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by David Arthur Walters

Flaubert was not the "family idiot" Sartre thought him to be. Pythiatism defined.

idiot" Sartre thought him to be. Pythiatism defined. To be stupid, and selfish, and to have

To be stupid, and selfish, and to have good health are the three requirements for happiness; though if stupidity is lacking, the others are useless. Gustave




THE HYSTERICAL TIMES Jean Paul Sartre was so obsessed with the famed author of Madame Bovary

Jean Paul Sartre was so obsessed with the famed author of Madame Bovary that he was possessed to psychoanalyze him over the last ten years of his writing career in an uncompleted, five-volume treatise, The Family Idiot A . Yet Gustave Flaubert was not the idiot or hysterical neurotic Sartre supposed him to be. Sartre’s criticism has all the faults of psychoanalysis at a great distance; that is, of analyzing an analysand whom one is not personally acquainted with, and basing that analysis on the diagnoses of less than a handful of patients by other analysts, neither the analysts nor their patients being personally known. B

Sartre was of course intimate with the works of Sigmund Freud and appreciated his insights although he felt the master’s logic of the psyche was inadequate to the analysis of human existence. He alleges Flaubert’s ‘neurosis’ in The Family Idiot and alludes to the Oedipus Complex in respect to Flaubert’s father, Achille-Cleophas Flaubert, whom Gustave naturally adored, and who loved him in return until he became a “silly” little play-actor at eight years of age, when his dad’s affection was allegedly replaced by ridicule. Sartre naturally cast Flaubert’s mother, who loved him always as far as her son was concerned, in her mythical role in the oedipal love triangle. We note that Flaubert’s father died in 1846, when Flaubert was twenty-four, the same year his beloved sister Caroline died while giving birth to his niece, whom he raised while living with his mother, who, in turn, died in Flaubert’s fiftieth year.

Sartre thought the frustrated little playwright was fated by familial circumstances to live an imaginary life in bad faith, as a passive writer who painstakingly tries to obliterate himself from the world drama in order to be objectively realistic, instead of a player taking a subjectively active part on the world stage. Flaubert had withdrawn from life to paint himself out of the pictures he drew; he would be less than a fly on the wall, merely a camera obscura or pure, transparent consciousness if not nothing transcendent. It is as if he had so much faith in nothing that he believed in nothingness instead of being. That would certainly be bad faith in Sartre’s book, Being and Nothingness. Belief or false faith in non-existence would constitute Existentialism’s cardinal sin: blasphemy! Blasphemy would be to take the name of the Not that produces existential self-consciousness in vain. The faith would be bad because it was not blind; it was not really faith because it required belief: The mere effort of believing is evidence not of faith but of its lack. Knowledge is the perfection of belief, and one can know nothing of nothing. Having bad faith is worse than lying because liars know the truth, but here the truth simply cannot be known.

Bad faith is not simply assuming the role of a waiter, where both actor and audience know that a role is being played. There is indeed present a sort of deception intended for the imaginative benefit of the audience, but there is no lie because the deception is understood and can be disposed of instantaneously. When the waiter is perhaps a bit too eager to please, the insincerity is not appreciated because the illusion fails. If the waiter’s Method had self-deceived him via auto-suggestion that he was actually a waiter to the exclusion of his other roles, we might say he was living in bad faith, that he was even a madman if not neurotic.



THE HYSTERICAL TIMES A notice is posted that a rabbi is giving a cour se, “How

A notice is posted that a rabbi is giving a course, “How to be a Jew in the modern world.”

We understand the predicament and sympathize with the man who wants to maintain his old-time religion while somehow fitting into modern society, yet we detect some insincerity and duplicity in the effort inasmuch as he want to put on an act, to pretend to be something he is not and somehow become that through acting. We suppose he might

be living in bad faith, according to our interpretation of Sartre, if he believes he is what he believes, that he is a microcosm of the Supreme Being, a Jew to the exclusion of being a human being, of being just a man. But what is a man or a woman? Beings as defined by roles, not existents-in-themselves. What is a human being but a being or concept? Being

is not something existing concretely in a situation; that can only be said of the existent.

And what is this existence of Sartre’s before being but a concept that boils down to nothing? What a man really is: that is beyond the grasp of duplicitous Freudian

psychoanalysis, as Sartre noted. We must return to philosophy, the queen of the sciences,

in hopes that she may reveal the most beautiful of all figures. Shall we find one of our

figures reflected in her mirror, or shall we discover that not only our masks but even our

I’s are fictions, and that Nothing, and only Nothing, is perfect? Blasphemy!

However that may be, Sartre’s Flaubert, a victim of circumstantial suggestion and auto- suggestion, was purportedly living in the clutches of a figurative sort of conversion hysteria; namely, pithiatism. In the first paragraph of Chapter Eight, ‘The Imaginary Child,’ Sartre alludes to the characteristic of pithiatism, a sort of hysteria determined by suggestion, in respect to his favorite family idiot:

“This is Gustave as he has been constituted. Of course, any determination imprinted in an existing being is surpassed by the way he lives. In the child Flaubert, passive activity and gliding are his way living this constituted passivity; resentment is his way of living the situation assigned to him in the Flaubert family. In other words, the structures of this family are internalized as attitudes and re-externalized as actions by which the child makes himself into what others made him. Conversely, we shall find in him no behavior, as complex and elaborate as it might seem, that is not originally the surpassing of an internalized determination.”

In other words, according to Sartre, Gustave’s being was not wholly defined by circumstances; he would have no self of his own as a victim of circumstances, devoid of existential independence and freedom; he would be in effect a zombie or a machine unconscious of his own existence; if someone were to act like a machine we would naturally deem him psychotic not neurotic.

Of course every human being by necessity introjects his social identity from others and projects what he has learned; still, the individual, by virtue of its independent will to exist forever without impedance if it could, is bound to put up some resistance to the imposition of conformity, as we can see in every squalling child, and will invariably get away with what he can get away with while accepting influences that serves his purpose; thus he becomes his own person; a person being, to some extent, a unique composite of individual existence and social being. Indeed, every particular is a coincidence of



THE HYSTERICAL TIMES universal qualities, no two coincidences bei ng identical; hence the individual is somewhat

universal qualities, no two coincidences being identical; hence the individual is somewhat unique. As far as Sartre—he had been a member of the French Resistance during the war—was concerned, Flaubert did not actively affirm his existential self in the world. He just did not want to make the effort and thus in part be defined by its resistance thereto; he had what we might call a weak will—at one juncture he reflected that he was cowardly in his youth. He did not seem to know who he really was because he had not looked within; he had not conducted a painful regressive analysis of his self; instead, he avoided himself, using his literary art to paint himself out of the picture. Now French Existentialism, with its struggle for freedom through individual responsibility, hails back to the introspective discovery of the self as will; that is, to French Voluntarism, for which Maine De Biran was an introspective pioneer. Biran confessed that, “Even from infancy I remember that I marveled at the sense of my existence. I was already led by instinct to look within myself in order to know how it was possible that I could be alive and be myself.” C

Sartre, although mentioning Flaubert’s resentment here as his chosen way of living, does give young Flaubert a will of his own in his choice of style; negation or resistance to external influence constitutes the will of the individual, made manifest to us in his behavioral style. This would leave Flaubert morally culpable for his way of life. The pithiatic hysteric is a liar who believes in the lie; but this belief represses an otherwise nagging doubt to the so-called unconscious sector of the psyche; the forgetting of the doubt is imaginary; the belief is make-believe or bad faith inasmuch as it is not blind faith. It is a commanding hysterical performance of the kind that has made fools out of many psychoanalysts.

Sartre’s Flaubert was a paralytic writer whose acting career had been thwarted by his father, and was self-blinded to his own existence and suitable self. That is, his neurosis prevented from being himself, a comic actor instead of the serious writer he wound up being. Again and again, Sartre affords Flaubert’s father the brunt of the blame, for it was his unappreciative father, whose affection he craved, who constituted the little comic as a self-contemptible family idiot who would isolate himself, withdrawing himself from his prospective audience to entertain them from afar, passively, in writing, instead of actively or directly, in person. D

We use employ terms ‘idiot’ and ‘moron’ casually here, without intent to insult people with mental incapacities due to neurological abnormalities and injuries. The popular word ‘idiot,’ derived from idios, meaning “one’s own,” referred to a “private person” or one withdrawn from public affairs, an uneducated person or simpleton or “imbecile,” an ignorant country bumpkin, so to speak. As Mark Twain said, “Reader, suppose you were an idiot. And suppose you were a member of congress. But I repeat myself.” Linnaeus, we learn from our etymological dictionary, used the term ‘morisis’ for idiocy in the sense of mental deficiency. An idiot might be a ‘moron,’ a term derived from moros, a fool. We notice that ‘morose,’ meaning gloomy, peevish, fastidious, has a similar root. A morose person is immoral, has bad manners in contrast to moral in the sense of good mores or habits.



THE HYSTERICAL TIMES In fine, we believe Sartre wa s calling Flaubert stupid in five volumes.

In fine, we believe Sartre was calling Flaubert stupid in five volumes. Since “neurotic” is no longer included in the official diagnostic manual, should we insert “stupid” in its stead? In fact, we see that “stupidity” was a word used by French alienists to indicate the form of insanity usually known as "melancholia with stupor," and was defined by Wilhelm Griesinger, in Mental Pathology and Therapeutics (1867) as melancholia in which the patient is lost in self-contemplation.

Neurotic people have a sort of blind spot, or rather a cataract partially obstructing their cognition; they keep doing the same, useless thing over and over again, thus revealing their partiality, or insanity if they are seriously impaired. They appear to be stupid, at least in that respect. According to Sartre, Flaubert’s stupidity was in not knowing himself, of being stupid to his bona fide existence and the nature of the being that would accord with his native or existential disposition.

Of course Flaubert, who himself identified stupidity with happiness, was obviously not unsophisticated, unintelligent, or stupid in the usual sense. Perhaps we might opine that Gustave became the fools he played as a child, becoming stupid to his genuine existence in the process. But that is not clever enough for Sartre’s convoluted reflections. He claims that Gustave consumed himself.

“It would be inadequate to say that he plays the fool, that in the unreal world he becomes the imbecile he would be if he were actually afflicted with imbecility; in order to produce the analogue of the persona he represents, he becomes the fool he is. This obscure mass of agitation, terrorized incomprehension, fear, stubbornness, bad faith, and ignorance, which under the name of stupidity is the index of everyone's alienation, is awakened and stirred up by the actor so that he might be unrealized through it as a magnificent idiot. What is he doing other than what he has always done, since a bad relationship constituted him laughable? To be sure, a dialectic operates between the character and the interpreter: the actor transforms the character to the precise extent that he is transformed by it. But these are relations between images. The role serves as an alibi:

the actor sheds his persona, he believes he is evading himself in the character. But this is futile: in his befuddled alacrity to be nothing but a strange image, there is a distinct malaise and a deep antipathy, which encourages him to revile himself so that others may triumph. He is conscious, in fact, of choosing this or that disguise in order to make others laugh at him as he has always done.”

All right, if we do not understand this, we are probably stupid idiots and damned fools ourselves at the feet of this great analyst—an admirer at Sartre’s funeral procession was quoted as saying that he did not understand what Sartre said, but he knew he was a great philosopher, and that was enough.

Perhaps this will clarify Sartre’s assessment of Flaubert’s childhood: “Since his sincerity, such as it is, is rejected, and since he does not recognize his own right to feel



THE HYSTERICAL TIMES anything until adults have give n their consent, he is condemn ed by

anything until adults have given their consent, he is condemned by his father's capricious mistrust never to determine whether he is feeling or just imagining his feelings. The deeper meaning of this personalizing revolution is that the child no longer knows whether he exists or is just pretending to exist. Given this option, Gustave unconsciously chooses anti-Cartesianism and, more obscurely, irrationality. If he manages only to produce images, isn't he an image himself?”

The problem here is that Flaubert does not exist or behave in the way Sartre wants him to exist, according to Sartre’s universal definition of existence, which is really a mode of being, being responsible for oneself according to a Marxist psychologist’s desire. He cannot help the way he is not himself, which unbeknown to him is a radical self; he is a phony, a victim of capitalist society. Therefore Flaubert is subject to a pithiatic form of neurosis.

Generally speaking, a neurotic person is an unduly nervous one, a person who is anxious and emotional as the result of some invisible injury. He suffers from a psychic conflict between alternates, neither of which he wants to choose; say, between his ideal self, which others have propped up for him, and his real self, which he consequently despises when he falls short of the ideal. He is trapped between two hard rocks, and, in self- defense, works out an impractical compromise that condemns him to drag his cross around for the rest of his life. E Neurotic behavior seems to be an ineffective or inefficient or even absurd way of doing things to the observer; however, from the subject’s perspective, it may be a somewhat effective adaptation strategy inasmuch as it may allay his fears, for example, and make him feel that he has the world under control, or at least his behavior may manipulate others to react in a manner beneficial to him— unfortunately, it often makes matters worse, reinforcing, paradoxically, the neurosis. Still, the neurotic person is purportedly unaware of the true nature of his mental disorder.

Indeed, Sartre appears to have believed that Flaubert was neurotic, not figuratively speaking, but in the sense of mental illness, F that he was mentally sickened by a sick i.e. bourgeois society. Disgusted with the self he was being, because he was unaware of his existential self, which should have been a radical self manning the barricades against the stupid bourgeoisie, Flaubert withdrew from society, isolating himself to agonizingly write Madame Bovary, featuring the fictional Emma Bovary, a haplessly romantic, hysterical woman who was incapable of loving any man; no man was perfect, leaving every candidate to fall short of her ideal. Her author would confess that “she is me.” He is the hysteric; she is his projection. She will die in the novel; he will wind up with the glory.

According to Sartre’s family idiot myth, Flaubert had not quite arrived at the state of neurosis at an early stage in his adolescence, although he was well on his way: “Looking at these passages [from Flaubert’s biographic writing],” Sartre reflects, “we are forced to acknowledge that Gustave does not intend to describe to us the tame, continually interrupted reveries of a "well-adjusted" adolescent; rather, he depicts an almost neurotic state, intentional, certainly, but outstripping his clear intention and yet suffered to the same degree that it is produced.”



THE HYSTERICAL TIMES Again the family patriarch is blamed for the neurosis with which Flaubert will

Again the family patriarch is blamed for the neurosis with which Flaubert will be entailed:

“As the undisputed and shrewd head of the family, Achille-Cleophas contributed to maintaining the young man in a neurotic state that gave him a reason to sequester himself at Rouen and end his studies; in this sense, the father's death certainly had the effect, if not of curing Gustave, at least of causing a remission of his illness. But the fundamental and archaic relationship of the child to the father (to convince him of his eminent value) was not altered; hence the remission was accompanied by a profound frustration.” (Emphasis added)

Sartre attributes neurotic behavior to mental rather than physical causes. His rhetoric explicating the mechanics of the inner conflict and its outward results differs somewhat from that of the early masters, but that is of little consequence since the mechanical hypotheses cannot be falsified; strictly speaking, psychoanalysis is not hard science but rather soft art. G When a patient is not able to dredge up something pertinent to her mental disorder from the unconscious, claiming that nothing is there, the doctor may assume that there is something invisible there, and a force called resistance to maintain the repression, and do his best to torture the truth out of her somehow. Who can prove

that that the unconscious, that repression, that resistance and so on do not exist? It is easier to come up with something for the doctor to analyze, perhaps a random recitation


ideas from which the Delphic priest may divine the hypostatical associations suitable


his theoretical framework.

Sartre, who had become all too familiar with war hysteria and totalitarian regimes during the war, said that unwelcome feelings that cannot be assimilated are externalized so that a global defense can be set up against them—a total war for a final solution, a war to end all wars. For example, we may attribute our faults to others, the enemies, who then are subhuman enough to justify slaughtering them. (Freudians would say that repressed content is unconsciously projected onto or transferred to others).

“Stress is the name we shall give to this unity of the nonassimilable element and the global defense that the totalizing process develops against it, infected precisely to the degree that it tries to neutralize the nonassimilable. In this case, neurosis is stress as much as character disorder. Of course, this totalizing effort to defuse the contradictions or to isolate them achieves its aim only at the price of dangerous divergences, which alter the totalized whole.”

