Monday, December 23, 2013

What's the Difference?

Last night I had that dream again -- the one in which I can do anything.

What I mean is that it occurs to me that I somehow have this power to do whatever I want.

In your dreams, Bob! Yes, in my dreams. Stop taunting me. We've already stipulated that.

It's happened countless times before: poems, novels, songs, paintings, landscapes, architecture, all produced by my dreamer -- whoever that is -- in my dreams. In fact, why say "my" dreams, when it is the dream that contains us, not vice versa?

In any event, last night I had the clear and distinct experience of producing several novel jazz performances in my dreamscape, with unique arrangements and solos I'm sure I've never heard in this world. So, how did I do that?

More generally, I've done any number of things in my dreams -- as have you -- that I've never done out here, for example, being a professional athlete, or having more children, or public speaking, the latter of which would make me nervous in this world.

The bottom line is that there appears to be a huge disconnect between man's potentialities and his achievements. Yeah, well, duh.

What I mean is, if we can do anything, but end up doing just this, what went wrong? Who goofed?

Now, in point of fact, that is not at all how I feel about what I have "accomplished." Rather, I am astonished by my creativity, such as it is. Let me quickly emphasize that I don't mean this in any egocentric way, any more than I mean it in such a way when I boast of the inexhaustible creativity of my Dreamer, the original Fertile Egghead.

Rather, I mean it in a more impersonal and general way, just the very fact of generating meaningful novelty, which is something for which Darwinism (or any other reductionistic scheme) cannot account, and which places us at the leading fringe of cosmic evolution -- if by evolution we mean the unfolding of new and unprecedented developments, for I am quite sure this completely unplanned post has never occurred before and will never occur again.

Although I am a psychologist by trade, for a long time I've been alienated from the discipline, because it deals with a Man I don't recognize, and to whom I don't relate. I don't even remember how it happened, but over the weekend I stumbled upon some old books -- or they me -- which I hadn't looked at since I was in graduate school, and even then didn't finish reading. Nor, clearly, did I understand the implications, as indicated by what I highlighted then as opposed to what I highlighted over the weekend. Different Bob, different concerns.

My present concerns are entirely wrapped up in the freedom-creativity-individuality triad we've been paddling in ever since we ventured down this Hartshorne-Berdyaev stream. I am now more convinced than ever that Freedom is Of the Essence, the transcendental of transcendentals, although inconceivable in the absence of the others; for individualism is freedom creatively lived, just as creativity is an expression of the free individual.

That being the case, we need a psychology that reflects this reality, not a psychology that reduces us to, say, selfish genes, or blind instincts, or social adaptation, or creatures of the State, or anything less than the fullest articulation of our creative freedom.

The first book that fell into my lap this weekend was this well known blockbuster (ranked #4,464,231 on amazon), Separation, Will, and Creativity, by the psychoanalyst Esther Menaker. In it I discovered a psychology that is entirely consistent with the Raccoon Way, albeit missing the explicitly spiritual element (since psychoanalysis, like the science it attempts to ape, is an a priori secular enterprise).

I'm a little surprised I didn't steal some of this for my own SIGNED COPIES!, but perhaps this is because I was more focused on the mystical than the creative element, even though the latter is implicitly there.

Long story short, Esther Menaker was a disciple of the dissident psychoanalyst Otto Rank, who started out as Sigmund Freud's young BFF -- the Heir Apparent -- but who had a falling out with the Master as a result of having the temerity to nurture his own ideas. And his biggest idea revolves around Creativity, which really has no place in Freud's metapsychology, since the latter is firmly rooted in a scientistic metaphysic in which the present is reducible to the past. You know, blame your mother, blah blah yada yada.

Thus, for Freud, creativity might be interpreted as, I don't know, symbolically playing with one's own feces, or exposing oneself, or masturbation. And before you laugh at Freud, I advise you to tour a contemporary museum, read a contemporary novel, or turn on the television. Indeed, you have to really search to not find the feces.

Which leads to the question: why all the feces? Now that I think about it, could it be because our psychological models are full of shit? Yes, no doubt. However, I don't want to pursue that particular line of thought at the moment. Back to Menaker.

That title: Separation. Will. Creativity. These three are linked in surprising ways, for without "will," we cannot separate from the maternal matrix, but if the separation is only accomplished via will (i.e., the oppositionalism of the two year-old), then there is no creativity.

No. I mean Yes. Our separation has a purpose, which is the creative discovery and elaboration of our unique individuality. And clearly "unique" and "creative" are essentially synonymous terms, humanly speaking. To become an individual is to be unique.

But in reality, we now know, thanks to science, that we are absolutely unique from the moment of conception. So, er, why are all these human robots the same?

Good question! It really gets to the heart of how we ought to think of psychopathology in this new model of creative freedom as normative. For, as expressed in the Raccoon Companion of Bombastic Adages, if you're not eccentric, you're wrong.

Because of the ban on Religion, Menaker comes right to the threshold of Raccoon orthoparadoxy, without being able to cross it. Example?

"The will... is a representative of the life force: a force expressive of the creative principle in the universe." "Life force?" "Creative principle?" What unnecessary mystagogy!

"For Rank, two principles were operative in the universe: the causal and the creative." Okay. Agreed. But can the latter be reduced to the former? Of course not. That leaves us with the Creative. Where did that come from?

