Jeffrey Moussaieff Masson and Veganism

From Masson's The Oceanic Feeling -- “we cannot indulge in wild analysis and claim that every case of vegetarianism is a reaction formation (that is, an overcompensating and ultimately ungenuine lurch in the opposite direction) against unacceptable cannibalistic urges, yet we will have to acknowledge that the problem with reaction-formations, as Fenihel informed us long ago in his important article on counterphobia (1939), is the leakages, the sudden, seemingly inexplicable eruptions of sadistic behavior that are in direct contrast with the manifest life style.”

The Oceanic Feeling is a fascinating Freudian analysis of Indian religious traditions, and for me one of Masson's most entertaining books, but the quote above stuck with me mostly as an example of just how willing non-vegetarians are to talk shit about vegetarians... Masson in his Freudian incarnation seemed to congratulate himself on his open-mindedness in not insisting that all vegetarians really want to be cannibals...

Another sweeping statement from the same book -- “It is then possible to recognize that much within Buddhism is a manic defense against depression.”

Masson's life would make a great opera. He grew up in a household that venerated a guru, as wonderfully described in his book My Father's Guru: A Journey Through Spirituality and Disillusion, then rejected this belief system for Freudianism. His subsequent break with Freud is described in The Assault on Truth: Freud's Suppression of the Seduction Theory.

In The Face on the Plate, published in 2009, Masson writes, “Only when I decided that I could no longer be a psychoanalyst in good conscience did I reconnect with my former vegetarian self: I started investigating the emotional lives of animals, and what I learned turned me back into a lifelong vegetarian.” I experienced The Face on Your Plate as a life-changing book, and must conclude that while Masson's later work lacks the cutting humor of his earlier work, he has gained in wisdom.

Personally I stopped eating mammals and birds twenty-three years ago. The arguments in The Face on the Plate have convinced me that, deep down, I really want to give up eating dairy products and eggs too. From now on I only intend to make vegan food for myself... although I don't know if it will be possible to stay vegan when traveling etc. Plus I also have a daughter and a cat to buy food for, both of them carnivores. The perfect realization of an ideal is elusive... what puzzles me most however is that it took me a whole twenty-three years after becoming a vegetarian to reach the decision to go vegan...

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