Understanding European psychology

About European psychology — its roots in the interiority of Christian Middle Ages
Keywords: introversion, Middle Ages, history of science, Islam, cultural clashes, locus of control, wabi-sabi.

Sea voyage of holy Franciscus. Bonaventura Berlinghieri (13th century)
“Sea voyage of holy Franciscus”. Bonaventura Berlinghieri (13th century).


Time and again, the argument is brought forth that the Middle Ages represents darkness, while the Enlightenment represents a freeing of the mind from its imprisonment in church dogmas, superstition, and unreason. I am tired of hearing this argument. In fact, the Middle Ages is the egg from which the Enlightenment hatched. Medieval times is the Mother of the Enlightenment, and not its antagonist. The introverted standpoint of the Middle Ages is what has fostered our inner locus of control, [1] a capacity largely lacking in non-European ethnicities (cf. Sennels [2]). The concept refers to an individual’s generalized expectations concerning where control resides, which impacts self-control and impulsiveness.

Medieval people cultivated their soul and mind. They were more interested in the spirit and less interested in worldly things. This is what underlies our supreme capacity of focusing our minds, our self-control, and our capacity to withstand impulses. Like no other people on earth, we are passionate about the intellectual, the systematic, and the conceptual, especially when compared with the Third World people. Today’s constant deliberations of intellectual matters have their counterpart in the disputations of medieval scholastics and monks. They have furnished us with this aptitude. It was their work on their souls, and their efforts in philosophy, theology, science and medicine, that gave rise to the Enlightenment. It did not appear out of the blue. Enlightenment came about as the fruit of a long development.

During antiquity, a portion of the people were quite advanced, while the populace remained with a primitive and quite superstitious worldview. On average, the antique dweller had a decidedly lower conscious level than the medieval dweller. Although there were many brilliant philosophers, doctors, and engineers in ancient antiquity, knowledge did not belong to everyone. In the Middle Ages knowledge was better distributed, and they certainly knew that the earth is round and what causes solar and lunar eclipses. However, although such things are often well explained in the encyclopedias of the era, natural events were also perceived as omens. They had this dual view of phenomena, as being invoked by natural causes and divine will, the one as well as the other.

It is an illusion that modern society would have emerged faster if it weren’t for the Middle Ages. Modern Europeans are shaped as much by the Middle Ages as classical antiquity. I hold that we are much different from the antique dweller. On the surface we are similar, but on the inside modern Europeans have a medieval frame of mind. The notorious underestimation of the Middle Ages depends on the fact that we are repressing the medieval aspect of ourselves. We refuse to admit that we are medievals inside. Westerners wish to adjust to modern ideals of materialistic advancement and success; to say yes to innovation, space exploration, etc. That’s why we always get to hear this appraisal of the glorious Enlightenment and all the “good things” that it brought in its wake. Communism, Nazism, catastrophes like the Holocaust, World Wars, deforestation, etc., are conveniently forgotten. Our civilisation has opted for a collective neurosis that builds on the repression of feeling. We aim to be rational in all quarters of life. We follow principles instead of listening to our heart.

Accordingly, Canadian author John Ralston Saul explains that society today suffers from a conflict between democracy as an institution, on the one hand, and “rational” government on the other. [3] Modern rationalism has been reduced to a system of management and administration, yet is at bottom incapable of guiding human affairs. This is something that author David Brooks has noted, too. He has found that government policy depends on the mistaken view of the citizen as isolated agent, governed by wholly rational motives — a shallow view of human nature that does not reckon with the unconscious. [4] The acute economical crises that have befallen us, since Saul wrote his book, are facts that bolster his argument. It is becoming more and more evident that politicians are subordinated to the “market forces”.

Modern rationalism throws a very long shadow. Political ideologies, Fascism, Communism, and Nazism, is modernity wreaking havoc. I think it represents an amputation of the medieval mindset, with a resultant regress to an antique frame of mind. It means the reawakening of Imperium Romanum. So it came to pass what all the modern proponents of the antique ideals always longed for, namely the reawakening of ancient antiquity and its marble statues; its ideals of power and beauty. Out through the window went the medieval ideals of interiority, [5] and all the Christian virtues. It is modernity that provokes this development, by its constant pounding of all the medieval virtues in our psychology and in history.

