All fundamentalism, like all reductionism, commits the same error of profanation: it seeks to reduce the divine to the human level, rather than elevate the human to the divine.


27 responses to “Fundamentalism”

  1. mikemackd says :

    I spent many happy hours yesterday following up on Chris Leiden’s lead into Christopher Bollas (thank you, Chris): thus far, I find Bollas’s is a rich vein of insights – “shadow of the object”, “unthought known” et al.

    And yet I wonder if psychoanalysis is itself reductionist/fundamentalist insofar as it attributes so much to our earliest years? Given Bollas’s emphasis on process (hurrah), is what he described more attributable to a process which “always is”? If so, how much of the success psychoanalysis attains is placebo? Could not real time insights into, and valuation of, our built-in confirmation biases be as effective?

    I think Bollas’s insights would remain useful is this latter approach too, which brings me to my point that the problem with reductionism and fundamentalist may often be mistaking the beginning for the end, the end being now, and now, and now …

    Further, I submit that the flaw may apply to both hemispheres. I consider McGilchrist’s book, if not the most important book I have read, certainly on my short list. Yet at times I feel it romantically underappreciates that the deficiencies of the right hemisphere can be as damaging as those of the left, and ignores that our nervous system is far more than those hemispheres. But then I read more deeply, and generally discover I had underestimated him, but not always. For instance, a sentence or two about the effect of gut bacteria upon our moods would have strengthened his (right hemisphere) case of our continuum with the rest of creation (for instance, see

    Moreover, I see nature in general is holarchic, not hierarchic as implied in the title of McGilchrist’s book (holarchies are organisations of holons (a whole that is also part of some other existent, human and biological “clumped patterns” within the Panarchy (Gunderson and Holling 2002, Panarchy p. 405) of various emergent levels of increasing complexity, the latter enfolding the former.

    Further, I see these holons as being in heterarchic relationships, heterarchies being systems of organisation replete with overlap, multiplicity, mixed ascendancy, and/or divergent-but-coexistent patterns of relation (Wikipedia). In For a Sociology of Worth. (Meetings of the European Association of Evolutionary Political Economy. Berlin: Center on Organizational Innovation, Columbia, 2000) David Stark refers to heterarchies as “a new mode of organization”, enfolding “lateral accountability and organizational heterogeneity”, responses to the increasing complexities of strategy horizons or fitness landscapes (ibid, p. 6). They are “complex adaptive systems … of competing and comparing value systems” (ibid, p.8). He was saying they are new in human organisations, in places like Silicon Valley, but I see them as natural.

    I see eternity entering spacetime as that process. As mentioned by the British physics populariser Professor Brian Cox in his episode “Somewhere In Spacetime” in his “Forces of Nature” series, one can no more say that time has passed than say a place we have left has ceased to exist thereby:
    “just because we can’t go back in time . doesn’t mean that the past isn’t out there. If you take Einstein’s universe at face value – and there’s no reason why you shouldn’t – it’s our best theory of space and time (

    Therefore I see that process as sacred. As the Chandogya Upanishad put it:
    Other it is, for sure, than what is known
    Beyond the scope of the unknown, too.
    So we have learnt from men of old
    Who instructed us therein.
    That which thinks not by the mind
    By which, they say, the mind is thought
    That is Truth
    Not that which is worshipped here as such.

    So the mind emanates from connections having connections, and so on ad infinitum, including all past existents, such that “it is probably impossible to describe any one thing in the world exhaustively without mentioning everything else as well” (Rudy Rucker 1997, Infinity and the Mind, London, Penguin. p 142). That is, our identities are formed by the pre-personal lived body addressing, and being addressed by, the environment, including but not limited to the process described by Bollas, and the environment is inseparable from the universe, by which the mind is thought.

    Not that which is worshipped by fundamentalists here as such.

    • Scott Preston says :

      I just glanced at some of Bollas’s material available on the internet, and read a short review of The Evocative Object World on, which included this: ” over the past three decades: a period during which, in his view, Western society has increasingly neglected – or even become actively hostile towards – unconscious life.”

      Some of this sounds familiar from Romanyshyn’s description of van den Berg’s “metabletic phenomenology”, but this “active hostility towards unconscious life” seems really to describe contemporary denialism and reactionary ways of thinking — in other words resistance to Gebser’s “irruption” of a new consciousness structure.

