Dr Nathan’s journal – excerpt from 20/11/1975

 ***Dr Nathan is a character from J. G. Ballard’s The Atrocity Exhibition. In the novel the narrative shifts between the perspective of the schizoid central character Traven and the cool, calculated scientific analysis of Dr Nathan who clinically observes Traven’s psychotic break. Ballard employs a uniquely scientific style of writing which incorporates psychoanalytic theory and analysis and attempts to, much like the outside reader of Traven’s experiences, draw some logic from his movement through the contemporary world. Here I’m attempting to expand upon the character somewhat through a series of invented excerpts from Dr Nathan’s scientific journal***


20/11/1975 – 7.35pm. Traven’s psyche is geometric in nature and so incompatible with the fragmentary configurations of the spectacle which require an heretofore unseen degree of cerebral malleablility. A colleague of mine was recently berated for his attempts to create a mathematical formulation of the unconscious, to designate it as an intricate form of algebra which was initially based around a very rigid and systematic constitution of the familial human psyche having been adopted through natural selection over thousands of years. However, this was destabilized upon the advent of consciousness. But in this technological age what makes such a claim so outlandish and, more importantly, so untestable? Considering our unique historical situation which enables for potentially omniscient surveillance we are surely at a point whereby the rigorous systematisation of a subject’s movement from infancy into adulthood may indeed be undertaken; every minute action monitored, every visually instilled familial and objective association tracked, systematised, monitored.

As we know Symbolisation centers around vision, by which all other senses are subverted. Inner thought is as yet technologically inscrutable, however the subjective appropriation of the outside world which is observable enables for the analysis of the movement from the infant Real, to the Imaginary and finally to the all-subsuming tranquility and the veil of rationality enabled by the Symbolic order. In the case of Traven we see an unusual imperviousness to psychical manipulation which is the direct result of his malformed Symbolic constitution. Indeed, his inner world is kaleidoscopic, requiring scant input from the outside world, and instead relying upon the existing fragments which are refracted and reconstructed so as to fit into his own unique logic. In viewing Traven’s spectacular impunity we must recall Doctor Laing’s assertion that the “the cracked mind of the schizophrenic may let in light which does not enter the intact minds of many sane people whose minds are closed”.

Let us return to the potential experimentation of a mathematically formulated psyche. Eye-cameras would be a necessity, so as to monitor the precise points at which Symbolic tethers are ingrained. Furthermore the experiment would require 2 subjects – identical twins or even clones – in order to weed out the environmental from the genetically inherited factors which could influence this systematic appropriation of language and the constitution of the psyche (though associations created during the foetal stage could cause further complications). Such an experiment does not seem far-fetched when one accepts the proven validity of the Oedipus complex already as a vastly intricate form of algebra determining sexual preference and ensuring proper initiation into the Symbolic. NB: Contact L about the potential for running such an experiment, and discuss the appropriation of preliminary test subjects.