Ego invests in a dogmatic perspective when it is weak, but Nietzsche’s philosophy also becomes a dogmatic perspective when ego identifies with it.
To say: “I will sink or swim by this particular ideology,” is to invest my ego-identity in that perspective. To the degree that someone seems to attack my chosen perspective, they are attacking me. I am vulnerable to my belief system that commands me to sink or swim. I will, on this basis of ego-identification, ferociously attack others whom I perceive to be attacking my ideology. I will feel that my ego is at stake in making a good attack. But– it turns out, I am suffering from a case of mistaken identity!
From Thus Spake Zarathustra, 1891:
“Ego,” sayest thou, and art proud of that word. But the greater thing- in which thou art unwilling to believe- is thy body with its big sagacity; it saith not “ego,” but doeth it.
What the sense feeleth, what the spirit discerneth, hath never its end in itself. But sense and spirit would fain persuade thee that they are the end of all things: so vain are they.
Instruments and playthings are sense and spirit: behind them there is still the Self. The Self seeketh with the eyes of the senses, it hearkeneth also with the ears of the spirit.
Ever hearkeneth the Self, and seeketh; it compareth, mastereth, conquereth, and destroyeth. It ruleth, and is also the ego’s ruler.
Behind thy thoughts and feelings, my brother, there is a mighty lord, an unknown sage- it is called Self; it dwelleth in thy body, it is thy body.
There is more sagacity in thy body than in thy best wisdom. And who then knoweth why thy body requireth just thy best wisdom?
Thy Self laugheth at thine ego, and its proud prancings. “What are these prancings and flights of thought unto me?” it saith to itself. “A by-way to my purpose. I am the leading-string of the ego, and the prompter of its notions.”
The Self is “a sage”, that is generally unknown but, according to shamanistic thinking, can be accessed directly. It is the underestimation of the Self that is the cause of the development of any immature response to reality — ie. an orientation of faith. If one is lacking in the knowledge of this Self, one believes dogmatically, because one must — because one fears that not to believe is lose the ability to make one’s self real, in the sense of being identifiable by others. An ideology seems to give the inwards self outwardly objectifiable characteristics. The contents of a particular ideology seem to describe what those outward characteristics are, in a way that makes them palpable both to oneself and to others.
Yet for all that, one is not the ideology one has embraced. To imagine that one sinks or falls on the basis of the outwards sinking or falling of an ideology is to belittle oneself. Why should others have this power of veto over you? What was it that made you give it to them, but your weakness? Immaturity. It is a stage we go through. The structure that supports us towards adulthood is generally attachment to a faith, of one sort or another. That is, one identifies, for at time, with a faith, as one progresses towards the capacity for autonomy. In Nietzschean terms: Religion thus becomes a training ground for this spiritual autonomy. It ought not to be identified with this autonomy itself.
Later, trauma ruptures the structure of faith, and leads the way to knowlege of the Self. This Self turns out to be rooted in the reality principle of the primeval mind. It can, for instance, determine that you are lying to yourself, so shrewd is its capacity to judge accurately whether a particular attitudinal stance is life embracing or life denying:
The creating Self created for itself esteeming and despising, it created for itself joy and woe. The creating body created for itself spirit, as a hand to its will.
Even in your folly and despising ye each serve your Self, ye despisers of the body. I tell you, your very Self wanteth to die, and turneth away from life.
No longer can your Self do that which it desireth most:- create beyond itself. That is what it desireth most; that is all its fervour.
But it is now too late to do so:- so your Self wisheth to succumb, ye despisers of the body.
To succumb- so wisheth your Self; and therefore have ye become despisers of the body. For ye can no longer create beyond yourselves.
To be able to directly access this Self spells an end to the pressure from ego to identify an outwards ideological stance. Rather, one’s ego is internally stabilised by recognising this Self and its ongoing advice, which enhances one’s ability to embrace life authentically. Ego no longer seeks out others’ approval, when one has acquired the ability to make a correct self-estimation of whether one’s behaviour is oriented towards life or towards death.
Double vision isn’t just what happens to you when you get hit hard over the head. It is also the basic function that facilites shamanistic knowledge. We have two eyes, and so it is easier for us to judge distance than if we had only one. Each eye passes information to the brain, which is cross-referenced, in order to facilitate depth perception.
One may be completely at ease with one’s social and public identity — as arbitrary these kinds of identities are. In that case, one will see no significant discrepancy between the characteristics that are routinely attributed and expected by those whose thinking processes are quite schematic, and those characteristics that are actually part of one’s life.
If that isn’t the case, however, and it turns out that there are discrepancies between the two systems of thought — yours and those who think according to socially conditioned mores — then you will be one who, in shamanistic terms, experiences “double vision”
The good news is that having two sources of data concerning such an important thing as one’s very identity gives you a way to put your finger on society’s pulse, to take its temperature and to work out whether it is politically sick or thriving.
