The Messiah, the Establishment, and Political Halitosis
But prior to literally seeing the light, Paul was, as Brian writes, "obviously a bastard. However, I do think he thought he was serving God. This could perhaps differentiate him from the likes of Caiaphas who probably didn't give a damn about Truth and just wanted to be sure he didn't find himself irrelevant."
Brian continues: "So I'm led to see a potential parallel between Paul and Caiaphas and today's lefties who cynically manipulate folks for their own utopian control-freak nihilism, vs. those who honestly think that liberal policies are better (usually younger people who haven't really thought stuff through yet). Both are Pharisees, but I suspect only one of them commits the 'unpardonable sin.'"
Furthermore, "Perhaps many of today's former moonbats (i.e. David Horowitz) who have since seen the light were never quite like Jesse Jackson, despite the similarities of the policies they advocated. On the other hand, I have no doubt whatsoever that deep down Ted Kennedy is nothing more than a nihilist.
"If I bring up a good point in an intellectual discussion, a nihilist will out-shout me, subtly change the subject, call me a name, accuse me of hypocrisy, or do whatever it takes to 'win' the argument. Occasionally, I'll discover someone who will respond with, 'I never thought of it that way before. Hmmmm...'
"I would argue that both saint-killing and supporting affirmative action are evil. Nevertheless, Jesus died because a Pharisee wanted power, Maybe Stephen died because another Pharisee really thought Stephen opposed God. In both cases, Saints unjustly died, but was there a difference? After all, the former Pharisee damned himself, but the latter became a Saint himself.
"Do you think my analogy makes any sense? Do you think that the differences between cynical power-hungry leftists and those who are just dumb are in any way fundamental, or am I giving the idiots too much credit?"
There is much to cogitate upon here. First, I do not necessarily regard Caiaphas as one of the grand archetypal characters in the arc of salvation, more of a stock character or a "plot device," so to speak. In his theory of groups, Bion writes of the "messiah" (or sometimes "mystic") in a particular way. Using his terminology -- and ignoring for the moment any purely religious implications -- if Jesus is the "messiah," then Caiaphas represents the "Establishment." If nothing else, viewing it in this more abstract manner helps to remove any specifically anti-Semitic connotations with regard to Caiaphas. His Jewishness is incidental to his being voice of the Establishment. At various times, Christians have been their own worst Establishment.
In Bion's system, "The exceptional individual can be described in different ways. One can call him a genius, a mystic, a messiah." Bion used the term messiah "to refer to exceptional individuals in any field, whether scientific, artistic, or religious." Likewise, he used the term Establishment "to designate those who exercise power and responsibility in the state or in other institutions."
Please also bear in mind that when Bion talks about the group, he is also always talking about the individual, for a group can think and behave like a unitary entity, just as an individual mind is a protean, restless group with incoming thoughts and outgoing behavior that come from many different levels.
(In fact, a commenter expressed it quite well the other day. Let me see if I can go back and find it.... Be right back.... Found it.)
Reader Quake wrote, "An important point that Bob treated in passing should be emphasized: the human mind is not a closed system. The sum of all thoughts that you have on any given day are not all 'yours.' Some seep in from other people (yes, there is a fuzzy and unreliable cross transference). Some come from other 'planes' of being which interpenetrate ours (for instance, a plane or world of mind, inhabited by entities of pure thought-form). There is another plane of 'vital' forms that are made of emotions, and these can give you suggestions to misbehave. There are higher spiritual planes inhabited by angels and other high forms, and these can give us suggestions too. And some, like Bob's O-mail, come in from God [well, a Coon always does his level best, anyway -- ed]. A person's mind is a goulash of thoughts, and untangling what comes from where should be attempted. Raccoons probably do an automatic sorting of influences."
Quake has done a good job of describing an important aspect of Sri Aurobindo's yoga, which precisely involves sorting through and disentangling our own "mental group" and determining what is coming from where. For within your own mind is a "messiah" and an "establishment," just as the group, looked at in a certain way, has an "ego."
For example, this is what popularity polls attempt to gauge, say, how the country feels about President Bush, or the war, or Hillary Clinton, or socialized medicine. You will notice that the operative word is "feels," because trying to take a snapshot of the group's "mood" at any given time is an entirely irrational process. Now the group is relatively in touch with reality and accurately perceives Saddam as a threat and wants to topple him; now the group feels anxious and regrets it, and begins going into denial; now the group feeds its own anxiety with self-verifying delusions of propaganda and wants to run from Iraq. This is why trying to be a leader is like trying to preside over an unruly, petulant child with bipolar disorder, and why an "indulgent parent" such as a Clinton is such a poor leader.
Back to the group and the messiah. One thing the group -- any group -- is always hoping for is the messiah. For example, in recent months we have seen this play out to a ridiculous extent with the liberal media's bizarre adoration of that empty suit, Barack Obama. Please take me literally, for Bion's theory explains exactly why this deeply irrational process is going on, and why secular liberals would be most prone to the need to invent a messiah out of whole cloth in order to sustain the fantasy that they might be "saved." For the same reason, history ironically demonstrates time and again that leftists are most in need of a "satan" precisely because they do not believe evil exists.
