Dr. Brian Hayden, Anthropology of Power and Evil |411|

#1
Dr. Brian Hayden, Anthropology of Power and Evil |411|
by Alex Tsakiris | May 21 | Consciousness Research, Consciousness Science, Spirituality
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Anthropologist Dr. Brian Hayden traces the long history of using supernatural claims to grab power.
photo by: Skeptiko
Ladies and gentlemen of the jury, you have been witness to the unspeakable horrors of the defendant’s heinous crimes.
That’s a clip from the new Netflix movie about Ted Bundy.
For years I’ve carried this guilt that I’m to blame for everything.
And yeah, we’re back to talking about the nature of evil.
It’s been another missing girl, isn’t it?
Ted, did you do it?
No.

Not because I’m drawn to it but because avoiding it may be missing an opportunity to more fully understand, what I keep calling this extended consciousness realm.
Now as it turns out, today’s guest, the very excellent Dr Brian Hayden, has studied this evil, if you will, from a whole different perspective that traces it back to our earliest recorded history and what he’s discovered may cause you to rethink everything you think you know about evil.
Alex Tsakiris: Ted Bundy is back in the headlines through doing this big movie and everyone’s excited about it.
Dr Brian Hayden: Right.
Alex Tsakiris: The secret story and Ted Bundy, if you really dig into it, satanic worship again, and then he meets other folks were going, “Yeah, I’m connected with these spiritual forces,” and he is now trying to make this connection with the malevolent spiritual…
Dr Brian Hayden: Yeah, but he’s buying into a system that he feels is going to be able to let him do what he wants to do and that system, that conceptual system is really a product of secret societies and institutionalized religions. It didn’t exist before that.
Alex Tsakiris: Unless there’s a reality to it, right?
Dr Brian Hayden: Well, that’s an open question. Is it one of our constructs, another self-serving construct of secret societies or is there any reality to it? And that is an open question.
Stay with me for my conversation with Dr Brian Hayden.
 
#2
Bravo. Very measured conversation on both sides! I was really surprised there wasn't mention of Dr. Hayden's latest book "The Power of Ritual In Prehistory: Secret Societies and Origins of Social Complexity" Maybe he thinks the Skeptiko audience isn't interested in a $100+ Cambridge Press text.
https://www.amazon.com/Power-Ritual-Prehistory-Societies-Complexity/dp/1108426395

Here are some quotations from early on in that book I found of particular interest in relation to these topics.

"This book is about secret societies: their dynamics, their raisons d’être, their characteristics according to ethnographic accounts, and their importance for understanding changes in the archaeological record. Secret societies embodied some of the most awe-inspiring events in the cultural repertories of traditional societies.They brought to earth masked spirits who performed supernatural feats and exerted exceptional influences on the living. Those in high positions claimed to hold the secrets of the universe and of life, to be able to control spirits, confer wealth, bring the dead back to life, exorcise the possessed, and perform supernatural feats. Secret societies often built elaborate special structures.These organizations may have been precursors of both stage magic shows and institutionalized religions, and they may have played critical roles in the foundation of complex political organizations.
By firelight, terrifying spirits could appear together with cannibals and supernatural destroyers. Primordial forces, unlike anything seen in normal life, were invoked, unleashed, and reined in again. Secret societies had mystery, pomp, impressive displays, and above all, claims to secret supernatural power. Adepts ate burning coals or spewed them out of their mouths as fountains of fire.The initiated appeared out of smoke or fell from the skies; they menaced the uninitiated who were forced to hide or flee. Behind the staged dramas, there were often real and macabre displays of ruthless power including human sacrifices.Trespassers on to the grounds of secret societies were killed or, if they were lucky, got off with a beating.

