July 2014

* depressive process


the depressive process

"To me it seems more and more as though our customary consciousness lives on the tip of a pyramid whose base within us (and in a certain way beneath us) widens out so fully that the farther we find ourselves able to descend into it, the more generally we appear to be merged into those things that, independent of time and space, are given in our earthly, in the widest sense, worldly existence."
(Rainer Maria Rilke)

The depressive process is essentially a natural direction and movement of awareness - one in which we are drawn back down into ourselves - and ultimately also beyond ourselves. The awareness itself is nothing purely mental but a feeling awareness, in particular of the different ways in which we sense the inwardly felt spaces, tones and textures of our own body.

In letting that awareness so descend, under the external pressure or internal weight of whatever problems we experience, we are also responding to the gravitational pull of our own spiritual and physical ‘core' - our centre of gravity in all sense of that word.

This core - the "depressive position" - is an inexhaustible inwardness that some feel as a bottomless and threateningly dark black whole.

And ye like the type of black hole described in cosmology, going through it takes us ultimately out and beyond ourselves into the larger awareness.

Identifying with this awareness overcomes all sense of self centeredness, allowing us instead to feel the core of our being as a centre , not just of our personal self, but of that larger, transpersonal awareness itself - an awareness free of self preoccupation, spacious enough to fully take in and respond to her people and the world around us, and on that widens rather than contract the circles of awareness we previously inhabited.

What we call depression has to do with lack of awareness - not so much of things that are there in our lives but of things that are absent.

(Peter Wilberg, Awareness Based CBT)

Karl Pribram


"I don't like the term the mind, because it reifies - that means it makes a thing of - something that's a process. We pay attention, we see, we hear. Those are all mental processes, mental activities. But there isn't a thing called the mind. There might be something you want to call yourself, but the mind sort of makes something concrete out of something that's very multifaceted."

"The holonomic brain theory is based on some insights that Dennis Gabor had. He was the inventor of the hologram, and he obtained the Nobel Prize for his many contributions. He was a mathematician, and what he was trying to do was develop a better way of making electron micrographs, improve the resolution of the micrographs. And so for electron microscopy he suggested that instead of making a photograph -- essentially, with electron microscopes we make photographs using electrons instead of photons. He thought maybe instead of making ordinary photographs, that what he would do is get the interference patterns. Now what is an interference pattern? When light strikes, or when electrons strike any object, they scatter. But the scatter is a funny kind of scatter. It's a very well regulated scatter. For instance, if you defocus the lens on a camera so that you don't get the image falling on the image plane and you have a blur, that blur essentially is a hologram, because all you have to do is refocus it.

Contained in the blur is the actual image.

But you don't see it as such. So one of the main principles of holonomic brain theory, which gets us into quantum mechanics also, is that there is a relationship here between what we ordinarily experience, and some other process or some other order, which David Bohm calls the implicate, or enfolded, order, in which things are all distributed or spread -- in fact the mathematical formulations are often called spread functions -- that spread this out.

Beneath the subatomic level of matter itself are these quantum wave functions, so to speak, and they form interference patterns.

(Karl Pribram)

Wilder Penfield


Wilder Graves Penfield was a Canadian neurosurgeon. He devoted much thinking to the functionings of the mind, and continued until his death to contemplate whether there was any scientific basis for the existence of the human soul.

"I had such fun writing the Torch. It's the right way, really, the novelist approach. When you write imaginatively, you know what's right. The historian can't do that when he says such and such happened."

It was ironic that he should mention this, for here I am all these 35 years later, trying to reconstruct our conversation from a few notes that I have kept all these years and from my personal recollection. In this reimagined encounter, I glimpse what Dr. Penfield was asserting: even if the words aren't exact, the feeling the encounter engendered is accurate.

Dr. Penfield continued talking about his book. "When I was working on it at the Institute for Advanced Studies [at Princeton], one of [J. Robert] Oppenheimer's secretaries had to take over typing the manuscript. Well, Oppenheimer saw the thing and said, 'I've just seen the word "I" used on my typewriter.' He was a physicist, see, and dealing with the first person was something that hadn't happened to him."

When you're dreaming, that's half and half. And then the mind, where has it gone?

"I've been thinking about these things only lately, you know. It's hard to believe in predestination, and I've come to the conclusion that there's a plan and a God - that there's a bond between the Creator and the creative man. If you look at how the universe has evolved, it must be. Things come about when you least expect it."

"You believe in serendipity, then?" I asked.

"No, it's not that," he replied. "You're getting off track if you say that. If you set out to do your best and work hard, the paths will open up for you. I know. It's worked for me."

On the Monday following my visit, a fellow intern whom I told of my encounter informed me that Wilder Penfield had just died. "You should have come up. We walked in the room and he died right then. He wasn't in pain. He didn't suffer. But you should have seen him. He died in a pensive pose."

(A bedside conversation with Wilder Penfield, by Alan Blum)