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May 2006

To a guy with lots of soul...Happy Birthday, Siggy!

I haven't always been a fan of Sigmund Freud. If I don't count a brief fling with some of his introductory lectures on psychoanalysis during my senior year in high school, I could say that my intellectual appreciation flowed more toward the likes of Aldo Leopold, Eugene Odom, Ernst Mayer and Francis Crick. When certain life experiences in my late twenties shifted my passions to things metaphysical and psychological, it was Jung that I embraced, not Freud. In those days I could in fact have been counted among those hostile to Freud. Why was I hostile? A good question being that, of Freud's work, I had read only that little volume of essays as an adolescent and not understood much of it…consciously.

The day I was smitten with Freud and psychoanalysis was a day much like the one on which Kennedy was shot or that Challenger exploded in that I remember vividly my exact position in time and space at the moment of impact. I was in a crowded basement classroom at Naropa University where Dr. Ed Podvoll, founder of the contemplative psychotherapy program, was teaching one last class—The Interpretation of Dreams—before going on sabbatical. That evening Dr. Podvoll played an audiotape of the only known recording in English of the dream master himself, Sigmund Freud. The first words to hit my brain fused me to Freud and psychoanalysis in a way that to date has not been disrupted. What fires together wires together? I can't explain it. But whatever happened, I'm really glad it did.

Events around the world will celebrate Freud's 150th birthday today…and it will be a Freud bash of infinite variety. If an exhibit at the New York Academy of Medicine of Sigmund Freud's Neurological Drawings and Diagrams of the Mind doesn't stir your imagination, you can check out this lecture and discussion at the Dorot Jewish Division of the New York Public Library entitled Freud's Foreskin: A sesquicentennial celebration of the most suggestive circumcision in history. I imagine that I'll spend more time today thinking about my relationship to psychoanalysis and its founder, and to my training as an analyst.

When I began this journey my intention was to merge my spiritual path with this healing one. I couldn't have guessed they would converge in the brain. At about the same time that I became fascinated with Freud's Project for a Scientific Psychology, I found this passage in one of the major texts of my spiritual tradition:

By the brain wave or thought projections out of the material part of the brain, or the material-controlling aspects of the brain, we can see even today on certain equipment what the mind is capable of doing. But we have not explored sufficiently what the soul can do when awakened to itself, nor have we even begun to think in terms of what the spiritual Self—which also is connected, through the brain, the central cord and the deepest recess area in the brain, with all the other parts of the soul and body functions—can express. When this is tapped in upon it becomes another series of steps and evaluations. Then shall man truly say he has touched the spirit; with his mind, of course, with his heart, we hope, and with his scientific application.

There is much more that can be stated for the record, but it is not essential that you know it at the present level of discussion. It is essential that the information be recorded, within this particular series of revelations, that all things begin and end with the brain in the physical relationship to mind, spirit and soul essence. (Evolution of Man, pp.111-112)

All things begin and end with the brain in the physical relationship to mind, spirit and soul essence…no wonder I got goose bumps when I started reading the works of Alan Schore, Mark Solms and other founders of neuro-psychoanalysis! In an interview for an article in a special edition of The American Psychoanalyst Mark Smaller asked Mark Solms to summarize the goal of neuro-psychoanalysis. "We want to bring the soul into neuroscience," said Solms. "It's in line with what Freud wanted all along."

Oh, man, if this doesn't excite you, you may be as dead as some people think Freud is! I want to blog on about all this stuff, but for now I'll just wish Siggy a happy birthday…