LISTENING TO THE SILENCES

 

CHAPTER 4 PAGE 2

But, is it not the same in many walks of life and in many professions, that someone who has a certain expertise in a particular field, possibly even a very narrow field, is, nevertheless, assumed to be expert in a whole range of related, or even possibly totally unrelated topics? Television and the other media constantly expose us to such 'instant gurus'. It seems to be a form of psychological conditioning created by the endless chat shows and interviews, where pop-stars, sportsmen and sports-women, so-called 'celebrities', and a whole host of others who fall into no particular category, are treated as if they are fountains of all knowledge and experience under the sun. Likewise the politicians, newspaper columnists and 'agony aunts', who are always so readily and instantly available, and who are trotted out to comment and give an 'informed' opinion on all that is passing across the face of the planet at that moment; or who are expected to be wise beyond their years, experience and knowledge; or to be ready with deep, psychological insights into all that ails the world.

I have related how I came to take charge of the Training Department at the Sellafield establishment. From Day One, I was expected to have total knowledge of the field of industrial training. I was in post. I had a title. It was as if I had been initiated, inducted, empowered by Divine touch. The mantle had descended upon me, and, like a priest at his first celebration, a doctor at his first consultation, I was deemed capable of delivering all the 'magic', an informed opinion.

It requires a high degree of discernment to be able to decide, in real life, just who really know what they are talking about and just who are delivering whole loads of 'flannel'.

Someone who would not qualify for the epithet 'instant guru' was Sigmund Freud. He emerges from the field of mind exploration, mind mapping, like a latter-day Ptolemy. From both the popular and professional perceptions of his work, and the extent to which its influences thread our lives, Freud might also be classed as a Colossus, a modern one no less, standing astride the gateway to the mind. His thoughts and theories are all pervasive, extending into a world far beyond the confines of psychology and psychoanalysis, from the 'Freudian slip' in speech to the ever-present sexual motivation, which he believed fuelled a person's thoughts, actions and relationships. From him have come concepts of the human mind and behaviour that have dominated thinking and practice in the 'management' of the deviant mind and aberrant behaviour for a large part of the century that has just ended.

In as much as it is necessary to try to understand some of Freud's reasoning and conclusions in the areas of thought and action that I felt might impinge upon my life, I have read and tried to comprehend with remarkable lack of success. There are thoughts and reasonings that I find so irrelevant to my life and my relationships with others, and inferred motivations which I reject so completely, that I wonder what was awry with the life and thought processes of the one who conceived them and gave them birth.

I have a number of friends who are Buddhist and who have as their focus a centre near where I live, where their guru, a lama, resides. The lama is a prolific writer and, some would say, aims to out-rival the Dalai Lama as leader of the Tibetan Buddhists outside Tibet. I have read and tried to understand and see the relevance to my life - to anybody's life - of some of his writings. Mentally, I end up with a feeling that my brain is about to boil and that steam will come screaming out of my nostrils and ears.

In some ways this is analogous to the reaction that I get when I read even simplified versions of Freud's works. They seem to have as much relevance to my thinking and the way in which I conduct my life, as have the tantric and metaphysical convolutions that come from the mind and pen of the lama. I reflect to myself that, having significantly passed my seventieth birthday, I have, somehow, managed to live a life that, while it has been eventful, and while it has contained episodes and moments that I would dearly like to go back and wipe out or change, has nevertheless been one in which I have experienced much happiness and achieved such a lot that I consider to have been worthwhile - but from which I shall have no problems about departing in due course. I further reflect that, somehow, I have managed this life without it being necessary to come to terms with the mysteries of the Tantra, or the equally deep and devious mysteries of the mind of the psychoanalyst and his interpretations of one's motives.

Can it be that Freud's world, like that of Ptolemy, had a limited horizon? Ptolemy knew that his world was round, but he obviously did not know how big it was. He was certainly a brilliant thinker and innovator, but with such a lot of knowledge not available to him, he assumed too much and interpolated too much - with what disastrous results to those who came after him we cannot know. We shall never know, for instance, how many people disappeared off the edge of the known world simply because they had assumed that Ptolemy's configurations and distances were correct. If, for instance, you provision for a voyage according to Ptolemy's stated distances, and find that in reality you are travelling half as far again, the chances are that food will become short and you just might not return. Or you may simply disappear into the 'terrae incognito', the 'aut- or aust-landes', - the unknown, out- or east-lands, beloved of early mapmakers. (Who knows but that the autlandes may in fact be the origins of Atlantis - say it quickly out loud and see what I mean!)

I wonder how many human minds have just disappeared off the edge of the unknown 'world of the mind' since Freud tried to map it and set its limits? He obviously knew the extent of the physical world, for it had undoubtedly been well mapped before his life-time, but his intellectual world was very restricted, its bounds being the hospitals and consulting rooms, and the mainly Central European capitals. The conflicts of his world derived from artificial 'territories' and potentially opposing loyalties. Thus were his theories accepted by some or rejected by others because he was an Austrian; because he was Jewish; because he was or was not a Freemason; because he had served under this professor, or was a product of that school of thinking; because he espoused and then rejected mesmerism? Who knows? But as he worked developing his early career, there were becoming known aspects of knowledge of the real world around him, realities which, did he but know of them, had always had the ability to influence the minds and physical health and behaviour of people. Disturbed behaviour in individuals had long been observed and, depending upon the culture prevailing, had been ascribed to a wide variety of causes. However, these external influences that were now beginning to be revealed, have only been seen in comparatively recent years as having this potential to upset people and influence their behaviour. Even if he had been aware of what was being unfolded, I wonder how much relevance Freud would have given to it within the context of his own work and research, for it would require an element of scientific and technical understanding that many, even to this day, do not bother to acquire.

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