Law of Attraction, Part 13: The Pure Brahman of Consciousness

adi shankaracharya2

 

The legend begins with a Brahmin monk and his disciples making their way down to the Ganges River to perform their ceremonial ablutions, when they happen across a Chandala walking towards them on the road, leading a pack of four mangy dogs. A Chandala was an Untouchable, the despised class of people who didn’t belong to any recognized varna or caste. Their only allowed participation within Hindu society was to be maintainers the funeral burning grounds or other equally detestable work. When the Chandala refused, the Brahmin became indignant and he instructed the out-caste to stand aside, for a holy man of Brahmin birth could never permit himself to be polluted by even the shadow of such an offensive being. The Chandala stood his ground and demanded that the Brahmin explain himself.

The Chandala said, “You preach to others that the atman and the Brahman are the same, that all distinctions are barriers against the realization of that supreme truth. If there is one Absolute Brahman in all, then why do you accept caste and creed? You teach that there is only one Absolute Brahman in all things, yet you acknowledge differences between man and man. How can this be consistent with your teaching of Advaita ? To whom do you address? The body which is transient, or the soul which is eternal?” Admonished in this way, the monk realized his error and prostrated himself before the Chandala, proclaiming that anyone who could show him the truth, Brahmin or Untouchable, that one was his teacher.

The name of that Brahmin monk was Adi Śaṅkara, founder of Advaita Vedanta, and considered one of the greatest religious philosophers in Indian history. Those of us in the West may have never heard of Śaṅkara, but 1200 years ago, he established a religious movement that has lasted to this day. Śaṅkara achieved fame and notoriety for traveling on foot across the four corners of India to debate other monks and scholars and setting up monasteries to promulgate his teachings, before dying at the age of thirty-two.

The major tenet of Advaita is that of Universality – that “all is God, and God is all and everything is the manifestation of Brahman.” This absolute monism claims that only the Brahma, the ultimate reality, is the Only Reality. All forms are just manifestations of Brahman.

The world of differentiated objects, or the variety of forms, like a water drop and the ocean, are ultimately illusions; everything in existence are but the thoughts of Brahman . This Brahman was totally uninterested and absolutely removed from the happenings at the level of human beings.

However, Śaṅkara’s absolute monism ran into the same contradiction that the ancient Greek philosophers were pressed to resolve: how could an unchanging, unmovable, uninterested, undivided and utterly transcendent Universal Principle have any relation to the affairs of the world?

Śaṅkara solved this problem by stating that the Brahman was both wholly transcendent and pervaded all of existence. The being who achieves knowledge of the Brahman within his soul, or Atman, achieves liberation from the world, and becomes one with Brahman. The end result of this process is termed, the “Higher Self,” which is the pure self of consciousness, free from ignorance and impurity and liberated by its knowledge of its awareness that all distinctions are false.

According to Śaṅkara, The “lower self” is subject to ignorance and deception, which causes the being into believing that polarity and the differentiation of objects are real. The minds of those beings that are ignorant of Śaṅkara’s Brahman will only form a projection which stands as the personal god the devotees pray to and worship.

This projection is the “Lower Brahman” whom Śaṅkara called, Ishvara, who possesses human qualities such as Love and Justice. Although these projections of the human mind are broadcasted through ignorance, Śaṅkara claimed it was better to worship the projection than to worship nothing at all, because Isvara, even as a projection, is the closest thing to the Higher and pure Brahman of consciousness.

Critics have labeled Śaṅkara’s doctrine as moral skepticism, charging that it implies that one risks enslavement to rebirth and ignorance by following moral codes of dharma and caste – when the unrealized self-will be seduced by differences one sees in the world, while believing self-identification is real – when all of what is seen, is illusion. Śaṅkara claimed that while all things in existence are the mere thoughts of the Higher Brahman – the Higher Brahman Itself, is devoid of attributes, thus “qualities” like individuality and polarities like “good and evil” do not exist.

Yet, Śaṅkara was forced to recognize that apparently, the people always suffered the consequences of evil actions.

