BHAGWAN OR THE DILEMMA OF A HUMANE RELIGION - PART III

A PSYCHONALYTICAL STUDY

By Fritz Erik Hoevels.

Once the sexual force is denied access to the outer world, the remaining investment of psychic energy in it is also narrowed. We are familiar with the process from psychiatry, where an analogous process, likewise set in motion by deep frustrations, often causes among patients end-of-the-world fantasies, or atleast considerable doubt - mixed with indifference - about reality. But this same view is also found at the core of Buddhist teaching, having been anticipated by Hindu schools: The world is illusion ("maya") only the Enlightened One is really real. At times, too, this outer world is devalued in unmistakably anal terms: it is "red dust" (red referring, of course to the essentially genital temptation, which is devalued anally by the dust), but quite often it is also out and-out "excrement" or "filth". If the Englightened One represents the sole reality, then the world must accordingly be product he has discharged, and for which he has no longer any interest - a view which the infant with his narrow perspective on things, ever expanding anally the cocoon world of his diapers could well have formed (this, it goes without saying, applies also in cases when, as no doubt frequently in India, being without diapers, it simply empties itself out onto what's beneath it).

Once narcissistic regression succeeds in occurring (let us recall its main vehicle, the advancing of autonomic bodily sensation, i.e. autoerotic autonomy), the corresponding magical thinking is also restored. Those buddhist ascetics who are successful generate a feeling of happiness and omnipotence (e.g. the demons and gods have to obey them), which in its structure and in the way in which it arises is all but equivalent to that of our classical psychotics (e.g. the poor Schreber) in their moments of euphoria. And the famed paranoic, along with his less famed fellow sufferers, likewise behaves in the manner of Buddhist saints, namely passively and calmly in an indifferent, perhaps only apparent and doomed world. Even rays shoot forth from him after he has died to the world, so to speak, and entered into his private Nirvana.

Before we look at the differences between the psychotic and Englightened One - and we may add immediately: not only the Enlightened One of Buddhism but also of Jainism along with the sannyasin, for whom enlightenment occurs in much the same way - we turn first to their Christian colleagues. Have not they, too, "died to the world"? Does not the "calm" attained in this way have for them also heightened value? And do not their not at all seldom "miracles" likewise point in the direction of a feeling of omnipotence come by in a narcissistically regressive manner?

Before investigating this state of affairs among Christian (or Islamic) ascetics, we hasten to note that it is no way typical for the saints of these emphatically Oedipal religions. On the contrary: contemplative-ascetic saints form a minority among them, of significance, if at all, only in the cases of the orthodox and Coptic churches. Far more frequent, in contrast, are such types - with echoes of the Jewish prophets - as the agitator or missionary (e.g. St. Boniface), the organiser or functionary (all canonised historical bishops), the founder of an order and the party propagandist or theoretician (e.g. all the church fathers). Finally, even out and out militant, bloodthirsty figures attained the honour of being canonised - potentates who Christianised their subjects, or even inquisitors who, in order to unify their religious organisation, had them killed by ingenious means in large numbers (e.g. Peter of Verona, called the Martyr - the Catholic church's most swiftly canonised saint, by the way).

This theistic activity, or rather aggressiveness, naturally points out once more its reactively antiOedipal core, for it is unmistakably projective, projection being, as is well known, the most malign psychological phenomenon of all, responsible for Beziers no less than for Auschwitz. It is therefore largely missing - and for this they win our respect - from the narcissistically centred religions. But what is the situation among the Christian saints "dead to the world", who wrong no one but themselves?

These last remarks point out once again the difference between the anti-Oedipal and narcissistic religions: the former simply cannot deny their auto-agressiveness (often turned by projection secondarily outwards), their asceticism is far more bloody and noiser than that of the narcissistic religions. The world dies to the Christian as a source of temptation and to the Buddhist as a source of disappointment. The peace of the ascetically successful Christian evolves as a peace from the superego's persecutions, as a cease-fire in the latter's constant aggression ("peace in God"), that of the Buddhist as the consequence of narcissistic regression, as a sense of autoerotic satisfaction. Therefore the successful Budhist directs his eyes contentedly within, the Christian saint servilely upwards. The Buddha shines with his own light, the Christian saint or Shiite imam borrows it, like the moon from the sun, from the threatening celestial fire of his dreaded father, placed to the sky.

Naturally there are transitions; I have given essentially ideal types above. Projection is found in the Buddha's temptation by Mara, the Prince of Darkness (the prototype of the Antony legend), narcissistic regression in the Christian assurance that belief moves mountains. Nevertheless, one could bear in mind how astonishingly pure these ideal types are, in general, realised in the characters of the two religions. There is therefore nothing better suited to make a man unsure of himself and malicious for life than baptism or circumcision, and little so harmless or, under certain conditions, useful than the meditation directed not to a god but to a sensation of the self, as practised in Buddhism and related religions.

A person's narcissistic basis is greatly harmed by the Oedipal suppression; one can, if one wishes, its suppression as narcissistic impairment. Accordingly, the goal of every psychotherapy that fulfills the demands of a minimum of human feeling will be to undo this suppression and to restore the tortured primary narcissism. But since not everyone and not everyone in every country and in every period could expect to receive these therapies, which, to say the least, can't be described as good through and through, many a person, from inner compulsion, struck out intuitively on this path, often on his own, though usual under the inspiration of someone who had done the same in former times. If he was, moreover, successful as well as intelligent and communicative, he could, if courageous, go so far as to found or oppose a religion; if he was a coward he could at least start up a school of psychotherapy.

Bhagwan, in any case, took the more brilliant and more honest way leading to this goal. Born into the milieu of a Jainistic sect - i.e. a religious minority within a religious minority - as well as, to all appearances, to truly astonishingly kind parents, who were of the lower middle class but not deprived, he was early on predisposed to an independence of spirit, a concern for religious questions as regards their universal import and, by reason of his being well treated as a child, a certain liveliness and intrepidity. This combination apparently pointed the way for him to seperate the part of Jainism which distinguishes it from Hinduism - namely the greater emphasis upon what I called above "narcissistic restoration" - from that which unites it with it (namely everything constituting the anti-Oedipal reaction - formation), and to oppose the former as the essence of all religions against the latter.

(to be continued...)


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Last update: 22 July 1998