You are on page 1of 16

chapter 9

Symbolism as a Realistic Mode

De-Psychoanalyzing Logologized
The main interest of this essay is in Kenneth Burkes recapitulation of the place
of entelechy in his work from Philosophy of Literary Form (1941) through
Dramatism and Development (1972) in the Addendum. Other points of interest are his various denitions of what he means by logological realism and
his often-repeated distinction between archetype and entelechy. The subtitle describes the logologizing process that Burke kept performing in so many of these
late essays, translating the work of other thinkers (Plato, Marx, Freud, Jung,
Saint Augustine) into logological terms. There is a certain amount of repetition
in these late essays because Burke likes to use the same examples over and over
again, and the logologizing process is itself somewhat repetitive because the main
logological coordinates and assertions about language do not change.
The distinction Burke makes between timeless and historically uncaused
recurrent archetypes and Burkean entelechy is crucial for logology and, going
back a ways, for his dramatistic poetics. Entelechy, as Burke uses it, is a function
of language; it is the ability, or the possibility, of developing a terministic set to
the end of the line, or to perfection. God is one example, but so is the devil.
Tragedy, for example, is the perfect cathartic form of drama because it has the
most perfect tragic protagonists and victims. At a more mundane level, we can
linguistically arrive at the idea of perfect bread or the perfect storm, or the
mother of all battles. Though none of these perfections could possibly exist. Burkes specialty is verbal texts. One of his best examples of entelechial
analysis and thinking can be found in his essay The First Three Chapters of
Genesis in The Rhetoric of Religion (1961), especially in the section devoted to
the cycle of terms implicit in the Idea of Order (see the chart on page 184).
Burke was always an extremely careful and accurate entitler. Symbolism is a
realistic mode because language (which is what symbolism means here) is used
to describe and discuss real events and things in the real world. Even a text is realistically what it is: a verbal structure in which the words are facts that can be
empirically studied. A text, as such, is as realistic as any other physical thing or
object. The subtitle De-Psychoanalyzing Logologized is a little more complicated. Burke tended to argue with a great many major thinkers in his defense
of logology. These included Freud, Jung, B. F. Skinner, N. O. Brown, Buckminster Fuller, Marshall McLuhan, Ren Wellek, Fredric Jameson, J. Hillis Miller,
Cleanth Brooks, Wayne Booth, and many others. In De-Psychoanalyzing psychoanalysis, which Burke considers too idealistic, he translates it into terms of
logological realism. Psychoanalysis, in whichever specic form it is practiced, is
always bound to an idealized cycle of terms, a nomenclature. Burke wants a theory of the mind and body (of the self) that is more materialistic and realistic than


Symbolism as a Realistic Mode

the idealized view of the self found in most psychoanalysis. Psychoanalytic approaches to symbolic activity are clearly a form of idealistic social science (3).
Logological realism is the key term here, which Burke denes in a variety of
ways throughout the essay.
This is the last of the four logology essays in this group. However, many other
essays in this collection also deal extensively with Burkes logological views and,
especially, with the connections he works out between logology and technology.
See, for example, Why Satire, With a Plan for Writing One, Towards Looking Back, and especially Variations on Providence. Burke also discusses logology at some length in the interview Counter-Gridlock.


On reading the very suggestive article by Anthony Burton in your fall
1978 issue, Beauty and the Beast: A Critique of Psychoanalytic Approaches to the Fairy Tale, I was moved to make some comments
which, I hope, might in turn call forth further comments. We should
probably begin with the term symbolism.
In my dramatistic view of language as symbolic action, the most
general meaning of the term symbolism is communication in terms
of a symbol-system. That is, in the United States we speak an American brand of Englishand my particular application of that langue in
this article is an instance of symbolic action. But Freud uses the term
symbolic action in a more specialized sense, as synonymous with
symptomatic action. The symbols of a dream are symptomatic of
psychological perturbations in the psyche of the dreamer. Aristotles
term imitation, as applied to tragedy, would involve another aspect of
the symbolic in the sense that an Athenian tragedy was but a symbolic
enactment of suffering, in contrast with the use of real victims in the
gladiatorial contests of the Roman theater. Any Marxist theory of the
distinction between bourgeois cosmopolitanism and socialist realism would also exemplify a concern with particular dialects of symbolism within the realm of symbolism in general. And so on, including
for instance the four-fold scheme of mediaeval hermeneutics.
When we are dealing with psychoanalytic modes of interpretation
such as Freuds and Jungs, the overall logological fact is that we are
necessarily involved in theories of analogy. The manifest content of some
symbolic expression is the analogue of a latent content, the nature of
which is dened in accordance with the particular theories of motivation
and interpretation propounded by the given psychological nomencla-



