Current Position:Index-Am I Really a Chan Master or a Zen Master?

Am I Really a Chan Master or a Zen Master?

Author:Christian Gaillard       2014-04-11 Font:S M L


Am I Really a Chan Master or a Zen Master?

Christian Gaillard

First of all let me say a few words on thevery special emotion I feel today, on being here with you in Guangzhou.

This isthe first time that I am lucky enough to come here, to discover Guangzhou, andthrough this place discover something concrete about China.

Andyet, when I first heard about this conference, when I heard that it would takeplace here in Guangzhou, the name Guangzhou had an immediate and surprisinglystrong resonance for me, without me being able to work out why at first.

     Youno doubt know that the French and English name for Guangzhou is Canton. Now Ihave had a book on my bookshelves for a long time that is entitled China and the West. Trade in Canton in the 18th Century.

This book has a special place onmy bookshelves because it is the doctoral thesis of my father in law, who was ahistorian, professor at the Sorbonne and a specialist on the history of tradewith China.

      Myfather in law never came to China. I know that he used to dream of undertakingsuch a trip. As for me, I have the privilege of being here with you today, andat the opening of these few days of exchanges with you I wanted to evoke thiscontinuity which, of course, is not only inscribed into my family history, myown history, but also very deeply inscribed, I believe, in the history ofexchanges between East and West.

      Incidentally, I amnot a historian. I enjoy like history, and I like stories, but I am merely ananalyst. A Jungian analyst. So to contribute to our current and futureexchanges, and to open a discussion between us today, I propose simply to tellyou a story drawn from my clinical practice.    

      In fact, I am going to tell you as simplyas possible, and I hope in as lively a manner as possible, the account of twosessions of analysis, and only two sessions, and on the occasion of these twosessions, about only one thing: a dreamthat my analysand and I worked on during these sessions.

       So what is this dream I want to tell youabout, that I would like us to talk about together?

       It is the dream of a fifty-three year oldman, who has been in analysis with me for three years.

    I add that this man, before arriving in myconsulting room and starting his analytical work with me, had already donequite a long Freudian analysis.

       He is, or rather was, a business man,which is quite rare in psychoanalysis. Business men, like politicians, rarelycome to analysis. At least in France. Apparently they have other things toattend to.

       I have said that this man is, was, abusiness man. In fact, he had inherited a small industrial business from hisfather, which he developed, made prosperous, which became a very successfulbusiness, worth a great deal – and which he was intelligent enough to sell atthe point where it had reached, thanks to him, its highest value.

       That was eight years ago. And since then,the man can live off his fortune. A fortune wide and stable enough so that hedoes not have to work, and that allows him to travel all over the world, fromAsia to the United States, every time I suspend my work as an analyst during myown holidays, or for the travelling I must undertake here and there.

     So he is a man quite free to move – andall the more so since he and his wife divorced seven years ago.

     This man is apparently very satisfied withhimself, and with his life. He says he is happy to be free to move around, andpartake in his culture – he reads lots, he writes himself and hopes to bepublished one day, he goes to see all the interesting events it is possible tosee, he travels a lot – and he is rich enough to buy himself everything hewants, almost without limit.

     All this meant that when he first came tosee me in my consulting room to undertake an analysis I must say that I did notreally believe he would go through with it. I thought to myself that after thefirst taste he would no doubt give up, as soon as the first difficultyappeared, or as soon as he thought he could do or get better elsewhere.

     And yet this analysis has been going onfor three years now. He comes, and comes back, very regularly, and he hasentered into the analysis very seriously. With a rhythm of two sessions perweek. Why?

If you asked my analysand this question, hewould reply with conviction that if he continues so assiduously and soseriously his work with me, it is because I am, me his analyst, a master.A true master, he would readily say. And as he has read a lot, he wouldspecify: “a Chan master or a Zen master”.

And if you push the question a little further, he will no doubt addthat for him a master, a Chan master or a Zen master, is someone who is awakened.A being liberated from illusions and beliefs. And that he is an awakener, someone who helps others tobecome awakened. And whose life, and words and presence bear witness to aperfect harmony, and a perfect wisdom.

