Thursday, February 14, 2008

The Devil, Dylan, and the Dead (3.08.09)

I really was never any more than what I was -- a folk musician who gazed into the gray mist with tear-blinded eyes and made up songs that floated in a luminous haze. Now it had blown up in my face and was hanging over me. I wasn't a preacher performing miracles. It would have driven anybody mad. --Bob Dylan

Let's meditate for awhile on the political implications of the Devil card with our Unknown Friend.

First of all, the being known as Satan is a source of inspiration (to in-spire is to receive spirit). Only it is counter-inspiration, which is still a kind of inspiration. In fact, very much so. To avoid premature saturation, let's just call it (-i). Most of us, assuming we weren't permanently damaged by college, can recognize (i) when we see it, but many people confuse (i) with (-i), with catastrophic results. For example, America's founders were animated by (i). Che Guevara -- and those who idealize him -- was animated by (-i).

In contemporary America, you could almost say that there's no such thing as "the left." Rather, what we have is a mass movement animated by (-i). If you are within the movement, then it is doubtful that you can see it, but viewed from without, it is completely obvious. The campaign of John Edwards, for example, was an exercise in pure (-i). How then did it differ from Obama's campaign? I would say that the Edwards campaign was equally driven by (+H), whereas Obama's campaign is imbued with a meretricious (-L). True, there is always deep (H) under the (-L), but the obamaniacs are able to split off and deny the (H) by bathing in the (-L).

Along these lines, reader Mike M. left an astute comment yesterday:

"This swooning Obama-worship of what would seem an empty suit is bizarre and curious. Note how it follows the irrational demonization of the current POTUS now seen as a figure of such mythic evil that he, George Bush, is held to have deliberately murdered thousands of innocent Americans on 9/11 as a pretext for immoral imperialist war. This is a view which is resolutely held by graduates of our most prestigious universities! That such an event would have no historical precedent and that such a purported crime would exceed the ruthless cynical evil of the purported NAZI burning of the Reichstag cannot be without meaning....

"Given the powerful projection, scapegoating and displacement poured into the demonization of George W. Bush could it be that this Obamessiah personna is a necessary counter to the fabricated evil Bush-Hitler figure, and the powerful divisive hysteria and paranoia which has accompanied the demonization of George Bush -- sort of virtual particle and anti-particles emerging from a spiritual vacuum?"

Yes. That is exactly what I am trying to say. Genuine (L) is convergent upon wholeness, truth, beauty, light, harmony, and peace. It is not reactive, but active. On the other hand, the Obama-love (-L) is almost wholly reactive, as it exists side by side with the (H) from which it is derived. This is one of the first and most useful things I learned in my psychoanalytic education. That is, some patients will develop a transference toward the therapist in which they express a lot of anger and hatred. No problem. One expects that. They are not nearly as troublesome as the ones who develop an idealized transference, because when that happens, you had better fasten your seatbelt. You're in for a bumpy ride.

The reason for this is that idealization (understood in its psychoanalytic sense) is a defense mechanism which is simply the other side of denigration and contempt. In other words, both idealization and contempt are simply ways for the person to manage their own psychic economy. You might say that one person places the bad object outside of himself in order to distance himself from it, while another person places the good object outside of himself to protect it from his own toxic anger and hatred. Often, on an unconscious level, the patient idealizes you to prevent themselves from tearing you apart -- i.e., to protect you from their own hostility. Haven't you ever been around this kind of person, whose attraction to you was kind of spooky? (I remember a Seinfeld episode that dealt with that issue.)

Importantly, this is not to confuse the defense mechanism of idealization with its normal variety. It's somewhat difficult to precisely define the difference, but you can definitely sense when it's the pathological kind. As a therapist, you can intuit the shadow underneath, which gives you an apprehensive feeling of waiting for the other shoe to drop. You find yourself with a foreboding sense of, "boy, this guy loves me now, but am I gonna get hammered as soon as I do something to disappoint him." I guess it's similar to the creepy signals that an abusive man gives out to a potential victim. When a woman gets involved with an abusive man, it's usually because she ignored the spooky idealization at the beginning of the relationship. And the reason she ignored it was probably because she wasn't loved by a virtuous and spiritually integrated father, so she can't recognize proper male love.

This is why I mentioned yesterday that a normal person would definitely be unnerved by the kind of hysterical adulation (-L) being directed at Obama. You cannot help wondering about the state of his soul, and whether it is a pathological mirror-image of what is being projected into him -- like an unconscious lock that corresponds perfectly with the projected key. Such a man, like Clinton, seeks his center in the periphery of the idealizing crowd, so to speak. It couldn't be more different from a man with an immutable axis and incorruptible center to which people are "magnetized," such as Ronald Reagan.

(George Will: "In his preternatural neediness, Clinton, an overflowing caldron of narcissism and solipsism, is still smarting from Obama's banal observation, four weeks ago, that Ronald Reagan was a more transformative president than Clinton.")

