City and Soul by Zulfiqar Awan (Lecture 1- Introduction)

6 min readMay 5, 2021


Making sense of yourself is very important today as it has always been because society shapes family, family shapes the individual. So if you want to have a better understanding of the world you live in, start to explore yourself first of all.

We are living in a sick society today. It means that the human being is sick. Thus, you should learn a cure for your illness. But you cannot find it in the twinkle of an eye. It can cost you your life. It is a life-long process. One of the foundational problems is the culture shaped by a form known as capitalism. So many people such as sociologists and artists point that we are living in a toxic culture. People’s unconscious consumption behaviors are measured and used for buying things by neuromarketing in this century. “Age of Addiction ”book by David Courtright is a guide at that point. He talks about this capitalist culture and what it stole from us. Our system People’s addictions can be different. Therefore behavior patterns are the same.

Lacan looked at Freud’s work into new eyes. He said: “Man’s desire is the desire of the Other.” He also looked at how society shaped the individual. He was an amazing critic of society.

Civilization has progressed throughout the time. But human beings are always constant. Civilization has become a point that harms people. Human beings are dehumanized to a thing in modern society. Modern society gives us a recognition of itself, then we start to desire and then we want satisfaction. What appeared to be civilization led to psychopathologies, mental illness in humans. “The human being is both a product and producer of society.” That sentence is the core of the lecture. So keep that in your mind.

Human beings operate in two zones; society and family zones. It is like a cycle. Society shapes family, family shapes the individual. And people live through stories. It is very significant to explore whose story you live in. You should have your authentic story, not the other’s. Every society has mythical foundations. Myths shape the human psyche. But nowadays, people do not any longer believe myths and they are protesting. They want to access the area of the self.

If you want to change something outside, you should change inside first. You should go to the depth of the unconscious. For example, in French revolution, people protested the time they lived in and the monarchy. They won the palm. But they changed only outward, they did not deal with the inward. So they could not be successful. They reached democracy but then the dictatorship of Napoleon took its place.

In our day, we separate knowledge. But actually knowledge is something that should be a whole. Every knowledge is interconnected. So in that course, we will look at some types of knowledge;

● Political philosophy: We will see how liberal democracy shapes our society.

● History: We cannot think of a city as independent of its history.

● Psychoanalysis

● Drama( Elizabethan- Shakespearean Drama) : Elizabethan dramatists understood the human psyche and expressed it through drama.

● Tragedy: Tragedy is a specific genre of literature. It transfers the tragic sense of

life very well. It questions why the bad things happen to good people. So it is full of insights into the human tragedy.

● Poetry: Poets swim in the unconscious. Poems are like dreams at night. They go deep into the unconscious and bring things into the conscious. Words are like magic, they unlock your psyche.

We will use them in order to analyze society, family and the individual.

In our day, students don’t taste knowledge and art. They are not allowed to use their imagination in modern education. They are seen as memory cards. But they are more than that. Our intellect is blocked by rationality. Do not let your intellect get away.

And art is a very nice way to communicate with people. Open your mind, open your heart and start painting. Art should be tasted.

We will use the painting of Max Ernst called “Oedipe”. That painting is a representation of modernity. If you want to understand our time, you should understand this piece of art.

Max Ernst

● He was born April 2nd 1891 in Bruhl Germany.

● He joined the German army in WWI. So he saw massacres and death. These affected him very deeply. We cannot separate these effects from the artist.

● He was part of the Dada and Surrealist movement.

● He moved to Paris in 1922.

● Great friend to Andre Britton who published a surrealist book called “Surréalisme et la Peinture” which Ernst named a Painting after.

Surrealism was a rebellion against the rule, principle based society. It defended imagination and going into the unconscious. Surrealist art appeared in the 20th century because something was wrong with society because of WWI. They used art to reconstruct the sick society. It was a revolutionary movement. Artists access the unconscious and express themselves in art. Art stirs something inside you. But today we lost imagination.

The work of Dr. Sigmund Freud helped artists tap into the subconscious aspects of their brains. Artists use hypnosis to access the unconscious.

● “The Interpretation of Dreams” by Freud.

Automation is a very effective way for going the depth of the unconscious. You should write whatever comes to your mind without thinking about it. It can show like rubbish. But one or two sentences will be powerful and reflect your unconscious. One day, people asked Max Ernst about the meaning of his work and he said, “ I don’t know, you tell me.” Everyone finds different powerful symbols reflecting themselves in a piece of art.

Max Ernst’s “Oedipus”

There are three clear symbols in the painting.

1. Sphinx: It is a mythical icon from Ancient Greece. In the Oedipus Rex, sphinx captivates the city and he asks riddles to people. If they can answer, they will be saved. And Oedipus answers the riddle. It is a symbol of tyranny, dictatorship and absolute power. But it is in decay. You see rats eating sphinx.

2. The Man: Man has a bird face. And it is decaying too. Bird means freedom. Man’s freedom is in

decay actually. He has nice clothes, nice shoes. But his soul is in decay. He is messed, tormented and depressed. He has spiritual crises. It symbolizes modern time people. People look nice outwardly but something is wrong inwardly.

3. The death man: we can see half of the man. We don’t have a comprehensive understanding of it. Human beings have remembered history, half remembered history and forgotten history. It symbolizes forgotten history. Family history goes back to several generations. We inherit memories and feelings through generations. For example, ıf a grandfaher witnessed a murder, and he repressed it, did not deal with it, that trauma would pass on the child and he was not aware of it, it would pass to next generation. Psychology calls that “Transgenerational Phenomena’’, science calls that “ Epigenetics”, and Ancient Greek calls that “family curse”.

● Train symbolizes the life journey. Life is passing. Train is moving to pass the sphinx.

A Method of Making Sense of Events & Life

Life happens in three different ways of human experience

1. The Outward: Sphinx represents the outward. It is everything outside you, shaping you such as the social side of life; civic institutions, school and political systems. Ask yourself how society shapes your conscious.

2. The Inward: The man represents inward. It is the human the conscious.

3. The Hidden: it is the unconscious. The death body represents the hidden.

The modern education system gives the outward and inward. But the hidden is missing. Understanding the hidden is the key point in education. Classical Muslim scholars made that connection. You can see that in “Mukaddime” by Ibn Khaldun.

Books which we will be using in that course :

Laski: The Historical Introduction to the Vindiciae Contra Tyrannos : means defenses of Liberties against tyranny. And we will use that book to examine the outward.

Marlowe: The Massacre at Paris : It tells the time when Roman Catholics massacred lots of people in Paris. We will use it for the inward.

Dallas: Oedipus and Dionysus: That text includes a distorted version of the Oedipus rex story. Oedipus has a liberating ending here. We will use it for the hidden.

Ian Dallas: The Entire City, a commentary on three texts: It will be the core book of the course.

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