Śaṅkara employs the line of reasoning that Evil cannot be created by God because in the allowance of evil, God’s qualities of goodness would be negated, and God would be in truth open to the accusation of extreme cruelty “abhorred even by a villain.” Śaṅkara reasons that since the Higher Brahma has no qualities at all – He cannot be the author of evil. Thus evil is the ignorance that deceives the human mind, which is geared to self-interest and abuse against others in this world.

The seeming duality of “good and evil” and “light and dark” are relative only at a certain level of reality. Śaṅkara compared the Brahman’s position to the polarity of good and evil to that of the sun producing both day and night. The sun itself is not subject to day and night, but the world rotating on its axis produces the effect. It is the characteristics of the Earth and its relation to the sun and the ignorance of the observer that appears to cause day and night. The same design holds for the apparent distinction of good and evil.

Śaṅkara used the analogy of a magician to illustrate his point about Brahman ‘s relation to the illusion of ignorance. When the magician pulls off a magic trick through sleight-of-hand, the ignorant viewer is taken in by the magician’s creation of a perception, like pulling a live rabbit out of a hat. Those in the know are not fooled, because they have knowledge that the magician has used an illusion, and they know how the illusion works. The magician, who stands as Brahman, is not confused by the illusion of the magic trick.

Anyone familiar with the workings of the Law of Attraction will recognize the role Brahman as pure consciousness plays. The idea with the Law of Attraction is to consciously draw to yourself prosperity and wealth, which is considered an indication of one’s self-realization and spiritual growth.

Śaṅkara’s Higher Brahman stands as the point of absolute Universal Consciousness, or Divine Mind, which pervades the essence and substance of existence, and is the conduit of the magnetic attraction that brings one’s desire to fruition. The concept was transformed in the West as the starting points of the new religious movements led by the writings of Helena Blavatsky, Alice Bailey and Rudolf Steiner, who were all instrumental in forging the design of the spirituality of modern Hindu and New Age philosophy.

 

Next: East Meets West: Ramakrishna and Vivekananda

 

Sources

The philosophy of Sankara’s Advaita Vedanta by Shyama Kumar Chattopadhyaya, 2000

Self-realization (Brahmaanubhava): the Advaitic perspective of Shankara by Vensus A. George, 2001

Parallels in the Philosophies of Madhyamika Buddhism, Advaita Vedanta Hinduism, and Kabbalah,”Ira Israel. March 26th 1999. Religious Studies 257

Hindu Philosophy by Shyam Ranganathan, Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy.

Isvara.” New World Encyclopedia. 23 Jun 2008, 23:44 UTC. 20 Jan 2010, 13:07

Shankara and Indian Philosophy” by Natalia Isaeva. State University of New York Press. 1993

The Philosophy of Religion and Advaita Vedanta” by Arvind Sharma, Penn State Press, 1995

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Brief Consideration on the George Zimmerman Verdict

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I’ve given this media story a bit of fleeting consideration. Trayvon Martin and George Zimmerman forever linked to a tragic incident that is no different from any other tragic incident. The “tragedy” being of course that an unhappy result of a calamity all but guarantees further suffering awaits all parties involved.

Leaving skin color aside, I believe we should focus on the fact that what we have are human beings killing other human beings due to an interesting human failure: out of reactions of fear, suspicion and/or sheer hatred. What happened in this case can be retold in many, many thousands of incidents EVERY DAY, callous, sinister acts of that span the unimaginable depths of human cruelty. You know, like intentionally dropping depleted uranium on foreign soil or dumping nuclear waste in the oceans or human trafficking or using child soldiers. If one looks at the big picture, one begins to see a larger pattern that  emerges. That pattern suggests that human beings are not intrinsically “good at heart” and that it is a constant struggle to give reality, value and meaning to our humanity.

6.7.13. Human Right #2: Right to Physical and Mental Health

2. An Equal Health Right that provides all essentials to building strong physical embodiments, insuring vitality and well-being along with clarity of intellect, emotional balance and physical stability.

