Propositional Logic and the Nervous System

The nervous system is inherently logical, exhibiting properties that correlate to logical functions. Many somatic reflex arcs seem to operate according to logical principles. We find negations, conjunctions, sequences of cause-and-effect events that mirror conditional statements and Modus Ponens arguments, feedback loops that can be modeled by the rules of implication as well as structures possessing the properties of exclusive disjunctions which are thought to help us to ignore superfluous signals.

A Modus Ponens argument is one of the form “If P then Q. P. Therefore, Q.” This argument is replicated in the withdrawal reflex which protects a vertebrate from harm. It depends on a reflex arc, at least three neurons in series whose structure can be said to recapitulate the conditional statement “if P then Q.” For instance a specialized nerve ending (a nociceptor) in the finger may connect to a neuron whose cell body is located in the spinal cord’s grey matter. From this point, a motor fiber may innervate the biceps brachii, the main flexor involved in a total retraction of the arm (1). The physio-logical structure is akin to the first premise of the Modus Ponens argument, the conditional statement.

The second premise P, then, is akin to a painful stimulus. When the nociceptor is electrically depolarized by a stimulus which damages tissue, an impulse is sent to the central nervous system causing a secretion of chemical messengers in the spinal cord’s grey matter. The conclusion Q is the retraction of the arm. As a result of the spine’s reception of the signal P, one or more interneurons is depolarized, ultimately resulting in increased excitation of the motor neurons innervating the flexor. The striated muscle cells are depolarized and the sliding protein filaments begin to shorten. The forearm is pulled about the elbow whose angle decreases, moving the finger away from the painful stimulus. The whole argument can be summarized as follows: If the nociceptor is excited then the flexor will withdraw the limb. The nociceptor was excited. Therefore the flexor withdrew the limb.” A Modus Tollens argument arises if it is the case that there is no painful stimulus ( ¬P). Then the conclusion is ¬Q; there is no withdrawal of the arm. It is interesting to note that the nociceptor’s ending is structurally undifferentiated and basically identical to those of interneurons populating the spinal cord and the brain (2).

The crossed extensor reflex can also be illustrated with propositional logic. It consists of a withdrawal reflex as well as the contraction of the opposite limb’s extensor (3). The unmodified withdrawal reflex was a Modus Ponens argument but now our conditional is adapted to be “if P then Q and R” where R is the extension of the opposite limb which does not receive a painful stimulus. The painful stimulus P must now be applied to the toe. We will also have to change our conclusion to “therefore Q and R.”

P → (Q ˄ R)

P

∴ (Q ˄ R)

Now our argument can be summarized in the following way: “If the toe is hurt, the flexors which bend the knee will contract, retracting the leg, and the extensors in the opposite leg (quadriceps) will extend. The toe was hurt. Therefore, the afflicted leg was flexed and the other leg was extended.” The crossed extensor reflex prepares the other leg to bear the weight of the body. The remarkable thing is all this happens without the brain. I believe many people would be more logical if they lost their heads.

The stretch reflex, that mechanism whereby skeletal muscles autonomically limit the degree to which they are stretched, can be modeled with the rules of implication. When a muscle’s length is increased, certain nerves called muscle spindle fibers begin to fire. The frequency at which they fire is correlated with the length of the muscle. These signals go to the spine where they effect excitation of the motor neurons which contract that same muscle, shortening it and restoring its length (4). Now let P be the signal of the spindle fibers and Q be the excitation (depolarization) of the motor neurons which contract the muscle being stretched, helping to restore its original length. Let ¬Q be the inhibition (hyperpolarization) of the motor neurons.

( P → Q ) ↔ ¬( P ˄ ¬Q)

This is to say “Only if it is not the case that the spindle fibers are excited and the motor neurons are inhibited is it true that if the spindle fibers fire, the motor neurons are excited.” In other words, “It is the case that if the spindle fibers fire then the motor neurons are excited if and only if it is not the case that the spindle fibers are excited and the motor neurons are inhibited.” If the spindle fiber signal inhibited the motor neurons which contract the muscle in which the spindle fibers are housed, the muscle may be stretched to a dangerous degree and, not to mention, the biconditional would be invalidated.

Whereas the spindle fibers prevent a muscle from being stretched too much, the Golgi tendon organs prevent it from developing too much force – from contracting too much. These structures are located in the tendons which connect skeletal muscles to bones and they send nerve fibers into the spine. When the Golgi tendon organs send signals to the spine, the motor neurons innervating the muscles between the tendons in which they are housed receive a hyperpolarizing, inhibitory signal (5). This in turn effects a decrease in tension. With this opposite effect, we can let P be the signal from the Golgi tendon organ while ¬Q continues to represent the inhibitory effect of the signal on the motor neuron: the consequent. Then we must rearrange our conditional to state “if P then not Q,” which is to say that the motor neuron is inhibited if a signal from the Golgi tendon organ is received. The following is a slightly modified rule of implication statement.

( P → ¬Q ) ↔ ( ¬P ˅ ¬Q)

This is to say that “only if it is the case that the Golgi tendon organs do not signal or the motor neuron is inhibited is it true that it is the case that if the Golgi tendon organs signal then the motor neuron innervating the muscle is inhibited.” It can also be said that “it is the case that if the Golgi tendon organs signal, the motor neuron is inhibited if and only if it is the case that the tendon organs don’t signal or the motor neuron is inhibited.” The validity of the whole statement, which we may equate to normal function of the Golgi tendon organ reflex arc, depends on the two halves of the biconditional being either both true or both false. For the inclusive disjunction to be true, either the tendon organs must reduce their activity (¬P), the motor neuron must receive inhibitory input (¬Q), or both. A true disjunction therefore suggests a reduction in the muscle’s developed tension. With a true disjunction, validity demands a true conditional as well and we appropriately see a negated Q denoting inhibition of the motor neuron, the proper consequence of neuronal input from the Golgi tendon organs.

However, for a false disjunction, it must be the case that both elements ¬P and ¬Q are false, to wit, that P and Q are both true. This would mean that the Golgi tendon organ is not sending a signal (there is no force developed in the muscle) and that the motor neuron is being excited. The Golgi tendon organ is very sensitive (6) so if the muscle developed even a slight force, a signal would normally be sent. Moreover, the muscle only develops force if it is excited by a motor neuron. As expected, we see that, given a false disjunction, the entire biconditional statement can only be true if the conditional is also false. If it were the case that the disjunction (P ˅ Q) is true, it could not be the case that signals from the Golgi tendon organ inhibit the motor neuron – assuming the tissues are otherwise functioning properly – because this reflex arc is a negative feedback loop. P and Q cannot both be true because the Golgi tendon organ’s signal causes inhibition of the motor neuron.

