Sunday, October 18, 2009

The Return of Quetzalcoatl: Chapter 5

César Tort presents Chapter 5 of The Return of Quetzalcoatl. Links to the Preface and Chapters 1 through 4 are at the bottom of this post.

Sentences between squared brackets do not appear in the original Spanish version of the manuscript.

The Return of Quetzalcoatl: Chapter 5
by César Tort

Silvano Arieti and schizophrenia

Paradoxically, if something had been impeding the collective form of suicidal psychosis that the West self-inflicts today, the massive migration of inferior psychoclasses, it was Christianity. But Christianity is in crisis and Westerners lack a new myth that bestows on them a self-image for social cohesion. Jaynes wrote:

In the second millennium B.C., we stopped hearing the voices of the gods. In the first millennium B.C., those of us who still heard voices, our oracles and prophets, they too died away. In the first millennium A.D., it is their sayings and hearings preserved in sacred texts through which we obeyed our lost divinities. And in the second millennium A.D., these writings lose their authority… And here at the end of the second millennium and about enter the third, we are surrounded with this problem.

Hearing voices is the archetypal symptom of what today is named schizophrenia. But the distinctive traits between ancient schizoids and modern Western man is not absolute. In his magnum opus, Interpretation of Schizophrenia, Silvano Arieti wrote a sentence imagining a space visitor, more integrated psychologically than the Earth dwellers, who would find many instances of “paleologic thinking” (bicameral thought) in the moral, social and religious costumes of Western man.

Those who give credibility to everything that, under the banner of science, the status quo sells us, will consider it foolish that I take seriously an author who published a work about paleologic thinking and schizophrenia in 1955, the edition translated to Spanish. The reason that moved me to do it is simple. As I have said, decades before Colin Ross published The trauma model and Schizophrenia, Arieti had already written, with different words, some phrases about the locus of control shift [explained in the first chapter]. In 2007 I felt confident to ask Ross if he knew that Arieti had said something very similar to his model half a century before. Ross replied that he barely had read Arieti. His ignorance surprised me but I understood him: the good doctor is more a busy clinician than an armchair theorist. Anyone can acquire through the internet the 2004 book that Ross wrote about schizophrenia. On the other hand, the 1965 Spanish translation of Arieti’s treatise is not even available in the catalogue of out-of-print books. In 1975 a second, revised edition of Interpretation of schizophrenia won in the United States the National Book Award in scientific subjects. In this chapter I will use both editions: the 1955 edition, and the 1975 edition republished in 1994 (in the second edition the book was thoroughly rewritten and fattened with medical testing on schizophrenia).

