Sometime in the early 1800s the French philosopher Auguste Comte (1798-1857) invented and marketed a hitherto unknown concept which he called "altruism," by which he intended to mean "unselfish concern for the welfare of others; selflessness; self-sacrifice as a virtue."
Not long thereafter, Karl Marx came up with the basic socialist slogan "take from each according to his ability, and give to each according to his need." Since then, those who call themselves "liberal-progressives" have used the concept of altruism to lay guilt trips on freedom advocates and justify forcing heavy-handed socialist government programs on everyone. The liberal-progressive reasoning? If altruism is good, then why not force everyone to appear altruistic?
One of the first to recognize the destructiveness which comes from trying to practice altruism was the Russian-American novelist-philosopher Ayn Rand (1905-1982), who as a 12 year old girl had observed first-hand the brutality of communists trying to establish their ideal state, which became the Soviet Union. Young Ayn Rand quickly visualized her life purpose, which was to shine the light of reason not on the end results of socialism or communism, but on the underlying concept of altruism. Ultimately she published in 1961 in book form a collection of essays entitled "The Virtue of Selfishness."
The ethics Ayn Rand championed in her works became known as enlightened self-interest. She argued that pursuit of our values, whether material or spiritual, is noble; and that the act of self-sacrifice would be a vice. She sought to show that altruism was evil and that political freedom could only be maintained if selfishness is seen as a virtue.
This was the exact opposite of the way the world had been taught to think since Auguste Comte, and as you might imagine there was a time when it seemed like Ayn Rand stood alone against the world. The virtue of selfishness??? How dare she!
But did Ayn Rand really stand alone? While early readers were discovering The Virtue of Selfishness, psychiatrist and atheist Helen Schucman became a reluctant prophet hearing and writing down the teaching of Jesus Christ in words understandable to the 21st Century mind: A Course in Miracles. As it turns out with a little enlightenment from this Course given by Jesus Christ, we see there can be no such thing as altruism.
To one's logical mind the contradiction in the definition of altruism is so obvious that one wonders why the idea survived so long. You cannot not act in your own interest as you perceive your own interest. If you honestly feel it is good to concern yourself with the welfare of others, then the welfare of others is, by definition, your selfish interest.
But Jesus makes it even more clear by explaining we are all in this together as one. If we listen to our holy spirit and do what is right for us, we are teaching everyone to stay open and do what is right. If we mistakenly ignore our holy spirit and do what is not best for us, then we are teaching ourselves a lesson which everyone learns with us. Everyone gains no matter what we pursue as our self-interest. The only variable is the time it takes for all of us together to finally get it right, for which we need the freedom of trial and error.
Mitt Romney, the one American Presidential Candidate who seems both highly spiritually tuned-in and highly logical, uses a term from business statistics to describe a definition like the definition of altruism. He calls it a "null set:" a definition for which there can be no such thing.
That altruism is necessarily impossible is true enough, but in A Course in Miracles Jesus addresses thoroughly the human penchant for believing in and giving power to sacrifice:
"Those who believe in sin must think the Holy Spirit asks for sacrifice. For this is how they think their purpose is accomplished. Brothers, the Holy Spirit knows that sacrifice brings nothing. Your faith in sacrifice has given it great power in your sight. Except you do not realize you cannot see because of it." (ACIM Text Chap. 21)
"Sacrifice is so essential to your thought system that salvation apart from sacrifice means nothing to you. Your confusion of sacrifice and love is so profound that you cannot conceive of love without sacrifice. And it is this that you must look at; sacrifice is attack, not love. If you would accept but this one idea, your fear of love would vanish." (ACIM Text Chap. 15)
"All roads will lead to this one in the end. For sacrifice and deprivation are paths which lead nowhere, choices for defeat, and aims which will remain impossible. All this steps back as truth comes forth in you to lead your brothers from the ways of death, and set them on the way to happiness." (ACIM Workbook Lesson 155)
"But hasn't Christianity always taught sacrifice? Didn't Jesus Christ make the ultimate sacrifice for our sins?"
The answer Jesus himself gives in his A Course in Miracles is that the crucifixion was not a sacrifice, but a teaching device. Listen to Jesus speaking:
"Do not make the pathetic human error of 'clinging to the old rugged cross.' The only message of the crucifixion is in respect for man's ability to OVERCOME the cross. Unless he does so, he is free to crucify himself as often as he chooses. But this was NOT the gospel I intended to offer him." (ACIM Text Chap.4)
(ACIM Text Chap.6)
"The message which the crucifixion was intended to teach was that it is not necessary to perceive ANY form of assault in persecution because you cannot BE persecuted. If you respond with anger, you MUST be equating yourself with the destructible, and are therefore regarding yourself insanely.
"I elected, both for your sake AND mine, to demonstrate that the most outrageous assault, as judged by the ego, did not matter. As the world judges these things, but NOT as God knows them, I was betrayed, abandoned, beaten, torn, and finally killed. It was perfectly clear that this was only because of the projection of others onto me, because I had not harmed anyone and had healed many. We are still equal as learners, even though we need not have equal experiences. The Holy Spirit is glad when you can learn enough from MINE to be re-awakened by them. That was their only purpose, and that is the only way in which I can be perceived as the Way, the Truth, and the Light.
"When you hear only one voice, you are never called on to sacrifice. On the contrary, by enabling yourselves to hear the Holy Spirit in others, you can learn from their experiences and gain from them WITHOUT experiencing them. That is because the Holy Spirit IS one, and anyone who listens is inevitably led to demonstrate His way for ALL. You are not persecuted, nor was I. You are not asked to repeat my experience, because the Holy Spirit which we SHARE, makes this unnecessary. But to use my experiences constructively for yourselves, you must still follow my example in how to perceive them.
(ACIM Text Chap.6)
Having clarified that there never was any sacrifice on his part and there can be no altruism, Jesus does indeed differentiate between our true self-interest and ego-vested interest. He tells us that if we are listening not to our holy spirit but to our ego, we will be delaying our own and every one's ultimate salvation. Would delaying be called a "sacrifice?" Or merely an unhappy choice?
Because Jesus sees us suffering when we delay and feels so much compassion and love for us, and because it is in his own selfish interest to save us from delay, pain and suffering, he has given us his teaching once again for the 21st Century. A Course in Miracles, written down by Helen Schucman but authored by Jesus Christ, is a preparation device for our salvation, a device preparing us for freedom from pain, fear, and guilt.
Maybe it doesn't seem so strange that Ayn Rand's ideal hero in her novels was a man or woman free of pain, fear, and guilt.
But Jesus doesn't force his Course on us. He doesn't set up government programs requiring mandatory participation "for our own good." As much as progressive-liberals would like to claim Jesus Christ is somehow their own, Jesus is more like Ayn Rand or Mitt Romney in telling us that our own voluntary choice to pursue happiness in our own trial and error way is the only way our salvation can ever happen.
Do we forgive Auguste Comte, who knew not what he was doing in trying to invent altruism? It goes without saying. To the spiritually attuned, it never happened. Likewise, although we do not choose to support mandatory government programs, we forgive today's progressive-liberals who know not what they do in trying to force on people altruism and sacrifice.
So we continue with last month's affirmation from Jesus Christ, which now has deeper meaning to us as we recognize the forgotten virtue of selfishness:
My salvation comes from me.
It cannot come from anywhere else.
My salvation cannot come from anything else.
My salvation comes from me and only me.
Nothing outside of me can hold me back.
Within me is the world's salvation ... and my own.
"...nor will people say, 'Here it is,' or 'There it is,' because the kingdom of God is within you." (Luke 17:21)
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