Lecture series at Morbid Anatomy Museum, New York

Dr. Vanessa Sinclair hosted a lecture series at Morbid Anatomy Museum, Brooklyn, New York, exploring the intersections, integration and application of psychoanalytic theory, the arts, and the occult. Inviting a variety of psychoanalysts, psychologists, artists, writers, and occultists from a range of backgrounds and theoretical orientations to discuss their work, personal experience and areas of research interest, in hopes of opening up a dialogue between practitioners in fields of study that rarely have a chance to engage with one another yet often operate in similar and complementary ways.

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Illustration by Don Punchatz for Playboy Magazine, October 1969

On the Dance of Occult and Unconscious in Freud

Thursday, October 6, 2016, 7-9pm
On the Dance of Occult and Unconscious in Freud: An Illustrated Lecture with Dr. Steven Reisner and Vanessa Sinclair

Join renowned psychoanalyst Dr. Steven Reisner in an exploration of the early occult writings of Dr. Sigmund Freud with Psychoanalysis, Art & the Occult series curator Dr. Vanessa Sinclair, as she responds to Dr. Reisner’s presentation and joins him in a discussion.In 1953, psychoanalyst and anthropologist George Devereux published a collection of works from various psychoanalysts entitled Psychoanalysis and the Occult, which explored the intersection between the practice of psychoanalysis and occult phenomena, including contributions from Freud himself on ‘Premonitions and Chance’, ‘Psychoanalysis and Telepathy’, and ‘The Occult Significance of Dreams’.  Additionally, Freud’s paper ‘Notes on the Unconscious’ was published in the journal of the Society for Psychical Research in 1912.  Since that time, however,  the majority of psychoanalysts willing to traverse occult terrain have worked within a Jungian framework, as the topic itself was central to the split between Freud and Jung, with the former insisting the burgeoning field of psychoanalysis become  scientific and not spiritualist. However, Freud maintained an interest in occult phenomena longer than many of his followers would like to believe, and it’s time to explore this aspect of his work further.

This event is part of a series exploring the intersection, integration and application of psychoanalytic theory, the arts, and the occult, curated by psychoanalyst, Dr. Vanessa Sinclair. Throughout the series, Dr. Sinclair hosts a variety of psychoanalysts, psychologists, artists, writers, and occultists from a range of backgrounds and theoretical orientations. Presenters discuss their work, personal experience and areas of research interest, opening up a dialogue between practitioners in fields of study that rarely have a chance to engage with one another yet often operate in similar and complementary ways.

Steven Reisner, Ph.D. is a Psychological Ethics Advisor to Physicians for Human Rights and was a co-author onExperiments in Torture. A founding member of the Coalition for an Ethical Psychology, Dr. Reisner has also taught psychoanalytic theory for over a decade at on the primary faculty of the International Trauma Studies program at New York University and is an Adjunct Professor in the Program in Clinical Psychology at the Columbia University Teachers College and at the New York University School of Medicine.

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Stripped to the Core on the Road to Madness

September 14, 2016 @ 7:00 pm – 9:00 pm

Stripped to the Core on the Road to Madness – Journey of the Shaman, Artist, Magical Practitioner – An illustrated lecture with Charlotte Rodgers and Khi Armand

In 1913, Swiss psychologist and physician Carl Gustav Jung embarked on what his biographers have termed an imaginative journey populated by a wide host of characters engaging him in a nocturnal work that would result in, among other things, the recently released tome The Red Book: Liber Novus. Calling it his most difficult experiment, some have found parallels between Jung’s harrowing pilgrimage through the unconscious and the crises experienced by medicine people within indigenous cultural contexts.

These papers explore the journey often taken on the road to becoming an artist, magician, or shaman (or psychoanalyst!), which often entails what modern Western psychiatry deems a psychotic episode or break but in many cultures is known as a rite of passage – the popularly termed Madness Road of the cross-cultural phenomenon known as shaman sickness. In many cultures, initiation is both an unavoidable and necessary aspect of the human experience and being so, a required and regulated experience within traditional cultures around the world. By exploring different spiritual practices in various non Western cultures and the use of art as a necessary expression of transformational magic, these presentations, both visual and verbal, examine how living life on the outskirts of what can be termed the ‘mainstream’ helped develop and strengthen a personal animist and magical belief system, and rather than suppressing inherent spiritual inclinations, strengthened them. By juxtaposing Jung’s mental crisis alongside the initiatory callings of contemporary spirit-initiated shamans in the industrialized West, there is a call for pro-active tending of the gates between childhood, adulthood, and life purpose toward resolving a culture of violence, denial, and separation.

