Neuropsychology and Mythology of Motivation for Group Aggression
Jordan B. Peterson, applying theories developed in his masterful Maps ofMeaning: The Archetecture of Belief, considers the problem of inter-groupviolence. Suspicious of the “unconscious presuppositions” of Westernpsychology, Peterson turns instead to the findings of neuroscience, and thewritings of thinkers as diverse as Mircea Eliade, Francis Fukuyama, J.W.Goethe, and Milton, to account for group aggression. In his words: “Theindividual inhabits a network of meaning, intrapsychic and social, whose intactfunctioning regulates emotion. Threats to the stability of this network — toits axioms — provoke aggressive responding. The probability of such aggressionis increased, when the network so inhabited is anachronistic and rigid.Individuals who self-admittedly flee from their moral responsibilities doomtheir networks of meaning to such anachronism and rigidity. In this manner theycome necessarily to serve a master whose nature they do not understand.
“Reprinted from Encyclopedia of Violence, Peace, and Conflict, Volume 1, (ISBN-0-12-227010-X), Kurtz, L. (Ed.), pp 529-545, J. B. Peterson,”Neuropsychology and Mythology of Motivation for Group Aggression,”Copyright (1999), with permission.
Jordan Peterson is a clinical psychologist and professor of psychology at theUniversity of Toronto since 1998. Previously he was a professor at HarvardUniversity from 1993-1998. He completed his graduate and post-doctoral work atMcGill University under the supervision of Dr. Robert O. Pihl, studying alcoholism and aggression. He is currently interested in the formal assessment and theoretical nature of self-deception, construing it as voluntary failure of exploration rather than as repression (although both mechanisms appear to obtain). He also does experimental work on creativity, achievement,personality, narrative and motivation. His book Maps of Meaning: The Architecture of Belief (1999), focuses on the psychology of myth and religion.A new website, www.mapsofmeaning.com, offers comprehensive extensions of Peterson’s work, including a 13-part TV series jointly produced by TVOntario and the University of Toronto Department of Psychology, as well as many additional papers, multimedia presentations, reviews, summaries, and reading courses concerning his research.
Neuropsychology and Mythology of Motivation for Group Aggression
By Jordan B. Peterson
“A. Bâ€”â€”â€”v has told how executions were carried out at Adak â€” a camp on the Pechora River. They would take the opposition members “with their things” out of the camp compound on a prisoner transport at night. And outside the compound stood the small house of theThird Section. The condemned men were taken into a room one at a time, and there the camp guards sprang on them. Their mouths were stuffed with something soft and their arms were bound with cords behind their backs. Then they were led out into the courtyard,where harnessed carts were waiting. The bound prisoners were piled on the carts, from five to seven at a time, and driven off to the “Gorka” â€” the camp cemetery. On arrival they were tipped into big pits that had already been prepared and buried alive. Not out of brutality, no. It had been ascertained that when dragging and lifting them, it was much easier to cope with living people than with corpses. The work went on for many nights at Adak. And that is how the moral-political unity of our Party was achieved .”
The individual is fundamentally territorialâ€” and, furthermore, a creature capable of endless abstraction. Deep understanding of these two characteristics immensely furthers comprehension of the human capacity for the commission of atrocity in the service of belief. Territoriality and higher order symbolic intelligence unite in the production of”abstract territories,” of vast expanse. These abstract territories â€” belief systems, or ideologies â€” promise deliverance of behavioral stability in otherwise potentially chaotic and dangerous social groupings of individuals, motivated by their own particular and idiosyncratic concerns. Proper analysis of the nature of essential human affect helps make the attraction and overwhelming power of this ideological promise understandable.
Psychology is littered with unconscious presuppositions. Sometimes these exist as theoretical foundation blocks: behaviorists, for example, presume the existence of there flex arc â€” a convenient fiction, whose adoption allows for the “atheoretical stance” of behaviorism . Psychoanalytic thinkers,existentialists, and humanists alike all believe that emotional stability depends on intrapsychic stability â€” that a happy,productive person is such because he or she is possessed of an integrated, conflict-free psyche , or an ego adapted to reality , or an actualized self . Western psychology is embedded inextricably in the western philosophical tradition. The idea of the autonomous and self-governing individual is so much apart of that tradition that it forms an “invisible”axiom of all theories of psychological health. But it is possibly the case that our vaunted psychological stability depends as muchâ€” or more â€” on the continued predictability of the”external” environment as on the properly integrated state of hypothetical intrapsychic systems. Consider Hebb’s words:
“One usually thinks of education, in the broad sense, as producing a resourceful, emotionally stable adult, without respect to the environment in which these traits are to appear. To some extent this may be true. But education can be seen as being also the means of establishing a protective social environment in which emotional stability is possible.”
Hebb points out that education alters the cognitive and emotional structure of the individual â€” thus “stabilitizing” him or her â€” but also produces “a uniformity of appearance and behavior” in the social context, which helps remove the impetus for dangerous and unpredictable affective outbursts. He continues:
“On this view, the susceptibility to emotional disturbance may not be decreased. It may in fact be increased. The protective cocoon of uniformity, in personal appearance, manners, and social activity generally, will make small deviations from custom appear increasingly strange and thus(if the general thesis is sound) increasingly intolerable. The inevitable small deviations from custom will bulk increasingly large, and the members of the society, finding themselves tolerating trivial deviations well, will continue to think of themselves as socially adaptable.”
What does the healthy and socially adapted individual do when the custom he holds dear is challenged? He demonizes the enemy, as prime threat to his “identity,”and goes to war. And when he is in barbarian lands, outside the rule of law and the harbor of tradition and restraint, he is a terrible, resentment-ridden predator, whose capacity for unconscionable behavior can hardly be overstated.
Carl Rogers, the eminent humanist, adopted what is arguably the most extreme position, equating intrapsychic integration with emotional regulation, following Rousseau’s dictum: “With what simplicity I should have demonstrated that man is by nature good, and that only our institutions have made him bad !” Rogers/Rousseau believed that the human being was innately good â€” would develop, of his or her own accord, into a healthy and complete person, in the absence of (detrimental) social pressure . There are at least two substantive problems with this hypothesis. It is clear, first,that the idea of what constitutes “good” varies substantially from society to society. This fact does not necessary preclude the possibility that some form of “goodness”is in fact innate â€” but it certainly puts the onus on those who posit that such is the case to account simultaneously for the variance in ethical behavior that characterizes different times and places. Second, the “arbitrary social pressure = individual psychopathology” hypothesis suffers from insufficient recognition of the benefits of tradition and communitarianism. Social order is a terrible force, clearlyâ€” crushing individuality, forcing conformity â€” but it is also the structure that makes communication and cooperation between individuals possible. It is unreasonable to presume that the individual could be social in the absence of socialization.