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Anti-Abortion activists often refer themselves as members of the “Right-To-Life” campaign. It’s a bit of a misnomer, since they really should be called the party of the “Right-to-be-Born.” I don’t have a problem with considering the right of a fetus to allowed to be born, IF the world they are going to be born into the jaws of a nightmare that we laughingly call “civilization.” The fact is that the “right-to-life” movement cares way too much what happens to the fetus before birth than to what happens to it after it’s born. For most fetuses that will be born into this world, birth  is probably the worst thing that can happen to an incipient life-form. Most infants – many millions of them – will be born into an impoverished hell that they will never be able to recover from. Many will have nothing but pain, starvation, war, a wrecked environment and insane human beings to deal with before they die an undignified death, never knowing a single comfort that we in the First World take for granted every day. The “Right-To-Lifers” really couldn’t care less; many have told me that it isn’t God’s Will that so many suffer, but that it’s due to Satanic influences and Mankind’s “fallen nature” that so much suffering exists for these little ones. If that is the case (and I’m kind of in agreement with the “fallen nature” aspect – humanity has forever been a pretty brutal and vicious piece of work on this planet), if such suffering and pain is awaiting so many new beings coming into this world and you realize how fucked up things are, why would you campaign for the “right” of these future persons to be born on such a world?

Wouldn’t it make more sense to be all about standing up for the unborn if the world was first a proper place to begin a life? Has anyone ever interviewed a fetus before it was born and asked if it’s okay being born in a dirty hovel in a Darfur refugee camp where it can expect of life filled with no education to speak of, no access to healthcare, nothing but violence, water and food shortages, abuse and exploitation to look forward to? Put yourself in those shoes. Does that sound like an entrée  you’d want to order from the Menu of Life? Does that sound like the kind of fate you would want for your child? People who wring their hands about the shame and desolation of abortion (which may very well be a mercy considering what is in store for most children coming into this world) are so involved with their own minds and inner conflicts that they fail to see what they are really advocating. It is unfortunate for them that they never considered what would be in the best interests of newborn beings would align with the best interests of everybody else. That means providing a decent place for children to be born into – a place where they can grow in strength and honor, within a potential just waiting to burst forth onto this plane of existence, freed from crippling psychological issues that maim and destroys their character before they even have a chance in this world. What greater sin could there be to be given the gift of life and have that gift of a newborn turned to such a shameful thing just because we refused to rise above our disgraceful, paranoid natures, where the “right-to-life” is merely a “right-to-wrong” the truly innocent. Human Right #2 would be so easy to give to all of us, and it would finally bring forth a world that would be an honored destination for any newborn.

Fear of Equal Money, Part 2. 03/24/2013

War in Iraq
Photo: Carolyn Cole

10 years ago, I recall working in a Kinko’s in Whitehall, Ohio when the war began with the news of rockets raining down in Iraq. I heard it first on the radio that we had turned on behind the counter. For months I felt uneasy about the prospect of war with Iraq, and when there was news about an anti-war protest being held in Columbus, I went down only to find nobody had bothered to show up. Some of my work colleagues accused me of “protecting the terrorists.” When I talked with my teen-aged son about the illegality of the war, he dismissed me as “giving in to the terrorists.” I kept to myself and studied the news that confirmed my suspicions that “Bush’s War” (as I called it) was being conducted for stealing Iraq’s oil. Others were saying this at the time, and I felt it was probably true. And at the same time, I experienced a gaping disconnect from my fellow citizens who were parading their “patriotism” by slapping American flag decals on their cars and whooping and hollering as if they were cheering the OSU football team in their rival match against Michigan. I felt a disgust and even a hatred against these stupid, easily – duped people, purportedly my countrymen, and wished that there could be something that would happen that would change their collective minds.

The war dragged on. The Patriot Act. Abu Ghraib. Depleted uranium. [1] WMDs that never were found. “Freedom Fries.” Blackwater. Guantanamo. Extraordinary renditions. And what “good” came out of it? Depends on what you would call, “good.”

Saddam was deposed and the invading nations colluded with the biggest oil companies to shares the spoils of Iraq’s oil reserves, namely, BP and Shell. It certainly was a “good” outcome for them.

