Psychological modalism

From Krishnamurti:

You cannot understand yourself according to Freud or Jung, or according to me. Other people’s theories have no importance whatever. It is of yourself that you must ask the question, is fear to be divided into the conscious and subconscious? Or is there only fear which you translate into different forms? There is only one desire; there is only desire. You desire. The objects of desire change, but desire is always the same. So perhaps in the same way there is only fear. You are afraid of all sorts of things but there is only one fear.” (Freedom from the Known)

Only one desire. Only one fear. Many forms. This is a form of psychological or spiritual modalism. It makes sense if your goal is non-duality that you would want to find that everywhere.

“Objects of desire change, but there is only one desire.” I am not so sure. It makes sense linguistically to say so. After all the word “desire” is the same….but that does not make much sense. My desire for a donut (say) is different from my desire for world peace, or for my wife, or for the success and health of my sons. The only thing in common is that I use, by an accident of language the word “desire” for all of these.

Think of the word “love” and it will become clear as well. I love donuts, and my wife, and my children. But these are quite quite different. Were I precise in my language I might say “I crave donuts”, “I love my wife and children”. Even then there is a difference between spousal love and paternal love.

C. S. Lewis already identified in Greek different words for love: storge, phileo, eros, agape. What is interesting in his book is that he started with the simple “God is Love” formula and ended up, many pages later, with a four-fold distinction and the certainty that whatever else “love” is it is complex and complicated.

The same, I suggest, applies to fear and desire. I wonder if the Greeks had multiple words for “fear”? Does “desire” fit into “eros”? Or are there more words? I can imagine a whole cloud of related terms…try typing “fear” in here.

For my part if I want to improve my thinking (per previous post), I need to improve my vocabulary. It means that I cannot use “fear” or “love” or “desire” as umbrella terms. Perhaps this is where a convenient word becomes a mere acronym, and where using an acronym (eg. LOL) is really really sloppy thinking, though convenient for expediting conversation.


About spaceloom

An urban monk, and an experienced spiritual director with a Masters in Psychology. Married with two children. Want to know me better? Read my thoughts.
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