That psychiatrists believe they are masters of psychology because they have access to an arsenal of brutally efficacious drugs, is like a man who believes he knows everything worth knowing about trees because he possesses a chainsaw. He neither designs, nor constructs, nor understands a chainsaw, but when the tree crashes violently he feels this confirms his mastery.
Psychiatry and academic psychology essentially practice shallow pop psychology alongside largely fraudulent statistical fiddling. They manipulate numbers gained from naïve and dimwitted quantization methods designed to confirm either a fashionable sociopolitical agenda in order to secure university funding, or preferably to prove the efficacy of whatever latest lucrative molecular monstrosity the pharmaceutical boys have cooked up.
It makes about as much sense for someone genuinely interested in the art and science of psychology to listen to our psychiatrists and PhDs, as it would for someone interested in healthy diet to visit an oil rig because so much of our food is now derived from petroleum.
Therefore why should anyone interested in radical spiritual growth consult anyone who calls himself a psychologist? For example, the gleeful complicity of our psychologists in a variety of athletic Orwellian distortions along the course of the COVID farce is comparable only to the reprehensibility of epidemiologists, who have blithely and with open eyes changed the foundational definitions of their science to match the prevailing winds of flatus called political consensus.
My answer: because a genuinely incisive psychology is our best weapon in an emerging ideological war, in which the best survival strategy is to defuse ideology. There is a discernible thirst for the persecution of the heretical afoot... We must not allow the heritage of Western psychological insight to be another occupied territory of blind and shallow political opportunism.
Psychology as I see it practiced everywhere, combines the stupidest elements of vestigial animistic thinking - in that it projects blame out of the vicinity into the extremities of the unknown, with the most blockheaded modern prejudices, which assume for every deed a singular agency, for every agency a singular motive. Therefore it fails to capture either the animistic subtlety in the identification of spirits, and the fluency which which it identifies their influences as it traverses domain and scale - in other words the scale invariance of mass psychology - nor does it reap any of the benefits of the reductionistic method of Western science, which properly employs reduction as a rigorous method of artificial temporary ignorance, rather than as a covert metaphysics as is generally the case. By reducing investigation to a few obvious causal planes - the quest for "organic" etiologies for everything psychological - we have made it easier to believe we know everything that's possibly real - an impudent attitude that's unworthy both of the traditional animistic respect and the proper scientific skepticism.
Where others cannot help but see agency, I see nonlinear emergent dynamics: all psychology begins as animism, and it requires many years to outgrow the crutch of a projected conscious self, where there is neither self nor consciousness. Mass psychology has yet to even begin, therefore its etiology is largely still animistic.
The need for certainty is not only a constant, it grows with the animal's exposure to overwhelming stimuli. In modernity, this is the reason why everyone and no one is a psychologist.
To the talented student of psychology, quietly bewildered at the ever widening gap between the self-assured pomp of scientificality and the ever more obvious uselessness of its findings, I recommend this perspective: such doings are the creation of mythologies of agency and the extensible canals of blame, such as the human creature always has need of. Bad psychologizing is nothing new: the efficient distribution of blame is one of the requisites of any sustainable communal life.
Being both formerly educated and more deeply informally educated in the field, I'm keenly aware that every other dope considers himself a psychologist. Your mother considers herself a psychologist because she watches Oprah; your boss curates a set of politically correct diagnoses he learned from his therapist; your girlfriend believes she knows better because the internet told her so; your roommate read Jung once - and so on. Yet not all of this conviction concerning human motivation is fully dismissible: in fact, the less education at play, the more likely the insight is valid. A formal education in psychology produces increasingly obtuse and dangerous gremlins: it's not a curve of diminishing returns, it's a dropoff into willful stupidity and authoritarian posturing. Moreover there is no point at which this educational curve suddenly surges back upward into mastery: unlearning modern university training is the nearly impossible toil with which a pedagogy in my style would be concerned...
But about half the world is half-educated. Like exhausted topsoil, genuine native ignorance grows scarcer, and is largely extinct in our firstworld. I see children as young as 10 who seem ruined by overexposure to the smuggery and irony of the internet. Finding a spark of honest ignorance, that bright pilot flame where articulate questions begin and from which lifelong passions are fed, is like foraging for mushrooms in New York City parks: not impossible but a little ridiculous - although this sort of secret plane of fecund ignorance, the bottled genie of childhood, persists just as it always has in quiet shady neglected spots, and finding them is part of the art of insight.
