Otto Rank, Beyond Psychology

“Man has always lived beyond psychology, in other words, irrationally. If we can grasp this paradoxical fact and accept it as the basis of our own living, then we shall be able to discover new values in place of the old ones which seem to be crumbling before our very eyes- vital human values, not mere psychological interpretations predetermined by our preferred ideologiesĀ . . . Yet, for such a re-discovery of the natural self of man, it is not sufficient to see the importance of the irrational element in human life and point it out in rational terms! On the contrary, it is necessary actually to live it and of this only a few individuals in every epoch seem to be capable. They represent the heroic type- as distinct from the creative – for the original hero was the one who dared live beyond the accepted “psychology” or ideology of his time. In this sense he is the prototype of the rebellious man of action who, through the revival of lost values which appear as new and irrational, preserves the eternal values of humanity” (Otto Rank, Beyond Psychology, 1939).

The irrational unconscious lives within and through us, and despite our best efforts to rationalize it through language and scientific analysis, it continues to live, beyond their grasp. The Nameless lives in spite of its names. Meanwhile, we put post-it on the ocean, and think we have explained something. Our rationality is part of the greater, irrational universal scheme of things, but its narrowly applicable understanding finds itself out of its depths amidst currents of meaning unbound by the intellect. But as long as we shy away from these deeper realms, and stay safe within the boundaries of rational understanding, we remain alien to the eternal values of our nature. To this end, we must at once value what our rational minds can achieve, while opening up space in our lives for encounters with the irrational, the unexplained, the awe-inspiring, the paradoxical, the Silence, the Void.

As an over-reaction to the shadow side of the historical religious-spiritual domain, the modern rational mind seeks to explain away all in rational, neatly-defined terms. But balance must be maintained, and this over-reaction has brought to the fore the shadow side of the uber-rational mind. Through our own cunningness, we have woven ourselves into a reality so thoroughly convincing that we rarely feel the need to look outside of it. But the moments do come, when we sense something more.


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