PDF | On Jan 1, , Marilyn Charles and others published James S. Grotstein: A Beam of Intense Darkness: Wilfred Bion’s Legacy to Psychoanalysis. by James S. Grotstein. INTRODUCTION. Bion, who was to become the awesome explorer of the “deep and formless infinite” of the psyche, first immersed himself. This remembrance lights a candle in honor of James S. Grotstein, MD, who died peacefully on May 30, in his home in Los Angeles.

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Bion, who was to become the awesome explorer of the “deep and formless infinite” of the psyche, first immersed himself in the theories of Freud and Klein and then gradually developed a revolutionary metapsychological metatheory for psychoanalysis. Bion incurred the criticism of his colleagues by grotsetin to investigate faith, spirituality, religion, mysticism, metaphysics, and fetal mental life.

His concepts of transformations in L oveH ateand K nowledgeas well as of intuitionistic and subjective science [Transformations in “O” Ultimate Truth, Absolute Reality ], constitute jams objective and numinous psychoanalytic epistemology. Bion was preoccupied grotsteij the concept of ultimate reality and absolute truth and reoriented psychoanalytic metapsychology into a theory of thinking and meta- thinking about emotions.

He distinguished the “thoughts-without-a-thinker” from the mind that had to develop in order to think them. I believe that his concept of “intuitionistic thinking” also presumes the presence of a more profound aspect of that mind: Not jamrs did a mind develop to harvest the “thoughts without a thinker,” but another aspect of the mind had to originate these “unthought thoughts.

By realigning psychoanalysis with metaphysics and ontology existentialismBion perforated the mystique of ontic “objectivity” implicit to logical-positivistic, deterministic science and revealed its own unsuspected mythology– its absolute dependence on sense data. Applying his concept of reversible perspective, he found myths, both collective and personal, to be themselves “scientific deductive systems” in their own right Bion, Mostly, Bion founded a new mystical science of psychoanalysis, a numinous discipline based on the abandonment of memory, desire, and understanding.

To Bion, mysticism is “seeing things as they truly are — without disguise” personal communication. He was preoccupied with the question of how we know what we know. In this contribution I emphasize my understanding of Bion as the intuitionistic epistemologistthe “emotional mathematician” Bion,the ” mystical scientist ” Bion,the intrepid voyager into the deep and formless infinite, “O. It designates an ineffable, inscrutable, and constantly evolving domain that intimates an aesthetic completeness and coherence.

He refers to it by different terms, “Absolute Truth,” “Ultimate Reality,” or “reverence and awe. A transformation in “O” is attainable only by the disciplined abandonment of memory, desire, understanding, sense impressions — and perhaps also the abandonment of ego itself.

Ultimate Reality is also associated with Bion’s “beta elements,” Kant’s “things-in-themselves,” Lacan’s “Register of the Real,” primal chaos today we would say “complexity”and yet, paradoxically, primal harmony and serenity, depending on the maturity of our capacity to be “at-one” with it. The Greeks called it ” Ananake” Necessity. Milton alluded to it as “the deep and formless infinite” and “the Void,” and Blake ; Frye, referred to it as “fearful symmetry” and “frightful fiend.

The concept of “O,” beginning with “thoughts without a thinker,” the “things-in-themselves,” “beta elements,” “memoirs of the future,” and “inherent preconceptions” transcended both Freud’s Unconscious and its constant conjunction with infantile sexuality and Klein’s concepts of the paranoid-schizoid and depressive positions. Bion replaced Freud’s concepts of the id, the unconscious, and the “seething cauldron” with an epistemic function that harkens back to the creative role of the unconscious in the construction of dreams and jokes Freud, Bion revealed the ineffable matrix, the container beyond the container of our existence, the eternally unsaturated Void, one that undermines every deterministic certainty with a mocking transcending doubt.

At the same time, Bion elevated the concept of the death instinct into the infant’s fear of dying, which the containing mother must in turn suffer in order to detoxify it in her reverie function dreamwork alpha. When he described the mother’s need to “translate” her infant’s dire messages into meaning, he entered the field of epistemology. He described how normal thinking begins as the projective identification by the infant of its “fear of dying” into the mother, whose reverie helps her to bear, absorb, and “translate” her infant’s fears into meaning.

Bion’s “Theory of Thinking” went further in the direction of epistemology. Starting with Klein’s concept of the epistemophilic instinct and grafting onto it his concepts of L loveH hateand K knowledge relatednesshe had “second thoughts” about his formulations regarding the psychotic’s difficulty in thinking Bion, His new approach was characterized by a change from a strictly Kleinian emphasis on the intrapsychic destruction of the breast to a destructiveness directed interpersonally and intrapsychically against the L, H, and K relatedness links to the object de Bianchedi, In his next series of contributions, Bion established an evolving theorem of epistemological concepts that included: His theories innovatively portrayed how the normal person thinks and processes the data of emotional experiences as psychological facts “K” in contrast to how the psychotic person “thinks” “-K”.

