Fascism and psychotherapy
Psychotherapy is for weak people, mostly narcissistic girls; and if a man goes to therapy he is surely the proverbial “soy boy” of Internet lore: a gurn-faced bearded man who is addled on carbohydrates and Marvel movies. So what connection could psychotherapy have with the jack-booted beast boys? A great deal, as we shall see.
It is customary to begin any discussion of fascism with the statement that it is hard to say what fascism is exactly, and it is hard to say because the fascists adored their leaders; and the leaders—particularly the original big boy himself, Mussolini—changed their minds all the time. This tendency for the fascists to change their minds all the time relates to the fascist worldview itself, particularly Nietzsche’s influence upon it—perhaps with a dash of William James. Nietzsche had no time for “the truth”, a concept that had ruled the West since Plato and had intertwined with Christianity. For Nietzsche, there were truths—and some truths overruled others, if one truth helped you to live and grow strong then you should abandon the other and run with the sun-kissed truth.
For this reason, a Nietzschean can wheel round and become a Christian—provided that the truths he finds in Christianity increase his capacity for action. If without Christianity he sinks into a booze-soaked torpor of self-pity then he should abandon the truths of atheism and adopt what is true in Christianity; and so a strict Nietzschean can become Christian, yet he would still say that this path is not for all men; other men may diminish and curl up—die inside—if they are forced to be Christian: they need other truths.
Nietzsche’s pragmatic stance, whereby truths serve to increase a man’s capacity for action—his will to power, Nietzsche would say—leads to a provisional life. Man lives with working hypotheses—not in the strict scientific sense, more in the sense of a rough framework—that seem to aid his capacity for action; he is not paralysed by a quest for a singular truth. These hypotheses are more art than science; the artist is usually thought to be a subjective man, but he also has a certain objectivity. The artist “tells it how it is”; he tells us the nature of his experience and holds nothing back, no matter how bizarre or repulsive—or beautiful. This holistic approach grants him an objectivity, not scientific objectivity—really derived from numbers—but the objectivity that comes through integrity in his work. The surgeon is an artist; the surgeon uses science and technology, yet there is a cold art to what he does.
The real Nietzschean relishes the opportunity to drop one working hypothesis and adopt a new one; this is a moment of great joy. He becomes like a dancer who dances through his own footprints, as outlined in broken lines on the dance floor. Without cross contradiction, there can be no dance. The faster he drops hypotheses and adopts new, more powerful hypotheses the stronger he becomes and the more joyful his life: the joy is the contradiction. The attitude can be summed up by the Good Charlotte lyrics: “Don’t really care about the things that they say! / Don’t really care what even happens to me! / I just wanna live!”
This provisional way of life means to hold beliefs lightly. The Christian, the liberal, the atheist, and so on are all very serious about everything: they claim to have “the truth”, and you better get with the program, chum—or you will burn in hellfire, for even atheists have their version of Hell to scare you with. The Nietzschean, by contrast, borrows liberally from Christians, Marxists, atheists, and Muslims; he takes what he needs to live and runs with it. He has no sense of “morality”; he is unconcerned as to whether what he borrows is “good” or “evil”.
He is not unlike some vulgar plumber made good who decorates his house with gaudy decorations styled on ancient Rome, Africa, and Hollywood. “I know what I like, mate, and that’s that—if you don’t like it you can piss off.” He is really a small-time aristocrat; he has his kingdom, he has his tastes. The educated middle-class person stammers: “But..but…it’s not in good taste.” “I don’t give a fuck what you think, mate. Make me change it! You can’t, you ponce! You just get what you like out of a fucking Ikea catalogue, anyway!” This is a crude aristocratic riposte. The “tasteful” man thinks he knows better, but he only knows the acceptable illusions from mass society; he will never put a giant pink tiger on his front lawn—shades of Saddam Hussein.
This attitude upsets those people who are orientated towards a Platonic truth: “But…but you can’t be a Sufi Christian Futurist. These things are completely contradictory!” But the Nietzschean sees only those truths that sustain him; if he operates at his optimum as a Sufi Christian Futurist then that is how he will live. The attitude is masculine and aristocratic; there is little concern with “right” and “wrong” and instead there is a very broadly empirical interest in what works. This attitude is currently instantiated online in the Gigachad meme, Gigachad is an Apollonian avatar. “But Gigachad, you can’t just worship Jesus and claim there’s ancient alien civilisation buried under Antarctica and that Jesus is descended from them,” says the ineffectual soy boy. “Yes,” replies the laconic Gigachad; he is a man who knows what he likes and what works for him.
The approach is connected to genuine scientific discovery, since real advance usually comes from some practical work—as with James Watt and his steam engine—not long and abstract Socratic debates and beard-tugging. Inventors and technologists often struggle to explain how their inventions work and the theoretical elaboration can come decades or even centuries later. “The experts said it would never fly, but, still, here she is in the air,” says some mad scientist as he floats over the city. The priestly type, in Nietzsche’s view, comes along and tidies up the innovation and discovery and then polices the territory; he tells people what is “true” or “false” and “good” or “bad” about a subject—whether aeronautics or philosophy. But the men who really know just do it; and they are perhaps unable to say why what they do works, they just know it works. This is, once again, a provisional life.
Hence artists associated with fascism, such as Mishima and Malaparte, were fascinated by the mask: the idea that a man shapes and crafts many masks in his lifetime. The complete man is a play of masks; at one time he is supine and vulnerable, then he is fierce and dominant—then he is reflective and philosophical. Today he kills a man, but tomorrow he spares a man and rewards him greatly. What will this outrageous man do next? The play of masks is seductive because seduction depends on uncertainty; every new mask pulls the ground underneath women and other men—and so they are seduced, they circle the circle: the mysterious zero concealed by the mask. For Nietzsche, the man behind the mask retains a haughty joy whatever mask he wears; he enjoys his masks—each change enhances his power.
We now see why Mussolini and Hitler were so liquid and ineffable and why there is always an initial struggle to define fascism; people remain fascinated by the “mystery of Hitler” to this day. The man who lives provisionally, with many masks, becomes a mystery. He is seductive; and this is still so, whether with hate or love people are still fascinated by Hitler and Mussolini. The attitude is cat-like in the sense that the cat may adore you or dig its claws into your leg; it is an aspect of the feminine contained in the masculine, the feminine mystery.
Psychotherapy is based, almost entirely, on Nietzsche. The goal of the therapist is to get the patient to overcome their stasis—induced by neurosis, essentially fixed beliefs about the world—and live a fully actualised life; i.e. to realise their will to power. The therapist seeks to induce this view in the patient: “I do not know—nor does anybody—what is ‘right’ or ‘wrong’. People say many things on these matters, but I hold these beliefs provisionally. There is no need to be ashamed about what I have done or will do: nobody really knows what ‘good’ and ‘bad’ are—and many people use these ideas to control others. All I know is that one day I will die and that in the meantime I can feel, in my body, when I grow. I will grow through contradiction to find what suits me, what optimises my power of action. Everything else is—good and bad, true or false—provisional.”
There are many modalities of psychotherapy, but they all seek this basic goal: for a person to hold their beliefs lightly, to own the beliefs and not for the beliefs to own them. Psychotherapy is also interested in masks: the idea that we all wear masks in life (father, boss, husband, and so on); and the psychotherapist aims to have a patient craft their masks instead of their masks being imposed upon them by family and society; for often the mask that is imposed and not crafted is rigid and does not reflect the nature of the client—of their inner self or inner observer. If the client is less rigid in the masks they wear and takes their masks less seriously then their anxiety—the sensation that they will be “caught out”—will reduce and they will simply live: they will grow.
So we see that psychotherapy and fascism are united through Nietzschean thought: fascism is politicised psychotherapy; the psychotherapy of a nation—both only aim for growth. The few real Christians that remain sometimes see the connection, more through intuition than intellect, and will say that psychotherapy is a Satanic-fascistic attempt to destroy Christianity: given that therapy is inspired by Nietzsche and wants to see people live non-morally—beyond good and evil, only concerned with growth—there is some truth in this accusation. The therapist wants to remove the Christian control apparatus, guilt and shame, just as Nietzsche did.
The Christians, Muslims, and Jews are all moralisers; they are rooted in Plato’s metaphysics: they are imprisoned by belief. “I’m a good person!” This is also the lament heard from progressives online: the progressive liberal takes Platonism and the Abrahamic faiths to their conclusion—nihilism. “We only believe in the truth and science is the truth! Therefore, we see the world as matter; we just want to reduce pain and increase pleasure. We are nice people! We are good folks!” The Nietzschean replies: “And yet you seem to be such miserable fucks, for all your pretended goodness…and yet your bombers toast the Middle East. Yesterday, you provided Saddam with gas to kill the Kurds, pocketed the money, and went and paid your direct debit to Amnesty International—today you scream he is a genocidal monster, though still you would have him fried alive.”
Mainstream conservatives in the West express constant concern about “moral relativism”. This is putatively aimed at the left, but the left is not morally relativistic. Take racism as an example: for the left this is an absolute moral value that must be applied across cultures and borders—nothing relative about it, and it is considered an absolute evil. Marxists and progressive liberals are moral absolutists; they have a very clear idea as regards “good” and “evil”, no ambiguity there. Western conservatives—only ever conservative liberals, really—are more frightened of Nietzschean relativism than they are of Marxists and progressives, with whom they largely agree as regards absolutism.
The reason why they talk about moral relativism so much is slightly complicated. In part, they misunderstand what the postmodernists are about and in part they have not noticed how the general level of scientific education has led the masses to think in terms of provisional hypotheses—not quite Nietzschean hypotheses; his hypotheses are artistic, not scientific—and demand empirical evidence for even the most banal statements, or questions that cannot be resolved scientifically. Science is a provisional activity and its general high status has provisionalised mass society; few speak of “the truth”—although, in actuality, they still assume “the truth”, though that is now relegated to an occulted absolute scientific truth; they assume a metaphysic that does not exist within the scientific framework.
Conservatives mainly fear a resurgence from the right; something like fascism, although it would not be fascism as historically understood. And so they project this fear onto the left, they would like them to be “the real fascists”; and this is why, in part, their opposition to the left is so weak: they are geared to fight against Nietzschean relativistic holism, not the secularised version of Christianity that is contemporary progressive liberalism; for the most part they are only earlier iterations of the same thing, unable to resist its distortions because they feel guilty to even question the general direction of progress. Indeed, another way to conceptualise Western politics is not left versus right, but Platonists versus perspectivalists; it is the perspectival view and organic holism—a holism mostly derived from nature—that is the real enemy in the West, since the West is governed by a degraded Platonism that has lost its metaphysical holism and degenerated to nihilism and atomisation; yet it still knows who its real enemy is.
I think it would be best to embrace Nietzsche’s path; forget those who caution about “moral relativism”: it would be better for us to discard the quest for a singular truth and pursue the truths that make us more vital; of course, in the realm of contemporary politics this does not mean fascism, since fascism itself has failed—it was not vital enough; useful elements from fascism can be adopted and bent to our purpose, yet as a working hypothesis it has failed and so we can discard it for the most part.
To live in a provisional and Nietzschean way is the only path out of nihilism and back to a singular truth; how so? We need to discard the burden of belief: the belief in singular truth that drives modern science and its tendency to devalue the world, destroy its meaning; and the belief in a singular truth that powers the suicidal nature of progressive liberalism—its egalitarian drive to nothingness.
If we abandon belief and move in a provisional way—in a way that tells it like it is, with the objectivity found in art—we will restore the mystery. The man who moves from hypothesis to hypothesis is akin to a bat; he moves through echolocation: he pings out different propositions and then processes the echo, then he adjust his next ping; as he does so he builds a world picture. If we break down from singular belief there will be confusion at first, but the iterative process by which each man throws out his hypotheses will eventually map our common “cave”.
At first, if we dispense with “the truth”, everything will seem dark and confused: this is the mystery—it is also, in the old sense of that word, the initiation. In the darkness our iterative, one might even say cybernetic, forays into the mystery will build a new picture: the world will be revitalised and meaningful; we will be an organism that feels its way, as a child explores the world for the first time. Already those men who have lived in this way—relativistically—have met points of agreement, the new and real agreement: they are like the first units in a computer war game who have lifted the map’s black shroud in a few places.
This process will, at last, lead us back to the truth—cross confirmed by millions of individual pings—and so we will return from nihilism and back to a singular, meaningful and whole world. Yet this can only be achieved if we remove the carapace of singular “truth” and the moralised categories of good and evil.