View Full Version : Mental Health versus Mysticism and self-Sacrifice

06-21-2008, 07:35 AM
The standard of mental health---of biologically appropriate mental functioning---is the same as that of physical health: man's survival and well-being. A mind is healthy to the extent that its method of functioning is such as to provide man with the control over reality that the support and furtherance of his life requires.

The halmark of his control is self-esteem. Self-esteem is the consequence, expression and reward of a mind fully committed to reason. Reason, the faculty that identifies and integrates the material provided by the sense, is man's basic tool of survival. Commitment to reason is committment to the maintenance of a full intellectual focus, to the constant expansion of one's understanding and knowledge, to the principle that one's action must be consistent with one's conviction, that one must never attempt to fake reality or place any consideration above reality, that one must never permit oneself contradicition---that one must never attempt to subvert or sabotage the proper function of consciousness.

The proper function of consciousness is : perception, cognition and the control of action.

An unobstructed consciousness, an integrated consciousness, a thinking consciousness, is a healthy consciousness. A blocked consciousness, an evading consciousness, a consciousness torn by conflict and divided againts itself, a consciousness disintegrated by fear or immobilized by depression, a consciouness dissociated from reality, is an unhealthy consciousness.

In order to deal with reality successfully---to pursue and achieve the values which his life requires---man needs self-esteem: he needs to be confident of his efficacy and worth.

Anxiety and guilt, the antipode of self-esteem and the insignia of mental illness, are the disintegrators of thought, the distorters of values and the paralyzers of action.

When a man of self-esteem chooses his values and sets his goals, when he projects the long-range purposes that will unify and guide his actions---it is like a bridge thrown to the future, across which his life will pass, a bridge supported by the conviction that his mind is competent to think, to judge, to value, and that he is worhty of enjoying values.

The sense of control over relity is not the result of special skills, ability or knowledge. It is not dependent on particular success or failures. It reflects one's fundamental relationship to reality, one's conviction of fundamental efficacy and worthiness. It reflects the certainty that, in essence and in principle, one is right for reality. Self-esteem is a metaphysical estimate.

It is this psychological state that traditional morality makes impossible, to the extent that a man accepts it.

Neither mysticism nor the creed of self-sacrifice is compatible with mental health or self-esteem. These doctrines are destructive existentially and psychologically.

(1) The maintenance of his life and the achievement of self-esteem require of man the fullest exercise of his reason--but morality, men are taught, rest on and requires faith.

Faith is the committment of one's consciousness to beliefs for which one has no sensory evidence or rational proof.

When a man rejects reason as his standard of judgement, only one alternative standard remains to him: his feelings. A mystic is a man who treats his feelings as tools of cognition. Faith is the equation of feeling with knowledge.

To practice the "virtue" of faith, one must be willing to suspend one's sight and one's judgment; one must be willing to live with the unintelligible, with that which cannot be conceptualized or integrated into the rest of one's knowledge, and to induce a trancelike illusion of understanding. One must be willing to repress one's critical faculty and hold it as one's guilt; one must be willing to drown any question that rise in protest--to strangle any thrust of reason, convulsively seeking to assert its proper function as the protector of one's life and cognitive integrity.

Remember that all of man's knowledge and all his concepts have a hierarchical structure. The foundation and starting point of man's thinking are his sensory perceptions; on this base, man forms his first concepts, then goes on building the edifice of his knowledge by identifying and integrating new concepts on a wider and wider scale. If man's thinking is to be valid, this process must be guided by logic. "the art of non-contradictory identification"--and any new concept man forms must be integrated without contradiction into the hierarchical structure of his knowledge. To introduce into one's consciousness any idea that cannot be so integrated, an idea not derived from reality, not validated by a process of reason, not subject to rational examination or judgment---and worse: an idea that clashes with the rest of one's concepts and understanding of reality---is to sabotage the integrative function of consciousness, to undercut the rest of one's convictions and kill one's capacity to be certain of anything. This is the meaning of John Galt's statement in Atlas Shrugged that "the alleged shortcut to knowledge, which is faith, is only a short circuit destroying the mind."

There is no greater self-delusion than to imagine that one can render unto reason that which is reason's and unto faith that which is faith's. Faith cannot be circumscribed or delimited; to surrender one's consciousness by an inch, is to surrender one's consciousness in total. Either reason is an absolute to a mind or it is not---and if it is not, there is no place to draw the line, no principle by which to draw it, no barricade faith cannot cross, no part of one's life faith cannot invade: one remians rational until and unless one's feelings decree otherwise.

