“Plagued by anxiety, depression, vague discontents, a sense of inner emptiness, the ‘psychological man’ of the twentieth century seeks neither individual self-aggrandizement nor spiritual transcendence but peace of mind, under conditions that increasingly militate against it. Therapists not priests, or popular preachers of self-help or models of success like the captains of industry, become his principal allies in the struggle for composure; he turns to them in the hope of achieving the modern equivalent of salvation, ‘mental health.’ Therapy has establish itself as the successor both to rugged individualism and to religion; but this does not mean that the ‘triumph of the therapeutic’ has become a new religion in its own right. Therapy constitutes an anti-religion, not always to be sure because it adheres to rational explanation or scientific methods of healing, as its practitioners would have us believe, but because modern society ‘has no future’ and therefore gives no thought to anything beyond its immediate needs. Even when therapists speak f the need for ‘meaning’ and ‘love,’ they define love and meaning simply as the fulfillment of the patient’s emotional requirements. It hardly occurs to them — nor is there any reason why it should, given the nature of the therapeutic enterprise — to encourage the subject to subordinate his needs and interests to those of others, to someone or some cause or tradition outside himself. ‘Love’ as self-sacrifice or self-abasement, ‘meaning’ as submission to a higher loyalty — these sublimations strikes the therapeutic sensibility as intolerably oppressive, offensive to common sense and injurious to personal health and well being. To liberate humanity from such outmoded ideas of love and duty has become the mission of the post-Freudian therapies and particularly of their converts and popularizers, for whom mental health means the overthrow of inhibitions and the immediate gratification of every impulse.”
The Culture Of Narcissism — pg. 13
Several things to note regarding this quote,
1.) Lasch’s point denying that the triumph of the Psychological, while replacing religion, is not a religion, is based upon the observation that Therapeutic man has no teleology. Whereas religions and ideologies speak of future conditions to which man is moving (be it Heaven, or Nirvana, or Utopia, etc.) therapeutic man embraces a substitute religion whose goal is not some future state, but rather, teleologically speaking, only has the modest goal of making its worshipers properly adjusted to the here and now. Now, Lasch is correct about Therapeutic man having no teleology, classically speaking, but He is wrong in suggesting that the absolutization of the Therapeutic is not a religion or is, in his words, an anti-religion. Lasch would have been more correct to note that ‘Psychologicalism’ is the anti-religion religion. Because it has no transcendent, its teleology is completely imminent with the results that man needs not to move towards a higher and better destination because this life is the higher and better destination. Teleology has not been removed from the religion of Psychologism, but rather it has been realized. Psychologism is the religion of modern man, it’s Priests, as Lasch notes, are the ubiquitous therapists, it’s Temples masquerading as local Schools, Universities, Corporate Headquarters, area Churches and Government buildings, it affords its sacraments in its confessional booth and in its personality tests, it provides catechism sessions to countless Freshman orientation classes across the country, as well as the employee meetings that corporate Human Resources organizes for its company employees, and its salvation — the same salvation that the serpent offered to Eve, is found in the ascendancy of the sovereign self.
2.) Lasch subtly suggests that Psychologism is not as rational nor as scientifically grounded as it holds itself to be. Indeed, Psychology is a faith discipline that originally, in its modern embodiment, was developed in order to provide insights into the individual quite apart from the reality of God. The denial of God is the presupposition that it was originally rooted in, and any rationality that it aspires to, is only the rationality of a system that defines the beginning of rationality as being apart from God. Except in a few rare cases, Psychology remains a anti-Christ discipline, to often propped up as legitimate in the Church by Christian practitioners who have not understood the anti-theistic basis of their chosen discipline. The real danger of Psychologism is that it is ever seen as being ‘scientific.’ It’s lifeblood of existence is its sundry personality tests which by their very design makes man, in his corporate expression, the measure of what is normal, which is a most curious thing for any Christian to accept. The Science of Psychologism amounts to taking subjective surveys and turning those subjective results into objective measuring standards by reifying the abstract numbers and pretending that they have concrete existence and that they mean something. In short, the tests and their results become the transcendent point of reference by which Psychologism measures people. This is nothing but finding truth by counting noses, and it is an embarrassment to God’s people that the church has so readily glommed on to this idolatrous humanistic methodology as seen by the introduction of Psychologism into the ordination process and the missionary candidate schools. Lasch was correct to hint that Psychologism is neither rational nor scientifically driven. It remains today as legitimate as it was when it started with phrenologists feeling the bumps on peoples heads in order to gain personality insights.
3.) It’s ascendancy, as Lasch hints at, is to create a culture of self-centered, childish, whiny and weak people whose greatest goal in life is to be seen as a victim. Out of its concern for personal health and well-being it has contributed to our culture of political correctness where the apex of propriety is to be sensitive and so not offend anybody by saying anything that anybody would find offensive for any reason. Those who will not play by its rules will discover that like all Worldviews it will destroy others in order to protect itself.
Anyway … I have only finished the first few chapters of Lasch’s work, and already I would recommend it for those who desire insights into our current culture. I have read several of Lasch’s work, and I have not found him yet to be disappointing.