Is It Wise to Desire What We Most Want?
Reflections on Original Sin
by Jay Edson
“Desire came upon the One in the beginning.”
When we look at the photos from Abu Graib we are overwhelmed with the realization that something has gone wrong with our country. This is not, we tell ourselves, how Americans are. Yet the “few bad apples” theory crumbled almost as soon as it was expressed. The events in Abu Graib were obviously supported from on high. Torture, it tuns out, is as American as apple pie. Had we studied history more carefully from the perspective of the losers and the oppressed, as Howard Zinn suggests in his book, “A People’s History of the United States,” we would have reacted to the events with horror and disgust, but not perhaps with much surprise.
Once we are forced to acknowledge that the events at Abu Graib were the logical outcome of the American character, our second line of defense against this shock to our national identity is to point toward the atrocities that were carried out in Iraq under the regime of Saddam Hussein. Indeed, he was a ruthless and cruel despot. But was Abu Graib a deeper hell under Saddam than under Bush? The question is pointless. The only comfort we can draw from the comparison is that something is wrong with the Arab world also.
If we expand our perspective a bit more, and take a hard look at the history of the world, we are forced to admit that something seems to have gone dreadfully wrong with civilization itself. Whether we live in Tokyo, New York, Moscow, Khartoum, Paris, Kampala or Peking, if we wish to instill pride in the citizens of our countries, it seems that we will have to sweep a lot of outrageous cruelty and stupidity under under the rug of our carefully edited history books and newspapers. Something has indeed gone wrong.
Perhaps there were pre-industrialized societies that did better. The civilizations of the Aztecs and the Incas, however, suggest to us that when the New World was discovered, it was well on it’s way down the same path of exploitation, genocide and empire that defined history in the Old World. The gentle Tasaday gave us hope. How painful it was to learn that all those lovely pictures in the National Geographic were based on a fraud. Perhaps, on the basis of what we hear of the Fore in New Guinea or the Native Americans that Columbus first found and enslaved, we can still entertain the notion that we are not just killer apes with opposable thumbs, big brains, and a knack for language. Perhaps some essential goodness resides in the heart of humanity, but clearly something has gone wrong.
I do not believe that human beings are by nature violent and hopelessly depraved. In their essence, they are good and loving. Lest you think that this is a Pollyanna conviction deriving from lack of familiarity with the harshness that human beings are able to manifest, I would share with you the fact that I was incarcerated in a prison in the United States for a period of three and a half years. If my conclusions are ultimately found to be untenable, it will not be because I am unacquainted with human stupidity and cruelty.
In this essay I will be making two related points. First, I will argue that a wrongness has entered into humanity that has caused us to become alienated from our essential nature. I will suggest that this wrongness can identified, and that it pertains to the notion that any one group of human beings is entitled to a disproportionate share of the worlds goods. This notion of entitlement is identified as the “original sin” that has separated humanity from its essential wholesomeness. The second point pertains to how this life distorting entitlement that pervades human life and politics is maintained. Here I address the question of why humanity has had so much difficulty liberating itself from an oppressive idea that is clearly not in its interest. This will lead us into an effort to understand the nature of Eros, and to the issue of the repression of childhood sexuality.
Each of the two issues I will be addressing – original sin and the repression of Eros – is large and complex. This being so, there might be some advantage in treating them in separate essays, and I gave some thought to that possibility. However, the central point that I am making here has to do with the relationship between these two human realities, so I decided to keep them both in one essay even thought that may place extra demands on the attention of the reader.
By original sin I refer to the idea that a wrongness has entered into a creation that is fundamentally good. There are two quite distinct myths of creation provided in the early chapters of Genesis: Genesis 1:1 – 2:4, and Genesis 2:4 – 3:24. It is obviously counter-productive to take either of these stories as a literal account of creation. Among other problems, on a literal level the two accounts contradict each other. But when we read them as myth and dream should be read – as statements about the meaning of external, perceptible events – these stories are profound and important.
The first creation story affirms the essential goodness of creation. If the validity of this judgment is accepted, we find little support for spiritual paths that negate the significance of the world around us, or for techniques for escaping from it. The second story suggests to us that, although creation is good, something has gone wrong. The notion of original sin is about a wrongness that has entered into a good creation.
I find the second story to be somewhat enigmatic as to the exact nature of this wrongness that has entered into creation. But if we jump to Paul in the New Testament we get at least a partial clarification, or development, of the Genesis theme. When, in Romans, Paul talks about how we all fell in Adam but are raised in Christ. He is clearly dealing with corporate images of humanity. Adam is the old form of humanity. Christ is the new form. The concept of original sin, then, speaks about our corporate or social nature. It is not first and foremost a theory about individuals.
In order to understand Paul’s idea’s about Adam and Christ, especially as he develops them in his “Epistle to the Romans,” we will have to take a slight digression and explore this concept of “corporate humanity.” Most of us are familiar with one formulation of this concept. The business corporation is a “legal person” composed of many individuals. According to the Merriam Webster Dictionary, The term, “corporate” comes from the Latin “corporare – to make into a body” The metaphor, then, is that of people being the individual cells of a single body that is more the the sum of it’s parts. The legal corporation has a life that transcends the individuals that compose it and that survives their deaths.
In biblical criticism a very similar notion of “corporate humanity” surfaces. We see this theme explicated by the biblical scholar, Gerald L. Finnman in his essay “The Corporate Solidarity of the Human Race and Christ as the Second Adam.” He points out that “the term Adam is used four ways in Scripture. First of all, it is the original man’s name. Second, both the first man and his wife, Eve, are called Adam. Third, mankind is identified as Adam. And fourth, Christ is designated as the “last Adam” (Genesis 2:18,19; 1:26, 27; 5:1, 2; 2 Corinthians 15:45). Well over five hundred times the term “Adam” is used to designate more than an individual. In most instances it refers to the entire race, hence, it is a corporate solidarity term. It denotes the condition of oneness resulting from an identity of nature among the members of the human race.”1 Both Adam and Christ are identified here with the human race as a whole, with “corporate humanity” in the theological sense. At one level the idea here would be that just as a cell in the human body can act on it’s own behalf, it can also act on behalf of the whole body, so we as individuals sometimes act on our own behalf and at other times on the behalf of humanity as a whole. On a deeper level the idea suggests the mystical equivalence of the one and many – of Atman and Brahman in the Hindu terminology – of the individual and all of humanity in the biblical sense as in Paul’s thought and in the mystical sections of the gospel of John. “That they may be one; as thou, Father, art in me , and I in thee, that they also may be one in us...”
It could be argued that in all of life one finds this dialectic between the whole and it’s parts. A slime mold, for example, exists for the most part as a collection of independent one celled organisms. At certain times, however, these individual organisms pull themselves together into what appears and acts like a single organism, with differentiated parts and functions. While the dialectic is illustrated dramatically with slime molds, the basic pattern we see here is inherent in all of creation. On the human level this is reflected in the fact that we all live symolteniously in our individual mode and our corporate mode.
