sublimation

Sunhill Asylum, December 4, 1956

Doctor Hardy examines his notes, removes his spectacles, then says:

‘Jack, do you know why you are here?’

‘You tell me.’

‘You were arrested for stealing women’s underwear.’

‘I couldn’t help it.’

‘You felt compelled to steal?

‘The Devil made me do it.’

‘No Jack. You did it yourself. Leave the Devil out of it.’

‘You don’t believe in the Devil?’

‘Certainly not. He is merely figure of speech; a symbol of our evil impulses; a projection of the psyche.’

‘But I have met him. In person.’

‘Where did you meet him?’

‘Mill Bridge.’

‘And where is that precisely?’

‘Hard to tell. It was such a long time ago.’

‘Somewhere in Liverpool, perhaps?’

‘No. It was in the Old World.’

‘The Old World? These time distortions you experience are symptoms of psychosis.’

‘You would say that. You think the Freudian model of the human mind is logically sacrosanct. But it is entirely irrational. All of his theories, which describe the operation of the mind, are nothing but badly drawn hypotheses; and they should be abandoned in the name of human decency.’

‘Well now! It is quite irrational to claim that you have met the Devil – a mythical being who does not exist. And it is irrational to claim that you can slip in and out of your body and travel through time.’

‘I live between worlds.’

‘No Jack, you don’t.’

‘At this very moment, in another sphere, I’m a beautiful lady sipping wine on a Venetian veranda.’

‘Even if that were true, it does not help your life in 1956, does it? A coherent sense of past and present is a vital part of all healthy adult relationships. You have confused fantasy with reality. The problem is one of perception. The Devil is just a metaphysical idea and has no correlation with our sense perceptions.’

‘So the knowledge of my own existence, and of other people must only be given by my senses? Is that what you’re telling me?’

‘Yes. And your senses err.’

‘How do you know my senses err? What about your senses? I mean to say, if all thoughts are the products of the senses, what are the sense-contents of the brain? Mental or physical? Does your Freudian science know how to distinguish between what is mental and what is physical? Are mental objects physical objects? Is an object which belongs to my mental state separate from an object in your mental state? How do you distinguish between a mental object and a physical object? How do you distinguish between Mind and Matter?’

‘Jack, just because you can maintain a philosophical argument, doesn’t mean that you’re not mentally ill. What I am trying to say is that your mental state does not correlate with reality.’

‘What you really mean to say is that my mental state does not correlate with your mental state.’

‘You need treatment Jack.’

‘Why?’

‘Simply because your mental state is not causally connected with any objective reality.’

‘Whose reality?’

‘Jack, we could go on having this discussion all day; your concept of mind and matter as a single substance is nothing but a metaphysical contrivance. It is an old philosophical problem concerning the definition of symbols—namely the terms which denote the sense contents of the brain.’

‘So I’m just a soulless lump of grey jelly am I?’

‘Yes, I’m afraid so.’

‘And you are going to cure me by making my grey jelly correlate with your grey jelly.’

‘If you want to put it like that, yes. Listen, I want to prescribe you with L.S.D. The drug has two main effects. The first is to disrupt your sense of time. The second is to intensify the present, by making both past and future remote.’

‘What’s the point of that?’

‘L.S.D. will suppress the past; each moment you experience will appear fresh and vivid, without the complications of harmful memories and all the neuroses they entail. Whilst in this receptive state, I can redirect your goals and break your negative habits.’

‘You make it sound so easy. You can’t outwit the Devil, doctor Hardy. Not with drugs. What am I according to Freud? Corpus sine pectore. Nothing but a body without a soul. Corpus quasi vas est aut aliquod animi receptaculum.’

‘Would you stop speaking Latin for a moment? I’m trying to help you.

‘The body is a vessel, as it were, or receptacle for the soul. Cicero.’

‘Very good Jack. But the soul is not a metaphysical entity; it is rather, as Freud deduced, a logical construction of sense-experiences—and these experiences constitute a sense-history of the self. But your own self has become dissociated from its history by the negative experiences you suffered as a child. That is why your past and future are all muddled up in one big delusion. We must explore your childhood, and find the root cause of your dissociation.’

‘Ah! That old chestnut. Well, let me save you the bother. My impulse to dress in women’s clothes is far too strong to be broken by an acid trip. Why not chop of my cock and be done with it?’

‘Mutilating your genitals is not a cure.’

‘So you would rather mutilate my brain instead?’

‘No. Unlike doctor Pontius, I don’t believe in psycho-surgery.’

‘But you want to sublimate me into something more acceptable. Perhaps we should try a philosophical cure.’

