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The Imaginal Within The Cosmos: Projection & Personhood

Since the last century there has been a steadily growing sense of urgency about the development of true Personhood. Nineteenth century existential thinkers such as Friedrich Nietzche and Soren Kierkegaard, along with others, began to realize that man (both individually and collectively) had immersed himself into the mundane, mediocre religious views of their times. And man was in danger of losing the potential for his Greater Self because of these circumstances. Both of these thinkers reacted vigorously against this possibility, each in his own way. Nietzche knew the power within man. Seeing the waste, seeing the stupidity, he became very angry. He called for a complete rejection of God--rather than the incompetent religious views.

Nietzche's replacement was to be the Overman, the Superman. Kierkegaard observed the same conditions as did Nietzche. His response was a "leap of faith" into the real God of Being. In that very real God, man would find his own great potential. Leo Tolstoy, a Russian philosopher and novelist of the last century, saw the same problem, but more from a cultural perspective. Man gave himself away to cultural expectations, rather than living out his true life. What Nietzche, Kierkegaard, and Tolstay were pointing to, though they did not understand it fully in their day, was the *problem of transference.*

It was left to the psychological thinkers of the twentieth century to begin to come to an understanding about the problem of transference. Theoretical giants such as Sigmund Freud, Ernest Becker, and Paul Tillich knew that man was was mandated to become a real *Person*--one who is truly individuating, one who has the courage to try to be himself, one who has achieved the ability to be more open to universal insight.

In these times, here and now, such an actualizing Person has to live a life of heroic proportions. All one has to do is look around and he will notice that such actualizing Persons are barely present. It is obvious that man has not, and is not living up to his potential. Why?

There are so few heroic Persons, because we humans are too enmeshed in the transference problem and live our lives wholly in the Lie of Projection.

In an attempt to explain this, the problem will be broken into three stages: *The Entrenchment in Transference. *The Withdrawal from Transference. *The Transcendence of Transference.

Entrenchment in Transference: Sigmund Freud, the founder of psychoanalysis, published in 1928 a little bombshell book called THE FUTURE OF AN ILLUSION. In that book he laid out the monumental issue of transference and its impact on man's place in the cosmos and his concepts of God. Noting that man feels seriously menaced by the terrors of nature, of death, Freud proposed that civilization's task, as well as man's self-regard, called for *consolation.* Referring to primitive men and their response to nature, he noted that they placated what they sense to be "beings" around them. These "beings" became divinized beings that--through transference--soon proved familiar in primitive society. By projecting human qualities onto the forces of Nature, early man felt more at home in the universe, with the "uncanny," and he could deal with his anxiety through "psychical" means. Early man, according to Freud, was no longer helplessly paralyzed.

Freud believed that the above-described situation had an "infantile prototype." A small child, in relation to one's parents, has reason to fear them--especially the father. Freud believed that man bestows upon the forces of Nature the character of the father. "He turns them into gods. God was the exalted father, and the longing for the father was the root of the need for religion."

The growing individual, according to Freud, finds that "he is *destined to remain a child forever,* that he can never do without protection against strange superior powers." Consequently, man transfers to these powers the "features belonging to the figure of his father."

Most men today are imbued in the "other," but in a wrong kind of way. Expounding on the transference discoveries and Oedipal theories of Freud, Ernest Becker, in his book THE DENIAL OF DEATH, recognizes quite categorically the dangers that transference poses for any successful maturation toward the development of a New Being. Instead of becoming the father of ourselves, we remain children of our parental father, of religious hierarchy, of teachers and leaders--all who serve as father substitutes--or ultimately to the Great Father in the Sky.

The dangers of transference for human life are manifold. Collectively, most of us live a life that is a lie. *We remain bound to our infantilism and to the cultural constructs of the father. Because of this, most men cannot rise up to their potential heroic, cosmic, and spiritual dimensions.* Man, more than often, refuses to become a mature Person utilizing to the fullest his speculative, creative, and intuitive mind. Rather he remains the child caught in the web of transference for the father. Most men are also scared to death of possible finitude. They retreat into the protection of the father. Man will play social games that structure their avoidances and defenses. Most men will *never* accept other than the cultural programming of their world--of the father.

Most of us, all the time, through transference collectively and individually, live the life of the lie. We most certainly have not become symbolic human beings--striving towards building a New Being--but rather are inauthentic beings! Becker puts it neatly: inauthentic men are those "men who avoid developing their own uniqueness; they love that--which was provided by the father; and the recognition that this helplessness lasts throughout life made it necessary to cling to the existence of a father, but this time a more powerful one--God." Thus Freud says that "the benevolent rule of a divine Providence allays our fear of the dangers of life."

Is not the above sensible? It is, and it is not. Looking at the issue from the evolutionary perspective, early primitive man and the men of antiquity were indeed smart--albeit unconscious-- in their utilizing transference as a means of coping with survival requirements. As Freud had observed, whole civilizations and moral world-orders have been built on transference.

But from the evolutionary perspective, *life begins to run down when there are no creative jumps.* Rather than admitting that transference might have been a good tool in its time, most men today still remain inauthentic beings. Most political-social- cultural-religious groups still reflect transference on the part of their followers.

From where we stand today, from a spiritual evolutionary perspective, mankind has to make a break out of this unfortunate situation. Entrenched transference is no longer sensible. It has become a serious problem. Man needs to outgrow this once effective tool of transference lest it become a suicidal weapon!

