On paleologic white nationalism

I find it a little pathetic that some regulars are trying to post pro-conspiracy comments in my recent post on John F. Kennedy’s assassination after I said that I’d shun all debate if they had not done their homework. I made an exception with a commenter from Germany because I believe that Germans, who have been thoroughly brainwashed by the Americans after the Second World War, deserve a little more patience. But it is inexcusable that native English-speakers are reluctant to read Vincent Bugliosi’s monumental refutation of every single JFK conspiracy theory in a work that took him twenty years to complete.

I must say something about what I have been repeating over and over again:

High-IQ people don’t believe in conspiracy theories: whether it’s JFK, 9/11, the US Moon landing “hoax” of 1969, Satanic Ritual Abuse or the UFO “landing” in New Mexico in 1947.

Silly white nationalists believe that the London decapitation incident was a Jewish hoax. Some of them not only blame the Jews, instead of the Muslims, for that single incident: they blame the Jews for the Boston bombings too; the killings of Adam Lanza, the Breivik incident at Norway, and some conspiracy theorists have developed crank theories about the 2005 London bombings too.

In Spain these idiots also believe that the Jihad attack of 2004 at Madrid was also staged. Here in Mexico the brown Untermenschen also believe that the assassination of a PRI candidate and a Catholic cardinal were orchestrated political murders. Lone wolf assassins cannot exist in the minds of those who lack an in-built parsimony principle (Occam’s razor or economy principle) in their little skulls.

People under the grip of what in my book I call “paleologic thinking” always elaborate hypothesis that preposterously multiply the entities.

I overstated. Some who score very high on IQ studies are every bit as paranoid as the common Neanderthal we see on the streets. Since in my previous post on JFK I mentioned Magnus Carlsen, who won the crown of chess a couple of days ago, I must add that one of the heroes in my teens, World Chess Champion Bobby Fischer, was as paranoid as the previous American champion, Paul Morphy. The grim fact is that you may have the highest IQ and still be the victim of mental disorders. (For those who read Spanish, take a look at my mini-book En Pos de un Rey Metafórico about the pathetic lives of the chess champions.)

ArietiI have quite a concrete idea of why humans (and white nationalists are human; all-too human) have a propensity to fall into what American psychiatrist Silvano Arieti (pic on the left) used to call paleologic thinking. Unfortunately, this can only be properly explained by reading my book, Hojas Susurrantes, on the archeology of the human psyche (for a sample of a translated chapter click here).

In a single blog entry it is impossible to transmit a complex theory, where, besides Arieti, I use the work of Lloyd deMause, Colin Ross, Alice Miller, Julian Jaynes and the critics of psychiatry. Suffice it to say that I believe that the human psyche can be read like the stratigraphy in archeology, with the most primitive—and maddening—infanticidal forms of childrearing (cf. my Metapedia article on the subject) in the lowest stratum and the comparatively most benign forms of parental-filial relations at the top.

My favorite quotation in Arieti’s monumental Interpretation of Schizophrenia is that a hypothetical visitor from Mars would detect many instances of schizoid strata even among the modern Western man. DeMause would agree and would add that among the most primitive cultures, so immersed in magical thinking, psychological dissociation was much worse. In his famous The Origin of Consciousness in the Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind Jaynes even claimed “Before the second millennium B.C., everyone was schizophrenic,” in the sense that humans were immersed in magical thinking (non-paleologic, Aristotelian forms of logic would come later, with the Greeks).

I don’t expect those who have not read at least the translated chapters of my book to understand what all this has to do with lesser forms of paranoia, like those conspiracy theories I cited in my self-quote above, which includes the white nationalists’ paranoia of blaming 9/11 on everything except the actual Islamist perpetrators. But for those who already have a good grasp of what I say in Hojas Susurrantes, let me remind them these words: “The paleologician confuses the physical world with the psychological one. Instead of finding a physical explanation for an event, he looks for a personal motivation or an intention as the cause of an event.”

Just as the primitive man, in a definitive breakdown of the saner forms of cognition, for the disturbed individual the world turns itself animist; each external event having a profound meaning. There are no coincidences for those who inhabit the world of magical thinking. Both the primitive animist and the modern schizophrenic live in distinct dimensions compared to the rational man. The conceptualization of external happenings as impersonal physical forces requires a much more advanced level of cognition than seeing them as personal agents.

If the Greeks are afflicted by epidemics, it is because Phoebus wants to punish Agamemnon. Paranoiacs and paranoids interpret almost everything as manifesting a psychological intention or meaning. In many cases practically everything that occurs is interpreted as willed by the persecutors of the patient.

Along the lines of the reminiscences of paleologic process of thought of other ages, when everybody was immersed in magical thinking, if something as big as the assassination of JFK or the September 11 attacks ever happened, to the modern paleologician prosaic motivational explanations won’t be enough. He would search for a more transcendental, “meaningful” explanation of the human tragedy, as Phoebus punishing Agamemnon when the Homeric Greeks still had to develop more scientific and causal forms of thinking (replace “Phoebus” for “US government” to see my point).

If Jaynes is right, and I believe he is, it is understandable that the human psyche, especially among the most primitive specimens, will still show reminiscences of paleologic thinking in the modern age. All conspiracy theories are ultimately archetypical regressions, although “schizoid,” not “schizophrenic”—still not of the grotesque, acting-out kind that the psychiatrists encounter in their young patients.

Let’s pick the July 8, 1947 Roswell UFO incident from my above list. The paleologicians ask us to abandon both our in-built Occam’s razor and Aristotelic logic and believe that the incident elicited a massive, governmental cover up for an actual extraterrestrial visitation—a cover up involving several republican and democratic presidencies, from Truman to Obama!

This of course strains our credulity well beyond its breaking point, since it assumes that all those administrations, which had been at loggerheads with each other, suddenly fully agreed on the absolute need to hide from the public “the July 8 Truth.”

Prominent skeptic author Joe Nickell, whom I met in a 1994 conference of skeptics at Seattle, identified the myth-making process of the Truthers, which he called the “Roswellian Syndrome.” With another colleague Nickell used the Roswell event as an example, but pointed out that the same syndrome is readily observable in other conspiracy theories. Nickell and his colleagues identified five distinct stages of development of an urban myth:

Incident: The initial incident and reporting on July 8, 1947.

Debunking: Soon after the initial reports, the mysterious object was identified as a weather balloon, later confirmed to be a balloon array from Project Mogul which had gone missing in flight.

Submergence: The news story ended with the identification of the weather balloon. However, the event lingered on in the “fading and recreative memories of some of those involved.” Rumor and speculation simmered just below the surface in Roswell and became part of the culture at large. In time, UFOlogists arrived, asked leading questions and helped to spin a tale of crashed flying saucers and a government conspiracy to cover-up the true nature of the event.

Mythologizing: After the story submerged, and, over time, reemerged, it developed into an ever-expanding and elaborate myth. The mythologizing process included exaggeration, faulty memory, folklore and deliberate hoaxing. The deliberate hoaxing, usually self-serving for personal gain or promotion—for example, the promotion of the 1950 sci-fi movie The Flying Saucer—, in turn fed the urban folklore (“prolefeed for the proles”).

Reemergence and media bandwagon effect: Publication of books such as The Roswell Incident by Berlitz and Moore in 1980, television shows and other media coverage perpetuated the UFO crash story and cover-up conspiracy beliefs. Conspiracy beliefs typically mirror public sentiments towards the US government (the modern “Phoebus”) and oscillate along with those attitudes.

These stages are repeated almost in identical form in other conspiracy theories that don’t involve UFOs, like the ones referred to above in my self-quote. In my opinion, all of them are the product of a flaw in the human psyche. Big events must have big meaningful causes, not prosaic ones (Ancient Greece epidemics caused by Phoebus; JFK and 9/11 by Phoebus-substitute agents).

Reclaiming_History_Bugliosi_1st-ed-2007_WWNorton

But I don’t like posting this entry. Without an actual knowledge of the original synthesis I do of the published material of the mentioned authors (Arieti et al), the thrust of my argument is lost. I’d prefer that English-speaking visitors forget for the moment my theories and make instead an effort to listen, for the first time in their lives, the prosecutor who blamed Oswald and Oswald alone.

Don’t leave the courtroom without giving a fair hearing to the prosecutor, especially if you already have spent dozens of hours listening to the attorney.

Healing Amfortas (cont.)

wagner-parsifal

Further to my previous post. Below, (1) my presentation of Colin Ross’ cornerstone to understand the trauma model of mental disorders; (2) a translation of “Regaining Self-esteem” by Dr. Claus Wolfschlag—original in German here—, and (3) my views on traumatized Germany.



1.- Ross’ trauma model

Attachment theory, originally developed by John Bowlby, is one of the most fruitful platforms to explain human psychological development.

Evolution always chooses its available mechanisms for its use, and since every living creature has the imperative to survive, hominids developed an unconscious structure to maintain the illusion of parental love even when there really is none.

Perhaps the most accessible way to visualize attachment is through a modern fairy tale: Steven Spielberg’s film Artificial Intelligence. I’m referring to the scenes in which Henry warns Monica not to imprint their adoptive son David with the program of affective attachment if Monica is not completely sure that she will want to reciprocate the love that David would profess, since the program is irreversible (“The robot child’s love would be sealed—in a sense hardwired—and we’d be part of him forever”). After some days Monica nonetheless reads to David the seven magic words that imprint him (“What were those words for, Mommy?”).

The platform which Ross is standing on in order to understand mental disorders is what he calls “the problem of attachment to the perpetrator”:

I defined the problem in the mid-1990s, in the context of the false memory war.

In order to defend myself against the attacks by hostile colleagues, I sought solid ground on which to build fortifications. It seemed like the theory of evolution offered a good starting point. What is the basic goal of all organisms according to the theory of evolution? To survive and reproduce. This is true from amoeba on up to mammals. Who will dispute that all organisms want to survive and replicate? This seemed like safe ground.

Dragonflies, grasshoppers, salamanders and alligators do not have families. They do not send cards on Mother’s Day. Things are different if you are a bird or mammal. Birds and mammals are absolutely dependent on adult caretakers for their survival for a period after birth, which ranges from weeks to decades depending on the species. For human parents, it seems like the period of dependency lasts over thirty years. In some species, if the nursing mother dies, the child dies. But in others, including elephants, if the nursing mother dies, a female relative takes over the care of the young one, and the child survives. In elephants there is a built-in Child Protective Services, and there is a sociology of attachment.

Attachment is like the migration of birds. It is built in, deep in our brain stems and DNA. The infant bird or mammal does not engage in a cognitive, analytical process to assess the cost-benefit of attachment. It just happens. It’s biology. The fundamental developmental task of the human infant is attachment. You will and you must attach. This is true at all levels of the organism. You must attach in order to survive biologically, but also in order to thrive and grow at emotional, intellectual, interpersonal and at all possible levels.

We know the consequences of failure to attach from several sources. The first is the third world orphanage. Orphan babies may have an adequate intake of protein, carbohydrate and fat, and may have their diapers changed regularly, but if they are starved for love, stimulation, attention, and affection, they are damaged developmentally. Their growth is stunted at all levels, including basic pediatric developmental norms.

Ross goes on to explain the body of scientific evidence about the effects of abuse in the offspring of primates: “The Harlow monkey experiments, for instance, are systematic studies of abuse and neglect. Little monkeys cling desperately to their unresponsive wire-and-cloth mothers because they are trying to solve the problem of attachment to the perpetrator, in this case the perpetrator of neglect.” He also mentions experimental evidence that profound neglect and sensory isolation during early infancy physically damage the brain in a measurable way: “The mammal raised in such an environment has fewer dendritic connections between the nerve cells in its brain than the mammal which grew up in a ‘culturally rich’ environment.” It is in this context that Ross states that it is developmental suicide to fail to attach, and “at all costs and under the highest imperative, the young mammal must attach.” He then writes:

In a sense, we all have the problem of attachment to the perpetrator. None of us have absolutely secure attachment. We all hate our parents for some reason, but love them at the same time. This is the normal human condition. But there is a large group of children who have the problem of attachment to the perpetrator to a huge degree. They have it to such a large degree, it is really a qualitatively different problem, I think. These are the children in chronic trauma families. The trauma is a variable mix of emotional, verbal, physical and sexual abuse.


The locus of control shift

For psychiatrists Theodore Lidz, Silvano Arieti and, in a less systematic way, Loren Mosher, in schizophrenogenic families not only one but both parents failed terribly. If the problem of attachment to the perpetrator is a cornerstone for the trauma model of mental disorders, there is yet another stone. Though the number one imperative for birds (and in previous times, the dinosaurs) and mammals is to attach, in abusive families the child makes use of another built-in reflex: to recoil from pain. Ross explains what he calls “The locus of control shift” (in psychology, “locus of control” is known jargon).

The scientific foundation of the locus of control shift is Piaget and developmental psychology. We know several things about the cognition of children age two to seven. I summarize this as “kids think like kids.” Young children are self-centered. They are at the center of the world, and everything revolves around them. They cause everything in the world [“locus shift”] and they do so through magical causality. They do not use rational, analytical, adult cognitive strategies and vocabulary.

Imagine a relatively normal family with a four year-old daughter. One day, the parents decide to split up and dad moves out. What is true for this little girl? She is sad. Using normal childhood cognition, the little girl constructs a theory to explain her field observation: “Daddy doesn’t live here anymore because I didn’t keep my bedroom tidy”.

This is really a dumb theory. It is wrong, incorrect, inaccurate, mistaken and preposterous. This is how normal kids think. But there is more to it than that. The little girl thinks to herself, “I’m OK. I’m not powerless. I’m in charge. I’m in control. And I have hope for the future. Why? Because I have a plan. All I have to do is to tidy up my bedroom and daddy will move back in. I feel OK now”.

The little girl has shifted the locus of control from inside her parents, where it really is, to inside herself. She has thereby created an illusion of power, control and mastery which is developmentally protective [of the attachment].

Ross explains that this is normal and happens in many non-abusive, though dysfunctional, families. He then explains what happens in extremely abusive families:

Now consider another four year-old girl living in a major trauma family. She has the problem of attachment to the perpetrator big time. What is true of this little girl?

This other girl is powerless, helpless, trapped, and overwhelmed. She can’t stop the abuse, she can’t escape it, and she can’t predict it. She is trapped in her family societal denial, her age, threats, physical violence, family rules and double binds. How does the little girl cope? She shifts the locus of control.

The child says to herself, “I’m not powerless, helpless and overwhelmed. I’m in charge here. I’m making the abuse happen. The reason I’m abused is because I’m bad. How do I know this is true? Because only a bad little girl would be abused by her parents.”

A delicious exemplification of the locus of control shift in the film A.I. is the dialogue that David has with his Teddy bear. After Monica abandoned him in the forest David tells his little friend that the situation is under control. He only has to find the Blue Fairy so that she may turn him into a real boy and his mom will love him again…

In contrast to fairy tales, in the real world instances of the locus of control shift are sordid. In incest victims, the ideation that everything is the fault of the girl herself is all too frequent. I cannot forget the account of a woman who told her therapist that, when she was a girl, she took baths immediately after her father used her sexually. The girl felt that since she, not her father was the dirty one and that her body was the dirty factor that aroused the father’s appetite, she had to “fix” her body.

But there are far more serious cases, even, than sexual abuse. According to Ross, in near-psychotic families:

The locus of control shift is like an evil transfusion. All the evil inside the perpetrator has been transfused into the self, making the perpetrator good and safe to attach to. The locus of control shift helps to solve the problem of attachment to the perpetrator. The two are intertwined with each other.

Although Silvano Arieti made similar pronouncements half a century before, these two principles as elaborated by Ross are the true cornerstones to understand the edifice of my work, Hojas Susurrantes. As I mentioned in my second book, when I visited the clinic of Ross in Dallas as an observer, I had the opportunity to observe the therapies of some adult women. I remember a lady in particular who said that if her husband hit her it may be because she, not her husband, behaved naughtily.

In The Trauma Model Ross mentions cases of already grown daughters, now patients of his psychiatric clinic, who harm themselves. These self-harmers in real life exemplify the paradigm of the girl mentioned by Ross: Evil has been transfused to the mind of the victim, who hurts herself because she believes she is wicked. In my previous book I said that in the film The Piano Teacher a mother totally absorbs the life of her daughter, who in turn redirects the hate she feels toward her mother by cutting herself in the genital area until bleeding profusely: a practice that, as I show in Hojas Susurrantes, is identical to the pre-Hispanic sacrificial practice of spilling the blood of one’s own genitals.

In his brief class Ross showed us why, however abusive our parents, a Stockholm syndrome elevated to the nth degree makes us see our parents as good attachment objects. The little child is like a plant that cannot but unfold towards the sun to survive. Since even after marriage and independence the adult child very rarely reverts in her psyche the locus of control shift to the original source, she remains psychically disturbed.

For Lloyd deMause, this kind of super-Stockholm syndrome is the major flaw of the human mind, the curse of Homo sapiens that produces an alter ego in which all of the malignancy of the perpetrator has been transfused to the ego of the victim. In a divided self this entity strives for either (1) substituting, through the locus of control shift, the unconscious anger felt towards the parents onto herself with self-harming, addictions, anorexia or other sorts of self-destructive behavior, and/or (2) harming the next generation of children. In any case the cause of this process is the total incapability of judging and processing inside ourselves the behavior of the parent: the problem of attachment to the perpetrator.

As I said above, I believe that Ross’ class is the cornerstone to understand the trauma model of mental disorders.



2.- Wolfschlag’s translated piece

A note was sent to me about the topic of “Trauma, fear and love.” The psychotherapist Franz Ruppert from Munich has dealt with so called “trauma energies” in his books, a trauma that can be passed down through generations. Because individual psychological findings can at least partially be transferred to collective experiences, I have read the slides on “perpetrators” and “victims” from Ruppert’s website from this vantage point.

A fortnight ago I wrote an article about some recent movies where the subject of the expulsion of civilian Germans after 1945 plays an important role. But such artistic products of processing the trauma are still rare and on individual cases. There is a striking imbalance in the German “culture of remembrance.” Since the 1970s the Holocaust and the persecution of leftist-resistance groups during the Nazi period have obtained a dominant, partly sacralized meaning while German victim stories of those years, which could also incriminate other actors as “perpetrators,” have increasingly been hidden and marginalized.

If occasionally an audible voice rises intending to give these German victims their right in the German “culture of remembrance,” it will immediately be attacked with the rationale of equating “victims and perpetrators” and that the dead Germans are, at most, victims of second or third class. This lesson was learned and requires constant repetition, since it is ultimately a very important tool to preserve the foreign political control over the economically important German industrial base.

Passivity is an emergency response of the victim

In conservative circles it is frequently heard that since 1945 Germany would be in a traumatized phase. In this context the words of Ernst Jünger have been recorded: “From such a loss one cannot recover.”

So now I had this in mind when I looked at the slides of Franz Ruppert, which appeared to me like an incidental proof of the theory of “the traumatized nation.” After Ruppert’s definition of the terms “perpetrator” and “victim,” he goes on to explain that the victim would make the damage even bigger with a stress reaction to the suffering inflicted upon him or her. A failure to react is, therefore, an emergency response of the victim to maximize her chances of survival. The victim gives in to the situation, but experiences herself as helpless and powerless.

Presently this reaction can be seen very clearly in the behavior of the Germans after the end of the War; it partly persists even to these days. One must give up on further acts of resistance and surrender oneself into a feeling of political powerlessness. This in spite of the fact that for some political groups there are now separate possibilities of participation and new beginnings. I speak of the collective, national, fundamental experience. According to Ruppert, the splitting of the personality allows the traumatized individual to live on. It is a survival strategy, and it means the victim’s experience will be suppressed and split off. The traumatization will be denied; memories will be tried to be erased, and impulses of resistance suppressed.

The prosperous Germany is only very moderately happy

The result of this repression, according to Ruppert, are feelings of guilt. In addition to it, it comes the imagination that the wounds, which one has suffered personally, are “fair punishment.” One doesn’t perceive the perpetrator as such, but rather defends him. The individual even identifies herself with the needs of the perpetrator.

As a side effect the traumatization shows itself in constant complaining, suffering, bemoaning without being able to give cogent reasons for it. According to an assessment [linked at the original article], the affluent Germany only takes a middle place on a map of Europe ranked by perceived happiness. And that alongside poorer eastern European countries, which have to process their own traumatizations due to Soviet occupation. The people of the poorer western European nations on the other hand are interestingly almost happier than the Germans. Why?

For the perpetrator the traumatization also has consequences. He denies the injury inflicted on other humans, even feels justified. He blames and ridicules the victim and declares to have acted on behalf of a higher thought. This behavior is often the result of an earlier victimhood of the perpetrator and a misguided coping strategy. It leads to events such as the recent election in the Czech Republic, where Miloš Zeman could win the presidential elections with his defensive nationalistic position against Karel Schwarzenberg, who cautiously reminded us the historic suffering of the Sudeten-Germans.

Learning to mourn, developing compassion for oneself

Franz Ruppert comes to the conclusion that unprocessed experiences of victimization can turn into eruptive perpetrator behavior. The powerlessness can be followed by a furious outbreak of aggression. Victims turn into perpetrators, and the lack of emotion towards oneself leads to a lack of empathy towards the new victim. In this way victim-perpetrator spirals keep running: a power which can be seen interpersonally and also in the larger political conflicts. Innocent people are dragged into the conflicts, and it comes to delusions and acts of self-destruction.

An eruption of violence is not yet to be expected from the Germans in their current state. Perhaps nothing will ever come from them again, except a last gasp on the deathbed. But maybe one can at least try to heal a couple of things.

Healing would, however, require a massive reform of our “culture of remembrance.” This would, let’s not delude ourselves, encounter the most brutal resistance since this is where the core of the trauma is located [emphasis added], in which influential people have a vested interest.

For the healing process one can therefore transfer the problem-solving approach from the individual of Ruppert to the national situation. First of all one has to acknowledge one’s own traumatization and psychological injuries, but also learn to mourn for oneself, to develop compassion for oneself. Finally, although one must refrain from blind vengeance it is by all means appropriate to “demand from the perpetrator a concrete compensation for the damage, if still possible” (Ruppert).

Only compensation can bring healing

One can speak of compensation, and if it only consists of the annulment of the discriminatory Benesch-decrees in the Czech Republic, the construction of memorial sites for the displaced Germans in the Czech Republic and Poland, bilingual place signs and symbolic material compensations, a memorial for the German victims of the bombing campaign must also be constructed in London and Washington; in Moscow, another for the German Gulag-slaves and the women who were raped by the Red Army.

Only then will the false and traumatized relations of today be overcome. Only then will constructive symbiotic relations be possible, from which all participants can profit.

At the end of this process stands for all sides the rediscovery of self-respect. Because for the perpetrator too the acknowledgement of responsibility for his own deeds is a way to inner healing.

The problem of the German process of coming to terms with the past is, after all, not the examination of one’s own crimes but rather the one-sidedness, the political instrumentalization and anti-German manipulation. The healing process, which was outlined here, has for now been delayed in the Czech Republic due to the electoral defeat of Schwarzenberg. However, time and again it will knock against the coffin lid from below, no matter how much earth one hurls onto it.



3.- My 2 ¢

Today’s Germans, so attached to the Judeo-American perp and overburdened with guilt, remind me the character of the badly wounded Amfortas in Wagner’s last opera, Parsifal.

(See YouTube clip of track 7 of Parsifal’s Act I: here)

Unlike Wolfschlag, I believe that only full revenge heals the wounded soul, even if it comes from Above, not from Below. The good news for German nationalists is that they will soon be gloating after the dollar crashes and Murka burns. Together with an England overwhelmed by immigrants, as depicted in the film Children of Men, the fall of the US will do the healing trick with no need of Teutonic violence—insofar as the subversive tribe that my beloved Nazis wanted to deport from Europe is directly involved in their ongoing / coming fall.

I call this poetic justice (Murkans really lost the War because they fought on the side of those who would one day enslave them)…

The Russians on the other hand have already suffered a lot after their incredible blunder: allowing the empowerment of Jewry right after the Bolshevik Revolution, where dozens of millions of Slavs were killed. But yes: the Russians must erect monuments commemorating the German victims anyway.

Only thus can Amfortas fully heal.

Translation of pages 483-541 of “Hojas susurrantes”

by Cesar Tort

The Feathered Serpent

For the previous translated chapter see: here. Some translations of 16th century Spanish texts, including Aztec poetry, are mine. Sentences between squared brackets do not appear in the original version of the manuscript.

For my original manuscript in Spanish see: here.




“The world’s most beautiful city”

Bernal Díaz del Castillo would write in his memoirs about what he saw with his brothers in arms in route to Tenochtitlan when he was twenty-two years old:

And since we saw so many inhabited cities and towns on the water, and on solid ground other large towns, and that causeway so straight and leveled that went to Mexico-Tenochtitlan, we were wonder-stricken, and we said to each other that it all seemed like the enchantment tales of the Amadís book, for the great towers and cúes [temples] and edifices, that they have inside the water, and all of them the product of masonry work, and still some of our soldiers said if all of what they saw was dreamlike.

When the gloomy Luther hammered his theses on the Wittenberg’s gates, no man of the white race knew of the existence of another continent and of the most extensive power that Mesoamerica knew of: an empire that touched both oceans, the capital of which was inundated with light. And even in our times the enormous plaza that amazed Bernal Díaz is unknown because his comrades razed it in its entirety. Notwithstanding that after the conquest Rodrigo de Castañeda blamed Hernán Cortés for wanting to preserve the temples and its effigies, Mexico-Tenochtitlan was the object of a systematic vandalism. Not even one edifice remained standing in what today is Mexico City, something that reminds us what the Romans did in the Third Punic War: they did not leave stone upon stone in Carthage, and built a Roman city on its ruins. Not satisfied with that, after the physical devastation by the soldiers, Zumárraga burned the Mexica libraries. As an Aztec poem says:

We are to leave the beautiful songs
We are to leave the beautiful flowers

However, under New Spain’s edifices some unearthed footings have allowed modern architects to reconstruct how the ancient Indian city looked [see the pictorial reconstruction by Marquina below], in addition to the descriptions of the captain of the conquistadors, who informs us that the streets of Tenochtitlan—:

are very wide and straight, some of them, and all of the other are half of earth and the other half of water, through which they go in their canoes, and all the streets, from stretch to stretch, are opened through where water passes from the ones to the others, and in all of these openings, that some of them are very wide, there are bridges of very wide and large beams together and stout and well carved, and they are such that that ten horses, together eye to eye, can pass through many of them.

