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The Oedipus Complex – Do adult ogres have unresolved stuff from childhood?

Oedipus complex: Oedipus explains the riddle o...

Oedipus complex: Oedipus explains the riddle of the Sphinx, Jean Auguste Dominique Ingres. (ca. 1805) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

In Greek myth Oedipus was the king of Thebes who did his best to avoid a prophecy saying he would kill his father and marry his mother. Like most good tales about knowing the future, Oedipus inadvertently fulfills the prophecy by trying to avoid it.

We see this a lot in sci-fi with time-loop stories. The protagonist does everything possible to avoid a bad outcome but in doing so becomes part of the thread leading to that unwanted outcome.

A lot of people know about Oedipus but the old Greek tale never really grabbed me personally.  So I’ll just link to a good summary for the curious.¹

To me, more engaging is the synchronous/synchronistic connection between this entry coming up for revision and my recent interest in “Reelin’ in the Years,” where I’m doing a yearly retrospective of pop tunes I liked from the moment of my birth to 2018. Right now – as I revise this entry – I’m on 1965, where I write “I’m three years old.”

If this sounds weird, let me explain.

Oedipus at Colonus by Jean-Antoine-Theodore Giroust 1788 French Oil (5)

Oedipus at Colonus by Jean-Antoine-Theodore Giroust 1788 French Oil (5) by Mary Harrsch via Flickr

The Austrian pioneer of psychoanalysis Sigmund Freud began to use the name Oedipus in his work after seeing a performance of Sophocles’ tragic play Oedipus Rex. Some years later he came up with the term, Oedipus complex.

For Freud, an Oedipal complex develops after the male infant becomes fixated to his mother during the Oedipal phase of ego development (ages 3-5).

Here the infant develops bizarre beliefs because, well, he is just a child. He sees or perhaps hears his father and mother lovemaking (called the “primal scene”) and perceives his father as a threat.

His fear intensifies when seeing the father’s penis, leading the child to irrationally assume that he, himself, has been castrated. The child then demonizes the father and identifies with his apparently all-good mother.

He resolves the complex by eventually identifying with the father along with the external, societal demands that the father represents to the child.

Carl Jung – efigment via flickr

Freud believed successfully passing through the Oedipus complex was a natural process.

But if the complex goes unresolved, the man’s choice of – and demands from – lovers and marriage partners in later years reflects his unconscious infantile, mother-based expectations.

These desires are unrealistic and not grounded in reality (the “reality principle”).

Current trends in psychoanalysis trace the Oedipus complex to earlier conflicts (apparently) present in the first few years of psychosexual ego development.

As for girls, Carl Jung proposed an Electra Complex. But Freud maintained that the Oedipus complex applied to boys and girls, not really getting his own sexism.

Freud deprecated the term “Electra complex”, which was introduced by Carl Gustav Jung in 1913 in regard to the Oedipus complex manifested in young girls. Freud further proposed that the Oedipus complex, which originally refers to the sexual desire of a son for his mother, is a desire for the parent in both males and females, and that boys and girls experience the complex differently: boys in a form of castration anxiety, girls in a form of penis envy.²

Melanie Klein via Wikipedia

Jacques Lacan and others like George Herbert MeadAbraham Maslow and Melanie Klein acknowledge the importance of the early childhood shift from a narrow parent-focus to realizing a greater social self. That is, a world out there.

If I get Lacan right, he also says the unconscious unfolds throughout life with a synchrony of signifiers. For me, that means certain markers will appear at the right time³ for personal growth.

So the apparent coincidence of my working on “Reelin’ in the Years” (remembering feelings from age three) and this particular entry coming up for revision fits into both Freudian and Jungian theory—the former as synchrony, the latter as synchronicty.

That’s hardly surprising to me. I believe in not only attaining spiritual knowledge but also in digging deep into the childhood and early teen psyche to uncover any early feelings not entirely dealt with. Too many people, it seems, achieve some kind of functional ‘spirituality’ but not necessarily the best possible kind because they carry so many unresolved issues that their brand of otherworldliness simply covers up.

Rasputin via Wikipedia

You know… that psychopath boss at work. He or she has impressive insight or charisma but uses these qualities to cheat, manipulate or steal. Often we can’t really put our finger on it – because clever creeps are great at hiding their secret schemes – but our gut tells us something is terribly wrong.

Some say psychoanalysis is a science, others see it as a sham with little or no empirical support for its fanciful claims. Although the spirit of Freud’s approach still reverberates in psychiatry, especially with the almost unquestioned idea of the “unconscious,” the specifics of Freudian theory have largely fallen by the wayside.

