Elections, Group Fantasy, and Human Sacrifice
One of Freud’s central discoveries was that the unconscious mind operates along the lines of an entirely different kind of logic than does the conscious mind. Among other things, it is timeless, in the sense that various enduring complexes and fixations operate outside the personal will and repeat themselves in an ultimately self-defeating way.
But from the standpoint of these mind parasites, the job of the ego is simply to rationalize and spin a sort of false continuity over the various inconsistencies that result from vertical splits within the unconscious mind. This is why most people are so patently illogical, in particular, intellectuals. Furthermore, this explains why no one is so prone to illusions and magic than the intellectual, as they are like someone who (using the symbols in my book) superimposes a grid of knowledge (k) over the noumenal reality (O), and then confuses the map with the territory. There is no idea so foolish that it is not taught at one of our elite universities.
In reality, the local ego floats within a sea of nonlocal consciousness extending both “up” and “down” (please don’t be like an intellectual and take the map literally). Now, there is no question that we exist in time and that the human being evolved within time. The ego is an adaptation to this temporal existence, but it is only an adaptation. All traditions agree that a central task of the spiritual life is to dis-identify with this illusory local and contingent being and to become aware of the greater reality of which it is only a local manifestation.
However, things will go seriously awry if you merely loosen the bonds of the ego and wade into the unconscious unawares, for you may well simply open the gates of hell, as the history of religion often demonstrates. In reality, the Islamists are hardly “religious.” Rather, they are “unconscious.” However, what most westerners do not understand -- perhaps because of the pride and prestige of the intellect -- is that they are also serious intellectuals who have a clearly articulated ideology. As I have had occasion to mention many times, we are in a triangulated global war between three ideologies, two of which are naively steeped in unconscious fantasy (Islamism and secular leftism). While everyone is subject to unconscious motivations, the classical liberalism of American conservatism is rooted in a far more realistic vision of human nature than any of its competitors.
Obviously we are seeing an abundance of analysis of the recent election, but to me, most of it is about as illuminating as an intellectual patient’s rationalizations of his self-defeating behavior. Intellectuals are just like anyone else, only worse, in that they do not so much reason as rationalize what they already believe anyway.
Psychohistorian Lloyd deMause observes that “most of what is in history books is stark raving mad -- the maddest of all being the historian’s belief that it is sane.” He believes that large groups are almost always driven more by fantasy than reality. Different nations and groups have different “group fantasies” which are designed not to negotiate with reality but to contain fears and anxieties.
This is why the further back in history one travels, the more one can identify group fantasies that clearly have no basis in fact and are driven by irrational anxiety and fear -- witch hunts, senseless wars, racial and religious scapegoating, panics of various kinds. But if your perceptual abilities have not been damaged by multiculturalism, you can see the fantasies just as clearly in the present. For example, as noted above, our “war on terror” is being waged against Islamist fantasists for whom reality does not enter into the equation. Unfortunately, this doesn’t make it easier to combat them, but more difficult. Israel has been fighting a version of this fantasy since its very existence, but in truth, Jews have been at war with paranoid anti-Semitic fantasists for over two thousand years. Fantasies are obviously quite lethal.
The important point is that the fantasy precedes the reality, and will look for conditions in external reality to support it, identical to the manner in which the paranoid mind operates. According to deMause, the state of the group fantasy is what national opinion polls actually capture. That is, they take a snapshot of the “mood of the country,” which mostly consists of “gut feelings” that have nothing to do with actual conditions, only with the shifting nature of the group fantasy.
As such, the fact that the economy is thriving is literally inconsequential to the significant majority of Americans who fantasize that it is not. In contrast, FDR was able to sustain a unifying group fantasy despite economic polices that aggravated and extended the Great Depression. In fact, this is often what makes a “great leader”: the ability to forge a strong and compelling fantasy for people to believe in. When the mood of a populace is “angry” or “sullen,” as pollsters have been repeating ad nauseam, it is almost always because the group fantasy -- whose purpose it is to contain primitive anxiety -- is breaking down.
The identical thing happens to a patient who is “decompensating.” The colloquial term for this is a “nervous breakdown,” but what it really means is that the ego’s customary defenses are failing and that the person is being overwhelmed by unconscious material. People will often make rash and irrational choices in such a situation, for example, making Nancy Pelosi speaker of the house and imagining that it will stop the psychic bleeding. It might, but only for the time it takes for the unconscious cycle to renew itself.