Am I really a Chan master or a Zen master?

I am less convinced than my analysand. Let us try and see why.

      Here is the dream.

       The scene is apparently set today.

    But the setting is the apartment he livedin with is wife and two daughters ten years ago.

       In the dream, and so in the apartment, hesees his wife, and next to her is a man.

       The man inthe dream is evidently his ex-wife’s partner, which surprises him, even in thedream, because as far as he knows his wife has never had another partner sincetheir divorce.

       And here is this other man, unexpected,who is looking at his daughters in a more than doubtful way, more thantroubled, a look that shows him to be “concupiscent” and even rather“perverted”, my analysand says.

     (The term “concupiscent” is relativelyrare in French as it is in English, and it is quite evidently a negative term,in a moral sense – I would be happy to know how it could be translated intoChinese and how it can be understood in your language). 

       Our dreamer then feels a strong wave ofanger surge up inside him – so strong that he wants to hit the man, hit himround the face.

       End of the dream.

      I would like to emphasise that like alldreams, this is a scene, a live scene, live in the present; that is to say ascene where characters interact, in a certain very concrete context – here theapartment where he lived ten years ago – and where an event unfolds, a sort ofdrama, apparently enigmatic, but which imposes itself as a question we mustlook into and that concerns us directly.

        So, please,try and visualise this dream for yourselves: his wife, the man next to her, theway the man is looking at the daughters, the violent movement, in the dream,against this man.

This is where the work we call analysis begins. Work which, ofcourse, first involves genuinely rediscovering the dream, and therefore makingroom for it, letting it live again, so that it can be genuinely relived.

This means considering the dream on its ownterms, and especially its content and its emotional effect. Which is not easy.It requires training, and more importantly commitment, which can be acquiredlittle by little through analysis.

 [ Anattentive reader of Jung’s works will certainly notice that when he talks ofhis approach, three verbs regularly appear under his pen.

The first of these verbs is geschehenlassen, which can betranslated by “to let something be produced, happen, come about”. This verbspeaks of emerging. Indeed givingattention to emerging, rather than repression, which is more classicallyFreudian, is at the heart of Jung’s relationship with the unconscious. Whichmeans that we must make room for whatever emerges, for example at the occasionof a dream, that we open ourselves to the event, and welcome it, howeversurprising and enigmatic, or disturbing, it may appear.

The second verb that comes back insistently in Jung’s writing whenhe speaks of his approach is betrachten, which means “to observe; toconsider at length from every angle”, while letting whatever emerges live itsown life, just as it presents itself.

This leads to the third step in this approach, that Jung expresseswith another verb, very expressive in German: sich auseinandersetzen,which means “to confront the object of the encounter” and therefore measureoneself up against whatever has emerged. ]

My analysand learnt this approach progressively during his analysiswith me. So that instead of setting off into free association, after havingtold – and rediscovered – his dream, the first thing he said to me, and tohimself, was his astonishment.

Astonishment, surprise, is, indeed, in my opinion, the firstcondition, a necessary condition, and not only initially, but continuously, ifwe want to make the most of a dream, of the relationship which opens up, at theoccasion of any dream, to the sentiment, emotions, sensations, thoughts andrepresentations that inhabit us. This significant unconscious work usuallyescapes our notice, or we prefer not to know anything about it  – or again we do everything we can to findnothing new there, as if we knew it all already…

The astonishment of my analysand, in this case, is over the factthat beside his wife there is a man – while he reminds me that in fact hisex-wife has had no partner since their divorce. Quite on the contrary, heinsists, he sees and knows her to be very lonely, without anyone with whom shecould live and share her life today.

So ourdreamer is surprised by this scene in his dream.

       But he is anintelligent and very cultured man, with this inconvenience: he always has astrong tendency to think and reason, to function more intellectually thanemotionally.

