Friday, January 17, 2014

Living the Lie and Dying to Truth

"There is something in genuine myth that is analogous to our stories of what transpires between conception and the acquisition of language. Or in (m)other worlds, before living in language we are embodied in narratives -- a case of the word taking flesh -- a subject to which we will return tomorrow," he promised.

That's a little unclear, Bob, because what's the distinction between "living in language" and being "embodied in narratives"?

Fair question. My editor should have caught that. In order to explain what I mean, I think I will briefly reintroduce a little pedagogic device developed by Bion, which he simply called the "grid":

We've discussed the grid before. Let's see if I said anything helpful to our present concerns. "Basically, the vertical axis has to do with the evolution of thought, while the horizontal axis has to do with the uses to which the thought is put."

I'll just continue quoting from yesterBob until he outwrites his usefulness:

"Thus, for example, it is indeed possible to treat ideas as rocks, as the left proves every day. On the grid, the 'rock idea' would be at the intersection of 'concept' on the vertical axis and 'action' on the horizontal."

Note that the idea of a rock is naturally more evolved than the idea as a rock -- although it needs to be added that liberal elites consciously manipulate the language in this manner so as to influence their hordes of media-academic (and lower) LoFos into outrage and action -- or passion and bullying. An Obama or Clinton are masters at this, and pretty much nothing else. But where do they fall on the grid?

Notice the second column, Psi (Ψ). It essentially stands for the Lie, that is, "false formulations that are known to be false with the intention of counteracting the formulations which can generate anxiety or the developments which imply catastrophic change" (Grinberg, et al).

The first thing we need to notice is that the Lie exists on a separate axis from its potential evolution. Critically, the Lie is not necessarily on the stupid/intelligent continuum (although it can be).

Rather, the most brilliant person in the world can elaborate the Lie to the ends of thought, ad infinitum -- although in so doing, if the person were intellectually honest, he would realize that he has ended in a self-refuting absurdity, if you follow me, because the lie cannot go on "forever."

Doing so would represent an infinite regress, or a naughty infinity, which metaphysics will not allow. Thus, in the opinion of the Raccoon elders, the vertical axis not only ends in O, but everything prior to it is leading to -- or being attracted by -- O. That is indeed why thought "evolves" to begin with.

Recall what I said about rock-throwing leftists. A sincerely concerned reader has advised me to cut out the liberal bashing, because it instantly turns off readers who otherwise might benefit from the blog. He says that he has directed a number of liberal friends here, but that they were put off by what they would no doubt regard as my own primitive rock throwing.

But is that really what it is? Well, yes and no. We first need to ask whether the rocks are true or false. If they are true, then if you are hurt by one, then it is your own fault, because it is exposing a column 2 lie. What's the old saying about throwing a rock into a pigpen? The one who squeals is the one you hit. You have touched a nerve, as it were.

More to the point, if you've ever taken the trouble to read the masthead of the blog, it says right there LEFTWING RIDICULISM. And if you read ABOUT ME in the snidebar, it says that we take delight in providing fine insultainment for the ridicure of assouls.

Now, what is politics but the organization of hatreds? Problems only occur when there is organized hatred that has ventured into a parallel psiworld.

To render this extremely concrete, let's apply this principle to the Benghazi fiasco, about which the regime has been systematically lying for the past 16 months. Now, why would they want to lie about it, and pretend it was just a movie review taking place on column 6 of the grid, action? See above: in order to counteract formulations which imply catastrophic change -- i.e., losing the forthcoming election. Yes, Obama promised change, but that was then. Now, like any entrenched power toker, he wants to prevent it.

And when we see comically evasive mouthpiece Jim Carney either dancing around the subject or expressing anger at reporters who bring it up, we are of course witnessing the attempt to counteract "formulations which can generate anxiety." Anxiety itself can easily transform into -- or mask itself via -- anger, petulance, impatience, irritability, self-righteousness -- you know, finger-wagging I did not have sexual relations with that woman, or the pseudo-detached At this point, what difference does it make?