A thriving society is one that is open to change and sensitive to new information. However, for a long time I was not permitted even to say I was Zimbabwean, as this was deemed by the majority to be too threatening. My double vision gave me the co-ordinates of Trouble, and I learned a great deal more about Australian society than they would have liked me to know.
A shaman does not choose her vocation.
Right-wingers, here is the way to assure that interesting conversation around you gradually dwindles until it finally ceases to exist (at least to the extent that it involves YOU!)
When you don’t like somebody’s point of view, or disagree with it in some way, start trumpeting that you simply cannot understand what they are getting at, that they are not making any more intelligible sense than an ape mooning a rainbow, and that Reality is standing by your side, assuring you of all sorts of discrepancies in what the other person has to say.
Utter, with absolute complacency: “I do not get it.”
If the person who is talking to you happens to be female, you can delineate her actual experiences for her, in a way that demonstrates your eagle’s eye view on Reality itself.
You know weren’t actually there when she experienced whatever it is she did, but you can act as if you were in fact there, step by step, throughout her life, as she underwent every single experience. Your view of reality trumps hers, because her experiences deviate too far from The Script (the one you read so long ago, that says how Reality itself deigns to act).
So tell her that you do not get it. And, for extra measure, tell her what it was she actually experienced.
And, very soon … so very soon … she will have nothing at all to say to you.
Which is to say, you will have WON!
It is very easy to fall prey to Zombie Nietzscheanism, because the fundamental requirement for understanding Nietzsche is that the upper part of the Mind and the lower part of the Mind are already on good speaking terms. This is simply not the case for most people, as social conditioning and the pressure of Superego causes us to repress very much awareness of what Nietzsche terms “the instincts”.
Let me make this even clearer by putting it into shamanistic terms. Shamanistic practice facilitates awareness of “the instincts” in Nietzsche’s sense. These instincts are not at all who one is in the public and socially definable sense. These can be understood as the individual’s underlying character structure as determined by the nature of the appetite for violence, sexuality, etc., but they are also the reflexes that have been acquired — like the ability to move effectively in martial arts, without having to think about it. As unconscious mechanisms, they are necessarily hidden from the view of society, nearly all of the time.
It is through shamanistic practice that one can open up a dialogue between one’s conscious self and the part of the mind that governs reflexive behaviour. This is the key feature of what I have termed “shamanistic doubling”. It involve, necessarily, a “doubling” of the sense of self, because the higher parts and lower parts of the mind and function with very different orientations towards the world, and so can never truly become one in a practical sense. The best that can be done is to open up a dialogue between them. But it is this very experiential knowledge of the doubling structure of the mind that enables one to draw co-ordinates on reality, in such a way as to recognise the merit or lack thereof in various actions. For, one measures these on a ladder of value only in shamanistic terms. To attempt to establish a Nietzschean hierarchy of values on the basis of one’s cultural or social conditioning is purely nonsensical, and it is an attempt that is doomed to fail. Who, after all, cares how dogmatic your position is, or how resolute, if you are merely stuck in the mud, and project an unpleasing disposition?
Rather, a perfect action is an action in which the “instincts” have become one with the higher mind. A thoroughly imperfect action is where the instincts and the higher mind are at odds. All other actions are on a scale in between these two standards, depending on the degree of coordination that has been facilitated between the higher and the lower minds.
This principle brings me to the issue of Zombie Nietzscheanism, as an example of contradistinction to the basic shamanistic position. A Zombie Nietzschean is one who reads Nietzsche’s works in order to discover a hidden recipe for success. “Ah!” he mutters to himself, “Nietzsche confesses to a certain misogyny. It’s only right, therefore, that I should also adopt a misogynistic attitude, if I aim to be powerful, like him!”
The abject failure of such a person to even begin to do the essential groundwork of discovering the nature and meaning of his own (rather than Nietzsche’s) instincts is very evident. Why should there be any advantage in adopting somebody’s else’s self-knowledge and assuming their instincts to be the same as one’s own? If this is “will to power”, it’s very misdirected, and a recipe for falling flat upon one’s face.
I speak of a huge failure of instinct, measured in shamanistic terms.
The warrior always acts in the proper mood, and this he learns to create. Whereas an ordinary person’s moods seem to be related directly to the people and events around him, the warrior is taught to arrive at and maintain a specific mood independent of people and events.
Two attitudes are required for the proper mood, and they are to be held simultaneously. The first is control over himself and the second is abandon. He must have total command of himself and at the same time be free to let himself go without caring about the outcome.
p 395, Beyond Health and Normality
…which is basically another way of saying that the shaman learns to “master” contingency, so that it becomes the shaman’s special realm of domination.
