August 23, 2023
Part 1: The Marvelization of Man, I pokes fun at the entertainment universes owned by Disney. However, I am glad Mark Parker (Disney Chairman) and Bob Iger (Disney CEO) are such a gargantuan company that they can go toe-to-toe with grumpy Governor Ron DeSantis. He is polling at 19% as the man in the 2024 Republican Presidential campaign who is trying to be Trumper than Trump.
Part 2: The Marvelization of Man dives into The Narcissist. This is what Morbius’ character embodies for he is a ‘Living Vampire’. But Morbius is a nice vampire (aka he is an evolved Narcissist). This evolution is necessary because by the 1970s narcissism has proliferated to unprecedented levels in America and any culture embracing a free-market economy based on capitalism.
For the most part, free-market economies embracing capitalism flourish in Western Civilization, and it is here where we find the underbelly of the beast of thought control: The Public-Opinion Engineers, which this blog will explore. This is what Joost Merloo writes about in the second half of his 1956 book The Rape of the Mind.
The first half of his book is dedicated to the mirror image of a free-market capitalist based society. This mirror image is totalitarian capitalism where there is is an economic system in which a capitalist market economy exists alongside an authoritarian government. A more extreme version of this mirror image is simply totalitarian communism (or simply totalitarian rule) where overt thought control is employed to get society to produce the riches that the upper 1% depend upon to enjoy their super luxurious life styles.
The totalitarian style of thought control is what Joost Merloo writes about in the first part of his book. The free-market capitalist style of thought control is what Joost writes about in the second part of his book.
This series: The Marvelization of Man delves into covert forms of thought control. I specifically draw from Joost Merloo who describes covert thought control techniques in the second part of his book: The Rape of the Mind.
One of the only ways to build up resistance to mind conditioning and other forms of thought control is to understand more about how your mind works. One of the essential components of a healthy mind are active fully realized archetypes. A conscious person’s mind simply does not work without them.
However, just like our bodies, we need to pay attention and take care of the systems running and regulating our mind. A person who eats junk food, does not exercise, does not sleep enough, abuses drugs and alcohol is going to run down and ultimately destroy their body faster than a person who does the opposite thing.
The same is true of the mind. If we don’t understand, pay attention to, and exercise our mind, we are going to fall prey to the predators of our society. And they exist in democratic, fake democratic, communist, and totally totalitarian systems. And The Narcissistic personality plays an oversized role in all our modern economic systems. This is why I think Morbius is an important Marvel character and why I focused on The Narcissist in Part 2: The Marvelization of Man.
It is during the 1970s, which is when Morbius was first created, that The Narcissist really proliferates American society. They were certainly multiplying by the buck loads in the 1960s, but the 1970s, the bucket of narcissism runneth over.
Morbius realizes his mistake in hunting for a cure to his crippling disease and he doesn’t want to drink human blood to survive. Fortunately, he invented synthetic blood, which is tiding him over, but it’s not as good as human blood and eventually, it will not sustain him.
He thinks ending his life will solve the problem, but his best childhood friend with the same disease gets his vampire serum, and so now there are two of them: one nice, the other one not nice.
Morbius is forced to hunt down his friend using his vampire super powers, but it’s not easy because his mean friend has them too. This is where we get to the critical idea that it just might take a monster to kill a monster. In other words, it takes a good vampire to kill a bad vampire.
Applying this to the archetype that the vampire represents, it just might take a recovering Narcissist to dethrone or take down a very sick Narcissist. Think Bob Iger (Disney CEO) [the narcissists trying to be a good narcissists] and grumpy Governor Ron DeSantis [the narcissists trying to be meaner, mightier, and uglier than the Trump Narc who is the biggest, baddest Narc clobbering anyone in the Republican Party who goes against him].
Narcissism Runs Rampant in American Culture
Before leaving this idea of how narcissism dominates the social, political, and economic systems of American Culture (as well as most of Western Culture, which does not leave the rest of the world off the hook, they simply have overt narcissism running rampant while American and Western Cultures are cultivating covert narcissism), I want to highlight Andy Dunn and his story of success at the price of his mental health.
Andy Dunn, co-founded of the men’s apparel company Bonobos in 2007, agrees with me about American corporate culture being one that embraces and celebrate narcissism. In his TedTalk about Starting a company, dealing with bipolar disorder and struggling to manage both, he describes how our modern capitalist market-based economy basically makes being a Narcissist a prerequisite to start a company or be a CEO as well as other mental health disorders or illnesses.
