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 Eros to Thanatos - Cigarette Adverts


From Eros to Thanatos


Cigarette Advertising’s Imagery of Violation as

an Icon into British Cultural Psychopathology


Alastair McIntosh


[Click here to view 3 webpages of advertisements described in the text] - **new** mostly in colour now


First 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. This paper received media publicity that included the lead article in The Wall Street Journal, 10-10-96, pp. 1 & 10 in European edition ("No Butts About It: British Tobacco Ads Keep Burning Bright," by Tara Parker-Pope) and The Sunday Times, 25-8-96, p. 10 in Scottish edition ("Cigarette ads may induce death wish" by Marcello Mega). The latter reported that, "M & C Saatchi declined to comment on McIntosh's paper." I note that Gallaher stopped using these sorts of ads shortly after the paper was published - doubtless a coincidence!


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






Since 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.


 Table of Contents



CHE Occasional Papers                                                                    4


Ivan Illich and this Paper                                                                 4


Acknowledgements                                                                          4


Dedication                                                                                          5


Surrealism in Advertising                                                                             


Advertising as Motivational Manipulation                                      6


Case Studies in Surrealist British Cigarette Advertising              8


            1. Benson & Hedges (B & H)                                                8


            2. Silk Cut                                                                                9


            3. Other Cases                                                                      10


Benson & Hedges - Precious Entrapment?                                   11


Silk Cut? Not Moron, but Wife                                                          11


Silk Cut and Thrust                                                                            12


“Then there is Death”                                                                       14


Freud’s Thanatos                                                                               17


Thanatos in Politics                                                                            18


Thanatos in Popular Culture                                                             19


Thanatos in Spiritual Emergence                                                      20


Thanatonic Advertising as Spiritual Exploitation                             23


Health Education for a Cultural Psychotherapy                              25


References                                                                                           30


Illustrations (on 3 separate webpages)                                           31

CHE Occasional Papers


The 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.




Ivan Illich and this Paper


A 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.





I 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 a University.  



The Author


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.





In memory of my father, Dr Ian Kenneth McIntosh,


“beloved physician” of North Lochs, Isle of Lewis,


who died early from tobacco induced lung cancer in 1986.





From Eros to Thanatos



Surrealism in Advertising

In 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."


Any 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.


In 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."


Surrealist 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:


Modern 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 dissociation.

Advertising as Motivational Manipulation


In 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.


Interestingly, 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 have.


What, 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 “need.”


Of 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).



Case Studies in Surrealist British Cigarette Advertising

It 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:


The 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).


Here 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.

1. Benson & Hedges (B & H) [Click here to view images]

In 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.


"At 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.


1.         From 1977, the gold cigarette pack poised outside a mouse hole, looking like a mousetrap.


2.         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.


3.         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.


4.         Also from 1978, a packet of B & H in a bird cage, alongside a bird, also caged.


5.         From 1980, the cigarette packet being carried away by a hoard of ants.


6.         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.


7.         1995, a dentist with a perverse grin who has just pulled a gold tooth.



2. Silk Cut [Click here to view images]


Consider 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.


1.         A 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.


2.         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.


3.         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.


4.         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 rests.


5.         1994 - a “mind over matter” theme with the magician cutting silk by willpower.


6.         1994 - 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.


7.         1995 - a set of false teeth in water have leapt up and bitten a chunk out of the silk bedside lampshade.


8.         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 score.


9.         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.”


10.       1996 - Edinburgh Festival. A field of haggis or sheep-like creatures made from bagpipes wandering around a field full of mantraps.



3. Other Cases  [Click here to view images]

A number of other examples of advertising might be interpreted to support the case to be made in this paper.


1.         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.


2.         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 amongst doves.


3.         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).



Benson & Hedges - Precious Entrapment?


What 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 off;  etc..


But 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.


Such 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.



Silk Cut? Not Moron, but Wife


What 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?


In their book of the top 100 advertising posters of all time, Morris & Watson (1993) wrote of the 1983 slashed silk image described above:


This 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'.


Verging 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 Slut.”


Sex 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.”


But 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 normally imagine?


The 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."


Gallaher’s 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.”


But 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.”



Silk Cut and Thrust


It 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.


The 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.


And 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.


Why 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?


I 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.


The 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 rape wish.


In 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 attachment theory.


Silk 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.


To a woman, rape is theft of the soul. And this leads in to the second sinister element in Silk Cut. Death imagery.


Since 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.”


The 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.


When 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.”


He 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.”


I 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:


I 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.


But 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?



"Then there is Death"


Packard (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.


Freud 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


Maybe, 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 dusted off.


In 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.”


Not 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.


One 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."


I 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."


The 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.


"And 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'."


A 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.


I bought Campaign. It contained an article by Patrick Collister, executive creative director with Ogilvy and Mather. He reviews new ad campaigns. And he wrote:


            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 cancer research.


            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?


Page 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."



Freud’s Thanatos


To 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.


He 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.


The 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. 47):


Necrophilia 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.”


Freud's 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 two trends.


Echoing 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.


In 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.”


Thanatos in Politics


Freud's 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.


Columnist 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 doesn't matter?


Andrew 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).


One 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):


His 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.”



Thanatos in Popular Culture

If 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.


A 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.


But 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.


A good example of such lyrics come from Cross of Changes, a best-selling 1994 album by the German group, Enigma II.


I see love, I can see passion

I feel danger, I feel obsession

Don’t play games with the ones who love you

‘cos I hear a voice who says

“I love you ... I’ll kill you ...”

Loneliness, I feel loneliness in my room


Look into the mirror of your soul

Love and hate are one in all

Sacrifice turns to revenge and believe me

you’ll see the face who’ll say

“I love you ... I’ll kill you ...

but I’ll love you for ever”


The 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’.”


Thanatos in Spiritual Emergence


To 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).”


He 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."


But 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.


Jung 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. 60):


Sigmund 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.


Grof goes on to point out that (p. 61 & 218):


During 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.


Grof’s 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 one’s self.


I 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 Songs/Solomon).


Consider 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 mystical song.


            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.


A 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.


No 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).


To 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.



Thanatonic Advertising as Spiritual Exploitation


So what is the mechanism by which nicotine hooks into misery?


In 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.


Sulian 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!”


I 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).


This 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).


An 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.


Thanatonic 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'."


In 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.


In 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?


If  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?


I hope so. That is one of my objectives in writing.



Health Education for a Cultural Psychotherapy


This 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 morality.


It 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).


The 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 internationalist values.


I 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.


Stan 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):


Probably 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.


If 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.


Silk 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.


For 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 erotic.


Such 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.


Thus 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 handle.


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).


Thus 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.



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