Intrapsychic integration â€” a primary consequence of individual development â€” accounts primarily for psychological stability: questionable axiom number one.Social harmony is by contrast an unquestionable precondition for individual health and well-being. It is impossible for an individual to be free of severe emotional and motivational conflict in the conditions prevailing, for example, in the Somalian state prior to the recent UN occupation, or in the Rwandan civil war, or in Stalinist Russia. When the actions of others have become entirely unpredictable, when every person is a potential enemy or traitor, when theft and homicide are daily occurrences â€” individual psychological health, practically speaking, becomes impossible: it is “not healthy” to be emotionally stable under such circumstances. Unbridled fear,hostility, suspicion and aggression will manifest themselves inevitably, when social order has vanished. As the poet Leonard Cohen has it â€” “there is no decent place to stand, in a massacre .” It is for this reason â€” to take an example from mythology â€” that Gautama Buddha gave up the Nirvana he was capable of achieving personally (as an archetypally “intrapsychically integrated”individual) to work for the salvation of the rest of the world.The Buddha realized that his complete redemption was impossible,in the midst of the constant suffering of less-enlightened others.This central Eastern myth stresses the necessity of social harmony, as a precondition for complete individuation (and the responsibility of each individual to work for that state, as well as to further personal development).
Questionable axiom number two: anxiety or fear is a learned state. In its most elementary formal incarnation, this idea is predicated on the notion of “primary”and “secondary” reinforcers . Painful stimuli are primary. Previously neutral stimuli, paired with primary stimuli that produce pain, become “secondary” reinforcers,whose presence signals imminent punishment, and then produce anxiety. This basic notion is based on an even more fundamental and “unconscious” presupposition, however â€” that of the “normative” somnolence and emotional stability of organisms. Lab animals â€” such as rats â€” can clearly be taught fear, in the classical manner. A rat in a cage will learn to associate a light with a shock if the two are paired together consistently, within a relatively short intervening time.Two considerations are of particular interest, however, with respect to this apparently self-evident phenomenon.
First: fear-conditioning experiments are almost inevitably conducted on animals who have already “habituated”to the environment in which the experiment takes place. The fact of this pre-experimental “habituation” in fact constitutes one of the implicit theories of the experimental manipulation (that implicit theory being â€” habituated rats comprise appropriate subjects for the derivation of conclusions about fear-acquisition). In actuality, it is the behavior of the rat placed in a novel cage or open field that is of primary interest and relevance for the comprehension of fear or anxiety. When a rat is removed from his familiar ground, and placed in new circumstances, he first freezes (he is, to speak anthropomorphically, shocked into immobility: imagine being dropped naked into a jungle at night). The rat is paralyzed inconsequence of the infinite number of potential horrors that await him in this unexplored environment (not that the rat consciously apprehends these horrors. He is, rather, biologically prepared to respond behaviorally, a priori, with “caution,”when he does not know where he is). Anxiety â€” manifested in behavioral inhibition â€” is the prepotent response to novel territory . While the rat is frozen,he engages in preliminary exploratory behavior, motivated by the incentive-reward properties of the novel circumstance (as a new thing or situation also beckons with promise, as potentially fruitful or useful territory). If his initial tentative exploratory maneuvers (sniffing, visual mapping) do not produce actual negative consequences, the rat gradually becomes less behaviorally inhibited, and starts to explore motorically â€” starts to move around, and to “map” the new domain.Once this mapping is complete â€” that is, once the rat has moved through the new locale, and interacted in its rat manner with all the objects in that locale â€” “habituation” occurs. The rat is now calm. It is this “calm” ratâ€” who went to a lot of trouble to attain his theoretically-baseline “calm” state â€” who can now be “taught” fear. In truth, he was initially terrified, when he was not on home ground. Then he regulated his own emotional upheaval inconsequence of active exploration. Then, because of a radical and unpredictable environmental transformation â€” in this case,the introduction of the light-shock procedure into previously-familiar territory â€” the rat becomes afraid, once again.
Second: even self-evidently “neutral”stimuli â€” that is, stimuli to which no “association”has been made â€” are clearly not neutral, at least upon initial contact. Recent investigations into the phenomena of latent inhibition make this absolutely clear. Take two groups of rats â€” or two groups of human beings, for that matter [14,15]. Show one group a light,repeatedly. Do not pair the light (theoretically neutral) withany reinforcer. Then take both subject groups, and present them with the light, paired with a shock. The “pre-exposed”group â€” that is, the group that saw the light repeatedly, in the absence of “reinforcement” â€” will be much delayed in learning the light-shock relationship. This is because the members of that group learned the “irrelevancy” of the light, by exploring its manifestation numerous times, and attaching to that (potentially and a priori meaningful)manifestation a valence of zero. The importance of the latent inhibition experiments cannot be overstated: the irrelevancy of “meaningless” stimuli is learned, not given. The novel phenomenon, whatever it might be (that is, whatever its intrinsic properties) is not neutral, in the absence of learning.The novel phenomenon has a priori meaning, which must be eliminated, prior to its classification as “something safely ignored” (something like the chair you are sitting on, for example, or the ceiling above your head).
The question then becomes: what is the a priori significance of the unclassified, or unexplored (or novel) thing or situation? The answer to this question can be derived from two completely separate domains of inquiry. First,let us turn to Mircea Eliade, the historian of religion, for two observations. Eliade states:
“One of the outstanding characteristics of traditional societies is the opposition that they assume between their inhabited world and the unknown and indeterminate space that surrounds it. The former is the world (more precisely, ourworld), the cosmos; everything outside it is no longer a cosmos but a sort of “other world,” a foreign, chaotic space, peopled by ghosts, demons, “foreigners” (who are assimilated to [undistinguished from, more accurately] the demons and the souls of the dead) .
