Paper read in Princeton, Soul loss in modern society sept 1992
Owe Wikström University of Uppsala
Soul recovery through remystification
Dostoevsky as a challenger of modern psychology
Demystification and deconstruction – a scholarly legitimated ”Soul loss” – has been in focus i the social sciences throughout the last decades. Dostoevsky is in my opinion an important counter figure as a remystificator and reconstructivist. He manages to balance a respect for the ungraspable character of man with an empirical, realistic approach. He labels this position ”real realism” (Linnér 1967).
I can still remember the day very well. We sat close to the shore on the island of Rhodos in the Greek archipelago. It was 6.30 in the evening. My wife Agneta and I had rented a scooter and crisscrossed the island during the day. This evening in August 1969 will always stay in my mind. Nothing happened in the outer world. Agneta was talking to the owner ot the small restaurant. We planned to stay at the place overnight. She shouted to me to come and have dinner.
But I was so filled with an internal epic world that I did not react. With an uninterrupted intensity my eyes followed the lines of Dostoevskys Crime and Punishment(1866). The axe in the hands of the young student Raskolnikov had just hit the head of the old pantbroker murdering her brutally. Deeply convinced that it was not only possible but necessary to take the law in his own hands – and for a good sake – he had to kill her. In his mind it was pure logic; since injustices were continually committed by the old ugly and evil woman, it was his obligation to kill her. The axe split her head.
I remember that Agneta was quarrelling with me late that evening. But I stayed out on the balcony of the hotel and read the whole night through. A quarter past six in the morning I had finished the book. I went to the taverna and got a cup of coffee together with the fishermen returning from the sea.
What happened with Raskolnikov? ”Raskol” means split. Dostoevsky tells us that to kill another is equal to killing oneself. After the murder he became deeply ambivalent and threw away the money. The rest of the book is partly a criminal story, partly a love story but most of all – a narrative that demonstrates deep insight into la condition humaine.
I can still feel in my body my excitement and my sorrow for Raskolnikov, his crime, his struggle with his consiousness and finally his confession after having met the humble Sonya, his beloved (”Sonya” or Sofia means wisdom). She became the mediatior of his repressed guilt feelings, she helped him to take his responsibility and finally, because of her, he managed to confess. Later she followed him to prison in Siberia.
From that moment on – that afternoon in Greece – Dostoevsky became my multifaced and provocative theologian and psychologist. He has always followed me in clinical and scholarly training, as a psychotherapist, as a hospital chaplain, as a researcher in psychology of religion and as a teacher. He has become an important literary counterfigure to the theoretical and practical perspectives provided by the academic society and the psychiatric clinics I have been working in.
i Dostoevsky´s paradox
The memory of Raskolikov´s brutual murder and his psychological reactions has became to a crystallization point or a condensed symbol for me. Throughout his novels Dostoevsky constantly reminds his readers that logical rationality is just one side of man. One may never exclude man´s ethical awareness or emotional irrationality. Morality and spirituality remain as important as the body, the psyche or society in spite of (or, maybe better; due to) its unmeasurable character. The description of man as a rational being, conditioned by his societal surroundings and intrapsychological forces, must always be completeted by respect for the mystery of man. The laws of causality must be combined with a finalistic understanding of man due to the autonomy of the individual. One has to be aware of the burden and dignity of freedom. Because human beings are a mixture or synthesis of spirit and nature, their behavior is a product of both free decisions and various forms of conditioning.
Therefore, the moral and spiritual dimension of men can neither be separated from nor reduced to his psychological and societal conditions. This paradox is the point of departure for Dostoevsky´s effort to recover the soul of man. In this respect he can offer contemporary social scientists and psychologists an important contribution as a counterfigure. (Kravchenko 1978, Breger 1989).
Let me take my point of departure in my own field; the psychology of religion. Of course, we can never abandon the efforts to construct models and theories of man interacting with his religous culture, to collect data, make intense field studies, observe, categorize and operationalize. The scholars have to be aware of difficult logical, hermeneutical and methodological steps and risktakings in their effort to generate knowledge (whatever that means) in the field.
However, if we are true to our data, there always remains a mystery; the experience of human freedom and responsibility. I think it is of immence importance to always remind oneself of this point of unpredictability in the study of the indivudual man – not in order to create an unsophisticated and chaotic scientific anarchy but in order to be true to one´s observations of man. In that sense, the realm of autonomy in man can be said to represent one of our effort to capture the concept of ”soul”. This is where Dostoevsky comes in. He tried to be a ”real realist”.
