From The Individual and the Nature of Mass Events – Part Four, The Practicing Idealist
Chapter 10: The Good, the Better, and the Best. Session 868
Most readers of this book can be considered idealists in one way or another by themselves or others. Yet certainly in these pages, we have presented several pictures of social and political realities that are far from ideal. We have tried to outline for you many beliefs that undermine your private integrity as individuals, and contribute to the very definite troubles current in the mass world.
Very few people really act, again, from an evil intent. Any unfortunate situations in the fields of medicine, science, or religion result not from any determined effort to sabotage the “idea,” but instead happen because men often believe that any means is justified in the pursuit of the ideal.
When science seems to betray you, in your society, it does so because its methods are unworthy of its intent — so unworthy and so out of line with science’s prime purpose that the methods themselves almost amount to an insidious anti-scientific attitude that goes unrecognized. The same applies to medicine when, in its worthy purpose to save a life, its methods lead to quite unworthy experimentation, so that life is destroyed for the sake of saving, say, a greater number of lives. On the surface level, such methods appear sometimes regrettable but necessary. However, the deeper implications far outdo any temporary benefits. Through such methods, men lose sight of life’s sacredness and begin to treat it contemptuously.
You will often condone quite reprehensible acts if you think they were committed for the sake of a greater good. You have a tendency to look for outright evil, to think in terms of “the powers of good and evil,” and I am quite sure that many readers are convinced of evil’s force. Evil does not exist in those terms, and that is why so many seemingly idealistic people can be partners in quite reprehensible actions, while telling themselves that such acts are justified, since they are methods toward a good end.
That is why fanatics* feel justified in their actions. When you indulge in such black-and-white thinking, you treat what you value most, shabbily. Each act that is not in keeping with that ideal begins to unravel the ideal at its very core. As I have stated, if you feel unworthy, or powerless to act, and if you are idealistic, you may begin to feel that the ideal exists so far in the future that it is necessary to take steps you might not otherwise take to achieve it. And when this happens, the ideal is always eroded. If you want to be a true practicing idealist, then each step that you take along the way must be worthy of your goal.
* Seth on Fanaticism, part 1,2, and 3.
In your country, the free enterprise system originated from a mix of origins. It is based on the democratic belief in each individual’s right to pursue a worthy and equitable life. But it also became bound up with Darwinian ideas of survival of the fittest as well as the belief that each individual must seek his or her own good at the expense of others. Add to this the quite erroneous conception that all of the members of a given species are in competition with each other, and that each species is in further competition with each other species.
The “laws” of supply and demand are misconceptions based on a quite uncomplimentary belief in man’s basic greedy nature. In the past, you treated the land in your country as if your species, being the “fittest,” had the right to survive at the expense of all other species, and at the expense of the land itself. The belief of the country was and is an excellent one: the right of each individual to pursue an equitable, worthy existence, with dignity. The means, however, have helped erode this idea, and the public interpretation Darwin’s principles were, quite unfortunately, transferred to the economic area, and to the image of man as a political animal.
Religion and science alike denied other species any real consciousness. When men spoke of the sacredness of life — in their more expansive moods — they referred to human life alone. You are not in competition with other species, nor are you in any natural competition with yourselves. Nor is the natural world in any way the result of competitiveness among species. If that were the case, you would have no world at all.
Individually, you exist physically because of the unsurpassed cooperation that exists just biologically between your species and all others, and on deeper levels because of the cellular affiliations that exist among the cells of all species. Value fulfillment is a psychological and physical propensity that exists in each unit of consciousness, propelling it toward its own greatest fulfillment in such a way that its individual fulfillment also adds to the best possible development on the part of every unit of consciousness.
This propensity operates below and within the framework of matter. It operates above as well, but I am here concerned with the cooperative nature with which value fulfillment endows all units of consciousness within your physical world.
While you believed in competition, then competition became not only a reality but an ideal. Children are taught to compete against each other. The child naturally “competes” against herself or himself in an urge to outdo old performance with new. Competition, however, has been promoted as the ideal at all levels of activity. It is as if you must look at others to see how you are doing — and when you are taught not to trust your own abilities, then, of course, you need the opinions of others overmuch. I am not speaking of any playful competition, obviously, but of a determined, rigorous, desperate, sometimes almost deadly competition, in which a person’s value is determined according to the number of individuals he or she has shunted aside.
This is carried through in economics, politics, medicine, the sciences, and even the religions. So I would like to reinforce the fact that life is indeed a cooperative venture and that all the steps taken toward the ideal must of themselves be life-promoting.