I did my first two years of college at the Pennsylvania State University, then transferred to the University of Pittsburgh, where I majored in psychology and minored in philosophy. The catalyst for my leaving Penn State was the fortuitous intersection of a failed-before-it-happened relationship with a girl and the aesthetic impact of the Cathedral of Learning upon me when I first visited Pitt. To this day, I still love Pitt, and I have always been proud of my time there; the academics at Pitt were second to none, and I had the great honor of meeting a number of brilliant men while studying there, including the great Sir Roger Penrose (as a side note, I asked him to sign his book The Emperor's New Mind for me, like an idiot, as though he were a rock star, which to my mind, he was; he kindly obliged). Generally speaking, the quality of student at Pitt was far higher than the quality of student at Penn State, which makes a certain amount of sense; Penn State is, after all, a much larger university.
When I continued on to my master's degree, I was struck by the lackluster intellect of many of my fellow students, with only a few exceptions. Having long since been interested in neuro-psychology and questions pertaining to mind-body problems (i.e., the origin of consciousness, etc.), I had grown accustomed to a STEM-field (science, technology, engineering, & mathematics) attitude towards psychology during my time at Pitt. Unfortunately, I was in for quite a shock; the field of psychology is, as a rule, more akin to the humanities, which would be not be a problem at all if it were not a science- but it is a science, and so it is a problem. But perhaps a few examples would be in order...
I had a particular professor of psychology who was a feminist from Berkeley, and we had a long argument about "benevolent sexism" (what used to be called chivalry, and was in the long-long-ago considered entirely appropriate behavior for a man). During the course of the argument- right after I said that the entire concept of benevolent sexism was ridiculous-, she asked me, "So if two people were drowning, one male and one female, and you could only save one of them, which of them would you save?" And I answered, "I'd save the woman." "Why?" she asked. "Because as a man, I am obligated to protect women and children; the man can fend for himself." "Well," she said, "that's sexist because it implies that the woman cannot protect herself." To which I responded rather vehemently, "Well, if I had said that I'd save the man and that the woman can fucking drown, you'd call me a sexist too, so in what scenario am I not a sexist in your worldview?"
[Note: For those interested in the philosophy of science, I might recommend a quick study of the philosophy of Karl Popper, especially his theory of falsifiability: A hypothesis in which any outcome proves the point- as is the case with feminism- is not a scientific hypothesis at all.]
She had no answer to that, and we moved on.
I recall another argument with another professor who wanted us to write an essay pertaining to "white privilege," a term so ambiguous as to mean essentially nothing (there is an enormous variety of "white people," and there is little similarity of experience between them). When I asked her which "white people's privilege" we were to discuss- the trust fund kid from Berkeley? the guy who works in a Boston fish market? the steel mill workers I grew up with who worked for 18 hours a day in 130 degree factories? the hillbilly from Appalachia who still lacks plumbing and electricity?- she answered, "Well, nobody ever said that privilege conferred a benefit. To which I shot back, "Well, what the hell is a privilege that confers no benefit?" This, as one might imagine, did not go well.
To the credit of each of these professors, our arguments never had any effect upon my grade: I was always able to articulate why I thought what I thought; I was always graded accordingly. Still, it gave me quite a lot of insight into the psychology of those that teach psychology. It should come as no surprise, of course, since the field of psychology is about 70% female, and largely feminist. And so I was a man among women, a stranger in a strange land, a lone voice of reason crying out in the wilderness.
But the most important moment in my study came during graduate school while discussing the role of punishment in psychology (spoiler alert: It has none). I asked why it was that punishment is not used in psychology even though punishment is used in the military and in the martial arts, for instance, and to great effect, to which the professor replied, "Because of the Hippocratic Oath: "Above all, do no harm."" And in that instant, I had a moment of clarity; I had a realization as to why I had always bridled at psychological theory: The modern psychological paradigm is a paradigm of fear and weakness. "Holy shit," I reflected to myself, "I don't believe in any of this!"
"Above all, do no harm."
~ The Hippocratic Oath ~
Something had clearly gone wrong. But how had it gone wrong, and when? Even more importantly, why? And finally, was there a solution to the problem?
Although I already had a general feeling for the problem, things crystalized for me one day when I came across an argument attributed to Allen Wheelis pertaining to paradigm shifts in the history of psychology, specifically insofar as they pertain to psychoanalysis: He argued that psychoanalysis was an extremely effective mode of therapy for many years because at that time, westerners were still largely under the influence of a Victorian moral ethic, and as such, any insight into one's own underlying psychology was followed by immediate behavioral changes (i.e., "Oh, it seems that I am not really angry at my son at all; rather, I am just projecting my bad relationship with my father upon him- and so I will be certain not to do that any longer!"). However, as classicism gave way to modernism- that is, when the old Victorian moral ethic began to give way to post-Victorian, Marxist/neo-Marxist social theory-, the efficacy of psychoanalysis began to diminish. Essentially, the Victorian esteem for willpower was a necessary prerequisite for psychoanalytic success; without it, any insight was rendered impotent. And indeed, there does appear to be some correlation between the decline of Victorian moral ethics- what might be considered the classical tradition of morality- and the decline of psychological health and wellbeing in the West.
