iebuhr’s The Nature and Destiny of Man, and What It Indicates About What’s Shaping Modern Culture


“I do not want the peace that passeth understanding.  I want the understanding which bringeth peace.”—Helen Keller




t Swanwick when Niebuhr had quit it
A young man exclaimed, “I have hit it!
Since I cannot do right
I must find out tonight
The right sin to commit—and commit it.”



he entire unredacted Serenity Prayer as originally written by Reinhold Niebuhr, says, “God, grant me serenity to accept the things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can, and wisdom to know the difference.  Living one day at a time, enjoying one moment at a time; Accepting hardship as a pathway to peace; Taking as Jesus did this sinful world as it is not as I would have it; Trusting that You will make all things right if I surrender to Your will; So that I may be reasonably happy in this life and supremely happy with You forever in the next—Amen.”





If you’re strong then naturally you’d courageously change reality, and if you’re weak then naturally you’d serenely accept reality.  “God, grant me serenity to accept the things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can, and wisdom to know the difference,” doesn’t necessarily mean, “Accepting hardship as a pathway to peace; Taking as Jesus did this sinful world as it is not as I would have it,” but is necessarily that unconditional, all-or-nothing, and

If the average person knew what the entire Serenity Prayer says, he probably, at the very least, would accept others not wanting to use the Serenity Prayer as a guide to life.  According to the Serenity Prayer school of psychology, the fact that the person who has the problem would simply be held response-able for dealing with it by courageously changing what he could and serenely accepting what he couldn’t, would be a fait accompli.  This is neo-Buddhism.  No problem could really be a problem if the victim prevented solved or dealt with it well enough, so victims who don’t take care of their own problems well enough seem omni-responsible.  The untermenschen are the only ones who could legitimately seem scary.  It seems that we must fear the untermenschen and their victim-power, and mustn’t fear the übermenschen and their freedoms.  NOTHING CAN LIMIT HOW MUCH ALL THIS COULD AFFECT YOU.

On Niebuhr, by Langdon Gilkey, says in its chapter “Sin: Anxiety, Pride, and Self-Deception,” “Only those who are oppressed by that behavior [advocacy of a certain moral standard]—for example, someone from an oppressed racial, religious, or sexual-preference group—see through this moral rhetoric to the self-interested bias in the ordinary moral conventions of a community.  The others, those on top, do not see it because they have convinced themselves, deceived themselves, that their behavior and the social mores they defend are not only moral but right and that their actions constitute a defense of the good and the true.”  Yet it should be obvious how much this applies to the ethos of The Serenity Prayer, including seeing sin as a product of anxiety.  If a society is going to take hardship, sinfulness, etc., as givens, then that society would simply have to find some people to fix the consequences.  They’d have to be the victims, since they’re the ones who have the most reliable motivation to solve the problems.  The Nature and Destiny of Man was written during the Age of Anxiety, when a lot of what’s now considered to be depression, was considered to be anxiety.  Bill Wilson, who wrote most of AA’s Big Book including the chapter that was supposed to have been written by an alcoholic’s wife, was a stockbroker in the time leading up to the Great Crash of 1929,     and it’s very obvious how much of an ethos of, “Responsible people deal with their own problems, whatever they are,” would serve the self-interests and self-esteem of the stockbrokers of that era.  Heck, plenty of people have even said that we couldn’t unambiguously blame the Great Depression on the stock market crash, and stockbrokers of that era would also love this anti-blame attitude.  And, of course, this moral bankruptcy would suit the short-sighted selfishness of all addictive personalities.

This would have to make up most if not all of the “self-responsibility” that this society takes seriously rather than forgiving those who don’t live up to it.  Those who fall short of this, then, would have to seem intolerably irresponsible in their not doing what they must.  Intercultural studies have consistently found that depressed people who’ve lived in developed areas outside of the modern West have tended to feel paranoid, but modern Westerners, whether depressed or not, tend to figure that even if someone did “get you,” that would mean only that you lost the battle so you’re a loser.  Even in a society with rampant depression, anxiety disorders, etc., victims across the board must adequately adjust to, adapt to, function in, remain undisturbed by, compensate for, fit in with, and feel contented with whatever happened to them; without failing, losing the battles, trying to vindicate themselves, evaluating the morality of behaviors, using their best judgment as to whether or not they’re wrong, or acting like a muckraker.  Otherwise, these victims would seem to be just inadequate maladjusted maladaptive dysfunctional disturbed decompensated vindictive moralistic and judgmental misfits malcontents failures and losers who love to rake through muck.  And, of course, the more power that anyone would have to shape both the cultural norms and the realities to which people must adjust, the more that a Serenity Prayer morality would serve his own self-interests, yet he could act as if it constitutes a defense of the good and the true.

Those who are oppressed would realize the dangers of attributing sinfulness to anxiety, etc., but they could therefore seem to be losers who are trying to evade self-responsibility.  For example, a self-reliant work ethic would have to imply that one must do whatever it takes to take care of himself, no matter how unreasonable circumstances had made this, or he’d seem to be an unethical parasite.  Otherwise, people who are very willing to do a lot of work but insist on setting other limits on exactly what they’d do, could get away with not doing what it takes to take care of themselves.  Not only that, even if one pointed out how selfish are the motivations of the powerful who hold that the powerless not taking response-ability for their own problems is bad, this would seem to be among the “honest lies” that are taken as givens since “that’s just the way that human nature is,” and victim-power is insidious whereas physical power isn’t.

Pat Buchanan, in a syndicated column in 1977, wrote, “...despite Hitler’s anti-Semitic and genocidal tendencies, he was an individual of great courage...  Hitler’s success was not based on his extraordinary gifts alone.  His genius was an intuitive sense of the mushiness, the character flaws, the weakness masquerading as morality that was in the hearts of the statesmen who stood in his path.”  The “defects of character” stressed by AA’s Big Book, resentment anger and fear in general, are the same as what Buchanan and Hitler meant by “character flaws,” i.e. not handling one’s own problems (whatever they may be) with enough stolid and self-reliant backbone.  “Taking as Jesus did this sinful world as it is not as I would have it,” as well as, “Whatever your problem is, courageously change what you can and serenely accept what you can’t,” also define “character flaws” as supposed weakness masquerading as morality.



Niebuhr was a hell-raiser, before Stalinism made him fatalistic about human nature.  Yet if any organization preaches the Serenity Prayer at people, the final result would be the same, that self-reliant STRENGTH seems good, and weakness that tries to get persuasive strength from emotion and/or abstractions seems intolerably bad.  As the history of The AA School of Self-Help Psychology shows, Nazism, minus anti-Semitism and committing outrageous aggression, equals taking as Jesus did this sinful world as it is not as you’d have it.

This is very much along the same lines as John McCain’s response to The Great Wall Street Bailout of 2008 failing to pass in the House on September 29, after Nancy Pelosi blamed Bush Administration policies for the crisis, “Now is not the time to fix the blame, it’s time to fix the problem.”  Don’t find blame; find a solution, is crucial to self-help psychology, both pop psychology, and professional approaches that teach resiliency, getting socioemotional problems under control through medication, etc.  And regarding the Great Crash of 2008, this would hold whether the solutions in question would be government bailout programs, or the economic meltdown being allowed to happen, and then everyone affected would have to focus their attention on fixing their own problems.  In fact, since the bailout could only do so much in dealing with this problem, plenty of individuals would still be left with plenty of problems that they’d have to fix.  No matter how much greed was responsible for causing them, the greedy had the power to cause them, and the victims don’t have the power to prevent them but do have the power to work to fix them.  They can’t change others’ greed, but can change the effectiveness and efficiency of their own reactions.  The same would go for anyone else who suffered the consequences of anyone else’s greed or other sinfulness.

The Nature and Destiny of Man discusses the question of whether various expectations that we could ever have social justice, given a very Wagnerian conception of human nature.  Plenty of great writers, especially ever since the Renaissance, have written about how society should serve the needs of the common people, in whatever ways reflect the realities of human nature. In essence, Niebuhr evaluates them in terms of whether they take into consideration the Doctrine of Original Sin, in a way that’s Christian.  Since that seems to have been his favorite theological doctrine, The Serenity Prayer assumes that our choice isn’t between the peace that passeth understanding and the understanding that bringeth peace, but between the peace that passeth understanding and the dysfunctionality that would result from not adjusting to ineradicable imperfections.  That’s living in the real world.  You do what you can.  Beat the hardcore blues.  No self-care could seem onerous.  No one is entitled to anything, since everything has to come from somewhere or someone, isn’t going to just happen because “it’s what’s right.”



Whatever happens is, therefore, “life on life’s terms,” “reality,” etc.  Maturity means accepting reality.  Of course, we live in a competitive and self-responsible society, nothing’s guaranteed, and human imperfections are whatever they are.  Those who have Nietzsche’s values would be both most likely to succeed, and most likely to seem to have good, well-adjusted backbone.  Response-ability for one’s own welfare, one’s own problems: serves the greater good, maximizes efficiency, is a moral obligation that we can’t afford to forgive.  Where would our economy be if people weren’t truly motivated to take response-ability for their own welfare?  There are no guarantees in life, and if there were, plenty of people wouldn’t be productive enough.  Emotionalism such as whining, victimology, and victimhood, wouldn’t be fair play in the contest for success.  Fighting for what is good could actually turn out to be bad, since people: are naturally motivated to do what they want and to take response-ability for their own problems, aren’t reliably motivated to take moral responsibility, must be motivated to get what they want by winning and earning it, and mustn’t be motivated to get it by acting like victims or their allies.  Asymmetrical warfare means that the strong fight fair and the weak fight unfair.  If everyone were to get what they deserved, where would it come from?


(Cartoon generated by “Build Your Own Meat”)



For example, the chapter The Easy Conscience of Modern Man says, near the beginning, quotes T. E. Hulme as writing, “All thought since the Renaissance, in spite of its apparent variety, forms one coherent whole....  It all rests on the same conception of the nature of man and all exhibits the same inability to recognize the meaning of the dogma of original sin.  In this period not only have its philosophy, its literature and its ethics been based upon this new conception of man as fundamentally good, as sufficient, as the measure of things; but a good case can be made out for regarding many of its characteristic economic features as springing entirely from this central abstract conception.”  Anyone who believes that human sinfulness is that ineradicable, would naturally figure that the victims of this and other imperfections, simply must deal with their own problems by courageously changing what they can and serenely accepting whatever they can’t.

Yet when this book and the books it quotes discuss such topics as whether trusting nature or trusting people’s reason is the best way to have a just society, they completely ignore the passive aspects of human nature.  The Learning About Depression webpage on the Zoloft website, says, “If you have depression, this sad mood along with other symptoms can last weeks, months, or even years if not treated.  Depression isn’t a sign of weakness or a character flaw.  It’s a real medical condition, but there are ways to successfully treat depression....  Depressive disorders affect about 34 million American adults.”






 he Tragedy of Victim Correction as a Panacea~



As the above says, this is Al-Anon approved literature,  for Alateen.  You couldn’t make this stuff up!  Persuading people to think like this works best with Groupthink, but if you, on your own, must deal with a devastating reality in order to fit in and function, then you’ve gotta do what you’ve gotta do, and our self-responsible cultural norms (“Everybody knows that The Serenity Prayer is good.”) would provide the Groupthink.  As Addiction: Why Can’t They Just Stop?, by John Hoffman and Susan Froemke, says, in a survey of addicts’ family members, “...the words that everyone used were powerfully negative: ‘devastating,’ ‘abusive,’ ‘horrible’.”  Yet no concerns that would interfere with the victims’ self-responsibility could matter, since in the long run, caring about them would only mollycoddle and weaken the people who’d have to take care of themselves optimally.  Victim-blaming is incentives-based.  George Vincent wrote, “To survive growing up in an alcoholic family is second only to surviving the Holocaust,” but the big difference is that despite the fears that addicts’ kids feel, they aren’t really in mortal danger, so Buddhists, etc., could say that these fears are only illusions.  Victim correction as a panacea could be called chicken soup for the soul, unconditional serenity and courage.  If that’s stooping to the lowest of the low, then sometimes we’ve got to stoop to the lowest of the low in order to make sure that problems get solved by those who have the most reliable motivation to solve them.  Moral relativism becomes amoral absolutism; “Your righteous objections are only your opinion!” becomes, “Your righteous objections are only your self-righteous, resentful, manipulative, controlling, unpragmatic, whiny, judgmental... opinion, and you simply can’t afford those disgraceful victim attitudes!”

Yet though it might seem only natural to want to feel better by practicing Buddhistic self-discipline and self-re-education, and this doesn’t involve any medication, this is hardly natural.  In the words of Ayn Rand, “We the Living” could very much object to this sort of de rigueur coping with helplessness, Stoically!  Yet though a Marxist mentality of, “Love your brother,” is supposed to degrade the natural human spirit, a requisite mentality of, “As long as it’s your problem, ‘self-responsibility’ means courageously changing whatever you can and serenely accepting whatever you can’t,” mustn’t, or you might have problems coping with reality.  (Everybody loves The Serenity Prayer, right?)  In general, we do revere self-responsibility for one’s own welfare, and don’t revere self-responsibility for how one’s own choices affect others.  Victim-power seems to be the tyranny of helplessness, though, “But look at how helpless I am about what I did!” is the ultimate tyranny of helplessness.

In general, this sort of self-help is cognitive therapy, the modern version of behaviorist psychology, so this can be given the title of behaviorist B. F. Skinner’s classic book, Beyond Freedom & Dignity, pragmatic in such a way that’s far more important than such abstract niceties.  This represents what is good, what most motivates people to do what must get done, which is what those who have the problems should want.  If, instead, the advisee insisted on drawing his own honest well-founded conclusions about what was happening to him, he’d be told that he’d better realize how important it is that he think in whatever ways would maximize his chances of self-reliant success in solving such big problems.  What else could Alateen members, etc., be told, “Go right ahead and fail to deal with your problems adequately.”?

This self-help logic could be used interchangeably for all sorts of problems, including exploitative lovers of every variety, unemployment, and literally even cancer and getting up the mettle to fight it.   Responsibility for one’s own choices means blame, naiveté, and controlling (As Niebuhr wrote in Moral Man and Immoral Society, “The power necessary to control the wicked is the danger, not the wicked,” and chances are that most of what contributes to our very unnaturally high rate of depression, isn’t even truly malicious.), while response-ability for one’s own problems means self-reliance, realism, and freedom.  Claiming, “You caused your own problem,” makes Victim Correction as a Panacea sound the most justifiable, while, “You’ve simply got to take response-ability for your own welfare, your own problem,” is the fallback position, since all problems must get taken care of.  The self-help formula for conflict resolution is for general public consumption, and it works.  If such sophistry weren’t so predictable and absolutist, just think of how often people could: lose faith, play the victim role, not do what needs to get done (by those most motivated to do it), etc.  Like Sarah Palin, this has both the appeal of going rogue, and the appeal of conformity.  America’s latest, most trendy, patriotic song begins, “If tomorrow all the things were gone, I’d worked for all my life.  And I had to start again, with just my children and my wife.”?

In theory this means self-responsibility, self-reliance, gutsiness, anti-controlling, good coping skills, realism, conventionality, respectability, etc., but in practice this means that nothing except, “Can I change this?” including the most basic morality and concern for the weak, can really seem to matter.  Sure, you could recognize that destructive sinfulness is destructive sinfulness, but in the end you’d have to forgive it, or you’d be maladjusted and suffer the consequences of this weakness.  (“YOU VILL ENJOY!”)  Frank Buchman, leader of the Oxford Groups, the club on which AA and then Al-Anon was based and until recently was called “Moral Re-Armament,” (Sinclair Lewis’ novel It Can’t Happen Here, from 1935, includes Buchman in its list of currently trendy “Messiahs.”) said, “D’you know Heinrich Himmler?...  Say, you ought to know Heinrich.  He’s a great lad....  [Hitler] lets us have house-parties whenever we like.”  Anti-Nazi British travel-writer and journalist Robert Byron, who got a chance to observe Nazism up close, wrote in his diary, “Himmler apparently dotes on the Oxford Group [How cute.] and writes to its English members discussing their troubles with them,” so he was their Dear Abby.  This was the same Himmler who said, in his speech on October 4, 1943 to the SS Group Leaders in Poznan, “Most of you know what it means to see a hundred corpses lying together, five hundred, or a thousand.  To have stuck it out and at the same time—apart from exceptions caused by human weakness—to have remained decent fellows, that is what has made us hard,” but that personal strength concerned one of the Nazi practices that Buchman didn’t like.  It’s pretty obvious what the “Dear Abby” version of that would advise those in trouble, who are members of an honored group of people who are working on their own resolute and impassively accepting attitudes.  Anything less than, “Happiness is an inside job,” (in general), or, “Things happen.  It’s what we do when they happen that’s key,” (in general), would have been too weak-spirited and blaming for Himmler, so he was their perfect “Dear Abby.”  The only suggestions that Himmler would have made in a Dear Abby letter, including one to an addict’s family member, would have been, (1) courageously change what you can, and, (2) serenely accept what you can’t, since anything else would have mollycoddled WEAKNESS.

Himmler Logic, after all, would focus on whether the person with the problem seems to have a weak (as in literally WEAK) character, and would be quick to interpret inadequacies in problem-solving as weaknesses of character, so the weak seem contemptible, blameworthy, and, possibly, insidiously dangerous.  This self-responsible self-help approach is also like the “exemplary dualism” of the Militia Movement, like classifying people as redbloods or mollycoddles, or as übermenschen or untermenschen; this preaches that those who seem to have (literally) strong characters are the allies of decent people so are at least forgiven, and those who seem to have (literally) weak characters are the enemies of decent people.  This leads to some predictable distortions in our conceptions of right, wrong, shame, etc.  Take the Nazi might-makes-right ethos, remove the racism and war crimes, and you’d have what Western culture considers to be the only conception of personal responsibility that works, which is what Hitler’s Wagner’s and Nietzsche’s main inspiration, Schopenhauer, actually wrote about.

This was the original middle-class going rogue with conformity.  As It Can’t Happen Here says, “Why, there’s no country in the world that can get more hysterical—yes, or more obsequious—than America,” and devotion to anything that would imply, “Accepting hardship as a pathway to peace; Taking as Jesus did this sinful world as it is not as I would have it,” would require obsequiousness of Biblical proportions.  The question of whether “it” can happen here, all depends on whether or not “it” includes the aspects of Nazism and Himmler that Buchman’s formula for living didn’t include; if not, “it” happens every day.  The “it” in It Can’t Happen Here included merely an ambiguous, covert, attitude-of-gratitude racism (“It was understood... that all Jews of all conditions were frequently to sound their ecstasy at having found in America a sanctuary, after their deplorable experiences among the prejudices of Europe....  The allegiance of all such Negroes as had the sense to be content with safety and good pay instead of ridiculous yearnings for personal integrity Sarason got by being photographed shaking hands with the celebrated Negro Fundamentalist clergyman, the Reverend Dr. Alexander Nibbs, and through the highly publicized Sarason Prizes for the Negroes with the largest families, the fastest time in floor-scrubbing, and the longest periods of work without taking a vacation.”), so the “it” in modern America could include merely an ambiguous, covert, attitude-of-gratitude form of the strong horrifying the weak.  A classic cliché expression is, “There is no alternative,” to the power dynamics of our economy, and another way to say this is that there is no alternative besides dictatorship and/or Zimbabwe-style economic failures, so every time that these power dynamics horrify us, we should be grateful that we’re not instead dealing with dictators’ outrages, and/or economic failures including massive unemployment, irrespective of any indefinable abstractions such as integrity.  If you’re in a Wagnerian conflict, and you simply must deal with your realities, then you simply must deal with them as Schopenhauer prescribed.  The psychology of, “You don’t want to think/act like a weak person, do you?” could be called a form of neo-Nazism.



Yet, in a society with rampant depression, one could just as easily call that “pragmatic logic”: the weak courageously change what they can (themselves) and serenely accept what they can’t (everyone else), and what one deserves is completely irrelevant.  You can’t change your enemies, except for one.  Yet the limits of the threshold of human endurance are a fact, and if we don’t deal with it, it will deal with us.

“Accepting hardship as a pathway to peace; Taking as Jesus did this sinful world as it is not as I would have it,” is all about what the weak should do, believe, and take responsibility for.  Even sophisticated psychology tends to classify people, aspects of human nature, desires, etc., into categories that are very German, Freudian: übermensch means ineradicable so at least forgivable, while untermensch means true shamefulness, suspiciousness.  (And, of course, treating this moral bankruptcy as necessary for realism seems a lot better than does treating this as admirably open-minded and gutsy.)  These Oxford members no doubt tended to take his ideas about coping skills, to heart, since they wanted self-improvement that would build fiber.  After all, we must accept that if you win, you win, and if you lose, you lose.  That self-responsible self-motivation is also how, and why, market discipline works; we must discipline even perfectly innocent failures.  The more that the weakness of the weak is blamed (What exactly is to blame when someone doesn’t protect himself well enough to succeed?): the more that they’d be motivated to take responsibility for taking care of themselves, the more hope that they’d have that they could change what causes their problems (themselves), and the more that we could all have faith in this red-blooded worldview.   Prejudice against the weak means an optimistic and patriotic faith in The System, and focusing on how the weak could hopefully solve their own problems if only they made themselves worthy, changed what they can.   Übermensch imperfection such as sinfulness would have to seem at least forgivable, while untermensch supposed imperfection would have to seem to be an insidious (as in “the hidden lie,” and, “We are all victims of victims.”) expression of weak people’s SELF-WILLS.  Dictator or no dictator, just about all of those in any society must define “personal responsibility” in basically the same predictable way and truly believe it, or different people would play by different rules, and plenty of people wouldn’t take the rules to heart when fortitude would be most necessary.  No doubt plenty of Oxford members who weren’t Himmler’s advisees, could have been just as easily, since they were just as free of whiny resentment; all “good” members followed the same school of psychology.



As far as self-help is concerned, the bottom line is that you’re simply going to have to deal with your own problem whatever it may be, and expectations that one simply deal with normal problems are interchangeable with expectations that one simply deal with an addict in the family.  “Personal strength,” “strength of character,” etc., tend to mean literally strength, transcending “weak” but natural and warranted feelings.  As Langdon Gilkey’s On Niebuhr says, “Thus transcendence is perhaps the key word in Niebuhr...”  For anyone in trouble, this would be: self-help, self-responsibility, self-care, self-protection, self-actualization, self-empowerment, etc.  As any conservative social analysis would say, you, that teen who looks like Archie, etc. could think productively, or think counterproductively (though if you’re the problem person, then probably we’ll just have to accept your counterproductive thinking, since people aren’t perfect and we mustn’t try to re-engineer human nature).  The effects of “Archie’s” dad’s actions are short-term (since others are motivated to resolve them), but the effects of Archie’s reactions are long-term (since others aren’t).  Twisting reality in “positive” ways is realistic, since it increases people’s chances of success.  Archie’s non-addicted parent (who’d really have to have a Gelassenheit “productive” attitude, what with all that she must do to make her family as normal as possible), has just as much autonomy as does the typical adult, since addicts’ power over others is physical, not authoritarian.

In general, motivation is everything; irrespective of moral responsibility, addiction or lack of it, etc., the only personal responsibility that we could count on is one in which those held responsible for problems are those motivated to take responsibility.  Charles P. Pierce’s Idiot America, How Stupidity Became a Virtue in the Land of the Free, says, “The [conservative] movement swallowed whole the quack doctrine of supply-side economics, adopting it with almost comically ferocious zeal,” and self-help, also, must follow this pattern, since in a gutsy and as-uncompromising-as-reality fashion, it holds that no matter how much others are responsible for your problems: if you win you win and if you lose you lose, that’s what’s realistic (what most reliably works), and that stupidity is a virtue in the name of freedom.  (We all know where intellectualism leads.)  Idiot America also says about a Cuban-American refugee who worked with AIDS patients in the early 1980s, “The situation reminded her a little of the way things had worked in Cuba, where the government would tell you something that you knew from your own experience could not possibly be true, yet people seemed willing to believe that it was, and to act upon that belief, until the manufactured reality displaced the actual one [which is also the classic definition of brainwashing, washing the brain of “bad attitudes”].  She felt she was working in parallel worlds.  There was the world of the disease, and of the people who had it; and then there was another world, in which everything was a symbol and in which her patients stood for something,” and one could say the same thing about this sort of self-help, where there’s the world of what people like Archie must actually deal with, and then there’s the world of what they symbolize: our duties regarding the never-ending virtues and necessity of response-ability for one’s own welfare, which shape what we should believe irrespective of what we’ve learned from experience, e.g. that Archie looks at himself.  (Marxism applies how cultural conditioning works, to shaping “the ideal society,” right?)



