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The self-knowledge meaning of happiness and human relations - The redefinition of Love, Desire and Freedom PDF Print E-mail
Life – Consciousness

Up to the present, happiness has usually been presented as an emotional state of man dependent upon the conditions of his life. It is frequently the object of 'research' by means of a superficial, shallow, and saturated approach to life, human nature, and the world. In reality, man's whole idea of happiness is based upon and exhausted in the satisfaction of desires, and, moreover, unthinkingly and without any substantive aim.


However, if we wish to find some clue in the labyrinth of sought-after happiness, we have to recognise certain truths. Of these, some fundamental ones are:

1. Desires themselves conflict both with one another within the same person and with the desires of other people. Thus the result is for ever altering, supposed happiness is unstable, false, and short-lived - where it exists.

2. One thing which is forgotten is that happiness cannot be other than inherent, deep down, in the nature of man and the consciousness. For that reason, as long as man is alienated from himself, he will not possess the capability of being happy.

When man does not take the above into account, he exerts his efforts in an opposite direction. He tries, on the one hand, to achieve happiness merely by regulating the external conditions of life, which involves the field of results, but not the field of consciousness (albeit with certain necessary psychological adjustments), and, on the other, to avoid pain as being the opposite to happiness. Both these endeavours deserve great attention, because they involve both correct and erroneous features. 

1.  Attempt at regulation in the field of results and not of consciousness 

Happiness may depend upon the conditions of life, but it is itself an expression of consciousness. What, then, is usually attempted is to alter external circumstances (e.g., money) in such a way as to bring about a certain desired result, without, however, the consciousness, which is what produces happiness or unhappiness, really being affected. And here, naturally, the virtually insoluble problem arises of what is consciousness, given that this includes constituents of many kinds, of differing depth and intensity, many contradictions, and unknown areas. However, lack of absolute knowledge should not, in any circumstances, be an excuse for avoiding the necessary processes within the self. 

In the majority of cases, moreover, the individual decides not to concern himself with some problem, already visible to him, / because this will entail sacrifices on his part and he doesn't want this, and so hides behind supposed ignorance. Ignorance as an excuse is a luxury, because we shall never be in a position to have absolute knowledge, as this absolute knowledge means resolving eschatological issues about the nature of man, which is something that cannot happen. 

This whole matter, then, of the human effort to achieve happiness revolves around two basic axes of human life. These are:

a. Human relations, with the relation between the two sexes predominating. Moreover, in the relation between the two sexes, sexuality has complicated the issue of love even further, since this itself is in an unintelligible way complicated, as it combines a relatively obscure instinct with desire, and other factors. Human relations, however, are defined not only by those between the two sexes, but by relations between friends, family relationships, relations in general between people, and those of man with his non-human environment, and, of course, his relationship with himself. 

Narrowness of understanding is apparent from the fact that, for example, so much importance has in every case been attached to the matter of faithfulness in marriage or in relationships generally. It is, however, worth pointing out that the necessary importance has not been attached to love, which results in faithfulness, and not only that. Loyalty is a desirable outcome for all relationships, for example, relationships of friendship, whereas love is a cause. Much has been said about love, and each individual can maintain that emotional storms, or, on the other hand, rational settlements of a coolness between friends, together with the absence of a sensual warmth have to do with love. However, often what we think of as love is, precisely, what obstructs it, and for that reason it would be worthwhile exploring its meaning more deeply, even though we are not going to arrive at anything definitive. But certainly we shall succeed in rejecting certain deceptions about its meaning, and in coming closer to the truth (whatever that is). It is a fact that man wants everything, but he always prefers to start out from what is easier and to leave the rest to imagination and desire. 

The exploration of love is also necessary for another reason: because it is connected with all human relations, although it takes different forms depending upon the nature of the relations (family, with friends, social). 

The, almost, certain fact is that love is not an emotion, even though emotion is a reflection of love at the level of desire. 

b. The pursuit of the acquisition of wealth of any kind, so that the individual can supply himself with the desired material goods and social - sexual recognition. In these two instances - the most basic and common in human life - there is a fundamental contradiction and, at the same time, a fundamental similarity. 