Reading the early ethnographic descriptions is not always for the faint of heart. The accounts may captivate readers owing to their incredible descriptions, but the images evoked can perturb sensitive dispositions and invade dreams. Secret society members did not shirk from using any tactics they could to impress and intimidate their fellow villagers, no matter how gruesome. Memberships in the most important societies came at high costs not only in terms of material property, but in physical and emotional terms as well. In addition to harrowing physical ordeals, total commitment to the societies was demanded.To prove such commitment, candidates in some societies had to make their wives available for sex with leaders of the society or even give their wives away, or they had to provide human sacrifices, engage in cannibalism, or even eat their own sons.To enter into the world of secret societies is to enter a world of mystery,magic,mortification,smoke and mirrors imbued with supernatural and real power. At times, comparisons with the ‘dark side’ of the Force in Star Wars might not be too farfetched."


"In addition to these ethnographic observations, psychological studies tend to support the self-interested motives of secret society organizers and the general view that aggrandizer personality types dominated secret societies. Notably, Piff et al. (2012:4086) found that “upper-class individuals behave more unethically than lower-class individuals ... were more likely to take valued goods from others ... to lie in a negotiation ... to cheat to increase their chances of winning a prize ... and endorse unethical behavior at work.”They had “more favorable attitudes toward greed.” As will be shown, these are pre- cisely the kinds of attitudes that characterize secret society officials, as well as aggrandizers in general and sociopaths in particular (Hare 1993). Piff (2013) has also found that as wealth increases, the wealthy are more likely to feel entitled to good things, and that they see themselves as above normal laws and morals – an aspect of tribal and chiefly aggrandizers repeatedly observed by ethnographers (see Hayden 2014, 2016). These are also noted characteristics of many of the high-ranking secret society leaders to be described. The wealthy tend to morally defend greed and to be more indifferent to others. The more resources they have, the more they generally want and the more they prioritize their self-interests and are willing to do things to serve their self-interests. Clearly, not everyone in any given population has or had these attitudes, and such tendencies may be sharply curtailed where surpluses are less certain (e.g., the American Southwest). However, a small percentage of all populations do have aggrandizer traits strongly developed, and it seems that they, by and large, become the elites and gravitate toward positions of power, including memberships and high positions in secret societies.They are relent- lessly aggressive in getting what they want and in trying to change attitudes, norms, and rules to favor their strategies."

"As just noted, some ethnographers have viewed secret societies as developing out of tribal initiations (e.g.,Webster 1932). In contrast, on America’s Northwest
11 Coast, Drucker (1941:229–30) viewed secret societies as resulting from a fusion of shamanism,warfare,mythological elements,hereditary privileges,potlatching, and the guardian spirit complex. Garfield and Wingert (1977:46) also noted the strong resemblance of secret society initiations to individual guardian spirit quests, and one might add, shamanic initiations. Certainly, there were many shamanic elements in secret societies, including possession, throwing power, use of prestidigitation, curing, and often even the honorific title conferred on secret society members of “shaman” (Drucker 1941:229–30). In fact, Eliade (1964:313) stated that “the relations between shamanism and the various North American secret societies and mystical movements is decidedly complex and far from being solved.”“The chief difference between traditional shamanism and the secret societies lies in the fact that the latter are open to anyone who displays some predisposition to ecstasy, who is willing to pay the required fee, and, above all, who consents to submit to the necessary apprenticeship and initiatory ordeals” (Eliade 1964:314). Shamanic circles tend to be exclusive, whereas “secret societies ... display a quite marked spirit of proselytism that ... tends to abolish the special privilege of shamans” (Eliade 1964:314). In general,“shamans usually share in the activities of the most important secret societies, and sometimes take them over entirely” (Eliade 1964:315). Although the formal issue of how secret societies emerged can be debated (whether from shamanism, tribal initiations, military organizations, or other origins), this issue is not of critical importance to the focus of the present study, which is more concerned with why secret societies were created and what sociopolitical roles they played."
 
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#3
Nice interview. I wish more time had been spent on the topic of evil, but understand why background discussion had to be engaged first.