It’s amazing which moral norms could (i.e. must) seem less important than whether or not the person with the problem is doing what’s necessary for him to overcome it successfully.  That seems good; “whining” seems bad.  What’s most important in practical terms, might go very much against what we’d like to believe is important.  Banalities get things done.  Realism is the ultimate mandate.  This is the sort of Populism that H. G. Wells called “magnificent stupid honesty,” adamantly anti-manipulative-morality, so this sort of supposed populism would adamantly accept what causes 15% of the adult population to suffer serious depressive disorders in any given year.  (This “honesty” often has big unintended consequences, but could seem all-important.)  “Stop doing that, since it’s judgmental and controlling!” would probably make you at least hesitant, but, “Stop doing that, since that sort of thing has been proven to contribute to our very unnaturally high rates of depression and anxiety disorders!” would probably seem judgmental and controlling to you.  If this weakness-anathematizing conception of personal responsibility weren’t that absolutist, plenty of problems wouldn’t get resolved well enough, yet the fact that this is that absolutist, is pretty scary.  (Yet, the fact that so many stupid and reckless people got such important jobs on Wall Street, shows that even this very costly way of motivating winning could fail in very important ways, though they could always be excused as “inevitable human imperfection.”)  Sure, on Larry King Live on August 11, 2009, economist Ben Stein said, “Big government is a terrifying subject” (i.e. the kind that you could openly and proudly get terrified about), but you don’t dare say, “Big depression is a terrifying subject,” even if you’ve been there, or, “Big Wall Street greed is a terrifying subject.”  Also, on an interview on a Christian radio network, Stein said, “ leads you to killing people.”  Magical thinking like this could seem more acceptable to economists, since they could always figure that consequences don’t really matter, since those who have the problems are always motivated to solve them; that “works.”  Self-help’s conception of which freedoms, self-determination, personal rights and responsibilities, etc., do, and which don’t, seem to matter, sounds like something right out of The Communist Manifesto (and certainly plenty of others in the 19th Century noticed this, too), “ place of the numberless indefeasible chartered freedoms, has set up that single, unconscionable freedom—Free Trade,” and since someone must take responsibility for the consequences of adversarialism, “self-responsibility” must mean that in place of the numberless indefeasible chartered forms of personal responsibility, we have set up that single, unconscionable personal responsibility—response-ability for one’s own problems.  (A better word than freedom might be right, i.e., “I have a right to expect something better!”  “No, the only right that you have is to become a winner by protecting yourself better, with proud self-reliance!”)





In fact, though we’re supposed to take addictive behavior as a given since addiction is a disease, the law certainly doesn’t treat addicts as not guilty by reason of insanity, one can’t be brought out of real legal insanity through “hitting bottom” or an intervention.  Addicts’ family members, who can’t change them, must minimize their responsibility and magnify the responsibility of their own reactions, but the law, which can change most addicts with whom it comes into conflict, doesn’t have to minimize and magnify.  As the publishers’ notes of Gene M. Heyman’s Addiction: A Disorder of Choice says, “He shows that the causes of addiction, its control, and its potential reduction are the same as the causes, control, and reduction of all voluntary behavior.”  (Certainly you could imagine what would result if someone said at an Al-Anon meeting, “But when he relapsed, it was because he got angry and chose to, not because he saw something that triggered a compulsion to drink!  That means that my objections are legitimate!” or even, “But the person who caused this problem, whom I can’t change, isn’t addicted!”)  Yet whether or not addiction is involved, you could always find some sophistry to make courageously changing what you can and serenely accepting what you can’t seem legitimate, and ignore any facts that would disrupt this pragmatism; form follows function.  This, also, could be called “pragmatic logic,” applicable to any realities that contribute to our rampant depression.  Both an acceptance of an addiction, and an acceptance of aggressive human nature, are fatalism about unrestrained desires, what the pleasure centers of our brains make us do, etc.  What works for AA is what works for addicts, i.e. for addictive personalities, which would single-mindedly insist on: excuses to do what one pleases, stopping righteous indignation and “controlling,” etc.  The more that we serenely accept übermensch, active, imperfections, the more that we can’t afford to accept the untermensch, passive, imperfections of those hurt by them, and who, therefore, must deal with them in order not to be maladjusted maladaptive and dysfunctional.  If this wasn’t as simplistic and resolute as Reagan, their awareness that they’re victims would leave them both too weak by feeling helplessness and making unrealistic expectations, and too strong in that they could insidiously get the benefits of victimhood.



Your realities are whatever they are, and either you deal with them or you suffer the consequences.  NOTHING CAN LIMIT HOW MUCH ALL THIS COULD AFFECT YOU.  To paraphrase a Catholic riddle: “What’s the difference between a victim corrector and a terrorist?  You can negotiate with a terrorist.”  As pioneering behaviorist John B. Watson wrote, “The raw fact that you, as a psychologist, if you are to remain scientific, must describe the behavior of man in no other terms than those you use in describing the behavior of the ox you slaughter, drove and still drives many timid souls away from behaviorism,” and the only real difference between behaviorism and cognitive therapy is that it credits humanity with self-control abilities that animals don’t have, such as the ability to choose to serenely accept hardship and sinfulness; training people who are motivated to be trained is a lot easier.  (This self-control would benefit the person who serenely accepts the hardship, sinfulness, etc. that he’s helpless to change, whether or not the person who caused the problem is addicted. )  As Paul Krugman wrote, “The truth is that good old-fashioned demand-side macroeconomics has a lot to offer in our current predicament—but its defenders lack all conviction, while its critics are filled with a passionate intensity,” and one could say the same for debates between those who stress personal responsibility for the consequences of one’s own choices, which could usually be called “blaming,” “guilt-based,” “controlling,” etc., and the gutsy people who stress red-blooded personal response-ability for one’s own welfare, which could always be called “self-help,” “self-empowerment,” “realism,” etc.  As the Great Crash of 2008 shows, some things will never change.


THE GREATEST RISK IS NOT TAKING ONE, AIG ad from 2001, so if you tried to restrain this you’d seem profoundly: weak, whiny, defeatist, controlling, unrealistic, counterproductive, opinionated, manipulative, negative, moralistic, etc.  Sure, post-scandal AIG CEO Edward M. Liddy said, “I have seen the good side of capitalism.  But over the past six months, since agreeing to take the reins of AIG and reviewing how it was run in prior years, I have also seen instances of the bad side of capitalism,” but one could also call the gutsiness of AIG in its PIG era, “character-building,” giving plenty of backbone and fortitude.


Sure, Rush Limbaugh is more unpopular than Bill Ayers or Jeremiah Wright, and conservatives could be afraid that such aggressiveness looks “ugly” to the public.  Yet, especially if you’re in big trouble, if you thought like Limbaugh and the other attack politicians then you’d face up to your problems more serenely and courageously, and we dare not care how profoundly ugly is coaching Archie, etc., into having attitudes of, “I’ve stopped blaming others and I’m looking at myself!”  If Himmler had sent you some “Dear Abby” letters that didn’t mention the Nazi practices that Buchman didn’t like, the advice that the letters would have given would have helped you become more resilient, courageous, self-responsible, realistic, and abiding by Gelassenheit (a fatalism that teaches that willfulness leads to self-defeating frustration if you’re helpless to get what you want or need), so you would have ended up with a stronger character.  Victim Correction as a Panacea, is Gelassenheit and similar all-encompassing attitudes about physical response-ability for one’s own problems, exactly what a society with rampant depression, anxiety disorders, etc., would most need. 

Sure, Niebuhr wrote that he was shocked about Buchman’s admiration of Hitler, though The Serenity Prayer summarizes the book that most shaped Hitler’s thinking, Schopenhauer’s The World as Will and Representation:   As with a panacea, we must see the entire world in terms of the ineradicable SELF-WILLS of the sinful, the ignominious and surreptitious SELF-WILLS of victims who don’t represent their own bad experiences to themselves as being as innocuous as possible (“Those manipulative whiners want to believe that someone owes them something!”), and, therefore, our responsibility to do this.   Niebuhr wrote that Buchman’s faith that dictators, business tycoons, etc., should use their power to push Christianity, vapidly ignored how realpolitik would affect the outcome, “The slightest acquaintance with the history of Christian thought on the problem of the relation of the absolute demands of the gospel to the relativities of politics and economics would prove its childishness,” but the same could also be said about applying a simplistic sloganeering spirituality to the situations that contribute to our rampant depression.  It isn’t possible to get any more vapid than,“Serenely accept everything that happens to you in a society with rampant depression, that you’re helpless to change.”

The wave of the future, the “new economy” of self-responsibility, requires that we want to be responsible members of society, take response-ability for our own welfare.  With that approach you’d be more likely to succeed, and that’s good, maybe irreplaceable.  Your natural objections to this would be counterproductive (though you’re free not to hold others personally responsible by these standards, as long as you hold yourself responsible by them).  The same would go for minimizing any “whiny” lessons we might learn from the Great Crash of 2008.  If we can’t change wretched excesses on Wall Street but can change victims’ not fixing the consequences adequately, then either we correct the victims or we’ll have a dysfunctional society.  Since we simply must solve our problems, our perceptions must be distorted in order to fit in with this; there is no alternative.




(Cartoon generated by “Build Your Own Meat”)


Nothing can drive anyone away from this sort of cognitive therapy, just as nothing can drive Archie away from his unconditional and immoderate, contrived serenity and courage, though Gelassenheit is very unnatural social engineering.  In self-help books about codependency, stories in which the problem spouses are addicted are absolutely interchangeable with stories in which the problem spouses simply choose to act like buttheads, since in both cases the victims are equally unable to change the victimizers’ behavior.  Whatever you must do to take care of yourself, is whatever you must do to take care of yourself, so you must look at yourself when you’re looking for things that you could correct in order to solve your own problems.  Sure, the Financial Times on March 10, 2009 quoted Bernie Sucher, the head of Merrill Lynch operations in Moscow, as saying, “Our world is broken—and I honestly don’t know what is going to replace it.  The compass by which we steered as Americans has gone.  The last time I ever saw anything like this, in terms of the sense of disorientation and loss, was among my friends [in Russia] when the Soviet Union broke up,” but Americans have been culturally conditioned to serenely accept economic difficulties, and not to accept supposedly manipulative whining about them.  Those with plenty of “personal strength” would tolerate Wall Street Darwinism and its effects.  Archie could “get on with life” since folk wisdom, common sense, says that that’s what everyone must do; everyone could “stick it out.”  (On June 19, 2009 [just before the threatened bloodshed began, “On 9/11 we were all Americans, and tonight we’re all Iranians.”], when Iran’s supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said that they were going to crack down on the protests of the election fraud, he said, “If the political elite want to ignore the law or break the law then they are taking wrong measures...,” so dogmatists of all stripes excite their followers by condemning the supposed intellectual elite.)  Archie, and others who are powerless, couldn’t afford the dysfunctionality of feeling disoriented or lost.  Realism requires that this self-responsibility be the lynchpin, so any concern that would conflict with this must be shrugged off.  (Of course, this self-response-ability must include the same self-justifying, fatalistic, conformist, simplistic, “upbeat,” absolutist, unconditional, predictable, illusions that got our economy into such trouble; after all, people will do only what they feel motivated to do.)  We all must adjust to and deal with reality, and others determine what is reality for you, which tends to mean that the strong (whether or not they’re addicted) determine what is reality for the weak.  Resiliency is everything.




Wall Street, August 23, 1929,  “As I wrote last March, those of us who have looked to the self-interest of lending institutions to protect shareholders’ equity, myself especially, are in a state of shocked disbelief….  That’s precisely the reason I was shocked, because I had been going for 40 years or more with very considerable evidence that it was working exceptionally well.”—Alan Greenspan, testimony before Congress, October 23, 2008


That’s why self-help in general tends to admire Al-Anon, The Serenity Prayer, etc., and this self-reliant ethos.  The only thing that really matters is what you do and don’t have the power to change.  This is how the ideal American faces his own problems.  Since Bill Wilson, co-founder of AA who wrote much of their Big Book, was a stockbroker around the time of the Great Depression, one could call this The Great Depression Stockbroker’s Approach to Self-Responsibility; we’d have to be firm with those victims and whiners who object to productivity that involves strong character, such as “creative destruction,” and, “Your problem is your problem.”  The economist who, just after the Great Depression, came up with the concept of creative destruction, Joseph Schumpeter, also wrote during the Depression that recovery from it, “is sound only if it [comes] of itself.  For any revival which is merely due to artificial stimulus leaves part of the work of depressions undone and adds, to an undigested remnant of maladjustment, new maladjustment of its own which has to be liquidated in turn, thus threatening business with another [worse] crisis ahead.”  Daniel Gross’ Dumb Money says that Maestro Alan Greenspan, in an interview, “had an abstract fervor for the glories and potentials of creative destruction,” and, in the abstract, saying that alkies’ teens, etc., should have an attitude of, “I’ve stopped blaming others and I’m looking at myself!” sounds just as proudly productive.





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“Most people’s religion is what they want to believe, not what they do believe.”—Luther Burbank, Why I Am an Infidel


“You will always have good people doing good things and evil people doing evil things, but for good people to do evil things, that takes religion.”—Steven Weinberg, Scientist and Nobel Laureate


I distrust those people who know so well what God wants them to do because I notice it always coincides with their own desires.Susan B. Anthony


“If you tell a lie big enough and keep repeating it, people will eventually come to believe it.”—Goebbels




Clearly, this depression, anxiety, etc., aren’t simply among the diseases that are parts of the natural order.  A lot of this rampant depression are people’s natural reactions to helplessness.  The magnitude of this social problem, can’t just be brushed aside.  Yet discussions about how either nature or reason could lead us to either justice or injustice, doesn’t take into consideration that such rampant depression is a message from nature.  Caring about social problems is so passé, so 1960s, even caring about our rampant depression.  Depression is the only dread disease of which many of the causes seem sacrosanct.  As “Mary Smith” wrote in her suicide note, “All [my psychologist] could do is nitpick about how I need to feel small + helpless,” though Mary obviously had a gutsy personality, which is typical of the self-empowering “thinking” of victim correction: plenty of all-or-nothing thinking, overgeneralization, mental filter, and disqualifying the positive.  Of course, if our cultural norms have conditioned us to accept ads, books, etc., that would talk about such rampant depression as if it consists of either 34,000,000 rather severe character defects or 34,000,000 rather severe medical conditions, then we couldn’t get this message from nature.  Sure, the old writers Niebuhr comments on, wrote before the Age of Depression.  Yet the threshold of human endurance has always existed, so they could have discussed that.

Manic-Depressive Illness, Bipolar Disorders and Recurrent Depression, by Dr. Frederick K. Goodwin and Dr. Kay Redfield Jamison, says, in its chapter on personality differences, “Character has been defined as ‘personality evaluated’—that aspect of an individual which bears a moral stamp and reflects the person’s integrative and organizing functions.  The concept of character is employed less frequently in the United States than in Europe, although it is often used interchangeably with that of personality.”  Actually, the word character is used plenty in the United States, whether it be in comments on depression or from the likes of Pat Buchanan and Frank Buchman, to pass judgment on how integrated and organized are traumatized people.  After all, such judgments aren’t moralisticSomeone absolutely has to provide our society’s homeostasis, since things simply have to remain integrated and organized.

The homepage of the Mental Illness—What a Difference a Friend Makes website, by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, says, “An estimated 26.2 percent of Americans ages 18 and older—about one in four adults—suffer from a diagnosable mental disorder in a given year. NIMH.”  As the title suggests, this website is about getting the friends of the 26.2% of the American adult population, to support these people rather than stigmatizing them.  The ways in which one friend treats another, is one of the few sociological factors of this huge social problem, that we could honorably take seriously. If we take the other sociological factors seriously, we could seem to be trying to manipulate like untermenschen, and/or to restrict the übermenschen.


For example, typical of the chapter “Original Sin and Man’s Responsibility,” is Niebuhr’s statement, “One could multiply examples in the thought of theologians of the Pauline tradition in which logical consistency is sacrificed in order to maintain on the one hand that the will is free in the sense that man is responsible for his sin, and is not free in the sense that he can, of his own will, do nothing but evil.”

If you add to that the question of the threshold of human endurance, you’d have to address the fact that the human natures of those who are causing the problems, must be compatible with the human natures of those on the receiving ends of the problems, and that means without their taking any mind-altering medication.  You’d end up with something like this: “On one hand, we find it only natural for antidepressant ads to talk about depressive disorders affecting about 34,000,000 American adults as if this consists of either 34,000,000 rather severe character defects or 34,000,000 rather severe medical conditions, yet on the other hand, we sacrifice logical consistency by still having faith in the competency of the individual, and in our culture to strengthen him.  We must keep having faith in this, ad infinitum.  We’re to have the same faith in this failsafe sort of self-responsibility, that we’d have in any other cultural norms, as if it’s a universal truth that will work forever.

The only question that one could honorably ask about his own problem, no matter how much hardship, sinfulness, etc., was involved in it, is, “Can I change this?” over and over and over again to optimistically look for ways in which he could change each aspect of it if he were good enough.  For example, the Gam-Anon chapter of Gamblers Anonymous’ handbook, includes, “The aim of the Gam-Anon program is to aid the individuals involved with a compulsive gambler to find help by changing their own lives....  Living or being associated with a compulsive gambler creates its own kind of hell.  For most people, it is a devastating experience...  At any moment the house might be lost or the furniture repossessed.  There may not be enough money to put food on the table or clothe the children....  The meeting is opened with a moment of silent meditation and closed with the Serenity Prayer.”  And the philosophies of such ladies’ auxiliaries to Twelve-Step groups, have inspired a lot of current self-help psychology in general.  If it’s your problem, you’d better just help yourself.

At first, the gambler’s wife would look at the real problem, his gambling, ask herself, “Can I change this?” and answer, “No.”  Even if someone caused her problems that couldn’t be attributed to a mental disease that made him not guilty by reason of insanity, she still absolutely can’t change others’ actions and can change her own reactions.  Next, she’d think, “No law is forcing me to stay married to him.  Can I change this?”  If she can afford to, she’d answer “Yes,” move out, and whenever her new desperate living situation caused her problems, she’d ask about each aspect of each one, “Can I change this?”  If she can’t afford to leave, then she’d have to look at each of the realities that he caused for her, and ask about each aspect of it, “Can I change this?”  In any case, the only choices that she’d have available to her would be this pragmatism, or those big realities making her life very dysfunctional.  Those who face their problems solely along the lines of, “Can I change this?  Can I change this?  Can I change this?  Can I change this?  Can I change this?” would probably be most likely to succeed.  This is the main idea of all victim correction as a panacea, such as that no matter what caused 34,000,000 Americans to suffer from serious depressive disorders, they can’t change this, but can each change their own brain chemistries through anti-depressants.

On one hand, we say that all should re-engineer their own passive human nature to make it more Stoic, but on the other hand, we sacrifice logical consistency by scorning and/or fearing those who say with the same certainty that we should re-engineer our own aggressive human nature to make it more Stoic.  On one hand, we’re very quick to accept excuses for why those who cause the problems aren’t really responsible, but on the other hand, we sacrifice logical consistency by being very slow to accept even the most legitimate excuses for why the victims’ response-ability for their own problems was inadequate.  But then again, if those who have the problems are expected to accept response-ability for them pragmatically objectively self-reliantly and forgivingly, then any logical consistency that would get in the way of this, would seem to be hobgoblins of little minds, intellectualist philosophizing, rationalizations of their wanting this sinful world to be as they’d have it, etc.  Sure, a rate of depression like that is hardly academic, and logical consistency when exploring issues relevant to it may be necessary for understanding it as a social problem, but that could still be very unpragmatic, etc., when you’re figuring out how you could react stolidly to your own problem.”  Those who believe in “Accepting hardship as a pathway to peace; Taking as Jesus did this sinful world as it is not as I would have it,” could propound this no matter how much SELF-WILL could be attributed to them, since that would be  übermensch SELF-WILL.  Assertive claims that one’s own rights had been violated, are labeled as a manifestation of hidden human selfishness.

It seems that the nature of man is sinful, so the destiny of man is to suffer until the apocalypse.  Though this book refers to Judaism and Christianity as the historical religions, meaning those that aspire to an apocalypse.  Now, we realize that Islam is just as historical in that sense.  Though currently followers of Islam are more likely to try to impose their wills on others by force, they, too, would have to figure that we can’t really have a righteous society until The Apocalypse.  As Unholy War, Terror in the Name of Islam, by John L. Esposito, says, “For those who wish to implement a more Islamic order, reforms affecting women and the family provide a quick fix, legitimated in religious tradition and easy to apply....  re-establishing its Islamic roots through the Islamization of the family can become the panacea. Formulating and implementing an Islamic state or returning to the use of Islamic law (Shariah) in politics, business and economics has proved difficult, and so many activists have found it easier to focus on women and the family.”  Both Islamic theocrats and Niebuhr would say that since they can’t mandate and enforce any Koran-based laws that could lower a society’s rate of depression, we’ll just have to accept what causes it until The Apocalypse.  Both would figure that that’s just the way that human nature is, and that God is playing some strange game with the universe, in which making human nature endurable would violate people’s free wills now, but wouldn’t after The Apocalypse.

What’s highly ironic is that since this book came from lectures that Niebuhr gave at the same time as The Moscow Show Trials, they were probably a big reason why at that time, he was very aware of the fact that no matter how much a political movement might claim to serve the common good, it’s actually run by human beings, which, therefore, must include their SELF-WILLS.  Yet the ironic thing is that the only self-will that the Show Trials really showed, was Stalin’s.  All of the Old Guard Bolsheviks who were put on trial, confessed to the supposed crimes that they were put on trial for.  Sure, many of the defendants were tortured into confessing, and threatened that family members would be tortured if they didn’t confess.  Others, who refused to confess, were executed without a public trial.  Yet no doubt plenty of the defendants confessed because they thought that this served the common good.  That would mean that if they were more selfish, that would have served The Truth, far better than their self-sacrifice did!  Of course, one could say that the fact that they so believed in their favorite dogma was a narcissistic belief that they’re right, but that’s as simplistic as is the supposed narcissism of, “Taking as Jesus did this sinful world as it is not as I would have it.”  Anyone who’d think that what the Show Trials showed was the dangers of SELF-WILL, must have a strange bias against self-interest!  The Truth is bound to serve a lot of people’s SELF-WILLS, and democratic and humanistic truths will certainly serve this.  If you look at each of them separately, you could always lecture her about how her SELF-WILL expects this sinful world to be as she’d have it, see her as resentful and/or manipulative, etc.



The main theme of The Nature and Destiny of Man is that no matter how much truth you might have on your side, it’s powerless, whereas destructive human nature is powerful.  This is the basic idea of The Al-Anon Formula for Self-Help, that the only question that one could legitimately ask about each aspect of any of his own conflicts, is, “Can I change this, and if so, how could I do it the most pragmatically and effectively?”





Let’s just say, hypothetically that the Maoists weren’t megalomaniacs, and that they based their ideology on preventing the sort of helplessness that leads to our rampant depression.  This helplessness would include the helplessness of Jane, and any other women in the sorts of relationships or marriages that could make them seem codependent.  These women certainly have the truth on their sides.  Yet the men’s human nature would trump that.  Therefore, it would be the women who’d get the criticism and self-criticism.  Whether or not at the moment that the men decide to do what causes the trouble, they’re actively addicted, they certainly aren’t going to criticize themselves.  Criticizing them wouldn’t do any good.  Yet for the women to criticize the effectiveness of their own self-protection, and for others to criticize them along these lines, would be productive.  No matter how many of these women and other morally responsible people would be on the side of holding these men responsible, holding them responsible still wouldn’t do any good.