The calumniation of the medieval epoch

So what is the origin of the modern myth that Christianity and the Middle Ages have stood in stark opposition to science and development? Historian of science David C. Lindberg says that two works from the 19th century are responsible for many of the misconceptions, namely John William Draper, “History of the Conflict between Religion and Science” (1876) and Andrew Dickson White, “A History of the Warfare of Science with Theology in Christendom” (1896). Lindberg writes:

Draper and White believed that Christianity waged war on science in two ways. First, the early church fathers denigrated the investigation of nature for its own sake: with the kingdom of heaven just around the corner, there was no time or energy to waste on irrelevancies. Second, any truth that might be discovered through patient observation and reasoning was forced to yield to puerile opinions extracted by dogmatic churchmen from sacred writings […]
   The thesis of Draper and White has given way to a spectrum of scholarly opinion in the twentieth century. Some scholars continue to affirm, although (in most cases) somewhat less militantly, the Draper-White view. Others have gone to the opposite extreme, arguing that Christianity was good for science — indeed, that modern science would not have come into existence without it. And some have sought middle ground. But this is scholarship; in popular opinion the Draper-White view still prevails. It frequently appears in books aimed at the general reader; moreover, Draper’s and White’s own works continue to be reprinted, purchased, and presumably read and believed. (Lindberg, 1986, p.20) [6]

Draper and White, foremostly, are responsible for the notorious disinformation that medievals thought the earth was flat. Since the early 20th century, a number of books and articles have documented the flat earth myth as one of a number of widespread misconceptions in popular views of the Middle Ages. [7] These authors created the metaphor of war between science and faith, and many of the misconceptions that propagate to this day. The conflict thesis, which proposed an intrinsic intellectual conflict between religion and science, is today regarded as obsolete by a majority of historians. [8] However, in popular opinion and among proponents of atheism, the view prevails. By analogy, witch-hunting is predominantly a pre-medieval and post-medieval phenomenon. Nevertheless, the notion of witch-hunts sticks to the Middle Ages as chewing gum to the sole of the shoe.

Kepler, Galilei, and the clergyman Copernicus, were indebted to medieval scientists like John Buridan (ca. 1295-1358), William Heytesbury (ca. 1313-1372), Nikolas Oersme (dead 1382), Nicolaus Cusanus (1401-1464), and not least the matematician Leonardo Fibonacci (ca. 1170-1250). Galileo Galilei, who was a believing Christian, did not oppose Christianity and the church. He criticized the theories of the earliest scientist, namely Aristotle. Many keystones of modern science were created during medieval times, such as Heytesbury’s description of accelerating objects and Buridan’s impetus theory. Important inventions made life easier, which increased productivity and improved the standards of living, such as the iron plough, spectacles, and the horse shoe. Historian of science Michael H. Shank says:

A short list of accomplishments from the period suggests that the inquiry into nature did not stagnate in medieval Europe. In the late thirteenth century, William of Saint-Cloud pioneered the use of the camera obscura to view solar eclipses. In the early fourteenth century, Dietrich von Freiberg (a Dominican) solved the problem of the primary and secondary rainbows: he appealed, respectively, to one and two internal reflections inside the raindrop, which he modeled using a glass vial filled with water. Meanwhile, at Oxford, natural philosophers were applying mathematical analysis to motion, coming up with theoretical ways of measuring uniformly changing quantities. In mid-fourteenth-century Paris, Jean Buridan used impetus theory to explain projectile motion, the acceleration of free-fall, and even the unceasing rotation of the starry sphere (in the absence of resistance, God’s initial impetus at creation is preserved and requires no further intervention). His younger contemporary Nicole Oresme (later a bishop) offered a nice list of arguments for the possible rotation of the earth: he concluded that no available empirical or rational evidence could determine whether or not it moved. Many more examples could be cited. Like most masters, these individuals benefited from the considerable freedom of thought allowed by the university disputation, which required that arguments pro and contra various positions be advanced and defended on rational grounds alone. It was the scholars’ fellow disputants who regularly sought to give them grief; most of the time, “the Church” did not.
   Between 1150 and 1500, more literate Europeans had had access to scientific materials than any of their predecessors in earlier cultures, thanks largely to the emergence, rapid growth, and naturalistic arts curricula of the medieval universities. If the medieval church had intended to suppress the inquiry into nature, it must have been completely powerless, for it utterly failed to reach its goal. (Numbers, 2009, pp.26-27) [9]

