Sunday, August 02, 2009

Why on Earth is Man on Earth?

I was going through the arkive, deleting a few things that weren't worthy of eternity, when I stumbled upon this one, which I think deserves a second shot at inclusion in the Blog of Life.

I remember back in film school, one of my professors mentioned that when they remake a film, it's almost always one that was already a classic and cannot be improved upon. Instead, why not remake a noble failure that had a lot of missed potential? In this case, I have meditated upon what I previously wrote line-by-line, and altered it accordingly, based upon up-to-the-minute dispatches from just over the vertical horizon.

What is man that the electron should be mindful of him! --E. Becker

In Goldberg's Liberal Fascism, he goes into the inglorious history of the left's attempts to pathologize its enemies (e.g., the embarrassing Frankfurter school of bitesized intellectual wieners). This is something that was practiced in the Soviet Union, just as it is done today in left wing university psychology departments. It is one of the ways they enforce political correctness, by pathologizing anyone who, say, believes that the government should not force us to discrminate based upon race.

But in order to even begin discussing the question of psychological health -- and its relationship to politics, if there is any -- one must first determine what the mind was designed to do. Everything is based upon this initial determination, so if you get it wrong, your entire intellectual edifice will be built upon pounding sand. You simply must know what a human being is "for," or your understanding of politics, history, economics, law, and other disciplines will be fatally flawed.

Another way of saying it is that we must first understand what on earth man is on earth for. For there really are only two choices, which come down to nihilism or pleromism (to coin a word), existentialism or essentialism, relativism or Absolutism. Humans are either an ultimately worthless cosmic aberration, or the very peophole through which the Absolute may contemplate itself. The bloody stakes are that rare, which is why the debate is so meaty.

All leftists, following Marx, believe that "existence precedes essence." Leftism in all its forms is based on man being "nothing," which is why the leftist believes that the god-state may manipulate him into being something less than a man.

For the secular humanist, human beings can be nothing more than a late-model beast -- a recent arrival to the cosmic manifestival with a few interesting tricks programmed into us by father Darwin. But for the religionist, man carries a trace of the origin and center of the cosmos within his very being, so that what a human being truly is is the key to fathoming the implacable mystery of the cosmos itself. Again, these views are absolutely irreconcilable (which is one way we know of the Absolute).

To back up a bit, we cannot begin to discuss this question without bearing in mind the importance of complementarity, as discussed a few posts back. Man lives within various dialectical tensions that cannot be resolved, the most important of these being the celestial and terrestrial, or vertical and horizontal. In turn, each of these contains within it various tensions and relations that cannot be resolved, so long as we exist on the relative plane -- which we must do on pain of not existing at all. "Health" lies in the dynamic equilibrium between various complementary opposites.

With a few exceptions, psychology mainly deals with horizontal health, whereas religion addresses what we might call “vertical health,” so this is one of the first confusions that will arise in any attempt to deal with man in wholly material terms. If your metapsychology reduces man to mere horizontality, then your psychological model will necessarily be incapable of producing real health or wholeness in a wider (and higher) sense.

Let’s begin with the horizontal, because that will be the easiest to comprehend. Within the horizontal, there are several complementarities that have to be balanced in order to be healthy and happy. These would include the poles of narcissism (or individualism) <---> social-ism, conscious <---> unconscious, and thought <---> feeling (or head and heart).

Regarding the complementarity that distinguishes between our individuation and the more primordial “groupishness” out of which it must be won, the first thing you will notice is that most cultures throughout most of human history have failed to resolve this in a healthy way. Perhaps this is understandable, because as mentioned a few days ago, man was a group animal long before human groups began producing true “individuals.”

In my book, I discuss this “interior revolution” that only began on a widespread scale in around the 17th century (and only in the Christian West, mind you). What we call the modern self -- something that seems so self-evident to us -- was not the norm prior to that, any more than wealth was. Obviously, man is born stupid and poor, both individually and collectively.

Probably the most (excessively) thorough documentation of this is in Charles Taylor’s Sources of the Self. By 1700 or so, he writes, “something recognizably like the modern self is is in the process of constitution.... Thought and feeling -- the psychological -- are now confined to minds. This follows our disengagement from the world, its ‘disenchantment’....”