Nervous function which mirrors propositional logic is not limited to the motor neurons which innervate skeletal muscle. It is also found in those neurons responsible for tactile sensation. When a stimulus affecting an area of skin is received, lateral inhibition allows us to sense where exactly we have been touched. Just under the surface of the skin are the receptive fields of nerve fibers concerned with detecting touch. These fields consist of heavily bifurcated nerve endings which, when mechanically deformed, depolarize and relay information about mechanical contact to the central nervous system. Like trees in a forest, their branches overlap greatly but we can still discern the location of contact with a high precision by virtue of lateral inhibition, it is thought. The neurons whose receptive fields receive the highest pressure, presumably those in the center of the area affected by the stimulus, send the highest frequency signals. These signals are not merely destined for the central nervous system. They arrive at the local, surrounding sensory neurons and secrete inhibitory chemicals which have a hyperpolarizing effect. These inhibited neurons also receive the mechanical stimulus but, since they are on the periphery of the affected area, fire at a slower rate which is further retarded by inhibitory signals from the neurons in the center of the affected area (7).

Lateral inhibition is very similar to exclusive disjunction. In a true exclusive disjunction of the form (A ˅ B) ˄ ¬(A ˄ B), the two elements A and B can never both be true because of the negated conjunction. For all other cases, the exclusive disjunction is true. If we let A and B represent the signals from two neurons whose receptive fields are just below the surface of a mechanically stimulated area of the skin, parallels between lateral inhibition and exclusive disjunction can be drawn. Because the more stimulated neuron will inhibit the surrounding neurons, acting as a high-pass filter, the conjunction (A ˄ B) is negated. Only one signal will predominate: either A or B (and not A and B).

Ascending the clades we see spinal cords, an aggregation of neurons towards the mouth and light-sensitive organs, encephalization and, in the animals we consider to be the smartest, evermore developed cerebrums. The human brain has between ten billion and one hundred billion neurons. One neuron may receive inputs from between one thousand and one hundred thousand other neurons (8). In addition to those described above, inherently logical reflex arcs responsible for the function of many organs incorporate fibers going to and from the brain (9). The cerebral cortex is associated with sapience. language, intelligence and reason and it may be that some of its structures, on whatever scale, recapitulate the functions of propositional logic as well. It may be possible that thought is facilitated in part by such structural arrangements. By that token, it also may be that such structures, through chronic ignorance, self deceit and excitation of descending fibers, can be conscripted to counter these inherently logical reflex arcs at every level.

(1) Widmaier, Raff & Strang – Vander, Sherman, & Luciano’s Human Physiology: The Mechanisms of Body Function – Chapter 10: Control of Body Movement – Local Control of Motor Neurons pg. 319-320

(2) Widmaier, Raff & Strang – Vander, Sherman, & Luciano’s Human Physiology: The Mechanisms of Body Function – Chapter 7: Sensory Physiology – Specific Sensory Systems pg. 219

(3) Widmaier, Raff & Strang – Vander, Sherman, & Luciano’s Human Physiology: The Mechanisms of Body Function – Chapter 10: Control of Body Movement – Local Control of Motor Neurons pg. 320

(4) McMahon, Thomas A. – Muscles, Reflexes and LocomotionChapter 6: Reflexes and Motor Control pg. 147-148

(5) Ibid. pg. 146-152

(6) Ibid. pg. 149

(7) Widmaier, Raff & Strang – Vander, Sherman, & Luciano’s Human Physiology: The Mechanisms of Body Function – Chapter 7: Sensory Physiology – General Principles pg. 211-213

(8) Malmivuo, Jaakko and Plonsey, Robert – BioelectromagnetismChapter 5: Synapses, Receptor Cells, and Brain5.4.2 Brain Anatomy pg. 114

(9) Malmivuo, Jaakko and Plonsey, Robert – BioelectromagnetismChapter 5: Synapses, Receptor Cells, and Brain5.2.3 Reflex Arc. 109

This was written as the final paper for an informal logic class.

Core Concepts Series: XI. The Basic Libidinal Conflict: Instinct vs. Outer World – Part 2

Elaboration and Foray into Desiring-production

In the absence of external prohibitions or internal narcissistic inhibition, the organism will discharge inner tension through expression. If our formulation equating libido with potential energy in bodily tissue is correct, the organism can potentially experience an infinite variety of pulsions, each one corresponding to an optimal expression that affords the greatest possible catharsis. The expression that completely discharges one cathexis would be useless for another. Though more potential energy is probably consumed in a set of pull-ups than in the orgasm reflex, for instance, the former is inferior when it comes to sexual catharsis. We are also familiar with expressions that require very little movement but subjectively seem to relieve intense psychic burdens. On top of all this, we find that inner tensions can be resolved by ceasing to dispense with our energies (rest) and adding more energy to our bodies (eating). What can we make of these apparent contradictions? Investigating how a pulsion becomes disconnected from the expression it would optimally manifest as may be useful in solving this riddle.

But what does this mean, without inhibition? Previously we gave the example of the amoeba and its aquatic habitat, claiming that external water functions as narcissistic inhibition because it offers resistance to the object-libidinal expression of reaching. But by this logic, the amoeba’s membrane and organelles are co-conspirators in repression, for our protozoan would have the lowest potential energy if it was shredded into the smallest possible pieces and diffused evenly in the water. Not even the free-flowing amoeba is comfortable with that kind of catharsis! Now we are entering the realm of – I’ve always wanted to use this word – Deleuzoguattarian desiring-production. The organism’s morphology has intrinsic inhibitory properties that obstruct immediate dissipation of potential energy, energy we claim is libidinal (1).

The animation of the organism in expression, to wit, the conversion of this energy into work, is itself mediated by these inhibitory, structural properties. For instance, the same chemical energy from food inspires different functions in different tissues because of structural differences. Compare the high energy food metabolite ATP’s role in the contraction of skeletal muscle with its role in the establishment of electric potential across a neuron’s membrane. Here, different types of fixed structures operating mechanically mediate the dissipation of potential energy according to their mechanical and chemical properties. This results in the performance of specific, characteristic functions (contraction, membrane charging &c.), energy-dissipative (א) processes which we consider to be expressive. Any one of these processes is characterized by countervailing forces whose dynamics recapitulate the psychic currents governing the organism’s total expression. Complementarily, an unfathomable number of these microcosmic events contribute to the organism’s total expression, be it predominantly object oriented or narcissistic, wherein the common theme, structural modification of energy dissipation, is preserved and recapitulated on a large scale by the organs. This is analogous to an engine, whose mechanical structure gradually extracts work from burning gas in a controlled way rather than letting it all explode in one ecstatic fireball.

Now that we have filed Nothung down to splinters, so to speak, we are better equipped to speculate about which expressions are optimal when it comes to relieving a libidinal cathexis, that is, which are sex-economically preferable to the organism, affording the most complete catharsis. Since we have become labyrinthine and hideous enough to understand – and, God forbid, produce – the above paragraphs, it would behoove us to observe infants. We are justified in doing so because, experience has shown, experiences further convolute the pathways of object-libido and inspire chronic narcissistic inhibition or libidinal investment. It is also useful at this point to distinguish between the morphological components of narcissistic inhibition and the narcissistic gestures we intuitively make or understand without reference to the sciences. As a side-benefit, we will be able to assess what the sum of scientific knowledge actually represents.

