The Land That Developmental Time Forgot

by Robert W. Godwin, Ph.D.

"Nothing is easier than to denounce the evil doer;
nothing is more difficult than to understand him"
-- Fedor Dostoyevsky

Tying in history, depth psychology, psychohistory, economics and other disciplines, the author has written a perceptive article about how the Muslim religion, child upbringing, low status of women, and customs have all combined to instill blanket conspiratorial beliefs - which are the sources of most Muslims group fantasy projections.

I believe that an interesting example of such a cultural mind-set was revealed when in 1999, Egypt refused to believe, in spite of substantial evidence, that one of its citizen pilots had plunged an Egypt airline plane into the Atlantic. The Egyptian government's collective protests of the investigation was one of denial and claims of a cover-up.

Explaining that there is nothing innate in Islam which requires that Koranic interpretations always remain the same, the author contrasts the history of Islam with that of Christianity with its Reformation which has consistently, though sometimes belatedly, refined its doctrines from a strict fundamentalist interpretation to a more liberal one. This progression in non-Muslim religious liberalism has meant that scientific advances and trends towards tolerance are more easily assimilated into its belief system.
-- John A. Speyrer, Webmeister, The Primal Psychotherapy Page

". . . (V)arious nations in the Islamic world have developed a broadly similar pattern of
cultural beliefs, practices, and institutions that reflect the unresolved needs
and conflicts of their collective childhood."

". . . Arab discourse on the subject of Israel is so psychotically violent,
so grotesquely distorted, that their perennial desire to 'liquidate
the Zionist entity' can onlly be understood in developmental
terms as the lost entitlement of a wrathful infant;
hell hath no fury like a baby scorned."

"What kind of love is it that rejoices at a child's death?
In fact, we should call this parental attitude what it is:
hatred, which, if deMause is correct, is simply emblementic
of the kind of care the suicide bombers must
have received as children. . . ."

-- Dr. Robert W. Godwin

In his excellent book, The Wealth and Poverty of Nations, the economist and historian David Landes writes that it is impossible to understand the dismal economic performance of Muslim nations "without attending to the experience of Islam as faith and culture."1 Likewise, Bernard Lewis, the pre­eminent scholar of the Muslim Middle East, blames the slow pace of progress in the Islamic world on various cultural factors - in particular, the theological shackling of independent analysis, which has tended to "suppress enterprise, experiment, and originality and to reinforce a fatalistic world view."2

After having gotten off to a fine start just four or five centuries earlier, Islamic civilization peaked in around 1200, since which time it has been "mostly downhill," leading to the "economic and intellectual backwater" of today. "History," writes Landes, "had gone awry."3 Perhaps it is not far­fetched to speculate that Islam may have gone the way of other large-scale dysfunctional civilizations, such as the Aztec, had it not been for the fortuitous discovery of oil under their feet, which essentially rewarded their cultural maladaptation with a constant flow of uncreated wealth.

In this article, I would like to attempt to define some of the variables that have caused Islamic culture to fixate, regress, decay, and fail to prosper on so many fronts. In today's politically correct academic climate, even raising this issue is a controversial proposition, because it assumes that some cultures are more healthy and advanced than others, and that it is possible for an entire culture to become "sick" and developmentally stunted.

However, since September 11 we have all learned many disturbing facts about the Islamic world that make it difficult for even the usual academic suspects to accuse us of being racist and Eurocentrist for criticizing such practices as female genital mutilation, stoning adulteresses, burying homosexuals alive, amputating limbs from suspected thieves, etc. In fact, it is more than just intellectually naive to think of all cultures as equally healthy - it is a dangerous delusion.

In order to comprehend the "clash of civilizations" between Islam and the West, we might begin with Howard Stein's thesis4 that developmental time is embodied in cultural space, so that to study various cultures around the globe represents a literal form of time travel, as we encounter groups that have attained different levels of psychological development.

As deMause has demonstrated, it is possible to take a 'bottom up" approach to culture, and show how early childhood experiences lead to the various cultural practices that define a given psychoclass. At the same time, I believe it is possible to "reverse engineer" human cultures from the topdown, that is, to deduce a great deal about their particular psychological and developmental conflicts and fixations by analyzing their cultural beliefs, practices and institutions.

