)
(Come to think of it, Grotstein has hypothesized that primitive psychological defense mechanisms may be analogues to what animals do when in extreme danger, for example, "playing dead." Many children from abusive homes deal with the trauma by psychologically "playing dead," but if it goes on for too long, the defense gradually displaces the core of the personality, so the person becomes emotionally dead.)
I was about to say that I wouldn't be surprised if the painter of the Icon of Eternal Terror hadn't been traumatized himself as a child. A quick wikipedia search reveals that Munch was not a Dodger fan, he did lose his mother to tuberculosis when he was just four years old, "and his older and favorite sister Sophie to the same disease in 1877.... After their mother's death, the Munch siblings were raised by their father, who instilled in his children a deep-rooted fear by repeatedly telling them that if they sinned in any way, they would be doomed to hell without chance of pardon. One of Munch's younger sisters was diagnosed with mental illness at an early age. Munch himself was also often ill.... He would later say, 'Sickness, insanity and death were the angels that surrounded my cradle and they have followed me throughout my life.'"
That is about as good a description as you will find of "eternal trauma" living on in the unconscious mind. "Angels of insanity" is a good way of saying "mind parasites."
Getting back to language, Freud discovered that certain speech patterns revealed the characteristics of eternity, including repetition. As Bomford explains, "Repetition expresses eternity by everlastingly returning to the same point." He notes that people in a state of severe depression will often repeat the same words again and again, "words expressive of everlasting defeat or failure."
Conversely, people who have achieved some great goal, such as athletes, might be reduced to repeating phrases such as "We did it... I can't believe we did it..." In fact, you will notice that at the end of the World Series, or Superbowl, or Stanley Cup, the players are often speechless, just as in a trauma. One or more of the players is sure to say something like, "I can't absorb this right now. It's too much. It'll take a few weeks to sink in."
I remember my first encounter with severe depression as a child, although I had no idea what it was at the time. My maternal grandmother came to live with us for a while, and she was obviously profoundly depressed. She would shuffle around the house all day, holding her face and muttering "Oh God.... Dear God.... Oh God...." Very spooky. In fact, as Bomford writes, the simplest way to convey eternity is to simply repeat the same words over and over. Or sometimes just one word:
If you've seen Citizen Kane, you know that that word is like a holographic container representing all of Kane's childhood issues of abandonment and loss, which he spent his life trying to fill with power and possessions. But it is a bottomless pit because it is an eternal nothing. Might as well try to fill a hole on the beach with water.
Interestingly, it was Orson Welles who dubbed Jackie Gleason "the great one." The most exalted Raccoon of them all would often express eternal shock or befuddlement through the repetition of our sacred mantra, homina homina homina!
Other times, a person may "make the same point repeatedly, but in different words. He or she seems to be groping for something unchanging that no one set of words will adequately express: it could be described as revolving round and round a central point." Bomford calls this "repetition with variation."
Here again, I found that this is instinctively what I did in the Coonifesto, especially in the Cosmobliteration section, where language begins to fail and we ascend up the orthobola past 10, 10 and crank language up to 11:
Words fail. But one clings. Still. You don't say. Emptiness! drowning the soul in its everlasting peace, an eternal zero, a spaceless and placeless infinite, supremely real and solely real, our common source without center or circumference, no place, no body, no thing, or not two things, anyway....
To be continued. But only forever.