Mass Dementia and The Return of the Repressed

Mr. Trump’s latest scandalous “lie” about his being among the first responders at 9/11 Ground Zero, (which just continues the pattern of his chronic scandalous lying), suggested to me that Trump may not be so much the “pathological liar” as suffering from dementia — from a complete inability to discern between his fantasies and reality.

That, of course, raises the next question if so: why do so many people support a president who displays evident symptoms of dementia as if it were quite normal…. unless they, too, were participants in the same dementia? That conclusion also seems to be the implication of the title of Amitav Ghosh’s The Great Derangement and Kurt Andersen’s Fantasyland. And that reminded me of something I read years ago….

It comes from a book by cultural anthropologist Edward T. Hall entitled The Hidden Dimension, if I recall correctly. It recounts a case from West Africa where a man brought a charge against another man before his tribal elders that the other man had harmed him in his dreams. The accused was summoned to give testimony and confessed it, whereupon he was duly compelled to pay his accuser compensation.

This anecdote is extremely interesting for what it also reveals about Jean Gebser’s “magical structure of consciousness” of one-dimensional unity. What we distinguish as “subject” and “object”, or conscious and unconscious, or dream and reality simply does not exist for that mode of consciousness. Dream and reality are one seamless continuity of existence, and yet not conflated with one another entirely because, after all, the accuser knew he was harmed in his dreaming, and the other man confessed, too, that he had actually harmed him in and through his dreaming.

These people were not mad. This is not dementia. They were quite lucid about it. But neither is this integral consciousness. Here, the accent of existence falls heavily on the imagination and the imaginative function while the object-oriented or “reality-oriented” intellectual function is de-emphasised, which is quite characteristic of the dream-like reality of the magical structure of consciousness.

The mental-rational consciousness (or intellect) of course places the accent or emphasis heavily on the other side of this — the perspectival or objective. But since Freud and Jung, at least, and the “discovery of the unconscious” we now know that there is no real frontier or boundary between the dream-like imaginative or fantastical and the so-called “waking state”. The so-called “unconscious” was the result of having suppressed the dream-like and imaginative faculty, so that what we now refer to as “the return of the repressed” is also the reactivation of these older modes of being, but without the kind of lucidity needed to effectively integrate them with the intellect or ego-consciousness or what we call “the wakeful state”.

Being neither mindful, lucid nor vigilant about this, it constitutes madness and dementia. We do not have the mental tools to effectively integrate this, so it returns in the form of a “Mr. Hyde”, which is an extremely dangerous form of the return of the repressed. On the other hand, the Hermetic Philosophy (or what we call “alchemy”) did develop an effective way of integrating the return of the repressed, so it’s not too surprising to see elements of this being revived today in William Blake, Carl Jung, or Jean Gebser, et alia, or in the growing interest in Hermeticism, such as the works of Gary Lachman. These are all attempted responses to the return of the repressed. This is also what Nietzsche refers to as “Dionysian madness”.

Here it might be worth an aside: while Nietzsche welcomed this “Dionysian madness” as the return of the repressed following the death of God, he was also unnerved by it, so towards the end of his creative life he sought a way to reconcile the Dionysian with the Apollonian, and this is pretty much the project that Gebser or Rosenstock-Huessy have undertaken, and which we refer to as “integral consciousness”, and what Blake refers to as “fourfold vision” or in his symbol “Albion” who is the “fourfold Atman” of the Upanishads. The fourfold Atman is the fully reintegrated being and is, morever, conscious of itself as such (which knowledge is rather key to the whole matter).

Now, this is why I continuously harp on this matter of Blake’s “fourfold vision”, quadrilateral logic, and Rosenstock-Huessy’s “cross of reality” model. It provides the pattern and the logic for the effective reintegration of the return of the repressed as also the full self-realisation or re-integration of the fourfold Atman. And this would also effectively satisfy the requirements for the emergence of that described as Nietzche’s “transhuman” (or “overman”) and Aurobindo’s “supramental consciousness” and what Gebser calls “integral consciousness”.

So, this is what we are seeing today in “the Anthropocene”. The return of the repressed is overwhelming the capacity of the perspectival consciousness and its “identity” to effectively integrate it, and is not even lucid about what is happening to it, and the result of that is what we call “psychic inflation” which is also pretty much identical to Nietzsche’s “Dionysian madness”.