Psychology, as science, is properly considered still in the preparatory descriptive phase. As I've said before, premature scientificality is not only an enormous waste of time, and not only hinders progress, but engenders a regression of knowledge: genuine science carries the authority to contradict "common sense" - but nothing is worse in the humanities and the inductive work of good science than undermining common sense precisely where it is most valuable. This is part of what has made possible the plague of political correctness under the aegis of willful stupidity regarding human nature: feminism, for example, has strayed from an advocacy of the feminine into a small set of scientifically idiotic claims about the nonexistence of sexual dimorphism.
I have said that "the essence of magical thinking is feigned belief". Propitiation, ceremony, always requires an as-if attitude which becomes effective through its effication: ceremony is hollow until it is hallowed. We accomplish many things by closing our eyes tighter: the human being must deceive itself almost constantly, else it will wander off and fail to meet its own needs. In fact self-deception seems to be instinctual in this primate: with our certainty we hide our knowledge, with our belief we hide our insight. Almost everything the human creature claims to know, he does not know: but when he claims to be ignorant, he very well knows.
Science too, is a magical ritual: by claiming ignorance we don't have, we gain genuine knowledge we didn't have. That is the Socratic trick. But by perverting this ceremony into a bad imitation of the ritual of certainty - in other words, postaxial religion, which is largely the unholy marriage of Greek scientificality with Neoplatonic-Hermetic incantation - we return to magical thinking again, but without the pagan awe and none of the Neolithic humility which should accompany it. Modernity is plagued by the arrogant half-educated peasant, who by dint of his premature liberation from labor has neither the rootedness to earth nor the security of a hierarchy of powers above him: he is inwardly terrified at his freedom of thought, yet simultaneously greedy to achieve as much status through falsified knowledge as possible - thus he becomes yet another quack of normalcy. The charlatans of certainty surround us, peddling their cheap imitations of scientific attitudes... It was in fact the early Christians above all, who claimed ownership over the Greek heritage of reason: they convinced half the world that a cheaply syncretic mystery cult promoting ambitious moral actors had the most legitimate claim to the values of antique civilization. Why did it succeed? Because Christianity addressed itself to the inner needs of Late Antiquity, which was, as I insist, analogous to our time: when anxiety reigns, the power to quell anxiety is taken as a sign of sufficient authority and possession of "the Truth". This is ultimately why "the Science" seems fated to be marred and annexed by protoreligious forces once again...
What's the difference between "certainty" and "knowledge" such as I've just described them? Genuine knowledge is always incomplete, always a partial trajectory and a quasicrystalline seduction, always accompanied by an unsettling "so what?" at the tail end. Genuine insight unsettles, disturbs, and excites the semantic web in unpredictable ways: to withstand insight, we must withstand uncertainty. The sense that something unacceptable and disastrous will result from the infection of uncertainty, is the reason most of humanity resists its own insight - not because it lacks it. Most of the factual scraps and the authoritative words traded by the human community, are designed to shut down conscious and unconscious reasoning. Gossip is not only the tool of conformity and shame, it is the betel nut narcotic of cheap certainty.
Most lack the intellectual conscience to practice genuine psychology. One must resist the mystification of the reflexive, else we risk devolving psychology into a merely self-indulgent exercise: Jung and Lacan. But we must also resist the counterformation, which is to arrogate an understanding of the fundamental concepts we do not possess, and by neglecting the simple questions fail before we have begun, because we have failed to learn from our own experience, and thus devolve psychology into merely a bureaucratic taxidermy of increasingly dead information: academic psychology and psychiatry.
Freud walked a thin line, and only then for about a decade did he manage it: to preserve intellectual conscience even as we stare into the mirror, to unravel the answers of the sphinx, to learn to know what we already know without succumbing to the superstition that we already know. To superimpose conscious ignorance atop unconscious knowledge, without allowing the conscious element to become indulgent, nor mystified, nor impatient for results, nor embarrassed at its poverty, nor despairing, nor cynical, nor naïve: that is the challenge of good psychology.
