the shifting role of science in promoting development of collective consciousness
As global resources become increasingly scarce, conflict arises not only in politics and economics, but within the psyche of the individual. How these problems are managed is dependent on the way in which each person in society relates to them. Therefore, modification of individual awareness is critical in our ability to solve global problems (Rifkin 2009), and research on personality development is of utmost importance in enabling a widespread shift in collective consciousness.
Although countless studies have been accomplished and our understanding of psychological development has progressed substantially, effective communication leading to widespread, active pursuit of personality development is a barrier which remains to be overcome. This challenge should be met by a shift in perspective within the research community — a new orientation to guide future studies — with the goal of encouraging global recognition of universal struggles which are most effectively identified through individualized subjective engagement (Zizek 1999). This brief overview of a handful of theories of personality development exemplifies the variety of ways in which universal struggles are conceptualized, and encourages a closer look at Lacanian psychoanalysis as a blueprint upon which to frame a new relationship between researchers, their studies, their audiences, and their selves.
I. Models of Personality and its Development
The theories of Sigmund Freud (1856-1939) have arguably been the most influential in psychology today. Freud divided the mind into two distinct components, the conscious and the unconscious. The unconscious contains potential thoughts and wishes that are not within the immediate awareness of the individual; the 'unknown-knowns' - the things we don't know that we know, although they have profound impacts on our behavior. Freud believed that due to the social norms and customs, many of our innate desires and wishes would be disturbing should they become conscious. Therefore, these thoughts are repressed out of conscious awareness; the unconscious is the storage area for such thoughts.
So, how does one remove an innate part of their psyche from their conscious awareness? Freud described the ego to fulfill this task. The ego's role is to attempt to suppress the rogue unconscious. However, the unconscious always continues to exert pressure and affect the individual's behavior in ways unknown to the ego. Many of the primary issues explored in psychoanalysis are the mechanisms and effects of the battle between ego and unconscious.
In order to grasp the dynamics of this struggle, Freud oriented his theories of the mind in terms of functions. The function of the unconscious is explained by the id, which stores repressions and is the source of psychic drives. The function of the ego is to regulate decision making and dealing with the environment; it also creates new repressions. The conscious is explained by the superego, which maintains the ideals to which the ego aspires.
Because the unconscious is the primary source of both motivation and discomfort for an individual, Freud outlined its structure in detail. He posited three instincts - life, death, sex - which constitute the id. For Freud, the id is not subject to conscious control by the individual. Rather, it is the individual who responds to the demands of the id.
Due to the unique struggles it creates for the individual, the importance of sexual instinct is emphasized in Freudian theory. Societal norms and regulations surrounding sexuality are especially firm, creating much opportunity for disturbance of normal psychological functioning. On top of this, sexual drives necessitate intense, intimate experiences with other people. These factors make libido a central concept in psychoanalytic theory.
Along with sexual instinct, Freud outlined the life instinct and the death instinct. The life instinct governs the gratification of biological needs such as food and shelter. As opposed to the sexual instinct, these motivations are not subject to much social regulation and therefore are much easier to satisfy. One result of Freud's emphasis of libido is that it allowed his theory to develop around age-specific patterns of experience – experiences affected by the individual's relation to their sexual desires. Freud's ideas of personality development, therefore, place great emphasis on the way one relates to their sexual instincts as they age. Conceptually, many authors refer to the life instinct and the sexual instinct as one force, since they both contribute to life-producing activity.
The Importance of Dialectics in Psychoanalytic Theory
These drives could not account for many phenomena Freud experienced as a clinician. He noted that many of his patients would repeat the same problematic behavior despite the pain it would bring them. Masochism (enjoyment of receiving pain) and sadism (enjoyment of delivering pain) were also poorly explained through the pleasure principle. The death instinct, or death drive, was developed as a way to explain behaviors that could not be attributed to the other psychic forces. Eventually, Freud classified the instincts of the id into two classes, eros and thanatos. Eros combines all of the life generating forces – the life instinct and the sexual instinct, or libido – and drives all living organisms to develop into more sophisticated forms of life (Bunnin and Yu 2004). Thanatos, in contrast, is the push toward the inorganic, toward more simplified modes of existence. In opposition to Maharishi Vedic Psychology (see below), which views the purpose of life as development, many Freudian scholars actually conceptualize life forces as a means towards its ultimate end, that is, death:
If we are to take it as a truth that knows no exception that everything living dies for internal reasons — becomes inorganic once again — then we shall be compelled to say that ‘the aim of all life is death’ and, looking backwards, that ‘inanimate things existed before living ones’ (Freud, Freud, and Strachey 1991: 246).
Although it is tempting to oppose eros and thanatos, close analysis of Freud's theory does not allow for such a simple dichotomy. Indeed, the very notion of 'struggle' between eros and thanatos is dependent on a mutual flow of energy between the two. Freud hypothesized that libido is the source of such an energy, and articulated a close relation between the death drive and libido:
In (multicellular) organisms the libido meets the instinct of death, or destruction, which is dominant in them and which seeks to disintegrate the cellular organism and to conduct each separate unicellular organism [composing it] into a state of inorganic stability (relative though this may be). The libido has the task of making the destroying instinct innocuous, and it fulfils the task by diverting that instinct to a great extent outwards — soon with the help of a special organic system, the muscular apparatus — towards objects in the external world. The instinct is then called the destructive instinct, the instinct for mastery, or the will to power. A portion of the instinct is placed directly in the service of the sexual function, where it has an important part to play. This is sadism proper (Freud, Strachey, Freud, Rothgeb, Richards 1953: 163).
Here, we can see how the libido is more of a response to the death instinct than a separate force: Libido directs these destructive forces away from the self toward the external environment – that is, libido curtails masochism by re-directing the death drive toward sadism. From this perspective, we can see that the relationship between eros and thanatos is dialectical rather than oppositional.
The Superego as a Guide for Development
How does one explain, then, all of the constructive, life developing activities an individual may participate in? On the surface, it appears as though the death drive and sexual instinct alone cannot account for all of different behaviors a person participates in. The obvious insight, of course, is that the life drive – which seeks to create harmony and balance within the psychic system – pushes individual development forward. Here, it would appear that individual development is driven by the desire for resolution of conflict arising from society and from the individual's mind. However, the life instinct's demand for peace does not explain the pursuit of challenging, uncomfortable activities which lead to feelings of pain. Freud realized in his clinical work that these behaviors are repeated again and again within the life cycle of the individual – one need only think of the stereotypes of the “mad scientist” or “suicidal artist” to see that the motivations of many fantastic accomplishments are not as clear as they may appear.
Freud's answer to this apparent contradiction is that sexual energy – libido – may be desexualized in a process called sublimation. Libido, then, may be invested in any variety of non-sexual pursuits – life-generating or not. This is how Freud explains motivation for individual behavior: Energy invested in sports, careers, art, even religion, is sublimated libidinal energy which has been re-directed through the superego.
