BHAGWAN or THE DILEMMA OF A HUMAN RELIGION

A Psychoanalytical Study by: Fritz Erik Hoevels.

This decade finds itself, partly with a feeling of amazement and partly of hatred, confronting a strange phenomenon: An Indian Preacher - to choose the most neutral expression - founds a movement which takes a form similar to that of religion, and into which pour first in his own country and then later principally in the Western Industrial nations, countless persons who are prepared to make considerable and even existential sacrifices for it and its founder. His tireless lecturing in his own country having unexpectedly borne bountiful fruit, his founder appropriates the exotic title of "bhagwan" simply "god", but which in truth is only an epithet of several classical Hindu gods from the groups associated with Shiva, and meaning more or less "partaker"; in the India of ancient times, before the syncope of its middle vowel, it was also a generally used form of address for holy or learned persons. Just how far Rajneesh Mohan - this the name at birth of our modern day sect founder - is aware of this is difficult to judge; though he was a teacher in a Sanskrit school for some period of time, his education is obviously superficial and his knowledge of Sanskrit of a more dubious nature than not. To this may be added the fact that, according to his own pronouncements, he has been uninterested from childhood onwards in questions of historical relevance and context; from his public statements we can only draw the conclusion that he has here spoken the truth, and later we shall see that this lack of interest is by no means accidental but contains, in fact, the key to understanding Rajneesh and his entire teachings and movement. First, though, several other problems must be at least touched upon.

I introduced "Bhagwan" Rajneesh (for the sake of convenience the quotation marks around his invented title will from now on dropped) first as a preacher and then as a founder of a religious sect. He himself is unsatisfied with all such designations and insists on being addressed solely by his new title, a favour we cannot extend to him in a monograph that is meant to be as objective as possible, it being a rule of objectivity that what is not known be connected with or bounded by what is - a procedure which logic demands and against which, for good reasons, the proponents of religion set themselves. This reason alone would suffice for us - that is, we who set our bearings by history and not by faith - to mark Bhagwan as a founder of religion, who began as a kind of itinerant speachmaker talking about religious questions, i.e. as a preacher. And the movement that he brought to life, in fact, displays all the essential features of a religion: the solemn, ritualised acceptance into a circle of adherents followed by the practice of changing names, conferring a standardised chain with a medallion of the master and, until recently at least, wearing a particular, prominent set of clothing; the beginnings, at least, of a hierarchisation in the sense of the forming of a church whose focus, undeniably, is the master himself; a number of common and coordinated attention-getting activities corresponding unmistakably to ecstatic rituals; and finally, a pilgrimage center, identical with the master's place of residence, for the maintenance and furnishing of which the adherents must make or have made considerable sacrifices. Finally, the terminology associated with the whole enterprise is unmistakably religious, and of Hindu origin for the most part: the "mala" (the ritual necklace), like the number of its pearls, namely one hundred eight, plays an important part in Hinduism and several religions which have arisen out of it; the master's disciples are called "sanyasins", like the Hindu ascetics: the master himself experienced an "illumination" under a tree, which is unmistakably an imitation of the bodhi tree of the Buddha; even the clothing of the initiated recalls, as far as its colour is concerned, that of Mahayana Buddhist monks. Thus, without even considering his teachings, we may with some right call Rajneesh a founder of a religion.

Nevertheless, we cannot conceal a certain amount of uneasiness with this characterisation, no matter how much in keeping it is, basically, with the facts. There is a certain feeling that tells us that Rajneesh is not entirely unjustified in rejecting this label for himself and insisting on his uniqueness. We might also have called him a mystic - something he undoubtedly is - had it not occurred to him to endow his mysticism with the visible and de facto form of an exclusive oganisation, which distinguishes him from the individualistic, classic mystics persisting in semi-opposition within the framework of existing religions, and which in the end makes him the founder of a religion. What makes us hesitate to place him once and for all into this category is not only his adamant refusal to give even a minimally binding form to his teaching (in this he is more closely related to the normal mystic, while lacking similarity to the classic founder of a sect) but first and foremost the obvious lack of seriousness and the often repulsive self-serving manner with which the Bhagwan propagates his vague doctrine. As this open display of self-interest contains parodistic features alluding to the pomp of Christian church leaders - Bhagwan's constant attacks upon the pope as his rival parody him quite effectively - one may view him, if he was to pass, which he undoubtedly has to, as a founder of a religion, as the Eulenspiegel among them. This alone would suffice to awaken a certain amount of sympathy for him among all enlightened persons.

Unfotunately, this sympathy is rather quickly dispersed, when one sees what kind of existential Eulenspiegel he is. A true Eulenspiegel - a political one, such as Fritz Teufel, or a religious one, such as St. Filippo Neri or Drukpa Kunleg - is satisfied to have stirred up the public by individual acts and to have let it go away with a teaching it has experienced: he does not try to bind adherants to himself or make them dependent on him, this being the reason why no Eulenspiegel, from the original one on, has attained to any degree of worldy wealth. And if the latter may be a part of the parody directed at the pope and his duped and exploited adherents, a glance at the national origins of our new international guru puts us on to the fact that the ostentatious wealth of religious leaders, unscrupulously sucked out of their disciples, is traditional through and through, and without any trace of satire, in a subcontinent in which gods alive in history and in the present have been more numerous than anywhere else in the world, from the Aga Khan to the most obscure leader of a Hindu sect who has himself and his wife weighed against bank notes.

