Basal body temperature (BBT) is your core temperature after being at rest for a long period of time, such as a night of sleep. Most practitioners use the BBT to spot the temperature drop and surge that happens prior to and soon after ovulation and to evaluate the lengths of the follicular and luteal phases of the menstrual cycle. It is an excellent tool to support other ovulation detection methods such as the OPK test and menstrual cycle tracking. There are many things, extending far beyond ovulation timing, that can be told about a person’s health by looking at their basal body temperature. This can be the key to overall fertility enhancement. Here we will describe and discuss ways that you can look at your BBT and understand deeper patterns within your cycle that might be contributing to your fertility.
BBT is measured when you first awake before getting out of bed. It is measured each morning either orally or vaginally with a thermometer and the temperature is recorded, either with a paper chart or an application on a tablet or smart phone. The temperature does not have to be taken at the exact same time every day but should be taken at the moment you wake up even if you decide to stay awake in bed for some time afterward.
In an ovulatory cycle, people generally observe average, relatively low temperatures during the first part of the cycle or what is called the follicular phase, then a slight decrease before ovulation and a slight increase at ovulation leading into the luteal phase. Temperatures will stay slightly elevated in the luteal phase relative to the first part of the cycle until menstruation starts, when it will drop again, or conversely will continue to increase if pregnancy occurred. You can find a sample BBT chart at the end of the book in the resource section.
It always amazes clients when they come in with their BBT chart and we can analyze together when they traveled, when they had insomnia, when they maybe had too many glasses of wine, etc. The reason we are able to see these things in the chart is because a person’s body temperature is very sensitive to all stimulation that might cause it to fluctuate out of its preferred balanced temperature, which, without outside influence, doesn’t fluctuate much. This is also what makes it possible to analyze the BBT in regards to overall health.
Tracking your BBT for a few months can provide insight into more than just ovulation timing, there are deeper patterns within menstrual cycles that help create what is called your fertility map. Many apps and technological fertility tools that do not use the BBT give you an approximate time of when you’re ovulating based on your cycle length. We have found, however, that just charting length is not sufficient for optimizing your fertility awareness and many people are missing their actual fertility window.
In the individuation of the subject from the species there is a painful separation of becoming – no less than in animal birth, cellular division, or the splitting of the atom. But man in his angst is aware of both the necessity to act and the contingent constraints. So what is neurotic suffering other than an “other” version of the inevitable pain of existence – a version of pain that comes with the resistance to the pain of the act of separation. If the symptom is a kernel of unresolved trauma – a necessity to separate and become that is refused, repressed, foreclosed, or denied – then the sinthome is the embracing of this traumatic encounter as act of existence. In the invention of the sinthome, Lacan not only returned tothe Medieval Latin spelling of symptom from the time of Aquinas, he made it a pun on old St Thom, the philosopher of the Act of Being.
Lacan found this act of existence in certain artists and scientists and took it as a model for the practice of psychoanalysis. This is our answer to the shift in the symbolic from Freud’s time to ours – in fact to any time, for we are proposing a process and practice that draws from the abstraction of the letter and the number.
Signification is an experience that draws from the already present symbolic/imaginary relation. But for the analyst to suspend meaning and interpretation and listen through the symbolic and imaginary he finds that the speech act reaches “lalangue” – the direct material sound of the word or world of the subject – a “moteriality” and “monderiality” formed in, by, and for the subject at the primordial level of his existence – a phantasm far under the bar of symbolic/imaginary in the real (S/I/R). At this point the analyst hears through the signifying web: gaps, holes, cuts open up to the real. The intervention then is not interpretation to shore up signification, but poetics, wit, and the well- timed blow that (like the zen master’s stick or koan) unravels the signifying chain, demand of the other, and symptomatic jouissance.
It goes without saying that this traversal of the phantasm – this crossing of the abyss – this glimpse of the void – is a dangerous time where mania and melancholy are risked. Nietzsche, Cantor and countless others in our time are evidence of this experience. Lacan described subjective destitution as one end of analysis but, not content to remain there with Freud’s idea of exchanging the symptom for ordinary malaise, he glimpsed the possibility of a reconstruction of the symptom through the invention of new signifiers – better yet new a-signifying semiotics or letters of the subject’s making – letters able to topologically orient the subject in the real and in relation to the other in a new way. In this formulation, the analyst is not the subject supposed to know, nor the master with the master code, nor the mute dummy – all of which he is passed through – but a collaborator and co-creator in the reinvention and reconstruction of the sinthome.
In Traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) there exists a concept called mother-child. This is the idea that a mother and a child cannot be dealt with separately with regards to their health. Beyond pregnancy, beyond the original physical bond between mother and child there is the continued existence of mixed qi (chi or vital energy) for many years. This mixing of energy is true for anyone who comes in contact with a young child but as mothers we have a particularly powerful influence over the health of our children. When I first read about this concept it hit me hard how we have entirely missed this simple common sense principle with Western pediatrics. Likely because it is difficult to test and there is no money to be made with the results. But if you are willing to make this jump, that a mother’s energy can affect a child’s health on an intuitive basis, a world of healing can open to both physician and mothers alike. I’m up writing this tonight because I believe this principle blended with other holistic concepts helped us stave off an illness.
In TCM Children are susceptible to external pathogens much like they are in Western medicine. I will use this recent pathogen as an example. J (my 4 year old) woke 2 days ago with sore throat and fussiness. Our nanny has had something similar prior to him and so have loads of kids I’ve seen at work. Clearly there is a physical virus at play. My first impulse was to soothe his pain with ibuprofen but as I have learned from my study of TCM this is one more thing an already deficient body must clear and so I made him warm tea with honey and boosted him with Gaia Kids Immune Support. With TCM the most common reason a pathogen takes hold rather than being expelled is that the child is somehow qi deficient. We had just taken an exciting camping trip and came home wore out. So I gave him a warm breakfast and kept him more bundled than usual to prevent further invasion from the cold weather that had come in. With the concept of mother-child I have learned that I have the ability to donate qi (healing energy) to my suffering child. I can do this by snuggling, reading, singing and simply being present and nurturing. Of course I had to go to work but I encouraged the nanny to do the same. Cue the crushing feeling of leaving my sick child to go to work.
So today I was off work and J started to develop a low fever. Where normally we would lay in bed and watch shows snuggling we had very minimal television. TCM states that TV drains kids. Again these are things that we may all know instinctively but I have never seen them applied to a viral illness. So no TV, no ibuprofen, instead we just read books and did some light drawing and importantly we snuggled and took a nap! I had to bribe him as he is NOT a napper. Throughout all of this I stayed focused on the concept of giving to him with the purpose of healing/boosting him up. I laid with him and gently rubbed his back and interestingly he told me that it was helping him feel better. He sweated intensely during his nap and woke up fever free. Then his dad surprised us and came home early from work and poured more love into him. J had been missing him intensely since the short vacation ended. My husband is a resident. Kids of residents can always use extra qi/loving.
According to TCM as parents we can actually donate energy (qi) to our children when they are deficient to help them heal…if we have extra. There are times in our lives where we are so depleted that we can barely function ourselves let alone have extra for others. I’ve been there as well. There is no perfection in mothering. There is simply this moment wherever we are. It isn’t as though prior to studying TCM I would have simply ignored my sick child. Awareness is powerful though as well as intention. My clear intention was to pour qi into J for healing purposes and to boost his own. In the end there is no doubt that he has immunity to this strain of virus. However thanks to TCM I now have a better framework of what immunity is and how I can play a conscious part in it for my child’s health.
The original hipster was someone who was hip – who moved his hips. Like Elvis his libido was more liberated than the neurotic character – all the way down to his pelvic core and sexual hip freedom. Both Mailer and Kerouac drew inspiration from Reich’s theories of sexual freedom and psychic health. For the first time the persecuted outsider turned the tables on the rigid laws of norm as stiff and square and spun a new myth of American freedom from Mailers Greenwich Village “Voice” to Kerouac’s American West on the “Road.” Mailer championed Reichian psychoanalysis while Kerouac borrowed the free associative method of “first thought best thought” to write without censorship.
Today’s hipsters likewise feel outside the norm – whatever is left of it – turning awkwardness into its reverse through obscure copying of a simulation of community knowledge by secret recognition – an agreement not to look below the surface of style – a new norm in many ways more oppressive than the old – less tolerant of difference for not even stating what is supposed to be.
