By far the most dangerous idea one can hold in the West is that the human soul can be perfected by contemplation, sincere learning and scholarship, and by the personal revelation of the ineffable. To some extent, this is the belief common to nearly every religious and philosophical group widely persecuted, derided, or ignored by the West, particularly many New Religious Movements.
And yet, many of these beliefs are common among over-achievers, but this is simply because they are beliefs that encourage over-achievement and self-improvement, nothing more; they are merely a path to self-discipline and development that does not rely heavily on a central authority. The only thing that makes the believers in such an idea good for us or bad for us is simply one question: do they trust us, the ordinary people, with the idea?
And in the West, no, they don’t. They never have. The elites like to use anti-elite sentiment to discourage low status people from taking up these ideas by inventing conspiracy theories and fomenting distrust and even hatred over these beliefs. They become gatekeepers to this knowledge and only extend it to those whom they choose to initiate. Some will even offer imitations of this wisdom, and these are nearly always at a monetary price. They do not trust those who extend this idea, of the perfectible soul, to others outside their circle because these undermine the foundations of enlightened absolutism by allowing the humble to be exalted by what Buddhists call expedient means.
In return for giving up a more transcendental direction, they gave us blind, groveling, and austere faith filled with developmental dead ends and stumbling blocks. Or else they discourage anything beyond stark materialism, and then inject tautologies and presumptions that aren’t even rationally defensible. They sell us on the idea that we are essentially selfish, warlike beasts and always have been, and that trying to change that is a rebellion against nature; original sin, re-packaged for cynical material determinists.
For believers, there is the admonition that self-improvement will only lead to sabotage, and for the rest, there is the cynical acceptance of corruption as immutable fact and a material logic that cannot even comprehend the concept of a soul. But the idea of an immortal, perfectible soul beyond the body that can be forged into something good and alight with the divine light by one’s own patient efforts? There is no room for it. Not in the West.
Instead we pay our tithes, taxes, and service fees hoping that someone with more power than us can use rigid religious law or the cutting edge of technology or new legislation, or the latest consumer toy to one day fix our problems, but we are not worthy because we are not able. It is an insidious system meant to keep us in the thrall of those who forever promise our deliverance, but offer none.
The greatest act you can do for yourself, and the greatest protest you can make against those who wield power, is to ask yourself, “am I really unworthy to stand without my crutches? Am I really unable to be the person I need to be without being a slave to one rigid system and never exploring other ideas? Is the reason I know really the pinnacle of all reason as I have been led to believe? Have those we have trusted to lead us to deliverance taken us there yet?”
And that is all you have to do. You do not need to build an altar or become a monk or drop out of society if that isn’t what you feel you should do; but if you do not sincerely question the utility and purpose of everything you do and believe before you make a decision, then you are letting someone else make up your mind for you because if you do not seek an answer, those in power will always provide one. Your only leap of faith will be to believe, sincerely, that you will not be led astray if you choose to be free to explore all options.
When one person does this, it is how people move forward. If many people do this, it is how humanity moves forward.