- 1 The Hegelian-Marxist Ideology
- 2 The Problem of Dualism
- 3 The Hegelian Optimism
- 4 Flaws of Hegelianism
- 5 The Theory of Three Qualities
- 6 The Process of History
- 7 Dualism vs. Non-Dualism
- 8 Advaita Vedānta Doctrine
- 9 The Problems of Binary Logic
- 10 Hegel’s Philosophy of History
- 11 Marxist Misinterpretations
- 12 A Race to the Bottom
- 13 The Need for Personalism
- 14 Dualism and Non-Dualism
The Hegelian-Marxist Ideology
Hegel is credited to have been the first in the Western world to bring the study of history as a subject of philosophy proper. He did so by creating the thesis-antithesis-synthesis framework for history. Hegelian philosophy became the foundation of Marxism that saw society in terms of dualisms of antithesis and thesis. Their conflict led to a revolution in which both are dissolved to create a new synthesis.
Marxism lies at the root of many subsequent social conflicts. For instance, men are thesis and women are antithesis; they clash and the result is a new genderless synthesis. Similarly, whites are thesis and blacks are antithesis; they clash and the result is a colorblind synthesis. Likewise, Western culture is the thesis and Eastern culture is the antithesis; they clash and the result is cultureless synthesis.
If we extend this process into the future, a succession of syntheses will progressively strip off all qualities because every quality has an opposite, and these opposites tend to clash in this world. Hegel’s idea of history can thus be seen as a European reformulation of Advaita Vedānta in which the world is dualities, these dualities clash as thesis and antithesis, and the synthesis is Brahman devoid of qualities.
The practical effect of Hegelian doctrines in the form of Marxism has been social homogenization. It can appear as the destruction of class structures, gender differences, or cultural identities. Since there are infinite dualities in the world, Marxism is infinitely extensible to new forms of dualism. Its result will always be conflicts in society and the result of that conflict will always be the destruction of variety.
In this article, I will discuss the problem with Hegelian ideology from a Vedic perspective. The gist is that the thesis and antithesis are like the head and tail of a coin; when they synthesize, the thesis and antithesis do not cease to exist. Rather, the thesis and antithesis join hands as mutually complementary aspects of a coin when a coin is identified. The coin is added to synthesize the head and tail. The head and tail are not destroyed to create a coin.
The Problem of Dualism
The history of Western thinking has been a continuous stream of dualisms. Being vs. Becoming, ideal vs. real, masculine vs. feminine, substance vs. form, emotion vs. reason, public vs. private, mind vs. body, religion vs. science, spirit vs. matter, good vs. evil, God vs. Satan, theoretical vs. practical, analytic vs. synthetic, a priori vs. a posteriori, essence vs. existence, nature vs. nurture, signifier vs. signified, truth vs. pragmatism, structure vs. function, creation vs. evolution, individual vs. society, man vs. nature, freedom vs. regulation, business vs. government, communism vs. capitalism, liberalism vs. conservatism, East vs. West. This list is not exhaustive, but you get the picture.
Every new thinker has to create a new dualism, otherwise, he is not a thinker. Every new dualism is an opportunity to write hundreds of new books, papers, and graduate theses. You can also mix a few of these dualisms to create a more complex dualism. The contradictions never get resolved. They keep expanding over time. They also keep mixing over and over and getting more and more tangled. Some people think that this is progress.
There was a time when physics seemed to be solving dualisms. Celestial and terrestrial mechanics were merged into a single theory. Electricity and magnetism were merged into a single theory. The theory of light and that of matter were merged into a single theory. The theories of space and time were merged into a single theory.
But with every such merger, a new type of dualism was always being created. In mechanics, it was elastic vs. inelastic collisions (elastic collisions are predictable, inelastic ones are unpredictable). In thermodynamics, it was reversible vs. irreversible (reversible phenomena are predictable, irreversible phenomena are not). In electrodynamics, it was inside vs. outside (the theory’s predictions are finite outside a charged particle and infinite inside the charged particle). In quantum mechanics, half a dozen new dualisms (particle vs. wave, determinism vs. probabilities, continuity vs. discreteness, reductionism vs. entanglement, object vs. ensemble, linearity vs. non-linearity, locality vs. non-locality). In relativity, it was perception vs. reality (each observer gets different results of measurement on length and time, which is why you must say that space and time are our mental constructs rather than objective external facts).
