Metanoia vs. Mindful Masturbation
by Not Sure
2 Jan 2022
On his way to America in 1909, Sigmund Freud reportedly whispered to his travelling companion Carl Gustav Jung: “They don’t realize we’re bringing them the plague.” He was talking about psychoanalysis.
One of the thinkers who inspired the formation of the Frankfurt School was György Lukács. He was a Hungarian Marxist philosopher and a philosopher of Leninist strategy who shifted the Marxist method to focus on the cultural attributes. He fomented and agitated for the creation of subversive programs. He said, “I saw the revolutionary destruction of society as the one and only solution to the cultural contradictions of the epoch…. Such a worldwide overturning of values cannot take place without the annihilation of the old values and the creation of new ones by the revolutionaries.” Lukács also said that you had to make people completely pessimistic; you had to make them believe that they lived in “a world abandoned by God.”
Lukács searched to find what he called the “messianic” ideas which could be incorporated into Bolshevik organizing. Freudian theory fit this bill precisely. Demons were back. The evil was being generated in your own mind, and you needed a new priesthood to save you. The Frankfurt School's extension of Freud was the major reason why psychoanalysis became so influential in American life after World War II. The Frankfurt School helped us all to discover how bad our mental health really was; how we had to liberate ourselves from the authoritarian constraints that made us neurotic; that we must resist the imposition of universal values and embrace a healthy personal hedonism.
Antonio Gramsci believed that a “new” person must be “culturally” created before a Marxist socialist state could succeed. He said, “Socialism is precisely the religion that must overwhelm Christianity. … In the new order, Socialism will triumph by first capturing the culture via infiltration of schools, universities, churches, and the media by transforming the consciousness of society.”
This Alan Watt talk from 29 December 2006, entitled “Mind, Matter and the Masses” seemed a perfect way to begin 2022. Alan talks about the death of the old year and the beginning of the new and the natural setting this creates for reflection on oneself. This is a universal impulse or there would be no such thing as New Year’s resolutions.
Alan spent most of this blurb reading from Carl Jung’s 1958 book, The Undiscovered Self, reading large sections from chapter four which is entitled, The Individual’s Understanding of Himself. To me, this talk is worthy of repeated, careful listenings because so much that is useful to an individual’s growth is contained herein.
Certainly there would be many reasons that Freud’s main “disciple” Jung broke with him and took his understanding in a very different direction. Books and articles have been written, movies have been made. One of the main points that Alan focuses on in this talk is Freud’s reduction of personal psychology to the libido, in other words the purely physical. Jung’s own experiments with his mind, and his upbringing in a high Masonic “mystical” family in Switzerland, led him on a path where he would delve into the depths of the psyche.
Jung writes that the essence of Christianity is concerned with the individual way of life of a man, the Son of Man; the very process of individuation is the incarnation of the revelation of God Himself. Jung rightly believed that Christianity as a vital support of civilization was not finished but that its living representation must be meditated upon deeply and its forms revitalized for the current age.
As an aside, I will say that my own interpretation of what Jung said is very different from what happened in the Catholic Church after Vatican II, as it sought to bring its structure into harmony with the modern world, a slippery slope, as something which is timeless cannot be modernized. What Jung focuses on in his critique of Christianity is the necessity for individual development, the assertion that a functioning society is dependant upon the process he calls individuation, the process of developing a separate identity, an important goal of adolescence, but something that continues throughout a person's life. He chastises church hierarchy for not encouraging the individual but rather organizing in a way that promotes the collective. As Jung points out, Jesus went his own way and this often put him in conflict with the structure of his religion. Jung writes:
“Curiously enough, the Churches too want to avail themselves of mass action in order to cast out the devil with Beelzebub – the very Churches whose care is the salvation of the individual soul. They too do not appear to have heard anything of the elementary axiom of mass psychology, that the individual becomes morally and spiritually inferior in the mass, and for this reason they do not burden themselves overmuch with their real task of helping the individual to achieve a metanoia, or rebirth of the spirit – deo concedente. It is, unfortunately, only too clear that if the individual is not truly regenerated in spirit, society cannot be either, for society is the sum total of individuals in need of redemption. I can therefore see it only as a delusion when the Churches try – as they apparently do – to rope the individual into a social organization and reduce him to a condition of diminished responsibility, instead of raising him out of the torpid, mindless mass and making clear to him that he is the one important factor and that the salvation of the world consists in the salvation of the individual soul. It is true that mass meetings parade such ideas before him and seek to impress them on him by dint of mass suggestion, with the unedifying result that when the intoxication has worn off, the mass man promptly succumbs to another even more obvious and still louder slogan. His individual relation to God would be an effective shield against these pernicious influences. Did Christ ever call his disciples to him at a mass meeting? Did the feeding of the five thousand bring him any followers who did not afterwards cry “Crucify him!” with the rest, when even the rock named Peter showed signs of wavering? And are not Jesus and Paul prototypes of those who, trusting their inner experience, have gone their own individual ways, disregarding public opinion?”