A seemingly novel kind of hysteria is Dr. Sartre's diagnosis in Flaubert’s case; not the

vulgar, convulsive or paralytic, demonstrative sort of hysteria, but rather a facile, evasive

hysteria due solely to cultural persuasion and auto-suggestion; something called pithiatism. And in this case, as we shall see from Sartre’s contexts, the pithiatism he alludes to is a rather metaphorical hysteria. But is not the “illness” of “mental illness” metaphorical absent a physical disease? Sartre resorts to concealing his moral



THE HYSTERICAL TIMES disapprobation by resort to a psychoanalytic myth, letting the grea t realist off

disapprobation by resort to a psychoanalytic myth, letting the great realist off the hook while castigating him to no end to raise his own prestige—we may peruse Thomas Szasz in a footnote on this strategy. H We are led to envision Flaubert, psychically conflicted and traumatized by his dispassionate father in his passionate childhood, sitting masochistically for hours on end, hunched virtually immobile over his desk, knuckles bloodless from gripping his pen ever so rigidly, agonizingly finding just the right and fit words which will leave no evidence of his own existence behind, thus he appears to be entirely unsympathetic towards his subjects, meaning the objects he painstakingly details; and, above all, he is truthful, that is to say, cynical. The result: one of the finest novels every written, an example mimicked by many masters thereafter—such is the persuasive power of masterful suggestion.

And we must give Flaubert credit for his individual willpower, which is in fact the principle concern of French Existentialism in its obedience to the ancient command Know Thyself. Socrates has turned from stargazing to introspection back in the day, but he observed that, whatever the Truth is, it matters not whether one proceeds with the investigation from subject or object, within or without—the wisdom Socrates found was that he alone knew he was ignorant. Flaubert, disenchanted with the imaginative monstrosities of his youth, turned from subject to object, from the romantic vagaries within to the objective clarities without. He was not the social-utopia activist Sartre would have liked him to be, but he was a realistic activist indeed, in the sense that thinking and writing is symbolic activity; and his cynical depiction of bourgeois society, cynical because his depiction happened to be true, was just as liberating as Sartre’s self- involved or romantic existentialism, which was essentially a furthering of French Spiritualism or Voluntarism, not to mention his other fiction wherein Sartre was hardly loath to exhibit moral degeneracy for sake of drawing attention to scandals that everyone “born in sin,” i.e. as an individual necessarily varying from the Good of the Whole, naturally finds fascinating.

Again it appears to us that Sartre’s psychoanalysis of Flaubert’s preoccupation amounts to a thoroughly moral condemnation of his patient—who is all too patient of a patient because he is dead. Sartre knew a sinner when he saw one; are we not all sinners to an extent? Sartre’s sin is in his existential individualism, of being born an individual in the first place, and then flaunting his individualism in opposition to the summum bonum or Good that society and/or its god is, ad infinitum in writing. Flaubert tried to disappear, to render his own pathetic existence invisible while describing the falsifications or illusions of the others. Still, the sin here—Sartre knew this very well from existentialism’s progenitor, Soren Kierkegaard—was in being, not in existence per se; it was in being false to existence. It is the sin of being an artist who places himself beyond good and evil rather than to make a choice and live with it.

The morbid, morose, moribund person, we recall from our etymology, is morally diseased, is immoral in his deadly contradiction to the force that urges him to live forever in his differentiation by paradoxically merging with the bustling crowd, instead of falling back into the womb, which represents his own death although others may emerge from his tomb if he is not reborn. The writer’s despairing retreat can be a very lonely one if his



THE HYSTERICAL TIMES ego is subject to Kierkegaard’s “fatal di sease.” Kierkegaard referred to the sinful

ego is subject to Kierkegaard’s “fatal disease.” Kierkegaard referred to the sinful existence of the artist’s existence—we would rather call it the sin of his being or form of existence instead of his existence per se, which in its contradictory individuality happens to be the original “Christian” sin, the crux from whence the twin fears, of life and death, plague humankind with anxiety. However that may be, Kierkegaard stated: “From a Christian point of view, any poet’s existence, with his whole aesthetic existence, is a sin; the sin of writing poetry instead of living, of connecting himself with the good and evil instead of being the good and evil, that is essentially aspiring to become all these.”

The Greek author Nikos Kazantzakis celebrated the Christian sin of pride with this

description of the writer’s workshop: “The fourth day I jumped out of the bed, I took the

I was writing and I was so proud; I was a God who was doing

what he wanted, was changing the reality, shaping it the way he wanted, mixing the truth and the lie; but it was no longer the truth and the lie, it was a soft dough that I was shaping according to my own imagination, without asking for anyone’s permission.”

pen and I started writing

In any case, Sartre’s novel psychoanalysis is hardly objective inasmuch as it is deliberately prejudiced by a hackneyed Marxist criticism of so-called bourgeois society, a society that Flaubert also despised and was fain to bitterly criticize, although he simulated bourgeois life for the sake of convenience, using it as a foundation for freedom: "Be regular and orderly in your life like a bourgeois, so that you may be violent and original in your work," was his maxim. Sartre had also been cultivated by the bourgeois culture, and identified himself through his resistance to it; who would we be without those we oppose?

However, we remember that Sartre, in contrast to Flaubert, was converted by his war experiences, including being a prisoner of war, from an aloof contemplation of the world through absolute concepts to doing something about it; wherefore he, a Communist sympathizer, could despise Flaubert’s resignation and flight into general being, and pride himself in his particular existence as an activist journalist born of the Resistance. His “existentialism” or existence would free him from “essentialism” or being, and that freedom from social definitions and conceptual illusions would leave him with the responsibility to make his own choices and act on them. Nevertheless, the Communists accused him of being a do-nothing quietest, someone who stoically resigned himself to bourgeois being only to contemplate existence and criticize it ad infinitum from a leftist point of view but actually do nothing about it.

Simone de Beauvoir, Sartre’s most significant psychophysical other, who was, first of all a teacher committed to clear exposition, explained his transition from being to existence from her perspective in Richard Howard’s translation of Force of Circumstance (1964):

“Sartre, in Being and Nothingness, had sketched a total description of existence whose value depended on his own situation, and he intended to continue this work. He would have to establish his position not only through theoretical speculations, but also by practical choices. Hence he found himself committed to action in a much more radical way than



THE HYSTERICAL TIMES myself…. The war had effected a decisive conversion. First of all, it had

myself…. The war had effected a decisive conversion. First of all, it had shown him his own historicity; and the shock of this discovery made him realize how much he had been established to the established order, even while he was condemning it. There is a conservative in every adventurer. To create his image, to project his legend into the future, the adventurer needs a stable society. Utterly dedicated to the adventure of writing, have longed to be a great writer, having coveted immortal glory since childhood, Sartre had been counting on a posterity that would continue to use the heritage of this century for its own purposed without any break in continuity. At heart, he remained faithful to the same ‘esthetic of opposition’ he had believed in a twenty. Relentless in his denunciation of this society’s faults, he still had no desire to overthrow it. Suddenly everything fell apart; eternity exploded into a thousand pieces; he found himself drifting aimlessly between a past of illusions and a future of shadows. He defended himself with his morality of authenticity: from the point of view of freedom, all situations could be salvaged if one accepted (assumed) them as a project. This solution was still very close to Stoicism, since circumstances often leave us no other way of transcending ourselves than submission. Sartre, who hated all the little deceptions we practice upon ourselves, could not be satisfied for long by disguising his passivity with verbal protest. He realized that, living not in the absolute but in the transitory, he had to renounce being and to do. This transition was made easier for him by his previous development. As a thinker, a writer, his primary concern had been to grasp meanings. But after Heidegger and Saint-Exupery, whom he read in 1940, had convinced him that meanings came into the world only by the activity of man, practice superseded contemplation. He had said to me during the ‘phony war’…that once peace was restored he would go into politics.”

Moreover, “Far from being quietism or a nihilism, Existentialism was a definition of man through action; if it condemned him to anxiety it did so only insofar as it obliged him to accept responsibilities. The hope it denied him was the idle reliance on anything other than himself; it was an appeal to man’s will.” So there we have a report on the birth of Sartrean existentialism shortly after the liberation of France from the Nazis. As for Simone at that time, she began to write again; she did not have to go back to teaching right away because she and Jean-Paul had pooled their resources despite her predilection for female independence: “For me, my books were a real fulfillment, and as such they freed me from the necessity to affirm myself in any other way. I therefore devoted myself wholly, and without scruples, to All Men Are Mortal. Every morning I went to Bibliotheque Mazarine to read historical narratives; it was icily cold there, but the story of Charles the Fifth, the episode of the Anabaptists, took me so far from my own body that I forgot to shiver.”



THE HYSTERICAL TIMES Sartre’s transition to existentialism, which was essentially a “new” legendary being or

Sartre’s transition to existentialism, which was essentially a “new” legendary being or philosophical myth, apparently justified his condemnation of Flaubert for leading an inauthentic, bourgeois life even though he despised the bourgeoisie. That is, he did not make same the activist break as Sartre supposedly had done; he remained the passive victim of pithiatic circumstances, had augmented environmental suggestion with auto- suggestion to paint his existence completely out of the picture, hence was quite the quietist zombie, unconscious of his real self, which had been converted from Being into Nothing instead of Existence.

Sartre’s characterization of young Flaubert’s conflicted family life headed by his allegedly cold and calloused father, a surgeon, whom he had witnessed dissecting cadavers, a life Sartre supposes disposed the boy to unreality and passive-aggressiveness by denying him the creation of his own being out of his native existence:

“As long as the paterfamilias was disposed to accept his younger son's demonstrations though hyperbolic he validated them. The little boy believed he was raised from nothingness purposely to witness the glory of his creator, and the daily ceremony of adoration that seemed to him constitutive of his creatural being. He was not altogether mistaken: Dr. Flaubert, patriarchal bourgeois, did not deign to solicit love, but he would have been astonished not to be adored. This golden age, as we know, did not last long; gloomy, nervous, skeptical, Achille-Cleophas put an early end to the whole drama. This was his ruling contradiction: to claim the homage of his vassals on the strength of his mere existence as head of the family, and at the same time to condemn as a scientist all feudal behavior in the name of psychosocial atomism. For Gustave, this was a catastrophe. He derived his truth from the Other, having none of his own; when the father withdrew his credit, this second weaning created a breach in the sweet immediate confusion of inter-subjective life, and such an abrupt disconnection threw the child back onto the solitude of the inexpressible, even as it made him unbearably visible. The child was still expressly invited to the ceremony of love if only by his mother, whose statements must have confirmed his feeling for his vocation but scarcely did he begin than he was exposed by a cold look, a hand that pushed him away, an obvious indifference, or, worse, a nasty crack, a gibe. Ham! Thrust back on himself, that is, on nontruth, Gustave was amazed to discover his unreality; unreality, indeed, which characterized his being, had been developed in order to escape the insipidness of his facticity (as we saw in part one) and to endow himself with a being- for-adoration, which could be seen from our new perspective as the dawning of personalization. But it is this very being that paternal rejection throws into question.”

Overall, Sartre’s description and cutting analysis of the French literary realist's life is more of a subjective autobiographical projection of his own psychological “rigidity,” in the form of a perverse or hysterical flexibility rather than an objective biography. Further, his analysis is itself pathetically pithiatic inasmuch as it is the product of his ideological



THE HYSTERICAL TIMES persuasions. That is, he proves himself to be a neurotic himself while arguing

persuasions. That is, he proves himself to be a neurotic himself while arguing that Flaubert is neurotic. If only he could have removed the plank from his own eye, he would have seen mere sawdust in Flaubert’s eye.

In fine, Sartre’s psycho-political approach is neither disinterested nor sympathetic, but is prejudicial, vindictive, and ideological. He gives Flaubert, reputedly the founder of French Literary Realism, scant credit, and uses him to validate his own disgust: society is sick; Flaubert is society’s sick representative. The same has been said of Sartre, whose protest against the bourgeoisie was all too bourgeois. The features of the dead appear in the faces of the living. Sartre's representation of Flaubert is indicative of his own culture, which is naturally a development of Flaubert's. When we portray another, we cannot help revealing ourselves.

Again, Sartre’s Flaubert is a neurotic. His neurosis is a monastery or restrictive world- totalization to which he withdraws from reality to live an imaginary life as a novel writer. He lives in bad faith, hiding the truth about himself from himself by painting himself out of the picture. Flaubert, or so Sartre assumed, was pithiatic, a virtual hysteric. He notes that Flaubert had started writing plays when he was eight years old, which he would perform before his family. Denied real being, that is, self-generated being, at an awkward age, and being laughed at for being foolish, he posed as a comic to have his revenge, just as a boy accused of being a thief might become, by way of protest and thanks to the power of authoritative suggestion, a thief. But in fact he took himself seriously although he played the part of a fool; what his own being was he did not know except that it was unreal, i.e. not realized. If he had in truth been a fool, whatever being he might have been would have vanished. He could pretend to be someone else, but could not be himself. Being-in-itself neither denies nor affirms a thing; it is truth itself, intuitively known.

“The truth exists for him, he believes in it; it's merely that it belongs to others; he has lost his truth, assuming he ever had one, but the others have kept theirs . When he compares himself to those solid persons, determined and impenetrable, he feels with terror that he is made of a diaphanous, proteiform substance that can imitate everything because it is never anything. All his life he will be haunted by the anguish that there might be people who love and suffer absolutely or real.”

“Pithiatism” is at play in Sartre’s play: Sartre claims that, for Flaubert, the novice playwright, writing was secondary to acting out his ideas, that his mature literature was born of that “thwarted vocation,” and that he was an unconvincing actor, because “he acted so as to launch an appeal to being by exploiting the means at hand, that is, his very derealization.” Sometimes he fascinated, disturbed, or won over his audience of friends and family when he played the part of a grotesque boy, an idiot, a giant, a saint and so on, but for the most part he was a bad actor; he was false, transparent, and irritating because he was writing his own plays, and doing so in bad faith, for he had no being of his own to speak of; he was simply attempting to negate a negative but had nothing real to work with.



THE HYSTERICAL TIMES “The main thing here is that he is destined to incarnate a single

“The main thing here is that he is destined to incarnate a single character—for all his avatars resemble each other—not entirely his own character but the persona he wants to appear in the eyes of others, which we will describe in the next chapter. Thus his first vocation seems scarcely more than the simplest and most immediate reaction to his derealization; and I mean that this, as well as his constituted passivity and his pithiatism, would have served him if he had gone into the theater.”

Young Gustave, in effect, was allowing himself, through self-cannibalization, to be vampirized by the characters he played: “And he [played his characters] all the more contentedly because he had discovered his true status as Master of the Unreal. In sum, he was reassured by judging himself instituted in advance, integrated by the society that refused him and fulfilled by his profession; he abandoned himself to his constituted passivity which would make him all his life the martyr of unreality…. He caricatures living people, in sum, in order to steal their being for a moment and know what it is to take pleasure in having an objective being. Surely he is not convinced that he is Papa Couilleres while he is doing him, or that this theft/possession (he becomes vampirized by the being he has stolen) could be accomplished without that pithiatism that generally characterizes constituted passivities.”

The boy had something to gain by his playacting, which was tantamount to throwing hysterical fits:

“But for the de-realized child, an absenteeist, the character is none other than his persona created and guaranteed by the benevolence of the Other:

protected by an invisible armor, he offers himself up to the blows of fate, exhibiting, without taking responsibility for it, the pre-established transposition of his absurdity and misfortune. In his theatrical experience the child finds irresponsibility, submission, happy and compensated vassalage; the guarantee of the imaginary by a sovereign will, by the necessity of connections, by tradition and universal consent; a priori knowledge of his being-for-others, the ambiguity of fatum, the justification of pathos that is, not just of his excessive gesticulation but of his constituted passivity, which, by forbidding hint action, encourages him to abandon himself to what he is and to show his passions through gestures; pithiatic belief, never total but consolidated by that of others; the ability really to feel what he expresses . The child finds all this in his theatrical experience as long as it remains in the immediate realm of un- reflected spontaneity, in other words, as long as he produces himself on stage, moved only by the need to escape from his insubstantial and tedious persona by replacing it with the being of a character.”

Good play actors, then, are disposed to passivity and pithiatism, in contrast to Sartre, who is an activist because he participates in socialist activism. That is, play actors are receptive to the influence of suggestion, which makes them convincing imitators, or performing hysterics. On a personal note, a Freudian psychologist, a regular sex fiend



THE HYSTERICAL TIMES who taught at the New School, attempted to recruit me, then an acting

who taught at the New School, attempted to recruit me, then an acting student at HB Studio, into his group therapy sessions; after several drinks at a bar on Broadway, he posited that “actors are the most neurotic of all people, mainly hysterical, which makes my group therapy sessions a lot of fun.”