Initially, infants act in an uninhibited way according to what are commonly called the instincts, behaviors that aren’t “learned.” Over the course of their development, however, we find children adopt chronic inhibitions which obstruct the more direct manifestations of object-libido as outward expression. Analysis of neurotics’ repressed complexes has shown that this is accomplished by converting a quantity of object-libido into narcissistic libido. The conversion is concomitant with renouncing the original goal of the drive, viz. the expression which would completely discharge the inspiring energy cathexis and, not to mention, require the entire cathexis in order to manifest. A portion of the energy that would otherwise animate the organism in the optimal expression is employed to resist that same expression, preserving some fraction of the cathexis. Again, this only occurs when endeavors to contact the outside world are met with sufficient unpleasure, unpleasure which creates subjective tension (excitation) exceeding that due to the cathexis which initially inspired the pulsion to make contact with the world.

These learned inhibitions, resolutions to the conflicts between instinct and outer world, eventually crystallize into a kind of parasitic homunculus foreign to the organism. Freud called this the ego (das Ich, the I) a word borrowed from Nietzsche through the physician Georg Groddeck (2). This psychic structure can be said to contain a set of narcissistic libido investments that, like the steel cylinders of an engine, conscript the explosive forces of expression to its own end: self-preservation (or more correctly, relief from the tension arising from intolerable perceptions). Its somatic manifestation is a system of chronically held muscle contractions. We also see a subjective identification with the processes of inhibition and ignorance of the repressed object-libidinal strivings. In orgonomy, these investments are considered pathological insofar as they prevent authentic emotional expressions such as the orgasm reflex. In the next two articles, we will discuss in detail how a pulsion’s function is changed under the influence of an external pressure and how the organism internalizes this change through libidinal investment, a concept Wilhelm Reich calls change of function of the impulse.

(א) Though these may dissipate energy in one respect, they are certainly capable of creating potential energy in other areas.

(1) Deleuze, Gilles and Guattari, Félix – Anti-Oedipus: Capitalism and Schizophrenia – 1. The Desiring Machines – 4. A Materialist Psychiatry pg. 26-27

(2) Nietzsche, Friedrich – Thus Spoke Zarathustra – Translator’s (Kaufmann) notes for Part 1, Discourse 4, On the Despisers of the Body pg. 5

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Core Concepts Series: X. The Basic Libidinal Conflict: Instinct vs. Outer World – Part 1

Overview

Previously we stated that the pulsion or impulse is nothing more than the force exerted by the organism on the world or on itself in the conversion of biological energy into work. We also stated that the pulsion’s existence denotes a libidinal tension or pressure – a quantity of potential energy in terms of biophysics – that an expression can discharge. The forces preventing the potential energy from being discharged in expression we have termed narcissistic. It follows that the pulsion and expression are continuous without narcissistic inhibition, as is seen with infants. In other words, an action and the pulsion with which we associate it are artificially separated components of a single identity, initially. The presence of narcissistic inhibition determines if a pulsion is disconnected from the expression which would relieve its tension.

The most primordial drive, then, is the drive to divest from cathexes of libido, viz. the drive to relieve inner tension and feel pleasure. If our formulation equating libido with potential energy is correct, catharsis is impossible without transferring energy into the environment, usually through relating to objects. However, the environment does not always permit object-libidinal expression and there are a finite number of ways the organism can relate to the environment such that libido-economic equilibrium results.

Limitations imposed by the outer world regulate the organism’s power. In the example of the amoeba, we saw that the water it inhabits has the same function as the narcissistic current, offering resistance to the object-libidinal expression of reaching. Though higher organisms face similar challenges, their narcissistic inhibition often arises from intolerable bodily excitation.

Like the energy which inspires the organism to contact the outer world, such intolerable excitations constitute inner tensions. However, they inspire hostility, fear or anxiety. Their intolerable quality is probably related to a high frequency of signals in the nervous pathways involved in sensation and perception. These cathexes can be relieved by destroying, fleeing or withdrawing from the stimulus, actions which both expend energy and interrupt the organism’s continued perception thereof. Like the pulsion to relate to the outer world, the narcissistic retraction is also a pulsion whose tension is relieved by movement, though it be directed inwardly. We believe that all this is mediated by differences in the magnitudes of opposing forces, mechanical and electric, contending in the tissues of life.

“If we assume that Hartmann’s theory is correct (certain aspects of which were supplemented by the investigations of Kraus and Zondek), psychic energy must derive from simple physiological and mechanical surface tensions, grounded in the chemistry of cells … the disturbance of the physio-chemical equilibrium which is brought about by these tensions turns out to be the motor force of action – in the final analysis, most likely also the motor force of thinking (1).”

Wilhelm Reich, 1933

Based on the results of the therapy character analysis and critical inquiry into masochism and the quantitative problem of libido, Wilhelm Reich concluded that Freud was correct in his original conception of the basic libidinal conflict: “frustration issues from the outer world (2).” That is to say the organism endeavors to relate to objects in the most cathartic, pleasurable way by default. Renunciation of this drive arises from external limitations and frustrations, not, as Freud would later claim, a countervailing death drive equally innate to the organism. As we shall later see, the phenomena attributed thereto are conditional and dependent on the preservation of cathexes which can, in fact, be divested from. In the coming articles, we will describe how interactions with external frustrations divide the object-libidinal current against itself giving rise to secondary drives and describe a hierarchy of preferred emotional functions and transformations which is based on cathartic magnitude and whether frustrating conditions prevail.

(1) Reich, Wilhelm – Character Analysis – Chapter XII: Some Observations On the Basic Conflict Between Need and Outer World pg. 271-272

(2) Ibid pg. 280-281

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Core Concepts Series IX: The Pulsion

If libido is the energy that animates an organism in expression, and if adequate expression results in a libido-economic equilibrium, then the pulsion or drive itself can best be conceptualized as a force in the Newtonian sense of the word. As a body in mechanical equilibrium is acted upon by equal and opposite forces, so a libidinal economy in equilibrium is characterized by equal magnitudes of the object-libidinal and narcissistic psychic currents. Thus if the narcissistic current cannot oppose the object-libidinal current, an outward expression must take place. In the same way, an overpowering narcissistic current results in inhibition. Of course we can only conceive of these quantities ordinally for now, but they are quantities nonetheless.

In microbial life, the libidinal currents have a very direct relationship to Newtonian forces. For instance, in the amoeba’s production of a pseudopodium – an object-libidinal expression – the cytoskeletal filaments must overcome the pressure of the water in which it lives, else the organism will be unable to relate to objects such as prey. The production of force is ultimately accomplished by the conversion of chemical energy into work. This same conversion takes place in the animal’s object-libidinal expression. These depend on electric and chemical potential energy being released in the skeletal muscles and the nerve fibers that trigger their depolarization. However, the libidinal currents in an animal have a more convoluted relationship to force.