Looking back on it now, it seems my memories about the start of Bush’s War has cooled and hardened into a dull mass of regret and shame, and the horror of what America is accountable for is difficult to hold in the mind. Some of these memories are recollections of truly the most, absurdly existential bullshit. Some of them reflect a shocking, sinister and murderous malevolence that exists somewhere within the being of every American. Its fury was born in the perceived mass humiliation of 9/11 and was artfully misdirected and manipulated into being unleashed upon 116,000 Iraqi civilians who never asked to be “liberated,” let alone liberated from their precious resources and their lives.

Will anyone accuse the American Capitalist system of illegally “confiscating” the wealth of another sovereign nation? Will anyone question the morality or justification of a course of action that was nothing if not naked fury of greedy, blood-stained hands? Will anybody ask where the trillions of dollars that exchanged hands in the war went?

I forgive myself that I have accepted and allowed myself to blame others for not doing more to stop this shameful war  from happening. But I didn’t know how to deal with it. I didn’t know how to stop it. I didn’t realize until it was far too late that there was another way, a way that was paved within a society  that was honorable and just, not interested in doing the most good for the largest amount of people, but what is best for all.

I went through all that to set up this question: could something like the War in Iraq happen in an Equal Money System? This is going to sound “scary” to some folks, but when one realizes the decisions to invade another country almost never happens because of a purely politically interest. It’s a business. It’s a racket. The profit motive is front and center. The goal of EMS is to remove Capitalism’s profit motive, and replace it with a principle that is truly life – affirming and supportive to all beings, as this quest for profit is both  unnecessary and the single greatest cause of poverty and fear in the world.

NOTE

[1] A 2010 health study of Fallujah, Iraq reveals the highest rate of genetic damage in any population ever studied. Residents have high rates of cancer, birth defects and sterility from U.S. bombs that used depleted uranium and white phosphorus. Other areas of Iraq face similar health problems.

Fear of Equality, Part 6. 03/15/2013

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The Natural Law Argument Against Equality

When we speak of the Fear of Equality, we notice that most opponents of Equality will use various arguments to contradict or invalidate the benefits and rewards of Equality. The most popular is the  Natural Law argument, due to its claims of representing the best features of human nature and best represents the ideals of human freedom. Above all else, Natural Law has been appealed to justify and legitimize and promote Capitalism. But does the Natural Law argument against Equality succeed in overturning the basic tenets of an egalitarian – based society?

“God is not separate from the world; He is the soul of the world, and each of us contains a part of the Divine Fire. All things are parts of one single system, which is called Nature; the individual life is good when it is in harmony with Nature. In one sense, every life is in harmony with Nature, since it is such as Nature’s laws have caused it to be; but in another sense a human life is only in harmony with Nature when the individual will is directed to ends which are among those of Nature. Virtue consists in “living in agreement with Nature.” (Zeno, 4th Century, BCE).

It was the Stoics who are credited in formalizing the theory of Natural Law, where they believed that certain insights existed behind the natural order that could be ascertained through the application of reason and logic. This ancient Greek school of philosophy founded at Athens by Zeno (c. 300 BCE). According to Zeno’s teaching, the Universe is based on laws of the fiery mind of God. The Universe actually IS “God.”  It is the highest virtue (or moral good) that is based on knowledge, and that the wise live in harmony with the divine Reason that governs nature (because “God” IS Nature), and since life on Earth can cause various, detrimental episodes, to be indifferent to the reversal of fortunes that result in success and failure is “virtue.”

Principles of Natural Law have been embedded into Western philosophical thought and accorded a special universal significance, since it has been viewed as a basis for ethical human interaction. Natural law is seen as a “special” branch of  the legal system, especially in the Western tradition  because of its reductive relationship to the natural world from which these universal principles were derived. In other words, it was believed that there was some kind of rational, comprehensible system that exists behind the natural world.

Darwin, Hebert Spencer and others used the Natural Law conceptual framework to build their systems of evolutionary change in biology and sociology. Over time Natural Selection came to be equated with “survival of the fittest,” the Capitalist Law of the Jungle where the only morality could be found in competition, adaptability to the environment and specialization.

During the Middle Ages Thomas Aquinas, the great Christian Church theologian, appealed to Natural Law principles when he proposed that proof of the existence of God did not require faith or belief, but only through the  rational exercise of the reasoning mind.

