Date: Tue, 15 Jul 2003 14:12:29 EDT
Claire Kahane poses a question regarding the "fundamental unconscious
fantasies" about which I have written. Do they represent "drive derivatives?"
Are they "hard wired?" Are they dependent upon cultural and linguistic raw
materials? Or do they constitutes responses to our "deepest existential dilemmas."
Levi R. Bryant writes abut the creation of the subject as a consequence of
the encounter between the biological organism and language.
What is left out in much contemporary theory is the intermediate
domain, what we might call human experience. Freud wrote about infantile sexuality,
fantasy, conflict and ambivalence, as well as what he called infantile
"complexes." A focus of his observations and thought was the child's bodily and
mental experience in relationship as he or she developed relationship to the bodies
and minds of other beings that constituted the early environment. This
experience of one's own body in relationship to the bodies of others generated
sensations, affect, fantasies (pre-linguistic "ideas") that are neither instinctual
nor cultural (symbolic).
One of the most profound observers of childhood was Frances Tustin. I
cite her work to give a sense of what I mean by infantile experience, and how
one may theorize the relationship between experience and primal human
Tustin states that the infant's primarily illusion is that he and the
mother are a "continuum of bodily stuff." As a consequence of the fantasy of
fusion with the mother's body, the experience of external reality (of the other
as "other") can be "catastrophically upsetting" and can lead to a negation of
the outside world. The not-me or other is felt to be inimical because it
brings unbearably painful awareness of "bodily separateness which is experienced as
In the state of fusion, everything is experienced as 'me.' The child
behaves as if fused with the outside world, and outside objects are experienced
as a prolongation of his bodily sensations and movements. Awareness of bodily
separateness on these basic levels, Tustin found, is experienced as a loss of
part of the body, which leaves a 'hole' or 'wound.' Thus, reactions are set in
to block out awareness of bodily separateness.
This does not mean that the child not also experience the mother as a
separate. Even as there is a fantasy of fusion, there also are experiences of
the reality of the other as other. Much of human experience arises out of the
attempt to resolve issues surrounding the dialectic of fusion and separateness.
An infantile fantasy such as this one is neither "hard wired" nor dependent
upon language and culture (although later we use language and culture in our
effort to externalize it).
When Freud wrote about the consequences of infantile sexuality,
infantile fantasy, trauma, conflict and ambivalence, he was writing about the
consequences of infantile experience. Fantasy is a form of pre-linguistic thought,
inchoate sensations, feelings and emotions that give rise to psychosomatic
ideation. Fantasy (or phantasy) is the psychoanalytic term for infantile ideation.
Perhaps the foundational insight of psychoanalysis was that infantile
fantasies possess coherence.
My research consists of demonstrating a relationship between (shared)
infantile fantasies and cultural forms. One discerns unconscious fantasy within
cultural forms by observing how images and metaphorical language are bound to
the central terms of an ideology.
Hitler stated that mass meetings and rallies were designed to help the
individual to overcome the "fear of being alone" by providing the
strengthening that derives from the conviction of being a member of a "great comprehensive
body." People came to his speeches, Hitler said, as enemies, but after three
hours it gradually transpired that "adherents and adversaries fused into a
single enthusiastic body."
The infantile fantasy of fusion (i. e., denial of separation from the
mother's body) is transformed into a cultural form, the mass rallies, that were
designed to actualize the fantasy that the German people were bound to Hitler
and fused to constitute a single omnipotent body.
It was essential, Hitler declared, that the German people be "thrown
into the great melting pot, the nation" that they might be "welded one to
another." To solve the problems of Germany, Hitler said, it was essential to "bring
the German people into such a form that the millions of individuals could be
fused into a unity." Hitler addressed his German youth: "You are flesh of our
flesh, blood of are blood. You are all one, belonging to me."
The essence of Nazi ideology is contained within Hitler's statement
that his movement encompassed "every aspect of the entire Volk." Germany was a
"corporate body, a single organism." Nazism grew out of this fantasy of the
nation as a single, omnipotent body, a gigantic organism to which each and every
individual was bound (as cells constituting this organism). Radical, violent
sacrifices were undertaken in the name of validating this fantasy, bringing it
into actuality, demonstrating that it was real. Ideology constitutes the
vehicle for transforming infantile fantasies into cultural action.
Nazism and all that followed from it grew out of Hitler's fantasy
(shared by many others) that his own body and the bodies of all other Germans could
be fused into one in order to create a gigantic body politic. This shared
desire to conceive of Germany as an actual body, the wish (and belief that it was
possible) to fuse one's body with this omnipotent body. constituted the
foundation and motivation of everything that occurred.
Richard A. Koenigsberg, Ph. D.
Library of Social Science
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