Eros to Thanatos - Cigarette Adverts
Eros to Thanatos
Advertising’s Imagery of Violation as
Icon into British Cultural Psychopathology
[Click here to view 3 webpages of advertisements described in the text] - **new** mostly in colour now
published as an Occasional Paper,
Centre for Human Ecology, Faculty of Science & Engineering, University of
Edinburgh, 22 August 1996,
52 pp., original price £10.00.
The perspective on Eros and Thanatos first developed in this paper has now received a much deeper working through in my book, Soil and Soul: People versus Corporate Power, available from www.Amazon.co.uk and further details at www.AlastairMcIntosh.com/soilandsoul.htm . The book (published 2001) addresses consumerism and the psychology of every-day idolatry in general, and is not about cigarette advertising in particular. George Monbiot's introduction calls it "a world-changing book" - how's that for a smoke signal!
Above: From the sublime to the surreal - some of the press publicity that followed this paper's publication
the late 1970's, requirements to have government health warnings on cigarette
advertisements and restrictions by the Advertising Standards Authority on
associating smoking with glamorous lifestyle, have been accompanied by the
development of surrealist advertising, particularly by Gallaher with their Silk
Cut and Benson and Hedges brands. This paper proposes that elements of the
tobacco industry, having long recognised the power of sexuality in advertising,
have now tapped into the lure of Freud's counterpoint to Eros - the death
instinct, or “Thanatos.” Whether this happens consciously or unconsciously
is of little consequence since the culture from which such advertising derives
may be impaired in its capacity to be life-affirming and thus finds violation to
be a source of entertainment. The issue therefore opens into questions of wider
cultural psychopathology ranging from tobacco addiction to consumer addiction
and the world ecological crisis. Psychological and spiritual mechanisms by which
violative advertising might trigger deep necrophilic and sexually abusive
motivations are discussed, as are the implications for therapeutic work at both
individual and cultural levels, in political leadership and for health
education. These include the need to sensitise people to the significance of
violative imagery in advertising and its role in psychospiritual exploitation.
Illich and this Paper
3 separate webpages)
Centre for Human (CHE) is an independent academic network founded in 1972 that
developed out of Edinburgh University. This
paper is published just at the transition between being within the University,
and exercising independence as necessitated by the consequences of insisting
upon academic freedom. Accordingly the present publication is under the auspices
of both the old CHE established in 1972 where the author has been for over six
years and remains teaching director until September 1996, and the new phoenix
organisation. The latter is a limited company with charitable status pending set
up to carry the spirit of the old CHE in maintaining what a New
Scientist editorial described as “a spirit of fearless enquiry” (4 May
1996). This paper is Occasional Paper No. 1 of the independent CHE’s work. The
author takes full responsibility for opinions expressed herein. They do not
necessarily represent the views of the CHE or the University of Edinburgh.
Illich and this Paper
version of the paper has been peer reviewed and accepted for publication in a
forthcoming University of Cardiff book edited by the leading social critic, Ivan
Illich (Deschooling Society, Medical
Nemesis, Celebration of Awareness, etc.). However, because of Illich’s ill
health resulting so far in a two-year dela, permission has been given also to
air the ideas elsewhere.
am grateful for comments and encouragement received on drafts of the paper from
a wide range of people. These include Professor Sir John Crofton who pioneered
advances in the understanding of lung diseases; Professor Colin Whittemore, my
head of institute whilst at the University of Edinburgh; social worker and
mystic Ian Ramsay; theologian Alastair Hulbert who worked with me on
"GulfWatch," provided the link with Illich and is Secretary of the
European Ecumenical Commission for Church and Society in Brussels; feminist
ecologist Tess Darwin; and John Flemming, Samya Graham,
Patrick Laviolette, Ulrich Loening, Mags Beachey and Catherine Hollis for
giving in crucially supportive ways. I also thank those executives associated
with tobacco advertising who spoke with me but mostly wish to remain anonymous,
and I especially thank postgraduate student friends who studied and taught with
me on Edinburgh University’s unique but now, erstwhile MSc degree course in
human ecology. Together we continue to build the principles of what it is to be
Alastair McIntosh has been teaching director at Edinburgh University’s Centre for Human Ecology (CHE) for six years. There he pioneered MSc and PhD education in human ecology with Dr Ulrich Loening. He has a BSc from Aberdeen University in geography, sub-majoring in psychology and moral philosophy, and a financial MBA from Edinburgh University. His early published work was in the parapsychology of altered states of consciousness. Later he wrote for the business pages of national newspapers and co-authored the first British books on marketing and public relations for charities. He is best known for his work on Scottish land reform as a founding trustee of the Isle of Eigg Trust. This lead to work with motorway protesters from deprived areas of Glasgow, and theologically opposing (he is a Quaker with a universalist outlook) the Isle of Harris proposed superquarry at Scotland’s biggest ever public inquiry in 1994. At this a platform was shared with the Rev. Prof. Donald MacLeod of the Free Church College and Mi’Kmaq Warrior Chief Sulian Stone Eagle Herney, which has lead into work with transatlantic aspects of cultural psychotherapy and community empowerment. His influential critique on feminist, social justice and environmental grounds of the British government’s science policy (Environmental Values 5:1) caused journals ranging from the New Scientist to Lady Godiva to speak in defence when, in the early summer of 1996, the University made its fourth and finally successful attempt to close the CHE. He is now a Fellow of the new, independent CHE and is writing a book on Soil and Soul.
memory of my father, Dr Ian Kenneth McIntosh,
physician” of North Lochs, Isle of Lewis,
died early from tobacco induced lung cancer in 1986.
From Eros to Thanatos
his First Manifesto of Surrealism, Andre Breton (1924) defined surrealism
as being that, "by which one intends to express verbally, in writing or by
any other method the real functioning of the mind."
claim that a surrealist advertisement is meaningless ought to be treated with
suspicion. All but the most crass advertisements are predicated on the
recognition that rationality plays only a small role in behaviour. Deep seated
emotions such as love, guilt and fear are what motivate. The successful
advertisement revolves around association, metaphor and symbol. A symbol is a
means of transforming reality and with it, behaviour. To be at its most
effective, the symbol needs to be enshrouded in mystery, to be secret, to be
consciously understood only to initiates if at all.
20th century advertising, and particularly that of the century's second half,
surrealism has been the veil behind which such "symbols of
transformation" conceal their meaning. Most people do not expect to
understand surrealism. Many people would dismiss attempts to interpret
surrealist advertising as invalid because, "you can make whatever you want
of it." That is precisely the point. The symbols used in advertising are
geared to manipulate our wants. Want itself is the motivating dynamic in
consumer behaviour. The brand being advertised can be sold as a panacea because
surrealism hooks into deep needs but mostly defies rationalisation. Those who
find an advertisement powerful - attention grabbing, thought provoking or
emotionally stirring - but fail to analyse what it is doing to them - these are
the most vulnerable to being "taken in."
art is not new. "Primitive" art can be highly surreal. But you ask a
Papua New Guinea artist about the meanings of the zigzag lines on a cooking pot,
and he will typically reply, "Luk na bai yu save (look and you will
know)” (Dennet, 1986). The artist is initiated into a culturally appropriate
and meaningful mode of perception. What distinguishes 20th century surrealism in
the Western world, is that we look, but do not know. Thus, as C.G. Jung (1978,
p. 84) says:
man does not understand how much his 'rationalism' (which has destroyed his
capacity to respond to numinous symbols and ideas) has put him at the mercy of
the psychic 'underworld.' He has freed himself from 'superstition' (or so he
believes), but in the process he has lost his spiritual values to a positively
dangerous degree. His moral and spiritual tradition has disintegrated, and he is
now paying the price for this break-up in world-wide disorientation and
1957, Vance Packard published his classic book, The Hidden Persuaders.
Modern marketing is a post-World War II phenomenon with roots in wartime
propaganda. Techniques of mass persuasion have been around since at least Roman
times as a tool of colonial policy (Thomson 1977) and has been closely linked to
the rise of both advanced capitalism and patriarchy (Ewen 1977, Ewen and Ewen
1992). But the 1950's, for the first time, saw the discipline of marketing
rendered "scientific." Insights into depth psychology developed by
Freud, Jung, Adler, etc. for the purpose of healing were turned towards
maximising market share by the agency "depth boys." Packard records
how leading ad agencies sent their creative staff to study psychiatry and
sociology. Account executives' desks would be piled high with books by Freud.
