What is a phantasy? The word is spelled in a funny way, right? Instead of the word fantasy with an ‘f,’ (a word that indicates the presence of trolls, dragons or a fairy prince who lives under the Dursley’s stairs) phantasy with a ‘ph’ is a technical word. It’s a suspiciously French seeming affection. It’s a little Freudian maybe.
A phantasy is, in many ways, just like a fantasy. A phantasy is a daydream or a wish that one substitutes for a too harsh reality. A phantasy is a way to compensate for the unbearable facts of life. Harry Potter, for instance, is a fantasy character in so much as his potency flies in the face of his impoverished circumstances. The difference between a phantasy and a fantasy is this: A Phantasy is a Fantasy that is taken to be real.
A phantasy is unconsciously held. For instance, the nuclear family is a phantasy. A soda bottle is a phantasy, and even though you can touch the feminine curves of its glass body, even as you taste its bittersweet essence, this real thing is an illusion.
Phantasies arise as screen memories, but not in the usual sense. Usually people think of screen memories as cover stories that suppress real traumas. For example, if you are abducted by aliens but remember seeing a giant owl the owl is a screen memory. If you remember watching your brother being beaten instead of how your father beat you, your brother’s beating is the screen memory. However, a true phantasy is not a screen memory, but the fact of the trauma.
For example, in his book Sight Unseen the UFO researcher, abduction expert, and abstract expressionist Budd Hopkins tells the story of the Washburn abductions. Hopkins originally met Mrs. Washburn at a UFO conference when she approached him after a lecture he’d given and asked him to give his professional opinion of some UFO photos she’d taken at a local park. The photographs of shrubs, empty playground equipment, and pine trees were monochromatic images in shades of pink and red, but otherwise trivial, even boring, landscapes.
“I don’t see anything unusual maybe something happened during the development process that turned them that color, but….”
Mrs. Washburn interrupted,
“No. It’s not the color that’s unusual. We’re supposed to be in these photographs,” she said.
Hopkins used hypnosis to uncover ‘the facts’ around the empty photos. Apparently a flying saucer had abducted Washburn family members while Mr. Washburn was trying to take the photos. The UFO had used some sort of stun ray on Mr. Washburn to slow his reflexes so that ‘they’ might levitate Mrs. Washburn and the children away. This was why the photographs were empty.
Let’s be clear about this. The UFO is the phantasy. The flying saucer memory is an explanation that covers up the traumatic reality that had been fully captured on film.
Another way to understand a phantasy is to think about 9/11. Just after finishing the last few lines about I received an invitation via facebook to attend an event in NYC on 9/11/11 to commemorate the 10th anniversary of the attacks on that terrible day. Living in Portland I won’t be able to make it, but it’s worth noting what the events title is:
“There’s a Hole in the City”
In order to understand what a phantasy is all you need do is read newspaper headlines about the invasion of Afghanistan, or conversely google up the words 9/11 truth. Whether faced with the wars that came after the fabric of NYC was torn or the conferences, nonprofits, websites, and books that attempt to provide the hidden truth about what happened that day, on both sides you find elaborate attempts to cover up that hole.
Reality is always what is missing. Reality is an empty place left by a rupture and that is precisely why it has to be covered up.