Upon retiring on the evening of August 9, 1995 I had the following dream:
The Dream of Milton's Successor
I am at a bookstore on the campus of Harvard University. There is a stairway in the bookstore. Standing on the lower steps is John E. Mack, M.D., a professor of psychiatry at Harvard.
Dr. Mack greets me, and I am delighted. I am somewhat surprised to see Dr. Mack, but, oddly, I am not at all curious that he knows who I am. (Dr. Mack and I have never met.) Dr. Mack tells me that he leads a study group once a week, and he says that I am welcome to attend any time. I think: "That is something I would like to do." He refers to the study group as his "inventory." I have no idea what he means by this. Dr. Mack walks up the steps, and I do not see him again.
I walk over to a shelf in the bookstore. The shelf contains a collection of tiny busts (head figurines), which are for sale. Some of the busts are of the composer Richard Wagner; other busts have generic features, like the features found on the face of a mannequin.
EVENTS OF THE PREVIOUS DAY AND ASSOCIATIONS:
On Wednesday August 9, 1995 I took a continuing legal education course to fulfill Pennsylvania Bar requirements. The course was titled "The Ethics of a Judicial Decision--Justice and Mercy." The course was presented by the University of Pennsylvania Law School Center on Professionalism, and was taught in part by Edmund B. Spaeth, Jr., former President Judge of the Pennsylvania Superior Court, the intermediate appellate court of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.
A portion of the course was taught by Peggy B. Wachs, associate Director of the University of Pennsylvania Law School Center on Professionalism. Ms. Wachs mentioned during the course of her presentation that a recent study indicated that female judges, more so than male judges, tend to favor plaintiffs in employment discrimination cases.
On appeal before the District of Columbia Court of Appeals in August 1995 was my action against the District of Columbia Department of Human Rights, relating to my employment discrimination claim against the law firm of Akin, Gump, Strauss, Hauer & Feld, my former employer. The three-member appeals court panel comprises two male judges and one female judge, the Hon. Julia Cooper Mack. Thus, the dream image of John E. Mack relates to the latent image of Judge Julia Cooper Mack.
A portion of the course on professional conduct was devoted to a legal analysis of a scene from Shakespeare's play, The Merchant of Venice. I together with the other course participants were shown a video of Act IV, scene 1: the famous trial scene in which the character Portia, dressed as the lawyer Balthasar, litigates Shylock's claim against Antonio.
The Merchant of Venice, Act IV, scene 1, includes the following lines spoken by Portia to Shylock:
The law hath yet another hold on you.
It is enacted in the laws of Venice,
If it be prov'd against an alien
That by direct or indirect attempts
He seek the life of any citizen,
The party 'gainst the which he doth contrive
Shall seize one half his goods; the other half
Comes to the privy coffer of the state;
And the offender's life lies in the mercy
Of the Duke only, 'gainst all other voice.
In which predicament I say thou stand'st;
For it appears by manifest proceeding
That indirectly, and directly too,
Thou has contriv'd against the very life
Of the defendant, and thou has incurr'd
The danger formerly by me rehears'd.
Down, therefore, and beg mercy of the Duke.
The reference to "aliens" in the above passage can be read as a play on words, and seems to allude to Dr. Mack's investigations into reports that extraterrestrial aliens 1/ have abducted and experimented on humans--"by direct or indirect attempts." Dr. Mack's investigations had sparked controversy at Harvard Medical School. Only days before the dream, I had read that the Medical School had exonerated Dr. Mack of wrongdoing following an inquiry into Dr. Mack's professional conduct relating to his investigation of alleged alien abductions.
My very first acquaintance with John Mack--really no more than an exposure to his name and position--occurred via a dedication in Margaret Brenman-Gibson's biography of Clifford Odets: "To Professor John Mack, psychoanalyst-biographer and my first 'boss' in the Cambridge Department of Psychiatry of Harvard University School of Medicine, my deep gratitude for his steady affirmation." Dr. Mack was the founder of the Department of Psychiatry at Harvard's Cambridge Hospital. Compare the "Dream of the Four Miltons," Letter to Dr. Pitts, dated 2/8/93:
"I have just completed a session with Dr. Palombo. I go outside the apartment building in which Dr. Palombo's office is located. Dr. Palombo is lounging in a swimming pool on an inflatable raft with a friend, also a physician. Dr. Palombo's friend says to me: 'Dr. Palombo is such a humble person, he probably never told you about his background, did he? Dr. Palombo is an outstanding physician. He was founder of the department of psychiatry at the School of Medicine at Penn State.'"
