Frankenstein, God complex an the modern western man

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Joined: Thu Dec 03, 2009 12:56 am

PostTue Feb 15, 2011 2:02 am » by Tertiusgaudens

Earlier this day reinaul had a nice post on psychopaths with a deep study. I was immediately thinking in a study which kind of underlined reinaul`s post and which also moved me in a very strong way. I mean Horst - Eberhard Richter`s book ... 0897930282.

Richter acts here not only as a shrink but also as philosopher showing deep connections in our traditions of thinking leading to what he calls God complex in modern western men.

The consequences are fatal ones. Not only this complex is a synonyme for tolal excessive demands, in which the contemporaries find themself struggeling following a mind set of total control compulsion. Additionally they are facing - as Gods - the burden of being creators without having any idea of what that means.

Here starts the story of Frankenstein and his creator...

This post is for all who look for connections behind the scene. If possible, read the book. Reinaul`s article is here: the-psychopath-a-new-subspecies-of-homo-sapien-t21734.html.

And below is a very deep article I`d like to share with you:

The Reflecting Glass
Mary Shelley touched on something very dark and powerful when she penned her famous novel Frankenstein. The story follows the life of a young scientist who finds himself enchanted by the power of science. He delves into the dark recesses of the human mind to create a monster. Victor Frankenstein is disgusted by his creation and the novel follows the battle within himself as “creator”. The most important idea of the novel does not deal with the monster and his human consciousness, but the power that allowed Victor to create a living, breathing, feeling creature. This omnipotence that Victor possesses is at the heart of the novel and the basis of a new line of argument for English Gothic texts. According to Horst Eberhard-Richter, the author of All Mighty: A Study of the God Complex in Western Man, Victor simply follows the path that has been laid out before him. Like many great minds that have emerged since the middle ages, Victor has chosen Science over God and, in his choice, has replaced God with his own Ego. This decision is not a conscious one on the part of Victor, but a subconscious reaction to the circumstances surrounding Western Man since the middle ages. Shelley has created a character whose circumstances bring him to face to face with God, but all he can see is his own reflection. Victor Frankenstein is the penultimate example of the “God Complex” in Western Man. Victor needs to complete the cycle of humanity, reenacting each moment of history since the middle ages, in order to become God. Victor realizes too late that God is the equivalent of loneliness and that the monster is the equivalent of humanity.

There can be no application of the “God Complex” to Victor Frankenstein without understanding how Richter defines the complex. Richter introduces the idea of a young adult who attempts to control all aspects of his life. Richter explains that from an adult’s point of view they cannot understand these emotions, but if the adult sees the issue from a younger perspective of vulnerability, the emotional response seems to make sense, “At a time when, objectively speaking, they are totally dependent on parental care and protection, it throws them into a panic if they feel they can no longer rely on this protection” (Richter 3). It is this feeling of helplessness that drives the young adult to seize control of their life. Richter asserts that the young adult:
. . .is dominated by the conviction that the only way he can compensate for his helplessness and prevent his own destruction is by overcompensation, by becoming omnipotent and omniscient. (Richter 5)
It is not Richter’s goal to psychoanalyze the developmental habits of young adults, however. He applies this metaphor to the process of transitioning out of the middle ages and he likens man’s psychological process as “somewhat akin to those which (he) ha(s) just described as typical of the reactions of certain children” (Richter 5).
Richter suggests that Western Man’s troubles began with Augustine of Hippo. Augustine’s principal theory was that men were not supposed to use reason to get close to God. He argued that God would choose those who would receive salvation and those who would pay for original sin. Richter thinks that, “It was difficult for people to acknowledge their absolute dependency on God when they could not count on receiving His grace” (Richter 5). Given his opinion, he thinks that man was “justified in placing greater reliance on the knowledge he could personally acquire by the exercise of his own intellect” (Richter 5-6). The idea of faith is a hard concept to wholly embrace. Richter believes knowledge that is tangible will supersede any concept of something this is merely conjectured. The argument that men in the Middle Ages felt less protected by God and therefore pursued knowledge to replace him, according to Richter was done out of fear that “rebellion might truly call down on (man’s) head the wrath of God” (Richter 6), that each increase in the “personal power” of man would equally increase the potential for “retribution”. As each step moved man farther from God, an emotional divide developed. Man was not aware that the process of taking more and more of God’s power was dethroning him, but justified their own actions by convincing themselves that they only wanted “a greater awareness of God” (Richter 7).