Understood as speculation about the relationship between our individual and collective modes of existing, Paul’s letter to the Romans provides us important clues with regard to where we must look if we are to understand the pointless, absurd and unnecessary forms of suffering that human beings inflict on themselves, on each other and on the world in general. It is not to be found in the essential structures of existence. Creation, in its essence, is good. We need to look for an unnecessary form of wrongness created by human choice. And we must look for this wrongness not within individuals, though it is surely reflected there, but first and foremost in our collective or corporate nature.
This emphasis on the corporate nature of sin fits with the observation that the great atrocities perpetrated by human beings are those committed by communities – most frequently by nations – not by individuals. If one wishes substantiation of this last observation, one need look no further than the history of genocide in the 20th century – the Armenians in Turkey, the Holocaust, the Khmer Rouge in Cambodia, Russia under Stalin, and East Timor to cite some of the outstanding examples. If we add to genocide the history of colonialism and economic exploitation, and the modern practice of war with its annihilation of whole cities of people as in Dresden, Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the case is made many times over. Sin is first and foremost a social fact. It has to do with how we organize our lives together, and with what we do as collectives.
Cognitive therapy and research has taught us a simple lesson. We act as we do because we think as we do. Our behavior is the logical outcome of how we understand who we are in relation to the world around us. This is true of collectives just as it is true of individuals. What we are looking for, then, is the collective action that is the ongoing source of pointless suffering, and the idea or world view that justifies this kind of action.
Inequity as "Original Sin"
Once we realize that we are looking at social facts first, and only secondarily individual facts, it seems to me that there is a relatively simple method for identifying the best candidate for original sin. We need only observe a variety historical situations in which people have been unspeakably cruel to other human beings (they are easy to find), and ask ourselves, what do these situations have in common? What is the common denominator behind all the great atrocities that have been perpetrated by humanity? What one always finds, I would submit, is a group struggling to create or maintain a system that grants them a hugely disproportionate share of the world’s goods, services, and decision making authority.
As a thought experiment I would suggest that you try to identify even a single case in which a significant collective atrocity was committed in which the effort to create or maintain a the fundamental inequity was not the more or less obvious mainspring of the action. As we examine specific situations we generally see two kinds of violence – the violence of those who are trying to maintain the inequity, and the violence of those who are trying to overcome this inequity. Neither form of violence is especially pretty. My own conviction is that we should and can find non-violent means of changing social structures. Still, it should be emphasized that those who affirm the validity of the inequity are those who create the primary cause of violence and suffering. Without the creation of privilege there would be nothing for the dispossessed to react to.
A dysfunctional way of behaving always has it’s source in a dysfunctional way of seeing reality. If creating, and attempting to maintain, extreme forms of inequity are at the root of the unnecessary suffering that people perpetrate on one another, we must ask ourselves what relevant mental construct lies behind this behavior. The notion of class entitlement suggests itself. By class entitlement I refer to the belief that one race, class, sex, age, country, religion, caste or group is entitled to a hugely disproportionate amount of the world’s goods, services and decision making authority. Perhaps is it in this demonic notion that we can find humanity’s original sin. Class entitlement is the idea that distorts the shape of humanity. It is the fall.
It is possible to make a case that one person should receive a larger proportion of the world’s goods and services for one of four reasons. One person may make a larger effort, take greater risks, make a larger contribution, or have greater needs than another. Within limits any of these reasons might be a valid. The first three reasons listed have to do with the issue of incentive. We want to provide people with incentives to work hard, take calculated risks, and make a contribution to the social good. A system of economic distribution might provide one person with the opportunity to earn four or five times as much as another on the basis of greater efforts, risks, or contributions, and one could still argue that such a system was equitable.
In reality, however, we are talking about one person consuming a hundred, a thousand, or a million times as much as another person. On this scale the argument for entitlement become ridiculous and the outcome grotesque. A system that permits one person to park his huge privately owned yacht at the edge of a river where homeless people are sleeping under a bridge nearby is not a rational, equitable or sustainable system. The rich do not work thousands of times harder than the poor, nor do they make thousands of times the contribution to society, not take risks that are thousands of times more frightening. They do not have needs that are thousands of times more pressing. In fact , the rich consume a share of the world’s resources that would bankrupt the earth’s ecology almost immediately were too many to consume at that rate, and many of these voracious consumers make no contribution to society at all.
In identifying class entitlement as the original sin, I am not suggesting that we may not need to build incentives into the economic arrangements of society in some reasonable and measured way. It makes sense to reward hard work, creativity and initiative. Class entitlement, however, justifies hugely disproportionate discrepancies between people that invariably lead to the creation of class, cast and institutionalized inequity. This leads to inequities in the distribution of goods, services, and decision making authority that are of such a magnitude that they cannot possibly be justified by appeals to the differential capacities, contributions, risk taking, or needs of individual people.
Polymorphous Undifferentiated Sex
In order to understand how original sin is embedded in the social structure and is passed down from generation to generation we must examine the vicissitudes of Eros in the development of individuals.
Freud believed that adult, genitally focused sexuality grew out of a more generalized infantile sexuality that was, to use his term, “polymorphous perverse.” The infant naturally seeks bodily pleasure in a variety of ways (hence the term “polymorphous” ). The adult’s genitally focused sexual activity can be understood as a specialization of an eroticism that originally involved many possible activities and virtually the whole body. As Norman O. Brown says, “the organ in question may be the genital, or it may be the mouth, as in thumb sucking, or it may be the eyes, as in the delight of seeing.”2
Brown goes on the suggest that “if normal adult sexuality is a pattern which has grown out of the infantile delight in the pleasurable activity of all parts of the human body, then what was originally a much wider capacity for pleasure in the body has been narrowed in range, concentrated on one particular (the genital) organ.”3 The “normal” adult pattern of exclusive genital heterosexual sex is not, as we are prone to think, the only or the natural form of sexual experience. It derives from the imposition of a cultural template that is rigidly enforced, and as such it represents a form of what Brown calls a “tyranny.” It is a “tyranny of one component in infantile sexuality, a tyranny which suppresses some of the other components altogether and subordinates the rest to itself.” 4
I would take Brown’s analysis a step further. Sex, in its broadest sense, is not only about bodily pleasure, but also about relationship. It is the desire for a pleasurable, somatically grounded relationship with a beloved other. But as the infant grows into adulthood, he or she finds that not only are the forms of acceptable bodily pleasure prescribed by a cultural template, but the kind of relationships that are permissible is also rigidly defined. One can have only certain kinds of relationships with designated categories of persons, and within these relationships one can do only certain prescribed things. This is, indeed, a kind of tyranny.
