The Most Dangerous Creature on the Planet | Part 10: Marvelization of Man

We are ploughing ahead in this series. If you want to understand why this series is call the Marvelization of Man, then skip back to blog 1: here.

Long story short, if there are going to be Marvelous Men, there are also going to be ordinary men, awful men, and god awful terrible men. And this is what we are really exploring, the underside of Marvelous.

So, here we go, taking a deep dive into the workings of the most disgusting, vile, horrid creatures to be found on planet Earth: The Totalitarian Leader!

What follows is from Joost Meerloo’s book, Rape of the Mind, published in 1956. To read more about Joost, backtrack to this blog, here.

The Totalitarian Leader

— Page 79, Rape of the Mind by Joost Meerloo

The leaders of Totalitaria are the strangest men in the state. These men are, like all other men, unique in their mental structure, and consequently we cannot make any blanket psychiatric diagnosis of the mental illness which motivates their behaviour.
But we can make some generalizations which will help us toward some understanding of the totalitarian leader. Obviously, for example, he suffers from an overwhelming need to control other human beings and to exert unlimited power, and this in itself is a psychological aberration, often rooted in deep-seated feelings of anxiety, humiliation, and inferiority. The ideologies such men propound are only used as tactical and strategical devices through which they hope to reach their final goal of complete domination over other men. This domination may help them compensate for pathological fears and feelings of unworthiness, as we can conclude from the psychological study of some modern dictators.
Fortunately, we do not have to rely on a purely hypothetical picture of the psychopathology of the totalitarian dictator. Dr. G. M. Gilbert, who studied some of the leaders of Nazi Germany during the Nuremberg trials, has given us a useful insight into their twisted minds, useful especially because it reveals to us something about the mutual interaction between the totalitarian leader and those who want to be led by him.
Hitler's suicide made a clinical investigation of his character structure impossible, but Dr. Gilbert heard many eyewitness reports of Hitler's behaviour from his friends and collaborators, and these present a fantastic picture of Nazism's prime mover. Hitler was known among his intimates as the carpet-eater, because he often threw himself on the floor in a kicking and screaming fit like an epileptic rage. From such reports, Dr. Gilbert was able to deduce something about the roots of the pathological behaviour displayed by this morbid "genius."
Hitler's paranoid hostility against the Jew was partly related to his unresolved parental conflicts; the Jews probably symbolized for him the hated drunken father who mistreated Hitler and his mother when the future Fuhrer was still a child. Hitler's obsessive thinking, his furious fanaticism, his insistence on maintaining the purity of "Aryan blood," and his ultimate mania to destroy himself and the world were obviously the results of a sick psyche.
As early as 1923, nearly ten years before he seized power, Hitler was convinced that he would one day rule the world, and he spent time designing monuments of victory, eternalizing his glory, to be erected all over the European continent when the day of victory arrived. This delusional preoccupation continued until the end of his life; in the midst of the war he created, which led him to defeat and death, Hitler continued revising and improving his architectural plans.
Nazi dictator Number Two, Hermann Goering, who committed suicide to escape the hangman, had a different psychological structure. His pathologically aggressive drivers were encouraged by the archaic military tradition of the German Junker class, to which his family belonged. From early childhood he had been compulsively and overtly aggressive. He was an autocratic and a corrupt cynic, grasping the Nazi-created opportunity to achieve purely personal gain. His contempt for the "common people" was unbounded; this was a man who had literally no sense of moral values.
Quite different again was Rudolf Hess, the man of passive yet fanatical doglike devotion, living, as it were, by proxy through the mind of his Fuhrer. His inner mental weakness made it easier for him to live through means of a proxy than through his own personality, and drove him to become the shadow of a seemingly strong man, from whom he could borrow strength. The Nazi ideology have this frustrated boy the illusion of blood identification with the glorious German race. After his wild flight to England, Hess showed obvious psychotic traits; his delusions of persecution, hysterical attacks, and periods of amnesia are among the well-known clinical symptoms of schizophrenia.
Still another type was Hans Frank, the devil's advocate, the prototype of the overambitious latent homosexual, easily seduced into political adventure, even when this was in conflict with the remnants of his conscience. For unlike Goering, Frank was capable of distinguishing between right and wrong.
