Fundamentalism, Father and Son, and Vertical Desire

by Ruth Stein

June 26, 2004


abstract

This essay suggests that the binary oppositions (e.g., black/white; pure/impure) characteristic of fundamentalism pivot on their axis to become a vertical structure that expresses oppressive inequalities between man and woman, God and man, at the same time as it reveals a structure of mystical desire toward God.
Patriarchal monotheism has characteristic aspects, such as oneness, absolute (vertical) difference, invisibility (e.g., the taboo on making images of God). These aspects represent the contradictions of fatherhood in patriarchal culture: while the father engenders his son, the father’s status and his love, are problematic, since his bodily tie to his son is invisible. The destructive consequences of this invisibility and absence are explored.
A clinical case is presented, where the analysand vociferously fights a personal God, who has been erected as protection against annihilation anxieties that plagued this aggrieved and bereaved person. The patient’s relationship to his God and his dead father is compared to the terrorists’ relation to God.
Increasing religious purging may parallel escalating destructiveness; this is the basic explanation of the deterioration of religious experience into fundamentalism and violent fundamentalism. The believer displays a “loving paranoia” a blend of ‘love’ and destructiveness, toward his paternal God.

article

Introduction  

I shall describe today a certain state of mind which, linked with cultural and group processes, leads to fundamentalism, and with further developments, to religious terrorism. I wish to emphasize that my perspective is psychoanalytic and more specifically, intrapsychic, that is, I focus on inner processes, rather than on the social, cultural and political aspects of fundamentalism which are usually the prisms through which these phenomena are discussed. This fundamentalist state of mind is characterized by a sense of utter certainty, a feeling of being in the right, and highly rhetorical repetitions of Truths. I describe how the simplification of emotional complexities into binary oppositions (basically of good and bad) not only creates order out of chaos and vagueness, but also constitutes a 'vertical' homoerotic quest for God's love. These processes of ordering and desire are supported by the need to sacrifice, by masochism and coercion, and are enacted by increasingly severe purification processes. I shall describe the continuous psychic transformations that take place as purification processes reach their zenith.  

It is usually assumed that the religious quest is a search for meaning, but it is important to note that it is at the same time a series of transformations of fear. In this latter sense, the fundamentalist state of mind originate from what may be likened to an extreme and long-extended form of what we experience at those moments and hours when anxiety and fear, or shame, overwhelm us and reduce us to helplessness, a painful sense of smallness, and the feeling of being at the mercy of greater powers than ourselves.  

Basically, there are two elemental types of fear leading to fundamentalist formations: (1) fear of death, or rather, of personal annihilation (see the works of Rank, Becker, or Lifton), and (2) the fear and rage in the face of the very existence of the other human being, whose presence and intentions are experienced as an obstacle to one's desires, (Hegel, Sartre, Klein in their works develop this predicament). Fundamentalism1 would then be the quest to omnipotently get rid of these experiences, or to violently transcend them. Human destructiveness and self-destructiveness is to a large extent the need to destroy these fears. Significantly, the destruction of fear and rage can be accomplished through processes of idealization and purification. 
 

The world is "furiously religious' 

Recently, Peter Berger and Christopher Dykema have alerted us to an astonishing world-wide resurgence of religious conviction. The question is whether this religious upsurge, which is so often fundamentalist and prone to degenerate into religious terrorism, is a simple reaction to modernity. The view that magical thinking is to be found, on the contrary, in the concept of god-the-father, is view is endorsed by Christopher Rhoades D'kema's (2001). Thus, monotheistic religions, which almost by definition are patriarchal, may be no less (and possibly more) "enchanted' and "enchanting', no less magical and mystifying than polytheism or paganism. 2 D'kema's point that patriarchal monotheism is consistent and continuous with both coercive fundamentalism and with "the liberal religion of loving-kindness and compassion most of us would prefer' helped clarify my thinking on this subject.  
 