Pertinently, at least in the context of thwarted development, Sigmund Freud, in his ‘Fourth Lecture on The Origin and Development of Psychoanalysis’ (1910), noted that:

“(The sexual impulses) appear in opposed pairs, as active and passive. The most important representatives of this group are the pleasure in afflicting pain (sadism) with its passive opposite (masochism) and active and passive exhibition pleasure. From the first of these later pairs splits off the curiosity for knowledge, as from the latter the impulse toward artistic and theatrical representation…. Every process of development brings with it the germ of pathological dispositions in so far as it may be inhibited, delayed, or incompletely carried out. This holds for the sexual function, with its many complications. It is not smoothly completed in all individuals, and may leave behind either abnormalities or disposition to later diseases by the way of later falling back or regression.”

Your instant author, by the way, for whom pithiatism has been a blessing rather than a curse, abandoned an acting, dancing and singing career, and took up writing passionately, although he was a reputedly a “natural-born improviser.” Forgive me for interjecting the first person pronoun here, but I did not want to be somebody else. I did not want to memorize someone else’s lines. The discipline of dancing, however, was another matter, providing that the performances were solo, leaving ample room for covering up mistakes with improvisations.

Flaubert liked playacting, but he found writing alone somewhat troublesome because he was loath to confine his imagination to the written word. The family potentate would eventually send him off to law school, to which he was indifferent, to say the least, although he found the precise, unsentimental objective language of the law attractive, in comparison to the wild, romantic urging of his youth. While on vacation at home, he suffered a nervous breakdown or crisis, accompanied by temporary paralysis, an event said to be a nervous disease; the ‘stroke’ may have been, for all we know, an epileptic seizure although clear signs of epilepsy were not apparent.

These attacks, absent the usual signs of epilepsy, recurred throughout his life whenever he was under considerable stress. If his abnormal motor or sensory affects, whatever they might have been, were psychogenic, today they might be considered as evidence of a psychosomatic “conversion disorder,” along the lines of ‘classical’ hysteria, provided they were preceded by stress, not faked, not medically or culturally determined, not limited merely to pain or sexual dysfunction, and not falling within the context of some other somatic disorder or mental illness. Despite the requirement of cultural indeterminism, the symptoms of conversion hysteria in the West are of a different type than those found in the East.



THE HYSTERICAL TIMES Hysterical command performances at Salpetriere As Sartre knew very well, epileptic phenomen a
THE HYSTERICAL TIMES Hysterical command performances at Salpetriere As Sartre knew very well, epileptic phenomen a
THE HYSTERICAL TIMES Hysterical command performances at Salpetriere As Sartre knew very well, epileptic phenomen a

Hysterical command performances at Salpetriere

As Sartre knew very well, epileptic phenomena were once believed to be symptomatic of hysteria. Hysteria was called a “protean” affliction because it could mimic or fake the symptoms of many physical diseases. Studies of hysterics had demonstrated that hysteria is a performance with a purpose—primary and secondary gains are to be had. When we examine the photographs of hysterical performances taken at Salpetriere Hospital, we believe the starlets might today gain appreciative Off Broadway audiences. There were also male hysterics at Salpetriere, just as Dionysus appeared at Delphi while it was ruled by Apollo, but the command performances were naturally given by pithiatic women inasmuch as females traditionally had the “wandering wombs” associated with irrational or immoral behavior, while men were customarily the repositories of reason, which logically justified their might as a moral right by virtue of their will to power.

might as a moral right by virtue of their will to power. Pierre Andre Brouillet’s‘Una lecon

Pierre Andre Brouillet’s‘Una lecon Clinique a la Salpetriere’ (A painting Sigmund Freud kept in his office). The “Queen of Hysterics,” Blanch Wittman, Faints into the arms of Joseph Babinski



THE HYSTERICAL TIMES Like witches of old, usually impoverished women who practiced the magical arts of

Like witches of old, usually impoverished women who practiced the magical arts of witchcraft as a trade, the new witchdoctors took up diagnosing and casting curative spells as a business. I Instead of burning witches at the stake, and chaining womb-wandering hysterics to prison walls, they would endeavor to disenchant them of their maladies with their persuasive powers of reasonable talk and positive suggestion, perhaps after the demons possessing the hapless patients came forth and revealed themselves during hypnotic spells, courses of free association, or during couched confessions for which no penance was exacted. And, like the witches of old, hysterics performed well at the suggestion of their inquisitors, confessing their sins, particularly those of a sexual nature; otherwise, the prognosis would be “incurable”; that is, if they did not perform as indirectly directed, they would be cast into the hopeless ward from hell.

The fallacious arguments has been made by some good doctors that, if hysterical behavior is a performance, then performers are hysterics. The hysterical performances confirmed that histrionics, or pretending to be someone else, is a masochistic art. In fine, hysteria was an invention, or rather a new name for an old disguise, and the enthusiasm or spirited prepossession of the “scientific” doctors, who were themselves frequently subject to the hysteria they had unwittingly induced, had a financial motive; to wit, to corner the market from the so-called charlatans and quacks who plied their ancient trade with potions, mesmerism, sympathetic magic, hypnotic spells and the like. Of course the stigmata or signs of hysteria would increase in number as the profession progressed. Naturally it would behoove the best neurologists to become psychiatrists and treat the most affluent women, many of whom if not all were neurotic due to their discontent with patriarchal civilization, making of some of them a good example of the virtues of prolonged psychiatric treatment. Some patient patients would be so utterly convinced by the results of their submission to professional authority that they would take up the practice themselves; others, conscious of the fact that they were “faking it,” found scant relief from the maladies suffered.

Flaubert’s performance, Sartre believed, was staged to gain enough sympathy to get out of law school, first of all, and then to do whatever he wanted. Mission accomplished: his father was convinced Flaubert’s constitution would not tolerate a regular life; he was withdrawn from school and supported by his family’s considerable resources. It was after this crisis, which most people would have written off as mildly traumatic at most, that he supposedly found himself able to write at length, albeit painstakingly, sometimes working on a single page for an entire week in a scientific effort to find just the right, harmonious yet unsentimental words to perfect it.

Hysteria can be so broad as to encompass all sorts of disorders. Now an obsessive- compulsive person might protect himself from the shitty world by confining it to things that must be touched and warding off its pollution by repetitious hand-washing. Flaubert, hypothetically, totalized the world at his writing desk, warding off its pollution with a clinical representation or purist style of writing. In other words, his writing distanced him from the dirty world as he condensed what he thought about it into words, tortuously molding the crap into concrete constructions—everything was under control in that bloody wrestling arena. In Walter Pater’s words, he was the “martyr of style.” Neither



THE HYSTERICAL TIMES technique nor artist should be noticed in fine art. Flaubert finally managed to

technique nor artist should be noticed in fine art. Flaubert finally managed to lose himself in brilliantly depicted details, to paint himself out of his picture of Madame Bovary; there he would perfect his unreality in a disappearing act; to wit, become untouchable or Nothing. Only Nothing is perfect and permanent; that would be his form of hysterical paralysis within which his artistic convulsions were performed. And that was no easy accomplishment for a rebellious subject raised in the vague, emotional effusions of French High Romanticism with all its affectations in the form of incomplete words— words are merely symbolic, indicative of potential action, impotent in themselves.

“From the age of fourteen, he is quite explicit about his dissatisfaction with the written word a dissatisfaction that will persist at least until the crisis of 1844; the written word is clearly inadequate as it can render neither feelings, sensations, nor ecstasies. This denunciation is his recurrent subject, and, as we know, the deepest reasons for it lie elsewhere; but if he slips it into most of his early works from the age of fourteen on, it is as an occasional yet crucial motif. He was forbidden the career of actor; hence, words were deprived of their ordinary accompanying gestures, mimicry, and intonation; they were suddenly mutilated, became little more than inert scaffolding how could he give them back their former fullness? Deprived of his old sound tools, he had to replace them by crude, mute instruments which, because they were not heated by his breath, would never express his animating pathos. Of course, he would read his text aloud, interpret it, giving a singular aspect to the universal vocable through the timbre of his voice, and hence would be able on rare occasions to preserve the illusion that he was giving birth to it by expectoration. But he knew very well that reading is not acting. Even the ludic aspect of literature has nothing to do with acting. Above all, writing for unknown readers is an attempt to captivate and seduce them by defenseless graphemes, which they interpret as they like. He is vulnerable nothing in his hands, nothing in his pockets; the writer traces his scrawl and goes away, leaving it to the most malevolent inspection.”

Despite Sartre’s analysis, we see nothing neurotic or abnormal in Flaubert’s reluctant progression from an oral to written mode of communication; the reduction of thought to objective texts, the invention of writing, accounts for the “progress” of civilization. J As Lewis Mumford noted, to exist is to exist in print, which makes a far greater impression than actual events and releases people from the domination of immediate and local circumstances. Sartre himself said he wrote to free people—no doubt beginning with himself.

We recall that Flaubert, our frustrated realist, still a romantic at heart, bitterly said that reality, meaning the way things really were from his perspective, tasted like shit. To escape from his distasteful perception, he contrived an imaginary reality, a construction that Sartre analyzed according to his Psychology of the Imaginary. An artist’s job, as jazz-dance master Luigi Facciuto once averred, is to make shit smell good: “This shit just came to me out of nowhere,” he told his dancers after he moved, “and now it’s our job to



THE HYSTERICAL TIMES make it smell good.” Still, given the materi als employed, the result has

make it smell good.” Still, given the materials employed, the result has scatological implications to critics with an acute sense of smell. Flaubert’s Imaginary was ‘romantic’ to the extent that his flight from stinking, excremental reality was an heroic adventure into another, mysterious realm of his own fashion, a monstrous, grotesque realm. There was no room for Love in that kingdom; mystery vanished accordingly, for Love a secret does not abhor; he was haunted by the odor of the ordure in his sandbox, thus was motivated to leave his sense of taste and smell behind if not the substance itself, and embrace nothing, which he idolized as Nothing. Nothing is absolute freedom: Nothing is freer than the freedom at the bottom of Sartre’s Existence, for freedom is always freedom from something or the other; Sartre would leave us a shred of something to cling to, bare existence, while Flaubert would be free of everything altogether, in the perfect form of forms: vacancy.

Sartre pointed out that Flaubert attempted to believe in and therefore feel love by “pithiatic” means: auto-suggestion. He asks, “Is there not, however, in the very act of composition a still unreal but more immediate gratification? Yes: a gratification of the desire to desire.” He quotes Flaubert’s letter dated February 8, 1841: "I wrote a love letters for the purpose of writing, not because I love. Yet I would like to delude myself that I do: I love, I believe while writing."

“What is at stake for Gustave is the credibility of language: in what form will discourse—his own discourse—be most likely to engage the pithiatic adherence of the boy? His answer is precise: writing. The reasons for this are apparent: writing seems like a passage to action, like an extemalization as well as a composition. It is not a matter of copying ‘I love you’ a hundred times; that would be a schoolboy's punishment. You must invent love, do something original, come up with passionately authentic phrases, put yourself in the position to recognize them from the inside. This means you must imagine you are in love…. Of course, on the surface the pithiatic aspect of the enterprise is undeniable: it isn't only a game (it is also a game), it is a successful attempt, at least as far as his pen is concerned, at autosuggestion.”

There is a difference between lust and love; sublime love is a cultivated emotion, a synthesis of feeling and judgment, a suggestion from without, introjected and reinforced within by imitative auto-suggestion.

Flaubert was hardly devoid of passion in his youth. We think he feared for his sanity when the Sibyl raved within him at Hecate’s crossroad; he resorted to Reason—which god-fearing religious scholars have identified with Being or Logos—to quash the hysterical passion he suffered, obsessively endeavoring to restrain the Dionysian dragoness with Apollonian virtue, compelled to do so until she was incinerated and there was nothing left but the restraint itself, the blinding light said to be the mystic source of wisdom in the proverbially blind sage. The vanishing point of Flaubert’s Imaginary was death, beyond which is infinity. Flaubert called the devil Yuk, the licentious god of the grotesque who exposes the human world as it really is: cursed by shit. Satan loved God



THE HYSTERICAL TIMES so much that he hated man and tempted him w ith the finite

so much that he hated man and tempted him with the finite world, which is the death of

man because everything finite must have an end. The factual world is evil; in fact, there can be no truth, beauty and goodness in fact. There is not enough antiseptic in the putrid world to rid it of its rottenness. So let the facts of science be damned if its facts taken

alone would damn the human spirit. Prosperity is a help but is no utopia.

A psychoanalyst would take pause to examine not only the familial details of an

analysand’s biography but would also carefully scrutinize the character of his relationships with friends during his impressionable youth. After all, a boy’s best friend is likely to leave a lifelong impression. Young Gustave Flaubert’s best friend happened to

be Alfred Le Poittevin (1816-1848), a pessimistic philosopher and poet who lived in

Rouen, who was, incidentally, Guy de Maupassant’s nephew. Their mothers were also

best friends.

Alfred and Gustave, together with their friend Ernest Chevalier, shared pipes and conversation on Sundays and Thursdays, and on school holidays, they practically saw each other every day in Rouen, where they loitered in cafes, swam, rowed, and played

billiards. Flaubert eventually followed Alfred to Paris to study law. In his correspondence

he wrote that he and Albert sometimes conversed for six hours at a time, discussing

hothouse ideals to break the boredom. The young fellows were most profoundly influenced by the Romantic reaction to materialism, with its Gothic, aristocratic, and evolutionary predilections, the philosophical movement being neo-Kantian. Alfred,

already a published poet and infatuated with Goethe and Spinoza, loved poetic impersonality, which elaborates historical ideals to which the poet surrenders his personality, becoming a literary channel for traditional development.

Gustave shared many of those ideals with Alfred; for example, the traditional idea of Satan expressed in Alfred’s romantic-revolt poem by that name. Indeed, Flaubert had been fascinated by Satan ever since he had discovered Byron, who with Shelley led the so-called Satanic School; the school was credited with an attitude somewhat like that of the Goths of our day, of impious, imperious pride, unduly preoccupied with the grotesque, with monstrous horrors and lewd subject matter, a decadent demeanor that psychiatrists would soon diagnose as evidence of evolutionary degeneracy, a sort moral insanity brought to the fore by crowded civilization’s foul air and other poisons, especially alcohol—absinthe was the devil’s favorite drink in France.

Ah, rebellious youth! Flaubert was imbued with the attitude that a reconciliation of reality with ideality was impossible; ultimately, the ugliness of reality, presided over by Satan, whom Flaubert would call Yuk, the god of the grotesque, wins out, an attitude in contrast

to that of the Zoroastrians, whose god representing Good runs slightly ahead of its twin

god representing Evil and extinguishes the negating factor in the final moment.

Alfred, intrigued by the exotic Orient, penned ‘L’Orient,’ depicting a youth weary of “the black vapors of civilization.” In ‘Heure d’ angoisse,’ a poet crushed by despair in a



THE HYSTERICAL TIMES faithless world doubts the reality of immortality and providence. ‘ Ahasverus ’ embodies

faithless world doubts the reality of immortality and providence. ‘Ahasverus’ embodies a longing for death and annihilation. In ‘La foi,’ the loss of faith is regretted.

In 1851 Flaubert corresponded about his gang of “young rascals,” recounting how they inhabited a “strange world” of insanity and suicide. He said hopeless love and vain philosophy had rendered him gloomy. The boys created a grotesque character which they used to satirize conventional beliefs, not only materialism but romanticism as well. In one play a boy says, “Gothic architecture is fine, it’s so inspiring!” Garcon replies, “Yes, it is fine, and the Massacre of Saint Bartholomew’s Day, too, and the Draggonades, and the Edict of Nantes too!”

Flaubert expressed his disdain for the bourgeois or town merchants in his 1839 school essay, ‘Les arts et le commerce,’ pleading for art see free from bourgeois ideology. “Has not the soul, too, its needs?” The commercial obsession of historical Carthage in particular seemed “monstrous and ferocious” to him. Even art for the sake of art he thought was vain at the time.

