Pseudologia fantastica, mythomania, or pathological lying, is one of several terms applied by psychiatrists to the behaviour of habitual or compulsive lying. It was first described in the medical literature in 1891.
OK, let's start with this clip from the intro to your interview at EnlightenNext (formerly What Is Enlightenment? magazine) Issue #16, Fall–Winter 1999; issue theme: "How Free Do We Really Want to Be?"
...[Keen] has authored over a dozen books and has for years been a prominent figure in the American human potential movement. It was through his experiences leading workshops at Esalen Institute, as a contributing editor for Psychology Today, and as cofounder of a men's group called SPERM (Society for the Protection and Encouragement of Righteous Manhood) that he began to formulate many of the ideas that would fill the pages of his books.
Which explains why those pages tend to stick together.
In the middle of an interview that is so cranky and boring at the same time that your ears might start to bleed, Keen says something that sounds as if it might actually be true.
So much of my approach is the effort to go beyond mythology to autobiography, to take my own story and the uniqueness of my own situation, my own gifts and my own wounds, with a kind of ultimate seriousness.
Interesting that he distances himself from both gender issues ("get over it") and Jung ("I don't like Jungianism -- just like I detest the idea of archetypes."). He made a bundle on the former, and invokes Jung -- as does his mentor Campbell -- whenever he finds it convenient, which is often. For instance, on Keen's current website, in a directory inexplicably titled...
...in the section on "Your Life, Your Story: Composing an Autobiography," right after where he says that human beings are "biomythic animals," there's this...
Carl Jung once said that the most important question anyone can ask is: What myth am I living? In the degree that we remember and retell our stories and create new ones we become the authors, the author/ities, of our own lives.
Too right. You probably didn't know this about me, but I have totally reinvented myself as the Sugar Plum Fairy.
The photo of Keen, above, comes from Yoga Journal November-December issue, 1994, pp. 114-116. (btw, monster kudos to Google for putting magazine archives online!) The article is titled "What My Book Is Not About," the book in question being Hymns to an Unknown God: Awakening The Spirit In Everyday Life. This appears opposite a cheesy ad for two Deepak Chopra books: Restful Sleep and Perfect Weight. Evidently, things the book is not about include angels, UFOs, miracles, out-of-body experiences, near-death experiences, self-esteem, and "prophesy" [sic].
It is not even about what my dear friend Joseph Campbell talks about in Hero's Journey, where he writes that we go into the forest where it is the darkest, and each goes alone, since It would be a shame to go in a group.
A shame, yes how true. But note that Keen has cleverly touched on all the magic hot buttons that readers of Yoga Journal in 1994 -- and perhaps even more so today -- are most likely to care about.
After devoting at least half the article to such disclaimers, Keen then says, well OK, he can tell us a little about what the book is about. "The book is in some ways about forming a spiritual bullshit detector," he writes. But only in some ways, right, Sam? Because if your intended audience had working bullshit detectors, they'd never read your crap in the first place. So: moderation in all things. A little detecting, a little bullshit. A little detecting, a little more bullshit. Rinse and repeat.
Defining the quest to unlock spirituality as "the reverse of the religious pilgrimage," bestselling author Sam Keen (Fire in the Belly) nonetheless sets out immediately to blend Eastern and Western religious traditions with philosophy, psychology and autobiography. The result is a New Age-ish "now-and-then spiritual journey" whose indirect path may result in confusion for questers seeking less amorphous guidance.
But Publishers Weekly clearly doesn't get it. On your mythic journey, indirection is the path; amorphous confusion the shining goal.
In the opening bars of Your Mythic Journey, we learn two salient facts. First (p. iii), the book was published by Jeremy P. Tarcher, who was responsible for more New Age books than Jesus Christ, Buddha and Lao Tzu, combined. (btw, Tarcher was married to Shari Lewis, so it's possible that the ontological devolution we've been exploring here, lo these many years now, was a plot hatched by Lambchop. After all, ask yourself: is this the real life or is this just fantasy?)