Most countries see psychiatry as a credible discipline with legal powers and responsibilities while non-medical psychologists and humanitarians do not enjoy that kind of pervasive influence.4

Jacques Lacan criticized ego psychology and ob...

Jacques Lacan criticized ego psychology and object relations theory via Wikipedia

¹ Oedipus Rex or Oedipus the King Summary

² http://lnr.li/iwx7O/

³ This is how I understand the Greek word kairos. But probably not everyone would agree here.

4 In Ontario, for instance, psychiatry is covered by OHIP whereas other therapies (such as Jungian and various holistic approaches) are not.

Related » Electra Complex, Melanie Klein, Stages of Psychosexual Development, Totem

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 Yes, Your Daily Stress Can Haunt Your Dreams (livescience.com)

 Untangling the Complicated, Controversial Legacy of Sigmund Freud (thecut.com)

 The Greatest Quest: The Search for Meaning & Finding our Calling. (elephantjournal.com)

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Freud, Objects and People – Why this elevator never reached the top floor

Freuds ( tipo andy warhol )

Freuds ( tipo andy warhol ) by Paulo Marquez via Flickr

For Sigmund Freud, the object is something a subject directs energy toward in an attempt to gratify instinctual desires.

Just how a person relates to the object depends on their psychological maturity.

In Freudian theory the object usually refers to another person, aspects of a person, or a full or partial symbolic representation of a person.

When an object refers to another complete person, replete with human rights and dignity, the object is called a whole object.

By calling other people “objects” it may seem that Freud’s theory objectifies people and is unduly self-absorbed. But that would be a flawed interpretation. Freud also says the psyche’s main job is to balance internal and external forces acting on it. In his own lingo, the ego mediates the often competing demands of the id (instincts) and the superego (internalized social norms and morals).

Freud does fall short, in my opinion, with his view of morality—or rather, the source of morality. Some people do seem to feel neurotic guilt and shame based on faulty upbringing or authoritarian social norms.

And this would fit with Freud’s thinking. But other, more genuine, feelings of contrition may arise from a sense of something higher, something truly spiritual which guides our understanding of morality.

Freud doesn’t put much stock in this kind of religious or spiritual thinking.

The founder of psychoanalysis was an atheist who generally mocked those experiencing – what they understood as – spiritual insights and graces.

One can’t help but wonder how many materialistic psychiatrists do the same sort of thing today, especially when it comes to personal spirituality, which has a rather sketchy status within contemporary psychiatry.¹

¹ In contrast to organized religion which psychiatry is compelled to accept, just as social and political pressures impelled it to accept gays and lesbians only after many years of stigmatization and harmful “treatments.”

Related » Cathexis, Fixation, Projection, Repression, Splitting, Stages of Psychosexual Development

References:

  • Charles Rycroft, A Critical Dictionary of Psychoanalysis, Harmondsworth: Penguin 1977, p. 100.


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Obsessive Compulsion – Time for a Meeting of Psychology and Religion?

Feeding an obsession

Feeding an obsession by Hirni Pathak via Flickr

Psychology

In psychoanalysis, obsession is a neurosis where one dwells on an issue, situation or another person to an extent that could be unhealthy and potentially destructive. In mainstream psychology, obsessive thoughts are usually regarded as irrational.

At best, obsessive people are a pain in the neck. But it can be far worse than that.

Obsession should not be confused with compulsion, the latter involving behavior. However, obsessive thinking is often accompanied with compulsive behavior—for example, a lonely, jealous and hateful internet stalker.

Psychologists see obsessive thought and compulsive behavior as flawed mechanisms where a person tries to avoid unconscious feelings of pain, guilt or inadequacy.

Contemporary psychology calls this unhealthy merging of thought, feeling and behavior Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD).

A classic literary example of obsessive-compulsive behavior is found in Shakespeare’s character Lady Macbeth, whose repeated hand washing bespeaks a crime and her related feelings of guilt and defilement.

Magnificent Obsession (1954 film)

Magnificent Obsession (1954 film) via Wikipedia

Theology

In Catholic theology, obsession refers to a person unduly influenced or harassed by evil spiritual powers or beings. This differs from possession, the belief that a person loses control over the body – but not the soul – as the devil seems to control them.¹

Psychological and theological perspectives on obsession could be combined to mutual advantage.

For instance, unresolved psychological complexes could be weak spots in a person’s psychological armor (usually called “sense of self” or “boundaries”), allowing demonic influences to actually cause or exacerbate conditions and behaviors which manifest as obsessive-compulsive behavior.

