Welcome to Sott.net
Thu, 07 Jul 2022
The World for People who Think

Science of the Spirit


Is music universal?

Music Notes
© Neurologica Blog
From a neurological and evolutionary perspective, music is fascinating. There seems to be a deeply rooted biological appreciation for tonality, rhythm, and melody. Not only can people find certain sequences of sounds to be pleasurable, they can powerfully evoke emotions. Music can be happy, sad, peaceful, foreboding, energetic or comical. Why is this? Music is also deeply cultural, with different cultures independently developing forms of music that are very different from each other. All human cultures have music, so the question is - to what extent are the details of musical appreciation universal vs culturally specific?

In Western music, for example, there are minor and major scales, chords, and keys. This refers to the combinations of notes or intervals between them. Music in a minor key tends to evoke emotions of sadness or foreboding, while those in a major key tend to evoke happiness or brightness. Would anyone from any culture interpret major and minor key music the same way? Research suggests that major and minor emotional effects are universal, but a recent study casts a little doubt on this conclusion.

The researchers looked at different subpopulations of people in Papua New Guinea, and both musicians and non-musicians in Australia. They chose Papua New Guinea because the people there share a common musical tradition, but vary in their exposure to Western music and culture. The experiment was simple - subjects were exposed to major and minor music and were asked to indicate if it made them feel happy or sad (the so-called emotional "valence"). Every group had the same emotional valence in response to major and minor music - that is, except one. The one group that had essentially no exposure to Western culture and music did not have the same emotional reaction to music.

The authors conclude from this that, at least to some extent, the emotional valence of different kinds of music is a culturally learned language. They also point out, however, that this one study does not rule out that musical appreciation is universal. But it does call that conclusion into question, at least to some extent. How does this fit into our current theories about the evolution of music?


The Psychology of Totalitarianism, Part 2

many one-faced
© Unknown
Yes, Virginia, There Is a Mass Formation

In part 1 of Psychology of Totalitarianism (PT), Mattias Desmet describes how society becomes fragmented and individuals isolated from each other as a result of the mechanistic worldview. Part 2, which deals directly with totalitarianism and its psychological basis, describes the process by which it is reunited. Mass formation creates a pathological caricature of social unity, one not built upon a plurality of individuals but upon a Borg-like collective mentality. This is the subject of Chapter 5, "The Rise of the Masses."

For Desmet, mass formation explains:
...the willingness of the individuals to blindly sacrifice their personal interests in favor of the collective, radical intolerance of dissident voices, a paranoid informant mentality that allows government to penetrate the very heart of private life, the curious susceptibility to absurd pseudo-scientific indoctrination and propaganda, the blind following of a narrow logic that transcends all ethical boundaries (making totalitarianism incompatible with religion), the loss of all diversity and creativity (making totalitarianism the enemy of art and culture), and intrinsic self-destructiveness (which ensures that totalitarian systems invariable annihilate themselves in the end). (PT, p. 91)
And among the signs of a "new kind of (technocratic) totalitarianism" on the rise today, he refers to the snooping powers of the world security services and move towards a surveillance society, the loss of privacy, rise in snitching, censorship of alternative voices, QR code mania, etc. Unlike the old totalitarianism with its "ring leaders" like Lenin and Hitler, we have rule by "dull bureaucrats and technocrats" (PT, p. 91). He observes that the process has evolved over time — from the age of autocracies when masses were effectively put down by rulers, to the larger-scale and longer-lasting masses of the French Revolution, still more so with the Bolsheviks, and finally, with Covid, "we have, for the first time in history, reached a point where the entire world population is in the grip of a mass formation over a prolonged period of time" (PT, p. 93).

Comment: See also:


Totalitarian leaders: Greedy, evil, fanatic - or a bit of each?

totalitarian leaders
Chapter 7 of Mattias Desmet's Psychology of Totalitarianism (PT) is titled "The Leaders of the Masses." In it, he provides his answer to the question as to the nature of totalitarian leadership. Is it best to characterize them as a cabal of conspirators carrying out a nefarious plan? Are they just hungry for power and driven by greed? Or are they psychologically deranged in some manner — sadistic psychopaths who have angled their way into power?

Desmet rejects all these explanations, opting instead to argue that the leaders are themselves in the grip of the hypnotic narrative behind the mass formation. Unlike the hypnotist, the totalitarian spellbinder himself "fanatically believes in the ideological basis of the narrative (not in the narrative itself!) that controls the masses." "In fact, this person's field of attention is usually even more narrow than that of the masses" (PT, p. 105).