      But in that respect, too, it’s worth noting that “the unconscious” as such, doesn’t exist. And this is a kind of reductionism as well — as a reification of psychic life. Even Jung’s “collective unconscious” is a kind of reduction and reification of something that just means “ignorance”. The unconscious, as such, arises parallel with linear perspectivity. It follows from the nature of linear perspectivity that the more intensely focussed it becomes, the deeper also becomes “unconsciousness” as such.

      In those terms, then, such hostility to “unconscious life” is simultaneously an hostility to consciousness as such. And here we come into that “self-devouring” character of Late Modernity described by Walter Benjamin as characteristic of fascism or fascist aesthetic.

      If Bollas is right in this charge of “hostility” to unconscious life, then we are in deep, deep doo-doo with no exit. Because if it is true, it means, reciprocally, there is a great hostility to becoming aware at all. The ideal is the automaton and zombie as the will to nothingness.

  2. Scott Preston says :

    Since “unconscious” means, really, ignorance of all that which is not integrated with the consciousness in full awareness, this “neglect” or “hostility to unconscious life” represents something of a perverse paradox. It means an active refusal to integration and integrity, an active refusal to become more than we are, and even a will to become less than we are implicitly.

    The paradox here should be apparent: the more neglectful we are of unconscious life, the more unconscious we become. And the more hostile we become to unconscious life, the more self-annihilating we must also necessarily become. It’s an impossible self-contradiction because we are treating “the unconscious” as though it were an object separate from us, rather than what we are implicitly and holistically.

    If there is neglect and hostility to “unconscious life”, which is LIFE itself — the “ancient force” — this is the meaning of “self-alienation”. Since “unconsicous life” is what we are implicitly, and that which we desperately need to become aware of integrally, this neglect and hostility leads to self-destruction necessarily. And this is not pleasant to contemplate.

    We assume that the “truth that sets free” is what everyone ardently desires. Bollas is saying that it’s just the opposite. He is basically saying that what Walter Benjuamin says about self-alienation become self-annihilation is become a FATE for us.

    • Scott Preston says :

      An “anti-biotic culture”. This is the nitty-gritty, it seems, if Bollas is correct. I’ve more or less assumed that this negligence of the unconscious life was inadvertent — owing to a limited and limiting mode of attention (narrow “point-of-view” linear perspectivity) become habit. Bollas is saying that it is willful negligence and, moreover, deeply hostile to the Earth and unconscious life (and therefore also to “the return of the repressed” equally). But I suppose it follows: if the machine has become the ideal, anti-biotic attitudes will be involved, not just as accident, but as intentional.

      The consequences of this, I have to say, are pretty terrifying to contemplate.

      • mikemackd says :

        A quote from McGilchrist seems apropos here:

        “As things are re-presented in the left hemisphere, it is their use-value that is salient. In the world it brings into being, everything is either reduced to utility or rejected with considerable vehemence, a vehemence that appears to be born of frustration, and the affront to its ‘will to power’. (McGilchrist 2009, p. 161).

        I am sure we could all recount examples of such vehemence. I recall two in particular, both in the context of attaching myths to numbers. I was not doing it myself, merely pointing out that it was done. In both cases, the vehement were university staff; one a lecturer, another a professor.

        As to think big, one HAS to think in metaphor and myth, this could be an interesting arena. It would seem that Blake’s Urizen considers mathematics to be his sole property, yet “metaphor “underlies all forms of understanding whatsoever” (McGilchrist 2009, p. 71): hence those academics’ retreat to The Machine, and their intentionally anti-biotic attitudes.

        • Scott Preston says :

          Well, yes… come to think of it, the Emissary’s coup is a hostile act, and it’s quite possible that “putting Nature to the rack” as an epistemological strategy was a disguised form of warfare against the “Master”, since in putting Nature to the rack we had to amputate, psychologically, everything in us that belonged to Nature and torture it.

          Gebser thought we were stuck between the extremes of collectivism or permissive individualism. But actually, it looks more like we are stuck between the Naked Ape and the Cyborg now.

          • mikemackd says :

            Well put. The trouble is, they are not either / or.

            • Charles says :

              mikemackd -hello I am charles leiden not chris. Good articulation about fundamentalism. What is needed is a synthesis.

            • mikemackd says :

              My apologies Charles.

