Lighting a Candle: A Remembrance of James S. Grotstein,
Friend, Colleague and Bionian Scholar
John Lundgren, Joseph Aguayo, Albert Mason
May 30, 2016
This remembrance lights a candle in honor of James S. Grotstein, MD, who died peacefully on May 30, 2015 in his home in Los Angeles. At his side was his wife, Sue of 56 years.
We here in Los Angeles continue to measure what we have lost with the passing of our long cherished friend, mentor and colleague, Jim Grotstein. Our loss on his Yahrzeit is poignantly driven home to us by Diane Silverman’s virtual visit to Jim’s office, captured luminously near sundown. His office was a consulting suite by day, and his atelier or creative studio by night. This brief tour is evocative for the many who joined and worked with Jim, including his patients, supervisees, and doctoral dissertation students, the members of his group supervisions and his local and visiting colleagues. His office represented a center of immense creativity and generativity, and was considered by many as a “home base”. Jim regarded it as his personal ‘university without walls,’ a place where freethinkers were welcomed and encouraged.
At night and on weekends, this office became his atelier, his studio, where he wrote his creative contributions beginning with his text Splitting and Projective Identification, and the edited volume Do I Dare to Disturb the Universe, the only Festschrift that commemorated Bion’s own passing, one that introduced the work of Klein and Bion to the American psychoanalytic community. Long and circuitous as Jim’s analytic odyssey was, his course was irrevocably set once he met and was analyzed by Wilfred Bion. Over the arc of the next several decades Jim’s contributions have secured for us a lasting legacy. As well as many journal publications, two books, Who is the Dreamer Who Dreams the Dream? and A Beam of Intense Darkness: Wilfred Bion’s Legacy to Psychoanalysis, secured Jim’s position as a seminal thinker ahead of his time. As a consummate teacher, Jim left us a two-volume set of texts on Kleinian-Bionian psychoanalytic theory and technique entitled “…But at the Same Time and on Another Level…”.
Jim was at the forefront and a sustaining support of the relocation Wilfred Bion and Albert Mason to Los Angeles to foster the growth of the emergent interest in Klein and Bion. His analysis with Bion released a torrent of originality and a transcendent embrace of the “past presented” as he lived the texts of Bion and his patients.
There is no replacing Jim’s wit, his love affair with puns, and his encyclopedic knowledge of psychoanalytic theory and infectious sense of humor. Jim truly had, and never lost, the beginner’s attitude: he felt fascinated by what he was privileged to hear, see and think in relation to others.
We shall not cease from exploration
And the end of all our exploring
Will be to arrive where we started
And know the place for the first time.
T.W. Eliot, Little Gidding, Part V, “Four Quartets”
The light ignited by Jim’s presence continues to guide us.
John Lundgren, Joe Aguayo, Albert Mason
The Psychoanalytic Center of California
The video below is entitled A Visit to Dr. Grotstein’s Office. It was created by Diane Silverman, PhD, FIPA.