The skeletal muscles, those organs ultimately responsible for the expression, develop tremendous force and expend a tremendous amount of potential energy as mechanical work. Contrastingly, the nerves that trigger them lose a comparatively minute amount of potential energy in the propagation of a signal. Furthermore, the signals that ultimately arrive at the skeletal muscles must originate, physiologists maintain, in the sensorimotor cortex of the brain (1). Here, the neurons have a very small volume and therefore require less work – less energy – to polarize (א) than do the long fibers innervating the skeletal muscles. On top of all that, their signal can be modified or altogether stopped at very many intermediate synapses. And as the total expression is thought to depend on the difference in magnitude between the object-libidinal and narcissistic currents, whether any one of these neurons will contact the next in the signaling cascade depends solely on the magnitude of the electric current flowing into the initial segment exceeding that of the electric current flowing out (2). I don’t think it is a stretch to say that the excitation of nerve and muscle tissue recapitulates object-libidinal expression and that their stored potential energy is similar to the narcissistic reservoir of libido. Perhaps these stores constitute the narcissistic reservoir.

As I stated previously, object-libidinal expressions of a sexual nature are characterized by the flow of fluid toward the organism’s periphery. During these we see a reduction of tension (dilation) in the peripheral blood vessels but a great increase in the pressure (ב) exerted by the blood in the genitals in turgescence. Force (muscle tone) is developed by genital muscles such as the ischocavernosus and bulbocavernosus (3). A strong electric potential (4) denoting potential energy develops on the penis and vagina mucosa (in orgastically potent characters). If these phenomena indicating sexual excitation are to appear, the object-libidinal current must overcome the narcissistic current and whatever forces are responsible for their appearance cannot be cancelled by forces acting in the opposite direction.

There is also a muscular mechanism that can inhibit the object-libidinal pulsion. In the expression of rage, for instance, the arms may apply force to and do work on an object, e.g. in punching. In extension, the triceps brachii contracts and pulls the forearm about the elbow which acts as a fulcrum. Were the biceps brachii to simultaneously develop an equivalent tension (force), the arm would be in mechanical equilibrium and unable to accelerate toward the object. This inhibition, like the expression it represses requires – as far as we are concerned – another input from the “voluntary” nervous system. One should also keep in mind that afferent fibers communicate information concerning the amount of force developed in a skeletal muscle to the brain.

In analysis, the word pulsion often is followed by “to …,” e.g., the pulsion to murder the father. The formulation we just introduced implies that, in order for such a pulsion to exist, there must be some libidinal pressure, a quantity of potential energy that would be released were it not for some preventive mechanism. Recall that this quantity of energy constitutes a cathexis and its expenditure is a cathartic event. Wilhelm Reich discovered that the real world action which psychoanalysts linguistically attach to an energy cathexis is largely independent from the actual, physical energy thereof, and that these cathexes can be completely divested from, practically speaking, without performing the action, e.g. murdering one’s father. That is to say, the preservation of the cathexis is not, as psychoanalysis implies, the only way to prevent the action from taking place.

(א) Potential energy in metabolic products from food is converted into work used to separate electrically charged particles that exert attractive forces on each other. During the excitation of a neuron, these charges are allowed to come back together. An amount of energy must be consumed resetting – repolarizing or recharging if you will – the cell membrane. The electric work done to charge a capacitor is proportional to the surface area, so the smaller the neuron, the less work it takes to polarize.

(ב) Pressure is force applied over an area ( P = F/A ) and is measured in units of force per unit of area, e.g. pounds per square inch.

(1) Widmaier, Raff & Strang – Vander, Sherman, & Luciano’s Human Physiology: The Mechanisms of Body Function – Chapter 10 – Control of Body Movement – The Brain Motor Centers and Descending Pathways they Control pg. 320

(2) Widmaier, Raff & Strang – Vander, Sherman, & Luciano’s Human Physiology: The Mechanisms of Body Function – Chapter 6 – Neuronal Signaling and the Structure of the Nervous System – Section C: Synapses – Synaptic Integration pg. 179

(3) Reich, Wilhelm – The Bioelectric Investigation of Sexuality and Anxiety – 1. The Orgasm as an Electrophysiological Discharge pg. 9-10

(4) Reich – The Function of the Orgasm – Chapter IX – From Psychoanalysis to Biogenesis, Part 1. The Bioelectric Function of Pleasure and Anxiety pg. 370

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Core Concepts Series: VIII. The Basic Antithesis of Vegetative Life

The two psychic currents described by psychoanalysis, namely the object-libidinal and narcissistic currents, are manifested materially as flows of bodily fluid toward or away from the periphery of the organism respectively. This concept is best encapsulated by Weber’s (א) conclusion as summarized by Reich: “sensations of Unlust [unpleasure] go with a centripetal flow of blood, while sensations of pleasure go with a centrifugal flow of blood” (1).

During an object-libidinal expression, we may observe any the following phenomena: increased salivation; skin turning pink or light red; genital turgescence, electric charging and secretion; subjective feelings of expansiveness and attraction; streaming and melting sensations; tendency of the body to assume an elongated form; and movement toward “desired” objects. The physiological components suggest hydration of the peripheral tissues.

During a narcissistic withdrawal, we may observe the following: dry mouth; pallor; genital detumescence and electric neutrality; vaginal drying; subjective feelings of collapsing or withdrawing; fear or sadness; a tendency of the body to assume a “fetal position;” and anxiety (2). Also, there may be a movement away from a noxious stimulus or, in the case of a drive’s renunciation, a movement away from the “desired” object. The physiological phenomena accompanying narcissistic withdrawal conversely suggest the flow of fluid away from the periphery. This can be experimentally confirmed. For instance, a large slug crawled by my doorstep the other day. I found that whichever part of his periphery I tickled with a leaf retracted inwardly towards his longitudinal plane. The narcissistic psychic current was directly observable as a material current of body fluid and tissue.

These two functions are associated with the two wings of the autonomic or vegetative nervous system, as it was formerly referred to. In general, the object-libidinal expression coincides with the excitation of the parasympathetic nervous system while the narcissistic retraction coincides with the excitation of the sympathetic nervous system. The former is characterized by a the relaxation of cardiac muscle, dilation of the peripheral blood vessels and glandular secretion. The latter is characterized by cardiac and, in general, peripheral blood vessel constriction (3). Like the two psychic currents, the two autonomic nervous systems are known to inhibit each other in general. The location of autonomic neural activity, which is electric, also suggests an antithesis between center and periphery. The sympathetic ganglia are located near the spinal chord while the parasympathetic ganglia are very close to the organs they innervate. Thus in the object-libidinal expression, the nervous excitation is closer to the periphery of the organism – where the fluid has accumulated. In the narcissistic retraction, the more central ganglia experience the excitation while the fluid also is forced inward by peripheral vascular constriction. Two distinct modes of being corresponding to the two psychic currents are also exhibited by lower organisms without nervous tissue.

We do not at all wish to imply that we have a complete picture of the relationship between the libidinal currents and the material soma. There are many unsolved mysteries and unreconciled contradictions. What is the role of chronic skeletal muscle contraction in the inhibition of an object-libidinal pulsion? To what extent does libidinal energy correspond with the energies with which physics is concerned and is it necessary to posit a distinct orgone energy? What is the role of the central nervous system? Also, we must also be cognizant of exceptions to the generalizations made about autonomic function, like the fact that sympathetic fibers induce dilatation of the bronchial tubes and of the blood vessels that supply the skeletal muscles (4).