Historian of science, James Hannam, argues that the Middle Ages provided the foundation of modern science. [10] The university, a medieval invention of the church, played an important role. So did belief in a rational and faithful God who had created laws of nature that didn’t change erratically, and which it was possible to study. That’s why the church has always supported the study of nature. By studying God’s creation we learn about God’s thoughts. Also Albert Einstein was fond of this notion. So the ardent belief in laws of nature derives from Christian theology and its view of God and creation. What is not generally known is that the Big Bang theory was invented by a Catholic priest and theoretical physicist, Georges Lemaître. [11] He tried to convince Einstein of its validity, who rejected the theory out of hand, until empirical evidence proved it correct (Edwin Hubble’s discovery of an expanding universe).

Emancipation of consciousness

An enormous increase in consciousness was inaugurated by the founding fathers of our civilization. The work of Plato, St Paul, and St Augustine served to liberate the self-willed capacity of the human soul. It involves the ability to focus and concentrate, making use of our own heart and head. Christianity emerged on the scene as people could not bear anymore of the naive and amoral world of the Graeco-Roman pantheon. In a sense, Christianity stole from the gods and gave the power to the humans, conferring on them an intellectual and moral power and freedom. During medieval times occurred a colossal advance in moral capacity. I am above all referring to moral strength and not merely ethical insight. True chivalry emerged, and for the first time in history, romantic love. The monks studied and researched diligently and learned to focus their mind in contemplation. This historical development has contributed to our superior focusing ability today, which is the foundation on which our civilization rests. In this manner Christianity has liberated the human spirit and laid the foundation for science and democracy.

If Western man hadn’t risen above his body-identity, the enormous increase in consciousness could not have occurred. Especially in their moral function the medievals made great progress. Introverted contemplative theology and philosophy promoted the disengagement of the cognitive faculties from their bond to concrete materiality. Men began to think freely; especially the monks, because they had learnt that the spirit must be released from its link to matter and soar high above the world. The aloofness from the world, and the negation of the body, served the purpose of freeing the powers of consciousness. This process has led to the modern strong-willed ego, our science and democracy, which all build on the notion of the free spirit. It has given rise to hard facts, technology, judicature, and, above all, the ability of a concentrative effort of mind, that can be maintained for hour upon hour, even with the lowly engine driver. Since spontaneous impulses are repressed by the strong conscious mind, the individual can continue focusing on his business. Thus, it is a capacity of the ego which has created this civilization. To this day, Africans have not wholly acquired this capacity, and the Arabs still lag behind, impulse-driven as they tend to be. So this is mind over matter.

I am averse to the idea that our theological concepts, mores, and cultural inhibitions, can be dismantled. On the contrary, they need to be revived. Most people cannot live without a “Father” (that is, supraordinate regulations in some form) as they aren’t capable of introspective insight to the extent that they can withdraw projections and assume full moral responsibility for their lives. Arguably, it risks leading to a regression on a grand scale back to matriarchy; the naive condition in which the weak human ego exists in serfdom under the unconscious (the “Mother”). A matriarchal society is a psychosocial sphere where the visible factors govern, such as beauty, status, riches, titles, etc. In the matriarchal society in southern India, women have a very high status on account of motherhood. The more children they beget, the higher status they acquire. To belong to a high caste and to have material wealth will bring an even higher status. Unlike in the patriarchal conception, invisible moral and intellectual qualities lack essential value. In the patriarchal society of the modern era, invisible principles govern, such as law and right, democracy, and women’s equal rights. People, as far as possible, must take responsibility for their own life.

The matriarchal and earth-bound conception is older and more primitive. It is not a society of equal rights for women. In fact, the notion of equality does not exist, nor does equality exist among men. It is because egalitarianism and notions of ethics belong to the “spirit” — the invisible realm, away from everyday existence. That’s why, in southern India, two high caste persons can walk the road involved in a philosophical discussion, while at the side of the road a beggar is dying of starvation. As the moral problem is not at all central, neither of them will react with indignation. To burn a widow is not a moral problem, either. The patriarchal conception, on the other hand, elevates the spirit — the invisible realm. Appearances, such as beauty and riches, don’t count for much. Hence, everybody is equal in the spirit. It is at this point that moral development starts. The notion of woman’s equal status (not necessarily on earth but in the beyond) was invented by Plato and continued by St Paul.

