A recent New York Times op-ed was entitled, “When the President is Ignorant of His Own Ignorance.” Thomas Edsall was addressing Trump’s arrogant assumption that he is always “in the know” and does not need anyone’s advice. This was demonstrated immediately after his election when he said he didn’t want to bother with the national security briefings that he was then allowed, that he didn’t need them. (https://www.nytimes.com/2017/03/30/opinion/when-the-president-is-ignorant-of-his-own-ignorance.html?_r=0)
But my concern here is much broader than Donald J. Trump. My concern is his brazen naivety that echoes the base of the Republican Party and is quite related to the psyche of the whole country. Trump has brought to the table an epistemological problem which is at root a spiritual problem—that cognition cannot grasp the whole of human experience, be it for an individual or a group of individuals. Presidents usually have sensitivity to this very human limitation which is why they always rely on trusted advisers, realizing that their finite mind cannot understand everything that is going on in the country or the world. This understanding is just ordinary humility, the garden-variety of humility that most of us have if we survived the seduction of narcissistic splendor.
My country now is now forced to stare right in the face a fundamental flaw in its grasp of reality. Reason, i.e. cognition, is not the whole of human experience and failure to recognize this will always lead to grievous error. For want of a better term, we have a “heart” which is always beyond the complete grasp of our mind, a heart which drives us and influences how we use our reason. Just because something appears reasonable to us does not mean that it is “reasonable” at all, possibly just meaning it is a course of action that suits our selfish, narcissistic needs. Once again, my oft-used bumper stick wisdom is relevant, “Don’t believe everything you think.” Trump, and the base of his party believe way too much of what they think, not having developed the capacity of self-reflection which would allow them to employ what Shakespeare called, “the pauser reason.” One simple illustration of Trump lacking this filter was his reassurance to the country about the size of his penis, having no awareness of how humiliating it was to put an issue like that on the stage of a Presidential debate. That alone should have eliminated him from any further consideration for the GOP nomination but this, and other egregious indiscretions were readily overlooked by people who were susceptible to the darkly sweet nectar of, “Let’s Make American Great Again.” Even evangelical Christians imbibed of this sinister brew though they had the wisdom of the Apostle Paul available, “We see through a glass darkly.” But they chose to listen in a convenient manner to this wisdom and disregarded the “darklyness” of their “born again” mind and subscribed to self-serving fantasies of how this orange-haired and orange-skinned buffoon was going to restore our country to naive and innocent dreams of past greatness.
Carl Jung described this cognitive prison eloquently in 1937, explaining in “The Undiscovered Self” how the over estimation of reason tempts a culture to disregard the instinctual, leading to the “putting his own conception of himself in place of his real being. In this way he slips imperceptibly into a purely conceptual world where the products of his conscious activity progressively take the place of reality.” And when this progression reaches a certain point, it merits consideration of the wisdom of Goethe, “They call it reason, using Light celestial, just to outdo the beasts in being bestial.”