The history of humankind is marked by cultural revolutions. Time and again, a new paradigm occurs. And that new aim with its force starts organizing the whole life of society. This ‘main agenda’ often consists in a new technological invention, like the steam machine, electricity, nuclear energy, information technology, which then, ‘revolutionise’ how economy and trade works, and how people think. To these major shifts we can also see how a counter-reactions occur, with an equally revolutionary force. They try to understand, to critique, or correct the ‘zeitgeist’. We can mention for example, Marxism, Fascism, Communism, different forms of philantrospism, the green-thought, and new political and religious movements.
One of the major revolutionary responses to our modern world was Freud’s psychoanalysis. In a world which ignored women’s experience, which enforced a competitive and rationalist mindset, Freud turned to the unconscious. His great discovery was the analysis of dreams. In a hyper-rational world, which was governed by unexamined sexual desires and power aspirations he listened to the unconscious. Dreams, free associations, which are not under the control of the ego and the mind, or other forms of authority, became the medium of healing and self-understanding. Listening to what is oppressed in us, oppressed creativity, oppressed yearning for tenderness, equality, and freedom remains our deepest need. So the agenda of Freud has not disappeared at all.
In our crazy, and in many ways oppressive world, we need a similar type of comprehensive understanding. But who will listen to us? Who will help us to tell our stories? Not only ‘what we are’ but who we are. With our deepest desires for flourishing?
We Christians are given a powerful image (powerful images) of self-understanding. ‘The Spirit comes to help us in our weakness. For when we cannot choose words in order to pray [think, feel] properly, the Spirit himself expresses our plea in a way that could never be put into words, and God who knows everything in our hearts knows perfectly well what he means, and that the pleas of the saints expressed by the Spirit according to the mind [love] of God.’ The Holy Spirit is stated here as both: our unlistened unconscious and our helping friend.
Why have I drawn the parallel with Freud method? Covid 19 caused, and has been causing an unparalleled trauma in us. There have been many things unexamined and unresolved in our lives before the pandemic. They caused illness, inflicted upon us wounds, and generated similar wounds in society in terms of oppression, social injustice, harm to nature, etc. Now, with Covid 19, all these burning issues were even deeper suppressed. We buried a volcano of problems which, if unexamined, will ‘distort us’, and make us crippled psychologically and morally. Like Freud’s patients had been a century ago.
‘May the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ enlighten the eyes of our mind, so that we can see what hope his call holds for us!’, we sang in our Gospel antiphon. The parable of the darnel (the suffocating week) sowed among the good seed is a powerful ‘psycho-analytical’, in our context, ‘soul-analytical’ image. The moral of the story is that discernment and careful treatment is needed. Meditating on, and praying through ‘our unconscious’ is required. ‘First collect the darnels and tie it in bundles to be burnt, then gather the wheat into my barn.’
We can see that spiritual life is a serious business. It is joyful but it requires daily toiling. We need to ‘submerge’ into something what is more powerful than our capacity for self-healing. We need to descend into the depths where the Spirit prays in us ‘in a way that could never be put into words’ on our own.
If we want to have healing for ourselves and for our world, we must enter into this larger see of Love, charity and prayer. Think of the vast sea of the Psalms. Think of our long readings from the Bible in the Morning and Evening Prayer. Think of receiving the Communion and celebrating the Mass weekly, if not daily. Think of your days and meals, which you, in a conscious way, share with Christ.
Let this Christian revolution of self-understanding, in our post-Freudian world, in our covid-19 world, begin with us, today, from this very hour.
These are verbal Icons, expressions of how the world is seen from Saint Augustine's..