Psychoanalysis and the Occult

Thee Psychoanalysis and the Occult symposium of Analytica took place on April 9 2016.  It was a unique event in content and form. This topicand its controversies were at the origin of psychoanalysis in the lineage form Mesmer to Charcot to Freud, the censoring of Freud’s research on telepathy from the Traumdeutung, and his early split with his “greatest student”  Carl Jung. Jung and Reich both wrote their last books on “UFO”s in the 50s and in the same decade Georges Devereux published a rare book on “Psychoanalysis and the Occult” exposing much material of psychoanalyst’s clinical experiences of paranormal phenomena with patients and otherwise including that of Freud. All of this - and the fact that occult simply means hidden - led me to say that “the occult is the unconscious of psychoanalysis.” Dave heard it as “the occult is the unconscious of the unconscious” - and this phrase too crossed my mind and so wanted to emerge.

Let me state that there have been innumerable “occult” events surrounding the Psychoanalysis and the Occult project since I began it several years ago. Some good and some bad. Or I should say beyond good and evil since part of the nature of esoteric work - whether in psychoanalysis, magick, or mysticism - is to move beyond this duality. Though we possess a recorded dossier of these facts in detail they will be published only at another time.

Initiating out of a dream, the Psychoanalysis and the Occult project at Analytica staged a series of events in London in 2014 and 2015, including “Psychic Psychotic Psychedelic at the October Gallery and Greenwich University Parapsychology Department, “Accelerationism” at Goldsmiths College -University of London, “The Symptom of Art (Pulsion, Phantasm, Simulacrum)” at the Cabinet Gallery and “God the Analyst” at Conway Hall. 

The Psychoanalysis and the Occult symposium recently held at NPAP was regarding “Case Material on Psychic Reality.” The panel and audience comprised a diversity of experts and amateurs from psychoanalysis, psychiatry, medicine, philosophy, art, poetry, and other specialties regarding the mutual nexus point of this event. 

From the beginning of its design the format was planned to be other than a conference of academic or clinical papers. There were two four hour seances: the common word for session in French psychoanalytic circles but which conveys a special occult practice in English. Each seance was composed of a series of orally delivered free-associative and/or inspired material interweaving personal experience and symptom with clinical practice and theory regarding the topic. These presentations moved fluidly into group discussion with panel and audience of an analysand-analyst nature. There were moments of eruption, conflict and spontaneous revelation that were transcended to achieve a unique energy for such a group. Make no mistake. This was not group therapy, suggestion, or exercise, but a process of each subject speaking from his desire, phantasm, or symptom to her theory and practice of life with specific regard to uncanny, unconscious, occult material - an attempt to share, transmit, and translate the impossible. Thus we attempted the movement from the “It” to “psychic reality” to contingent “reality” - from real to imaginary to symbolic by means of the discourse of analysis.

Zvi Lothane spoke of the milieux out of which psychoanalysis and modern occultism were born, the significance of the Schreber case for the foundations of psychoanalysis, psychosis, and the occult which remain unresolved today and was the subject of his extensive research, and the split paths of Freud and Jung and other relevant “occult” characters such as Sabina Spielrein and Otto Gross, which is the current subject of his research.

Richard Reichbart spoke of his journey from lawyer and activist working with Native Americans through his own psychic conflicts which led him unconsciously to Jules Eisenbud one of the foremost psychoanalysts to research paranormal phenomena. He also spoke of the impossibility of speaking of these subject even as institute president, and the censorship, denial, and politics regarding psychoanalysis and the occult.

Gerald Gargiulo spoke of a series of uncanny encounters from his personal life and woven through his practice that suggested some concept of trans-personality in space and time and how he had turned to quantum physics to attempt to answer these enigmas.

Jason Louv spoke of the science and practice of magick, mysticism, and psychoanalysis in their similarities and differences giving direct demonstrations from his own work. He also discussed the application of his own Reichian analysis to this work and the missing link in the matter-energy-mind-information continuum.

Scott Von finished with a discussion of how Lacan and Guattari moved beyond the occult, unconscious, or hidden by finding a mathematical model of the real able to account for such phenomena by means of topology, chaos and complexity theory. Freud’s initial move of exposing the “reality = the real” fallacy (phallacy) by means of the opening up of a second dimension of “psychic reality” and a third dimension of “drive” or “It” was simplified and taken from myth to science by Lacan, furthering Freud’s project on the sovereign subject of science beyond the mythic, archetypal, and transpersonal dimension which Jung reconnected to the analytic project. 

In the second seance Scott Von demonstrated a new map of psyche and subject and new techniques of analysis based on his research and practice regarding the “psychic core” which is able to explain etiology, pathology, optimization, and differentiation of psychic/psychotic/psychedelic states from neural/neurotic/“egotic” states from social/sociopathic (including “normotic”)/analytic states. 

Susannah Mileshina described her long term personal experiences with paranormal phenomena and magickal practice and their relationship to symptoms and cures in her own life. She then discussed how this led to her work in psychology, psychotherapy, and psychoanalysis with special regard for the institutional participation of schools and hospitals in perpetuating pathology and an alternative use of the practice of “expanded transference.”

Julie Von discussed her work with another kind of “hysterical clinic.” Working with women in a psychoanalytic and medical method with regard to gynecological, obstetric, and pediatric symptoms, she described psychic, intuitive, and shamanic methods deriving from matriarchal cultures that regard the “hyster" or womb as a psychic organ of a different type than the brain. She discussed the suppression of the feminine by means of ancient churches and modern medical technology and the importance of Freud and Lacan in opening a new place for the extension of a hysterical clinic beyond even the current psychoanalytic orthodoxy.

Ruth Rosenbaum discussed her own extensive personal experience, research, and clinical work regarding what she prefers to call “psi phenomena.” She spoke of psychoanalysts such as Ian Stevenson’s empirical research demonstrating the survival of personality beyond space and time and the relevance of desire, love, and “passion at a distance” regarding paranormal phenomena.

Dave Schweichler spoke of how his being called into the Psychoanalysis and the Occult project had reawakened an unconscious occult censorship of his own original desire and work in spiritual and psychic phenomena including his need to “bury” his interest in Jung under the absolute censorship at the Freudian institutes and associations he entered into. He called for a continued discussion of difference and a challenge for psychoanalysts themselves to move out of dogmatic churches and encounter the crossing of diverse but collaborative dialogues on clinical methods and experiences.

The day finished with an intense group discussion regarding shared experiences and difference. There was an air of “coming out of the closet.” Many spoke of a unique collective energy and safety to speak about anything despite disagreement. Many remarked that it was amazing that each seance went continuously for four hours with no break and virtually no one left and that although over one hundred people participated throughout the day, the room was full of those wanting to continue the event beyond closing time with the cleanup crew waiting patiently in the wings and participating.

There was a call to continue the form and content of the event which will certainly be the case. Thanks to all who participated.