The relationship between the superego and ego is explained by the loss of the object of libido: The ego creates - and is the repository for – all of the object-cathexes upon which sexual energy is directed. In order for this energy to be diverted away from sexual ambitions, the superego emerges, serving as a kind of mediator between the id and the ego:
The ego wants above all to be loved. [. . .] But it only becomes the id’s love object by diverting, or sublimating, part of the drive, and repressing the remainder. Ultimately, the id will not reward the ego for managing — and inevitably frustrating — its demands. When the superego emerges, as an incorporation of the father whose strength is to bolster the ego against the id (rather like the cannibal who ingests his enemy in order to appropriate his strengths), the superego also, paradoxically, serves to represent the id’s grievances to the ego (Faulkner 2005)[.]
Once the process of sublimation is possible, the death drive may direct its energies independently of libido. That is to say, the death drive – unleashed by the superego – serves to fuel motivation within an individual towards the pursuit of sublimated cathexes. This accounts for the large variety of behaviors humans may pursue – including activities which may be described as contributing to personal development:
[…] the differentiation of the super-ego from the ego is no matter of chance; it represents the most important characteristics of the development both of the individual and of the species; indeed, by giving permanent expression to the influence of the parents it perpetuates the existence of the factors to which it owes its origin (Freud, Freud, and Strachey 1991: 458).
This inevitably leads to a long series of questions: How does one relate to the demands of the superego? Does one have control over the direction in which libidinal energy may be sublimated? What is the nature of the death drive? Such questions are of great interest in psychoanalyitic theory. How an individual relates to the death drive is of utmost importance to their personal development.
Freud's Stages of Development
Although it is useful to conceptualize psychic forces as manifesting within a certain age range, it must be noted that these are approximations and that forces may overlap during certain periods of personal development. Freud, unlike Dabrowski and Maharishi, did not orient his theories around a linear, hierarchical model of personality development. Whereas Dabrowski looked for characteristics which are shared by exceptional individuals and then opposed those characteristics to those who are less developed, Freud focused on understanding the psychological structures which all individuals share, and then looked for specific instances in early life which would necessitate the solidification of those structures.
From birth to the age of two, infantile desires focus around the lips and mouth, which receive nourishment from the mother's breast. Later in this stage, this desire for the breast turns into a desire for the mother in all of her nurturing aspects. Interestingly, Freud took this desire a step further, arguing that the love object of the mother is the first manifestation of sexual instinct. This Oedipus complex is accompanied by a secret and repressed disdain for the father with whom the child competes for the mother's love (Freud, Freud, and Strachey 1991: 33).
From two to four years of age, the child moves from the oral phase to the sadistic-anal phase. Here, the child is first confronted by the contrast between the immediate gratification of biological instincts and fitting into the norms of society: The child is required to delay the impulse to relieve the discomfort of digestion.
How toilet training is implemented is said to have significant consequences for the development of personality traits. Approached in a strict, punitive manner, this training may result in a child's withholding elimination. Later in life, this may lead to a retentive characteristic, which my express itself in miserliness and stubbornness. Alternatively, if the training is conducted in a supportive manner including praise, creativity and productivity may ensue in later life (Mendaglio 2008: 262).
From the age of four to seven, the sex organs become the primary focus. In this phallic stage, the ego of the child develops to control more and more if his/her behavior to meet societal demands. The child still longs for the mother, and thus begins to identify with the father, further repressing the unconscious motives against the father.
Freud's final stage of development – the genital stage – is attained through puberty if an individual is mentally healthy. Although the individual continues to cope with balancing the forces of the id, the ego, and the superego, now s/he is fully sexually developed and can fully experience the sexual instinct.
Philosophical Consequences of Freudian Theory
Freud insisted that his model fell into the tradition of naturalism, which aimed to explain the processes of nature through science. While others such as Hobbes and Hume had both proposed naturalistic models of human psychology, Freud's model went much further, because it more successfully refuted claims – especially Christian and spiritual claims – that psychology cannot be analyzed scientifically. This advantage stemmed from his multi-force model, which could confront the human struggle against sin or the struggle between reason and passion. His postulation of the unconscious allowed him to explain many psychic phenomena that critics claimed were outside of the scope of naturalist reasoning – that underlying causes of human behavior sprang from primitive drives, and were thus part of nature.
Immanuel Kant also divided the mind into two basic faculties – reason and desire. He assumed that in most situations, these forces function harmoniously to achieve happiness within the individual. They may contradict, however, in cases where an individual desires something forbidden by moral principles. In these instances, a moral individual will be restrain their desires through moral reasoning - the force of reason trumps desire. This led Kant to conclude that moral motivation is the force of reason asserted on a practical level.
To summarize briefly, this force of reason defines the Kantian separation of humans from animals – unlike animals, our desires are regulated. Furthermore, Kant insisted that the force of reason is also the basis of freedom, since it suspends the forces of nature. While animals are enslaved to their primitive instincts, humans are able to reflect on their behavior and decide whether their actions are in line with particular principles, and whether such principles themselves are valid. At the same time, however, humans are also subjected to the whims of their natural instincts. Although in many cases these instincts do not contradict moral values, there are instances where conflict arises. Therefore, humans belong simultaneously to both the natural and intelligent worlds.
All naturalist explanations up to Freud had only met Kant's challenge by trying to resolve the tension between moral reason and desire by trying to subsume ethical demands into the realm of natural laws and instinct. However, such theorists faced serious problems. While natural, instinctual demands such as the need for food, shelter, etc. are all felt on the same level, with the same amount of force, moral concerns often prevents individuals from immediately gratifying these drives, and thus are experienced on a level above them. The clearest example of such a conflict, of course, is the sexual instinct, in which a primitive physical drive is highly regulated by moral concerns and social customs.
What makes Freud's approach so powerful is its ability to return the rogue force of morality back into the realm of natural instinct by positing the regulative mechanism of guilt imposed upon the ego which he deemed the superego:
The key to Freud's answer is the identification of the experience of moral constraint with a sense of guilt. Freud, on his mature theory, explained a sense of guilt as tension between the ego and the superego, tension that is modeled on tension between subject and governing authority. Accordingly, the features of moral constraint that Kant invoked in his argument for the irresolvability of moral motivation to natural desire are found in a sense of guilt. The felt superiority of moral motivation to natural desire is captured by the superego's authority over the ego, and the opposition between moral motivation and natural desire is captured by the harshness with which the superego deals with the ego. Both features are then explained through Freud's explanation of how the superego is formed, which is to say, his explanation of how the child resolves the Oedipus complex. The first feature results directly from the internalization of parental authority at the heart of this process. The second results from what happens to the aggression the child directs toward the hated parent of the Oedipus complex. As aggression directed toward a figure who is loved as well as hated, it is emotionally difficult to sustain. To resolve the difficulty the child invests this aggressive energy in the parental authority it internalizes, the superego, and the harshness of the superego in its dealings with the ego is then explained as an expression of the aggression that now powers the superego (Deigh 1998: 171).