Patriarchal Monotheism: Abstractness, Oneness, Invisibility 

The view of patriarchal3 monotheism as one of the last vestiges of enchantment, contrasts with the usual notion of monotheism as the peak of religious disenchantment held by many, among them Frankfurt School thinkers Adorno and Horkheimer (1944), who wrote approvingly on the "disenchanted world of Judaism", with its prohibition of pictorial representation of God (Bildverbot). In line with Freud (1939)4, for whom the monotheistic prohibition on images made Judaism into a religion of instinctual renunciation, Adorno and Horkheimer regard the prohibition on image-making as enabling the Jews to cross the threshold from sensory imitation (mimesis) to abstract ideas, from mythology to rationality, by enabling them to convert, or rather abolish, images into a series of duties in the form of ritual (see Rabinbach, 2000).

Fatima Mernissi (1992), a Moroccan religious feminist scholar, tells us that

Mohammed proposed to reduce the many to One, to abolish all idols and believe in one God. From the year he began to preach publicly, to the year of his conquest of Mecca, Mohammed succeeded in destroying the statues of gods and goddesses and in unifying the Arab world around al-wahid, "the One' (p. 98).

This was revolutionary, since henceforward,

Opposition to the One would forever have a negative color. Submission to the one is paid by immortality and the vanquishing of death (p. 97). 
 
 

Belief and Desire

Monotheism is about the One, about the one who is invisible,5 and it is usually patriarchal, that is, it has at its core the belief in a masculine and paternal deity. Regarding monotheism as masculinist and patriarchal, and as generating problematical forms of desire, poses a challenge to cherished beliefs regarding monotheism as the most evolved form of religion. It is usually assumed that patriarchal monotheism represents an advance over polytheism (or matriarchal religions) by virtue of its sanctifying a single, integrative entity. Challenging these assumptions may offer new knowledge as well as extend feminist critique to the religious realm.  

In addition to the emphasis on the particular characteristics of patriarchal monotheism, the stance I offer here differs from most positions seeking to understand fundamentalism in that ' my position foregrounds the libidinal and perverted relations between a certain kind of believer and his God, in which the libidinal and the violent come together. Assuming that cultural forms reflect underlying motivations or structures of desire6, I suggest that 

  1. fundamentalism is based on a violent, homo-erotic, self-abnegating father-son relationship, and that
  2. violent fundamentalism is a process of degeneration of the exalted paternal (inner object) into a murderously persecutory one, that is identified with in an experiential state of mind of utter awe and "love".
 

This abject state of love for the father is clearly discernible in Atta's letter, or in Bin Laden's poetry to his fatherly God (Stein, 2002). At the core of variously structured fundamentalist groups, we find psychodynamic processes involving transformations of hatred (and self-hatred) into idealizing, fanatical love and utter devotion. The idealization and "love' create tremendous power to annihilate all that stands in the way of the cult of the exalted persecutory object. These projections and transformations of hate achieve respite from fear of destructiveness and persecution (although the calm is temporary). Since what is involved is a large-scale transformation of a persecutory object into a loving one, this process cannot but be profoundly paranoid and destructive.  

What is ordinarily stressed in discourses on fundamentalism is its cognitive style of black-and-white and the absolute certainty that shapes this state of mind. It has been said that fundamentalists do not want understanding, negotiation, compromise or even dialogue. For the fundamentalist lens nothing is opaque and truly puzzling, nothing needs further understanding (that is, understanding in other than pre-given frames of interpretation), there is nothing genuinely new under the sun; everything is self evident and self-identical. Such a style of thinking seeks order and certainty so as to create a patterned, predictable world-view, to feel safe and free of self-eroding doubt. Fundamentalism provides a sense of mastery and lucidity in the face of powerlessness and existential anxiety, and in the face of the will of the other and one's own will and desire. 

By separating the good and the bad through strictly following religious fundamentals and creating clarity and order, fundamentalism functions as mind-control and as a tight holding, providing a kind of soothing iron belt7, a shielding carapace to keep away the confusion and fragmentation that come from a weakened, brittle self, from a looming sense of futility and failure, and an assortment of resentments at contemporary culture, whether experienced as rejecting and unattainable, as corrupt and hateful, or as frightening and predatory (and it often is not so far from these pictures!). To uprooted, frustrated, confused, lost, envious, sometimes degraded persons, the group construction of such a carapace seems the most natural and right way to collectively strengthen their sense of self. The stress put on the boundaries between the faithful inside this carapace and those outside of it, is a necessary concomitant of the protective process. 8 
 

