Sunday, February 26, 2017

Casualty -- Mental Ward -- Vernon Scannell (1922-2007)





Something has gone wrong inside my head.
The sappers have left mines and wire behind,
I hold long conversations with the dead.
I do not always know what has been said;
The rhythms, not the words, stay in my mind;
Something has gone wrong inside my head.
Not just the sky but grass and trees are red,
The flares and tracers—or I’m colour-blind;
I hold long conversations with the dead.
Their presence comforts and sustains like bread;
When they don’t come its hard to be resigned;
Something has gone wrong inside my head.
They know about the snipers that I dread
And how the world is booby-trapped and mined;
I hold long conversations with the dead;
As all eyes close, they gather round my bed
And whisper consolation. When I find
Something has gone wrong inside my head
I hold long conversations with the dead.



Saturday, February 25, 2017

One for My Baby (and one more for the road) -- Johnny Mercer (1946)







It's quarter to three, there's no one in the place
Except you and me
So set 'em' up Joe, I got a little story
I think you should know
We're drinking my friend, to the end
Of a brief episode
Make it one for my baby
And one more for the road
I know the routine, put another nickel
In the machine
I feel kind of bad, can't you make the music
Easy and sad
I could tell you a lot, but it's not
In a gentleman's code
Make it one for my baby
And one more for the road
You'd never know it, but buddy I'm a kind of poet
And I've got a lot of things I'd like to say
And if I'm gloomy, please listen to me
Till it's talked away
Well that's how it goes, and Joe I know your gettin'
Anxious to close
Thanks for the cheer
I hope you didn't mind
My bending your ear
But this torch that I found, It's gotta be drowned
Or it's gonna explode
Make it one for my baby
And one more for the road
Songwriters: Harold Arlen / Johnny Mercer

Friday, February 24, 2017

Buprenorphine decreases suicidal ideation?

It's amazing what clinicians will do just to avoid entering into a therapeutic relationship with their suicidal patients (especially the borderlines). I really wish they had a control condition in which the hospitalized suicidal patients had daily individual sessions with an empathic therapist (the same therapist they would get to see on a weekly basis after their release). This study would have to replicated, of course. And we should keep in mind that there are other ways to reduce pain and suicidal ideation that don't involve drugs, such as building physical endurance in high-risk suicidal patients through mountain hiking. Seriously, check it out.



Scientific American
"Could mental pain be treated like physical pain, and would a reduction in suicidal thoughts follow?  A surprising new study by Yovell and colleagues in Israel addressed that question in a randomized, placebo-controlled trial of very low doses of an opioid, buprenorphine, in severely suicidal subjects
The authors looked to the concept of “separation distress” to justify the trial of buprenorphine.  All young animals, including humans, are distressed when separated from the attachment figures on whom their physical and emotional well-being depends.  Very low doses of opioids have been known to ameliorate that distress since the 1970s. The authors of the current study drew on attachment literature which established that endogenous opioids—the ones that occur naturally in our brains—help us feel good when we are with loved ones.  When we separate from loved ones, internal opioid levels drop, and we experience mental pain—the human version of separation distress. 
Neurobiological studies have suggested that separation distress overlaps with pain circuitry in the brain in a general “neural alarm system” when an animal, or a person, is under threat.  A trial of opioid painkillers, which might quiet that neural alarm system, seemed reasonable.
It was also necessary.  There are currently no medications to quickly relieve suicidal thoughts.  Antidepressants can take a month or longer to ease depression, and many psychiatrists today, like Shneidman, believe that depression and suicidal ideation are separate conditions.  Treating depression might not even address suicidal thinking.  A medication that specifically targets suicidal ideation—quickly—could be lifesaving.
Buprenorphine, sold as Subutex in pure form and as Suboxone when combined with naloxone (which decreases its abuse potential) is an unusual opioid in that it stimulates some, but not all, of the brain’s opioid receptors.  It causes less euphoria than opioids like hydrocodone, the active ingredient in Vicodin, and hydromorphone, the active ingredient in Dilaudid, but relieves pain and withdrawal symptoms; in fact, it was developed as a treatment for opioid addiction.  Because it is less pleasurable, it is less likely to be abused, and because it is weaker, it is safer in overdose.  Individuals who do abuse buprenorphine get high by crushing the tablets and injecting a solution made from the powder.  The investigators used a gelatin-based lozenge that dissolves under the tongue to make that impossible. 
Yovell and colleagues recruited patients from four hospitals in Israel and assigned them to receive tiny doses of buprenorphine or placebo.  At the outset, the subjects were quite ill; the majority had made suicide attempts in the past, and 57% met criteria for borderline personality disorder, which is characterized by chronic suicidal ideation and rejection-sensitivity—meaning that mild slights can cause their mood to plunge.  The Beck Scale for Suicide Ideation was used to rate patients’ suicidality before, during, and after the intervention. 
The authors found a significant drop in suicidal thinking in the buprenorphine group versus the placebo group.  Buprenorphine had a positive effect on depression, but the impact on suicidal thinking was even greater. Further, patients who met criteria for borderline personality disorder benefited even more than patients with depression alone.  For the investigators, this finding closed a loop: extreme distress over real or perceived abandonment is a hallmark of borderline personality disorder.  In borderline patients, suicidal thoughts may emerge when their highly sensitive separation distress systems are activated, with a drop in endogenous opioids and subsequent mental pain.  The robust improvements in suicidal ideation in borderline patients suggested that buprenorphine treats the psychache associated with abandonment and rejection. 
The study could not prove that opioids treat mental pain—it wasn’t designed to do so—but it did show that buprenorphine decreases suicidal ideation.  Perhaps the study’s most important contribution is its implication that treatments that help us withstand mental pain may prevent suicide."




