Academic discourse does not often reference the idea of antichrist, perhaps because it is seen as archaic or as too closely associated with religious fundamentalism. Robert Isaac Skidmore, a depth psychotherapist and an Orthodox priest, argues that antichrist, alongside its theological meaning, designates an aspect of our psychological, social, and political experience that becomes hazardous, especially when ignored or dismissed. Seeing Donald Trump’s cultural and political influence as expressive of an archetypal pattern, Skidmore explores implications of taking the idea of antichrist seriously—in order to lift it toward conscious awareness and responsible use. Christian individuals are asked to reconsider the theological function of the notion of antichrist as a summons to self-scrutiny concerning their fidelity to truth. Readers, religious or not, are invited to awareness of antichrist’s archetypal contours, in order to appreciate its significance for the understanding of psychological and social phenomena and to better understand the implications of its use—including its potential benefits and hazards.
“Dr. Skidmore has revived the importance of an ancient Christian idea, showing its relevance for our contemporary situation. His correlation of the Antichrist with the antisocial personality is particularly important in this context, presenting a challenge to Christians of all denominations.”
–Lionel Corbett, Jungian analyst, Professor of depth psychology, Pacifica Graduate Institute
“In this suggestive piece, psychologist and theologian, Robert Skidmore, brings together concepts from Christian scripture and modern depth psychology to elucidate one another and, together, to cast light on a contemporary American political phenomenon. Specifically, he shows how the Biblical notion of ‘antichrist’ can both enhance and be enhanced by the psychological constructs of sociopathy, Freudian conceptions of repression and projection and Jungian ideas of shadow and archetype, and how these may help explain President Trump’s popularity among believers. Identifying deception as the hallmark of ‘fake Christ,’ Skidmore helps to bring to awareness the human temptation to revert to tribal instincts in stressful times. He cautions those who seek to follow Jesus to ‘put not your trust in princes nor the sons of men, in whom there is no salvation’ (Psalm 146:3).”
–Mark Nickolas, Eastern Orthodox Christian and Psychologist
“I knew Rob Skidmore when he was a seminary student; Fr Isaac, to give him his ecclesiastical name; Prof. Skidmore, as I am proud to call him now. He has written a deceptively simple book, whose brevity and unassuming title belie its spiritual depth. Throughout, we are cautioned about the perils of self-deception and reminded of the need for self-awareness if we are to find healing and wholeness. This is a profound book, but also very timely. In our era of Donald Trump, the concept of antichrist as we meet it in the Bible reminds us how easy it is to mistake error for truth, especially when error retains the appearance of truth. As Prof. Skidmore points out, psychology serves a similar function when it alerts us to the deceptive charms of the sociopath, who may show a high level of cognitive empathy but be altogether lacking in emotional or compassionate empathy – the con man who is very good at “reading” other people but lacks any inclination to take meaningful, helpful action. This book is timely for another reason – one that Prof. Skidmore could not have realized when he was writing. The era of Donald Trump has now fused with the era of Covid-19. In recent years we have grown accustomed to the unprecedented. We cease to be shocked when conventional norms for behavior are discarded one after another. But in the era of Covid-19, our anxiety has been raised to a new level. We grasp for anything – even cartloads of toilet paper – that will give us a sense of being in control. Whatever we once thought of as “normal” is exposed as illusion. This may be a good thing. This may alert us to our need for the spiritual sobriety and vigilance that Prof. Skidmore expounds so ably.”
–Rev. John H. Erickson, Peter N. Gramowich Professor Emeritus and Former Dean, St. Vladimir’s Orthodox Theological Seminary
“Until reading the Rev. Dr. Skidmore’s work, I had yet to find a fully layered, accurate, satisfying albeit sobering diagnosis of the mind-scrambling national madness in which we have all been embroiled in the past 5+ years. With wisdom drawn from depth psychology, political philosophy, and Christian theology, Skidmore adeptly wrests the construct of ‘antichrist’ from pop culture and applies it fruitfully to our present moment. In my estimation, the ‘usefulness of the terminology of Antichrist’ will be so if and only if we dare to do two things: 1. to take in its full meaning as Skidmore describes it. And 2. to then use it to do the hard of work of self-analysis, confession and transformation as Skidmore encourages. Only then, in Christ’s merciful true light, will we stand a chance to be freed from our collective intoxicating madness and be returned to our grounded loving right minds. But is that what we want?”
