This morning I received a surprise in my e mail from a friend living in Hungary and teaching psychology there. His favorite psychologist is also my favorite psychologist, Otto Rank, and we have collaborated on projects over the years, having taught a class together on Rank at the University of Creation Spirituality.
Robert Kramer has recently published an article on “Vladimir Putin and the denial of death” in the New European Magazine. I think it has lots to say in understanding the forces driving Mr. Putin.
In recent years, social psychologists studying Terror Management Theory have conducted over 1500 randomized controlled experiments to test Otto Rank’s most compelling hypothesis: The Death fear of the ego is lessened by the killing, the sacrifice, of the other; through the death of the other, one buys oneself free from the penalty of dying, of being killed.
Rank tells us that this quest for immortality has driven most of human history and we kill others to show that we can triumph over death and that a dream of immortality pursues us and today, “the nation-state is a universal symbol of immortality.” Kramer recognizes that “apparent in every war fought since the 1648 Treaty of Westphalia, the nation state’s insatiable urge for immortality has once again erupted on the world stage.”
This strikes me especially deeply as a Christian theologian, since all this drama and suffering is happening in Lent, the prelude to Easter and Resurrection, Spring and Passover, when supposedly Christians and others are invited to let their quest for immortality be sated by the promise of the Resurrection event which says we don’t have to worry about immortality any more, it is at hand for all people. Rank actually called the idea of democratizing resurrection that derive from Jesus and Paul the “most revolutionary idea” that has come to humankind because it frees us of our immortality compulsions.
Kramer attributes to Putin the “clearest statement” ever uttered by a country’s leader “of Rank’s insight that the terror of death underlies the state-sponsored bloodletting of war.” Putin said in a recent talk, “for our country, it is a matter of life and death, a matter of our historic future and nation…a very real threat…to the very existence of our state.”
Putin’s “holy war against the West” and his compulsion to expand his empire seems related to Putin’s fears as much as to his ambitions.
See also: Matthew Fox, Sins of the Spirit, Blessings of the Flesh: Transforming Evil in Soul and Society.
See also: Matthew Fox, Stations of the Cosmic Christ
Queries for Contemplation
Do you see the nation-state as a universal symbol of immortality? What are the dangers in that? Does the Resurrection belief offer a needed alternative?
Stations of the Cosmic Christ
By Matthew Fox and Bishop Marc Andrus.
This is a book of meditations on the Cosmic Christ, accompanying the images of 16 wonderful clay tablets by Javier Ullrrich Lemus and M.C. Richards. Together, these images and meditations go far beyond the traditional Stations of the Cross to inspire a spirit awakening and understanding of the cosmic Christ Consciousness, Buddha consciousness, and consciousness of the image of God in all beings, so needed in our times.
“A divinely inspired book that must be read by every human being devoted to spiritual and global survival. It is cosmically brilliant.” — Caroline Myss, author of Anatomy of the Spirit