And in a more general sense, each satirist, even a practical one, aims at a recongisable target with his criticism: Eulenspiegel human folly parchialism and self-interest in all their variety, and likewise Shagdar among the Mongolians and Agu Thompa among the Tibetans; Filippo Neri had the worldly-minded Catholic Hierarchy in his sights, and Drukpa Kunleg the rigidified lamaist one; and most of my present readers can still remember how, by dint of his practical satire, Fritz Teufel exposed the malicious deceit of justice acting in the interest of the ruling class as well as the same face of the political system behind it - for which the former avenged itself in an extremely gruesome manner.

Every satirist, every Eulenspiegel is thus a moralist in disguise giving expression to his despair over the malignant degeneracy of his fellow men; this despair is the secret driving force behind his action. We note pitifully little of such despair in Bhagwan's case; the weal and woe of his fellow men is, at the very core of his person, a matter of indifference to him, as is correspondingly, how they act, insofar as it does not have a bearing on him. Satire is something he succeeds at only very seldom - for example, when he confronts the hypocritical question concerning the moral qualities of the equally busting Mother Theresa with the words: "Is there nothing better you can come up with on the subject of the Catholic church?" His defence of himself against and attacks upon organised rivals much more often strike one as being coarse, and his choice of so-called moral examples of being embarrassing and repugnant - for example, when he weighs Hitler against Jesus and the Buddha and makes a show of his abominable ignorance concerning the atrocities of the concentration camps; vulgarity and stupidity become manifest in these not all so seldom cases. Satirist and mystic disappear; left behind are the complacent cynic and the unscrupulous businessman. And one sees that, no matter how much many a pope might have seen himself portrayed in this mirror, no parodistic urge exists in such cases, how much it may be theoretically conceivable; all satirical or religious set pieces pale in such moments in the face of primitive self-interest. It is this ugly and worldly trait, too, that causes many to hold back from placing Rajneesh among the founders of religions, of whom one expects that at least they themselves should believe their own pronouncements, as the first and last member of their assembly.

An important concept has been introduced in this section, namely that of the set piece. One of Bhagwan's most striking traits consists precisely in the fact that he juggles adroitly with every conceivable religious and philosophical set piece and brings them into play so enterprisingly and calculatingly that the notion forces itself with ever greater insistence upon one that Bhagwan himself has no or scarcely any spiritual concerns, that he hardly takes his own needy teachings seriously and that, all in all, he is much more the coolly calculating charlatan than a subjectively honest mystic. So much tends in favour of this interpretation of his activities that one may justifiably wonder whether a serious examination of his teaching - and this, moreover, on the basis of Freud's insights, as the subtitle of the present study promises - is at all appropriate; whether, that is, it is not tangible deceit rather than murky processes unknown to the individual activator of them which is expressed in that teaching, and which exercises its effect on a circumjacent crowd. In such a case, one would miss the target with a psychological study; not only the adherents of Rajneesh but also the author would have fallen into the trap of a con artist, who could laugh to himself over such misplaced solemnity.

He who argues in this fashion misunderstands the fundamental ambiguity of every piece of con artistry and, accordingly, of the occupation of prophet or character of sect founder. The transition is undefined, and at neither pole of the two extremes is there missing an element of the other. Even the most unscrupulous con artist "believes" to a certain extent in his antics, in the same way that the most possessed prophet (or any normal believer, for that matter) still knows to a certain extent that he is a fake, and that his glorious assertions are without foundation.

What comes out only obliquely in the cases of Mohammed or Mani, Smith or the Bab (Buddha and Jesus are out of reach historically and even more so therefore, psychologically) leaps moe clearly to the eye in the case of Rajneesh. But even as his historical predecessors scarcely got by without any calculating, rationally manipulative component - otherwise they would have been treated as mentally unbalanced and not as half or full supermen -, so too is there scarcely a civil and, all the more, a religious con artist who has not been urged onto the way of this not particularly risk-free means of livelihood by fantasies of grandeur ranging from the hidden to the unconscious. Karl Abraham has shed light in an exemplary fashion on the occluded mechanisms of simple con artistry by means of an instructive case; Freud showed with the case of a religious con artist, in this case a person who both believed and in fact pretended that he was persecuted by the Devil and actually in contact with him, how wrong it is to make a prue distinction in the case of religious phenomena between successful self-suggestion and intentional deception. The latter is practised no doubt at times by an organised and established priesthood, though never in pure seperation from the above-mentioned unconscious compulsions or at least drives on the part of a single person, a pioneer. It is surely improbable, too, that a pure deceiver would ever have a lasting success in this vocation.

We are not amiss, then, in taking Rajneesh seriously as a subject, even if in the meantime he may have got away from his origins and be considering himself a charlatan that one must not sneak up on, and who has to concern himself anxiously with preventing any undue revelations. (Supporting this supposition is the fact that there is nothing that he fears more than unprepared discussions; even his rare press interviews come about only when the questions are submitted in written form far in advance to his closest disciples and are intellectually undemanding.) But even when, after a profane second enlightenment, Bhagwan more or less remains the prisoner of what one would pobably have to call his religious first enlightenment and from now on consciously keeps an eye out that his self-constructed golden cage does not cave in on him, still this first motivation of his activity cannot be done away with, even if the master himself by now should find it embarrasing and be forced to laugh over it secretly. Once, at least, there must have been a time when the future Bhagwan took his teaching, message or propaganda seriously, namely during the period when it came into being and started taking effect. Since this is a subjective process, it is fundamentally psychology which is the proper means for understanding it; we will see in the following that is only its most slandered, which is in a position to do this - namely Freud's psychoanalysis.