There was "talk at management conventions of 'the marketing revolution' and
considerable pondering on how best to 'stimulate' consumer buying, by creating
wants in people that they still didn't realise existed" (op. cit., pp. 23 -
24). Ernest Dichter, the "father of modern advertising," said as early
as 1951 that the successful ad agency, "manipulates human motivations and
desires and develops a need for goods with which the public has at one time been
unfamiliar - perhaps even undesirous of purchasing" (ibid. p. 29). Packard
surmised (ibid. p. 37):
Thus it was that merchandisers of many different products began
developing a startling new view of their prospective customers. People's
subsurface desires, needs, and drives were probed in order to find their points
of vulnerability. Among the subsurface motivating factors found in the emotional
profile of most of us, for example, were the drive to conformity, need for oral
stimulation, yearning for security. Once these points of vulnerability were
isolated, the psychological hooks were fashioned and baited and placed deep in
the merchandising sea for unwary prospective customers.
most of us who have been through business school are not taught these things. I
have observed that they do, however, sometimes form part of business school
staff consultancy. Typically students are told that marketing is about
satisfying needs, not creating them. Accordingly, marketing is a discipline to
feel proud of. All it does is to quantify market dynamics. The main way
advertising works is by associating a product with particular lifestyles. It is
about getting people to switch brands, not develop needs they did not previously
then, has happened to all the motivational psychological material of the 1950's?
In my view it went as far as it could at the time, and became internalised by
society. As a young marketing executive with Distillers who was responsible for
Gordons’ Gin once told me, “You don’t need all that psychological stuff.
You just need to understand the image of the drink and how it fits the
lifestyles wanted by the people you’re targeting.” However, there is a
circular argument here. The "lifestyles" built on motivational
manipulation in post-war years are now what we presume to be normal. The modern
advertising executive therefore only needs to have a good feel for what the
previous generation doing his job helped to create. She needs to embody it:
“since it is not the business of our understanding whether or not human
sensibility or imagination can match what it conceives” (Lyotard 1984, p. 80).
A self-perpetuating virtual reality arises. And we think we’re so clever, not
being influenced by, say, the brand of a particular coffee advertisement. Yet
because coffee culture or whatever has been reinforced, we still go for a cup of
it whatever the brand, not thinking that advertising might have stimulated this
course, all this is not to deny that coffee, gin and perhaps even cigarettes may
not be enjoyable in their own right. The problem only arises when we become
driven by such products; when through addiction we become possessed by them. But
whilst the ethical issue of promoting addictive behaviour may be fairly clear
cut with tobacco, it is arguable that a much wider range of social and
environmental ills can also be partly attributed to motivational manipulation
through advertising culture. US Vice President Al Gore (1992) suggests that our
whole pattern of lifestyle has become a form of addictive behaviour. His
remarkable chapter on "Dysfunctional Civilisation" suggests that we
are destroying the planet because we now consume the Earth itself. The leading
consciousness psychologist, Charles Tart, suggests that a hypnotic-like societal
"consensus trance" filters most people’s perception of reality (Tart
1988). We perceive, value and aspire towards that which it is consensually
agreed is “normal.” But such normal reality is built up by advertising, mass
media images, educational structures and pressures to conform socially. If such
analysis is valid, it brings to fruition the 1952 hope of an ad man writing in Advertising
Agency that the new depth psychological techniques would be "ultimately
for controlling their behaviour" (Packard, op cit., p. 29).
is generally accepted that probably the two most successful advertising
campaigns in modern British history are those for Silk Cut and Benson and
Hedges. Both are owned by Gallaher and both pioneered surrealist imagery. A 1996
Cancer Research Campaign study on advertising recall revealed that:
two most advertised brands, Benson and Hedges and Silk Cut, were the most
frequently named. Silk Cut on its own was more frequently mentioned by girls who
had never smoked before (von Radowitz, 1996).
I shall look at case studies of advertisements for each of these brands. I shall
also briefly mention other brands and products to suggest that the phenomenon
being addressed in this paper is not confined to Gallaher. In analysing this
material I have spoken with a number of industry creative and account
executives. In some cases it has been necessary to preserve anonymity.
1971 the British government introduced the requirement that cigarette ads should
have health warnings printed on them). The Tobacco Manufacturers Association
later came up with its own voluntary code (1995) to mitigate pressure for
further legislative control. And the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA)
restricts associating cigarettes with an attractive lifestyle. These measures
threw the industry into turmoil. As Colin Stockall, media services manager in
Gallaher’s corporate affairs department told me, “It certainly stimulated
the minds of the creative people by having to conform with images that conform
to the government’s guidelines.”
Another industry source maintains that the breakthrough into surrealist advertising for B & H came in the mid-1970’s. One of the creative staff at the advertising agency, Collett Dickenson Pearce (CDP), had been looking at a book of French surreal photography. Here shoes had been placed in unusual positions, such as outside a mousehole, or in a cage beside a caged bird. The CDP staffer adapted this idea, substituting the gold cigarette packet instead of the shoe.
first," according to my informant, "we all thought it was crazy. But
we went with it because we had no better ideas. By the end of the year it had
become fashionable. The industry started awarding all sorts of prizes. It was
seen as a brilliant, original campaign."
So what have been the images involved? I can avoid selecting just those which fit my own case by taking the five B & H ads which were judged by a panel of 32 advertising industry men (and two women) as being amongst the top 100 advertising posters of all time (Morris & Watson, 1993). I will also include two more recent ones.
From 1977, the gold cigarette pack poised outside a mouse hole, looking
like a mousetrap.
Also, 1977, the pyramids of Egypt, one of which is made from the B &
H pack, in gold, with a golden sun shining through. This was similar to another
B & H ad of around the same time, which showed the gold pack as a
sarcophagus being excavated at a Pharaohonic archaeological site.
From 1978, the gold packet of cigarettes resting in blue water, looking
like a tin of sardines. The key to the can has partially opened it to reveal the
filter-headed contents lying in a row.
Also from 1978, a packet of B & H in a bird cage, alongside a bird,
From 1980, the cigarette packet being carried away by a hoard of ants.
1994, “Goodbye Gringo,” giving the 7,4 crossword clue, “Mexican
Wave.” “Gringo” could be seen as the gold cigarette pack about to be
swamped as it is swept along on a colourful ocean of emotion.
1995, a dentist with a perverse grin who has just pulled a gold tooth.
the following advertisements from Gallaher’s Silk Cut. This is a campaign said
to have been developed by Charles Saatchi, then of Saatchi and Saatchi and now
of M & C Saatchi, who now hold the Silk Cut Account.
1983 poster showing a length of purple silk with a scissors slit or knife slash
across it. In my anecdotal observations, this ad retains a high level of public
recall. It was the ad which launched Silk Cut’s campaign. It non-verbally
says, "silk-cut" and thereby established a psychological imprint with
which to interpret future advertisements in the series.
A later award winning poster, which showed a woman showering behind a
silk curtain. The curtain is not cut. But the image invites one to think that it
might become so.
From spring 1994, a Triffid-like Venus Fly Trap plant. An oversize leaf
has reached out with its jaws to rip out the crotch from someone's purple silk
pants. The zip, the "fly," hangs surrounded by shredded purple silk,
part consumed by the plant. The plant is, of course, botanically named after the
love goddess Venus for its vagina dentata-like
characteristics. In nature, it slowly digests the trapped flies.
In the summer of 1994, what looked like an Anopheles mosquito made out of
purple silk thread wound round a proboscis-like steel needle. This penetrates
(cuts) the surface on which it
- a “mind over matter” theme with the magician cutting silk by willpower.
- a sinister purple silk gloved hand cuts off a telephone. In 1995 the same ad
reappears, but this time drained of its colour to a deathly near-white.
- a set of false teeth in water have leapt up and bitten a chunk out of the silk
1995 saw two adverts featuring scissors. One has them dressed in silk
petticoats as can-can dancers, the scissors being the women’s’ legs. Another
has an array of scissors, some surgical, lined up against a background
suggestive of a concentration camp barb-wired brick wall or, perhaps, a musical
1995 - a row of people (a single person in one version) lined up outside
the toilet. They stand crouched up, dressed in purple silk with chess pawns as
their heads. A knife hangs on the door. When I described it to an M & C
Saatchi staff member as “dying for a fag,” he corrected me and said,
“dying for a slash.”
