Monday, May 24, 2010

The Trinitarian Structure of Humanness

Traces of oneness are everywhere, for "Unity is the first principle that penetrates and regulates manifestation, in the sense that it projects its reflections everywhere, and on the other hand brings phenomena back to Unity, symbolically at least" (all of the quoted material in this post is from the essay Concerning Pythagorean Numbers from Schuon's The Eye of the Heart: Metaphysics, Cosmology, Spiritual Life).

What this means is that the One is both the origin and destiny of the Many, and that reality, even though it may appear to be broken into infinite fragments, is always simultaneously on the way from and back to Unity. Thus, "Unity tends everywhere to overcome Duality," which is another way of saying that Three leads back to One (or, to be precise, Three is the return of the One under a new guise, so to speak).

For example, "masculinity and femininity seem to form an irreducible bipolarity"; however, in order for the transcendent third of Love to manifest, it obviously requires Two (and from the other end, the immanent child -- the trinitarian baby -- represents the return of Duality to Unity, because now the couple has a common enemy).

Thus, as explained in the Wholly Coonifesto, the primordial human is father-mother-baby, in an irreducible trinity in which each shapes the other.

Furthermore, masculine and feminine aren't a duality but a complementarity, that is, reflections of the Real as seen from different vertices, which is to say, absolute and infinite, contained and container, child and womb, point and space, ʘ.

Also, another key point is that this Father-Mother-Baby triad is not to be understood as merely exterior. Rather, these categories are intrinsic to human psychological development at the deepest level. I think Bion appreciated and explicated this most clearly, showing how thinking represents the ongoing harmonious interplay of container-contained (which he conveniently symbolized ♀ and ♂).

When we first come into the world, we are unable to contain, regulate, or understand our own thoughts -- in other words, thoughts (or ♂) precede the thinker -- so that we require the (m)Other to serve as our "auxiliary cortex," or container (♀) to help us think and understand our own thoughts.

I'm afraid this may sound overly abstract, but you have only to observe the subtle intersubjective dance of mother and infant to see this going on, the constant transactions of meaning flowing back and forth. For this reason, D.W. Winnicott said that "there is no such thing as an infant," which goes back to Schuon's observation about duality reverting to unity.

The oneness a mother feels toward her infant is so deep as to be well beyond mere words. Rather, words must be used as containers to ferry the meaning back and forth in intersubjective space, which the infant comes to feel as the deep connectedness of love. And although the infant is also transmitting love, he doesn't know it until he is in a harmonious relationship with a sensitive (m)Other who receives the love and returns it to him.

Thus, between mother and infant there is actually -- or should be, anyway -- a continuously expanding feedback loop in which the infant is learning to think his own thoughts, which is to say, give meaning to existence.

Which is why the deepest meaning -- or meaninglessness! -- is well beyond the reach of words, since all of this hyper-sophisticated exchange of meaning occurs before the child is even fully aware of his twoness, let alone of words as symbols radically separable from that which they symbolize. The infant lives in a kind of "poetic" world, in which words are that which they convey. Thus the special musical tone of voice with which mothers speak to their infants, which transmits love both directly and symbolically.

Bion termed this thinking process between mother and infant alpha function. Again, the purpose of alpha function is to transform sense impressions, emotional experiences, and proto-thoughts into meaning. A child with a disturbed attachment to its primary caretakers will eventually internalize a disturbed alpha function, and in one way or another be hindered in the ability to "think his thoughts" and "feel his emotions."

But what happens to the unthinkable thoughts? Let us count the ways: they may be repressed, split off, denied, projected and attributed to others, acted out, sent into exile, placed into others for safekeeping, contained in an obsession or compulsion, dispatched into the body to become a somatic symptom, drowned in drink, etc. The main point is that they don't just go away. Rather, what we call a "symptom" is just a thought in search of a thinker.

