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A. M. P.
SEMINARI 2003 - 2004
Paulo Cesar Sandler

Science and Religion or Science versus Religion?

Owner's manual

The author hopes that the length of this paper does not put the reader off. Modern times favor summaries, reviews, and visual aids. It is hoped that the reader uses his liberty to read selected parts at his will, or intuition, as the unavoidable browsing that follows an attempt to challenge the unknown of any brand-new, still untouched text. It is pretentiously hoped that they will lose its whiteness and may turn yellow, and dirtied, and mildly smashed in due time, displaying they were consulted as an useful tool. It is a text for the times and not only for the moment, as Bion's works. They are not intended as a substitute for the lazy man's cigar.

To read it one may pick freely a word here and there, a quotation, a term or author that is dear to the reader. It will be highlighted by itself, so to say. The text is construed in such a way that it allows for a seemingly fragmentary way of reading, at the reader's discretion. The sense of whole is the reader's responsibility. Some readers may find the way the text is written as good enough to them.

It is also hoped that one realizes that the paper was written with the Italian reader in the mind of the writer, as well as this specific encounter. Last, but not least, it is an attempt to be grateful to Dr. Mario Giampá and Dr. Mario Pisani in first instance, and all the colleagues involved in the invitation that brought this paper here.

This text is an attempt at an in-depth review of the issues of science and religion through the aid of Bion's contributions to the theme, that in a certain extent encompass some of his most important contributions to psychoanalysis. They rescued the psychoanalysis of the unconscious and of the Id, in practical terms, to the use of practicing analysts.

It includes the definition of some terms that became to be almost characteristic of Bion's terminology: mystic, faith, intuition, and truth. They are dealt with in special sessions.

The study aims to dispel some confusions and common misunderstandings and to undo some confusions commonly made with the terms and their counterparts in reality. The reader will notice that the paper makes an almost exclusive reference to Bion's work. The quotations obey the following convention: the pages are preceded by AMF, which refers to A Memoir of the Future; C, to Cogitations; both from Karnac Books. AI refers to Attention and Interpretation, Tavistock Publications; ST, to Second Thoughts; T, to Transformations, both from Heinemann Medical Books, 1967 and 1965 respectively. Some quotations are repeated on purpose, taking into account some readers may well try to accept the writer's invitation to do not read the text in the order the writer wrote it.

? (or, Sience and Religion)

Has science and as a matter of consequence, psycho-analysis, anything to do with the religious activity? Or with theology? The issue has been examined by some researches - outstanding among the, Freud himself and Pfister. It is doubtful that the issue receives the transcendent attention that its transcendent nature perhaps demands; it will suffice to examine the dwindling quantity of papers published around it. Due to its very nature, it is free from fashion, "the cunning livery of hell" according the Bard (Measure for measure, III, i, 95.)

We will not define what we mean by science, religion, and psychoanalysis. We hope that each reader's definition can be matched with our use of the terms that makes implicit our definitions. They may emerge during the reading or during the discussion. Our scrutiny is far from partisanship; therefore, it is more near Giampá's views than Symington (Giampá, 2003; Symington, 20). Our main guideline is our hypothesis that religion was a very early attempt of mankind to deal with psychosis and delinquency. Elsewhere we suggested that human beings living in the western civilization created some methods and ways to apprehend reality as it is. Chronologically it was a growing and amended process: art, religion intertwined with myths, philosophy and science, in that order and separated by thousands of years. Art can be divided chronologically: first it were the musical forms; later, painting and sculpture, and much later, theatre, poetry and prose. Science, the younger way, can be divided in an early non-allegiance to the materiality and distrust of the power of senses (Socrates and Plato), a formidable revolt against it (Aristotle, St Thomas of Achinas and Descartes). More recently, there was a Platonic renaissance, after Luria, which had a seminal impulse after the Romantic Movement (mainly Hamann, Kant, Goethe, and Nietzsche), whose modern offshoots are Freud, Planck and Einstein. Many among the romantics are often seen as mystics and religious. Therefore the confusion has a long history. To resort to a language or to epiphenomenal forms that were created by religious people who abandoned their religiosity ( the Cabalists and other mystics such as Ekhart, St John of the Cross, Giordano Bruno among many others) and had serious clashes with the religious establishment must be differentiated from religion-in-itself. (I refer the reader to A Apreensão da Realidade Psíquica, vols. II - VII; Rio de Janeiro, Imago editora)(1)

To state, "reality as it is" also equals to deal with truth and mind. The relative failure of early ways determined the necessity of the newer ways - psychoanalysis above all.

Appearances are deceiving. We suggest that psychoanalytic movement may have misjudged Freud's writings about religion, thus creating a religious counter-religion, whose fanaticism may pass unnoticed. The general disapproving tone attributed to a so-called "psycho-analytic view of religion" has been hampering a real appreciation of Freud's views. Passing judgment precludes appreciation. "Psycho-analysis tells you nothing; it is an instrument, like the blind man's stick, that extends the power to gather information" (C, 361). The claim that an analyst is entitled by his condition of being an analyst to have a say in any issue is not scrutinized. It is not scrutinized even by analytic standards that could, for example, reveal omnipotence. This belief in an "analytic view on..." anything precluded to appreciate Freud's respect toward approaches that differed from his own. The reading of his paper, "On the question of a Weltanshauung" (the last of the "New Introductory Lectures") may dispel this commonly found misunderstanding.

Bion contributions to the issue are copious and almost omnipresent throughout his work. His view seemed to be free from both prejudices (of attributing to the analytic view an overpowering reach and of deprecating religion and the obverse) -- which may be credited to hubris, haughtiness and self-righteousness and other aspects of the paranoid-schizoid position:

"P.A. Psycho-analysts are trained to be psycho-analysts only - a considerable undertaking. I would not feel qualified by my training to do more than that although like surgeons, engineers and other citizens, I am expected to carry my civil obligations as well as my professional ones. But I deprecate the idea that my expertise extends beyond that of psycho-analyst; it is hard enough to be an 'expert' in one's own profession. Yet we are constantly expected to be expert far beyond our professional domain and are regarded with contempt if we fail to live up to expectations which strive not arouse" (AMF, III, 507).

His way allowed him to integrate psychoanalysis with the philosophy of mathematics and philosophy itself. Under that vertex, philosophy, theology, and science are different ways of the same underlying attempt: the apprehension of reality itself. He regards philosophers and theologians can be regarded as the ancestors of psycho-analysts.

"P.A. The hope is that psycho-analysis brings into view thoughts and actions and feelings of which the individual may not be aware and so cannot control. If he can be aware of them he may, or may not, decide -- albeit unconsciously -- to change them.
ALICE I don't see how that differs from what has been done by parents, teachers, saints, philosophers, for countless generations of prophets of one kind and another
" (AMF, III, 509-10).

There seem to be some links between analysts with religious people: the healing pretensions, secularization, mystic tradition, as well as pretensions to deal with immaterial facts such as distress, mind and reality.

Is the sensuous concrete debasing of theology into secularization as pointed out by countless individuals and groups such as St. Frances of Assisi, the Jansenits, the Reformists, akin to the debasement of psycho-analysis into the mindlessness that characterizes much of the psycho-analytic movement?

Bion calls the religious establishment an "organization", in the social sense of the term.

Bion's first suggestion that helped him to encircle the analytic endeavour with the help of a theological analogy resorted to the metaphor of the mystic which makes makes part of Transformations and Attention and Interpretation.

This attempt reaches maturity in the novel form of a quasi-socratic dialog between part-objects embodied in A Memoir of the Future.

Possible Analogies

Bion elicits some striking, unexpected similarities between the theological posture and psycho-analysis and the religious and psycho-analytic establishments. He stresses the differences and above all, the paradoxical psycho-analytic view entertained by
religion vis-à-vis the religious view entertained by the imitative psycho-analysts. They depend on real human limitations, as for example, the movement in tandem of PS to D and back to PS. There is a tendency to worship when helplessness prevails.

"ROSEMARY...You two (addressing Priest and P.A.) have arrived at an agreement. I am glad --
PRIEST It is more apparent than real.
P.A. We have arrived at the same fence at the same time and that gives an illusion of agreement liable to obscure the fact that we are on different sides of the fence.
ROSEMARY Fence? What fence?
PRIEST Alas! It is invisible, impalpable, insensible....
P.A. Nearly inexpressible but for our borrowing from disciplines not our own.
ROSEMARY Then you are in agreement in 'acquisition'.
P.A. No. He steals or borrows from me: I do the same from him. We both resent each other and even ourselves as we have to collude with each other. Collusion, robbery, theft -- what do we not owe to them!
PRIEST Bigotry, ignorance, intolerance -- how much science owes to them!
P.A. How firm the foundations on which the Church must build!
PRIEST How persistently the scientists rob us of faith! How unsleeping must be our resistance to their attacks!
ALICE A plague on both your houses and may they soon perish
" (AMF, II, 384-5)

"P.A: The Intuitionists would say that the logical and intuitionist mathematics can exist happily with one another provided the logicians admit the reality of another approach. Quantum mechanicists do not deny the existence of wave motion" (AMF, III, 554)

The earliest attempts to get knowledge were -- and still are -- linked to helplessness, bewilderment and fear. These seem to be among the most basic feelings and emotional experiences that encircle and permeate human life from birth to death.

The encircling environment is both hostile and facilitating to life. The universe, external and internal, is an immeasurable amount of inexplicable and non-understandable facts and ways.

More often than not the human capacity to construe and even to fathom scales of measurement, the facts we must deal with, whatever they may be, occur in such a domain that the scales of measurement are at their best caricatures of that which demands to be measured. The scales suffer the same limitations of the apprehension of the facts itself. The phenomena occur in scales infinitely small or large, in comparison to the scale we may imagine. This is valid quite independently from the invented unit of measurement one chooses to rely in, such as macroscopically defined sizes, range of apprehension of human senses, etc.

In brief, the human being must deal with the unknown but vitiated himself to deny it. Intolerance of these facts is linked, as Freud showed, to a reaction that generates omnipotent and omniscient ideas. They are usually projected outside in deities or explanations about the origins and ends of the universe.

"PRIEST Where do you suppose that reality originates -- only from the genes, the chromosomes, D.N.A., the double helix?
P.A. I don't know.
P.A. I could not aspire to a scientific inquire without that basic assumption.
PRIEST I could not aspire to God without a similar admission.
P.A. My objection to your people is that they claim an omniscient and omnipotent God.
PRIEST We aspire to a god made in our own image -- that is well known; but because we keep company with people that have certain views I don't think we should be debited with those views.
P.A. It is part of my work to point out that all of us are victims of just that experience. Like it or not, of such is the kingdom of men.
PRIEST I don't quarrel with that.
" (AMF, II, 385)

Therefore of the earliest ways to deal with helplessness and truth is expressed by the religious movement; the final goal is evasion from pain and a simultaneous craving for safety, happiness - even if imaginary. Freud's studies - namely, The Future of an Illusion, Civilization and its Discontents, Moses and the Monotheism, "On the question of a Weltanschauung" - offer a number of hypotheses and conjectures. They also offer theories and hypotheses about these conjectures. (C, 378).

This emotional origin hampers the attempts to apprehend reality as it is; sometimes it is really seen or felt as unbearable - an oeil en trop, as Andre Green once told to Bion (AMF, III, 537). This feeling is linked to the regression of development of thinking to more primitive ways such as moral judgment.

A central point in Bion's work seems to be the replacement of primitive moral judgment by more developed forms of mental functioning. Or to put in other terms, mindlessness may be replaced or amended by thought.

Moral implications, moral schemata afflicted him in his personal life up to the point of taking him into the plunge of joining the British war effort of 1914 are later are seen as conflicting with the scientific outlook.
This issue cannot be overemphasized in what regards to

(i) the loss of the psycho-analytical vertex,
(ii) the possibility or impossibility to achieve real analysis,
(iii) the danger of replacing insight for a given analyst's authority,
(iv) the persistence of collusive transference hallucination rather than working through of transference. It fuels omnipotence and imitation of analysis - in the here and now of the session.

"The observation of constant conjunction of phenomena whose conjunction or coherence has not been previously observed, and therefore the whole process of Ps_D interaction, definition and search for meaning that is to be attached to the conjunction, is to be destroyed by the strength of a sense of causation and its moral implications. Patients show that the resolution of a problem appears to present less difficulty if it can be regarded as belonging to a moral domain; causation, responsibility and therefore a controlling force (as opposed to helplessness) provide a framework within which omnipotence reigns. In certain circumstances...the scene is thus set for conflict (reflected in controversies such as those on Science and Religion). The situation is portrayed in the Eden and Babel myths. The significance for the individual lies in its part in obstructing the Ps_D interaction."