1996 - Edinburgh Festival. A field of haggis or sheep-like creatures made
from bagpipes wandering around a field full of mantraps.
number of other examples of advertising might be interpreted to support the case
to be made in this paper.
Marlboro, featuring a motorway slipway in an arid New Mexico-type
landscape. A prominent sign reads, "GO BACK you are going WRONG WAY."
A similar Marlboro ad suggests driving against a red light. An August 1996
Marlboro ad depicts the throttle of an airline with the cigarette pack resting
on it. The plane is flying over a wasteland with a factory and what look like
slurry settlement pools “Somewhere in the middle of Marlboro Country.” The
image suggests both thrusting power and desolation.
In their "Black on White" theme, John Players' JPS features
four black crows on a perch. They are reacting in alarm to a white dove
alighting assertively between them. The imagery has Biblical undertones (descent
of the Holy Spirit, etc.). The caption reads "Black is also available in
White." This invites the imagination to consider to consider a crow landing
Non-tobacco products of interest include Smirnoff vodka. One advert shows
a swarm of hornets which turn into Vietnam-style combat helicopters when viewed
through the bottle; another depicts angels which turn into a Hells’ angel
through the bottle. Scottish Widows life assurance use an attractive young widow
dressed in black. In one TV advert she walks seductively through a garden
inhabited by a gargoyle statue. (These items not illustrated here).
are B & H trying to say? Their consistent symbol is gold. What does gold
mean? Arguably, the company would like us to think in terms of precious luxury.
The pack is gold because the contents are like gold: desirable like cheese in a
mousetrap; as priceless as the gold in the tombs of the pyramids; worth keeping
captive, like a rare and beautiful caged bird; nourishment preserved in a classy
can, like the best sardines; so delectable that even the ants would carry it
a different consistent theme can also be read. When these ads first came out one
of their most striking features was that the only words were the government
health warning. Looked at without the knowledge that the tobacco companies were
up to something clever, they could have been seen as anti-smoking propaganda.
The mousetrap pack poised outside the hole, will tempt and kill you; as dead as
the Pharaohs in the pyramids; entrapped through addiction like a caged bird;
pickled as the canned sardines; rendered fit to be carried off as by ants ... so
“Goodbye Gringo!” Not even the gold in your mouth is safe.
potential irony was not missed by the Scottish Health Education Unit. In 1978
they attempted to turn the image on itself (Taylor 1985, pp. 38-39). A set of a
graveyard was built in a London studio and used to photograph a golden cigarette
packet with the health warning on the side, being lowered into the ground. The
original caption was meant to be, “Some people have been known to die in the
search for gold.” The campaign was a closely guarded secret, but Gallaher
found out. They complained to the Advertising Standards Authority that it was a
pastiche of their brand. The original posters had to be shredded. A substitute
was made where the coffin was pinewood. Gallaher’s gold remained untarnished.
Shortly it became Britain’s best-selling brand for four years running.
does cut silk say? Opulence to the point that you can afford to destroy it;
opulence you can send up in smoke? And what else?
their book of the top 100 advertising posters of all time, Morris & Watson
(1993) wrote of the 1983 slashed silk image described above:
poster is proof that simple ideas are the strongest and that powerful branding
comes out of the size of your idea, not the size of your logo. As David Ogilvy
once said, 'The consumer isn't a moron, she's your wife'.
as it does on the phallic, such language fits a campaign which, with its vaginal
slit and purple labial folds has been dubbed by some in the industry as
"Silk Cunt" (Collier 1995, pers. com.) and caricatured as “Silk
and cigarettes. The Freudian Eros. We can mostly spot it coming, handle it,
enjoy the "smart Alex
surrealism" of recognising which brand each nameless ad is for, and keep
things in proportion ... even old Uncle Freud said that “sometimes a cigar is
just a cigar.”
the fascination of these ads cuts deep. People stand and stare at them. Are we
talking sex and “just” sex here, or is there more to them than what we would
shower curtain advertisement was proposed for a poster advertising industry
award. A advertising executive who held one of the presiding roles at the event
told me, "Everyone was unanimous that it was the best ad of the year. But I
felt distinctly uncomfortable. You knew that the scene was Hitchcock's Psycho.
The woman was about to be raped and killed."
media services manager, Colin Stockall, says of the alleged Psycho overtones,
“Well I know some people interpret it that way but I can’t say that’s our
view of it.” He added (pers. com.
16-8-96) that Silk Cut constitutes, “The most successful advertising of its
age. Still don’t think it compares with the B & H ads of the ‘70s. I
think they were in a class of their own.” As for psychological
interpretations, “You’re reading more into this than me, quite honestly. I
just regard them as images, and the fine images that they are.”
what sort of mind sees them as such? Martin Casson of M & C Saatchi created
Silk Cut’s bagpipe ad. I phoned him and asked what he made of the shower
curtain one. He contradicted Stockall, saying: “People recognise the
connection between the advertisement and Psycho, the thriller, so people think
they’re quite clever. It’s smart arse. It affirms their intelligence and
their wittiness. It strikes a chord with them.”
is my view that what we see here is actually violated sexuality. The silk
is not merely cut; it is knife-slashed. The erotic purple shower curtain
triggers thoughts of rape and murder. The purple hand over the phone suggests
cutting off communication in a vulnerable situation and the white version
suggests the draining of life (I am told that a Hitchcock movie featured a man
who you do not see cutting off the phone and attempting to strangle Grace Kelly,
who stabs him with scissors). The mosquito sucks blood and gives cerebral
malaria. The magician’s legs are wide apart, the condom-like phallic shape of
the cut suggesting perhaps the male member. Or perhaps, since the “cut” has
up until this point in time been a feminine image, the male’s thrust into the
feminine not by invitation, but by force of will.
nightmarish teeth come alive at night and bite. The pawns outside the toilet are
dying for a “slash,” or is it a fag - but either way it is administered with
a kitchen knife. The can-can scissors cut at the sexual apex. Others stand
arrayed like the surgical instruments might in a cancer operating theatre, but
the prison-like context brings to mind torture more than healing.
the Venus Fly Trap has ripped out the crotch with its toothed vagina. Male or
female crotch or genitalia? It
matters not at this level of psychological depth; of obscenity when commercially
used in these ways. Norman O. Brown would have found the image perfectly to
illustrate his hyper-Freudianism (1966, pp. 62 - 63):
The woman is a penis. ...Aphrodite, the personification of femininity, is
just a penis, a penis cut off and tossed into the sea; the penis which Father
Sky lost in intercourse with Mother Earth. ...The vagina as a devouring mouth,
or vagina dentata; the jaws of the giant cannibalistic mother, a menstruating
woman with the penis bitten off, a bleeding trophy.
should such images attract smokers to Silk Cut? Why the high recall amongst
young women in particular? Why spend some £50,000 in concept development and
artwork alone for each ad? What deep chord is being struck?
propose that two elements are at work here. The first is rape fantasy. As Freud
repeatedly emphasised, one of the costs of "civilisation" is
repression of the erotic instinct. Anthologies of women’s' sexual fantasies
suggest that rape is often a theme. Nancy Friday explains (1975, p. 108):
Rape does for a woman's sexual fantasy what the first Martini does for
her in reality: both relieve her of responsibility and guilt.
repressed woman is able to let go. She has no option but to accept enjoying
what, in the fantasy, has been thrust upon her. It is crucial to stress that
this is a psychological device used in fantasy only; it does not imply actual
the psychology of advertising the identity of the product and the consumer are
often merged. The consumer’s self becomes identified with the product, or more
technically speaking, with its brand image. Brands are given anthropomorphic
characters. Market researchers ask, “If this brand was a person, what would
he/she be like.” Brands are refined to persuade the consumer into a
relationship with them. Attachment develops consistent with psychological
Cut may suggest at an unconscious level that the consumer has no real choice in
the question of addiction to its brand. Like rape fantasy, she might as well
just lie back and accept it. Might as well enjoy the quasi-orgiastic rush of
nicotine to the body. What is being sold is not tobacco. The real product is
sexual release. And this is not the “normal” sexual arousing of, say, a
suntan lotion ad. This is about very deep psychophysical penetration in a way
that just can’t be said “no” to. It cuts to the very soul.
a woman, rape is theft of the soul. And this leads in to the second sinister
element in Silk Cut. Death imagery.
