The way we think about our individuality is a modern concept.
We are used to think of ourselves as a subject, as the subject of our psyche, of our thinking activity and our feelings.
We think there is a subconscious mind, no one has ever seen it, but since we are driven by things we are not conscious of, there must be one.
Our way of thinking about ourselves is a modern concept.
Even if we may say, the seed of the sense of individuality was planted by Jesus Himself (we will explore it in this post) its modern implications have a date of birth: 1637.
In this year Descartes published his most famous work, “Discourse on the method”, in which he exposed his principle: I think, therefore I am.
Descartes founded the modern subject when he started doubting about everything.
He understood that yes, we can and we should doubt about time, space, the existence of the others…we can doubt about everything, but not about doubting itself. So he established on this activity the existence of the self: I think, therefore I am.
Until then, Aristoteles statement has been the truth for thousands of years: man is a social animal (zoon politikon). Now, the modern concept of individual self was born: man is an individual, rational being.
At the same time, modern “science” as we know it was born, the moment man saw himself as a finite being in an infinite world and he tried to dominate it by dividing it into fields of knowledge (through rational questioning, sometimes forgetting intuition)
That was also the birth of capitalism, that is more a religion than an economic system, a system based on the individual selfishness, capital enhancement through individual consumption, stimulated by desire of desiring, sense of guilt, false needs and fetishist idolatry.
After subject was born, in fact the philosophy stage of mankind moved to England where capitalism was taking its first steps through common land expropriations by landlords, and where four british philosophers, in the same years of Descartes thought of man as a rational selfish owner being. And this is the backstage of how we still think of mankind today.
The british philosophers, briefly but it’s important in order to understand the influence they still have nowadays, are:
HOBBES: who thought man is an atom of intelligent selfishness, who behaves in order to maximize profit;
LOCKE: who said private property comes from private labour made by the original property owner (while it’s not the case: historically private property comes from unilateral appropriation of common lands);
HUME: human nature is based on ownership and naturally tends to exchange goods and services (without any trace of ethical, cultural or philosophical backgrounds);
SMITH: who established the homo economicus, abolishing the ancient distinction between economy( needs satisfaction: based on use value) and chrematistics (commerce: based on exchange value, the creation of money) and who claimed that society is a “caos” of individual selfish atoms, coordinated by an “invisible hand” into a society.
The old idea that man is a social atoms, and society was born out of the necessity to redistribute wealth in order to maintain balance in social relationships was long gone.
It was the premise of the industrial revolution and the scientific revolution, where the most important part of man was thought to be the reasoning mind.
And we gradually lost the knowledge of the difference between reason and intellect, a huge difference for the ancient people. By late 1700, they were synonyms.
Also in this case, the masculine part (reason) was preferred to the feminine one (intuition, intellect).
We can call it “individual paradigm“, it’s not something bad, it’s just a phase of human consciousness’ journey.
As we said, we may even say that the first seed of this paradigm was planted by Jesus Himself.
Anyway, before the individual paradigm, man didn’t see things this way.
When we feel rage, we think we feel OUR rage, because we think we are the subjects of our inner life.
For an ancient greek, for example, the rage he felt was not his, it was God, Mars, moving through him. He didn’t see himself as the subject of his inner life.
For example this difference led to different visions of the soul.
We tend to think of the soul as an extension, an eternal extension of our subjectivity, as an “eternal ego”.
According to our religion or belief systems we may think it will go to other worlds, to Heaven, or maybe it will be born again as it is a sort of spiritual “alter ego”, moving through a linear line of time.
But we are still stuck in the individual way of thinking.
In most of the ancient languages (Greek, Latin , Hebrew, Arabic…), the word “Spirit” means “breath”, “blow”.
And Jesus defines it clearly: in John 3, 7 He says “The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit”
You feel the Spirit only by his activity, by its passing, its sound. It’s not a thing. Rather then a noun, it’s a verb.
Also in sanskrit, Atman has the same meaning: it comes from the ancient root word “at”, “to breath”.
The word Brahman come from the same ancient root word we find in Abraham, BRA, to create, to generate (the same that later formed “brain”).
The word person, comes from latin “persona”, which was a mask used in ancient theaters through which the actor would speak (“per sonar” means to play through).
So in their vision, the person is nothing but an instrument, played by the Blow, the Spirit.
Of the Spirit we can tell the effect, but not where it comes from or where it goes.
And of the player, nothing can be said.
Why this premise?
Because we can better understand the meaning of Christ.
When a modern spiritual researcher, stuck in the individual mind, think about awakening, he sees it as it is something he has to do or reach. He reads about awakened being, as if awakening was something that happens to the subject, as there was a subject, somewhere inside our psyche, that awakens.
For the ancient mentality, since our inner life was truly lived by the gods, “awakening” was the result of the birth of a NEW GOD.
A new God living through the individual form, and creating by that a new world of relations, a new reality.
For what it matters I think ancient way of seeing it is much closer to the truth than ours: more than a pearson realizing his divine nature, it’s God realizing his human nature. God awakens in a Human being, not the other way.
So the ancient found names for this new God and all ancient mysteries were all about leading the adepts to BECOME Him, letting Him live through them.
For the Egyptians He was Horus, for the Greeks Dionysus and for early Christians He was Christ.
Curiously they were all Gods that went through a resurrection: God rise again in the human form.
When we say Christ (or Dionysus, which means “Son of God”, or Horus) we are talking about what we now call the Self or, in the nondual tradition, Atman.
Our deepest e truest nature.
This, of course, has deep implications.
*The photo was shot by Umberto Del Noce. All rights reserved.