Zvi Lothane, M. D.

(Published in: Issues in psychoanalytic psychology, 30:7-26, 2008)

Posted in KJF on 6 June 2009



Spirituality: the subject is limitless and my ignorance is encyclopedic. It is also controversial. I make no claim to settling the controversy, nary to offer some free thoughts and stimulate further reflection and discussion.



Spirituality and religion are often spoken interchangeably, and, undoubtedly, the monotheistic religions contain a wealth of spiritual messages. But spirit and spiritual are more inclusive concepts and thus not identical with religion. A basic antonym of spiritual, or soular, the old adjective of soul, is secular, earthly, and worldly. As systems of faith and worship, organized religions, like the secular social, legal, and political institutions, wield influence, money, and power in the service of maintaining the ordered society. By contrast, the spiritual, as Jesus said, is in this world but not of it: its basic aims are not power but being, light, presence, peace.



The basic meaning of spiritual is immaterial, incorporeal, which has both phenomenological and metaphysical meanings. Thus spiritual can mean intellectual and mental functions; referring to the higher, or refined mental or soular forms of thought and feeling, the subject of psychology and metaphysics. Spiritual are also the moral thoughts and feelings, in Socrates’ words, the form of the good. As contrasted with bodily and the carnal, the human soul derives from and is identical with the divine Spirit, or the Holy Spirit, to which the soul returns after death, as pictured by Plato, the mystical neo-Platonist Plotinus, and organized religions? Whereas God is deemed to be omnipresent and ubiquitous and can be prayed to by anyone anywhere, religions sell prayer, redemption and immortality for money. Psychotherapy, on the other hand, sells counsel, consolation, companionship.   



Since psychotherapy, too, like institutionalized religion, has the dual purpose of helping the person to function as an individual and as a member of society, it has become fashionable to speak of the religious functions of the helping profession (Beit-Hallahmi, 1976). But the idea is not new. As early as in 1908, the pioneer of psychoanalysis in Boston, before it arrived in New York in 1911, Dr. Isadore Coriat, with Worcester and McComb, published a book on religion and healing. In contrast to Freud, who, following in the footsteps of an atheistic program of the Enlightenment called himself a godless, i.e., atheistic, Jew, the Aryan Jung was seen as a founder of a religion. While mankind needs religion, religion has not been an unmitigated blessing. Already the Roman poet and philosopher Lucretius, who lived in the first century before Christ, had the insight that “tantum religio potuit suadere malorum” (so potent was religion in persuading to evil deeds, De Rerum Natura, Book I, 101). The genocide of the pagan inhabitants of the Land of Canaan by the armies of Joshua, the Catholic church militant and its Inquisition, the contemporary militant Islam and the use of terror, proselytizing and persecutory, are examples of man’s inhumanity to man in the name of God.





My concern is with the person and whose actions in the world may be nature-directed or people-directed, be external or internal, carnal or spiritual, professed by either atheists or believers in what is called God. God and Godhead beg various questions: is God a who or a what? Is He a he or a she? Is he the white-bearded grandfatherly figure pictured in the frescoes of the Sistine Chapel whom the Victorians mocked as the gaseous vertebrate? Does God have a penis, which Paul Schreber (1903), as some have imagined, wanted inserted into his rectum? (Freud, 1911). Is God, as famously defined by Spinoza, a deus sive natura, a God that is nature, a view that earned him the excommunication, or herem, by his Amsterdam Jewish compatriots?  Or is godhead, the divine essence, an anima mundi,  a world soul, the generative spiritual womb of all souls?  I do not profess to know what God, the soul or spirit IS, only to claim that what matters to me is that the spirit, like love, is what spirit DOES, for me and for thee.



The evolution of spirituality: the words we use

Synonym of spirit is soul, of which the adjective is the uncommon form, soular. Our psychological and metaphysical ideas derive from primordial bodily experiences. The Greek word for soul, psyche, has the literally meaning of breath, the breath of life. A live,  or besouled, body is one that breathes  and pulses with the heartbeat and courses with the  blood in its vessels. Thus it is natural to think that in death the soul leaves the body with the last breath. To Cicero is attributed the saying, dum spiro, spero, while I breathe, I hope.



Closely related to breath is air that moves in nature, or wind, thus the meaning of spirit as the breath of wind, of breeze. The Hebrew words for soul are neshama, derived from the root n-sh-m,to breathe, and  nefesh, from the root n-sh-f, to blow. In the act of creation of man=adam, from adama, dust, earth: “the Lord God formed man of the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul” (Genesis, 2:7). In Hebrew one speaks of ruah, literally wind, and of madaei haruah, the sciences of the spirit, i.e., the humanities, as against madaei ha’teva, the nature sciences. In Turkey they use the word ruh in the same sense. The other Greek synonym of psyche was pneuma =air, translated in Latin as spiritus, and concerned with the pneuma or soul of the vital body and the spiritual soul, the latter connected to the cosmic pneuma.