ture. On page 255, on the subject of archetypes, Burton quotes Jungs

quite relevant comment to this effect: We are concerned rst and foremost to establish certain analogies, and no more than that; the existence
of such analogies does not entitle us to conclude that the connection is
already proven. . . . The existing analogies, however, are signicant
enough in themselves to warrant the prominence we have given them.
And he quotes a later statement, saying that the archetypes are without
known origin; and they reproduce themselves at any time or in any part
of the worldeven where transmission by direct descent or cross-fertilization must be ruled out.
Then, in reference to a work by Joseph L. Henderson, a Jungian psychologist who has written on Beauty and the Beast, Burton says:
Initiation, he claims, is an archetype. But he applies the term broadly
throughout his book, Thresholds of Initiation, to trials of strength, rites of
vision, and many other cultural activities. . . . He brings the Hopi snake
youth myth, the Beauty and the Beast tale, and the Dionysius cult together
with many other events as examples of one subcategory of this one
archetype. Treated ahistorically in this way, the construct is too vague to be
useful. These are little more than resemblances. Marriage is also claimed to
be an archetype, and includes motherhood. But marriage takes many
forms. . . . What is to be made archetypally of polyandry, polygyny,
kibbutzim, communal and single mother arrangements, or of the situation
in which the mothers brother normally acts as the cultural father? To
subsume all these under one archetype does not seem realistic. Henderson
seems oblivious to the problem. (25556)

Accordingly, Burton asks: When is an archetype not an archetype?

I cant promise to solve that problem. But it might serve as a good
point of departure in the direction of questions about the relation between symbolism in general (logology) and the role of analogy in the
psychoanalytic study of mythology.

First, the resources of analogy being what they are, we could say ahistorically that any such terms as archetype or initiation are at a
high level of generalization. Any pronounced transformation from one
state to another could be conceivably classiable under the head of initiation, particularly if there were some rite that formally commemorated the development or event as a change of social status. Burton complains that such laxity with archetypes is not realistic. But though I

Symbolism as a Realistic Mode


grant that Jung is far out on the slope of idealism, his references to analogy with regard to archetypes would strike me as a quite realistic observation about such terms. Surely, archetypes are not things with denable edges, like tables or chairs (which, as terms, by the way, quickly take
on analogical usage, as per water table or cathedral). They are titles for some kind of principle. And their embodiment in story
(myth) quite spontaneously destroys borders. (For instance, some particular archetypal ceremony for marriage might incorporate imagery of
plowing a eld for planting. Or a magical imagery of planting might well
help things out by incorporating connotations of a story [myth] in
which a woman is being impregnated.) Jung came quite close to getting
this matter straight. But he couldnt get it wholly straight because of the
terministic pressure whereby, though the methodology of logology requires us to go from concerns with symbolism in general to the technical analysis of psychoanalytic nomenclature, the pressure of the wonders that were by psychoanalysis revealed kept even Jung from making
the step from implicit psychological idealism to explicit logological realism. But in those passages I have quoted, he was obviously quite close.
Lets see how things look if, using the same most helpfully accurate
essay as our point of departure, we proceed with the help of quotations
from Burtons able statement of the case.
The nal pages of his paper sharpen the issue perfectly. There, on the
subject of Psychoanalysis and Materialism, he makes it quite clear
how mere matters of nomenclature (Logological considerations) line
up, if we accept the rules that are implicit in reduction to a choice between idealism and materialism (each of which, after its own fashion,
calls for the adjective dialectical).
Burton does a neat job presenting these two terministic operations.
Hegels idealistic version dug so deep that even Lenin, on going back
over the whole subject, advised Marxists to study Hegel, as a useful step
along the way. And in early books, Marx was classed as a neoHegelian. The difference, as Burtons trim analysis makes clear (hence,
since I am referring to it, I can make further cuts), is reducible to two theories of origin. Namely:
In Hegel, Nature and History are the unfolding of the Absolute Idea
through time. This is a metaphysical analogue of the theological view of
a Divine Spirit made incarnate. And ideas are conceived as derived by
that distinguished descent, being made manifest in the logic of history,
which develops as a series of responses to their inuence.
In Marx the provenance gets reversed, and ideas arise as a reection