Here you can see that this process of historical individuation almost exactly parallels the personal individuation that is described in the latest models of psychological development. These models track what is called the separation-individuation process, as we grow from our primary merger with the mother toward our unique identity. In the past couple of decades there has been a tremendous amount of research that confirms the importance of early attachment and bonding to the outcome of this process, probably most ably summarized for the lay person in Dan Siegel’s The Developing Mind.

For any psychoanalytically informed psychologist, this is where it all goes down, for there are any number of things that can go wrong on the way from dyadic merger with the Great Mother to that little island of the self that will stand out from the ocean of conscious being.

We’re covering a lot of ground here, so it’s impossible to go into a great deal of detail, but my best psychoanalytic teacher summed things up when he said that the unhealthy person wants to go from twoness back to primitive oneness, whereas the healthy person wants to go from lonely oneness to intimate twoness.

In other words, the unhealthy person has not resolved the issues of separation and individuation and cannot tolerate his or her separateness (“twoness”). Therefore, they seek to maintain or recapture primitive merger (“oneness”) with another person or with the group at large, in order to ward off separation anxiety and abandonment depression. All people can exhibit this regressive tendency under stress, but there are many cultures that entirely revolve around it. What you call “blessed solitude,” they would call a lonely and frightening hell. And what they call “family” or “community,” you would call psychic suffocation. The kinship (not to mention gynephobic) structure of the Islamic world is not just "another way to be human," but a major barrier in becoming a fully actualized human.

In my work in forensic psychology, I have had the opportunity to evaluate people from cultures all over the planet, and one of the first things that jumps out is how differently various cultures resolve the issue of separation and individuation. It may be politically incorrect to say so, but it is quite clear to me that with many cultures, you will not so much be dealing with an individual as a type. It is as if they all have the identical life story, the same values, the same parents, the same knowledge base, the same goals, the same way of looking at the world.

Now, an academically correct anthropologist would say that there is no developmental axis in culture -- that all cultures are equally beautiful and worthwhile, and that there is no objective measure of cultural health or pathology. Indeed, they might even make the idiotic charge of racism against people who believe otherwise, even though we are specifically dealing with psychology, not race. (Which is odd anyway, for what if one belongs to a racist culture? Isn't it wrong to judge the culture?)

But I maintain that the health or pathology of a culture can be evaluated in terms of how effectively it allows people to pass through the separation-individuation process and become themselves. Because in a primitive culture, you will have no opportunity to become who you truly are. Differences are not tolerated, or will be persecuted so as to maintain conformity -- somewhat like our stage of adolescence, which produces such abject conformity, or those tattooed leftist rebels who all look and sound the same.

To a very real extent, you can see this issue reflected in different political ideologies. For example, you will often hear leftists accuse conservatives (i.e., classical liberals) of being self-interested. Exactly! If you value the self, then you are going to value the system that most effectively nurtures it and allows it to develop. And without a doubt, the system that most effectively accomplishes this is the system of ordered liberty enunciated by America’s founders.

Likewise, as discussed a couple of days ago, the psychospiritual left has always been uncomfortable with the idea of “rugged individualism,” of competition, of winners and losers. You might think that this clashes with their extreme selfishness and pseudo-individualism -- e.g., the art world. But an astute observer can know in a glance that this primitivism is neither art nor an expression of the higher self. Beethoven’s fifth symphony is the expression of a unique self. On the other hand, most modern art is just “poopy diapers,” which, if you’ve seen one, you’ve seen them all... no, check me on that... there are definitely degrees of disgusting diaperdom. In any event, while this pseudo-art may resemble extreme individualism, it is thoroughly typal. I only have to see one Robert Maplethorpe photo to know that some things shouldn't be seen at all.

Remember a couple of posts back, I discussed the manner in which envy-fueled egalitarianism was natural to primitive mankind, and that, to quote Cassell, “to have an intuitive grasp of economics, you might just need to take a step or two up the evolutionary ladder." Precisely. Here you can see why I would dismiss a study out of hand if it equated emotional health with what I see as primitive regression, and pathology with what I regard as the system that best allows for true psychological growth.

