Re: mapping religious thought space

From: Robert Owen (
Date: Sun Jan 23 2000 - 23:31:04 MST wrote:

> However, I still question why you would place nihilism and
> atheism closely together.

First, Curt, again I apologize for the misplaced referent.

Second, perhaps we need to discuss what I'm trying to
diagrammatically represent. Think of it as similar to a
square of opposition representing not logical relationships
but relationships among belief-systems, dominant and
recessive personality traits, and ideological group dynamics.
Quite a bit for one diagram -- maybe TOO much.

Because of the way the dominance and recession of traits
works both individually and collectively within our strange
species, every Creed ["credo" - I believe] casts a shadow.
In terms or psychodynamics, the cathexis of any trait must
produce an anticathexis of its opposite -- in Freud, libido
flows along a continuum between opposites, ultimately Eros
and Thanatos, or in Jung psychic energy flows between the
conscious and unconscious standpoints, which are likewise
oppositional. If the moderate alteration of the direction of
flow of these energies is blocked, energy piles up at one
limit (for example, the Persona inflates, the Shadow becomes
dangerously depotentiated). Repression in Freud exhibits
the same feature -- to maintain the ego's social appearance,
more and more effort (libido, energy) is required the maintain
the repression of countervalent tendencies.

      Thus, an "Old Maid" is the woman who, every
      night, looks under her bed to make sure the
      thing she wants most isn't there.

Eventually a catastropic deflation of the Persona (or Ego-
Ideal) is precipitated by something akin to psychological
homeostasis to restore "medan agans" or "via media". Now
in relation to the diagram some implications are:

[1] If one ideology for any reason loses momentum due
     to "hardening of the categories", the energy that
     motivates its devotees will begin to flow in precisely
     the opposite direction -- in the diagram that means
     the ideology located in the same position oppositely.

[2] From this you can see that the juxaposition of atheism
     and nihilism means they are related as different degrees
     of a similar tendency, but NOT by opposition. An atheist
     whose emotional conviction is evaporating is most likely
     to become a humanist, or perhaps a skeptic or liberal,
     but NOT a nihilist. In my latest version, if the faith
     of an Orthodox Christian was only maintained by severe
     repression, his/her conversion to Extropianism (if at all
     possible) is the most probable result of such energic
     reversal. Thus the counterculture of the sixties becomes
     the conservative establishment of the eighties. To save
     space I'll let you work out other examples for yourself.

[3] Thus "atheism" and "nihilism" are related as points on a
     continuum -- a very different relationship. The diagram
     shows how an ideological tendency can pass through a
     series of stages, contiguous elements representing a
     modification of each other but not a negation. If, for
     example, Atheism is a denial of the supernatural, then
     Nihilism takes this much farther to a denial of the
     supernatural AND the natural (or secular). But nihilism
     is not a conversion of atheism, but rather an significant
     amplification or magnification of a common tendency.


Robert M. Owen
The Orion Institute
57 W. Morgan Street
Brevard, NC 28712-3659 USA

This archive was generated by hypermail 2b29 : Thu Jul 27 2000 - 14:02:37 MDT