of economic conditions. That is, one could try to explain sociocultural

phenomena and their workings by considering the largely environmental mental mechanisms of settlement, work, demographic trends, technology, as prime factors, and relate forms of social organization and
ideology (i.e., myth, ritual, language, beliefs, etc.) to such earthly mechanisms (Burton, 257). In keeping with these options:
Psychoanalytic approaches to symbolic activity are clearly a form of
idealistic social science. . . . Symbols are pan-human and universal through
time and space. They are not seriously modied by cultural factors, and
began somewhere in archaic time. They function in the psyche according to
principles that are intended to hold for people everywhereOedipal
conict or archetype, in the two cases given here.
Such systems of explanation are idealist in that they are sets of ideas.
Symbols, Archaic Time, the Psyche, the Unconscious, Oedipality, Archetypes, are all mental constructs. . . . Their most substantial claim to value is
that they have ameliorative effects when used with patients. (257)

But is our only choice that between idealism and materialism? Might
there be room for a brand of realism that doesnt quite go along with either of those opposing metaphysical nomenclatures, yet nds much of
great value in both? Lets see what might be said along those lines.

In a supplement to C. K. Ogden and I. A. Richardss book, The Meaning
of Meaning, the anthropologist Malinowski applies the term symbolic
action to a quite realistic situation. A group of illiterate natives are engaged in a cooperative act of catching sh. As part of the process they
use language, in calling back and forth to one anotherand whatever
may be their involvement in myths, their group coordination by the
use of symbolism in this enterprise is about as realistic an enterprise as
you could ask for. Every utterance is related to the problem at hand, the
mutual interchange of instructions for carrying out an act which could
have only been performed much less efciently, if at all, without the aid
of symbolism; that is, the vocabulary of their tribal idiom.
Any such symbolic resources are necessarily learned in contexts of
situation that are themselves outside the realm of symbolism as such.
Malinowski also touches upon symbolic structures of a quite different
nature (books, for instance, in which the internal relationships among
the terms do not have any such direct bearing upon the context of sit-