Physics is not better than philosophy because when you have so many dualisms, you cannot think straight. You just cannot say what reality is or is not. Your progress slows, gets more expensive, becomes less rewarding, and eventually comes to a halt.
The Hegelian Optimism
It required a particularly optimistic man to imagine that all these dualisms would one day be solved and a particularly naïve man to think that they are being continuously resolved in history. I relish the optimism but I will challenge the naivete. There has to be some evidence to accept that dualisms are being resolved in history. No such evidence exists in intellectual history. None of the historical dualisms of Western philosophy have ever been resolved. They have instead expanded and philosophy has reached a point of uselessness due to its inner contradictions. Since philosophy exists in every single subject, every subject is marred by these dualisms without a resolution in sight. I wonder if anyone wants to resolve these dualities. Or they see them as opportunities to publish more books, papers, and doctoral theses.
When Marx borrowed Hegelian ideas to talk about social dualisms, he did not check if the Hegelian theory was supported by empirical data. His vision of resolving the inner contradictions of a society by thesis-antithesis-synthesis also turned out to be false. The socialist revolution, for instance, did not solve the problem of class struggles. Instead, the communist rulers oppressed the citizens even more. The democratic revolutions did not resolve the class struggles. The erstwhile lords became members of parliament while their serfs became their secretaries, chauffeurs, and butlers; if the lords owned businesses, their serfs became factory workers. The wealth gaps between rich and poor are greater now. The power differential between the bourgeoisie and the proletariat is greater now. The fascist secret police were earlier surveilling some homes. The fascistic secret police are now listening to everyone’s private conversations and spying on keyboard and mouse clicks.
It is true that social classes are no longer hereditary castes. A poor man can become rich. Someone from a deprived background can ascend to the position of a powerful leader. But the thesis-antithesis remains. Marxist theories were not about caste struggles. They were about class struggles. We can accept and support the dissolution of castes. But that is not the dissolution of classes.
And yet, the Hegelian optimism continues. Marxists are extending their theories of antithesis and thesis across class, wealth, race, gender, and numerous other differentials, documenting their class struggles, calling for a dismantling of classes, exacerbating the conflict, and hoping that a revolutionary clash between the classes will create a better society. It won’t. It never has. At best, you can substitute one conflict with another. You can merge two or more conflicts into one larger conflict. It is possible that while clashing, each side acquires the worst qualities of those they are fighting against. But you won’t get a synthesis. The historical data is against it. If it hasn’t been examined, it should be examined now. It is high time that people who reformulate failed ideas in new contexts are put to the test of historical data.
Flaws of Hegelianism
But I suspect that Hegelianism and Marxism are not theories that aim to explain historical facts or predict future outcomes. They are ideologies, mental frameworks, or the goggles through which you see the world in terms of conflict. I don’t disagree with that. The world is clash and conflict. It is indeed dualities. But we cannot solve that dualism by increasing their conflict. We can resolve it by cooperation.
Think for the moment of a coin with a head and a tail. The head and tail are opposites. They are antithesis and thesis. They are mutually opposed. But are they clashing? Or are they two sides of the same coin? If you toss a coin, sometimes the head turns up, and sometimes the tail turns up. As long as both head and tail turn up equally, you would say that the coin is unbiased. There would still be two opposite sides. Only one of these two sides will turn up at one time. And yet, the coin would still be unbiased if each side turns up an equal number of times. Hence, there is no need to envision a class conflict, pit one category against another, fan the fire between them, and then sit back hoping for a revolution.
We have to ask: Is there an undue bias toward one side over another? If yes, then the bias must be removed. But it cannot be removed by erasing the head and the tail. We cannot merge head and tail into one side of the coin. Any attempt to do so is futile. You can beat a coin into any shape you like. It could be a cube, pyramid, or sphere. It will always have multiple sides. Since no side is the other side, therefore, logically speaking, each side is the negation of the other side. Dualism will hence always exist.
However, that dualism is not a problem if the opposites are mutually reconciled in a coin, sphere, cube, or pyramid. There is no clash between the different sides of these geometric shapes. All of them co-exist, all of them are simultaneously true, and yet, we see only one of them at one time. The thing that we don’t see hasn’t ceased to exist. It will reveal itself in another context, from another perspective.