The whole issue is dealt with quasi-artistically in A Memoir of the Future, through the talks of the characters "Paul" (a priest), "P.A.", "Doctor" (a physician) and "Edmund" (an astronomer) (volume II)). The character "Paul" changes name and is called thereafter, "Priest" (in the middle of vol. II and volume III, for example).

The issue is used to raise questions about the scientific and analytic behaviour when it is unwittingly distorted into a religious situation. It is a warning about not pre-judging religion, at the risk of throwing out the wealth of knowledge about human mind and human truth that was possible through the religious vertex.

"ROBIN: "The Heavens declare the Glory of God". When I was in the RAF I used to think on the verse "I will take the wings of the morning and fly to the uttermost parts of the Earth". Paul knows it I'm sure.
PAUL: Of course- we all do.
TOM I fear I never though of anything so poetical. I was too filled with petrol fumes.
ROBIN Those were the best years of my life. Although I was scared out of my wits, afraid of death. Afterwards I felt ashamed that I had not been brave enough, like one young boy I knew, to defy the enemy who called him to surrender as he crawled out of his disabled tank.
P.A. What happened?
ROBIN: What happened? Why, what could happen? They -
TOM Shot him of course.
ROBIN Of course; as you say, "Of course".......
PAUL: You have forgotten that the wings of the morning were to aid flight, ineffectually, from God.
P.A: Perhaps the depths of hell.
ROBIN: As Paul said, I had forgotten "the wings of the morning" -- a poetical way of escape. I think I must have succeeded -- not so effectual as P.A. perhaps, but enough not to go to Church.
P.A.: Why do you assume I succeeded?
ROBIN: Haven't you? I thought people who were properly analyzed, like psycho-analysts, didn't believe in a lot of rubbish like "God's in his heaven, All's right with the world."
ALICE: Really Robin -- why don't you read your Browning properly?
ROBIN: Why? What have I done wrong now?
ROLAND: Pretty well everything I should say - you hadn't read the Bible properly
TOM: You have forgotten your flying regulations.
P.A.: I spend a great deal of my time trying to show people which particular god they're currently worshipping. Whether they are right or wrong is for the individual to decide for himself. Robin's god seems, from what he says, to be a solar god, but that would depend on the evidence to which I would try to draw his attention as it became discernible.
ROLAND: To him, or to you?
P.A.: Both, I should hope. I give my interpretation when I think he and I could both understand it, in the language which I think both could comprehend, and while the evidence was 'visible' to two ordinary beings. Just now --
ROLAND: Can you give an example?
P.A.: -- Tom seined to think that he could smell gas; Robin, some visual or religious experience.
ROBIN: I certainly said nothing about religion; I gave it up long ago.
P.A.: Either you have little respect for what you say, or you say words for which you have no respect. You said "The Heavens declare the Glory of God ---"
PAUL: -- "and the firmament showeth his handiwork" is the text.
ROBIN: Good heavens! Can't one talk simple literate English?
P.A.: You should hear my psycho-analytic aspirants talking 'simple literate' English.
PAUL: But you surprise me. Do you really think anyone expects psycho-analysts to talk 'simple' English? I thought it was understood that it was a point of honour to talk incomprehensible jargon.
P.A. It is a point of honour when we are playing the game of Who's Top of the Psycho-analytical League Tables, but is when we are 'talking about' psycho-analysis.
ROLAND You have international league championship matches too. I've read some accounts in your journals. The language is ferocious incomprehensible.
" (AMF, II, 224-28)

In the previous dialogue one may detect a critique on the existence of sharp differences about the religiosity one may find in members of the analytic movement and religiosity found in overtly religious people. This allows for a practical illustration of an analyst at work. One may see the peculiar way that the character P.A. deals with the wording attributed to the character "Robin".

The similarities fade when it comes to the use of hymns, jingles and other ways so typical of religion. The differences are blurred again in the closing phrase of the character "Robin". They are fitting enough both the psycho-analytical movement and to the religious establishment and their respective wars. The imaginary dialogue follows on with an observation of a most characteristic feature of religion: bigotry. Those who advertise themselves as "freudians", "kleinians", "bionians", "lacanians" would be benefited from the following warning. It is evident that the "flooding of riotous meaning" in the last phrase is directed to the self-entitled "bionians" .

"P.A.: Psycho-analysts can "in truth" claim, like physicians, to be engaged in a respect-worthy occupation deserving the use of a language which can be employed by people who respect the truth, without having to be ashamed of technical precision on the one hand, and "primitive" precision on the other. Terms which are no longer permitted in socially oriented cultures --
ALICE: Such as?
P.A.: Shit. If you can indicate the cultural boundary I can guess whether the term would arouse anger. Show me the drawing and the onlookers before whom it is to be exhibited, and I can guess at the outcome. When Freud said infants had a sexual life people were outraged, Today James Joyce is regarded as permissible. An assertion of a religious manifestation will arouse the hostility and suspicion of psycho-analysts who would deny that they were displaying bigotry.
ALICE Really? You surprise me.
P.A. We are all scandalized by bigotry. We are none of us bigot-generators; that is, we none of us admit to being the spring from whom bigotry flows. As a result we fo not recognize those of out offspring of whose characters we disapprove. Indeed, Melanie Klein discovered that primitive, infantile omnipotence was characterized by fantasies of splitting off undesired features and then evacuating them......These primitive elements of thought are difficult to represent by any verbal formulation, because we have to rely on language which was elaborated later for other purposes. When I tried to employ meaningless terms - alpha and beta were typical - I found that "concepts without intuition which are empty and intuitions without concepts which are blind" rapidly became 'black holes into which turbulence had seeped and empty concepts flooded with riotous meaning'
" (AMF, II, 229)

The following quotation uses the idea of awesome natural occurrences, such as the eruption of volcanoes to compare that which is attributed to analysts and that which is attributed to religious ministers. Many times the functions change and phrases easily attributable to analysts are 'uttered' by the 'religious' character. Who also warns and many times admonishes the 'psycho-analyst' that 'his' postures are not easily distinguishable from these of a religiously minded person:

"ALICE I understood Mont Pelee killed a lot of Ephemera.
P.A. Of course we dislike it, but I do not see why we should get above ourselves and indulge in our megalomaniac sense of our own importance -- there could be something between the extremes of religious abasement and religious exaltation.
PAUL Don't call it religious please -- it may be psycho-analytic abasement and psycho-analytic exaltation, but don't drag in religion. I believe in God and in God's Truth and in God's Wrath and God's Love, but I don't see why anyone has to confuse their undisciplined human thinking with God. Men are always worshipping their own image and calling it God.
P.A. You are not far away from expressing something to which, as a psycho-analyst, I frequently try to draw attention when I interpret an actual human statement as betraying an omnipotent phantasy. You would be surprised how often it is supposed that we are casting doubt on God. All I purport to do is to give the individual a chance of observing his God-like assumption of God-like attributes. It is not surprising that he finds it difficult to be awestruck by God, thought not doubtful about his own-God like qualities.
ROBIN They must be a conceited lot, your patients.
P.A. Yet they are humble enough to submit to not-devotional observation by another by another ordinary human animal.
PAUL By "not-devotional observation by another by another ordinary human animal" you mean a psycho-analyst?
P.A. I mean myself --
" (AMF, II, 240)

Ultimate reality

"ROBIN: Really -- do you blame us if we don't know what you are talking about?
P.A.: No, I don't. I am not surprised at your protest; in extenuation I have found that if I say what I mean it is not English; if I write English it does not say what I mean.
PAUL: Theologians are blamed for being incapable of being religious -- you are a bad as we are!
P.A.: Probably for the same reason: Ultimate Truth is ineffable.
ALICE: I think you are hard on him. I don't pretend to understand, by I have an idea.
P.A.: After all, ultimate reality must be a whole even if the human animal cannot grasp it. If I lock open an ant's nest it would appear, no doubt, to an ant, to be an act of God, but it is capable of a simple explanation .
PAUL: So you think.
P.A.: Quite; I do not see why an infinitely small biological particle being whirled round the galactic centre a speck of dirt -- called by us the Earth -- should, in the course of an ephemeral life that does not last even a thousand revolutions round a sun, imagine that the Universe of Galaxies conforms to its limitations.
PAUL: The laws of nature are only the laws of scientific thought.
ROBIN: It is readily accepted, filled with meaning that these colossal forces 'obey' these laws as we obey social conventions." (AMF, II, 228-9)

Truth, Religion, Psycho-analysis and issues of communication

"ROLAND: We follow the lead given by our shepherds.
P.A.: You need not be sheep. We do not aspire to be leaders or shepherds; we hope to introduce the person to his 'real' self. Although we do not claim to be successful the experience shows how powerful is the urge of the individual to be led -- to believe in some god or good shepherd.
ROBIN: A 'father figure' in fact.
P.A.: No; a 'father figure' is a term technical term, but the individual person believes that there is a real person approximating to such a theoretical term. 'God the Father' is a familiar term about which Paul can say more than me.
PAUL: We believe in God, not in Father Figures.
P.A: We do not affirm or deny the reality, but we do wish our analysands to recognize that one root of such an idea is a reminiscence of an actual human father. That is not the same as saying that because there is a reminiscence there cannot be a 'thing' remembered, of that because we try to draw attention to a pre-existent idea, generated perhaps by a common an unworthy reality, there may not be some other source from which such an idea springs.
PAUL: I am glad to hear it. It has always bee one of my objections to psycho-analysis and its devotees that they appear to be so dogmatic, so sure in their refutation of religious truth, that --
P.A: I should not like to replace one dogma by another; the erection of any God should be studied.
PAUL: Isn't that what the Church has always advocated?
P.A. It appears to me that the unquestioning belief in God is demanded by the Church or its representatives. Perhaps I am misled by the Institutions of Religion which have obscured for me the chance of going beyond the institution's dogmata to a reality beyond.
PAUL: There are certainly plenty of religious teachers who have deplored that and warned against it. St. John of the Cross even said that reading his own works could be a stumbling block if they were revered to the detriment of direct experience. Teachings, dogma, hymn, congregational worship, are supposed to be preludes to religion proper - not final ends in themselves.
P.A. This sounds not unlike a difficulty which we experience when psycho-analytic jargon 'father figures' and so forth -
ROBIN: Touché!
P.A.: -- are substituted for looking into the patient's mind itself to intuit to which the psycho-analyst is striving to point; like a dog that looks at its master's pointing hand rather than at the object the hand is trying to point out" (AMF, II, 267)

"P.A.: "Talking about" dreams does not cause dreams. They exist -- and some of us think, with Freud, that they are worth of consideration and debate. The night, the dream, is a 'roughness' between the smooth polished consciousness of daylight; in that 'roughness' an idea might lodge. Even in the flat polished surface there can be a delusion, or an hallucination, or some other flaw in which an idea might lodge and flourish before it can be stamped out and 'cured'.
PAUL: Yes, but you believe that dreams can be scientifically studied. That limits your freedom to investigate lies, falsities, 'roughness', instead of looking for Truth only.
P.A.: The search for truth does not limit my capacity; my freedom is limited to my lack of equipment; lack of capacity to look for truth. Your assumption that God exist limits the search by precluding the discovery that there is no God if in fact there is none. Anyhow - how does one discover a negative?
PAUL: In practice I don't find this belief limitating. It certainly would limit my research into Truth if I worshipped Money or a widely admired footballer as if he or it were God.
P.A.: We find financiers and sportsmen who practice that, in contrast to the religion professed. That is why it is useful to have terms such as 'father figure'. It is unfortunate if the term is thought to imply that the reality is correctly defined as nothing other than a 'father figure'.
THEA: These distinctions seem to me to be subtle and are exercises in semantics rather that adventures in the realm of truth." (AMF, II, 266-8)

The scientific and the religious vertexes illuminated - without religious wars; sometimes scientists are more religious than certified religious people.