Through his extrapolation of the way in which the Oedipus complex leads to the creation of the superego, Freud provided a crucial link connecting the source of morality back to an organically necessary experience (the individual's relationship with parental figures).
Freud later realized that the superego's regulation of the ego is prerequisite to a functioning society. In direct opposition to Kant, who viewed reason as that which suspended man from nature, Freud argued that man's reason is the way that nature has allowed man to cope with its unwieldy drives – thus allowing interpersonal relations and society to function. While Kant celebrated our dual-world experience as transcendental freedom, Freud regretted the mandated unhappy experiences that such a possession makes inevitable.
Although Jacques Lacan considered himself to be a follower of Freud, his work interrogates the most fundamental aspects of Freudian theory is ways previously unexpected. Rather than positing the unconscious as an unruly source of drives – as it is often understood - Lacan insisted that “The unconscious is structured as a language." (Lacan 1998: 48) Lacan interpreted the Freudian unconscious not as a wild force to be tamed by the ego, but as a source of deep truth to be confronted directly. What separates Freud from Lacan, however, is the philosophical tenor of his approach to psychoanalysis. For Lacan, the study of psychology is a direct interrogation of the deepest aspects of existence. Faced with an ill patient, Lacan understood that their state of mind dictated their experience of reality as well as the structure of their entire personality.
In comparison to other approaches to psychoanalytic treatment, Lacan did not seek to cure the patient by simply restoring their ability to succeed in their surface level, day to day experiences such as work and interpersonal relationships. Rather, his therapeutic approach was to force the patient to confront the innermost sources of his/her desire.
Although the term “language” implies a certain level of order (at the very least, that objects may be identified from one another) and structure (such as the rules of grammar), Lacan sought to display that underlying these formations lurks an irrational core. While Freud sought to unveil the natural causes of moral reasoning, Lacan argued that a radical break from “true” material reality is prerequisite for subjective entrance into the realm of language. He formulated a theoretical triad of real-symbolic-imaginary to more clearly explain the emergence of subjective experience and its elusive roots.
The influence of Hegelian dialectics upon Lacan's thinking becomes clear in his conception of the real and its relation to language. Although Lacan assumed a linear, orderly domain of of objects to be perceived, he argued that subjective experience of such an order is always tainted – the subject is but a perpetual misperception of the material order. Therefore the Lacanian real is not “reality” in the usual sense of the term because the Real is impossible to be perceived accurately. Due to our inherent disconnect from the real through immersion in language, instances where the real is confronted are usually traumatic, since they force us to see the invalidity of our social and linguistic experience.
A key concept providing clarification of the real is Lacan's distinction between the signifier and the signified:
[T]he distinction between language as structure (closed system of signs governed by the laws of diacritical opposition) and speech as act; the distinction within a linguistic sign between speech sound (signifier) and mental representation (signified); and the arbitrary nature of the relationship between signifier and signified (Richardson 1999: 521).
Any given signifier references a chain of signifiers which also reference chains of signifiers. This means that there is no material relationship between any particular signifier and signified. Take, for example, a word such as “cheese.” The sound “cheese” invokes memories of cheeses, such as their physical attributes, odors, and tastes. It also inspires thoughts of how the cheese is made, how much of it should be consumed, what can be done with the cheese (hopefully served with good wine), etc. And, of course, all of these thoughts can lead in endless directions. On top of this, the sound “cheese” is irrelevant to these associations: The sound “queso” would do just as well.
Because the real is, by definition, outside of our realm of experience, a child is born into the imaginary realm. Like Freud, Lacan believed that the infant is, for a time, in imaginary symbiosis with its mother. This relationship ruptures once the child begins to develop its capacity for speech, which moves him into the realm of the symbolic. Necessary for this move is self-identification - separation from the mother (and other surroundings). This 'splits' the child into conscious and unconscious realms – a process Freud called 'primary repression.'
Such “castration” - the cutting off from the mother – is the source of a force called demand: The individual, now immersed in linguistic reality, experiences an eternal lack. As the infant begins to distinguish itself from its mother and its surroundings, a sense of loss is experienced. Such a loss cannot be undone; the infant cannot re-unite with the mother or its environment. Once this loss is experienced, the subject is destined to an endless pursuit of the lost object (the object cause of desire), creating what Lacan calls fantasies. These fantasies provide direction for the cause of desire by the subject's attempt to posit its (impossible) fulfillment into more proximate objects.
Lacan differentiates desire from needs. While needs – such as need for food and shelter - can be adequately satisfied, desires are impossible to satiate and thus serve as a source of great motivation. Desire and need are both distinguished from demand. A demand is much like a need, but must involve an other in its fulfillment – it may be satisfied only if a particular response is attained from an other person. This necessity of an other is what Lacan refers to as love.
The infant's development of a sense of self identity is very important for Lacan. In the mirror stage – which corresponds to the imaginary domain – the child misrecognizes itself as a stable, coherent being. This misrecognition is a fantasy called the ideal-I or ideal-ego. Later in life, this self-image is influenced by people such as role models and other projections of wholistic identities. Thus, discussion of the imaginary implies concepts such as demand and love.
Through the Oedipus complex and the prohibition against incest, the child learns to accept the rules of language and society. Lacan conceptualizes the child's desire for the mother as the desire to be desired by the mother – that is, the desire to be what Lacan calls the phallus of the mother. This, of course, is unacceptable due to the Law-of-the-Father. It is important to note that Lacan is not simply referring to some kind of moral prohibition. Rather, this prohibition is prerequisite to subjective, language-oriented experience:
How the Oedipal drama actually unfolds for the infant, i.e. how it comes to forgo its desire to be the mother's phallus and settle for the condition of "having" (or "not having") it and even, in having it, to renounce any pretense to master it; or, to put the matter differently, how the infant learns to accept its indigenous want, i.e. finitude, with the consequence that the same law (of the Father), which prohibits indulging the child's want to be the mother's phallus, is the law that henceforth mediates this want through the exigencies of linguistic structures through which desire must express itself (i.e. the symbolic order) (Richardson 1999: 528)
From this perspective, we can see the real corresponding to needs, the imaginary to demands, and the symbolic to desire (Felluga 2003).
Because the subject is immersed in language on both conscious and unconscious levels, desire is simultaneously inescapable and impossible to fulfill. The priority for Lacan in his clinical work was to display this to the patient. This triggers mourning in the patient on several levels – mourning for the object of desire, which is shown to be lost forever; mourning for the analyst, who no longer serves any purpose and can bring no further comfort; and mourning resulting from the acceptance of castration.
Psychoanalysis may accompany the patient to the ecstatic limit of the "Thou art that," in which is revealed to him the cipher of his mortal destiny, but it is not in our mere power as practitioners to bring him to that point where the real journey begins (Lacan and Fink 2002 pg. 8).
