Loving Yourself Commentary 1: The Negation of the Self

The Negation of the Self

The negation of the self is a belief that arose along with the emergence of the world’s great civilizations. When people began depending on intensive farming to survive, as opposed to gardening supplemented by hunting and gathering, seven new social conditions were required:

  • Masses of labor were required to tend the fields;
  • Therefore, families needed to produce more children as labor and as soldiers;
  • Social order was now essential to control and command labor;
  • Organized religion needed to establish itself as part of the command structure;
  • Priests became the mediators between Heaven and Earth;
  • The trust relationship with nature needed to be severed; and
  • The social classes of Ruler and Ruled became clearly defined.

Obedience and forced labor were built on the philosophy that the self of this world, the mortal self, had to be a subject of the ruler and was no longer allowed to live a life independent of the command structure. Civilization, as we know it, requires that nearly all people be laborers. This mass of labor is motivated by several factors:

  • A life in heaven after death which will be blissful if, and only if, the person was obedient in this life, otherwise the soul will live an eternity in unending torment and suffering;
  • The rulers would distribute food to support the family;
  • Women needed to become “baby makers” to supply the Rulers with more laborers and soldiers (the average pre-civilization mother had two children and the average post-civilization mother had 5-8 children); and
  • Disobedience is responded to with severe punishment – thus FEAR becomes the primary, over-arching motivator.

The negation of the self becomes a tool that offers transcendence to the unending drudgery of everyday life. In this way it became a core belief in the earliest Upanishads. But it appears in all religious philosophy that speaks of salvation and reward for obedience. It is fully incorporated in modern forms of Advaita and some schools of Buddhism. It is a toxic belief that we really need to challenge in our moment-to-moment existence. Notice how most religion teaches transcendence and thus it too negates this very world.

But the belief in negation is so deeply rooted in our cultural psychology that most of us unwittingly “agree” with it. We thus become our most intimate self-negators. You might want to explore Ruiz’ Four Agreements to see how we unconsciously sustain beliefs that not only fail to contribute to our liberation, but keep us as fearful and obedient slaves to authority, whether comes in the form of law or of religious doctrine.

The message of Liberation from the Lie is freedom from self-negation. This is the fundamental sickness of our time. We can have a form of civilization free of this belief, but this is a world we have yet to create. The Scandinavian countries are evolving to this world.

Civilization today relies on the same approach to control. The primary motivator continues to be fear. But since our invalidation begins so early in our life and because our social institutions are accepted as “normal”, only very few of us ever seriously question the social conditions of our life, even though our way of life is, literally, killing the planet and right now represents a very credible threat to our survival as a species. This is, clearly, not normative. It is a mass sickness. Modern human beings have lived on earth for over 100,000 years. The social controls of civilization have effected a majority of people for less than 2,000 of those years. This current way of life is the aberration.

The decisive invalidation is our earliest one, that one that occurred shortly after our birth. This primal event paves the way for a life of obedience and self-alienation. Few of us escape this fate. While we cannot change this aspect of our life, we can become awake to it. The two most direct methods to do this is to explore the works of Stephen Wolinsky and my book, LIberation from the Lie. Wolinsky’s work, along with Morris Berman’s, were an important influence to my own self-exploration. They are both strongly recommended. I also strongly recommend reading the wonderful works of Alice Walker.

We can wake up from the trance of fear, but it takes clear seeing. Self-negation is like wearing blinders over our eyes. We cannot truly know ourselves until we can see who we are and see and feel this energy clearly.

Tomorrow I will continue with a discussion of this short video.


  1. #1 by Kris on October 20, 2010 - 11:10 pm

    An unpopular theory of mine: Many religions initially sprang from liberated people’s efforts to teach/guide/help/etc.