1994 death imagery, and not just sexuality, has been increasingly prominent in
Silk Cut’s work - the mosquito, the silk hand, the lampshade, the scissors and
“dying for a slash.”
most recent example is the bagpipes ad. This was designed by Martin Casson of M
& C Saatchi to link in with Silk Cut’s sponsorship of events in the 1996
Edinburgh Festival. I spoke to Casson about this (16-6-96). I congratulated him
on the brilliance of the concept and its execution, and outlined my own research
theories. He refuted the notion that there was any deep psychological undertone
to the work.
I suggested that the silk-cut theme was basically about violation he replied,
“I think that’s over-analysing it. The primary motivating factor in my
culture, in my advertising culture, is an attempt to get humour into the
advertisement rather than hark back to death or entrapment.... (They) work if
it’s funny, if people find it engaging.”
said that for the Festival ad they had considered a piece of silk with 2
diagonal cuts to make a St Andrews flag. But that would have been too boring.
Thus, “the idea was to imply cuts, rather than to show a piece of silk that
has been cut.”
suggested that the gin traps insinuated entrapment/addiction and even death. And
imagine the noise if one of those creatures got trapped and deflated through the
chanter! He said:
think people would have to be either very negative in their view of life or
overanalying it to create a sub-plot that doesn’t really exist. I mean, the
idea really is that these are not people, these are not living breathing
animals. They’re just objects that look funny. That look although they almost
want to get trapped because that’s what man traps do. They trap things. And
that’s what animals do. They step in things. You know, especially like dumb
sheep-type animals. But these are more than that. They’re just odd looking,
bagpipes, which have been made to look like haggises. It’s a fantasy.
It’s just an odd image, and because it’s odd it looks interesting. It
captures people’s attention.
what kind of humour is it that “my culture ... advertising culture”
reinforces in us. If death is implicated, why do such necrophilic images capture
people’s attention and result in tangible sales?
(1960) devotes a whole chapter to the exploits of the "depth boys" of
the 1950's with sex and its relevance to cigarette advertising is well
recognised (Pollay c.1994). But death imagery of the past two decades suggests
that maybe “the boys” had not fathomed the deepest trench.
became unfashionable in the sixties and seventies to the extent that there is
hardly a British university psychology department left that teaches him. But
were one or two of the smartest minds in advertising looking for material that
went counter to the pendulum swing? Looking to Freud and Jung because what they
have to say is in some ways more pertinent than ever. As John Lennon sung:
Keep you doped with religion and sex and TV
And you think you're so clever and classless and free
But you're still fuckin' peasants as far as I can see
A working class hero is something to be
There's room at the top they are telling you still
But first you must learn how to smile as you kill
If you want to be like the folks on the hill ...
If you want to be a hero, well just follow me
as advertising agencies wrestled with the requirement to have government health
warnings, somebody speculated that death itself is the best caption you could
have. Or maybe there was no such realisation. It is not necessary to prove that
Charles Saatchi or whoever hit on a vein of psychological gold in the dusty
texts of an older generation that nobody else in advertising had previously
mined. But to understand why violation in ads might appeal, the dusty texts need
this paper I propose that violative imagery is effective because it taps into
what was the third and final stage of Freud’s thought: what he called the
"death instinct." P. Federn later dubbed this "Thanatos,"
after the Greek god of death. In discussing the imagery of it here, I shall use
the adjective “thanatonic” - a kind of inverse of “bionic.” Brown (1961,
p. 28) points out that Thanatos was one of the least popular of Freud’s
theories: “Almost alone amongst his pronouncements this conception raised a
storm of protest amongst Freud's orthodox supporters, much of it couched in the
language of moral disapproval.”
many people in the ad agency would need to know what was going on because
Gallaher’s surrealism conceals what I argue is the real message from
consciousness. But it entices it into the unconscious. The creative people would
probably work more freely if thanatonic themes were not articulated and thereby
risk articulation of self-censoring moral norms. Maybe nobody in the agencies is
conscious of the consistency with
which violative images are being used, but if so it renders all the more
remarkable that very consistency.
B & H ad is not overtly objectionable. I would not have featured it here but
that I was able to procure considerable insight from the person who made it. The
story is that in early 1994 B & H featured a tuna fish on a piano.
Cross-word style, it punned: "Balancer of Scales? (5,5)," To this the
“smart Alex” response was meant to be, "piano tuner."
contacted the agency CDP and spoke with the creative executive who had come up
with the image. I had to stretch my case more than would have been necessary
with some of the other ads, but put it to him that here was an image of a dead
fish: its snout rested on a B & H packet which depressed three adjacent keys
on the piano - a discordant chord. The piano was curved, black, coffin-like. An
arc of gold swept the picture from the cigarette pack, to the gold ring in the
fish's eye, to the fish's fin, to a gold keyhole in the piano. Rings often
symbolise coitus. A keyhole in a coffin invites unlocking. And underneath the
caption simply reads, "Smoking Kills."
executive was intrigued but understandably taken aback. He felt uneasy talking
about a client issue, but also wanted to hear what I had to say. The idea that
the ad mixed symbolism pertaining to Eros and Thanatos had never entered his
mind. He said that he had been leaving the house one morning just as the piano
tuner arrived. Piano tuner; piano tuna! Nice pun. A tuna was ordered up from
Billingsgate fish market. A model was made.
They played around with it on a white piano, but black gave better
contrast. The piano happened to have a gold keyhole. The artist "made it
all look nice." No thought of sex or death ever entered their minds.
yet, now you say it," he said frankly, "I can't deny that that might
be there as well. Is it possible, heaven forbid, that I'm good at my job because
these things come up in my creative work without being conscious of such
interpretations? Come to think of it, one of the client executives did say of
this series that they were 'very Jungian'."
few weeks later the same creative executive unexpectedly phoned up. Had I seen Campaign
magazine of 15 April 1994? Look at pp. 2, 34 and 35. It made him feel that I
might be onto something. And the thought of it was somewhat affecting his
creative motivation in his work.
bought Campaign. It contained an article by Patrick Collister, executive
creative director with Ogilvy and Mather. He reviews new ad campaigns. And he
Finally, there's Death cigarettes, where all my problems as a
reviewer begin. Frankly, it defies the criteria by which ads are usually judged
in this column. It is artful only in that it is cunning and clever. Yet, unlike
everything else here, it's of real importance.
Two weeks ago, in a letter to Campaign, Tony Brignull wrote about
the real issues of advertising tobacco. He pointed out that smoking kills
people. Not allegedly, or possibly, but actually. The Enlightened Tobacco
Company says all this is true but smokers choose to risk their lives. If you're
going to die, they urge, die with us and in return we'll donate a few bob to
My private view is that the Enlightened Tobacco Company has every right
to use advertising to sell its wares but I know plenty of you out there will
abhor how it's chosen to do it. Is it cynically exploiting kids too immature to
have any real grasp on the concept of death? Or is it simply revealing the
hypocrisy that surrounds the issue?
2 of the journal reported that the top five UK poster contractors had refused to
carry posters for Death: "Industry sources say that the larger poster
players have caved in to pressure from their major tobacco clients who are
directly attacked in the Death campaign."
strongly support the hypothesis that advertisers are benefiting from a death
instinct, it must be shown that, i) any such instinct exists and, ii) it would
be an attraction, albeit perversely so, to potential tobacco consumers. To
achieve this with the confidence necessary to head off libel suits from the
tobacco companies is beyond the scope of this paper. It would require further
research. I must therefore emphasise that what is presented here is tentative,
based largely upon Freud's thought and anecdotal observation. Let me review what
Freud said and then suggest its contemporary relevance in politics, in popular
culture and in spiritual emergence - the process of self-realisation.
arrived at his theory of Thanatos after the First World War. He had started off
postulating that neurosis is caused by child sexual abuse. He then shifted to
his main theory that its origins lie in conflict between the pleasure and
reality principles. Civilised living frustrated the expression of Eros. Eros in
Freud's earlier writings was sex drive. Later he broadened it out into something
much more like Jung's concept of libido - a generalised urge to life.
war presented Freud with cases of neurosis which clearly did not have an erotic
aetiology. For reasons about which he is vague, this lead to the third stage of
his thought which postulated a death instinct as a counterpoint to Eros. A full
discussion of the merits and demerits of Thanatos theory may be found in the
appendix to Fromm (1977, pp. 581 - 631): Freud's Theory of Aggressiveness and
Destructiveness. Fromm himself wrote extensively on what he called the
“necrophilous character.” This built on Freud’s though (Fromm 1994, p.
