Reply To: UFO: A Living Myth of Transformation,” with mythologist Norland Têllez”
I’m so glad you could be part of this amazing COHO. I certainly know how busy you are responding to your own mythblast’s COHOs. Thank you so much for sharing your work on the mythology of belief for it brings us back to Jung’s own realization of the “moral of this story”: that belief in UFOs was in perfect agreement with the status quo. He realized that the way in which a belief functions is just as important as the content of belief itself.
This is the more critical component of my piece as well: to call our attention to the way belief in UFOs functions within our dominant ideological framework. So I wrote in my mythblast:
As Jung elaborates further, the need to believe in UFOs, quite apart from the question of their objective presence, indicates a certain degree of collective psychic suffering. It is the “heavenly sign” of a “psychic dissociation” which points to the general “split between the conscious attitude and the unconscious contents opposed to it.” (CW10: ¶591) Campbell himself called this psychic split a mythic dissociation, as we read with emphasis in Creative Mythology:
The Christian is taught that divinity is transcendent: not within himself and his world, but “out there.” I call this mythic dissociation. (528) […]
This split in the collective psyche is the effect of a certain ideological fantasy imposing itself, cutting and dividing the paradoxical totality of the logos of the psyche.
I love the way you focus the mythology of belief on the sad cases of MIA, on that strong conviction that they might still be alive, that they must be “out there,” despite evidence to the contrary. And as you point out, there is a certain counter-factual element that attaches to both belief and faith. This conter-factualism, however, appears very different in belief than it does in faith.
I know, Dennis, that you are not unfamiliar with Kierkegaard on this subject and I would be taking my point of departure from his use of dialectical negativity, which he learned from Hegel, in his characterization of faith. We also remember to what extent Søren began his philosophical journey through an examination of Socratic negativity as manifested in socratic irony.
The thing with belief, on the other hand, as you pointed out with respect to the desire— or wish to fulfill a dream— is its positivistic character, or what Hillman would have called its “literalism.” Whereas faith is fundamentally “negative” in terms of basing itself on “an objective uncertainty,” thus remaining open to the infinite, belief is “positive” in the sense that it attaches itself on the certainty of a finite object, making itself act “as if” it had an objective guarantee. That is why at a certain point of examining the nature of belief, it becomes indistinguishable from examining a structure of make-belief. Let this structure of make-belief be the watchword for this brief, as it is based on the well-worn Pascalian insight that when you lack the real thing to start with, as will be the case with most, you have but one option: you fake it until you make it.
I don’t mean to disparage this Pascalian wager, which could be corroborated even by the good work of AA, and which may lead people into finding authentic faith.
And we also have another word for this entire sphere of believe/make-believe, including all its pseudo-philosophical and mythic cores: ideology. Let us not forget that ideology is not always a type of rationalistic creed but always contains an “irrational” or sublime mythic core. A transcendent-archetypal object lies embedded in the matrix of ideology which indeed constitutes its fundamental appeal to the “hearts and mind of the people.”
In addition to the complex nature of ideology, we should note that there are essentially two modes of manifestation: one conscious and the other not. For there is often a vast difference between what someone may say they believe in, what they pay lip-service to, and they actually believe in terms of their existential behavior. One is a set of avowed beliefs the other a vast shadow of disavowed beliefs. The latter take the form of material and institutional forms and are very much part of an “objective psyche.” Even though disavowed beliefs are happening under the light of day, they are nevertheless “unconscious” to the individual in question as to large swabs of the population who denies the actual ideological framework in which their actions do “make sense.”
Of course, politicians are prime examples of the kind of discrepancy and yawning chasm that separates what someone says they believe in and what their actions betray to be their actual belief. The latter is a material-existential fact, the former a respectable flatus vocis.
Needless to say, it is this unconscious nature of the mythology of belief, the psychic-material aspect, that cuts the deepest. Although we are used to thinking only of the former as ideology, that ideology only means the realm of avowed beliefs, it is really the latter, the realm of disavowed beliefs, that constitutes the object of a fundamental critique of ideology.