In describing the brutal child-rearing practices prevalent in the Middle East, deMause has surely identified the dysfunctional axis around which the culture of the terrorist revolves and renews itself. If, as psychohistorians believe, any given culture reflects the psychological development of its individual constituents, there are many aspects of Islamic culture that can be traced directly to childhood trauma.

While most academics continue to blame the cultural pathologies of the Middle Fast on the legacy of colonialism, the Muslim world has now been free and independent for at least fifty years, enough time to organize itself around its own center of psychological gravity, so to speak. In other words, various nations in the Islamic world have developed a broadly similar pattern of cultural beliefs, practices, and institutions that reflect the unresolved needs and conflicts of their collective childhood. Therefore, although the Western and Islamic worlds are surely engaged in the "clash of civilizations" predicted by Samuel Huntington in his prophetic book by the same name,5 it is not as if "civilization" is an arbitrary construct set apart from unconscious psychological factors.

In fact, if Huntington is correct that there is no evolutionary cultural trend toward universal liberal values of liberty, democracy, individualism, private property and the rule of law, then our historical situation is truly hopeless, and perennial civilizational conflict is inevitable. However, if deMause and like minded psychohistorians are correct, then our present clash of civilizations is really only the outward manifestation of a "clash of psychoclasses," and there is every reason to believe that the world of Islam can proceed through the same evolutionary process that saw the Christian West gradually master external and internal (emotional and cognitive) reality over the past 500 years, as childrearing practices became increasingly humane.

But the psychohistorical evolutionary process is neither smooth nor linear, as every culture is a self-organizing system that wages battles on two fronts, persecuting those "below" who fail to achieve the average level of psychological development attained by the group, but also marginalizing and regarding with suspicion those who even attempt to evolve to higher level than that allowed by the group. This is why our clash is not with Islam per se, but with the mode of psychological development that currently dominates the Islamic world.

I should hope it goes without saying that Islam is not completely monolithic, and that there are pockets of development that are pushing the psychological boundaries, for example, secular Turkey or among the Muslims of India dedicated to liberal democratic values. But at the same time, we should not underestimate the psychohistorical forces that are always arrayed against the individual or sub culture that attempts to evolve beyond the dominant mode of their group.

Obviously, the dominant cultural fantasy in the Middle Fast revolves around the Muslim faith. Here again it is important to point out that religious belief, just like every other aspect of human development, is a developmental process, with various stages on the way toward a mature conception of God. Michael Barnes, in his book Stages of Faith, defines these as Primitive, Archaic, Classical, and Modern, broadly corresponding with Piaget's preoperational, concrete operational, formal operational, and late formal operational (or conditional) thinking.6

In my research into Islamic group fantasies, I have been struck by how deeply mired their theology is in a very immature, cognitively undeveloped preoperational style. Unlike Christianity, which went through a Reformation and Counter Reform and had to alter itself in order to become more consonant and cope with scientific and social developments, Islam never evolved in this way.

All of the major monotheistic religions started off in a preoperational key basically involving a jumble of mythological folk-tales with little concern for internal consistency or intellectual plausibility (that is, from the point of view of higher cognitive stages). As such, the higher stages of cognitive development are not found in these preoperational religious myths but only later, in the form of theology and metaphysics, which can continuously evolve and become quite abstract and intellectually sophisticated.

Unfortunately, just when the West was breaking away from a primitive "hand-me-down" form of mythic knowledge, and turning down an historical road that pointed to the Renaissance, Enlightenment, and Scientific Revolution, Islam took a wrong (but very emblematic) turn which involved "closing the gate of Ijtihad," or independent analysis.7

According to Pipes, the adage "better a hundred years of repression than a day of anarchy" encapsulates the dread of social disorder, or fitna, that "lies deep in Islamic civilization."8 Because of the anxiety involved in making the break from childlike conformity to authoritarian religion, the Islamic world refused even the printing press, because it was "seen as a potential instrument of sacrilege and heresy "9 For this angst-ridden society, "the truth had already been revealed. What led back to the truth was useful and permissible; all the rest was error and deceit."10 Again according to Landes, "Nothing did more to cut Muslims off from the mainstream of knowledge."11

Instead of orienting itself toward an evolving conception of reality and truth (neither of which are ever fully attainable), Islamic culture dug in its heels and essentially opted for the codification of error and superstition, sanctified by divine superego and obligatory tradition. Truth could not actually be discovered through observation and induction, only deduced from a priori scriptural premises. Likewise, instead of steadily moving toward a modern, rational economy that could generate wealth from within through investment, technology and productivity, the Ottoman state necessarily became an oppressive and inefficient "plunder machine," sustaining itself only through endless war and stifling taxation.