in the characterological sense can be described as the passionate attraction to
all that is dead, decayed, putrid, sickly; it is the passion to transform that
which is alive into something unalive; to destroy for the sake of destruction;
the exclusive interest in all that is purely mechanical. It is the passion “to
tear apart living structures.”
main debut for the theory was presented in Beyond the Pleasure Principle (1920)
and The Ego and the Id (1923, both in Freud, 1984). In the latter text he
says (pp. 380 - 381):
I have lately developed a view of the instincts ... according to (which)
we have to distinguish two classes of instincts, one of which, the sexual
instincts or Eros, is by far the more conspicuous and accessible to
study.... The second class of instincts was not so easy to point to; in the end
we came to recognize sadism as its representative. On the basis of theoretical
considerations, supported by biology, we put forward the hypothesis of a death
instinct, the task of which is to lead organic life back into the inanimate
state; on the other hand, we supposed that Eros ... aims at complicating life
and at the same time, of course, at preserving it. Acting in this way, both the
instincts ... would be endeavouring to re-establish a state of things that was
disturbed by the emergence of life. The emergence of life would thus be the
cause of the continuance of life and also at the same time of the striving
towards death; and life itself would be a conflict and compromise between these
the French notion of orgasm as "la petite morte" (the little death),
Freud adds (p. 388):
The ejection of the sexual substances in the sexual act corresponds in a
sense to the separation of soma and germ-plasm. This accounts for the likeness
of the condition that follows complete sexual satisfaction to dying, and for the
fact that death coincides with the act of copulation in some of the lower
animals. These creatures die in the act of reproduction because, after Eros has
been eliminated through the process of satisfaction, the death instinct has a
free hand for accomplishing its purposes.
1996 a senior industry executive who had created some of the advertisements
under discussion here told me that, partly because of reflection on these
arguments as presented in a 1994 draft of this paper, he had resigned his highly
paid position. He said, “I’ve stopped being a peddler of death.”
pointing the link between sexual satisfaction and dying opens an important area
of understanding pertaining to sadomasochism and politics. The accidental death
by probable masturbatory self-strangulation of Stephen Milligan MP in February
1994 brought the existence of activities such as autoerotic asphyxiation into
the public limelight in a way which shocked many people. Yet in Scotland at
least, much of the press coverage was sympathetic but penetrating in its
critique of the way power is gained and exercised in British society.
Sue Innes echoed two other writers in Scotland on Sunday, 13 February
1994. Permit me to diverge into this: our discussion of Thanatos in cigarette
advertising brings such psychodynamic principles into a sharpness of relief that
might otherwise have been relegated to the obscure corners of forensic medicine.
Innes raises disturbing questions around the image of major political decisions
being made in smoke-filled rooms by men and women from an establishment
subculture to which “stiff up lip” pathology, and much more that goes with
it, is perhaps so epidemic as to be considered normal.
Insofar as it is at all, sado-masochism is discussed in terms of civil
liberties but rarely in terms of sexual politics or in terms of the bleak
insight it gives into an aspect of (mainly) male sexuality. But because of that
this latest scandal is more than a personal tragedy. It is a political issue
because the association of sexual practices involving humiliation and submission
with men who in the public world have a great deal of power is not coincidental
but related to the retarded emotional development and imbalances inherent in
what you have to do and be to achieve power. Add to that the way that the
deprivation of the traditional upper and upper middle-class boys' education
feeds into emotional repression and sexual problems. Add the lying and hypocrisy
over matters sexual, marital and financial which we have seen in the past few
weeks - are we ruled by emotional and moral inadequates, and can we pretend it
Samuels, one of the very few Jungians in a senior British academic post,
recognises that for many reasons it does matter (The Political Psyche, 1993). He
now advises the Labour Party on political psychology. And of course, it is the
Saatchi brothers who have often been credited with advertising Mrs Thatcher into
power. Through M & C Saatchi they still hold the Conservative Party account
and most recently have been responsible for producing the controversial
“demonic” Tony Blair eyes campaign. This ranks as an example of thanatonic
imagery in political advertising, something
for which the most obvious precedent is anti-Semitic advertising in
Germany earlier this century (Thomson 1977).
of the most openly amoral ministers in recent government is Alan Clark, who
championed arms sales and ceased being Minister of State at the Ministry of
Defence when the Arms for Iraq scandal got too hot. An anonymously written
“Portrait” of him in The Scotsman sheds psychological light
that would be consistent with many high achievers in his sort of position in
British power politics (Long in the Truth, 10-2-96, p. 13):
mother was a sharply intelligent woman who was ill for much of her son’s life
and who supposedly never quite forgave Alan for causing her such pain in
childbirth.... Lord Clark (his father) retained a keenly Calvinistic mistrust of
pleasure and a patrician intellectual discipline ... “He was better at
conveying things without expressing them than anyone I’ve ever met. He made me
feel inadequate intellectually” ... Eton was “an early introduction to human
cruelty, treachery, and extreme physical hardship ... the equivalent of three
years in jail.”
sado-masochism and its expression through authoritarian personalities is one
fruitful area to explore in understanding the social outworkings of Eros and
Thanatos, a second is discourse analysis of the lyrics in popular music.
mild example is The Beatles (1974, p. 161). They make specific reference
to the "discoverer" of tobacco in their song, "I'm so
tired." This portrays both alcohol and tobacco as a means of suppressing
the psychological pain of heartbreak.
I'm so tired, I haven't slept a wink,
I'm so tired, my mind is on the blink.
I wonder should I get up and fix myself a drink.
No, no, no.
I'm so tired I don't know what to do.
I'm so tired my mind is set on you.
I wonder should I call you but I know what you'd do.
You'd say I'm putting you on.
But it's no joke, it's doing me harm.
You know I can't sleep, I can't stop my brain
You know it's three weeks, I'm going insane.
You know I'd give you everything I've got
for a little peace of mind.
I'm so tired, I'm feeling so upset
Although I'm so tired I'll have another cigarette
And curse Sir Walter Raleigh.
He was such a stupid git.
many love songs played on stations like BBC Radio 1 go deeper than this. They
associate erotic love and death. During the Gulf War some of these were taken
off the air by the BBC. At the time I was co-editing, under the auspices of
Scottish Churches Action for World Development, a daily anti-war news service
for Scottish church leaders and peace activists worldwide. “GulfWatch” used
the Internet to frustrate the government’s stated intention to require media
“consultation” in reporting on peace movement activities and certain other
information of ethical concern. In response to my inquiry, a BBC spokesperson
told me that the banned list of 67 songs were not just peace songs, but ones
which might be insensitive to families of dead soldiers (Hulbert & McIntosh,
1991). These had titles like, "I Just Died in Your Arms Tonight,"
"Armed and Extremely Dangerous," and Roberta Flack's "Killing me
Softly with your Love:" that is to say, they were songs which mingled
violence or death with love.
good example of such lyrics come from Cross of Changes, a best-selling
1994 album by the German group, Enigma II.
see love, I can see passion
feel danger, I feel obsession
play games with the ones who love you
I hear a voice who says
love you ... I’ll kill you ...”
I feel loneliness in my room
into the mirror of your soul
and hate are one in all
turns to revenge and believe me
see the face who’ll say
love you ... I’ll kill you ...
I’ll love you for ever”
music is trippy, oceanic, cosmic, evoking imagery of the orgasmic cries of the
Goddess. Many of the lyric themes are eco-spiritual: “Remember the shaman when
he used to say: ‘Man is the dream of the dolphin’.”
Freud, such expression would have been seen as perfect articulation of his
“Nirvana principle,” alluded to in the above quote as that blissful,
oceanic, womb-like “state of things that was disturbed by the emergence of
life (at birth).”
acknowledges (op. cit. p. 381) that his Thanatos hypothesis "throws no
light whatever upon the manner in which the two classes of instincts are fused,
blended, and alloyed with each other; but that this takes place regularly and
very extensively is an assumption indispensable to our conception."
here he reaches impasse. He could go no further. I think this is because he saw
himself as a reductionist biologist not open to spiritual insight. This
precluded a deeper ontological teleology - speculation on what the ultimate
purpose of life is about. He could only look back in life, back to the womb, and
not into the here and now possibility of eternal life (cf. Luke 17:21). If it is
the case that spiritual reality is actually the nature of deep reality as
certain empirical evidence would suggest (cf. McIntosh 1979 a & b), this
constitutes a major failing in Freud’s outlook.
of course overcame this obstacle, and psychotherapists working within what is
broadly known as the “human potential movement” have taken Jung’s work on
in ways that give fresh insight to the point at which Freud reached impasse.