‘Philosophy has no place in psychiatry.’

‘You do not trust language as a tool for exploring the world? Only yesterday we played a word association game. What was that all about? ’

‘What I mean is, I have an innate distrust in speculative philosophy. And I do not agree with the sensationalist doctrine of perception—that Kantian doctrine of the objective world, formed purely as a construct of subjective experience. Psychology works purely with an objective datum.’

‘Objective datum? Now you are contradicting yourself. You just told me that my soul was nothing but a sense-history of subjective experiences. I mean, how do you abstract a feeling from the actual entity experiencing it? How do you abstract Matter from Mind?’

‘I am not interested in your ex absurdo arguments—nor in your belief that logical inconsistencies indicate antecedent errors.’

‘The faculty of psychology is always right. Alas, it knows little of philosophy, even less of the mind, and it abhors the reality of a spiritual dimension. Yet it proclaims itself as the material model of the soul. I think your objective datum is a load of bollocks. If you remembered the Old World, you’d know that. I was burnt as a heretic for worshipping the Devil.’

‘Jack, there is no Old World; and there is no Devil.’

‘Yes there is. I’ve told you already. I met him in person.’

‘Oh? And what did he look like? Did he have horns?’

‘Why are you grinning?’

‘Well, it just strikes me as amusing, that’s all.’

‘There’s nothing funny about the Devil.’

‘What did the Devil want from you?’

‘My soul of course.’

‘You made a pact?’

‘Naturally.’

‘I see. And what did you get in return?’

‘A new body.’

‘Female?’

‘Yes. I was very beautiful. A Parisian Lady, with an exquisite figure.’

‘What happened to this Lady?’

‘She vanished like melting snow.’

‘She died?’

‘No. Satan took her back.’

‘And you became a man again?’

‘Yes. But only on the outside.’

‘Who are you now? Jack or Jill?’

‘Jill, of course.’

‘Well, you don’t look like Jill.’

‘I am Jill. What’s the matter with you? Are you thick or something? I’m Jill in Jack’s body.’

‘Jack, you don’t even know which world you are in, let alone which body.’

‘I made a pact with Satan. Why don’t you believe me?’

‘Because Satan does not exist.’

‘How do you know? After all, you are powerless to prove that he does not. You just said he was metaphysical being. That means he’s beyond the perception of your senses. Your objective datum. But that does not imply his non-existence any more than an X-Ray.’

‘Satan is just a figment of your imagination.’

‘The physiology of faith! No, Satan is real. And very dangerous.’

‘The danger comes not from Satan, but your own misguided impulses.’

‘Our fight is not against flesh and blood, but spiritual wickedness in high places. Don’t you read your Bible? We must pray together.’

‘Religion won’t help you, Jack.’

‘You think my libido too strong to be tamed by Christ?’

‘Listen – ’

‘…I mean, what about Freud’s theory of sublimation? You’re a Freudian analyst, so you must agree with that.’

‘Agree with what?’

‘That Christianity has a purpose – even in a secular society – for sublimating the libido.’

‘If you want my honest opinion, Christianity does nothing but lead men astray; religious superstitions and doctrines are not tenable in the modern age.’

‘You have been poisoned by the atheists.’

‘Not at all. Atheism is the bedrock of all scientific enquiry.’

‘Not when it ignores the evidence.’

‘What evidence?’

‘Read your bible, doctor.’

‘I would hardly consider The Bible evidence for Satan, or even Jesus Christ for that matter.’

‘Look around you. Satan is everywhere.’

‘As a scientist, I prefer to deal in the hard and tangible, and not in the mythical beliefs of a disordered imagination.’

‘Only a fool would consign Satan to the realm of myth and dreams.’

‘Demons, angels, spirits, ghosts, witches, hobgoblins—all these things are the flimflam of morbid fantasists.’

‘I’m a realist, not a fantasist. There are spiritual entities all around us.’

‘Can you see them?’

‘Yes. There’s one sitting on your desk right now. A black monkey with green eyes.’

‘Is he your friend?’

‘No.’

‘How often do you see this monkey?’

‘I’ve never seen him before.’

‘What do you think he wants?’

‘Your soul.’

‘These spiritual beings do not exist in reality. They’re hallucinations: a symptom of hysteria and hyperaesthesia. Your dissociation is psycho-physiological: a functional disorder of the nervous system.’

‘How convenient for you. Your science obliterates the distinction between the psychic and the physical. My clairvoyance is nothing but “functional psychosis” or some other ocular deception. I’m perfectly sane, I tell you.’

‘You’re ill Jack.’