Cortés himself wrote to Carlos V that it was la más hermosa cosa del mundo (“the world’s most beautiful thing”). Much larger than Seville, the largest Spanish city of those times, three roads converged toward the center of the lacustrine city, uniting the island with the coast. “It is admirable to see how much reason they employ with all things,” wrote Cortés to the king. On the streets of a city that shone like a jewel of stone and water and sky, the dwellers used to go out “for a ride, some through the water on these boats and others on the land, and they go on conversing.”

The sacred enclosed area
according to the reconstruction
by architect Ignacio Marquina

Tenochtitlan was an object of admiration for its thirty palaces of reddish and porous rock, for its houses for upper-class people (according to conqueror Diego de Ordás, superior to those in Spain); its immense set of immaculate white houses and constructions decorated with bas-reliefs and stone sculptures (in contrast to other peoples who made them of clay), some statues even decorated with gold, feathers and animal skins; for its yellow macaw feathers; for its precious stones such as the green of the jade and the red of the garnets; for “its florid hymns in the Spring and the flower of the opened Nahua heart,” and because in that unwonted world, which had never been found a practical use for the wheel, thousands of canoes, the largest capable of transporting up to sixty Indians, converged every day in the lacustrine city.

The central plaza shown in the above image (in which place today there is a Zócalo infested with what in my previous book I called “the marabunta of Neanderthals”) took the form of a rectangle. The monuments were adorned with frescoes, lost forever after the collapse of the walls that sustained them, and besides the aqueduct there were fountains that burst forth form the soil of the central island. The palace of Nezahualcóyotl in Texcoco, a state that belonged to the triple alliance together with Tenochtitlan and Tlacopan, was fenced with more than two thousand sabines. In addition to this palace, Nezahualcóyotl had gardens in other locations “with docks full of roses and flowers, and many fruits and rosebushes of the earth, and a pond of fresh water, and another thing to see: that in the flower and fruit garden the large canoes could enter from the lagoon through an opening they had made, without jumping on the ground, and everything very whitewashed and flashing, of many forms of stones and paintings on them that there was so much to ponder.” As in my childhood imaginings recounted in my previous book [La India Chingada], the labyrinths and the artificial cascades of those gardens provided a fresh and invigorating environment.

We can imagine the impression that this world—totally apart from the known civilization—caused in the Europeans, who never ceased to be amazed at the richness of the iridescent clothing; the colors and drawings on the women’s attire with their bluish-purple hair dyed so that it shone, and the teeth stained black with cochineal; the clothing of the nobles decorated in polychromatic embroidery with drawings that represented hearts, and the showing off of necklaces of stings of jade, turquoise or enormous objects of diorite; wigs and jaguar skins, bracelets on the arms and ankles, or the simple “crowd of swarthy-skinned people under their white dresses.” The warriors painted their faces with stripes; others with yellow-ocher powder, spreading out the feet with copal ointments and tattooing their hands with schemes. It was a spectacle to see them around the emperor, the cloth banners and the immense adornments of gold and exquisitely cut quetzal feathers forming bouquets of a thousand colors; arts elaborated under a mosaic-like technique in sharp contrast to the blackish clothes of the priests with figures of skulls and human bones. How mistaken is the petrified image of Diego Rivera’s Anahuacalli Museum to convey the universe opened to the free, luminous and multicolor air of the Aztecs. But how accurate are Rivera’s own murals!

The palace of Moctezuma (which occupied the place where later would be constructed what today is the Palacio Nacional) also caused a stupor in the Europeans. Built with porous volcanic stone, it had more than a hundred bathrooms; walls covered with mosaics and roofs of precious woods; zoos and botanic gardens, pools and flower gardens. The wooden cages were in the charge of hundreds of men who attended the birds, wild cats, pumas, jaguars and coyotes; there were large ponds with herons, ducks, swans and an enormous collection of serpents. The zoo even had human freaks such as dwarfs and albinos.

The humble Nahua male who lived far from the Great Teocalli had so little time indoors and plenty of time outdoors, and when looking up from his chinampa he constantly saw “the silhouette of the pyramids and the blinding white of the edifices under the noonday sun.” (At present the footings of the Spanish buildings are full of pre-Hispanic stone and of the fragments of the bas-reliefs and the statues.) It could scarcely be said that there was profane art: practically all art was charged with religious content. Tlatelolco, the twin city of Mexico, had a plaza about the triple size of Salamanca. (From now on I will avoid the word “Aztec” which was not used until the 18th century. Instead I shall use the original term “Mexicas,” without “n,” or alternatively “ancient Mexicans.”) The appearance of the Mexica capital was of a double city. The main commercial neighborhood “sparked with the shouting of the market’s sales people.” In Tlatelolco the great temple of Huitzilopochtli was impressive because there were no other temples around that cast any shadow on it.

Tenochtitlan was an amphibian city in the middle of “waters of flowers, waters of gold, waters of emerald,” a city in such a spaced architecture of the Valley of Mexico that it had as roof the sky, and as foundation the immense greenish-blue Texcoco lake. The quantity of gods of the Mexica pantheon was so large—of the principal deities alone there were about two hundred—that the chroniclers lost count. The terraces of the nobles were crowned with gardens. Moctezuma, who had many children with his wives and concubines, had three thousand servants in his palace. The Great Pyramid or Tenochtitlan or Teocalli, shown in the above illustration, rested upon a space of 100 meters long by 80 meters wide, and it was 60 meters high. The façade began with great serpent heads, and on the platform statues supported the banners that were displayed at the celebrations. The pyramid was completely surrounded by serpent heads, which formed a fortified outer wall of approximately 400 meters long by 300 meters wide, with four doors. The two shrines, inhabited by the Tláloc-Huitzilopochtli duality, were painted: one white and blue on the north side, the other white and red on the south side. The last one was embellished with engraved skulls and battlements with the form of butterflies. To defend the temple of Huitzilopochtli was considered one of the duties of the sovereigns. Sun and rain, Huitzilopochtli and Tláloc, were the legacy of the Tenochcas: nomad warriors and sedentary Mexicas. The shrines that crowned the truncated pyramid were tight but high enclosures, which sheltered a pair of three-meter statues of these gods. The crested roofs imitated the Maya temples, and conveyed the visual effect of higher altitude. (It is remarkable that on the other side of the Atlantic a very similar structure, the Ziggurat, had been common in the Chaldean and Babylonian temples: cultures that Julian Jaynes also called bicameral kingdoms.)

The ancient Mexicans gladly detached from themselves their best art: burying animals, feathers, flowers, insects, treasures, and even human beings as offerings to the deities. The temples themselves were an immense offering loaded inside with the remains of these sacrifices that remained trapped each time that the edifice was reconstructed. The Great Pyramid or Tenochtitlan was reconstructed several times. Just as the Teotihuacan and Maya temples, it possessed several layers, one above the other like Russian nested dolls. When the Spaniards destroyed the temple they found that its entrails hid innumerable jewels of gold, precious stones and bones that had remained enclosed as an offering. Inside this pyramid was also located the military theocratic school for the education of the elite of the Mexica boys. Drawn using a perfect arithmetic that reminds us of Teotihuacan, in front of the Great Pyramid the temple of Quetzalcoatl looked special, the only circular edifice of the great plaza, and on one of the Great Pyramid’s sides, the pyramid of Tezcatlipoca. Around the temples there were annexes for worship such as the tzompantli full of decapitated human heads, many of them decomposed until they turned into skulls, artistically placed in horizontal order. The houses of the Indian chiefs were enormous constructions of wood. The largest rooms were more than thirty meters long and thirty meters wide.

It is curious that my imaginings when taking a bath in my house of San Lorenzo, as recounted in my previous book [I was seven years old], had a counterpart in the reality of the past. It is true that in those imaginings I did not visualize the resonating drums or the reddish homes of the temples, if we consider that in Tenochtitlan mostly percussion instruments were used. But something of these dances and collective intoxication, a catharsis of something recondite in the Nahua soul, reached the mind of the child I was then. (Many have listened to the group of children, myself included, playing the vertical drum called huéhuetl thanks to a commercial recording made when I studied in the musical method of my father: a man passionate for the native folklore.) The great dance celebrated at the bottom level of the pyramids lasted hours under the light of huge braziers deep in the night. Dances started at the hiding of the sun amidst the sound of the flutes (precisely what I imagined hearing when I was a child), the drums of the temples, and the flames of the enormous tripods burning woods. Nothing was more important, writes Jacques Soustelle, than these songs and dances for the ancient Mexicans.

Nothing of my name will some day be?
Nothing of my fame on earth?
At least the flowers, at least the songs!



Sahagún’s exclamation

As an immigrant I have worked in the heart of Houston, in the middle of its skyscrapers. The photographic postcards of downtown I saw in the hotel where I worked were deceptive: they flaunted only the luminous side of the Texan city. They never showed what I saw a few blocks away from my job: ugly streets, dreadful misery and homeless blacks.

Something similar can be said about the illustrations of the previous section. If Tenochtitlan was kept beautiful it was because of the captive people from other towns forced to work. The Anonymous Conqueror tells us that the war prisoners whom the Mexicas would not cannibalize were made slaves. Had one of them written an autobiography, say, like the ones written by those women who escape the countries under Sharia, it would be a literary sensation in our times. And who had worked to build up the great temples and to open the wide avenues? The swarms of workers around the Texcoco lake, forced to work as part of the towns’ tribute to the empire, should not have looked very different from the scenes of Apocalypto before the camera showed us the center of the Maya city.

Eye to eye with its beauty, handicapped people, thieves and prostitutes were also visible in Tenochtitlan; and unlike the nobles, the common people carried only a loincloth and a special cape, not of cotton cloth but derived from the threads of the maguey cactus, and walked barefoot before their superiors. Only those elevated in the social strata were allowed to wear sandals. And just as in contemporary Mexico City, with its old mansions of Las Lomas or the Americanized building district in Santa Fe coexisting with the poorest neighborhoods, unlike the Nezahualcóyotl palaces and the mansions near the Teocalli, the Mexica common home consisted of a single sleeping room.

It is true that flowers and death adorn the lyrics of the Mexicas. But a line of one of their poems—“Let’s hope (prisoners) are dragged here, All the country must be desolated”—unveils the other side of the Nahua soul. In that world flowers rain incessantly beside the macabre, although magnificent, Mexica statuary. Every time I watch the panic stare of the Chac Mool found at the footings of the Great Pyramid of Tenochtitlan I ask myself what could he have been looking at (excavations performed between 1978 and 2000 in the temple recovered more than a hundred skulls, many of them of children). There is much truth, and also much deception, in the illustration of the previous section. For example, blood is not shown on the staircases. In the real Tenochtitlan, not in the idealized postcard, the very steep temple staircases—whose purpose was that the bodies could fall without obstacles—were stained with sacrificial blood (such staircases’ blood is visible in one of Rivera’s murals and in Gibson’s film).

In the pictorial reconstruction based on the plans of the architect Ignacio Marquina, the pathos of the sacrifice that is taking place over the immense stone quauhtemaláctl is also missing, a stone that in the illustration is visible in the plaza of the Great Teocalli. This circular stone was used as theater of a gladiatorial sacrifice where the attackers gradually injured a leg, the head or the abdomen of a man tethered to the stone in a ritual properly called tlahuahuanaliztli, “the laceration.” (This was the human equivalent to a wounded bull in bullfighting, where those colorful sticks with a barbed point are placed on the top of the bull’s shoulder.) At the end of the gladiatorial sacrifice the human heart was extracted. This was such an important spectacle that the king Axayácatl requested the manpower of hundreds of men to drag the monumental stone from the road that united Coyoacán with Tenochtitlan. Needless to say, the comfort that in the illustration the noble who watches the spectacle experiences under the shadow is the inverse of what in real life the lacerated man must have felt in the world’s most beautiful city.

As of this writing, during the previous month the movie Apocalypto was still in the Mexican theaters. Contrary to the prognostication that it would not have a good welcome in Mexico, the film’s revenues displaced other memorable movies. Still, many people became furious claiming that it was unjust to focus on the dark side of the Maya culture instead of its mathematics, astronomy, or disappearance. Guatemala Indian activists asked the public not to go to the theaters and some people even denied the historicity of human sacrifice in pre-Columbian America. One of the craziest Mexicans wrote a month before the premier: “Personally, I’m ashamed of the little Spanish blood I have. I prefer to be a cannibal and demonstrate the splendor of this culture far higher than the Spanish. I crave to die at the obsidian’s edge. Our hearts only want the glorious death.” (Obsidian is brittle; the Mexicas used instead silex knife blades.) As a response to this rending of nationalist garments, in an editorial of the Mexican newspaper Reforma Juan Pardinas wrote: “The bad news is that this historical interpretation bears some resemblances with reality. Mel Gibson’s characters are more similar to the Mayas of the Bonampak murals that the ones that appear in the SEP school textbooks,” the Mexican Secretariat of Public Education, where children learn that the ancient Yucatecans used the zero before the Europeans. This is like saying that the Maya had been a civilization of thinkers and scientists: the Indian Athens of the Americas. But what not even Gibson dared to show us on the silver screen is that not only adults, but also small kids had been victims of Maya sacrifices.

The sacrifice of children in Mesoamerica began many centuries before the nomadic tribes of the north established themselves around the Texcoco Lake. In El Manatí, an Olmec archaeological site in Veracruz associated with a sacrificial ritual, bones have been found of babies; femurs and skulls. After the Olmecs there came the Teotihuacans. In the Pyramid of the Sun, the largest of the Valley of Mexico, Leopoldo Batres discovered at the beginning of the twentieth century several child skeletons: offerings to the god of the water (the Teotihuacans were contemporaries of the Mayas). When I saw a photograph of the skeletons in the Pyramid of the Moon it reminded me the horrific finding of sacrificed and cocooned humans in a high wall of the film Aliens.

Let us skip the history of similar findings throughout the twentieth century and focus on the present century.

On December 2005 Reforma published an article about archeologist Ricardo Armijo Torres’s finding in Comalcalco, a Chontalpa region that some believe was the cradle of the Maya civilization, where the Mayas had perpetrated “a massive sacrifice of children of approximately one or two years old.” Chichén-itzá was named one of the new Seven Wonders of the World in 2007, with both the proud nationals and the foreign fans ignoring the fact that it had been the location of a ritual carnage. The Chac Mool at the top of the temple has a stone vessel used to hold the hearts of sacrificed humans. Thousands of Mayas died in ritual sacrifices in times of great droughts: a pointless holocaust that could not save Chichén-itzá from its fate. In the Maya ball game participants sometimes played with a decapitated head. The local legends recount that maids were thrown over into the cenote. This was confirmed recently by dredging one of them and discovering the skeletons. In addition to the physical evidence there exists pictorial evidence in Maya art about the sacrificed children. On page 25 of the September-October 2003 issue, Arqueología Mexicana published a painted scene from a ceramic of the Late Classic period “that indicates that child sacrifice was performed in well-defined circumstances.” On that very page it also appears a photo of Stelae 11 of Piedras Negras, Guatemala, showing a dead child with an abdominal cavity signaling that his heart was extracted. The sacrifice of small children continued in the Post-classic period. It was also performed in the first years of the Spanish colonization, albeit clandestinely and under the protective shadow of the caves.

The Mayas abandoned their big cities and their enormous crop fields of the Classic period. Without being subjugated they conserved distant relationships with the empire of the Mexicas. Once Maya hieroglyphics were deciphered, the vision of the Maya world changed. How well I remember the moment when I received the first information on this subject when reading a book-review in The New York Times about The Blood of the Kings, published in 1986 when I lived in the States. Although I didn’t keep the review, I remember that I got excited. In those days I wrote to a friend informing her that, far from being “the Greeks of America,” the Mayas performed rituals which objective was to provoke hallucinations in the mutilated people; that they venerated blood as a magical elixir and that every ceremony, whether of birth, marriage or death bore a tribute of human blood. I will quote extensively my letters to this friend in my next book. For now I would only add that I also wrote her about a Bonampak fresco showing a Maya prince “with a wicked face,” his court and the captives lying at his feet with panic-stricken eyes, apparently asking for a pity that they would not receive (a decapitated head can be observed on the floor). The Mayas had them cut their fingertips for the precious liquid to run free. The fresco is so famous that it appeared for some time on the Mexican twenty peso banknotes. A few years later, in the cultural magazine of Octavio Paz, I read the words of a Maya scholar, Michael Coe: “Now it is surprisingly clear that the Mayas of the Classic times, and their Pre-classic ancestors, were governed by an hereditary dynasty of warriors, for whom self-sacrifice and the spilling of blood, and the sacrifice by human beheading were supreme obsessions.”

Going back to the Mexicas, Fray Diego Durán wrote about the ritual sacrifice of children in an important celebration of the Valley of Mexico with the Indian governors present. Several months of the Mexica calendar were devoted to the sacrifice of children at the top of the mounts, just what the distant Incas did. Children were transported in adorned litters along with their executioners chanting and dancing. They were made to cry so that their tears became a good omen for the raining season. The more the child cried, the happier the gods were.

The Mexica name for the first month of the year is Atlcahualo. It spans part of February in its Gregorian counterpart (the months of the Mexica calendar lasted twenty days). Children were sacrificed to the water deity Tláloc, and to Chalchiuhtlicue, “she of the jade skirt” and goddess of thermal waters. In other ceremonies children were drowned. In the third month of the calendar children were, again, sacrificed. The French ethnologist Christian Duverger wrote something that disturbed me. In his book La Fleur Létale (The Lethal Flower) this passage can be read:

The torments. In the context of the violent pre-sacrificial stimulations, I believe it is convenient to give a place to the torture, and precisely because it is only performed by the Aztecs before the human sacrifice. The torture is not necessarily integrated to the sacrificial prelude, but it may occur. The tearing off the nails of the children that had to be sacrificed to the god of the rain is a good example of ritual torture. The nails belonged to Tláloc. Through the sacrifices of the month Atlcahualo the Mexicans paid homage to the tláloques [Tláloc servants] and called for the rain. In order for the ritual to be effective, it was convenient that the children cried profusely in the moment of the sacrifice.

Then a face pack of hot rubber was applied to them and they were thrown over a pit that hardened the rubber and prevented them from breathing.

Tláloc, the rain god, was one of the most honored gods of the Mexicas. Along with the temple of Huitzilopochtli, Tláloc’s sky-blue temple existed in the highest spot of Tenochtitlan. With the skeletons discovered at the end of the twentieth century to the beginnings of the twenty-first century it was determined that dozens of children, most of them six-year-olds, were sacrificed and buried in the northwest corner of the first temple dedicated to Tláloc (keep in mind that the temple consisted of several layers; only the first survived as mere footings to the great Spanish destruction). In June of 2005 the archeologists who worked on the temple ruins announced another discovery in the footings: a sacrifice of a very young boy to Huitzilopochtli, probably during the consecration of the building.

Photo by Héctor Montaño

I confess that over the years I have harbored the morbid fantasy of finding out the aspect of the statue of Huitzilopochtli. I dream with some futuristic “machines to see the past” to know, with a wealth of detail, exactly how terrible the deity was. It is recognized that to know the soul of a culture there is nothing like having its art in front of us. Some of the pages that I like the most of Arthur Clarke’s short sci-fi stories appear in Jupiter five, where some explorers find a statue representing an alien in the art room of an abandoned ship thirty kilometers in diameter. Sometimes the Mexica world seems so distant from my civilization that the comparison does not look excessive to me.

But going back to my fantasy. The pages that I read with most interest of The Truthful History of the Conquest of New Spain were those in which Bernal Díaz described the great statue of Huitzilopochtli he saw at the top of the great pyramid:

And then our Cortés told Montezuma, with Doña Marina, the translator: “Milord, it has been your will, and much more your majesty deserves; we have been idle about seeing your cities; what I ask you as a favor, since we are already here, in your temple, that you show us your gods and teules [demigods].” And Montezuma said he first had to talk to his great papas [high priests]. And when he had talked to them he said that we were to enter a turret [the shrine at the pyramid’s top] and an apartment in the form of a room, where there were two altars, with very rich planking over the roof, and in each altar there were two shapes, giant-like, very tall and stout bodies. The first one, to the right, they said it was Uichilobos [Huitzilopochtli], their god of war. It had a very broad face with deformed, horrifying eyes; and the whole body was covered with precious stones, gold and pearls and seed-pearls stuck on with wheat paste, which they make in that land with some sort of roots, and all of the body was full of it, and circled with some sort of great snakes made of gold and precious stones, and in one hand he held a bow and in the other some arrows. And a small idol standing by him they said was his page, he held a not very long lance and a shield rich of gold and precious stones; and around the neck of Uichilobos were Indian faces and things like the hearts of these Indians, the latter of gold and the former of silver, decorated with many precious blue stones; and there were braziers with incense, copal incense, and in them they were burning the hearts of three Indians they had sacrificed that day, and with the smoke and the copal they had done that sacrifice. Every wall of that shrine was covered with the blackness of the blood scabs, as well as the floor, and it stank so much.

The Indian baptized as Andrés de Tapia claimed that the statue of Huitzilopochtli was made of flour seeds with the blood of the children in a hardened paste; Fray Durán, on the other hand, said it was made of wood. What is certain is that the priests devoted to its cult injured their tongues, arms and thighs with straws tainted with their own blood as an offering. Even the common Mexica injured himself far more than my cousin Sabina used to do. [This is recounted in an unpublished section, “Follow the mothers”] He offered bleedings with maguey thorns by piercing his lips, ears and tongue. Men pierced their penis and the thorns stained with blood were placed in a shrine. The common Mexicas “decorated their doors with bulrushes containing their ears’ blood.” The priests, called papas by Díaz, had their ear lobes totally smashed as a result of these bleedings. In addition to tearing out the heart from the captives in the day 4-Earthquake, the common Mexica made these piercing penitences.

I mention all of this to throw light on the long Colin Ross quotation [cf. previous chapter]. The self-harmer women of Dallas pierced themselves because they believed in their wickedness and they needed an escape valve to discharge some of the pressure from the volcano of rage against their parents they carried inside. At the expense of their mental health and due to the locus of control shift, the evil of their parents had been transfused to their mentality since their childhood, making the perpetrator good and safe to attach to. Let us remember that this shift helps to solve the basic and fundamental dilemma of the human race: the affective attachment to our parents due to our long dependency. Ross does not comment on the ancient Mexicans, but according to Lloyd deMause this sort of self-injuring alleviated the Amerindians from the anxiety of the internalized image of a parent, now sublimated, that would castigate them because of a prosperity perceived as sinful (we shall see where this gets us when analyzing the West of the twenty-first century). In other words, self-harming and harming others are two sides of the same coin. We displace our contained rage on others and on ourselves because of the absolute dissociation of the resulting emotions from the treatment we received in the past. If the pre-Columbian people displaced more than us it was simply due to a more primitive form of childrearing than ours. For Claude-François Baudez of the National Center of Scientific Research in Paris, the Mesoamerican sacrifice of others only replaced self-sacrifice “on the condition that the alter is equivalent to the ego.” Human sacrifice was, ultimately, the sacrifice of the ego “as it is shown in the first place by the primeval myths that precede self-sacrifice.”

Again, this is very important, as we will see when psychoanalyzing the self-harming West.

Baudez illustrates his point with the Mesoamerican custom of eating the enemy or dressing up in his skin: a practice that occupied a place of first order of magnitude among the ancient dwellers of the continent. In spite of the fact that the socializing mode of education in our times is also abusive, the pre-Hispanic modes were infinitely worse. I cannot avoid thinking of the studies by two Mexican anthropologists that show that some sacrificed bodies underwent processes of flaying, removing the flesh from the body, dismembering, decapitation and even the showing off of the corporal parts as decoration, as can be read in the bone register (in our own times, only certain serial killers do this sort of thing). The psyche of the surviving siblings, cousins, relatives, close and not-so-close acquaintances of the sacrificed infants interiorized a greater homicidal impulse than ours: a good example to help us understand the difference among very distant psychoclasses.

Page 34 of the cited issue of Arqueología Mexicana recounts an alarming study. In Xochimilco, at the south of Mexico City, the remains of a three- or four-year-old child were discovered, whose bones presented an orange or translucent yellow coloration, terse or glassy textures, and the compacting of the spongy tissue, besides the shattering of the skull. Since in the mortuary treatment the Mexicas decapitated some bodies and sometimes boiled the heads for later esthetic exposition, the archeologists concluded that the head of the sacrificed boy had been boiled and that the skull was shattered due to the ebullition of the encephalic mass. The photograph of the skull has been published.

Moreover, at the beginning of 2005 a newspaper note was published about a discovery in the north of Mexico City, in Ecatepec: an archaeological site with skeletal remains of eight sacrificed minors. According to the note republished by Discovery Channel: “The sacrifice involved burning or partially burning victims. We found a burial pit with the skeletal remains of four children who were partially burned, and the remains of four other children that were completely carbonized.” However rustic the Spanish soldiers were, when they saw for the first time in their lives this sort of behavior it blew their minds. The first texts about the New World ever published in Europe were the Cartas de Relación by Hernán Cortés. In one of these letters, published in 1523, the conqueror wrote:

They have a most horrid and abominable custom which truly ought to be punished and which until now we have seen in no other places, and this is that, whenever they wish to ask something from the idols, in order that their plea may find more acceptance, they take many girls and boys and even adults, and in the presence of these idols they open their chests while they are still alive and take out their hearts and entrails and burn them before the idols, offering the smoke as the sacrifice. Some of us have seen this, and they say it is the most terrible and frightful thing they have ever witnessed.

