Sunday, October 4, 2015

Rudnytsky and Milton’s “Paradise Lost”

The Tampa Bay Psychoanalytic Society, Inc hosted an unusual speaker last weekend at its monthly speaker program meeting. Peter Rudnytsky, UF professor, Shakespeare and Freud scholar, long time honorary American Psychoanalytic Association member, and long time, former editor of American Imago, explicated in his paper “Freud as Milton’s God…” the long running critical debate over an inherent contradiction in Milton’s Paradise Lost. The contradiction concerns whether humankind had free will to choose to disobey God or whether the Fall was predetermined, even put into motion by God’s actions, God in Milton’s poem failing intersubjectively to take responsibility for situating himself*  in the outcome. Quoting Rumrich’s take on the epic poem – “negotiations between narcissistic longings for perfect recognition and the recalcitrance of an unresponsive reality” – Rudnytsky adds that God is portrayed as a controlling and narcissistic parent, demanding obedience, which if not freely given will be exacted through punishment.

We now know that it is failure to provide sufficient response to longings for recognition which sets up narcissistic longings for perfection. The narcissistic parent has been unable to accept the imperfect child as good enough, and the child, humiliatingly aware of its deficiencies, grows up seeking to overcome or to hide what its parents made glaringly shameful, often requiring, as Milton’s God seems to, “an insatiable need for praise.” [But what if the injured God was also seeking healing or, naively, reconciliation?]

Rudnytsky notes that Freud, too, exacted loyalty, or else followers were extruded from his inner circle.Freud, in anointing Jung the ‘crown prince’ both elevated Jung above all his other followers and, at the same time, made Jung subordinate to himself. In subordinating another, rebellion is engendered, as is the Oedipal struggle and sibling rivalry.  God, too, in Milton’s poem, by anointing Christ, created Satan from a passed over Lucifer.

*While for Milton, and for many, God is the Father, an interesting discussion ensued about womb envy and the need for men to erect a male Creator in compensation for the fact that it is from women’s bodies that we come into this world; An interesting reversal of this fact is Eve springing from Adam’s rib; or Athena from Zeus’ head.