Unlike the West, the Islamic world did not develop the cognitive sophistication to conceive of any separation between the religious and secular, between "the good" (the moral sphere, including religion and ethics) and "the true" (or knowledge sphere, including science and philosophy) For all practical purposes, this meant that the cognitive domain, "or reality principle" was dominated by a superimposed grid of fixed and final knowledge, so that it became very difficult to actually learn from experience.

This is a somewhat esoteric but nevertheless critical point, because when these two categories - the good and the true - are conflated, it leads to a situation wherein things are believed not because they are true, but because we want them to be. It also leads directly to the problem of heresy, which involves the sanctification of violence toward those holding a "truth" that the superego does not feel is "good." In short, when the primitive, collective superego declares "we possess the truth," it is always a prelude to "kill the infidels."

The preoperational mind - specially when it is arrested and structured around a complex of developmental trauma - is simply not equipped to "think through" its cognitive dissonance; instead, it must eliminate the cause of it, through violence if necessary. Certainly this is a major preoccupation of the Koran, which declares that "the infidels are your undoubted enemies" (Sura 4), so kill them wherever ye shall find them (Sura 2), because "they will not fail to corrupt you [and] long for your ruin" (Sura 3), especially "the Jews . . . [who are] the most intense hatred of those who believe" (Sura 5).

These types of sentiments would not be so problematic if they were understood, like the Old Testament, as a developmentally earlier form of religious expression that could be modified or softened through time. In the West, there is a long history of biblical exegesis, commentary and criticism But even today, Islamic theology remains mired in the Dark Ages, still hewing very closely to its original mythological formulation. The omnipotent fantasy that the 7th-century Koran "contains all the truth required in order to guide the believer in this world" was tantamount to "civilizational suicide." As a result, "the Muslim world has been in paralysis since religious extremism rose in the twelfth century."12

What this means is that mainstream Islam is comparable to the most extreme form of Biblical fundamentalism, certainly to the right of a Jerry FaIwell or Pat Robertson. Actually, according to historian David Gress, the qualifier "fundamentalist" only makes sense in the West, where there is something to weigh it against. But in Islam, these types of ecumenical distinctions are out of bounds, because in the Koran there is "no possibility of error. Therefore the question of fundamentalism versus critical analysis had never arisen in Islam. No Muslim had ever felt himself entitled to read the Koran in any way other than the literal. . ."13

What the Islamic fundamentalist gains in the form of a comforting omniscience, he loses in terms of being able to adjust his thinking to the dictates of reality. But rather than seeing this concrete, inflexible adherence to scripture for the cognitively debilitating weakness it is, Islam openly regards itself as superior to the West because it offers "more perfect knowledge of the world."14

Therefore, the all too obvious economic and cultural supremacy of the West leads directly to paranoid and conspiratorial thinking, because "only a conspiracy could explain how it was that plainly inferior form of knowledge, the Western, could so insistently attack a superior form without being destroyed in the process."15

For all these years, we have been under the mistaken impression that the epithet "Great Satan" was nothing more than typical Islamic rhetorical excess when in fact, it is the signpost of a deeply paranoid psycho-political reality. We are satanic because we are under the sway of deceit, perversion and wickedness, and yet, somehow able to remain lord of our unholy realm.

It is a natural mistake to assume that radical Islam is opposed to the West only in terms of some definable thing that we are doing, such as "defiling the holy soil" of Saudi Arabia with our armed forces. Rather, what we are again primarily dealing with is a clash of psychoclasses, in which the fundamentalists object to the very form of our thought - a form of thought that makes possible such things as democracy (because it values individuation from coercive group fantasies), formal operations, scientific thinking rational economic development, equality of the sexes, and modernity itself.