Working in an academic community on problems of man´s religiosity I have also found it necessary to complement the scientific endeavour with stories told by the great authors. I often ask my students to read and live inside the different epic universes of the classic novelists. I want them to link psychological theories to those fictional figures that exist as ”living persons” in our common cultural heritage, those figures who are struggling with the meaning of life, the absence or presence of a divine reality or man´s existential predicaments. To read the classic´s is another way to recover the soul or to reconstruct the individuality that often professionaly is lost due to the (necessary) de-construction of man legitimated in psychology. Thus Strindberg, Hesse, Camus, Proust and above all Dostoevsky are important writers – especially from the perspectives of psychology of religion.
These writers do not only illustrate religious and psychological themes. They actively contribute important insights that sometimes have been forgotten in ordinary academic psychology. It is the privilege of an author to mirror the general through the individual. In this sense he is a kind of scientist; N=1. That is presumably why his books are still read. We recognize today ourselves in them. Our reading is a kind of validation Dostoevskys ”theories”.
In his novels Dostoevsky manages to combine three dimensions in one. Literary high quality, psychological insights and philosophical/theological dilemmas are incarnated in his figures. They do not only think of the theodicé problem but they feel and act in relation to it, they do not only discuss the question of the reality of God, but they feel close to, damned or separated from him (Linnér 1975).
Dostoevsky is a soul recoverer in two ways. First, he actively points to the point of mystery where man´s autonomy and spirituality is situated and he does it in an empirical manner. Second, he manages to create gestalts in his novels where body, psyche, spirituality and morality is closely connected. The split picture of man is kept together and incarnated in his authorship.
Dostoevsky and the dilemma of de- and reconstruction
There are many Dostoevskys. He is both a comforter and an anarchist, he creates fertile and stimulating new connections in his novels. He is a spiritual guide with romantic and idealistic overtones. He is the fifth evangelist. But most of all – he is a Soul recoverer, due to his stressing of man´s dual, ir/rational character.
My professional training has been concentrated on different soul loss projects, i. e., reducing man in his individuality to abstract but general concepts like ”psyche”, ”ego”, ”self”,” I”, ”Self – object” (in the intrapsychic schools) or to his ”interaction” with his fellow men, internalizing ”significant others” or the ”generalized Other” (the social psychological schools). The reading of Dostoevsky helps me keep in mind the necessity of emphasis on the mysterious character of every individual man. However, he manages to combines this respect for the integrity of the unicity of the individual man´s soul with a remarkable empirical approach. His soul recovery, due to his effort to ”remystify” is paradoxically a result of observations.
As a thoroughgoing late ninteteenth century realist writer he was interested in scientific ”demystification” of his time. Thus, he very consciously tried to understand man in terms of his political, social, psychological or even physiological conditions, and he was well read in contemporary psychiatry, psychology, neurology, criminology etc. But, even if he – in terms of Ricoeur – honored the hermenenutics of suspicion, he always returned to the second naivité. He restored man to his basically infinite, complex nature as carrier of a mystery. This is something Dostoevsky saw in his years of working prisoncamps in Siberia, in his long struggle with epilepsy and roulette syndroms, and in his countless observations of crime and punishments.
He claims that if the respect for that mystery of man – corresponding to the mystery of God – disappears, something fundamental is lost. If logic, mathematical models and societal or emotional conditions are the only ways to describe and understand man, man unconsciously will defend his autonomy. Therefore it was important for Dostoevsky – through his figures – to fight against nothing-but-ness. If terms like choice, guilt and responsibility are disappearing, mankind will eventually kill itself – like Raskolnikov did when he followed his rationality alone. One must remember how Sonya respeonded after he finally had confessed his crime to her: ”What have you done to yourself?!” She did not ask what he had done to the old lady or to her family even to God. Dostoevsky´s main point by letting Sonya ask Raskolnikov this very question is to demonstrate that life is more than rationality and that other people are parts of oneself.
Dostoevsky´s underlining of man´s ungraspable character was however not a mystification in terms of unclear thinking. But logic and rationality are not sufficient to explain man. If man is only understood as nothing-but or a-function-of something psychological or societal, his essence is lost. Especially there is a risk, claims Dostoevsky, that the sciences dealing with man are raised to an inflated position. Wissenschaftsaberglaube is the danger of the medical scientists or the psychologists. They must refer their observations to their own conceptual systems and therefore keep the ungraspable outside. Unconsciously their science can become their total worldview.
Thus Dostoevsky elucidates – but he also manage to keep together – the dilemma every psychological researcher and clinician meets when they are dealing with individuals; to respect the autonomy and identity of a very specific individual (soul) and combine it with the necessary reduction of man in terms of general societal models or psychological theories (not soul). Or to turn it to psychology of religion; to both deconstruct a religious phenomenon in terms of its social and psychological genesis and simultaneously claim its sui-generic character ( Wikström 1990 and 1993 a).