"ROBIN: old man whose capacities were decaying would not be properly sexual.
P.A.: The decay you talk of is nothing to do with sex: it is 'to do with' anatomy or physiology, and should be distinct from decay or development which 'originates' in sex. Similarly, development or decay of religious impulses which originate in religious forces should be distinguished from those which originate elsewhere.
PAUL: We do contend that there is an important distinction to be made between development originating in God and that originating in the individual's impulses. Isaiah wrote as if there were no doubt that the impulse came from direct experience from God.
ROBIN: Would P.A. admit the validity of Isahiah's experience, or would he regard it as having a hallucinatory force -- a phantom of the mind?
P.A.: I do not have scientific evidence for discussion of an event of so many centuries ago.
PAUL: The religious experience to which we refer is current - not hundreds of years ago - even though history suggests that it occurred from remote ages. In recent times Cowper wrote, correctly: "Sometimes a light surprises a Christian while he sings".
P.A: Cowper was manic-depressive and committed suicide.
PAUL: The religious experience is universal; it is not closed to the psychotics, the unfortunate.
ROBIN: You don't deny, do you, that religion is often apparently the cause?
P.A. I do not deny cause. I know that it is likely that we would think in terms of causes. Has Edmund any ideas about this?
EDMUND I like to think of causes, but I see no reason for believing that the human mind would ever comprehend the vast universes that surround us. The religious people express optimistic statements.
PAUL "The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament showeth his handywork.
EDMUND That is one such statement.
P.A. It s an observation and Paul has formulated what he observed. His statement seemed to me to be made from the religious vertex. I know that Edmund maintains that he is without religion and I am left to suppose that his observations and formulations are 'only' or 'just' scientific. Le Comte said that there was one fact we should never know -- the composition of stars. I would be interested to know what Edmund would say about that ''never".
EDMUND Comte was right to say so, but spectrographic investigation leads us to have definite ideas about stellar composition.
" (AMF, II, 287-88)

Le Comte managed to be more religious than religious people.

Analysis and Religion: do they harm or the obverse?

One often hear that religion is poisonous, toxic or harmful - at least since Marx. The same accusation is leveled against psycho-analysis in another point that analysis and religion seem to intersect, at least in what concerns to the social reactions to them.

"ROBIN: So you admit that psycho-analysis can do harm?
P.A.: It does neither harm nor good; but the person can use the experience for whatever purpose he will. After all, if a surgeon heals a thief or a murderer he makes them more efficient, but not more morals.
ROLAND: Nobody expects him to do so.
P.A.: Believe me they do! The analyst is often held responsible for the behaviour of a man or woman who has at some time been to a psycho-analyst.
PRIEST: We have the same difficulty with religious people.
P.A.: Do you help your believers to see what kind of god they follow? Or do you assure them that they are good people who are supporting the true God?
PRIEST: Of course we try to show them what gods they follow. People try to serve both God and Mammon.
P.A.: Has it any effect?
PRIEST: In the course of centuries, yes.
P.A.: "In the course of centuries"? There may not be centuries available. That is why we regard analytic procedure as essential if people are to understand what beliefs they hold and by which they are held
PRIEST: Do you find they understand -- more quickly?
P.A.: Sometimes I think they do, but not often. Nevertheless psycho-analysis enables the psycho-analyst to learn something and even to pass it on. There are occasions when a resistance is surmounted with astounding speed; a number of facts display their relationship for the first time. It is almost a revelation.
PRIEST: You use a term which is part of our technical equipment .
P.A.: I thought you would notice that. I wished that we could make clear both the verbal fact you mention and the psychic reality which corresponds. The concentration of meaning would require the concision which can be achieved in music or painting. Would my analysand undergo the work necessary to understand if I could achieve such precision? Audiences rarely listen to music or look at pictures; still less do they think it worth while listening to what an analyst says.
PRIEST: These difficulties have been familiar to the religious for many centuries. Music, painting, poetry, vestments gorgeous and austere -- all have been used as auxiliaries.
P.A.: I have found that the auxiliary can easily be transferred by the receptor from the periphery to the centre. Messages intended to convey profound truth -- the Iliad, the Aeneid, Paradise Lost, the Divine Comedy -- have all in turn become famous as gorgeous settings for the precious 'stone' which is outshone by its attendant splendour. Krishna warned Arjuna that he might not be able to survive the revelation of the godhead which he, Krishna, was prepared to vouchsafe. Dante has only rarely found a reader able to discern the vision to which he points in doubt whether he could pass beyond the "evil days" on which he had fallen; it was indeed his tragedy.
PRIEST: The most profound expression of despair known to us was "Why has thou forsaken me?"
P.A.: This discovery is one which all are afraid to make. A theory that the human animal is not going to call on God do to for him what he must do for himself in loneliness and despair cannot be formulated; any formulation is a substitute for that which cannot be substituted.
ROLAND: Do you suggest that that psycho-analytic interpretation is the explanation of Christ's reported on the Cross?
P.A.: You show that I have failed to make clear that I attach the utmost importance, in the practice of analysis, to the presence of analyst and analysand at the same time, in the same place and in conditions in which the the consciously discernible facts are available to both people. These are the minimum conditions, not the maximum. Only does psycho-analysis become an activity open to the two participants. You suggest that I am making a statement about events reorted to have taken place almost two thousand years ago; if you believe that to be the gist of my remarks what might you not say about my opinions when I am not present to defend them?" (AMF, II, 333)

"P.A:.........."Worship" you say. I would prefer to use some less emotional term.
PRIEST: The word is not emotional. It means exactly what I intend it to mean when I am, as at present, talking about God. I avoid using it in contexts such as 'worshipping' Man or our mistress here. If I did I would feel guilty of blasphemy or, at the least, flattering speech.
P.A: Who or what were you speaking of when you used it just now?
PRIEST: God, as I have said, I would not consider my 'queer' dream as just a dream with a qualifying adjective.
P.A: Effusions of the unconscious --
PRIEST: Unconscious -- what is that?
P.A: "God" -- what is that?
PRIEST: I realize you think I know as little about God as you do, and perhaps I know even less about unconscious but I meant it seriously when I asked you about unconscious. Do you know more about it than the usual theories of Freud and Melanie Klein and the rest? Do you know the extent to which qualified psycho-analysts are unconscious of reality, even the realities of psycho-analysis? Those I have seen individually and at their congresses, appear to me only to be capable of grasping that narrow range of phenomena which fall, so to speak, within the rational band of the spectrum. Unless you can formulate your 'discoveries' within the range of rational, articulate speech you are not satisfied that you 'know'.
P.A.: That is probably so; since we try to conform to the conventions commonly accepted by the scientists as 'scientific' our formulations are vulnerable to the criticism that they are only rational statements - commonsense. Even so, they are challenged as being unsupported by evidence. We are criticized both for being platitudinous and incomprehensible -- "mad" as it is vulgarly called.
PRIEST: I wonder if you have considered 'scientists' as you call them.
P.A: May I ask if you have considered Christian Scientists?
PRIEST: Yes indeed, as I have considered Christian Philosophers. I do not exclude consideration of any phenomena, but we must consider how much time is available for 'consideration' between birth and death.
P.A: One of my objections to your school of thought is that it appears to encourage a belief in unlimited times such as life after death.
PRIEST: Unfortunately we are debited with the views -- usually mistaken -- that people have about what we teach.
P.A: You yourself appear to debit me with views about psycho-analysis which I do not hold; it would be a part of my task if you were an analysand to elucidate your assumptions so that you could contrast and compare them with any other ideas you might entertain. In this respect, I think that our activity is different from yours. You aspire to tell others how and what to think. We aspire only to show what people think -- the rest is their choice.
PRIEST: Fair enough; I have no quarrels with that. But I have a quarrel with psycho-analysts who talk as if they are subject to no such weakness.
P.A: Fair enough -- I reciprocate. We object to that kind of psycho-analyst. I would hope not to be of their number.
PRIEST: It sounds ideal.
P.A: It is, but we are aware of the difference between the ideal and the real. A few people have existed that who have done more to help others to discriminate between real and ideal than we have.
PRIEST: I don't wish to deny you the credit for it; religion also has played an important part in fostering that awareness.
P.A: Scandals of the Church and scandalous behavior of its devotees could, I suppose, be said to have taught people to discriminate, but that is hardly a virtue of religious activity, or an activity of which religions should claim to be proud.
PRIEST: Scandals of psycho-analysis are not different.....
" (AMF, II, 386-88)

There's a paradoxical situation. An analyst which consciously spouses the scientific outlook may be prey of a kind of blind fanaticism more typical of followers of the so-called "religious" sects than a self-declared Priest. Who, by his turn, may be more open to the unknown, and therefore more scientific than the self-declared scientist:

"P.A.: It certainly sounds as if I were lacking in mental flexibility. That is what I suspected about being dead. I never anticipated the possibility of experience after death, or I shall revise my views.
PRIEST: Let me recommend the less dogmatic approach, not least because you may be unfamiliar with dogma and its uses.
P.A.: I have usually considered dogma to be the analogue of the so called 'laws of nature'.
PRIEST: I believe it to be a formulation of the "thing itself".
P.A.: You claim, with the mystics, that you have direct experience of God. I should have thought your organization would have considered that heretical: a psychiatrist should suspect megalomania.
PRIEST: There are opinions which question the claim of any human animal to aspire to such experience. Dante only claims such direct experience as a mortal being can have
" (AMF, II, 421-2)

The next dialogue begins with the character "Man", a kind of improved Nazi invader. This character just acts-out, conquers and has a rational thinking linked to the bare concrete necessities of survival rather than to the mind's necessities that form real life; the character "Moriarty" was created to represent "Sherlock Holmes'" fiercest enemy.

"MAN: I shot you so you would lie do and stay down - and out. And silent. Your friend Robin too - years ago. I don't want any ghostly voices around. Anyone would think it wasn't bad enough with religious nonsense investing a future life and angel voices to add to the tumult.
ROBIN: I can't see that's any worse than P.A. and his crowd inventing minds and characters and psycho-somatic disturbances.
ROLAND: Doctors are as bad - new diseases and expensive new cures and specialists to go with thin.
MORIARTY: As one who has waged against religious nonsense much longer than -
P.A: Oh, come -- you are a creature of fiction yourself!
SHERLOCK HOLMES: But not religious fiction. Scientific fiction is entirely superior.
DEVIL: I am religious, but certainly I do not consider that I am fictious. I do not of course hold with the ridiculous theatrical costumes in which I am suppose to appear in gardens of Eden and such primitive landscapes. In fact I have always been most punctilious about my dress. I defy anyone to say they have ever seen me on anything but unobtrusive clothes, quietly and beautifully cut, and manners to which no real lady or gentleman could possibly take exception. Excuse me - you were about to say?
P.A: I confess I have supposed you inhabited the unconscious.
ALICE: At my school we certainly were taught that the Devil existed, but none of us believed it was true.
DEVIL: My dear lady -- I hardly know how to apologize for my lack of perspicacity. I remember your school very well. I frequently gave away the yearly prizes and used to address you at the close of the ceremony which I was vain enough to regard as a particularly pleasing annual tribute to my services. Very charming, if I may say so, you all looked. Your Headmistress -- I knew all of thin very well -- were gratifyingly deferential. I even donated a fund a prize to the most promising pupil - a scholarship - a university scholarship - for Moral Philosophy. No, no thanks - I never touch sherry. I find it induces a somewhat genuine geniality.
ROLAND: Now I understand why your face is so familiar-- at our Prize-giving Days! You were responsible for all our sexual troubles I suppose?
DEVIL: Certainly not. Sex, like sherry, often produces perfectly genuine feelings of love and affection. I relied on various religious teachers and moralists to inflame moral hatred for those harmless and agreeable practices -
SOMA: My department.
DEVIL: Quite so; as my friend P.A. was saying -
P.A: Excuse me; not your friend. I do not even believe in you.
DEVIL: You amaze me. I would have thought by this time the facts would have compelled you so catch up with Priest - he at least believes in me.
P.A: I do not waste time believing facts or anything I know. I save my credulity for what I do not know.
DEVIL: Like God?
P.A: Certainly. Both you and God I leave to Priest and his religious department.
ROLAND: But.....I suppose you would say you do not believe in men and women because they are facts which you know.
P.A: Certainly - I know some men and some women. I know they have minds as well as bodies.
SOMITE THIRTY: Somitically speaking I know a lot that I cannot make clear to you but that is factual enough to me. I have to borrow articulate speech from Soma.
SOMA: My difficulty exactly. I cannot make anything clear to Psyche unless I borrow a bellyache or headache or respiratory distress from somitic vocabulary for any of these post-natal structures. I believe in mind and personality as there is no evidence whatever for anything but Body. And when I manage to make somebody aware of a bellyache the probability is that they immediately drag in a 'cure'. As for my message, God knows -
DEVIL: God knows! Is Soma also among the religious?
ROSEMARY: You know that as well as I do. Some of healthier and most well-nourished bellies I know are to be found among the religious. The Celibates look particularly pregnant.
ROLAND: I know women who look pregnant. Sometimes they are.
P.A: I know pregnant silences -- I don't have to believe in thin. Seventy-five was speaking of all talking at once as a bedlam.
PRIEST: Milton spoke of Pandemonium.
DEVIL: That was before Reason took the chairmanship.
P.A: And Bedlam - only because Reason was such a bad Chairman. The so-called laws of logic were a prescription for Chaos. They left no living space at all for vitality. Even today it would be still-born if it had not found refuge in what Alice would call craziness or --
DOCTOR: Manic-depressive psychosis, or hysteria, or schizophrenia, etcetera, etcetera, etcetera - and quite right so.
P.A: Or Royal College of Physicians, or Royal College of Surgeons.
DOCTOR: Or the International Psycho-Analytic Association, or the Church." (AMF, III, 444-6)