With infants we see that sex is social from birth. The first thing in infant wants after undergoing its expulsion from the mother’s womb is to find oneness again with another person through the mouth and breast. It is this seeking of oneness with the other through the media of bodily contact and pleasure that I would call Eros.
We act because we want something. This simple and self-evident fact is sometimes obscured by the modern intellectual commitment to deny that purposefulnesses is an irreducible fact of life. The great modern project has been to reduce all of reality to thing-like entities that are driven only by mechanistic forms of causality. Thing-like entities are subject to manipulation and control. This mechanistic, reductionist and manipulative perspective seems fairly plausible, and even useful, when we examine entities other than ourselves. But when I turn my consciousness back on myself I do not discover a thing, but a complex structure of experience. It is, furthermore, a structure of experience that does not wish to be manipulated and controlled from the outside. At the center of this complex experiential structure we find levels of desire.
All biological systems function in accordance with certain behavioral invariants. This is true of entities that do not have brains or even nervous systems; indeed, it is true of entities that consist of only one cell. All living organisms seek food, respond to stimuli, engage in goal directed action, attempt to preserve themselves from life threatening situations, defend semipermeable boundaries, resist excessive control from the outside, digest, excrete, replicate, and enter into symbiotic relationships with other entities.
In terms of these behavioral invariants, other entities appear externally very similar to me. It would therefore seem to be an unjustified intellectual assumption to think that they are devoid of the kind of inner experience that I know in myself. Rather, it is only reasonable to assume that they are driven by desires just as I am. This reluctance to attribute inner experience to other entities is not only intellectually unjustified, but it is psychologically and socially dangerous, as well, in that it isolates me from, and puts me in conflict with, all other forms of life – human or otherwise.
The only reasonable assumption is that for all entities, action, and life itself, is driven by desire. If we wish to understand any living entity, our understanding of the mechanics of his/her parts must be complemented by an appreciation of the desires of the whole. For this reason, it seems to me that eventually science must complete itself by developing a binocular vision; reality must come to be understood teleologically as well as mechanistically.
When we examine the structure of desire that we are in ourselves, and as we hear others report about their experience, we discover a hierarchy of wants. First of all we want food, shelter, warmth and protection from dangers. When our needs on this level are minimally met, we encounter a second level of desire. We find that we want certain kinds of relationships with others. We want, to put it simply, to love and to be loved. This need for love and being loved transcends utilitarian concerns. We may, of course, reach out to others as sources of food, shelter or safety. But beyond this we desire the experience of loving and being loved by others as an intrinsically valued state of being.
At the very heart of the history of the psychoanalytic movement one finds a succession of related but conflicting theories of human desire. The central pre-occupation of this movement has always been to define what people most want, and to describe what happens when these wants come up against the recalcitrant facts of external reality.
Thinkers in every culture have speculated about the nature of human desire and its dynamics. Perhaps the most fundamental spiritual, psychological and ethical question that can be asked is, how can I manage my own desires and influence the desires of others in such a way as to achieve the greatest degree of happiness for everybody. This was clearly a central question in Eastern speculation – in Hinduism, and even more centrally in Buddhism. As soon as we find the Greeks philosophizing about the ultimate issues we find them also asking this question. The term the Greeks used for the kind of desire that I am concerned with here is “Eros.” It is this term that I will be using in this essay. To be captured by Eros is to be “in love.”
For years I have been concerned with the issue of Eros, and have tried to define what I mean by this term. In an essay I published in 1983, entitled “Eros and Wholeness,5 I defined Eros simply as “the desire for wholeness.” The basic idea here was taken from Plato’s Symposium.
In an essay entitled “The Phallic Child: Its Emergence and Meaning in a Clinical Setting,”6 (published in 1995) I defined Eros as “the desire for attachments that facilitate the survival and development of the self,” or more simply as “the desire for self-completing human relationships.”
In a third essay dealing with this topic, “Interpreting the Satanic Legend”7 (published in 1998) I defined Eros as “the full range of intense love feelings between people.” While my thinking about Eros has shifted and developed over the years, these various definitions are not basically contradictory. They all define Eros from an experiential point of view as a form of desire. The desire may have a physiological ground, but it’s meaning is found in the social context. In order to highlight the social aspect of Eros, we need to add still another definition: “Eros is the desire for union with the beloved.” Since Eros is a form a desire, when we try to seek out its essence, we must ask ourselves “what do we most want?” I think it can be said that, once the basic needs for food and adequate shelter have been met, what we most want is loving relationships – relationships that provide us with affirmation, pleasure, meaning, self transcendent goals, the possibility for growth, and ultimately wholeness. It is very hard to give an adequate definition of Eros in one sentence. Let us review the definitions given thus far:
Eros is the desire for wholeness. Eros is the desire for attachments that facilitate the survival and development of the self. Eros refers to the full range of intense love feelings between people. Eros is the desire for union with the beloved.
I could, perhaps, come up with a single definition that would unify all those given above. I am inclined, however, to allow these four definitions to stand as they are. Like the various facets of a diamond, each of the overlapping definitions highlights a different aspect of Eros. Together they represent my best effort to date for defining the meaning of that form of desire — that love-energy — we call Eros.
The Repression of Eros
Freud’s view was that civilization is dependent upon the repression of Eros. As he saw it, the energies that fuel civilization are the results of sexual desires that have been painfully blocked, and re-directed through sublimation into socially useful activities. To give up desiring what we most want is the price that must be exacted from every citizen if we are to have any real civilization at all. Behind Freud’s view of sublimation lies a profoundly pessimistic view of life. Once the needs for food, shelter, and safety are even minimally met, what we most want becomes defined by Eros. If Freud is right, to say that the requirements of civilized life demand that we make significant sacrifices understates the case. Once we give up what we most want, what is there left? Surely surrendering our natural Eros must have a profoundly distorting and debilitating effect on the human psyche.
I recall many instances in my childhood that pertain to the repression of sexuality, but two stand out. I recall that when I finished taking a bath I liked to run around the house naked. My mother found this disturbing and, after I refused to respond to her verbal insistence that I get some clothes on she took a yard stick to me. I must have been about four or five at the time. On a second occasion I must have been two or three years older – probably about seven. I recall that we had guests, and that a girl from their family who was a couple of years younger was allowed to take a bath with my younger brother. I was quite jealous and wanted into the act. I went into the bathroom where they were bathing, and urinated in the commode. I wanted to see this girl, and wanted her to see me. When I was discovered in my indiscretion, I was surprised at the vehemence of the outrage expressed by my mother and the other adults. I protested that they allowed the other two to bath together, but was told that I was too old for such things. These are trivial events in a way. I would assume that almost everybody has experienced comparable events in his or her past. Through events of this kind we learn that spontaneous expressions of erotic curiosity and exuberance are prohibited, and result in severe punishment and possibly rejection if discovered.