And remember: the alter ego of Dionysus is Hades, as the alter ego of Athena is the Gorgon, and these symbols correspond to the life-pole (eros) and death-pole (thanatos) of all psychic energy. William Blake’s The Marriage of Heaven and Hell is all about effectively balancing and integrating these two fundamental forces or aspects as is Rudolf Steiner’s sculpture “The Representative of Man” which depicts Christ drawing down Heaven with one hand as he raises Hell with the other. This is the equivalent of the paradox of Christ’s tongue as being a “two-edged sword” (while the Serpent’s is forked from the root).

Steiner’s “The Representative of Man”

Christ, as the tetramorph, is also the effective representation of the fourfold Atman of the Upanishads, and his symbol of the fourfold is the crucifix.

And that brings us back to Mr. Trump, who is definitely America’s “Mr. Hyde” — the spitting image of Stevenson’s Mr. Hyde in fact. And the same may be said, too, for many other current leading political figures. They are the “Mr. Hyde” side of the mental-rational consciousness now in process of dissolution.

The danger here, of course, is that the tale of Jekyll and Hyde did not end well for either. Dr. Jekyll wanted to be rid of Mr. Hyde, and Mr. Hyde wanted to be rid of Dr. Jekyll, and in seeking to accomplish that, they cancelled each other out in an climactic act of self-negation.

This is our situation today, and it is what we call “cognitive dissonance” or “the New Normal”, and unless we find a way to integrate all aspects of the fourfold human, we will end the same way as the parable of Jekyll and Hyde ends.

Not well.

This situation of the consciousness structure of modern man is what informs Goethe’s character Faust (who is actually Goethe himself)

Two souls, alas, reside within my breast,
And each from the other would be parted.
The one in sturdy lust for love
With clutching organs clinging to the world,
The other strongly rises from the gloom
To lofty fields of ancient heritage”. — Goethe, Faust.

Goethe-Faust anticipates Stevenson’s Jekyll and Hyde here, as well as Nietzsche’s “self” and “ego” distinction. And it is important to note the sentiment towards suicide that is present in this snippet from Goethe, for Goethe (like Nietzsche, like Camus) had to overcome in themselves a tendency towards self-annihilation and self-negation, ie, suicide. They were successful at this, unlike Jekyll and Hyde. But the power that guided them through their own valley of the shadow of death, stare into the abyss, or dark night of the soul, or winter of their discontent was what we call “faith”.

It was faith that stayed Goethe’s hand, that stayed Nietzsche’s hand after his “stare into the abyss” and faith that kept Camus from suicide in the “winter” of his soul. Faith is not belief. The faith of a grain of mustard seed is not about belief but a fundamental feature of life itself.

17 responses to “Mass Dementia and The Return of the Repressed”

  1. Scott Preston says :

    I should actually point out that becoming aware of this inner division as Goethe, Nietzsche, Camus and McGilchrist did and do is a paradox itself, for as painful as it is to feel torn like that between “the Master” and “the Emissary” or “the two souls” it is the first step towards self-overcoming of one’s own divided nature and actually becoming conscious.

  2. Scott Preston says :

    Gee. Right after I posted this, this appeared in my newsfeed. Bit of kismet

    https://theoutline.com/post/7267/living-with-passive-suicidal-ideation?zd=1&zi=b5oo3dlb

    • Benjamin David Steele says :

      With decades of chronic depression under my belt, I know all about passive suicidal ideation. It becomes background noise, an everpresent thought. So it stops being disturbing, just a familiar presence.

      The article points out that depression is associated with so many other physical and psychological conditions. Those with dementia also have greater incidence of depression. Obviously, having dementia could be depressing in and of itself. But also a commonly shared feature of depression and Alzheimer’s is brain inflammation.

      The return of the repressed also involves the physical. We’ve become disconnected and one expression of this is Cartesian anxiety. It also alters our bodies. It should be unsurprising as the physical conditions of our society (toxins, inequality, diet, etc) have changed so have followed increasing rates of dementia, along with mood disorders, personality disorders, and autoimmune disorders; autism, ADHD, and learning disabilities.

      As you might know, I often write about diet. And I see this as directly relevant to what you’ve been writing about. I argue that diet can have a profound effect on human experience. The magical structure of consciousness wasn’t only about psychology and society. It is also about what shapes our embodied way of being in the world.

      That is the point of McGilchrist and Jaynes, in exploring how neurocognitive development is a central understanding. As more and more people have disturbed neurocognitive functioning, this will increasingly become normalized and so be defended as the social norm. We can see this in how we are redesigning schools to adapt them to children with serious neurological conditions. What once was rare has become common and our whole society is being transformed in the process.