In nature mankind observed another kind of spirit, the spirit of wine, in its liquid and gaseous forms. Spirit is literally a liquid produced by distillation, the mixture of pure alcohol and water, a noble spirit distilled from a crude alcoholic mash, and thus suggesting something purified, or refined. When placed in a snifter, cognac or brandy the distilled liquid easily passes to its gaseous form and as such is inhaled as an aroma, directly stimulating the smell receptors in the nasal mucosa. Freud’s bosom friend Wilhelm Fliess’ famous equating of the nose with the genital we can now add a spiritual nasal function: from mere physical smelling it is elevated to the metaphorical, refined, ennobling, experiences of smelling the aromas of wines, scents of women, flowers, and foods, to produce in us uplifting, spiritual, esthetic experiences that transcend the mere satisfaction of carnal hunger, thirst, and lust. In German brandy is called  Geist = spirit and the varieties of brandy are the Spirituosen. The Germans also championed the division of knowledge into Naturwissenschaften, natural sciences and Geisteswissenschaften the humanities, derived from the German translation of John Stuart Mills’ concept of “moral science.”  In Hegel’s philosophy Geist became the sum total of the human institutions of family, society, state, church, the arts, and the sciences.



Related to distillation is another literal chemical application, that of sublimation: the direct passage from the solid to the gaseous state without liquefying. But since the airy gaseous state is associated with the notion of purified and refined, the derivative and metaphorical meaning of sublime suggests the ideas of elevated, lofty, supreme intellectually, spiritually or morally, containing the noblest in ideas and emotions. For Freud sublimation became the process of transformation of sex and sexual feelings and sexual curiosity into artistic and scientific productions, as exemplified in the person and works of Leonardo da Vinci: sex and slime become culturally sublime.



Things in the world can be touched, smelled, tasted, through the contact senses and seen and heard through the distance senses. Awareness of things begets thoughts, the spiritual-intellectual sense of proportion, abstraction and generalization, all expressible and expressed in words. In one of acts of creation in Paradise God “brought [his creatures] unto Adam to see what he would call them; and whatsoever Adam called every living creature, that was the name thereof” (Genesis, 2:19).



Curiously, it is Adam and not God who is entrusted with the function of naming. Since then things and thoughts are defined by the words and names given to them, words and names become the tools with think with, they determine what and how we think. This idea persists in the Gospel of St. John begins St. John: “In the beginning was the word, Logos, and the word was with God, and God was the word; and the word became flesh and lived amongst us.” We are born into words and are surrounded by them within and without  through the duration of life (Lothane, 2007a).



I do not know when and how God taught Adam to speak and in what language. But I do know that the two most important abilities a child learns from and with his mother are love and language. Animals and preverbal children have souls but no words, so they cannot think in words. I do assume, however, that they think in images derived from their sense experiences and their unconscious processes. The unconscious is the soul: the opening paragraph in the 1846 book Psyche The Developmental History of the Soul by Carl Gustav Carus, German physician, philosopher, and friend of Goethe : “The key to the knowledge of the nature of the conscious life of the soul lies in the region of the unconscious” (my translation). Freud does not mention Carus, but Carus was an influence on Eduard von Hartmann who did and whose 1869 book on the unconscious was read and cited by Freud. Whereas Lacan famously defined the unconscious as a language, he neglected the preverbal language of images. Since the analytic process is based on investigating the unconscious turned conscious dreams and memories, and since remembering and dreaming cannot occur without images, it is Freud, not Lacan, who discovered/invented the psychoanalytic method of investigating both the conscious and unconscious processes, the technique of free association (Lothane, 1981, 1984, 1994a, 2006, 2007b)



There is one more quality of the soul, in which it resembles the wind and the spirit: it is invisible, only its effects are visible. Like things around us, the person’s actions can be seen and heard, but his inner life, the motives and intentions of his actions, remain invisible, unless disclosed to another person. It is for this reason the scientists dealing with matter doubt the reality of the soul and of unconscious processes, because they cannot be independently observed and measured. But neither can dreams and thoughts, or beauty and goodness; but it does not make them less real or less important in the lives of persons, families, and societies.



A special spiritual quality inheres in music. Like words, music is generated physically and transmitted via air waves or electromagnetic waves. While sights can persist indefinitely, sounds live for as long as the singing vocal cords or the instrument played upon vibrate and when the sounds cease they leave no trace. Music works through the fusion of matter and energy but it is non-discursive and non-representational. It is experienced as a present moment and as duration, and it is thus both evanescent and eternal. Moreover, music has no identifiable programmatic content. It is thus the most spiritual of the arts, even as it is capable of moving us in the most profound way. When we listen to a Bach organ toccata, Mozart’s Ave Verum, or a Chopin Ballade the effect is esthetic, spiritual, and meditative-mystical. The human voice has a music all its own, it transmits tones and overtones of emotion, of sincerity and hypocrisy, of joy and gloom, admiration and irony, of consent and denial, over and above the words that express these attitudes. The last point is a link to belief.



