The Psychological make up of an Atheist

There is mounting evidence of the growth in western societies of three mind-sets:

narcissism, materialism and atheism

It seems to me that materialism and atheism are twin sides of the same coin, essentially an “I-It” rather than “I-Thou” existentialism according to Martin Buber.  I have wondered for some time what causes someone to become a militant-proselytising materialist atheist. After all the implication of their dogma, if true, of is nihilism, depression. No reason, no free-will. Why exist at all. As one atheist puts it – we would simply be the scum on the side of the universe. If that is what they truly believe – then why-oh-why do they want (I ask myself) to convert all others to their cause. It seems to me that Dennet, Dawkins et al have a NEED to convert. What is the psychological well-spring of their neediness?

I had wondered, looking at Dawkins life, whether it was a kind of Oedipus complex. Kill your father. Even Freud speculated as to that as the need behind atheism. However having read about the epidemic of narcissism I think that this instead  is the link or cause for materialist-atheism. I am told that narcissistic behaviour stems from a lack of love, or sense of love during childhood. This leads to an in-turning – deriving love from one-self – and denying the need for or existence of love elsewhere. Is it not possible, even probable then, that this mind-state would need to make itself the centre of all and deny that love elsewhere exists? Aggressively. In order to preserve it’s centred universe.

If then the rise of narcissism and materialism/atheism are linked – which is the cause and which the effect? Perhaps neither – and both are a product of some other factor.

Worth considering.

As a post-script – in reading around for this blog I found this from the militant atheist philosopher Daniel Dennett.

“I adopt the apparently dogmatic rule that dualism is to be avoided at all costs. It is not that I think I can give a knock-down proof that dualism, in all its forms, is false or incoherent, but that, given the way that dualism wallows in mystery, accepting dualism is giving up“.

Giving up? On what? The possibility of God, a reason for existence. Why would that a problem to be avoided or considered? Is the language not that of a narcissist – if you don’t agree with me you must be “wallowing in mystery”.

How depressing that a “philosopher” starts with a dogma of denial and then seeks to justify that with logic. Dogma isn’t philosophy. It’s dogma.

On Composure

From “On kissing, tickling and being bored” Adam Phillips

The writing is a pleasure of itself; so much so that I suspect sleight of hand, the magician’s smile. Composure is proposed as a defence against and in the face of – “the cumulative trauma of development”. As Freud would have it, composure is part of the ego’s defence against the body – “a form, largely unconscious, of vigilant self-control”. Winnicot perhaps would view it as an affect of the mind, itself a defence against the uncontrolled environment that faces the infant; a form of self-reverence with the mind as substitute for mother.

Beautiful. Elegant. Revealing. What though, of the magician and his context? Is in not in the nature of an analyst to view development as a accretion of trauma; therefore to see all aspects of the psyche as defensive? This is not to blame, or take issue; simply though to point out that most writing about the mind has come from those treating mental disturbance – from Freud onward.

Instead of starting from Ruskin, “to compose, is to arrange unequal things”, where would Jung has begun? Perhaps in balancing opposites – anima and animus – and allowing for the potential of their resolution into a new state. In his language composure would perhaps have been a state evoked by integration, rather than a shield against inevitable trauma.

I would dearly love to know what Adam Phillips thought. Whatever it were, it would be a delight to read, and in itself worthwhile.

Century of the Self: Freud as Devil’s Advocate ?

Curtis’ documentary series from 2002 told the story of the establishment’s use of psychoanalysis to manipulate the common man. The deliberate conversion of citizen to consumer, the introduction of greed as materialist solvent to wash away community.

Materialism through desire – opiate of the masses.

All this flowed from Freud and his offspring. They discovered and disseminated the mechanics of manipulation through exploitation of the unconscious.

What a pity that the world followed Freud not Jung – who after all insisted on spiritual balancing material.

However perhaps it’s no coincidence.

He who would want to control his fellow man for selfish material ends – must after all have an atrophied or suppressed spiritual life. Such a person would surely choose an atheist psychoanalist as a tool? After all that allows efficient use of emotional control without the inconvenience of guilt.

So – Freudians as devils advocates ?

Were Sigmund Freud , Anna Freud, Bernays and the like conscious of their role in the process toward Thatcherism and Reaganomics?

Sigmund Freud and Narcissism

Freud’s psychological edifice was constructed from a study of pathology, rather than the working out of the development of healthy psyches. This led him to a place of despair in assuming that psyche is fundamentally pathological.

He resisted any challenge to his father-figure authority, preferring to “break” with “children” rather than be forced by them to modify and develop his views. This included great thinkers such as Adler, Jung and Klein. The consequence was that the field fractured, which has hindered integrated development

His thinking appears to be exceptionally ego-centrric. The suspicion is that, for example, his early focus on pathologies of sexual drive  was in fact a working-out of his own issues and problems. That would be acceptable if he admitted a personal journey. As it is this has in fact coloured much of the development of the entire field – to the detriment of countless clients treated by his disciples. (Yes, disciples). He resisted the call for psychoanalysts to be analysed by others.

