Islamic Terror: Conscious and Unconscious Motives

By Avner Falk | Go to book overview

Self-Knowledge and Understanding
Others

The ancient Greek adage “Know Thyself” was reportedly inscribed in golden letters at the lintel of the entrance to the Temple of Apollo at Delphi, where people came to seek self-knowledge and fortune-telling from the Pythiae. The phrase has been attributed to at least five ancient Greek sages: Chilon of Sparta, Thales of Miletus, Socrates, Pythagoras, and Solon of Athens, as well as to the mythical poetess Phemonoe, a daughter of the god Apollo, the first Pythia and the inventor of the hexameter. According to Juvenal, the precept descended from heaven.

Indeed, we cannot hope to understand others without first understanding ourselves. This is also a basic principle of becoming a psychoanalyst or psychotherapist: one must first undergo a rigorous psychoanalysis or psychotherapy with an elder or senior colleague for several years. Similarly, in order to understand Islamic terrorism and the origins of love and hate in Muslim society, we need to look at love and hate in our own society first. Self-knowledge, however, is no easy task. It is acquired at the heavy cost of emotional pain, time, money, effort, and battle with one’s inner demons. As the Lebanese-born American Arab sociologist Sania Hamady put it, “to know oneself is a painful process” (Hamady 1960, Foreword).

The psychoanalytic view of love, hate, terror, and rage pays special attention to their unconscious aspects, which are conveyed, among other things, by the words that we use for these complex emotions and by their related meanings. As for love, the Arabic language has eight different words for love as a noun and seven as a verb. The modern Hebrew language has one word for love—ahavah, two words for sexual desire—kheshek and tshukah, and another word for

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