by LJ Frank
“My own mind is my own church…Infidelity does not consist in believing, or in disbelieving: it consists in professing to believe in what he (Man) does not believe.” Thomas Paine, The Age of Reason, Being an Investigation of True and of Fabulous Theology, Part One, (1794)
Ipseity is an ancient term with Greek etymological roots. The roots appear to have seeds in older Assyria-Babylonia traditions. Berosus, a Chaldean priest hints at this, (when man was an animal seeking to be human), in his works that are now incomplete and fragmentary, yet were fully available at the time of their writing and housed in the Library at Alexandria.* The roots and seeds of ipseity point to a pattern of selfhood, yet the pattern is deeper than the “it” of selfhood. The “it” merely points the seeker in a desired direction. In essence it points to that which exists between identity and self. It’s neither universal nor fixed, but evolving, perhaps more immediately spiritual and conceptual with downstream physical effects.
One might think of this scenario as a metaphor in which our individual role of self evolves not in the deterministic term of fate but rather in the shaping of a self-revelation, like being an actor in a play on a theater’s stage and where the final scene of the last act is spiritually ambiguous.
The location of ipseity is whatever one hoped and desired but finds blurry. Physically the actor knows she or he will die for whatever reason…but then what.
The play appears at times to be a comedy, a drama, surreal, absurd, and so forth. The stage itself has a circumstantial quality where one finds oneself each day and evolves within the context of a script in process and the associated mise en scène. The actor reveals her or himself through their roles and that of the audience as spectator…and both the actor and the audience find that all appears situational from one scene to the next. Life is complicated to say the least.
Perception and reality overlap. The actors realize that selfhood is not a fixed point, but rather a moving one within the play’s context. Roles of actors and audience are not static. The scripts change from exterior and interior influences, and at times within minutes and the actor tries to figure out where she or he fits in, if at all.
All humans are actors in the theater of life. We are made from the volatile dust from which the universe was created. If there was a reason the universe was created then that reason is currently unknown outside ideas fashioned by humans. All sacred texts are written by Man and essentially hearsay for those not at the scene of any event when it occurred. Religious texts are speculative allegories and metaphors not proofs.
Unless one experiences first-hand, history is hearsay or his-story. Who made any text sacred or the final authority but man himself seems obvious. Humans created language. Imagination and inspiration are fundamental to the story or the play and the individual roles.
The seeds of compassion and conception appear genetic in the human cells to balance the equation or volatility of nature. Humans evolved with instinct for preservation of which competition developed but found to be less advantageous than cooperation. Cooperation offered stability. People explored their compassion and passion within their emerging patterns of selfhood. Fidelity and infidelity are ancient concepts – written and spoken differently in different languages. A different way of saying it is…be honest to oneself with one’s behavior and thoughts. Infidelity as Thomas Paine alludes was in stating a belief that one does not believe.
Sexual relationships for example in primitive nomadic cultures was not limited to one’s partner. The only infidelity that occurred was when belief was not in accord with one’s actions. That changed with the introduction of patriarchy and females were treated as property…the idea of people being an investment like property is rooted in patriarchy. The metaphor of woman being created from a rib of man is a patriarchal concept. That patriarchy is the basis of the three great religions…Judaism, Christianity, and Islam.
The Genesis story is about laying the foundation for patriarchy. The Old Testament is not God’s actions in history. God is a word invented by man, perhaps to the dismay of a Creator who may have said something to the effect of I am who I am or I am that I am. Either way it’s patriarchal and man’s words not a burning bush. It’s an inspired and provocative metaphor.
That concept of fidelity and infidelity within the patriarchal framework is more significant than one might imagine at first glance. Infidelity is different cultures with varied meanings and woven into the fabric of social, political, religious, and economic infrastructures, with competition a signature tactic of control. Having the most “toys, weapons, highest scores whether in exams or on the playing field are ingredients to that -patterned infrastructure.
To believe that one’s ideas, actions, and thoughts about the self is superior to others requires the denigration of the others. It’s hypocrisy with the question of power and greed at its core. The challenge for humanity perhaps is retaining fidelity to an idea that we need each other to survive on a planet where our resources have been mercilessly exploited based on ancient patriarchal concepts found in the book of Genesis.
Within the concept of ipseity, one’s infidelity to one’s own ideas is more behaviorally critical than say, sleeping with another person outside any agreement made in front of an official, all of which was devised by the culture of patriarchy.
A question that might be asked is, what has been and is the cost of hypocrisy on the individual and a civil society?
*Did any scrolls survive in the hands of scribes, monks, or private collectors/benefactors and stored in large clay pots and buried in Egypt or found their way to either Greece or other place in the Levant? Wouldn’t they have turned up by now?