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Faith

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This book explores psychoanalytic faith and, more generally, the role of faith in the therapeutic process. In his earlier work, Eigen distinguished faith from beliefs used to organize it, the latter at once bringing people together and creating violent oppositions - belief as a defense against faith. In this new work, Eigen dives into faith experience itself and shares what he finds.Faith spans many dimensions. The opening chapters focus on variations of faith, beginning with nature, sleep, beauty, goodness, the opening-closing of the human face, and the paradox of the growth of faith through pain and shattering. Accounts of faith in the author's life lead to creative readings of Winnicott followed by meditations on evil. A chapter is devoted to teaching and learning Bion, who called faith the psychoanalytic attitude (or called the psychoanalytic attitude Faith). Another chapter discusses variants of everyday mystical participation and a climactic moment in the Zohar, a principal part of the Kabbalah. The book ends with interviews involving the author's development as a psychotherapist-psychoanalyst, his views on mental health and society today, followed by a note on faith-work.

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CHAPTER ONE Can goodness survive life?

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1

CHAPTER TITLE

CHAPTER ONE

Can goodness survive life?

eauty, I believe, is one source of ethics. To see something beautiful can arouse a sense of goodness. Not only a sense of feeling good, but also a sense of wanting to do right by, wanting to do justice to, a world which can be so beautiful, which can so touch one to the depths. Tears of beauty. As Keats says, “A thing of beauty is a joy forever”. An ethics with roots in beauty and joy. Tears of joy, happiness, at times, awe. The world in its uplifting aspect, world as inspiration. An ethics of beauty, joy, inspiration, creativity.

I am thinking now of moments of beauty fused with awe on viewing the great rocks at Yosemite Park in California (Eigen, 2006a).

Yosemite silenced me. Words dissolved. A wordless world for millions of years. Mammoth rocks, mammoth stars. God’s beauty. Tears of awe.

The soul of the rock says, “Come closer.”

 

Chapter One - Can Goodness Survive Life?

ePub

Beauty, I believe, is one source of ethics. To see something beautiful can arouse a sense of goodness. Not only a sense of feeling good, but also a sense of wanting to do right by, wanting to do justice to, a world which can be so beautiful, which can so touch one to the depths. Tears of beauty. As Keats says, “A thing of beauty is a joy forever”. An ethics with roots in beauty and joy. Tears of joy, happiness, at times, awe. The world in its uplifting aspect, world as inspiration. An ethics of beauty, joy, inspiration, creativity.

I am thinking now of moments of beauty fused with awe on viewing the great rocks at Yosemite Park in California (Eigen, 2006a). Yosemite silenced me. Words dissolved. A wordless world for millions of years. Mammoth rocks, mammoth stars. God's beauty. Tears of awe. The soul of the rock says, “Come closer.”

I find a link between such stillness and awe while awake and the deep peace of dreamless sleep. For a psychoanalyst, dreaming is important. Dreaming plays a role in psychic digestion, emotional digestion. Yet, dreaming speaks to us through fragmented narrative structures. Awe in the face of Yosemite seems more immediate. Dreams feed us affective narratives we can work with while awake. They are rarely still. They have a certain speed, like fish swimming in water. They may rush by before you catch them or even glimpse them. Sometimes you “know” them only by their ripples. The deep stillness and awe evoked in Yosemite takes me to another place.

 

Chapter Two - Moments that Count

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In my twenties, the following two statements helped to orientate me. The first, by Thomas Merton: “The secret of our identity is in God's mercy”. The second, by Paul Tillich: “A man is only as big as the diabolic in himself he can assimilate”.

Such deep relief I felt on reading the first. Such challenge, on reading the second. The two together provided support and direction.

The secret of our identity is divine mercy. It is hard to describe the relief and uplift this brought. To think that mercy, loving kindness of the Other, is the heart of my being, not my own strident efforts and struggles. At the heart of my struggle was divine love. I did not have to do everything or “know” who I was. Each time I tried to know myself, identity faded from view. Ego chasing its tail, like the tail of a disappearing dog. But God's mercy? A sense that God's love was deeper than self gave me support, buoyed me. The pain of being an individual, of having to know who I was, dissolved in the enigma of being supported by infinite love. I felt myself more fully through this love than by frenetic efforts to be someone. A deep pain of my being met bottomless care: solution-less pain momentarily lessened, at times dissolved, when it touched divine mystery, love deeper than pain.