Thus the antithesis between object libido and narcissistic libido, toward or away from the world, is recapitulated by two diametrically opposed currents of fluid in the body. From an analytic standpoint, this means that in order to resist the object-libidinal impulse of the so-called id, the so-called ego must act physically. Reich discovered that the primary mechanism for this is a chronic, unconscious contraction of skeletal muscle, this requiring inputs by the “voluntary” or, as it used to be called, “animal” nervous system. When it comes to resolving neuroses with analysis, the functions of the two psychic currents and their corresponding fluid flows can best be conceptualized as an antithesis between sexuality and anxiety.

(א) This probably refers to Ernst Heinrich Weber, 19th century physiologist who wrote on the hydrodynamics of bodily fluid.


(1) Reich, Wilhelm – Character Analysis – Chapter XII: Some Observations On the Basic Conflict Between Need and Outer World pg. 275

(2) Reich, Wilhelm – The Bioelectrical Investigation of Sexuality and Anxiety – 2. Sexuality and Anxiety: The Basic Antithesis of Vegetative Life –pg. 29-48

(3) Widmaier, Raff & Strang – Vander, Sherman, & Luciano’s Human Physiology: The Mechanisms of Body Function – Chapter 12 – Cardiovascular Physiology – Section C: The Vascular System – Arterioles – Extrinsic Controls – Sympathetic Nerves pg. 408

(4) Wikipedia – Sympathetic Nervous System – Function

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Core Concepts Series: VII. Object Libido and Narcissistic Libido

Libido is invested in two opposing directions: toward the world and away from the world. The energy that inspires an impulse concerned with contacting the external world is called object libido. Before gratification, such impulses coincide with a subjective feeling of tension. Union with the “desired” object relieves tension, as plainly evidenced by the relaxation which occurs when striving is ceased. In psychoanalysis, this is called catharsis and is said to coincide with a return of the libido to the “narcissistic reservoir.” When the libido is withdrawn from the external interest or doesn’t come out in the first place, it is called narcissistic libido (1). Note that this concept describes a phenomenon much more general and fundamental than the tangentially related phenomenon called narcissism by modern psychology. A narcissistic retraction is not always cathartic or satisfying. Often they result from frustration and do nothing to relieve the tension arising from the inability to reach the drive’s original goal. The only tension relieved by this retraction is usually that which signifies overpowering fear. In Character Analysis, Wilhelm Reich calls narcissistic withdrawals of libido flights of the “energy cathexis” toward the center (interior) of the organism (2).

An antithesis is formed by these two functions: towards (object libido) and away from (narcissistic libido) the world. Hunger and sexuality are object-libidinal, to wit, orientated toward the world. Both of these relieve inner tension. When the organism reaches out into the world to make contact with an object, and this endeavor is successful, unsuccessful or results in injury or a perception of danger, the energy is narcissistically withdrawn. To use a classical example, the genital attraction of a boy in the oedipal situation to his mother is an object-libidinal pulsion consisting of a quantity of moving energy and a corresponding expression: that energy’s animation of the body. If the consequence of this expression is the mother becoming enraged, the libido is narcissistically withdrawn for the purpose of self-preservation. This is evidenced by the fact that here, the body (whose movement requires energy) is not animated in outward expression. We will talk about how this is accomplished biophysically and what must be done with this energy in future installments. Similarly, when a squirrel endeavors to cross a street but sees an oncoming car, he must prevent his body from accomplishing the drive’s original goal through narcissistic retraction.

Although these two functions are in one sense antithetical, it is important to remember that they stem from a common substance, general biological energy. They only differ in flow direction and direction of investment. In orgonomy, such a relationship is called an antithetical functional identity; two seemingly opposing functions share a common identity. Investigation from the sex-economic standpoint reveals that we are dealing with definite, conserved quantities of libido. Further these can be divided and set against each other in order to create ever more complicated inhibitions. In such cases, object-oriented and narcissistic energies exert libidinal pressures on each other, leading to ambivalence and many other strange behavioral phenomena (3).

Finally, the oscillation of libidinal investment between these poles is identical to the orgastic function. The first half of the function, characterized by tension and charge, is in its purest form an object-libidinal endeavor. The end phase, characterized by discharge and relaxation, is a narcissistic retraction. In the coming articles, we will use this formulation to show that object libido and narcissistic libido compel the organism to make objective physical movements. We will also describe the relationship these energies have to sexuality, anxiety and the function of the autonomic nervous system.

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(1) Reich, Wilhelm – The Bioelectric Investigation of Sexuality and Anxiety – 2. Sexuality and Anxiety: The Basic Antithesis of Vegetative Life pg. 36

(2) Reich – Character Analysis – Chapter XII – Some Observations on the Basic Conflict Between Need and Outer World pg. 276

(3) Reich – Character Analysis – Chapter XIII – Psychic Contact and Vegetative Current – The Change Of Function of the Impulse pg. 296-308

Dr. Franklin’s Romantic Revolution

When Beethoven, our Moses, was not yet six years old, Dr. Benjamin Franklin – another Moses – found himself in the old State House in Philadelphia listening to a mysterious infiltrator deliver an impassioned speech. The unknown man spoke as though he had divine authority. In The Secret Destiny of America, Manly P. Hall writes that an exceedingly rare document belonging to one A. P. Warrington records the instance abbreviated below which allegedly happened on July 4th, 1776.

While the colonial delegates discussed how they might be punished should their sacred conspiracy be discovered, the master orator stood and spoke, imploring them to sign the Declaration of Independence. He said that the parchment was inscribed with the immortal words of God. After referring to their successes at Bunker Hill and Lexington, it seems the unknown entered an ecstatic, visionary state. Thus he spoke:

… methinks I stand among the awful clouds which veil the brightness of Jehovah’s throne. Methinks I see the recording Angel come trembling up to that throne and speak his dread message. “Father, the old world is baptized in blood. Father, look with one glance of Thine eternal eye, and behold evermore that terrible sight, man trodden beneath the oppressor’s feet, nations lost in blood, murder and superstition, walking hand in hand over the graves of the victims, and not a single voice of hope to man!” He stands there, the Angel, trembling with the record of human guilt. But hark! The voice of God speaks from out the awful cloud: “Let there be light again! Tell my people, the poor and oppressed, to go out from the old world, from oppression and blood, and build my alter in the new.”

He concluded by saying that if he were about to vanish for all eternity, with his last breath, he would “implore you to remember this truth – God has given America to be free!” With this, the delegates rushed to the parchment and signed, but when they turned around to thank the mysterious orator, he was gone. Although every exit was guarded, no one saw him depart. No one present ever admitted to knowing who he was.

Dr. Franklin looking like he’s as close to indifference as possible while still inhabiting the jovial side of things. He looks like the Mona Lisa, as if he is guarding some gay secret.