Faith derives from the Latin fides (=trust) and means the same as belief.  We have faith or belief in a supreme being called God, and faith is a synonym for religion, a belief of the doctrines of religion and acting according to them. But also have faith, to a greater or lesser degree, in our parents and friends, in the stock market, in the government. Faith and belief also create the sense of conviction we have about what we hear or read or are taught. The affirmative answer to the question do you believe in medicine, neuroscience, or psychoanalysis may contain elements of both: a sense of acknowledgment and conviction and quasi-religious worship. It has been said that we can only believe those we love, as has been seen in countless instances of real love and transference love. Along with language, a loving mother teaches the child to trust and believe, building on the innate capacity and need of the child to trust and obey his mother, because such mutual belief and trust are the basis for individual and social survival, both in animals and mankind.



As part of the life of the emotions, the need to believe, the will to believe, is both inborn and instinctive. It is based on the evidence of the emotions of love and information obtained through the sense organ: the proof, we say, is in the pudding. As such it is also preverbal in time and nature, as such it is also pre-rational, pre-logical, and precedes belief based on logic and reasoning, in a lawful universe, in a society based on the rule of law. The inborn faith in the mother is the basis of the instinctive faith in the doctor and therapist: it is a universal transference from mother love and the basis of what Freud called positive transference in treatment and its powers are often perceived as miraculous. It explains the miraculous power of placebo in medicine, psychiatry, and psychoanalysis, the miracle of the belief of helped, of positive suggestion and the positive acceptance thereof. Placebo, derived from the Latin ‘placebo’ = I shall please, stands not just for the intention to please, but something much deeper -- the doctor’s care, concern and respect for the suffering patient, the importance of the emotional connection between the doctor and the treatment he administers and the person treated, which makes the patient trust the medication and take it rather than throw it away. We need both sciences:  the science that studies the chemistry of the molecules and the science that understands and knows how to use the "chemistry" of doctor and patient. It makes for good doctors and good psychiatrists. In 1893, the last year of his life, Jean-Martin Charcot, the preeminent French neurologist, neuroscientist, clinician, and Sigmund Freud’s teacher, wrote an article entitled “La Foi qui guérit” (the faith that heals).  He said:  “The facts I was able to observe in my long years of practice were cases of faith-healing resulting in miracles, without regarding such miracles as being beyond the ordinary healing means of medicine, because they belong to the natural order of things. The facts called miraculous, which are in no way new, derive from a trusting, believing, suggestible attitude of the patient,”  a fact scientific in its own right. It rings as true today as it did down the ages. Since this faith is biologically and psychologically founded on mother love, a few additional points are in order.



The relationship between mother and child contains aspects of contact, communion, and communication, in the order of ascending development and differentiation. The original contact and communication are already formed during the child’s intrauterine life, studied by the growing field of neonatology. After birth it continues as a bodily contact during feeding, coddling, holding on. It is a source of immense power for the infant and discernible in the myth of Antaeus, the giant was remained invincible as long as he touched Gaia, his mother earth, and whom Hercules slew after lifting him up in the air. The great Hungarian psychoanalyst wrote about the infant’s “anklammern,” grasping and clinging to mother, followed by “auf Suche gehen,” letting go of mother’s body to go in search. Michael Balint in his book Thrills and Regressions built on this idea to delineate two human types, the ocnophil, who stays close to mother’s body, and the philobat, who roams the spaces beyond. The physical contact, from the Latin word to touch, and also a psychological communion, or merging, leads to communication through touch, taste, smell, and sound, the latter at first composed of babbling and other inarticulate noises. With the acquisition of speech, communion becomes communication with words. These basic psychological facts return us to faith and introduce the spiritual subject of mysticism.



The spiritual and the mystical


Mysteries, things that cannot be explained, or religious truths of great import, are related to mysticism, to mystical knowledge of God, spiritual truths, or of ultimate reality of being, given not by the senses but by immediate intuition or illumination, often in states of rapture or ecstasy. Mystical derives from words meaning close-mouthed, murmuring   or moaning, i.e., without using clearly articulated words, dealing with experiences that are ineffable, i.e., not expressible in words. It thus possible to connect the mystical communion with the deity, the so-called  unio mystica, the contemplation, vision or inner light in the mystical experience, with preverbal blissful communion between mother and child.



Natural mysticism can occur in conditions of everyday life when we commune with nature, in the spiritual perception of nature of the cosmos, as expressed by William Wordsworth:


There was a time when meadow, grove and stream

To me did seem

Apparell’d in celestial light,

The glory and the freshness of a dream.