In this view, the main driver is ideology, and the overall dynamics "should be understood in terms of mass psychology rather than malicious, intentional deception" (PT, p. 115). The "facts," as presented in the hypnotic narrative (most often in terms of numbers and charts), justify the stigmatization and oppression of a target group (the focus of aggression, the elimination of which acts as anti-anxiety medication on the emotional preconditions of the mass formation, discussed in Part 1), the logic of which is gradually institutionalized and imposed on society, typically "in a fanatical, blind, and merciless way" (PT, p. 106). For the leaders, "Reality must and will be adjusted to the ideological fiction" (PT, p. 107). And this, for Desmet, is what produces the "mental and emotional blindness" that characterizes such regimes.

Comment: See also: The Psychology of Totalitarianism: Reviewing Mattias Desmet's New Book Part 1


The Psychology of Totalitarianism: Technocracy's 'Science Of Social Engineering'

Professor Mattias Desmet

Professor Mattias Desmet
Professor Mattias Desmet, a Belgian psychologist with a master's degree in statistics, gained worldwide recognition toward the end of 2021, when he presented the concept of "mass formation" as an explanation for the absurd and irrational behavior we were seeing with regard to the COVID pandemic and its countermeasures.

He also warned that mass formation gives rise to totalitarianism, which is the topic of his new book, The Psychology of Totalitarianism. Desmet's work was further popularized by Dr. Robert Malone, whose appearance on the Joe Rogan podcast was viewed by about 50 million people.

But as the search term "mass formation" exploded in popularity, Google responded by manipulating the search engine results in an attempt to discredit Desmet and show people in their search results information that would cause them to discount the importance of this work. Why? Because Google is at the core of the global cabal and movement toward totalitarianism.

Comment: Dr. Mercola's interview with Prof. Desmet:

Further reading:

Bad Guys

On natural shitlection, cellular intelligence and Soviet transhumanism

futuristic landscape science fiction
Like a lot of others, I've been working my way through Ian McGilchrist's The Matter With Things. This is one of those truly seminal, vast, once-in-a-century works of syncretic philosophy that is destined to leave a deep impression on the world. The dust cover says 'one of the most important books ever published, and yes, I do mean ever'. It lives up to that billing.

One of McGilchrist's points regards the nature of life. Specifically, he goes after the machine model. This is something that Winston Smith covers in detail in his essay Are You a Machine? That's a long read, and while it's well worth your time, I'll quickly summarize the main points of the argument.

For centuries now, organisms have been understood as basically mechanical in nature. The modern view is that life-forms are basically survival machines, biochemical robots constructed by selfish genes for the purpose of their own propagation.

This is a very left hemisphere way of seeing things. The left hemisphere likes to understand reality as pure mechanism, composed of discrete parts related by clear causal linkages, such that the whole can be decomposed into the parts, understood at the level of the parts, and then reassembled - the whole being no more than the sum of the parts.


The Psychology of Totalitarianism: Reviewing Mattias Desmet's New Book Part 1

book cover
I've been eagerly awaiting Mattias Desmet's new book ever since his podcast appearances delineating the "mass formation" hypothesis regarding COVID-19 and the subsequent announcement the book's English translation: The Psychology of Totalitarianism (PT). Desmet is a practicing psychoanalyst and professor of clinical psychology in Belgium, and he brings a level of insight to his analysis that is sorely lacking in many other commentators. I highly recommend readers get the book. It's an essential addition to the library of ponerology.

In this and subsequent posts I will be summarizing the book's main points, correlating and comparing them to ideas from Lobaczewski, and responding to the very few bits I take issue with.

The book itself is divided into three sections: "Science and Its Psychological Effects," "Mass Formation and Totalitarianism," and "Beyond the Mechanistic Worldview." As Desmet points out in the Introduction:
...part 1 and part 3 of this book only marginally refer to totalitarianism. It is not my aim with this book to focus on that which is usually associated with totalitarianism — concentration camps, indoctrination, propaganda — but rather the broader, cultural-historical processes from which totalitarianism emerges. This approach allows us to focus on what matters most: Totalitarianism arises from evolutions and tendencies that take place in our day-to-day lives. (PT, p. 8)


Harming the 'outgroup' is linked to elevated activity in the brain's reward circuitry

A new study led by researchers at Virginia Commonwealth University used brain imaging to explain why humans are aggressive toward rival groups.
Cat and Dog
© Getty Images
The study's findings suggest that harming members of a rival group is especially rewarding and associated with the experience of positive emotions. Such psychological reinforcement mechanisms may help explain why humans seem so prone to intergroup conflict.
Humans tend to form groups, which often find themselves in conflict with rival groups. But why do people show such a ready tendency to harm people in opposing groups?