Now if that weren’t strange enough, let me tell you about Dr. Franklin’s research into electricity and his correspondence with Dr. Franz Mesmer of the University of Ingolstadt in Bavaria. To provide proof of this would reveal my source’s identity to the enemies who unknowingly surround him. By 1752, Franklin had determined that lightening was, in fact, electric by charging a Leyden jar with it. Although the following makes no sense to me, I was told he later reasoned that lightening is associated with Jehovah, cognate of ‘Jove,’ another name for Jupiter, phonetically Deus Pater, viz. God the Father and that the power of Kings was derived from a divine “electric fire” in antiquity. Moreover, this potency had been decaying for some time and many aristocrats and possibly even royals no longer had practical understanding of it!

Meanwhile, Dr. Mesmer was to become one of the most unappreciated martyrs in history. He would selflessly desecrate his name and his entire career for a noble cause still unfolding today. You see, Mesmer was all too aware that his theories and experiments regarding animal magnetism were unscientific. Scientific and medical inquiry were never their purpose. No, mesmerism was originally a technique whereby proto-Romantics could analyze aristocratic circles and see which of the members were causes and which were effects. I don’t know how else to say it. After observing the extent to which fluid movements could be induced in bodies, and by interpreting this in light of both the observers’ characteristics and the rank of the observed, the original “magnetizers” formed their opinions. These were recorded on lists which were circulated amongst the like-minded. Ties were cut and new bonds were forged as the laborers consolidated their organization and damned the charlatans to work on humiliating projects.

Those who could not consciously apprehend the practice’s true purpose became outraged. The skeptics crawled out of the woodwork like cockroaches to fulfil their office. In a blunder that would later get him killed, King Louis XVI of France would assemble a 1784 committee tasked with determining the veracity of Mesmer’s claim that an animal-magnetic force existed. Ultimately it would determine the veracity of the King’s claim to the throne!

He gathered some of the finest scientific minds of the age: the brilliant chemist Anton Lavoisier, Dr. Franklin of the newly founded republic, astronomer Jean Silvain Bailly (who would later preside over the Tennis Court Oath) and most ironically, the physician Dr. Joseph-Ignace Guillotin. These four were in cahoots with Mesmer the whole time and, according to the plan, outwardly condemned him as a fraud. The monarch took the bait and showed his hand, revealing complete ignorance of the power that once legitimized the Ancien Régime. The results of this social-scientific experiment would embolden the liberals who later carried out the French Revolution, which, despite its problems, was a necessary episode.

What, you may be wondering, has any of this to do with Romanticism? Some of the described events occurred before The Sufferings of Young Werther was even published. Let us employ this work in illustrating how Dr. Franklin’s actions and the actions of his associates are part of the Romantic movement. The Count in Goethe’s epistolary novel recognizes that Werther is of the bioelectric aristocracy, which is not of blood but of spirit. Werther has sworn never to relinquish this faculty and the Count is indebted to him therefore, according to Natural Law. However, at the Count’s banquet, the pseudo-aristocratic impostors are offended because Werther is ignorant of their arbitrary decorum. Ultimately, this hero’s blood is on their hands, for it is the state’s failure that it could not accept Werther’s rule. With no help and no place in the world to accept him, he must take his own life – on the darkest day of the year no less!

Thus the raison d’être of our movement is purgation. We endeavor to force those set up in the shadow of ignorance to expose themselves. This is accomplished by engineering a commotion, a mad hysterical dance whose attraction only God’s elect can withstand – and this through the liberation of energies bound in all devices of deception. All conspirators who stand in the way of fulfilling Lord Bacon’s vision of a Romantic empire will be routed out … routed out not by us Romantics, but by themselves voluntarily. Now the whole world has become Bayreuth and Wagner is conducting his festspiele from beyond the grave.

Begin: Götterdämmerung, Act III, Scene Three!

Brünnhilde immolates herself on the hero’s funeral pyre.

The Rhine overflows its banks and baptizes the new world.

Hagen’s last line: “Give back the Ring!”

He doesn’t know what he’s saying!

The First Committee’s proposal for the obverse side of the Great Seal of the United States of America. We see the Egyptian Army drowning while the Israelites look on in awe.

MIND KONTROL, Balkan Style!

Colonel Dragutin “Apis” Dimitrijević loved assassination to a fault. Yes, it was he who led the May Coup plotters in that most heinous of crimes: regicide. So went Alexander I of Serbia and – I don’t know why it had to be – Draga Obrenović, the Queen Consort. On his resume was an attempt at the life of Emperor Franz Josef I of Austria. As we shall see, he had a hand in killing that wise regent’s nephew, Archduke Ferdinand. We will never know how many he was involved in planning, only that he was obsessed. In terms of libidinal economy, plotting and carrying out assassinations served to exhaust intolerable drive energy which would otherwise threaten to make repressed complexes conscious.

Dimitrijević (right) and his colleagues planning something, presumably an assassination

But Apis could not do all this plotting by himself. No, he founded an organization which, at its core, had the purpose of maximizing the rate and efficiency with which its leaders could unwind themselves and transcend what they knew to be human – all this through unnatural means. Its periphery was a conglomeration of young rebels and nationalists, the most adept of whom were fed crumbs from the table of their superiors’ dark mysteries. Of course I speak of Unification or Death, which members of the Serbian parliament later referred to as The Black Hand.

The extremely creative logo, with hand grenade, dagger and bottle of poison, puts the Drama Mineralis arms to shame! On the right, a young Captain Apis

As unbelievable as it sounds, let me tell you about Dimitrijević’s Reverse Crucifixion Rite for the Initiation of Dry Assassins, or at least the version of it I was told. It’s somewhat like those attributed to ibn Hassan by Wilson in Prometheus Rising. Why were they called dry? I wish I could forget!

The candidate was usually a South-Slavic young man of low status, sympathetic to pan-Slavism, Yugoslav nationalism or the general liberation of Slavs from Austro-Hungarian rule. Ideally, his relationship to his family and friends had deteriorated.

First he would have been offered a cigarette adulterated with opium and renowned Balkan hashish. A deep somnolence ensued and the candidate would have been taken to a hill which the officers called Golgotha. There he was fixed to a cross – by ropes of course – and the officers awaited his rousing. When the candidate awakened, they uprooted the cross, laid it on the ground and untied him. As night fell, he was forced to drag his cross down the hill into a garden. None other than Dragutin Dimitrijević was lying in wait, hiding in a bush and anticipating a rôle whose execution provided him with a pleasure that you and I cannot imagine. The colonel would spring from the bush like the blossoms of April. He would shout “Hail Rabbi!” in drawn-out lascivious ecstasy, kiss the candidate on the cheek and pour a goblet of very sweet wine down his throat. The wine was infused with opium as well and the candidate slumbered again. Then he was returned to some inconspicuous conditions and, upon arising, had no recollection of the rite.