I note that Dr. Hayden agrees with me that psychopaths represent actual evil. I wonder if he has ever known one well. I read an interview with some Eskimo shaman wherein he stated that someone like a psychopath would not be tolerated in the old days. Such a person would have been pushed off an ice flow. Done and gone. Simple.

Also of interest to me is that he says that the concept of evil didn't exist in primitive societies. My hypothesis is that primitive societies and people were a lot more attuned to the law of the jungle and primal forces (the image of Aztecs cutting out captives' hearts until literal rivers of blood ran down the temple really stands out in my mind). The concept of evil becomes more prominent when people become attuned to higher potentials of human consciousness; not the aspects that permit one to be able to create whirlwinds inside a house, but those that engender agape and peace. Once again, I think the transformative power of Christianity (and albeit of lesser power at the societal level, in the east, of Buddhism) is severely underestimated. It is only when you know the Light that the Dark becomes more apparent. I'm not a Christian per se, but I recognize this.

Sometimes I think that some of these primitive souls have come back in an attempt to advance themselves, but they bring a lot of their old ways with them. They cause much mischief.

Getting back to creating whirlwinds or summoning forest spirits or whatever; these are not evidence of higher consciousness. The are merely evidence of having access to aspects of consciousness that modern Western people have allowed to atrophy. Higher consciousness , IMO, is more Christ like (or Buddha like, if you prefer). Whirlwinds are neat parlor tricks. And they can kill and destroy. Healing is an order of magnitude higher.
 
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#5
Bravo. Very measured conversation on both sides! I was really surprised there wasn't mention of Dr. Hayden's latest book "The Power of Ritual In Prehistory: Secret Societies and Origins of Social Complexity" Maybe he thinks the Skeptiko audience isn't interested in a $100+ Cambridge Press text.
https://www.amazon.com/Power-Ritual-Prehistory-Societies-Complexity/dp/1108426395

Here are some quotations from early on in that book I found of particular interest in relation to these topics.

"This book is about secret societies: their dynamics, their raisons d’être, their characteristics according to ethnographic accounts, and their importance for understanding changes in the archaeological record. Secret societies embodied some of the most awe-inspiring events in the cultural repertories of traditional societies.They brought to earth masked spirits who performed supernatural feats and exerted exceptional influences on the living. Those in high positions claimed to hold the secrets of the universe and of life, to be able to control spirits, confer wealth, bring the dead back to life, exorcise the possessed, and perform supernatural feats. Secret societies often built elaborate special structures.These organizations may have been precursors of both stage magic shows and institutionalized religions, and they may have played critical roles in the foundation of complex political organizations.
By firelight, terrifying spirits could appear together with cannibals and supernatural destroyers. Primordial forces, unlike anything seen in normal life, were invoked, unleashed, and reined in again. Secret societies had mystery, pomp, impressive displays, and above all, claims to secret supernatural power. Adepts ate burning coals or spewed them out of their mouths as fountains of fire.The initiated appeared out of smoke or fell from the skies; they menaced the uninitiated who were forced to hide or flee. Behind the staged dramas, there were often real and macabre displays of ruthless power including human sacrifices.Trespassers on to the grounds of secret societies were killed or, if they were lucky, got off with a beating.

Reading the early ethnographic descriptions is not always for the faint of heart. The accounts may captivate readers owing to their incredible descriptions, but the images evoked can perturb sensitive dispositions and invade dreams. Secret society members did not shirk from using any tactics they could to impress and intimidate their fellow villagers, no matter how gruesome. Memberships in the most important societies came at high costs not only in terms of material property, but in physical and emotional terms as well. In addition to harrowing physical ordeals, total commitment to the societies was demanded.To prove such commitment, candidates in some societies had to make their wives available for sex with leaders of the society or even give their wives away, or they had to provide human sacrifices, engage in cannibalism, or even eat their own sons.To enter into the world of secret societies is to enter a world of mystery,magic,mortification,smoke and mirrors imbued with supernatural and real power. At times, comparisons with the ‘dark side’ of the Force in Star Wars might not be too farfetched."


