The Unconscious Writer
by David Eide .

For the writer the unconscious exists as not only a fascination but as that which increases the ability of him or her to do their deeds. So say the psychologists at any rate. The world itself is blurring the lines of distinction and through mass communication, is merging the traditional categories of conscious and unconscious.

There is danger at either end of the conscious and unconscious worlds- great danger. The mind traverses either end, pushes and is rejected at both ends, plots against the strength of each and finally lands exhausted in middle-age.

There is such a thing as, "the willfulness of the unconscious.” I wouldn't make the mistake of correlating this knowledge with “unconscious” acts that are occurring around you all the time. If the society wants to live like a clinic there’s little I can do about it.

It’s a difficult relationship to tune the self toward this will. The first reaction of the conscious mind is one of disbelief, anxiety, fear as it tries to pin down this conflicting attribute. All the power available in a culture is used by the conscious mind to try and identify, fight, integrate, relate in one fashion or another the terms of this particular will. This culture tends to repression and then using criminals and crazy people to point out its existence. But it's something the writer or artist is bound to face at some point.

First are the dangers. All you have to do is open your eyes to the daily occurrences of the world about to understand the dangers. A man knifes people on a bus. A guy starts shooting up a school. A predator grabs a child. And, quite naturally, the pejorative, violent, ugly acts committed under the influence of this will touches a cord within the self, at least in the “purgatory state.” "I too am capable of these acts? Hardly!" And brings with it guilt, foreboding, anxiety and the rest. It’s the general condemnation of the society introjected by one’s own consciousness. A good thing for the stability of the culture.

The other danger is that by the very nature of the material you will view the world differently than the general run of humanity. The difference in looking at things cuts one off from the general run and in this process rises the hatred, jealousy, anxiety, guilt of social consciousness.

As this occurs there is always the danger of compensating and becoming conservative, thus breaking the unity the mind is growing toward.

And once you see the value and beauty of unity there is no turning back to the fissured view of the world. One looks on this world the way a man would look if he were to go to another planet and view the Earth as a physical unity clothed in pure blue and green light. The activity below the beautiful light would look grotesque to say the least. And human beings would come to resemble more and more petty, heartless, vain creatures enthralled to death rather than life. Their hierarches, values, roles, governments, systems of exchange would all appear to be a retrogression rather than a progression. Their beliefs would appear to be founded on very limited prejudices and fears. But, in the middle of all of this horror there would be an ambiguous desire for unity, a recognition on the part of nearly everyone that unity is the goal of life.

There are dangers here as well. The unity cannot be effected outside of men and women. It has to come from the unification of two distinct wills contained within the same individual. For generations and generations human beings have played with the idea that the unity of men and women can be accomplished through his social institutions. Society organized around this principle of social unity comes to resemble a prison. Life is a punishment to be endured and those who endure it the best come to see themselves with an inverted light. They pass this “endurance” down through social organization and no one benefits. The only unity is one of terror.

I can’t imagine a paradise fashioned out of this unconscious; except to say it will offer life giving qualities to those with patience. What needs to be done and what psychologists to a large degree have done, has made the conscious mind establish a general relation with this other will. Not to fear, not be anxious, over-secure or any of this. But to be patient, contemplative toward the infinite variety of substance contained in this will.

Artists in every generation have been in relation to this will one way or another. Most of their work is predicated on establishing a relation between the eternal concerns of this will with the temporal concerns of the conscious mind.

Perhaps the relation is mature; now the artist judges and draws his technique from the confidence learned in this realm, rather than the other way around. The Surrealists and early modern artists were at war with the conscious mind. They were victorious to a large extent. Now the idea is to bring the conscious into the province of the unconscious will.

And often when I do my work, I am in fana. These differentiations I have outlined briefly get swept away and become superfluous but nonetheless they are needed to keep one’s concentration alert.

* * * * * * * *

My own youthful instincts saw that, yes, there is freedom even in the mundane sphere of activity. And yet, for one reason or another, this freedom is blocked off completely or, at least, obscured by various things.

Yes, consciousness and the burden it brings challenges freedom. And yet, “unconsciousness” can be a worse burden and is as locked in its own logic as the conscious world. I respect the unconscious. But I’m not slavish about it.

The unconscious contains all the primal, undifferentiated energies that are usually, but not always, manifested in insane activity of one kind of another, if not insanity itself. Only an arrogant intellect would believe that it has penetrated and revealed all these energies. Modern civilization, for all its action and historical transformative energy does not exhaust it. And yet unmistaken elements in the world point to it.

