Not ignoring Paul’s S4?

Continuing the theme, Colcannon’s “Profaning Paul” has a chapter in the middle of the book, “Redeeming Paul”, in which he criticises Jacques Ellul, Alan Badiou (largely the same book from which Pete takes his inspiration) and Ward Blanton for (perhaps) attempting to preserve Paul against criticism because they, as sociologist, philosopher and theologian, want to preserve him as a foundation for anarchism, revolutionary socialism or some other kind of evental understanding – and in both cases, I can see the difficulty in saying “we’d like to preserve this bit, but not that”. Those three postmoderns (and a significant slice of modern Paul scholarship, such as the “new perspective” to a significant extent) do that very much by discounting a lot of the text as not being authentically Paul, so the “true Paul” is still a “jolly good egg”. (It is, for what it’s worth, pretty much what Daniel Kirk does in his book, which is a narrative re-reading – he seeks to portray Paul as faithful to the message of Jesus, which is a hard sell for me, as my view is more that Paul almost completely subverted the message of Jesus by turning the religion OF Jesus into a religion ABOUT Jesus). Discounting the material is almost certainly justified in the case of all but seven of the “Pauline” epistles, and probably in at least parts of others. But there’s shit in some of the authentic ones as well. Ten chapters after 1 Cor. 13 Paul gets on his authoritarian, patriarchal high horse in  11 Cor. The first is thrilling, the second, to me, negates the love he talks of in the first. Three chapters later, 1 Cor. 4 is deeply problematic as well.

Colcannon goes on to discuss Pasolini’s unfilmed “St. Paul”, which he says goes slightly further in presenting a Paul with two faces, the saint and the cleric, and then discusses Brian Blount’s condemnatory approach to Paul, in which he argues that Paul’s attitude to slavery (inter alia) is so repugnant as to render him beyond the pale. But what Colcannon wants is not to sanitise Paul, to make him the victim of DID or to demonise him. He suggests, using Giorgio Agamben’s definition, profaning Paul (i.e. taking something set aside as sacred and returning it to general use by the population). Clearly, he doesn’t think Ellul, Badiou, Blanton, Pasolini or even Blount have succeded in “profaning” Paul.

He then turns to the grandmother of Howard Thurman, Nancy Ambrose, who was born into slavery in the American south. She almost never read from or quoted Paul, except on rare occasions 1. Cor. 13, because she was too well aware of the multiple passages in Paul instructing slaves to be good and dutiful slaves and not with to change that, which she had had preached to her on many occasions by white preachers. Here, I think, lies the problem with Paul. He is just too important a figure to discount if you mention him at all – he gets to some extent sacralised immediately you mention him.

After all, without Paul there would probably be no Christianity. There would be some Jesus-followers, but they would probably either be a smallish Jewish sect (although I note that Chabad Lubavitch are strong in modern Judaism) or a fairly insignificant independent religion like the Mandaeans (who arguably are the residual followers of John the Baptist). Indeed, without Paul and the author of the Fourth Gospel (who I suspect was not called John), most of Christian theology as it has typically been over 2000 years would be radically different (and much more like Jewish theology, which, to me, would not be a terrible thing!). And, looming over all of this, Paul’s letters are canon. They’re part of the scriptures which I need to take seriously in order to be part of Christianity at all, though I might be attracted by foreswearing Christianity in favour of being “Iesousian”… If you read or comment on him at all, you have to contend with the reverence he’s commonly treated with, even by Ellul and Badiou.

Although Colcannon does not directly suggest that the only real way to profane Paul is to more or less ignore him, or at the least to treat him as no more important than any non-Christian writer other than the Evangelists of the first century (you can’t include other Christian writers of the period, as they were all hugely influenced by Paul), he does imply this later in the book. This seems to me posssibly the only way to proceed, if, indeed, the objective is to profane him. After all, Colcannon thinks that Paul’s reputation subverted the atheistic Ellul and Badiou. In conscience, I spent very many years not reading Paul on exactly this basis. “My Jesus trumps your Paul” was something I frequently stated. That might be the subject of the chapter “Refusing Paul”, were it not for the fact that this deals with treating Paul AS refuse – after all, that’s what he calls himself in 1 Cor. 4:13; Colcannon fully exposes both the identity of this passage (taken with 1 Phil. 2-3) as a “humble brag”, that he is anticipating a sort of revenge fantasy in a perfected and powerful new body, and the fact that Paul goes on to exclude many members of his communities as not fit, apparently, even to be garbage.