Withdrawal from Transference: In the past we were able to project our inner needs into sometimes *effective* institutional constructs--the carriers of collective visions and values. Today, many of our institutions have noticeably begun to fail us. There is something *tricky* going on here. Many of us very easily point at the failed institution. Rather--we have withdrawn our transference and now look around for a sharper prospect. That prospect, however, simply does not seem to be making a show. From all appearances, we are having difficulties finding new "container systems" to fuel us through life. Why?

Perhaps it is because more and more of us are collectively growing beyond the species' transference stage of psychological evolution.

There are signs that entrenched transference, as a way of life, is beginning--and only just beginning--to break down. The crux of the situation, however, is that this possible transition is hampered by the mediocre syndrome prompted by entrenched transference itself. Most of mankind has never made even a tiny leap towards individuation, much less strived to experience illuminative gnosis!

Most of the world today is in a state of crisis. There is no meaning! We have withdrawn the old means which whirled this world around. We are starting to withdraw from our ages-old entrenched transference stage, and now everything about us seems to have failed. Now a "second world" of meaning has come, and we do not have the spiritual wherewithal even to knock on the door. The first stage of transference may have killed us by its immense success. Most of us have remained in such an infantile state that we are utterly unable to cope with the second stage of transference withdrawal!

The problem of this shift in the stages of transference is enormous. Human development--physical, environmental, social, psychological, and spiritual--remains terribly uneven and rocky. According to most development specialists, a massive preponderance of the human race remains *just* at the "conformist" level. And the very small *avant garde* sector ahead in the human pilgrimage are not only crippled, individually, by the massive success of the first stage of transference--but this group of potential, heroic Persons likely will face an overwhelming collective threat. *No one out there will understand the individuating efforts towards the heroic, towards the courage to be!*

It seems that the greater group of men-children are becoming more and more frightened--and dangerous. The collapse of entrenched transference is something they do not understand. All they see and feel is the collapse of their world. There is now an abundance of human deterioration: loss of caring for the individual, brutishness, violence, corruption, disease, illiteracy and ignorance, and homicidal-suicidal tendencies. How can those bent on the heroic life as Persons spearhead the human race successfully amidst such awful conditions? It is plausible that the alluring quest for the New Being could be eradicated by populations plunging towards insanity. The problems of transference may have already doomed us!

But the dying have no choice. In the face of such gradual extinction, men have little option but to bravely face themselves and their world from the perspective of becoming Persons. We need to garner up the courage by opening our minds, by listening *insightfully,* by preparing ourselves toward a new mode of consciousness.

Transcendence of Transference: Via projection man has unloaded onto human relationships the burden of godhood. In order to transcend this unworkable condition, Becker believes that we need today an "object that reflects a truly ideal image of ourselves." He continues: "no human object can do this." People need a *Beyond.* But they have the beyonds (gods) of entrenched transference. Withdrawal of transference now poses the serious tragedy of man's condition: "the problem of the conscecration of one's life, the meaning of it, the natural surrender to something larger."

Becker believes that there is only one solution. Though painful, man has no alternative but to individuate towards *Personhood.* Personhood separates the individual out of the comfortable "beyonds." It will be very painful, because a real Person--at our present stage of evolution--will carry lifelong the burden of isolation. He is above the herd mentality. "He is separated out of the common pool of shared meanings."

Becker's authentic Person, striving toward New Being, must be different and oblative, in the sense of "bringing new adaptations, new creative solutions to our problems, a new openness in dealing with stale perceptions about reality, new forms of art, music, literature, architecture [and religion and spirituality] that would be a continual transformation of reality."

Tillich's sense of the New Being is as it is manifested in Jesus Christ. Nonetheless, he addresses the quest for Personhood from an universal perspective. For Tillich, the courage of the Person is that of self-affirmation. It is the courage to take into one's self the anxieties of man's reality: fate and death, and emptiness and meaninglessness. *The real Person has to affirm himself!* He can no longer rely totally on religion, on a sense of acceptance from a culturally-derived god. It is too fraught with the delusion of entrenched transference. Self-affirmation is the only ultimate power.

Tillich believes that in order to make this jump, the withdrawal from transference to self-affirmation, toward becoming a Person, we have to have faith. We have to have the courage to believe that we are accepted--are part of the cosmos. We have to become comfortable in our universe.

At this critical stage of our human development, the more self-actualized Persons must necessarily, must heroically, come to the people. They must be *oblates.* They must offer their gifts freely to the people, because at this point--as it has always been--this is the only way that collective humanity can be caught up in the evolutionary process.

There is certainly still the cosmic obligations to pursue interiority, to work toward self-affirmation. But today, the truly real Persons of the world are now being called to walk and work--in kinship--amongst their own, to boldly teach the race.

Whereas before, in past times, individuating Persons stayed secure and serence in their artistic milieu, in their laboratories, in their universities and cloisters, now they must go to the collective--to the bulk of human pilgrims--and freely nurse mankind towards greater standards of attainment, towards more noble behavior, towards the aspirations of Personhood. In cosmic freedom, we have the choice. The fervant hope and prayer is that we have the courage to be!


  • Ernest Becker, THE DENIAL OF DEATH.
  • Paul Tillich, THE COURAGE TO BE.



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