‘That’s what Satan wants you to think. He’s very cunning.’

‘Who is responsible for your sins? You, or an all powerful cunning tempter? Why invent excuses? What about your own self-determination? Why shift the blame onto imaginary creatures? Are you the victim of some unavoidable circumstance? A cruel fate meted out to you by the gods? Face it Jack, your misfortune is your own fault. If you believe in Satan, what about the loving-kindness of an omnipotent God? Where does He figure in your pantheon of mythical beings?’

‘Satan is the prince of the World. He rules the entire Earth. Men like you are his unwitting minions.’

‘So, I’m employed by the Devil?’

‘Absolutely. Clinical psychology is one of the Devil’s favourite occupations; that’s how He convinces the world He doesn’t exist. This asylum is His church. He has many such churches, all over the world. He is worshipped and followed by atheists everywhere. Especially in academia. You might not know him, but He knows you. He has numbered every hair on your head.’

‘Superstitious paranoid nonsense.’

‘Is it? This earth is but an atom in the infinite material universe. Do you really believe that all life is confined to this small planet? There are other worlds; other dimensions; vast orders of spiritual beings, created before Time, with powers beyond your wildest imaginings. The seraphim and the cherubim…’

‘You’re talking utter rubbish.’

‘You would say that: you’re a medical materialist.’

‘And thank god that religion has been usurped by materialism, and that Christian dogma has been replaced by the universal Light of scientific truth.’

‘Thank who?’

‘It was a figure of speech.’

‘You made a Freudian slip. Silly boy. Obviously your subconscious still believes in God; but your rational mind refuses to accept His existence.’

‘That’s enough. If you don’t take these sessions seriously, I’ll confiscate your pen. Now listen, I want to discuss your treatment.’

‘I don’t want treatment. I want to go home. Why did you steal my clothes? Give them back. How do you expect me to go about like this all day long? This isn’t a prison camp you know. Where’s my girdle and stockings? They’ve gone missing.’

‘You mean the ones you hide under your mattress.’

‘You’ve been poking about my cell again. Give them back.’

‘You can’t wear those.’

‘They’re mine.’

‘You stole them from the laundry. They don’t belong to you. Girdles and stockings are for women, Jack.’

‘What’s the harm? I don’t tell you how to dress, do I? I don’t belong in here, doctor. Really, I don’t.’

‘Yes you do.’

‘Let me go. I made a terrible mistake. I’ll never go out dressed again. I promise. From this day forward, I will only dress in private. In fact, I will never dress as a woman again.’

‘In that case, you won’t mind if we keep your tin of cosmetics.’

‘Give it back!’ snaps Jack. ‘I need it. My foundation. My lipstick.’

‘You can do without it.’

‘But look at me! I’m a mess! I’ve got a Five o’ clock shadow!’

‘Where did you get that mascara? Did you steal it?

‘No. It was gift.’

‘For telling fortunes?’

‘No.’

‘Then who gave it to you?’

‘Soot Wings.’

‘Your pet crow?’

‘He brings me things.’

‘Cosmetics?’

‘Whatever I like. He likes shiny things. Pretty things. Like me.’

‘I don’t believe you Jack. I think you stole that mascara yourself. Who did you steal it from? One of the nurses? Or was it a patient? Some poor gullible soul who believes in all your psychic clap-trap.’

Jack rises to his feet, shakes his fists and bawls:

‘Listen to me you Freudian fathead! I don’t belong in this godforsaken loony bin! Unlock my boots! Let me go!’

‘Sit down please Jack, or I will call an orderly and have you sedated. You are obviously in quite a predicament. Please do not make your situation any worse than it already is.’

Trembling, Jack sits back down and mutters:

‘Sorry. I don’t know what came over me. I just want to go home, that’s all.’

‘All in good time.’

‘But I shouldn’t be here.’

‘Why did you jump from the train, Jack?’

‘I can’t remember.’

‘Yes you can. Tell me why you jumped.’

‘I couldn’t afford a ticket. And I didn’t want to get caught dressed as a woman.’

‘Maybe. But I also think you wanted to harm yourself.’

‘Suicide? Oh, I would never do that, doctor Hardy. That would be like jumping out of the frying pan into the fire…’

‘How so?’

‘When a spirit comes out of their fleshy tunic, they must run very fast, or the demons of the air will devour them. The world is full of old souls running madly about, looking for a body. They are so tormented by the demons of the air, that they jump into the first body they can find. What would happen if I ended up in the womb of an ox? Then I would return as a beast of burden, doomed to trudge the furrows… I cannot imagine anything worse.’