It is not now as it hath been of been of yore; --

Turn wheresoe'er I may,

By night or day,

The things which I have seen I now can see no more.

This communion between the individual soul and the soul of the cosmos, this sublime mystery of oneness, is expressed in the following lines from his ode on Tintern Abbey:

. . . a sense sublime
Of something far more deeply interfused,
Whose dwelling is the light of setting suns,
And the round ocean and the living air,
And the blue sky, and in the mind of man;
A motion and a spirit, that impels
All thinking things, all objects of all thought,
And rolls through all things.



Wordsworth is imbued with the ideas of pantheism, an ancient soular theory that the universe is not a creation, distinct from God, that God is the universe, and the universe is God, of which the classical exponent was Spinoza, an influence on Goethe. The issue is not whether God exists or who or what God is: the issue is what does such a belief do for mankind. Wordsworth sings in his “Ode on immortality”:


Our birth is but a sleep and a forgetting:
The Soul that rises with us, our life's Star,
Hath had elsewhere its setting,
And cometh from afar:
Not in entire forgetfulness,
And not in utter nakedness,
But trailing clouds of glory do we come
From God, who is our home:
Heaven lies about us in our infancy!


Ellis (1940) noted that “the poetry of all eras and cultures is inspired by a deep feeling of concord with Nature, what a modern philosopher so aptly called ‘aesthetic animism’” (p. 305).

Walter Terence Stace (1960) expanded the definition of pantheism to combine

two opposite pantheistic ideas: the universe is identical with God, the universe is distinct from God, as viewed by Kabbalistic mysticism, to set forth the paradoxicality of mysticism,  pointing to the paradox of the contradiction and identity of the opposites (p. 212), an idea that would find expression in C. G. Jung’s philosophical theology, which he summed up as follows:

Brahman Is

The World Is


Illusion or Appearance

Pure Unity



The sphere of relations


The sphere of finitude

Outside Space and Time

In Space and Time

Motionless, Unchanging

Perpetual flux



Stace compared the two types of mysticism:

extrovertive mysticism looks outward through the senses, while the introvertive looks inward into the mind. Both culminate in the perception of an ultimate Unity – what Plotinus called the One – with which the perceiver realizes his own union or even identity. But the introvertive mystic, using his physical senses, perceives the multiplicity of external material objects – the sea, the sky, the houses, the trees – mystically transfigured so that the One, of the Unity, shines through them. The introvertive mystic, on the contrary, seeks by deliberately shutting off the senses, by obliterating from consciousness the entire multiplicity of sensations, images, and thoughts, to plunge into the depths of his own ego (p. 61-62). 



He tabulated the two types as follows:  


Common Characteristics of Extrovertive Mystical States

Common Characteristics of Introvertive Mystical States


The Unifying Vision — all things are One

The Unitary Consciousness; the one, the Void, pure consciousness


The more concrete apprehension of the One as an inner subjectivity or life in all things

Nonspatial, nontemporal


Sense of objectivity or reality

Sense of objectivity or reality


Blessedness, joy, peace, happiness

Blessedness, joy, peace, happiness


Feeling of the holy, sacred, or divine

Feeling of the holy, sacred, or divine






Alleged by mystics to be ineffable

Alleged by mystics to be ineffable



In his book Stace focused less on God and more on the godhead, Gottheit in German, i.e., principle of divinity, i.e., divine nature or essence, not the godhead of the Christian trinity but of the godhead of the great mystics, e.g. Meister Eckhart, the 14th century visionary, a thorn in the Pope’s side, copiously quoted by Aldous Huxley (1945) in his book The Perennial Philosophy, a seminal text about the mystical experience. Huxley’s goal was to spell out a perennial, universalist philosophy and his starting point was the Sanskrit Pronouncement, Tat Tvam Asi, Thou art That, where the ‘thou’ is the Atman, i.e., the soul, or self, immanent in the person, and which identical with the Brahman, the absolute reality, the spiritual ground of all existence. This principle recurs in the mystical writings of East and West: “To gauge the soul we must gauge it with God, for the Ground of God and the Ground of the Soul are one and the same” (Huxley, 1945, p. 12). It is not formal theology but rather an inner state of consciousness, a psychological reality, a paradoxical knowledge, a striving for love and peace. It is instinctively grasped by mystics, children, or so-called primitive peoples but lost upon those busying themselves with analytical philosophy, science, and established religions. The mystical view has profound ethical implications. Religions that worship the temporal, tribal and personal God of Israel, of Christianity and Islam can easily morph into idolatrous national, racial, ideological or moralistic pseudo-religions, beloved of politician, that preach power politics, prosperity, and military conquest, to the destruction of nature and mankind in the name of those very religions that gave birth to this ethics. 