Depression as an illustrative case
It has been claimed that every psychology must in higher or lesser degree reduce or ignore the question of man´s soul. The main task of psychology is said to generate theories, terms and models and to test them´on the basis of empirical or experienced reality. In the efforts to find ”variables” to relate to other ”variables” one is pressed to minimize the psychological reality and exclude the question of soul. Or if we turn to psychodynamic traditions: in order to see the emotional or intrapsychological factors one has to limit the perspectives. This is necessary and fruitful.
For example, in my practice as a psychotherapist I have to think in technical terms like ”How do I find a working alliance with the conscious ego structure of the other”. I use theoretical concepts in my thinking in order to be aware of and be able to communicate to other therapists and supervisors what I see and feel. At the same time I must constantly be aware of the unpredictability and ungraspable character of my patient, my fellow man. The mystery of man and the not-mystery of man must be in the conversation and in my mind at the same time. To be a container of this paradox is a heavy task but important for the integrity of the patient and the professional nature of the treatment.
Last week I was sitting in a clinical meeting. We were discussing the treatment of a religious patient; John. He had recieved the diagnosis ”atypic depression”(296.82) according to DSM III, the psychiatric handbook. The family therapist described his symtoms in terms of ”double bind” and ”pathological interactions”. The psychoanalyst understood his problems in terms of ”cathexes” and grief processes not ”worked through”. Her colleague, the objectrelation-theorist, talked in terms of reminiscenses of ”the depressive position”. His suffering was described in terms of egostructure, selfdevelopment or as a sum of early but bad introjects. In our conversation John´s religious depression was understood in functional terms – as an interaction beween his religious symbolic universe and his intrapsychological make-up. The medical professionals, in their turn understood John´s problems as biochemical disturbances. The hospital chaplain formulated John´s melancholia as a ”dysfunctional cognitive meaning system” and ”loss of spiritual support”. John´s suffering was objectified, but John, the sufferer was professionally ignored.
All professionals were using concepts from their own scientific language games. They described the patient in terms of a general discourse taken from their respective institutional trainings. John was for all of them de-constructed in terms of something else. Or to turn it around, the reified ”knowledge” due to their respective social constructions of psychological ”reality” was projected on the defenseless patient. But who was right? All perspectives ? One specific perspective, a combination of all perspectives or none at all? Maybe the questions of right or wrong are inadeqate in this case. Pragmatic criteria are more important. In the supervision room all the professionals dealt with a necessary and scientifically legitimated de-construction or soul loss. But who identified, cared for and cultivated the reconstruction or the restoration of John?
Reconstruction of the ungraspable
The deconstruction of man´s soul has now become more and more sophisticated. To demystify is to be scientific. But what is happening when the models of man atomize, reify and objectify the individual and make man´s mystery measurable? Is the question of the proposed ghost in the machine still relevant? I think so. Dostoevsky stressed this opinion. To respect man´s autonomy, responsibility and dignity means to restore his inherent value. It is the also the basis for democracy.
Of course psychology as a science has to deconstruct the multidimensionality of man and generate models that make it possible to understand the unique individual in terms of more general ”laws” or dynamics. But I see in modern psychology a risk that the individuality of man can be reduced to metanarratives like physical laws, semantic structures, psychodynamic forces or social processes. The necessary methodological reduction can – if unobserved by the researcher – be translated into ontological reductionism. The consequences are professional loss of soul.
Dostoevsky was searching for realism, but a realism on another level than his contemporary writers. He wanted a realism that took ad notam man´s longing for something unseen as a reality, and that legitimated man´s moral consiousness as something that could not fully be understood in terms of psychological or biological conditions or a social contract. Of course this is a threat for ordinary science. But maybe this is why he seems to survive many, many forgotten psychologists.
To summarize, when the social sciences´ necessary deconstruction of the human being crosses the borders or passes the barriers, their theories become reality constructors: ”Society” exists. ”The generalized Other” exists. ”Super ego” exists. ”Objectrelations” exist. But the human Soul is lost.
My point is that reconstruction of man or the restoration of man has to be conquered again, without losing what we have learned in the journey through social and behavior sciences of religion. One part of the second naivité is the remystification. Here Dostoevsky can be of importance. Why? He points to the problem of the risks and advantanges with the deconstruction of man but also to the fragility of every construction of the ”psychological knowledge” of man.
ii Soul loss, modernity and psychology.
Man was the center of the Age of Enligthenment. The science of psychology was founded on a conception of individual subjects, with internal souls and later internal psychic apparatus. Man became the center of the universe. The idea of the primacy of the individual´s rationality, íts progressions and development, are part of this very tradition. After Hiroshima and Auschwitz it has become difficult to uphold a belief in general progress solely by means of scientific and technical rationality.
