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1.05_-_THE_HOSTILE_BROTHERS_-_ARCHETYPES_OF_RESPONSE_TO_THE_UNKNOWN

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   1 Ernest Becker

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  269 Ernest Becker
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1:Beyond a given point man is not helped by more "knowing," but only by living and doing in a partly self-forgetful way. As Goethe put it, we must plunge into experience and then reflect on the meaning of it. All reflection and no plunging drives us mad; all plunging and no reflection, and we are brutes. ~ Ernest Becker, The Denial of Death,

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1:We are gods with anuses. ~ Ernest Becker
2:Love is the problem of an animal. ~ Ernest Becker
3:Horror alone brings peace of mind. ~ Ernest Becker
4:Sex is of the body, and the body is of death. ~ Ernest Becker
5:All power is in essence power to deny mortality. ~ Ernest Becker
6:Guilt results from unused life, from the unlived in us. ~ Ernest Becker
7:luck is when the guy next to you gets hit with the arrow. ~ Ernest Becker
8:Obviously, all religions fall far short of their own ideals. ~ Ernest Becker
9:Men use one another to assure their personal victory over death. ~ Ernest Becker
10:People create the reality they need in order to discover themselves ~ Ernest Becker
11:Better guilt than the terrible burden of freedom and responsibility. ~ Ernest Becker
12:Man is an animal who has to live in a lie in order to
live at all. ~ Ernest Becker
13:Each society is a hero system which promises victory over evil and death. ~ Ernest Becker
14:Ecological devastation is the excrement, so to speak, of man's power worship. ~ Ernest Becker
15:The idea of death, the fear of it, haunts the human animal like nothing else. ~ Ernest Becker
16:men worship and fear power and so give their loyalty to those who dispense it. ~ Ernest Becker
17:modern man tries to replace vital awe and wonder with a “How to do it” manual. ~ Ernest Becker
18:Relationship is thus always slavery of a kind, which leaves a residue of guilt. ~ Ernest Becker
19:If we don't have the omnipotence of gods, we at least can destroy like the gods. ~ Ernest Becker
20:every human being is… equally unfree, that is, we… create out of freedom, a prison…. ~ Ernest Becker
21:the characteristics the modern mind prides itself on are precisely those of madness. ~ Ernest Becker
22:What man really fears is not so much extinction, but extinction with insignificance. ~ Ernest Becker
23:It is impossible to get blood from a stone, to get spirituality from a physical being. ~ Ernest Becker
24:Men are so necessarily mad that not to be mad would amount to another form of madness. ~ Ernest Becker
25:Mother nature is a brutal bitch, red in tooth and claw, who destroys what she creates. ~ Ernest Becker
26:The road to creativity passes so close to the madhouse and often detours or ends there. ~ Ernest Becker
27:To live is to engage in experience at least partly on the terms of the experience itself. ~ Ernest Becker
28:To grow up at all is to conceal the mass of internal scar tissue that throbs in our dreams. ~ Ernest Becker
29:The manager asks how and when; the leader asks what and why - Warren Bennis, Leadership Guru ~ Ernest Becker
30:To live fully is to live with an awareness of the rumble of terror that underlies everything. ~ Ernest Becker
31:Unlike the baboon who gluts himself only on food, man nourishes himself mostly on self-esteem. It ~ Ernest Becker
32:the best existential analysis of the human condition leads directly into the problems of God and faith ~ Ernest Becker
33:If repression makes an untenable life liveable, self-knowledge can entirely destroy it for some people. ~ Ernest Becker
34:the essence of man is really his paradoxical nature, the fact that he is half animal and half symbolic. ~ Ernest Becker
35:the neurotic symptom is a communication about truth: that the illusion that one is invulnerable is a lie. ~ Ernest Becker
36:It is fateful and ironic how the lie we need in order to live dooms us to a life that is never really ours. ~ Ernest Becker
37:modern man is the victim of his own disillusionment; he has been disinherited by his own analytic strength. ~ Ernest Becker
38:Man cannot endure his own littleness unless he can translate it into meaningfulness on the largest possible level. ~ Ernest Becker
39:to become conscious of what one is doing to earn his feeling of heroism is the main self-analytic problem of life. ~ Ernest Becker
40:Man must always imagine and believe in a "second" reality or a better world than the one that is given him by nature. ~ Ernest Becker
41:The world of human aspiration is largely fictitious and if we do not understand this we understand nothing about man. ~ Ernest Becker
42:Genuine heroism for man is still the power to support contradictions, no matter how glaring or hopeless they may seem. ~ Ernest Becker
43:Man's natural and inevitable urge to deny mortality and achieve a heroic self-image are the root causes of human evil. ~ Ernest Becker
44:Modern man is drinking and drugging himself out of awareness, or he spends his time shopping, which is the same thing. ~ Ernest Becker
45:The warding off of anxiety is central to the time-binding, action-delaying, and cerebral functions of the human animal. ~ Ernest Becker
46:World War I showed everyone the priority of things on this planet, which party was playing idle games and which wasn’t. ~ Ernest Becker
47:Love is the problem of an animal who must find life, create a dialogue with nature in order to experience his own being. ~ Ernest Becker
48:Once you base your whole life striving on a desperate lie, and try to implement that lie, you instrument your own undoing. ~ Ernest Becker
49:The "healthy" person, the true individual, the self-realized soul, the "real" man, is the one who has transcended himself. ~ Ernest Becker
50:The point is that if the love object is divine perfection, then one’s own self is elevated by joining one’s destiny to it. ~ Ernest Becker
51:never has there been an age in which so little knowledge is securely possessed, so little a part of the common understanding. ~ Ernest Becker
52:From the child of five to myself is but a step. But from the new-born baby to the child of five is an appalling distance. —LEO TOLSTOI ~ Ernest Becker
53:Better not to be oneself, better to live tucked into others, embedded in a safe framework of social and cultural obligations and duties. ~ Ernest Becker
54:One of the main reasons that it is so easy to march men off to war is that each of them feels sorry for the man next to him who will die. ~ Ernest Becker
55:What does it mean to be a self-conscious animal? The idea is ludicrous, if it is not monstrous. It means to know that one is food for worms. ~ Ernest Becker
56:Necessity with the illusion of meaning would be the highest achievement for man; but when it becomes trivial there is no sense to one’s life. ~ Ernest Becker
57:The artist takes in the world, but instead of being oppressed by it, he reworks it in his own personality and recreates it in the work of art. ~ Ernest Becker
58:Modern man became psychological because he became isolated from protective collective ideologies. He had to justify himself from within himself. ~ Ernest Becker
59:one of the great dangers of life is too much possibility, and that the place where we find people who have succumbed to this danger is the madhouse ~ Ernest Becker
60:One of the main reasons that it is so easy to march men off to war is that deep down each of them feels sorry for the man next to him who will die. ~ Ernest Becker
61:The man of knowledge in our time is bowed down under a burden he never imagined he would ever have: the overproduction of truth that cannot be consumed. ~ Ernest Becker
62:War is a sociological safety valve that cleverly diverts popular hatred for the ruling classes into a happy occasion to mutilate or kill foreign enemies. ~ Ernest Becker
63:It is all right to say, with Adler, that mental illness is due to "problems in living,"-but we must remember that life itself is the insurmountable problem. ~ Ernest Becker
64:In other words, the final terror of self-consciousness is the knowledge of one’s own death, which is the peculiar sentence on man alone in the animal kingdom ~ Ernest Becker
65:For man, maximum excitement is the confrontation of death and the skillful defiance of it by watching others fed to it as he survives transfixed with rapture. ~ Ernest Becker
66:I drink not from mere joy in wine nor to scoff at faith—no, only to forget myself for a moment, that only do I want of intoxication, that alone. —OMAR KHAYYAM ~ Ernest Becker
67:understand what Ernest Becker meant when he said something like ‘To live fully is to live with an awareness of the rumble of terror that underlies everything, ~ Calvin Trillin
68:If everyone lives roughly the same lies about the same thing, there is no one to call them liars. They jointly establish their own sanity and themselves normal. ~ Ernest Becker
69:To live is to play at the meaning of life...The upshot of this . . . is that it teaches us once and for all that childlike foolishness is the calling of mature men. ~ Ernest Becker
70:neurosis as a problem of character and have seen that it can be approached in two ways: as a problem of too much narrowness toward the world or of too much openness. ~ Ernest Becker
71:The neurotic opts out of life because he is having trouble maintaining his illusions about it, which proves nothing less than that life is possible only with illusions. ~ Ernest Becker
72:We might say that psychoanalysis revealed to us the complex penalties of denying the truth of man's condition, what we might call the costs of pretending not to be mad. ~ Ernest Becker
73:If a thinker throws off too many unsystematic and rich insights, there is no place to grab onto his thought. The thing he is trying to illuminate seems as elusive as before. ~ Ernest Becker
74:If there is tragic limitation in life there is also possibility. What we call maturity is the ability to see the two in some kind of balance into which we can fit creatively. ~ Ernest Becker
75:The most that any one of us can seem to do is to fashion something–an object or ourselves–and drop it into the confusion, make an offering of it, so to speak, to the life force. ~ Ernest Becker
76:Crowley exemplified on a grand scale what the psychologist Ernest Becker in The Denial of Death called our adolescent need to be seen as “an object of primary value in the universe, ~ Gary Lachman
77:The important conclusion for us is that the groups "use" the leader sometimes with little regard for him personally, but always with regard to fulfilling their own needs and urges. ~ Ernest Becker
78:Ernest Becker writes, “The urge to heroism is natural, and to admit it honest. For everyone to admit it would probably release such pent-up force as to be devastating to society.” Well, ~ Gavin de Becker
79:The irony of man's condition is that the deepest need is to be free of the anxiety of death and annihilation; but it is life itself which awakens it, and so we must shrink from being fully alive. ~ Ernest Becker
80:To live automatically and uncritically is to be assured of at least a minimum share of the programmed cultural heroics—what we might call “prison heroism”: the smugness of the insiders who “know. ~ Ernest Becker
81:Consider, for instance, the recent war in Vietnam in which the United States was driven not by any realistic economic or political interest but by the overwhelming need to defeat “atheistic communism. ~ Ernest Becker
82:We might say that both the artist and the neurotic bite off more than they can chew, but the artist spews it back out again and chews it over in an objectified way, as an external, active work project ~ Ernest Becker
83:This is the terror: to have emerged from nothing, to have a name, consciousness of self, deep inner feelings, an excruciating inner yearning for life and self-expression - and with all this yet to die. ~ Ernest Becker
84:We might say that both the artist and theneurotic bite off more than they can chew, but the artist spews it back out again and chews it over in an objectified way, as an ex­ternal, active, work project. ~ Ernest Becker
85:With the truth, one cannot live. To be able to live one needs illusions, not only outer illusions such as art, religion, philosophy, science and love afford, but inner illusions which first condition the outer ~ Ernest Becker
86:has lost the only audience for whom the plot in which he was performing was valid. He is left in the hopeless despair of the actor who knows only one set of lines and loses the one audience who wants to hear it. ~ Ernest Becker
87:For centuries man lived in the belief that truth was slim and elusive and that once he found it the troubles of mankind would be over. And here we are in the closing decades of the 20th century, choking on truth. ~ Ernest Becker
88:There is no point in lingering on the fallacies of the revolutionaries of unrepression; one could go on and on, but everything would come back to the same basic thing: the impossibility of living without repression. ~ Ernest Becker
89:The crisis of modern society is precisely that the youth no longer feel heroic in the plan for action that their culture has set up. They don’t believe it is empirically true to the problems of their lives and times. ~ Ernest Becker
90:There is no doubt that creative work is itself done under a compulsion often indistinguishable from a purely clinical obsession. In this sense, what we call a creative gift is merely the social license to be obsessed. ~ Ernest Becker
91:If the love object is divine perfection, then one's own self is elevated by joining one's destiny to it... All our guilt, fear, and even our mortality itself can be purged in a perfect consummation with perfection itself. ~ Ernest Becker
92:One of the main reasons that it is so easy to march men off to war is that deep down each of them feels sorry for the man next to him who will die. Each protects himself in his fantasy until the shock that he is bleeding. ~ Ernest Becker
93:freedom is dangerous. If you follow it too willingly it threatens to pull you into the air; if you give it up too wholly, you become a prisoner of necessity. The safest thing is to toe the mark of what is socially possible. ~ Ernest Becker
94:The human ego would have to become strong enough to die; and strong enough to set aside guilt… . [F]ull psychoanalytic consciousness would be strong enough to cancel the debt [of guilt] by deriving it from infantile fantasy.7 ~ Ernest Becker
95:The real world is simply too terrible to admit. it tells man that he is a small trembling animal who will someday decay and die. Culture changes all of this,makes man seem important,vital to the universe. immortal in some ways ~ Ernest Becker
96:[Man] literally drives himself into a blind obliviousness with social games, psychological tricks, personal preoccupations so far removed from the reality of his situation that they are forms of madness, but madness all the same. ~ Ernest Becker
97:The urge to immortality is not a simple reflex of the death-anxiety but a reaching out by one's whole being toward life. Perhaps this natural expansion of the creature alone can explain why transference is such a universal passion. ~ Ernest Becker
98:Man is naturally humble, naturally grateful, naturally guilty, naturally transcended, naturally a sufferer; he is small, pitiful, weak, a passive taker who tucks himself naturally in a beyond of superior, awesome, all-embracing power. ~ Ernest Becker
99:The real world is simply too terrible to admit.
it tells man that he is a small trembling animal who will someday decay and die.
Culture changes all of this,makes man seem important,vital to the universe.
immortal in some ways ~ Ernest Becker
100:...Erich Fromm wondered why most people did not become insane in the face of the existential contradiction between a symbolic self, that seems to give man infinite worth in a timeless scheme of things, and a body that is worth about 98¢. ~ Ernest Becker
101:The key to the creative type is that he is separated out of the common pool of shared meanings. There is something in his life experience that makes him take in the world as a problem; as a result he has to make personal sense out of it. ~ Ernest Becker
102:Once the person begins to look to his relationship to the Ultimate Power, to infinitude, and to refashion his links from those around him to that Ultimate Power, he opens up to himself the horizon of unlimited possibility, of real freedom. ~ Ernest Becker