Put simply, evil might like to prey on psychological vulnerabilities. And I think it probably does. Or, rather, tries to.

¹ I say “seems to control” not to bracket the truth claim from a secular point of view but rather, to emphasize that Catholic theology believes the devil can never really control another person. These are two very different ideas.

Related » Mental Illness, Occam’s Razor, Shaman, Shamanism, Spiritual Attack, Tramp Souls, Undoing

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Occam’s Razor… and the Anti-Razor

Occam's Razor

Occam’s Razor by Thunderchild7 via Flickr

Occam’s razor is a philosophical belief, associated with William of Occam (c. 1287-1347), that a proverbial razor should cut away all unnecessary variables of a given theory to attain the greatest degree of parsimony.

This means that the best among competing hypotheses are those with the least number of assumptions and which are most easily tested.

Occam’s razor has become a mainstay of the scientific method. However, many see it as reductionist, particularly in psychology, sociology and history.

For example, ancient and medieval cultures saw demons as a factor in both physical and mental illness. But 21st century science tends to dismiss this and most paranormal claims as ‘magical thinking.’ For some, this is not valid science but, rather, a biased and limiting approach to knowledge.

The other night while watching Star Trek Discovery I thought about reductionism and the prevailing view of mental illness. Lieutenant Paul Stamets (played by Anthony Rapp) is in a coma with moments of activity where he apparently speaks nonsense.

Stamets hooked into the spore drive, allowing Discovery to make instantaneous jumps across vast sectors of space. Image via https://www.inverse.com/article/38173-star-trek-discovery-stamets-traveler-theory-tng-next-generation

In reality, however, he is doing essential work in another dimension (generated by a ‘mycelial network’) with his mirror self from a parallel universe. The two selves, primary and mirror, work together in a kind of limbo realm, trying to get back to their respective universes and bodies.¹

For a moment I wondered if this could be a metaphor for some ‘mentally ill’ street people who might be doing important, otherworldly work that seems like madness to the worldly wise.

We can’t know, looking from the outside. Some homeless people might be psychologically wounded and deceived by evil powers. But I think the idea that some may be meaningfully engaged elsewhere is something to think about before writing someone off as a “psycho.”

Another sci-fi adventure illustrating the possible shortcomings of Occam’s razor is found in the movie Contact (1997), based on a novel by Carl Sagan.

Jodie Foster plays scientist, Ellie Arroway, who travels through a wormhole and meets an intelligent being at the edge of the universe. Arroway returns to Earth in a matter of seconds and, of course, no one believes a word of her incredible story. As a scientist, Arroway concedes that she could have been hallucinating due to stress overload. But as a human being, her heart tells her that her otherworldly experience was real.

.
Not surprisingly, holistic thinkers often question the value of Occam’s razor. And some philosophers have forwarded anti-razor theories to counter what they see as its confining simplicity, along with comparable beliefs preceding Occam’s razor.²

¹ (a) At least, that is what the primary believes. He ends up in the wrong universe. I got a little help here from this page: http://ew.com/recap/star-trek-discovery-season-1-episode-12/  (b) Margaret Atwood recently said sci-fi basically tells us about the now. In part I agree but also think sci-fi can be so much more than mere political commentary. Good sci-fi takes us to new possibilities.

² (a) Aristotle and others voiced ideas similar to Occam’s. See http://lnr.li/vUOng/ (b) Before sophisticated planetary tracking technology, in the early 19th century another issue was about drawing curves from the noisy data of planetary movement. If the dots were joined too loosely and smoothly, accuracy was lost. If joined too precisely, erratic data might have skewed the overall curve. So getting the right balance was important. See Cambridge Dictionary of Philosophy, 2nd Edition: https://is.muni.cz/el/1421/podzim2014/LJMgrB07/um/Cambridge_Dictionary_of_Philosophy.pdf pp. 197-198, 629.

Related » Karma Transfer, Nominalism, Obsession, Shaman, Shamanism, Spiritual Attack


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A Look at Fate, Chance and Providence… From a Humble i3

angel by MC via Flickr

In the early 1990s while thinking about converting to Catholicism I met with a Monsignor in the Church.

Monsignor is an honorary title with no real power, basically for smart guys aware of ecclesiastical problems but not actively involved in the development of doctrine.

Gifted and diplomatic, Monsignors for the most part toe the line and work their tails off ensuring all the wheels spin right within the ancient, all-male hierarchy that is the worldly side of Catholicism.

I liked this particular Monsignor. He was on the ball. Instead of regurgitating stale, varnished and philosophically weak arguments during the homily, he extemporized and used current metaphors like “Black Holes.” He also encouraged applying the intellect, a gift God gave us, to unpack and interpret scripture.

