|We have already become familiar with the widespread association of altruism and egoism in Nature. Egoism has been the doctrine in which self-interest is the proper goal of all human actions as opposed to altruism. Several philosophers have espoused egoism as the preferred ethic. Biblical scholars have noted that altruism should be favored. Other religions are in agreement. Until very recently the benign association of the two has been a skilled metaphysical trick which has been the property of professional philosophers.|
We now understand that the association of altruism and egoism is not a matter of philosophical choice but is a natural
phenomenon developed as an evolutionary factor. To be altruistic is to be obligated by the innate need to assist one's
family, tribe, or whoever with which one identifies. This capability is experienced and reinforced through an installed
neurological system which, in simple language, "feels good". It is this "good feeling" which is represented by the
concept of egoism. Various religions and militaries take advantage of this obligatory characteristic by conditioning
their participants to relate to each other as brothers, sisters, comrades, etc. thereby forming pseudo family ties.
In reality we can all identify as a genetically related family. The human characteristic of identification is reflected
in all primate species to some degree.
Nowhere has altruism, in the form of cooperation, functioned more intensely than in mammals, especially primates and
humans. Mammals, in all forms, are obligatory altruists because of their need for nursing and raising their young.
Humans have the longest requirement for raising their young. For many reasons, those humans capable of identifying
with larger groups have a greater chance of passing on their genes. Without altruism, together with egoism, there would
be no family or society. Selfishness is not evil until it becomes unjust. Love is an example of the combination of egoism
This chapter is a good example of how the free logic of philosophy may be skewed by an encounter with reality. This
subject encompasses a clash between philosophical "free will" and human genetics. I had thoroughly believed that man
is free to think as he chooses. I was to learn otherwise. Though there is some freedom in our choice of a faith, there
is a limit of what we may and may not believe. As an individual avails himself of the knowledge of this factor, he may
enjoy health and happiness, but if he thinks to the contrary, he may suffer intellectual disturbances, depression, and
We have learned that the philosophies of optimism and pessimism can affect our health. An optimistic person generally
enjoys better health than a pessimist. There are, however, other philosophical attitudes that can affect our health. We
now come to the consideration of what is a most subtle human quality among the invisible necessities of the life of a
human being, an obligate social mammal. This necessity is defined here as "reverence". Its meaning, as we will use it,
contains three qualities:
Nowhere has altruism, in the form of cooperation, functioned more intensely than in mammals, especially primates and humans. Mammals, in all forms, are obligatory altruists because of their need for nursing and raising their young. Humans have the longest requirement for raising their young. For many reasons, those humans capable of identifying with larger groups have a greater chance of passing on their genes. Without altruism, together with egoism, there would be no family or society. Selfishness is not evil until it becomes unjust. Love is an example of the combination of egoism and altruism.
This chapter is a good example of how the free logic of philosophy may be skewed by an encounter with reality. This subject encompasses a clash between philosophical "free will" and human genetics. I had thoroughly believed that man is free to think as he chooses. I was to learn otherwise. Though there is some freedom in our choice of a faith, there is a limit of what we may and may not believe. As an individual avails himself of the knowledge of this factor, he may enjoy health and happiness, but if he thinks to the contrary, he may suffer intellectual disturbances, depression, and early death.
We have learned that the philosophies of optimism and pessimism can affect our health. An optimistic person generally enjoys better health than a pessimist. There are, however, other philosophical attitudes that can affect our health. We now come to the consideration of what is a most subtle human quality among the invisible necessities of the life of a human being, an obligate social mammal. This necessity is defined here as "reverence". Its meaning, as we will use it, contains three qualities:
we come to realize that we could not have a social human race without it.
We are obligate social mammals, and we dare not seriously deny it.
A human searches for an "identification" which it first finds in its bond with its mother or mothering person. This is automatic, and about as guaranteed as the suckling behavior of any infant. During a child's maturing years he identifies with a broadening society, the nature of which depends on the child's sex, the environment, and social flux. Eventually, the normal and normally raised individual links their survival and destiny with the larger whole. The recognition of real relationships (perceived family) and fictive relationships (extended brotherhood of mankind for instance), is basic to the meaning of identification.
"Humility" can only be achieved through Faith. The ultimate control of each individual's destiny is based on their "faith" which refers to confidence beyond proven facts. Individuals come to realize that their society is bigger than they are. Some individuals come to realize that God is greater than they are. This is the essence of humility: to feel that we are a small part of a larger whole. One should maintain a sense of humor about one's self without necessarily being humorous. One should empathetically recognize that other humans have feelings and thoughts separate from their own. These capabilities should not be taken for granted. They require education.
"Dedication" occurs when individuals devote themselves to the betterment and protection of the whole with which they identify. As the maturing personality comes to sense the outside social frustrations and competitions, it develops a desire to defend its family and its society. As dedication and defense merge in the personality, loyalty, allegiance, and patriotism grow. The "guilt mechanism" motivates this process. Guilt is a genetically installed mechanism which disturbs and moves the social animal to sustain and increase his support of his society. The religious sector stumbled on this at least six thousand years ago. The guilt complex is stimulated just before the collection plate is passed. "Guilt is surceased by altruism". A person absent of guilt is called a sociopath.