If mother love is like the circle that is both infinite and enveloping (and potentially suffocating), father love is like the absolute point. The circle must come first, followed by the point, which forms the center (and which will in turn extend "vertically" to the celestial Father, of whom our earthly father is just an authorized deputy). A man without a father (or father energy, which can come from other sources) is generally a man without a center. In addition to seeking his center in the adulation of others, it is also possible to fabricate it in a kind of centerless, manic energy -- again, Clinton comes to mind. He is bubbling over with scattered hysterical thought devoid of any coherence or consistency. He is most focussed when he is focused on the adulation of the crowd, which provides him with a faux center and a temporary integration. But it's an addiction, which is why he can't leave politics alone.

There is a fascinating chapter in Dylan's autobiography, in which he discusses at length the horror of being idealized in the manner he was back in the 1960s. Again, our society has become so narcissistic, that not only is such a bizarre situation seen as normative, but it is something that people actively seek (i.e., the cult of celebrity). People want to be famous and adulated, but obviously for all the wrong reasons. There few good reasons to be famous. Which is why, as Dennis Prager says, most famous people are utterly insignificant, while most significant people aren't famous. I am also reminded of something Schuon said, that the spiritually normal man does things because they please God, not for the horizontal affirmation of others. He made a related comment about the purpose of secular humanism, which is "to make oneself as useful as possible to a humanity as useless as possible."

I can't help wondering if Obama's absence of a father is a critical element here. If a boy is not initiated by the love of a virtuous man, then he will remain left behind in the murky, oceanic, intoxicating, boundary-less realm of mother love, which is as different from father-love as night is to day or sun is to moon. Please bear in mind that I am in no way denigrating mother love. Indeed, in watching Mrs. G. interact with Future Leader over the past three years, I am more in awe of it than ever. However, I am equally aware (as is Mrs. G) that if this love weren't tempered by father love, we could have a real monster on our hands. I mean really.

Awhile back Hoarhey made an insightful comment to the effect that the country wasn't prepared to cope with another fatherless president working out his issues on the national stage. In fact, it is probably no coincidence that the country chose a feminized, mother-bound man as president after the conclusion of the Cold War, since father had done his job and was therefore felt to be no longer necessary. But now, in a time of hot war, are we naive enough -- or in such denial -- to think that we can cow our enemies with sufficient mother love? (c.f. here and here.)

Yes. We. Can.

Yes. We. Can.

Yes. We. Can.

Because I'm good enough, I'm smart enough, and doggone it, the Islamists love me.

Hey, I never really got around to discussing the Devil card. Oh well, some other time.

A few years earlier Ronnie Gilbert, one of The Weavers, had introduced me at one of the Newport Folk Festivals saying, "And here he is... take him, you know him, he's yours." I had failed to sense the ominous forebodings in that introduction.... What a crazy thing to say! Screw that. As far as I knew, I didn't belong to anybody then or now.

.... [T]he press kept promoting me as the mouthpiece, spokesman, or even conscience of a generation. That was funny. All I'd ever done was sing new songs that were dead straight and expressed powerful new realities. I had very little in common with and knew even less about a generation that I was supposed to be the voice of.
--Bob Dylan


Robin Starfish said...

"The circle must come first, followed by the point, which forms the center (and which will in turn extend "vertically" to the celestial Father..."

Illustrated. ;-)

better to wear a
dunce cap than to sit on one
pointy part downward

ximeze said...

Raccoon Alert:
Prayer request over at Ben's

my name it is nothing said...

Lots of good points in this post, Bob. I thought you were giving this up? ; )

And for me it's suiting that you gave a big Dylan mention (again) since I'm off to see the Dylan exhibit today at the Skirball.

Prayers coming your way, Ben.

hoarhey said...

"In fact, it is probably no coincidence that the country chose a feminized, mother-bound man as president after the conclusion of the Cold War, since father had done his job and was therefore felt to be no longer necessary."


Here is an new pathology for you to develop and insert into the psychological lexicon to make people consiously aware of it and possibly a little ashamed. You can name it "The Churchill Syndrome" after Winston Curchill, owing to the fact that the ink hadn't even dried on the WWII surrender documents when the Brits voted him out of office for a weasely socialist.

Anonymous said...

Psychoanalysis has a bad rap nowadays so I never got much exposure to it in my education. Which writers and/or books can you reccomend as a good intro but not too academic and boring? BTW, if you have the time I would be interested in any ideas you may have about the causes of this decline.

Gagdad Bob said...


In my opinion, the most fruitful area of psychology is at the interface of developmental psychoanalysis, attachment theory, and neurobiology. I suppose the best intro I can think of at the moment is The Developing Mind: Toward a Neurobiology of Interpersonal Experience, by Dan Siegel. Sounds forbidding, but if I remember correctly, it's pretty reader friendly. The bottom line is that cutting edge research in neurobiology is confirming many of the insights of modern Object Relations psychoanalysis.

Gagdad Bob said...

BTW, I noticed that there are also a number of good volumes on that amazon page under the heading "Customers Who Bought This Item Also Bought." Allan Schore is especially good, but he's a little dry and academic.

Gagdad Bob said...