In the former, what is attempted is the acquisition and retention of loyalty as a substitute for love by means of ownership, without any quest for the inner relationship, which means that the individual is unable to diagnose the genuineness of a relationship or the things which prevent it. Many people talk about love (though not all), but they identify it with the wrong things, or they are afraid to look for it, because perhaps such an attempt would make them accept failure. 

In the latter, the acquisition of a means is pursued, and this automatically becomes an image and an end in itself.

2. Lack of self-knowledge, that is, a knowledge of motives and of psychological processes. This is man's second endeavour to achieve happiness, and again without any activation of the actual causes of happiness. A basic lack of self-knowledge consists in a failure to make a distinction between desire and that need which comes from human nature in depth, true need. In other words, it could be said that human nature contains features and needs which differ from one another, whereas desire degenerates into a substitute for needs. 

The basic conflict is that between desire and love. We could say that human consciousness consists of various stratifications, of which those which are bearers of desire are nearest the surface. But all function at one and the same time, with the result that one tries to limit the other.

What is certain is that man is still a long way from love, despite assurances to the contrary. The reason why is to be found in the nature of love itself, which contains the element both of the impersonal and the personal. These two are in constant conflict with one another, whereas both should be maintained, but in an evolving balance. This balance cannot in any circumstances be a balance of percentages like an economic or political correlation, but, rather, like a qualitative synthesis. Wherever we are led today in relation to any idea, in the end the need for semantic investigation of our approach becomes obvious. Ideas about man which are easily grasped, rhetorical routines, or, in other words, the old criteria, whether these have to do with his competitive nature or with his dependence on the environment are not going to lead him anywhere in relation to his current need for a diagnosis of the causes of his difficulties, in spite of the fact that at their level they reflect a certain truth. But this limited truth ceases to be a truth when it prevents the emergence of another broader and more comprehensive truth. This occurs because in this way it ceases to play its limited role in the field of its range and attempts to control all the fields which lie beyond it.

At the same time, for some people love has lost its attraction, first of all because they are unable to feel it, second because they identify it with an emotion which proves in the end to lead nowhere and lacks credibility, and, third, because those who appeal to it neither know it nor have any intention of ordering their lives in accordance with it, and so present a picture of total inconsistency and of a ludicrous 'model'. Love usually appears to be an emotion characteristic of those who are not intellectually adequate, or to be a duty  which benefits others, such as the family group. It is typical of this state of affairs that love is considered to be synonymous with ties and a lack of freedom. This is another difficult issue in the analysis of the meaning of love, because for love to be analysed in any way, the concept of freedom should also be analysed in this connection. This is an immense difficulty for most people, because it calls for the consumption of desires and life in this effort. This sacrifice has to be made, because such an exploration will inevitably demythologise errors and fascinations and so will gradually destroy desires and error.

But the matter is rendered even more complex because, in fact, intellectual adequacy is necessary for a closer approach to love. But at this point two opposing things must be stressed:

Intellectual activity as an antithesis to love is not true intellectual activity, but a form of selfishness which uses the mind as an organ of satisfaction. Furthermore, it should be stressed that frequently self-centredness is regarded as a manifestation of intellect, which is not true, because the aim of the mind is the comprehension of the world and of the self, and this cannot be achieved with the selfishness which is fundamentally based on the instinct and desires. 

On the other hand, lack of intellectual activity renders man the slave of emotions and fascination, and because in this way his apprehension of the world and of himself is not integrated, he is unable to approach adequately the concept of love. Because this integration requires considerable toil and, moreover, eliminates the haziness of the emotions, many people flee from it, so as not to lose those things to which they are habituated, and so they handle the concepts in question in a limited light.