In the 16th Century, the Dutch jurist, Hugo Grotius, asserted that nations and individuals were subject to natural law principles. Grotius wrote that the laws of men should be in accordance with natural law principles. Grotius and other like-thinking writers and philosophers of the period in the 16th and 17th Centuries used natural law propositions that helped topple the feudal system in Europe by pointing out that the feudal system was in opposition to the universal principles of Nature (and by extension, “God.”). Natural Law precepts helped shape important historical events and documents such as the Declaration of Independence and the Rights of Man documents of te French Revolution, and formed a major stream of thought within the philosophy of Classical Liberalism, Capitalism and religion and science.

By the time we get to Herbert Spencer’s “survival of the fittest” and Charles Darwin’s “natural selection” verbiage in the 19th Century, natural law had become the theological system of Capitalism. The Law of the Jungle and the law of  laissez-faire Capitalism, where the winner takes all, are one and the same. There was nothing “immoral” about a lion killing and eating a gazelle as it was just fulfilling its role as part of the natural world of survival within a certain environment. Same with allowing the exploitation of segments of society and allowing the poor to starve and die; no immorality there, for if the weak are unfit to survive, the law will remove them from this reality. It is simply science. It’s nothing personal.

It has been the theories of Natural Law that has legitimized the structure of Capitalism and helped give it shape and direction. But is this linkage of Natural Law and Natural Selection able to accurately describe a rational order in this world or is it merely a theory based on a false impression of reality? What is the argument of those who fear Equality goes against the principles of Natural Law?

Orders of Equality and the Limits Imposed by “Liberty”

For example, justice is considered to mean equality, It does mean equality, but equality for those who are equal, and not for all. (Aristotle)

Since nature does not endow all men with equal beauty or equal intelligence, and the faculty of volition leads men to make different choices, the egalitarians propose to abolish the “unfairness” of nature and of volition, and to establish universal equality in fact—in defiance of facts. Since the Law of Identity is impervious to human manipulation, it is the Law of Causality that they struggle to abrogate. Since personal attributes or virtues cannot be “redistributed,” they seek to deprive men of their consequences—of the rewards, the benefits, the achievements created by personal attributes and virtues. It is not equality before the law that they seek, but inequality: the establishment of an inverted social pyramid, with a new aristocracy on top—the aristocracy of non-value. (Ayn Rand, The Return of the Primitive)

The arguments against Equality are based in essentialism [1] and limitation. The first argument goes like this: people are inherently un-equal, blessed or cursed with different strengths and weaknesses that yield different results of success and failure in life. To award Equality to all is to reward failure. It is against the Law of the Jungle, Natural Selection and “survival of the fittest.” The Natural Law argument is also one that is embedded through the Classical Liberalism conceits of “Individualism,” “free will” and “Liberty,” not to mention the biggest conceit of all: competition. While the other items are vague, shapeless and subject to multiple interpretations, everyone understands competition.[2] And everyone understands that a Capitalism without competition ceases to be Capitalism. Removing competition removes motivation to participate in Capitalism (so it is believed). And what is feared is the collapse of the entire system due to non – participation. Equality in this way is seen as a subversion to the Natural Order, which leads to the next point.

The Limitation argument is also based on Classical Liberal philosophy, economics and even science. As we have seen in the previous blogs, there’s an inherent, irrational fear that (1) Equality is impossible due to the evil, selfish nature of humanity, and (2) Equality can only be imposed through Draconian, authoritarian means. It is believed that your money must be taken away from you and redistributed to others “who don’t deserve it.” In Capitalism, and this is a point Capitalists are loathe to admit on moral grounds, it is acceptable for a person or group of people to exploit others for profit. The initial economic surge of Capitalism was generated by the harnessing of slave labor and exploitation of the working class. People actually died for the right of working a 40 hour week (Less than 100 years ago, it was common for a factory worker to toil 16 hours a day in dangerous, life – threatening conditions. One can see how Capitalism would have liked to treat its workers). The Limitation of Liberty is the limitation of the liberal’s right to choose to exploit another for profit. (When speaking of “liberal” in this context, I’m referring to the classical economic dimension of the term, not the political definition. Thus, all Capitalists are ‘liberal’ in that Capitalism is a liberal economic system).

