Conversations May 31, 2010

Monday, May 31, 2010

5:15 AM. Finished re-reading Reynolds fourth volume, and will probably go on to re-read at least part of the fifth. It’s all clear enough, when you have eyes to see.

In the middle of the night, I realized that we should talk, Papa, about temper and paranoia and what people call mental illness. I felt a real reluctance to bring up the subject, and yet a real urge — possibly not coming from me so much as from you — to do so. From whatever source, then, let’s discuss it, if you are willing.

Oh, I’m willing enough. One advantage of this state I’m in now is that you’re free of that. But explaining it isn’t going to be so easy, and we’re going to need Carl and we’re going to need the tools you got from what you call the guys upstairs — in other words, concepts you have been given without knowing just who provided them.

You’re talking about screens and filters and movies and all that. Well, sure, let’s see what we can do. Dr. Jung, you are in agreement, I take it.

As you already realize, this is an attempt on all our parts to bring forth a set of concepts, a way of understanding the world, by means of cooperation between those out of, and [those] still within, a body. So, your part is more than the willingness to do the work of receiving and rebroadcasting the information: It involves the absorption, over decades, of massive amounts of history so that you would be ready.

I should rephrase that. “Massive amounts” means, not that you have read enormously widely or deeply — you have not, as you know — but that an enormous percentage of your psychic energy have been channeled into that reading, and the associated construction of a mental picture of the times. This began when you were ten years old, though of course it did not manifest immediately, and it has not yet reached its culmination, but you are now in the full flow of internal events.

All right. Papa, it pains me on your behalf to read of the explosions of temper, the needless suspicion, the damaging things said or done, the inability to apologize or make amends, the progressive alienation from those to whom you had been so close.

I recognize all these things from my own life, of course, and I wonder if it has not been for you as it has been for me — an assumption of an inability to ever get your point of view, or your motivations, understood, as one strand of it.

Yes, but that isn’t what we are after here. You know what it is to be at the mercy of reactions beyond your control, doing things and saying things that you get blamed for — because they were done with your body, after all — but that you feel like you didn’t have much to do with it all.

Yes, I have read of multiple personalities in which one will get into trouble and leave another to deal with the consequences, and I have thought, that’s more or less what I have experienced sometimes.

And there’s no way back.

No, no way back, because we are supposed to take responsibility for our actions, including our words.

Even if we aren’t especially the ones who did or said it! That’s part of the problem. Also, it makes us unpredictable to others, and puts them always on edge, and we don’t feel like that’s fair — and it wouldn’t be, if they were always dealing with us and not this other personality that pops in unpredictably. But it isn’t as simple as multiple-personality disorder, either. That’s a label they are using but it’s misleading because they have the wrong model for what people are, as you know. They’re treating something that is multiple as though it were individual.

Well — Dr. Jung? You can phrase it better.

I have the background to understand it better, now that I am safely outside of a body! But my present understanding will not fit entirely comfortably within what I wrote or understood prior to 1961, of course. I would be very disappointed if it did!

The subject is the influence on the conscious functioning mind that may result in paranoia or suspicion or ungovernable temper or selective amnesia. All of these may stem from an individual’s finding himself in the position of having to rely entirely upon his own judgment, in situations in which that judgment is clearly inadequate as a reliable guide. One floundering in quicksand quickly loses perspective, and may become dangerous to himself and others because of that floundering, which of course stems from the quicksand — so that it becomes a self-reinforcing process. Rather than describe examples of people being caught in the quicksand, and rather than passing strictures on their behavior while enmeshed, it may be more profitable to describe the warning signs, and send out precautions to take, to avoid setting foot into similar quagmires oneself.

Regardless of the model we use for consciousness, we may say this: Humans in society function most frictionlessly when they share common understandings of the nature of the world. Thus, the simpler the society, the more harmonious, because there are fewer causes for discordant perceptions. And — regardless of how simple or complex the society — each society evolves rules for perception and therefore rules for permissible and impermissible actions. If the pig is taboo, you don’t barbecue it with vinegar sauce! And therefore, the closer an individual is to the common understanding (which has nothing to do with an intellectual exercise, but has to do with the assumptions he shares with his fellow society-members) the smoother and more harmonious his path in life.

But what is an artist? A scholar? What is anyone who delves deeply into specific or general matters normally left at the edge of consciousness? He is someone who is attenuating his ties to the mass of his fellow men (or women, of course, but I find these circumlocutions cumbersome and unnecessary, so will continue to omit them).

Now, if someone is stepping away from the common understanding or if his life leads him away, whether or not he intends to go or even consents to go, he to some degree loses a part of the certainty that accompanies the man surrounded by his flock, and he by being forced to rely more upon what seem like his internal resources develops a new, less stable, source of guidance. One might rephrase this to say: Inner direction both precedes and follows separation from society’s more or less invisible guidance by commonly shared perception.

