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Chapter 7, Conclusion and Bibliography of "Mysticism: Psychosis and Gnosis"

"If you meet the Buddha on the way, kill him." Zen saying.

Introduction to chapter seven:

I am turning to chaos theory to speculate further as to how and why chaos and order are experienced within the psyche. It is my intention that this seemingly unrelated subject give some further definition between gnosis and psychosis. To do this I develop Lacan’s idea of “foreclosure”. Using some of the fundamental principles of chaos theory, I undertake to demonstrate that all theories and all paradigms of knowledge act as a foreclosure, but that chaos theory offers the (impossible) possibility of a source of meaning which lies outside the symbolic order. This is a development of ideas which I have already touched upon, such as “meaning beyond meaning.”

The effect of scientific theory on consciousness

All paradigms of knowledge, whether scientific, political or psychotherapeutic, effect how we see ourselves. As Bertrand Russell said: "Throughout history we have drawn our conception of ourselves and our place in the universe from the current physical theory of the day."[1] This is not to say that all knowledge is derived from physical theory, nor that it is historicist, but rather that it is a specific framework within which we pursue our enquiry into existence.

Freud thought and created his theories within the scientific paradigm in writing his 'scientific psychology.' He went to great lengths to appear scientific in his arguments, that is to stay within the paradigm, although whether he was successful or not is debatable. He set out to discover in the human psyche laws and forces which would mirror those in the physics and chemistry of his day.[2]

I suggest that the models which we use to explain to ourselves how things got to be the way they are, are fundamental to how we experience ourselves inwardly and outwardly. That is, that systems of knowledge shape how we think and how we structure our society. Religious faith, for example, is shaped by the dogma of the religion itself. We behave differently if we think the world is flat, than if we have a round earth theory, to use a naïve example.

In looking at eras in history it would appear that philosophy, religion and science have been linked, in fact prior to the 16th century they were much more closely associated than today. However, in recent times these separate disciplines show signs of converging.

The evidence is growing that chaos theory and analytical psychology are describing similar dynamics, albeit in different realms.[3] These dynamics constitute chaos reintegrating at greater levels of complexity. Jung said that psyche and matter are two different aspects of one and the same thing.[4] And again: “There is no difference in principle between organic and psychic formations. As a plant produces its flowers, so the psyche creates its symbols.”[5] Prigogene, the father of chaos theory, discusses the coming together of our own insights about the world around us and the worlds inside us as a satisfying feature of the recent evolution in science that we have tried to describe.[6] “I came to see that the rules of the game were much the same, no matter what field you look at”, he said.[7] Chaos theory can be seen as a metaphor for something that has preoccupied humankind from its beginning. For what was once attributed to supra-human elements - gods, giants and spirits can now be seen as a function of the relationship between energy and matter.

I proceed on the premise that everything that we regard as the knowledge of the world is organizationally closed. Whatever the theory says about reality is not in fact that reality, because any theory is an abstraction of the whole and therefore is, in a sense an illusion. Though scientific theories may be quite useful illusions, Bohm reminds us that the user of a theory should always be starkly aware of the theory's inherent limitations.[8] This echoes the phenomenological critique against the positivism first proposed by Auguste Compte, which recognizes only positive facts and observable phenomenon, and rejects metaphysics, the unconscious, theism, and anything mysterious.

Nietzsche did not have to proclaim that God is dead, because science had already killed him. Classical, deterministic physics had already transmuted the living cosmos of Greek and Medieval times, a cosmos filled with purpose and intelligence and driven by the love of a God for the benefit of man, into a dead, clockwork machine. Nietzsche made many references to science, and the limitations which reason created. In "Thus spoke Zarathustra", he speaks of his own phenomenological approach; "I speak only of the things that I have experienced and do not only offer events in the head."[9] In his proclamation "I teach you the Superman", he is making a plea for the leap which would take one out of the shackles of reason, out of the limitations of the paradigm, out of a 'foreclosed' system.

I propose to show that the ideas of quantum theory, specifically the developments of chaos theory and fractal geometry relate to the possibility of a new view of ourselves, collectively and individually, and that this view allows for radically different possibilities from the determinism of Freud's time. That the tendency towards wanting to create a theory which posits certainty is inherently very strong is illustrated by the fact that Quantum physics itself is divided into two branches: The "Deterministic", or the "universe of law and order" of Einstein, [10]and the contrasting branch of Chaos Theory, "does God play dice." I will continue to link determinism with foreclosure as I develop my argument.

If we are not to be caught up in a deterministic, self-referent, narcissistic and entropic system, there is a great need for a re-visioning of our world. According to Benoit Mandelbrot, fractal geometry is not just a chapter of mathematics, but one that helps Everyman to see the same old world differently.[11] The mathematics of fractal geometry were first proposed in the 1920's, but it was only with the advent of sophisticated computers in the 1980's that Mandelbrot displayed the beautiful iterative patterns of the Julia sets. The relationship between theory and form was clearly visible. Perhaps as Robert Stetson Shaw says, 'You don't see something until you have the right metaphor to let you perceive it, "[12] regardless of whether this metaphor is applied in the field of science of psyche.

[Briefly, scientists find the laws of fractal geometry govern much of the natural world, producing patterns that repeat themselves on smaller and smaller scales. The structure of a fern is explained by fractals. Clouds, river deltas and mountain ridges are characterized by repeated shapes on an ever larger (or smaller) scale.]