There are the guardians; grotesques, fighting and tempting, beautiful at turns and they won't allow passage. The intellect will eventually identify with one of the aspects of these guardians and if the intellect is dominant the personality will follow suit. Now, the rest of the qualities and attributes fight against this imposed image.


The criticisms are, for the most part, internecine.

Spitting against empty formulas. Freedom!

Those criticisms were intended to get one out of the cross-fire.

Virtues, in the old sense of the word, are extraordinarily difficult. That’s why they are not empty phrases or rationalizations.

* * * * * * * *

People will get irritated if they can’t see a background. Truth itself may stare them in the face but if they don’t perceive a background they’ll simply get angry. The background justifies the communication.

And this is one of the reasons people find it so difficult to communicate in this particular time. Backgrounds are shifting about, illusions falling down, being built temporarily over here and there. A man gives his life to a specific background next to which he can be seen and it, in the course of time, becomes a struggle to maintain this background. He will judge in terms of this background, other backgrounds.

The background is sometimes the most fascinating characteristic of the whole. Much of life is the attempt to convince the rest of the world that one has the “right background.” How “right” is the towering skyscraper as a background for those somehow involved in its operation? What ideas form the background for any particular individual? Do we wear our houses and abodes around us wherever we go? And when we change one or the other do we, in effect, change as well? Experience says that, yes, that is true. Would it not be intelligent then to list the backgrounds that the self moves against and attempt to understand those backgrounds as well as possible? Isn’t this a part of consciousness as well?

* * * * * * * *

The spirit can be split between extreme pressures. And between these pressures the personality assumes its dominance.

The personality and the spirit are not the same thing. Perhaps it is a floating remnant of Spirit and religions (in a healthier age) are able to call up the spirit and muse with the personality for a while.

What marks a crucial time is when there is either life or death. One either enters life or death. One either grows up to assume the responsibility of one’s work which will develop over a lifetime or enter that slow creeping death, that shroud of inheritance.

You either escape the mass unconsciousness at once or not at all. There’s no getting used to it.

Someone speaks to me and I am changed. It is no longer my experience, my memory, my values, my desires but a new element introduced by another, for good or ill. When can one decide this? What is spoken is not the eternal and yet under the voice is the great desire for the eternal. Perhaps a formulation or a scheme of the eternal or some kind of wandering in the mind that has perhaps glimpsed the eternal and one tries to track it in the temporal world.

This is the stream, when everything is vulnerable—all one’s feelings are kept engaged to the various streams.

All the novels, poems, thoughts, feelings, situations, media, fights, arguments, nights and days, dreams, desires, everything, everything- friends, family, everything.

So that this person will raise out of one a quality of memory like a tract or stream or thread through the vast continents of memory.

What is inspired in the heart? This is what one looks for.

It comes down when consciously making something that is fleshed out with the spirit. "Not a lot of comforting facts but the spirit in all its largenes," he said. Theories really don’t work well. They’re a kind of illness bandaged up, sweetened by some unguent but illness nonetheless.

* * * * * * * *

Remembering the things that had a hand on the brain and heart. Family, entertainments- from reading-from experience- from dream. The opening scene from In Dubious Battle with the man laying on the bed (red was a prime color), scenes between Old Karamazov and the Priest as well as Ivan and Aloysha. The scene in one of Hemingway’s’ stories when the woman bares her breast and allows the hungry men to suckle—description of Nero’s burning of Rome in Tacitus- the definitions in Jung’s Psychological Types, Rolling Stones singing Time is On My Side on the Ed Sullivan show- frightful scenes in some movies.

Sailing in the estuary and bay on warm, wet days under the bridge of water-glass.

Going to a performance of Tagore’s poetry and feeling embarrassed when everyone held hands and then went outside to watch the eclipse of the moon.

Playing football on Friday night sweating inside my uniform, feeling the mud and hot breath all around.

Marching in the rain against the war under umbrella with old English professor (who was actually british) had escaped the brutalities of his father and army to come to America.

The riots on the campus and Berkeley area.

Reading all the frenetic pamphlets, signs, flyers, broadsides.

The intoxication of Telegraph Avenue during the late sixties.

All the telepathic feelings in the area! In that time!

Going to a speech by Tom Hayden in the park across city hall on cold clear night, a lot of milling around, this kind of talk, that kind of talk, buying the Kropotkin pamphlet from the tall guy with long scraggly beard.

* * * * * * * *


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