Pandaemonium, Mayhem, and Return of the Repressed

The phrase “return of the repressed” corresponds to the saying “truth will out”. It says nothing about the manner in which truth will out or how the return of the repressed will manifest. In fact, “return of the repressed” and “truth will out” are equivalent in meaning to the word “apocalypse”, which, while signifying “disclosure”, “uncovering” or “revelation” as “unveiling”, has the significance of a catastrophic revelation as “shattering truth”.

Call it what you will — pandaemonium, mayhem, “chaotic transition”, or apocalypse — these things will always accompany the return of the repressed until such time as the living energies released by the relaxing of the inhibitions become organised into new cultural patterns or a new structure of consciousness. Organisation here means “integrated with” the dominant consciousness structure which is then transformed by the integration. What we call “the reactionary” disposition is the always violent effort by the “false self” to restore the status quo ante, or to co-opt the energies that are seeking emancipation from their inhibition.

The return of the repressed presently takes the form of the resurgence of magic and myth “irrupting” within the mental-rational consciousness structure. The “deficiency” of this return is the attempt by the hegemonic consciousness structure — the ego-nature or “false self” — to either suppress or, more likely, co-opt the return of the repressed rather than effect a true integration. The hegemony of the ego-nature is what is called “narcissism” and “culture of narcissism”.

The false self exists because of the formal inhibitions, which produce “the repressed”. It is called “false self” not because it is essentially false, but because it is a usurper in the psychic household. In those terms, the “false self” corresponds to McGilchrist’s “Emissary”, in his book The Master and His Emissary. The Emissary is the ego-nature, and it is the instrument of the repression or inhibition. Where it can’t repress or inhibit, it co-opts. Co-optation is the strategy of usurpation. Co-optation is the current strategy of “spiritual marketing” or “marketing 3.0”.

The pandaemonium (which means “all devils”) begins first in the psychic structure itself, made manifest then in the increasing inarticulacy and incoherence of thought and speech, which approaches the condition of speechlessness and resembles mere shouting, yelling and the growling and snarling of beasts. Feralism. This signals the dissolution of the older cultural patterns (including the “loss of self”) represented in the daily manners, mores, rituals, ceremonies, and protocols of daily social life (or what we call “civility”), which are also an era’s “institutions” and also belong to “the establishment”. In contemporary terms, even these things have fallen under the meaning of the despised “political correctness”. W.B. Yeats, in his poem The Second Coming, refers to these simple protocols of daily life as “the ceremony of innocence” being “drowned” in blood.

The post-modern “loss of self”, which attends the “deconstruction”, is conjoined with the return of the repressed as also “end of the Grand Narrative” along with “the liberation of unconscious knowledges” (Foucault, and in this case its “be careful what you wish for”). Among other things, this “loss of self” is referred to as “self-alienation” or simply as “losing one’s grip”. “Losing one’s grip” is the meaning of pandaemonium or mayhem. In effect, among the old cultural patterns that are being “deconstructed” is also the modern “self”, for this self exists in-and-through-and-as those cultural patterns which form its milieu and sense of order and belonging. This loss of self or sense of identity necessarily increases the sense of uncertainty and anxiety about the present and the future, and generates both “folkish” nostalgia and “folkish” resentment (that is to say, identity politics, clannishness and “ethno-nationalist” sentiment. Community and folkish populism are not necessarily the same thing).

Pandaemonium is essentially the refusal of the hegemonic structure of consciousness to integrate the return of the repressed and becomes malevolent.

In Regaining Consciousness: Resuscitating the Soul, Frank Broucek does a very good job of taking down the “zombie logic” of Scientism, scientific materialism, and the Mechanical Philosophy. These comprise, in effect, the “deficient mode” of the mental-rational consciousness structure as analysed by Jean Gebser. Their disciplined deconstruction is a very necessary preliminary stage for effecting a new integration or metanoia. Broucek does, I think, demonstrate convincingly that the dogmatic character of present scientific materialism or Scientism is a reaction formation against the return of the repressed, or an attempt to co-opt it. This attempt to co-opt (and thereby pervert or distort) the return of the repressed (that is to say, “rationalisation”) results in self-devouring absurdities and self-contradictions in the logic. The result is what Algis Mikunas calls “technocratic shamanism” or what Peter Gordon calls “mythomania“.