Matriarchal culture is truly fascinating as an object of study, but there is no going back. We must keep to patriarchal tradition, as the moral problem is very central to modern man. If there is no justice, there is no God. It is what underlies the belief in a Day of Reckoning. We should hold our history in much higher esteem than we do today. Our patriarchal culture needs to be nourished and defended. Equality and justice are to be viewed as ideals. It does not mean to say that it has been wholly implemented. Rather, it is a never-ending struggle. Before complaining about women’s inequality, people ought to contemplate the sufferings of women in history, which puts things in perspective.

Today, a Western woman can develop her personality, whether she is talented in the realm of arts, mathematics, etc. Contemplate the immense number of women in history who have had no chance whatsoever to develop their own talents and likings. Instead they were impelled to fulfil their role as a woman, that is, giving birth, grinding corn all day, cooking food, etc. To have one’s spirit quenched is agonizing. That’s why we must strive to safeguard what is good in our civilization, which is the civilization of Plato, St Paul and the church fathers. We must beware of throwing the child out with the bathwater, as there is so much in our heritage that is worth saving. Most importantly, we are in dire need of a common soil where we can dig down our roots.


The capacity of interiority was cultivated during the European Middle Ages, when it decidedly took root in the human soul. The interior psychological perspective has its roots in Antiquity. It seems that it began to take shape with the introverted ascetic traditions, surfacing around 600 BC. Via pre-Christian Gnosticism, Stoicism, and Platonism, it blossomed out as Christianity, as formulated by Jesus, St Paul, St Augustine, et al. In history books, it is again and again pointed out how “inferior” Europe was during the “Golden Age” of Islam. The “ignorant” Europeans took recourse in faith while the Muslims successfully cured many ills thanks to the teachings of Avicenna. It is a correct observation that Europe lagged behind in certain fields of knowledge. Yet, this is a necessary consequence of the strong focus on interiority. This very capacity, largely an effect of the strong devotion of the medievals, is what underlies European psychology today; our internal control locus, our democratic mentality, our capacity of not rushing to conclusion, but methodically to extract the truth.

The Third World never underwent a corresponding era of inner perspicacity, which partly explains their backwardness today. Although medieval Europe is portrayed as inferior, in reality it was superior in the capacity of personal discernment. While undergoing great sufferings caused by evils such as the plague and chronic poverty, they learnt to withdraw projections from the world. As a consequence, faith became firmly rooted in the soul, together with all the other passions. On the other hand, where there is lack of inner faith, there is pressure to establish it on the outside, i.e., to institutionalize and regulate faith according to religious law. As passions grip the ego from outside, there is a call to create a perfectly regulated and undemocratic society; to take control of the demons.

The Japanese Middle Ages were no less introverted than the European, to the effect that a garden with a few stones and gravel, or the serving of a cup of tea, could be experienced as sensational. Accordingly, the Japanese have learnt to focus their minds, and to exercise self-control, to the utmost. Japanese have a tendency of working themselves to death, a phenomenon known as karōshi. The Japanese held out as long as possible against modernity. Still today, many remain true to the medieval traditions. Paradoxically, Westerners tend to think that this is the most fascinating aspect of Japan. These traditions are the legacy of the period when the Zen schools flourished, and the Zen garden, the tea and archery ceremonies, were developed. Such disciplines represent the inner, or spiritual, aspect of human life. So why are Westerners so contemptuous about their own European Middle Ages? I suppose it has to do with indoctrination, such as the ceaselessly repeated story about Galilei versus the oppressive Catholic church. Interestingly, the English, much like the Japanese, experience the serving of a cup of tea as a qualitative moment of self-absorption, which underpins my thesis that they are like introverted medievals inside. They also devote a lot of time to gardening.

The notion of interiority may improve our understanding of political history. For historical reasons, the Germans and the Japanese lagged behind in modern political development. Both nations, in an attempt to catch up, “amputated” the medieval psyche, allowing for a throwback to a stage that was lacking in interiority. In consequence, shallow ideals of Power, Beauty, and Glory, surfaced. Such a regressive movement took place already during the era of colonialism and the WWI. The analysis is also relevant to Stalinist Russia, which also fell into shallow pre-medieval extraversion, although the deeply introverted Orthodox Church did much to mollify the situation.

