Blend the saint and the hunter
|Outside a church in Kerala|
Philosopher Spinoza identified three ethical systems that human beings generally tend to follow. One of them centres on the heart, the second on passion for power, and the third on the brain.
The first is the way of the saints and religious people. Jesus and the Buddha, Mahatma Gandhi and Mother Teresa followed this path of the heart. These people consider everyone as equally precious, resist evil by returning good, identify virtue with love, and inclines to total democracy in politics.
Conquerors and dictators follow their passion for power. From Alexander the Great to Narendra Modi (whose greatness has apparently been acknowledged by quite a few million people of India), many people who were perceived as “strong” leaders or rulers belong to this category. Spinoza argued that for these rulers some people are superior to others. They don’t care two hoots about equality and such stuff. They relish the risks of combat, conquest, and rule. They identify virtue with power. They love to create an elite class around them.
Aristotle and Albert Einstein and others like them who follow the light of the brain and intellectual faculties identify virtue with knowledge and wisdom. This last path is the ideal, according to Spinoza, since it examines the given reality from multiple angles and gives due importance to both the heart and the brain. You can’t let the heart run away with its effeminate emotions. [Spinoza considered love a feminine virtue.] Letting the ruthlessness of power take over the entire spectrum of human activities is worse. Spinoza considered power and its ruthlessness masculine. The ideal is a harmonious blend of the heart and the power-instinct, the philosopher said.
People like Jesus and Gandhi end up on the cross or in front of a pervert’s gun-barrel. They may eventually be elevated to the most high positions: Jesus became God and Gandhi became Father of a Nation. Dictators bring about the destruction of a lot of people though they may also become heroes for certain groups. Much of their brutality may be masqueraded as noble acts in the name of culture or race or something like that.
Those who choose to follow the path of the intellect don’t kill anyone and generally don’t end with a pervert’s bullet in the heart though intellectuals are not always safe in countries ruled by dictators. There are times when we should let the heart make the decisions, and there are times when we need to put the foot down firmly. On most occasions, however, a harmonious blend of the heart and the assertiveness is what produces noble thoughts and deeds.
We often project love as the greatest ideal. This is a terrible mistake just because most people are incapable of the kind of love that our religions preach. This is why our religions are pathetic failures even after centuries of being in practice. The entire teaching of Jesus was founded on love and yet there has been no religion that committed acts of unpardonable cruelty as Christianity. The history of Islam is not much better. Hinduism today seems to be competing with these rivals to usurp their shocking historical positions.
People should be taught to forge a harmonious blend between the soft sentimentalism of the saint and the ruthless pragmatism of the hunter. Religions have failed miserably and dictatorship is not desirable. Why not try out something different? This might even work, in the long run.