Six Steps towards Immaculate Conception


Demon of solipsism penetrates Mary’s soul


By this shot Mieville makes us conscious about the incestuous connotations of belief in Immaculate Conception (IC). In patriarchal society daughters learn human identity from their fathers. They internalize the masculine identity together with human identity and then find their feminine identity while perceiving their mothers as the very opposite of authoritative masculinity. That’s why gender identities in traditional societies (and today’s mass culture appealing to a common denominator of traditionality in consumers) are so polarized. The polarization of masculine and feminine identities is symbolically expressed by Mieville in this scene between God-father and Mary when he explains to her the construction of the universe and she interprets it in the spirit of feminine identity.


Human sight is not microscopic or telescopic, and not too analytical or even too attentive. It likes the visible world. It likes to like it – human eyes like to see. Human gaze is not only pre-scientific – in fact, it is anti-scientific (it registers the surface of the world, not its hidden structures and its determinants). Our soul is impressed with what we see – the flesh of the world. Our soul feels overwhelmed by the richness of the visible world, our heart is touched by it to the point of tears, and our mind is silenced by its splendor. Cinema exploits the greediness of human sight, and it is the task of serious (intellectual) directors like Godard and Mieville to teach human visual function how to overcome hypnosis of automatic looking and superficial seeing.


With intervention of darkness or stormy unpredictability the human soul either hides into inner silence, or trembles together with the world. Whatever state nature is we perceive it as a “goal in itself” – as a gestalt, even while we accumulate superficial knowledge about how nature “works”. We still unconsciously are afraid of thunderstorms or darkness even when we overcome our fear with over-alertness or “scientific” detachment. In both shots (previous and this one) the perspectives we see remind us an interior of the room (the motif of openness is balanced with that of protection) – we are doomed to search for the shelter in every landscape.


The art of interior creation and its aesthetic elaboration hires our proclivity for arranging the space we try to tame while settling in it. That’s how we dream to harmonize nature and the world, to transform it into an externalized womb.


While being occupied with neutralizing the otherness of the world (with transforming it into a house interior) we forget about our existence. We use mannerisms of civility as we use furniture for a room – we tend to treat others either as the natural world outside, as something that needs to be controlled – arranged as interior or garden, or through identification with them by similarity. We are underdeveloped in our ability for togetherness with otherness of other people and the world. Our seeing function is blind to what is under the visible surface of things. Our gaze is egocentric and solipsistic – it perceives the world as – our clothes or as our skin visible to us from inside.


The craft of interior decoration makes the human presence invisible – we settle into our immediate world like ghosts. While feeling proud that we are capable to frame ourselves with beautiful things in our immediate environment, we look at it as if it’s not created by us. What gives us pleasure is exactly the illusion of our sight that this comfortable domestic world around is not the result of our needs and efforts but a ready-made paradisiacal world that exists for our joy. The look at our house gives us pleasure when for a moment we forget how difficult it was to build it – for this reason we prefer to buy property, as if we are buying the creation.


We spiritually live inside ourselves. We project our tastes outside but we as if forgetting it. Our eyes perceive our surrounding naively, as if it is not we who created all these layers of style. This discrepancy between facts and their appearance is not our fault – it is the very particularity of the world where god-creator is invisible. We empty interiors (we live in) of our presence in the same moment we overfill them with symbols of our existence.


Are these apples part of nature or are they part of the table or the room? Did we cultivate them before consuming them, or did they for our pleasure jump into the bow on their own? To these questions which our eyes ask us – there are no answers that could reach them. We know the truth but this truth cannot be appropriated by our eyes, it is beyond them. Our sight is naively self-validating. To become “mature” our eyes have to stop to be eyes that belong to the same world we do ourselves. Solipsistic perception is a “function” of symbiotic non-differentiation between subject and object, the thing and its context, the environment and its element. Only mind can try to overcome this fusion.


The second lesson of solipsism in the life of Mary (as the carrier of the Immaculate Conception archetype in her unconscious) she got from observing emotional problems between her father and mother. Because children don’t understand adults they perceive them with the same eyes as people perceive nature and their homes and gardens. Problems in mutuality support our psychological solipsism. Children underestimate the role of invisible determinants in parents’ relationships. They just perceive the fact of discord.


Can you describe the difference in the psychological state of the same characters in the two above shots? The change in facial expressions on three faces is like a short piece of semantic music.


God-father doesn’t want to see a world which is not following his will.


By having learned of separation from her father, Mary learns about taking psychological distance from her mother. She is trying to adapt to emotional loneliness in the company of the Biblical apple of her typical destiny (we see it lying in front of her on the floor), not knowing that god has another idea about her future.


Mary knows that her father is “temporarily” leaving the family. So, her turning gesture of looking at door he just closed is not a realistic one. It is a rhetorical gesture, the jerk of the body that feels soul’s pain.


