|Libertarian Socialist Spirituality|
|In this article I would like to propose a possible connection between libertarian-socialist ideals and a spiritual world-view.|
In this article I would like to propose a
possible connection between libertarian-socialist ideals and a spiritual
world-view. Before I can do so, I shall first explain what I mean by
libertarian socialist ideals and
By libertarian socialism I
mean a political philosophy which is centered on a maximum of solidarity
between individuals while at the same time it guarantees personal
freedom. Libertarian socialism is sometimes regarded as an approximation
of a variant of anarchism. In anarchism, the main ideal boils down to the
abolition of power relations and the abuse of power. At least it implies
maximum freedom but not necessarily maximum solidarity. Besides, if it
is carried through too strictly, anarchism may in time lead to avoidance of
any form of hierarchical structure, even if this were functional,
and therefore also of effective organisation. Libertarian socialism
tries to approximate total individual freedom as much as possible, but
without rejecting all forms of organisation and functional hierarchy by
principle. Also, other than certain egoist or terrorist anarchists, it
explicitly opts for the ideal of solidarity and thereby it shows its
affinity with other forms of socialism such as social democracy and
communism. In fact, it is the centrality of the ideal of solidarity,
which connects left-wing movements.
By spirituality I here mean
an attitude towards life according to which life on earth is seen as
something that is connected to a broader spiritual reality. A reality,
which is not just the coincidental result of physical laws of
versus the interest of the individual
In principle, solidarity
can be conceived of in two ways, namely from the perspectives of
collectivism and individualism.
Collectivism stresses the idea of a general, abstract unity of a
group that would be more important than the individuals that form that
group. The general interest
would be more important than the individual interest. Totalitarian and
authoritarian systems by definition present themselves as collectivist
and this is true for communist and right-wing (including fascist)
There has always been a
strong connection between many spiritual traditions and collectivist
systems. Dictators have for a long time been seen as representatives of
a higer order, regardless of whether they were called Ramses II, Adolf
Hitler or Stalin. The same goes for priest castes that were exempt from
physical labour because of their supposed ties with Heaven, which often led to the exploitation of others.
It is this phenomenon that
has brought anarchist 'freethinkers' to distrust or even wholly reject
any form of spirituality. This is because collectivist spiritualy aims
at subjecting the individual to the greater whole, including in the
spiritual sense. We may
think of values as humility, self-denial and asceticism in favour of
service to society. But
also of ritual sacrifices of willing 'heroes' to bloodthirsty gods. In
general of the destruction of notions that center on the individual
rather than the collective. Thus, collectivist spirituality denies as
much as possible the reality and value of the concept of personal
survival after death.
A variant of collectivist
spirituality can be found in certain branches of the ecological
Gaia-movement (not to be confused with the animal rights organisation by
this name) that does not center on a human collective but rather on
Nature in general. Gaia, a name given to the Greek Mother Earth, would
be divine and wise, and in comparison to her individual human beings
(just as individual animals) would hardly be of any importance. Also,
the merciless animal reality of 'to eat and to be eaten' can be magically
transformed by collectivist spirituality into an example of the
unfathomable wisdom of Nature.
The most extreme forms of
collectivist spirituality can doubtlessly be found in Nazism, which
among other things promotes genocide as an outright holy, higher duty.
This degenerate spirituality can be found even today in certain
occultist circles, albeit in milder, weakened forms. This has even been an argument
against alternative types of spirituality more than once, because such
ideas are erroneously believed to be representative for the 'paranormal'
and 'esoterical' currents in general.
Thinking about fascist
spirituality in its Nazi version I often recall a scene from a movie about the Holocaust. A
female camp commander had saved a Jewish boy from the gruesome daily
reality of a death camp and tried to protect him out of some motherly
instinct. She continues to
do so until she receives the insight that she should sacrifice her 'own'
individual interest of protecting the boy to a higher, holier,
collectivist goal of racial purity. The boy is ultimately being
transferred to the crematorium.