Submission, Verticality

The danger is conceived differently from within the fundamentalist group and from an outside interpreter's viewpoint. Most fundamentalists mourn the moral and social decline from better times to the present situation of corruption and license even (or especially) in relation to their own co-religionists. The danger they see is that of God's truth and righteous values are forgotten or have become confused and weakened. To outside observers however, the danger the fundamentalist mind shuns is perceived to be about annihilation anxieties, weakness and shame, as well as about personal confusion (Erikson called it 'identity diffusion'). Whereas for the fundamentalist combating the danger is what deepens one's religious faith, to the non-fundamentalist it is precisely this sense of danger that turns the religious spiritual sense of the sacred the sense that the world is suffused with invisible meaningfulness (cf. Eliade, 1968; Otto, 1958) into an absolutist, impenetrable, passionate religious cement fundamentalism. The shift from religious devotion to fundamentalism parallels the deterioration of the sacred into an alien, persecutory presence.9 Thus, whereas the religious10 sense of the sacred is the confrontation with the numinous (the godly) and the sublime by letting oneself go and holding no expectations, fundamentalism is a sense of 'being held tight', being enveloped by a comforting straightjacket. Whereas the sense of the sacred and transcendent is precious and many of us would agree that life is all the poorer without it, fundamentalism is the self-rejecting submission to an ideal authority that finally turns out to be submission to an alienated (projected), horrifying aspect of oneself.  

What is achieved through this submission and tightening of boundaries and restrictions is not only safety; there is another precious imagined reward involved in this posture. I shall again turn to Moslem religious fundamentalism, which is currently the most active and dangerous form of religious fundamentalism.  

Fatima Mernissi (1992) summarizes her researches into Islamic history of thought by holding that Islam gave the faithful immortality in exchange for submission and God-man inequality.  

The Arabs (in Mohammed's time) were to become immortal. A great Beyond opened to them the royal road to the conquest of time. They would no longer die; Paradise awaited them. Because the child born of the womb of the woman is mortal, however, the law of paternity was instituted to screen off the uterus and woman's will within the sexual domain ' The new code of immortality was to be inscribed on the body of woman. Henceforth the children born of the uterus of a woman would belong to their father, and he is certain of gaining Paradise if he submits to the divine will (p. 128).  

Thus, men are accorded (promised) security until the end of time, at the price of total repudiation of women and total submission to God. While woman is a repulsive reminder of mortality and the finitude of the flesh, God is the promise of immortality. Life and death become highly symbolized. Temporality, earthliness, feminine desire are all linked in the fundamentalist mind and must be obliterated. Devaluation of the present and a forcefully sustained hope for a glorious future is a hallmark of cults and totalitarian movements. In the fundamentalist world, desire is a dangerous subversive force. Islam promises peace at the price of sacrifice of desire (hawa), which is considered in the Moslem community as the source of dissention and war

Desire, which is individual by definition, is the opposite of rahma [grace, mercy ' RS], which is an intense sensitivity for the other for the group (Mernissi, p. 128). 
 

Non-Earthly Vertical Desire

What Mernissi did not attend to, however, is the desire that grows and luxuriates on the stump of the cut-off "earthly" desire. As Altmeyer and Hunsberger (1992) point out, Those who espouse [sic] this ideology have a special relationship with the deities (p. ).

It is this "special relationship" that is of interest to me here, since I assume that fundamentalism is not just strictness, rigidity, and literal adherence, but is suffused with a libidinal dimension of desire. For the fundamentalist, keeping the laws (1) is the Truth; (2) protects him; (3) gives him a special relationship; (4) "marries' him vertically. Verticalization of difference engenders vertical desire. Vertical desire is the mystical longing for merger with the idealized abjecting Other. On this view, the starkly opposing terms and polarizations with which fundamentalist thinking is suffused come to assume positions of higher and lower on a vertical axis. Since such binary oppositions, as we know (from deconstructionism, feminism, race theory, or colonial theory) always result in inscribing inequality, fundamentalism is not only a psychic mode of separation; it is also a psychic mode of inequality.11 Within this mode the non-believer is profoundly unequal to the believer, man is eternally unequal to God, and woman is unquestionably unequal to man. Fundamentalism is about inequality. When we think about fundamentalism, we tend to be aware of woman's inequality to man and the non-believer's inequality to the believer, but we tend to forget the believer's inequality to God.12 In fundamentalist regimes, God rules over men, while men rule over women. Being oppressed by God, oppressing women, fundamentalism is an oppressed oppression. Although so persistently present as to be invisible, so totallistically embraced as to be sacralized, this inequality generates a desire aimed at overcoming both the distinctions and the verticality. The striving to overcome verticality through mystical reunion and kill what stands as barrier to this trajectory can generate deep faith and powerful hope (cf. Stein, 2003).  