But still another consideration should allow us to take Rajneesh and his teaching seriously, possibly more seriously than he himself does. I refer not to his great number of adherents who are so dead serious about it that their entier life ever afterwards follows a different and, externally at least, often worse course than it would have without it; this, it is true, would also be a psychological problem, but it would pertain to the psyche of the adherents, not that of the master. This problem surely exists, but it is far less interesting than the causative teaching. For when one leaves aside all factors arising from the historical period, such as the breakdown of the badly organised international student movement and the resulting flight to inwardness, the special attraction exercised by Indian teachers on Europeans at a point in time when the collapse of their colonial empires for the first time entered their consciousness in all its clarity etc., then there are left only those elements which have been responsible since far back for the phenomenon of the "artificial masses", and their amazing docility, and which have been so injustly stressed by his normal Christian rivals ("sectarian appointees") as applying to Bhagwan, damned so facilely as a Pied Piper, as though their master had never enunciated the saying of the splinter in one's neighbour's eye. For this reason we shall here largely neglect this aspect, unjustly regarded as sensational. What remains of interest, however, is what I hinted at above under the rubric of "set pieces". For Bhagwan, independently of his personal qualities, concentrates the elements of all mystics in his teaching - and practice! so compactly and at the same time so onesidedly, that he can be regarded as a true border case of all religions, and from this consideration deserves our interest. It will be shown that he reduces the characteristics of all mysticism to their essence in such a pure fashion that he has become the true opposite pole of normal, non-mystic religion, so that for that reason, too, the hesitation to take his teaching for a proper religion becomes understandable, as does the aggressive reaction to it caused not only by Christian-Hindu envy, a reaction which can elsewhere be observed in this intensity and maliciousness only towards enlighteners.

In fact, Bhagwan's very existence, whether he wants to be an Eulenspiegel or not, has objectively as much as enlightening effect as, for example, that of Jews in the company of Christians, which the former are often enough made to pay for in a gruesome fashion (in the end under the cloak of racism - as if there were a Jewish race!). The best criticism of the requirement not to eat meat on Friday is not the best imaginable rational argument against it but the unbudging counter-assertion that this is not so; the requirement, rather, is not to light a fire on Saturday. Bhagwan's claim to be god comes across quite refreshingly in a world in which others assert with an equal right that they are his repesentatives, and infallible to boot, or are said to have asserted that they are his son. As the pronouncements of every religion are false, they not only grind mightily against one another but are, first of all, their own mutual parody - and this, for an object that is more susceptible to such than any other. It is difficult to parody and easy to believe that five and five is ten, but easy to parody and easy to believe that five and five is ten, but easy to parody and difficult to believe that five and five are eleven, even and especially in the case where teachers and pioneering thinkers have expended such energy and brain capacity to prove that precisely this is the case (by, for example, adding on the addition sign; by saying that doubling has a value itself corresponding to one and thus must turn up in the final sum, or that five and five form a symmetry similar to the two hands, between which man - the entire man - stands; or, finally, because the universe...etc.: let us close the endless bag of priestly tricks back up). As the pronouncements of religion are false but are expressed with a seriousness and violence - a violent seriousness, so to speak -, it tolerates parody the least effectively of all ideologies; and each religion is the parody of the next one, and has certainly been so ever since the dogma has been aground, that is, at least two thousand years. Recently the dramatic improvement in transportation have forced religions to play down this effect of theirs on one another. They do this by means of a mendacious syncretism ("separate way to the same goal" and the like), which has no other purpose than preserving and defining the limits of current property ownerships for as long as dramatic mass conversions are unexpected; the ungenuine tolerance which necessarily accompanies this forced syncretism has no other purpose; doing without it would not only hardly change current property ownership but, due to the unavoidable mass atrocities and tensions, would also endanger the property ownerships of all concerned religions - i.e. would abet the Enlightenment, and thus atheism, as the religious wars in Europe preceding it did in fact do.

This alone is the idea behind modern religious tolerance; Bhagwan can therefore hardly set his hopes on it, as he is a positive danger to the current state of ownership. Thus, by his very existence, he unmasks the deceit that I have analysed above; for the first time in a long time he has put to the test the right to freedom of religion which was acquired in the West with such extraordinary pains, and which, by reasons of the factual process of dying of the enlightenment, is only vegetating along verbally. We shall see how the test comes out. Up to now no country of the world, whether India or Europe or the U.S.A., has covered itself with glory in this respect. The hatred for Bhagwan is evident; it is scarcely any less than the centuries-old hatred of Christians for Jews, and this for similar reasons. It is additionally inflamed, over and above its traditional core of the undesired parody, by the new factor of there finally being the hope of being able to sun oneself in the radiance of the new deceitful tolerance of property rights, as though it were in that of a genuine one; and even more; of being able from now on, for hundreds of years, to dump this dark and oozy pseudo-tolerance sauce over every intellectual and critical activity, until - the final, sad end - every nook and crevice of the brain has become smeared with it and so become dull.

