Father Hunger

This excerpt from “Under Saturn’s Shadow” by analytic psychologist James Hollis speaks to me anyway – I’ve been working on the “deficit” he speaks of much of my life…

All imagos are two-sided. If an image has a depth dimension it must express the dual character of reality. Acknowledging and maintaining the tension of opposites is a fundamental Jungian tenet. One-sidedness begets distortion, perversion, neurosis. Thus, for example, the archetype of the mother expresses the dual aspect of nature, that which giveth and that which taketh away. The Great Mother represents a life force that both begets and destroys, gestates and annihilates. As Dylan Thomas so succinctly put it, “The force that through the green fuse drives the flower… is my destroyer”.

So , too, the archetype of the father is dual. Father gives life, light, energy – no wonder he has historically been associated with the sun. But father can also blast, wither, crush. The preliterate mind, playing with the image of the sun as centre of energy, the vitalising principle, evolved God the Father who energises and fecundates the feminine earth. Patriarchy replaced the worship of Earth Mother with that of Sky Father. (The halo associated with Christ is a relic of the solar aura of the Father even as the serpent associated with the maternal deities is spurned by the emergent patriarchy in Genesis.). When the experience of the father is positive, the child experiences strength, support, the energising of his own resources and modelling in the outer world. When the experience of the father is negative, the fragile psyche is crushed.

To use a modern metaphor, the child’s psyche is a set of potentialities, a data base to be shaped by the affirmation and modelling of the parents. Through his mother he may experience the world as a nurturing and protective environment. From father he may receive the empowerment to enter the world and to fight for his life.  Of course mother can help empower him and father nurture him, but archetypally they play specific roles. Mother also actives the mother complex, which must be transformed and transcended lest he remain childlike and dependent. He must leave the world of the mother and enter that of the fathers. All mythology is a playing out of some variant of two great mythologems. The mythology  of the Great Mother is the great circle, the death-rebirth motif, the Eternal Return. The mythology of the Sky Father is the quest, the journey from innocence to experience, from dark to light, from home to horizon. Each mythic cycle must be served.

When the parental imagos in the child are inadequately modelled by the parents, he carries the deficit throughout his life…

Conjugating Feminism




We comprise  dynamic balance. Yin, Yang – or Jung’s concept of Anima and Animus.

Animus ..  the male aspect of the female psyche, as the Anima is the female aspect of male psyche”

I like the concept of conjugation in relation to establishing this balance, as in Buber’s  “I & Thou” – moving onward to an existential “We”.

Perhaps then,  Animo, Animas.. Animamus. (Anim-am-us).

Feminism is a conjugating force  rebalancing centuries of dominance of male. The work though is inside each of us, balancing our Anima and Animus to release our true self. Can someone tell Donald Trump & Daish.

[And yes the attached sound-thought-expressions (I don’t want to call them music) owe something both to Bach’s Siciliano transcribed by Wilhelm Kempf]

On Composure

From “On kissing, tickling and being bored” Adam Phillips

The writing is a pleasure of itself; so much so that I suspect sleight of hand, the magician’s smile. Composure is proposed as a defence against and in the face of – “the cumulative trauma of development”. As Freud would have it, composure is part of the ego’s defence against the body – “a form, largely unconscious, of vigilant self-control”. Winnicot perhaps would view it as an affect of the mind, itself a defence against the uncontrolled environment that faces the infant; a form of self-reverence with the mind as substitute for mother.

Beautiful. Elegant. Revealing. What though, of the magician and his context? Is in not in the nature of an analyst to view development as a accretion of trauma; therefore to see all aspects of the psyche as defensive? This is not to blame, or take issue; simply though to point out that most writing about the mind has come from those treating mental disturbance – from Freud onward.

Instead of starting from Ruskin, “to compose, is to arrange unequal things”, where would Jung has begun? Perhaps in balancing opposites – anima and animus – and allowing for the potential of their resolution into a new state. In his language composure would perhaps have been a state evoked by integration, rather than a shield against inevitable trauma.

I would dearly love to know what Adam Phillips thought. Whatever it were, it would be a delight to read, and in itself worthwhile.

Godel, Escher, Bach

Review of Gödel, Escher, Bach (Golden Eternal Braid) by Douglas Hofstadter.