If Eros represents what we most want in the sphere of human relationships, then what could be powerful enough to cause us to repress it? A part of the answer is found in the yard stick. Children are punished for spontaneous expressions of Eros. But punishment by itself is by no means the whole story. As a forest fire might be fought with another fire, or as wild elephants are tamed by being squeezed between tame elephants, Eros is defeated by Eros. The most powerful Erotic need of the child is for oneness with his parents and with other key adults in his or her life. In a variety of ways the message is given to the child that if s/he wants to belong in the larger group, then s/he must renounce all but the socially prescribed expressions of Eros. Various punishments may be used to aid in the process of repression, but the most profound attack on unruly erotic impulses is the threat of rejection by the group – a fate that is literally worse than death. The prohibiting adult becomes internalized in the form of what Freud called the “super ego,” or, perhaps more aptly, the “sadistic super ego.” The sadistic (prohibiting and punishing) super ego becomes a part of the personality. In this way repression is internalized.
In my description of the dynamics of repression I have presented the Freudian view in a somewhat generalized manner. Freud talked about the “Oedipus Complex” in his description of these dynamics and gave a great deal of emphasis to the family triangle. I feel that a more generalized description of the pattern allows us to see that the internalization of repression is essentially the same for girls as it is for boys, and that it operates with variations, and various degrees of severity, in most cultures.
One of the curious facts in our culture is that as we have moved toward more liberation with regard to adult sexuality, we have become more repressive than ever with regard to childhood sexuality. Our current moral panic about “child sexual abuse” is really a panic about letting our children know what they want and acting on that knowledge. Why else should the absurd notion of the “innocence” (read “asexuality”) of children be clung to so passionately and tenaciously? Children are emphatically not permitted to decide for themselves what they want with regard to sexual expression. If possible, they are not even to know what they want.
When one realizes that for many purposes “child” means anyone under 18 (!?!) one must concede that our sexual revolution is no revolution at all. If a person is raised under a harsh and rigid repression and is then suddenly released into an ambivalent sort of liberation at 18, that can produce only profoundly distorted and unsatisfactory results. The capacity for spontaneous expression has long since been destroyed. The ability to know one’s own desires, or to own them should they become known, is atrophied. And perhaps most importantly, the ability to experience biological sex as the desire for union with the other has been weakened if not lost entirely.
The Outcome of the Repression of What We Most Want
I feel the need to give credit for the sources of some of my thinking and vocabulary, but do not want to become bogged down in the historical and academic tasks of tracing exactly where these ideas came from, and who used what terms first. In passing, therefore, let me just say that I have probably been influenced more by Harry Guntrip’s book, “Schizoid Phenomena, Objects Relations and the self,”8 than by any other single piece of writing. Some of my vocabulary I will borrow from his mentors, Winnicot and Fairbairn. But the use I am making of this thought is my own. I am not sure that Guntrip would have agreed with everything I have to say – especially with my insistence that sexuality contains within itself the desire for bonded, loving and fulfilling relationships with the other. All this noted in passing, I will continue with my narration without giving much attention to historical sources.
A brief digression about the role of internalizing other people and our relationships with them with regard to the development and structure of the psyche may help us understand how we internalize our oppression. Lynn Margulus9 demonstrated to the satisfaction of most biologists that the mitochondria and the cloroplasts that form essential parts of the eukaryotic cell – the cell that is the building block for all multicellular life – were originally separate organisms that a larger cell attempted to ingest. Apparently the smaller cell (a bacterium) refused to be digested and entered into a symbiotic relationship with the cell that tried to eat them. The cells that make up our bodies were formed by the internalization or the introjection of other cells. I will use the term “introjection” to refer to the process by which a physical or psychic system develops its structure by internalizing another entity. The term “introject” is most commonly used as a verb, but I will also use it as a noun, as referring to that which is intojected.
In a manner similar to the way simpler cells became the more complex eukarytic cells through introjecting other cells, every infant becomes a self through the introjection of the significant others it encounters in its environment. Interestingly, the first introjection is associated with eating – just as it was with regard to the development of the eukaryotic cell. This first significant introject is, of course, the mother, and it occurs at the breast. Throughout life we take others into ourselves and each time we do we modify who we are. The processes can be complex, and different theorists describe it differently. Most would say that what is introjected is the “image” of the other. Some would emphasize that the whole relationship with the other is internalized. Despite the variations with regard to how different theoreticians describe the process, the unifying theme of all object relations theories is that psychic structure is wholly or in part the outcome of the internalization of our relationships. As Frank Summer puts it, “psychoanalytic work within the object relations paradigm is based on a group of theories that, although differing considerably, have as their underlying commonality the view of development and pathology as products of the internalization of early interpersonal relationships.”10 We are, as they say, what we eat.
The most dramatic consequence of the repression of childhood sexuality is a three-way partition of the self. The oppressive and attacking significant other from the outside, who insists on the original repression, is internalized in a figure that becomes a part of the psychic structure of the individual. I will use Freud’s term, “the sadistic super ego,” to designate this internalized representative of society’s anti-libidinal injunctions. The sadistic super-ego relentlessly attacks all expressions of childhood sexuality as soon as the child is weaned from the breast.
The second figure is the compliant self. This is the aspect of the personality that seeks to create and preserve a bonded relationship with the person doing the repression, and as time go on, with other people in positions of authority upon whom the figure of the sadistic super ego is projected. In order to secure this approval the compliant self will suppress, attack, deny and degrade its own sexuality. I will borrow Fairbain’s term “the false self” to designate this aspect of the personality.
This leaves the true self – the self that is grounded in what the person actually and spontaneously desires in his or her inner-most being. The true self could also be called the “erotic self,” by which I mean the same thing that Guntrip talks about as the “libidinal self”. This true self however, at least in adults, is not easy to find. What one first finds of the true self after breaking through various defensive layers, is a traumatized and fearful self who is often furtive, mute and self-hating.
If the person is fortunate to have encountered a benign parenting figure at some point in his or her life – a figure that affirms one’s erotic essential self – one may also have a forth aspect of his or her personality – which, though it may seem like a contradiction in terms, I would like to call the erotic super-ego. This would be a figure that encouraged an adaptation to the demands of external reality and to the needs of others, that is not born of repression and self-hatred, but of self affirmation and the love of others.
The sadistic super-ego, the false self, and the true self are the central figures of the drama that we all enact in the process of growing up. The sadistic super-ego and the compliant self are born in response to the attack on the erotic self by actual parenting figures. This is an attack that, in our culture, is pretty much inevitable. Following this initial attack and it’s psychic consequences, the true self is then continuously attacked, ignored, held in check and denied by the combined forces of the authority figures in society, the sadistic super-ego and the compliant self.