C'mon now. Think. Don't just assume, so as to fit it into your uncreative preconceptions.

Let's go back to the beginning: "Without difference," writes Menaker, "there would be no individual will and no creative expression." Ah ha. Difference. What is difference then, and why is it here? In other words, why should there be anything other than oneness?

Well, we could say that there is nothing but oneness prior to the appearance of man. I mean, right? For what is man but the realization of difference, of separation from the source?

You might even say that "man" and "consciousness of separation" co-arise -- which, I believe, goes to Genesis 3, which clearly and unambiguously relates separateness to self-awareness, the former being the price of the latter -- at least until a novel restoration is achieved.

Well, that's about all the time we have today. To be continued...


julie said...

Well, we could say that there is nothing but oneness prior to the appearance of man. I mean, right? For what is man but the realization of difference, of separation from the source?

I'm not sure where my copy of the book is at the moment, but if memory serves this was a key point toward the beginning of "Man and Woman He Created Them", was it not?

Gagdad Bob said...

Probably. I don't remember either, and I'm too lazy to reach over four feet to my right. But it would certainly go to the trinitarian deustinctions within the Godhead.

julie said...

Let's go back to the beginning: "Without difference," writes Menaker, "there would be no individual will and no creative expression." Ah ha. Difference. What is difference then, and why is it here? In other words, why should there be anything other than oneness?

Along those lines, I'm reminded again of a story that's been making the rounds about millenials, particularly the children of helicopter parents, who reach adulthood and beyond and are essentially crippled because they never learned how to function on their own.

Which reminds me of something I've had occasion to think about, as a stay-at-home parent: maybe it's just me, but spending all day every day around my kids, even when there was just one, made me rather disinclined to be much of a helicopter. If anything, I find great pleasure in their increasing independence. Meanwhile, whenever I take them to activities where creativity is involved, pretty much every other kid has a parent doing everything for the kids. How the heck are they supposed to learn anything if they never have to try it?

ted said...

Reminds me of Ernest Becker's classic Denial of Death. I know he was heavily influenced by Rank, and came to the conclusion that man must both surrender and heroically take on something bigger than himself. It's a nice merger of psychology with religion (and includes the freedom, creativity, and individuality needed to ground it).

ge said...

Related to your dream-accomplisher theme is the idea we might have undeveloped because uncalled-on [perhaps miraculous healing etc type] skills that rest in latency having atrophied via non-use/non-confidence/ignorance of their area i think scientology might have insights on...

ted said...

scientology might have insights

Not sure how I feel about that ge. Just read Going Clear.

Seems more like a manipulation than a religion.

Gagdad Bob said...

Yes, Becker too was a disciple of Rank, but again, he only goes as far as a "heroic existentialism" and no further.

Gagdad Bob said...

I believe Rank was among that first generation of "self-loathing Jews" who were kind of ashamed of their parents or grandparents, and who wanted to assimilate. So it's like a religious quest minus the religion.

Gagdad Bob said...

Which is what psychoanalysis became more generally, just a displaced religious quest (whereas Freud would say that religion is a displaced oedipal quest).

ted said...

Interesting. Man can't escape the religious impulse. It just gets redirected, and hopefully in places not too crazy.

Gagdad Bob said...

Yes, it is the instinct for transcendence that sets us apart as human -- and "transcendence" seems to be another word for "difference."

Gagdad Bob said...

Interesting too that in classical thought it is recognized that man craves "distinction," which seems to be another iteration of it. A normal person wants to be distinct from the herd, but there are healthy and pathological ways of achieving this.

Gagdad Bob said...

For example, the founders recognized that distinction without virtue is just narcissism or the lust for power.

NoMo said...

In a sense, isn't it separation, will, and creativity, particularly in the context of the "novel restoration" that makes it even reasonably possible for us to fulfill the greatest commandment?


ge said...

Such a band's story would be hard to dream --imagine devoting your life to this nut's vision [good bio of Captain Beefheart, 'guru'-musician]

ps re scientology---obviously the choich has some problems, but i might give them a nod of credit or 2---or are Beck, Burroughs, Morrison, Williamson, Corea, Clarke, Karen Black, Kirstie Alley, Seinfeld [i say he is one] total idiots? or just sizable %? :)

Gagdad Bob said...

NoMo -- Yes, exactly. It would be strictly impossible from our end alone, i.e., "you can't get there from here."

julie said...

I believe they must be very foolish, at least in some respects. To trade the richness of Judaism, for instance, for the non-sense of Scientology doesn't exactly strike me as wise.

I'm sure Hubbard was canny enough to mix just enough of truth or near-truth in with his fairy tales to make it resonate with the desire for transcendence, but perverted truth is often more harmful and wrong than an outright lie. I wouldn't look there for anything worth knowing.

ge said...

[i'm talking more techniques]

neal said...

Separation is not about what you think. It is a price that has been paid, even if just for a thousand, or a hundred, or ten, or just One. There was never any other way to settle the smallest of disagreements. Now, if you could do both, and save the world, you would still have to sit it out, and watch, and wait.

Gagdad Bob said...

Good point. Can I buy some pot from you?

ge said...

ok just 'cos it's

1. The Road to Freedom - 00:11
2. The Worried Being - 04:53
3. The Way to Happiness - 09:04
4. Make it Go Right - 14:53
[you'll find yourself humming this one all day!]
5. Laugh a Little - 19:20