Michael Eigen (USA)
This book explores psychoanalytic faith and, more generally, the role of faith in the therapeutic process. In his earlier work, Eigen distinguished faith from beliefs used to organize it, the latter at once bringing people together and creating violent oppositions, belief as a defense against faith. In this new work, Eigen dives into faith experience itself and shares what he finds.
Faith spans many dimensions. The opening chapters focus on variations of faith, beginning with nature, sleep, beauty, goodness, the opening-closing of the human face, and the paradox of the growth of faith through pain and shattering. Accounts of faith in the author’s life lead to creative readings of Winnicott followed by meditations on evil. A chapter is devoted to teaching and learning Bion, who called faith the psychoanalytic attitude (or called the psychoanalytic attitude Faith). Another chapter discusses variants of everyday mystical participation and a climactic moment in the Zohar, a principal part of the Kabbalah. The book ends with interviews involving the author’s development as a psychotherapist-psychoanalyst, his views on mental health and society today, followed by a note on faith-work.
The birth of experience goes on all life long. Giving birth to oneself involves many processes. The first chapter of this book expands on Eigen’s final talk on “Psychoanalysis and Kabbalah” for the New York University Postdoctoral Contemplative Studies Project, and focuses in particular on an intertwining of beauty and destruction. Beauty is the heart of the Kabbalistic Tree of Life, intricately linked both to other capacities and to catastrophic devastation. Interestingly, Bion also links faith and catastrophe, and writes of psychoanalytic “beauty,” thereby creating a rich dance of psychoanalysis with Kabbalah. Winnicott adds his own special touch, associating the fate of a vital spark with trauma as the personality begins to form, and with the work of spontaneous recovery that is a profound part both of living and of therapy sessions.
The second part of the book is new and focuses on birth processes at different ages and situations, exploring in detail how psychoanalysis interweaves with themes from life, clinical work, and Kabbalah. Failed birth processes are part of living but so is the need to “midwife” existence. Eigen suggests that there may be some kind of “organ” that permeates, scans, and tastes shifting centers of experience, taking note of their fate and partnering their development, a kind of inner tuning sense in search of cultivation, spanning what we call conscious and unconscious life, mind and body, and testing the weather for favorable birth conditions. Often we do not know exactly what is happening or how, but sense something germinating. Domains open that are not confineable or restricted by the tools at hand, which is perhaps one reason why analysts are called toolmakers, as experience and the tools used to understand it become part of further birth processes. In this way, Eigen shows how the intimate fusion of psychological and spiritual currents generate new tastes of living.
The Birth of Experience: http://www.karnacbooks.com/Product.asp?PID=35457&MATCH=1
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