A quote from an interview with jazz guitarist Bill Frisell is exemplary of the Lacanian notion of such a “real journey”:
You know, I'm 53 years old and, every time I pick up the instrument it's a struggle to try get the sound. You know, I'm always hearing the sound up here, and something just a little bit beyond my grasp, so there's always this struggle going on. After 40 years of playing, or however long it's been, hopefully something has happened (Transcribed from Youtube).
Here, we can see the movement from desire to drive: If Frisell had simply attained satisfaction from writing and playing his songs at some (perverse) specified level of achievement (at a certain tempo, in front of a certain size of audience, by winning some kind of award, etc.) and then suddenly decided that had attained his goal and announced retirement, then his sublimated libidinal energy would have been perverted - that is to say, targeted at a specific achievable goal. In such a case, Frisell's experience would be in neither the realm of desire or drive. Because he has, however, continued to improve his musicianship without regard to a specified outcome - or, in other words, because he has never been able to "perfect" his songs - he is operating within the realm of desire. The idea not to be missed is that desire keeps Frisell picking up his guitar by blocking access to the potential satisfaction of musical mastery.
How, then, is desire distinguished from drive? The key lies in understanding Lacan's jouissance. Jouissance, in short, is the necessarily assumed goal upon which libidinal energy is directed. This is sometimes described as 'surplus-enjoyment,' because the nature of jouissance is such that it must not be directly confronted. What could be more traumatic for Frisell than one day plugging in his guitar, playing a song, and then realizing that he had played this song perfectly, that he had attained complete mastery over his instrument? Such an encounter with jouissance would dissolve (or, rather, resolve) any ambition to continue playing. What would be left of Frisell? Perhaps the only more frightening prospect is to realize the necessity non-satisfaction. From this perspective, the difference between desire and drive becomes clear:
For Lacan, the trouble with jouissance is not only that it is unattainable, always-already lost [due to the castration of the subject], that it forever eludes our grasp, but, even more, that one can never get rid of it, that its stain drags on forever - that is the point of Lacan's concept of surplus-enjoyment: the very renunciation of jouissance brings about a remainder/surplus of jouissance. Desire stands for the economy in which whatever object we get hold of is 'never it, the "Real Thing', that which the subject is forever trying to attain but which eludes him again and again, while drive stands for the opposite economy, within which the stain of jouissance always accompanies our acts. This also explains the difference in the reflexivity of drive and desire: desire reflexively desires its own unsatisfacton, the postponement of the encounter with jouissance - that is, the basic formula of the reflexivity of desire is to turn the impossibility of satisfying desire into the desire for non-satisfaction; drive, on the contrary, finds satisfaction in (i.e. besmirches with the stain of satisfaction) the very movement destined to 'repress' satisfaction (Zizek 1999: 291).
It is important to see that Frisell is gaining satisfaction not from playing his songs, but, rather, from repeatedly failing to play his songs.We can see now why psychoanalytic theory does not assume an end goal of personal development: If such a goal were realized, the person would lose ambition to continue. For a musician such as Frisell, desire underlies the never-ending motivation to continue to play by displacing the potential satisfaction which might be found in mastery of his instrument. Drive, on the other hand, allows Frisell to achieve satisfaction in this very failure.
Although this perspective may appear to be bleak, it is in the death drive that we may overcome the societal regulations imposed on us and achieve autonomy. Here, we must understand how superego (or ego-ideal) is socially adopted. Lacan explains that our identity is constructed in terms of an Other - when we judge our actions, it is always in reference to how they might be perceived by somebody else. Of course, we are not thinking of the judgments of any one individual in particular - rather, the 'big Other' is a very ambiguous figure (Zizek 2007). Returning to our example of music, we can see the ambiguity of the big Other in criticism of music: When one says "This is good music!" a Lacanian hears, "My construction of the big Other is allowing me to validate my experience of pleasure arising from hearing this music!" Such a construction is exemplary of the superego. This exemplifies the Lacanian fantasy: With the confidence inspired by the establishment of the big Other, an individual is able to project the concept of "good music" onto whatever music s/he hears. Of course, what music s/he enjoys is dependent on the figure of the big Other, and this figure is malleable. So, it is in this flexibility that the subject may find true autonomy, aligning his/her big Other figure with their innermost desires?
For early Lacan, the answer is "yes." The goal of psychoanalytic treatment was to guide the patient in traversing the fantasy by revealing to them its form, thus allowing them to participate in an 'act.' This act changed the perspective of the patient, allowing them to re-configure their big Other identity and overcome their psychological debilitation. Later, however, Lacan realized the risk of an unhealthy re-configuration of the big Other which would allow the patient to continue their poor behavior. Therefore, Lacan took things a step further by positing a 'fundamental fantasy' which underlies the vast variety of fantasies we are subjected to. Thus, an authentic act must traverse the fundamental fantasy (Zizek 1999: 266 and 307). This act can only be accomplished through fully embracing the death drive "in its most radical dimension of traversing the fantasy" (Zizek 1999: 390). That is to say, Lacanian subjectivity is achieved only through 'subjective destitution' - Frisell is only a guitarist once jouissance is embraced; until the fantasy is traversed, Frisell is simply playing guitar to fulfill a fantasy.
Maharishi Vedic Psychology
Whereas much psychoanalytic theory focuses on personality development in the earliest years of life, Maharishi Vedic Psychology (MVP) revolves around the development of higher states of consciousness later in life. MVP postulates a hierarchy of states of consciousness by describing a person's level of awareness in relation to a field of pure consciousness or cosmic psyche (Maharishi Mahesh Yogi 1972).
As an individual develops, their actions align more and more with the Laws of Nature, which arise from the field of pure consciousness. The highest levels of personality development – enlightenment – are achieved as the individual's consciousness unifies with field of pure consciousness.
The theory developed with respect to the teachings of Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, who aimed to share ancient Vedic knowledge with the world. Maharishi taught Transcendental Meditation as a tool used to progress personality and develop higher levels of awareness, insisting that the central nervous system must align itself with the laws of nature in order for the highest states of consciousness to be achieved. Indeed, MVP postulates a field of pure consciousness from which all natural laws and structures – including the human nervous system – arise:
[P]ure consciousness may be said to constitute “its own physiology”; that is, it requires no separate material substrate. However, to function within the boundaries of space and time, pure consciousness creates a physiological vehicle through which consciousness is expressed. . . All of the various forms of life are limited manifestations of the total potential of the field of pure consciousness, expressing to a limited degree the levels of subjectivity.
The uniqueness of the human nervous system, Maharishi asserts . . . is that when fully developed it can experience the innumerable possibilities inherent in the infinite dynamism of pure consciousness. The field of pure consciousness thus not olnly gives ries to material structures, but through the human nervous system, its expressions are also capable of experiencing the field of pure consciousness in its holistic value (Dillbeck 1998).
The highest levels of subjective experience in MVP are achieved as one utilizes their human body to manifest the field of pure consciousness.
