THE MYTH OF THE FREUDIAN UNCONSCIOUS AND ITS RELATIONSHIP WITH SURREALIST POETRY

(Honours Thesis: Deakin University: Rob Harle © 2000)

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Chapter One:

The Problem Defined

The aim of this thesis is to establish the possibility of a new foundation upon which future theories of both conscious and nonconscious human mentation might be built. I will attempt to do this in two parts. Firstly, and most importantly, I will show that the Freudian theory of the Unconscious, which forms the basis of classical or traditional psychoanalysis, is untenable. That is, the Unconscious is a fictitious construct with no scientific, biological nor logical basis. Just as many other attempts to explain existence and aspects of our lives, such as magic, astrology and the existence of gods of every shape and size, have become powerful myths, so too has the Freudian Unconscious. This Unconscious has a cultural reality and as such has had a powerful influence on many areas of human cultural and social activity. However, as the iron broom of scientific investigation, experimental replication and resultant evidence sweeps clean myths that have outlived their usefulness, so too will it relegate the Unconscious to the recycling bin. Secondly, through a comparison of specific aspects of surrealist poetry with those of randomly generated computer poetry, attempt to show that the Freudian Unconscious was not a valid source of meaning for surrealist writings. As I discuss in Chapter 3 (page 22), there are two quite distinct phases of surrealist writing. It is the early period, approximately 1918-1935, the formative years, in which I am interested. Whilst the later period of Surrealism was influenced similarly to other human activities by the cultural reality of the Unconscious, the early period could not have been. The first surrealist works developed conterminously with Freud's theories and in fact, played at minimum, a small part in creating this cultural myth.

Whilst these findings show that classical psychoanalysis and the principles of Surrealism, particularly in their formative years, were constructed on fundamentally false foundations, it does not necessarily negate or demean the worth of clinical psychotherapy nor render surrealist creations impotent nor any the less revolutionary. In fact I believe the opposite to be true. If surrealists’ creations are seen as being consciously controlled (although not directly), rather than directed randomly from a mysterious Unconscious they become more powerful and more important as contributions to human cultural development. Similarly psychotherapy once relieved of the onerous and incoherent reliance on the Freudian cause of nearly all psychological problems (sexual repression, Oedipus Complex, penis envy and so on, allegedly having their genesis prior to age three) psychotherapy can get on with the work of really helping people regain mental balance from neuroses caused by real traumatic life events.

Before proceeding I must make a comment about the use of the word unconscious. Apart from the obvious medical meaning when someone is knocked unconscious, the unconscious is used by many lay persons and professionals without really knowing what it is. This usage generally refers to a kind of mental state which can be anything from, just below the surface of conscious thought, through to, deeply hidden repressed primal drives. As I explain in detail in Chapter Two The Unconscious as defined by Freud has a special and specific meaning and is not interchangeable with; subconscious, nonconscious nor preconscious. In this thesis the Unconscious with a capital U means Freud’s specific concept thereof and nonconscious means; mental states that are part of the mind-brain system but simply not conscious at a particular instant, as an example, the colour of one’s shoes prior to reading this.

A word about how this thesis topic came about will not only be relevant to the work but will also help further explain the inclusion of computer generated poetry. I have an interest in the rapidly expanding field of Artificial Intelligence and had thought long and hard about the possibility of the creation of a non- human entity that would be conscious and intelligent, that is, would be able to think intentionally, in a Searlean sense, similar to the way humans think.1 This investigation involved research into neurophysiology, theories of consciousness, the supposed mind-body problem and the Unconscious.

The chance comment by a colleague in a discussion about Artificial Intelligence which stated; "Never mind trying to make machines conscious, what about when they [sic] try to give them an Unconscious" struck me as a possible powerful key to help unlock the mystery of the mind-brain.2 Learning about and understanding the Unconscious would highlight many of the problems perhaps not realised or articulated by Artificial Intelligence researchers, especially those working with the traditional computational model of Artificial Intelligence. The intractability of the problem of consciousness specifically, which most researchers are obsessed with may be eased by more research into the Unconscious and nonconscious mental states of intelligent creatures, both human and animal. Hence the purpose of this thesis in a general sense.

Any attempt to create a machine with an Unconscious, and this means an Unconscious containing primal sexual repressions and so on, would raise questions about the fundamental principles of consciousness, gender differences, learning and developmental psychology, dreaming, genetic inheritance/memory and brain function. It seems to me that if humans do have an Unconscious then the creation of an entity with intentional artificial intelligence, in anyway commensurable with human beings, would be an impossibility. I can envisage no way a Freudian Unconscious could be initially programmed, as by its own definition the Unconscious is an unknowable, deterministic entity. This Unconscious is not conceivable nor accessible directly and only executes its deterministic deeds through symbols and latent meaning. On the other hand if the Unconscious is a myth and all states, nonconscious and conscious, are simply states of a mind-brain system then Artificial Intelligence indeed may be possible.

This thesis is not about Artificial Intelligence, it was only the focus which lead to the essential critical analysis of the Unconscious, whose existence is unchallenged and accepted as a given in many fields. An exposition and clear understanding of the Unconscious seems to me to be indispensable if Artificial Intelligence is to proceed productively.

I needed a way, or perhaps better, an experimental model by which I could compare creations supposedly from the human Unconscious and those by a machine that most certainly did not have an Unconscious. Although there are computer-machines which have created their own paintings the comparison of poetry was a far more manageable and I believe instructive medium to work with.3

I designed a computer program and enlisted the help of a colleague to write the code, this resulted in a simple piece of software called, Poetry by Chance, which creates random poems.4 This program is not based on Artificial Intelligence principles and does not think at all, it simply operates in accordance with the programmed rules. The program consists of a number of dictionaries and a syntax-structure file which determines the order of, parts-of-speech, in a line of poetry that the program creates. The syntax structure file may be changed in an attempt to reproduce the style of a human poet. Most poets develop a discernable style, by analysing that style a syntax structure code can be written which approximates a particular poet’s usage of parts-of-speech. As an example some poets consistently use word repetition or perhaps use two adjectives before a noun as a component of their style. In accordance with the syntax-structure file the program randomly selects words from the dictionaries and creates a poem. The comparison of human poems and the machine poems regarding semantic value, thematic meaning if any, and content will be undertaken in Chapter Four, as will be a more detailed description of the computer generated poetry program.

In Chapter Three I give a brief description of the history of Surrealism, mainly to locate it historically. This historical grounding is highly relevant to my discussion as the symbiosis between surrealist principles and psychoanalysis, as developed by Freud, is essential to understand. The main thrust of this chapter is to explain what the surrealists’ believed to be the source of their writings, that is, the Freudian Unconscious. Automatism (automatic writing) and the use of dreams were essential features of the surrealists’ attempt to bypass reason and create poems and prose that they believed came directly from the Unconscious and as such, untainted by preconceived ideas, logic or created within the rules of a literary style or movement.

Although it is my belief that the whole surrealist enterprise was consciously contrived and subtly manipulated by reason, and there is ample evidence to support this, it is not my intention to analyse Surrealism as such, nor to comment on its ideological and cultural relevance in any detail.5 My intention is to show that the supposed creations by Surrealist poets in particular, did not have their genesis in a Freudian Unconscious, that is, they were not pure Unconscious emanations devoid of the influence of logical association and appropriation.

It is perhaps worth commenting here that it is also my contention that pure thought is a self-contradictory notion. Even the alleged, pure enlightenment states of for example, Zen masters, cannot be devoid of pollution by a conditioned brain-mind. For although such an experiential state may be possible, as soon as the subject has even one thought about the experience, the experience is forced into brain-mind analysis. Even the claims of ineffability by mystics regarding their experiences, saying the experience is ineffable itself, has already polluted the pure experience with conscious reasoned manipulation. Consequently anything brought back from the labyrinth of nonconscious possibilities must be manipulated by reason, this is totally inescapable when an attempt is made to put the experience into written or verbal language. This is not the place to further discuss the possibilities of pure experience, however, if I am correct, it shows that in addition to the Freudian Unconscious being a fictitious construct, the possibility of producing poetry without conscious intervention, however small, is simply invalid.

In the limited space of this thesis all I can hope to achieve is to establish sufficient doubt regarding the existence of the Unconscious, this may then justify further intensive investigation and research. The ramifications of these findings have relevance in branches of knowledge as diverse as Zen Buddhism, Psychotherapy, Art/literary theory, Jurisprudence and Artificial Intelligence.

 

 

 

 

Chapter Two:

Critical Analysis of the Freudian Unconscious

 

In this chapter I will try to establish sufficient grounds for discarding the traditional concept of "the Unconscious". The existence, despite disagreement to the nature of this so called Unconscious, became entrenched, not only within the field of psychoanalysis but also within the mind of the general Western public, following Freud’s attempt to develop a science of the mind. It is somewhat ironic that the very science that Freud originally wanted to discover, that is, one based on neurophysiological facts and principles, is that which is now the greatest threat to his unscientifically testable Unconscious. Freud’s concept of the Unconscious, as with his concept of the preconscious, is an artificial construct.1 This is an important point to note and one to which I will return later.

The burgeoning fields of neurophysiology, neuroanatomy, developmental psychology and cognitive science are starting to provide evidence, repeatable, testable evidence, which seriously questions many of the well established notions of the nature of the mind and brain. Almost weekly, new, sometimes startling discoveries are being made. Two examples will suffice:

The belief that brain cells die off in fairly large numbers and are not, indeed cannot, be replaced has recently been shown to be false. Apparently the cells only shrivel up and stay alive but in limbo as it were, these can be reactivated and made normal again by injecting specially prepared immune cells.2 MRI (Magnetic Resonance Imaging) of the neuronal structure of the diseased section of the brain which causes Parkinson’s Disease has resulted in neural implantation which reverses this disease.3 The scientific research findings most relevant to the present discussion are those concerned with the nature and action of brain chemicals and the role they play in dreams.

In addition to the findings of the ‘hard sciences’ there is also an increasingly cogent body of philosophical argument against: (a) the traditional notion of the Freudian Unconscious; (b) the Cartesian duality of, physical matter (the body/brain) and a separate kind of matter, the mind); and (c) that a sort of homunculus resides in the head and directly causes and monitors every single action.4 Before looking at these arguments and findings in detail I will briefly describe Freud’s concept of the Unconscious and define the terms, conscious and Unconscious, as I use them in this thesis.

The popular notion of the Unconscious mind is like the dark, hidden basement of a house and the conscious mind like that part of the house one can see. Freud did not, from my understanding, believe the Unconscious resided in a separate or specific physical location within the brain. What he did however insist upon, was that the Unconscious was a distinct entity operating under its own volition. Rather than understanding the Unconscious as, "...an intrinsic aspect of the mind/brain system" Freud believed the unconscious depended upon the external world for its energy and information.5 He believed the Unconscious was primal, libidinal drives and repression which dynamically caused a person to act and dream the way they did. The Unconscious did not just contain forgotten information which could be retrieved, or better, remembered at will, perhaps with some help. The actual contents of the Unconscious Freud insisted, was impossible to be directly recalled, it was permanently excluded from consciousness. However, he believed the Unconscious to be the primary mode of thinking and the conscious the secondary mode. This primary dynamic mode worked through the language of symbols and appeared ‘ready for interpretation’ in dreams, jokes and ‘slips of the tongue’.

Freud placed special importance on the meanings contained in dreams and as is well known, referred to them as "the royal road to the Unconscious". Freud’s notion of the nature and purpose of dreams; a dynamic Unconscious (as opposed to a type of storage system for nonconscious memories); and an Unconscious that contained repressions, especially sexually repressed desires of an infantile nature, briefly sum up what we normally understand as the Unconscious.

These three fundamental aspects of Freud’s theory: (a) manifest content of dreams; (b)repressed sexual desires; and (c) a dynamic, deterministic Unconscious will be shown to be untenable in the following pages.

