Thoughts on Sin by Ted Peters (1994) Unfaith 3D

Now, I will consider the implications of xiety.

When a babe is born into the world, she has both no xiety and an infinite amount of xiety.  She has no life of her own.  She could have any life.  This inner contradiction means that xiety exists in the world of possibility.

The babe has natural expectations.  She expects a Lebenswelt in which she will first bond to her mother, then have that bond modified while bonding to her father.  In a way, the Lebenswelt is the first xiety.   The need for the Lebenswelt is painfully actual and if these needs are not met, then the babe’s anxiety sets the stage for her becoming a psychopath.  A psychopath is person in complete faithUnChristian that “all she has is herself”.


Thoughts on Sin by Ted Peters (1994) Unfaith 3C

By framing this chapter in terms of “unfaith” and “lack of trust”, Peters avoided a multitude of sins.  What multitude?  It seems to me that most sins are not committed for lack of “faith”, but in a surplus of “faith” that is not Christian.

Perhaps I can depict this alternate faith as faithUnChristian.

With that, I can turn Peters’ final formalism around.

“FaithUnChristian” tells us what is “unacceptable”.  “FaithUnChristian” makes xiety possible.  This gives rise to anxiety: The fear of the loss of one’s xiety, the life that one has, that one could have, or that one pretends to have; according to one’s faithUnChristian.


Thoughts on Sin by Ted Peters (1994) Unfaith 3B

Peters related an incident in his own life concerning “consuming rage”.  A neighborhood bully drove him over the edge.  The child Peters struck back.  This act was unacceptable to the moms in the neighborhood and he was forced to apologize, even though the bully had the injury coming to him.

What was the child Peters defending himself against?  His anxiety was the fear of the loss that this bully could impose.  Peters was protecting his xiety, the life that he could have had (if the bully never existed).

Peters told another story about a California boy who became an active homosexual then got outed by his own brother (and his brother’s friend).  He ended up confronting his brother’s friend, begging to get his old life back (perhaps, the life that he could have had but was compromised by his own sexual activity; or perhaps, the life that he pretended to have as if he were not sexually active).  His brother’s friend rebuffed him.  So he shot his brother’s friend with an Uzi.

After these and other stories, Peters served the blandishments of tired inevitability, concluding that anxiety and rage, along with the violence they generate, are part of the human condition.  He threw in the word “Original Sin” in order to spice up the dish.  If only we had faith (in Christ), then we might have the common sense not to give in to “consuming rage”.

With faith (in Christ), we could accept the unacceptable: the xiety of living in the shadow of a bully and the xiety of the label of “faggot” and the look of humiliation in the eyes of one’s father and mother.


Thoughts on Sin by Ted Peters (1994) Unfaith 3A

“Unfaith” is a treacherous word.

Peters used the word in reference to the Christian Standard of Faith.  He quoted Matthew 6:31-33 in that regard.

He then went on to associate lack of faith with a lack of trust in other people, which, in turn, leads to a lack of love.  And who loves people less than Psychopathic Killers, who rely on the love, trust, and faith of their victims in order to entrap and kill them?

Is “unfaith” the beginning of a turn that diminishes other people’s existence through manipulation, insensitivity, betrayal and injury?  Or is “unfaith” an alternate “faith”?

If you take a babe and deny her the bonding experience with her mother, and she develops mistrust and deep-seated rage, and she ends up as a child without a conscience, does she lack “faith”?  Or has she found another faith, a “light to sustain her”, a “belief that allows her to hold on to what she has” by “depriving others of what they have”?  Is not her faith: “consuming rage”?  “Consuming rage” is a gift that keeps giving.

The serial murderer Ted Bundy did not suffer from anxiety.  He was a completely illuminated by the dark light that sustained him.  He was also consciously aware that what he was doing was in service to his “faith”; that is, his “consuming rage”.


Thoughts on Sin by Ted Peters (1994) Anxiety 2F

So do people kill others in order to relieve their own fear of being killed?  Or do they kill others in order to relieve their fear that the mere existence of the other threatens “something that they have, or could have had, or pretend to have”?

Did Becker title his book The Structure of Evil?  Or was it Escape from Evil?  Did he write out of a fear of loss?  Did he write for his own self-esteem?

Ernest Becker located anxiety in the “modern” denial of death.  But An Archaeology of the Fall suggests an alternate situation: Anxiety is not “not knowing any better”.

Anxiety is the fear of being without your xiety.

People are anxious because they fear they will lose xiety, not only what they have, but what they could have had, or even pretend to have.