Maharishi outlined seven levels of awareness. While most people's experiences are limited to the first three levels – sleeping, waking, and dreaming – one may change their perception of these states and achieve the remaining four states of consciousness using the technique of Transcendental Meditation. Although the technique is described as simple, effortless, and easy, its affects are profound, triggering what are described as post-representational experiences:
I was meditating one late afternoon when I began to settle down much more deeply than usual. As I became more and more still, all thoughts and feelings settled and I was left in a deep quietness. All familiar boundaries that defined where I was and what time it was, and even who I was, began to fade from awareness and dissolve altogether. I was still awake and yet all that remained was my own wakefulness. The being of my wakefulness and the wakefulness of my being was what filled my awareness. There was nothing else. No trace of thought or memory entered into my awareness: even the sense of my body and its position in space had vanished. It’s not that I missed these things. It simply did not enter my awareness to miss them or not to miss them (Alexander, Travis, Clayborne, Rector 1997).
Simply experiencing an instance such as this moves one into Maharishi's fourth level of consciousness, Transcendental Consciousness. In this moment, the cosmic psyche is displayed to the person as the essential nature of the individual psyche. MVP prioritizes such experiences as necessary for personal development, allowing the central nervous system to more clearly reflect the ideal order of the field of pure consciousness. Scientific research using electroencephalography has shown distinct brain-wave coherence during such experiences.
As this level of awareness is achieved again and again through practice of Transcendental Meditation, stress is said to be removed from the nervous system and the perception of the individual during waking, sleeping, and dreaming states begins to change. The fifth level of development outlined by MVP, then, is cosmic consciousness:
At this stage the knower can finally know himself directly, rather than indirectly through thoughts and feelings about himself. He becomes identified solely with pure consciousness, the essential nature of the Self, a self-referral field fully awake to itself. Being identified with complete silence in cosmic consciousness, one appreciates all the changing bounded states of waking, dreaming and sleeping as different from one’s own silent, non-changing status (Alexander, Travis, Clayborne, Rector 1997).
In this level of awareness, perception of the self and the outside world has changed. The inner peace experienced during Transcendental Meditation remains through all states of consciousness (waking, sleeping, dreaming).
One of the most objectively observable characteristics of cosmic consciousness is the presence of simultaneous delta, theta, and alpha brain wave activity during sleep (Mason, Alexander, Travis, Gackenbach 1990). Those experiencing cosmic consciousness, along with such brain-wave activity, report a unique phenomenon of witnessing sleep, in which self-awareness is maintained through all stages of sleep. Although this may sound similar to the experience of lucid dreaming – in which one is aware that they are dreaming – the difference is clear:
The phenomenon of lucidity seems to involve an activation of cognitive abilities as one remains relatively absorbed in the dream world. In contrast, the phenomenon of witnessing dreaming seems to involve the addition of a stable sense of self, transcendental to the activity of dreaming, that silently observes the changes occurring within the dream world (Travis 1994).
Those in cosmic consciousness share similar subjective accounts of witnessing sleep:
Often during dreaming I am awake inside, in a very peaceful, blissful state, Dreams come and go, thoughts about the dreams come and go, but I remain in a deeply peaceful state, completely separate from the dreams and the thoughts (Alexander, Cranson, Boyer, Orme-Johnson 1987).
In fact, the distinguishing characteristic between being in normal modes of consciousness (waking, sleeping, dreaming)and cosmic consciousness is witnessing sleep. This step is significant, as cosmic consciousness is considered to be the first enlightened state of consciousness in MVP. While an individual may experience glimpses of higher states during transcendental consciousness, cosmic consciousness marks a continuous and active transcendental lens through which reality is perceived.
From cosmic consciousness, one's perception becomes more refined into God consciousness, then to unity consciousness. MVP places great emphasis on the necessity of personal experience of these states of consciousness. Simple intellectual understanding of them is considered insufficient. Indeed, the unusual descriptions of the highest states are difficult to make sense of without the subjective compliment. Maharishi's explanation of the changes that occur between cosmic consciousness and God consciousness confirms this important facet of MVP:
When only the surface value of perception is open to our awareness, then the boundaries of the object are rigid and well-defined—the only qualities that are perceived are those which distinguish the object from the rest of the environment. However, when the unbounded awareness becomes established on the level of the conscious mind—then the perception naturally begins to appreciate deeper values of the object, until perception is so refined that the finest relative is capable of being spontaneously perceived on the gross, surface level (Maharishi Mahesh Yogi 1972).
Maharishi's explanation of the move from God consciousness to unity consciousness is also focussed on subjective experience:
This seventh state of consciousness could very well be called the unified state of consciousness because in that state, the ultimate value of the object, infinite and unmanifest, is made lively when the conscious mind, being lively in the unbounded value of awareness, falls on the object. The object is cognized in terms of the pure subjective value of unbounded, unmanifest awareness. . . . In this unified state of consciousness, the experiencer and the object of experiences have both been brought to the same level of infinite value, and this encompasses the entire phenomenon of perception and action as well (Maharishi Mahesh Yogi 1972).
Similarly, objective scientific observation of these higher states – and distinguishing them – has proven to be difficult. Whereas there are seemingly countless articles published on the affects of regular practice of transcendental meditation and the physiological characteristics of both transcendental consciousness and cosmic consciousness, no studies have been published discussing the two highest states.
Along with a hierarchy of states of consciousness, MVP also outlines levels of subjectivity (Dillbeck 1988). All structures, of course, arise from the field of pure consciousness Briefly, the deepest level is the self, the sense of “I.” Next, the ego is described as the experiencer of individual life – that which thinks, understands, feels, etc. The ego is distinguished from the intellect, whose role is discrimination and decision making, containing memories and thoughts, and filtering information coming into the mind. Desire, for MVP, arises from the nature of pure consciousness to know itself, and is the motivating force creating attention, serving as a bridge between the experiencer and that which is experienced through the senses. Maharishi Mahesh Yogi (1969) summarizes succinctly:
Experience results when the senses come into contact with their objects and an impression is left on the mind. The impulse of this new impression resonates with the impression of a similar past experience already present in the mind and associates itself with that impression. The coming together of the two gives rise to an impulse at the deepest level of consciousness, where the impressions of all experiences are stored. This impulse develops and, rising to the conscious level of the mind, becomes appreciated as a thought. The thought, gaining the sympathy of the senses, creates a desire and stimulates the senses into action.
Maharishi's knowledge and techniques have inspired a great deal of research in a variety of fields. His theories of personality, although difficult to grasp intellectually, are said to be achievable through the practice of Transcendental Meditation. Through the repeated exposure to transcendental consciousness, personality development unfolds naturally.
