Jung in Tehran, aka “enantiodromia”

[ by Charles Cameron — Ahmadinejad vs Khamenei, Jungian enantiodromia ]

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The western press, on the whole, has covered the recent tussle between Iranian President Ahmadinejad and his superior, the Ayatollah Khamenei, in political terms — as a power struggle between a President who wants increased authority for the Presidency and a Supreme Authority who isn’t about to relinquish his Supremacy.

It is also a theological struggle, and the LA Times nicely weaves the two strands together in commenting:

At its heart is a possible future struggle for power between the firebrand president and Khamenei’s conservative clergy, who are wary of Ahmadinejad’s messianic strain of Islam and his incendiary populism. They worry his tendency for explosive talk could threaten their long-term interests, if not render them obsolete.

Putting it bluntly, the arrival of the Mahdi – or a strong populist current holding the opinion that Ahmadinejad is the Mahdi’s trusted lieutenant, chosen to prepare the way for his coming – would disenfranchise the clerics of Qom, who ultimately derive their authority from the Imam Mahdi’s absence.

The fairly recent discovery of a video, apparently prepared by Ahmadinejad’s supporters and proclaiming the Mahdi’s “soon coming”, seems to have heightened the tension…

Having said that, it’s my impression that Ahmadinejad is losing this tug-of-war, that he doesn’t have the popular groundswell of support he would need to go up against the Supreme Authority and win, and that consequently, his Mahdist “messianic strain” is losing power and credibility.

Which in turn should mean that the West has less to fear from Iranian Mahdism…

Glenn Beck, take note.

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Putting that another way, it seems that the extreme Mahdism of Ahmadinejad is resulting – ironically enough, by enantiodromia – in a backlash from Khamenei that appears likely to depotentiate and dissipate it.

3 comments on this post.
  1. Bryan Alexander:

    Nicely done, Charles.  That’s a new concept for me – interested revision of Freud’s return of the repressed.

  2. zen:

    Very well done Charles. We started discussing Iranian Mahdism, what, a year or more ago? And at the time we wondered if "the crocodile" Ayatollah Yazdi was the source of Ahmadinejad’s messianism but Yazdi, who supported Ahmadinejad’s retaining power so strongly, with religious rulings issued to the Basiji during the election protests, has sided with the clergy.

  3. Charles Cameron:

    Thanks, both.
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    As far as I can tell, Zen, your own first post on Mahdism was The Perils of Shiite Mahdism (April 2006). I didn’t respond, which makes me think I can’t have been a regular reader at that point. We were clearly in contact, though, by the time Cheryl Rofer set up her blog tank on nuclear issues (January 2008), the first time you mention my name in the context of Mahdism is in Behold the Coming of the Mahdi! Or…at least…The Mahdists! (March 2008), and my own first guest post seems to have been Apocalyptic Vision (August 2009).
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    A very useful source for me recently has been the Frontline Tehran Bureau, and especially the reports from Muhammad Sahimi (USC prof, Union of Concerned Scientists, etc).