Human Eyes are psychic in nature as such that they continuously are driven towards satisfying those aesthetic needs- which they procure after scanning their immediate external environment. The drive nature permeates the eye-consciousness, hence allowing the eyes to focus on the aesthetics of the environment as opposed to the environment itself.
II. Morality & Ethics: The Sophists, Shamans & Mystical Prophets
The Sophists, from the pre-socratic traditions, were deemed *un-virtuous* on the basis of delivering the knowledge of art of persuasion and rhetorics for a fee. So, what is even a true shaman? Who is a true Guru or a teacher? The Shamans traditionally deliver the healing and guidance for the very virtue in healing others- those who seek spiritual assistance. However, contemporary shamanism is a return to the sophist tradition- as the Shaman becomes *un-virtuous* in delivering the mystical experience with the rightful and moral intent. Therefore, a false Guru figure, its very archetype, implies delivering the false message (the *impure-unvirtuous* message) to their students and spiritual-patients.
III. Bardo Resemblances in Higher Psychedelic States
To what degree does higher LSD & Psilocybin States resemble the DMT-Hyperspace Realm? The Tibetan Book of Dead, as per Timothy Leary- the Bardo Thodol, explains the common different states of a psychedelic experience. The very stage of the loss of ego-consciousness- the peak- the rise of the emergence of the white light signifying the three Bardos, seems to translate into the highest self-actualised realisation possible. And if often times within subjective accounts these higher-potent or higher-dose LSD, Psilocybin & Mescaline (along with other phenethylamines) are said to induce this white-light transcendental state, then what gives N, N-Dimethyltryptamine & 5-MeO-DMT its own unique hyperspace dimension? My speculations from an outsider-perspective (non-experiential) rests upon the hypothesis that this hyperspace dimension is rather an alternate visual dimension that exists within the compounds of the same reality the body resides in. One way to explain this maybe by imagining the continual replication of the hallucinated OEVs & CEVs (Open-Eye Visuals & Closed-Eye Visuals)- this could possibly induce a sense of existing within an alternate dimension from a perceptual view-point.
IV. Jacques Lacan’s Borromean Knot & the Psychedelic State
Jacques Lacan’s conceptualisation of the Borromean Knot between the Imaginary, the Symbolic and the Real can be translated into the sketch of the objectives components of the Psychedelic State. The psychonaut existing within the compounds of the Real, witnesses the assimilation of the Imaginary and the Symbolic through the ethnopharmacologic effects of the Psychedelic State- thereby, inducing the hallucinatory states. As these hallucinatory states, alongside several other effects like distortion of time, from a pharmacological viewpoint can be thus concluded as the objective components of a Psychedelic trip- as they are shared, and hence, collective in essence.
V. On Jungian Unconscious & its significance within a Psychedelic Experience
Through the lens of Jungian Analytical Psychology, the significance of the Unconscious can be roughly bifurcated, pertaining to its respective affects within a Common Psychedelic Experience. The Jungian Personal Unconscious can be identified in the emotive aspects of the psychedelic experience, through a close examination of the personal archetypes and their distinction from the psychedelic experience itself. Archetypes, in as much as they are collective, can also have a personal significance to them- i.e., the projection of the personal significance onto the archetypal pattern. In contrast, the Jungian Collective Unconscious can be recognised within the objective components of the psychedelic experience i.e., the common and shared ethnopharmacologic effects (distinct from affects)- in forms of cultural, religious and geometric archetypal patterns.
Jacques Lacan, in his seminal work of The Nucleus of Repression, discusses the moment in the élaboration which is always present in an enigmatic way in analysis i.e., wherein the positive effect of interpretation in the transference episode is truly possible. Once this imaginary element becomes “non-integrated”, then the “suppressed, repressed” image arises followed by the appearance of anxiety which the subject witnesses. Lacan emphasizes the decisive or mutative value of this “fertile moment” because a right interpretation is required at that precise moment during the analysis. The subject’s desires at that particular moment fluctuate between being present and inconceivable and hence, it is the only occasion where the subject can make sense of the interpretation effectively.