The Little Red Book’s chapter “Women” includes, “The political authority of the landlords is the backbone of all the other systems of authority.  With that overturned, the clan authority, the religious authority and the authority of the husband all begin to totter.”  Because, since then, we’ve seen that getting rid of the power of the economically powerful doesn’t get rid of all other authority, we’ve seen that women subjected to abusive men would simply have to courageously change what they could and serenely accept it, and that the only “backbone” that would really matter is that the women show adequate backbone in dealing with their own problems.  As any economist would tell you, if those who are responsible for doing something aren’t motivated to do it, they won’t do it.  Yet if what seems most important is that people learn to think like winners, and not to think like untermenschen, then it would seem that “productive thinking” means thinking as if being overpowered doesn’t really matter.


Another writer, German, who held to the same sort of realism as in The Nature and Destiny of Man, was Arthur Schopenhauer.  The title of his magnum opus is The World as Will and Representation.  Another way of saying “The World as Will and Representation,” is, “Taking as Jesus did this sinful world as it is not as I would have it.”  If the only question that one could ask about each aspect of each of his problems is, “Can I change this?” then he’ll choose to accept a lot of others’ sinful willfulness, and change his own reactions including how he represents, conceptualizes, his problem.  Though, if taken literally, this would condemn übermensch SELF-WILL along with untermensch SELF-WILL, in practice reality would require an acceptance of übermensch SELF-WILL, far more than it would require an acceptance of untermensch SELF-WILL.

Most of The World as Will and Representation, is philosophizing, but some of it tells very much of a zeitgeist which seems to be the only realistic zeitgeist.  He had a very German, scharf conception of ineradicable aggressiveness.  “This world is the battle-ground of tormented and agonized beings who continue to exist only by each devouring the other.  Therefore, every beast of prey in it is the living grave of thousands of others, and its self-maintenance is a chain of torturing deaths.”  Also, he described the balance of nature, in terms of how the wills of each participant interplay with the others’ to perpetuate it.  He then wrote, “At bottom, this springs from the fact that the will must live on itself, since nothing exists besides it, and it is a hungry will.  Hence arise pursuit, hunting, anxiety, and suffering.”  He was a major inspiration of Richard Wagner, so we could go beyond calling this sort of zeitgeist “Wagnerian,” to say that Wagner was Schopenhauerian.

Also, übermensch SELF-WILL looks a lot more exciting than does untermensch SELF-WILLThe World as Will and Representation includes, “Wrong through violence is not so ignominious for the perpetrator as wrong through cunning, because the former is evidence of physical strength, which in all circumstances powerfully impresses the human race.  The latter, on the other hand, by using the crooked way, betrays weakness, and at the same time degrades the perpetrator as a physical and moral being,” and, “The concept of good is divided into two subspecies, that of the directly present satisfaction of the will in each case, and that of its merely indirect satisfaction concerning the future, in other words, the agreeable and the useful.  The concept of the opposite, so long as we are speaking of beings without knowledge, is expressed by the word bad, more rarely and abstractly by the word evil, which therefore denotes everything that is not agreeable to the striving of the will in each case.”

Since Schopenhauer was the philosopher who most influenced Nietzsche, this, along with the German cultural norms from which it came, very easily could be where he got the idea of übermensch = good, untermensch = bad.  This is also the sort of logic that could lead one to see the Moscow Show Trials, expectations that sinfulness stop, etc., as  manifestations of egotism that must stop, since these are in the name of “what is good,” but, to one degree or another, must reflect the aims and desires of whoever is claiming to be fighting for “what is good.”  This is also the sort of logic that would be overly concerned with the possible dangers of untermensch SELF-WILL.  If you really take seriously the moral wrongness of what was done to you, this could seem to be the triumph of the manipulative will, your attempt to win something through manipulative victim-power.  One can’t prove most manipulative, passive-aggressive, codependent, etc., machinations, so “presumed innocent of machinations until proven guilty” is out of the question.

A webpage about Hitler, A Born Soldier, says, “Hitler’s favorite writer during the war was the early 19th century philosopher Arthur Schopenhauer....  Hitler, like Thomas Mann, was greatly impressed by Schopenhauer’s book: The World as Will and Idea.  Hitler read the book over and over again during the war and was greatly influenced by Schopenhauer’s teaching.”

His is a very German conception of what makes things tick.  “But the word will, which, like a magic word, is to reveal to us the innermost essence of everything in nature...  Hitherto, the concept of will has been subsumed under the concept of force; I, on the other hand, do exactly the reverse, and intend every force in nature to be conceived as will.  We must not imagine that this is a dispute about words or a matter of no consequence; on the contrary, it is of the very highest significance and importance.  For at the root of the concept of force, as of all other concepts, lies knowledge of the objective world through perception, in other words, the phenomenon, the representation, from which the concept is drawn.”  Yes, this is a matter of zeitgeist rather than just philosophy.

(Nazi posters about the will, saying “Through military will to military strength,” “One battle, one will, one goal: Victory at any cost!,” and “National Socialism—the organized will of the nation,” along with a poster for the classic Nazi film Triumph of the Will)

And, of course, this objects to the willfulness of those who’d want this sinful world to be as they’d have it.  Schopenhauer wrote that he defined the word translated as “Representation,” Vorstellung, as an “exceedingly complicated physiological process in the brain of an animal, the result of which is the consciousness of a picture there.”  If that picture results from the physiological process in the brain of an animal, it results from our wills rather than logic.  He also wrote, “Thus knowledge in general, rational knowledge as well as mere knowledge from perception, proceeds originally from the will itself, belongs to the inner being of the higher grades of the will’s objectifications as a mere mhcanh¢, a means for preserving the individual and the species, just like any organ of the body.”  Even if your untermensch conception of what happens to you is absolutely sincere, it would still seem to result from your animal natures, so you might as well have contrived it to serve a purpose, whether this be melodramatic, manipulative, prideful, blame-finding, etc.  You don’t have to be playing any role in order to seem to be playing the victim role, since any time you act as a victim naturally would, this would seem to be coming from your diabolical SELF-WILL.  Victim correctors only want addicts’ kids, etc., to be more self-efficacious, serene, etc.



Just imagine what it would look like if cognitive therapy gave equal time to re-engineering any aspect of human nature that might give us problems:


The following, from Erich Fromm’s The Sane Society, says basically the same thing as does The Nature and Destiny of Man, which is exactly what you’d expect from a German-style combination of philosophy, Wagnerian acceptance of animalistic human nature, and psychologists’ need to make a realistic but fatalistic assessment of what human nature is:

Self-awareness, reason and imagination disrupt the “harmony” which characterizes animal existence.  Their emergence has made man into an anomaly, into the freak of the universe.  He is part of nature, subject to her physical laws and unable to change them, yet he transcends the rest of nature.  He is set apart while being a part; he is homeless, yet chained to the home he shares with all creatures. Cast into this world at an accidental place and time, he is forced out of it, again accidentally.  Being aware of himself, he realizes his powerlessness and the limitations of his existence.  He visualizes his own end: death.  Never is he free from the dichotomy of his existence: he cannot rid himself of his mind, even if he should want to; he cannot rid himself of his body as long as he is alive—and his body makes him want to be alive.

With all cognitive therapy, the more impressionable that one is, the more that he could learn to think pragmatically.  Since cognitive therapy arose in the 1960s based on the then-popular Eastern transcendence, this could be called “Calcutta survival skills.”

Al-Anon’s approach was based on AA’s approach, in which the more impressionable a recovering alkie is, the more that he could get rid of his pathological thoughts.  Of course, the point of, “I’ve stopped blaming others, and I’m looking at myself!” “In All Our Affairs: Making Crises Work For You,” “Accepting hardship as a pathway to peace; Taking as Jesus did this sinful world as it is not as I would have it,” etc., is to give us a more confident outlook.

Take Schopenhauer’s teachings, replace “violence” with “toughness,” and you’ve got a theme that goes through modern psychological thinking.  Schopenhauer’s focus on how we represent the world to ourselves, wasn’t about getting rid of pathological thoughts.  About a century ago, William James wrote that Americans tend to classify people as either redbloods or mollycoddles.  The redbloods powerfully impress the human race in all circumstances.  We shouldn’t try to repress or control them.  The weak likely seem to be trying to get coddled, through ignominious cunning, what current self-help would call “manipulation.”  Correcting such untermensch weaknesses seems to be beneficial, self-improving, self-empowering.  Not only that, they seem to pose the sort of moral hazard that could be very powerful, very forceful and compelling, and one can’t defend himself against it without looking as if he’s re-victimizing victims.  To say that your feelings that something was bad or evil reflect a striving of your WILL, is to say that that they’re manipulative, reflecting a self-serving hidden agenda that even you probably aren’t aware of.  All you know is that you’re right.  Of course, the bad or evil person’s bad or evil choices, his belief that excusing or forgiving them is what’s right, etc., certainly reflect the striving of his WILL, but it would seem that we simply must accept that that’s the way that human nature is.

This wouldn’t see the above Al-Anon Conference-Approved Literature as extreme.  Sure, the law doesn’t simply accept addicts’ willfulness as if they’re not guilty by reason of insanity, but addicts’ family members are to have exactly that acceptance toward them.  Therefore, their family members, including their kids, should try to represent their own experiences to themselves as stoutheartedly as possible.  Their self-help mentors would simply check to see how well they’re doing in following these instructions.  (“Behavior Therapists and Cognitive Behavior Therapists... concentrate on a person’s views and perceptions about their life, rather than personality traits.”)  If they don’t, their refusal to fit in with this would be treated as if it’s their ignominiously weak, possibly cunning, certainly self-interested, WILLS.  They’d seem to want the world to be as they’d have it.  For an exemplary alkie’s kid who looks like Archie, to preach, “I’ve stopped blaming others and I’m looking at myself!” (If you could get people to believe in that self-responsibility, you could get people to believe anything.), should seem like wryly Kafkaesque theater of the absurd, but instead it seems very  pragmatic and honorable.

And since this would apply equally to any situation, including alkies’ kids dealing with life with the alkies, this is the world as will and representation.

If one were to apply what On Speculation and Manipulation in Therapy says, “When it works, justice is always very particular.  It proceeds on a case-by-case basis with a careful weighing of the facts and an equally careful examination of the underlying logic of key arguments,” certainly the specifics of what addicts’ kids must deal with, would argue for someone else being to blame.  Yet the world as will and representation means that telling alkies’ normal kids to look at themselves rather than blame others, doesn’t seem any different than would be telling manipulative or hypochondriac blame-finders to do that.  No problem could seem to be a social problem if it seems to result from the ineradicably aggressive WILLS of those who cause it, and/or the (possibly masochistic) ignominiously cunning WILLS of those who have it.

Schopenhauer wrote of the sublime character, “Such a character will accordingly consider men in a purely objective way, and not according to the relations they might have to his will.  For example, he will observe their faults, and even their hatred and injustice to himself, without thereby being stirred to hatred on his own part....  For in the course of his own life and in its misfortunes, he will look less at his own individual lot than at the lot of mankind as a whole, and accordingly will conduct himself in this respect rather as a knower than as a sufferer.”  This is also the basic idea of cognitive therapy.  And, of course, there can be no “from the sublime to the ridiculous,” since everyone knows that however bad one’s problem is, that’s the reality that he must adjust to.  “Accepting hardship as a pathway to peace; Taking as Jesus did this sinful world as it is not as I would have it,” to whatever degree your reality requires, would never be a reductio ad absurdum.  And, of course, the unjust are hardly sublime or serene, but we must accept that that’s just the way that they are.  We need coping skills that are


Here you two of the big failings of victim correction.  The first is that what this aims for isn’t a well-balanced personality, but one that would respond to “hatred and injustice... rather as a knower than as a sufferer.”  The second is that, while this is supposed to be good for “the lot of mankind as a whole,” this is actually moral bankruptcy.  One would be allowed to recognize what’s unethical about what’s done to others, and, especially, what’s unethical about anything that he might want to do.  But if he recognizes what’s unethical about what’s done to him, it would seem that his will wants this sinful world to be as he’d have it.  Even this limited acceptance of injustice and suffering, can’t be too good for the lot of mankind as a whole, as can be seen in the harm that the Wagnerian Germans have done to the world.

Ashley Montagu compiled a book, Man and Aggression, criticizing German biologist Konrad Lorenz’s book On Aggression along with two similar books by another author.  Montagu’s chapter is titled “The New Litany of ‘Innate Depravity’ or Original Sin Revisited,” and quotes Lorenz as writing, “Undeniably, there must be superlatively strong factors which are able to overcome the commands of individual reason so completely [so, according to the German logic, we need strong authority] and which are so obviously impervious to experience and learning.”  Naturally Schopenhauer, also, referred to the Doctrine of Original Sin as something he really related to.

And if sinfulness is so inherent, then peace has to come from somewhere.  It seems only natural to expect it to come from the victims, since they’re the most motivated to restore the peace, and because their unpeaceful feelings don’t seem ineradicable.  The World as Will and Representation also says, “When this striving after a painless existence, in so far as such an existence might be possible by applying and observing rational deliberation and acquired knowledge of the true nature of life, was carried out with strict consistency and to the utmost extreme, it produced Cynicism, from which Stoicism afterwards followed.”  This is basically Cognitive Therapy, the school of psychology that’s most associated with The Serenity Prayer.  Yet this would also be the inevitable results of Freudianism, Freud’s German-style scharf conceptions of ineradicable aggressiveness.  No matter what disruption occur or why, someone has to bring things back to normal.  The more self-responsibility, the better.

One problem-solver that most people would likely find obscure, but Götterdämmerung would require a good deal of, would be transcendence.  In the “Preface to the 1964 Edition,” Niebuhr wrote, “In regard to the Western emphasis on the individual, my thesis, which I still hold, was that individual selfhood is expressed in the self’s capacity for self-transcendence, and not in its rational capacity for conceptual and analytic procedures.”  The unusual word that appears most frequently in The Nature and Destiny of Man, has got to be “transcend.”  And the parts of The World as Will and Representation that talk about zeitgeist rather than just philosophy, refer to transcendence enough, such as, “The apprehension of things by means of and in accordance with this arrangement is immanent; on the other hand, that which is conscious of the true state of things is transcendental,” and, “Further, it is sublime, in other words, it induces in us a sublime mood, because, without any reference to us, it moves along eternally foreign to earthly life and activity, and sees everything, but takes part in nothing.”  Self-help coping skills will use this whenever necessary, that just because something goes wrong in the material world, doesn’t mean that you have to let it bother you.

And if a culture is that cynical about the will, and assumes that aggression is ineradicable or “the way that the world is,” it’s likely to figure that the victims can and must get their own unpeaceful feelings under control.  If they don’t, then their objections are shameful willfulness.  As The Serenity Prayer puts it, they’re expecting the world to be as they’d have it.  Or, as T he World as Will and Representation puts it, “Nature has produced [the intellect] for the service of an individual will; therefore it is destined to know things only in so far as they serve as the motives of such a will, not to fathom them or comprehend their true inner essence,” and, “The hitherto infallible certainty and regularity with which the will worked in inorganic and merely vegetative nature, rested on the fact that it alone in its original inner being was active as blind urge, as will, without assistance, but also without interruption, from a second and entirely different world, namely the world as representation.  Indeed, such a world is only the copy of the will’s own inner being, but yet it is of quite a different nature, and now intervenes in the sequence of phenomena of the will.”  Thought seems synonymous with will, so if you object to sinful behavior, those objections are just your will.  Of course, anti-intellectualism is a lot more susceptible to emotional reasoning, including willfulness, since anti-intellectualism doesn’t have to be reality-tested, but it’s more likely to reflect the accepted willfulness of the strong.  As Eric Hoffer wrote in The Passionate State of Mind, “The beginning of thought is in disagreement—not only with others but also with ourselves,” but the only disagreement that anti-intellectualism would have with one’s own aggrieved will, would be desires to be too pragmatic red-blooded and/or forgiving to get upset.

And if a society feels at home with the conceptions of personal responsibility that would make one most likely to succeed in Götterdämmerung, that society would have to be pretty chaotic.  The book Antidepressant Treatment—the Essentials, by John H. Greist, MD and Thomas H. Greist, MD, says, “According to National Institutes of Mental Health figures, 20,000,000 people or approximately 15% of the U.S. adult population suffers from a serious depressive disorder in any given year.  Of these, over 20,000 commit suicide every year.”  To say that as doctors treat the million of Americans who suffer a serious depressive disorder in any given year, they should know this rate since it would help the doctors treat each individual as if their depressions simply are their problems, completely ignores the fact that this involves an unnaturally high rate of helplessness, happening to millions of people, year in and year out.




The April, 2001 issue of Psychology Today magazine, says in an article about how people could better manage the psychiatric disorders of family members, “More than 100 million Americans have a close family member who suffers from a major mental illness.  Of the 10 leading causes of disability, half are psychiatric. By the year 2020, the major cause of disability in the world may be major depression.”  The book When Madness Comes Home by Victoria Secunda, says that the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual IV says that affective disorders affect 20% of the American population, anxiety disorders affect 25%, substance abuse disorders affect 27%, schizophrenia affects 0.7%, and sociopathy affects 3.5%.  The webpage Surprising Risk Factor of Suicide, by Dr. Dean Edell, says about suicide, “It’s the eighth leading cause of death in this country, and in 1997 claimed about 30,000 lives - by comparison, only 19,000 people died as a result of homicide,” and suicide is certainly less red-blooded than murder.  In such a society, a lot of the people are likely to go through a lot of ordeals which are simply dismissed as nebulous, banal, seemingly inevitable, personal problems that the victims’ own personal weaknesses may have allowed to happen or to bother them, though science could prove that the real effect of these certainly isn’t something that we could afford to brush off.

Yet Schopenhauer would probably say that no matter how unnaturally high are a society’s rates of depression, anxiety disorders, etc., those are merely human will at work.  If nature has produced the biological phenomena that go on behind depression, for the service of an individual will, it would then be destined to know things only in so far as they serve as the motives of such a will, not to fathom them or comprehend their true inner essence.  This would seem to be just our animal natures, that keeps getting in the way of others’ freedom.  And if objections to sinfulness are willful expectations that the world would be as the objectors would have it, then that would have to include all of those whose depressions, anxiety disorders, etc., resulted from others’ sinfulness.

This isn’t to say that everything that Niebuhr implied, is therefore intentionally implied whenever someone coldly, pragmatically, instrumentally, tells an infuriated person to choose to calm down.  Yet you might be amazed how much of Niebuhr’s absolutist double standard, where victims are the ones to be corrected and those who cause the problems are the ones to be accepted, would be there.



Volume I: Human Nature

Chapter I is titled, “Man as a Problem to Himself,” which might suggest that Niebuhr could see that what he regards as human nature, would make for a real, practical problem.  Instead, how he begins this chapter is to say, “Man has always been his own most vexing problem.  How shall he think of himself?”  Here we have the supposed importance of representation.

Niebuhr then goes on to talk about whether humankind is good or evil, and the distortions that would naturally result from people sizing themselves up.  Here we have two very crucial suppositions that could lead to the real practical problems, both of which are very linked.  The first is that destructive behavior is a matter of what humanity inherently “is,” which means that all that someone has to do is choose to do something destructive, and, therefore, we’ll simply have to accept that at least some of humanity “is” that way.  In the notes I took in 1991 about comments that I heard about an outrageous situation I was in, mainly in 1990, “Whatever they do, you’ve just got to accept that some people are that way, or you can’t accept humanity,” which could be applied to any destructive behavior.

The second crucial supposition is that what humanity inherently “is,” is a question of whether they’re good or evil, not whether they’re destructible or indestructible.  This can be seen clearly in the Serenity Prayer.  It seems that whatever happens, we’re supposed to surrender to it as God’s will, since as long as something happened, it must be God’s will.  The acceptance of murders, etc., as God’s will is the main reason why Vincent Bugliosi converted to Agnosticism.  Of course, it seems perfectly acceptable to pass judgment on people’s weaknesses in dealing with their own problem.  One doesn’t pray, “Taking as Jesus did this resentful world as it is not as I would have it,” since the German worldview doesn’t consider distressed feelings to be ineradicable.

The ultimate question for us, would have to be, what would Niebuhr’s worldview say about what causes our glaringly unnaturally high rates of depression and anxiety disorders?  This point of view would simply accept what causes a lot of this, as ineradicable human nature, though the high rates of depression and anxiety certainly indicate an unnaturally high rate of trauma and insecurity.  Yet the depression and anxiety themselves, seem very eradicable, whether this be by medication or thought-stopping.



The subchapter The Classical View of Man says, “The classical view of man, comprised primarily of Platonic, Aristotelian and Stoic conceptions of human nature, contains, of course, varying emphases but it may be regarded as one in its common convictions that man is to be understood primarily from the standpoint of the uniqueness of his rational faculties.”

The subchapter The Christian View of Man says, “The consequence of this conception of the world upon the view of human nature in Christian thought is to allow an appreciation of the unity of body and soul in human personality which idealists and naturalists have sought in vain.”  This is where Niebuhr wrote, “It is this capacity of freedom which finally prompts great cultures and philosophies to transcend rationalism and to seek for the meaning of life in an unconditioned ground of existence....  But since mysticism leads to an undifferentiated ultimate reality, it is bound to regard particularity, including individuality, as essentially evil.”

Niebuhr promulgated individualistic transcendence, transcending all of one’s own problems in order to become self-assured, and in order not to be so intrusive as to need the world be as he’d have it.  Kitab Adab al-Muridin, in A Sufi Rule for Novices, described the mystical experience of “ecstatic yearning,” as, “absence of selfhood, loss of personal will and consciousness, and screaming.”  He also wrote, “When Sahl b. ‘Abdallah [al-Tustari] was asked about good ethical behavior, he said that its minimal requirements were to suffer evil with forbearance, to abstain from retribution, and to have compassion for him who wrongs you.”  So the big difference between mysticism’s regarding individuality as essentially evil and absence of selfhood, and the regarding individuality as essentially evil and absence of selfhood, of “Accepting hardship as a pathway to peace; Taking as Jesus did this sinful world as it is not as I would have it,” is that one practices the radical humility of the latter in order to benefit himself by making himself feel more serene.  Plenty of Catholic asceticism, but no Puritanism (modern history’s first individualistic self-improvement), has led to mystical experiences, etc.

This, also is very relevant to the question of what Niebuhr’s worldview means for a society with rampant depression and anxiety.  Such a society might prize independent problem-solving, including each individual coping with his own problem by transcending it through Stoic self-discipline.  Yet this would mean that no matter how much the problem in question is a part of a social problem, the only thing that each individual is supposed to care about, is what he can courageously change and what he must serenely accept.

One fact that could really make one wonder whether Niebuhr had read into the writings of the Romantic era is though mystical experiences are a pretty esoteric topic, they were a favorite theme of the romantic era.  Not only that, Schopenhauer, in The World as Will and Representation, spoke highly of them as a good way to transcend this sinful world.  When he wrote such things as, “For just what the Christian mystics call the effect of grace and the new birth, is for us the only direct expression of the freedom of the will,” he saw this as serving the purpose of letting the individual cope with reality, as much as accepting hardship and sinfulness as pathways to peace would.  “Serenely accept whatever you can’t change, including hardship and/or sinfulness ad infinitum, or you’d be guilty of a resentful pity-party,” could hardly be called self-determination or free thought, but it allows people to have the freedom of will in which they don’t let anything bother them, and it also makes them more resilient and therefore more likely to succeed.  Schopenhauer’s Stoic mysticism would do the same.  And most modern writers on mystical experiences, didn’t explore them as a form of transcending worldly misery, choosing not to let it bother you.  That was basically Schopenhauer.