The just drawn distinctions make it possible to understand Freud’s antipathy towards established religion and his inability to appreciate mysticism. A child of the Enlightenment, of Voltairean rationalism, atheism, and anti-clericalism, Freud viewed obsessive neurosis as a private religion and religion as a public neurosis of mankind, as an illusion and a delusion (Freud, 1927), which, by the way, made him erroneously reduce Schreber’s mystical experiences to religious paranoia, the latter caused by homosexual paranoia (Lothane, 1992b, 2004). Freud disregarded the ideas on the sources of morality and religion by the enormously influential, until World War One, Henri Bergson (1859-1941) but did not escape being confronted by Romain Rolland (1866-1944). Rolland, a follower of Bergson, Ramakrishna and Vivekananda, lesser contemporaneous mystics, wrote to Freud that “the true source of religious sentiment,  … a peculiar feeling, a sensation of ‘eternity’, a feeling of something limitless, unbounded – as it were ‘oceanic’. This feeling …  is a purely subjective fact,  not an article of faith … seized upon by the various Churches and religious systems … [but] a feeling of an indissoluble bond, of being one with the external world as a whole” (Freud, 1927, pp. 64-65). Freud could “not discover this oceanic feeling in [himself]. It is not easy to deal scientifically with feelings,” and since this was too mystical, in the pejorative meaning of the word this seemed to Freud to be “something in the nature of an intellectual perception,” he “could not convince [himself] of the primary nature of such a feeling. But this gives me no right to deny that it does in fact occur in other people” (p. 65).  Nevertheless, Freud made a vigorous case against such ‘misty-schism’: “Normally, there is nothing of which we are more certain than the feeling of our own self, our own ego. … On the contrary, the ego is continued inwards, without any sharp delimitation, into an unconscious mental entity… But towards the outside the ego seems to maintain clear and sharp lines of demarcation. At the height of being in love the boundary between ego and object threatens to melt away: I and you are one. In pathological processes boundaries between the ego and the external world become uncertain. Against all evidence of the senses, a man who is in love declares that ‘I’ and ‘you’ are one and is prepared to act as if it were a fact [and here Stachey sends the reader to Freud’s (1911) own footnote in the essay on Schreber]. … [This is both a] physiological [i.e., normal, Strachey] function … liable to be disturbed by pathological processes. … The infant at the breast does not yet distinguish his ego from the external world, [lacking] the ego feeling of maturity” (Freud, 1927, pp. 65-67). Further down Freud quips about “another friend of mine who has assured me that through the practices of Yoga one can in fact evoke new sensations … He sees in them the wisdom of mysticism,   connections with trances and ecstasies. But I am moved to exclaim in the words of Schiller’s driver:-- ‘Let him rejoice who breathes up here in the roseate light’ ” (pp. 72-73).



While ironically cynical about mystical experiences, Freud is at least tolerant towards of such in others and opines that while normal in the infant and in the normal state of being in love, it may turn into the states of such states of mind in psychotics. But he also expressed the revolutionary insight, contrary to the views of psychiatrists then and now,  thatthe delusional formation, which we take to be the pathological product, is in reality a [ labor of (self)-healing  = der Heilungsversuch], a process of reconstruction” (Freud, 1911, p. 71).  This calls for a reversal of normal and abnormal: the infant, the child’s, and the mystics perception of the external world of the internal states of mind, the mystical union, are normal, abnormal is the adult ego-centric preoccupation with self-interest and selfishness, the dark side of self-love. In the struggle for survival the ego is a good servant but a bad master. What is contrasted here is the innocence of the child and the mystic, their inborn and intuitive understanding of the spiritual ground of love, joy, and peaceful coexistence vs. the learned knowing of the politicians and professors of this world, busily pursuing power, prestige and pecunia, with the tools of propaganda and prevarication, their egos puffed up with pride. The dictators, the doctrinaires, the dogmatists already know everything, need to know no more and dictate to people what they should know. What is needed is a synthesis of both, knowledge and understanding informed by love. In the words of St. Bernard: “What would learning do without love? It would puff up. What would love do without learning? It  would go astray” (Huxley, 1945, p.144).  We are ready to discuss love.