I do not think that the return of the repressed is simply going to go away, or that newer and more “efficient” means of effecting the inhibitions and repressions (technocratic management) or co-optation will succeed.  What we need is “survival knowledge”, which is the kind of knowledge that can endure, outlast, and outrun the pandaemonium that is surely coming.



6 responses to “Pandaemonium, Mayhem, and Return of the Repressed”

  1. Scott Preston says :

    Zombie Logic is really an excellent way of describing this. Here’s how it works. Once a certain model is accepted as reality, especially unconsciously and almost becomes instinctual, it’s the model that does the thinking, rather than the thinker. The thinker has, in effect, given up all autonomy of thought and consciousness to the model. What contradicts the model is either ignored or explained away, or rationalised in terms of the model and assimilated to it. This is what Broucek describes as “zombie logic”. In effect, the awareness has become as mechanical as the model.

    • mikemackd says :

      Coincidentally to your post, yesterday I found online a chapter from Mumford’s 1973 work, Interpretations and forecasts: 1922-1972, chapter 31 of which was called “The Rise of Caliban”(, which he apparently wrote in 1954, well before the clinical confirmations of the machine mind described by McGilchrist.

      The chapter includes the following:


      338 a permanent cold war, a deepfreeze war, against every human faculty that did not lend itself to mechanical standardization or governmental control: a war against all those people, native or foreign, who differed in thought or attitude from our self-imposed totalitarian orthodoxy. In the act of closing ranks to face the worst we might, in fact, produce the worst.
      339 The overthrow of the superego and the domination of the automaton. Either of these transformations would have been dangerous in itself: the two together now constitute a serious threat to our whole society
      343 But in overthrowing the artificial hierarchies of property and privilege, the twin forces Romanticism and Revolution also tended to turn their back on natural hierarchies: including those that give authority to knowledge over ignorance, to goodness over malice and evil, to the rational over the irrational, to the universal and enduring over the time-serving and particular.
      345 In short, what began as a contempt for the higher functions of life now threatens to end with a contempt for all life; for once men defile their own humanity, life, even if they survive, becomes meaningless, valueless, directionless, death-seeking. By renouncing those emergent qualities that, being attached to the superego, are specifically human, man becomes a monster, finally, even to himself, and an enemy to his own species…
      But now I come to the final bitter paradox. This revolt of Caliban would hardly have proved so threatening, at least on the scale we now witness, had it not been abetted by another phenomenon: the mechanization of life and the transformation of man, the creator and inventor, into a mere agent of the automaton he has created … This transformation, which met so fully the id’s infantile wish for unrestrained power, was the product of an entirely different sector of the human personality: the detached intellect, freed from all other biological promptings or moral or social claims, pursuing truth with the aid of a new 346 methodology, that of experimental science applied to the piecemeal analysis of the external world. … Knowledge, as Bacon confidently said, was power; and power became the object of knowledge … Unfortunately, this concentration on power, order, knowledge was achieved, both in technics and in science, at the expense of the human personality as a whole … Causal insight widened, but purposeful direction and creative audacity, in every other department of life, weakened …
      347 By our overvaluation of physical power and scientific truth, aloof from other human needs, we have paid the same price Faust had to pay when he made his compact with Mephistopheles: we have lost our souls, or to speak in more psychological terms, we have depersonalised ourselves and turned our conscious, thinking selves into automatons … The scientific superego, so far from helping us to control this relentless automatism, is itself part of the same process and has no internal means of resisting it …
      348 This abdication of responsibility, this failure of forethought, this detachment from all other needs and values but those of knowledge and power, has been one of the contributing factors in the resurgence of barbarism … Modern man, therefore, now approaches the last act of his tragedy … We have lived to witness the joining, in intimate partnership, of the automaton and the id, the id rising from the lower depths of the unconscious, and the automaton, the machine-like thinker and the man-like machine, wholly detached from other life-maintaining functions and human reactions, descending from the heights of conscious thought. The first force has proved more brutal, when released from the whole personality, that the most savage of beasts; the other force, so impervious to human emotions, human anxieties, human purposes, so committed to answering only the limited range of questions for which its apparatus was originally loaded, that it lacks the saving intelligence to turn off its own compulsive mechanism, even though it is pushing science as well as civilization to its own doom.


