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The walls within: working with defenses against otherness

Online Conference 5-11 July 2021

AM23-PP6: Life after Life: exploring the psychodynamics of regeneration

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Parallel Papers Session 2
Friday 30 June 15.15pm-16.30 SAST - Online
Paper Code: PP6
Life after Life: exploring the psychodynamics of regeneration

Presenter: Prof. (Dr) Ajeet N. Mathur


The interconnectedness of life is a recurring theme in the psychodynamic explorations about the meaning of life and its possibilities. Also about how networks and organisations form and what holds them together? Questions about whether death is an event or a finality, whether there is causality in how life regenerates, the role of destiny versus karma in traditions that believe in rebirth and the discussions involving conversations between the spiritual and the scientific are timeless and ubiquitous in various forms across civilizations spread around the world.

This paper takes note of the traditions and beliefs around the phenomena of regeneration in four major river-valley civilizations: the Nile, the Ganga, the Rhine and the Mississippi to discuss how the oral and written inter- generational communications give abundant hints of the primitive and primeval forces of the unconscious. Almost all the complexes unearthed by psychoanalysis can be found in their unvarnished manifestations in some form or another in these civilizations. This enables us examine how to open the pathways to new discoveries and new knowing.

For instance, the centrality accorded to the Oedipus Complex in Freud’s thinking rested on the premise of castration fear in the male and the corresponding penis envy in the female. An alternative hypothesis was proposed by Bose in 1929, that the real struggle is between the desire to be a male and its opposite, the desire to be a female, and that this applied to both sexes. This insight was already part of African, Indian and Native American thinking for millennia before Freud. Further, matriarchal societies did not come across Oedipus Complex in many of their folk! In 1933, Freud eventually acknowledged: “I see that we did neglect the fact of the existence of opposite wishes from the three sources of Bi- sexuality (male and female), ambivalence (love-hate) and the opposition of active- passive” . Psychoanalytic thinking has been unable to explain the source of neurotic conflicts because if everything can be explained sexually, how do we explain neurotic conflicts about sexuality? If all instincts are sexual, where does the repressing force come from? Only a non-sexual instinct could repress a sexual one!

Yet another challenge to psychoanalytic thinking comes from the ‘oceanic feelings’ that ordinary people have experienced in the presence of shamans and mystics. The doctrines of karma and rebirth have been accepted by many systems of philosophy. The notion that every action produces another action merely asserts that there can be an infinite succession of cause and effect in all phenomena, even human phenomena. This is scientifically acceptable with a few caveats. It has not been explained how karma, heredity and environment come together in circumscribing free will and choice. Yet we acknowledge that freedom of choice is under the control of determining factors that lie beyond consciousness. The assertion that we live by unknown forces is a striking reminder that both the mind and the body are of manifest nature and that the function of consciousness is to illumine what happens to persons, families, groups, clans, tribes, whole societies, life after life.

Do theories of karma, rebirth, heredity offer explanations of instinctive behavior in biological organisms? Is there scientific evidence for regenerativity in nature with retention of memory of life before life? How do these unconscious dynamics propagate? This paper will share the state of our knowing of functional transmissions between lives and life forms with evidential support for unconscious inheritances, transfers in the mass psyche and symbolic unities as possible explanations of individual differences from phenomena that cannot be directly observed. That is what enables life continuities and regenerativities marked by temporary discontinuities.

Learning Objectives

Participants will be able to:

  1. Recognize that assumptions about death as a finality or as an event are not definitive
  2. Identify sources of plurality in psychic and psychodynamic phenomena that are not well understood
  3. Distinguish between circularity and spiral dynamics
  4. Apply insights into exploring body-mind-spirit connections for holistic understanding of what constitutes self and identity

Biographical Summary

Dr Ajeet Mathur
Ajeet Mathur consults to leaders and their teams on strategy, transformative leadership, and creative collaboration for change management. He is a member of the Board of Directors of ISPSO, Professor Emeritus, NDIM and has been Professor at IIMs Ahmedabad and Calcutta, and the EU-Tempus Professor of European Integration and Internationalisation. He received his Ph.D. Degree from Indian Institute of Science Bangalore and has held visiting academic appointments at K.U.Leuven, University of California at Berkeley, Aalto University and Tampere University, among others. He chaired the Centre for Gender Equity, Diversity and Inclusivity for five years. His publications include more than thirty books and over one hundred and sixty papers in scientific journals and anthologies. He is one of the authors of the International Encyclopaedia of Laws. He is on the Staff of Group Relations Conferences since 1983 and has directed Group Relations Conferences in Europe and India. He served as Director and CEO of the Institute of Applied Manpower Research with the rank of Secretary to the Government of India. He has served on the Board of Directors with Corporates in India and Europe and with the School of Inter-Disciplinary Studies, IGNOU. He is an Affiliate Life Member of the Indian Psycho-analytic Society and an accredited Yoga Shikshak and Karma Sannyasin of the Bihar School of Yoga. He is recipient of several national and international honours and awards. He can be reached at