Commentaries on Living Series 2 / Chapter 40
THE BIRDS AND the goats were all somewhere else, and it was strangely quiet and far away under the wide-spreading tree which stood alone in an expanse of fields, well-cultivated and richly green. The hills were at some distance, harsh and uninviting in the midday sun, but under the tree it was dark, cool and pleasant. This tree, huge and impressive, had gathered great strength and symmetry in its solitude. It was a vital thing, alone, and yet it seemed to dominate all its surroundings, even the distant hills. The villagers worshipped it; against its vast trunk there was a carved stone on which someone had placed bright yellow flowers. In the evening no one came to the tree; its solitude was too overpowering, and it was better to worship it during the day when there were rich shadows, chattering birds, and the sound of human voices.
But at this hour all the villagers were around their huts, and under the tree it was very peaceful. The sun never penetrated to the base of the tree, and the flowers would last till the next day, when new offerings would be made. A narrow path led to the tree, and then continued on through the green fields. The goats were carefully herded along this path until they were near the hills, and then they ran wild, eating everything within reach. The full glory of the tree was towards evening. As the sun set behind the hills, the fields became more intensely green, and only the top of the tree caught the last rays, golden and transparent. With the coming of darkness the tree appeared to withdraw from all its surroundings and close upon itself for the night; its mystery seemed to grow, entering into the mystery of all things.
A psychologist and an analyst, he had been in practice for a number of years and had many cures to his credit. He worked in a hospital as well as in his private office. His many prosperous patients had made him prosperous too, with expensive cars, a country house, and all the rest of it. He took his work seriously, it was not just a money making affair, and he used different methods of analysis depending upon the patient. He had studied mesmerism, and tentatively practised hypnosis on some of his patients.
“It is a very curious thing,” he said, “how, during the hypnotic state, people will freely and easily speak of their hidden compulsions and responses, and every time a patient is put under hypnosis I feel the strangeness of it. I have myself been scrupulously honest, but I am fully aware of the grave dangers of hypnotism, especially in the hands of unscrupulous people, medical or otherwise. Hypnosis may or may not be a short cut, and I don’t feel it is justified except in certain stubborn cases. It takes a long period to cure a patient, generally several months, and it is a pretty tiring business.
“Some time ago,” he went on, “a patient whom I had been treating for a number of months came to see me. By no means a stupid woman, she was well read and had wide interests; and with considerable excitement and a smile which I had not seen for a long time, she told me that she had been persuaded by a friend to attend some of your talks. It appeared that during the talks she felt herself being released from her depressions, which were rather serious. She said that the first talk had quite bewildered her. The thoughts and the words were new to her and seemed contradictory, and she did not want to attend the second talk; but her friend explained that this often happened, and that she should listen to several talks before making up her mind. She finally went to all of them, and as I say, she felt a sense of release. What you said seemed to touch certain points in her consciousness, and without making any effort to be free from her frustrations and depressions, she found that they were gone; they had simply ceased to exist. This was some months ago. I saw her again the other day, and those depressions have certainly cleared up; she is normal and happy, especially in her relationship with her family, and things seem to be all right.
“This is all just preliminary,” he continued. “You see, thanks to this patient, I have read some of your teachings, and what I really want to talk over with you is this: is there a way or a method by which we can quickly get at the root of all this human misery? Our present techniques take time and require a considerable amount of patient investigation.”
Sir, if one may ask, what is it that you are trying to do with your patients?
“Stated simply, without psychoanalytical jargon, we try to help them to overcome their difficulties, depressions, and so on, in order that they may fit into society.”
Do you think it is very important to help people to fit into this corrupt society?
“It may be corrupt, but the reformation of society is not our business. Our business is to help the patient to adjust himself to his surroundings and be a more happy and useful citizen. We are dealing with abnormal cases and are not trying to create super-normal people. I don’t think that is our function.”
Do you think you can separate yourself from your function? If I may ask, is it not also your function to bring about a totally new order, a world in which there will be no wars, no antagonism, no urge to compete, and so on? Do not all these urges and compulsions bring about a social environment which develops abnormal people? If one is only concerned with helping the individual to conform to the existing social pattern, here or elsewhere, is one not maintaining the very causes that make for frustration misery and destruction?
“There is certainly something in what you say but as analysts I don’t think we are prepared to go so deeply into the whole causation of human misery.”
Then it seems, sir, that you are concerned, not with the total development of man, but only with one particular part of his total consciousness. Healing a certain part may be necessary, but without understanding the total process of man, we may cause other forms of disease. Surely, this is not a matter for argumentation or speculation; it is an obvious fact that must be taken into consideration, not merely by specialists, but by each one of us.
“You are leading into very deep issues to which I am not accustomed, and I find myself beyond my depth. I have thought only vaguely about these things, and about what we are actually trying to accomplish with our patients apart from the usual procedure. You see, most of us have neither the inclination nor the necessary time to study all this; but I suppose we really ought to if we want to free ourselves and help our patients to be free from the confusion and misery of the present western civilization.”
The confusion and misery are not only in the West, for human beings the world over are in the same plight. The problem of the individual is also the world’s problem, they are not two separate and distinct processes. We are concerned, surely, with the human problem, whether the human being is in the Orient or in the Occident, which is an arbitrary geographical division. The whole consciousness of man is concerned with God, with death, with right and happy livelihood with children and their education, with war and peace. Without understanding all this, there can be no healing of man.
“You are right, sir, but I think very few of us are capable of such wide and deep investigation. Most of us are educated wrongly. We become specialists, technicians, which has its uses, but unfortunately that is the end of us. Whether his speciality is the heart or the complex, each specialist builds his own little heaven, as the priest does, and though he may occasionally read something on the side, there he remains till he dies. You are right, but there it is.
“Now, sir, I would like to return to my question: is there a method or technique by which we can go directly to the root of our miseries, especially those of the patient and thereby eradicate them quickly?”
Again, if one may ask, why are you always thinking in terms of methods and techniques? Can a method or technique set man free, or will it merely shape him to a desired end? And the desired end, being the opposite of man’s anxieties, fears, frustrations, pressures, is itself the outcome of these. The reaction of the opposite is not true action, either in the economic or the psychological world. Apart from technique or method, there may be a factor which will really help man.
“What is that?“
Perhaps it is love.
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