Thursday, February 23, 2017

Conditioning males to become sexually aroused by a penny jar (Plaud & Martini, 1999)



Behavioral scientists, using classical conditioning, can make this penny jar sexually arousing.



1999 Feb;23(2):254-68.

The respondent conditioning of male sexual arousal.

Abstract

The respondent (classical) conditioning of male sexual arousal was investigated, employing penile plethysmography and 2 control procedures. Nine participants participated in three sessions, for three consecutive weeks. Each session consisted of fifteen stimulus periods and fifteen detumescence periods. Three participants participated in each of three different experimental conditioning procedures. Sexually explicit visual stimuli preselected by each participant were utilized as the unconditioned stimuli (US), and a neutral slide of a penny jar was employed as the conditioned stimulus (CS). In the first procedure, short delay conditioning, the CS was presented for 15 seconds, followed immediately by the US for 30 seconds. The second procedure was a backward conditioning procedure. In the third procedure, a random control condition, the presentation of CS and US was determined randomly. Results indicated that participants showed systematic maximum increases in penile tumescence from baseline in the short delay conditioning procedure, but not in the other two control procedures. Implications of these results to behavior therapy strategies which are based upon the conditioning of human sexual arousal are examined and discussed.


 

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Our Miserable 21st Century -- Nicholas N. Eberstadt


One out of eight adult American males is a felon. Super.

Read the whole article. It's insanely depressing. 

Commentary


"Most well-informed readers know that the U.S. currently has a higher share of its populace in jail or prison than almost any other country on earth, that Barack Obama and others talk of our criminal-justice process as “mass incarceration,” and know that well over 2 million men were in prison or jail in recent years.4 But only a tiny fraction of all living Americans ever convicted of a felony is actually incarcerated at this very moment. Quite the contrary: Maybe 90 percent of all sentenced felons today are out of confinement and living more or less among us. The reason: the basic arithmetic of sentencing and incarceration in America today. Correctional release and sentenced community supervision (probation and parole) guarantee a steady annual “flow” of convicted felons back into society to augment the very considerable “stock” of felons and ex-felons already there. And this “stock” is by now truly enormous.
One forthcoming demographic study by Sarah Shannon and five other researchers estimates that the cohort of current and former felons in America very nearly reached 20 million by the year 2010. If its estimates are roughly accurate, and if America’s felon population has continued to grow at more or less the same tempotraced out for the years leading up to 2010, we would expect it to surpass 23 million persons by the end of 2016 at the latest. Very rough calculations might therefore suggest that at this writing, America’s population of non-institutionalized adults with a felony conviction somewhere in their past has almost certainly broken the 20 million mark by the end of 2016. A little more rough arithmetic suggests that about 17 million men in our general population have a felony conviction somewhere in their CV. That works out to one of every eight adult males in America today.
We have to use rough estimates here, rather than precise official numbers, because the government does not collect any data at all on the size or socioeconomic circumstances of this population of 20 million, and never has. Amazing as this may sound and scandalous though it may be, America has, at least to date, effectively banished this huge group—a group roughly twice the total size of our illegal-immigrant population and an adult population larger than that in any state but California—to a near-total and seemingly unending statistical invisibility. Our ex-cons are, so to speak, statistical outcasts who live in a darkness our polity does not care enough to illuminate—beyond the scope or interest of public policy, unless and until they next run afoul of the law.
Thus we cannot describe with any precision or certainty what has become of those who make up our “criminal class” after their (latest) sentencing or release. In the most stylized terms, however, we might guess that their odds in the real America are not all that favorable."