Psychoanalysis in the early 20th century was like a desert bloom: brief, rare, yet indicative of richer soils than you might think. The human race is many times more psychologically perceptive than it generally pretends to be when it hides from itself: the problem is not teaching psychology per se, but to make an intellectual conscience somehow more socially advantageous than distortion... To train artful scientists precisely where everyone is already a practiced magician: not easy.
For example, Freudians see "ego defense" where I see social calculation: much of what I call moral phenomena they term "defense" from displeasure... But Freud underestimated the importance of group psychology to the primate. It's not "displeasure" in the abstract that the ego defends against, it's abandonment.
Good psychology on my terms is the study of unconscious distortion: everything else is merely character typology, the demonology of fashionable syndromes, and the pleasures of slanderous gossip. For example, "Borderline Personality Disorder" has become an increasingly popular diagnosis, without the slightest understanding how shallow the thinking behind it is - Otto Kernberg employed it as merely a kind of placeholder for neurotic patients as difficult to treat as a true psychotic. Therefore it means: "pain in the ass" and little more - little surprise then that it finds so much application in our world.
Someone claims to be "psychic", another claims a "siddhi" - what do I hear? Firstly, it's important to understand that effectively, everyone is psychic. There is no creature alive that does not communicate at many levels simultaneously, and no human being does not communicate unconsciously with several orders of magnitude greater bandwidth and precision than consciously. Unconscious communication is "psychic" communication: no more, and certainly no less. It remains unplumbed, unexplored, unrecognized, disrespected, willfully ignored, willfully denied - but it happens every day, in every scenario, in every conceivable way and - according to even a modest allowance of probability - in many inconceivable ways too. So when someone takes pains to claim special powers, putting themselves at risk, the only important question is: what are they after, whom are they after, and how does the "psychic" moniker help them achieve those ends?
What does it mean, to be "unconscious"? The very term betrays our prejudice: it's defined by what it's not.
"Unconscious" is so badly termed, and so aptly demonstrates the fundamental prejudices at work: as though "the unconscious" were a special case, as though one had to go looking for it! It would be like terming the oceans "the not-yet-dry", or the Milky Way Galaxy as "extraterrestrial", or food as "not-ipecac". Everything we do and say and feel, is primarily unconscious: what's conscious is only a very special case, and usually not very important. It's almost impossible to "do" anything consciously: consciousness accompanies, intensifies, or rather is itself the symptom of intensification.
It's also a grave error, to equate "the ego" with consciousness. The I, the linguistic I, the defensive I - the ego does not hardly exist except when it's defensive - has nothing essential to do with being-conscious, except that it relies on redundancy and saturation as one of its defenses. The loudest mouth on the block: anyone familiar with ghetto life knows how reliable a defense this is. The ability to redirect attention is a form of magic, and actually the first thing every magician learns.
The ego as scam artist: that sounds too correct to be mere poetic accident. But poetic accidents are my specialty: tripping backwards over the truth as I spraypaint illusions of knowing - I have an I, too.
The field of psychology is so extremely vulnerable to abuse and perversion that many of the brightest of my generation have declared it not only worthless but a dangerous poison and snare employed by malicious manifestations of punitive normalcy. And they are not mistaken.
If I declare that "psychology is a weapon" - am I guilty of hyperbole? But in practice, what is the function of invoking psychological interpretation? At the commonplace level: it shifts responsibility, alters whatever narrative justifies action, it authorizes a microcosmic personal origin myth, an exciting new causality with magic formulae and spirits to blame: instead of "the devil", or various demons, or a jinx, we get "the subconscious", a "personality disorder", or "the ego". Pop psychology is largely a renewed demonology.
But when disguised as education and initiation, something more inimical appears: a psychological interpretation serves to induce hesitation, self-doubt, the seeds of consciousness - everything which makes a strong nature hold itself back. The wonder of this psychological warfare is that it recruits the capacity for integrity and responsibility and turns them against the bearer: the bold become self-punitive, the visionary become brooding. It therefore works most effectively against those with a capacity for honesty; it hobbles the most virtuous with the strength of their own virtues; it seduces those most eager for challenge and responsibility by projecting a mirage of challenge and heroism into the horizon. And what is truly wondrous, is that this challenge is not entirely unreal: the dangers and rewards of self-examination call like sirens to the children of modernity...