 

Following Hobson’s lead I will use conscious to mean, "...the brain-mind’s awareness of some of its own information". And replace the term Unconscious with nonconscious which means; the aggregate of all brain states; including acquired information (which may not necessarily be encoded as memory) and memory itself.6 Unconscious is more accurate and useful in describing the state that one is in under anaesthetic. However, when I do use Unconscious in this paper it is referring only to Freud’s "scandalous unconscious".7

It is worth noting at this point that repression has a special meaning in psychoanalysis and is not synonymous with suppression. Memories, emotions and so on that are suppressed are still available to consciousness in principle, whereas repressions are not available in direct form at all. The actual operation of the Unconscious lies outside of conscious awareness. Three types of repression are recognised: (a) primal repression; primitive, forbidden Id impulses are blocked and cannot ever reach consciousness. (b) primary repression; anxiety producing mental content is forced into the Unconscious and prevented from surfacing again. (c) secondary repression; signs or indicators of the primary repressed material are themselves repressed.8 I will return to the nonsensical nature of the above descriptions a little later in the philosophical critique section of this paper. It will be necessary to explain in some detail the relevant neurophysiological aspects of brain functioning to show why latent dream content as insisted upon by Freud is a myth. There seems to be three fundamental principles which cover the operation of the brain-mind system. (a) The brain-mind is a unified system. No brain, no mind. Although not all philosophers would agree with this principle it seems most neurophysiologists do. (b) There are three primary brain-mind states; waking, sleeping and dreaming. These are fundamental organising units of the brain-mind. (c) Brain-mind states can be measured and manipulated.9

The key factor in the brain-mind complex maintaining its balanced state is the chemical system known as the aminergic-cholinergic system. The existence of these chemicals is indisputable and Hobson provides very powerful evidence of the function (and dysfunction) of this system. This evidence has come from extensive experiments and observation in sleep laboratories and is covered in great detail in, "The Chemistry of Conscious States".10

The aminergic system (amines) governs our waking state and the cholinergic (acetylcholine) system governs our dreaming state. These systems are in dynamic equilibrium and neither one is ever totally inactive. The ratio of these chemicals can now account for many previously mysterious states of the conscious mind such as hypnosis, dementia and fantasy. As we approach sleep the cholinergic chemical increases and maintains dominance whilst asleep. As we wake up normally, the reverse happens and the aminergic system becomes dominant. If we are awoken suddenly we temporarily experience confusion and disorientation because the chemical system needs a little time to re-establish its correct ratio/balance for the respective, consciously desired? states.11

Prior to the discovery of this chemically activated sleep-waking system, researchers such as Vogel had shown that dreaming actually begins before a person is fully asleep.12 This finding is explained by and correlates perfectly with the action of the aminergic-cholinergic system.

A second interesting correlation is the work of Gelernter. He believes mental focus moves from high to low, at the high focus end we are most alert, logical and deal with step-by-step problem solving. At the low focus end, that is as we move down the spectrum we do not think logically, our minds move easily from one unrelated subject to another, creative solutions to problems occur at this level, ones that have previously defied logical solution. It is at this level that inspiration suddenly hits us. Further down the spectrum the onset of sleep and then dreaming occurs. Gelernter believes dreaming, "...is a species of minimum-focus thought".13 Again this description of mental states fits in perfectly with the action of the aminergic-cholinergic system. Gelernter however, did not know about these chemicals at the time of working out his high-low focus hypothesis of mental states.

The most important aspect of this research is the way memory ties in with high-low focus mentation. Gelernter believes young children’s dominant focus mode is low, as they mature they gradually replace their daydreaming, fantasy, stream of consciousness style explanations with the cold hard logic needed to survive in the world. At low focus, memory is the most fallible, a daydreaming student cannot remember parts of a lecture in which he or a she was daydreaming. Early childhood memories, before about age four are notoriously hard to recall. As developmental psychologists are now finding that is because there are few specific event memories encoded during these years. There are two reasons for this. Firstly, the area of the brain which is related to long-term memory, the inner part of the temporal lobes, is undeveloped in children under the age of three. Fragmented memories, though not deeply encoded can be stored by infants.14 Secondly, learning to crawl, walk and avoid danger, such as steep slopes, do not encode as memories as we once thought. These actions, sensorimotor control of our limbs for example, are not controlled by a central brain executive drawing on a specific memory, they are mediated by local feedback control.

It is not necessary, nor within the scope of this thesis to digress into this complex area known as "soft assembly and decentralised" problem solving. Suffice to say early memories in particular are not specific traces stored in the Unconscious (nor nonconscious) waiting to be used, let alone behaving as dynamic entities determining the conscious action of the individual.

In general, evolved creatures will neither store nor process information in costly ways when they can use the structure of the environment and their operations upon it as a convenient stand-in for the information-processing

operations concerned.15

 

The more persistent, focused or traumatic an event the more likely it will be encoded permanently into memory, after of course the long-term memory area of the brain is sufficiently developed to encode it. As an example, the memory of repeated physical abuse at a young age (after four years) may well be suppressed and cause later abnormal behaviour as an adult, but it will be available for recall. This is a fundamentally different mechanism causing the neurosis than Freud’s, hypothetical primary repression mechanism.

Hobson and others have established beyond doubt that the brain-mind is a unified entity and that its states have their causation in chemical interaction. The normal healthy brain-mind is not schizoid as Freud insisted. Some operations of the brain-mind are for most people forever nonconscious, such as remembering to breath. As some exceptional Indian yoga practitioners demonstrate even these normal, nonconscious brain-mind operations can be ‘manually controlled’, after years of intense training.

Causality is a benchmark for the viability of scientific and philosophical theory. Hobson’s evidence for the aminergic-cholinergic system of the unified brain-mind means "causality is guaranteed".

A rise of the amines causes waking; being awake for the entire day weakens the amines, which enables acetylcholine to surge; this brings on non REM sleep, which causes amines to drop lower and acetylcholine to rise so high that dreaming occurs; this enables the amines to rest and regroup, which causes waking again. Likewise waking enables us to accept new information into our conscious minds, sleeping enables us to etch this information into the permanent memories of our nonconscious minds...[my emphasis] an event at the nonconscious level - the firing of cholinergic neurons - could be said to cause the visions of our dreams. As a corollary, dream forgetting is caused by the unavailability of norepinephrine and serotonin to the cells of the brain that store recent memories.16

 

This explanation of long term memory encoding and short term memory loss with dreams, leaves no room for a hypothetical entity, the Unconscious, which is dynamic, has access to all memories (even those which could never have been encoded, age one to three) and supposedly causes dreams to disguise these painful memories or repressions in acceptable or palatable symbols which need a trained psychotherapist to interpret.

Many of our dreams are characterised by disorientation and bizarre juxtaposition of images usually within a partial landscape. Acetycholine has swept away the norepinephrine and serotonin and this is the cause of the disorientation. Permanent deficiencies in various brain chemicals cause similar disorientation and hallucinations in alcoholics, psychotics and those using such drugs as LSD.17

The discovery of the brain’s chemical mechanisms is quite profound as it correlates perfectly with Gelernter’s "high-low" focus theory of mentation as previously described, and also with States’s philosophical investigation into the nature of dreaming and artistic creativity. In his, "The Rhetoric of Dreams",18 drawing on research findings of scholars such as Evans and Jouvet, States thoroughly and systematically demolishes the received Freudian version of repression and the purpose of dreams and sleep.

It seems sleep is not necessary to give the brain a rest but to allow it to ‘take stock’ as it were, of the vast amount of information which it receives and dispatches during an individuals waking hours. In sleep the brain reduces incoming data to an absolute minimum, it goes off-line,

while the brain sorts and stores the day’s sensory experience in its memory banks, correlates it with earlier storage (short-term memory with long-term memory), and updates its programs, including elementary programs dealing with social conduct, skills, manners, preparations (or rehearsals) for possible conflicts to come and, more urgent, conflicts that have already arrived.19

 

Evans believes a dream is, "...a momentary interception by the conscious mind [while asleep] of material being sorted, scanned, sifted or whatever during (REM) sleep".20 This "momentary interception" theory which is supported by electroencephalogram data, shows that an individual is unaware of the majority of dreaming that occurs each night. And of those dreams of which we are conscious of (literally) much is immediately forgotten upon waking, because of chemical reasons already explained. This suggests, "...most dreams are not primarily of any conscious value to the dreamer...".21

If a very important topic is bothering an individual, the topic will be dominant in the mind and thoroughly encoded in memory due to the repetitive analysis of the problem during the day. We will be more likely to dream of such an issue because during the night’s sorting and sifting much of the sorting will be concerned with that specific issue, mostly because of its dominance and presence compared with other less persistent data in the waking period. Consequently we sometimes come up with an answer to a problem in a dream. The answer may be in obvious imagery or in symbolic cryptic form which will require some analysis upon waking, by oneself. This cryptic dream content is a totally different type to Freud’s ‘latent’ content. It has no purpose, no volition of its own, precisely, it has no ‘intentionality’. It is simply the product of certain chemical interactions combined with an "overloaded" amount of intensely focused mental activity.

Any dream analysis must take into consideration the person’s previous waking period’s activities, both Freud and Jung recognised the necessity of this. They could hardly afford not to, as it is blatantly obvious even in a cursory examination of an individual’s dream diary. Freud believed it did not matter what mental data the Unconscious appropriated for the dream’s manifest content because as long as the ‘chosen’ data was suitable to encrypt "repressed drives and desires" into latent symbolic form it would be adequate.22 It seems in actual fact that the manifest dream content is literally a product of "free association", indicated by the often bizarre juxtaposition of imagery, a result as previously explained, of the chemical causation of the extreme low-focus mental state of dreaming.

Whilst discussing latent and manifest dream content it is worth considering Freud’s insistence that there is always opposition between the latent and manifest content of dreams. Freud also insisted that most dreams are concerned with ‘latent’ sexual/libidinal material, presented of course in symbolic form. As States points out this creates a fundamental error of logic, "...an openly sexual dream would lead to the apparent absurdity that it was masking a nonsexual content"...it seems highly improbable that a dream would openly produce images of sexual organs one night and disguise them the next night as turnips...".23

Further, it does not take much imagination to attribute male or female sexual organ imagery to almost everything around us - think of house plumbing fittings or innocent electrical plugs and sockets. If a person dreamt of cooking baked carrots in the oven for a dinner party, classical psychoanalysis would suggest the obvious, and to me banal or trivial analysis, that the person is dreaming of sexual intercourse and probably would insist that the person has some unresolved and deeply repressed anxiety regarding this. The person may simply have been consciously anxious about getting the cooking right because a chef or fussy parents may have been among the proposed dinner guests and consequently this baked carrot scenario was intensely focused and dominant in the cook’s waking thoughts, prior to the carrot dream.

This rather amusing example raises another unsubstantiated psychoanalytical claim, that my choice of this example from the hundreds of other possibilities was not simply arbitrary. My joke is masking something else; my resistance to the acceptance of the psychoanalyst’s interpretation means a further hidden repression and resistance, creating an (ad nauseam) infinite regress, expressed through symbolism which I do not understand nor recognise. Together with the ubiquity of sexual metaphoric imagery and this circular nature of psychoanalysis, it means one can never win an argument against psychoanalysis, unless it can be shown, as I am attempting, that traditional psychoanalysis rests on falsely constructed foundations.

As Wittgenstein notes (cited in States), "Consider the difficulty that if a symbol in a dream is not understood, it does not seem to be a symbol at all. So why call it one?"24 This raises another point which shows the implausibility of repressed latent dream content and that is the nature of evolutionary selection.

All humans need regular sleep, all humans regardless of race or culture dream during each sleep period, the majority of dreams are not complete logical narratives but consist of fragmented imagery, this universality indicates that dreaming must have some important functional role in our wellbeing or survival. Evans’ theory of the mechanism of dreams satisfies perfectly the requirements of an evolutionary explanation. Freud’s theory on the other hand is not at all plausible from an evolutionary perspective. Apart from other issues the main problem is why would evolution select a universal trait, such as encrypting dreams with symbols which the dreamer cannot decipher? Without a psychoanalyst our dreams remain essentially a mystery to us, yet Freud would have it that dreams are intentional emanations from the major engine of mentation, the Unconscious, which he insisted was directly unknowable. This means without correct dream interpretation humans are determined by the Unconscious, mere puppets of mental processes beyond their natural control.

The psychoanalytical interpretation of dreams is a very recent cultural invention and has no relevance to biological evolution whatever, If dreams, "were primarily instruments of communication, most dreams would be useless, somewhat like talking into a dead telephone.25

Over the centuries, prior to Freud, various explanations were devised by people to try and understand dreams, these ranged from visitations by spirits to direct communication from a God or gods. It seems the plausibility of any of these explanations is irrelevant because dreams are "momentary interceptions", snapshots as it were of the fundamentally essential activities of the brain-mind - the updating and organisation of the previous waking period’s data.