Tuesday, February 21, 2017

The Null Hypothesis in Education, Restated

In other words, there isn't a single piece of education "research" out there that is worth reading. None.


Arnold Kling

"Consider an education intervention and a set of tests that it must pass. The intervention could be “more spending” or “method X used in the classroom” or “longer school days” or “charter schools” or what have you.
1. It should show a meaningful difference under experimental conditions, meaning that selection bias is eliminated.
2. The difference should persist, rather than fade out. If you show a difference in first grade but by third grade or fifth grade the experimental group is on on the same level as the control group, then there is fade-out.
3. The results should be replicated. One experiment that works one time does not count.
4. The intervention should be scalable. The intervention does not depend on a uniquely gifted teacher.
The Null Hypothesis is that no intervention passes all four tests."




Monday, February 20, 2017

Studies in Pessimism -- Arthur Schopenhauer (1892)

Happy Monday!



Studies in Pessimism
"[W]e generally find pleasure to be not nearly so pleasant as we expected, and pain very much more painful.
The pleasure in this world, it has been said, outweighs the pain; or, at any rate, there is an even balance between the two. If the reader wishes to see shortly whether this statement is true, let him compare the respective feelings of two animals, one of which is engaged in eating the other.
The best consolation in misfortune or affliction of any kind will be the thought of other people who are in a still worse plight than yourself; and this is a form of consolation open to every one. But what an awful fate this means for mankind as a whole!
We are like lambs in a field, disporting themselves under the eye of the butcher, who chooses out first one and then another for his prey. So it is that in our good days we are all unconscious of the evil Fate may have presently in store for us -- sickness, poverty, mutilation, loss of sight or reason.
No little part of the torment of existence lies in this, that Time is continually pressing upon us, never letting us take breath, but always coming after us, like a taskmaster with a whip. If at any moment Time stays his hand, it is only when we are delivered over to the misery of boredom.
But misfortune has its uses; for, as our bodily frame would burst asunder if the pressure of the atmosphere were removed, so, if the lives of man were relieved of all need, hardship and adversity; if everything they took in hand were successful, they would be so swollen with arrogance that, though they might not burst, they would present the spectacle of unbridled folly -- nay, they would go mad. And I may say, further, that a certain amount of care or pain or trouble is necessary for every man at all times. A ship without ballast is unstable and will not go straight.
Certain it is that work, worry, labour and trouble, form the lot of almost all men their whole life long. But if all wishes were fulfilled as soon as they arose, how would men occupy their lives? what would they do with their time? If the world were a paradise of luxury and ease, a land flowing with milk and honey, where every Jack obtained his Jill at once and without any difficulty, men would either die of boredom or hang themselves; or there would be wars, massacres, and murders; so that in the end mankind would inflict more suffering on itself than it has now to accept at the hands of Nature.
In early youth, as we contemplate our coming life, we are like children in a theatre before the curtain is raised, sitting there in high spirits and eagerly waiting for the play to begin. It is a blessing that we do not know what is really going to happen. Could we foresee it, there are times when children might seem like innocent prisoners, condemned, not to death, but to life, and as yet all unconscious of what their sentence means. Nevertheless, every man desires to reach old age; in other words, a state of life of which it may be said: "It is bad to-day, and it will be worse to-morrow; and so on till the worst of all.""





Sunday, February 19, 2017

Anger at Things that Happen -- unknown




Anger at things that happen shows small wit;
For all our wrath concerns them not a bit.

-- unknown ancient poet cited in Plutarch





Saturday, February 18, 2017

James River Blues -- Old Crow Medicine Show (2006)







James River blues
I just heard the awful news
I could steer around the rocks
But they're bustin' down the docks

James River blues
That train came on through
And the work's gotten slow
Now wheres a boat man to go

I think I'll float on down
To Richmond town
They don't need us anymore
Haulin' freight from shore to shore
That big iron hauls much more
Than we ever could before

I've see good men going wrong
I've seen bad ones get it right
As that river rolls along
I'll be steppin' out tonight

On the cool flow
Floatin' down, down below
The bridge to the waters edge
From the ridge to the ledge
From the hills to the sea
I'll become a memory

James River blues
James River blues
James River blues






Friday, February 17, 2017

Love your cat? It's because you want a baby.