According to Evolutionary Psychology, women like men who are slimy opportunists. They just don’t know they like them, because they cannot reflect personally on anything at all. It has to do with the way their unconscious minds work. Luckily, these unconscious minds are easy to figure out by countless males, especially those whose intellects have been developed to that point of being just a slight cut above the rest of the herd.
But women cannot know how or why they actually make decisions. That’s their limitation. Rather, they only know how to act blindly, and be tricked. It’s in their natures!
But actually, that is all very fine, because women, don’t you know, actually need to be tricked in order for evolution to proceed properly. Evolution rewards those with the slight advantage being tricky and grants them fortunes over and above those of a less Machiavellian ilk. Mating privileges go unto those with powers of manipulation, for it is unto them that is is granted the right to spread their seed.
Women, of course… Hush! (Don’t speak the truth to them — or else the whole of Evolution will be thwarted.)
According to the shaman, don Juan, the fundamental principle of shamanism is ‘not doing’. This makes it very similar, in my mind to Zen. One overcomes the common urge to ‘do’ and instead simply observes reality for what it is. Even this practice makes one aware of the kinds of information that one tends to habitually screen out. Zen gives one an understanding of how the mind works — ie, it is like a stomach. It routinely excludes certain types of information, and leaps forth more expectantly to attach itself to other types of data.
But ‘not doing’ seems to take this Zen principle further, for one cannot simply ‘not do’ things, but must select one’s moments for ‘not doing’, precisely so as to drive a wedge between the reality that is and its general trajectory. One thus opens a space within the deterministic properties of reality, to facilitate an altogether different kind of reality.
‘Not doing’ is a practice that requires prior shamanistic conditioning. It’s about on the same level of avoiding responding to a feint in boxing: You learn how not to react, and in doing so, you win an advantage — or at least avoid getting hit for the time being. But your ‘not doing’ must be chosen in exactly the right moment. Choose the wrong time not to do, and you could end up in an even worse condition than you started with.
Practically, ‘not doing’ involves inviting a better solution to arrive. By ‘not doing’ in the times when it is right to ‘not do’, one can effectively undo potential whole chains of negative reactions, so that neutrality appears where hostility had been.
Despite the apparent softness of this approach, ‘not doing’ as a principle does not make one vulnerable. Rather it is a way to create a socially neutral space, like a garden of creativity.
Such people exist whose whole psychological structure is so watertight — so unshamanistic, so incapable of letting anything inside that isn’t already definitely them — that they are born propagandists for whatever cause they happen to latch onto. These type of people can discuss anything for hours, and at the end, they will still only hold the views that they were holding at the beginning. They will have given the appearance of having listened, even of having engaged, but later it is as if nothing new had been said. The simple appearance of intelligent conversation has been belied by evidence that anything said that did not fit the propagadists’ bill has been entirely and quickly forgotten.
These are the people who are governed by one single ruling idea. Suppose,for now, this is the idea of their own moral superiority. In this case, any information they receive will be subconsciously screened to see if it will feed the impression that such people wish to nurture, concerning their own superiority. If the information does not yield such possibilities, it will be discarded, as if it had never been spoken. If it seems like it might offer such, then the information is taken up and distorted in order to become part of a story that enhances the listener’s self-impression.
A ruthless and a desperate quality possesses those who are forced to adopt such an approach. No matter how much they seem to cover it up with an attitude of calmness and concern, underneath the surface an entirely different process is in operation. It’s a cultivated attitude that seeks to take whatever it needs from the other, without concern as to what the other would offer willingly, or would rather choose to withold from the determined receiver. Rather, what the hearers hear is what they desire to hear, which is entirely at odds with what the speaker intends to be spoken. Such an attitude towards the other rapes and pillages the other’s mind for all that it can get. It takes that which has not been given. This attitudinal pillaging distorts, as it corrupts, even the very conditions for any clear and honest communication in the future — it undermines the interpersonal foundation of genuine trust.
They must persist in their ways, perhaps, for what would not be lost by actually letting part of the outside world in?
I have it on good report that Nietzsche’s position on feminism ought to be a very thorny issue for me. Just as a bible believing Christian is supposed to be hurt to the quick by discovering that her Creator doesn’t actually value her very much at all. Despite various views presented to me concerning how I am meant to react in order to show authenticity, I still tend to take a higher view of things.
The Neechy is not the revealed word of God — after all. And I, not being a believer of any sort, don’t hold that demonstrating masochism is a basis for anything. Here is a quote from somebody who has taken the time to sum up very well Nietzsche’s view on gender:
Nietzsche develops this flexible antagonism between men and women. He generally affiliates the former with the life-defying will to truth exemplified in dogmatic, metaphysical science while pairing the latter with life-affirming qualities [detailed above, as follows: The most powerful magic of life is the castrating woman and her bashful illusions, her “veil of beautiful possibilities.”]. Consider how Nietzsche remarks that woman’s nature is more natural than man’s (and the gay science gives us an idea of a re-naturalized mentality) and as the feminist movement encourages woman to become more like a man, woman denies her natural/life-affirming spirit.