In other occasion Cortés recounted that his soldiers had captured an Indian who had been roasting the body a baby to eat it. Fernando de Alva Cortés Ixtlilxochitl, a mestizo who wrote the codex that has his name, writes that one out of five children were sacrificed each year. The figure looks like an exaggeration: it is not known with certainty how many children were sacrificed in Mesoamerica. The most conservative contemporary studies say that in the Mexica world at least dozens of children were sacrificed each year.

One of the sources that the Mexican indigenistas hold in high esteem is the work of Fray Bernardino de Sahagún, who set off to the New World in 1529, only a few years after the fall of Tenochtitlan. Scholars regard him as the first anthropologist. Even a passionate indigenista like Diego Rivera painted Sahagún with a young and clever face. Writing about the holidays of the so-called Aztec Calendar, Sahagún tells us of the rituals of the first month, called Atlcahualo or Quauitleoa by the Mexicas:

In this month they killed many children, sacrificing them in many places at the top of the mounts, taking out their hearts in honor to the gods of the water, so that they gave them water or rains.

What the Mexicas did on the second month of their calendar will be explained in the next section. In the third month, writes Sahagún: “In this holiday they killed many children in the mounts, they offered them in sacrifice to this god.” He also adds a general comment about the first months of the year:

According to the testimony of some [Indians], the children that they killed were collected the first month, buying them from their mothers, and they went on to kill them on all of the following holidays until the rainy season did indeed start; and thus they killed some children in the first month, called Quauitleoa [from February 2 to February 21]; and others in the second month, called Tlacaxipehualiztli [February 22 to March 13]; and others in the third month called Tozoztontli [March 14 to April 2]; and others in the fourth month, called Uey tozoztli [April 3 to April 22], so that until the rainwater season began copiously, in all holidays they crucified [sacrificed] children.

Those of us who live in the region formerly known as Tenochtitlan know that the Spring is dry here, which means that the natives felt an unrestrainable drive to murder the little ones. It is far-fetched that those who had the genius to construct at the center of the plaza a temple to Quetzalcóatl where the sunray of the dawn could be seen between the two shrines of the Great Pyramid, at the same time could not foresee the rainy season that contemporary Mexicans know perfectly. It is elemental that something more than soliciting the rains impregnated the psyche of the descendents of the tenochcas. In the second book of the Florentine Codex Sahagún comments about the first month: “For this holiday they looked for suckling toddlers, buying them from their mothers.” And he adds: “For the killing they carried these children to the high mounts, where they had made an offering vow; from some of them they took their hearts out on those mounts, and from others, in some places on the lake of Mexico.” Both in discussions with me and in a heading of his orchestral homage to Bartolomé de Las Casas, my father has talked much about the “profound race”: the ancient Mexicans. I wonder how “profound” it was that the towns under Mexica rule offered, as a tribute, their little ones to be sacrificed. [This sarcasm against my father’s nationalism is understandable in the context of my previous book in Hojas Susurrantes.] About Pantitlán, Sahagún writes:

They killed a great quantity of children each year in these places and after they were dead they cooked them and ate them.

When I read that sentence I could not help but think about Mexico City’s subway station called Pantitlán. I ignored the fact that it was at the bottom of the lake. (In the times of the lacustrine city, the neighborhood where I write this book was also under the water.) In the same second tome of his encyclopedic twelve-book work about the traditions and customs of the ancient Mexicans, Sahagún recounts the details:

The places where they killed children are the following: the first one was called Quauhtépetl, it is a mountain range near Tlatelolco. The second mount where they killed children they called Ioaltécatl. The third mount on which they killed children they called Tepetzinco, it is that little mount that is inside the bordering lake of Tlatelolco, they killed a girl there. The fourth mount on which they killed children they called Poyauhtla. The fifth mount where they killed children was an eddy or basin of the lake of Mexico, that they called Pantitlán. The sixth place or mount on which they killed children they called Cócotl. The seventh place where they killed children was a mount that they called Yiauhqueme.

These poor children, before they were carried to the killing, were decorated with precious stones, with rich feathers and carried with blankets taking them on a litter, and they listened the playing of flutes and trumpets that they used. They had them all the night holding a wake and chanting to them songs of the idol’s priests, so that they did not sleep. And when they took the children to the places where they would be killed, if they were crying with very abundant tears, those who watched them crying were glad because they said it was a signal that rain was very imminent.

The most valuable phrase of the Sahagún opus is his exclamation that, in the most popular Mexican edition—the one by the Porrúa publishing house (2007 paperback edition)—appears on page 97:

I do not believe that there is a heart so hard that when listening to such an inhuman cruelty, and more than bestial and devilish such as the one described above, does not get touched and moved by the tears and horror and is appalled; and certainly it is lamentable and horrible to see that our human nature has come to such baseness and opprobrium that parents kill and eat their children, without thinking they were doing anything wrong.

Mel Gibson errs by quoting historian Will Durant at the beginning of his film. Human sacrifice in Mesoamerica was not a political aberration as presented in the film: it was a widespread social phenomenon. Gibson falsified history by putting as pacific a community of hunting tribesmen in contrast to the decadent city. The reality seems to be that the Amerindians who populated the small towns, and especially the naked natives that were exterminated in the Caribbean islands, were even more psychologically dissociated that the inhabitants of the refined double-city of Tenochtitlan-Tlatelolco. The variety of Indians who did not live in the big cities varied from the Caribbean cannibal to the Otomi people of the caves; from the fierce Guarani to the cannibalesque Chiriguano. In contrast to the villager of Apocalypto, the Tarahumara, the fearful Chichimeca, the Xixime and the Guarijio practiced the “dance of the head.” A virgin was shut away. A decapitated head was taken for her to “speak” to it, something that the woman had to do with fluctuating feelings of love and hate. Contrary to Gibson’s bucolic village in the middle of the Maya forest, this is what the tribesmen actually did in real history.

That the sacrifice was a popular and social phenomenon rather than a political one is shown in the fact that, after the elimination of the indigenous governments and the introduction of Christianity in colonial times, the natives adopted the cross as the form of child sacrifice. For a psychoclass that I labeled infanticidal in the previous chapter, the Spanish assimilation had incredible moments. The Indians went as far as nailing children by the hands and feet to a cross with their feet tied up before taking their hearts out. Still crucified sometimes they even threw them over a cenote, as can be read on page 81 of the second volume of the Archivo General de las Indias complied by France Scholes and Eleanor Adams in 1938. The Indian priest used to say: “Let these boys die on the cross like Jesucristo died, whom they say was our lord, but we do not know if he was.”


The Bernaldine pages

La Santa Furia by César Tort Sr., my father, is an oratory in honor to Bartolomé de las Casas for soprano, three tenors, baritone, mixed chorus and orchestra, which at the moment of my writing still has to be premiered. Las Casas, whom my father greatly admires, wrote:

Into these meek sheep herd [the Amerindians], and of the aforesaid qualities by their Maker and Creator thus endoweth, there came the Spaniards who soon after behaved like cruel wolves, tigers and lions that had been starved for many days.

Las Casas is considered the champion of the indigenous cause before the Spanish crown. Those who condemn the Conquest take note of the investigation conducted against Antonio de Mendoza, the first viceroy of New Spain, accused of having lined up several Indians during the Mixtón War and smashing them with cannon fire. As a child, an illustration piqued my interest in a Mexican comic, about some Indians attacked by the fearful dogs that the Spaniards had brought (there were no large dogs in pre-Columbian America). Motolinía reported that innumerable Indians entered healthy to the mines only to come out as wrecked bodies. The slave work in the mines, the Franciscan tells us in Historia de los Indios de Nueva España, killed so many that the birds that fed from the human carrion “darkened the skies,” and let us not talk about the slavery in the Caribbean islands with which, originally, Las Casas had so intimate contact. In La Española (Santo Domingo), Cuba and other islands the native population was virtually exterminated, especially due to the epidemics the conquerors had brought. These and many other facts appalled Las Casas, and in his vast literary corpus the tireless friar always tried to expose the excesses of the Spanish and Portuguese conquests.

English- and Spanish-speaking liberals are fond of quoting Las Casas. But was he right? In contrast to another friar, Diego de Landa, Las Casas always omitted talking about the cruelties that the Indians committed against themselves. In fact, Las Casas is often accused for having originated the Black Legend. For example, his quotation cited above is a lie: the Mesoamericans were everything except “meek sheep.” While the conquest was a calamity for many Indians, it benefited many others. Only thanks to it the children would not receive anymore the schizogenic shock of learning that their folk had sacrificed, and sometimes eaten in a glamorous party, one of their little siblings. Las Casas biased his polemical sermon A Brief Account of the Destruction of the Indies, as well as his more scholarly texts, to force Carlos V [Charles V] in his role of spiritual adviser to take the necessary measures in favor of the natives. His goal was to protect them before the trendy scholastic doctrine that they were born slaves.

In the 1930s and ’40s Harvard historian Lewis Hanke found as fascinating the figure of Las Casas as my father would do in more recent times. After reading a magnificent book by Hanke, that my father himself lent me from his library, I could not avoid comparing Las Casas to the anthropologists who have kept secret the cruelty of the aboriginals in their eagerness to protect them. A single example will illustrate it. Las Casas went so far as defending the indigenous cannibalism with the pretext that it was a religious custom, which Las Casas compared to the Christian communion. It seems strange to tell it, but the first seeds of cultural relativism, an ideology that would cover the West since the last decades of the twentieth century, had been sown in the sixteenth century.

The Mexicas had only been the last Mesoamericans providers of an immense teoatl: a divine sea, an ocean of poured-out blood for the gods. Just as the pre-Hispanic aboriginals of the Canary Islands, the Olmecs made sacrifices with a fatal whack on the head. Of the Mayas, so idealized when I was a boy, it is known much more. They were the ones who initiated the practice of caging the condemned before sacrificing them and, after the killing, throwing the bodies down from the pyramids. In 1696, with the eighteenth century coming up, the Mayas sacrificed some unwary missionaries who dared to incursion into a still unconquered region. When I visited the ruins of Palenque I went up its pyramid and down through the internal steps surrounded by a warm and humid weather, to the tomb of the famous sarcophagus of stone. I felt such place gloomy and inconceivable. I now remember an archaeologist in television talking about a drawing in a Maya enclosure: a hanged prisoner maintained alive in state of torment. The Mayas treated more sadistically the prisoners than the Mexicas. Diego de Landa recounts that they went as far as torturing the captive kings by gouging their eyes out, chopping off their ears and noses and eating up their fingers. They maintained the poor captive alive for years before killing him, and the classic The Blood of the Kings tells us that the Mayas tore the jaw out from some prisoners still alive. Once more, not even Mel Gibson dared to film these atrocities, although he mentioned them during an interview when defending his film before the criticism of politically-correct reporters and academics. Unlike them, I agree with Gibson that the disappearance of such culture should not sadden us but rather revalue the Christian culture. And I would add that, when I see in a well-known television program a native English speaker rationalizing the Maya sacrifices, it is clear to me that political correctness in our times exemplifies what in psychology is known as “identification with the perpetrator.”

Both the Teotihuacans and the Tolteca-Chichimecas were bloodthirsty. The Tenochcas, who greatly admired them, killed and flayed a princess in the year 1300: an outrage that the indigenistas sweep under the rug since this and similar murders are related to the stories of the foundation of Mexico-Tenochtitlan. Like their ancestors, the Mexicas established wars which only purpose was to facilitate captives for the killing.

Let us tell the truth guilelessly: Mesoamerica was the place of a culture of serial killers. In the raids launched into foreign territory, like the one seen in Apocalypto, the principal activity was oriented toward the sacrifice. In fact, it was impossible to obtain political power in that society without passing first through the business of the sacrifice. To prevent adolescents from cutting their nape hair-lock unless they captured a victim for sacrifice conveyed a message: If you don’t collaborate with the serial killing you won’t climb up the social hierarchy.

An explosive catharsis and real furor was freed in the outbreak of war inasmuch the Amerindians sheltered something recondite that had to be discharged at all costs. In 1585 Diego Muñoz Camargo wrote in History of Tlaxcala that, accompanied by the immense shouting when rushing into combat, the warriors played “drums and caracoles [percussion sticks] and trumpets that made a strange noise and roar, and more than a little dreadfulness in fragile hearts.” The Anonymous Conqueror adds that during the fighting they vociferated the eeriest shrieks and whistling, and that after winning the war only the young women were spared. To contribute with live bodies for the thirsty gods, not the killing in situ, was the objective. Behind there came the specialized warriors who tied up the captives and transferred them to the stone altars.

With a stabbing which purpose was not to kill the victim, the sacrificer, usually the high priest of one of the innumerable temples, opened the victim’s abdomen: a dull blow at the diaphragm level. The sacrificer then stuck the hand into the viscera poking until finding the heart. Grabbed and still beating, he tore it out with a strong pull. This eventration and ablation of the heart is the form in which the sacrifice was practiced, in identical mode, thousands upon thousands of times in Mesoamerica. The last thing that the victim saw in the instant before losing consciousness were his executioners. By tearing out the heart in such a way the body poured out virtually all of its blood, from five to six liters: the strongest hemorrhage of all conceivable forms.

Fresco by José Clemente Orozco
(1933)

Diego Durán was startled that, according to his estimates, in the pre-Hispanic world more people died in the sacrifices than from natural death. In contrast to how the Second World War is taught to us, academics are reluctant to point out that the sacrificial institution in Mesoamerica was a true Holocaust. The year 1487 signaled the climax of the sacrificial thirst. In four consecutive days the ancient Mexicans indulged themselves in an orgy of blood. The warriors had taken men from entire tribes to be sacrificed during the festivities of the re-consecration of the last layer of the Great Pyramid of Tenochtitlan. Through four days the priests, their assistants and the common citizens uninterruptedly tore out hearts on fourteen pyramids. The poured-out blood stained of red the plaza and the stone ramps that were constructed to throw the bodies down. The exact figure is unknown but the Codex Telleriano-Remensis tells that the old people spoke of 4000 sacrificed humans. It is probable that the propaganda of Mexica terror inflated the official figure to 84,400 sacrificed victims to frighten their rivals.

The 1487 re-consecration aside, we should not forget the perpetuity of the sacrificial Mexican holyday, except the feared five days at the end of the year. The blood of the victims was spilled like holy water (something of this can be seen beside Gibson’s vertical tzompantli). The reverberation of such a butchery reached the unconscious of the youth I was centuries after it. I will never forget a dream I had many years ago in which I saw myself transported to the gloomiest moment of a night in the center of the old Tenochtitlan. I remember the atmosphere of the dream: something told me, in that dense night, that there was an odor and a deposit of bodies that made my flesh creep for the inconceivable amount of human remains: a very close place where my soul wandered around. The horror of the culture was captured in the oneiric taste that is impossible to describe in words. The filthy stench of the place was something I knew existed, though I do not remember having smelled anything during the dream.

The second month of the Mexica calendar was called Tlacaxipehualiztli, literally “the flaying of the men,” during which only in Tenochtitlan at least seventy people were killed. Sometimes the condemned to be sacrificed were led naked covered with white chalk. The victims of Xippe Tótec, an imported god from the Yopi region of Guerrero-Oaxaca, had been presented to the public the previous month of the sacrifice. In Mesoamerican statuary Our Lord the Flayed One is always represented covered with the skin of a sacrificed victim, whose features can be guessed on Xippe’s skin. In that holiday, writes Duverger, the beggars were allowed to dress with the skins “still greasy with the victim’s blood” and they begged at the homes of Tenochtitlan “with that terrifying tunic.” According to the Florentine Codex, those who had captured the victims also wore the skins. After several days of using them “the stench was so terrible that everybody turned their heads; it was repulsive: people that encountered them covered their noses, and the skins already dry became crumbly.”

These offering acts were the opposite to the Hollywood images of a secret cult that, clandestinely, sacrifices a young woman. Mesoamerica was the theatre of the most public of the cruelties. In contrast to the Christian cathedrals which spirituality lies in a sensation of privacy and inwardness, the Mesoamerican temple showed off the sacrifice at the universal sight of the sun, and the average people participated in a communal event. In the holiday called Panquetzaliztli the dancers “ran at the top of their speed, jumped and shook until left breathless and the old people of the neighborhoods played music and sang for them.” The exhausting marathon was a hallucinating spectacle and the ritual murders marked the height of the Mexican party. In another of their celebrations, Xócotl huetzi, the celebration of the fire god, the victims were thrown over an immense brazier while the crowd contemplated speechless. Sahagún informs us that the Mexicans took them out of the brazier with their fleshes burnt and swollen, and that after their hearts were torn out “the people dispersed and everybody went to their homes to celebrate, since it was a day of great rejoicing.”

All sacrifice was surrounded by popular parties. Personally, what shocks me the most is the second month of the Mexica calendar, the month that I most relate to my dream, because in real life those who would be killed and skinned fainted, and in this panic-stricken state they were dragged by the hair to the sacrificial stone.

A warrior and his captive,
grabbed by the hair and crying
(note the tears on the face).



The priests also dressed themselves with the yellow-painted skins of the victims; the skin’s exterior turned inwards like a sock. Our Lord the Flayed One was invoked with these words: “Oh my god, why do you play too hard to get it? Put your golden vestments on, put them on!” The body of the flayed victim was cooked and shared out for its consumption. The Florentine Codex has illustrations of these forms of sacrifice, including an illustration of five Indians skinning a dead body. The xixipeme were the men who dressed themselves with the skin of the victims personifying the deity.

The evidence in both the codexes and on the mural paintings, steles, graffiti and pots are witness of the gamut of the human sacrifices. Even zealous indigenistas like Eduardo Matos Moctezuma and Leonardo López Luján have stated publicly that there is iconographic evidence of the sacrifices in Teotihuacan, Bonampak, Tikal, Piedras Negras and on the codexes Borgia, Selden and Magliabechiano, as well as irrefutable physical evidence in the form of blood particles extracted from the sacrificial daggers. In addition to the extraction of the heart, in the last incarnation of this culture of serial killers the victims were locked up in a cave where they would die of thirst and starvation; or were decapitated, drowned, riddled with arrows, thrown from the precipices, beaten to death, hanged, stoned or burned alive. In the ritual called mitote, the still alive victims were bled while a group of dancers bit their bodies. The mitote culminated with the cooking and communal consumption of the victims in a stew similar to the pozole. In the sacrifice performed by the Matlazinca the victim was seized in a net and the bones slowly crushed by means of twisting the net. The ballgame, performed from the gulf’s coast and that aroused enormous passions among the spectators, culminated in the dragging of the decapitated body so that its blood stained the sand with a frieze of skulls “watching” the sport. There is no point in making a scholarly, Sahagunesque encyclopedia list, about the names of the gods or the months of the calendar that corresponded to each kind of these sacrifices. Suffice it to say that at the top of the pyramids the idols were of the size of a man and even larger, composed by a paste of floured seeds mixed with the blood of the sacrifices. The figures were sitting on chairs with a sword on one hand and a shield on the other. What I said of the great Huichilobos above I could tell once more: how I would like to contemplate the figures of the so-called Aztec Pantheon. Sacrifices were performed to gods whose names are familiar for us who attended the Mexican schools: from the agrarian, war, water and vegetation deities to the gods of the death, fire and lust. Most of the time the sacrifices were performed on the temples, but they could be done in the imperial palace too. We already saw that children were sacrificed on mounts and in the lake. Now I must say something about the sacrifices of women. According to the Florentine Codex, during the rituals of the months Huey tecuíhuitl (from June 22 to July 11) and Ochpaniztli (from August 21 to September 9) women were deceived with these words:

Be merry my daughter, very soon you will share the bed of emperor Motecuhzoma. He will sleep with you, oh blessed one!

The Indian girl voluntarily walked up the temple’s steps but when she arrived she was decapitated by surprise. In similar sacrifices at the arranged time and date according to the calendar’s holiday, women were decapitated, flayed and their skins used like a trophy. Besides men, women, children and occasionally old people, the Mexicas sacrificed dogs, coyotes, deer, eagles and jaguars. The Florentine codex informs us that sometimes they went up the pyramid with the human victim tied up by the four extremities, “meaning they were like the deer.”

The writer who best transports us into this unheard-of world and who most reaches my dream of “machines to see the past” is Bernal Díaz del Castillo and his The Truthful History of the Conquest of New Spain. The spontaneous testimony of the infantry soldier differs from the dry reports by Cortés. It also differs, as a memorialist work, from the treatise that Hugh Thomas wrote half a millennium later, considered a standard reference about the conquest. It tells a lot about our primitive era to focus on the literary form of the Quixote, which is fiction, instead of the real facts that Bernal recounts: extraordinary experiences where he often was very close of losing his life. (The attitude of the people of letters reminds me precisely a passage of Cervantes’ novel: the hidalgo only lost his nerve when he run into the only real adventure he encountered, in contrast to his windmills.) The discovery of the Bernal chronicle impressed me considerably. His work was an eye-opener about the charlatanry in the Mexican schools with all of its silences, blindness and taboos about cannibalism and the cruelty and magnitude of the pre-Columbian sacrificial institution. It seemed inconceivable that I had to wait so long to discover an author that speaks like no other about the distant past of Mexico, someone whose writing I should have met in my adolescence. I am increasingly convinced that the true university are the books; and the voice of one’s own conscience, more than the voice of the academics, the lighthouse that guides us in the seas of the world.

Humboldt said that the joy experienced by the adventurer facing the newly discovered world was better transmitted by the chronicler than by the poets. In 1545 Bernal moved to the Old Guatemala, where he lived the rest of his life, although he would not write down his memories until he was close seventy. The Guatemalan poet Luis Cardoza y Aragón said that Bernal’s chronicle is the most important work about the conquest. He considers it superior to the chronicles of the military campaigns in Peru or the campaigns against Turkey, Flanders or Italy. Those who in more recent times have read Bernal in translations tell similar things. In an internet book-review it can be read: “In every page of this book lies the plots and the characters for [every] single Spielberg movie. But no movie, no adventure, no science fiction, and no Goth novel can even come close to Bernal Diaz’s first-hand account of the initial defeat [of the Spaniards] and final conquest of New Spain.” And Christopher Bonn Jonnes, author of Wake up Dead, wrote: “This story might have been rejected as too far-fetched if it were offered as fiction, but it is history.”

Unlike the soporific scholarly treatises, in the Bernaldine pages one really feels how pre-Hispanic Mexico was. The narrative about the shock that the Europeans felt when running for the very first time in history with the sacrificial institution is very illustrative. It happened in an island near Veracruz. Due to the novelty that the ritual represented for Bernal and his comrades they baptized it Island of the Sacrifice.

And we found a worship house with a large and very ugly idol, called Tezcatepuca [Tezcatlipoca], with four Indians with very large dark cassocks as its companions, with capes like the ones of the Dominicans or the cannons. And they were the priests of that idol, commonly called in New Spain [the Aztec empire] papas, as I have already mentioned. And that day they had sacrificed two boys with their opened chest, and their hearts and blood offered to that cursed idol. And we did not consent they gave us that odorous [offering] smoke; instead we felt great pity to see those two boys dead, and such a gigantic cruelty. And the general asked the Indian Francisco, already mentioned by me, whom we brought to the Banderas River and who seemed to know something, why they did it, and only by means of gestures, since by then we didn’t have any translator, as again I have said.

Those were the times before the Cortés expedition. In the Grijalva expedition, Bernal and his comrades had been the first Europeans to notice that beyond Cuba and La Española there were no more islands but immense lands. In the expedition after Gijalva’s, now way inland into the continent in what today is the state of Veracruz, Bernal tells us:

Pedro de Alvarado said they had found every dead body without arms and legs, and other Indians said that [the arms and legs] had been taken as food, about which our soldiers were amazed at such great cruelties. And let us stop talking of so many sacrifices, since from that town on we did not find anything else.

Let us also take a leap forward on the Bernaldine route to Tenochtitlan where they did not find anything else, Tlaxcala included. When they reached Cholula, a religious city of pilgrimage with a hundred of temples and the highest pyramid of the empire, dedicated to Quetzalcóatl, the Cholulans told Cortés:

“Look, Malinche [Marina’s master], this city is in bad mood. We know that this night they have sacrificed to their idol, which is the war idol, seven people and five of them were children, so that they give victory against you.”

For the ancient Mesoamericans everything was resolved through the killing of children and adults. Once the Spaniards reached the great capital of the empire, and after Moctezuma and his retinue conducted them in grand tour through the beautiful Tenochtitlan and having seen the impressive Huichilobos at the pyramid’s top, Bernal tells us:

A little way apart from the great Cue [pyramid] there was another small tower which was also an idol house or a true hell, for it had at the opening of one gate a most terrible mouth such as they depict, saying that such there are in hell. The mouth was open with great fangs to devour souls, and here too were some shapes of devils and bodies of serpents close to the door, and a little way off was a place of sacrifice all blood-stained and black with smoke, and encrusted with blood, and there were many great ollas and pitchers and large earthenware jars of water, for it was here that they cooked the flesh of the unfortunate Indians who were sacrificed, which was eaten by the papas. There were also near the place of sacrifice many large knives and chopping blocks, such as those on which they cut up meat in the slaughterhouses. […] I always called that place the house of hell.

Sahagún and Durán corroborate Bernal’s testimony about cannibalism. As we already saw, not even Bartolomé de Las Casas denied it. In History of Tlaxcala Diego Muñoz wrote:

Thus there were public butcher’s shops of human flesh, as if it were of cow or sheep like the ones we have today.

