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Take Note of Jonathan Gottschall's New Book (REVIEW ESSAY)

By       Message Thomas Farrell       (Page 1 of 3 pages)     Permalink

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Duluth, Minnesota (OpEdNews) April 18, 2015: Contemporary American culture is locked in the vice grip between the influential anti-60s rhetoric of movement conservativism and the group dream of totality of the feminist spirit. Under these circumstances, can anything good possibly emerge from American culture today?

Philip Jenkins describes the allure of anti-60s rhetoric in his book DECADE OF NIGHTMARES: THE END OF THE SIXTIES AND THE MAKING OF EIGHTIES AMERICA (2006), and Sherry Salman describes the allure of dreams of totality in her book DREAMS OF TOTALITY: WHERE WE ARE WHEN THERE'S NOTHING AT THE CENTER (2013).

As Sherry Salman explains, when we find ourselves allured to our own personal dreams of totality, we can escape from being under their spell only by accepting that they will never be completed. When we accept this, she says that we experience a kind of wound, or woundedness. That's the imagery that she uses. When people who have felt the allure of group dreams of totality unsubscribe themselves from those alluring dreams, they will also experience withdrawal symptoms that can be likened to wounds, or woundedness.

Actually, it appears to me that all human persons suffer from certain psychic wounds -- at times, wounds going back to early childhood. However, it may be the case that accepting the inevitable limitations of dreams of totality may represent a new wound that perhaps evokes certain old wounds in one's psyche, including wounds going back to early childhood.

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Now, in terms of famous stories and imagery, the story of the rebirth of Osiris involves a certain kind of wound, or woundedness. Nevertheless, in the book THE ORIGINS AND HISTORY OF CONSCIOUSNESS (1954), Erich Neumann uses Osiris as the symbol of what he terms higher masculinity, which he sees as arising from the higher femininity in the human psyche.

Now, Beatrice Bruteau refers to the new feminine era in the psyche of people in Western culture. No doubt the rise of the new feminine era in Western culture has involved not only movement conservatism and its anti-60s rhetoric but also the contemporary feminist spirit and its political correctness.

Bruteau works with the contrast she sets up between what she refers to as the paleo-feminine era in the human psyche and the new feminine era. In addition, she characterizes the paleo-feminine are and the new feminine era as involving communion consciousness.

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In the book THE DUALITY OF HUMAN EXISTENCE: AN ESSAY ON PSYCHOLOGY AND RELIGION (1966), David Bakan in psychology at the University of Chicago works with the contrast he sets up between agency (stereotypically masculine) and communion (stereotypically feminine), both of which tendencies are part of the human psyche in all people.

Vicki S. Helgeson in psychology at Carnegie Mellon University works with agency and communion in her own research projects, which she summarizes in her 700-page textbook THE PSYCHOLOGY OF GENDER, now in its 4th edition.

In the view of economic libertarians such as the Koch brothers, agency is glorious and under threat by big government and government regulations. In their view, the spirit of communion should be restricted entirely to the realm of private philanthropy.

In the view of economic libertarians, when the spirit of communion is expressed in government-sponsored programs such as Social Security, those government programs represent state-sponsored communism.

The optimal personal form of the spirit of communion involves what Martin Buber refers to as I-Thou communication.

In the book THE RETURN OF THE GODDESS (1982), Edward C. Whitmont works with the contrast he sets up between gynolatric cultures and androlatric cultures.

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In gynolatric cultures, the paleo-feminine era in the human psyche dominated.

"In gynolatic cultures," Whitmont says, "masculine characteristics [for example, personal agency and manliness] are given secondary value by both men and women" (page 127).

Whitmont also says, "In androlatric milieaus [sic], women look up to masculine traits [such as agency and manliness] no less than men do" (page 127).

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Thomas James Farrell is professor emeritus of writing studies at the University of Minnesota Duluth (UMD). He started teaching at UMD in Fall 1987, and he retired from UMD at the end of May 2009. He was born in 1944. He holds three degrees from Saint Louis University (SLU): B.A. in English, 1966; M.A.(T) in English 1968; Ph.D.in higher education, 1974. On May 16, 1969, the editors of the SLU student newspaper named him Man of the Year, an honor customarily conferred on an administrator or a faculty member, not on a graduate student -- nor on a woman up to that time. He is the proud author of the book (more...)

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