To say that the function of psychology is to heal, is like saying that the purpose of the Manhattan Project was to create radiological medicine: psychological insight as wielded by those few with the healing art and intention, are the exception of exceptions - merely a glance at the history of psychoanalysis after Freud should demonstrate how difficult it was for him not to encourage and breed nefarious charlatans left and right. Freud also was hardly a healer: he was an ambitious scientist, with that sufficient mixture of cruelty and neutrality...
Is psychology a weapon in my hands also? Absolutely. What do I seek to harm with it? The briar of confusion surrounding my peers, the Gordian knot handed to the children of modernity as though their salvation lie within its impossibility - I seek to frighten away goblins and embolden the honest faces around my fire with a different story: if my psychology is after all only another tale, let it be a good one that leaves us cheerful and impetuous and scornful of the miasma of mendacious cowardice that we find everywhere...
If my science has a bias and a motive - and it does - it is to teach the forging of psychological weapons of self-defense to a select few. My hope is that the very content of this art and science - the bowl of thorns and bitter herbs I serve as though it were precious broth - will select my students for me.
There is an intimate and suspect relationship between psychological initiation and moral indoctrination: psychology is after all the "study of the soul", and the "soul" is after all the most ingenious crooked concealed dagger of the priests. "Drive all blames into yourself": this has always been the modus operandi and first line of defense of the priest and wannabe-priest. "Drive all blames into your neurosis": I've stretched out on that couch of torture under the knife of a wouldbe-vivesectionist: a ranking New York psychoanalyst of the Freudian society no less. But after many long hours of doubt, when I finally turned to him and said: "Your silence is false! You're not neutral and composed, you're merely weak, unimaginative, and a practiced actor!" - I'll never forget the flabbergasted look, his speechlessness. Psychological weaponry may be very cleverly designed and virulent, but make no mistake: most practitioners have weak wrists and no ability to parry - they deal only with willing victims, not adversaries. Moreover, their dark arts will crumble before the white flame of an angry belly: do not underestimate the power of healthy rage to frighten away gray-skinned parasitic entities.
Whether and how much Foucault is correct in removing the element of individual psychology from the functioning of modernity: how much is "feeling" and even "gratification" not only imputed by we who would explain, but an important illusion of that same system? How much has mankind already been reduced to a responsive and well-functioning part within a machine, whose subjective experience has been both broadened and weakened? How much does modernity depend upon paralytic anxiety, self-absorption, short-term goals, and a ubiquitous shallow fitful sleep? How much is every attempt to discover "motive" therefore doomed?
But my psychology attempts to uncover precisely those conditions which do prevail, which do prepare the human body for a benumbed bourgeois mallwalk through broken fragments of dreams... The "motives" I find have nothing whatever to do with an idealized rational human subject: I find a sick body doing its best to recover in the midst of mounting confusion and overwhelming error, largely failing to find respite outside of what makes it sicker, and therefore resigning with astounding regularity to tactics of revenge, malicious roleplaying, and a selling of birthrights to the lowest bidder for the most immediate relief - the sicker the human animal becomes, the more the "rationality of illness" is the only logic and the only psychological framework worth pursuing. Everything else is bad fiction, the 18th century presumptions of Adam Smith, the bald lies which advertising tells us about "choice" and uniqueness, and the laggardly failings of late 20th century psychology to catch up to the evidence of what we are.
We are apes, with ape-psychology, with ape-instincts, with ape-needs. Nothing more, nothing less. That we seem to have become something so much "more" than ape, is from my perspective merely our unfamiliarity with the potential for exponential growth and diversification latent in all species. We are the last of the techno-apes: there once were many varieties. We have inherited and stolen most of our fundamental technologies: fire, hunting, tribal hierarchy, language, herbology, and perhaps even limited agriculture. Any 21st century psychology that does not ground itself in these facts, is anachronistic and beyond our patience. Only the interplay of fundamental instinct reveals the truth about us consistently - it pulls back the many veils of modesty and the many polite consoling lies. Morality being that thick veil which I'm most accustomed to attack first. But there are more: metaphysical pretensions abound still, especially among the neurologists - those arrogant chemists dabbling in the humanities.
- A psychology that claims to discover the mind from within, and finds nothing but mirage, as Lacan does: masturbatory, paralyzing, and a fabulous waste of time.