Which brings up another important point about politics. There's nothing wrong with passion, so long as it is in the service of truth. But too many people -- both left and right, but especially on the left -- are just addicted to the passion of self-righteousness. People always receive a secret charge when their self-righteousness is provoked, and this can take on a life of its own, entirely separate from question of truth or falsehood. People like to be in this fired up state, as it is preferable to feeling bored and empty.

Now, back to the question at hand -- about how the space between ape and man is filled by myth. Note that on the grid, this appears in row 3, "dream thoughts, dreams, myths." This stage of thought comes after what Bion calls "alpha elements" and "beta elements," and before preconceptions, conceptions, scientific deductive systems, etc.

Some of our most important -- if not the most important -- myths appear in Genesis. Again, at the horizon of history is myth. This is inevitable, since there is only so far conceptual thought can go before hitting a wall. Think of how physics doesn't really account for creation. Rather, it simply hits a wall at the end of its equations.

Any five year-old can (and will) ask what happened before the big bang, to which we can only sensibly respond with myth -- and the operational word here is sensibly, for this is where myth is infused with a truth that surpasses our ability to exhaust it conceptually. When we hear it, it bangs an interior gong, at least if we are still living in a place where truth is embodied and not just entertained in the head.

Which means that God is not a concept -- although God can of course be expressed conceptually. Again, I would situate God at the extreme end of the vertical axis, always drawing us toward him in thought, action, and passion-emotion. There is a kind of metabolism that goes on, which is grounded in the first two rows, beta and alpha elements.

In the book, I talked about that very first bit of matter that wrapped around itself and decided to go on being, and how every development subsequent to this is built upon that first outrageous act of rebellion.

For Bion, it is the same with the development of thought. He distinguishes thoughts from the thinker. Clearly, thoughts must have preceded the first man who started thinking them, instead of thoughts thinking him; instead of being subject to thoughts, he became the subject of them, AKA a thinker.

In other words, imagine what it must be like for an animal. Thoughts come and thoughts go, but there is no thinker to organize and reflect upon them. To do this requires what Bion calls "alpha function," which you might think of as the metabolism of thought.

Which brings us back to how we got started on this whole discussion, the practice of communion, which seems to be a concrete expression of metabolizing O -- of being nourished by logos-language and embodied in the God-given narrative.

Thursday, January 16, 2014

In. The. Beginning.

What I meant to say yesterday but never quite got around to is that psychoanalytic theory -- specifically, developmental psychoanalysis -- has the same hi-lo, abstract-concrete, psycho-somatic structure we see in Christian theology, by which I mean there are a lot of really Smart Guys cogitating over the most Primitive Things imaginable.

You wouldn't think there'd be an overlap between the two, since Freud was so flagrantly wrong in his metaphysics (atheist, reductionist, materialist, mechanist), and wrote some profoundly foolish things about religion and morality (e.g., Moses and Monotheism, The Future of an Illusion, Civilization and its Discontents).

But his psychic explorations only took him as far as the Father, i.e., to the age of three or so, with the so-called oedipal stage of development. As for the great uncharted territory prior to that -- conception to three -- he just assumed it was a blank wall, a stage of "primary narcissism," with no significance at all.

This is no doubt the only time you will ever read the word "patriarchal" on this blog, in an un-ironic way, for to overlook that vast bewilderness is to ignore at least half the cosmos, probably the better half. Seriously. None of us would be remotely human without it, for it is the very laboratory of humanness. And the most important early explorers of the pre-oedipal world were either women or influenced by them, e.g. Melanie Klein, who analyzed Bion, who analyzed my analyst, as it so happens. Not that there's anything wrong with that.

One problem is that Freud imagined he could contain the mind in wideawake and cutandry language -- the Father's Rules -- when that is precisely what the infant lacks: the word comes from the Latin infans, meaning "incapable of speech." Indeed, "baby" is no doubt a bit of onomatopoeia from the preverbal sounds they make. As are ma-ma, da-da, and ba-ba. And who knows, maybe ha-ha, ca-ca, rah-rah, wah-wah, and poo-poo.

