Consider the possibility that the world was never what it used to be, however much we wish it had been. Thus the mourning of the magicians. Thus childhood's end in a field of broken pentacles. What's passed has been received in full. The long night over, nothing left of yesterday, not even darkness. In a freshening wind, only future to look forward to, the horses paw the earth, the beggars ride...
Max Weber wrote that. It means "the disenchantment of the world." He didn't write the music, no, that's Robert Fripp on Eno's here come the warm jets, back when Eno could rock. High brow, low brow. Better like that if you mix it up. Jam it all together, run it through the blender, crank it. Juxtaposition being almost everything. You ready there, Max? Then hit it, Herr Doktor...
...it means that principally there are no mysterious incalculable forces that come into play, but rather that one can, in principle, master all things by calculation. This means the world is disenchanted. One need no longer have recourse to magical means in order to master or implore the spirits, as did the savage, for whom such mysterious powers existed.Savage. You like that? Let that Fripp clip loop a few more times
But oh the nostalgia for how they might have been. Attempts to re-enchant the world abound. But too self-conscious, clumsy, not the same. Once you know you're doing it yourself, all you get is a pantheon of plastic gods and an embarrassment of bitches. Because instrumental rationality got in the way of all that sacredness. Of all that wilding Dionysian discord. Of all those spooky bedside comforts instrumental in your own undoing. Pandemic panegyric self regard. I'm going to count backwards from 100 now. Just relax. Gonna take you down to tinkertoys.
In Constructing the Self, Constructing America: A Cultural History of Psychotherapy, Philip Cushman writes:
In 1836, Charles Poyen, a follower of the infamous Anton Mesmer, brought Mesmer's strange combination of Enlightenment science, hypnotism, romanticism, and spirituality to to the United States. With it came the seeds of a liberationist ideology that would mix with the native abundance of the New World and grow into a whole new type of healing technology, one uniquely adapted to the optimism and material promise of the American cultural terrain. In the nineteenth century, the United States was caught in a vise created by the potential material profit offered by the "virgin" continent, on the one hand, and the psychological wounds occasioned by immigration, racism, gender prescriptions, unregulated capitalism, and the weakening of tradition and community, on the other. This juxtaposition of seemingly unlimited abundance with severe confusion and suffering created a paradox, the effects of which could be seen in the strange psychosomatic symptoms that affected the new urban populations of the East and Midwest. The paradox posed a question, and mesmerism, an unlikely hero, provided an answer. Herein lies a strange and very American tale, one that describes the creation of a new and un-European concept of the human being. Simply put, the human interior was conceived of as neither dangerous, secular, nor controlled by external events, as Europeans believed; instead it was inherently good, potentially saturated in spirituality, and capable of controlling the external world: it was an enchanted interior, a fitting partner for the enchanted geographical "interior" that spread westward to the Pacific.
This "strange and very American tale" is headed straight for "mind cure," New Thought, Christian Science and all manner of weirdball spiritualism. A story we'll be exploring here too, but later. My attention span is flagging. However, following on that last trope -- a psychological analog for manifest destiny -- Cushman writes...
Mesmerism's subject was the interior, enchanted, potentially expansive self, a self so clearly syntonic with the American terrain and the power relations and forms of control that were a part of that terrain. Of course, mesmerism not only reflected this nineteenth-century American self; it also helped construct it.
In a later chapter called "Self-Liberation Through Consumerism" -- the section is titled "Heinz Kohut and the Valorization of Narcissism: The Self Takes Center Stage" -- Cushman talks about Kohut's "self psychology" and theory of narcissism, writing (p. 270) that Kohut confused appearance for essence, that is, taking culturally conditioned psychological dynamics for universal human truths. He says Kohut
...saw the whole mid- to late twentieth-century clearing -- the appearance of emptiness, confusion, isolation, the commodification of human life -- and called it essence. By doing so he reified the given, gave it a scientific justification, and encouraged its continuation. Ultimately, this is the source of his limitation, and ours as well.
And there's this a page later...
......self structure is both built (through psychologically taking in and metabolizing the parent's qualities) and liberated (through the unfolding plan of the nuclear self). The consumer language in [Kohut's] formulation should be obvious. The two characteristic elements of twentieth-century American consumerism -- individual salvation through the consuming of commodities and the liberation of the enchanted interior -- are clearly evident.
Instrumental rationality will use any means to achieve desired ends. Self-interested, calculating, focused on efficiency, prediction, command and control, it ultimately leads to Weber's "iron cage" of rigid, stultifying bureaucracy. Neither is it above using "spirituality" and enchantment to "get its needs met." Although the psychological construct was still a long way off in Weber's future -- our present; be here now -- instrumental rationality can also lead to the inflexible algorithm run amok that is personality disorder.
Cognitive Therapy of Personality Disorders ~ Aaron T. Beck