The Mind of Self-Contradiction
The divorce of the heart and the head, in one form or another, has been the perennial problem for human beings (although it was not always so). The ancient Egyptians believed that “mind” was in the heart, not the head. That was the bias of their civilisation (as it was, probably, of the Aztec). We, on the other hand, have carried that bias to the opposite extreme, believing what we call “mind” to be an exclusive property of the brain.
Scientists have even pickled Einstein’s brain in the absurd belief that they will discover the secret of Einstein and his genius in the pickle. This is about as ridiculous a superstition as the Aztec “disheartening” belief in the magical potency of the human heart to stave off the end of the world. The Aztecs were (literally) disheartening, which is why they were doomed in the confrontation with a head-strong culture.
The “divorce of the head and the heart” sounds pathetically trite as a way of describing the psyche as being in a perilous state of self-contradiction. To say that the heart and the head aren’t communicating with one another has become something of a commonplace or platitude and, for that reason, devoid of real meaning. What it tries to bear witness too, however, is the real estrangement of the so-called “false self” (or Ego-Nature) from an alleged “true self” (called “Self” or “Soul”).
It may be doubted by some — even by the many in our cynical era — that there is “something” called “Self” or “Soul” (or “true self”) as distinct from what is called Ego or Ego-Nature (or “false self”) despite the recorded testimony of hundreds and thousands who have claimed to have experienced the reality of themselves in those terms, and using that very distinction — experienced directly and as an immediate fact of their existence considered as a whole; that is to say, not as a mere assumption or point of dogma derived second-hand from parental authority, religious doctrines, theologies, or belief systems.
Such distinctions as “heart” and “head,” or “true self” and “false self”, or “Self” and “Ego”, or “unconscious” and “conscious” — or even Seth’s “Framework 2” and “Framework 1” — and these being presently in mutual estrangement and in the distress of reciprocal contradiction, can be overwrought, over-refined, and over-defined. Nonetheless, I hope to dispel what doubt you may have about the truth of this by a clear real-world example, and the implications of the very wide-spread present extreme dissociative state of psychic self-contradiction. If it is a “mad, mad world” (and it is — even psychotic, in fact), it is owing to this dis-integrate and dissolute condition of the soul of the whole (an ominous condition made famous by Yeats’ powerful poem “The Second Coming”). And we may call it what it is — a loss of integrity, and as such, we may refer to that, also, in Erich Kahler’s terms as “the breakdown of the human form”, as he names the present situation it in his thoughtful book The Tower and the Abyss.
Some time ago (20. March, 2012 to be precise) a strange article by Harry J Enten appeared in The Guardian about a phenomenon called “symbolic belief”. The article was entitled “Why Obama is a ‘Muslim’: Republicans and symbolic belief“. It is necessary to read the full article, as it is quite disturbing (even as regards the real value of a “modern education”, which Jacques Ellul once dismissively condemned as being nothing but conditioning for “pre-propaganda“). The gist of The Guardian article is summarised in one quote from a Julian Sanchez,
“Propositions you profess publicly, maybe even sincerely believe, you believe; even while, on another level, there’s some part of you that knows better.”
Could a statement about the divorce of head and heart be any clearer? Actually, take it a step further: Could a statement about the reality of a distinction between something called “True Self” and something called “False Self” be any clearer? What is that “other level” which “knows better” (and, perhaps, which knows best) except the authentic Self?
The fuller implications of this dissociation between belief and knowing (or head and heart) aren’t drawn out in the article or followed up, which is a pity. It proves the case, however, that ideology and consciousness are not synonymous or interchangeable terms (in fact, quite the opposite). It proves the case that perception and thinking are not synonymous or equivalent acts (in fact, also quite the opposite). It proves the case, in more expansive terms, that there is a distinction to be made between “Self” and “Ego”, and that the Ego-Nature has become a tyrant in the household psychic economy, one that is even prepared to inhibit the perception of any reality or truth that does not conform to its own self-interest, and which is deeply entangled in the process of deception and self-deception. Hence the term “false self”.
The mind of self-contradiction is, in effect, what Gebser calls the mind of “deficient rationality” that “thinks only in dualisms”, and therefore the chief symptom of our (quite literally) disintegrating Age whether this disintegration is recognised in names like “post-modern”, “post-Enlightenment”, “post-Truth” or even “post-Democratic”. As Bob Dylan, in his own way, once put it in a song, “Everything is Broken” (a theme and mood that echos, in many ways, Yeats’ “The Second Coming”).
The mind of self-contradiction is this, (as I’ve reiterated maybe far too many times here in The Chrysalis and in the former Dark Age Blog): the pursuit of rational self-interest is now become indistinguishable from the irrational pursuit of self-destruction. Since this coincidence of opposites signals the breakdown of dialectical reason (thesis and anti-thesis now become one and the same), it is the same as nihilism and the breakdown of the Modern Era, along with its received institutions. For the mind of self-contradiction is the meaning of Nietzsche’s description of nihilism: “all higher values devalue themselves”.
That’s the negative and destructive dynamic, which is presently called “reactionary”.
However, the mind of self-contradiction (which is mind in a state of crisis or distress) has as counter-point the surprising realisation that, after all, there is a distinction to be made between a Self and an Ego, or true self and false self. The phenomenon of “symbolic belief” proves the point. And so the very nihilism of this socio-psychological dynamic of self-contradiction may also be the spring-board for a self-overcoming (Nietzsche calls this our moment of ‘self-loathing’). So this narcissism can be or can prepare, equally, the basis for our own self-transcendence, and for an authentic self-realisation, which is Gebser’s “integral consciousness”. This is the experience of “the ironic”.
And this is also the great and fabulous insight of A.H. Almaas in his book The Point of Existence: Transformations of Narcissism in Self-Realization, which is, in my opinion, the best book ever written on the real significance of “narcissism”. (Everything else has been confusion).
For it is also true, respecting what I have been referring to as “Khayyam’s Caution” in past posts, that “only a hair separates the false from the true.” As some say… the cure for the disease is in the disease.