One of the dangers of any systematic form of "establishment thought" is that it superimposes a rigid grid, so to speak, over O. But this is always "whistling past the graveyard," for the ghosts of what your artificial thought system excludes will always baby boomerang back to you, very much in the manner of someone who attempts to repress, say, all sexual thoughts. You can try to do that, but the unintegrated thoughts will simply seep back in like water through the floor boards, the walls, and the ceiling (furthermore, since they are repressed, they will remain primitive and unable to undergo growth).
It is just so with religion. Repress it and you will only see it everywhere, either in a hysterically threatening form ("the Christo-fascist takeover!) or in a transparently messianic form (Obama and, of course, the "Goracle"; the other day, the boneheaded Katie Couric actually referred to him as a "secular saint," but she is just stupid enough to say out loud what the liberal group mind is thinking). Do conservatives do the same thing with someone like Ronald Reagan? They certainly do. The difference, of course, is that Reagan was an actual political messiah who was completely at odds with the Establishment, whereas figures such as Obama and Clinton represent the Establishment par excellence. The Establishment will turn the genuine messiah into satan, which is exactly what the left did with Reagan and what Caiaphas did with Jesus.
(You will also note the truism that one of the difficult things about voting is that you never know if a Republican is just pretending to be a conservative [i.e., a political messiah] or whether a Democrat is just pretending not to be a liberal [i.e., an Establishment figure in disguise]. This speaks volumes about how one must know the truth in order to be able to lie about it.)
According to Bion, "the mystic or genius, bearer of a new idea, is always disruptive for the group; The Establishment tries to protect the group from this disruption. The problem that arises from the relation between the mystic-genius and the institution creates an emotional configuration that repeats itself in different forms throughout history."
Importantly, the messiah can be creative or nihilistic (e.g., Nietzsche, Marx), "and will certainly be considered both -- at some point -- by different parts of the group. It is a fact that every genius, mystic, or messiah is both things, as the nature of his contributions is bound to destroy certain laws or conventions, the culture or coherence of the group, or of some subgroup within a group." As such, "the Establishment must achieve, as one of its functions, an appropriate containment" so as to limit the messiah's "disruptive power."
Rome (the Establishment) could not contain this threatening messiah, so they put him to death. And from the self-interested standpoint of the Establishment, they were entirely warranted (so to speak) in doing so, even though it ultimately backfired. For this messiah could not even be contained by death, and ended up toppling the Establishment anyway.
Think about that one for a moment. Again, as we were discussing the other day, the deeper the cause, the deeper the effect. The cause of this messiah was so deep that its shattering effects continue to be felt today -- again, even if you only look at it in purely Bionian terms, let alone religious ones; for if truth is catastrophic, then Truth must be the biggest catastrophe of them all, shattering every man-made idol with which it comes into contact.
Understood in Bion's sense, it is not the least bit of hyperbole to say that the United States is the "messiah among nations." With this understanding in mind, it is entirely predictable that the Establishment -- e.g., the UN or the international left -- would react to us the way they do. The truly messianic liberal principles embodied in our founding documents absolutely shatter the leftist agenda into into so many bits of totoiletarian fasces.
Look at it this way: what do you call a passionate truth seeker whose object -- Truth -- is excluded by his own a priori assumptions? Why, you call him a secularist, or a materialist, or a leftist. By definition, they can never attain what they are seeking, for it can only be found in a vertical realm that is precisely excluded by his materialistic assumptions. Thus, any vertical man will be seen as a threat to horizontal man, so he will be attacked with the time-honored mechanisms of of envy, contempt, and triumphalism -- for example, in the contemptuous James Cameron's triumphant debunking of Christianity. Cameron no doubt congratulates himself for being such a revolutionary messiah, but he could not be a more petty voice of the establishment. He is Caiaphas. ("Prince of this world!")
Now, what is the difference between, say, Noam Chomsky and David Horowitz, one of whom is still an anti-messianic voice of nihilsim, the other of whom saw through that sinister world and came around to the other side? Like Paul, both are passionate truth-seekers, but one had his Road to Demascus experience and became blinded by truth, if not Truth. How to explain the difference?
I'm not entirely sure, and to a certain extent, only God can say, since we are in the realm of "weighing souls," and it is not ultimately up to us to judge the soul, only the behavior. Having said that, I certainly have no hesitation in proposing the idea that there is something thoroughly rotten about Chomsky's soul, whereas there was obviously something redeemable in Horowitz's. For when we sin, we can sin with the husk or we can sin with the kernel.
Speaking for myself -- but which seems to apply to most people who eventually grow up -- "when I was young and stupid, I was young and stupid." However, despite my youthful stupidity, looking back on it, I cannot think of any bad thing I ever did that either truly reflected my kernel or damaged it. Rather, it was always done with the husk, often out of insecurity, or anxiety, or some other neurotic motivation. Furthermore, when the light was shown to me, I did not -- could not -- reject it. Rather, my kernal was attracted to it in spite of my husk. From there, it was just a matter of throwing off the husk as the kernel grew in the presence of the light.
Like Paul, even when I was most confused, I was nevertheless a passionate truth-seeker. As such, I knew that appearances could not be the reality, and that deeper forces must be at play. However, if you are not religious, then you will look for these deeper forces elsewhere. This is the appeal of a Chomsky (and of all neo-Marxist ideologies of the left), as he essentially provides a paranoid conspiracy theory that serves as a replacement for the non-paranoid "conspiracy theory" of religion. For con-spiracy simply means "breathing together," so be careful with whom you breath. After all, the "breath of life" that was breathed into man is what lifts us into the vertical and distinguishes us from the tenured.