Virtually forgotten, Arieti’s treatise is an authentic mine of theoretical and clinical information to understand psychosis. Most striking about the massive body of literature from Arieti’s colleagues that pointed at the family as responsible for the schizophrenias in their patients is that the theory was never refuted. It was conveniently forgotten, swept under the rug of political correctness in the mental health professions. It is very common to read in the textbooks of contemporary psychiatry and psychology that the theory of the schizophrenogenic parents was discarded because it was erroneous with the most absolute absence of bibliographic references to support such claim. I cannot forget an article written in the present century in which an investigator complains that, despite an extensive search, he did not find any coherent and clear explanation of why the schizophrenogenic theory has been abandoned. As always, everything has to do with the fact that to question the parental deities is terrifying for most people, especially for those who are forbidden from using their own emotions: academics, including the mental health professionals. As deMause said way above: “The usual suppression of all feeling” in childrearing studies “simply cripples a psychohistorian as badly as it would cripple a biologist to be forbidden the use of a microscope.”
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Arieti distinguishes between a “paleologic” form of thinking, and the thinking that comes from “Aristotelian logic” that rules Western man. Since the first edition of his book Arieti points out that the paleologic thinking, which modern man only experiences in dreams, was omnipresent in prehistoric cultures. In order to avoid a runaway anxiety that drives the victim into panic, the patient diagnosed as schizophrenic abandons the Aristotelian norms of intuitive logic and lapses into the sort of thinking of our most primitive ancestors. Like John Modrow, Arieti acknowledges the value of the work of Harry Sullivan about the panic the child experiences as a result of an all-out emotional assault from both parents. The paleologic regression can be adapted years after the abuse occurred, even when the child has become economically independent. [A chapter on Modrow appears in my second book.] The withdrawal from reality, or psychotic breakdown, is the last and most desperate attempt of the unconscious to maintain the ego in a state of internal cohesion. A dramatic regressive metamorphosis arises when, one after another, the defenses that the victim had been using do not work anymore. To a greater or lesser degree all human beings function with a dose of neurosis, but in the psychotic outbreak, when neurotic defenses collapse, the subject falls into even more archaic forms of defense: mechanisms which had been overcome millennia ago, a regression to the bicameral mind. Arieti’s book contains chapters about his clinical experiences with patients. In the case of two brothers, Arieti describes how one of them suffered a pre-psychotic panic as a result of the abuse at home and observes that, once in a florid state of psychosis, “The paleologician confuses the physical world with the psychological one. Instead of finding a physical explanation for an event, he looks for a personal motivation or an intention as the cause of an event.” Just as the primitive man, in a definitive breakdown of the Aristotelian superstructure, for the disturbed individual the world turns itself animist; each external event having a profound meaning. There are no coincidences for those who inhabit the world of magical thinking. Both the primitive animist and the modern schizophrenic live in distinct dimensions compared to the rational man. The conceptualization of external happenings as impersonal physical forces requires a much more advanced level of cognition than seeing them as personal agents. Arieti wrote:

If the Greeks are afflicted by epidemics, it is because Phoebus wants to punish Agamemnon. Paranoiacs and paranoids interpret almost everything as manifesting a psychological intention or meaning. In many cases practically everything that occurs is interpreted as willed by the persecutors of the patient.

Arieti also writes about the time before the Homo sapiens acquired the faculty to choose an action through what we call today free will, and he adds:

Philogenetically, anticipation of the distant future appeared when early man no longer limited his activity to cannibalism and hunting, which were related to immediate present necessities, but became interested in hoarding and, later, in agriculture in order to provide for future needs.

The reference to cannibalism makes me think that, though unlike Jaynes Arieti maintained that schizophrenia is due to the parents’ behavior, unlike deMause Arieti did not conceive that such cannibal practices, like the ones described in the Preface, could have injured the inner self of the surviving children in prehistoric times. Nevertheless, Arieti disagrees with the theoretical psychiatrists who see no similarities between schizophrenic and non-schizophrenic. He believes that such points of view “are fundamentally wrong”, and, speaking of non-Western cultures and even of the times of Cro-Magnon man, he writes:

Often the culture itself imposes paleologic conceptions and habits on the individual, even though the individual is capable of high forms of thinking. The more abundant is the paleologic thinking in a culture, the more difficult it is for the culture to get rid of it.

This last phrase reminds me how presently Western culture imposes relativist conceptions on the individual, even though the typical Westerner is potentially capable of discriminating among inferior cultures: a higher form of thinking. Arieti also rises the question of why civilization originated only ten thousand years ago. Like Jaynes, he believes that the incredibly long gestation of civilization had to do with the persistence of paleologic thought, and he adds that presently the paleologic defense mechanisms underlie the human psyche and can return in extreme conditions.

Arieti elaborated his theory twenty years before Jaynes or deMause started to write their books, and he was within an inch of discovering what deMause would discover: precisely that schizophrenogenic forms of childrearing through the Bone Age and the Stone Age had impeded the psychic integration of our ancestors. Getting ahead in time to Ross, Arieti wrote: “A characteristic unique in the human race — prolonged childhood with consequent extended dependency on adults — is the basis of the psychodynamics of schizophrenia.”