More specifically, “everything outside”occupies the same categorical space as chaos and disorder itselfâ€” often given the theriomorphized form of a terrible reptile  (perhaps because snakes/reptiles are easily feared, and may therefore be productively used as”root metaphors”  for the “place of fear itself”). The ancient Egyptians regarded the Hyksos,”barbarians,” as equivalent to Apophis, the serpent who nightly devoured the sun, according to Egyptian mythology ; the early Indo-Europeans equated the destruction of enemies in battle to the slaying of Vrtra (the pre-cosmogonic “dragon of chaos”) by Indra (the world-creating hero) ; and the archaic Iranians (Zoroastrians) equated the mythic struggle of King Faridun (a culture-creating hero, analogous to Romulus or Remus, the mythic founders of Rome) against a foreign usurper â€” the dragon Azdahak â€” with the cosmogonic fight of the hero Thraetona against Azi Dahaka, the primordial serpent of chaos . The enemies of the Old Testament Hebrews suffer the same fate: they are regarded as equivalent to Rahab, or Leviathan, the serpent Yahweh overcame in his battle to establish the world  [“Speak, and say, Thus saith the Lord GOD; Behold, I am against thee, Pharaoh king of Egypt, the great dragon that lieth in the midst of his rivers,which hath said, My river is mine own, and I have made it for myself.” (Ezekiel 29:3); also, “Nebuchadrezzar the king of Babylon hath devoured me, he hath crushed me, he hath made mean empty vessel, he hath swallowed me up like a dragon, he hath filled his belly with my delicates, he hath cast me out.” (Jeremiah 51:34)]. It is of great interest, in this regard to consider the behavior of rats in their natural habitat towards a stranger.Rats are highly social animals, perfectly capable of living with their familiar compatriots in peace. They do not like members of other kin groups, however; will hunt them down and kill them. Accidental or purposeful intruders are dealt with in the same manner. Rats identify one another by smell. If an experimenter removes a well-loved rat from its familial surroundings, scrubs it down, provides it with a new odor, and returns it to its peersâ€” it will be promptly dispatched, by those who once loved it . The “new” rat constitutes “unexplored territory;” his presence is regarded as a threat (not unreasonably) to everything currently secure. Chimpanzees â€” perfectly capable of killing “foreign devils” (even those who were once familiar) â€” act in much the same manner .
Eliade continues, commenting on on the nature of rituals for “consecrating” or “taking possession” of unfamiliar territory (that is, the territory characterized by demons, ghosts, dragons and barbarians â€”and, to speak psychologically, the place of a priori uncertainty, terror and aggression):
“At first sight this cleavage in space appears to be due to the opposition between an inhabited and organized â€” hence cosmicized â€” territory and the unknown space that extends beyond its frontiers; on one side there is a cosmos, on the other a chaos. But we shall see that if every inhabited territory is a cosmos, this is precisely because it was first consecrated, because, in one way or another, it is the work of the gods or is in communication with the world of the gods…. An unknown, foreign and unoccupied territory (which often means “unoccupied by our people” still shares inthe fluid and larval modality of chaos.”
He points out that the occupation and settlingof “unknown land” transforms it, by repeating the”cosmogony” â€” that is, by “acting out”or embodying the creative processes, undertaken by the gods, thatoriginally separated the “domain of order” from theoriginal chaos, at the beginning of time:
“For in the view of archaic societies everything that is not “our world” is not yet a world.A territory can only be made ours by creating it anew, that is,by consecrating it. This religious behavior in respect to unknown lands continued, even in the West, down to the dawn of modern times [and was reflected recently in the “planting of the flag” on the moon, by the American astronauts.] The Spanish and Portuguese conquistadors, discovering and conquering territories, took possession of them in the name of Jesus Christ[the world-creating logos] .”
This is a great and interesting notion. The”unexplored” world is equivalent to chaos (something that might be considered akin to “latent information,”in more modern parlance). The establishment of order, in thatchaos â€” that is, the subjection of the unknown to exploration, law and tradition â€” is equivalent,mythologically speaking, to the heroic “creation of the world.” That makes every inhabitant of extra-cultural space an emissary of chaos (easily assimilated to the devil, the “strange son of chaos,” in Goethe’s terminology ) â€” and every conqueror an incarnation of the world-engendering God.
To understand the meaning of “chaos,”mythically conceived, we turn from religious phenomenology to experimental psychology. Jeffrey Gray [13,27] has been at pains to establish the a priori affective valence of the novel phenomenon. He notes that something novel can be regarded, from the perspective of functional neuropsychopharmacology, as a threat and as an incentive reward simultaneously. What precisely does this signify? Well, the classic view is that stimuli unpaired with primary reinforcers have no motivational valence. This is clearly incorrect, as we have seen. But what valence could something unexplored possibly possess, given that the unexplored thing or situation is by definition unknown, and not yet subject to the sort of categorization that would allow for intelligent attribution of value? The answer to this lies inconsideration of possibility. The unknown can reasonably be considered a domain of punishment, in potential, as well as reward (as the Lord giveth, so to speak, and taketh away). Cues of punishment are threats, technically speaking, and produce anxiety (which is behavioral and emotional response to threat).Cues of (consummatory) reward, by contrast, are “promises,”â€” have incentive properties, technically speaking, and produce positive affect, of various forms (curiosity, hope and excitement). The unknown therefore produces two conflicting states of affect/motivation, “simultaneously” â€” anxiety/behavioral inhibition and excitement-hope-curiosity/behavioral activation. This state of affairs is much reminiscent of Dollard and Miller’s approach-avoidance conflict  â€” so, it might be said that the unfamiliar or unknown produces approach-avoidance conflict like nothing else (see Figure 1). And is this so hard to believe? We are powerfully attracted â€” and powerfully repelled â€” by things we do not understand (this is why we must “boldly go where no one has gone before”). Whether attraction to or repulsion by the unknown dominates might depend on context (and, perhaps, on character).
Figure 1:The Ambivalent Nature of Novelty
Figure 1 schematically portrays the ambivalent valence of novelty â€”
considered as the class of all things that have not yet been categorized. Novel phenomena (that is, events, processes or situations that occur contrary to desire, in the pursuit of a particular goal) are both threatening, and promising (considered as stimuli). The threat exists because what you cannot control might kill you; the promise exists because new things offer new information. Threat produces anxiety, and behavioral inhibition;promise constitutes incentive reward, and produces joy, hope, and curiosity. Anxious responses to novelty appear prepotent (as the unknown should be approached cautiously). Once anxiety recedes (assuming sufficient non-punishing exposure), curiosity moves to the forefront, and drives (or accompanies) exploratory behavior.