In the opening paragraph of his 1905 Three Essays on the Theory of Sexuality Freud speaks of “sexual needs,” a  “ ‘sexual instinctual drive’ ” and sexual “ ‘ libido,’” evasively claiming in German there is no common word for libido: I can immediately name three: Lust, same as lust and lechery in English, and Gier and Begierde, both meaning desire. His student Theodor Reik got it right in his 1941 book, Of Love and Lust On the Psychoanalysis of Romantic and Sexual Emotions. In English we either make a distinction between ‘liking’ and ‘loving’ or just use the interchangeably: we like Obama and dislike Hillary Clinton, and we love ice-cream. There was a good reason for Freud’s aforementioned evasiveness: he wanted to sound scientific. However, as an essential moralist, he was still bound to old medical prejudice in referring to the varieties of human sexual expression as “inversions” and “perversions” while his real scientific and moral intention was to destigmatize sexuality and to promote a naturalistic, tolerant and sympathetic attitude of sexual freedom. Anatole France had noted ironically, in his 1895 book of aphorisms, Le Jardin  dÉpicure, that “Christianity did sex a great favor by making it a sin,”  the sad truth is that Christianity, starting with St. Paul and Augustine and until about 1750, condemned sexuality as the work of the devil and women and men accused of sinful sexual debauchery were convicted as witches and warlocks and burnt at the stake. Sexual fundamentalism is still militantly espoused by Christianity and Islam, with nefarious consequences for democracy. Freud created a scientific sexual revolution, consummated a generation later, after World War I, as skirts were getting shorter and sexual morals looser, especially in the big cities of the western world.



Depending on the context, the ambiguous word love means either sex or love writ large. It then needs to be defined as non-sexual love as between parents and children, or that love between two men does not mean sex, or to be called by other names, such as the Greek agape, philia, and sympatheia, or Church Latin caritas, i.e., charity, when it used to mean love, high regard, benevolence, before it was reduced in modern times to mean an eleemosynary gift (Lothane, 1982, 1986, 1987a, 1987b, 1987c, 1988, 1989, 1997b, 1997c, 1998a). In the sphere of sex Freud replaced the religious preoccupation with sin with the moral conflict between the body and the soul, renamed as the id and ego. In the sphere of non sexual love the moral conflict was between love and hate. For where there is love there is always a moral conflict and therefore ethics is inseparable for the human condition (Lothane, 1994b, 1998b, 1999a). Conflicts between the body and soul about sex, on the one hand, and conflicts about love and hate, on the other, played a decisive role in the lives of Paul Schreber (Lothane, 1992b, 2004) and Sabina Spielrein (1999b, 2003). It should be noted that Freud was strong on sex, the lion’s share of his theorizing, and weak on love, subjects he approached towards the end of his life (Freud, 1927). Ferenczi understood love better than Freud (Lothane, 1998a).



Love as charity was a preeminent concern for the mystics: “He that loveth not knoweth not God, for God is love” (St. John, 4); “The astrolabe of the mysteries of God is love” (Jalal-uddin Rumi); “Love is infallible; it has no errors, for all errors are the want of love” (William Law); “For love is the motive power of the mind (machine mentis), which  draws it out of the world and raises it on high” (St. Gregory the Great), all cited in Huxley (1945).  The spiritual and ethical nature of love writ large is manifest it these quotes. However, it is also important to reveal the spiritual nature of sexuality. In previous WSI conferences I presented the interpersonal nature of love (Lothane, 1982) and sex (1992a). Whereas the former is somehow self-evident, the latter has usually been viewed as a purely physical phenomenon. Moreover, even though Freud discovered psycho-sexuality, the connection between sexual desire and gratification with dreams and daydreams, he continued to conceptualize sex as a monadic, not as a dyadic-interpersonal one, as a manifestation of a drive energy called libido. What is more, even though he knew of the meaning of Lust as pleasure, the opposite of unpleasure or pain, he did not dwell on the pleasurable, esthetic beauties of intercourse. Even masturbation, a truly one-person activity, is accompanied by fantasies and scenarios involving another person; how much more so sexual activity between two persons leading to orgasm (curiously, a word found in Freud’s Three Essays only once, in connection with thumb-sucking), a profound physical, interpersonal and soular-spiritual communion and communication. This is how Shelley sang of it:


We two will rise …

And by each other, till to love and live

Be one: …

And we will talk, until thought’s melody

Become too sweet for utterance, and it die

In words, to live again in looks, which dart

With thrilling tone into the voiceless heart,

Harmonizing silence without a sound.

Our breath shall intermix, our bosoms bound

And our veins beat together; and our lips

With other eloquence than word eclipse

The soul that burns between them, and the wells

Which boil under our being’s inmost cells,

The fountains of our deepest life, shall be

Confused [=blended, fused] in Passion’s golden purity,

As mountain-springs under the morning sun.

We shall become the same, we shall be one

Spirit within two frames, oh! wherefore two?



We are back to the deep connection between mother and infant conjoined in the activity of nursing and two people in sex. There is one more feature of love that is eminently soular: to be genuine it has to be freely given, it cannot be forced. ‘Love’ is etymologically related to ‘leave’ and ‘belief.’ In her famous Habañera the gypsy Carmen sings:


Love is a rebellious bird

that nobody can tame,

and you call him quite in vain

if it suits him not to come.

Nothing helps, neither threat nor prayer.