And in the chapter XXIV authored by the Anonymous Conqueror it can be read that throughout Mesoamerica the natives ate human flesh that, the chronicler adds, they liked more than any other food. It is noteworthy that in this occasion the Mexicans did not use chili peppers, only salt: which according to the scholars suggest that they had it as precious delicatessen. Human flesh, which tasted like pig, was not roasted but served as pozole. In Tenochtitlan the bodies were taken to the neighborhoods for consumption. (Likewise, there were human flesh remnants in the markets of Batak in Sumatra before the Dutch conquest.) The one who made the capture during the war was the owner of the body when it reached the bottom steps of the pyramid. The priest’s assistants gave the owner a pumpkin full of warm blood of the victim. With the blood the owner made offerings to the diverse statues. The house of the capturer was the eating-place, but according to the etiquette he could not join the banquet.

A scene of communal cannibalism
(Codex Magliabechiano)

The American practices of sacrifice and cannibalism had initiated in 5000 B.C., with the first Asian settlers in the continent that wrought the practice since the transit through the Bering Strait. I have mentioned the festivities of the month Panquetzaliztli but did not said that, according to Sahagún, in that festivity the Mexicas bought slaves, “washed them up and gave them as gifts to be fed upon, so that their flesh was tasty when they were killed and eaten.” Even the contemporary writers who admire the Mexica world agree with Sahagún. For Duverger, cannibalism should not be disguised as a symbolic part of an ancient ritual: “No! Cannibalism forms part of the Aztec reality and its practice was much more widespread and was considerably more natural than what it is sometimes presented.” He adds: “Let us open the codexes: arms and legs emerge from a pitcher placed on fire with curled up Indians who devour, by hand, the arms and legs of a sacrificed victim.” When the Tlaxcallans took the dead Tepeacas to the Tlaxcala butcher’s shops after the flight from Tenochtitlan, it is clear that the objective was not ritual cannibalism but the most pragmatic antropophagy (this shows that Las Casas’s claim mentioned above that antropophagy was a religious custom is simply untrue). Miguel Botella from the University of Granada explains that Mesoamerican cannibalism had been “like today’s bull fighting, where everything follows a ritual, but once the animal dies it is meat.” Botella points out that the chroniclers’ descriptions have been corroborated by examining more than twenty thousand bone-remains throughout the continent, some of them with unequivocal signs of culinary manipulation. Among the very diverse recipes of the ancient Mexicans, the one that I found most disgusting to imagine was an immense tamale they did with a dead Indian by grinding the remains… after a year of his death and burial!

After the massacre of Cholula the Spaniards liberated the captives from the wooden, cage-like jails that included children fed for consumption. Not even Hugh Thomas denies this. But the politically correct establishment always depicts the massacre of Cholula as one of the meanest acts by the Spaniards. They never mention the cages though, or how the captives were liberated thanks to the conquerors, instead of being eaten by the Cholulans.

However hard the nationalist Mexicans may try to palm this matter off from the school textbooks, and however hard it may seem to imagine it for those of us who were educated to idealize that culture, the ineludible fact is that only thirteen or fourteen generations ago the Mexicans consumed human flesh as part of their food chain.


“The Best Education of the World”

In each Maya city there were two wells: one for drinking water and the other as an oracle to throw the girls almost twenty meters below. When brought out at noon, if they had not died in the cold water they were asked: “What did the gods say to you?” The Maya girls got back at their babies by tying their feet and hands up. And they did something else. Artificial cranial deformation had been practiced since prehistory, with Greek physicians mentioning the practice in some towns. The Mayas placed boards at the sides of the newborn’s cranium to mold it, when it is still plastic, to form the egg-shaped heads that the archeologists have found. Furthermore, the parents also placed objects between their baby’s eyes to make them cross-eyed. Just as the elongated heads, this was a sign of beauty. (When Hernández de Córdova ventured in the Yucatán coast in 1517 he took with himself two cross-eyed Indians he thought could be useful as interpreters.) Once grown, the children had to sacrifice their own blood: the boys had to bleed their penes and the girls their tongues. Some Mayas even sacrificed their children by delivering them alive to the jaguars.

Without specifically referring to Mesoamerican childrearing, deMause has talked about what he calls “projective care”. During the fearful nemotemi, the five nefarious days for the Mexicans, parents did not allow their children sleep “so that they would not turn into rats.” Let us remember the psychodrama of the self-harmer girl in Ross’ paradigm and take one step forward. Let us imagine that, once married, she projected on her own child the self-hatred. Such “care” of not letting the children to sleep was, actually, a case of dissociation with the adult projecting onto the child the part of her self that she was taught to self-hate. Another example: In the world of the Mexica the first uttered words addressing the newborn told him that he was a captive. Just like the shrieks that made the chroniclers shudder, the midwife shouted since it was believed that childbirth was a combat and, by being born, the child a seized warrior. The newborn was swaddled and kindly told: “My son, so loved, you shall know and comprehend that your home is not here. Your office is to give the sun to drink the blood of the enemies.” The creature has barely come to the world and it already has enemies. The newborn is not born with rights but with duties: he is not told that he will be cared for, but that he is destined to feed the great heavenly body. (DeMause has written about this inversion of the parental-filial roles in his studies about western babies in more recent centuries.) In the Mexica admonition the shadow of infanticide by negligence is also cast. “We do not know if you will live much,” the newborn was told in another exhortation.

Tlazolteotl, goddess of infancy,
grabbing a child by the hair

In the above illustration it can be noted the similarity of Tlazolteotl with the image of the warrior and his captive. Just like that image, the goddess grabs the hair as a symbol of dominion. One of the few true things that Elsié Méndez told me, a woman so much criticized in my previous book, were certain words she pronounced that I remember verbatim: “La mamá lo pepena” [“The mom grabs him”] referring to those mothers of our times that choose one of their children to control him to the point of psychic strangulation.

In May of 1998 I listened in television to Miguel León Portilla, the best-known indigenista scholar in México, saying that the Mexica education was “the best education of the world.” Almost a decade later I purchased a copy of the Huehuetlatolli that León-Portilla commented, which includes one page in Nahuatl. The Huehuetlatolli were the moralizing homilies in the first years of the children. These advices were ubiquitous in Nahua pedagogy. They were not taught in the temples but from the parents to their children, even among the most humble workers, within the privacy of the home. In the words of León-Portilla: “Fathers and mothers, male teachers and female teachers, to educate their children and pupils they transmitted these messages of wisdom.” The exordiums were done in an elegant and educated language, the model of expression that would be used at school. A passage from the Huehuetlatolli of a father to his son that Fray Andrés de Olmos transcribed to Spanish says:

We are still here—we, your parents—who have put you here to suffer, because with this the world is preserved.

This absolute gem depicts in two lines the Mexica education. Paying no attention to these kind of words, on the next page León-Portilla comments: “Words speak now very high of its [the Mexica’s] moral and intellectual level.” Later, in the splendid edition of the Huehuetlatolli that I possess, commented by the indigenista, the sermon says: “Do not make of your heart your father, your mother.”

This advice is the perfect antithesis to Pindar’s “Become what you are!” which summarizes the infinitely more advanced Greek culture of two thousand years before. While León-Portilla describes the Nahua exordiums as highly wise and moral, they actually represent a typical case of poisonous pedagogy. If there is something clear after reading the Huehuetlatolli is that that education produced no individuals whatsoever: other people lived the lives of the children, adolescents and youths who are exhorted interminably. What is worse: while León-Portilla praised the education of the ancient Mexicans on national television, at the same time the program displayed images of codex drawings with pubescent children tied up on their wrists and ankles, with thorns sank into their bodies and tears on their faces. The indigenista had omitted to say that “the punishments rain over the child,” as Jacques Soustelle wrote in Daily Life of the Aztecs. The Mexica parents scratched their children with maguey thorns. They also burn red chili peppers and placed their child over the acrid smoke.

Codex Mendoza, folio 60:
Punishes to children ages 11 to 14.
Note the tears of the child and the sign
of admonition near the father’s mouth.

Another punishment mentioned in the codex was the beating of the child with sticks. Motolinía, Fray Juan de Torquemada, Durán and Sahagún corroborated that the education was fairly severe. It is important to remember that the mode of childrearing that deMause calls intrusion, the striking with objects, is considered more prejudicial for the self-image of the child than the spanking of the psychoclass denominated as socializing. It is also important to note that the parents were the ones who physically abused the children. It is true that the language of the Huehuetlatolli is very sweet: “Oh my little daughter of mine, little dove! These words I have spoken so that you may make efforts to…” But in Carta a mamá Medusa I demonstrated the short circuit that produces in a boy’s mentality this sort of “Jekyll-Hyde” alternation in the parental dynamics with their child.

The Mexicas copied from the Mayas the custom of selling their children. The sold out children had to work hard or they would be punished. A poor family could sell their child as a slave to get out from a financial problem. This still happened in the times when the Spaniards arrived. The noble that stole his father could be punished with death, and it is worth saying that the great draughts of 1450-1454 were dealt with the massive sacrifice of children to the water deities.

Which was the attitude that the child had to had toward such parents? In Nahuatl the suffix -tzin was aggregated to the persons that would be honored. Totatzin is our respected father. In previous pages I noted that the frenetic dances discharged the affects contained in the Mexica psyche. Taking into account that before such education the child was not allowed to live his or her feelings, as it is clearly inferred from the texts cited by León-Portilla not only from the Huehuetlatolli but from education in general, the silhouette of what had to be discharged starts to be outlined.

In Izcalli, the last month of the Mexica calendar, the children were punctured on the ears and the blood was thrown to the fire. As I said, at ten the boy’s hair was cut leaving a lock that would not be cut until, already grown, he would take a prisoner. In one way or the other every Mexica male had to participate in the seizure of victims for the serial killing. Those who could not make prisoners had to renounce the military theocracy and resign themselves with being macehuallis, or workers: plebeians attached to their fields who, under the penalty of death, were forbidden to usurp the honorific symbols of feathers, boarded dresses and jewels. The macehuallis formed the bulk of the society. On the other hand, he who captured four prisoners arrived with a single jump at the upper layer of society. To excel in the seizure of men for the serial killing was so relevant that “he who was born noble could die slave.”

Both on national television and in his writings, León-Portilla is filled with pride that the ancient Mexicans were the only peoples in the world that counted with obligatory schooling in the 16th century. The indigenista belongs to the generation of my father, when children’s rights were unheard as a subject, let alone parental abuse. The form in which the Nahuas treated their children, that presently would be considered abusive, was continued at school. The school education to harden the soul of the elite, the Calmécac (“house of tears”), consisted of penances and self-harming with maguey thorns. Another case of the father’s projective care was the advice to his son about the ultra-Spartan education he would be exposed in the boarding school:

Look, son: you have to be humble and looked down on and downhearted […], you shall take out blood from your body with the maguey thorn, and take night baths even though it is too cold […]. Don’t take it as a burden, grin and bear it the fasting and the penance.

“Don’t take it as a burden” means do not feel your feelings. According to Motolinía, this most beloved practice of homiletic admonitions was even longer for the girls. In the boarding school the boy had to abandon the bed to take a bath in the cold water of the lake or a fountain. As young as seven-year-olds were encouraged to break from the affective attachment at home: “And don’t think, son, inside of you ‘my mother and my father live’. Don’t remember any of these things.”

Because the child was consecrated for war since birth, the education at schools was basically military. The strictly hierarchical system promised the striving young to escalate to the level of tequiuaque and even higher if possible. If the boy of upper classes did not want to become a warrior he had another option: priesthood. About his twentieth year he had to make an election: a military life or a celibate and austere life, starting with playing the drum or helping the priest with the sacrifices. Severity was extreme: one of Netzahualcoyotl’s laws punished by death the drunk or lusty priest. No society, not even the Islamic, has been so severe with adultery and alcoholism: crimes where the capital punishment was applied both for the male and the female. The macehuallis who got drunk were killed in front of the adolescents. (The equivalent today would be that American schoolchildren were required to witness the executions of the pot addicts in the electric chair, as a warning.) The Calmécac were both schools and monasteries ruled by priests in black clothes. In the Florentine Codex an image can be seen of adolescents wearing dresses made of fresh human skins. We can imagine the emotional after-effects that such practice, fostered by the adult world, caused in the boys.

In the Nahua world it was frowned upon that the youth expressed his grudges and it was considered acceptable that he restrained and controlled himself. No insolent individual, Soustelle tells us, “no one who talked what came to his mouth was placed in the real throne,” and the elite were the first ones to submit to the phlegmatic code. And it was not a matter of concealing the grudges when, say, a boy or a girl learnt that their own parents had offered a little sister as sacrificial payment. The parents advised them in the ubiquitous sermons: “Look that your humility not be feigned, because then it will be told of you titoloxochton, which means hypocrite.” In the Nahua world the child was manipulated through the combination of sweet and kind expressions with the most heinous adultism. The parents continued to sermon all of them, even “the experienced, the fully grown youth.”


An unquenchable sun

Tell me how are your gods and I will tell you who you are. The myth of the earth-goddess Tlaltecuhtli, who cried because she wanted to eat human hearts, cannot be more symbolic. Just as the father-sun would not move without sacrifices, the mother-earth would not give fruits if she was not irrigated with blood. Coatlicue was also the goddess of the great destruction that devours everything living.

Sacrifices were performed in front of her; vicious rumors circulated around about “juicy babies” for the insatiable devourer. In the houses the common people always had an altar with the figurines of a deity, generally the Coatlicue. (In our western mind one would expect to find the male god of the ancient Mexicans, Huitzilopochtli.) The terrible goddess demanded:

And the payment of your chests and your hearts would be that you will be conquering, you will be attacking and devastating all macehuallis, the villagers that are over there, in all places through which you pass. And to your war prisoners, which you will make captives, you will open their chest on a sacrificial stone, with the flint of an obsidian knife. And you will do offerings of their hearts and will eat their flesh without salt; only very little of it in the pot where the corn is cooked.

Of the Mexica I only have a few culinary roots, such as eating tortillas. Culturally speaking, the educated middle and high classes in Latin America are basically European, of the type of Spain or Portugal. If we compare the above passage with our authentic roots, say, the exordiums of Numbers or Leviticus against cannibalism and other practices, the difference cannot be greater. Likewise, the Mexica mythology cannot contrast more with the superior psychoclass of Greece: where Zeus opens the belly of his father, Cronus, who had swallowed his siblings establishing thus a new order in the cosmos.

The papas punctured their limbs as an act of penance for the gods. These gods were a split-off, dissociated or internalized images of the parents. Even the emperor frequently abandoned the bed at midnight to offer his blood and praying. The Anonymous Conqueror was amazed by the fact that, among all of the Earth’s creatures, the Americans were the most devoted to their religion; so much so that the common Indian offered himself or herself by taking out blood from his body to offer it to the statues. The 16th century chronicler tells us that on the roads there were many shrines where the travelers poured their blood. If we remember the scene of the Mexican film El Apando, based on the homonym book by José Revueltas where a convicted offender in the Lecumberri penitentiary bled himself while the other prisoners told him that he was crazy, we can imagine the leap in psychogenesis. What was considered normal in the highest and most refined strata of the Mesoamerican world is abnormal even in the snake pits of modern Mexico. The most terrible form of Mexica self-harming that I have seen in the codexes appears on page 10 of the Codex Borgia: a youth pulling out his eye as symbol of penitence. This was like taking the disturbing Colin Ross paradigm to its ultimate expression.

At the bottom of the Mesoamerican worldview it always appears the notion that the creature owes his life, and everything that exists, to his creators: paradigm of the blackest of pedagogies that we can imagine [Schwarze Pädagogik is a term popularized by Alice Miller]. The Mesoamerican mythology speaks of the transgression of some gods to create life without their parents’ permission, thus making themselves equals with them. In the Maya texts it is said that these children “made themselves haughty” and that what they did was “against the will of the father and the mother.” The transgressors were expelled from heaven and to come back they had to sacrifice themselves. Two of them threw themselves alive into the bonfire and were welcomed by their pleased parents. The resonances of this myth appear in the practice of throwing the captives to the bonfire; and we should not let it out from our sight what Baudez said that the Mesoamerican sacrifice replaces self-sacrifice. It is merely a substitute sacrifice “as it is shown in the first place by the primeval myths that precede self-sacrifice.” This original sin condemned human beings to the sacrificial institution since “they could not recognize their creators.” (When I reached this passage in Arqueología Mexicana I could not but remember my father’s phrase that injured me so badly, as recounted in my previous book, when he referred to the damned “because they didn’t recognize their Creator.”) The sacrificial institution thus understood was a score settling, a vendetta. Moreover, in some versions of the Mesoamerican cosmogony the sun gives weapons to the siblings faithful to their parents to kill the 400 unfaithful children. The faithful execute the bidding and thus feed their demanding parents: once more, the cultural antithesis of the successful rebellion by Zeus, who had rescued their siblings from the tyrannical parent.

The connection of childrearing with the sacrificial institution is so obvious that when the warrior made a captive he had it as his son—which explains why he could not participate in the post-sacrificial feast—and the captive had him as his lord father. Some historians even talk about dialogues. When making a prisoner, the capturer said: “Behold my beloved son,” and the prisoner responded: “Behold my honored father.” In one of the water holydays of the Tota forest, which means “Our Father,” a girl was taken beside the highest tree to be sacrificed. Each time that the priest lifted a heart toward the sky as a sun offering the catastrophe that threatens the universe was, once more, postponed because “without the red and warm elixir of the sacrificed victims the universe was doomed to freeze.” As modern schizophrenics reason, the universe of the common Mesoamerican, just as the bicameral minds of other cultures, was constantly threatened and exposed to a catastrophe. The primordial function of the human race was to feed their parents, intonan intota Tlaltecuhtli Tonatiuh, “to our mother and our father, the earth and the sun.” The elegance of these four Nahua words evokes the compact Latin.

In the Mexica world destiny was pre-determined by the tonalpohualli, “the count of the days” of the calendar where an individual’s birth by astrological sign was his fate. If León-Portilla had in mind the pre-Columbian cultures, he erred in his article “Identidad y crisis” published in July of 2008 in Reforma, by concluding that in antiquity the sun was seen as the “provider of life.” Duverger makes the keen observation that the solar deity, which appears at the center of the calendar, was so distant that it was not even worshipped directly. Instead of providing life the insatiable deity demanded more and more energy, under the penalty of freezing the world (“We are still here—we, your parents—who have put you here to suffer, because with this the world is preserved”). The noonday heavenly body is not a provider of energy: it demands it. The thirsty tongue that appears at the Stone of the Sun looks like a dagger: it represents the knife used during the sacrifices. The solar calendar with Tonatiuh at the center of the cosmos was an absolute destiny: he could not even be implored. It is important to mention the psychohistorical studies about the diverse deities of the most archaic form of infanticidal cultures: they were all too remote to be approached according to deMause.

When I think of the musician that sacrificed himself voluntarily to Tezcatlipoca in the holyday of the month Tóxcatl, which according to Sahagún was a holiday as sacred to the Mexicas as Easter to Christians, I see the culture of the ancient Mexicans under all of its sun. (Pedro de Alvarado would perpetrate the massacre in the main temple when he feared he would be sacrificed after that holiday.) Baudez’s self-sacrificial observation is worth remembering again. Like the martyr of Golgotha who had to drink from the calyx that deep down he wanted to take away from himself, only if the young Indian submitted voluntarily to the horrifying death he earned the inscrutable love of the father. This is identical to the most dissociated families in the Islamist world, as can be gathered from deMause’s article “If I blow myself up and become a martyr, I’ll finally be loved.” But unlike Alvarado and the conquerors’ metaphorical Easter (and even contemporary Islamists), the Mexicas literally killed their beloved one before decapitating him and showing off his head in the tzompantli.

Just as the mentality of the Ancient World’s most primitive cultures, in the Mesoamerican world, where the solar cycle reigned since the Mayas and perhaps before, “the sacrifice was performed to feed the parent with food (hearts) and drinking (blood).” I had said that the priest’s helpers gave the captive’s “father” a pumpkin full of warm blood of his “son.” With this blood he dampened the lips of the statues, the introjected and demanding “shadows” of their own parents, to feed them. The priests smeared their idols with fresh blood and, as Bernal Díaz told us, the principal shrines were soaked with stench scabs, including the pinnacle of the Great Teocalli.

In our times, the ones who belong to this psychoclass are those who show off their acts by smearing the walls with their victims’ blood: people who have suffered a much more regressive mode of childrearing than the average westerner. Richard Rhodes explains in Why they Kill that Lonnie Athens, the Darwin of postmodern criminology, discovered that those who commit violent crimes were horribly subjected to violence as children. One hundred percent of the criminals that Athens interviewed in the Iowa and California prisons had been brutalized in their tender years.* An extreme case at the other side of the Atlantic was that of a serial killer of children, Jürgen Bartsch, analyzed by Alice Miller in For Your Own Good. Bartsch had been martyred at home in a far more horrific way than I was. Miller believes that Bartsch gloated over by seeing the panic-stricken looks in the children’s eyes; the children that he mutilated in order to see the martyred boy that inhabited in Bartsch himself.

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* Abby Stein has confirmed these findings recently (Journal of Psychohistory, 36, 4, 320-27). It is worth saying that, due to the foundational taboo of the human mind, when in January of 2008 I edited the Wikipedia article Criminology it surprised me to find, in the section where I added mention to Athens, only the biological theories about the etiology of the criminal mind.




An Encounter of Psychoclasses

Julian Jaynes wrote:

I have endeavored in these two chapters to examine the record of a huge time span to reveal the plausibility that man and his early civilizations had a profoundly different mentality from our own, that in fact men an women were not conscious as we are, were not responsible for their actions, and therefore cannot be given credit or blame for anything that was done over these vast millennia of time.

In his book Jaynes complains that the translators of the texts of the Ancient World color their translations with abstract words absolutely incompressible for the bicameral mentality of other times. Personally, once I realized that psychoclasses exist, the Hollywood movies that retroproject our modern psyche onto epic adventures of the historical past look rather silly, as if man had always been the same.

The indigenistas talk wonders of the Mexica herbalist medicine in spite of the fact that it was impregnated with paleologic thinking. Most of the cures were oriented to expel the evil spirits. If the ailment was “the cold disease,” offerings were performed on the particular mount that aroused special devotion. The diagnosis did not rely on empirical observation, but on divination; and if a god had sent the disease offerings to that deity had to be performed. As Silvano Arieti wrote, his schizophrenic patients interpreted everything that occurred as wished by external agents. Far more disturbing was the propensity of Mesoamericans to perform trepanations to let the evil spirits go. The record of this practice on trepanated skulls is an Indian skull with five large holes.

Most interesting is the first act coming from a frightened Moctezuma before the expedition members: he dispatched a delegation offering fresh human flesh to them. When the Spaniards still were in the Veracruz shore, Moctezuma’s representatives visited Cortés; killed the captives they had brought with them, and began to prepare their bodies for a cannibal feast. The Spanish did not believe what they had before their eyes. “When they saw it, it made them feel sick, they spit out, they rubbed their eyes,” wrote Bernal Díaz. It is true that in a disobedient plot Cortés ordered to cut the feet’s fingers of the pilot Gonzalo de Umbría. The Spanish captain was capable of attacking a village of unarmed Tlaxcallans and committing a massacre, as well as amputating the right hands of the Indian spies. He ordered the killing of defenseless men, women and children during the siege of Tenochtitlan, “one of the most shameful scenes that the life of that man registers,” wrote his biographer Salvador de Madariaga. It is also true that he ordered that Qualpopoca and his sons be burned alive for having killed a rearguard of Spaniards. He even ordered the hanging of two of his own, and in another plot where he feared for his life he hanged Cuauhtémoc himself. But Cortés did not indulge himself in self-harming practices. Nor did he sacrifice children. Compared to the Amerindians, the rustic soldiers belonged to a completely new dimension in the evolution of the human psyche, as distinct from the infanticidal psychoclass as a butterfly from the former worm.

Those who, through history and prehistory, have belonged to the infanticidal psychoclass invariably get schizophrenized: be Indians, Caucasians, Africans or Orientals. A noise coming from Nature or an animal that passes on the way are interpreted as omens. For these people there is no individuation, free will in the broadest sense and much less cognition or Aristotelian thought process. In the case of the Mexicas, destiny was determined by the birth date and escaped the will of the individual. The psychic climate was charged of pessimism and threatened with annihilation. The Amerindians protected themselves by making offerings to their demonic gods. When Mesoamericans felt threatened by something they punctually offered blood and hearts as an attempt to placate what, in fact, were their inner demons. In Cempoala, writes Bernal Díaz, frightened by the bearded teules (a corrupted word from teteuh, gods) that came from the East, “each day they sacrificed in front of us three or four or five Indians.” When Cortés begins his resolute advance to the great Mexican capital Moctezuma fell seized with panic. “And they sacrificed each day two boys so that [the gods] answered what to do with us.” When they arrived to Cholula “we knew that [Moctezuma] was shut away with his devotions and sacrifices for two days, together with ten principal papas [high priests].” A little after that page there appears something unbelievable in Bernal’s story. The response of the high priests was that the emperor should “let us in.”

Take note that, analogously to the magic thinking of pre-Hispanic medicine, the emperor or Huey Tlatoani did not think in Aristotelian logic. It is true that, just as Ahuítzotl, before becoming monarch Moctezuma had been high priest. But he also had been a successful general. Despite of it, in the crucial year of his reign he did not ask advice from his military chiefs but from his priests, and what is worse: he let the Spanish enter knowing that they had just perpetrated the massacre of Cholula; the city being plundered by the Spanish allies, the Tlaxcallans, and the temple of Huitzilopochtli burnt for two days, in addition that Cortés ordered the destruction of all effigies of worship. Tenochtitlan was not Cholula. Located as the only lacustrine city of the continent, it was well protected. The Mexicas could easily have lifted the bridges that led to the empire’s capital. Instead, they let enter not a mere Cortés embassy, but the captain along with all of his army (including the horses, never seen before)!