Probably the most important contemporary heirs to all this is Stan Grof, whose
early research into LSD induced non-ordinary states of consciousness lead into
the development of “holotropic breathwork” based on shamanic and yogi
techniques. With thousands of workshop participants Grof has found thanatonic
states to be a common experience (the Grof work to Britain is by the Irish
Transpersonal Psychotherapy Group, 00 353 1 668 5282 fax: 496 0389, considered
to be one of the best in the world). Both the induction of these experiences
through modest hyperventilation, and their association with suffocation, is
interesting vis-a-vis the association between tobacco and inhalation (1993, p.
Freud once shocked the world when he announced his discovery that sexuality does
not begin in puberty but in early infancy. Here we are asked to stretch our
imaginations even further and accept that we have sexual feelings even before we
are born.... The evidence suggests that the human body harbors a mechanism that
translates extreme suffering, particularly if it is associated with suffocation,
into a form of excitement that resembles sexual arousal. This mechanism has been
reported by patients in sadomasochistic relationships, by prisoners of war
tortured by the enemy, and by people who make unsuccessful attempts to hang
themselves and live to tell the story. In all these situations, agony can be
intimately associated with ecstasy, even leading to an experience of
transcendence, as is the case with flagellants and religious martyrs.
goes on to point out that (p. 61 & 218):
the passage through the birth canal, the child is in contact with various
biological products, including
mucus, blood, and possibly even urine and feces. This connection, combined with
other events, forms a natural basis for the development of a variety of sexual
disorders and deviations later in life... One of the most astonishing aspects of
the concentration camp practices was ... the indulgence in scatology ... in
sharp contrast with the meticulous German sense of cleanliness.... Suffocation
in gas chambers and the fires in the ovens of the crematoria were additional
elements in the hellish, nightmare environment of the camps. All these are
themes that people in non-ordinary states of consciousness often encounter in
their inner experiences.
approach to psychotherapy is concerned with the bodily and psychic cathartic
release of such emotions. This usually involves passing through a death and
rebirth experience. It is the very antithesis of suppressing the emotions with a
thin veneer of anaesthetic pleasure such as nicotine, alcohol or other narcotics
provide. The “death” part of the process partly entails a dying to ingrained
primal patterns of dysfunction based on unresolved trauma from perinatal and
early childhood experience. The “rebirth” is spiritual growth, the process
of finding new and unimagined resources of Life within and perhaps from beyond
share the view that it is only with a spiritual paradigm that sense can be made
of the human fascination with death. This can be processed not though
repression, but by being embraced and lifted up to make us into something more:
to make us into people who both live life, and live life abundantly (cf. John
10:10). In this way as one internationally respected Church of Scotland minister
once put it to me, “Heaven is the fulfilment of the erotic” (cf. Song of
again the popular songs on the radio. But instead of listening to them only as
girl loves boy themes, see how well the words often fit if thought of as the
love relationship between the soul and the divine.
The urge to die into one another’s love is, I believe, a shaft of
insight, albeit often temporary, into the mystical dying into eternal life. The
love feels like it will last “forever and a day” because, when people really
love, the “god within” (cf. John 10:34) the one touches that in the other.
The point of spiritual development is to develop this wonderful capacity,
deepening and widening it into what was traditionally called the “communion of
the saints:” free love in the sense of loving freely. Such capacity
corresponds to that part of the psyche that is outside of time, in the
“pleroma,” eternity. Thus there is a sense in which what we have being
broadcast over the supposedly secular radio can be listened to as Sufi hymns; as
I live, but not within myself,
In hope I now begin to die
Because I know I will not die. ...
For how can I this life sustain
If I must live away from you?
A life? It is a death in pain,
Endurance greater than I knew,
And losing all would be my gain.
My destiny I seek, for I
Am dying, so as not to die.
Radio One Gulf War banned song? No. The 16th century Spanish mystic, St John of
the Cross (tr. Jones, 1993). But it could have been another track from a group
like Enigma II. Or:
- I lift a stone; it is the meaning of life I clasp
Which is death, for that is the meaning of death;...
- Though slow as the stones the powers develop
To rise from the grave - to get a life worth having;
And in death - unlike life - we lose nothing
that is truly ours.
official mystic this time, but the supposedly atheistic Scots poet, Hugh
MacDiarmid, revealing a significance of Thanatos deeper than Gallaher-style
morbidity (from "On a Raised Beach" in Bruce ed., 1991, p. 14).
conclude then, I argue that Eros
and Thanatos are powerfully linked not so much because they are opposite
instincts as Freud suggested, but because life and death are intimately
intertwined at a mystical level. In eternal life, death is but a trick with
mirrors. It is actually part of the amazing dance of love if understood as the
mystic understands it. But when understood and exploited otherwise, it can
become something very terrible.
what is the mechanism by which nicotine hooks into misery?
1994 I brought the warrior chief of the Mi’Kmaq First Nation peoples in Nova
Scotia over to Scotland to help fight a proposed superquarry near my home in the
Scottish Hebrides (McIntosh 1995). Sulian Stone Eagle Herney was made
responsible by his people for stopping a similar proposed superquarry at Kluscap
Mountain on Cape Breton Island. As well as being a warrior chief who had seen
active combat in the Oka crisis, he was also, by paradox that his elders told
him he had to work out, now a sacred peace pipe carrier. The pipe had to be
treated as one would treat one’s grandfather. And “grandfather” was
teetotal. “He” could not be left alone for long; could not be taken anywhere
with alcohol present. This presented certain difficulties as we toured the
Highlands and Islands of Scotland on the land reform trail.
said that the first nation elders have a view that a kind of spiritual war is
taking place between the white and the red people. It is being fought by their
respective drugs. “Your alcohol is killing our people, but our tobacco gets
back at yours!”
mention this apparently quirky insight because it is significant that both
drugs, in their respective traditions, play sacramental roles. Native North
Americans use tobacco in the peace pipe, and West Europeans use alcohol in the
Christian communion service (where, interestingly, the “passion” of Christ
is his Eros/Thanatos sacrifice on the cross by dying for the love of the world.
In so doing he mythologically or otherwise affirms eternal life).
is just one pointer suggesting that tobacco abuse might be seen as spiritual
misuse. The short burst of elation that nicotine gives partakes of a spiritual
quality. But used non-sacramentally it addicts. In seeking to promote this,
tobacco companies, if my analysis is valid, are engaging in spiritual
exploitation. Young people and people who are unhappy in life, are particularly
vulnerable. We live in a predominantly secular age where genuine avenues for
spiritual expression (as distinct from trite churchianity and cults) are not
easy to find. Some people are therefore deeply vulnerable to flirting with the
oblivion offered by narcotics of any kind. Anecdotal interviews with young
people demonstrate this: “... the health aspect certainly doesn’t worry me -
if anything I find the self-destructive element attractive,” one 21 year old
man told The Times. A 23 year old woman said, “I do it because it
will kill me” (Coren 1995).
Edinburgh Wester Hailes physician, most of whose case load is with the
consequences of addictions, has pointed out to me how often such behaviour has
archetypal components of the martyred hero: the death of the young god; the
James Dean figure. And the common male teenage fantasy of being the tail-gunner
in the Lancaster, holding off the attacking enemy, but being shot just as the
plane lands safely: and then watching the heroism of his own funeral.
