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CHAPTER TEN Banal times

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CHAPTER TEN

Banal times

EDMUND The centre of our galaxy is hidden from us, and though we suspect that it lies near Sagittarius we cannot see, as we can when we examine M31, the bright centre.

P.A. A stimulating idea. I would not wish to question the scientific findings of astrophysicists, because I also find in those discoveries a model which illuminates the obscurities of the human mind. At present I cannot entertain, at the same instant, “les espaces infinies” of space and the infinite spaces of human thought. What my work impresses on me is the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of the human mind, and the even vaster and greater depth of human ignorance. Anatole France, having spread himself in a eulogy of the power of man’s wisdom, ends by saying, in reply to a question, that the only thing more marvellous is man’s stupidity, bigotry and intolerance. [II: 232–3]

Wars between psychoanalysts: farewell to psychoanalysis?

One may notice that public knowledge, and therefore public acknowledgement, of a sizeable number of outstanding works or feats has

295

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Chapter Seven - Looking for a Language of Achievement—a Free Association Generator?

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William Butler Yeats said in Words (at the age of 75): “At length / My darling understands it all, / Because I have come into my strength, / And words obey my call”. Bion’s way of writing has specific peculiarities. It is not a question of style, because style is amenable to be imitated. The Trilogy challenges imitation; is it inimitable? Comparisons with Freud are unavoidable, because he established a pattern of excellence. One may safely state that Freud had a gift of graciously furnishing a “flowing feature” to his writings. These had some remarkable, albeit superficial, similarities with the work of writers, so it was not by mere coincidence that Freud won a literature prize; that many people, impacted by what is a mere appearance, concluded that he specialised in writing a kind of roman à clef; and finally, that many people from the intelligentsia became convinced that psychoanalysis and literature were the same thing.

Compared with Freud, Bion’s writings are not endowed with this “flowing feature”—even though readers who read his texts from end to end are—without interruption. One may state, even at the risk of being seen as a mere eulogiser, that some of the main features present in Bion’s writings have striking similarities with the everyday practice of psychoanalysis. This view is confirmed by his own words, given in public supervisions and seminars and also in the Brazilian Lectures. At 81, he told the audience that he always felt fear when entering into a new analytic session.

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CHAPTER SEVEN Looking for a language of achievement—a free association generator?

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CHAPTER SEVEN

Looking for a language of achievement—a free association generator?

W

illiam Butler Yeats said in Words (at the age of 75): “At length / My darling understands it all, / Because I have come into my strength, / And words obey my call”. Bion’s way of writing has specific peculiarities. It is not a question of style, because style is amenable to be imitated. The Trilogy challenges imitation; is it inimitable? Comparisons with Freud are unavoidable, because he established a pattern of excellence. One may safely state that Freud had a gift of graciously furnishing a “flowing feature” to his writings.

These had some remarkable, albeit superficial, similarities with the work of writers, so it was not by mere coincidence that Freud won a literature prize; that many people, impacted by what is a mere appearance, concluded that he specialised in writing a kind of roman à clef; and finally, that many people from the intelligentsia became convinced that psychoanalysis and literature were the same thing.

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CHAPTER SIX The psychoanalytic movement and psychoanalysis proper

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CHAPTER SIX

The psychoanalytic movement and psychoanalysis proper

T

he German term Zeitgeist—“the spirit of the time”—merits consideration. It was coined by Johann Gottfried Herder, the discoverer of the field of literary criticism, a discipline greatly advertised by one of his followers, Hegel (Hartmann, 1923–1929;

Irmscher, 1969; Sandler, 2001c). It means the whole intellectual climate which shapes the general feeling and beliefs of a social group, giving the human species a locus for creative development through schooling.

In the end, any establishment has as its spine a specific Zeitgeist.

Due to social tendencies linked to the constant conjunction of two human conditions, namely, helplessness and thoughtlessness, there emerges idolisation and messianisation of given people and their teachings or offerings. Therefore, any given Zeitgeist may attain the quality of being seen as the prevailing social truth—in most cases the one and absolute truth. If contaminated by a paranoid-schizoid wish for perpetuity, expressed by repetition of the same ideas and actions though imitation, a specific Zeitgeist becomes immobilised and ossified, defying the passage of time. In denying movement, it may deny the stuff of life, fuelling mindlessness and a lack of creative outlets for the human mind.

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CHAPTER FIVE The ever-present fundamentals of psychoanalysis: a memoir to a possible future of psychoanalysis?

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CHAPTER FIVE

The ever-present fundamentals of psychoanalysis: a memoir to a possible future of psychoanalysis?

Beauty is truth, truth beauty,—that is all

Ye know on earth, and all ye need to know.

—Keats, Ode on a Grecian Urn

Practice and theory

Is A Memoir of the Future a “practical stage” or “lesson” on what was earlier theoretically exposed mainly in Transformations and Attention and Interpretation? Bion was aware of the prevalent establishment’s reaction to his earlier contributions. Other characters of the book merit introduction now to those unfamiliar with Bion’s trilogy: Roland is presented as Alice’s husband. He is depicted as a typical Englishman, hot-headed, stubborn, a courageous farmer—albeit the limits between courage and chutzpah are blurred. His closest friend is Robin, a common man more endowed with common sense and a sense of survival.

Like Wilfred Ruprecht Bion, the author of the books, both had previous military experience—something intrinsically marked by dread and

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