Since certainty and fundamentalistic knowledge are linked to a desire that springs from the 'verticalization of difference': difference becomes scaled and graded perpendicularly. Whereas heterogeneity spreads and sprawls 'horizontally', encompassing different kinds and species, difference in the fundamentalist order is well-marked and sharply-circumscribed. In this vertical mode, there are purified, triumphant, superior believers, and puny, defiled, noxious nonbelievers. The exorbitant, absolute distance between the two, the extreme of exaltation and degradation, mark this verticality. It is the distance between self-loathing and adoration. Rather than the rebellious son fearing his castration by the father, it is the abjection to a lethal ideal, a regression to the archaic phallic father that is at stake, for

"whereas the ego submits to the superego out of fear of punishment, it submits to the ego-ideal out of love" (Freud, 1921; Nunberg, 1932).  

What is a Father?

I believe we have not puzzled enough about fatherhood (cf. Stein, 2002b), and that the nature of fatherly love deserves a psychoanalytic appreciation of its problematics and complexity. Being generated in the flesh, from the father's body, yet invisibly so, being a tiny drop of the father's body, issued forth in a fleeting moment, father's love is neither mother's love nor an adoptive parent's love. The invisibility of the bodily link between father and child makes for a mystifying and unfathomable bond simultaneously abstract and concrete, and ungraspable. In a sense, 'father' is an elusive entity, engendering yet not containing in the body, close but connected through an act (of procreation) in the (un)conceivable past and hence through a law 'abstract, but terribly binding' Mustn't father arouse unique longings' Mustn't symbiosis with the primal father be no less, although differently, terrifying than symbiosis with the primal archaic "phallic mother" The complex 'abstract' closeness between father and child breeds idealization, tends toward the narcissistic domain and may involve a constant quest for transformation and for improving oneself to gain this love. But it must also pass through awe, the sublime, paranoia, impersonal Law and Justice ' all measuring one's self-worth in the face of another, one's "Last Judgment" meted by an idealized object. 

David Lee Miller (2003) is a literary critic who likewise addresses the invisibility of paternity. He dwells on the 'bootstrapping' of the father:

Symbolically [fatherhood] ' is at once the origin, foundation, and summit of the family, the tribe, the nation, and the church. No member of a class can stand outside the class to which it belongs; no human person can be the Father.' The impossibility of embodying such a function is precisely what requires its personification as a deity (p. 16). The impossibility of embodying such a function is precisely what requires its personification as a deity.  

The personification of the figure of the father as a deity, however, requires the complementary relation to a son. Patrilineal kin know that they are kin because they sacrifice together; they become patrilineal kin by so doing. To so create social and religious paternity is precisely to transcend a natural relation (p. 2). Blood sacrifices [equals] a technology of representation, a way to make paternity spectacular and so to foster its social reality. The son 'belongs' to his father by God's decree. 

However, the blood sacrifice celebrated together is a pale version of the sacrifice of the son himself. Miller points to Western culture's oddest couple: the deified father and the sacrificial son, and speculates that the motif of filial sacrifice is the most striking feature shared by the canonical texts of English literature, along with their classical and biblical antecedents. He adduces numerous and rich examples showing that in classical, Hebrew, and Christian cultures, the son offered in sacrifice provokes worship, fascination, and dread.

There is a growing body of thinking pointing to the notion that patriarchal, patrilineal cultures recruit sacrificial victims as visible stand-ins for the fatherly body. The growing prominence in psychoanalysis of the Laius Complex to supplement the Oedipus Complex is one example. Sending of soldiers to war as a sacrificial gesture of the father and the group is another horrific instance.  

