Ernest Becker and Thomas Szasz

Laura

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I picked up Ernest Becker's book "Escape From Evil" and have been reading bits of it off an on in odd moments. Quite interesting from the point of view of the human instinctual substratum with a lot to think about.

The intro to the book explains that he was dying of cancer as he wrote it, so that gave it added weightiness and I decided to have a look at Becker online. Wikipedia mentions the following that caught my eye:

After graduating from Syracuse University in 1960, Becker began his career as a teaching professor and writer. Becker taught at Syracuse University for a few years before eventually being fired in 1963 for siding with his mentor Thomas Szasz in the psychotherapy disputes. In 1965, Becker acquired a position at the University of California, Berkeley in the anthropology program. However, trouble again arose between him and the administration, leading to his departure from the university. At the time, thousands of students petitioned to keep Becker at the school and offered to pay his salary, but the petition did not succeed in retaining Becker. In 1967, he taught at San Francisco State’s Department of Psychology until January 1969 when he resigned in protest against the administration’s stringent policies against the student demonstrations.

In 1969, Becker began a professorship at Simon Fraser University in Vancouver, Canada, where he would spend the remaining years of his academic life. During the next five years, he wrote his 1974 Pulitzer Prize winning work, The Denial of Death. Additionally, he wrote the second edition to The Birth and Death of Meaning, and Escape from Evil. In November 1972, Ernest Becker was diagnosed with cancer.

Becker was an academic outcast in the last decade of his life. Referring to his insistence on the importance symbolism plays in the human animal, he wrote "I have tried to correct... bias by showing how deep theatrical "superficialities" really go".[1] It was only with the award of the Pulitzer Prize in 1974 (two months after his death from cancer at the age of 49) for his 1973 book, The Denial of Death, that he gained wider recognition. Escape From Evil (1975) was intended as a significant extension of the line of reasoning begun in Denial of Death, developing the social and cultural implications of the concepts explored in the earlier book. Although the manuscript's second half was left unfinished at the time of his death, it was completed from what manuscript existed as well as from notes on the unfinished chapter.

In the 1960s, Becker and Thomas Szasz were part of a challenge to the pretensions of psychiatry as a science and the mental health system as a successful humanitarian enterprise. Their writings, along with articles in the journal The Radical Therapist, were given the umbrella label anti-psychiatry. This critical literature, with an associated activist movement, "emphasized the hegemony of medical model psychiatry, its spurious sources of authority, its mystification of human problems, and the more oppressive practices of the mental health system, such as involuntary hospitalisation, drugging, and electroshock".[2]

Becker came to the position that psychological inquiry inevitably comes to a dead end beyond which belief systems must be invoked to satisfy the human psyche. The reach of such a perspective consequently encompasses science and religion, even to what Sam Keen suggests is Becker's greatest achievement, the creation of the "science of evil". In formulating his theories Becker drew on the work of Søren Kierkegaard, Sigmund Freud, Wilhelm Reich, Norman O. Brown, Erich Fromm, Hegel, and especially Otto Rank. Becker came to believe that individuals' characters are essentially formed around the process of denying their own mortality, that this denial is necessary for us to function in the world, and that this character-armor prevents genuine self-knowledge. Much of the evil in the world, he believed, was a consequence of this need to deny death.
This conflict with the psychiatric establishment in concert with Thomas Szasz interested me so I took a look at Szasz where I read the following:

He was a well-known social critic of the moral and scientific foundations of psychiatry, and of the social control aims of medicine in modern society, as well as of scientism. His books The Myth of Mental Illness (1960) and The Manufacture of Madness (1970) set out some of the arguments with which he is most associated.

His views on special treatment followed from classical liberal roots which are based on the principles that each person has the right to bodily and mental self-ownership and the right to be free from violence from others, although he criticized the "Free World" as well as the communist states for their use of psychiatry and "drogophobia". He believed that suicide, the practice of medicine, use and sale of drugs and sexual relations should be private, contractual, and outside of state jurisdiction.

.... Szasz's views of psychiatry were influenced by the writings of Frigyes Karinthy. ...

Szasz first presented his attack on "mental illness" as a legal term in 1958 in the Columbia Law Review. In his article he argued that mental illness was no more a fact bearing on a suspect's guilt than is possession by the devil.