–Deborah B. Edgar, PhD, LMFT, Private Practice, Pasadena, CA, www.theunselfishjourney.com
Mildred Harris Program 2020 Naming the Gods: Cy Twombly’s Passionate Poiesis
with Gary D. Astrachan (Lecture)Friday, October 9, 2020; 7 to 9 pm FREE for Members and Non-Members (Workshop)Saturday, October 10, 2020; 10 am to 2 pm
Members $30 | Non-Members $40
Both events will be held online via Zoom
The gods have fled. They have disappeared and left us alone, without directions or guides. What is it to attempt to name the gods back into existence, into our lives and into the world? How do we, through the efforts of poiesis, ‘making’, ‘doing’, and ‘pro-ducing’, create a place and space for the gods to return? How do we actively engage the transformative processes of art, alchemy and analysis, to orient and deepen our selves within and without? How do we fully embrace the necessity of attending to the current crisis and catastrophe of a disturbed world order while simultaneously furthering the journey of individuation into deeper realms of soul? Following the thread of Dionysos Lysios, the ‘Loosener’, we shall grapple together with responding to these queries.
In this workshop we will focus on the contemporary artwork of Cy Twombly as seen against the deep background of classical Greek mythology. In particular, the two entwined figures of Orpheus, lyre player, lover and journeyer to the underworld, and Dionysos/Bacchus, god of wine, ecstasy and madness, will be taken up as the two principal thematic leitmotifs which animate and overarchingly inform Twombly’s entire artistic oeuvre across all the mediums in which he worked, both literally and symbolically, from the early 1950’s until the last series of brilliantly colored paintings he made just before his death in 2011. His corpus of work embodies and performs radically innovative and vitally important modes of practice for our own necessity in establishing spaces for reciprocal and intimate relationships with psyche and matter, and with both the inner and the outer worlds, of ‘otherness’, nature, wilderness, and the wild.
Gary D. Astrachan, PhD, IAAP, is a clinical psychologist and Jungian psychoanalyst in private practice in Portland, Maine. He is a faculty member and supervising and training analyst at the C. G. Jung Institutes in Boston and in Switzerland and lectures and teaches widely throughout North America, Latin America and Europe. He is a founding member of the Maine Jung Center, and is also an independent curator of contemporary art installations and exhibitions. He is the author of numerous scholarly articles in professional journals and books and writes particularly on the relationship between analytical psychology and Greek mythology, poetry, painting, film, post-modernism, and critical theory. His new book, Naming the Gods: Cy Twombly’s Passionate Poiesis, was released by Chiron Publications in 2019.
Chiron Publications is honored to publish the Collected Writings of Murray Stein.
This volume of the Collected Writings consists of psychological reflections on classical mythology for insight into archetypal structures and dynamics that play out in contemporary life. Mythology is an important resource for depth psychology, and the works included in this volume are a contribution to the archetypal perspective on psyche inspired by the works of C.G. Jung, James Hillman, and Raphael Lopez-Pedraza.