So if you mine this equation for any logic, you can only come up with this: at least within Capitalism, Liberty sets limits on equality because Liberty is inherently inequitable, the argument being, “Surely one wouldn’t allow everyone to study at Harvard, would they? It wouldn’t be fair to those who actually can afford it or have the educational level to study there.” There has to be obstacles and impediments in place (like access to money and connections) or else the value of Harvard is rendered spoiled. This value is tied to what we cherish and despise – the life and death principles of success and failure.

We are now moving into another murky territory. The value of a Harvard education is analogous to the value of Capitalism.

NEXT: The Value of Inequality

NOTES

[1] Essentialism is the philosophical belief that things have a set of characteristics that make them what they are (their essence), and that the task of science and philosophy is their discovery and expression; the doctrine that essence is prior to existence.

[2] This is why a result of a tie or draw in a soccer match infuriates American sports fans. There should always be a winner who takes all.

Fear of Equality, Part 5. 03/12/2013

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THE impression forces itself upon one that men measure by false standards, that everyone seeks power, success, riches for himself and admires others who attain them, while undervaluing the truly precious things in life.

Thus begins Freud in his book, Civilization and its Discontents. We can speculate some other time about what the “truly precious things in life” may be, since such things are wholly subjective and would prevent us from cleaving to the matter at hand. But Freud does reveal a tendency or a trait within human beings, that we are often given to measure our relationships, environment and thoughts by false standards, through manipulation, ignorance and wishful thinking.

This has been my thesis so far: people fear Equality because differing groups of people fear the domination or misuse by other Groups.

There can be no vast accumulation of wealth within a system of relationships of equal cooperation. There is no rational explanation of how massive social inequality could exist within cooperative relationships within the Group. Thus, the idea of Competition, rather than cooperation, was used  to justify and protect the wealth and property of the haves from the have-nots; a framework that makes sense only within the paradigm of Capitalism.

This fear of the Group is channeled and misdirected into elevated, metaphysical conceptions as values of competition, liberty, free will and Individualism. Of these, liberty, free will and the Classical Liberal deification of the Individual are thought experiments that can only be measured and compared through the signification of vocabulary or artful terminology. Of these, only competition can be considered an event taking place in reality, since competition has very real consequences and effects that can be measured, seen and experienced. The others are mental projections that are used to justify the means and ends of competition.

Managing the Trinity of Fears

There is a Trinity of great Fears that predominately exist within human beings, and they are:

(1) knowledge that each one of us has needs that must be met in order to survive.

(2) Nobody can be trusted, and,

(3) Survival is wholly dependant on access to money or those with money.

To deal with these fears, and more importantly, matters of survival, it is believed by social scientists that early social Groups were formed within relationships of cooperation to deal collectively with the issues of survival. As Society grew more complex and advanced, competition was introduced. How did this occur? The easiest answer has to do with man’s capacity for greed and desire for power over other groups and the environment. Wars and establishing controls over groups became the accepted standards for managing people and resources. There is even a saying about the realities of war that confirms this: to the victor goes the spoils. [1] Capitalism provides the incentive to compete, survival is the motivator, the point between life and death, as well as the attainment of value through the fulfillment of desire via “winning” (acquiring property, sex or fame).  The “loser” is accorded the loss of value, since the loser’s value must be extinguished and consumed by the winner.

It was a very neat and fiendishly clever trick to convince the Group that an existential “winner – take – all” competition for survival was the best and most efficient mode of living. Yet for over 500 years, modern Capitalism has reigned as the winner over all other economic systems. But it required a lot of help from the philosophers, economists and science to do so.

Conceptions of Society

Philosophers, scientists and churchmen have all had their own ideas about forming the perfect society; The major thinkers include Plato, Augustine, Marx, Lenin, etc.. In Plato’s Republic, the cornerstone of society would be “justice.”  Plato’s perspectives were informed by his aristocratic status in Athenian society, and he had a suspicious and disapproving view of democracy, preferring his utopia to be ruled by elite philosophers.