Anyway, the whole things reminds me of Tolstoy's wise crack that From the child of five to myself is but a step. But from the newborn baby to the child of five is an appalling distance, for there we confront another kind of infinite, but without which the other infinite would be literally inconceivable. No other animal can conceive of the Infinite or the Absolute to which it is related by marriage.

Thus, we might say that mankind's universal recollections of paradise are indeed just that: recollections of a land of nonduality and perfect harmony, where you are waited upon hand and foot and mouth by a giant and loving bellehop who responds to your distress and ministers to your needs. OMMMM, I remurmur mama...

(Now that I'm thinking about it, it is interesting that our eight year-old is experiencing a bit of a recrudescence of this infantile sense of liberal entitlement, wanting Mom to do things for him that he is fully capable of doing himself, so there are some power struggles going on over the Lost Birthright. Me? I cave every time. Just call me RinoDad.)

The journey from conception-to-three is marked by a number of distinct characteristics. Like what? Well, I haven't (consciously) thought about this stuff for awhile -- at least in a theoretical way -- but we've already talked about intersubjectivity and openness, which are two sides of the same phenomenon. If you think of an open system in nature -- AKA a dissipative structure -- it maintains itself and/or grows via an exchange of matter, energy, or information with the environment.

The same thing applies to the mind, only the exchange doesn't involve energy per se, i.e., physical energy (whatever that is). We do, of course, require lots of energy to fuel the brain, which consumes the lion's share of glucose in order to perform its magic.

But we certainly crave information, right from the get-go. The baby demands to know WTF is going on, and will show his displeasure when he is left out of the loop: what's this? I wasn't told anything about gas! Human beings are epistemophilic, meaning we not only need knowledge, but we luuuv knowledge (although we still don't really know what causes colic). And since knowledge-truth must come from God, you might say we come into the world loving God.

Here again, if this weren't woven into our very psychic substance, it would be impossible to acquire it later, to somehow superimpose it upon a fundamentally uncurious and self-satisfied mind. Those latter two types obviously exist, but the traits are acquired (or, more likely, imposed), not innate. Barring genetic or developmental disasters, no one needs to be an idiot.

But wait a minute: you said loving truth. That's two separate things, love and truth. What about the first? How does that get tossed into the mix?

Oh my. Now you're opening a clan of warms that I won't have time to fully flesh out this morning. But clearly, love is not an idea -- or a noun or a verb or an adjective or anything really englishable at all, unless maybe you happen to be William Shakespeare or Suzanne Somers or something.

Rather, first and foremost it is a preverbal embodied experience to which we only later give a name. Indeed, this is what makes it real, and not just an abstraction or a linguistic convention or Bill Clinton's marriage vows.

It very much reminds me of the founding of Amorica, which was, of course, rooted in freedom. The typical pinhead imagines that this cerebrated political freedom was just that: cerebrated rather than soma-tized (soma being Greek for body). There are a number of goodbooks that touch on this, at least implicitly, most recently Daniel Hannan's Inventing Freedom: How the English-Speaking Peoples Made the Modern World. The title is accurate as far as it goes, but of course it doesn't go to the deep psychosomatic source of freedom rooted in the unique circumstances of infancy.

However, Hannan does correctly point out that freedom was first "lived" for many generations before it could be reflected upon and codified. Thus, Englishmen were living in real freedom in the colonies, with only a very light touch from the distant government. In living it they came to cherish it, which is why they went all Alec Baldwin (a third of them, anyway) when the King began meddling in their affairs. I mean, compared to Obama, King George was a contemporary conservative fantasy of unintrusive government. If the original Tea Partiers were around today, they'd dump more than tea in the harbor. Instead of Teabaggers they'd have to call them Bodybaggers.

So, love. Where does it come from? According to John Hiatt, it don't come from me and you, but comes from up above. True, but how does it get down here, into flesh and blood? How does it, you know, in-caritas-nate?