Bhagwan has called fundamentally into question this secular hope of the established world religions by taking seriously their ideology, which was propagated for other purposes, and by setting a new irrationality over against the old ones. He tests in his own way a juridical guarantee which has since become a mere ideological cover for diametrically opposed goals and thereby exposes them tendentially. For this reason churches and governments are looking out to get him. Their "classily" enlightened bearing having given way to the force of medieval robber barons - hostage taking and squeezing ransom money out of the sect leader by bodies of the U.S. government - only that the peferred tools of this noble aim are, in classically modern fashion, the press and the courts. (Since Bhagwan's function, independent of his subjective goals or opinions, is identical to that of an enlightener, he is treated as one in a darkening, anti-enlightenment period except nowadays a burning at the financial stake has provisionally replaced a burning at the traditional physical one. By going over to out and out robbery, covered up only very scantily by fiscal or juridical pretexts, governments manifest and prove thei new, glowing, secular hatred for a disturber of the peace, whose putative enlightenment, in any case, was not enough to diagnose in time the global decay of the Englithenment and human rights, including the freedom of religion.

Undoubtedly: this hatred justifies the attention we give to and the interest we take in Bhagwan, no matter how deficient he and his teaching may appear on closer inspection. (By "we" I mean this time the small, melting heap of those for whom the value of the French Revolution still stand above all others). But the most prominent reason for this shrill hatred, which leads at the same time to the core of Bhagwan's inner dilemma, the dilemma of a humane religion, has been wisely reserved for the conclusion of this introduction, even though it is doubtless the first thing to occur to anyone wherever the name or title of Rajneesh turns up: his fundamental affirmation of sexuality. No matter how this question is prepared for externally by local traditions, limited internally by mysticisms or blunted by implicit banalities: it is something lacking in this forwardness in all religions, and is opposed to them in terms of being and feeling. And this is doubtless the final and most important reason giving us pause in accepting Bhagwan as a founder of a true religion, and his teaching as a regular religion. In order to understand this connection, we must be absolutely clear in our minds about the nature of religion. Only then will a specific evaluation and special understanding of Bhagwan be possible for us.

Freud was the first to recognise the nature of religion as a mass neurosis. It was perhaps his most important discovery; in any case, it was his second least popular one, and after his death the one most denied and busily toned down, or turned around. It is correct if for the corresponding mass, we think of, in Freud's terminology, an "artificial mass", for which he has given his familiar examples of church and army. Such artificial masses are kept going by the - induced - identification with their leader (modified by transference), a process apparent in all masses grouped about a guru, and not needing comment about its fine structure here.

The decay of psychoanalysis has had as a consequence that, after Freud's death, no more contributions looking beyond the rather sketchy analysis of religion have been forthcoming, the efforts on the part of his unworthy indirect students to make peace with the state and the church were too energetic (one could express this in more drastic terms). Little time was left, therefore, for the refinement and detailed use of his knowledge by his direct students. The most valuable contributions were provided by Theodor Reik, whose books - with the exception of his excellent "Uber die Pubertatsriten der Wilden" - are again seasonally available, and Leo Kaplan, who has been unfairly fogotten - the only one, particularly in his book on "Die gottliche Allmacht", who knew how to make further use of Freud's theory of "magical thinking", i.e. the middle portion of "Totem and Tabu", for an understanding of the religious phenomena. It is precisely this neglected approach, however, that is best suited for gaining an appreciation of Bhagwan and the age-old set pieces he uses.

Every religion consists of a set of ideas that are believed by their adherents - this is their belief, whose main component is in general a mythology, normally embedded in an imaginary cosmology and anthropology - and a set of fixed acts to be performed both alone and collectively, its rite or cult. Both have manifold reference to each other, and neither occurs alone. Its origin lies - and this is the decisive, highly loathed discovery of Freud - in the suppression of the Oedipus complex.

It is not possible within the framework of this short essay dealing with one particular topic to acquaint the reader with the content, and above all with the derivation of psychoanalytic theory; it is even less possible to convince him of it. An additional complicating factor is the fact that almost everyone alive has been led by teachers and the mass media to believe that he already knows what it is and can even afford himself the luxury of passing judgment on it (usually a negative, which these celebrated authorities have provided him with from the very start). Whoever wishes to get an overview of the matter must consult for himself Freud's unsurpassed introductory writings, such as those collected in a Fischer paperback under the title "Darstellungen der Psychoanalyse" or his lectures, whoever desires the main thoughts concentrated into a still compactor space should refer to the anonymous publication assembled under my direction "Der Odipuskomplex und seine politischen Folgen": there one may find out about the practical and social consequences of pschoanalytical knowledge in their simple derivation, which Freud, for tactical considerations, had to hedge in. Whoever does not know all this or - what is frequently the case - is no longer able to recall it should now read on further with a simple feeling of curiosity and decide at the end whether he ought not, with calm diligence, turn to and reflect again, or perhaps for the first time, on the basic texts mentioned above.

