new age spirituality

Individuals or Society?

Few people inspired such extremes of love and hatred as former Great Britain Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher. One of her most memorable remarks was "there is no such thing as society". But was she right?

Spiritually, we all emanate from the same source, ie the Great Spirit, and we shall all eventually return to that same source. But while incarnate we function very much as individual entities, each born with a specific purpose and life path.

On earth we each pursue our own interests; we try to achieve to the best our ability, no doubt spurred on by the material rewards/comforts on offer in return. But, paradoxically, we are also societal beings - in varying degrees. Many of us fulfill our civic duties through voluntary activity, voting in elections, contributing to charity etc. We are not forced to do this, but those that do somehow consider it the right thing to do.

As a species we are group minded, tribal. Even within playgroup and kindergarten, individuals tend to form like-minded groups. We are often defined by our group memberships. I work for ABC, my religion is XYZ, my nationality is EFG, I vote for the PQR party...

Unless we maintain an entirely self-sufficient piece of land that produces enough to sustain us, we need to interact with others in order to make a living. In fact specialization and the division of labor are major factors in the huge level of human progress we enjoy today.

Often it's easier to "go with the flow" than to decide what's truly best for us and stick our neck out to apply it.

Groupism and individuality vary considerably according to culture. In Japan the group ethic is far stronger than in the west where individuality is dominant.

Our groupist nature can sometimes lead us into trouble. Too often we hear of good kids taking wrong turns after getting in bad company. At times of war this groupism often comes to the fore in the worst possible manner and we take to hating entire other groups, even nations, neglecting to realize that those groups also consist of individuals much like ourselves.

As individuals we each lie in a certain position on the group-mindedness spectrum. At the one end is the self-sacrificing groupist who gives enormously of time and effort to serve the society to which they belong. At the other extreme is the great individual, selfishly and single-mindedly pursuing their chosen pathway with little regard for others.

The truth is we are dualistic in nature. We are both individuals, and members of the whole that is Spirit. Additionally we belong to numerous man-made sub-groups, either through choice or by default.

To pursue one's own path is certainly not wrong. But to help one's fellow man is a worthy ideal. The two are not mutually exclusive. It's possible to be very successfully individualistic and to help others in the process. In fact the laws of economics ensure that degree of personal success often follows the degree to which you contribute to the whole.

Our nature is paradoxical. Ultimately we are all part of Spirit. But in choosing to incarnate we have become individuated from the whole. Hence the conflict often felt between serving the group or serving ourselves. We are both individuals and members of society and the role that is dominant at any instant changes according to circumstance as we progress through life.

The key Spiritual lesson is that of awareness. Awareness of your individuality, awareness of the unity of Spirit. Do your best as the individual that you were born as, achieve your full potential. Help others in whatever way you can, for we are all one.

Above all, don't be fooled by the madness of crowds. Don't allow your desire to be accepted as "one of the lads" blind you to personal responsibility. Do nothing that your group or society demands without first checking your personal feelings about it, and those of your loved ones too.