After the third verse of
In the Court of the Crimson King
there is a gentle interlude, a quiet passage reminiscent of
The Dream The Illusion
This is the third lullaby. The first two lullabies were
I Talk to the Wind
"Cancer provides the nourishing spiritual waters that protect and nurture the
body of the developing child. This is why the sign of Cancer is called the
Great Mother. Brahms, the master of lullabies, was definitely able to "hear"
the keynote from the Cherubim in the Cancer Hierarchy."
The third lullaby, coming as it does before the fourth verse, leads to the
final epiphany of the Crimson King. What lies beyond the paranoid-schizoid and
depressive positions is what came before either of them: Dionysian dread and
ecstasy, Bion's Transcendent Position or "O".
"Wilfred Bion, who was to become the awesome explorer of the "deep and formless
infinite" of the psyche, first
immersed himself in the theories of Freud and Klein and then gradually
developed a revolutionary
metapsychological metatheory for psychoanalysis. Bion incurred the criticism of
his colleagues by daring to
investigate faith, spirituality, religion, mysticism, metaphysics, and fetal
"O" is perhaps Bion's most far-reaching conception. It designates an ineffable,
inscrutable, and constantly
evolving domain that intimates an aesthetic completeness and coherence. He
refers to it by different terms,
"Absolute Truth," "Ultimate Reality," or "reverence and awe." When
preternaturally personified, it is called "God."
The "Keter-Ayn-Sof" of the Zohar Kabbalah translated it as "Nothing" (Scholem,
1960; Bloom, 1983), a
designation Bion (1962, 1963, 1965) focused on as the "no-thing." "O" lies
beyond the grasp of the external
senses and is only experienced by an inwardly receptive sense organ, intuition,
Bion's "seventh servant."
Intuition is observation's reversible perspective, the latter requiring the
senses. A transformation in "O" is
attainable only by the disciplined abandonment of memory, desire,
understanding, sense impressions -- and
perhaps also the abandonment of ego itself.
"O" overarches Heaven and Hell ("nameless dread") in its paradoxical sweep. It
is what it is and therefore is
beyond knowing. One may either experience "O" as ultimate dread or as beatific
...depending on the
vertex of emotional maturity and preparedness from which one approaches it. I
believe that we are born into "O"
(or the "Real," in Lacan's  terminology) and are hopefully rescued under
the beneficent canopy of the
organizing and mediating "filters" of the paranoid-schizoid and depressive
positions (sequentially, alternately,
and in parallel). Randomness (chaos) is, with mother's reverie, transformed
into phantasies and then into
symbolic meaning in the depressive position. The libidinal and death instincts
serve to signify, express, and
mediate the infant's distress about its experiences of randomness.
"O" is inchoate and occurs before the
paranoid-schizoid position -- and awaits our transcendence beyond the
depressive position so that we may
be rejoined -- for a moment -- with it.
Bion's concept of "O" seems to be circular. It is within us, around us, and
beyond us -- as well as before us and after us; we temporally proceed from it,
through it, and toward it. T.S.
Eliot's (1943) "The end is where we start from..." says it well. "O" as our
mystically directed trajectory fulfills
Plato's conception, "That which is always becoming" -- but never really
attained. It is like Marlowe's description
of Tamburlaine's Samarkand, "always on the horizon, ever distant, always
receding." Bion introduced us to a
cosmic domain that spatially, temporally, philosophically, and existentially
existed beyond our sensual capacity
to comprehend, although psychotics and mystics have always known of its
And "O", or the transcendent position, is equivalent to Jung's transcendent
"There is nothing mysterious or metaphysical about the term "transcendent
means a psychological function comparable in its way to a mathematical function
of the same
name, which is a function of real and imaginary numbers. The psychological
function" arises from the union of conscious and unconscious contents."
- C. G. Jung, Collected Works
In the Court of the Crimson King
"arises out of the union of conscious and unconscious contents" the song
itself represents the transcendent function.
"Jung's ...major conclusion: that the transcendent
function was of the utmost importance; the uniting of opposites was achieved by
a third, unknown, and irrational
factor, which was the symbol that joined the opposites and restored, even if
only temporarily, a state of
"The first function of a living mythology is the Transcendent
Function. Life has a dimension of mystery. On the one hand, myths always
try to tell us the truth--that nature is deadly, terrible, and monstrous.
At the same time, they also say that living is opening our hearts and
minds to the sheer wonder of existence. Life, therefore, is both
terrifying and fascinating. It is full of horror and wonder.
The first and primary condition any mythology must fulfill, then, is
to awaken and sustain awe and gratitude within us. As human beings, our
task is not just to use our minds but to perceive and experience the world
as new. The Transcendent Function empowers us like nothing else to step
back from our identities and social roles and gain a perspective on who we
are. That is, it enables us to step outside the boundaries of the
social-cultural system into which we are born. We should be able to see
clearly into the depths within ourselves and not be frightened. In
effect, a truly alive mythology should introduce us to the great mysteries
"The transcendent function does not
proceed without aim and purpose, but leads to the revelation
of the essential man. It is in the first place a purely natural process, which
may in some cases
pursue its course without the knowledge or assistance of the individual, and
accomplish itself in the face of opposition. The meaning and purpose of the
process is the
realization, in all its aspects, of the personality originally hidden away in
germ-plasm; the production and unfolding of the original, potential wholeness.
