In a West that declines as surely as the course of the sun, opponents of the incipient World State often define the modern situation as a dialectical struggle between collectivism on one side and individualism on the other. Usually “collectivism” is meant to define any manifestation of state power, be it fascism, communism, the liberal managerial state, or globalist technocracy, though many would expand the classification to include traditional religious institutions and even the family.
What is less clearly defined is “individualism”, a slippery term that means different things to different people. Popular opinion holds that “individualism” is the ability to choose and follow one’s desires for self-expression, be it spending one’s money how one prefers or something more trivial such as dying one’s hair blue.
When viewed from the perspective of a dialectical clash with collectivism, especially the state, the notion of individuality does take on a weightier significance than its more trivial manifestations, i.e. the university student who gets a tattoo to rebel against her father. Indeed, the individual as such is all too often deliberately devalued by the powers that be. Not only through various forms of economic reductionism, but also in the prevailing ideology which views humanity as a collection of interchangeable, atomistic, consumerist units, or in the more sinister forms of transhumanism of men like Ray Kurzweil, who see humans as nothing more than biological androids or even “ants.”
All too often, the self-proclaimed champions of individualism propose a model not all that different from their “collectivist” opponents – the individual remains a disconnected, atomistic entity, not defined by any external reference. For the absolute individualist, things like religion, ethnicity, family lineage, race, and nation are at most secondary affixations, not essential components to one’s identity. The supposed alternative to collectivist absolutism is a purely desacralized and impoverished conception of man, an outgrowth of Renaissance humanism and the Enlightenment.
Encountering this problematic origin, we draw near to the metaphysical dead end of modernity. As the German philosopher and critic of globalism Rüdiger Safranski observed:
… individualism is a product of secularization, for it presupposes that religious statements have lost their validity with regard to the meaning and purpose of the whole. Individualism invests meaning in individuals, and no longer in such totalities as God, humanity, nation or state.
French metaphysican René Guénon, who saw in the reign of quantity the dissolution of man and the world, articulated a similar position. He identified individualism as “the negation of any higher principle” and “the consequent reduction of civilization, in all its branches, to purely human elements”. In an age of mechanized tyranny, Guénon knew that the supposed alternative to totalitarianism was also one of its sources. Modern, individualistic man, “instead of attempting to raise himself to truth, seeks to drag truth down to his own level.”
Individualism, it cannot be denied, contains a positive recognition of man’s dignity and creative endowments. Yet such an idea systematized and applied to society is entirely inadequate for and oftentimes destructive of culture and its sacral basis. In his work Solitude and Society, Russian philosopher Nicolas Berdyaev offered some answers in the quest for a proper balance between individual and collective. Instead of mere horizontal, atomistic individualism, he saw personality as man’s true identity. While individuality denotes mere quantity, the realized personality springs from the sphere of quality. Indeed, as Berdyaev saw it and consumerist ideology attests, “extreme individualism leads to the negation of the personality.” Personality, rather, is the unity “made up of body, mind, and soul”. It is founded not just on biological, naturalistic, or social foundations, but on man’s very supra-natural nature and origins.
Berdyaev saw the assault on personality as equally present in individualism as in the various forms of collectivist systems, which he saw as anti-personalist. He recognized:
The exploitation of man by man, as well as the exploitation of man by the State, is a way of converting man into an object.
But no mere individualism would suffice to counter the objectification of man; Berdyaev dismissed bourgeois individualism as yet another form of impersonalism. On the other hand, the realization of the personality is both a spiritual and aristocratic undertaking. “The struggle to realize the personality is a heroic one,” he noted. “Heroism is above all a personal act.” If the personality is formed through the heroic, there is no greater heroism than sacrificial love, its essence:
Personalism stands for the love of one’s fellow-beings, of unique personality, of Divine humanity…
And thus personality can never be equated to the individual adrift in society, the “free thinker” who does no more than attempt to avoid the jackboot of collectivism. The true man is vertical in his orientation, and seeks neither material riches nor social license, rather ascending towards the heights, a genuine freedom in the realm of the spirit.
[…] By Daniel Spaulding […]
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I liked this essay, as brief as it was. You raise a good point about the individual being atomized, basically a mere quantity, that must resolve the dilemma of a transgressive culture. It’s interesting to reflect on the fact, that epic poetry, the wellspring of any civilization, has at it’s heart, the hero on the hero’s quest. Incidentally,this was a theme that Joseph Campbell addressed many times throughout his career and life.
Yet, the hero embodies the values of the civilization, and here could very well be the problem with modern humanity, homoeconmicus as opposed to homospirtiualis. It would seem that with mind control being so ubiquitous in our present day world i.e. entertainment, education, marketing, etc. the emergence of the hero, is actively being suppressed, as it were. The globalist, oligarchical, technocracy truly wishes for humanity to be leaderless or deprived of the narrative of the hero. Why, you might be wondering? Because of the renaissance that would blossom forth, divine humanity, homo spiritualis, the pouring forth of the creative will to good: imagine the implications of this transformation! If present day humanity, as moulded as it is, can achieve this transformation, then as in all acts of emancipation from slavery, it will be a spiritual victory. Cheers!!!
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Julius Evola wrote something simillar regarding the metaphysical nature of personality vs the mere biologic unity implicit in individuality in his “Man among the ruins”- third chapter (which, let us note in passing, is quite ironic when considering Evola’s ultimate impersonalistic conception of the absolute).
However, collectivism follows individualism just as natural as darkness follows twillight. To consider the individual as a point of reference sufficient unto itself is to view him as a particle in a sea of simillar particles. The uniqueness of the individual is only uniqueness in what is most superficial and irrelevent in human existence, otherwise all individuals share a common fate, with no superior point of reference on which to base his supposed freedom from the mass and the collective.
One thing is of notice: in collectivism all Higher Truth and metaphysical ideals are brutally supressed. In individualism they are drowned beneath an ocean of relativism and irrelevance. In the end, the two systems converge. Living in an ex-communist country (Romania) I can see this happening most clearly.
Thank you for posting this article.
Can you also tell us the name of the painting/artist at the top of the page of your contribution?
The colors and movement in it are amazing.
Thanks for posting. I second Valerie Gartseff – can you always name the artists; so as we can look up more of their works. Thanks!!
If you right-click on the image and select Save Image As, the name of the work and artist appear as the file name. I found it by trying to set one of the images used on past posts as my desktop theme.
Brilliant essay by Mr. Spaulding
[…] By: Daniel Spaulding of SoulofTheEast.org […]
I´m thoroughly enjoying the thoughtful and suave polemics/questions proposed by Mr. Spaulding. I could´t help but think of Kant´s moral imperative and the requisite autonomy in relationship to personality. I would also like to state that some newer cultures are much more individualistic (Northern European/ North American) then others. Finally, I would argue that man´s heart and mind must be horizontal too, but vertical first.
[…] Individualism vs. Personality […]
[…] course, Berdyaev, the great champion of personality and human freedom, would have none of […]
“On the other hand, the realization of the personality is both a spiritual and aristocratic undertaking” Aristocratic? In what way?
Thank You in advance.