At the course on professional conduct Judge Spaeth referred to Portia's treatment of Shylock in The Merchant of Venice as chilling and savage. He discussed the fact that Shylock had been given no prior notice that the "alien" statute would be raised against him. I am reminded here of my own appearance before the D.C. Court of Appeals, on October 13, 1994, and the shock I experienced when, at the very commencement of oral argument, Judge Terry stated to me: "I don't think we have jurisdiction to hear this matter." The action of the Court in raising the jurisdiction issue at oral argument was totally unanticipated by me since, obviously, the Court had already granted jurisdiction to hear the appeal. My feelings in the courtroom at that moment--of shock in the face of unfair surprise--were identical to those of Shylock in The Merchant of Venice, who had been advised by Portia only moments before: ". . . lawfully by this [bond] the Jew may claim a pound of flesh, to be by him cut off nearest the merchant's heart. . . . [Portia] to Antonio]: You must prepare your bosom for his knife."
The dream thought of "busts of Wagner" appears to be a play on the reference to "bosom" in The Merchant of Venice ("You must prepare your bosom for his knife.").
The shelf contains a collection of tiny busts (head figurines), which are for sale. Some of the busts are of the composer Richard Wagner; other busts have generic features, like the features on the face of a mannequin.
You will recall, incidentally, that the "Dream of Greensboro" contains numerous references to Venice, the site of Wagner's death. ("Wagner had gone to Venice for a vacation. . . .")
The "Dream of Greensboro" also discusses Wagner's financial indebtedness, which parallels the issue of the indebtedness of the Venetian merchant Antonio to Shylock:
"Wagner discusses the fact that his 1876 opera festival was a financial disaster. "We had to sell everything," he says, "lighting, machinery, costumes, to pay for it." . . . The display windows [of the bankrupt clothier Raleighs in downtown Washington at which I often used to gaze] featuring mannequins attired in Raleighs' merchandise seem to parallel the associations to [financially disastrous] theatrical productions featuring costumed singers . . . and my father's lifeless body [after his death]."
(My father had died one day after having undergone a coronary artery bypass procedure, major heart surgery: "You must prepare your bosom for his knife.").
Also, the "Dream of the Blue Oxford" links, on the one hand, the issue of Wagner's indebtedness to the British Jewess Madame Julie Schwabe (and the bailiffs' inventory of Wagner's possessions for the purpose of repayment, "a pound of flesh") with, on the other hand, the issue of the autopsy of my father (i.e., the incision into my father's flesh). See Letter to Dr. Georgopoulos, dated July 18, 1994; in that letter I observed that in either case--autopsy by a pathologist and property inventory by a creditor 2/--the theme of an "inventory of goods" is expressed.
The course on professional conduct on August 9, 1995 was held in the basement of an office building in downtown Washington. At the conclusion of the session I walked out into the basement lobby area. An older gentleman who was walking directly in front of me turned around. His gaze fixed on me. It was former Pennsylvania Governor Dick Thornburgh. He too had taken the course on professional conduct. At that moment I thought: "No. It can't be. He doesn't recognize me. Besides, Thornburgh is a Republican 3/--Strauss would never have talked to him about me!"
I am somewhat surprised to see Governor Thornburgh. He walks up the steps, and I do not see him again.
Dick Thornburgh assumed the office of Governor of Pennsylvania in January 1979. He was Milton Shapp's successor as Governor. See the "Dream of the Four Miltons," which discusses my visit to Harrisburg, the capital of Pennsylvania, on a class trip in May 1967. "The Dream of the Four Miltons" also includes an association to Richard Olney, U.S. Attorney General during the Cleveland Administration; Attorney General Olney was a critical actor in the Pullman strike of the 1890s. It was Dick Thornburgh who, as Governor of Pennsylvania, presided over the Three Mile Island 4/ nuclear reactor crisis, in March 1979. I lived in Philadelphia at that time.