Augustine believed that the ideal society would be one entirely devoted to Christian principles in order to gain entrance into the City of God in the hereafter. Augustine believed that if the State followed the teachings of Jesus Christ, justice and peace would ensue.

By the 18th Century, philosophers like Jean – Jacque Rousseau and others proposed that a perfect utopian state existed before being debased by European culture. Rousseau envisioned a future community that linked political “freedom” with education, but at the same time was pessimistic that self-interest could be overcome to a point that would allow such a reality to unfold.

Karl Marx proposed that “true freedom” could not be found through individual means, but only through the community. Marx’s ideal community would be a classless one of equally shared property and resources, which would only emerge after the conflicts that will cause the collapse of Capitalism.

Amazingly, small – scaled experiments of egalitarian communities were formed in Europe and America in the 19th Century by Robert Owen, Charles FourierÉtienne Cabet and others.

Despite the failure of these communities to survive, the common notions of economic and political equality would never completely be lost, although these principles would live on in diluted and distorted forms within the various stripes of socialism (which has never escaped the gravity of market capitalism, thus keeping the social inequalities in place).

The fear of Equality is based on a false, mental reality that has produced severe material and physical consequences for humanity and the environment. These consequences are fast approaching the line of no return that will endanger our civilization in ways that are scarcely imaginable, most likely in permanent, unpleasant ways. We need to find a way out of this date with a dystopian destiny before that line is crossed. Perhaps, if we could finally see and understand how a community based on common sense and Equality could become a workable, comprehensible reality, we can begin to fashion an alternative that will be to the benefit of all.

NEXT:The Natural Law Argument Against Equality

NOTE

[1] A peculiarly American political idiom that arose in the mid – 1800’s to describe a rewards – system that benefitted the winning candidate’s supporters with government jobs.

Fear of Equality, Part 4 03/10/2013

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The United States is the Darwinist capital of the capitalist world. A head afraid is a head haunted. A head haunted is a head hunted. Run for your life. Run from the guillotine to a head hunter who saves your head and raises your salary—so you’ll be caught in the red of the fishmarket buying gadgets to distract your fragile imagination that is cut in the red market of blood—running and escaping—running again—changing your resume to update the fear you feel of being unemployed tomorrow—in the streets—and from there to welfare—and from there to begging. – Giannina Braschi, “United States of Banana,” AmazonCrossing, 2011.

Survival of the Fittest

There is one error in Braschi’s otherwise excellent undressing of the Capitalist system in the USA, and that is the allusion that Darwin and the term “survival of the fittest” are connected. The two items are, but more through myth and misconception than in reality. The term, “survival of the fittest” actually originated with a Liberal philosopher named Herbert Spencer in a work he published as “Principles of Biology” in 1864 after he read Darwin’s “On the Origin of the Species.” [1] Since the mid – 1860’s, opponents and proponents of Capitalism have used the terms “Darwinism” and “survival of the fittest” as simple metaphoric codes to express complicated, intertwined  sociological, political and economical realities. In the process, their meanings has been defaced and distorted, producing further misconceptions are misunderstandings that have darkened and fudged any kind of  accurate analysis of our current problems.

But how was “survival of the fittest” originally used, what has it become to signify and is there anything that can be learned from a correct and clear understanding of the concept.

The Original Conception

As I’ve just mentioned, the phrase “Survival of the Fittest” was coined by Herbert Spencer in 1864 after reading Darwin’s On the Origin of the Species. Spencer was a social scientist  with a liberal utilitarian bent who was influenced by the social evolutionary theories of Auguste Comte. The popular belief among these early social scientists was that societies tended to evolved from simple, primitive, superstitious states into more complex, sophisticated, enlightened civilizations. It should be remembered that the md-1800’s saw the Industrial Revolution bring rapid social, technological and economic changes to the developing countries in Europe and America. In the eyes of everyone, society was changing. The mechanical, much more efficient and robust, was replacing the natural, and this was seen as progress.