"In addition to these ethnographic observations, psychological studies tend to support the self-interested motives of secret society organizers and the general view that aggrandizer personality types dominated secret societies. Notably, Piff et al. (2012:4086) found that “upper-class individuals behave more unethically than lower-class individuals ... were more likely to take valued goods from others ... to lie in a negotiation ... to cheat to increase their chances of winning a prize ... and endorse unethical behavior at work.”They had “more favorable attitudes toward greed.” As will be shown, these are pre- cisely the kinds of attitudes that characterize secret society officials, as well as aggrandizers in general and sociopaths in particular (Hare 1993). Piff (2013) has also found that as wealth increases, the wealthy are more likely to feel entitled to good things, and that they see themselves as above normal laws and morals – an aspect of tribal and chiefly aggrandizers repeatedly observed by ethnographers (see Hayden 2014, 2016). These are also noted characteristics of many of the high-ranking secret society leaders to be described. The wealthy tend to morally defend greed and to be more indifferent to others. The more resources they have, the more they generally want and the more they prioritize their self-interests and are willing to do things to serve their self-interests. Clearly, not everyone in any given population has or had these attitudes, and such tendencies may be sharply curtailed where surpluses are less certain (e.g., the American Southwest). However, a small percentage of all populations do have aggrandizer traits strongly developed, and it seems that they, by and large, become the elites and gravitate toward positions of power, including memberships and high positions in secret societies.They are relent- lessly aggressive in getting what they want and in trying to change attitudes, norms, and rules to favor their strategies."

"As just noted, some ethnographers have viewed secret societies as developing out of tribal initiations (e.g.,Webster 1932). In contrast, on America’s Northwest
11 Coast, Drucker (1941:229–30) viewed secret societies as resulting from a fusion of shamanism,warfare,mythological elements,hereditary privileges,potlatching, and the guardian spirit complex. Garfield and Wingert (1977:46) also noted the strong resemblance of secret society initiations to individual guardian spirit quests, and one might add, shamanic initiations. Certainly, there were many shamanic elements in secret societies, including possession, throwing power, use of prestidigitation, curing, and often even the honorific title conferred on secret society members of “shaman” (Drucker 1941:229–30). In fact, Eliade (1964:313) stated that “the relations between shamanism and the various North American secret societies and mystical movements is decidedly complex and far from being solved.”“The chief difference between traditional shamanism and the secret societies lies in the fact that the latter are open to anyone who displays some predisposition to ecstasy, who is willing to pay the required fee, and, above all, who consents to submit to the necessary apprenticeship and initiatory ordeals” (Eliade 1964:314). Shamanic circles tend to be exclusive, whereas “secret societies ... display a quite marked spirit of proselytism that ... tends to abolish the special privilege of shamans” (Eliade 1964:314). In general,“shamans usually share in the activities of the most important secret societies, and sometimes take them over entirely” (Eliade 1964:315). Although the formal issue of how secret societies emerged can be debated (whether from shamanism, tribal initiations, military organizations, or other origins), this issue is not of critical importance to the focus of the present study, which is more concerned with why secret societies were created and what sociopolitical roles they played."
great. thx for adding this important detail.

As much as I wish we could have talked more about these amazing cases / accounts I'm glad we had a chance to really hone in on the fact that it's all gobbledygook unless one addresses the reality of the supernatural.
 
#6
great. thx for adding this important detail.

As much as I wish we could have talked more about these amazing cases / accounts I'm glad we had a chance to really hone in on the fact that it's all gobbledygook unless one addresses the reality of the supernatural.
Gobbledygook is more than a little strong. Dr. Hayden made it clear he believes his work still has explanatory power even without acknowledgement of the supernatural - otherwise his whole life’s work would be pointless within the current prevailing academic paradigm. It gets us at least half way there, if not further. That is actually one of the things that makes his body of work so impressive.