I see that the paperback edition has a different subtitle, "How Relationships and the Brain Interact to Shape Who We Are." Same book.

Gagdad Bob said...

Alternatively, for a more enjoyable, post-scholarly One Cosmos-like romp, I might recommend Joseph Chilton Pearce's The Biology of Transcendence: A Blueprint for the Human Spirit.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the reccomendations. I will check them out.

Anonymous said...

It's definitely a magnetic attraction to his center rather than a displacement of the center into the periphery. That there is a cult of personality around him is, in fact, probably the inverse of the Bush=devil thing, but Obama is more coincidentally lucky to be the recipient (lucky from the perspective of, it allows him to win) than the cause of it.

Xi said...

what a curious epistemology you employ; 'the things I say are self-evident. If you don't see that they are self-evident then you are one of those Leftists who is beyond help.'

Very sound.

You might want to take a course on epistemology at your local community college[I'd suggest a real college but I'm not sure your intellect could get you in] to learn a bit about rational/irrational methodology.

Gagdad Bob said...

Xi, I'm not just trying to flatter you, but you sound like a junior college professor. Any time you'd like to take over the blog and write a guest post, just give me a holler, and it's all yours. You may not know this, but I've been on semi-hiatus for awhile, working on my secret project, so I could use the help. We're all dying to know what you know and how you know it.

Frankly, I tried to take a course in epistemology at my local community college, but it ended up being in epistolariology. Now all I can do is write these long, meaningless letters....

Anonymous said...


None of us here are serious about this we are as Bernnie Ward said "just doing research for a book"


Van said...

Hoarhey said "You can name it "The Churchill Syndrome" after Winston Curchill, owing to the fact that the ink hadn't even dried on the WWII surrender documents when the Brits voted him out of office for a weasely socialist."

Remember, that they only turned to Churchill in the first place after their guy botched things almost beyond all hope.

There's a line in Atlas Shrugged, where one of the heroes, after asking how the looting gov't thugs think they'll be able to get away with their continous stream of idiotic actions, taxes and regulations, and she finally understands as she hear's one of them mutter under his breath "Oh... you'll think of something, you always do...."

The spoiled child counts on Mommy and Daddy to fix everything and make it all better... but only after they don't think they can get away with making it any worse. And then afterwards they 'know' that they can go back to the business of behaving like spoiled children once again.

hoarhey said...

At the beginning of the Obama campaign I noticed a lot of the angry Jesse Jacksoneque rhetoric coming out of his and also his wife's mouths. It became obvious to me that he had some type of chip on his shoulder. Then I heard about his backgropund with his Muslim father abandoning the family early on as well as a Muslim step father and his eventually going to live and be raised with white grandparents in Honolulu Hawaii. If anyone knows anything about prejudice in Hawaii, caucasians are the ones taking the brunt of it, so I wondered about how he would have developed the "chip" there. I also heard a short piece on his life in high school where he was given a scholarship to Punahou School (pronounced puna ho) one of the most prestigious, if not the most prestigious private school on the island. The interviewer spoke with some of his friends of that time, (keep in mind this was early in the campaign when the rhetoric was especially angry) one of his friends from the basketball team remembered it as a time of treating each other as equals and friends regardless of color and he was perplexed as to where Obama had picked up the attitude. In more recent days, the campaign has realized that the anger wasn't working and they have pretty much stayed on point with soaring platitudes of hope and change and it has obviously worked well for him. He doesn't do the "Jena justice, Scooter Libby justice" schtick much anymore unless his teleprompter goes out. (Even though Jena was a media fabrication and Scooter Libby got screwed)
I've seen what's underneath and what will eventually come to the surface to whatever degree if the man comes to power.
Instead of gratitude for a life which has turned out reasonably well compared to how it could have ended up, we get some sort of longing to be accepted by a culture and a father who left decades ago and a manufactured bond with a side of his "heritage" which he can only fantisize about.
I'm left wondering how I'll be victimized and enslaved because of his undoneness. Scares the hell out of me. The fifteen different accents don't do much to put me at ease either.

Cousin Dupree said...

The weird thing is, we wouldn't even be having this conversation if he just called himself plain old Barry Dunham.

Similar to the way Clinton didn't like the ring of "Billy Blythe."

Anonymous said...

There is no way anybody could ever reasonably describe Obama's rhetoric as angry.

Magnus Itland said...

Ordered The Biology of Transcendence as per your link. Normally I'd written it off as one more confused newager, but if it has passed the Gagdadian newage-filter, it has to be pretty gritty.

walt said...

Magnus -

As I recall, Pearce's Crack in the Cosmic Egg was intriguing as well.

If we can think of Joseph Chilton Pearce as a New-Ager, we'll have to endure him thinking of us as "You whippersnappers!"

hoarhey said...

Anonymous said...
"There is no way anybody could ever reasonably describe Obama's rhetoric as angry."

Or your reading comprehension as particularly accurate.

Anonymous said...

Blah blah whorehay, that claim about Obama being angry is laughable. Is this the return of the conservatives as the embittered and curmudgeonly minority? Whither good-natured affability?