Suares and others who interpret the language of the letter-numbers of the first five chapters of the book of Genesis present us with the idea that these literal biblical stories are an abstract formula or metaphor for the reality of cosmic energy, rather than the opposite and accepted view that these stories about Adam et al are the concrete story. The age of determinate physics was also the age when the Creation story was insisted upon as being literally correct. Foreclosure in its broadest sense is a way of forestalling the approach of these cosmic energies. As Suares comments, “The traditional reading of the Bible is the result of intellectual subjugation to psychological demands. The book of Genesis when read according to custom therefore appears in the form of a story relating the facts and gestures of such people as Adam, Eve, Cain, Able, and so forth, but whose names when read in the light of the cabalistic code reveal that they are abstract formulas of cosmic energy focused in the human psyche.”[13]

The medieval Hermetics or alchemists mingled Gnosticism, Christianity, and theologies from Egypt, Babylon and Persia. They believed in creation from a pre-existing chaos. Yet the Greeks, beginning with Democritus, proposed that everything by its very nature is predetermined. Nothing is left to chance. The determinism that characterized the paradigm of classical physics influenced other disciplines as well. Chaos was the word most dreaded by the physicist of the past, because it represents that which exists not only beyond the known but beyond the knowable.

Examples of anomalies abound in science which, when examined by science itself, actually constitute the collapse of the prevailing paradigm, and the instatement of a new one. Discovery begins with the recognition of anomaly that makes it appear as if nature has somehow violated the paradigm that governs normal science. The scientist has moved away from the old paradigm and entered a liminal area, beyond which a new paradigm may be waiting to be born.[14]

Newtons’ goal, at the end of the 17th century, was a “structuring of the world in so absolutist a manner that every event, the closest and the most remote, (fit) neatly into an imaginary system.”[15] [It could be that the chief source of Newton’s desire to know was his anxiety before, and his fear of, the unknown.] Reflecting this is a statement, which is the epitome of classical certainty and determinism, by Pierre Simon de Laplace, one of the leading mathematicians of the 18th century. In his Philosophical Essays on Probabilities, Laplace submits an ideal where nothing could be uncertain; and the future just like the past would be present before ones eyes.[16]

Within this kind of system the erratic was treated as a side issue, an unpredictable and therefore unimportant kind of marginalia. Now scientists are more willing to look directly at the irregularity. And they accept Mandelbrot’s challenge: to scrutinize, rather than dismiss, the apparently formless; to investigate the morphology of the amorphous.[17]

Chaos theory[18]

It is not within the scope of this chapter to discuss the principles of chaos theory except in the most cursory way. The definition of chaos theory itself, ’lawless behaviour governed entirely by law’ gives some idea of its paradoxical nature. The ‘aim’ of turbulent chaos is integration, inclusion or wholeness. Yet, as Michael Barnsley, a mathematician studying chaos, has written about fractal geometry: “You risk the loss of your childhood vision of clouds, forests, galaxies, leaves, feathers, flowers, rocks, mountains, torrents of water, carpets, bricks, and much else besides. Never will your interpretation of these things be quite the same.”[19] Like a naive childhood drawing of a cotton wool cloud, the laws of physics with which we use to describe our world both explain and misrepresent it's existence. What we think of as a cloud is the signifyer of what a cloud is in "the Real."

A: violent order is disorder:


B: A great disorder is an order.

These things are one.

This statement, in the style of the Zen koan, or the self-referent paradox, could equally be speaking about the essential nature of the physical world as seen by chaos theory, as the nature of the creative process in the human psyche. To use Lacan’s term, the violent order of foreclosure sets a counter-reaction which is psychosis to create balance. Chaos goes from unity-chaos-unity, suggesting that there is a fundamental principle where certain things are unified within the psyche, but that this very equilibrium creates the potential for a negative entropy which calls for chaos to engender life or liveliness, so that new elements can be added and a new order of complexity created.

Poincare revealed his insights about his own creative process in a lecture at the Societe de Psychologie in Paris. His personal pattern of scientific discovery seemed to be one of initial frustration, confusion, and mental chaos followed by unexpected insight.[20] This chaos followed by insight is similar to what happens in the therapeutic hour as well. I suggest that the psychotic episode is an exaggeration of this chaotic space on the way to insight. Poincare was breaking away from the scientific paradigms in which he was educated, and it is the chaos, the discontinuity[21] of this reorganisation, which enables a new order to emerge. He saw this as in inner world version of the outer world chaos theory which he was developing.

Chaos theory itself functions like a symbol in the domain of science: it transforms perspectives and unlocks forms of inquiry previously thought inaccessible. Fractal geometry is revolutionary in that it presents us with a new language in which to describe the shape of chaos. Fractals, says the science writer Jeanne McDermott, ‘capture the texture of reality.’[22] The iteration which characterises fractal geometry suggests that stability and change are not opposites but mirror images of each other. ‘With a fractal, you look in and in and in and it always goes on being fractal,’ says British painter David Hockney. It’s a way towards a greater awareness of unity.[23]

Chaos theory is contributing to a new world-view, with its own distinctive epistemological, moral and spiritual dimensions. Prigogine said that "Whatever we call reality, it is revealed to us only through an active construction in which we participate."[24] While Plato tried to distance himself from "participating consciousness", Quantum physics and chaos theory insist that I am part of the experiment which I observe. It is evident that in the arena of perception we have reached a realization of perception analogous to the Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle. We do not observe the physical world. We participate with it.[25]

If, on the other hand, we are alienated from reality we will have to reconstruct it through the incorporating of chaotic elements, as I will demonstrate in the next sections in the case of Shreber. Shreber’s case of psychosis - a man of high intelligence and a high court judge, who wrote a lucid account of his experiences - particularly interested Freud, and later, Lacan. Chaos theory gets close to the genesis of individual human existence because it both observes and allows for a phenomena of uncertainty, leaps of growth in a discontinuous manner, the tensions of opposites as a creative rather than destructive principle, and chaos as the prima materia. I hold that these phenomena are as relevant for the psyche as for the physical world. I will proceed to examine this relevance in the field of psychoanalysis through the notion of ‘foreclosure’, as proposed by Lacan.