BHAGWAN OR THE DILEMMA OF A HUMANE RELIGION - Part II

Continued from February 1991 issue:

In all brevity, the decisive stages and results along the way may be taken note of. Freud observed that a very great many thoughts, actions and feelings are elicited by other thoughts and feelings, of whose existence and effects, however, the individual under their sway has no idea. The reasons he himself offers for not a few of his strange, senseless or - by reason of their intensity - alienating actions and emotions are obviously secondary, i.e. are off the mark, or they are entirely mistaken; the real reasons are thus unknown to the subject, or, in technical terms, they are unconscious. Freud discovered, however, an experimental procedure to determine and study them: the logical evolution of so-called free associations (=psychoanalysis per se). Its application resulted in the insight that a considerable number of desires and experiences were reduced to a state of immemoriality or unthinkfulness because it had been associated with unbearable anxiety and corresponding suffering. In this case psychic contents can apparently be removed permanantly from consciousness without losing its effectiveness; this process, by which the unconscious is produced, is called suppression. Once this occurs it can only be undone with great effort and roundabout means, but never by an act of the will, for after the suppression has taken place the will can no longer find any fulcrum on the sealed-off surface with which it can operate. What has been suppressed leaves its underground prison only in highly unrecognisable disguises, accompanied by its guards, who are likewise disguised; were the latter not similarly unrecognisable, the process of suppression would become conscious and thereby very quickly ineffective. One of the most colossal mascarades to have come about in this way, socially formed in the course of a long period of time and the participation of many specialists, is religion.

It turns out that the core contents of the unconscious are at the same time the most offensive ones; this offensive quality of theirs is explained by the force of their suppression, which occurs early on in the history of the individual. Before the occurence of this suppression there is the desire (which the sexuality of the child confined to the family necessarily induces) to obtain the maximum amount of pleasure by bodily stimulation from the most suitable parent, i.e. the one of the opposite sex - which comes down to sexual union or something very similar to it - and, as a consequence, to eliminate the parent standing in the way of this alluring desire being fulfilled, i.e. the one of the same sex. As these two terrifying, guilt-laden desires correspond to the most notable acts of the Greek mythical hero "Oedipus, Freud named the interplay of their forces, in expressive terms, the oedipus complex". Never in history had anyone up until then called more hatred and rejection down upon himself than Freud did with this proclamation, and his legitimate heirs will have to carry both around with them for as long as mankind grows up within families. Thus it is perhaps not useless for me to once more call upon my readers to remain calm and to fix their eyes in cold blood and carefully upon, and to ban with the power of a spirit willing to learn, the hatred welling up against me and the cry of rejection breaking out against me, in which the voices of their educators and the latter's socially amplified echos wildly rumble back and forth.

Once knowledge of the Oedipus complex and its rejection is attained, the articles of belief of all times and peoples, in particular those of one's own times and people, lose with one stroke their mystery. The genital desire is irremediably contaminated by its indissolvable connection with incest and the consequent murder of the father or mother, and is poisoned with secret feelings of guilt; every sexual act, in its final and hidden consequence, becomes a crime deserving of death sanctioned exceptionally only in the most limited form possible and with the special permission of the concerned, i.e., basically, irate or irritable authority. That's the reason therefore, why all enduring religions without exception preach marriage or asceticism; and if one of them, namely Islam, in our time so strikingly repressive in matters of sexuality, expressly sanctions at least polygamy (until the creation of absolute equality of the sexes or a genuine matriarchy every social phenomenon, including religion, should be viewed for practical purposes from the man's point of view), then it is, significantly, this same one which prescribes for sexual intercourse a constant calling upon god in thankfulness - that central religious figure, in other words, whose identification becomes easy for us when, following the competent suggestion, we take the believers at their word when they call him their father.

The rejections of the Oedipal complex, therefore, the ensuring of its suppression, is the motor of religion, the Oedipal feeling of guilt its fuel, and its fundamental emotion one of being threatened. The celestial voyeur is everywhere, omnipresent, and regardless of his other fine duties he takes a painfully minute interest in the least urge on the part of his believers to determine their own being; revolt against servility, efforts toward acquiring sexual independence and pleasure, the will to exercise intellect on one's own - the least sign of any of this, due to its being Oedipally contaminated, is repugnant to the old man in heaven, and he likes to have his tummy tickled too whenever, upon occasion or habitually, he condescends to an undependable "sorry". His malign character, namely that of the intrapsychic interloper which psychoanalysis has labelled the "superego", understanding it as the legacy of parents experienced infantilly and Oedipally, and which makes his omnipresence possible - this malign character is open for all to see, and for this reason alone must be constantly denied. There's hardly a god who forgoes the pleasure of being called "loving", "good", or "gracious", the same way even the most tyrannical Barock prince wished to be called "gracious lord", or parents who destroy the lives of their children with the greatest application, self-righteousness and baseness still wish, no less than every god who loves his litany, to have formal assurances and confirmation of the fact that they wanted not only simply what was good but the very best for their victims. The continued existence of Oedipal desires ensures the continued existence of unconscious feelings of guilt, that "burden of sin" from which all religions of the past two thousand years promise "redemption", a redemption which, while often represented as an undeserved act or grace, and therefore one necessitating a not too briefly exercised state of continual thankfulness, in truth can be obtained only with the greatest effort and uncertainty, by zealously obedient self-denial.