TA B L E O F CO N T E N T S
The Devouring Father: A Myth of Repression
A Portrait of the Father-Devoured Personality
The Devouring Father in Greek Mythology
Hephaistos: A Mythic Image for the Instinct of Creativity
The Mythic Image of Hephaistos
The Underground Forge of Creativity
Hephaistian Art and the Feminine
The Hephaistian Character
Hephaistos and His Brother
The Loves of Hephaistos
Narcissus: A Mythic Image for the Instinct of Reflection
The Story and Its Interpreters
Narcissus and Death
Narcissus and Vanitas
Narcissus and Reflection
Narcissus and Projection
Narcissus and Narcissism
Narcissus and Neoplatonism
Hera: A Mythic Image for the Instinct of Mating in Matrimony
Hera as Archetypal Image of the Mating Instinct
The Phases and Rhythms of Hera
The Paradox of Jealousy
Jealousy: Hera’s Offspring
The Conflict between Hera and Aphrodite
The Wanderings of Hera
A Child of Jealousy: Harmonia
Chapter 1: Hermes, Guide of Souls Through Liminality
Chapter 2: Burying the Dead: The Entry into the Midlife Transition
Chapter 3: Liminality and the Soul
Chapter 4: The Return of the Repressed During Midlife Liminality
Chapter 5: The Lure to Soul-Mating in Midlife Liminality
Chapter 6: Through the Region of Hades: A Steep Descent in Midlife’s Liminality
Announcing re-release of Bradley TePaske’s book Sexuality and the Religious Imagination!
Chiron Publications is pleased to re-release the book Sexuality and the Religious Imagination. The book by Bradley A. TePaske was first released by Spring Journal Books and is once again available now through Chiron. How could it be that the sacral significance of sex has been ignored for nearly 2,000 years of patriarchal Christian history? To address this fascinating question, TePaske surveys many classic conflicts that exist between religious creeds and the irrepressible numinosity of the body, sex and erotic love. In doing so, he charts an open course through Biblical Christianity, Catholic dogma, medieval sexual heresies and Gnosticism, as he reckons with our pagan religious heritage and the claims of Mother Earth and the underworld. The myths and ritual practices at the Graeco-Roman and Tantric traditions are considered, as well as individuals such as Saint Paul, Saint Augustine, Mary Magdalen, and the Hindu saint, Ramakrishna. TePaske brings clinical and archetypal perspective to bear on a broad range of sexual phenomena, including incest, bisexuality, and androgyny. Richly illustrated with imagery from dreams, fantasies, and mythology, the text draws on the works of Freud, Jung, Reich, Hillman, Eliade, Kerenyi, Grof, and others. It culminates with the reunion of psychic opposites that have been separated and differentiated by gender, by the trials of love, indeed by incarnation itself. This reunion is beautifully described and celebrated here in an ambit of Sophia mythology and the Bridal Chamber of the ancient Gnosis.
Table of Contents -Acknowledgments -Image Credits -Preface -CHAPTER 1: Religion and Sexuality, Psyche and Imagination -CHAPTER 2: The Patriarchal Sexual Legacy -CHAPTER 3: Medieval Sexual Heresies -CHAPTER 4: Conduits of the Body -CHAPTER 5: Syzygy Tango: A Picaresque of Dreams -CHAPTER 6: Sacred Sexuality in Hindu Tantra -CHAPTER 7: Gnostic Reflections: Sophia, Magdalen, and the Bridal Chamber -Epilogue -Notes -Index
Two-thirds of the mental health professionals who contributed to the book, The Dangerous Case of Donald Trump, conclude that he suffers from a narcissistic character disorder (Lee, 2017). Traits associated with a narcissistic disorder include lacking empathy, blaming others, craving admiration, and emotionality over rationality.
My interest here is in the political consequences of his narcissistic wound. Perhaps the forthcoming book by Trump’s niece, a psychologist, will shed light on the origins of this wound, based on her first-hand experience with him, presenting facts hitherto unknown to the public.
Whatever the origins may be, it is clear from our knowledge of narcissism that a wound that occurs in childhood requires a life-long effort to avoid activation. Without psychological defences against activating the wound, a person could fall into a depression. Alice Miller gives an eloquent insight into the psychodynamics of narcissism and enables us to understand the narcissistic grandiosity of Donald Trump.