But the latest evolution of psychology seem to have decentered the individual subject. Individuality is dissolved into physiology or ensembles of social relations and linguistic structures. The soul is lost.
When the classic scholar Bloom discusses the social sciences in his book ”The Closing of the American Mind” (1986) psychology is only credited with a footnote: psychology is mysteriously disappearing from the social sciences. Its unheard of success in the real world may have tempted it to give up its theoretical life. In the Massachusets Institute of Technology the Department of Psychology was recently dissolved to become integrated into a new department, ”Brain and cognitive Science”.
Except for theoretical contributions of psychoanalysis and the current popularization in the therapeutic market, psychology has little to tell other sciences or the public at large. I think that is due to its professional unawareness of the soul loss.
A visit to the psychology shelves of a university bookshop evokes a feeling of boredom. Here are the standard textbooks, the collected works of Freud and Jung, the multitude of therapeutic help-yourself paperbacks, and some hard cognitive science books. The new provocative insights about man in current culture are more likely to be found in the shelves for literature, art and anthropology.
After the great personality theories were developed, nothing seems to have happened. The development of humanistic psychology was caught in its opposition to behaviorism, and cognitive psychology has taken over the hegemony of behaviorism, replacing the white rat with the computer and substituting the grand theories by eclectic models. Let me describe some traits in the professional ”soul loss” project (Kvale 1990).
A crisis concerning the search for legitimation in external contexts of meta-narratives was prominent in classical psychology. Analogies to physics garanteed psychology status as a science. Also in recent humanistic psychology there is a quest for respectability by appealing to external frames of references, like phenomenology, hermeneutics, existentialism etc. Such metanarratives that made it possible to deconstruct – in terms of something that was ”true” or at least provisory true – are questioned.
Commensurability was the main theme of psychology, science sometimes being equated with quantification. The credo of natural science invaded psychology; ”go forth and make all mankind measureable – and commensurable”. The antithesis became a retreat to the uniqueness of the individual self rather than focusing on the complete contextual rootedness of man´s activity in his specific language and culture.
The joint basis for the many controversies between behaviorism and humanism has been the abstraction of man from his context. Both the behavioral laws of nature as well as óf humanistic self-actualization have rested on up-rooting man from his local and lived world, from his social interaction and network. A decontextualization of man from his specific culture plus the study of behavior or consciousness abstracted from of its cultural roots was in one way an effort to keep the individual person together. This very decontextualized person was the subject matter of the psychologist.
Thus, the self seems no longer to be the absoute point of departure, a self-contained entity, but a network or ensemble of relations. The individual is spread out; I am a part of the greater societal Self.
Modernity designates any science that legitimates itself with references to a metadiscourse, making an explicit or implicit appeal to some grand narrative, such as the dialectics of the Spirit, the hermeneutics of meaning or the creation of social or psychological laws. In contrast to these metadiscourses one now can observe a corrosion of legitimations. Postmodernity indicates a condition after the utopias are dead.
When the rationality presupposed by the psychologistsseldom is found in the given reality then another ”deeper”, more essential reality is constructed to account for the disorder we observe in the world around us. This overstressed conception of rationality has in its turn fostered a sceptical counterreactions in the form of romanticism and irrationalist movements.
But still rationality is expanding. Thinking goes beyond the cognitive and scientific domain nowatimes. It also includes the ethical and esthetical domains of life. Classical modernity held a restricted concept of rationality. It was limited to formal or technical rationality. It was a concentration of methods, programs, plans, predictions and control. Respect for the esthetical or the ethical dimensions of man was maintained.
The Kantian split between science and morality is now questioned and there is an attempt to rehabilitate the ethical dimensions in the understanding of man. The professional split between facts and values can no longer be sustained. One claims for example that art is not only a cultural activity. It is a form of ”knowing” the world. Just a few years ago rationalists claimed that the non-linear did not exist. Yet today even mathematics can describe fractals as ”beautiful”.
Action may never be what it appears to be: it was always understood in terms of something under the surface; a deeper reality or laws, a symptom of basic sexual instincts or economic forces etcetera. There is an ongoing pursuit of the underlying plan or rationale to explain what manifestly appears.
A postmodern attitude relates to what is given, rather than what has been or what could be. The fervent critical attitude of the sixties and seventies – as antiauthoritarian and anti-capitalistic – has dissolved. An attitude of tolerant indifference has replaced the involvement in and commitment to the social movement and inner journeys, what is left is living, here and now. Fascination may take the place of reflection, seduction may replace argumentation.
