“When you meet the Buddha, you kill the Buddha”

This paper was presented as a public lecture of the APAS on 28 August 2003 in Sydney

Someone asked, Is there any way to approach God (or Mind) other than prayer (or psychoanalysis_)? The answer is more prayer _(or more psychoanalysis). However, prayer does not exist only in outward form: that is just the shell of prayer (shell of psychoanalysis) because it has a beginning and an end. Anything that can be vocalized and has a beginning and an end is a form, a shell; its soul however, is unqualifiable and infinite,without beginning and without end.

Maulana Jalaluddin Rumi (with contemporary interpolations) in Fihi ma Fihi #3

I will begin with a quotation from the Holy Scriptures

One day the brothers who had been driven out came together, killed and devoured their father and so made an end of the patriarchal horde. United, they had the courage to do and succeeded in doing what would have been impossible for them individually. (Some cultural advance, perhaps, command over some new weapon, had given them a sense of superior strength.) Cannibal savages as they were, it goes without saying that they devoured their victim as well as killing him. The violent primal father had doubtless been the feared and envied model of each one of the company of brothers: and in the act of devouring him they accomplished their identification with him, and each one of them acquired a portion of his strength. The totem meal, which is perhaps mankinds earliest festival, would thus be a repetition and a commemoration of this memorable and criminal deed, which was the beginning of so many things of social organization, of moral restrictions and of religion_._

This extract is from volume 13 of the sacred writings page 141-142, also known popularly as Totem and Taboo.

Like all scriptures, these words have a shell, which is well known. They also have an internal truth, or soul, which is not easily understood and which requires interpretation. This internal truth is about a significant moment in our historical past, which is continually repeated throughout life. This complex moment is about what happens when we desire something or someone. To put it simply we devour that person or thing. The killing I believe is incidental, for it is the ingestion of something valuable that is the point of the whole exercise.

Today we seek the spirit of psychoanalysis. This is not just an academic interest. We seek the spirit of psychoanalysis because we see it as something valuable and something that we will hopefully benefit from. True to the scripture just quoted, it means devouring what we desire. It means devouring the skin, the flesh, the bones and the marrow of psychoanalysis. Presumably this is what you have come here for, though I doubt if any of you would have formulated it that way. In keeping with Freuds description we have come to conduct a ritual sacrifice of psychoanalysis, whose spirit we hope thereby to imbibe. I am also very conscious of the fact that this meeting honours the most prominent member of our group. So it is just as well that something in us screens our unconscious cannibalistic phantasies from us. Just Imagine how he, or indeed you, would feel to catch a glimpse of us drooling at the thought of his innards!

Before we proceed, we need to know a couple of things. First, we need to know something more about the sacrificer and then we need to know a lot more of what is being sacrificed.

The sacrificer

Traditionally the sacrificer is a priest. Since I dont know much about other cultures let me tell you a little about the background of Indian priests.

You might have heard of the Vedas. These are the ancient and sacred books of the Hindus. The term Veda means knowledge, so these ancient books are the hymns of knowledge of an ancient people. The Vedas are not just books written by people. They are the wisdom of the universe expressed verbally. Sanskrit or the language of the Vedas is also the language of the universe. One has only to turn to the alphabet of Sanskrit to appreciate some of this significance. The alphabet of Sanskrit is not a random collection of vocal sounds. It is a careful and systematic collection of the sounds that humans produce from their vocal chords, tongues and lips. The Sanskrit alphabet is thus systematized according to where the sounds originate from and Sanskrit grammar is likewise a careful and systematic study of human language. To understand the significance of this one also needs to understand the Vedic formulation of the macrocosm being reflected in the microcosm of every particle that constitutes it.

So the significance of Sanskrit is this. Man, like every other creature, is a fragment of the Universe and as such carries within him all the laws of the cosmos. The vocalizations of Man, like any other sound, are also vocalizations of the cosmos. Sanskrit systematically collects and orders these sounds and the Vedas in turn are the formulations of the wisdom of the cosmos. It is for this reason that Sanskrit is considered a sacred language, for it is the language of the universe, or to put it another way, the cosmos speaks in Sanskrit. If one understands the full significance of this one will also come to understand that the extent to which Sanskrit and the sacred hymns can be mastered is the extent to which the universe can be mastered. This is the meaning of the various mantras that you might have heard about. Mastery of them is synonymous with mastery of a fragment of the universe. It is here that the pivotal role of the Brahmin comes into being. For the Brahmins are hereditary keepers and masters of the language, hymns and mantras of the universe. The Brahmins are thus as sacred as the hymns and language which have been in their safe keeping for many thousands of years.

