How do we gain power over death?
Psychology informs me that it is the nature of humans to be influenced greatly by the recognition of the self and that the self must die. All of us have a great energy directed toward not dying. We dread the conscious thought of dying because our instincts reject death. When we consciously entertain the thought of death we are driven into anxiety and the task of the ego is to reject this anxiety and thus the ego represses such consciousness.
We have the narcissistic urge to reject death and to gain power over death. In gaining this power over death we do many things and one of these things we do is kill others to prove that “Our God is bigger than Their God”. Accumulation of power in all of its manifestations is a form of fighting death and gaining immortality in a sense. Of course we know we must die but our efforts are directed at repressing this awareness by fighting the evil of death and thereby killing others in this effort.
We create all kinds of artificial things to hide within in this process. Nationalism and religion are perhaps the most dangerous of our creations. I guess almost all killing in war is done under the banner of nationalism or religion.
Becker compares three great thinkers Otto Rank, Wilhelm Reich, and Carl Jung to conclude that the three provide us nothing with which to connect their conclusions except that they dissented from Freud. However, there is agreement on the answer to the fundamental question, “What causes evil in human affairs?”
This agreement is also the agreement in all of the human sciences; “man wants above all to endure and prosper, to achieve immortality in some way”.
Wo/man wants, above all, to reject the knowledge of mortality; s/he does so by seeking to assure immortality in some way. Mortality is connected to our animal nature and thereby wo/man reaches for some way of being transcendent of that nature. As our mental capacity increased we rejected other animals with a vengeance because these other animals “embodied what man feared most, a nameless and faceless death.
Our fears are buried deeply within our unconsciousness by repression, that great discovery of the science of psychoanalysis. This repression “is achieved by the symbolic engineering of culture, which everywhere serves men as an antidote to terror by giving them a new and durable life beyond that of the body”.
I have recently finished reading “The Art of War” an article in the March 12, 2007 edition of “Time” by Lev Grossman. The article is about a, largely computer generated, movie regarding a war in ancient Greece. The movie’s title is “The 300 Spartans” and Zack Snyder is the director. The movie is, except for the human actors, a virtual world created by digital movie techniques. The Art of War - TIME
“Snyder is one of a small, hypertechnical fringe of directors who are exploring a new way to make movies by discarding props, sets, extras and real-life locations and replacing them with their computer-generated equivalents.”
“With so much computer-generated make-believe going on, the actor’s physicality is the movie’s only link to the real world…every frame was manipulated and color-shifted to create an intense, thunderstorm palette…The result is a gorgeous, dreamlike movie that’s almost perfect. Every frame is neat and composed, like an oil painting, not a hair or a grain of sand out of place. All noise and dissonance have been digitally eliminated. Maybe that’s the only way to make a war movie right now, or at least, the only way to make a war movie that’s not an antiwar movie…That’s why it’s a piece of mythology. It’s what we would hope for. “300” is a vision of war as ennobling and morally unambiguous and spectacularly good-looking.”
That’s one hell of a special effect. And this movie is, I find, an insight into the meaning of “evil in human affairs”. We are all directors of our individual and our community’s virtual reality.
I suspect we have repressed such conscious thoughts about mortality that we are inclined to dispatch with a shrug any talk of such matters; do you ever consciously seek to “achieve immortality in some way”?
Quotes from Escape from Evil—Ernest Becker