To the existentialist the discovery of a world without meaning was tragic; today´s loss of unitary meaning is merely accepted´: ”that is just the way the world is”. Man has stopped waiting for Godot. The aburd is not met with despair; there is rather a living with what is, making the best out of it, a happy nihilism. With the death of the utopias, the local and personal responsibility for actions here and now, becomes important. The autonomy of the individual returns, the soul is partly recovered but only in the local arena not at the universal level.
The classical dichotomy between the universal and the individual, between society and the unique person is more and more abandoned. Men is a self stretched out between what it is and what it ought to be. Both universal laws or the unique self are seen as abstractions from one´s being-in-the-world. Instead of talking of general laws as something objectively given and the individual as a subject and something relative, a pragmatic criteria and contextual relativism have evolved. The legitimations is rather done through action or linguistic praxis.
When the grand metanarratives collapsed, the local came into focus. Small, heterogeneous and changing language games replaced the global meaning systems. But stressing the local is not only a withdrawal of global meaning structures. From our perspective it is something that goes beyond the old polarity universal and the individual, the objective and subjective.
Finally when the human language is said to be neither universal nor individual but rooted in a specific culture as dialects, philosophy more and more must deal with language acts, linguistic analyses. Consequently the basic ontological questions are nonsensical for no metalanguages, what so ever, can exist. Nothing can be true or morally good in an absolute way. Language is not copying or mirroring reality. Rather language constitutes reality or better – each language constructs specific aspects of reality in its own way.
This is precisely where the risks of the language of psychology come in – Dostoevsky would have claimed. The reality of psychology is namely a social construction. No one has ever seen ”transference”, a ”projection” or a ”super ego””. They are all concepts used in small segments of subcultures of the society. But there is so to speak an ongoing ontologizing of these terms and therefore a reification of man among psychologists.
Now, alltogether there is a turning point both for psychology as a science and for the soul. The very esse in psychology, the I, is disappearing. The main focus of language or man´s interaction implies a decentralization of the subject. I am not using the language instead the language is speaking through me. The individual is just a medium for his language and culture.
This very Soul loss – legitimated in terms of postmodernism and extreme contextualism – is partly questioned by ego psychologists, humanists and the cognitive scientists but also by Dostoevsky. His questions are more modern than ever. Maybe we can call him a post-post-modernist-psychologist. Man´s experienced and observed responsibility must be in the center of our understanding of man and built in to a general anthropology. The mysterious autonomy is the base for a democratic society. Man´s longing for the unseen must also be taken at face value. The moral consciousness and the spiritual realms of man asks for a center in man – and why not call this his Soul?
iii Dostoevsky as a ”real realist” and soul recoverer
The Russian Orthodox church, which strongly influenced Dostoevsky stresses man in his totality in contrast to the churches in the west. The concept of the heart is central. Russian theology is for example more concentrated on the symbols in the liturgy than on systematic dogmatic thinking. Faith is generated through participation in the ceremonies more than to a committment or a conversion.
If we prefer psychoanalytic concepts, russian orthodox piety is far more concerned with primary than secondary processes, more with regression in the service of ego than strengthening the defense mechanisms.
The Church, the sacred music, the icons, the smell of incense and the gestures in the divine liturgy activates dimensions of man´s capacity other than the intellellect.
Therefore there is a link between the mystery of man and the mystery of God both in the theological god-talk and in the ritual language game and semiotic. God is only possible to grasp through symbols. The symbols used are evocative. Through the symbol the symbolized is channeled, but there always remain a hidden part, something unseen. This fact must be respected. And as even man is a symbol, an icon, something in him belongs to the ungraspable.
”Knowledge”, therefore, is not something exclusively for ratio but belongs to the whole men. Truth, Goodness and Beauty have the same genesis; God. They are witnesses in man´s psyche of the Absolute from which he has come and to which he will return.
Dostoevsky´s psychological thinking is thus colored by his christian faith. Therefore his psychology is ontological. It takes its departure in man´s being in the world but it is supported by his empirical observations that make him sure of man´s mysteriosity.
In theological concepts – one consequence of the fall is man´s freedom. Man has the capacity and need to act from his own decision. The specific character of man is not that he is material or that he belongs to the cosmos. The unique is instead what separates him from the creation and links him to his creator. The mixture of explicable causality and responsible finality is seen in the classical symbol of Gen 2:7. Man is both chained in causal law and free to raise himself above them. This is the paradox of man; mans soul.
This theological paradox is mirrored in the two concepts often used in Dostoevskys time ”personalism” and ”individuality”. The individual is a member of a given society, it is man in his biological and social existence. But the person exists in the individual, it is original and his spiritual and unexplicable center. The ”person” is qualitatively something else than all the parts of which individuality is built.