Therefore, for Hegel to imagine that the thesis and antithesis collapse into some synthesis is true if we are talking about uniting the opposites into the faces of a cube, pyramid, coin, or sphere. That synthesis comes not by collapsing the difference between the opposites but by joining them through a third entity (namely, a cube, pyramid, coin, or sphere). The synthesis is not one thing. It is rather three things. The thesis and antithesis do not disappear. Rather, they coexist with the synthesis. The opposites become complements. But that is not what Hegel was talking about. His vision of synthesis is the removal of the faces of a cube, pyramid, coin, or sphere. He doesn’t see reality as comprised of many logically contradictory perspectives. He sees reality as logical consistency. To the extent that we find the world around us dualistic, consistency must be attained by removing both sides of the opposite. It is what Edmund Husserl called “bracketing”.
The Theory of Three Qualities
Hegelian philosophy is a direct lift from the Vedic philosophy of dualism and non-dualism, although transposed into European binary logical thinking where only one of the opposites could be true or real. In Vedic philosophy, the opposites co-exist, are simultaneously true, and are mutually defined. In fact, they are so entangled and inseparable that each opposite exists within the other opposite.
This ideology has at least two other non-Vedic counterparts. First, in Taoism, they are described as yin and yang, with the yin inside yang and yang inside yin. Yin and yang are opposites. They are embedded in each other. And they are mutually defined. Second, in Buddhism, the opposites are mutually co-created. This idea is called Pratītyasamutpāda or apparent (pratīt) co-creation (samutpāda). The opposites cannot exist without each other. They are inseparable. And they are co-created.
Neither Taoism nor Buddhism have answered the question of how reality can be two logically opposed things rather than one thing. That answer is provided in Vedic philosophy through a third category that is neither of the two, and yet, both of the two. It is like a coin, which exists before the head and the tail. The head and the tail are hidden or unmanifest in the coin. The coin manifests the head and the tail. Since the coin is neither the head nor the tail, hence, it is logically opposed to both. Since the head and the tail are not the coin, therefore, they too are logically opposed to the coin. This gives rise to the strange, but logically necessary, doctrine of three opposites instead of two. We can say that the coin is the whole and the head and the tail are its parts. This is a preliminary foundation for a new kind of logical framework.
Further advancement of this doctrine comes from the fact that the coin is present in both head and tail. For example, a typical coin has a value imprinted on one side and a nationality imprinted on the other side. This is how we say that something is a 10 Indian Rupee coin. We cannot separate 10 Rupee from Indian Rupee because 10 Rupee is an incomplete description of the coin without nationality. There are more sophisticated reasons for this which I will not get into right now, but this basic problem leads to the conclusion that the entire coin is a part of each head and tail. The coin is transcendent to both head and tail, in one sense. And in another sense, it is immanent within both head and tail.
The new logical framework now says—there are three aspects, each of which is a whole and a part. When it is a whole, it has two parts. When it is a part, it is a part of two wholes. Due to these whole-part properties, the head, tail, and coin are inseparable. There is a sense in which coin is prior to the head and the tail. Both head and tail exist simultaneously. But even head and tail contain coin and each other.
This type of logical framework is essential to understand everything, including matter. These three entities are called the three guna or qualities of nature, namely, sattva, rajas, and tamas. Sattva is like the coin, while rajas and tamas are like the head and tail of the coin. But we cannot separate these three. They are mutually defined, embedded in each other, and simultaneously existent. If we don’t see one of them, they have not ceased to exist. They are hidden from our vision like the tail is hidden when the head is seen, and the coin is hidden when either the head or tail is seen. If you bend the head of the coin, the tail and the entire coin will be bent. But if you scratch one side of the coin, the other side will not be scratched. In one sense, they are distinct. In another sense, they are inseparable.
The Process of History
History is now the cycling of these modes, in which each mode dominates after another. Hence, there are periods dominated by sattva, rajas, and tamas. The classification of time into four ages, called Satya, Treta, Dvapara, and Kali, is a nuance of these three modes similar to the division of society into four classes, namely, Brahmana, Kshatriya, Vaisya, and Sudra. Satya-yuga is pure sattva. The initial part of Treta is sattva, and the later part is rajas. The initial part of Dvapara is rajas and the later part is tamas. And the entirety of Kali-yuga is tamas. This four-fold division of society into classes and time into ages creates a sense of continuity. As the ages pass, there isn’t a sudden knee-jerk transition from one mode to another. That knee-jerk transition occurs when the end of Kali-yuga goes back to Satya-yuga. Likewise, the four-fold divisions of society are not monoliths. Each social class has a range of qualities.