Lacan illustrates the Wolfman case, wherein the subject has a character or narcissistic neurosis which makes the subject develop resistance to treatment. This theoretical dilemma was initially raised by Freud in Infantile Neurosis which is the title of the Wolfman in German. After-all, Lacan was known for interpreting Freud’s textual work in order to convey its inherent meanings and implications. The Wolfman case seems crucial in understanding the theory of trauma which Lacan uses as an example to unfold the theory of repression. He identifies the specter of repression in a traumatic event i.e., the event where the subject as a child accidentally catches the parents in a copulatory position. This issue of locating this “fertile moment” is also famously known as the topographical problem in Freudian terms. Lacan cleverly uses Freud’s estimated date of copulation, to reveal the dual symbolism of the subject’s birthday which also falls on Christmas Day. He locates the prägung i.e., the striking of repression in the subject’s anticipation of the Christmas day and the Birthday to further assert that “this anxiety-dream is the first manifestation of the traumatic significance of what a moment ago I called the imaginary break-in”. According to Freud, this prägung is located in the non-repressed unconscious. The prägung is the originating traumatic event that occurs within a non-repressed unconscious which is strictly limited to the domain of the imaginary. It reemerges during the course of the patient’s progress into a symbolic world. This first symbolic integration i.e., the prägung lets the “trauma” come right after the retroactive effect and induces a repressing action which is the detachment of the real world and the integration into the symbolic world.
Lacan states that repression only occurs to the extent that the events of the early years of the subject are in history sufficiently turbulent which in Freud’s words “it is in as much the subjective drama is integrated into a myth which has an extended, almost universal value, that the subject brings himself into being.” And that is why Infantile Neurosis is exactly the same as Psychoanalysis i.e., it plays the same role as psychoanalysis, namely, it accomplishes the reintegration of the past, and it brings into the play of symbols i.e., the prägung itself, which here only is attained through an effect that is retroactive. As a result of the development of the primary symbolic integration, the imaginary plane takes on its status as trauma. Hence, there lies no difference between this moment and the symbolic repression, except the only one which is that the subject has no one around to give him his cue, and that is how the “repression begins, having constituted its original nucleus”.
In the second part of the seminal article, Jacques Lacan asserts that the return of the repressed and repressed is one and the same thing. Repression occurs in an individualistic manner when the thought is separated from the feeling. It is the signifier that is repressed, as “nothing is ever, nothing can ever be repressed, except signifying elements. It is in Freud, the word signifier is all that is missing” (Lacan, Book VI). When the intellectual function is separated from the affective process, the signifier arises. The signifier is the primary organizing element of the unconscious. He states that every successful symbolic integration involves a sort of normal forgetting i.e., a forgetting without the return of the repressed. He connects Heideggerian notions to the “successful repression” which he claims is to be taken as a therapist’s term for “the most profound forgetting”. Lacan refers to Balint’s claim on the subject’s ego and further asserts that the ego achieves more feats when it is made to compete with itself i.e., through exercise or analysis, the analyst and the subject hold the power to “structure the ego” which will through practice become more strengthened over time and would be able to tolerate “greater excitations” because this exercise or analysis highly facilitates the subject to self-master his own ego. According to Lacan, this ego is an imaginary function of the “speaking subject” i.e., the subject succeeds the objective analysis as a result of verbal communication within the analysis- which will make the subject present itself distinctly. An example could be that of a scientist who is only a mirror image or support to the objectal scientific world, “the ego acquires the status of a mirage, as the residue, it is only one element in the objectal relations of the subject”.
In the third part of the Seminal Article, Lacan examines the procedure of therapy and the source of therapeutic action in the analysis. He identifies the essential function (which is the process of symbolic integration of the subject’s past history) as a function that relates to the super-ego wherein the analyst occupies a significant position. Lacan proceeds to trace the origins of the super-ego in the Freudian theory and illustrates that the super-ego emerged as a form of censorship, whose aim is to deceive through lying. The subject’s symbolic world is split by this agency into two parts, a) the accessible part i.e., which is recognized and as b) the inaccessible part i.e., which is forbidden. Lacan puts the super-ego within a tension which can be reduced down to what Freud explained as “purely instinctual principles”. In contrast, Lacan also entertains the idea where the unconscious of the subject is just “a schism of the symbolic system” i.e., a restriction or alienation which is influenced by the symbolic system and where the super-ego is an analogous schism as it occurs “for the subject”. He illustrates this with an example of his patient whose aversion of the Koranic law becomes lodged in his symptoms. The subject discovers the most significant relationship to the universe of symbolism when it is organized. Hence, it is when the traumatic elements are compressed in an image that has previously never been integrated- when the synthesis of the subject’s history appears, “his history is unified by the law, by his symbolic universe”, which is subjective and therefore, distinct for everyone. Lacan recognizes this trait of reducing the law as “inadmissible, unintegrable character” with this “blind, repetitive agency” as the definition of the term super-ego. Lacan also highlights Freud’s work of the Oedipus complex and claims that it is the most uniform point of intersection i.e., it is the minimum requirement in the existential sense of the term (i.e., of the individual’s personal education and tradition).