The term ”person” is in its turn linked to morals and values. Man´s capacity to feel responsibility and guilt cannot be understood only in terms of upbringing or socialization. The not inviolable is instead a gift. Maximus Confessor calls man´s basic consiousness a ”cosmic drive”, a longing back to man´s original birth. Life emanates from God. The entrance of faith into man is located on an elementary, vital level – even below moral and intellectual distinctions.
All these theological and philosophical considerations exists of course as a background to Dostoevsky´s way of tellings us that man is something ”more” than his conditions. However, he came to this conclusion through observations rather than by just imposing idealistic thinking to his fictive figures. He was a ”real realist”. He searched for a realism that included the possibility (but not necessity) of mans spirituality.
The psycho-physiological or the social context does not fully explain, and can not fully explain man. There is a mediating structure between stimuli and response in men that is not understandable in terms of biology or cultural surroundings. Always there is a zone of autonomy, a space of integrity. Without it man only exists as a link in a chain of causality, a cog in a the machinery or an evolutionary artefact.
In the 1840s romantic idealism lost its grip on the Russian writers. The French social realism of Balzac, Hugo and George Sand created more and more physiological scenarios – society became important.
Both Gogol and Dostoevsky wrote about the real society. But Gogol was first and foremost a social realist writer where Dostoevky is a psychologist. For Gogol the individual is a representative of a particular society or subworld . For Dostoevsky society is interesting only inso far as it has influece on the individual´s psyche (Fanger 1965). Society is, so to speak, always filtered though an individual psyche – where other determinants are found – , man´s autonomy – or Soul.
Realistic truth and moral authority were in Dostoevsky´s way of thinking intimately related. He considered himself therefore to be a better realist – or in our terms a better scholar or scientist – than those of his contemporaries. A letter written 1869 is applicable to the whole of his production. ”I have my own view of reality, and what most people call almost fantastic and exceptional, is for me sometimes the very essence of the real. Everyday trivialities and a conventional view of them, in my opinion, are not only short of realism, but even contrary to it” (Linnér 1967,92). Moral and existential extremes like the saintlike Furst Mysjkin in The Idiot or Ivan Karamazov, the atheist, must therefore not be reduced to manifestations of peculiar mental dispositions.
”Classical realism” recognized only one level of reality, that which deals with this world. To describe the Inferno or the Paradise meant to them to step outside its bounds. When Dostoevsky made realism his genre, he therefore placed himself in a paradoxical situation. His realism was neither romantic nor idealistic but ”real” in another – inclusive – way. His picture of the world and men after all, obviously contained possibilites for other than earthly realitites. These were built in in his anthropology and epistemiology.
But he never offered his readers his own opinion. Nowhere in the novels does he himself declare that a God exists and than men is immortal; instead he inserts for example the pious monk Zosima´s teaching or the godly Sonya´s example into his histories. These passages are in the context completely natural, in line with the character and previously history of the person in question. In other words, Dostoevsky opens doors to the supra-real, but he himself does not take the step out over realism´s threshold into that world. This made it all the more important for him to make his saintly portraits convincing. They must possess the same credibility as other figures.
Dostoevsky never takes steps outside realism. The pious monk Zosima´s remarks about eternal life etc., can therefore be accepted both for a Christian or an atheist reader. The ambiguity of this perspective resembles Dostoevsky´s treatment of the demonic. His description of the devil´s appearance to Ivan Karamazov can be interpreted as an hallucination, Dostoevsky himself pointed himself out those psychiatric aspects (Rice 1985). But it can also be understood as a real devil. The conversation between the eldest brother Ivan Karamazov and the devil demonstrates such a dual perspective. He leaves it to the reader to decide. His cast of characters is not divided into idealistic or real people. The ideas of the ”other world” is as true as not true. He respects the integrity of his own figures.
Life rather than logic
No statistics are needed to show that ”sudden” and unexpected behavior is a trait of Dostoevky´s characters. His figures´ psychological and moral impulsiveness startles both others and themselves – not to mention the reader. One hears occasionally that their behaviour is unmotivated. Proust says that the writer does not show us the reasons for his character´s actions. He merely states that the causes are eclipsed by the behavior they explain. There is a splendid unpredictability. But Dostoevsky himself once made a little comment on psychological causality. ”Let us not forget”, he writes in The Idiot, ”that the causes of human actions are infinitely more subtle and varied than we – always in retrospect – explain them and they can rarely be clearly outlined. The best thing a writer can do is sometimes to limit himself to a simple presentation of the events” (6:547). This is not an expression of chaotic indeterminism. All Dostoevsky is asserting is that the close connection beneath even apparently simple actions may be enormously complex. And especially that sometimes the mysterious life is more important to just accept than to understand its meaning.
