Are there people in the world who are more open than we are, more free, more “surrendered” to life? And could there be a part of us that feels threatened by these people and wants to suppress them or even (to put it bluntly) get rid of them?
Wilhelm Reich, one of the foremost disciples of Sigmund Freud, after years of working with patients, reported that the answer to these questions is “yes” and “yes”. He said the more we turn in on ourselves and shrink from life, the more accustomed we become to living an armored life, and the less we want to be around someone who is radiant:
If you live in a dark cellar too long, you will hate the sunshine. You may even have lost the power of the eye to tolerate light. From this comes hatred toward sunlight.
Reich discussed the story of how Jesus was killed. People have interpreted Jesus’ death in various ways, but Reich proposed that people simply couldn’t tolerate Jesus’ freedom and honesty, that this was unacceptable to them and he had to be punished.
And because of all this, because of the “scapegoat” games that we human beings tend to play, the role of a genuine teacher or leader is not an easy one, Reich suggested:
The [genuine] leader will face the painful task of loving people and at the same time of not becoming bound to them the usual way; to know their weaknesses and not to despise them or to fear them. He will, first of all, face loneliness, living in vast spaces alone with only a few friends. And even these friends may turn out to be a bother or nuisance, since all want salvation. Everyone wants something from him, anyhow. He will slowly realize with amazement how infinite are the desires to get things on the part of people. It does not matter what they want. It is the wanting and the getting that matters. And he will be well aware of the price paid to him for the getting: empty admiration…
The [genuine] leader will always be aware of the well hidden tendency in people to see things in the mirror only, to take over great things only to render them impotent, to care far more for the admiring of someone than for what he has to offer, to flock around the unimportant and to force the crucial thing toward impotence.
With this the [genuine] leader will cause many to turn against him. He will have robbed these many of an object to hold on to, like a bean stalk would feel robbed of comfort if you took away the supporting stick of wood.
[Excerpted from The Murder of Christ: The Emotional Plague of Mankind, by Wilhelm Reich. New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 1963. As listed in The Basket of Tolerance by Adi Da Samraj.]
This scapegoat pattern has also been called the “man in the middle” pattern by my teacher. The “man (or woman) in the middle” gets idolized and then finally “sacrificed” or made to be the scapegoat when he or she no longer serves to keep us fascinated and amused and distracted.
Questions for discussion:
- What does Reich mean when he says we tend to want to “see things in the mirror only” and “take over great things in order to render them impotent”?
- Have you ever felt a desire to praise someone or something in order to get something for yourself, perhaps some kind of “salvation” through mere association?
- Reich claims that, to the extent we live an “armored” life, we are always trying to murder “Christ”, or murder the representatives of life. Do you think this could be true?