Author of the Month

Stephen Larsen, Ph.D. LMHC, BCIA-eeg, Author of the Month for February 2009

Why (some think) The Gods Must Be Crazy:
(Or how do we sink into delusion when we think that "God is on our side?") (cont.)
By Stephen Larsen

While the tribal leader-a political role--evolves into kings, emperors, prime ministers, presidents; the shaman evolves into prophets, soothsayers, priests and priestesses. This latter figure offers the mysterious logic of a greater (usually mythic) perspective, a spirit-flavored destiny in which the secular events are merely embedded, and beside which they are dwarfed into insignificance. So Joseph interprets Pharoah's dreams, so the astrologers and thaumaturges urge kings to war or peace. Julian Jaynes' Bicameral Mind is activated, wherein the gods voices are heard.

So ultimately we have Rev. Jerry Falwell assuring President Ronald Reagan that Armageddon and the Rapture Times would be unfolding in their own lifetimes (neither man is with us any more (and there is no news of either being "Raptured"-even, as far as I know in The Daily Inquirer.) But, the world still needs fixing worse than ever! Pragmatic social and economic thinkers then marvel at the president's enthusiasm about an impossibly expensive, and potentially world-destroying, project like the "Star Wars" space program, simply because the good Reverend has convinced the (mentally aging) President that God has a plan which trumps all ordinary human plans--though He might just need a little help from a human nuclear arsenal to bring about the Biblical prophecy. (Just a little "forcing God's hand".) Remember that the Sacred, since the time of the shamans, claims ontological superiority to all secular considerations. (What men say is limited and full of error; what God says, goes.) Reagan could also appoint a Secretary of the Interior, James Watt, in charge of Parks and Forest preserves for the entire country, who believes "every tree should be cut down" because then the promised Messiah will come and the End Times begin. The public jaw drops as such myths are shown to influence major decision-making.

Supernatural authority does not try to rest on its own merits, but that of a hypostatized Divine Being. In The Fundamentalist Mind I show how nicely this theory fits into the hierarchy and authority-susceptible primate mentality. We look upwards in the pecking order for our instructions, and our orders. And we disregard and denigrate those below us. As psychoanalysis shows us, people are eager to give over authority, and along with it, the fear of genuine freedom, and the responsibility for making one's own choices. When an invisible, spiritual reality and power system is adduced, ordinary logic falters and fades. Bin Laden gives the credit to Allah for bringing down the Trade Towers. General Boykin says America "triumphed" over Iraq (not because it was an unequal contest to start out with) but because "I knew that "My God was bigger than [the Muslim's one]. "My God was a real God and his was an idol." ( (The unbelievable naїvété of the general's assertion is underscored by the fact that Islam is an aniconic religion, smashing idols wherever it finds them. Nor does it believe that any representations of Allah, or his prophet should be promulgated.)

Considerable sectors of the American populace began to shudder when the President told them he was taking counsel about the war in Iraq, not from his experienced and pragmatic father ('41), but from "a higher father" with whom he had secret and privileged communications, in the early morning hours of each day.

A joke in response was making the rounds in recent years. A genuinely bewildered American dies and goes to Heaven, where he meets God. "Lord," he says, the country is in disarray. The poor have no health care; we started a war and are killing innocent people; we are pampering the rich, while we squander our natural resources. But the President says he talks to you every day. Is it true?"

"Yes it is," says God, "It is true. But he does all the talking!"

Myths and fairy tales, often with a timeless wisdom, show us the following situation: The land is falling apart, crops are failing, towns in disrepair, and enemies threaten the borders. The king (or the president) has been listening to a corrupted or demented counselor. In The Lord of the Rings, Rohan of the Horse-lords sinks into ruin as the ensorcelled king Theoden listens to Grima Wormtongue, the evil counselor. In Star Wars, hidden and disfigured Darth Vader is under the spell of The Emperor, who wants to control the Universe.

Vader from Star Wars
Theoden and Wormtongue from Lord of the Rings

With whom, then, is the President really conferring, in his private sessions?

It is very dangerous for the king to consider himself the mouthpiece of the god; or that he alone knows the will of the secret power. That is a form of hubris, and he will surely then become the god's victim. (Oedipus' land is falling apart, and in a state of decay because he has violated fundamental laws of the Universe through patricide and incest-whether knowing or unknowingly. When the truth comes out and is faced, the king blinds himself for what he failed to see, in front of him all along. Then the land is gradually restored.) Archetype always transcends man-and brings the immature or inflated one to ruin, say the Greeks. Or in our time, an immature leader brings disaster on the land itself.

Fundamentalism is dangerous, because, almost constitutionally, the fundamentalist tries to project myths and archetypes into history, into three-dimensional reality: Evil is not a subjective quality of self-aggrandizement or egotism with which we each must grapple, Evil is an inevitable quality of "evil-doers"-and we know what to do with them! With Fundamentalism as a way of thinking, not only is there a supernatural warrant for doing what one wishes, it is beyond question. All dissent is discouraged, and any commentary falls into the logic of: "You are either with us, or against us." In just this way, enormous evil gets enacted on earth.

The crusades, for example, were enacted by people with a holy mission-to take back Jerusalem, a sacred city, for God's people. Because of the intensity and monolithic thrust of the mission, anyone inadvertently caught in the way, be he Jew or Saracen-was automatically a "godless" heathen or infidel, and subject to God's wrath-but administered by my sword. During the Albigensian Crusade of the early thirteenth century-the North of France against the South--one zealous general, Arnaud Amalric, a former Cistercian monk, put the entire town of Bezier--almost 20,000 people-to the sword. When he had been told, before beginning to slaughter, that there was a logistical problem about this city-many "good" Christians (Roman Catholics) were mixed in with the hated "Cathars" (very peaceful, often celibate and devout Christians with a different, hence "heretical" belief system) he had a simple solution: "Kill them all! God will recognize his own!" ( Rome was later so impressed by his work that he was later named Archbishop of Narbonne in 1212.

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