Gray’s model of information-processing looks something like this (although he is not entirely to be blamed for the following discussion, which is predicated more fundamentally on cybernetic theory ). Animals engage in goal-directed activity â€” which is to say, try to get from someplace to someplace else, or try to get from one state of being to another.For an animal â€” and, not infrequently, for a human â€”
territorial location and internal state are closely linked. Food tends to be “elsewhere” for a currently hungry rat.Otherwise he would just eat, and would not be hungry. Anywaysâ€” things encountered in the course of goal-directed activity, currently irrelevant to that activity, accrue amotivational label of zero (are regarded as meaningless, given the present state of affairs). Things encountered which impede progress are regarded as negative (frustrating, anxiety-provoking).Things encountered which facilitate progress are regarded as positive (hope-inspiring, exciting). Unexpected or unknown things encountered are both â€” frustrating and threatening and hope inspiring/exciting. However, as Dollard and Miller pointed out, proximal novelties produce anxiety, preferentially. The appropriate response to something new is caution, in the short term. The appropriate response in the long run, however, is exploration. Animals therefore freeze to something new â€” then, cautiously explore.The response of rats unexpectedly confronted with a cat, on once-familiar ground, is instructive. Modern experimental psychologists have begun to examine the response of animals to natural sources of mystery, and threat. They allow the animals to set up their own environments, realistic environments, and then expose them to the kinds of surprising circumstances they might encounter, in “real life.” The appearance of a predator, in previously “safe”space (space previously explored, that is, and mapped as useful or irrelevant) constitutes one type of realistic surprise.Blanchard and colleagues describe the naturalistic behavior of rats, under such conditions:
“When a cat is presented to established mixed-sex groups of laboratory rats living in a visible burrow system, the behaviors of the subjects change dramatically, in many cases for 24 hours or more .The initial active defensive behavior, flight to the tunnel/chamber system, is followed by a period of immobility during which the rats make 22kHz ultrasonic vocalizations, which apparently serve as alarm cries, at a high rate . As freezing breaks up,proxemic avoidance of the open area gradually gives way to a pattern of “risk assessment” of the area where the cat was encountered. Subjects poke their heads out of the tunnel openings to scan the open area where the cat was presented, for minutes or hours before emerging, and when they do emerge, their locomotory patterns are characterized by [behaviors that theoretically reduce their visibility and vulnerability to predators] and [by] very short “corner runs” into and out of the open area.”
These “risk assessment activities”help the (unsettled and terrified) rats gather new information about the possible danger source . The marshalling of such information appears to provide the basis fora gradual return to “non-defensive” behaviors . This is clearly not mere habituation. The rats are reconstructing theirworld â€” integrating the anomalous occurrence with what they”understood” previously â€” while engaged in fear-regulated incentive-reward mediated exploratory behavior. Such behavior is
“… not seen during early post-cat exposure, when freezing and avoidance of the open area are the dominant behaviors, but rises to a peak about 7-10 hours later,and then gradually declines. Non-defensive behaviors such as eating, drinking and sexual and aggressive activity tend to be reduced over the same period [30, 34].”
The unexpected appearance of a predator, where nothing but defined territory previously existed, terrifies the rats â€” badly enough so that they “scream”about it, persistently, for a long period of time. Once this initial terror abates â€” which only occurs if nothing else horrible or punishing happens â€” curiosity is disinhibited,and the rats return to the scene of the crime. The space “renovelized”by the fact of the cat has to be transformed once again into explored territory â€” as a consequence of active modification of behavior (and representational schema), not bypassive desensitization to the unexpected. The rats run across the territory “contaminated” by the presence of the cat, to find out if anything dangerous (to running rats)still lurks there. If the answer is “no,” then the space is defined, once again, as home territory (which is that place where commonplace behaviors produce desired ends). The rats transform the dangerous unknown into familiar territory, as a consequence of voluntary exploration. In the absence of such exploration, terror reigns unchecked.
Gray drew on the work of the pioneering Russianneuropsychologist Sokolov, who began work on the “reflexbasis” of attention in the 1950’s. By the early 60’s,this work had advanced to the point where he could formulate thefollowing key propositions â€” first:
“One possible approach to analyzing the process of reflection is to consider the nervous system as a mechanism which models the external world by specific changes that occur in its internal structure. In this sense a distinct set of changes in the nervous system is isomorphic with the external agent that it reflects and resembles. As an internal model that develops in the nervous system in response to the effect of agents in the environment, the image performs the vital function of modifying the nature of behavior, allowing the organism to predict events and actively adjust to its environment .”
“My first encounter with phenomena which indicated that the higher divisions of the central nervous systemform models of external agents involved the study of reactions to”novel” [stimulus features. I characterized these reactions as] orienting reflexes. The peculiar feature of the orienting reflex is that after several applications of the same stimulus (generally five to fifteen) the response disappears(or, as the general expression goes, “is extinguished”).However, the slightest possible change in the stimulus is sufficient to awaken the response…. Research on the orienting reflex indicates that it does not occur as a direct result of incoming excitation; rather, it is produced by signals of discrepancy which develop when afferent [incoming] signals are compared with the trace formed in the nervous system by an earlier signal .”
Sokolov was concerned primarily with the modelling of the events in the objective external world â€” assuming, essentially, that when we model, we model facts. Most of the scholars who have followed his lead have adopted this central assumption, at least implicitly (including Gray). This position requires some modification. We do model facts, but we concern ourselves with valence, or value. It is therefore the case that our maps of the world contain what might be regarded as two distinct types of information â€” sensory, and affective.It is not enough to know that something is. It is equally necessary to know what it signifies. It might even be argued that animals â€” and human beings â€” are primarily concerned with the affective or emotional significance of the environment.
Along with our animal cousins, we devote ourselves to fundamentals: will this (new) thing eat me? Can Ieat it? Will it chase me? Should I chase it? Can I make love toit? Will it make love to me? We model facts â€” there is no doubt about that. But we model facts to keep track of meaning. We may model facts, and it is no doubt useful to do so. We must model meanings, however, in order to survive. Our most fundamental maps of experience â€” maps which, I would argue,have a narrative structure â€” portray the motivational value of our current state, conceived of in contrast to a hypothetical ideal, accompanied by plans of action,which are our pragmatic notions about how to get what we want (see Figure 2). Description of these three elements â€” current state, future state, and means of mediation â€” constitute the necessary and sufficient preconditions for the weaving of the most simple story, which I would argue is a means for describing the valence of a given environment, in reference to a temporally and spatially bounded set of action patterns. Getting to point “b” presupposes that you are at point “a”â€” you can’t plan movement in the absence of an initial position. The fact that point “b” constitutes the end-goal means that it is valenced more highly than point “a”â€” that it is a place more desirable, when considered against the necessary contrast of the current position. It is the perceived improvement of point “b” that makes the whole map meaningful â€” that is, affect-laden; it is the capacity to contrast hypothetical or abstract end points, such as “b”,that makes human beings capable of using their cognitive systems to modulate their affective reactions. Descriptions of such mapsâ€” whether acted, orally transmitted, or written â€” are intrinsically interesting, as they capture our emotional systems,and engage us, abstractly, in a simulated world .
Figure 2: Emergence of “Normal Novelty” in the Course of Goal-Directed Behavior
Figure 2 portrays the emergence of normal or bounded novelty. An unexpected event may only be sufficiently unexpected to necessitate the transformation of means. This transformation is accompanied by the “release” of a bounded quantity of emotion (so to speak). The end remains clearly in sight; only the means have tobe changed. It might be suggested that novelty emerging at thisl evel might even be interesting, a priori (rather than threatening) â€” assuming that the recipient has the time andwill to explore.