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The concept of the vertices allowed Bion to describe how many different points of view were needed to establish a consensus for an ultimate portrayal of Truth. In Cogitations Bion cites many scholars to demonstrate the limitations of science and grotsgein that psychoanalysis is an emotional, numinous, and mathematical science.


With Transformations Bion made his next epistemological foray, describing Truth as “O,” a domain extraterritorial to the reality that we all, except for Lacan had taken for granted. Bion left behind the preconceptions of the psychoanalytic establishment and ventured inward in a soul-searching, mystic journey.

I have come to believe that this journey led him to transcend the positivistic certainty of psychoanalytic ontic determinism and “messianically” return it to its proper home in numinous parallax and doubt, where the mystic and relativistic “science of man” truly resides.

Bion thus forged a psychoanalytic metatheory based on an epistemology of elements, functions, and transformations relating to the mental and emotional processing of Truth and ultimately on the fundamental universality of “O. Once Bion formulated the transformations in “L,”, “H,” and “K” in their positive and negative forms and transformations in “O,” he entered into a new metaphysical domain, the only passport to which was the abandonment of emotional and sensual L, H, and K.

In this domain one must “feel” by intuiting rather than by sensing. Nevertheless Bion, strongly suggests that “common sense,” the final arbiter of K and ultimately of “O,” represents the conflation, not only of the external senses, both of the individual and of the consensual Other, but also the verdict of the inner sense organ, intuition. Ultimate Reality, that which is beyond the senses, beyond our imagination, and beyond our conception, belongs to the category of a meta-conceptualization that includes Ultimate Unknowable Truth, chaos, the thing-in-itself, and the so-called “beta elements.

They cannot be found because they can never be the object; they can only enhance our sense of subjectivity.

It is what it is and therefore is beyond knowing. One may either experience “O” as ultimate dread or as beatific serenity, depending on the vertex of emotional maturity and preparedness from which one approaches it. I believe that jajes are born into “O” or the “Real,” in Lacan’s [] terminology and are hopefully rescued under the beneficent canopy of the organizing and mediating “filters” of the paranoid-schizoid and depressive positions sequentially, alternately, and in parallel.

Randomness chaos is, with mother’s reverie, transformed into phantasies and then into symbolic meaning in the depressive position. The libidinal and death instincts serve to signify, express, and mediate the infant’s distress about its experiences of randomness.

Bion’s concept of “O” seems to be circular. It is within us, around us, and beyond us — as well as before us and after grotsten we temporally proceed from it, through it, and toward it. Eliot’s “The end is where we start from It is like Marlowe’s description of Tamburlaine’s Samarkand, “always on the horizon, ever distant, always receding. For Bion, we become “O” through a transubjective mystical realization, a resonance or “communion in ‘O’.

This process constitutes contemplation without an object to contemplate. It is a totally intra-subjective, meditative transformation. Enjoining us to abandon the jammes of sensation — abandon memory, desire, and understanding — Bion reaffirmed the rationale for sensory deprivation in psychoanalytic technique so that we may look inward. He also joined the ancient tradition of the mystics, such as Meister Eckhart Fox, Ibn ‘Arabi Sells,Isaac Luria Sells,and the early Christian and Hebrew mystics, particularly grotstrin Gnostics Pagels,who had discovered that, through grotsetin and self-abnegation, one could look inward and find the immanent and incarnate God.

Bion discovered for psychoanalysis the technique of intuition taken in its literal jamrs, “looking inward,” by foreswearing the glimpse of the external object. He discovered that awareness of the transcending and transcendent awesomeness of our inner world — that which we have called the Unconscious — when released from its positivistic strictures is, as the mystics have long believed, the inner presence of the “Immanent or Incarnate God,” one who is in direct connection with the ineffable and inscrutable “Godhead.

In brief, Bion, standing on Freud’s and Klein’s shoulders, transcended instinctual drive, ego, and object-relations theory and helped us find our mysterious way to “Intra-Subjectivity” by daring to rejoin us to that branch of epistemology, metaphysics, that has lurked in the shadow of psychoanalytic respectability. He formulated a unified field theory or metatheory for psychoanalysis, in which “O” served as the unifying element that allowed for the continuation of the individual’s personal unconscious in the cosmic vastness of ultimate “O.

Bion contrasted “truth” and its opposite, the lie. Bion believed that truth is as necessary for mental growth as food is for physical growth, and the lie is the negative validation of the truth that needs to be disavowed.

Bion believed that the truth spoke for itself and therefore required no thinker, whereas the liar did require a thinker. Bion seems to emphasize the importance of the pre-conceptions of the unconscious as the yet unconfirmed intimations of truths that need to be realized by contact with their anticipated “memoir”-counterparts from the future.