Biographies are highly individual. People vary a great deal in the specific events they encounter, and in how they respond to those events. And they vary in the degree to which they identify with the different aspects of their personality. But I would suggest that everybody in American culture, and probably in western culture, is confronted with the repression of childhood sexuality to one degree or another, and experiences a profound alienation from the person he or she most essentially is. Much of an adult’s biography often consists of the effort, with varying degrees of success, to find his or her way back to the lost essence – to what Guntrip calls “the lost heart of the self.”
Repression and Obedience to the entitled elites.
We naturally ask ourselves, how it is possible for an elite minority, committed to maintaining it’s own entitlement, to gain the support, or at least the acquiescence, of the great majority of people. Most people, after all, have no practical or material interest in supporting a system that is engineered with the clear intent of concentrating a disproportionate amount of wealth and decision making authority in the hands of a small elite. When necessary, a variety of techniques, including various forms of state terrorism, are employed to keep in line those who must do with less. However, terrorism is crude, expensive, visible, and dangerous, and it always leads to a back-lash. A more subtle and less visible means of oppression must be found. If the system of domination by the elite is to work, it must ultimately rely on the have-nots internalizing their oppression. The repression of childhood sexuality creates a character structure in the average citizen that makes this internalization of repression possible.
The repression of childhood sexuality produces adults who seek above all else the love and approval of the sadistic super-ego. Fire has defeated fire. Eros has been turned against itself. External representatives of the sadistic super-ego are found in all the authority figures of society. Children learn to seek the love of the very ones who represses them. They learn not to ask whether the demands of the beloved authority are in their interest.
The repression of childhood sexuality produces adults who are profoundly alienated from their true self. They do not know what they want. Alienation from the true self results in a restlessness that is characterized by a deep sense of unfulfillment, boredom, and a longing for a vague something that is not found in the immediate situation. Such individuals are easily manipulated by propaganda that offers explanations for their unfulfillment, war-mongering that promises relief from their boredom, and advertisements that promise to satisfy their vague longings.
The repression of childhood sexuality produces adults who are lonely. This loneliness derives from their character structure. It is a loneliness that will not be touched by any relationship they are able to establish. This loneliness has two causes.
First, as the alienated individual doesn’t even know who he or she really is, there is no way to bring the true self into relationship with others – even if the opportunity presented itself in the external world.
Second, the repression of childhood sexuality leads to a split between sex and relationship. Eros has been split. It now seeks sex and significant relationships in separated spheres. I am not suggesting here that every significant relationship must be sexual – certainly not in the usual meaning of the term. But every significant relationship must be erotic. Eros is the desire for union with the other. We see its prototype in the infant’s love of the mother through the breast. In this situation society has not yet been able to split Eros into separate components – the desire for relationship vs. the desire for bodily pleasure. Even in friendships where there is no desire for genital contact, or in the most sublimated relationships, we discover a physical substrate. We take pleasure in seeing and being seen, in hearing and being heard, in touching and being touched, even in simple proximity. It is not always clear why one relationship seeks one kind of bodily expression and another relationship another. What is clear, however, is that human beings are polymorphous in their loving, with regard to both the kinds of bodily expressions they desire, and the kinds of relationships that are sought out. One looks forward to the day when society will not feel the need to micromanage the love lives of its citizens.
It is worth while to examine the political ramifications of the peculiar kind of loneliness created by the repression of childhood sexuality. Typically this repression creates individuals who not able to bond deeply with other human beings. On the other hand they are not able to attain any satisfying sense of oneness with the ground of being – with the All. With such persons their gang, their religious group, or their nation becomes the sphere of their primary bonding experiences. Emotionally speaking, this group becomes God for them.
Individuals who are able to bond both with other individuals and with the ultimate “spirit that runs through all things” may also bond with intermediate groups. They may well take comfort in their family, be committed to their schools, feel affection for their church or club, take pride in their country, etc. But they will not confuse, on either cognitive nor emotional levels, these intermediate groups with God, nor the norms of these groups with the will of God. Because people who are alienated from their true selves seek the love and approval of sadistic super-ego figures, and because they seek bonding in god-like groups, they are highly prone to become zealots in rigid and authoritarian religions, or super-patriots in fascist states.
It seems clear them, that individuals who belong to the entitled elites that control various religious and political bodies for their own benefit, have a vested interest in the repression of childhood sexuality. It produces individuals who are so alienated from their own essence that they do not know what they want, and who are therefore easily manipulated by propaganda and advertising. It produces individuals who are blindly committed to sadistic and punishing authority figures who exploit them ruthlessly. It produces individuals who will commit themselves to religious and political organizations that do not have their interests at heart. And here we find at least a good part of the explanation for that very peculiar phenomenon we see in modern democracies. People, especially working people on the lower end of the economic ladder, repeatedly vote into office leaders who obviously do not have their needs or welfare as high priorities. The conclusion seems unavoidable. A society that is severely repressive of childhood sexuality cannot be a well functioning democracy.
If the state is able to control the sexuality of children, defined as individuals up to eighteen years of age, then sexual liberation is relatively meaningless. After being subjected to the character deforming effects of repression for eighteen years, an individual is unlikely to be able to do much that is healthy, life enhancing, or deeply fulfilling with his or her liberation upon coming of age.
This connection between sexual repression and the authoritarian personality needed by fascist states was seen very clearly be several of Freud’s disciples, but perhaps more clearly by Wilhelm Reich than any other. Consider this summery of his views by Paul Robinson, the author of “The Freudian Left.”
“The connection between sexual repression and the authoritarian social order was simple and direct: the child who experienced the suppression of his natural sexuality was permanently maimed in his character development; he inevitably became submissive, apprehensive of all authority, and completely incapable of rebellion. In other word, he developed exactly that character structure which would support a regime of injustice and exploitation. The first act of suppression prepared the way for every subsequent tyranny. Here at last was the answer to the riddle of sexual repression. Reich concluded that repression existed not for the sake of moral edification (as traditional religion would have it), nor for the sake of culture (as Freud had claimed), but simply in order to create the character structure necessary for the preservation of an authoritarian social regime.”11
While I feel that Reich has correctly identified a fact of political life that is of central concern, I would hasten to emphasize that his understanding of sex is rather different than the one presented here. For him sex is a physical tension in need of discharge. The central meaning of sex fulfillment is the complete release of this tension in a heterosexual genitally focused relationship. I would take exception both to his limiting legitimate sex to heterosexual relationships, and to his focus on genital sexuality to the exclusion of the other forms delineated by Freud, and highlighted by Norman O. Brown.