Super Hero Stories Are Important
Also, before Joost’s chapter on the Opinion Engineers, I want to highlight why super hero characters in comic books, novels, and movies are vital to our mental wellbeing.
The stories we tell each other and to ourselves do much more than entertain us. They condition our minds to operate in certain ways.
Christopher Nolan and Batman
I heard Christopher Nolan on Fresh Air talk with Terry Gross about his new movie Oppenheimer. They also talked about “Dunkirk,” “Tenet,” the “Batman” trilogy, “Inception,” “Insomnia” and “Memento.” What he said about Batman (a different super hero universe but important nonetheless) is relevant to the points I am attempting to communicate about archetypes and how our minds work.
NOLAN: Well, I think, like a lot of kids, you know, I would read comics. And they were a great sort of launchpad for your imagination. You know, the way in which your brain processes the frames of a comic book, not unlike the way a filmmaker processes storyboards, you know, that have been drawn for a sequence or something - you're kind of - you're using your brain to flesh out from the work of the sort of artists and writers. And I became more interested in the character of Batman in that great era of sort of graphic novels - you know, the work of people like Frank Miller in particular. So they meant mythology, I suppose. They meant modern-day mythology, and they meant larger-than-life sort of operatic figures.
So when I took on the character of Batman in the trilogy we made, in the "Dark Knight" trilogy, you know, it was really all about an operatic approach to storytelling. So it's heightened reality, and that character really allows you to do that. And what I loved about Batman - of all the characters, the reason I wanted to deal with Batman is for me, he was the most human and relatable of superheroes because he doesn't really have any superpowers unless you count his extraordinary wealth. You know, that's the thing he brings to bear. But he's basically a guy who does a lot of pushups. And...
Nolan thinks comic book super heroes are important! They help us workout our minds and grow new abilities such as imagination, creativity, and film-making-storytelling. Nolan believes comic book super heroes fill a place in our mind where meaning is made and purpose is born.
This is an important place Nolan speaks of. It is that invisible place deep inside every human being where larger-than-life, operatic characters live. These are the archetypes. Think of them more like pools and reservoirs of energy. Each pool or reservoir provides the energy and mental models needed to understand and met specific situations, moments, and challenges in our lives.
These moments and challenges are universal to all people. The archetypes might take different shapes and wear different costumes depending on culture and time, but they represent the same energy of human beings grappling with situations and life experiences that are uniquely human.
Archetypes transcend place and time. Archetypes hold the collective experiences, challenges, and cognitive changes we have made to instincts going back, back, back to the very first conscious Homo sapiens (of which we are one species of six and we are the last surviving species, if we can survive the consequences of consciousness).
Archetypes are the mirror image of instincts. They energize and inspire us to fulfill and handle the life situations and challenges confronting us every day. Archetypes are arches because they contain the energy of instincts changed by consciousness that channeled action in a way better than what nature would have allowed through instinctual responses. And, they contain all the energy of instincts changed by consciousness that channeled action in a way that turned out worse than nature would have allowed through instincts.
Think of archetypes like memories for the mind to use instantaneously to respond to things happening inside and outside of the body.
When we cultivate and exercise our mind, in the way Nolan describes, we grow the capacity to solve our problems and handle our life situations in new and novel ways that might work out better than the ways we were told or taught.
Healthy archetypes see both sides of themselves. Healthy archetypes know there is a good way to respond or do something and there is a bad way. Healthy archetypes empower us to choose wisely. Healthy archetypes give us a feeling of power and control, but also peace and serenity because healthy archetypes know when to not use power to control others or their environment, which is most of the time. Healthy archetypes, even in the most challenging and adverse conditions, help us do the hardest things. So this is no small stuff super hero and other strong movies do for us.
Super Heroes (aka Archetypes) also help us grow mental immunity to thought control efforts and mind control conditioning that you will soon see through Joosts work surrounds us every moment of every day. We are constantly submitted to the social pressures of the Public-Opinion Engineers as well as a host of other mind control tactics.
The reverse is also true of archetypes. Unhealthy archetypes have lost sight of one side of themselves. Unhealthy archetypes are one sided and inflexible. Unhealthy archetypes can hijack our minds and make us respond to circumstances in our life in lopsided, rigid, and inflexible ways. Unhealthy archetypes are stealth and sneaky. Unhealthy archetypes are lopsided and want to remain lopsided. Unhealthy archetypes can take over your life and rule you and you won’t even know it because unhealthy archetypes work night and day to keep your conscious mind in the dark or in a very little box.
