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1. The traditions and practice of psychotherapy

Neville Symington Karnac Books ePub

Psychotherapy means healing of the soul. Until the eighteenth century, the power to heal the soul was the prerogative of the “holy man”. When someone was in spiritual distress, he approached a saint within Christendom, a Sufi within Islam, or an Arahat within Buddhism. What these holy people did when someone approached them in spiritual distress was to give the sufferer new understanding, a new line of thought that could then lead to an inner decision. Such a decision might either be to act in such a way as to alter the direction of habitual tendencies or, through reaching a deeper understanding of one’s own personal sorrow, to be able to accept it. The following extract fromThe Path of the Buddha (Morgan, 1986) will illustrate my point:

Kisa Gotami lost her only child and became almost mad with grief, not allowing anyone to take away her dead child in the hope that it might revive again through some miracle. She wandered everywhere and at last came into the presence of the Buddha. Buddha understood the deep sorrow that so blinded the poor mother, so after giving her comfort he told her that he could revive the child if she could procure a handful of mustard seeds from the house of one where no death had ever taken place. Hope came to her and she set forth from house to house asking for a handful of mustard seeds. She did receive, everywhere, the seeds with profuse sympathy. But when it came to asking whether there had been any death in the family, everybody universally lamented the loss of a mother or a father or a son or daughter, and so on. She spent hours travelling in search of the precious seeds that promised the revival of her son, but alas, none could give them to her. A vision arose before her and she understood the implication of the Buddha’s hint. She understood that death is inherent in life which is the source of all suffering, all delusion, [pp. 22-23]

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1. The Nature of Primitive Religion

Neville Symington Karnac Books ePub

If a stone falls and crushes a passer-by, it was an evil spirit that dislodged it: there is no chance about it. If a man is dragged out of his canoe by an alligator, it is because he was bewitched: there is no chance about it. If a warrior is killed or wounded by lance-thrust, it is because he was not in a state to parry the blow, a spell has been cast upon him: there is no chance about it.

(Bergson, 1935)

The primitive mind endows its world with agents. It makes a god or gods the cause of those events which affect man, which may exist in a living individual, or in the ghost of a dead one; they may exist in animals, plants, the sun, or the moon. The idea of spirits inhabiting the natural world of primitive man is familiar to most of us, but what I wish to emphasize is the source of such a belief, and how it contributes to the idea of primitive religion.

Animism can only occur when there is a concept of the individual as agent. The animistic world is a projection of the self as agent – the representational self – into the natural world or the imagined natural world.

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CHAPTER SIX: The unconscious as an amoral construction

Neville Symington Karnac Books ePub

This paper was the keynote address at a Psychoanalytic conference in Melbourne in 1992. The chapter sets out to demonstrate that the unconscious is constructed in order to hide from the individual his own immoral activity. The title may be misleading unless one realizes that the chapter challenges Freud, who tried to construct a metapsychology on principles derived from natural science and therefore amoral.

Each man must look to himself to teach him the meaning of life. It is not something discovered: it is something moulded.

Antoine de Saint Exupéry, Wind, Sand and Stars, p. 37

Socrates said that if I know that what I plan is evil, I cannot do it. He said that therefore the key to good living, to moral action, lies in knowledge. I cannot know that something is evil and yet do it. It is, said Socrates, a psychological impossibility. He believed that if it was possible to show to someone through rational argument that a project or way of behaving was wrong, then the person would be unable to do it.

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11. The quality of attachment

Neville Symington Karnac Books ePub

A characteristic of the narcissistic structure is its embodiment in outer objects. So, for instance, god is always an embodied god. The individual is stuck to this god with superglue. There is, then, a not-god part of the personality. It is not easy to see the not-god because it is submerged in god. However, it is important to realize that the not-god is the healthy part of the personality. It is not part of the narcissistic structure; rather, it is the healthy core of the personality being smothered by narcissism. The not-god is the Absolute in the personality. This may seem a paradoxical statement, but if viewed in the light of what was said in Chapter 1, it can be seen to make sense.1

This glue-like attachment is such that the outer figure becomes installed in the individual in such a way that the term “identification” becomes justified and is correct. The jelly takes on the imprint of the figure to whom the attachment takes place, but it is important to realize that, even in mimesis (see below), when someone has taken in the characteristics of another, it is not the imprint of a person. A person cannot be imprinted in this way; it can only occur through free choice (Chapter 3). The imprinted characteristics are either manifestations of an aspect of a person or are themselves the mimesis of an earlier figure. The glue-like attachment is to the characteristics as entities, and it is these that become imprinted upon the jelly.

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CHAPTER TWELVE: An enquiry into the concepts of soul and psyche

Neville Symington Karnac Books ePub

This chapter was originally written in 1980, and I gave it as a paper to the Applied Section of Psychoanalysis in that year and then to the Society of Analytical Psychology shortly afterwards.

I would not now agree with the Platonic idea that the self is a non-material reality and that this is implied in Freud. Although at this time I had installed in me the ontological concept of being that I outline in “Religion and Consciousness” (chapter 9, this volume), I had not realized its all-embracing significance, and I had therefore not employed it as an integrating principle. Had I been able to do so, then the duality implied in the following would have been understood as in truth a unity, the duality of which was not a quality of the object but due, rather, to the limitation of the human mind to grasp diversity as compatible with unity.

The main thrust of the chapter, however—that the soul and the psyche are one reality but seen from different perspectives—is something that I still hold.

I want to take one fragment from a more comprehensive endeavour and investigate the ways in which psychoanalysis could be enriched through being open to the influence of certain concepts and goals that are usually considered to be the province of religion. The capacity for love, which is a Christian ideal, is one; the attributes of god as analogues of infantile wishes is another; the psychological significance of the Christian myth yet another; and so on. I think that as a result of taking a rather stand-offish attitude to religion, psychoanalysis has been the loser. It has failed to tap a rich resource and has remained somewhat impoverished thereby. Can we really doubt that religion, which has been such a powerful force in the building up of civilizations in the world, is symbolical of an intrapsychic truth?

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