I have an even more basic concern with both Reich and Freud. I would certainly not deny the physiological roots of sex, nor do I have any interest in denying that the pleasure associated with physiological release is an important piece of the puzzle. However, it seems to me sexual desire, beginning with the pre-genital, orally focused, desire of the infant, is always a desire for union with the other. Sex is social from the outset. It becomes a-social or even anti-social only through its repression Repression leads to a confusion about the true aims of Eros. If Eros is the desire for union with the beloved then it cannot be said to have accomplished its aim with the mere physical discharge of pent up tensions, but only with the establishment of a loving relationship.
Equating God with the Dominant Social Order.
“According to Durkheim, if an individual lacks any source of social restraint she will tend to satisfy her own appetites with little thought of the possible effect her actions will have on others. Instead of asking “is this moral?” or “does my family approve?” the individual is more likely to ask “does this action meet my needs?” The individual is left to find her own way in the world–a world in which personal options for behavior have multiplied as strong and insistent norms have weakened”
Frank W. Elwell 12
We see here that Durkheim shared Freud’s essential pessimism about human nature. Individuals are essentially a-social. A concern about the effects of their actions on others, or on the social fabric as a whole, is foreign to the core of desires that make up their fundamental nature. Without a massive program of repression and control, individuals are dangerous to each other and to the social order. This control must be imposed from the outside. Granted that the norms are internalized, and in that sense they become a part of the person, but these social norms remains an essentially foreign introject. Their role is to curb the appetites and inclinations of the individual. Given this function, the ultimate effect of these norms must be to alienate the individual from what he or she most wants.
Durkheim’s sociological notion of internalized social norms is the complement of Freud’s psychological notion of the super-ego. They are talking about the same phenomenon from two perspectives. Whether Freud and Durkheim are right in their assumption that the repression of individuals by society is justified depends largely on whether individuals are in fact essentially a-social or even anti-social.
Durkheim believed that God was an image of society and that the “will of God” proclaimed by organized religion actually consists of the norms of a particular society. As Frank W. Elwell summarizes Durkheim’s thinking on this point, “Religion is not only a social creation; it is the power of the community that is being worshiped. The power of the community or society over the individual so transcends individual existence that people collectively give it sacred significance. By worshiping God people are worshiping the power of the collective over all, they are worshiping society.”14 Almost exactly the same point is made in Freud’s “The Future of and Illusion.” In this equating of God with the power of society, we see the reason for the essentially conservative, repressive, and stultifying nature of most organized forms of religion in most cultures.
In order to grasp the religious and moral significance of God as an image of society, we must shift back to a theological perspective. I would begin with a definition. God the creator is that which facilitates the increase of value in the universe, in terms of both quantity and intensity. I have in mind those experiences that any more or less normal person would value: beauty, love, freedom, belonging, understanding, compassion, excitement, pleasure, health, accomplishment, recognition, self realization, and adventure. These are the things we all live for. This is my own definition, but I think it resonates well with the Whiteheadian view of process theology.
Whatever facilitates an increase in these values is God. If random mutation and natural selection alone are able to produce an increase such values, then they are God. If the creator is a cosmic Nebuchadnezzar who created the universe in seven days, left a few dinosaur bones lying around to confuse the unwary, and rules with an iron hand, so be it. My own suspicion, however, is that both these conflicting images are crude and simplistic fig leaves with which we try to hide the shame of our ignorance. For my part, I would suggest that ignorance that knows it is ignorance is not a bad starting point in our quest for knowledge.
The fact is that we know very little about God the Creator. We do know that some entity or process has created this exquisite and awesome immensity of which we are a part, and that the process of creation is ongoing. And when we see it with our hearts as well as with our intellects, we know that, as the first creation story in Genesis affirms, “it is good.” That is to say, it is full to over-flowing with value.
A few days ago I watched the death of a large one celled creature under my microscope. It was, if I identified it correctly, a blepharisma, a large paramecium like protozoa. As the water dried up on my slide, its membrane suddenly disintegrated. Briefly the cytoplasm continued to be visible and to move. Then, of course, it all became nothing. A minute before I had watched this little creature chasing around in the film of water under the cover slip, happily and energetically pursuing its vocation in life, which I think was mainly ingesting bacteria. Although it’s sphere of consciousness and range of purpose were limited, this activity had value for the creature that I observed. It doesn’t get any better than this for a blepharisma.
In the little microcosm held between the slide and the cover slip, I came face to face with a simple fact which we all observe in a large number of situations on many different levels. The specific structures that are carriers of value are never permanent. Does whatever consciousness that is associated with the particular entity return to the One? Is it irretrievably lost? Is it preserved in the mind of God? Is it re-incarnated into the next level? I am sure I do not know. I suspect that whatever happens at death is no more knowable to us that the external world is to the baby within the womb. But one thing is clear. No particular structure in the world of time and space is permanent. It follows that to equate any particular form or structure with the will of the creator, is a form of idolatry. The creative process uses death, and transcends all particular forms or structures which it uses to further the growth of value.
We see them, that from a theological point of view, organized religion is almost entirely a matter of idolatry. No social form is meant to last forever, and to equate any specific country, culture or social form with God the Creator is to set oneself in direct opposition to the creative thrust of the universe. In a world of almost universal idolatry, the true prophet, the one who speaks for the creative process – for the expansion of value – is almost necessarily a criminal, a madman or madwoman, or at least a revolutionary. Durkheim himself noticed this:
“Where crime exists, collective sentiments are sufficiently flexible to take on a new form, and crime sometimes helps to determine the form they will take. How many times, indeed, it is only an anticipation of future morality–a step toward what will be”15
Must We Refrain From Desiring What We Most Want?
In his contention that the very possibility of civilization rests upon the repression of childhood sexuality, Freud affirmed, I think, what most people believe. This belief is reflected in the underlying conviction that one find expressed in a variety of ways that children, like horses, must be broken if they are to become civilized members of society. It is also reflected in the broad consensus about childhood sexuality that seems to cut across all other divisions between the “right” and the “left”– the consensus that children cannot be permitted to know what they want and to make their own behavioral decisions on the basis of this knowledge.
Why would Freud – the meticulous examiner of the “unconscious” – arrive at such a conclusion? What Freud saw when he examined the fantasies and wishes of his clients was a bit frightening. He described it as a seething cauldron of confused, unrealistic, antisocial and violent impulses, and called it the Id. The Id is the proverbial monster of your dreams. In horror films the Id is the monster that appears on the horizon and lumbers menacingly toward the city, or emerges like the creature from the black lagoon to threaten innocent children. If the Id, as Freud saw it, did in fact represent our deepest nature and the repository of what we most want, then Freud’s pessimism was indeed justified. In that case, life in a world where people were allowed to know and seek what they most wanted would be (as Hobbs would describe it) ugly, violent, brutish and short. But a simple fact is often overlooked. The Id that Freud viewed under his analytic microscope was the creation of a highly repressive culture. It was the heart of the self after it had already been crushed, distorted, brought to despair, enraged and made violent by repression.