- A psychology that exclusively studies maladaptation under more slanderous names, as psychiatry does: squireboy of the horsemen of civilization, seeking to groom the general populace for castration.
- A psychology that reduces everything willful to neurosis, as the Freudians do: the fearful feverdream of an impotent self-loathing man.
Loneliness and envy: is there any need to resort to any other forces in the explanation of group psychology among apes? As a method of first priority, these two forces suffice to explain the totality of social behavior in something like 95% of all human beings.
What do we want from a group? First: to be safely within. Second: to be on top of it.
Loneliness: fear of abandonment, vacuiphobia, poverty of the self, the herd instinct. The safety of numbers. Amorphous homogeneity. What is affection but sublimated loneliness?
Envy: resentment, greed, the attitude of weakness, "equality", the ugly backside of compassion, the tribal instinct in its most visible aspect. Petty advantage in every form: most of sociality involves the delicate exchange of flattery, insult,
Freud's psychology is so skewed to the atomic individual - very 19th century. An admirable attempt to reduce to functional principles, but his fixation on libido was damaging to the movement as a whole: we'd rather think of ourselves as raging nymphomaniacs, than envious lonely slobs.
How much more immediately useful would this "system" of psychology be to the aspiring student! To learn to see loneliness in action, when people clump and bump against you, pleading for inclusion. To learn to see envy in their stupid glassy eyes, in their cunning maneuvers, in their every prophylactic move, in their heavy cognitive distortions. So much of what's called "narcissism" today is nothing but competitive projective envy: behavior designed to inspire envy, such that one vaguely desires this image of oneself, which defers confrontation with one's actual overwhelming envy, sense of inferiority, and loneliness.
People are not really "egoists", they are "groupists": their orientation is not the self, but their status in various shifting mercurial groups. They have no "self" to fixate on: that would have required the strength to endure a little loneliness, a little genuine solitude - they have rather the as if of a self, the implication of a self as defined by the group. No wonder so much desperation, confusion, and panic sets in when the group constituency changes, when the direction remains uncertain, when the canon of values is in question!
I prefer to study psychology at the anthropological scale: that is, the level of the tribe. Not the level of the "mind", nor the "signifier", nor the individual, and on the other hand not the level of society, nor the state, nor certainly at the level of existence itself or any other way of saying "in the eyes of God". That Nietzschean psychology is group psychology is not generally understood. That the Freudian psychology of the family and the primal triangle is immensely valuable in the study of neurosis, but only of limited value in the study of health - is also generally not understood. There is no escape from the tribe: even what it means to be an "individual", is defined at the tribal scale. What "society" means, is also defined by the distortion of tribe; the same goes for morality and all of the diseases of modernity...
It's generally imagined that neurology will one day subsume psychology. But on our present course this remains extremely unlikely: because even assuming that neuroanatomy achieved some perfect elaboration, in absence of a viable psychological interpretation, all neurology is merely correlating regions of tissue with poorly defined behaviors and even more poorly described subjectivity. Neurology as it stands strikes me as something like an inversion of the dismissal of the appendix: its anatomy was fully documented for centuries, but without a grasp of the importance of the microbiome, it was assumed to be useless. Listening to their chatter, this "brain" everyone is always so thrilled about begins to seem like a useless piece of anatomy credited with a significance it does not have... It begins to seem more sensible to force oneself into seeing the brain like the preaxial Greeks did, as a radiator for excess heat: what is all this thinking and tinkering but excess heat?
Anatomical exploration could be executed by a machine, but psychology requires a soul - because soul is a divining rod for the viable. This is what the musicians mean by "soul": truth as food, the stomach as spirit.
Some would like psychology to be practiced as a kind of statistical mechanics, and thereby reduce its predictions to the purely quantifiable. Indeed as long as its goals remain restricted to vague half-tautological quantizations of modern prejudice, it seems achievable. But statistical modeling always fails to account for recursive distortion: knowing when to take a confession at face value despite its ironic presentation, is not something one can teach a statistician. There's a certain truth-valuation, a sense of arriving where one began, that cannot really be formulated, only demonstrated: that's the Nietzschean interpretive process. A truth value can no more be proven than first order logic, it can only be demonstrated in practice: or "constructed" as Brouwer might say...