The Japanese concept of wabi-sabi represents a worldview or aesthetic centered on the acceptance of transience. [12] The student of wabi-sabi learns to view the most simple and imperfect objects as interesting, fascinating and beautiful. This is also relevant to the tradition of writing haiku poems. Such disciplines represent the inner, or spiritual, experience of human life. It is antithetical to the antique expansive notion of Beauty, Power, and Glory. Yet, such ceremonials will lose their sense of innerness when adopted by extraverts who want to make the impression of sophistication, much like European extraverts adhering to freemasonry, turning it into a repugnant exercise in group narcissism.

When the standpoint of interiority is eliminated, a regress is inevitable. On this view, the attacks on China and on Pearl Harbor were predicated on the amputation of the Japanese medieval psychology of inwardness. Comparatively, the Scandinavians never took part in the outbreaks of madness that befell Europe in the modern time. Part of the explanation is their feeling for nature. Similar to the Japanese, they appreciate the beauty of the little things, the dark meres in the wood, and the breeze that whispers in the trees. The ‘Neck’ (Näcken) is ever playing his violin in the rapids. Although Scandinavians are strongly rooted in nature, I am afraid that young people are losing contact with nature on account of modern developments. As soon as subjective participation is lost, notions similar to Hitlerism, Stalinism, and fundamentalist Islamism, will inevitably surface.

Locus of control

Some people appreciate the freshness of the “naive realism” of the Africans and the Third World ethnicities. It contrasts starkly with the restrained persona of the ethnic Swede or Englishman, whose attitude of reservedness derives from a constant occupation with the inner world. We are still looking inwards, an attitude which the medievals instilled in us. However, as I will point out in the following lines, a psychology of naive realism will cause great social damage, and eventually pose a threat to the democratic order. Thus, it is imperative that the Western world remains true to the perspective of interiority, that is, the quality of being focused on one’s inner life and identity. The notorious propaganda against the “Dark Ages” must cease, and we would come to appreciate the enormous impact of European Middle Ages in our lives today. In fact, in a sense, we need to go back to the source, to reawaken the Middle Ages and replenish our inner waterhole.

As Westerners have slowly begun to understand, Muslims moving to the West have a curiously anti-Western way of looking at things. Sharia (religious law) is very much about regulating reality. For instance, the curious idea that women must always hide behind large sheets of fabric — what’s that all about? The focus on ego-protection is very central at the phallic-narcissistic level of culture. If women were allowed to show how attractive they are, the male is gripped by desire — as he wants to own the female passer-by. Since he cannot have her, it is experienced as a violation of his ego. Thus, his ego must needs suffer constant narcissistic injury in a society which has not been adjusted according to very strict norms of control. Such a deep feeling of offence is difficult to comprehend for Westerners who do not themselves suffer from the narcissistic syndrome. Such a psychic economy has much in common with the chronic neurotic type in the Western world. By example, the neurotic experiences a violation of ego if there exists another person in a discussion forum who surpasses him intellectually, but who refrains from mutual narcissistic reinforcement (vulg. “butt-licking”). The latter ritual is very common among neurotics, and they seem to enjoy it as something very gratifying to the ego.

It is relevant to discuss the neurotic type as an atavistic phenomenon, a throwback to the phallic-narcissistic stage, perhaps influenced by genetic factors. The phallic-narcissistic mentality is inferior, whereas a modern psychic economy is more advanced and adaptable to modern society. I posit the idea that neurotics tend to fall back on the primitive phallic-narcissistic way of functioning as a form of atavism. The phenomenon could be likened to an advanced machine, e.g., an airplane, governed by computers and electric signalling. Should the advanced system malfunction, it could be steered with mechanical wires. Likewise, a malfunctioning human psyche can fall back on a more primitive mode of functioning. Psychoanalysts have always observed that neurotics appear infantile in diverse ways. Accordingly, they have concluded that such patients are stuck in a childhood mentality. Of course, this is another way of putting it — but what if it represents an atavism, and what really happens is that the neurotic makes use of the “backup system”? In a sense his illness is rooted in childhood, yet it is really a throwback to an earlier epoch in our history.

Arguably, had the neurotic lived in that earlier epoch, he would not appear neurotic, but his psychic economy would harmonize with the surrounding. There would be no disruptive modern people around who insist on thinking freely and questioning things. Society would be wholly regulated and people would keep to the olden ways. Now and then, every 100 years or so, the priest or medicine man presents a fresh idea. Society functions like a big Kindergarten, where people are fitted into their respective roles, and there is really no such thing as true individuality. Arguably, this is the reason why neurotics are so keen on creating a regulated Kindergarten society. They want society to follow the olden matriarchal ways, which harmonize with their own inferior mentality.