Symbolism as a Realistic Mode


uation in which they are being used. In fact, a book is itself a context
for any subdivision of the book as a text.
Even Saint Augustine, who, of course, believed that we are born in the
image of God, offered purely realistic speculations as to how, as an infant, he learned language by hearing words spoken in nonverbal contexts
of situation, though that wasnt his name for them. Adam and Eve were
the only human parents who began with linguistic competence (and in
the lingua Adamica even, for the development of which Adam was given
a major assignment in taxonomy). Similarly, though Jeremy Bentham
says that our ctions for psychological and ethical terms are borrowed
analogically from the strictly material realm, Emerson agrees with him,
plus a transcendental twist whereby God puts nature here as a kind of
raw material for us to work from when etymologically perfecting our terminology of Spirit.
But in any case, we must guard against a genetic fallacy, a fallacy
of origins, when considering the role of language as a mode of symbolic action. Regardless of whether it is a reection of Hegels Absolute Idea, also called the World Spirit (his idealistically metaphysical analogues of God) or but an etymological development from
words for sensations extended analogically in accordance with Benthams theory of ctions, in either case, once arisen, it has a nature of its
own, with corresponding powers.
There is a passage in Burtons article stating that technology could be
viewed either along Hegelian lines as from heaven to earth, or along
Marxist lines as from earth to heaven (257), though Marxists might
complain unless you put it more strictly: from substructure to superstructure. But the kind of logological realism that I am trying to put
in a word for would be ahistorical in the sense that, whether ideas
(or language in general) be derived from an idealistic metaphysical background or from a materialistic one, there are many notable realistic observations that we can make about the resourcefulness of symbolsystems, as innovative or creative forces, in their own right.
We should also remember that, although orthodox theologys view of
Adam as created in Gods image embodies the provenance from heaven
to earth, the account of the Creation is intrinsically interwoven with the
story of the Fall; hence expulsion from the Garden sets up ample conditions for quite tough-minded vocabularies of human motivation. (La
Rochefoucaulds Maxims, for instance, or John Mandevilles Fable of
the Bees could t perfectly with theological views, as portraits of human



relations in a society that is turned away from Godand Molieres portrait of Tartuffe was defended as an attack not against the faith but
against religious hypocrisy, a corrupting of the faith.)
However, a purely secular, realistic analysis of motives should be neutral, rather than embodying a materialistic debunking of idealistic
pretensions. Marxism is uctuant in this regard, owing to the fact that
the rationale of the Marxist dialectic allows for a shifting point of view
whereby, for instance, the bourgeoisie can be hailed as emancipators
in the struggles against feudalism, yet can also be subjected to ingenious
scorn as foes of socialismand often these attacks can prot rhetorically
by quasi-theological accents. In The Communist Manifesto, for instance
(a text to match with the Sermon on the Mount as a rock-bottom theory of history), there are some sizzling passages which seem to structure the topics of persuasion thus: The bourgeois period destroyed the
highly personal aspect of the terms for group relationships under feudalism. In one word, for exploitation, veiled by religious and political illusions, it has substituted naked, shameless, direct, brutal exploitation.
The several following paragraphs that amplify this statement are,
beyond all question, a rhetorical marvel. First (thanks to the persuasive
elements that are implicit in the Marxist dialectic, so well designed for
pointing the arrows of our expectations), it gives credit to capitalism
for having so effectively introduced the revolutionary policies which
Marxist socialism is but continuing. (Incidentally, much of the revolutionary, or radically innovative motivation that the manifesto attributes to the bourgeoisies tie-in with technology may be largely due to
the nature of technology itself, whatever kind of political system may, after its fashion, be aiming to prot by the advantages of technology with
a hoped-for minimum of its troublous side effects.)
In any case, to the extent that the idea of a socialist revolution was
in bad repute among the bourgeoisie, the Marxist dialectic could give the
bourgeoisie credit for introducing the revolutionary principle. For
there certainly was no need that the Marxist text run counter to bourgeois usage, in view of standard references to our revolution, the
French, and the term Industrial Revolution.
The ingenious rhetorical twist is that the manifesto contrived paradoxically to excoriate the bourgeois as a kind of relentless personality in
the very act of eliminating personal relations (such as the feudal rationale had clung to). In effect, whatever credit might go to the bourgeoisie
for unmasking the element of illusion that Marxism attributed to feudalisms personalistic view of economic relationships was, at this point,

Symbolism as a Realistic Mode


played down, and the theme of depersonalization was played up (in

terms of naked, shameless, direct, brutal exploitation). It had been the
bourgeois theorists who introduced a godless explanation of economic hardships.
Also, the at distinction between idealism and materialism gets modied by the ofcial cult of socialist realism, which in effect proclaims
itself to be as personalistic as the religiously infused (hence by Marxist
tests, illusory) rationale of feudalism had been. And understandably a
realism of this sort can be so attuned as to become the propagandistic
handmaiden of dialectical materialisms party politics, in contrast with
the outright materialistic debunking of politics outside the party.