Second (p. iv), it is dedicated to Joseph Campbell, whose name will appear again and again in such books. Such books being those about how to make the lesser argument appear the greater. The lesser being the random-ass concatenation of cruel jokes and unconscionable misjudgments that constitute your personal history. The greater being the same set of raw materials magically reformulated into the shining saga of a hero or goddess able to leap tall buildings at a single bound, patch up the crack in the Liberty Bell, or fearlessly lead a locust-horde of God-fearing White People Westward. You go, girl!
John Gast's 1872 painting, American Progress, is but one reminder that America is no stranger to heroes and heroines, gods and goddesses got up to serve the interests of the prevailing ideological drift. A bit further back, we have the glee of Henry David Thoreau that his family took its name from that of a Norse god.
Your personal mythology is the loom on which you weave the raw materials of daily experience into a coherent story. You live your life from within this mythology, drawing to yourself the characters and creating the scenes that correspond with its guiding theme.
There is no end of references to the power of mythic hogwash. But as this is the fourth installment of the "Liar Liar" series, perhaps at this point I should back up and talk about why all this is important. Why I think it's important.
In my previous post (Liar Liar 3: The Myth of Myth), I suggested that the powerful attraction of Jung -- Eliade depended on him, as did Campbell and so many others since -- is based not just on his notions about archetypes and the collective unconscious, but on something much more seductive that those two constructs enable: "individuation."
By individuation, Jung meant the creation of a real Self (he usually capitalized it) balanced between individual subjectivity -- the waking personal conscious -- and the Collective Unconscious (he capitalized that too) -- a transpersonal layer of racially acquired experience. (Yes, the reference to race is problematic -- as has been Jung's entire theory, for the same reason.)
Henry David Thoreau, who was wrong about so many things, was right when he said most people lead lives of quiet desperation. At least some of the time. I have felt that way. You have felt that way. Let us not talk falsely now. And the desperation is to get out of the terrible suffocation of being imprisoned within a miniscule inarticulate repetitive and hugely boring subjectivity. There must be some way out of here.
By the way, dropping allusions to Dylan here is more germane than you might guess. His song, "All Along the Watchtower," is based on one of the most obscure prophets of the Old Testament...
I will stand upon my watch, and set me upon the tower, and will watch to see what he will say unto me, and what I shall answer when I am reproved.
And the LORD answered me, and said, Write the vision, and make it plain upon tables, that he may run that readeth it.
In brief, word on the street was that some ill-intentioned horde of barbarians was bearing down on some minor king's minor kingdom in some long forgotten desert where more recent barbarities are now making headlines. So this king asked God what to do. Should I stay or should I go sorta thing. And God, in His ineffable effing way, said hang loose, King, I'll get back to you. Put sentries on your watchtowers and I'll send you a sign.
Except He never did.
For this reason, Sunday sermons based on the book of Habakkuk tend to get rather convoluted rather quickly. Two riders were approaching. Or they weren't. Or... well, let's kick around what God might have been thinking.
A favorite human pastime.
Which brings us back to Jung. And to the larger context within which Jung, by his own occasional admission, was embedded: gnosticism. Let's leave aside for the moment the fact that some scholars in the field of Religious Studies have suggested that gnosticism is such a vague and historically slippery concept that it has no real meaning at all. See for instance, Rethinking "Gnosticism": An Argument for Dismantling a Dubious Category (Princeton University Press, 1996). As a class, the Mystic Bourgeoisie has constructed itself of just such nebulous and ultimately meaningless categories. So what else is new?
The gnostic category Jung gave us was the capital-S Self, and a method by which it could "shop" itself together, i.e., individuation. Think a sort of spiritual Photoshopping. Think rag and bone shop of the heart.
The shop window is the collective unconscious, another questionable category, but let's let that one slide too. Think Macy's windows at Christmastime in New York, the lights, the snow, the tinkling sublunary music of the spheres. Everyone in love, everything sorta magical. Sorta mythic.
Kinda like a drug. Like ecstasy maybe. Like whatever drives away quiet desperation. Take only as directed.
And here are the directions. Stroll up and down looking at the pretty archetypes in the shop windows. The Empress, the Goddess, the Good Witch of the East, the oracle@delphi. But of course, not all are so pretty. There's the Warrior, the King, the Sorcerer, the Magician. Those are for the boys. And don't worry, if you're lesbian, there's Sappho, if you're gay, there's Pan. And so on. Point being: something for everyone and not half boring! Not in the least desperate. In fact, when you get right down to it, really rather Sacred.
And who wouldn't want to trade in their ho-hum subjectivity for a gung-ho archetypicality or two?
Actually, Jung himself warned about this. He warned of psychic inflation, infection, of "invasion" from the unconscious. Sounds dire, doesn't it? Like "The Invasion of the Body Snatchers," like "The Day the Earth Stood Still." Aba Gort. Klaatu barada nikto!
Jung wasn't kidding, though. He had first-hand experience of such invasions and possessions. Serious business. No laughing matter.
But note also how close such warnings sound to those of the side-show barker. Ladies and Gentlemen, don't get too close! This Beast from the Dark Jungles of Africa will shock you. It will challenge your most cherished beliefs! Don't come inside unless you are sound of body and pure of heart! Only for the brave, courageous and bold!
Such "warnings" sell a lot of tickets.
So you step right up and buy yours for the Gnostic Individuation ride. Show your girl you're no chicken, dammit. Show that guy you're no dum-dum!
I weep for you.
Because yes, life is boring a lot of the time. Not as exciting as you thought it'd be. The wife, the kids. The husband, the job. Is that all there is? Midway on life's journey, your desperation boils over, and no Virgil in sight. Because Stoneman's cavalry came and tore up the tracks again. Yeah, that's it, that's probably why.
Virgil Kane is the name
and I served on the Danville train...
Or wait. Corn in the fields... Maybe Virgil reincarnated as Carlos Castaneda or Don Miguel Ruiz or Sri Aurobindo or Ram Dass or Deepak Chopra. Listen to the rice as the wind blows 'cross the water... One-a those foreigners with the funny names. One-a them vaguely Oriental types. King Harvest will surely come!
You're individuating now, baby! See? All you needed was a little help, a little expert direction. A Guide, a Guru, a Master.
Step right up.
Stroll by the window displays. Pick yourself a cool archetype, a knowing goddess, a fearless champion. And rework the story of your life so it works out that that's really you. The real you. The realer than real you. Your True Self.
You're on your mythic journey now, just like Sam Keen promised. You got your mythic image, just like Joe Campbell said. You're a Hero, a Heroine.
Or maybe you're on a particularly addictive form of heroin. Maybe you're shitting yourself blind.
Mystic Bourgeoisie is a history of professional liars, side-show barkers who, for hundreds of years, have promised to help you find a more mythical, mystical story for your life. A deeper meaning. A higher purpose. A better soundtrack.
Scarecrow and a yellow moon
and pretty soon a carnival on the edge of town.
King Harvest has surely come.
Thanks to the tireless efforts of Carl Jung, Mircea Eliade, Joseph Campbell, and their now innumerable wannabe emulators, the general half-educated public tends to have quite an inflated view of capital-M Myth these days. However, it is worth recalling that the word can also refer to something that just flat-out ain't so.
a fiction or half-truth, especially one that forms part of an ideology
a fictitious story, person, or thing
Author Will Bunch shows how the "Reagan Myth" -- created posthumously by GOP spin doctors -- fits these negative senses of the word. But long before he went all POTUS on us, Ronnie was already a built-from-a-kit product of "modern" -- really, then only barely nascent -- public relations and advertising. Clearly, such myth makers have a long and hoary (so to speak) history in both political and commercial arenas.
When an individual plays a part he implicitly requests his observers to take seriously the impression that is fostered before them. They are asked to believe that the character they see actually possesses the attributes he appears to possess, that the task he performs will have the consequences that are implicitly claimed for it, and that, in general, matters are what they appear to be.
No worries, though: there's a brand new book on self presentation, published just last year. In this updated case, the presentations are in PowerPoint. And of course, the whole discussion has been "spiritualized." For instance, on page 145 of Presentation Zen: Simple Ideas on Presentation Design and Delivery, we are told that...
It also doesn't hurt to have the Helvetica Neue UltraLight font in your bag of tricks. Plus a copy of the DSM-IV-TR, which includes this diagnostic criterion for Narcissistic Personality Disorder...
As only hinted in Liar Liar 2, we are back in the world of self as brand manipulation, of identity as infinitely moveable advertising feast. That is to say, back in the special, high-status, high-quality, sophisticated, important and above all spiritual realm of capital-M Myth. And we should therefore not be in the least surprised at this juncture to re-encounter kindly old Father Jung, replete with his archetypes and the collective unconscious, ready to assist with contemporary branding initiatives.
The concept of archetypes as the mode of expression of the collective unconscious is discussed. In addition to the purely personal unconscious hypothesized by Freud, a deeper unconscious level is felt to exist. This deeper level manifests itself in universal archaic images expressed in dreams, religious beliefs, myths, and fairytales. The archetypes, as unfiltered psychic experience, appear sometimes in their most primitive and naive forms (in dreams), sometimes in a considerably more complex form due to the operation of conscious elaboration (in myths).
Note a couple of things here. First, "hypothesized by Freud." Hold that thought. Second, re Jung, "a deeper unconscious level is felt to exist." Note the passive voice. Note especially that this is felt as a feeling, an inkling, perhaps a belief -- or a hunch, a conjecture, a shot in the dark. Perhaps Jung simply took a wild ass guess. Finally, note well, highlight, underline, and set off in neon spots the bit about...
conscious elaboration (in myths)
Up until around the time of Jung's death in 1961, Freud had won the depth psychology sweeps hands-down. Psychoanalysis had beat out Analytical Psychology by any and every measure that could be applied to determine things like cultural popularity, number of clients and gross take.
However, with the advent of psychedelic drugs in the 1960s -- thanks largely to their importation and wide distribution by the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency (but that's another story) -- the inherent spookiness of Jung's crypto-occultism was a better fit with the return of a hallucinatory Zeitgeist. That the '60s were in fact a return to the cultural milieu of fin-de-siecle northern Europe is a major premise of this blog (soon to be a Major Motion Picture) -- and thus a return to Jung's roots, as partially unpacked in Spiritualism and the Foundations of C.G. Jung's Psychology (Amazon). Later, the women's movement (with substantial help from Jeffrey Moussaieff Masson) debunked Freud's "seduction theory," thus tilting the scales still further, if by default, in favor the Jungian persuasion.
We're getting a bit far afield with this detour, but it's worth noting that in the often dramatic cultural competition between Freud and Jung, the latter -- amazingly, hare-and-tortoise-wise -- won! While neither man's theory of the mind has ever been scientifically proven, Jung's ideas are certainly more "far out," trending toward the arcane, the inexplicably mysterious, even the occult.
It is one of the supreme ironies of the century just past -- which kicked off in 1900 with the publication of Freud's The Interpretation of Dreams -- that psychoanalysis is today almost universally considered passe, while nearly anything invoking Jung is taken by many as absolute gospel. Try telling a woman she is suffering from penis envy, and she'll slap your face and walk away. Rightly so. But mention archetypes, alchemy, Gnosticism, or "synchronicity," and chances are good she'll hang on your every word for the entire evening. What's wrong with this picture?
That's the question Mystic Bourgeoisie returns to again and again. In the present case, what's wrong is what's right. For many, the powerful attraction of Jung is that his numinous musings enable a mythic reconfiguration of the Self -- the favorite subject, bar none, of the Mystically Beatified. This is what Jung called "individuation." The Wikipedia discussion of this topic points to a hopelessly confused ("Individuation is the process of integrating the conscious with the unconscious, for the purpose of self-actualization." BZZZZT! WRONG!), but entirely typical source on a site called soultherapynow.com...
Individuation is a philosophical, spiritual and mystical experience (Jung, 1989b, p. 294). It is the goal of our psychological development and in metaphysical terms amounts to God's incarnation (Jung, p. 157). Individuation is the central concept and purpose of Jung’s Analytical Psychology (Jung, 1989a, p. 209)...
Jung, C. G. (1962). Symbols of Transformation: An analysis of the prelude to a case of schizophrenia (Vol. 2, R.F.C. Hull, Trans.). New York: Harper & Brothers.
Jung, C. G. (1989a). Memories, Dreams, Reflections (Rev. ed., C. Winston & R. Winston, Trans.) (A. Jaffe, Ed.). New York: Random House, Inc.
Jung, C. G. (1989b). Psychology and Religion: West and East (2nd ed., R.F.C. Hull, Trans.). Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.
I have no serious doubts as to whether Jung said those things, in a general sort of way, or even verbatim -- though it's impossible to know from the clip and the references. For instance, Google finds "Individuation is a philosophical, spiritual and mystical experience" only on that soultherapynow.com site. And what "(Jung, p. 157)" might conceivably refer to is left as an exercise for the reader. But this sort of thing gets uncritically passed around the net, and does reflect the popular grasp of all things Jungian, i.e., "our psychological development" = "God's incarnation." w00t!
At one extreme, one finds that the performer can be fully taken in by his own act; he can be sincerely convinced that the impression of reality which he stages is the real reality. When his audience is also convinced in this way about the show he puts on -- and this seems to be the typical case -- then for the moment at least, only the sociologist or the socially disgruntled will have any doubts about the 'realness' of what is presented.
Emphasis mine, of course, as I count myself firmly ensconced among "the socially disgruntled," and with -- as I keep trying to demonstrate here -- damn good reason!
With that in mind, let's turn back to brands. Specifically, to brands and archetypes. More specifically still to Building Brands and Believers: How to Connect with Consumers Using Archetypes (Wiley, 2003), the cover of which is graced with the Signs of the Zodiac -- which I suppose are being offered as brand serving suggestions. Rather than rant at you further at this point, let's just look at a bit of the Table of Contents, shall we?
SECTION II The Mythic Connection
Chapter 5. Archetypes: The Source Code
Chapter 6. Making Modern Mythology
SECTION III Mythic Profiles
Chapter 7. Mythic Profile: The Ultimate Strength
Chapter 8. Mythic Profile: The Siren
Chapter 9. Mythic Profile: The Hero
Chapter 10. Mythic Profile: The Anti-Hero
Chapter 11. Mythic Profile: The Creator
Chapter 12. Mythic Profile: The Change Master
Chapter 13. Mythic Profile: The Powerbroker
Chapter 14. Mythic Profile: The Wise Old Man
Chapter 15. Mythic Profile: The Loyalist
Chapter 16. Mythic Profile: The Mother of Goodness
Chapter 17. Mythic Profile: The Little Trickster
Chapter 18. Mythic Profile: The Enigma
Chapter 19. Mythic Figures in Combination and in
SECTION IV Harnessing Archetypes
Chapter 20. Managing the Intangible
Chapter 21. Improving Consumer Connections
Now, from the sound of that, combined with the cluelessly lurid cover art, you might be forgiven for thinking the author to be yet another New Age no-brainer on bad drugs. However, while I frame no hypothesis as to his actual IQ, get a load of this official "About the Author" clip...
Kent Wertime is a veteran of the international advertising and communications industry. His career to date has included executive positions in New York, Hong Kong, Bangkok, and Singapore. Kent has worked with dozens of blue-chip multinational clients, covering a wide range of product categories. He is also an experienced writer and lecturer whose articles and professional commentary appear frequently in the Asian press, including the Asian Wall Street Journal, Media, CNN, and CNBC. Currently, Kent is the CEO of OgilvyInteractive Asia, the Interactive division of the Ogilvy & Mather Group.