My definition of psychology does not reduce to the metaphysical ambition to discover principles of "thought itself", nor does it claim that "the mind" is any ultimate distillation of physics, nor does it indulge in the pretense of a study of "being and time", nor is it interested in forcing the principles of molecular biology to emerge in consciousness - I understand psychology to be a distillation of the unconscious hermeneutics of sociality, or the selective inhibition of interpretative process through the power of a retrained economy of instinct: you have to want to understand, despite all the embarrassments involved. Everything else is merely bad faith mimicry - the real practice of psychology does not begin until you admit something with your back to the wall: only in that moment, when you feel that everything worthwhile about yourself is pitted against a possibility that therefore must not be true - do we gain a little freedom in feeling and thinking. In that moment, the locus of your self preservation shifts, from fragile crystalline ideation, to the origamic transformations you were secretly employing as a sleight-of-hand. Nietzsche, the clandestine teacher of most of what's worthwhile in 20th century thinking, is constantly trying to demonstrate that the sooner you admit to being a liar, the sooner you will learn to become an honest artist. From illusory stasis to fugitive vitality: that's all anyone can offer.
In statistics, the null hypothesis serves as the default assumption: that there is no asymmetry in the data and thus nothing special to conclude. One has merely taken measurements and obtained a numerical distribution, but learned nothing.
What's the unconscious psychological equivalent? What are the consequences for the art of perception? Either an interpretation and its response has nothing to do with a given datum, or it is associated and justified.
However there is no access to "raw data": everything is already many times interpreted, and not merely by "bias" but by perceptual apparatus. There are often only limited available responses which already assume an interpretation: feeling states cannot be undone. Repression is the only alternative to apperception. Actually in social contexts true communicative error is extremely rare: unconscious communication between social creatures is extremely efficient and accurate. The choices are therefore honest apperception or repression and displacement: with many loci of repression, many available termini of displacement, and many combinations of both strategies. The untangling of these combinations is the vast majority of the art of psychological perception: not better fidelity in communication, but more accurate mapping of the simultaneous strategies of distortion undertaken by both parties. You already know the answer: the work consists in undoing your unknowing.
Therefore it's in choosing between likely strategies of distortion that psychology largely consists: tracing how information and response were unconsciously displaced in favor of some other matrix of social signaling, which takes on a life of its own and adds further complexity.
"What's he feeling? Why is he saying this or that?" Is not merely a question of refining and rejecting interpretations of raw data, but learning to detect distortion in the data one has and assigning agency and history to that distortion. Every distortion implies repression, which implies both successful communication and unconscious resistance. The actual practice of psychology revolves around detecting distortion fields in semantic valence and learning typical trajectories of displacement within the semantic field given typical aversions and desires: there is no flat plane of distribution, but a swirling dance of valences. Perceiving asymmetric distortion waves within this dance and assigning a causality is the art of the science.
It's important to realize that one is always already caught up in a semantic distortion because it necessarily works mutually: language is powerful leverage even if it seems to have a superficial illusory quality - sometimes this nonsubstantiality is part of its power - "it's only words". But every signal has its associated power, else it ceases to function as signal: so much of what we do as perceptive creatures is to discard weakly valent but prominent signals in favor of what they are substituting for - every signifier displaces and obscures another, every gestalt is a provisional as-if.
If I have said that psychology may never be a science and that intuition will always play a central role, do not mistake my message for "anything goes", or that there is no means of detecting and correcting bad psychologizing. Certainly my message is not that just anyone is qualified who claims the authority of "intuition" - quite the opposite. Psychology as I understand it is a discipline and a practice, and not a workman's science in the usual sense: as though its findings could be exhibited like so much taxidermy and that theoretically anyone with sufficient intelligence is qualified. Psychology can no more be practiced by an "ideal mind" than tennis can. The whole body is required, and a disciplined body at that.
Why is the academic establishment so opposed to intuition? If it were possible to practice psychology intuitively, then it would also be possible to know at a glance whether an insight had merit or whether it was bullshit. Conversely if intuition is impossible, and produces only deadends and delusion, then they have nothing to fear from us and have only to stand by and watch us shoot ourselves in the foot. But their constant compassionate concern for the flock betrays them: their eagerness to maintain a tenuous hold of authority over psychological truth, speaks of a deep fear of creeping irrelevance. So why are they afraid of the idea of an intuitive discipline? Because they are incapable of it. Because they're too verklemmt, and only feel safe in a world where no one but the verklemmt succeed.
