Mysticism/Psych Course 5: The Transition to Modernity

The third video of the class* outlined explained what modernity is, its conditions (technology, sociology of knowledge and individuation process) the reasons why limit this course’s focus to modernity.

  •  Mystical modernity=psychological modernity, Then we have to focus on those processes which are relevant to mysticism and relevant to psychology which took place in the last, say, four, four, 500 years since the 16th century
  • Technology: We know about mystical ideas, because they were written down in books. A huge development in the 15th, 16th century, which changed the accessibility of mystical writings. And that is print.  Zohar was printed for the first time in the 16th century. Now, this printing had a huge impact. Until then it was scattered over 7 hundred manuscripts or so.  There’s a big difference between manuscripts and printed books, not just in accessibility, but also in the form. It’s far more organized. It’s far more cohesive.
  • Sociology of knowledge. That’s because of improvement of technology and because of other complex cultural changes in modernity we have networks, we have much more working groups in networks of intellectuals.
  • Psychology. Psychology is often oblivious of its own sociology. We need the development of social networks in order to create modern psychology If we take the example of Freud, which again, comes readily to mind, Freud himself worked in a network. Today, the whole narrative is is we’re speaking about some individual genius that created psychoanalysis out of nothing, or something. But that’s a fallacy.
  • The role of individual in modern psychology is  the result of a long historical process. We weren’t born individuals, and we weren’t always individuals.  People began to perceive themselves as individuals, increasingly from the 16th century onwards.

The end of the lectured reminded me of the feeling I had when I learned about the history of the “accomplishments of the rugged individual” concept within US history. It felt alien to me. Maybe because I was brought up in a “rugged communalism” system of Eastern Europe’s soft communism, where the group’s goal was supposed to be over the individuals. It didn’t work, but influenced my thought patterns. Whatever the reasons for my feelings, the fact is that I could never believe the “rugged individual” myth.  And today, I read two articles that reinforced my doubts:

  • Slate magazine took over a piece from Jacobin magazine, in which Miya Tokumitsu deconstructs the “do what you love” mantra for today’s workers.  She shows the underlying class structure and asks the “who benefits” question. She points out that despite the image that Steve Jobs, CEO of Apple, built for himself he relied on thousands of people for Apple’s success.
  • On a totally different note, the Good Men Project, “a glimpse of what enlightened masculinity might look like in the 21st century” posted an article last week about ‘Why Men Commit Suicide: The Three Warning Signs Most People Miss“. The first  speaks to me about the challenges of modernity and individuation, because once we are not part of the/a group, these kind of issues can arise for anyone:
    • Thwarted Belonginess:
    • These days, I feel disconnected from other people.
    • These days, I rarely interact with people who care about me.
    • These days, I don’t feel I belong.
    • These days, I often feel like an outsider in social gatherings.

* This blog entry is part of my series on the “Modern European Mysticism and Psychological Thought” course I am taking.

You may also like...

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *