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Hayao Kawai, the self, and the great mother - click opera — LiveJournal
February 2010
 
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Thu, Dec. 24th, 2009 12:35 pm
Hayao Kawai, the self, and the great mother

The other day, chatting with Alin Huma, I asked "Who was it who said the Japanese have no pyschoanalysis, and no need for psychoanalysts, because they have no unconscious? Because all the neuroses are on the surface here?"

"It was Lacan, wasn't it?" said Alin.



Actually, there have been Japanese psychoanalysts. Hayao Kawai (1928-2007), for instance. If Freud delved into the Bible and Greek mythology for motifs like Moses and Oedipus, Kawai delved into Buddhism, Japanese folk tales, and even the novels of Haruki Murakami for his motifs and examples. Kawai thought of himself as a Jungian. Much of his work examines the difference between the Eastern and Western mindsets.

In books like Psyche in Japan and Buddhism and the Art of Psychotherapy, Kawai laid out three key points which he saw as distinguishing the Eastern mind:

1. A tendency to introversion
2. The location of consciousness outside the self
3. The strength of "the great mother inside"


According to Kawai, there's a lack of distinction in the Eastern world between consciousness and unconsciousness (an idea which mirrors Lacan's thought about everything we think of as "deeply buried" being out in the open and up on the surface in Japan). Eastern philosophy seeks the self, historically, in its own unconsciousness. Jung said that when Westerners say the word "mind" it refers to consciousness, but when Easterners say the same word it refers to the unconscious.



Here's a simple diagram Kawai made to show the differences between the Eastern and Western minds, as he saw it. The Eastern self lives in the unconsciousness, which means there's a lack of knowledge of the self. The self in Westerners is put in the centre of consciousness, which means that the self is seen as strong, central and independent -- and yet frail, because this Robinson Crusoe is surrounded by the unknown, able to be overwhelmed and undermined at any moment by powerful "instincts" and "impulses" from somewhere else.

As a result of this basic organisation of the self, Westerners tend to find the meaning of their life in a fight with fate and with their own nature, whereas Easterners tend to find the meaning of life in "tasting their fate"; accepting it, and living in harmony with their own nature. The typical Western dramatic hero struggles against the inevitable, whereas the typical Eastern hero "tastes" and accepts it.

This leads to differences in attitudes to "the great mother" (which relates to my thoughts about the robotic female authority figure in overwhelmed by milk). In the West, thinks Kawai, people have to kill their mother in order to win their independence. In the East, people try to achieve independence without killing the mother.

In Japan, says Kawai, people tend to model any kind of social group on family relationships, in both good and bad ways. When your school and company is a family group, things can sometimes get intolerable, stifling. On the other hand, society as a great universal mother can bind people together and make them less lonely.

Kawai didn't entirely see Japan as an Eastern culture, though; for him it was an important bridge, a place where Western and Eastern conceptions of the self and society could mingle.

50CommentReply


(Anonymous)
Thu, Dec. 24th, 2009 05:12 am (UTC)
kawai is not so cute

this is all painfully reductionist and essentialist. where is the west? and where is the east? northern india? spain? the caribbean? turkey? mongolia? hong kong?


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imomus
imomus
imomus
Thu, Dec. 24th, 2009 06:35 am (UTC)
Re: kawai is not so cute

Two thoughts on that. One, I think it's a bit inappropriate -- not to mention boring -- to respond with an empirical mindset to a statement based on Jungian archetypes. You're basically saying "the reality on the ground is much more complex and specific than these broad brush archetypes". But that's the point of archetypes: to try out a big, brash conceptualisation, and imagine what kind of parallel world emerges, and ask if it's interesting, and what it tells us about the world we know. Even if it differs from the world we know, that difference has more to tell us than the simple formulation "This is an empirical error!" You have to pull on your "what if" hat.

Secondly, the characterisation of the world as "endlessly complex, specific and variegated" is also, in its way, reductive and simplistic. Why shouldn't broad cultural differences in things like the conception of self and society exist, and be related to religious traditions, family structure, and other broad differences?


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Some questions - (Anonymous) Expand













(Anonymous)
Thu, Dec. 24th, 2009 05:15 am (UTC)

Bizarre. I'm reading this book as we speak:
http://www.amazon.com/Zen-Buddhism-Psychoanalysis-Erich-Fromm/dp/0060901756

It's not bad. A little dated, but definitely worth the read. Found it in a used books market in Brooklyn.

My attention wavered for a second and I decided to see what Momus was up to.


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(Anonymous)
Thu, Dec. 24th, 2009 08:03 am (UTC)

This fits with Takeo Doi`s thiesis from `The Anatomy of Dependence` pretty well!

Anne Allison`s `Permitted and Prohibited Desires,` explores more about the milk and how it relatates to sexuality and sexism in Japan, but her language is a little accusatory towards Japanese men.