And while there was a good reason why he discussed mysticism, Niebuhr’s mentioning it could make one wonder if he literally based his ideas on Schopenhauer’s, or, at least, from ideas of this era.  The World as Will and Representation was published in 1819, during the Age of Romanticism, which followed the Age of Enlightenment, of intellectual free thought, with an era of emotional free thought.  In Central Europe, mysticism was a big part of this, as in Flaubert’s statement, “I am a mystic and believe in nothing [religious],” and Nietzsche’s, “when skepticism mates with longing, mysticism is born.”  As Paul Mendes-Flohr wrote in his introduction to his edition of Martin Buber’s Ecstatic Confessions: The Heart of Mysticism, an anthology of diverse mystics’ reflections on mysticism, “Decrying the ‘barren intellectualism’ (as Diederichs once put it) of the bourgeoisie—and the attendant neglect of the unique, the beautiful, and the spiritual—this generation of pre-World War I central Europe cultivated an epistemological skepticism, finding redeeming value in aesthetic sensibility, profound ‘inner experience’ (Erlebnis) and spiritual quest.”

The Wikipedia webpage on Nazism says about this era, “Many see strong connections to the values of Nazism and the irrationalist tradition of the romantic movement of the early 19th century.”  Actually, what has more of a connection to Nazism’s values is regarding, as Van Wyck Brooks wrote in Days of the Phoenix, “Wagner as a symbol of his epoch,” a love of strength and fear of manipulative weakness, rather than irrationality (though that love of strength and fear of weakness could easily become irrational, look like The Big Lie, etc.).

In Schopenhauer’s era one would naturally be thinking about mysticism, but why would Niebuhr have even brought it up?  Especially, why would he have brought up mysticism, purely as a way to transcend one’s problems?  He must have been familiar with, at least, Central European writings from Schopenhauer’s era that considered mysticism to be a technique to keep your problems from bothering you.  If, instead, Niebuhr had gotten his conceptions of mysticism from his local Pentecostal church, Hassidic synagogue, Sufi mosque, mystical atheists, etc., he wouldn’t have gotten the message that mysticism gives the opportunity for  freedom of the will when something bad happens to you, in that it doesn’t have to bother you if you don’t let it.  That would be barren anti-intellectualism.  Even someone like Jimmy Swaggert would probably regard that to be extremely banal.

Not only that, Niebuhr’s claim that mysticism “is bound to regard particularity, including individuality, as essentially evil,” involves a form of presumption that one is far more likely to see in the psychology surrounding The Serenity Prayer.  That is, that just because a zeitgeist aims for a certain ideal, doesn’t mean that it would slap negative labels on those who don’t meet it.  Mysticism probably doesn’t regard  an undifferentiated ultimate reality as an ultimate ideal, so probably won’t care that much if someone disagrees with it.  Also, mystics probably realizes how unnatural a mystical experience is, so don’t think that something is wrong with those who don’t want to have one.  Yet the psychology based on The Serenity Prayer, is bound to regard free thought as essentially evil, since if one draws his own conclusions that others’ destructive behavior was unacceptable, he’d likely get labels such as “resentful,” “self-righteous,” “manipulative,” and “guilt-tripping.”  This will end up looking like Nietzsche’s definition of evil as “whatever springs from weakness.”  And this doesn’t come from an understanding that a serene acceptance of hardship, others’ sinfulness, etc., is unnatural.  Rather, this takes to its limits, the usual psychologists’ presumptions that if you don’t adjust to, adapt to, function in, fit in with, and feel contented with, whatever your reality is, that would make you a maladjusted maladaptive and dysfunctional, misfit and malcontent.  If you’re an addict’s spouse so your realities literally do involve hardship and sinfulness, you’d be told that since a human ability to transcend his material realities, gives even you a  freedom of the will, your resentment will be corrected as if it’s only realistic to try to make you well-adjusted.

The subchapter of The Nature and Destiny of Man, The Modern View of Man says that the modern view is a combination of classical and Christian conceptions along with a few of its own.  Here Niebuhr writes, “In Nietzsche’s transvaluation of values, the characteristics of human life which make for conflict between life and life are raised to the eminence of the ideal.”  Nietzsche once defined evil as “whatever springs from weakness.”  Christian forgiveness treats the injured who have feelings which spring from weakness, such as judgmentalism or inadequate forgiveness, as if those who have them don’t deserve God’s forgiveness so they’ll burn in hell unforgiven.  Yet evil people who are forgiving, may go to heaven.  The Sermon On the Mount says repeatedly that we must purge ourselves of judgmentalism so it’s intolerable, and we should emulate God’s tolerance in that he “makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good,” so judgmentalism out-evils evil.  To say that objections to sinfulness in general are desires that the world be as the objector would have it, says that we dare not have enough chutzpah to object to the characteristics of human life which make for conflict between life and life.  The stronger that you are, the more likely you are to seem adequately serene courageous and wise, since it wouldn’t take much to deal with your problems.

The Bible Handbook, written and now published by Atheists, says, “Christ’s absurd reversals of true morality would place the good at the mercy of the bad, and would make an end of civilized society.”  Sure, the New Testament also includes plenty of worldly moral responsibility, but “Taking as Jesus did this sinful world as it is not as I would have it,” wouldn’t allow you to include any of it.  For example, Matthew 5:43-48 says, “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’  But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven; for he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust.  For if you love those who love you, what reward have you?  Do not even the tax collectors do the same?  And if you salute only your brethren, what more are you doing than others?  Do not even the Gentiles do the same?  You, therefore, must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.”  Of course, the unjust are hardly sublime or serene, but we must accept that that’s just the way that they are.  This is certainly a transvaluation, which says that in the material world, even evil is to be accepted, but those who must deal with it are to hold themselves to a perfectionist standard.  Yet that doesn’t actually treat the evil as an ideal, which makes that only mandatorily amoral.

In Nietzsche’s Beyond Good and Evil, he wrote, “No one is such a liar as the indignant man.”  In Eternal Recurrence, Nietzsche wrote, “Nothing on earth consumes a man more quickly than the passion of resentment.”  In Ecce Homo, “Pathetic attitudes are not in keeping with greatness.”  One could come up with the same transvaluation of values, from the psychology based on The Serenity Prayer.  While it doesn’t promulgate an attitude of might-makes-right, it does insist on an attitude of might-makes-unquestionable, since as long as you’re too powerless to change something, you must serenely accept it.  If you don’t, your willfulness would have all the negative labels that would be put on a willful whiner.  An indignant man seems to be a liar not because he dares to disagree with someone stronger than him, but because we are all victims of victims, and their protests are just manifestations of their own wills.  We must get rid of resentment and pathetic, not because they’re disgracefully weak, but because they’re disgracefully unpragmatic.  In many of these cases, the indignancy resentment and/or pathetic attitudes concern behavior that could be called “sinful,” but the transvaluation of The Serenity Prayer says explicitly that if you object to sinfulness, the problem is your willfulness.

Niebuhr also called Nietzsche one of the Germans who condemn rationality with a romanticist’s logic.  Yet the bottom line of the Serenity Prayer, and the bottom line of Nietzsche’s law of the jungle, are virtually the same, so you end up with the same law, only different legal theory.

Chapter II of The Nature and Destiny of Man, The Problem of Vitality and Form in Human Nature, says near the beginning, “Since man is deeply involved in the forms of nature on one hand and is free of them on the other; since he must regard determinations of sex race and (to a lesser degree) geography as forces of ineluctable fate, but can nevertheless arrange and rearrange the vitalities and unities of nature within certain limits, the problem of human creativity is obviously filled with complexities.  Four terms must be considered in this situation: (1) The vitality of nature (its impulses and drives); (2) the forms and unties of nature, that is, the determinations of instinct, and the forms of natural cohesion and natural differentiation; (3) the freedom of spirit to transcend natural forms within limits and to direct and redirect the vitalities; (4) and finally the forming capacity of spirit, its ability to create a new realm of coherence and order.”

His use of the word “vitalities” here, sounds like Schopenhauer’s use of the word “will.”  “Impulses and drives,” are what he had in mind by “the will.”  As he wrote in The World as Will and Representation, “Just as a magic lantern shows many different pictures, but it is only one and the same flame that makes them all visible, so in all the many different phenomena which together fill the world or supplant one another as successive events, it is only the one will that appears, and everything is its visibility, its objectivity; it remains unmoved in the midst of this change.”

Exactly how race is supposed to create a force of ineluctable fate regarding our impulses and drives, or whether this just means that Niebuhr regarded bigotry to be biologically predestined, I don’t know.  Another presupposition that could have just as strong effects, is that here he talks in passing about transcending potentially destructive vitalities “within limits,” but the only transcendence that he has our society praying for is transcending hurt feelings without limits.  If you’re up against forces of ineluctable fate, you can’t afford limits on how you can deal with them.

The subchapter of The Nature and Destiny of Man, The Rationalistic View of Human Nature gives classical ideas of divine reason versus untrustworthy gut-level.

The subchapter The Romantic Protest Against Rationalism tells of both an acceptance of whatever the gut-level tells people to do, and a fear that rational mastery could be based on mistaken or manipulative ideas.  Here, Niebuhr quotes Nietzsche as saying, “Consciousness of values as norms of conduct is a sickness and evidence that real morality, that is instinctive certainty of action, has gone to the devil.  Strong nations and periods do not reflect about their rights, about principles or actions or about instinct and reason,” and, “Do not deceive yourself: what constitutes the chief characteristic of modern souls and modern books is not the lying, but the innocence which is part and parcel of their intellectual dishonesty....  Our cultured men of today, our ‘good’ men do not lie, that is true; but it does not redound to their honour.  The real lie, the genuine, determined honest lie (on whose value you can listen to Plato) would prove too tough and strong an article for them by a long way; it would be asking them to do what people have been forbidden to ask them to do, to open their eyes to their own selves, and to learn to distinguish between ‘true’ and ‘false’ in their own selves,” as examples of how Nietzsche’s philosophy endorsed the same might-makes-right that Nazism believed in.  Soon before that latter quote, Niebuhr wrote, “romanticism is primarily concerned to assert the vitality of nature and to preserve it against the peril of enervation.”

This subchapter says, “Nietzsche’s understanding of the hidden lie, of man’s capacity for self-deception, relates him not only to Marx and Freud but to the Christian conception of original sin.  But a tentative affinity of thought at this point is quickly transmuted into conflict when Nietzsche seeks to overcome the hidden lie by the robust and ‘honest’ lie.  This element in Nietzsche’s thought is partly responsible for the brazen dishonesty of contemporary fascist politics.”

Yet one very dangerous parallel between Nietzsche and the zeitgeist of The Serenity Prayer, is that both treat the weak as the dishonest ones (“Taking as Jesus did this sinful world as it is not as I would have it,”) or, at the very least, the ones who are to be corrected (“God, grant me serenity to accept the things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can, and wisdom to know the difference.”).  “Taking as Jesus did this sinful world as it is not as I would have it,” doesn’t explicitly say that the sinners’ objective physical power is what’s honest and the victims’ subjective “victim-power” is what’s dishonest, but it does say that the sinners’ physical power is to be taken as a given, and that the victims’ moral objections are really their wanting the world to be as they’d have it.

The Wikipedia webpage on Ayn Rand says, “When asked in a 1991 survey by the Library of Congress and the Book-of-the-Month Club what the most influential book in the respondent’s life was, Rand’s Atlas Shrugged was the second most popular choice, after the Bible.”  Atlas Shrugged includes as a hero, a very pro-establishment, pro-laissez-faire, pirate named Ragnar Danneskjöld, who, “...seized every loot-carrier that came within range of my guns, every government relief ship, subsidy ship, loan ship, gift ship, every vessel with a cargo of goods taken by force from some men for the unpaid, unearned benefit of others,” as well as blowing up the manufacturing plants of companies that use patents without paying the licensing fees since the government made them public domain, etc.

The book includes the original owner of one of these patents asking Danneskjöld, “You choose to live by force, like the rest of them.”  He responds, “Yes—openly.  Honestly, if you will.  I do not rob men who are tied and gagged, I do not demand that my victims help me, I do not tell them that I am acting for their own good.  I stake my life in every encounter with men, and they have a chance to match their guns and their brains against mine in fair battle.  Fair?  It’s I against the organized strength, the guns, the planes, the battleships of five continents.  If it’s a moral judgment that you wish to pronounce, Mr. Rearden, then who is the man of higher morality, I or Wesley Mouch?”

Sure, ideas like the above aren’t influential taken literally, even by those who screwed up our economy by deregulation.  On the other hand, the parallels between this and the honest lie, as well as the parallels between this and the conception of sort of insidious SELF-WILL that “Taking as Jesus did this sinful world as it is not as I would have it” holds accountable, are very influential.  Attempts to “control” others in the name of what’s right, are hard to resist without appearing to be morally wrong, while contests that are based on simply who gets the upper hand, do allow people to fight back honorably.

It should be very obvious that they are actually a lot less prone to self-deception than are those who’d want to believe that the sinful behavior is at least forgivable.  What these übermenschen would want to believe would be a lot more attractive than would be any claims of victimhood.  Those who’d want to believe in the permissivity would probably have plenty of money, so those who’d agree with them would be more likely to fit in with the economy than would those who’d disagree.  These rich people would be able to win over plenty of others, through the combined effects of the rewards that one would get from “thinking like a winner,” and the fact that “thinking like a winner” feels good, looks like it’s full of vitality, and fits in.  Everyone knows that self-deception that lets you get along with others by minimizing their defects, seems very acceptable and maybe even necessary, and, “Taking as Jesus did this sinful world as it is not as I would have it,” is exactly that sort of self-deception.

Very rarely would the thinking of those who are causing the problems, be re-engineered like this, mainly in cases where the person causing the problem is also causing big problems for himself, such as in addiction.  Assertiveness had formerly been considered different from passivity aggressiveness or manipulation, but ever since the Reagan/Thatcher era, a lot of assertiveness could seem manipulative since just because the assertive person thinks that he has a right to something that should be taken seriously, wouldn’t mean that he isn’t deceiving himself, wanting to believe that he’s owed something.  It seems that we mustn’t just accept sincere victimology, or unforgiving attitudes.  In the case of most of those who’d qualify as “sinful,” their self-deception, manipulative cunning, etc., would be just as accepted along the lines of, “Oh, well, that’s human nature,” as their robust and “honest” power would be.  Those who play the aggressive role would be presumed innocent until proven guilty, and this would include their dishonesty self-deceptions and other machinations, which would probably be very hard to prove, but the victims would not be presumed innocent until proven guilty in regards to their supposed dishonesty self-deceptions and other machinations, so they’d probably seem guilty of plenty that they never committed.  Holding that someone’s behavior that inadvertently harmed others was really motivated by subconscious aggressive or harmful desires, could very easily seem paranoid, victim-posturing, overly accusatory, etc, but holding that someone’s behavior that inadvertently harmed himself was really motivated by subconscious passive or self-defeating desires, would likely seem to be giving him advice that he’d very much need to protect himself from future “self-harm.”  As can be seen in both Marx and Freud, since self-deception can’t be proved or disproved, assumptions that people have it could be dangerous.  And while this zeitgeist doesn’t treat aggression as honest in the spirit of might makes right, the zeitgeist does hold that might makes unquestionable, that if he does have the power to make changes but you don’t, then he courageously changes but you serenely accept.

One example of this is, from Robert J. Samuelson’s Op-Ed column in the Washington Post of September 17, 2008, the day of the run on the bank, “It wasn’t that Wall Street’s leaders deceived customers or lenders into taking risks that were known to be hazardous.  Instead, they concluded that risks were low or nonexistent.  They fooled themselves, because the short-term rewards blinded them to the long-term dangers.”  This was certainly self-deception, and their track record for doing this would likely mean that the public would figure that we’d better enact laws that would watch out for their doing similar things in the future.  Yet what this is saying is that since this was self-deception, they aren’t really morally responsible for it.  On the other hand, when untermenschen seem to be engaging in self-deception, they do seem to be morally responsible for it.  They’d seem to want more than what they have, want the world to be as they’d have it.  They’d be treated as if this were basically a manipulative ploy.  One could call the Wall Street leaders’ self-deception a manipulative ploy, since this belief became a license to play around with other peoples’ money, that the believers created simply by believing.  Yet when übermenschen are held morally or legally responsible, their intent would have to be more overt than that; they had to have actually chosen to believe something.  Übermenschen, but not untermenschen, are to be presumed innocent until proven guilty.



If you’re supposed to serenely accept his overpowering you, then you wouldn’t be glorifying or respecting his power, but you would be accepting it simply because he has the power, and assuming that if you don’t then you’re maladjusted and probably deceiving yourself regarding what you deserve.  Free rein is free rein.  While this doesn’t assert the vitality of nature to preserve it against the peril of enervation, it does hold that you should accept sinful behavior, and that if you don’t you’re too controlling.

(This is the heading of the section of Al-Anon’s workbook Blueprint for Progress, Al-Anon’s Fourth Step Inventory, for those who seem to be codependent to take a fearless moral inventory of behaviors, including helpful ones, that are labeled as “controlling.”  Frankly, just about any helpful behavior in a relationship that’s considered codependent, would be considered “controlling,” as in, “Sure, you think that what you’re doing is trying to help, but supposedly trying to help someone is a great way to control him.”  This morality-based “control” is in the same sense of what the Mississippi preacher mentioned by Bobby Kennedy’s administrative aide James Symington, meant by tyranny, “One preacher let me into his church, and told me, ‘You represent a tyranny.’   I said, ‘How do you think black people feel living in Mississippi with no rights?’   He said, ‘Well, it’s better to have a lot of little tyrannies than one big one.’”  Control based on one person having power over another, is only a little tyranny.  Of course, if those driven into depression, anxiety disorders, etc., by such behavior, instead fixed themselves by taking antidepressants, choosing to think positively, eating more omega-3 fatty acids, etc., that wouldn’t seem controlling, anti-freedom, manipulative, resentful, etc.  If you object to sinfulness, that’s really your will-to-power.)


Those beset by hardship, others’ sinfulness, or anything else, and who resolutely believe in the principles and intellectual-looking ideas that would say that this is wrong, would be condemned as resentful, bookish, too concerned with principles and other abstractions, dishonest in that naturally they want to believe that they’re entitled to something better than what they won, etc.  On the other hand, the “sinful,” while not quite being honored, would be respected in the sense that it would seem that we mustn’t risk violating their freedoms, imposing on them manipulatively, passing judgment on them, etc.  Just look at all the AA slogans that deride those who don’t face up to their own problems, no matter who or what caused them, as Nietzschian ideals would tell them to, not because they’d therefore be bad in the profound sense, but because they’d therefore be unpragmatic, passive, feeling that they’re entitled to better, self-righteous, whiny and resentful, judgmental, etc.  Those quotes from Nietzsche, “No one is such a liar as the indignant man,” “Nothing on earth consumes a man more quickly than the passion of resentment,”  and, “Pathetic attitudes are not in keeping with greatness,” were very much along the lines of this pragmatism and self-reliant self-respect and realism about sinfulness.  This would constitute our everyday coping skills.


A subchapter The Errors of Romanticism, is on the kudos given to anarchy.  Yet though the Serenity Prayer doesn’t cheer one person overpowering another, it does say to accept this.  If gender is a force of ineluctable fate regarding vitalities and unities of nature, does this mean that Niebuhr and his followers would end up correcting men more because they tend to have the more aggressive natures, or women more because they have to deal with more problems and therefore would have a greater need for self-efficacious survival skills?

Likewise, Schopenhauer, in The World as Will and Representation, wrote, “Women can have remarkable talent, but not genius, for they always remain subjective.”  Yet women are far more likely to be in situations where they’re the ones who must represent the world to themselves Stoically, so they end up facing their problems serenely.  Men are far more likely to be those who are acting and feeling aggressive, and therefore, their wills seem ineradicable.  Men’s subjectivity is considered ineradicable so it’s taken as a given so we don’t notice it.  The subjectivity that women tend to have because of the situations that they’re more likely to be in, doesn’t seem ineradicable, so their WILLS are what get all the corrective attention.  If one’s zeitgeist is along the lines of “Taking as Jesus did this sinful world as it is not as I would have it,” the sinners are going to be a lot more willful and subjective than are the victims, but they, and not the sinners, are going to look as if they expect the world to be as they’d have it.

Then are the subchapters of The Nature and Destiny of Man, Romantic Elements in Marxism about whether material needs versus ideas are supposed to shape the desired society, and The Social Basis of Conflicting Theories, “They do not see the problem of human nature in sufficient depth and therefore remain in the confusion, and sometimes accentuate the errors, in which modern culture has been involved from the beginning.”  One would have to ask, would expecting people to serenely accept hardship and others’ sinfulness, see the problems caused by the aggressive aspects of human nature in sufficient depth?  Would that accentuate the errors of moderns who think that destructive behavior doesn’t really matter in a long-term hurtful sense, since those whose welfare is at stake can always solve their own problems, and, as John Gotti said “It’s all mind over matter.  If you don’t mind, it don’t matter.”?

This includes,

In Civilization and its Discontents Freud arrives at conclusions almost as nihilistic in their implications as Nietzsche’s.  He believes that the discipline of the super-ego (significantly regarded not as transcendent spirit but as a social construct) leads inevitably to complexes and aberrations.  Provisionally inclined to draw anarchistic conclusions from these premises, Freud is ultimately unable either to deny the necessity of social discipline or to find a real cure for the psychopathic aberrations which are, in his opinion, inevitable concomitants of such discipline.  This insoluble problem leads him into the cul-de-sac of pessimism.

From a sociological perspective, people have always lived in societies, so human nature has to be able to live with the expectations of society.  If we try to reduce these to the point where a society would be considerably anarchistic, we’d have to live with a far more arduous self-discipline, that of, “Accepting hardship as a pathway to peace; Taking as Jesus did this sinful world as it is not as I would have it.”  After all, the homeostasis, self-stabilizing, of any society has to come from somewhere.  If it doesn’t come from moral responsibility, then it would have to come from the victims and potential victims of the resulting problems doing whatever it took to prevent stop or fix the problems, or at least not letting them bother them.

Chapter III, Individuality in Modern Culture, starts out talking about the usual partial not total individuality in nature and human life, and, of course, about self-transcendence.  The first subchapter, The Christian Sense of Individuality, says more of the same partial individuality of Christianity, and even says, “In that sense the profoundest expression of Christian individuality is itself partially responsible for the anarchy of modern life.  The individual who is admonished, ‘All things are yours but ye are Christ’s,’ [1 Corinthians 3:21, 23] may, in a period of religious decay, easily lose the sense of ultimate religious responsibility expressed in the words, ‘But ye are Christ’s,” and remember only the law-defying part of the dictum, ‘All things are yours.’”  Niebuhr, with his “Taking as Jesus did this sinful world as it is not as I would have it,” must have realized that a lot of the New Testament’s commands to forgive don’t include any conditions about trying to obey the law.  If a holy book told me, “All things are yours,” I certainly wouldn’t interpret this as law-defying, unless it was in the context of other teachings that were.

The Bible Handbook defines the Christian worldview of Antinomianism as, “the doctrine that under the gospel dispensation of grace the moral law is of no use or obligation because faith alone is necessary to salvation,” “murder no crime, vice no sin, natural morality a snare,” and, “a logical result of Christianity, and in all times [even when the New Testament was written, Jude 4 tells of, “ungodly persons who pervert the grace of our God into licentiousness and deny our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ.”], especially during seasons of active belief, it has had to be fought and crushed by the more practical members of society or the Church.”  Or, in the words of the Serenity Prayer, no matter what hardship or sinfulness impacts your life, if you don’t surrender your instincts that tell you that what happened matters, then it seems that you want the world to be as you’d have it.  The Bible Handbook gives New Testament verses that are more explicitly law-defying, such as 1 Corinthians 6:12, “All things are lawful unto me, but all things are not expedient: all things are lawful for me, but I will not be brought under the power of any.”  This is the ideal Bible verse for self-help thinking, which stresses that anything could seem at least morally excusable but only some things can seem optimally expedient and pragmatic, and as long as you’re pragmatic and self-empowered enough, you hopefully won’t be brought under the power of any.

Back to The Nature and Destiny of Man, the subchapter Individuality and the Renaissance tells of how the move to autonomy was even more individualistic than Christianity is.  The subchapter Bourgeois Civilization and Individuality tells of how the upper middle class tended toward individuality while the working class tended toward Nazism.  The status quo is supposed to be self-perpetuating, but greedy businessmen can’t help but disrupt the process.