George Kelly predicated his personality theory on the notion that human beings were very motivated to be right . He believed that we actas natural scientists, formulating theories about the unfolding of the world, and arranging those theories to maximize their predictive utility. He thought, furthermore, that we were constantly engaged in the process of extending the application of our predictive notions, and that we were very likely to manifest hostility to any thing (or any one) whose existence or conceptions upset our theoretical apple-cart. Kelly’s work has been criticized for its lack of attention to motivation.Indeed, he does say that to be wrong is tantamount to encountering chaos â€” but he does not say why chaos is so problematic. The marriage of Kelly’s thinking to cybernetic theory and Gray/Sokolov’s affective model pretty much solves that problem. Chaos â€” the unknown â€” has a priori motivational significance, which is negative, upon initial encounter. Avoidance of the unknown phenomena ensures that its labelling as negative remains intact; cautious voluntary exploration, by contrast, may transform it into something positive (but is a procedure not without mortal risk). One more piece of theorizing is necessary, however, to make of this discussion something truly applicable to human behavior.
Rats can engage in goal-directed behavior, but they cannot abstract (or if they can abstract, they can only do so in a non-verbal manner). Human beings, by contrast, have an apparently endless capacity for abstraction â€” can make hierarchies of abstractions: a number, for example, which is in and of itself a symbol for a thing (or many things) can be abstracted into the algebraic x, which becomes a symbolfor any number. Carver and Scheier , working on a variant of cybernetic theory, have constructed a theory of “hierarchical goals.” They state â€” quite reasonably â€” that”a hierarchically organized system by definition has both superordinate goals and subordinate goals. Attainment of the latter are requisite to â€” and intimately involved in â€”
attainment of the former.” (p. 112).
That is â€” the attainment of “big goals” is dependent upon the attainment of a multitude of “little goals.” Becoming a doctor means going to medical school means getting good grades means studying hard means bringing many books home from the library. The converse of Carver and Scheier’s statement is also true, however: the validity of subordinate goals (that is,their manifestation as stably positively-valenced phenomena) is dependent on the continued integrity of higher-order goals. This means that “bringing many books home from the library”is only considered a satisfying and incentive-rewarding sequence of action when the higher-order goal of “becoming a doctor”is still considered a reasonable, likely and desirable possibility. This means that anything that disrupts higher-order goals throws the affective valence of lower-order, subsidiary plans and goals into question. Speaking metaphorically: the disruption of superordinate goals transforms subsidiary actions and concepts into a state of chaos. Chaos is possessed of ambivalent affective status, a priori (is indicative of potential punishment, and potential reward) â€” but the threatening aspect dominates on initial contact. This means that anything deemed capable of disrupting higher-order plans is reasonably viewed as a threat to the stable affective “labelling”(or phenomenological presentation) of all things subordinate to that plan! This is a deadly serious problem, because the actions and contingent beliefs that actually compose an individual life are played out at levels subordinate to, for example, maintenance of the stable culture, polity and economy (and, more importantly,to maintenance of their perceived mythological/metaphysical legitimacy) [40, 41].
Let us now consider how goals â€” storiesâ€” might be hierarchically constructed, in a typical social circumstance (since individuals have to pursue their individual goals in a social structure that consists of “higher-order”arrangements allowing such pursuit, in the relative absence of conflict). Imagine a father and husband, middle-classbusinessman, capitalistic in philosophy, wedded to the “AmericanWay,” small-l liberal in political philosophy, Judeo-Christianin (unconscious) ethics (see Figure 3). His activities as father,which he values, are predicated on the economic security guaranteed by his business. His business exists as a valid and valued enterprise in the social value-schema constituting a capitalist society. Capitalistic endeavour is viewed, more generally â€” by our exemplary citizen and by vast numbers of his compatriots â€” as unequivocally “positively-valenced,”as an article of faith: it is one aspect of the good life, the pursuit of happiness, recognized as an intrinsic “right of man” by the founders of the American state (hence identification with the “American Way”). The complete embedding of the entire subsystem in the traditional Judeo-Christian ethic is evident in acceptance of the (mythological/metaphysical)notion of “intrinsic right” (We hold these Truths to beself-evident, that all Men are created equal, that they are endowed, by their CREATOR, with certain unalienable Rights…).
Figure 3: The “Individual Psyche” as a Hierarchy of Nested Stories
Figure 3 schematically represents an exemplary individual psyche as a hierarchically arranged structure of stories, of the form presented in Figure 2. Stability of the outermost stories constitutes a precondition for maintenance of the validity of innermost stories. A given individual is more likely to identify with those whose story-hierarchies most closely match his own.Those who only share superordinate identity, but who differ closer to home are increasingly likely to be viewed as emissaries of chaos.
At each level of analysis, “unknown”territory exists â€” and is easily regarded as suspect. For the individual in his role as father and husband, the radical feminist might be considered contaminated by chaos, as she is”naturally” seen as a threat to the family he holds dear (and whose existence lends positive meaning and predictability to his life). His competitors might be regarded as”enemies” (agents of the unknown, sources of frustration, bearers of uncertainty and anxiety) from his perspective as businessman â€” but these same “enemies”would surely unite behind him in his denunciation of socialism asa philosophy, and those left-wingers whose ideas and actions border on incarnation of the communist ideal. Still more terrifying (more reptilian?) might be the radical Islamic fundamentalist/fascist â€” against whose potential unthinkable hegemony even the left-wing feminist and our exemplary pillar of society might both be willing to rail. It might not even be so unreasonable to presuppose that “all things unknown,”might constitute a valid and relatively basic affective categoryâ€” so, in the mind of Christian capitalist American businessman husband and father radical feminists, Islamic fundamentalists, economic competitors and things that go bump in the night may fail to be distinguished from one another, and easily acquire “characteristics” of one another (as “enemies” of the current, stable,predictable and reinforcing social state of affairs).
It is easy to see, from this example, how social order might be regarded as more fundamental than intrapsychic integration with regards to affective regulation.The individual can only strive to be ideal as father,businessman, capitalist, etc. The utility of this striving (which would certainly be considered an indication of optimal psychological health, if genuinely pursued) nonetheless remains dependent on the existence of a social order which (1) attributes value to those pursuits and (2) which allows such pursuits to garner reinforcement in a predictable manner, on a predictable schedule. It can be seen, as well â€” from consideration of such a hierarchy â€” how individual identity shades imperceptibly into social identity (as there are many more individuals joined into “unity” at each step up the hierarchical ladder â€” more businessmen than father/husband/businessmen,more capitalists than businessmen, more Americans than capitalists, more Christians than Americans) â€” and why, at least under certain conditions (when the threat is believable and proximate), that challenge to social identity is sufficiently motivating to produce aggressive behavior in defense of the entire “system” (which includes individual identity, asa subordinate part).
