The Regulars' Table by Christina R. Griffin

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The Regulars' Table by Christina R. Griffin


The Regulars’ Table *

           One of the most mysterious of semi-speculations is, one would suppose, that of one Mind’s imagining into another.  John Keats note on his copy of Paradise Lost 1:59-94

The past is never dead.  It’s not even past. William Faulkner

One day in 2012, I read a beautiful eulogy for Hungarian psychoanalyst, Sandor Ferenczi.  It was written by his closest friend, “Ignotus” (Hugo Veigelsberg), May 28, 1933 and published in the Budapest Daily, Magyar Hirlap, a few days after the funeral. Something I read, stopped me in my tracks.  It was the scene describing Sandor and Ignotus, sitting in silence, passing scraps of paper—their experiment of thought transference.  The emotion these words transmitted,   their spirit, rose up from the page, penetrating my heart.  I was strangely envious.  I wanted such a passionate relationship in my life.  For years, the two met regularly each Sunday afternoon in Ferenczi’s office.  Private, experimental, intimate—the details and evidence lost in time—were kindling for my imagination.  There were no other historical sources to be found.    Powerfully affected and open to experiment, I knew that I could not forget.  I would do everything to make this happen.  Because I could not let it go and I had no choice, I began. 

            There was a moment when I realized I was traveling on a historic migration trail.    At the turn of the century,   I found myself among a group of Hungarians:  psychoanalyst, Sandor Ferenczi, “the mother of psychoanalysis” and his closest friends:  writers, poets, artists and physicians.   Perhaps for me, this began geographically, in Southern California and then to Baden Baden, Toronto, Siracusa, and Budapest.  I am aware that this traveling came to me from the past, the distant beautiful times long ago. But, to travel one’s mind and the minds of others, is to profoundly experience a migration that is shared collectively.    In the soul, past minds, passionate with intention, meet modern minds, recognizing kindred spirits.   If they are lucky, they sit down with each other at a new regulars’ table.

The Regulars’ Table is a story with many conversations. I am both a visible and invisible narrator, moving outside of conventional spaces, it is a project of semi-speculation, in the open style of Sandor Ferenczi.  Mingling the elements of historic correspondence and imagined reverie, their ideas, anxieties and longings are channeled.  These are stories of significant and enduring friendships between Sandor Ferenczi and Sigmund Freud, Ignotus and Ferenczi, Michael Balint and Ferenczi and between analyst friends today.    Curiously, at times, traces of the past seem analogous to the present.   However these stories might be understood, they are all, in some form, love stories. 

* The term ‘regulars’ table is the English translation of the German word “stammtisch”, which means a table in a pub, restaurant or café reserved for regular customers

Chapter 1 Notes and Fragments – Michael Balint’s Reverie:   Imagining the thoughts and emotions of Michael Balint, Sandor Ferenczi’s disciple and literary executor, as he contemplates the life of his friend and prepares to address the funeral gathering.  The reader joins Balint in his private reverie, during the final weeks of Ferenczi’s life and before the burial, as he begins to shape his future role in carrying forward Sandor Ferenczi’s contributions to Psychoanalysis. 

Chapter 2 Budapest 1910 - The Regulars’ Table

 & Chapter 3 Silent Writing

Inspired by a eulogy for the psychoanalyst Sandor Ferenczi, The Regulars’ Table takes the reader back to fin de siècle Budapest and the literary circle of“regulars” who lived, loved, and wrote about the early psychoanalytic movement and the cross-influences of literature, art, and politics. Through multi-layered imaginative projection, the author observes the rich communion of these intimate friends and their shared fascination with psychoanalysis, art, and the human condition.  Historical facts intermingle and emerge as the author, a psychoanalyst, begins an experiment, born five years ago , meeting weekly with an analystfriend, whereby evocative ritual has emerged from the power of ‘silent writing ’in the presence of another. Facing the experience of free associations to the other’s material over time, these modern-day analysts have their own intimate encounters of mutuality, not unlike the regulars of the Budapest literary circle. Emulating Ferenczi and Ignotus writing in silence to each other, questions emerge about unconscious phantasy, thought transference and imagination where two subjectivities create a sense of being at the threshold of liminal space. 

Chapter 4 Broken Heart, is a story of Sandor Ferenczi and Sigmund Freud’s’ journey to Palermo, Sicily in September 1910.  Traveling  the mind of Ferencziduring the 33 hour train trip (Budapest to Leyden, Netherlands) and by boat with Freud to Sicily, the reader vicariously sharesFerenczi’s   private hopes, longings and life-changing devastation when two serious men desire very different things from the other.  The narrator, in an analogous way with Ferenczi, reflects on the question of ‘how to carry on’ after “the shattering”.

Chapter 5 Finger of God-an Interruption is a story about a chance encounter on the way to Budapest between a woman and a man where a profound and inspiring connection began.    Intentions to research the Budapest café culture, the passion of a young Hungarian interrupts all previously held ideas.    An entire day of subtleties and intensities interplay between them.     Walking in the Jewish quarter, they stumble upon a bookstore and discover Sandor Marai’s poetry and look to see their respective ages, 36 and 63 described in The Withering World.  Awash in past lives and in the midst of the current Syrian immigration crisis, they confront together, the psychoanalytic idea that there is no such thing as ‘coincidence’—Finger of God.

Chapter 6 At the Café Royal: the heritage of emotion.  A morning in May, 1910 at Budapest’s Café Royal   is portrayed through Sandor Ferenczi’s reverie and in the conversations between the ‘regulars’.  Talking all at once, they discuss psychoanalytic theory, the threat of Halley’s Comet and the veritable explosion of Hungarian literature.  Together, they feel that there has been no other instance in the history of the world where literature and poetry have had such a powerful impact on the masses.  Around their table, they share an awareness of the extraordinary times in which they live and recognize that several present, are the literary voices of this Cultural Revolution.   Scene 2:  A Sunday afternoon in Ferenczi’s apartment, Ignotus and Sandor experiment with thought transference.   Passing blank scraps of paper back and forth, in silence, they stay up all night and consider the possibilities of thought transference—the power of unconscious knowing-- between each other.   Scene 3:  Central Coast, California, 2015 in a garden, two friends sit and write silently. The past connects with the present as this ritual and emulated tradition of “silent writing”, entering its fifth year, continues between them today.  

Christina R. Griffin, Ph.D., Psy.D.

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