In short, it is a battle between the cognitive/ emotional past and present of the human species, no different than if we had somehow entered a time warp and were fighting the barbarian hordes of Genghis Khan. The problem is that the West, in developing beyond the childish mythological stage, has in fact discovered a universal, scientific epistemology that, because it is universal, contradicts the particular mythology of any group, not just Muslims. As expressed by Gress, this universal way of knowing must be employed if one wishes "to know, make, or do. For example, the airplane did not fly because its pilot was Christian, Muslim, Confucian, or any other faith, but because of the science of aerodynamics."16

But this very universality is an affront to the fundamentalists, because it is a disturbing reminder that all knowledge and truth have not been revealed in the Koran. Yet, the terrorists seem to be untroubled by the fact that they cannot create, only parasitize the know-how of others. As put by V. S. Naipaul, there is almost a comic inability of the fundamentalists to come to grips with their confused ambivalence toward the West, a "civilization that couldn't be mastered. It was to be rejected; at the same time it was to be depended on."17

Even when logical, formal operations thinking is employed by the terrorists, it is in the service of perverse paranoid-schizoid envy and sadism, so that they have no interest in designing planes, only crashing them; building magnificent skyscrapers, only destroying them; curing disease, only spreading it. The very real problem we are facing is an adversary with a dangerous combination of primitive psychological development but access to sophisticated weapons and technology that their level of cognitive integration could never have produced on its own. If it could have, the human race would have been extinguished several thousand years ago by barbarians with weapons of mass destruction.

The preoperational style of thought predominates between the ages of two and seven, and if a child is traumatized at that time (as vividly described by deMause), it can lead either to a general stunting of emotional and cognitive development, or to a cordoned off part of the psyche where the trauma is held "in escrow" for later processing. If such an individual is traumatized later in life, it may "resonate" with the old trauma, causing the person to enter a trance-like altered state. In such a trance state, the individual may become highly suggestible (especially toward intimidating or charismatic authority figures), have difficulty distinguishing between fantasy and reality (or true and false), and be drawn to vivid and appealing ideas that seem to offer an emotional explanation (and "cure") for their dilemma.

Radical Islam, as embodied in the Koran, Hadith and Sharia, is the spurious cure for the type of childhood trauma described by deMause. It is a absolutist, closed, dogmatic system that looks backward to the lost perfection of a fantasized, infantile past. Anti-evolutionary to the core, it believes that "progress" consists of undoing the historical developments of the past millennium and returning to a time when there was no freedom of inquiry, no deviation from the "already known," no individual rights and no due process, a time when the word Islam was literally true: "submit," usually at the end of a sword.

In this regard, radical Islam mirrors - the preoperational omnipotence of an angry baby determined to let the rest of the world know how it feels to be intellectually swaddled, and exacting revenge from its parental stand-ins with a blind, senseless rage. Given that Judaism is the "parent" of the Muslim faith, it is not surprising that the psychic economy of radical Islam has a special place for Jew and for Israel. Indeed, Arab discourse on the subject of Israel is so psychotically violent, so grotesquely distorted, that their perennial desire to "liquidate the Zionist entity" can only be understood in developmental terms as the lost entitlement of a wrathful infant: hell bath no fury like baby scorned.

In his book, The Hidden Hand: Middle East Fears of Conspiracy, Daniel Pipes provides example after example of the type of preoperational, magical, paranoid thinking style that pervades the Muslim world. Even sophisticated Middle Easterners "interpret great public issues through the prism of conspiracy theories" which are "virtually immune to rational argument."15 While we of course have our paranoids as well, this is a cognitive style that only exists on the fringes of the West, eg., in the Militia movement on the right or among radical environmentalists on the left.

Just like the typical paranoid one might encounter in a mental health clinic, these Muslim conspiracy theorists don't employ what we would call the usual methods of logic, critical thinking or analytical rigor. Contradictory beliefs are freely entertained, with no seeming discomfort or even awareness of the cognitive dissonance. There is a tendency to divide the world into absolute categories of good and evil, followers and infidels. There is a decided lack of a sense of humor, a dour sensibility; conspiracy seekers also believe that appearances are always deceptive and complex, and that there is no such thing as a coincidence. And yet behind it all there is a simple explanation: a demonic, omnipotent, clever and far­sighted, and yet somehow vague enemy, motivated by a malevolent desire to destroy Islam.