If you don't find that at least vaguely horrifying, try this blurb from no less a light than Philip Kotler, S.C. Johnson Distinguished Professor of International Marketing, Kellogg Graduate School of Management, Northwestern University...
Kent Wertime successfully argues that while products are becoming more alike, brands can avoid "commoditization" by drawing on the rich language of archetypes to tap into more unconscious and emotional levels that influence consumer perception and preference.
We are now fully through the looking glass. That wasn't very painful, now was it? Unless you object to Global Economy by Ouija Board. Unless you thought rationality was still intact among the much vaunted spoils of some fondly imagined Age of Enlightenment 1.0. Unless you thought "New Age" was merely something involving tinfoil hats and crystal gazing in Sedona, AZ.
But oh, it gets so much richer! In How Brands Become Icons: The Principles of Cultural Branding (Harvard Business School Press, 2004), author Douglas B. Holt -- the L’Oreal Chair of Marketing at Oxford University, so he should know! -- "shows how iconic brands create 'identity myths' that, through powerful symbolism, soothe collective anxieties resulting from acute social change."
Don't you feel soothed already, just reading that? Can you handle a little more? This is from p. 39...
Targeting myth markets can be a complicated task, for they don't stand still. In fact, myth markets are routinely destabilized by cultural disruptions: Symbolic earthquakes pulse through society, shattering the value of existing myth markets and spurring the creation of new ones. Iconic brands not only target the most appropriate myth market; they are also sensitive to cultural disruptions, shifting their target when opportunity strikes. Successful iconic brands leap nimbly across cultural disruptions by deciphering the new myth markets created by the disruption and homing in on a new target.
Sounds pretty freakin impressive, no? Until you read the next sentence: "One especially agile iconic brand has been Mountain Dew."
In the preface, Holt tells a story about an ad for Diet Coke that used the Cheap Trick song, I Want You To Want Me. He describes the voiceover by Renée Zellweger about some loser flossing his teeth in the apartment across the alleyway or some such bullshit. The details are supremely unimportant, trust me. Then the author tells us...
this ad touched me because Diet Coke had grabbed familiar cultural source material and used it to tell a story about manhood, a story I wanted to believe in. The story tells us that guys caught up in frivolous pop music, guys so immersed in their music that they find spiritual moments in the most mundane of tasks, are endearing, even cool in a way.
That was when the projectile vomiting set in.
When the individual has no belief in his own act and no ultimate concern with the beliefs of his audience, we may call him cynical, reserving the term 'sincere' for individuals who believe in the impression fostered by their own performance. It should be understood that the cynic, with all his professional disinvolvement, may obtain unprofessional pleasures from his masquerade, experiencing a kind of gleeful spiritual aggression from the fact that he can toy at will with something his audience must take seriously.
This was going to be a lot longer, but it's too long already. So I guess there'll be a Liar Liar 4, and maybe even a Liar Liar 5. Lying turns out to be a central theme and major mode for the Mystic Bourgeoisie, even if they call it their "Mythic Journey," which is where we'll pick it up next time.
We live in a spiritual economy. There is a
marketplace for worldviews and communities as
well as goods and services. There are both
consumers and producers of belief systems and
community. And the laws of supply and demand
apply as much in the spiritual exchange as
they do in the economic. Where the economic
and spiritual marketplaces differ, however,
is that in the former, demand can rise and
fall. In the spiritual marketplace demand is
pretty constant. There is always a need to
belong and make meaning. They are the
essentials of the human condition after all.
Yeah, after all.
posted by Christopher Locke at #
Thursday, April 16, 2009
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 that 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.
Relationships Are Tools
Other people are viewed as objects or tools in the quest for distinction, and the narcissistic patient expends a great deal of mental energy comparing him- or herself and judging the worth of others. If others have the potential to advance the narcissist in some way, they will be idealized and pursued. If others are perceived as ordinary or inferior, they will he dismissed, or perhaps exploited for some gain, then discarded.