The critics of collectivist
spirituality are right to unmask it as a perverted form of justification
of power relations and subjugation of individuals.
There are also forms of
spirituality that possess elements which seems hard to reconcile with
collectivism, but which lead to collectivism as soon as they are
In my view, a good example
of this is Christian spirituality. On the one hand its message aims at
individual salvation, but on the other hand in most Christian churches,
believers are usually subdued to the power of some authority.
spirituality is not about collective entities, but about the interests
of individuals and their relations with other individuals. Therefore it
concentrates on spiritual concepts that put individuals first. Examples
of such concepts are personal immortality, personal growth and personal
An example of a really
individualist spirituality can be found in Latin variants of
spiritualism, such as Kardecism, a Brasilian current based on the
writings of Allan Kardec.
I think it is this kind of
spirituality individualists (in my definition) should be interested in
if they want to be spiritual.
But it is possible to
strive for an even more solid form that is directly based on
parapsychological (or 'psychical') research. Just like the
spiritualists, within parapsychology there is a growing awareness of the
evidence for a personal life after death and personal reincarnation. The
great advantage of parapsychological research over spiritualism is that
you can remain critical and do not need to accept anything on anybody's
authority. If you want to take parapsychology as a basis for an
individualist form of spirituality you will be more interested in
personalist theories within parapsychology than in impersonalist
reincarnation research and investigations into Near-Death Experiences
clearly show how much sense such theories make.
do not pretend here to give a blueprint of individualist spirituality in
general. However, I do want to share how I have tried to integrate such
spirituality in my own life. Just like spiritualists I have an attitude
towards life, which centers on individual people and animals.
In my view, reality is
about our happiness and development, and life should be explicitly aiming
at these. The emotional
basis for this is a strong feeling of self-worth, but also
connectedness, love and engagement with others. From these arises an
urge to develop oneself but also to support others in their development.
From a moral point of view
it means that you try to respect the rights of others to happiness and
development, and therefore try to spare as much as possible the lives
of individual animals (by vegetarianism, or better still, veganism).
Politically it naturally
means choosing for libertarian socialism.
Apart from your own
development and moral engagement, also personal relationships are
central to my spirituality. These also have a meaning that goes beyond
only the present life. Instead of regarding them as selfish
obstacles for an impersonal universal love. Thus, within my spirituality
personal love is seen as an important intrinsical value. I precisely reject the kind of
collectivist sacrifice but also cold detachment.
Concerning the theory of
values (axiology), my specific type of libertarian spirituality aims at
a maximum tolerance. Everybody has a life of his or her own and chooses
to do certain things or not as long as one does not hurt others. This
goes for various areas of life such as music, religion, literature, art,
sports, play, sexuality, humor, etc.
In this context, education
amounts to teaching values such as self-esteem, love for others,
engagement, urge to develop, vegetarianism/veganism, libertarian
socialism, and tolerance.
Finally, the relation to
the higher or sacred amounts to a faith in the Good, regardless of how this is
conceived. I again derive this confidence from parapsychological
research (especially into Near-Death Experiences) and personal
experiences with meaningful coincidences. If I imagine that there is a
God, as an individualist I imagine that being as a person. This would
also hold for a plurality of gods and a whole pantheon of gods or angels
can be harmonised with my concept of spirituality. Also a personal
relationship with a divinity that corresponds with certain (personalist)
mystical currents could be consistent with it, as long it does not harm
one's self-worth or the relationship with other people and animals.
- Rivas, T.
(2000) Parapsychologisch onderzoek naar reincarnatie en leven na de
dood. Deventer: Ankh-Hermes.
Also see these relevant things:
- Papers in English of Athanasia Foundation
- Papers in English by Titus Rivas about animal and animal ethics
|veganism, individualism, libertarian spirituality, spirituality, libertarian socialism, freedom, liberal spirituality, collectivism|