In conclusion, the moment when all the significant objects of the subject’s cycle have appeared and all his imaginary history is completed i.e., when the anxiety-provoking desires of the subject have been identified and reintegrated or when the desires which were initially present in O (innocence period) shifts to Ó (after integration into the imaginary period) and again to O (through analysis) represents a completed web of symbols – is the fundamental outcome most required by the analysis itself. Lacan ends this seminal article by suggesting that there is enigma around the adjournment of the analysis itself i.e., it is unknown when the analysis is supposed to be adjourned because it depends on “the analyst’s education in humanity”. A man usually tends to resolve conflicts in accordance with conduct or group morale which makes the man incapable of “broaching these grand themes”.
Lacan, J. (1988). The Seminar of Jacques Lacan, Book I, Freud’s Papers on Techniques 1953-1954. W.W. Norton & Company, pp.187-199.
Lacan, J. (1988). The Seminar of Jacques Lacan, Book VI, Desire and its Interpretation. W.W. Norton & Company.
Joker (2019), directed by Todd Phillips is a film with an amalgamation of profound aesthetic and political density, which is accompanied by an imagistic beauty that presents the specters of a Social-Psychological Renaissance. The film is a story of a man who dreams of becoming a successful comedian i.e., the protagonist, Arthur Fleck (Joaquin Phoenix). His story showcases the process of genesis of the original supervillain in an oppressive society, set in the ’80s of the comic Gotham City. Here, I will attempt to psychoanalyze the specters that emerge in the course of the film, by identifying the “repressed moment” or the “prägung” and the signifiers along with examining the “father figures” of Arthur’s life to unfold some psychoanalytic and semantic meaning out of the character’s psyche and self (Lacan, 1988).
The beginning of the film reveals the first specter of the repressed emotion, with the intense scenes of Arthur Fleck’s laughing condition. The pseudo-bulbar affect (PBA), essentially a neurological condition that is characterized by an uncontrollable outburst of laughter or cries, reveals the signifier which is the mask that Arthur wears as he aims to be a comedian. Arthur’s laugh, which is essentially a condition, presents an emptiness in his shared language with the society, as he uncontrollably laughs after identifying himself as a comedian in front of his audience. This unmotivated laughter can soon be identified in terms of pain, as he begins to choke on his own laughter. In the film, the society often misinterprets this laughter and fails to understand, as one would say in terms of a psychiatric discourse, the disassociation between words and objects i.e., the signifier and the signification- mutual feelings and the revelation of the expression that affects him. The society fails to identify the repressed emotion during the spectral moments of Joker’s uncontrollable laughter. It is a laughter that alienates Arthur from his surroundings, as he becomes a painful subject constantly trying to locate and integrate himself into the ‘normal’ society. The film is a beautiful blend of fantasy and reality, as it presents the oppressive background in a society located in, what can be called a dark and dirty sub-world wherein along with the poor population of Gotham, Fleck tries to find the meaning of his own existence.
It is important to understand the duality of Joker’s nature, there is a repressed self that originates with specters from Arthur’s idealized self which is the Joker. In later parts of the film, his character transforms into a unary signifier, a strong subjective construct, which the oppressed section of the society starts identifying with. Another thing to understand here is the film continuously shifts from reality to Arthur’s delusionary world. An imposition of mass psychology can be identified in this background of controversial politics and violence within Gotham City, as it begins to empower a moment around this spectral signification that Arthur presents the two of different classes of the society with. This repressed self, when it gains sympathy amongst the weak of the society, takes the sense of anonymity that Arthur struggles with out of him as he continuously begins to signify an “anti-hero” i.e., here the super-villain, becomes a kind of hero for the oppressed. And the moment this occurred was when he kills his idol or ‘father-figure’ after he had made fun of his condition, on his TV show in front of the world- he becomes an object of injury, he becomes a hero. Arthur, an object under the gaze of the world, transcends from being a persecuted object to an admired one.