Whereupon it is now time for us to make clear what we mean by logological realism. The most direct way into the subject, as here approached through Burtons essay, is on page 255: When is an archetype
not an archetype?
I couldnt offer a blanket answer to that question; but with regard to
Freuds Oedipal archetype, logological realism would answer
promptly, An archetype is not an archetype when its an entelechy.
This would involve a distinction between Platonic archetypes as idealistic and Aristotelian entelechies as realistic. Since my Grammar of Motives (1945), I have touched on this matter in many waysparticularly
in my essay on The First Three Chapters of Genesis (reprinted in my
Rhetoric of Religion, 1961) and in Archetype and Entelechy (the second of two talks printed in a volume, Dramatism and Development,
1972). Here I must try merely to give the gist of my position.
There are two kinds of priority: logical (as per the syllogistic design:
rst premise/second premise/conclusion) and temporal (yesterday/ today/tomorrow). We can also say that the term for a class of objects is
logically prior to any and all of the particulars classiable under that
head. In both Greek and Latin, the same words mean beginning in
both senses. Thus, in Latin, the word principium means principle as
in the expression the rst principles of science. But with regard to the
opening words of Genesis, In the beginning, the Latin is in principio.
Similarly, the plural of the Greek word arch matches the Latin when referring to the rst principles of a science. The Gospel of John begins
en archand the temporal meaning shows clearly in such words as
archives or archaeology.



Essence is a word for what something is. In my Grammar of Motives, my expression the temporizing of essence refers to ways whereby
the view of what something is gets presented in terms of the things origin, what it was or came from. There is a vulgar usage that reveals the
process most clearly. If A considers B an essentially loathsome fellow, he
can spontaneously say so in quasi-narrative terms by calling B a bastard
or a son of a bitch. In effect, A denes Bs nature now in terms of his
provenance. Fundamentalists resented Darwinian evolutionism because,
by their style, the theory of our descent from apes was equivalent to
calling us apesand at times Darwin became so emphatic in distinguishing simply between the natural and the supernatural that the
important logological distinction between dumb animals and the human prowess with symbol systems got obscured. Logology here would
introduce reference to the fallacy of origins.
Genesis, as a book of beginnings, features the tactics of temporal priority. Narrative (story, mythos) being a more primitive form of discourse
than philosophy, the Bible doesnt begin with (say) a logological analysis of the proposition that implicit in the idea of a social order there is
the idea of possible disobedience to that order. But thats the gist of
what it says, in its particular narrative way. It shows God making a creature in his image, in the most perfect surroundings imaginable. It adds a
Law, whereby disobedience is made possible. And this law, propounded
by the rst and foremost authority, is sinned against by our rst ancestor. So, all told, the Fall was implicit in the Creation, and proneness to
temptation is of our very essence, since we inherited such original
sin from the rst man in time. By the Law we are tempted in principle, since the Law made temptation possible. One gets glimpses of this
exquisite ambiguity in the Lords Prayer, where Lead us not into temptation means rather, Put us not to the test. And so on.
Platos archetypes, viewed in terms of logological realism, are derived
thus: The word for a class of objects can be treated as prior to any particulars classied under that head. There is a sense in which it can even
be temporally prior. For instance, if you consult the denition of the word
table, youll note that it encompasses a class of objects countless numbers of which have not even yet been produced. Also, there is no one particular table which you could point to and say, That is table. For any
particular table will have details that distinguish it from every other table.
But each table would in its way be an imitation of the ideal form as
stated in the denition, which would be the archetype that was prior
to the lot, many instances of which are not even yet in existence. The

Symbolism as a Realistic Mode


word contains the root arch. Where then was this pure form experienced? Actually, as analyzed in terms of logological realism, there is no
archaic or temporally prior situation involved. It is a purely grammatical matter of classication, translated into terms of story.