Dr. Gilbert also tells us something about General Wilhelm Keitel, Hitler's Chief of Staff, who became the submissive, automatic mouthpiece of the Fuhrer, mixing military honor and personal ambition in the service of his own unimportance.
Of a different quality is the S.S. Colonel, Hoess, the murderer of millions in the concentration camp of Auschwitz. A pathological character structure is obvious in this case. All his life, Hoess had been a lonely, withdrawn, schizoid personality, without any conscience, wallowing in his own hostile and destructive fantasies. Alone and bereft of human attachments, he was intuitively sought out by Himmler for this most savage of all the Nazi jobs. He was a useful instrument for the committing of the most bestial deeds.
Unfortunately, we have no clear psychiatric picture yet of the Russian dictator Stalin. There have been several reports that during the last years of his life he had a tremendous persecution phobia and lived in constant terror that he would become the victim of his own purges.
Psychological analysis of these men shows clearly that a pathological culture -- a mad world - can be built by certain impressive psychoneurotic types. The venal political figures need not even comprehend the social and political consequences of their behaviour. They are compelled not by ideological belief, no matter how much they may rationalize to convince themselves they are, but by the distortions of their own personalities. They are not motivated by their advertised urge to serve their country or mankind, but rather by an overwhelming need and compulsion to satisfy the cravings of their own pathological character structures.
The ideologies they spout are not real goals; they are the cynical devices by which these sick men hope to achieve some personal sense of worth and power. Subtle inner lies seduce them into going from bad to worse. Defensive self-deception, arrested insight, evasion of emotional identification with others, degradation of empathy - the mind has many defense mechanisms with which to blind the conscience.
A clear example of this can be seen in the way the Nazi leaders defended themselves through continuous self-justification and exculpation when they were brought before the bar at the Nuremberg trials. These murderers were aggrieved and hurt by the accusations brought against them; they were the very picture of injured innocence.
Any form of leadership, if unchecked by controls, may gradually turn into dictatorship. Being a leader, carrying great power and responsibility for other people's lives, is a monumental test for the human psyche. The weak leader is the man who cannot meet it, who simply abdicates his responsibility. The dictator is the man who replaces the existing standards of justice and morality by more and more private prestige, by more and more power, and eventually isolates himself more and more from the rest of humanity. His suspicion grows, his isolation grows, and the vicious circle leading to a paranoid attitude begins to develop.
The dictator is not only a sick man, he is also a cruel opportunist. He sees no value in any other person and feels no gratitude for any help he may have received. He is suspicious and dishonest and believes that his personal ends justify any means he may use to achieve them. Peculiarly enough, every tyrant still searches for some self-justification. Without such a soothing device for his own conscience, he cannot live.
His attitude toward other people is manipulative; to him, they are merely tools for the advancement of his own interests. He rejects the conception of doubt, of internal contradictions, of man's inborn ambivalence. He denies the psychological fact that man grows to maturity through groping, through trial and error, through the interplay of contrasting feelings. Because he will not permit himself to grope, to learn through trial and error, the dictator can never become a mature person. But whether he acknowledges them or not, he has internal conflicts, he suffers somewhere from internal confusion. These inner "weaknesses" he tries to repress sternly; if they were to come to the surface, they might interfere with the achievement of his goals. Yet, in the attacks of rage his weakening strength is evident.
It is because the dictator is afraid, albeit unconsciously, of his own internal contradictions, that he is afraid of the same internal contradictions of his fellow men. He must purge and purge, terrorize and terrorize in order to still his own raging inner drives. He must kill every doubter, destroy every person who makes a mistake, imprison everyone who cannot be proved to be utterly single-minded. In Totalitaria, the latent aggression and savagery in man are cultivate by the dictator to such a degree that they can explode into mass criminal actions shown by Hitler's persecution of minorities. Ultimately, the country shows a real pathology, an utter dominance of destructive and self-destructive tendencies.