Xiety is perceived as actual, so actual that people can commit any crime in fear of this loss – of what they have – of what they could have had – of what they pretend to have.

People kill others in order to continue their charades.

So Peters’ next chapter addresses the question: What makes xiety possible?


Thoughts on Sin by Ted Peters (1994) Anxiety 2E

Could “not knowing any different” equal the “unifying vision that once controlled the impersonal structures of institutions” that was lost in “modern” social fragmentation?

Consider, social fragmentation draws the individual into a type of social bondage, where one is held within a particular “language’ community, say, the community of Plumbers, that is further reinforced by the existence of other “language” communities that one does not belong to, such as the community of Electricians.

The fragmentation induces anxiety to the extent that the Plumber imagines that she could have been an Electrician.  Anxiety promotes neurotic behaviors, which block actions, close options, and increase one’s own bondage.  Anxiety also inspires one to pretend to be what (one could be but) is not.  For example, an anxious Plumber (who imagines that she could have been an Electrician) may mess up a project by telling the Electrician how to do her job; that is, by pretending to be the Electrician as well as the Plumber.

The Plumber has a choice.  She may try to impose her own meanings on the Electrician or she may step back and imagine that “she does not know any different”.

But “letting go” does not make “more choices and freedom available to me”, which is what Becker wanted.  Well, Becker wanted more than that.  He wanted to re-generate his mythical unifying vision that once controlled the impersonal structures of institutions.

According to Becker, with this unifying vision, the Plumber could pretend.  She could have been an Electrician if she had wanted to be.  Pretending would give her self-esteem.  Self-esteem is the only way to escape the bondage of psychological determinism that comes from fragmentation.  Self-esteem is the surest basis for selflessness and social harmony, especially when it comes from Becker’s mythical unifying vision that controls the impersonal structures of institutions.

In this way, Ernest Becker, like so many of his day, defined himself as a Great Progressive Thinker.

He could have stepped back, and imagined that “he did not know any different” in order to “let go” and free himself of the anxiety of all the lives that he could have lived but never did.  He could have been a painter, a chauffer, a paramour to an old lady with henna red hair, a connoisseur of cigars, a Nazi collaborator, or a member of the Resistance.  He could have been what his mother wanted him to be … he could have been anything except … a person without anxiety, a person who “did not know any different”, living in the ultimate wonderland of constrained complexity, where every word was grounded in the Real.


Thoughts on Sin by Ted Peters (1994) Anxiety 2D

Ernest Becker’s view of the “modern” parallels the impression that any long-lived alien would have had after watching the transformation of the Ubaid village culture after the adoption of speech-alone talk.  An apparently holistic society became supercharged through fragmentation.

For the Ubaids, the fragmentation was practical.  Potters separated from House-makers.  Reed collectors separated from Reed boat makers.  Wool spinners separated from Weavers.  Priests separated from Shamans.  Each separation created a new job title.

7600 years later, for the moderns, the fragmentation was abstract.  Money fragmented from value.  Fact separated from theory.  Science fragmented from Philosophy.  Social Science separated from whatever-was-left-of-Philosophy.  Electricity fragmented from Matter.  Nuclear force separated from Electro-Magnetism.   Television separated from Radio.  Hair-stylists separated from Barbers.  Each fragment yielded a new profession.

Becker asked: How to analyze this issue of fragmentation in terms of science and reason?

He started by considering individual and society.  In fragmentation, each fragment has its own set of shared values (which I would call a “language”) that exists independently of the individual.  The individual may belong to one fragment and not to another.  One fragment “speaks her language” and the other does not.  The latter is experienced as “alienation” by “impersonal social institutions”.

Within one’s own fragment, the individual is faced with pressures to conform.  The person faces a reduction in choices and freedom.  So the person suffers a second alienation in “conforming”.

Becker’s conclusion:  We have lost the unifying vision that once controlled the impersonal structures of institutions.

A shorter version:  We have lost perspective.

But what we have really lost is the security – really, the joy – of “belonging to who we belonged to” and “not knowing any different”.   This was the way of life among our hand-speech talking Paleolithic and Early Neolithic ancestors.


Thoughts on Sin by Ted Peters (1994) Anxiety 2C

Becker’s book The Structure of Evil (1968) envisioned a “premodern” world where everything – and everyone – knew their place.  This “premodern” world possessed a unified view of humanity.  This was a world based on power, tyranny, coercion, and benevolent paternalism.  This world precluded personal freedom.

Since there were no options, according to Becker, there would have been no “anxiety”.