So a national opinion poll -- including an election -- doesn’t necessarily provide much in the way of objective information about objective circumstances, but subjective data about how it “feels” to be part of a historical group at a particular time. In fact, deMause turns the presidential approval rating on its head. He doesn’t believe that it actually measures approval but disapproval about how effectively or ineffectively a fantasy leader is “containing” the public’s anxiety. Since the group is largely driven by fantasy, it naturally follows that they will look for a leader who can reassure them about the world and diminish their anxiety.
In this regard, it is a mistake to think of the fantasy leader as an oedipal parent; the process is much more primitive, involving the need for pre-oedipal projection and containment. Using this method, one would not say that President Bush has a 35% approval rating, but a 65% “toxicity” rating. But the toxicity is a measure of how much unconscious material is being projected into him by a large segment of the group.
This is one of the reasons it is so wearying to be president, because it involves the day-to-day processing of so much irrational projection of hatred and anxiety. I personally don’t know how President Bush puts up with it. All therapists know how difficult it is to deal with just one borderline patient in their practice, but it is as if a president must deal with the projections of fifty million or so difficult patients who are irrationally experiencing him as evil incarnate. The president must be a receptacle for continuous projections from various levels of emotional immaturity and unreality. And in the case of President Bush, who tends not to fight back and engage with the projections, it only makes that part of the population more enraged with him, just as a borderline patient would feel outraged if the therapist did not take their perceptions seriously, no matter how distorted. One of the difficult things about being a therapist is “holding” the patient’s negative projections. You cannot just say, “I’m not your father who abused you! I’m me!” Rather, you must patiently tolerate being Dr. Evil while helping them discover the psychic truth behind their projection.
It is fascinating to note that the left is so out of touch with their fantasies about President Bush, that one constantly reads about how they imagine that he is fighting back in the most dangerous and extreme way -- that he doesn’t tolerate dissent, that he questions people’s patriotism, that he is destroying our civil rights, that he punishes ideological enemies. Pure projection.
People who are stripped of important group fantasies will feel like they are going crazy -- just like primitive groups who are suddenly “decultured” of the myths that have served to organize their cognitive/emotional world. It is fair to say that the left has been dealing with this sort of anxiety since the 1980’s, as their various political fantasies have been discredited one by one. But just like a religious group that predicts the second coming, the majority of leftists simply dig in their heels when their predictions prove false. This shows the extent to which their outward political ideology rests on a deeper structure of irrational fantasy that is nearly impossible to eradicate.
deMause outlines a four-part process that the fantasy leader undergoes in relation to the group. At first the group will see him as unrealistically strong, magically able to unify the group and keep enemies at bay. Certainly we saw this in the months after 9-11, when President Bush was so popular. Again, his popularity had little to do with the actual merits of his policies, but with the public’s need to feel safe, and the feeling that Bush would protect them. Stage two is the “cracking” stage, when the feelings of magical nurturing begin to deteriorate, so that the public’s mood begins to feel unstable and dangerous. The leader begins to be experienced as weak, unable to control events. Looking back, I believe that this really started with the successful attacks on President Bush’s Thanksgiving trip to Iraq a couple of years ago, but especially after the Terry Schiavo matter.
Stage three, “collapse,” occurs when the public begins to feel that the fantasy leader is helpless to prevent catastrophe -- when the group’s anxiety has become unhinged and uncontained in a completely unrealistic way. This brings on pure rage and free-floating paranoid fantasies of death and destruction. Thus we see the President unrealistically blamed and vilified for all sorts of things outside his control -- homosexual predators, hurricaines, rising (but never falling) gas prices, global warming, deadly flu pandemics, etc. He is seen as weak and vulnerable, which triggers a wave of near homicidal anxiety that aims to purify the group by ritual slaying of the divine king, identical to what took place in the most primitive tribes.
One of the geniuses of the American system is that it accounts for both our civilized and our primitive natures. In holding national elections every two years, it provides an outlet for primitive anxieties that historically toppled regimes. In other words, it institutionalizes the logic of human sacrifice, which is stage four of the group fantasy cycle. Thus it is no coincidence that President Bush performed a human sacrifice and held up the head of Donald Rumsfeld to the baying MSM fantasists on the morning after the election. If you keep up with the ranting of the infantile left at dailykos or huffingtonpost, nothing less than some form of human sacrifice would have answered their homicidal rage. But one thing we can know with certainty: it won’t work, for magic is a symtom of that which it purports to cure.