I saw 3,000 Years of Longing recently that does a pretty good job showing you what unhealthy archetypes can do to you.
The movie begins with her saying: “My name is Alithea. My story is true. You’re more likely to believe me if I tell you it’s a fairy tale.” She is flying to a conference in Istanbul about storytelling and even though she is telling the audience that we have science to tell us how everything works and we really don’t need stories any more, the following happens:
Alithea is one of the speakers at the conference, where she says that stories about mythical gods have been a part of human history for ages. (In the background on the conference stage is a collage portrait of comic book superheroes, to illustrate her point.) During her speech, Alithea sees in the audience a vision of ghost-like elderly man wearing all white in an ancient royal outfit, including a crown. -- Review: ‘Three Thousand Years of Longing,’ starring Idris Elba and Tilda Swinton -- August 28, 2022 by Carla Hay
No matter what she does to try to make the White Demon go away, he appears closer and closer until she passes out with fear.
And she hasn’t even met the Djinn yet! This story-movie hints at another thing mythic stories do for us. They help us digest and deal with anxiety and stress of daily living. In fact, they provide an outlet for it as well as for other strong feelings that are hard get rid of or express in modern society such as anger, disappointment, despair, longing, fear, frustration, anguish, disgust… the icky stuff that’s not polite to show or discuss in civil society but the stuff we all feel and experience in life.
Perhaps mythic movies actually give us an outlet for this pent up energy, help us balance our psyche, which helps us feel less anxiety, less frustration, and a greater sense of meaning and purpose.
Archetype Are Echoes
Archetypes are echoes, they are the memory of every alteration ever made by consciousness through space and time. When confronted with a similar situation, archetypes jump into action riding up alongside instinctual responses and giving us instantaneously knowledge of ways to alter our response consciously.
However, when we don’t exercise our mind with curiosity, learning, and imagination, archetypes fall into our unconsciousness and we may pick a bad response due to our failure to remain fully conscious of all our options.
Myths and stories are filled with archetypal characters that convey information about all our options in converting the energy of archetypes into action. Heroes, super heroes, tricksters, wise old men, wise old women, and villians of every story portray what happens when people see both sides of their archetype, when people become unconscious of their archetype, and when people lose sight of one side of their archetype being called into action and act in a lopsided way.
The characters of myths and stories are essentially showing us how the energy running through us all the time can improve our lives or make it worse. When we find ourselves in similar situations our mythic heroes and villians are living out their story arch inside us.
Myths and stories help us recognize, develop, and mature these strong energies that as feelings, emotions, and other mental forces that can knock us sideways if we don’t pay attention or take care.
Myths and stories help us recognize ourselves and give us examples of how to integrate these unconscious aspects of ourselves. All good myths and stories provide templates, examples of bad ways of dealing with these energies (the villians) and good ways of channelling and dealing with these energies (the heroes).
Archetypes are mirror images of instincts but they have been changed by conscious choices. Archetypes provide human beings with images of the spectrum of consequences for how primal instinctual energies are changed by conscious choices. And as you have probably guessed by now, some choices are destructive and produce destructive outcomes, other choices are creative or compassionate and produce generative outcomes.
This sort of knowledge is power. It is a power our ancestors understood very well.
Archetypes echo the vibrant reflections of our innate, instinctual behaviors.
Perhaps if we modern humans understood the power of archetypes, we could better navigate our outer spaces (the place where you and I can meet) and inner spaces (the place where you talk to yourself…we call it thinking).
Perhaps if we really understood archetypes, we could play them like a lute… or perhaps they play us, but we might know when they are playing us and be better prepared for the consequences.
Joost Merloo, Rape of the Mind and the Role of Public-Opinion Engineers
This is the stuff A.M. Merloo, M.D., writes about in his book the Rape of the Mind. This nebulous space we call mind. A space we take for granted that we all just naturally do, but do we really know what we are doing inside our heads or have we been conditioned to think we know what we are doing, but the thoughts, ideas, and behaviors have been planted their by the Public-Opinion Engineers! They are the professionals who herd us like cows and get us to believe, act, and buy the things they want us to think, do, and buy… their stuff.