103:The idea of death, the fear of it, haunts the human animal like nothing else; it is a mainspring of human activity - designed largely to avoid the fatality of death, to overcome it by denying in some way that it is the final destiny of man. ~ Ernest Becker
104:This is one of the reasons for bigotry and censorship of all kinds over personal morality: people fear that the standard morality will be undermined—another way of saying that they fear they will no longer be able to control life and death. ~ Ernest Becker
105:What is the ideal for mental health, then? A lived, compelling illusion that does not lie about life, death, and reality; one honest enough to follow its own commandments: I mean, not to kill, not to take the lives of others to justify itself. ~ Ernest Becker
106:Man is literally split in two: he has an awareness of his own splendid uniqueness in that he sticks out of nature with a towering majesty, and yet he goes back into the ground a few feet in order blindly and dumbly to rot and disappear forever. ~ Ernest Becker
107:People were always ready to yield their
wills, to worship the hero, because they were not given a chance
for developing initiative, stability, and independence, said the great
nineteenth-century Russian sociologist Nikolai Mikhailovsky ~ Ernest Becker
108:Even if men admit they are cowards, they still want to be saved. There is no "harmonious development," no child-rearing program, no self-reliance that would take away from men their need for a "beyond" on which to base the meaning of their lives. ~ Ernest Becker
109:The great boon of repression is that it makes it possible to live decisively in an overwhelmingly miraculous and incomprehensible world, a world so full of beauty, majesty, and terror that if animals perceived it all they would be paralyzed to act. ~ Ernest Becker
110:Civilized" society is a hopeful belief and protest that science, money and goods make man count for more than any other animal. In this sense everything that man does is religious and heroic, and yet in danger of being fictitious and fallible, ~ Ernest Becker
111:These are the only genuine ideas: the ideas of the shipwrecked. All the rest is rhetoric, posturing, farce. He who does not really feel himself lost, is without remission; that is to say, he never finds himself, never comes up against his own reality. ~ Ernest Becker
112:In Christendom he too is a Christian, goes to church every Sunday, hears and understands the parson, yea, they understand one another; he dies; the parson introduces him into eternity for the price of $10—but a self he was not, and a self he did not become…. ~ Ernest Becker
113:Every group, however small or great, has, as such, an "individual" impulse for eternalization, which manifests itself in the creation of and care for national, religious, and artistic heroes...the individual paves the way for this collective eternity impulse.... ~ Ernest Becker
114:Understanding this, Rank could take a great step beyond Freud. Freud thought that modern man’s moral dependence on another was a result of the Oedipus complex. But Rank could see that it was the result of a continuation of the causa-sui project of denying creatureliness. ~ Ernest Becker
115:Man had to invent and create out of himself the limitations of perception and the equanimity to live on this planet. And so to the core of psychodynamics, the formation of the human character, is a study in human self-limitation and in the terrifying costs of that limitation. ~ Ernest Becker
116:In seeking to avoid evil, humanity is responsible for bringing more evil into the world than organisms could ever do merely by exercising their digestive tracts. It is our ingenuity, rather than our animal nature, that has given our fellow creatures such a bitter earthly fate. ~ Ernest Becker
117:When we understand that man is the only animal who must create meaning, who must open a wedge into neutral nature, we already understand the essence of love. Love is the problem of an animal who must find life, create a dialogue with nature in order to experience his own being. ~ Ernest Becker
118:The greatest cause of evil included all human motives in one giant paradox. Good and bad were so inextricably mixed that we couldn't make them out; bad seemed to lead to good, and good motives led to bad. The paradox is that evil comes from man's urge to heroic victory over evil. ~ Ernest Becker
119:In other words, as long as man is an ambiguous creature he can never banish anxiety; what he can do instead is to use anxiety as an eternal spring for growth into new dimensions of thought and trust. Faith poses a new life task, the adventure in openness to a multidimensional reality. ~ Ernest Becker
120:Human life may not be more than a meaningless interlude in a vicious drama of flesh and bones that we call evolution; that the Creator may not care any more for the destiny of man or the self-perpetuation of individual men than He seems to have cared for the dinosaurs or the Tasmanians. ~ Ernest Becker
121:No matter how many churches are closed or how humanistic a leader or a movement may claim to be, there will never be anything wholly secular about human fear. Man's terror is always "holy terror"-which is a strikingly apt popular phrase. Terror always refers to the ultimates of life and death. ~ Ernest Becker
122:Since the main task of human life is to become heroic and transcend death, every culture must provide its members with an intricate symbolic system that is covertly religious. This means that ideological conflicts between cultures are essentially battles between immortality projects, holy wars. ~ Ernest Becker
123:When you confuse personal love and cosmic heroism you are bound to fail in both spheres. The impossibility of the heroism undermines the love, even if it is real. This double failure is what produces the sense of utter despair that we see in modern man... Love, then, is seen a religious problem ~ Ernest Becker
124:We called one's lifestyle a vital lie, and now we can understand better why we said it was vital: it is a necessary and basic dishonesty about oneself and one's whole situation... We don't want to admit that we are fundamentally dishonest about reality, that we do not really control our own lives. ~ Ernest Becker
125:Beyond a given point man is not helped by more “knowing,” but only by living and doing in a partly self-forgetful way. As Goethe put it, we must plunge into experience and then reflect on the meaning of it. All reflection and no plunging drives us mad; all plunging and no reflection, and we are brutes. ~ Ernest Becker
126:I think if we push the analysis to its ultimate point we have to say that each earthly father accuses us of our impotence if we become truly creative personalities; they remind us that we are born of men and not gods. No living person can give genius the powers it needs to shoulder the meaning of the world. ~ Ernest Becker
127:The neurotic preoccupied with his symptom is led to believe that his central task is one of confrontation with his particular obsession or phobia. In a sense his neurosis allows him to take control of his destiny—to transform the whole of life’s meaning into the simplified meaning emanating from his self-created world. ~ Ernest Becker
128:The creativity of people on the schizophrenic end of the human continuum is a creativity that springs from the inability to accept the standardized cultural denials of the real nature of ex­perience. And the price of this kind of almost "extra human" crea­tivity is to live on the brink of madness, as men have long known. ~ Ernest Becker
129:Psychology narrows the cause for personal unhappiness down to the person himself, and then he is stuck with himself. But we know that the universal and general cause for personal badness, guilt, and inferiority is the natural world and the person’s relationship to it as a symbolic animal who must find a secure place in it. ~ Ernest Becker
130:Beyond a given point man is not helped by more "knowing," but only by living and doing in a partly self-forgetful way. As Goethe put it, we must plunge into experience and then reflect on the meaning of it. All reflection and no plunging drives us mad; all plunging and no reflection, and we are brutes. ~ Ernest Becker, The Denial of Death,
131:In the neurotic in whom one sees the collapse of the whole human ideology of God it has also become obvious what this signifies psychologically. This was not explained by Freud’s psychoanalysis which only comprehended the destructive process in the patient from his personal history without considering the cultural development which bred this type. ~ Ernest Becker
132:It achieves the very result that the child has painfully built his character over the years in order to avoid: it makes routine, automatic, secure, self-confident activity impossible. It makes thoughtless living in the world of men an impossibility. It places a trembling animal at the mercy of the entire cosmos and the problem of the meaning of it. ~ Ernest Becker
133:The key to the creative type is that he is separated out of the common pool of shared meanings. There is something in his life experience that makes him take in the world as a problem; as a result he has to make personal sense out of it. This holds true for all creative people to a greater or lesser extent, but it is especially obvious with the artist. Existence ~ Ernest Becker
134:He can even give his body over to the tribe, the state, the embracing magical umbrella of the elders and their symbols; that way it will no longer be a dangerous negation for him. But there is no real difference between a childish impossibility and an adult one; the only thing that the person achieves is a practiced self-deceit—what we call the “mature” character. ~ Ernest Becker
135:It is this that makes people so willing ’to follow brash, strong-looking demagogues with tight jaws and loud voices: those who focus their measured words and their sharpened eyes in the intensity of hate, and so seem most capable of cleansing the world of the vague, the weak, the uncertain, the evil. Ah, to give oneself over to their direction—what calm, what relief. ~ Ernest Becker
136:Man has "a mind that soars out to speculate about atoms and infinity, who can place himself imaginatively at a point in space and contemplate bemusedly his own planet. This immense expansion, this dexterity, this ethereality, this self-consciousness gives to man literally the status of a small god in nature... Yet, at the same time... man is a worm and food for worms ~ Ernest Becker
137:The thing that has to be explained in human relations is precisely the fascination of the person who holds or symbolizes power. There is something about him that seems to radiate out to others and to melt them into his aura, a “fascinating effect,” as Christine Olden called it, of “the narcissistic personality”3 or, as Jung preferred to call him, the “mana-personality. ~ Ernest Becker
138:Today we are living the grotesque spectacle of the poisoning
of the earth by the nineteenth-century hero system of unrestrained
material production. This is perhaps the greatest and most pervasive
evil to have emerged in all of history, and it may even
eventually defeat all of mankind. Still there are no "twisted" people
whom we can hold responsible for this. ~ Ernest Becker
139:He has no doubts, there is nothing you can say to sway him, to give him hope or trust. He is a miserable animal whose body decays, who will die, who will pass into dust and oblivion, disappear forever not only in this world but in all the possible dimensions of the universe, whose life serves no conceivable purpose, who may as well not have been born, and so on and so forth. ~ Ernest Becker
140:I have reached far beyond my competence and have probably secured for good a reputation for flamboyant gestures. But the times still crowd me and give me no rest, and I see no way to avoid ambitious synthetic attempts; either we get some kind of grip on the accumulation of thought or we continue to wallow helplessly, to starve amidst plenty. So I gamble with science and write. ~ Ernest Becker
141:Neurosis is today a widespread problem because of the disappearance of convincing dramas of heroic apotheosis of man. The subject is summed up succinctly in Pinel's famous observation on how the Salpetriere mental hospital got cleared out at the time of the French Revolution. All the neurotics found a ready-made drama of self-transcending action and heroic identity. It was as simple as that. ~ Ernest Becker
142:The self must be destroyed, brought down to nothing, in order for self-transcendence to begin. Then the self can begin to relate itself to powers beyond itself. It has to thrash around in its finitude, it has to "die," in order to question that finitude, in order to see beyond it. To what? Kierkegaard answers: to infinitude, to absolute transcendence, the the Ultimate Power of Creation which made finite creatures. ~ Ernest Becker
143:When Norman O. Brown said that Western society since Newton, no matter how scientific or secular it claims to be, is still as "religious" as any other, this is what he meant: "civilized" society is a hopeful belief and protest that science, money and goods make man count for more than any other animal. In this sense everything that man does is religious and heroic, and yet in danger of being fictitious and fallible. ~ Ernest Becker
144:The ironic thing about the narrowing-down of neurosis is that the person seeks to avoid death, but he does it by killing off so much of himself and so large a spectrum of his action-world that he is actually isolating and diminishing himself and becomes as though dead.10 There is just no way for the living creature to avoid life and death, and it is probably poetic justice that if he tries too hard to do so he destroys himself. ~ Ernest Becker
145:There is a driving force behind a mystery that we cannot understand, and it includes more than reason alone. The urge to cosmic heroism, then, is sacred and mysterious and not to be neatly ordered and rationalized by science and secularism. Science, after all, is a credo that has attempted to absorb into itself and to deny the fear of life and death; and it is only one more competitor in the spectrum of roles for cosmic heroics. ~ Ernest Becker
146:If the frustrations are not surrounded by anxiety, fear of life, insecure love and support, then the child progresses easily and naturally to the new challenges of a symbolic, social way of life. The child that we call, typically, autistic or schizophrenic, is the one who has not been able to feel this secure sense of support to his body; and so he does not make a confident transition from the biological to the social world. The “lever” of ~ Ernest Becker
147:He was my date. I got a massage, and I must have taken five aspirins to calm myself down. In the restaurant, I saw him from across the room, and I got such butterflies in my stomach and such a thing that went from head to toe. He had like a halo around his head of stars to me. He projected something I have never seen in my life…. when I’m with him I’m in awe, and I don’t know why I can’t snap out of it…. I can’t think. He’s so fascinating…. ~ Ernest Becker
148:The personality can truly begin to emerge in religion because God, as an abstraction, does not oppose the individual as others do, but instead provides the individual with all the powers necessary for independent self-justification. What greater security than to lean confidently on God, on the Fount of creation, the most terrifying power of all? If God is hidden and intangible, all the better: that allows man to expand and develop by himself. ~ Ernest Becker
149:I think that taking life seriously means something such as this: that whatever man does on this planet has to be done in the lived truth of the terror of creation, of the grotesque, of the rumble of panic underneath everything. Otherwise it is false. Whatever is achieved must be achieved with the full exercise of passion, of vision, of pain, of fear, and of sorrow. How do we know, that our part of the meaning of the universe might not be a rhythm in sorrow? ~ Ernest Becker
150:Sartre has called man a "useless passion" because he is so hopelessly bungled, so deluded about his true condition. He wants to be a god with only the equipment of an animal, and so he thrives on fantasies. As Ortega so well put it in the epigraph we have used for this chapter, man uses his ideas for the defense of his existence, to frighten away reality. This is a serious game, the defense of one's existence-how take it away from people and leave them joyous? ~ Ernest Becker
151:In the head of the adoring male is the illusion that sublime beauty "is all head and wings, with no bottom to betray" it. In one of Swift's poems a young man explains the grotesque contradiction that is tearing him apart:

Nor wonder how I lost my Wits;
Oh! Caelia, Caelia, Caelia, shits!

In other words, in Swift's mind there was an absolute contradiction "between the state of being in love and an awareness of the excremental function of the beloved. ~ Ernest Becker
152:Therefore in normal times we move about actually without ever believing in our own death, as if we fully believed in our own corporeal immortality. We are intent on mastering death… . A man will say, of course, that he knows he will die some day,
but he does not really care. He is having a good time with living, and he does not think about death and does not care to bother about it, but this is a purely intellectual, verbal admission. The affect of fear is repressed. ~ Ernest Becker
153:Why does man accept to live a trivial life? Because of the danger of a full horizon of experience, of course. This is the deeper motivation of philistinism, that it celebrates the triumph over possibility, over freedom. Philistinism knows its real enemy: freedom is dangerous. If you follow it too willingly it threatens to pull you into the air; if you give it up too wholly, you become a prisoner of necessity. The safest thing is to toe the mark of what is socially possible. ~ Ernest Becker
154:This is how we understand depressive psychosis today: as a bogging down in the demands of others—family, job, the narrow horizon of daily duties. In such a bogging down the individual does not feel or see that he has alternatives, cannot imagine any choices or alternate ways of life, cannot release himself from the network of obligations even though these obligations no longer give him a sense of self-esteem, of primary value, of being a heroic contributor to world life even ~ Ernest Becker
155:In this view, man is an energy-converting organism who must exert his manipulative powers, who must damage his world in some ways, who must make it uncomfortable for others, etc., by his own nature as an active being. He seeks self-expansion from a very uncertain power base. Even if man hurts others, it is because he is weak and afraid, not because he is confident and cruel. Rousseau summed up this point of view with the idea that only the strong person can be ethical, not the weak one. ~ Ernest Becker
156:This penetrating vocabulary of "initiatory acts," "the infectiousness of the unconflicted person," "priority magic," and so on allows us to understand more subtly the dynamics of group sadism, the utter equanimity with which groups kill. It is not just that "father permits it" or "orders it." It is more: the magical heroic transformation of the world and of oneself. This is the illusion that man craves, as Freud said, and that makes the central person so effective a vehicle for group emotion. ~ Ernest Becker
157:In this view, man is an energy-converting
organism who must exert his manipulative powers, who must damage his world in some ways, who must make it uncomfortable for others, etc., by his own nature as an active being. He seeks self-expansion
from a very uncertain power base. Even if man hurts
others, it is because he is weak and afraid, not because he is confident and cruel. Rousseau summed up this point of view with the idea that only the strong person can be ethical, not the weak one. ~ Ernest Becker
158:What does it mean to be a self-conscious animal? The idea is ludicrous, if it is not monstrous. It means to know that one is food for worms. This is the terror: to have emerged from nothing, to have a name, consiousness of self, deep inner feelings, an excruciating inner yearning for life and self-expression and with all this yet to die. It seems like a hoax, which is why one type of cultural man rebels openly against the idea of God. What kind of deity would crate such a complex and fancy worm food? ~ Ernest Becker
159:Why would a person prefer the accusations of guilt, unworthiness, ineptitude - even dishonor and betrayal- to real possibility? This may not seem to be the choice, but it is: complete self effacement, surrender to the "others", disavowal of any personal dignity and freedom-on the one hand; and freedom and independence, movement away from the others, extrication of oneself from the binding links of family and social duties-on the other hand. This is the choice that the depressed person actually faces. ~ Ernest Becker
160:What does it mean to be a self-conscious animal? The idea is ludicrous, if it is not monstrous. It means to know that one is food for worms. This is the terror: to have emerged from nothing, to have a name, consciousness of self, deep inner feelings, an excruciating inner yearning for life and self-expression and with all this yet to die. It seems like a hoax, which is why one type of cultural man rebels openly against the idea of God. What kind of deity would create such a complex and fancy worm food? ~ Ernest Becker
161:Why would a person prefer the accusations of guilt, unworthiness, ineptitude — even dishonor and betrayal — to real possibility? This may not seem to be the choice, but it is: complete self-effacement, surrender to the “others,” disavowal of any personal dignity or freedom — on the one hand; and freedom and independence, movement away from the others, extrication of oneself from the binding links of family and social duties-on the other hand. This is the choice that the depressed person actually faces. ~ Ernest Becker
162:As Rank put it, man yearns for a "feeling of kinship with the All." He wants to be "delivered from his isolation" and become "part of a greater and higher whole." The person reaches out naturally for a self beyond his own self in order to know who he is at all, in order to feel that he belongs in the universe. Long before Camus penned the words of the epigraph of this chapter, Rank said: "For only by living in close union with a god-ideal that has been erected outside one's own ego is one able to live at all. ~ Ernest Becker
163:The great perplexity of our time, the churning of our age, is that the youth have sensed—for better or for worse—a great social-historical truth: that just as there are useless self-sacrifices in unjust wars, so too is there an ignoble heroics of whole societies: it can be the viciously destructive heroics of Hitler’s Germany or the plain debasing and silly heroics of the acquisition and display of consumer goods, the piling up of money and privileges that now characterizes whole ways of life, capitalist and Soviet. ~ Ernest Becker
164:Kierkegaard put it this way: But while one sort of despair plunges wildly into the infinite and loses itself, a second sort permits itself as it were to be defrauded by “the others.” By seeing the multitude of men about it, by getting engaged in all sorts of wordly affairs, by becoming wise about how things go in this world, such a man forgets himself… does not dare to believe in himself, finds it too venturesome a thing to be himself, far easier and safer to be like the others, to become an imitation, a number, a cipher in the crowd. ~ Ernest Becker
165:The whole thing seems very logical, factual, and true to nature: man peels away his armor and unfolds his inner self, primal energies from the ground of his being in which he takes root. The person is, after all, not his own creator; he is sustained at all times by the workings of his physiochemistry-and, beneath that, of his atomic and subatomic structure. These structures contain within themselves the immense powers of nature, and so it seems logical to say that we are being constantly "created and sustained" out of the "invisible void. ~ Ernest Becker
166:And the crisis of society is, of course, the crisis of organized religion too: religion is no longer valid as a hero system, and so the youth scorn it. If traditional culture is discredited as heroics, then the church that supports that culture automatically discredits itself. If the church, on the other hand, chooses to insist on its own special heroics, it might find that in crucial ways ti must work against the culture, recruit youth to be anti-heroes to the ways of life of the society they live in. This is the dilemma of religion in our time. ~ Ernest Becker
167:We consult astrology charts like the Babylonians, try to make our children into our own image with a firm hand like the Romans, elbow others to get a breath-quickening glimpse of the queen in her ritual procession, and confess to the priests and attend church. And we wonder why, with all this power capital drawn from so many sources, we are deeply anxious about the meaning of our lives. The reason is plain enough: none of these, nor all of them taken together, represents an integrated world conception into which we fit ourselves with pure belief and trust. ~ Ernest Becker
168:We admire Freud for his serious dedication, his willingness to retract, the stylistic tentativeness of some of his assertions, his lifelong review of his pet notions. We admire him for his very deviousness, his hedging,s and his misgivings, because they seem to make him more of an honest scientist, reflecting truthfully the infinite manifold of reality. But this is to admire him for the wrong reason. A basic cause for his own lifelong twistings was that he would never cleanly leave the sexual dogma, never clearly see or admit that the terror of death was the basic repression. ~ Ernest Becker
169:Now, what is unique about the child's perception of the world? For one thing, the extreme confusion of cause-and-effect relationships; for another, extreme unreality about the limits of his own powers. The child lives in a situation of utter dependence; and when his needs are met it must seem to him that he has magical powers, real omnipotence. If he experiences pain, hunger, or discomfort, all he has to do is to scream and he is relieved and lulled by gentle, loving sounds. He is a magician and a telepath who has only to mumble and to imagine and the world turns to his desires. ~ Ernest Becker
170:One of the reasons that youth and their elders don’t understand one another is that they live in “ different worlds”: the youth are striving to deal with one another in terms of their insides, the elders have long since lost the magic of the chumship. Especially today, the exterior or public aspect of the adult world, its jobs and rewards, no longer seem meaningful or vital to the college youth; the youth try to prolong the adolescent art of communicating on the basis of internal feelings; they may even try to break through the carapace of their own parents, try to get the insides to come out. ~ Ernest Becker
171:Man is out of nature and hopelessly in it; he is dual, up in the stars and yet housed in a heart-pumping, breath-gasping body that once belonged to a fish and still carries the gill-marks to prove it. His body is a material fleshy casing that is alien to him in many ways—the strangest and most repugnant way being that it aches and bleeds and will decay and die. Man is literally split in two: he has an awareness of his own splendid uniqueness in that he sticks out of nature with atowering majesty, and yet he goes back into the ground a few feet in order blindly and dumbly to rot and disappear forever. ~ Ernest Becker
172:The only thing we accomplish by accenting the child’s constitution, his temperament, his natural dilemmas and his own synthesizing activity, is to take the parents “off the hook" of their own burden of guilt for how their children turn out. But why should they have such unreasonable guilt anyway? Didn’t Nietzsche point out that the only creatures who deserve to feel guilt (or pride) are gods, since only they have undisputed freedom of action? Perhaps we could say that if parents want to feel a bit godlike they are entitled to feel a little guilt; and if they were gods they would deserve to feel plenty. ~ Ernest Becker
173:Generally speaking, we call neurotic any life style that begins to constrict too much, that prevents free forward momentum, new choices, and growth that a person may want and need. For example, a person who is trying to find his salvation only in a love relationship but who is being defeated by this too narrow focus is neurotic. He can become overly passive and dependent, fearful of venturing out on his own, of making his life without his partner, no matter how that partner treats him. The object has become his “All,” his whole world; and he is reduced to the status of a simple reflex of another human being. ~ Ernest Becker
174:We can conclude that a project as grand as the scientific-mythical construction of victory over human limitation is not something that can be programmed by science. Even more, it comes from the vital energies of masses of men sweating within the nightmare of creation-and it is not even in man's hands to program. Who knows what form the forward momentum of life will take in the time ahead or what use it will make of our anguished searching. The most that any one of us can seem to do is to fashion something-an object or ourselves-and drop it into the confusion, make an offering of it, so to speak, to the life force. ~ Ernest Becker
175:Modern man's dependency on the love partner, then, is a result of the loss of spiritual ideologies, just as is his dependency on his parents or on his psychotherapist. He needs somebody, some "individual ideology of justification" to replace the declining "collective ideologies." Sexuality, which Freud thought was at the heart of the Oedipus complex, is now understood for what it really is: another twisting and turning, a groping for the meaning of one's life. If you don't have a God in heaven, an invisible dimension that justifies the visible one, then you take what is nearest at hand and work out your problems on that. ~ Ernest Becker
176:We said it is impossible for man to feel "right" in any straightforward way, and now we can see why. He can expand his self-feeling not only by Agape merger but also by the other ontological motive Eros, the urge for more life, for exciting experience, for the development of the self-powers, for developing the uniqueness of the individual creature, the impulsion to stick out of nature and shine. Life is, after all, a challenge to the creature, a fascinating opportunity to expand. Psychologically it is the urge for individuation: how do I realize my distinctive gifts, make my own contribution to the world through my own self-expansion? ~ Ernest Becker
177:The great boon of repression is that it makes it possible to live decisively in an overwhelmingly miraculous and incomprehensible world, a world so full of beauty, majesty, and terror that if animals perceived it all they would be paralyzed to act. ... What would the average man (sic) do with a full consciousness of absurdity? He has fashioned his character for the precise purpose of putting it between himself and the facts of life; it is his special tour-de-force that allows him to ignore incongruities, to nourish himself on impossibilities, to thrive on blindness. He accomplishes thereby a peculiarly human victory: the ability to be smug about terror. ~ Ernest Becker
178:Early theorists of group psychology had tried to explain why men were so sheeplike when they functioned in groups. They developed ideal like "mental contagion" and "herd instinct," which became very popular. But as Freud was quick to see, these ideas never really did explain what men did with their judgment and common sense when they got caught up in groups. Freud saw right away what they did with it: they simply became dependent children again, blindly following the inner voice of their parents, which now came to them under the hypnotic spell of the leader. They abandoned their egos to his, identified with his power, tried to function with him as an ideal. ~ Ernest Becker
179:Man's best efforts seem utterly fallible without appeal to something higher for justification, some conceptual support for the meaning of one's life from a transcendental dimension of some kind. As this belief has to absorb man's basic terror, it cannot be merely abstract but must be rooted in the emotions, in an inner feeling that one is secure in something stronger, larger, more important than one's own strength and life. It is as though one were to say: "My life pulse ebbs, I fade away into oblivion, but "God" (or "It) remains, even grows more glorious with and through my living sacrifice." At least, this feeling is belief at its most effective for the individual. ~ Ernest Becker
180:As the great William James put it almost 80 years ago: A man’s “Me” is the sum total of all that he can call his, not only his body and his mind, but his clothes and house, his wife and children, his ancestors and friends, his reputation and works, his lands and horses, his yacht and his bank-account (1892, p. 44). In other words, the human animal can be symbolically located wherever he feels a part of him really exists or belongs. This is important for an understanding of the bitter fighting between social classes for social status: an individual’s house in a posh neighborhood can be more a part of his self-image than his own arm—his life-pulse can be inseparable from it. ~ Ernest Becker
181:Animals lack a symbolic identity and the self consciousness that goes with it. They merely act and move reflexively as they are driven by their instincts. If they pause at all, it is only a physical pause; inside they are anonymous, and even their faces have no name. They live in a world without time, pulsating, as it were, in a state of dumb being … the knowledge of death is reflective and conceptual, and animals are spared it. They live and they disappear with the same thoughtlessness: a few minutes of fear, a few seconds of anguish, and it is over. But to live a whole lifetime with the fate of death haunting one’s dreams and even the most sun-filled days - that’s something else. ~ Ernest Becker
182:doesn’t matter whether the cultural hero-system is frankly magical, religious, and primitive or secular, scientific, and civilized. It is still a mythical hero-system in which people serve in order to earn a feeling of primary value, of cosmic specialness, of ultimate usefulness to creation, of unshakable meaning. They earn this feeling by carving out a place in nature, by building an edifice that reflects human value: a temple, a cathedral, a totem pole, a skyscraper, a family that spans three generations. The hope and belief is that the things that man creates in society are of lasting worth and meaning, that they outlive or outshine death and decay, that man and his products count. ~ Ernest Becker
183:Psychology narrows the cause for personal unhappiness down to the person himself, and then he is stuck with himself. But we know that the universal and general cause for personal badness, guilt, and inferiority is the natural world and the person’s relationship to it as a symbolic animal who must find a secure place in it. All the analysis in the world doesn’t allow the person to find out who he is and why he is here on earth, why he has to die, and how he can make his life a triumph. It is when psychology pretends to do this, when it offers itself as a full explanation of human unhappiness, that it becomes a fraud that makes the situation of modern man on impasse from which he cannot escape. ~ Ernest Becker
184:It begins to look as though modern man cannot find his heroism in everyday life any more, as men did in traditional societies just by doing their daily duty of raising children, working, and worshiping. He needs revolutions and wars and "continuing" revolutions to last when the revolutions and wars end. That is the price modern man pays for the eclipse of the sacred dimension. When he dethroned the ideas of soul and God he was thrown back hopelessly on his own resources, on himself and those few around him. Even lovers and families trap and disillusion us because they are not substitutes for absolute transcendence. We might say that they are poor illusions in the sense that we have been discussing. ~ Ernest Becker
185:We have become victims of our own art. We touch people on the outsides of their bodies, and they us, but we cannot get to their insides and cannot reveal our insides to them. This is one of the great tragedies of our interiority-it is utterly personal and unrevealable. Often we want to say something unusually intimate to a spouse, a parent, a friend, communicate something of how we are really feeling about a sunset, who we really feel we are-only to fall strangely and miserably flat. Once in a great while we succeed, sometimes more with one person, less or never with others. But the occasional break-through only proves the rule. You reach out with a disclosure, fail, and fall back bitterly into yourself. ~ Ernest Becker
186:If the partner becomes God he can just as easily become the Devil; the reason is not far to seek. For one thing, one becomes bound to the object in dependency. One needs it for self-justification. . . . [O]ne's self-development is restricted by the object, absorbed by it. It is too narrow a fetishization of meaning, and one comes to resent it and chafe at it. If you find the ideal love and try to make it the sole judge of good and bad in yourself . . . you become simply the reflex of another person. You lose yourself in the other, just as obedient children lose themselves in the family. No wonder that dependency, whether of the god or of the slave in the relationship, carries with it so much underlying resentment. ~ Ernest Becker
187:Hedonism is not heroism for most men. The pagans in the ancient world did not realize that and so lost out to the “despicable” creed of Judeo-Christianity. Modern men equally do not realize it, and so they sell their souls to consumer capitalism or consumer communism or replace their souls—as Rank said—with psychology. Psychotherapy is such a growing vogue today because people want to know why they are unhappy in hedonism and look for the faults within themselves. Unrepression has become the only religion after Freud—as Philip Rieff so well argued in a recent book; evidently he did not realize that his argument was an updating and expansion of exactly what Rank had maintained about the historical role of psychology. ~ Ernest Becker
188:The most terrifying burden of the creature is to be isolated, which is what happens in individuation: one separates himself out of the herd. This move exposes the person to the sense of being completely crushed and annihilated because he sticks out so much, has to carry so much in himself. These are the risks when the person begins to fashion consciously and critically his own framework of heroic self-reference. Here is precisely the definition of the artist type, or the creative type generally. We have crossed a threshold into a new type of response to man’s situation. No one has written about this type of human response more penetratingly than Rank; and of all his books, Art and Artist is the most secure monument to his genius. I ~ Ernest Becker
189:If the partner becomes God he can just as easily become the Devil; the reason is not far to seek. For one thing, one becomes bound [italics original] to the object in dependency. One needs it for self-justification. . . . [O]ne's self-development is restricted by the object, absorbed by it. It is too narrow a fetishization of meaning, and one comes to resent it and chafe at it. If you find the ideal love and try to make it the sole judge of good and bad in yourself . . . you become simply the reflex of another person. You lose yourself in the other, just as obedient children lose themselves in the family. No wonder that dependency, whether of the god or of the slave in the relationship, carries with it so much underlying resentment. ~ Ernest Becker
190:In order to understand the weight of the dualism of the human condition, we have to know that the child can’t really handle either end of it. The most characteristic thing about him is that he is precocious or premature; his world piles up on him and he piles up on himself. He has right from the beginning an exquisite sensory system that rapidly develops to take in all the sensations of his world with an extreme finesse. Add to it the quick development of language and the sense of self and pile it all upon a helpless infant body trying vainly to grab the world correctly and safely. The result is ludicrous. The child is overwhelmed by experiences of the dualism of the self and the body from both areas, since he can be master of neither. ~ Ernest Becker
191:Too much possibility is the attempt by the person to overvalue the powers of the symbolic self. It reflects the attempt to exaggerate one half of the human dualism at the expense of the other. In this sense, what we call schizophrenia is an attempt by the symbolic self to deny the limitations of the finite body; in doing so, the entire person is pulled off balance and destroyed. It is as though the freedom of creativity that stems from within the symbolic self cannot be contained by the body, and the person is torn apart. This is how we understand schizophrenia today, as the split of self and body, a split in which the self is unanchored, unlimited, not bound enough to everyday Things, not contained enough in dependable physical behavior. ~ Ernest Becker
192:Rieff's point is the classical one: that in order to have a truly human existence there must be limits; and what we call culture or the superego sets such limits. Culture is a compromise with life that makes human life possible. He quotes Marx's defiant revolutionary phrase: "I am nothing and should be everything." For Rieff this is the undiluted infantile unconscious speaking. Or, as I would prefer to say with Rank, the neurotic consciousness-the "all or nothing" of the person who cannot "partialize" his world. One bursts out in boundless megalomania, transcending all limits, or bogs down into wormhood like a truly worthless sinner. There is no secure ego balance to limit the intake of reality or to fashion the output of one's own powers. ~ Ernest Becker
193:Too much possibility is the attempt by the person to overvalue the powers of the symbolic self. It reflects the attempt to exaggerate one half of the human dualism at the expense of the other. In this sense, what we call schizophrenia is an attempt by the symbolic self to deny the limitations of the finite body; in doing so, the entire person is pulled off balance and destroyed. It is as though the freedom of creativity that stems from within the symbolic self cannot be contained by the body, and the person is torn apart. This is how we understand schizophrenia today, as the split of the self and body, a split in which the self is unanchored, unlimited, not bound enough to everyday things, not contained enough in dependable physical behavior. ~ Ernest Becker
194:And this brings us to our final type of man: the one who asserts himself out of defiance of his own weakness, who tries to be a god unto himself, the master of his fate, a self-created man. He will not be merely the pawn of others, of society; he will not be a passive sufferer and secret dreamer, nursing his own inner flame in oblivion. He will plunge into life,

into the distractions of great undertakings, he will become a restless spirit...which wants to forget...Or he will seek forgetfulness in sensuality, perhaps in debauchery....