"ROLAND: If you cannot believe in a religious solution I cannot 'believe" in facts. Facts do not offer an outlet for a religious impulse - only for scientific curiosity.
P.A.: Might they not be the same? The religious persons I know certainly think they are concerned with the Truth and nothing but the truth. It is often diffícult to retain a sense of awe in the face of what we are more likely to think of as a hundrum daily trivilialities rather than facts that merit to be treated with respect.
ROLAND: 'With respect' I could manage but not 'with awe'
ALICE: I would have thought htat 'awe' is more appropriate left to people who are religious.
P.A.: I agree that we should respect the language we use and be careful not to debase it.
ROBIN: Is there any fact you know and regard with awe?
P.A.: Certainly - I know awe inspired by the light courtain of Aurora, mountain -" (AMF, III, 514)

"ALICE: ....Religious people often think that "though the body dies the soul shall live for ever".
ROBIN: It's a nice idea.
ROLAND: "Nice" you call it? I think iy perfectly horrible - one life is enough. I do my best to maintain my life and that of my family, but that had provided me with enough pain and anxiety to get on with.
ALICE: What does P.A. say? Do you believe in and a future life?
P.A.: I have no doubt of the 'fact' of religion as a part, perhaps an unanienable part, of human character
". (AMF, III, 522)

The following dialogue was written after a round of Bion's travels to South America and also to some parts of North America. The same book ends with this same reference about his "America Experience". His acitivity was seen by himself as being distorted into a Priesthood, a fact he noticed and objected. It seins that he took it with good humour and puts himself as the character "Priest". It is also from this date his last-but-one chapter of Cogitations, where he states that people regarded him as a kind of deity (C, 376)

The attempts to idolize Dr Bion in his travels abroad: misplaced religiosity

Bion seems to think that a kind of priestly self is a part-object of his mind, and that the Priest-Bion is full - as any priest - of judgmental values, there remains the character "P.A." to bear the load of that which Dr Bion seemed to have as his goal. The most elevated goals of psycho-analysis - among them, the universality of neuroses and psychosis and the search of truth without lies and evasion - are stated again and again:

"ALICE: (to PRIEST) It is very pleasant to welcome you back to our group. I hope your trip was successful.
PRIEST: It was; I am glad to be back and to find you all looking so well. How's the debate been progressing?
ROBIN: Well, though I don't think we made any discoveries. We were wondering whether you could re-light the flame which seems to have grown to near extinction. How was your conference?
PRIEST: Much like others I have known - in fact I suspect my experience has not been so different from yours. Your account could be transferred to the religious conference without verbal alterations -- insignificant, but not in the eyes of God.
ROBIN: Why drag in God? We have no evidence that he exists.
PRIEST: True. But the fact we cannot prove that God exists may be a matter of importance only to our self-admiring selves. "Self-yeast of spirit a dull dough sours", as the poet says. "But swollen with Wind and the rank mist they draw....", as an earlier poet said.
ROLAND: You do not mention that the two you quote were of opposing sects.
PRIEST: Of opposing sects, yes; but at one in agreeing there is a God.
ROLAND: Between them there is not one God, but two. In fact they seem to be as many gods as there are people to believe in them.
P.A.: I agree, but that is only saying that different individuals have different ideas about whom they are addressing and in what manner they should communicate their approach.
PRIEST: That does not prove that God does not exist.
ALICE: I think the discussion is pointless. Some people have an experience which they cannot explain in any way comparable to that in which they describe other experiences. The sense of contact with God is not similar to other contacts.
P.A.: You are, here and now, making exactly that comparison. That could be because when you speak of "contact with God" you are using "contact" metaphorically; when you speak of contact with air or water or Tom Smith you do not mean it to be supposed that it is a metaphorical contact. I have not had such an experience and therefore find no necessity for any explanation. Freud had a good deal to say about the psycho-analysis of religion; he seemed to think there was no need to seek any other than a psycho-analytic explanation.
ROBIN: In other words - he did not believe in God.
P.A.: That could be a conclusion. I do not know if he had any other views.
PRIEST: Whether he had or not, I cannot see that any one man's views, however impressive, can be regarded as relevant to someone who is not Freud. Freud spoke of a psycho-analysis of religion; if I had time I could write a book about the religion of psycho-analysis.
P.A.: Could you give us a rough idea of what your book would contain?
PRIEST: I think I could write an introductory volume or two about the many 'religions' that have existed, been discarded for another, been in turn replaced as more in conformity with the needs of time. For all its apparatus of erudition I see Psycho-analysis as yet one more religion - not the True religion - destined to flourish for its day and then be heard no more.
P.A.: Why categorize it as a religion? Most of us try to be scientific; this is tantamount to claiming only one standard - the Truth. It is not compatible with the religious stress on truth, but that does not make it into a religion.
PRIEST: The fact that people who have claimed to be God-fearing show little respect for the truth does not make all religion false, or God only a fiction spawned by a fevered imagination. Is that not more likely to be true of psycho-analysis? After all, who are the originators of psycho-analysis? Is it not generated by neurotics and worse?
P.A.: I think it likely, but the revolt against neurosis and psychosis is also generated from amongst the same people. If you gather together a group of neurotics, psychotics, hypochondriacs and other disturbed people they soon rebel against themselves and their troubles.
ROBIN: Is that any more than what people do who want to escape the consequences of a mistaken choice?
P.A.: I think so. I doubt if individuals make a choice; they cannot know what the 'choice' is. The first requisite of a choice is that the person making it knows what the alternatives are from which he or she is to choose. But assuming that they have had a choice and made the wrong one, ought we not to attempt to correct it? If the belief in a almighty spirit is mistake, if experience leads us to suppose that there is no such spirit, we should cease behaving as if there were.
PRIEST: I agree. But does your experience support the Idea that people give it any serious thought? From what I see of psycho-analysts, they do not know what religion is; they simply transfer their allegiance from one undisciplined, desire-ridden system of emotion and ideas to another. I have heard psycho-analysts discussing; their discussion itself betrays all the characteristics, which I have recognized as pathognomonic of religion of a primitive, undisciplined, intellectually unstructured kind. They argue heatedly, adducing national, racial, aesthetic and other emotionally coloured motivations in support or heir particular brand of activity.
P.A.: I would not deny that we do all these things, but we do in fact continue to question ourselves and out motives in a disciplined manner. We may not succeed; neither do we give up the attempt.
PRIEST: I hate to appear to sit in judgment but I have to judge, to appraise such evidence as I have it touches my private life and my responsibility for my own thoughts and actions. You have as many sects of psycho-analysts as there are in any religion I know. You have as many psycho-analytic 'saints' with their individual following of devotees.
P.A.: We are humans and show all weaknesses of that biological category. We do not cease to worship and adore because worship and adoration are basic, fundamental and therefore unalterable, inalienable characteristics; we try to allow for that fact.
PRIEST: Ought you not then to make room for the capacity to worship and adore - even to depend on something worthy of dependence, adoration and worship? Otherwise such capacities either "fust in us unused", or become debased by the object worshipped.
P.A.: True. The individual who adores a particular nation, or drug - such as alcohol - may be debased by that fact and unable to release himself from a loyalty which has become debasing and dangerous. Loyalties that are health-giving and growth-fostering art one stage, become a barrier when the individual cannot transcend them. The barrier can be anything from the limitations imposed by our animal nature, to something temporary that become hardened, calcified, rigid - I borrow the terms from medical description of arterial degeneration; there is reason to suppose some spiritual counterpart, some unwillingness to entertain new ideas, which is inseparable from advancing physical age.
ROBIN: Cannot the 'religion' of psycho-analysis, or the investigation of psycho-analysis by theologians, teach psycho-analysts something valuable, as the psycho-analysis of religion could teach theologians something valuable for theology? Why should be any difficulty?
P.A.: There is a difficulty: the very efficacy of teaching is a matter for caution because we do not know what those taught will learn. Children often learn to emulate their parent's faults. Even the good intentions of parents and teachers can be nullified by that fact.
PRIEST: What man professes is not so important as what man is.
" (AMF, III, 542-6)

The religion of the psycho-analytic movement

Taking into account that as it occurs in most of Freud's legacy, that Bion uses them in agreement and had nothing to add or to expand, the same seems to occur with the psycho-analysis of religion. What he expanded was the scrutiny of the religion of psycho-analysis. Perhaps his own developments allow us to state the issue more precisely: the religion of the psycho-analytic movement.

Bion refers as having experienced when undergoing an analysis with Mrs. Klein;his view about the place occupied by literature as an "ancestral psycho-analysis" is also valid to religion.

The reader must be reminded that the character "Rosemary's mother" represents a whore.

"ROBIN I appreciate the point, but I would like to know more about the 'illumination'.
P.A. Had you not better ask yourself to whom you owe such illumination as had saved your journey from being plunged in everlasting night, or, worse still, in the blaze of everlasting certainty and good fortune?
PRIEST May I introduce a note of pity for the unfortunates who have plunged in the everlasting gloom and self-satisfaction of scientific knowledge - a fate which has deterred many from the joys of devotion to God and respect for His truth.
ALICE Surely scientists devotes themselves in all modesty to the truth. Even women have been known to wish to bear children in whom a love to truth can germinate; we are not only ambitious to be sexually satisfied.
ROSEMARY Most of the men my mother knew behaved as if that was the only thing in life.
ROLAND Good God!
PRIEST Poor God! Can you imagine what it would be like to be worshipped by men and women? Even Socrates is said to have been tried and condemned to death by his betters. Some of you may remember the story of the Garden of Gethsemane.
ROBIN God Almighty first planted a garden and indeed, said Bacon, it is the purest of all pleasures.
P.A. One of the purest of human pleasures appears to be the pleasure of cruelty. Could Priest enlighten us about this?
PRIEST Perhaps I can do so by reminding you of a religious doctrine of the Immaculate Conception; that is in contrast to 'human pleasures'. It seems to me that psycho-analyst's discoveries may be something which has been known to the Church for a long time.
P.A. Psycho-analysts who respect the truth have done and still try to do just that - respect the truth. But we do not put it in the terms you use.
PRIEST But what you say and the way you say it matter. For this reason the Catholic Church is particular about what it says and how it says it. We are often accused of narrow-mindedness and bigotry for being particular and not co-operating with people who believe themselves to be our allies.
P.A We have been deflected from our problem, namely, to account for facts that lead us to think that the existing theories are inadequate but too true to be discarded without loss. Maybe it is significant that the discussion that obtrudes centres on ownership, on who created or owned the idea.
PRIEST Or rather, who owned the owner -God or man? But let us debate the idea further tomorrow.........
PRIEST What is the psycho-analytic view of the original sin? Do you deny there is such a thing?
P.A. I hesitate to say I believe or disbelieve in something reported as a fact by someone else. I have been convinced that certain observations could more easily explained if there were such a thing as original guilt.
" (AMF, III, 560-2)

"BION: I get the idea -thanks to thebi-lingual description achieved by Aliceand Rosemary co-operating to describe
ALICE: Bitch.
BION:Your happy combination and clarification you achieve by your joint efforts encourages me to draw to another union not unlike the one I was describing between our two enemies Soma and Psyche. Sometimes the two characters do not share the same body; each contributes a real physical and imaginary component. They tend to be over-simply described as 'homosexual' or 'heterosexual', or 'married', or 'in partnership'. In those situations in which the disguise -- the conventional costume - excites attention psychiatric attention, they are liable to be described as participating in a folie-à-deux. If they excite the attention of the Board of Trade they may become known as a famous business venture, although the dividing line - caesura? - between that and a bankruptcy, or criminal association, or un-happy-marriage, may not be so easy to determine in close investigations as it is in a purely literary or grammatical scrutiny. Words and articulate speech are wonderful inventions -still in their infancy.
ROLAND: Yet you psycho-analysts, talk as if you were learned people.
P.A: True; and that often leads the cognoscenti - amongst whose prophetic community perhaps I should include Roland -- to suppose that we know nothing whatever.
PRIEST: It is often assumed that theologians, priests, prophets - as P.A.'s intonation just suggested - also know nothing, that God is a figment of imagination. There is truth in the criticism because the gods most people believe in are figments created by such imaginative capacity as is available.
P.A.: Some religions could be described as folies-à-deux; that is, relationships between the individual and a god created by the individual. These realities are fundamentally real, but are made to appear unreal by verbal dependence on splitting as the basis of articulate speech. For example, we speak of 'religious melancholia'. A poor labourer I knew was in a state of profound depression because he believed that the cow on which he depended to earn a living had tuberculosis.
BION: Who or what had tuberculosis? His cow? His wife? Or daughter? Or the society he had to sere? These questions cannot be investigated here -- only in contact with the patient.
P.A.: There is always the risk the investigator will catch the complaint - a risk he may not want to run. The analogy in the mental sphere of activity is the psychiatrist's fear that he himself with 'catch the complaint' - or find he has already caught it - if he allows himself to have a close contact.
" (AMF, III, 565)


No review of Bion's contributions of theme should avoid to scrutinize a most misunderstood analogy that Bion used to describe the psycho-analytic negative realm of the id, of the unconscious is his resorting to verbal formulations originally found in Plato's theory of forms, in Kant's unearthing of it, in the Jewish and Christian Cabala and in Buber's extensions of them.