Oddly, the day I saw Governor Thornburgh, August 9, 1995, was the 50th anniversary of the atomic bombing of the Japanese city, Nagasaki 5/; commemorations marking the anniversary of the atomic bombing of Nagasaki were reported on television and in newspapers that day. See Dream of Greensboro, dated December 9, 1992, specifically, the parable of the nuclear reactor: "In the 1930's a group of scientists is gathered together under a physicist named Wagner to develop nuclear fission. . . . During the war a nuclear weapon is dropped on each of two Japanese cities. The cities are devastated. . . ." (Compare the following paraphrase: "A group of judges is gathered together under a judge named Wagner. . . ." The Chief Judge of the D.C. Court of Appeals is the Hon. Annice M. Wagner to whom I had forwarded a collection of documents relating to professional misconduct by Akin Gump's attorney managers.)
1/ The letter to Dr. Georgopoulos dated May 8, 1995 is devoted to an analysis of an aspect of anti-Semitism. The letter is dedicated to John E. Mack, M.D. It now appears that the dedication to Dr. Mack was determined in part by my unconscious association of Jews and "aliens," i.e., outsiders.
2/ A debtor/creditor theme may also underlie "The Dream of the Four Miltons." At the time of the dream, in March 1990, I was employed at the law firm of Akin, Gump, Strauss, Hauer & Feld on a project for the client Eastern Airlines, then in bankruptcy and facing liquidation. See "Eastern's Creditors Threaten to Move for Liquidation," The Wall Street Journal, 3/30/90. Issues relating to Eastern's debt service and loan payment schedules may be represented in the manifest dream thought of "room service" and the birthday (anniversary) cake. "The Dream of the Four Miltons" and the current dream are linked by the latent theme of financial loss relating to transportation. In The Merchant of Venice Antonio faces financial ruin when it is learned that his ships have been lost at sea while "The Dream of the Four Miltons" includes the latent themes of a nationwide truckers' strike and the disastrous Pullman railroad strike of the 1890s. (Also, the manifest content of the "Dream of Greensboro," from 11/25/92, featured anxiety centered on "the business section" of Greensboro. At the time of that dream I was on extended unemployment benefits, which were scheduled to end ten days later, effective 12/4/92.) Of possible interest is the coincidental fact that the surname of Eastern Airlines' owner, Frank Lorenzo, is shared by a character in The Merchant of Venice: Lorenzo, the lover of Shylock's daughter, Jessica. At the end of the play, Shylock is forced to forfeit his estate to Jessica and Lorenzo.
3/ I recall an incident that occurred in November 1962, when I was eight years old. In early November 1962 former Philadelphia mayor Richardson Dilworth, a Democrat, was running for governor of Pennsylvania against Republican, William Scranton. The Dilworth campaign had distributed a paperback biography of Dilworth that detailed his military, legal, and political career. My father's union had distributed copies of the biography to the membership. My father had given the book to me. I believe that I identified Dilworth's having served in the Marine Corps in the South Pacific in World War II with my father's having served in the South Pacific during the war. Dilworth was also a founding partner of one of the major Philadelphia law firms, now Dilworth, Kalish & Kauffman. One day at school, one of my fourth-grade classmates, Aaron Ezekiel (a somewhat rebellious and subversive character--compare "The Dream of the Elephant Sanctuary," Letter to Dr. Georgopoulos, dated July 10, 1995), and I surveyed the school yard, trying to figure out which teachers might vote for Dilworth and which might vote for Scranton. If we liked a particular teacher we would say, "She looks like a Democrat--she'll probably vote for Dilworth." But if we didn't like a certain teacher we'd say, "She's definitely a Republican--she'll vote for Scranton." I was glad that I sensed a note of disdain in Aaron's voice. I was pleased by his apparent irreverence for Republican politicians. These events occurred just weeks after the Cuban missile crisis, in October 1962, in a period of "reprieve from the forces of evil."