I realize that this isn’t the way it is commonly looked at, but it will repay thought. If you prefer or are forced to think for yourself, to become your own judge, you cannot without doing violence to your own nature retrace your steps and rejoin the herd. In a sense, this is individuation.

But what is being made into an individual? The original mixture of elements that were not individual, surely. Do you see how the wrong model of the human consciousness distorts the reality? And that wrong model stems from a wrong model of the human position in the physical and nonphysical worlds.

So, although it may seem that we strayed from the theme of Ernest’s mental problems, in fact we are not yet even to where we can profitably use them as examples, which is our intent. If you have not quite seen it yet, this process intends using one life to illustrate certain aspects of everybody’s life, and this for a reason.

All right. It has been just an hour; I can go on a little, if we’re not at a natural place to pause.

Perhaps you might sketch briefly the influences on human consciousness you were given over many sessions by unnamed friends.

Of whom, I begin to suspect, you were one! All right. [Although I am the source of what follows, I take it out of italics to make it easier to read.]

Between the real world as it exists and our perception of it, we have screens through which we watch the show, and filters that prevent us from seeing certain things, and scripts that kick in automatically when triggered, and robots that deliver pre-programmed responses to certain stimuli or in certain situations. Seems like there are more, but this is what comes to mind at the moment.

Screens and filters are some of them cultural, some connected with a particular group belief, some individual. What they have in common is that they are between us and what really is. They color our ideas of reality, more or less invisibly to us. Racism may be an example of a screen that interprets the world, and a filter that rejects contradictory information.

Scripts kick in when triggered. They are totally automatic in nature, and while they are being played back — either aloud or within us — we are really not very conscious. They are like commercials interrupting the program, and, like commercials, they are rarely noticed consciously and so are highly effective because unjudged.

Robots are whatever they are — I haven’t been given that information, and don’t really have a guess beyond that they are an integral part of us. They control more of our lives than we usually realize, for better or worse. At first I thought of them as always dysfunctional, if not malign, but I have come to realize that they are functioning exactly as designed. In one way or another they acquire their programming and they continue to do what they were programmed to do, until we consciously contact them, update their files, and either bring them off-line, or reprogram them to meet the same situations with a more constructive response — according to our needs and understanding as of when we reprogram. One nice thing is that they may be reprogrammed as many times as we desire (as far as I know).

I know that there are more things that have been identified, but this is what comes to mind at this moment.

[CGJ] And thus we have prepared the ground for the next discussion.

Later today, maybe. I am curious to see where this is going. It certainly didn’t go where I thought it would when I had the thought of Papa Hemingway’s increasing mental problems, a few hours ago!

9:15 AM. When I was young I wanted to write but had no experience to write from. I knew only books. (I don’t know how different things are now, other than firsthand psychic exploration into guidance and healing.) I would still like to write novels, but the impetus seems not to be there. I wish it were as easy as these morning dialogs. For a while — with Babe In The Woods — it was. But not since.

Reading Reynolds, I find so much to comment on that I don’t comment on any of it. It isn’t that he is wrong on this or that but that everything tempts me to add my own two cents’ worth.

10 AM. It certainly is a commentary on the constrictions on our consciousness imposed by limited RAM (so to speak) and being confined to a present moment. I have here a journal-book nearly finished — full of information I have received with great interest and undivided attention, and how much of it do I retain? If it weren’t in print I wouldn’t have it in convenient form, but even in print it is there not here. It is in the world but not within my mind in easily retrievable form.

[CGJ] Information and experience comes to you not so that you may hoard it but that you may be shaped by it, and bring that newly modified understanding forward. Otherwise what good would reading Thoreau have done you — or reading Jung, for that matter! To attempt to grasp and retain, as opposed to experiencing and being transformed, is an idea that strengthens the wrong aspect of the mind of any who follow it. Just as people are to be loved rather than used, so ideas and experiences are to be used rather than loved. Silas Marner need not apply.

I’ve never read Silas Marner. All I know about it is that he was a miser.

And what is a miser but one who fears the future, and seeks to fortify himself against it, and thereby descends into loving an object and a concept more than he loves his life? A pitiable being. So — make no attempt to hold on to concepts and information, but use them, be transformed by them, and you will own them in the only way they can be possessed and will

[Lost the thread; went wool-gathering.]

So — shall we proceed?

It is tempting, given your willingness, and you felt our tempted hesitation. But later, or tomorrow, would probably be better. Let the wells refill.

All right.

