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Leavy, S.A. (2002). Prefatory Note to “Origin and Nature of the Great Illusion. Psychoanal. Rev., 89(1):125-126.

(2002). Psychoanalytic Review, 89(1):125-126

Prefatory Note to “Origin and Nature of the Great Illusion

Stanley A. Leavy, M.D.

Normally, in seeking out the antecedents of psychoanalysis, we stick to the familiar byways of European thought, accepting that the findings of psychoanalysis can be situated there according to forms of thought projected by Western science and philosophy. It comes as a surprise, reading Luther Askeland's translation of and introduction to a chapter written by Shankara Acharya (ca. 789-820 a.d.), to discover that an elemental concept of psychoanalysistransference—was formulated by this Hindu philosopher of the early ninth century. Whether the key word, in Sanskrit adhyasa, is translated as “transference” or as “superimposition,” its meaning as “the perception in one thing of some other thing,” or the illusory “projection” of self and non-self onto each other, sounds congenial to Freudian and post-Freudian thought.

It is of no less interest that Luther Askeland, a student of Indian philosophy and meditation making no claim to more knowledge of psychoanalysis than that of an educated layman, has evoked in his reading of Shankara concepts that have become—via quite different routes—intrinsic to contemporary psychoanalytic theory. I refer especially to the metaphoric nature of what he calls “verbal perception” and to binary opposition within it. That is, Shankara seems to have anticipated the recognition that linguistic structure goes far to determine our grasp of reality.


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