The writing above already reads Nietzsche’s writings in a way that is more sympathetic to women than most of his followers tend to be. Nonetheless the patriarchal “double bind” is represented here, albeit fairly sympathetically. What is represented is the substance of a certain patriarchal logic.
To try to become something is to make oneself less than nothing, under the patriarchal system: I am to be too enmeshed in my own illusions in order to see that I am being condemned to my own illusions. In terms of the earlier illustration of the Christian ideological view — that women ought to be made more fearful and modest by self-hate engendered by reading of what the ultimate patriarch thinks of them, many contemporary followers of Nietzsche were already raising the bar too high. One would really have to be in the community of fundamentalist Christians to expect that slightly greater degree of honour and realism that Nietzsche does not extend to us, in assessing the capacities of women.
So, I reflect on the cost of this illusion that Nietzsche wishes to maintain, and how hystericism might seem quite amusing and particularly life-enhancing from a certain kind of male perspective, but it is not half the fun that it apparently appears to be. I reflect, even more, on the episode last night of Two and a Half Men, and its construction of feminism as being made up of a kind of nest of vipers — a conglomeration, as it were, of castrated women. (You could tell they were castrated, because they had an eerie, voiceless way about them of expressing terror and vengeance, in a blind, deterministic way.) This seems to be the kind of feminism Neechy would condemn — the kind made up of women who have always been castrated!
For the first time I have seen, in cartoon, the way in which feminism might be understood by certain men: It is the alliance of castrated women. Far better, I perceived, that they, being castrated, did not find any alliance with others in the same boat. They will only drag those who are relatively healthy — men — down into their excruciating vipers’ nest. It would be better for them to be hysterical mistresses of illusion, influencing men to feel more pleasure in the world, even as their syren songs are instigative of male doom. A sublimated form of Nietzschean kindness might exist in the hidden injunction that women may improve their status of health and get some substance by latching onto a more healthy entity — that is, a male!
But I — I come to feminism from another direction. I approach it as one who is not castrated. I look upon these solutions to the condition of women, these Christian and Nietzschean solutions, as being crazy, mockable, hilarious in their reduction of human relations to such a low scope. Haven’t they heard? God is dead!
… and furthermore, a healthy man cannot be happy with a hysteric, any more than an unhealthy woman can be happy with herself. And, more funny … ever more laughable still!! Patriarchy must necessarily sleep in its own rotten bed that it has made out of gender relations. It has to dig itself in, to accept as normal, all of its delusions.
Either that — Or feminism.
Freudian psychology arguably delineates, as the default or norm for human development, a very much organic or non-rational movement towards internalising patriarchal values and developing a patriarchal character structure. Thus, on the basis of this very organic (and thoroughly unconscious) process of normative development, one becomes a patriarchal subject. Shamanic regeneration cracks the shell of consciousness that contains one in this patriarchal posture. It introduces an opening for rational thinking to enter into play, in relation to the organic condition of having a patriarchal identity.
In general, it is the expression of one’s most human aspects that makes most Western ideologues baulk. To indicate that one is not a functional machine, that simply keeps a-goin during heat or cold, with absolute indifference — this is what scared the Jesus out of ideological Westerners, and causes them to sputter forth all sorts of slurs about race, about gender … xenophobic slurs. It’s whatever they can get you for, to punish you for revealing that you are human.
Shamanic journeying — especially in the way that Marechera invites us to do it in Black Sunlight – is conducive to gaining ontological self-knowledge. What did I mean by that?
There are so metaphysical mystifications. Derrida’s entire schema of philosophical thought is directed towards softening the effects of the mystifications, by compelling us to go their intellectual origins: to see metaphysics as being constructed of binaries that logically entail each other, and not as values that spring from the divine elbow of a god (or some other mystifying formulation).
Shamanism goes further by enabling us to travel to the very root these metaphysical thoughts. There we go to a point that precedes thoughts about gender — that there are two metaphysical binary-partners, male and female. We encounter a way of experiencing the world that precedes the categories of race, as well as the way of thinking that produces morality in black and white.
I am suggesting that this deep kind of shamanic journeying equates us with the ontological forms of existence that go towards making up our identities. The primary form is that of the primeval mother — Nature — in her two-sided nurturing and engulfing qualities. So it is that one of the fundamental lessons that shamanistic journeying can teach us is about our real relationship to Nature, as something apart from our culturally conditioned notions. Nature has a dual and contradictory ontological quality for humans. As part of cultural knowledge, we cannot help but define ourselves in relation to Nature. In shamanic terms, however, we side neither with Rousseau (and his romanticization of Nature) nor with Hobbes (and his intense reservations about it). Rather, one has the ontological self-knowledge that one is both a part of Nature (and fundamentally dependent upon being nurtured by others), and necessarily a thing apart from it (and needing to strive towards our own individuality.)