Anyone that has had anything to do with psychoanalysis would have come to appreciate one thing and that is the enormity of the unconscious. The more we go into it the more we understand its vastness. We cant help but feel awed by its complexity, its ubiquity and the extent of our ignorance. There is another thing about the unconscious that we come to appreciate and that is that no matter how extensive the unconscious, it does manage to speak to us. And when the unconscious speaks, it does so in the language of psychoanalysis. It knows no other language. Amongst the myriad of beings wandering in the universe of the unconscious, there is only one class of beings that understands the language of psychoanalysis, and that is the psychoanalyst.

The position of psychoanalyst like the Brahmin, is a hereditary one, for it is handed down from one psychoanalyst to another. This chain of hereditary transmission goes right back to the venerable Master himself, that noblest of beings, that lion amongst men, the self enlightened Freud.

But hereditary is not of course enough to establish one in this very distinguished position. Like his Brahmin cousins, the psychoanalyst has to spend many years learning the heredity trade of his ancestors. Like them he believes that the macrocosm of the enormous complexity of the personality is reflected in the microcosm of every gesture, every vocalization. Likewise the macrocosm of the entire analysis is to be found in the microcosm of each session, and of each session in the opening phrase of each session. Also like his Brahmin contemporaries he has to not only learn and master the Holy Scriptures but he has to learn how to use and apply them. Through his mastery of the language of the emotions, he learns how to subdue and master the unconscious, so that it can be tamed to yield the rich harvest of understanding, which he amongst all men knows best how to appreciate.

By using the various mantras, generally called transference interpretations, he imposes the orderly rule of conscious process over the unruly unpredictable elements of the unconscious. In that way he brings order to where previously chaos reigned. Through his careful ministrations he brings peace and prosperity to a depressed, disgruntled and sometimes disheartened populace. He is rewarded for his efforts by his membership of a learned fraternity and appropriate offerings of fees and compliments (sometimes disguised as envious curses) from his devotees.

So this then is a brief profile of the sacrificer. Now something needs to be said about the object being sacrificed.

The sacrificed

It is generally not considered polite to talk in terms of devouring the blood and guts of what we desire, specially when what we desire are our ancestors and their wisdom. It is much nicer, and certainly much more genetically correct, to talk in terms of inheriting valuable things from our ancestors. In the Zen tradition there is a famous story about attaining skin, flesh, bones and marrow. It is a bit more gutsy and relevant, than genetic inheritance, so I will now turn to it.

It is a story about the originator of Zen Buddhism. His name was Bodhidharma and he is meant to have brought Buddhism to China from southern India. There are many lovely stories about him. For instance he is meant to be the originator of tea, the first bush of which sprouted from his eyelids which he cut off and flung from his eyes to keep awake as he meditated in front of a wall for 9 years.

The authenticity of Zen is heavily dependent on the authenticity of transmission. The fact that the authenticity of Zen Buddhism rests on this one man, when there are considerable doubts about his historicity, only helps to highlight many of the paradoxes of Zen. He is affectionately called Darumo in Japan and is most delightfully depicted with shifty, bulging eyelid-less eyes, a pate largely innocent of hair and a straggly red beard. (Barbarians in China had red hair. Indians were barbarians. Therefore Indians had red hair!) We psychoanalysts tend to take ourselves a bit too seriously and hence have yet to depict Freud so lightheartedly or implicitly state that the truth of psychoanalysis does not really rest on the truth of the various facts, or even the historicity, of Freud and his followers.

The story of inheriting the skin, flesh, bones and marrow comes from Bodhidharmas last moments of life. Legend reports a last conversation between Bodhidharma and his disciples shortly before he died:

Nine years had passed and he (Bodhidharma) now wished to return westward to India. He called his disciples and said: The time has now come. Why doesnt each of you say what you have attained?

Then the disciple Tao-fu replied: As I see it, (the truth) neither adheres to words or letters, nor is it apart from them. It functions as the Way.

The master said: You have attained my skin.