Myself, I was home from a two-year sojourn in India where I had been studying Comparative Religion. Reverse culture-shocked, adjusting to a new city and unfamiliar graduate environment, I was plunged into a whole new realm that made my India experience seem like junior school, spiritually speaking.

So meeting with the Monsignor, I told him I believed in fate, which is more of an Asian (karma), Arabic (kismet) and Greek (moira) idea than a Catholic one.

“You mean providence,” he pointedly replied.

Back then I didn’t consciously know the difference between fate and providence, but something sparked.

Saint Wolfgang and the Devil, by Michael Pacher via Wikipedia

Providence is a theological term referring to the belief that God maintains and sustains all of creation and the plan for our eternal redemption.

The idea is found in both the Old and New Testaments. Not surprisingly, providence is partly framed by the notion of linear time, partly by a belief in eternity. We march along the walk of creation and, although we choose our lives, an eternal God is actively helping us make the right choices.

Providence also means that God freely chooses how things go by guiding us – not forcing us – through a kind of “divine government.”¹

When things go well, we cooperate with divine guidance. But we also make mistakes through original sin. God permits these mistakes, at least to a degree. God would never permit enough mistakes to, say, allow all of creation to be utterly destroyed.

That’s how some see it. Others say we are totally free so, in theory, could destroy our planet and all life on it.

For many thinkers, the idea of providence is directly opposed to fate, which points to a fixed, unalterable sequence of events. It also differs from the concept of chance, which implies a random, unregulated universe.²

The distinction between free will (through providence) and determinism (through fate) is an important one. But most writers gloss over it, probably because it’s a tricky question that nobody really understands nor has a definite answer for.

Image – Wikipedia

One sort of slippery theological solution to the problem of free will vs. determinism maintains that we are free to choose but God knows in advance how we will choose.

When you think about it, this explanation isn’t too satisfying. For me, the question and answer are just too big for the human mind to comprehend. It’s like a Pentium i3 trying to figure out all the mysteries of the universe and beyond. After a few moments the processor just chokes… our limited human brain, that is.

The other night I was surprised to see the topic of providence/free will vs. fate/destiny arise in an episode of Vikings, a TV show that dramatically recreates the story of Ragnar Lothbrok, Lagertha the Shield Maiden, their offspring, friends, victims and enemies.

Two of Ragnar’s sons, Ivar the Boneless and Hvitserk discuss providence vs. fate with the slightly demented, bellicose Christian bishop Heahmund. The discussion, although brief, is far better than what you’d find in most Catholic homilies or graduate seminars, for that matter (starts at time 1:26).

Opponents to the idea of providence are found in the ancient world. St. Thomas Aquinas notes in his Summa Theologica:

Certain persons totally denied the existence of providence, as Democritus and the Epicureans, maintaining that the world was made by chance.³

Other ancients add an interesting twist to the debate by claiming that natural events are ruled by God, but particular human events are not. To this St. Thomas replies with the standard Catholic teaching:

All things are subject to divine providence, not only in general, but even in their own individual being.4

Image – Wikipedia

Related to providence is the problem of theodicy.

Theodicy is an attempt to maintain God’s goodness given the reality of evil. If God is all powerful and in total control, why does S/He permit evil in the first place?

This shifts the debate from cosmology and metaphysics to ethics.

At some point I think these categories must merge if we are to find better answers. But most philosophers and theologians still prefer to slice up the onion of reality, trying not to cry.

¹ Van A Harvey. A Handbook of Theological Terms 1992, pp. 198-200. This is one of my favorite single reference works for theology. Concise, detailed, and not preachy. The Maryknoll Catholic Dictionary (1965) says that God “ordains all things to an intended end so that His purpose of creation may be accomplished.” Just what ordains means is a bit unclear to me. And this kind of wording ignores questions about the relativity of space-time, how we all live in different space-times, and how that complicates the Biblical notion of linear time.

² Just thinking about a universe guided only by chance leaves me cold, so I won’t discuss it further. For me, those upholding a doctrine of chance are unwise and locked into a manmade, conceptually biased map of the universe.

³ Summa Theologica, “The providence of God,” Prima Pars, Q. 22

4 Ibid.

Related » Determinism, Epicureanism, Fatalism, Free will, Social Darwinism, Soteriology, Teleology


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Proclus – A good example of how all spiritual beliefs are not the same

Lycia-46

Lycia-46 by Phoebe Luckyn-Malone via Flickr

Proclus (410-85 CE) was an influential Greek Neoplatonist philosopher. Born in Lycia, he moved to Athens for the remainder of his life.