This metanoia, rebirth or conversion might sometimes be referred to as being “born again.” Born into Spirit, and Jung writes that it cannot be achieved without effort and suffering. Alan Watt was not one to lay out a prescribed path. That, after all, is what dictators and tyrants do. As regards to the spiritual or the metaphysical, he said in more than one talk that an individual must go by their own experiences. You cannot give your experiences to another. Alan said in this talk that he hesitated to suggest, as suggestion is so powerful.
My own experiences (which I cannot give you) have led me and continue to lead me further from cultural norms and a collective identity. My sense of the passing of time, the brevity and preciousness of life, have impressed upon me the urgency to do and say now what I feel I must do and say and the result is often to leave me with the feeling of swimming upstream or being outside the room where the party is, looking in. Fortunately, I don’t really mind the feeling of aloneness or isolation that must accompany going my own way. The alternative would be to sink back into the mass. No, thank you.
Recently a few people were talking about late night television, which I don’t watch. One of my friends said that Graham Norton was quite funny and it was too bad he wasn’t easily available in the U.S. I’d had nothing to add to the conversation, and my friend asked, “Can you get his show in Canada?” To which I replied, “Maybe. But I’ve never seen him. I’ve never even heard of him.” Now, looks convey a lot, and his brief look conveyed non-comprehension, pity and shock in the brief moment before the conversation moved on. One thing that I’ve learned about myself over the years is that for me to have time to concentrate on what is important to me, I am unable to concern myself with popular culture. When I was young, I felt I had to have some passing knowledge of what was popular in order to fit in, but over the years, I’ve learned it’s a time-saver not to bother.
Then there’s this: my utter revulsion with what I see when I do take a look now and again at what is pushed on the collective. Over the holiday, I overheard snippets of two conversations. The first involved a gift that had been given to someone, a face cream that cost a few hundred dollars. I was horrified that someone would pay that kind of money for lotion, and that someone else would think their skin worth it. I did a quick search for “expensive face creams” and was gobsmacked to learn that one could pay $1000 USD or more for “beauty” cream. The Japanese company Shisheido offers a limited-edition face cream for $13,000 for 1.8 ounces of cream. We live in a selfish, self-centered, selfie society.
The second conversation involved mindfulness. Now obviously, this is not the first time that I’ve heard of mindfulness. We live in a world in which, as Alan says in this talk, everyone is searching for meaning, but very few find it. I decided to look into what is involved in “mindfulness.” I like to keep things quite simple. If I pay attention to what comes out of my mouth then I don’t end up feeling bad too often. If I watch where I put my keys, then I don’t have to look for them. Is this what they meant by mindfulness?
This is what mindful.org says:
Mindfulness is the basic human ability to be fully present, aware of where we are and what we’re doing, and not overly reactive or overwhelmed by what’s going on around us.
It doesn’t sound like a bad thing but the more I looked into how it is applied and how it’s being promoted in the culture, the more it sounds like naval-gazing; lots of self-absorption going on under the banner of self-awareness. Then I stumbled upon “mindful masturbation” and a technique called edging (don’t ask.) The articles that I looked at have been published in both Men’s Health and Glamour magazines and the New York Times. Here’s a headline from the New York Post, 31 December 2021, Expert advises daily masturbation to ‘whet’ your depressing, dry January.
One of the things that Jung writes about and Alan Watt elaborates upon, is the creation of neuroses by the mass culture, i.e., those who understand the high sciences and how to apply them to the vast bulk of the world’s population. People are kept in fantasy; it is promoted and encouraged because it’s harmless. What you’re seeing in a “movement” such as mindful masturbation is the culture creators encouraging infantilism. Babies lie in cribs playing with themselves and other toys.
Jung writes, “Resistance to the organized mass can be effected only by the man who is as well organized in his individuality as the mass itself. I fully realize that this proposition must sound well-nigh unintelligible to the man of today. The helpful medieval view that man is a microcosm, a reflection of the great cosmos in miniature, has long since dropped away from him, although the very existence of his world-embracing and world-conditioning psyche might have taught him better. Not only is the image of the macrocosm imprinted upon him as a psychic being, but he also creates this image for himself on an ever-widening scale. He bears this cosmic “correspondence” within him by virtue of his reflecting consciousness, on the one hand, and, on the other, thanks to the hereditary, archetypal nature of his instincts, which bind him to his environment.”
Alan reminds us that socialism must keep adults in a child-like state, living in fantasy, neurotic, as in this state, we are easily controlled.
I will make a suggestion. Watch Alan Watt’s video, Reality Check 2. It’s good start to finish, but the finish! We can be the microcosm of the macrocosm.
When I first came upon Alan Watt, it was in an interview. I had been stumbling around in the “alternative” world for a while, going down some ridiculous rabbit holes. When I heard him, I understood immediately that I was hearing Truth and that perhaps I was hearing it for the first time in my life.
I know that the path we listeners are on can be hard. It can be lonely and for some that loneliness is unbearable. We know that among you who are listening to these Redux talks, many of you have suffered with your own demons since Alan passed; you are struggling with addiction and alienation. Sadly, we know of one listener who committed suicide. These are terrible times we’re living through, but Alan’s words and wisdom remain with us. I am not into making New Year’s resolutions, but I encourage you, in the words of Alan Watt, to “hang in there.” Happy New Year, and... May your God or your gods go with you.
© Not Sure