4/ The city of Venice might be aptly described poetically as a kind of "Three Mile Island," and Wagner's death in Venice from a heart attack was a cardiovascular catastrophe that might serve as a metaphor for a devastating nuclear catastrophe.
5/ Dr. Mack is active in the field of international political dispute resolution and the study of nuclear conflict avoidance. Applying the metaphor set forth in n. 3, above, which equates catastrophic cardiovascular events with nuclear catastrophe, Dr. Mack might be viewed as a kind of "cardiologist" who emphasizes the importance of "preventive medicine" in international relations. Analogous to preventive cardiology, legal professionalism concerns the ongoing conduct of lawyers, and is directed at preventing that ultimate catastrophe, disbarment. Compare "The Dream of Murder in the Lobby." Letter to Dr. Pitts, dated June 18, 1993.
The Dream of Milton's Successor--Additional Thoughts:
Buried Memories at the Bookstore
On Friday August 7, 1987 a friend and coworker at the law firm of Hogan & Hartson, where I was employed at the time, Craig Dye, was scheduled to go on vacation to Florida. Another employee, Tom Veatch, a summer employee, was scheduled to leave that day also; he was entering his second year of college. I had purchased books for these coworkers--a book titled The Making of a Psychiatrist by David Viscott, M.D., which I gave to Tom Veatch on August 7th as well as a book titled Character and Culture (an anthology of essays by Freud) which I gave to Craig, also on August 7th.
My associations to four of the essays by Freud contained in the book Character and Culture ("The Theme of the Three Caskets," "A Childhood Recollection from 'Dichtung und Wahrheit,'" "Dostoyevsky and Parricide," and "Buried Memories on the Acropolis") elaborate issues suggested by the present dream, while the book The Making of a Psychiatrist may have an associative link to the manifest dream image of Dr. Mack. The importance of these book purchases as associative elements relates to the content of the books, and possibly also to the circumstances surrounding the purchase of the books in August 1987, namely, to the circumstances of loss and nostalgia.
"The Theme of the Three Caskets" --
Bettelheim summarizes Freud's 1913 essay as an analysis of "the unconscious motives that may explain the frequently evoked image of the always fateful choice among three: three caskets in The Merchant of Venice, three daughters in King Lear, three goddesses in the judgment of Paris, and three sisters of whom Psyche was the most beautiful. Freud tried to show that two related topics underlie this motif: the wish to believe that we have a choice where we have none, and a symbolic expression of the three fateful roles that the female plays in the life of the male--as mother, as beloved, and, finally, as the symbolic (Mother Earth) to whom man returns when he dies." Bettelheim, B. Freud and Man's Soul at 12-3 (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1985).
It will be seen immediately that the theme of three fateful persons is an important element of the latent content of the present dream: at the time of the dream (in August 1995) a three-judge appellate panel was considering my appeal of an unlawful job termination complaint I had filed against my former employer. Not only is the element of choice crucial--that is, the decision by the three judges to favor either appellant or appellee. But also, the issue of the judges' gender was key. I had apparently placed special hope in the fact that one of the judges considering the appeal, Julia Cooper Mack, was female. My special hopes in connection with the fact that one of the judges was female was based on the observation made by the course instructor (Peggy Wachs) that female judges tend to favor plaintiffs in employment discrimination cases.
We can see that the associations to The Merchant of Venice are overdetermined and relate not only to the figure of Shylock as litigant (that is, an individual who attempts to avenge a wrong done to him) but also to the "theme of the three caskets" as an allusion to the three-judge panel that was considering my appeal. Also, "The Theme of the Three Caskets" (as well as the other three Freud essays discussed below) relates back to the book Character and Culture that I had purchased for a departing friend, almost exactly eight years earlier, in August 1987.