"The soul, once stirred and set in motion, is lost in itself unless we give it something to grasp; and we must always give it an object to aim at and act on. Plutarch says of those who grow fond of monkeys and little dogs that the loving part that is in us, lacking a legitimate object, rather than remain idle, thus forges itself a false and frivolous one. And we see that the soul in its passions will sooner deceive itself by setting up a false and fantastical object, even contrary to its own belief, than not act against something."
-- Michel de Montaige, Essais, Book I [trans., Donald Frame]







Thursday, February 16, 2017

"We are never at home, we are always beyond." -- Montaigne

"Fear, desire, hope, project us toward the future and steal from us the feeling and consideration of what is, to busy us with what will be, even when we shall no longer be."


"I am ready to conceive an implacable hatred against all popular domination [democracies], though I think it the most natural and equitable of all, so oft as I call to mind the inhuman injustice of the people of Athens, who, without remission, or once vouchsafing to hear what they had to say for themselves, put to death their brave captains newly returned triumphant from a naval victory they had obtained over the Lacedaemonians near the Arginusian Isles, the most bloody and obstinate engagement that ever the Greeks fought at sea; because (after the victory) they followed up the blow and pursued the advantages presented to them by the rule of war, rather than stay to gather up and bury their dead. And the execution is yet rendered more odious by the behaviour of Diomedon, who, being one of the condemned, and a man of most eminent virtue, political and military, after having heard the sentence, advancing to speak, no audience till then having been allowed, instead of laying before them his own cause, or the impiety of so cruel a sentence, only expressed a solicitude for his judges’ preservation, beseeching the gods to convert this sentence to their good, and praying that, for neglecting to fulfil the vows which he and his companions had made (with which he also acquainted them) in acknowledgment of so glorious a success, they might not draw down the indignation of the gods upon them; and so without more words went courageously to his death.
Fortune, a few years after, punished them in the same kind; for Chabrias, captain-general of their naval forces, having got the better of Pollis, Admiral of Sparta, at the Isle of Naxos, totally lost the fruits of his victory, one of very great importance to their affairs, in order not to incur the danger of this example, and so that he should not lose a few bodies of his dead friends that were floating in the sea, gave opportunity to a world of living enemies to sail away in safety, who afterwards made them pay dear for this unseasonable superstition."

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

"Light cares can speak, but heavy ones are dumb." -- Seneca


"But the story—[Herodotus, iii. 14.]—says that Psammenitus, King of Egypt, being defeated and taken prisoner by Cambyses, King of Persia, seeing his own daughter pass by him as prisoner, and in a wretched habit, with a bucket to draw water, though his friends about him were so concerned as to break out into tears and lamentations, yet he himself remained unmoved, without uttering a word, his eyes fixed upon the ground; and seeing, moreover, his son immediately after led to execution, still maintained the same countenance; till spying at last one of his domestic and familiar friends dragged away amongst the captives, he fell to tearing his hair and beating his breast, with all the other extravagances of extreme sorrow.

A story that may very fitly be coupled with another of the same kind, of recent date, of a prince of our own nation, who being at Trent, and having news there brought him of the death of his elder brother, a brother on whom depended the whole support and honour of his house, and soon after of that of a younger brother, the second hope of his family, and having withstood these two assaults with an exemplary resolution; one of his servants happening a few days after to die, he suffered his constancy to be overcome by this last accident; and, parting with his courage, so abandoned himself to sorrow and mourning, that some thence were forward to conclude that he was only touched to the quick by this last stroke of fortune; but, in truth, it was, that being before brimful of grief, the least addition overflowed the bounds of all patience. Which, I think, might also be said of the former example, did not the story proceed to tell us that Cambyses asking Psammenitus, “Why, not being moved at the calamity of his son and daughter, he should with so great impatience bear the misfortune of his friend?” “It is,” answered he, “because only this last affliction was to be manifested by tears, the two first far exceeding all manner of expression.”
And, peradventure, something like this might be working in the fancy of the ancient painter,—[Cicero, De Orator., c. 22 ; Pliny, xxxv. 10.]— who having, in the sacrifice of Iphigenia, to represent the sorrow of the assistants proportionably to the several degrees of interest every one had in the death of this fair innocent virgin, and having, in the other figures, laid out the utmost power of his art, when he came to that of her father, he drew him with a veil over his face, meaning thereby that no kind of countenance was capable of expressing such a degree of sorrow.  

...

  “Curae leves loquuntur, ingentes stupent.”

     [“Light griefs can speak: deep sorrows are dumb.”
      —Seneca, Hippolytus, act ii. scene 3.]