Different social theories on the significance of this “progression” abounded. Spencer was concerned with moral aspects of society which informed his utilitarian theories. A liberal first and a utilitarian second, Spencer believed that the greatest good for the greatest amount of people in society was subservient to the moral superiority of the rights of the Individual, for society exists for the benefit of the Individual, not the Individual for Society and the Individual should not be restricted or regulated by social institutions. It is somewhat surprising to read what Spencer had to say about what “survival of the fittest.” As a good liberal, he had a basic mistrust of government intervention:

“Thus by survival of the fittest, the militant type of society becomes characterized by profound confidence in the governing power, joined with a loyalty causing submission to it in all matters whatever.” [2]

What this sounds like is Spencer predicting that the more complex society becomes, the more dependent it becomes upon government which will be more concerned with maintaining than the best interests of the people, which becomes reliant on whatever their governments give them. This sounds quite different from the common understanding of this phrase (which we will get to momentarily).

However, Spencer was not above heartlessness when it came to the plight of the poor. The great industrialist Andrew Carnegie who was an ardent follower of Spencer’s works, was reportedly appalled at Spencer’s perspective that there was no moral difficulty in allowing the poor to die since, according to Spencer, they were ill-equipped to compete in the ruthless Capitalist arena (Carnegie was born into terrible poverty). And competition, according to Spencer, was a “Law” of the Natural World, thus it was neither good or bad, just a reality in existence. So much for the so-called “morality” and altruism of the Spencer’s Liberal Enlightenment.

The Evolution of a Theory

Not surprisingly, the two theories which were conceived by Spencer and Darwin eventually borrowed from and fed each other until most people took them to mean virtually the same thing. We know that Spencer published his social evolutionary theories years before Darwin’s Origin of the Species appeared, and that Spencer was intrigued by Darwin’s theory of natural selection, seeing it as a confirmation of his thesis of social evolution through struggle and competition. Darwin’s natural selection theory did not have the benefit of being informed by genetics, the significance s of which would only be discovered at the beginning of the 20th Century. Natural selection proposed that it was the adaptive nature of an organism to its environment that allowed it to survive and produce offspring. While Spencer took Darwin’s “natural selection” as vindication of his thesis that social evolution evolved from struggle, conflict and competition, he seemingly ignored Darwin’s point of the adaptable relationship the organism maintains throughout its evolutionary path, and was content to be a leading light that allowed the Victorian – era Capitalists to rest assuredly that if the Law of Nature was with them, who or what could be against them?

As a good Liberal philosopher, Spencer parrots the official Liberal line:

“Every man has freedom to do all that he wills, provided he infringes not the equal freedom of any other man.”

Which would be a fantastic thing if freedom actually existed between men. However, with the emphasis on competition, struggle and conflict, the Capitalist system of economic Darwinism (where the wealthy dominate, subjugate and demonize the poor) guarantees to never, ever allow any type of freedom in the relationships between men to exist, mainly because of the Fear of Equality, which is in essence, the fear of the Group.

The war against the Group is based on fear, and the weapon used against the Group is fantasy. It is the worse kind of fantasy to assert one can speak intelligently of rights and freedom out of one side of their mouth while speaking of social Darwinism of survival of the fittest out of the other. It suggests a mental instability. There is no balance in the scales nor is there an acknowledgement of what everybody knows; the playing field is uneven and most of us will never have a chance to live like the very wealthy lives. While most people accept this as a fact of life, we also accept that survival of the fittest is much like a rigged game in a casino. Or the stock market. The only “freedom” available to people is the amount of freedom that can be bought. If everyone truly had “equal freedom,” human relationships would change and competition between groups would no longer exist. Talk of “freedom” would no longer exist because in its place would stand Equality. A lot of fear must be removed from the definition of Equality first. One way of releasing the fear of Equality is to understand how little we know about principles of “freedom” and other values in our lives and how that ignorance has allowed us to be controlled and manipulated into mistaking falsehood for something real.

NEXT: The Trinity of Fears

NOTES

[1]  Spencer wrote: “This survival of the fittest, which I have here sought to express in mechanical terms, is that which Mr. Darwin has called ‘natural selection,’ or the preservation of favoured races in the struggle for life.” HERBERT SPENCER, THE PRINCIPLES OF BIOLOGY 444 (Univ. Press of the Pac. 2002).

[2] Herbert Spencer; Truxton Beale (1916), The Man Versus the State: A Collection of Essays,