Such archetypes speak to the Adlerian psychology of the need to feel important,
loved, to have a role in a world which doesn’t care a damn for you, has never
cared a damn for you, and wishes you’d just get off the dole queue and behind
the counter selling hamburgers for MacDonalds.
cigarette advertisements can therefore be interpreted as saying,
"Miserable? No God? Then rest your life into our arms. Be ravished by the
Nirvana of our sweet oblivion. Killing you softly with our song. And like HM
Government is telling you in the words printed below, 'Smoking Kills'."
societies such as ours where religion has largely failed in its role of
providing emotional expression for matters of ultimate concern, addictions
arguably are a consequence. Alcohol, for instance, both numbs the pain and may
fulfil, perversely, a displaced sacramental function. It is no coincidence that
in much of the Scottish Highlands, as in other colonial wastelands, heavy drink
toggles with heavy religion; or that the approach of Alcoholics Anonymous is
primarily concerned with the non-sectarian resolution of spiritual blockage. The
Ayrshire born Professor of Twentieth Century Poetics at the Sorbonne, Kenneth
White, addresses this in an essay on Tam o' Shanter - the frustrated Scots
shaman in the same lineage as MacDiarmid’s archetypal Scottish drunken man
with his thistle (1990):
It is whisky alone which enables Tam to look without fear on the 'devlish'
scene, it was whisky alone which enabled Burns to penetrate into the very
recesses of his mind, right into the pagan core, after having thrown off the
hindrances of Christian morality and, in this case, its particularly drastic
form, Calvinism. Whisky, or usquabae, was the real Water of Life to many
a Calvinist; drinking it allowed him to escape the moral death which he
otherwise endured; drinking it freed his imagination, let him enjoy some natural
being, some thalamic (if I may say so) consciousness.
short, we might ask whether modern cigarette advertising is one of the most
malevolent missionary endeavours of all time. Might the companies, nationally
and transnationally, be seen as veritable Molochs: fiery tombs that consume the
children for nothing but their own balance sheet salvation?
the arguments in this paper are
tenable, could the companies continue to operate as cryptically as they have
done over the past two decades? Or would their secret be out; the symbolism
behind their surrealism exegised; the public, or at least those who take an
interest, both inured and disgusted?
hope so. That is one of my objectives in writing.
paper’s analysis suggests the need for a fundamental review of the nature of
our society’s health education. It would require health to be understood in
its full psychospiritual as well as its somatic dimensions. It would entail
seeing a role of government as being to ensure that all people have the option
of access to psychospiritual education. This is not the same as the religious
instruction upon which some political ministers place so much hope for public
would mean ensuring that each person has access to the means for developing
their full human potential - a process in which the articulation of creativity
is central (Darwin 1995). In my view and that of other deep ecologists, it would
entail having a right of access to nature. My American colleague, therapist Jane
Middleton-Moz (1989) who works with the very rich as well as with broken Native
American communities, tells that 70% of her clients first found solace in
nature. Indeed, a number of thinkers with backgrounds in both therapy and
ecology are currently making persuasive cases that the violation of nature and
damage to the human psyche are a feedback loop which, if negative now, could
again be made positive by learning that caring for the Earth is to care for the
self (Ventura & Hillman 1993, Seed, Naess et. al. 1988, Macey 1993). Some of
my colleagues at the Centre for Human Ecology have demonstrated this to be as
important for the urban poor as for those sectors of society more usually
associated with the countryside (cf. O’Leary 1996).
relationships between intergenerational trauma and addiction would have to be
openly explored in society. In parts of Scotland, for instance, it would require
examining the contemporary health effects of intergenerational poverty linked to
traumatic historical events like the Highland Clearances (McIntosh et al.,
1994). We are familiar with the concept of psychotherapy for individuals. I
believe that the same is needed at a cultural level: a cultural psychotherapy to
address collective pathologies. Just as with an individual the first step in
therapy is to recover repressed memory, so at a cultural level repressed history
must be revealed. In particular, psychohistory should be taught. This looks not
just at the events but at their emotional consequences. It is only very recently
in Scotland and Ireland that radical historians, especially James Hunter,
Brendan Bradshaw and Donald Meek, have touched on the importance of this and
have started to give the poetry and song of bygone generations their due
historiographical weight (cf. Hunter 1995). History which denies psychospiritual
consequences is but displacement activity designed to keep the young
disempowered. This has been very evident in the teaching of Scottish history in
schools during much of the twentieth century. The gap is being filled, however,
by Scottish folk/rock by singers like Runrig, Dougie MacLean and Dick Gaughan.
In Ireland such work is championed by Sinead O’Conner, who has a particularly
powerful track about the psychodynamics of the famine. The passion released in
these ways is becoming evident as a resurgent inclusive nationalism with
would feel hesitant in making what might be seen as grandiose suggestions about
cultural psychotherapy were it not that a growing chorus of thinkers now
perceive what Jung saw: namely, that we are all products of the psychological
climate of our times. Thus, action to bring about both human healing and
ecological regeneration must be both individual and collective. If we carry on
ignoring the problem, keeping ourselves doped on nicotine, alcohol and Prozac,
we stand to destroy further the very basis of human life. US Vice President Al
Gore says of this (1992, p. 220 - 221).
One of the most effective strategies for ignoring psychic pain is to
distract oneself ... addiction is distraction.... The cleavage in the
modern world between mind and body, man and nature, has created a new kind of
addiction: I believe that our civilization is, in effect, addicted to the
consumption of the earth itself. This addictive relationship distracts us from
the pain of what we have lost: a direct experience of our connection to the
vividness, vibrancy, and aliveness of the rest of the natural world. The froth
and frenzy of industrial civilization mask our deep loneliness for that
communion with the world that can lift our spirits and fill our senses with the
richness and immediacy of life itself.
Grof concurs. He links what he calls BPM III experience - a more structured
conceptualisation that would incorporate Thanatos - with a powerful vision of
the possibility of articulating our full humanity (op. cit. 219 - 221; cf. also
Grof & Grof (eds.) 1989):
the most intriguing among the new insights are those related to the current
global crisis. We all have the dubious privilege of living in an era when the
world drama is reaching its culmination.... Does it not seem possible that our
efforts at peace fail because none of our present approaches have addressed that
dimension which seems to be at the centre of the global crisis: the human
psyche.... In our modern world we have externalized many of the essential
elements of BPM III. When working to achieve transformation on an individual
level, we know that we must face and come to terms with these themes. The same
elements that we would encounter in the process of psychological death and
rebirth in our visionary experiences appear today as stories on our evening
news.... The scatological dimension is evident in the progressive industrial
pollution, accumulation of waste products on a global scale, and rapidly
deteriorating hygienic conditions in large cities. Many people with whom we have
worked have volunteered very interesting insights into this situation.... It
seems that we are all involved in a process that parallels the psychological
death and rebirth that so many people have experienced individually in
non-ordinary states of consciousness. If we continue to act out the destructive
tendencies from our deep unconscious, we will undoubtedly destroy ourselves and
all life on our planet. However, if we succeed in internalizing this process on
a large enough scale, it might result in evolutionary progress that can take us
as far beyond our present condition as we now are from the primates.... As
utopian as this might seem on the surface, it might very well be our only real
chance. Over the years I have seen profound transformations in people who have
been involved with serious and systematic inner quests.... Their ability to
enjoy life, particularly the simple pleasures of everyday existence, increased
considerably. Deep reverence for life and ecological awareness are among the
most frequent consequences of the psychospiritual transformation that
accompanies ... spiritual emergence.... It is my belief that a movement in the
direction of a fuller awareness of our unconscious minds will vastly increase
our chances for planetary survival.
the tobacco companies have helped to highlight the spiritual malaise of our
times they will have done us a favour. The task facing us now is to redirect
towards wholesome ends the massive social power that they and other agents of
addiction are parasites on. These agents include the drip-feed feelgood factor
of “retail therapy” that hip-pocket politics appeals to.
Cut and Freud have got it right in that this is basically an erotic task. If we
fail to re-establish fulfilled erotic relationship with life - that is to say,
incarnation, re-enchantment - then Thanatos will roll on with the horses of the
apocalypse bringing to a nuclear age worse consequences than ever before in
human history. But this call to an erotic engagement with life must be
understood in a specific sense. It is one that certain feminist writers employ,
particularly Audre Lorde who says in her powerful essay on “Uses of the
Erotic” (1984, p. 56):
The dichotomy between the spiritual and the political is also false,
resulting from an incomplete attention to our erotic knowledge. For the bridge
which connects them is formed by the erotic - the sensual - those physical,
emotional and psychic expressions of what is deepest and strongest and richest
within each of us, being shared: the passions of love, in its deepest meanings.