I'm sorry I'm rambling. I could probably ramble like this all day long, in which case I would eventually get to the point. But I have to turn off the higherhose and get ready for lowdown work. I'll just leave you with a memorable passage from MotT that we've highlighted before.

Oh, but before that, one final point that came to mind yesterday: beyond the horizon of history is myth. Myth is what fills the unKnown space between prehuman apes and human history. Thus, there is an analogous and inevitable "silence" in that gap, since there are no written records, only stories that are handed down. Oh, and some cave paintings down in the womb of mother earth.

There is something in genuine myth that is analogous to our stories of what transpires between conception and language. Or in (m)other worlds, before living in language we are embodied in narratives -- a case of the word taking flesh -- a subject to which we will return tomorrow.

Here's the quote from MotT:

There is nothing which is more necessary and more precious in the experience of human childhood than parental love.... nothing more precious, because the parental love experienced in childhood is moral capital for the whole of life.... It is so precious, this experience, that it renders us capable of elevating ourselves to more sublime things--even divine things. It is thanks to the experience of parental love that our soul is capable of raising itself to the love of God.

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Life Itself is a Mid-Life Crisis

Warning: this post took off in unanticipated and possibly fruitless directions, so don't get your hopes up.

We're digging beneath the superficially weird surface of the practice of Communion and looking for the perhaps even weirder core.

One thing that always strikes me is that Catholicism has by far the most sophisticated theologians -- from Aquinas to Balthasar to Ratzinger, etc. -- and yet this highly abstract pneumacognition exists side by side with -- or does it rest atop? -- what has to be the most primitive conceivable expression of worship -- of theophagy, or of eating God. You can't get more primitive (which I mean neutrally, as in primary) than that.

But as it so happens, we see something of this same hi-lo, or abstract-concrete, or psycho-somatic, pattern in psychoanalysis.

You might say that psychoanalysis is the Catholicism of psychologies, in the sense that it has by far the most deep and sophisticated thinkers and theories. If one is remotely intellectual, there is really no other option but psychoanalysis, since most of psychology is pretty vapid and silly (not to mention obnoxiously politically correct), and holds little appeal to the thinking person.

Modern, post-Freudian psychoanalysis (at least the main artery) is profoundly rooted in early attachment, which is to say, infantile experience (whereas Freud's outdated, one-person psychology revolved around instinct and energy).

Again, being that there is "no such thing as an infant," we're really talking about a primordial union of two, except that only one of the parties can be fully aware of the twoness. From the infant's perspective, reality must start out as a kind of oneness, out of which twoness gradually emerges. In psychoanalysis this is referred to as "separation and individuation."

Separation-and-individuation is not a one-time-only deal. Rather, it is a lifelong process, albeit reflecting different stages of maturity. To paraphrase Donald Fagen, life itself is a mid-life crisis.

For example, one rule of thumb is that in adolescence we will see the emergence of the same conflicts that were present in early attachment. This makes sense, because with the onset of puberty, we must renegotiate everything that had seemed settled. We have to discover "who we are" on a different plane that now includes sexuality, and more generally, an identity that is more separate from the parents.

I was thinking about this the other day -- that I'm starting to feel as if I am on the cusp of "old age puberty." It's not that I feel old or anything, but I think most people these days try to avoid the march of time, and cling to an earlier identity.

In my case, I vividly remember the onset of "middle age puberty." I guess it was in my mid-to-late 30s. One thing I noticed is that the world -- or the culture -- no longer revolved around me and my kind, AKA the Boomers. It was around the same time people were talking about "generation x," about the Pacific Northwest music scene, about new directors and TV shows, new sensibilities. All of a sudden, not everything was about me. I was an irrelevant geezer!

Flash forward 20 years, and it's even worse. Now nothing in the culture is for me. Except maybe talk radio. Which we already know is for grouchy old white guys.