            • mikemackd says :

              Charles, I’ve been pondering your comment, “what is needed is synthesis”. Synthesis to me sounds left brain – “synthetic” – which is fine in its terms, but insufficient to achieve “integration”, which I interpret as requiring at least a bi-hemispheric emergence, but better has embodied understanding; a “gut feel”.

              I am looking for that integration by decoupling Bollas’s identification of transformation objects – or, more accurately, as he corrects himself, transformation processes – as the mother, by seeing it as an ongoing appetite, like for food or water. He calls this the destiny drive, but keeps bringing it back to mothers. That is, as a process of confirmation bias.
              Is it? Or is that psychoanalytic confirmation bias?

            • mikemackd says :

              That is, I see Scott’s “profanation” as gross undervaluation resulting from the left hemisphere’s only value being some object’s utility, completely ignoring intrinsic values of that so-called “object”.

              There is still much to consider in these few words of Scott’s .

            • mikemackd says :

              For example, accepting McGilchrist’s statement that anger is the main (only?) left hemisphere emotion, and my use of the word “synthesis” as left hemispheric, is anger the result of frustrated attempts to internalise transformational processes or objects, and the more fundamental, the more anger?

            • Scott Preston says :

              Anger, as Gebser notes, is connected with the meaning of “angle” (as is Angst, anguish, anxiety). for Gebser it is a result of “narrowing” or of what we might interpret as the feeling of being backed into a corner.

              However, for Gebser anger or wrath is also paradoxically a birth process too — because the transit through the birth canal is also an anxious one and also a “narrowing”. Even Blake has a couple of poems in his Songs of Innocence and Experience that pertain to that birth process.

            • mikemackd says :

              Thanks for that point, Scott.

              Polanyi (the Tacit Dimension 1966) described that synthesis / integration distinction I was trying to make as follows:

              … if we now regard the integration of particulars as an interiorization, … [it] now becomes a means of making certain things function as the proximal terms of tacit knowing, so that instead of observing them in themselves, we may be aware of them in their bearing on the comprehensive entity of which they constitute. It brings home to us that it is not by looking at things, but by dwelling in them, that we understand their meaning

              Scrutinize closely the particulars of a comprehensive identity and their meaning is effaced, our conception of the entity is destroyed… In [some] cases the detailing of particulars, which by itself would destroy meaning, serves as a guide to their subsequent integration and thus establishes a more secure and more accurate meaning of them. But the damage done by the specification of particulars may be irremediable [eg history, literature, philosophy] …The destructive analysis of a comprehensive entity can be counteracted in many cases by explicitly stating the relations between its particulars…But, my examples show clearly that, in general, an explicit integration cannot replace its tacit counterpart. The skill of a driver cannot be replaced by a thorough schooling in the theory of the motorcar…(Polanyi, 1966, pp. 18-20).

            • Scott Preston says :

              Seth in one of his books somewhere says that our imaginings of the torments of Hell is only a residual bodily memory of the trauma of the birth process.

            • mikemackd says :

              Seth’s statement took me back to a nightmare I used to have when I was very young, of a tiny point of light growing into a milky white ball which would then explode in my face. Then the process would start over, and would not stop until I woke up screaming and howling. I never thought of it as a birth trauma until a medical acquaintance of mine interpreted it as such about 40 years ago. That sure was hell enough for me!

            • Scott Preston says :

              Sounds like Chinese Water Torture for sure. Interesting nightmare.

            • mikemackd says :

              Scott, a coda re anger from Mumford’s 1951 “The Conduct of Life”: Many still quite dislike being in the situation he describes:

              P. 14 “The most deadly criticism one could make of modern civilization is that apart from its man-made crises and catastrophes, is not humanly interesting.” . . .

              P. 16 “A clumsy concretedness retards the whole process of thought, and we are as much handicapped by an excess of data as by a lack of it. So instead of producing a new gain of time and energy for the consummations of life, our uncontrolled mechanization has made it necessary to spend a larger part of the day on preparatory means. Final results: a surfeit of tasks, interests, stimuli, reactions: an absence of valuable order and purpose.

