It Takes a Fully Developed Self to Resist the Collective


 There is an illuminated level of seeing that Fr Anthony Bloom calls seeing "in a light with a depth.” This is a level of heightened perception such that you see someone as a potent possibility - as a candidate for transfiguration.

 It is almost magically to see another human being's sacred dignity and possible destiny, both in this life and the life to come.

 It is to see someone as lit up and full of depth. 

 This is the fine art of seeing another in the best of all possible lights.

 Now, it may take an extreme situation, a blessed or tragic moment, for such a unique revelation to occur. As Fr Bloom puts it: "There are blessed or tragic moments when we can see a person revealed to us in a light with a depth, with an awesome beauty which we have never suspected before.” (Metropolitan Anthony of Sourozh website, Sermons and Talks.)

 Suddenly, in other words, there occurs a breakthrough in perception. In a flash of recognition, a certain glory is noticed.

 It is the glory of beholding a human being’s high estate, or special particularity. Of what makes her unique. (Nikolai Novikov, On Man’s High Estate, in Russian Intellectual History: An Anthology (New York, 1966), pp. 62–67.)  

 Now, to be on the receiving end of such a perception is to be given an astounding gift.  

 This is a gift of recognition that a best friend might give, or perhaps a great parent, teacher, or spiritual leader.

 What is being communicated is your own uniqueness - your spectacular potential.

 And you are not likely to forget it, if someone has discerned the great thing that you are capable of becoming.

 I often think in this regard of that level of perception described by Yeats as when someone recognizes the pilgrim soul in you. 

 Your pilgrim soul is the highest and best part of you, which is that holy longing that searches for meaning and authenticity.

 In his poem Yeats is asking the love of his life to recall when she is “old, grey, full of sleep, and nodding by the fire,” that, “one man loved the pilgrim soul in you.” 

 Yeats wants the love of his life in her final days to realize that he had always loved what was particular about her. He loved her highest and best self. He loved her distinctiveness - her unique pilgrim soul.

 In days gone by, others had seen her through a dimmer light. They had therefore seen only her surface charms - her physical beauty and “moments of glad grace.

 Now, that pilgrim soul in you might also be called “the autonomous self,” according to Peter Berger.

 Your "autonomous self" is the phrase Berger uses to emphasis the splendour of your own particularity. The radiance of your independence. Your blessed separateness

 Professor Peter Berger, writes about how crucial it is to experience such a distinctively developed sense of self.

 Growth into a sure and strong sense of self is crucial if we are able to discern what Berger calls “the sense of reality." (Peter L. Berger, Questions of Faith, p. 29)

 Berger is saying that it is absolutely crucial to become distinguished and defined enough to be able to discern what is real and what isn’t.

 To be such a person in full is also to be a refined critic. It is to be wonderfully skeptical! For as another modern sage, Daniel N. Robinson, says: “You must be able to say that no matter how much this means to me, no matter how centred my being is on this pattern of beliefs, no matter how close I am personally and emotionally, and even romantically, to those who hold such convictions, I must reserve the right to question and to doubt.” 

 No position therefore, especially your own, is beyond criticism. In fact, you must always be prepared fully to launch a skeptical spotlight upon even your most cherished beliefs, opinions and values.

 If you fail to exercise your own critical faculty, it is an indication that you’ve fallen into either a secular or religious fundamentalism, which is a contracted state or condition, living in an unquestioning shelter of some kind.

 And so it is, says Professor Robinson, that "I will retain this skeptical bias as an obligation owed to my own rationality, my own integrity.”

 If, Robinson warns, you “lose that reason and “suspend that criticality, become gullible, and accept anything that custom serves up, you enter the life of a puppet on a string, the life of a slave." (Daniel. N. Robinson, Philosophy - Did the Greeks Invent It? - The Great Ideas of Philosophy p. 33)

 The danger therefore of existing as an undeveloped and uncritical humanoid is that you are inadequately prepared to resist the pressure that will come from those political and philosophical movements that have proven time and again to be highly successful at assimilating foolish people into their orbit and robbing them of their individual freedom and dignity.

 This was, of course, repeated throughout the twentieth century where a series of collectivizing movements encircled, enclosed and then obliterated millions upon millions.

 These movements were eventually seen to be primarily about requiring their followers to subordinate their own sense of individuality into their enslaving circles.