It is hoped that there has been enough to spotlight the fact that it takes more than the physical necessities of life to survive. There are factors of humble self-evaluation and constraint embodied in reverence and faith in addition to the concrete features of life that make it possible. The importance of reverence and faith is illustrated in the following experience. I was discussing "survival" with an expert on the subject. His profession was to teach people such as the military, pioneer organizations, and scouts how to survive if they were lost in the wilderness. He listed five essentials for survival: FOOD, WATER, SHELTER, KNOWLEDGE, and SPIRITUALITY. He maintained that a lost person without any two of these would soon die. In speaking to him about his concept of spirituality, it became evident that he was talking about identification and faith. He cited an incident when a man was downed in a small plane which was stocked with food. He was found dead sixty miles from the spot. With the plane, he had food, water, and shelter, but he seemed to lack the required identification with Nature, and faith that somehow he would survive if he stood by the plane and waited at least till the rations were exhausted. A person who does not identify and feel at home in an environment is apt to panic and do himself in. Another example is a person who feels that he is in an alien environment in the water. He struggles and panic does him in.
When the temporal lobes are excited, as in temporal lobe epilepsy, the result is an intense heightening of the patient's sensory appreciation of the world and intense empathy for all beings to the extent of seeing no barriers between himself and the cosmos. This might be a clue as to the neurological basis of religious and mystical experiences, a neurological effect not experienced by the atheist. Even so, this is not totally a question of "either-or". Einstein said, "The most beautiful and most profound experience is the sensation of the mystical. It is the source of all true science. He to whom this emotion is a stranger, who can no longer wonder and stand rapt in awe, is as good as dead. To know that what is impenetrable to us really exists, manifesting itself as the highest wisdom and the most radiant beauty which our dull faculties can comprehend only in their primitive forms - this knowledge, this feeling is at the center of true religiousness."
There is a success story of a life long friend of mine who became a world renowned Scientist in marine geology. He stated that he was an atheist and carried it to a point of being antireligious. When we drove past a church, he would refer to it as a "fortress of the enemy". Yet, he was healthy and happy. In the early days of my understanding of the significance of reverence, he seemed to be an exception. I must admit that for a long time it caused me to downgrade the importance of reverence.
This was the situation until we went for a walk on a clear December night. After we had left the house and our eyes were becoming accustomed to the darkness, the star bright, moonless night came into our consciousness. It was one of those quiet cold crisp nights when the stars seemed to hang on strings where we could touch them. My own heart was filling with a symphony of the heavens when I looked toward him to see if he were appreciating the scene. He just turned his face upward, stretched out his supplicant hands and said: "Waugh!"
My friend held Nature in reverence. He had risked his life many times to know Her better. Thereby, he manifested his allegiance. He went to the bottom of oceans in experimental submarines. He sailed closer than anybody to marine volcanoes. He defied sharks to dive among reefs. He subjected his own value of himself that he might get a closer look at Nature. He values knowledge of Science above all else and believes himself to be but one more little phenomenon in a great wide universe.
Faith in nature
Faith in the Supernatural (God)
Faith in humanity
We have said in this chapter that we may succeed with a faith in one or all of three great fields of thought:
II. Faith in a supernatural force, God.
III. Faith in humanity, Man.
Logically we may conceive of the fourth proposition in which an individual may have all his faith in himself. Experience with reality clearly nullifies the fourth as a successful approach to a healthy, happy, effective life. As we will see, it can lead to alienation (the next chapter). It does not work.
The evolution of identification
In man, reverence is first identified in his primitive kinship in that he first identified himself within a family. One can imagine that an offspring that did not identify within a family, due to a genetic flaw, would tend to wander off, become lost, suffer from exposure, starve to death, or be eaten. This problem is universal in the animal kingdom. Nature's requirement for social animals is some degree of fixation and bonding. With chickens, ducks and other creatures that are able to forage for themselves as soon as they are hatched, but need their parents to guard them, fixation is complete and instantaneous. Bonding is a hereditary behavior pattern that links the new born with its parent or any other creature standing nearby. Under domestic conditions some strange combinations can occur such as ducklings being fixated on a pet dog. Progressive identification is part of the agenda of maturation of a social animal. The human baby first identifies with its mother, then its next closest associate, who could be the father, siblings, aunts, and uncles: whoever is around the mother the most. Anyone who has watched a family develop knows the shyness that keeps a child's confidence within a small family circle.
When the world population of humans was low, integral wandering units did not extend much beyond a family group. As populations increased, pure mechanical factors as well as social advantages and safety led to a crowding of groups and related people who formed tribes. More extended family relationships were recognized beyond the immediate family where everyone was recognized at least as a cousin.
Identification and sexual-mating: a rule
If we consider a primitive tribe of thirty individuals, we now find children growing up under similar conditions: that of growing up from zero to six seeing the same children every day. If we can transpose the above finding to such a situation, we will expect no marriages between such children. When marriages do occur, the progeny are destined to genetic flaws eliminating them from the "genetic pool" over generations of inbreeding. Examples of this exist today.
Identification in the social milieu
In youth groups the single common denominator is the energy level in their physical and mental activity. Muscle development is a matter of much concern high on the priorities of a maturing group. It is also characteristic that a group remains intact without additions and subtractions of members, all maturing together. The group usually holds together until individuals marry and join the substrate of society. Younger individuals form a group of their own which in turn matures and is broken up by matrimony. Most clubs and organizations suffer from aging and attrition without a defined program of initiating younger members to the group.
Every personality needs an outside "steady" reference point to maintain proper balance. It is like a light hand on a stable reference point when entering into an unstable situation. Thus, personal psychological stability depends upon an outside reference. A faith in self is like a tight rope walker without a balancing bar: it does not work. A person without a dedicated faith suffers paradoxical and contradictory thinking.
Chapter 8. Alienation, the road to dispair