‘I see…’

Hardy starts scribbling furiously on his clipboard. Jack looks at the clock tricking on the wall; peers out the misty window; runs his eyes over Hardy’s balding head; listens to the air wheezing through his hairy nostrils…

‘Are you sleeping well,’ asks Hardy, without looking up.’

‘As well as can be expected.’

Jack lets out a snigger as the black monkey starts chewing on a pencil.

‘Something funny?’ asks Hardy, glaring over his clipboard.

‘No, Dr. Hardy. But that monkey is chewing all your pencils up.’

Hardy ignores him and continues to write. The desk nameplate reads:

Doctor Robert Hardy. F.R.C. PL. D.S.O.

‘Er Doctor Hardy… What does D.S.O. stand for?’

Hardy carries on writing:

‘Hmm?’

‘D.S.O. What does it stand for?’

‘Distinguished Service Order.’

‘Please let me go doctor Hardy. I promise not to dress in public again. And I won’t speak of your sins to a living soul.’

‘Sins? What do you mean by that?’

‘I mean your crimes.’

‘Crimes? How dare you! I’ve treated you by the highest ethical standards.’

‘No. I mean your crimes in the war.’

Hardy throws down his pen:

‘Shut up Jack Vallis! You know nothing about the war! You weren’t even there! I had a lot of good friends who died fighting the Germans. Brave men who gave their lives for your freedom!’

‘I didn’t mean that war.’

‘Well which war did you mean? I’ve only fought in one!’

‘I meant the war in the Old World. The war against the heretics. The war against the Cathars.’

Hardy wags a finger:

‘You’re deliberately trying to antagonise me.’

‘I’m Sorry doctor Hardy. Really I am. And I’m grateful. Very grateful. For what you did in the war, I mean. Really, I am. But I’m cured now. I swear. Please let me go doctor Hardy. Please.’

‘Your release is out of the question. We have hardly begun treatment. You’re not fit for society. It is best that you remain here where we can look after you.’

‘I don’t need looking after. I can look after myself.’

‘When you first came to us you were malnourished and without employment. You need daily assessment, medication and supervision. The safest place for you is within these walls. Understand?’

‘No, I do not understand.’

‘The essential feature of your psychosis is dissociation—a curtailment of consciousness, so that your faculties operate in a limited sphere. Hence, in one sphere you live in the Old World—a fantasy realm of your own creation; whilst in another sphere you are Jill; and in another Jack. Do you see?’

‘And you think L.S.D. will fix that?’

‘It’s worth a try, isn’t it?’

‘I don’t know. What if you can’t reshape my personality?’

‘We’ll cross that bridge when we come it.’

‘I think L.S.D is a bad idea. I’m not a lab rat. I might suffer permanent psychological damage. What if I suffer flashbacks or depression?’

‘There is no evidence that L.S.D. causes long term psychological harm. On the contrary, I think it would be most beneficial. There are many citations where L.S.D. has helped in these sorts of cases. The majority of psychotic patients show a marked improvement after taking the phantasticum.’

‘But I’ve already told you, I’m not ill.’

‘I’ll be the judge of that.’

‘I think you should take L.S.D. instead.’

‘I don’t have to ask your permission Jack.’

‘I know.’

‘I’m only asking out of respect. We must respect each other if we are going to make progress.’

‘You’ve read too much Aldous Huxely. The Doors of Perception, and all that. Well my doors need shutting, not opening. I see enough already. Too much, as a matter of fact.’

‘You see everything but the truth.’

‘What would you know? You get all your truth from Freud. A complete ignormamus, if ever there was one.’

‘You really hate Freud, don’t you?’

‘All these endless equiries into my sexuality and childhood. Well sex isn’t the only factor, you know! Freud reduced the human mind to a hotchpotch of sexual neuroses, complexes and repressions that are so conceptual in character, their real existence can’t be demonstrated. No wonder. Freud was obsessed with his mother and had an oral fixation with his cigar—an unhealthy habit which eventually gave him mouth cancer. Well nobody’s perfect, eh doctor Hardy?’

‘I think that’s enough for today. We can talk again tomorrow when you’ve had time to calm down.’

‘I’m perfectly calm, thank you.’

‘You’re being belligerent and obstructive.’

‘That’s rich coming from you.’

‘You’d test the patience of a Saint!’

‘Is that how you see yourself, doctor?’

‘Don’t be impertinent. My only wish is to cure your psychosis.’

‘What about your psychosis?’

‘My psychosis?’

‘Yes. You’re disassociated. You have curtailed your sixth sense, so that your mind is completely closed to the greater reality. You live in a world of denial—an atheist realm of your own creation, where all occult phenomena are debunked as disorders of the mind.’