Lorde the erotic is about the extension of feeling, of the heart, into the
world. This includes sexuality. But it is more than just sex. For Lorde the
difference between erotic love of the world and pornography is that the latter
is devoid of feeling. And that is why Silk Cut’s commercial exploitation is so
obscene. It is pornography: the antithesis of Heaven as fulfilment of the
an opening up to the creative movement of love entails recovery of the deep poesis
- the poetic/musical/dancing making and re-arising of reality: the mythopoesis
of stories to live by: the movement of the Spirit by which values flow naturally
through us ... not because we are frightened to do wrong, but because it is
beautiful to live right; to dare to love free and live wild.
Adrienne Rich (1993) calls for poetics to guide our politics. This was once how
it was in the Celtic bardic tradition (Corkery 1967); the poets guided political
process until measures such as the 1609 Statutes of Iona put them out of
business by a new, colonially minded power dynamic. Now, as humankind struggles
with the immensity of trying to move towards sustainable livelihood consistent
with such processes as Agenda 21 of the Rio Summit, a recovery of such bardic
traditions is needed to address those aspects of holistic thought that are too
complex and too deep for rational political and other social processes alone to
There is fresh need to embody a prophetic theology: a theology of insistence upon the right of each person to live an authentic life; that is, a self-authored life. One endowed with the necessary confidence to fulfil age old prophetic callings (cf. Numbers 11:29). These are to speak truth to power. To name, unmask and where necessary, engage the powers that be which violate wholeness (Wink 1992).
the need to build communities that can honour human dignity because
each person has their dignity honoured. To honour the unity of soil and soul.
And to salve the world; to heal its sores; to achieve in the
etymologically correct sense of the word, salvation.
Journal of the Mental Environment,
The Media Foundation, 1243 7th Avenue, Vancouver, BC V6H 1B7 Canada.
The (1974). The Beatles Lyrics. London, Futura.
A. (1924). First Manifesto of Surrealism. As cited in exhibition at
Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art, June 1994.
Publishing Group, Tobacco Control: an International Journal, BMA House,
Tavistock Sq., London WC1H 9JR.
Medical Association Public Affairs Division, Smoking out the Barons: the
Campaign Against the Tobacco Industry, Chichester, John Wiley and
J. A. C. (1961). Freud and the Post-Freudians. London, Penguin.
J. A. C. (1963). Techniques of Persuasion: from Propaganda to Brainwashing.
N. O. (1966). Love's Body. Berkeley, University of California Press.
G. (ed.) (1991). A Scottish Land Anthology. Aberdeen, Aberdeen
(15 April 1994). London, Haymarket Publications.
M. (1995). Tobacco Advertising, BA Honours Dissertation in Communication
Media, Manchester Metropolitan University.
G. (1995). Why the young are dying for a smoke, The Times, 6-12-95, p.
D. (1967). The Hidden Ireland. Dublin, Gill and Macmillan.
T. (1995). Creativity, Ecology and Becoming a Person, The Trumpeter: Journal
of Ecosophy. 12:4, pp. 175 - 177.
H. (1986). Personal communication, Papua New Guinea.
II (1994). Cross of Changes. London, Virgin.
S. (1977). Captains of Consciousness: Advertising and the Social Roots of the
Consumer Culture, New York, McGraw-Hill.
S. & Ewen, E. (1992). Channels of Desire: Mass Images and the Shaping of
American Consciousness, Minneapolis, University of Minnesota Press.
P. (1972). Pedagogy of the Oppressed. London, Penguin.
S. (1962). Two Short Accounts of Psychoanalysis. London, Penguin.
S. (1984). On Metapsychology: The Theory of Psychoanalysis - Beyond the
Pleasure Principle, The Ego and the Id, and Other Works. London, Penguin
Freud Library Vol. 11, Penguin Books.
N. (1975). My Secret Garden, London, Quartet Books.
E. (1977). The Anatomy of Human Destructiveness. London, Penguin.
E. (ed. Funk, R.) (1994). The Erich Fromm Reader. New Jersey, Humanities
S. & Grof, C. (eds.) (1989). Spiritual Emergency: When Personal
Transformation Becomes a Crisis. New York, Tarcher.
S. (1993). The Holotropic Mind. HarperSanFransisco.
A. (1992). Earth in the Balance. London, Earthscan.
(1983). Subliminal Seduction: Selling Products to the subconscious mind (anon.),
Vol. 3, No. 1, CA, Summit University Press.
A. & McIntosh, A. (1992). The GulfWatch Papers, Edinburgh Review, No.
87, pp. 13 - 71. Edinburgh, Polygon - Edinburgh University Press.
J. (1995). On the Other Side of Sorrow: Nature and People in the Scottish
Highlands. Edinburgh, Mainstream.
K. (trans.) (1993). The Poems of St John of the Cross. Tunbridge Wells,
Burns & Oates.
C. G. (1978). Man and his Symbols, London, Picador.
J. F. (1984). The Postmodern Condition: a Report on Knowledge. Manchester
A. (1984). "Poetry is not a Luxury," and "Uses of the
Erotic," Sister Outsider. USA, Crossing Press.
J. (1993). Despair and Personal Power in the Nuclear Age. USA, New
A. (1979a). Mystical experience,
hallucination and belief in God, Christian Parapsychologist, New Romney,
Churches' Fellowship for Psychical and Spiritual Studies, 3:1, 3‑8.
A. (1979b). The 'Christos' procedure: a novel altered state of consciousness
induction technique, Psychoenergetic Systems: the Journal of Psychophysical
Systems, London, Gordon & Breach Science Publishers Inc.,
A. & D. (1984). Marketing: a
Handbook for Charities. London, Directory of Social Change.
A., Wightman, A., & Morgan, D. (1994). Reclaiming the Scottish Highlands:
Clearance, Conflict and Crofting, The Ecologist, 24:2, pp. 64 - 70.
A. (1995). Theology Rocks Superquarry Scheme, ECOS: Journal of the British
Association for Nature Conservation, 16:1.
J. (1989). Children of Trauma. Deerfield Beach, Health Communications
R. & Watson, R. (1993). The
World’s 100 Best Posters, Horsham, Open Eye Publishing.
T. (1996). ‘Nae Fur the Likes of Us’: Poverty, Agenda 21 and Scotland’s
Environmental Non-Governmental Organisations, Scottish Affairs. 16, pp.
62 - 80.
V. (1960). The Hidden Persuaders. London, Penguin.
R. W. (c. 1994). “Below the belt” cigarette advertising, Ad Watch,
pp. 188 - 193 (further details missing).
Radowitz, J (1996). Cigarette adverts ‘encourage young’, The Scotsman,
16 August, p. 4.
A. (1993). What is Found There: Notebooks on Poetry and Politics. New
York, W. W. Norton.
A. (1993). The Political Psyche. London, Routledge.
J., Macy, J., Flemming, P., & Naess, A. (1988). Thinking Like a Mountain.
USA, New Society.
A. (1989). Freud. Oxford, Oxford University Press.
C. T. (1988). Waking Up: Overcoming the Obstacles to Human Potential. UK,
P. (1985). The Smoke Ring: Tobacco, Money & Multinational Politics.
London, Sphere Books.
O. (1977). Mass Persuasion in History. Edinburgh, Paul Harris.
Manufacturers Association (1995). UK tobacco products advertising and
promotion Voluntary Agreement. London.
M. & Hillman, J. (1993). We’ve had a hundred years of psychotherapy and
the world’s still getting worse, London, Harpercollins.
K. (1990). 'Tam o' Shanter': an Interpretation, Scottish Literary Journal, 17:2,
pp. 5 - 14.
W. (1992). Engaging the Powers: Discernment and
Resistance in a World of Domination. Philadelphia, Fortress Press.
Internet Users Please Note:
The material on this page is original
text as submitted to the publication stated beneath the title. As the editing
process means that some parts may have been cut, altered or corrected after it
left my hands, or I might have made minor subsequent amendments, please specify in citation
“internet version from www.AlastairMcIntosh.com”
as well as citing the place of first publication. Note that author particulars,
including contact address(es) and organisational affiliations may have changed
since first publication.
material is © Alastair McIntosh and/or first publishers. However (and without
prejudice to any legal rights of the original or subsequent publishers), I give
my permission for it to be freely copied for non-commercial educational purposes
provided that due acknowledgement is given. Please advise of any uses that might
particularly interest me. For commercial enquires, please contact original
publishers and/or email me. Thanks, folks, and enjoy, enjoy, enjoy!
To RETURN to any sub-index from which you approached this page, click BACK on your web browser. To return to my homepage, click www.AlastairMcIntosh.com.