If this is not suicidal magical thinking coming from bicameral minds, what is it? The Conquest of America is the chapter of history that catches the attention as no other conquest of the history of mankind. Although Carthage suffered a similar fate of Tenochtitlan, the Romans had to fight through three very costly Punic wars throughout 120 years before razing the city. It took Cortés a tiny fraction of that time to do it: he initiated his campaign in 1519 and by 1521 he had taken the double city of Tlatelolco-Tenochtitlan. Jaynes’ observation quoted above about Pizarro, “How could an empire whose armies had triumphed over the civilizations of half a continent be captured by a small band of 150 Spaniards in the early evening of November 16, 1532?” may be said about Cortés too.

“Never did a captain with such a small army perform such a feat, nor achieved so many victories or hold a grip of such a great empire,” commented the chronicler Francisco López de Gómara. If there is something apparent in Bernal’s story is that the captain wanted to bring to an end the practice of sacrifice in each town he passed through en route to Tenochtitlan. A semi-Indian friend of mine who has read the chroniclers commented that the historicity of their stories is way above the excuse that, mantra-like, we have heard a thousand times from other Mexicans: “Winners write history.” What actually happened is that the Tlaxcallans hated the Mexicas, who through a century had been raiding them to obtain captives for the sacrifice. Had the inhabitants of Tenochtitlan been popular in the so-called Aztec Empire the Spanish would have been repelled in Mexico. A pitiful sensation produces in the reader an illustration of the book by Diego Durán with humble Indians carrying, on their bended backs, the backpacks of the newcomers in their advance to Tenochtitlan while a Spaniard appears comfortably on his horse. The same can be said of another illustration of Indians building brigantines that would be decisively used in the battle of the Lake Texcoco. Obviously, the conquest of Mexico was also a civil war.

As implied above, my father feels an excessive admiration for the Indian world. On several occasions he has argued that the fact that the poetry of Nezahualcóyotl, the most typical and refined representative of the Nahua culture, is so humane refutes the vision of the culture of the ancient Mexicans as barbaric.

But poetry is no reliable standard. The basic, fundamental principle in psychohistory has childrearing as the relevant factor, and from this point of view even the refined monarch of Texcoco was a barbarian. In a courtier intrigue Nezahualcóyotl consented using garrote to execute his favorite son, the prince Tetzauhpilzintli. The Nahua characters were seized with fratricide fits. Moctezuma I (not the one who received Cortés) ordered the killing of his brother and something similar did Nezahualcóyotl’s heir, Nezahualpilli: who also used capital punishment with his first born son and heir. Soustelle says that this family tragedy was one of the causes of the fall of the Mexican empire since the blood brothers that rose to the throne flipped to the Spanish side. But Soustelle’s blindness about what he has in front of his nose is amazing. Like León Portilla, for Soustelle “there is no doubt that the Mexicans loved their children very much.”

But that is not love. Nezahualcóyotl’s mourning after letting his son be killed reminds me the “Pietà” of my first book, my mother, who suffered for seeing me in wretched conditions when she did nothing but escalate her abusive behavior against me. More disturbing is that some upper-class Mexicas delivered their little children to the Tláloc priests to be sacrificed (as we already saw, less wealthy people also sold their children to the sacrificers): a piece of data that demonstrates that motivation was more than economic.

From a considerable distance the Spanish soldiers saw how their companions were sacrificed at the top of the pyramid of Tenochtitlan, whose heads would later be found impaled in a tzompantli together with the decapitated heads of the captured horses. When I mentioned for the first time the tzompantlis I omitted to say that they were structures on parallel crossbeams. Through holes on the temples, the stakes supported the enormous files of decapitated human heads, one after another.

Aztec tzompantli sculpted out of stone
in imitation of the real tzompantlis

Only in Tenochtitlan there were seven tzompantlis; the Spaniards had seen a tzompantli in Cempoala, not very far from the Veracruz shore, and some time after in their journey another one in Zautla, which also contained femurs and other parts of human bodies. Bernal Díaz writes: “In that state of affairs, very frightened and wounded, we did not know about Cortés or Sandoval, nor of their armies, if they had been killed and broken down [chopped into pieces], as the Mexicans told us when they threw into our camp the five heads they grasped by the hair and beards.” The demoralized soldiers wanted to flee to Cuba after the battle of La Noche Triste, when most of the Spaniards died: a great defeat for the Spanish arms on Mexican soil.

I the middle of a skirmish the Indians captured Cortés himself, but they did not kill him. When taking him over to be sacrificed their men rescued him. From the military viewpoint, this magical thinking of not killing the fallen captain but attempting to take him to the pyramid was a gross blunder: Cortés would be the man who harangued the Spanish not to flee to Cuba after the catastrophic Noche Triste. Thereafter, with the Tlaxcallan support, the war turned over and that Mexica capital was lost. Cuauhtémoc, the last Huey Tlatoani rejected the peace proposals that, day after day, Cortés offered the Mexicas. (Cuauhtémoc had been the same noble who led the signal to stone Moctezuma after the massacre ordered by Pedro de Alvarado, inspired by the massacre of Cholula ordered by Cortés.)

It is not my intention to vituperate contemporary Mexicans. As I revealed in my previous book [La India Chingada], the memories of Mexico City’s beautiful neighborhoods where I lived in the 1960s, before the city disintegrated, still feed my deepest nostalgias. Nor is it my intention to vituperate the ancient Mexicans. As I have also said, the psychoclass of the Mexicas was far more evolved than the Chichimeca: the Nomads from the north who still ate raw meat because they could not use fire; could not build houses, and lived in the caves. The Amerindian hunter-gatherers were in a more dissociated state of mind than the inhabitants of the big cities, like the refined Nahuas. And taking into account the inconceivable sadism of the Mayas with the prisoners, undistinguishable from that of the cruelest serial killers of today I have not the slightest doubt that, even though the pictographic form of Mexica writing before the syllabic Mayan represents a technical regression, the psychoclass of the ancient Mexicans marks a psychogenic advance compared to their southern neighbors.

Gotten to this point I must confess that it is painful to read almost anything related to Moctezuma. And it is painful in spite of the fact that Bernal Díaz says that the Huey Tlatoani himself shared the cannibalism of his age. “I heard them say that they used to cook for him the flesh of small boys,” and on the same page it can be read that “our captain reprimanded him the sacrifice and the eating of human flesh, and Moctezuma ordered that that delicatessen be not cooked for him anymore.” Despite of his culinary habits, the reading of the Bernaldine pages is painful because we can see a very human Moctezuma. Both Bernal Díaz and Cortés were fond of Moctezuma; and his candid, fearful and superstitious personality moves the reader to sympathize with him too. It is very difficult not to feel a particular affection for Moctezuma. It is true that before Cortés and the Spanish the Huey Tlatoani behaved like a güey (a Mexicanism that when I was a boy meant stupid). Today’s Mexicans are not as güeyes as the Mexicas. But even after almost five hundred years it is a disturbing experience to discover how the historical Moctezuma behaved.

Before the Spanish expedition reached Tenochtitlan, the most powerful man of the empire had clung to his papas of long, tangled and gluey hair with blood scabs. We can imagine the mental state of those who, time after time, stuck their hand in living bodies digging through the vital organ. They had ash-colored faces because they too had to bleed themselves once a day. When Moctezuma fell seized with panic when the alien expedition was en route to the empire’s capital, besides the priests he also consulted fortune-tellers and sorcerers. Once the Spaniards arrived, it is disturbing to learn how these men, who represented a more integrated psychoclass, took over the empire from Moctezuma: like an adult snatching the ice-cream from a little boy, who had been a magnificent host for Cortés and his enormous military escort.

The common people were as psychologically dissociated as their governor. During the long period of time that goes from the Moctezuma kidnapping by Cortés to the massacre perpetrated by Alvarado, with the exception of Cacama and a few nobles the Mexicans did not rebel against the invasion. They did not even react when Cortés ordered that Qualpopoca, his sons and fifteen chiefs were burned alive at the stake, humiliating the emperor who, with chains, had to witness the execution in the plaza of the Great Pyramid. Moctezuma was even taught to learn, in Latin, prayers like Our Father and the Hail Mary.

Cortés left temporarily Tenochtitlan to stop Pánfilo Narváez in Cempoala. Narváez arrived from Cuba with a great army; he wanted to place Cortés under arrest and liberate Moctezuma. Only the massacre of México where the blond Alvarado (nicknamed Totaniuh, the sun) slaughtered the flower of the Mexican aristocracy during the “Aztec Easter” made the Mexicas wake up. Their long lethargy reminds me an eighteenth-century observation by a Jesuit that Amerindians were grownup children, “bambini with beards.”

Unlike the Peruvians, who constantly clean the great statue of Pizarro—who behaved worse with Atahualpa than Cortés with Moctezuma—, in almost half a century of living in the Mexican capital I have not seen a single statue of Cortés, his Indian wife, or Moctezuma. So deep did the trauma of the conquest impregnate the Mexicans’ psyche that its tail can be felt half a millennium later. It is true that, after the Alvarado massacre, what had been a sort of picaresque conquering story turned into an apparent infamy, although Salvador de Madariaga qualifies the Nahua vision of the conquest by pointing out that Alvarado “was right in thinking that there existed a conspiracy” from the Mexica to attack the Spaniards after the holyday. On the other hand, through a sense of black humor even some Indian Mexicans have dared to see the cruelties committed by their own folk. In An Autobiography, the Mexican muralist José Clemente Orozco wrote:

According to them [the indigenistas] the Conquest ought not to have taken place as it did. Instead of sending cruel and ambitious captains, Spain should have sent a great delegation of ethnologists, anthropologists, archeologists, civil engineers […]. Very tactfully it might have been suggested to great Moctezuma that he should establish democracy for the lower orders, while preserving the privileges of aristocracy, thus pleasing everyone. In this way the three abhorrent centuries of Colonial Period could have been side-stepped, and the Great Teocalli would still be standing, though thoroughly disinfected to keep the blood of sacrifices from going bad, and to enable us to turn it into blood pudding—in a factory standing where, for want of it, the National Pawnshop inadequately serves.

History did not occur that way. The soldiers razed Tenochtitlan and a clergy coming out directly from the Counter-Reformation and the Reconquista took care of the statues and the codexes. A melancholic Mexica poem says: “Our lifestyle, our city, is lost and dead.” The infamous pyramid that enclosed the remains of the boy whose photo I included way above was blown up with 500 barrels of powder.

Conversely, in the sarcastic scenario by Orozco, in the world’s most beautiful city the tourists would utter wonders when escalating the Teocalli to see the great Huichilobos without any knowledge of the sacrificed child and his remains, still enclosed under the rock, dozens of meters below their feet.

After the fall of Tenochtitlan Bernal Díaz tells us that “land, lagoon and bargekennings were full of dead bodies, and it stank so much that there was no man who could endure it.” In contrast to the Manichaeism of the Mexicans, whether hispanophiles or indigenistas, Martin Brown drew some irreverent cartoons published in Terry Deary’s pamphlet The Angry Aztecs. One of them illustrates the stone blocks of the recently destroyed city: colored stones of the temples that would be used for the construction of the Christian buildings. In Brown’s cartoon there is a dialogue between two pubescent Nahuas, a boy and a girl sitting on the great city on ruins:

Boy: The Aztecs killed my mum.
Girl: The Spanish killed mine.
Boy: I wonder who is deader?

But Brown omitted the crux: Moctezuma and his folk ate the kids of that age, something that the Spaniards never did.

What destroys the mind to the point of making an entire continent inhabited by easy-to-conquer güeyes is to carry the burden, in the innermost corner of the soul, that our beloved totatzin sacrificed one of our siblings; or that this happened in the families of friends and acquaintances and that nobody condemned it. Using the language of my previous book, since the sacrifices were part of the social tissue nobody counted with an enlightened witness; let alone a helping witness when the poisonous pedagogy was being inculcated. Let us remember the ethnologic study of the twentieth century about the New Guinea tribes. The children avoided their parents when they ate one of their little siblings. The rates of child suicide among such peoples, a more disturbed society than the Mexica, were very high.

The Spanish destruction may be compared in some way to the destruction by king Josiah in 641 B.C. according to II Chronicles 34: 3-7, about which Jaynes comments that had it not occurred more archaeological evidence of the ancient Hebrews’ speaking idols could have been found. Though objectionable for the standards of our time, such measures of cultural extermination were necessary during the attempts of the superior psychoclass to eliminate the sacrifices: be them sacrifices of children to Baal or children to Tláloc.

And presently we have arrived to the section that gave the title to this book [the fourth book within Hojas Susurrantes is named The Return of Quetzalcoatl].


Quetzalcoatl’s Return

If westerners of late 19th and early 20th centuries represent the zenith of civilization in the world, New Guineans and the headhunters of Munduruku in Brazil represent the nadir. The psychoclass of the poorest strata of present-day Latin America lies at the middle of both extremes.

In contrast to most nations, Mexico City gave her name to the modern country. It was founded by the Tenochcas when a voice ordered them to establish themselves on the lake that they had arrived, “as the unembodied bicameral voices led Moses zigzagging across the Sinai desert.” It cannot be more symbolic the fact that the Coat of Arms of Mexico, which they so much shoved under my nose at school, is an eagle perched upon a prickly pear cactus devouring a snake in one of the lake islets that the ancient Tenochcas recognized. It was an odd place to found a city, but the punishing voices had to be obeyed. We can deduce from The Origin of Consciousness in the Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind that the buildings erected at the center of a community, such as the temple of Huitzilopochtli on the Texcoco Lake, were located where the guides listened the damned voices. If we now relate not only Jaynes to Arieti but also a passage of my Carta about a patient diagnosed with schizophrenia, the puzzle starts to take shape. I have in mind the woman mentioned in my Carta[Maya Abbott] that, because her parents always tried to think for her, suffered from auditory hallucinations and confessed to Laing: “I don’t think, the voices think.”

Unlike this sort of psychological analyzing—God forbid—, some historians try to make amends for the pre-Columbian Indians. More disturbing is to see a friend taking offence about our compassion. The psychoanalyst Jenny Pavisic once addressed me severely: “And who are you to condemn the sacrifices?” referring to child sacrifices in Mesoamerica.

The Tlatelolcan ceremonial showground and its surrounding neighborhoods have been excavated for archeological purposes. I have seen photographs of bone fragments of 41 sacrificed victims in the excavation of the terraces of the Ehecatl-Quetzalcoatl temple, of which 30 were little children. Just as Pavisic, many people are capable of condemning the 1968 massacre of students in Tlatelolco, but never the child sacrifices perpetrated exactly on the same place. In April of 2007 bones were found of twenty-four sacrificed children to Tláloc in Tula, the capital of the Toltec civilization, dated 950-1150 AD according to a newspaper report that circulated the world. The children had been decapitated. If we remember that the intention was to avert an environmental crisis in that way, it should not surprise us that Mesoamerican civilizations disappeared even before the conquest. The sacrifices represented the distaff that moved the fabric of that culture, and a society as psychologically dissociated that had sacrifices on its basis was condemned to random disappearance. It is as if a civilization was composed of the self-harming women in Ross’ clinic and of male serial killers [cf. previous chapter].

The iconic example of civilization disappearance is the abandonment by the Mesoamericans of their great cities, as is the case of the Mayas of the ninth century AD. From the climatic register, ice analysis in Greenland and mud of the subsoil of a lagoon in Maya areas it can be deduced that they suffered a serious draught. To deal with the draughts, just as their Mexica successors sacrificed the flower of their youth in face of external crises, from the bone register of about thirty sacrificed men, women and children it is deduced that the Mayas tried to appease the gods that had betrayed them. Had they arrived to the level of Aristotelian thought they would not have attempted to solve the problem by killing even more of their folk, and hardly would the draughts had been so apocalyptic for their civilization. Let us not forget that sudden desertion of the cities also occurred in Teohtiuacan and in Tula. Julian Jaynes comments:

I also think that the curious unhospitable sites on which Maya cities were often built and their sudden appearance and disappearance [my emphasis] can best be explained on the basis that such sites and movements were commanded by hallucinations which in certain periods could be not only irrational but downright punishing.

The why of the periodic collapse of the Mesoamerican civilizations starts to be discerned if we consider that the demographic load of a prosperous Indian city sooner or later enters a critical phase that confronts the bicameral Diktat of the dominant theocracy. It is illustrative that when Egypt suffered a draught around 2100 B.C. absolutely all authority collapsed: the Egyptian people fled the towns and the literary sources of the time remind me the apocalyptic passages of a synoptic gospel. While Egyptologists struggle to explain the “why,” Jaynes compares it with the Maya catastrophe. The Mayas suffered a massive civilizatory regression by going back to the jungle. He also compares it with the collapse of Assyria in 1700 B.C. that lasted two hundred years and that no historian quite understands. Jaynes also argues that the mystery is dissipated if we see it as a psychogenic leap. The bicameral societies are more susceptible of collapsing once the gods refuse to talk; this is to say, once man overcomes his schizophrenic stage, so overwhelmed with auditory hallucinations. The collapse of the bicameral society is but the resulting chaos of the transit to consciousness. In Egypt, Assyria and other cultures of the Ancient World the birth of a schizoid psychoclass out of a schizophrenic one (Laing magnificently describes the difference between schizoid and schizophrenic in The Divided Self) represented a formidable threat for the status quo. “Disorders and social chaos had of course happened before,” writes Jaynes, “but such a premeditated mutiny and parricide of a king is impossible to imagine in the god-obedient hierarchies of the bicameral age.” Similarly, the birth of the “helping mode” man out of the socialized man brings with it such weapons of mass self-destruction for our civilization (I have in mind feminism) that it could be said that today the white people are an endangered species.


Political correctness

The rupture of the bicameral age resulted in the greatest collision of consciousness that a society could endure. But unlike the people in the Old World, those in the New World were incapable of carrying out such intrapsychic metamorphosis. The reading of Jaynes’ book seems to suggest that the Mesoamerican world of the sixteenth-century still was bicameralized in such a way that had already been overcome at the other side of the ocean. In other words, the Mesoamericans suffered from the stagnation that in psychohistory is called psychogenic arrest.

The Amerindians got what they deserved. But presently, who condemns the ancient dwellers of the Americas? In a politically correct world it cannot be said that the infanticidal pre-Hispanics were psychologically dissociated; that the military theocracy was composed of serial killers, or that they were morally inferior to us. But the moralists were not always muzzled. In the colorful Spanish of his time, Bernal wrote a chapter, “How the Indians of all New Spain had many Sacrifices and Clumsiness that We Took Them Away and Imposed on Them the Saintly Things of Good Doctrine.” Bernal’s cheekiness does not cease to fascinate me: and it is pathetic that, half a millennium later, compared to those soldiers the historians, ethnologists and anthropologists of today have psychogenically regressed. I will illustrate it through the other pre-Hispanic empire.

Communication between Mesoamericans and the Andean people was sporadic. Just as the Mayas, the Incas deformed the craniums of the babies; some scholars believe to demarcate different ethnic groups of the Inca empire. The torments on childhood started since the first day. The newborn was washed with cold water, covered and placed in a hole made in the ground that would be used as a simple playpen. At five the child was nationalized by a theocratic state that, like the Mexica, was governed by strict hierarchies. And just as in Mesoamerica, the ritual murder of children was carried out in several Andean societies.

In November of 1999 National Geographic published an article with several photographs of mummies perfectly preserved at 6,700 meters above the sea level: the highest archaeological site of the world. Those were children that had been voluntarily given by their parents to be killed: an eight-year-old boy and two girls. “The Inca,” says the article, “obtained children from throughout the empire [for sacrifice] and rewarded their families with positions or goods.” In some cases the parents themselves accompanied the child in her journey to immolation. In conjunction with other barbaric forms of childrearing, the practice formed the bicameral minds that would be an all-too-easy prey for Pizarro (who in Spain had been a swineherd). The chroniclers wrote about those sacrifices. Nevertheless, with the perennial excuse that “Winners write history” in some Latin American circles the myth was created that the chroniclers’ stories were mythical. The discovery of the mummies at the end of the century confirmed the authenticity of the Spanish chroniclers’ stories that the children were buried alive, or killed by a blow to the head, which is how according to the autopsy they killed one of the girls.

However, just as Bolivian nationalists such as Pavisic angrily ask “And who are you to condemn the sacrifices?,” the National Geographic article is a disgrace. The author, Johan Reinhard, is afraid to judge the parents and the society that produced them. He idealizes them in the most servile way, thus betraying the memory of the children. Reinhard wrote overt falsehoods about the Amerindians, for example, “the Inca were not the brutal conquerors the Spaniards were.” He writes that on the same page in which he asserted that the Inca rewarded the parents who offered their children for sacrifice. Reinhard also wrote, euphemistically, “right after she died” referring to one of the sacrificed girls instead of the natural “right after they killed her.” And when he mentions that the chroniclers reported that others were buried alive, he hastened to add: “The Llullaillaco children, however, have benign expressions” [see a video, here, showing one of these “benign expressions”].

More offensive are the photograph headings at the beginning and at the end of the article: “Go Gently” referring to the pubescent girl that was found in fetal position buried in a hole, and “Eternity Bound” referring to the sacrifice of the three children in general. And the fact that the sacrificial site was found at the top of the mountain makes Reinhard exclaim: “The conditions only increased my respect for what the Inca had accomplished.”

In the next chapter I will approach the subject of the intellectual aberration known as cultural relativism, of which Reinhard and many other academics are distinguished exponents. Suffice it to say that the ethnologists and anthropologists are a lost cause. Our only hope lies in that another generation replaces those who presently occupy academic chairs. How I wish that the younger minds learned something about psychohistory, for example, that they became interested in the greatest adventure of the world by reading the Bernal Díaz story up to the arrival of the Spaniards to Tenochtitlan.

And I must tell how in this town of Tlaxcala we found wooden houses furnished with gratins, full of Indian men and women imprisoned in them, being fed up until they were fat enough to be sacrificed and eaten. The prisons we broke open and destroyed and set free the prisoners who were in them, and these poor Indians did not dare to go to any direction, only to stay there with us and thus escape with their lives. From now on, in all the towns that we entered, the first thing our Captain ordered us was to break open these prisons and set free the prisoners.

These prisons are common throughout the land and when Cortés and all of us saw such great cruelty, he showed that he was very angry with the Caciques of Tlaxcala, and they promised that from that time forth they would not eat and kill any more Indians in that way. I said of what benefit were all those promises, for as soon as we turned our heads they would commit the same cruelties. And let us leave it like that and tell how we were ordered to go to Mexico.

Not condemning the sacrifices of the past, unlike the first white men who step ashore on the continent did, impedes us to see the sacrifices of the present. In my previous book I had written that nationally and internationally my cousin Gerardo Tort won awards for a film about homeless Mexican kids. If we analyze this affaire closely we will see both Tort’s and the society’s lies better than in any other place. What the people of the Third World need are the most incisive campaigns of birth control and a drastic demographic reduction in the poorest countries. As I recount in La India Chingada, just as many middle-class Mexicans Gerardo responded to my comment about these prolific breeders criticizing me without proposing an alternative scenario of social engineering. The point I am trying to make is very simple. The fact that practically nobody condemns the infanticidal psychoclass in the pre-Hispanic world, and the poverty-stricken mestizo-Americans that presently breed like rabbits thus condemning countless children to poverty, are two faces of the same coin. If the abuses of the past are unseen and uncondemned, it will be very difficult to see and condemn the abuses of the present. As Orwell put it: he who controls the past controls the future.

The indigenistas who control the past are dishonest people. In the book Toltecayotl Miguel León Portilla accepts that their families usually abuse contemporary Indian women. But in that book León Portilla blames, incredibly, the Conquest for the current abuses by the male Indian to the female Indian. [This is analogous to Auster’s First Law.] He then writes that “the situation of the pre-Hispanic Nahua woman highly differed from his condition today,” and to support his claim a few pages later he quotes a passage from those Nahua homiletics that León Portilla is so fond: “The little girl: little creature, little lovebird, oh so little, so tender, so well fed…” But in the same Toltecayotl chapter León Portilla also published an illustration of the Codex Telleriano-Remensis of a Mexica housewife that looks anything but happy. In absolute contrast to León Portilla, the Anonymous Conqueror wrote that there were no people in the world who had women in less esteem than the Mesoamericans. And in his most recent book, The Origins of War in Child Abuse, deMause wrote: “Aztec females were treated even worse than Islamic females.” It is indeed preposterous that the Spanish soldiers of the sixteenth century manifested better empathy for the victims of that culture than the scholars of today. But to understand León Portilla it is pertinent to note that in Apologética Historia, written at the middle of the sixteenth century, Las Casas praised the Indian reprimands of parents to their children by calling them “sane, prudent and rational.” Las Casas even located such poisonous pedagogy above the teachings of Plato, Socrates, Pythagoras and even Aristotle.

The most recent treatise about the encounter between the Spanish and Mexican empires is Conquest: Montezuma, Cortés and the Fall of Old Mexico by Hugh Thomas. It catches the attention that, as a typical bienpensant, in the preface’s first paragraph Thomas candidly talks about the members of the two cultures without realizing that they belong to very distinct psychoclasses. On the next page Thomas writes about “compassion” as one of the virtues of the Mexica in spite of the fact that on the next line he sates that even the babies in arms were made to cry with brutality before sacrificing them! [it is a pity that I only have the Spanish translation of Thomas’ treatise and that therefore can’t quote him verbatim for this blog]. As to the treatment of women Thomas writes, dishonestly, that their position was at lest as comparable to the female Europeans of that age, although we perfectly know that European women were not deceived to be sacrificed, decapitated and skinned punctually according to rituals of the Gregorian calendar. And the women who would not be sacrificed were not allowed to wear sandals, unlike their husbands. In the codexes the Indian females appear generally on their knees while the males are on sitting facilities (This reminds me that when visiting Chiapas in his youth, it shocked my father that Indian women wore obscure clothing: their humblest figures could not contrast more with the very colorful garments of the male Indians.) And we must remember the Indian costume of selling, and even giving as presents, their daughters. The same Malinali, later called equivocally Marina or “La Malinche,” Cortés’ right hand, had been sold by her mother to some traders from Xicallanco, who in turn had sold her to some Mayas who sold her to some Chontales, who gave her as a present to Cortés. Thomas even takes as historical the words of the chronicler in regard to Xicoténcatl II’s embassy when, after Xicoténcatl’s people suffered crushing defeats, he went into the Spanish camp with words that portray the treatment of the Indian woman by their own: “And if you want sacrifices, take these four women that you may sacrifice, and you can eat their flesh and their hearts. Since we don’t know how you do it we have not sacrificed them before you.” The study of Salvador de Madariaga about the conquest, published under the title Hernán Cortés [Macmillan, NY, 1941], precedes half a century Thomas’ study. Without the ominous clouds of cultural relativism that cover the skies of our times, in Madariaga’s study it is valid to advance value judgments.