Here is where, ironically, he says the following:

Inevitably the early vision of capitalistic philosophers (Adam Smith) of a process of production and exchange which would make for automatic harmony of interests is not realized.  Man controls this process just enough to disturb its harmony.  The men who control and own the machines become the wielders of social power on a vaster scale and of more dynamic quality than previous history has known.  They cannot resist the temptations of power any more dun the older oligarchies of history.  But they differ from previous oligarchies in that their injustices are more immediately destructive of the very basis of their society than the injustices of a less dynamic age.  Modern society is consequently involved in processes of friction and decay which threaten the whole world with disaster and which seem to develop by a kind of inexorable logic of their own, defying all human efforts to arrest the decay.

No, actually, there is one human effort to arrest that decay, the destruction of the very basis of their society, that’s extremely effective, and makes the kinds of problems that result from this vaster scale of elites wielding social power, seem far more innocuous than the kinds of problems that resulted from previous elites’ wielding social power.  That is, for the public in general to internalize the worldview of, “God, grant me serenity to accept the things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can, and wisdom to know the difference.”  If everyone in the society that the above describes, dealt with all of their own problems whatever they may be, like that, then this society would have homeostasis.  Preferably they wouldn’t be told that this entails, “Accepting hardship as a pathway to peace; Taking as Jesus did this sinful world as it is not as I would have it,” but if hardship, sinfulness, or anything else, ad infinitum, is the reality that they must deal with, then that’s the reality that they must deal with.  No matter how high would be that society’s rates of depression, anxiety disorders, etc., each affected individual couldn’t change whatever made him helpless, but could change: his own brain chemistry through drugs, his own outlook on life, his own survival skills, etc.  If each and every problem in such a society is addressed in such a self-reliant, self-motivated, self-empowering, and self-helping fashion, then this society would have homeostasis unconditionally, and the homeostasis of a society always serves the common good.  The victims would be told that they should be grateful that each of them is free to solve his problems that result from this sort of wielding of social power, whereas since the problems that resulted from the former sort of wielding social power, involved the coercion of the law, each of those victims couldn’t have overcome each of them by courageously changing what each of them could.

This would mean that in that society, it would seem only natural that the problem of the millions of the members of that society having depression, would be solved through each separately being treated as if his problem is that he’s suffering from a deficiency of Vitamin P, so this problem is to be resolved through mega-medication.  Sure, on a profound and philosophical level, that sort of personal response-ability would seem very wrong, but on a pragmatic and human level, it would arrest the decay, so would seem very right, even necessary.

The subchapter The Destruction of Individuality in Naturalism, says, “Beginning with Thomas Hobbes [lived 1588-1679] a fairly consistent denial of the significance of selfhood, certainly of transcendent individuality, runs through the empirical and naturalistic tradition.”  An empirical proof of the threshold of human endurance would meet the definition of “realism” as reflecting reality, and certainly would work to protect devastated individuals, but wouldn’t be transcendent, and wouldn’t meet the Schopenhauerian definition of “realism,” that of boosting one’s own endurability.

The subchapter The Loss of the Self in Idealism says, “The significant fact from the standpoint of our study is that, while naturalistic philosophies tend to reduce the human ego to a stream of consciousness in which personal identity is minimal, idealistic philosophies tend in varying degrees to identify consciousness mind and equate the highest reaches of conscious mind with divine or absolute mind, or at least with some socially or politically conceived universal mind.”  That would mean that empirical studies on the what causes our high rates of depression and anxiety, including what hardship and sinfulness people are now simply expected to courageously change if they can or serenely accept if they’re helpless, wouldn’t be idealistic.

“Accepting hardship as a pathway to peace; Taking as Jesus did this sinful world as it is not as I would have it,” is, quite explicitly, a very extreme version of the loss of self in idealism.  If only everyone faced with hardship and/or sinfulness that they can’t change, did that, then we could live in an Objectivist utopia, where everyone would simply deal with their own problems, and people would be motivated to get what they want by winning it rather than by proving that their victimhood entitles them to it.  Just read any self-help book on codependency, and you could see that the question of who has the practical responsibility for the consequences of even sinfulness, could usually be called subjective.  If a woman diagnosed as codependent holds her partner responsible for the consequences of his unambiguously sinful behavior, this would then be labeled as her controlling, melodramatic, manipulative, self-righteous, (intentionally) passive, victim-posturing, blame-finding, etc., opinion.

According to all addictive personalities, and, probably, most Libertarians, a society where everyone held to that conception of personal responsibility whenever necessary, would be the ideal.  As Libertarians would put it, that response-ability for one’s own welfare would be self-motivated, objective, self-reliant, and forgiving, while ethical responsibility could easily be labeled as: counting on altruism, subjective, manipulative, and judgmental.  One must lose himself in this, to the point of accepting hardship and sinfulness as Jesus would have, but that doesn’t seem so bad, since if you lower your own standards you’d be happier, you’d benefit, from both the happiness and the fact that with this confidence you’ll be able to function with more resolve.  As long as you couldn’t change the hardship, sinfulness, etc., the more that you lowered your standards to fit your realities, the more that you’d benefit.

The subchapter The Loss of Self in Romanticism says, “The political form and tool of romanticism is fascism.”  Also,

While Nietzsche maintains a more resolute individualism and bravely asserts the autonomous individual against every type of universality, including the relative universality of the nation, it is significant that in these latter days even his version of romanticism has been subtly compounded with nationalistic furies.  There is a peculiar irony in the fact that his doctrine, which was meant as an exposure of the vindictive transvaluation of values engaged in by the inferior classes, should have itself become a vehicle of the pitiful resentments of the lower middle classes of Europe in their fury against more powerful aristocratic and proletarian classes.

Yet this “exposure of the vindictive transvaluation of values,” is, in itself, quite a transvaluation of values, along the lines of, “In Nietzsche’s transvaluation of values, the characteristics of human life which make for conflict between life and life are raised to the eminence of the ideal.”  In fact, this is exactly the transvaluation of values that one would see in self-help psychology, in which those who don’t solve their own problems through self-help would seem to be the ones acting out their own problematic SELF-WILLS, of the weak, “dishonest,” and self-deceiving variety.  If a worldview assesses “defects of character” in terms of whether each person is judgmental, resentful, acting like a victim, etc., then the victims who don’t just “get over it” would seem to be the dominators, and the victimizers who are held accountable would seem to be the dominated.  Exposing this supposed domination, seems to expose a transvaluation of values, in that this domination could be labeled as the victims’ SELF-WILLS expressing themselves.  Yet to characterize the untermenschen as manipulatively trying to control the sinful übermenschen, really does twist morality. Of course, believers might disagree as to what resentments seem legitimate or illegitimate, depending on whether or not those who seem guilty did it in a way that seemed red-blooded or mollycoddle.  (For example, in contests between Populist medical quacks and scientific medicine, the Populists could consider scientific medicine to be intellectual and therefore manipulable, whereas it could consider the Populists to be the intellectually weak losers who are trying to look strong.  American gutsy anti-intellectual Populists could point out how Nazi gutsy anti-intellectual Populists manipulated with illogical “thinking,” etc.)  Just after the Great Crash of 2008, obviously this is the main outrage, and conservatives get resentful about plenty other supposed outrages but not this; it serves their self-interest to distract from the de-regulation that led to the Crash. 

From Rick Perlstein’s book Nixonland, which, at the end, says that this sort of mentality, coming from political manipulators, is still with us.

As Rick Perlstein wrote in Nixonland, Tricky Dicky defended his own red-blooded tactics through a form of verbal “jujitsu,” in which, when people would try to hold him accountable for them, he’d respond as if he were their victim, a victim of their untermensch WILLFULNESS.  For example, the day after the Watergate burglary, “And then, the old Nixonian jujitsu.  ‘We have our own security problems,’ Mitchell said, hinting darkly, positioning Nixon as the one attacked, the victim of false and hasty charges.”  “Taking as Jesus did this sinful world as it is not as I would have it,” and more subtle and plausible versions of this, such as, “But your objections are just your self-interested resentment!” uses this same sort of jujitsu.  A psychologist could argue that no matter how warranted your objections are, as long as your bad feelings interfere with your functioning they could be called dysfunctional, as long as they offend others they could be called offensive, as long as they try to change others’ behavior they’re controlling, as long as they defend yourself they’re self-serving (in a dishonorably and surreptitiously untermensch fashion), etc.  Necessarily, if a proud übermensch, redblood, is afraid that an untermensch’s, mollycoddle’s, assertively standing up for his own rights is the sort of manipulative ploy that untermenschen, mollycoddles, are known for, such as expecting the world to be as he’d have it, this would be jujitsu tactics.



If a Nietzschian transvaluation of values was done on this transvaluation of values, that would say that if a society has rampant depression, anxiety disorders, etc., then these are our vitalities expressing themselves, and if we deride them insisting that the sufferers shut up their whining, this would be a herd-like slave morality.  If depression, anxiety disorders, etc., are rampant in a society, then these are the sufferers’ natural vitalities asserting themselves, rather than aberrations.  Those who act like victims of supposed manipulators, obviously want to believe that they themselves deserve to get away with whatever they’re trying to get away with.

That really is the same loss of self that you’d find in, “Accepting hardship as a pathway to peace; Taking as Jesus did this sinful world as it is not as I would have it.”  The strong are to be at least accepted, while the weak must anathematize their own SELF-WILLS.  The lower middle classes no doubt figured that they must earn or otherwise win their power, while the aristocratic classes didn’t earn theirs, and the proletarian classes had just gotten their added power by playing the victim role.  Resentments about power that seems to have been gotten through ignominious cunning or other ways that aren’t as objective as winning it, don’t seem pitiful: “They hate us because they’re jealous of our goodness!” “They’re diabolically manipulative!” “Their strength comes from abstractions!” “They’re anti-freedom!” etc.  Gun nuts’ resentment about laws restricting guns, doesn’t seem whiny, or from those who are inferior.  If you expected them to can their resentments, that would seem anti-individualistic.  In modern-day America, combining nationalistic furies with this adamant insistence on preserving the vitality of übermensch nature against the peril of enervation, sells, as does combining it with old-fashioned moralistic preaching.  Realists realize that you’ll see plenty of what sells.  The image of the Antichrist as a beguiling supposed man of peace with an evil hidden agenda (which began with the “Dispensationalists” in the 1830s), is plenty religious, but also follows the archetype of the untermensch, who ignominiously and cunningly uses weakness and whining, to make evil and WILLFULNESS seem to be goodness and humanitarianism.  This sort of Christianity is a lot more exciting than piety is.

This resentment is very much along the lines of Nietzsche’s, “Do not deceive yourself: what constitutes the chief characteristic of modern souls and modern books is not the lying, but the innocence which is part and parcel of their intellectual dishonesty....  Our cultured men of today, our ‘good’ men do not lie, that is true; but it does not redound to their honour.  The real lie, the genuine, determined honest lie (on whose value you can listen to Plato) would prove too tough and strong an article for them by a long way; it would be asking them to do what people have been forbidden to ask them to do, to open their eyes to their own selves, and to learn to distinguish between ‘true’ and ‘false’ in their own selves.”

Though François Furet’s The Passing of an Illusion says that both Nazism and Stalinism disprove the Marxist belief that historical events are inevitable products of the economies of the societies in which they happen, what Niebuhr described here really was an inevitable product of German society.  This is what Populism looks like wherever lower-middle-class people are up against certain competition, and animosity toward the weak seems far more honorable than does animosity toward the strong.  Though Populism of this variety always includes a love of patriarchal morality, and a belief in this could easily reflect what the believers’ SELF-WILLS want to believe, the patriarchal quality could still look übermensch enough.

If it seems that the untermenschen and the intellectual elite parasitically get what they want through ignominious cunning, then naturally one would be resentful toward them.  These are the same people who’d be corrected by expectations that those in trouble deal with their own problems by courageously changing what they can and serenely accepting what they can’t.  Though people aren’t supposed to get resentful at those who fail to live up to these expectations, by “acting passive” or intellectually analyzing the dangers of this victim-blaming, those who don’t live up to their culture’s definition of “personal responsibility” would probably get the sort of resentment that manipulative machinations get.  Everyone knows that a Wagnerian realism about human nature means accepting that the übermenschen are like that and fearing that the untermenschen are like that: either take this sinful world as it is, or you’d seem to be wanting the world to be as you’d have it.

At the end of Destruction of Self in Naturalism, Niebuhr wrote that the schools of modern psychology, are similar to the worldviews of each of the naturalist philosophers he listed, and that “Behaviourist psychology is an elaboration of Hobbe’s position,” even though Niebuhr described it as “His individuals are animal natures whose egohood consists of the impulse of survival,” and that for people to get along they must be arbitrated by a political power.  The only similarity that I could see between that and Behaviorism, is that both are just as mechanical, so both don’t give the person a profound selfhood.  Yet Behaviorism, from the industrial era, is as other-directed as you can get, and the psychology that Hobbes described before the industrial era, is as inner-directed as you can get.  What’s most pressing here is the fact that cognitive therapy is the modern version of Behaviorism, and cognitive therapy very much follows the lines of both the Serenity Prayer and the absolutist forgiveness commanded by the New Testament.

The web page EMOTIONAL THOUGHT STOPPING (A Mood Enhancing Exercise), which tells depressed people how to put a stop to depressive thinking, “‘I deserve to die!’ ‘STOP!’  ‘I’ll never get a job!’ ‘STOP!’  ‘If only I—’ ‘STOP!’  ‘That bastard always—’  ‘STOP!’  ‘My depression is caused by—’  ‘STOP!’.”  That webpage begins, “Each year over 17 million people in the United States are depressed.  Of those fewer than 30% get help!  Each year over 30,000 people in the United States commit suicide,” so the plan is hopefully for all of these 17,000,000 Americans in any given year to do this and to stop themselves from asking what causes millions to have to do this.  That sure is banal.  That webpage also says, “You may have been exposed to the procedure if you are familiar with the bible, and some modern therapists use its concepts.”

This is also very much along the lines of the Prayer of Saint Francis, “Lord, make me an instrument of your Peace.  Where there is hatred, Let me sow Love.  Where there is injury, Pardon.  Where there is doubt, Faith.  Where there is despair, Hope.  Where there is darkness, Light.  Where there is sadness, Joy.  O divine master, grant that I may not so much seek, to be consoled as to console, to be understood as to understand, to be loved as to love.  For it is in giving that we receive, it is in pardoning that we are pardoned, it is in dying that we are born to eternal life—Amen.”  So peacemaking means acting like a mechanistic instrument which supplants hatred, awareness of injury, doubt, despair, and sadness, with love, pardon, faith, hope and joy, and this is supposed to constitute consoling, understanding (though it certainly doesn’t understand the victims’ feelings), and love.

Despite all the religious trappings, the modern version of this is as banal as Hobbes’ ideas as portrayed by Niebuhr.  If a suffering person could pray, “God, grant me serenity to accept the things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can, and wisdom to know the difference.”  Or, he could pray, “God, supplant my hatred, awareness of injury, doubt, despair, and sadness, with love, pardon, faith, hope and joy.”  Or, he could pray, “Forgive us out debts, as we forgive our debtors, For if you forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father also will forgive you; but if you do not forgive men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses,” etc.  All of these would be a sophisticated version of Behaviorism, treating people as blank slates, by representing the world as innocuous, rather than through reward and punishment.  This certainly doesn’t let him decide what his spiritual pursuits would be.  If he’s faced with a big problem, then suddenly his spiritual calling will be to transcend it, even if what caused it was evil so should be strongly rebuked, and even though the aim would be nothing more than banal coping skills.

Chapter IV, The Easy Conscience of Modern Man, begins, “Our introductory analysis of modern views of human nature has established the complacent conscience of modern man as the one unifying force amidst a wide variety of anthropological conceptions.  In the words of T. E. Hulme: ‘All thought since the Renaissance, in spite of its apparent variety, forms one coherent whole....  It all rests on the same conception of the nature of man and all exhibits the same inability to recognize the meaning of the dogma of original sin.  In this period not only have its philosophy, its literature and its ethics been based upon this new conception of man as fundamentally good, as sufficient, as the measure of things; but a good case can be made out for regarding many of its characteristic economic features as springing entirely from this central abstract conception.’”  It was originally Protagoras, the first Greek Sophist, who, in the fifth century, BC, wrote “Man is the measure of all things.”

Despite Niebuhr’s quotation of the word “dogma” meaning the Doctrine of Original Sin, he very much agrees with it.  Yet if you’ve ever looked closely at both the easy conscience of modern man, and what the Doctrine of Original Sin says shapes each individual’s destructive behavior, you could see that the Doctrine of Original Sin can only add to the easy conscience of modern man.  It certainly wouldn’t make sense to say that since those who cause problems do so because they’re inherently that way, our conscience should be less easy.  Trying to stop that would grossly lack the serenity to accept something that we can’t change.  Also, to treat any objection to any sinfulness, as the objector wanting the world to be as he’d have it, is certainly treating man as the measure of all things.  It’s as if the only thing that measures that behavior to be bad, is the human objector, so if only he’d stop making trouble, we’d have peace.  All that permissiveness requires is permission, and if people object to some behavior but tacitly approve of it, they’ve permitted it.  In fact, this sort of permissiveness could be more dangerous than the kind that actually approves of the destructive behavior, since it seems acceptable to what one will approve of, but not to what one will serenely accept.

This chapter includes a discussion of what Niebuhr called “physiocratic” theory, meaning how market discipline disciplines.  According to that, as long as someone wins a competitive adversarial contest he deserves to be treated as a winner, and as long as he loses, he deserves to be treated as a loser.  Yet families that operate along the lines of “I must courageously change what I can and serenely accept whatever I can’t, and if I don’t I’m too passive and resentful,” have got to be the ultimate physiocracies.  First off, the law certainly doesn’t treat any addiction as if it’s enough of a disease that addicts are not guilty by reason of insanity.  But even if we assume that addicts plainly and simply are passive victims of their diseases, the fact would still remain that even if a husband’s behavior problems couldn’t possibly seem to result from a disease taking away his free will, the wife would still be absolutely incapable of changing his actions, and absolutely capable of changing her own reactions.  If she succeeds at preventing this from having bad effects on her life she’d be a winner, and if she doesn’t, she’d be a whiny loser.  And even if she divorces him the physiocracy would continue, since whatever realities she must courageously change in order to be a “winner,” would have been determined by what he did.



As any market disciplinarian would tell you, motivation is the only driving force that we could count on to get done what our society needs to get done, and she would be motivated to prevent these problems, while he wouldn’t be.  Holding the husbands morally responsible probably wouldn’t work, while holding the wives response-able for their own welfare, probably would.  Addiction has got to be the ultimate example of this, in that addicts could be motivated to stop the destruction by “hitting bottom,” even if this means that the entire family goes into poverty, but couldn’t be otherwise motivated to stop, and motivation is everything.  Quite literally, there’s nothing more to these family dynamics, than, “If he has the power to create the realities that she can’t change, then that’s the reality that she must deal with, and if he doesn’t, then that’s the reality that she must deal with. If she does have the power to change it then that’s what she’s to do, no matter how much courage that would take, and if she doesn’t, then she’s to serenely accept it.”  As long as all of the problems in a society are confidently taken care of like this, then everyone will be confident, and all problems will be taken care of, by those who are selfishly motivated to do a good job.  No one would be guilty of doing anything that could possibly be labeled as the sort of un-American weakness that Reaganomics would condemn, such as passivity, whining, controlling, etc.  Naturally, the victims of anything would very much want to succeed in life, deal with their own problems, feel serene and well-adjusted, etc.

As Freakonomics: A Rogue Economist Explores the Hidden Side of Everything, by Steven D. Levitt and Stephen J. Dubner says, “Economics is, at root, the study of incentives: how people get what they want, or need, especially when other people want or need the same thing.  Economists love incentives.”  In the sort of self-empowerment promoted by groups based on, “God, grant me serenity to accept the things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can, and wisdom to know the difference,” it’s to be accepted that what each person gets is what he wins, rather than what he deserves.  This gives to the people who have the problems, the incentive to deal with them as productively, stolidly and Stoically, as possible.  On the other hand, the victimizers rarely ever have the sort of incentive to solve the problems they cause, that we could rely on.  Freakonomics goes on to say, “The typical economist believes the world has not yet invented a problem that he cannot fix if given a free hand to design the proper incentive scheme.  His solution may not always be pretty—it may involve coercion or exorbitant penalties or the violation of civil liberties—but the original problem, rest assured, will be fixed.”  The victims would be far more likely to serenely accept the violations of their rights necessary for the incentives, if these violations didn’t come from a centralized authority.  And if our system of incentives weren’t this results-oriented, where if you win you win and if you lose you lose, just imagine how many people (especially those who looked pathetic) would get what they wanted by manipulatively playing the victim role!

Schopenhauer quoted St. Augustine, the patron saint of the Dark Ages, who came up with the Doctrine of Original Sin, as saying, “In them all [desire, fear, joy, sadness] the will is to be found; in fact they are all nothing but affections of the will.  For what are desire and joy but the will to consent to what we want?  And what are fear and sadness but the will not to consent to what we do not want?”  If one is skeptical enough about human nature to believe that we’re inherently sinful, then he’s probably skeptical enough to believe that if one feels fear, sadness, etc., about any sinfulness, then his WILL wants the world to be as he’d have it.

And even though it’s rather common to associate German attitudes about aggression with the Doctrine of Original Sin, pragmatists don’t have to in order to have the same pragmatic acquiescence.  If practical realism requires accepting that, then realists had better accept it.

The subchapters in The Nature and Destiny of Man about Original Sin are, The Effort to Derive Evil from Specific Historical Sources, Nature as a Source of Virtue, and The Optimism of Idealism, though these would lead to an easy unworried conscience, far less than would a conviction that simply because someone does something destructive, then that means that people simply are that way.  These other supposed sources of an easy conscience, would lead mainly to naïveté about what others will do.  In fact, those who believe in the Serenity Prayer, would probably say that those who blame evil on historical sources, see nature as a source of virtue, or are idealists, aren’t willing enough to take this sinful world as it is not that they’d have it, and, therefore, too morally exacting.

Chapter IV, The Relevance of the Christian View of Man, has as its subchapters Individual and General Revelation, which includes the individual’s conscience, Creation as Revelation, with its original sin doctrine, and Historical and Special Revelation, “The real evil in the human situation, according to the prophetic interpretation, lies in man’s unwillingness to recognize and acknowledge the weakness, finiteness, and dependence of his position, in his inclination to grasp after a power and security which transcend the possibilities of human existence, and in his effort to pretend a virtue and knowledge which are beyond the limits of mere creatures.”

OK, do expectations of transcendence include transcendence of desires to do things that would harm others, or does transcendence of these seem to be an attempt to re-engineer human nature while if people transcend hurt resentment anger and fear, that would mean that they’re naturally going beyond the limits of mere creatures?  It should be pretty obvious what would be the effects on a society’s rate of depression, if in it serenity is to be achieved by those who have the problems transcending their unhappiness about them, not by those who are tempted to cause the problems, transcending these temptations.

Chapter V, Man as Image of God and of Creature, begins, “The Christian view of Man is sharply distinguished from all alternative views by the manner in which it interprets and relates three special aspects of human existence to each other: (1) It emphasizes the height of self-transcendence in man’s spiritual nature in its doctrine of ‘image of God.’  (2) It insists on man’s weakness, dependence, and finiteness, on his involvement in the necessities and contingencies of the natural world, without, however, regarding this finiteness as, of itself, a source of evil in man....  (3) It affirms that the evil in man is a consequence of his inevitable though not necessary unwillingness to acknowledge his dependence, to accept his finiteness and to admit his insecurity, an unwillingness which involves him in the vicious circle of accentuating the insecurity from which he seeks escape.”  So it seems that the more you pray for accepting hardship (or minor shortages) as a pathway to peace, the less evil you’ll become.