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imomus
imomus
imomus
Fri, Dec. 25th, 2009 02:55 am (UTC)

Interesting!


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(Anonymous)
Thu, Dec. 24th, 2009 08:12 am (UTC)
"Mind" as an epiphenomenon of the English language

Hi Momus,

"Jung said that when Westerners say the word "mind" it refers to consciousness, but when Easterners say the same word it refers to the unconscious."

Well, if he said it in German, he can't have said quite THAT, because neither German nor Japanese nor any other language that I know seems to have any word for "mind". There are certainly plenty of words for "consciousness", "reason", "soul", etc. but "mind" seems to be a specifically English language concept.
If you replace "mind" in the Jung quote with some of these other terms, it suddenly becomes a very different discussion, doesn't it?

Jan


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imomus
imomus
imomus
Thu, Dec. 24th, 2009 08:45 am (UTC)
Re: "Mind" as an epiphenomenon of the English language

The Japanese translate mind as "mindo"!


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(Anonymous)
Thu, Dec. 24th, 2009 08:52 am (UTC)

A central tenet of non-symbolic Artificial Intelligence is that there is no 'mind' ...
it's simply the complexity of the system in AI artefacts - robots, A-Life, cellular-automata that appears to give the illusion that some 'mystical' process ('mind') is controlling the brain which, in turn, outputs actions, emotions etc. Such a soulless view - I'm a symbolic AI-ist ... very old fashioned but, at least I retain a soul. Freud + Jung: both bollox'; ignore it; better stuff out there on this kind of thing - apologies, I detoured away from Nick's theme here ...


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(Anonymous)
Thu, Dec. 24th, 2009 09:59 am (UTC)

I believe both Germans (those who speak German) and Japanese are similar in that they characterise the moon as male and the sun as female.

I think Laurens van der Post may have mentioned this in his novel (The Seed and the Sower?). Anyway, he certainly talks a lot about the Japanese psyche in that novel, in ways that Kawai may (perhaps) recognise.

By the way:

http://www.nytimes.com/2009/09/20/magazine/20jung-t.html

I wish more people would talk about Jung instead of Freud when they talk about psychoanalysis. Freud's position does seem to be entirely that of the self-centred west, trying to defend the mind from the incursions of the primitive unconscious.



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akabe
akabe
alin huma
Thu, Dec. 24th, 2009 07:33 pm (UTC)

> I believe both Germans (those who speak German) and Japanese are similar

can't see a connection there however you might strech it . one is purely, pragnatically linguistic (think if english had der/die/das the moon would be der Moon) the other is ( or presumably was x000 years ago ) mythological.


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imomus
imomus
imomus
Thu, Dec. 24th, 2009 11:08 am (UTC)

Kazushige Shingu's Freud, Lacan and Japan gives a much more technically exacting account of what Lacan said about Japan.


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(Anonymous)
Thu, Dec. 24th, 2009 02:33 pm (UTC)

This is a bit off-topic, but it's sort of in the same vein... Have you seen the movie, Does Your Soul Have a Cold?
http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0995716/

What did you think?

:)


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imomus
imomus
imomus
Thu, Dec. 24th, 2009 03:35 pm (UTC)

http://imomus.livejournal.com/428252.html

Since writing that I've not only seen the film but interviewed director Mike Mills about it for 032c magazine! But it would take too long to type about it here (I'm on the iPod).


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(Anonymous)
Thu, Dec. 24th, 2009 03:57 pm (UTC)

All such divisional ways of thinking about thinking waste the grey space needed to move into new mind-ways, right? Yes, I do think so. No matter where you are placing the abstract (placebo?) walls and ceilings within your subconscious room you are still doing it consciously...and that's a rather stupid & avoidable problem all around no matter who's doing the boxing.
-John Flesh


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(Anonymous)
Fri, Dec. 25th, 2009 11:53 am (UTC)

Mind without structure = stagnation, dependency, depression, &/or psychosis.

Or a really fruitful ashram. For the owner.


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(no subject) - (Anonymous) Expand
milky_eyes
milky_eyes
milky_eyes
Sat, Dec. 26th, 2009 04:34 am (UTC)
iiii

Kawai didn't entirely see Japan as an Eastern culture, though; for him it was an important bridge, a place where Western and Eastern conceptions of the self and society could mingle.

Would like to hear more about this.
I have experiences japan to be very much rooted in the eastern mindset. Although, as I"ve said before... they have a wonderful sense or order for host vs. guest relationships. This I think my mimic a bridge... but not actually be a bridge...


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stanleylieber
stanleylieber
Stanley Lieber
Sat, Jan. 2nd, 2010 03:29 am (UTC)
Re: iiii

The process of appropriation of Chinese culture by the Japanese is interesting in general.


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