The development of Lacan’s ideas on foreclosure

Lacan’s critique and expanding of Freud’s work has brought psychoanalysis many useful insights. The story of Lacan's development of ideas on foreclosure begins with three words Freud used, namely Verdrangung (repression), Verwerfung ( rejection and repudiation and later, by Lacan, foreclosure) and Verleugnung (disavowal). Lacan was aiming to differentiate between psychosis, which operates by way of foreclosure, and neurosis, which operates by way of a repression. The third category of Freud’s, disavowal, represented the means by which perversion operates, and does not concern us directly here.

Foreclosure began as a legal term, which is significant in itself, as it is the law which prohibits in some way, but it entered the domain of linguistics when the French linguists Jacques Damourette and Edouard Pichon spoke of foreclosure where something is precluded from being possible.[26]

A foreclosure is a double bind, which represents an alienation. Russell Grigg gives the example: Mr Brook is not the sort of person who would ever complain. The ever flags the foreclosure. Mr Brook is thus denied the possibility of ever complaining.

According to Grigg, what is foreclosed is not the possibility of the events ever coming to pass, but the very signifier, or signifiers that makes the expression of impossibility possible in the first place. The speaker lacks the very linguistic means for making the statement at all. Lacan adopted the term in 1956 in his last seminar on psychosis as a definition of the notion of Verwerfung. Before this, psychoanalysis was thought to be largely able to treat neurotics, but not psychotics, because the structure of psychosis had not been understood. Lacan established that the understanding of the nature of foreclosure is central to an understanding of the psychotic process.

With the work of Lacan the mechanism[27] of foreclosure and the structure of psychosis were understood in a new way, one that gave the psychoanalytic treatment of psychosis a more secure basis. Further and more important, is that the problems that foreclosure raises are central to psychoanalysis in general. Even more central to my argument is that there is nothing to rule out the possibility that foreclosure is a normal psychic process, as Lacan develops in Seminar III.[28] In other words, we all, to some degree or other, repudiate, reject and preclude the very possibility of the existence of certain things. This is done by way of the absence of the signifiers, through language, which would enable us to say “not that.” Following Lacan, that which is absent from discourse is also absent from the unconscious, in that the unconscious operates like a language.

To differentiate between the foreclosure associated with psychosis itself, and that of a normal psychic process, Lacan proposed that what is foreclosed in psychosis is the name of the father, a key signifier that anchors or quilts signifier and signified. Thus Lacan argued that it is only when what is foreclosed is specifically concerned with the question of the father, as in the case of Shreber, that psychosis is produced. I have mentioned this in my discussion in Chapter Four when I discuss the collective psyche and the prevailing paradigm.

In Lacan’s Seminar XXIII, 1975-76 the general theory of foreclosure is applied to both neurosis and psychosis, a general theory of the symptom. This step effectively generalizes the concept of foreclosure. The delusional metaphor of psychosis is one response to this foreclosure; the symptom-metaphor of neurosis is another.

When Lacan said that there is a third possibility to the psychosis and neurosis possibility, through close and impassioned attention to the creative processes, in James Joyce’s case, through writing, he is saying in effect that although the tendency may be there, the outcome is not predicted. Not only is this reflecting a chaos theory approach, but the engagement with chaos, through creativity, prevents an outright psychosis. In Joyce’s writing, there are many ‘epiphanies’[29] that may not appear to make much sense, which (appear to be) enigmatic and meaningless fragments outside of discourse and cut off from communication, but which are experienced as ‘sudden spiritual manifestation’. Enigma contains certainty, chaos contains order, absence of meaning becomes ineffable revelation.

Foreclosed, then means to be lying outside the limits of what can be judged to exist, yet reappears, as Lacan describes, ‘in relations of resistance without transference’, or, again, ‘as punctuation without text.’ (Lacan, Ecrits, p 388) Lacan also agues that there is a domain, which he termed ‘the Real’ which subsists outside the symbolic, which constitutes what is external to and radically foreign to the person and the person’s world. It is this which is foreclosed. The real, that impossible kernel of being, can re-enter an individual’s world through semiotic language, gesture, nuance and musicality, as in James Joyce’s writing as already mentioned, and as described by Kristeva.

The case of Shreber

When Charles Peguy says that everything begins in mysticism and ends in politics, we could equally say, everything begins in chaos (that of chaos theory) and ends in the foreclosure which foreshadows psychosis. Everything begins in that which is outside the symbolic order and ends up being subsumed within it. What I am trying to say is that when Shreber creates his own code language, he is trying to break open transcendence in the same way that Saures does in the ‘words of fire’ of the Qabala. I wish to use the phenomena of the enigma to explain this thought further. The enigma arises because the expectation of meaning that the signifier generates is radically disappointed.[30] In effect, what is foreclosed, ultimately, is access to a disordered universe, ‘for our own good’, (borrowing Alice Miller’s phrase) so that instead we have the enigma of a paradigm, whether that is a religion or a scientific theory, which arouses the expectation of meaning, which is radically disappointing. True, the meaning is not extinguished completely but the traces which remain are not sufficient to prevent the invention of a private metalanguage, hallucination, delusion and other devices to restore that which has never been found. In a sense we are all the three-legged stools which Lacan refers to[31], who function well enough without the fourth, but the absence shows up at a certain crossroads in biographical history, and one is confronted with this lack which always existed, like a phantom limb. The notion that this is a foreclosure of castration, or of the name of the father, is to me an insufficient exploration of the intent and understanding of this process. In that the masculine, or phallic way has been denied him, through foreclosure, the other route for Shreber is through the feminine, and through feminization, which he attempts through the experience of jouissance in his own body. Although in Shreber’s case this is a psychotic exaggeration, it is also the way of the mystic, where direct experience, rather than hallucination, is experienced. For the person who takes up the feminine position also takes up the masculine or phallic, and it is through this feminine jouissance that ethical relations to the Other are begun. This is what women have but know nothing about, according to Lacan. It is the embodied sense of that which cannot be spoken.[32] In Shreber the barrier to jouissance is surmounted and jouissance is no longer located outside his body. It is ascribed to a divine Other who seeks his satisfaction in Shreber. Kristeva posits the notion of the chora, a pre-verbal space inhabited by sensation, accessible to the mind and outside time, and therefore outside the symbolic order. It is in this space that the gap is bridged between the foreclosed and the world of communication, as in Joyce’s writing. Kristeva introduces a supplementary dimension to the Lacanian model in the form of a transitional sensory space termed the semiotic, occupied by sensation and images. This is a maternal space, outside of the demands of time and the demands of social code. She argues that Lacan did not place sufficient emphasis on the maternal. It is, according to the schema of Kristeva, in the semiotic that Shreber re-visions and re-enchants his world. Further, Kristeva argues against cognitivism, whose conception of knowledge lies only in the mind, not in relation to the other, and against fundamentalism which denies the play and enjoyment of liberty. Like Kristeva, I see the ‘safe’ ground of cognitivism and fundamentalism (of any kind) as inimical to freedom; they exclude the semiotic chora as a source of vitality and integration.[33]