A good example of this banding of classes is the existence of philosopher-kings, called rājarśi, who combined the roles of Brahmana and Kshatriyas. They are from the upper part of the Kshatriya band, very close to the lower part of the Brahmana band. Similarly, there can be Vaisyas who also take on managerial roles similar to Kshatriyas. They are from the upper band of Vaisyas closer to the lower band of Kshatriyas. A business or management leader, however, is not a philosopher-king. This is an important distinction for leadership of spiritual or religious organizations; their leaders must be philosopher-kings rather than business or management leaders. They are different by their innate qualities.
As time passes, we can first see rajas (thesis), then tamas (antithesis), and then sattva (synthesis), and we can falsely universalize—thesis and antithesis unite into synthesis. It is false because that sattva will again be followed by rajas and then by tamas. We cannot collapse these three qualities into one. This is why Hegelian history is progressive and Vedic history is cyclical. Historical data proves this cyclical history because the dualisms never get resolved. They just shift from one dualism to another. After some time, we find that one dualism is so old that it is already back in fashion. They never die.
Dualism vs. Non-Dualism
And yet, this dualism can be non-dualism if each side is allowed to dominate alternately, like a coin being tossed up again and again, and each time it shows head or tail, but an equal number of times. The head and tail cooperate in a coin. But in society, people don’t want to give up their prominent position. They think that if they have a prominent position, they must prevent anyone else from becoming prominent again. This leads to conflict. The side that was subordinate earlier, is prevented from domination. The answer to that conflict is to let the subordinates be dominant again. Give higher priority to their needs than your own needs. Make some sacrifices. Take some austerities. Through this process, you won’t die. You will rather begin to appreciate and understand what it is to be subordinate and how continuous subjugation is painful. Unless you undergo that, you won’t understand. So, the process of subordination, sacrifice, and austerity is a process of education. It is seeing the other side of the coin. If we show grace, if we accommodate the needs of the opposites, they will also be gracious and accommodative. This is the process of head and tail coming up alternately. This is the way that we say that the coin is unbiased.
The simple principle is cooperation. We can think in terms of a conversation. Someone speaks and the other person listens. Then the speaker stops speaking and he lets the listener speak. The dialogue would become abrasive if one person doesn’t let the other person speak and he never listens. We cannot say that the speaker is not a listener. Nor can we say that the listener is not a speaker. And yet they are opposites. The speaker is hidden inside the listener and will manifest later. The listener is hidden inside the speaker and will manifest later. They co-exist and are mutually defined. And they are simply two sides of a dialogue. The dialogue is present in both, and each side is within the other.
The difference between dualism and non-dualism is competition vs. cooperation. It is not the end of diversity, not the suppression of one side by another, not a clash between the two sides. It is the simultaneous existence of both, and within each other, if there is cooperation. That is non-dualism. If, however, there is competition, then it entails the clash of two sides, but it never leads to synthesis.
Advaita Vedānta Doctrine
The philosophy of Advaita Vedānta was born by the universalization of competition and the rejection of cooperation. In their view, the material world is conflicting opposites, which can never cooperate. Their conclusion was that the world is the plurality of māyā in which each thing is not other things and the unity is the oneness of Brahman. However, this Brahman must also be devoid of all qualities because all of them are opposites, and entertaining qualities would mean something is not something else.
This is certainly one conception of non-duality, but it is not the only conception. In another conception, all the qualities exist simultaneously, like the multiple aspects of a cube. Since all the aspects are reconciled in a cube, therefore, we cannot say that any quality is absent, that they are conflicting, that if one quality exists, then the others must not exist, or that we must see all qualities at once because otherwise, the cube doesn’t have the aspects and hence must become incomplete.
Advaita Vedānta forced non-duality into a binary and universalist conception of reality, instead of a modal, non-binary, and aspect conception of reality. It further rejected all other conceptions of reality as necessarily a byproduct of conflicting qualities: If something is one thing then it cannot be other things. After all, how can something be both hot and cold, light and dark, smooth and rough? Their vision of the separation of opposites is not entirely false; that separation exists in the material world. However, it doesn’t entail a conflict. You can eat hot things during winter and cold things during summer. You sit on a smooth seat and you use a rough tire to drive a car forward. You need light while working and you need dark while sleeping. Everything has a unique place and role in the world, but it is not the same place and role. If you try to equalize everything, then everything will be less useful than before.