Unification or Death ritual crucifix

What good is this for generating patsies? Well, all Dimitrijević had to do was imagine that delectable feeling he got playing his part as the betrayer, and the candidate, if he was successful in the ordeals, entered a state of suggestibility. In conjunction with other measures, Dimitrijević’s application of this device at crucial moments steered the candidate through his transformation.

Removed from society, the candidate divested from the cathexes foisted upon him thereby. The routines by which he formerly abided were replaced with a disorientating regimen of fasting, meditation, ritual sacrament taking, lectures, exercise and training. As the former modes of libidinal metabolism were dissolved, the candidate began to experience a pleasant buzzing feeling in his body (known in psychiatric orgonomy as charge). By virtue of the condition which the Skandalkonzert composers tried to inform us about, this natural feeling and marker of bodily health is largely unknown to people, especially to those low-status young men for whom these methods were designed. They asked their handlers, “what is this enigmatic sensation?” They were told it’s Prince Vlastimir’s spirit or the Archangel Michael or whatever. Thereafter the handlers’ task was to cultivate this feeling. It goes without saying that the candidate had to remain continent. The once pleasurable sensation compounded until it became overwhelming. The whole process was timed so that the final stage would correspond with some real-world event at which the target was to be present.

Lastly, the candidate was made to equate his infernal work with that tension’s resolution. The process had so far been concerned with creating conditions of disequilibrium between various tissues and surfaces in the candidate’s body. Meanwhile, a narrative of national division had been instilled: if the South Slavs are unified, all our problems will be resolved. Of course this is a metaphor for the orgastic discharge. The Slavs are the candidate’s disjunct body parts. The Austro-Hungarian Empire is the sum of repressive forces prohibiting the unification of the body and the restoration of its functional movement in the orgasm reflex. The impending assassination is the ultimate release from unbearable sexual tension, the destruction of what thwarts unification and the final ensuring of libido-economic equilibrium: a Slavic golden age.

As for Gavrilo Princip, I was told he also underwent the Crucifixion Rite. The trauma he accrued at the Skandalkonzert exacerbated the tension and only by this inordinate quantity of energy was he able to approach the royal motorcade. The rest is history.

The Skandalkonzert

It was March 31st, 1913 in Vienna, the world’s capital of art and culture. Four young Mahlerians would turn the Musikverein’s Great Hall, the most prestigious concert hall on Earth, into a battleground with music alone. To the Austrians, this event was the Watschenkonzert, the slap-concert, as concert organizer Erhard Buschbeck was accused of slapping a patron during the fighting. In the ensuing litigation, composer Oscar Straus would testify that “the slap had been the most harmonious sound of the evening.”

The Great Hall

Humor me. Let me give my opinion on the works performed that day of infamy. First we have Six Pieces for Orchestra by Anton Webern. This is easily the most effective work on the program, notwithstanding the Mahler which was never heard. Webern’s textures are well-proportioned and his reservedness and humility in this new domain are commendable. He respects us.

Second were the Four Orchestral Songs on poems by Maeterlinck (no. 1-3 & 5) of Alexander “von” Zemlinsky, a work which was later expanded to become his Opus 13. The only redeemable movement is the third, the Lied der Jungfrau (Song of the Virgin). Maeterlinck’s lyrics are superb and the composer’s setting is perfectly tailored for them.

Next we have the Chamber Symphony No. 1 of Arnold Schoenberg, their ring leader. At about the five-minute mark, one’s impression is that this piece may demonstrate the highest compositional virtuosity of those programmed, save Kindertotenlieder. After this point, one begins to feel cheated, as many of the Viennese that day must have felt. One suspects that the composer has lured us into an ambush. After all, not six weeks earlier, he refused to accept their applause at the premier of his Gurreliederbasically a secular Mahler’s Eighth – because he thought they were still too conservative. What, then, was your intention with the Chamber Symphony, Arnold? In my opinion, there is not one meaningful instance of tension being built up and released; the single-movement, twenty minute symphony has the contour of a plateau, even with variations in instrumentation and dynamics. The texture and orchestration are disorientating. The ending is satisfying but this may be due to the fact that it’s finally over.

Fourth, they heard the second and third movements from Five Orchestral Songs on Picture-Postcard Texts by Peter Altenberg, set to music by Alban Berg. These two songs, which together take less than three minutes to perform, incited the good people of Vienna to violence. I tell you, if they held their peace, the very chairs would have cried out! They began to riot and demand that Berg join Altenberg in the insane asylum. The supporters of the Second Viennese School could not allow this affront to its honor and a brawl broke out.

Cartoon from Die Zeit

Here are the lyrics from the Berg in English, if you’re curious:

No. 2
Have you seen the forest after thunderstorms?
Everything sparkles, gleams, and is lovelier than before.
See, woman, you also need thunderstorms!


No. 3
Over the borders of the universe, you gaze out thoughtfully,
You never worry about hearth and home.
Life, and the dream of life – suddenly it’s all gone – – – .
Over the borders of the universe, you still gaze out thoughtfully.


It’s true: women also need thunderstorms. Otherwise, I have nothing to say about this work. Altenberg was granted leave from the asylum that morning to watch the dress rehearsal. After hearing about what transpired, he wrote a prose sketch in which Alma Mahler attended the concert.

It’s easy to say this in hindsight, but if Buschbeck omitted either the Berg, or two of the first three works, Kindertotenlieder, Songs on the Deaths of Children, would have probably been performed and the program’s central implication would have been imparted to the audience. Of course I speak of the fact that we are the dead children, dismembered by our parents and the necrotic society they created, our dread inheritance. Modernity, then, is nothing more than our propensity to shirk this realization by employing every bromide available and, when these are exhausted, making new ones. The program implied that the works of Liszt, Wagner and the like present a purely musical treasure detached from the reality of man’s diseased state. Moreover, these are cast before swine who merely consume them to prevent their internal twistedness from becoming conscious. Romanticism can raise the dead, and we see this in the Bayreuth spell, Wagner’s cult of personality which Nietzsche came to find so repulsive – its concentric rings of devotion, the moths coming to the lamp to live vicariously through Siegfried. “No more of this!” says Schoenberg, “look at yourselves and realize what filth you are! This is what our diseased hearts sound like!”

The Second Viennese School’s position on this matter is unassailable, but to try and tackle the problem in such a way was an act of naivety. While some may argue that inciting the brawl was an artistic achievement, it really represents the composers’ desperate bid for catharsis regarding their personal frustrations, no matter how related to social issues these may have been. Wagner knew that Christ already went up against these living-dead charlatans for us so we don’t have to. Don’t tell them, Arnold! It is far more effective to capture them in your orbit. Dangle before them a simulacrum of what they lack and proceed to extract value from the energy they exert escaping the repressed. That’s what art should be for! … but whoever does this will have to answer for it on the last day of his life. Thus the Skandalkonzert composers – or at least Schoenberg – evidently had some neurotic need to strive against an immovable object. They damaged the wheat trying to uproot the tares.