That being said, it is cool you could get him on record acknowledging he at least personally believes in something beyond the material.
 
#7
Gobbledygook is more than a little strong. Dr. Hayden made it clear he believes his work still has explanatory power even without acknowledgement of the supernatural - otherwise his whole life’s work would be pointless within the current prevailing academic paradigm. It gets us at least half way there, if not further. That is actually one of the things that makes his body of work so impressive.

That being said, it is cool you could get him on record acknowledging he at least personally believes in something beyond the material.
Well anyone who accepts that supernatural things happen is implicitly recognising that consciousness is something that operates on a larger stage. How then can explanations that assume consciousness is brain bound be of any use?

I think he wants to acknowledge 'supernatural' phenomena, and yet he wants to continue to be accepted by academia!

David
 
#8
Well anyone who accepts that supernatural things happen is implicitly recognising that consciousness is something that operates on a larger stage. How then can explanations that assume consciousness is brain bound be of any use?

I think he wants to acknowledge 'supernatural' phenomena, and yet he wants to continue to be accepted by academia!

David
Dr. Hayden made it clear his explanations do not assume that - they leave it as an open question. You do not need to take a stance in order to comment on things happening in the material world.

And yes of course that is what he wants to do, and I for one am grateful he did because we have some incredible archaeo/ethnological work because of it. Some that allows us to fill in at least part of the story and where it falls short (the supernatural) we’re able to start filling in the blanks. Half an image is not gobbleygook not invaluable. It may be misleading, it may be incomplete, but it is far from worthless.
 
#9
Dr. Hayden made it clear his explanations do not assume that - they leave it as an open question. You do not need to take a stance in order to comment on things happening in the material world.

And yes of course that is what he wants to do, and I for one am grateful he did because we have some incredible archaeo/ethnological work because of it. Some that allows us to fill in at least part of the story and where it falls short (the supernatural) we’re able to start filling in the blanks. Half an image is not gobbleygook not invaluable. It may be misleading, it may be incomplete, but it is far from worthless.
Yes but there is something artificial about that - rather like explaining a computer without mentioning electricity! It also plays into the hands of those who really do want to argue that materialism explains everything. I rather think this is part of how the scientific community got into its obsession with materialism

Scientific work can have value as a collection of data, but yet be almost useless at a theoretical level. Think for a moment of all those studies that show that this or that area of the brain 'lights up' when people are think a particular way - solve a problem perhaps. Clearly that information might be useful clinically - to figure out what kinds of damage a particular brain injury would cause, but what theoretical value does it have? I mean, is the main problem of consciousness, that of determining its spatial distribution in the head?

David
 
#10
Yes but there is something artificial about that - rather like explaining a computer without mentioning electricity! It also plays into the hands of those who really do want to argue that materialism explains everything. I rather think this is part of how the scientific community got into its obsession with materialism
I think a thorough, precise definition of “the material” is necessary before we know what lies outside it. We are nowhere near that yet.

Scientific work can have value as a collection of data, but yet be almost useless at a theoretical level. Think for a moment of all those studies that show that this or that area of the brain 'lights up' when people are think a particular way - solve a problem perhaps. Clearly that information might be useful clinically - to figure out what kinds of damage a particular brain injury would cause, but what theoretical value does it have? I mean, is the main problem of consciousness, that of determining its spatial distribution in the head?

David
You may only be highlighting the crudeness of the current tools here.
 
#11
I think a thorough, precise definition of “the material” is necessary before we know what lies outside it. We are nowhere near that yet.



You may only be highlighting the crudeness of the current tools here.
Well the point is, science isn't looking. I mean Brian Hayden is saying that a non-materialistic approach is required to understand conscious behaviour, but then he ignores that insight! Once you realise that a computer runs on electricity, why try to explain what it does without regard to electricity - that is just daft, yet it is exactly the sort of academic games that get played!

Yes tools like fMRI are crude, but the folly is to expect a lot more insight out of what they deliver than can possibly be justified.