In 1838 Flaubert had conceived a nihilistic mystery play where one would come face-to- face with the infinite: ‘Smahr—an Old Mystery Play.’ The play is obviously indebted to Goethe’s Faust, not to mention the literature of Byron and Quinet. Smahr, an anchorite, is tempted by Satan, dressed as doctor of theology. They mount winged steeds to survey the world. Satan, demonstrating the nothingness of everything that is known, summoned Flaubert’s newly created god of the grotesque, Yuk, to explain life to him along the way. Yuk was introduced, disguised as a beautiful woman, an allegory for Truth. Smahr fell in love with her, but Satan loved her too, and she turned out to be Yuk, who preoccupied himself for a time with persuading a married woman to give herself to every comer. Yuk demonstrated to Smahr that life is a period filled with horrors such as bodies being devoured, blood raining down, orgies and the like. Of course Smahr craves power to preside over the world as it is for his own good, but he very longing fills the world with death and destruction; alas, his desire is in vain because the power he wants has destroyed the very thing he longs for. He had initially been proud of his bravery, even joyful, but his plunge into abysmal eventually made him feel fatally crushed in his finiteness by infinitude. All his knowledge, based on doubt, had been proved false and vain, empty. Yuk then cries out that he alone is eternal, not even death can defeat him:

“I am reality, I am eternity, I am the power of ridicule, the grotesque, the ugly; I am what is, what has been and what shall be…. I am a whole eternity in myself….”

As the Sun sets on the dying universe, an angel would redeem Smahr, but Satan snatches the angel away. Yuk seizes the angel and rolls with her into the abyss, literally fucking her to death.

Now it might be noticed that we cannot live without our “fictions,” whatever they may be, whether utopian or dystopian, but Sartre, a self-effacing, anti-intellectual intellectual who improvised his works, resolving vainly never to repeat himself, at least not in the same way, believed that Flaubert’s constructivism was antithetical to the governing



THE HYSTERICAL TIMES principle of imagination, which is freedom, which is no government at all. Flaubert

principle of imagination, which is freedom, which is no government at all. Flaubert was obsessed with finding the perfect way of saying everything, that is, a pure style, an imaginary toilet devoid of shit.

that is, a pure style, an imaginary toilet devoid of shit. Friedrich Schelling (1755-1854) Of course

Friedrich Schelling (1755-1854)

Of course the Imaginary was old hat to Romantic Frenchmen, who borrowed a great deal of the abstract aspect of their Romantic philosophy from their traditional enemies the Germans—we recall G.W.F. Hegel accused Victor Cousin, lover to Louise Colet and founder of an eclectic philosophy called French Spiritualism, of stealing his spiritual soup.

Romanticism was a nostalgic reaction to the realism of the Enlightenment that had displaced the human being and his planet from the center of the universe, sometimes taking him completely out of the picture. People longed for imagined Good Old Days and the presumably wild or free spirit that lived back then. Whereas Hegel’s overarching, World Spirit ground individuals to insignificant specks of dust in its historical course, the general impetus for Romanticism was the recovery of the holy self, whether particular or universal, from the clutches of profane science.

Friedrich Wilhelm Joseph von Schelling, who had been Hegel’s friend and roommate and became a highly regarded leader of the Romantic School, restored the self and put it in its rightful place, in Nature. Immanuel Kant had severed the finite, phenomenal realm of experience and practice, where everything was naturally determined, from the infinite, noumenal sphere, from which ideas are freely intuited and reason operates theoretically; but a reconciliation of noumenal to phenomenal, ideas to experience, theory and practice, mind and body, subject and object was warranted. J.G. Fichte, Schelling’s mentor, emphasized the impersonal, transcendental realm where the universal I, which he believed was Kant’s unknowable thing-in-itself, was everything; therein lie the proper subject of metaphysics, he thought, and Schelling’s reconciliation of self and nature together with Schelling’s blasphemous personal reference to “my” philosophy resulted in their falling out. Speaking of romance in this phenomenal world, young Schelling, while at the University of Jena, would steal and marry August Wilhelm Schlegel’s wife, Caroline Schlegel, one of the most intelligent and talented women of the day—August was a leading Romantic poet and scholar.



THE HYSTERICAL TIMES Now the reconciliation of subject and objec t, self and world, th eory

Now the reconciliation of subject and object, self and world, theory and practice, according to Schelling, was by way of the imagination, which is a sort of wavering between the infinite and the finite. It may be that nature and self are opposed, but they are joined in consciousness: “The intelligence is initially conceived of as the purely presentative, nature purely as what can be presented; the one as the conscious, the other as the non-conscious. But now in every knowing a reciprocal concurrence of the two (the conscious and the intrinsically non-conscious) is necessary; the problem is to explain this concurrence,” Schelling noted in System of Transcendental Idealism (1800).

The severance of imagination from reason, thought both Hegel and Schelling, is a false dichotomy, for reason is imagination and vice versa. Schelling was convinced that ideas, which are neither finite nor infinite, are produced by the imagination. Particular identities in the wavering flux are phenomenal pauses that appear as forms of the wavering. The human being may arrive at a theoretical understanding of the world’s constitution, where events proceed via cause and effect; on the other hand, the human being is a moral creature capable of regulating himself in regards to the world, hence is free. In fine, it is the imagination that sets the man free. Schelling’s philosophy is best understood aesthetically:

“Through this constant double activity of producing and intuiting, something is to become an object, which is not otherwise reflected by anything. – We cannot here demonstrate, though we shall in the sequel, that this coming-to-be-reflected of the absolutely non-conscious and non- objective is possible only through an aesthetic act of the imagination. This much, however, is apparent from what we have already shown, namely that all philosophy is productive. Thus philosophy depends as much as art does on the productive capacity, and the difference between them rests merely on the different direction taken by the productive force. For whereas in art the production is directed outwards, so as to reflect the unknown by means of products, philosophical production is directed immediately inwards, so as to reflect it in intellectual intuition. The proper sense by which this type of philosophy must be apprehended is thus the aesthetic sense, and that is why the philosophy of art is the true organon of philosophy…. “

“From ordinary reality there are only two ways out – poetry, which transports us into an ideal world, and philosophy, which makes the real world vanish before our eyes. – It is not apparent why the gift for philosophy should be any more widely spread than that for poetry, especially among that class of persons in whom, either through memory- work (than which nothing is more immediately fatal to productivity), or through dead speculation, destructive of all imagination, the aesthetic organ has been totally lost.”

The power of the imagination was one of the favorite subjects of France’s famous “existentialist” K philosopher, for whom existence came before being, the former being



THE HYSTERICAL TIMES base reality, the latter being imaginary, encouraged by human culture i.e. the imagination

base reality, the latter being imaginary, encouraged by human culture i.e. the imagination of a social “reality” from experiences of social behavior—repeated experiences lead to expectations of further repetition, hence the “reality” perceived is duly intended. But existing man comes prior to social being. In Existentialism and Humanism, Sartre said, "If God does not exist there is at least one being whose existence comes before its essence, a being which exists before it can be defined by any conception of it. That being is man or as Heidegger has it the human reality."

The priority given to the reality of naked individual existence over imagined being by the existentialists does not mean that Sartre believed that imagination is an evil, although a great deal of evil can result from its constructions when they cater by way of mass suggestion to the dark side of human nature; e.g. the extermination of a certain class of people, say Jews and witches, based upon fictitious representations. In truth there would be neither good nor evil without imagination, for there would be no kind of being to choose from, no decision to make absent the imaginative faculty.

Sartre’s The Imaginary (1940) actually identified the imagination with ontological freedom, meaning the freedom of being what one wants to be, without which one would be hopelessly bogged down in existential reality. We perceive something in particular in contradistinction to other things that it is not, and our consciousness moves from one thing to another, imagining their differences to ourselves in the movement of the not, and conceiving of things that are not at all although they have resemblances to things that are. Ultimately, the name of an action, the verb, is posited as a static noun, and the movement of this thing that is not a thing is named Not, and it is said that Nothing exists, as opposed to everything in their differences, and it is insisted that this is not nothingness but is Being if not Nothing. That reasoning may be fallacious, but no matter how realistic we think we are, we are bound to live by fictions of our own making, and since we would live forever without impedance if only we could, our ideals shall never be perfectly realized until the death of all distinctions; that is the underlying crisis of our being, the cross we bear in our hypo-crisis.

that is the unde rlying crisis of our being, the cross we bear in our hypo-crisis.

Think Nothing by Richard Chase



THE HYSTERICAL TIMES “What seems beautiful to me, what I would like to write,” Flaubert wrote

“What seems beautiful to me, what I would like to write,” Flaubert wrote to Louise Colet

in 1852, “is a book about nothing, a book depending on nothing external, which would be held together by the internal strength of its style, just as the earth, suspended in the void, depends on nothing external for its support; a book which would have almost no subject, or which the subject would be almost invisible, if such a thing is possible. The finest works are those that contain the least matter; the closer the expression comes to thought, the closer language comes to coinciding and merging with it, the finer the result. I believe

the future of Art lies in this direction…. Form, in becoming more skillful

leaves behind

all liturgy, rule, measure…. There is no longer any orthodoxy, and form is as free as the will of its creator. This progressive shedding of the burden of tradition can be observed everywhere…. It is for this reason that there are no noble subjects or ignoble subjects; from the standpoint of pure Art one might almost establish the axiom that there is no such

thing as subject—style is itself being an absolute manner of seeing things.”

Sartre did not detest the power of imagination when it serves ends he perceived as good for all individuals, nor does he hate Being as such. But Flaubert’s apparent reduction of Being to Nothing, which would be an absolute denial of the affirmative struggle for existence, is distasteful to Sartre, who considered himself to be an activist. Incidentally, French existentialists and other European philosophers, notwithstanding the ravages of war, exhibited symptoms of the viral Action philosophy elaborated by Giovanni Gentile, author of Doctrine of Fascism (1932) written for Mussolini and adopted by Italian fascists. The thought-in-action doctrine posits that critical thinking inhibits activity and must cease with action, wherefore fascists must embrace the fascist doctrine in their actions, so that thought and action become one, wherein there is no hypocrisy or false intellectualism; e.g., the spurious rationalizations of liberals. L

In the final analysis, the difference between Being and Nothing is semantic, but semantics is everything to those of us who would live meaningful lives. Let good-for- nothing iconoclasts, who would smash everything, or fanatic ascetics, who would deny everybody everything including the propensity to enjoy things, or foolish mystics, who do not know what is good for them, have their nondenominational Nothing because they believe that Nothing really is perfect and permanent; let them have their Nothing right away before they do too much damage; let the rest affirm Being grounded on Existence.

In fine, existentialism is what we make of it, for the term has been so broadly and ambiguously applied that it is virtually meaningless. Albert Camus celebrated the Meaningless, the Absurd. We all at one time or another may find it therapeutic to rid ourselves of the “realistic” ways of being that are supposed to provide meaning to our lives, such as the pursuit of success howsoever it is defined, and instead to vacate our minds of the noise and enjoy the feeling of the sunshine and breeze on our faces and the sand under our feet as we play soccer on the beach, or, speaking figuratively, to run back down the mountainside like Camus’ Sisyphus and grin at the punitive gods while heaving the Stone back up the slope, to “just exist” as it were, in relation to the infernal Stone, as existentialists, while the heavenly Sun rises and falls.



THE HYSTERICAL TIMES Flaubert, in a September 4, 1852, letter to hi s sexy paramour, Louise

Flaubert, in a September 4, 1852, letter to his sexy paramour, Louise Colet, said man would be stupid without the Meaningless: “If the sense of man’s imperfections, of the meaningless of life, were to perish…we would be more stupid than birds who at least perch on trees.” Not only does that seem to contradict his flight from detestable reality, but it is a rather stupid thing for him to say inasmuch as birds perch on trees because they do not create their own meaningful goals to which they intentionally fly off to in different directions. In any case, Flaubert would not complain about the deafness and dumbness of nature to humankind’s desires, the Surd, and nature’s inability to resolve the contradictions between what man would be and what he is, which makes of human existence the Absurd:

“Let nothing distress us: to complain of everything that grieves or annoys us is to complain of the very nature of life. You and I are created to depict it, nothing more.”

But is not dedication to art for art’s sake alone, the dispassionate, scientific depiction of the world as it is, a complaint about the nature of the world when its motivation is a repudiation of that world?

The human world would not progress without complaints and suggestions for their resolution. Flaubert would have plenty to complain about in his 1871 correspondence. He was in a dark mood, and for good reason. The Franco-Prussian war had been disastrous for his country. Defeat led to defeat after defeat. Emperor (Louis) Napoleon III and his army capitulated on September 2, 1870. That was followed by a bloodless revolution in Paris. Thus fell the Second Empire, and the Third Republic began after Bismarck insisted on the election of a national assembly. On January 18, 1871, the Prussian king was crowned emperor of a united Germany in the Hall of Mirrors at Versailles. On February 17, 1871, M. Thiers was appointed chief executive, under control of the assembly. The war would be renewed under the new Republic. The Paris Commune, outraged at the sight of marching German troops, revolted, and was put down by troops on May 21,


As for Flaubert, “The war had made a profound impression upon him; his old Latin blood had revolted at this return to barbarity,” recounted his niece Caroline Commanville’s biographical account.

He had in fact been appointed lieutenant in the National Guard, but he refused to wear the Legion of Honor. His house in Croisset had been occupied by the Prussians, much to his dismay, which had caused him to flee to paltry quarters in nearby Rouen where he stayed ten months—any dislocation from his accustomed studio severely disturbed his work:

“The fatal lack of employment that a disturbed life brings, the thought of his study, his books, his home soiled by the presence of the enemy, brought to my uncle's heart and mind frightful anxiety and grief. The arts appeared to him dead. Why? Was it possible? Could it be that an intelligent country would cause these billows of blood? But there were



THE HYSTERICAL TIMES scholars who were holding Paris in si ege, and hurling projectiles against the

scholars who were holding Paris in siege, and hurling projectiles against the monuments!”

Fortunately, the billeted officers did little damage to his home: “He thought that he should return to his house to find nothing there. He was deceived; save some trifling objects without value, such as cards, a penknife, or a paper-cutter, they had respected absolutely all that belonged to him. One thing only about the return was suffocating, the odour of the Prussian, as the French call it, an odour of greased boots. The walls were impregnated with it, through their stay there of three long months, and it was necessary to paint and redecorate the rooms in order to get rid of it.”

Alfred de Poittevin, the favorite friend of his youth, was long gone, having died in ’48, and by the time of the German invasion other old friends had died, including Louis Bouilhet, Jules Duplan, Ernest Lemarie, Theophile Gautier, Jules de Goncourt, Ernest Feydeau, and Sainte-Beuve. Maxime Du Camp was still alive but they had gone their separate ways. Fortunately, there was George Sand to commune with.

Now the reader might get the mistaken impression from Sartre’s psychoanalysis that Flaubert was a withdrawn sort of person who had few friends; but he was a family man, living with his family all his life, and he had more good friends than the most of us can hope to have. His niece, who is naturally biased in favor of the man who raised her until her marriage, described Gustave as a good kind of friend to have:

“In friendship my uncle was perfect; of a devotion absolutely faithful, without envy, happier in the success of a friend than in his own; but he brought into his friendly relations some exactions that those who were the object of them found it difficult to support. The heart that was bound to him by a common love of art (and all his deep attachments were upon this basis) should belong to him without reserve.”

Flaubert was disaffected by the middle class burgher, but he was not antisocial. His niece fondly remembered social life in Paris. Flaubert had taken an apartment there in 1856 to attend to the publication of Madame Bovary.

“This epoch was for my uncle the beginning of relations which lasted until his death. He assiduously frequented the salon of the Princess Mathilde. He found gathered there scholars, artists, and some of his intimate friends; he relished strongly this intellectual and worldly life…. Then he also had dinners at Magny which, in the beginning, numbered only half a score of people: Sainte-Beuve, Theophile Gautier, the two De Goncourts, Garvarni, Renan, Taine, the Marquis of Chennevires, Bouilhet and my uncle. Their conversations abounded in the highest interest. Finally, the month of May arrived and we returned to the tranquil life at Croisset.”

As we already know, Flaubert despised the so-called bourgeois even more than Sartre, for whom the bourgeoisie were anyone not a socialist or member of the proletariat. For



THE HYSTERICAL TIMES Flaubert, the bourgeoisie were common hypocrites, but more importantly, anyone not an artistically

Flaubert, the bourgeoisie were common hypocrites, but more importantly, anyone not an artistically inclined intellectual or aesthete; to wit: anyone not beholden to Beauty before all.

“He was very proud of counting up the brave ones among his own people, anyone who had brains and was not bourgeois; for he had a hatred of the bourgeois, and continually employed that term as a synonym for mediocrity and envy, the living only with the appearance of virtue and insulting all grandeur and beauty.”

He had sacrificed everything to the art of literature. Art, for the sake of art, is the representation of beauty for the sake of Beauty. The artist should never stand in beauty’s way by imposing himself on the scene:

“A true artist, for him, never could be wicked, for an artist is before all an observer; the first quality for an observer is to possess good eyes. If they are blurred with passion, or personal interest, things escape them; a good heart makes a good mind. His worship of the beautiful led him to say:

‘The moral is not only a part of the aesthetic, but its condition foundationally.’”

Shortly before his death, he wrote to his niece in that vein: “I am right I. I have the assurance of the Professor of Botany in the Jardin des Plantes, and I was right; because the aesthetic is true, and to a certain intellectual degree (when one has some method) one is not deceived; the reality does not yield to the ideal, but confirms it.”

He was naturally feeling more misanthropic and depressed than usual by the turn of events in 1871, particularly when the Prussians arrived in his village and took over his house. He could be jolly enough when away from his desk; however, according to his niece, he had an underlying melancholic temper. No doubt the presence of his niece always reminded him of her mother, his beloved sister, who had died giving birth to her. He tried to keep his melancholy to himself other than exhibiting it in his art. She attributed the depressed state to his race:

“Descended from a Champenois and a Norman, Gustave Flaubert had the characteristic signs of both races; his temperament was very expansive and, at the same time, it was enveloped in the vague melancholy of the people of the north. He was of even temper and gay, sometimes with a touch of buffoonery, but ever at the bottom of his nature was an undefined sadness, a kind of disquiet.”

Flaubert’s mother provided his niece with fascinating anecdotes about his early naivety; for instance:

““The child was of a tranquil nature, meditative, possessing an ingenuousness of which he retained traces during his whole life. My



THE HYSTERICAL TIMES grandmother has told me that he would remain for hours with a finger

grandmother has told me that he would remain for hours with a finger in his mouth, absorbed, and with an almost stupid appearance. When he was six years old an old domestic, called Pierre, used to amuse himself with that innocence; he would say to little Gustave, if he teased for anything, ‘Go now and look at the end of the garden, or in the kitchen and see whether I am there.’ And the child would go and say to the cook: ‘Pierre sent me to see whether he were here.’ He could not comprehend that they were deceiving him, and while they laughed, would stand thinking, trying to see through the mystery.”

As “stupid” as Sartre’s “family idiot” might have been, Flaubert never thought much of middling society; he was never loath to complain about bourgeois stupidity if nothing

else. Being wise to the world’s stupidity can be repugnant absent faith in some nonsense that breaks logic’s stupefying hold on the human mind; e.g. the irrational Logos from which human logic flees as it rationalizes it. Back in September of 1855, Flaubert had penned his now notorious scatological remark to Bouilhet: "Against the stupidity of my

age I feel waves of hatred that suffocate me. The taste of shit comes to my mouth


want to keep it there, congeal it, harden it, make it into a paste to daub all over the nineteenth century, as Indian pagodas are gilded with cow dung; and who knows, maybe

it will endure?" M

Suffice it to say that corruption despite our distaste for it can have many benefits. One must remain mindful of the disadvantages lest the advantages be lost in extremity. Democracy was corrupting the old order in Flaubert’s day. The political idiotology of democracy seemed downright immoral and logically absurd. Before radio and television, the press, with its written word, the word that Sartre would later call an enduring projection of subjective freedom, was the main machine for mass suggestion, brainwashing, mind control, for the uniform implantation of ideational images in the psyche which people take to heart for their own reasons and duplicate in similar actions that are all too often contrary to their particular interests.

It is said that humanity has suffered greatly since its gods were assassinated. Wherefore it should not be surprising that the folk, confronted with the Absurd, would become one with it, reverting to primitive rituals on a cosmic scale; don uniforms and march around the fire to the music of the spheres, and then march off to world war to make the religion universal, for all those outside of the ruling orbit are by definition outlaws. A neo- conservative media would help to bring society back into line; everyone should have some resort to it every day.



THE HYSTERICAL TIMES In a September 1871 letter to George Sand, Flaubert complain ed that “the
THE HYSTERICAL TIMES In a September 1871 letter to George Sand, Flaubert complain ed that “the
THE HYSTERICAL TIMES In a September 1871 letter to George Sand, Flaubert complain ed that “the

In a September 1871 letter to George Sand, Flaubert complained that “the press is a school of demoralization, because it dispenses with thinking.” He complained that the idea of equality implanted by Christian culture with the help of the liberal press is opposed to justice, which is the “first notion” that “composes all morality,” and that “humanitarianism, sentiment, the ideal, have played us sufficiently mean tricks for us to try right righteousness and science.”

We imagine that Sartre should have appreciated Flaubert’s remark about mean tricks, but the shit Flaubert threw at democracy must have offended his Marxist sensibility. Flaubert notes that the sultan in one of Victor Hugo’s poems, ‘Sultan Murad,’ included in The Legend of the Centuries (1855-1876), an epic history of the human race, is forgiven of his tyranny because he takes pity on a pig. Flaubert knew Hugo well enough from his attendance at Louise Colet’s salon. Colet and her admirer Hugo were opposed to the authoritarian regime of Napoleon III. She distributed Hugo’s dissident writings during his exile, and persuaded Flaubert to serve as a clandestine intermediary for the writer’s political correspondence. Yet now Flaubert’s sympathies were neither with the authoritarian republican nor the anti-authoritarian democratic faction; the ape in his cage was ready to hurl shit at the sheer stupidity of everyone involved.

The idée mere or mother idea for the salvation of Sultan Murad for his pity on a pig N was commonplace among writers, and was said to be the Hindu notion that anyone who is kind to animals will be blessed in heaven—Krishna’s vegetarian devotees at the International Society for Krishna Consciousness believe you will be reincarnated as a pig if you eat a ham sandwich shortly before death. But for Flaubert and Hugo both we think the pig, shunned by Jews, stood more for Christian forgiveness projected on Allah, a forgiveness that releases even the worst criminals from the chains of cause and effect; thus a single kind act can release a monstrous man from the consequences of his sins. It may help but is not necessary to vocally repent and other wise participate in a cleansing ritual; a convicted criminal may still go to heaven provided a Christian forgives him before executing him, and the act of forgiving relieves the Christian of bad feelings.

“It is always the story of the penitent thief blessed because he repented,” Flaubert complained to Sand. “The school of rehabilitations has led us to see no difference between a rascal and a thief…. They are kind to mad dogs, and not at all to the people



THE HYSTERICAL TIMES whom the dogs have bitten…. Every man…has a ri ght to one voice,

whom the dogs have bitten…. Every man…has a right to one voice, his own, but he is not the equal of his neighbor, who may be worth a hundred times more.”

And on 14 November 1871: “The good bourgeois is becoming more and more stupid! He does not even go to vote! The brute beasts surpass him in their instinct for self- preservation. Poor France! Poor us!” He exposed what he believed was the social ailment: “We suffer from one thing only: Absurdity.” As we have seen, he believed that democracy as received in his day was absurd. He did not blame the plebe for the stupidity: “The enlightened classes must be enlightened. Begin by the head, which is the sickest, the rest will follow.” What? Flaubert said stupid: could it be that the lauded prerequisite of a stable society, the money-grubbing bourgeois middle class, is mass idiocy, a social neurosis, a crowd dumbed down to its lowest common denominator? And instead of complaining about our own dumbed-down culture, should we not complain instead of the dumbed-up, idiotology-stupefied leadership?

Sartre claimed that Flaubert's Imaginary was not, like life, dynamic, but was static, in the sense of a self-defensive, immutable, fixed stance. His Imaginary was style, pure style. He was preoccupied with editing his work to death until it perfectly matched his fleeting reality. He kept his romantic muse, Louise Colet, at arm's length in Paris and wrote to her from his sanctuary near Rouen, advising her at a distance to think only of style. But pure style is the formless form of Nothing – only Nothing is perfect.

"What shall we believe in, then?" Flaubert rhetorically asked in a letter to George Sand. "In nothing!" he replied to himself. "That is the beginning of wisdom." His incredulity was nothing new: in a letter twenty years earlier to Louise Colet: “I believe in nothing. I doubt everything, and why shouldn’t I? I am quite resigned to working all my life like a nigger with no hope of reward…. Even admitting the hypothesis of success, what certainty can one derive from it? Unless one is a moron, one always dies unsure of one’s works. Virgil himself, as he lay dying, wanted the Aeneid burned. When you compare yourself to what surrounds you, you find yourself admirable; but when you life your eyes towards the masters, towards the absolute, towards your dream, how you despise yourself!”

Flaubert’s negritude does seem to confirm Sartre’s opinion that he was subject to a passive pithiatism or masochistic mimicking that vampirized his being, rendering him unreal: “Half a century ago,” Sartre wrote, “the African, grandson of the slave, colonized, exploited, treated as a ‘negro’ by the racist colonizers, took up the notions and words those colonizers used to think about him and to signify him. He ‘gathered them from the mud,’ a black poet has said, ‘in order to wear them with pride.’ Negro, yes, and dirty nigger, if you like; but by tearing your words, your concepts, away from you and applying them to myself in full sovereignty, by laying claim to that nature you scorn but whose originality you cannot avoid recognizing, I recapture the initiative, I dare to think about myself, I personalize myself against you, and I become that permanent indignity the self-conscious other. Thus was born the notion of ‘negritude’…. It is nonetheless true that the notion of Negro has a negative content ostensibly drawn from experience and consisting of racist estimations of a claimed black character (‘they’ are heedless, lazy,



THE HYSTERICAL TIMES childish, thieving, lying; their brain is underdev eloped; etc.). They are both the

childish, thieving, lying; their brain is underdeveloped; etc.). They are both the product of and justification for colonial exploitation. No one can take the name ‘negro,’ even in pride and defiance, without giving assent—involuntary but inevitable—to those hostile, deprecatory judgments born of hatred and fear, and without at the same time consenting to the colonial system. By gathering those judgments out of the mud, all that Africans acquired was the freedom to proclaim themselves submen.” O

Flaubert’s “nigger” is evidently not Camus’ convict, Sisyphus, who was content with his meaningless Task, absurd in its eternal recurrence i.e. circular viciousness or goalless movement, For Sisyphus the Task was not entirely meaningless because he had the pleasure of laughing at the gods as he ran down the slope to put his shoulder to the Stone once again. Now Flaubert, who wanted to abjure complaining about everything in the 50s still had something worth complaining about; as we have seen, he found himself complaining a lot in the 70s; perhaps the only effective antidote to the Absurd we can safely recommend is to rationalize it and embrace it after getting drunk and falling down the stairs after a fistfight with a fellow existentialist. Yes, one day existentialism might adopt Flaubert as one of its fathers. Existentialists do not need a goal; they can work for the sake of work.

Flaubert is apparently engaged in an aimless subjective activity which is ultimately inactive, passive. That preoccupation, according to Sartre, is virtually onanistic, in the sense of mental masturbation: “Until the publication of Madame Bovary, writing seemed to him like sinning alone. A comparison between the artist's work and masturbation is often found in his written remarks: ‘Let us masturbate the old art to its deepest joints.’ The erection has finally come, Monsieur, by dint of beating and manumauling myself,’ etc.” The rigid response to the environment is an end in itself. Flaubert's ejaculations— his work—is neurotic. He insists that Flaubert's "morbid passivity and pithiatism made him choose the Imaginary as a permanent milieu against the Real."

Art is Flaubert's neurotic excuse not to live the dynamic life that he fears. ‘Pithiatism’ P was a peculiar word coined to supersede ‘hysteria’ because it appeared that hysteria was produced by suggestion including self-suggestion and could be eliminated by it. “Morbid passivity” is a metaphor intended to identify a symptom of mental, not physical disease, analogical to the old hysterical paralysis, which was supposed to involve an actual organic disease of the neuromuscular system perchance corresponding to a parallel fixed idea. ‘Morbid’ is a word derived from the Latin term for dying; morose Flaubert, then, would be passive because he is dying, is dead to his real, dynamic existence. As for ‘pithiatism,’ few American psychiatrists and psychologists are familiar with the word; if they were aware of its meaning, they might say it labels rather normal behavior in this crazy careening world of ours. As for ‘hysteria,’ the term has been dropped from the diagnostic manual although we have all seen a great deal of hysteria.

Dr. Sartre's eviscerating psychoanalysis of Flaubert is even more ruthless than the surgical realism he attributes to his analysand—Flaubert the positivist is a doctor's son, a childhood witness to several remarkable autopsies in the hospital where his family lived. Sartre's ideological prejudices presume the social determination of the affliction. Flaubert



THE HYSTERICAL TIMES is a unique universal-singular or concrete- universal totalizing hi s sick bourgeois class

is a unique universal-singular or concrete-universal totalizing his sick bourgeois class with his self-centered, categorical individualism. Of course, from the bourgeois perspective, to be "sane" is to be normal is to be bourgeois. And that is why his work happens to be popular—like all best-selling authors, he affirms his class—neurotic authors succeed in neurotic societies. To be popular is to be inauthentic or false. In any case, Flaubert wants to direct life, to dam up its flow with a cement form, which is bound to damn him to the stasis of morbid passivity, the very antithesis of life. What Sartre calls Flaubert’s "directed dream” is tantamount to a continuous annihilation of Being; his choice of the Imaginary is a "break" or "rupture" from the Real. Thus he regresses to the pre-neurotic stage prior to his crisis—a presumably epileptic fit he suffered as a young man—to realize in the relived crisis the theme of his neurosis. He would then ward off a psychotic break, the loss of control or insanity he feared, through an obsessive search for a perfect ritual order which he would be compelled to repeat ad infinitum. He became, in our parlance, an obsessive-compulsive control freak, an individual with his own private religious ritual to keep the unclean world at bay.

We note here that neurotics, as opposed to psychotics, can usually get along in life, hold down a job and even make a good living despite their fixations; we cannot put Flaubert to that reality test inasmuch as he inherited wealth sufficient to fund his retreat from society, where he would write his best-seller—he might have perished in a Paris garret if he had to live on his writings alone. It does appear that faithless Flaubert went off the deep end, into the abyss, where he will find himself suspended in space, weightless, no longer cursed by the gravity of being. But would that not be a blessing in comparison to Sartre’s existentialist freedom? Indeed, weightlessness can be a pleasant experience.

Flaubert longs for the absolute freedom of being in general, which might as well be Nothing or empty space, while Sartre longs for the wild freedom of existence here and now, or at least the absurd freedom of anarcho-communism. Both want freedom from having to eat the stale cake of bourgeois being. Did not Sartre, like Flaubert, want to achieve the impossible, to leave behind all liturgy, rule, and measure? Sartre wrote freely, but he directed his stream of consciousness hence the product was coherent and went somewhere in a logical fashion despite his spite for intellectualism. He said he wrote to free people. Who cares what the subject is if freedom is the goal? The Subject of subjects, the self that presumably exists, enjoys freedom from the subject imprisoned by its sentence. The difference with Flaubert is that he got lost in trying to make a rule for leaving the rules behind, thus his progress was agonizing, painstaking, stultifying, but the discipline eventually produced the wonderfully realistic novel, Madame Bovary.

There has been some speculation over which women served as Flaubert’s model for Emma Bovary. For example, there was Elisa Schlésinger, an older, married woman who had enchanted him in his youth—the hysterical French troubadours suffered to love women they could not obtain while their husbands were entertained—but her candidacy for modeling Madame Bovary was precluded by her purity. There were those women whom realistic romantics could obtain; for example, the paramour Louise Colet (see biographical note below). And there was the published account of one Veronique Delphine Delamare, a paramour who committed suicide at twenty-seven, poisoning



THE HYSTERICAL TIMES herself with cyanide, an account which Flaube rt must have read or heard

herself with cyanide, an account which Flaubert must have read or heard about. Several women who had read the serialized version Madam Bovary wrote to Flaubert to tell him his novel featuring a suicidal romantic character must have been about a real woman. The censor went after Flaubert and his publisher as a consequence of the uproar; he pointed out that the suicide of Emma in the end was the moral of the story; he was acquitted. He also said that he was she—her creator, however, had taken himself out of the picture, had made himself invisible, or Nothing.

The point here is that Madame Bovary could have been any one of a number of women whose manner of being was suggested to them by the culture they were subjected to from birth. Females exist but a lady’s being is socially defined. A ‘wo-man’ is “the wife of man” and his crown—she crowns him at birth. The female exists in fact, but in theory she does not exist except as determined by patriarchal theory. They suffer for theory, but remember that men also suffer their roles. Given the subordination of women, however, we cannot blame them for being “hysterical” to a degree.