Indeed, Richard Koenigsberg (2002, 2003) juxtaposes the texts of numerous writers who glorify the young men who were sent to war, texts which sound morbidly perverse in the adoring and cunning frissons they convey. These texts demonstrate that the most important point to be made about WWI is that the soldier's body was 'intended to be mutilated. The idea is that perhaps soldiers die not only because they are killed by the enemy; soldiers are sent to be killed by the leaders of the nations at war. War is a sacrificial ritual on a huge scale, and this may be its ultimate function.13 The kamikaze, the German soldiers, were all offering themselves to be slain. This is the essence of being a soldier, as Glynne Dyer says: "By becoming soldiers, men agree to die when we tell them to." War is an institution whereby sons give over their bodies to Fathers in the name of validating or valorizing the sacred ideal. 

I believe that even after having exposed this cultural construct for what it is, its wellsprings originate in some deeply human psychodynamics. I have (cf. Stein, 2002a) written that the terrorist wants (unconsciously) to change the father from persecutor into an idealized love object, to reverse the rage and discontent (and the pain and the suffering) into glory and narcissistic enhancement. When I use the term 'regression to the father' to explain terrorist behavior and experience, I mean regression from the persecutory to the idealized father. The persecutory residues, however, remain, as we shall see later.  

Religion guarantees salvation through the doing of good. Doing God's

will, satisfying Him, is the thread running through the terrorists' utterances. Doing good, in religious discourse, is often synonymous with fighting the bad. The bad can have different faces: it can be in the nature of a diabolic temptation, of losing one's connection to God, or coming to doubt divine intention and goodness. These forms of 'sin'14 amount to the betrayal of God's goodness and mercy.15 Whether we are religious or not, psychoanalytic thinking conceives of "the' war between good and evil as an _expression of a psychic conflict between a sense of inner badness (that which brings suffering and pain), and a need for goodness, so as to attain a state of purity, righteousness, calm, and goodness. This can be achieved through being good to fellow humans, and/or through doing God's will. Although it entails extreme emotional reversals, the sequence leading from badness to goodness is quite simple, having basically to do with the perennial striving to transform bad feelings into good feelings. This basic psychic activity is mediated by the religious idiom of fighting an eternal war between good and evil. When this war takes place outside the person and within a group of like-minded believers, and when it is fought against non-believers, we have a religious war. Keyword in these processes is purification.  
 

Stages of purification

Unpacking this basic process of 'purification', by which one achieves 'goodness' or has the 'good' dominate the bad, reveals a process in three stages:

(1) Separation of badness and goodness and purification;

(2) Elimination of the bad,

(2a) through reinforcement of inerrancy and renunciation of choice, and

(2b) through elimination of the bad, by vehement action;

(3) Achievement of the good through death.  

The first stage of purification attempts to separate good and evil through religious rituals, which ensure God's protection of the right and the just within a stable inner place, unassaulted and uncontaminated by evil ' not unlike our usual need to safeguard goodness and love in times of hardship and trouble. When these religious rituals (e.g., ritual bathing, prayer, fasting, removal of excremental symbols, circumcision) that function to segregate the good from the bad and to safeguard it, prove inadequate, the second stage is entered. This stage necessitates more rigid rituals and a further degree of concretization. Some device has to be established that will permanently prevent the return of the bad and its infiltration into the realm of the good. The second stage ' seeking warranties ' is that of fundamentalist formation. Although there is a world of difference between fundamentalism and violent fundamentalism, psychoanalytically speaking, they are still both motivated by the need to eliminate badness (errancy, betrayal of the divine, loss of faith in 'goodness') through fighting the bad outside (of oneself). What is required now is to eliminate the heretical, impure, inimical elements, that is, killing the infidels who do not believe in (my/our) God. However, the third stage in this separation of good and bad is psychoanalytically the most intriguing. Here a destructive counterpart is created to the killing of "God's enemies': it is the killing of oneself. Obviously the killing of oneself in the effort to kill the impure part of oneself, amounts to the total failure ' or total grim success ' of the process of purification. One purifies oneself to death, one purifies oneself out of existence, and one purifies the world out of existence.16 Psychoanalysts call it "the return of the repressed', by which they mean the observation that nothing can be willfully erased from the psyche without leaving some active residual process smoldering. Trying too hard to cleanse oneself from one's badness ultimately means being bad to oneself. Although self-destruction through suicide does not refer to the leaders who recruit the suicidal religious terrorists, both recruiter and recruited are implicated in a preparatory process whereby the mind of the recruited is taken hold of, "washed', shaped, steeled, and converted into an efficient tool of death. Tracing this sequence, we make the startling discovery that both the evacuation of the bad and the attainment of the good are perforce reached through death, in death. Death is a final solution and an arch-answer to troubles. Death is also a magical homeopathic device which in fantasy is a means to forestall a more eternal death.  