In the essay "The Theme of the Three Caskets" Freud alludes, in his enumeration of the various mythical expressions of the idea of three fateful persons, to the three sisters of Destiny found in Greek mythology, the "Fates," who weave the fate of man. The issue of fate, or, more specifically, the issue of a felicitous destiny determined by female authority is elaborated in another one of Freud's essays --
"A Childhood Recollection from 'Dichtung und Wahrheit'" --
In this essay from 1917 Freud compares a childhood recollection contained in Goethe's autobiography (Dichtung und Wahrheit) (the details of which relate to the issue of sibling rivalry) to similar childhood recollections reported to Freud by his own patients. As in "The Theme of the Three Caskets" Freud again discusses the paramount role of a female authority--here, the mother--in the destiny of the individual. Freud writes:
If we now return to Goethe's childhood-memory and put in the place it occupies in Dichtung und Wahrheit what we believe we have obtained through observations of other children, a flawless connection appears which we should not otherwise have discovered. It would run thus: "I was a child of fortune: destiny had preserved me for life, although I came into the world for dead. Even more, destiny removed my brother, so that I did not have to share my mother's love with him." . . .
I have, however, already declared elsewhere that he who has been the undisputed darling of his mother retains throughout life that victorious feeling, that confidence in ultimate success, which not seldom brings actual success with it. And a saying such as "My strength has its roots in my relation to my mother" might well have been put at the head of Goethe's autobiography. In: Character and Culture at 200-201.
Shengold quotes Freud's Goethe essay in his book Soul Murder, the relevant chapter of which presents the case of a man who had had sexual intercourse with his mother during adolescence. See Shengold, L. Soul Murder at 155-180 (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1989). The patient, a man in his mid-thirties, is described by Shengold as a "strong-looking man with rugged good looks and an athletic presence" and an "aggressively masculine aura" (p. 162). Shengold states: "My patient had solved the riddle of the Sphinx in incestuous action, and then repressed it. But the arrogance continued for him, the narcissistic triumph derived from feeling himself the 'son of Fortune.'" (p. 170). Shengold then quotes Freud directly: "Freud uses almost the same words, with no reference to Oedipus, in his construction of the thoughts of Goethe, one of Freud's alter egos: 'I was a child of fortune' [quoting "A Childhood Recollection from 'Dichtung und Wahrheit']" (p. 170). Shengold reports that the patient's arrogance was such that his wife "would frequently be stimulated to repeat to him: 'You know, you are not of royal blood'" (p. 170).
During the summer of 1987 my working relationship with Craig Dye (who, coincidentally, had a physique and bearing that matched that of Shengold's patient) was one of rivalry. Our mutual antagonism is suggested by the fact that Craig and I shared the following characteristics, attributed by Shengold to his patient, in equal measure. "In later life, when there was competition for a particular post, or if he had to submit work in contention with that of peers, he confidently assumed he would win; true to Freud's prediction, he often did. He was both intelligent and gifted, and that helped him live up even to overweening pretensions. Although generally good-natured and even "humble" in manner, he had many arrogant traits" (p. 170). A paraphrase of a line from a novel by Goethe (Elective Affinities) aptly describes my workplace relationship with Craig: "Once they have been brought together, God help them!"
Compounding the hostility between Craig and me was the fact that our supervisor was a somewhat attractive young woman. That is, the relationship between Craig and me vis-a-vis a female authority carried an implicit plea, not unlike the plea of parties before an appeals court: "Choose one of us. Is it to be he or I?"
Craig Dye had a mother/son like symbiotic bond with the firm's data base administrator, Esperanza Rebollar. In June 1987--two months before Craig left for vacation on August 7, 1987--it was rumored in the firm that Craig Dye had embarked on a sexual relationship with Esperanza Rebollar: a quid pro quo arrangement whereby Rebollar would secure Dye's advancement in the department. Given the psychological relationship between the parties, a possible sexual relationship between the two would carry the suggestion of mother-son incest.
The theme of choosing or being chosen is overdetermined here. Portia in The Merchant of Venice offers her suitors a choice among three caskets, an appeals court chooses a victor between two parties, in politics the electorate chooses among candidates (Governor Thornburgh had been such a victor), a customer in a bookstore is presented with a decision to choose among books, etc.