One sees, therefore, that the analysis proves religion to be fundamentally and irremediably an inhumane, affair, and one can easily understand why the rulers of all ages have made pacts with it, or at least with one of them, the dearest priesthood being cheaper than a police force only half as effective having to stand watch over an enlightened or even merely an irreligious people. Psychoanalysis permits us to recognise the social meaning of religion: it is society's fundamental neurotisation once the Oedipus complex has laid the groundwork for it by means of the family - an extraordinarily cost-efficient and effective booster inoculation, to prevent attempts to become intellectually and politically self-reliant, an irreplaceable bulwark against the formation of a straight spine. All efforts to squeeze humane aspects out of the classical religions remain superficial or deceitful; in many cults, to be sure, fantasy may be stirred or art inspired by ritual and myth, but this can hardly be regarded as specifically religious, being, rather, the functionalising of such processes by religion. Nor are the highly praised "calls for social change" on the part of most religious any more benign; only a prejudiced or superficial view of things can discover in such impractical postulates as "loving one's neighbour" or "giving alms" a primarily humane feature which might tone down or even eliminate the fundamentally reverse nature of religion; closer inspection always reveals the imposed behaviour to be a kind of atoning exercise, a general dismantling of aggressive (sic; the "other cheek" is not a privilege of Christianity) impulses, the renouncing of self-assertion and the will to defend oneself (only on the basis of which a trans-individual voluntary joining of ranks can become meaningful), training leading towards devotion. And this, "devotion" vis-a-vis the will of god - and also vis-a-vis all secular wielders of power, to the extent that they don't play false with religion - this devotion, which Islam even proclaims with its name, continues to be the heart of religion: that devotion on the part of the small child towards its parents, leading to the formation of an anti-oedipal reaction. And as this constitutes the nature of religion, the latter is inalterably inhumane.

The clearer we are able, insofar as our superego doesn't blind us, to recognise classical religion under this analysis, the more difficult it is to associate Bhagwan's teaching with it. This is presumably the ultimate reason why our feelings tell us that it is not a "real" religion. In comparison to everything we are acquainted with under that label, it strikes one as simply too humane. Nevertheless, it remains a religion; its set pieces from Buddhism, Jainism and every sort of mysticism, its occasionally patently irrational features, such as the doctrine of rebirth or the wearing of malas, prove that it's firmly within the tradition of religious belief. Should it be possible that - to the relief of its defenders - our scheme of religion is in the last analysis false or incomplete - "onesided", as the young West German has learned to mouth forth in exorcism?

Let us recall, for these purposes, the psychoanalytic theory of the formation of the superego - and, analogously, religion! We said that the superego takes over the role of a person's parents experienced in childhood, as their internalised long arm. But that is only a part of the process, even if it is the decisive one. Alongside that, it also inherits a considerable portion of the primary narcissism, the feeling of omnipotence on the part of the breast-feeding baby or the child just learning to talk; this explains why such unlimited power is assigned to the previously mentioned internalised construct. As noted above, Leo Kaplan has made a detailed analysis of this process (which Freud was the first to describe, in the middle section of his book "Totem und Tabu") and incorporated it into the theory of religion existing at the time. This will now be briefly described for all who have not read the books mentioned or are no longer able to clearly recall their contents.

The newly born individual exhibits a cognitive defect: it is not able to determine correctly the limits of its ego. It conceives the external world as being an extension and elongation of its own self, as nothing different from its only gradually discovered and clearly delimited bodily parts, and therefore it thinks that it, like they, is subject to its will. The more strongly the latter is expressed, the sooner it is accommodated - an opinion which is given credence to by success, for a baby has only a few desires, and its expressions of will generally lead to the latter's being fulfilled by the person caring for it. When it learns to speak, its knowledge and therefore its ability to define its limits also grow, but the old error is hardened, since by means of a precise designation of the desired objects or actions - again, that is, by means of an expression of the will - the success quotient for expressed desires is raised uncommonly and to a degree unimaginable before. The legacy of this experience, which greatly furthers the notion of one's own omnipotence, is therefore magic, effective principally by means of the magic word; we recognise already here religion's inheritance from the infant; the word of god brings about everything occasionally (as in ghosticism and the Gospel of John) he is even equated with his word. In medieval Hindu theology, too, one is familiar with the gods issuing forth - and this time not mysteriously - out of seed syllables. The will of god, with his word being generally its agent, is transformed directly into reality, the way the will of the infant and later the first words of a very small child seem to be; god and infant both have in common the fact that they don't distinguish between the inner and outer world. As the infant believes in the material effectiveness of the expression of his will the way a magician does in that of his - his actions are likewise derived from infantile tradition -, its notions deserve the designation of "magical". Deep frustrations in one's dealings with the outer world, which in the meantime has been separated with great effort from the ego, may lead in the case of adults to a collapse of this new boundary, to the reerecting of magical thinking; inner perceptions then appear as out and vice-versa. Psychiatrically, we know this condition as one of "narcissistic psychoses". Its Psychoanalytic treatment is carried out with great difficulty and usually with few prospects of success.