This dynamic and enigmatic blend of the reality of the society and Arthur’s delusions, in discourse heavily, bases itself upon the constitution of social bonds that fleck’s unconscious tries to understand and integrate with. According to the classical Freudian or Lacanian understanding of the unconscious, the unconscious is simply which that is fundamentally related to a symbolic or spectral anchoring point i.e., the “name-of-the-father” which facilitates the possibility of a discourse (Lacan, 1968). According to Lacan, “the unconscious is politics” is a development of “the unconscious is the discourse of the Other” (Lacan, 2002). This link to the Other, intrinsic to the unconscious, is what inspires from the outset Lacan’s teaching. This is also true when it is pointed out that the Other is divided and does not exist as One.
Arthur Fleck’s childhood details are gradually unfolded throughout the movie, as he attempts to exist between reality and his delusions. The relation to the Other, is unfolded during the specters of Arthur’s idealization of the ‘father-figures’ and also while crashing of these intense idealizations. Franklin Murray (Robert De Niro), who is a TV host of a popular talk-show, is one of the first father-figures that Arthur resonates with at the beginning of the film. This idealization develops when Arthur starts to watch his show on a daily basis with his mother whom he takes care of and resides with. The film also presents the moments of delusion when Arthur finds himself immersed in the show so much so that his imagination lets him believe that is one of the people in the audience of Murray’s show. Later in the film, another ‘father-figure’ idealization develops as Arthur’s mother reveals that Thomas Wayne (Brett Cullen), is his biological father. Arthur shocked and excited with the news, then proceeds to meet Thomas Wayne. He attempts to fail the first time, but the second time he succeeds. Thomas Wayne after meeting Arthur bluntly reveals the reality of the situation by informing him that he is indeed not his father and that his mother was delusional and hence, he had to fire her and report her for help. This is the moment where Arthur’s ‘father-figure’ idealization crashes. He becomes devastated and shook, and starts looking for answers. The film soon reveals all the details about Arthur’s childhood, when he visits the psychiatric hospital to search for his mother’s medical reports. He finds that Murray was correct, and further that Arthur was in fact adopted, and also abused by his mother i.e., his maternal bond, as well as paternal bond, crashes at the same time. With this crashing of parental bonds, Arthur soon witnesses the last crash of idealization i.e., of the TV host Franklin Murray, when he plays the clips of his condition during his show, and laughs about it. Now, Arthur has lost touch to most of his delusions about reality and starts to fully transform into Joker by embracing his insanity. In Lacanian terms, this absence of the name of the father in Arthur’s life could be the reason behind his anarchic personality that makes him rebel against the law. This crashing of all the parental figures finally leads Arthur to embrace his aggression in front of the world. It gives him a reason to embrace his existence within the blended realms of reality and delusions which he had hated every second of his life before.
One of the earlier scenes of the movies, where Arthur’s strong subjective construct really attracts the sympathy of the society and the audience of the film in real life, is when Arthur fights back for the first time after he is ridiculed and beaten up by three men during the train ride. This moment is beautifully unfolded in the film, as Arthur’s character starts to give up and acknowledge the ‘Joker’ within him. He kills the three men in what can be argued as an act of self-defense. With the revelation of this scene, Joker starts to be seen as an ‘anti-hero’. And this subjective construct, due to the excellent filmmaking and acting skills, proves to be a strong anchoring point that lets the oppressed people avenge his every action. He proceeded to kill his mother as an act of ‘justice’ after he had realized that she had lied to him all these years and that the reason behind all his mania and melancholy is his Mother itself, whom he had been taking care of all his life and had loved so much. He also kills his colleague who gets him in trouble at work, but within that scene, there is an important factor that comes into play which retains this strong subjective construct i.e., when he lets the other colleague live because he was the ‘only one who was ever nice’ to him. Moreover, the death of Frank Murray, the ‘father-figure’ that Arthur identified with the most, in terms whom he wanted to be and what kind of society he wanted attracted towards to him, served as ‘justice’ in his eyes, as he had felt rejected and disappointed in humanity as a whole. In the narrative of the film, the mass society or the lower class of the Gotham City idealizes the transformation and emergence of ‘Joker’ a rebellious figure in the society. The lower classes start riots against the government and wealthy men like Thomas Wayne, soon after Arthur becomes ‘Joker’ and emerges as a Master who does not take power for himself but simply encourages the masses to seize their freedom for themselves. In other words, he does not become his ‘Father’.