One man talks well, the other keeps silent;

it's the other one that I prefer.


Children naturally feel grateful when loved, they are later taught to say ‘thank you’ but do not like to say it just out of politeness. A child is born telling the truth, it is taught to lie, to dissemble, to pretend, to practice hypocrisy in the service of coexistence in the family and in society. We may need to lie to survive, but therapy must be built on truth or else it dies.



The freedom of love is contrasted with the obligation to be ethical, which is part of being spiritual. The spiritual core of the person persists even in the throes of psychosis, as profoundly grasped by Daniel Paul Schreber, who felt he was persecuted by God but was led by God to spiritual self-healing (1903):  “God, whose power by rays is essentially constructive in its nature, and creative, came into conflict with Himself when he attempted the irregular policy against me, aimed solely at destroying my bodily integrity and my reason. This policy could therefore only cause temporary damage, but could not lead to permanent results. Or perhaps, using an oxymoron [i.e., paradox], God Himself was on my side in his fight against me, that is to say I was able to bring His attributes and powers into battle as an effective weapon in my self-defence” (p. 61, footnote #35).





There are things and there are thoughts. We are surrounded by material things and persons which we perceive both sensuously and intellectually. We think with words that refer directly to such concrete and palpable things and persons. We have other words that are nothing but abstractions and metaphors. „If we trace the meaning of a great many words,” says Owen Barfield (1973), “we are at once made to realize that an overwhelming proportion, if not all, of them referred in earlier days to one of these two things – a solid, sensible object or some animal (probably human) activity. Thus, an apparently objective scientific term like elasticity, and the metaphysical abstract  is traceable to ‘draw’ or ‘drag’”. He then quotes France: “What it is to think? How does one think? We think with words; this by itself is sensuous and takes us back to nature. Just think, a metaphysician creates a system of the universe with nothing but the refined cries of monkeys and dogs” (pp. 63-64). Soul and spirit, as we have seen, are such abstractions and metaphors, whether used in revelation, which generates a theory called theology, or in reasoning, which generates a theory called metaphysics. Concrete words are used in language that assures survival, material and emotional, their function is representation and emotive appeal. Abstractions and metaphors are used in theoretical discourse and serve the purpose of learned discursive thought and the arts. Even though the Bible says that man will not live on bread alone, as another Hebrews saying has it, ein kemah, ein tora = no bread, no learning. From the perspective of evolution and biological survival learned discourse and the arts are irrelevant. From the perspective of culture, they are precious, priceless baggage.



The closest to our discursive thinking is Aristotelian psychology and philosophy described in his treatise On the Soul and based on a tripartite analysis of the person into a body, or soma, a soul, or psyche, and intellect or nous. The soul in Aristotles’s view is a biological principle of form in nature. There is a hierarchical soul evolution: plants have nutritive and reproductive souls. Animals, have evolved to possess a sentient and moving soul, with the abilities of impulse, feeling and imaging. Mankind acquires a thinking or rational soul. As also taught by Plato, God, the unmoved mover, is the absolute principle, embodying both reason and the good. This was Aristotle’s metaphysics, a word that was derived from  ta meta ta physica,  the volumes in  Aristotle’s works that came after ta physica, or physics, the those dealing with the  physical world, including human psychology. Aristotelian psychology included the functions, or faculties, of the cognitive powers, of knowledge and reason, and the motive powers, those of feeling, desire, and action, prefiguring the Kantian classification of intellect, feeling, and will. The theory of knowledge started with perception and reached the active reason, and progressed from sense perception (aisthesis), to imagination (phantasia), to culminate in intellection (nous). This scheme was also adopted by Kant. Paul Schreber (1903, original p. 232, note 98) referred to it as well. Kant made an important distinction: between pure, or theoretical, and practical reason, the latter conjoined with ethics.



Psychoanalysis is practical as a method of a healing art and is also a philosophy,  based on Aristotle and Kant, Freud’s teachers in high school and medical school. Thus, Freud’s dissection of the personality into entities such as id, ego, and superego is philosophical, while id, ego, and superego as functions of the whole person belong in the realm of clinical theory of disorder. The bulk of Freud’s clinical theories deal with the varieties of the forms of disorder, these forms then converted into the corresponding diagnoses, in the manner of psychiatry. But diagnoses are also abstractions, generalizations of countless cases reduced to their elements and the combinations of those elements. In real life there is no schizophrenia and no hysteria, there are only persons deemed or diagnosed as schizophrenics and hysterics, just as diabetes is abstract entity as against seeing this individual diabetic. Diabetes, schizophrenia, hysteria, like soul and spirit, are thus abstract entities useful for writing textbooks, teaching students, and doing research, and each performs a function in its own context. As a methodological  interpersonalist, my interest is the method, or technique, of psychoanalysis as a healing art, as a therapeutic dialogue between two people jointly studying the life story of one, the analysand, no more and no less.