The world of opposed qualities becomes non-duality when we use everything in the most appropriate way, at the most appropriate, place, time, and situation, in the hands of the most appropriate person. The same world becomes dual when the qualities of a thing are mismatched with the needs of the time, place, situation, and person. There is absolutely no reason to say that the material world is only dualities. This world is also non-duality. But it requires an expert to understand that non-duality.
The Problems of Binary Logic
All the problems of dualism become unresolvable fundamental issues under binary conceptions of truth. Either something is true or something is false. Whatever is true, must be true universally. Likewise, whatever is right and good must be right and good universally. There is no contextualization in terms of time, place, and situation, and there is no individualization in terms of a person’s abilities.
When universalization is extended to people, then the most basic principle of binary logic, called the principle of identity (A is A), becomes problematic. Under binary logic, if someone is gentle, then he cannot be tough. It is impossible to say that the same person is both gentle and tough and these two are different aspects of a person such that when the gentle aspect is visible then the tough aspect is hidden, and vice versa. A man cannot be tough at the workplace and gentle at home. One thing can only be one thing. This is why when we use binary logic on persons, we always end up with serious problems.
When binary logic is extended to religion and God, a new problem of incompleteness is created. This is because being one thing means not being other things (since each thing is defined by some quality that is opposed to the other qualities). Therefore, being one thing always means being an incomplete thing. A practical example of this is God vs. Satan. If God is good, then He cannot be evil. But evil also exists in this world. Hence, God must be incomplete because He is the source of good and not evil. To compensate for God’s incompleteness, another entity—Satan—must be hypothesized. The result is a conflict, competition, and struggle for supremacy between God and Satan. Theories about how God created Satan to be His sparring partner naturally result in new problems. This is because good and evil cannot be two sides of God, that He displays to different people. Good and evil also cannot exist in each person as potentials that must be chosen by each person by will.
Binary logic is a disaster. Every single principle of binary logic is a disaster. This includes identity (A is A), non-contradiction (something cannot be both A and not-A), and excluded middle (everything must be either A or not-A). The moment you use a word to describe something, it becomes incomplete, because that word has an opposite. Hence, to know the complete thing, we must stop using all words. No hot and cold, no bitter and sweet, no black and white, no rough and smooth, no good and evil. To be the complete thing, that thing must be devoid of all conceivable qualities. It must be indescribable.
Language is the enemy of completeness now. The mere use of language limits completeness. Hence, all books written about the nature of truth are incomplete. They must all be rejected as falsities. They are trying to describe the truth using words when silence is the only option to know that truth.
Advaita Vedānta is a very simple application of binary logic to the conception of the complete truth when the partial truth is defined as some quality that is logically opposed to other qualities. By applying binary logic, the complete truth is deprived of all qualities. Since this thing devoid of qualities is truth, therefore, we can also say that all the qualities are false, illusory, deceptive, dreams, and so on.
Hegel’s Philosophy of History
Hegel and many other Europeans were reading Vedic texts in the 18th and 19th centuries. They disliked the multifaceted and multi-form conception of truth. In their minds, it was polytheism. They disliked the ideas of inseparable opposites because after all, they are thinking in terms of binary logic. Complex doctrines like Bhedābheda or distinctness without separability were also untenable due to the same reason. They either disliked or never understood the notions of three qualities that are outside and inside each other because—let’s face it—these things are not understood by almost anyone. The inner contradictions of Christianity—such as the conflict between good and evil—were unresolvable.
The only remaining alternative was Advaita Vedānta. It fitted into the Western binary logic (which Europeans consider sacrosanct). It fitted universalism in which truth is only one thing. The conclusion is that a complete thing cannot be any of the partial things, and hence it must be indescribable.
Hegel took this ideology of Advaita Vedānta, in which the truth is Brahman, and called it Geist. It has various meanings such as ghost, mind, spirit, etc. This was an alternative to Christian Deism, in which God is separate from the world. Advaita had already attacked Deism as necessitating blind faith because if God is separate from the world, then there is no way of knowing God in this world except through blind faith. Unlike in the Vedic tradition, God does not incarnate in the world. And unlike in the Vedic tradition, God is not immanent in everything, including the heart of every single person. Europe was already tired of Christianity and philosophy and science were separating from Christianity due to the effects of the Enlightenment. Brahman—renamed Geist—seemed like the best alternative.