It is certainly true that at times we cannot have what we want. First and foremost, we must respect the rights of others for self-determination – sexual and otherwise. It is never all right to impose our fulfillment on an unwilling world. Also, for various reasons we may have to choose between conflicting wants. To choose to have one thing is to choose not to have something else. At times what we want may simply not be available. But to restrain oneself in the name of practicality or morality is not at all the same thing as repression. The aim of repression is bring to a person to the point where he or she does not even know what is desired. A repressed person cannot choose to have what he or she wants even when it is available and entails no harm to others. Civilized restraint is a rational and conscious process. If we are to create a network of mutually sustaining and enriching relationships with one another, civilized restraint is necessary. Repression is not.
The Dynamics of Identification, Introjection and Projection
Guntrip relates the following observations about a client of his:
One patient, a simple woman in her early forties, in whom ‘the illness’ so seriously sabotaged her capacity to carry on normal relationships that it was only with great difficulty that she could keep a job, revealed this internal serf-persecutory situation naively and without disguise. She would rave against girl children and in fantasy would describe how she would crush a girl child if she had one, and would than fall to punching herself (which perpetrated the beatings her mother gave her). One day I said to her, ‘You must feel terrified being hit like that.’ She stopped and stared and said, ‘I’m not being hit. I’m the one that’s doing the hitting.16
Commenting on this and on another similar situation, Guntrip says, “We see in an unmistakable way the anti-libidinal ego as an identification with the angry parent in a vicious attack on the libidinal ego which is denied comfort, understanding, and support, treated as a bad selfish child, and even more deeply feared and hated as a weak child.”17
Perhaps everything we I trying to say in this essay is contained in an embryonic fashion in this powerful image. In order to see what is happening here it is essential to understand that what is being described here is a love relationship – the woman’s first one. That is why she clings to this relationship, as painful and destructive as it is. A non-conflicted relationship is not a possibility for this woman. Love and violence are too strongly welded together. They were welded together by the beating of the child – which was an intensely sexual event for both the mother and the child. The alternative to this relationship is no love relationship – a choice that would entail falling into the abyss of absolute loneliness.
Anna Freud described “identification with the aggressor” as one of the primary defense mechanisms used to protect us from terrifying and overwhelming situations. This defensive maneuver is possible because in any relationship – real or internalized – we can choose the one with whom we identify. Frequently it is better to identify with the aggressor. After all, s/he is the one doing the hitting. The introject that is created by this defense mechanism is what Guntrip calls the “anti-libidinal ego,” or what Freud calls the “sadistic super ego.” The “libidinal ego” mentioned by Guntrip is the true self.
From a broader perspective we always retain a duel identification. The woman in the example above was, on some level, both the one doing the hitting and the one being hit. We see this duel identification even in non-conflicted and non-sadistic love relationships. The beloved is always the other through whom I overcome my loneliness, and at the same time an aspect of myself – a part of my potential self – someone I must become if I am to grow toward wholeness.
The dynamics of introjection and projection must be understood if we are to make sense of the relationship between our personal inner lives and the external social situations that we discover and create around us. Psychic structure grows out of the introjection of other people and of the dramatic events that have transpired between them and us. The characters and the dramatic scenarios that are thus created within us are then invariably re-projected out into the world where they provide the personal templates around which we organize our interpersonal relationships. The psychological and social levels of reality interact through a continuing process of introjection, inner re-structuring, re-defining our possibilities, projection, experimenting with new ways of being, and then introjection again. When our conflicts, hopes and struggles are projected out into the world, we encounter opportunities to become new people. In the continuing process of introjection and projection we find the dialectic of growth. The same process can also lead to a dialectic of futility – to a more or less hopeless repetition of old and destructive scenarios – if we are unable to envision new possibilities or we encounter nothing in the situation that would facilitate any changes.
Enactments of oppression and punishment become introjected into the victim and contribute to the structure of his or her personality. The child tends to identify with the oppressor – the sadistic parenting figure – because her or she is far stronger than the child. The child correctly perceives that his or her humiliation and suffering are the direct outcome of his or her weakness. Because of this perception, weakness and vulnerability come to be despised. Strength rather than kindness, gentleness, tenderness, fairness, openness or any of the more humanizing qualities is what is most admired in the sadistic super ego figure. On a personal level, this contempt for perceived weakness and for vulnerability makes interpersonal intimacy difficult if not impossible to achieve. On the larger political level it predisposes the individual to support strong and ruthless leaders.
The totalitarian or fascist social group is the natural repository of the projections of the inner drama of the sexually repressed individual. Typically such a group is headed up by a strong authority figure who aggressively attacks any deviant interest or behavior, and who is suspicious of weakness, spontaneity and vulnerability. This is the sadistic super-ego figure whose love and approval the libidinally repressed person longs for. The compliant self of the repressed person then identifies with the leader (the aggressor) and becomes one of the ones doing the hitting. The drama, in order to complete itself, requires only a victim. Totalitarian and fascist social groups generally have little difficulty identifying appropriate victims. Any people who threaten the vested interests of the entitled class will serve this purpose. It is through the dynamics of repression and identification with the aggressor that the interests of a small minority becomes supported by the majority of the people in a group, most of whom have nothing to gain by advocating the policies of the small entitled elite.
The Overdetermination of Oppressive Acts
When one encounters dysfunctional psychological and social patterns that are recalcitrant to change, frequently one finds that they are overdetermined. This is invariably true with regard to totalitarian social systems. They are created and maintained to support economic and political agendas. But totalitarian regimes are also supported by psycho/sexual dynamics. They enable the enactment of inner scenarios pertaining to the sadistic super-ego, and allow people to seek his or her love and approval. Also they allow people the opportunity to enjoy the direct or vicarious acting out of sadistic, sexually motivated, attacks on selected victims.
Understanding the over determination of the dynamics of totalitarian social systems gives us a useful clue as to the why revolutions so frequently fail to be truly liberating. The example of France, Russia and China come to mind. Prior to the well known revolutions in these countries the mass of the people were subjected to intolerable forms of oppression by entitled elites. Shortly afterward, all three countries reverted to new forms of totalitarian control under Napoleon, Stalin and Mao. Napoleon was only a passing phase in French history, but the question remains as to why a person who was so opposed to the goals of the French revolution was able to take control. One could argue in the cases of Russia and China that perhaps a short period of totalitarian control was necessary in order to set up the machinery of a new system. In China, however, it was only with the death of Mao that it could begin to move in a more democratic direction. With regard to Russia, it is difficult to see anything that would justify the brutal and repressive regime set up by Stalin.