The film also displayed moments of Arthur dressed as ‘Joker’ dancing and embracing his confusion, dilemmas, and delusions. The scenes directed by Todd Phillips, presented by Arthur (Joaquin Phoenix), depicted through his dance along with Hildur Guðnadóttir’s soundtrack, signify his urges to accept, acknowledge and become free of his repressed self. Arthur’s dance moments emerge in the film when he is faced with intense situations like when he had killed the three men on the train or when he was getting ready to go on Franklin Murray’s show only to kill himself as the last ‘joke’. These dance moments, very well co-ordinated with the soundtrack and the narrative of the film, gives out these profound specters of the acknowledgment of the repressed self. These are the moments when Arthur fully identifies with “the mask” i.e., his manic repressed self i.e., ‘Joker’. The first dance scene unfolds right after Arthur had revolted against bullying for the first time in his life. He had quickly left the train station, running to find a comfortable and safe shelter. This when the bathroom dance scene reveals the first full spectral emergence of the repressed self. The last main scene in the film, when Arthur is on his way to Franklin Murray’s show also constitutes of Joker’s dance scene. This is the moment when he had fully identified with his repressed self and accepted his own version of reality as the only version of reality. His joyous celebration of the moment while coming down the stairs with a dance establishes the understanding of the character’s narrative in its whole entirety. This can be acknowledged when the sync between the dance, music, and narrative is seen from a critical point of view. Furthermore, it also has a connection to Carl Jung’s Shadow Phenomenon which is essentially a realm of the psyche in which an individual’s unacknowledged negative impulses are compounded until they become an active influence in one’s behavior, ”Everyone carries a shadow,” Jung wrote, “and the less it is embodied in the individual’s conscious life, the blacker and denser it is” (1938). In order to maintain mental equilibrium, an individual must acknowledge these negative impulses otherwise it can cause a shatter in the cognitive pattern of the individual. When this negative pattern is failed to be recognized, then the individual’s mind makes him/her the hero of their own stories i.e., the perceived victimization is hoisted up as a justification for ‘negative’ behavioral-patterns. As Carl Jung said in Archaic Man, “Projection is one of the commonest psychic phenomena…Everything that is unconscious in ourselves we discover in our neighbor, and we treat him accordingly”. In terms of adaption from the comic books to the film, the film also signifies this moment of acknowledgment and acceptance of the repressed self with the help of the comic Batman: The Killing Joke, wherein the Joker says, “All it takes is one bad day”, implying that an individual is only one traumatic moment away from insanity or madness.
In conclusion, Joker (2019) succeeded in presenting the enigmatic scenes of the repressed and unconscious desires, along with the string narration which locates its existence within the blend of reality and delusions. The film also constituted of scenes where Arthur’s delusions were strongly identifiable like the scenes where he thought he had a real relationship with his neighbor, but only much later could he acknowledge the reality when the lady confronts him in her living room. This moment clearly established that Arthur suffered from delusions. Also, the Social-Psychological Renaissance that this movie presents its audience with allows for the identification of “the unconscious is the discourse of the Other” (Lacan 1955).
Jung, C.G. (1938). “Psychology and Religion.” In CW 11: Psychology and Religion: West and East. p. 131.
Jung, C. (2002). The earth has a soul. p.111.
Lacan, J. (1955). “Seminar on ‘The Purloined Letter'” in Écrits.
Lacan, Jacques. (1968). The Language of the Self: The Function of Language in Psychoanalysis. Trans. Anthony Wilden. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins UP, p. 40.
Lacan, J. (1988). The Seminar of Jacques Lacan, Book I, Freud’s Papers on Techniques 1953-1954. W.W. Norton & Company, pp.187-199.
