Saturday, April 11, 2009

What We Are

That which we are most fundamentally within ourselves is not our ego. Yet that which we are most fundamentally within ourselves is not the ‘they’ either.

To my understanding, Heidegger, in rallying people to be authentic by shunning the impersonal ‘they’ of an unchosen, prescribed social conformity, was not, alas, asking us to get in touch with what we are most fundamentally within ourselves. Instead, he was asking us to identify closely and loyally with our ego, that is, with the ‘idea we can choose to have of ourselves’. For this reason, his existentialism created a new problem as it solved another. It solved the problem of inauthentic conformity to ‘essential’ forms of social existence. Yet, in the wake of that solution it ossified our being into a new, rigid straightjacket – identification with the self-chosen ego.

That which we are most fundamentally within ourselves is neither the inauthentic they, nor the authentic ego, but embodied spirit. Or to put it more simply: God found present within and, as it might seem, trapped inside our being. It is not only society, with all its conventions, that is our gaoler. We are our own gaolers too. To be truly free is to have freed God from within ourselves. To do this we must not only free ourselves from inauthentic conformity to externally imposed social roles; we must free ourselves from ourselves, that is, from the very idea, however authentically chosen it may be, that we have about ourselves – about who we think we are.

Such a freedom is a kind of death; such a freedom a kind of resurrection.

And with that I wish you a very Happy Easter.

p.s. there is no Easter in China.


Selena Dreamy said...

We certainly are our own gaolers! Though whether in fact we can actually free ourselves from ourselves is quite another matter. But however that may be, I also think that there is some justification for this particular difficulty, since any such ideal always ought to a large extent remain unrealizable, lest it be profaned by the ease of accessibility...

Jonathan said...

'the ease of accessibility'....

I think I know what you mean, but then if we all actually embodied this ideal it wouldn't be something we accessed by a process of conscious effort, any more than at present we access oxygen or the circulation of blood with any great difficulty.

The context would also have to change, the world in which we lived. Only if the world wasn't also transfigured by the ideal would consititing it be an achievement (however easy).

You seek i think to protect the ideal by ensuring it wouldnt get devalued by being brought down to a low common denominator? But to me the process would work in reverse, we being brought up to its level and transformed thereby...

or something like that..

Cheers, hope you are having a nice time.

Selena Dreamy said..., Jonathan, it's a bit like the proverbial glass of water: is it half full, or half empty?

Which only goes to show that I am, what I have always been, a pessimist. Note, though, the Russian definition of a pessimist is a 'well informed optimist'....

Selena Dreamy said...

...does that make me a Russian?

Jonathan said...

I'm not sure what you mean about the half full glass to be honest...

Regarding optimism and pessimism, I see no reason why one can't be both an optimist and a pessimist. Only our dichotomous either-or minds have issues with this notion.

It depends what one is thinking in terms of. Regarding the survival of our 'world' (a psycho-social collective construct) I am very pessimistic. But that is exactly why I am an optimist. Because our world in an oppressive exploiter and rapist of both the Earth (which unlike the world actually exists as more than a mere thought construct) and our true selves (which exist dormant under the thick blanket of individual and collective ego).

The End of the 'World' is the best thing that could possibly happen to us. Apocalype, after all, means revelation, an uncovering, does it not?

Jesus (Gospel of Thomas):

" The Kingdom of Heaven is spread out across the Earth, but men do not see it"...(from memory)

and the reason why, of course, is the World.

Jackie said...

This is an intriguing idea. Do you think you can expand a little more on what you mean by this godly true self?

Between genetics, psychic disposition, and environmental factors, it is difficult to see any room within me for what you call another more true self.

I've also studied Heidegger a little bit in some classes at college (I'm currently an undergraduate at UC Berkeley).

My name is Jackie and I just came upon your blog by chance, you can also take a look at some of my posts, though I've been focusing on creative writing more lately.