      I speculate that we are seeing the end point of changes that began or at least became more exaggerated centuries ago. What happened during the era of colonial imperialism was new trade goods: sugar, tea, coffee, tobacco, etc. The modern mind was created through stimulants. And in the 1800s, the first large surpluses of grains were created, just as wheat became a food for commoners whereas it had been limited to the wealthy before. This is because wheat was hard to farm and, to make it easier, it required modern agricultural technology and practices. Industrial-style refining also took hold.

      So, a number of things resulted. Refined wheat flour became cheap and widely available. For the first time in history, anyone could afford to eat white bread on a daily basis. Consumption of carbs shot up over the 19th century and into the 20th. Industrialization also allowed the production of seed oils that require high levels of pressure and heat in combination with chemicals to help leach out the oil (prior to that, most humans used animal fat for cooking). This shifted the modern human diet into foods consisting largely of starchy carbs, added sugars, and industrial seed oils — all of which are scientifically shown to be inflammatory.

      Is it surprising we see conditions known to be associated with inflammation? Nope. But it goes far beyond that. This modern diet alters how our brains function, far beyond mere inflammation. Humans spend less time in ketosis and autophagy than they once had, because of it becoming rare for adults to ever experience low-carb or low-calorie eating patterns or to ever fast to any significant degree. Combined with ever increasing use of addictive stimulants, our minds have been utterly transformed. And that might be a direct causal factor in the death of God and the disappearance of the fairies.

      https://benjamindavidsteele.wordpress.com/2019/06/30/yes-tea-banished-the-fairies/
      https://benjamindavidsteele.wordpress.com/2019/06/13/diets-and-systems/
      https://benjamindavidsteele.wordpress.com/2019/01/30/the-agricultural-mind/
      https://benjamindavidsteele.wordpress.com/2018/09/11/the-spell-of-inner-speech/

      This would put a different spin on what the return of the repressed might mean, specifically as more people begin to take seriously issues of diet, nutrition, and other areas of health. What if, as a society, we came to fully accept that our minds are part of our bodies and acted as if this were true?

    • Benjamin David Steele says :

      I also recently wrote a post on autism, sensory sensitivity, and diet — a continuation of my post about the agricultural mind. And the last post I just put up, where I quote Jaynes, briefly mentions Trump in relation to sensitivity, although I didn’t mention diet in that one. I see it as all connected.

      https://benjamindavidsteele.wordpress.com/2019/07/25/autism-and-the-upper-crust/
      https://benjamindavidsteele.wordpress.com/2019/07/31/just-smile/

    • Benjamin David Steele says :

      I should point out that I’m not being only speculative. A lot of research is backing up the power of low-carb and very low-carb (keto) diets for neurocognitive health. Keto diet has been used to treat epilepsy for about a century now. Along with low-carb diets in general, keto diet has more recently been used to treat Alzheimer’s, depression, and much else. My own decades of depression disappeared after going keto.

      The clinical research by Dr. Dale Bredesen is even more impressive. After decades of failure of pharmaceuticals, he is the first researcher to show success in reversing Alzheimer’s. Dr. Terry Wahls similarly was the first researcher to reverse multiple sclerosis. Both accomplished this with keto diets, along with other modalities. This is serious science with medical applications. There is a reason low-carb diets are growing in popularity.

      What if we could reverse not only individual health conditions but entire cultural trends? What if we could not only treat those suffering from dementia like Trump but treat the society that is drawn to a demented worldview? This would require getting to the root causes.

      https://benjamindavidsteele.wordpress.com/2018/12/02/ketogenic-diet-and-neurocognitive-health/
      https://benjamindavidsteele.wordpress.com/2019/06/19/physical-health-mental-health/

    • Benjamin David Steele says :

      I should point out that I’m not being only speculative. A lot of research is backing up the power of low-carb and very low-carb (keto) diets for neurocognitive health. Keto diet has been used to treat epilepsy for about a century now. Along with low-carb diets in general, keto diet has more recently been used to treat Alzheimer’s, depression, and much else. My own decades of depression disappeared after going keto.

      The clinical research by Dr. Dale Bredesen is even more impressive. After decades of failure of pharmaceuticals, he is the first researcher to show success in reversing Alzheimer’s. Dr. Terry Wahls similarly was the first researcher to reverse multiple sclerosis. Both accomplished this with keto diets, along with other modalities. This is serious science with medical applications. There is a reason low-carb diets are growing in popularity.

