Friday, July 11, 2014

Friday BookReview -- Philip Rieff: "The fire of a new no"

[first published on October 20, 2012]

Philip Rieff’s book, Charisma, was published after his death in 2006:
"The therapeutic is that terrible beast who has been slouching toward Bethlehem… Therapeutic and charismatic are proposed in this book as ideal anti-types… There is no charisma without creed… I understand the charismatic as somehow in truth an innovative resolver of ambivalences by the introduction of new interdicts into our lives, the fire of a new no.  The therapeutic is a releaser from the interdicts… All holy terror is gone.  We live in terror but never in holy terror… Max Weber [d. 1920] is himself the culminating expression, I think, of the Protestant pathos, which turns into evolutionism and progressivism, with its mystique of breaks with the established order as the highest expression of the intellect and of soul."

A writer in the ‘Boston Review’ said that Rieff’s “exegeses are ingenious and original, and they all yield the same conclusion: religion is prohibition, culture is inhibition, authority is salvation, submission is wisdom, transgression is folly, and criticism of anything but the pretensions of critical reason is impiety.”

A couple questions to Pence regarding the work –

In what sense are the current lawn signs in Minnesota pushing the legalization of gay marriage [for November referendum on whether to change state constitution] an even more radical break with tradition than all the 1960s war protests with their sex, drugs, and rock 'n' roll?

Rieff argues that religious man – a man whose interior character is shaped by allegiance to some sacred order – is protected by interdicts and taboos. The most effective assault on man’s relationship with God and the sacred is to eliminate prohibitions and taboos.

There it is, right out on your neighbor’s  lawn—right out in public—“end the taboo against homosexuality!”

If you can un-train the physiological revulsion men feel toward that, the buttresses protecting the interior life are fatally weakened.

Why are Mr. Rieff’s insights so important?

Because he was a true authority on Freud, he saw the connections between the sexual revolution, modern self-actualization psychology, and the therapeutic personality. And with the fall of Marxism, the locus of atheism as a worldview has moved to the arena of sexual identity.

To understand human psychology is to understand the spiritual soul which is meant to know and love its author and commander. Rieff exposes the “murder of God” by Freud, who with his modern descendants has tried to explain human psychology without its source and end: a personal God.

Before the Jews were killed in the gas chamber, he says, the Freudians killed God. Rieff saw several generations and whole academic disciplines running that fool’s errand. All of his work is tethered to this triple axis of the sacred, of character, and authority. We reviewed his discussion of this in his  Jew of Culture.  

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