We could take as the bible of the true and original hipster revolution Reich’s first obscure book: “The Impulsive Character.” In many ways a self analysis of his own inability to fit into the mold of neurosis or normality – a character not sufficiently normalized, normoticized, or normopathologized – yet not for all that being without suffering. Reich’s analysis bears a resemblance to what would later be termed borderline, perverse, sociopathic but more usefully predicts Lacan’s working through the question of the subject in relation to the social symbolic. Freud considered the question of psychoanalysis’s end in light of the pathology of the society in “Civilization and Its Discontents” but Lacan attempted to reinvent the theory and practice from the point of view of the subject’s ability and necessity to invent at the borderline between self and other.
This invention was the mark of the original hipsters too libidinalized to be confined in everyday jobs and families. Rather they played jazz, wrote poetry and lived on the streets free to develop lovers, friends, and communities of diversity and change. Part of the more general Modernist revolution including the occult revival, surrealism & dadaism, sex, drugs & rocknroll, can the true hipster be resurrected from the ashes of postmodern faux hipsterism – cynical and awkward in its consumption of consumer capital and cultural signifiers.
A sometimes dirty word in this world where being in control of emotion is the cultural default. Emotions serve as messengers and act as liaisons between our bodies and the environment.
Think of the times that you have felt something before you could express it in analytic words.
Emotions are the energy before the matter. They serve as direct translators to our nervous systems and hormonal bodies. They protect us and keep us safe in times when threats and traumas from the environment happen so quickly that our rational mind can’t process and react fast enough.
And yet, to be perceived as a highly emotional person– and more specifically a highly emotional woman— is still somehow judged in our society, instead of praised.
Emotional intelligence is a skill which can be studied and learned just like analytic wisdom. And in many cases, a keen emotional intelligence is what we admire in our friends and family.
Individuals who have taken the time to learn their own emotional landscape are typically powerhouses of clarity. They act fluidly and with confidence, even in the most stressful of situations.
What is it within each of us that keeps us from expressing with honesty our emotional experience? How can we learn to become acquainted with the most difficult feelings, so that we might better understand the messages from our deepest emotive depths and recognize these emotions as they drift into our daily lives?
Primary emotions such as fear, anger, sadness and joy are sometimes packaged within actionable emotions like hate, anger, jealousy and envy. These actionable emotions are often more acceptable in the workplace or social scape, and to some degree are less intimate than the primary emotions which you might share with loved ones.
But, at what point did we decide that some emotions are acceptable and others are not? The clear danger in a world that does not value emotional honesty is the suppression of the individual experience into a more culturally acceptable form.
This “emotional armament” as the psychoanalyst, Wilhelm Reich called it, can invalidate an individual and sometimes cause depression, anxiety and even physical illness. Invalidating an individual’s emotional experience in society is essentially the same as not acknowledging our own emotional experience. It’s likely that we are often angry at the people who emotionally “lash out” because we are not allowed to ourselves. The same can be said of hate, which for many people feels protective of deeper primary emotions like fear and sadness.
Self reflection and personal analysis can save us from years of struggle in relationships with others and to ourselves. Each of our personal blueprints is unique and our movements in the world follow circuitous routes with unknown outcomes. If we allow what we express emotionally to be determined by someone other than ourselves, we lose one of our greatest allies along the unknown path.
In The Wisdom of Insecurity, Alan Watts states, “that to have running water you must first let go of it and let it run. The same is true of life and the universe.” Emotional intelligence requires expression and flow. If you try too hard to lock it down and censor your emotions, you risk disconnecting from the meteorologist within. When you embrace all of the emotions, you contain a constant barometer, steadfastly pointing the way.
Spiritual techniques- There are a few simple spiritual techniques that help to balance the endocrine system and promote fertility. Meditation, visualization, and prayer have long been used for calling in a child’s spirit. Some cultures use mantras or create songs and music that sweetly lull a spirit to earth from the heavens. These techniques bypass the rational mind and acknowledge that there are systems at work outside of one individual’s experience. When the emphasis and focus is removed from a person’s analytic mind, several things happen: The nervous system relaxes, stress hormones decrease, and positive feel-good neurotransmitters start to calm and regulate our minds and bodies.
Manifest and reproduce-Limiting belief systems can affect our capacity to manifest and reproduce. But how do you work with a force that hasn’t occurred yet like pregnancy? In the current climate of the world, the keys to the sacred are not so obvious. They are hidden in the imaginative and the unseen, the spiritual, if you will. Its messages require developing a meditative and receptive space, so we can have the silence to hear and interpret.
