April 27, 2018

Butter and Margarine

Category: Literature,Psychology :: Permalink

“The fact is that by profession I’m a psycho-analyst — quite a successful one, I suppose; successful certainly as far as money goes.  The amount of money,” he said confidentially, “which some people will pay for information which they could get from three hours’ intelligent reading in any public library….  However” — he became conscious that he was getting off the point — “there it is.  I suppose in London I’m pretty well at the top of my profession.  You may think we’re all charlatans, of course — a lot of people do” — Geoffrey hurriedly shook his head — “but as far as I’m concerned, at least, I have tried to go about the business methodically and scientifically, and to do the best for my patients.  Well, then –”

He paused and mopped his brow to emphasize the fact that he was now coming to the crux of the matter; Geoffrey nodded encouragingly.

“As you know, the whole of modern psychology — and psycho-analysis in particular — is based on the idea of the unconscious; the conception that there is a section of the mind in some sense separate from the conscious mind, and which is responsible for our dreams, certain of our impulses, and all the complex manifestations of the irrational in human life.”

His phraseology, Geoffrey thought, was taking on the aspect of a popular textbook.

“From this concept all the conclusions of analytical psychology are derived.  Unfortunately, about a month ago, it occurred to me to investigate the origins and rationale of this basic conception.  A terrible thing happened, Mr. Vintner.”  He leaned forward and tapped Geoffrey impressively on the knee.  “I could not find one shred of experimental or rational proof that the unconscious existed at all.”

He sat back again; it was evident that he regarded this statement as in some sense a personal triumph.

“The more I thought about it, the more convinced I became that in fact it didn’t exist.  We know, after all, nothing at all about the conscious mind, so why postulate, quite arbitrarily, an unconscious, to explain anything we can’t understand?  It’s as if,” he added with some vague recollection of wartime cooking, “a man were to say he was eating a mixture of butter and margarine when he had never in his life tasted either.” — Edmund Crispin, Holy Disorders.

Posted by John Barach @ 11:24 am | Discuss (5)