Unfortunately "intuition" is a dirty word, invoking weakness of mind, permissiveness, and bullshit - we should probably be extremely cautious in its use. I may stand a better chance of being understood, if I speak of a "perceptual discipline", emotional refinement, and everything which says no to a thousand wishful guesses before admitting a reluctant maybe. Mutually reinforcing reluctant maybes, which coalesce into a cogent profile of any given case, and only become relative certainties when abstracted into generalities and heuristic principles concerning human nature - that's the kind of psychology I'm talking about.
Even while emphasizing the importance of natural observation, depth of fieldwork, and above all the accumulation of bad experience in the formation of a psychologist in my style - I also maintain that there are a few vitally important concepts to be rescued and defended. I may soon see to it that the Freudian and Nietzschean psychological inheritance gains a new respectable grounding in the latest terminology: for example, I've already found it relatively easy to define repression in terms of information theory. What I want to emphasize now, is that prior to any theoretical dance must come a real training of the body: I conceive of psychology as an insight tradition in the old sense, something much nearer to an athleticism than a mere intellectual piddling. When an old master of Gongfu took on a student, he did so reluctantly, slowly, forcing him through many trials designed to test the totality of his character: that something as potentially significant to the future of the human race as our best comprehension of motivation, behavior, evolutionary strategy and everything our much-fondled intelligence yields and distorts, is treated with less seriousness and severity than it requires to undergo an apprenticeship in plumbing - what does that tell us about ourselves? But psychologists don't need comprehension or character, as long as they are armed with caustic chemicals to bore through those clogged pipes...
That old master of ethology and genuine gentleman of science, Nikolaas Tinbergen, once said in his hesitant neo-Victorian rumbling:
Having myself always spent long periods of exploratory watching of natural events, of pondering about what exactly it was in the observed behavior that I wanted to understand before developing an experimental attack, I find this tendency of prematurely plunging into quantification and experimentation, which I observe in many younger workers, really disturbing, unless, as happens to some, they do, from time to time, return, more purposefully than before, to plain, though more sophisticated, watching.
The Study of Instinct, vi
"Plain but sophisticated watching": what could be achieved I wonder, if instead of shunting a mess of emotionally stunted doctoral students directly from high school into neurology laboratories where they are commanded to begin generating numerical tautologies from vague uninterpreted data, we rather focused on finding and developing a whole person, who might thereafter be qualified to study and theorize about something so complex as neurological phenomena? How many of them have learned to ask a good question, or have been taught that the formulation of precise questions is more than half the work of understanding? I look around their literature, and I fail to see the majority of them take the first step in science: an admission of ignorance.
Vanity would like to tell me that my kind of intelligence is the rarer type: the poet, the psychologist, the diviner of human nature. That the mathematical and scientific kind is more common. But probably, sadly, this is not true. It's possible that the "genius of the heart" is not so rare, but we are much more fragile, more needy, more sensitive to initial conditions, and therefore much less likely to survive intact through those inevitable years of abuse and confusion: those same conditions which we would seek to reform and recolor in our own image, if we could only preserve our confidence long enough to find a voice. "Discontented" culture not only breeds unhappiness, it breeds out the most unhappy, until all that is most visible, all that succeeds most thoroughly and thrives as leadership, are those incapable of any other condition of life. In fact, what I see, is an increase of souls who thrive in absurd misery.
All genuine psychological training takes place as intimate hand-to-hand combat: unless you have personal stakes involved, you will not be in possession of sufficient motivation to overcome the resistances to mutual deception - you will remain too "good", too well-meaning, too socially cooperative to begin practicing the kind of reverse stagecraft I teach.
When I practice psychology at a distance, removed by time and space, through the lens of history - how could it be valid? Because not only am I applying past lessons to infer who and what some person is and was and therefore how and what happened, but because I find myself entangled - I know how to entangle myself in the "semantic field" as I find it. Through history, through mere words, through artifacts, through a thousand signs unconscious and conscious, the human collectivity communicates across vast distances very effectively, whether we know it and want it, or not. We are all of us nodes and junctures and mouthpieces of many convergent and divergent forces: to learn to read these datastreams as they flow through us, is what I teach.