The Language of Dreams Interpretation


The interpretation of dreams has been the cornerstone of Massimo Fagioli’s practise of cure, training and research in over forty years of Collective Analysis. Interpretating dreams meant, for the psychiatrist, transforming the images of the night into a verbal language of waking life that had not lost the not-conscious dimension of sleep, and the first year of life. Naming the ‘things’ of the mind, which never had a name, also meant to give material reality to the words. Beginning with the writing of Death Instinct and Knowledge (1971), the elaboration of this aspect of therapeutic praxis went hand in hand with an original research on historical linguistics, culminating in the development of the ‘twenty one-word’ sequence, which verbalises the dynamics of birth and of the first year of human life. Shared weekly in seminars and in Left 2016/2017 articles, the research was then reconstructed by psychiatrist Gianfranco De Simone.

On 12-13.2013, at the presentation of a volume dedicated to Gilgameš (L’Asino d’oro edizioni), Fagioli invited to continue the research on ancient Mesopotamic languages: «For my job I need to see the origin of a language. […] The language that derives from Latin an also from Greek does not allow me to interpret dreams. I must modify it, because that is the rational language, that one only learns at two years of life, and instead I have to deal with the  first year of life».

The psychiatrist had long since identified the potential inherent in studies on the the ancient languages of the Near East, which with the invention of writing preceded the civilisation of the Greek-Roman lógos by two millennia. And, before that, in the recognition of the origins of the Italian language of a fundamental presence of Arabic language and scientific culture in the love-poetry of Sicilian School, founded by emperor Federico II in opposition to the Latin of the medieval Church. In both cases, the interest went to times and the spontaneous ways in which Greek, Latin and then Italian languages had originated and established themselves, before being regulated by abstract rules of grammarians at the service of Religion and Reason.

As for Italian language, in De vulgari Eloquentia Dante Alighieri clearly distinguishes the locutio vulgaris, learnt from the nanny sine omni regula, from a locutio secundaria, called grammatica  from the Romans and common to the Greeks, learnt by assiduous study, which only  a few can attain (I, i, 2-3).

Starting from the Supreme Poet, a highly rhetorically codified tradition was formed, which in the Renaissance found expression in grammars ed vocabularies. Exemplary is the case of the Vocabolario of the Crusca Academy, to which generations of rhetoricians adhered, while a poet like Leopardi dared to force its rules. Up to the Fagiolian instance of a language capable of verbalizing a radically atheistic theory of human mental reality, and of curing it, when ill, by interpretating dreams. Without ever inventing neologisms, if anything by resemantisations of terms lacking a true meaning, linked to the biology of the body, such as ‘death instinct’ and ‘vitality’, or with ingenious justapoxition of terms (pulsione di annullamento, fantasia di sparizione).

As far as Greek and Latin were concerned, Fagioli had noticed as a student that the fable of Cupid and Psyche by the African Apuleius, a testimony of non-patriarchal cultures prior to the lógos, presented a Latin that differed from classical models, imagining  its more ancient origin, later confirmed by the studies of Anna Maria Zesi. Thus, Leopardi in the Zibaldone praised  the greater freedom of the Greek language, compared to the rationally regulated classical Latin, and ventured into the study of ancient Oriental languages, particularly Hebrew and Sanskrit.

Confirming Fagioli’s intuitions came the studies published since the 1980s by Giovanni Semerano on the origins of the so-called Indo-European languages, on which since the 19th century neogrammaticians had built the myth of the superiotity of an ‘Arian race’ never existed, in clear opposition to the ancient civilisations and languages of the Near East and the Mediterranean: Sumerian, Akkadian, Babylonian, Aramaic, Canaanite and Hebrew. Opposed in cultural contexts dominated by the religions of the Book, which cannot admit polytheistic linguistic roots, and often by academic culture, Semerano’s research, accompanied by dictionaries that trace Semitic bases in many words not only Greek and Latin, but of modern European countries, offers answers to historical and archaeological evidences that would otherwise be inexplicable. And it allows us to re-read cosmogonic myths, and the Ionian philosophy that preceded the Greek lógos, in the key of an universal humanism. In this same context, there is also the important question of the translations of Death Instinct and Knowledge, already published (in German, English, French) and to be done: for Fagioli, even translating into a foreign language means making a recognition in its own history.


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