I turned 50 on Father's day, June 21st, and for my birthday present I bought myself a new camera, and a trip to New York with my two children. It was our first time there. We stared from both distance and height in wonder and awe at the extraordinary skyline and later we drifted effortlessly in the flotsam and jetsam that forms the endless procession of people at the feet of these colossal towers. But my mind was drifting elsewhere, and wandering slowly through the city, I saw time catching up with me, and everything around me. Soon I will be overtaken by my children. They too will be overtaken in time. And soon afterwards, even the buildings themselves will decay and perish and be overtaken. These thoughts put me in mind of this short poem by Jonathan Hanaghan -
TO A RUINED CASTLE
(Montpelier, Dublin Mountains)
O proud audacity, by high born men
Haughtily reared upon these ancient hills,
Thy strength is one with their vexatious wills,
Crumbling in dust and stagnant as a fen.
Each battlement, now but a cattle pen
Worn by grey mist and silent mountain rills,
Bears on its moulding sides the fest'ring ills
Time deals to slaves, who cower within his ken.
Thus are earth's mighty seats at last o'erthrown,
High pompous men in nameless tombs downcast,
And historied glamour from the soil erased.
Ah so muse I, poor mortal frail and lone,
Yet shall man's dreams Time's deadliest ills outlast,
And Time itself became their ruin rased.
Hanaghan introduced psychoanalysis to Ireland. He had been analysed in England by Douglas Bryan - a leading member of the original London Psychoanalytic Society - and later developed an unorthodox, charismatic, radical Christian approach to psychoanalysis. He trained a small number of analysts here in Ireland who began working and helping people, often for very low fees. Their commitment to their work was very great, and every Saturday night Hanaghan gave an informal talk on psychoanalysis and the New Testament in his house in Monkstown. Anyone could attend and many did during the 1950s and 1960s. This became known locally as "the Monkstown Group" although there were never any formal arrangements or membership lists. The Group is still running today.
The Group was well known for its radical bohemian ethos. Anyone, analysts, patients, trainees and their friends, could attend and participate in the discussion after the talk, over a cup of tea, sandwiches and cakes that people donated. Hanaghan spoke at every meeting, claiming in prophetic terms a profound link between Freud and Jesus. He regarded psychoanalysis as a form of mental and spiritual healing: the analyst was more than a technician, he was a healer. Hanaghan railed against the institutional churches as well as what he regarded as academic atheistic psychoanalysis. He developed a considerable following which continued up until his death in 1967. The analysts he trained were well read in Freud, but the devotional adherence to Hanaghan's teachings, especially in the decade after his death, became problematic for some, particularly younger aspiring analysts who felt blocked by the founding analysts. Although Hanaghan published a few books (Runa Press) and some of his Saturday night talks and lectures to training analysts were typed-up, he never published in any psychoanalytic journals or exchanged ideas with the wider psychoanalytic world outside Ireland, preferring transmission by word of mouth. He received high praise from Anna Freud, who said, 'the mantle of my father's work has fallen on your shoulders' (see note 1 below).
I never knew Hanaghan, but I know several people who testify to his remarkable gifts as an analyst, a poet, a philosopher, a sage, and as a man with an apparently in-exhaustible capacity to give himself to others in love. His absorbing concern was with the living of life. He published thee books of poetry during his life and died in 1967 at the age of eighty. This poem was first published in 1931 in the collection 'By Mortal And Immortal Seas'.
1) Notes taken from a brief history of psychonalalysis in Ireland, available here: [link]