Mother contemplates a new world of her existence without her husband (without love?). The relationships with man she is dating after her separation are simultaneously, purely sexual (fragmented) and without passion (flat), separated from psychological wholeness.


Here we see Mary right after her mother has explained that her father will be leaving. Parental separation puts Mary’s being upside down – she accepts its inevitability. Death of mutuality is a precondition of the myth of Immaculate Conception (IC). The first aspect of Mary’s reaction is her impulsive desire to be above the unbearable reality. In this and the following shot Mary’s intuition (helped by Mieville, to be sure) is trying to find the symbolic behavioral metaphors of what she feels.


Mother’s pedagogically impeccable reassurances that father’s absence will be temporary, don’t make it any easier for Mary. The new world without father’s (god’s) presence – is for Mary like a world “bottom’s up”. The second aspect of this feeling that the world of mutuality is blown out is that Mary unconsciously doesn’t want to see reality and instead wants as if to bury her perception into the bottom of the world. So, in the previous shot Mary wanted to be above reality, but here she wants to be beneath it. The combination of her both impulses (cut together in a quick succession) creates a visceral impression of the scope of her internal despair. Mieville’s editing analytically registers one reaction as two.


Children perceive everything that they feel is very important for them as having the power to define their destiny – we see here Mary looking inside of her new future. She feels it as her double solitude because she identifies with her father becoming alone and with her mother without her father.


The bath with mother is a metaphor of Mary’s baptism into emotional solipsism that will be soon archetypically engraved in her unconscious.


Mary recites the poem about sublimated solitude of human internal world of contemplation. She learns sublimation and beauty as split from the external world (and elevated by this split).


Dedicated and even a bit obsessive reading comes to human being as inseparable from separation between human heart and human soul. This makes education of the heart and soul difficult. In our culture it leads to the situation that education tends to be “technical” (without soul and without heart), even when we study human life, society and history.


While tutoring Mary in math father connotes his explanations with foggy allegories of the wisdom of sexual solipsism which she (as most viewers) will not be able to understand.


Mary’s innocent impersonation of Biblical metaphor…


…identification with which will not extend itself into her adulthood. Biblical seduction is childishly innocent in comparison with the ordeal of Immaculate Conception.


God-father thinks about Mary’s destiny. He himself, while being magnificently solipsistic, learns from his wife’s refutation of him the solipsism as a condition of the world he created. Is it this condition of the world what made him to immortalize it in the idea of Immaculate Conception incarnated into Mary’s life?


And still, in spite of everything, Mary is lucky to have a tremendous father, like she is equally lucky to have an incredible mother. The problems between her parents are systemic, not determined by their “personal flaws”. In this shot we see Mary sharing with her father her perception of Chopin’s piece (while visiting him after parental separation).


Demon of solipsism, a close relative of Demon of the body-armor, is entering Mary’s body despite her desperate but sublimated (demonic powers are omnipotent and omnipresent – they are not “physical enemies” but are part of us) resistance,…


… with help of Mahler’s symphony.


Psychological transfiguration after the demon of solipsism transformed forever Mary’s soul and body by creating in her psychological armor will be her personal burden and damnation, but also the basis of her cultural glory and of the one of the foundational myths of the Christian world.


Mary’s mother who suffers from the same predicament as Mary and all of us (deficit of disinterested love as mutuality) tries to console her as best as she can. Moved by the desire to help, she re-defines the archetype of love – from now on Mary will be the reservoir of love, not a loving person.


Mary impersonates knowledge as it is taught in schools: she obsessively recites the technicality of human procreation which takes the place of procreation as a psychological and spiritual mystery of two human beings. Solipsism of the technical mechanism of love dominates its existential, spiritual, sacred aspect. Neutral knowledge becomes for her a psychological defense against the dangers of mutuality. When she feels worried because of father/mother‘s disagreements she starts to imitate the teachers demonstrating in the classroom the technical (objective) knowledge. Isn’t technical-scientific knowledge serves the same defensive function on the level of whole culture – as the utopian desire to avoid conflicts of human interests? Biblical apple becomes a dissected egg with as if implanted embryo.


We witness here Mary’s recitation of a lesson in the anatomy of conception as a micro-wisdom of creation. What is puritanically neglected is the aspect of mutuality between the host of the sperm and the “hostess” of the egg, the fact that spermatozoids come from another human being. Solipsistic understanding subdues the role of human togetherness. We can understand only what is responsibility of god (sexual desire, erection, penetration, ejaculation, insemination, conception, pregnancy and giving birth), but we cannot do what is our human responsibility – we cannot feel disinterested love (only sado-masochistic and symbiotic love is natural to us). In her mock explanation of a confusedly combined anatomy of the human eye and reproduction Mary instinctively tries to interrupt and to delete the drama of her parents’ separation. In her unconscious the perception of the world by the human eye and the human procreation as such become equally solipsistic experiences.