The religious language which Shreber and the majority of psychotic people use, (Perry) and the religious figures who people their world are an attempt to reach a regenerative energy for which the language of religion is the closest approximation, a symbol for something else. Colin Wilson, in his book “The Outsiders”, discusses the lives and struggles of many who have suffered the imperative of a life outside the symbolic order. He includes Satre and Camus, Boehme and Kierkegaard, D H Lawrence and James Joyce, Dostoevsky and H G Wells, Kaffka and Hemingway, Henry James and Nijinsky, T S Eliot and John Stuart Mills, Nietzsche and Herman Hesse, Blake and Vincent van Gogh, Rilke, Tolstoy and Whitman, yet not Shakespeare, Keats and Dante who he describes as being “apparently normal and well-adjusted”. “What symbols,” he asks, “what metaphor can an Outsider use which express his triumphant emergence from the impossible struggle, if not religious metaphors of the day? I think that part of the pain of a current day Outsider is that we are lacking in available metaphor, symbols which carry any weight that is adequate to bear the infinitely heavy significance of these experiences.”[34]

Lacan remarks that psychosis occurs with particular frequency when the father has the function of a legislator, whether as one who actually makes the laws or as one who poses as the incarnation of high ideals.[35] For Shreber, being a law maker himself, the action of his own superego added to the laws of his pedagogue father. My contention is that unless we take the position of the heretic outside the symbolic order, the very system that we live in incubates this tendency to psychosis.

Out of Eden -foreclosure and chaos theory

The chaos branch of quantum physics has the view that the foundation of reality itself is an unfixed, indeterminate maze of probabilities.[36] Dualism is dissolved in the simultaneous nature of matter being both wave and particle, not an either or. This is a confrontation that prevents us being too fundamentalistic, even in science. Zohar reminds us that ‘Quantum indeterminacy.…. is a powerful metaphorical way of perceiving reality.’[37] This Indetermination is approached through the writing of Suares in a completely different field, that of the Qabala. He claims that ultimately we come to realize that consciousness is a discontinuous phenomenon: Qabala is a training of the mind that makes it so subtle and pliable as to allow it to pass through the mysterious doorway of human genesis and enter into the sphere where life-death and existence carry on their inter-play. Jointly, on both sides, the most precious gift of life is at stake; the principle of Indetermination, which allows all that can to become.[38] It is through chaotic Indetermination, rather than foreclosure, that we approach freedom. It is at the face of its very self, in its very depth, that chaos is totally fecund. Abundant, prolifically fertile.[39] It is this fertility which Shreber activates in his delusional state. In this sense I am celebrating psychosis as an extraordinarily creative attempt to regain Eden, as Suares uses this concept. In that we are all, potentially psychotic (R.D.Laing)[40](Perry)[41] because we all, to some degree operate within a foreclosure, this chaotic regeneration is a necessary (and terrible) risk. Another way of saying this is that heresy, any kind of heresy, says “do it yourself”, whereas orthodoxy, any kind of orthodoxy, says “we’ll do it for you”. One is about direct somatic, phenomenological experience, while the other is about fear of the same and about finding a substitute for it.

Within the Judeo-Christian tradition it is significant that the words in Genesis 1 which are translated from ‘good’ in colloquial Hebrew denote a fixed certainty. This reveals the deep craving of the psyche for a state of static existence, which it sees as ‘good’. According to Suares, the story of the tree of good and evil is about our desire for the known, and our fear of the unknown, that for which we have no signifier. The story of the tree of good and evil and the eating of the forbidden fruit is about being the initiator of your own life. The serpent is a magical snare where fear sees birth as sin, freedom as disobedience, nobility as ruin.[42] Here The Fall is into entropic chaos. Even more provocative is Suares contention that Satan is a ‘continuity in existence which resists its own necessary destruction’, which deteriorates into rigidity and self –preservation, in other words a refusal to affirm life. Psychologically, it is a confinement in structures that hinders the flow of life-death in the mind.[43] This is what William Blake called ‘satanic self-hood’ or, in Jung’s terms, a ‘monotheism of consciousness’, which assumes that human life is best lived by denying all that is not amenable to neat categories. It is this heritage in which we all participate to a greater or lesser degree merely by being born into this particular culture, and it is the paradigm within which Shreber’s life was worked out, and the framework in which Freud proposed his theories and Lacan developed them.

‘The tree of the knowledge’, in the original Hebrew words relating to this tree, conveys intense movement, that of a whirlwind destroying all that is obsolete. Access to this, then, is what is being foreclosed.