Fortunately, not all of our contemporaries live under a clouded sky. In 2003 El País Semanal published a translation of an article by Matthias Schulz that described as “demonic” and “brutal” the Mesoamerican practice of human sacrifice. Schulz also called the Mexicas “bloodthirsty.”

The politically correct Mexican indigenistas rendered their garments. In July of that year the farthest leftist of the Mexican newspapers, La Jornada, jointly published a response. Eduardo Matos-Moctezuma blurted out that “mentalities such as Schulz’s are the ones who lend themselves, because of their closed mind, to slaughtering.” But Matos-Moctezuma did not deny the historicity of the slaughtering by the Indians of their own folk. Prof. María Alba Pastor, also quoted in La Jornada, offered an absolutely psychotic and dishonest explanation for the sacrifices: “Perhaps they were a reaction to the Conquest.” For Ripley [again, this is Auster’s First Law in a historical setting]. Talking about cannibalism, Yólotl González, author of a book on Mesoamerican sacrifices, was not left behind: “Thus they gave a practical use to the dead bodies.” Take note that González does not deny the historicity of cannibalism. Her nonsense consists in her interpretation. The historian Guillermo Tovar manifested that Schulz’s text was “a Taliban Occidentalism, deprecating and oblivious of other traditions.” Mónica Villar, the director of Arqueología Mexicana, criticized what she called “disinformation” referring to Schulz’s statement that “no peoples had practiced human sacrifices in such dimensions.” Nevertheless, when the next issue of Arqueología Mexicana came out, the journal’s scholars did not refute Schulz. León Portilla responded with his favorite argument: that the Christianity that the Spaniards brought also had as its basis the sacrifice of a son, Jesus Christ. The veteran indigenista ignored the fact that precisely such theology represented a deflection from the filicide drive to a symbolic sublimation of it; and that the Roman Christian emperors and the Church’s fathers fought to banish the late forms of infanticide in the Early Middle Ages with the same zeal that conservatives fight abortion today. DeMause has profusely written on this transition and it is unnecessary to elaborate his ideas here. This is something so obvious that, in contrast to the sophisticated indigenistas, any child could understand: in Christendom parents did not sacrifice and cannibalized their children, and León Portilla’s argument is gross sophistry.

While Jacques Soustelle’s panegyric of the ancient Mexicans is stunning from the lyrical viewpoint, a closer reading of Daily Life of the Aztecs reveals its trappings. Soustelle wants us to believe that the lowest social strata of the Mexica civilization was represented by the slave, who according to him was highly more privileged than the European slave. The fallacy of his presentation consists in the fact that the Mexica slave could be sold and sacrificed. In the Tlatelolco market, the largest market of the Americas, slaves were sold tied by the neck to big sticks (as in the film Apocalypto). Moreover: the slave was not actually at the bottom of the social strata. Down there were the captives who, whether fatten for consumption or not, awaited their turn on the sacrificial stone. But moralists like Schulz are not alone. In his post-scriptum to The Labyrinth of Solitude, Octavio Paz, the finest thinker that has produced Mexico, wrote these words about the pre-Columbian world:

Like those torture wheels that appear in Sade’s novels, the Aztec year was a circle of eighteenth months soaked wet with blood; eighteenth ways to die by being killed by arrows or by immersion in water or by cutting the throat or by flaying […]. On which religious and social aberration could a city of the beauty of Mexico-Tenochtitlan be the theater of water, stone and sky for a hallucinating funeral ballet? And for which obfuscation of the spirit nobody among us—I don’t have in mind the outworn nationalists but the scholars, the historians, the artists and the poets—want to see and accept that the Aztec World is one of the aberrations in history? [my translation]

Bernal talks even more directly than Paz, more rosy-cheeked I would dare to say. The sacrifices he simply labels as “wicked things,” “great cruelties,” and the self-harming, “clumsiness.” The original Spanish prose is delicious when Bernal writes, for example, that Mesoamericans “had the habit of sacrificing their foreheads and the ears, tongues and lips, breasts and arms and their fleshy parts, and the legs and even their natural parts,” the genitals. Conversely, when Hugh Thomas mentions the cannibalism he does it cautiously, as if he does not want to cause any offence. On the other hand, the erudite and refined Sahagún, considered by León Portilla the first ethnologist of history, concurs with the soldier, as we saw with his exclamation (there are other exclamations of this sort in his encyclopedic work). Of course, if the pre-Hispanic world was an aberration, as Paz says, that does not demerit their findings in mathematics and astronomy. However, even though the best physics of the 1930s was German, our world does not argue that we should avoid condemning the Holocaust because of the great scientific findings in Germany. If we are to avoid the double standard, we cannot obfuscate our understanding of the Mesoamerican cultures on the basis of their astronomic knowledge.


The feathered serpent

While Quetzalcoatl self-harmed his leg and sprinkled blood out of his penis, he was the most humanitarian of the gods in the pre-Columbian pantheon. He never offered human blood to the gods. According to the legend, Tezcatlipoca counteracted Quetzalcoatl’s influence and regained social control by means of the dark side of the force, thus reestablishing the sacrifices in the great Toltec city. Quetzalcoatl fled away from their folk toward the East, from which the ulterior legend emerged that he would return from the Orient.

Orozco. The Return of Quetzalcoatl
Fresco painted between 1932-1934

In 1978 I went once more to live some months to the house of my grandmother [this is related to my first book]: a very numinous and even happy stage that I would like to recount in another place. I became wrapped in Jung’s Man and his Symbols and some nights I walked to the park called Parque Hundido, which contains exact replicas of pre-Hispanic statuary.

One night, alone and immersed in my thoughts as always during my adolescence, the pair of enormous replicas of feathered serpents at the park’s entrance caught my attention. It stroke me as an extraordinary intuition or divination from the collective unconscious, the fact that long before paleontology pre-Hispanics could have bequeathed us the perfect symbol of the missing link between the reptile and the bird. The two great feathered serpents of stone that I contemplated that fresh night in the park, way taller than me, were the same symbol of the caduceus: two serpents that long for their wings. Quetzal is feather in Nahua, and cóatl serpent, feathered serpent: symbol par excellence of transcendence. However hard I struggled those days to transcend myself it was impossible to arrive to my present psychogenic state, even though the unconscious drive was formidable. That night I did not understand how come the symbol of quetzal-cóatl could be so clairvoyant, so accurate to describe human emergency in such an oneiric and perceptive way. Now, exactly thirty years later, I ask myself: Hadn’t the Europeans existed how long would have taken these people to give up their practices and pass on to a later form of infanticide (say, the exposure in Rome)? Most intriguing is how long would they have taken, on their own, to reach the levels that psychohistorians call socialization.

The legend of Quetzalcoatl, that in its latest incarnation appears as a god of white skin, makes me think that the very first feathers for a psychogenic leap were already present in the New World before the arrival of the white man.

[Index page for this book here]

Translation of pages 419-482 of “Hojas susurrantes”

by Cesar Tort

Psychohistory

The three previous books of Hojas Susurrantes, and the fifth one, won’t be translated for this blog. Several of the images for this blog editon of my book, and the sentences between squared brackets do not appear in the printed edition.




Preface to the 4th book

Throughout history and prehistory children’s lives have been a nightmare about which our species is barely starting to become conscious. “Parents are the child’s most lethal enemy,” wrote the founder of modern psychohistory. While paleoanthropologists have found evidence of decapitated infants since the time of our pre-human ancestors, and while it was known that infanticide continued into the Paleolithic and the Neolithic periods, the emotional after-effects on the surviving siblings was only first appreciated by Lloyd deMause with the publishing of History of childhood in 1974. As we will see in the third section of this book, substantiated by a hundred references, infanticdal parents were the rule, not the exception. Even in the so-called great civilizations the sacrifice of children was common. In Carthage urns have been found containing thousands of burned remains of children sacrificed by parents asking favors from the gods. It is believed that infants were burned alive.

Although in a far less sadistic way than in Carthage and other ancient states, and this explains the genius of the classic world, Greeks and Romans practiced infanticide in the form of exposure of newborns, especially girls. Euripides’ Ion describes the exposed infant as: “prey for birds, food for wild beasts to rend.” Philo was the first philosopher who made a clear statement against infanticide:

Some of them do the deed with their own hands; with monstrous cruelty and barbarity they stifle and throttle the first breath which the infants draw or throw them into a river or into the depths of the sea, after attaching some heavy substance to make them sink more quickly under its weight.

In some of his satires Juvenal openly criticized abortion, child abandonment, and the killing of adoptive children and stepchildren.

My first reaction in the face of such revelations was, naturally, a healthy skepticism. This moved me to purchase books about infanticide and histories of childhood not written by “psychohistorians”, but by common historians; and I started to pay special attention to certain kinds of news in the papers of which previously I scarcely gave any importance. One day in 2006 a notice caught my eye, stating that there are 32 million fewer women than men in India, and that the imbalance was caused by feticide. I recalled a photograph I had seen in the June 2003 National Geographic, showing a Bihar midwife in the rural North of India, rescuing a female baby abandoned under a bridge. Infanticide and selective abortion, particularly of girls, continue as I write this line. According to a Reproductive Rights conference in October 2007 in Hyderabad, India, statistics show that 163 million women are missing in Asia, compared to the proportion of the male population. They are the result of the exposure of babies, and especially of selective abortion facilitated by access to techniques such as prenatal testing and ultrasound imagery. These snippets of information gathered from newspapers, coupled with the scholarly treatises which I was reading, eradicated my original skepticism about the reality of infanticide.

But let’s return to psychohistory as developed by deMause. There are cultures far more barbarous than contemporary India as regards childrearing. In the recent past of the tribes of New Guinea and Australia, little brothers and sisters witnessed how parents killed one of their siblings and made the rest of the family share the cannibal feast. “They eat the head first”, wrote Géza Róheim in Psychoanalysis and anthropology published in 1950. Gillian Gillison observed in Between culture and fantasy: a New Guinea highlands mythology, published in 1993, that the mother eats the son’s penis. And Fritz Poole wrote:

Having witnessed their parents’ mortuary anthropophagy, many of these children suddenly avoided their parents, shrieked in their presence, or expressed unusual fear of them. After such experiences, several children recounted dreams or constructed fantasies about animal-man beings with the faces or other features of particular parents who were smeared with blood and organs.

These passages are quoted in Lloyd deMause’s book The Emotional Life of Nations. Reading further in this work, one can also learn, as Wolfgang Lederer wrote when observing the tribes, that other primitives threw their newborns to the swine, who devoured them swiftly. Lederer also recounts that he saw one of these mothers burying her child alive:

The baby’s movements may be seen in the hole as it is suffocating and panting for breath; schoolchildren saw the movements of such a dying baby and wanted to take it out to save it. However, the mother stamped it deep in the ground and kept her foot on it…

Australian aboriginals killed approximately 30% of their infants, as reported by Gillian Cowlishaw in Oceania; and the first missionaries to Polynesia estimated that up to two-thirds of Polynesian children were killed by their parents. In a 2008 article I learned that infanticide continues in the islands even as of the time of reporting. Tribal women allege they have to kill their babies for fear they might become dreadful warriors as adults.

Another type of information that shocked me in deMause’s books was the frequency throughout history of the mutilation of children. Once more, my first reaction was a healthy skepticism. But I had no choice but to accept the fact that even today there are millions of girls whose genitals have been cut. The Emotional Life of Nations publishes a photograph of a panicked Cairo pubescent girl being held down by adults at the moment when her family has her mutilated. Every time I see that photo I have to turn away my head (the girl looks directly into the camera and her pain reaches me deeply). According to the French National Institute for Demographic Studies (INED), in 2007 there were between 100 and 140 million women who had had their genitals removed. The practice ranges from the partial cutting of the clitoris to the suturation of the vaginal orifice, the latter especially in Sub-Saharan Africa, some regions of the Middle East, and Southeast Asia. The INED study points out that in Ethiopia three-quarters of women have been genitally mutilated, and in Mali up to 90 percent. The practice is also carried out in Yemen, Indonesia and Malaysia. In historic times there were a large number of eunuchs in Byzantium, and in the West mutilation was a common practice for boys. Verdun was notorious for the quantity of castrations performed, and in Naples signs hung above stores saying, “boys castrated here.” Castration was common as well in other cultures. DeMause observes that the testicles of boys between three and seven years were crushed or cut off. In China both the penis and the scrotum were cut, and in the Middle East the practice continued until recent times.

DeMause’s books are eye-openers also about another practice that no school text of traditional anthropology had taught me: the tight swaddling of babies. It is worth noting that historians, anthropologists, and ethnologists have been the target of fierce criticism by some psychohistorians for their failure to see the psychological after-effects brought about by such practices. Through the centuries, babies were swaddled by their mothers with swaddling clothes wrapped around their bodies, several times and tightly fastened while they screamed in their vain attempts at liberation. Before reading deMause the only thing I knew of such practice was when I as a boy saw a cartoon of a couple of Red Indians who had their baby swaddled, of which only a little head was visible crying big time, while the Indians walked on casually. Despite its being a comic strip, I remember it made a mark in my young memory because of the pity I felt for the baby boy and how I noted the parents’ indifference. This happened decades before I read Foundations of Psychohistory, wherein it is described that this practice was universal and that it goes back to our tribal ancestors.


Swaddled boy
of the Indian tribe
Nez Perce (1911)



In Germany and in some Austrian families swaddling continued into the twentieth century. We can imagine the baby Hitler as he was swaddled by his mother, Clara Hitler, and left choking with sobs with his excrement enclosed in his swaddling bands. Even Alice Miller herself, the heroine of my third book, was swaddled as a child. In Europe swaddling is still practiced in some rural parts of Greece. The sad spectacle of the swaddled newborns in Yugoslavia and Russia draws the visiting foreigners’ attention. Even in the city in which I was born a few friends have told me that some relatives swaddled their babies.

Those who have read my previous book would not be surprised that the man in the street has barely thought about the ravages that these practices — swaddling, mutilation, growing up knowing that mom and dad had abandoned or sacrificed a little sister — caused in the surviving siblings who witnessed it. What we have before us is the most potent taboo of the species: a lack of elemental consciousness of what parents do to their children. As we will see at the end of this book, some historians of infanticide who do not belong to the deMausean school, such as Joseph Birdsell, Laila Williamson, and Larry Milner, estimate in astronomical figures the infanticide rate since the Paleolithic. If their estimates are accurate, quantitatively speaking the so-called “Holocaust” was insignificant compared to the children murdered by their parents.

But before elaborating further on this nearly unbelievable information, I must write down a few words about my forefathers.

[Those “few words,” actually pages 425-451, will be omitted in this online edition.]





A class with Colin Ross

What in the human mind makes us pick on innocents? The best text I have read on this subject appears in the book The Trauma Model by Colin Ross, whom I introduced already in my second book when talking about the unfortunate life of David Helfgott [interpolated note for this online edition: see e.g., the Academy Award-winning film Shine].


The problem of attachment to the perpetrator

Attachment theory, originally developed by John Bowlby, is one of the most fruitful platforms with which to explain human psychological development. Evolution always chooses its available mechanisms for its use, and since every living creature has the imperative to survive, hominids developed an unconscious structure to maintain the illusion of parental love even when there really is none. Perhaps the most popularly accessible way in which we can imagine presenting what attachment is, is through a modern fairy tale: Steven Spielberg’s film Artificial Intelligence. I’m referring to the scenes in which the father, Henry, warns the mother, Monica, not to imprint their adoptive son David with the program of affective attachment, if she is not completely sure that she will want to reciprocate the love that David would profess, since the program is irreversible (“The robot child’s love would be sealed — in a sense hardwired — and we’d be part of him forever”). After some time Monica reads to David the seven magic words that imprint him (“What were those words for, Mommy?”).


Psychiatrist Colin Ross

The platform which Ross is standing on in order to understand mental disorders is what he calls “the problem of attachment to the perpetrator.” We can visualize the enormous emotional attachment the human child feels toward the parent by remembering the veneration that, despite her conduct, Leonor and Josefina always professed to their mother, María [my grandmother, my godmother and my grand-grandmother respectively: the subject of the unpublished chapters]. Such attachment is the problem. In his book, Colin Ross wrote:

I defined the problem, in the mid-1990s, in the context of the false memory war.

In order to defend myself against the attacks by hostile colleagues, I sought solid ground on which to build fortifications. It seemed like the theory of evolution offered a good starting point. What is the basic goal of all organisms according to the theory of evolution? To survive and reproduce. This is true from amoeba on up to mammals. Who will dispute that all organisms want to survive and replicate? This seemed like safe ground.

Dragonflies, grasshoppers, salamanders and alligators do not have families. They do not send cards on Mother’s Day. Things are different if you are a bird or mammal. Birds and mammals are absolutely dependent on adult caretakers for their survival for a period after birth, which ranges from weeks to decades depending on the species. For human parents, it seems like the period of dependency lasts over thirty years. In some species, if the nursing mother dies, the child dies. But in others, including elephants, if the nursing mother dies, a female relative takes over the care of the young one, and the child survives. In elephants there is a built-in Child Protective Services, and there is a sociology of attachment.

Attachment is like the migration of birds. It is built in, deep in our brain stems and DNA. The infant bird or mammal does not engage in a cognitive, analytical process to assess the cost-benefit of attachment. It just happens. It’s biology. The fundamental developmental task of the human infant is attachment. You will and you must attach. This is true at all levels of the organism. You must attach in order to survive biologically, but also in order to thrive and grow at emotional, intellectual, interpersonal and at all possible levels.

We know the consequences of failure to attach from several sources. The first is the third world orphanage. Orphan babies may have an adequate intake of protein, carbohydrate and fat, and may have their diapers changed regularly, but if they are starved for love, stimulation, attention, and affection, they are damaged developmentally. Their growth is stunted at all levels, including basic pediatric developmental norms.

In the text quoted above, I have eliminated all the ellipses, as I have done with the other quotations below. Ross goes on to explain the body of scientific evidence on the effects of abuse in the offspring of primates: “The Harlow monkey experiments, for instance, are systematic studies of abuse and neglect. Little monkeys cling desperately to their unresponsive wire-and-cloth mothers because they are trying to solve the problem of attachment to the perpetrator, in this case the perpetrator of neglect.” He also mentions experimental evidence that profound neglect and sensory isolation during early infancy physically damage the brain in a measurable way: “The mammal raised in such an environment has fewer dendritic connections between the nerve cells in its brain than the mammal which grew up in a ‘culturally rich’ environment.” It is in this context that Ross states that it is developmental suicide to fail to attach, and “at all costs and under the highest imperative, the young mammal must attach.” He then writes:

In a sense, we all have the problem of attachment to the perpetrator. None of us have absolutely secure attachment. We all hate our parents for some reason, but love them at the same time. This is the normal human condition. But there is a large group of children who have the problem of attachment to the perpetrator to a huge degree. They have it to such a large degree, it is really a qualitatively different problem, I think. These are the children in chronic trauma families. The trauma is a variable mix of emotional, verbal, physical and sexual abuse.



The locus of control shift

For psychiatrists Theodore Lidz, Silvano Arieti and, in a less systematic way, Loren Mosher [cited extensively in my previous books], in schizophrenogenic families not only one but both parents failed terribly. If the problem of attachment to the perpetrator is a cornerstone in understanding the trauma model of mental disorders, there is yet another one. Though the number one imperative for birds (and in previous times, the dinosaurs) and mammals is to attach, in abusive families the child makes use of another built-in reflex: to recoil from pain. Ross explains what he calls “The locus of control shift” (in psychology, “locus of control” is known jargon).

The scientific foundation of the locus of control shift is Piaget and developmental psychology. We know several things about the cognition of children age two to seven. I summarize this as “kids think like kids.” Young children are self-centered. They are at the center of the world, and everything revolves around them. They cause everything in the world [“locus shift”] and they do so through magical causality. They do not use rational, analytical, adult cognitive strategies and vocabulary.

Imagine a relatively normal family with a four year-old daughter. One day, the parents decide to split up and dad moves out. What is true for this little girl? She is sad. Using normal childhood cognition, the little girl constructs a theory to explain her field observation: “Daddy doesn’t live here anymore because I didn’t keep my bedroom tidy”.

This is really a dumb theory. It is wrong, incorrect, inaccurate, mistaken and preposterous. This is how normal kids think. But there is more to it than that. The little girl thinks to herself, “I’m OK. I’m not powerless. I’m in charge. I’m in control. And I have hope for the future. Why? Because I have a plan. All I have to do is to tidy up my bedroom and daddy will move back in. I feel OK now”.

The little girl has shifted the locus of control from inside her parents, where it really is, to inside herself. She has thereby created an illusion of power, control and mastery which is developmentally protective [of the attachment].

Ross explains that this is normal and happens in many non-abusive, though dysfunctional, families. He then explains what happens in extremely abusive families:

Now consider another four year-old girl living in a major trauma family. She has the problem of attachment to the perpetrator big time. What is true of this little girl?

This other girl is powerless, helpless, trapped, and overwhelmed. She can’t stop the abuse, she can’t escape it, and she can’t predict it. She is trapped in her family societal denial, her age, threats, physical violence, family rules and double binds. How does the little girl cope? She shifts the locus of control.

The child says to herself, “I’m not powerless, helpless and overwhelmed. I’m in charge here. I’m making the abuse happen. The reason I’m abused is because I’m bad. How do I know this is true? Because only a bad little girl would be abused by her parents.”

A delicious exemplification of the locus of control shift in the film A.I. is the dialogue that David has with his Teddy bear. After Monica has abandoned him in the forest David tells his little friend that the situation is under his control. He only has to find the blue fairy so that she may turn him into a real boy and his mom will love him again…

In contrast to fairy tales, in the real world instances of the locus of control shift are sordid. In incest victims, the ideation that everything is the fault of the girl herself is all too frequent. I cannot forget the account of a woman who told her therapist that, when she was a girl, she took baths immediately after her father used her sexually. The girl felt that since she, not her father was the dirty one and that her body was the dirty factor that aroused the father’s appetite, she had to “fix” her little body.

But there are graver cases, even, than sexual abuse. According to Ross, in near-psychotic families:

The locus of control shift is like an evil transfusion. All the evil inside the perpetrator has been transfused into the self, making the perpetrator good and safe to attach to. The locus of control shift helps to solve the problem of attachment to the perpetrator. The two are intertwined with each other.

Although Silvano Arieti made similar pronouncements half a century before, these two principles as elaborated by Ross are the true cornerstones to understand the edifice of this work. As I mentioned in my second book, when I visited the clinic of Ross in Dallas as an observer, I had the opportunity to observe the therapies undergone by some adult women. I remember a lady in particular who said that if her husband hit her it may be because she, not her husband, behaved naughtily. In his book Ross mentions cases of already grown daughters, now patients of his psychiatric clinic, who harm themselves. These self-harmers in real life exemplify the paradigm of the girl mentioned by Ross: evil has been transfused to the mind of the victim, who hurts herself because she believes she is wicked. In my previous book I said that in the film The Piano Teacher a mother totally absorbs the life of her daughter, who in turn redirects the hate she feels toward her mother by cutting herself in the genital area until bleeding profusely: a practice that, as we will see in the next section, is identical to the pre-Hispanic sacrificial practice of spilling the blood of one’s own genitals.

In his brief class Ross showed us why, however abusive our parents, a Stockholm syndrome elevated to the nth degree makes us see our parents as good attachment objects. The little child is like a plant that cannot but unfold towards the sun to survive. Since even after marriage and independence the adult child very rarely reverts in her psyche the locus of control shift to the original source, she remains psychically disturbed. For Lloyd deMause, this kind of super-Stockholm syndrome from parents to children and from children to grandchildren is the major flaw of the human mind, the curse of Homo sapiens that results in an alter ego in which all of the malignancy of the perpetrator has been transfused to the ego of the victim. In a divided self this entity strives for either (1) substituting, through the locus of control shift, the unconscious anger felt towards the parents on herself with self-harming, addictions, anorexia or other sorts of self-destructive behavior, and/or (2) harming their partner or the next generation of children. In any case the cause of this process is the total incapability of judging and processing inside ourselves the behavior of the parent: the problem of attachment to the perpetrator.


The History of Childhood and Its Newton

John Bowlby advanced the fundamentals for understanding attachment; Colin Ross did the same for mental disorders in human beings, and I will keep his class in mind to explain psychohistory. But Ross is a physician, not an historian. In the following pages I will show the deeper reasons why parents have abused their children since time immemorial. The perspective to our past will open up in the widest possible way: a framework of thousands if not hundreds of thousands of years of what has occurred in my family and in all other families of the human and pre-human species. In both this and the following pages my biography will disappear and it will only reappear in my next book, not without having shown first the psychogenic theory of history.

