BION'S "TRANSFORMATION IN 'O'" AND
THE CONCEPT OF THE "TRANSCENDENT POSITION"
by James S. Grotstein
(presentation downloaded from: http://www.sicap.it/merciai/bion/papers/grots.htm )
Bion, who was to become the awesome explorer of the "deep and formless infinite" of the psyche, first immersed himself in the theories of Freud and Klein and then gradually developed a revolutionary metapsychological metatheory for psychoanalysis. Bion incurred the criticism of his colleagues by daring to investigate faith, spirituality, religion, mysticism, metaphysics, and fetal mental life. His concepts of transformations in L(ove), H(ate), and K(nowledge), as well as of intuitionistic and subjective science [Transformations in "O" (Ultimate Truth, Absolute Reality)], constitute an objective and numinous psychoanalytic epistemology.
Bion was preoccupied with the concept of ultimate reality and absolute truth and reoriented psychoanalytic metapsychology into a theory of thinking and meta-thinking about emotions. He distinguished the "thoughts-without-a-thinker" from the mind that had to develop in order to think them. I believe that his concept of "intuitionistic thinking" also presumes the presence of a more profound aspect of that mind: Not only did a mind develop to harvest the "thoughts without a thinker," but another aspect of the mind had to originate these "unthought thoughts." I believe that Bion came to a realization that true "thinking" ("dream work alpha" along the dimensions of "L, H, and K") is an unconscious -- if not preconscious -- act and that what we normally term "thinking" (application of the ordinate and abscissa of the "Grid") is really "after-thinking."
By realigning psychoanalysis with metaphysics and ontology (existentialism), Bion perforated the mystique of ontic "objectivity" implicit to logical-positivistic, deterministic science and revealed its own unsuspected mythology--its absolute dependence on sense data. Applying his concept of reversible perspective, he found myths, both collective and personal, to be themselves "scientific deductive systems" in their own right (Bion, 1992). Mostly, Bion founded a new mystical science of psychoanalysis, a numinous discipline based on the abandonment of memory, desire, and understanding. To Bion, mysticism is "seeing things as they truly are -- without disguise" (personal communication). He was preoccupied with the question of how we know what we know.
In this contribution I emphasize my understanding of Bion as the intuitionistic epistemologist, the "emotional mathematician" (Bion, 1965), the "mystical scientist" (Bion, 1970), the intrepid voyager into the deep and formless infinite, "O." I suggest that a "Transcendent Position" is implied by Bion's conception of "O," the latter of which overarches "nameless dread," beta elements, the "thing-in-themselves," the noumenon, "absolute truth," "ultimate reality," and "reverence and awe."