Suares, in his reading of Genesis 1:1 in the light of the letter-numbers of the Qabala, writes what could easily be taken as a Hymn of the Universe in the same vein as that of the scientist–mystic-priest, Teilhard de Chardin, who speaks of the forces of mighty universal cosmic energies and celebrates their destructive as well as their constructive powers in the Mass.[44] Before I quote Suares, it is worth remembering that this is the verse that is usually translated as: “In the beginning ‘God’ created heaven and earth.” (King James version)

Containers of existences, existences in their containers.

Universe containing the existences, containing its own existence. Upspringing of life, intermittent pulsation invisible, not thinkable; life always new, always present, never present.


Vertiginous movement that transcends all conception.

In the hidden depths of movement is the secret of existence.

And this movement is the custodian of all possible possibilities. Existence, projection of life, negation of existence...

Without resistance there could be no birth.

This is the becoming.”[45]

"In the beginning", says Lazlo the scientist, "there was chaos, instability, inflation and radiation."[46]

Energy in expansion: that is the definition of space according to Qabala.[47] I argue that the psychotic episode, and life in general, is an attempt to reclaim Eden, where the balance of forces is revivified, where the earthly and cosmic energies fertilize each other. The original state is one of all the possible possibilities, ie chaos. The realization of all the possible possibilities[48] is the state of ‘Adam’ and his ‘Esha’, (Eve). All organic structures have a necessary quality of resistance which deteriorates into rigidity and self preservation, or entropic chaos. Evolution, according to Suares reading of the Qabala, is a series of simultaneous destruction-construction of resistances, the biosphere being an interplay between structures and unstructured energies.[49] In this language, foreclosure is the means by which an entropic chaos is enacted. This is in contrast with the darkness which is swarming with all that could be, and its living power transcends all human thought.[50]

Physics and Metaphysics

History has shown us an uneasy relationship between ‘physics’ and ‘metaphysics.’ For example, Descartes’ metaphysical commitment to mathematics, his invention of analytical geometry, the formulation of his famous “rules of reasoning” – all this occurred in the months and years following a gnostic illumination that came to him on the night of November 10, 1619. His experience can be compared to the ecstatic illumination of the mystic. It is likely that his concept of “intuition", one of his rules of reasoning - which he defined as a kind of direct and unclouded perception of the truth, and which was then to be followed by “deduction” - was the formal translation of his mystical experience into the world of abstract philosophical analysis.[51]

There are many ways of struggling with the direct and naked knowing, which “must” sooner or later be clothed with a system of thought, and enter the Symbolic, which then becomes a foreclosure. This process of using a somatic insight to dislodge an old system has occurred many times, in science and religion most notably. The heretical soon becomes the established view, which then reacts with fear to that which made it possible in the first place, even although the new rigid system depends on the mystical insight now being rejected. It would seem that chaos theory at least provides us with a model which allows for the constant of discontinuity, of radical intuition, of order-chaos-order.

The emperor's new clothes

Every culture, by definition, constructs its own code or grid. It may be arbitrary, it may vary widely from culture to culture, but any culture can be counted on to defend its own particular grid, because it believes and on one level, it is correct that if the grid is compromised in any way, psychic integrity will be lost and the entire culture will go down the drain.[52] No society can tolerate heresy, and certainly not the greatest heresy of all, namely the assertion that its cultural grid is lacking in any particular, transcendent validity.[53] Thus feminine jouissance, ecstasy and direct experience are considered a heresy because they break through the symbolic order. Can it be integrated into symbolic order, does it regenerate and enliven symbolic order? Yet we need the phallic structure of supposedly continuous existence. The not-duped-er, in seeing through the lie that we live, the foreclosure, makes a serious error. This alludes to the story of the Emperors clothes. Recognizing that the emperor is naked is not a good thing for the symbolic order. The on-going order of things requires that we see the clothes on the Emperor. Otherwise the door opens to chaos.

Historically, mystics, as those who live within feminine jouissance, are misfits; they are aware that the phallic order has a hole in it. The response to this is in symptomatic ways. Feminine jouissance can be a way of opening into ethics, that is, the fundamental relationship with the other. One could almost say that if the response is not an ethical one it is a psychotic one.

The mystic also sees that ultimately there is no such thing as subject. That is, the name of the father is not foreclosed, that realization is contained or supported by something Other. The implication of this is that the solid duality of you and I, and of subject and object, is illusory. This relates also to quantum physics where observer and observed both influence each other and therefore are inseparable. Foreclosure is an emphasis on the container, rather than the contained, and this is therefore a tendency to one arm of the polarity. The Qabala knows that YHVH is not a deity but an immanence which can become alive and active when the two vitalities in us, the container and the contained, fecundate each other.[54]

Killing the Buddha

There is a Zen saying, “If you see the Buddha coming down the road, kill him.” My contention, following Lacan, is that the foreclosure which reaches an exaggerated form in the genesis of psychosis is actually a feature of normal psychic development, and one which every person deals with on the way toward what Jung termed individuation. This particular double bind that we are all in, however, this collective pre-psychosis, is about both desiring and fearing our own freedom, that is freedom within and without the symbolic order. Quantum freedom is a far more terrible thing than our faith in the power of reason would allow us to believe, says Zohar.[55] If I believe in freedom at all I cannot be a determinist, and I do see that the Emperor has no clothes. When I act out of habit, or certainty, I do not act out of my freedom, nor do I exercise my creativity. If I meet the Buddha on the way I have met a foreclosure which prevents me from living, which makes impossible the possibility. So, I must ‘kill’ him, so that the realisation of all the possible possibilities is possible once again. If I do not ‘kill’ him, I am already ‘killed’ by him.