A lawyer by trade, Proclus came to realize that he preferred philosophy so made a study of the classics and beliefs of his time. Plato, Aristotle, the Stoics, mathematics and the ancient mystery cults were all under his purview.

Modern writers often call him the last of the classical Greek philosophers.

Proclus’ works include extensive commentaries on Plato’s dialogues and on Euclid’s Elements of Geometry. He also wrote several major treatises, to include Platonic Theology, Elements of Theology, and Elements of Physics.

Like his better known predecessor, Plotinus, Proclus attempts to combine the Platonic notion of the ideal Forms with Aristotle’s concept of a prime, unmoved Mover (the first cause of all creation).

Proclus’ synthesis of Platonic and Aristotelian systems culminates in his theory that an overall, divine action coordinates all cosmic elements as the soul returns back to the One from which it originally emanated. This One is unlike the monotheistic God of Jewish, Muslim and Christian faiths, mainly because it is not a being but rather some kind of creative principle.

The first principle in Neoplatonism is the One (Greek: to Hen). Being proceeds from the One. The One cannot itself be a being. If it were a being, it would have a particular nature, and so could not be universally productive.¹

Woman teaching geometry, from Euclid's Elements.

Woman teaching geometry, from Euclid’s Elements via Wikipedia

Due to the non-Christian aspects of his teaching, the emperor Justinian closed the reknowned school of Athens after its (more or less) nine century run.

But the ecclesiastical powers couldn’t suppress Proclus’ ideas indefinitely.

Considerable interest in his work reappeared during the medieval and renaissance periods, as scholars and monks gained access to a considerable array of classical literary, religious, mythological, biographical, historical and scientific sources.

¹ https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Proclus

Realated » Platonism

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 The Twilight of Humanity & the Rise of Home Deus (vladimirsays.com)


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Politically Correct – Beyond the definition

Antonio Ciseri's depiction of Pontius Pilate p...

Antonio Ciseri’s depiction of Pontius Pilate presenting a scourged Christ to the people Ecce homo! (Behold the man!) In the New Testament account, that assembly found it acceptable to crucify Jesus instead of Barabbas, a convicted murderer – Image via Wikipedia

politically correct

conforming to a belief that language and practices which could offend political sensibilities (as in matters of sex or race) should be eliminated

political correctness

noun

First Known Use: 1934

“Politically Correct.” Merriam-Webster.com. Merriam-Webster, n.d. Web. 4 Jan. 2018.

Well that’s a dictionary definition, which is a good start. But I think the term “politically correct” demands a little amplification.

From my perspective, “politically correct” describes a belief that the majority (or a highly visible group) at a given moment in history see as true or, if not ultimately true, acceptable or appropriate.

Alexis de Tocqueville, French political thinke...

Alexis de Tocqueville, French political thinker and historian – Image via Wikipedia

When a politically correct idea takes hold, many follow suit and boldly proclaim with an almost religious zealousness a belief or agenda that, in reality, could be an ephemeral, ideological trend.

Along these lines, the classical French sociologist Alexis de Tocqueville (1805-1859) argued that democracy’s emphasis on equality could possibly squelch individuality, leading to a suffocating majority rule marked by total conformity.

In the New Testament narrative, Pontius Pilate voices the philosophical essence of political correctness when he says to Jesus Christ:

What is Truth!  ~ John, 18:38 NASB

Andrew Lloyd Webber’s rock opera Jesus Christ Superstar has Pilate sarcastically ask

But what is truth? Is truth unchanging law? We both have truths. Are mine the same as yours?

The following New Testament passage gives a scathing account of worldly wisdom, which could be seen as a type of political correctness:

What is truth? Deutsch: Was ist Wahrheit? Fran...

What is truth? Christ and Pilate – Image via Wikipedia

Let no man deceive himself. If any man among you thinks that he is wise in this age, he must become foolish, so that he may become wise. For the wisdom of this world is foolishness before God. For it is written, “He is THE ONE WHO CATCHES THE WISE IN THEIR CRAFTINESS”; and again, “THE LORD KNOWS THE REASONINGS of the wise, THAT THEY ARE USELESS” ~ I Corinthians 3:18-20 NASB

Okay, so there is a lot of b.s. in the world. I think we all get that. But that doesn’t mean all politically correct ideas are bad or untrue. Many seem to contain virtue.

The key is to avoid blindly accepting majority opinion – and the political correctness that often goes with that – without first researching and thinking for oneself.

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