Friday, November 8, 2013

Egoism, Altruism, and Group Psychology.

My previous post on altruism and the other world has been coalescing with older posts. I've pointed out that because paternity isn't known in early cultures that the biological father would have to follow the model of the spiritual father or 'procreator'. This relates to the phallus being a symbol of the negation of the mother (or mother's body). It's not that males aren't naturally superior it's that they are the not-mother that the phallus comes to be identified with the perfection (negatively created) that the child follows to escape the mother. Thus, the primal father or a biological father for an individual child isn't needed for the father function to come up. Additionally, in the Antigone myth and complex I pointed out that the trauma incurred is that Polynices (understood as an aspect of Antigone) never got his agreed upon turn to rule and wasn't treated as equal to his brother.

All of these ideas have begun circling around Freud's work on the army and church in Group Psychology and Analysis of the Ego. These two groups, as I understand them, represent the two different paths that defusion at the phallic Oedipus complex can go based upon active-egoism and passive-altruism. Freud even sees this:

It is to be noticed that in these two artificial groups each individual is bound by libidinal ties on the one hand to the leader (Christ, the Commander-in-Chief) and on the other hand to the other members of the group. How these two ties are related to each other, whether they are of the same kind and the same value, and how they are to be described psychologically—these questions must be reserved for subsequent enquiry (ibid., p. 95)

Fusion to the phallic Oedipal father imago for the subject altruist, as I've posted many times before, is related to the altruist being able to be assertive for her own desire, happiness, and well-being. If there is defusion then she returns to passive phallic drives to sacrifice herself for the another person's egoism or devote herself to the flourishing of a small group or business, defend another person or group, rescue or 'fix' others, (etc.). In fusion there is a sense that she has the goodwill of her employers, teachers, or father-substitutes and that they want to foster independence in her and they are fair. 

However, since the Oedipus complex father imago of the procreator needn't be tied to one's father, head of family, or mother's desire, it appears like early cultures had a totem above the tribe as the father and the tribe was conceived of as a family. Thus, it appears that the link between the phallic oedipal father imago and the recognition of the individual family as a model can potentially become unhinged and the individual can slide back to the procreator as something spiritual or, as I mentioned in the last post, of the 'other world'. 

Freud observes both this 'surrogate family' sense, the democratic (i.e. altruistic) leanings of the church, and the importance that the leader is fair and loves all equally (contra the real world father substitute who made the altruist feel inadequate or like she was less than others (the boys who possess a penis which is conflated with the phallus):

In a Church (and we may with advantage take the Catholic Church as a type) as well as in an army, however different the two may be in other respects, the same illusion holds good of there being a head—in the Catholic Church Christ, in an army its Commander-in-Chief—who loves all the individuals in the group with an equal love. Everything depends upon this illusion; if it were to be dropped, then both Church and army would dissolve, so far as the external force permitted them to. This equal love was expressly enunciated by Christ: ‘Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.’ He stands to the individual members of the group of believers in the relation of a kind elder brother; he is their substitute father. All the demands that are made upon the individual are derived from this love of Christ's. A democratic strain runs through the Church, for the very reason that before Christ everyone is equal, and that everyone has an equal share in his love. It is not without a deep reason that the similarity between the Christian community and a family is invoked, and that believers call themselves brothers in Christ, that is, brothers through the love which Christ has for them. There is no doubt that the tie which unites each individual with Christ is also the cause of the tie which unites them with one another (Group Psychology, p. 93-4).

Freud goes on to contrast the role of aggression and fear in the two groups. In regards to the army he sees the leader of supreme importance in managing fear or panic: 

The loss of the leader in some sense or other, the birth of misgivings about him, brings on the outbreak of panic, though the danger remains the same; the mutual ties between the members of the group disappear, as a rule, at the same time as the tie with their leader. The group vanishes in dust, like a Prince Rupert's drop when its tail is broken off (ibid., p.97)

While the army is about co-ordinating aggression and killing others in this world and managing individual fear, the church seems the opposite. In the church you are supposed to hold back aggression and it is what shows up when the religious community breaks down:

The phenomenon which accompanies the dissolution that is here supposed to overtake a religious group is not fear, for which the occasion is wanting. Instead of it ruthless and hostile impulses towards other people make their appearance, which, owing to the equal love of Christ, they had previously been unable to do (ibid., p. 98).

Freud also has another point to make about the church:

Therefore a religion, even if it calls itself the religion of love, must be hard and unloving to those who do not belong to it. Fundamentally indeed every religion is in this same way a religion of love for all those whom it embraces; while cruelty and intolerance towards those who do not belong to it are natural to every religion. However difficult we may find it personally, we ought not to reproach believers too severely on this account; people who are unbelieving or indifferent are much better off psychologically in this matter [of cruelty and intolerance]. If to-day that intolerance no longer shows itself so violent and cruel as in former centuries, we can scarcely conclude that there has been a softening in human manners. The cause is rather to be found in the undeniable weakening of religious feelings and the libidinal ties which depend upon them. If another group tie takes the place of the religious one —and the socialistic tie seems to be succeeding in doing so— then there will be the same intolerance towards outsiders as in the age of the Wars of Religion; and if differences between scientific opinions could ever attain a similar significance for groups, the same result would again be repeated with this new motivation (ibid., 98-9).

This follows the devotion to an individual that is possible at phallic defusion. The altruist can't be assertive for herself but she can defend and work for the egoism of the object. The all male character of the army and para-military groups also makes it clear that competition, jealousy, and rivalry over sexual objects is defended against. 

The dichotomy here seems very simple:

army: express aggression to outside groups and defend against aggression inside
church: express love to one's group and defend against outside ones 

To this we can add from my last post.

Membership to a religion allows the altruist to express her hostility towards others through identifying with the punishment they will receive from God.

Membership to an army or conquering group allows access to the 'spoils' of war, the 'rape and pillage' that takes place in which the egoist gains access to his "love" through its displacement onto possessions or things (including 'ass', 'tail', or the woman reduced from Oedipal level love object to pre-oedipal thing). 

Additionally, while the army is formed under the banner of the good and just there are groups that, in comparison, form under 'evil'. Pirates, criminal gangs, etc. still take a similar framework to the army and show, as Fairbairn observed, that if the father imago becomes associated with its 'bad aspect' then one will chose to belong to evil rather than be alone. I imagine that various pagan cults that continued to exist through Christian times also provided the alternative to the church. Even though 'evil' may still characterize the choice to move from dominant culture to sub-culture and choosing the imperatives to enjoy the body instead of renouncing it, the acts the pagans would perform hardly seem worthy of the name in comparison with what criminal groups would do.

Again, I am only pointing out the pre-oedipal regressions of the egoist and altruist here and the groups also have to contend with a great variety of character structures. 

I do have one final thought. Scanning the 7 deadly sins I don't want to underestimate the church as an organization that 'saves the will' in the sense that neurosis is a practical nihilism in which the person does nothing. For example, the phobic altruist or the depressed altruist who may be guilty of 'sloth' or 'gluttony' may, through the church, be brought to exercise their will and fight against their self-destructive, dissociative, and isolating tendencies. Additionally, regarding the army it seems to me that many egoistic defensive reactions can be sublated and their destructiveness and paranoia can be kept out of the community at large and displaced onto the cultural Other.        


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