              In the end, such a civilization can produce only a mass man: incapable of spontaneous, self-directed activities: at best patient, docile, disciplined to monotonous work to an almost pathetic degree, but increasingly irresponsible as his choices become fewer and fewer: finally, a creature governed most by his conditioned reflexes – the ideal type desired, if never quite achieved, by the advertising agency and the sales organizations of modern business, or by the propaganda office and planning bureaus of totalitarian and quasi-totalitarian governments. The handsomest encomium for such creatures is: “They do not make trouble”. Their highest virtue is: “They do not stick their necks out.” Ultimately such a society produces only two groups of men: the conditioners and the conditioned, the active and passive barbarians. The exposure of this web of falsehood, self-deception and emptiness is perhaps what made Death of a Salesman so poignant to the metropolitan American audiences that witnessed it.

              Now this mechanical chaos is clearly not self-perpetuating, for it affronts and humiliates the human spirit; and the tighter and more efficient it becomes as a mechanical system, the more stubborn will be the human reaction against it. Eventually, it must drive modern man to blind rebellion, to suicide, or renewal: and so far it has worked in the first two ways. On this analysis, the crisis we now face would be inherent in our culture even if it had not, by some miracle, also unleashed the more active disintegrations that have taken place in more recent history.”

            • Scott Preston says :

              After reading your excerpts from Mumford this morning I read an interesting story in The Guardian of the pre-Columbian city of Cahokia near present day St. Louis — part of their “lost cities” series (or abandoned cities).


              Cahokia is a real mystery. It may have been a place of great evil. It occurred to me that there might be some connection between Mumford’s quotes and the still mysterious history of Cahokia and it’s downfall or abandonment. It’s not the only case of large cities in antiquity just being abandoned, perhaps as failed experiments or for other reasons, including ecological unsustainability.

              Peculiar, too, that there are no oral histories of the place, unless it really had become “unspeakable”. In that sense, it was also a possible abortive expression of a mentalist consciousness structure that went array — since apparently the city was pre-planned to the last detail, an early case of urban planning indigenous style (outside MesoAmerica that is). The Chinese also abandoned their own industrial revolution in the 11th and 12th centuries, for no reason anyone understands (although I haven’t explored that history of China and perhaps it was because it reached a dead end without the development of perspectivism, as in Europe later. As Gebser and others point out, perspectivism was necessary for technology to develop further).

              There may be important lessons in Cahokia. If only we knew what they were!

  3. don salmon says :

    Great comment about the non existence of the unconscious. Also appreciate mike’s comment about the non hierarchical nature of reality.

    Haven’t been here for awhile; nice to see one of the rare sites that looks “under (above?)” the surface of current events.

  4. Charles says :

    mikemackd says : 14 August, 2016 at 17:28
    Charles, I’ve been pondering your comment, “what is needed is synthesis”. The context of ‘synthesis” in my meaning is related to the thought of connecting various disciplines of knowledge. We all know about the specialization of knowledge in our present day. “Knowing more and more about less and less.” One is Erick Kahler The Tower and the Abyss ( a book I recommend) I quote him at length

    What happened is this: Since interrelations of facts, indeed facts themselves are by no means self-evident and unambiguous, interpretation, i.e., theory, cannot be avoided. But, unless overwhelming verification produces a certain consensus, a democracy of theories has come to prevail to the effect that the very aim at a broadly unifying theory is resented as an infringement of the civil liberties of other theories. In addition, ever-sprouting specialization has narrowed down the range of research and vision. The result of this combination: democracy of views and shrinking of the scope of research, is a loss of distinction between essential and non-essential, a loss of the criterion of essence, a bewilderingly increasing accumulation of un-connected facts and theories and methods, and, finally, pluralism, an outspoken disbelief in coherence, in a unified structure of our world. In this manner we have lost all control over the state of our learning…To remedy this situation seems a rather precarious task for two reasons: first, because the mass of our knowledge is not stable but is constantly on the move, constantly gaining and losing ground and, second, because we cannot stop specialization which is the very frontier of our advancing search. Something, however, can be done, and that is to counteract the inordinate course of developments: We cannot, and should not, stem the progression of life. But we can and should prevent it from self-defeat. We can and should do everything possible to keep our balance, the human balance; and that is, to keep developments under human control. This would mean, in practical terms, that we try to correct the evil effects of boundless analysis which predominates in the modern sciences by a methodical effort toward synthesis. Analysis is humanly productive, that is, meaningful for human life only as long as it is held in check by synthesis. Specialization, the inevitable concomitant of analytical research, is of the greatest value if its results are constantly integrated in a unified picture of our world, which alone can furnish us the orientation needed for the conduct of human affairs. If, however, analysis carried on exclusively and unrestrictedly, if it lacks the control of organized synthesis, then it is bound to lead into disintegration of our knowledge, our mind, and our very life. We have indeed arrived today at a most dangerous state of confusion. P. 262-263

    • mikemackd says :

      Thanks again Charles. We have not been too successful in enacting Kahler’s advice in the 60-odd years since he wrote it!

