All traditional cultures keep their babies next to their bodies
constantly, day and night. All developed societies separate mother
and baby - the higher the culture, the more radical the separation.
So the screaming of babies and infants is a subject for discussion
in all developed societies.
In the Middle Ages more than half of the population died because
of the plague. The Black Death raged across Christian Europe from
the 14th to the middle of the 17th centuries. I view this epidemic
as a crisis - and since so many people died, it has to be understood
as the eruption of a mass psychosis. My psycho- or rather socio-somatic
model is psycho-neuro-immunology: neither a bacterium nor a virus
is the core problem, but rather the people within a society who
have been shaken by a crisis. If this crisis lasts too long, is
too severe or too traumatic, the immune system of the population
is slowly weakened and finally collapses. The people become vulnerable
to illnesses and finally to death. This model is valid for any epidemic
and can serve as a key for a new understanding of history.
In my book I describe the various levels of the crisis in the Middle
Ages. On the one hand the Church becomes embroiled in power struggles
with secular leaders, the Kaisers (emperors), and thus loses its
trustworthiness and the ability to provide spiritual support for
the people. After the High Middle Ages, after a long period of expansion
in the 12th and 13th centuries, Europe is shaken by a whole series
of social and economic crises in the 14th and 15th centuries. For
example, there was famine in the western Occident just before the
beginning of the plague period so that population growth ceased.
But I mainly show how society of the Middle Ages descends into delusion
during the period of the Black Death - through the inquisitions
of the church, the witch trials and the widespread belief in the
devil. Luther, for example, gave sermons on how he held discussions
with the devil every night and insulted him. No-one would have suggested
that Luther was mad - this was quite normal for that period. Just
as "normal" was the fact that men accused women of being
witches. Hundreds of thousands of women were burnt at the stake
in the 16th and 17th centuries. Europe lost its sense of reality
and sank into mass delusion.
From the point of view of depth psychology the following holds:
wherever a psychosis emerges, there must have been a disturbance
in the earliest childhood of the person or society affected. What
happened in Europe before the outbreak of the plague? For thousands
of years, in all higher cultures, mothers have been separated from
their babies during the day. But one or two hundred years
before the outbreak of the Black Death the priests in the churches
began to preach that a mother was no longer allowed to sleep in
the same bed as her baby at night. This prohibition was explained
with the risk that she could crush her baby. The infants had thus
lost their last chance of experiencing an extended period of uninterrupted
body contact with their mothers, i.e. during the night. The cradle
was invented at this point - it can be seen in all pictures and
engravings of that period (14th /15th centuries) in which a family
and its small children are portrayed.
Is this all a "grey" theory in the head, or rather the
heart of a psychoanalyst? Or are there indications for this hypothesis?
When painting was rediscovered in Europe of the 13th and 14th century,
the main subject-matter chosen was mother Mary and her baby Jesus
- for 400 years. The people living in Europe in the Middle Ages
must have been obsessed with the subject of mother and infant -
and of course, this subject matter could not be portrayed other
than in pictures of Mary and the Baby Jesus. If we examine these
pictures of Mary from the point of view of depth psychology then
we understand the "madness" of our culture.
The mother ignores this state of panic completely and prays peacefully
to her child (see fig. 4-14).
||In most of the portraits of Madonna and Child,
the baby is usually simply sitting on its mother's lap (see
fig. 1). However while studying all these pictures I quickly
noticed two extremes. On the one extreme there is the baby lying
naked on the ground (ground children), screaming wildly or even
with a frozen expression of horror.
At the other extreme there is such an intensive erotic or sensual
atmosphere between mother and child that it is almost incomprehensible
that we have not noticed this phenomenon up till now (fig. 18-29).
The naked baby is his mother's little lover, his penis is at the centre
of our attention (fig. 21, 28 and 29). When the mother is also portrayed
naked, then the picture is called Venus and Amor (fig. 24 and 25).
What is the meaning of these pictures? Of course I understand the
one extreme, the "ground children", as the pictorial expression
of the heightened separation of mother and child occurring at that
time: they had to cry and scream a lot without their mothers paying
any attention to their distress. And these were not the "wicked"
mothers of the period, because they were forced into this separation
by their culture.
Such a separation imprints a deep panic in every human being. And
this reappears later in life in one form or another, at the latest
in each romantic attachment. How did men master their anxieties?
They fled into their work - a trend much appreciated by the growing
trade-capitalism in the Middle Ages. And how did women solve their
problem? They feel abandoned by their husbands and flee to their
babies and children, which gives rise to the danger of emotional
abuse. The baby thus becomes its mother's little lover, a substitute
for the missing husband, as represented in the highly erotic and
sexualized pictures of the Madonna and child. The naked baby is
then bearing its mother's depressive burden and is thus, naturally,
overtaxed (fig. 38-41, 44 and 45).
This is all seen and portrayed through the eyes, or rather the
hearts of Italian and Dutch painters - a reflection of the mother-child
relationship at that time. Desperation and abandonment on the one
hand, and over-stimulation, or excessive eroticism between mother
and child on the other hand - and both occur at the same time. This
is the root and origin of our society's madness up to the present
For there was no end set to this madness. Europe did not emerge
out of its mass delusion with the growth of reason which came with
the Age of Enlightenment in the 17th century. On the contrary: at
the beginning of the witch trials, lonely old ladies, outsiders,
were burned as witches. But the longer the trials proceeded, the
more the "witches" formed an alliance. They accused young,
successful politicians and clergy of being the devil and of having
sexually seduced them. More and more, also young men of the ruling
class were burnt. It was not sense or discernment which put an end
to the witch-burnings but the fact that the men got "cold feet".
