I define myself in terms of you; I know myself only in terms of what is “other,” no matter whether I see the “other” as below me or above me in any ladder of values. If above, I enjoy the kick of self-pity; if below, I enjoy the kick of pride. I being I goeswith you being you. Thus, as a great Hassidic rabbi put it, “If I am I because you are you, and if you are you because I am I, then I am not I, and you are not you.” Instead we are both something in common between what Martin Buber has called I-and-Thou and I-and-It—the magnet itself which lies between the poles, between I myself and everything sensed as other. There it is, a theoretically undeniable fact. But the question is how to get over the sensation of being locked out from everything “other,” of being only oneself—an organism flung into unavoidable competition and conflict with almost every “object” in its experience. There are innumerable recipes for this project, almost all of which have something to recommend them. There are the practices of yoga meditation, dervish dancing, psychotherapy, Zen Buddhism, Ignatian, Salesian, and Hesychast methods of “prayer,” the use of consciousness-changing chemicals such as LSD and mescaline, psychodrama, group dynamics, sensory-awareness techniques, Quakerism, Gurdjieff exercises, relaxation therapies, the Alexander method, autogenic training, and self-hypnosis. The difficulty with every one of these disciplines is that the moment you are seriously involved, you find yourself boxed in some special in-group which defines itself, often with the most elegant subtlety, by the exclusion of an out-group. In this way, every religion or cult is self-defeating, and this is equally true of projects which define themselves as non-religions or universally inclusive religions, playing the game of “I am less exclusive than you.” It is thus that religions and non-religions—all established in the name of brotherhood and universal love—are invariably divisive and quarrelsome.

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A quote saved on Dec. 30, 2015.


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