Faith is a malignancy that no system can tolerate with impunity; and the man who succumbs to it, will call on it in precisely those issues where he needs his reason most. When one turns from reason to faith, when one rejects the absolutism of reality, one undercuts the absolutism of one's consciousness---and one's mind becomes an organ one cannot trust any longer. It becomes what the mystics claim it to be: a tool of distortion.

(2) Man's need of self-esteem entails the need for a sense of control over reality---but no control is possible in a universe which, by one's own concession, contains the supernatural, the miraculous and the causeless, a universe in which one is at mercy of ghosts and demons, in which one must deal, not with the unknown, but with the unknowable; no control is possible if man proposes, but a ghost disposes; no control is possible if the universe is a haunted house.

(3) His life and self-esteem require that the object and concern of man's consciousness be reality and this earth---but morality, men are taught, consists of scorning this earth and the world available to sensory perception, and of contemplating, instead, a "different" and "higher" reality, a reality inaccessible to reason and incommunicable in language, but attainable by revelation, by special dialectical processess, by that superior state of intellectual lucidity known to "Zen-Buddhist as "No-Mind," or by death.

There is only one reality---the reality knowable to reason. And if man does not choose to perceive it, there is nothing else for him to perceive; if it is not of this world that he is conscious, then he is not conscious at all.

The sole result of the mystic projection of "another" reality, is that it incapacitates man psychologically for this one. It was not by contemplating the transcendental, the ineffable, the undefinable---it was not by contemplating the nonexistent---that man lifted himself from the cave and transformed the material world to make a human existence possible on earth. If it is virtue to renounce one's mind, but a sin to use it; if it is a virtue to approximate the mental state of a schizophrenic, but a sin to be intellectual focus; if it is a virtue to denounce this earth, but a sin to make it livable; if it is a virtue to mortify the flesh, but a sin to work and act; if it is a virtue to despise life, but a sin to sustain and enjoy it---then no self-esteem or control or efficacy are possible to man, nothing is possible to him but the guilt and terror of a wretch caught in a nightmare universe, a universe created by some metaphysical sadist who has cast man into a maze where the door marked "virture" leads to self-destruction and the door marked "efficacy' leads to self-damnation.

(4) His life and self-esteem require that man take pride in his power to think, pride in his power to live---but morality, men are taught, holds pride, and specfically intellectual pride, as the gravest of sins. Virtue begins, men are taught, with humility; with the recognition of the helplessness, the smallness, the impotence of one's mind.

Is man omniscient?---demand the mystics. Is he infallible? Then how dare he challenge the word of God, or of God's representatives, and set himself up as the judge of---anything?

Intellectual pride is not--as the mystics preposterously imply it to be---a pretense at omniscience or infallibility. On the contrary, precisely because man must struggle for knowledge, precisley because the pursuit of knowledge requires an effort, the men who assume this responsibility properly feel pride.

Sometimes, colloguially, pride is taken to mean a pretense at accomplishments one has not in fact achieved. But the braggart, the boaster, the man who affects virtues he does not possess, is not proud; he has merely chosen the most humiliating way to reveal his humility.

Pride is one's response to one's power to achieve values, the pleasure one takes in one's own efficacy. And it is this that mystics hold as evil.

But if doubt, not confidence, is man's proper moral state; if self-distrust, not self-reliance, is the proof of his virtue; if fear, not self-esteem, is the mark of perfection; if guilt, not pride,is his goal---then mental illness is a moral ideal, the neurotics and psychotics are the highest exponents of morality, and the thinkers, the achievers, are the sinners, those who are too corrupt and too arrogant to seek virtue and psychological well-being through the belief that they are unfit to exist.

Humility is, of necessity, the basic virtue of a mystical morality; it is the only virtue possible to men who have renounce the mind.

Pride has to be earned; it is the reward of effort and achievement; but to gain the virtue of humility, one has only to abstain from thinking---nothing else is demanded--and one will feel humble quickly enough.

(5) His life and self-esteem require man loyalty to his values, loyalty to his mind and its jugments, loyalty to his life---but the essence of morality, men are taught, consists of self-sacrifice: the sacrifice of one's mind to some higher authority, and the sacrifice of one's values to whoever may claim to require it.

It is not necessary, in this context, to analyze the almost countless evils entailed by the precepts of self-sacrifice. Its irrationality and destructiveness have been thoroughly exposed in Atlas Shrugged. But there are two aspects of the issue that are especially pertinent to the subject of mental health.

The first is the fact that self-sacrifice means--and can only meand---mind sacrifice.

A sacrifice, it is necessary to remember, means the surrender of a higher value in favor of a lower value or of a nonvalue. If one gives up that which one does not value in order to obtain that which one does value--or if one gives up a lesser vaue in order to obtain a greater one---this is not a sacrifice, but a gain.