This event is part of a series exploring the intersection, integration and application of psychoanalytic theory, the arts, and the occult, curated by psychoanalyst, Dr. Vanessa Sinclair. Throughout the series, Sinclair hosts a variety of psychoanalysts, psychologists, artists, writers, and occultists from a range of backgrounds and theoretical orientations. Presenters discuss their work, personal experience, and areas of research interest, opening up a dialogue between practitioners in fields of study that rarely have a chance to engage with one another yet often operate in similar and complementary ways.

Khi Armand is an interdisciplinary artist and a spirit-initiated shaman holding initiations in such New World medicine traditions as Haitian Vodou, Afro-Brazilian Quimbanda, and the Unnamed Path. He holds a Masters in Performance Studies from New York University and a Bachelors in Ritual Anthropology from Hampshire College.

Charlotte Rodgers is an animist and magician. She is also a writer, artist, performer and public speaker. She has contributed to many magazines and anthologies and wrote the books, The Bloody Sacrifice and P is for Prostitution: A Modern Primer. She conceived, introduced and co edited A Contemporary Western Book of the Dead (all published by Mandrake of Oxford). The Sky is a Gateway not a Ceiling (illustrated by Roberto Migliussi) published in Italy, is a recently published collection of her work. She has exhibited her totemic, talismanic art work, which incorporates bones. road kill and elements of death, in numerous galleries including London’s Chelsea Gallery and the Bath Royal Institute and has given presentations at Edinburgh and Leicester University.

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 “Dreamtime Sisters” by Colleen Wallace Nungari

The Thing That Knowledge Can’t Eat

July 12, 2016 @ 7:00 pm – 9:00 pm
The Thing That Knowledge Can’t Eat: Engaging the Power of Archetypes and Deities for Radical Transformation/ Exploring the Seven Souls with Langston Kahn and Demetrius Lacroix

The Dagara, an indigenous culture in West Africa have a phrase, Yielbongura, roughly translated as “the thing which knowledge can’t eat”, the ecstatic and mysterious experience of the numinous that can’t be grasped completely by the mind. In indigenous cultures around the world, engagement with these forces is seen as integral to basic health. While in the west, the importance of myth, symbol and archetype in the psychological healing process have become part of popular consciousness, in large part due to the work of Freud and Jung, the lens of scientific materialism often reduces these complex forces to constructs of the mind, castrating their cosmic potentialities.In a lecture to some of his students Jung stated, “You cannot get conscious of these unconscious facts without giving yourself to them. If you can overcome your fear of the unconscious and can let yourself go down, then these facts take on a life of their own. You can be gripped by these ideas so much that you really go mad, or nearly so. These images form part of the ancient mysteries; in fact, it is such fantasies that made the mysteries.”

To truly engage the power of the numinous to create change, it helps to understand the difference between psychological archetypes, cosmic Archetypes, and Gods, and how to work with them effectively. In this presentation, we will examine some of Jung’s own transformative experiences with Archetypes and Deities, how they parallel indigenous and shamanic understandings of these energies and discuss how we might more skillfully invite these powers into our lives to facilitate health. Through looking at the deeper cosmology of Vodou, most importantly the nature of the soul and how it is viewed, we can see a nurturing side of spiritual and mental development and growth.

This event is part of a series exploring the intersection, integration and application of psychoanalytic theory, the arts, and the occult, curated by psychoanalyst, Dr. Vanessa Sinclair. Throughout the series, Sinclair hosts a variety of psychoanalysts, psychologists, artists, writers, and occultists from a range of backgrounds and theoretical orientations. Presenters discuss their work, personal experience, and areas of research interest, opening up a dialogue between practitioners in fields of study that rarely have a chance to engage with one another yet often operate in similar and complementary ways.