And now to the Freudian archetype of the primal crime committed
in prehistory, and so essentially originating that the results of it still
survive, bequeathed to us in the tensions of the modern family. Anthropologists complained that they found no evidence of any such event. But
Freud felt that he needed it as a postulate for his theory.
Logological realism could have shown him how his problem could
have been solved by the simple expedient of turning from thoughts of
Platonic archetypes to thoughts of Aristotelian entelechies. Aristotle uses
the term entelechy to designate the efforts of each thing to fulll the
potentialities of its kinda sh aiming to be perfectly or thoroughly a
sh, a tree to evolve in keeping with its nature as a tree.
Logological realism would restrict this notion to an incentive in language; namely, the tracking down of implications. The nomenclature
of physics, for instance, suggests certain possibilities of further development. The nomenclature of psychology suggests possibilities in another
direction, economics in another, politics in another. Henry Jamess prefaces often tell of some likely turn he proceeded to develop, by going from
step to step. I call this an entelechial aspect of symbolic motivation. It
involves all sorts of strivings after perfection, whereas Freud had denied perfection as a motive.
Cutting many corners, saying here only enough to convey the gist, Id
have Freud say:
Thinking of representative family tensions in the light of the entelechial
principle (replacing psychological idealism by concepts of logological
realism), Id state the situation thus: The representative tensions of the
family as I have studied it would come to a perfect fulllment if the
young males banded together against the father, slew him, and took over
the women, with corresponding psychological results such-and-such.

As so considered, the psychoanalytic nomenclature has no need to

postulate that such a culmination ever did happen or ever will happen.
It is simply an instance of carrying things to the end of the line, tracking down implications to the point where we dont need to distinguish



too scrupulously between logical conclusion and reduction to absurdity, and all the more so since were in a eld where things get quite unsettled, almost as a matter of course.
Freuds view of human relations is in its very essence highly dramatistic. He was in effect conceiving of the perfect family drama to express the tensions as he sized them up. But owing to the ever recurrent
ambiguity whereby statements of essence can get phrased in terms of
an archaic (mythic) past, despite his great symbolic shrewdness, he hypothesized an actual event where no actuality of any sort (nothing but
symbolism) was needed.

addendum to symbolism as a realistic mode

Perhaps the handiest way into my proposed adaptation of Aristotles
term entelechy (to name a generative principle that is usually classed
under the head of archetype) is by some references in my Philosophy
of Literary Form (1941) where I hadnt yet quite got to it. I had been
working with the two notions of self-expression and communication,
and I ran into the need for a third term, thus:
He would change the rules, and burn out temptation by efcient excess of
it. He would start . . . on an uncompromising journey to the end of the
line. (38n)
Books that take us to the end of the line . . . that would seek Nirvana by
burning something out. (70)
Note a serial quality in the to the end of the line modea kind of
withinness of withinness. . . . One may get the pattern in Coleridges line,
Snow-drop on a tuft of snow. And in Moby Dick there is an especially
efcient passage of this sort, prophetically announcing the quality of
Ishmaels voyage: after walking through blocks of blackness, he enters a
door where he stumbles over an ash box; going on, he nds that he is in a
Negro church, and the preachers text was about the blackness of darkness. (88)

There are related references on pages 3, 86, 118, 161, 166.

In my Grammar of Motives (43040), the notion is further developed,
though without reference to either archetype or entelechy. There,
with regard to the temporizing of essence, I specically criticize
Freuds hypothesis of a primal horde ruled over despotically by a powerful male. And my criticism is built around my point about the ambiguous relation between terms for logical and temporal priority whereby
statements about how something essentially is can be phrased narratively