    - - Michel de Montaigne - Essais, Book I, Of sadness (1580) (trans., Charles Cotton, 1877]






Tuesday, February 14, 2017

"Truly man is a marvelously vain, diverse, and undulating object." -- Montaigne

Image result for alexander the great



"Man (in good earnest) is a marvellous vain, fickle, and unstable subject, and on whom it is very hard to form any certain and uniform judgment. For Pompey could pardon the whole city of the Mamertines, though furiously incensed against it, upon the single account of the virtue and magnanimity of one citizen, Zeno,—[Plutarch calls him Stheno, and also Sthemnus and Sthenis]—who took the fault of the public wholly upon himself; neither entreated other favour, but alone to undergo the punishment for all: and yet Sylla’s host, having in the city of Perugia —[Plutarch says Preneste, a town of Latium.]—manifested the same virtue, obtained nothing by it, either for himself or his fellow-citizens.
And, directly contrary to my first examples, the bravest of all men, and who was reputed so gracious to all those he overcame, Alexander, having, after many great difficulties, forced the city of Gaza, and, entering, found Betis, who commanded there, and of whose valour in the time of this siege he had most marvellous manifest proof, alone, forsaken by all his soldiers, his armour hacked and hewed to pieces, covered all over with blood and wounds, and yet still fighting in the crowd of a number of Macedonians, who were laying on him on all sides, he said to him, nettled at so dear-bought a victory (for, in addition to the other damage, he had two wounds newly received in his own person), “Thou shalt not die, Betis, as thou dost intend; be sure thou shall suffer all the torments that can be inflicted on a captive.” To which menace the other returning no other answer, but only a fierce and disdainful look; “What,” says Alexander, observing his haughty and obstinate silence, “is he too stiff to bend a knee! Is he too proud to utter one suppliant word! Truly, I will conquer this silence; and if I cannot force a word from his mouth, I will, at least, extract a groan from his heart.” And thereupon converting his anger into fury, presently commanded his heels to be bored through, causing him, alive, to be dragged, mangled, and dismembered at a cart’s tail.—[Quintus Curtius, iv. 6. This act of cruelty has been doubted, notwithstanding the statement of Curtius.]—Was it that the height of courage was so natural and familiar to this conqueror, that because he could not admire, he respected it the less? Or was it that he conceived valour to be a virtue so peculiar to himself, that his pride could not, without envy, endure it in another? Or was it that the natural impetuosity of his fury was incapable of opposition?"



 



Monday, February 13, 2017

Karlfried Graf Dürckheim (1886-1988), founder of Initiation Therapy

His life brings to mind the Trevanian book, Shibumi.


Wikipedia

Karl Friedrich Alfred Heinrich Ferdinand Maria Graf Eckbrecht von Dürckheim-Montmartin (24 October 1896 – 28 December 1988) was a German diplomatpsychotherapist and Zen Master. A veteran of World War I, he was introduced to Zen Buddhism early in life. After obtaining a doctorate in psychology, he became an avid supporter of the Nazi Party. Following World War II he was imprisoned in Japan which transformed him spiritually. Upon returning to Germany he became a leading proponent of the Western esoteric spiritual tradition, synthesizing teachings from Christian MysticismDepth Psychology and Zen Buddhism.


Early life[edit]

Dürckheim was born in Munich, the son of Friedrich Georg Michael Maria Eckbrecht von Dürckheim-Montmartin (1858-1939) and Sophie Evalina Ottilie Charlotte von Kusserow (1869-1959).[2] His maternal grandfather was the Prussian diplomat and politician Heinrich von Kusserow (1836-1900). His uncle was General Alfred Karl Nikolaus Alexander Eckbrecht von Dürckheim-Montmartin (1850-1912), aide-de-camp to King Ludwig II of Bavaria and later commander of the Royal Bavarian Infantry Lifeguards Regiment.
A descendant of old Bavarian nobility whose parents' fortune was lost during bad economic times, he grew up at Steingaden and at the Bassenheim Castle near Koblenz.

Military service[edit]

In 1914 he volunteered for the Royal Bavarian Infantry Lifeguards Regiment and was given a commission.[3] He served on the front lines for 46 months and fought in France, Serbia, Slovenia, Italy and Romania. He saw action at the Battle of Verdun, the Battle of Caporetto, the Battle of the Somme, and the Lys Offensive. By his own account he never fired a shot and was never wounded, "though bullets went through my shirt and coat."[4] Dürckheim considered his war experience fundamental to his later enlightenment: "I discovered...that it was in facing death that we step forward toward true life. That experience was later a part of my teaching: by accepting death, we discover and receive life which is beyond life and death."[5]
In recognition of his military service, Dürckheim was awarded the Honour Cross of the World War 1914/1918 and the War Merit Cross First Class with swords.