      This morning, an essay by Nassim Nicholas Taleb referred to the work of Serge Galam. Its title tells the result of a lack of what Kahler sought: The Most Intolerant Wins: The Dictatorship of the Small Minority

      Are we there yet? Clearly, and equally clearly it will get worse if not addressed in the manner Gallam describes. Furthermore, the best lacking all conviction, and the worst being full of passionate intensity, is a species thing and just as true now as when W.B. Yeats said it.

    • mikemackd says :

      What can we do? Perhaps something along the lines of what another article that landed in my inbox this morning recommended would help:

      Scale in the Story of Interbeing
      Charles Eisenstein

      From that it would seem that we need more human beings to become humane interbeings: passionately intense humane interbeings.

      That may be doable.

      Yesterday, Amazon delivered me two books, and a DVD called Shining Night, a 2012 documentary about Morten Lauridsen. The books are both by Lewis Mumford: The City in History, and volume two of his magnum opus, The Myth of the Machine, which is called “The Pentagon of Power”. The last sentence to volume 2’s Epilogue reads: “But for those of us who have thrown off the myth of the machine, the next move is ours: for the gates of the technocratic prison will open automatically, despite their rusty ancient hinges, as soon as we choose to walk out” (p. 435).

      Morten Lauridsen walks out, walks in … with his Master and its Emissary.

      • mikemackd says :

        The final paragraphs of Mumford’s 1970 book The Pentagon of Power prior to the above-quoted Epilogue says as follows:

        (p. 413): Reformers who treat the campaign against environmental and human degradation solely in terms of improved technological facilities, like the reduction of gasoline exhaust in motor cars, see only a small part of the problem. Nothing less than a profound re-orientation of our vaunted technological ‘way of life’ will save this planet from becoming a lifeless desert. And without such a wide-ranging preliminary alteration of personal desires, habits, and ideals the necessary physical measures for mankind’s protection – to say nothing of its further development – cannot conceivably be carried out …
        For its effective salvation mankind will need to undergo something like a spontaneous religious conversion: one that will replace the mechanical world picture with an organic world picture, and give to the human personality, as the highest known manifestation of life, the precedence it now gives to its machines and computers. This order of change is as hard for most people to conceive as was the change from the classic power complex of Imperial Rome to that of Christianity, or, later, from supernatural medieval Christianity to the machine-modeled ideology of the seventeenth century. But such changes have repeatedly occurred all through history; and under catastrophic pressure they may occur again. Of only one thing we may be confident. If mankind is to escape its programmed self-extinction the God who saves us will not descend from the machine: he will rise up again in the human soul.

        • Scott Preston says :

          I have Mumford’s Pentagon of Power as well as Technics and Civilisation. Am working my way toward them. Pity he didn’t know Gebser. He might have regarded “spontaneous religious conversion” somewhat differently.

  5. Charles says :

    So many ideas that are rich and fascinating. I just wanted to mention a book by Robert W. Godwin. It is One Cosmos under God -The Unification of Matter, Life, Mind and Spirit. He is talking about these same concerns. Where does anger come from? How do become human? He writes about the truly odd thing about the human being unlike every other animal – humans come into the world with an almost infinite potential that may or may not be fulfilled. He writes about the insights of bonding and attachment theories. I like this quote, “recent research indicates early experiences lays down many deep connections between the right brain and the emotional limbic system, so that it is fairly clear that the “unconscious” is located in the right brain..where early traumas take root, where disowned parts of the self reside undetected by language and logic, where the parents’ unconscious conflicts are imported…” These conflicts are felt as anxiety (and other unpleasant feelings). Godwin calls then “mind parasites.” What happens is that the quest to rid oneself of the anxiety becomes the goal ” the mind in this scenario is not interested in truth, but in ridding itself of anxiety; truth is of no concern whatsoever.”

    mikemackd Lewis Mumford is an incredible writer. Those books are very good. The Pentagon of Power imagines a vision beyond economic growth called Plenitude.

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