Reflections on ‘A Kafkaesque Memoir’ (4)

In the last session recorded in the book McCort using once again a dream reflects on the relationship between spirituality and analysis in his life. He understands that two earlier phases in his life one as a Catholic and the second as a Zen practitioner are now experienced as contained within the field of analysis. He says that he still is convinced that Enlightenment is the true purity and Zen one way of finding it but:

What I see through the clear transcendent eye of analysis, is the psychological truth of my earlier identifications with Catholicism and Zen, which is that basically I used one layer of repression, Zen, to ‘whitewash’ the earlier repressive layer of the Church, with its awesome power to alienate us from the body and its instincts.

The analysis revealed these two to be empty attachments – just nothing at all. Clearing away a great deal of the psychological baggage reveals ‘the emptiness of one thing, and in so seeing to realize you’re already free of it, is to see the emptiness of everything’ – there’s no way back to the neurotic prison. Ironically the analysis gave McCort a steady access ‘to the vision of sunyata that Zen had promised, but, in my case at least, couldn’t deliver’.

In his conclusion McCort ruminates that although his analysis ended after 9 years there is no reason for the analytic cast of mind ever to end – why would one return to a state of unconsciousness? ‘Once you board this train, “the self-realization express,” you’ll never get off, nor will you ever want to, even if the formal part is done’. He writes that continuing to deepen consciousness is now the way he chooses to live ‘the good life’. Recognising that there will still be problems and ‘lifelong emotional entanglements with or without “symptoms” might be one reason, but also he sees it as a path for those in mid-life ‘who find themselves asking the question, “Is this all there is?”’ For continuing on “the self-realization express” train and in particular working on archetypal material from his dreams is giving McCort a feet in both worlds. Here he is meaning ‘the extraordinary within the ordinary’ or quoting Friedrich Schleiermacher, ‘the experience of the Infinite within the finite’.

Another way that he explains this ‘two-world’ consciousness is using Carl Jung’s ‘vertical’ distinction between the personal and the collective unconscious where using the Jungian idea of phases gives phases 1 and 2 of a psychoanalysis as confession and interpretation which tend to come under the ‘personal’ and phases 3 and 4 education and transformation under ‘collective’: ‘the latter comprising a mysterious abyss beneath and beyond the limited threshold of individual experience’. This is ‘the realm of the spiritual: bottomless, inexhaustible, it is, in its deepest depths, where what we call “God” is to be found.’

I’m reminded that Thomas Merton wrote that a good psychoanalysis with the right person could (as well as contemplative prayer can do) breakthrough all the layers of the false self to the true self – and beyond the personal unconscious; this is what this book describes.