It is hardly surprising that shamanic journeying leads to genuine insights about how the psyche can become better grounded. We are to understand, shamanistically, that one is in danger of losing very much by valorising one side of nature — that is the nurturing side. One risks everything because one overlooks the engulfing side of Nature; the loss of self:
Ye crowd around your neighbour, and have fine words for it. But I say unto you: your neighbour-love is your bad love of yourselves.
Ye flee unto your neighbour from yourselves, and would fain make a virtue thereof: but I fathom your “unselfishness.”
The THOU is older than the I; the THOU hath been consecrated, but not yet the I: so man presseth nigh unto his neighbour.
Do I advise you to neighbour-love? Rather do I advise you to neighbour- flight and to furthest love!
Neighbour-love involves the actions we do on the basis of a faith in the nurturing side of Nature. But with only this faith, and without further insight, we overlook the fact that we are being engulfed by the other aspect of Nature — the side that annihilates individuality, Culture and Civilisation — due to the plain and simple trust in the idea that Nature has only one dimension. To succumb in this way indicates “bad love” for one’s individualistic powers.
Herd morality is the problem being here defined. It is valorisation of neighbour-love at the cost of attending to one’s own inwardly defined potential. But to take up an absolute embrace of the alternative perspective, (offered by the metaphysical binary of Nature-good or Nature-evil), is to deprive oneself of half of one’s ontological nature. One may then attempt to be a strong and solitary “individual”. But there is no way that one will be nurtured in this attempt. One has cut oneself off from one’s roots, to the point that there is no more capacity for change or self-transformation. To persist with this one-sided embrace of reality for too long will make one very rigid. One may even start to hate the things that represent the nurturing side of Nature, to one’s metaphysically intoxicated mind. One would likely become a dyed in the wool misogynist, then — and this is anything but shamanistic!
Experiencing Nature as being necessarily a two-sided force can save us from one-sided interpretations of the world, and their catastrophic effects, whereby we end up denying one entire half of our what makes up our very state of being. Shamanistic self-knowledge,about one’s dual nature, is the only basis by means of which the negative hold of herd morality can be broken cleanly. Other attempts to free oneself from its control must necessarily fail, due to their reliance on metaphysics, for one cannot eschew one side of Nature, whilst attempting exclusively to latch on to the other side of its ontology. We as humans are already both sides, and need ongoing nurturing from others if we are to be able to work towards a real individualism, and not just an individualism of the tormented, very psychologically fraught and intellectually rigid sort.
Shamanisms — ultimately — are just systems of knowledge as to how to keep inner experience alive. Most of psychology fails at it adjusts the victim/client towards conformity — which is often conformity to a certain standard of deadness. Shamanism’s standard of health is just to do with the liveliness and vitality of inner experience. Conformity to norms is just seen as exactly that — but here it doesn’t pass for a standard of health. Acute sensitivity to the fluctuations of eros and thanatos, and where and when these are most likely to appear, and how they may each be utilised and combated, respectively, are the shaman’s stock in trade.
As for me, I am really only interested in the kind of literature that has huge supra-literary ambitions. Ordinary everyday literature I find neither very interesting nor appealing. It has to be the kind of literature that deliberately works upon the mind, in order to facilitate fundamental changes in the world.
Whether it is effective or not in its goals is much less interesting to me than its attempts in this direction, as well as the structure (aesthetically and emotionally) of psychological mechanisms that it employs towards achieving its political goals.
It is likely that we each have a basic faith in a view about the way the world works, which derives from our early childhood experiences. I consider that my particular faith is a skeptical one. I am a skeptic by faith, ironically — by virtue of a childhood faith.
Let us suppose that this relates to an adjustment mechanism, an innate one. Just as the eye dilates in darkness, to allow more light to enter it, and just as it contracts response to the brightest lights, to enable itself to see at all without being blinded, so my skepticism was founded in reaction to parental certainty.
My father is one who believes that no communication is necessary, not fundamentally, for the important facts of life are those that each of us already knows. Not to know something — about any practical aspect of life — is a sign of wilful self-deception, in his eyes. Or laziness. Each of us already knows all we need to know to get along in life. (I wonder to what degree this stance is derived from white colonial ideology about the nefarious lazy “other” who fails to understand how to be properly “civilised”, and how much of it is merely Christian fundamentalism.)
Examples from my past are as follows: when my father hears a message from god, he knows somehow that all of us — me and my siblings — have heard it, too. He doesn’t need to spell it out for us too much, but to watch and wait to see the degree to which we will fall inline, or punishment will ensue. Having to cope with this kind of erratic behaviour is what has given me my “sixth sense” in tracking the patterns of behaviour of others. One has to be able to predict the storm before it hits if one is to have any chance of surviving it at all.
