Academic journal article Contemporary Psychoanalytic Studies

Two: The Dead Poets Society: Ventures into a Radioactive Pyschoanalytic Space

Academic journal article Contemporary Psychoanalytic Studies

Two: The Dead Poets Society: Ventures into a Radioactive Pyschoanalytic Space

Article excerpt

In pre-literate societies, the poet is the one assigned by the culture to be The One Who Remembers. As the bearer of this terribly important responsibility, the poet remembers the events of yesterday and today out of a deep and sacred respect for the ways of others, helps her or his people make sense of the lives they are living, and provides for those of tomorrow a sense of continuity with the ways and traditions of yesterday (Citino, 2002). In such pre-literate societies, the poet is The One Who Remembers as an historian, mythmaker, and shaman: The poet is the historian who keeps the oral traditions and tells the tribal stories; the myth-maker who weaves the mythologies of the culture through graphic paintings, drama, and theatrical performances; and the shaman who, as the tribal witch doctor, calls upon the spirit world to cure illness. And as Shaman, the poet...

.... is one who knows that there is more to be seen of reality than the waking eye sees. Besides our eyes of flesh, there are eyes of fire that burn through the ordinariness of the world and perceive the wonders and terrors beyond. In the superconsciousness of the shaman, nothing is simply a dead object, a stupid creature; rather, all the things of this earth are swayed by sacred meanings.

-Theodore Roszak, The Making of a Counterculture (emphasis added)

Does the analytic practitioner see the world, people, and life through such eyes offire? Does he or she see sacred meanings in the stupid creatures and the green hued faces of the dead as they speak their timeless presence in the analytic space?

In our highly scientific and technocratic North American culture, shamanesque figures and their mystical ways of living are most probably seen as more properly belonging to the magical world of the poet-philosopher than to the medicalized world of the serious-minded psychoanalyst or psychoanalytic practitioner. Indeed in our culture, the traditions of pre-literate societies are most often viewed as superstitious and backwards with the shaman signifying little more than an interesting, iconic figure of a primitive, third world culture. And the Sham(an's) magic represents little more than the ritual and incantation that envelopes the highly suggestible believers of primitive cultural mythologies. And yet, Why is it that the treatment for madness is likely to do much better when provided by a shaman with witch-doctor potions in such countries as India and Nigeria than when provided by a mental health professional with medical-doctor anti-psychotic medications in North America? In the history of medical treatments for madness, outcomes for people in the United States with schizophrenia have actually worsened over the past twenty five years, advances in the neurosciences notwithstanding. What is the mystery, magic and muscle of the shaman's poesy of care - beyond not keeping people reguUrly medicated- that help so many people in these socalled primitive countries? (Whitaker, 2002) And how might these secrets of care contribute to the practitioner's ways of presencing, knowing, and speaking in the analytic space?

Through the ages, various cultures have recognized the poet's sacred responsibility to be The One Who Remembers. In The Eye of the Poet, David Citino (2002) takes a look backwards in history to see what was meant by the poet at different times in different cultures. In ancient Egypt, the poet was signified by the Arabic sha'ir, meaning The Knower; in ancient Greece, by the Greek poeites, The Maker; in ancient Rome, by the Latin vates, The Seer; and, in the ancient Celtic nations, by the Gaelic seanchaidh, The Narrator. In our more contemporary westernized cultures, is the analytic practitioner not The One Who Remembers in words in the analytic space? Is he or she not a poet of the mind? Indeed, a mind poet? In his poetical attempt to understand poets, Gary Snyder speaks of the Mind Poet in this way:

A Mind Poet

Stays in the house. …

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