In the first half of his book, Merloo goes into great detail about how autocrats, tyrants, dictators, despots, and fascists control people’s minds. These are brutal people who employ brutal tactics. These are people and regimes that have an overarching need to control other people and imposing their way of thinking on them… much like the narcissist. They use overt, cruel tactics of thought control.
The second half of his book deals with the subtle uses of thought control. This is the part I am covering here. Subtle thought control is a tool that serves the banker, the baker, and candlestick maker. Basically, if you run a business, you need to get inside the minds of possible customers. But some businesses are much more nefarious about this.
Subtle thought control is a given element of modern economics, especially capitalistic economics that have practically become an incubator for narcissists.
A.M. Merloo wrote his book in 1956 but it sure sounds like 2023. I introduce Merloo in this blog.
Chapter 5: THE COLD WAR AGAINST THE MIND
The Public-Opinion Engineers
The conviction is steadily growing in our country that an elaborate propaganda campaign for either a political idea or a deep-freeze(r) can be successful in selling the public any idea or object one wants them to buy, any political figure one wants them to elect. Recently, some of our election campaigns have been masterminded by the so-called public-opinion engineers, who have used all the techniques of modern mass communication and all the contemporary knowledge of the human mind to persuade Americans to vote for the candidate who is paying the public-relation men's salaries. The danger of such high-pressure advertising is that the man or the party who can pay the most can become, temporarily at least, the one who can influence the people to buy or to vote for what may not be in their real interest. -- Page 67 -- The Rape of the Mind, A. M. Meerloo, M.D.
This first paragraph cannot be emphasized enough. I’m not even going to try. Rather, I’ll try to articulate it with an image.
The specialists in the art of persuasion and the moulding of public sentiment may try to knead man's mental dough with all the tools of communication available to them: pamphlets, speeches, posters, billboards, radio programs, and T.V. shows. They may water down the spontaneity and creativity of thoughts and ideas into sterile and streamlined clichés that direct our thoughts even although we still have the illusion of being original and individual.
The effects of persuasion wear down our resistance to it (such as watering down the stories we tell with Super Sweet Super Heroes). Persuasion also turns us into automatic humans, pretty much robots who do what the Big Guy wants them to do. The Big Guy is usually the Biggest Narc in control of the group who has succumb to the persuasion put out by that Narc’s Public-Opinion Engineers. Here are two examples:
Watered Down Archetypes
Marvel is essentially watering down their super heroes (or sweeting them up too much) by making them transactional characters. That is to say that purpose of the Marvel character is to sell a pre-packaged storyline that follows a movie arch that has already made billions, not to tell a good story. As movies and entertainment become more mainstream, more collective, the archetypal characters we see are super watered down, not super heroes. The more we see every character following the same pre-packaged theme, the faster they turn into sterile clichés, rather than ambassadors of powerful inner forces influencing us every moment of every day.
As modern man loses recognition and contact with his inner archetypes, he essential cedes his own conscious awareness to going with the flow of the slow, steady drizzle of mediocrity demanded by Modern life. Doing what you are told slowly becomes the gold standard of being a man, even if it means becoming the standardized mediocre bloke everyone has told him he is from the day he was born.
What we call the will of the people, or the will of the masses, we only get to know after such collective action is put on the move, after the will of the people has been expressed either at the polls or in fury and rebellion. This indicates again how important it is who directs the tools and machines of public opinion.
Our Body Politic
This episode tackles this issue head on (episode 151): Trump’s Federal Indictment, Political Rumors and the Dangers of Tech
Julia Angwin brings up the example of the man who broke into Nancy Pelosi’s home and attacked her husband with a hammer. As the police were taking him away, he proclaimed that he didn’t want to do this but he had to because the dangerous liberal democrats and seizing so much control. He saw himself as a warrior in an existential crises that demanded violence… yes, violence! We should be alarmed and jump out of our arm chairs knowing someone thinks their own fellow citizens are eating babies and want to kill them, so they will kill the liberal democrats first!
The Public-Opinion Engineers — Continued
Trust is the most essential ingredient for a civil society. When trust breaks down, polarization reigns in society. Where polarization and lack of trust in each other reigns, individuals become very vulnerable to the work of the Public-Opinion Engineers.