Since the events of September 11, we have all become aware of the paranoid anti-Semitism so central to the Middle Fast world view, where it is widely believed that the Israeli Mossad crashed the planes into the World Trade Center. In support of this view, imaginary evidence is marshaled, such as the belief that 4,000 Jews who worked in the twin towers were forewarned and called in sick on the day of the attacks. The father of one of the terrorists, Mohammed Atta, blamed a Jewish conspiracy, just like the mother of the prime culprit in the 1993 World Trade Center bombing, who told a reporter, "this is from the Jews, who have done this and blamed my son."19

This caricature of thought is a fine example of what Bion called "minus K" (negative knowing), in that, instead of pursuing meaning and truth, it actually curtails thinking and replaces it with a parallel process characterized by omnipotence, arrogance, and vacuous constructions that are simultaneously bizarre and stereotypical (devoid of true creativity).

One of the hallmarks of the paranoid style is a distorted conception of the power of the fantasized enemy. At times, the enemy is seen as an omnipotent, tireless, demonically competent adversary, while at other times the same enemy is felt to be weak, decadent, and on the verge of collapse. Likewise, the image of one's own self (or country) may vary between a god­like supremacy and a terrible, childlike vulnerability, with no ability to integrate (or even notice) these contradictory images.

Thus, the fundamentalists believe that Zionism is a bloodthirsty, expansionist conspiracy bent on world domination. For example, the cartoon-like charter of the PLO reads that Zionism is a "constant source of threat" to the entire world, "racist and fanatic in its nature, aggressive, expansionist and colonial in its aims, and fascist in its methods," "strategically placed" to combat Arab liberation and progress. During a recent weekly televised sermon, a Palestinian cleric taught that among the evil deeds of the Jews was the Holocaust itself, which was "planned by the Jews' leaders, and was part of their policy."25

Similarly, the charter of Hamas, the Islamist terrorist group, informs us that wealthy Zionists have taken over "control of the world media . . . they stood behind World War I. . . . They also stood behind World War II . . . They inspired the establishment of the United Nations and the Security Council . . . in order to rule the world by their intermediary"21 and "liquidate Islam." But at the same time, Jews are seen as corrupt, feeble and morally weak. For example, an Egyptian high school textbook noted that Israel "shall wither and decline. Even If all the human race, and the devil in Hell, conspire to aid her, she shall not exist."22

Either way, "these charges against the Jews so exceed the plausible, they point not to a way of dealing with the world as it is, but to a mental condition; not to an objective set of conditions but to an imaginary construct. "23 In fact, one of the very real problems that prevents development (both psychological and economic) in the Middle East is the preoccupation with hatred toward the Jews. Instead of engaging with reality over the past fifty years, the Arab world has had "more pressing things to do - first of all, to defeat Israel Prosperity could follow."54

The fundamentalists hold the same type of contradictory attitudes toward themselves -- on the one hand, like bin Laden, believing in the superiority of a unified Islamic nation destined, with the aid of Allah, to triumph everywhere and impose its will on the rest of the world. This brittle, completely unrealistic "cultural narcissism" is undoubtedly rooted in the type of childrearing discussed by deMause, in which all boys are inculcated with an unearned superiority over girls.

Because this spurious gender superiority is sanctioned by holy writ25 rather than reality, it creates a weak and unstable narcissistic self-regard that is easily bruised and injured. Thus, according to Pipes, "Fundamentalist Muslims tend to see Islam as a fragile growth easily imperiled by the acts of its enemies." Just like an individual with a narcissistic personality, the same narcissism that makes Islam regard itself as so special and superior also makes it believe that it is the number one target of envious conspirators. The Ayatollah Khomeini, for example, saw women's suffrage as a Jewish plot "to corrupt our chaste women," and was so threatened by an obscure novel that he ordered its author be assassinated in order to protect Islam.

Just recently, it was widely believed throughout the Arab world that Pokemon cards were part of a Jewish conspiracy to corrupt Muslim youth, and that Jews had come up with a "special formula" for AIDS, with which Israeli women could infect Egyptian men without harming themselves.26

Speaking of the fear of infectious women, this is another attitude that may be traced to the Koran, which tells followers that women are "a pollution" and that Muslim men should "separate yourselves therefore from (them] and approach them not, until they be cleansed" (Sura 2). The pervasive male sense of superiority over women is actually a cultural defense mechanism against unconscious maternal fears, with many societal implications beyond the merely sexual.