To attempt to compare these two negative phenomena benefits no one, since both at the appropriate time bring about their own harmful consequences. Of course, emotionalism is preferable to selfishness and has given to history exceptional examples of courage and self-sacrifice. However, when this becomes a habit, it easily finds itself at the mercy of the selfishness of others, such as, for example, advertising or mass models, and, additionally, it opposes to whatever transcends it a self-complacency of self-realisation which prevents development. In this case, it constitutes itself selfishness of a different type which is more psychological  and tending towards inertia.

The development of intellectual activity very clearly entails a danger of moral corruption, but at the same time it also includes the perspective of an exceptionally human form of expression and is a one-way street towards a fuller apprehension and expression of love - and not only love.

Desire is a terribly important factor which has overwhelmed and controlled both emotion and understanding. It is a creative power which on certain conditions is a motive force for the evolution of man. However, it has to change both its direction and the quantity of its power, which it derives from the unknown side of man, that is, the sphere of his existential impulses, and replaces this side in the world of appearances, thus creating a schism between the workings of the soul and appearance. In reality, desire in this case plays the role of existence (from which it draws its power), but, as an actor, it can only distort the truth, with what that entails for life. This is self-evident from the unsatisfied state which follows the fulfilment of desires, since if it were a case of pure existential needs, satisfaction would be definitive, because the capacity for evolution is certainly not allied to lack of satisfaction. However, in this case, this would not be satisfaction, but self-realisation. Desire functions as a deprivation syndrome, whereas existence can only operate as freedom. Therefore, evolution in the one case has the nature of compulsion, whereas in the second, it is the certainty of being.

The nature of desire is also complicated, and one can simply hazard an analysis of it, as is the case with every human quality, such as will, love, and others. However, it seems that the qualities of existence - whatever that term means, and undoubtedly it is an evolving one in our apprehension - as they present themselves in the world which is apparent to us, that is, in our immediate consciousness, have changed appearance dramatically, because of the latent and gradually revealed relation between totality and individuality. But this can only be the subject of another analysis.

Desire, however, in spite of its determining and necessary role in human development, cannot transcend being, since being as an aspect of eschatology is beyond images, whereas desire is an image and depends upon images. It looks like a cause, but it is a secondary cause, that is, a result which chronologically precedes other subsequent results - but it is an attribute of time, as are all things.

Self-knowledge does not impose itself. Whatever imposes itself is error, even when it is right. It is the imposition itself which is the error. Self-knowledge can only be the result of a free decision, except that freedom is not what man usually imagines it to be: a disengagement from obligations and physical and psychological labour. Putting it briefly, we could say that freedom presupposes will (not desire) and responsibility. Freedom as an absence or reduction of responsibility is authoritarian power, because in this case it is an image, as in this way it makes an image of freedom itself, as a form separate from displeasing forms. Freedom is not influenced by pleasure or displeasure. Of course, here man must be open to the determination of the aim of his life, because when the aim is irrevocable in certain definitions, then it determines a priori the content of the concepts which it explores, without admitting it. A sincere quest presupposes openness of approach and decision-making, otherwise man will direct his quest and interpretation towards his predetermined aim.  He may, for example, speak of self-knowledge, but without wishing to touch at all upon the question of power and its images. This will already be an error and a form of hypocrisy towards his own self, because self-knowledge is beyond power and cannot, as being broader, be made subject to the more limited, because then it ceases to be what it is.

All this, then, is a complex issue which requires greater and daring analysis, which, even if it is successful, in no way guarantees real experience of freedom or happiness, because real experience lies beyond the mind and its own images.

However, in spite of the difficulties, the road to happiness necessarily passes through gradual clarifications, with the parallel acceptance that one cannot know absolute truth nor can one advance by leaps and bounds or discontinuities of consciousness, nor can we safeguard the permanence of every point of balance which we achieve at any time. The joy of the quest in the adventure of life must take the place of dejection, and the seriousness of the search and of understanding will cancel out pleasure as an expression of what is foolish.


Ioanna Moutsopoulou, Lawyer
Member of the Secretariat of Solon NGO

Photo from Wikimedia

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