But Geist alone was not enough. To be a viable substitute for Christianity, even the doctrine of salvation had to be reformulated. Hegelian philosophy of history is that reformulated doctrine of salvation in which the struggle within the world (called the clash between thesis and antithesis) is the pathway toward salvation if we continuously remove opposing qualities to find that many things are just one thing. Hegel called this process synthesis. It is not the joining of the head and tail to create a coin. It is the removal of the head and tail to create something less conflicted. Before the synthesis, there are two things, namely, head and tail. After the synthesis, there is one thing, rather than three (head, tail, and coin). Since the world comprises many opposing qualities, the path to Geist is removing these opposites one by one. With every removal, you have fewer divisions. In the logical limit, you remove all qualities to get oneness.
Hegel’s cardinal mistake was to present this doctrine of salvation as a philosophy of history, implying that everyone in the world was collectively moving toward salvation when in Vedic philosophy almost everyone is cycling in the world through the three modes of sattva, rajas, and tamas. History doesn’t, therefore, produce greater unity with passing time. It recycles all the dualities of the past too.
The Hegelian doctrine of salvation has remarkable similarities to the doctrine of salvation in Abrahamic faiths, under which, God shall end the world one day through an apocalypse and everyone will get salvation at once. It is not individual salvation. It is collective salvation. Nobody goes to heaven upon death. They wait till the end of the world. If Advaita is accepted, then the individual—separate from other individuals—is merely an illusion. So individual salvation is also meaningless. Only collective salvation makes sense. To achieve this apocalyptic end, which is also collective salvation, one has to say that history is moving toward an apocalypse or collective end.
Hegel’s philosophy of history is enmeshed with his doctrine of salvation. Many of its elements are drawn from Advaita Vedānta, and some of them are motivated by themes from the Abrahamic religions. His goal seems to be to produce an acceptable and better substitute for Christianity. Hence, he borrows the ideas from Advaita Vedānta and then relabels them by other names.
This is not unique to Hegel, by the way. This was a common phenomenon in Europe, especially with regard to Indian-origin ideas. Carl Jung, for instance, took the Advaita Vedānta doctrine that God and demigods were figments of our imagination to formulate his theory of archetypes. Jung married it to European universalism to show that the same archetypes of demigods recur in all historical cultures (which is true because demigods were universally worshipped prior to Advaita, in what Europeans would later call “pagan religions”). The Jungian revival of demigods did not make them real persons. It just made them mental archetypes inherited from primitive ancestors.
Marx had no sympathies for God, soul, salvation, or religion, as evidenced by his famous “religion is the opiate of the masses” assertion. He completely dropped Geist from Hegelian philosophy and retained the thesis-antithesis-synthesis framework. Thereby, Advaita philosophy, which Hegel had used to create a substitute for Christianity, became “dialectical materialism”. There would be no need for appending “materialism” to “dialectics” if Marx was following Hegel. It was necessary for Marx because he wanted to strip the theory of history from any spirit, ghost, or soul. Thus, a new system was born.
In this system, society was plagued by the thesis and antithesis of rich vs. poor, rulers vs. ruled, powerful vs. weak, exploiters vs. exploited. These divides had to be removed to attain a synthesis. The vision was a classless society, not merely a casteless society (in which a class is also a hereditary caste).
Impersonalism has been modified in the centuries after the dawn of Advaita in many ways. Its many flavors include the assertions such as—”we are one”, “we are the same”, and “we are equal”.
If we say “we are one”, then the mere existence of other individuals is an illusion. If we say, “we are the same”, then other individuals exist but there is a sense in which they have the same cultural, racial, and religious identity. If we say “we are equal”, then the other individuals exist, and they are different in terms of racial, religious, or cultural identity, but they have to be treated equally. Hegelian ideology has the “we are one” flavor. Marxian ideology has the “we are the same” or “we are equal” flavors.
In some places, where the population is homogeneous, you can marry Marxism to Nationalism by saying “we are the same”. It is quite easy. In other places, where the population is inhomogeneous, you have to apply Marxism by force because “we are equal” is false, but it has to be made the truth by fiat.