My childhood ‘faith’, however, is one of skepticism — and to the degree that my father knew for certain what we knew, I knew for certain that I didn’t know what I was supposed to. The more he chimed from the rooves that I knew in a definite way what I was being punished for, the more I saw him as a monster, veiled in mystery.
I became more and more certain that it was not possible to communicate a fundamental thing — the situated position of not knowing. Whereas certainty in knowing seemed to be everybody else’s faith, I found more and more that my faith was oriented around a certainty regarding the impossibility of communicating my inability to know. I could not communicate this to my father — ie. that I was not receiving, by any means, the same messages from “God” that he was. Later, my education about the world at large was found to be quite lacking. (Obviously, it was difficult to communicate with a parent whose manner of communication was punitive and decidely non-verbal, and so the sharing of important information about the world, especially about politics, was minimal.) So once again, as a young adult, I encountered difficulty, regarding the political sphere, in trying to communicate with those who were already certain about their places in the world, my inability to know.
Thus the inability to communicate non-knowledge became a core part of my experience, and reached the point on a practical level of being an informal faith — which is to say an orientation towards the world, in and of itself.
I wonder whether Bataille’s father had the same attitude towards him. A non-Catholic, (Bataille later converted to Catholicism in rebellion against him), perhaps he was nonetheless punitive and incommunicative — so much so that it would later cause the adult Bataille to write reams and reams about the incommunicability of ‘non-knowledge’.
I see a similar pattern in Marechera, whose old man died upon the railway tracks of history. A punitive parent, who is nonetheless filled with epistemological self-certainty, produces children who are epistemological skeptics to the core.
This feature of early upbringing may have had much to do with Marechera’s disavowal of identity politics and its presumption to know you on the inside on the basis of your outside coloure. It is this epistemological skepticism of his that resonates most with me, and with my own life.
Pre-Oedipal regression is most commonly associated with pathology, but this tends to overlook the fact that the pre-Oedipal stage of life is when we are most receptive to new information from our environment. At this early developmental stage, we are not yet prone filtering the information we receive, by means of the common device of repression, but instead experience, without much mediation, every single change in our environment. Furthermore, Nietzsche saw that there was a reality principle, as it were, operating in the less filtered mode of perception that pertains to this primitive “self” – such that it has the executive capacity even to veto the higher operations of ego if they overall do not meet with its standards concerning honesty and vitality. Jung, in a similar vein, saw the valuable role of this primitive self as working towards constructing our inward sense of psychological wholeness. This pre-Oedipal-self latches on to “archetypes” – which are ideas that govern development along certain very specific lines of the imagination. It does so in the same way as a child latches onto a nurturing mother, in order to facilitate its development and to use her as a bridge towards a greater degree of psychological integration with the world. Therefore, regression to the pre-Oedipal level, if done correctly – which is to say, shamanistically — can have the advantage of making one more receptive to the world as it happens to be, and more open towards creative paths of self-development.
The following is a point I’ve taking from the psychoanalytic writings of the post-colonial critic, Ashis Nandy — although it could more easily be related to the neurological output of “mirror cells”. I want to talk about the way in which a non-interventionist approach to psychological abuse creates profoundly mixed messages, which stymie the capacity to participate effectively in the world. Nandy’s insight is that there is a certain tendency to psychologically alienate aspects of oneself that relate to aspects that one has been taught to despise in the person of the cultural Other.
The principle is one of recursive calumnification: One cannot emotionally accept aspects in oneself that one has condemned outside of oneself — that is, if one is a normal, relatively healthy human being. Dislike of the other, for whatever features they seem to represent, will also lead to an ultimate dislike of oneself to the degree that one appears to be much like the other (from the point of view of the ruthless, primary-processing parts of one’s mind). This is an analysis concerning what those who dominate will tend to experience, as it happens, generally on the principle of excluding others from their realm “on principle”. A mounting paranoia on their parts is to be expected.
Oddly enough, perhaps, I’m not concerned with the moral implications of this principle, as its apparent psychological determinism can regularly be got around, through the promotion of certain ideologies and the systematic promotion of fear. What is more interesting to me is the kind of training for misunderstanding that eventuates when the presence and existence of mirroring as a basic psychological phenomenon is not taken sufficiently into account.
I’m more interested in the way that this phenomenon of mirroring works from the point of view of one who in an outsider, or is oppressed. Let us talk about me. I have an aggressively healthy attitude towards my own education, in every respect. I have learned that aggression of this sort is also rationally self-defensive. Why so? Because to deny that an event happened is to lose the ability to learn anything from it. To accept that one must succumb to denying important parts of reality is to accept a mental dulling. One switches off and refuses to know. Intellectually one may shut down, but emotionally one detaches. An originally inexplicable event then just becomes another dull (or, dully violent) eventuality to learn to ignore, as one passes, without thought, along the stream of what passes for life. This is the diminishment that I am pressured to accept whenever somebody says, “Oh, what you’re interested in (regarding gender, to take one example) is just so much whining. What I hear then is “You must accept diminishment! You don’t deserve to remain alert or to have answers.” I understand such as response as a way to cast me down into an inferior social place.