Suares reminds us the there is no transcendence other than our intimacy with the unknown as the unknown. Seeking it is to avoid it.[56] Finding it, ie the Buddha, is an even greater loss. The Buddha represents that which is beyond our ability to conceive, the signifiers themselves are missing. The Buddha, or literalising of that which cannot even be represented, is a determination in a context which is Indeterminate. The killing of the Buddha is so that we do not trap ourselves in the equivalent of a psychotic hallucination or delusion. The Buddha or YHVH are not deities. Any deistic notion serves to remove the disturbing realization of an all-invading immediacy. That which is (not signified), is beyond our frame of reference, we have not even allowed it the possibility of existence. As Heidegger says, however, nothing is not a nothing, but a something. (‘Pure Being and pure Nothing are therefore the same’, he quotes from Hegel. This proposition is correct, he says on p 108, Basic Writings, 1978, Krell, London). Hume suggested that certain things are comprehended by a leap of faith, and intuitively grasped. My suggestion is that one of the ramifications of the gradual infiltration into the collective psyche of the Indeterminism of chaos theory, will be that we will have a paradigm that allows for the Unknown, and the Unknowable, without a foreclosure, which would free us from the impulse to turn it into the (delusional) Known.

Conclusion to chapter seven:

I have shown with this development of Lacan’s idea of foreclosure, that we are subject to a collective delusion or psychosis. Using some of the fundamental principles of chaos theory, I have shown that all theories and all paradigms of knowledge act as a foreclosure, but that chaos theory offers the (impossible) possibility of a source of meaning which lies outside the symbolic order. This is important for my overall argument because I claim that the making of meaning requires that we go beyond that which is signified, that is, we become capable of mystical experience.

Overall conclusion:

“Vocatus atque non vocatus dues aderit.” (Invoked or not invoked the god will be present) This inscription is carved over the door of C.G.Jung’s house.

My methodology in approaching my subject “Mysticism: Psychosis and Gnosis” was to follow Jung when he proposed that the best way to move toward a difficult question involving the unconscious is by a ritual circling. This peripatetic approach has woven together these seven chapters in my quest to understand mystical experience, specifically through the presumed polarities of psychosis and gnosis: I have circled around my subject from many points of view, by way of illuminating both the experience itself, and how it comes to be resolved in the making of meaning and even in attaining a ‘meaning beyond meaning’. As I proposed in the Introduction, this plural approach has enabled me to discover many truths rather than one truth, and therefore a single conclusion is not possible. I am particularly wary of imposing upon myself and my reader a false resolution, lest in so doing I imprison something which I have presented here as multidimensional into naïve simplicity.

In Chapter One I observed that many people have spiritual experience, but that this is not necessarily fostered within our Western Judeo-Christian hierarchy. I believe that the ruling of the Council of Nicea in 325 AD enforced a doctrine which in effect created a prohibition against personal spiritual experience, to the extent that it is foreclosed. I conclude that this creates a problem that does not (really) exist, but as therapists we need to be alert to foreclosed spiritual instinct, which, being foreclosed, is required to take a more circuitous route through all kinds of (necessarily) unrecognizable forms in order to find expression. That mystical experience can be so easily, and consistently, induced through specific electrical stimulation to the brain, suggests and even confirms, that mystical experience is intrinsic and even universal, albeit foreclosed. I suggest that exploration of sexuality specifically, as well as recreational (‘re-creation-al’) drug taking, are attempts to recover an expected meaning which has been radically disappointed.

In beginning to determine whether an experience might be understood as either psychotic or gnostic, I proposed that the phenomenology of mystical experience cannot stand alone and that an understanding of context is needed also. I conclude this, not because the context creates a reference by which the phenomena could be judged ‘objectively real’, but because context contributes to the making of meaning - both the meaning attributed by the observer as well as for the subject. I also suggest that the interpretive aspect of accounts of both mystical and psychotic phenomenology holds great import and meaning. In my later discussion of mysticism and history, I take the position that it is always the phenomenology of personal experience that is primary, regardless of what period in history they represent, or what specific psychological condition. I do not regard this as a contradiction, but rather that these are different ways of recognizing that it is always the direct un-interpreted, unmediated, individual experience which begins to inform us about existence and all else is an accretion. To elucidate this, I refer to Jung’s concept of the archetypal images, which he proposed as being universal patterns or motifs, which come from the collective unconscious, and are the basic content of religions, mythologies and fairy tales; from this each age and each individual is filled with a renewing possibility, and is a wellspring of life-giving vitality. I consider this to be true whether we are considering the life-giving vitality given to a society by an innovative philosopher, or the potential renewal which contact with archetypal material provides for someone in a psychotic ‘break’.

In Chapter Two “On The Way to the Wedding”, enabled me to demonstrate the ways in which the enchanting, numinous and ecstatic, are a fertile margin in which to discover ways that revivify the individual. I believe that what enchants us is to be found in archetypal images and universal pictures and motifs, which have found expression in religions, mythology, legends, and fairy tales. I proposed mystical experience as the epitome of this enchantment, and an inner imperative towards Being, in the Heideggarian sense. I put forward Jung’s idea of individuation as the way the psyche works with us, which allows for the development of the ecstatic principle. I then discussed the possibility that gnostic and psychotic experiences are both legitimate ways to vivify the personal experience (towards being) outside of the collective consensus. I used the metaphor of the Hero’s journey as a way to present the process of validating experience outside of the collective consensus, and the bringing back of this experience into the collective. If we are to believe Joseph Campbell, the Hero’s journey is something that is to be enacted in the lives of every individual, at least potentially, irrespective of gnosis or psychosis. In this sense I believe that at the deepest level, at the very core of Life, (the Self to refer to Jung’s term) renewal, like procreation, is the necessity beyond reason, and that this renewal is attempted impersonally, seemingly disregarding that some of these experiments in renewal might bring the great burden of individual suffering which is psychosis. To make further use of the idea of the Hero, any individual who approaches the archetypes, either through psychosis or mystical labours, is, in my view, the Hero, and for both there is much slaying of dragons (conquering of psychological complexes) and rescuing of fair damsels (knowing what is worthy of preserving) to be done,