"ALICE You say you have never had direct experience of a mysterious event; do you mean by that that you have not been in a room at the time when someone, not you, was under the influence of a mystical force?
P.A. I have had no evidence that either I or the other was passing through such an experience. I only remember two or three occasions when an analysand of mine actually claimed a mystical origin of the event. I have been more impressed when the individual was not consciously making such a claim
" (AMF, III, 525)


There is a strong similarity of Bion, Freud and Freud's forerunners in the German Romantic movement: all of them were also accused of "mystics" in their time; even Hume was accused of this.

He regards religion as relevant as a school of thought; he nourishes some objections that nevertheless do not preclude his appreciation of the achievements of this "school of thought". In one of the many passages that he resorts to a confrontation between the imaginary character "Psycho-analyst" ("P.A.") with the imaginary character, "Priest", Bion states:

"P.A: One of my objections to your school of thought is that it appears to encourage a belief in unlimited times such as life after death.
PRIEST: Unfortunately we are debited with the views -- usually mistaken -- that people have about what we teach.
P.A: You yourself appear to debit me with views about psycho-analysis which I do not hold; it would be a part of my task if you were an analysand to elucidate your assumptions so that you could contrast and compare them with any other ideas you might entertain. In this respect, I think that our activity is different from yours. You aspire to tell others how and what to think. We aspire only to show what people think -- the rest is their choice.
" (AMF, II, 388).

The term has serious practical usage and links with the counterparts in reality hinted by the term "intuition", in the here and now of the decisive moment of the analytic interpretation.

Let us resort to Bion in order to try to illuminate the issue in psycho-analytical terms:

"The intuitive background is that which I have "bound" by terms such as pre-conceptions, definition, notation, attention...[Note of this dictionary's author: the reader must have firmly in his or her mind that last and last-but-one terms are Freud's functions of the Ego. See Freud, Formulations on the Two Principles of Mental Functioning, 1910] .I shall borrow freely any material that is likely to simplify my task, starting fro Plato's theory of Forms. As I understand the term, various phenomena, such as the appearance of a beautiful object, are significant not because they are beautiful or good but because they serve to "remind" the beholder of the beauty or the good which was once, but no longer is, known. This object, of which the phenomenon serves as a reminder, is a Form. I claim Plato as a supporter for the pre-conception, the Kleinian internal object, the inborn anticipation.....Phenomena, the term being used as Kant might use it, are transformed into representations". (T, 138)

Bion states that the final products of transformations (q.v.) may be regarded as representations of the individual's experience of the numinous realm, reality, O, the id. Nevertheless, he also states that the significance of O is not that of a "O-in-itself" which corresponds, in experience, of the idea of owning absolute truth - but rather, this significance "derives from and inheres in the Platonic Form" (T, 138).

Lest any doubts remain about Bion's ideas on Religion, one may read one of his last formulations:

BION ...I wonder how many plausible theories have been used and bewildered the human race. I would like to know. I am not sure of the ease with which ": plausible" theories are produced. In this context of "plausible theories" about which we are talking, the plausible theory) or "convincing interpretation" may be hard to come by. It can be plausible and false. Witness the idea "that the sun rises"- what trouble it has caused! We do no know the cost in suffering caused with the belief in a Christian God, or the god of Abraham's Ur, of Hitler's Germany, or peyotism - or god of any kind " (AMF, I. 172)

In discussing his last books that try to be "a description of psycho-analysis" (AMF, 86) Bion makes clear his kind of relation with that which is normally called religious manifestations: "I have to employ an extremely inadequate apparatus to discuss it. I have to manufacture the apparatus as I proceed. I claim that it is artistic though the art has not yet been created; it is religious though the religion has not been and never can (without ceasing to be a religion) be made to conform to any of the dogmata and institutions hitherto regarded as characteristic of religion." (AMF, I, 88)
Faith, Act of Faith


Faith is a term borrowed from Lurianic/ and Christian cabala. Bion uses it to describe a "scientific state of mind" (AI, 32). It was devised to use in the decisive moment of interpretation.

It refers to a sense of experiencing the existence of reality and truth. Even though truth is not wholly reachable, comprehensible or amenable to be uttered or owned, its existence can be intuited and used. The experiencing of an evolving truth or reality as it is, is a transient one -- but unmistakable. It is not a mystical posture as it should seem, but it is an acknowledgement that trained intuition can be developed and put into practice.

The intuition is exercised during the experience of deprivation (St John of the Cross' "three dark nights of the soul"), of the no-thing. This deprivation includes, first, a discipline on memory, desire and understanding: "The 'act of faith' depends on disciplined denial of memory and desire. A bad memory is not enough: what is ordinarily called forgetting is a bad as remembering. It is necessary to inhibit dwelling on memories and desires" (AI, 41).

The term was introduced to further differentiate "to know about" and "to be" (or "being") whatever it is. It deals with attempts of apprehending reality as it is. It was devised (in an implicit way) in Transformations, where an appeal to the mystic tradition was made for the first time. It was depicted in Attention and Interpretation and it was expressed vividly in A Memoir of the Future. More specifically, faith tries to depict the state of mind that is "welcome" when one tries to discipline oneself from memory, understanding and desire. Still more specifically, "faith" allows one to travel from K (processes of knowledge) to O (origin, ultimate truth), or K_O. All those definitions of faith are in Attention and Interpretation, p. 31 and followings.

Its intuitive nature is akin to that which must be practiced by the infant who, equipped with a pre-conception of a breast, looks for a real breast to match with it. The real matching is possible when the baby tolerates the "no-breast" part of the experience.

"It must 'evolve' before it can be apprehended and it is apprehended when it is thought just as the artist's O is apprehensible when it has been transformed into a work of art. However, the act of faith is not a statement....has no association with memory or desire or sensation. It has a relationship to thought analogous to the relationship of a priori knowledge to knowledge...It does not lead to knowledge 'about' something, but knowledge 'about' something may be the outcome of a defence against the consequences of an 'act of faith'. A thought has as its realization a no-thing. An 'act of faith' has as its background something that is unconscious and unknown because it has not happened"(AI, 35)

It is "pure Freud" and "Pure Kant", in what concerns to psychic reality ("the analyst whose aim is O", AI, 29), material reality, or manifest content and latent content, or numena and phenomena.

"A term that would express approximately what I need to express is 'faith' -- faith that there is an ultimate reality and truth -- the unknown, unknowable, 'formless infinite'. This must be believed of every object of which the personality can be aware: the evolution of ultimate reality (signified by O) has issued in objects of which the individual can be aware. The objects of awareness are aspects of the 'evolved' O and are such that the sensuously derived mental functions are adequate to apprehend them. For them faith is not required. For O it is The analyst is not concerned with such sensuously apprehended objects or with knowledge of such objects. Memories and desires are worthless but inevitable features that he encounters in himself as he works. He is concerned with these objects in his analyzed because he is concerned with the working of the analysand's mind. His analysand will express his awareness of O in people and things by formulations representing the intersection of evolutions of O with the evolution of his awareness...There can be no rules about the nature of the emotional experience that will show that the emotional experience if ripe for interpretation....I can only suggest rule for the analyst that will help him to achieve the frame of mind in which he is receptive to O, then he may feel impelled to deal with the intersection of the evolutions of O with the domain of subjects of sense or of formulations based on the senses. Whether he does so or not cannot depend on rules for O.....but only on his ability to beat one with O.
My last sentence represents an 'act' of what I have called 'faith'. It is in my view a scientific statement because for me 'faith' is a scientific state of mind
" (AI, 29-30)

This experience can be felt as fearful: "by eschewing memories, desires, and the operations of memory he can approach the domain of hallucinosis and 'acts of faith' by which alone he can become at one with his patient's hallucinations and so effect transformations O_K" (AI, 36).

It allows for catastrophic change and atonement.

Misuses and Misconceptions: Adding to the solipsistic/relativistic trend, superficial readings take Bion as a religious writer. It is not: "An 'act of faith' is peculiar to scientific procedure and must be distinguished from the religious meaning, with which it is invested in conversational usage" (AI, 34-5).

The term is simply an attempt to express just "approximately" and convey Bion's observations on a state of mind that is conducive to scientific (that is, truthful) interpretations and insights in the analytic setting and is not to be taken as a concept.

To quote again Bion's writing, that may - hopefully - preclude preconceived interpretations of his work: "A term that would express approximately what I need to express is 'faith' -- faith that there is an ultimate reality and truth -- the unknown, unknowable, 'formless infinite'......But the act of faith is not a statement". It is not a learnable statement to bettered in the session, it is not a theoretical or technical statement either; it depicts "approximately" a posture.


Perhaps together with many reader's confusion between mysticism and the mystic tradition, a more clear view of Bion's contributions to the relationships between science and religion demand a closer scrutiny of the extensive and pervasive use does of the concept of intuition. Freud avoided carefully the concept due to special circumstances of his time. Namely, his attempt to outdistance from Shelling's disciples' distortion of Naturphilosphie. We tried to deal with this issue elsewhere

"The analyst conducting a session must decide instinctively the nature of the communication that the patient is making" (T, 34)

Kant's definition of Intuition (Anschauung) still is the only one available that has precision and wide acceptance: it is the contact with reality without brokerage of rational thinking. Taking into account the Kantian ethos of Freud's discoveries (which were made explicit by himself; Freud, ) and more than it, the quotations that Bion makes from Kant in what concerns to intuition, perhaps it is not unwise to adopt this definition.

Intuition is a word that Bion brought back to the analytic vocabulary. It happened after decades of the psycho-analytic movement's distrust and abhorrence towards it. The attitude is explainable due to at least two factors:

(i) difficulties in the translation of the word, as used by Freud in German to other languages;
(ii) the existence of an obnoxious misuse of the term in Germany during Freud's formative years. This misuse debased it, allowing it to turn into a banal vulgarization of a very precise definition by Kant. The followers of Schelling's version of an esoteric Naturphilosophie (in itself a far cry from a discipline of the same name created by Goethe) as well as the criminal development of pagan religions such as the nazism were responsible by this debasing of the term, one of the many offshoots of little learning which characterized the excesses of the Romanticism. Freud wanted to keep psycho-analysis safe from being mistaken by those tendencies. Some other authors, notably Ferenczi, did not shun from stating that they relied on their intuition to deal with patients and even to make discoveries in the field of psycho-analysis.

Other fields of research also suffered with this during Freud's time, especially when he discovered the possibility of analyzing dreams. This is brought home to one who is informed about Max Planck and Albert Einstein's tribulations with Ernest Mach. The latter explicitly condemned a science that relied on intuition. Mach came to the point of founding an entire movement against it, that became known as "neo-positivism". Whose development, incidentally, developed into surprising ways, judging by the work of its three principal authors, Wittgenstein (who abandoned it), Schlick (who died too early to review all his initial positions but had time to begin it) and Carnap.

The first time (as far as got this author's research) that Bion uses the term "intuition" is in his paper "Differentiation of the Psychotic from the Non-Psychotic Personality". It has to do with the minute splitting the person do on his ego, trying to expel those parts which could give them "aware of the reality he hates" (ST, 47). This act damages his perception and self-perception: "All those features of the personality which should one day provide the foundation for intuitive understudying of himself and others are jeopardized at the outset"" (ST, 47).