If you get lost in exploring the apparent spatial distribution of consciousness in the brain, without ever getting any handle on what consciousness is, or how the hard problem can be resolved, you go nowhere. It is like trying to understand the world by looking at tea-leaves!

David
 
#12
Well the point is, science isn't looking. I mean Brian Hayden is saying that a non-materialistic approach is...
Let me stop you there. You’ve fallen into the same trap again. We can’t define a non-materialistic approach before we know the full extent of ‘the material’. We’re not even close. I actually think Brian gets that, which is why his position isn’t satisfying you completely.



Yes tools like fMRI are crude, but the folly is to expect a lot more insight out of what they deliver than can possibly be justified.
Can you point me to a couple of papers where you see that happening? (Not press reports)

If you get lost in exploring the apparent spatial distribution of consciousness in the brain, without ever getting any handle on what consciousness is, or how the hard problem can be resolved, you go nowhere. It is like trying to understand the world by looking at tea-leaves!
Or understanding love by looking at fluctuations in random number generators.
 
#13
"Science" looks at what it is funded to look at.

Between atheists on the left who don't believe it and Christians on the right who think it is the work of the devil, there is never going to be much government funding for research into paranormal phenomena because there are too many voters who are against it.

This is the reason scientists who believe in paranormal phenomena have to keep quiet to protect their careers. There are plenty of them but without funding they have to keep their heads down.

The problem is not so much "science" as it is the culture of the society in which the funding agencies function. If a government agency funded a scientist who said inconvenient things, the agency would get a lot of bad publicity which they would not want.
 
#14
Yes but there is something artificial about that - rather like explaining a computer without mentioning electricity!
Of course, there is always something artificial about putting a boundary around what you’re talking about, but unless that is done you just go on explaining and mentioning connections into infinity. Pretty goofy example too, since you really do not need to discuss the power source of a computer in order to talk about its operations. I bet you’d be hard pressed to find many computer science texts that bother explaining the basics of electricity.
 
#15
Pretty goofy example too, since you really do not need to discuss the power source of a computer in order to talk about its operations. I
True, but in a way that was my point - and remember that my analogy presupposes that you don't have a complete explanation of how a computer works - you are researching something - perhaps an alien computer back in the days before we knew about computers.

You would probably never get to understand what computer information really was - you would drown in vague terms, such as 'information flows'.

Accepting that - contrary to dogma - computers ran off electricity, would be the key to getting an understanding of any depth.

David
 
#16
Let me stop you there. You’ve fallen into the same trap again. We can’t define a non-materialistic approach before we know the full extent of ‘the material’. We’re not even close. I actually think Brian gets that, which is why his position isn’t satisfying you completely.
A good start would be to define it as an approach that views consciousness as fundamental - i.e. it isn't derived from something else.

Note that if you take the conventional assumption that consciousness can always be resolved into something completely physical, you are also making an assumption.

David
 
#17
True, but in a way that was my point - and remember that my analogy presupposes that you don't have a complete explanation of how a computer works - you are researching something - perhaps an alien computer back in the days before we knew about computers.

You would probably never get to understand what computer information really was - you would drown in vague terms, such as 'information flows'.

Accepting that - contrary to dogma - computers ran off electricity, would be the key to getting an understanding of any depth.

David
Where is the acceptable boundary then? Or does every area of study need to be able to address the entirety of all?
 
#18
Where is the acceptable boundary then? Or does every area of study need to be able to address the entirety of all?
I'm not sure what you mean, but if you take certain ideas off the table for ideological reasons - which I would claim science does - you are likely to trap yourself in a set of unproductive ideas. See also my answer to Malf (above).

David
 
#19
Materialism is BS! I think every single of us here agrees.

I for one would be really interested in hearing others takes on Hayden's hypothesis that ritual sodalities (secret socieites) really are one of the major driving factors in increasing societal complexity (regardless of if their supernatural powers are real or hoaxes). Are aggrandizers key to society as we know it?