Could Paul’s shit be composted and used, as for instance in Joseph Marchal’s book on Phillippians, in a queer rendering? Well, maybe. I confess to still having misgivings about the whole project: let’s face it, I’m at least as offended by shit as the next 21st century Western European liberal. My tendency is not, like Pasolini, to think there’s a good Paul and a bad Paul, nor is it to seek a kind of consistency in the man. I tend to think that we expect Paul to be someone with a well-developed overall position and a developed theology, whereas I see him as startlingly inconsistent. He is, after all, far more a rhetorician than a theologian (and sometimes a “sophistical rhetorician, inebrted by the exuberance of his own verbosity” as Disraeli said of Gladstone). We must not expect consistency, far less a developed theology such as Karl Barth managed to extract from Romans. Instead, we should notice that Paul said of himself “To the Jews I became like a Jew, to win the Jews. To those under the law I became like one under the law (though I myself am not under the law), so as to win those under the law.” (1 Cor. 9:0). We were warned…

I would unhesitatingly recommend reading Colcannon to anyone who still grapples with Paul and has not consigned him to the refuse-pile or the privy. I have nothing like done justice to his content here, just gleaning the odd shiny bits from the heap of garbage he has assembled from Paul (which is no reflection on Colcannon!). Mostly, he is very readable. Sometimes (as when discussing Badiou or Blanton, who are notoriously difficult to read) he is more difficult, but still illuminates things which I didn’t glean from their works when I read them directly, for which I thank him.


More of the same S4…

Still thinking about my “Paul, the shit sandwich” post, I happened on a podcast episode of The Bible for Normal People featuring Pete Enns and Jared Byass talking about “Respecting the Bible for what it is (and isn’t)” (ep. 207). (No, I didn’t use “S4” to avoid scandalising people, I used it because in the event someone might want to link to it, they may be operating somewhere with a “nanny filter”. I well remember when the Religion Forum acquired a nanny filter, and the howls of outrage from the Judaism section when they got nannied for using the Hebrew word for the first book of the Bible – Bereshit…).

That got me thinking some more about Paul.

Now, I’ve posted before about my attitude to regarding Paul in particular as “the Word of God“. Paul was the main, if not the only, target of that post. However, Pete and Jared spent a little while criticising the attitude of “Progressive Christians” to the authority of scripture, accusing them (and thus, I suppose, me*) of wanting to argue a level of authority for it which their hermaneutic wouldn’t support. After all, Progressive Christians think that the Bible is a human product, very much of its time and place (and, indeed, so do I, as witness my Word of someone post). And so do they, despite mild criticism towards the group into which they clearly fall, at least on some grounds.

At around the 15 minute mark of the podcast, Jared talks about being possibly harder on his progressive (read “liberal”, perhaps) friends than on fundamentalist ones, on the basis that progressives should not, due to their view of scripture, try to ground all their moral decisions in the Bible. But it sounds like not grounding any of their moral views in scripture – and, of course, there’s a huge excluded middle between all and none. The issue there is “is it authoritative?” (OK, totally, somewhat or not at all seem subdivisions there…).

But they are appearing to discount inspiration altogether in what they are saying there. Admittedly, I don’t really mention it in my earlier blog post, but that is from 10 years ago, so maybe my ideas have developed a bit since then, most likely in the face of the repeated quoting at me of 2 Tim. 3:16-17 in a church I attended fror a while (actually, in two at different times). The NIV, rather conventionally, has that passage read “all scripture is God-breathed…” Which might go a little way to their contention that I should treat scripture as, effectively, dictated by God verbatim, were it not for the fact that at the time it was written (probably not by Paul, but that’s an argument I don’t have the equipment to defend thoroughly), only the Hebrew Scriptures were “scripture” in the sense in which we’d understand the term today. Or, at least, for more accuracy, the Septuagint, because that does contain the “apocrypha” i.e. those books of the Septuagint which were composed in Greek and therefore at a later date rejected by Judaism and thus by Protestantism. It’s stretching credulity to believe that it was being self-referential, or that it was meant to include books which weren’t written at the time conservative scholars think 2 Tim was written, i.e. before Paul died, and thus before even the gospel of Mark, and really hard to believe that even Paul was quite so arrogant as to believe his earlier letters were “scripture” – in that sense, at least.

It is, however, a perfectly valid translation of the original Greek to read this as “all God-breathed scripture” or as “all writings…” (as, at the time, “scripture” just meant something written). Conservative friends might concede the first, while suggesting that the communal choice of those works now part of the canon by the early church (not by the Council of Nicaea as is often stated – they merely accepted much of what was already majority view in their bit of the church…) was in itself something “inspired”.

Now, I spent something like 25 years of my life giving audio dictation to typists and secretaries. No-one, I think, who has done this will have any confidence in the idea of a divine dictation of the whole of scripture, and I was particularly concerned that the words typed were the exact words I spoke, being a lawyer (exact choice of words is important in law). Nor does the copying process for copy typists fill me with any more confidence – all such products needed to be checked very carefully for errors, and in any case the evidence is that in the extant early manuscripts there are more textual variations than there are words, so clearly the copying procedure wasn’t checked with the source of inspiration, human or divine.

[This issue of considering something as “authoritative” links, I think, to the veneration of kings and other authority figures and to the hero worship which I mention in my last post, and may go some way to explaining why we put so much work into rehabilitating authors by “chucking out their shit”, disclaiming that it is actually, say, “the true” Paul. Colcannon also cites the example of Valentinius, who deduced that as Jesus was a god-man, he clearly did not shit. Mark 7:15 might indicate otherwise, of course… though I note that Matthew “cleans up” Mark by restricting it to what goes into and comes out of the mouth. (Matt. 15:11)]

Me, I can’t go so far as to say that just because what we now see can’t be regarded as universally inspired, then none of it could remotely possibly be inspired (and that is perforce going to have to include moral inspiration – let’s face it, the Pauline passages I referred to in my earlier “shit” post were largely morally inspiring, irrespective of when (or by whom) they were written. Part of my attitude, I confess, stems from the thinking behind a t-shirt I own, which reads something like “In the beginning God said
, ,
and there was light”
. That, of course, is Maxwell’s equations (or, at least, some of them) governing electromagnetic radiation. And had God indeed said that to the writer of Genesis, sometime around 2000 BCE, they wouldn’t have had any idea what it meant, and even if it had been written down, there’s no way it would have been preserved and edited into the first book of the Bible. Much easier to replace the equations with “let there be light”. You can imagine God speaking, saying “At the beginning of time, I instantiated a set of field relationships in which div B is equal to zero…” and the bronze age individual addressed says “So how can there be a beginning of time, and what do “instantiate”, “field”, “div” and B mean?” And God gives up in disgust on actually explaining how things hang together and goes for something far less accurate but much easier to grasp.

The may be an inspiration there (perhaps), but if there is, it had to be translated, somehow, into language which the inspiree could understand and, in order for it to be transmitted, his listeners or readers could understand. After all, it took until the 1860s for James Clerk Maxwell to come up with those, building on the work of very many generations of brilliant men (and one conjectures women, although their contributions tended not to be recognised or published) before him. How could it possibly have been understood in 1860 BCE?

Things are, from my point of view, not nearly as bleak as they may sound for some inspiration from the distant past, say, for instance, written or dictated by Paul, to still be at least somewhat accurate and useful today (and possibly very insightful and accurate). I work from two facts. Firstly, most of us acknowledge that inspiration does occur to people – artists, musicians, poets, authors, humourists, even scientists (even if we don’t ascribe it to the divine). Many, many people in those fields report that something “just came to them” and felt as if it was from outside them. Maybe it’s God. Maybe it’s from the subconscious, or even a collective unconscious, if there is such a thing.

Secondly, although it is emphatically true that retellers of oral tales and copyists of written ones make frequent errors, some phrases and choices of language or concept make such an impression that they “stick”. For a very mundane example, again from my learning days as a lawyer, I took some instructions for a divorce from a lady. Knowing that the registrar at the local County Court was very straight laced, some of the wording read “He introduced into our sexual practices foreign objects, to wit, candles, candle sticks, beer bottles, milk bottles, screwdriver handles and saw handles…”. I noted two things. Firstly, there were absolutely no mistakes in that petition, and secondly, it more or less stopped the typing pool in its tracks for a good half hour as the typists talked about it. I suspect the words may stick in my readers’ minds as well as those of the typists.

Of course, they can stick for the wrong reason as well as the right one. An element of surprise is often a good thing (“Did he really use the word ‘shit’ in a theological post?”), but there can be the surprise of finding your favoured author has said something frankly horrible as well.

To me, those who say either that all scripture is uniformly inspired and those who insist we treat it all as not inspired are just chickening out of doing the real work of discernment. As Paul says (probably) himself “test everything, hold to what is good” (1 Thess. 5:21). My more conservative friends will accuse me of just taking a “cafeteria” apporoach, keeping what I like and dumping what I don’t, in a dreadful capitulation to the time and place I live in (“the world”, which possibly-Paul enjoins us to shun (Col. 3:2, though there are plenty of more reliably Pauline statements which align – he really isn’t keen on “sarx” i.e. flesh). Not so – some of the passages I remember best and take most to heart are those which I find most difficult – Matt. 5:48, for instance, or Matt. 19:16-22. (I’m no ruler, but by world standards, I have to count as at least fairly rich). I’ve written before about both of those. Or the refrain throughout Jesus’ teachings in favour of non-violence.

There is more. Impressed by complaints about the length of my posts, I’ve cut this one into two sections



* I’m not too comfortable with “Progressive”, because I think it’s an attempt to capture a term which doesn’t always fit in response to the capture, in the USA, of the term “Liberal” by conservatives who have redefined (“captured”) it as, basically, socialism – which they earlier redefined as indistinguishable from communism. Which is, of course, deeply scary. I’m from the UK, and have voted and stood (sometimes successfully) as a candidate first for the Liberal Party and then for the Liberal Democrats following the merger with the Social Democrats. Who were a socialist party. So I’m not scared of either “Liberal” or “Socialist”. Conservatives are often very progressive, even if they regard what they’re doing as an attempt to get back to some (fictional) earlier state, and they’ve coined “Libertarian” to express an attitude which has long been a part of Liberalism writ large. And it’s progressive. (Progress isn’t always in a direction I approve of…)


Individual and collective conversion disorders

Last Wednesday, I took in Jamieson Webster’s seminar at GCAS rather than the afternoon session of Wake. I did the same on Thursday, and then took in Barry Taylor’s session on Friday morning, as Wake had finished on Thursday evening.

(It finished with a pub crawl for which I managed an “Irish goodbye”, i.e. never got to the first pub, but without announcing that to more than one or two – and I apologise to anyone who would have liked me to buttonhole them and say “goodbye” properly, but pubs are absolutely not my thing, particularly when they’re full to the gills with a sudden influx of 40-odd extra people – I’d been pushing the envelope of my anxiety disorder all week, but only for things I really wanted to go to – and that didn’t include watching other people drink while not being able to hear myself think).

Jamieson Webster is a practising psychoanalyst and teacher of psychoanalysis with a string of books to her credit, including “Conversion Disorder” about which I wrote a couple of years ago. She talks about Freud and Lacan in a way which actually manages to make me think I might want to read a bit of those two thinkers, which is an achievement. I’m a novice to psychoanalysis, which is virtually the only psychological therapy I’ve no experience of at all, but have been getting the idea over the last few years that I should get to know more – after all, both Freud and Lacan feature large in the works of Slavoj Zizek, Todd McGowan and Peter Rollins, all of whom I have a lot of respect for (even if, in the case of Pete, I disagree with him a huge proportion of the time these days – not least because of his use of Lacan). Zizek talks very engagingly, but his writing I find mostly impenetrable, Mc Gowan also talks well, and his books are slightly more accessible but I still find very many points of disagreement, and Pete talks wonderfully well, his books are pretty accessible, but that merely enables me to disagree with him more easily without fearing too much that I’ve totally misunderstood him. Yes, I tried reading a little Freud way back when, and found his ideas difficult-to-impossible to agree with. Lacan, I don’t dare trying to read without a “native guide”!

So, some of the Wednesday session involved her talking of conversion, not merely conversion disorder. I noticed that she had in mind something very like the modern idea of conversion, which is very much an individual matter (it is also that in the very fine book “Paul, the Convert” by Alan E. Segal). But that got me thinking. Early Christianity, at the very least, often aimed to convert by dint of approaching the king or other leader and converting them on an individual basis, but then counting the whole nation as being converted. This seems to have been the general case, at least until Christianity hit the jackpot and managed to convert Constantine (and the Empire broadly followed, largely due to more and more preferential treatment of Christians and less and less kindness towards other religions). Indeed, there were places where Christian missionaries came into direct conflict with Jews seeking to spread Judaism in a similar way. Judaism managed to convert Helena of Adiabene inaround 30 CE (before there were Christians to mount an opposing bid) and Judaism is generally thought to have gained the Khazars sometime between 740 and 920 CE, very possibly in competition with Christian missionaries. The conversion of the Germanic and northern European peoples was fairly typical.

Now, to my 21st century Western European, enlightenment-oriented, religiously pluralist eyes, the idea that you might adopt the religion of your leader, just because it’s their religion, seems very strange. (In passing, I’m not 100% confident that the same goes for Americans generally. It probably does for the “liberal elites”, who are broadly Western European in oiutlook, even though they’re substantially more politically conservative than I’d expect an otherwise similar European individual to be, but I do note that the US is yet to elect as president anyone who is not avowedly Christian…) We tend to think that if there’s a mass conversion, it must be under duress. However, I thought, that isn’t the way Iron Age people (i.e. those of the first centuries CE) or mediaevals tended to see things, even up to the dawn of the enlightenment. Their idea of leadership meant that the king was the incarnation, in a way, of the people as a whole. You got rid of the king/leader and the whole nation or tribe tended to crumble (as happened with the Mongols when the great khan Ogadei died,  anld with the Huns on the death of Attila). They were far more communitarian, in a hierarchical way – in a sense which was, I think, very real to them, you were represented by the king, and the king was a part of you, a part of your identity. Biblically, of course, the Hebrews had a strong tendency in that direction until the fall of the monarchy – we can recall the pleas of the Israelites to be granted a king, against the wishes of their prophets for the most part (and one has to suspect that those prophets did not want to be supplanted as a kind of theocratic king-equivalent). Daniel 10:13 talks of the “Prince of Persia” opposing what we tend to characterise as an angel serving the God of Israel, but which might just be closer to actually being that God than we like to think, and it is clear that the Prince of Persia is thought of as a spiritual entity which, on the supernatural plane, can frustrate the intentions of YHVH. Thus, kings were thought of as spiritual, as encapsulating the spirit of the nation.

In a very similar way, tribal or family leaders represented and incarnated the people who followed them. Abraham, for instance, was to be blessed with countless descendants, even if he didn’t live to see them spread over the earth himself. Many of us these days are not so focused on propagating our genome as to find having masses of descendants something particularly comforting or rewarding. And, of course, this meant that the leader, whether of family, tribe or nation, should have unquestioning obedience (in Jonathan Haidt’s moral foundations theory, one can see that all of the “binding cluster” of loyalty, authority and sanctity are at work there; it was therefore a fundamentally conservative outlook, and again I wonder whether those on the political right, particularly in the USA, can better understand this mechanic than we liberals, who tend to focus more on the “induvidualising cluster” of care and fairness ). This positioning of the King as the “spirit of the nation” may go a long way towards understanding the divinisation of Alexander the Great and then of multiple Roman emperors; the cult of the emperor was the cult of the nation, hence the persecution of Jews and then Christians, because as monotheists they had to deny the cult of the emperor, and so were traitors. (The same mechanic applied to the much later persecution of Catholics and, briefly, Protestants in England in the 16th and 17th centuries particularly).

In Northern Europe, the conversion of the Saxons was by force after Charlemagne conquered them, but that of the Anglo-Saxons and Celts in the British Isles was more along modern individual lines, although there may have been some “follow the leader” going on, as they were very much “top down”, gradual conversions. The Franks largely followed their king, as did the Vandals and some of the Goths. The rather weaker penetration of Christianity in Mesapotamia and points east may be because missionaries failed to convert ruling houses (which frequently had identities tied up with local religions). In Georgia, Armenia and Ethiopia, the kings forced their subjects, but otherwise alternative mechanics seem to have been in play . The Roman empire, of course, was a case of individual conversion for some years, then a massive increase under the “follow the king” principle (or Emperor in that case) and afterwards increasingly by force, even if for some time that was more economic force than physical. This may equally go some way to explaining the rapid spread of Islam through the lands formerly part of the Eastern Roman Empire (and some of the Western) – they fell out of the rule of the Emperor, and thus the Emperor’s cult, which was now Christianity, became far less attractive. It would seem that contrary to widespread popular opinion, there was not much forced conversion in the earlier days of Islam, ᵈ  and the force later used was chiefly economic (you were taxed more as a non-Muslim in most Islamic countries).

This third mechanism of conversion I put forward tentatively, as it is my own idea and not one I’ve seen in any literature. Mass conversion without obvious force was, however, definitely a phenomenon, whatever the explanation. Even if we tend now not to invest a substantial amount of our identity in our leaders (although I will say that I am well able to be embarrassed by our current leader in the UK, and aware that non-UK citizens tend to think he’s emblematic of all the citizens), the phenomenon of hero-worship is alive and well and explains a lot of the aping of famous people and the level of disillusion when they turn out to have feet of clay. Johnny Depp springs to mind as the currently controversial example of this (I note replaced as Grindlewald in the most recent Harry Potter film by Mads Mikkelsen, raising the issue of “is he a less good actor because his private life is a mess?”).

All of the above is about conversion, not conversion disorder (and, indeed, Jamieson talked more about conversion than conversion disorder at that point). From the link, conversion disorder arises from a stressful situation, and involves “blindness, paralysis, or other nervous system (neurologic) symptoms that cannot be explained by medical evaluation”. We can obviously think of Paul’s blindness here, and of the physical ills reported by very many mystics (including, I suspect, stigmata). Can we, however, talk of conversion disorder in relation to a group, tribe or nation: doesn’t that argue that one could talk of the mind of a nation, and perhaps subject that to psychoanalysis or other psychological therapies?

Well, something looking a lot like conversion disorder does seem to play a part in many instances (perhaps all) of mass hysteria. That thought, during the talk, reminded me of the theme I see in Zizek, in Todd McGowan and in Peter Rollins, which seems to argue that psychoanalysis (particularly of the Lacanian variety) can be used on a group, tibe, civilisation, even a society of many nations (such as the current Western paradigm of financialised free market-ish capitalism). Now, I’m very keen on the idea of finding solutions to the problem of financialised free market capitalism, which I’ve elsewhere described as the System of Satan. Which post was, I suppose, my small contribution to trying to see the system as it is, from a Christian perspective. I saw no solutions there, however, aside trying to convince a decent slice of Christianity that this system is fundamentally a bad one. Other avenues are warmly appreciated…

But can you psychoanalyse the whole society? Psychoanalysis, after all, depends on the construction (generally through the development) of human mental patterns in an individual, not in a group of people. Yes, there is talk of mob psychology, but is that really a psychology, or some parapsychological phenomenon which may involve individual minds but, as with most emergent phenomena, can’t be explained at the level of the individual? Freud (from the link) thought that crowd behaviour stemmed from the unocking of the unconscious mind of the crowd, and the replacement of the individual superego by a charismatic crowd leader. I’m not wholly sure I buy that theory, given that leadership of a crowd only rests with the charismatic one as long as the leader goes in something like the direction the crowd wants, and if they don’t, they are apt to be trampled by it as it seems to take on a character unmediated by any superego-substitute.   It may be, however, that this effect is equivalent to a weakening of any superego effect similar to that postulated in delinquency, and certainly out-of-control crowds tend to be very delinquent. I postulate that the same mechanism might well be at work in law-enforcement personnel who are tasked with controlling the situation: certainly there seems a strong tendency for otherwise fairly responsible people on both sides of these conflicts to behave in ways they wouldn’t otherwise contemplate, and there is probably a massive contribution from how terrified they are – I suffer from an anxiety disorder, and I can note how, if I am sufficiently anxious or scared, I lose several levels of consciousness, become much more stupid than I normally am and am prone to “4 F’s” behaviour which stems from a pre-conscious level of functioning. 

Many years ago, I nursed for a while an idea that societies of people went through stages of maturation similar to those in individuals. At the time, I was focused mainly on late childhood and early adolescence. I thought, for instance, that 16th and 17th century England displayed characteristics similar to those of adolescents, while the USA was only displaying similar characteristics in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Mediaeval England, on the other hand, bore some resemblance to the “might makes right” dynamics of a school playground between (say) the age of 9 and the onset of adolescence. I didn’t take that thinking any further. However, I’m now wondering if the “follow the leader” dynamic I talk of above in relation to conversion might link with the infantile stages where the individual is not yet truly separate from the parent, the “parent” in these cases being the leader, who could have a psychology which was broadly speaking at any developmental level, likely closer to a parental than an infantile one (although, looking at some recent leaders, I’m not so certain about that).

If that were the case, if might conceivably be that the founding of much of psychoanalysis in childhood experiences just might be replicated in societies, and that would lead to some very interesting possibilities. One avenue of research I can immediately think of would be a minute analysis of multiple bodycam footages from such an event, provided it were one which got somewhat out of control. But this is emphatically not within my areas of expertise, having no academic background in psychology, psychoanalysis or sociology… I’d love to see someone work on it, and their results, though!


Haidt is somewhat conservatively oriented, and considers that liberals neglect the binding cluster in favour of the individualising cluster, while (for him) conservatives treat them all equally. Personally I identify as thoroughly liberal, but I find those in my area of the political spectrum do recognise and have regard to the binding cluster, although we tend not to want to sacrifice the individualising cluster, while I see many conservatives as neglecting the individualising cluster in favour of the binding cluster, so that individual values always take second place to binding ones.
ᵇ There is a good overview of Christian conversions on Wikipedia
Wikipedia also talks of this process.
ᵉ It is not, I think, the case that all mystics have such symptoms, as some people seem to want to suggest, but it is very common in the accounts of Christian mystics of the middle ages and later.
ᶠ This might correspond to the “Emergent Norm theory” in the article on crowd psychology. I rather discount the convergence and social identity theories as grounding this behaviour, as they would tend to operate contrary to the descent into a “lower form” of thinking. There might, of course, be some aid in Jung’s “collective unconscious” thinking, if only there were some believable mechanism for that to come about. Mere meme and/or imitation would not seem to me to do the job, given (in particular) that both are nearer the conscious than I think such a mechanism would need to be.
ᵍ  I remarked in a previous post on the aftermath of the George Floyd shooting how people who were scared enough do stupid things, in paarticular reference to policemen.