Langston Kahn is a shamanic practitioner specializing in emotional healing. His practice is informed by Inner Relationship Focusing and African American Conjure with a foundation in the contemporary shamanic cosmology of the Last Mask Community.

Demetrius Lacroix has dedicated his life to the study of the occult, spirituality and religion of Traditional societies in the ancient and modern world, having studied many forms of traditional belief. From his own upbringing, and later initiation into Haitian Vodou, Lacroix comes from a multicultural background, offering a worldview shaped by his immersion into misunderstood and vilified cultures. Lacroix seeks to present the underrepresented “occult” in an understandable and edifying way. Lacroix is a professional Psychic, spiritual counselor, and advisor in Salem, Massachusetts.

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Salvador Dalí, Metamorphosis of Narcissus, 1937

Double, Double, Toil and Trouble; Narcissism, Mourning & Sexuality: Freud and Lacan meet Dalí and Goldin

May 27, 2016 @ 7:00 pm – 9:00 pm
Double, Double, Toil and Trouble; Narcissism, Mourning & Sexuality: Freud and Lacan meet Dalí and Goldin, An Illustrating Lecture with Claire-Madeline Culkin and Ray O Neill

Tonight, join Dr. Ray O Neill – writer, psychoanalyst, and witty Irishman – for a lecture illustrating how Freud, Dalí and Lacans theories on psychoanalysis, surrealism, and representation, all mediate the narcissistic double which Freud defines as the uncanny harbinger of death, contrasted with an illustrated lecture by Claire-Madeline Culkin on mourning and sexuality via a psychoanalytic lens on the work of Nan Goldin.

Freuds 1922 paper, Some Neurotic Mechanisms in Jealousy, Paranoia, and Homosexuality moved psychoanalytic discourse beyond narcissism as the bedrock for homo-sexual desires, arguing paranoia as another cause. This was the first paper of Freuds Lacan officially translated in 1932 utilising Freuds theories for his doctoral research, investigated homo-doublings and homo-sexuality within paranoid structures, delusions and manifestations.Just as Freud universalised homosexual unconscious wishes, so Lacan normalises paranoid delusions, not as false meanings but personal ones, psychical functions of representation. Both Freud and Lacan would attract the attention of Dalí precisely because of these theorisations on paranoia, narcissism, ideal-egos, with not a little sublimated homosexuality being informed. Dalís Metamorphosis of Narcissus illustrates these psychoanalytic queries, motivated consciously and unconsciously by Dalís own personal questions, paranoia and sexuality which converged around his own actual double, the original Other Salvador Dalí, his dead older brother.

Claire-Madeline Culkin will present an essay titled Beds Bodies, and Other Books of Common Prayer in which she explores the work of mourning in sexuality through a close analysis of the photographs of famed photographer Nan Goldin. Known for her unapologetically honest portraiture, Goldins The Ballad of Sexual Dependency, and the subject of this essay, provides a lens into a personal moment the destruction of a destructive relationship set in the context of a cultural moment the height of both the gay-rights movement and the AIDS epidemic that centered on the convergence of sexuality and loss. Using psychoanalytic theory to discuss the structures in these photographs, and the narratives they frame, Claire-Madeline explores the constituting function of loss in the organization of human relationships and the human psyche.

This event is part of a series exploring the intersection, integration and application of psychoanalytic theory, the arts, and the occult, curated by psychoanalyst, Dr. Vanessa Sinclair. Throughout the series, Sinclair hosts a variety of psychoanalysts, psychologists, artists, writers, and occultists from a range of backgrounds and theoretical orientations. Presenters discuss their work, personal experience and areas of research interest, opening up a dialogue between practitioners in fields of study that rarely have a chance to engage with one another yet often operate in similar and complementary ways.