But open setbacks may also call magical thinking back to life temporarily or partially. In the case of magic art or sorcery it occurs in a pure form. In most cases, however, religion is the successor to magic, with god entering upon the Oedipal legacy of the infant; the small child has bequeathed its fantastical power to its (fantastically inflated) father, religion being identifiable as delegated father, religion being identifiable as delegated magic. And if, by means of proven technics from childhood ("praying" etc.), it appears possible to produce material results conforming to one's own desires, from this new internalised - that is, as always, psychical construct, then the charecter of delegated magic inherent in this is obvious. Religion therefore, may be described, not only under the aspect of threat - though it is this alone which defines the specifically religious state of being - but also, in common with its basis, under the aspect of magic, as an attempt to overpower the outer world by means of the wished world".

This is the common feature binding id and superego, between which the ego, one might say, is sandwiched; inertia and threat endanger it equally, and religion is the classical case of the situation described by Freud, in which "id and superego join forces behind the back of the ego". Inertia or despair paralyse the ego and feed the temptation "to overpower the outer world by means of a wished world"; again, inward and outward threat weakens the ego and thereby opens it up to that temptation. The stronger the ego is, the more adequately, that is, reality has been coped with, the less are the superego's changes, and the worse are the times for religion; on the other hand the stronger magical thinking is, the easier it is for it to delegate power to inimical internalised constructs (=the superego) by means of threat, i.e. the better are the times for the products of anti-Oedipal reaction and consequently for gods of all types. The initial concern of all religions, therefore, is to further the regression to magical thinking; however strongly an established religion may insist upon the delegation of formerly autonomous magic, and however strongly it may condemn their rejection as haughtiness (in Greek it sounds even more thunderous), when it comes down to the final vote it will always prefer the most incredible and wildest superstition to self-conscious enlightenment. Were it to clear the jungle of superstition carelessly, it might, as a popular Bavarian humorist of the last century said pertinently, harm the roots of faith. These roots, however, are magical thinking.

The understanding of this magical thinking, however would be incomplete and one-sided were we to view it solely in terms of a cognitive defect. It also exhibits a positive side, so to speak, when we view it within the framework of libido theory. If we fail to do so, then the Bhagwan phenomenon, like that of any mysticism, would perforce remain outside our grasp. The only thing we could do then would be to dismiss it or - what dismissal usually amounts to - suppress (not in the psychoanalytical sense of the word) it, should be wish to limit its effectiveness; it is not desirable, at least in my opinion, to call an objective piece of nonsense simply by that name, no matter how much it may be so. If one doesn't know its origins. Only in this way can one both do it justice and defuse it - and, what's more, save its human aspects from an all too hasty rational levelling, which always ends up in a conformity that one would give the most preposterous irrationalism preference to over.

The previously described cognitive defect of the infant is the primary datum; it results from its situation and is also connected with its undeveloped sexual constitution. It is therefore in contradistinction to the superego, not the result of a reaction-formation and for this reason never to begin this, by nature malicious and alienated from the ego. The ego, in fact, arises in the first place only out of the undifferentiated sensational chaos of the beginning phase; it is a kind of hardening or condensing of this - one might say - liquid primeval substance, and anything but an alien body, arising, rather, out of it and giving it structure, a "rind of the id", as Freud says in another place, and "indistinguishable in a healthy state from the id" (CW XIV 222 and 229). What does this metaphorical primeval substance of the person consist of, which the ego separates itself out from?

Basically, from a bundle of sensations, painful and pleasant. They all begin as bodily sensations; the painful ones lead to the outer world being delimited, and the pleasant ones to the subjectivity being established, that thing, in other words, worth delimiting in the first place. The most intense of such pleasant sensations arise by the stimulation of the parts of the body amenable to such; the part most amenable in the infant, as the word suckling suggests, is the mucus membranes in the mouth (which offers, by the way, considerable selectional advantage). But also other parts of the body's surface - basically all, to varying degrees - are diffusely amenable; likewise, acceleration of the entire body or separate large parts of it can cause such a sensation of pleasure and thereby a sensation of oneself.

We call these sensations sexual because they are soon concentrated on the genitals, the stimulation of which, therefore, is increasingly sought after; as the desire for this stimulation in the end assumes the specific form comprising the union with another set of genitals with the stimulation of other parts of the body during preparation for this union remaining in force, it is purposeful to take the pleasure achieved by the said stimulation as being sexual, and the urge towards it as being "libido".

In introducing the specific form of bodily stimulation (along with the corresponding pleasant reflexive discharges) known under the name of "sexuality", we are referring to a new element in the development of libido that is still missing in the stage of infancy, namely object striving. In the beginning the sensation of pleasure remains in the subject; it does not strive towards any object because first of all, due to the development - related cognitive deficiency, it does not recognise it as such and cannot distinguish it from the subject. The infant seeks pleasure only by the stimulation of itself, even when it brings this about by way of other people; these other people are by no means other subjects for it, nor are they other objects, but merely extensions of itself. It remains sexually autonomous, autoerotic. Its objectless sexuality constitutes its positive sensation of self, forming the core of the ego; as this sexuality more or less has itself as object (has, not, in point of fact, takes), we call it with Freud, according to the Greek myth of Narcissus, who was in love with himself, narcissistic; and as it is original to the point in time and not arising by a later regression, we call it primary narcissistic. All later sexuality and subjectivity arises from this primary narcissism; if it is harmed, these offspring also come under attack. On the other hand, in any situation in which these closely interwoven offspring come under attack by threat or failure of any kind, the individual can revert to the narcissistic-magic position. We call this process, which can occur in very differing forms and from differing starting points, narcissistic regression. Like paranoia narcissistic regression, which involves the withdrawal from sexual object-cathexes to sexual self-cathexes, along with the simultaneous reviving of magical thinking, must be regarded as a kind of automatic attempt at self-healing, which in some cases can be the final saving act before confirmity, the decomposition of one's personality, but which often fails and results in a psychosis.

