Another Religion class. Title taken from that Gorillaz song “Kids with Guns”
June 28th, 2005
Kids with Guns
The movie “The Followers” proves, from a Freudian point of view, that the followers of the Krishna Kahn way of life promote living in an infantile, immature, and unrealistic way. Infantile in that Krishna Kahn, like all religions, “builds on and reinforces the child’s dependence on an all-powerful father”; in this case Krishna – a lesser god who emanates from the Supreme Brahman in the Hindu religion (Jones 65). Freud would see this dependency as immature because in his mind an individual’s life should be focused on working their way out of their narcississtic tendancies; becoming strong, independent, and clear-thinking. When one is caught up in the ways of religion they tend to stay in their infantile and immature mindset; remaining the child who is absolutely dependent on the idealized father. Lastly, he would say following the teachings of Krishna – or any religion – and hoping for salvation or any kind of positive change through adherence and practice of tha religion’s rules is an unrealistic undertaking because it is all based on fictional stories, myths, and parables. Fictions that claim some fantastical story like the god Vishnu being incarnated on earth in the form of a heroic man (Krishna); or in Christianity, God becoming flesh in the form of the rebellious Jesus Christ. Freud says stories such as these appeal to people because they were constructed to breed “fulfillments of the oldest, strongest, and most urgent wishes of mankind” (Jones 16). Wishes that hope for the actualization of the illusionary realities these religions put forth. Freud ascribes three functions to religion which he claims were “all derived from human wishes”:
First, civilization is a dominant source of human misery because of its imposition of instinctual controls. The rational person accepts this misery as the price paid for the advantages of culture. The immature demands to be rewarded in the imaginary, heavenly realm of eternal, narcissistic bliss that religion supplies. Second, science shows us that nature is impersonal, mechanical, uncaring. The adult accepts these objective facts and learns to live with the reality that his or her life, like all of nature, is meaningless and purposeless. The infantile flee from this assault on their narcissism into the illusion that a warm and caring God stands behind the impersonal facade of nature. Third, the greatest cruelty of fate is the finality of death. The realistic and rational person resigns him or herself to life’s transistoriness. The narcissistically inclined cannot accept that life is temporary and so cling to the illusion of life after death. Religion, then, appeals to and reinforces our narcissistic inclinations… Anything remotely analogous to primary narcissism must, of necessity, be discredited. No leniency is allowed when it comes to infantile wishes. Even more liberal or intellectual religious beliefs are impossible ‘so long as they try to presereve anything of the consolation of religion’. Any hint of consolation must be denied.(Jones 16)
It is not easy to agree with Freud’s logic, but one cannot deny that it can at times seems quite infallible. Life is irrefutably a mixture of ups and downs, satisfactions and disappointments; ostensibly good and evil. Furthermore, science has been known to break the world’s miracles down into understandable equations of constants and variables. However, many things have yet to be described by science, and yet still, the things that have been described are so fantastical in design – the human genonme for instance – that their very existence only gives strength to illusionary beliefs in a grand-designer or God. Freud’s stance on “the finality of death”, though just as much an assumption as the religious belief that life continues, does prove how desperate humankind is when it comes to trying to define an existence without any obvious purpose. Our attempts thus far to justify life are simple comforts and consolations used to fill that void common to all humans; namely our inquisitve nature. Since the beginnings of the human intellect, we have tried with a voracious appetite to gain knowledge of our surroundings so as to give importance to the world we live in. Freud understood this, and does not blame or condemn humankind for doing so as it is just another of those eventual evolutionary steps that we must undergo. What he did disagree with was continued endorsement of illusionary belief in the man-made stories of religion. He wished for humankind to move beyond this obstacle into a more rational, scientific way of thinking; whereby nothing is believed until it has been proved with overwhelming evidence. This ‘moving beyond’ the obstacle of religion – and its inherent narcissistic idealism – is what Kohut called transmuting internalization: a process “by which the idealizations of the parents and one’s self are gradually replaced by a more realistic assessment and the child assumes responsibility for the psychological functions previously provided by the idealization of the parents and their reinforcing the child’s narcissism” (Jones 19). Differing from Freud however, Kohut thinks that idealization and nacissism should remain part of an individual’s life after he moves beyond primary or infantile narcissism. He names idealizing, mirroring, and twinship as the necessary components “for a cohesive sense of self, the sine qua non of mental health”, saying that we all should make emotional investments “towards objects of idealization, towards objects which reflect back to us our achievements and successes, [and] towards objects which ratify a sense of belonging” (Jones 22). This self-cohesion is dependent on a strong sense of direction steered by “a core set of goals and amibitions the pursuit of which gives life zest and vitality” (Jones 22). Therefore, from a Kohutian standpoint, it would seem that religion is not so bad at all, as long as one approaches religion as a skeptic and not a devotee. As Jones says “if the relationship with the beloved, religious, or interpersonal object allows its shortcomings to be acknowledged, its failures recognized, and its limitations supportively worked through – something few religious institutions seem able to do – then there is the possibility for genuine transformation towards maturity…however, examples of such transformatice realism and humility seem to [be] all too rare in the history of religions” (Jones 65). Kept in what Kohut calls “developmental arrest”, devotees and religions are blinded by their own false idealization of what their texts claim to be perfection. It is naive at best to claim that perfection could have been reached so early in human evolution. It is only logical to assume that as time passes we grow in knowledge, wisdom, and understanding. Religion’s primary failing is its own over-idealization of itself, its secondary failing is to their devotees who they “keep infantilized” (Jones 65). For Kohut, living life according to the principles of a religion is not immature or unrealistic as long as it is done selectively and in accordance with rationality.