I think that the notion of purification is an axis that can explain our puzzlement as to why religious belief is liable to deteriorate and become so vitiated as to attain the conviction that killing is considered good and righteous. Like so many phenomena that can be unlocked by a psychoanalytic key, the phenomenon of the transformation of the good and spiritual into the murderous, can be better understood when we realize that a simple human belief, namely that it is good to fight evil, or that doing the good means eliminating the bad, can become perverted. The progressive stages in such a process of increasing splitting, increasing binarism, appear when such a belief becomes translated into the thought that it is good to erase evil, and hence, it is good to "kill' something ' or someone ' who represents evil, that is, who must be destroyed totally. This belief now requires the ratification through a divine command to kill the bad ones, built up and supported by continuous processes of group dynamics, isolation and affiliation, and brainwashing.  

Excessive processes of "projection' operate when, in order to deal with my woes and sorrows, pains and dreads, I "externalize' these experiences and make other people into carriers and experiencers of these emotions. These other people are then perceived by me as really such. According to this emotional logic,17 by rejecting, even (symbolically or physically) destroying the people who have become recipients and carriers of my bad, denigrated parts, I achieve the destruction of bad parts of my self, which is my deep goal, and brings me great relief. The trouble is that, as this process of projection goes on, the self becomes amputated and decimated. It can now be filled up or (artificially) restored only by inflating another part the psyche, which will function as prosthesis, the part that will be called "God." God becomes a filler, an imported goodness. But this goodness is defensive and compensatory. The God of a psyche impoverished by continuous projection and amputation of badness outside has to be endlessly powerful and superior to replenish, boost, and vindicate the diminished and depleted state of self.  

Since the projective and identificatory processes described above become increasingly violent18 as they go on, God becomes increasingly harsh, demanding, and tyrannical. The all-powerful protector may be divine and hallowed by an aura, but it successively becomes a Dorian Grey-like inner picture of a blood-thirsty tyrant: the guardian turns into the persecutor. This change from God as protector to God as persecutor is often beyond the awareness of the troubled believer, who, in the depth in his psychic processes, has now a converted mind. The utter liberation from moral fetters and human compassion that this state of mind affords, which allows the believer to kill and destroy, is at the same time the ultimate enthrallment. This constitutes a complete failure and perversion of the intention and function of religion, although this is precisely what religion has set out to do ' being good by fighting badness. Here the psychoanalytic and the existential meet, in that religion also aims to contend with the human dread of death by embracing death and conceiving of it as the gateway to a new and better life.  

This stage of the religious process of purification is the most perplexing and extreme of all. The attempt to magically annihilate suffering and feelings of badness about oneself, the attempt to exterminate defilement and infidelity, eventuates in the necessity to die together with the killing of others, as if the boundary between life and death, self and other, has been completely obliterated and swamped by the total destruction of all materiality. It seems that in the process of projecting the bad parts of the self to the Infidels and the idealized parts of the self to God, nothing is left. The splitting of sublime immateriality and base badness and lechery is complete. The remaining body of the terrorist, has unconsciously stopped existing. The remaining physical body, with its needs and desires, is now superfluous. Like a pencil that is reduced out of existence by becoming increasingly sharpened this body will find its redemption by becoming pure instrument of God's will, eventually by merging with God in a cataclysm of purifying fire. Becoming ashes is the ultimate act of purification and spiritualization: there is no more desire of the flesh to defile one's self image, and the desire for God has been given its most extreme and loving due.  

