Real Selves and Worthless Cultures
And now that I'm thinking about it, it must be the other way around: no self, no center -- the reason being that there can be no center in the cosmos in the absence of subject. If the world were wholly objective, there would obviously be no center anywhere, just a kind of complete dispersal with no interior coherence, no perspective, and nothing for the phenomena to "revolve around," so to speak.
But to say I AM is to testify to Cosmic Central. Now, how can there be 7 billion cosmic centers on the planet, each insisting that I AM? It's a mystery, unless each of these is a local franchise of the one nonlocal I AM.
I wrote that without peeking ahead, but I see that Schuon agrees:
"Thus there is hope for the man who has no center, whatever the cause of his privation or infirmity might be; for there is a supra-human Center that is always available to us, and whose trace we bear within ourselves, given that we are made in the image of the Creator" (emphasis mine).
Think, for example, of how alcoholics and drug addicts are able to conquer their addictions by surrendering to this Higher Power. Come to think of it, this "is why Christ could say that what is impossible for man is always possible for God." That is to say, "however decentralized man may be, as soon as he sincerely turns to Heaven his relationship with God bestows a center on him" (ibid.).
And -- to go back to what was said above about each of us being Cosmic Central -- "we are always at the center of the world when we address the Eternal" (ibid.). In the absence of this relationship to what infinitely transcends us, we are literally nobody on the road to nowhere.
It so happens that I'm reading another book, After the Natural Law: How the Classical Worldview Supports Our Modern Moral and Political Views, that discusses these same ideas from a slightly different angle; instead of pure metaphysics, it brings the discussion down a few notches to psychology and political science, or, you could say, the psychology of politics.
Not, mind you, the kind of vulgar psychology in which I toil. Rather, the real thing -- "ontological psychology," if you will: the psychology of reality and the reality of psychology. Metapsychology, I suppose: the psychology behind or above or beneath psychology.
Because it really all comes down to the question, What is a Person? Depending upon how you answer it, everything changes, especially politics, which is really just a form of group (or collective) psychology. As we always say, if you get your psychology (or anthropology) wrong, then your political philosophy will be destructive at best and genocidal at worst.
Think, for example, of the psychology of the Dred Scott decision, or Roe v. Wade, in which some human beings are irrationally stripped of their personhood for the convenience of some other group, e.g., slaveholders or feminists.
In chapter 4, The Classical Conception of the Person, Hill cooncurs that "No idea is more foundational to our deepest moral, political, and legal values than the concept of the soul, the self, or the human person."
That is, "Everything depends on who we are, how we are made, whether we are truly free and responsible, and whether there is a foundation for human dignity that transcends each individual's material talents and capacities."
Ultimately it comes down to whether the self is real or just an epiphenomenon, an illusion produced by brain activity that is in turn wholly material. In the latter view the self is to the brain as urine is to the kidneys, just a leftover byproduct with no value.
If the self is real (or unreal), how could we know it? In a way, the question answers itself, because how could a fundamentally unreal thing arrive at real truth?
"For the self to be real," writes Hill, "it must possess a unity of its own and persist through time." In other words -- consistent with what Schuon says about having a center -- the self must be a unity; it cannot be "hopelessly fragmented," but rather, a "centralized locus of identity, decision making and action that serves to bind the person to the whole" (Hill).
The idea of temporal unity is key. A mere object (say, a rock) has spatial unity -- we can see that it is one thing in space. But the self is "one thing in time," so to speak. It is constantly changing, and yet, is always itself. What is the nature and source of this unity? It must be something nonlocal that ties together all of the local experiences and events of one's life.
I would suggest that there is a kind of downward projection of God --> Soul --> Self --> Ego, each a narrower version of its predecessor. The ego is mainly the self's adaptation to the world, while the self is the soul's adaptation to a particular family, culture, and historical epoch.
To jump ahead a bit, how do we know that multiculturalism is such a crock? Because we may ascertain the "goodness" of this or that culture in terms of how much of one's soul may be expressed or potentiated in it.
In other words: what are the chances in this or that culture of actualizing one's real potential? Using this measurement, we could affirm that, say, Saudi Arabia, or the Palestinian Terrortories, or liberal academia, are approximately worthless.
Conversely, the America we once knew, and which has been systematically ravaged by the death cult of the left, was approximately priceless.