This makes sense, of course: If self-agency is any measure of mental health- and it is-, then any philosophy that ignores or abandons self-agency as a goal is doomed to fail. And in the West, it has failed. The abandonment of self-agency has resulted in a psychological void, with nothing to fill the void but drugs, drugs, and more drugs (as of this writing, the number of Americans taking psychotropic drugs is estimated to be somewhere between 70 million and 100 million). However, the popular narrative misdiagnoses the problem: "Big Pharma" has gotten the blame rather than a much more insidious cultural-philosophical trend away from personal responsibility.
Scapegoating "Big Pharma" is simply easier than solving the real problem: We westerners have abandoned responsibility for ourselves, and so rather than work towards our own self-empowerment- a difficult thing to do!-, we seek salvation elsewhere. But "Big Pharma" is not the cause of our obsession with drugs; rather, "Big Pharma" is the consequence of our obsession with drugs- and external solutions in general. The pharmaceutical industry is reacting to market forces driven by the deterioration of self-agency. Does the pharmaceutical industry bear responsibility for its reaction? Perhaps it does. However, so does everybody else.
And so I began formulating a new psychological paradigm, which I now call Virilis but then referred to as Heroic Theory. Psychology as a field of study has been thoroughly ruined by Marxism; most psychologists- most of them feminists- have adopted the underlying dialectical materialist worldview of Marx in spirit if not in letter. Predictably, more traditionally-oriented individuals have fled the field. The result has been a field so completely poisoned by Marxism that the American Psychological Association has openly condemned traditional masculinity as "harmful and dangerous" [www.apa.org/monitor/2019/01/ce-corner].
Clearly, an older, bolder, stronger paradigm is necessary. However, up until now, the question has not been asked, however, "What exactly would a masculine psychology look like?"
What is good? Whatever augments the feeling of power, the will to power, power itself, in man.
~ The Antichrist ~
Generally speaking, a masculine psychological paradigm would require at the very least a radical reorientation of worldview insofar as society and its relationship with the individual person is concerned, and thus recognition of the following principles:
This and more is necessary- but this is a good beginning.
The human being is tribal in psychology; civilization must be organized in accord with his tribal instincts if it is not to breed distortion, which it already has, and on a massive scale. Turning back the clock will be difficult, though not impossible. However, such an endeavor will require no small amount of wisdom. Fortunately for all of us, truth is immortal, and so we have only to look back in order to discover the path ahead...
~ Joshua van Asakinda
"America is a melting pot."
I grew up hearing that, and it rarely occurs to us in America how singular a statement that really is. Because for the vast majority of human history, there was no such thing as "a melting pot." Every human being was a part of a tribe; exclusion from the tribe was death- abandonment not only to violence at the hands of another tribe but also to natural threats of any and all kinds, including plague, famine, and so forth. As a result, the tribe- or as we call it today, "culture"- was everything, and remaining a part of that tribe was more important than any other consideration.
What most people think of today as "race" problems are actually "culture" problems. Human cognition- like all cognition- tends to take shortcuts: Processing every bit of information in our environment is costly and time-consuming; processing that information according to heuristic rules of thumb is far quicker, and results in higher rates of survivability over time. Consequently, we tend to use "race" as a proxy for "culture;" it is an ancient equivalency: "That person does not look like me; he must be a member of another tribe, and so he is a threat." And although it is true that being raised with people of other cultures may mitigate this tendency when it comes to skin color, we should be careful not to be too proud of ourselves: Tribalism can take many forms, and open-mindedness in one realm does not preclude narrow-mindedness in another realm (i.e., a person who "sees no color" may still very well unjustly accuse others of being "dumb bigoted fascists"- and with equal animosity).
Culture is everything; color is nothing- and at the bottom of most "racism" is the underlying presumption that "race" is a useful shorthand for "culture." What "racists" actually find disagreeable is probably not skin color itself but rather what that skin color represents: a different culture, a different political worldview, a different way of seeing the world; in short, a threat to their own culture and way of living life. And given the vast history of the species- replete with war, conquest, subjugation, and genocide-, that is an understandable evolutionary program. And so how do we overcome a program that has evolutionary usefulness? Simply put, we do not; rather, we must press it to our purposes.
Psychological tribalism cannot be done away with. We cannot flip a switch and overturn thousands of years of evolutionary programming; we can, however, change our definition of "tribe." And most people do over time when confronted with individuals of different creeds or colors with whom they share values. Because, ultimately, all of these different methods of human categorization come down to values; they are cognitive shorthands for values and for value-systems, for particular ways of viewing the world.
