Psychoanalysis and the Occult

Please join us in New York next month for this unique event. It has been over 50 years since this material has been presented in public, and it has already generated much interest and controversy. Rather than a conference of papers this symposium will include inspired presentations and group intensives from a broad range of participants covering everything from IPA members and institute presidents to radical Lacanians, Reichians, and Jungians to occult and paranormal scholars and practitioners. It is free and open to the public, but space is limited and first come first served. 

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Psychoanalysis and the Occult: Case Material on Psychic Reality - Analytica

April 9, 9am-5pm - NPAP

The purpose of the “Psychoanalysis and the Occult” Project is to return to Freud’s work on the psychic domain - the work on “telepathy” originally left out of the Traumdeutung and his development of “psychic reality” emerging from his analysis of psychosis and the Schreber case - and to compare it with the work of Lacan, Jung, Reich, and others who sought to explore psychic causality and the occult from a logical perspective.

In the 1950s George Devereaux published a compilation of material on Psychoanalysis and the Occult. In this book he collates material from early psychoanalysts regarding occult, paranormal, and psychic phenomena surrounding the clinical practice of psychoanalysis. From the ample material included by Freud we can dispel the myth that Freud was not interested in the occult—rather he sought to approach it in a different way than Jung. Devereux’s book further points the question in the direction of anthropology, ethnography, and comparative psychiatry in general. 

The “Psychoanalysis and the Occult” Project was initiated at Analytica in 2014 which since that time has held a series of events internationally. In this installment we will explore the transpersonal case material of psychoanalysis in intension and extension - that is of practicing analytic (analysand-analyst) dyads as well as of institutional dynamics - in order to demonstrate the necessity of expanding the form of the psychoanalytic school, clinic, and association for the future of analysis. We are inviting those who have a particular interest in this domain to participate in this important topic.

Trauma and Transformation

In the classics of Oriental Medicine, the Nei Jing and the Shang Han Lun – which may be the oldest medical textbooks in the world – there is an elaborate theory of disease and cure. They describe how external pathogenic factors enter the being and pass through a series of bioenergetic zones in successive stages. In Oriental Medicine, mind and body are not separated. The physical body is seen as an extension or manifestation of spirit or mind and the energetic zones elaborate this integral being. When one treats the meridians zones with acupuncture or herbal medicine, one is treating the body and one is treating the mind, for all of these dimensions of the being are one.

Today with the focus on “evidence based medicine” and the isolation of specific pathological and curative factors we tend to lose sight of this broader understanding of disease and healing – even within the field of Oriental Medicine. Heiner Fruehauf describes how the Maoist development of modernized TCM – “Traditional Chinese Medicine” – eliminated this classical understanding and asserted that mind was but an epiphenomena of matter, much like the Western conception of materialist science and medicine. Western medicine’s recent return to the focus on mind as important in disease and cure of the body was inevitable not just because of its ineradicable nature but because of a change in the social and physical environment in which psychosomatic disturbance has become the primary factor in disease. Wilhelm Reich demonstrated epidemiologically as well as clinically how psychosomatic and neurotic diseases had already replaced environmental and epidemic diseases as primary cause in modern societies by the dawn of the Nineteenth Century.

Several hundred years ago, doctors in modernizing industrial societies already began to diagnose the growing pathological disturbances of the nervous system in “neuraesthenia,” “psychaesthenia,” and “hysteria,” but it was Freud who synthesized this social change into an elaborate theory and practice in the Twentieth Century. It is only now that Oriental Medical doctors in the East are being confronted with the same thing as these countries continue to modernize. But as Elisa Rossi has demonstrated, classical Oriental Medicine has a rich vocabulary for understanding and treating the mind or Shen in all its forms.

The Shang Han Lun is a theory of “cold damage.” Beyond the specific ideas of cold weather this can be conceived as “cold” shock or trauma (as confirmed by Craig Mitchell in his commentary on the classic). In this case a patient can suffer a severe shock which has not left her and is now compromising her life at a serious level.