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Previous Marvelization of Man Blogs

Creepy Collectivism | Part 9: Marvelization of Man

This is part 9 of the series The Marvelization of Man series in which we explore chapter 6 of Joost Merloo’s book: The Rape of the Mind written in 1956 in the aftermath of WWII and the horrors of the Totalitarian Mindset.

Why is the Totalitarian Mindset part of the Marvelization of Man? I mean, really, Marvel super heroes… well, they have super powers, they can fly, they can lift heavy objects with their eyes, they are protectors… right?

Well, yes they are… but I suspect for as high as we fly in our minds with these marvelous super heroes, we also descend deeper in our minds into dark and frightening places. And the more divided we become as a nation, as a group of people trying to work out this really crazy thing called civilization… well, we need to grapple with both sides of ourselves at the same time.

Blaming the Democrats for all the MAGA’s woes isn’t going to save a single MAGA voter from the realities of our time. Any place where you see conflict erupting and one-sidedness erupting into violence and war, the realities of the Totalitarian Mindset need to understood and grappled with. This is why this blog series is exploring Joost Merloo’s book now.

So, let’s jump into it… now.

Chapter 6 | The Rape of the Mind

Part 2: Cultural Predilection for Totalitarianism — Page 76

In the battle against this dread disease, social factors as well as personal ones play an important role. We can see this more clearly if we analyze the ways in which the ideals of a culture as a whole affect its citizens' vulnerability to totalitarianism. The ethics of our own Western civilization are our strongest defences against the disease, for the ideal of these ethics is to produce a breed of men and women who are strongly individualistic and who evaluate situations primarily in terms of their own consciences.
We aim to develop in our citizens a sense of self-responsibility, a willingness to confront the world as it is, and an ability to distinguish between right and wrong through their own feelings and thoughts. Such men and women are impelled to action by their personal moral standards rather than by what some outside group sets up as correct. They are unwilling to accept group evaluations immediately unless these coincide with their own personal convictions, or unless they have been able to discuss them in a democratic way. People like this are responsible to their communities because they are first responsible to themselves. If they disagree, they will form a "loyal minority", using their rights of convincing other people at appropriate times.
There are other cultures which emphasize attitudes and values that are different from these. The Eastern ideal of man, as we find it in China and some of the other Oriental countries, is in the first place that one "oneness", of being one with the family, one with the fatherland, one with the cosmos -- nirvana. The Oriental psyche looks for a direct aesthetic contact with reality through an indefinable empathy and intuition. Eternal truth is behind reality, behind the veil of Maya. Man is part of the universe; his ideal is passive servility and non-irritability. His ideal of peace lies in rest and relaxation, in meditation, in being without manual and mental travail. The happiness of the Oriental psyche lies in the ecstasy of feeling united with the universal cosmos. Ascesis, self-redemption, and poverty are better realized ideals in Oriental culture than in our Western society.
The classic Oriental culture pattern can best be described as a pattern of participation. In it the individual is looked upon as an integral part of the group, the family, the caste, the nation. He is not a separate, independent entity. In this culture, greater conformity to and acceptance of the collective rules are the ideals. An Oriental child may be trained from infancy into a pattern of submission to authority and to rules of the group. Many primitive cultures also display this pattern. To a person raised in these cultures, the most acceptable standards, the best conceivable thoughts and actions, are those sanctioned by the group. The totalitarian world of mass actions and mass thoughts is far more comprehensible to the members of a participation-patterned and less individual-minded culture than it is to Western individualists. What is to us unbearable regimentation and authoritarianism may be to them comforting order and regularity.
An example of an intensified pattern of participation and thought control and mutual spying has been given by the anthropologist E. P. Dozier. [See the "New York Times", December 11, 1955; and "Science News Letter", December 3, 1955.] The Pueblo Indians of the Rio Grande area believe that wrongdoing or wrong thinking of one man in the tribe affects all members. He may upset the cosmic balance by ill feeling toward any one of his fellow men. The moral code of the village is group-centred. The individual who transgresses this jeopardizes the well-being of all. Epidemics, crop failures, droughts are interpreted as a result of "deviationism" of one member of the group. Village members are closely watched and spied on in order to discover the culprit or "witch." Gossip and accusations of witchcraft are rampant, and the Pueblo Indian is constantly searching in his own conscience for harmful thoughts and attitudes. It is as if we watch the ritual of the purge in the totalitarian state.