...As Szasz said, having become convinced of the metaphorical character of mental disorders, the frequent injuriousness of psychiatric treatments, the immorality of psychiatric coercions and excuses, he set himself a task to delegitimize the legitimating agencies and authorities and their vast powers, enforced by psychiatrists and other mental health professionals, mental health laws, mental health courts, and mental health sentences.

.... Szasz was a critic of the influence of modern medicine on society, which he considered to be the secularisation of religion's hold on humankind. Criticizing scientism, he targeted in particular psychiatry, underscoring its campaigns against masturbation at the end of the 19th century, its use of medical imagery and language to describe misbehavior, its reliance on involuntary mental hospitalization to protect society, or the use of lobotomy and other interventions to treat psychosis. To sum up his description of the political influence of medicine in modern societies imbued by faith in science, he declared:

Since theocracy is the rule of God or its priests, and democracy the rule of the people or of the majority, pharmacracy is therefore the rule of medicine or of doctors.[11]
Szasz consistently paid attention to the power of language in the establishment and maintenance of the social order, both in small interpersonal as well as wider socio-political spheres:

The struggle for definition is veritably the struggle for life itself. In the typical Western two men fight desperately for the possession of a gun that has been thrown to the ground: whoever reaches the weapon first shoots and lives; his adversary is shot and dies. In ordinary life, the struggle is not for guns but for words; whoever first defines the situation is the victor; his adversary, the victim. For example, in the family, husband and wife, mother and child do not get along; who defines whom as troublesome or mentally sick?...[the one] who first seizes the word imposes reality on the other; [the one] who defines thus dominates and lives; and [the one] who is defined is subjugated and may be killed.
..."Mental illness" is an expression, a metaphor that describes an offending, disturbing, shocking, or vexing conduct, action, or pattern of behavior, such as schizophrenia, as an "illness" or "disease". Szasz wrote: "If you talk to God, you are praying; If God talks to you, you have schizophrenia. If the dead talk to you, you are a spiritualist; If you talk to the dead, you are a schizophrenic."[12] While people behave and think in ways that are very disturbing, and that may resemble a disease process (pain, deterioration, response to various interventions), this does not mean they actually have a disease. To Szasz, disease can only mean something people "have," while behavior is what people "do". Diseases are "malfunctions of the human body, of the heart, the liver, the kidney, the brain" while "no behavior or misbehavior is a disease or can be a disease. That's not what diseases are" Szasz cited drapetomania as an example behavior which many in society did not approve of, being labeled and widely cited as a 'disease' and likewise with women who did not bow to men's will as having "hysteria"[13] Psychiatry actively obscures the difference between (mis)behavior and disease, in its quest to help or harm parties to conflicts. By calling certain people "diseased", psychiatry attempts to deny them responsibility as moral agents, in order to better control them.

...Psychiatry's main methods are those of conversation or rhetoric, repression, and religion. To the extent that psychiatry presents these problems as "medical diseases," its methods as "medical treatments," and its clients – especially involuntary – as medically ill patients, it embodies a lie and therefore constitutes a fundamental threat to freedom and dignity. Psychiatry, supported by the State through various Mental Health Acts, has become a modern secular state religion according to Szasz. It is a vastly elaborate social control system, using both brute force and subtle indoctrination, which disguises itself under the claims of scientificity. The notion that biological psychiatry is a real science or a genuine branch of medicine has been challenged by other critics as well, such as Michel Foucault in Madness and Civilization (1961), and Erving Goffman in Asylums (1961).

State government by enforcing the use of shock therapy has abused Psychiatry with impunity.[14] If we accept that "mental illness" is a euphemism for behaviors that are disapproved of, then the state has no right to force psychiatric "treatment" on these individuals. Similarly, the state should not be able to interfere in mental health practices between consenting adults (for example, by legally controlling the supply of psychotropic drugs or psychiatric medication). The medicalization of government produces a "therapeutic state," designating someone as "insane" or as a "drug addict".

In Ceremonial Chemistry (1973), he argued that the same persecution which has targeted witches, Jews, Gypsies or homosexuals now targets "drug addicts" and "insane" people. Szasz argued that all these categories of people were taken as scapegoats of the community in ritual ceremonies. To underscore this continuation of religion through medicine, he even takes as example obesity: instead of concentrating on junk food (ill-nutrition), physicians denounced hypernutrition. According to Szasz, despite their scientific appearance, the diets imposed were a moral substitute to the former fasts, and the social injunction not to be overweight is to be considered as a moral order, not as a scientific advice as it claims to be. As with those thought bad (insane people), those who took the wrong drugs (drug-addicts), medicine created a category for those who had the wrong weight (obeses).

Szasz argued that psychiatrics were created in the 17th century to study and control those who erred from the medical norms of social behavior; a new specialization, drogophobia, was created in the 20th century to study and control those who erred from the medical norms of drug consumption; and then, in the 1960s, another specialization, bariatrics, was created to deal with those who erred from the medical norms concerning the weight which the body should have. Thus, he underscores that in 1970, the American Society of Bariatic Physicians (from the Greek baros, weight) had 30 members, and already 450 two years later.
Etc, etc... rest can be read here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thomas_Szasz

They are rather mixed up with Freud and Rank see: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Otto_Rank so the threads are difficult to untangle.

According to American psychiatrist Allen Frances, Szasz "goes too far and draws bright lines where there are shades of gray".[10] In particular, Szasz was right that schizophrenia is no "disease", but that doesn't mean schizophrenia is a "myth."[10] Szasz was also right that psychiatric diagnosis can be misunderstood and misused, but that doesn't mean it can be dispensed with. Frances adds that Szasz was correct in defining many problems related to psychiatric diagnosis, but he doesn't offer alternative solutions.
And:

In the summer of 2001, Szasz took a part in a Russell Tribunal on Human rights in Psychiatry held in Berlin between June 30 and July 2, 2001.[36] The tribunal brought in the two following verdicts: the majority verdict claimed that there was "serious abuse of human rights in psychiatry" and that psychiatry was "guilty of the combination of force and unaccountability"; the minority verdict, signed by the Israeli Law Professor Alon Harel and Brazilian novelist Paulo Coelho, called for "public critical examination of the role of psychiatry."
So, in the end, I don't know quite what to make of Becker's "Escape from Evil" except that there are a lot of excellent points he makes that reflect some of the ideas of Gurdjieff about "man is a machine" and certainly the problem of the "instinctive substratum" or System 1 vs System 2, the former generally ruling our lives until we somehow wake up from the control of our physiology and begin to grow and develop true consciousness. It strikes me as very useful to have a good grasp of ideas that focus on this aspect so as to better understand what raw material we have to work with.
 

Buddy

The Living Force
Laura said:
So, in the end, I don't know quite what to make of Becker's "Escape from Evil" except that there are a lot of excellent points he makes that reflect some of the ideas of Gurdjieff about "man is a machine" and certainly the problem of the "instinctive substratum" or System 1 vs System 2, the former generally ruling our lives until we somehow wake up from the control of our physiology and begin to grow and develop true consciousness. It strikes me as very useful to have a good grasp of ideas that focus on this aspect so as to better understand what raw material we have to work with.
I read all the Google references to Becker's "Escape from Evil" that I could find, including Amazon reviews. IMO, Becker and Szasz are doing their part to add to the foundation of knowledge others have contributed to in their own fields and cross-disciplines.

For example, in connection with the ""instinctive substratum" or System 1", there is a forum reference provided courtesy of obyvatel:

[quote author=http://cassiopaea.org/forum/index.php/topic,28603.msg357717.html#msg357717]

Pat Ogden- Trauma and the Body
[...]
However, there is evidence to indicate that cognitive processing is inextricably linked with our bodies. Bodily feelings, or “somatic markers,” influence cognitive decision making, logic, speed, and context of thought (Damasio, 1994, 1999). The background body sensations that arise during cognitive processing form a biasing substratum that influences the functioning of the individual in all decision-making processes and self-experiences. ( This is a component of Kahneman's System 1). If the body shapes reason and beliefs— and vice versa— then the capacity for insight and self-reflection— our ability to “know our own minds”— will be correspondingly limited by the body’s influence (Lakoff & Johnson, 1999). How, then, can we begin to know our own minds? If the patterns of the body’s movements and posture influence reason, cognitive self-reflection might not be the only or even the best way of bringing the workings of the mind to consciousness. Reflecting on, exploring, and changing the posture and movement of the body may be as valuable.[/quote]

For me, all the above, including your topic post and references to Schizophrenia, places the issue fully in the realm of 'embodied cognition'. If this is the case, then the following info might be useful:

Related to the mind-body problem:

[quote author=http://cassiopaea.org/forum/index.php?topic=30378.60]
Mind and Cosmos by Thomas Nagel

What if our very own modern science made a big mistake somewhere along the way and erected all of its structure on a fundamental concept that seemed pretty reasonable at the time, but evidence keeps piling up saying that there is something really, really wrong at the foundation. But scientists, being ordinary humans raised in the same environment and having authoritarian tendencies like everyone else, really don't like that. They have invested their lives and fortunes, so to say, in the conviction that the foundational assumption is correct and they BELIEVE it in the face of all evidence to the contrary in the same way that a fundamentalist Christian believes that the Bible is the divinely inspired Word of God. And what is that belief? Nagel takes us right into the heart of it: it is the Mind-Body problem. In the nineteenth century, French philosopher, Rene Descartes declared that there was a sharp division between the mind and the body. Remember the famous phrase "I think, therefore I am"? Well, that was Descartes. There are scientists nowadays who are referring to this as "Decartes' Error." (Neuroscientist, Antonio Damasio.) Of course, to Descartes, the fact that he had consciousness was the important thing; it meant that the whole world might be an illusion made up in his mind; the only thing he could know was that he was thinking and knowing stuff. Not only did he declare that the mind had a special status that was not controlled by any physical laws, he also declared that essence of the mind was consciousness: what people think consciously, and nothing more. The important thing here is that the rule was created there and then that the mind is separate from the body and that's that.[/quote]

Related to 'embodied cognition':

A four page article on the online Boston Globe that talks about the relationship between cognition and the body's physical expression:
_http://www.boston.com/bostonglobe/ideas/articles/2008/01/13/dont_just_stand_there_think/?page=1

Note:...the motto of the University of Wisconsin's Laboratory of Embodied Cognition puts it, "Ago ergo cogito": "I act, therefore I think." As opposed to Descartes' "Cogito ergo sum": "I think, therefore I am". :)

For me, the below represents a place where the mind-body split seems most visible: in the difference between verbal language and body language (metacommunications). With the publication of ‘Toward a Theory of Schizophrenia’ (Bateson et al) we have the idea that schizophrenia includes a survival component of blocking out metacommunication, thus placing the condition of schizophrenia in the realm of mind where the individual may be preoccupied with attempts to resolve contradictions, confusions and paradox related to spoken language.

Here's a reference to Gregory Bateson's contribution to the idea:

Double-binds and schizophrenia:

The beginnings of cybernetics in 1943 (the word wasn't coined until'46) provided an overarching theoretical framework so that his broad concepts could be related to each other. In this time period, Bateson was introduced to Bertrand Russell and WHitehead's Theory of logical Types, consisting of 3 assertions:
1) No class can be a member of itself. A name is not the thing so named.
2) A class cannot be one of the members of its 'not class'. EX: we can separate from the class of 'furniture' all the 'chairs' and consider that the rest of the class of furniture is "non-chairs" and we say that it is formally incorrect to assert that the class 'chairs' can be classified among the 'non-chairs'.
3) If these 2 rules are contravened (to violate, infringe, or transgress), a paradox will occur.

At the heart of this theory is Bertrand Russell’s Theory of Logical Types, which Bateson applies to communication; specifically, communication between parent and child. The idea is this: certain communication – often really important communication – is ABOUT communication. The mode of this meta-communication is usually but not always nonverbal: posture, gesture, facial expression, intonation, etc. We need this information to determine what people REALLY mean; whether they’re serious or joking, or what they are. Schizophrenics are notoriously bad at this kind of communication, both in giving it and interpreting it. Why? Bateson and his colleagues theorized that Schizophrenics have been conditioned through repeated “double binds” (Bateson’s term) to ignore all meta-communications. Oddly, this enormous and in many ways debilitating blind spot is necessary to their survival.

It was the application of the Theory of logical types to his observations of communications that led to the distinguishing of the 'analogic' (non-verbal) and 'digital' (verbal) levels. Confounding these message levels may lead to pragmatic paradoxes as evidenced in play, humor, pathology, therapy, and creativity.