The ego, in seeking to disguise, repress, or alter the unconscious, becomes disingenuous and dissembles the truth. The lie -Kin Bion’s thinking, is a negative faith that replaces the faith that either never appeared sufficiently or which defaulted because of the loss of innocence. I understand Bion here as alluding to the profound demoralization which occurrs after a catastrophic change and a failure of proper transformation from the paranoid-schizoid to yrotstein depressive position.

This demoralization is also a failure, I believe, of the holding environment as well as the containing environment, i. This state presupposes that the infant has prematurely plummeted into the Real “O” before being baptized by the blessed protection of the covenant of parental imagination and conception.

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This now hapless one is predisposed to a cataclysmic “orphandom of the Real” “O” and is impelled to swear a new allegiance to the dark and only savior, -K. Bion describes this phenomenon as the postnatal persistence of fetal existence in which the fetus has become prematurely aware of pain and then closed off, forfeiting its developmental and maturational future.

Bion postulated that “common sense,” and “sense, myth, and passion” are stereoscopic locators for ultimate correlation with one’s emotions. He invoked a series of interdisciplinary perspectives that he believed would be impervious to the sensuous pull to which verbal language was subject.

These are the verticesor perspectives of a mathematics and logic for their abstract clarifications, b names for the generalizing capacity grotsteib its deductive systems, c myths for their ability, like scientific deductive systems, to detect constant conjunctionsd aesthetics for its ability to represent the whole pre-formed gestalt, the backdrop and landscape of Absolute Reality, e the religious or spiritual because it relates to man’s need to worship a God Whom he cannot objectify, and f the mystical for the elegant simplicity with which one can contemplate the Ultimate without objectifying it.

In Bion’s conception of “O,” we are introduced to the possibility of a mental activity which may transcend what is ordinarily meant by “thinking. Once we encounter it — perhaps it is better to say that once we are encountered by the unexpected “it” and are able to allow its entry into us by our readiness to tolerate it because we are able to attenuate our fears of its potential awesomeness – we process it as it processes us.

Grootstein unconsciously stamp it with the imprimatur of our personalness autochthonythat is, we allow ourselves to “create” it imaginatively before “discovering” it and then allow it to be internalized and enter into the digestive alchemy of transformation. By allowing familiarity with the unfamiliar, we allow thoughts without a thinker to be thought about by a receptive mind that realizes the presence of a lost yet remembered echo-moiety from its future.

The “memoir of the future” now has a home-mind in which it can play and be played with — thoughtfully — in the preconscious. He could only intuitively anticipate this thought without a thinker. It was jaems his dream that the realization was able to make its dramatic epiphany.

The “thinker who thinks the thoughts” is akin to the “dreamer who dreams the dream” and the “dreamer who understands the dream” Grotstein, b.

The “thinker who understands the grotatein is the constantly expectant internal playmate of this unsaturated, disciplined unconscious thinker. Together, they patiently await the entry from the future of their unknown but always suspected “thought without a thinker,” who becomes their transient infant thought as it transforms them into a childless but expectant empty couple of the next epistemic generation.

The point is that thoughts seem to think themselves if we are optimally able to allow them their intercourse in our tolerantly receptive containers. Perhaps what we call thinking, consequently, constitutes the afterthoughts and “bare-bones” derivatives from a numinous thinking couple.

Bion united Freud’s a concept of two principles of mental functioning primary and secondary process as indivisible complementary functions under the concept of alpha function, which originates in mother’s reverie as she absorbs, detoxifies, and then “translates” her infant’s cries of distress into acceptable meaning.

He rendered bonding and attachment into a primitive epistemological feat. Eventually the infant introjects mother’s alpha function and becomes its own “thinker. The analyst must “dream” daydream the patient, or, in my way of understanding the concept, the analyst must absorb the essence of the patient. Bion’s concept of alpha function altered the understanding of projective identification from an intra-psychic to an interpersonal one. It implied a new respect for countertransference grotsten and, even more to the point, significantly anticipated the advent of the post-modern intersubjective paradigm.

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Further, it would seem that dream work alpha suggests that both parties, the analyst and the patient, should “surrender” to grotsteih analytic experience; that is, they both must enter into a meditative trance. I believe that this “surrender” presupposes that the analyst, whose disciplined behavior allows the patient the experience of reasonable safety in the analytic procedure, has already “transcended” in the Jungian sense of regular, successive developmental progression his own persecutory anxieties in the paranoid-schizoid position and the depressive anxieties manic and depressive defenses against mourning and against acknowledgment of dependency on the object [Klein, ].

Bion is very specific about the requisite experience for the analyst:. In every session the psycho-analyst jamse be able Any attempt to cling to what he knows must be resisted for the sake of achieving a state of mind analogous to the paranoid-schizoid position. For this state I have coined the term ‘patience’ to distinguish it from ‘paranoid-schizoid position’ I mean this term to retain its association with suffering and tolerance of frustration.

Patience should be retained without ‘irritable reaching after fact and reason’ until a pattern ‘evolves.