Dostoevsky argues in his meandering way ”perhaps the goal on earth towards which mankind is striving consists merely of this incessant process of trying to arrive, in other words, in life itself and not really in the goal that must be formulated as a rule; two plus two is four. But that two plus two equal four is not life but the beginning of death” (4:160). A few pages earlier he speaks of the limits of our reason, which satisfies only our intellectual faculty. Reason represents but a twentieth part of our total capacity for living, and that is insufficient. ”Man´s nature function as a whole, together with everything conscious or unconscious that is found within it, and it lives even if it lies (4:155). As a moral guidepost the Underground Man is admittedly problematic, but here he has the full support of the author. If we fail to recognize the irrational needs within us, we loose our identity, our humanity. We are reduced to piano keys or organ pipes, when what men need is to be humans beings. Life had taken the place of dialectics Dostoevskys says. In the end we lose sight of the hero Raskolnikov (5:573). We read that Raskolnikov was unable to concentrate on any single thought that evening when he murdered and he could no longer make any conscious decisions ”he could only feel” This breakthrough implies that reflection has been dethroned in the psychological hierachy and replaced by mysterious emotions. In other words: life instead of dialectics.
To summarize. If we transfer Dostoevsky´s world to the contemporary psychologist´s soul loss his message will be: ”Go and look for a psychology that mirrors the real reality where questions of the transcendence are not automatically included or excluded but respected”. The ”principles of exclusion of the transcendent” has been the rule in the psychology of religion since the days of Theodore Flournoy. In recent years Wulff seems to support a psychology where the transcendence is included apriori. (Wulff 1991, 639). I think both are reductionistic, the one towards a pure functionalism and the other towards essentialism
Of course psychology or sociology of religion can not claim that there exists something hidden in the machine. But they can at least try to reconstruct man after the scientifically legitimated deconstruction. And in this restorative process the psychologist may use tools where the ungraspable character of man is not filtered away, so – why not read Dostoevsky ?
This afteroon I have been sitting in two different rooms. For two hours I was sitting in the hospital together with a young patient of mine, Fred, who sometimes is hallucinating. Fred is now deeply convinced that he met two angels the last time he visited the hamburger restaurant Mc Donalds. They were whispering messages to him from God and now he is so sad that he cannot remember what they told him. Fred is totally reality oriented and he functons very well with his family and his job. His problem is that he has fallen into a trap. It is partly due to the incapacity of the psychiatrist to allow or legitimate his ”mystical (?)” experiences in their own right. The same can be said about his Pastor. Johns experiences are challenging his authority – grace must be channelled through the Bible and/or the Sacraments. Neither of them legitimatet a double perspectives: that his experiences of the angel must stand on its own feet rather than immediately being enlarged or reduced to a theological or a psyhiatric metadiscourse. I was thinking of Dostoevsky´s real realism.
Later the same evening the doctoral seminarians and I were discussing the concept of ”truth”, ”truth claimings” and ”illusion and reality” in Freud´s writings and the concept ”the transitional space” of Winnicott. One of my students said -”Well prof, aren´t concepts like ”transitional space”, or ”reconstruction towards second naivité” fundamental provisory and only mirroring the very, very old insight that has always existed and always must exist; man is more than his conditions. I agreed.
1986 The Closing of American Mind. New York:Schuster
1989 Dostoevsky. The Author as Psychoanalyst. NewYork:
New York University Press.
1972 The Brothers Karamazov . Transl D.Magarshack. London:Penguin
1965 Dostevsky and romantic Realism: Cambridge Mass.
1978 Dostoevsky and the Psychologists. Amsterdam: Adolf M Hakkert.
1990 Postmodernism and Psychology. The Humanist Psychologist, vol 18:35-54.
1967 Dostoevsky on Realism. Uppsala: Almqvist & Wiksell.
1975 Starets Zosima in the Brothers Karamazov. A study in the mimesis of virture. Acta Universitatis Upsaliensis, Stockholm Studies i Russian literature 4.
Rice, James L.
1985 Dostoevsky and the Healing art: An essay in Literary and Medical History. Ann Arbour: Ardis Publishers.
1990 Ritual studies in the History of religions; a Challenge for the Psychology of Religion: in Current Studies on Rituals. Perspective for the Psychologyy of Religion. International Series in the Psychology of Religion Amsterdam – Atlanta:Rodopi,57-71.
(1993a) God as ”acting Agent” in Psychotherapy.
Theoretical remarks.In Clinical psychology of Religion. Proceedings from a Colloquium in Krakow, Poland dec 1990, Amsterdam: Rodopi.
(1993b) Psychology in the Phenomenology of Religion. A critical essay. In Religion and Mental Health.ed Brown L, New York: Springer.