Bateson noted that paradox comes from the cognitive dissonance when the types become confused due to the message and the meta-message containing negatives. This became the leading thought that led to the later conceptualization of the double-bind (or pathological deutero-learning). The link to schizophrenia is in the belief of a prolonged exposure to double bind communication and learning, especially when the 'victim' cannot leave the situation or comment on it.
And there is a CBT model that is based on the fact that cognition is an embodied experience:

In the CBT Clean Language Model:
clients communicate non-verbally through their (1) Perceptual space; (2) Body as metaphor; and (3) Non-verbal sounds.

Perceptual Space

In other articles (Rapport, Issues 36, 38,39) we have illustrated how metaphors of space are pervasive in language and are a universal and fundamental component of experience (ref. 4). We have a "mind-space" which acts as a "theatre" where we 'see,' 'hear,' 'feel' and 'act out' our perceptions. The configuration of this mind-space is revealed by our use of spatial metaphors (ref. 5). In addition, how our body has learned to orientate in space is essential to how we make sense of the world and understand our place in it.

Said another way, cognition is an embodied experience (ref. 6). (Also see article on embodied cognition?) When our mindbody-space contains symbolic content we call it a Metaphoric Landscape.

You can think of the client having a perceptual space around and within themselves. Their body will indicate where symbols are, in what direction they are moving, and how these symbols interact. It is the relationship between the client and their Metaphoric Landscape that prompts their body to dance within its perceptual theatre.

Given the chance, clients unconsciously orientate themselves to their physical surroundings in such a way that windows, doors, mirrors, shadows, etc. correspond to symbols in their Metaphoric Landscape.

Lines of Sight

Lines of sight are most easily observed when the client fixes their eyes in one particular direction (such as staring out of a window), or at one particular object (eg. a mirror, book, door handle), or is transfixed by a pattern or shape (eg. a spot on the carpet, wallpaper motif, shadow) or gazes de-focused into space. Even a momentary glance into a corner or over the shoulder is unlikely to be a random or meaningless act, but rather a response to the configuration of their symbolic world.

As well as lines of sight indicating the location of a symbol, a client may orientate their body and view to avoid looking at a particular space.

Given the choice, where a client sits will likely be determined by their dominant lines of sight. Investigating these can reveal information that would otherwise be unavailable to the conscious mind.

Physicalising Metaphoric Space

Some clients' relationship with their Metaphoric Landscape is such that they prefer to explore it by moving around, rather than by sitting and describing it. They may need to walk around the room, occupy the location of symbols, or enact elements from a scene. By 'physicalising the space' the client can access information, gain further insights and derive a better understanding of the structure of their perceptual space.

What types of information do we encode non-verbally? As well as the more obvious kinesthetic experiences (touch, feelings and emotions) and proprioceptive processes (bodily position, movement and balance), we also use the non-verbal to encode: perceptual space; pre-verbal, pre-conceptual and idiosyncratic knowledge; traumatic incidences and amnesic memories; meta-comments (responses to our words and actions); family lore, genealogical traits and cultural codes; spiritual connections and life purpose -- to name but a few examples.

Perhaps Isadora Duncan knew more than she could tell when she said "If I could say it, I wouldn't need to dance it!"
 

Muxel

Dagobah Resident
Certainly survival at a most fundamental level is required, and for that we have the adaptive unconscious. We don't deny death so much as relegate the reality of death to unconscious processing under "normal" circumstances. One could argue that everything boils down to survival, therefore everything is motivated by "fear of death". But that's a very limited view to take of, well, everything. Even if "death anxiety" were the foundation stone upon which the rest of the body-mind of the Predator is imprinted, it would still be a limited, oversimplified view.

Maybe Becker is describing authoritarian followers when he talks about people needing someone to idolize, and maybe this goes back to a king establishing his divine right to rule based on celestial sanction - and the motivating "fear of death" in this case would be the threat of destruction from the skies.

I haven't read his book though.
 

Laura

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Muxel said:
Certainly survival at a most fundamental level is required, and for that we have the adaptive unconscious. We don't deny death so much as relegate the reality of death to unconscious processing under "normal" circumstances. One could argue that everything boils down to survival, therefore everything is motivated by "fear of death". But that's a very limited view to take of, well, everything. Even if "death anxiety" were the foundation stone upon which the rest of the body-mind of the Predator is imprinted, it would still be a limited, oversimplified view.

Maybe Becker is describing authoritarian followers when he talks about people needing someone to idolize, and maybe this goes back to a king establishing his divine right to rule based on celestial sanction - and the motivating "fear of death" in this case would be the threat of destruction from the skies.