But, I wonder, despite all this pressure from above, why my self-education remains important to me. This struggle for survival is vital to me at the most visceral and fundamental level. It is by means of this effort that I untie myself from various ideological and political knots; the profoundly mixed messages that end up being produced when ideological systems, based on fear, have taken control in any society. My situation then is as follows: My experiences as a cultural outsider have made it very difficult for me to learn the values of this, my current, culture. The manner in which we conventionally learn — by mirroring — has been the one most essentially blocked. And this provides a quandary — psychologically. I am blocked from learning by doing. I am free to learn only from books.
How does it happen that one is not free to treat others the way one treats oneself? This is the principle by which learning is facilitated, and it is the one that Nandy points to in indicating why Kipling had so much trouble, as a British colonial, accepting his own Indian “otherness”. (In effect, I am suggesting that he could not even learn from his own psychologically and socially assimilated experiences concerning what another culture had to offer.) The principle of othering seems to trump the principle of learning through mirroring. Whenever this happens learning processes are stymied.
I think of why it seems to me that there are so many contexts of the Australian workplace where I am fundamentally unable to function — where participating is much more difficult than going for one’s black belt, and where a mechanism of coercion always hangs over one’s head: an injunction to become duller and to experience and see less than one does. It is because as one lower in the hierarchy and also a migrant-outsider, I am not permitted to learn by mirroring — in other words, I do not have the freedom to adapt.
I have wondered why school teaching seems like the hardest, most impossible job of all for me, when others manage it in a relative stride. It is hard because I cannot treat others the way I treat myself. If I am firm with myself, I am only permitted to be sensitive to them. If I am sensitive, I am not permitted to show it. In all, my cultural training has had too many mixed messages, which all obey the construction: “treat us as if our sensitivities really, really matter, or you will be deemed immoral. As for you, your sensitivities are really nothing to be concerned with. Get over it!”
I’ve tried being less sensitive to the injunction to get over essential parts of my experience — but that only makes me treat you more firmly, in fact in precisely that way that you have taught me to treat myself, which now seems natural. But for me to treat you as I do myself is precisely what is most unacceptable to you — you cultural insiders!
The whole scenario does not compute. If I cannot simply treat you how I treat myself, then I am forced to make every sort of action that I engage in, in relation to you, very, very conscious. I have to parse it through consciousness in every way before I act on it, and the amount of effort that it takes in doing this is more than I can humanly manage. Much easier, if it were permitted, would be to mirror the emotions and attitudes that are directed at me. But a cultural outsider is expected to toe the line. Small infractions of standards of politeness or small expressions of impulse seem much more dangerous from one who is already deemed a cultural outsider. There’s just no way of getting to the inside then, no easy way– only via the well-worn route of intellectual and spiritual deadness.
And here is how we tell: because a men’s rights activist NEEDS women, specifically as prey. Without them in subordination to him, he knows that he is already less than half a man. That is why he is driven by forces outside of his control. The following applies to him:
Unlike this walking, talking, stalking caricature of masculinity, a fully shamanised individual does not advertise her needs. She might state something about them, but they are far from being predictable along the lines of herd-like reasoning (ie. in relation to that type of reasoning in terms of which desire becomes a form of determinism, which is therefore transparent and easy to manipulate).
The shaman’s reasons are far from easy to fathom. Wait until he’s sleeping in the snow, and put a bullet through his brain: she’s ruthless enough for that.
But from the herd’s perspective you would never know.
My critique of contemporary ietzscheanism’ is largely based upon a single psychological principle. It is as simple as this, that one is mistaken to assume that one can become any different from what one is merely by reading a book and learning that individualism and will to power have merit.
If you try to represent those things, instead of coming closer to approximating them, you actually remove yourself at least a large step away. This pertains to the principle of imitation and how it removes you from your actual self. Most contemporary Nietzscheans try to bring their worst impulses to the surface and baptise them as their best ones. Now, this might sound like this Nietzschean principle at first:
But, the way most people apply it, there is no radical transformation involved only a devolution. But, the way most people apply it, there is no radical transformation involved only a devolution. Above all, there is no attempt at integration of the powerful forces we would otherwise project onto others.
Devolving to a level where you express yourself in terms of your worst possible aspects in neither clever, courageous, nor particularly related to Nietzsche. The point is that one remains an “actor of the spirit” — somebody who has decided to imitate an image that they find in a book — only now, one is replete with a vulgar and repulsive coating.