Hegelian “we are one” is a semi-spiritual idea. Marxism, seen as “we are the same”, is not hugely problematic in a homogeneous society. Marxism, seen as “we are equal”, especially in a diverse society, creates varying degrees of problems in different spheres. Politically speaking, it may be less problematic for a democratic society to say “we are equal” if everyone already has voting rights. Economically speaking, it is more problematic to say that everyone must get equal education and job opportunities regardless of their qualification or interest, just because “we are equal”. Socially speaking, it is hugely problematic to say that every ideology must be equally respected just because “we are equal”.
The onward march of Marxism has progressively taken on harder and harder forms of “we are equal”. It began with political equality, then it progressed into economic equality, and now it is progressing into social equality. Gender equality has been progressing through times of the struggle for political, economic, and social equality. The mission is a genderless, classless, cultureless, and traditionless society. When this agenda is pursued relentlessly, uniformity is achieved by bringing everyone down to the lowest common denominator because anything or anyone superior to anything or anyone else would be seen through the lens of a class struggle. In that struggle, whoever is below must bring down whoever is above. Marxism doesn’t bring equality by raising everyone up. It brings equality by bringing everyone down.
For example, education standards must be lowered to ensure that everyone graduates. Low performers must be promoted as much as high performers just because they belong to a different gender, race, or culture. Every group, team, organization, or function must have equal representation from all genders, races, or cultures because any difference would be attributed to some sort of discrimination. Everyone must be careful about what they say because it might offend someone, somewhere, sometime. The most proficient speakers or educators must therefore be silenced in favor of the incompetent. The voices of the incompetent must be given equal respect and place in society.
A Race to the Bottom
The fact is that there is no equality. There is indeed better and worse, true and false, right and wrong, good and bad. Universalism pertains to the best, highest, and greatest truth, right, and good. The most ideal and the most perfect is the universal standard for everyone.
However, to the extent that everyone may not be able to achieve the greatest perfection in a time, place, and situation, there is room for contextualization to help everyone attain the highest possible truth, right, and good attainable in that context. The universal standard for the highest, most perfect, and best still holds true. But it is pursued only to the maximum extent possible in a context. Similarly, everyone doesn’t have the ability to do the best, most ideal, and most perfect thing possible in a given time, place, or situation. They can do their best according to their abilities. Hence, there is also room for individuality. Universality, contextuality, and individuality are thereby reconciled.
Similarly, every quality is useful in some time, place, and situation for some person in some way. If we try to find the most appropriate use for everything for all places, times, situations, and in all possible ways, then complaints of discrimination will disappear. There can be humongous variety, absence of equality, absence of undue competition, and absence of discrimination. This is the process of cooperation. Find the most appropriate use for everything. Find the best place for everyone, where they can be the best possible versions of themselves.
However, if we invert this process of cooperation into equalization, then everyone will be lowered to the level of least competence. When they rise due to merit, their success would be attributed solely to their race, religion, class, etc. Their achievements and good qualities will be minimized relative to their skin color, religion, or gender. The most competent will go silent and the least competent will go vocal.
The result of equalization is that everyone becomes a substitutable cog in a machine. Everyone loses their value, respect, and uniqueness. The outcome will be extreme and unfair competition because all the criteria of fairness—namely, the unique qualities that make them suitable for something—have been minimized. Even if it is fair competition, it would be rebranded as unfair competition. Equalization is a recipe for disaster. It destroys society from within. Nobody will want to cooperate with anyone else. Nobody will be gracious or accommodating toward anyone else. Everyone will speak and nobody will listen. There will be no mutuality, unity, complementarity, or empathy for anyone.
The Need for Personalism
When we speak of cooperation, people—under the influence of binary logical opposites—think that this is against competition. They envision a collectivist society. This is not true. Under the philosophy of personalism, society is an organism. Various sections of society with different qualities are capable of performing different tasks, and they constitute the head, hands, stomach, and legs of society. The head is not trying to cut off the legs, or vice versa. And yet, the head is more important than the legs in the sense that the head directs the working of the leg. The head doesn’t move as much as the legs. But that doesn’t mean it is not doing the job that is absolutely essential for the body as a whole.
