Sunday, June 01, 2008

"The Murder of Christ" by Wilhelm Reich continues to be great

The book was Reich's last, was published in '52, and was written in English. It presents Reich's most mature thoughts on the psychological and energetic issues that he had devoted his life to studying. The Christ part is extremely loosely constructed, but done so in a very illuminating way. It's not so much the archetype of Christ himself as the Murder that takes up the main focus of the book, which I'm still working on. The premise is that the figure of Christ represents man in his natural state in relation to nature and in relation to his own psychological and sexual being. He's sort of a free being who just exists, who hasn't been limited by the oppressive structures that surround him, and therefore is looked on as some sort of a god by his followers. He doesn't ask to be followed, but they come, and instead of trying to realize the sort of truths he talks about through a change in their character structure in order to be less armored and more able to freely express the psychological life force, which has sexual and non-sexual aspects. Their eventual frustration with not being presented with a leader who will do their thinking for them leads at once to an objectification of him as a mystic symbol and also a desire to dispose of the actual person, because in him they see their inability to change themselves, they see the state that they want to be in but can't get to. So they simultaneously love and hate Christ. They love the sort of freedom and inner peace that seems to be with him but they hate him in that the thing that implicitly would let them become like him is the one thing that they're not willing to do: work on their own repressions and self hatreds that make up most of their lives.

In terms of what genitality and the genital embrace mean Reich throws new insight into it in this work. First of all, genitality is a term from psychotherapy referring to the final stage of psycho-sexual maturity, that starts with puberty. The Genital Embrace, then means the expression of sexuality between two people in a non-repressed genital state culminating in sex,

He refers to healthy versus unhealthy sexual expression in terms that while obscure in that they're from the '50s can be translated into today's terms. As it applies to men, you could contrast the attitudes towards healthy and unhealthy sexual expression by the praise of conquests by men and the view of love as being due to weakness. Conquests are great, but healthy expression of emotion, which can be extraordinarily passionate, is viewed as being trapped by a woman or as becoming effeminate yourself. The first sort of expression of sexuality is labelled exploitative and as the expression of power over and domination of women, while the second sort is established on the basis of health and equality. Reich expands the idea of the genital embrace to mean the entire process leading up to, culminating in, and following sex, that involves the movement of emotion and physical energy fighting against character armoring, overcoming it, leading to a passionate relationship that has a decent follow through.

This is seen as the natural cycle of things, something that may lead to an extended relationship or just to nice friendships, a potential that's contained within human biology as living animals but that has been thwarted and repressed by an people of hundreds of years of passed on abuse known as the Emotional Plague and the social structures that support and depend on it.

The Emotional Plague comes out as a product of collected traumas and abusive behaviors that have been accumulated and passed down through the generations that encourage both self hatred and the will to dominate others. The trauma creates character armor that exists to protect the inner self, where the organic, healthy, core still exists, from the outside world. The character armor, in turn, leads to the formation of a relatively mechanized or dehumanized outer shell, depending on how deep it is, that lays on top of the normal desires turned into hatred and violent reactions due to the passing on of conditioning coming from the Emotional Plague. The core still exists, but people have work through both the shell and the secondary layer to be able to connect what they feel in their innermost selves with their normal, everyday, average functioning, not only in relation to people you care about and people who are your friends but in relation to people in general.

The Emotional Plague also reinforces a static and circumscribed way of life, one that causes people to renounce their desires and settle for the status quo as if this is everything that's ever existed and is the only reality that can exist for them. Sometimes this 'putting them in their place' is done rather violently*. In either case, the Emotional Plague reinforces the social structure through a type of power abuse and domination in relation to what people think is possible. This is why Reich during the book argues that true social change has to be prefaced by a break down of the consequences of the Emotional Plague, because without being able to question power and to assert yourself against authority it's hard to move onto the greater changing of societal structures. If you can murder people's dreams when they're young it's easier to prevent them from trying to shake up the whole class system, and capitalism in general. Interestingly enough, the movie "Z" by Costa-Garvas, about the overthrow of democracy in Greece by the Colonels, starts out with an informal military meeting, supposedly about tending vineyards, where they say that for the health of the 'plant' there has to be inoculations at 18, 21, and 24 years (I think the last one was 24), or else the 'plant' has more of a chance of coming out wrong and possibly infecting surrounding plants with his ideas.


*on edit: they don't use the phrase 'putting someone in their place' in the U.S. Instead, they call the people trouble makers or juvenile delinquents and do whatever they can to ensure that they don't advance any farther in the social system, through going to college for instance, than where they're at. Of course, if you're rich and a so-called trouble maker you can be the biggest fuck up the world has ever seen and get into a good college and make good money. It's a little different if you don't have that going for you. In fact, if you're rich or well off in the U.S. people, schools included, tend to close ranks around you so that you don't face the possibility of not going to college, which would be seen as a shameful thing for a young well off person to do.

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