In the view of the Freudian analyst, Alice Miller, the narcissistic wound is a “loss of self”. This loss is the denial of one’s own emotional reactions and feelings such as discontent, anger, rage, pain, and hunger. As a child one learns what one is not allowed to feel or else risk losing one’s mother’s love (Miller, 1983, pp. 64-65, 77). This situation is often called “conditional love”. The loss of self creates a narcissistic disturbance and takes two forms: grandiosity and depression. Grandiosity is the defence against depression and depression is the defence against the deep pain over the “loss of self”. In order to sustain one’s grandiosity one needs admiration from others based on one’s successes and achievements. If therapy is successful a person discovers that he was never loved as a child for what he was but for his achievements, success and good qualities (Miller, 1983, pp. 56, 76, 77).
The politics of narcissism
In order to tie Trump’s narcissistic grandiosity to a number of political consequences I will propose several initial premises.
The first premise: the undisputed fact that the House of Representatives impeached Trump in 2019. We can set aside the fact that the Senate voted not to remove him from office. As often as Trump claimed that the Democrats were on a “witch hunt” and were biased in their investigation, the fact remains that only two other Presidents of the US were ever impeached. The second premise is that only the re-election of Trump can restore the grandiose self-image that was tarnished by the impeachment. To say, “tarnished” alludes to the activation of Trump’s narcissistic wound and the impending threat of a psychological depression.
Why would there be political consequences from the activation of Trump’s narcissistic wound. In the usual case, a person would search for confirmation of his or her self-esteem by seeking out admiration from others or by performing successfully so as to substantiate his or her grandiosity. But here, we are dealing with the POTUS. Interpersonal experiences would not suffice to heal the wound. Public admiration might. Trump requires absolution from the condemnation that emerged from his impeachment. I contend that for the POTUS only his re-election can do the trick. That would signal to Trump that the electorate, in its majority, is willing to ignore or even deplore the impeachment and to reinstate Trump to his throne of respectability, what psychotherapists call “self-esteem”.
What political consequences can we attribute to Trump’s single-minded effort to assure his re-election? Here I wish to think big. I need not deal with his lies, denials, rallies, or endorsements of certain political groups. These may indeed produce some of the admiration that Trump seeks. I will focus on Trump’s stance on two current issues of sizeable importance: the pandemic and the economy.
For Trump there is a kind of trade-off between these two challenges. That is to say, he emphasises the opening up of the economy after the lock-down at the expense of the battle against the pandemic. In sharp contrast, New York’s Governor, Andrew Cuomo, insisted that saving lives in the pandemic took absolute priority over the economy. Among the twenty-seven mental health professionals who considered Trump to have a narcissistic personality disorder, many believe that grandiose narcissists lack empathy. In the case of Trump, it seems to me that he lacks empathy for those who have contracted covid-19 and for those who have died from it. They would be “expendable” in Trump’s eyes. Opening up the economy takes precedence. His re-election, so all-important for restoring Trump’s self-esteem, he seems to believe, depends on the health of the economy…. opening up.
In Trump’s relentless pursuit of re-election the coronavirus deaths are for him “collateral damage” from opening up the economy. Since re-election constitutes the only way to restore his injured self-esteem, Trump’s other decisions are subordinate to this. While many presidential candidates in the past proposed ways to improve race relations, reduce economic inequality, provide universal health care, and make the justice system more equitable, none of these figure into Trump’s single-minded pursuit of electoral victory. His aim is entirely personal and not at all patriotic, to meet his narcissistic needs.