All social problems begin with impersonalism. Under the ideology of “we are one”, the head considers the leg an illusion and vice versa, and both try to merge to annihilate each other. Under the ideology of “we are the same”, the legs try to displace the head, although they cannot perform the head’s job. The result is that nobody is performing the legwork because everyone wants the headwork. But as the legwork person comes to do the headwork, he transforms headwork into legwork. This means that society will be modeled as individual free particles rather than persons. Under the ideology of “we are equal”, the legs constantly complain about the privileges of the head and refuse to be directed by it. The result is that both starve to death. The outcomes of impersonalism are not very hard to explain. Just think of a society as an organism.
Impersonalism in India originally appeared as “we are one”. The whole world was called an illusion or dream. This doesn’t work as a social model. So, it was modified into “we are the same” and “we are equal”. This will also not work. Instead of making the head and legs more competent in their respective areas to make the body as a whole healthier, stronger, and agile, they will try to destroy each other. When anyone rises in society, they will be taxed, shamed, and criticized not because of their genuine flaws but for being better. The superior person will be judged by the standards of the inferior person, and the superior person will not be allowed to judge the inferior person by his standards. This is how you bring everyone down to the lowest level.
To demystify the problem of cooperation vs. competition we need a non-materialist ontology that includes both actors and roles. Head and legs are roles distinct from the actors performing those roles. Each actor can compete to get into the head vs. leg roles based on their qualities. However, once they get that role, they must cooperate with other roles. Competition is necessary to select the best actor for a role. Cooperation is necessary for the roles to work with each other. If we universalize competition, then we will get the best actor for a role but these roles will not cooperate. The actors will instead use their expertise to undermine each other. If we universalize cooperation, then we will not get the best actor for the role, although the actors that join a role will cooperate with other roles.
Competition of actors and cooperation of roles are two sides of the same coin. The coin is the purpose of collective betterment. It is not contrary to individual betterment, just like the well-being of the whole body is not contrary to the well-being of the individual body parts. This leads us to the tripartite ontology of actor, role, and purpose. There is a purpose in each actor, and in each role. The role is in the actor, and the actor is in the role. There are abilities in each actor, which they can use in the appropriate role to fulfill the best purpose. Due to these properties, actor, role, and purpose are inseparable.
Actor, role, and purpose is a tripartite personalist ontology. It is greater than materialism, which only recognizes actors. It is greater than monism which sees competition and cooperation as irreconcilable opposites. It is greater than equality because it seeks the best actor for a given role. It is greater than sameness because it assigns a given actor to the best role. This tripartite ontology sees society as an organism. It describes each person in terms of their unique purposes, abilities, and roles.
Materialism, impersonalism, and voidism are three distinct aspects of personalism. There is a oneness of purpose—impersonalism. There is a diversity of actors—materialism. There are mutually defined relationships of duty that bind the emptiness of roles into an invisible structure—voidism. And through such aspects of impersonalism, voidism, and materialism, we get something better than each of the three. This is the power of personalism. It depends on the understanding of the three modalities.
Dualism and Non-Dualism
When personalism is neglected, then many dualisms are created because the place, role, or use of the different sides of a dualism within an organism is disregarded as each side of dualism tries to universalize itself. Since each side of the dualism is incomplete, therefore, we either get tired of these dualisms and wish to dissolve everything to an indescribable oneness, or we try to dissolve the dualisms through revolutions in society thus lowering the society and each individual to the lowest common denominator. Hegelian and Marxist ideologies constitute the above two responses to the problem of dualism.
These responses are not answers to the problem of dualism. In some sense, they are worse than the problem itself. Therefore, we must seek an answer to the general problem of dualism. That answer is simple—(a) there are opposites, (b) each opposite is useful for some time, place, situation, and person, in some way, and (c) when each opposite is used in the most appropriate way, then dualism is non-dualism. Non-dualism is not the destruction of opposites. It is the cooperation of opposites.
The opposites can clash. The opposites can attract. The opposites can compete. The opposites can cooperate. The opposites are individually incomplete and collectively complete. The opposites seem logically inconsistent, but if they attract, cooperate, and complement, then they are consistent.
This is the philosophy of dualism and non-dualism. It has been grossly misrepresented by Advaita. It was then borrowed by Hegel and Christianized. It was then perverted by Marx. This perversion has now spread all over the world to cause great damage. I just hope people are wise enough to see the historical fallacies, and the correct original idea, to undo the mistakes of the past. If someone who is lost finds their way back home, he is not considered lost.