DOES MODERN MAN NEED
(The year of this audiotape was 1968
and the discussants at the Wine Cellar, moderated by Wolf Zucker,
were Rollo May, Harvey Cox and Joseph Campbell. May’s ideas are
lifted out here. He is speaking about the change in the patient
when mythology and symbolism enliven their dialogue.)
This is a dialogue, more than
an individual psyche. This is a creation, as the patient
begins to discover a creation of mythology and symbolism.
Then his interpsychic process begins to get a power. Now before
that, it was empty, and it is an amazing thing to see this happen.
Right there in the office, a psychic being is being born on
the couch. And from then on, I get opposed; I don’t get bowed
to, I get a creative wrestling. This is an amazing, enriching
feeling for an analyst.
Now what does this mythology consist
of? In our day, it consists of the scientific point of view,
which cannot be left out without a defiance of the culture--that
is , I think, sickness from another angle--but I mean the scientific
point of view that is no longer an impoverished rationalism.
Whenever I get impoverished rationalism in a patient at the
beginning of psychoanalysis, I know I am in for a hell of a long,
hard job. It describes the alienated personality of our day who
thinks he knows by his head. I’ve decided that nobody does,
and that has to be broken down. Often that is attended by quite
a catastrophe. But then comes the language that speaks from
the patient’s deeper levels, a mythology (what Joe calls “image”
and I think it is what you call, Dr. Cox, “comic sense”). I see
it all through modern art, as in Waiting for Godot--exactly
what my patients go through.
The new mythology seems to require
an objectivity, a capacity not to require the universe to
be amenable to our prejudices. It requires
a humility, a modesty, which I think is the spiritual aspect
of science that I wouldn’t give up. You find this in Freud ,
all sorts of comic ways. Freud tried to be a scientist, but
he never could; he always brought in a mythology, which saved
him from the impoverishment of mechanization. I think my patients
and I, and we, are in the process of developing a new
mythology that will include the objectivity of science and will
add the openness of the irrational (here is the richness of creativity),
forming a view of life which is characterized by a trust.
These things are hard to combine, but it has to be done. I have
to give myself over to the irrational and take a chance I won’t
be destroyed by it. I associate this with a good deal of eastern
thought. Maybe one should call it transrational.
Thirdly, mythology has to have
a new personalism in it. A characteristic of our society
is that nobody can love each other. In the process of becoming
objective, we have lost our capacity to love. And we make
weird noises about it.
Now I would hope that images ,
symbols and myths--and I see them coming, myself, or so I believe--have
those three aspects: We will have a mythology that won’t be
anti-scientific and will allow the universe to be what it is;
it will include the transrational, the creative; and it will
help persons love each other.