A new study led by researchers at Virginia Commonwealth University used functional brain imaging technology to reveal a potential answer: It increases activity in the brain's reward network.

"At a time of deepening political divisions and global conflict, it is crucial for us to understand why people divide each other up into 'us' and 'them' and then show a profound willingness to harm 'them,'" said corresponding author David Chester, Ph.D., an associate professor in the Department of Psychology in the College of Humanities and Sciences. "Our findings advance this understanding by suggesting that harming outgroup members is a relatively rewarding experience."

The researchers had 35 male college students complete a competitive, aggressive task against either a student from their university or from what they were told was a rival university. In reality, participants unknowingly played against a computer program, and no real people were harmed.

They found that participants who were more aggressive against outgroup members (students from a rival university) versus ingroup members (students from their own university) exhibited greater activity in core regions of the brain's reward circuit — the nucleus accumbens and ventromedial prefrontal cortex — while they decided how aggressive to be.

Both before and after outgroup exclusion, aggression toward outgroup members was positively associated with activity in the ventral striatum during decisions about how aggressive to be toward their outgroup opponent. Aggression toward outgroup members was also linked to greater post-exclusion activity in the rostral and dorsal medial prefrontal cortex during provocation from their outgroup opponent. These altered patterns of brain activity suggest that frontostriatal mechanisms may play a significant role in motivating aggression toward outgroup members.


The Master Betrayed #6

production line
© Unknown
Machines making machines
A series based on Iain McGilchrist's conclusions about a left brain dominated world

In the conclusion of Iain McGilchrist's book The Master and His Emissary, the question is asked:
"What would the left hemisphere's world look like?" if the left hemisphere of the brain "became so far dominant that, at the phenomenological level, it managed more or less to suppress the right hemisphere's world altogether."
In this series of posts I'd like to break down his conclusion and discuss just how closely our world is conforming to the left hemisphere's perspective.

Berger and colleagues(1) emphasise that consciousness changes its nature in a world geared to technological production. It adopts a number of qualities which again are clearly manifestations of the world according to the left hemisphere, and therefore in such a world technology could be expected to flourish and, in turn, further to entrench the left hemisphere's view of the world - just as bureaucracy would be both a product of the left hemisphere and a reinforcement of it in the external world. In a society dominated by technology, Berger and colleagues predict what they refer to as: 'mechanisticity', which means the development of a system that permits things to be reproduced endlessly, and enforces submergence of the individual in a large organisation or production line; 'measurability', in other words the insistence on quantification, not qualification; 'componentiality', that is to say reality reduced to self-contained units, so that 'everything is analysable into constituent components, and everything can be taken apart and put together again in terms of these components'; and an 'abstract frame of reference', in other words loss of context.

Comment: See also: The Master Betrayed #1


Progressivism, sexuality, and mental illness

gay pride lgbtq
© Norbu Gyachung/Unsplash
Is contemporary liberal-left culture producing greater mental distress?

Will America be entirely gay in a few generations? Will everyone be mentally ill? It would appear so from a straight-line extrapolation of the stunning rise in both LGBT identification and mental illness among young Americans.

Let's begin with trends in sexual orientation among young people. A recent Gallup survey found that:
"Roughly 21% of Generation Z Americans who have reached adulthood — those born between 1997 and 2003 — identify as LGBT. That is nearly double the proportion of millennials who do so, while the gap widens even further when compared with older generations."
Abigail Shrier, meanwhile, reports a 1,000-fold increase in trans identification. Reactions to these trends have varied. Republican Congresswoman Marjorie Taylor Greene thinks they indicate that there will be no straight people in a few generations; Bill Maher lampoons the increase as a rebellious fad; and progressives celebrate the rise as an electoral boon for the Democrats. Other liberals view the rise as the product of increasing toleration, similar to left-handedness, in which identification increases as stigmas are lifted and people come out of the closet.


The importance of non-attachment

"Non-attachment" sounds a bit intimidating, doesn't it?

Unfortunately, most people tend to associate this spiritual phrase with being emotionally cold and unfeeling. But true non-attachment is quite the opposite: it allows us to live in this world fully, without being attached to people, things or thoughts that create suffering.

As the Dalai Lama was once quoted to have said:
Attachment is the origin, the root of suffering; hence it is the cause of suffering.