Dabrowski created a hierarchical model of human personality development which distinguishes five separate levels of development a person may experience (Mendaglio 2008: 35-9). However, Dabrowski insisted that in order to move up through these levels - in order to develop one's personality - one must experience strong, often overwhelming negative emotions resulting from both inner psychic turmoil and external problems from the environment. He believed that the process of becoming more morally and psychologically sophisticated required that one identify and face the behavior which comes from low-level instincts. This process, though undoubtedly difficult, is a sign of personal development - once one begins to critically examine their potentially poor behavior, they are able to change that behavior and create a more fulfilling life for themselves. Thus, Dabrowski reverses the traditional concept of mental health, arguing that psychoneurosis is healthy and critical to personal development, while simplistic happiness in a lower level – although often sustainable – is not progressive and is therefore a sign of stagnation. Positive disintegration is followed by reintegration at a higher level to form a continuous cycle guiding personality development.
For Dabrowski, there are three kinds of development, biological, autonomous, and one-sided (Dabrowski 1970). Biological development includes factors strictly due to physical development or the need to conform to societal norms. Individuals must meet their biological drives within the confines of societal regulations. Autonomous development, in contrast, transcend the dictates of biology and society. Through positive maladjustment, the individual's mental forces meet universal positive values to change personal behavior, even if such values are not well-taken by the social environment. However, Dabrowski acknowledged the potential for destructive individual behavior in his description of one-sided development. Here, individual behavior is driven by individual needs regardless of the impacts such actions may have on other people. Such negative maladjustment is distinguished from positive maladjustment by the person's relationship to their drives: Societal values are rejected so that primitive, low level drives are satisfied rather than controlled in accordance with higher values (Dabrowski 1972).
The most distinguishing characteristic of TPD contrasting against other theories of personality is its multilevel approach. Dabrowski articulated psychological development as
[T]he transition from lower, automatic, and rigidly organized mental structures and functions to higher, creative, self-controlled and authentic forms of mental life – developmental psychology is unable to give a satisfactory account of this process without the use of the concept of multilevelness. (Dabrowski 1973: ix)
The first of the five levels of personal development Dabrowski called Primary Integration. In this most basic level of psychological development, individuals are concerned only with satisfying their immediate needs. Such needs include biological needs, such as food and shelter, as well as social needs such as "fitting in" and approval from others. Their relationships with people are limited to satisfying these basic needs and lack deeply rooted care and empathy for friends and partners. Such individuals are very socially conforming, giving in to the circumstances of their social environment without a second thought, even if this involves behavior that is unhealthy or morally problematic.
Because such behavior inevitably leads to conflict, as a person develops, they may begin to realize that their actions are causing problems. This realization may be triggered by any number of factors - puberty, problems in school or work, a fight with a loved one, and so on. Although within the first stage, a person dealt with many such problems, this time, it's different: negative emotions such as anger, despair, and frustration are experienced. These feelings create uncertainty and anxiety that force the person to either regress back into level one or move onto level three. Looking back on their previous experiences for help dealing with the situation, the individual finds no help. Social norms and personal values - once unrecognized - are questioned. This state Dabrowski termed "Unilevel Disintegration" because the person is experiencing positive disintegration as a result of one specific instance of conflict.
In level three - "Spontaneous Multilevel Disintegration" - person continues the process of positive disintegration. There is a sudden, shocking questioning of social and personal values. The individual begins to see discrepancies between "the way things are" and "the way things ought to be" - both in their personal behavior and in their external environment. Movement from level two to level three is especially difficult because the person is totally unprepared for the intense re-evaluation of their personal values and goals, and the negative emotions they experience as they begin to see the mistakes they made in the past. All aspects of the person's identity are under threat, and closely scrutinized: They question how they relate to other people, how they fit into society, and perhaps how they view themselves spiritually. They realize that they are both the subject and the object of their identity - they can manipulate their own behavior to meet the expectations they begin to place on themselves. Individuals in level three begin to see that different people have different systems of value and morality, which is also disquieting because, then, one must begin the difficult process of deciding which values they will adopt and those they will disregard.
Once a person begins to form a more stable system of values and is freely controlling their behavior in alignment with these values, Dabrowski's fourth state is achieved. Within "Organized Multilevel Disintegration," the individual abandons low-level drives and, instead, deliberately acts in accordance to the principles they have created. Deep, meaningful relationships with other people are established and maintained. Such a person is genuinely concerned for the well-being of not only the people around them, but society as a whole. Because of the independent nature of a person experiencing organized multilevel disintegration, education becomes self-directed and self-driven. This is not to say that they do not seek help in the learning process. While they know how to study their interests independently, they can also recognize when teachers can assist in their further development. As a person progresses within level four, they continue to coordinate more and more of their actions with the moral compass they have created. Dabrowski notes that both stage three and stage four contribute to the development of a "personality ideal" which is the identity towards which one aspires.
In the fifth and final stage of personality development, "Secondary Integration," the personality ideal is achieved, and all of the activity the individual participates in is oriented toward their highest aims and values. These goals are creative and harmonious with the needs of other people and society. The individual is actively improving the physical, economic, and psychological environments around him, and helping others do the same. Because of this, regression into lower states is not possible.
There are three factors which contribute to personal development (Mendaglio 2008: 22-26) - developmental potential, the social environment, and the third factor dynamism. A person is born with a certain developmental potential which is biologically inherited. Surprisingly, this rigid structure arrives with a pre-installed developmental instinct which determines the individual's ability to overcome raw biological drives.
Dabrowski believed that, although most people posses the ability to develop their personality and become more psychologically sophisticated, they are largely influenced by the social environment surrounding them. The people that an individual is surrounded by have a tremendous impact on their ability to develop into higher states. If one is surrounded by people experiencing stage five, they will be strongly encouraged to grow and develop, and will have the opportunity for assistance through the difficult dynamics of positive disintegration. If an individual is only interacting with people in lower stages of personality development, progress is much more difficult, and indeed impossible for many. Although they may experience the psychic turbulence required to re-evaluate their behavior and moral values, they may easily repress these experiences and instead regress back to where they started.
To explain how the developmental instinct is used to overcome societal regulations, Dabrowski posited autonomous inner forces called dynamisms, “biological or mental force[s] controlling behavior and its development. Instincts, drives, and intellectual processes combined with emotions are dynamisms.” (Dabrowski 1972: 294) Although the dynamisms are an important set of concepts within TPD, it is most important to understand that each of the levels of development correspond to specific dynamisms which progress one through each stage and onto the next.
The third factor dynamism, then, is unique because it is activated after the developmental dynamisms have been experienced:
[I]t is described as the force by which individuals become more self-determined, controlling their behavior through their inner voices and values. Once the third factor is activated, individuals are no longer at the mercy of biological nees or the under the control of societal conventions. Individuals so characterized lead lives consciously and deliberately, selecting courses of action based on values that they have selected. Their approach to daily life is highly moral in nature. At this high level of development, individuals also increasingly engage in self-education and self-help (Mendaglio 2008: 26).
Dabrowskian counseling, then, is oriented around walking the patient through positive disintegration, thereby encouraging them to develop into higher states.