Elkhonen Goldberg [42,43] has posited that the human brain is divided into two subsystems, one of which deals with novelty, and one of which deals with familiarity. These subsystems are lateralized: in the right-handed individual, the right hemisphere (whose frontal operations Richard Davidson has associated with negative affect [44, 45, 46] preferentially deals with the unknown, while the left hemisphere (whose frontal operations Davidson has associated with positive affect) deals with the previously categorized and explored. There are apparently good reasons for such a division: Grossberg  has noted that artificial categorization “machines” tend to break down when confronted by novel information unless they are composed of separate systems for maintenance of categories, and update of those categories. It strikes me as reasonable, however, to suppose that “novelty” is too abstract an entity to account for something as fundamental as hemispheric division.Perhaps it is more likely that the “novelty” sub system is really specialized for operation in unfamiliar territory,while its partner is specialized for operation where things are explored/understood. This would mean that as territory becomes”abstracted” â€” that is, representable in image and word â€” the “unfamiliar territory hemisphere” would increasingly begin to operate in the presence of unfamiliar concepts (and that unfamiliar concepts would easily come to be categorized with the other denizens of the unknown). This would imply a fundamental identity between the strange occurrence, the strange person and the strange idea  â€” all threatening (although useful, with sufficient exploration), all “foreign,”all easily demonized â€” and all easily transformed into valid targets for aggression.
George Kelly’s theory is once again valid,in this regard. He believed that human beings were apt to repressor otherwise restrict the appearance of “data” that invalidated their conceptual models. These data might include the ideas of other human beings â€” or the individuals who embodied those ideas, themselves. He entitled this tendency”hostility,” and regarded it as “extortion of confirmation” — a particularly apt phrase, reminiscent of the (incomprehensible) insistence by Stalinist Soviet officials that their inevitably-to-be-punished-anyways victims “confess”before being jailed or killed . Kelly states:
“… a major revision of one’s construct system can threaten [one] with immediate change, orchaos, or anxiety. Thus it often seems better to extort confirmation of one’s opinion â€” and therefore of the system that produced them â€” rather than to risk the utter confusion of those moments of transition .”
Kelly an “hostility” is clearly a category that could be extended to include Freudian mechanisms of defense, or Adlerian living the life-lie, or Jungian failure to identify with the hero â€” or even with existentialist or Rogerian inauthenticity (to give Rogers his due). The inability to confront evidence of systemic error is clearly central to our notions of individual psychopathology. Perhaps we should extend that notion to the social realm, and begin to speak of “social-psychopathology” â€” that is, the tendency to demonize evidence of social/personal conceptual insufficiency, or the bearers of that evidence â€” and then to “morally”attempt to eliminate them from existence.
From a certain perspective, this is a depressing theory. Human beings “naturally” divide the world up into chaos and order, darkness and light, nature and culture, fear and security, stranger and kinsman. The meta-category of fear/stranger/darkness/chaos leaps perhaps as naturally tomind. It is reasonable, furthermore, to fear the unknown: it is after all the place where death and destruction truly lurk. Does this mean that there is an irrevocable human tendency to demonize the foreigner, and to strive for the shedding of his blood? We might look to mythology â€” and to neuropsychology â€” one final time, for a more optimistic conclusion. It is “moral,”from the mythological standpoint, to exist as the embodiment of social order â€” to follow the ten commandments, to take a traditional example, and to make of social propriety the highest good. There are two detrimental aspects to this morality, however.The blind worship of tradition makes positive change impossibleâ€” first, as what is is regarded as what should be, from the socially-identified standpoint, and no higher good is deemed possible, and second, as the bearer of change is inevitably regarded as evil (as no good could possibly come from transformation of the status quo). This makes the strange, the stranger, and the strange idea all sworn enemies of those who preferentially value social identity. Mythology pushes forward another ideal, however, which supersedes social identity as moral pinnacle: that of identity with the logos â€” the creative word, the process that makes order out of chaos (without being the order itself).
The message from this mythological perspective(which underlies hero mythology, in its multitude of guises [51, 52] is straightforward:identity with the process that generates social order (presuming mastery of that order) is preferable to identity with social order itself. Thus, participation in the process that bestows acceptable emotional valence on heretofore unknown phenomena isto be regarded as more appropriate than adherence to traditional modes of apprehension, no matter how valuable these proved to be in the past â€” particular in the circumstance where the two moral positions (exploration/update vs maintenance of group identity) produce conflicting messages for action. Kelly states:
“The acknowledgement of defeat or tragedy is not a destructive step for man to take. It characterizes,instead, the negative outcome of any crucial test of our way of life, and it is, therefore, an essential feature of human progress toward more positive outcomes. Hostility does not, for this very reason, contribute to human achievement. Primarily because it denies failure it leads, instead, to the abatement of human enterprise, and substitutes for nobler undertakings a mask of complacency .”
It is clear from the neuropsychopharmacological perspective that participation in this process â€” conceptualized as the constant voluntary encounter with the unknown, and its exploration-guided categorization â€” is intrinsically rewarding (since the unknown in its positive guisehas potent incentive reward properties , and likely accounts for the positive affect associated with exploration, creativity and discovery.
The logic which associates the other with the Devil (or which fails to initially distinguish between the two) only applies for those who think that morality means nothing but obedience and belief â€” identification with a set of static facts â€” and not incarnation of the creative process in behavior. The existence of the anomalous fact,properly considered â€” the fact, embodied in the stranger or rendered abstract in the form of differing philosophy â€” isby contrast a call to moral action, and not an evil. It is the motivated inertial proclivity to cling to undeserved security, despite evidence of error, that in fact underlies the human tendency to evil â€” and which produces a truly Satanic perspective:
Farewell happy Fields
Where Joy forever dwells: Hail horrors, hail
Infernal world, and thou profoundest Hell
Receive thy new Possessor; One who brings
A mind not to be chang’d by Place or Time .”
Frye links the mindset associated with this perspective explicitly with “Luciferian” presumptionâ€”in the sense that Milton attempted to render, if not explicit, at least dramatic . He points out that:
“A demonic fall, as Milton presents it,involves defiance and rivalry with God rather than simple disobedience, and hence the demonic society is a sustained and systematic parody of the divine one, associated with devils or fallen angels because it seems far beyond normal human capacities in its powers. We read of ascending and descending angels on Jacob’s and Plato’s ladders, and similarly there seem to be demonic reinforcements in heathen life that account for the almost superhuman grandeur of the heathen empires, especially just before they fall.