      Earlier in the chapter, he refers to Dr Ian Suttie’s phrase “taboo on tenderness” from Suttie’s book “The Origins of Love & Hate” Someone has posted the first chapter of that work online at

      Reading those Mumford and Suttie extracts together from the background provided by McGilchrist makes one reflect upon how truly, madly, deeply puerile people get to be in charge.

      If one reads that chapter of Suttie’s, then watches John Pilger’s interview with former CIA director Duane Clarridge (at, or read John Crile’s book Charlie Wilson’s War (2002, Atlantic Books, London), we can see that automaton/id partnership in action.

      The automaton/id partnership is also a motive and a means, and Machine membership the opportunity, of becoming excessively rich. Hence the love of money that is the root of all evil has its own root, which is the taboo on tenderness of the emotional cripples referenced in the works above.

      • Scott Preston says :

        I would agree with Mumford, although I wouldn’t have put it in a Freudian idiom. It brings to mind also the recent press interest in Harari’s new book Homo Deus, about which I was reading another review again this morning in The Guardian by Giles Fraser.

        I haven’t seen the fifth estate in such aflutter about a new book since it became all aflutter about Fukuyama’s The End of History, and probably for the same reasons. Homo Deus brings to mind the unfortunately forgotten cult film classic Zardoz which, I think, is a very profound film that asks all the right questions (which is probably why it has been forgotten). Of course, it’s not the human that is divinised. It’s the technology that is divinised. People have it all backwards. It’s not the human that is “enhanced” by being augmented or conjoined with technology. It is technology that is enhanced by being augmented or conjoined with the human.

        It’s hardly possible any longer to persuade people that this mania is self-destructive. In fact, they’ve embraced self-destruction as “progressive” and look forward to the post-human dominantion of the machine. In fact many now welcome human self-annihilation as a “cure” for what ails the planet, uncannily fulfilling Walter Benjamin’s remarks about that in “The Work of Art in an Age of Mechanical Reproduction”, which I think particularly applies today to artificial intelligence and robotics. Regardless of what we say or do, we seem to be on course for this as a fate, and the only thing that might prevent it is a catastrophe. Reason has become impotent in the face of this mania, as books like Stivers’ or Romanyshyn’s largely attest.

        • mikemackd says :

          I agree with you on every point there, Scott. Especially, I too would not have put it in a Freudian idiom, but Mumford explained why he would and we wouldn’t by his concept of “idolum”.

          Also, he said of Freud “Freud’s flashing originality as a psychologist was balanced by an uncritical mediocrity as a philosopher [and an] active resentment against the historical role of culture”, so he tried to expand and alter Freud, rather than follow him.

          There is a fine summary of his term “idolum” and his relationship with Freud’s ideas at:

          Mumford would probably expect us to do the same re his own works. Whether that is so or not, I for one mean to

  2. abdulmonem says :

    t seems the story of the prodigal son never stops repeating itself. It seems also that in every repetitive cycles new vision and new understanding are gained,yet despite that the repressed keeps staying in his state of repression. The dilemma as I see it after this long journey on this earth resides in the human demolishing many of the guiding signs that help the humans to trace his path in balance and to walk it in safe manner. They destroyed the signs of the lifeafter and the divine judgement, thus throwing the humans in this one-sided mundane life and encourage them to pursue the path of repression to all the divine values, the truth and erecting in their place their own signs of greed ( did not the banksters said that they are doing god work) ,exploitation ,oppression and resort to all kind of sensual gratification and intellectual grandeur, throwing the spiritual baby out of the pan. The consequence is clear as you sow you reap. I have not read in all the stories of the peoples that have passed, that any one of them have corrected their way until the doom curtain descended, except the people of Jonah who returned to the path and enjoyed the time prescribed to them. I do not like to sound too pessimistic but these are the facts of our human history. How one expect change if the repressed has no zeal, no vehemence no will to change and the oppressors have all the zeal to go forward in his repression. We think we do everything and forget that god does everything through us, giving them the false feeling of doing things. One of the Israelite said that he made his wealth by his efforts and knowledge he was told he is mistaken and was destroyed.

    • Scott Preston says :

      I think I will post something about that, rather than try to respond to you in a short comment (as well as your last comment to the previous post). It might be worthwhile.

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