Claire-Madeline is an MFA candidate at Sarah Lawrence College in their Non-Fiction program. Her work equal parts personal narrative, theoretical analysis, and criticism aims to reconcile the artifice of theory with the reality of lived experience by using her subjectivity means of approaching her subject matter. Beds, Bodies, and Other Books of Common Prayer was previously presented at the Das Unbehagen sponsored conference, Psychoanalysis on Ice in Iceland. A detailed description of her creative and professional work, can be found on her website www.clairemadelineculkin.squarespace.com. There, you can also find ways to be in touch. She loves hearing stories of the personal mythologies of ones birth, crises survived, and all the ways to fall out of love, so dont be a stranger.

Dr. Ray O Neill MA, MSc, MPhilis an Irish writer and psychoanalytic psychotherapist working in private practice in Dublin, Ireland. As Irelands only resident male Agony Aunt, Ray works significantly (and sometimes with significance) with the media in discoursing love, relationships, and desire in the 21st century. Current research includes explorations of the inter-relations between contemporary desire and technology; and that transmission of trauma across generations, with particular emphasis on the Irish experience.

Read Sola Agustsson’s review Dali’s Doppleganger’s and Ghosts on Hyperallergic.com

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Image: Wolf and Goat

Image Within/ Image Without: Iconography, Symbols, and the Psychology Reflected Therein

April 18, 2016 @ 7:00 pm – 9:00 pm

Image Within/ Image Without: Iconography, Symbols, and the Psychology Reflected Therein – A Discussion of Historical and Modern Divinatory Practices with Dr. Al Cummins and Jesse Hathaway Diaz

For the third installment of the series Psychoanalysis, Art & the Occult, we welcome Dr. Alexander Cummins and Jesse Hathaway Diaz, as they speak from varying albeit intersecting positions about image magic, iconography, divination, the passions and the psychology reflected therein.

The end of the early modern period marked the beginning of the modern notion of the emotions, as distinct from pre-modern notions of the passions. Against this background, many occult philosophers and magical practitioners from various socio-economic strata sought to map, manage, and manipulate states of and proclivities towards such passional affectivities, for both medical and sorcerous goals. One means was through image magic. Such images ranged from icons for contemplation to astrological-magical sigils (a term much later popularized via Austin Osman Spare by modern Chaos magicians) cast at elected times to store and radiate astral influence.These images utilized occult principles of cosmological organization (in the use of ontological astrological categories such as the 4 elements, 7 planets, 12 Zodiacal signs and 36 decans) as well as principles of operation such as reflection, similitude, signature, and sympathy. They also represent a series of fascinating and historically fruitful micro-studies into the deeper epistemological turn of the early modern period involving shifting comprehensions of vision, doubt, phantasy and the imagination as demonstrated in tracing developments of faculty psychology, Christian cabala, and wider occult philosophy of affect and emotionology, which Cummins will explore.

Where these classifications come most into play in many other traditions is in the unique purvey of the Diviner. The need to understand and create metrics describing the tendencies of behavior and personality is far more pervasive than the more widely accepted vocabulary of modern Western psychoanalysis. While the immediate benefit of these revelations are best contextualized within their culture’s pervading cosmovision, a survey of how this translates as practical information outside of a given culture or system of belief is possible. Hathaway Diaz examines this interplay between Diviner and Divined within traditions such as Cuban Santeria and Ifá, Brazilian Quimbanda, and Meso-American Indigenous Astrology, drawing upon experience as a diviner and initiate. First examining the root impulse and principle drive, often deemed an independent being or spiritual source in sympathy with the person being read, the manifestation of this impulse is guided through an active wrestling with many forces, and certain patterns become identifiable and possible outcomes examined in foresight. Some forces are considered permanent, others passing, but all reveal a complex insight into the makeup of the complex of souls in these different traditions, often providing a resolution and advice in manifesting the more positive side of these seeds of action. Here on the Diviner’s mat, in the Calendar keeper’s analysis: demons are consulted, gods go to war, and we manifest destiny through prescription and proscription.

Alexander Cummins, Ph.D. is an historian of magic and the passions, whose research focuses on early modern folk magic, grimoires, necromancy and love magic. He has written for occult publishers Scarlet Imprint and Hadean Press, as well as various academic anthologies such as the Palgrave Historical Studies in Witchcraft and Magic series. His first book, The Starry Rubric: Seventeenth-century English Astrology and Magic, was released in 2012.