A curious feature of the dream's manifest content is that the theme of choice, so pervasive in the latent content, is missing--which suggests that the theme of choice or rivalry (Oedipal or sibling; or the negative consequences in the form of jealousy of being favored, or "chosen," by a parent [cf. anti-Semitism]) is ego dystonic and defended against (repressed). It may be that the odd term "inventory" (Dr. Mack invites me to join his "inventory") defends against the idea of choice. In an inventory one simply enumerates the objects that form a collection; one does not choose any single object. In this sense, the term "to inventory" opposes, or negates, the term "to elect," or to choose. The dream image of the busts on the shelf fading into a vague sameness (that is, the appearance of a generic quality) obviates choice based on specific qualities.
Note that the supervisor's name "Miriam" was also the name of the older sister of the biblical Moses. In the biblical tale Miriam concocts a scheme with her mother whereby the sister will "choose," or rescue, her infant brother Moses from the Nile and present the child to Pharaoh's daughter in the hope that the child, mendaciously-depicted by Miriam as a child of unknown heritage, will be accepted and raised by members of the Royal House of Egypt (cf. "destiny removed my brother, so that I did not have to share my mother's love with him.") Recall that the previously-prepared portion of this dream analysis contained associations to a childhood classmate named "Aaron," a name shared by the brother of the prophet Moses.
In early 1988 the supervisor terminated my employment, but retained Craig, who later, himself, assumed the position of supervisor.
"Dostoyevsky and Parricide" --
In this 1928 essay Freud discusses various facets of Dostoyevsky's personality: the creative artist, the neurotic, the moralist and the sinner, with special reference to Dostoyevsky's "mania for gambling," which Freud analyzes as a substitute for masturbation.
According to Freud, "the 'vice' of masturbation is replaced by the mania for gambling; and the emphasis laid upon the passionate activity of the hands betrays this derivation. . . . The irresistible nature of the temptation, the solemn resolutions, which are nevertheless invariably broken, never to do it again, the numbing pleasure and the bad conscience which tells the subject that he is ruining himself (committing suicide)--all these elements remain unaltered in the process of substitution." In: Character and Culture at 202.
I note, incidentally, that in April 1987 I pointed out to my coworker and rival Craig Dye that his name was an anagram of the phrase "gray dice," dice carrying the connotation of gambling. The color gray may suggest the concept of ambiguity (being neither black nor white), possibly connoting sexual ambiguity.
There are points of correspondence between the Dostoyevsky essay and the previously discussed Freud essays: the gambler tempts Fate and pleads for Fortune's favor to confer narcissistic triumph. Further, Freud presents in the Dostoyevsky essay a tale in which a middle-aged woman seduces a young man addicted to gambling and extracts from him a promise, which he fails to keep, that the young man give up his vice. See Character and Culture at 290-291.
Freud reduces the story to a "wishful phantasy belonging to the period of puberty, which a number of people actually remember consciously. The phantasy embodies a boy's wish that his mother should herself initiate him into sexual life in order to save him from the dreaded injuries caused by masturbation." See Character and Culture at 291-292.
Like some gamblers, Shengold's patient (described above) possessed a conscious need to triumph coupled with an unacknowledged requirement to fail.
[A]longside the hubris and quasi-delusional pride, and completely unsynthesized with it, was an intense need to lose out and be chastised. One of the effects of the consummated incest was this split in my patient's conscience. A patchwork pattern seems to have been established, of achievement followed by the unconscious arrangement for failure and punishment. It was a dim awareness of this that had led him into analysis when he, like Oedipus, was blind to the reason for the "plague" in his life. Shengold at 171.
My own dream about Dr. Mack also alludes to an initiation, or seduction, -- he invites me to join him in his reading group, which he refers to as his "inventory" (possibly suggestive of sexual violation). Here, a male figure initiates a symbolic seduction, but a male figure who stands in for, or symbolizes, a female (the female judge). This analysis appears to confirm, or at least suggest, the role of my father in later childhood or adolescence as an idealized screen or symbolic substitute for earlier memories of my mother: more precisely, the role of my father as an exclusive repository of feelings originally invested in my mother, feelings that I had withdrawn from my mother in the wake of profound disappointment in my relations with her.