In a recent conversation I had with a brilliant friend, she mentioned that until the mid-1960s, when you asked a women how many children she wanted to have, her answer would most likely be, “G-d knows.” Ask the same question now, and most people have very specific numbers, sex and timing planned far in advance. Much of our modern society and culture is based on rational thought. It’s not a bad thing, but sometimes it can limit our capacity to understand factors that are outside of our mental comprehension.
Delve deeper- I ask my clients to explore in mediation the person they feel they will be once they have a child. What will change in their life, relationship, and emotional state? Will they feel more complete? More fulfilled? Happy? We delve into these answers, unconscious and fear-based beliefs. We find a way to clear those thoughts and integrate their future self into their present self. It is literally magic! Once we identify the very thing we are externally looking for, we attract it into our life. And along the way, we create a better understanding of our desire and radiance.
Belief systems- Spiritual and meditative tools can also be defensive and protective of your fertility. The words and belief systems of those around us tend to affect us, especially when those words resonate with our deepest fears. Through mindfulness, we can cultivate an awareness of the people and energy in our lives that feel negative and make us doubt the intuitive knowledge of our body. When a person expresses a strong opinion about her experience within fertility that may be at odds with your current psycho/emotional state, step back, put that opinion in parentheses, and try to understand the context without making it your own.
Do not take it personally! Do not take it as law or fact no matter how much social authority they have. Observe the reaction it may elicit and put that into parentheses, too. Spiritual liberation often begins with liberation from language. This is a valuable skill to take into the terrain of fertility.
Using your toolbox- ￼￼Sometimes the process of deciding to have a child, suffering from loss or infertility, or just preparing for pregnancy creates a feeling of isolation and confusion. It can be challenging to turn the experience into an empowered and healthy one. Using tools that help nourish and build receptive energy such as restorative yoga, meditation, and creativity connect you to the spiritual or unseen aspects of life.
Strengthening this connection provides guidance and clarity when you are faced with challenges. Every challenge we meet in life has the potential to help break us open and promote evolution. Creating a spiritual path within fertility balances the hormonal system and promotes healthy pregnancy.
Choice is a powerful gift. We make small choices everyday and in every moment. Most of our choices are based off our connection to what we desire, and for the most part, these choices only affect our own personal lives.
But, what about the big choices, like parenthood? What if you choose to undertake this tremendously large choice all on your own and without a partner?
The biological connection between a mother and child, by default, places choice into the hands of the mother. We (in general) recognize the right to choose within issues of contraception, termination and fertility medicine, but do we recognize the more controversial right to choose to have a child completely free of partnership, marriage or a broken relationship? What would it mean if the choice to become a parent became free of having to first establish a valid partnership?
I’ve been helping people get pregnant for over a decade. The general narrative is that two people– whether they be gay, straight, queer, etc.– love each other and want to create a family from this love.
Reproductive medicine, for the most part, is impartial as to your given sexual orientation when it comes to your treatment. Essentially, if you can pay for it, you can use IVF, IUI, donor sperm and/or eggs. That’s not to say that it treats everyone equally. There are still remarkably biased remnants of patriarchal culture within the communication and care of patients. The typical patient that reproductive medicine clinics treat, after all, is a white woman in a heterosexual relationship.
Lately though, I’ve been helping a growing number of people, who do not have partners or spouses, become pregnant. Typically these woman are in their mid 30’s to early 40’s, are financially stable and have decided to make the choice to not wait for their life partner to appear before becoming mothers. For some, the choice is related to age and fertility but for the vast majority, it is a powerful and conscious choice to leave society’s narrative about what is required to become a mother.
The choice to become a mother without a partner is not a new phenomena, but it is one that is becoming increasingly popular.
One of my first patients in NYC had a child via a sperm donor, in the early 1980’s. She was heterosexual and in her late 20’s at the time. She strongly believed that becoming a mother without a partner or an additional parent for her child, was a feminist act. She was a fiercely independent social justice attorney and lived in a communal type setting with several friends who, for the most part, worked within the counterculture. I recall asking her about the difficulty of raising a child on her own without a partner’s help, to which she replied, “I wanted more than anything else to be a mother, so I made a choice.”
The stigma around not knowing your biological father or being born via surrogacy is decreasing mainly due to increased dialogue within society. People who made radical choices in the decades before us navigated territory so that we could be truly liberated in our reproductive choice. Part of the opportunity within sovereign choice is to break open society’s structures and create new possible realities that reflect many different individual paths. Diversity creates strength and choice creates freedom.
In ancient Greece the Pharmakon was the shaman/magician/doctor who healed the collective through the catalytic sacrifice of a part of the collective. The pharmakos was the sacrificed victim given a psychoactive substance and subject to a practice of ritual exclusion, attack, or death. A pharmakon came to be known as the substance used for healing but the original form would correspond to what is closer now to homeopathic medicine in which a substance which poisons or toxifies is given in order to provoke a catalytic transformative reaction in the individual body and/or mind. I have pointed out that this in fact was always already the original method of medicine used in all traditional medicine until it was replaced by rational, allopathic, and material medicine – none of which are useless in themselves but which have misunderstood the art of healing appropriate to the human psychosomatic being. (Orgonomy: Integral Medicine & Psychiatry)
Homeopathic medicine arose as a response to the overdevelopment of rational, allopathic, material medicine with a empirical, homeopathic, psychoenergetic medicine. I have also pointed out that the pharmakon or homeopathic healing method can be a practice such as acupuncture instead of or in conjunction with a substance. In this sense, Freud continued this return to the pharmakon to the extent that he developed a form of psychic healing which used a return to and confrontation with the original trauma previously hidden through repression or other defense but able to be recovered through techniques of anamnesis decoded from dreams, symptoms, accidents, jokes and other traces through a dialectical process similar to Socrates’ original method. In fact it could be said that psychoanalysis combines the ancient Greek medicine of the pharmakon with Socratic philosophical dialogue.
Derrida critiqued Plato’s attempt to separate techne and logos and cleanse the pharmakon from it’s ambivalent and experiential nature. The instantiation of the Platonic and Aristotelian academy provided an ideological vision of knowledge based on the Greek city-state as a completion of man: a premature ideal of the completion of the phenomenology of spirit later revisited by Hegel. As opposed to this I have proclaimed the impossibility of defining the completion of spirit or Being itself whether mathematically, politically or otherwise. Rather Being is becoming: an art studio or scientific laboratory or medical clinic of the real in which that which is given as Idea, Form, Archetype, Law, or Fact conditions process contingently but gives rise to the invention of unknown variations of the same. This idea was described in somewhat similar terms in Lautman’s mathematical philosophy as the true message of Plato but if so then it is a Socratic and/or Neoplatonic Plato much different from the Academic Plato which has come to dominate the last two millennia.
The philosophical and mathematical nature of Being I have just sketched out makes homeopathic medicine and psychoanalytic psychiatry essential models of doing philosophy and science and they hold the key to a final re-connecting of art and science or techne and logos in a poetic philosophy of the future. It also gives rise to an answer to the failed analysis and project of Hegel, Marx, and Kojeve in the phenomenology of spirit and the completion of history. The problem is that Hegel and his followers still maintain the vision of the state and knowledge in an ideological and visionary form as opposed to what I call Autopoesis: Sovereign Co-Creation. Bataille initially pointed the way through a critique of Kojeve’s extension of Hegel/Marx by opposing a form of sovereignty explicated by Nietzsche (through Christ) to the state envisioned by Plato, Hegel and Marx. In Hegel’s phenomenology he already opposes the Greek city state as a recognition of human subjectivity based on the struggle of the slave turned warrior to the immanent recognition of every human in his essential being proclaimed by Christ and used as the basis for the Roman-Christian empire of bourgeoise Europe. In this sense Nietzsche rehabilitated the original message of Christ as the imitation of Christ the warrior of immanent non-mastery or what I would call autopoetic sovereignty.
Two thousand years later – and two hundred years after Hegel – Bataille still points to this unresolved conflict between the Hegelian-Marxist vision of the ideal State of humanity in “communism” and the Nietzschean refrain of singular cases of individuated (super)humans who have no need or interest in creating a common good for all but rather recognize one another in their radical difference and continue to innovate though the struggle to overcome themselves. These (super)humans who inhabit the world at the end of history no longer need work or war but rather engage in continual co-creation in which there are neither winners nor losers but collaborators – which even appear some times to be destroyers. Thus history is over for the logoic recording of time, money, and knowledge is no longer needed. Rather play predominates and game theory replaces law.
Recent interest in the relation between science and narrative has sparked some expression in me. As someone who began as a psychoanalyst and later came to practice medicine and psychiatry I took an unorthodox path, and I take a radical stance in this area. Not only do I see psychiatry but also physical medicine itself as embedded in an analytic or narrative science. The more radical end of psychoanalysis has always taken the symptom as a narrative. In fact the whole project from Freud on was to envelop “disease” in the narrative of human culture. So for me the radical psychoanalytic ethic had to be extended to psychiatry and medicine as well. No symptom of the body can be left out of this equation.
Most of my non-psychoanalytic colleagues – psychiatrists, psychologists, and psychotherapists (and all too many analysts as well) – like to make a Division between everyday neurotic problems that can be solved with therapy and some realm of “disease” that they consider biological or genetic which basically includes more extreme and non-normal states that they do not understand or are frightened by. Which is not to say that biology and medicine are not sciences in themselves with practical use. But the project from the renaissance enlightenment to the modernist effect of psychoanalytic and phenomenological psychiatry was to embed this natural science into a larger human or spiritual science of the cultural and linguistic narrative that we are enmeshed in.
I know that most people in the alternative or anti psychiatry realms would share my resistance to this Division. But I wonder how many would follow me a step further into questioning the concept of disease even in physical medicine as ever separable from its narrative creation and interpretation. This requires stepping deeper into physiology and further out into the spiritual, philosophical, and poetic simultaneously. It is not only a matter of applying medical technology within a narrative relationship. It is a matter of understanding how all science, medicine, and “disease” always already is a semiotic, linguistic, narrative process intertwined with the human narrative.
I wanted to learn to practice a form of physical medicine and psychiatry which could work within a psychoanalytic, phenomenological, humanist, narrative approach. And what I found in researching, learning, and practicing medicine and psychiatry from diverse cultures is that there never was this artificial Division that exists today. Not in Traditional Chinese Medicine, Ayurvedic Medicine or other ancient sciences that are having a resurgence today, nor in alternative forms of modern scientific medicine such as Homeopathic, Naturopathic, and Osteopathic Medicine and Psychiatry which were only marginalized recently through political means and are now gaining in popularity again with the limitations of the allopathic materialist model more apparent.
The fact is that what we need is a truly Integral Medicine and Psychiatry that can apply technology only with a greater understanding of where that fits in to the larger picture of human freedom. We can only nourish destiny: help support the vehicle and arena of body and earth for the unfolding of Psyche – an infinite number of individuating beings and their paths of destiny which we cannot pretend to understand – only bear witness to and co-create with.
In terms of the mind/brain problem the way I like to describe it is that there is a big and little mind or mind1 and mind2. Big mind precedes and exceeds the brain. Whether you consider that God, or the higher self which is re-incarnated in a material body with a brain, or the cultural mind which is passed on from generation to generation does not matter. Brain is a subset of the big mind. But then from birth the little mind of the individual mapped and stored in the brain from the embodied experience of life grows. That little mind or personality is a subset of the brain. So little mind is an epiphenomenon of (embodied) brain which is an epiphenomenon of big mind.
Finally, in my model the little mind invents new things and passes them on to orfeeds them back up to the big mind. The person individuates from family, culture and species and creates something new to add to the previous big mind which preceded and fed his brain. Or, from a more traditional spiritual approach, the life experience is collated up into the higher mind or soul before that soul throws out another life into the game board of humanity on earth to play, create, develop and learn.
Incidentally this is a lot like Plato’s model – arguably the founder of modern Western analytic philosophy and science. Ideas or archetypes guide body, brain, earth and matter, but this laboratory gives rise to new experiments that create new Ideas and Archetypes. Being and Existence is top down and bottom up. A non-dual dialectic of becoming. This is a more complete teleology of Integral Evolution (and Involution) of Being – of which Darwinian evolution is a specific subset.