How does one, therefore, get beyond being the victim of a book, so that one may gain anything from Nietzsche’s philosophy at all? (And what, by the way, does he mean by “evil”?) This, of course, relates not to a relabeling and remarketing process — whereby your disgusting wares are now given the title of “rose perfume”. No. Rather the epigram refers to a radical rearrangement of the very structure of your soul, thus that you no longer repress certain of your drives, out of fear of them, but learn to utilise them in radical and practical ways, towards goals that you have set.
This inwards rearranging of forces could actually be quite subtle, and by no means needs to involve forcing others to meet what is most repulsive about you — your misogyny, for instance. But we are referring here to inwards self-transformation — of the sort that would lead you away from being a mere “actor of the spirit” to being one who participates in the realm of the spirit. (A radical self-transformation is required even as a prerequisite for being able to see the second possibility of direct participation. Otherwise, one stays entirely on the surface.)
Consider the question of individualism. It should not even be necessary to point it out — one does not become an individual by imitating anything that is in a book. An authoritarian, who takes guidance from what he believes he understands about a text, is not an individual. He is an authoritarian, who bumbles along, often trying to correct others (indeed, by expressing his most repulsive aspects according to his level of understanding of Nietzsche’s mystic “formula”– interpreted as an occult recipe that facilitates a grab for power.)
But how does an authoritarian become an individual? Another way of saying this is “how does one rebaptise the “evil” in one, as the good?” It’s not by an extremist gesture of putting it all on the line and grabbing for power. Rather, this involves a process of acknowledging that what one has repressed, in order to conform with others expectations, is not actually the evil within one that one had imagined it to be. It was just repressed psychological energy — energy that, by virtue of being repressed, began to stink. But now, one is restoring that energy to a different place, in a different part of one’s psyche. One has found a way to use it to one’s benefit. Thereby, what was once practically evil becomes practically good.
My reading departs from the norm in that it understands that Nietzsche’s philosophy is concerned with practical transformations of an intra-subjective nature. It avoids the idea (and its aesthetically unadmirable consequences!) of the most common notion — that Nietzsche’s writing is a formula that teaches you how to lord it over others.
It’s time for a shamanic re-reading of Nietzsche.
Perhaps one of the main reasons why many of Nietzsche’s contemporary followers do not understand Nietzsche is that they fail to follow closely enough his recommendations on a practical level. Nietzsche’s philosophy is a practical recipe for shamanisation.
Why does he uphold the need for a strong ego? There are some cultural and historical reasons that have to do with being a “complimentary man” in opposition to the principles of one’s age — for example, of wishy-washy 19th Century Christianity. But this contextualisation of the principle in historical and cultural terms does not, in itself, suffice to explain the practical meaning and reasons for the need for a strong ego.
Quite simply, it is required to have such if one is to develop practical knowledge of the Unconscious. Otherwise, one is at risk of being totally overwhelmed and submerged by the power of one’s own Unconscious thoughts. To avoid this, the development of ego strength has to be practiced.
Why, though, the injunction to go against the principles and mores of one’s age?
Because, by finding oneself at war with everything, one is most likely to find oneself cast entirely onto one’s own psychological resources, as one struggles for survival. It is this kind of psychological pressure-cooker experience that is most likely to cause one to shamanise — that is, to discover the previously hidden resources of the Unconscious. So the Nietzschean injunction to be “at war” is actually a recipe for shamanising.
But ego strength alone is just a recipe for public and private foolishness.
It’s not a recipe for the “great health” that Nietzsche spoke about, but only makes its adherents sick and sicker. To take “ego strength” in just one direction is to inflate the ego to the point that it is no longer receptive to communication from the “Self”. (This Self is in Jungian and Nietzschean terms the core part of the identity. In Jungian terms, it is the creative principle of life that governs the Unconscious. In Nietzschean terms, it is actually the reality principle within the Unconscious . It calls the bluffs of ego, whenever ego has set off on any path of self-deception. For example, it can cause you to become physically sick if/when you embrace a false ideology like Christianity.) But if you cannot hear “the Self” because your ego is too puffed up, and you are too “strong” and determined to plod along the iron path that you have set for yourself, you will make an enemy of the Unconscious, which will in turn try to draw you back towards it by making you fall flat onto your nose!
Indeed, the development of ego strength as a goal in and of itself is just a prime recipe for an extreme kind of inwards slavery.
Perhaps that is why Bataille wrote as he did — because he could see that the “ego-strengthening” response to Nietzsche’s philosophy wasn’t working. He had to reintroduce the “destruction” trope to the Nietzschean project to try to make it clearer. But even that is subject to misunderstanding — a notion that it is about masculinist chaos.
Another shamanic use for relativised ego strength:
It’s in the meaning of the “eternal recurrence” — to be able to face again, all the traumatic moments of one’s life, without shrinking away from them and thus losing “soul”, (which is what happened in the first developmental instance, when one was weak or immature). Thus one recapitulates the past and becomes stronger.