And everything which did not fit into the norms of the period was
locked up and banished to the large workhouses; criminals, the unemployed,
beggars and people with mental disorders. It is the hour of birth
of our prisons and the psychiatric clinics which followed them.
Europe returned to "normality"and at the same time new
and severe forms of mental disorders developed, which were then
locked up in the asylums.
However the separation of mother and child remained, indeed it
was intensified in the 18th and 19th centuries. The children's room
was "invented", first among the upper classes, and then
adopted more and more by the rest of the population. The doctors
of the 19th century first taught that a baby should only be fed
once every four hours. The mother was forbidden to go to him in
the time between these feeding times to comfort him. An infant was
consequently raised to scream and to panic - as an adaptation to
the emerging industrial-capitalism. And in the 20th century the
hospital birth was introduced: the baby was separated from its mother
for the first five to seven days after birth Exactly during this
highly sensitive phase the bonding process, the mutual "falling
in love" of mother and newborn starts. It is not just a mother's
relationship with her child which is disrupted by this, but an emotional
disturbance between her and her child remains as a consequence.
And vice versa. This is the endpoint of a human tragedy, the culmination
of a process of separation of mother and baby, which began five
or six thousand years earlier, with the birth of our civilization
in Ancient Mesopotamia (See my book: The Origin of Anxiety).
Since the beginning of the 20th century we have the technological
capability to destroy our world with our nuclear, chemical and biological
weapons and we are destroying it in reality because of our hunger
for energy and consumer goods. Because of our obsession with mobility.
But in the United States some women, since the 1950's, have started
to breastfeed their babies again, and as a natural consequence,
these women also carry their babies around with them. Since the
1970's this has developed into an alternative movement in the whole
industrialized world. These children once again have more body contact
and in very progressive families they are even allowed to sleep
with their parents at night. Fathers are returning to their families
on an emotional level and feel a sense of responsibility to their
babies and children. Conflicts in such families are no longer avoided.
This alternative way of treating children has developed so much
that it even influences the birthing methods in our clinics, where
mothers and their new-born babies are being separated less and less.
This is all an unlimited chance for healing in our culture, a change
in the trend of the thousand year old process of separating a mother
and her baby.
Of course, the Middle Ages are only a mirror, to show that we are
now hovering on a threshold similar to then. However Aids is not
the beginning of a new, plague-like epidemic. Aids can at most be
compared with the famine in the Middle Ages because of which the
growth curve in the population was interrupted. A real new world-wide
epidemic like the Black Death would cause people's deaths within
weeks or even a few days. And high-tech-medicine would be as helpless
as the doctors in the Middle Ages who tried to protect themselves
with beak masks. Perfume, which was supposed to protect them from
the Black Death, was sprayed in the beak - a self-caricature.
In "Self destruction out of loneliness" the aim is to
show the origins of our madness, our suffering and all our longings
within our society. A society which wishes to soothe all its injured
emotions, mainly with some form of addiction. An addiction,
however, can never bring back the warmth and security which we needed
so badly as babies. The source of this madness is therefore not
the relationship with "bad" mothers or absent fathers.
Nor is it to be sought in the "wicked" grandparents".
They are all fighting with their own anxieties. At the core of all
our suffering is rather a process of separation between a mother
and her baby- a separation forced in all developed societies. In
the Middle Ages - as during all more drastic changes and developments
in a culture - this process of separation was simply intensified,
with all the associated consequences. And another, ecological source
of our present crisis lies in our earth's limited potential for
growth. With our blind addiction - born of a lack of security -
we have reached the limits of our growth possibilities, or possibly
even gone beyond them.
The solution to our current problems is not, for example, that
women blame men for being responsible for this crisis. Laying blame
also brings no solutions in a relationship. We all have to find
a way out of this crisis together. We are all in the same
boat - together with our children and all future generations. One
solution may be that men relinquish their authority- as a defense
against anxiety and powerlessness - and discover the preciousness
of their tears. Women, in that they no longer hide in the shadow
of "great men" but are prepared to take on responsibility
in public life. Another solution, finally, is that we as parents
no longer "raise" our children but recognize that they
are, on the contrary, our best teachers.
We have been in a growing crisis now for about half a century.
This crisis started unnoticed and very slowly. It will become more
and more apparent in the near future. People will be shaken by fear
and panic reactions as a result. On the other hand I see a fundamental
upheaval occurring in this time of crisis. A new form of closeness
and binding with our partners and children is developing. Combined
with this alternative movement is a marked humanity and sense of
responsibility for the whole of creation. It is almost a miracle
that this upheaval is occurring, not just in individual people,
but that it has grown into a mass movement within our sick society.
A healing process of immeasurable depth, a healing process that
will change the face of humanity. It is more than just a shimmer
of hope on the horizon for our children and our future.
|Fig 1, Fig 41
|Fig 4 - Fig 7
||Hugo van der Goes
|Fig 8 - Fig 9
|Fig 10 - Fig 11
||Hans Holbein d.J.
|Fig 12 - Fig 13
||Andrea della Robbia
||Jan van Hemessen
||Meister von Hohenfurth
|Fig 24, Fig 27
||Piero die Cosimo
||Schule Sandro Botticelli