Friday, September 3, 2010

Visions of the Paranoiac Critical Man

The Invisible Man (partial 1929-31)

“The invisible Man” is a classic example of Dali’s paranoiac-critical method. Dali believed that paranoid schizophrenics see more than the rest of us do; they have the hallucinatory power to see dual images, to spot the latent in the manifest. So he set out to formulate a method by which he could consciously induce a similar state of delirium. He called it the paranoiac-critical method, which he defined as “a spontaneous method of irrational knowledge based upon the critical and systematic objectification of delirious associations and interpretations.” In this typical Dali hallucinatory image, one thing liquidly metamorphosizes into another, from hard into soft forms and from one substance into another, but here an odd figure/ground shift comes into play as well. What emerges is a latent figure: the “Invisible Man.” Dali began to use this method as a system for undermining waking logic and conventional systematic thinking. “I believe that the moment is near when by a procedure of active paranoiac thought, it will be possile . . . to systematize confusion and contribute to the total discrediting of the world of reality.”

Read more:
The Great Paranoiac (1936)

This is how the delusion associated with paranoia works: one links various little and un-related "illogical" events into a "logical" bigger picture, then lends them the "agency" of deliberate intention (possibly exposing the paranoiac observer to moral criticism/censure arising from a repressed historical memory married to a more recent current event).
Paranoia (1935)


  1. So Dali saw this as a new reality to be embraced?
    Sounds similar to active imagination.

  2. A new reality to be embraced? I think he saw it more as a way to forge a new path to escape from the one we're already on. Welcome to the new Post-Modern Age.

  3. (cont)

    "It is precisely in journalism that the two tendencies combine and become one. The expansion and the diminution of education here join hands. The newspaper actually steps into the place of culture, and he who, even as a scholar, wishes to voice any claim for education, must avail himself of this viscous stratum of communication which cements the seams between all forms of life, all classes, all arts, and all sciences, and which is as firm and reliable as news paper is, as a rule. In the newspaper the peculiar educational aims of the present culminate, just as the journalist, the servant of the moment, has stepped into the place of the genius, of the leader for all time, of the deliverer from the tyranny of the moment. Now, tell me, distinguished master, what hopes could I still have in a struggle against the general topsy-turvification of all genuine aims for education; with what courage can I, a single teacher, step forward, when I know that the moment any seeds of real culture are sown, they will be mercilessly crushed by the roller of this pseudo-culture? Imagine how useless the most energetic work on the part of the individual teacher must be, who would fain lead a pupil back into the distant and evasive Hellenic world and to the real home of culture, when in less than an hour, that same pupil will have recourse to a newspaper, the latest novel, or one of those learned books, the very style of which already bears the revolting impress of modern barbaric culture--"

  4. He who controls the narrative, controls "reality".

    Nietzsche, "On the Future of our Educational Institutions"

    "For centuries it has been an understood thing that one alluded to scholars alone when one spoke of cultured men; but experience tells us that it would be difficult to find any necessary relation between the two classes to-day. For at present the exploitation of a man for the purpose of science is accepted everywhere without the slightest scruple. Who still ventures to ask, What may be the value of a science which consumes its minions in this vampire fashion? The division of labour in science is practically struggling towards the same goal which religions in certain parts of the world are consciously striving after,--that is to say, towards the decrease and even the destruction of learning. That, however, which, in the case of certain religions, is a perfectly justifiable aim, both in regard to their origin and their history, can only amount to self-immolation when transferred to the realm of science. In all matters of a general and serious nature, and above all, in regard to the highest philosophical problems, we have now already reached a point at which the scientific man, as such, is no longer allowed to speak. On the other hand, that adhesive and tenacious stratum which has now filled up the interstices between the sciences--Journalism--believes it has a mission to fulfil here, and this it does, according to its own particular lights--that is to say, as its name implies, after the fashion of a day-labourer.

  5. Howard Zinn isn't the only one who's been re-writing the American narrative. The Walter Durranty's at the NY Times have been writing a narrative from a certain perspective for over a century.

  6. A nod to the latent Angelus and atavistic spirit.