Mysticism, which no religion is without, takes its point of departure from this unconscious attempt at self healing. This regression plays a central role in the so-called Eastern religions, of which Buddhism may be taken to be the best known paradigm (Buddhism, as will be immediately shown bears the nartcissistic regression in its name, in the same way as Islam does the anti-Oedipal reaction-formation in its. In the so-called Western ones, i.e. all historical offshoots of the Jewish and Parsee religions, it springs forth on the side in the form of so-called mystic currence - Sufism, Hassidism, Bektashism etc., or however they're all called; we'll call a goodly number as witnesses later). Bhagwan cultivates its essence - i.e. essence of narcissistic regression and mysticism in a - so to speak - purified and concentrated form.

What, then, does this consist of? Buddhism, I said, bears it already in its name. "Buddh" is the enlightenment", and at times also the "awakening". Enlightenment we recognise literally by the halo surrounding the enlighted one; light pours out of him concentrically. What is essential is not that he sees light; that occurs also in other, primarily anti-Oedipal religions. But in the Buddhist (Eastern") enlightenment the light comes from within, whereas a converted Saul or someone struck by Zeus's lightning always gets his divine light from without. The Enlightened One sits in his light clearly as the central point; it goes forth, it radiates forth from him. His halo is not the sorry reflexion of a superordinated divine light, as in the case of Christian saints, nor is it the threatening, consuming fire of the highest God which flares up even in his messengers and agents, with which his powerful and dangerous emissaries terrify the weak human race, and which breaks forth from the Shiite imams and prophets. Rather, it is a calm, "transfigured" glow, which frames a resting pole.

We are certainly not led astray in assuming that the earliest psychological correlation automatically produced in this domain is that between fire and sexual excitation. Manicheism, in many respects the most religious of all religions, derives from the identification of sperm with fire - or the theory of sperm as being the substance containing fire - wide ranging conclusions affecting the behaviour of its adherents; thus, they are not allowed to engage in sexual intercourse, as one thereby causes a diffusion of the fire substance, whose final concentration only the salvation of all souls can achieve. This is naturally a rationalisation of asceticism, but it can hardly be an accident that precisely this identification was chosen. And the notion of the "fire of love" is probably common to the poetry of all ages and countries. Instead of bothering ourselves with further documentation, which could go on indefinitely, we shall simply allow ourselves this identification as a hypothetical base for our future enquiries and observe in how unforced a manner they may be erected on it.

The light radiating from the Englightened One (Buddha") obviously comes out of him because it is concentrated in him. On the basis of our assumed identification of fire (or light) and libido, this means that the Buddha has retracted his libido within, has returned from the sexual cathexis of the object to that of the subject. This corresponds in fact very closely to the way he must go in order to attain his enlightenment, namely the renouncing of all desire, the latter called by Gautama, not without reason, "thirst" (during the provoked - libidinous regression, if Freud is correct, sexuality slips back in the end to its basic, oral stage, which therefore may be permitted to stand as its original model, no differently than in the paradise myth), with of course genital renunciation being for practical reasons at the centre of this libidinous regression. Of decisive import thereby for the subsequent structure of the psyche is frustration as the starting point for this development, and not the anti-Oedipal reaction-formation; it follows that, in Buddhism, "suffering' as the consequence of the (unquenchable) "thrist occupies central stage, and not the feeling of guilt. It the Buddhist seeker of enlightenment succeeds in realising his goal, then he rests within himself, accordingly inner peace is the most important feature of all pictorial representations of the Buddha, which are often, in the finest examples (e.g. in the ethnographic museum in Leyden), of a positively contagious intensity. This calm is reached by narcissistic regression; most meditation exercises aim straight in this direction, striving for a constant stimulation - or sensation, as in the occasionally recommended omphaloscopy - of the body's pregenital zones. A certain amount of value is thereby attached to a complete and undifferentiated bodily sensation, as attained most simply by sitting still for a long time and breathing evenly; renunciation of object in favour of cathexis of subject and the attaining of a feeling of autonomy is furthered by closed-circuit self-contact, as is accomplished by symmetrically folding of the legs - intertwining the feet and the opposite shins, placing the hands on the upper legs and the like. Most of these techniques, to which countless similar ones may be added, are naturally not Gautama's discovery, being taken, rather, from the pre-Buddhist Hindu tradition with its similar aim; but a selection clearly occurred which favoured techniques furthering narcissistic regression, with the elimination of anti-Oedipally conditioned ones, both types being mixed topsy-turvy to the advantage of neither in the old Yoga tradition.

Once this pregenital stimulation and autoerotic perception are systematically activated, bodily sensation prior to genital dominance is easily recovered: The body seems from within like a block neither segmented nor subdivided, homogeneous in feeling. This sensation can also be heightened by any action causing feelings of dizziness, e.g. long periods of fasting or whirling dances.

(to be continued in April issue)


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Gerald_Huber@r.maus.de

Last update: 22 July 1998