Saturday, August 29, 2009

Evolving Utopia Part 22

Part 22: Autonomy

Autonomous: from the Greek "having its own laws"

"Autonomy" is the term I use for the mental state in which the power of the superego to maintain conformity is significantly diminished. I believe it is equivalent to Zen "Satori"; or the condition of a Gnostic "Pneumatic" or a Shavian "Realist"; or a person who has, in Maslow's terms, "transcended self-actualization"; or a Buddhist who is "Enlightened". There may be differences in these mental states depending on the environment of belief from which they develop, but the general condition is a freedom from the constraint by the traditional or ideological weltanschaung or worldview in which they are immersed. This may show up as a conspicuous iconoclasm or creativity.

That transcendence happens of itself in cases like Jesus, Gautama Buddha, Bernard Shaw, and Robert Graves, during a close approach to physical death which makes the death-threat implicit in the Oedipus complex less significant. This does not always work, however, as illustrated by the case of Flitcraft narrated by the protagonist of Dashiel Hammett's The Maltese Falcon. The implication is that unless one has a mental framework in which the transcendence is possible, even if it has not been experienced, the conditioning to normality eventually wins out. This is presumably what happens in the case of "recovery" from post traumatic stress syndrome.

Transcendence is cultivated deliberately by various oriental "Ways of Liberation", but none of them appears to have a high success rate. It may be that the success they do have is facilitated by being immersed in a community in which there is a belief in the process of transcendence. I suspect that any other belief the community may have is irrelevant.

Transcendence probably has no practical advantage except for facilitating some specialized form of creativity. An example is the case of Steve Jobs of Apple Computer. He described his situation in a commencement address at Stanford University, given in the next part.

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