Lloyd deMause (pronounced de-Moss), born in 1931, studied political sciences in the University of Columbia. After his university studies he borrowed money to establish a publishing house that consumed ten years of his life before again taking up his research work. While Freud, Reich, Fromm and others had written some speculative essays on history on the basis of psychoanalysis, such essays may be considered the Aristotelian phase of which today is understood as psychohistory. In 1958, the year in which I was born, Erik Erikson published a book about the young Luther in which he mentioned the surging of a new research field that he called “psycho-history” (not be confused with the science-fiction novels of Isaac Asimov). After a decade, in 1968, deMause presented a sketch of his theory to an analytical association where, unlike Freud and his epigones, he focused psychohistory into the diverse forms of childrearing. After the West abandoned colonialism and endured for its behavior a handover to other nations and ethnic groups, it became a taboo to focus in the dark side of non-Western cultures. By choosing a frowned-upon research area in academia deMause had to make an intellectual career independently. The drive of his research was always what the children must have felt in the most diverse cultures of the world. As we saw, the mammal, and even more the primate, are so at the mercy of their parents that the specific forms of childrearing cannot be dodged if we are to understand mental disorders. But it is precisely this subject matter, the forms of childrearing and infantile abuse, what conventional historians ignore.

In his essay “The independence of psychohistory” deMause tells us that history qua history describes what has happened, not why, and he adds that history and psychohistory are distinct fields of investigation.

Whole great chunks of written history are of little value to the psychohistorian, while other vast areas which have been much neglected by historians suddenly expand from the periphery to the center of the psychohistorian’s conceptual world.

DeMause does not care that he has been accused of ignoring the economy, the sociology and the use of statistics. “The usual accusation that psychohistory ‘reduces everything to psychology’ is philosophically meaningless — of course psychohistory is reductionist in this sense, since all it studies is historical motivations.” The statements by deMause that I like the most are those in which he says something I had been maintaining for many years before reading them, when I told myself in soliloquies that, if we have to be objective to understand exact sciences like physics, only by introducing subjectivity we could understand the humanities:

Indeed, most of what is in history books is stark, raving mad — the maddest of all being the historian’s belief that it is sane. For some time now, I often cry when I watch the evening news, read newspapers, or study history books, a reaction I was trained to suppress in every school I attended for 25 years. In fact, it is because we so often switch into our social alters when we try to study history that we cannot understand it — our real emotions are dissociated. Those who are able to remain outside the social trance are the individuals whose personal insights are beyond those of their neighbors.

Psychohistory is a science in which the researcher’s feelings are as much or even more a part of his research equipment than his eyes or his hands. Weighing of complex motives can only be accomplished by identification with human actors. The usual suppression of all feeling preached and followed by most “science” simply cripples a psychohistorian as badly as it would cripple a biologist to be forbidden the use of a microscope. The emotional development of a psychohistorian is therefore as much a topic for discussion as his or her intellectual development.

I no longer believe that most traditional historians are emotionally equipped.

DeMause adds that, when he talks with a typical scholar who only uses his intellect, he runs into a stare of total incomprehension. “My listener usually is in another world of discourse”.

The publication of The History of Childhood in 1974 marks the turning point in the field that deMause created. Putting aside the idealizations of previous historians, the book examines for the first time the history of Western childhood. In the new deMausean paradigm the force of the change is neither technology nor the economy, but the interactions between parents and children. For example, the majority of social and political thinkers set off from the premise that wars and other human catastrophes have a rational explanation, say, economics. Alice Miller and some psychohistorians maintain that at least some wars are irrational actions, and that they result from an unconscious drive: to get even with unprocessed vexations from childhood. However, the daring exposé of an entire rosary of brutalities on childhood, like the ones mentioned in the preface of this book, moved Basic Books to break the contract it held with deMause to publish The History of Childhood. The process by which from here on contemporary psychohistory was born is fascinating. In this section I will recycle and comment on some passages of one of the articles by deMause, “On writing childhood history,” published in 1988, a recapitulation of fifteen years of work in the history of childhood.

DeMause had taken courses at a psychoanalytic institute and put to the test the Freudian idea that civilization, so loaded with morals, was onerous for modern children; and that in ancient times they had lived in an Eden without the ogre of the superego. The evidence showed him exactly the opposite, and he disclosed his discrepancies by criticizing the anthropologist Géza Róheim:

I discovered I simply could make no sense at all of what Róheim and others were saying. This was particularly true about childhood. Róheim wrote, for instance, that the Australian aborigines he observed were excellent parents, even though they ate every other child, out of what they called “baby hunger” [the mothers also said that their children were “demons”], and forced their other children to eat parts of their siblings. This “doesn’t seem to have affected the personality development” of the surviving children, Róheim said, and in fact, he concluded, these were really “good mothers [who] eat their own children.”

Most anthropologists did not object to Róheim’s extraordinary conclusions. In his article deMause called our attention to a very distinct reading by Arthur Hippler on Australian aboriginals. DeMause had already consolidated his publishing house, and in the Journal of Psychological Anthropology he published an article in which Hippler, who had also directly observed the aboriginals, wrote:

The care of children under 6 months of age can be described as hostile, aggressive and careless; it is often routinely brutal. Infanticide was often practiced. The baby is offered the breast often when he does not wish it and is nearly choked with milk. The mother is often substantially verbally abusive to the child as he gets older, using epithets such as “you shit,” “vagina to you.” Care is expressed through shouts, or not at all, when it is not accompanied by slaps and threats. I never observed a single adult Yolngu caretaker of any age or sex walking a toddler around, showing him the world, explaining things to him and empathizing with his needs. The world is described to the child as dangerous and hostile, full of demons, though in reality the real dangers are from his caretakers. The mother sexually stimulates the child at this age. Penis and vagina are caressed to pacify the child, and clearly the action arouses the mother.

Keeping in mind what Ross said in the case of the second girl, we can imagine the transfusion of evil that these infants, children of filicidal cannibals, would have internalized; and how could this have affected their mental health. I believe it is appropriate to continue quoting excerpts from the deMause article: it is very instructive to understand psychohistory and how it contrasts with the postulates of anthropologists and ethnologists. Once the observations by Hippler were published, an enraged defender of Róheim responded:

I am indeed much more sympathetic to Róheim’s accounts, precisely because he does not rush to the conclusion that deMause does. Australian Aboriginal culture survived very well, thank you, very much for tens of thousands of years before it was devastated by Western interference. If that isn’t adaptive, what is?

The description that Hippler and Róheim give of this aboriginal culture seems the worst of all possible nightmares for children. But for Western anthropologists to avow condemnatory value judgments is the ultimate taboo. Some of them even accept the Freudian theory that the historical past was less repressive for childhood, and that Western civilization was a corrupter of the noble savage. But they avoid the fact that Hippler and Róheim themselves observed barbarities towards the children that would be unthinkable in the civilized world, like eating them. (Other sources that confirm the veracity of claims of filicidal cannibalism appear almost at the end of this book.) However incredible it may seem, anthropologists and ethnologists do not condemn these cannibal mothers. Under the first commandment of the discipline, Thou Shalt Not Judge, the emotional after-effects of childrearing are ignored, such as the clearly dissociated personalities that I myself saw in the Ross clinic, and even worse kinds of dissociation.

In the academic world Róheim was not as well known as Philippe Ariès, an historian who collaborated with Foucault and an author of a classic book on the history of childhood, L’enfant et la Vie Familiale sous l’Ancien Régime. Ariès started from the Freudian premise of the benignancy of the milieu towards children in past times. Just as with Róheim, Ariès didn’t deny the beatings, the incest and the other vexations against children described in his book. What he denied was that such treatment caused disturbances. “In other words,” deMause writes mockingly, “since everyone whipped and molested children, whipping and molesting had no effects on any child.” Ariès has been taken as an authority in the history of childhood studies. DeMause not only rejected his assumption that there were no psychological after-effects; he inverted Freud’s axiom. DeMause’s working hypotheses are simple: (1) within the West the forms of childrearing were more barbarous in the past, and (2) compared to the Western world, other cultures treat their children worse. These hypotheses, which broke the table laws of the anthropologists, would give birth to the new discipline of psychohistory. For the academic Zeitgeist the mere talk of childhood abuse, let alone of soul murder, was against the grain of all schools of thought in history, anthropology and ethnology, which take for granted that there have been no substantial changes in parental-filial relations.

The academics could not deny the facts that fascinated deMause. As we saw above, Róheim did not deny them; in fact, he himself published them. Ariès also did not deny them. The tactic that deMause found among his colleagues was the argumentum ex silentio: without historical trace of any kind, it was taken for granted that children were treated in a way similar that in the West today. The following is a splendid paradigm of this argument. In 1963, ten years before deMause started publishing, Alan Valentine in his book Fathers and Sons, published by the University of Oklahoma, examined letters from parents to their children in past centuries. He did not find a single letter that transmitted kindness to the addressee. However, in order not to contradict the common sense that in the past the treatment a man gave his sons was not different, Valentine concluded:

Doubtless an infinite number of fathers have written letters to their sons that would warm and lift our hearts, if we only could find them. The happiest fathers leave no history, and it is the men who are not at their best with their children who are likely to write the heart-rending letters that survive.

DeMause found the fallacy of the argumentum ex silentio everywhere, even among the same colleagues who contributed articles to his seminal book, The History of Childhood. For example, when deMause made a remark to Elizabeth Wirth Marwick about these kind of letters, and also about the diaries that parents wrote, Marwick responded that only the bad left a trace in history. Most historians agreed with her. DeMause had started to study the primary sources of these materials. Marwick was only one among two hundred historians that deMause had written to for his book project, of which he worked with fifty. He claims that in all of them the argumentum ex silentio appeared at the time of reaching the conclusions to which the evidence pointed out to.

The reasons were, naturally, psychological. An Italian historian delivered to deMause the draft of a chapter that began by saying that he would not consider the subjects of infanticide and pederasty in ancient Rome. DeMause had to reject it. Other would-be contributors went further. At the beginning of this book I spoke of the torment that swaddling with tight clothes has represented for babies. John Demos, author of a book about the family in American colonists, denied that the European practice had been imported into American soil despite the evidence that deMause had collected and published (in a television history program even I saw a drawing of an Anglo-Saxon swaddled baby). As regards other kinds of abuse in American childhood, Demos used the argument that bibliographical evidence in letters, diaries, autobiographies and medical reports was irrelevant; that what mattered were the court documents.

The problem with this argument is that in colonial times there were no organizations for the protection of childhood, which originated in nineteenth century England and which have become much more visible since the 1980s. Demos did not only argue from the basis of lack of court documents against the thesis that parents abused their children more in colonial times. He also argued that “had individual children suffered severe abuse at the hands of their parents in early New England, other adults would have been disposed to respond.” Demos’ conclusions were acclaimed in his time. But just as in his argument about court documents, this last conjecture suffers from the same idealization about the past of his nation. If other adults were unwilling to respond it was simply due to the fact that in those times the social movement of infant protection had not yet arisen.

Once deMause discarded all those who argued on the basis of the argumentum ex silentio, nine historians remained. Even while the contributors were delivering their articles, some of them showed reticence about publishing all the evidence they had found. Before publication the nine contributors — ten with deMause — circulated their articles among themselves. Most of them were shocked by the first chapter written by deMause, whose initial paragraphs became famous in the history of psychohistory:

The history of childhood is a nightmare from which we have only recently begun to awaken. The further back in history one goes, the lower the level of child care, and the more likely children are to be killed, abandoned, beaten, terrorized, and sexually abused. It is our task here to see how much of this childhood history can be recaptured from the evidence that remains to us.

That this pattern has not previously been noticed by historians is because serious history has long been considered a record of public not private events. Historians have concentrated so much on the noisy sand-box of history, with its fantastic castles and magnificent battles, that they have generally ignored what is going on in the homes around the playground. And where historians usually look to the sandbox battles of yesterday for the causes of those of today, we instead ask how each generation of parents and children creates those issues which are later acted out in the arena of public life.

Once the initial impression was past, some of the contributors were reluctant that their articles should appear beside the initial chapter by deMause, and, as I previously mentioned, Basic Books broke its contract. However, since deMause was already the owner of a publishing house he decided to publish it himself.

Although the contributors finally accepted that their articles would appear under a single cover, the history journal reviews were very hostile. Even a magazine like New Statesman derided deMause: “His real message is something more akin to religion than to history, and as such unassailable by unbelievers. On the other hand, his fellow-contributors to The History of Childhood have much useful historical information to offer.” Some reviewers were impressed by the body of evidence on child abuse in past centuries, but they supposed that future investigations would place such evidence on a much more benign context. “Ariès for one,” wrote deMause, “remained convinced that childhood yesterday was children’s paradise.”

The initial chapter of the book edited by deMause was titled “The evolution of childhood”. DeMause claims that of the published reviews on this chapter, translated into German, French, Italian, Spanish and Japanese, no reviewer challenged the evidence as such; only his conclusions. “Yet not a single reviewer in any of the six languages in which the book was published wrote about any errors in my evidence, and none presented any evidence from primary sources which contradicted any of my conclusions.” As we will see in “A Critique of Lloyd deMause” his theories are not exempt from error. Far from it! There are errors: lots of them. But these critics who rushed to judge him falsely did not see the real faults of his model. With regard to the published reviews, deMause wrote:

Since it was unlikely that I could describe the childhood of everyone who ever lived in the West for a period of over two millennia without making errors, it was extremely disappointing to me that the emotional reactions of reviewers had completely overwhelmed their critical capacities. No reviewer appeared to be interested in discussing evidence at all.

There were nonetheless magnanimous reviewers like Lawrence Stone, who in November of 1974 wrote in New York Review of Books about “the problem of how to regard so bold, so challenging, so dogmatic, so enthusiastic, so perverse, and yet so heavily documented a model.” But the majority adhered to the conventional wisdom, as did E.P. Hennock in a specialized magazine:

That men in other ages might behave quite differently from us yet be no less rational and sane, has been a basic concept amongst historians for a long time now. It does not belong to deMause’s mental universe. The normal practices of past societies are constantly explained in terms of psychoses.

Once more, the evidence as such is put aside to proclaim the conventional wisdom, which is taken for granted. In a review published in History of Education Quarterly, Daniel Calhoun wrote that deMause’s approach resembled a regression to 19th century concepts, an antiquated evolutionistic morality for Calhoun.

Despite the rejection from academia, in the next years his colleagues who contributed to articles to the Institute of Psychohistory undertook the task of analyzing deMausean theories. More than twenty scholars familiar with the subject made a constructive criticism of his work. The first academic who exhaustively evaluated it was Glenn Davis in his book Childhood and History in America. Davis concluded: “I believe the psychogenic theory of history has by now passed a crucial initial test and has moved to a new stage of development.” The academic establishment thought the opposite. The American Historical Review called Davis “a convert” and The Journal of American History published: “If deMause seems to be the Pangloss of the history of childhood, Davis, with this book, lays claim to be its Candide.” Davis felt deeply hurt. He abandoned psychohistory to continue his doctoral studies, but soon after he committed suicide by jumping from the George Washington Bridge. In the following years of the publication of his book, deMause’s journal, Journal of Psychohistory, was quoted and attacked by New York Review of Books, Harpers, Commentary, Psychology Today, Human Behavior and the London Times Literary Supplement.

Thus constructive criticism reduced itself to the same journal published by deMause. Because of the discretion of the contributors, this entailed a situation in which the most weak, and even fantastic aspects, of deMausean theory were not criticized (as I said, in the third section of this book I myself do the criticism). However, scholarly evaluations of the evidence of the treatment of children in the past presented by deMause were published.

William Langer, Richard Trextler, Barbara Kellum and R.H. Helmholz backed up the evidence about infanticide. One of the most interesting aspects of such segregation between orthodox academics and those who moved inside deMause’s circle is that today’s encyclopedias, such as the Britannica of 2007, continue to claim that infanticide was done out of poverty. Langer and other authors had demonstrated that rich people committed infanticide in a greater scale than the poor. This is one of the problems that show up when the academia decides to ignore a field of study.

Among the psychohistorians, in Germany Friedhelm Nyssen wrote Die Geschichte der Kindheit bei L. DeMause, in which he examined the bibliographical references he could track in the works by deMause. Another German, Aurel Ende, focused on verifying the historical sources of the battering of German children by their parents. Raffael Scheck examined more that seventy autobiographies of Germans born between 1740 and 1820 and confirmed Ende’s findings. Keeping in mind the class with Colin Ross on the attachment to the perpetrator, it is interesting that Scheck wrote: “In most autobiographies can be felt how much children loved their parents even when they were cold, beating and abusive.” Attachment to the parental figure so much permeates the human mind that the ubiquity of the social identification with the perpetrator should not seem odd for us. For instance, in a couple of articles of deMause’s journal, Karen Taylor documented in great detail how the conservative sectors opposed the movement against violence on children in the nineteenth century.

Elizabeth Pleck studied more than a hundred autobiographies, diaries and letters by Americans written between 1650 and 1900 in Domestic Tyranny: The Making of American Social Policy Against Family Violence from Colonial Times to the Present, and she quantified her findings. It is interesting to note that, according to Pleck, in the first half of the nineteenth century parents started to shift from beating their children with objects to spanking. The American Joseph Illick, who had contributed to one of the chapters of The History of Childhood, wrote in 1985: “DeMause created an interest in the history of childhood which did not exist before, and he has been the original source of inspiration for most of the scholarship on childhood in this country over the past decade.” Peter Petschauer, a German psychohistorian, expanded in great detail on how swaddling was practiced along with other barbarities in Prussian education. Other European researchers of childhood also commented on the work by deMause: Katharina Rutschky, Alice Miller and Linda Pollock. Miller accepted both deMause’s material and his conclusions. Rutschky only accepted the evidence but rejected the conclusions. Pollock rejected both.

Although Rutschky is the author of books on history of pedagogy, and coined the term “poisonous pedagogy” that Miller popularized and that was so useful in my previous book, I will only briefly comment on the other author, Linda Pollock. Her book Forgotten Children: Parent-Child Relations from 1500 to 1900 is most often cited to deny the deMausean thesis that the treatment of children was different in the past. According to Pollock: “With few exceptions, children seemed to be quite attached to their parents as infants and continued to have deep affection for them.” Pollock does not seem to have any knowledge that, as is the case of other mammals, our biology predetermines us to attach to our parents independently of their behavior. The most pertinent criticism by deMause on Pollock is his pointing out that her study was based on diaries of the parents themselves. “A similar methodology,” writes deMause, “would construct a statistical history of crime by ignoring all police reports and relying solely on the diaries of criminals to establish crime rate statistics.” Despite such elemental reality, many reviewers considered Pollock’s book as definitive in the field vis-à-vis the deMausean model.

At present studies of the history of childhood continue to emerge from psychohistorians and other academic historians alike; for example, the study by Colin Heywood. But it is precisely books like Heywood’s, which accept the historical evidence of abuses of childhood but differ from deMause’s conclusions, that have convinced me that deMause has found a gold vein that still has substance for much exploitation. DeMause ends his retrospective article of 1988 by pointing out that, despite the rejection by the academy, The History of Childhood, the books of Alice Miller and other popular authors who advocate the cause of the child are widely read by an important niche of society.

The central thesis in psychohistory is that the dynamics of social emergency is psychogenic: it has its roots in the treatment of children, not in economics. DeMause has no illusions. Like Thomas Kuhn, he knows perfectly well that paradigm revolutions are achieved gradually while the defenders of the old paradigm die and are replaced by new individuals. “If childhood history and psychohistory mean anything,”, writes deMause, “they mean reversing most of the causal arrows used by historians to date.” In other words, the way of seeing the world in the humanities and in social sciences is upside down, and psychohistory places our feet back on the ground. The relations between parents and children have determined the social, political and economic aspects in all civilizations of the world. In contrast to the findings of Darwin about the organism and its environment, in Homo sapiens the external world does not mold future developments so definitively as the intergenerational emergency of empathy does, as we will see. In a nutshell, the main finding of psychohistory is that academic history fails to recognize the profound role that the love of the parents for their children plays in the future developments of mankind.

Psychohistory continues to be, at the beginning of the twenty-first century, a controversial field of study. However, at the moment of writing, psychohistory courses are given in Boston University and in other universities in New York, and The Journal of Psychohistory has been published for more than thirty years.



Periodization of Parental-filial Relations

In recent decades several historians without any link to the deMausean school have written about thirty books on histories of childhood. I will mention only a couple of those published in 2005: When Children Became People by Odd Magne Bakke and Growing Up: The History of Childhood in a Global Context by Peter Stearns. DeMause has iteratively complained that books of this sort are presented to history students as if childrearing in the past had been as benign as Western childrearing in our times. Stearns for example is author and editor of more than forty books, but he does not cite a single of the fifty or so psychohistorians. I have encountered this attitude only in some scholarly books by parapsychologists who ignore, en bloc, the texts of skeptical criticism of the paranormal hypothesis. In his book Stearns attempts to absolve the parents by claiming that, as some encyclopedias do, infanticide has had an economic motivation; when it is well documented that in some periods infanticide was more common in well-off families. In a similar vein, at the end of his book Stearns claims that modern childhood is more prone to mental disorders than in traditional cultures: the diametrically opposed to what the facts tell us, as we will see.

The evolution of childrearing

Psychogenesis is the process of the evolution of empathy, and, therefore, of childrearing forms in an innovative group of human beings. In a particular individual it is an evolution of the architecture of his or her mentality, including the cognition of how the world is perceived. Psychogenesis depends on the parents’ breaking away from the abusive memes in which they were educated: a phenomenon that deMause has occasionally observed in the historical migrations of people that left behind some of their childrearing methods. Referring to biological evolution, Julian Huxley said that evolution has been “an enormous number of blind alleys, with a very occasional path of progress”. With the exception of the most advanced culture, something similar can be said of the cultures of the world (cf., for example, how Islam has stayed for centuries in a psychogenic blind alley in its treatment of women and, consequently, of children).

The above graph does not represent biological evolution from worm to man, but psychogenic evolution: specifically, the seven psychoclasses identified in psychohistory. Although only six modes appear in the graph, deMause divides the mode depicted as a horizontal bar in two periods, as shown below. Had the first period of the infanticidal stage appeared in the graph, it would have been an extremely long prolongation of the bar into the left because, in addition to Antiquity, it would have comprised the Neolithic and even the Paleolithic. For practical purposes, the graph starts approximately from the year 200 A.D. and, although it illustrates psychogenic modes in the West, it does not show Greece at its peak. For deMause, the farther it is rummaged into the past, the more abusive the parental-filial relations. Henceforth the graph is always ascendant (precisely his mistake, as we will see in the third section). With the exception of the helping mode of childrearing that barely started in some Western families of the twentieth century, the rest of the stages have been, from greater to lesser degree, abusive. In the next paragraphs I will rephrase diverse deMausean texts of how the seven psychoclasses evolved, and at the same time will include some ideas of my own.

Early infanticidal childrearing. Infanticidal, incestuous and abusive behavior has been observed among primates. For psychohistory there exists apparently only a slight evolutionary leap forward of childrearing from our primate forefathers to the family forms in the most primitive nomadic tribes. DeMause calls it early infanticidal childrearing. Most of this stage covers the period in which paleontologists and archeologists have found vestiges of ritual killings of very young humans and pre-humans: from the Paleolithic to the dawning of the Neolithic. In savage tribes this form has persisted till our times, like the headhunters of Mundurukú in Brazil or the aboriginals of some Oceania islands.

In Western societies of the twenty-first century a type of family persists that, it could be said, roughly equals this psychoclass: the families that schizophrenicize their children, or turn them into serial killers or violent criminals.

Late infanticidal childrearing. When the treatment of children became less brutal in a group of innovative parents, confidence among adult individuals grew to the degree that social links, solid enough to allow the creation of the first villages and city-states, could be established: a milestone in the ascent of man. But infanticide continued. All societies of the Ancient World invented sacrifices in which infants were killed in honor to the deities. However, after the Babylonian captivity some Hebrews abandoned the sacrificial practice. Other peoples, including the Greeks, abandoned the ritual sacrifice of children and introduced a less savage form of getting rid of them: unsheltered exposure. Since the psychological after-effects of a surviving sibling who grows up knowing that his parents ritually sacrificed a little sister is different from the abandonment of the newborn he never met — in addition to comparatively better child care in the Greek and Roman world — this evolutionary leap explains the explosion of arts and sciences in the classical world.

As can be appreciated in the graph, psychoclasses live together in our times. In the graph the most common forms of childrearing stand out, occupying most of the graph space. This is why the horizontal red bar of infanticide appears since the first centuries of our era and continues through the Middle Ages up to our age. Abundant testimonies exist of infanticide in the Middle Ages, and complaints were even heard from the sixteenth to the eighteenth centuries. The form of late infanticide by exposure continued in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries in underdeveloped countries. Compared to the West, in the Third World many parents are stagnated in more archaic forms of childrearing. As already noted, paper notes are common about mothers who kill their newborns in India. More advanced psychogenic sectors within that nation and in other backward countries have started to emerge to abolish the custom.

Abandoning. Church authorities initiated a persistent struggle against infanticide (a struggle that continues in present times in the form of opposition to abortion: a subject that psychohistorians ignore). According to deMause’s analytic interpretation, Christians saw in their children their seriously injured inner self, and consequently the child still was the object of great fear. Instead of liberating the fear by exposing their babies, deMause’s theory goes, in the early Middle Ages some families started to practice oblation: abandoning their children to the monasteries. It was a less brutal form to elude the dangers of their projections. In the West children were not only abandoned in the monasteries; sending them to wet nurses or delivering them to adoptive parents or to other homes for years was a generalized practice in Europe’s middle and upper social classes.

Ambivalent. The beginnings of the twelfth century mark the end of child abandonment in monasteries. Nevertheless, the baby continues to be a creature full of adult projections and had to be castigated. The child is swaddled with long-spun bands until he or she looks like a log, completely immobilized and deprived from the use of its limbs: a torment if we think of the liberties that, with recent technology, can be observed on the free movements that unborn babies enjoy in the womb. Swaddling the infant was a common practice in former psychoclasses, who swaddled their offspring for periods of several months to one year. For deMause this practice was universal and it goes back to the second millennium B.C.

However, by reducing even more infanticide and child abandonment, the members of the new and more advanced psychoclass, less dissociated than the medieval man, eventually produced the Reformation and the Renaissance.