Arieti defines schizophrenia as an extremely regressive reaction before an equally extreme state of anxiety, a dynamic that originates in infancy and that accelerates in adolescence, or later, due to abuses at home (think of the case of the second girl in the Ross chapter ). “In every case of schizophrenia studies serious family disturbances were found” (emphasis by Arieti). He adds that to produce schizophrenia a drama is needed which is sufficiently injuring to the inner self; a drama that, if we ignore it, we become deaf “to a profound message that the patient may try to convey”. And writing about one of his patients, and getting again ahead in time to Ross, he tells us that this patient “protected the images of his parents but at the expense of having an unbearable self-image”.

Interpretation of Schizophrenia contains the keys to understanding issues that at first sight seem incomprehensible, and even bizarre, for those of us who live in the world of Aristotelian logic: the probable meaning of the symbols of the oneiric world in which the psychotic individual lives; his apparently incoherent salad of words, the linguistic whys of his inner logic and the many regressive stages of the disorder. In Arieti’s treatise there is an enormous richness of ideas and theoretical schemas that I cannot summarize here, as well as clinical analyses of his patients, to understand the gradations of madness. Even though, as I said, in the middle 1970s his book won the National Book Award, in a more valiant world his work would have been influential. But society freaked out before the findings of Arieti and his colleagues because, to understand psychoses, it would have been necessary to point the index finger at the parents. As a Ross reader would say, the problem of the attachment to the perpetrator [cf. chapter 1], the basic and fundamental axiom of the human psyche, could not allow this (Arieti himself dedicated his magnum opus to his parents).

Let us see where the ideas expressed in these brief chapters drive us when pondering the violent past of ancient Mexico, and how the psychogenic arrest of that culture may serve us to understand the dilemmas that the West faces today.

The Return of Quetzalcoatl

Forthcoming chapter:

  • The “World’s Most Beautiful” City

©2008 César Tort


Chechar said...

Thanks Baron and Dymphna for including this latest chapter in your GoV archives.

Baron, in another thread you said earlier this year:

@ Over time the welfare state leads inevitably to a weakened work ethic and a decayed moral fabric for those who participate in it. More and more people are sucked into dependence and idleness by the lure of a “free” lunch. Thus we can see that the welfare state destroys the homogeneous traditions of the people it is supposed to benefit. Multiculturalism can only take root in a society that has already been damaged by socialism. The core virus, the cause of all the other ailments, is socialism.

That article was very useful to understand your worldview, and I agree as far as the superstructure of the world goes. But sometimes you also seem to suspect the existence of an unconscious, parallel understructure. For example, in another thread you wrote:

@ I had a friend in my college days who was attracted to radical politics. “Power to the People”, “Smash the State”, “Revolution Now”—it was always about sticking it to the Man, questioning authority, and resisting all instances of state power. Nowadays he’s studying the Koran and talking about the power of the Jews, and is seriously considering converting to Islam. There are probably psychological explanations for this constellation of behaviors—childhood abuse by a tyrannical father and so on—but the point is that such a person is going to find Islam, especially radical Islam, attractive.

Beneath the superstructure I see unconscious psychological explanations. I hope the next section that deals with a very concrete example, childhood abuse by tyrannical parents in the Aztec world, illustrates what I’ve been trying to say in these purely theoretical chapters.

Dymphna said...

Fascinating reading.

Have you considered at all the long-term shadow effects on a people of extreme trauma to a whole generation at once. Here are a few I've pondered:

1. The 12-20 million people who died world-wide during the 1918-19 flu epidemic...and concurrently, the loss of the cream of European men during the Great War.

2.In the US, during a six week period, a quarter of a miilion people died of the flu. People were stealing coffins and dumping bodies on the ground. Yet for at least two generations there was silence on the subject.

3. How about the loss of one third of the European population during the Black Plague? Whole towns disappeared. Monarchial alliances were skewed as the likely brides/grooms died before any union could take place. I've wondered if this is connected with European fatalism at all? I think it still shadows Europe..."a distant mirror" as Tuchman called it.

4. The studies done on the grandchildren of Holocaust survivors. Many of them appear to suffer from a kind of secondary PTSD, passed down intact from their parents, who do not exhibit the same clinical findings.