At its extreme, defiant self-creation can become demonic, a passion which Kierkegaard calls "demoniac rage," an attack on all of life for what it has dared to do to one, a revolt against existence itself. ~ Ernest Becker
195:The masses look to the leaders to give them just the untruth that they need; the leader continues the illusions that triumph over the castration complex and magnifies them into a truly heroic victory. Furthermore, he makes possible a new experience, the expression of forbidden impulses, secret wishes, and fantasies. In group behavior anything goes because the leader okays it. It is like being an omnipotent infant again, encouraged by the parent to indulge oneself plentifully, or like being in psychoanalytic therapy where the analyst doesn't censure you for anything you feel or think. In the group each man seems an omnipotent hero who can give full vent to his appetites under the approving eye of the father. And so we understand the terrifying sadism of group activity. ~ Ernest Becker
196:And so we see the paradox that evolution has handed us. If man is the only animal whose consciousness of self gives him an unusual dignity in the animal kingdom, he also pays a tragic price for it. The fact that the child has to identify -first- means that his very first identity is a social product. His habitation of his own body is built from the outside in; not from the inside out. He doesn't unfold into the world, the world unfolds into him. As the child responds to the vocal symbols learned from his object, he often gives the pathetic impression of being a true social puppet, jerked by alien symbols and sounds. What sensitive parent does not have his satisfaction tinged with sadness as the child repeats with such vital earnestness the little symbols that are taught him? ~ Ernest Becker
197:In man a working level of narcissism is inseparable from self-esteem, from a basic sense of self-worth. We have learned, mostly from Alfred Adler, that what man needs most is to feel secure in his self-esteem. But man is not just a blind glob of idling protoplasm, but a creature with a name who lives in a world of symbols, on an abstract idea of his own worth, an idea composed of sounds, words, and images, in the air, in the mind, on paper. And this means that man's natural yearning for organismic activity, the pleasures of incorporation and expansion, can be fed limitlessly in the domain of symbols and so into immortality. The single organism can expand into dimensions of worlds and times without moving a physical limb; it can take eternity into itself even as it gaspingly dies. ~ Ernest Becker
198:Children feel hounded by symbols they don't understand the need of, verbal demands that seem picayune, and rules and codes that call them away from their pleasure in the straightforward expression of their natural energies. And when they try to master the body, pretend it isn't there, act "like a little man," the body suddenly overwhelms them, submerges them in vomit or excrement-and the child breaks down in desperate tears over his melted pretense at being a purely symbolic animal. Often the child deliberately soils himself or continues to wet the bed, to protest against the imposition of artificial symbolic rules: he seems to be saying that the body is his primary reality and that he wants to remain in the simpler physical Eden and not be thrown out into the world of "right and wrong. ~ Ernest Becker
199:In order to function normally, man has to achieve from the beginning a serious constriction of the world and of himself. We can say that the essence of normality is the refusal of reality.3 What we call neurosis enters precisely at this point: Some people have more trouble with their lies than others. The world is too much with them, and the techniques that they have developed for holding it at bay and cutting it down to size finally begin to choke the person himself. This is neurosis in a nutshell: the miscarriage of clumsy lies about reality. But we can also see at once that there is no line between normal and neurotic, as we all lie and are all bound in some ways by the lies. Neurosis is, then, something we all share; it is universal.4 Or, putting it another way, normality is neurosis, and vice versa. ~ Ernest Becker
200:When love of one’s people becomes an absolute, it turns into racism. When love of equality turns into a supreme thing, it can result in hatred and violence toward anyone who has led a privileged life. It is the settled tendency of human societies to turn good political causes into counterfeit gods. As we have mentioned, Ernest Becker wrote that in a society that has lost the reality of God, many people will look to romantic love to give them the fulfillment they once found in religious experience. Nietzsche, however, believed it would be money that would replace God. But there is another candidate to fill this spiritual vacuum. We can also look to politics. We can look upon our political leaders as “messiahs,” our political policies as saving doctrine, and turn our political activism into a kind of religion. ~ Timothy J Keller
201:Man cuts out for himself a manageable world: he throws himself into action uncritically, unthinkingly. He accepts the cultural programming that turns his nose where he is supposed to look; he doesn’t bite the world off in one piece as a giant would, but in small manageable pieces, as a beaver does. He uses all kinds of techniques, which we call the “character defenses”: he learns not to expose himself, not to stand out; he learns to embed himself in other-power, both of concrete persons and of things and cultural commands; the result is that he comes to exist in the imagined infallibility of the world around him. He doesn’t have to have fears when his feet are solidly mired and his life mapped out in a ready-made maze. All he has to do is to plunge ahead in a compulsive style of drivenness in the “ways of the world. ~ Ernest Becker
202:A person spends years coming into his own, developing his talent, his unique gifts, perfecting his discriminations about the world, broadening and sharpening his appetite, learning to bear the disappointments of life, becoming mature, seasoned-finally a unique creature in nature, standing with some dignity and nobility and transcending the animal condition; no longer driven, no longer a complex reflex, not stamped out of any mold. And then the real tragedy, as Andre Malraux wrote in The Human Condition: that it takes sixty years of incredible suffering and effort to make such an individual, and then he is good only for dying. This painful paradox is not lost on the person himself-least of all himself. He feels agonizingly unique, and yet he knows that this doesn't make any difference as far as ultimates are concerned. ~ Ernest Becker
203:But now the problem of the causa-sui project of the genius. In the normal Oedipal project the person internalizes the parents and the superego they embody, that is, the culture at large. But the genius cannot do this because his project is unique; it cannot be filled up by the parents or the culture. It is created specifically by a renunciation of the parents, a renunciation of what they represent and even of their own concrete persons-at least in fantasy-as there doesn't seem to be anything in them that has caused the genius. Here we see whence the genius gets his extra burden of guilt: he has renounced the father both spiritually and physically. This act gives him extra anxiety because now he is vulnerable in his turn, as he has no one to stand on. He is alone in his freedom. Guilt is a function of fear, as Rank said. ~ Ernest Becker
204:What, actually, does it mean to be a tragic figure firmly in the grip of one's daimon? It means to possess great talent, to relentlessly pursue the expression of that talent through the unswerving affirmation of the causa-sui project that alone gives it birth and form. One is consumed by what he must do to express his gift. The passion of his character becomes inseparable from his dogma. Jung says the same thing beautifully when he concludes that Freud "must himself be so profoundly affected by the power of Eros that he actually wished to elevate it into a dogma...like a religious numen."
Eros is precisely the natural energy of the child's organism that will not let him rest, that keeps propelling him forward in a driven way while he fashions the lie of his character-which ironically permits that very drivenness to continue, but now under the illusion of self-control. ~ Ernest Becker
205:In Jung's terms-that we noted previously-the work is the artist's own transference projection, and he knows that consciously and critically. Whatever he does he is stuck with himself, can't get securely outside and beyond himself. He is also stuck with the work of art itself. Like any material achievement it is visible, earthly, impermanent. No matter how great it is, it still pales in some ways next to the transcending majesty of nature; and so it is ambiguous, hardly a solid immortality symbol. In his greatest genius man is still mocked. No matter that historically art and psychosis have had such an intimate relationship, that the road to creativity passes so close to the madhouse and often detours or ends there. The artist and the madman are trapped by their own fabrications; they wallow in their own anality, in their protest that they really are something special in creation. ~ Ernest Becker
206:Projection is necessary and desirable for self-fulfillment. Otherwise man is overwhelmed by his loneliness and separation and negated by the very burden of his own life. As Rank so wisely saw, projection is a necessary unburdening of the individual; man cannot live closed upon himself and for himself. he must project the meaning of his life outward, the reason for it, even the blame for it. We did not create ourselves, but we are stuck with ourselves. Technically we say that transference is a distortion of reality. But now we see that this distortion has two dimensions: distortion due to to the fear of life and death and distortion due to the heroic attempt to assure self-expansion and the intimate connection of one's inner self to surrounding nature. In other words, transference reflects the whole of the human condition and raises the largest philosophical question about that condition. ~ Ernest Becker
207:Freud has said in Totem and Taboo that acts that are illegal for the individual can be justified in another way: the one who initiates the act takes upon himself both the risk and the guilt. The result is truly magic: each member of the group can repeat the act without guilt. They are not responsible, only the leader is. Redl calls this, aptly, "priority magic." But it does something even more than relieve guilt: it actually transforms the fact of murder. This crucial point initiates us directly into the phenomenology of group transformation of the everyday world. If one murders without guilt, and in imitation of the hero who runs the risk, why then it is no longer murder: it is "holy aggression. For the first one it was not." In other words, participation in the group redistills everyday reality and gives it the aura of the sacred-just as, in childhood, play created a heightened reality. ~ Ernest Becker
208:Kierkegaard gives us some portrait sketches of the styles of denying possibility, or the lies of character-which is the same thing. He is intent on describing what we today call "inauthentic" men, men who avoid developing their own uniqueness; they follow out the styles of automatic and uncritical living in which they were conditioned as children. They are "inauthentic" in that they do not belong to themselves, are not "their own" person, do not act from their own center, do not see reality on its terms; they are the one-dimensional men totally immersed in the fictional games being played in their society, unable to transcend their social conditioning: the corporation men in the West, the bureaucrats in the East, the tribal men locked up in tradition-man everywhere who doesn't understand what it means to think for himself and who, if he did, would shrink back at the idea of such audacity and exposure. ~ Ernest Becker
209:Rank asked why the artist so often avoids clinical neurosis when he is so much a candidate for it because of his vivid imagination, his openness to the finest and broadest aspects of experience, his isolation from the cultural world-view that satisfies everyone else. The answer is that he takes in the world, but instead of being oppressed by it he reworks it in his own personality and recreates it in the work of art. The neurotic is precisely the one who cannot create—the “artiste-manque,” as Rank so aptly called him. We might say that both the artist and the neurotic bite off more than they can chew, but the artist spews it back out again and chews it over in an objectified way, as an ex­ternal, active, work project. The neurotic can’t marshal this creative response embodied in a specific work, and so he chokes on his in­troversions. The artist has similar large-scale introversions, but he uses them as material. ~ Ernest Becker
210:This is what Rank meant when he said that: … psychology, which is gradually trying to supplant religious and moral ideology, is only partially qualified to do this, because it is a preponderantly negative and disintegrating ideology….30 Psychology narrows the cause for personal unhappiness down to the person himself, and then he is stuck with himself. But we know that the universal and general cause for personal badness, guilt, and inferiority is the natural world and the person’s relationship to it as a symbolic animal who must find a secure place in it. All the analysis in the world doesn’t allow the person to find out who he is and why he is here on earth, why he has to die, and how he can make his life a triumph. It is when psychology pretends to do this, when it offers itself as a full explanation of human unhappiness, that it becomes a fraud that makes the situation of modern man on impasse from which he cannot escape. ~ Ernest Becker
211:Let me hasten to assure the reader that I am not developing an apologia for traditional religion but only describing the impoverishment of the modern neurotic and some of the reasons for it. I want to give some background for understanding how centrally Rank himself stands in the tradition of Pascal, Kierkegaard, and Chesterton on the problem of faith and illusion or creative play. As we have learned from Huizinga and more recent writers like Josef Pieper and Harvey Cox, the only secure truth men have is that which they themselves create and dramatize; to live is to play at the meaning of life. The upshot of this whole tradition of thought is that it teaches us once and for all that childlike foolishness is the calling of mature men. Just this way Rank prescribed the cure for neurosis: as the “need for legitimate foolishness.”47 The problem of the union of religion, psychiatry, and social science is contained in this one formula. ~ Ernest Becker
212:Not everyone is as honest as Freud was when he said that he cured the miseries of the neurotic only to open him up to the normal misery of life. Only angels know unrelieved joy-or are able to stand it. Yet we see the books by the mind-healers with their garish titles: "Joy!" "Awakening," and the like; we see them in person in lecture halls or in groups, beaming their particular brand of inward, confident well-being, so that it communicates its unmistakable message: we can do this for you, too, if you will only let us. I have never seen or heard them communicate the dangers of the total liberation that they claim to offer; say, to put up a small sign next to the one advertising joy, carrying some inscription like "Danger: real probability of the awakening of terror and dread, from which there is no turning back." It would be honest and would also relieve them of some of the guilt of the occasional suicide that takes place in therapy. ~ Ernest Becker
213:Take stock of those around you and you will … hear them talk in precise terms about themselves and their surroundings, which would seem to point to them having ideas on the matter. But start to analyse those ideas and you will find that they hardly reflect in any way the reality to which they appear to refer, and if you go deeper you will discover that there is not even an attempt to adjust the ideas to this reality. Quite the contrary: through these notions the individual is trying to cut off any personal vision of reality, of his own very life. For life is at the start a chaos in which one is lost. The individual suspects this, but he is frightened at finding himself face to face with this terrible reality, and tries to cover it over with a curtain of fantasy, where everything is clear. It does not worry him that his “ideas” are not true, he uses them as trenches for the defense of his existence, as scarecrows to frighten away reality. ~ Ernest Becker
214:People use their leaders almost as an excuse. When they give in to the leader's commands they can always reserve the feeling that these commands are are alien to them, that they are the leader's responsibility, that the terrible acts they are committing are in his name and not theirs. This, then, is another thing that makes people feel so guiltless, as Canetti points out: they can imagine themselves as temporary victims of the leader. The more they give in to his spell, and the more terrible the crimes they commit, the more they can feel that the wrongs are not natural to them. It is all so neat, this usage of the leader; it reminds us of James Franzer's discovery that in the remote past tribes often used their kings as scapegoats who, when they no longer served the people's needs, were put to death. These are the many ways in which men can play the hero, all the while that they are avoiding responsibility for their own acts in a cowardly way. ~ Ernest Becker
215:Freud's greatest discovery, the one which lies at the root of psychodynamics, is that the great cause of much psychological illness is the fear of knowledge of oneself-one one's emotions, impulses, memories, capacities, potentialities, of ones' destiny. We have discovered that fear of knowledge of oneself is very often isomorphic with, and parallel with, fear of the outside world.

And what is this fear, but a fear of the reality of creation in relation to our powers and possibilities:

In general this kind of fear is defensive, in the sense that it is a protection of our self-esteem, of our love and respect for ourselves. We tend to be afraid of any knowledge that could cause us to despise ourselves or to make us feel inferior, weak, worthless, evil, shameful. We protect ourselves and our ideal image of ourselves by repression and similar defenses, which are essentially techniques by which we avoid becoming conscious of unpleasant or dangerous truths. ~ Ernest Becker
216:Once the person begins to look to his relationship to the Ultimate Power, to infinitude, and to refashion his links from those around him to that Ultimate Power, he opens up to himself the horizon of unlimited possibility, of real freedom.
This is Kierkegaard's message, the culmination of his whole argument about the dead-ends of character, the ideal of health, the school of anxiety, the nature of real possibility and freedom. One goes through it all to arrive at faith, the faith that one's very creatureliness has some meaning to a Creator; that despite one's true insignificance, weakness, death, one's existence has meaning in some ultimate sense because it exists within an eternal and infinite scheme of things brought about and maintained to some kind of design by some creative force. Again and again throughout his writings Kierkegaard repeats the basic formula of faith: one is a creature who can do nothing, but one exists over against a living God for whom "everything is possible. ~ Ernest Becker
217:Freud saw that a patient in analysis developed a peculiarly intense attachment to the person of the analyst. The analyst became literally the center of his world and his life; he devoured him with his eyes, his heart swelled with joy at the sight of him; the analyst filled his thoughts even in his dreams. The whole fascination has the elements of an intense love affair, but it is not limited to women. Men show the “same attachment to the physician, the same overestimation of his qualities, the same adoption of his interest, the same jealousy against all those connected with him.”6 Freud saw that this was an uncanny phenomenon, and in order to explain it he called it “transference.” The patient transfers the feelings he had towards his parents as a child to the person of the physician. He blows the physician up larger than life just as the child sees the parents. He becomes as dependent on him, draws protection and power from him just as the child merges his destiny with the parents, and so on. ~ Ernest Becker
218:We don't want to admit that we do not stand alone, that we always rely on something that transcends us, some system of ideas and powers in which we are embedded and which support us. This power is not always obvious. It need not be overtly a god or openly a stronger person, but it can be the power of an all-absorbing activity, a passion, a dedication to a game, a way of life, that like a comfortable web keeps a person buoyed up and ignorant of himself, of the fact that he does not rest on his own center. All of us are driven to be supported in a self-forgetful way, ignorant of what energies we really draw on, of the kind of lie we have fashioned in order to live securely and serenely. Augustine was a master analyst of this, as were Kierkegaard, Scheler, and Tillich in our day. They saw that man could strut and boast all he wanted, but that he really drew his "courage to be" from a god, a string of sexual conquests, a Big Brother, a flag, the proletariat, and the fetish of money and the size of a bank balance. ~ Ernest Becker
219:Socially, too, we have seen a defiant Promethianism that is basically innocuous: the confident power that can catapult man to the moon and free him somewhat of his complete dependence and confinement on earth-at least in his imagination. The ugly side of this Promethianism is that it, too, is thoughtless, an empty-headed immersion in the delights of technics with not thought to goals or meaning; so man performs on the moon by hitting golf balls that do not swerve in the lack of atmosphere. The technical triumph of a versatile ape, as the makers of the film 2001 so chillingly conveyed to us. On more ominous levels, as we shall develop later on, modern man's defiance of accident, evil, and death takes the form of sky-rocketing production of consumer and military goods. Carried to its demonic extreme this defiance gave us Hitler and Vietnam: a rage against our impotence, a defiance of our animal condition, our pathetic creature limitations. If we don't have the omnipotence of gods, we at least can destroy like gods. ~ Ernest Becker
220:But the truth about the need for heroism is not easy for anyone to admit, even the very ones who want to have their claims recognized. There's the rub. As we shall see from our subsequent discussion, to become conscious of what one is doing to earn his feeling of heroism is the main self-analytic problem of life. Everything painful and sobering in what psychoanalytic genius and religious genius have discovered about man revolves around the terror of admitting what one is doing to earn his self-esteem. This is why human heroics is a blind drivenness that burns people up; in passionate people, a screaming for glory as uncritical and reflexive as the howling of a dog. In the more passive masses of mediocre men it is disguised as they humbly and complainingly follow out the roles that society provides for their heroics and try to earn their promotions within the system: wearing the standard uniforms-but allowing themselves to stick out, but ever so little and so safely, with a little ribbon or a red boutonniere, but now with head and shoulders. ~ Ernest Becker
221:When we are young we are often puzzled by the fact that each person we admire seems to have a different version of what life ought to be, what a good man is, how to live, and so on. If we are especially sensitive it seems more than puzzling, it is disheartening. What most people usually do is to follow one person's ideas and then another's depending on who looms largest on one's horizon at the time. The one with the deepest voice, the strongest appearance, the most authority and success, is usually the one who gets our momentary allegiance; and we try to pattern our ideals after him. But as life goes on we get a perspective on this and all these different versions of truth become a little pathetic. Each person thinks that he has the formula for triumphing over life's limitations and knows with authority what it means to be a man, and he usually tries to win a following for his particular patent. Today we know that people try so hard to win converts for their point of view because it is more than merely an outlook on life: it is an immortality formula. ~ Ernest Becker
222:The thing that makes God the perfect spiritual object is precisely that he is abstract-as Hegel saw. He is not a concrete individuality, and so He does not limit our development by His own personal will and needs. When we look for the "perfect" human object we are looking for someone who allows us to express our will completely, without any frustration or false notes. We want an object that reflects a truly ideal image of ourselves. But no human object can do this; humans have wills and counterwills of their own, in a thousand ways they can move against us, their very appetites offend us. God's greatness and powers is something that we can nourish ourselves in, without its being compromised in any way by the happenings of the world. No human partner can offer this assurance because the partner is real. However much we may idealize and idolize him, he inevitably reflects earthly decay and imperfection. And as he is our ideal measure of value, this imperfection falls back upon us. If your partner is your "All" then any shortcoming in him becomes a major threat to you. ~ Ernest Becker
223:Try repeating “man is an animal" a few times, just to notice how unconvincing it sounds. There seems to be no way to get this idea into our heads, except by long rumination over the facts of evolution or perhaps by exposure to a primitive tribe or by being raised on a farm. Primitives sometimes see little difference between themselves and the animals around them. Karl von den Steinen was told by a Xingu that the only difference between them and the monkey was that they monkeys lacked the bow and arrow. And Jules Henry observed on the Kningang that dogs are not considered pets, like some of the other animals, but are on a level of emotional equality, like a relative. But in our own Western culture we have, for the most part, set a great distance between ourselves and the rest of nature, and language helps us to do this. Thus we say that a sheep “drops" its lamb, but a woman “gives birth"—it’s much more noble. Yet we have the right to make such distinctions because we assign the meaning to the world by naming names of things; we inhabit a different sphere and we capitalize naturally on the privilege. ~ Ernest Becker
224:Commercial industrialism promised Western man a paradise on earth, described in great detail by the Hollywood Myth, that replaced the paradise in heaven of the Christian myth. And now psychology must replace them both with the myth of paradise through self-knowledge. This is the promise of psychology, and for the most part the psychotherapists are obliged to live it and embody it. But it was Rank who saw how false this claim is. "Psychology as self-knowledge is self-deception," he said, because it does not give what men want, which is immortality. Nothing could be plainer. When the patient emerges from his protective cocoon he gives up the reflexive immortality ideology that he has lived under-both in its personal-parental form (living in the protective powers of the parents or their surrogates) and in its cultural causa-sui form (living by the opinions of others and in the symbolic role-dramatization of the society). What new immortality ideology can the self-knowledge of psychotherapy provide to replace this? Obviously, none from psychology-unless, said Rank, psychology itself become the new belief system. ~ Ernest Becker
225:Now we see what we might call the ontological or creature tragedy that is so peculiar to man: If he gives in to Agape he risks failing to develop himself, his active contribution to the rest of life. If he expands Eros too much he risks cutting himself off from natural dependency, from duty to a larger creation; he pulls away from the healing power of gratitude and humility that he must naturally feel for having been created, for having been given the opportunity of life experience.