‘What you think of me is neither here nor there.’

‘I thought a good rapport was essential to my recovery.’

‘Why don’t you take these sessions seriously?’

‘Because I’m not psychotic.’

‘Yes you are.’

‘And that’s your professional opinion?’

‘Yes.’

‘Multum te opinio fallit.’

‘Pardon?’

‘Your opinion is extremely fallacious.’

‘Not at all. Psychosis subdivides the powers and functions of the mind; instead of one organized whole, there appear two or more personalities in the same human being; sometimes you are under the control of Jill, and at others, Jack. Do you follow?’

‘But I’m Jill all the time. I just look like Jack.’

‘Either way, you’re suffering from hallucinations. Black monkeys. And this Old World you write about does not exist in actuality.’

‘Yes it does. Let me show you.’

‘You have some drawings? I’d like to see them.’

‘No, I haven’t any drawings. What I mean is, I can take you there. To the Old World.

‘No Jack.’

‘I can show you secrets. Forbidden realms.’

‘And just how do you propose to do that?’

‘I can peel the scales from your eyes. And I don’t need L.S.D. to do it.’

‘No Jack, you can’t.’

‘Wouldn’t you like to meet Satan?’

‘Certainly not.’

‘I can arrange a personal introduction.’

‘Is that so? A personal introduction no less?’

‘Absolutely.’

‘I’m sure Satan has no time for mere mortals like me.’

‘Oh, he has time for everyone. Especially atheists.’

‘That maybe so. But I wouldn’t like to meet him.’

‘Stop patronizing me. Let me prove His existence.’

‘How?’

‘I’ll take you to the witches’ Sabbat.’

‘Stop it now.’

‘All you have to do is reach out and hold my hand…’

‘No Jack.’

‘Why not? Are you afraid?’

‘Of course not.’

‘Then hold my hand…’

‘No.’

‘Coward.’

‘I refuse to play your stupid games.’

‘It’s not a game. Hold my hand.’

‘Very well. If I hold your hand, and nothing happens, will you accept that I am right?’

‘Right about what?’

‘Your psychosis.’

‘I’ve already told you: I’m not psychotic.’

‘You can’t get better until you accept that you are ill. You’re psychotic, Jack. And you need my help.’

‘Hold my hand, and we’ll see who’s psychotic…’

‘No, on second thoughts, I will not hold your hand. Put it down.’

‘So much for your objective datum. Do you want proof or not? Hold my hand, and I will prove the Old World is real. It’s right here—all around us. Don’t you want to see it?’

A nervous smile flashes across Hardy’s face:

‘Wait a minute. What are you going to do exactly?’

‘Sublimate your science.’

‘This is ludicrous.’

‘Humour me a little. Give me your hand.’

‘Oh, I don’t know. I’m not sure about this. Perhaps I should call an orderly, just in case.’

‘In case of what? I don’t bite, you know.’

‘Will this take long?’

‘No. It will all be over in the twinkling of an eye.’

‘I can only assume this is some kind of parlour trick.’

‘No tricks doctor Hardy.’

‘Then at least tell me what to expect.’

‘We’re going to fly away from here. Far away.’

‘It’s not easy to fly without wings, Jack.’

‘Indeed. But the spirit doesn’t need wings.’

‘You mean, we’re going meditate?’

‘No. We shall leave our bodies behind. We will acquire new bodies in the Old World. But we shall be as ghosts there, unable to interact with the living.’

‘Ah! But where is the Old World? Where is it Jack? A place inside your head, nothing more.’

‘Remember what Jung said: the co-ordination of dream-images occurs outside the categories of Time and Space, and does so without being subject to the law of causality.’

‘Is that what we’re talking about here? Dreams? The dream world isn’t real Jack.’

‘Mine is.’

‘That’s why you’re in a psychiatric hospital.’

‘But doctor Hardy, how do you know that you’re not dreaming right now? I mean, some dreams are so real, that it’s impossible to tell then apart from reality. Don’t you agree?’

‘Well, to a certain extent yes. But that doesn’t mean they are real. The reality you experience in dreams is entirely subjective.’

‘So is the reality you are experiencing right now.’

Hardy scratches his head then asks:

‘You really are the most curious patient I have ever had. And how come you know so much about Jung? Have you had a formal education?’

‘I studied philosophy at the University of Paris. Don’t you remember?’

‘Who are you Jack? Who are you really?’

‘Hold my hand and find out.’

Intrigued, Hardy offers his palm…

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Copyright © Nicholas Shea 2015