Blaming cultural conditions for the dysfunction he saw is putting the cart before the horse. Alas, doing so is as common as it is mistaken. Among other things, he must have had a deep-seated emotional problem with religion, or the oppression he thinks causes religion, to see it that way.
Marx’s mistake was a failure to challenge or question the emotional biases—his agenda—that drove him to see it the way he did. Why?
We love our biases!
He only directed his ‘symptoms point of view’ outward; he never used it to look within himself honestly. That is understandable, for aiming a rigorous and comprehensive ‘symptoms point of view‘ inward is liable to wean us of our own agenda. That’s no fun; our biases love us!
Where the symptoms point…
Interestingly, both core Taoist and monotheist (Judaism, Christianity, Islam) views roughly agree on the underlying causes of humanity’s distress—our ‘dis-ease’ as the Tao Te Ching calls it. The Book of Genesis 2:17 says, “But of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it: for in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die“. Chapter 71 says, Realizing I don’t know is better; not knowing this knowing is dis-ease; and again in chapter 2 with, All under heaven realizing beauty as beauty, wickedness already. All realizing goodness as goodness, no goodness already.
While there is this core agreement between East and West, the West ended up ignoring the core and politicizing the rest (i.e., the true God is on ‘our’ side). The West (and Marx) never followed the trail of symptoms down to its ultimate end—”Mind only” as Buddha said and which explains why half of his Eight Fold Path addresses the cognitive aspect of human nature.
Is Marx’s mistake mine as well?
To be honest, like Marx, I’m pushing a point of view—different but still ‘pushing’. Therefore, it is fair (and sensible) to wonder what is my agenda; what drives me to see things the way I do? What are the similarities? To answer that, I must hearken back a few decades for context:
Back in the late 60′s, in the middle of the Sahara Desert, I reached what turned out to be my life’s lowest point. Out there in the middle of nowhere, I concluded that the world might as well have its nuclear World War III. The humanity that survived could then start over fresh, and hopefully get it right the next time around. I had come to see our species as a kind of cancer on the earth—we use up everything nature has to offer and give back nothing.
From this bottom of the bucket view, I slowly came to realize that my mistake was judging humanity by its own morality standards. That felt increasingly crazy and began driving me to find a more balanced way to see life. (See “Fixation on same, same”) It seems that reaching our life’s lowest point can be the spiritual fulcrum that sets us on our long-term life’s path… or in despair ending it all then and there.
Now the symptoms point pass “mind only”.
In reading this blog, you’ll soon know that I place all the ‘blame’ now on nature—not religion, not humanity, not technology, and not the mind either—really. In the end, the buck stops with pure simple nature, and more particularly, biology. Solving uncomfortable issues this way, removes me from the story to an extent. It is impossible to see life in terms of what I want, when I realize what I want is based in biology. Nature is the perfect solvent for my emotional glue(2). However, it could be the other way around: removing myself from the story allows me to see the whole story. It is the ‘vicious circle’ working beneficially.
It really is all about ego—that “illusion of self” Buddha spoke to in his 2nd Noble Truth: “The illusion of self originates and manifests itself in a cleaving to things. Indeed, that was Marx’s problem in the first place; that was mine back in the Sahara. Nearly nothing works as well to manifest the ego as having an enemy on which to cleave. In other words, the ego’s survival hinges on how tenacious we identify and cling to our ‘favorite’ enemy.
Marx’s enemy was religion, among other things I’m sure. My enemy was a cancerous humanity. This dynamic is also a vicious circle… just as nature intends it. I repeat, just as nature intends it! This circle can spin either positively or negatively. In addition, the mind doesn’t really set the direction; the mind is just reflecting our emotions—how we feel. I see mind as just the tip of the iceberg; emotion is the unseen bulk below the surface. As emotion tips so goes the mind. Thus, of course, Realizing I don’t know is better; not knowing this knowing is dis-ease.
Life is learning life
What is called profound sameness in chapter 56, and the 2nd Noble Truth of Buddha both shout out the obvious, truth be told. It is our fear and need—the building blocks of the blind spot—that obscure our view. This is why wisdom cannot be passed on the next generation. We are all born with innate fears and needs, meaning we all have our personal blind spot to ‘appreciate’. Only after you appreciate it, can you actually begin to get a handle on it. Such matters are beyond the realm of teaching.
If you acknowledge the existence of the blind spot, you might seriously wonder if there is any way to perceive its effect upon you. I’ve found that seeing how blind others can be is the first step. Next, looking at myself with rigorous self-honest until I find that same blindness in my outlook. To date, I’ve never failed to find it. Finally, consider this simple analogy: the human mind and its cognitive powers are like a bird that has evolved gigantic wings that take a lifetime to acquire skill at using (if it is lucky). If nothing else, nature loves to experiment, and we are just one of its latest.
(1) Religious distress is at the same time the expression of real distress and the protest against real distress. Religion is the sigh of the oppressed creature, the heart of a heartless world, just as it is the spirit of a spiritless situation. It is the opium of the people. The abolition of religion as the illusory happiness of the people is required for their real happiness. The demand to give up the illusion about its condition is the demand to give up a condition which needs illusions. — Karl Marx, Critique of Hegel’s Philosophy of Right
(2) The idea of a bio-hookwink serves as a constant reminder that what I want is based in biology. The idea of core instincts driving human nature serves too. The notion that humans are somehow ‘above’ instinct, that we control them, or that instincts are just blind forces that just drive other animals is almost pathetic. I say pathetic because this (or any) elitist perspective is merely a symptom of a deep underlying sense of insecurity. Why is our species so insecure? I’m guessing the mind… the source of our ‘dis-ease‘, and perhaps part of the cure as well.
‘Blaming nature’ as I do is akin to blaming the constant; chapter 16 say, Knowing the constant allows, allowing therefore impartial…, and to be honest, all encompassing impartiality can be a bitter pill to swallow at times. Naturally I have to blame nature for that too. The issue here is a ‘fairness instinct’, common to social animals, but especially powerful in humans. It feels unfair to let ‘wrong doers’ off the hook. Nevertheless, as bitter as it is sometimes, it does help cure the disease when I manage to nearly rise beyond myself.Share on Facebook