The Quest for Conscience and the Birth of the Mind

Author(s) : Annie Reiner

Click here to read Annie Reiner discussing Bion’s concept of “O”

The Quest for Conscience and the Birth of the Mind

Book Details

  • Publisher : Karnac Books
  • Published : 2009
  • Cover : Paperback
  • Pages : 188
  • Category :
    Psychoanalysis
  • Catalogue No : 27812
  • ISBN 13 : 9781855757059
  • ISBN 10 : 1855757052

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This book offers a new perspective on conscience as an as yet unrealized human potential, but a potential toward which human beings are naturally driven. A distinction is made between a "mature" or "healthy" conscience - a "conscience capable of maturation" - and the classical notion of the superego; it also postulates that the two may represent two separate lines of development. Conscience is seen to be inseparable from consciousness; the development of a mature conscience is seen to have its foundation in the development of a true or authentic self, while the classical notion of the superego is viewed as an often pathological manifestation of this natural mental potential.

Theological ideas are relevant to any discussion of morality, conscience and guilt. Freud's and Bion's perspectives on religion are closely examined, revealing fundamental differences in their views of the mind. The author incorporates the metaphysical perspective central to Bion's concept of "O" as fundamental to an understanding of the development of a healthy conscience. Detailed clinical examples clearly illustrate obstacles to the development, both of conscience and of an authentic self. These are examined with reference to early emotional trauma, including the failure of mental containment by the primary object, ideas which have their foundation in Fairbairn's theories about the infant's "moral dilemma".

Reviews and Endorsements

'This is a remarkable book. Dr Reiner equates the birth of conscience with the birth of mind, a courageous stance and one that flies in the face of the ethical relativism that permeates our postmodern culture. The implication is very clear that without conscience there can be no authentic mind. Reiner does not just tag conscience onto a framework which it does not fit but knows that a revolutionary new outlook is required which incorporates the metaphysical view reflected in Bion's concept of "O". This perspective is so lacking in psychoanalytical thinking - I mean the one that appreciates that a theoretical framework requires a radical revision for a new datum of experience to be assimilated... This book should give us all a good jolt.'
- Neville Symington, author of The Analytic Experience and Narcissism: A New Theory

'Reiner's is a quest for clarity: between a maturing "conscience" that organically develops out of a sincere sense of self; the "super ego" (Freud), as an adaptation of the ego; and the harsh, primitive "superior ego" (Bion) that rises from the ashes of early states of dissolution where experience could not be borne and the development of mind has been aborted. Her expedition - through territories of literature, philosophy, science, theology and, most significantly, psychoanalysis - reaches its summit with clinical illustrations made vivid through extensive sequences of dream analysis. Reiner's is a unique and poetic voice that both echoes and extends those who ventured ahead of her.'
- Judith L. Mitrani, author of A Framework for the Imaginary and Ordinary People and Extra-ordinary Protections

'Dr Reiner has written an outstanding theoretical and clinical discussion of the archaic superego. The work is unusually clear and succinct and I think it will contribute significantly to clinical understanding across theoretical points of view.'
- Michael Ian Paul, MD, Los Angeles

'In this remarkable work, Dr Annie Reiner explores a hitherto unthought-of perspective on man's moral endowment, and, in so doing, reclaims its lost innocence and positive value for man. After reading the work, one realizes that psychoanalysis had to wait for Bion to shed new light on the numinour or transcendent significance of conscience as opposed to superego. One of the rewardrs one acquires when reading this book is receiving a profound and extensive survey of Bion's contributions... Reiner sees both the capacity to think and the capacity for conscience as mental potentials not yet realized, but which may be helped toward a process of becoming through analytic work.'
- Dr James S. Grotstein

About the Author(s)

Annie Reiner, PhD, PsyD, LCSW, is a senior faculty member and training analyst at the Psychoanalytic Center of California (PCC) in Los Angeles. Her work was profoundly influenced by the ideas of Wilfred Bion, with whom she studied in the 1970s. Her writings appear in numerous journals and anthologies, and she is author of Bion and Being: Passion and the Creative Mind, an examination of Bion’s concept of O through philosophy, theology and the arts, and The Quest For Conscience and the Birth of the Mind. Dr Reiner is also an accomplished poet, playwright, and painter, with four books of poems, a book of short stories, and six children’s books which she also illustrated. She maintains a private practice in Beverly Hills, California.

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