Between Wagner and Schoenberg, temporally and temperamentally, we have the saintly Mahler, whose project is one of embracing the spectrum of human passions. He did not compromise for the masses or intentionally agitate them, but was utterly devoted to art. The deciphered message from the draft of the Tenth’s finale would seem not to condone the decisions that led up to the Skandalkonzert. In that symphony, Mahler is already trying to figure out what went wrong. We hear him toying with disembodied forms torn asunder by late Romantic stresses. After deconstructing every Romantic idiom with his symphonic oeuvre, he, in the three middle movements attempts to reanimate them with amateurish surgical procedures and jolts of direct current. This is a failure and often raises the most hideous of forms. Is this the exhumation of Titurel? But the finale is a promise of ultimate acceptance and ecstatic apprehension of the most sacred mysteries … and a musical cryptogram pointing the way to the objective interpretation of Parsifal. All this, whose essence enlivens every Mahler symphony, eludes Schoenberg and his colleagues. They inherited Mahler’s hammer of demolition but none of the Living Water given to him by Beethoven.

To make matters worse, what transpired that day would directly lead to the July Crisis and the Great War. According to sources familiar with the matter, Gavrilo Princip was convulsing on the floor during the fighting and babbling something about a Yugoslav state, free from Hapsburg influence. The Altenberg Lieder was evidently too much for him and, as many innocent people did that day, he passed “over the borders of the universe.” Why did the composers do this? Operatives from a Black Hand sleeper cell found him in the gutter that night and brought him back to Serbia. There, under Dragutin Dimitrijević, the ibn Hassan of Southeast Europe, Princip would be engineered to believe that only assassination could relieve the unbearable tension he acquired at the concert.

This brings us to the songs that were never heard: Kindertotenlieder, finished in 1904. Their lyrics are by Friedrich Rückert. These ghostly settings explore the maddening grief of parents adapting to life after losing their children. Concertgoers would have heard some of the experimental harmonies that laid the groundwork for modernist music, but I would like to call attention to the lyrics. Here we face disconsolate questioning about the bitterness and brevity of life. The grieving report hallucinations of the departed. They cannot understand what has happened. The fifth and last song is In diesem Wetter (In this Weather). In every regard, it embodies anxiety. The orchestra creates a violent storm and the vocalist recalls some vague tragedy. It is as though she lost her mind and now answers the thunder and lightening. She keeps repeating that she would never have let the children out in such weather but also that “they have been carried off.” When all this becomes too much to bear, the key changes from D-minor to D-major and the tempo is slowed to half of what it was. The last verse assures us that the episode, whatever it was, is over and no more harm can come from it.

In this weather, in this gale, in this windy storm,
they rest as if in their mother’s house:
frightened by no storm,
sheltered by the Hand of God.

With these lines was the Skandalkonzert intended to conclude. I believe much of what I said would have been understood in essence by the audience, Mr. Princip among them.

The Youth’s Magic Horn

Welcome, welcome international readers. Here you can find rest.

The horn is the hero’s instrument. Siegfried slew Fafner with it. What do you think? does a hero slit a dragon’s throat while it sleeps? The Language of the Birds and more were his by this exploit.

Robert Schumann called the horn section the soul of the orchestra. In the finale of Beethoven’s Symphony No. 5, the Living Water bought with his hearing flowed from this instrument’s bell. So all of Europe was crucified. Do not however expect music to divulge its secret readily – for when horns sound, nothing can endure. Let us seek the answer then in Alte Deutsche Lieder.

Des Knaben Wunderhorn is a collection of folk poetry edited by Achim von Arnim and Clemens Brentano. It was dedicated to Johann Wolfgang von Goethe. The Secret of Romanticism is plainly read in each one of these poems wherefore we must rather sing them for good friends, accompanied by instruments. Gustav Mahler set them to music about eighty years after their publication and they have been privately performed in various Romantic circles ever since, even through the National-Socialist experiment. Speaking of nationalism, do not pay any heed to academic paranoia about the editors’ alleged nationalistic intent. Anything that stirs the heart is nationalism to them.

Of peculiar interest is an image preceding the text in the 1808 edition, published in Heidelberg.

The title page of Volume 2

What is this vaulted edifice looking like an orgastically convulsing spine? this gravity-defying cathedral? I haven’t the foggiest, but I notice that one side of this mysterious house is more developed than the other. On the big side, we see written “o mater dei,” which is O Mother of God.” Above this is a series of crenellated balconies defended by fierce-looking pikemen. The density of armed defenders increases until, at the highest battlements, we are met with the most imposing of the characters. She appears to me to be a woman, but you might not agree.

Starting at the Latin superscription and following the facade down to the absolute minimum, we see more balconies populated by minstrels, knights and flagellants. Trefoils line what are, from our point of view, the sides in order to break the unpleasant line that would otherwise exist at the juncture of wall and background. Appropriately, the flagellants are upside-down. Past their position, as the building begins to turn around and reach toward the sky again, not a single armed inhabitant can be seen. Our eyes meet two horsemen who will have a hell of a time getting down from there. At the penultimate tier, are two dogs, looking bewildered and wondering what exactly it is they’re doing in such a tower. Finally, at the loftiest perch of the building’s undefended side, a maiden seated in a chalice unfurls a banner with “drink aus,” an archaic spelling of “trink aus,” viz.drink up”written on it.

The structure itself is in the shape of a horn, evoking the cornucopia of Greek mythology. As you all know, the infant Zeus was hidden from his father Cronus, who sought to devour him. During this time, the little lightening-god was nursed by Amaltheia, whose horn he broke off. Therefrom fruits and goods are continually produced.

I now invite you to follow me on a schizoid but evidently necessary National Treasure style wild goose chase, the horn also being the instrument of the chase. The ancient Germans – the alte Deutsche – used horns as drinking vessels. Remember that the cornucopia is a horn that continually refills its contents. Combining the attributes of being a drinking vessel and perpetual replenishment puts us in mind of the Holy Grail. This Passion Relic, which collected our Redeemer’s blood during the Crucifixion, is said to miraculously refill itself with holy blood, should its contents ever be emptied. What do the Grail Knights from Wagner’s Parsifal keep at Monsalvat? You’re a little slow so I’ll just tell you: the Grail.

Now that we’re on the same page, let us recall that Mahler wrote his first symphony – sometimes called Titan – just a few years before he began to set the Wunderhorn poems to music. In the finale, after the key change, we hear a contrapuntal fusion of two melodies. One is carried by eight horns in unison who are required by the score to stand and put their bells in the air. In the zealous key of D-major, their phrase begins with these four scale degrees: I – V – VI – III. This same motif is carried by the contrabassi during the Grail Rite from the first act of Parsifal before which, Gurnemanz tells us, time becomes space. The countermelody is carried by the trumpet. We recognize it from Parsifal’s prelude; it’s that famous trumpet lick ascending the major scale to the fifth degree while the orchestra carries out an authentic cadence. Of course this is repeated throughout the whole music drama in typical Wagnerian fashion.

What is twenty-eight year old Mahler trying to tell us years before he would hide the message in the draft of his Tenth’s finale? What is the relationship between the horn, time and abundance? What are we implored to drink by the maiden? What is the youth’s magic horn?

Frontispiece of Volume 3