<Editor's Note> This is the interview of Prof. RHEE Dongshick with announcer in the TV talk show
aired on Dec. 8, 1990 on the Korea Educational Broadcasting System (EBS). It was translated by
Dr. YUN Woncheol (State University of New York, USA., at that time).
MC A file footage is on screen now. What does the saying mean?
RHEE Suppose I'm treating a teenager patient. At first he'd say that his parents love him most, that they are the best parents in the whole world, and so forth. Then I'd say, "Pull out whatever feeling you have in your mind, whether good or bad, of your parents." After a while, he may express extreme hostility against his mother. The hostility may be so intense that he may have had a hidden wish to kill his mother. Mother, who has been taken as the symbol of love, is now the object of extreme hatred. This kind of complete reverse of value or absolute negation is called the 180 degree state. But once he has poured out all those negative feelings, memories of all the love his mother gave him comes back so that positive feelings of mother once again prevail. It's so-called the 360 degree state, as expressed the Buddhist saying, "The mountain is a mountain, the stream is a stream." It may appear to be identical with the original state before all the processes of treatment so far described. But there is a fundamental difference between the zero degree state and the 360 degree state: Having made a complete 360 degree turn, he is now in his true Self that embraces both negation and affirmation. In the zero degree state, negation was oppressed and therefore positive feelings were not grounded in full affirmation. It was not a true Self. The goal of Buddhist Zen practice is also to make that kind of complete 360 degree turn and find so-called the True Self or the Original Mind. But the Western psychoanalysis, as I said earlier, never go beyond the idea of Self as the undeniable subject of mental activities. That's the fundamental difference of psychoanalysis from the Eastern tradition of the Tao. The latter goes further, and aims at going beyond subjective ideas and self-attachment to the state where there is no subject/object dichotomy.
MC Then the idea of the Tao is that we can find our true selves by embracing both affirmation and negation.
They say all modern men, without exception, have mental disorder to some degrees. Would you please explain the significance of the Tao regarding the problems of modern civilization?
RHEE When we say "modern civilization," we used to refer to the Western civilization―as if there were no other civilization. Anyhow, Lewis Mumford, an American philosopher, said in his book Human Condition that the history of the Western civilization since Renaissance has been that of destructive desire. Many of us are misled to think that Renaissance was a liberation of Self. But seen from psychoanalytical point of view, Renaissance was indeed a liberation of human instinctual desires and thus diminution of the true Self. It was a liberation of the selfish desire for conquest―conquest of other nations, nature, and other people.
MC You mean predominance of collective selfishness.
RHEE Yes. But the exploitation of the selfish desire for conquest is sure to end up with being conquered. For example, we have been exploiting nature to fulfill our selfish desires. But now nature has begun to revenge us for it. We are about to be conquered by nature.
MC By nature!
RHEE Yes. by nature! And it means an overall destruction of mankind. How can we solve this problem? Lewis Mumford suggests that the solution be in self- examination or self-control of mankind.
This is not different from emphasis on self-control and negation of desire in the Eastern tradition.
And it is same as saying that realization of the Tao is the sole and final solution of all the problems of modern Western civilization. Psychoanalysis or counselling also aims at attaining the ability of self-control. Of course, Mumford didn't know the Eastern tradition of the Tao. But self-examination or self-control he advocated is actually the practice of the Tao. In Confucian terminology, it is "To Overcome Self"; and in Buddhist terminology, "To Be the Master of Self." To be the master of Self―that's the Tao. On the contrary, to be swayed by personal feelings and emotions―that's what we call neurosis.
MC Isn't it true that one of the most fundamental fear we have is that of death?
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Untitled Document
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