For example, when boys grow up thinking they are superior simply by virtue of "being" rather than "doing," by actually accomplishing anything, it undermines the drive to achieve. As put by Landes, one "cannot rear young people in such wise that half of them think themselves superior by biology, without dulling ambition and devaluing accomplishment. One cannot [tell boys] they have a golden penis, without reducing their need to learn and do."27

And again, this fragile sense of manhood feeds directly into the violence of the region, because "violence is the quintessential, testosteronic expression of male entitlement."28 What we have to imagine is the incredible disorientation these "chosen" men feel, growing up with unrealistically high self-esteem, and believing they are heirs to a superior civilization, but all around being confronted by the social and political disaster that is Islam. Something has gone wrong . . . and someone must pay. Thus the search for scapegoats begins.

According to Huntington, in recent years Muslims have been participants in twenty-six of fifty ethnopolitical conflicts, and two-thirds to three-quarters of intercivilizational wars. "They also have had a high propensity to resort to violence in international crises, employing it to resolve 76 crises out of a total of 142" between 1928 and 1979; and when they do involve violence, conflicts involving Muslims tend to be heavy in casualties. Huntington concludes with an empirical statement that nevertheless attracted a great deal of controversy, that "Islam's borders are bloody, and so are its innards.29

Yet another outcome of anxiety-based male sexual superiority is the inability to integrate the psyche, in particular, to experience enduring loving and sexual feelings toward the same object. Here again there is a ready-made cultural defense mechanism that legitimizes this developmental arrest, polygamy. Islamic tradition allows up to four wives, and even if most Muslim men are not wealthy enough to avail themselves of this option, there are all important psychological implications for a society that does not hold out monogamous heterosexuality as its ideal.

In the absence of psychotherapy, a committed monogamous relationship is one of the few ways most people have to work through and repair infantile splitting toward the maternal object, or to fully work out the later Oedipal situation. In fact, polygamy may be regarded as a regression from facing the Oedipal crisis, because it enables a man to maintain various pre-oedipal psychological splits by projecting them into a number of women, instead of integrating them in one relationship. This part-object relating probably contributes to the fact that women are not regarded as quite fully human in most of the Islamic world - they are simply degraded figments of the projected male psyche. And we also see evidence of part-object relating carried over to the afterlife, with the childlike fantasies of scores of young virgins (as opposed to frightening or polluted adult women) waiting upon the elect.

From a psychobistorical standpoint, the societal attitude toward women and sexuality is no small matter. Along with childrearing practices, the status of women is one of the hinges of cultural evolution. In fact, according to Landes, "In general, the best clue to a nation's growth and development potential is the status of women. This is the greatest handicap of Muslim Middle Eastern societies today, the flaw that most bars them from modernity . . . [I]f we view gender relations as a continuum running from nothing to full equality, the Muslim countries, especially the Arab Muslim countries, would bottom out the scale."55

And obviously, the treatment of women circles back on the treatment of children. Indeed, if we consider only the staggering rates of female illiteracy in the Islamic world (again, endorsed by Muslim tradition), having an illiterate mother presents an additional barrier to a child achieving a more developed formal operational style of thinking. And it goes without saying that depressed and terrorized women cannot help but unconsciously transmit this terror to their children.

In deMause's article, he describes how the Muslim child develops a tyrannical superego that forbids the experience of pleasure and short-circuits the spontaneous expression of the will. In the Muslim Middle East "there is little evidence of the idea of a carefree childhood," and "in adult eyes, the period of childhood is a nuisance, and childhood activities, especially play, are a waste of time."31 When these children grow up, they impose the same joyless tyranny on the next generation of children, preventing any freedom of thought, expression, will, creativity, or dissent. For example, teaching methods in the Middle East are very different from our own, emphasizing rote learning as "the major method of teaching. Throughout the Arab world memorization has been a common element of education."52

This involves forcing the child, under threat of corporal punishment, to mindlessly memorize lengthy passages of the Koran perfectly, so that the indoctrination "still remain with the individual throughout his lifetime." Because the idea of a non-religious education is unthinkable in the Islamic world, there is a decided tendency to "underestimate the value of scientific thinking and emphasize with disturbing simplicity the shortcomings of scientific knowledge and the failure of science to explain many of what they call "extraordinary phenomena."33 As such, children are not encouraged to reason or develop formal operational capacities, so that "there is a real danger of the spread of mythical thinking which is antagonistic to science and reason."34

Of course, the ultimate myth is not just the resurgence of Islam as the preeminent global power, but the delusion of how that would come about. The fundamentalists believe that Islam is the magical solution to all the world's problems, and that "Muslim strength follows directly from living the sacred law of Islam," or Sharia.35

The way the fantasy goes is this: about a thousand years ago, Islam flourished with great armies, wealth, and cultural attainments surpassing both Europe and China. All of this followed, according to Islamist doctrine, from the fact that all of the "good children" of Islam strictly followed the "parental" law of the Sharia. Likewise, when the Islamic world became "contaminated" by Western and Jewish influences, it became weak and vulnerable.

