THE DETACHMENT OF CONSCIOUSNESS FROM THE OBJECT
How did this effect come about? (We assume, of course, that die Chinese author was first o f all not a liar; secondly, that he was of sound mind; and, thirdly, that he was an extraordinarily intelligent man.) To understand or explain the detachment described in the text our mentality requires a somewhat roundabout approach. There is no use in our mimicking Eastern sensibility; for nothing would be more childish than to wish to aestheticize a psychic condition such as this. This detachment is something I am familiar with in my practice; it is the therapeutic effect par excellence, for which I labour with my students and patients, that is, the dissolution of participation mystique. With a stroke of genius, Levy-Bruhl1 has established participation mystique as being the hallmark of primitive mentality. As described by him it is simply the indefinitely large remnant of non-differentiation between subject and object, still so great among primitives that it cannot fail to strike European man, identified as he is with the conscious standpoint. In so far as the difference between subject and object does not become conscious, unconscious identity prevails. The unconscious is then projected into the object, and the object is introjected into the subject, that is, psychologized. Plants and animals then behave like men; men are at the same time themselves and animals also, and everything is alive with ghosts and gods. Naturally, civilized man regards himself as
immeasurably above these things. Instead, often he is identified with his parents throughout his life, or he is identified with his affects and prejudices, and shamelessly accuses others of the things he will not see in himself. In a word, even he is afflicted with a remnant of primal unconsciousness, or non-differentia tion between subject and object. By virtue of this unconscious ness, he is held in thrall by countless people, things, and circumstances, that is, unconditionally influenced. His mind, nearly as much as the primitive’s, is full of disturbing contents and he uses just as many apotropaeic charms. He no longer works the magic with medicine bags, amulets, and animal sacrifices, but with nerve remedies, neuroses, ‘progress’, the cult of the will, and so forth.