7:30 PM. It’s good to read your biography, Papa, to reinstate some distance between the portrait we are painting and anything seen from outside. The biography of your final sixteen years paints you all too often in an unflattering light, particularly in relation to your women. It certainly looks like you had serious issues that you never did resolve. I don’t mean that as criticism, either, but as observation. We all have issues.

It is to talk about issues and how they skew our lives (or how they define our lives, if you prefer to look at it that way) that we are engaged in this work. Let’s talk about my robots, and screens, and filters, and scripts.

All right. How?

We’ll ask Carl to do it.

Ernest could be analyzed according to conventional schemes — and he has been, although of course not by a qualified professional dealing with him in person —

Not even at the Mayo Clinic?

He was examined and treated, but I would hardly say analyzed, and certainly not assisted! Working from too mechanical a model, they attempted to shock him into better health, as though he were a computer needing to be rebooted. They did not get to the causes of the symptoms they could so easily see. Instead, they thought to provide an amelioration by changing the symptoms. Of course they might not agree with this statement.

No, Ernest was never analyzed by competent professionals seeking the spiritual causes of his disorder; instead, he was chastised in the press and often enough in person by various people with various axes to grind. The result was always the same: admonitions to shape up. But they could not tell him how to shape up, because although they could see the symptoms, they totally misjudged the causes, or if they could see the cause, had no idea how to overcome its effects.

Thus, anyone who knew him knew that he talked of how he hated and despised his mother, and how he blamed her in immoderate amount for various misfortunes to himself, to his father, and to others. Yet the more perceptive of them must have observed that at the same time he longed for the express approval of this despised woman — and was not capable of receiving it even if she had been capable of offering it.

This was his pattern. It continued all his life from the summer he was denied the use of the cabin in the woods country until his last days. But why? And how? And what could he have done to escape the pattern, if he had known how? And what good and bad effects might have followed if he had done so? Psychology is not an experimental science, so no one can know the results of actions not taken. However, given that alternative lives are easily read from this side, you might say that here psychology can be an exact, not merely experimental, science. Of course it helps that we can see inside the head we are shrinking, and can see the view from inside the head looking outward.

So, we take up the question of Ernest’s relation to his mother, and we attempt your technique for the purpose of exhibition.

What was the screen through which he always saw her? This is a complicated mixture: We are dealing with reality, not sanitary examples.

-respectability (she an example)

-dominance over father

-condemnation of Ernest’s character

-inability to appreciate his genius or achievement

-self-centeredness — her art over the needs of her family

-she fit in with the “respectable” but Philistine element that his books exposed and condemned and sold to.

And the filters that assured that he could not receive certain data?

-any attempts at reconciliation

-the father’s part in the marriage

-Ernest’s own contribution to strife

-the artistic temperament and talent that was part of his inheritance from her

The scripts that ran when she came up for discussion —

-she had taken his money that should have gone for education

-she killed her husband

-she tried to dominate Ernest

-he would support her financially but he would control the money

-she took every opportunity to denigrate his subject matter, and never appreciated his work

And the robot associated with the relationship assured that any interaction would be monitored to detect and prevent any attempts on his independence. At the same time, it would assure that he was a different person in her presence than away from it, for her immediate presence somewhat overshadowed the constructed image. You might say that, in person, she interfered with screen and filter; although she did not in person disable or sidetrack the robot, her presence did derail the scripts and often leave the robot unactivated.

Now please understand, this is vastly oversimplified; still, it is sometimes necessary to over-simplify in order to say anything meaningful. And, of course it is understood that if Ernest and I were still in the body, none of this could be said to a third party — not that I would have been given the opportunity to examine him in any case.

Well, if I’d had any idea who you are and how you are, I have been happy to put myself in your care.

Yes — if you were someone entirely different! As you were, you could not even admit to yourself that you needed help.

So. This is how we might have used your “robot psychology” to get at the root of things. Of course — I keep repeating “of course” but I must say many things that I think must be obvious, because they may not be obvious — telling someone does nothing. They must be assisted to find it for themselves, or it is not only no assistance but is potentially harmful. So if we had been proceeding according to your scheme we would have been getting Ernest into the feelings that arose, and guiding him to learn when those feelings first got associated with that issue, and how those feelings came to be translated into a typical behavior.

Can a biographer do any of this? Can the literary critic who is attempting to pin down the specific meaning of a symbol, as though it were an advertising sign?

You have been told many times, do not judge others, because you never have the data. You never can have the data. Yes, discern as best you can, but do not condemn. Nothing productive has ever come or ever could come by means of condemnation. Avoid judgment, and try to understand.

Well, this has been interesting, and it came fluently enough, but I’m not sure where we’re going with it. More tomorrow, I hope.

“Righteous persistence brings reward.”

Yes, my favorite line from the I Ching, honored more in the breach than in the observance — but not so much this month!

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