Mana, the Maniacal, and the Sacralisation of Ideology
Zionism, Islamism, Neo-Liberalism, Communism, Neo-Conservatism, etc — all alike in being “-isms”. As one political scientist once wittily remarked, isms are like gods who, descending into the human frame, make it dance around one way, whereas another ism would make it dance around in another way. That’s the meaning of the word “enthusiastic” — en-theos, to be “filled with a god”, and to be filled with a god (or a genie for that matter) is to be possessed.
What these isms all represent is the same thing — the sacralisation of ideology. Ideology is man-made truth, and man-made truth is called “the facts of the matter”. The sacralisation of ideology, in which ideology is treated as revealed truth rather than man-made truth, is the confusion of the sacred and the profane, or what we also call the eternal and the secular orders. Ideology, or man-made truth, becomes endowed with mana, the sacred substance which, in the Old Testament of the Bible, reputedly “fell from heaven” — the food that enthuses, and enthuses to the point of mania. It makes maniacal, which is why the words are connected in meaning. Mana is magical potency. And the maenads of the Dionysian orgies – the “raving ones” — are the same madness and mania. Enthusiasm as frenzy.
The sacralisation of ideology (which is a product of the intellect) by its endowment with mana belongs to the deficient mode of both rationality and magic both. The belief in the efficacy of ideology belongs to magical thinking, because both rationality and magic are united by a common affinity — power. In this sacralisation of ideology is reflected, too, the neurodynamics described also in Iain McGilchrist’s book The Master and his Emissary. The Emissary is the usurper of the Master’s mana, in other words. The theme of “storming the heavens” is this usurpation by the Emissary of the Master’s mana, which then becomes maniacal. This reversion to the deficient magical is the thing that Gebser most feared with the breakdown of perspectivism and the mental-rational consciousness, and especially when he critiqued the “anachronism” of “Christian sects postured as ideologies” in The Ever-Present Origin.
But it’s not just Christian sects posturing as ideologies. So does Zionism, Islamism, and indeed Neo-Liberalism and Neo-Conservatism owe much to the confusion of the sacred and the profane (especially pronounced in fascism). In a time when everyone speaks of “empowerment”, we had best be on our guard for magical thinking and the maniacal or fanatical, for they are all related.
The “raving ones”. The maniacal has something to do with speech, then. This seems reflected in the meaning of the word “fanatical”, too. A witty quote attributed to Winston Churchill runs, “A fanatic is someone who can’t change his mind and won’t change the subject”. Fanus, from which the word comes, refers to “the temple” (which is related to the word “time” or “tempo”) and has something to do also with speech, for “infans” (from which we get “infant”) means “without speech” or “silent” — the opposite, in that sense, of the fanatic who “raves”. And in this connection, you see something of the meaning of that statement by Jesus that “unless ye become as little children, you cannot enter the kingdom of heaven” — unless you become infans, in other words — achieve inner silence. The fanatic is the contrary of this, and this is also related to Gebser’s understanding of “the demonic”. And this is because, as we all know, “the kingdom of heaven is within you” and “the body is the temple of the living God”. So, where do you think “mana from heaven” comes from? What god or genie is it that takes possession of you, that “enthuses” you so that you fall into the ways of the maniacal and the fanatical?
The various dominating “isms” today, among which I would include Zionism, Islamism, Neo-Liberalism/Neo-Conservatism, and a whole bunch of other isms, are tough to challenge because of this sacralisation of ideology, and the pre-eminence given to “fact” (or man-made truth) over “truth” (i.e. “revealed truth” so called) which reflects McGilchrist’s “usurper” who storms the heavens, for “the violent seize it by force” (Matthew 11:12). The double-movement of the times is evident here, too, for the sacralisation of ideology, which becomes a mania in the true sense, comes with a reciprocal desecration and violation, formerly called “hubris” or “transgression” leading to Nemesis. But when push comes to shove, it’s the real meaning of Gebser’s “deficiency” of a consciousness structure.
There are lots of stories in the ancient myths (really from the time of the transition from the magical to the mythical) of the “berserker”. It means “bear-skin wearer” in Norse myth, attesting to its essentially magical element. The berserker represented “blind rage”, his great danger being that he did not distinguish friend from foe when in his battle frenzy. The Irish equivalent of Achilles (who also experienced mania or battle frenzy) was Cú Chulainn and this kind of mania was called ríastrad. Achilles and Cú Chulainn are quite the same transitional characters. Outrage and blind rage are not the same thing at all, and they evince both outrage and the kind of rage of the berserker, too. Outrage is directed anger — specific; and that directedness implies consciousness or reasonableness and proportionality or “measure”. Blind rage, one that characterises battle frenzy, fanaticism and mania, is not discriminating. Outrage is discerning, but blind rage is just “raving” and non-discerning. Achilles and Cú Chulainn evince both, marking them as being exemplars of the “chaotic transition” from old to new. In fact, there’s probably some significance in the story that Achilles, on the point of “losing it”, as we say, was approached by the goddess Athena from behind, who pulled his head back by his hair, restraining him and essentially “reining him in” by that act — Athena, the goddess of Reason. Achilles had his wild horses reined in when Athena grabbed his mane.
The sacralisation of ideology is what we call “dogma”. Dogma represents the decay of what was once an immediate and direct experience of revelatory truth into “representational truth” — man-made truth, subject to all the errors and problems of translation as any representational language inevitably is. It becomes an inverted truth, and in that sense, almost the same as a lie. “Seek ye first the kingdom of heaven and all things shall be added unto you” is still the only real truth. Truth is always immediate, not mediated by dogma or ideology. To think that dogma is the truth, when it’s only a representation and a mediation, is putting the proverbial cart before the horse.