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The need for man to be positive and to cast off his passivity PDF Print E-mail
Life – Consciousness

JuleflueToday's lack of positivity, and its imitations
Human life has been very much taken captive by inertia and the fear of death and all the extensions of that fear. In reality, it could not justifiably be maintained that man's expression is positive and creative, even in his ostensibly most active behaviours - taking into account, of course, that there are always individual exceptions. Human activation normally has as its aim the satisfaction of some need, and, consequently, the averting of some danger.

But when, by reason of desire, superfluity is pursued, for example, of economic prosperity, again, behind this, lies as a bottomless fear, only this fear is more ontological, based on an existential inferiority and not on any rational need. This also explains why mankind is marked by such an attachment to the superfluous: because this creates in him the illusion of freedom from need, and, thus, of divination (theosis). Need is the 'other', the limit, mortality. It is for this reason that need must be overcome, the other must be eliminated, and the superfluous must be substituted for the abundance of the wholeness of Being.

Every tendency towards materialism, even the religious materialism which confines the apprehension of the transcendent to an approach of the senses and ritual organisation, is imbued with fear. This is because inherent in the concept of matter are chaos and ignorance, and in form, the concept of the void, which are concepts which call forth fear and are absolutely implicit in it, as they signify separation and alienation. It could be said that he who fears wants to be alienated from 'others'. And yet, though he wants this, because he is afraid, and the 'other' is always potentially there, as a possibility or as a threatening lifeless factor, this robs him of his ontological self-sufficiency and self-existence, even if he knows nothing of these. This is fear in its fundamental form.

This human distortion by fear has led man to build up, in his ignorance, a psychology which reacts against the environment and a way of life which constantly denies others, even if at the same time he makes approaches to them. With such a negative motivation, he cannot cultivate positivity; all he can do is to replace it with a creativity which is aggressive towards the environment. In this way he has succeeded in creating what Yannis Zisis[1] calls the 'social organisation of anti-sociality', that is, the core of action is negative, but its external organisation imitates sociality, with the result that even this secondary mimetic sociality ends up in increasing anti-sociality.

On the other hand, absence of fear should not mean absence of the instinct for self-preservation and an absurd lack of concern, but that the dominant approach, the cause of our decisions, should lie outside the field of fear and the instincts, where fear is not a creative factor, until it becomes totally extinct.

At the same time, man has the fear, understandable in the circumstances, but at the same time unfounded, that if fear is eliminated, then his senses will decline into desuetude and his powers into attenuation, because fear and its consequences (for example, competition) were virtually the only motive in his life. He imagines the absence of fear to be a form of non-existence and immobility and as a wiping out of the features of his self-definition. His identity itself has been built upon the negativity of fear, and each of its qualities rejects others, in determining either what this identity is not, or that it is a denial of the other, and this is something which can be expressed as superiority, for example, given that superiority is a supposed elimination of the other, a reduction to zero of others.

If we think seriously about our life and the tendencies in it which have been cultivated, we shall not be able to avoid a profound sadness about this absence of true life and the squandering of our creative powers as human beings. However, nothing is final and irrevocable, though it may be such for the poor and lightning-like length of a human life in the face of the totality of time.

Man, of course, perceives intuitively this lack of positivity, the absence of a primary expression of life, and attempts for this reason to cultivate it, but, alas, he does this on the bases of negativity. He attempts to conceal his negativity not only from others, but from himself. This is no more than a poor imitation of the positivity of life which is employed for the attainment of competitive objectives, such as distorted entrepreneurship, with its profiteering and in no way social orientation, it is no more than personal allurement, which is a foolish personal self-promotion, political authority, and so many other, innumerable, expressions of everyday life, with or without a name, which are apprehended as self-confidence. But this self-confidence is in a state of dramatic suspension: first, because it does not determine who the self is or what is the aim; second, it defines only the ego as opposed to the environment; third, it attempts to ignore the law of cause and effect, that is, that causes bring about effects, and to confine it only to the zero field of cheap individual ambitions. For example, in marriages in the past, love was not sought after as a reason for fidelity, but social pressure as a 'mechanical cause' of it. Apparent youthfulness is sought after for the attraction of the attention of society and of the other sex, and not a genuine relationship and friendship. Apparent youthfulness and youth of numerical age in themselves are mechanical causes (with gradations of the scale of the mechanical between them) and not causes stemming from the consciousness. They are mechanical because they relate to and play a part in regulating the field of the instincts, but at the same time they feed it, making its size disproportionately great, to the detriment of the consciousness and the spirit.