Depending upon how you look, the human being is one, or two, or three. Obviously a human being is "one," or we couldn't even say "human being." But in order to truly become human and to actualize our potential, we require the Other (and the accumulated otherness of civilization).

However, the Being of the human being is always on the way to its own true Being, which is to say that we are constantly becoming what we are meant to be, which again goes to the one --> two --> three of our cosmic structure. We are constantly "giving birth" to ourselves.

I notice this about my son. At any given moment -- or stage - of psychological development, he is a whole person, a complete being in his own right, lacking nothing. For example, when he was a baby, I didn't think of him as a defective three year old, and now that he's five, I don't think of him as a retarded adolescent. Rather, each stage has its own absolute validity. Nevertheless, you will notice how many parents -- especially more affluent ones -- treat each stage as only a weigh station for the distant goal of, say, going to the right college.

One thing I can say about my parents is that they really let me be a child, with little pressure about the future. In other words, they gave me my slack rather than projecting their own unthought agenda into me before I could even know what was going on. Many "ambitious" people are simply living out the ambitious mind parasites of their parents.

I'm trying not to do this with my son, which is to say, allow him to live in the fulness of the present, but most importantly, to develop the alpha function to be able to explicate the impossibly rich meaning that is always already here, and can only be here. For if it isn't here it is nowhere, or merely projected into a future that never arrives.


Northern Bandit said...

Simply a beautiful post which resonates with me today because my little girl at 14 days old has now passed the milestone where her age is measured in weeks instead of days.

As Bob says, the age thing doesn't matter anyhow -- our job as parents (especially Mom at this point) is to make sure our "transponders" are p-O-wered up and free of static.

Rick said...

"One thing I can say about my parents is that they really let me be a child, with little pressure about the future."

I give the same credit to my parents, although I probably should to my 2 older brothers instead. They pretty much wore out our parents by the time I arrived on the blanky.

Rick said...

"Rather, what we call a "symptom" is just a thought in search of a thinker."

This reminds of the scene in the movie Ordinary People when the kid finally has a breakthrough, I suppose you could call it. It's as if he is surprised by the words that have come out of his mouth.

julie said...

(...because now the couple has a common enemy)


Back to reading...

julie said...

"One thing I can say about my parents is that they really let me be a child, with little pressure about the future."

Same here, though in my case it probably helped that my mom started off with really low expectations. Then I tended to surprise them so much they mostly just let me be. Hopefully, I'll be able to do the same.

Should go without saying that the whole post has a particular resonance just now, but I've said it anyway. Thanks :)

Jack said...

"Rather, what we call a "symptom" is just a thought in search of a thinker."

Thank you for this was like a light switch going on.

Unfortunately I had to create my own avoid the parental agendas that were often at cross purposes. The pursuit of true slack continues to this day.

Thanks again.

Dianne said...

Well, some of us got screwed in the parental department.

I used to read this website a few years ago. And something GB said really helped me a lot.

I'm paraphrasing, of course, but it was something to the effect that when children are misteated by their parents, the children think there's something wrong wrong with them personally, and not that the parents could be flawed.

Back to my words - I spent a large portion of my life trying to figure out what was wrong with me. It's been brutal, but I've realized that nothing is wrong with me that's not wrong with everyone else.

And now I'm glad I'm not those people, and the fact I don't fit in with them is a complement to my character.

mushroom said...

Rather, what we call a "symptom" is just a thought in search of a thinker.

That's apparently banging the gong for several of us (or is it ganging the bong?). So much makes sense when I consider that.

Jack said...

"Rather, what we call a "symptom" is just a thought in search of a thinker."

I guess the next question for me is how one allows the thought to be "found" by the thinker. In the abstract I can see how embracing the thought as part of oneself (rather than split off, rejected and probably projected onto someone else) and integrating it in our awareness would generally decrease the chance for this mind viruses to compel unproductive behavior.

Any thoughts on how more specifically this is done? Meditation?

Rick said...

In communion with the other.

Rick said...

In other wombs, you can'ts do it you self.