The Unique Challenges of the Gifted - Psychic Overexcitabilities
Dabrowski hypothesized that gifted individuals experience one or more psychic “overexcitabilities” which, although they undoubtedly cause psychological disturbance, fuel development into higher states of consciousness. Below is a description of the five forms of overexcitability (Miller, Falk, Huang 2009):
Briefly, indicants are as follows:
1. A person with emotional OE has deep-felt and complex emotions and can identify with the feelings of others.
2. A person with intellectual OE has an inquiring mind and is introspective, analytical, and not easily distracted.
3. A person with imaginational OE is creative and has elaborate daydreams and fantasies.
4. A person with sensual OE has heightened sensory awareness and reactions.
5. A person with psychomotor OE has a surplus of energy, is highly active and enthusiastic, and may be impulsive and competitive.
Each overexcitability creates unique challenges for individuals to cope with. However, these challenges also fuel psychological development by forcing an individual to evaluate their behavior and likely feel guilt when their actions contrast with their values (which are also shaped by experiences arising from overexcitabilities). If an individual does not take action to improve themselves and resolve the tension overexcitabilities bring, the individual will either regress into lower states of consciousness or become psychologically unstable.
Dabrowski's Theory of Positive Disintegration provides a less mystical example of a hierarchical model of personality development. Although relatively obscure, TPD is used in gifted education and counseling across the planet, and a small community of researchers are actively exploring a variety of interrogations into TPD.
II: Clarity through Contrast
The first theme shared by Freud, Lacan, Maharishi, and Dabrowski is necessity of psychic turmoil in human experience. However, they do not agree on its origin or fate. For Dabrowski and Maharishi, psychological and personal issues may be resolved and transcended to create a harmonious and balanced personality. Such a personality is also integrated perfectly into society. Freud and Lacan, however, posit fundamental obstacles which prevent an individual from achieving such a state of bliss.
In Dabrowski's final level of personality development, secondary integration, a person is said to have both identified their ideal experience and accomplished it. The projected ideal self from earlier states is realized and deep inner peace is accomplished through continuous pursuit and accomplishment of actions in alignment with the individual's values. At this level, these values are said to be in perfect harmony with the needs of society and other people. Indeed, stage five is defined by the individual's inability to regress into lower states, which would throw both inner and outer experience out of balance.
Maharishi Vedic Psychology articulates very similar endpoint of development, but, rather than only identifying one state, three levels of awareness are possible – cosmic consciousness, God consciousness, and unity consciousness. Once cosmic consciousness is achieved, and on up through unity conscious, it may be said that Dabrowski's secondary integration has already been achieved; further developments occur as one's perception within this state changes. Again, MVP postulates that within these higher states, only moral action in accordance with natural law is possible. Thus, both internal and external/social problems are transcended.
On the other hand, Freudian psychoanalysis argues that psychic turmoil arises from the conflict between an individual's biological drives and the norms of society. This is originally manifested within the Oedipus complex. A clear early childhood example of such a conflict can be seen in toilet training, in which the child is forced to refrain from their innate, biological urge to immediately release bodily waste. The drives which constitute the id – sex, death, and life – create a permanent cycle of internal urges which inevitably lead to various unsuccessful interactions with the social environment (directed by the ego within the guilt system of the superego). The consequences of socially unaccepted behavior are often repressed back into the unconscious which guides future psychic and social interaction.
What differentiates Freud from Lacan, then? Although both authors agree that there is an antagonism between an individual's desires and the fulfillment of these desires, Lacan placed this struggle at the foundation of human experience. For early Freud, on the other hand, social forces are thought to prevent an individual's satisfaction: Rules, taboos, and regulations always prevent one from resolving the Oedipus complex and satiating libido in its various manifestations. Looking closely at the way Lacan distinguishes desire from drive, however, we see a more radical picture:
What one should not lose sight of is the fact that, for Lacan, drive is not 'primordial', a foundation out of which, by means of the intervention of the symbolic Law, desire emerges. A close reading of Lacan's 'graph of desire' [ (Lacan 1992b)]shows how drive is a montage of elements which emerges as a kind of 'necessary by-product' of the instinctual body getting caught in the web of the symbolic order. The fact that an instinctual need is caught in the signifier's web means that the object that satisfies this need starts to function as the sign of the (M)Other's love; consequently, the only way to break out of the deadlock of the subject's enslavement to the Other's demand is via the intervention of the symbolic Prohibition / Law which makes the full satisfaction of desire forever impossible. All the well known paradoxes of desire are engendered in this way, form 'I can't love you unless I give you up' to 'Don't give me what I ask you for, because that's not it' – desire is defined by this ce n'est pas ca: that is, its most elementary and ultimate aim is to sustain itself as desire, in its state of non-satisfaction. Drive, on the other hand, stands for the paradoxical possibility that the subject, forever prevented from achieving his Goal (and thus fully satisfying his desire), can nevertheless find satisfaction in the very circular movement of repeatedly missing its object, of circulating around it: the gap constitutive of desire is thus closed; the self-enclosed loop of a circular repetitive movement replaces infinite striving. In this precise sense, drive equals jouissance, since jouissance is, at its most elementary, 'pleasure in pain', that is, a perverted pleasure provided by the very painful experience of repeatedly missing one's goal (Zizek 1999: 296-297).
Drive, then, is conceptualized as a “by-product” of the deadlock desire: Desire – although it cannot ever be satisfied – is always targeted toward a specific goal (through a process Lacan calls fantasy) and can be shifted and changed. For example, a high school student may enjoy playing basketball as a child and later decide that they prefer computer programming. Their fantasy also shifts – dreams of playing professionally or being popular in school turn into dreams of working for Microsoft or – worse yet – embezzling money from a large corporation. Drive, in contrast, cannot be shifted. It is, rather, the very force which motivates the creation of all the diverse fantasies one may explore.
One clarifying concept is Jaques Allain Miller's distinction between constituted anxiety and constituent anxiety. Here we have two different relations towards Lacan's objet petit a – the object which must be lost upon entrance into the symbolic domain. Within constituted anxiety, the object is experienced within the confines of a fantasy – that is, the subject maintains the attitude that the object can be attained through a particular course of action, and believes that doing so would bring satisfaction. However, once the subject 'traverses the fantasy' and accepts the impossibility of satiation (in other words, the impossibility of re-uniting with the mother or obtaining the object) and – despite this knowledge – continues his/her pursuit, constituent anxiety is experienced. Here, we can see the difference in the subject's relationship to the lost object in his/her relationship to fantasy. However, it is also important to see the difference of the status of the object between constituted and constituent anxiety:
[. . .]when he [Miller] defines object petit a as the object which overlaps with its loss, which emerges at the very moment of its loss (so that all its fantasmatic incarnations, from breasts to voice and gaze, are metonymic configurations of the Void, of nothing), he remains within the horizon of desire – the true object-cause of desire is the Void filled in by its fantasmatic incarnations. While, as Lacan emphasizes, objet petit as is also the object of drive, the relationship here is completely different: although the link between object and loss is crucial in both cases, in the case of objet petit a as the object-cause of desire we have an object which is originally lost, which coincides with its own loss, which emerges as lost; while in the case of objet petit a as the object of drive, the “object” is directly loss itself – in the shift from desire to drive, we pass from the lost object to loss itself as an object (Zizek 2006: 61-62).