The temporary relief brought by imitations of the self guarantees increased difficulties in the future, because they accumulate more darkness upon past experience and distance man from the necessary crises of revelation. He hopes that he will find his self when he exhausts his desires, in a wish to retain both the truth and fantasy. This, however, is a major self-deception. The self is not found in this facile way through the grossness of the attainment of appearances, through the accumulation of self-definitions of alienation and superiority, through natural or mental acquisitions, but is defined through rejections of the idols which man has manufactured for himself and the world, through prudent liberation from appearances, through a balancing of abstractiveness and the world of phenomena.

This balance is, however, very difficult to achieve, and a grasp of the necessity for it does not guarantee its attainment. Why is this? Because abstraction may become an idol if it is defined by the absence of phenomena (that is, by something else), and because, in the world of phenomena, we must understand the laws of their operation, and accept their existence and usefulness, and not regard them as an end in themselves or as insuperable, but as belonging within a broader whole of potentialities.

Thus today's hectic activity of man (Western man, at least) and his aggressive social confirmation have nothing to do with real positivity and self-confidence. It is a form of exercise of power both towards the self and towards the environment, and, as such, cannot take us very far. Beneath it lies the deep dark background of an inertia of the consciousness and of a one-dimensional apprehension based upon the world of the senses, that is, on the world of phenomena.

This supposed positivity tends to replace the will, but the real will does not have to do with the instincts - without this meaning that we reject the instincts, but that, quite simply, these function in the realm of need, and whatever abundance man fantasises about within this realm, there will always be limitation and mortality as a basis for the determination of life and divination will be counterfeit, as an idol and a form of power.
Consequently, the content of positivity and the will cannot but be completely different.

It is, of course, a well-known fact that in the everyday consciousness of man, the will and positivity are simply to do with survival and competition, a fact confirmed by that champion of power Friedrich Nietzsche. Nevertheless, in our view, the real will is totally contrary to this animalism.  

Why is positivity necessary?
Positivity is necessary because life is affirmation and not negation. Negation always operates within the framework of limitation and deficiency, and, within its framework, its self-referentiality is lacking.
What, therefore, this affirmation means is a question which we must answer - something, of course, which is exceptionally difficult. Affirmation of this kind - and only this - lies at the core of freedom, and, moreover, of a freedom which will hold good both for the individual and for society.

Without this, man falls prey to circumstances, is rendered passive in the face of any power (not only political), and is alienated from himself, even if he is socially and economically active. The latter is an imitation of positivity and has turned man even more profoundly into an object. An individual or social edifice based on inertia of the consciousness and fear can only reproduce and reinforce negativity. Any evolutionary features which it possesses are subjugated, in the end, to this negativity, as, for example, has been the case with technology, which, instead of enriching human knowledge and providing more time for self-knowledge and creativity, has been used for the acquisition of superfluous material goods and relaxation in nothing. This 'nothing' is eloquently described in Yannis Zisis's text 'The idolisation of nothing'.[2]

A thing may be necessary either to achieve an external individualistic aim (for example, money to acquire a luxury car), or because this is in accord with the altruistic and social nature of things and their self-realisation (for example, money for a public-benefit project). There is money in both cases, but it is aiming in two completely different directions.

