Monday, December 19, 2005

The Unconscious: True or False?

There are lots of people who do not believe in the unconscious. Confounding types. People like Peter Watson, author of "Ideas: A History of Thought and Invention from Fire to Freud" who says things like, "I do not believe in the inner world. I don't believe in such thing as the unconscious or the id." Talk like that won't get you a seat of honor at my dinner table. Or will it? The idea is so repulsive and upending, I'd like to hear more. Why would you deny such a thing other than to get a rise? Clearly, to me at least, alert-daytime-coping-thinking consciousness is like the visual spectrum - a narrow band that is readily perceived and hugely important. But it is only a tiny fraction of a much broader spectum we are equally exposed to and influenced by.

Also, a person who doesn't believe in the unconscious cuts themself off from all the cool, mysterious yammerings people like Sigmund Freud, Carl Jung, and later Joseph Campbell were getting the girls with. For example, it is not hard to imagine Mr. Campbell's water-cooler conversation peppered with riffs like this one...

"The unconscious sends up all sorts of vapors, odd beings, terrors, and deluding images up into the mind - whether in dream, broad daylight, or insanity; for the human kingdom, beneath the floor of the comparatively neat little dwelling we call our consciousness, goes down into unsuspected Aladdin caves. There not only jewles but dangerous jinn abide: the inconvenient or resisted psychological powers that we have not thought or dared to integrate into our lives. And they may remain unsuspected, or, on the other hand, some chance world, the smell of a landscape, the taste of a cup of tea, or the glance of an eye may touch a magic spring, and then dangerous messengers begin to appear in the brain. These are dangerous because they threaten the fabric of the security into which we have built ourselves and our family. But they are fiendishly fascinating too, for they cary keys that open the whole realm of the desired and feared adventure of the discovery of the self. Destruction of the world that we have built and in which we live; but then a bolder, cleaner, more spacious and fully human life - that is the lure, the promise, and the terror of these disturbing night visitants from the mythical realm that we carry within."

Golly. I'm just going to repeat something I overheard a tourist at Madame Tussaud's Wax Museum say to his wife: "Hell, who cares if it's all fake, it's amazing stuff!"


Blogger pigatschmo said...

Yes, I can see being neutral or skepical on discussions of the "unconscious", but it takes a peculiar kind of man to flat out deny its existence.

8:06 PM  

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