Frye describes the “mythological representation” of the “spirit of such empires” in the Judeo-Christian tradition:
“Two particularly notable passages in the Old Testament prophets linked to this theme are the denunciation of Babylon in Isaiah 14 and of Tyre in Ezekiel 28. Bablyon is associated with Lucifer the morning star, who said to himself:”I will be like the Most High”; Tyre is identified with a “Covering Cherub,” a splendid creature living in the garden of Eden “till the day that iniquity was found in thee.”In the New Testament (Luke 10:18) Jesus speaks of Satan as falling from heaven, hence Satan’s traditional identification with Isaiah’s Lucifer and his growth in Legend into the great adversary of God, once the prince of the angels, and, before being displaced, the firstborn son of God.The superhuman demonic force behind the heathen kingdoms is called in Christianity the Antichrist, the earthly ruler demanding divine honors .”
Stable tradition conjoined with the capacity for flexible change means security without tyranny. Sacrifice of the capacity for necessary change, however, means destruction of the capacity to turn chaos into order. Without that capacity,chaos eventually overwhelms order â€” no matter how solidly constructed by the heroes of the past. When chaos rules, all hell breaks loose, and individual desire for revenge â€” in anyform â€” becomes paramount. Thus, the archetypal evil that characterizes every individual surfaces, and works to destroy suffering life:
“The spirit I, that endlessly denies.
And rightly, too; for all that comes to birth
is fit for overthrow, as nothing worth;
wherefore the world were better sterilized;
Thus all that’s here as Evil recognized
Is gain to me, and downfall, ruin, sin
The very element I prosper in .”
Two concrete historical events â€” otherwise very difficult to comprehend â€” might reasonably be considered from the theoretical standpoint outlined so far.
First: the Nazis, having begun World War Two,were no doubt very motivated to win it. However, they persisted in acting in at least one peculiar way, that certainly limited their war-time capacity. In theory, the Jews were to provide (valuable)labor in the camps, before they were killed â€” labor necessary to further the war effort. In practice, however â€” as Daniel Jonah Goldhagen has been at pains to establish â€”Jewish camp- “work” was merely non-productive torture,as a prelude to inevitable death. It must be understood: the”non-productive” aspect of the work was part of what made it torture. After all, an enslaved brick-layer might still extract some satisfaction (no matter how trivial) from a wallwell-laid, even if he is compelled against his will to build it.Carrying sacks of wet salt back and forth, by contrast â€” a familiar task in Buchenwald â€” clearly constitutes a pathological mimicry of work, demanded only to increase the sumtotal of misery in the world. So Goldhagen states:
“The phenomenon of Jewish “work”was such a triumph of politics and ideology over economic self-interest not only because the Germans killed irreplaceable workers, but also in the more profound sense that even when they were not killing them, Germans, owing to the character of their racial antipathy, had great difficulties employing Jews rationally in the economy. The words and deeds of Heydrich, Himmler, and countless others reveal the real relationship between Jewish”work” and Jewish death in Germany. Work put into motion beings whom the Germans themselves had already condemned to death, socially dead beings with a temporary lease on socially dead life. In its essence, Jewish “work” was not working any ordinary sense of “work” â€” but a suspended form of death â€” in other words, it was death itself .”
It is an indication of possession by a true aesthetic of evil to become sufficiently pre-occupied with the torturing of a victim to sacrifice even self-interest to that endâ€” or, more to the point, to acquiesce willingly to one’s own (eventual) misery, as long as one was first allowed the pleasure of ensuring the misery of others.
Second: in the final stages of World War Two,when the Germans had clearly lost, when the German state was collapsing, and when Himmler had explicitly ordered those guarding Jews in concentration camps to desist from their killingâ€” the destructive and still-genocidal phenomenon of the”death march” nonetheless “spontaneously “emerged (and in a number of different locales). Essentially what happened was this: various camps were emptied of prisoners,marching under the supervision of their jailers, bereft of direction â€” or apparent rationale. Goldhagen states:
“Viewing the maps of some… death march routes should be sufficient to convince anyone that the meanderings could have had no end other than to keep the prisoners marching. And the effects were calculable â€” and calculating. The Germans in charge of the marches, who, cut off from their headquarters, were almost always on their own while under way, were under no compulsion to trek aimlessly; they could have chosen to remain in one place, feed their prisoners, and deliver them to the Allies, who, no matter what, were bound to reach them in a few days or weeks. As far as is known, this never occurred. The death marches were not means of transport; the marching transports were means of death .”
Explaining a phenomenon of the first sort (that is, the wastage of work useful to the Nazi wartime effort) is beyond the capacity of a theory that relies solely on protection of group identity, as source of motivation â€” as the Germans were clearly engaging in a destructive enterprise, with regards to the Jews, that worked at cross-purposes to their own survival.Explaining a phenomenon of the second sort â€” which is voluntary engagement in torture and destruction, bereft of supervision (even undertaken in defiance of previous authority)â€” is beyond the capacity of group-identity theories, and of explanations relying on the phenomenon of “obedience to authority,” like those of Milgram . Neither can these occurrences â€” or others like them â€” be explained through recourse to standard economic or political theories of motivation, positing “rational self-interest” as the directing force underlying human behavior and belief. An alternative is needed, of the following sort (which extends the”maintenance of affective-regulation/group-identity theory,”laid out initially):
Individuals work to maintain and extend the boundaries of the stories which regulate their social existence,their individual goals, and their emotions â€” that is, work to maintain and extend the boundaries of stories they embody and represent abstractly. Sources of anomalous information â€” which threaten the structure of those stories â€” can be confronted, and mined for significance. This means voluntary tolerance of an interim period of anxiety, followed by re-establishment of (enhanced) stability (see Figure 4). This pattern of voluntary”simple story” transformation has been conceptualized,simply, as steady state, breach, crisis, redress (and is central to complex narrative â€” mythology â€” itself [48, 62, 63, 64, 65]. The same pattern underlies archaic rites of initiation , processes of theoretical transformation , and more abstract religious systems of thought, such as Christianity or Buddhism [48, 64, 65, 68, 69]. Our great rituals, dramas and religions â€” our most profound narratives and proto-narratives â€” are erected upon the (meta)story of paradise, encounter with chaos, fall and redemption .
