This is the 2007 version. Click here for the 2017 chapter 16 table of contents.

Orgiastic States

Throughout human history people have taken part in group rituals in which they can forget themselves, dissolving their self-consciousness in the crowd. Fromm describes the orgiastic state as an "auto-induced trance, often supplemented with drugs."

In what sense are orgiastic states a solution?

What do such states accomplish? They allow the individual to forget his or her problems, to fuse with the group, to become part of something (the celebration, the party) larger than his or her self. In this sense, orgiastic states are indeed a solution to the problem of existence; they help people overcome aloneness.

What is an orgiastic state?

Pete Townshend, lead guitarist of the Who, was interviewed after a tragic Cincinnati concert where 11 fans were killed in a rush for seats. He remarked:

What did Townshend say about rock concerts?

People talk about mobs. But the whole purpose of a rock concert is for people to forget themselves, to lose their egos in the crowd and to disappear-a temporary sort of flight. (Rockwell, 1979)

What is a disadvantage of the orgiastic state, as a solution?

The disadvantage of the orgiastic state as a solution to the problem of existence is that the loss of ego is only temporary (or perhaps permanent if you get trampled). A person may feel united for a moment with people at a party or musical performance, but the next morning only a memory is left. Fromm also points out that orgiastic states can be guilt-inducing if they go against a person's upbringing. When they meet the approval of a peer group (as in ancient community celebrations or subcultures today) orgiastic states are not guilt producing.


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