The method of the classics is to release trauma which has penetrated the being through the energetic zones along a specific course of development. This is just as true for psychic shock as it is for physical pathogenic factors. Following a classical approach for example, one can give a patient “Si Ni Tang” from the Shang Han Lun for cold shock which has penetrated to the deepest level of the shao yin zone of the heart and kidney energy. In TCM this is also the formula for yang collapse. Caiping Tang in her classical research on clinical applications discusses how “Si Ni Tang” – and fu zi – can be used to treat psychic shock. Similarly aconite (fu zi) is used in modern homeopathic medicine equally for physical cold-induced disease and psychic shock.

The Shang Han Lun describes how when pathogenic factors penetrate to this level there is a lassitude and desire to curl up and hide from the world much as a patient in this state might wish to do: to sleep late and stay in most of the time. This condition is described as yang collapse. The patient would experience this on a psychic level though it might not be apparent on a physical level. She would have no desire or will and could not think or express herself.

This is not a very large formula but the dosages do not need to be as strong as in classical times as we are not fighting major external cold but energetically and psychically trying to remove external pathogenic shock which has become chronic as cold yang collapse in the shao yin zone. We can see here the roots of homeopathic understanding as the Nei Jing states that the treatment should be as subtle as possible, and that the stronger the formula the more it must be ceased when the patient has already started to get better yet before the process is complete.

Acupuncture too is excellent for releasing trauma but it must also be used appropriately. When treating the meridians with acupuncture one is literally treating the spirit as well. Nevertheless one can use point combinations which focus on the psychoemotional and mental aspects as well as creating intent for the transformative process. Acupuncture can be used homeopathically to bring on an encounter with the stuck trauma and an opportunity for release, rather than coercing the body allopathically to reverse the symptom.

When patients feel better after the treatments they gain hope and a desire to engage in the process of transformation. If you engage in the dialogue and exchange signifiers which give new meaning to life, eventually they begin to understand their condition better and want to explore the history of trauma as well as the deeper roots of it. This can lead to a psychoanalytic exploration of one’s condition and life. For me this is an opportunity to return to the calling of the Nei Jing to treat the shen or spirit directly with “tong shen ming” as Ted Kaptchuk inspires us to do in his re-reading of the classics. It is often a slow process but what is more precious than creating space and time in the current era. One may be very reluctant to come to full consciousness about the past, as of course this means mourning loss and psychic pain. We inevitably encounter new levels of grief as our condition changes but we become more clear and alive. One may be able to return to the world to work on oneself and begin a process of deep healing. The prognosis in this case is very difficult as change only happens very slowly but I believe over time with devotion we can emerge from trauma in a new state of being.

The classic texts of Oriental Medicine describe how pathogenic factors enter the bodymind and follow pathways to different energetic zones and organs. We might add to this as well different spiritual or mental complexes. Our own prenatal constitutional jing and shen factors may leave us vulnerable to external factors and where they end up in our bodymind. Similarly the physical and psychic traumas of our postnatal life often remain unhealed and can be triggered by similar external factors. This is what Freud calls the repetition compulsion in psychic disease. Instead of merely seeing this as a pathology we could see it as a new opportunity to heal an old trauma. In that case we need not suppress the symptom but release the deeper root of the problem.

It is my experience that classical Oriental Medicine is excellent for treating acute trauma and chronic residues of this. If we look more closely we may find that much chronic disease is but what is left over of acute disease mistreated in the first place. Trauma penetrates deeper into the body along a series of stages and levels and is likewise healed along certain pathways. The Nei Jing recommends to guide matter along its course of development. This has been echoed thousands of years later in modern homeopathic medicine and the law of disease and its cure developed by Samuel Hahnemann, as well as in the psychoanalytic theory of mental disease and cure developed by Sigmund Freud. Little did they know that the roots of this understanding were already in the classics.

References

Ilza Veith (ed) Nei Jing
Jing-Nuan Wu(ed) Ling Shu
Craig Mitchell (ed) Shang Han Lun
Guohui Liu (ed) Wen Bing (Warm Pathogen Diseases)
Heiner Fruehauf “All Disease Comes from the Heart” (American Acupuncturist V. 43)
Craig Mitchell “Analysis of Classical Works” ACTCM Seminar 2/08
Caiping Tang “Scholastic Schools” ACTCM Seminar 6/08
Ted Kaptchuk The Web that Has No Weaver
Ofer Baranovitch Stages, Levels, Envelopes: Integrating Classical Models
Mark Seem Bodymind Energetics
Elisa Rossi Shen: Psycho-Emotional Aspects of Chinese Medicine
Sigmund Freud Outline of Psychoanalysis
Wilhelm Reich The Cancer Biopathy
Samuel Hahnemann Materia Medica

What is medicine?