I'll stop there, but you get the idea. Earthquakes, tsunamis, plagues, etc., exact a terrible toll on the faculty of memory. Horrible things just disappear down the cultural memory hole.

Zenster said...

Congratulations, Chechar. I consider this to be some of your best work yet. The concept of "attachment to the perpetrator" resonates on a number of important levels. One would think that children must instinctively bond to their parents, be they abusive or not, as they literally have no choice.

If a cycle of parental abuse begins early, as it typically does, the child will have little to no cognitive tools with which to cope with such trauma. I think there are many different forms of compensation than just schizophrenia. Over-eating, withdrawal, anorexia and cutting all provide substantial avenues of displacement, although none are so vivid or wholesale as schizophrenia.

Having watched my own father's ferocious efforts to break the spirits of his three sons, I can certainly testify to the emotional and intellectual chaos inflicted. My oldest brother opted in to his abuse by adopting the same emotional sterility of our father. My next-oldest brother was neither adept enough nor sufficiently robust in character to withstand such onslaughts to his already shy personality. His spirit was irreparably broken and he has spent a life of little accomplishment that finds him living with his mother to this day.

Having vowed at a young age to better understand my mind, through the study of binary logic and exposure to the fundamentals of human psychology, I somehow cultivated an ego that, while extravagant in its demands upon myself and those around me, managed to withstand extreme parental cruelty and the playing of favorites that was rife throughout my extended family.

In the early 1980s I received a copy of Jaynes' "Bicameral Mind" and found it explained more than anyone else ever had managed to about the evolution of human consciousness. I continued to pursue my own situational analysis of the havoc within my family and that allowed me a glimpse of the intense neuroses that drove both of my parents.

After divorcing, each of them entered into second marriages that were eminently unsuitable. Had either of them established even a faintly normal remarriage, it might have proven immensely more difficult to break my "attachment to the perpetrator(s)". Instead, what was previously an intolerable level of mistreatment simply escalated to a point where it was impossible to disregard both the unfairness and abuse involved.

Knowing how poor my father's performance was as a parent made it easy to break off relations for years at a time when it proved necessary. My mother was less obviously abusive and only after many years of watching both parents neglect my earnest attempts to settle down and start a family did I finally realized how their hue and cry about “family being so important” was merely a smokescreen to keep me engaged with little prospect of any return upon my significant emotional investment.

A childhood filled with admonitions that I “could do better” left me with a compensation mechanism of being overly generous and helpful. My entire family had zero motivation to help free me from, what was for them, such a rewarding end result. Nearly twenty years ago I pulled the plug on all further contact with my father. The improvement to my quality of life was dramatic and unmistakable.

This left me even more time to reassess my mother’s behavior and I eventually broke all connection with her over a decade ago. The peace of mind is priceless and this article leads me to believe that I may be able to avoid transmitting to my future children many of the damaging memes so assiduously cultivated by my family.

Chechar said...


You rise a most important issue. But no: according to Arieti, external tragedies do not injure the inner self to the point of schizophrenizing it. One of the problems of publishing my fourth book alone (it must be read in the context of a five-tome series) is that the issue was already addressed in my second book, Cómo asesinar el alma de tu hijo (How to murder your child’s soul).

In the chapter “Shine: a dad more devastating than Mengele” I say that madness is a psychological catastrophe that millions have seen on the big screen. In that chapter I used the movie Shine about the life of David Helfgott, who became famous after Geoffrey Rush interpreted his tragic life in the film and won an Oscar for best actor in 1996. David Helfgott actually exists. He was a sensible and talented boy for the piano but his abusive father broke his young heart and he became highly psychotic (cf. the film). In the biography that Gillian, his wife, wrote, she testifies that “David always believed” that his father “caused his illness”.

I also mention another case of real life, another Jewish boy, Yakoff Skurnik whom I saw in a Houston conference in 1997. Relying on Yakoff’s testimony, Gene Church wrote one of the most disturbing books I have read about the Holocaust, 80629: A Mengele Experiment. Skurnik is one of the survivors not only of the hell of Birkenau and Auschwitz, where all his family died, but of one of the most abominable events of the Nazi regime, the medical experimentation on human beings headed by Josef Mengele. Immobilized by the staff and in Mengele’s presence, a doctor named Doering castrated him without the proper spinal anesthesia.