At the end of the day, whatever labels are pinned on the person, whatever school of disorder the analyst adheres too, be it Adlerian or Jungian, or Loewaldian or Lacanian, Kernbergian or Kohutian, the two persons forming the analytic work team engage in a conversation based on reciprocal free association (Freud 1900, Lothane, 1984, 1994a, 2006).   There is a good heuristic reason to see analogies and parallels between the introverted mystical state of mind and the state, or frame, of mind of a person immersed in the process of free association the analytic situation and the process of guided introvertive meditation. 



This is how Freud described his method, based on the technique of dream interpretation:

My patients were pledged to communicate to me every idea or thought that occurred to them in connection with some particular subject; amongst other things they told me their dreams … This involves some psychological preparation of the patient. We must aim at brining about two changes in him: an increase in the attention he pays to his own psychical perceptions and the elimination of all criticism by which he normally sifts the thoughts that occur to him. In order that he may me able to concentrate his attention on his self-observation it is an advantage for him to lie in a restful position … It is necessary to insist explicitly on his renouncing all criticism of the thoughts that he perceives. We therefore tell him that the success of the psycho-analysis depends on his noticing and reporting whatever comes into his head and not being misled … into suppressing an idea because it strikes him as unimportant or irrelevant of because it seems to him meaningless. He must adopt a completely impartial attitude to what occurs to him … The whole frame of mind of a man who is reflecting is totally different from that of a man observing his own psychical processes. In reflection, there is one more psychical activity at work than in the most attentive self-observation, and this is shown amongst other things in the wrinkled forehead of a person pursuing his reflection as compared with the restful expression of the self-observer … the man who is reflecting is also exercising his critical faculty … What is in question is the establishment of a psychical state which … bears some analogy to the state before falling asleep – and no doubt also to hypnosis. … As the involuntary ideas emerge they change into visual and acoustic images (Freud, 1900, pp. 100-102; first two italics mine).



Freud teaches the patient a technique of reverie and a turning away from concerns with reality and censorship due to self-criticism. Practicing self-observation, rather than problem solving by reflecting, ego and reality concerns, which interfere with the process. The process weakens repression and allows for memories and fantasies to emerge, leading to a reliving the past, discovering long buried memories re-experienced in the  form of images, or picture thoughts, generating insight into the meaning of the past. To be sure, this description is of an ideal situation, the process is also subject to intrusions of transference and resistance, and it takes a while for it to take hold. But there is no other way to analyze disorder, dreams, and dramatic unconscious enactments of the present as determined by the past – this is the foundation of the fundamental and unique technique of psychoanalysis. It is an empirical, self-experimental method of self-discovery practices with a benevolent helper who is also willing to free associate along the associations of the seeker of such help. The two are a team.



Analogously, Aldous Huxley described the technique of mystical meditation as “disciplining of the will”:


It is the Indian and Far Eastern formulations of the Perennial Philosophy that this subject is most systematically treated. What is prescribed is a process of conscious discrimination between the personal self and the Self that is identical with the Brahman, between the individual ego and the Buddha-womb or universal mind. The result of this discrimination is a more or less sudden and complete “revulsion” of consciousness, and the realization of a state of “no-mind,” which ma be described as the freedom from perceptual and intellectual attachment to the ego-principle. This state of “no-mind” exists, as it were, on the knife-edge between the carelessness of the average sensual man and the strained over-eagerness of the zealot for salvation. To achieve it, one must walk delicately and, to maintain it, must learn to combine the most intense alertness with a tranquil and self-denying passivity, the most indomitable determination with a perfect submission to the leadings of the spirit. … As separate individuals, we must not try to think [no-mind], but rather permit ourselves to be thought by it. [there is] the need for intellectual humbleness and docility (Huxley, 1945, pp. 72-73).



The common denominator in both techniques is the pursuit of transcendence: detaching from the mundane, the noisy, the neurotic, of detaching oneself from self-centeredness, of developing detached contemplation, of allowing oneself to be guided rather than busily bending one’s own mind or somebody else’s. The road to illumination is not easy, but worth the trouble it takes.



Of course, the treatment situation is not limited to free association: it deals with  conflict, resistance, transference, and confrontation. Today we have gone beyond the narrow idea that the analyst “only interprets.” In 1920 Freud rediscovered what he practiced as a beginner: the healing power of suggestion, the power of the spoken word (Lothane, 2007b). The mutual emotional engagement between analysand and analyst becomes a powerful lesson in love. Words can hurt and heal. As noted by Huxley, “Language is the medium in which we live, move and love.”  And so is silence. So let us end on a quote from Shakespeare: “words, words, words, and the rest is silence.”






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Henry (Zvi) Lothane

     e-mail <Zvi.Lothane (at) mssm.edu