       So, faced with this dream, he poseshimself some questions, of course. He asks himself whether this scene, sounexpected, is not in fact showing him, making him see what he did not want totell himself up until now: that his wife, his ex-wife, could effectively findherself another man, after him, after his leaving, after their divorce. Andconsidering this dream, he asks himself whether in this case, if it reallyoccurred, deep down he would not be jealous.

       Butwhy should he be jealous, he asks himself?

     Yes, why should he be jealous? It is areal question.

     It is a real question because this man – Ihave not yet told you, but I must tell you now, because it is important – ishomosexual.

He had been married. He had had two children, two daughters, thesetwo girls that appear in his dream. Then he progressively discovered that hewas homosexual. And he acted in consequence, about ten years ago – at the timethe dream refers to. And it is this revelation, the manifestation of hishomosexuality, that in fact provoked his divorce.

       And since his divorce he has not deniedhimself very frequent sexual encounters with all sorts of men, young men, inParis, of course, but also and even more so during his numerous travels aroundthe world.

       So how could he be jealous if his wifefound another partner, he asks himself, while he himself has been multiplyinghis amorous and sexual encounters ?

       You see that he is still being surprised,but in a rather rational and intellectual way. At the risk of losing himself inhis questions and thoughts.

       I let him continue – we will see wherethis reflection leads him, I tell myself, and I will know how to bring him backconcretely to the scene in his dream if and when necessary.

       And here he is finally asking himselfwhether in fact he would not be as jealous as all that, whether on the contraryrather than making him jealous, this dream is not simply manifesting his wish,his desire, that his wife really finds a partner after him.

       But why in that case, he then askshimself , is he so angry in his dream, angry to the point that he could havebeen driven to hit the man round the face?

       Certainly, he realises, his thoughts aregetting muddled, or too convoluted…

       For my part, I leave him to his questionsand thoughts. And I can see that his thoughts, which in fact resemblehypotheses, are exhausted in the end.

       A silence settles in my consulting room.My analysand has already experienced this. More than once. He is used to it. Hecan bear it. And so can I.

       As for me, I ask myself, unhurriedlyand without any particular intention, how we are going to come back, really, tothe dream itself, to the scene that imposed itself, which he evoked, and whichhe knows full well, as I do, that it is looking closely at him…

       You no doubt recall that my analysandfollowed quite a long Freudian analysis before arriving in my consulting room.Of course, he still possesses a particular approach to analysis that he neverfails to come back to when he is caught short.

       So, after quite a long silence, he“associates” as we say after Freud. That is, he expresses without choosing, allmuddled up, the thoughts, memories, emotions, comparisons of all sorts thatcome to mind. As I have already told you, I am a Jungian analyst. But I alsoknow, like my Freudian colleagues, the importance of sometimes letting “freeassociations” unfold. So I let him continue, quite content, I must say, that heis now rationalising a little less.

       And the first thing that comes into hismind are the events of the weekend, the weekend preceding the session Iam talking about, which was on a Monday.

       This weekend was marked by an importantevent: the marriage of his youngest daughter, Astrid. He was not, in fact, veryhappy about this marriage. He did not really appreciate his future son-in-law.And even less the family of the young man, which he found quite uninterestingand indeed rather common, so he found it difficult to bear being around them.

       The marriage went very well. My analysandwas very pleased with himself. As the father of the bride, he told me, he hadgiven a very good speech, of very good quality, which set the tone for thewhole day and so managed to avoid the rather vulgar slips that marriages canoften provoke – at least in the West.

       He was about to enter into the detail ofhis excellent speech when I interrupt him, for the first time since thebeginning of this session – “What is this dream doing in these conditions, thenight after the marriage and before this analysis session?” I ask him.

       He looks at me rather startled. But afteranother silence, he takes up his subject again, and wants to go on recountingthe marriage.

       I stop him again: “What is this man doingin your dream, who is looking at your daughters in a strange, rather perverse,way, as you said?”