 

CHAPTER TWO Moments that count

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CHAPTER TWO

Moments that count

n my twenties, the following two statements helped to orientate me. The first, by Thomas Merton: “The secret of our identity is in

God’s mercy”. The second, by Paul Tillich: “A man is only as big as the diabolic in himself he can assimilate”.

Such deep relief I felt on reading the first. Such challenge, on reading the second. The two together provided support and direction.

The secret of our identity is divine mercy. It is hard to describe the relief and uplift this brought. To think that mercy, loving kindness of the Other, is the heart of my being, not my own strident efforts and struggles. At the heart of my struggle was divine love. I did not have to do everything or “know” who I was. Each time I tried to know myself, identity faded from view. Ego chasing its tail, like the tail of a disappearing dog. But God’s mercy? A sense that God’s love was deeper than self gave me support, buoyed me. The pain of being an individual, of having to know who I was, dissolved in the enigma of being supported by infinite love. I felt myself more fully through this love than by frenetic efforts to be someone. A deep pain of my being met bottomless care: solution-less pain momentarily lessened, at times dissolved, when it touched divine mystery, love deeper than pain.

 

Chapter Three - On Winnicott

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Winnicott is one of those men who changed my life. I would like to share with you some of the writings that helped me. I have written elsewhere of my meeting with him in 1968, before he spoke in New York (Eigen & Govrin, 2007). I began reading Winnicott in the 1960s and he is one of the few analytic writers I have continued to read closely for sustenance, inspiration, and learning. Over forty years of reading Winnicott, and not a sign of being tired of him. On the contrary, like reading Rilke, his words open realities, create or discover realities.

There is much in his work I am leaving out: transitional experiencing, illusion–disillusion, paradox, play, psyche–soma, vital spark, incommunicado core, unaliveness, being alone together, unintegration, fear of breakdown, creativity, to name a few. At another time, another mood, I might have chosen any of them, or others, to write on. The present communication focuses on three areas that teach me much about clinical work and living as I grow older, now the same age as Winnicott when he died. The more I dwell with them, the deeper they go: writings on use of the object, aloneness, and madness.

 

CHAPTER THREE On Winnicott

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CHAPTER THREE

On Winnicott

innicott is one of those men who changed my life. I would like to share with you some of the writings that helped me.

I have written elsewhere of my meeting with him in 1968, before he spoke in New York (Eigen & Govrin, 2007). I began reading

Winnicott in the 1960s and he is one of the few analytic writers I have continued to read closely for sustenance, inspiration, and learning.

Over forty years of reading Winnicott, and not a sign of being tired of him. On the contrary, like reading Rilke, his words open realities, create or discover realities.

There is much in his work I am leaving out: transitional experiencing, illusion–disillusion, paradox, play, psyche–soma, vital spark, incommunicado core, unaliveness, being alone together, unintegration, fear of breakdown, creativity, to name a few. At another time, another mood, I might have chosen any of them, or others, to write on. The present communication focuses on three areas that teach me much about clinical work and living as I grow older, now the same age as Winnicott when he died. The more I dwell with them, the deeper they go: writings on use of the object, aloneness, and madness.

 

CHAPTER FOUR Winnicott: an added note

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CHAPTER FOUR

Winnicott: an added note

here is so much to dip into and explore. With Winnicott, I get the feeling that, deep as we go, there is more awaiting us.

I am moved by a sense of “primary maternal preoccupation” as a thread of existence all life long. The older I get, the more important, rich, and full this capacity becomes, related as it is to devotion, sincerity, and care. I think, too, of variations of this capacity in Meltzer

(1994) and Bion’s (1994) concern with truth and life.