It is worthwhile to note that at the time of the dream I was aware of aspects of Dr. Mack's work with so-called "experiencers" (that is, persons supposedly abducted, or "seduced," by extra-terrestrial aliens): the experiencers reported that they had been physically and/or sexually violated by the alien abductors.
Biographical facts about Dostoyevsky, not contained in Freud's essay, parallel the manifest dream image of the "discussion group," that is, Dr. Mack's "inventory."
"In 1847 Dostoyevsky began to participate in the Petrashevsky Circle, a group of intellectuals who discussed utopian socialism. He eventually joined a related, secret group devoted to revolution and illegal propaganda. It appears that Dostoyevsky did not sympathize (as others did) with egalitarian communism and terrorism but was motivated by his strong disapproval of serfdom. On April 23, 1849, he and the other members of the Petrashevsky Circle were arrested. Dostoyevsky spent eight months in prison until, on December 22, the prisoners were led without warning to the Semyonovsky Square. There a sentence of death by firing squad was pronounced, last rites were offered, and three prisoners were led out to be shot first. At the last possible moment, the guns were lowered and a messenger arrived with the information that the tsar had deigned to spare their lives. The mock execution ceremony was in fact part of the punishment.
Dostoyevsky passed several minutes in the full conviction that he was about to die, and in his novels characters repeatedly imagine the state of mind of a man approaching execution. The hero of The Idiot, Prince Myshkin, offers several extended descriptions of this sort, which readers knew carried special authority because the author of the novel had gone through the terrible experience." Encyclopaedia Britannica.
For Dostoyevsky participation in a secret discussion group led ultimately to near death, terror and humiliation--an outcome that is the polar opposite of, and therefore possibly related to, the idealized affects that surround Dr. Mack in the manifest dream.
(It is interesting that at my job termination by the law firm of Akin, Gump, Strauss, and Feld in October 1991 I had the following thoughts throughout the termination meeting: "This has to be a joke. At some point they are going to say, 'This is a test. This is only a test. If this had been an actual termination, we would have come up with better reasons for firing you than we did. We just wanted to see how you would react under severe pressure. We are doing this as a prelude to offering you a promotion.'" And again, before the Court of Appeals, in October 1994, when Judge Terry told me that the Court lacked jurisdiction to hear my appeal, my initial thought was: "He can't possibly be serious.")
But there is more. The mock execution to which Dostoyevsky was subjected bears a notable parallel to an aspect of the atomic bombing of Nagasaki, at the close of World War II. The following facts about the bombing were detailed in a newspaper account published in The New York Times on August 9, 1995--the fiftieth anniversary of the bombing; these specific facts had an uncanny resonance for me and were a part of the day residue of my dream.
Throughout the war, Nagasaki, though it was a strategically-important site, escaped conventional bombing. The residents of Nagasaki felt that they had been spared by Fortune from the devastation of allied bombing. Unknown to the Japanese at the time, the U.S. military had chosen Nagasaki as a test site for any future atomic bombing. The U.S. military wanted to be able to assess the effects of an atomic bomb on an intact city not damaged by conventional bombing. Thus, for the residents of Nagasaki an extended period of imagined reprieve (experienced as unreal) was shattered by the sudden terror of the atomic blast. This sequence of affects is the polar opposite of that experienced by an individual subjected to a mock execution, in which the individual undergoes an extended sense of imminent death that is relieved by the unexpected announcement of reprieve (experienced as unreal), that the transaction is a charade.
It appears that the idealized affects of the manifest dream are a screen or substitute for highly-charged unconscious affects that have the quality of terror and desperation.
The image of an object as the victim of a grim Fate is the polar opposite of the image of an object rewarded by a bounteous Fate. As Shengold observes, an individual's sense of quasi-delusional pride--the feeling that he is the "son of Fortune"--may be balanced against an unacknowledged need to experience a cruel destiny (p. 171). In the three Freud essays discussed thus far, these conflicting images of fate emerge. In "Dostoyevsky and Parricide" Freud elaborates the need to offer oneself as a victim to fate as being determined, in Dostoyevsky's case, by two factors: past interaction with a hated, strict father coupled with a strong bi-sexual disposition--that is, two characteristics that might also account for a male dreamer's defensive dream-image of an idealized male figure. That is, Freud's reconstruction of Dostoyevsky's psychic life, with its emphasis on hatred of the father and a strong latent homosexual disposition, would appear to be an adequate unconscious determinant of my manifest dream image of an idealized Dr. Mack.