A dialog with Murray Stein, Jungian Analyst
Murray Stein on my paper
Thanks for sending me your insightful paper, Larry. Your explanation of Trump’s need to be re-elected at all costs is compelling. The cure (re-election) has to match the injury (impeachment). A solid explanation of the dynamics. Now, what happens when Trump loses, and perhaps by a landslide, to such a weak loser as little Joe Biden? How does Trump attempt to recover from that? People are worried about what will happen between Nov. 3 and January 20. Any predictions? It’s an amazing thing to watch this drama of the narcissistic personality being played out on the world stage, and with such large consequences. It’s reminiscent of the Roman Empire with figures like Nero fiddling while Rome was burning at his behest. Can the American psyche ever be healed? This is driving such a wedge into the heart of the collective, splitting the population into factions that cannot communicate across the divide. Add racism to the mixture, and you have the makings of unending psychic suffering. Any thoughts for how to treat this patient, America? Your paper is stimulating and touches the key issue in Trump’s quest for deification. He’s a little man with a big need for adulation. His niece’s book shows the origins. America is suffering the consequences. Why would Americans choose such a character as their president? and continue to support him as the Republicans are doing? What is the collective source of support for such a narcissistic personality? Warmly, Murray
My reply to Murray Stein (16 July 2020)
Thank you for your thoughtful comments and questions. You will see below how you stimulated my response.
What will happen between Nov. 3 and Jan. 20 if DT is not re-elected ?
A) DT will deny the election results. He will claim fraud.
He had a similar reaction in 2016 when Hillary had 3 million more popular votes than he. DT claimed that voters in New England crossed over the state line to vote a second time. A further example of DT’s denial: DT wanted to legitimise his 2016 election victory against the claim that the Russians had intervened in the election to support him. This explains why DT continues to deny Russian interference despite the Intelligence Community’s conclusion that the Russians did intervene. Also, DT denies a central conclusion of the Mueller inquiry that the Russians did intervene in his favor. Of course there may be additional reasons why DT is soft on Russia.
B) If DT is unable to succeed in “denial” then perhaps his narcissistic grandiosity may collapse. DT will experience psychological depression, according to Alice Miller’s thesis on narcissism. Asper tells us that the myth of the happy childhood is displaced by the reality of having been unloved that was formerly unconscious (Asper, 1993, pp. 171, 209-212). In a depressive condition what would DT do? He might not find the energy to carry out his presidential duties at all. His WH staff would then carry the burden of the presidency.
I have the idea that depressive people often turn to anger. The targets most likely will be those who seem to DT to be responsible for his defeat. Now comes the fascinating possibility: conspiracy theories. Who will be scapegoated? DT often speaks of the “deep state” where those opposed to him would want to defeat him. DT’s remarks on “whistle-blowers” give some indication of his views of the “deep state”. In reference to the deep state, Cassam believes that “Conspiratorial explanations are personal; they explain significant events by talking about the secret decisions, plans and activities of small groups of people” (Cassam, 2019, pp. 12-13, 87).
How is it that DT was elected in the first place in 2016?
I interpret this question in terms of his “base” support that continues even now. You use the word, “deification” of DT. You note how Nero in ancient Rome may fit the condition of narcissism. I cannot resist a pun here. In Brazil President Bolso-Nero fiddled while the Amazon burned.
In pure speculation I will suggest a Jungian answer. DT has a “savior” complex. In 2016 he believed that he would clean up the “corrupt elites” of Washington and benefit the “real people”. This belongs to the ideology of the populists. In a nearly magical way his “base” lives this populist myth and projects the “savior” onto DT. My article on populism follows a Jungian logic to elaborate the populist morality (Alschuler, 2020). It does suggest the source of populist support: which parts of the population and under what conditions.
What can be done to pull America out of its current polarisation, racism, etc.?
I only wish I knew. I fall back on my book, The Psychopolitics of Liberation (Alschuler, 2007) for some answers. My four case studies illustrate how Native people in a seriously polarised society succeed in overcoming their oppressed consciousness and in moving toward a democratic society. What is also important, yet missing from my book, is how the oppressors and their agents can relinquish their oppressor consciousness and move toward a democratic society. At least my approach seems relevant to discussions of racism, police repression, and inequality in America.
Alschuler, L. (2007). The psychopolitics of liberation: Political consciousness from a Jungian perspective. New York: Palgrave Macmillan.
Alschuler, L. (2020) “Populism and the Psychopolitics of Morality”, Politics, Culture and Socialization.
Asper, K. (1993) The Abandoned Child Within: On Losing and Regaining Self-Worth. New York: Fromm International.