Intrusive. At the beginning of the sixteenth century the level of psychic integration of a small group of innovative parents accomplished one more step forward in the unfolding of empathy, and the child appeared less dangerous. As the parental projections were further reduced, mothers started to un-swaddle the infant. In the intrusive mode, however, the frequency of the beatings continued. DeMause writes: “Of the seventy children prior to the eighteenth century whose lives I have found, all were beaten except one: Montaigne’s daughter.” Since human tendency is to attach to the perpetrator and to recreate in the next generation the educational memes, beaten children beat their offspring, as had been done in the ambivalent mode, too.

Nevertheless, since the intrusive mode was even more empathic and less abusive than the previous mode, the new psychoclass was responsible for the scientific and technological advances of the seventeenth century that eventually led to the Industrial Revolution.

Socializing. This is the psychoclass that less explanation requires: it is the form of childrearing in which most Westerners have been raised.

By the nineteenth century some parents did not believe it necessary to terrorize or batter their children. Instead, they resorted to psychological forms of manipulation. Socialized children were granted far more respect and liberty than any other child of the previous childrearing stages. Although the socialized child rarely calls into question the status quo, the socialized generation, and here we might also include some families of the most Westernized Eastern and Latin American nations, is emotionally more robust than our coetaneous from other psychoclasses.

Helping. DeMause is a radical liberal who believes that all wars are the work of dissociated minds. His psycho-reductionist vision of the world is a reaction as to how he was abused as a child (occasionally, in his diverse writings deMause confesses the abuses he suffered as a boy). In the above paragraph on late infanticide I took the liberty of talking of Greece and Rome in more luminous terms than the rather sinister vision in deMausean texts, which means that as early as this chapter I have started a slight revision of psychohistory. However, given the fact that what deMause understands for “helping mode” differs enormously of what I understand by it, and not only in the evaluation of war, in this paragraph I will abstain from summarizing deMause’s posture on the apex of psychogenic development, barely visible in the graph.

Even though deMause rejects homosexuality, he seems to support the feminist revolution in sexual matters. Conversely, I believe this entails the catastrophic demographic crisis for that psychoclass, as we will see in the third section, where I disclose my views of what the helping mode of childrearing ought to be. Suffice it to say that the old platitude, “No hay que confundir la libertad con el libertinaje” (“Liberty should not be confused with licentiousness”), that I heard so many times as a teen and that by then I felt it antiquated, has surprisingly come to life again in the face of today’s demographic and migratory crisis in the West (once more, subjects for the third section).

It is important to reiterate that all of these family forms of childrearing coexist in the twenty-first century, and that the most primitive psychoclasses have coexisted with the most advanced ones. Apparently incomprehensible conduct, like the immolation of Islamic terrorists or the caste system in India, ultimately has its roots in differences in childrearing. Even in the most advanced countries there are families that belong to the most primitive psychoclass: which explains the existence from psychoses to serial killing. And in these advanced societies barbaric actions, analogous to trepanations in the Ancient World, are still perpetrated. We should never forget what I wrote in the second book about lobotomist Walter Freeman, who, traveling from state to state, performed thousands of leucotomies on children upon their parents’ request. (If I would be given a choice of either being sacrificed in the Tezcoco lake in Aztec times or being leucotomized in twentieth-century America, I would chose that fate of the ancient Nahua child.) Conversely, in backward countries there may exist some far less abusive families than the most regressive Western families. The notion of psychoclass, therefore, has to be understood in percentages: in the majorities of a given population, and proportions.

Nonetheless, there is by and large an obvious superiority in the West. It is the most advanced sector psychogenically. The table shown here depicts how a particular kind of childrearing is related to a specific mental disorder: the bones of deMause’s model onto which I will be adding the flesh in the following pages. A more detailed exposition of the diverse childrearing modes appears in the articles of History of Childhood. It is worth a reminder that the point of view of these more conventional historians is not always in agreement with the radical model of deMause.


Julian Jaynes and the bicameral mind

Many have asked why, if the encephalic mass of primitive man had already reached its present size almost half a million years ago, the technology did not go beyond the rudimentary hand axe. Why through hundreds of thousands of years couldn’t men innovate? It was not until the Mesolithic, between 10,000 and 8,000 B.C. when the first signs of structural edifications such as graveyards appear. The archaeologist Ian Hodder believes that the Neolithic revolution of agriculture was the result of a dramatic change in human psychology, but he has no idea why it occurred. As explained in the previous pages, for psychohistory such revolution in psychology was the result of the transit from the “early” to the “late” infanticidal modes of childrearing. However, it is a fascinating essay by Julian Jaynes that throws the most light on how, by the end of the second millennium before our era, another huge alteration occurred in human mentality.

In 1976 Jaynes published The Origin of Consciousness in the Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind. Jaynes calls “breakdown” the transit of bicameral mind — two chambers or brain hemispheres — to modern consciousness. The transit is relatively recent, and it represents a healing process from a divided self into a more unified or integrated one. Jaynes describes how society developed from a psychological structure based upon obedience to the god’s voices, to the subjective consciousness of present-day man. Like deMause’s psychohistory, Jaynes’ model caused many of his readers to see mankind from a new perspective. He elaborated a metanarrative purporting to connect the loose pieces of previously unconnected fields — history, anthropology, ancient texts, psychiatry, language, poetry, neurology, religion, Hebrew and Greek studies, the art of ancestral societies, archaeological temples and cuneiform writing — to construct an enormous jigsaw puzzle.

Jaynes asked the bold question of whether the voices that people of the Ancient World heard could have been real, a common phenomenon in the hallucinated voices of present-day schizophrenics. He postulated that, in a specific lapse of history a metamorphosis of consciousness occurred from one level to another; that our present state of consciousness emerged a hundred or two hundred generations ago, and that previously human behavior derived from hearing voices in a world plagued with shamanism, magical thinking, animism and schizoidism.

In the Ancient World man had a bipartite personality: his mind was broken, bicameralized, schizophrenized. “Before the second millennium B.C., everyone was schizophrenic,” Jaynes claims about those who heard voices of advice or guides attributed to dead chiefs, parents or known personages. “Often it is in times of stress when a parent’s comforting voice may be heard.” It seems that this psychic structure of a divided or bicameral self went back to cavemen. Later in the first cities, the period that deMauseans would call late infanticidal childrearing (Jaynes never mentions deMause or psychohistory), the voices were attributed to deities. “The preposterous hypothesis we have come to is that at one time human nature was split in two, an executive part called god, and a follower part called man. Neither was conscious. This is almost incomprehensible to us.” Preconscious humans did not have an ego like ours; rational thought would spring up in a late stage of history, especially in Greece. However, orthodox Hellenists usually do not ask themselves why, for a millennium, many Greeks relied on instructions coming from a group of auditory hallucinating women in Delphi. To explain similar cultural phenomena, Jaynes lays emphasis upon the role that voices played in the identities, costumes and group interactions; and concludes that the high civilizations of Egypt, the Middle East, Homeric Greece and Mesoamerica were developed by a primitive unconscious.

The Origin of Consciousness in the Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind describes the theodicy in which, three thousand years ago, subjectivity and the ego flourished. For the common man consciousness is the state of awareness of the mind; say, the conscious state at walking. Jaynes uses the term in a more restricted way: consciousness as the subjective universe, the self-analyzing or self-conscious mind; the “I,” the will and morality of an individual, as well as the development of the linear concept of time (which used to be cyclic to the archaic mind, perhaps due to the observation of the stations of the year). The man who left behind his bicameral thinking developed a more robust sense of self, and Jaynes finds narrative evidence of this acting self in the literary record. He examines Amos, the voice of the oldest Old Testament text and compares it with the Ecclesiastes, the most recent one. Likewise, Jaynes scrutinizes the Iliad looking for tracks of a subjective self, and finds nothing. The Homeric heroes did what Athena or Apollo told them; they literally heard their gods’ voices as the prophets listened to Yahweh’s. Their psyches did not display brightness of their own yet. (If we remember the metaphor of my first book, the mentality of ancient man was similar to what astronomers call a “maroon dwarf”: a failed star like Jupiter, not a sun with enough mass to cause nuclear fusion so that it could shine on its own.) Matters change with the texts of Odysseus’ adventures, and even more with the philosophers of the Ionian islands and of Athens. At last the individual had accumulated enough egocentric mass to explode and to shine by itself. Jaynes believes that it was not until the Greek civilization that the cataclysm that represented the psychogenic fusion consolidated itself.

By Solon’s times it may be said that the modern self, as we understand it, had finally exploded. The loquacious gods, including the Hebraic Yahweh, became silent never to speak again but through the bicameral prophets. After the breakdown of divine authority, with the gods virtually silenced in the times of the Deuteronomy, the Judean priests and governors embarked upon a frenetic project to register the legends and stories of the voices that, in times of yore, had guided them. It was no longer necessary to hallucinate sayings that the god had spoken: man himself was the standard upon which considerations, decisions, and behaviors on the world rested. In the dawning of history man had subserviently obeyed his gods, but when the voice of consciousness appears, rebelliousness, dissidence, and even heresy are possible.

Through his book, which may be called a treatise of psycho-archeology, Jaynes follows the track of how subjective consciousness emerged. His ambitious goal is to explain the birth of consciousness, and hence the origin of our civilization. Once the former “maroon dwarfs” achieve luminescence in a group of individuals’ selves, not only religious dissent comes about, but regicide, the pursuit of personal richness and, finally, individual autonomy. This evolution continues its course even today. Paradoxically, when in the West it reaches the stage that deMause calls “helping mode” it entails ill-fated consequences such as Caucasian demographic dilution and the subsequent Islamization (as we shall see).

Although Jaynes speculates that the breakdown of the bicameral mind could have been caused by crises in the environment, by ignoring deMause he does not present the specific mechanism that gave rise to the transition. Due to the foundational taboo of human species, explained by Alice Miller in my previous book and by Colin Ross in this one, Jaynes did not explore the decisive role played by the modes of childrearing. This blindness permeates The Origin of Consciousness to the point of giving credibility to the claims of biological psychiatry; for example, Jaynes believes in the genetic basis of schizophrenia, a pseudoscientific hypothesis, as shown in my second book. However, his thesis on bicameralism caused his 1976 essay to be repeatedly reprinted, including the 1993 Penguin Books edition and another edition with a 1990 afterword that is still in print.

In the bicameral kingdoms the hallucinated voices of ancient men were culturally accepted as part of the social fabric. But a psychogenic leap forward gives as much power to the new psychoclass as the Australopithecus character of 2001: A Space Odyssey grabbing a bone. “How could an empire whose armies had triumphed over the civilizations of half a continent be captured by a small band of 150 Spaniards in the early evening of November 16, 1532?” The conquest of the Inca Empire was one of a handful of military confrontations between the two states of consciousness. A deMausean interpretation would lead us to think that it was a clash between the infanticidal psychoclass and an intermediate state of ambivalent and intrusive modes of childrearing. If we take into consideration the graph published above the Spaniards were up the scale at least three, if not four, psychogenic leaps.

This reading of history is diametrically opposed to Bartolomé de Las Casas, who in his Apologética Historia claimed that in some moral aspects the Amerindians were superior to the Spanish and even to Greeks and Romans. Today’s Western self-hatred had its precursor in Las Casas, who flourished in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries. In identical fashion, in the twenty-first century it is irritating to see in educational TV programs an American in Peru saying that the Incas of the times of the Conquest “were much smarter than the Spanish.” The truth is that the Incas did not even know how to use the wheel and lacked written language. They literally heard their statues speak to them and their bicameral mind handicapped them before the more robust psyche of the Europeans: something like an Australopithecus clan clashing with another without bones in their hands. The Spaniards were, certainly, very religious; but not to the point of using magical thinking in their warfare stratagems. According to a sixteenth-century Spaniard, “the unhappy dupes believed the idols spoke to them and so sacrificed to it birds, dogs, their own blood and even men” (this quotation refers to Mesoamericans, the subject-matter of the next section). The Peruvian Mario Vargas Llosa believes that his ancestors were defeated due to a pragmatic and basically modern European mentality in contrast to the magical thinking of the natives; and the Mexican Carlos Fuentes wrote that the conquest of the American continent was a great triumph of the scientific hypothesis over the indigenous physical perception.

Jaynes overemphasizes that the prophets of the Old Testament literally heard Yahweh’s voice. Because the minds in the Ancient World, like present-day schizoid personalities, were swarmed with sources of hallucination, humans still lacked an inner space for retrospection and introspection. Bible scholars have debated at length about what could have caused the loss of prophecy gifts in the Hebrew people after the Babylonian exile. I would say that the elimination of the sacrificial practice of infants meant a leap toward a superior psychoclass, with the consequent overcoming of the schizoid or bicameral personality.

But going back to Jaynes: Formerly terrestrial and loquacious, the later mute gods were translated to a heaven, making room for human divination: the consultation of human beings that (for having been raised by more regressive parents I may infer) still heard the fateful voices. Even though the divine voices made themselves unnecessary for the new kind of human, praying continued to a god who was incapable, centuries ago, of communicating through divine voices.

The entire succession of [Old Testament] works becomes majestically and wonderfully the birth pangs of our subjective consciousness. No other literature has recorded this absolutely important event at such length or with such fullness. Chinese literature jumps into subjectivity in the teaching of Confucius with little before it. Indian hurtles from the bicameral Veda into the ultra subjective Upanishads. Greek literature, like a series of steppingstones from The Iliad to the Odyssey and across the broken fragments of Sappho and Solon toward Plato, is the next best record, but still too incomplete. And Egypt is relatively silent.

Jaynes’ book is dense, closely argued, and despite its beautiful prose often boring. But the chapter on the Hebrew people titled “The Moral Consciousness of the Khabiru” is must reading. If he is right, it was not until the fifth century before the common era when the bicameral mind began to be seen as the incapacitating disorder that is presently labeled as psychosis. In contrast to the mystic psychohistorian Robert Godwin, I am closer to Jaynes in that one of the most persistent residues of bicameralism is our religious heritage.

Jaynes, who died in 1997, may be the proverbial author of a single book. But many people continue to read The Origin of Consciousness. Tor Norretranders, a popular author on scientific subjects, expanded the bicameral hypothesis in a book published a year after Jaynes died, The User Illusion, and he cites more recent investigations than those collected by Jaynes.


Popperian falsifiability

Despite the book’s popularity and the fact that Jaynes taught in Princeton University and did archaeological work, his colleagues did not pay him much attention. Many academics reject theories that have been presented through literary books. It is understandable that a book with such lyric passages has been ignored by the dry science taught in the psychology departments; by neurobiologists, and by evolutionary theorists. Jaynes, basically a humanist, had not presented his theory in a scientific or falsifiable format.

I have explained falsifiability elsewhere. Even I have been asked by an editor to present the trauma model of mental disorders in “falsifiable” form, the Karl Popper term. Adepts of social sciences grant such authority to the hard sciences that, when they run across a text that emphasizes the humanities, they want to see everything translated to the language of science. They do this in spite of the fact that, in the reign of subjectivity, hard sciences are incapable of producing something truly significant. Notwithstanding this scientific demand, I concede that if we humanists make claims that could be interpreted as scientific hypotheses, it doesn’t hurt to present them in such a way that they may be refuted, if per chance they are wrong. Consequently, I must make it very clear that the trauma model, that I introduced in my previous books, is falsifiable.

For instance, it occurs to me that, if the model is correct, in the Israeli kibbutz children cannot be easily schizophrenized. The cause of this would be, naturally, that in the kibbutz they are put farther away from potentially schizophrenogenic parents than the children in nuclear families (let alone the Palestinian families that openly promote terrorist self-immolation among their offspring, assisted by their national television). Something similar could be said about Jaynes’ ideas. His hypothesis can be presented in falsifiable form always provided that the presentation is done through a deMausean interpretation of it, as we shall see almost by the end of this book.

Once it is conceded that even humanists who venture into foreign lands can present their theories in falsifiable form, I must point out that very few academics, including psychologists, are willing to delve into the darkest chambers of the human psyche. To them it is disturbing that prehistoric man, and a good deal of the historic man including their ancestors, had behaved as marionettes of hallucinated voices or nonexistent gods. Jaynes’ ideas represent a serious challenge to history as it is officially understood and even more to religion, anthropology, and psychiatry. He seems to postulate that a scant connectivity of the two brain hemispheres produced voices, and that the changes in consciousness caused the brain to become more interconnected through the corpus callosum. In case I have interpreted him correctly, I am afraid it is not possible to run tomographs on those who died millennia ago to compare, say, the brain of the bicameral pythoness against the brain of the intellectual Solon. Let’s ignore this non-falsifiable aspect and focus on hypotheses that may be advanced by epidemiologists in the field of social sciences. Studying the changes of incidence patterns of child mistreatment through history or contemporary cultures is a perfectly falsifiable scientific approach.

In the book reviews of The Origin of Consciousness available on the internet it can be gathered that the experience of many readers was as electrifying as a midnight ray that allowed them to see, albeit for a split second, the human reality. If the ultimate test for any theory is to explain the most data in the simplest way, we should not ignore the psycho-histories of Jaynes and deMause. If they are right, the explanatory power of an unified model would help us understand part of the human mystery, especially religion and psychosis.

Silvano Arieti and schizophrenia

Paradoxically, if something had been impeding the collective form of suicidal psychosis that the West self-inflicts today, the massive migration of inferior psychoclasses, it was Christianity. But Christianity is in crisis and Westerners lack a new myth that bestows on them a self-image for social cohesion. Jaynes wrote:

In the second millennium B.C., we stopped hearing the voices of the gods. In the first millennium B.C., those of us who still heard voices, our oracles and prophets, they too died away. In the first millennium A.D., it is their sayings and hearings preserved in sacred texts through which we obeyed our lost divinities. And in the second millennium A.D., these writings lose their authority… And here at the end of the second millennium and about enter the third, we are surrounded with this problem.

Hearing voices is the archetypal symptom of what today is named schizophrenia. But the distinctive traits between ancient schizoids and modern Western man is not absolute. In his magnum opus, Interpretation of Schizophrenia, Silvano Arieti wrote a sentence imagining a space visitor, more integrated psychologically than the Earth dwellers, who would find many instances of “paleologic thinking” (bicameral thought) in the moral, social and religious costumes of Western man.



Psychiatrist Silvano Arieti

Those who give credibility to everything that, under the banner of science, the status quo sells us, will consider it foolish that I take seriously an author who published a work about paleologic thinking and schizophrenia in 1955, the edition translated to Spanish. The reason that moved me to do it is simple. As I have said, decades before Colin Ross published The Trauma Model and Schizophrenia, Arieti had already written, with different words, some phrases about the locus of control shift (explained way above). In 2007 I felt confident to ask Ross if he knew that Arieti had said something very similar to his model half a century before. Ross replied that he barely had read Arieti. His ignorance surprised me but I understood him: the good doctor is more a busy clinician than an armchair theorist. Anyone can acquire through the internet the 2004 book that Ross wrote about schizophrenia. On the other hand, the 1965 Spanish translation of Arieti’s treatise is not even available in the catalogue of out-of-print books. In 1975 a second, revised edition of Interpretation of schizophrenia won in the United States the National Book Award in scientific subjects. In this chapter I will use both editions: the 1955 edition, and the 1975 edition republished in 1994 (in the second edition the book was thoroughly rewritten and fattened with medical testing on schizophrenia).

Virtually forgotten, Arieti’s treatise is an authentic mine of theoretical and clinical information to understand psychosis. Most striking about the massive body of literature from Arieti’s colleagues that pointed at the family as responsible for the schizophrenias in their patients is that the theory was never refuted. It was conveniently forgotten, swept under the rug of political correctness in the mental health professions. It is very common to read in the textbooks of contemporary psychiatry and psychology that the theory of the schizophrenogenic parents was discarded because it was erroneous with the most absolute absence of bibliographic references to support such claim. I cannot forget an article written in the present century in which an investigator complains that, despite an extensive search, he did not find any coherent and clear explanation of why the schizophrenogenic theory has been abandoned. As always, everything has to do with the fact that to question the parental deities is terrifying for most people, especially for those who are forbidden from using their own emotions: academics, including the mental health professionals. As deMause said way above: “The usual suppression of all feeling” in childrearing studies “simply cripples a psychohistorian as badly as it would cripple a biologist to be forbidden the use of a microscope.”

Arieti distinguishes between a “paleologic” form of thinking, and the thinking that comes from “Aristotelian logic” that rules Western man. Since the first edition of his book Arieti points out that the paleologic thinking, which modern man only experiences in dreams, was omnipresent in prehistoric cultures. In order to avoid a runaway anxiety that drives the victim into panic, the patient diagnosed as schizophrenic abandons the Aristotelian norms of intuitive logic and lapses into the sort of thinking of our most primitive ancestors. Like John Modrow, Arieti acknowledges the value of the work of Harry Sullivan about the panic the child experiences as a result of an all-out emotional assault from both parents. The paleologic regression can be adapted years after the abuse occurred, even when the child has become economically independent [interpolated note: a chapter on Modrow appears in my second book]. The withdrawal from reality, or psychotic breakdown, is the last and most desperate attempt of the unconscious to maintain the ego in a state of internal cohesion. A dramatic regressive metamorphosis arises when, one after another, the defenses that the victim had been using do not work anymore. To a greater or lesser degree all human beings function with a dose of neurosis, but in the psychotic outbreak, when neurotic defenses collapse, the subject falls into even more archaic forms of defense: mechanisms which had been overcome millennia ago, a regression to the bicameral mind.

Arieti’s book contains chapters about his clinical experiences with patients. In the case of two brothers, Arieti describes how one of them suffered a pre-psychotic panic as a result of the abuse at home and observes that, once in a florid state of psychosis, “The paleologician confuses the physical world with the psychological one. Instead of finding a physical explanation for an event, he looks for a personal motivation or an intention as the cause of an event.” Just as the primitive man, in a definitive breakdown of the Aristotelian superstructure, for the disturbed individual the world turns itself animist; each external event having a profound meaning. There are no coincidences for those who inhabit the world of magical thinking. Both the primitive animist and the modern schizophrenic live in distinct dimensions compared to the rational man. The conceptualization of external happenings as impersonal physical forces requires a much more advanced level of cognition than seeing them as personal agents. Arieti wrote:

If the Greeks are afflicted by epidemics, it is because Phoebus wants to punish Agamemnon. Paranoiacs and paranoids interpret almost everything as manifesting a psychological intention or meaning. In many cases practically everything that occurs is interpreted as willed by the persecutors of the patient.

Arieti also writes about the time before the Homo sapiens acquired the faculty to choose an action through what we call today free will, and he adds:

Philogenetically, anticipation of the distant future appeared when early man no longer limited his activity to cannibalism and hunting, which were related to immediate present necessities, but became interested in hoarding and, later, in agriculture in order to provide for future needs.

The reference to cannibalism makes me think that, though unlike Jaynes Arieti maintained that schizophrenia is due to the parents’ behavior, unlike deMause Arieti did not conceive that such cannibal practices, like the ones described in the Preface, could have injured the inner self of the surviving children in prehistoric times. Nevertheless, Arieti disagrees with the theoretical psychiatrists who see no similarities between schizophrenic and non-schizophrenic. He believes that such points of view “are fundamentally wrong”, and, speaking of non-Western cultures and even of the times of Cro-Magnon man, he writes:

Often the culture itself imposes paleologic conceptions and habits on the individual, even though the individual is capable of high forms of thinking. The more abundant is the paleologic thinking in a culture, the more difficult it is for the culture to get rid of it.

This last phrase reminds me how presently Western culture imposes relativist conceptions on the individual, even though the typical Westerner is potentially capable of discriminating among inferior cultures: a higher form of thinking. Arieti also rises the question of why civilization originated only ten thousand years ago. Like Jaynes, he believes that the incredibly long gestation of civilization had to do with the persistence of paleologic thought, and he adds that presently the paleologic defense mechanisms underlie the human psyche and can return in extreme conditions.

Arieti elaborated his theory twenty years before Jaynes or deMause started to write their books, and he was within an inch of discovering what deMause would discover: precisely that schizophrenogenic forms of childrearing through the Bone Age and the Stone Age had impeded the psychic integration of our ancestors. Getting ahead in time to Ross, Arieti wrote: “A characteristic unique in the human race — prolonged childhood with consequent extended dependency on adults — is the basis of the psychodynamics of schizophrenia.”

Arieti defines schizophrenia as an extremely regressive reaction before an equally extreme state of anxiety, a dynamic that originates in infancy and that accelerates in adolescence, or later, due to abuses at home (think of the case of the second girl in the Ross section). “In every case of schizophrenia studies serious family disturbances were found” (emphasis by Arieti). He adds that to produce schizophrenia a drama is needed which is sufficiently injuring to the inner self; a drama that, if we ignore it, we become deaf “to a profound message that the patient may try to convey”. And writing about one of his patients, and getting again ahead in time to Ross, he tells us that this patient “protected the images of his parents but at the expense of having an unbearable self-image”.

Interpretation of Schizophrenia contains the keys to understanding issues that at first sight seem incomprehensible, and even bizarre, for those of us who live in the world of Aristotelian logic: the probable meaning of the symbols of the oneiric world in which the psychotic individual lives; his apparently incoherent salad of words, the linguistic whys of his inner logic and the many regressive stages of the disorder. In Arieti’s treatise there is an enormous richness of ideas and theoretical schemas that I cannot summarize here, as well as clinical analyses of his patients, to understand the gradations of madness. Even though, as I said, in the middle 1970s his book won the National Book Award, in a more valiant world his work would have been influential. But society freaked out before the findings of Arieti and his colleagues because, to understand psychoses, it would have been necessary to point the index finger at the parents. As a Ross reader would say, the problem of the attachment to the perpetrator, the basic and fundamental axiom of the human psyche, could not allow this (Arieti himself dedicated his magnum opus to his parents).

Let us see where the ideas expressed in this chapter drive us when pondering the violent past of ancient Mexico, and how the psychogenic arrest of that culture may serve us to understand the dilemmas that the West faces today.

[Index page for this book here]

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