A nun Ssung-chih said: As I understand it, (the truth) is like the auspicious glimpse of the Buddha land of Akshobhya: It is seen once, but not a second time.

The master said: You have attained my flesh.

Tao-yu said: The four great elements are originally empty; the five skandhas have no existence. As I believe, no Dharma can be grasped.

The master said: You have attained my bones.

Finally there was Hui-ko. He bowed respectfully and stood silent.

The master said: You have attained my marrow.


I will examine each aspect of the body of psychoanalysis, in search of its spirit.

The skin of psychoanalysis
The skin of psychoanalysis is what covers and holds psychoanalysis. The skin of psychoanalysis is thus composed of the various organizational bodies of psychoanalysis. The teachings and ethos of psychoanalysis nourish the skin from within. Externally it is the face by which psychoanalysis is known to the public.

From embryology we learn that quite early in development a segment of the ectoderm gets depressed into what is called a neural tube, which will eventually constitute the nervous system. The nervous system is thus specialized skin that has been internalized to preserve its exquisite sensitivity and responsiveness. In the same kind of way the various organizational bodies of psychoanalysis are really just a means by which the exquisitely sensitive minds of psychoanalysts are connected together in a fine web of dendrites that spans the globe. Included in this world wide web are the minds of analysands and supervisees. They are non-voting members of the web of which they are an integral part. Information, insights and understandings can thus be rapidly communicated within this web around the world.

We can picture it as a 3-way communication. First it is a communication between psychoanalysts, analysands and supervisees. Secondly, it is a communication between psychoanalysts and the teachings of psychoanalysis internally and finally between psychoanalysts and the public externally. Like the skin, the organizational structure of psychoanalysis is permeable to influences both from within and from without. A healthy skin almost glows translucently. It allows light from within to give it a healthy glow and it lets in light from without to keep it balanced and healthy. For instance if psychoanalysis is thriving in a particular region it will be reflected in the robustness of its public face. Or if psychoanalysis is sick and floundering, the public face too will appear opaque and artificial. Equally if the environment is facilitative and open-minded, it will be reflected in the vigour and richness of psychoanalysis in that region. Or if the environment is repressive and constrictive, psychoanalysis too will retreat and fade.

This exchange of influences is both general and particular. For instance this public lecture is a general expression of one of the aspects of where the Sydney Institute is in its thinking at the moment and that thinking in turn is influenced by the ethos of this city. More specifically this lecture is the particular interface where at this very moment the Sydney Institute for Psychoanalysis is in dialogue with you the public. The skin of psychoanalysis is after all a living permeable structure. It holds, binds, accommodates, changes, grows and displays all the characteristics of a living organism, including its spirit.

Like any other organ, it can become diseased. When it becomes diseased it loses its elasticity and becomes rigid. Externally it is no longer responsive to the culture of which it is after all but a part. It tends to regard itself as being separate, perhaps a bit lofty and superior, perhaps a bit remote and elitist. It gets out of step with the general ethos of the community in which it exists and hankers after either a glorious past or a golden future. Internally, it loses its responsiveness to the spirit of the teachings within and treats them as holy writ. The writings are carefully preserved and taught, they are constantly referred to and volumes are written about minutely different interpretations of certain key words or concepts. The writings become holy things in themselves and psychoanalysts divide themselves on the basis of allegiance to this or that group of writings. What the writings have attempted to point to, is lost sight of. The pointing finger is instead venerated. Laterally, the communication between psychoanalysts is lost.

When psychoanalysts lose sight of the essential experiential ethos of psychoanalysis, psychoanalytic organizations in turn become about something other than the essential insights of psychoanalysis. Having lost that inspiration, they try to recapture that power through organizational structures. There is intense lobbying for important national and international positions. There is rivalry between certain in and out-groups and between various geographical, racial and political groupings. Sumptuous dinners are eaten, fine wine is sampled and with any luck few are embarrassed by any remnants of the conscience of psychoanalysis that died a quiet death some time ago.

The flesh of psychoanalysis

The flesh of psychoanalysis is the teaching of psychoanalysis. It is what constitutes the bulk of what we know as psychoanalysis, so much so that it could be said that the other structures exist to provide a framework and covering for this flesh. It is the flesh that provides substance, movement and vitality to psychoanalysis.