One thing one gets in psychoanalysis in general, and Winnicott in his own special way, is a sense of the interplay of psychic threads, always multiplicity. Bion speaks of sincerity as a “minimum necessary condition” (1994, p. 367) for “initiation” to a journey he values, while contrasting it with ways love becomes murderous, hate cruel, and the journey artificial. Even truth can become artificial. An echo of true–false reverberates through Winnicott’s and Bion’s writings.

 

Chapter Four - Winnicott: An Added Note

ePub

There is so much to dip into and explore. With Winnicott, I get the feeling that, deep as we go, there is more awaiting us. I am moved by a sense of “primary maternal preoccupation” as a thread of existence all life long. The older I get, the more important, rich, and full this capacity becomes, related as it is to devotion, sincerity, and care. I think, too, of variations of this capacity in Meltzer (1994) and Bion's (1994) concern with truth and life.

One thing one gets in psychoanalysis in general, and Winnicott in his own special way, is a sense of the interplay of psychic threads, always multiplicity. Bion speaks of sincerity as a “minimum necessary condition” (1994, p. 367) for “initiation” to a journey he values, while contrasting it with ways love becomes murderous, hate cruel, and the journey artificial. Even truth can become artificial. An echo of true–false reverberates through Winnicott's and Bion's writings.

True can be false and false true, partly depending on how a capacity is used or functions in a particular context. Winnicott depicts psychosis as taking the unreal as real and the antisocial tendency as making the untrue true (denial of dependency).

 

Chapter Five - What is Evil?

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What is evil? It is a little like Pontius Pilate saying, “What is truth?” Where does one go to find a definition that would set what is truly evil off from bad things that happen? Much destruction goes on in life. Two great wishes of humankind are that there should be no evil or death.

No evil or death. We are partly defined by a capacity to wish the impossible. To wish the impossible and somewhere feel it might be possible. When Freud claimed there is no “no” in the unconscious, he might have meant we are the kind of creatures that believe the impossible is possible. More, that it is real. The impossible is real now—and this sense informs the feel of reality. And when reality does not conform to our vision of bliss, we may call it evil.

What does reality want of us? One answer is absolutely nothing. A terrifying answer. Shakespeare suggested we live a masquerade within which is nothing. A relief? Does nothing free us from evil spectres? Or clear a way for them?

When I was a child, I saw the opening of the concentration camps in film newsreels. People who looked like death, whose eyes glared in ways that only eyes that have seen evil can. The scene switches to mass graves, naked bodies piled upon one another, macabre sandwiches in dirt. Horrific death scenes that added meat to my already burgeoning terrors of witches, devils, and the night. Yet, when I was older, I could not stop myself from picturing what it must be like to be inside Hitler. Past the psychopath, the killer, the madman, the calculus of hate and power and revenge, into pain, the torment of the human. Blistering wounds that sought healing in inhuman madness, nests of megalomanic hate. What pain and torment must have festered there. Pain made visible by horror inflicted on others. From the outside, evil, yet, further inside, deeper seas of pain.

 

CHAPTER FIVE What is evil?

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CHAPTER FIVE

What is evil?

What is evil? It is a little like Pontius Pilate saying, “What is truth?”

Where does one go to find a definition that would set what is truly evil off from bad things that happen? Much destruction goes on in life.

Two great wishes of humankind are that there should be no evil or death.

No evil or death. We are partly defined by a capacity to wish the impossible. To wish the impossible and somewhere feel it might be possible. When Freud claimed there is no “no” in the unconscious, he might have meant we are the kind of creatures that believe the impossible is possible. More, that it is real. The impossible is real now—and this sense informs the feel of reality. And when reality does not conform to our vision of bliss, we may call it evil.

What does reality want of us? One answer is absolutely nothing. A terrifying answer. Shakespeare suggested we live a masquerade within which is nothing. A relief? Does nothing free us from evil spectres? Or clear a way for them?

 

Chapter Six - Tiger Stripes and Student Voices

ePub

I began teaching W. R. Bion in the 1970s and D. W. Winnicott in the 1960s. I met Winnicott in 1968 and Bion in 1977. Both were important not only to my psychoanalytic learning, but to my personal growth. Their example enhanced permission to be me.