      What if we could reverse not only individual health conditions but entire cultural trends? What if we could not only treat those suffering from dementia like Trump but treat the society that is drawn to a demented worldview? This would require getting to the root causes.

      https:// benjamindavidsteele.wordpress. com/2018/12/02/ketogenic-diet-and-neurocognitive-health/
      https:// benjamindavidsteele.wordpress. com/2019/06/19/physical-health-mental-health/

      (This comment is the second time posted. The first time didn’t show up. So, I broke the links to see if it could get past the WordPress filter.)

    • Benjamin David Steele says :

      There is another comment I wrote. I tried to post it. But WordPress is doing its typical thing. I assume the comment is in spam or trash. If you could check, I’d appreciate it.

      • Scott Preston says :

        Yep. Got it out of the spam folder.

        • Benjamin David Steele says :

          I hope you didn’t mind me hitting your post with those comments and links. This is how I think through ideas in my mind. Your post here got me thinking.

          It seems useful to look at our present situation through the lens of dementia. But that leaves us with the issue of what exactly dementia means on a collective level. A number of writers have studied mental illness in history.

          It’s a fruitful perspective. I might try to write a post inspired by what you wrote in this post.

          • Scott Preston says :

            Well, it’s really just another way of describing what Gebser means by “the deficient mode” of the consciousness structure, and Gebser was quite concerned that it would also manifest much as it did in the Late Middle Ages — extraordinary delusions and the madness of crowds, and Inquisition. There is even a curious note in the EPO in which he writes “probably the same people”

            Indicating that, apparently, Gebser believed in the reincarnation doctrine.

            • Benjamin David Steele says :

              I still need to read Michel Foucalt. I just now bought his “History of Madness”. It’s the unabridged version of “Madness and Civilization”. A new English translation includes all of the related texts. As soon as I get it, I’ll start reading it. I’ll see where that leads my speculations. One thing to focus on is that Foucalt, like Gebser, looked to the Late Middle Ages as a pivotal point of change. For good measure, I decided to get a copy of Jeremy Johnson’s “Seeing Through the World”.

              I’m also thinking about Karl Marx’s theory of base and superstructure in relation to species-being. This would relate to diet in its original meaning as ‘lifestyle’, as part of a food system that is inseparably embedded in the political and economic system. The addictive nature of a high-carb diet combined with heavy stimulant use may be essential to authoritarianism as imperialism, fascism, etc. Willhelm Reich might point in this direction:

              https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Base_and_superstructure#Freudo-Marxism_and_sex-economy

              “Freudo-Marxist Wilhelm Reich’s discipline of analysis known as sex-economy is an attempt to understand the divergence of the perceived base and superstructure that occurred during the global economic crisis from 1929 to 1933.[11] To make sense of this phenomenon, Reich recategorized social ideology as an element in the base—not the superstructure. In this new categorization, social ideology and social psychology is a material process that self-perpetuates, the same way economic systems in the base perpetuate themselves. Reich focused on the role of sexual repression in the patriarchal family system as a way to understand how mass support for Fascism could arise in a society.”

            • Benjamin David Steele says :

              If interested, Jeremy Johnson has a piece on Westworld and Julian Jaynes:

              https://futurism.media/the-philosophy-of-westworld

  3. Scott Preston says :

    “I begin with the idea that we live in end times. Then, after considering some recent attempts to redefine the meaning of the word hope, I explore resonances between our personal mortality and the planetary initiation that we are being drawn into, an initiation that seems to be constellating a collective near-death experience. For the rest of the essay, I circle around a series of intimations of what it might mean to waken in these end times to our deeper, more integral selves. Here I focus on how experience of the fourth, or integral time reveals the intrinsic, and indeed infinite, value of the actions we might still take on behalf of Gaia and the entire web of life, in whatever time we have left.” == Sean Kelly, from an essay “Living in End Times”

    https://revelore.press/publications/living-in-end-times/

  4. Scott Preston says :

    Blake and Buddhism compared in this essay. It should be very helpful in understanding fourfold vision as well as Gebser and his four structures of consciousness and even Rosenstock-Huessy’s “cross of reality”.

    https://thehumandivine.org/2017/09/30/awakenings-blake-and-the-buddha-by-mark-s-ferrara/

  5. Júlio [Ebrael] says :

    I don’t know which could be worser to US: Trump’s dementia or Clinton’s mythomanie. I don’t think the problem exposed would be less serious if any other candidate had been raised to Presidency.

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