In the Muslim world and elsewhere, women who reject their suitor risk getting acid thrown in their face. This is yet another way of destroying their attractive power, which helps to heal the ego of the offender. Those individuals who have power of intellect or beauty, for instance, and who won’t lower themselves to mutual narcissistic reinforcement, are experienced as noxious threats to the weak ego. This could help to explain the unthinking nature of phallocentric civilization, and its cultural inferiority in everything that concerns the intellect. Arguably, the idea is to remove everything from society that risks harming the ego, thereby creating a harmonious society. As people at the phallocentric level are extremely prone to suffer narcissistic injury, society must be erected around very strict control; rules and yet more rules, control and yet more control. Beautiful women must be imprisoned behind four walls, alternatively have their faces scorched; and intelligent people must be removed, one way or the other. It will result in an orderly society without incessant injury to the ego and accompanying narcissistic explosions of rage.

Arguably, the Islamic ban on iconic representation, especially of the human form, is predicated on the very same ego defensive tactic; to remove that which stirs the acquisitiveness of the ego. At this cultural level, the personality lacks the powers of control present at the Western level. Therefore, control must remain external, in the way of sharia law. The locus of control is different. To Western man, with the exception of the neurotic type, feelings like “desire”, “beauty”, and “fear” are experiences that derive from the inside. To the average Third World dweller, it’s the other way round. Most notably, Africans typically experience that fear comes from without. If a black man passes a stranger he might experience a sudden fright. This means that he has been hit by something from outside, namely a form of evil emitted by that stranger. From this moment, he knows that the stranger is evil, some way or the other, and he has to take measures to defend himself. In Europe today, many a black immigrant thinks he can return the evil spirit, and make it bounce back, by staring at the person who evoked his fright. The effects of the “evil eye” can be returned in the way of a mirror, by reflecting the evil arrow. In this way disease can be avoided, too. The president of the Association of African-Swedes stated publicly that “I see evil in the eyes of Swedes”. For the same reason it is common to spit behind the backs of Swedes, similar to the practice of spitting at black cats.

Interiority and projection

In the psychology of the average Westerner the locus of control is different, as he is endowed with the capacity of “projection”. A characteristic of projection is that it can be withdrawn. If something evokes a feeling of fear, we are capable of withdrawing it immediately. So, yet again it is decided that a projection has emerged from the inside. As control has thus been internalized, there is less need for control on the outside. There is no need for the primitive ritual defenses that are so damaging to the social situation. I contend that the capacity of interiority is a necessary condition for the establishment of democratic society. There is an underlying expectation that the individual can take charge of himself. A Westerner who sees an attractive woman wearing a short skirt knows, in the general case, that the sexual attraction he experiences comes from the inside. It is his own sexuality which is stirred and he can therefore control it.

In fact, his feeling of attraction has nothing to do with her. She likes to be beautiful and attractive because it strengthens her well-being. Thus, the motivational factor is highly subjective in that it’s not strongly dependent on the outward relation. It is this introspective attitude, characterized by individual freedom rooted in the subject, that non-Western people have difficulties understanding. To a man lacking in interiority, that woman has emitted her sexual power which has hit him from the outside, and that’s what causes his sexual arousal. It is tantamount to a sexual invitation. This very psychological discrepancy creates immense social problems in Europe, today. It is also the reason why many an immigrant experiences European women as “whores”.

It is very convenient to have recourse to an ideology or religion that stigmatizes people of other cultures as kafir (unfaithful) and haram (unclean). The rationale is to transfer guilt to the other party, i.e. the person who, by being different, unwittingly and unwillingly invokes negative feelings, whether it is fear, contempt, or lustfulness. In this way the phallic-narcissistic personality can rid himself of feelings of guilt, typically caused by his own racial hatred, thus maintaining the conceited notion of himself as a morally clean and upstanding citizen. Critics of Islam tend to view the causal situation as reversed, i.e., that radical Islam has made people think this way. But it doesn’t generally work that way. On the contrary, Muslim culture has developed out of the phallic-narcissistic mindset, thus providing a refuge and a rationale for this kind of mental functioning. It proffers a way of relieving the mental agony associated with the psychic economy particular to the followers. Thus, the Muslim religion has both a therapeutic and a socially stabilizing value, but not to the Christians or Jews made to suffer. This phenomenon also reflects on woman’s position in Islamic history. Since woman’s ‘otherness’ has guaranteed her a low social position she is very suited for the role as scapegoat. As long as she can be forced into submission, it will contribute greatly to social stability. Although I do not condone it, I conclude that oppression is functional in a certain psychosocial context.