    The vast majority don’t get it – and history tends to confirm this. They see something compelling but incomprehensible and so declare the “One” special/exalted/holy. They grasp some of what is presented conceptually, but limited to/warped to fit existing bias. As time passes they attempt to “do” or “attain” something, or at least act/dress the part. This eluding them they distort, and imagine, and fill in more and more “teaching”, add more practice, and belief, which for most becomes following/worship and all the rest of the garbage. This spreads, and a religion is born. From there people do what they do. Exert power though fear, enforce though hierarchies, make hollow promises to keep the masses in check. Fight to maintain and expand their reach. Religion and politics – same thing. Evangelism is Jihad is Warfare. All waged on conceptual grounds.

    The song and dance about life after death, reward after death, some external saviour/salvation, or reincarnation – and improving odds with each – if we’re “good” – that falls into the stuff you are railing against. The state religion/control of masses stuff. On the other hand, the core teachings of the Buddha, or Advaita, or many others – seem to pretty much not be promising anything not already there. Pointing to a liberation from delusion, from the “lie” as you prefer. Only the deluded masses make it otherwise and buy into their stories in preference of actuality.

    Don’t toss the baby with the bathwater (or give it special status)? I suppose I just prefer seeing connections and some truth at the heart of some “paths”, rather than pitting this against that ad infinitum. Plenty of that to go around already.

    Don’t forget the impact of liberated minds on everyone else is not often positive. Thinking it is, as many do – that rose colored glasses/Buddha’s shit didn’t stink BS – I leave that to the touring spiritual jet set to peddle.

    You are not that, and I agree with you generally in the context given, and all the links between agriculture, and organizations/subjugations are clear. Much has been written on this.

    I suspect Neanderthals would be amused by “liberation”, if they could see any way one could not be.

    Caro-Magnon/Homo Sapiens lost his way and forgot the obvious truth. Along the way his numbers and specialization/separation/deluded monkey mind/fear bodies (whatever as it all gos together/has same source delusion) increasingly took hold. This may have been pre-agricultural – but more proto-agricultural with settlements increasing in size, etc.HS would have found it increasingly annoying to live among his free willed big boned Buddha nature Neanderthal brethren (What do you mean “your” land? Your crops? We go were we like and eat what we find. We also plant, in some places we go, and gather and tend animals, but they are plants and animals, not “our” plants and animals, not “our” places). They would be disruptive to new “order”, aka primitive, harmonized with nature, and had to go. Being compassionate/connected/non ego driven may have made them easy targets, despite their intelligence and strength (but short range weapons vs HS long range projectiles and more military tactics). So much for my historical fantasies.

    A persecution/eradication component in Homo Sapien of course persists today. Anything “different” is a threat. What enlightened beings are mentioned in history are few and far between – certainly “different” – and many did not fair well. The rest were anonymously wiped out or remained silent. Do people instinctively remember these earlier people, and a time we were as they were? Does a sort of instinctual insight seem so counter to our conditioned reality that we fear it, or do we fear what we have become so much that it consumes us and few can break free of it?

    My only concern is what is different now? A liberated person is no friend of the state/religions. They may not be activist but unless hermitic they, intentionally or not, promote discord to any applied/imposed power structure. In essence, a different species. Not a throwback, maybe not a leap forward either (as so many like to think). More like a somewhat rare mutation. A subset of Nature’s instigation agents, releasing just enough trickle down reality into the mix to keep the show ever changing (for a lack of this effect – well, see the dark ages).

    I’m not of a Jude/Christian faith – though raised in/around it – and Garden of Eden myth seems to be about this – the fall from grace/expulsion from the garden clearly addressing the deluded rule of mind/fear that has become the human condition. “Original sin” thus the same as “delusion”, same as “the lie”. It also parallels the move from a simpler more direct/natural lifestyle to one of concepts, conceits, constructs and collectives. Of course few churches would sell it like that. The illusory divine supernatural/human divide is a lot easier to wedge themselves in between and use to advantage.

    OK – way to much incoherent rambling. Many things not commonly tossed out together. I don’t expect it to make much sense (or for you to even wade through that) as I have no point really.

    Recent videos were great. You’re quite prolific. I hope the book is doing well.

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