Mind you that Flaubert shared the ‘misogynist’ attitude of Frenchmen at the time. Women have from time immemorial used hysterical antics to get their way with men in lieu of violent confrontations which they would normally lose. Men might “chastise” women to restore order; since order was associated with ‘reason,’ men declared themselves to be more reasonable than women, and reckoned that might was reasonable therefore right. Men attributed hysteria to the fact that women have wombs (hustera), and noticed that women left alone while they were at war on other business could be more hysterical than others, their wombs “wandering” about. The more liberal solution was obvious to sympathetic men: “making love.” When husbands were absent for long periods, doctors and nurses provided “pelvic messages.” That method was time consuming, so devices were invented to do the trick in minutes. When vibrators became household devices, the business of treating hysteria suffered as hysterical behavior reportedly declined.

So much for “female hysteria,” but men—not all of them homosexuals—as we have previously noted, were similarly affected. Men who literally flail about or rant and rave instead of picking up a sword and having at it are said to engage in hysterical behavior. The ancient Chinese wrote on their swords when not engaged in battle; Flaubert picked up his pen but had trouble writing, his arduous ‘mental masturbations’ providing little relief for his romantic inclinations—when not writing he often purchased the favors of male and female prostitutes, by whom he contracted venereal diseases. Sartre believed Flaubert’s cramped way of writing was the pithiatic form of hysteria. Yet Sartre’s manner might be said to be even more pithiatic given his impetuous flow of words—he and his colleague Simone de Beauvoir were dismayed by the modern “scientific” tendency that takes the first person or the hysterical “I” out of the writing equation. In truth they were frustrated subjectivists who rationalized their perspectives with phenomenalistic doctrine.

However that may be, Flaubert did not hate women any more than men, but he found the cultural construction of the feminine qualities repugnant. "Woman, a vulgar animal Woman is a production of man; she is a mere result of civilization, a factitious creature."



THE HYSTERICAL TIMES On 4 September 1852 he pleaded with Louise Colet, “Oh Woman! Woman, be

On 4 September 1852 he pleaded with Louise Colet, “Oh Woman! Woman, be less so! Be so only in bed!” Q

Sartre, as we can see from the vulgar characters he fabricated in his novels and plays, did not like factitious creatures any more than Flaubert did, for mass produced people were all too bourgeois, and nothing was more contemptible than the bourgeoisie. Indeed, as we have seen early on, he criticized Flaubert—whose maxim around the house was to use the received order as a floor for thinking freely—for being bourgeois. Of course Sartre’s Marxist contempt for the bourgeois was self-contempt, whereas Flaubert’s was more aristocratic. Sartre the leftist was merely an aesthetic conservative. Men project their dissatisfaction with culture onto the female. Flaubert actually proved his own disdain for the bourgeoisie by consorting with old-fashioned prostitutes, i.e. honest, flesh-and-blood women, instead of capitalism’s virtual prostitutes, walking store-window displays, prepackaged females, each fit for mass consumption but by one man at a time; that is, superficial or “hollow women” who are all form and no substance.

Sartre, in his eagerness to project his own bourgeois culture on Flaubert, neglected to

dwell on Flaubert’s own resentment of capitalism and industrialism. In a letter to Louse

we must employ every means to

stem the flood of trash invading us. We must take flight into the

our voices against gloves made of shoddy, against office chairs, the mackintosh, cheap

stoves, against imitation cloth, imitation luxury, imitation pride. Thanks to industrialism,

ugliness has assumed gigantic

affectation, humbug everywhere - the crinoline has falsified the buttocks. Our century is a century of whores, and so far what is least prostituted is the prostitute.” That is, the most

honest woman around was the prostitute.

We are all fakes and charlatans. Pretence,

We must raise

Colette in 1854, he said, “Perish though we may

raise Colette in 1854, he sa id, “Perish though we may La Grisette by Constantin Guys

La Grisette by Constantin Guys

As far back as 1839, when he was eighteen, Flaubert longed for honest women and genuine poetry; he acknowledged to Ernest Chevalier that, “"Yes, a thousand times yes, I

prefer a whore to a grisette, for of all the types of human beings the grisette is what I


I much prefer the ignoble that doesn't pretend to be anything else."

And. “My only complaint about prostitution is that it is a myth. The kept woman has invaded the field of debauchery, just as the journalist has invaded poetry; we are



THE HYSTERICAL TIMES drowning in halftones. There are no more c ourtesans, just as there are

drowning in halftones. There are no more courtesans, just as there are no more saints; there are soupeuses and lorettes—even more sordid than the "grisettes."

A ‘grisette’ was originally a woman of the lower class, known by the cheap grey (gris) fabric of her clothes; the term came to denote a flirtatious working-class girl, perhaps an attractive seamstress or shop girl celebrated by Oliver Wendell Holmes in the line, “the gay grisette, whose fingers touch love’s thousand chords so well….” A ‘soupeuse’ is a beauty of limited virtue who is available for soup i.e. supper; a “restaurant whore.”

available for soup i.e. supper; a “restaurant whore.” La Soupeuse by Georges Bottini A ‘lorette’ is

La Soupeuse by Georges Bottini

A ‘lorette’ is an idle woman supported by her lovers; she dedicates herself to pleasure, living in a showy style; many lorettes lived near the church Notre Dame de Lorette, dubbed ‘The Church of Kept Women, in the burgeoning bourgeois neighborhood much favored by artists called Nouvelle Athenes. The lorettes could be seen praying alongside their more respectable counterparts hence were caricatured and derided.

c ounterparts hence were car icatured and derided. Notre-Dame de Lorette Otherwise, at least according to
c ounterparts hence were car icatured and derided. Notre-Dame de Lorette Otherwise, at least according to

Notre-Dame de Lorette

Otherwise, at least according to Sartre’s psychoanalysis, it was mind over matter with Flaubert, or rather mind transcending matter by way of obliterating the reality of their unity, leaving behind shit and embracing Nothing. Flaubert, in wanting Colet to be a woman only in bed, would overpower biology with psychology, not only to control or supplant passion but to deny the biological basis of the psyche; here denying that the



THE HYSTERICAL TIMES cause of the psychological difference betw een man and woman actually rests in

cause of the psychological difference between man and woman actually rests in their biology. Yet it is human nature to compound simple things, to make mountains out of anthills, to cultivate sex into the complications of love, to translate the biological difference between male and female into culture’s factitious difference between men and women, a difference that is all too fractious at times.

I am tempted to make a mountain out of Sartre’s unfinished monument to his illustrious predecessor, whose celebrated pithiatic endeavor influenced the writing of such highly esteemed authors as Guy de Maupassant, Edmond de Goncourt, Alphonse Daudet, Franz Kafka, J. M. Coetzee, Emile Zola, and Mario Vargas Llosa among others. I refrain from doing so lest I completely exhaust myself like a cat chasing its tail. I have to stop and ask why Sartre was so preoccupied with Flaubert, so indignant as to condemn him in five volumes. For the same reason, I think, that I am tempted to do the same with both authors. Authors deem themselves authorities; arrogance compensates for guilt by blaming others, especially one’s own kind. I see something about myself in Flaubert and Sartre and the like, not the dirty details of family life that each nuclear family is bound to have, to which members react according to circumstance and temperament, but in a quest to free myself of my pathetic existence and to be my real self through criticizing the phoniness of others.

Alas, the closer I get to the much advertised “real” self, the more I discover that it is unreal. The god that we would secretly have the self be, if only we could be so free, does not exist except as a figment of the imagination; our ‘I’s are illusions. At the bottom of being there is not-I, an existence in want of something, a bum. To wit: the ‘I’ is Nothing.

Sartre is naturally afraid of Nothing: “When writing Madame Bovary,” Sartre writes, “Flaubert shows with Louise his deep desire as an artist: to appear to treat one subject but in fact to be treating another, quite different in quality and scope, or not to treat at all, by which he does not mean writing to say nothing, but writing to say Nothing. This is the role of the immediate in Madame Bovary: to symbolize, strictly speaking, to allude to the macrocosm of the void that is its equivalent, and above all to distract attention, to fool the reader, and while the reader is absorbed in reading a contemporary story, to inject him with an ancient eternal poison through style.” Sartre claims this style fixes the conclusion Flaubert arrived at in adolescence: ‘The earth is the realm of Satan,’ ‘I believe in the curse of Adam.’ In short,” says Sartre, “the worst is always certain, I believe in Nothing.”

We suspect that Sartre’s fear of Flaubert’s Nothing is a denial of death: “Evil is that gnawing contradiction at the heart of being,” he says, “that discovery in every being, when it invests all its forces in persevering, that it is merely an illusory modulation of nothing.” Further: “The extraordinary purpose of art, in Gustave’s view, is the manifest the ineluctable slippage of being toward nothingness through the imaginary totalization of the work; at the same time, its purpose is to preserve indefinitely, by that regulated illusion which is the work, a sense of endlessness in the slippage, fixing it through the restraining power of words whose permanence, assures us in the imaginary that it will never reach its end.”



THE HYSTERICAL TIMES But Nothing is not the devil that possesses th e hysteric nor is

But Nothing is not the devil that possesses the hysteric nor is a writing style witches’ poison; Nothing is the antidote for everything. Nothing does not mean nothingness; there is hope for Being as long as the word is capitalized. The real evil lurks in the various denials of death asserted to advance solutions to the basic predicament; for example, immortality is assured to those who engage in hate-based group-love, battling for the cause. So we write to free people from their miserable existence, and to free ourselves in the process if not first of all. The existentialists can have their respective I’s or the category of one, but give me Being or give me death. Being is a creation, a work of art. It is an illusion, so to speak, but a real illusion.

If some of us would withdraw from the world and its torments to paint a truer picture of it than it is advertised to be, and hold it up as a mirror so others may see themselves, the artist finding himself in the picture despite his attempt at objectivity and erasure of first- person pronouns, does that mean that our solution is more neurotic or sick than any other, especially if the painting is not so pretty or doggoned cynical? I do not believe so. Everybody knows that our cultural reality is becoming more and more like a false advertisement, so much bullshit, for example, suggesting that we all produce things we do not really want in order to survive; our choice is to either consume or consume things we do not need at all; everyone will supposedly profit if everyone overcharges one another. Is not that evidence of mass pithiatic hysteria?

What are we to prescribe for therapy besides sex, drugs, alcohol, and noisy and violent entertainment? Rid ourselves of the nuclear family, run around naked, sleep under porches, fornicate in public, and piss on riches? Is a dog’s life not neurotic? Should we take vows of poverty, stand on one leg or hold one arm into the air, and beg for alms? Is that not neurotic? Should we limit production to a few necessaries, wear the same uniform, and live in barracks? Is that not neurotic? Should we become so anxious over the Debt Scare that we plunge the world into a Depression and turn to a charismatic fascist phony to pull us together to wage war to teach the survivors a lesson about reality?

Flaubert and Sartre and kith and kin and ilk are trying to find themselves, to be somebody by writing fiction that everyone will recognized as the truth—the truth may be ugly, but notice that everyone loves a mirror no matter what s/he appears to be in the eyes of the others. What a miserable career the intellectual would have, like a cat chasing its tail to find itself while the tail tries to lose the cat, if s/he believes the cause of the rotation is mental illness. As a matter of fact, the pithiatism Sartre speaks of has been and is for many authors a pleasant escape from their subjects! One does not have to pay for interminable psychoanalytic sessions or religiously confess or unload on unwilling spouses and friends whose own neurosis is quite enough; the chimney-sweeping talking cure can be done at home alone by means of a diary, a journal, a novel. Now is that sick? If so, civilization is sick.

Now Sartre’s chief complaint seems to be that Flaubert turned his imagination to the wrong end, to Nothing instead of Existence as the Ground of Being. Not wanting to engage in the struggle one way or the other, he chose to criticize it; he was a pacifist instead of an activist. Pithiatism has two sides, one passive the other active. Pithiatism, in



THE HYSTERICAL TIMES the sense of “persuasive healing,” could well employ the power of s uggestion

the sense of “persuasive healing,” could well employ the power of suggestion to cultivate

a positive or constructive mental attitude causing one to be proactive, to participate in world affairs instead of withdrawing into a corner to brood and poison oneself with nihilism.

into a corner to brood a nd poison oneself with nihilism. Jules de Gaultier That was

Jules de Gaultier

That was the philosopher Jules de Gaultier’s take on Madame Bovary. R He purged her of the arsenic, turned her around with some reasonable persuasion, nudging her in the right direction. She was, thought he, indeed exemplary of a social malady; she was its passive victim. But the harm was not in the power of suggestion itself; one could make active use of it to effect a cure; wherefore he prescribed what he called Bovarysm as the solution to the culture’s misguided inclination. In short, Jules de Gaultier's Bovarysm takes advantage of Madame Emma Bovary's neurosis to prescribe a healthy response to the foolish romantic uneasiness of her time. Her neurotic tendency was in effect a betrayal of the Imagination. S

Gaultier is not afraid of the Nothing that is at the end of the introspective road. Those of us who take the oracle’s advice to ‘Know Thyself’ seriously are bound to discover, from

the careful analysis of the foolish statements that others make on the subject, that we cannot know the self as if it were a well defined static entity because no such thing exists. What we call the self, a sorry excuse for the soul lost with religion and its over-soul, is essentially nothing in itself; “it” is a bundle of tendencies made manifest as phenomena behind which we imagine some unity because the individual body seems to be subject to

a will of its own.

We assume that the will is free from personal experience, howsoever that will is limited in respect to the satisfaction of our physical desires. This free will, which has been conceived as a quality of the Soul or Self and the like, is the essence of Sartre’ existentialism, i.e. the Existent; “IT” is an imagined being, not the existing thing-in-itself, which remains always unknown because it does not exist; wherefore, as far as we psychic beings are concerned, being comes before existence. The “reality” we deal with as psychic beings is not the hypothetical hypostasis but rather the phenomena made manifest by way of reflections oscillating in the mental field. We cannot “see” the mind or the things made manifest therein. To wit, our world is illusory—we did not say delusion; an illusion, say, of an oasis in the desert or water on the highway or cross in the sky may



THE HYSTERICAL TIMES appear real to many witnesses. But that is not to say that our

appear real to many witnesses. But that is not to say that our illusive reality is unreal; it is the reality we must address; and, if our notion of free will is true to that reality, as it does seem to be, we play a part in its construction. Ma nu is “he who draws out (thought).” Ma ya is she who gives birth, the maker, the making, and the made.

Again, Gaultier was not afraid of that fact that the self is a fiction. “Phenomena are all we can know,” observed Gaultier, “and this knowledge is false, is not of the things in themselves. We know things other than they are. We have always a false conception of ourselves. This is the law of phenomenal life. Since the Subject is not really an object unto itself, but is rather an imaginative reflection, it is an illusion, a self-deception, as it were. The admission of this truth, that the self is a fiction, is difficult, and is denial of belief in some other truth, that the self is fixed, permanent—but that truth denies life, puts a yoke on phenomenal life. All particulars would vanish in the absolute identify of a general truth, which is, of itself, the denial of phenomenal life. In his search for the unattainable truth, man creates his own reality. In this process a man conceives himself differently than he is. This is subject divided from object that life can and does move. The law of motion is this—that a man is divided with itself. To become other is the law of life. In this man conceives himself otherwise.”

Again, and this is worth repeating lest we run off the cliff: Things appear other than they are, as illusions, and we have illusions in common, just as we all see water glistening on a dry highway on a hot day due to an unusual refraction of light. Such is the law of phenomenal life, so why not accept that fact and turn it to good account? Since we are always something other than we might think we are, why not take the illusion in hand and intentionally conceive of ourselves as otherwise? In our search for unattainable "Reality" or "Truth" we may create our own illusory realities, conceive ourselves as other than we are, and, by virtue of this continual division of subject from object, live in accord with the law of motion which is the law of life.

Gaultier accepted it, that we all live an illusory life, and he proposed that we make the best of it. We see that Gaultier is a philosopher of living an artistic life—of living with an aesthetic attitude. He described that attitude as a smiling face arising out of centuries of vitality struggling for the crude satisfaction of base needs. That smiling visage is essential to our growth; it must be put on, and the ugly, crude, vulgar costumes should be discarded. The face smiling through tears is drawn by art, not by the permanent, witch- hunting, frowning Truth that strangles life in its crib, warping the infant mind and stunting the growth of the human being. That sort of external Truth imprisons the soul and demonstrates just how shriveled up the person really is in the impoverishment of his or her internal morality.