In Chapter Three I presented an analysis of the psychology of the Judeo-Christian religion. I focused on concepts that have been used within contemporary psychotherapy to express a fundamental experience of separation, and how this fundamental assumption of separation frames our religious belief in regard to the need for restitution. I referred especially to Object Relations theory, and the idea of the Transitional Object (T.O.), and compared this theory with ideas from various spiritual traditions and came to the conclusion that the idea of a basic fault is epoch specific rather than fundamental to the human condition. I investigated the idea of “God” as a Transitional Object in Western culture in relation to the desire for connectedness. I also discussed another possibility: that this idea of God is a reaction formation against the unspeakable Other. This chapter also gave me the opportunity to discuss how an Object Relations view (rather than a Jungian view, which I propose in Chapter six, for instance) adds to the overall understanding of mystical experience and psychosis. I discussed the possibility that religion and spiritual experience can be sought as a reaction formation to the existential and personal difficulties of life, and as such it is likely that all that is not found in one’s life will be projected into the spiritual life. The therapist can be aware that if this is an unconscious projection, the difficulties encountered upon entering a spiritual path by an already fragile ego may well be quite a shock, sufficient to induce psychosis.

I ventured the possibility that therapy is the new religion, following Symington, but rejected this on the grounds of the notion that religion exists as a transference, while therapy works by means of transference. I nevertheless proceeded with the idea that transference and counter-transference are mystical processes. Samuel’s proposed that ‘In the countertransference experience, the image is being made flesh’ and I likened this to transubstantiation. This discussion of therapy is important as I believe it places therapy as a mystical experience involved with the making of meaning beyond meaning which is by nature numinous and ecstatic, both for the therapist and the client.

In Chapter Four I considered the possibility that what is thought of as psychotic today has been thought gnostic in the past. I spoke more specifically about heresy and orthodoxy as complementary yet opposing forces, because I believe that knowing both sides is important to the attitude we take to our discussion of psychosis and gnosis. As already mentioned, I developed my argument that the proper way to examine mysticism is to examine the times that produced it, that is through the perspectives of both phenomenology and context, and the specific individual involved, rather than the content of the experience alone.

Our contemporary attempts to analyze mystical visions throughout history have mostly taken one of two paths: the visions are either taken literally, or on the other hand regarded as a representation of the psychic landscape of its author. In taking the latter stance, the pronouncements on Ezekiel by a Freudian may be psychoanalytically correct, but they seem to me to be unnecessarily reductive in a way which denies the stature attributed the man at the time and the meaning which his experiences were given. I conclude the context in which these people lived, as well as the importance given to the particular phenomena, are as important as the phenomena itself. Context is as informative and interpretive as content, and should stand alongside both the literal interpretation and the personal interior content. I view historic and contemporary visionary experiences as many different ways of dealing with a perplexing and profound archetypal necessity. The implication of this is that meaning changes with time and context, and that which could be judged as psychotic from outside that paradigm, could equally validly be judged as gnostic within it. My point is that the attitude of self and others towards these experiences is clearly as important as the phenomena themselves.

I learned from history that the more solidly a culture identifies itself with its tradition, the sharper grow its distinctions between inside and out, between what does and does not belong to it, and the more it fears deviance – mysticism in any form, whether gnostic or psychotic, is inimical to it. From my perspective, the problem with this trend from the standpoint of the mystic is that deviance is a natural, rather than an unnatural, attempt to compensate the culture’s biases. Likewise, individually we invite the possibility that our own orthodoxy will drive our own inner mystic into unreachable solitude. I conclude that one of the perilous possibilities is that the denied or foreclosed creativity can turn against the self as psychosis; it is possibly easier to endure repression by an outside orthodoxy, than by our own fear-provoked tyranny. At the least, it is easier to identify.

In Chapter Five I approached the idea of a Dark Borderland in order to investigate the idea that the numinous and mystical can be found in liminality, or marginality. I discussed liminaIity as the metaphorical condition of ‘betwixt and between’, which is experienced by both the psychotic and the gnostic, and present a comparison between two early Christian mystics, St Teresa of Avila and Hildegard of Bingen, and a contemporary woman in order to demonstrate similarities and differences between psychosis and gnosis in mystical experience. I then discussed the transition of midlife as an example of liminality, which no-one can avoid. (Or can they? The puer would have it so!) I concluded that Sufi methods provide a structure that intentionally engages the liminal, and apparently deals with both a psychotic or gnostic outcome with equal facility.

When I discussed the Christian concept of the Dark Night of the Soul, as representing a time-honoured sojourn within liminality, I did so from the position that it is a non-ego dominated experience, which is largely to do with the unconscious parts of self which are ‘in the dark’, so to speak. I suggested the paradoxical possibility that the very search for meaning of the deepest kind leads to loss of meaning. People often feel that they have ‘lost their faith’ at this point. But in my view it has nothing to do with faith, but rather with the fertile ground of liminality, (and enchantment and numinosity) which I believe feeds the psyche rather than the ego. People coming to therapy from all paths of life, often describe a loss of meaning which they find profoundly disturbing.

I introduced the Persian myth of The Descent to the Goddess, because it provides us with a guided tour of the process whereby an individual makes a necessary descent into the dark underworld. That this myth is relevant to the individual psyche today, says to me that the struggle enacted is existential rather than cultural or epoch-specific. Certainly, this myth of Inana has been of assistance to clients who are undergoing the deep depressions of liminal periods, and Dark Night experiences. It is a metaphorical tale of extraordinary power in the modern psyche, where we have so few stories that carry the enchantment, the numinosity which I believe is necessary to contribute to the making of meaning.