        [ Youcan see that I react now  as a Jungiananalyst rather than a Freudian analyst: I come obstinately back to the dream.The associations that our Freudian colleagues qualify as “free” are useful, andeven often necessary, undeniably. But as far as I am concerned, I do not wantto lose from sight the dream we are concerned with. I do not want us to strayfar from it. I even want us to come back to it. And if necessary, I bring myanalysand back to it, until we have really gone over it. Until my analysand hassufficiently questioned what this dream can offer, teach him, and make himlive, that is truly new for him.

       That is to say, more theoretically, thatdreams, for us, Jungian analysts, are not, or at least not only, the“(disguised) realisation of a (repressed) desire” as Freud would have had it.

       A dream, any dream, intervenes at themoment it appears, like a question that imposes itself on the dreamer, butoften with enough distance to bring the dreamer complementary information, orcompensation, or a contradiction that it is not easy to make room for.

       We will, I presume, have the occasion totalk more about this in the discussion which will follow. ]

       My recalling the dream, and the way theman in the dream is looking at his daughters, leaves my analysand rathersurprised and manifestly perplexed.

       So I insist: “You talked about this manin your dream as a possible partner of your ex-wife, wanted or not. Very well.But could you not consider that this man, this individual concerns you moreclosely, yourself?”

       You will have understood, evidently,that I was thinking here of the distinction Jung proposes between “analysis atthe level of the object” and “analysis at the level of the subject”. Evidently,also, I did not have to use such considerations with my analysand – certain ofour theoretical and technical considerations that are part of the training ofan analyst can be usefully shared with the analysand, others not. That isanother question we could discuss. In the case we are concerned with, what wasmanifestly important was to make my analysand realise that thus far he had keptthe question posed by this dream largely outside himself, and that now it wouldbe good for him to feel and see himself more directly concerned.

       In any case, he understands me immediately.Surprised, almost shocked, he says to me: “Me? Did I ever have a dubiousattitude towards my daughters?”

       We are nearly at the end of this session.Which is rather a good thing, I must say. For that was quite enough for thatday. Enough questions, and calling into question.

       To mark a pause, and also lighten theatmosphere at the moment when my analysand was to leave, I say simply: “Its onetrack. The wrong track, perhaps. We’ll see.”      

      This brings me to the second session Iwould like to talk about.  At the nextsession, two days later – I see him two times a week – my analysand arriveslooking very worried and dismal.

       “My dream talks of perversity,” he says.“Am I perverted myself? Perverted concerning my daughters?” he asks himself,more and more dismal and worried.

       For, as I have told you, he is a seriousman, and a very serious analysand, who seriously poses himself the questionsthat impose themselves upon him.

       “Why then this look of desire, this‘concupiscent’ look that the man in the dream proffers on my daughters? I don’tunderstand that at all,” he continues.

       So I intervene again. Re-seeing, and nodoubt reliving myself this dream he had told, I intervene – for the third orfourth time during these two sessions of analysis – not directly interpretingthe dream, but orienting differently the attention of my analysand.

       I say : “Look. Let us look at this dream.Are you sure that the man’s gaze is ‘concupiscent’, as you said, and even‘perverted’? These adjectives are rather negative. Are they the right ones?Could we not ask ourselves, more simply, if this man in your dream is not‘attracted’ to your daughters, these young women he is looking at?”

       My analysand seems a little troubled. Andmoreover wary. He looks at me from the corner of his eye.

       But he adds bluntly: “In fact, I didn’ttell you, in the dream you can see, through a series of open doors, the girls’bed…”

       You will note that often it is notthat easy to remember concretely all the details of a dream. Some of themescape us. And, of course, those that are missing are often the mostinteresting.

       As for me, I am more and more interested.And I ask him another question: “Why, in your opinion, does this dream takeplace ten years ago?”

       This question bothers him, but he doesnot reply. He only points out to me that in the dream he is as he is today, in2006.

       So I ask another question: “How old wereyour daughters ten years ago?”

       He calculates, and replies: “Marie wasseventeen years old, and Astrid fifteen.”

       “Do you remember them when they wereseventeen and fifteen?” I asked him.

       “With difficulty…” he said.