Mary is assimilating technical (based on facts not interpreted as a result of human decisions) explanation of historical events. The diminishing of the analysis of human factors in economy and historical process is intensified in the period of liberalization of Western democracy in the last part of 20th century (liberal politicians and people with liberal sensitivity in general try to diminish role of economic and social contradictions because of their utopian ideology of post-antagonistic society).


Godard and Mieville (after reconciliation)

Anne-Marie Mieville and Jean-Luc Godard (beyond séparations and réconciliations)

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How the myth of Immaculate Conception (free from the “dirt” of animalistic reproduction/ procreation) became so popular and so important that it became a foundational image of Western cultures? If it couldn’t reflect the sensibility of the people it wouldn’t have galvanized such mass passion. Why to worship Immaculate Conception (IC)? To be willing and able to do so you have to not just unconsciously hate physical sex, but human body of your own and the opposite gender, and you have to consider human flesh as such sinful, vicious and even a fraudulent phenomenon. Then it is not surprising why Christian societies are so advanced/so active in war-making of the incredibly destructive power – a good illustration of the ideology of Christian kindness and love.

What kind of sexual life you can have with such beliefs and ideas? But what is the importance of sexual love – what kind of love relations can you have if you disrespect the incarnated, bodily condition as such? We have the community of believers without bodies, people who are ideologically for kindness and forgiveness outside bodies, the believing ghosts who have incarnated themselves into shining dogmatic virtues, into contemplative (otherworldly) beauty, into weapons and money, who don’t live at all because they live for the sake of life after death (who live by spiritual escapism, but physically – to control, manipulate and destroy to resurrect in ideal form that which they tormented in life). All this helps us to understand why American neo-conservatives, for example, want to and try to reduce food assistance and medical care for children, the poor, the seniors and disabled. What is for many (church-going) conservatives the value of human body and human life on the earth?

Of course, Immaculate Conception (IC) is very ancient idea connected with human parthenogenesis idea/image. Still in a certain period in history it became a banner, a trumpet of optimism and hope. Why is that? – Desperate condition of material and psychological life (poverty, fear of death, of farther pauperization, anomie), omnipresence of violence, strict authoritarian social power, and a cultural climate when belief in human mutuality and mutual help was shattered. Neighbors became alienated from each other, extra-suspicious and then prone to organize themselves into cliques. Religious authorities became not-reliable, social elites not trustable. Even god himself could not be considered as a source of help and compassion but only of perfectionist demands and idolized dogmas. Earthly babies became a burden. Sins were the only distraction from everyday despair. Not only relations in the public realm but intimacy in private relations deteriorated. Feeling of helplessness started to shape our perception of the world. These are the conditions when belief in IC shoots up. The waves of crude but passionate new beliefs ignite withered solidarity and mutual help, create a third way between conformism and hate.

When I cannot respect my desire for my intimate partner the very psychological connection between progenitors and progeny is seriously harmed. The psychological function of procreation is hurt; my very unconscious ability to disinterestedly love my children dries up. Unconscious hope for super-human intervention grows. When you don’t feel that you are capable of protecting your own children against dangers (when social life is felt as not understandable and as anomic and violent), you start to believe that your child is protected by god’s power! Who else will be able to protect it if not god, so it is god that I invoke for help when I start to believe in IC! Christ as a child becomes an elevated metaphor for earthly children of helpless fathers.

How from this archetypal story to come to the modern one which we find in Anne-Marie Mieville’s film – to the condition when unconscious belief in IC (La Conception) can be nurtured in people of prosperous democracies? How to explain that the ancient condition of extreme insecurities of life prolongs and perpetuates itself in life of European Middle Class family the director concentrates on in her “Book of Mary’? How Mary’s secularly enlightened parents with their modern (post-modern) sensibility have unintentionally transferred to her unconscious the very ideology of IC which they themselves didn’t subscribe to? Why their impressively intelligent daughter became psychologically positioned to bear the child of IC as a hypnotic archetypal image of magic power?

The socio-psychological mechanisms which make us feel and act in a certain way are very conservative. They are in love with their own genesis. It is also true for cultural archetypes which participate in triggering our behavior. Anne-Marie Mieville’s investigation of the power of traditional human sensibility during the apex of European democracy is a scholarly comment on the psychological and cultural conservatism under the pompous façade of progressive democratic post-modernity. While material conditions in Europe improved the psychological reactions on insecurity of life were solidly in place helped by growing mass commercialization of culture (functioning as a giant social structure of denial).

Let’s following the director, start with narcissistic and fetishistic nature of our visual perceptions of the world. We are prone to perceive what we see – pre-scientifically: as creation (ready-made world) – to which we can attach/glue to feel secure. The very visibility of the world for us is our protective skin.