Now, leftists will no doubt argue that liberty is a dangerous invitation to selfishness and greed. Our system simply unleashes the beast in man, and must be countered by a huge “maternal” government upon whose teat we may all suckle for comfort and security. But this is foolishness. For narcissism is not a healthy outcome of the separation-individuation process. Rather, it is specifically one of the many things that can go awry with attachment and bonding, leading to a caricature of true selfhood. Narcissism is always a caricature of individuation.

In short, leftists confuse a system that allows for narcissists with a system that creates them. But the narcissist is created mainly as a result of the conditions of childhood, conditions that the leftist is generally blind to -- for the same reason he is blind to, say, the conditions that produce the quite evident pathology of black culture. The leftist will reflexively say that the problems of black America are rooted in poverty, even though this is demonstrably false, because those many blacks who rise above the pathology of black culture do as well economically as any other group. It is a matter of healthy values, not race or poverty. Likewise, if you transferred Palestinian values to Israel, it would produce a barbaric and infrafuman swamp of depravity in less than one generation.

But with regard to what that great liberal Daniel Patrick Moynihan called the "tangle of pathology " of black culture, the leftist will see a “victim of selfishness” instead of the sine qua non of selfishness, for it is difficult to imagine a more selfish and narcissistic act than bringing a child into the world without benefit of marriage and a father, just because you want someone to love you unconditionally for the first time in your life. But once the baby is born, it is too late to realize that he or she is about the last person in the world who is going to love you unconditionally. So you will end up creating yet another generation of damaged narcissists who have foundered on the rocks of attachment and bonding.

And if you are a leftist, you create special university departments for such damaged individuals, and give them tenure instead of psychotherapy.

To be continued...

44 Comments:

Anonymous goddinpotty said...

the inglorious history of the left's attempts to pathologize its enemies... This is something that was practiced in the Soviet Union, just as it is done today in left wing university psychology departments.

There's enough projection going on here to power a multiplex cinema. What is this entire blog about, if not pathologizing the left? Other than the tedious metaphysics that is.

In my work in forensic psychology...

It's bad enough imaging you plying your trade on hapless individuals in need of therapy. Oh well, I guess any competent attorney could deal with your supposed expertise by bringing the contents of this blog into evidence.

8/02/2009 01:30:00 PM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

Thank you once again for putting to rest the question of whether I'm overstating the case.

8/02/2009 02:52:00 PM  
Blogger walt said...

"...just “poopy diapers,” which, if you’ve seen one, you’ve seen them all... no, check me on that... there are definitely degrees of disgusting diaperdom."

No overstatement there. In fact, it describes him perfectly.

8/02/2009 02:58:00 PM  
Anonymous will said...

>>. . the separation-individuation process, as we grow from our primary merger with the mother toward our unique identity<<

>>. . this “interior revolution” that only began on a widespread scale in around the 17th century<<

For all that they've been disdained as "un-natural" and soul-killing, I think the growth of big cities served a spiritual purpose - separating the individual from the merger with the mother (earth) and the vestiges of pagan earth-consciousness. The idea, of course, is to achieve individuality and then to eventually regain the higher intuitions which were formerly the province of our distant ancestors.

I suppose at least some of the "back to earth" perspectives we've been treated to in recent decades actually represent this change in the collective consciousness. I fear that most of it - given the manic, lefty tone of many eco-types - is nothing more than a desire to return to the primitive One-ness, an escape from genuine individuality.

8/02/2009 02:58:00 PM  
Anonymous will said...

>> . . Other than the tedious metaphysics that is<<

::laughter from behind the curtain::

Yeah, Potty, like you have a real grasp on metaphysics, you ridiculous twit.

Present something to a cynical 13 year old that he doesn't understand, and he'll more than likely describe it as "tedious", boring.

8/02/2009 03:05:00 PM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

Reminds me of my dog, who mainly knows two things: how to angrily bark at anything unfamiliar, and how to bury his face in the crotch of those he likes.

8/02/2009 03:11:00 PM  
Anonymous ximeze said...

Has somecoon from our home den been active in Dear Leader's neck of the woods?