A Brief History of Medicine

In Harris Coulter’s 3000 page 3000 year history of medicine in the West “Divided Legacy” he describes the common priniciple running through it of a dialectic between “empiricist” and “rationalist” medicine. Empiricist could also be called vitalist or spiritualist in that in every case the physician with humility believes there is something larger going on in illness that he cannot master – whether this is the mathematical infinite, the cosmos, or god. Empiricist medicine includes those approaches that intuitively develop hypotheses and test them out clinically, learn from the results, and remain open to the truth. Rationalism attempts to formulate complete answers, to master the truth with human knowledge and fit the anomalous experiences of individual patients into those fundamentalist beliefs.

From the time of the pre-Socratic and Hippocratic physicians to the early Roman Galenic period (app. 500 bc – 500 ad) empiricism diminished while rationalism grew. The next 1000 years of the dark ages was of course dominated by extreme rationalist fundamentalism until Paracelcus restored vitalist empiricism to serious practice and study – although there were always empiricist naturopaths underground attacked as witches. This tradition has been growing ever since – reaching a high point through the 1800s with Hahnemann’s development of homeopathic medicine, and the development of structural-energetic methods of osteopathic medicine and chiropractic medicine – based on traditional Oriental medicine. Simultaneously, the scientific technology has reinforced the fundamentalist rationalism of the biochemical mechanical paradigm.

The 20th century saw the application of political-economic control structures made up of the guild controlling AMA and high-profit pharmaceutical and HMO corporations to maintain a monopoly on a profit-producing, rationalist-mind assuaging medical industrial complex expelling empiricism to the margins. Simultaneously what is left of the “free” market has allowed some truth and freedom to emerge so that patients now spend more out of pocket on holistic “alternative” empirical medicine then on orthodox medicine, but this schism remains to the detriment of all.

Osteopathic medicine was absorbed into the allopathic model in America, losing its essence – accept for the rebirth of craniosacral therapy through Upledger. Chiropractic medicine survived only by becoming a minor specialty and shedding its holistic empiricism. Naturopathic medicine is becoming a recognized approach only by becoming increasingly allopathic and rationalist. Even Oriental medicine which has remained a holistic vitalist empiricism throughout half the world for millenia is at this moment threatened. While Oriental and Western allopathic medical schools and hospitals coexist side by side in the East, the seduction of Western rationalism and profit is strong.

Homeopathic medicine which had its own hospitals and medical schools, had more proven success treating epidemic diseases than allopathic medicine throughout the 19th and 20th centuries, and developed most of the medicinals which allopathy has adulterated in the laboratory for its coercive formulas was nearly completely erased – still now transmitted only through apprenticeship, autodidacticism, and small seminars.

My Practice:

As a result of my previous and ongoing philosophical, poetic, psychoanalytic, and spiritual practice, coming from the point of view of the infinite unknown as it unfolds through the spirit, psyche, mind, and body integrally and continuously, I have studied and empirically practiced the best of what exists of holistic vitalist medicine from traditional Taoist Chinese, Ayurvedic Indian, and Buddhist Tibetan forms of Oriental medicine up to the modern forms of homeopathic, naturopathic, energetic, and psychosomatic medicine, and I have come to the conclusion that the greatest difficulty in helping patients heal is the structural institutions and media which maintain the belief systems and practices of a medicine that continues to hurt people more than it helps. Allopathic medicine has been proven to kill more people yearly than any other disease (garynull.com). Is this ignorance or destructive sadism? Sometimes it is hard to tell one from the other. The unconscious death drive relieves us of the burden of cocreative survival and existence in the plurality of worlds within worlds of the multiverse. The simultaneous fear and relief that we are only this material body and its accidental epiphenomenon of neural consciousness and that we will thus cease to exist when it dies supports a cynical, defensive, nihilistic, abusive approach to life that permeates our healthcare system with as much or more grave consequences than our ecology or government, yet few recognize it. Activists cry out for more heath care coverage without being aware that the treatment they are receiving contributes to their ignorance, illness, debilitation, and control. Paradoxically those without health coverage are better off as they do not have the money to have unnecessary toxic procedures and pharmaceuticals applied to them for the sake of fear and profit.