Richter continues the timeline of development for Western Man when he discusses the Alchemists. He believes that “Alchemy was a blatant manifestation of man’s desire to appropriate all of God’s miraculous powers” (Richter 7). With each step Richter argues that Western man has systematically replaced God with his own reason and knowledge. In the seventeenth century Descartes continues this pattern, “In the philosophy of Descartes we see a particularly clear-cut case of man’s radical reversal of attitude, from passive submission to a role of vigilant domination. The individual ego assumes the place of God” (Richter 12). Descartes has completely removed the need for God in the mind of man and has completely replaced it with his own ego. Richter’s main point is that:
Man’s fear of abandonment by God turned into a fear of losing his absolute certitude, and thereby his ability to exercise intellectual dominion over the surrounding world. (Richter 12)
Subconsciously, through his fear of abandonment, like that of the young adult, man has compensated by denying weakness and developing strength through knowledge. He found himself unable to be a part of a world he could not control, so he created a world in which he was omnipotent. At the moment that man emerged from the Middle Ages, touting his accumulation of knowledge, and into the present he was celebrated, only to be seen for what he was, a coward running from a fear of his helplessness wearing the façade of God (Richter 12-13). Finally, through the Middle Ages, and into the modern era, man has arrived at an image of God, and what he sees is his reflection. Similarly, Victor can only see himself once he has transcended humanity, but before he can become God he must start the cycle of knowledge.

Knowledge is crucial to Victor’s progress and he must find the scholars who came before him. Mary Shelley and Horst Eberhard-Richter discuss the ideas of the Alchemist Cornelius Agrippa, who believed that by discovering how to turn anything into gold he could cure all the ailments of mankind. Young Victor is excited by the works of the Agrippa but is put off by the comments of his father regarding the text. Victor’s father says that Agrippa’s works are “sad trash” and for Victor not to “waste his time upon” them (Shelley 21). Richter approaches Agrippa from a different perspective. He believes that the point of view that Agrippa was writing from during his period was the right one and that his writings were “simply transferred onto modern mathematics” (Richter 14). For Victor to achieve “Godliness” he needs to appropriate the teachings of Agrippa as part of his learning cycle. Victor embodies the learning of the men from the renaissance period as his progression of youth. Richter’s validation was not needed for young Victor as he pursues the text even after his father admonished him. Victor needs to overcome the “confidence in Kabalistic and magical formulas and in rituals of conjuration, which were current at the time of Cornelius Agrippa” (Richter 14) for him to complete this aspect of his training. This objective is easier said than done for Victor who is enamored with natural science and the ideas that Agrippa represents. He is challenging the nature of God because of his insecurities through the application of magic first and then science. Victor even admits that had his father “taken the pains to explain to (him), that the principles of Agrippa had been entirely exploded” that it was entirely plausible that his thoughts would never have taken him to his place of “ruin” (Shelley 21). For Victor to become omnipotent he must challenge magic first, just as medieval man has, so his study of Agrippa is an integral part of his character development.

On Victor’s journey to omnipotence he must attempt to recreate that which came before him. This process is essential to the art of science. Victor, through his studies of Agrippa and Magnus tries to create the “Philosopher’s Stone” and the “elixir of life” (Shelley 22). Richter would say that Victor has “reified nature, turned it into an object of scientific study, thus creating (for himself) a new role: that of the detached intellectual observer” (Richter 7). Victor has to distance himself from nature to examine it from a scientific perspective. He believes his intentions to be noble “wealth was an inferior object; but what glory would attend the discovery, if I could banish disease from the human frame, and render man invulnerable to any but a violent death” (Shelley 22). Victor must reconstruct the past through his search for the “Philosopher’s Stone”. Without this aspect of his journey Victor can never become God. The knowledge that the stone represents is a culmination of all the ideas of the Middle Ages, “The ‘Philosopher’s Stone’ with its unlimited magical powers, reflected the spirit of the age, for it symbolized man’s desire, or rather his compulsion, to appropriate God’s omnipotence: If he was no longer possible to have God, at least it might be possible to become Him.” (Richter 8). Every step Victor takes, every moment of progress, is a moment towards self-reliance and the ability to “possess infinity” and become God (Richter 14). The time spent studying magic only fueled Victor’s desire for tangible knowledge, but fulfilled the necessary step of embracing the renaissance understanding of knowledge with alchemy: “The ego, in a sense, assimilated the whole potential of magic by denying the reality of everything which it had not verified and appropriated by its own intellectual power” (Richter 12). What Victor could not prove with his foray into alchemy he proves with actual biology and chemistry, a version of modern magic.

It must be made clear that, at first, Victor is not consciously seeking to become God. He is acting on his emotions and instincts. Part of the definition of “God Complex” is the perceived loss of trust and or protection of the parent; in Victor’s case it is the loss of his mother. In his book The Gothic Psyche Matthew Brennan elaborates on Victor’s reliance on his mother, “Tracing the stages of Victor Frankenstein’s psychic self-destruction shows how Victor’s stable childhood crumbles and how his misfortune helps cause a neurotic scientific obsession” (Brennan 57). In Brennan’s opinion Victor’s childhood is completely reliant on his mother and it is her death that affects him the most. Victor’s scientific obsession is similar to the one that preceded him in medieval man. The only way that Victor can control his emotions is to “overcompensate” which Richter defined as part of the process. The loss of Victor’s mother was the final aspect to be fulfilled. Victor now has every opportunity to turn away from God and towards reason and knowledge, and he does this willingly to seek protection from his vulnerability.