Intuition is something we use when we must make explorations into the unknown. The unconscious, in other words. Again, the apprehension of the semantic field of the word in German helps the analyst here: unbewu_t means not-known (from wissen, knowledge), This is possible through consciousness, or as Bion illuminated, through a selective flowing from conscious to unconscious through the contact-barrier (q.v.).

The analyst must tell to the patient that which he does not know (Freud)
"The emotion to which attention is drawn should be obvious to the analyst, but unobserved by the patient; an emotion that is obvious to the patient is usually painfully obvious and avoidance of unnecessary pain must be one aim in the exercise of analytic intuition. Since the analyst's capacity for intuition should enable him to demonstrate an emotion before it has become painfully obvious it would help if our search for the elements of emotions was directed to making intuitive deductions easier" (EP, 74)

"...the analyst must have a view of the psycho-analytic theory of the Oedipus situation. His understanding of that theory can be regarded as a transformation of that theory and in that case all his interpretations, verbalized or not, of what is going on in a session may be seen as transformations of an O that is bi-polar. One pole of O is trained intuitive capacity transformed to effect its juxtaposition with what is going on in the analysis and the other is in the facts of the analytic experience that must be transformed to show what approximation the realization has to the analyst's preconceptions - the preconception here being identical with Ta_ as the end-product of Ta_ as the end-product.
Freud stated as one of the criteria by which a psycho-analyst was to be judged was the degree of understanding allegiance he paid to the theory of the Oedipus complex. He thus showed the importance he attached to this theory and time has done nothing to suggest that he erred by overestimation; evidence of the Oedipus complex is never absent though it can be unobserved. Melanie Klein, in her paper on "Early Phases of the Oedipus Complex", made observations of Oedipus elements where their presence was previously undetected
" (T, 50)

"Analytically trained intuition makes it possible to say the patient is talking about the primal scene and from the development of associations to add shades of meaning to fill out the understanding of what is taking place". (T, 18). Being intuition, the exercising of the mind's ability to apprehend reality with not interference of the logical thinking, this analytically trained intuition alone makes possible the allegiance that Freud told us that was needed to a person entitle himself as analyst. That is, allegiance to the Oedipal configurations. It is not a puzzle, nor something to be understood - for any human being is born from a Mother and a Father and experiences it. But it must be intuited and seen through the analyst's own analysis. In Bion's words, learnt from experience.

The Grid was devised to help the analyst train his intuition:

"Although home work is not done in an atmosphere of emotional tension, grid and transformation theory are applied to the recollection of such situations. The analyst's intuition, which is the object of these reviews to exercise and develop, is operating in contact with the tense situation. It is important to distinguish between the grid (as it appears in my scheme) operating in tranquility on recollections, and the grid as part of the analyst's intuitive contact with the emotional situation itself
" (T, 75-6)

"If the psycho-analytical situation is accurately intuited -- I prefer this term to "observed" or "heard" or "seen" as it does not carry the penumbra of sensuous association - the psycho-analyst finds that ordinary conversational English is surprising adequate for the formulation of this interpretation." (ST, 134).

Intuitive psycho-analysis depends of the analyst's relationship with the breast:

"The rules governing points and lines which have been elaborated by geometers may be reconsidered by reference back to the emotional phenomena that were replaced by "the place (or space) where the mental phenomena were". Such a procedure would establish an abstract deductive system based on a geometric foundation with intuitive psycho-analytic theory as its concrete realization. The statements (i) the resumption by the psyche of an emotional experience that has been detoxicated by a sojourn in the good breast (Melanie Klein) and (ii) the transformation of the emotional experience into a geometrical formulation and the use of this geometrical formulation as the counterpart of a concrete realization for a geometrically based, rigorously formulated, deductive system (possibly algebraic, may now be regarded as the (i) intuitive psycho-analytic and (ii) axiomatic deductive representations of the same process." (T, 121-122).

In terms of communication, Bion was not satisfied, as the continuation of the phrase makes clear. The replacement of this quasi-mathematical notation by a quasi-artistic notation as attempted in A Memoir of the Future would confirm his dissatisfaction:

"Both statements are verbal representations of a realization and neither of them is satisfactory; nor is much improvement likely by mastery of the medium of verbal expression. The intuitive statement lends itself to the representation of genetic stages; the axiomatic formulation lends itself to the representation of a use" (T, 122)

"Mathematics, science as known hitherto, can provide no model" (AMF, I, 61)

Concreteness coupled with "enforced splitting" (Learning from Experience, chapters V-VI) are real obstacles to exercising intuitive psycho-analysis or real psycho-analysis in the absence of the object. The problem echoes the baby's problem when it must introject an object that is deprived of its concrete aspect. There is a basic weakness in the verbal formulations of elements suitable to represent genetic stages of thinking. The basic weakness partakes the nature of the basic weakness of a beta-element, that is, a thing-in-itself. But things-in-themselves have no capacity to saturation for they are already saturated. The nature of those elements is material and there is no "No", no negative that allows newness to enter into scene.

"The element that represents genetic stages appears to have or to require a capacity for saturation, for becoming pregnant. I have phrased my last phrase in terms that illustrate the difficulty that arises when a term that in some contexts gains by its metaphorical quality (a "pregnant statement") loses communicative quality is it is employed in a context where its metaphorical quality ceases to be metaphorical because its context has approximated it to a beta-element - it is, relative to its context, saturated." (T, 122). Therefore intuitive psycho-analysis is an impossible task to those professionals who deal with the verbalization of the patients at their face value. This is especially significant in "reconstructions" (by the so called analyst) and "recollections" of the past (by the patient) as well as in the creation of an impossibility to deal with free associations and with dreams. The interpretation of dreams turns to be an a priori or an ad hoc manipulations of signs and theories. The metaphorical value of the theory is lost too and the theory is taken as a thing-in-itself. No theory seems to be spared of this.

What are the obstacles to exercise the intuition? There are at least two: (i) the prevalence of desire, memory and understanding; (ii) the idea that transformations in K can replace O - rather than being a step towards O.

The formalist tradition in psycho-analysis dictates an a priori application of pre-learned theories. It provoked a multiplication of verbal formulations and theories that preclude the intuition of the invariants, pointers to O, amidst the material; the same multiplication precludes the description of same basic configurations. Fear of unknown is at the basis of all of that and was depicted years later:

"SHERLOCK The simple part of it has been dealt with by Watson. You heard that fellow Bion? Nobody has ever heard of him or of Psycho-analysis. He thinks it is real, but that his colleagues are engaged in an activity which is only a more or less ingenious manipulation of symbols. There is something in what he says. There is a failure to understand that any definition must deny a precious truth as well as carry an unsaturated component" (AMF, I, 92)

All attempts to keep a theory free of this, to arrive at fresh formulations of that which Freud discovered were doomed to meet the same fate. The self- entitled "Freudians" did this with Freud's contributions; the self entitled "Kleinians" and neo-kleinians repeated the act and the "Bionians" got to the same way:

"PA We are all scandalized by bigotry. We are none of us bigot-generators; that is, we none of us admit to being the spring from whom bigotry flows. As a result we do not recognize those of our offspring of whose characters we disapprove. Indeed, Melanie Klein discovered that primitive, infantile omnipotence was characterized by fantasies of splitting off undesired features and then evacuating them.
ROLAND I am sure you don't mean that children think like that?
P.A. It would be inaccurate and misleading to say so. That is why Melanie Klein called them "omnipotent phantasies". But although I found her verbalizations illuminating. With the passage of time and further investigation which her discoveries made possible, her formulations were debased and became inadequate. These primitive elements of thought are difficult to represent by any verbal formulation, because we have to rely on language which was elaborated later for other purposes. When I tried to employ meaningless terms - alpha and beta were typical - I found that "concepts without intuition which are empty and intuitions without concepts which are blind" rapidly became ' black holes into which turbulence had seeped and empty concepts flooded with riotous meaning'
"(AMF, II, 229)

In 1965, Bion would insert the classical definition of hallucination into his framework proposed after Freud, to form the "intuitive psycho-analytic background" (T, 138). Hallucination is seen "as a dimension of the analytic situation in which, together with the remaining "dimensions", these objects are sense-able (if we include analytic intuition or consciousness, taking a lead from Freud, as a sense-organ of psychic quality)" (T, 115).... "The psycho-analyst must not allow himself to be deflected from the vertex from which the emotional events, when they have evolved, become "intuitable". The study of hallucination is at its beginning, not at its beginning, not its end." (ST, 161)

"The rules governing point and lines which have been elaborated by geometers may be reconsidered by reference back to the emotional phenomena that were replaced by "the place (or space) where the mental phenomena were". Such a procedure would establish an abstract deductive system based on a geometric foundation with intuitive psycho-analytic theory as its concrete realization. " (T, 121).

The "intuitive psycho-analytic" representation of a basic emotional experience -- infantile helplessness -- is expressed by the following statement: "the resumption by the psyche of an emotional experience that has been detoxicated by a sojourn in the good breast (Melanie Klein) " (T, 122). The "intuitive statement lends itself to the representation of genetic stages". In Bion's text there is an expansion of axiomatic formulations (transformations of emotional experiences into points, the place where a breast was and other more sophisticated formulations) that lead themselves to representations of uses.

Intuition and geometry

"As part of an intuitive psycho-analytic psycho-analytic theory, that the patient has an experience, such as an infant might have when the breast is withdrawn, of facing emotions that are unknown, unrecognized as belonging to himself, and confused with an object which he but recently possessed. Further descriptions only add to the multiplicity of which I already complain as the reader will see if he consults any analytic description of infantile behavior. The relationship of these representations with the realizations approximating to them may be compared with the axiomatic geometric deductive space that I wish to introduce as a step towards formulations that are precise, communicable without distortion, and more nearly adequate to cover all situations that are basically the same. I suggest the following comparisons: (i) "Unknown", in the model afforded by the intuitive psycho-analytical theory, with "unknown", in the mathematical sense in which I wish to use "geometric space". (ii) "Variable", as applied to the sense of instability and insecurity in the model of infantile anxiety, with "variable", as I wish to apply it to geometric space.....The relationship of geometric space to the psycho-analytic intuitive theory that I propose as its realization; the further relationship of the psycho-analytical intuitive theory to the clinical experience which I consider is its realization; together they represent a progression such as that in the transformations of an experience into a poem - "emotion recollected in tranquility. The geometric transformation may be regarded as a representation, "detoxicated'( that is, with the painful emotion made bearable) of the same realization as that represented ( but with the painful emotion expressed), by the intuitive psycho-analytic theory. This implies that any individual capable of making the transformation form O , when O is a psychic reality, to ___is capable of doing for himself something analogous to projective identification into the good breast, he being identified with himself and the breast" sc.
"(T, 124).

In other words, if one does not realize what a breast and a mother is - in cases of primary narcissism and envy - one perhaps cannot be an analyst, nor an artist, or scientist

In discussing bizarre responses to interpretations which would be quite correct, in connection with hallucination and hallucinosis Bion states: "...the psycho-analytical game may develop the analyst's intuition (as a musician's exercises facilitate his capacity to perform an actual musician though not themselves being more than scales and other manual exercises) in preparation for the work required of it in analysis"(T, 130)...."that state of mind in which ideas may be supposed to assume the force of sensations through the confusion of thought with the objects of thought, and the excess of passion animating the creations of imagination (I use Shelley's formulation of his poetic intuition to provide the background realization for the statement "hallucinosis" "(T, 133-4)

What is needed to form a background to exercise the intuitive psycho-analytic approach? Those functions that Freud saw as belonging to the ego, or the consciousness as a sense organ for the apprehension of psychic qualities:

"The intuitive psycho-analytic background is that which I have "bound" by terms such as preconception, definition, notation, attention" (T,138)

One of the metaphors that Bion resorted to was that of St John of The Cross. Intuition can be exerted when one allows oneself to experience the "Dark night of the senses". Which corresponds to Freud's abstinence of worldly values, which include knowledge: "...the intuitive approach is obstructed because the "faith" involved is associated with the absence of inquiry, or "dark night" to K." (T, 159)

On Gist - and feminine intuition

The following formulations, being made approximately three years before Bion's death, perhaps subsume his latest postures, including in a clinic situation:

"ROBIN I should be interested to know what P.A. thinks of maternal intuition. Do you think that paternally gifted psycho-analysts would be capable of such fine discrimination?" (AMF, III, 515)

