Comments by Beatrice Ithier

O’s names: Is Bion a mystic?


In this article, G. Civitarese invites us from the outset to seek an apprehension of the enigmatic meaning of O. This is done through a highly argued approach to the categories of 0, based on Bion’s book : Transformations (1965).

After sketching and then rejecting the various reactions to the latter Bion, senility, or divinity? It very synthetically centers the issue of O around the differenceof the K transformation and the transformation into O, which it defines in the difference between knowing and becoming. It enumerates:  O, as a thing in itself, (Kantian noumena). O, as proto-emotional and emotional truth in the session. And O, as unconscious, infinite and divinity.

It is quite interesting to see how the Kantian edifice inspires here the thought of Bion that Civitarese sheds light on. As for the Copernican reversal in Kant, it  consists of a conception in which we can understand objects  only  as   phenomena and not as things per se, through the a priori frameworks of space and time.

This revolution that rejects the apprehension of the thing in itself,   by challenging the knowledge  of  metaphysics,  induces in a way this model of two,  advanced by  Bion,  and as  Civitarese reminds us,  leads him to characterize  it  as  an aesthetic-intersubjective model introducing the emotional at the center of the process, as a form of primordial abstraction.

Closer to the notion of “at-one-ment” on which part of a Grotstein’s work, for instance, Civitarese gives us a brilliant development of the theme of the unison   strategic in this part of Bion’s approach. It is thanks to this capacity, I quote him, “that the images are generated from the most primitive sensations (beta elements), images that already have the character of representations and which will later become thoughts and concepts.” He does not fail to emphasize the transition from O, thing in itself, to O, the shared emotional mother / child experience emotional or shared experience of the analytical pair. This common foundation of meaning, whose sociability is derived from this experience of understanding of a pre-verbal nature, with the necessary endowment of self-awareness of at least one of the couple’s members.

The formulation of “unison” is perhaps a more practical and familiar way, he says, to render the essential idea of the at-one-ment by emphasizing that the invariant can only be emotional, an expression of a reciprocal affective investment, a transformation factor, and a useful balance between identity and difference. Civitarese unfolds us the reason for the metaphysical interest in Bion, which he characterizes as an attempt to grasp the essence of thought, leading him to define the concept of at-one-ment as a “uniting of opposites” (p. 5), a true reconciliation with “God”. This vital tension between universalism of the concept and the concrete of the sensitive, must not make us forget a reflection on sociality leading Civitarese to define emotions as sensitive seismographs and recorders of experiences of sociality.

Taking up again the question of reconciliation with God, we can only appreciate the conception he gives us as an allegorical expression that allows us, as an individual, to be reconciled with the “us”. Bion’s concern, to the displeasure of some, is clinical, since, as civitarese does’nt fail to specify, it is a transformation of part of an unconscious emotional experience into a conscious emotional experience. (1965, 32), encompassing the bodily and sensory forms of knowledge. The article does not fail to shed light on other versions of O, with this path to the ecstasy of mystics, equipped with emotion, in contact with the deity under the seal of theoretic-clinical concern that he emphasizes, this is very important.

Translating the allegorical content of these notions concerning the almost absolute receptivity to the unconscious, which he refers to as an intersubjective and pragmatic theory of truth is not one of the least merits of his analysis. It is not one of the least merits of his analysis that translates the allegorical content of these notions concerning the almost absolute receptivity to the unconscious, which he refers to as an intersubjective and pragmatic theory of truth. This leads him to quote the theories of Platonic forms. In his deconstructive reading of Bion, he associates the One, the Divine Platonic, with the Kantian apories. And when he questions the genetic primacy of emotion in the dual process of recognition that leads to the recognition of the subject and the meaning of the Platonic form of the One, one cannot fail to think of the “Foundations of the metaphysics of morals”.   Perhaps they would have offered Bion some use: thus the moral law inside the Self as an equivalent of receptivity and “The starry sky above our heads” in this reminder of: “the profound expression of an explosion of passion for the object.”

The extent of the philosophical culture of Civitarese, investigating the foundations of this Bionian theory of knowledge, then proposes the translation of “mystical contact” with the deity, in contact with the object in unison, and metonymically with sociality, which establishes subjectivity on the land of consensuality. We can only be greatly grateful to him for making his analysis of Bion equally consensual to us deeply attached to the listening of the receptive analyst, the one who also puts us on the path of unrepresented states, associated with the pictograms and emotional images from which dreamy thought can feed.


Beatrice Ithier

SPP-SPI-IPA Member, Child, adolescent and adult pychoanalyst, Member of the Editorial Board of the Revue Française de Psychanalyse, Honorary Member of the Institute of Psychoanalysis and Psychotherapy of Warsaw