Thoughts on Bion’s ‘Faith in O’

My critique of Bion in Bion, Lacan and the-thing-in-itself was that he approached the relation to the-thing-in-itself as a transcendent form of knowing that moved towards ‘knowing’ in a Platonic ideal form – hence without-memory-or-desire as a kind of non-attachment with almost religious connotations. To quote Grotstein in A Beam of Intense Darkness (p79):

Most notably, Bion’s episteme shifted Freud’s – and even Klein’s – emphasis on the life and death instincts (drives) to that of emotional truth, O, as first cause, thereby rendering what heretofore were the libidinal and destructive drives, along with the epistemophilic drive, into L, H and K emotional categories and linkages between objects and between self and objects.”

I applaud the direction of Bion’s thinking, but feel that he became caught within the first two dilemmas: the transcendental versus the empirical, and the cogito versus the unthought known… This is a reference to ‘the dilemmas of ignorance’ (see The Diasporic Way), in which these two dilemmas are put in relation to a third: the retreat versus the return of the origin.

I propose that if the relation to not-knowing approached through faith-in-O is understood to be an immanent (rather than transcendent) relation (and therefore implicating the knower’s embodied relation to knowing), then it would be a more fruitful1 way of building on Bion’s work – for example it would point towards a different way of reading Freud’s understanding of drive functioning, and of the relative importance of the third form of identification as a taking up of a relation to the symptom qua lack.

This relation to ‘lack’ is an embodied relation to not-knowing characteristic of the origination associated with ‘the return of the origin’ to the present moment. ┬áIt contrasts with the forms of affiliation associated with the retreat of the origin to a past moment.

[1] By ‘fruitful’ I mean better able to address the challenges presented by the dynamics of socio-technical ecosystems.

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