In the one week I saw Bion in New York, he told me to stop analysis and get married. He said, “Marriage isn't what you think. It's two people telling truth to each other, helping to mitigate the severity to yourself.” I was forty-one, in and out of relationships. His remark initiated a series of events that in three years led to my becoming a married father. Something in his mien and manner reached me, enabling what I had wanted to do for decades.

How did this happen? Other parts of the time we spent together also are bearing fruit, some only now as a senior citizen. Out of the blue, he asked me about the Kabbalah, then after brief discussion paused and remarked, “I use the Kabbalah as a framework for psychoanalysis.” I met Bion less than two years before he died. Now I am almost his age when we met and have recently published books exploring links between Bion and Kabbalah (Eigen, 2012a, 2014a,b).

 

CHAPTER SIX Tiger stripes and student voices

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CHAPTER SIX

Tiger stripes and student voices

began teaching W. R. Bion in the 1970s and D. W. Winnicott in the 1960s. I met Winnicott in 1968 and Bion in 1977. Both were important not only to my psychoanalytic learning, but to my personal growth. Their example enhanced permission to be me.

In the one week I saw Bion in New York, he told me to stop analysis and get married. He said, “Marriage isn’t what you think. It’s two people telling truth to each other, helping to mitigate the severity to yourself.” I was forty-one, in and out of relationships. His remark initiated a series of events that in three years led to my becoming a married father. Something in his mien and manner reached me, enabling what I had wanted to do for decades.

How did this happen? Other parts of the time we spent together also are bearing fruit, some only now as a senior citizen. Out of the blue, he asked me about the Kabbalah, then after brief discussion paused and remarked, “I use the Kabbalah as a framework for psychoanalysis.” I met Bion less than two years before he died.

 

Chapter Seven - Variants of Mystical Participation

ePub

Mystical participation. Is it a state that underlies experience? Can we better say it is a dimension of experience or sets of dimensions, rather than situate it below–above or earlier–later? What you and I might mean by mystical or participation or related terms might not be the same. I am not sure what I mean, but loosely refer to something sensed. It may occur in varied affective keys: dread, awe, love, heaven, hell, joy, ecstasy, horror, hope, hate. Yes, there are hate frenzies, hate ecstasies, hate unions. Destructive as well as creative mystical participations (Eigen, 2001). There are those who say that destructive union is part of creativeness.

Dimensions—plural. Mystics speak of going through many doors, worlds, gates. Beatrice in Dante's heaven goes from one heaven through another. Heaven keeps opening. Invagination is often an implied image. In my early twenties, after a physical intervention by a somatic therapist, he asked how I felt and I spoke the truth: “I feel like a vagina.” My whole body became vaginal. His paranoid aspect came to the fore and said, “How do you know how a vagina feels?” At that moment, in my experience, I was one.

 

CHAPTER SEVEN Variants of mystical participation

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CHAPTER SEVEN

Variants of mystical participation

ystical participation. Is it a state that underlies experience?

Can we better say it is a dimension of experience or sets of dimensions, rather than situate it below–above or earlier– later? What you and I might mean by mystical or participation or related terms might not be the same. I am not sure what I mean, but loosely refer to something sensed. It may occur in varied affective keys: dread, awe, love, heaven, hell, joy, ecstasy, horror, hope, hate.

Yes, there are hate frenzies, hate ecstasies, hate unions. Destructive as well as creative mystical participations (Eigen, 2001). There are those who say that destructive union is part of creativeness.

Dimensions—plural. Mystics speak of going through many doors, worlds, gates. Beatrice in Dante’s heaven goes from one heaven through another. Heaven keeps opening. Invagination is often an implied image. In my early twenties, after a physical intervention by a somatic therapist, he asked how I felt and I spoke the truth: “I feel like a vagina.” My whole body became vaginal. His paranoid aspect came to the fore and said, “How do you know how a vagina feels?”