The psychological problems between Mary’s mother and father, which are scrupulously analyzed by the director, create in Mary anxieties about human intimacy, the feeling that intimate togetherness is a kind of abyss that is capable of swallowing romantic dreams. From the moment when their separation is decided Mary’s identifications with mother and father can no longer go together and start to create a split in her psyche. She continues to internalize her mother’s and father’s versions of adulthood, but her experience of intimate interconnections between these versions is ripped apart, lost its unity. Mother and father’s introjects inside Mary’s soul become solipsistic, without mutuality, without libidinous life. The unconscious emotional image of adults’ positive intimacy as an object of identification which children need to internalize from their parents, didn’t become a part of Mary’s psyche and personality, like it is not inside the psyche of all those who believe (or can be prone in certain circumstances to believe) in IC because they observed from childhood a crippled condition of adult love (often without conscious understanding). The popularity of IC image is a sign of low quality intimacy human beings are very often marked by.

The third factor determining Mary’s susceptibility to IC is a cultural environment] where relationships with divinity in its various (sometimes masked) forms are considered much more important than that between human beings and where fetishization of subjective impressions creates the area of false objectivity echoing theological constructions. Human love for one another (public realm) and for each other (private intimacy) is eaten away by idolatrous love for God or by our psycho-cultural pseudo-theological sensibility. What is left from the potential for love between human beings – are religious dogmas, authoritarian prescriptions, legal regulations and technical-scientific creativity, plus the condemnation of our “anarchic” sexual needs (that makes them more predatory and either split from sublimated feelings or rooted in sado-masochistic or symbiotic emotions), or, conversely, their encouragement as partial satisfactions.

Poetry and art in general in a solipsistically oriented culture are cultural “organisms” created according to the model of contemplation and intuitive concentration which follow the pattern of human relations with super-human (“spiritual”) energies. Poet confronts the world as a gifted monad that penetrates the world like spermatozoid the egg. Anne-Marie Mieville lets Mary to recite a poem by Baudelaire to communicate to the viewers the immanent hermetic individualism of poetic sublimation.

Technical science follows the solipsistic (not existentially interactional) model of relating to the world. Mary’s recitation of explanation of human conception in micro-anatomical terms is an example of the limitations of technical-scientific approach to reality. To compensate for existential limitations of technical science it’s necessary to use (and to teach) it within the frame of democratic/humanistic considerations – to clear the issue of putting the use of results of technical-scientific knowledge under democratic control, not as it is today, when specialized knowledge is controlled by the decision-makers. The point here is to balance a technical science by equivalently developed sciences dedicated to human intimacy, love and life in society. While how to be in love and how to love other human beings as a cultural knowledge and inspiration is underdeveloped in our culture, our technical-artistic, technical-scientific and theological prowess is proudly overdeveloped (and have become arrogant).

In the context of our culture even humanistic knowledge (liberal arts) and how it is being taught in schools follows the objectivizing (idolized) style of cognition neglectful of an analyzing the connection between historical events and human motivations – how relations between human groups, or between various individuals influence the etiology and meaning of historical events. At the end of the film we see Mary trying to express understanding of historical events in the same technical language she uses to explain the nature of human embryo. Even mass culture (extremely commercialized images for entertaining consumption) repeats solipsistic gestures of high culture (in a reduced form). Standardization of the images and use of generic ideas are just another side of solipsism, its dogmatic – its pop-version.

The evolution of Mary’s taste in music from Chopin to Gustav Mahler (that was speeded up by the separation between her parents) is a one more factor of her assimilation into solipsistic sensibility. Tender music of playful mutuality retreats in Mary’s perception before the irresistible Mahler’s symphony of world-incorporating solipsism. Emotional alienation from the world in Mahler and in Mary becomes the condition for the gaining an incredible emotional power.

Of course, it is not only the democratic West that is “solipsistic” – totalitarian psychology is not less so. As it’s becoming increasingly obvious, democracy cannot open the passage towards genuine mutuality. Totalitarian psyche is not capable of respecting psychological borders – what it can do is just solipsistically irradiate on others. Totalitarian worldview and ideology is a collective solipsism of the same. Only people with democratic psychology can create psychological borders when they meet people with their own otherness. By the very fact that Mieville (In “Book of Mary”) and Godard (In “Hail Mary”) make Saint Virgin the child of European democracy is their awakening statement that the democracy is in the state of retreat from pluralistic communality into the solipsism of individual monads and partial socio-cultural structures.

The belief in and worship of IC signify the collapse of the attempts to create new kind of mutuality and intimacy based on love towards otherness of human body (for human soul), of human soul (for human body), of other cultures (for our culture), and of other humans (for every individual).