Introduction to Buddhism[edit]

In 1919, as a twenty-three-year-old officer on his return after the war, he refused to fight in defense of the Bavarian Socialist Republic, but instead joined the Freikorps under Franz Ritter von Epp (under whom he had served during World War I) and became involved in anti-Bolshevik activities, for which he was briefly imprisoned. Afterwards he worked for a time as a journalist for several small anti-communist publications. He also rejected his inheritance of the family estate at Steingaden, to which he had a right as eldest son.[6]
He then met his first wife Enja von Hattinberg (1888-1939), who introduced him to the Tao Te Ching of Lao-Tzu:[7]
"I found myself in the workshop of the painter Willi Geiger in Munich. My future wife, Madame von Hattinberg, was sitting on the table, and next to her was a book...I can still see it now. I opened this book and read out loud the eleventh verse of the Tao-Te-Ching of Lao Tzu. Suddenly it happened! I was listening and lightning went through me. The veil was torn asunder, I was awake! I had just experienced 'It'. Everything existed and nothing existed. Another Reality had broken through this world. I myself existed and did not exist...I had experienced that which is spoken of in all centuries: individuals, in whatever stage of their lives, have had an experience which struck them with the force of lightning and linked them once and for all to the circuits of True Life."
Meister Eckhart became very important for him. "I recognize in Eckhart my master, the master. But we can only approach him if we eliminate the conceptual consciousness."[7]

Academic career[edit]

Dürckheim received his doctorate in Psychology from the University of Kiel in 1923 and taught at the Institute of Psychology there for another year,[7] then went to work with Felix Krueger and Hans Freyer at the University of Leipzig[8] where he received his habilitation on 17 February 1930. In 1931 he became a professor at the Medical Academy of Breslau. From 1930 to 1932 Dürckheim also taught at the Bauhaus in Dessau in the field of Gestalt psychology.[9] During the 1930s he was close friends with Karl HaushoferElse Lasker-SchülerPaul KleeRomano Guardini and Rainer Maria Rilke.
On 11 November 1933 Dürckheim signed the commitment of the professors at German universities and colleges to Adolf Hitler and the Nazi state.[10]

Nazi career and years in Japan[edit]

In 1933 Dürckheim joined the Sturmabteilung. In 1934 he spent 6 months in South Africa on behalf of the Reich Minister of Education to contact Germans living there and to urge them not to abandon Nazism.[6] During his visit he met secretly with the Afrikaner Broederbond to urge them to follow Nazi ideals, including anti-Semitism.[11] By 1935 he had become chief assistant to Joachim von Ribbentrop, head of the Büro Ribbentrop and later Nazi Germany's Minister for Foreign Affairs. In that year Dürckheim brokered a meeting between Lord Beaverbrook and Hitler.[12] In October 1936 Dürckheim accompanied newly appointed Ambassador Ribbentrop to England, where he was assigned "to find out what the English think of the new Germany." He was introduced to King Edward VIII and Winston Churchill.[13]Dürckheim was at this time a fervent supporter of Nazism, writing in the journal of the Nazi Teachers Association:
"The basic gift of the Nazi revolution is for all occupations and levels across the experience of our common nature, a common destiny, the common hope of the common leader....which is the living foundation of all movements and aspirations."[14]
Then it was discovered that he was of Jewish descent: Dürckheim's maternal great-grandmother Eveline Oppenheim (1805-1886) was the daughter of the Jewish banker Salomon Oppenheim. In fact Dürckheim was also related to Mayer Amschel Rothschild.[15][16] Dürckheim's grandmother was Antonie Springer,[2] who was also Jewish. Under Germany's 1935 Nuremberg Laws he was considered a Mischling (mixed-blood) of the second degree[Note 1] and had therefore become "politically embarrassing". Ribbentrop decided to create a special mission for him to become an envoy for the foreign ministry and write a research paper titled "exploring the intellectual foundations of Japanese education."[17]
In June 1938 he was sent to Japan, residing there until 1947.[4] Soon after arriving in Japan he met the Buddhist scholar Daisetsu Teitaro Suzuki who influenced his thinking profoundly.[18] Professor Fumio Hashimoto, who was sent to Dürckheim as a translator, wrote: "Dürckheim was surrounded by Shinto and Buddhist scholars, as well as military and thinkers of the right, each of which tried to convince him of their importance." These included such leading figures as the Abbot Hakuun Yasutani and the Imperial Japanese Army General Sadao Araki.[19] He became an avid student of Kyūdō (traditional Japanese archery) under the master Awa Kenzô (1880-1939), who had also taught Eugen Herrigel.[20] He wrote in 1941: "Archery is a great exercise that provides a profound silent concentration. In Zen the body is not considered an obstacle to spiritual life, as it is too often regarded in the West. On the contrary, [in Zen] the body is considered instrumental to spiritual advancement."
Under Ribbentrop's guidance, he coordinated the dissemination of Nazi propaganda in Japan, likening German military ideals to Japanese bushido and encouraging the idea that Japan and Germany would share the world.[21] The “Zen Samurai Bushido debate” had evolved in pre-war Germany over the relationship between Nazi ideals and those of the traditional Japanese warrior culture.
On 15 July 1939 Dürckheim published an article in the third issue of the journal Berlin - Rome - Tokio in which he refers to the Japanese state cult, the glorified “Samurai spirit” and its relationship with Nazi ideology. He wrote:
“Who travels today through Japan experiences at every step the friendship with Nazi Germany and Fascist Italy to the Japanese people, especially those forces that affect the future more than political power. It is the spirit which connects Japan with us, that spirit which…is related to Japan’s iron will to win the war… In farm houses and businesses hang signs with the words: Everyone must behave as if they were on the field of battle.”[22]
By 1944 Dürckheim had become a well-known author and lecturer in Japan on Zen meditationarchery and metaphysics, and was awarded the War Merit Cross, Second Class on Hitler's birthday, 20 April 1944. The impending surrender of Germany led him to reconsider his values, however. "The immeasurable suffering of Germany will bring the German people to a higher level and help give birth to a better, less materialistic nation," he wrote to a friend in the last days of the war.[15]