 I’m using that word circle to make the point that there are movements which have a centripetal emphasis. The centripetal way is to pull you into the circle and to wrap you up tightly. 

 And yes, you may feel cozy in your circle! Cozier than you’ve ever felt before! And yes, you may feel more united than ever with your group of like-minded circle dwellers. 

 But you’re in the circle trap, and don’t realize it. 

 If, in other words, you end up in the circle of a centripetal movement, you are in trouble. For like so many others before you, you are in a circle that will gradually suffocate the life out of you. 

 For the fact is, as Jeff Dunn puts it, "You cannot grow in a circle. It is a finite shape. It cannot grow larger or smaller.” 

 "Circles may be a perfect shape, but they cannot change. They are stuck in being what they are.” (J.D.)

 Which is why on the Borg ship, one drone looks like every other member of the collective

 Whereas on the Starship Enterprise, - where individuality is encouraged - the crew members are radically different from each other. 

 Peter Berger’s emphasis is to become established enough in your own selfhood that you will be able to stand against any enclosing, collectivistic, socialistic, circles.

 He is arguing that it takes a fully developed self - a person in full -  to resist the spirit of the age, which is always the latest version of collectivism.

 Now, a fully fledged self will feel "the compelling necessity to say no" to the  collectivistic impulse in any of its manifestations. 

 The mature person will feel a Divine imperative to say no "to every denial of the autonomous self,” in whatever form it is presented.

 He will walk away as soon as his educated self senses that he is about to be encircled and swallowed up.

 He will feel compelled then to reject the Buddhist understanding of anatta - its doctrine of no self - and its related three universal truths. 

 The first of these universal truths, according to Buddhism, is that all reality is impermanent. The second, that reality is suffering. The third, that reality is not self. (anatta)

 For the the sake of his integrity, a person in full will feel obliged to utter "a threefold no to the Buddha’s three universal truths.”

 Standing tall he will boldly position himself against any such negations of the self and the world. 

 First of all therefore, he will say no to the first universal truth that all reality is impermanence, for he will express his opposing conviction that at "the heart of reality is the God who is the plentitude of being time and eternity." 

 Secondly, he will say no to the doctrine that reality is suffering, by affirming instead the point of Biblical religion that God’s creation is ultimately good because God is acting to redeem the creation."

 And, thirdly, he will say no to the doctrine that all reality is non-self, because of his conviction in contrast that, the self is the image of God. As Berger states: “The self, (your personhood), exists by virtue of God’s address.” (P. Berger)

 Now, the contrast to centripetal movements which pull small, undiscerning selves into self-negating circles, is the centrifugal emphasis of the New Testament. 

 The centrifugal focus of the New Testament inspires and enables a radical breakout from the circle.

 Its radically different symbol is the cross that breaks the iron grip of any enclosing, collectivistic circles.

 The power of Divine grace, in other words, breaks you out of finite circles into infinite possibilities.

 And thus it is that when the light shines in the New Testament, the identity of the human being is radically sharpened and defined. 

 As in the case of Jesus Christ Himself, who upon Mount Tabor, was transfigured and seen for who He was in the deepest possible sense.

 Christ was transfigured and so was everything around Him. The entire creation was lit up by the power and grace of God. 

 Here is an utterly incomparable affirmation of a life in particular, and of all of life in general

 What is being affirmed is that the creation is not headed towards dissolution but towards transfiguration.

 The almost incredible affirmation here is that the transfigured human being will transcend all limitations, including death itself.

 For, from the New Testament perspective, the human being who opens his life to the grace and power of God, is destined to be transfigured.

 This is the highest possible view of human nature as being capable of transfiguration.

 This is in contrast to those views that diminish the self as a mere reflection, shadow, or condensation of the Divine - as "minor aspect of God’s existence." (Professor Natalia Isayeva, Early Vedanta to Kashmir Shaivism)

 Rather, the life affirming message of the New Testament is that the goal of life is to become fully yourself.

 Its message is that the believer will be transfigured into a glory that was barely glimpsed in this lifetime.

 Indeed, the future is not to lose your identity, but to find it fully.

 The ultimate encounter then between man and God is the Divine recognition of your own particular essence.



 Resonance, Immersion Theory, The Icarus Foray