But as I said earlier, we have to be careful not to mistake the pointing finger for what is being pointed at. So what is the finger pointing to? I think it is pointing to this strange spectacle of an ape standing on its hind-legs producing intricate sounds by means of lips, tongue and vocal chords which are being patiently listened to by other apes. What an extraordinary scene! It is an event made possible by the symbolic capacity of apes. Psychoanalysis dwells in, explores and is part of this intricate interface between creature and its symbolic capacity. This is what the finger points to.

It is perhaps not insignificant that psychoanalysiss first major contribution to human understanding was The Interpretation of Dreams which Freud regarded as his most important work. Dreaming is the live interface between creature and symbol, as indeed is the whole of psychoanalysis. Later psychoanalysts criticized early psychoanalysis as being too biological, and perhaps it was. It was therefore considered virtuous to make psychoanalysis a more psychological psychology, then a more sociological psychology and then an interpersonal psychology. But unfortunately psychology cannot exist without the biology of which it is a part, so perhaps we should try and keep to the psychoanalytical spirit and not reduce one thing to the another. Let us try and understand it for what it is.

Let us try and not take our teachings too literally. A symbol is after all the concrete representation of an abstraction. The teachings of psychoanalysis thus need to be understood as concrete representations that both express and illustrate complex creature-symbol activities. For instance the psychosexual stages of development should not be taken too literally as being about the various orifices of the human organism. Nor should they be taken too abstractly as merely modes of thinking. I think they need to be understood as the complex dialogues between ape and its symbolic capacity. For instance, the oral stage can be seen as the emergence of symbolic capacity, in the complex biological matrix of a mother nursing her infant. Or we can think of the anal stage of development as an attempt to control biological urges with the new surging power of symbolic meaning and mastery. Likewise the genital stage can be seen as a way of giving encouragement, meaning, form and focus to essential biological imperatives.The work of Klein likewise illustrates the fact that all human thinking is symbolic and all symbolic thinking is intimately enmeshed with the body, its organs and functions.

What I am asking you to consider is that psychoanalytic teaching need not be taken as immutable things in themselves but only serial approximations to our understanding of the curious interplay of our bio-psycho-social ways of existing in the world. Psychoanalysis thus attempts to make sense of childhood, adolescence, adulthood and old age as much as it does to understand our criminality, our insanity, our artistic, our political, our national and our spiritual aspirations. It sheds light on our intimate moment to moment transactions intrabiologically, intrapersonally and interpersonally. It struggles to understand intuitions, hunches and telepathic communications. It understands what we are conscious of, what we are unconscious of past, present and future. It makes sense of our lives in a more comprehensive manner than any other branch of knowledge. It understands the meaning of knowing the meaning of not knowing and it understands the meaning of meaning. And like somatic musculature, it provides the means to move forwards, backwards, upwards and downwards in all spatio-temporal dimensions.

Shortly before he died, the Buddhas disciples asked him what they would do without him. The Buddha answered that they should look for no other refuge other than in themselves and look for no guidance other than the guidance of the teaching. It is in exactly the same way that psychoanalysts have no refuge other than in the understanding of themselves and know of no guidance other than the guidance that psychoanalytic teaching provides them with. The psychoanalyst must of necessity rely on herself in a more comprehensive manner than in any other field of human endeavour. Every feeling, every thought, every fantasy and every intuition is a guidepost of the Way and there is no other guidance in our work other than what we find in ourselves. Thus we have no refuge but ourselves and within ourselves we have no refuge but the understanding of ourselves through the teachings of psychoanalysis, not as concrete things-in-themselves, but as a finger pointing to the spirit of psychoanalysis.

The bones of psychoanalysis

The bony structure of psychoanalysis is the basic structure that holds up psychoanalytic practice. Like the skeleton it is also the structure from which the various theories of psychoanalysis originate and also the structure to which they must eventually attach, if they are to have any relevance. Yet it is itself a specialized part of the flesh or teaching of psychoanalysis, much like the skeleton is a specialized part of the mesoderm. It is that basic structure of psychoanalytic teaching that is known as the psychoanalytic frame. On account of its centrality and importance, it has become something of a sacred cow with us psychoanalysts. Outsiders might be perplexed by it or amused by it as indeed are foreigners by the sacred cow in India. Buses slam their brakes, scooters skillfully swerve and taxis screech as one of these placid creatures ambles across human thoroughfares. No one honks, curses or abuses them. Though seemingly totally out of place, they appear to be an integral part of traffic, as indeed they are. Going back to ancient nomadic Aryan times, the cow is still central to Indian village life. Cow manure cakes are still a major energy fuel and ghee is still central to Indian cuisine and religious rites.