It may not matter if we remember dreams or not, large numbers of people rarely recall their dreams and live long productive lives. The important point is that we require sleep to survive. Sleep deprivation brings on mental confusion, psychological distress and hallucination. When sleep is allowed, REM sleep immediately increases until the individual returns to homoeostasis.

Freud’s theory of dreams has been further jeopardised by the research of the neurophysiologist Michel Jouvet. Jouvet has proven through experiments on cats that they also have REM sleep periods and during those periods, dream. They not only dream, they dream of hunting and similar cat, life-issues, "...the cats were dreaming of hunting and that this is probably a high priority dream program of cats in which they rehearse their roles and sharpen the tools of food-gathering".26

Anyone who has spent time observing a pet dog or cat does not need Jouvet to convince them that animals dream, nevertheless, when experimental results concur with ‘folk wisdom’ it helps support the observation and adds to our knowledge.

As States concludes, if Freud’s theory is correct then cat’s dreams must be communicating to them repressed mental material, symbolically. We can never know if a cat is dreaming of real mice or symbols thereof but I think we can safely say that a cat is not driven by repressed libidinal drives. It is really reaching the absurd level to suggest that cats suffer from repressed castration anxiety, penis envy or perhaps an unresolved Oedipal Complex.

Greenberg suggests that remembered dreams are failures, "...problems involving strong tensions that the brain could not solve".27 This may indicate that when an issue, which may directly threaten our survival, is not satisfactorily resolved during waking, it is prominent in the dream period, this would explain similar recurring dreams. These dreams may last for a few nights, or for many years as in the case of some returned soldiers. The human organism seeks ceaselessly to maintain homeostasis, both psychic and physiological. For an individual to satisfactorily integrate the psychically horrific experiences of war it may take years or perhaps may never be achieved. The reason that these individuals have nightmares and so on is not because the terrible experiences of war have been repressed but precisely because they are remembered. In some individuals they may be consciously suppressed. Suppressed memories of unacceptable experiences prevent an individual achieving psychic wholeness. Suppression, as previously noted is not repression. Repetitive dreams occur not because the Unconscious has intentionality but because of the prominence and dominance of the issue at stake.

For much of an individual’s life, continual, direct survival issues, in the broadest sense, are minimal. This perhaps accounts for the fact that for most of us, most of the time, dreams are not recalled or those that are seem to have little immediacy or powerful impact. This last point is somewhat speculative, however, I believe once we investigate sleep and dreams from a fresh non-Freudian perspective, such as Hobson is doing, we will gain valuable insights into nonconscious and conscious mentation.

I should point out that not all practitioners of psychoanalysis agree with nor support classical Freudian theory. Rycroft for example, "...believes that dreams are expressions of imaginative activity and entirely free of repression and that therefore the concept of the unconscious is "unnecessary, redundant, scientistic, and hypostasizing...".28 Rycroft sees dreams as forms of communication, especially a sort of self-to-self communication. I must agree with States, that although Rycroft does not imply the existence of an homoncular "superconscious", the schizoid, two-mind problem, is not satisfactorily resolved, because if the dream speaks intentionally, which it must do in Rycroft’s theory then it, "implies a sender, medium and a receiver".29

Further one would be excused for asking, "If dreams are free of repression and the concept of the Unconscious is redundant, what is left of psychoanalysis? I believe psychoanalysis free of these two fictions has a purpose and future as I note further on. When forced onto the back foot (psychoanalysts would probably insist I harbour deep repressed aggression by choosing to use a pugilistic metaphor!) psychoanalysts defend their discipline by referring to positive clinical results. Referring to the opponents of psychoanalysis Ricoeur says, "They consider the unconscious as no more than a projection on the part of the analysts with the complicity of his patient. Only therapeutic success can guarantee to us that the unconscious is not an invention of psychoanalysis in this purely subjective sense".30

The therapeutic success in no way guarantees, "that the unconscious is not an invention" in either a subjective or objective sense. Just as a Rorschach blot may be useful in helping to uncover neuroses so too may a dream. Not because it contains symbolic repression but because it is not, "...what has been put into the dream that matters, but what one can get out of it".31

A further strong argument showing the Freudian Unconscious to be an incoherent concept is made by Searle in, "The Rediscovery of the Mind".

The evidence that Freud gives us for the existence of the unconscious is invariably that the patient engages in behavior that is as if he had a certain mental state, but because we know independently that the patient does not have any such conscious mental state, Freud postulates an unconscious mental state as the cause of the behavior.32

 

Searle’s argument centres on a complex description, drawing on neurophysiological findings, of what constitutes conscious mental states. Because Freud had no knowledge of the real neurophysiological functioning of the brain and because his patient’s neuroses had no conscious causes, he was forced to abandon his project to find a scientific basis for psychology and invent the Unconscious to account for the neuroses. His Unconscious however, falls into a vicious regress, "...if we hold that the phenomenon of bringing unconscious states to consciousness consists in perceiving previously unconscious mental phenomena that, in themselves, are unconscious.33

In summary, Searle believes there are two main objections to Freud’s account of the Unconscious; (a) "...we do not have a clear notion of how the ontology of the unconscious is supposed to match the ontology of the neurophysiology". (b)..."we do not have a clear notion of how to apply the perceptual analogy to the relation between consciousness and unconsciousness".34

Despite such overwhelming evidence against a Freudian Unconscious from neuroscience some scholars have endeavoured to lay a new foundation for psychoanalysis.

Laplanche for example attempts such a feat, however, I believe he makes two fundamental errors; (a) in his notion of development and (b) his acceptance of the Unconscious as a given.

(a) Laplanche suggests that, "...there is indeed a development viewpoint, and a legitimate psychology of development. Our real task is to restore it to its rightful place. There is no place for it in psychoanalysis".35

I think Laplanche is confusing development, as in genetic determination (growth from foetus to adult) and developmental psychology, which seeks to understand how the various aspects of a developing entity actually work. If Laplanche is referring to the former then I cannot see its relevance, if he is referring to the latter his argument is in serious trouble. "Experimental evidence now strongly indicates that early childhood memories (which psychoanalysts have judged to be the source of later conflict) are in fact irretrievably lost".36

(b) Laplanche accepts the Unconscious as a given, a nonquestionable fact, "...we simply had to accept that the unconscious was present in the sense that even its opponents accept its presence...".37 He does however address the question regarding the nature of the Unconscious. In looking at, "the polemic over the nature of the unconscious" he sees it fitting into two possible categories. The realist view (Freud) and the phenomenologist view (Politzer, Sartre, Shaffer).38 If the phenomenologist view does actually recognise the Unconscious as Laplanche seems to believe then both of these positions are incorrect from my perspective because they both accept the existence of the Unconscious in one form or another.

I find Laplanche’s inclusion of Sartre in his phenomenologists as somewhat confusing, as Sartre argued that there was no need to invent an Unconscious to account for the various types of parapraxes. These he claimed were simply manifestations of "self-deceptive" conscious states. "All knowing is conscious of knowing".39

Using my previous example of a returned soldier, the soldier attempts to return to civilian life and may pretend everything is all right (both to himself and others). However, his failure to deal with the war experience, say of killing another human being, is for Sartre an act of "self-deception". The soldier’s parapraxes and dreams are not caused by repression.

Whether the Unconscious is thought of as a dynamic, determining entity, located somewhere in the brain, or a Kantian style "thing-in-itself", that is, "an unknowable thing-in-itself which lies beyond the realm of physical phenomena".40 or a psychical state whose ontology can only be ascertained through the analytical process is irrelevant. All these positions accept the existence of an Unconscious. As I have attempted to show the Unconscious does not exist, there is a unified brain-mind which at any time has nonconscious and conscious states.

The Sartrean postulate of "self-deception" is exactly what I mean by suppression of experiences or thoughts, those too painful to take responsibility for. If there is to be a new foundation and modus operandi for psychoanalysis it must be to help individuals recognise and re-remember the traumatic suppressions and then through the most suitable therapy method, to heal the individual.

The existing tools of psychotherapy would still be applicable. Free association, analysis of ‘slips of the tongue’, manifest not latent dream content interpretation, especially of recurring dreams, are all methods of discovering what is really causing neuroses.

In conclusion I have attempted to show that there is adequate scientific evidence and sound philosophical argument to abandon the traditional, Freudian concept of the Unconscious, together with its adjuncts, latent dream content and repressed, unknowable sexual psychic determinants. The proper role of psychoanalysis is to uncover the true causes of neurosis, not construct fictitious, hypothetical causes, after the event which only serve to confound the neurosis.

The relationship of Psychoanalysis and Surrealism is well documented and in many cases, the uncritical acceptance of this relationship has resulted in an image of surrealism's source of inspiration that is at best misleading and at worst, simply incorrect. It is the purpose of the following chapter to critically discuss this issue.

 

Chapter Three:

Discussion of Surrealist Poetry

Any attempt to define Surrealism and then neatly pigeon hole it is fraught with the danger of misrepresenting it, or worse, missing the point altogether. One aspect of the surrealist enterprise was (and is) to challenge the status quo and to question the validity of preconceived ideas and the doctrine, rules and styles of any of the isms. This is particularly relevant to my present project because Breton and Soupault wanted to by-pass all preconceived ideas, received truth and gain inspiration directly from the non-conditioned, amoral, primal Unconscious. As I discuss in detail further on, even if we allow the possibility of a Freudian Unconscious, it is highly debatable if Breton et al. thought of or even new if they were prospecting this Unconscious or the nonconscious reservoir of their minds. Before looking at this I will briefly describe the origins and the nature of the social and cultural milieu in which Surrealism was spawned.

The late eighteen hundreds through the first three decades of the new twentieth century saw a large scale social and cultural change especially in Europe and the USA. These changes had two significant aspects. One was unprecedented technological and scientific invention, the products of which were becoming increasingly accessible to a more literate and informed general public. The second was the challenge to existing, long standing edifices of culture and belief systems, this was a particularly cathartic period for the fine arts.

Rodin’s expressive, brutal sculptures challenged the sacred yardstick of fine art maintained autocratically by the French Academy. The advent of Cubism involving Picasso and Braque a few years later further questioned the whole notion of just what constituted fine art. The first World War shook Europe to its core and raised even further anarchic, revolutionary, status quo challenging questions. The most anarchistic movement to arise in this intellectual, political and cultural ferment was that known as Dada. The movement was formed in Zurich in 1916, one of the principal members and author of its many manifestos was Tristan Tzara, "dada lampooned all prevailing values: morality, aesthetics, culture, philosophy, the army, religion, everything honoured in the pantheon of bourgeois ideology".1 For Dada, nothing was sacred, and from its irreverent, humorous attempt to destroy the values of conventional society was born Surrealism.

Although Surrealism has some similar aspects to Dada it is fundamentally very different, for whilst Dada was primarily negating and destructive, Surrealism was positive and creative. As Andre Breton, the long serving leader of the Surrealist movement said, "Human emancipation remains the only cause worth serving".2 Breton wrote the first manifesto of Surrealism in 1924 and the second in 1930. The two manifestoes show a progression of Surrealism from its original aims of freeing the mind from the constraints of reason and dealing with, "the problem of human expression" in all its forms, to its direct involvement in political revolution, especially that of Communism and championing the cause of the proletariat. "Whoever speaks of expression speaks of language first and foremost. It should therefore come as no surprise to anyone to see Surrealism almost exclusively concerned with the question of language…".3

Although Surrealism’s original, intimate engagement with language may have attempted to circumvent reason and the conscious mind, its involvement with political revolution most certainly was consciously directed, well organised and clearly articulated. Throughout Breton’s lecture to the Belgian surrealists in 1934 we find reference to the need of surrealists to oppose, "capitalist hypocrisy and cynicism" to the "disease called Fascism" and the need to support the proletariat. Whilst Breton considered the practical engagement of Surrealism necessary to support the revolution he also believed the ideals of the later surrealists were still in keeping with the original emancipatory ideals of Surrealism. The ideals may have been the same but the methods used were considerably different. Fascinating as the political revolutionary aspects of Surrealism may be this is not directly relevant to this thesis, my sole concern is to ascertain the level of the surrealist's understanding of Freud’s theories and their depth of contact with the so called Unconscious.