In a way, you don't even know you have an identity until the context that had supported it changes. Then you either morph with the culture, dig in your heels and live in the past, or carry on your adventure in individuation, only paddling at a bright angle to the stream of culture, AKA "Shit Creek."

Again, think of an analogy to infancy. The infant has one type of relationship to the mother. But then, at around the age of one, he is suddenly able to walk, which is every bit as monumental as a sixteen year old being given a new BMW. Awesome! I'm outta here!

In the toddler we will see two competing -- or complementary -- trends, one that wants to be independent, and another that is afraid of independence and wants to re-merge with the mother. But ultimately there is no going back, any more than one can put the genie of puberty back in the bottle. (Notice how a pervert such as Michael Jackson attempted to do just that: take his sexual awareness back to a time of prepubertal innocence.)

We often hear from the tenured that there is no such thing as a "self," let alone a true self. However, we know they are wrong, if only because it is quite clear that they are idiots.

But more to the point, we all know people with a false self. Raccoons can smell one a mile away. Perhaps there have been times that you yourself were swaddled in a false self, so you'll know what I mean. You know what it feels like to shed the false self and exist as your true self, i.e., to caterpult your buddhafly into the upper atmansphere.

Now, the true self always exists as relationship. In fact, this is one reason why the tenured can deny its existence, because they can locate no individualistic "essence" inside the person's head.

But this is the whole point: in a trinitarian cosmos, essence is relationship (and vice versa), so it is not possible to be our selves if we aren't properly attuned to the other(s).

The rabbis have a useful image of this: it is if we are all jigsaw puzzles missing a piece (or two or three). Your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to find the relationships that provide the missing pieces. But in no way can "wholeness" be found outside relationship -- both horizontally and vertically, or toward man and God.

Just think of the beauty of this (not to mention the weirdness): without it, true community wouldn't be possible, not even stable family life. A family is not just a bunch of people living under the same roof, but rather, an internally related group in which the individuals are members of one another.

Every time I hear someone speak of the possibility of intelligent life on other planets, I think of the barrier of intersubjectivity that needs to be climbed before something resembling human intelligence could occur.

Indeed, intelligence itself, sundered from the human person, can just as easily be pure evil. Imagine, for example, if dinosaurs had continued to get more intelligent. Such a reptilian intelligence, existing apart from intersubjectivity, would be a nightmare. I would much prefer stupid dinosaurs, for the same reason I would prefer Muslims without nuclear power or liberals without tenure.

Speaking of the Islamic world, if I understand these babies correctly, it seems that the essence of their beef with modernity is that it doesn't comport with their fanciful ideas about themselves, i.e., their identity. Thus, this causes emotional pain: it is a crisis of separation and individuation. Their solution is to obliterate reminders of this painful separation, and to restore a culture in which their infantile omnipotence is mirrored. Good luck with that.

I don't know if this post actually went anywhere, and now I have to get some work done. I'll try to reboot tomorrow and get back on track.

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Theology vs. Theophagy: Shut Up and Let's Eat!

Somehow yesterday's post vanished from the internet. So here it is, followed by today's offering:

I don't always have time to post, and when I don't, I prefer one of these quickly dashed off stream-of-consciousness ones.

I finally gave up on Gregory's Unintended Reformation. Made it two thirds of the way through before he used the word "gendered" one too many times. The whole thing is a jargon-filled, name-checking swamp of monochromatic tenurespeak, with prose as melodious as the sound of a toolbox hitting the garage floor.

The one place where it almost came to life was in chapter two, Relativizing Doctrines. His point, if he has one, is that the contemporary tyranny of relativism may be traced to the crack-up of Catholic orthodoxy into hundred and thousands if not millions of doctrines and crocktrines, each as different as the person who believes it.

Ironically, reformists imagined that reliance upon sola scriptura would put an end to such disputes once and for all, but it had precisely the opposite effect: schism after schism after schism, each rooted in, and supported by, scripture.