And that does matter.
I am a realist, but I am not a cynic. We cannot rewrite our programming, except within boundaries determined by that very same programming; that is a fool's quest, an endeavor doomed to failure. But that is no reason not to use that very same programming to our advantage: We can redefine our notion of "tribe;" we can expand the horizons of our "tribalism." And indeed, that appears to be the general trend of human history: People show far greater concern today, for instance, for political differences than for racial differences, when perhaps in the past the situation was reversed. Tribalism remains, but the definition of "tribe" has changed.
That being said, nothing in this world is a certainty, and if we believe that such a world would be better, then we should be diligent in its creation- not to mention cautious that we do not allow that old hydra to rear a new head yet again. Furthermore, there is no utopia in the redefinition of "tribe;" there is only a new and different kind of conflict. Still, culture- which really does say something intrinsic about what a human being is- matters far more than color- which really says next to nothing intrinsic about what a human being is-, and so if we are going to be in conflict with one another, we ought to at least be in conflict with one another about something that actually matters. And what matters at all if not our individual visions for what the world might look like tomorrow?
~ Joshua van Asakinda
[Note: Today is the five year anniversary of my brother's death. In the photo above, I am pictured at the top left, he is pictured on the bottom right, and our youngest brother is pictured on the bottom left. Requiescat in pace, Jeremy.]
As difficult as it may be for us to admit to ourselves- though perhaps not quite so difficult for us to understand-, our greatest happiness is almost always rooted in our greatest suffering. In order to grow strong enough for this realization, however, we must first adopt a kind of faith in the interconnectivity of all things, and in the meaning that is represented by that very interconnectivity. This may be the very foundation of human spirituality: the belief that even in the midst of horrific tragedy, there must be some purpose to it all. Because what would remain of life without this hope?
How could we go on at all if not for the faith that behind and beyond this paltry world of death, decay, and destruction, there was a meaningful story being told? Without this faith, do we not run the danger, like Nietzsche's madman, of staring into the abyss in despair? After all, what is nihilism but this? It is the recognition of a story devoid of meaning, ending in nothingness...
But there is meaning...
When it comes to metaphysical questions, there are many arguments pro and con. And yet the most persuasive argument of all may be the simplest: If there is no meaning in the world, why exactly do we look for meaning at all? Because if it is true that we are merely machines made of meat, then the need for meaning seems paradoxically needless (indeed, any need at all seems paradoxically needless). The machine does not require a meaning; it does as it is capable of doing- and that is all.
Does the hammer care what it creates? And does the computer long for a reason for what we do with it? No, because the machine has no mind, and no soul. For although some may argue that the machine may one day be made more mind-like, and more soul-like, that is not the same thing at all: A man is not merely mind-like, and a soul is not simply soul-like; a mind is fully mind, and a soul is fully soul. Something unspeakable has been lost when we reduce mind to mind-likeness and soul to soul-likeness.
But if there is a mind/soul thing that exists, that wills and wants, and longs for meaning, then there must be a meaning behind that longing- else, what is it for? Why evolve it at all? Evolutionists, of course, might argue that living beings have evolved a meaning-seeking instinct for no other reason than because it has proven useful. And yet usefulness implies accuracy of representation; it implies that the world has been understood effectively. For in what way could a concept that fails to represent reality truthfully be useful?
Surely any unfaithful representation of reality would entail some decrease in survivability! If a creature imagines that the world is not what it is- that it has meaning where there is no meaning, or that it has no meaning where there is meaning-, then that creature runs the risk of falling prey to a more cynical and realistic organism, which views reality more accurately, and is therefore capable of navigating reality more effectively. And so it is hard to imagine that there is no meaning in the world. After all, we see it everywhere, and in everything; we are designed to see it everywhere, and in everything...
We are meaning-seeking creatures; something within us requires purpose. What that something is, who can say? Divinity must be, by its very definition, beyond conceptualization, hence the argument that God is always a "god of the gap," a shorthand for all that we do not know, for all that we cannot grasp. And so perhaps, in the end, every god is a "god of the gap..."
But that does not make that gap any less real.
There is meaning in suffering; there is meaning in pain, and in way, and in death. It is a kind of faith, and a necessary faith at all; without this faith, we would all go mad. Furthermore, we would no longer be human at all. Because if humanity were to finally abandoned purpose- and not only its own purpose, but even the very concept of purpose-, what would be left of the human being?
Luckily for all of us, there is meaning, whether we know it or not. The story goes on; the story is endless. For behind and beyond this endless procession of birth and death, there is a power sufficient to sustain it. Perhaps that power is God, or perhaps it is only a gap- but what does that matter?
"The way that can be known is not the eternal Way;
the name that can be named is not the eternal Name."
~ Dao De Jing ~
~ Joshua van Asakinda