In attempting to analyze the motives of the terrorists, I see evidence of a superego so violently suffocating that we are essentially dealing with people who have become psychically "dead" through childhood trauma. A clue to this was provided in a statement from one of the al Qaeda terrorists alter the commencement of the bombing of Afghanistan, when he said that the terrorists "love death the way Americans love life." Again there is a temptation to dismiss this as rhetorical bluster, but I believe it reveals a great psychological truth that we ignore at our peril.

Let me be explicit: the nineteen terrorists who went down with the planes, the ten more who were planning to do so, the thousand or so "sleeper" terrorists still hiding in the U.S., the hundred Palestinian suicide bombers since 1993 -- all were and are already dead emotionally. As expressed by Bollas, such vampiric individuals seem to go on "living" by "transforming other selves into similarly killed ones, establishing a companionship of the dead. . . [A] new being emerges, identified with the killing of what is good, the destruction of trust, love and reparation."36

Winnicott wrote eloquently of this phenomenon, attributing it to an extreme disruption of the infant's "continuity of being" due to neglect or abuse, Just as the terrorists' psychic "death" is something that happened in the past but which they were not mature enough to experience, physical "suicide" involves "sending the body to [a] death which has already happened to the psyche."37 The need to experience death for these soulless "living dead" is equivalent to the compulsion of a neurotic patient to either act out or remember unconscious conflicts; suicidal terror is repetition compulsion taken to the highest extreme.

Bollas again: "The person who has been 'killed' in his childhood is in unwilling identification with his own premature mortality, and by finding a victim . . . he transcends his own killing, psychically overcoming his own endless deaths by sacrificing to the malignant gods that overlooked his childhood."38 And for this unconscious drama to be emotionally complete, it is critical that the victims be innocent, just as the terrorist once was before being converted to the cult of death by his parental "body snatchers."

We see this necrophilic inversion of life and death in much of the Middle East, in a way that beggars belief. For bin Laden, this is the natural order, because true Muslims "all seek martyrdom and want to meet Allah as soon as possible . . . [O]ne billion Muslims are capable of turning their bodies into bombs which are equal in force to all the weapons of extermination and mass destruction possessed by the Americans."39

Our failure to embrace the logic of child sacrifice makes us weak in the eyes of the fundamentalists: "the most vulnerable spot of the United States and Israel is to send them the bodies of their sons . . . [Therefore] we should throw in their faces the flesh of their sons, minced and grilled."40 In Palestine, suicide bombers become folk heroes comparable to our pop stars. They have schools named after them, and families of martyrs are provided a house and stipend.

It is very difficult for us to comprehend a society that, instead of mourning the death of a child, celebrates it. The father of the Tel Aviv disco bomber, who killed more than twenty teenagers, said that he was "extremely happy when I heard that my son is the one who did this operation. I hope I have many sons to carry out the same act."41 Likewise, the mother of the Israeli pizza restaurant bomber claimed that this was the "greatest gift" a son could bestow upon his mother. These martyrs and their parents "see Jihad as a profitable bargain, selling their lives to Allah" to get paradise in return. There is simply nothing in our society remotely analogous to treating a funeral like a wedding, or offering the parents of a dead child congratulations instead of condolences.

What kind of love is it that rejoices at a child's death? In fact, we should call this parental attitude what it is: hatred, which, if deMause is correct, is simply emblematic of the kind of care the suicide bombers must have received as children, the perverse final stroke from proud anti-parents who celebrate bringing a new death into the world. If, as the cliche goes, Islam has been "hijacked," then these parents have taken over the plane.

Dr. Robert W. Godwin, a clinical psychologist, is the author of the recently published book, One Cosmos Under God: The Unification of Matter, Life, Mind and Spirit. He writes that his book represents his "humble attempt to integrate physics, metaphysics, biology, anthropology, psychology, history, psychohistory, theology and mysticism into one neat, self-consistent package."