8/02/2009 03:52:00 PM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

Speaking of the socialist Joker, Economics Does Not Lie, which I'm reading today, is quite good. Frustrating to have these economically primitive and superstitious leftists in power, when the truth is so readily available. Once again the irony of progressives believing themselves to be "pro-science."

On the other hand, The Tyranny of Liberalism turned out to be a bit of a dud, especially in light of Liberal Fascism, which renders it superfluous.

8/02/2009 04:04:00 PM  
Blogger Mongoose said...

Is Beethoven "expressing the self" or rather expressing universalities though the experience of the self?

There cannot be any doubt that other than for this quibble that you are quite right about the "art world". Just a few bars of Beethoven is a radically different experience, and qualitatively different in kind.

(oh, and my dog is much more of an advanced creature than that. Are you sure that you are just not paying attention?)

8/02/2009 05:08:00 PM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

I wasn't talking about my pet. I was referring to goddinpotty.

8/02/2009 05:32:00 PM  
Blogger Ricky Raccoon said...

My oldest brother told me about this, well, non-flushing person who used to leave, well, non-flushed things at his place of employement. No one knew who he was. They code named him The Phantom Sh*tter. The other person, not my brother.
Anybody know who I'm talking about?

(Forgive me, but it's true.)

8/02/2009 06:12:00 PM  
Blogger walt said...

"...the very peophole through which the Absolute may contemplate itself."

By the way, that concept, mentioned very casually in this post, and the understanding that surrounds it, which you've diligently examined in so many posts this year, has probably become the main "organizing principle" in all my investigations.

I picked up the scent originally when you used to discuss man being "a bridge," and it grew from there. Now it rather in-forms everything else!

8/02/2009 06:16:00 PM  
Blogger Ricky Raccoon said...

Bob,
Did you complete "In the light of Christ.."?

8/02/2009 06:44:00 PM  
Anonymous goddinpotty said...

But an astute observer can know in a glance that this primitivism is neither art nor an expression of the higher self....I only have to see one Robert Maplethorpe photo to know that some things shouldn't be seen at all.

This is the sort of politically-driven philistinism which you would label as "PC" if it came from the other side. Mapplethorpe's style was very much in the classical mode and anything but primitive. Here's some examples. See also here. But to people like you, art can be nothing but an excuse for moral posturing.

It's funny -- If Mapplethorpe had restricted himself to pictures of calla lilies and Patti Smith, I suppose his name would be largely unknown outside the art world. By releasing his shocking homoerotic prints, he became a mass-market phenomenon, deployed by ignoramuses everywhere. Smart marketing!

8/02/2009 06:45:00 PM  
Blogger Ricky Raccoon said...

We wouldn't expect you to know the difference.

8/02/2009 06:48:00 PM  
Blogger sehoy said...

Ricky Raccoon:

My husband tells me that at every military exercise he has ever been on, there has always been the appearance of what he calls "The Mad Crapper:" some soldier who takes a dump on the General's jeep hood. Or dumps on the floor next to the toilet. Or smears it all over the seat and the walls.

He explained this to me, because I went to scout camp again this year with our boy scout troop; and AGAIN, we had the daily appearance of the mad crapper.

What kind of person takes a dump in a shower stall?!

I really don't understand the behavior, but apparently there are a number of them out there.

8/02/2009 06:58:00 PM  
Blogger Ricky Raccoon said...

Imagine coming here everyday, this beautiful place, and having nothing to show for it, but your droppings.
No beauty defended. Just ugly. And hate.
He never comes here offering anything nice.
I guess we have too much of that in the world.

8/02/2009 07:09:00 PM  
Anonymous Petey said...

I don't know about that. After all, he gave us a link to some gay porn at the Guggenheim Las Vegas, which is only like the Louvre of west Nevada. C'mon, you philistines!

8/02/2009 07:15:00 PM  
Blogger Ricky Raccoon said...

Petey,
I'm sorry you had to see that.

8/02/2009 07:20:00 PM  
Blogger Ricky Raccoon said...

Petey,
When you see Bob, can you ask him my question?

8/02/2009 07:22:00 PM  
Blogger Joan of Argghh! said...

I have nothing to add to this excellent post, so I'll just share a surprising video of a hairless raccoon.

I'm sure it means something . . .