Man thus has the absolute tension of the dualism. Individuation means that the human creature has to oppose itself to the rest of nature. It creates precisely the isolation that one can't stand-and yet needs in order to develop distinctively. It creates the difference that becomes such a burden; it accents the smallness of oneself and the sticking-outness at the same time. This is natural guilt. The person experiences this as "unworthiness" or "badness" and dumb inner dissatisfaction. And the reason is realistic. Compared to the rest of nature man is not a very satisfactory creation. He is riddled with fear and powerlessness. ~ Ernest Becker
226:As we will see from these pages man is mostly innocent, really potentially good, even naturally noble; and as we will stress, society is responsible, largely, for shaping people, for giving them opportunities for unfolding more freely and more unafraid. But this unfolding is confused and complicated by man’s basic animal fears: by his deep and indelible anxieties about his own impotence and death, and his fear of being overwhelmed and sucked up into the world and into others. All this gives his life a quality of drivenness, of underlying desperation, an obsession with the meaning of it and with his own significance as a creature. And this is what drives him to try to make his mark on the world, to try to twist it and turn it to his own designs, to bury over the rumbling anxieties; and this usually means that he tries to twist and turn others, make his mark on them, use them to justify his own problematic life. As Rank put it so bluntly: Man creates “out of freedom a prison.” This means everyman, in any society, from the most “primitive” to the most “civilized,” no matter what the child training programs or economic system. ~ Ernest Becker
227:a perfect description of the “automatic cultural man”—man as confined by culture, a slave to it, who imagines that he has an identity if he pays his insurance premium, that he has control of his life if he guns his sports car or works his electric toothbrush. Today the inauthentic or immediate men are familiar types, after decades of Marxist and existentialist analysis of man’s slavery to his social system. But in Kierkegaard’s time it must have been a shock to be a modern European city-dweller and be considered a Philistine at the same time. For Kierkegaard “philistinism” was triviality, man lulled by the daily routines of his society, content with the satisfactions that it offers him: in today’s world the car, the shopping center, the two-week summer vacation. Man is protected by the secure and limited alternatives his society offers him, and if he does not look up from his path he can live out his life with a certain dull security:

Devoid of imagination, as the Philistine always is, he lives in a certain trivial province of experience as to how things go, what is possible, what usually occurs… . Philistinism tranquilizes itself in the trivial… ~ Ernest Becker
228:The key to the creative type is that he is separated out of the common pool of shared meanings. There is something in his life experience that makes him take in the world as a problem; as a result he has to make personal sense out of it. This holds true for all creative people to a greater or lesser extent, but it is especially obvious with the artist. Existence becomes a problem that needs an ideal answer; but when you no longer accept the collective solution to the problem of existence, then you must fashion your own. The work of art is, then, the ideal answer of the creative type to the problem of existence as he takes it in-not only the existence of the external world, but especially his own: who he is as a painfully separate person with nothing shared to lean on. He has to answer to the burden of his extreme individuation, his so painful isolation. He wants to know how to earn immortality as a result of his own unique gifts. His creative work is at the same time the expression of his heroism and the justification of it. It is his "private religion"-as Rank put it. Its uniqueness gives him personal immortality; it is his own "beyond" and not that of others. ~ Ernest Becker
229:The question for a characterology is why some people cannot balance their ontological urges, why they hug at the extremes. The answer must obviously go back to the personal life history. There are those who shrink back from experience out of greater life-and-death anxieties. They grow up not giving themselves freely to the cultural roles available to them. They can’t lose themselves thoughtlessly in the games that others play. One reason is that they have trouble relating to others; they haven’t been able to develop the necessary interpersonal skills. Playing the game of society with automatic ease means playing with others without anxiety. If you are not involved in what others take for granted as the nourishment of their lives, then your own life becomes a total problem. At its extreme this describes the schizoid type par excellence. Classically this state was called the “narcissistic neurosis” or psychosis. The psychotic is the one who cannot shut out the world, whose repressions are all on the surface, whose defenses no longer work; and so he withdraws from the world and into himself and his fantasies. He fences himself off and becomes his own world (narcissism). ~ Ernest Becker
230:There is no doubt that creative work is itself done under a compulsion often indistinguishable from a purely clinical obsession. In this sense, what we call a creative gift is merely the social license to be obsessed. And what we call “cultural routine” is a similar license: the proletariat demands the obsession of work in order to keep from going crazy. I used to wonder how people could stand the really demonic activity of working behind those hellish ranges in hotel kitchens, the frantic whirl of waiting on a dozen tables at one time, the madness of the travel agent’s office at the height of the tourist season, or the torture of working with a jack-hammer all day on a hot summer street. The answer is so simple that it eludes us: the craziness of these activities is exactly that of the human condition. They are “right” for us because the alternative is natural desperation. The daily madness of these jobs is a repeated vaccination against the madness of the asylum. Look at the joy and eagerness with which workers return from vacation to their compulsive routines. They plunge into their work with equanimity and lightheartedness because it drowns out something more ominous. ~ Ernest Becker
231:Religion answers directly to the problem of transference by expanding awe and terror to the cosmos where they belong. It also takes the problem of self-justification and removes it from the objects near at hand. We no longer have to please those around us, but the very source of creation-the powers that created us, not those into whose lives we accidentally fell. Our life ceases to be a reflexive dialogue with the standards of our wives, husbands, friends, and leaders and becomes instead measured by standards of the highest heroism, ideals truly fit to lead us on and beyond ourselves. In this way we fill ourselves with independent values, can make free decisions, and, most importantly, can lean on powers that really support us and do not oppose us. The personality can truly begin to emerge in religion because God, as an abstraction, does not oppose the individual as others do, but instead provides the individual with all the powers necessary for self-justification. What greater security than to lean confidently on God, on the Fount of creation, the most terrifying power of all? If God is hidden and intangible, all the better: that allows man to expand and develop by himself. ~ Ernest Becker
232:Is one oppressed by the burden of his life? Then he can lay it at his divine partner's feet. Is self-consciousness too painful, the sense of being a separate individual, trying to make some kind of meaning out of who one is, what life is, and the like? Then one can wipe it away in the emotional yielding to the partner, forget oneself in the delirium of sex, and still be marvelously quickened in the experience. Is one weighed down by the guilt of his body, the drag of his animality that haunts his victory over decay and death? But this is just what the comfortable sex relationship is for: in sex the body and the consciousness of it are not longer separated; the body is no longer something we look at as alien to ourselves. As soon as it is fully accepted as a body by the partner, our self-consciousness vanishes; it merges with the body and with the self-consciousness and body of the partner. Four fragments of existence melt into one unity and things are no longer disjointed and grotesque: everything is "natural," functional, expressed as it should be-and so it is stilled and justified. All the more is guilt wiped away when the body finds its natural usage in the production of a child. ~ Ernest Becker
233:Kierkegaard had his own formula for what it means to be a man. He put it forth in those superb pages wherein he describes what he calls "the knight of faith." This figure is the man who lives in faith, who has given over the meaning of life to his Creator, and who lives centered on the energies of his Maker. He accepts whatever happens in this visible dimension without complaint, lives his life as a duty, faces his death without a qualm. No pettiness is so petty that it threatens his meanings; not task is too frightening to be beyond his courage. He is fully in the world on its terms and wholly beyond the world in his trust in the invisible dimension. It is very much the old Pietistic ideal that was lived by Kant's parents. The great strength of such an ideal is that it allows one to be open, generous, courageous, to touch others' lives and enrich them and open them in turn. As the knight of faith has no fear-of-life-and-death trip to lay onto others, he does not cause them to shrink back upon themselves, he does not coerce or manipulate them. The knight of faith, then, represents what we might call an ideal of mental health, the continuing openness of life out of the death throes of dread. ~ Ernest Becker
234:Sin and neurosis have another side: not only their unreal self-inflation in the refusal to admit creatureliness but also a penalty for intensified self-consciousness: the failure to be consoled by shared illusions. The result is that the sinner (neurotic) is hyperconscious of the very thing he tries to deny: his creatureliness, his miserableness and unworthiness.41 The neurotic is thrown back on his true perceptions of the human condition, which caused his isolation and individuation in the first place. He tried to build a glorified private inner world because of his deeper anxieties, but life takes its revenge. The more he separates and inflates himself, the more anxious he becomes. The more he artificially idealizes himself, the more exaggeratedly he criticizes himself. He alternates between the extremes of “I am everything” and “I am nothing.”42 But it is clear that if one is going to be something he has to be a secure part of something else. There is no way to avoid paying the debt of dependency and yielding to the larger meaning of the rest of nature, to the toll of suffering and the death that it demands; and there is no way to justify this payment from within oneself, no matter how mightily one tries. ~ Ernest Becker
235:Kierkegaard's torment was the direct result of seeing the world as it really is in relation to his situation as a creature. The prison of one's character is painstakingly built to deny one thing and one thing alone: one's creatureliness. The creatureliness is the terror. Once admit that you are a defecating creature and you invite the primeval ocean of creature anxiety to flood over you. But it is more than creature anxiety, it is also man's anxiety, the anxiety that results from the human paradox that man is an animal who is conscious of his animal limitation. Anxiety is the result of the perception of the truth of one's condition. What does it mean to be a self-conscious animal? The idea is ludicrous, if it is not monstrous. It means to know that one is food for worms. This is the terror: to have emerged from nothing, to have a name, consciousness of self, deep inner feelings, an excruciating inner yearning for life and self-expression-and with all this yet to die. It seems like a hoax, which is why one type of cultural man rebels openly against the idea of God. What kind of deity would create such complex and fancy worm food? Cynical deities, said the Greeks, who use man's torments for their own amusement. ~ Ernest Becker
236:It will be easy for us to understand at this point that menopause simply reawakens the horror of the body, the utter bankruptcy of the body as a viable causa-sui project — the exact experience that brings on the early Oedipal castration anxiety. The woman is reminded in the most forceful way that she is an animal thing; menopause is a sort of "animal birthday" that specifically marks the physical career of degeneration. It is like nature imposing a definite physical milestone on the person, putting up a wall and saying "You are not going any further into life now, you are going toward the end, to the absolute determinism of death." As men don't have such animal birthdays, such specific markers of a physical kind, they don't usually experience another stark discrediting of the body as a causa-sui project. Once has been enough, and they bury the problem with the symbolic powers of the cultural world-view. But the woman is less fortunate; she is put in the position of having all at once to catch up psychologically with the physical facts of life. To paraphrase Goethe's aphorism, death doesn't keep knocking on her door only to be ignored (as men ignore their aging), but kicks it in to show himself full in the face. ~ Ernest Becker
237:It was G. K. Chesterton who kept alive the spirit of Kierkegaard and naïve Christianity in modern thought, as when he showed with such style that the characteristics the modern mind prides itself on are precisely those of madness.46 There is no one more logical than the lunatic, more concerned with the minutiae of cause and effect. Madmen are the greatest reasoners we know, and that trait is one of the accompaniments of their undoing. All their vital processes are shrunken into the mind. What is the one thing they lack that sane men possess? The ability to be careless, to disregard appearances, to relax and laugh at the world. They can’t unbend, can’t gamble their whole existence, as did Pascal, on a fanciful wager. They can’t do what religion has always asked: to believe in a justification of their lives that seems absurd. The neurotic knows better: he is the absurd, but nothing else is absurd; it is “only too true.” But faith asks that man expand himself trustingly into the nonlogical, into the truly fantastic. This spiritual expansion is the one thing that modern man finds most difficult, precisely because he is constricted into himself and has nothing to lean on, no collective drama that makes fantasy seem real because it is lived and shared. ~ Ernest Becker
238:It is clear to us today, too, that Freud was wrong about the dogma, just as Jung and Adler knew right at the beginning. Man has no innate instincts of sexuality and aggression. Now we are seeing something more, the new Freud emerging in our time, that he was right in his dogged dedication to revealing man's creatureliness. His emotional involvement was correct. It reflected the true intuitions of genius, even though the particular intellectual counterpart of that emotion-the sexual theory-proved to be wrong. Man's body was "a curse of fate," and culture was built upon repression-not because man was a seeker only of sexuality, of pleasure, of life and expansiveness, as Freud thought, but because man was also primarily an avoider of death. Consciousness of death is the primary repression, not sexuality. As Rank unfolded in book after book, and as Brown has recently again argued, the new perspective on psychoanalysis is that its crucial concept is the repression of death. This is what is creaturely about man, this is the repression on which culture is built, a repression unique to the self-conscious animal. Freud saw the curse and dedicated his life to revealing it with all the power at his command. But he ironically missed the precise scientific reason for the curse. ~ Ernest Becker
239:You can see that man wants the impossible: He wants to lose his isolation and keep it at the same time. He can't stand the sense of separateness, and yet he can't allow the complete suffocating of his vitality. He wants to expand by merging with the powerful beyond that transcends him, yet he wants while merging with it to remain individual and aloof, working out his own private and smaller-scale self-expansion. but this feat is impossible because it belies the real tension of the dualism. One obviously can't have merger in the power of another thing and the development of one's own personal power at the same time, at any rate not without ambivalence and a degree of self-deception. But one can get around the problem in one way: one can, we might say, "control the glaringness of the contradiction." You can try to choose the fitting kind of beyond, the one in which you find it most natural to practice self-criticism and self-idealization. In other words, you try to keep your beyond safe. The fundamental use of transference, of what we could better call "transference heroics," is the practice of a safe heroism. In it we see the reach of the ontological dualism of motives right into the problem of transference and heroism, and we are now in a position to sum up this matter. ~ Ernest Becker
240:Best of all, of course, religion solves the problem of death, which no living individuals can solve, no matter how they would support us. Religion, then, gives the possibility of heroic victory in freedom and solves the problem of human dignity at it highest level. The two ontological motives of the human condition are both met: the need to surrender oneself in full to the the rest of nature, to become a part of it by laying down one's whole existence to some higher meaning; and the need to expand oneself as an individual heroic personality. Finally, religion alone gives hope, because it holds open the dimension of the unknown and the unknowable, the fantastic mystery of creation that the human mind cannot even begin to approach, the possibility of a multidimensionality of spheres of existence, of heavens and possible embodiments that make a mockery of earthly logic-and in doing so, it relieves the absurdity of earthly life, all the impossible limitations and frustrations of living matter. In religious terms, to "see God" is to die, because the creature is too small and finite to be able to bear the higher meanings of creation. Religion takes one's very creatureliness, one's insignificance, and makes it a condition of hope. Full transcendence of the human condition means limitless possibility unimaginable to us. ~ Ernest Becker
241:We cannot repeat too often the great lesson of freudian psychology: that repression is normal self-protection and creative self-restriction-in a real sense, man's natural substitute for instinct. Rank has a perfect, key term for this natural human talent: he calls it "partialization" and very rightly sees that life is impossible without it. What we call the well-adjusted man has just this capacity to partialize the world for comfortable action. I have used the term "fetishization," which is exactly the same idea: the "normal" man bites off what he can chew and digest of life, and no more. In other words, men aren't built to be gods, to take in the whole world; they are built like other creatures, to take in the piece of ground in front of their noses. Gods can take in the whole of creation because they alone can make sense of it, know what it is all about and for. But as soon as a man lifts his nose from the ground and starts sniffing at eternal problems like life and death, the meaning of a rose or a star cluster-then he is in trouble. Most men spare themselves this trouble by keeping their minds on the small problems of their lives just as their society maps these problems out for them. These are what Kierkegaard called the "immediate" men and the "Philistines." They "tranquilize themselves with the trivial"- and so they can lead normal lives. ~ Ernest Becker
242:In Rank’s inspired conceptualization, the difference is put like this: … it is this very fact of the ideologization of purely psychical conflicts that makes the difference between the productive and the unproductive types, the artist and the neurotic; for the neurotic’s creative power, like the most primitive artist’s, is always tied to his own self and exhausts itself in it, whereas the productive type succeeds in changing this purely subjective creative process into an objective one, which means that through ideologizing it he transfers it from his own self to his work.18 The neurotic exhausts himself not only in self-preoccupations like hypochondriacal fears and all sorts of fantasies, but also in others: those around him on whom he is dependent become his therapeutic work project; he takes out his subjective problems on them. But people are not clay to be molded; they have needs and counter-wills of their own. The neurotic’s frustration as a failed artist can’t be remedied by anything but an objective creative work of his own. Another way of looking at it is to say that the more totally one takes in the world as a problem, the more inferior or “bad” one is going to feel inside oneself. He can try to work out this “badness” by striving for perfection, and then the neurotic symptom becomes his “creative” work; or he can try to make himself perfect by means of his partner. ~ Ernest Becker
243:Modern man is drinking and drugging himself out of awareness, or he spends his time shopping, which is the same thing. As awareness calls for types of heroic dedication that his culture no longer provides for him, society contrives to help him forget. Or, alternatively, he buries himself in psychology in the belief that awareness all by itself will be some kind of magical cure for his problems. But psychology was born with the breakdown of shared social heroisms; it can only be gone beyond with the creation of new heroisms that are basically matters of belief and will, dedication to a vision. Lifton has recently concluded the same thing, from a conceptual point of view almost identical to Rank's. When a thinker of Norman Brown's stature wrote his later book Love's Body, he was led to take his thought to this same point. He realized that the only way to get beyond the natural contradictions of existence was in the timeworn religious way: to project one's problems onto a god-figure, to be healed by an all-embracing and all-justifying beyond. To talk in these terms is not at all the same thing as to talk the language of the psychotherapeutic religionists. Rank was also not nor so messianic: he saw that the orientation of men has to be always beyond their bodies, has to be grounded in healthy repressions, and toward explicit immortality-ideologies, myths of heroic transcendence. ~ Ernest Becker
244:By now it should be clear that this blurring of Rank and Kierkegaard is not a weak surrender to ideology but an actual scientific working-through of the problem of human character. Both men reached the same conclusion after the most exhaustive psychological quest: that at the very furthest reaches of scientific description, psychology has to give way to “theology”—that is, to a world-view that absorbs the individual’s conflicts and guilt and offers him the possibility for some kind of heroic apotheosis. Man cannot endure his own littleness unless he can translate it into meaningfulness on the largest possible level. Here Rank and Kierkegaard meet in one of those astonishing historical mergers of thought: that sin and neurosis are two ways of talking about the same thing—the complete isolation of the individual, his disharmony with the rest of nature, his hyperindividualism, his attempt to create his own world from within himself. Both sin and neurosis represent the individual blowing himself up to larger than his true size, his refusal to recognize his cosmic dependence. Neurosis, like sin, is an attempt to force nature, to pretend that the causa-sui project really suffices. In sin and neurosis man fetishizes himself on something narrow at hand and pretends that the whole meaning and miraculousness of creation is limited to that, that he can get his beatification from that.38 ~ Ernest Becker
245:We might say that the child is a "natural" coward: he cannot have the strength to support the terror of creation. The world as it is, creation out of the void, things as they are, things as they not, are too much for us to be able to stand. or, better: they would be too much for us to bear without crumbling in a faint, trembling like a leaf, standing in a trance in response to the movement, colors, and odors of the world. I say "would be" because most of us- by the time we leave childhood-have repressed our vision of the primary miraculousness of creation. We have closed it off, changed it, and no longer perceive the world as it is to raw experience. Sometimes we may recapture this world by remembering some striking childhood perceptions, how suffused they were in emotion and wonder-how a favorite grandfather looked, or one's first love in his early teens. We change these heavily emotional perceptions precisely because we need to move about in the world with some kind of equanimity, some kind of strength and directness; we can't keep gaping with our heart in our mouth, greedily sucking up with our eyes everything great and powerful that strikes us. The great boon of repression is that it makes it possible to live decisively in an overwhelmingly miraculous and incomprehensible world, a world so full of beauty, majesty, and terror that if animals perceived it all they would be paralyzed to act. ~ Ernest Becker
246:In other words, the fear of death must be present behind all our normal functioning, in order for the organism to be armed toward self-preservation. But the fear of death cannot be present constantly in one's mental functioning, else the organism could not function. Zilboorg continues:

If this fear were as constantly conscious , we should be unable to function normally. It must be properly repressed to keep us living with any modicum of comfort. We know very well that to repress means more than to put away and to forget that which was put away and the place where we put it. It means also to maintain a constant psychological effort to keep the lid on and inwardly never relax our watchfulness.

And so we can understand what seems like an impossible paradox: the ever-present fear of death in the normal biological functioning of our instinct of self-preservation, as well as our utter obliviousness to this fear in our conscious life:

Therefore in normal times we move about actually without ever believing in or own death, as if we fully believed in our own corporeal immortality. We are intent on mastering death...A man will say, of course, that he knows he will die some day, but he does not really care. He is having a good time with living, and he does no think about death and does not care to bother about it-but this is a purely intellectual, verbal admission. The affect of fear is repressed. ~ Ernest Becker
247:Ernest Becker escribió que nuestra cultura reemplazaría a Dios por el sexo y el romance. Incluso antes, Friedrich Nietzsche propuso una teoría distinta. Escribió que, dado que la ausencia de Dios en la cultura occidental iba a más, sustituiríamos a Dios por el dinero: Lo que induce a un hombre a usar una balanza trucada, a otro a incendiar su casa después de haberla asegurado por encima de su valor, mientras tres cuartas partes de nuestras clases sociales altas se permiten el fraude legalizado… ¿qué da pie a todo esto? No es una necesidad real, dado que su existencia no es precaria ni mucho menos… pero día y noche sienten una tremenda impaciencia al ver cómo sus riquezas se acumulan tan lentamente y les consume el anhelo y el amor igualmente terribles por esos montones de oro… Lo que antes se hacía «por amor a Dios» se hace ahora por amor al dinero, es decir, el amor a aquello que en el presente nos ofrece el sentimiento más intenso de poder y de buena conciencia.42 En resumen, Nietzsche presagió que seguramente el dinero se convertiría en el principal dios falso de la cultura occidental. Han sido innumerables los escritores y pensadores que han destacado “la cultura de la codicia” que ha venido royendo nuestras almas y ha provocado el colapso económico. Sin embargo, nadie cree que las cosas cambien pronto. ¿Por qué? Porque la codicia y la avaricia resultan especialmente difíciles de detectar en nosotros mismos. ~ Timothy J Keller
248:Sex is also a positive way of working on one's personal freedom project. After all, it is one of the few areas of real privacy that a person has in an existence that is almost wholly social, entirely shaped by the parents and society. In this sense, sex as a project represents a retreat from the standardizations and monopolizations of the social world. No wonder people dedicate themselves so all-consumingly to it, often from childhood on in the form of secret masturbations that represent a protest and a triumph of the personal self. As we will see in Part II of this book, Rang goes so far as to say that this use of sex explains all sexual conflicts in the individual-"from masturbation to the most varied perversions." The person attempts to use his sex in an entirely individual way in order to control it and relieve it of its determinism. It is as though one tried to transcend the body by depriving it entirely of its given character, to make sport and new invention in place of what nature "intended." The "perversions" of children certainly show this very clearly: they are the true artists of the body, using it as clay to assert their symbolic mastery. Freud saw this and recorded it as "polymorphous perversity"-which is one way of talking about it. But he seems not to have realized that this kind of play is already a very serious attempt to transcend determinism, not merely an animal search for a variety of body-zone pleasures. ~ Ernest Becker
249:It is not so much that man is a herd animal, said Freud, but that he is a horde animal led by a chief. It is this alone that can explain the "uncanny and coercive characteristics of group formations." The chief is a "dangerous personality, toward whom only a passive-masochistic attitude is possible, to whom one's will has to be surrendered,-while to be alone with him, 'to look him in the face,' appears a hazardous enterprise." This alone, says Freud, explains the "paralysis" that exists in the link between a person with inferior power to one of superior power. Man has "an extreme passion for authority" and "wishes to be governed by unrestricted force." It is this trait that the leader hypnotically embodies in his own masterful person. Or as Fenichel later put it, people have a "longing for being hypnotized" precisely because they want to get back to the magical protection, the participation in omnipotence, the "oceanic feeling" that they enjoyed when they were loved and protected by their parents. And so, as Freud argues, it is not that groups bring out anything new in people; it is just that they satisfy the deep-seated erotic longings that people constantly carry around unconsciously. For Freud, this was the life force that held groups together. It functioned as a kind of psychic cement that locked people into mutual and mindless interdependence: the magnetic powers of the leader, reciprocated by the guilty delegation of everyone's will to him. ~ Ernest Becker
250:And so,the question for the science of mental health must become an absolutely new and revolutionary one, yet one that reflects the essence of the human condition: On what level of illusion does one live? We will see the import of this at the close of this chapter, but right now we must remind ourselves that when we talk about the need for illusion we are not being cynical. True, there is a great deal of falseness and self-deception in the cultural causa-sui project, but there is also the necessity of this project. Man needs a "second" world, a world of humanly created meaning, a new reality that he can live, dramatize, nourish himself in. "Illusion" means creative play at its highest level. Cultural illusion is a necessary ideology of self-justification, a heroic dimension that is life itself to the symbolic animal. To lose the security of heroic cultural illusion is to die-that is what "deculturation" of primitives means and what it does. It kills them or reduces them to the animal level of chronic fighting and fornication. Life becomes possible only in a continual alcoholic stupor. Many of the older American Indians were relieved when the Big Chiefs in Ottawa and Washington took control and prevented them from warring and feuding. It was a relief from the constant anxiety of death for their loved ones, if not for themselves. But they also knew, with a heavy heart, that this eclipse of their traditional hero-systems at the same time left them as good as dead. ~ Ernest Becker
251:The whole thing boils down to this paradox: if you are going to be a hero then you must give a gift. If you are the average man you give your heroic gift to the society in which you live, and you give the gift that society specifies in advance. If you are an artist you fashion a peculiarly personal gift, the justification for your own heroic identity, which means that it is always aimed at least partly over the heads of your fellow men. After all, they can't grant the immortality of your personal soul. As Rank argued in the breathtaking closing chapters of Art and Artist, there is no way for the artist to be at peace with his work or with the society that accepts it. The artist's gift is always to creation itself, to the ultimate meaning of life, to God. We should not be surprised that Rank was brought to exactly the same conclusion as Kierkegaard: that the only way out of human conflict is full renunciation, to give one's life as a gift to the highest powers. Absolution has to come from the absolute beyond. As Kierkegaard, Rank showed that this rule applied to the strongest, most heroic types-not to trembling and empty weaklings. To renounce the world and oneself, to lay the meaning of it to the powers of creation, is the hardest thing for man to achieve-and so it is fitting that this task should fall to the strongest personality type, the one with the largest ego. The great scientific world-shaker Newton was the same man who always carried the Bible under his arm. ~ Ernest Becker
252:The pervert is the clumsy artist trying desperately for a counter-illusion that preserves his individuality-but from within a limited talent and power: hence the fear of the sexual role, of being gobbled up by the woman, carried away by one's own body, and so on. As F. H. Allen-an earlier follower of Rank-pointed out, the homosexual is often one who chooses a body like his own because of his terror of the difference of the woman, his lack of strength to support such a difference. In fact, we might say that the pervert represents a striving for individuality precisely because he does not feel individual at all and has little power to sustain an identity. Perversions represent an impoverished and ludicrous claim for a sharply defined personality by those least equipped by their early developmental training to exercise such a claim. If, as Rank says, perversions are a striving for freedom, we must add that they usually represent such a striving by those least equipped to be able to stand freedom. They flee the species slavery not out of strength but out of weakness, an inability to support the purely animal side of their nature. As we saw above, the childhood experience is crucial in developing a secure sense of one's body, firm identification with the father, strong ego control over oneself, and dependable interpersonal skills. Only if one achieves these can he "do the species role" in a self-forgetful way, a way that does not threaten to submerge him with annihilation anxiety. ~ Ernest Becker
253:How does one transcend himself; how does he open himself to new possibility? By realizing the truth of his situation, by dispelling the lie of his character, by breaking his spirit out of its conditioned prison. The enemy, for Kierkegaard as for Freud, is the Oedipus complex. The child has built up strategies and techniques for keeping his self-esteem in the face of the terror of his situation. These techniques become an armor that hold the person prisoner. The very defenses that he needs in order to move about with self-confidence and self-esteem become his life-long trap. In order to transcend himself he must break down that which he needs in order to live. Like Lear he must throw off all his "cultural lendings" and stand naked in the storm of life. Kierkegaard had no illusions about man's urge to freedom. He knew how comfortable people were inside the prison of their character defenses. Like many prisoners they are comfortable in their limited and protected routines, and the idea of a parole into the wide world of chance, accident, and choice terrifies them. We have only to glance back at Kierkegaard's confession in the epigraph to this chapter to see why. In the prison of one's character one can pretend and feel that he is somebody, that the world is manageable, that there is a reason for one's life, a ready justification for one's action. To live automatically and uncritically is to be assured of at least a minimum share of the programmed cultural heroics-what we might call "prison heroism": the smugness of the insiders who "know. ~ Ernest Becker
254:The body, then, is one's animal fate that has to be struggled against in some ways. At the same time, it offers experiences and sensations, concrete pleasure that the inner symbolic world lacks. No wonder man is impaled on the horns of sexual problems, why Freud saw that sex was so prominent in human life-especially in the neurotic conflicts of his patients. Sex is an inevitable component of man's confusion over the meaning of his life, a meaning split hopelessly into two realms-symbols (freedom) and body (fate). No wonder, too, that most of us never abandon entirely the early attempts of the child to use the body and its appendages as a fortress or a machine to magically coerce the world. We try to get metaphysical answers out of the body that the body-as a material thing-cannot possibly give. We try to answer the transcendent mystery of creation by experiences in one, partial, physical product of that creation. This is why the mystique of sex is so widely practiced-say, in traditional France-and at the same time is so disillusioning. It is comfortingly infantile in its indulgence and its pleasure, yet so self-defeating of real awareness and growth, if the person is using it to try to answer metaphysical questions. It then becomes a lie about reality, a screen against full consciousness. If the adult reduces the problem of life to the area of sexuality, he repeats the fetishization of the child who focuses the problem of the mother upon her genitals. Sex then becomes a screen for terror, a fetishization of full consciousness about the real problem of life. ~ Ernest Becker
255:As we will see in the following chapters, Rank was the one who showed that the true genius has an immense problem that other men do not. He has to earn his value as a person from his work, which means that his work has to carry the burden of justifying him. What does "justifying" mean for man? It means transcending death by qualifying for immortality. The genius repeats the narcissistic inflation of the child; he lives the fantasy of the control of life and death, of destiny, in the "body" of his work. The uniqueness of the genius also cuts off his roots. He is a phenomenon that was not foreshadowed; he doesn't seem to have any traceable debts to the qualities of others; he seems to have sprung self-generated out of nature. We might say that he has the "purest" causa-sui project. He is truly without a family, the father of himself. As Roazen points out, Freud had soared so far beyond his natural family that it is no surprise that he should indulge in fantasies of self-creation: "Freud came back again and again to the fantasy of being raised father-less." Now, you cannot become your own father until you can have your own sons, as Roazen so well says; and natural-born sons would not do, because they do not have "the qualities of immortality associated with genius." This formulation is perfect. Ergo, Freud had to create a whole new family-the psychoanalytic movement-that would be his distinctive immortality-vehicle. When he died the genius of the movement would assure his eternal remembrance and hence an eternal identity in the minds of men and in the effects of his work on earth. ~ Ernest Becker
256:But now the rub for man. If sex is a fulfillment of his role as an animal in the species, it reminds him that he is nothing himself but a link in the chain of being, exchangeable with any other and completely expendable in himself. Sex represents, then, species consciousness and, as such, the defeat of individuality, of personality. But it is just this personality that man wants to develop: the idea of himself as a special cosmic hero with special gifts for the universe. He doesn't want to be a mere fornicating animal like any other-this is not a truly human meaning, a truly distinctive contribution to world life. From the very beginning, then, the sexual act represents a double negation: by physical death and of distinctive personal gifts. This point is crucial because it explains why sexual taboos have been at the heart of human society since the very beginning. They affirm the triumph of human personality over animal sameness. With the complex codes for sexual self-denial, man was able to impose the cultural map for personal immortality over the animal body. He brought sexual taboos into being because he needed to triumph over the body, and he sacrificed the pleasures of the body to the highest pleasure of all: self-perpetuation as a spiritual being through all eternity. This is the substitution that Roheim was really describing when he made his penetrating observation on the Australian aborigines: "The repression and sublimation of the primal scene is at the bottom of totemistic ritual and religion," that is, the denial of the body as the transmitter of peculiarly human life. ~ Ernest Becker
257:Erwin Strauss, in his brilliant monograph on obsession, similarly earlier showed how repulsed Swift was by the animality of the body, by its dirt and decay. Straus pronounced a more clinical judgment on Swift's disgust, seeing it as part of the typical obsessive's worldview: "For all obsessives sex is severed from unification and procreation....Through the...isolation of the genitals from the whole of the body, sexual functions are experienced as excretions and as decay." This degree of fragmentation is extreme, but we all see the world through obsessive eyes at least part of the time and to some degree; and as Freud said, not only neurotics take exception to the fact that "we are born between urine and feces." In t his horror of the incongruity of man Swift the poet gives more tormented voice to the dilemma that haunts us all, and it is worth summing it up one final time: Excreting is the curse that threatens madness because it shows man his abject finitude, his physicalness, the likely unreality of his hopes and dreams. But even more immediately, it represents man's utter bafflement at the sheer non-sense of creation: to fashion the sublime miracle of the human face, the mysterium tremendum of radiant female beauty, the veritable goddesses that beautiful women are; to bring this out of nothing, out of the void, and make it shine in noonday; to take such a miracle and put miracles again within it, deep in the mystery of eyes that peer out-the eye that gave even the dry Darwin a chill; to do all this, and to combine it with an anus that shits! It is too much. Nature mocks us, and poets live in torture. ~ Ernest Becker
258:By the time the child grows up, the inverted search for a personal existence through perversity gets set in an individual mold, and it becomes more secret. It has to be secret because the community won't stand for the attempt by people to wholly individualize themselves. If there is going to be a victory over human incompleteness and limitation, it has to be a social project and not an individual one. Society wants to be the one to decide how people are to transcend death; it will tolerate the causa-sui project only if it fits into the standard social project. Otherwise there is the alarm of "Anarchy!" This is one of the reasons for bigotry and censorship of all kinds over personal morality: people fear that the standard morality will be undermined-another way of saying that they fear they will no longer be able to control life and death. A person is said to be "socialized" precisely when he accepts to "sublimate" the body-sexual character of his Oedipal project. Now these euphemisms mean usually that he accepts to work on becoming the father of himself by abandoning his own project and by giving it over to "The Fathers." The castration complex has done its work, and one submits to "social reality"; he can now deflate his own desires and claims and can play it safe in the world of the powerful elders. He can even give his body over to the tribe, the state, the embracing magic umbrella of the elders and their symbols; that way it will no longer be a dangerous negation for him. But there is no real difference between a childish impossibility and an adult one; the only thing that the person achieves is a practiced self-deceit-what we call the "mature" character. ~ Ernest Becker