Dr. Hayden proposes that aggrandizers have been the major change agent for humanity since complex human organizations arose in Foundation of Social Inequality edited by T. D. Price and G. Feinman.

“Anthropological theories of elites (leaders) in traditional societies tend to focus on how elites can be viewed as helping the community at large. The origin of elites is cast in functionalist or communitarian terms (viewing societies as adaptive systems). A minority opinion argues that elites were not established by communities for the community benefit, but emerged as a result of manipulative strategies used by ambitious, exploitative individuals (aggrandizers). While the communitarian perspective may be appropriate for understanding simple hunter/gatherer communities, I argue that elites in complex hunter/gatherer communities and horticultural communities operate much more in accordance with aggrandizer principles, and that it is their pursuit of aggrandizer self-interests that really explains the initial emergence of elites. This occurs preferentially under conditions of resource abundance and involves a variety of strategies used to manipulate community opinions, values, surplus production, and surplus use.” 1

Brian Hayden; “Big Man, Big Heart? The Political Role of Aggrandizers in Egalitarian and Transegalitarian Societies”; from For the Greater Good of All: Perspectives on Individualism, Society, and Leadership Edited by Forsyth, Donelson R. and Hoyt, Crystal L. 2010. Pg. 101.

The aggrandizer will pursue wealth and power no matter the consequences to the environment. He or she will colonize including slaughtering of locals for access to resource. The aggrandizer will take advantage of the weak (elderly or disabled) no matter the results. The extreme aggrandizer will do what he or she feels needs to be done for their own benefit.

In a global population of seven billion, there are simply countless niches for the practice of accumulation of power via manipulation. The formation of aggrandizers resists modification or constraint. The global economics and the global political interplays dictate consumption and consumerism to maintain the power of the elite. This promotes a world of mini-aggrandizers or mimickers.

We face the convergence of serious factors, perhaps the result of a long history of aggrandizers at every level and their wannabes. Climate change, population overshoot, energy, acidification of the oceans, species extinction, droughts, floods, massive storms, global environmental degradation, resource wars – each of these alone has societal challenging implications much less as an interlinked set. The aggrandizers from the peak of the power pyramid and lower, if unconstrained, become a deterrent to change in times of societal crisis.

Childrearing styles may reinforce the genetics of the aggrandizer personality type. If so there are two possible parental behaviors. There is the coddle, “you are special” path that is really the child taking care of the parent’s needs. The child gets a message “don’t grow up, don’t individuate.” When the child attempts separation and nascent personhood, the parent withdraws connection creating a sense of abandonment. So the child, growing into adult, vacillates between the anger of enmeshment and the fear of abandonment.

The second parental behavior is the harsh, critical, authoritarian approach that narrowly defines the permissible behavior for being acceptable. This form is often found among fundamentalist (no matter the persuasion). It is mirrored in Alice Miller’s For Your Own Good (Farrar Straus Giroux. 1983.) about the childrearing experience of Adolf Hitler.

The Aggrandizer Personality Type may arise genetically. In addition it may also be fostered by childrearing techniques. The two origins may reinforce each other. In simple hunter/gatherer groups the uniformity of culture and child rearing plus familiarity of behaviors inhibits the rise of the aggrandizer. As group populations increase and resources become more abundant, a diversity of identity and belonging opens the door for the aggrandizer to arise through genetics and as well as via childhood experience.
 
#20
I'm going to steal some commentary from an anonymous user at Auticulture who is also keyed into Hayden's work - this may spur some additional thought and commentary here that may useful to some of us. This very much ties into the discussion we've been having around the previous episode. Thanks, Till, if you are reading.