The subchapter Biblical Basis of the Doctrines is about the first of these, and the subchapter The Doctrine of Man as Creature is about the second and third.  This says, “The evil arises when the fragment seeks by its own wisdom to comprehend the whole or attempts by its own power to realize it....  This surely is the significance of the message of the Book of Job.  Job seeks to comprehend the justice of God by human standards, is thwarted and baffled and then finally overwhelmed by God’s display of all the mysteries and majesties of creation which are beyond human comprehension.”  In the story of Job, God kills his family in order to test his faith, but that seems just because God replaces them with a new family.  (Niebuhr’s modern followers would likely tell you that since Job could have chosen to feel good about his new family, he didn’t have to ruminate and pine about the loss of his old family, so he didn’t have to feel much pain.)  Niebuhr goes on from there to say, “These divine arguments are introduced by the challenging question, ‘Where wast thou when I laid the foundations of the earth?’ and they finally reduce Job to contrite submission: ‘Therefore have I uttered that I understood not; things too wonderful for me, which I knew not.... I have heard of thee by hearing of the ear : but now mine eye seeth thee.  Wherefore I abhor myself, and repent in dust and ashes.”  The keynote quotation at the beginning of William Styron’s book on his own depression, Darkness Visible, is by Job,

For the thing which
I greatly feared is come upon me,
and that which I was afraid of
Is come unto me.
I was not in safety, neither
had I rest, neither was I quiet;
yet trouble came.

Chapter VII of Volume I of The Nature and Destiny of Man, Man as Sinner, with its subchapters Temptation and Sin, The Sin of Pride, and The Relation of Dishonesty to Pride, has the same sort of basis.  According to Schopenhauer, every thought has a prideful self-will behind it.  Therefore, it seems that we can’t trust ourselves when we object to sinfulness.  Whether one wants to use science or common sense in determining what formula we’re going to use for coping skills, it would have to have more going for it than this, in order to avoid some significant social problems.

Ironically, The Sin of Pride includes, “Schopenhauer’s pride was more than the consequence of his inability to measure the limits of his system.”  Conceivably, one could say that, “Accepting hardship as a pathway to peace; Taking as Jesus did this sinful world as it is not as I would have it,” measures the limits of, “God, grant me serenity to accept the things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can, and wisdom to know the difference.”  If the only question that people may legitimately ask about each aspect of their own problems is, “Can I change this, and if so, how could I do it the most pragmatically and effectively?,” then the limit on this is that if we don’t watch out, it could be applied to situations involving hardship and/or sinfulness ad infinitum.  The big problem is that “Accepting hardship as a pathway to peace; Taking as Jesus did this sinful world as it is not as I would have it,” says that we shouldn’t set this limit, since if hardship and/or sinfulness ad infinitum is your reality, then that’s what you must deal with.

Chapter VIII, Man as Sinner (Continued), has as its subchapters Inequality of Guilt and Sin as Sensuality.  Here we have who Niebuhr blames, rather than on what basis he blames them.  Here Stalinism and fascism are blamed on “collective egotism,” that despite everybody’s inherent sinfulness some deserve more moral accountability than others, and “Very frequently the judge, who condemns the profligate, has achieved the eminence in church or state from which he judges his dissolute brethren, by the force of a selfish ambition which must be judged more grievously sinful than the sins of the culprit.”  Yet since the judge is more powerful, people would have to have more of an attitude of “Grant me serenity to accept that, since I can’t change it,” toward him, than they’d have toward the profligate.

Ironically, Inequality of Guilt includes,

The difference between a little more and a little less justice in a social system and between a little more and a little less selfishness in the individual may represent differences between sickness and health, between misery and happiness in particular situations.  Theologies, such as that of Barth, which threaten to destroy all relative moral judgments by their exclusive emphasis upon the ultimate religious fact of the sinfulness of all men, are rightly suspected of imperiling relative moral achievements of history.  In this connection it is significant that Germany, with its Augustinian-Lutheran theological inheritance, has had greater difficulty in achieving a measure of political sanity and justice than the more Pelagian, more self-righteous and religiously less profound Anglo-Saxon world.

That is certainly different from the absolutist black-and-white thinking of, “Taking as Jesus did this sinful world as it is not as I would have it”!  This certainly does reflect the thinking of Saint Augustine’s Doctrine of Original Sin, of exactly the sort that you’d see in Wagnerian thinking, and exactly the sort that would condemn an understanding of the relative differences between different destructive behavior.  To see all sinful choices as, “the way that this sinful world is,” really does ignore a lot of differences.  Yet it seems only natural to figure that those who have the problems and therefore must cope with them, must serenely accept sinfulness in such all-or-nothing terms.  And this is also very much the idea behind the absoluteness of the cognitive distortions of modern Western depression, in which the depressed person blames himself for his own problems, along the lines of, “I absolutely can’t change anyone but myself, absolutely can change myself, and absolutely must focus my attention on how I could do this as completely as my problem requires.”

 When one must cope with others’ sinfulness, looking at such relative differences as, “a little more and a little less justice,” and, “a little more and a little less selfishness,” wouldn’t answer what seems to be the only legitimate question, “Can I change this?”

That Augustinian German conception of human nature is exactly what you’d see in Schopenhauer and, “Taking as Jesus did this sinful world as it is not as I would have it.”  This really is one inevitable result of a Wagnerian conception of human nature.  If our aggressive tendencies are ineradicable, then those who have the problems that result, simply must deal with them.  Another result is a “good German” authoritarianism, since if people can’t trust their own corrupted human nature, the authorities must keep it under control.  Either way, the potential consequences of the sinfulness, can’t just go on unimpeded.  Of course, if a system includes both the “good German” authoritarianism and the fatalistic acceptance of sinful human nature, you’d end up with something like Nazi Germany, where what the “good Germans” must submit to, accepts that destructive aggression is only natural.  And the basic idea behind the pedo-priest scandal, where the Catholic hierarchy proceeded as if sexual abuse is just another type of concupiscence so the parishioners were duty-bound not to create “scandal” by telling the law, the mass media, etc., about it, isn’t much different from the basic idea behind that.

 Sin as Sensuality includes:

The sins of sensuality, as expressed for instance in sexual license, gluttony, extravagance, drunkenness and abandonment to various forms of physical desire, have always been subject to a sharper and readier social disapproval than the more basic sin of self-love.  Very frequently the judge, who condemns the profligate, has achieved the eminence in church or state from which he judges his dissolute brethren, by the force of a selfish ambition which must be judged more grievously sinful than the sins of the culprit.  Yet Christian cultures have usually not deviated from the severer condemnations which non-Christian cultures have visited upon the sins of sensuality.  The reason for this aberration is obviously the fact that sensuality is a more apparent and discernible form of anarchy than selfishness.

Or, if you were to look at this a sociological perspective, it would be very clear that condemnations of  selfish ambitions would weaken the powerful, while condemnations of the sins of sensuality would strengthen them, by teaching the common people to deny themselves.  This isn’t much different from the effects of, “Taking as Jesus did this sinful world as it is not as I would have it,” which says that we shouldn’t take the wrongness of sinfulness seriously but should take the wrongness of resentment seriously, though sinfulness is obviously a lot more wrong than resentment.  Yet accepting sinfulness, which has the dynamism of the übermenschen and redbloods, would interfere a lot less with the status quo than would accepting resentment and other whining, which has the passivity and potential for manipulative machinations, of the untermenschen and mollycoddles.  One could even say that the passivity has a more apparent and discernible form of anarchy than does sinfulness, since the victims of the sinfulness are motivated to prevent or fix its consequences, but who’s motivated to prevent or fix the consequences of the passivity, resentment, manipulation, etc.?

Chapter IX, Original Sin and Man’s Responsibility, begins, “The Christian doctrine of sin in its classical form offends both rationalists and moralists by maintaining the seemingly absurd position that man sins inevitably and by a fateful necessity but that he is nevertheless to be held responsible for actions which are prompted by an ineluctable fate.”

It may seem that we use the constructive interpretation of the Doctrine of Original Sin, to condemn and reject destructive behavior since it’s not really a result of free will.  Yet the condemnation and rejection that we have, often doesn’t hold fast to the condemnation.  In the bottom line, we end up accepting destructive behavior, since it’s not really a product of free will.  One could see this explicitly in, “Taking as Jesus did this sinful world as it is not as I would have it,” less explicitly in the famous first sentence of The Serenity Prayer.  Other’s sinful behavior seems to be among the realities that well-adjusted people adjust to.  Sinners are forgiven; maladjusted people aren’t.

For someone who hated rationality as much as Niebuhr did, he sure was too much in an ivory tower to realize that what really matters isn’t the purview of rationalists and moralists.  What really matters is how the average person sees his own moral responsibility, whether the operative word is the destructive “inevitably,” or the constructive “responsible.”

The subchapter Pelagian Doctrines, begins, “The various alternative doctrines all may be regarded as variants of what has become known in the history of Christian thought as Pelagianism.  The essential characteristic of Pelagianism is its insistence that actual sins cannot be regarded as sinful or as involving guilt if they do not proceed from a will which is essentially free.  The bias toward evil, that is, that aspect of sin which is designated as ‘original’ in the classic doctrine is found not in man’s will but in the inertia of nature.  It is in other words not sin at all.  Actual sin is on the other hand regarded as more unqualifiedly a conscious defiance of God’s will and an explicit preference of evil, despite the knowledge of the good, than in the classical doctrine.”

Or, as Schopenhauer wrote in The World as Will and Representation, “It is further an original and evangelical doctrine of Christianity, which Augustine, with the consent of the heads of the Church, defended against the platitudes of the Pelagians; and to purify this of errors and re-establish it was the principal aim of Luther’s efforts, as is expressly declared in his book De Servo Arbitrio; namely the doctrine that the will is not free, but is originally subject to a propensity for evil.”

The modern version of this would be the psychological assumption that gives the benefit of the doubt to expecting victims to adjust to sinful behavior as simply the way that this sinful world inherently is.  This would say that as long as what someone did isn’t diabolical, if we don’t simply adjust and adapt to it, we’re falling short of adjusting and adapting to one of life’s inevitabilities.  This is similar to other forms of giving the benefit of the doubt to victim correction, such as assuming that as long as it wouldn’t seem undoubtedly inappropriate simply to tell you, “It’s your problem, so what are you going to do about it?  You’d better just serenely surrender to the inevitable,” then that’s the premise on which expectations made of you are based.  Of course, if what someone did to you was diabolical, and therefore he left you with one big problem that you must courageously change and/or serenely accept, it would be all the more important that you adjust and adapt, so if you don’t, you’d seem inane for different reasons.  Very little in this world is that evil, especially since the sinner could always give as his excuse his state of mind at the time, that at that moment he felt a lot of anger, etc.

In the subchapter of The Nature and Destiny of Man, Augustinian Doctrines, Niebuhr writes that things are more complicated than Pelagianism, “The actual sin is the consequence of the temptation of anxiety in which all life stands.  But anxiety alone is neither actual or original sin.”  The next subchapter are Temptation and Inevitability of Sin, and Responsibility Despite Inevitability, which once again ignore the fact that all you’ve got to do is label sinfulness inevitable, and moral responsibility would seem to be a dispensable luxury.  People would discuss moral responsibility in passing, but “inevitably” will be the operative word, since how things operate would be based on that presumption.  The difference between the abdication of moral responsibility that Niebuhr didn’t like, and the abdication of moral responsibility that would result from the normalization of taking this sinful world as it is, is something like the difference between Nietzsche’s belief in might-makes-right, and Niebuhr’s belief in might-makes-unquestionable.  Seriously questioning it would constitute a lack of the serenity to accept a power difference that the victim can’t change.  Likewise, the queasiness that we’d have about moral responsibility, as we try to deal with people who’d just done what seems only natural, is different only in the intent, from an explicit acceptance of anything that isn’t undoubtedly evil.  Next comes the subchapter Literalistic Errors, on the Augustinians taking the Doctrine of Original Sin, and how it shapes human nature, too literally.

Chapter X, Justitia Originalis, in its subchapters Essential Nature and Original Righteousness, The Locus of Original Righteousness, and Justitia Originalis as Law, says that humankind still has some of its righteous character that it had before the Fall, such as our conscience, and this is what keeps the effects of original sin from becoming simply an inevitability.  How this is supposed to be tallied in when people accept this sinful world as it is not as they’d have it, I don’t know.  Would it make sense to say that simply because someone chose to do something then that means that that’s simply a part of the way that the world is, when he could have chosen to do better?  If one expects another to take moral responsibility because of his conscience, and he doesn’t, would disapproval of that that’s more than just in passing, be judgmental, unforgiving, bitter, and similar anti-Christian epithets?  And since Justitia Originalis is basically what The Bible Handbook called our “natural morality,” what happens when one’s Justitia Originalis sees what’s morally wrong with anyone else’s actions?  Would he seem bitter resentful and otherwise unserene if he doesn’t just accept them, especially when this other person is too truculent to choose to change?  Oh heavens, mustn’t get ensnared by futile self-righteous embittering judgmentalism!

Justitia Originalis is also very much along the lines of Islamic views of human nature.  The Heart of Islam, by Seyyed Hossein Nasr, says, “Man, in the traditional sense of the term insan in Arabic or homo in Greek and not solely the male, is seen in Islam not as a sinful being to whom the message of Heaven is sent to heal the wound of the original sin, but as a being who still carries his primordial nature (al-fitrah) within himself, although he has forgotten that nature now buried deep under layers of negligence....  The message of Islam is addressed to that primordial nature.  It is a call for recollection, for the remembrance of a knowledge kneaded into the very substance of our being even before our coming into this world.”  Of course, you could respond to the Serenity Prayer by saying that as long as the sinner in question recollected the Justitia Originalis inside of him, then you wouldn’t have to accept or change any problems his sinfulness would have brought about.  None would need to deal with the burdens that would result from the label of “maladjusted” routinely being put on sufferers who aren’t overreacting, as if the reliable way to solve problems is victims taking personal response-ability for their own welfare.  Yet what would probably happen is that the message of Justitia Originalis would simply be lost.  One’s al-fitrah might as well not exist, as long as the problems that he brings about, are reality, and all must adjust to reality.

In practical terms, Justitia Originalis should tell us what causes a social problem the magnitude of our rates of depression and anxiety.  That’s very much a matter of what’s unnatural, what our natural sense should naturally be able to sense.  Yet according to the mores of this very same society, such a natural sense would have to be our animalistic wills.  Even if our claims that something is ethically unacceptable are our sincere opinion, they’d still be shaped by our wills, so they could still be called “manipulative.”

And, of course, those Twelve-Step groups whose accord with the Serenity Prayer has made it seem so successful, would be very unlikely to practice a spirituality that’s based on reaching the Justitia Originalis or al-fitrah inside of them, since addictive personalities certainly wouldn’t be in accord with that.


Volume II: Human Destiny

Chapter I, Human Destiny and History, says such things as, “Man is, and yet is not, involved in the flux of nature and time.  He is a creature, subject to nature’s necessities and limitations; but he is also a free spirit who knows of the brevity of his years and by this knowledge transcends the temporal by some capacity within himself,” “There is no point in human history in which the human spirit is freed of natural necessity.  But there is also no point at which the mind cannot transcend the given circumstances to imagine a more ultimate possibility,” “The differences in the attitude of various cultures through history is determined by contradictory estimates of man’s transcendence over historical processes, including his final transcendence over himself,” and, “The basic distinction between historical and non-historical religions and cultures may thus be succinctly defined as the difference between those that expect and those which do not expect a Christ.”

Yet Hindus and Buddhists are probably better at transcendence that Christians are, especially transcendence of desires to do destructive things.  And Schopenhauerian transcendence most certainly doesn’t depend on any God or religion whatsoever.  If someone says the Serenity Prayer and doesn’t therefore have his hatred, awareness of injury, doubt, despair, and sadness, supplanted with love, pardon, faith, hope and joy, he can’t get away with saying, “God chose not to grant me these things in this situation, and Thy will be done.”  He’d be expected to create his own serenity courage and wisdom, and be confronted if he doesn’t.

The subchapter Where a Christ is Not Expected, starts out by describing non-Messianic religions as “non-historical,” as if the question of whether or not a religion believes that a messiah will come, is the question of whether or not this religion is historical.  The sub-subchapters of this subchapter are History Reduced to Nature, and History Swallowed Up in Eternity, which says, “‘Christ,’ declares St. Paul, is ‘to the Greeks foolishness’ because ‘they seek after wisdom.’  This is to say that the expectation of the disclosure and fulfillment of the meaning of history at a point in history or at the end of history, has no meaning for the Greek world.”

The current strife in the mid-East makes this question very relevant, since all of the religions causing problems there right now are the “historical” ones.  Of course, the non-historical religions are just as likely to cause violence, if a religious leader who gains a lot of influence, tells his followers to wreak mayhem.  That simply is very likely when people are commanded not to think for themselves.  Yet the fact would still remain that the “historical” religions would be all about banal matters of lebensraum, the land that one’s own ethnicity controls, unless they take their own holy books literally, and wait for their own messiahs to come and create a genuinely righteous state, where everyone would be treated fairly.  Sure, this might sound naïve, but if historical religions try to win worldly power, without this, they’d have exactly the dangers of proud self-justification, that The Nature and Destiny of Man is all about.  As Niebuhr wrote in the subchapter Human Destiny and History, “In modern corruptions of historical religions this problem is solved very simply by the belief the the cumulative effects of history will endow weak men with both the wisdom and the power to discern and fulfill life’s meaning,” yet he was criticizing liberal social movements, which seems far more acceptable than does criticizing devout religion that thinks that human choices will fulfill the goals of historical religions.

This subchapter includes a remark that was also typical for those who couldn’t believe that the German government under the Nazis was persecuting Jews and others, “It must be added that it is not only impossible for the highest forms of Christian prophetism to remain free of egotistic corruptions; it is also impossible for the most advanced civilization to be safe against reversions to very primitive egotistic-nationalistic interpretations of history, as for instance in contemporary Nazism.”  Yet it should be obvious to anyone that despite the moralism of apocalyptic Christianity, and the refined achievements of German culture, apocalyptic Christianity includes plenty of banal guarantees that its followers are both righteous and favored, and German culture also includes its Wagnerian elements.  And, in fact, few who weren’t ethnically German would feel moved to include in a prayer, “Taking as Jesus did this sinful world as it is not as I would have it.”

The subchapter Where a Christ is Expected, begins, “No Christ could validate himself as the disclosure of a hidden divine sovereignty over history or as a vindication of the meaningfulness of history, if a Christ were not expected.” The sub-subchapters are Types of Messianism, and Prophetic Messianism.

This subchapter includes, “This final disclosure is conceived, on the whole, as a vindication of God and the righteous.  The unrighteous will be destroyed; and some of the apocalyptic books imaginatively and proleptically indulge in a veritable orgy of vindictive triumph.  Yet the more ultimate problem appears again and again as an afterthought.  The most remarkable relation between the ultimate and penultimate problem of history...”

By “apocalyptic books,” this doesn’t mean books written by modern pikers, but books of the Bible, supposedly inspired by God.  Then again, considering all of the violence in the mid-East right now that’s supposed to be inspired by God, maybe this isn’t so remarkable.  Both the vindictive triumph of the Bible, and the violence currently going on in the mid-East, leave open the question of why God is capable of commanding that when He sees fit, but not capable of simply setting up his ideal society long ago.  But then again, that isn’t what Niebuhr [or Ezra] considers to be “the ultimate... problem of history,” “But this answer [of the Ezra Apocalypse] does not resolve his perplexities; for his problem is whether there are any righteous who deserve to triumph.”  The apocalypse would be literally a deus ex machina, where God could literally come down any time he pleases to create the apocalypse by magic.  Sinfulness would then disappear, too.

Chapter II, The Disclosure and the Fulfillment of the Meaning of Life and History, begins, “Christianity enters the world with the stupendous claim that in Christ (that is in both the character of Christ and the epic of his life) the expectations of the ages have been fulfilled.”  The objective problem here is whether or not treating Messianism as what gives a meaning to life, and the transcendence connected to it, would do the job as coping skills.

That, after all, is what the Serenity Prayer is expected to do.  If its conclusion, “So that I may be reasonably happy in this life and supremely happy with You forever in the next,” is an affirmation that would help people cope, then it pragmatically keeps them functional even when extreme things happen to them.  If that wouldn’t help people cope but does have profound meaning, then that’s what it is.  In either case, other religions and secular belief systems can do the same thing.  And unless you figure that the destiny of man is the second coming of Christ so nothing else really matters, like James Watt when he said that it doesn’t matter if we use up our natural resources, then you’d realize that this minimization of our perceptions of sinfulness, and magnification of our perceptions of how victims are supposed to take heed to themselves, would lead to a pretty desperate material destiny.

The subchapter Jesus’ Own Reinterpretation of Prophetic Messianism, has as its sub-subchapters, Jesus’ Rejection of Hebraic Legalism, Jesus’ Rejection of Nationalistic Particularism, Jesus’ Rejection of the Answer of Hebraic Messianism for the Problem Presented by Prophetism, and Jesus’ Reinterpretation of the Eschata.  If your idea of the destiny of humankind is, “So that I may be reasonably happy in this life and supremely happy with You forever in the next,” then such details may matter to you, but if you care about the happenings in the material world, these may not make a whole lot of difference.

This subchapter includes, “No law can do justice to the freedom of man in history.  It cannot state the final good for him, since in his transcendence and self-transcendence no order of nature and no rule of history can finally determine the norm of his life.”  Yet in the widespread popularity of The Serenity Prayer, you could see how this transcendence would make for a law and norm to guide his life.  No matter what happens to you, you could still be well-adjusted, function productively, etc., if you transcend it.  Expecting you to abide by that, would seem to expect nothing more from you than self-empowerment.  Even if you were in a situation where this transcendence and self-transcendence would mean, “Accepting hardship as a pathway to peace; Taking as Jesus did this sinful world as it is not as I would have it.”

This also includes, which is pretty typical for this book, “The love which enters history as suffering love, must remain suffering love in history.  Since this love is the very law of history it may have its tentative triumphs even in history; for human history cannot stand in complete contradiction to itself.  Yet history does stand in actual contradiction to the law of love; and Jesus anticipates the growth of evil as well as the growth of good in history.  Among the signs of the end will be ‘wars and rumours of wars’ and the appearance of false Christs.”  This isn’t the sort of thing that modern psychotherapists would associate with the fatalism of each individual courageously changing what he can and serenely accepting what he can’t.  Yet this is, indeed, what that fatalism has to mean to those who are helpless enough.

The subchapter The Acceptance by Christian Faith of the Expected and Rejected Messiah, has as its sub-subchapters, Christ Crucified as the Wisdom of God and the Power of God, The Relation of the “Wisdom of God” to the “Power of God” (with wisdom not meaning the tactical wisdom to discern what one can change from what he can’t), and The Foolishness of God and the Wisdom of Man, which begins, “St. Paul defines the truth revealed in ‘Christ crucified’ as the ‘foolishness of God which is wiser than men’ as the ‘hidden wisdom’ which ‘none of the princes of this world knew, for had they known it they would not have crucified the Lord of glory.’”

This subchapter includes, “The wrath of God is the world in its essential structure reacting against the sinful corruptions of that structure; it is the law of life as love, which the egotism of man defies, a defiance which leads to the destruction of life.”  This, actually, reflects what The Bible Handbook said is good.  Sinfulness means chaos, so caring about what causes our rampant depression would care about protecting the world’s essential structure.  Yet according to the entire unredacted Serenity Prayer, the person who cares about protecting the world’s essential structure, by objecting to destructive sinfulness, wants the world to be as he’d have it, defiantly expressing his own ego.

Chapter III, The Possibilities and Limits of History, begins, “The Christian faith affirms that the same Christ who discloses the sovereignty of God over history is also the perfect norm of human nature.”  Of course, his absolutist forgiveness is the only feature of Jesus that the Serenity Prayer mentions that we emulate, nothing about behaving responsibly as Jesus did.

The subchapter Sacrificial Love and the Sinlessness of Christ says, “The significance of the affirmation that God is revealed in Christ, and more particularly in his Cross, is that the love (agápè) of God is conceived in terms which make the divine involvement in history a consequence of precisely the divine transcendence over the structures of history,” with agápè meaning unconditional love.