Why do liberators, once they are successful, so frequently become new oppressors? Or perhaps more to the point, how are they able to? There are probably a number of reasons – some of which have to do with the dynamics of money, power and ethnic rivalries. The most significant factor may be, however, that while a revolution – especially a violent and abrupt one – may free the people from a specific tyranny, it does not by itself free people from the need to be tyrannized. The character structure that is created by oppression needs a strong sadistic super-ego figure in control if it is to feel secure and satisfied. So long as this kind of character structure is the dominant one in a society, even in a democracy strong and ruthless sadistic super-ego figures will be elected, and they will be able to create an essentially fascist state that supports the vested interest of the elite at the expense of the needs of the majority. Such a democracy will also find ways of excluding disturbing ideas and images from the public debate. It is indeed disturbing to realize that a country can have the external forms of a democracy and still be effectively a fascist state.
A real revolution requires a change in character structure. This does not come out of the barrel of a gun but out of the printed and spoken word, and out of new kinds of interpersonal relationships. This was perhaps better understood by the woman’s movement and the civil rights movements than by most revolutions, and it helps to explain the power and success of these two movements. Both movements focused on changing how people thought and spoke, and the changes in social institutions and patterns flowed from that.
Consciousness must be raised by focusing on the salient questions. How are we to understand ourselves in relation to those who oppress us? How are we to raise children who are not so willing to surrender their interests to any entitled elite? How do we establish a sense of community with others without sacrificing autonomy? Perhaps a fourth question is in order here. How are we avoid establishing ourselves as new tyrants if we are successful?
Revolution is a matter of education, through and through. The re-education of adults who have been raised in the old order is crucial. But the very heart and soul of any revolution that seeks to facilitate more liberated ways of being with each other in the world is the education children for effective self-determination from the outset. The methods of education must be consistent with its aims. The education of children who are to become citizens in a free society must take place in a caring educational community that maximizes self-determination, critical thinking, and creativity. Everyone intuitively recognizes the revolutionary potential of education. That is why the current power elites are so concerned to retain absolute control over the thoughts and behaviors of children. That children and adolescents should have the right to self-determination with regard to the full range of their aspirations and desires may be the most revolutionary and potentially liberating idea in the world today.
Abu Graib is perhaps the perfect image of our falleness. For this reason it is crucial that we do not scapegoat the few pathetic individuals who actually engaged in the torture. We would then miss the whole point. It is not even enough to see that this kind of torture was deliberately condoned by the top leaders in our country, though this is certainly true. Abu Graib was a logical and inevitable outcome of who we are as a people. It was a collective act. Even after the facts about Abu Graib came out and shocked us all, Congress once again sent funds, with hardly any discussion of the matter, to the School of the Americas, where such torture techniques have been taught for decades. Clearly we don’t yet get it.
The events at Abu Graib were an expression of our collective policies and will. The press has, of course, cooperated and shielding the American people what what they have been doing. Americans do not like to think of themselves as able to condone, and even enjoy, the events that we were forced to look at in our prisons in Iraq. But the American people have been complicit in maintaining their ignorance. There were ample clues that anyone could have followed up on, and plenty of books and articles that could have corrected the comfortable and highly edited versions of reality presented in the morning newspapers. The kinds of atrocities that have been committed by Americans and their hirelings need not have been a mystery.
The events in Abu Graib were overdetermined. The actions of those who ran the prisons were, of course, motivated by political considerations in the usual sense of the term – that is by the desire to increase the wealth, power and influence of America and the huge multi-national industries whose interests it supports. But the same actions were also sexually motivated. Those doing the torture were gratifying themselves erotically. But it is important to understand that they were not simply acting out their own confused sexual desires. They were enacting the sadistic collective sexual fantasy that pervades the entire culture, as it does all repressive cultures. All the essential characters of the drama were there. Bush and the military authorities as the beloved strong sadistic super-ego figures. The obedient soldiers as the compliant selves. And, of course, the powerless victims whose real aspirations and wishes had to be crushed, as the disowned true self. Here we see the nature of Eros after it has been redirected through repression and the identification with the aggressor into the services of entitled elites.
It would be wise for human beings to learn to desire what they most want. At the core of our being we find Eros, the fundamental bio/social structure of our wanting. This Eros is neither evil nor anti-social in its essence. Far from it. Eros becomes negative only through repression. When we delve deeply enough into the nature of our Eros we discover that what we most want is loving relationships. True innocence is not the absence of sexuality, but the state of our sexuality before the vicissitudes of life have separated it from the desire for loving relationships.
Civilization as we know it – that is to say a civilization that is dedicated to the preferential treatment of an entitled elite – requires repression. Repression creates the character structure that is needed for such a civilization. But it is precisely from this kind of civilization that we need to be liberated. Civilization, per se, does not require repression. A society of free persons will not feel the need to repress its children. Children will be permitted to know what they want. And, in so far as the rights of others and the requirements of reality allow, they will be enabled to pursue what they most want with self-determination. We need not be afraid of the people we most truly are, nor of the people our our children are.
The justification of class entitlement in any form was the wrong turn that humanity took. This was the original sin. It was the fall. It was the event that alienated us from our essential nature as loving, and profoundly social human beings. A number of historical scenarios are possible to explain how this wrong turn came about. We can speculate about this historical question, but the evidence is sparse, and I doubt that we will ever be able to know for sure. What we do know is that this wrong turn did happen, that it was a collective event, and that it is deeply embedded in the ideas and practices of every major culture in the world today. We also know that it is not the way things have to be.
2Brown, Norman O., Life Against Death, New York: Vintage Books, 1959, pg. 26.
3Ibid., pg. 27.
5Hunter, James, Eros and Wholeness, Journal of Religion and Health, Vol. 37, No. 3, Fall 1998.
6Hunter, James, The Phallic Child: Its Emergence and Meaning in a Clinical Setting, American Journal of Psychotherapy, Vol. 49, No. 3, Summer 1995.
7Hunter, James, Interpreting the Satanic Legend, Journal of Religion and Health, Vol. 37, No. 3, Fall 1998.
8Guntrip, Harry Schizoid Phenomena, Objects Relations and the self. 9See, Margulis, Lynn, Symbiotic Planet: A New Look at Evolution, New York: Basic Books, 1998.
10Summers, Frank, Object Relations Theories and Psychopathology: A Comprehensive Text, Hillsdale, NJ,: The Analyftic Press, pg. 23.
11 Robinson, Paul, The Freudian Left, New York: Harper and Row, 1969 pg 50.
13 Durkheim, Emile, 1950  The Rules of Sociological Method. Translated by S. A. Solovay and J.H. Mueller, New York: The Free Press Pg. 71, as quoted by Frank W. Elwell in his article on the Emil Durkheim Web Page.
14 Emil Durkeim Web Page, see footnote 12.
15 As quoted by Elwell on his Emil Durkheim Web Page.
16 Guntrip, pg. 191. 17 Ibid.