This brief discussion was necessary to establish the two phases of Surrealism beyond doubt. Breton himself defines this, "…one can distinguish two epochs in the surrealist movement, of equal duration, from its origins (1919, year of the publication of Les Champs magnétiques) until today - a purely intuitive epoch and a reasoning epoch".4 Breton leaves no doubt as to the relationship of the surrealists' "reasoning epoch" with politics, "…we must struggle against our fetters with all the energy of despair; that today more than ever the surrealists rely entirely, for the bringing about of human liberation, on the proletarian revolution".5

Breton acknowledges the inadequacies of the original surrealist methods and comments how, "…surrealist activity had to cease being content with the results (automatic texts, recital of dreams, improvised speeches, spontaneous poems, drawings and actions) which it had originally planned."6 Perhaps these methods were inadequate because they were not from the Unconscious, which should if it existed, be universal, powerful and understood by everyone. It is to Breton’s credit that he was prepared to acknowledge the changes in the surrealist modus operandi and perhaps it shows that the movement was, as Rosemont comments, "…not an aesthetic doctrine, nor a philosophical system, nor a mere literary or artistic school".7 This presents us with somewhat of a paradox, in that although the surrealists did not attempt to "merely" make literature, the results of their efforts are literary works. A poem by any other name is still a poem, in a fundamental sense.

No doubt [Breton] would himself prefer to be regarded not merely as a great stylist but far more as a polemical iconoclast and instigator. Nevertheless it is as literature in the least pejorative sense that his writings have been consecrated by their inclusion in the 1988 Bibliothèque de la Pléiade edition.8

 

The Derridian concept of the irrelevance of the author’s intentions as a basis for assured interpretation of the meaning of the textual discourse raises many interesting questions in the comparison of surrealist poetry and computer generated poetry. One such question is, "Who is the author of a poem randomly generated by a computer - and does it matter"? Unfortunately it would be digressing too far from the main goal of this thesis to discuss Deconstruction and the role of the authorship of surrealist and computer generated poetry, other than that of the Unconscious. However, I do believe this related area deserves further detailed analysis and would add significantly to the authorship/postmodern debate. The intimate relationship of Surrealism and Deconstruction, echoed in Derrida’s own words (years later), further supports the need for this work. Referring to literature and philosophy as unstable categories with no guarantees, "If they seem secure and natural, it’s because they’re governed by a powerful consensus, premised on foundational thinking"9, just the very thing Surrealism wanted to break down and transcend by tapping directly into the Unconscious.

The surrealist texts, supposedly from the Unconscious, would, the surrealists believed, force society to look critically into itself and by doing so free itself from the impotence of existing language usage, especially that of dead poetry. The surrealist axiom, "To each according to his [sic] desire"10 was the surrealists’ way of bringing about the reconstruction of society. What is not clear, is the meaning and the source of this desire, which the surrealists wanted to use to reconstruct society. Clearly desire, in a primal sense, is the essential engine of the Freudian Unconscious. Freud stressed over and over again that desires were products of unconscious dynamic processes and that those desires, "…derive their energy directly from the primary instincts." Further, "…these primitive trends are to a great extent of a sexual or of a destructive nature…".11 It is worth noting that Freud’s use of the term sexual was not confined purely to sexual intercourse nor to the genitals, though this is a debatable point, I think it is generally accepted that Freud’s sexual means a instinctive libidinal force or energy. This energy may drive power struggles or be the reason for oral fixations and so on.

If Freud had been correct, and had the surrealists actually been bringing up material from the Unconscious, their works should have contained vast amounts of symbolic sexual material, and perhaps an intrinsic destructiveness with little grammatical coherence. These three aspects of content are not apparent in any of the early surrealist’s works (1919 to 1933). Not only are they not noticeably apparent, there is even less evidence of such themes in the surrealists’ works than in many other non-surrealist poets’ works.

Washington in, "Erotic Poems" has collected one hundred and fifty poems by over one hundred different poets from vastly different time periods and cultural milieu. Most of the poems in the anthology display manifest sexual content as would be expected; poems by Paul Verlain contain both extreme latent and manifest content; those by Robert Graves have considerable latent content. The only surrealist poet to be represented, which is highly significant in itself, is Paul Eluard, his poem is arguably the most non-sexual in the collection. Even the haiku of Basho, the Zen master and poet, "Finis" is loaded with latent sexual symbolism.12

As Washington points out in the Foreword this collection is a companion volume to, "Love Poems", consequently the erotic poem volume is supposed to contain sexual symbolism either latent or manifest. Benjamin Péret is not represented in the collection for very good reason, even stretching one’s imagination and invoking the classical psychoanalytical technique of finding latent sexual reference in everything, we are hard pressed to find any sexual content, yet Péret’s poems are supposedly direct from the Unconscious, a beast seething with primal sexual desire?13

If we now turn to, "Les Champs Magnétiques" (The Magnetic Fields) we similarly find very little sexual nor significant morally challenging references, certainly no more than any other literary work. I find this extraordinary because as Breton said of this work, "Soupault and I, by writing Les Champs Magnétiques believed that we made a decisive advance toward (creating a mode of writing free of censorship)."14

The surrealists' knowledge of and association with Freud’s ideas are well known, I will comment further on this in a moment. Censorship as used by Freud and then Breton has a very specific meaning. Psychoanalytic censorship in Freud’s early theory was the agency which distorted dreams and controlled repression, as the theory became more sophisticated the censor became the basis for the development of the superego.15 In other words, censorship was that action of the mind which prevented unacceptable sexual and immoral thoughts or desires from getting past the gatekeeper? into consciousness, this was effected by distortion, softening images, rearranging associations and so on. One wonders if Psychoanalysis actually believes it is possible to completely bypass this hypothetical censorship. If it is possible, the results (in Breton and Soupault’s case, texts) must contain either lewd, violent, sexually explicit or totally immoral or at least amoral material. They do not! On the contrary the first section of Les Champs, "The Unsilvered Glass" is a sort of romantic adventure, with perhaps a sentimental longing for an idyllic past. Similarly the other sections of "Les Champs" contains no material which could irrefutably be attributed to a Freudian Unconscious.

It is interesting to note that the Surrealists, "…made an effort to expunge any taint [my emphasis] of the sentimentality and elitism of the Symbolists", yet the "Unsilvered Glass" smacks of melancholy sentimentality.16 A far more serious problem is involved with this, "effort to expunge". If the Surrealists really believed they were getting information direct from the Unconscious, either in dreams or automatic writing, then they were clearly deluded or self contradictory as can been seen by Breton’s definition of Surrealism.

SURREALISM, n. Psychic automatism in its pure state, by which one proposes to express - verbally, by means of the written word, or in any other manner - the actual functioning of thought. Dictated by thought, in the absence of any control exercised by reason, exempt from any aesthetic or moral concern.17

I fail to see how it is possible to "expunge sentimentality" when the output text is not controlled by reason, either the output is from an unmediated Unconscious, à la Freud, or it is from nonconscious mental states which have been prepared, or better, primed by conscious reasoning prior to the automatic writing session. As I explained in Chapter Two this appears to be the true nature of dreams; sorting and encoding the previous day’s or week’s conscious experiences and thoughts. The more intense or repetitive the conscious priming, the more likely the dreams or directly unmediated stream of nonconscious mentation will reflect or be concerned with those conscious matters. The Surrealists pushed the priming stage of producing the automatic texts to breaking point, even to the point of fearing ensuing insanity. Breton’s textual work (some say a novel others say a combination of prose and poetry) "Nadja", dealt with this topic extensively. Breton spoke often about, and was intensely interested in, the whole concept of madness, Matthews has brilliantly analysed the surrealists’ relationship with insanity in his book, "Surrealism, Insanity, and Poetry".18 However, returning to early surrealist texts and their possible relationship with the Unconscious, in "Soluble Fish" (published 1924), we find a similar situation to "Les Champs"; a wealth of romantic description prevails, one randomly selected example will suffice, [Section 11]; "The horse, whose white mane is dragging on the ground, rears up with all the majesty desirable, and little lights whirling round despite the broad daylight ricochet in its shadow".19

A further characteristic of both these texts is that overall they appear without coherent meaning, that is, at very least, they do not follow the standard fictional form of their era of character development, following a predetermined plot and ending with the climax. This is of course to be expected, both from the surrealists’ anti-literature stance and also if the text is direct from the Unconscious. However, sentences and sometimes whole paragraphs of the longer textual pieces, not necessarily poems, have a logical and meaningful coherence which one would not expect from an Unconscious set free, as it were, and recorded exactly as it manifested itself into consciousness. Garrabe suggests that, "…no work of interpretation is useful or desirable" in surrealism: "one must even carefully avoid it and be content to record what the unconscious dictates".20 I discuss the question of meaning in detail in Chapter Five when I look at the comparison of random generated computer poems and Surrealist poems.

A further interesting point to note is that the grammar and syntax of sentences and phrases in all surrealist writings is precise. I fail to see how grammar can be consistently perfect when the Unconscious is supposed to be throwing up symbolic messages, whose latent content is theoretically of a primal non-logical nature. Despite the debate over the natural and genetically hard-wired capacity of humans to create and use language, grammar surely is a set of logical rules applied to this hypothetical innate capability. I am not arguing emphatically that it is impossible for correct grammar to come directly from the Unconscious, only that it is highly improbable.

In accordance with Gelernter’s theory of a high-to-low consciousness continuum, it is far more likely that the brain-mind applies grammatical rules to the rising nonconscious thoughts as they break into consciousness.21 The rules of the road and the technical aspects of driving an automobile are nonconscious most of the time for experienced drivers, however, they are being applied constantly and consistently to the overall act of driving. Similarly highly trained or extensively experienced sportspeople or artists for example, never consciously think of the mechanics of what they are doing, were they to do this the performance or creation would suffer from self conscious awkwardness.

I contend that Breton et al. were doing nothing that creative artists, writers, scientists and so on have always done and continue to do today. That is, the technical aspect of the discipline is thoroughly learnt, then by relaxing the hold on the conscious mind, shifting down the scale from logic-high-focus to dreamy-low-focus and quelling premeditated ideas of what should be, inspiration is given a chance to manifest itself. Also, chance associations of disparate ideas (which is perhaps inspiration itself) like genetic mutations, sometimes result in new and unique creations.

What the surrealists did do was to make a huge fuss of this process, they published extensively their ideas and the way they tried to deactivate reason and engage in pure psychic automatism. This started with the séances and noting down exactly what came through from the other side; then proceeded with automatic writing from the Unconscious (nonconscious) and then the recording of natural and forced dreams. Breton especially was eclectic in that he investigated many sources of possible psychic information such as; occultism, séances, tarot, astrology (see Arcanum 17), Freud’s attempt at a scientific theory of the Unconscious and a smattering of psychiatry.22

There is considerable evidence that Breton did not understand Freud’s theories well and only appropriated the bits that suited his purpose as a literary artist and bourgeois revolutionary. As Spector notes;

"-the incorrect assumption implicit in Surrealist writing that there is one Unconscious, generally resulting from processes of repression. In fact, other paths can lead to an "unconscious" not necessarily as troubled and charged with the sexuality and aggression as the one Freud and the Surrealists explored…"23

 

Remy further discusses in some detail the limitation of Breton’s understanding of the psychoanalytic Unconscious.24

To give Freud his due he at least attempted to construct a theory of consciousness based on a scientific methodology involving careful analysis of clinical case histories, all from a base of sound medical training and complete familiarity with the neurophysiology of his time. Breton, however, attempted to create his own idiosyncratic version of the nature of the Unconscious without any such sound methodology. He challenged aspects of Freud’s theory, even though the Surrealists hailed, The Interpretation of Dreams almost as their bible. He also attacked Freud personally, questioning his originality.25 Some have argued that this attack on Freud is clearly an Oedipal struggle, I discuss this shortly. Re the monumentality of, The Interpretation of Dreams; "Breton seems to have aspired to create his own form of interpretation to apply both to his dreams and poetry".26

Breton insisted that Freud was incorrect in separating, "psychic and material" reality and hoped to unite the dream and reality (through the dream’s interpretation)".27 It seems Breton in a roundabout way has been vindicated, in that the separate autonomous psychic entity proposed by Freud, the Unconscious, does not exist.

Camus, a vocal critic of Surrealism saw the surrealists as being, "…in a state of adolescent revolt". Sartre went further in seeing the surrealists as in, "revolt against the Father". "These young turbulent bourgeois wish to ruin culture because they are cultivated, and their principle enemy remains the philistine of Heine, … in brief, their Papa".28 I cannot agree with Sartre that the surrealists generally, and Breton specifically, wanted to ruin culture. Breton speaks too often of love and as I discussed earlier much of the content of his texts have a sentimental, romantic flavour. To be sure the surrealists wanted to change society by giving it the key to doing this, that is, by showing the world what could be achieved by going beyond the surface appearance of things, beyond basic logical reasoning and tapping into pure psychic thought and "...of having thrown a conducting thread between the too dissociated worlds of waking and sleeping, objective and subjective reality, reason and madness, the calm of knowledge and love...".29 As avant-garde artists they were successful in getting people to see things in a new way, "of precipitating decisive solutions to the problems of human existence",30 to do this they of course had to challenge the status quo. Seeing this in Oedipal terms as Sartre plainly did is highly debatable, perhaps Breton’s individual criticism of Freud could be seen as such but this raises the question of the nature of the Oedipus Complex itself.