He is presently at work on a sequel that will look more closely at history and politics in a cosmic and psycho-spiritual context: Soul, Nation, Planet and Cosmos: Contemporary Politics and the God of World-Historical Evolution."

<> He may he reached at

Lloyd deMause's The Childhood Origins of Terrorism is from The Journal of Psychohistory, Volume 29, No. 4, Spring, 2002

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1. 1998, p. 392.
2. Harrison, "Promoting Progressive Cultural Change," in Harrison & Huntington, p. 302
3. Landes. p. 394.
4. Stein. 1987.
5. Huntington. 1998.
6. See also "Birth of the Living God" by Rizzuto, which analyzes evolution of the "God image" from more of a psychoanalytic developmental standpoint.
7. Harrison, "Promoting Progressive Cultural Change," in Harrison & Huntington, p.302.
8. Pipes, p. 292.
9. Laudes, p. 402.
10. Landes, p. 54.
11. Landes, p. 402.
12. Bodansky, p. xi.
13. Gress, p. 528.
14. Gress, p. 533
13. Gress. p. 533.
16. Gress, p. 527.
17. Naipaul, 1981, pg. 82.
18. 1996, p. 1.
19. Pipes, p. 116.
20. Sheikh Ibrahim Madhi, September 21, 2001, Middle East Media & Research Instiutute (
21. Quoted in Pipes, p. 105
22. Quoted in "From Time Immemorial," p. 79.
23. Pipes, p. 105.
24. Landes, p. .410.
25. Sura 4 of The Koran reads, "Men are superior to women on account of the qualities with which God hath gifted the one above the other. . . ."
26. Pipes, p. 201.
27 Landes, p. 413.
28. Landes, p. 414. 29. Statistics & quotations from Huntington, 1996, pp. 256-258.
30. Landes, p. 413.
31. Fernea, "Childhood in the Middle East," in Fernea, p. 10.
32. Bird in Fenea, p. 279.
33. al-Ebraheem, in Fernea, p. 23.
34. Ibid.
35. I ipes, p.44.
36. tli,1las, p. 189.
37. Winnicott, in "Fear of Breakdown" in Winnicott, 1989, p. 93.
38. Boltas, p. 193.
39. Quoted in Bodansky, p. 293, p.296.
40. Al Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri, quoted in Bodansky, p 211.
41. All quotations in this paraagaraph found on


al-ebraheem, H. (1995). "Children in the Arab Cult States." In Fernea, ed., Children in the Muslim Middle East.
Barnes, N. (2000). Stages of Thought; The Co-Evolution of Religious Thought and Science, New York: Oxford University Press.
Bion, W. (1977). Seven Servants, New York: Jason Aronson.
Bird, J. (1995). "Revolution for Children in Saudi Arabia." In Pernea, ed., Children in the Muslim Middle East
Bodansky, Y. (1999). Bin Laden: The Man Who Declared War on America. New York: Random House.
Bollas, C. (1995). Cracking Up. New York; Hill and Wang.
deMause, L. (1982). Foundations of Psychohistory. New York; Creative Roots.
Fernea, E., ed. (1995). Children in the Muslim Middle East. Austin; University of Texas Press.
Gress, D. (1998). From Plato to Nato; Thee Idea of the West and Its Opponents. New York: The Free Press.
Harrison, L. (1998). Promoting Progressive Cultural Change, in Harrison & Huntington 1998.
Harrison, C, and Huntington, S., eds. (1998). Culture Matters: How Values Shape Human Progress, New York: Basic Books
Huntington, S. (1996). Clash of Civilizations. New York: Touchstone.
Naipaul, V. (1981). Among the Believers. New York; Alfred A. Knopf.
Peters, J. (1994). From Time Immemorial. New York: 1. Kap Publishing.
Pipes, D. (1996). The Hidden Hand; Middle East Fears of Conspiracy. New York: St. Martin's Press.
Rizzuto, A. (1979). The Birth of the Living God, Chicago: University of Chicago Press
Rodwell, J., tr. The Koran. (1994), London; Everyman Library.
Stein, H. (1987). Developmental Time, Cultural Space. Norrrarr, OK: University of Oklahoma Press.
Winnicott, D. (1989). Psycho-Analytic Explorations. Cambridge, Mass: Harvard University Press.

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