Reckeweg and some European homeopathic physcians demonstrated the homeotherapeutic healing modality and the dangers of allopathic suppression biochemically in the laboratory as well as clinically. Bacteria is often part of the healing process. Bacteria colonize various areas of the body – especially the digestive tract – with important health purposes. When there is a disturbance of a certain terrain of the body there is also a change in bacteria. Often bacteria help to digest toxins along with the facilitation of the excretion and inflammation phases of the immune system healing process. They showed how antibiotics, anti-inflammatories, aspirin, and other common allopathic drugs interrupt the natural healing process, kill beneficial bacteria, block enzymes, suppress excretion which expels toxins, suppress inflammation which burns up viruses and other toxins. In this case the original toxins – including natural and chemical allergens from food and environment and the body’s own waste products – remain in the body and have to be walled off in the deposition phase. For example suppressing diarrhea and colitis with antibiotics and other allopathic pharmaceuticals can actually produce an abscess. Furthermore, the toxins remaining in the body as a result of suppressing rather than supporting the natural homeotherapeutic process of healing, and the new toxins from the pharmaceuticals create mutant proteins, wild peptides and other antigens which circulate the tissues and enter the cells altering the genetic expression, causing progressive auto-immune reactions. They can even enter the cells and alter genes. Perhaps this is the basis of Hahnemann’s discover of the basic miasms or disease tendencies which he saw passed on from generation to generation in the human species.

Medication

It is inevitable that the question of medication divides therapists at this point as it reflects the fundamental divided consciousness of our era – the division between mind/body or spirit/matter. Certain people in this group are convinced that to heal (which comes from the root of whole) one must accept something beyond materialism.

Medication “cures” nothing of the psyche (being, soul, subject) – as all psychiatric studies have to admit – it temporarily substitutes biochemically induced experiences. Pharmaceutical medicine is made from a base common to coal tar (think of the oil industry) and by adding certain side chains chemists are able to manufacture certain biochemical responses in the body – which can even reverberate to “trick” the mind or body. But no actual change occurs at the higher organizing level of self or bodymind – no cure. That is why they have to be administered forever – unless a higher cure comes about through other means – psychotherapy or the individual’s innate healing capacity.

Thankfully the resilient human usually heals himself despite the intrusion of biochemicals which interrupt the immune system’s natural process, but they leave toxic residues of increasing danger. Iatrogenic (medically-induced) illness is the number one cause of death now. True it may be useful to use these material medicines in emergency situations to stabilize murderous/suicidal possibilities, organ failure, or pain which prevents sleep and healing for example, but few understand the costs – most important of which is robbing the individual psyche and somatic immune system of assimilating and transforming life experience. Although this is a growing perspective held by phenomenological, existential, psychoanalytic, and spiritual approaches, it still comprises the minority in today’s institutions.

The bodymind is a homeostatic system. The more pain blockers are administered, the more pain is produced by the body in response, causing habituation, addiction, and increased doses. Withdrawal requires the body to readjust – not just to getting along without it but now to the fact that it has more of the very problem it took the medicine to cure. This has been demonstrated in recent studies of anti-depressants but covered up and/or not comprehended. The side effects of this type of medicine are seen as unwanted by-products when they are actually inevitable effects of isolated mechanistic tampering with a homoeostatic system (the same way orthodontic teeth straightening creates TMJ jaw dysfunction.)

The question is not “medicine or not” but what kind of medicine and how. There are forms of medicine (naturopathic, homeopathic) which effect changes at the higher level subtly while allowing the conscious mind or self to assimilate these changes and thus work with the psychotherapeutic process of true transformation. Even this has limitations. If therapeutic techniques or ideologies – or even the ego of the therapist – come to fill in for the self of the patient they are not much better than drugs. Psychotherapy is not inherently good:

A lot of psychotherapy is worthless if not damaging and the patient often knows it is not helping.
A lot of times the psychotherapy cannot break through certain patterns without other interventions, but again pharmaceuticals and surgery are not the only alternative.
And sometimes it just takes time and patience – something this culture does not respect.