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1 Paper given at the International Interdisciplinary Conference on Terror, Fundamentalism, and Culture. Berlin, June 10-12, 2004. (Back to Main Text)


2 Although Nazism is usually not regarded as a religion, and certainly not as patriarchal monotheism, it was a Father-Leader cult, where Hitler talked about Germany as the Vaterland and said: "We do not want to have any other God, only Germany."(Koenigsberg, Oct. 2002). (Back to Main Text)


3 Almond at all (2003) call them also Abrahamic fundamentalisms. (Back to Main Text)


4 Freud spoke in Moses and Monotheism of the "advance in intellectuality' achieved by abstinence and instinctual renunciation. (Back to Main Text)


5 For the purpose of this essay, I make no essential distinctions between Moslem, Jewish, and Christian fundamentalism, although I focus mostly on aspects of radical Islam, since they help the political circumstances into making it a brutally violent politico-religious form. (Back to Main Text)


6 In contrast to Anglo-American psychoanalytic terminology that makes little use of the concept of desire, I find it useful to follow the so-called Continental (mostly Hegelian-inspired, French, particularly Lacanian, psychoanalysis) that uses "desire' and takes it for granted that it subtends even the most abstract cognitive and cultural rational endeavors. (Back to Main Text)


7 See Hanna Arendt's description of the structure of totalitarianism as the iron band of terror, which destroys the plurality of men and makes out of many the One who unfailingly will act as though he himself were part of the course of history or nature. (Back to Main Text)


8 Karen Armstrong's (2002) shift of emphasis when tracing the development of American fundamentalism is an illustration of this collapse of meaning-seeking and fear-avoiding motives: In her account, she shifts from explaining fundamentalism as a quest for transcendence that has become empty of spirituality, to describing how deeply the fundamentalist mind is ridden with fear and anxiety that cannot be assuaged by a purely rational argument, as she puts it. There is a vast sociological literature on the sense of persecution, escalating anxiety and revulsion against the dangers of an outer world, and a certainty about impending doom that fundamentalist groups protect themselves against or prepare for (cf. Almond et al., 2003; Lifton, 2001; Mousalli, 1992). (Back to Main Text)


9 This is why a simple thesis like Armstrong's, where fundamentalism would be a normal response to a world shorn of transcendence and spirituality is unsatisfactory. (Back to Main Text)


10 Whether it involves the God of a particular religion, or "God' in its more generalized sense of the Numinous, the Holy (Otto) that is the experience of transcendence and spiritual meaningfullness, does not make a difference here, in my view. (Back to Main Text)


11 Fundamentalism could be metaphorized as aiming at imitating God's creation of a new world by partitioning an earth and a heaven out of chaos, at the same time as locating earth down and low and heaven up and high, through separating them in an absolute manner. (Back to Main Text)


12 Mernissi notes the complete break between the divine and the human that was established in Muslim religion, where supremacy and sheer power belong only to God and cannot be claimed by man. (Back to Main Text)


13 Koenigsberg points out that Hitler was among the greatest devotees of the sacrificial religion of German nationalism. Koengisberg: In Mein Kampf Hitler stated that ' "thousands and thousands of young Germans have stepped forward with self-sacrificing resolve to sacrifice their young lives freely and joyfully on the altar of the beloved fatherland." Hitler explicitly declared that the war was if fought in order to provide the occasion for people to sacrifice themsleves for Germany. Hitler is saying, in effect: "There shalt be no other god before Germany." The Jews were sacrificial victims, but so were the Germans.' (Back to Main Text)


14 Sin is defined in many religious texts as the forgetting of one's Covenant with God, leaving one's connection with the Divinity. (Back to Main Text)


15 Cf. Shura the Koran. (Back to Main Text)


16 Although he meant it in a somewhat different sense, we can still borrow Derrida's concept of "autoimmunitary suicide", See Borradori, G. (2003), p. 96. (Back to Main Text)


17 See my Psychoanalytic Theories of Affect, Karnac, 1999. (Back to Main Text)


18 Kleinian thinking uses the adjective 'violent' frequently to describe primitive mental processes and unconscious fantasies). (Back to Main Text)

To cite this article, use this bibliographical entry: Ruth Stein "Fundamentalism, Father and Son, and Vertical Desire". PSYART: A Hyperlink Journal for the Psychological Study of the Arts. December 15, 2009. Available http://www.psyartjournal.com/article/show/stein-fundamentalism_father_and_son_and_vertic. June 26, 2004 [or whatever date you accessed the article].
Received: June 24, 2004, Published: June 26, 2004. Copyright © 2004 Ruth Stein