It is also the underlying rationale behind the ideology of feminism. The modern female collective is to a high degree infected with narcissism. A woman who sees ‘otherness’ in manhood, on account of the male being different than herself, can rationalize her fear and loathing as being wholly motivated by the feminist account of the evil and oppressive nature of the male species, as established by misandrous feminist ideology. Men as a collective are viewed as responsible for the evils that befall women, just as Christians as a collective are viewed as responsible for the harm that have befallen Muslims, and the Jews as a collective were believed to be responsible for the misfortunes of the Germans.

In this context it is relevant to discuss European-American cultural clashes. A majority of ethnic Europeans can have projections and swiftly withdraw them, without even noticing that they occurred. They expect this capacity of the Americans, too. But it seems like the Americans (in very general terms, of course) are moving away from the perspective of interiority. It could be due to the psychological impact of the partial non-European ancestry of Americans. They expect other people to make them feel good, i.e. not to brusquely tell them the truth, but rather to make a false pretence, smiling when you really ought to say what’s on your heart. Europeans, for their part, like to “tell it to your face” without much ado. Should the other party experience it as “evil”, we expect him to withdraw the projection within a second. As a consequence, Americans can experience Europeans as overly frank and lacking in esteem. European businessmen, on the other hand, experience the American attitude of pretence as frustrating. They travel back to Europe and wonder why the order never arrives. In fact, the Americans only wanted him to feel good; they never intended to place an order. In fact, this very attitude is very outspoken among primitives. To the frustration of the anthropologists primitives tend to say the things they believe that the researcher wants to hear, because they want to make him happy.

This movement away from interiority is a worrying development. We begin to see a similar pattern in Europe, today. I have observed that some people have taken to smiling at every black person they meet, to convince him that he is not an evil demon, i.e. a racist. Traditionally, this is known as a false smile as it is just a mask of pretence. However, to the average African immigrant there is no such thing as false display since reality is what the outside impresses on you. If a person smiles at you it will make you happy, and this means that something good has come from the outside. It is a wholly uncritical and unthinking attitude, completely foreign to the European mindset. If we are going to handle the looming social problems of society it is high time to abandon the homogenous view of humanity. A good understanding of human variety will aid us in confronting future social problems. Psychological understanding, in itself, will have a good therapeutic effect on the very many people who are made to suffer due to the changing psychosocial patterns in society.


© Mats Winther, 2011-2012.


1. ‘Locus of control’. Wikipedia article. (here)

2. Sennels, N. (2010). ‘Muslims and Westerners: The Psychological Differences’. New English Review. (May 2010) (here).

3. Saul, J.R. (1993). Voltaire’s Bastards: The Dictatorship of Reason in the West. Vintage Books.

4. Brooks, D. (2011). ‘The social animal’. TED Talks (lecture) (here).

5. interiority n (1701) : interior quality or character; also : inner life or substance (Webster’s Dictionary).

6. Lindberg, D. & Numbers, R.L. (eds.) (1986). God and Nature - Historical essays on the encounter between Christianity and Science. Univ. of California Press.

7. ‘Myth of the Flat Earth’. Wikipedia article. (here)

8. ‘Conflict thesis’. Wikipedia article. (here)

9. Numbers, R.L. (ed.) (2009). Galileo Goes to Jail and Other Myths about Science and Religion. Harvard University Press.

10. Hannam, J. (2011). The Genesis of Science: How the Christian Middle Ages Launched the Scientific Revolution. Regnery Books.

11. ‘Georges Lemaître’. Wikipedia article. (here)

12. ‘Wabi-sabi’. Wikipedia article. (here)

13. Draper, J. W. (1876). History of the Conflict between Religion and Science.

14. White, A. D. (1896). A History of the Warfare of Science with Theology in Christendom.

See also:

15. Selander, M. (2012). ‘Historisk myt att vetenskap och kristen tro stått i konflikt’. Newsmill.