8/02/2009 07:23:00 PM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

Rick:

I put Symeon on the back burner, since I want to stay with Max for awhile. Doing so also gave me the opportunity to catch up with my secular studies, e.g., Liberal Fascism.

8/02/2009 07:41:00 PM  
Blogger Ricky Raccoon said...

Thanks Bob.
I've been reading the one on Googlebooks and the free portion is about over. So just wondering if you could recommend it yet. So far it's good, to me. That's only speaking for the first 60 pages or so.

8/02/2009 07:46:00 PM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

I found the first third of the book to be a tad "medieval," if you know what I mean. I think it gets much better after that -- a little more compatible with the Slack Driven Life. I have the same problem with much of the Philokalia. It's a little too similar in tone to those Mohammedans who whack themselves with chains to prove how unworthy they are. I'm all for humility, but there are limits.

8/02/2009 07:55:00 PM  
Blogger Ricky Raccoon said...

It's a pleasure to read.
When he speaks he reminds me of Unknown Friend. It's not a dramatic pleading, but it's there.

8/02/2009 07:57:00 PM  
Blogger Ricky Raccoon said...

I must have skipped that stuff. Or havnt gotten there yet.

8/02/2009 08:01:00 PM  
Blogger Susannah said...

Was the bullwhip one classically inspired as well? Maybe he was inspired by the bath houses of Pompeii.

8/02/2009 08:13:00 PM  
Blogger Ricky Raccoon said...

I think I just reached some. Page 72. "Methods"

8/02/2009 08:13:00 PM  
Anonymous goddinpotty said...

It's not beautiful. All I am doing is showing you how ugly your own beliefs are.

If the spiritual insight that is served up here rests on a foundation of slander, hate, and distortion, then it is fake spirituality. It's bad for you. Or so I believe.

8/02/2009 08:26:00 PM  
Anonymous Cousin Dupree said...

Well then, instead of wasting your efforts here, I suggest that you start a blog, so we can know exactly where to ignore you.

8/02/2009 08:53:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Shit for brains said,
"If the spiritual insight that is served up here rests on a foundation of slander, hate, and distortion, then it is fake spirituality. It's bad for you."


And if it doesn't?

8/02/2009 10:46:00 PM  
Blogger ge said...

as one of the few here who [rikery] actually met Robert M in the daylight [he shot the young daughter-model of a galpal of mine circa 1980]... I agree with our host not our pest: conservative spirituality shall subtly thrive, and the decadent death-flirting materialism of the likes of RM favoring fleshly ludicrous perversity seal their own warrants. His clueless critical champions & patrons are the effete urban inclub of PC village voicers of the limo-lib misguided left, perfumed pestilence.

-see also FAMILY GUY: the 'Horses of Brokeback Mountain' sketch... Wondering where their riders are so late in the morning, one peeks into their tent....and bolts screaming: now THAT's art

8/03/2009 05:50:00 AM  
Blogger Van said...

"In my book, I discuss this “interior revolution” that only began on a widespread scale in around the 17th century (and only in the Christian West, mind you). What we call the modern self -- something that seems so self-evident to us -- was not the norm prior to that, any more than wealth was. Obviously, man is born stupid and poor, both individually and collectively.

Probably the most (excessively) thorough documentation of this is in Charles Taylor’s Sources of the Self. By 1700 or so, he writes, “something recognizably like the modern self is is in the process of constitution.... Thought and feeling -- the psychological -- are now confined to minds. This follows our disengagement from the world, its ‘disenchantment’....”"

Confined to minds, or more visible to minds?

I do get hung up on the idea that humans are always humans, period... but there is obviously a striking difference between the heroes in Gilgamesh, Aeschylus trilogy Orestia, Beowulf and the favorite of the Founders era, Addison's Cato.

But in Aeschylus description of people who are clearly not whole, we're seeing them through the sight of someone who clearly IS whole, and in glimpses and snatches in Gilgamesh and Beowulf the same seems to be happening, and then again we see through a whOle eye again in Cato. But the sight seen through the eyes of most modernists is nearly blind again, full of cataracts, maybe even that primitive oneness of a Cyclops.

