The Oceanic Feeling

In 1927, after having read Spinoza and eastern mystics, Romain Rolland wrote a letter to Freud where he for the first time used the psychological term «oceanic feeling», describing a religious experience, an existential feeling of the self dissolving into the world, in a moment without boundaries.

Spinoza saw the world as one system, as one big evolving substance, where all our thinking and feeling were embodied and God and Nature were one. But, to be able to orient ourselves and interact we experience boundaries between things, people, and ourselves, and we mostly see them as fixed and stable.

Freud, admitting he had never experienced an oceanic state himself, saw it as a narcissistic feeling preserved from when babies still don´t know there are other persons in the world and perceive the external to be a part of themselves. Other analysts claim it comes from a memory of being a fetus in the water in the womb, lingering in a perfect blissful union with the mother, without any conscious needs or desires.

Still the fluid oceanic feeling often occur precisely through interaction with the world, in intimacy with other persons, in the process of creation and in relations with nature.

When the continental plates meet in the ocean, they create hot springs which produce carbonic acid, making shells and corals dissolve into the water. This is the case in Castello Aragonese in Italy, where the marine life is studied because the water is as acidic as the climate models prospect our oceans to be in 50 to 100 years. The more fossil fuels we burn, the more carbon is absorbed into the oceans from the air. And, the more carbon the water holds, the more acidic it becomes.

As parts of life dissolve in the ocean and disappear into the large carbon and water cycles, water flows through our bodies into tubes and pipes, it runs in rivers, dwells in seas and it is moved by the currents of the ocean. It cleanses us, our homes and streets and it hydrates our bodies, animals, plants and forests. Water is polluted, it freezes, evaporates, drifts in clouds in the wind, falls to the ground, it drowns, floods our lands, melts and becomes part of the oceans again.

Randi Nygård 2016