His rejection of religion was irrational. God as father-figure, Freud as Oedipus ? To be rejected like other challenges to the authority of his ego? The only logical place that a solely rational approach to religion can lead to is – agnosticism. All sequences of logic trace back to original assumptions. There is no provable base assumption. The only sustainable and honest approach is therefore a simple statement of belief. When rationalists claim that their pretty logic progressions prove anything else they are caught up in the beauty of their own ego’s creation. This is intellectual narcissism. The passion with which Freud attempts to tear down any belief in an alternative to his own ego is as suspicious psychologically as that of an unthinking evangelist prosyletisng any other religion. However, as a man of intellect he should know better. He shares this narcissism  with many other evangelical atheists caught up with admiration of their intellectual reflection – Dawkins and the like.

“It was a great mistake on Freud’s part to turn his back on philosophy. Not once does he criticise his premises or even the assumptions that underlie his personal outlook” Karl Jung.

Embracing evil to experience joy

What is evil?

The anti-thesis of good. Ah, but what is good? In fact are these useful constructs at all, or simply perceived positive and negative outcomes of random events?

Is it reasonable to equate good with happiness and evil with unhappiness? If so, where does happiness lie?

It is politically (but not scientifically) correct to assume a materialistic existence built on a series of microscopic random events unfolding in intransitive time. Therein lies the evil that we must embrace. In other words we focus on and believe in, like Thomas, only on what we see. We do that at least partially because we fear there is no meaning below or beyond what our sensory organs are capable of registering.

Surely one of the great lessons of the exploration of mind started by Sigmund Freud is that the more you avoid a fear, or abyss, the unhealthier you become. All of the mechanisms of dealing with unconscious pain (projection, avoidance, repression etc) simply lead at best to neurosis, at worst to psychosis.

It seems to me that the fundamental issue that haunts each of us is insecurity. That is the symptom of existential angst. How, then, to deal with that?

And it’s worth addressing.

The more secure a person is, the more creative, compassionate, generous, and capable of joy they be. Security leads to happiness and connection.(Happiness being life lived in the expectation of joy).

Conversely when we feel insecure we experience withdrawal. We become self-centred, and disconnected. Our horizons contract to a narrow unhappy world devoid of meaning. (Unhappiness broadly equating with isolation).

The thesis is then, that good is expressed through happiness and that lies in our interconnectedness. We feel able to reach out when we are secure. Conversely insecurity leads to withdrawal and unhappiness, which is nominated – evil.

Are we right to feel insecure? Are we simply minds floating on an ocean of random events and therefore at their mercy?

What does science have to say? Experiments on matter at the most microscopic levels shows that pre-existence is an infinite series of possibilities, potential – until observed. It is the act of observation that, in effect, crystallises out this particular existence that we experience from the cloud of possibilities. That raises the issue of observation. What is it? Surely there must be an “observer” to create our particular reality. Sure enough, what our species is really really good at is just that – observation, whether through science or the arts. We each of us spend our life in observation (or as some would call it – witness, some accumulation of knowledge). Interestingly our gathering of knowledge is escalating in a geometric progression. (Are we approaching Teilhard de Chardin’s “Omega Point”? Is that the Mayan meaning to the end of time?)

It appears to me that our real individual human purpose is to be just this – engines of observation – crystallising existence from potential. (Or as our ancestors put it – we are three sisters of wyrd sitting at the foot of Ygaddrsil, the tree of life, spinning fate). That puts the onus on us collectively. We, the creators of life and goodness.

So if good and evil are the outcomes of our individual witness then what are God and the Devil?

I believe, and in my experience only, that God is expressed in the space between us, in the connection between all things. It is the smile shared between strangers that briefly connects and illuminates us. There have been those who with great discipline, have been able to sense directly the mass of loving connections underlying all things. Most of us however “see through a glass darkly”, it is in only in small moments and in our intimate circle – family, friends, community, even our pets – that we touch and feel the common good. Put another way, God is an emergent property of our connections each to each, and we feel that larger love in the individual links and bonds between us.

The Devil, then is absence of good – the opposite of shared experience. Our de-mergent selves.

There is also some evidence in science, not only that existence is cystallised by observation, but also that this can run backward in time, with reverse causality. Belief or knowledge of an outcome can cause – at least at the level of the electron/photon – history to be reshaped to create the experienced outcome.

So then, perhaps God – the personalisation of the emergent property of our observation and connections to each other – lies in our future. God is what we create together in the future, and this future God intervenes where necessary to ensure that the path of existence-formation will lead to him/her/it/us. (God, the word existing beyond time…)

Was this through the lives of Jesus, Mohammed, Buddha?

Does that not change our world view? Good and evil as made by us. A secure future, which is God beyond the Omega Point. Let us accept that good and evil do exist, as outcomes of our collective path through life. When we embrace our joint task – to work for good effect around us. In that way our eyes open to our divine purpose. We no longer need to live with our eyes tight closed against the fear that we are floating on a sea of random meaninglessness. Face up to existential angst and it disappears. As the psychological defence mechanisms fall away – we’re left with the revelation of love behind all things and experienced in our connection, in the Ich-Du of Martin Buber.

It is by embracing evil that we puncture it and experience joy.