Introduction to My Work

Taken from my New Book, June 2012

An author owes it to his readers to explain in the first sentence what they can get from reading him and who is capable of getting it: Positioning Opens and Closes the Lines of Sight for the Whole Situation: The Architecture of Psychiatry gives the lines of sight necessary to see how human beings are captured and how they deliver themselves, for everyone eager to get maps of the whole situation -­ maps that are not captured by a part of the situation.

The thirty-six relatively long lectures of this book have become and are becoming the thirty-six, ten-minute YouTube Lectures. I have deliberately assembled a small group of residents and faculty, and a small group of our secretarial and administrative and IT staff, for each lecture, so I that I can be spontaneously responsive to the non-verbal reactions of both psychiatrists and non-psychiatrists. The results so far suggest that a curious person can learn a very great deal from them as well as can a curious psychiatrist.

Reading these relatively longer lectures is another matter indeed. I went into psychiatry at Harvard Medical School, from having been a student of science at M.I.T. my first year and a student of English Literature my next three years at Harvard College. I went into psychiatry believing I could bring everything from the humanities and science to bear upon the drama of the patient. William Carlos Williams was my hero in this project.

I soon found out that psychiatrists were chiefly technical specialists uneasy with anyone with a larger and deeper education. I was not the first thing they wanted to encounter.

I have been reading the book just published by my first teacher in biology at Harvard College, Edward O. Wilson. His book is called The Social Conquest of Earth (2012). I have not had a word with Professor Wilson since the spring of 1962, fifty years ago. He has come along now with his extraordinary education of the history of human social evolution, compared with insect social evolution.

For me, Professor Wilson explains how human beings have become specialists. This was not surely his chief intention, but rather my inference from reading him. As he writes, Homo sapiens diverged from the chimpanzee line about six million years ago, but he or she has the same core of emotion as the chimpanzee centered in his or her subcortical amygdala.

Chimpanzees are not what you imagine – they are quite ruthless killers when their territory for feeding is jeopardized – a line of males full of stealth go single file in the night into neighboring territory and fall upon isolated males one at a time, to pommel and bite them to death (pp. 73-­‐74), thus to take more feeding territory for themselves. Homo sapiens since the Neolithic revolution ten thousand years ago have become specialists of every technical discovery that gives a selective advantage, and there they stop.

This is a long way of saying this book is not for them. Rather, it is for those few whose curiosity takes in everything that might bear upon the drama at hand.

As I wrote in my last big book, Twenty-­‐Four Theorems on the Topology of Captivity and Deliverance (2010), there is no drama for the human being that is not about captivity and deliverance. As I wrote in my previous big book, The Great Instrument of Orientation (2008), there is no way to get the whole situation unless you are poised equidistant between the interior and exterior world. Otherwise, the exterior dims the interior or the interior dims the exterior.

So, this is the third of a trilogy, about my education necessary to get The Architecture of Psychiatry. I call it Big Blue (2012) for its dark blue linen cover, compared to Big Burgundy (2008) and Big Green (2010). It is for a handful, those who have to understand everything that bears upon the drama. Shakespeare was like that and so was Dante and so was Homer, and so was Tolstoy and so was Melville – the latter two, however, were not ready for the narrowing of the human being that has taken place and were not congratulated upon their accuracy.

I have had many struggles with the title of Big Blue, because she can be seen from so many angles. Finally, I see that positioning is the most important word of all, because positioning opens up and closes all the lines of sight for the whole situation.

When you position yourself in the group, necessary to get paid, you perform some kind of constant operation, and become a constant operator, O (c), as Marx said more clearly than anyone. This closes off all lines of sight, but repeating yourself as a specialist. This is the outer and surface corridor of power.

When you position yourself on a defensible playing field, you open up all the lines of sight for transitions between all of the opposites: Huizinga called this the noble semantic complex. I call this the transitional operator, O (t). This is the inner and deep potential for all creation, chosen out of the night sea by Poincare's sieve.

As Wilson (2012) has taught me, the dominant selection in the human being is group selection – we cannot get free of its corridor of power for long, without swinging back. We seem to have evolved with the group, to stand or fall as a group, so it makes sense that our great instrument of orientation will never depart from it for long, without swinging back to see what the group is doing now.

Thus, we must oscillate in our orientation between the group and the potential for creation or discovery. As I say in Lecture 7, The Defense of the Playing Field, Kutuzov is the most striking character for me in Tolstoy, because he could sit in his tent on a hill overlooking the entire field of battle, and take it all in as a whole field. His generals were so swallowed up in their constant operations in the boundary region of the battle itself that they could not see anything but their own willful and abstract proposals. Yet he would meet with them periodically, half asleep, in order to keep track of their latest foolishness.

Kutuzov is one of the few images in the west of what I call the fundamental operator, O (f) – the ability to get back and forth between the surface and the depth, the constant and the transitional operator, and thus take in the whole situation.

The Vedic tradition in India has had its fundamental operator all along for the last five thousand years in the figure of Nataraja (thanks to Stuart Jones for telling me about Nataraja, and thanks also to the late Rama P. Coomaraswamy for our long correspondence and for teaching me his father's work on this subject in The Door in the Sky), pictured here:

Nataraja

As discussed fully by Ananda Coomaraswamy in The Dance of Śiva (1985, original work published in 1924), Śiva, or Shiva, has the extraordinary balancing of all opposites, while he stands with the tip of his foot upon the dwarf of ignorance, breaking its back. He is dancing the destruction of the world of ignorance to make room for the creation of the world in its noble semantic complex of all the virtues.

We are to learn that he is really in our own hearts. So my trilogy comes down to this extraordinarily beautiful image. If I have ever taught anything noble and beautiful, it is this positioning, that becomes the first word of this book.

Menu