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The Century of the Self

Posted: Thu Jul 12, 2012 6:26 am
by actuallythere
Recommended viewing for all regular contributors to this forum, a 4-hour BBC series that for me provided a superb explanation of what is going on at SES. The documentary is all about how 'the ego' and 'the self' has been manipulated by politicians, advertisers and public relations people to prompt thought control and thereby behaviour - from shopping to voting.

Consider the very close personal links SES has had to politics (Maclaren), advertising (Sinclair) and public relations (Boddy). It suggests what these rich men might have got out of SES, and how - like much politics and advertising - it has been a con for the gullible and insecure. The series also points to the origin of the anguish and abuse that is associated with SES.

For starters, just take a look at the episode titles. They all ring true:

Episode One: Happiness Machines (1 hour) [Generation Maclaren senior]

Episode Two: The Engineering of Consent (1 hour) [Generation Maclaren junior]

Episode Three: There is Policeman Inside all our Heads, He Must Be Destroyed (1 hour) [Generation Sinclair]

Episode Four: Eight People Sipping Wine in Kettering (1 hour) [Generation Boddy]

Re: The Century of the Self

Posted: Sat Jul 28, 2012 10:40 am
by chittani
AT, I loved this series when I saw it in 2002 and it has been a major inspiration in my life. Firstly because Adam Curtis is brilliant and shows how serious ideas can be made into thrilling and educational art. Secondly because it made me think more about the word 'self', which as you point out is important in the SES.

Modern marketing was founded on Freudian principles. It's an amazing story and I join with you in inviting people to watch it. Great fun, too ... sort of high-brow conspiracy theory.

HOWEVER, I'm sorry to say that you are off the mark here.

The 'self' in this series is Freud's Id (NOT 'ego'), the 'It' that dwells at the base of our brains and our evolutionary history, a seething mass of desires, drives and urges. Curtis argues that Freud's descendants, especially Edward Bernays who invented 'PR', realised that this aspect of human beings could be used to sell things. This is all well-documented - Bernays did employ Freudian shrinks to come up with his wheezes, and it worked. He brought down a government (Guatemala?), persuaded millions of women to smoke, and invented the Full [Your Nationality] Breakfast.

Curtis is in one sense old-fashioned - he believes that the 'self' is evil, which is the Christian perspective. Think of words like 'selfish', 'self-conscious', 'self-centred'. Our culture, in so far as it's Christian, is deeply opposed to self. That's why Richard Dawkins caused such upset when he wrote The Selfish Gene - he used the terms 'altruistic' and 'selfish', and argued that all of nature (including by implication, us) is 'selfish' (read - Devilish) and not 'altruistic' (Christ-like).

As Carl Jung says in Archetypes, 'with the Western man, the value of the self sinks to zero'.

From the 19th Century on, Indian philosophy brought in the idea that there is a spiritual Self (atman) that represents our highest good. This, and not Freud, is where the SES idea of 'self' comes from. Firstly, because all of the Western gurus documented by Peter Washington from Blavatsky to Steiner to Gurdjieff and Ouspensky were inspired by this Indian vision of self; and secondly from the direct influence of the Shankaracharyas from 1965 on.

In psychological terms, the tradition that connects to the New Religious Movements like the SES comes down from Jung and not from Freud. Freud said we are all evil and flawed; Jung, partly drawing on India, said we can reach self-realization.

It's not just a cult or New Religious Movement thing - the 'Indian' self is also an inspiration to humanistic psychology like Maslow, Positive Psychology, and the whole idea that by being authentically yourself, you serve others (eg Marianne Williamson). The whole New Age movement is informed by it, too.

Apart from the word 'self' which is confusing you, the things that Adam Curtis hates (Freud, Bernays, Game Theory, Tony Blair, appealing to the lowest instincts, focus groups, denigrating 'reason', self-indulgent pleasure-seeking, Wilhelm Reich) are also objectionable to the SES.