I haven't read his book though.
You are right that he is mostly talking about Authoritarians, but that may actually be a really large percentage of humanity. He gets very close to actually labeling what he describes as pathologicals manipulating ordinary people.

Do get and read the book. While much of it is not new to us, it's an interesting fact that anthropologists and sociologists work on these issues and the answers they formulate are equally instructive.
 

Buddy

The Living Force
Before re-reading the topic post, I adopted the following mindset and assumptions:

If a person were able to live his life always growing in knowledge and being he would experience constant increases of beauty, wonder, joy, understanding and accomplishments valuable to himself and others. Such a life would see no sense in doing anything or tolerating anything or anyone representing a threat to that fragile and precious life. And quite naturally, such a self-aware life would seek to extend life forever. This represents a person whose total set of life goals link to an ultimate goal of life extension or self-perpetuation for himself and all others and the whole set of goals and behaviors would be rational and self-consistent.

From that perspective, what I think Becker is talking about, based on the info you provided, makes sense to me because the paradox is more or less visible. Man doesn't feel his mortality, or the reality of death, because he cannot allow himself to feel it. The feeling might open up his eyes to so many truths about reality and the people who structure humanity's goals the feeling of 'evil' might crush him if it happened all at one go; or he may be compelled to seek escape. So what he has as substitute is a symbolic understanding. This way he can pay lip service to this or any other 'idea' while actually and irresponsibly behaving as if he expects to live forever. This expectation can be seen in the entropy of his overall pattern of choices which will eventually lead to his own death while helping to perpetuate the conditions that will lead to others' deaths as well.

Having substituted symbolic understanding for visceral, experiential knowing, he naturally doubts himself somewhere deep down and these doubts occasionally surface. Unable to figure things out for himself, he looks to others. When someone comes along with sound-good-feel-good explanations, accompanied by loud and persistent assertions, his doubts minimize or seem to go away. Maybe this is taken as evidence of the 'truth' of what he's hearing and he will idealize and seek to preserve this source of information.

As an aside, might that even be part of the 'stupendous' in Don Juan's reference to the strategy in the predator's maneuvers? One is born into environments that practically guarantee enough experiences to drive him into apathy, masochism and nihilism. Social standards and requirements of behavior, however, require him to pretend otherwise--to constantly seek the patriarch's (or daddy's) approval and he can't see any other choice, if he can see anything at all.

I'm wondering if Becker's overall writing plan might have been based on an idea that people may be able to return to some kind of holistic and integrated state if they would only become aware of their real state, what conditions led to it and what needs to be done?

At any rate, thanks for reading and I'll add the book to my list because it looks interesting.
 

Patrice Boivin

A Disturbance in the Force
I always liked Ernest Becker's writings, when I read them in the mid 1980s they struck me as being "true" (from my point of view, at least).

G. did say that everything eats something else, a basic principle that I notice not many people wish to remember.

People do identify with political parties, religions, movements (even the Gurdjieff Work becomes like that for some), their race, their social class, usually not things they accomplished or started themselves but that they believe they can help along or strengthen to help them continue in the future. Once they identify they become intolerant toward potentially competing viewpoints or "personal immortality tracks" and no amount of pragmatic realism, emotional appeal or logical argument can move them.

Nice to see someone has read the Denial of Death and Escape from Evil. I was hoping someone might have built on the insights provided in those books since they were but haven't found any. Instead of insights we are surrounded by a cloud of correlation studies and statistics.
 

Buddy

The Living Force
Patrice Boivin said:
G. did say that everything eats something else, a basic principle that I notice not many people wish to remember.
Yeah, that's expounded on under the concept of "Reciprocal Maintenance" in Gurdjieff: Making a New World, J.G. Bennett, and Gurdjieff, by Jacob Needleman, George Baker.

If I'm not mistaken, this idea anticipated the science of ecology by at least half a century.

