A few weeks ago I was listening to the Joe Rogan Experience. He was interviewing director and writer, Guy Ritchie, who spoke on the Hero’s Journey and what it entails. Ritchie, through the lens of Joseph Campbell and under the influence of Carl Jung, explores how the hero goes out and finds what the external world can offer him. Nothing; instead, he must realize that he already has what he needs to thrive. In other words, you are enough as you are. I really enjoy this idea as it aligns with Jordan Peterson’s ideas, which should come as no surprise since both Peterson and Campbell were influenced by Jung. The realization that comes from the Hero’s Journey – that Ritchie speaks of – is that you already have what you need to survive in the world and once you accept that, you become whole.
Another way of looking at it is through Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, specifically self-actualization. Upon fulfilling one’s basic needs, one can look inwardly and find oneself, in a sense. In part, I believe this moment occurs when your subconscious mind and conscious mind align; the compensatory nature of the conscious, which Jung speaks of, finds reconciliation with itself. You see yourself both consciously and unconsciously in the same way, securing who you are. This creates a balance between how you act consciously, and your unconscious self. These concepts are spoken of in Eastern religion. You may have heard people who have “found their center,” “achieved balance,” or “aligned themselves.” All of these ideas seem to be alluding to self-actualization, or perhaps even living in Tao (a state of balance between chaos and order). All of these concepts seem to be pointing in a similar direction.
A fundamental question arises from this: How involved in the external world should one be, if one already possess that which he or she needs? If you already contain an element of the ultimate truth, though only enough to act, within you (the element of yourself that produces your “self”), which contains all the tools you need should you choose to rely on them, why engage in the world at all? Or perhaps, how ought you behave in the world or to what degree? It seems to me that Buddhism asserts that detachment from the world is a necessary part of transcending the harsh nature of reality. In a sense, once you’ve divorced yourself from the world’s influences, then you can become yourself. I don’t know if that detachment is to seclude yourself from the world in its entirety or simply cut the strings that control you; admittedly, I’m not as well versed in Buddhism as I would like to be. Should you care so little about the world, having been detached from it, that when tragedy arises you feel no inclination to assist others? It seems to me that the philosophy, drawn to its logical conclusion, leaves no room to assist those around you as you have no attachment to drive your sympathy and action.
With that in mind, I would say an individual contains within his or herself all of the tools he or she needs, but is now obligated to not seclude him or herself, but instead speak his or her being, or truth, into the world. It’s as if, once you have understood yourself, you can understand the world and use that wisdom to better it. You become a tool, sharpened and honed for the task of life, you cut through the external influences of the world in an effort to further the truth. Another way of thinking about it is this: You’ve discovered a small element of the truth that only you can see, to the degree that you can see the truth. This truth exists as you, who has been shaped through innumerable processes unique to your existence. You now have an element of reality, unique to your being, that you can offer up to a collective consciousness, or society, or greater human civilization, in hopes of bettering the world. When enough individuals discover the element of reality within themselves, and act it out in the world, humanity’s picture of reality becomes higher in resolution. It’s as if each of us contains a pixel of truth that we contribute to the grander structure of reality – the better we see the truth, the better we can act within it. In this way, we both contain and act out truth, substantiating the divinity of the individual within ourselves.
A harmony occurs on multiple levels. One: within the individual and between his or her unconscious and conscious. Two: between the truth of the individual and the truths of other individuals. Three: between the collective and the underlying reality we act within. When these three things, and I suspect there are more, act in harmony with one another, the potential for real positive change seems to emerge. This then means that the answer to my question is this: Individuals must act out their self-actualization within a social group that is also acting out truth, in an effort to align all of humanity with reality.
Know yourself, then present yourself to the world.