The ideal trajectory would be to use the least amount of coercive therapist-induced medical intervention necessary to produce temporary stabilization and containment and break patterns, while providing the non-judgmental ethical-aesthetic space for the deconstruction and reconstruction of new subjectivities in line with the drive, desire, soul, spirit, destiny (take your pick) of the individual. Of course this makes it clear that the socio-economic problems of this culture cannot be separated from questions of psychic and somatic healing.

Pain and illness are messages and opportunities for healing a bodymind out of balance. Can we respond to this message through contact, sympathy, mutual aid, and courage, or will we repress the message with drugs and therapies until it returns with a vengeance. Have we forgotten this simple and profound rediscovery of Freud.

Sigmund Freud “Beyond the Pleasure Principle”
Carl Jung “The Psychology of the Transference”
George Cangilhem “The Normal and the Pathological”
Hans Selye “The Stress of Life”
Samuel Hahnemann “Organon of Medicine”
George Vithoulkas “A New Model for Health and Disease”
Hans Reckeweg “Homotoxicology”
Jean Elmiger “Rediscovering Real Medicine”
Wilhelm Reich “Discovery of the Orgone”
John Upledger “Your Inner Physician and You”
Ron Dunselman “In Place of the Self: How Drugs Work”
LFC Mees “Blessed by Illness”

Medicine of the Future

“[My approach] does not conceive of the primal relation between the physiological and the psychic apparatus as one of mutual dependency but as one of functional identity with simultaneous antithesis …. The fact that the two mutually influence one another, however, is far less important for the comprehension of the psychophysical relation than everything which supports the view of their functional identity.”

Wilhelm Reich

While the modern west gropes its way toward an integral holism, we should recognize that there are already models of medicine/psychiatry in which body is mind and vice-versa. For thousands of years, Taoist Chinese Medicine, Buddhist Tibetan Medicine, and Ayurvedic Indian medicine have practiced – and continue to practice – an integral bodymind medicine in which “psychotherapeutic” events have direct bodily results, and medicinal formulas and practices have direct results on changing “mind” or “spirit”.

The most important aspect of this work though is the context in which this medicine is practiced. Rather than an ethics of symptom suppression, the clinical relationship is itself the transformative containing environment in which substances and other interventions provoke embracing, assimilating, and releasing of physical and psychic traumas consciously.

The reason there are no western psychiatric (or physiological) pharmaceuticals without side effects is because of the context in which they are used. An understanding of systems theory and the Arndt-Schulz law will demonstrate that every intervention made to the complex homeostatic human bodymind system will provoke various reactions, and Hans Reckeweg has proven that even aspirin and antibiotics impregnate toxic substances (like a kind of repressed trauma) which then continue to compromise the body’s immune system. Like a repetition compulsion these symptoms seek to return and be assimilated but we pummel them with more toxic drugs instead.

Freud stumbled on to this empirically (clinically) when he saw his patients’ symptoms return or become other worse symptoms with both medicine (pharmaceuticals) and psychotherapy (hypnosis). While he made it possible in the west to conceive of the power of mind over body, even more importantly, he reversed the politics of medicine to a listening transformative process rather than an active enforcement of the power of the physician to change the symptom or the patient in his own image (the image of the current logos).

Reich extended this work to develop a truly psychoanalytic, holistic bodymind medicine and ended up rediscovering many of the principals and practices of Oriental Medicine without knowing it (as well as the homeopathic, osteopathic, and naturopathic medical practices which were simultaneously being marginalized by political-economic mechanisms).

All of the pieces of the puzzle are now available to us if we would only begin to put them together. While I do in my practice, it remains difficult to help many given the institutional structures which maintain the current system. It is not enough to understand the importance of a psychological or spiritual precedence, one must develop a truly spiritual medicine, psychiatry, and science.

Reckeweg “Homotoxicology”
Reich “Discovery of the Orgone II: The Cancer Biopathy”