Critique of the Concept of Human Rewilding

Several times in Jacobi’s work has an unworkable theory of the psyche emerged: In “A Less Provisional Synthesis,” last paragraph, second section: “the creator is more a discoverer of values.” This same theory is advanced in “Very Heady Stuff.” It has been used for a long time, or rather, it has been asserted but not much defended, save by the use of the names Jung and Campbell.

Such a “‘secret person undamaged in every individual’” (“Very Heady Stuff,” II) is an absurdity, for our purposes. If we are going to stand by the mantra–which are self-evident, almost hilariously so–that rewilding cannot happen in a zoo, we need a more dynamic vision of the individual we want to rewild. What is implied in that phrase, “rewilding cannot happen in a zoo,” is that the internal space and the external space are not separated by some hard and fast line. The skin is semipermeable. Again, this is obvious. In the same way that your heart will beat faster when you are very cold, various other aspects of physiology and therefore psychology are molded, more or less, by external factors. The “true inner self” is an advertising slogan, not a useful psychological model.

It seems that in his rejection of leftism, Jacobi has chucked also the more useful materialist tenets of Marxism in favor of a sort of Kabbalistic sensibility, that we must each dig to locate the divine spark within, that we may allow God to emanate properly from us. But we must be careful, if we decide to reject a hard-line materialism, not to swing too far in the other direction.

It is correct, without a trace of doubt, that the requirement of repentance from civilization is buried in psychoanalysis. But this requirement cannot be reached until such insular theories of the individual as we have discussed are dispensed with, in favor of theories more in keeping with the old statement of necessities: Food, shelter, gang. Implied within even the strictest egoism is the need for company, folks to mold and be molded by. Zarathustra needs his followers, and Gilgamesh could not have been the subject of an epic were it not for Enkidu.

Thus we come to what is perhaps the most important piece, for our purposes, of the work of Wilhelm Reich: Throughout Character Analysis, he states and restates that healing through character analysis is made exponentially more difficult and often is impossible because of the coercive sexual restrictions of his contemporary society. He would not consider this the most important point: It is an aside, an under-the-breath refrain. He has too much faith in medical structures–first psychoanalysis, then his orgonomic clinics. To some degree he is right: If the skin is, as we have said, semipermeable, and all the world is a disease, any healing on the psychoanalytic couch or in the orgone accumulator or wherever else is a dark comedy. The patient simply walks back out to be bombarded by the exact conditions that required healing in the first place.

And so even if various physical and psychological therapies were effective (see Medical Nemesis, Ivan Ilich, which has been mentioned on this blog numerous times), their objective is essentially hopeless. Likewise rewilding: The bars of this zoological garden are somewhere in the stratosphere. There is a stronger nihilism than that mentioned to this point: Human rewilding is an utterly hopeless project until civilization has collapsed. Of course, at that point it is a matter of life and death. And that is exactly the point. That is the enormous lacuna between primitive life and civilized life: To use Kaczynskian terms, the power process is shifted from life-and-death goals to surrogate activities. Rewilding, first and foremost, is the acknowledgement that this shift is the grave mistake. It is the prerequisite to nihilism: Everything hovers above the real, everything is image and simulacra and willful illusion. Then comes repentance, the shift from surrogate activities to life-and-death goals. This obviously cannot happen until it happens.

Hence the stronger nihilism that is required: For the serious rewilder, collapse comes before rewilding. It is not a psychotherapeutic method. Psychoanalysis is purely useful because it provides the theoretical tools to reach this last impasse: Civilization falls before its psychological ills. A materialist framework allows no alternative. And sure, psychotherapeutic techniques may be useful to “pad the cage,” to allow just enough comfort to carry on with one’s actions. But they are fundamentally hopeless.

From William S. Burroughs: “There’s one mark you can’t beat, and that’s the mark inside.” (I quote from memory.) This is Perlman’s Leviathan, the tentacle of civilization wrapped around your innards. Cutting the tentacle is useless: You have to hit where it hurts, take out the head, or else another tentacle will curl in just as you cut one: A psychotherapeutic method is futile. The mark cannot be beaten until the very role of mark is rendered obsolete. Until then, rewilding is simply another part of the spectacle, it is entertainment, smoke and mirror. It is spooks.

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