     Then, all of a sudden: “The other day, atAstrid’s marriage, we looked at some photos of Astrid and her sister, atdifferent ages in their life. They were very beautiful.”

       Me: “What were? The photos or the girls?”

       He does not want to hear. I insist: “Yousay that they were beautiful. What? The photos? or the girls?”

       “My daughters were very beautiful, verybeautiful, the other day, and very beautiful in the photos. Truly beautifulwomen.”

       And curiously, he adds: “Beautifulpeople”

       Curious expression, as you will havenoticed. This expression “beautiful people” does not make reference tomasculine and feminine. As if seeing them young, adolescent, in his dream hecould almost take them for boys, like the boys he seeks, who are often veryyoung, and almost androgynous. We are lost in ambiguity, but this sameambiguity can, I think, take us forward.

       We are almost at the end of the session.I ask him “Do you find your daughters attractive, endearing?

       “Yes, certainly,” he says. “I am touched.

       And indeed, he is manifestly touched. Hisvoice has changed. His questioning too. He has become more open, more dreamy,more interior too.

       “It’s complicated,” he says, sighing.“Why is it so complicated?”


       This is the end of the session. Andindeed it is complicated.

    It is complicated because this dreamappeared, in the course of this analysis, like a third party between us, between the analysand and the analyst. Hewas not expecting this dream. And I must say, neither was I. We could well havedone without it.

       Because this dream showed him, and moreimportantly made him live, manifestly, concretely, a differentrelationship to these girls, these young women, who are in fact very close tothe young men he seeks.

       He thought he did not love women, hewillingly rejected them. But here in this dream it appears that he is attractedby these young women, that he is touchedby them, emotionally and sentimentally. And indeed he knows full well, hemust remember, that he was touched by his daughters, that he has loved them,and that he still loves them today.

       And this is indeed complicated for him.Because it is his relationship to girls and women in general, and thereforealso no doubt his current relationship to men that is in danger of beingchallenged.

       Here he is made to recognize that in hisrelationship to women, and no doubt also in his relationship to men, he is, has been, and can be attracted andmoved in ways that disturb him much more than he would like.

     Weare, he and I, analysand and analyst, on the verge of a discovery, anemerging discovery, that indeed risks questioning a whole part, and animportant part of his life. His love life and his sex life.

    And I can see, as an analyst,as a Jungian analyst, that this is the emerging, in this man, of an “anima”,his “anima”.

     But this emerging of the “anima”is disturbing and disconcerting for this man, who thinks that he does not lovewomen, and who, with men, always tries to distinguish between affection andsexual desire.

     So, confronted with thisdream, he defends himself of course. He tries to use a negative vocabulary whentalking about the way the man is looking at his daughters. He calls him“doubtful”, “concupiscent” and “perverted”. And in the very dream he is readyto attack this man who is looking at his daughters, ready to hit him in theface – without really wanting to acknowledge that this man could well behimself.

       It remains that he wastruly attracted by his daughters when they were fifteen and seventeen years old,he loved them, and he still truly loves them today. And this is somethingthat he has just rediscovered in himself, the day before our session, at themarriage of his daughter Astrid.

       It is actually his wholeworld, his whole emotional life and the way his life is organised that are nowquestioned by this dream.

       The analysis he undertookwith me is decidedly not what he thought, nor what he was expecting.

       It is working towardsawakening, that is for sure.

       But we are a long way fromthe perfect harmony, the perfect wisdom he was expecting. What he is finding,discovering and starting to live is actually quite different from what hethought he would find.

       And for me, who isaccompanying him, who is supporting him, and who sometimes pushes him forwardin his analysis, in his relationship with the unconscious, it is quitecomplicated too, I must say. Perhaps because, no doubt, I myself have hoped foran easier path for him, closer to his expectations and to my own.

       As for the question as towhether I am really a Chan or Zen master, I must therefore reply that no, sorry, I am not – at least not yet.

       I am really only ananalyst.

       And I put myself in aposition to listen and follow the school of the manifestations of theunconscious.

    Thankyou for your attention.