Consequently, here we must concern ourselves with three things:
First, whether the positivity of man is his real nature, in which case this should be attained, but on the terms of this nature, authentically, and not on contrary terms, which would be imitation only.
Second, whether the aims which man sets himself are such as to presuppose positivity of such a nature and not its imitation within the framework of individualism.
Third, if, in the end, the true nature of man requires such a positivity; in that case, every aim which man sets in his life should be judged on the criterion of this nature, and, if it is not in accord with it, should be rejected; otherwise, man will find himself in a state of inner division - as has been the case up to now. The nature of man has been the object of thought, but only evolution can supply the answer to the problem, because neither the wretched anti-social now is a correct and final answer, and can be the basis for every kind of, supposedly justified, abuses, nor can a naive conviction as to a form of 'goodness' already present support things, given that it is false. The imprisonment of man within the senses prevents him from registering with clarity his transitory distance from his potential self. Thus neither naivety nor malicious cynicism are suitable for reaching the truth and cannot support scientific or eschatological positions which render him a pawn of man-made totalitarianisms.

All this calls for dramatically laborious processes. Man wishes for his inner fulfilment, but without being put to the trouble of attaining it and without losing what he already has. This means that this desire for fulfilment is secondary to other desires, either because of inertia, or because of competition, and that, in reality, man tends to satisfy the latter and to increase his negativity.

The mere intellectual acceptance of principles cumulatively together with others opposed to them does not suffice for a serious change, because the central problem today for the thinking person who has escaped from animalism sufficiently is the ranking of his priorities, the fundamental choice of lines of action, that is. An obvious distorted ranking of principles is the feverish pursuit of wealth as the very centre of life, which may provide an individual with both the easy-going luxury and inaction of a mindless self-sufficiency, and the scope for exercising power over others. Even for the majority of those for whom their money is essential for survival, this fulfilment, deep down, is a fantasy with such a content.

This is the reason why, before any genuine efforts, man needs to clarify with honesty and thoughtfulness the dominating concepts which he invokes in his life and detach himself from their facile everyday significance. The choices such as these which man makes are also the material from which the whole of society and of social organisation is built up, and the fact that an individual does not will the negative results of his options does not mean that he is not responsible for them.
For example, the pursuit of wealth and distraction can only sustain those people and those situations which will lead to crisis. The fact that the individual does not want the crisis or the abuse, when these are brought about by others, does not absolve him of the responsibility for the result for society, because an attitude of this kind is an abuse committed against his very nature and supports every other abuse (given that every abuse tends to have a totalitarian character).

Our intellect, then, may be the assassin of life (when it is distorted), but, in its correct functioning, is absolutely essential, because it can throw light on erasing the selfish obscurities and contradictions of the impulses and become a factor for happiness. If, however, an individual fantasises with facile words and easy decisions, he goes astray, and we should stress that man has, in any event, by his own efforts distorted and betrayed his own life for the sake of comfort, distractions, and superiority, at the price of the alienation of his self. If he had put the same amount of effort into his own fulfilment in a different direction, things would be happier and altogether different, for everybody.

Positivity, in the end, is closely bound up with the will and power, but any understanding of it easily arrived at simply makes reference to animalism, which is instinctive and tends to make man powerful, but like an animal, as it overlooks every other human parameter. This is contrary to the will, even if it is represented as being in accordance with it.

The present subject is vast, and certainly the confines of a single article are not sufficient for a satisfactory exposition - although in no circumstances can there be a truly comprehensive exploration, since the concepts involved are of an unexpected depth, and, in the end, touch upon issues which are not capable of easy definition.

[1] From the unpublished text by Yiannis Zisis 'Man and machine' (1981).
[2] Yiannis Zisis (3 October 2008, in Greek).

Ioanna Moutsopoulou, lawyer
Member of the Secretariat of Solon NGO

Photo from wikimedia

Date of publication (in Greek): 2 September 2011

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