In the wake of such advertising and engineering of consent, the citizen's trust in his leaders may become shaken and the populace may gradually grow more and more accustomed to official deceit. Finally, when people no longer have confidence in any program, any position, and when they are unable to form intelligent judgments any more, they can be more easily influenced by any demagogue or would-be dictator, whose strength appeals to their confusion and their growing sense of dissatisfaction. Perhaps the worst aspect of this slick merchandising of ideas is that too often even those who buy the experts, and even the opinion experts themselves, are unaware of what they are doing. They too are swayed by the current catchword "management of public opinion," and they cannot judge any more the tools they have hired. The end never justifies the means; enough steps on this road can lead us gradually to Totalitaria. -- The Rape of the Mind, p. 67
Even in Joost’s time in the 1950s, the adverse and negative effects of Public-Opinion Engineers was very apparent.
At this very moment in our country, an elaborate research into motivation is going on, whose object is to find out why and what the buyer likes to buy. What makes him tick? The aim is to bypass the resistance barriers of the buying public. It is part of our paradoxical cultural philosophy to stimulate human needs and to stimulate the wants of the people. Commercialized psychological understanding wants to sell to the public, to the potential buyer, many more products than he really wants to buy. In order to do this, rather infantile impulses have to be awakened, such as sibling rivalry and neighbour envy, the need to have more and more sweets, the glamour of colors, and the need for more and more luxuries.
Even then, the very people we were told to go to for help with our mental health were not always helping to liberate us from the tentacleof the Public-Opinion Engineers.
The commercial psychologist teaches the seller how to avoid unpleasant associations in his advertising, how to stimulate, unobtrusively, sex associations, how to make everything look simple and happy and successful and secure! He teaches the shops how to boost the buyer's ego, how to flatter the customer.
Once the Public-Opinion Engineers make it inside our minds, we grow dangerously close to becoming the Automan. This is the most ideal mental state for an ordinary citizen in a society ruled by narcissists to exist in.
The marketing engineers have discovered that our public wants the suggestion of strength and virility in their product. A car must have more horse-power in order to balance feelings of inner weakness in the owner. A car must represent one's social status and reputation, because without such a flag man feels empty. Advertising agencies dream of "universitas advertensis," the world of glittering sham ideas, the glorification of "menus vult decipi," the intensification of snob appeal, the expression of vulgar conspicuousness, and all this in order to push more sales into the greedy mouths of buying babies. In our world of advertising, artificial needs are invented by sedulous sellers and buyers. Here lies the threat of building up a sham world that can have a dangerous influence on our world of ideas.
A society increasingly populated by Automen and Autowomen is a hard and sharp society. Lots of people suffer in such a society, including the Automen but they are taught to blame their misfortunes on others and never to take responsibility for their own choices.
This situation emphasizes the neurotic greed of the public, the need to indulge in private fancies at the cost of an awareness of real values. The public becomes conditioned to meretricious values. Of course, a free public gradually finds its defences against slogans, but dishonesty and mistrust slip through the barriers of our consciousness and leave behind a gnawing feeling of dissatisfaction. After all, advertising symbolizes the art of making people dissatisfied with what they have. In the meantime it is evident man sustains a continual sneak attack on his better judgment.
Joost is right, the Modern Age is like a tsunami of Public-Opinion Engineers paid by Narcissists who are working hard to wear us down into an army of Automen and Autowomen carefully conditioned to power the economy that provides the luxurious lifestyles the people at the very top of our pyramid structured systems enjoy.
In our epoch of too many noises and many frustrations, many "free" minds have given up the struggle for decency and individuality. They surrender to the "Zeitgeist," often without being aware of it. Public opinion moulds our critical thoughts every day. Unknowingly, we may become opinionated robots. The slow coercion of hypocrisy, of traditions in our culture that have a levelling effect -- these things change us. We crave excitement, hair-raising stories, sensation. We search for situations that create superficial fear to cover up inner anxieties. We like to escape into the irrational because we dislike the challenge of self-study and self-thinking. Our leisure time is occupied increasingly by automatized activities in which we take no part: listening to piped-in words and viewing television screens. We hurry along with cars and go to bed with a sleeping pill. This pattern of living in turn may open the way for renewed sneak attacks on our mind. Our boredom may welcome any seductive suggestion.
The Rape of the Mind explores the Psychology of Thought Control, Menticide, and Brainwashing. Published in 1956 and written by Joost A. M. Meerloo, M.D., Instructor in Psychiatry, Columbia University Lecturer in Social Psychology, New School for Social Research, Former Chief, Psychological Department, Netherlands Forces.
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