Daisetz Suzuki,  Erich Fromm - 1960


(Lectures by Dr. Suzuki and Erich Fromm at the University of Mexico, Cuernavaca,

and comparison between Zen and the objectives/techniques of psychoanalysis).




1.  Comparison between Eastern and Western approaches - in viewing a plant/flower, Easterners 'enter into' the nature of the flower to experience the world from the f1ower's perspective, while Westerners, to understand the object, dissect it and analyze all the separate components in detail, thereby losing the perspective of the whole in its un-fragmented sense. The fragmented, over-analyzed world of the machine-ridden, time clocked Westerner results in a machined, culturally conditional zombie who has lost his sense of life purpose. The Western religion (Christianity) talks of Logos, Word, the flesh , incarnation and tempestuous temporality.  Eastern religions strive for ex-carnation, silence, absorption, and eternal peace.


2.  We are all creative artists of life, our physical bodies being the artist's material (canvas/clay), with our nerves, thoughts, feelings and senses (i.e. the personality components) comprising  both the material on which, and the instruments with which, the person molds his creative genius into conduct, behaviour, forms of action and life itself, with his life reflecting every image he creates out of the in-exhaustive source of the unconscious, with every deed expressing originality, creativity and the artist's living personality.  The artist of life is "that man who is master of himself wherever he may be found, behaving truly to himself" (T'ang Zen master).


3.  This kind of unconscious is called the Cosmic, or Collective Unconscious, and it is intimately related to each of us, and when we can draw from it, we are relieved of every form of tension and are thoroughly at rest and peace with ourselves and with the world generally. 

Zen declares that the Tao (the unconscious path in our consciousness) is "one's everyday mind".


4.  The samurai so practiced their martial arts that they became buried in the unconscious, thus in war they did not have to consciously think but rather executed 'out of the unconscious’! 


5.  The Self 'abides' in the realm of absolute subjectivity -'abides' in the sense that it is a dynamic staticity, moving from zero to infinity, ever moving or ‘becoming’ (all the time in static, dynamic flow) and cycling back again, i.e. the Atman (internal reality) in Buddhism.


6.    "Everything without  tells the individual that he is nothing, while everything within  persuades him that he is everything” - the introspective feeling whispering in a still small voice that one is not born in vain.  Individuality marks off the Self, and through inter-personal relativity makes one conscious of the similar self asserting power in others; thereby we may be conditioned/influenced by each other’s manifesting power.


7.    In Zen, the Koans are paradoxical riddles which are impossible to solve through the intellect - it is only after the intellect (or ego) exhausts itself and turns the paradox over to the unconscious that the solution, or mystical secret, is 'seen'. The Koans themselves are seen as absurd ,if approached via the intellect, yet point to the most absurd of all questions (if we approach it intellectually) viz. "Whence do we come and whither do we go?" The Zen master advocates "You must not think with the head, but with the abdomen, with the belly". When the Zen master tells us to hold the Koan in the abdomen, he means that the Koan is to be taken up by one's whole being, that one has to identify oneself completely with it, not to look at it intellectually or objectively as if it were something we can stand away from.  The head/mind must bow to the soul.


8.  The totality of Cosmic consciousness, or divine will is, when in action, described as directed wisdom, plus love.


9. The six cardinal virtues of the Zen-man are: charity, precepts, humility, energy,   meditation and wisdom.




1.  At the beginning of the century, people coming to psycho­analysis were mainly those suffering from symptoms (i.e. paralyzed limbs, obsessional thoughts and actions).  Now the majority of patients are those suffering from an "inner deadness"; they are generally unhappy with their lives wherein success has lost its satisfaction. This inner deadness manifests in the individual as an alienation from self, others and nature.  Life poses the question - "how can we overcome the suffering, the imprisonment, the shame which the experience of separateness creates; how can we find union within ourselves, with our fellow man, with nature?"  One is driven to solve this Koan - even in insanity an answer is given by striking out the reality outside of ourselves, living completely within the shell of ourselves and thus overcoming the fright of separateness, or alienation.  The answers are only two: to find unity through regression to the pre-awareness state; or to be fully  born, to develop one's awareness, one's reason, one's capacity to live, to such a point that one transcends one's own egocentric involvement, and arrives at a new harmony or oneness with the world.


2. The evolution of man from fixation on mother and father, to the point of full independence and    enlightenment has been beautifully described by Meister Eckhart in "The Book of Benedictus":


·        "In the first stage the inner or new man, St. Augustine says, follows in the footsteps of good, pious people. He is still an infant at his mother’s breast.


·        "In  the second stage he no longer follows blindly the example even of good people.  He goes in hot pursuit of sound instruction, godly counsel, holy wisdom.  He turns his back on man and his face to God: leaving his mother's lap he smiles to his heavenly Father.


·        "In the third stage he parts more and more from his mother, draws further and further away from her breast.  He flees care and casts away fear.  Though he might with impunity treat everyone with harshness and injustice he would find no satisfaction in it, for in his love to God he is so much engaged with him, so much occupied with him in doing good: God has established him so firmly in joy, in holiness and love that everything unlike and foreign to God seems to him unworthy and repugnant.


·        "In the fourth stage he more and more grows and is rooted in love, in God.  He is ever ready to welcome any struggle, any trial, adversity or suffering, and that willingly, gladly, joyfully.


·        "In the fifth stage he is at peace, enjoying the fullness  of supreme ineffable wisdom.


·        "In the sixth stage he is de-formed and transformed by God's eternal nature.  He has come to full perfection and, oblivious of impermanent things and temporal life, is drawn, transported, into the image of God and becomes a child of God.  There is no further and no higher stage.  It is eternal rest and bliss.  The end of the inner and new man is eternal life."


3.    Well-being is possible only to the degree to which one has overcome one's narcissism, and is open, responsive,  sensitive, awake, empty (in the Zen sense), fully related to others and to nature affectively; to become what one potentially is; to have the full capacity for joy and for sadness; to be creative (of seeing the world as it is and experiencing it as my world, the world created and transformed by my creative grasp of it - so that the world ceases to be a strange world 'over there' and becomes MY world; to drop one's Ego, to give up greed, to be and to experience oneself in the act of being, not in having, preserving, coveting, using. 


4.    Most of what is in our consciousness is "false consciousness" and it is essentially society that fills us with these fictitious and unreal notions.  This 'social filter' permits certain experiences to be filtered through to our awareness, while others are stopped and held in the unconscious, e.g. not allowing the awareness of a subtle or complex experience (seeing a rosebud in the early morning, a drop of dew on it, while the air is still chilly, the sun coming up, a bird singing)   because the social filter does not consider such a multi-sense experience as sufficiently 'important' or 'eventful' to be recognized. 

Again, certain cultures do not form words or vocabulary to recognize perspectives of reality not seen as priority distinctions.  Different cultures have varied logic processes, and the logic of a reality can only be perceived through one's cultural social filter. The filter of one’s culture may not allow one to be aware of certain attitudes or inclinations taboo to the group.  The reason behind the social filter is that any society, in order to survive, must mold the character of its members in such a way that they want to do what they have to do; their social function must become internalized and transformed into something they feel driven to do, rather than something they are obliged to do.  Were the society to lose its coherence and firmness, many individuals would cease to act the way they are expected to, and society itself would be endangered.  In all societies there are taboos, the violation of which results in ostracism.  The individual, cravenly fearful of ostracism, cannot permit himself to be aware of thoughts or feelings inconsistent with his culture, and learns to repress them.

Consciousness represents ‘social’ man, the accidental limitations set by the historical situation into which an individual is thrown.  Unconsciousness represents universal man, the whole man, rooted in the Cosmos; it represents the plant in man, the animal in him, the spirit in him; it represents his past down to the dawn of human existence, and it represents his future to the day when man will have become fully human, and when nature will be humanized as man will be naturized.


5.    By repressing reality through the distorting cultural social filter, we "see as through a glass darkly (I Corinthians 13:11).  Again, via cerebration we see the experiences as being, if not distorted, unreal – e.g. I believe I see - but I only see words; I believe I feel, but I only think feelings.  The cerebrated person is the alienated person, the person in the cave (Plato) who sees only shadows and mistakes them for immediate reality.  This cerebrated alienation arises through the ambiguity of language.  In using words, people think they are transmitting the full experience.  The receiver thinks he sees the transmitted message, inasmuch as he employs his own personal meaning of the words - he thinks he feels it - yet for him, the receiver, there is no personal experience except that of his own memory and thought.  When he thinks he grasps reality, it is only his brain-self  that grasps it, while he, the whole man (eyes, hands, heart, belly) grasps nothing - in fact, he is not participating in the experience which he believes is his.


6.    Freuds solution for personal alienation was "to transform Id into Ego" i.e. to make the unconscious conscious, and in this process of enlarging consciousness to wake up, to lift a veil, to leave the cave, to bring light into darkness, similar to the "enlightenment" of Zen.  Spinoza asserted that intellectual knowledge is conducive to change only inasmuch as it is also affective knowledge - that intellectual knowledge by itself produces no change except perhaps in the sense that by intellectual knowledge of his unconscious strivings, a person may be better able to control them (but this is the goal of ethics). 

Discovering one's unconscious (i.e. the Id to Ego shift) is therefore not an intellectual act, but an affective experience, which can hardly be put into words; the act of self-discovery is a total experience.  High anxiety states will precede this 'conversion', and afterwards new strength and certainty are present.  The process of discovering the unconscious can be described as a series of ever widening experiences, which are deeply felt and which transcend theoretical, intellectual knowledge.


7.    The paradox for the analyst, to be effective in helping the patient better understand himself, is that the analyst cannot just 'interpret' the patient for him, but must, in effect, become the patient (and understand him from within the patient) while concurrently remaining himself; the doctor must forget that he is doctor, yet on another level be aware of it.  Then as the doctor analyzes the patient (from within the patient's self), the patient also analyzes the doctor, (from within the doctor) and the mutual revelations help the patient clarify himself and achieve a state of wholeness through the inter-communion.

Neither the analyst nor any person can SAVE another human being.  All one can do is act as guide or mid-wife, show the road, clear obstacles and lend empathy - the patient and only the patient can 'heal himself'.  As in Zen, the insight into one's own nature is not an intellectual one, standing outside, but an experiential one, being inside, as it were. 

To be effective, the process of either religion or analysis has to be free from any kind of outside authority.  One can be led, but not driven, to higher states of humanity.  The preacher/analyst may know more, and hence have the conviction of this knowledge, however his judgment cannot be imposed directly on the student.  Guides/midwives only.  The analyst cannot just feed interpretations to the student but rather - by stripping away layers of rationalizations - box the student into a "Koan corner' where he experiences the reality of his self-revealed truth, his own personal 'born again' awareness. (The movement of 'his' Id unconsciousness into his Ego reality).  The authentic psychoanalytic insight is sudden: it arrives without being forced or even premeditated.  It starts not in our brain but, to use the Zen image, in our belly.  It cannot be adequately formulated in words and it eludes one if one tries to do so; yet it is real and conscious, and leaves the person who experiences it a changed person.



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