 

CHAPTER EIGHT No one can save you from the work that you have to do on yourself

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CHAPTER EIGHT

No one can save you from the work that you have to do on yourself*

irst, I read Michael Eigen. His was like no other writing I had yet encountered on the inner life of psychoanalytic thinkers. He wrote about therapy from the point of view of a therapist participating fully, with heart and soul, in the frustrating process of psychotherapy in which time flows forwards and backwards, until tiny points of transparency, incremental miracles, appear in the seemingly impenetrable armour of life.

I have always been suspicious of psychoanalysis’s reductive instincts—in English slang, therapists are called “shrinks”, and for good reason. Analysts, it seemed to me, want to kiss us and turn us into frogs, reveal reality as a war of instinctual urges, in which every desire is also a naked grab for power, and every strategy conceals an erection.

In Eigen’s writing, there is room for everything except reduction— or escape. In The Psychoanalytic Mystic (1998), he shows us the traces

 

Chapter Eight - No One can Save you from the Work that you have to do on Yourself

ePub

First, I read Michael Eigen. His was like no other writing I had yet encountered on the inner life of psychoanalytic thinkers. He wrote about therapy from the point of view of a therapist participating fully, with heart and soul, in the frustrating process of psychotherapy in which time flows forwards and backwards, until tiny points of transparency, incremental miracles, appear in the seemingly impenetrable armour of life.

I have always been suspicious of psychoanalysis's reductive instincts—in English slang, therapists are called “shrinks”, and for good reason. Analysts, it seemed to me, want to kiss us and turn us into frogs, reveal reality as a war of instinctual urges, in which every desire is also a naked grab for power, and every strategy conceals an erection.

In Eigen's writing, there is room for everything except reduction—or escape. In The Psychoanalytic Mystic (1998), he shows us the traces of mystical experience, like suspended particles of gold dust, which can be seen at the margins of the great psychoanalytic theories, as if out of the corners of our eye, at the place where language and subjectivity have collided. Understanding is always born of ecstasy, he says, and ecstasy of the yearning for something unnamable, towards which we are drawn like moths to a candle, like mystics to God (Eigen, 2001).

 

Chapter Nine - Jumping in

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Jan Niemira (JN): Should we just jump in?

 

Michael Eigen (ME): Yes.

JN: What do you recall as most valuable about your training experience? Do you remember learning something that struck you as particularly important? Did anything strike you as unimportant? And is there anything you've had to unlearn?

ME: I had a lot of supervision and control work, yet the most important thing was being left alone to do what came out of me with patients. When I wasn't interfered with too much, I could learn how to be with people.

I should make special mention of New Hope Guild, a private clinic in Brooklyn, New York, where I worked for many years. Not only did it give me a chance to become myself, but I met my wife there! Every week the head of the clinic, Sherman Schachter, had clinical meetings with the staff. These weekly meetings on clinical issues were important for many reasons. It gave us all a chance to hear something about what other therapists were doing and exchange feedback in an open atmosphere. I learnt a lot about complexities of dependence. The atmosphere was one of being devoted to the patient, supporting the therapist–patient relationship. There were plenty of patients waiting to be seen with all kinds of problems: masochism, acting out, anxiety, depression, paranoia, and what they called chronic schizophrenia. Character disorder was a popular category. This usually meant people so wounded and damaged they would need help possibly all life long: deep, supportive help, a kind of help, so to speak, deeper than analysis.

 

CHAPTER NINE Jumping in

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CHAPTER NINE

Jumping in*

an Niemira (JN):  Should we just jump in?

J

Michael Eigen (ME):  Yes.

JN:  What do you recall as most valuable about your training experience? Do you remember learning something that struck you as particularly important? Did anything strike you as unimportant?

And is there anything you’ve had to unlearn?

ME:  I had a lot of supervision and control work, yet the most important thing was being left alone to do what came out of me with patients. When I wasn’t interfered with too much, I could learn how to be with people.

I should make special mention of New Hope Guild, a private clinic in Brooklyn, New York, where I worked for many years. Not only did it give me a chance to become myself, but I met my wife there! Every week the head of the clinic, Sherman Schachter, had clinical meetings

* An interview that accompanied Jan Niemira’s book review of Flames From the

 

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