It is my belief that like Freud’s notion of the Unconscious his notion of the Oedipus Complex is also a myth. This is supported by three important elements; Firstly, as I demonstrated in Chapter Two the Unconscious does not exist, therefore repressed sexual material is not driving the offspring towards castration of the parent(s). Secondly, the Oedipus Complex is not a universal phenomena by any means. Fromm discusses this and further looks into the various problems with Freud's adoption of the Oedipus myth in much detail. Even if we only use Fromm's analysis, the Oedipus concept of Freud is untenable.31 Thirdly, even a cursory glance at the behaviour of animals and plants in their natural habits show that all offspring must, for evolutionary survival reasons, move out on their own. Plants have developed complex methods to achieve this, animals, especially the young males challenge the dominant male and work out the hierarchy and ratios of male to female and so on. Whilst this has indirect sexual reasons, it has nothing to do with a Freudian repressed sexual desire to castrate the father. Although Freud's use of, sexual, was broader than just genital sex, his version of the Oedipus Complex refers specifically to genital castration to make the father impotent. If we are to use the label Oedipus, it must refer to a power struggle, a precursor to individual autonomy genetically hard-wired to maintain genetic diversity and avoid incestuous inbreeding. Again we find no evidence of a Freudian Oedipal struggle, manifest or latent, in early surrealist texts. Surely if the Unconscious was being directly tapped the surrealists' works would have contained some of the theme and content expressed in Sophocles', King Oedipus or Shakespeare's, Hamlet?

Breton in some of his middle-period transitional writings, Les Vases communicants as an example, wrote about his parents in a critical way, "Breton reported several dreams in the novel in which we sense a latent resentment towards his parents (usually deflected into diatribes against the family in general), but he seems especially to have resented his mother"32, even this does not, to my mind, reflect an Oedipal problem in a repressed Freudian sense.

The surrealists' main methods of bypassing conscious reason were automatic writing, chance meeting and juxtaposition of disparate words and objects, and the recording of dreams. Looking first at automatic writing it is important to understand the difference between automatic writing through the mediums and that of the surrealists. The former seeks to "dissociate the medium's psychological personality" while the latter, "proposes nothing less than the unification of that personality".33 This may be the case, however, the medium's discourse is supposedly coming from something or someone external to the subject (a spirit, angel, deceased person) and the surrealist discourse must be coming from an internal mental process (Unconscious?)., how else could a unification take place. Now, if a unification is possible, then the surrealists are most definitely not recording a discourse from the Unconscious for to unify the Unconscious and conscious is an impossibility according to Freud's theory. To be sure Freud insisted neuroses and some psychoses could be reduced or cured by working with repressed Unconscious material by dealing with it at a conscious level. However, this is not through a unification of the Unconscious and conscious, but through a modification of the autonomous determinism of the Unconscious.

As I briefly mentioned earlier and will demonstrate in the next chapter the surrealist source of inspiration is neither the Freudian Unconscious nor the mysterious spiritual source of the mediums. Thus the question of unification is irrelevant because there is no fundamental dichotomous separation of the Unconscious and conscious.

There is no evidence, that stands up to critical analysis, to support the possibility of communication with the spirits of the mediums. Doris Stokes the famous British medium and seemingly most genuine was recently shown to be operating fraudulently.34 Wilson in his painstakingly researched book, The After Death Experience shows that virtually all cases studied regarding; reincarnation, past life experiences and communication with the dead have rational explanations after careful investigation.35 Wilson gives a number of examples where a person has glanced at the page of a book many years earlier (and immediately forgotten about it or were never totally aware) and later firmly believed they lived in the circumstances connected with the scene in the book. The subjects were hypnotised and the facts double checked, which in all cases revealed the discrepancies and the true source of the past life.

In Les Vases communicants Breton attempted to connect "dreams and diurnal experience" hence the communication vessels. It is interesting to note that dream interpretation was not an important aspect of surrealist activity, what was important was the recording of dreams, supposedly from the Unconscious, which would produce the texts and images that would challenge the status quo. As Matthews points out it was not Breton's goal to perform an exhaustive analysis of dreams such as a psychotherapist might do.36

The surrealists were in a sense playing with dreams and doing so with specific purposes in mind, this was a very different use of dreams than the Freudian method of interpretation. Many of the surrealists' dreams were of a political nature and by claiming that the resultant text or performances (literally) were from dreams, allowed the surrealists a kind of impunity from criticism of the content, which was increasingly orientated towards Marxist utopian social revolution. "As the poets turned to actions within the public sphere, they converted their dreaming into projections of an ideal future...".37

The surrealists also used dreams as a means of expressing their dissent within the group and for criticism of other individual members. Clearly, Spector was correct in saying that, "...large portions of these dreams do not belong to inaccessible areas of the unconscious...".38 Further, Lacan believed the doctrine behind the process of the surrealists dream condensation, which brings together apparently unrelated images was "false".39 Consequently the surrealists' dream activities add further evidence to the case against the Freudian Unconscious being a source of material for Surrealism.

The third surrealist method of producing texts, which challenged the literature of their era, remembering that the surrealist discourses were anti-literature, was that of objective chance or the spontaneous, random association of words or images. Breton refers to chance as a divinity in the first Manifesto of Surrealism.40 I must agree with Matthews when he states, "...chance is to the surrealists pre-eminently the agent of revelation".41

One of the most important methods of helping chance manifest itself for the surrealists was through games, especially word games. Although the game playing was fun it was also taken very seriously.42 By being open to chances' intervention, "...it creates a sort of vacuum in which the imagination finds itself released from the gravitational pull of commonsense associations".43 Further to this, it is my own belief that utilising chance gives creative persons a very powerful tool to use in their creations, it can also be used to overcome such horrors as writers' block. There is a commercial computer program, ParaMind which uses the principle of brainstorming and consequent chance association to solve all sorts of problems from creating unique recipes to developing corporate strategies.44

Of all the surrealists' methods, chance would appear to be the least reliant on the Unconscious. However, traditional psychoanalysis would insist that objects chosen, seemingly at random, reflect deep repressed desires, Lautréamont's (in)famous, "...beautiful as the chance encounter on a dissecting table of a sewing machine and an umbrella",45 being a good example. It is my contention, as previously mentioned in Chapter Two, that virtually all objects can be seen in a sexual (genital) way. Such are, "The "obvious" sexual connotations of these objects (already in Lautréamont's time one could speak of "l'immoralité du parapluie)...".46 An umbrella may be equally phallic and womb like, it is surely feasible that when the umbrella is opened one takes shelter from the harsh elements of the world, in the womb like cavity. Both male and female alike desire to get as far as possible into the protective womb of the umbrella. When it rains or the sun is extreme we all get a chance to express our latent sexual repressed desire to return to the womb. Absurd! but no more absurd as the reverse phallic interpretation.

Chance allowed the surrealists to, "...produce images [and texts] that, in strangeness, can compete with those inspired by insanity".47 The surrealists admired, perhaps envied, the creations of insane persons because they believed the creations reflected pure thought, totally unaffected by logical reasoning and social correctness. Although the surrealists do not state categorically that insane thought is directly from the Unconscious it is implied in their discussions and texts, they most certainly believed insane thought was not consciously controlled nor mediated. It is not at all self-evident, even in the early part of the century, that insanity was caused by a more-than-average, troubled Unconscious. Recent research is indicating that insanity, which is a notoriously hard term to accurately define, is caused by neurophysiological abnormalities, which may be permanent or temporary. Hobson deals with this extensively in, The Chemistry of Conscious States.48 His research indicates that a Freudian Unconscious is not responsible for any of the serious psychoses. To be sure, the potential for these conditions may be exacerbated by environmental/behavioural interactions and of course genetic inheritance.

So, as with the other methods used by the surrealists to get past; conscious reasoning, past the gatekeeper and past the preconscious, to let the Unconscious dictate the arrangement of chance, we find no evidence to support that they are doing anymore than allowing random access to nonconscious states that are indirectly pre-empted by; pre-séance, pre-dream, pre-chance configurations. The surrealists' situation is not very different to that of other cultures and societies where the preparation stage, for days even months prior to an event (physical initiation, spiritual initiation or the next day's hunt) is essential and in a fundamental way, though subtly, controls largely what will occur. "During surrealist play the intervention of chance is solicited through rigorous application of agreed rules...".49

If we try to square the surrealists' view of chance with Freudian theory we get into a contradictory dilemma. The surrealists explicitly state that they control chance, "...[they] appeal to chance deliberately, rather than letting it intrude unbidden".50 Freud states explicitly that through, "free association" the Unconscious is in control, remembering that for Freud the Unconscious is an autonomous, dynamic, volitional entity which can only be understood or accessed through the interpretation of its symbolic and condensed material, which will always be concerned with sexually repressed, primal desires, especially of an Oedipal nature.

I have attempted to show in this chapter even if we do allow an Unconscious, the source of the surrealists' discourses did not come from it. Coupled with the overwhelming evidence of Chapter Two we are getting closer to an irrefutable conclusion. In the next two chapters, especially concerned with chance, I will attempt to produce further evidence using the output of an entity which most definitely does not have an Unconscious, the computer.

 

 

 

 

 

Chapter Four:

Poetry of Chance.

Part (a) Computer Generated Poetry.

I am mindful of Balakian's observation that, "...the distinction between verse and prose did not exist [for Breton], for him poetry is a state of mind that encompasses all writing...".1 However, a number of the surrealists' works; those of Éluard, some of Breton's and especially Péret's texts fall into the category of poetry clearly enough for me to use them as examples. Their length, form and structure lies closer to what we understand as poetry rather than to prose. Simic seems to agree with this and in his introduction to Péret's, From The Hidden Storehouse states so quite clearly;

Perhaps only Artaud can match Péret's unrelenting irreverence. "Minds free of all impediments" is one way of describing them, except that Artaud specializes in visionary prose with a program, while Péret is strictly a poet, although a very strange one even within the surrealist canon.2

 

In Part (b) of this chapter I will compare some surrealist poems with the poems generated by the computer program, Poetry by Chance.3 The following describes this program's operation with its advantages and disadvantages.

It is interesting to note, relevant to the discussion of the previous chapter, that Simic's statement above contains an example of the kind of contradiction I am trying to expose in this thesis. "Minds free of all impediments..." and "...visionary prose with a program...". Minds cannot be free whilst operating under a program, which must in part, be consciously, that is by reason, contrived.

As I mentioned briefly in the introduction, I wanted to find a way by which I could compare surrealist works with some other creations which could not possibly have an Unconscious and would not be subject to conscious control. Even though cut-ups have characteristics of randomness, the possibility of conscious control is fairly high. Cut-ups were used by Breton et al., although he called them, "random assemblages", where headlines from the newspaper were cut out and randomly assembled to form poems.4 Years later, singer songwriter Bob Dylan used a similar method to write the lines to some of his songs. The pop singer and entertainer David Bowie, also used this method and called the results "cut-ups", Bowie now uses a computer to achieve a similar result.5

There are a number of computer programs available whose purpose is to write original prose or poetry. I am not of course referring to programs such as word processors or text editors but to programs which use various techniques and degrees of sophistication, from simple random selection from a database through to true Artificial Intelligence applications. One such program interestingly called, Dada Engine, creates a fully annotated thesis on Postmodernism, complete with a relevant bibliography. The grammar is impeccable and it is not until one has read a couple of pages that one realises something is odd, the text is coherent but it is utter nonsense with no inherent meaning.6

Another sophisticated program is Cybernetic Poet, developed by Kurzweil Technologies, this program writes original poems based on a template, which is created from a human poet's unique style. One may scan in a range of one's poems, the larger the better, to create a Poet Personality, this can then be used to create new poems. Alternatively one can scan in the poems of a famous poet, say Péret, and then generate poems in his style. The program comes with all the great poets' personalities ready to exploit, the software developers do advise users to be mindful of copyright considerations!7

Fascinating and interesting as these creative programs are, none suited my particular needs. The software programs based on Artificial Intelligence principles, whilst arguably not having nonconscious states and definitely not having an Unconscious, still have fundamental aspects of the human poet's mental states and could possibly be accused of not being random and consequently, indirectly reproducing aspects of the respective poet's Unconscious, should such a thing exist. I specifically needed a program which randomly selected words from an English dictionary and did so according to the basic rules of grammar. If we simply select words randomly from a dictionary we get a list of words which have no relationship and the line of poetry made from these words is not only meaningless but nonsensical.