Arrest and imprisonment[edit]

After the war, Tokyo was occupied by the Americans. Dürckheim went into hiding in Karuizawa and was arrested on 30 October 1945 by Special Agent Robie Macauley of the US Counter-Intelligence Corps.[23][24][Note 2] He was imprisoned for 16 months in Sugamo Prison:
"In spite of everything, it was a very fertile period for me. During the first weeks, I had a dream almost every night, some of which anticipated my future work. In my cell I was surrounded by a profound silence. I could work on myself and that is when I began to write a novel. My neighbors simply waited for each day to pass. That time of captivity was precious to me because I could exercise zazen meditation and remain in immobility for hours."[26]
Dürckheim interpreted his imprisonment as an initiation event that was preparing him for a spiritual rebirth. Influenced partly by the work of Julius Evola, the "conversion experience" later became an essential element of Dürckheim's psychotherapy: "There is real change whenever the individual experiences the supernatural, which alters the meaning of life 180 degrees and moves the axis from the middle of the natural human existence to a supernatural center."[4] The criteria of an initiation conversion are 1) the conscious confrontation with a near-death experience during one's lifetime; 2) the "overcoming of humanity"; and 3) the transition from the everyday mode of being to another, which Evola calls "transcendental realism".[27]

Work with Zen and psychotherapy[edit]



Dürckheim on a morning walk with Swami Prabhupada in Frankfurt in June 1974.
Dürckheim was repatriated to Germany in 1947 and began a period of training analysis with Leonhard Seif.[6] At this time he began to develop his "Initiation Therapy", in which he merged several psychological directions. There is a strong influence from depth psychology, in particular the analytical psychology of Carl Gustav Jung and the psychodrama of Jacob Levy Moreno. Dürckheim employs similar elements of art (modelling clay, ink drawings) and drama (role-playing) in his form of therapy.[28]
Along with his second wife, psychologist Maria Theresia Hippius (1909-2003), Dürckheim founded the Existential Psychology Training and Conference Center in the early 1950s, located in the Black Forest village of Todtmoos-Rutte. His books were based on his conferences, and were highly influential in Europe and the USA.
"What I am doing is not the transmission of Zen Buddhism; on the contrary, that which I seek after is something universally human which comes from our origins and happens to be more emphasized in eastern practices than in the western."[7]
In 1958 Dürckheim met philosopher Alan Watts, who described him as "...a true nobleman--unselfconsciously and by a long tradition perfect in speech and courtesy--Keyserling's ideal of the grand seigneur."[29]
Dürckheim is identified by Albert Stunkard as the person who suggested that Stunkard should visit D.T. Suzuki in Kita-Kamakura, not far from the Sugamo prison.[30]Stunkard later became Suzuki's physician.[31] Other visitors to the Suzuki residence included writer J. D. Salinger and Philip Kapleau, author of The Three Pillars of Zen and founder of the Rochester Zen Center.
In 1972 Dürckheim received the Humboldt plaque from the Humboldt Society of Science, Art and Culture, and in 1977 he was awarded the Officer's Merit Cross, 1st Class.
Dürckheim died in Todtmoos on 28 December 1988 at the age of 92.