Such forms of "creeping collectivism" and participation we may see in every group formation where tolerance for non-conformism ceases to exist. Wherever dogmatic partisanship dominates, the mind is coerced. We may even detect such encroaching tendencies in some scientific circles where there exists an overemphasis on group
research, teamwork, membership cards, and a disdain for individual opinion.
The culture into which a man is born and his own psychological constitution interact to produce his personality in much the same way as his body and mind interact to produce his behaviour. Our culture of individual freedom may offer us a partial immunity to the disease of totalitarianism, but at the same time our personal immaturities and repressed savageries can make us vulnerable to it. The participation type of culture may make men more susceptible in general to totalitarianism, although personal strivings toward maturity and individuality can offer them, too, some measure of protection against it.
Because of the interaction between these social and personal forces, no culture is completely safe from internal attack by totalitarianism and from the mental destruction it may create. As I said before, our Totalitaria is a mythical country, but
the brutal truth is that any country can be turned into Totalitaria.
The aims of the rulers of our fictitious country are simply formulated: despotism, the total domination of man and mankind, and the unity of the entire world under one dictatorial authority. At first glance, this idea of unity can be most attractive -- the idea, oversimplified, of a brotherhood unity of nations under a central powerful agency. When the world is one, it would seem, there will be no more war, the tensions that face us will be eliminated, earth will become a paradise. But the simplified conception of a universal dictatorship is false and reflects the danger inherent in the totalitarian goal: all men are different, and it is the difference between them that creates the greatness, the variety, and the creative inspirations of life, as well as the tensions of social intercourse. The totalitarian conception of equalization can be realized only in death, when the chemical and physical laws that govern all of us take over completely. Death is indeed the great equalizer.
In life, all of us are different. Our bodies and minds interact with one another and with the outside world in different ways. Each man's personality is unique. True, all of us share certain basic human qualities with all the other members of the human race, but the differences in personality are also so many and so varied that no two men anywhere in the world or ever in all of human history can be said to be exactly alike. This uniqueness is as true of the citizen of Totalitaria as it is of anyone else. As a human being, he is not only different from us, he is different from his compatriots. However, to create man in the totalitarian image through levelling and equalization means to suppress what is essentially personal and human in him, the uniqueness and the variety, and to create a society of robots, not men.
The noted social scientist, J. S. Brunner, in his introduction to Bauer's book on Soviet psychology has expressed this thought in a different way: "Man's image of the nature of man is not only a matter for objective inquiry; it is and has always been a prime instrument of social and political control. He who moulds that image does so with enormous consequences for the society in which he lives."
Totalitaria fosters the illusion that everyone is part of the government, a voter; no one can be a non-voter or anti-voter. His inner pros and cons and doubts are not private problems of the individual himself any more; his thoughts belong to the state, the dictator, the ruling circle, the Party. His inner thoughts have to be controlled. Only those in power know what really lies behind national policy. The ordinary citizen becomes as dependent and obedient as a child. In exchange for giving up his individuality, he obtains some special gratifications: the feeling of belonging and of being protected, the sense of relief over losing his personal boundaries and responsibilities, the ecstasy of being taken up and absorbed in wild, uncontrolled collective feelings, the safety of being anonymous, of being merely a cog in the wheel of the all-powerful state.
The despotism of modern Totalitaria is very different from the lush, exotic personal tyrannies of ancient times. It is an ascetic, cold, mechanical force, aiming at what Hanna Ahrendt calls the "transformation of human nature itself." In our theoretical country, man has no individual ego any longer, no personality, no self. A levelling system is at work, and everything above the common level is trampled on and beaten down.

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Past Posts of the Marvelization of Man Series

For the last post in this series, see: