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.


julie said...

Me? I cave every time. Just call me RinoDad.


As my kids get older, I wonder if that isn't part of the job description, at least a little. I'm reminded of gripes I heard, usually after divorces, about "Disneyland Dad syndrome," where time spent with dads usually involved a lot more entertainment and fewer rules than the mom would like. And in cases of divorce, there's probably even something to that, but only inasmuch as the already unhealthy distribution of time spent with fathers causes an extreme expression of the healthier dynamic. Short version: fathers tend to be more fun and less strict about the little stuff that drives mothers crazy. As it should be, I think...

julie said...

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.

Heh. Much like the free market...

Gagdad Bob said...

Absolutely. Hayek seems to have been the first to fully recognize that.

julie said...

Oh, and some cave paintings down in the womb of mother earth.

Incidentally, I find it, well, mystifying that the span of time between sets of paintings at Lascaux spans 25,000 YEARS. And of course, it didn't all happen in a steady stream; rather, just a few times, it seems, people stumbled on - and deep into - the caves, and decided to leave their marks.

julie said...

That's one of my favorite quotes from MotT. It's something I try to keep in mind each day.

Gagdad Bob said...

Joseph Campbell speculated -- what else can you do? -- that it was literally a case of journeying into the womb of nature. In order to get to the caves, you have to squeeze through incredibly tight tunnels that bring to mind the birth canal. Imagine the first guy who tried it! He was as brave as the first guy into outer space.

If anyone wonders what I'm doing here, my case just cancelled, so instant slack.

julie said...

Isn't that the best kind?

So speaking of all the early childhood, birth-to-three type stuff, it looks like our duality will become a surprise trinity sometime in August or so...

Gagdad Bob said...

No way! Damn, I'm jealous. Now I wish I had a houseful, unlike my younger idiot self.

julie said...


They are fun. Especially now that they play together.

Gagdad Bob said...

Mine didn't become more fun than work until he hit four. But that's only from a father's perspective, motherfun being a bit different. But there is no question that it's always easier around here when he has a friend over...

mushroom said...

Congratulations, Julie!

mushroom said...

If you don't have a grandpa around to do the job, RinoDad has to step in. The grandkids, I would say, love their grandmother more, but I'm the one they call if they need something or want to have fun.

Thus, Englishmen where living in real freedom in the colonies, with only a very light touch from the distant government.

My wife watched There Will Be Blood last week and really liked it. So I suggested she watch Last of the Mohicians to see DDL in a different role. The scene she mentioned was where Hawkeye explains how people were willing to risk their lives out on the frontier in difficult conditions just so they could experience freedom.

julie said...

Thanks, Mushroom!

Re. the pioneer spirit and yearning for freedom, when I think of the miracles the led to the founding of this nation, not to mention the risks people were willing to take to make it so, it just makes the state of things today that much more wretched by comparison. I hope, very much, that all that was nurtured back then was not in vain.

I'm reminded of something that came to mind after reading your post in the small hours this morning regarding the body of Christ and the unity of the Church.

If we take the analogy all the way, maybe all those schisms down the centuries, beginning with East vs. West and really exploding during the Reformation, were as necessary to the body of the Church as the dividing of the primordial cell into all the millions and billions of differentiated cells is to the body of a person?

Gagdad Bob said...

Good point. Differentiated unity is much higher, deeper, and more robust than simple unity. Maybe it's like a continuous metabolism through which the organism grows.

Gagdad Bob said...

If you even look at the old distinction between the churches of Peter and John -- or of doctrine and mysticism -- you have a kind of primordial cell division.

Speaking of division, Schuon actually has an essay on the legitimate place of Protestantism. I should re-read that.

Rick said...

Julie! Congrats!
Count me among the jealous.
But then agin, we gains another Uncles Rick, Bob and Mush!

ted said...

A lucky soul finds a good mother! Congrats Julie!

mushroom said...

... maybe all those schisms down the centuries, beginning with East vs. West and really exploding during the Reformation, were as necessary to the body of the Church as the dividing of the primordial cell into all the millions and billions of differentiated cells is to the body of a person?

That makes sense to me. And, too, the Truth, though One, is so immense and multifaceted, how could we hope to "capture" it in a single, paradox-less doctrine?

John Lien said...

Great news julie!

(LOOKS AROUND: Dang! late to the shrimp... no more bean dip...just veggies...)

Van Harvey said...

A friend just sent me this link, a headband that helps induce Lucid Dreaming. I don't know anything about it yet, but I know the subject has come up a number of times here, so thought I'd pass it on.

Van Harvey said...

Congratulations Julie!

Magister said...

Congrats, Julie! You are blessed!

Differentiated unity is much higher, deeper, and more robust than simple unity.

Trinitarian, too.

The drive to "unify" bothers me for exactly this reason. Hayek is right. Healthy competition is the flip side of multiple approaches and perspectives. Yes, sometimes bad guys win for a while, but the answer is not for some earthly king to say "enough! you are all ONE now!" because the earthly king doesn't have enough information, and who is he, anyway? Hammering things into unity is a good way to bludgeon them to death.

I'm sure we can think of examples.

julie said...

Thanks, everyone! We're pretty excited :)

Van, re. the dreaming headband, I knew a guy who claimed to have used something like that back in the 90s. He was kind of a psycho, so I always assumed that some or all of his story was BS. His description sounded a lot like that, though. Minus the app, of course.

Van Harvey said...

Julie, as I looked into it it looks like it's still on the vaporware end of things.

Looks like it's basically a biofeedback gizmo, which have been available for decades, with a software script to flash a light or make a sound as it picks up the right readings from you.

Pretty basic stuff, tech-wise, but still cool if they get it together. It just uses tech to do, what, if you're working on Lucid Dreaming, you try to get yourself to remember to do before going to sleep.

Another of those "Why didn't I think of that?" sorts of things.

Rick said...

Mush, thanks for the movie recommendation. Watched There Will Be Blood last night. I was expecting something quite different. DDL was fantastic (exceptional). He sounded like John Houston in the 1966 movie The Bible.
And I was quite taken by the look and feel of the place. Especially the first half of the movie. Beautifully filmed.