1991 Psychology of Religion. Classic and Contemporary. New York: John Wiley & Sons Inc.
(Moral, ecstacy, or what Jaspers claim to be the limit questions. But he does these claimings without idealizing or gnostizising the persons described. One can maybe call him biological existentialist or empirical theologian. When Dostoevsky is writing on freedom of man he does not do it in an intellectual or academic way. There is a splendid unpredictablity is his writing. He seems to be a neary experimental researcher when he let his different subjecs meat hate, love or have guiltfeelings.
But there is an ungoing dialecis in his writings. The logical man can be overwhelmed by his feelings. Man is challenged. The good man can expereince evil impulses and the eviol one can long for goodness.
dearly all psychologist has been interesed i him, like Kohlberg, Freud, adler, ung Piaget.
Dostoevsky was interested in his contemporary psychology. Up to the medium of 1900 th century psyclogy was mainly undrstod in terms of philosophy or theological anthropolgy. Through the experimental physics and biology man was more understod. In late 1900 th century there was a fight between two wings. Teh left revolutionalry wig atheistic or materialistic angle and a theological and philosophical on the other.The discussion was more in cafés in pamphlets and in student rooms. Particiapators of this debt came from all segmetns of society, docors, poets, journalists, priests, layers. Psyhchoogy was not cut off from the formla anthropological assumtios behind the theories as they are now. Now, the basic ontologivcal and epistemiogical questions are out of sight.
The idalistic school – they were called metaphysics – they were mainly dualists. They were close to the direction called faculcy psychologists. they descriend memory, will, thaoungt as ”movements in the sould”. ’they accepted without questions moral and estethical qualities as psychical processes. they underined the roles of the ideas. they stress the reality character and the value of moral reasoning.
The materialistic branch of psychology instead put the basis of psychologicla processes in the brain and discussed their tthemes in terms of natural laws.Psychology cn only be studied in an objective manner if one excluded the obseving self. There two brances wer figting in D time.
D is not esy to plce in this dichotomy between idealism and rationalism. That make him so modern. He question both positions as too simplyfying. it has to do with his way of understanding realism. D ws very impressed of Balzac.
When D started as eginiereing education he was very much colored by the metaphysical colored romantiscism especially Schelling. His philosophically irrationalism enlightens this when he answers his brother To know, what do you mean by that. Nature, soul, love and God – all thes can be recognized by your heart, ot understood by your intellect. It isonly the heat that is the true mean to reach the knowledge of man.
. But dostevskyst fasnination of the phantastic never disappeared. Between freedom and bounness, between evil and god, between God and the devil pendels his figures.
His realism is of anohter sort. Two pole can be seen. One cliamd that art and literature is dwelling high above contemorary society. And the ohter claimd that art must be nyttig, Throung finding uinjustisces provided the literature society with new critical knowledge.
D claimed a third direction. as a realist he claimed that reality was the main data for the writer.But, here it comes his way of looking upon reality was deepern than the understandig of his days and especially of his materialistic critics. First of all he claied that in pinciple there is no difference between fantasy and reality. Reality included the ungraspable, the mystery. So, the more one understood of realitu the less fantasy must be included. On the opposite, the more you must understand taht man is irrational,
I hve my views about the art and the phantasy and the legacu if that in art. Fantasy are facts that must be taken at face value.
the radical realism and to write about how it really ”is” seems to ’D pointelss. Reality must necessarily be colored by the experiencing subject.. the purpos of the writer is to spränga the border of reality. Inside the so called reality there is another realm, the fantasy, which is of ytterly importance for the writer. Thus, this sentence is classical :” The fantastic must be so intimately linked to the real that you nearly have to believe in it”. One have tried to understand his writings in terms of fantastisc realism”. By this means not only a gestalt of realism with fantastic passages. It means a distrust to realism that is close to naturalism and ’factiscism”. Instead the auther must me dressed i his soul as a message of moral character. Without any direction of moral, religious or estethical character there is impossible to be acontignent with the human reality one want to mirror in ones writing.
To include beauty and moralily in the says at the same time that he stresses that there is a link between the beauto and the good. The esteticla is not as by Kierkegaard something that has to be overcome. Instead it is Män can live without bread and science. But they canot live without beauty. Beauty is valuable because it makes man better. as Schiller D is prepared to identigy beaty with the good ad moral heights. He can even talk of that beaty shall save the world.
There is a paradox at the same time in D s writings. At the same time as he stresses the impotance of legitimating irrationality and the mystical he is very careful to built his figures very close tot wht physiologists or psychologists then understood as the conditions behind his figues expereinces, for example it is very hard to see wheter Furs Myskjun, thee main figure in The idiot, and his mysticak insigts id due to epileptic illness or a genuine transcendent experience..