Rorschach Research by Ivars Balkits

Multifarious interpretive attitudes and stances including both nonfictive and narcissistic perspectives on the iconic pyschodiagnostic 10-image test

Inkblot cloud formations roil above and.

At Meeting, hands seek to form and do a special mudra: clasped, with thumbs touching laterally on their palm sides and extended indices and pinkies pressing on their tips. Reminding me of Rorschach 1.

In the inky darkness of the expected storm once the blots merge I do notice in the white shades walking, beside, behind, and toward me, rediscovered but kept secret, both bat and butterfly out for a wander, sheltering under my wide-brimmed Amish straw hat.

Rorschach. The name too evokes perceptual peculiarities. So many mispronunciations of it as “raw shark” and “roar shuck” and my own: “rose arch.” But does Rorschach 2 resemble roses in any way? Does Rorschach 3? Not to me. So, move on.

Mentally and compulsively, I move on to Rorschach 4, for which I have an apparent affinity. Clearly, the image of a hairy-muddy ogre, seen from below. Or a mossy-drippy ogre, viewed from aboveas if a glass floor/ceiling separated us two, both unaware of the gravity of the situation, and could tell neither up nor down. Have I said too much?

* * *

Doppler blots clot the -spheres above the area of the globe I’m prone to tonight: blobs of blue, green, yellow, red, bright red.

I’m surprised to find colored blots. I’d somehow thought (others did too) that Rorschach’s 10 test cards were all of b&w (black ‘n’ white) [gray-scaled] images… as films were in Rorschach’s time, spanning November 8, 1884 through April 1, 1922.

He was Swiss. Switzerland has a municipality namednot after him specificallyRorschach. Nearby is the hamlet of Rorschachburg. Rorschach spent most of his life in and around Zurich. One time he went to Russia. Each time I write his name, I want you to know, I am thinking “rose arch.”

roar shock
raw shark
roar such

Here’s a helpful but slant mnemonic: Ron Pallilo died this year in Augustthe actor who plays the wacky “Sweat Hog” Arnold Horshak in the 1970s television series “Welcome Back Kotter.”

“Horshak,”Arnold explains in one episode, means “the cattle are dying.”

* * *

Horshak. Rorschach.

A hearse passes by on the highway. In the passenger window is a sign: Newcomer. Next we see: Temporary License Plate. (!?)

* * *

To demonstrate personality order, deliberately and belatedly, I move back to Rorschach 2. I have resolved to do better.

This image, what with all elements taken together, is unquestionably the pelvis of an ass. A donkey. I know because I discovered one four years ago in a dry creek-bed overhung with Cretan thickets. I was in Crete. I found out later, still four years ago, still in Crete, that I could fit that ass bone on my head/face in several symmetrically shamanistic fashions. I had myself photographed in those fashions and have since had inside knowledge about this form.

This image also is of two orange-turbaned Sufis praying or one such praying before a mirror. Or it is a pair of bloodied gloves.

No need to blot out any interpretation for the momentI think. Though really, maybe, I should blot them all, for a number of mental health professionals don’t want those images vetted publicly. They have asked the myriad blankety-blank Internet forums and think blogs to PLEASE, PLEASE, not publish the imagesfor doing so may corrupt the test’s future efficacy with patients who have seen the blots on their screens, maybe, and may in fact be using them as screen-savers!

* * *

Incidentally, Hermann’s 10 images did not receive wide use in his lifetime. Or any use. He died at age 37 of a ruptured appendix a year before his research (rose arch’s research) gained acceptance, eventually to become the basis for the most relied-on test to measure personality and maybe diagnose psychosis, culminating in popularity in the 1960s and 1970s, ever! Since then, society has mostly lost unconsciousness and looked more closely at the text of life.

* * *

Full moon drumming and it’s the second moon in August, variably blotted by shifting overcasts and clearings. Brushy bonfire has died down and we are in a circle to the side of the mound of ash and winking coalssoon we are in a semi-circle facing the moon. The clouds that crowd are blue. The moon is our blue fire tonight. As can be expected from the tendency to see things in things (pareidolia), this moon with inky veils dancing across its face reveals to me Tom’s face. Tom the talker, Tom the walker. Tom’s wearing his four-cornered handkerchief hat.