I discussed one of the ways in which the Dark Borderland of liminality is experienced (even invited) is through deprivations of various kinds. I also propose that deprivation for the ego can provide certain conditions where one is more open to liminality. Robert Johnson has suggested, for instance, that psychologically speaking, those most prone to mystical experiences are likely to be “unfathered”, that is, to have the father absent from their lives in some way.

I discussed the experience of physical illness as one of the life events which can precipitate an individual into liminality, and that as such they are ventures into depth and meaning. Yet many, including Hildegard of Bingen, had the reverse experience, of becoming ill as the result of her overpowering experiences. I proposed that the illnesses may not have been due to the mystical experience itself, but to her struggles with the validity of her experience within the framework of her ecclesiastical life, and her difficulties in putting her own experience forward. Also, I think that we need to allow for the possibility that illness in regard to mystical experience could be hysterical conversion. I was alluding to this when I propose the body itself as heretical experience, where the body is the site in which the heresy resides, both as the semiotic and through hysterical conversion.

To continue, I propose that Hildegard's psycho-physical struggle is archetypal, and that it is through writing that she achieves the symbolic. I claim that this has several implications: first, that it is through creative output that we integrate the numinous experiences, regardless as to how they originate; second, that in achieving the symbolic the numinous experience can safely become part of normal daily life. I make use of Kristeva’s notion here, that the semiotic is the primary experiential aspect of being, through which, I suggest, the mystical experience is mediated, and therefore is the means by which the symbolic is discovered, as a translation of the experience into the making of meaning. Certainly for Hildegard, the balance between her mystical and visionary experiences and what she describes as her bodily weakness, seems to be maintained by her writing and work. The most important conclusions that I have drawn in this chapter are that creative output is essential to the integration of numinous experience, which enables the translation of the essentially semiotic into the symbolic.

In Chapter Six I considered why certain people seem particularly prone to mystical experiences, or what I have recognized as mystical experiences, and have them with apparent ease. I found the model of Jung’s Personality types an accessible way to discuss differences in experience. The idea of the inferior function being the least developed aspect of the psyche and not the property of the ego, gave me opportunity to speculate as to how the numinous might be activated and approached, not just for certain individuals through their intuitive faculty, but for everyone on their way to individuation. The suggestion that that which is least skillful could also seem clumsy and even psychotic at times, has provided me with one model of both (temporary) psychosis and gnosis as normal developmental processes.

Finally in Chapter Seven I turned to chaos theory to speculate further as to how and why chaos and order are experienced within the psyche. To do this I developed Lacan’s idea of foreclosure. Using some of the fundamental principles of chaos theory, I demonstrated that all theories and all paradigms of knowledge act as a foreclosure, but that chaos theory offers the (impossible) possibility of a source of meaning which lies outside the symbolic order. This is very significant for the understanding of mysticism because the making of meaning at the deepest level requires that we go beyond that which is signified, that is, we become capable of mystical experience. This can be thought of as ‘meaning beyond meaning’, namely that the symbolic order is not everything, that there is experience beyond the translation that is then represented in the symbolic order, that is, I am speaking about that which cannot be said. This is not the tautology that is seems, simply because language itself is already a translation, is itself within the symbolic order. Levinas gave considerable thought to this issue; he asks, “Does meaning not remain free in this language (of the rules of grammar and logic), disposed to unsay itself and to mean to say otherwise?”[57] If meaning is gained via the signifier and symbol as language, it is also betrayed, obfuscated, concealed and betrayed by it, because it never reveals the signified. The signifier refers to the ‘the coming Buddha who never comes’. (The Hindus say this of Lord Maitreya Buddha.) As Levinas says, “the signified, which is always to come in the signifier, never manages to take shape”….”Lived experience would be repressed by the linguistic signs creating the texture of its apparent presence: an interminable play of signifiers postponing forever – repressing – the signified.” Levinas (1998), p 117 So my conclusion here is that mystical experience is that which we are ever circling about: that which has no intrinsic signifier, not an absence, except of signification, that which is un-named and un-nameable. I can also wonder, in the company of Levinas, what kind of ceaseless awakening “is a rupture of limits and a bursting of finitude”. Levinas (1998), p 115 {I have to wonder, too late of course, if research following an entirely philosophical approach, “On Meaning and Being”, could have more satisfactorily encompassed my subject.}

My last words refer back to my first; namely, that I have investigated liminal experiences, specifically those classed as mystical experience, which are problematic to the experiencer because they do not fit the prevailing paradigm. If we are to take the root metaphor of the soul, rather than the root metaphor of sociology or religion, or medicine, or the law, and if we are to be, therefore, the advocate of the soul or psyche, then every experience of psyche has equal importance and potential for meaning making, the prevailing paradigm notwithstanding. My investigations into Mysticism: Psychosis and Gnosis have added to the framework through which I might comprehend my own continuing experience and the presumed pathologies and real suffering of my clients, especially the suffering of the deepest kinds. Although the term mysticism can be, and has been often enough, used dismissively as a term of reproach to refer to anything which is not only beyond intellectual comprehension, but which is surrounded by confusion and obfuscation, I offer this analysis as a beginning towards clarification and understanding. That mystical experiences defy facile analysis or categorization (not only mine, but many others) reveal to me their importance; anything that is superficial or yields meaning too quickly, or with too little application to deeper and more persistent inquiry into the experience of being, especially when undertaken from multiple points of view, does not, in my opinion, have the weight and substance to meet the real needs of a richly experienced life. This work, however, has drawn me on, and filled my days and nights with ever more penetrating questions, and insights. I look forward to continuing the journey.

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