"P.A.: Sometimes I think they do, but not often. Nevertheless psycho-analysis enables the psycho-analyst to learn something and even to pass it on. There are occasions when a resistance is surmounted with astounding speed; a number of facts display their relationship for the first time. It is almost a revelation.
PRIEST: You use a term which is part of our technical equipment .
P.A.: I thought you would notice that. I wished that we could make clear both the verbal fact you mention and the psychic reality which corresponds. The concentration of meaning would require the concision which can be achieved in music or painting. Would my analysand undergo the work necessary to understand if I could achieve such precision? Audiences rarely listen to music or look at pictures; still less do they think it worth while listening to what an analyst says.
PRIEST: These difficulties have been familiar to the religious for many centuries. Music, painting, poetry, vestments gorgeous and austere -- all have been used as auxiliaries.
P.A.: I have found that the auxiliary can easily be transferred by the receptor from the periphery to the centre. Messages intended to convey profound truth -- the Iliad, the Aeneid, Paradise Lost, the Divine Comedy -- have all in turn become famous as gorgeous settings for the precious 'stone' which is outshone by its attendant splendour. Krishna warned Arjuna that he might not be able to survive the revelation of the godhead which he, Krishna, was prepared to vouchsafe. Dante has only rarely found a reader able to discern the vision to which he points in doubt whether he could pass beyond the "evil days" on which he had fallen; it was indeed his tragedy.
PRIEST: The most profound expression of despair known to us was "Why has thou forsaken me?"
P.A.: This discovery is one which all are afraid to make. A theory that the human animal is not going to call on God do to for him what he must do for himself in loneliness and despair cannot be formulated; any formulation is a substitute for that which cannot be substituted.
ROLAND: Do you suggest that that psycho-analytic interpretation is the explanation of Christ's reported on the Cross?
P.A.: You show that I have failed to make clear that I attach the utmost importance, in the practice of analysis, to the presence of analyst and analysand at the same time, in the same place and in conditions in which the the consciously discernible facts are available to both people. These are the minimum conditions, not the maximum. Only does psycho-analysis become an activity open to the two participants. You suggest that I am making a statement about events reorted to have taken place almost two thousand years ago; if you believe that to be the gist of my remarks what might you not say about my opinions when I am not present to defend them?
ROBIN: I don't see why you are angry. Roland's mistake seems to me to be natural and understandable. I had not observed that he was misrepresenting you.
P.A.: As I see the situation I would be lacking in proper feeling if I were not angry.
ROLAND: That's your opinion.
P.A.: That is what I said. Whose else should it be? Yours? Well, why not? I hope I am not doing anything to obstruct your freedom.
ROLAND: Your answer is hostile and I can detect, even though you may not, impatience, sarcasm and irony in it too.
P.A.: I shall not deny or confirm your observations; I think you want me to be so impressed by the facts that you observe, that I would not dare to make an interpretation at all.
ROSEMARY: Like your interpretation of Man's holster.
P.A.: I still think it would be wiser to interpret it as containing a gun than to accept his offer to interpret it as containing chocolate.
ROBIN & ROLAND: So do we.
P.A.: We have many facts available; if we interpret each one in isolation, the facts and the interpretations do not amount to much; taken together, the 'gist' can be interpreted. The Mathematical sum cannot be mathematically expressed, yet the 'gist' can be.
ROLAND: What is your definition of 'gist'?
P.A.: I have none, because a definition would add to an already overwhelming vocabulary of formulations that seem to be precise where no precision exists. If you listened to my talking you could probably feel that the 'gist' of what I meant when I used the word 'gist' was a constant conjunction of your impressions. Your interpretation of my communications might be something you could formulate.
ROLAND: Can you give me an example of something -- an interpretation say -- which expresses the 'gist' of an idea?
P.A.: I was called to see a patient who was suspected of being 'schizophrenic' . As I approached his bed I was aware of a flurry of movement. When I reached his bed he had hidden himself beneath a blanket so that only one eye was visible. With this eye he observed me intently. He maintained silence for weeks -- it may have been a month or more.
ROLAND: Yes, but can't you give me the 'gist' of your definition? I don't want to be rude, but out time here is very limited.
P.A.: That is why I said 'intently'. Sometimes, as in this instance, the gist of an experience may take a long time to grasp. An eye seen in isolation conveys nothing; seen for some weeks as I saw it, 'intently' is a fair summary of what I saw -- the 'gist' of what two people are doing if both are satisfied that the name 'psycho-analysis' conveys enough meaning for immediate needs. But what I want to communicate to you would require other conditions and time which you will not spare.
ROLAND: Go ahead then. What about your dotty patient?
ROBIN: Here we have time to discuss dotty patients?
ROSEMARY: Yes, I'm interested.
ROLAND: These aren't days for pursuing interests.
ROSEMARY: Not for you perhaps. When I was the servant here I never had time for anything that might have interested me. You can think yourself lucky that I allow you and the rest to participate when I am following my interest. Go on P.A. Alice -- you may stay in case I want you; it may do you good.
P.A.: One day, after I had given many interpretation apparently without effect, the man suddenly said, ''I want help'.
" (AMF, II, 333-5)

Smelling danger

"ROBIN Surely you do not seriously mean that an analytic session is comparable with going into action?
P.A. Comparable, yes. Imminent death is not expected, although there is that possibility. That does not weigh the anxiety - fear in a low key. One shrinks from giving the unwelcome interpretation.
ROBIN Is it not just fear that the patient is going to be angry at being criticized?
P.A. I don't think so; the patient may be angry at a critical comment, perhaps even murderously angry, but I do not think that possibility consciously deters.
ROBIN Is it some unconscious fear -- the counter-transference of which you spoke?
P. A. It is, Though one is not 'conscious' of it - to obviate that is one reason why we think analysts must themselves be analyzed - there is an inherent fear of giving an interpretation. If a psycho-analyst is doing proper analysis then he is engaged in an activity that is indistinguishable from that of an animal that investigates something because it is pleasurable or profitable. Patients do not come because they anticipate some agreeable imminent event; they come because they are ill at ease. The analyst must share the danger and has, therefore, to share the 'smell' of danger. If the hair at the back of your neck becomes erect your primitive, archaic senses indicate the presence of the danger. It is our job to be curious about that danger... - not cowardly, not irresponsibly.
(AMF, III, 517)


"... 'truth' is the name I give to the quality I attribute to any statement that is a hypothesis relating to phenomena with which I have an 'I know...." relationship" (C, 270 -- written circa 1959)

"The failure to bring about....a commonsense view induces a mental state of debility in the patient as if starvation of truth was somehow analogous to alimentary starvation". (ST, 119 -- written circa 1961)

"By definition and by the tradition of all scientific discipline, the psycho-analytic movement is committed to the truth as the central aim" (AI, 99 -- written circa 1970)

Bion's earliest posture would be maintained up to the end of his life. In some aspects of his work he changed, but this is not one of them. Quite the contrary: this view was polished like a piece of ouriversary.

In the beginning, out from clinical experience he makes an analogy of truth and nourishment. Right from the start such a posture differs from ideas of attaining absolute truth in the extent it depends on common sense.

Common sense (q.v.) by its turn relates this posture unequivocally with reality. The way that the psycho-analytic movement seems to have dealt with truth and reality in the last century echoes the way that the encircling social milieu dealt with it: abhorrence, denial, and contempt. The issue turned itself into a taboo in the last forty years. Terms such as "psychic reality" are increasingly left aside.

The fact that science in general and Freud, Klein and Bion in particular made explicit their allegiance to the scientific endeavor, namely, to get nearer reality as it is, seems to have ignited a contrary reaction of the same intensity .

"...healthy mental growth seems to depend on truth as the living organism depends on food." (T, 38)

Any mention to truth is too often subjected to a prejudice: it is seen as an attempt of the person who merely utters the word or expresses his availability to pursue it as if the person has the pretension to own it, to know it in its entirety in a static way. The doubts about the very existence of truth and reality proves to be popular both among the intelligentsia and laymen. There is no such interest in the work of individuals who strives to get near "reality as it is" (a phrase uttered by Socrates, Plato, Browne, Bacon, Kant, Johnson, to quote a few, who may be considered Bion's forerunners). The demagogue and the quack are more loved than a politician that promises to make that which is possible or the physician that tells the patient the truth about a serious illness.

Nowadays whoever is interested in reality or truth runs the risk of being seen as a misguided simpleton, or a pretentious positivist. Solipsists, as they were called in Freud's time, or post-modernists as they like to be called today, advertises themselves and have an image of themselves as not interested of issues such as truth; they regard it as illusory and non-existent. They would be safe from falling prey of essentialism and absolute truth. But in fact their posture betrays a hidden fact: they operate just like one who is overwhelmed by feelings of having "attained" the ultimate truth. Namely, that truth does not exist. Are they trying to get rid from the fact that this real, hidden posture runs against their outwardly advertised posture? Is it a case of projective identification, that is, in trying to get rid from the truth that an outward idealist shelters an inner absolute truth's owner, what is left to him is to try to put this abhorred truth into someone else - above all, the scientist?

Truth in analysis is not truth in general except as an ethical posture. Truth in analysis is linked to self-knowledge: "Since self-knowledge is an aim of psycho-analytic procedure..." (EP, 91)

Truth in analysis and in science is not just a philosopher of science's theoretical problem: "Herein lies one advantage that the psycho-analyst possesses over the philosopher; his statements can be related to realization and realizations to a psycho-analytic theory" (T,44). Five years later Bion would put it in simpler terms: :"...the psycho-analyst is concerned practically with a problem that the philosopher approaches theoretically" (AI, 97).

"Psychoanalytic procedure pre-supposes that the welfare of the patient demands a constant supply of truth as inevitably as his physical survival demands food. It further presupposes that the Discovery of the truth about himself is a precondition of an ability to learn the truth, or at least to seek it in his relationship with himself and others. It is supposed at first that he cannot discover the truth about himself without assistance from the analyst and others" (C, 99)

"I assume that the permanently therapeutic effect of a psychoanalysis, if any, depends on the extent to which the analysand has been able to use the experience to see one aspect of his life, namely himself as he is. It is the function of the psycho-analyst to use the experience of such facilities fort contact as the patient is able to extend to him, to elucidate the truth about the patient's personality and mental characteristics, and to exhibit them to the patient in a way that makes it possible to him to entertain a reasonable conviction that the statements (propositions) made about himself represent facts.
It follows that a psycho-analysis is a joint activity of analyst and analysand to determine the truth; that being so, the two are engaged - no matter how imperfectly - on what is in intention a scientific activity
" (C, 114)

Bion pointed out that "The truth of a statement does not imply that there is a realization approximating to the true statement" (ST 119). The mathematician did realize it long ago. Bion saw that the mathematician's insight could be helped by the insight obtained in later times by the psycho-analyst Freud, albeit in different terms: that psychic reality has an intrinsic immaterialness that turns it into a different form of existence vis-à-vis material reality. But the reality itself, or "existence" (which appears at least in two forms or transformations) does exist and is real. "O does not fall in the domain of knowledge or learning save incidentally; it can "become", but is cannot be 'known' " (AI, 27). The words "save incidentally" must not be denied.

Fear to truth seems to be related to primitive states of love and hate. Both lead to idealization, to quote just an example of a distortion of reality in the area of the onlooker's perception. The issue illustrates the basic psycho-analytic view in the extent that reality presents itself in the form of paradoxical pairs which cannot be forced into over-simplification: instincts of death and life, two principles of mental functioning, PS and D are a few examples of it.

Analysis deals with paradoxical pairs, anytime. In the decisive moment of the session the words uttered and what they really mean function as beauty, which is more than skin deep. Both form a pair, as manifest and latent contents.. Bion starts from these pairs described by Freud and Klein. In discussing the obstructions that inhibit an infant's impulse to obtain sustenance from the breast, even - or specially - from a good breast, Bion states that "Love in infant or mother or both increases rather than decreases the obstruction partly because love is inseparable from envy of the object so loved, partly because it is felt to arouse envy and jealousy in a third object that is excluded. The part played by love may escape notice because envy, rivalry and hate obscure it, although hate would not exist if love were not present. Violence of emotion compels reinforcement of the obstruction because violence is not distinguished from destructiveness and subsequent guilt and depression " (LE, 10)

An American newspaper reporter once stated that in war the first casualty is truth. Violence of emotions can be seen as an evolving internal war in each one's mind who suffers from it (probably an innate trait). Therefore truth probably is felt as unbearable to the personality that hates frustration. The narcissistic patient usually displays violent emotions. He is prone to regard anything borne to him as acquiring an unrealistic, disproportionate importance. He cannot tolerate his own imperfections or anything other than his own idealized view of him (her) self. Therefore, violence of emotions can preclude the search of truth.