My program had to have no links to the mental creative processes of human poets so I came up with the concept and design of, Poetry by Chance and enlisted the help of a programmer colleague to write the code, the concept is loosely based on a very rudimentary DOS program written in 1991.8 It also has similarities to another, non Artificial Intelligence style program, MacProse written by Charles Hartman, this program comes with a companion book, Virtual Muse.9 My program consists of a number of separate files each one being a lexicon of nouns, adjectives, adverbs, verbs, conjunctions and prepositions, the number of words in the respective part-of-speech data files is somewhat limited due to restrictions of time and available resources, however, they are large enough to give a representative result.

The random selection of words from these files is controlled by a syntax-structure file. Just as words in the dictionary are not unique to an individual's nonconscious states nor are the rules of grammar within a particular language. The words and their meanings and the grammar that renders them sensible in a phrase or sentence may arguably be said to contain the totality of human mental states in an abstract, historical form. As such, the author of the poems produced by the program could rightly be, all humans who have contributed to the development and evolution of the English language. Perhaps this is the nature of, or could at least be thought of metaphorically, as the Jungian concept of a Collective Unconscious. The syntax-structure file may be changed to copy the grammatical style of a human poet or experiment with new grammatical forms. This is achieved by simply creating a new syntax-structure file which contains the parts of speech in the order desired. As an example:

Line 1 [the] adjective noun verb adverb (file)

the green leaf fell slowly (resultant poetry)

Line 2 adverb adverb adverb (file)

down down down (resultant poetry)

The file can be made as large or small as required and the program allows for the selection of the desired number of lines per stanza and the desired number of stanzas per poem.

Should I wish to compare the content and possible meaning of a poem by say, Éluard, I would analyse the parts of speech in the source poem, copy this order into a new syntax-structure file, then generate a poem. The new poem would then reflect the grammatical structure of Éluard's poem, but with randomly selected words. Now, whilst correct grammar usage is not unique to an individual as already stated, I concede there is a weak argument in that a poet's idiosyncratic use of grammar may contribute to the poem's meaning and consequently reflect something of his or her nonconscious states. I can see no way of avoiding this contamination and believe that the influence would only be slight, if at all, and not change the basic meaning(s), but could emphasise meaning or create special emotional tensions. In the example above, the grammatical use of three adverbs consecutively, does not change the meaning that the leaves are falling downwards but adds emphasis to the falling. So, if the poet's latent or metaphorical intentionality was concerned with the mythical leaf of Adam and the "Fall From Grace", the grammatical structure would not change that deep meaning.

Unfortunately I have no space to analyse a large number of poems nor is it really necessary to do so. Péret, Breton, Soupault and Éluard are fairly representative of the early surrealist poets, so I have selected randomly one or two poems from these writers. I have analysed the parts of speech of the poems, within the limitations of my program, and created a new syntax-structure file representative of each poem. From the respective poet's grammatical style files I have generated randomly, six new poems. The original title has been retained with the addition of, New, as part of the title of the generated poem. The poems are placed side by side for discussion in the following section, Part (b).

The syntax-structure file is the key to the versatility of this program and apart from the program's present use for analysis, it may be used as a creative aid for experimental writing. The lexicons could be expanded to contain every noun, verb and so on in the English language or similarly could be customised to contain only words to do with a certain subject. As an example, if a poet liked writing nature poems, the files could be biased by adding words that dealt exclusively with the colours, actions and description of those related to nature. Further, the syntax-structure file may be modified by adding words (or symbols) directly into it, these will then appear in the line of poetry unaffected by the random selection process. In the example above, the, will always appear as the first word in that line. This is a useful feature in adding, plurals, the and a and special endings to the part-of-speech preceding or following the non-random feature.

The program automatically adds a title to each new poem it generates, it does this simply by selecting a noun randomly from a line of the poem and adding The to it, this feature is not used in my comparison of poems as I need to retain the original surrealist title plus New for clarity sake. Below I have included three poems, from very different syntax-structure files, simply as an example of the nature of original poems generated by the program. The first poem, The Experience, is based on a syntax-structure file representative of my own poetry; the second, The Devil is based on Bashõ's haiku structure; and the third, The Sentiment is based on a new experimental structure.

 

 

THE EXPERIENCE

a mount exposes a bridge while

the reliable actor is a hundred past...

an annual button neatly exists about a hundred cellars!

so space waits for the visionary and unbroken persons,

but perhaps innocent!

a station feeds out of an expected bridge

any horizon, particularly shakes without journeys

a down-swelling summary schemes a proud champion!!

the voyage hits a message certain,

magic factor is a faint jail?

a marginal weekend thus benefits under a mental party??

tell, spend

the food checkmates the white and boiling orders,

a language hopes upon a musical murderer.

agreement already sings out of venom contrasts,

an absolutely grieving virtue closes a slender support...

thereafter an experience!

a habit overturns despite its own vibration,

magazines still help below places,

a largely including director denies an open university?

 

 

 

 

 

 

THE DEVIL

 

over eternal made names

faults arouse under parts,

devils, hiss !

 

 

 

 

THE SENTIMENT

 

the poet forgives the foot,

always sinking at the vibrato

properly, instantly, tight answers

not nearing stress

 

 

It is not my intention to analyse these example poems, however, any meaning within individual lines or in the poem as a whole is purely the product of (a)chance, and/or (b)meaning supplied by the reader. That is, there is no intentional meaning of an individual author, either with or without an Unconscious. This raises an important question, which I hope to address in future research, regarding the true nature of meaning itself. Not only meaning within literary texts but through hermeneutical exegesis of religious texts, scientific papers, mass media reports, artistic creations, interpretation of nature and so on. It is my contention that the hermeneutics and deconstruction of the Structuralist and Postmodern traditions is only part of the story. Exploring the issue from outside the strictures of postmodern theory, though not ignoring it, and utilising the results of neurophysiological research, will I believe, help to fill in some of the gaps in our understanding of meaning.

 

Part (b) Comparison of Surrealist and Computer Generated Poetry.

 

I now turn to the actual comparison of the surrealist and computer generated poems looking especially for either; coherent surface meaning, any indication of latent Unconsciously derived meaning, and to try and ascertain how much, if any, conscious control is apparent in the poems. The computer poems are a type of experimental control in that they neither have the benefit of conscious influence nor Unconscious subject matter.

The detection of latent Unconscious material in the poems is somewhat problematic because it is difficult to decide what meaning could be coming from the Unconscious and what from nonconscious processes. Clearly, in the general sense, surrealist poetry is created from nonconscious brain-mind processes but deciding if the manifest material is from repression, suppression or simply ordinary memories is obviously not an easy task. As an example, if a poet used imagery of caves ( perhaps searching for these or getting lost in them) how can we decide if this is coming from a Freudian sexual, return to the mother's womb repression, or because when the poet was a child he or she once became lost in a cave and it was so frightening that he or she suppressed this event. Writing about caves could be an attempt to rid him or herself of this disturbing memory. Or perhaps for highly imaginative individuals, including poets, caves represent mysterious, secret places with unknown inhabitants and so on, this interpretation has no repressed basis nor powerful bad memories, the memories could even be joyful.

It is my opinion that if we allow the existence of a Freudian Unconscious, which I only do for this example, we cannot say with certainty that specific manifest material is from repression or suppression. We can caste serious doubt that the material has come from repression but this does not constitute conclusive proof. It seems this problem, which has been raised many times in the past when trying to prove the scientific validity of psychoanalysis, must remain a moot point. However, I will now attempt to caste serious doubt on Unconscious repression as source of surrealist poetry.

Péret was considered by many to be one of Surrealisms' finest poets. He strove to be consistently irreverent, humorous and almost nonsensical, these goals which he achieved admirably, do not come from an Unconscious, nor from the total absence of conscious, logical control.

 

 

 

 

 

I (by Benjamin Péret)10

 

Should you discover

a bugbear in a barn (bugbear=hobgoblin, inspiring fear)

as it moves towards

retreating you

contrive to substitute

for its right eye

a conker (conker=shiny seed of horse-chestnut tree)

artistically carved

 

All the best pigeons

in the parish

will flock to you

and nest under

your umbrella

 

 

 

 

New I (by Poetry by Chance)

 

Alter during selling

a chart near a reader

enter it form so

forget Calisto

build except desire

at its cinnabar-green fire

a plan

four studies

 

All the utopian pianos

beyond the aunt

at exhibit without distance

when believed about

this acre

 

 

In the first poem from, Irregular Work11 we can easily detect a coherent surface meaning, especially in the second stanza. The whole poem can be interpreted as referring to a religious longing, or perhaps as the poet expressing cynicism regarding religion. "Pigeons flocking to nest under an umbrella", could be a metaphor for people coming to seek protection under the care of the Church, especially because "parish" is used rather than perhaps field or park. Now, in the first stanza "bugbear" could be a metaphor for evil or Satan, which the religious subject is approached by, whilst retreating, and should replace the evil eye with a good substitute, an "artistically carved conker". Péret could have been intending one of three meanings; (a) the one described above extolling religious virtue, (b) making an irreverent criticism of church goers, being like mindless children scared of evil hobgoblins and behaving as a flock not individuals, or (c) no intentional overall meaning at all.

It is my contention that Péret subdued his consciously preconceived ideas, allowing his mind to move down-scale to low-focus, that is, to metaphor mode as it were. As I explained in Chapter Two intuitive leaps and creative juxtaposition of disparate ideas are made in this mode of brain-mind mentation. In this mode conscious, reasoning control is subdued not obliterated and as the product of this mentation becomes manifest, it may or may not be subtly modified by logical reasoning. This poem must have been modified this way because it has a coherent overall trace of meaning, it may not be the interpretation I suggested of course, however, comparison with the New I poem and shortly with Breton and Soupault's, Ovation, will illustrate my point quite clearly. New I, has no overall meaning I can discern, nor does it have more than one or two possibilities of meaning of consecutive lines, namely lines one and two. So in this comparison, the machine, which has no possible resort to logical control, other than the same grammatical arrangement as Péret's poem, created a meaningless poem.

I will now look at the poems to see if any latent Unconscious, symbolic material is present in either poem. It is difficult to find any words or phrases in either poems which could unarguably be symbolic manifestations from an Unconscious. The only possibility in this regard in Péret's poem would perhaps be: (a) "a bugbear in a barn" and (b) "pigeons seeking the umbrella". Stretching the imagination we could interpret; (a) as a fear of the womb or mother and as such indicate unresolved Oedipal problems; (b) could be interpreted as unfulfilled desires or wishes to do with sexual intercourse, of course it depends which symbolic content we attribute to the umbrella, male of female. If the traditional phallic attribution is applied then the interpretation becomes ludicrous. It seems that to try and force a latent sexual interpretation as I have done is grasping at straws and does not provide even a partly reasonable analysis. The computer poem, New I, could also be interpreted as having latent sexual, symbolic content with words like, "desire" and "cinnabar-green fire" (envious with desire?), "utopian pianos", "...the aunt' and "this acre". Pianos are symbolic of genital satisfaction,12 the aunt is a female figure and means the subject (the author) has unresolved incestuous problems, perhaps to do with fecundity, as an acre (a field for growing) could quite reasonably symbolic of barrenness or fertility. A traditional psychoanalytical analysis would therefore suggest that the subject desires to have sexual intercourse (genital satisfaction) with the aunt (a substitute for mother) because of an unresolved Oedipus Complex regarding the mother. It hardly needs pointing out that the author of this poem has no Unconscious, and as such, it seems that classical psychoanalysis can be fancifully (and embarrassingly) applied to almost everything. In fact, the second stanza would be a most profound manifestation of latent, repressed sexual symbolic material for a psychotherapist if it came from a person undergoing analysis.

Turning now to two more poems for comparison, we find Ovation does not have an overall coherent meaning as did poem, I.