There has been much discussion surrounding the re-emergence of an “anti-psychiatry” or “mad” movement. An Esalen Alternative Psychiatry conference was the site of this attempted nexus and rebirth of madness activists, human potential, and anti-psychiatry – or what I prefer to call Non-Psychiatry. I would say that much of this discussion revolves around a lack of clarity about what it is and who it is for. To begin with Esalen itself called it an “Alternative Medicine” conference. And maybe it is. But this conference grew out of an Esalen workshop on extreme and altered states which joined the anti-psychiatry movement to the human potential movement in an effort to revive this lost project. Awakening to these movements as a young man in the 80s I just as excited to find inspiration as I was saddened to see them disappearing. The spirit of rebellion of the 60s and 70s had grown into conservatism, complacency, fear, greed, and narcissism in so many ways. My elder colleagues appeared jaded and cynical except for my true mentors like R D Laing, Felix Guattari and Chogyam Trungpa who were quickly dying off. These were the ones who – like Perls, Price, and others at Esalen had promoted the “Crazy Wisdom” of Shamanism and Tantrism. Esalen – like every other institute, method, and movement of those times – has had to endure the questions of sustainability within radicality and this remains the question for the future.
The new mad “movement” to which the old ones were joined through this Esalen “Alternative” is a complementary movement of survivors themselves become activists. But we must not make the mistake of creating another in-group – a co-dependency group, fight/flight group or messianic group. It is these unconscious “basic assumptions” as Bion called them within groups which are the problem with all movements. The desire to create a movement falls prey to unconscious projections and unshared Ideology which either recreates oppressive judgment or tears itself apart in in-fighting.
The so-called “movement” against psychiatric oppression has recognized the intertwined problems of capitalism in its project. But let us recall that for Hegel and Marx the bourgeoise trap was not a struggle of rich classes against poor but a struggle of both against their mutual enslavement to capital itself – the accumulation of material and rank instead of the desire and love of spirit found in the mutual recognition of human subjective freedom and sovereign co-creation.
The Buddhist Chogyam Trungpa taught that the Bardo realms were developmental states of existence each with its own psychological challenge. These are: 1. tortured demons, 2. hungry ghosts, 3. ignorant animals, 4. desiring humans, 5. jealous demigods, and 6. complacent gods. Each of us passes through each of these states. In our time we have evolved but still face the challenges of jealousy, envy, complacency, and superiority. The questions we are asking plague the realms of therapy, spirituality, art, and politics. The spiritual teacher Alice Bailey called it “glamour – a world problem.”
What are we to do with our joy? Hide it. Deny it. Feel guilt. Certainly a form of totalitarian socialism which suppresses individuating creativity and desire is not the answer. And neither is the capitalist consumer model of competition in a zero sum game of winners and losers. But only these extremes prevail and continue to polarize. It is a testament to the Esalen Alternative community that we are even asking these questions. Who goes to an academic conference and asks why one person is paid as keynote speaker and all others pay. Who asks in a hospital why allopathic obstetricians make the decisions on questions of birth and midwifes with more experience are silenced. How do we preserve desire and achievement while remaining empathic, caring and loving. It is my hope that we can continue to discuss these questions openly with the same intentions of trust and commitment achieved at this recent gathering – something achieved with great difficulty and in person.
I hope that we are able to continue the magic and militancy of our momentum by any means necessary and I urge again that we focus not on the pros and cons of Esalen itself, but on how we can make this happen more often. We should celebrate those who have donated so much to get this started and move perhaps to a more collectivist form of participation in which anyone who wants to come can come by contributing time, money, effort, or whatever is possible. “From each according to his ability to each according to his means.” True communism is a spiritual state not a political state.
In this vein, we should remember that “the state” was to wither away under communism. Ihave come to believe that a major mistake made by Hegel, Marx, and their followers is the stress put on the state. In Hegel’s Phenomenology of Spirit he believed that the ideal state had arrived in modern Europe and that the rest of the world would follow suit. This is the state where humans mutually recognize one another in their essential being. There is no longer work for a sovereign god, king, or master outside and neither is there war or rebellion against that sovereign. Rather there is work and struggle to bring spirit into existence in the form of a common human project. But this spirit is not outside of us, it is inside of us, in the form of absolute subjectivity, inner experience, and freedom: desire, choice, and autonomy. Only when the sovereign autonomy of each human – and each human moment – is recognized will man achieve mutual recognition in his radical difference – not as a part of any state or movement. In this case “the state” grows out of and is a loose conglomeration of autonomous beings or even autonomous moments of communion in and among those beings. To the degree that a practical state and its functional bureaucracy needs to exist it emanates from this spirit. The spirit of freedom and recognition will not grow out of this state. A state which guarantees citizenship will never achieve this goal, whether in Athens, the United States, or Elysium.