In turn, because it then appeared that religion was whatever one wanted it to be, it was just a step to chucking it altogether. Most people implicitly obey the law of the excluded middle, meaning that truth claims are mutually exclusive. Therefore, if there are, say, 10,000 churches, which one is right? This in turn becomes a meaningless question, because not only is there no way to arbitrate the dispute, there's not even an agreement as to what would constitute a way.

The upshot is that religion just ends up looking stupid.

However, in its defense, there is something of this problem in every discipline, say, physics. Physics still "works," despite the fact that its models of the macro- and microcosmos cannot be reconciled.

In fact, the higher up the cognitive food chain we go, the more perverse the diversity -- say, psychology. Because there is no rational way to determine the winner, this leaves a vacuum for power to become the referee.

Here again, this is precisely what has occurred in psychology, which is a playground for politically correct bullies. History is just as susceptible, as is economics. Even biology -- which is just a few rungs up from physics -- is totally politicized by the materialist rabble. Chemistry too is politicized, for example, by people who insist on a rigid distinction between "natural" and "unnatural" chemicals -- as if none of the former are deadly, or none of the latter beneficial.

Ironic that Schuon regarded himself as an upper case Traditionalist, when his whole program is a way to cut through the thicket of modernity, into a post-critical unity of thought and being. His first major work, The Transcendent Unity of Religions, showed how it is possible to understand the deeper point of religion as such, instead of getting lost in particulars -- although he also emphasized the importance of the particulars, since that is how one practices a religion.

I suppose this is similar to the Aristotelean principle that we don't see universals running around naked without their particulars, or forms without substance. Thus, revelation is the (God-given) terrestrial form of a celestial substance, as it were.

In my marginal gnotes to mysoph, I posed the question: "What are the irreducible principles of Christianity?" -- those that define Christianity, and without which it is something else.

The first three that pop into my noggin are 1) Trinity, 2) Incarnation, and 3) Resurrection. Without the first, the second would be impossible (for God could not contain or "be" his own "other"), and obviously we can't have the third if we don't first have the second, because only God could transcend death.

But is it possible to abstract this trio even further? I think so. Let's start with the second principle, Incarnation: what does this really mean, or imply, about Reality? In other words, what is the principle by which it is possible -- that makes it more than just an ad hoc and unanalyzable point of dogma?

I believe it implies just what so many of the early fathers said it did: that God becomes man so that man might become god (or godlike). But perhaps that's still too "mythological" sounding. Purified of myth, we might just say that the Absolute becomes relative so that the relative might know, or be, or become "absolutized." Obviously we can never be the Absolute, but we can certainly move closer or further from it, vertically speaking.

As to the first principle, Trinity, this is said to be one of those ideas that man could never have discovered on his own, via reason, because reason inevitably leads back to the unity, or oneness of existence.

But I don't think this is narcissarily so. This first occurred to me back when I was writing the Psychogenesis section, and attempting to trace humanness all the way back to its origins. In so doing, I became 100% convinced that the very idea of a monadic, isolated human being is impossible in fact and in principle: it did not happen because it could not happen.

Rather, the laboratory of humanness can only be the mother-infant dyad, and then only with an infant neurology that is both incomplete and intersubjective. In short, he or she must intrinsically be an open and malleable system from the very ground. The orthoparadoxical psychoanalyst D.W. Winnicott was quite correct when he said that there is no such thing as an infant. Or, as another analyst put it, "You [the mother] think, therefore I [the baby] am."

From this it was an easy step to the idea that the ultimate ground must also be a matrix of dynamic intersubjectivity. You can call it "Father-Son-Holy Spirit," but here again, one can demythologize -- or de-culture, or de-historicize -- those elements and try to see the more abstract principle, such as Source-Creation-Love, or something like that.

I mean, you don't have to. But I think it might be helpful to present it in this way to Outsiders, who are going to be intrinsically hostile to any myth that isn't approved by the New York Times, such as multiculturalism. Ironically, they don't know that the latter is a myth, but it is just another iteration of the ivory tower of babble.