 

 

Ovation (by Andre Breton & Paul Soupault)12

 

Heat of Sundayfied railway-engines

Prostitutes' dust-coat

Marine problem moon

Solid meridians hive

Calomel of childhoods at the theatre

Blue countrysides

There are three inhabitants

Flying fish in love with the stars

The rivers beard languor

Occident

Millennium compass

Psychologist pharmacists are a public danger

Fury of Chicago factories

Rite

Men love the pallor of animals

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

New Ovation (by Poetry by Chance)

 

Rate under championfied Orlando-restaurant

Routes frequent Sibyl

Regiment hero column

White choirs request

Movie among Seth's at the second

Logical suppers

Already sing stiff transfiguration

Cost beauty like Clement the therapists

The wake vixen vest

Jerome

Gallery key

Mass rocks want a tunnel opinion

Einstein among outcome servants

Prince

Impression ending the distinction for assumption

 

Most individual lines contain at least a vague notion of meaning, this is more like a computer poem and what one would expect to come from the Unconscious, after constraining conscious reasoning. We do in fact find some symbolic material in this poem, "dust-coat, "flying fish", "river's beard ", all these are symbolic of the male sexual organ, according to Freud.13 Referring to overcoats and cloaks, "It is certainly not easy to guess why...but their symbolic significance is quite unquestionable".14 Having two authors and not knowing how much of each poem in, Les Champs magnétiques each contributed, confounds the analysis, because if both men contributed to, Ovation, then either the analysis is worthless, or both men are sexually frustrated, equally at the same time. This interpretation may be indicated by "river's beard languor", after the, "flying fish in love with the stars" line. That is, the male is frustrated and fails to reach sexual satisfaction because, fish=penis, beard=pubic hair, river=ejaculation, bizarre as this analysis seems I feel it is a fair example of the traditional psychoanalytical approach.

New Ovation, like Ovation, has no overall coherent meaning, as would be expected. However, it has even more powerful sexual Unconscious symbolic material than its human-written counterpart. "Regiment hero column" is a very powerful latent symbol, combining the authority of the father and the phallus in one phrase. "Gallery key", again very powerful, meaning phallus perhaps as worthy of exhibition or on display. "Prince", as with other forms of royalty in dreams or artistic creations, refers to the father symbolically. Words like "transfiguration", "tunnel" and "vixen" combined with the other latent significators could indicate desire to possess or become the opposite sex, perhaps the mother if a man, or father if a female. So again we see latent sexual, Oedipal content in the computer poem more pronounced than the human-written poem.

Lovers, by Éluard holds no latent sexual content that I can discern.

 

Lovers (by Paul Éluard)15

 

Lover, secretly behind your smile

The words of love nakedly

Discover your breasts and your neck

And your hips and your eyelids

Discover every caress

So that the kisses in your eyes

Reveal entire the whole of you.

 

 

 

New Lovers (by Poetry by Chance)

 

Rule, effectively behind your neighbour

The planes beyond mystery essentially

Carry your minute and your habit

And your vagrants and your vandals

Study sick virus

This that the position with your leader

Seek moderate the rapid at you.

 

This poem is obviously a sensuous, erotic poem and as such the manifest content, if we are to agree with Freud, refers not to sexual matters, because all symbolic Unconscious material has a latent meaning different to the manifest meaning. Therefore this poem for Freud would not be about sexual desire at all, this contradiction, which I discussed in Chapter Two, presents a severe conundrum for Freud's theory of the Unconscious. New Lovers, has no coherent meaning and has very little latent content, other than, "habit" and "with your leader", that is phallus and father, again concerning possible Oedipal issues.

Rather than analyse the following three poems in detail, as each of these poems exhibits similar characteristics in analysis to the above three, I will simply point out the dominant words or phrases in each one that indicate latent Freudian content.

 

IV (by Benjamin Péret)16

 

Four white spaces look at us

four spaces whiter still than hair

so rich

four spaces which are four infinities

The infinity of the serpent on the level

and those that curl

or dart like carps

or plunge

like a stone in a tree

 

 

 

New IV (by Poetry by Chance)

 

Select careful hosts accompany below us

alternative games some still against lane

that public

crowded vaults which promise identical republics

The direction from the vagina from the Amelia

though those that delight

another recall after snakes

or sort

beyond a Daphne in a fan

 

In, IV, we have "dart like carps" and "the serpent on the level". In, New IV we have, "crowded vaults" and "recall after snakes" and "beyond a Daphne".

Carps=phallus, vaults =womb, Daphne refers to the genitals generally, and snakes and serpents in Freud's scheme, of course refer to the phallus. It is worth mentioning that snakes and serpents do not have the same symbolic meaning in all cultures, the history of the serpent's relationship with humans is extensive and goes back to at least the Upanishads.17 In many cultures this creature represents healing, witness the Caduceus with entwined snakes, in other cultures it represents fertility or creation, the snake devouring its own tail, encompassing both male and female genitalia. This example of the non-universality of Freud's conception of symbology hopefully serves to illustrate his simplistic and naive allocation of symbols to sexual categories, I discuss this further in the next chapter in relationship to the meaning of symbols in dreams.

 

Rescue (by Andre Breton & Paul Soupault)18

 

Ability to procure

Free information

Mend your ways on earth

Happy to oblige

Here are the pleasing pickaxes of the inoffensive turning-back

the well-deserved gold

Mushroom grown in the night tomorrow it will no longer be fresh

Animating season of our desires

Opening of doors before the horsewoman

 

 

 

New Rescue (by Poetry by Chance)

 

Porch along avoid

Reliable variety

Keep your moves despite Susan

Annual above swing

Precisely act-on the produce chess below the responsible wait-for

The well-hit tunnel

Score chew into the owner vibraphone it fed seriously harm avoid slender

Mentioning tie on our throw

Piercing at Prudence's rather the witness

 

 

Rescue exhibits neither the, direct-from-the-Unconscious qualities we noted in Ovation nor the effects of conscious control we noted in I or Lovers, it exhibits a sort of half-meaning, one gets a meaning which does not really mean anything. Its latent content is slight, "opening of doors" refers to body orifices especially those of the female. New Rescue's, latent content is slight as well, "well-hit tunnel" and "tie on our throw" (necktie=phallus).

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

XII (by Benjamin Péret)19

 

An athlete laughing

a camel dancing

a man murdering his daughter

a rat kindling

a cow in clothing

a whale boarding a whaler

a lady withdrawing

a wave

a deity out for a drive

an untrue earth-tremor

a slough lit by dark lanterns

an open-plan furnishing

a shocking smile

 

If you can't get satisfaction

see a doctor

who will not cure your maladies

 

 

 

 

New XII (by Poetry by Chance)

 

A period slipping

a protein following

a host performing his drug

a rate costing

a Raphael above Ophelia

a restaurant suffering a lap

a Sibyl spending

a hero

a column up by a startle

a hundred hulled-Seth

a second serve by vulgar captains

a splendid Turing

a typical darkness

 

If you effectively grieve Clement

close a wake

who panics yet brings your galleries

 

 

XII, mainly in the first stanza, exhibits the same sort of possible Unconscious or nonconscious source as Ovation, each line is a coherent statement independent of an overall coherent meaning, which does not exist. Both stanzas exhibit no latent content and the second stanza, complete conscious control, evidenced by the use of the standard comedian's trick of reversing the expected closure. New XII, as seems to be the case with all the computer poems, exhibits no coherent overall meaning and contains various latent Freudian symbols; "a hero", " a column", "a hundred hulled-Seth" (boats were powerful female symbols for Freud) and "vulgar captains", very much an Oedipal poem this one.

Whilst the above comparisons and analyses are not exhaustive by any means, they are adequate to illustrate the relationship between human-written poems, supposedly without conscious control and drawing on the Unconscious as their source of meaning and those without conscious control and no possibility of Unconscious direction. I will now discuss the relevance of these above findings, together with the findings of the previous chapters in the concluding chapter.

 

 

 

Chapter Five:

Conclusion.

 

My intention with this thesis was to investigate nonconscious human mentation, specifically the Unconscious and its nature as conceived by Freud. Whilst there are many ways of knowing and belief systems which give Freud's notion of the Unconscious little or no validity, there are still numerous disciplines which either; (a) agree with Freud's theories as he conceived them or, (b) accept the existence of a dynamic Unconscious as given and then branch out from this into their own personal version of the nature and operation of the Unconscious. Jung and Adler are just two examples of psychologists who did not agree with most of the sexually deterministic aspects of Freud's theory, however, they still believed essentially in the existence of a dynamic Unconscious. The entrenchment of the Freudian Unconscious within popular Western culture is almost "written in stone" and as such, is accepted uncritically and used in folk psychology ad nauseam, affecting many aspects of our lives from psychological thriller movies to evidence in courts of law. It has become one of the most powerful myths of the twentieth century.

It was not my purpose, nor possible within the space limitations of this thesis, to provide irrefutable scientific evidence to disprove the existence of the Unconscious but simply to cast sufficient doubt in this regard so as to justify further detailed research, particularly within the neurophysiological disciplines. These may then add further evidence to that already discussed in Chapter Two. I have attempted to combine the research of Hobson,1 Gelernter2 and States,3 as my major sources, to provide both a scientific and philosophical basis for my investigation. This together with my own critical analysis of the foundations and modus operandi of the early surrealists and also with comparison of the two sets of poems, has I feel, succeeded in creating sufficient doubt as to the existence of a Freudian Unconscious.

As I stated in Chapter One, I needed a model or control that could not possibly have an Unconscious, with which to compare human literary or artistic creations which had reputedly come directly from an Unconscious. Surrealism, both because of its association with Freudian theory at the time of its genesis and its insistence on manifesting in its creations, pure Unconscious material (thoughts and desires) devoid of conscious control, presented itself as an ideal subject. Using its literary, rather than artistic (painting, sculpture, theatre) creations, meant that a computer text-output would be both logistically possible and a perfect control for the comparison.

Even though this aspect of the investigation far exceeded my initial expectations, in showing that randomly generated, non-consciously controlled and non-Unconsciously driven poems had far greater latent Freudian symbolism than their surrealist counterparts, it does not provide irrefutable evidence as to the non Unconscious content of the poems in itself. Because the latent content of the computer poems did not have Unconscious intentionality, just as a word, for example "column", in the dictionary does not indicate latent sexual symbolism in itself. So the comparison of the poems served merely as a model with which to; (a) analyse the latent content of the surrealist poems and (b) demonstrate that latent sexual meaning can be read into almost any discourse one cares to analyse.

With the exception of the one poem, Ovation, the surrealist works analysed in this thesis showed less latent sexual content than one would expect on average. This is significant because unlike many other artistic/literary "isms" surrealists' specifically attempted to disengage conscious reasoning control and tap directly into the Unconscious. Of course if there is no Unconscious from which to obtain material then this result is entirely as would be expected.

I have attempted to show from various perspectives that the surrealists were not prospecting an Unconscious, nor nonconscious for that matter, anymore than other creative artists had done before and of course are still doing today. Though, for the surrealists, whilst the conscious logical reasoning aspect of mind was restricted, it was still exercising subtle control. I think Dr. Rodiet sums up well the way many surrealists worked, when referring to Breton's work, Nadja, he said; "Surrealism flourished within its covers, with its deliberate incoherence, its cleverly disjointed chapters, that delicate art which consists of pulling the reader's leg [my emphasis]".4 "Deliberate" and "cleverly" are of course words which describe conscious intentionality very well.

Poetry has been the main vehicle by which I have attempted to travel, "the royal road to the unconscious", however, surrealist poems are not fundamentally different from dreams, those which Freud analysed as part of his clinical investigations. So for my purpose surrealist poems and dreams are roughly synonymous. In fact many surrealist poems, prose text and paintings are the physical manifestation or transcription of such dreams.

One aspect of the interpretation of dreams which I have not yet mentioned is the comparison of the Freudian symbolic interpretation, with that provided in any standard dream dictionary.5 Dream dictionaries or encyclopaedias draw on a vast amount of folk and occult literature from every culture around the world and go back to the most ancient records. Yet these interpretations have no correspondence whatsoever with Freud's interpretations. Are we to believe that Freud is correct and the vast history of the human observation of dreams incorrect? This is a most revealing and perplexing situation, as one of the parties must be wrong. In light of the previous investigation, I must conclude that it is Freud.

Surrealism in its later stages moved away from automatism and from the attempt at direct reportage from the Unconscious, with no conscious control, to more acknowledged, consciously controlled works, which I believe more effectively served its basic purpose of shattering the status quo and fiercely questioning the lethargic, imprisoned, impoverished thinking of human beings and the creatively stifling, static systems we create for ourselves. It seems that the apparent close relationship of Surrealism and the Unconscious was a spurious one.