Symbolism as a Realistic Mode


in terms of derivation from how it originally was (a device all the more
natural to an age so Darwinian in its thinking).
Though anthropologists said that they found no evidence of any such
prehistoric situation, Freud still clung to it, albeit apologetically: I think
it is creditable to such a hypothesis if it proves able to bring coherence
and understanding into more and more new regions. He needed the
story only because he was spontaneously characterizing the essence of a
situation now in terms of temporal priority. And if the essence of family tensions now must be stated in such quasi-evolutionary terms (of an
analogically imputed prehistoric past) then whatever doubts one might
cast upon the pattern of the primal horde as an existent, he needed the
concept as a term in his description of the family essence.
I was getting close to the out-and-out distinction between archetype and
entelechy when, in the next paragraph I referred to Platos Meno in which
the principles of knowledge are presented as innate in us, and remembered from a past existence. The section next develops at some length an
analysis of Ibsens Peer Gynt as a narrative form in which essential motives
are properly presented in terms of temporal priority (as, I could have
added, is similarly the case with Prousts Remembrance of Things Past).
My Rhetoric of Motives (1961) moves things farther along by closing
on a summarizing reference to
the rhetorical and dialectic symmetry of the Aristotelian metaphysics
whereby all classes of beings are hierarchally arranged in a chain or ladder
or pyramid of mounting worth, each kind striving toward the perfection of
its kind, and so towards the kind next above it, while the strivings of the
entire series head in God as the beloved cynosure and sinecure, the end of
all desire.

As logologically adapted, God becomes the overall title of titles

for any system (as dialectical materialism might be deemed the godterm of Marxist atheism).
And perfection undergoes a transformation of this sort: By perfection is meant the way in which the unfoldings of a terminology are in effect the strivings to the end of the line. Thus, I could include in my definition of the human, symbol-using animal the clause rotten with
perfection, having in mind the thought that there can be perfect fools
and perfect stinkers, and so onas with Hitlers vision of perfection
whereby he idealized the Jew, imputing to his chosen victim every vice
connected with the problem at hand, or more grandly, every vice (and in
particular whatever vices his followers might suspect in one another, were



it not that they could give their faults the name of the good quality most
like it, while perfectly reversing the procedure when looking for the
meanest way of characterizing any motive of the enemy).
To revise is, in one sense or another, to be aiming at perfection. And
to reject revision is to fear lest a primal perfection already there in
essence will get lost. I also touched upon the fact that, given the dramatizing possibilities of language, a statement such as I dont like you
could be perfected by translation into a statement such as I could
kill you. And a dream might thus perfect the judgment by dreaming of you as dead. (But I am here developing further the statement in
the text.)
In my Rhetoric of Religion the issues so come together that I can here
but indicate the angles. My essay on The First Three Chapters of Genesis is designed to show how, in terms of story (narrative, temporal priority) the account of the integral relation between the Creation and the
Fall is a mythic way of saying that the principle of disobedience is implicit in the nature of Order, which comes to a focus in the need for Law,
and the Law makes sin possible. (Hence the rst man could say No
to the rst thou-shalt-not. And you must admit that that is a wholly temporal way of showing how the principle of negation presents the possibility of being negated.)
On page 312 I discuss the principle of perfection in the idea of Hell.
In my Sixth Analogy (25 ff), on the subject of the Trinity. I discuss the
ambiguities of the difference between logical and temporal priority by
noting how, though the Father is rst, then the Son, it was deemed a
heresy to conceive of such succession in terms of temporal sequence.
On page 184, I offer a Cycle of Terms Implicit in the Idea of Order.
The terms as such imply one another without any temporal dimension.
That is, the term Order implies the term Disorder, and vice versa.
But in narrative accounts, the story can go from a state of Order to a
state of Disorder, or vice versa. The term Order implies such terms as
Obedience or Disobedience to the Order. But in the corresponding
story, they are related in a temporally irreversible sequence, as the First
Authority sets up the Order, then gives the Negative Command that
makes Disobedience possible, and so on.
An explicit reference to entelechy and the logic of perfection is
on page 300.
The head-on discussion is the article on Archetype and Entelechy,
the second of two talks published under the title of Dramatism and De-

Symbolism as a Realistic Mode


velopment (1972). I there build around the passage in the Poetics where
Aristotle says that in tragedy the calamity should involve conicts among
intimates (or, in Butchers translation, someone near and dear) when
brother kills brother, or a son kills his father, or a mother her son, or a
son his mothereither kills or intends to kill. I have never seen evidence
that Freud ever read this passage, which doesnt at all single out the one
Oedipal crime as Freud does. And the curse on the House of Atreus
involved a situation in which a father unknowingly (unconsciously?) ate
the hearts of his sons at a banquet supposedly celebrating a reconciliation between brothers. I further note:
For all Freuds emphasis on the fatherkill, its worth remembering that the
prime instance of the sacricial motive in the Old Testament is the story of
Abrahams pious willingness to sacrice Isaac. And the entire logic of the
New Testament is built about the story of a divine father who deliberately
sent his son on a mission to be crucied.

