"Christian convictions were submitted to the disciplines of logic and metaphysical speculation, to the requirements of disciplined argument." Importantly, the influence was two-way, in that "Greek philosophy was also transformed." In particular, "traditional assumptions about natural inequality and the motivating power of reason were gradually abandoned" (Siedentop).
The first sentence of this post implies that the individual is something we could have tried to invent, but this is of course not the case, any more than we could have invented life. Rather, it was spontaneously brought about by certain conditions. However, once it began to emerge, it in turn altered the conditions that brought it about: what was an unconscious process was able, through greater self-awareness and -understanding, to become more of a conscious process.
For example, until fairly recently, no one gave much thought to the effect of certain environments and experiences on child development. Rather, children just "grew up," like any other plant or animal. But nowadays we hardly do anything without thinking about the impact on our child's development. We think about their friends, the parents of their friends, the TV programs they watch, etc. We realize that the child is a growing individual who sucks in influences from the world as a plant draws nutrients from the soil.
But you can't go to the other extreme and imagine that your child is something you only invent. Rather, it is very much a case of trying to help him become who he is -- to realize his potential, to recognize his gifts, and to exercise these in the service of God and man. From the start, both my wife and I have been overwhelmed by the impression: Where did this guy come from? No way in the world could we have invented him! There has never been any shock of recognition; rather, the opposite: the shock of an alien in our midst.
So you can't really know what kind of parent you'll be until you meet your child and find out what kind of parent he needs in order to become who he is. But here again, it is obviously not a one-way process.
For example, the other day I read something about crazy Angelina Jolie, who is allowing her children to "choose" their own gender, with absolutely no hint of parental influence or preference. Thus, her eight year old girl Shiloh is pretending to be a boy named John.
To whom is this supposed to be helpful? It can only be to appease some of Jolie's most primitive mind parasites. Even in a sanitized version, here is a person who, at age 14, "aspired to become a funeral director," "wore black clothing, experimented with knife play, and went out moshing with her live-in boyfriend." She "suffered episodes of depression throughout her teens and early twenties," "found it difficult to emotionally connect with other people," and engaged in "self-harm," which is to say "the ritual of having cut myself and feeling the pain, maybe feeling alive, feeling some kind of release."
Apparently the self-cutting wasn't that effective, because she "began using drugs; by age 20, she had tried 'just about every drug possible,' including heroin."
No, we didn't intend this post to veer in a sensational direction. I am no more interested in celebrity gossip than you are. But perhaps we can learn something from this, so let's see where it leads.
"Jolie has had a difficult relationship with her father." No. Really? Didn't see that coming.
Hmm. "She gained a reputation for being difficult to deal with." My guess is that this is because all borderline personalities are difficult to deal with. If you've never had a borderline person in your life, count yourself blessed. Back when I was in graduate school, there was an axiom: never try to have more than one borderline patient at a time in your practice, because they can turn your world upside down. You know, you come home and there's a rabbit boiling on your stove.
Speaking of sexual confusion, Jolie is proudly bisexual: "Of course. If I fell in love with a woman tomorrow, would I feel that it's okay to want to kiss and touch her? If I fell in love with her? Absolutely! Yes!" So, this mind parasite is a gift that keeps giving, in that she is now passing it along to her children.
Here is prima facie evidence of borderline personality structure, which is characterized by extreme impulsivity, essentially because the impulses are coming from different selves that are split off from one another. When one sub-self switches into gear, it displaces the other one: "After a two-month courtship, Jolie married actor Billy Bob Thornton." What took her so long? But then they "abruptly separated." What happened there? "It took me by surprise, too, because overnight, we totally changed. I think one day we had just nothing in common."
Ah, one of those things. Always the last to know. I'm sure you can relate.
One thing about money is that it can insulate you from the effect of your own mind parasites. You can be as crazy as you want to be, with no feedback from the world. And with no corrective feedback, there is no way to learn and grow, so the mind parasites win by default. This is why it so often seems that actors and rock stars all live out the same clichéd pattern. Instead of becoming themselves, they grab a mask from the ancient gallery and live out some predestined pathology (as indeed did Jim Morrison and so many other members of Club 27).
Now, where were we? Let's just say that this new space of potential individuality cuts both ways. Prior to its emergence -- and still in much of the world today -- one doesn't have this space. Rather, as in the ancient world, one's self is defined by culture, by family, by class, by caste, by race, etc. There is very little wiggle room to be anything other than a role that has been pre-selected for you.
Having said that, there are some critical things that have been conveniently pre-selected for us, and of which the accumulated wisdom of tradition is here to remind us: little things like, oh, one's sex. We don't invent everything about the self, for this would equate to nihilism or even blind tenure. Rather, there are some spiritual set-points, just as there are for any species. A newborn calf doesn't have to go through the process of deciding if it prefers meat over grass. That has already been settled.
Now, humans, unlike animals, are not bound by instinct. However, that is not to say that we have no instincts. Rather, for the human being there are certain universal archetypes that are like nonlocal attractors, or "vertical instincts."
Speaking of which, in The Book of Words, Rabbi Kushner writes that we may "exercise more 'freedom' by simply trying to be who we are and, in so doing, become who we are meant to be." "In moments of heightened awareness," we may have the sense of "rising to our destiny" (as opposed to sinking to our fate, which is what mind parasites facilitate). Thus, "We are 'free' to be what Heaven has intended us to be or not, but we are not free to be something else."
Just as there is an intersubjective space of individuation between oneself and other human beings, there is a vertical space between the individual and God. Within this space there is a two-way flow of influences and attractions (yes, even the earth exerts a tiny amount of gravitational attraction on the sun!)
Maybe it's a little orthoparadoxical, but I have no problem with it: "A person's actions thus have a profound effect on bringing the Creation closer to its perfection. These individual acts of free will on the part of a person constitute the 'arousal from below'" (what I symbolize [↑]).
At the same, there is the "arousal from above," or (↓): "At every moment God Godself acts to draw the Creation toward perfection.... Yet ultimately these two levels of free will are not separate. They are both aspects of the same thing. The 'arousal from below' sets in motion processes in the worlds above. Conversely, the power to cause the 'arousal from below' to come about is only in the hands of Godself" (you know -- like some kind of grace or something).
I recommend that you just say yes to this grace, because saying no will land you nowhere, in both this life and the next. Of which this life is a kind of inspiraling shadow-becoming-substance.
Evolve responsibly, and a happy new you!