This subchapter also says, “Without faith the ethical life of man is always haunted by the sceptical reflection that ‘a living dog is better than a dead lion,’ which is to say that all moral imperatives are limited by the survival impulse which lies at the foundation of historical existence.”  Yet the entire spirituality of The Serenity Prayer is based on this survival impulse.  Your survival impulse would be best served by courageously changing the hardship, or how the sinfulness affects you, if you could, and serenely accepting them if you couldn’t, so that’s what you’re to do.  That’s completely irrespective of whatever your moral imperatives may be.

The subchapter The Relation of Christ’s Perfection to History, has as its sub-subchapters, The Perfection of Christ and Innocency, and The Perfection of Christ and the Possibilities of History, both of which leave open questions as to how Niebuhr thinks we’re supposed to manage the aspects of history which God’s mighty hand isn’t shaping. 

The Perfection of Christ and the Possibilities of History includes, “The Biblical warning ‘if ye love them which love you, what reward have ye,’ is certainly relevant to historical realities; for the failure of pure love to calculate possible reciprocal responses to it is the force which makes new ventures in brotherhood possible.”  What this doesn’t admit to, other than simply saying that this is Matthew 5:46, is that this comes from a command from Jesus, in the Sermon on the Mount, that we take this sinful world to an extreme degree, Matthew 5:38-48: “Ye have heard that it hath been said, An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth:  But I say unto you, That ye resist not evil: but whosoever shall smite thee on thy right cheek, turn to him the other also.

And if any man will sue thee at the law, and take away thy coat, let him have thy cloak also.  And whosoever shall compel thee to go a mile, go with him twain.  Give to him that asketh thee, and from him that would borrow of thee turn not thou away.  Ye have heard that it hath been said, Thou shalt love thy neighbour, and hate thine enemy.  But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you; That ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven: for he maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust.  For if ye love them which love you, what reward have ye? do not even the publicans the same?  And if ye salute your brethren only, what do ye more than others? do not even the publicans so?  Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect.”  When Niebuhr wrote “Taking as Jesus did this sinful world as it is not as I would have it,” he knew that this was what it meant.

This subchapter also includes, “There are no forms of remedial justice from which the egoistic element of vindictiveness has been completely purged.  The coming decades of post-war reconstruction will offer us ample proof of this tragic fact.”  So how do you tell the difference between “remedial justice” toward the Nazis, and “egoistic vindictiveness” toward them?

The subchapter The Relation of Christ’s Perfection to Eternity is basically more of the same.

This subchapter includes the following, which is all-important to the question of how natural our rampant depression really is:

In terms of social history there are no primitive societies in which life is related to life in the frictionless harmony of the ant-hill.  We do know something about the character of primitive societies; a great deal more, at least, than the eighteenth century philosophers who used the idea of a “state of nature” as a foil for their interpretation of historical society.  We know that on the one hand primitive societies were held together by natural impulses of gregariousness and consanguinity and that in them the individual is never completely emancipated from the “primeval we” consciousness.  In this characteristic, primitive society is organically related to animal herds and families.  Its history must be regarded as prehistory.  But on the other hand we know of no primitive society which does not adopt various stratagems to achieve the unity which the animal herd has by nature.  Political artifice supplies some cement of its social cohesion.  The very strictness with which primitive custom binds the individual to the group and prohibits individual deviations from established norms (however capricious the origin of such norms may be) is the mark of the primitive community’s fear of anarchy.  The primitive community has no freedom in its social structure, not because the individual lacks an embryonic sense of freedom but precisely because he does have such a sense; and the community is not imaginative enough to deal with this freedom without suppressing it.  This means that the brotherhood of even the most primitive community cannot be a completely “innocent” mutual relation of life to life.  In so far as freedom has arisen to destroy the harmony of nature, the community seeks to suppress it for the sake of preserving the social unity.  There are thus elements of tyranny in the social cohesion of the primitive community.  Furthermore the relation of the primitive community to other communities are minimal at first; and when they develop they begin as conflict relations.  The innocency of primitive life thus embodies the twin evils of the tyrannical subordination of life to life and the anarchic conflict of life with life.

So, this says something about to what degree a natural society, the sort of society in which the threshold of human endurance first evolved, would include man-made helplessness.  We can’t just assume that people could see what’s ultimately for their own good, when it comes to the cooperation in a society.  Yet the question would still have to remain if those living in such a society had to deal with so much conflict that they’d take to a formula for coping which includes, “Accepting hardship as a pathway to peace; Taking as Jesus did this sinful world as it is not as I would have it.”  Genuine realism would have to find exactly what level of cooperation is only natural.  Those in the modern day may even have certain advantages over those who lived in the societies where human nature first evolved, in that now we can be aware of what contributes to our rampant depression, so the causes of something this unnatural obviously aren’t just normal parts of life.  Now we could also understand how capricious the origin of some norms may be, so we wouldn’t just follow along.

A realistic view of how close primitive societies come to utopias, is that different societies do to different degrees, and that usually the more aggressive a society must be in order to wrest all the foods it needs from the land on which it lives, the more aggressive that society’s cultural norms would be.  And this leads to the fact that to whatever degree a society’s norms must overtly restrict aggressive desires, this doesn’t necessarily have all the unnatural connotations that a Wagnerian psychology would give it.  In those societies in which people are free to care what could cause rampant depression, anxiety disorders, etc., their human nature would actually be re-engineered less than would be the human nature of people in societies that have rampant depression and anxiety disorders, and those who care would seem maladjusted, manipulative, resentful, etc.

The Tshiluba, in the Congo, have a word, ilunga, which means, someone who is ready to forgive any abuse for the first time, to tolerate it a second time, but never a third time.  One could say that this is a very balanced standard.  It certainly wouldn’t indicate any whiny or prima dona attitude problems.  Yet since this doesn’t take as Jesus did this sinful world, this would be maladjusted in situations where adjustment would require tolerating some destructive behavior more than twice.  The same would go for someone who has standards that would forgive or tolerate behavior that’s within reasonable limits, but in situations where others’ behavior goes beyond that, he’d seem maladjusted. unrealistic, etc.

And, of course, we must also explore the question of whether, in order to have enough “innocency” to have a natural rate of depression, we’d need to suppress and subordinate.  In fact, defining a good character aling the lines of, “Accepting hardship as a pathway to peace; Taking as Jesus did this sinful world as it is not as I would have it,” certainly requires a lot more suppression and subordination of people’s natural feelings, than would a common-sense based assessment of what really is and isn’t acceptable, endurable.  Plenty of people who want adequate funding for adequate behavioral therapy for addiction, want these addicts to have more social pressures that would override some very pathologically strong biologically-based desires, that which arise from the brain being so deformed by drugs.



Chapter IV, Wisdom, Grace, and Power (The Fulfillment of History), once again doesn’t limit wisdom to tactical wisdom.  This begins, “Every facet of the Christian revelation, whether of the relation of God to history, or the relation of man to the eternal, points to the impossibility of man fulfilling the true meaning of his life and reveals sin to be primarily derived from his abortive efforts to do so.  The Christian gospel nevertheless enters the world with the proclamation that in Christ both ‘wisdom’ and ‘power’ are available to man, which is to say that not only has the true meaning of life been disclosed but also that resources have been made available to fulfill that meaning.”  It should be very obvious not only that a wisdom to know the difference between which aspects of one’s own problem he can or can’t change has absolutely nothing to do with “the true meaning of life,” but that this difference does matter.  We really do need something to protect us from the presumption that the only thing that really matters is that the person who has the problem, deal with it as pragmatically as possible.

This chapter says near the beginning, “The Christian gospel nevertheless enters the world with the proclamation that in Christ both ‘wisdom’ and ‘power’ are available to man; which is to say that not only has the true meaning of life been disclosed but also that the resources have been made available to fulfill that meaning.”  Even if you didn’t know that the entire unredacted Serenity Prayer includes, “Accepting hardship as a pathway to peace; Taking as Jesus did this sinful world as it is not as I would have it,” it would still be clear that the “wisdom” in “wisdom to know the difference,” doesn’t involve “the true meaning of life.”  In fact, if you did look at any sinfulness that might be involved in your situation, in terms of how it relates to “the true meaning of life,” this would seem unwise, since no abstractions would tell you anything about changing what you can.  What The Serenity Prayer calls “wisdom,” is actually a pragmatic tactical wisdom.  The only thing that this “wisdom” could tell you is how you could best handle your own problem, which would seem good, since abstractions not only would distract you without doing you any good, but could reflect what you want to believe.  And, of course, any faith that you have that “the resources have been made available to fulfill that meaning,” would have to be very qualified.  If you don’t have available the resources that you’d need to change what you’d have to, then you simply must serenely accept this fact.

The subchapters are The Biblical Doctrine of Grace, and Grace as Power in, and as Mercy Towards Man, with its sub-subchapters “I am Crucified With Christ,” “Nevertheless I live,” and, “Yet not I, but Christ Liveth in Me.”  So Niebuhr wrote in a book about the destiny of man, that this is the fulfillment of history and constitutes wisdom grace and power.  Yet so many people rely on his ideas to give them a healthy plan for how those in a society could get along with each other.  Certainly you could imagine how a society that relies on this for transcendence over its problems, could easily have high rates of depression and anxiety disorders.

What his zeitgeist has led to, is the material-world-transcending and holding-victims-accountable conclusions that you’d see not only in Twelve-Step groups, but Twelve-Step groups for addicts’ friends and family members, whose transcendence would transcend the battle-grounds of tormented and agonized beings, that go on inside addicts’ families.  For example, the chapter of the handbook of Gamblers Anonymous that’s written for Gam-Anon members says, “Emotionally, the stress takes its toll as the life of the Gam-Anon member [married to an active gambler] seems to crumble and become unmanageable; tensions are aggravated because life, in material terms, is unstable.  At any moment the house may be lost or the furniture repossessed.  There may not be enough money to put food on the table or clothe the children,” and, “Because the only real happiness that one can be sure of comes from within, Gam-Anon encourages the member to build on his or her own inner core of spiritual strength and maturity as the best way to live with the gambling problem, rather than to depend solely on their gambling spouses for happiness.”

Al-Anon even has a book titled ...In All Our Affairs: Making Crises Work For You, so those who don’t make their crises caused by alcoholics, work for them, would seem to be passive self-defeating mollycoddles whose problem is that they lack the courage to change what they can.  Here we really could see the spirituality of, “So that I may be reasonably happy in this life and supremely happy with You forever in the next.”

Chapter V of Volume II of The Nature and Destiny of Man, The Conflict Between Grace and Pride, has as its subchapters, Pre-Augustinian Conceptions of Grace, The Catholic Conception of Grace, and The Destruction of the Catholic Synthesis.  Though grace concerns sins and sinfulness, it seems that sins are just negatives in the accounting between sinners and God, while the people who are actually hurt by the sins are supposed to forgive.  This analysis of Niebuhr also deals, as usual, with competing schools of thought, not the competing interests of the sinners and the victims.

Around the beginning of this chapter, it includes, “This revolt [against the whole truth of Christianity] explains why a civilization, informed by a religious faith, which, alone among the faiths of the world, both encouraged historic creativity and responsibility and yet set limits upon man’s historic possibilities, must appear from the perspective of the more earthbound (Confucianism) and the more world-denying (Buddhism) religions of the East as a civilization of unbridled ambitions and heaven-storming passions.”

Yet one big example of this is how Buddhist transcendent mindfulness tries to correct both sinful human nature and hurt the human nature that consists of our hurt feelings, while the transcendent mindfulness of, “Accepting hardship as a pathway to peace; Taking as Jesus did this sinful world as it is not as I would have it,” tries to correct only the victims.  Sure, what follows this is, “Trusting that You will make all things right if I surrender to Your will; So that I may be reasonably happy in this life and supremely happy with You forever in the next,” which implies some authoritarian moral responsibility, yet in practice, “Taking as Jesus did this sinful world as it is not as I would have it,” insists that the victims ignore even common sense moral responsibility, regarding everyone besides themselves.  (And, of course, if one believes in that definition of being well-adjusted, it would be all too easy for him to figure that if those hurt by his behavior object strongly, the problem is that they’re too resentful, etc.)  After all, every society needs to get its homeostasis, and our culture says that getting it through correcting those who cause the problems would be re-engineering human nature, while correcting the victims would be self-empowerment, and self-help.  Regarding “unbridled ambitions and heaven-storming passions,” these same cultural norms say that to call someone “ambitious” is to say that he has a good work ethic.  Question #6 in the standard Twenty Questions survey to see if oneself is a pathological gambler, such as on the Gamblers Anonymous website, and in Gamblers Anonymous’ old-time Combo Book and pamphlet Compulsive Gambling, and on the website of California’s Office of Problem Gambling, and on the website of the Council of Compulsive Gambling of New Jersey, is, “Did gambling cause a decrease in your ambition or efficiency?” though many would say that one of pathological gamblers’ character flaws is that they’re too greedy!  (though very inefficient)

Also, “heaven-storming passions” certainly has an excitingly übermensch quality to it!  When any of this has bad consequences, then as long as the victims courageously change what they can and serenely accept what they can’t, by far most of these consequences would be nothing more than obstacles that they’d simply overcome, and if they don’t, they’d get the various untermensch labels, such as “wanting the world to be as they’d have it.”

Chapter VI, The Debate on Human Destiny in Modern Culture: the Renaissance, has as its subchapters The Meaning of the Renaissance, Sectarian Protestantism and the Renaissance, and The Triumph of the Renaissance, which have the usual ideas that the Renaissance was too individualistic so it got rid of too much of the awareness of original sin.

The Triumph of the Renaissance includes, “The Catholic form of the religion became discredited by the fact that all the liberties of modern life and all the achievements of social and political justice were established in defiance of Catholicism’s premature identification of its feudal society with the sanctities of the Kingdom of God.”

Chapter VII, The Debate on Human Destiny in Modern Culture: The Reformation, says, “It was the historical locus where the Christian conscience became most fully aware of the presence of sin in the life of the redeemed.”  The subchapters are The Lutheran Reformation, The Calvinistic Reformation, and A Synthesis of Reformation and Renaissance.

 A Synthesis of Reformation and Renaissance includes, “There will be psychiatric techniques which pretend to overcome all the anxieties of human existence and therefore all its corruptions.”  This is exactly what both The Serenity Prayer, and the entire Stoic philosophy which has grown up around it, is now.

This also includes, “Since some of the most significant developments in the field of social morality have taken place in modern life in defiance of a sacramental church, which had limited social justice unwittingly to the essential conditions of feudal life, it is understandable that modern culture should still be informed by a strong resentment against the pretensions of such a church.”

Two Catholic saints who could indicate something about how Catholic theology would interact with what’s causing our rampant depression and anxiety disorders, are St. Dymphna, the patron saint of the mentally ill, and St. Rita, the patron saint of lost causes.  Dymphna became a saint because her father, who went crazy because his wife died, wanted to marry the woman who came the closest to her, who was Dymphna.  In order to save herself from this she stabbed herself to death, which is why she’s often pictured with a sword.  Now we’re trying to convince the Muslim suicide bombers that suicide doesn’t make one a martyr, yet Dymphna became a saintly martyr by killing herself, for the same reason that many other incest victims have killed themselves throughout history.

Rita had an arranged marriage to an impossible man, and endured it with a saintly patience.  Impossible husbands are a very preventable cause of plenty of our depressions and anxiety disorders, yet Rita’s sainthood has nothing to do with that prevention.  The only Catholic saints who have anything to do with some of the causes of our rampant depression and anxiety disorders, are those who helped the poor.  Yet while this help kept them alive, it wouldn’t reduce the helplessness of having had tried to succeed, yet, for one reason or another, “things didn’t go right.”  This 14 kt. gold religious medal of St. Rita, clutching a crown of thorns and haplessly looking skyward, looks like a satire of codependents, but this is the answer that patriarchal religion has for such marriages.  (Even when free from patriarchal religion, the only other alternative to that could be the feminization of poverty.)

During the Great Depression, Father Charles Coughlin became a famous pundit speaking on the radio, with a message that had a lukewarm acceptance of fascism, but the American fascists still regarded him as a major hero.  The name of his magazine was Social Justice.  Quite possibly, this statement of Niebuhr’s was in reference to how such conceptions of social justice had to be limited to a basically feudal mindset, where you couldn’t think for yourself to size up the particularities of each situation, just as, in the modern day, expecting people in general to think and believe along the lines of, “God, grant me serenity to accept the things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can, and wisdom to know the difference....  Accepting hardship as a pathway to peace; Taking as Jesus did this sinful world as it is not as I would have it,” means that the only way in which those who have the problems could think for themselves, would be to ask, “Could I change this, and if so, how expediently could I do it?”  The examples of Father Coughlin’s statements that The Fine Art of Propaganda, edited by Alfred  McClung Lee and Elizabeth Briant Lee, copyright 1939, gives, talk about the injustices that lower-middle-class Americans had to suffer due to the Great Depression, without really giving specific solutions for them.

A modern version of this would be the fact that the spiritual director of Mother Teresa’s Missionaries of Charity, and her confessor, Jesuit Fr. Donald McGuire, not only was convicted of child molestation, but had a tendency to treat these boys in a pathologically controlling fashion.  A letter from a boy’s parents to the office of the Chicago Province Jesuits, dated October 25, 2000, says, “He agreed that Father is very controlling of the young men who serve him and expressed concern about this control.”  A letter from another boy’s parents to the same office, dated October 27, 2000, says, “By now the conversation was getting scary, we were very concerned about what type of person we were dealing with.  We were wondering what kind of hold [McGuire] had over [the boy].”  A letter from the latter boy’s parents to The Office of Conciliation for the Archdiocese of Chicago, dated December 7, 2002, says, “Beginning in 1999, we were struck by the controlling heavy-handed influence Fr. McGuire had over our son.”

Some have compared this getting control of followers by lowering their loyalty to their own families, to a cult leader’s tactics.  Yet since this is in the context of molestation relationships based on McGuire’s having the power of the Catholic Church, this could very easily be how he got his sadistic thrills.  In any case, he had a very feudal attitude toward the peasants.  Sure, Mother Teresa’s concern about the poor was sincere, but if she did it hand-in-glove with someone who has fascist attitudes like this, then that would have been bound to shape the regimen under which the Missionaries of Charity worked.  When McGuire was brought up on federal criminal charges for bringing some American boys to Europe where he molested them, after being found guilty of molesting boys in a state court, his lawyer said, “If Father McGuire could speak for himself, I’m sure he’d say these folks are trying to attack the treasury of the church,” so despite his recorded history of molestation, he’d treat his victims as the attackers, and would put on the cloak of the powerful Catholic Church.

Ironically, Jesuit Provincial Edward Schmidt explained the fact that McGuire was able to have teen boys living with him though a victim’s parish priest notified the Jesuits in 1969 that the boy said that McGuire is a “pervert,” with, “The fact of the matter is, we’re dealing with someone who does his own thing,” though McGuire’s problem involved his getting his kicks by not letting his victims do their own things.  Then again, if Mother Teresa did her own thing with sufficient funding, she probably would have done voluntary work for the poor.

(The little perv)

Niebuhr’s analysis of Luther looks like an analysis of any other theologian, with such serenely understated statements as, “In confronting the problems of realizing justice in the collective life of man, the Lutheran Reformation was even more explicitly defeatist,” and “Luther’s inordinate fear of anarchy, prompted by his pessimism and his corresponding indifference to the injustice of tyranny has had a fateful consequence in the history of German civilization.”

Peter F. Wiener, in his book Martin Luther: Hitler’s Spiritual Ancestor, gives accounts of Luther’s Teutonic defeatism regarding justice.  For example, in his era the princes ruled very oppressively, and many of the peasants attempted to revolt.  At first Luther was a moderate, diplomatic supporter of the peasants, calling them “dear brothers,” and the princes “dear masters.”  He said that “never did rebellion end in good,” but he also said to the princes, “Since it is certain that you govern tyrannically and savagely, fleecing and oppressing the common people, there is no comfort or hope for you but to perish as those like you have perished.”  Yet after Luther saw that he could get great power by taking the side of the princes, he wrote and published a pamphlet “Against the Peasant Bands of Robbers and Murderers,” which Funck-Bretano described as “a horrible document which it is impossible to read, not only without disapproval but without disgust. The Reformer, who always had the Gospel on his lips, now talked of nothing but killing, torturing, burning and murdering the very people whom his work had driven to rebel.”  The pamphlet said, “To kill a peasant is not murder; it is helping to extinguish the conflagration.  Let there be no half measures!  Crush them!  Cut their throats! Transfix them!  Leave no stone unturned!  To kill a peasant is to destroy a mad dog!...”, and on and on from there.  Elsewhere he said similar things, like, “What strange times are these when a prince can enter heaven by the shedding of blood more certainly than others by means of prayer!”.

When princes did as Luther told them, and his former followers said that what he was saying was on an impulse, he replied, “An insurgent is not worthy of being answered with reason, for he cannot understand it; such mouths must be stopped with fisticuffs till their noses bleed.  The peasants would not hear, would not listen to reason, therefore it was necessary to startle their ears with bullets, and send their heads flying in the air....  If they say I am very hard and merciless, mercy be damned. Let whoever can stab, strangle, and kill them like mad dogs.

Hitler’s Spiritual Ancestor has a lot of similar quotes and other facts that I could include here, but, rationally speaking, all that would do is provide yet more proof that if we’re going to take unendurability seriously, we can’t just brush over it lightly.  This is especially true when we’re talking about the devastation that’s usually dismissed as nebulous banal seemingly inevitable personal problems that the victims’ own personal weaknesses may have allowed to happen or to bother them.  Often, whether an issue is taken seriously enough would mean the absolute difference between, “That’s bad, but that’s life, so here’s what’s wrong with you if you don’t deal with it....” and, “That’s bad enough that we’d better take it seriously.”

Of course, if one approached this question transcendentally, who knows what answers he’d come up with.  One other thing that Wiener mentioned would be particularly relevant, though.  He said that the characteristically German dislike of rationality could well have come from Luther.  Niebuhr wrote that his dislike of rationality isn’t the same as that popular in Germany, which is the “romanticism” which trusts natural emotion over rationality, rather than Niebuhr’s trusting transcendence over rationality.  Yet what you end up with in the bottom line could be the same.

The time and place of the “Romanticism,” central Europe in the generation before World War I, was when books such as Martin Buber’s Ecstatic Confessions, a collection of statements by followers of diverse mystical religions, were published, and mystical religions are transcendent but Niebuhr regarded them as lacking individualism, etc.  Since all that Luther had to do was write theology, he, also, didn’t have to face the inherent contradictions between the love of the law of the jungle and the hatred of rationality.  As Phyllis Dorothy James wrote, “That’s all one asks of a sermon.  No possible relevance to anything but itself.”  And a Renaissance theologian couldn’t have known that German barbarity would become a fatalistic acceptance of a barbaric human nature along the lines of the Doctrine of Original Sin.

Chapter VIII of Volume II of The Nature and Destiny of Man, Having, and Not Having, the Truth, is far more relevant to the mayhem currently caused in the Middle East by all three of the “historical religions,” than it did back when a religion’s arrogance meant only in the ideas expressed in its luminaries’ writings.  This chapter begins, “If the Christian conception of grace be true then all history remains an ‘interim’ between the disclosure and the fulfillment of its meaning....  Redemption does not guarantee elimination of the sinful corruptions, which are in fact increased whenever the redeemed claim to be completely emancipated from them.”

The subchapter The Problem of the Truth says, “We know that the freedom of the human spirit over the flux of nature and history makes it impossible to accept our truth as the truth.  The capacity for rational self-transcendence opens up constantly new and higher points of vantage for judging our finite perspectives in light of a more inclusive truth.”  Sure, as long as after transcending what one feels like doing and believing, he doesn’t transcend common sense.

This goes on to say, “Knowledge of the truth is thus invariably tainted with an ‘ideological’ taint of interest, which makes our apprehension of the truth something less that the knowledge of the truth and reduces it to our truth.”  Yet if someone believes in the sort of self-reliance that you could see in The Serenity Prayer, chances are that he won’t consider this to be just another ideology that he’d better try to balance with other ideas.  That sort of self-reliance would seem übermensch, red-blooded, while ideas that disagree with it would seem untermensch, mollycoddle.