Welcome to the forum. You're invited to stop by the newbies area and introduce yourself if you would. You don't have to get too personal, but we like to ask how people found us. :)
 

Patrice Boivin

A Disturbance in the Force
I'm a nobody really. :P

Was part of a G. group in Québec for a few years, met Paul Beidler a couple of times, attended a few meetings with Mr. Ravindra here in Halifax but wandered off into my own little corner. Not sure if that's an essential coping mechanism or not. I am too weary, just looking after my cats and my family. (my cats don't feel they need to "achieve" anything whatsoever, I sometimes ask them what they achieved today but they just stare back at me calmly as it if was a silly question)

I found this forum because someone posted on Facebook the following link, which illustrates the effect of people's identification with a religion, it destroys their relationships and hurts people who need them:
http://www.tabletmag.com/jewish-life-and-religion/130695/cutting-family-ties?utm_source=outbrain&utm_medium=referral
 

Laura

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I'll be writing about Denial of Death and Escape From Evil probably in the next volume of "Secret History" though it will be in an analytical context vis a vis the development of civilization as described by Fustel de Coulanges in his book "The Ancient City." I've got some thoughts about it also in relation to Schumaker's "Corruption of Reality" that will be going in there as well.
 

mb

The Living Force
FOTCM Member
Laura said:
...You are right that he is mostly talking about Authoritarians, but that may actually be a really large percentage of humanity..
Y'think? As I mentioned earlier, I think have been seeing this in my family tree, and when I connect it with other trees of US colonial families I see the same pattern. This is not too surprising when you consider the pathological behavior underlying the colonization efforts themselves. (Many colonists may have been selecting what seemed like the lesser of two evils when they joined this effort, given what I have seen of some of their former lives in Europe and Great Britain.)

Of course a lot of genealogy information comes from the family Bibles, and I notice that a certain minority of children have only their birth recorded. I suspect that some of these (apart from infant mortality) might be those with "ungodly" (non-conforming) behavior that didn't rate further mention. But the overwhelming majority played out their roles and at least appeared to do what they were supposed to do (which had a lot to do with unsustainable exponential reproduction and the accompanying environmental destruction). Unfortunately, there is no clear record of which ones liked living in this system and which ones were miserable in it.
 

l apprenti de forgeron

The Living Force
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Laura said:
I'll be writing about Denial of Death and Escape From Evil probably in the next volume of "Secret History" though it will be in an analytical context vis a vis the development of civilization as described by Fustel de Coulanges in his book "The Ancient City." I've got some thoughts about it also in relation to Schumaker's "Corruption of Reality" that will be going in there as well.
I was looking to get these books (about Becker I knew a little), all enriching. Thank you very much Laura for so many efforts and creativity, seeds of the future, at the doors of many problematic changes. A true example of how to live an authentic human life, bringing light into the worse darkness.
 
Laura said:
Szasz consistently paid attention to the power of language in the establishment and maintenance of the social order, both in small interpersonal as well as wider socio-political spheres:
The struggle for definition is veritably the struggle for life itself. In the typical Western two men fight desperately for the possession of a gun that has been thrown to the ground: whoever reaches the weapon first shoots and lives; his adversary is shot and dies. In ordinary life, the struggle is not for guns but for words; whoever first defines the situation is the victor; his adversary, the victim. For example, in the family, husband and wife, mother and child do not get along; who defines whom as troublesome or mentally sick?...[the one] who first seizes the word imposes reality on the other; [the one] who defines thus dominates and lives; and [the one] who is defined is subjugated and may be killed.

Very interesting! I am finishing up Rupert Sheldrake's The Presence of the Past, and in the final chapter he compares the role of the modern physicist to the role of the ancient magician using this quote from anthropologist James Frazer:

If we analyze the principles of thought on which magic is based, they will probably be found to resolve themselves into two: first, that like produces like, or that an effect resembles its cause; and second, that things which have once been in contact with each other continue to act on each other at a distance after physical contact has been severed. The former principle may be called the Law of Similarity, the latter principle the Law of Contact or Contagion. From the first of these principles, namely the Law of Similarity, the magician infers that he can produce any effect he desires merely by imitating it: from the second he infers that whatever he does to a material object will affect equally the person with whom the object was once in contact, whether it formed part of his body or not...the same principles which the magician applies in the practice of his art are implicitly believed by him to regulate the operations of inanimate nature; in other words, he tacitly assumes that the Laws of Similarity and Contact are of universal application and not limited to human actions.
The fight to define using language is like the mathematical models of the modern physicist or the sorcery of the ancient magician. "Successful models" are ones that seem to correspond in a mysterious way to aspects of the physical world, and by virtue of these models scientists (or in Szasz's example, psychiatrists etc) can gain power to predict and control.

Edit=Quote. :)
 
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