In the same kind of way outsiders dont understand the sacredness with which we view the psychoanalytic frame. They are perplexed because they are ignorant of our history and our culture. If they understood anything about us, they would come to understand that for us, our sacred cow is actually the culmination of our history, our knowledge and our culture. It is such an outstanding feature of our clinical work that everything else gives way to it. It doesnt matter how complex our theories or how skillful our work, we always brake and swerve to give way to this precious beast. Regardless of our family heritage or our religious psychoanalytic orientation, we all venerate the psychoanalytic frame. It is such a central and sacred feature of our practice that if is absent from our consulting rooms, then whatever else we might be doing, it cannot be called psychoanalysis. So it might be worthy of a little more of reflection.

The first thing that needs to be said about the psychoanalytic frame is that though it has been a feature of our earliest history, it did not have quite the significance it now has for us. As we have settled into the fertile theory and practice of psychoanalysis we have come to appreciate what a valuable creature this frame is. From it flows the wealth of our understanding and setting it up requires our utmost attention and devotion. The more we understand about psychoanalysis the more we come to understand how important this creature is. Whenever we are lost, confused or bewildered we turn to it to show us the way. It looks after us and our clinical work as a nursing cow her tender calf. Its importance cannot be overstated or overemphasized and as I said, without it our work cannot be called psychoanalysis.

Yet strangely enough the psychoanalytic frame is a bald statement of our ignorance. It is because we **don't **understand that we have the frame. If we really understood there would be no need for the frame. When we set up the frame we say in effect, I dont really know or understand very much, that is why I need the frame. The frame is the structured expression of our ignorance. If we could see and understand everything, we would not need the frame, for we would know how to deal with each matter as it came up thoughtfully and skillfully. We would talk rather than act. The frame would be totally redundant.

So here we come to a rather lovely conclusion it is because we understand what we do, that we can dare to express our ignorance as bluntly as we do. We set up this structured frame of our ignorance to gather meaning, which we hope in time to understand and communicate. However it is possible that the frame might become the meaning of the psychoanalysis, in which case the analysis is clearly devoid of meaning. It will then become an empty flailing in the air of a procedure that mimes psychoanalysis.

The marrow of psychoanalysis

The marrow of Bodhidharma was inherited by his disciple Hui-ko, who in fact went on to become the second patriarch of the Zen school. As we have seen Hui-ko expressed his understanding by his profound silence. It is expressed in silence because words and symbols, not matter how expressive, cannot accurately convey the essence of the understanding. Words have as much a capacity to distort meaning as they have to convey it, as much capacity to block understanding as they have to facilitate it.

If we are to accurately understand the essence of psychoanalysis, then it will have to be an understanding that is beyond words, indeed beyond any sense modality. Bion said that we have to intuit the truth of psychoanalytic experience. He said if we are to have any chance of being able to so, we must rid our minds of all conceptual frameworks. We must divest ourselves of frameworks of the past, called memory, or frameworks about the future, called desire.

I need to clarify that Bions silence is not the absence of sound. It is only the absence of noise in much the same spirit that artists quietly produce while the rest of us prattle on noisily about creativity. Only if we have the capacity to stand quietly like Hui-ko, our minds empty of all thoughts, concepts and noise, then and only then can we intuit the truth of psychoanalytic experience, which is what the whole complex structure of psychoanalysis rests upon. Intuition thus is the essence, the very marrow, of psychoanalysis.

Once upon a time psychoanalysts talked about transference by which were meant the unconscious endowments of the psychoanalyst with features from the analysands past. Then psychoanalysts talked about the countertransference, which were the internal experiences of the psychoanalyst that were the counterpart of the transference feelings and sometimes produced by them. When we talk about the intuitive aspects of psychoanalysis we include both transference and countertransference feelings but we tend now to think of them as being different dimensions of a shared experience. This experience is usually enacted and misunderstood by both participants till it is intuitively grasped and understood. Sometimes the intuitive understanding is there right from the beginning but we fail to recognize it, till it forces itself upon us and we have no choice but to see it, understand it and hopefully use it. More often is something that is ill-formed, ill-defined, fleeting, ephemeral and almost always gives us reason to relegate it to the unlikely, the irrelevant, the magical and the fantastic.