Hence Gaultier's brand of illusionism, Bovarysm, a therapeutic approach that takes advantage of Madame Bovary's and Flaubert's and everyone else's restless urge for nothing in particular— which we think is ultimately the unconscious will to exist forever without definite restraints, an existence only realized in death since the fact of the life once lived can never be erased —and applies certain common sense guidelines for its exercise so that the individual will have a more satisfactory or healthy life. Of course the



THE HYSTERICAL TIMES mention of "guidelines" gives us due cause to suspect that our therapist is

mention of "guidelines" gives us due cause to suspect that our therapist is contradicting himself, but never mind, for albeit that is a persistent issue, it is not a problem for the philosophy of illusionism. Bovarysm acknowledges the underlying crisis or hypocrisy in the first instance, in the subject-object dichotomy that gives the self-conscious human being due cause to make something of himself.

Bovarysm is Gaultier's version of the Flight of the Butterfly, or Psyche's quest to recover Eros after he disappeared because she had dared to shed light on his Beauty. In modern terms, we might speak of the tension between external reality and human imagination. Gaultier, like others in his day, was much taken in by biological evolutionism, hence his butterfly does not fly off without a flight plan into the flame to perish prematurely, but she rather uses her fall into the Sun to gain enough momentum to orbit the fiery orb while continually metamorphosing. She remains aloft in motion to behold the Grand Spectacle and is thus in harmony with Beauty without possessing it.

Death-Life-Death: what is life but a flight from and to death? And birds of a feather tend to flock together despite their mutual criticism in flight. I am drawn to the philosophically inclined writers, particularly the anxious ones who naturally felt helpless when little, found little love in adults, rebelled against them to no avail, then withdrew to their respective corners, around the age of eight, to read puerile romances, to let their imaginations run rampant, accordingly, and eventually, after disappointing forays into the real world, to withdraw and write ad nauseam, in a pessimistic vein, holding the world at bay. Thus your most humble author, another one of the greatest writers unknown to the world, is in league with such known literary giants as Gustave Flaubert and Jean-Paul Sartre, as a sort of cross between the two. Like most kids, we read the popular romances and adventure stories, and our imaginations were captivated by heroes and monsters. My favorite fare at eight was Dumas’ tales of the Three Musketeers.

My own father, a cross-dressing romantic pessimist who wept over poems and whose favorite philosopher was Arthur Schopenhauer, said the ideal nuclear family is a pious fraud, as can be seen by lifting the roofs off homes and peering into the virtual snake pits. He said that half his European relatives were arrested in France and died in the camps. He believed that heredity largely determines an individual’s intelligence and temperament hence his fate, not the collection of traits found in a particular family—he pointed out that the rest of our family thought we were crazy because we loved to study history and philosophy, and to write more than anything else. No doubt caretakers influence their broods one way or another, but the family cannot be blamed for the various courses taken by children after they walk out of different doors and go their separate ways. It was of little avail to our ancestors to exterminate the families of criminals, to burn down their homes, kill their livestock, and uproot their crops. Ridding society of the nuclear patriarchal family altogether might benefit society according to some communists; my father said I would have been better off if he had left me in an orphanage when my mother died instead of trying to keep his deathbed promise to her to raise me. I eventually ran away from stepmothers for good just after my thirteenth birthday, and took up residence in bus and train stations, and libraries.



THE HYSTERICAL TIMES However that may be, I have no doubts whatsoever that Jean-Paul saw a

However that may be, I have no doubts whatsoever that Jean-Paul saw a bit of himself in Gustave while peering under his roof, albeit in a different light, inasmuch as he was pampered by the dominant male in his household. In general, it seems that Sartre’s conscious intention for writing The Family Idiot was to somehow prove that a person’s family is the determining factor in his or her life; thus he partly exonerates Flaubert and himself for the faults. The redundancy of the ten-year, unfinished project may be in part due to Sartre;s use of a combination of aspirin and amphetamine popular with some athletes to perk himself up as he peered, like narcotized Narcissus, into a mirror of his own ‘hysteria’.

Sartre’s autobiography, The Words, portrays his early struggle against insanity, a jihad that would lead to his existentialist affirmations. His father died before he was two. He was a lonely, sad, and sickly child, half blind and wall-eyed, spoiled by his patriarchal grandfather, who treated his mother like a slave in chains. He did not have kids to play with so he escaped from the lack, reading trashy adventure novels supplied by his mother, books he preferred to the serious tomes of his grandfather’s large collection. In order to elicit praise for precocity, he pretended he liked authors such as Corneille. "I was a fake child. I could feel my acts changing into gestures. Playacting robbed me of the world and of human beings. I saw only roles and props." He called his escapism “death by ecstasy.” He started writing monster stories at age eight, letting his imagination run wild, and he soon realized that he himself was the toady monster he had imagined. He found some kids to play with when he went off to school, but the madness of writing to “forgive” his existence had already determined his arrogant and despairing manner of existing. Of course the war was an extremely unpleasant experience, what with being a prisoner of war, having one’s residence bombed right after moving in, and so on, but the Resistance was worth it. There was no God to rely on: man is responsible for himself. Nature does not care: life is absurd. What choice is there but to exist the most responsibly one can? What else is there to do but to write when that is what one does? Then write to resist, to free people from mass hysteria. Not only did Sartre the socialist hate Nazis and despise Soviet labor camps, he hated the bourgeoisie so much that he declined the Nobel Prize for Literature to show his utter contempt for them.

To what doctor would we recommend Sartre and Flaubert? Would spreading the right sort of balm on their basic anxiety ruin them as artists, or would it make them better artists? Mind you that they are not asking for our therapeutic assistance. It seems that reading Freud did Sartre little good, except as more grist for his mill. Birds of a feather need doctors of their own flock, doctors who understand them because they are one of them. Creators marvel at creation. Artistic writers prefer the theories of artistic doctors. Creative writers, by the way, are artists, a position I have accepted since the late writer and political-fixer A.C. Weinstein told me, in respect to an ordinance that was supposed to provide special housing for Miami Beach artists, that writers were qualified for such housing because they are “bullshit artists.”

Freudian hydraulics is not my cup of tea; I am not cut out to be a plumber or electrician or mechanical engineer. I do appreciate the pioneering neurologists’ relocation of the psyche from the heart to the brain at the head of the nervous system so that it might better



THE HYSTERICAL TIMES hold sway over the constitution by rule of reason from time to time,

hold sway over the constitution by rule of reason from time to time, and I understand from personal experience why psychiatrists were sex-crazed nevertheless. Religion worships absolute power and politics harnesses and rations it for the obvious reason that life depends on the power to persist and reproduce. The reproductive power is awesome; it is no wonder that some primitives worshipped the sexual organs, or that a major religious sect to this very day celebrates lingam and yoni. Freud apologized for the emphasis on sex, explaining that he was only reporting what he had observed. Although his misunderstood erotic theory has been greatly discounted, we see in national politics, for example, that millions of people have their heads between their legs.

For example, a recent report stated that a neoconservative U.S. President who prides himself for his anti-intellectualism had a recurring nightmare while residing in the White House: he heard a thumping sound in his dream, resounding like the distant thuds of bursting artillery shells, then envisioned a man’s bald and bearded head bursting through the wall at the very head of his bed, an event to which he woke up in a cold sweat, to find himself constipated for the rest of the day. A Freudian analyst might suit his special needs for therapy, but not mine given my explicitly heterosexual dreams when drooling in my sleep.

explicit ly heterosexual dreams when drooling in my sleep. Otto Rank and Ernest Becker I myself
explicit ly heterosexual dreams when drooling in my sleep. Otto Rank and Ernest Becker I myself

Otto Rank and Ernest Becker

I myself prefer the creative psychoanalysis of Otto Rank, author of Art and Artist (1932), to whose work I was introduced by Ernest Becker’s Denial of Death. Rank, Freud’s right- hand man for nearly twenty years, considered himself to be an artist first of all, one who would give birth to the creative life wholeheartedly. Indeed, he found the origin of our basic anxiety to be in the trauma of birth, and not in family conditions, although family life molds the original disposition.

We may eagerly emerge from the womb only to wish we were back in it. The crux of the birth issue is two fears in opposition; the fear of living, of becoming an individual separated from the mother, and the fear of dying, of the loss of that individuality in the collective. “Between these poles of fear,” he said, “the individual is thrown back and forth all his life, which accounts for the fact that we have not been able to trace fear back to a single root, or to overcome it therapeutically." In sum, we experience a fear of going forward and a fear of going backward.



THE HYSTERICAL TIMES The nativity process naturally involves th e biological development of the mind-body relationship:

The nativity process naturally involves the biological development of the mind-body relationship: “Thus, with the birth trauma and the fetal condition preceding it,” Rank stated in The Trauma of Birth, “we have at last made tangible the much disputed border of the psychophysical, and from this we understand not only anxiety, that primal symptom of mankind, but also conversion, as well as the entire life of the affects and impulses, which take root in the psychophysical.”

In a lecture entitled ‘The Anxiety Problem’, Rank declared that, “One might even say, therefore, that the real etiological factor of the neuroses consists in the fact that we have a psychical life and just in that — as in the production of the neuroses — we differ from the animal, which is likewise capable of physiological anxiety.”

And in Will Therapy he claimed that a crisis breaks out at a certain age “when the life fear which has restricted the I’s development meets with the death fear as it increases with growth and maturity. The individual then feels himself driven forward by regret for wasted life and the desire to retrieve it. But this forward driving fear is now death fear, the fear of dying without having lived, which, even so, is held in check by fear of life.”

The struggle of the twin fears, the domination of one over the other, determines the fates of individuals. Human anxiety and repression are inborn, then, and are not the result of some outside threat or derived from the family relationship. Now this finding did not jibe with Freud’s theory that internal restraints were originally imposed from without, that every internal compulsion was originally externally imposed during the course of history. Furthermore, if Rank was correct, not only Freud’s Oedipus complex theory but his emphasis on sexuality was mistaken.

“The discovery that the freeing or satisfaction of sexuality does not necessarily do away with fear but often increases it,” Rank averred in Will Therapy, “and the observation that the infant experiences fear at a time when there can be no question of outer threats of any kind, have made the sexual origin of fear, and its derivation from the outside, untenable.”

Rank used Freud’s criticism of his novel ideas to further demonstrate that some of Freud’s precious notions were groundless. He rankled the orthodox Freudian family with his criticism of their obsession with the past, which tends to reinforce the troubled person’s clinging to the past in order to protect himself from emotional surrender to present experience. The therapeutic relationship should be a two-person relationship in the present, and not an interpretative domination of an analysand by an analyst. Indeed, the “objective scientist” approach tends to deny the emotional life of the human being, much to the detriment of that being. Rank observed in a 1927 lecture that “surgical therapy is uprooting and isolates the individual emotionally, as it tries to deny the emotional life.” The reduction of emotion, thinking and willing to “libido” is a denial of emotion that by implication negates the willful, creative life, and destroys the interpersonal relationship essential to efficient and effective therapy—psychoanalysis may take forever due to the scientific pretense of objectivity.

Now it might appear from all this that the idiocy or so-called pithiatism of Jean-Paul



THE HYSTERICAL TIMES Sartre’s favorite family idiot, Gustave Fl aubert, was not produced by Flaubert’s family

Sartre’s favorite family idiot, Gustave Flaubert, was not produced by Flaubert’s family after all, and, even it if were, Sartre’s unsolicited psychoanalysis would have done Flaubert little or no good. Indeed, we are tempted time and again to propose that Sartre’s interpretation of Flaubert was due to his own pithiatic hysteria, the sort of interpretation being a product of the suggestions he was subjected to by careful readings of Freud in hopes of finding out, by way of covert self-analysis, the source of his own anxiety, which he, like the most of us, would like to blame his family for because he cannot remember being born—of course, if we are miserable, we can blame our parents for procreating us without our consent.

Would we all not be better off if we had been born into and raised by the ideal family? T Or would getting rid of the family, putting children in a commune or kibbutz, get rid of idiots like Sartre’s family idiot, Gustave Flaubert? As for me, when I am feeling sorry for myself, I believe I would be somebody important to others, a Grand Gentleman instead of Mr. Nobody whose entire history seems to be a blooming mistake whenever I wrack my brains to remember some good I have done, if only I had been raised in a “good” family. Surely social psychologists can statistically demonstrate that the type of family one is raised in generally governs the quality of its output; for example, that dysfunctional families generate dysfunctional children. But what about all the successful brothers and sisters from the same, problematic families: are they counted? I leave that to the statisticians. Suffice it to say that we should take the idea that the family is the origin of all ills with a grain of salt, and stop looking back over our shoulders so much; noting, when we do, that at one point in their history, the ancient Jews stopped condemning the families of criminals for the criminals—the sins of the fathers were formerly believed to be visited upon their sons.

Ernest Becker, an interdisciplinary cultural anthropologist, enthusiastically supported Rank’s theories in his Pulitzer Prize-winning work, the Denial of Death. The structure of evil is determined by the forms that the denial of death takes; since the whole is Good and the womb a good place to be, the original evil is the ‘sin’ of divisiveness, of individualism, of being born; the individual, to gain self-esteem, is motivated to play the hero to a group while submerging himself in the group to paradoxically obtain immortality. It is in these divisions that battles of hate-based love may be fought; the very existence of another group appears as a challenge to one’s own integrity.

Becker was keenly interested in Rank’s psychology of the creative artist, propounded by Rank in Art and Artist. We find another fault with Sartre’s psychoanalysis of Flaubert when we turn to Becker’s summary discussion of Rank’s work, a discourse that leads us to believe that Flaubert was not neurotic at all, at least not in the sense of being mentally “ill”. Becker applied the term ‘neurosis’ to “people who are having trouble living with the truth of existence,” i.e. death. The truth of life, that it must end, can be an “overwhelming problem for an animal free of instinct,” one who is born with a fear of life and death, knows he is going to die but wants to live, and dons various masks and cultural myths and lies to deny death and disguise his mortality from himself and others. Neurosis is a private matter “because each person fashions his own peculiar stylistic reaction to life.” And neurosis is a historical development because the traditional



THE HYSTERICAL TIMES ideologies that once disguised it have fallen away. “So we have modern man:

ideologies that once disguised it have fallen away. “So we have modern man:

increasingly slumping into analysts’ couches, making pilgrimages to psychological guru- centers and joining therapy groups, and filling large and large numbers of hospital beds.”

The neurotic type of person narrows down the terrifying world to a seemingly manageable portion and becomes apparently oblivious to the rest. But this process of repression is quite normal; without it, the human being, absent instinct, would be unable to function: “In order to function normally, man has to achieve from the beginning a serious constriction of the world and of himself. We can say that the essence of normality is the refusal of reality. What we call neurosis enters precisely at this point. Some people have more trouble with their lies than others, The world is too much with them, and the techniques that they have developed for holding it at bay and cutting it down to size begin to choke the person himself. This is neurosis in a nutshell: the miscarriage of clumsy lies about reality.”

Everyone is neurotic in a way and to an extent. The symptoms are a person’s reasons for existing inasmuch they shield him from the anguish and despair of the profound contradictions at the root of that existence. Becker refers to Rank’s observation that some neurotics want to cheat nature; they refuse to pay the price of living, which is decline and death, so they retreat into overvaluations of their selves in order to obtain self-esteem. “Instead of living experience, he ideates it; instead of arranging it in action he works it all out in his head.”

It appears that such passivity is the main accusation leveled by Sartre at Flaubert in his uncompleted five-volume psychoanalysis of the great realist. But it is a charge that could be brought against every creative artist including Sartre himself. We observe the prevailing culture did not commit the authors to an insane asylum; they were functional away from their desks, and their behavior was not bizarre, most importantly, their passive lives involved a great deal symbolic action much appreciated by the literate public.

Again, Becker observed, everyone is neurotic in the sense of substituting a magical, all- inclusive world for terrifying reality: “This is what cultural morality is for,” says he. “In this sense, too, the artist is the most neurotic because he too takes the world as a totality and makes a largely symbolic problem out of it.” Rank asked why the artist, then, avoids clinical neurosis, inasmuch as he a sensitive and imaginative person who tends to isolate himself from others.