"If you’ve read Randy Noblett (Cult and Ritual Abuse) and followed his interesting rationale for how these cults work, it is surprisingly consonant with Brian Haydens work (Hayden though isn’t very interested in exploring the psychodynamic/relational dimensions which scaffold/enforce these behaviors) on the emergence of social complexity from a network of “transegalitarian sodalities” – a sort of nice-way of describing a cult of sociopath-aggrandizers willing to terrorize other humans in order to get ‘perks for living’.

What is astonishing about the combination of these positions is how incredibly logical and obvious it is: it is just so utterly inconsistent with societal standards and norms – and so different from normal human experience – that it is difficult to metabolize – i.e. truly accept, that this world possesses people who work – or in my lingo, ‘self-organize’ in this sort of way. My emphasis on symmetry really takes the Marxian position seriously (itself based in hegels master/slave dyad) such that the cues/dynamics “elite” organize by force them into a asymmetric-pattern of being i.e. cultural and narrative norms repeat/enforce the most lurid idealizations, but which are taken to be real and relevant because of how human beings are structurally – and dynamically – assembled. People are never evil: they have to be fucked at a basic brainstem level for them to live a life believing themselves to be ‘utterly invulnerable’, only for the illusion to pass away at death.

More or less, what I find so astonishing is the global nature of the racket. If normal human development, or the existence of our mind, is mediated, or gated, through dynamics of attachment (i.e. love), these secret-society cults work from the exact reverse: if there is a natural, genetic disposition to connect and grow by attaching to others (i.e. differentiation), trauma-cults do exactly the reverse: they obstruct development so that identification processes are canalized in a desired direction. From the ground-up – from infancy (and even conception) up; the brainstem/feeling body is trained to ‘know’ the world in the right – rewarded – way. All self-states that are incompatible with the goals/agenda of the cult are destroyed i.e. the person suffers again and again traumatic-collapse into unconsciousness, only to be awoken and ‘reset’ to a different state.

Most people cannot imagine this because they do not sufficiently understand the graded and accreting nature of neurological and psychological development. You’ve read the literature and therefore appreciate how sensory dynamics are linked with motor dynamics -and in such a way as to keep the center – the ego (or host) perfectly unable to tolerate shifts in perspective without leaving an amnesia in between states. The Self, normally evolved to develop a relationship with its own internal experience of being (with others), is designed for the cult: the “group spirit”, or what have you, is operating as God. The grand-master = god; he has the most knowledge, and those under-him are not merely under him, but subject to the ranking/hierarchy system established for the purpose of ‘anchoring’ self-states. To ascend the system is, as Noblett argues (and Hayden provides many ethnographic examples of) to gain knowledge – the ‘keys’ into the minds of those who are lower in the hierarchy.

It makes perfect sense in that this system could actually work. And it could be rewarded – or selected – because it effectively manipulates the society and terrorizes the population without the latter ever gaining sufficient semiotic/epistemological ground on the former. The sciences, the internet, and mainstream culture at large seems to be bringing this racket to its logical-end; or, this racket, being so fundamentally nihilistic and apocalyptic – and it cannot help but be this since the mind is programmed by how we relate to others (and how others have related to us; hence a proper working human self is a self-aware human self) – may just try to destroy the world. “If my comrades are not destined to rule the world – then away with it! A shower of atom bombs upon it and in place of its meaningless chatter about ‘love’ and ‘peace’ the voice of the howling wind over its ruins” – Savitri Devi (Maximiani Portas ).

This sort of psychotic statement is made by a person with such a traumatic mind – such a traumatic history – that more comfort and good is found in destruction and mayhem then in love and goodness; is this because the self has had to learn to find the good in the bad? The good – the basis of existence – in a life of intermittent trauma? But look how she has come to fetishize it! She mistakes her feelings about love and peace – her intolerance of it – as if it were anything more than an emergent property of her painful lived experience. The grandiosity of her hatefulness – Nuke the Earth and kill all its creatures – is a horrible absurdity that clashes with the way reality – how her mind emerged – ultimately works.

May whatever torments the minds of people like this, making them want to destroy and kill, be overcome…Because it is a horrible illusion.
 
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