This is an intellectual tour de force, a sweet confection of themes. Ultimately though it disappoints; he attempts to bind his thematic threads into a tightly structured fugue or rope, but achieves only candyfloss. As the title suggests, the writing pans across mathematics, the arts and music. On the way it takes in logic, philosophy, Zen Buddhism, linguistics and artificial intelligence. Indeed so extensive and brilliant are the references and insights that one suspects a touch of narcissism on the author’s part. He is certainly clever, and as a survey of thought this book is a must-read, however his final conclusions are just plain inconsistent.

One fundamental premise is that our material world is constructed around paradox and infinitely self-referential loops. The “Gödel” of the title is Kurt Gödel, a mathematician who proved that our knowledge must always be incomplete. We can not know all things. But, the link from that “voice” to the Escher and Bach of the title is not clearly formed. Rather these are separate themes which Hofstadter weaves into his “Golden Eternal Braid”, rather than inversions of the same theme which forms a satisfying fugue. The Escher leitmotif – that perception cannot be trusted, is illustrated by the manipulation of self-referential loops. Bach is recruited as a master of fugue, where the theme is woven together in different voices to create a new experience. In other words from individual threads he creates new – emergeant – reality. An epiphenomenon.

Though not appearing in the title, the concepts of Zen Buddhism are woven into the braid – pointing up the essential duality of existence and encouraging us to UN-think as a route to perception and integration. (see Karl Jung).

So in summary, Hofstadter’s braid is shaped from:

Gödel, all knowledge must be incomplete – definitively.
Escher, reality is not what it seems and comprises an infinity of self-referential loops.
Bach, threads are woven to create an epiphenomenon; whose sum is qualitatively different from its parts.

Given these premises he nevertheless concludes “I have no doubt that a totally reductionist.. explanation of the brain exists” (and he equates brain with mind and consciousness).

With all of these fascinating themes, the false logic of this eventual conclusion shocks. His statement is a axiom or belief, but is presented as a theorem (he has this in common with Dawkins and many other materialists). Having established that the great thinkers in different disciplines have all demonstrated a fundamental limit to our ability to know via thinking, he then goes on to state that he has “no doubt” that we will eventually completely understand the mind and consciousness in terms of materialist reductionism.

He would have been wiser to end with these, his own, words:

“By the way, in passing, it is interesting to note that all results essentially dependent on the fusion of subject and object have been limitative results. In addition to the limitative Theorums [eg Gödel’s Incompleteness Theorum], there is Heisenberg’s uncertainty principle, which says that measuring one quantity renders impossible the simultaneous measurement of a related quantity. I don’t know why all these results are limitative. Make of it what you will.”

For a truly penetrating (and consistent) philosophy of the link between mathematics and reality I would urge you to turn to Alfred North Whitehead – Process and Reality.

Sigmund Freud and Narcissism

Freud’s psychological edifice was constructed from a study of pathology, rather than the working out of the development of healthy psyches. This led him to a place of despair in assuming that psyche is fundamentally pathological.

He resisted any challenge to his father-figure authority, preferring to “break” with “children” rather than be forced by them to modify and develop his views. This included great thinkers such as Adler, Jung and Klein. The consequence was that the field fractured, which has hindered integrated development

His thinking appears to be exceptionally ego-centrric. The suspicion is that, for example, his early focus on pathologies of sexual drive  was in fact a working-out of his own issues and problems. That would be acceptable if he admitted a personal journey. As it is this has in fact coloured much of the development of the entire field – to the detriment of countless clients treated by his disciples. (Yes, disciples). He resisted the call for psychoanalysts to be analysed by others.

His rejection of religion was irrational. God as father-figure, Freud as Oedipus ? To be rejected like other challenges to the authority of his ego? The only logical place that a solely rational approach to religion can lead to is – agnosticism. All sequences of logic trace back to original assumptions. There is no provable base assumption. The only sustainable and honest approach is therefore a simple statement of belief. When rationalists claim that their pretty logic progressions prove anything else they are caught up in the beauty of their own ego’s creation. This is intellectual narcissism. The passion with which Freud attempts to tear down any belief in an alternative to his own ego is as suspicious psychologically as that of an unthinking evangelist prosyletisng any other religion. However, as a man of intellect he should know better. He shares this narcissism  with many other evangelical atheists caught up with admiration of their intellectual reflection – Dawkins and the like.

“It was a great mistake on Freud’s part to turn his back on philosophy. Not once does he criticise his premises or even the assumptions that underlie his personal outlook” Karl Jung.