Remember further that all of a man's value exist in a hierrachy; he values some things more than others; and, to the extent that he is rational, the hierarchical order of his values is rational: that is, he values things in proportion to their importance in serving his life and well-being. That which inimical to his nature and needs as a living being, he disvalue.

Conversely, one of the characteristics of mental illness is a distorted value structure; the neurotic does not value things according to their objective merit, in relation to his nature and needs; he frequently values the very things that will lead him to self-destruction. Judged by objective standards, he is engaged in a chronic process of self-sacrifice.

But if sacrifice is a virtue, it is not the neurotic but the rational man who must be "cured." He must learn to do violence to his own rational judgment--to reverse the order of his value hierarchy---to surrender that which his mind has chosen as the good--to turn against and invalidate his own consciousness.

Do mystics declare that all they demand of man is that he sacrifice his happiness? To sacrifice one's happiness is to sacrifice one's desire; to sacrifice one's desire is to sacrifice one's value; to sacrifice one's value is to sacrifice one's judgment; to sacrifice one's judgment is to sacrifice one's mind---and it is nothing less than this that the creed of self-sacrifice aims at and demands.

The root of selfishness is man's right--and need---to act on his own judgment. If his judgment is to be an object of sacrifice---what sort of efficacy, control, freedom from conflict, or serenity of spirit will be possible to man?

The second aspect that is pertinent here, involves not only the creed of self-sacrifice but all the foregoing tenets of traditional morality.

An irrational morality, a morality set in opposition to man's nature, to the facts of reality and to the requirements of man's survival, necessarily forces men to accept the belief that there is an inevitable clash between the moral and the practical---that they must choose either to be virtue or to be happy, to be idealistic or to be successful, but they cannot be both. This view establishes a disastrous conflict on the deepest level of man's being, a lethal dichotomy that tears man apart: it forces him to choose between making himself able to live and making himself wothy of living. Yet self-esteem and mental health require that he achieve both.

If man holds life on earh as the good, if he judges his values by the standard of that which is proper to the exitence of a rational being, then there is no clash between the requirements of survival and of morality---no clash between making himself able to live and making himself wothy of living; he achieves the second by achieving the first. But there is clash, if man holds the renunciation of this earth as the good, the renunciation of life, of mind, of happiness, of self. Under an anti-life morality, man makes himself worthy of living to the extent that he makes himself unable to live---and to the extent that he makes himself able to live, he makes himself unworthy of living.

The answer given by many defenders of traditional morality is: " Oh, but people don't have to go to extremes!"---meaning: "We don't expect people to be fully moral. We expect them to smuggle some self-interest into their lives. We recognize that people have to live after all."

The defense, then, of this code of morality is that few people will be suicidal enought to attempt to pracice it consistently. Hypocrisy is to be man's protector against his professed moral convictions. What does that do to his self-esteem?

And what of the victims who are insufficiently hypocritical?

What of the child who withdraw in terror into an autistic universe because he cannot cope with the ravings of parents who tell him that he is guilty by nature, that his body is evil, that thinking is sinful, that question-asking is blasphemous, that doubting is depravity, and that he must obey the orders of a supernatural ghost because, if he doesn't, he will burn forever in hell?

Or a daughter who collapses in guilt over the sin of not wanting to devote her life to caring for the ailing father who has given her cause to feel only hatred?

Or the adolescent who flees into homosexualiyt because he has been taught that sex is evil and that women are to be worshiped, but not desired?

Or the businessman who suffers an anxiety attack because after years of being urged to be thrifty and industrious, he has finally committed the sin of succeeding, and is now told that it shall be easier for the camel to pass through the eye of a needle that for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven?
Or the neurotic who, in hopeless despair, gives up the attempt to solve his problems because he has always heard it preached that this earth is a realm of misery, futility and doom, where no happiness or fulfillment is possible to man?

If the advocates of those doctrines bear a grave moral responsibility, there is a group who, perhaps, bears a grave responsibility still: the psychologist and psychiatrist who see the human wreckage of these doctrines, but who remain silent and do not protest---who declare that philosophical and moral issues do not concern them, that science cannot pronounce value judgments--who shrug off their professional obligations with the assertion that a rational code morality is impossible, and, by their silence, lend their sanction to spiritual murder.

By Nathaniel Branden

07-20-2008, 06:45 AM
read and study this article. Have a hard copy of it to read at your convenient time.

11-17-2009, 02:17 AM
as far as i knw its the Arts Trust - i think they just do ther own thing and take the money iv seen some of a the arts they sometimes produce - think its much on the line of what a pree school child could do - but they charge lots of money for it.