Individualism or Individuality

June 5, 2017

 

It is, however, just this doctrine of the solidarity of souls that is so difficult to grasp and realize.  We are yet so gross in our psychology that we still labor under the heresy of separateness, which permits us to believe that one individual is really insulated from all others, that, as it were, each soul exists by itself in a tower of solitude, surrounded by a moat which he may bridge or unbridge at will.  Yet, as psychologists know, there is no real evidence for the theory; as moralists know, the theory is the fruitful parent of every sort of immorality, comprising most of our current morality; and as artists of all kinds understand, and prophets in all ages have announced, the truth is the very reverse, namely, that the individual in himself is nothing, means nothing; in short, is as inconceivable apart from mankind as an apple is non-existent but for a tree.

 

At this, however, is not only compatible with what we call individuality, but demands individuality in greater and greater degree.  Individualism is no more than the theory that each separate anatomical structure in the kingdom o man is complete and self-sufficient.  Individualism, indeed, whether in politics, in ethics, in philosophy, or in religion is merely a dark shadow of the real individuality.  It presupposes an atomic structure, an infinite multiplicity, a congeries of persons, without the necessary addition of the unity amid the diversity.  Individuality, on the other hand, while even more emphatic in its claims to uniqueness, yet recognizes that its uniqueness is conditional and privileged.  True individuality is not a claim to possess so much as a claim to give.  Being itself complete as a ripe fruit it demands no more than to be allowed to scatter itself.  Giving is its responsibility, but taking and possessing are a t best no more for individuality them necessities-conditions for new giving.

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