JESSE HATHAWAY DIAZ is a folklorist, diviner, artist and performer living in New York City. With initiations in several forms of witchcraft from both Europe and the Americas, he is also a lifelong student of Mexican Curanderismo, an initiated Olosha in Lucumí, and a Tatá Quimbanda. He is a member Theatre Group Dzieci, an experimental theatre group based in NY exploring the sacred through the medium of theatre. He is also half of Wolf & Goat, wolf-and-goat.com, a store specializing in Occult Art, Materia Magica, and Esoterica from Brazilian Quimbanda to Traditional Witchcraft and Conjure.

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Death is in our Hearts: Meditations on Death’s Attractional Force

February 5, 2016 @ 7:00 pm – 9:00 pm
Death is in our Hearts: Meditations on Death’s Attractional Force, an Illustrated Lecture with Carl Abrahamsson

Mr. Abrahamsson will discuss the process which led him to this discovery, involving exploration of his photo archives and finding themes he hadn’t consciously pursued, especially emblems, symbols, remnants, cemeteries, and mementoes related to death and dying. In 2010, he assembled some of these images for an exhibition called “Death is in our Hearts, ” on view at Martin Bryder Gallery in Lund, Sweden. The process provided many insights not only into his own psyche but also into the meaning of death in general. The final and absolute power of death made itself known through his own artistic endeavors, and he found himself forever grateful.

Carl Abrahamsson (b 1966) is a Swedish writer and film-maker who’s also worked with photography and music as artistic expressions. He edits and publishes the annual occultural journal The Fenris Wolf, which collects material from the colourful grey area between art and esotericism.

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The Cut in Creation: An Introduction to Psychoanalysis, Art and the Occult

January 11, 2016 @ 8:00 pm – 10:00 pm

The Cut in Creation: An Introduction to Psychoanalysis, Art and the Occult with Dr. Vanessa Sinclair and Katelan Foisy

This is the inaugural event of a series exploring the intersection, integration and application of psychoanalytic theory, the arts, and the occult, curated by psychoanalyst, Dr. Vanessa Sinclair. Throughout the series, Sinclair will be hosting a variety of psychoanalysts, psychologists, artists and occultists from a range of backgrounds and theoretical orientations. Presenters will discuss their work, personal experience and areas of research interest, opening up a dialogue between practitioners in fields of study that rarely have a chance to engage with one another yet often operate in similar and complementary ways.

In this first discussion, Sinclair and artist Katelan Foisy will present their ongoing research into the implications of the cut-up method of Brion Gysin and William S. Burroughs, specifically when integrated with theory and practice of chaos magic, witchcraft and psychoanalysis. Foisy and Sinclair are currently working on a book paying tribute to Burroughs and Gysin’s seminal work The Third Mind. Through a series of experimentations, some taken directly from The Third Mind while others inspired by it, the pair explore the spaces that can be created when systems are broken down. By calling upon the work of artists who highlight the importance of the cut in their own work, the pair examine the essential nature of the cut in creation.

Katelan Foisy is a multimedia artist, writer and witch. Her fine art pieces have been displayed at The Worcester Art Museum, Ohio History Museum, MODA, WEAM, A&D Gallery, and Last Rights. She has graced the pages of the Grammy Award programs and the stage of Cynthia von Buhler’s immersive plays “Speakeasy Dollhouse” and “Brother’s Booth.” Katelan has been featured in NY Times, Elle Magazine, Paper Magazine, GQ Italy, Time Out NY and many others for her work both as an artist and curator. She has written for Motherboard/VICE, Electric Literature, Luna Luna, and COILHOUSE. She was called a “Female Jack Kerouac” by Taylor Mead.

Vanessa Sinclair, Psy.D. is a psychoanalyst and clinical psychologist in private practice in New York City. She is a founding member of Das Unbehagen: A Free Association for Psychoanalysis, which facilitates psychoanalytic lectures, classes and events in and around New York City. She contributes to various publications including The Fenris Wolf (Edda Publishing), DIVISION/Review: A Quarterly Psychoanalytic Forum, and the Brooklyn Rail.