Figure 4: The “Meta-Story:” Transformation of the Simple Story
Figure 4 portrays the dissolution and regeneration of a stable story. Sufficiently anomalous information can undermine not only the means to an end,but the end itself. Such disruption produces emotional dysregulation, as the stable meaning attributed to events in the course of normal goal-directed behavior disappears, and is replaced by more global and negative emotion (consequent to the renovelization of previously categorized experience). The re-emergent story â€” which will only emerge as a consequence of voluntary exploratory behavior â€” should be more complete than the story it replaces, at it consists of the constituent elements of the previous story, integrated with the information exploration of the anomalous occurrence generated. The re-emergent story should be more stable â€” that is, less easily disrupted by ongoing events (since it now accounts for an additional possibility â€” the previously destructive anomaly). The re-establishment of a new story might be considered another stage in cognitive development.
Alternatively, anomalous information can be avoided â€” not precisely repressed, but not explored (or,if extant in the guise of another, actively and violently suppressed, or eliminated). This means (voluntary) failure to update the story guiding ongoing action, in consequence of desire to avoid (intermediary) chaos. Such failure means existence in anever-more narrow frame â€” and increasing “distance”of that frame from the world it purports to explain. The “avoidance or suppression” of novel or unexpected experience, which is the abstract equivalent of running away, transforms it perforce into threat (casts it into the terrible “reptilian”domain). This is refusal of the left-frontal-hemisphere dominated cortical systems that underly the “ego,” so to speak,to communicate with the right, which always bears bad news â€” and the consequent dissociation and disintegration of the intrapsychic universe. The domain of unprocessed novelty, defined prima facie by inaction and avoidance as “threat too intolerable to face” expands inevitably with time, when the past is held as absolute. More and more experience is therefore rendered intolerable, inexplicable, and chaotic, as the cumulative effects of using the lie as a mode of adaptation inexorably manifest themselves. The lie transforms culture into tyranny, change into horror, while sickening and restricting the development and flexibility of adaptive ability itself (seeFigure 5). Reliance on the lie ensures â€” as fears growsâ€” heightened, pathologized identification with the past (manifested as fascism, and in personal and political intolerance), or decadent degeneration (manifested as nihilism, and in personal and social deterioration). Use of the lie as a mode of adaptation makes a trap of the past and pandemonium of the present.Identification with the spirit of denial eventually makes life unbearable, as everything new â€” and, therefore, everything defining hope â€” is merely regarded as punishment and threat.The attendant and unavoidable suffering experienced as inconsequence generates the desire for â€” and motivates actions predicated on the attainment of â€” absolute annihilation, as compensation and revenge for sterility, absence of meaning,anxiety, hatred and pain:
“The Marabout draws a large circle in the dirt, which represents the world. He places a scorpion, symbolic of man, inside the circle. The scorpion, believing it has achieved freedom, starts to run around the circle â€” but never attempts to go outside. After the scorpion has raced several times around the inside edge of the circle, the Maraboutlowers his stick and divides the circle in half. The scorpion stops for a few seconds, then begins to run faster and faster,apparently looking for a way out, but never finding it. Strangely enough, the scorpion does not dare to cross over the line. After a few minutes, the Marabout divides the half circle. The scorpion becomes frantic. Soon the Marabout makes a space no bigger than the scorpion’s body. This is “the moment of truth.”The scorpion, dazed and bewildered, finds itself unable to move one way or another. Raising its venomous tail, the scorpion turns rapidly ’round and ’round in a veritable frenzy.Whirling, whirling, whirling until all of its spirit and energy are spent. In utter hopelessness the scorpion stops, lowers the poisonous point of its tail, and stings itself to death. Itstorment is ended .”
Figure 5: The Vicious Circle of the Adversary
Figure 5 presents what might be regarded as the constituent elements of a mythological journey to the underworld. Totalitarian absolutism,rejection of the process of creative exploration, and consequent paralyzing fear of the unknown are viewed here as interacting parts of a process that inevitably produces dysregulation of individual emotion, and increasing meaningless suffering. This cycle produces an individual inhabitant of chaos, who is easilyl ed to acts of resentment-motivated hatred. The adversary is here conceptualized as the “archetypal” and omnipresent enemy of courageous and creative thinking.
The individual who lives by the lie continually and inevitably shrinks his domain of competence â€” his “explored and familiar territory” and his “capacity for independent creative exploration.” This means, as well, that he surrounds himself with an ever-growing “domain of unexplored chaos” — intrinsically terrifying, at first encounter, magnified in its unacceptability by the implicitly”categorical” act of constantly running away. When this chaos eventually engulfs the deceitful authoritarian (which it certainly will, as the “environment” moves inexorably farther away from his “conceptualization”) and presents him with a problem that his ever-more-rigid group identity just will not solve â€” he will also be unable to rely on himself.He will find his personality deceitful, shrunken and cowardly, as a consequence of too-much obedience and his pattern of habitual avoidance. He will be left, under such circumstances, in the grip of resentment, hatred and fear, in consequence of his existence in a world that he has voluntarily rendered “beyond his capacity for successful adaptation.” The chaos he rejected,in search of security, will thereby attain its inevitable victoryâ€” as another “sold soul,” so to speak, finds its ultimate resting place. The “vicious circle” created by the obedient/avoidant individual spirals down inevitably to the underworld, which waits to engulf him:
“Him the Almighty Power
Hurled headlong flaming from the ethereal Sky
With hideous ruin and combustion down
To bottomless perdition, there to dwell
In Adamantine Chains and penal Fire .”
This miserable existence fills him with hateâ€” hate which he expresses in identity with archetypal evil,in active revenge against existence:
“- for whence
But from the author of all ill could spring
So deep a malice, to confound the race
Of mankind in one root, and Earth with Hell
To mingle and involve, done all to spite
The great Creator? ”
So the human desire to “be right, above all” â€” to presume personal omniscience â€” produces a state of being antithetically opposed to the process of anomaly-incorporation,and characterized by increasing environmental maladaptation. This process has been represented mythologically as the heavenly insurrection of Lucifer, motivated by the desire to be placed above God in the “spiritual hierarchy.” Such maladaptation produces increased suffering, of an increasingly meaningless sort; that suffering in turn breeds resentment and the desire for revenge. Vengeful desire and resentment broods,patiently, waiting for a forum of risk-free manifestation. When patriotism calls for brutality â€” during the “call towar,” for example â€” the individual is well-prepared. He can torment the “enemies of the state,” hide behind a mask of admirable social conformity â€” even bravery â€”
and fulfill his darkest fantasies:
“With cohesion, construction, grit and repression
Wring the neck of this gang run riot! ”
Thus the existential cowardice of the individual pathologically increases the danger of the intrinsic and necessary territoriality of the species â€” and atrocities committed “in the name of the state” continue to threaten both human self-regard and the likelihood of long-term human survival.
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