Seems like we go through stages. Or as if looking at the stars for the first time, they are just a scattering of glittering jewels, it is only after either contemplation or instruction, that we see constellations like the Little Dipper, and only later Orion's Belt and the story which it becomes visible through.

Similar to your image of colonizing the mind, it is as if we are full of a great scattering of dots, those dots are fully there from the first human, and will be there with the last, but we only learn (or forget) to connect the dots, and to color them in, as those stories, and those who tell them, are developed, maintained and respected.

In the naturalism that followed Rousseau, it is almost as if you can see a deliberate erasing of the lines which connect the dots, and at the same time a barbarous intensifying of the colors which had filled them (Artists like Monet, etc, seem to be doing just this with their attempts to paint only color), until we get to 'piss christs' attempts to misconnect dots remove color altogether.

The triad of Mother, Father, Baby describes what makes a sound story teller, One who knows how to write the peophole into the story so that we can see... but we've still got to connect the dots ourselves, and history seems to be a tale of how we are constantly learning and forgetting how to do just that.

8/03/2009 06:01:00 AM  
Blogger Van said...

Ricky, the 'The Phantom Sh*tter' is obviously gulpinpotty. Potty, please climb in with your treasures and flush.

Pull the seat down on your way in.

8/03/2009 06:08:00 AM  
Blogger Van said...

Oops, pulled a Ximeze on the links,
;-)
one more time,
Gilgamesh, Aeschylus trilogy Orestia, Beowulf and the favorite of the Founders era, Addison's Cato.

8/03/2009 06:12:00 AM  
Blogger Ricky Raccoon said...

You guessed it, Van.

8/03/2009 06:21:00 AM  
Anonymous ximeze said...

Haaaaaey


wv:jazing

8/03/2009 09:12:00 AM  
Anonymous Northern Bandit said...

goddinpotty:

Why are you still here?

Nobody cares about anything you have to say or what you think about OC. We've heard from people like you ad nauseum for our entire lives. There are thousands of web sites for people like you! Go spend time at one of those instead, where you'll fit in.

Frankly you make me somewhat ill and your presence here really detracts from the comments section. If you're nothing but a common troll (i.e., only in it to irritate and insult others) then I suppose there's nothing we can do. Otherwise, I don't think you're welcome here and your continuing presence is becoming a real problem.

Please go away!

8/03/2009 02:09:00 PM  
Anonymous goddinpotty said...

I think you answered your own question.

Consider this hypothetical situation: there's a blog that contains a lot of spiritual speculation and theorizing, interspersed with slurs against Peruvians. Peruvians are infantile and wrong about everything, but despite that they seem to control all major institutions of society. They are downright evil and responsible for massive harm. They are up to all sorts of fantastic conspiracies. They are arrogant and condescending. They are full of "mind parasites". Etc, ad nauseum.

Do you think that a Peruvian who comes across this blog has a right to comment critically there? Perhaps even a responsibility to do so?

8/03/2009 08:24:00 PM  
Blogger Ricky Raccoon said...

Who cares if you're from Peru?

8/03/2009 08:37:00 PM  
Anonymous Cousin Dupree said...

Indigenous Peruvians practiced child sacrifice and cranial deformation. Defend them all you like, but evil is evil.

8/03/2009 08:38:00 PM  
Blogger Ricky Raccoon said...

You know, the more time he spends here, the less time he spends recruiting.

8/03/2009 08:51:00 PM  
Blogger Van said...

Shirley MacLaine went to Peru to meet space aliens.

Just sayin'

8/03/2009 09:51:00 PM  
Blogger ge said...

Taking our time before it's through
Passing our days in old shoes
Sister - think I'm returning to Peru
Wish that I never came here
They cant pronounce my name here
Everyone asks me where's Peru?

In Peru we've lenghtened the day
In Peru we've strenghtened the dollar
There are mountains piercing our skies
And the ocean at our shores
I will save up all of my wages
Even retail crumby cosmetics
I will work my passage in stages
As the winter slips away.

Miles of golden beaches
Excellent wines and features
Mister - take a week off in gay Peru
Penitent monks to stare at
Colonial dons in old straw hats
Everyones there in old Peru
Oo-oo- Peru

8/04/2009 05:38:00 AM  

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