“The answer is that he takes in the personality and recreates it in the work of art. The neurotic is precisely the one who cannot create…. We might say that both the artist and the neurotic bite off more than they can chew, but the artists spews it back out again and chews it over in an objectified way, as an external active, work project.” Becker goes on to quote Rank’s perspective, that ….it is this very fact of the ideologization of purely psychical conflicts that makes the difference between the productive and unproductive neurotic; for the neurotic’s creative power, like the most primitive artist’s, is always tied to his own self and exhausts itself in it, whereas the productive type succeeds in changing



THE HYSTERICAL TIMES this purely subjective creativ e process into an objective one, which means that

this purely subjective creative process into an objective one, which means that through ideologizing it he transfers it from his own self to his work.”

The creative power is not the private property of the artist. Becker claimed that some kind of objective creativity is the only answer to the fundamental problem of life. What distinguishes the artist from the neurotic, he says, is that the artist is more talented. The neurotic cannot endure himself therefore he imagines that he is a hero, glorifying himself in fantasy alone, while the talented artist manages to glorify himself in the eyes of the public through his objective creations.

We take pause here at the notion that talent alone is the key to successful artistic creation today given much of what we see in postmodern art exhibits; the artists are usually talented at being art personalities with incoherent manifestos, but many of them, for one thing, cannot draw. On the other hand, there are a number of genuinely talented and skilled artists whose works are ignored and who lead depressed lives as a consequence of the rejection. The judges are arbitrary and public taste is fickle. Perhaps that is one good reason why the classic masterpieces are so precious.

Flaubert’s glorious heroic achievement, Madame Bovary, is certainly a masterpiece. It was recognized as such during his lifetime—he died at age 59. Otto Rank, who thought of himself as an artist, died at age 55 after producing a number of psychological masterpieces. Ernest Becker’s Denial of Death, a masterpiece, won the Prize two months after his death at age 49. All three writers had relatively active lives away from their desks: Rank served in the Austrian army in Poland during the First World War, and went on to lead the psychoanalytical movement as Freud’s right-hand man; Becker helped liberate a Nazi concentration camp during his military service, and then worked as a professor at several universities. And Flaubert was not the recluse he is sometimes made out to be. He had his mother and his niece’s company at their country abode near historic Rouen, “the city of a hundred spires” (Victor Hugo). He travelled extensively, to North Africa, Syria, Turkey, Greece, and Italy, before settling down to write Madame Bovary. And then he was wont to winter in Paris, where he had friends, acquaintances, and, of course, Louise Colet—much is made of his keeping her at arm’s length while he wrote, but we think he did so not merely to keep from being distracted, but because of embarrassing flare-ups of loathsome diseases he contracted from prostitutes while travelling. He was pessimistic, as have been many great thinkers who have taken notes on the enormity of the divide between heaven and earth, but was he really miserable? Was he dejected, depressed, unhappy, and in need of psychotherapy, say, at Salpetriere or some private sanatorium? Or were his so-called “pithiatism” and its symptom, his writing, therapy enough?

Talented or not, we are all in the same boat, or rather, on board the Ship of Fools. Becker tells us that Rank offered that neurosis expresses the need for legitimate foolishness. “We said earlier,” Becker reminds us, “that the question of human life is: on what level of illusions does one live? This question poses an absolutely new question for the science of mental health, namely: What is the ‘best’ illusion under which to live? Or, what is the most legitimate foolishness?” He thinks the “whole questions would be answered in



THE HYSTERICAL TIMES terms of how much freedom, dignity, and hope a given illusions provides. These

terms of how much freedom, dignity, and hope a given illusions provides. These three things absorb the problem of natural neurosis and turn it into creative living.” And then he offers the problem as the solution: “Religion answers directly to the problem of transference of expanding awe and terror to the cosmos where they belong. It also takes the problem of self-justification and removes it from the objects near at hand…. Our life ceases to be a reflexive dialogue with the standards of our wives, husbands, friends, and leaders and becomes instead measured by the standards of the highest heroism…. What great security than to lean confidently on God, on the Fount of creation, the most terrifying power of all? If God is hidden and intangible, all the better; that allows man to expand and develop by himself.”

I lose myself marching off to defend the best illusion: terror management renders the

vicious circle virtuous; the good doctors have made good use of mass pithiatism to save me from incredulity; by sleight of hand, the ideal becomes real: I am submerged in the Good, and fear not in the Valley of Death. There may be no way out but the EXIT, on the other side of which is Utopia, the eternally better place otherwise known as no place due to its infinitude. On the way there is always the Way, so why should I care about where it leads? This really is the best of all possible worlds.

Pardon me, a disillusioned child of the Enlightenment, for taking autobiographical notice of my own pessimism and tendency to criticize everything under the Sun, to point out innumerable hypocrisies on Earth, to take up the gloom from time to time to cast a pall over the Tomb while glorifying myself as one of the greatest authors the world shall ever or never know. Someone who does not personally know me would expect to find a rather arrogant and melancholy person at home; quite to the contrary: although I appear to lackadaisically mope around occasionally, I am a happy-go-lucky person, one who suggests to others, especially when they are behaving hysterically, to address their issues creatively but in a logical fashion. I have a bad habit of kidding around a lot, of making a fool of myself, so that people who do not know me well may think I am a complete idiot or, to put it nicely, neurotic. Years ago I used to find myself in a deeply depressed state, but I kept asking myself, “Do I want to be depressed? Do I want to be unhappy?” The answer was “No,” and it took some time for that to sink in—sometimes we simply survive our troubles. I believed my withdrawal into the Word was not serving me so well, so I stopped reading and writing and watching television for a decade, which I devoted to dance, an activity that needs no other instrument than the human body. When my bodily activity failed to please me, I returned to literature, and turned to writing, which pleases me. It is the process that pleases me, the questioning and learning and writing process

that is my escaping from “reality.” There is no final answer to my ultimate question but total escape in The End. I am in it for the tripping; thinking is my drug; I have no goal in mind yet my life is not meaningless absent a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. For me

it is art for the sake of art, although flattery is appreciated, and maybe fame and fortune

too. My interest in writing is waning as The End nears—is there something I have forgotten to do that I should do? I would like to hang out with the Others more often, to discuss this amazing life, and to see the better aspects of the world I have escaped from.



THE HYSTERICAL TIMES Wherefore it is with me in mind that I pers onally do not

Wherefore it is with me in mind that I personally do not see Gustave Flaubert as neurotic or hysterical or sick. I would not mind at all living in a cottage, say, up the Hudson River, in Cold Spring, and taking the train into Manhattan to rub shoulders with the crowd and chat with the Others, and to fly away to Europe to see the historic places I have dreamed about. I think Louise Colet would be too much for me; I would prefer someone more like Sartre’s great friend, Simone de Beauvoir—friend i.e. “free” is the key word.

I admit that I am under the influence of suggestion, including auto-suggestion, and that my mental activities have patterns that have been converted into an occupation that may seem to be a useless neurotic symptom. But pithiatism has not been my problem; it has been my salvation. I know full well that I am living a myth. The myth of becoming one of the greatest authors the world will ever or never know was suggested to me. I eventually became aware of that and took it to heart because it already suited me.

The key word, then, if ‘pithiatism’ is not to your liking, is ‘suggestion.’ Sartre’s Family Idiot suggests that Flaubert’s lifestyle was not something he would have chosen if he were morally sound; it was the product of environmental- and auto-suggestion. Young Flaubert reacted to his circumstances by playing the fool, and he wound up being foolish, as far as Sartre was concerned. He devoured his existential self and became a passive, isolated pessimist, a writer stupid to his existence, or what Sartre thought he should have been instead, a heroic political activist like him.

Suggestion works both ways, for good or ill. If only Sartre had been there to make sure Flaubert had been subjected to the right suggestions, he would not have to call him an idiot and condemn him in five volumes—the moral condemnation, incidentally, would be unfair if neurosis were an illness just like bodily sickness, in which case Flaubert could not have helped his diseased condition. We can hear Sartre saying, “What an idiot, what an imbecile!” U

Philosophers the world over have found human freedom from helpless determination by the world in our moral nature. The very word “moral” was once virtually synonymous with thoughtful; whereas other creatures survival depended on their instincts, man was deemed a rational, goal-oriented animal, a self-conscious, willful creature that reasons and manipulates its circumstances to its benefit. Yet what seems to work to a particular man’s advantage is repeated time and again until the behavior learned is habitual and appears to be as instinctive as that of other animals. He may have learned the habit at an innocent age from his family and/or others. He aware of the habit but he no longer remembers his motives; the causes are unconscious. Even when it no longer serves his purpose, he does not perceive the habit as a bad one, and it perseveres as his solution as if he were addicted to it. We may or may not feel sorry for him, we may even call him a bad man deserving of death instead of a sick or badly behaving man in want of psychological or moral therapy. In any event, we sympathize with those who may be harmed by his behavior; therefore, we demand his adjustment to our will: we imprison him for our own good that he may be corrected and we have justice in peace restored.



THE HYSTERICAL TIMES But what are we to do when the whole societ y is sick

But what are we to do when the whole society is sick or immoral, when almost everyone is addicted to a bad habit and few know it is bad because everyone is doing it therefore think they are doing the right thing? First of all, who is to be the judge of that and rehabilitate us pending God’s Doom? Psychologists and psychiatrists are in the adjustment business; they would save the errant individual by having him adjust to society, adding more than he consumes of the gross social product. Politicians do not want radical reform; they would tinker with the machine, make minor adjustments when change is needed. Lawyers may buck the system but must get paid by it so do little damage. Tenured university professors cannot think outside of the box because they were shaped by it. No, members of the power elite do not want to upset the apple cart.

Who would save civilization from what appears to be good because everybody is doing it but is actually paving the road to yet another hell, perhaps to the Final Hour of the race? Undoubtedly a few lone, maladjusted intellectuals, philosophers like Sartre, who know very well that the historical cause of the panics brought about by the inevitable dooms has been the neglect and degradation of the transcendental, moral aspect of man in the maniacal pursuit of material wealth. The advance of technology with modern scientific method has made surfeit more widespread in the bulging-belly bourgeois. Middle-class wants outrun the human needs that could be satisfied if only the product were distributed according to needs: but some people need more than others, and they want more things for themselves too. The few at the controls took too much, there was a loss of faith in money managers, so the budget must be balanced on the backs of the lower class as the middle-class tightens its belt.

We see a relatively overweight family in a large home stuffed with all sorts of things; the father is laid off; the credit cards are maxed out; foreclosure is at hand. An unemployed army is marching on Wall Street. It is the 99% ragtag army, meaning only 1% of the populace is to blame for the panic. Some members of the 99% do want radical change, but the most want more of the stuff they have been deprived of; there is no end to the desire for Stuff, even though the most of it could be categorized as so much trash, junk, and garbage—the power elite get the luxury items while tokens and facsimiles thereof are handed out below. Everyone would maintain and improve the System although more and more people are getting short changed in the belief that if everyone overcharges everyone then everyone will profit. People are scared and we do not blame them; after all, the engineers believed that the System was going down the drain. If matters get worse due to further loss of confidence, people will look to a charismatic leader to bring them to order and fight disorder.

That leader may be a “Washington outsider” or even a misfit, but he will be a master of suggestion or a good actor with public relations advisors and mainstream media in tow. His followers may don an identifying color, and march ceremonially in circles to martial music. It will be a really big show; that much is for certain. Of course there will be a few lone intellectuals on the fringes of the conventions, protesting that the masses have been brainwashed, that the organized 99% are copycats, zombies, imbeciles, idiots, conventional thinkers, and the like. Nothing has really changed, least of all human nature,



THE HYSTERICAL TIMES its tendency to habitual behavior. The econom y goes up and down, people

its tendency to habitual behavior. The economy goes up and down, people with less stuff want more of it, and people with more want even more.

It’s not “the economy, stupid.” It’s “the culture, stupid.” This is not an economic crisis; it is a moral crisis. And everyone is aboard this rudderless ship of fools or wants to board it, including its worst critics. We have lost our heads, expecting the Machine to think for us. High technology allows us to master nature, but who is the master? The captain is sleeping at the wheel, and we automatically adjust to the haphazard course. We thought modern science was the moral of the story, but it is just a tool. We had faith in high technology and wound up with low morality. YHWH used to punish a few Hebrews for immorality, grinding them to dust for groundless hatred, but globalization warrants global remedies.

Romantic philosophers saw the possibility of worldwide doom coming with industrialization and sounded the alarm about the loss of the self in the machine; budding psychologists among them, and neurologists and psychiatrists, witnessing the effects, set about to save or recover the free self somehow. That was Sartre’s mission as a phenomenalistic philosopher. It may be fairly said that he was a “romantic” in comparison to his favorite “family idiot,” Flaubert, the frustrated “realist” who wanted be done with the ephemeral self for the sake of permanent nothing. Sartre was influenced by Edmund Husserl, who discussed the burgeoning moral crisis in The Crisis of European Sciences.


CONTINUE: “Understanding” etc: Note more on Husserl/Brentano/Jaspers’ phenom nosology, the subjective introspective categories.



A Sartre, Jean-Paul, The Family Idiot – Gustave Flaubert 1821-1857, transl. Carol Cosman, Chicago: University of Chicago Press. The direct quotes are present without permission, by way of non-commercial fair comment for the critical advancement of learning.

B An imaginative young patient named Bertha Pappenheim, whom her doctor, Josef Breuer, and Sigmund Freud wrote about as “Anna O,” is credited with suggesting the



THE HYSTERICAL TIMES “talking cure” of psychoanalysis, therefore being th e profession’s tutela ry founder, so
THE HYSTERICAL TIMES “talking cure” of psychoanalysis, therefore being th e profession’s tutela ry founder, so
THE HYSTERICAL TIMES “talking cure” of psychoanalysis, therefore being th e profession’s tutela ry founder, so

“talking cure” of psychoanalysis, therefore being the profession’s tutelary founder, so to speak—she also called the purportedly cathartic process of digging up and venting old memories “chimney sweeping.”

Bertha Pappenheim, by the way, was a feminist, and would found the League of Jewish Women. Her case has become increasingly controversial as Freud’s critics contrive to discredit him and his theories. For example, literature and history professor Mikkel Borch-Jacobsen, in Remembering Anna O: A Century of Mystification (1996) claims that Anna O, whom Breuer was treating for morphine addiction and hysteria, faked her symptoms, that the origin of psychoanalysis is a fraudulent myth, and that Freud rushed Breuer to publish his findings in order to get the jump on French doctors who were treating nervous conditions with hypnosis. His take on hysteria is that it is a game invented for the cure. Professor of history Mark Micale, in Approaching Hysteria:

Disease and Its Interpretations (1995), after reviewing two-thousand years of literature on hysteria, speaks of the psychoanalytic “gibberish” of Freud, and points out that Breuer’s treatment neither cured nor improved Anna O’s hysteria. Mentions of the disengenuity or pious fraud of the good doctor Breuer was obvious prior to those revelations; Peter Gay, after examining the sources, including Studies of Hysteria coauthored with Freud, mentioned Breuer’s unwarranted “compression” of desultory improvements “into a complete cure.” See Peter Gays’ Freud – A Life For Our Time (1988). Then reader will also find there a brief discussion of Anna O’s hysterical (false) pregnancy with Breuer’s child.

O’s hysterical (false) pregnancy with Breuer’s child. Sigmund Freud and Josef Breuer We note with some
O’s hysterical (false) pregnancy with Breuer’s child. Sigmund Freud and Josef Breuer We note with some

Sigmund Freud and Josef Breuer

We note with some interest Anna O’s morphine addiction, and wonder if that had anything to do with the fact that she had managed to escape from her straight-laced Jewish circumstances into what she called her “private theater,” where she took up “systematic daydreaming.”

Freud, in his Second Lecture on ‘The Origin and Development of Psychoanalysis,’ attributes the discovery of the “psychic mechanism of hysterical phenomena” to Breuer’s “cathartic treatment” of his first patient. At that time, he says, they had both been “under the spell of Charcot’s investigations. We made the pathogenic experiences of our patients, which acted as psychic traumata, equivalent to those physical traumata whose



THE HYSTERICAL TIMES influence on hysterical paralysis Charcot had determined; and Breuer’s hypothesis of hypnoidal
THE HYSTERICAL TIMES influence on hysterical paralysis Charcot had determined; and Breuer’s hypothesis of hypnoidal
THE HYSTERICAL TIMES influence on hysterical paralysis Charcot had determined; and Breuer’s hypothesis of hypnoidal

influence on hysterical paralysis Charcot had determined; and Breuer’s hypothesis of hypnoidal states is itself only an