The Medical Humanities and the Rod of Asklepius
Psychohistorical Battle of the Sexes -or- Hermeneutic Return to No-Man's Land
As I have described in "Film Noir and Battle of the Sexes" my own interest in the "film noir" aspect of dreams and the dark side of culture began with the need to understand the romantic causes of melancholia. In the dream interpretation "The Holy Prostitute", I have illustrated the historical and cultural genealogy of the schizotypal erotic images of women, "no-man's land" and the ongoing battle of the sexes. A variety of dream interpretations discuss the psychological problem which include;
- "Confessions of a Porn Addict",
- "Revenge is a Dish Best Served Cold",
- "Mysteries of Dallas" and
- "Divorce Culture",
In these interpretations as well as many others posted at the IIDR website, I have tried to show you the reader how this psychological battle has psychopathological consequences and social effects both to the conscious and the unconscious minds of individuals, on families and on society as a whole. This battle continues to rage on in our collective dream visions as we speak.
In the dream that was presented in "The Holy Prostitute" by the prostitute "Carmen" we find the psychological idea of being "chained" to a "no-man's land". We are all "chained" to the nightmare of this no-man's land created by the battle of the sexes. This cultural psychological space in which the negative social psychological interaction of male and female, masculine and feminine, Logos and Psyche, animus and anima, patriarchal and matriarchal paradigmatic concepts finds expression in our nightly dreams. The psychological archetypal principles of animus and anima, Logos and Psyche, are given expression in the dream interpretation "Post-modern Kingdom of Dreams", where the masculine "Logos" (words) meets the contra-distinction of the feminine "Psyche" (love).
Gerhard Adler was a central figure in the "analytical psychology" movement. Adler's, "The Living Symbol: A Case Study in the Process of Individuation" provides a "case study" of the feminine vision and voice of the melancholic problem of "no-man's land". Is it a coincidence that Carmen presents the same image of a no-man's land in therapy as does Adler's patient? While it remains uncertain as to his motive, Adler's patient who is not given a name, not even a pseudonym through out the book, she is referred to simply as "the patient". The patient is a woman who was in "her forty-ninth year", Adler reports her primary clinical symptom was "claustrophobia" an "anxiety disorder".
Adler informs the reader that he is clinically presenting a dream of the patient first and the will discuss her "Black Vision" in a following chapter, with the reason that the dream was dreamt in 1936, while the visions happened in January 1941. As Adler tells us, the "Black Visions" were presented in the first clinical interview and the dream in the second clinical interview. Said differently, from a clinical psychological perspective the "Black Vision" came first and can be viewed as providing a context for the dream.
The patient's "Black Vision" consists of two parts, the first is in poetic verse, what the patient calls "The Eye and the Wilderness", the second part in prose, "A Map of No Man's Land, Please". In the "Eye and the Wilderness" Adler sees; "The essential problem of the poem is the feeling of hostility and being attacked, and helplessness in the face of it." Such an inner feminine wilderness of women was given a personified poetic voice by Clarissa Pinkola Estés in "Women Who Run With the Wolves: Myths and Stories of the Wild Woman Archetype". The feminine conflicts found in the patients poetic vision express the traumatic and symptomatic communicative interaction of the male and female, anima and animus archetypes as they are defined by the "patriarchal cultural canon" (Adler). Read the IIDR dream interpretation "Wild Thing".
For Adler, the second part of the Black Vision, "A Map of No Man's Land, Please", "is very much an echo of the poem". Estés in "Women Who Run With the Wolves", tells women; "We all dream the same dreams worldwide. We are never without the map. We are never without each other." Adler associates the "blackness" with the ‘horrible darkness of the mind' and ‘melancholia'. Julia Kristeva would give a feminine vision and voice to these poetic feelings in "Black Sun: Depression and Melancholia". Kristeva sees in the dreams of melancholia and narcissistic psychosis as an "index of the death drive".
Adler also believes that both parts of the Black Vision, represents the psychological situation in which no mans land represents a place where the "two opposing forces: it is torn and injured in constant conflict, but it also lies between the conflict, a sort of a link between the two sides." While Adler sees the psychological mediator of consciousness and the unconscious as the archetypal "psychopomp", we can speculate based on the dream that will be discussed shortly, that the psychopomp is none other than "Hermes". Hermes as we will see provides the psychotherapeutic mythopoetic framework of the "Individuation" process as we shall soon understand from the patient's dream.
Now to the patient's dream that Adler reports she had while "staying at a mountain inn above Chamonix. She recalled how in the middle of the night she had awakened with such a feeling of acute distress that she had to leave the room and spend the rest of the night sitting outside on the hotel steps. There she eventually fell into an uneasy sleep and had a dream...."
That the patient woke up in "acute distress", indicates that she already had a dream, which we know nothing about. The patients narrative begins in a similar fashion as the beginning of Franz Kafka's "The Metamorphosis", where he also awoke from "uneasy" dreams. The patient while sleeping on the hotel steps has a dream;
"In the dream she could see...an oval patch of blackness, which shaded off vaguely, a rod made of yellow-whitish metal; at one end of it was a monogram of the figures 1 2 4."
The patient believed the rod was both a ‘key' as well as a ‘magic wand'. Adler believes that dream is a symbol of the "numinous" one in which can be seen as; "In it we find a turning away from the unconscious identification with the patriarchal world of the ‘logos' in favor of the matriarchal world of ‘eros'." What Adler is only dimly is aware of, is that the magic wand, the key that the patient speaks of can be seen as the "Rod of Asclepius".
Hermes "caduceus" and the "Rod of Asclepius" provide the hermeneutic keys for the medical humanities to unlock the meaning of dream vision. The hermeneutics of dreams can be traced back and stretches back to ancient times. Recruiting the hermeneutic help of the "Rod of Asclepius" employed in the service of the medical humanities, is part of the enterprise of the International Institute for Dream Research. Cleansing and bridging the matriarchal and patriarchal doors of perception of dream vision, by ending the psychopathological oneiric flow that the battle of the sexes produces on a nightly basis, is imperative if humanity wants to survive.