I take it that Aristotle is giving us the recipe for perfect victimage,

or rather the perfect imitated victimand by entelechy I refer to
such use of symbolic resources that the potentialities can be said to attain their perfect fulllment. Though he does discuss the earlier forms
out of which tragedy developed, his emphasis is upon not its origins but
on its modes of completion.
But Freud (in Beyond the Pleasure Principle, 1922) had called upon
us to abandon our belief that in man there dwells an impulse towards
perfection, which has brought him to his present heights of intellectual
prowess and sublimation. And a little later he said, The repressive instinct never ceases to strive after its complete satisfaction. I argue that
these two sentences are mutually contradictory. For what could more
clearly represent an impulse to perfection than striving after complete satisfaction?
Freud proposes to substitute what he calls a repetition compulsion,
or destiny compulsion, designations for a psychopathic tendency to
relive some prior traumatic situation by so confronting a totally different set of later circumstance that they are interpreted by the sufferer in
terms of the original painfully formative situation. While not disputing
the likelihood of such a tendency, I proposed to consider how it looks,
as viewed in the light of an entelechial principle having wider functions
than the manifestations with which Freud is here concerned. And I
stated the case thus:



Is not the sufferer exerting almost superhuman efforts in the attempt to give
his life a certain form, so shaping his relations to people in later years that
they will conform perfectly to an emotional or psychological pattern
already established in some earlier formative situation? What more
thorough illustration could one want of a drive to make ones life perfect,
despite the fact that such efforts at perfection might cause the unconscious
striver great suffering?

I but proposed to widen the concept of perfection as I have already

explained. And I develop the notion that an early traumatic experience might lead one to see life in those terms. Accordingly one might so
interpret a later situation that it was like the older situation over again.
And this process would be entelechial or perfectionist in the ironic
sense of the term, insofar as the sufferer was in effect striving to impose
a perfect form by using the key terms of his formative wound as a paradigm.
I then discuss in effect how Freud psychiatrically reversed this
process by imagining the kind of outbursts that would perfectly express family tensions as he sees them. But owing to the ambiguities
whereby essential situations can be expressed in terms of quasitemporal priority, he presents this entelechial symbolizing of fulllment
as the derivative of an archetypal situation that actually happened in the
archaic past.
I discuss several other aspects of the case, all involving the notion that
the entelechial motive, the goad to try perfecting symbolic structures by tracking down implications to the end of the line, is a kind of
formal compulsion intrinsic to mankinds involvement in the resources
of symbolic action. And often by the temporizing of essence, an overstress upon the term archetype leads to talk of the archaic or primordial where the real issue, as viewed logologically, involves but an
entelechial perfecting of symbol-systems.
Incidentally, the entelechial principle itself can lead to a temporizing
in the other direction. For instance, consider two theories of history
such as The Sermon on the Mount and The Communist Manifesto. Both
are perfect patterns of fulllment, so far as matters of sheer logological
analysis are concerned. Both are so essentially entelechial in their structure that both are stories of a perfecting process.
Though my book Language as Symbolic Action (1966) has very
many passages that fall under the head of entelechy or perfection, there
are no such entries in the index. Here are a few: 1927, 5455, 6974,
145, 15356, 16062, 361, 38485. The pages on Poe deal with the

Symbolism as a Realistic Mode


perfection of death. And his account of how he derived The Raven

is an interesting instance of the shifts between logical and temporal

This essay originally appeared in the Psychocultural Review 3 (winter 1979):