Being Loss and the Thirst for Being

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“The central idea underlying this book, then, is that we are looking for the “key” in the wrong place. What is this “key” to our liberation and to our ultimate fulfillment? Throughout these pages I call it “Being,” though it could be justly said that to give it even that name is too limited and limiting.

We may say that we are, but we don’t have the experience of being, we don’t know that we are. On the contrary, the closer the scrutiny to which we subject our experience, the more we discover at its core a sense of lack, an emptiness and insubstantiality, a lack of selfness or being.

It is from the lack of perceived sense of being—it is my contention—that derives “deficiency motivation,” the basic oral drive that sustains the whole libido tree. For neurotic libido is not Eros, as Freud proposed. Eros is abundance, and deficiency is the search for abundance, ordinary motivation.

Subsumed under the appellation of libido is “passional,” and “passions” which span the spectrum of neurotic motivation are only approximately speaking “instinct derivatives.” More exactly, they are the expression of a striving to recover a sense of being that was lost through organismic interference.

It may be said that there is an original psychodynamics at the time of the genesis of the character in childhood and a sustaining psychodynamics in the adult, and I am proposing that these two are not identical.

While the original psychodynamics constitutes a response to the crucial issue of being loved or not—or more specifically a response to interpersonal frustration, we may say that it is not principally a love frustration that sustains deficiency motivation in the adult, but an experience of lack that is based upon a self-perpetuated ontic vacuum and the corresponding existential self-interference.

A statement for the systematic analysis of all character structures in light of ontic obscuration and the “search for Being in the wrong place” has been Guntrip’s view, where he writes:

“Psychoanalytic theory had for a long time the appearance of the exploration of a circle which had no obvious center until ego psychology got on the way. Exploration had to begin with peripheral phenomena—behavior, moods, symptoms, conflicts, ‘mental mechanisms,’ erotic drives, aggression, fears, guilt, psychotic and psychoneurotic states, instincts and impulses, erotogenic zones, maturational stages and so on. All this is naturally important and must find its place in the total theory, but actually it is all secondary to some absolutely fundamental factor which is the ‘core’ of the ‘person as such.’ ”

Such a fundamental factor at the root of all passions (deficiency motivation) is a thirst for being that exists side by side with a dim apprehension of being-loss. I will only add to this theory at this point the contention that wherever “being” may seem to be, it is not; and that being can only be found in the most unlikely manner: through the acceptance of non-being and a journey through emptiness.”

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“One of the more provocative books concerning life with God is known as The Cloud of Unknowing. It is an anonymous work from the English Middle Ages and its author, likely a Carthusian monk, is simply known as the author of The Cloud. In this work, as well as in a companion piece, The Book of Privy Counselling, the author of The Cloud offers much helpful advice and encouragement to anyone who feels drawn to contemplation.

With startling frankness he says, “God is your being, and what you are, you are in God.”  So as not to cause doctrinal eyebrows to spike he quickly qualifies his statement, “But you are not God’s being.”

Not only has this God we desire already found us, thus causing our desire, but God has never not found us.

“It was you who created my inmost self and put me together in my mother’s womb. You know me through and through, from having watched my bones take shape when I was being formed in secret” (Ps 139:13-15). “Before I formed you in the womb, I knew you” (Jer 1:5).

As Creator, God is the ground of who we are. “God is your being.” The author of The Cloud is not an isolated voice in this matter. The great Carmelite doctor of the Church, St. John of the Cross, says, “The soul’s center is God.”

God is the ground of the human being. Various Christian traditions may argue over orthodox or heterodox ways of understanding this, but there is clear and authoritative testimony based on living the Christian mysteries that if we are going to speak of what a human being is, we have not said enough until we speak of God.

If we are to discover for ourselves who we truly are—that inmost self that is known before it is formed, ever hidden with Christ in God (Ps 139:13; Jer 1:5; Col 3:3)—the discovery is going to be a manifestation of the ineffable mystery of God, though we may feel more and more inclined to say less and less about God.

As St. Diadochos of Photiki observed, there are some who are adept in the spiritual life and “consciously illuminated by spiritual knowledge, yet do not speak about God,”. Union with God is not something that needs to be acquired but realized.”

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