The National Association of Krishna Consciousness was founded in 1965 in New York and has spread throughout North America ever since. They acknowledge a spiritual master from India, who came to America to teach the road to salvation throught the repetition of the names of Krishna. If there ever was a religion that kept people infantilzed, it would have to be this one. Its devotees aim to achieve a sense of nirvana in the modern age of kali – age of war, quarelling, and hypocrisy. To combat this age of kali, thier holy scriptures recommend that devotees repeat their mantras at least one-thousand-seven-hundred-and-twenty-eight (1728) times daily. Exposing this farce, one critic in the film asks a devotee of Krishna “what are you doing? who are you helping?” Simply listening to the chanting is mind-numbing as it is no wonder that this religion came to fruition during the psychadelic sixties when mind-numbing drugs and experimentation was the popular fad. One can see the attraction of the movement nonetheless, in its abandonment of reality and focus on spirituality and happiness. However, if everyone lived as they did, civilization would crumble and society would transform into a passive-aggressive mass of selfish seekers of that natural eternal happiness or high. Notwithstanding, civilzation and society are not perfect as they are, but passivity is, in my opinion a step further away rather than one closer to happiness for all. Auxillary infantilizing is done by rules such as no sex, no gambling, so drugs, no meat. While no gambling and no drugs make moderate sense, no sex and no meat seem out of place among the four main principles of Krishna livelihood. Hardly a moral consideration, I find it hard to believe that my diet (cannabilism excepted) has anything to do with my spirituality. Afterall, meat is matter, and my soul, if I have one, is a form of energy neither bound by physical constraits or affected by them in any direct way. Also, sex, one of humankinds few natural euphoric vices should be condemned only if it is rape or promiscuous and therefore unsafe (unhealthy) and never when it is consentual, mutual, and within the confines of a loving relationship. Such criticisms are examples of what transmuting interlization can do to overcome developmental arrest while under the influence of a powerfully entrancing religion like that of Krishna. One father, who had ‘lost’ his son to the Krishna movement could not understand how his son had become brainwashed and hypnotized into believing so deeply that he had found the proper path for his life. The father even said that when you begin to go on a journey to find the absolute truth it is crucial to maintain a certain open mind and critical mindset; in other words, never stop asking questions.
The followers of Krishna do not seem all that blind to reality however, realizing that their six categories of aggressors is somewhat outdated: he who poisons another; he who burns anothers property; he who conquers another’s land; he who robs another of his possessions; he who attacks another with deadly weapons; he who covets another man’s wife; to kill such aggressors is not a sin but a duty that admits no delay. One senior member of Krisha Kahn said that these rules were not applicable andthat God’s laws must be applied to the present time and circumstances. On the contrary, the same member was unable to over Krishna’s view of the opposite sexes, maintaining that women are fire and men are butter and that men will melt (be destroyed) if they get too close to women. Also, women are said to have ten (10) inherent faults while men have only a few and one of them is due to the temptation of women. It is this kind of blind faith that threatens today’s civlization as idealist and fanatics take scripture written centuries ago and based on life a millenia ago far too literally. Evidence of such is seen in the recent rise in terrorist attacks and the rapidly growing movement of the Taliban and their twisted view of Islam which “paints the world in black and white, creating radical polarities between good and evil” (Jones 74). Passivity is certainly not the answer but the opposite extreme, terrorism, is no better. Religion has always been a weapon for either transformation or terror, and whether it is holstered or holding us at gunpoint, if humankind does not use their minds, we will remain on both sides of the extreme spectrum between war and peace, as kids with guns.