In the SES, the Freudian 'self' is called 'ahankara', root of all evil apparently. But that's another story ...

Sorry, you got me on my favourite topic here ...

Re: The Century of the Self

Posted: Sat Jul 28, 2012 2:33 pm
by actuallythere

We have a difference of opinion on the matter - that is a good thing.

You say I am 'confused' about what the 'self' is - so it would appear that you are a greater authority on the 'self' than I am, and that you are certain that you are not confused about what the self is.

I would like to know what gives you this authority, and this certainty. Is it your many years of SES membership mentioned before, or something else?

Re: The Century of the Self

Posted: Sat Jul 28, 2012 4:52 pm
by chittani

I wasn't questioning your authority, or asserting mine; I was questioning what you said, because I think it's confused and mistaken. What do you want? A degree certificate? Academic references? I'm not claiming authority. I'm someone who thinks you're wrong about something.

I'm sorry if it comes across as presumptious, but I just don't get what you are driving at. I get it that people can be affected or manipulated by the vision of the self that is presented to them. I agree with that. Second, you clearly see the SES as run by a manipulative elite. And this documentary is about the manipulation of people by an elite. So there is a kind of similarity there, if one believes the first point.

But even you must see that the beliefs, ideas, methods and actions of the two are utterly different? About as different as, let's say, Richard Dawkins and the Pope?

Or maybe you really don't think they're different? Please explain.

Re: The Century of the Self

Posted: Sun Jul 29, 2012 11:29 pm
by ConcernedMum
When I saw Century of the Self, I also immediately thought of the SES too and how they have sold their organisation to people.

Chittani, you really think that having such powerful PR & Advertising gurus like Boddy and Sinclair at the highest levels since the 1980 has had no impact on the methods of the organisation itself? Also, I see Sinclair is part of Tony Blair's faith foundation so TB is hardly anathema.

Saying that the SES is about the Indian notion of atman or 'self' is like saying that Scientology is about the Xenu story (which incidentally some think Hubbard was influenced by the ideas of Gurdijeiff in making it up). That's the sales pitch. What it's really about (imo, obviously but lets look at the results of its theory and practices and it's not impressive from a spiritual perspective) is a small group at the top constructing a hierarchy below them, flattering the ego (the Freudian one) that they are the superior beings, control of others and building up a large property portfolio. That this is sold as 'spiritual' development is very much of the 'Century of the Self' territory.

I guess we could try contacting Adam Curtis to see if he thinks the work of David Boddy and Jeremy Sinclair would fit with his thesis? According to his wikipedia page, his favourite theme is power and how it works in society - I think he might find the SES quite an interesting study.

Re: The Century of the Self

Posted: Mon Jul 30, 2012 6:38 am
by actuallythere
Our Concerned Mum just put it better than I would have myself. I concur with what she has just said.

Re: The Century of the Self

Posted: Mon Jul 30, 2012 9:48 am
by morrigan
In psychological terms, the tradition that connects to the New Religious Movements like the SES comes down from Jung and not from Freud. Freud said we are all evil and flawed; Jung, partly drawing on India, said we can reach self-realization.

And Jung started to learn from Freud and then disagreed with him. Also Freud shifted what he said/learned/taught as he developed himself and his work.

Re: The Century of the Self

Posted: Tue Jul 31, 2012 10:19 pm
by woodgreen
Deleted - apologies if I knee-jerked.


Re: The Century of the Self

Posted: Thu Aug 02, 2012 11:21 am
by ConcernedMum
woodgreen wrote:O God not you again Chittani, is Lambie paying you to upset the Forum?. Beware everyone, Chittani has his own agenda, that none of us follow. But he/she is free to post.


Have to say I disagree with you getting personal in this comment Woodgreen. Don't we all, inevitably, have our own agendas? I know we've been here before so maybe we're best agreeing to disagree, just I don't like standing idly by while a personal comment is made. No offence meant.

Re: The Century of the Self

Posted: Fri Aug 03, 2012 11:44 pm
by woodgreen