Our friend Tom in hospice tonight in the latter stages of metastasized things-gone-wrong. We dream and drum for him.

[Tom died 7:50 a.m., September 4, 2012.]

* * *

“Klecks”… the sound the stuck door makes when it releases.

* * *

I pick up Putnam’s Word Book by Louis L. Flemming, published in 1914. In 1914, blots had mostly negative denotations. One cute word was smutch. I am surprised to find smooch as a synonym. At the time a kiss could only be a smack. I discover the word atramental for inky. A noun for inkstand is standish. Why? I haven’t an inkling. Inkblot hasn’t yet come to mean much in 1914, and isn’t ink-luded.

* * *

My topic is Rorschach. At the moment I am stuck: looking at the whole picture, I see nothing.

* * *

In Rorschach 3, two bird-women stir the pot. Their bloody baby spirits float nearby, whispering the recipe. A bow tie in red appears in the mist. It’s for getting my mind off things.

Blot 4 we’ve covered and should move on—double-take. What do I see? It’s Robert Walser in the snow. Swiss-German author, born April 15, 1878. He died while taking a walk outside the Herisau psychiatric hospital on Christmas Day, 1956. We see Walser’s boot-sole bottoms and his stylish but threadbare greatcoat opened. One arm flung out. His hat lying several feet away, catapulted there by his body hitting the ground.

Known famously for his microscriptsprose-poems penciled on scraps of paper in letters 1-2mm high in an arcane Prussian cursive typescript called Kurrent.

* * *

Rorschach was once Herisau’s director. But not then, not contemporary with Walser.

* * *

One of Rorschach’s pre-Rorschach studies was of Binggeli (John, Johannes, Hans), leader of a priapuskult known as The Forest Brotherhood (Waldbruderschaft). This main Bruder, reportedly squat and hunchbacked (as if that mattered), had convinced dozens of Swiss-German people in the 1890s that his penis was holy and his pee a sacrament. Binggeli had his pick of cultish women then and eventually impregnated his own daughter. Which led to his being incarcerated and, in later years, interviewed by Rorschach.

Rorschach noted that a significant number of cults going back hundreds of years had originated in the weaving districts of Switzerland. Think of it! Generations of weavers had been inspired to lead their neighbors along unconventional and maybe hysterical paths toward Eternity.

Queer inquiry that.

* * *

Card 5 is the Mothman. Inescapable conclusion because of where I live. Not far from Point Pleasant, West Virginia, across the Ohio River.

* * *

Ignore what I just said.

Blots for unveiling the unconscious and blotto for being unconscious. Blotto was also a later name for Klecksographie, a game Swiss-German children played during young master Hermann’s time involving inkblots and interpretations. “Klecks” (blot) was the nickname given the youth because he loved the game so much. He loved it into science. Evolved it into his 174-page monograph “Psychodiagnostik…etc.” published with great difficulty just seven months before he died.

Son of an artist, he had been an aspiring artist before turning to medicine. He made his children toys in the hospital wood shop, turned the asylum chapel into a theater, designed sets and wrote scripts and dandled puppets. In his book, Rorschach critiques Goethe and Schiller and Russian literature. He was a regular guy, also. He brought in his pet monkey often to amuse patients. Maybe, to observe and record their reactions. He was an all-around guy. Smart. Not neurotic. Except that he may have let himself die by waiting to attend to a ruptured appendix.

* * *

A blot in the asphalt after the steam roller has gone over. This from a cartoon from a site I can’t recall through any of my searches. The joke is it’s Hermann Rorschach himself ground into the pavement. What am I searching in this or that Rorschach? Is it a mirror to my person?

* * *

Picked up Rorschach’s book at the University library. It’s true he was not advocating the test’s use as a means to diagnose psychopathologies. Neither was it intended for delving into the unconscious. Rather it was merely for measuring perception of individuals: normal, pedantic, feeble-minded, hypomanic, compulsive, depressed, epileptic, senile, paralytic, encephalitic, etc.