"Violence, attributed to emotions by me here, is not intended to imply only in quantity of feeling. I shall consider only love and hate because I regard them as comprising all others.; I do not separate love and life instincts, or hate and death instincts, nor shall I consider whether the violence implies an origin in the instinctual endowment or is secondary to an external environment stimulus. It may on occasion be due to a deficiency in a capacity for thought, or some other function proper to the inset of the reality principle...Violence, then, though related o quantity or degree, contributes to a qualitative change in the emotion. The qualitative change makes love and hate possess appreciably cruel strains together with diminishing concern for the object, Both love and hate thus become more easily associated with a al lack of concern for truth and life" (C, 249-250) - which stems from Klein's observation that it is not only hate that destroys the object, but the intensity of the love too, in the extent it carries with it greed and envy (Klein, 1936)

Violence of emotions is inextricable from aggression and fear of it; "If the emotion is strong enough it inhibits the infant's impulse to obtain sustenance. Love in infant or mother or both increases rather than decreases the obstruction partly because love is inseparable from envy of the object so loved....The part played by love may escape notice because envy, rivalry and hate obscure it, although hate would not exist if love were not present. Violence of emotion compels reinforcement of the obstruction because violence is not distinguished from destructiveness and subsequent guilt and depression. Fear of death through starvation of essentials compels resumption of sucking. A split between material and psychical satisfaction develops" (LE, 10)

This means that truth as it is cannot be perceived anymore: materialness gets its upper hand. A hallucinated breast full of non-nourishing immaterialness flowers in autism. In the first case it produces that which Kant named "naive realism"; it manifests itself as schizoid phenomena; in the second case, it produces that which the author of this dictionary once proposed to call, "naive idealism" and manifests itself through paranoid phenomena. .
This seems to be linked to the relationship of the baby with the breast, in the sense of an envious situation that precludes concern to truth and life:

"The most important characteristic is its hatred of any new development in the personality as if the new development were a rival to be destroyed. The emergence therefore of any tendency to search for the truth, to establish contact with reality and in short to be scientific in no matter how rudimentary a fashion is met by destructive attacks on the tendency and the reassertion of the "moral" superiority. This implies an assertion of what in sophisticated terms would be called a moral law and a moral system superior to scientific law and a scientific system". (LE, 98).

The issue of truth in the session is pressing and serious to the analyst, to the patient and to the future of psycho-analysis within the psycho-analytic movement. Concern for truth and life marks one of the very rare attempts of Bion to construe a psycho-analytical theory per se and seems to constitute its main frame. It was doomed to remain unpublished during his lifetime. Parts of it emerged, albeit forming more a theory of observation in psycho-analysis than of psycho-analysis proper, in Transformations, Attention and Interpretation , and A Memoir of the Future.

"I must make clear my choice not only of these terms, but also of the realities they represent....No single words can express the ideas to which I want to draw attention. By 'concern' I mean something that has in it feelings of consideration fort the object, or sympathy with it, of value for it....A concern for truth may seem to be so closely related to impulses that operate under the dominance of the reality principle as to make it scarcely worth while to distinguish it from them by singling it our for special mention....The concern for truth must be distinguished from a capacity for establishing contact with reality. A man may have little capacity for that through lack of intelligence...or might be defective in one or more of his senses. Yet...can have an active yearning for, and respect for, truth. Conversely, a highly gifted and well-equipped may have little concern for truth. Such concern will clearly be a matter for attention by the analyst for whom the psychoanalysis of the patient had truth as its criterion.....a lack of concern for life means regarding a living object as indistinguishable from, or being unworthy of being distinguished from, a machine, a thing or a place. Lack of concern means a lack of respect for himself and, a fortiori, of others, which is fundamental and of proportionately grave import for analysis. It is clear that lack of such respect means lack also of a safeguard against murderous or suicidal impulses....The patient who has no regard for truth, for himself, or for his analyst achieves a kind of freedom arising from the fact that so much destructive activity is open for him for so long. He can behave in a way that destroys his respect for himself and his analyst, provided he always retain enough contact with reality to feel that there is some respect to destroy; and this he can always assume if his analyst continues to see him. But the destruction of the analysis is to be avoided, for it entails loss of freedom - at least till a new object is found - thus introducing a need for moderation that is apparent at other points in the closed system the patient strives to produce., An obvious instance of this is the need to avoid successful suicide or murder. In brief, it is necessary for the patient to avoid any step calculated to effect change, and yet to change enough to ensure more analysis either for the reason that he has become temporarily become a greater liability and needs more care, or because he shows such promise that it would wrong to stop when affairs have reached so happy a posture. But it is clear that the limitations on freedom, and the subsequent frustration, are associated with the patient's sensitiveness to reality. He must therefore lose some of this freedom by keeping analysis going." (C, 248-48)

__The view on truth was more expanded in Brazilian Lectures, A Memoir of the Future and Seminari Italiani. Final posture, from A Memoir of the Future:
"ROLAND: Do you think there is any kind of prayer that is not outrage on one's common sense? Obviously, the athletic 'knees bending' exercise could not satisfy any person of integrity. What does P.A. think?
P.A.: It is not my department. I have ideas about it like any other man, but I would not like it supposed that because I set up as an expert in psycho-analysis my expertise extended to religion and other disciplines - painting, music, literature.
PRIEST: Is that not somewhat cowardly?
P.A.: You and others might think so, but I do not. Even in my limited field I am not unfamiliar with a cowardly shrinking from expressing a truth that I know will be unwelcome. One takes flight into doubt - "'What is truth?' said a jesting Pilate"; Bacon himself did not wait for an answer because he knew he might be killed if he did. Physical death is a hard price to pay - especially for those of us who, from training and observation, believe in the obliteration of the body. I believe also in the obliteration of one's respect for the truth; it is not simply by physical methods - alcohol for example - that one can destroy one's capacity for discerning or proclaiming the Truth.
PRIEST: I believe in moral, religious death. Truth can be nourished; it can be allowed to die of neglect or be poisoned by seductions, cowardice, too often repeated. But Truth is is robust; 'facts' cannot be killed even if we do not know what they are. The fragile respect human for the truth cannot be as easily disposed of as often appear.
P.A.: I hope you are right. I cannot, however, say that my knowledge of myself or others provide food for hope. Religion itself gives evidence of the great force of power, bigotry, ignorance; and psycho-analysis is shot through with error and the defects of us humans who try to practise it.
PRIEST: You are being extremely self-contradictory in claiming that it is a science and is true. It must have a point of reference outside itself. You cannot believe in Truth any more than you can 'believe in God'. -
ROLAND: or is not.
PA.: No, "God is; or is not" is only a human formulation in conformity with human principles of thinking. It has nothing to do with the reality. The only 'reality' we know about is the various hopes, dreams, phantasies, memories and desires which are a part of us. The other reality exists, is, whether we like it or not. A child may want to punish a table for hurting him when he suffers a contusion. But he may desire to punish himself for 'suffering' a contusion. But he may ultimately be compelled to believe that, in addition to these facts, there is a table that is neither good or bad, like it or not, punish it or forgive it. We may decide to punish our god, punish ourselves for believing in 'it' or 'him' or 'her'. It will not affect the reality which will continue to be real no matter how unsearchable, un-knowable, beyond the grasp of human capacity its is/not is. After all, we do not know much about the world we live on, or the minds we are.
ALICE: I thought you psycho-analysts were supposed to have discovered all about us.
" (AMF, III, 499)

Truth and Naïve Realism (the fallacy of the apprehension of reality through the senses)

"MAN: I believe in God anyway; I have evidence of his goodness.
ROLAND: I believe in the Devil; I have evidence of his cruelty and wickedness.
P.A : I differ. Evidence is a function of the senses; they cannot lead logically to the 'truth; of God - only to the truth of the reality that is not God
" (AMF, II, 351)

Misuses and misunderstandings Truth, or truth-O is usually mistook for absolute truth. Attempts to get the insight, transient glimpses of aspects and emanations of truth are mistook for feelings of ownership of absolute truth.

Lest the statements in the quotations be used as some kind of puritan authority or judgment, the scientific appreciation of reality as it is can be seen when the realm of minus, of the numinous negative realm of "O" is elicited.

Absolute truth is sometimes referred to by Bion as "objective reality". In talking about the relationship between two people and the vicissitudes of its observation:

"I shall suppose that the relationship is a "constant conjunction", that is to say, that the relationship has an element in the mind of the observer and may or may not have a counterpart in reality. I make no claim for objective reality, as far as I understand the meaning usually attributed to the term, but for me, a factual situation (conjectured) am emotional state (say hate, also conjectured) a representation (Tp) are constantly conjoined and I record....or by the term "transformation" " (T, 68)

"The postulate is that....designated by O. To qualify O...I list the following negatives: Its existence as indwelling has no significance whether it is supposed to dwell in an individual person or in God or Devil; it is not good or evil; it cannot be known, loved or hated. It can be represented by terms such as ultimate reality or truth. The most, and the least that the individual can do is to be with it. Being identified with it is a measure of distance from it. The beauty of a rose is a phenomenon betraying the ugliness of O just as ugliness betrays or reveals the existence of O...The rose is itself whatever it may be said to be" (T, 139-40)

Or, as he would put some ten years later:

"MYSELF Perhaps I can illustrate by an example from something you do know. Imagine a piece of sculpture which is easier to comprehend if the structure is intended to act as a trap for light. The meaning is revealed by the pattern formed by the light thus trapped-not the structure, the carved work itself. I suggest that if I could learn how to talk to you in such a way that my words "trapped" the meaning which they neither do not could express, I could communicate to you in a way that is not at present possible .
BION Like the "rests" in a musical composition?
MYSELF A musician would certainly not deny the importance of those parts of a composition in which no notes were sounding, but more has to be done than can be achieved in existent art and its well-established procedure of silences, pauses, blank spaces, rests. The "art" of conversation, as carried on as part of the conversational intercourse of psycho-analysis, requires and demands an extension in the realm of non-conversation.......I have suggested a "trick" by which one could manipulate things which have no meaning by the use of sounds like "_" and "_"'. These are sounds analogous, as Kant said, to" thoughts without concepts", but the principle, and the reality approximating to it is also extensible to words in common use. The realizations which approximate to words such as "memory" or "desire" is the verbal counterpart, is opaque: the O, of which "memory" or "desire" is the verbal counterpart, is opaque. I suggest this quality of opacity inheres in many O's and their verbal counterparts, and the phenomena which it is usually supposed to express. If, by experiment, we discovered the verbal forms, we could also discover the thoughts to which the observation applied specifically. Thus we achieve a situation to which these could be used deliberately to obscure specific thoughts.
BION Is there anything new in this? You must often have heard, as I have, people say they don't know what you are talking about and that you are being deliberately obscure.
MYSELF They are flattering me. I am suggesting an aim, an ambition, which, if I could achieve, would enable me to be deliberately and precisely obscure; in which I could use certain words which could activate precisely and instantaneously, in the mind of the listener, a thought or train of thought that came between him and the thoughts and ideas already accessible and available to him.
ROSEMARY Oh, my God!
" (AMF, I, 189-191).

Therefore correct interpretation is couched in terms that "The interpretation should be such that the transition from knowing about reality to becoming real is furthered. (T, 155).

The pursue of truth also brings forth some clinical problems, related to the stimulus it represents to some patients who use it to create a war against that which is seen as a superiority of analysis and of the analyst. Bion was aware of this since his earlier works:

"Briefly, it appears that overwhelming emotions are associated with the assumption by the patient or analyst of the qualities required to pursue the truth, and in particular a capacity to tolerate the stresses associated with the introjection of another person's projective identifications. Put into other terms, the implicit aim of psycho-analysis to pursue truth at no matter what cost is felt to be synonymous with a claim to a capacity for containing the discarded, split-off aspects of other personalities while retaining a balanced outlook. This would appear to be the immediate signal for outbreaks of envy and hatred " (ST, 89).
Since Antiquity the philosopher of science has been divided into the schizoid naive realism and the paranoid naive idealism. It occurs in the realist's confusion of animate with inanimate and in the idealist's enthroning of the products of the mind (the idea that the universe is an idea of the human being). In analysis and in science, the term reality is interchangeable with truth, due to its firm natural origins. Had the philosopher of science profited from the epistemological contributions of psycho-analysis, he would had a chance to do not be thrown into the darkness of ignorance disguised as the supreme and only wisdom.


1) Vol 2: Os primórdios do movimento romântico e a psicanálise; Vol 3: As origens da psicanálise na obra de Kant; Vol 4: Turbulência e Urgência; all published in 2000; Vol 5: Goethe e a Psicanálise; Vol. 6: O Belo é Eterno: Rio de Janeiro, both published in 2001; Vol VI: Hegel e Klein: a tolerância de paradoxos; 2003.

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