Although his visionary “premodern” world could have been compared to Utopia Past (Fascism), Utopia Present (Communism, which lingers on) or Utopia Yet To Come (Progressivism), Becker compared it to the Medieval World.  I mean, he compared it to his bogus stereotype of the Medieval World.  As I mentioned earlier, he should have located his “premodern” world in a more Rousseau-ian vision of the “precivilized” world of polymorphous ownership.  Without “private property”, not even your life is your own, so why worry about what you could have had?

Before Civilization, humans lived without anxiety because they had real challenges to worry about.  Even to the Medieval Europeans, the Paleolithic and Neolithic peoples would have seemed desperately poor.  At the same time, they did not know any better.  They were pathetically happy in that regard.  Even the Neolithic woman who got painfully arthritic toes from her posture while grinding meal did not know any better.

Surely, their own mythologies and wisdom counseled joy in suffering.  The world before Civilization would have been the ultimate vacation spot, a place that Disney could never hope to imitate, because these people never pretended to be what they were not.  They were truly free in that regard.  They belonged.   They loved one another without reservation.  They barbequed.  They ate the (now repopularized) Paleolithic diet.  They fought, drank, and pissed wherever they wanted.  You helped your own because you knew that they would return the favor.  On the other hand, if even one tourist had shown up, it would have been over.

The society of hand-speech talk was a world where there was evil, but no anxiety, because they could not formula an idea of “what they could have had”.  They did not know any different.

And perhaps, this was what Becker would have imagined, if he had lived the life that he could have had.


Thoughts on Sin by Ted Peters (1994) Anxiety 2B

When we think of the “premoderns”, we can imagine people in a feudal structure where noone feared losing the life that she could have had.  That is because people could never have that life.  A peasant could never imagine herself to be the lady of a house.  A lady of a house could never imagine herself to be a queen.  The world was knitted together with the threads of a holistic worldview, where all things came together according to one overarching design.  Everything fit together.

A quick survey of medieval history should put that fantasy to rest.  Every feudal realm had these traders, millers, blacksmiths, who were neither royalty nor peasants.  They, inevitably, made money.  The wife of a miller could fancy herself a lady, if she could afford that sable dress.  The man who made clever trades could become a knight or lord.  The threads of that holistic worldview were forever being plucked out and replaced, even though everyone thought that the tapestry remained the same.

One has to go back further, before “premodern” to get to the world where no-one feared losing the life that she could have had.  One would have to go back, as in An Archaeology of the Fall, to before Civilization to get to the point were xiety referred to what people had.

Only then did people not kill others in order to relieve their own fear of being killed.

Why do I say this?  Peters’ reviewed the ideas of Ernest Becker, who located anxiety in the “modern” denial of death.


Thoughts on Sin by Ted Peters (1994) Anxiety 2A

The first step to radical evil is anxiety.  When I see an an- words, like anhydrous, which means “without water”, I conjure that the word means “without ‘something’”.  Anxiety, then, would be “without xiety”, where “xiety” means “anything that you can lose”.

Xiety is space, time, existence, life, your mind, your lover, your parents, your children, your future, your job, your money, your reputation … anything that you might say, after its loss, “give that back to me.”

Anxiety can drive anyone crazy.  How can one get a reputation back?  What about “one’s sense of security”?

It’s “us versus them”, when it comes to anyone who can mess with your xiety.  Employees bitch about their boss behind her back because, well, just because she can mess with their xiety.  When the boss asks if anything is the matter, everyone says, “Everything is fine”.  This is how the bittersweet elixir of “calumny” soothes employees’ anxiety.

The American “children of the sixties” secretly despised their parents because they had defeated evil.  They were heroes.  They had saved Western Civilization.  Even though no one bragged about it, the lesson was clear.  Dad’s “reputation” meant that “I was not important”.  Hell, Western Civilization was just a piece of crap anyway.  Pass the joint.

The American “parents of the children of the sixties” did not know how to face the rage of their children.  They could face the utopian enemies of Fascism and Communism (both the same, really) and not wince, but they could not face their own tantrum-throwing children.  They wanted to be loved.  So they stepped aside and let the intellectuals – the one’s who taught their children – deconstruct everything they had fought and died for.  Progressivism (the next utopian enemy) stands upon the ruins.

So xiety concerns more than things that anyone has; that is, things that can be taken away.  It encompasses whatever one might have had if circumstances had been different.  In different circumstances, the children of the sixties could have had “heroism”.  In different circumstances, the parents of the sixties could have had “the ‘honor’ emblazoned on Moses’ tables”.

Anxiety is the fear of losing the life that you never had, but could have had, if only … if only …