Even had an Unconscious actually existed, Surrealism, especially in its early years, exerted too much conscious control of the final literary or artistic creation to be of any use to analyse psychoanalytically.

My argument does not question the fundamental effectiveness of the surrealist purpose nor attempt to denigrate it as a fascinating and powerful approach to art nor as a method of attempting to gain, "the gold of time", for all people. That is, the alchemistical transformation of base thought into the gold of truly inspired spiritual poetry.

What appears at the outset to be a subtle and perhaps unimportant difference between, (a) nonconscious mental states and an Unconscious and between, (b) primary repression and consciously suppressed memories, turns out to be just the opposite. That is, it is not a matter of playing with words but a matter of a diametrically opposed fundamental basis of human mentation. The vitally important criteria of one system; based on, non-scientific assumptions and Freud's own wish fulfilment and another system; based on, scientific experimental evidence and sound philosophical, critical analysis.

Perhaps by seeing the brain-mind as a unity, consisting of mostly nonconscious states, parts of which are suppressed memories of important events, will help us understand a little more why we humans behave the way we do.

 

 

Endnotes:

 

Notes to Chapter One.

 

1 J.R. Searle, Intentionality: An essay in the Philosophy of Mind. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1983.

2 Personal discussions with J. H. Bryant took place during 1999 re the possibility, ramifications and ethics of Artificial Intelligence. Bryant is a retired U.S. government officer in the fields of Electrical Physics and Computer Technology. He now works in ethics regarding computer technology.

3 R. Kurzweil, The Age of Spiritual Machines: When Computers Exceed Human Intelligence. Viking, 1999.

4 "Poetry by Chance" runs on a PC in Windows 95/98. The program is very loosely based on an early DOS poetry program written by A. Chachanashvili. More details may be obtained from this author at: rharle@nor.com.au

5 J.J. Spector, Surrealist Art and Writing 1919 -1939. Cambridge, MA.: Cambridge University Press, 1997.

 

Notes to Chapter Two.

 

1 J.A. Hobson, (b) The Chemistry of Conscious States. Boston: Little Brown & Co., 1994. p.208.

2 P. Recer, Neuron News [Internet]. 1999 [cited 1999]. Available from <http://dailynews.yahoo.com/h/nm/1990912/sc/health_israel_2.htmlwww.proneuron.com>.

3 R. Kurzweil, The Age of Spiritual Machines: When Computers Exceed Human Intelligence. New York: Viking, 1999. p.127.

4 See under various authors in bibliography (Clark, 1997. Gelernter, 1994. Searle, 1992. States, 1988.)

5 J.A. Hobson, (a) The Dreaming Brain. New York: Basic, 1988. p.98.

6 Hobson (b), op. cit. pp.207-208.

7 Hobson (b), op. cit. p.25..S. Reber

8 A. S. Reber, Dictionary of Psychology. London: Penguin, 1985. p.640.

9 Hobson (b), op.cit. pp.26-27.

10 Hobson (b), op. cit.

11 Hobson (b), op. cit. pp.14-16.

12 D. Gelernter, The Muse In The Machine: Computerizing the Poetry of Human Thought. New York: Free Press, Macmillan., 1994. p.109.

13 ibid.

14 R.T. Carrell, The Unconscious Mind [Internet]. 1998 [cited 1999]. Available from SkepDic.com.

15 A. Clark, Being There: Putting Brain, Body and Mind Together Again, 1997. p.46.

16 Hobson (b), op. cit. pp.211-212.

17 Hobson (b), op. cit. p.95.

18 B.O. States, The Rhetoric Of Dreams. Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1988.

19 States, op. cit. p.17.

20 Cited in States op. cit. p.141.

21 States, op. cit. p.21.

22 S. Freud, The Interpretation of Dreams. London: Penguin, 1982.

23 States, op. cit. p.75.

24 States, op. cit. p.56.

25 States, op.cit. p.19.

26 ibid.

27 Greenberg cited in States, op. cit. p.19.

28 States, op. cit. p.27.

29 States, op. cit. p.29.

30 P. Ricoeur, The Conflict of Interpretations: Northwest University Press. p.107.

31 States, op. cit. p.31.

32 J.R. Searle, The Rediscovery Of The Mind. Cambridge MA.: MIT Press, 1992. p.170.

33 Searle, op. cit. p.171.

34 Searle, op. cit. p.172.

35 J. Laplanche, New Foundations for Psychoanalysis: Basil Blackwell, 1989. p.57.

36 Hobson (a), op. cit. p.44.

37 Laplanche, op. cit. p.150.

38 Laplanche, op. cit. pp.149-151.

39 J.P. Sartre, Being and Nothingness. London: Methuen & Co., 1958. p.53.

40 Laplanche, op. cit. p.149.

 

Notes to Chapter Three.

 

1 A. Breton (a), (ed. and intro. F. Rosemont), What is Surrealism? Selected Writings. New York. Monad, 1978. p.7.

2 Breton (a), op.cit. p.5.

3 A. Breton (b), (tr. R. Seaver & H.R. Lane) Manifestoes of Surrealism. USA: University of Michigan Press, 1972.

4 Breton (a), op. cit. p.116.

5 Breton (a), op. cit. p.115.

6 Breton (a), op. cit. p.117.

7 Breton (a), op. cit. p.1.

8 A. Breton & P. Eluard & P. Soupault (c), (tr. & intro. D. Gascoyne, A. Melville & J. Graham) The Automatic Message. The Magnetic Fields. The Immaculate Conception. London: Atlas Press, 1997. p.51.

9 J. Collins & B. Mayblin, (ed. R. Appignanesi) Derrida for Beginners. Cambridge: Icon Books, 1996.

10 Breton (a), op.cit. p.1.

11 S. Freud, The Interpretation of Dreams. London: Penguin, 1982. p.p.19-20.

12 P. Washington (ed.), Erotic Poems. London: David Campbell Publishers, 1994.

13 B. Péret, (tr. P. Brown), Irregular Work. Actual Size Publishers, 1984.

14 J. J. Spector, Surrealist Art and Writing 1919-1939. The Gold of Time. Cambridge, MA.: Cambridge University Press, 1997. p.213.

15 A. S. Reber, Dictionary of Psychology. London: Penguin, 1985. p.112. See also S. Freud, op.cit. Lecture 9.

16 Spector, op.cit. p.43.

17 Breton (b), op.cit. p.26.

18 J. Matthews, Surrealism, Insanity and Poetry. New York: Syracuse University Press, 1982.

19 Breton (b), op.cit. p.67.

20 Matthews, op.cit. p.6.

21 D. Gelernter, The Muse In The Machine: Computerizing the Poetry of Human Thought. New York: Free Press, Macmillan., 1994.

22 A. Breton (d), (tr. Z. Rogow), (intro. A. Balakian), Arcanum 17 with Apertures Grafted to the End. Los Angeles: Sun & Moon Press, 1994.

23 Spector, op.cit. p.144.

24 A. Remy, cited in Spector, op. cit. p.197.

25 Spector, op.cit. p.129.

26 ibid.

27 ibid.

28 Spector, op.cit. p.132.

29 Breton (a), op.cit. p.70.

30 ibid.

31 E. Fromm, Psychoanalysis and Zen Buddhism. London: Unwin, 1986. Chapters One & Two. The Sane Society. New York: Fawcett Premier, 1955. The Crisis of Psychoanalysis. Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1970.

32 Spector, op.cit. p.132.

33 Breton (c), op.cit. p.25.

34 M. Hutchinson of British Skeptics Association. Personal communication, 1993. Citing investigative articles in The Mail on Sunday 20/4/86 p.32. and 17/4/86, p.17.

35 I. Wilson, The After Death Experience. London: Corgi, 1989.

36 Matthews, op.cit. p.7.

37 Spector, op.cit. p.44.

38 ibid.

39 Spector, op.cit. p.45.

40 Breton (b), op. cit. p.13.

41 Matthews, op.cit. p.103.

42 ibid.

43 ibid.

44 ParaMind P.O. Box 27401 Seattle, WA 98125-2401 U.S.A.

Robert Pearson developed this program based on some of the surrealists' concepts. It is a powerful program and whilst not specifically made for creative writing, it is a very useful aid to any type of writing from poetry through to technical reports.

45 Spector, op.cit. p.130

46 ibid.

47 Matthews, op. cit. p.103.

48 J.A.Hobson (b), The Chemistry of Conscious States. Boston: Little Brown & Co., 1994.

49 Matthews, op. cit. p.103.

50 Matthews, op. cit. p.104.

 

Notes to Chapter Four.

 

1 A. Breton, (tr. Z. Rogow), (intro. A. Balakian), Arcanum 17 with Apertures Grafted to the End. Los Angeles: Sun & Moon Press, 1994. p.7.

2 B. Péret, (tr. K. Hollaman, (intro. C. Simic), From The Hidden Storehouse: Selected Poems. Field Translation Series. 1981. p.9.

3 "Poetry by Chance" runs on a PC in Windows 95/98. The program is very loosely based on an early DOS poetry program written by A. Chachanashvili.

It is written in the "J" language and because it was not developed for commercial use requires the J404 programming software to be installed prior to execution. More details may be obtained from this author at: rharle@nor.com.au <mailto:rharle@nor.com.au>

4 A. Breton, (tr. Seaver, R. & Lane, H.R.). Manifestos of Surrealism. U.S.A: University of Michigan Press, 1972. pp.40-47.

5 Bowie at Fifty, BBC Film. Shown ABC Australia, 25th April 1999.

6 A. C. Bulha, The Dada Engine. V.I. Chaoflux 316, 1996. This program requires a Unix platform on which to run or may be activated direct from the Internet. <http://dev.null.org/dadaengine/manual-1.0/dada.html>

7 R. Kurzweil, Cybernetic Poet. ver.1.1. 1999. I originally beta-tested this program for Kurzweil Technologies. The program is available as freeware in limited version or can be purchased in full version from; Kurzweil CyberArt Technologies.

8 A. Chachanashvili. DadaPoem Generator. Ver.1, 1999. DreamWorld BBS, NY.

9 C. O. Hartman, Virtual Muse: Experiments in Computer Poetry. Hanover: Wesleyan University Press. University Press of New England, 1996. The MacProse program is available as freeware with source code from; http://www.conncoll.edu/ccother/cohar/programs/

10 B. Péret, (tr. Brown, P.). Irregular Work: Actual Size, 1984. p.5.

11 B. Péret, (tr. Brown, P.). Irregular Work: Actual Size, 1984.

12 A. Breton, & P. Éluard & P. Soupault , (tr. & intro. D. Gascoyne, A. Melville & J. Graham) The Automatic Message. The Magnetic Fields. The Immaculate Conception. London: Atlas Press, 1997. p.134.

13 S. Freud, Introductory Lectures On Psychoanalysis. London: Penguin, 1973. Lecture 10, Symbolism in Dreams. pp.182-203.

14 ibid.

15 P. Washington, (ed.), Erotic Poems. London: David Campbell Publishers, 1994.

16 B. Péret, (tr. Brown, P.). Irregular Work. Actual Size, 1984. p.8.

17 F. Huxley, The Dragon. London: Thames & Hudson, 1979. References throughout the book, p.94 especially.

18 A. Breton, & P. Éluard & P. Soupault , (tr. & intro. D. Gascoyne, A. Melville & J. Graham) The Automatic Message. The Magnetic Fields. The Immaculate Conception. London: Atlas Press, 1997. p.125.

19 B. Péret, (tr. Brown, P.). Irregular Work. Actual Size, 1984. p.16

 

Notes to Chapter Five.

 

1 J.A.Hobson, The Dreaming Brain. New York: Basic, 1988.

J.A. Hobson, The Chemistry of Conscious States. Boston: Little Brown & Co., 1994.

2 D. Gelernter, The Muse In The Machine: Computerizing the Poetry of Human Thought. New York: Free Press, Macmillan., 1994.

3 States, B.O. The Rhetoric Of Dreams. Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1988.

States, B.O. Seeing In The Dark. New Haven: Yale University Press, 1997

4 Breton, A. (tr. Seaver, R. & Lane, H.R.). Manifestos of Surrealism. U.S.A: University of Michigan Press, 1972. p.119.

5 S. Robinson, & T. Corbett, The Dreamer's Dictionary: The Complete Guide To Interpreting Your Dreams. London: Treasure Press, 1974.

 

 

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