Theory of therapeutic self-transformation[edit]

Dürckheim did not practice psychotherapy in the traditional sense, rather, he tried to teach his clients a process by which they could move towards spiritual self-understanding. He viewed the therapist as a spiritual guide: "A therapy which does not take into account the spiritual dimension of man is doomed to failure...The therapist is not the one who heals, that is, who intervenes with his own skills; he is a therapist in the original meaning of the word: a companion on the way."[7]

Concept of the self[edit]

Dürckheim readily acknowledged that he was influenced by other psychologists in the development of his theory of the self:
"In these last twenty years, the work of C. G. Jung and of his disciple Erich Neumann have greatly enriched me. Their theory of "self" corresponds to my concept of essential being. For them the true self is the integration of the deep self with the existential one, which alone gives birth to the person. This is what struck me: C.G.Jung has opened the way to initiation."[7]
Dürckheim's initiation therapy deals with the encounter between the profane, mundane, "little" self (the ego) and the true Self:[32]
"Man evolves through three kinds of "self": first, the "little self" who only sees power, security, prestige, knowledge. Then the "existential self" which goes much further: it wants to give itself to a cause, to a task, to a community, to a person. It can go beyond egocentrism and that is where it becomes, in my opinion, a human being. Finally what I call the "essential self," the true "I" of the individual and of humanity."[33]

The Wheel of Metamorphosis[edit]

An integral concept in this self-understanding is referred to as "The Wheel of Metamorphosis." Dürckheim viewed transformation not as the sudden achievement of enlightenment, but rather as a continuous and cyclical evolution, akin to the motion of a wheel. He posited three stages and five steps in each cycle:[7]
  • Stage 1: All that is contrary to essential being must be relinquished.
  • Step 1: Practice "critical watchfulness" (analytical awareness of one's own thoughts and behavior).
  • Step 2: Let go of all that stands in the way of becoming.
  • Stage 2: That which has been relinquished must be dissolved in transcendent Being which absorbs and recreates us.
  • Step 3: Union with transcendent Being.
  • Step 4: New becoming in accordance with the inner image which has arisen from transcendent Being.
  • Stage 3: The newly formed core must be recognized and personal responsibility taken for its growth.
  • Step 5: Practicing this new form on a daily basis through critical watchfulness, which leads us back to Step 1.[34]

Meditation[edit]

For Dürckheim, meditation exercises are the key to spiritual change:
"Exercise has a double purpose: to prepare the individual for the possibility of an experience of Being and for his metamorphosis into a witness of this experience awakening within. For illumination does not make an enlightened one! The more I penetrated into the experience and the wisdom of the exercise of Buddhism, the more it was clear that here was a universal understanding of the human being and his possibilities. This was a vision which, taking into account the liberation and salvation of man through health, efficiency and social fidelity, apprehended man in his deepest essence, whose experience and integration were also the conditions for the development of his true Self."[7]

Quotations[edit]

"The man, who, being really on the Way, falls upon hard times in the world will not, as a consequence, turn to that friend who offers him refuge and comfort and encourages his old self to survive. Rather, he will seek out someone who will faithfully and inexorably help him to risk himself, so that he may endure the suffering and pass courageously through it. Only to the extent that man exposes himself over and over again to annihilation, can that which is indestructible arise within him. In this lies the dignity of daring."

– from The Way of Transformation, 1988.
"Perseverance can bring a state of ‘self-lessness’ in which you are released from the division of subject and object, which ordinarily dominates consciousness. In that state you can finally experience the perfect enjoyment of the unity inherent in it. You may even taste the joys of an experience which determines all further experience: ‘It is not I who am breathing, it breathes and I merely have a share as a union of body and soul.'"

- from The Japanese Cult of Tranquility, 1960.
"A great deal of my present work is in helping people who underwent great spiritual crisis during the war. We know, of course, that sometimes, in extreme circumstances, people have a natural satori or spiritual awakening when it appears that all is finished for them–and they accept it. This happened often in the war, and when those who lived through it tried to tell the tale to their friends it was shrugged off as some kind of hallucination, a brief fit of insanity in a desperate situation. When these people come to me, as they often do, I have the happy opportunity of showing them that, for once in their lives, they were truly sane."

- quoted in Alan Watts, In My Own Way: An Autobiography 1915–1965, p. 321.[35]