Wilfred Bion, one of the most original and intriguing psychoanalysts after Freud

Wilfred Bion (8 September 1897 – 8 November 1979) has been twinned with Jacques Lacan as "inspired bizarre analysts...who demand not that their patients get better but that they pursue Truth". 'Bion's ideas are highly unique', so that he 'remained larger than life to almost all who encountered him'. He has been considered by Neville Symington as possibly "the greatest psychoanalytic thinker...after Freud".

Born in India in 1897, W. R. Bion first came to England at the age of eight to receive his schooling. During the First World War he served in France as a tank commander and was awarded the DSO and the Legion of Honour. After reading history at Queen's College, Oxford, he studied medicine at University College, London, before a growing interest in psychoanalysis led him to undergo training analyses with John Rickman and, later, Melanie Klein. During the 1940s his attention was directed to the study of group processes, his researches culminating in the publication of a series of influential papers later produced in book-form as Experiences in Groups. Abandoning his work in this field in favour of psychoanalytic practice, he subsequently rose to the position of Director of the London Clinic of Psycho-Analysis (1956-1962) and President of the British Psycho-Analytical Society (1962-1965). From 1968 he worked in Los Angeles, returning to England two months before his death in 1979.

The unfinished film of Bion's Memoir of the Future

The unfinished movie, “A Memoir of the Future”, is based on Wilfred R. Bion’s autobiographical works, particularly A Memoir of the Future, which was a fictional portrayal of psychoanalytic experience, a dream of psychoanalysis, a psychoanalytic dream.

Meaning is revealed by the pattern formed and the light thus trapped - 
not by the structure, the carved work itself.

W.R. Bion , A Memoir of the Future, Book I.

"For Bion, the psychoanalytic encounter was itself a site of turbulence, 'a mental space for further ideas which may yet be developed'." In his unorthodox quest to maintain such "mental space", Bion "spent the final years of his long and distinguished professional life...[writing] a futuristic trilogy in which he is answerable to no one but himself. A Memoir of the Future."

Video footage of Bion's seminar at the Tavistock Centre, dating back to the mid- to late-1970s.

If we accept that "Bion introduced a new form of pedagogy in his writings...[via] the density and non-linearity of his prose", it comes perhaps to a peak here in what he himself termed "a fictitious account of psychoanalysis including an artificially constructed dream...science fiction". We may conclude at least that he achieved his stated goal therein:

"To prevent someone who KNOWS from filling the empty space".

‘Comparing my own personal experience with the history of psychoanalysis, and even the history of human thought, it does seem to be rather ridiculous that one finds oneself in a position of being supposed to be in that line of succession, instead of just one of the units in it. It is still more ridiculous that one is expected to participate in a sort of competition for precedence as to who is top. Top of what? Where does it come in this history? Where does psychoanalysis itself come? What is the dispute about? What is this dispute in which one is supposed to be interested? I am always hearing – as I always have done – that I am a Kleinian, that I am crazy; or that I am not a Kleinian, or not a psychoanalyst. Is it possible to be interested in that sort of dispute? I find it very difficult to see how this could possibly be relevant against the background of the struggle of the human being to emerge from barbarism and a purely animal existence, to something one could call a civilised society’.

Shortly before his death, reported by Francsca Bion

Selected books by W. R. Bion

Selected books on W. R. Bion

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