Intuitive understanding is hard to formulate. It has something to do with feelings and patterns or perhaps patterns of feelings. These patterns probably keep recurring till they press themselves on our awareness and can then be recognized. Sometimes it is contained in images and unlikely fantasies and sometimes it is contained in behaviour that we recognize as being stupid but unexplained. But whatever it is and however we are able to grasp it, I think most psychoanalysts would agree that it is the essence of meaningful psychoanalytic experience.

However the marrow of psychoanalysis can either be non-existent or it can become diseased. It is non-existent when we have little faith in this thing called intuition or when our heads are so full of loud theory or greed for wealth or power that we are no longer receptive to this gentlest of sages. Though intuition comes unbidden, conditions have to be conducive for its appearance, otherwise it will either not appear or appear and not be noticed.

If the analyst does not know how to behave, or hold the frame, there is little room for intuition. Intuition can become cancerous and proliferate without any consideration for the participating dyad. The analyst interprets without due regard for the analysand or the analysand acts without regard for the analyst or the analysis. There is a breakdown in communication and valuable understanding is lost.

Valuable as intuition is it is always very delicately poised, always in danger of being lost, of being misunderstood or its insights enacted without reflection. An intuitive understanding of psychoanalysis thus must also be an intuitive understanding of the spirit of psychoanalysis, which too can be easily misunderstood, ridiculed or abused.

Killing the Buddha

You might have thought that we killed and devoured our Buddha at the beginning of this presentation, but both Neville and psychoanalysis will be relieved to learn that killing the Buddha also has a deeper meaning. The quotation in the title of this paper comes from Wu-mens commentary on the first koan of the famous koan collection called Mumonkon (or Wu-Men Kuan) or The Gateless Barrier.

The title of this collection of koans The Gateless Barrier conveys the essence of what these, and indeed all koans, are about. The term gateless barrier seems an oxymoron, for how can something that is gateless be a barrier, or alternatively how can a barrier be gateless? That is the whole point of koans. They do not point to something beyond, some other world. Nor do they point to some other dimension of existence that is ephemeral or extramundane. They point to this world just as it is and yet strangely we cannot see it.

Only when we have crossed this invisible barrier of our blindness, crossed this gateless barrier, we can see what has in fact never been obscured from view. When we cross this barrier we can see can see exactly what sages throughout history have seen. In Wu-men memorable words You will walk hand in hand with all the Ancestral Teachers .. the hair of your eyebrows entangled with theirs, seeing with the same eyes, hearing with the same ears.. Gradually you purify yourself, eliminating mistaken knowledge and attitudes you have held from the past. Inside and outside become one. Youre like a mute person who has had a dream you know it for yourself alone When you meet the Buddha, you kill the Buddha. When you meet Bodhidharma, you kill Bodhidharma. At the very cliff edge of birth-and-death, you find Great Freedom.

In language that might be more familiar to a psychoanalyst, we are able to experience what our enlightened teachers experienced, not by copying them, but by our at-one-ment with their experience. The experience of their psychoanalytic insights though separated from us by time, geography and culture is essentially the same experience, though it might be couched in different language or use different metaphors. But to get to that point we have to do something quite extraordinary. We have to somehow get beyond the restrictions that we and our minds impose on ourselves.

The restrictions that we unconsciously impose are many and varied and they are all extremely hard to shift. One of the main purposes of having a psychoanalysis is to loosen these restrictions so that the mind can expand and grow. What I think we do not sufficiently appreciate is that psychoanalysis of itself imposes restrictions. Psychoanalysis is thus both the gate of our understanding as well as the barrier to our understanding. Since these restrictions are imposed by psychoanalysis, they are not easily seen or easily removed by psychoanalysis.

This is after all only a particular example of the enormous problems of dealing with experience, which Bion attempts to tackle in his book _Attention and Interpretation. _In the opening paragraphs of this book he says It is too often forgotten that the gift of speech, so centrally employed, has been elaborated as much for the purpose of concealing thought by dissimulation and lying as for the purpose of elucidating or communicating thought.