I will conclude with another quickthought: that perhaps Jesus knew what he was doing when he left no written doctrine or book for pinheads to argue over. He did, however, leave an embodied act to perform.

Could it be that the abstract Doctrine is entirely embedded in this concrete act, in such a way that it bypasses all superficial arguments over doctrine? I cannot help but think of how the infant first experiences "love," in such a way that the experience of love is inseparable from the experience of milk. Thus, food is the first love, and vice versa.

Well, that was yesterday's post. What about today?

Not so easy, because having just read it, I'm now in the mind of yesterday's nous. The first thing I want to do is respond to the possibly rhetorical question posed by yesterbob in the last paragraph, "Could it be that the abstract Doctrine is entirely embedded in this concrete act?" -- referring, of course, to the sacrament of Communion.

Since I am not Catholic, Catholics will have to be patient. And since I'm revisiting a practice most Protestants have rejected as unBiblical, unnecessary, and frankly superstitious, they'll have to forgive me. But you have to admit it's a weird thing for God to ask us to think and do, i.e., "this is My body" and "do this in remembrance of Me." No one would invent such a preposterous request or inscrutable bequest.

Again: what could be the deeper principle involved here? One could consult the Catechism, but I don't think we'll find the sort of answers we're I'm looking for, i.e., something that would explain it that isn't simply self-referential and self-authenticating. Well, let's take a peek anyway.

Blah blah yada yada, this seems important: how do we restore unity if we are so obviously housed in separate bodies, for starters? The Eucharist goes to the unity with each other (horizontal) and with God (vertical). And it is a truly "holographic" act, in the sense that it contains numerous aspects, depending upon how one looks at it: sacrifice, incarnation, salvation, mystery, gift, heavenly nourishment, resurrection, vertical memory, etc.

I think I'll take a left turn and look at the psychology of all this, the psychology of the Ground. But before that, I remind you that both our troubles and our salvation seem to be wrapped up in "food": eating the wrong thing results in expulsion from paradise, into duality and pain, while eating the right thing seems to reverse this disaster.

Let me yank down a couple of oldies from the shelf -- some things I probably haven't glanced at since graduate school, but which intuition tells me may be relevant. Here's one: The Mind Object, on the "pathology of self-sufficiency." It goes to what occurs when, either due to maternal insufficiency or other factors, the self fails to be an open system with the primordial m(o)ther.

When this occurs, a kind of split develops in the psyche, whereby the mind itself becomes a substitute for maternal care -- thus the "mind object" of the title. As Winnicott put it, the mind "becomes the nursemaid that acts as mother-substitute and cares for the baby in the child self."

I think that atheists almost by definition suffer from this ontological defect, imagining that they can be their own source of ultimate truth. Some of these patients "are narcissistic, some depressed, some boringly obsessive," but all of them are enclosed in their own private Idaho.

Nor can they "relax into being, but must be constantly stimulated and enlivened by something or someone outside themselves," since their being-ness does not flow with intrinsic intersubjectivity and slackful communion. When alone, they are literally alone.

Winnicott says that "the psyche of the individual gets 'seduced' away into this mind [object] from the intimate relationship which the psyche originally had with the soma" -- which again resonates with the "seduction" of Genesis 3 and the split between body and mind (which comm-unnion undoes).

And what is this pathological self-sufficiency but the striving to become one's own god, a la Genesis 3? One's own "mind object" becomes "an object of intense attachment," and is "turned to for security, solace, and gratification." It "provides an aura of omnipotence," but "is basically an illusion, vulnerable to breakdown and the anxieties associated with breakdown."

Another book that comes to mind is So the Witch Won't Eat Me, on fears of cannibalism and infanticide in children -- for where there is the infantile fantasy of eating mother, there is also the possibility that mother might eat baby.

Would such anxieties help to explain the near-universal practice of child sacrifice, as if to say: "here, take this one, don't take me!"? And of course, one also thinks of abortion.

That's it for today. We leave off with another rhetorical quest. To be continued, I suppose. Unless the subject is just too weird.