This means that drive should be conceptualized not only as the motivating force for the subject, but also as the very block which ultimately prevents satisfaction of such ambition. While desire moves towards an object (the Thing) which would fill in the lack the subject experiences, drive embraces the failure to attain the Thing and turns its endless pursuit into a means of satisfaction.
This knowledge clarifies a primary distinction between the common perception of the Freudian death drive (which is more accurately referred to as the nirvana principle) and the more advanced understanding of it. The common (mis)perception of the death drive is a motivation to be free of anxiety and tension which may be accomplished through actions of self destruction (avoiding work or exercise, smoking, etc.). More serious scholars, however, identify the death drive as exactly the opposite – the death drive is the inescapable motivation to forever circulate around the lost object-cause of desire; it is
[. . . ]the way immortality appears within psychoanalysis, for an uncanny excess of life, for an undead urge which persists beyond the (biological) cycle of life and death, of generation and corruption. The ultimate lesson of psychoanalysis is that human life is never “just life”: humans are not simply alive, they are possessed by the strange drive to enjoy life in excess, passionately attached to a surplus which sticks out and derails the ordinary run of things (Zizek 2006: 62).
It is clear why neither Freud or Lacan posit an ideal highest state of development – it is not only societal regulations that prevent fulfillment of desires, the death drive itself is the condition of human life. We are permanently caught in a cycle of failure to re-unite with the (M)Other. Despite our fantasies, in which we posit more proximal goals in attempts to fulfill this lack, we are conditioned through jouissance, and another goal always appears on the horizon.
In contrast, both Dabrowski and Maharishi Vedic Psychology identify phases of development which have transcended inner psychic turmoil. Within MVP, this peaceful bliss is achieved first in transcendental consciousness, which is achieved during the practice of transcendental meditation. Eventually, as this state of mind is repeatedly attained, its impression becomes part of the individual's permanent awareness, and the bliss is experienced throughout all waking, sleeping, and dreaming states. The final stages of development – cosmic consciousness, God consciousness, and unity consciousness – are differentiated not by the permanence of such a state (which has already been achieved starting in cosmic consciousness), but by subtle changes of perspective within this satisfying state of awareness.
Within the fifth stage of development of TPD, secondary integration, the individual has identified his/her values and is actively achieving them in every moment. Breaking these morals is impossible in this state. Furthermore, the individual's goals are aligned perfectly with the needs of society. Although conflict may still arise because aspects of the social environment are not completely developed (nor are most other people), the conflict is experienced on a level which does not cause the mature individual to feel hopeless or helpless. This is due to the individual's secure sense of identity – s/he is certain of his/her values, even if they may clash with those of the society in which they are immersed. Therefore, inner peace is maintained and nurtured through every action a fifth stage individual takes.
III: The Role of Science in Promoting Development of Collective Consciousness
Above all, science claims to be objective. It reveals the truth of a situation without regard to the subjective meaning of such truth (Goldenburg 2004)As technology, understanding, and methods of interrogation continue to develop, the urgency of the discord between truth and meaning will become more powerful. This is already seen in the Christian fundamentalist resistance to stem cell research, in the vegetarian opposition to research involving animals, in heteronormative opposition to sex change operations, and so on. Again and again, we are confronted with the difference between what is possible and what is desirable.
[. . . ] the ultimate alternative that confronts us today, when the impossibility of the conjuction of meaning and truth is imposed on us [is]: either we endorse the "postmodern" stance and renounce the dimension of truth altogether, restricting ourselves to the interplay of multiple meanings, or we engage in an effort to discern a dimension of truth outside meaning - that is, a the dimension of truth as real (Zizek 2006: 181)
Where do theories of personality fall in this conundrum? By simply positing hierarchical frameworks, theories like MVP and TPD are inherently value laden (since they start with the assumption that some states of consciousness are preferable over others) and therefore function within the realm of meaning. Clearly, scientific studies have long been used to verify the theoretical models of development we have discussed. In MVP, unique brain wave activity has been identified in those who exhibit the characteristics of Maharishi's cosmic consciousness, as well as a countless variety of physiological benefits arising from the regular practice of Transcendental Meditation. In Dabrowski's TPD, language analysis in question and answer surveys have shown that the stages of development are distinct and that the overexcitablities are at least somewhat measurable. This kind of research gives the subjective experience of the higher states an objective correlate and therefore strengthens our understanding of the theories. However, these studies can still be thought of as an aspect of a search for meaning, in that they are designed to investigate models which are value laden. Of course, this does not mean that such studies are invalid. Indeed, such studies are often subjected to intense peer scrutiny, confirming the solidity of their methodology.
Interestingly, the study of higher states of consciousness is directly related to the development of higher states of consciousness. It appears as though the goal of such studies is to encourage others to develop psychologically from a lower states to higher states. While mythical terminology and abstract, complex psychological theories often discourage an individual from utilizing the tools theories of personality development provide, a scientific study is concrete and conclusive, and the results are often relatively simple to understand (for example, if I meditate, my blood pressure will normalize). Here, science may be said to bridge the gap between theory and practice, by solidifying theory which may be used to encourage individuals to move into higher states. From a Lacanian perspective, we can see how science is used to modify an individual's relation to the big Other. For example, one may think that meditation is difficult or socially unacceptable and therefore choose not to meditate. In this case, the big Other is embodying norms from the social environment and contributing to the creation of a fantasy (if I meditate, it will involve hours of concentration and drain me of time and energy, etc.). Science, then, can be utilized to traverse the fantasy by modifying an individual's big Other concept (for example, one may read a news article on a study showing that brain activity during Transcendental Meditation is similar to that seen in deep states of rest, etc.).
Regardless of the rigor or expanse of such studies, however, many individuals remain stagnant in their psychic development. In other words, research and methods of communicating such research are not effectively inspiring traversal of the fantasies which discourage movement into higher states. That is to say, the fundamental fantasy remains operative, allowing the individual to create new fantasies which allow personality development to remain neglected. From this perspective, we can see that future research could be aimed at enabling widespread fantastic traversal at the fundamental level. Although it may be difficult analyze how this would be accomplished, such an interrogation would be hugely rewarding. Lacanian psychoanalysis provides a clear theoretical framework from which to approach this task. Only accepting the inevitability of jouissance and confronting the challenges of the death drive directly can the fundamental fantasy be traversed and autonomous subjectivity - a universal characteristic of all conceptions of the highest states of consciousness - be achieved (Zizek 1999: 390).
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