If what he says is true for language why should it not be so for psychoanalysis? Why should psychoanalysis which has been developed for the purpose of elucidating and communicating experience, not also be used for concealment and dissimulation? The problem is all the more obdurate because we insist that psychoanalysis is about revealing the truth and of course it is. But the very processes of its revelation, necessarily imposes limitations that we as psychoanalysts tend to not to be aware of. Please consider the following scattered remarks of Bion from his book Attention and Interpretation, merely inserting psychoanalysis for the thinker, to understand this general thrust

_The lie requires a thinker. The truth, or true thought, does not require a thinker _(or a psychoanalyst) he is not logically necessary.

_The thought to which a thinker (or a psychoanalyst) is not necessary is also the thought that the thinker would not regard as likely to contribute to his significance. On the contrary, once he has expressed a truth the thinker _(or a psychoanalyst) is redundant.

_The more (the psychoanalyst thinks) his interpretations can be judged as showing how necessary his knowledge, his experience, his character are to the thought as formulated, the more reason there is to suppose that the interpretation is psychoanalytically worthless, that is, alien to the domain of O. _

What Bion is saying is that words can no more contain the truth than can psychoanalysis. Words and psychoanalysis can act as vehicles for the truth, but to believe they are synonymous with the truth, make them lies. The more we insist on the importance of the containers of these truths, the more we can be certain that what is being communicated, is not the truth. The truth does not require any particular container including psychoanalysis to contain the truth. It does not require a particular person, a particular discipline, a particular theory or a particular formulation to convey the truth. The more we insist that it is this person, this discipline, this theory, this formulation that is expressing the truth, the more we can be sure that it is not the truth, but untruth that is being conveyed. The container is not the contained and must never be identified with it.

Throughout history, conveyors of truth have frequently equated themselves with the truth they conveyed, thereby destroying both the truth and their capacity for it. Attempting to deal with this problem, certain religious traditions prohibited idolatry that would concretize an ephemeral experience, yet the prohibitions themselves became idolized. Conversely, it is possible for the truth to contain the conveyor of truth, but then the conveyor loses complete significance. I ask you which psychoanalyst is prepared for such extinction?

If we want to understand the truth of ourselves, our world and our experiences, we have to cross that gateless barrier that Wu-men talks about. The barrier that he is talking about is invisible, but it nevertheless prevents us from seeing the truth. The barrier is invisible because it has conscious and unconscious elements. The conscious elements that we can see but do not understand are the Buddha, standing for our formulations of truth, in this instance, psychoanalysis. The Buddha or our psychoanalytic knowledge is what we believe in and what helps our understanding, but it also hinders our understanding. Concretized and worshiped understanding must be killed if we are to attain the spirit of psychoanalysis. The elements that we are unconscious of are the truths of ourselves, including the truth of our insignificance. We cannot kill the Buddha and then replace him with an elevated sense of ourselves. To do so would be murderous madness. Killing the Buddha means also killing our sense of separateness and recognizing that there is no Buddha outside us. It means recognizing the Buddha, or ourselves, in all beings. We need to kill the special ways in which we think we exist. That is, only when we can reduce our reliance on the organizational structures of psychoanalysis, sacrifice our tendency to concretize and venerate the teachings and frameworks of psychoanalysis, then and only then can we be receptive to the intuitive truths of psychoanalysis. The spirit of psychoanalysis is not confined to the skin, flesh, bones and marrow of psychoanalysis, but it is also not apart from them. It is in that quiet darkness where there is no memory, no desire and no understanding that the illuminating spirit of psychoanalysis endlessly burns. In the words of Maulana Jalaluddin Rumi

The lamps are different,
But the Light is the same.
Ground yourself, strip yourself down,
To blind loving silence.
Stay there, until you see
You are gazing at the Light
With its own ageless eyes.


Aitken R. (1991) The Gateless Barrier: The Wu-Men Kuan. North Point Press, New York.

Bion W.R.(1977) Attention and Interpretation in Seven Servants Jason Aranson Press. P. 3.

Dumoulin H. (1994) _Zen Buddhism: A History. Volume 1 - India and Chin_a. Macmillan Publishing Company. P. 93

Freud S. (1912) Totem and Taboo. SE: 13. London: Hogarth Press.