... If we can
successfully develop that function which I have called transcendent, the
disharmony ceases and
then we can enjoy the favorable side of the unconscious. The unconscious then
gives us all the
encouragement and help that bountiful nature can shower upon man. It holds
are locked away from the conscious mind, for it has at its disposal all
sublimal psychic contents,
all those things which have been forgotten or overlooked."
If, as Jung says above, the transcendent function has an "aim and purpose",
then the transcendent function has a Logos function.
"Philo believed that man's final goal and ultimate bliss is in the "knowledge of
the true and living God;" "such knowledge is the boundary of happiness and
blessedness." Mystic vision allows our soul to
see the Divine Logos and achieve a union with God (Deut. 30:19-20). He adheres
to the Platonic picture of the
souls descending into the material realm and only the souls of philosophers are
able to come to the surface and return
back to their realm of heaven where they came from.
Philo interpreted the Logos which is the Divine Mind as the Form of Forms, the
Idea of Ideas or the sum total of Forms or
Ideas. The Logos is an indestructible Form of wisdom.
Describing Moses' account of the creation of man, Philo states also: "And
the invisible Divine Logos he [Moses] calls the Image of God;" also, "shadow of
God is his Logos, which he used as like
an instrument when he was making the world."
"In the deep abyss he was conceived, MARDUK was made in the heart of the apsu,
MARDUK was created in the
heart of the holy apsu.
Ea begot him and Damkina bore him, father and mother; he sucked the paps of
goddesses, from his
nurses he was fed on the terribleness that filled him.
His body was beautiful; when he raised his eyes great lights flared; his stride
he was the leader from the first.
When Ea who begot him saw him he exulted, he was radiant, light-hearted, for he
saw that he was perfect, and he
multiplied his godhead, the one to be first and stand highest.
His limbs were immaculate, the making a fearful mystery beyond comprehension;
with four eyes for
limitless sight, and four ears hearing all; when his lips moved a tongue of
fire burst out. Titanic limbs,
standing so high he overtopped the tallest god; he was strong and he wore the
glory of ten, and their
lightnings played round him.
'My son, my son, son of the sun, and heaven's sun!"
The Greek logos was , of course, Prometheus and the Egyptian Logos, as
mentioned earlier, was Thoth - better known as Hermes.
"The world itself came into existence through the utterance of a word
- E. A. Wallis Budge, Egyptian Magic
"Thoth or the Egyptian
Hermes was the symbol of the Divine Mind; he was incarnated Thought, the Living
Word -- the Logos of Plato and the Word of the Christians.
Thoth is called the "Source of the Word," the one god without parents who
precedes all others. He is the "Soul of Becoming" whose creative willpower
fashions reality. "What emanates from the opening of his mouth," says an ancient
Egyptian text, "that comes to pass; he speaks and it is his command." As the
"Reckoner of the Universe," Thoth is the source of all natural law; as the
of Men" and "Vehicle of Knowledge," he is the higher mind in man that provides
inspiration and inner knowledge."
"In brief, he is the Son, the manifestation in act of the idea of the Father.
In the traditional card the disguise (of Mercury) is that of a Juggler. He
bears a wand with
a knob at each end, which was probably connected with the dual polarity of
electricity; but it is
also the hollow wand of Prometheus that brings down fire from Heaven.
Being the Word, he is
the law of reason or of necessity or chance, which is the secret meaning of
the Word, which is the essence of the Word, and the condition of its utterance.
This being so,
because he is duality, he represents both truth and falsehood, wisdom and
folly. Being the
unsettles any established idea, and therefore appears tricky. He has no
creative. If he cannot
attain his ends by fair means, he does it by foul. The legends of the youthful
therefore legends of
cunning. He cannot be understood, because he is the Unconscious Will."
It would seem that the transcendent function and the divine Logos are one and
the same. The purple piper, the pattern juggler, the yellow jester; they are
all Hermes, expressions of the transcendent function, the divine Logos.
"I am the Logos in the full aspect and the beginning of a new Logos."
"Philo explains that men are "nourished by the whole word (Logos) of God, and
by every portion of it ... "The Wisdom of God, which is the nurse and
foster-mother and educator of those who desire
incorruptible food; ... immediately supplies food to those which are brought
forth by Her ... but the fountain of divine
wisdom is borne along, at one time in a more gentle and moderate stream, and at
another with greater rapidity and a more
exceeding violence and impetuosity ...." This Wisdom as the Daughter of God is
"a true-born and ever virgin daughter".
"If the anima is stripped of her image ...clinical evidence suggests that the
remaining core is function,
relating consciousness to the unconscious. Since the Great Goddess has been
repressed, as it has been for
most men, the anima junction, now experienced as the transcendent function,
brings the man to a connection
with the Great Goddess."