The Contra-mystic

Emerson wrote:  A mystic is a person who mistakes an individual and accidental symbol for a universal one.  I think then, that several people in my life might be called contra-mystics.  A person who mistakes universal symbols for accidental and personal ones.  It is in an attempt to fill out this identification of the intellectual social type, that common existential concerns present in all people become unique and personal neuroses.  A low grade and general education airs itself out to form those concerns in terms of the individual’s acquired juvenilia(that list of things which it is unforgivable to be ignorant of, if you are to participate in intellectual life).  For many in the world, who have not had the luxury of higher education and for whom daily life is all too consuming these crises fall to the background.  They are a buzz in the ears or settled with a consumer grade ideology, a wholesale cosmology like religious dogma.  A modern therapist, especially a popular one, might call this transference.  Rather than cope with one’s own internal inability to understand the self, much less the other, we source the crisis external to ourselves—totally.  Dealing solely in this intellectualization of universal issues.  What narcissism—to think that our problems are the same as God’s.  Nietzsche might have been in such a shared state with the Lord, Schopenhauer too,  but not the entire student body of a liberal arts college.

I love this image of a neurotic God.  The reason why we all have these common gnawing pains, is that the universe itself is in agony.  We are in the mind of God and as such subject to his psychosis.  As elements of his psychology, are we simply trying to exorcise his demons from the Weltgeist?  We search for meaning and submit suggestions to him in collected prayer.  We ask why we suffer and as with Job, he is impotent.  Job asks God—but why(here his personal suffering is a symbol of our universal suffering)—and to Job, God declares: Where were you?  Where were you when the foundations of the earth were laid and the measures therein?  Say, if you have understanding!  Powerless and incapable of a real answer He falls back on patriarchal megalomania, typical of the defeated man.  The illusion of power is broken, we are alone, our Father impotent.  The stages of Freudian development recapitulated in brief.  In more conciliatory and sincere language he might have said (to paraphrase Zizek):  “Look, my ‘God,’ I don’t know where it all went wrong.” But we have learned why we suffer… and there is no reason.  “God is dead and we have killed him.”  Finally exorcised of our Oedipal desire we are left to sublimate ourselves to a more well adjusted development.  Religion is man arrested at an earlier stage.  The modern man, the over-man, knows that he cannot know himself.  And knows that his brother cannot know himself.  And his brother knows this in turn.  And his brother weeps for him.  And man—weeps for his brother.  For there’s a better chance we understand the other than ourselves.  Modern therapy claims to help us, by a better understanding of ourselves.  But the original project of psychoanalysis was always to accept that we cannot understand, but that all of man is in the same way.  We are not alone, in that we are all alone.  That is where therapy was meant to lead.

Artwork: Lucifer; Franz von Stuck


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