If the father was hard, violent and cruel, the super-ego takes over these attributes from him and, in the relations between the ego and it, the passivity which was supposed to have been repressed is re-established. The super-ego has become sadistic, and the ego becomes masochistic, that is to say, at bottom passive in a feminine way. A great need for punishment develops in the ego, which in part offers itself as a victim to fate (emphasis added), and in part finds satisfaction in ill-treatment by the superego (that is, in the sense of guilt). For every punishment is ultimately castration and, as such, a fulfillment of the old passive attitude towards the father. Even fate is, in the last resort, only a later father-projection. . . .
To sum up, the relation between the subject and his father-object, while retaining its content, has been transformed into a relation between the ego and the super-ego--a new setting on a fresh stage. In: Character and Culture at 283 and 284.
"A Disturbance of Memory on the Acropolis" --
In this late essay written in 1937 (actually an open letter to Romain Rolland) Freud discusses a feeling of derealization he experienced when, as a mature adult, he saw for the first time the Acropolis, during a trip to Athens.
When, finally, on the afternoon after our arrival, I stood upon the Acropolis and cast my eyes around upon the landscape, a remarkable thought suddenly entered my mind: "So all this really does exist, just as we learnt at school!" . . . If I may make a slight exaggeration, it was as if someone, walking beside Loch Ness, suddenly caught sight of the form of the famous Monster stranded upon the shore and found himself driven to the admission: "So it really does exist--the sea-serpent we always disbelieved in!" In: Character and Culture at 313.
The affect of derealization (an alien state of mind) that Freud experienced upon viewing the Acropolis for the first time is also present in the manifest and latent content of my dream: my delight and surprise upon seeing Dr. Mack, which paralleled my feelings of surprise and unreality the previous day at the moment I recognized that it was the former Attorney General of the United States (former Pennsylvania Governor Dick Thornburgh) who was standing directly in front of me and gazing at me.
Masson analyzes derealization, nostalgic memories, and elation as negations of depressed states. Masson, J.M. and Masson, T.C. "Buried Memories on the Acropolis: Freud's Response to Mysticism and Anti-Semitism." Int. J. Psycho-Anal. 59: 199-208 (1978).
According to Masson nostalgia and elation may replace the painful affects originally associated with memories of seduction, humiliation, and sadistic depreciation (including anti-Semitism)--the negation acts as "the patch over the affective break that occurred because of the repression of the original feelings." (p. 200-201). "Depression, rage and aggression are the obverse of the ecstasy [of mystic states of elation] and are the inevitable hidden accompaniments of . . . journeys into a sad past. The apparent reliving of a lost past in terms of grasping at the illusion of ecstasy can only represent a falsification of memory for the purpose of defence. And the dry, brittle memories of an emotionally arid childhood are as fearsome as those of more openly violent abuse. The hunger that such childhood misery and emptiness leave behind often becomes 'bound' in a phantom memory." Masson at 205.
The manifest dream image of Dr. Mack as the leader of a discussion group may be a benign expression of a disturbing intra-psychic reality that centers on sado-masochism. "In mystical traditions, the relationship between a master and his disciple is always 'homosexually' intense, prohibiting the 'distraction' of heterosexual family life, and overtly humiliating to the disciple. This is rationalized as diminishing his 'ego', cloaking the aggression in the purple robe of a promise of eventual aggrandizement [citation omitted]. Thomas Mann (1930) in his short novel, Mario and the Magician, seizes upon all of these elements at the heart of magic. His magician is a deformed, cruel, perverse imposter who preys upon his victims by arrogantly displaying his sadism, that is his magic. The story ends with the ultimate victimization: a homosexual seduction followed by death." Masson at 203.
Comment by Gary Freedman on October 17, 2009 at 11:21am:
I read this New York Times report on the morning of August 9, 1995. The burakumin were also "aliens."