He borrowed from Jung but offered his own framework for determining psychological types. Introversive and extraversive tendencies were not fixed in an individual but could change over a lifetime. Rorschach felt the test could usefully measure egocentricity, creativity, intelligence (Binet used inkblots at first), emotional stability, kinaesthesia, rebelliousness, stereotypy, etc.

Reflecting the emerging aesthetic of his time, Rorschach favored form (F) and color (C) over content. Apparent movement (M) in the blot world he also noted. Overall, whole (W) answers he rated higher than details (D) merely. Choice, timing, and attention of the patient were important factors too in analyzing responses.

* * *

Another friend at death’s door. Will. Blots covering his prostate have spread to his bones, in almost the exact pattern that killed Tom. Three operations, one seventeen hours, and today he’s ‘not responding.’ Will, who wrote “Memoirs of a Liar,” who was a daffodil farmer, worm farmer, farmer’s market icon, Sinophile, linguist, storyteller, favorite Uncle of the children of our ‘village,’ our hip hippie-wide community. What is the meaning of this Rorschach, Rorschach? He’s weak. He’s not responding.

[Will passed around 8 a.m., October 27, 2012.]

* * *

“What might this be?” “List everything you see.” “What is there that made it look like that?”

* * *

At Meeting, the silence holds and so does my attention to an inner vision of the sun blotted by a giant spider. I channel that this must be pushed aside without anger or angst. Then a white eagle-dove takes over the sky though it is evident that still beyond that is the Light that will bring understanding. While up in the drifted-apart clouds, seated, legs dangling out the side door of the cargo plane (or bomber), I spot the gleam on the wet sand of a shoreline I should remember. I wait for Earth to complete the play of the elements so envisioned.

* * *

Card 6… definitely vaginal, sexual all the way, with a bit of architectural scaffolding for the clitoris. Who can doubt it? The joke about sex and Rorschach pops in my head: A subject is shown the 10 cards. For each card he just answers the same: “Sex”. Hmm, okay, what might this be? “Sex.” Cards 1-10: “Sex.” Now, how could all these cards be sex!?” “Don’t ask me. You’re the one showing the dirty pictures!!!

Card 7… shows two people struggling to get away from each other but linked deeply through spiritual circumstance. (Tom and Will were estranged over an incident more than 30 years ago.) Or, it shows strangers surprised by a sudden unexplained bond to each other. I kind of don’t like the light in this picture. The relative lack of contrast in tone. It is also, in addition, another pelvis, but I don’t recognize the horse (a term I am using, temporarily, to indicate all animals).

Card 8… is a chest cavity with organs all over the place. A chaos of anatomy here… clearly of the Invisible Man maybe Woman. Lungs (those blue flags) flying up into the clavicle. Ribs spreading apart tucked under the armpits. Sternum sticking its shiv in the throat. Heart burping apart. Stomach bicameral. Well, the analogy is beginning to detonate. Confabulation too may be entering into it here. Here and now, my first and only (D): Two otters or marmots crawling up the torso’s parentheses.

Card 9… a second (D): Orange sea horses laughingly greet one another. Blue pelvis bumping alternate red pelvis, or red bird crushed (by a steam roller?) left to further blotting by the traffic of the day.

Card 10… is a big showoff shaman, shaking his fat fire pompoms trying to make out like he’s Mr. BIG, most definitely an image from my own drawings. Warrior type, Greek Spartan nose guard, robe thrown open and, though in his prime, needing this pomp and display to ward off who-knows-what, maybe self-mirroring.

* * *

The mesmerizing leaf-interrupted breezes release me.

Last surge of the season of the crow’s croak, and its effect on me: amnesia.

Listening to chimes. Measuring the breeze by their frenzy.

Listening to chimes. Intending the mind.

Intending the breath in time to the chimes. Yeah, right. That would be nice.


Previously published in Plural Prose

Ivars Balkits has published poetry and prose in several anthologies and on the web sites for Plural Prose Journal, Uut Poetry, Helios MSS, Unbroken Journal, Otoliths, Thirteen Myna Birds, OccuPoetry, ditch, Silenced Press, Merge Poetry Journal, and Counter Example Poetics. He is a recipient of two Individual Excellence Awards from the Ohio Arts Council, for poetry in 1999 and creative nonfiction in 2014.

Monolith, the Face of Half Dome

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