259:The neurotic exhausts himself not only in self-preoccupations like hypochondrial fears and all sorts of fantasies, but also in others: those around him on whom he is dependent become his therapeutic work project; he takes out his subjective problems on them. But people are not clay to be molded; they have needs and counter-wills of their own. The neurotic's frustration as a failed artist can't be remedied by anything but an objective creative work of his own. Another way of looking at it is to say that the more totally one takes in the world as a problem, the more inferior or "bad" one is going to feel inside oneself. He can try to work out this "badness" by striving for perfection, and then the neurotic symptom becomes his "creative" work; or he can try to make himself perfect by means his partner. But it is obvious to us that the only way to work on perfection is in the form of an objective work that is fully under your control and is perfectible in some real ways. Either you eat up yourself and others around you, trying for perfection; or you objectify that imperfection in a work, on which you then unleash your creative powers. In this sense, some kind of objective creativity is the only answer man has to the problem of life. In this way he satisfies nature, which asks that he live and act objectively as a vital animal plunging into the world; but he also satisfies his own distinctive human nature because he plunges in on his own symbolic terms and not as a reflex of the world as given to mere physical sense experience. He takes in the world, makes a total problem out of it, and then gives out a fashioned, human answer to that problem. This, as Goethe saw in Faust, is the highest that man can achieve. ~ Ernest Becker
260:Yet, at the same time, as the Eastern sages also knew, man is a worm and food for worms. This is the paradox: he is out of nature and hopelessly in it; he is dual, up in the stars and yet housed in a heart-pumping, breath-gasping body that once belonged to a fish and still carries the gill-marks to prove it. His body is a material fleshy casing that is alien to him in many ways—the strangest and most repugnant way being that it aches and bleeds and will decay and die. Man is literally split in two: he has an awareness of his own splendid uniqueness in that he sticks out of nature with a towering majesty, and yet he goes back into the ground a few feet in order to blindly and dumbly rot and disappear forever. It is a terrifying dilemma to be in and to have to live with. The lower animals are, of course, spared this painful contradiction, as they lack a symbolic identity and the self-consciousness that goes with it. They merely act and move reflexively as they are driven by their instincts. If they pause at all, it is only a physical pause; inside they are anonymous, and even their faces have no name. They live in a world without time, pulsating, as it were, in a state of dumb being. This is what has made it so simple to shoot down whole herds of buffalo or elephants. The animals don't know that death is happening and continue grazing placidly while others drop alongside them. The knowledge of death is reflective and conceptual, and animals are spared it. They live and they disappear with the same thoughtlessness: a few minutes of fear, a few seconds of anguish, and it is over. But to live a whole lifetime with the fate of death haunting one's dreams and even the most sun-filled days—that's something else. ~ Ernest Becker
261:There is the type of man who has great contempt for "immediacy," who tries to cultivate his interiority, base his pride on something deeper and inner, create a distance between himself and the average man. Kierkegaard calls this type of man the "introvert." He is a little more concerned with what it means to be a person, with individuality and uniqueness. He enjoys solitude and withdraws periodically to reflect, perhaps to nurse ideas about his secret self, what it might be. This, after all is said and done, is the only real problem of life, the only worthwhile occupation preoccupation of man: What is one's true talent, his secret gift, his authentic vocation? In what way is one truly unique, and how can he express this uniqueness, give it form, dedicate it to something beyond himself? How can the person take his private inner being, the great mystery that he feels at the heart of himself, his emotions, his yearnings, and use them to live more distinctively, to enrich both himself and mankind with the peculiar quality of his talent? In adolescence, most of us throb with this dilemma, expressing it either with words and thoughts or with simple numb pain and longing. But usually life suck us up into standardized activities. The social hero-system into which we are born marks out paths for our heroism, paths to which we conform, to which we shape ourselves so that we can please others, become what they expect us to be. And instead of working our inner secret we gradually cover it over and forget it, while we become purely external men, playing successfully the standardized hero-game into which we happen to fall by accident, by family connection, by reflex patriotism, ro by the simple need to eat and the urge to procreate. ~ Ernest Becker
262:Why would a person prefer the accusations of guilt, unworthiness, ineptitude-even dishonor and betrayal-to real possibility? This may not seem to be the choice, but it is: complete self-effacement, surrender to the "others," disavowal of any personal dignity or freedom-on the one hand; and freedom and independence, movement away from the others, extrication of oneself from the binding links of family and social duties-on the other hand. This is the choice that the depressed person actually faces and that he avoids partly by his guilty self-accusation. The answer is not far to seek: the depressed person avoids the possibility of independence and more life precisely because there are what threaten him with destruction and death. He holds on to the people who have enslaved him in a network of crushing obligations, belittling interaction, precisely because these people are his shelter, his strength, his protection against the world. Like most everyone else the depressed person is a coward who will not stand alone on his own center, who cannot draw from within himself the necessary strength to face up to life. So he embeds himself in others; he is sheltered by the necessary and willingly accepts it. But now his tragedy is plain to see: his necessity has become trivial, and so his slavish, dependent, depersonalized life has lost its meaning. It is frightening to be in such a bind. One chooses slavery because it is safe and meaningful; then one loses the meaning of it, but fears to move out of it. One has literally died to life but must remain physically in this world. And thus the torture of depressive psychosis: to remain steeped in one's failure and yet to justify it, to continue to draw a sense of worthwhileness out of it. ~ Ernest Becker
263:Maslow used an apt term for this evasion of growth, this fear of realizing one's own fullest powers. He called it the "Jonah Syndrome." He understood the syndrome as the evasion of the full intensity of life:

We are just not strong enough to endure more! It is just too shaking and wearing. So often people in...ecstatic moments say, "It's too much," or "I can't stand it," or "I could die"....Delirious happiness cannot be borne for long. Our organisms are just too weak for any large doses of greatness....

The Jonah Syndrome, then, seen from this basic point of view, is "partly a justified fear of being torn apart, of losing control, of being shattered and disintegrated, eve of being killed by the experience." And the result of this syndrome is what we would expect a weak organism to do: to cut back the full intensity of life:

For some people this evasion of one's own growth, setting low levels of aspiration, the fear of doing what one is capable of doing, voluntary self-crippling, pseudo-stupidity, mock-humility are in fact defenses against grandiosity...

It all boils down to a simple lack of strength to bear the superlative, to open oneself to the totality of experience-an idea that was well appreciated by William James and more recently was developed in phenomenological terms in the classic work of Rudolf Otto. Otto talked about the terror of the world, the feeling of overwhelming awe, wonder, and fear in the face of creation-the miracle of it, the mysterium tremendum et fascinosum of each single thing, of the fact that there are things at all. What Otto did was to get descriptively at man's natural feeling of inferiority in the face of the massive transcendence of creation; his real creature feeling before the crushing negating miracle of Being. ~ Ernest Becker
264:And so, beginning with the small early frustrations and deprivations, the child is helped to govern himself. his ego develops by learning to regulate his own food intake and feces evacuation: he has to learn to adapt to a social schedule, to an external measure of time, in place of a biological schedule of internal urges. In all this he makes a bitter discovery: that he is no longer himself, just by seeking pleasure. There may be more excitement in the world but the fun keep getting interrupted. For some strange reason the mother doesn’t share his glee over a bowel movement on the sofa. The child finds that he has to “earn" the mother’s love by performing in a certain way. He comes to realize that he has to abandon the idea of “total excitement" and “uninterrupted fun," if he wants to keep a secure background of love from the mother. This is what Alfred Adler meant when he spoke of the child’s need for affection as the “lever" of his education. The child learns to accept frustrations so long as the total relationship is not endangered. This is what the psychoanalytic word “ambivalence" so nicely covers: the child may hesitate between giving up what has previously been an assured satisfaction, and proceeding to a new type of conduct which will be rewarded by a new kind of acceptance. Does he want to keep the breast instead of switching to the bottle? He finds that if he makes this switch he gets a special cooing of praise and a little extra attention. Ambivalence describes the process whereby the infant is propelled forward into increasing mastery by his developing ego, while at the same time he is lulled backward into a safe dependence by his need for approval and easy gratification; he is caught in the bind, as we all are, between new and uncertain rewards and tried and tested ones. ~ Ernest Becker
265:Modern man is drinking and drugging himself out of awarness, or he spends his time shopping, which is the same thing. As awarness calls for types of heroic dedication that his culture no longer provides for him, society contrives to help him forget. In the mysterious way in which life is given to us in evolution on this planet, it pushes in the direction of its own expansion. We don’t understand it simply because we don’t know the purpose of creation; we only feel life straining in ourselves and see it thrashing others about as they devour each other. Life seeks to expand in an unknown direction for unknown reasons.

What are we to make of creation in which routine activity is for organisms to be tearing others apart with teeth of all types - biting, grinding flesh, plant stalks, bones between molars, pushing the pulp greedily down the gullet with delight, incorporating its essence into one’s own organization, and then excreting with foul stench and gasses residue. Everyone reaching out to incorporate others who are edible to him. The mosquitoes bloating themselves on blood, the maggots, the killer-bees attacking with a fury and a demonism, sharks continuing to tear and swallow while their own innards are being torn out - not to mention the daily dismemberment and slaughter in “natural” accidents of all types: an earthquake buries alive 70 thousand bodies in Peru, a tidal wave washes over a quarter of a million in the Indian Ocean. Creation is a nightmare spectacular taking place on a planet that has been soaked for hundreds of millions of years in the blood of all creatures. The soberest conclusion that we could make about what has actually been taking place on the planet about three billion years is that it is being turned into a vast pit of fertilizer. But the sun distracts our attention, always baking the blood dry, making things grow over it, and with its warmth giving the hope that comes with the organism’s comfort and expansiveness. ~ Ernest Becker
266:By explaining the precise power that held groups together Freud could also show why groups did not fear danger. The members do not feel that they are alone with their own smallness and helplessness, as they have the powers of the hero-leader with whom they are identified. Natural narcissism-the feeling that the person next to you will die, but not you-is reinforced by trusting dependence on the leader's power. No wonder that hundreds of thousands of men marched up from trenches in the face of blistering gunfire in World War I. They were partially self-hypnotised, so to speak. No wonder men imagine victories against impossible odds: don't they have the omnipotent powers of the parental figure? Why are groups so blind and stupid?-men have always asked. Because they demand illusions, answered Freud, they "constantly give what is unreal precedence over what is real." And we know why. The real world is simply too terrible to admit; it tells man that he is a small, trembling animal who will decay and die. illusion changes all this, makes man seem important, vital to the universe, immortal in some way. Who transmits this illusion, if not the parents by imparting the macro-lie of the cultural causa-sui? The masses look to the leaders to give them just the untruth that they need; the leader continues the illusions that triumph over the castration complex and magnifies them into a truly heroic victory. Furthermore, he makes possible a new experience, the expression of forbidden impulses, secret wishes, and fantasies. In group behavior anything goes because the leader okays it. It is like being an omnipotent infant again, encouraged by the parent to indulge oneself plentifully, or like being in psychoanalytic therapy where the analyst doesn't censure you for anything you feel or think. In the group each man seems an omnipotent hero who can give full vent to his appetites under the approving eye of the father. And so we understand the terrifying sadism of group activity. ~ Ernest Becker
267:By the time we grow up we become masters at dissimulation, at cultivating a self that the world cannot probe. But we pay a price. After years of turning people away, of protecting our inner self, of cultivating it by living in a different world, of furnishing this world with our fantasies and dreams—lo and behold we find that we are hopelessly separated from everyone else. We have become victims of our own art. We touch people on the outsides of their bodies, and they us, but we cannot get at their insides and cannot reveal our insides to them. This is one of the great tragedies of our interiority—it is utterly personal and unrevealable. Often we want to say something unusually intimate to a spouse, a parent, a friend, communicate something of how we are really feeling about a sunset, who we really feel we are—only to fall strangely and miserably flat. Once in a great while we succeed, sometimes more with one person, less or never with others. But the occasional break-through only proves the rule. You reach out with a disclosure, fail, and fall back bitterly into yourself. We emit huge globs of love to our parents and spouses, and the glob slithers away in exchange of words that are somehow beside the point of what we are trying to say. People seem to keep bumping up against each other with their exteriors and falling away from each other. The cartoonist Jules Feiffer is the modern master of this aspect of the human tragedy. Take even the sexual act—the most intimate merger given to organisms. For most people, even for their entire lives, it is simply a joining of exteriors. The insides melt only in the moment of orgasm, but even this is brief, and a melting is not a communication. It is a physical overcoming of separateness, not a symbolic revelation and justification of one’s interior. many people pursue sex precisely because it is a mystique of the overcoming of the separateness of the inner world, and they go from one partner to another because they can never quite achieve “it." So the endless interrogations: “What are you thinking about right now—me? Do you feel what I feel? Do you love me? ~ Ernest Becker
268:If we put this whole progression in terms of our discussion of the possibilities of heroism, it goes like this: Man breaks through the bounds of merely cultural heroism; he destroys the character lie that had him perform as a hero in the everyday social scheme of things; and by doing so he opens himself up to infinity, to the possibility of cosmic heroism, to the very service of God. His life thereby acquires ultimate value in place of merely social and cultural, historical value. He links his secret inner self, his authentic talent, his deepest feelings of uniqueness, his inner yearning for absolute significance, to the very ground of creation. Out of the ruins of the broken cultural self there remains the mystery of the private, invisible, inner self which yearned for ultimate significance, for cosmic heroism. This invisible mystery at the heart of every creature now attains cosmic significance by affirming its connection with the invisible mystery at the heart of creation. This is the meaning of faith. At the same time it is the meaning of the merger of psychology and religion in Kierkegaard's thought. The truly open person, the one who has shed his character armor, the vital lie of his cultural conditioning, is beyond the help of any mere "science," of any merely social standard of health. He is absolutely alone and trembling on the bring of oblivion-which is at the same time the brink of infinity. To give him the new support that he needs, the "courage to renounce dread without any dread...only faith is capable of," says Kierkegaard. Not that this is an easy out for man, or a cure-all for the human condition-Kierkegaard is never facile. He gives a strikingly beautiful idea:

not that [faith] annihilates dread, but remaining ever young, it is continually developing itself out of the death throe of dread.

In other words, as long as man is an ambiguous creature he can never banish anxiety; what he can do instead is to use anxiety as an eternal spring for growth into new dimensions of thought and trust. Faith poses a new life task, the adventure in openness to a multi-dimensional reality. ~ Ernest Becker
269:What do we mean by the lived truth of creation? We have to mean the world as it appears to men in a condition of relative unrepression; that is, as it would appear to creatures who assessed their true puniness in the face of the overwhelmingness and majesty of the universe, of the unspeakable miracle of even the single created object; as it probably appeared to the earliest men on the planet and to those extrasensitive types who have filled the roles of shaman, prophet, saint, poet, and artist. What is unique about their perception of reality is that it is alive to the panic inherent in creation: Sylvia Plath somewhere named God "King Panic." And Panic is fittingly King of the Grotesque. What are we to make of a creation in which the routine activity is for organisms to be tearing others apart with teeth of all types-biting, grinding flesh, plant stalks, bones between molars, pushing the pulp greedily down the gullet with delight, incorporating its essence into one's own organization, and then excreting with foul stench and gasses the residue. Everyone reaching out to incorporate others who are edible to him. The mosquitoes bloating themselves on blood, the maggots, the killerbees attacking with a fury and demonism, sharks continuing to tear and swallow while their own innards are being torn out-not to mention the daily dismemberment and slaughter in "natural" accidents of all types: the earthquake buries alive 70 thousand bodies in Peru, automobiles make a pyramid heap of over 50 thousand a year in the U.S. alone, a tidal wave washes over a quarter of a million in the Indian Ocean. Creation is a nightmare spectacular taking place on a planet that has been soaked for hundreds of millions of years in the blood of all its creatures. The soberest conclusion that we could make about what has actually been taking place on the planet for about three billion years is that it is being turned into a vast pit of fertilizer. But the sun distracts our attention, always baking the blood dry, making things grow over it, and with its warmth giving the hope that comes with the organism's comfort and expansiveness. "Questo sol m'arde, e questo m'innamore," as Michelangelo put it. ~ Ernest Becker
270:The defenses that form a person’s character support a grand illusion, and when we grasp this we can understand the full drivenness of man. He is driven away from himself, from self-knowledge, self-reflection. He is driven toward things that support the lie of his character, his automatic equanimity. But he is also drawn precisely toward those things that make him anxious, as a way of skirting them masterfully, testing himself against them, controlling them by defying them. As Kierkegaard taught us, anxiety lures us on, becomes the spur to much of our energetic activity: we flirt with our own growth, but also dishonestly. This explains much of the friction in our lives. We enter symbiotic relationships in order to get the security we need, in order to get relief from our anxieties, our aloneness and helplessness; but these relationships also bind us, they enslave us even further because they support the lie we have fashioned. So we strain against them in order to be more free. The irony is that we do this straining uncritically, in a struggle within our own armor, as it were; and so we increase our drivenness, the second-hand quality of our struggle for freedom. Even in our flirtations with anxiety we are unconscious of our motives. We seek stress, we push our own limits, but we do it with our screen against despair and not with despair itself. We do it with the stock market, with sports cars, with atomic missiles, with the success ladder in the corporation or the competition in the university. We do it in the prison of a dialogue with our own little family, by marrying against their wishes or choosing a way of life because they frown on it, and so on. Hence the complicated and second-hand quality of our entire drivenness. Even in our passions we are nursery children playing with toys that represent the real world. Even when these toys crash and cost us our lives or our sanity, we are cheated of the consolation that we were in the real world instead of the playpen of our fantasies. We still did not meet our doom on our own manly terms, in contest with objective reality. It is fateful and ironic how the lie we need in order to live dooms us to a life that is never really ours. ~ Ernest Becker
271:We might call this existential paradox the condition of individuality finitude. Man has a symbolic identity that brings him sharply out of nature. He is a symbolic self, a creature with a name, a life history. He is a creator with a mind that soars out to speculate about atoms and infinity, who can place himself imaginatively at a point in space and contemplate bemusedly his own planet. This immense expansion, this dexterity, this ethereality, this self-consciousness gives to man literally the status of a small god in nature, as the Renaissance thinkers knew.

Yet, at the same time, as the Eastern sages also knew, man is a worm and food for worms. This is the paradox: he is out of nature and hopelessly in it; he is dual, up in the stars and yet housed in a heart-pumping, breath-gasping body that once belonged to a fish and still carries the gill-marks to prove it. His body is a material fleshy casing that is alien to him in many ways-the strangest and most repugnant way being that it aches and bleeds and will decay and die. Man is literally split in two: he has an awareness of his own splendid uniqueness in that he sticks out of nature with a towering majesty, and yet he goes back into the ground a few feet in order to blindly and dumbly rot and disappear forever. It is a terrifying dilemma to be in and to have to live with. The lower animals are, of course, spared this painful contradiction, as they lack a symbolic identity and the self-consciousness that goes with it. They merely act and move reflexively as they are driven by their instincts. If they pause at all, it is only a physical pause; inside they are anonymous, and even their faces have no name. They live in a world without time, pulsating, as it were, in a state of dumb being. This is what has made it so simple to shoot down whole herds of buffalo or elephants. The animals don't know that death is happening and continue grazing placidly while others drop alongside them. The knowledge of death is reflective and conceptual, and animals are spared it. They live and they disappear with the same thoughtlessness: a few minutes of fear, a few seconds of anguish, and it is over. But to live a whole lifetime with the fate of death haunting one's dreams and even the most sun-filled days-that's something else. ~ Ernest Becker
272:The person is both a self and a body, and from the beginning there is the confusion about where "he" really "is"-in the symbolic inner self or in the physical body. Each phenomenological realm is different. The inner self represents the freedom of thought, imagination, and the infinite reach of symbolism. the body represents determinism and boundness. The child gradually learns that his freedom as a unique being is dragged back by the body and its appendages which dictate "what" he is. For this reason sexuality is as much a problem for the adult as for the child: the physical solution to the problem of who we are and why we have emerged on this planet is no help-in fact, it is a terrible threat. It doesn't tell the person what he is deep down inside, what kind of distinctive gift he is to work upon the world. This is why it is so difficult to have sex without guilt: guilt is there because the body casts a shadow on the person's inner freedom, his "real self" that-through the act of sex-is being forced into a standardized, mechanical, biological role. Even worse, the inner self is not even being called into consideration at all; the body takes over completely for the total person, and this kind of guilt makes the inner self shrink and threaten to disappear.

This is why a woman asks for assurance that the man wants "me" and "not only my body"; she is painfully conscious that her own distinctive inner personality can be dispensed with in the sexual act. If it is dispensed with, it doesn't count. The fact is that the man usually does want only the body, and the woman's total personality is reduced to a mere animal role. The existential paradox vanishes, and one has no distinctive humanity to protest. One creative way of coping with this is, of course, to allow it to happen and to go with it: what the psychoanalysts call "regression in the service of the ego." The person becomes, for a time, merely his physical self and so absolves the painfulness of the existential paradox and the guilt that goes with sex. Love is one great key to this kind of sexuality because it allows the collapse of the individual into the animal dimension without fear and guilt, but instead with trust and assurance that his distinctive inner freedom will not be negated by an animal surrender. ~ Ernest Becker
273:But nature has protected the lower animal by endowing them with instincts. An instinct is a programmed perception that calls into play a programmed reaction. It is very simple. Animals are not moved by what they cannot react to. They live in a tiny world, a sliver of reality, one neuro-chemical program that keeps them walking behind their nose and shuts out everything else. But look at man, the impossible creature! Here nature seems to have thrown caution to the winds along with the programmed instincts. She created an animal who has no defense against full perception of the external world, an animal completely open to experience. Not only in front of his nose, in his umwelt, but in many umwelten. He can relate not only to animals in his own species, but in some ways to all other species. He can contemplate not only what is edible for him, but everything that grows. He not only lives in this moment, but expands his inner self to yesterday, his curiosity to centuries ago, his fears to five billion years from now when the sun will cool, his hopes to an eternity from now. He lives not only on a tiny territory, nor even on an entire planet, but in a galaxy, in a universe, and in dimensions beyond visible universes. It is appalling, the burden that man bears, the experiential burden. As we saw in the last chapter, man can't even take his own body for granted as can other animals. It is not just hind feet, a tail that he drags, that are just "there," limbs to be used and taken for granted or chewed off when caught in a trap and when they give pain and prevent movement. Man's body is a problem to him that has to be explained. Not only his body is strange, but also its inner landscape, the memories and dreams. Man's very insides-his self-are foreign to him. He doesn't know who he is, why he was born, what he is doing on the planet, what he is supposed to do, what he can expect. His own existence is incomprehensible to him, a miracle just like the rest of creation, closer to him, right near his pounding heart, but for that reason all the more strange. Each thing is a problem, and man can shut out nothing. As Maslow has well said, "It is precisely the godlike in ourselves that we are ambivalent about, fascinated by and fearful of, motivated to and defensive against. This is one aspect of the basic human predicament, that we are simultaneously worms and gods." There it is again: gods with anuses. ~ Ernest Becker
274:We come into contact with people only with our exteriors—physically and externally; yet each of us walks about with a great wealth of interior life, a private and secret self. We are, in reality, somewhat split in two, the self and the body; the one hidden, the other open. The child learns very quickly to cultivate this private self
because it puts a barrier between him and the demands of the world. He learns he can keep secrets—at first an excruciating, intolerable burden: it seems that the outer world has every right to penetrate into his self and that the parents could automatically do so if they wished—they always seem to know just what he is thinking and feeling. But then he discovers that he can lie and not be found out: it is a
great and liberating moment, this anxious first lie—it represents the staking out of his claim to an integral inner self, free from the prying eyes of the world. By the time we grow up we become masters at dissimulation, at cultivating a self that the world cannot probe. But we pay a price. After years of turning people away,
of protecting our inner self, of cultivating it by living in a different world, of furnishing this world with our fantasies and dreams—we find that we are hopelessly separated from everyone else. We have become victims of our own art. We touch people on the outsides of their bodies, and they us, but we cannot get at their insides and cannot reveal our insides to them. This is one of the great tragedies of our interiority—it is utterly personal and unrevealable. Often we want to say something unusually intimate to a spouse, a parent, a friend, communicate
something of how we are really feeling about a sunset, who we really feel we are—only to fall strangely and miserably flat. Once in a great while we succeed, sometimes more with one person, less or never with others. But the occasional breakthrough only proves the rule. You reach out with a disclosure, fail, and fall back bitterly into yourself. We emit huge globs of love to our parents and spouses, and the glob slithers away in exchanges of words that are somehow beside the point of what we are trying to say. People seem to keep bumping up against each other with their exteriors and falling away from each other. The cartoonist Jules Feiffer is the modern master of this aspect of the human tragedy. Take even the sexual act—the most intimate merger given to organisms. For most people, even for their entire lives, it is simply a joining of exteriors. The insides melt only in the moment of orgasm, but even this is brief, and a melting is not a communication. It is a physical overcoming of separateness, not a symbolic revelation and justification of one’s interior. Many people pursue sex precisely because it is a mystique of the overcoming of the separateness of the inner world; and they go from one partner to another because they can never quite achieve “it.” So the endless interrogations: “What are you thinking about right now—me? Do you feel what I feel? Do you love me? ~ Ernest Becker
275:This is how we understand depressive psychosis today: as a bogging down in the demands of others-family job, the narrow horizon of daily duties. In such a bogging down the individual does not feel or see that he has alternatives, cannot imagine any choices or alternate ways of life, cannot release himself from the network of obligations even though these obligations no longer give him a sense of self-esteem, of primary value, of being a heroic contributor to world life even by doing his daily family and job duties. As I once speculated, the schizophrenic is not enough built into his world-what Kierkegaard has called the sickness of infinitude; the depressive, on the other hand, is built into his world too solidly, too overwhelmingly. Kierkegaard put it this way:

But while one sort of despair plunges wildly into the infinite and loses itself, a second sort permits itself as it were to be defrauded by "the others." By seeing the multitude of men about it, by getting engaged in all sorts of worldly affairs, by becoming wise about how things go in this world, such a man forgets himself...does not dare to believe in himself, finds it too venturesome a thing to be himself, far easier and safer to be like the others, to become an imitation, a number, a cipher in the crowd.

This is a superb characterization of the "culturally normal" man, the one who dares not stand up for his own meanings because this means too much danger, too much exposure. Better not to be oneself, better to live tucked into others, embedded in a safe framework of social and cultural obligations and duties.

Again, too, this kind of characterization must be understood as being on a continuum, at the extreme end of which we find depressive psychosis. The depressed person is so afraid of being himself, so fearful of exerting his own individuality, of insisting on what might be his own meanings, his own conditions for living, that he seems literally stupid. He cannot seem to understand the situation he is in, cannot see beyond his own fears, cannot grasp why he has bogged down. Kierkegaard phrases it beautifully:

If one will compare the tendency to run wild in possibility with the efforts of a child to enunciate words, the lack of possibility is like being dumb...for without possibility a man cannot, as it were, draw breath.

This is precisely the condition of depression, that one can hardly breath or move. One of the unconscious tactics that the depressed person resorts to, to try to make sense out of his situation, is to see himself as immensely worthless and guilty. This is a marvelous "invention" really, because it allows him to move out of his condition of dumbness, and make some kind of conceptualization of his situation, some kind of sense out of it-even if he has to take full blame as the culprit who is causing so much needless misery to others. Could Kierkegaard have been referring to just such an imaginative tactic when he casually observed:

Sometimes the inventiveness of the human imagination suffices to procure possibility.... ~ Ernest Becker

IN CHAPTERS



   1 Psychology






1.05 - THE HOSTILE BROTHERS - ARCHETYPES OF RESPONSE TO THE UNKNOWN, #Maps of Meaning, #Jordan Peterson, #Psychology
  interest in the psychology of religion (which is, after all, a fundamental aspect of human psychology and
  culture). Even the Pulitzer-Prize winning sociologist Ernest Becker, who was favourably (and critically)
  predisposed to the claims of psychoanalytic thought, stated, I cant see that all [Jungs] tomes on alchemy

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last updated: 2021-08-18 17:30:53
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