My point is that both Yakoff and other survivors, including other boys castrated by Doering, were capable to pull themselves together and thrive after their liberation. Yakoff didn’t become mad after the Nazi hell. But David did before his abusive dad.

How was that possible?

Following Sullivan/Arieti/Modrow, in some way the Nazi perpetrators ran across more difficulties to reach Yakoff’s inner self and injure it than Peter Helfgott with his son. A passage by Arieti sheds light on these two different cases: Arieti wrote:

“First of all we have to repeat here what we already mentioned, that conditions of obvious external danger, as in the case of wars, disasters, or other adversities that affect the collectivity [my emphasis], do not produce the type of anxiety that hurts the inner self and do not themselves favor schizophrenia. Even extreme poverty, physical illness, or personal tragedies do not necessarily lead to schizophrenia unless they have psychological ramifications that hurt the sense of self. Even homes broken by death, divorce, or desertion may be less destructive than homes where both parents are alive, live together, and always undermine the child’s conception of himself.”

I almost reach the 500-word limit. Zenster: A very touching confession! I’ve to reply under a different post…

Chechar said...


You have a very good grasp of what Ross calls the problem of attachment to the perp. Of course, Ross does not only treats mild cases of schizophrenia in his clinic: he also treats the disorders you mention.

@ Having watched my own father's ferocious efforts to break the spirits of his three sons…

Oh boy, you are talking about my family also: I and my two sisters had really a bad time with both of our parents…

@ My oldest brother opted in to his abuse by adopting the same emotional sterility of our father.

My next-oldest sister was very cheerful and now it breaks my heart to see her so emotionally sterile…

@ My next-oldest brother was neither adept enough nor sufficiently robust in character to withstand such onslaughts to his already shy personality. His spirit was irreparably broken and he has spent a life of little accomplishment that finds him living with his mother to this day.

…and my sister next to the other one was also irreparably damaged and lives with our mother to this day.

@ I continued to pursue my own situational analysis of the havoc within my family and…

The big difference between my sisters and I is that they don’t want to do any serious healing work (I’m not talking about therapies). The best work is emotional, not intellectual. Take a look at the whole quotation of Alice Miller that starts with the paragraph—:

“Hard as it is to believe, in the entire world there is not a single faculty in which a degree is offered in the study of psychic injuries in childhood…”

—in my website.

@ and I eventually broke all connection with her over a decade ago. The peace of mind is priceless and this article leads me to believe that I may be able to avoid transmitting to my future children many of the damaging memes so assiduously cultivated by my family.

What you say is exactly what Susan Forward recommends! (in special cases, as you can see in her bestseller Toxic Parents). Breaking the chain of intergenerational abuse with your own children is the noblest thing you can do.

These subjects moved me to write the three previous books of my Whispering Leaves series. Too bad that, with the exception of this “Quetzalcoatl” book, it’s all in another language. But I do recommend reading Alice Miller’s Breaking Down the Wall of Silence, which I mention in the linked webpage above.

Thanks for sharing, Zenster. The world is too small when it comes about the family. We all have underwent through similar tragedies. But society’s walls prevent us from being aware of it…

4Symbols said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
4Symbols said...

So is this article asserting that individuals wounded by their parents to the edge or into schizophrenia are the orchestrators of the collapse of Western civilization.

If so the (peripheral) schizophrenic would have to institute and establish an environment and political order that would be generous to his condition in order to survive in the real world. In the modern world the battleground to establish those favourable variances would be the arena of politics. Maybe Winston Churchill's childhood and his 'Black Dog' are a good example of a politician of this type, there is no reason why a health affliction should diminish a great statesman.

Particularly in Britian favourable political and class structures could be looked upon as enablers for the wounded individuals of the elite or a particular class - a golden welfare state. Strange that in what has been sold as a entrepreneurial society there is zero social mobility.

Note also the use of the terms nanny state and the unscientific label of dependancy, this says more about the welfare detractors state of mind than the condition of the unwaged.

laine said...

I haven't heard a reference to Susan Forward's book "Toxic Parents" for ages. More years than I care to remember ago, I used her book to try to manage my spouse's ex who had custody of their children and was making our lives a living hell using them as a vector to bring strife into our household on their regular visits. Of course, it was a pyrric victory for the ex, inflicting more harm on the kids than on two adults.

We did our best not to fight fire with fire and relieve the stress on the two boys while in our home. For example, we gave them permission to speak freely in their other home about what transpired in ours so they wouldn't have to watch every word or carry our messages both expressed and subliminal for us.

It was a very difficult time for me personally. The boys ended up successful in their adult lives by society's superficial standards. The younger one who was 8 when this all started said in his late teens that he "had amnesia for his childhood" and the older one adopted the same attitude in adulthood (also "handling" a failed marriage with selective amnesia). Their custodial parent benefited from having all sins expunged in this way. As a corollary, I lost much recognition of what I suffered on their behalf. Although I have a good relationship with the boys and their children, they treat their abusive parent (who is all smiles now as a grandparent) as though nothing bad had happened, with all the honor accorded to a loving good parent!

Unfair, but apparently a necessary fantasy for them. They have to believe their much loved children are the product of good stock grandparents who were both good parents in their day, instead of a psycho revenge freak willing to sacrifice even one's own children's well being to bitterness.

Chechar said...

@ Their custodial parent benefited from having all sins expunged in this way. As a corollary, I lost much recognition of what I suffered on their behalf…

they treat their abusive parent (who is all smiles now as a grandparent) as though nothing bad had happened…

Unfair, but apparently a necessary fantasy for them. --Laine

You managed to put the whole problem of the bonding to the perp in a nutshell, Laine. Congats! ☺

Recently, when I returned from a one-year visit to Spain, my little sister didn’t want to see me. She was offended for what I say about the family, especially my parents but also about a brother who is in total denial of what our parents did to us.

I ignore if my 90 YouTube videos (under a pseudonym) triggered her anger. But in one of those videos I say that, back in the early 1980s, I once defended my little sister from the beatings of my mother.

Go figure!: this is how she pays the favor, by repudiating me!

Does my sister remembers that? Like the rest of humankind, she is attached to the perp. And I am the family’s black sheep because I defended her, and because I dare to speak out about our family’s dysfunction.

No wonder why so many people turn their unprocessed hatred onto the whole culture that betrayed them…!

@ So is this article asserting that individuals wounded by their parents to the edge or into schizophrenia are the orchestrators of the collapse of Western civilization. --4Symbols

Not exactly. I would say that my writings (not only the Quetzalcoatl series but the psycho-biographies which might soon be published in GoV) assert that individuals wounded by their parents are unconsciously orchestrating the collapse of Western civilization.

Schizophrenia is another subject altogether. But I agree with Arieti that once we understand the most dramatic form of psychological dissociation, schizophrenia—a sort of regression to the bicameral mind of our cavemen ancestors—we can understand much better the milder forms of dissociation, including the neuroses.

This is my fourth and last permitted post in this thread. Further inquiries about this chapter should be addressed in my blog’s entry. Of course: you can post it here for all GoV-ers to see and repost your question in my blog.

Thank you.

César (a.k.a., “Chechar”)

4Symbols said...

The premise is similar to the school of psychology asserting that because of the alleged beatings and bad parenting endured by Adolf Hitler as a child that this then resulted in the murder of six million jews.

This victimology is the very form of psychological warfare that has brought the U.K. to its knees, it is particularly effective when constituted in the education system, in short it displaces and negates any kind of individual resposibility in this case that of Adolf Hitler by making him a victim of his parents, the parents are victims of their own bad parenting and society. The outcome the state controls and conditions the constituents of the family.

It works on an (State-sponsored) idealised notion of childhood, parenting and the family.

This form psychological warfare is well advanced in U.K. political and social policy.