I don’t think I’ve seen a movie like this in the DC universe, or perhaps even movies in general in a very long time. There’s a good movie, and then there’s an absolute masterpiece, and this is definitely an absolute masterpiece. It’s funny that Todd Phillips, who generally makes films in the Comedy genre, could come up with a brilliant 2hrs of comic book/drama in the most perfect way possible. And even funnier that Todd claimed that the movie has nothing to do with the DC universe, where in fact it had so many ties to the Batman mythology. I mean come on, it’s Gotham, there’s an Arkham Asylum and even the Waynes in the movie..
You watch the movie, and you’re astonished and left thinking, and that is a trait that only a few movies in the history of cinema have achieved. You can take Tarantino with Inglorious Bastards and Nolan with Interstellar. On top of the brilliant 120 pages script that Joker has, and the directors’ cut that I hope gets released, it is extremely noteworthy to mention the perfect coordination of all the departments of the production crew. This movie would have performed okay with a defect in a few elements, but it did wonders instead because all the elements (departments) of the movie were in perfect synchronization. From the traditional joker makeup to the costume design and further to the soundtrack, not once was there a discrepancy in the well-put film. Not to mention, there was absolutely no CGIs in the movie. How BRILLIANT!
The soundtrack – Outstanding. The cello perfectly portrays the intensity of emotions that dances on the polarity of emotions the character goes through. I don’t think we could have expected any better from Hildur Guðnadóttir, in fact, she started composing the music before the movie was even shot. She said she composed the music based on how she felt whilst reading the script that Todd sent her, and frankly, I think she couldn’t have captured the string-based melody any more right. I think I’d rate the OST in level with one of Interstellar. They both succeed to describe the intensity of the scene and its emotion. Oh, and how beautifully did they use Sinatra’s That’s Life. Zimmer for Batman and Guðnadóttir for Joker is truly a great delight!
The makeup was probably more traditional and a classic look than the previous wild disappointment from Jared Leto’s Joker in Suicide Squad. What I liked, even more, was how subtle Joaquin Phoenix’s hair was dyed in green. Just perfectly aligned with the sophisticated joker costume. The scene of Joker’s dance down the stairs is the epitome of the perfect Joker scene right off the comic book into real life. Killing Joke vibes pretty much.
And Joaquin Phoenix. I think the man can finally retire, he has left an impact that will be remembered forever. The man definitely deserves an Oscar. Honestly, I would say, the Oscars deserve the Joker. I never thought that his acting will compete with Heath Ledgers’. I was mind-blown with his talent. He lost weight, a good amount of weight, practiced for hours for his roles without the help of CGIs of any sort and even practiced dancing for months to perfectly nail the role. What I personally look for in a real actor, is his capacity of making the audience feel emotions even with a subtle face. Which, Joaquin Phoenix was able to portray. Oh, and the laugh. The pathological laughter, although different, probably again levels with Ledgers’ and even from the animated Joker. It’s perfect, how he can make you understand how his laugh is making him choke and suffer when he doesn’t even have the desire to laugh in the first place. It’s so sad honestly, but I think Todd did a great job in bringing forth this condition forward for people to understand. It’s a bit rare but definitely needs awareness.
The movie, in general, did a fantastic job of bringing forth the harsh judgment that comes from society about mental illnesses, especially back in the day. What hits me the most was the quote, “The worst part of having a mental illness is that people expect you to behave as if you don’t”. And also to mention the quote, “Oh, why is everybody so upset about these guys? If it was me dying on the sidewalk, you’d walk right over me. I pass you every day and you don’t notice me! But these guys, what, because Thomas Wayne went and cried about them on TV?” hit differently. The movie portrayed so much, from mental illnesses to resistance but it’s crazy to see how most critics are being hard with the violence portrayed in the film. It’s a movie on one of the darkest villains of the DC in the most realistic setting possible, not a Marvel film full of meaningless comedy.
There’s honestly so much that I can write about this movie, and I feel like the more I’d see it in the future, the more conspiracies or theories I’d come up with.
Here’s another quote that I think is also noteworthy while critiquing the aspect of violence in the film, “What? It’s okay, Gary. You can go. I’m not going to hurt you”; “You’re the only one that’s ever been nice to me”. Not that I’m trying to justify the violence of any sort here, I’m just pointing out that maybe it would always be more insightful to look into someone’s story from there side before moaning about the conclusion. And I think, the movie did an incredible job of portraying the harsh reality.