This really is a non-violent version of, “Wrong through violence is not so ignominious for the perpetrator as wrong through cunning, because the former is evidence of physical strength, which in all circumstances powerfully impresses the human race.  The latter, on the other hand, by using the crooked way, betrays weakness, and at the same time degrades the perpetrator as a physical and moral being,” and, “The concept of good is divided into two subspecies, that of the directly present satisfaction of the will in each case, and that of its merely indirect satisfaction concerning the future, in other words, the agreeable and the useful.  The concept of the opposite, so long as we are speaking of beings without knowledge, is expressed by the word bad, more rarely and abstractly by the word evil, which therefore denotes everything that is not agreeable to the striving of the will in each case.”  It would seem that of course those who believe that if it’s your problem then you’re simply going to have to courageously change what you can and serenely accept what you can’t, are proud and willful, since the strong in all circumstances powerfully impress the human race.  On the other hand, those who disagree with this sort of self-reliance would seem, at the very least, to want to believe that the person who has the problem is (gasp!) owed something.  His own awareness that he was wronged, would seem to be a classic untermensch tactic.  Therefore, the übermenschen whose ideologies are along the lines of blaming the victim,


would naturally insist that they not balance this with those whining defeatist and manipulative, pity-parties.  The victim-blamers who Ryan wrote about, blamed poverty on poor people supposedly not having enough self-discipline.  Yet no matter how much you could prove that increasing poor people’s self-discipline wouldn’t decrease the unemployment or underemployment rates, that since then the differences between the wealth of the rich and the wealth of the poor has gone way up and this wasn’t because the rich became more and the poor became less self-disciplined, the victim-blamers could still hold that if a given poor person became more self-disciplined, that would probably increase his chances of getting a job, or a better job.  No matter how much you’d insist that he’d balance this with other ideas, that victim-blamer would still insist that it’s not relative but absolute that if a poor person become more self-disciplined, that would increase his chances of getting a good job, and he can’t afford to engage in intellectualist self-doubt about this.  Likewise those who must deal with hardship caused by others’ sinfulness, can’t afford to balance “Shut up and deal with your own problems, and figure out how you could do this the most pragmatically!” with, “That pragmatism is completely morally bankrupt!”

Given that, it really is interesting that this subchapter ends with,

It is in fact not surprising that the enemies of Christianity should frequently regard it as the tool of inordinate historical claims and pretensions; rather than as a religion in which all such pretensions are broken in principle, and should sigh and hope for the destruction of religion as the only way of emancipating mankind from fanaticism.  The enemies of religion do not, of course, understand that they are dealing with a more fundamental problem than anything created by this or that religion; that it is the problem of the relative and the absolute in history; that the problem is solved by Christian faith “in principle”; that Christian faith may aggravate the problem if it claims more than that; but that alternative solutions, as they are evolved in secular culture, present us either with the abyss of scepticism or with new fanaticisms.

Right now, with all the religious insanity going on in the mid-East, including that caused by American Christians awaiting the apocalypse, religious fanaticism now means something far more than fanatical beliefs and writings.

The subchapter The Test of Tolerance is about the tolerance of various Christian schools of thought, with its sub-subchapters Catholicism and Tolerance, The Reformation and Toleration, and The Renaissance and Toleration.  Of course, this intoleration isn’t like the far more banal intoleration of those uncomfortable with the unquestionable predictable absolutisms of the Serenity Prayer.  Those who’d disagree with this would get such Alcoholics Anonymous slogans as, “We are all victims of victims,” “There are no victims, just volunteers,” “The longer that we think about the bad stuff, the greater is its power to harm us,” “The best remedy for anger is delay,” “The people we hate teach us the most,” “Life is like wrestling a gorilla. You don’t stop when you get tried, you stop when the gorilla gets tired,” “Anger is one letter short of danger,” “Regarding resentments: let one vulture live and he will pick your bones,” “Serenity is not freedom from the storm, but peace amid the storm,” “Forgiveness is relinquishing the role of being the victim,” “When one finger is pointed at someone else, there are three pointing back at me,” “Things happen. It’s what we do when they happen that’s key,” “It’s not what happens; it’s how we interpret what happens,” etc.  After all, the intellect and everything else is supposed to be just another manifestation of the will, so if you object to something, that’s supposed to be just your will screaming for attention.  Here we have more of the Teutonic defeatism regarding justice, though it concerns the separate individual rather than a government attacking masses of peasants.  Yet, as in Götterdämmerung, an anarchistic “Twilight of the Gods,” all are free to protect themselves by avoiding problem people.

The Renaissance and Toleration includes, “But the weakness in the modern position is also quite apparent.  Either it achieves toleration by taking an irresponsible attitude towards ultimate issues; or it insinuates new and false ultimates into views of life which are ostensibly merely provisional and pragmatic.”

Yet as you could see in the above Al-Anon comics, an attitude of, “Courageously change what you can, and serenely accept what you can’t,” leads to both an irresponsible toleration regarding ultimate issues and new ultimates going into views of life which are ostensibly pragmatic.  After all, for ephemeral banal and pragmatic reasons, you absolutely must be well-adjusted, even if the realities that you must adjust to, tolerate, are profoundly sinful.

Niebuhr used the word “meaningful” to mean profound, so I’ll use his term: If I were to be intolerant, I’d rather do it in the meaningful fashion of the old Christian philosophers, than the meaningless fashion of Niebuhr’s fans.

The profound intolerance is far more relevant now, with all the self-righteousness going on in or concerning the mid-East.  One example of this is:

The secularists may be pardoned if, as they watch this curious drama, they cry “a plague o’ both your houses”; and if they come to the conclusion that all ladders to heaven are dangerous.  It must be observed, however, that these ladders cannot be disavowed so simply as the secularists imagine.  Pride may ascend the ladder which was meant for the descent of grace; but that is a peril which inheres in the whole human cultural enterprise.  The secularists end by building ladders of their own; or they wallow in a nihilistic culture which has no vantage point from which “my” truth can be distinguished from “the” truth.

By that time the inquisitions had already taken place, so while the established religions already had the power and influence that these inquisitions gave them, they were no longer committing the actual atrocities.  Now, on the other hand, religiously-based atrocities are going on.

Chapter XI, The Kingdom of God and the Struggle for Justice, finally gets to what really matters to those who aren’t into theological theorizing.  This chapter begins, “The struggle for justice is as profound a revelation of the possibilities and limits of historical existence as the quest for truth.  In some respects it is even more revealing because engages all human vitalities and powers more obviously than the intellectual quest.

“The obligation to build and to perfect communal life is not merely forced on us by the necessity of coming to terms with the rather numerous hosts, whom it has pleased the Almighty Creator to place on this little earth beside us.  Community is an individual as well as social necessity; for the individual can realize himself only in intimate and organic relation with his fellowmen....  Every age, and more particularly the age of technics, has confronted men with the problem of relating their lives to a larger number of their fellowmen.”

Yet the struggle for justice is also where rational facts matter the most.  One could always dismiss the intellect as reflecting the will, yet both free thought and active thought are necessary to find the best peace.  At the very least, both the intellect, and the Justitia Originalis, would let us see what could reduce our astounding rates of depression and anxiety disorders.

In the subchapter The Relation of Justice to Love, Niebuhr gives the definition of “nature” as “the historical possibilities of justice,” and of “grace” as “the ideal possibility of perfect love, in which all inner contradictions within the self, and all conflicts and tensions between the self and the other are overcome by the complete obedience of all wills to the will of God.”  So once again the problem doesn’t seem to be greed, etc., which arises from inside the destructive person, but conflicts with others or with one’s own expectations.  He goes on to talk about more Godly ideals, without stopping to consider the difference between needing God to set up an ideal kingdom, and a simple consideration of such thing as what would cause rampant depression.

Oregon journalist Steve Duin wrote about the pedo-priest scandal and how someone found all the systemic cover-up to be “a disgrace,” “When grace doesn’t guard the door, it seems, disgrace crawls out of the cellar.”  Yet the cover-ups were very much in the spirit of Christian grace.  Forgiving the predators seemed more important than anything else.  Sure, the perverts weren’t obeying the rules, but those who forgave them, were.  Not only that, those laypeople who were expected to forgive them, were expected to get rid of their conflicts and tensions, and submit.

The pedo-priest scandal is a big issue in Oregon, since the Portland Archdiocese was the first American Catholic diocese to declare bankruptcy, due to sex abuse lawsuits for a total of more than $155 million in damages.  Yet the archbishop who served in Portland, Archbishop William J. Levada, was appointed by Rat-zinger, once he became pope, for the Vatican post of Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, the very same high-ranking post that Rat-zinger just filled.  (According to the Wikipedia webpage on the Inquisition, “Pope Paul III established, in 1542, a permanent congregation staffed with cardinals and other officials, whose task it was to maintain and defend the integrity of the faith and to examine and proscribe errors and false doctrines.  This body, the Congregation of the Holy Office, now called the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, part of the Roman Curia, became the supervisory body of local Inquisitions.”)  Levada obviously isn’t a slouch when it comes to abiding by doctrine.  But if the doctrine prioritizes conflict-free forgiveness, then that’s what a doctrinaire person does.

The subchapter Laws and Principles of Justice says, “The difference between [the dimension of rules and laws of justice] and [the dimension of structures of justice] obviously lies in the fact that laws and principles of justice are abstractly conceived, while structures and organizations embody the vitalities of history.”  He then goes on to analyze how the rules and laws of justice relate to the “law of love,” how social psychology contributes to this, how conflicts can be resolved without necessarily needing coercion, etc.  Nothing here is said about how unlikely people are to do something that they knew would cause a lot of harm, as versus if they thought that it would be life on life’s terms for the victims, which naturally they’d deal with.

This subchapter includes, “The complex character of all historic conceptions of justice thus refutes both the relativists who see no possibility of finding valid principles of justice, and the rationalists and optimists who imagine it possible to arrive at completely valid principles, free of every taint of special interest or historical passion.”  Yet that sort of victim-blaming ideology both doesn’t really take seriously any principles of justice, and treats this pragmatism as if it’s a completely valid principle.  If the only question that one could legitimately ask about each aspect of his own problem is “Can I change this?” so if he looks for valid principles of justice he’d seem to be naïve, pity-partying, etc, then he’s certainly not going to find valid principles of justice.  Those intellectuals whose jobs are supposed to be to find these valid principles of justice, would seem unpragmatic and subjective, whenever their ideas would come in conflict with this pragmatism in “dealing with the real world.”

We are to treat this as if it’s “free of every taint of special interest or historical passion.”  Just imagine the response that Jane would get if, after her husband got sober, he did something that couldn’t be attributed to any disease that made him not guilty by reason of insanity, and when those at her meeting told her that she’ll just have to accept that since the only person she could ever change is herself, she responded by saying, “But insisting on that sort of stolid self-reliance from everyone, even those who are unambiguously being victimized, obviously reflects plenty of special interest and historical passion!”

One remark that Niebuhr makes here is very relevant to victim-blaming, “On the other hand the benefits which are paid to the unemployed are almost always higher than the privileged would like to pay, even though they may be lower than the poor would like to receive.  Some members of the privileged classes in modern communities have in fact obscured the issue in regard to this problem by the most obvious and transparent of all ideologies.  They have sought to maintain that the unemployed are the victims of sloth rather than of the caprices of an intricate industrial process; and that the fear of hunger might cure their sloth.”



These privileged people probably realized that when, ten years previously, in October, 1929, unemployment suddenly increased greatly, this didn’t result from a sudden great increase in sloth that just happened to occur at the same time as the stock market crash.  They must have realized that, “Once I built a railroad, made it run, made it race against time.  Once I built a railroad, now it’s done.  Brother, can you spare a dime?” wasn’t too lacking in achievement orientation, too fond of living for today.  In times of high unemployment, bosses are more likely to raise the demands and/or lower the pay of their workers since bosses know that high unemployment would make workers desperate.  These bosses obviously don’t think that potential employees would try to get away with more since they’d realize that they could whine “I CAN’T HELP BUT BE UNEMPLOYED!” and then exercise their sloth.

This subchapter includes, “The requirements of ‘natural law’ in the medieval period were obviously conceived in a feudal society; just as the supposed absolute and ‘self-evident’ demands of eighteenth-century natural law were bourgeois in origin.”  When exploring the question of how much of the depression, anxiety disorders, etc., is just a part of the natural order, principles of what really is the natural law would be very important, such as, “We hold this truth to be self-evident, that for depressive disorders to affect about 34 million American adults, isn’t just a part of the natural order, and that this problem isn’t simply inside the victims.”

Then again, when you remember that Allan Bloom’s The Closing of the American Mind includes, “The same people who struggle to save the snail-darter bless the pill, worry about hunting deer and defend abortion.  Reverence for nature, mastery of nature—whichever is convenient,” as if not only is birth-control a violation of the Law of Nature, but that this is as important as would be the consequences of not using birth control.  Maybe those consequences would be taken more seriously if it were men who got them.  Conceivably one could say that one needn’t to believe in the Catholic definition of Natural Law to regard contraception and abortion as ways to master nature, but one could say the same about any other medical measures.  Specifying most of our attempts to master nature, wouldn’t have had this patriarchal appeal to it.

One could compare this way in which the economic status quo shaped social norms, to the following, from The Fine Art of Propaganda, about the financing of Hitler:

It is difficult to estimate the support or strength of the industrialists.  As in most countries many business leaders contributed to all the major parties.  Despite its socialism, the growing following of the NSDAP made it a useful tool to crush Marxism, democracy, and the German labor movement.  The list of industrialists and aristocratic contributors expanded rapidly between 1925 and 1933, especially after 1930.  The most powerful figure was the Ruhr magnate, Chairman Fritz Thyssen of the Vereinigte Stahlwerke A. G.  The importance of this financial backing, however, should not be overemphasized.  So far as present records show, these men did not determine the policies of the party.  Those had been decided before their support was elicited.

In other words, while the Communists and sympathizers held that Hitler was a capitalist puppet, actually he was only enabled by the capitalists.  Of course, if the kings and churches had the power to make the peons self-abnegating then the kings and churches would naturally do that, and if the moguls had the power to finance Hitler then many would.  In the case of those who enabled Hitler, though, this could be characterized as pluralism, where anyone who wants could donate to anyone he wants, and even among the same categories of people you’d find some diversity.

In that quote from Niebuhr, also, you could see how Niebuhr sometimes refers to traditions that Marxism considers to be bourgeois, as “bourgeois.”  It should be very clear how, “Accepting hardship as a pathway to peace; Taking as Jesus did this sinful world as it is not as I would have it,” is far more bourgeois than are the free-thinking principles that really did found America, since those who must serenely accept the hardship and/or sinfulness probably has less power than do the sinners and/or those who cause the hardship.  If anything, the principles that really did found America would be the perfect antidote to the power relationships involved in “Accepting hardship as a pathway to peace; Taking as Jesus did this sinful world as it is not as I would have it,” since it wouldn’t take much free thought to see how depressive disorders affecting 34 million American adults, isn’t just a part of the natural order, and doesn’t consist of either 34,000,000 rather severe character flaws or 34,000,000 rather severe medical conditions.  The Bible of Stalinism, the  History of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union, at least claims that the reason why Stalin was so intolerant of dissidents, was that Stalinism regarded any ideas that disagreed with him as either bourgeois or petty bourgeois, and by battling these ideas the Stalinists were only protecting the working class from those who were more powerful.  When you consider that the main theme of The Nature and Destiny of Man could be that Stalinism disproved Marxism’s claims that it would be the cure for narcissistic willfulness, this use of the label “bourgeois” could be going along with the rationale for the self-justifying intolerance.  The basic argument was that any expectations of reasonability would give everything back to the bourgeoisie simply because the petty bourgeoisie prioritize tolerance.

The subchapter Structures of Justice begins, “If rules and principles of justice ideally conceived and transcending the more dubious and ambiguous social realities of living societies have an equivocal relation to the ideal of brotherhood, this twofold character is even more obvious and apparent in the structures and systems, the organizations and mechanisms, of society in which these principles and rules are imperfectly embodied and made historically concrete.”  The sub-subchapters are, The Unity of Vitality and Reason, Types of Power in Social Life, and The Organization and Balance of Power.  In essence, there’s a lot of harm that the powerful could do.

The subchapter The Christian Attitude to Government, which says, “The Bible contains two approaches, which taken together and held in balance, do justice to the moral ambiguities of government.  According to the one, government is an ordinance of God and its authority reflects the Divine Majesty.  According to the other, the ‘rulers’ and ‘judges’ of the nations are particularly subject to the diving judgments and wrath because they oppress the poor and defy the divine majesty.”  But how are either of these supposed to make any practical difference, especially when some supposed spokesmen for God, such as Martin Luther, could tell them to wreak havoc as if they’re the victims of anyone who resists their excesses?

This subchapter also includes, “Calvin believed that kings had a covenant with God to rule justly and the people had a covenant with God to obey.  But he denied that this double covenant implied a contract between the ruler and the people.  It was a simple matter for later Calvinists to insist that this covenant was triangular, between the ruler, the people, and God; that it was a covenant of justice; and that if the ruler broke it by injustice, the people were absolved of obedience.

It should also seem only natural to see marriage as a triangular covenant, where if one spouse breaks it by injustice, the other spouse is absolved of the obligation to stay married.  Yet traditional religionists would hardly accept that!  Not only that, divorce would be only one step better than the victimized spouse simply staying and enduring.  The real solution would be for the unjust spouse to stop the injustices, but that seems a lot more naïve than would expecting unjust rulers to stop the injustices, especially if the unjust spouse is the husband.  In this case, it would seem only natural to have toward the husband, an attitude along the lines of, “Taking as Jesus did this sinful world as it is not as I would have it.”  Sure, it would be admitted that his behavior was sinful, and maybe his religious leader would even try to get him to stop.  But, in the end, if he doesn’t stop, his wife would be expected to take his sinfulness as it is not as she would have it.  On the other hand, if she figured that since her spouse broke their marital covenant by injustice, she is absolved of the obligation to stay married to him, that supposed sin would be taken seriously!

The subchapter Justice and World Community says, “The economic interdependence of the world places us under the obligation, and gives us the possibility, of enlarging the human community so that the principle of order and justice will govern the international as well as the national community.  We are driven to this new task by the lash of fear as well as by the incitement of hope.”  Yet both then and now, those in developing countries would have to serenely accept more than they could courageously change, simply because they’d be bargaining from a position of weakness.

Chapter X is titled The End of History, so this is what is truly Niebuhr’s conception of the destiny of man.  This begins, “Everything in human life and history moves towards an end.  By reason of man’s subjection to nature and finiteness this ‘end’ is a point where that which exists ceases to be.  It is finis.  By reason of man’s rational freedom the ‘end’ has another meaning.  It is the purpose and goal of his life and work.  It is telos.”  The subchapter The New Testament Idea of the End, meaning, of course, the second coming of Christ, with the sub-subchapters The Parousia, The Last Judgment, and The Resurrection

That subchapter includes, “But it is prudent to accept the testimony of the heart, which affirms the fear of judgment.”  OK, but it should be glaringly obvious that most of the times that people don’t abide by, “Accepting hardship as a pathway to peace; Taking as Jesus did this sinful world as it is not as I would have it,” that’s their hearts telling them that the sinfulness is wrong, not because they fear judgment, but because they fear the consequences of that moral bankruptcy.  Sure, some of the times that that happens, what’s going on is, “The concept of good is divided into two subspecies, that of the directly present satisfaction of the will in each case, and that of its merely indirect satisfaction concerning the future, in other words, the agreeable and the useful.  The concept of the opposite, so long as we are speaking of beings without knowledge, is expressed by the word bad, more rarely and abstractly by the word evil, which therefore denotes everything that is not agreeable to the striving of the will in each case.”  Yet if what caused the problem in question actually is sinful, not in the legalistic sense but in the sense of the intent behind it not being something that a society could afford to accept, then the person’s heart telling him that it was wrong, is something that we really should accept.

The subchapter The End and Meaning of History begins, “If there are partial realizations of meaning in history, as well as corruptions and distortions, it ought to be possible to discern them from the vantage point of the true end.  For this reason a Christian interpretation of human destiny requires one further view of the meaning of history in the light of what is believed about the character of the ultimate consummation.  If the final consummation fulfills, rather than annuls, historical meaning, the real content of this meaning must be illuminated by the light of faith.”  The subchapter The Diversity and Unity of History goes into this “effort to comprehend the meaning of history from the standpoint of the Christian faith,” with the sub-subchapters, The Rise and Fall of Cultures and Civilizations, The Individual and History, and The Unity of History.

It might be that Niebuhr was a more profound version of the Christian who on one hand is sure that he’ll go to heaven when he dies, is sure that God will protect him from disasters striking his life, etc., but at the same time, makes plenty of physical efforts to protect himself materially.  If this was the case, then it would have been possible for him to think that Human Destiny constitutes the second coming of Christ, and still realize that endurability in this material world has to be taken seriously.  Yet he has said in so many other ways that he was oriented toward minimizing the material world through transcendence and the like, that at the very least, we’d better be wary of such things as absolutism and unconditionality in the expectations that we transcend.


So  what’s missing here, should be obvious to anyone who isn’t greatly influenced by the German Srurm und Drang mentality.  Probably the most important thing to keep in mind, is what constitutes moral bankruptcy, even if this bankruptcy is as beloved as “No matter what impacts your life, including hardship and/or sinfulness ad infinitum, personal responsibility would mean serenely accepting what you can’t change, and courageously changing what you can..”  If the only thing that someone in trouble can legitimately consider is whether or not he can change each element of it, that would obviously be morally bankrupt.

John Haynes Holmes, who’d been friends with Niebuhr, wrote to him describing his “recent writings... as a tragic instance of intellectual and spiritual bankruptcy.”  The Words Universe webpage on the word “bankruptcy” defines it in the sense of “moral bankruptcy,” as, “a state of complete lack of some abstract property; ‘spiritual bankruptcy’; ‘moral bankruptcy’; ‘intellectual bankruptcy’.”  Where is any morality whatsoever, in “Taking as Jesus did this sinful world as it is not as I would have it”?  Niebuhr broke off from Holmes after he wrote this, yet Niebuhr described the ideology of the Oxford Group/Moral Re-Armament with, “In other words, a Nazi social philosophy has been a covert presumption of the whole Oxford group enterprise from the very beginning.  We may be grateful to the leader for revealing so clearly what has been slightly hidden.  Now we can see how unbelievably naïve this movement is in its efforts to save the world,” “The increasingly obvious fascist philosophy which informs the group movement is in other words not only socially vicious but religiously vapid,” along with, “Its religion manages to combine bourgeois complacency with Christian contrition in a manner which makes the former dominant,” as versus, say, “Accepting hardship as a pathway to peace; Taking as Jesus did this sinful world as it is not as I would have it.”

What would most be relevant to the average individual who’s only allowed to ask “Can I change this?” is how much this requires moral bankruptcy, and why that’s important.  To Americans now, our obviously unnatural rate of depression seems to be an obscurité inévitable, inevitable darkness, but that doesn’t mean that it really is inevitable.










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My Story

  To The [Abuse] Survivors  ♥♥♥♥♥

Men Dying for Love

On Doping

“Oh, Yeah?” Upbeat Echoes from the First Great Stock Market Crash

Victim Correction as a Panacea, the Summary (Page 1)

(Page 2)(Main Page 3)

Cancer Victims Corrected Too

The Main Victim Correction as a Panacea

 Documentation On the Social Problem of Unnaturally Rampant Depression

 Standard Rationales for Victim Correction as a Panacea

 Schopenhauer on Predators

 Emphasis on Victim-Self-Blaming

Darwinist Lehman Brothers’ INSIDE Sales Tips

  Darwinist Lehman Brothers’ INSIDE Introduction to Management Book

Out of the Same Mold as the Great Crash of 2008

Message for Intellectuals in the Islamic World

Candace Newmaker’s Experience

Breaking Important Confidences for Your Own Good

A Glimpse Into the Soul of Victim Correction

Cigarette Industry and Victim Correction

Top of Niebuhr’s Ideas on Our Nature and Destiny

Herbal Experiences for Women

Some Ideas for Rapport