Victor can see no other option then to commit himself to science and to ignore the world around him, “Two years passed in this manner, during which (he) paid no visit to Geneva, but was engaged heart and soul, in pursuit of some discoveries, which (he) hoped to make” (Shelley 29). Victor abandons mankind and God. He has nothing left but the disconnected view of nature that he pursued earlier in his life. In a misguided attempt to protect himself, Victor has completely cut himself off from humanity, his only chance for his salvation. With this disconnect Victor has also cut himself off from God as the creator of humanity. This drastic severing allows Victor push farther than Western Man has ever dared to go. Not only does Victor have knowledge and the power that comes from that knowledge, but he will possess supreme power over man as a creator. At this point Victor is deliberately usurping God’s power. He has completely mastered the ability to create life “my imagination was too much exulted by my first success to permit me to doubt my ability to give life” (Shelley 31). He has allowed his ego to “turn into the image of God” (Richter 10).

Victor never contemplates the right or wrong of his actions, because in science there is no right or wrong, only results or failures. The only thing Victor considers is what kind of creation he should make. He is too consumed by his own power, the “narcissistic omnipotence”, to understand that with the rejection of the monster he has chosen to isolate himself from humanity. He never stops to consider his creation as a living, thinking being. As a creator he only cares about the power he possesses, not the result of his knowledge. Victor never understands that he justifies replacing faith with knowledge, trying to overcompensate the loss of both a biological and a spiritual parent, leaving him feeling abandoned an unprotected.
Victor’s approach to science is one that continually distances him from God. Richter explains that when God was part of the equation for mankind it was circular. With the inclusion of God everything began and ended in a cyclical pattern, “This circular, closed system was breached the moment the distrustful ego of man began looking beyond the circumscription of revealed truth for answers to his questions” (Richter 9). Victor no longer has a beginning or an end. This idea is so ingrained in Victor’s mind that he can’t separate it from the truth, there must always be a beginning and an ending, yet he perceives everything in scientific terms, when he considers the “improvement which every day takes place in science and mechanics, (he is) encouraged to hope (his) present attempts would at least lay the foundations of future success” (Shelley 31). Victor realizes only too late that his creation forces endings in his life, the murder of his younger brother and his wife. In essence, everything for Victor has come full circle, which is not the projected outcome of science.

Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak in her essay title “Frankenstein and Devi’s Pterodactyl” argues “Frankenstein’s apparent antagonist is God himself as the Maker of Man” (Spivak 56). Based on Richter’s definition of the “God Complex” this would be inaccurate. Victor doesn’t think that he is becoming God, and Richter confirms this:
“The more God’s power man usurped, the more vehemently and ingeniously he convinced himself that in reality the only reason why he wanted to annex those of God’s powers which were operative in nature was to acquire greater awareness of God himself” (Richter 7).
Victor doesn’t think that God is the antagonist because he doesn’t believe he has achieved the same status as God. Unknowingly he has acquired the power of God yet his narcissism blinds him from the truth.

By using Richter’s definition of the “God Complex” and applying it to Victor Frankenstein there are several things that can be surmised. The first is that in seeking to gain knowledge and understanding of the world, Victor has created a fissure between himself and God. The second is that his inability to find comfort in a parental figure only adds to his sense of loss and insecurity. This feeling of helplessness is where his troubles begin. Thirdly, that Victor must travel the same path as the men that came before him, a coming of age, to wade through magic into science and to completion as a new God. Although Victor does not actively seek Godliness, he achieves it through blindness and persistent drive to gain divine knowledge. Victor’s knowledge is linear, yet the circle that encompasses all natural things in inevitable. Lastly that Victor acknowledges no antagonists other than the monster, and never sees God as his opposite. This ignorance to his power is what limits Victor’s power over the monster and what finally ends his life. Victor Frankenstein did not choose to abandon God. The parallel between Victor and God and the monster and humanity is too great to ignore. When Victor becomes God he sees his creation as a monster, which begs to reason that God sees humanity as a monster. Ironically, Victor was afraid of being left defenseless and alone, yet his journey into the depths of the human psyche and his creation of the monster cause him to realize his greatest fear: To be God is to be alone.

Works Cited

Brennan, Matthew C. The Gothic Psyche: Disintegration and Growth in Nineteenth-
century English Literature. Columbia, SC, USA: Camden House, 1997. Print.

Richter, Horst-Eberhard. All Mighty: A Study of the God Complex in Western Man.
Trans. Jan Van Heurck. Claremont, CA, U.S.A.: Hunter House, 1984. Print.

Spivak, Gayatri Chakravorty. "Frankenstein and Devi's Pterodactyl." Empire and the
Gothic: the Politics of Genre. By Andrew Smith and William Hughes. Houndmills, Basingstoke, Hampshire: Palgrave Macmillan, 2003. Print.

Shelley, Mary Wollstonecraft, and J. Paul Hunter. Frankenstein: the 1818 Text, Contexts,
Nineteenth-century Responses, Modern Criticism. New York: W.W. Norton, 1996. Print.
Hope is the thing with feathers...
Emily Dickinson

Posts: 2768
Joined: Thu Dec 03, 2009 12:56 am

PostTue Feb 15, 2011 11:44 pm » by Tertiusgaudens

Nice example:

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A second one - some reflexions from Frankenstein:

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Hope is the thing with feathers...
Emily Dickinson

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