Friday, 22 July 2016

The "cultural heritage" group neurosis 3: the religion substitute (all of the taste but none of the calories)

Thousands of Muslims praying during the
Eid festival at a mosque in Delhi, 1942
"But once Mother Church and her motherly Eros fall into abeyance, the individual is at the mercy of any passing collectivism and the attendant mass psyche. He succumbs to social or national inflation, and the tragedy is that he does so with the same psychic attitude which had once bound him to a church. ...

"It seems as if man were destined to play a decisive role in solving this uncertainty, and to solve it moreover by virtue of his consciousness, which once started up like a light in the murk of the primeval world. Nowhere do we know for sure about these matters, but least of all where “isms” flourish, for they are only a sophisticated substitute for the lost link with psychic reality. The mass psyche that infallibly results destroys the meaning of the individual and of culture generally."

C. G. Jung, Collected Works of C.G. Jung, Volume 8: Structure & Dynamics of the Psyche: On the Nature of the Psyche (p. 221f). Princeton University Press. Kindle Edition.

I used the image of Muslims praying to convey the idea that while Jung refers to Christianity in the above quote with his reference to "Mother Church", the mechanics involved are the same with regard to any religion, with or without a central deity. Buddha, for example, is not a god, but Buddhism is a religion. The etymology for religion is:
Middle English (originally in the sense ‘life under monastic vows’): from Old French, or from Latin religio(n-) ‘obligation, bond, reverence,’ perhaps based on Latin religare ‘to bind.’
This etymology, functionally, could also include any non-religious (in a literal meaning) bond such as a life-long adherence to a particular political belief. however, when it comes to mental energy, the mechanics are quite different because much of the (common usage) religious feelings have the unconscious as their root. Hence we have faith instead of logic as its true source. These two poles are also Mythos and Logos. Being "well balanced" would signify a mental position somewhere in the central area of these poles. Anyone at either extreme end would be considered psychotic: delusional and pathologically introverted at the Mythos end and sociopathic and pathologically extraverted at the Logos end. Various neuroses can be expressed once this central area is left. For example, the sociopathic killer does not recognize the value of any life but the person with a faith that depends on the materiality unconsciously inherent in religious historicism (the dependence on a literal meaning for anything in a religious canon) does not believe that an individual is responsible for any talent or virtue and that everything is a gift from God, or that it is God who should be thanked for good work or deeds and not the individual. This is actually contrary to orthodox Christian belief which recognizes the free will (and responsibility) of the human being.

I can think of no better support for my ideas on the necessity of being in this central area between Mythos and Logos than to use the thoughts of a Nobel laureate physicist who is also an avowed atheist, Steven Weinberg:
"...This feeling of anxiety is expressed well by Steven Weinberg (note: Weinberg, Les Trois Premières Minutes, 179.), when he writes “It is almost impossible for human beings to believe that there is no special relationship between themselves and the universe, that life is not just the grotesque result of a series of accidents that go back in the past to the very first three minutes and that we have been specifically designed from the beginning. … It is even harder to understand that this universe has evolved from such unfamiliar starting conditions that we can hardly imagine them and that it should end up by extinction, either in endless cold or infernal heat. The more the universe seems comprehensible, the more absurd it also seems.”
Basarab Nicolescu, From Modernity to Cosmodernity: Science, Culture, and Spirituality (SUNY series in Western Esoteric Traditions) (pp. 110-111). State University of New York Press. Kindle Edition.
The religious fervor that Raimund Karl noted in his paper Every sherd is sacred: Compulsive Hoarding in Archaeology is not some sort of literary device but the recognition of a legitimate psychological phenomenon: the hoarding, itself reveals an overly materialistic consciousness that the unconscious attempts to balance through a religious attitude (Mythos). It is thus roughly the opposite of the "God does/is responsible everything" neurosis I mentioned above where the unconscious tries to compensate the overly non-materialistic religious outlook with the materialistic historicism.

Our current western society is unbalanced and is moving at an alarming rate toward the materialistic Logos end of the spectrum. We see this not only in the religious/moral attitudes that define "Cultural Heritage" but also in the destruction of cultural monuments By ISIS. The only difference between the two is that ISIS, being overtly religious is destroying the material and the "cultural heritage" fanatics being overtly materialistic are destroying the processes of culture, itself, which creates such monuments in the first place. The following Ngram gives an indication of how the English-speaking world is experiencing a decline of Mythos; any Ngram (if possible to create) of the ISIS outlook would reveal an opposite direction toward Mythos.

The global collective consciousness with its, as Jung says, "wretched isms" is trying in its typically unintelligent way to regain a balance by having both sides fight it out to the death. The problem of course is that death. also, is  a cessation of culture. Clearly, a saner balance needs to be established.

I will be back with more on Monday. Have a well-balanced weekend.

John's Coydog Community page


  1. John; You are on a roll here. Last year some time, I boldly compared the Archaeological establishment to ISIS, not as baby killers, but as ideological fanatics. Of course, in response, I was immediately characterized by some within that community (Archaeology) as an ignorant flea market peddler. ISIS had no response even though they probably felt insulted too. You are one of the few people who is capable of deflating that balloon that Cultural Property Nationalists live within.

    1. Thanks, Wayne, and yes, your comparison was completely valid and not just with regard to the fact of fanaticism (which can be applied to anything) but that the archaeological establishment (that part of archaeology that is the keeper of dogma) has, as its concern, the sacred nature of cultural objects. The religious side of ISIS also has its concern with the very same thing. Any well adjusted person looks at an object whether it be a painting, car or a cheeseburger as something that has a degree of use; a level of desirability; and a subsequent value. Objects are not sacred. These same well-adjusted people might view life as sacred, but life is not an object; a religious person might have a sense of the sacred with God, but God is not an object either; neither is freedom, joy, love, and so on. All these things are non-material and can be imbued with a variable sense of the sacred by completely well-adjusted people.

      Way out in the hinterland of normality objects are seen as sacred, by the archaeological establishment and ISIS both. The former want to maintain that sacred state, the latter want to destroy it. Two dogs fighting over a very ridiculous bone.

      The criticism you got is also very telling: a "flea market" hints of that which is worthless; peddlers all sell objects; and ignorant hints at being unfamiliar with the dogma. I'm sure we both often laugh at what is called "priceless" in the archaeology press. A few days ago there was a small hoard consisting of two Bronze Age spearheads and three socketed palstaves that were so described; things that might be turned down for inclusion into a New York Christies antiquities auction as being of insufficient value (to them "worthless, not "priceless"). These objects provided no new knowledge to archaeology, either.

      Most likely a founders hoard, the archaeologists said (unconsciously) that they had been "offerings to the gods". The archaeologists had labelled them as sacred because if it had been a conscious determination, they would have needed to provide evidence (there was none). There are great numbers of Bronze Age founders hoards. They are nothing unusual.

      I'll be dealing with the transference of religiosity to nationalism later.