Monday, January 25, 2010

Ernest Becker on psychoanalysis and the sacred...

(from "The Denial of Death" - a GREAT book!)

"If history is a succession of immortality ideologies, then the problems of men [n.b.: and women!] can be read directly against those ideologies - how embracing they are, how convincing, how easy they make it for men to be confident and secure...

It begins to look as though modern man cannot find his heroism in everyday life any more, as men did in traditional societies just by doing their daily duties... That is the price modern man pays for the eclipse of the sacred dimension. When he dethroned the ideas of soul and God he was thrown back hopelessly on his own resources, on himself and those few around him...

When you narrow down the soul to the self, and the self to the early conditioning of the child, what do you have left? You have the individual man, and you are stuck with him.

All the analysis in the world doesn't allow the person to find out who he is and why he is here on earth, why he has to die, and how he can make his life a triumph. It is when psychology pretends to do this... that it becomes a fraud that makes the situation of modern man an impasse from which he cannot escape...

Modern man started looking inward in the 19th century* because he hoped to find immortality in a new and secure way. He wanted heroic apotheosis as did all other men - but now there is no one to give it to him except his psychological guru. He created his own impasse."


*It is interesting to note that this inward turn to the individual (in psychology) is an echo of the earlier philosophical turn to the individual inner self that was most clearly delineated by Descartes nearly four centuries earlier. We can see just how much pressure the modern subjective self continued to exert throughout the modern period, and that continues even today, in our "postmodern" culture.

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