Self and Personal Being: The Temptation of a Usurpation—Parables of the Human Individual and Collective History
Self it is the form that assumes in us the men the engagement of taking charge of our personal being, a being which we dispose, but which we are not propietary. This way of disposing corresponds with contractual positive and derivative forms, as the administration, the lease or the usufruct. But since this relation of usufruct of the personal being is not put originally by the self, that is to say, since in his own level the above mentioned relation is not a contract, but, on the contrary, the self is not any more than the form that the man has of fulfilling this usufruct, or said differently, the usufruct is not originally explicit for the self, then the self is exposed constant to the risk of overseeing it, falsifying the usufruct in appropriation, and of consequent way, falsifying the being in object and himself in subject.
The risk of falsification to which the self is exposed and of that it is in its hand yielding to it or not, it is the definition of temptation. There are some grand poetical testimonies which clarify for us this relation of usufruct between my self of personal being, and the temptation of falsifying this usufruct in appropriation: some evangelical and Coran’s parables and Dostoievski’s story “The Great Inquirer “.
“The Great Inquirer ” shows how Dostoievski does understand the evangelical passage of the temptations to Jesus, referring it to the humanity in general, and to the modern European history especially. The Great Inquirer uses Jesus’ triple response to the temptations as reproach to justify the supplanting and the expulsion that he for himself leads to end: “You have delegated everything to our hands; therefore, it is the best that you do not come, because you hinder us”, says the Inquirer to a Jesus who appears personified in the Seville of the century XVI.
In his exegesis of the evangelical passage of the temptations, Lauth says that the tempter does not appear like “Satan with all his, attributes”, but as devil, that is to say, like “diabolo”, the deceiver, which turns the things turning them of the reverse, which gives the return to the things, which supplants the obverse for the back inverting them.
This way, Lauth can interpret all three temptations like respective attempts to supplant legitimate principles for illegitimate ones but redressed in an appearance of legitimacy, like “conceptual interchanges”, like one “quid pro quo” – expression that also uses Aliosha Karamazov-, or as inverting, in the sense of giving the return to something. The first temptation is the supplanting of the duty of human obedience to father for the recovery of a son’s human right (as also makes the bountiful son), that is to say, the inverting of the human paternity; the second temptation (in Mateo’s Gospel) is the supplanting of the duty of divine obedience for the recovery of a son’s divine right, that is to say, the investment of the divine paternity; the third temptation is the supplanting of the principle of unit for the factual totalized plurality, inverting of trascendentality.
In all three cases the appearance of legitimacy remains, since the son’s rights and the plurality are legitimate all of them. But they are not self-legitimized, but only are legitimized by the principle that now they try to supplant. Not establishing rights is illegitimate, but the pretension to make them prevail over the duties in which they are founded.
They are legitimate the rights of the son to be represented by the father in case of need and to the part of the inheritance that corresponds to him. But if these rights are demanded provoking this situation where one makes them prevail more as paternal obligation than as son’s right, then has been given the return to the relation of paternity and childhood, and the son has supplanted the father and has usurped his place.
It is legitimate that the principle restores, and precisely for the character uncompromisingly transcendental of the principle the merely restored will never exhaust the manifestation of that one, but it will become therefore an indefinite multiplicity, since Fichte repeated. But if the principle is forgotten, then the established and manifesting multiplicity, which initially was indefinite, becomes now all. Totalizing the multiplicity, the conversion of the multiplicity in totality, of the indefinite in everything, or in Lauth’s terms the substitution of “pro multis” for “pro bus”, is the diabolical inversion of transcendentality.
The trap of the third temptation (in Mateo’s Gospel, and the second one in that of Lucas) hides already in its mere formulation, and consists of that, only showing from the top of the mount the multiplicity as if it was everything and making see it as totality, regardless of if it is accepted or not, it is already making forget the principle that founded it, and, in effect, it is precisely the denial of this principle for what the devil asks in exchange for what he shows as would it be everything. Lauth, like before that him Dostoievski, has a very tuned sensibility to perceive the fall of the Church in the third temptation, the substitution of “pro multis” for “pro omnibus”.
On this treats Dostoievski’s story “The Great Inquirer”, which can be considered as a parable of the entire history of the humanity from the fall in sin up to the end of the times, and in this way interprets the Inquirer the temptations to Jesus in the desert. In a bit more limited sense, it can be conceived as a parable of the history of West in general, and of the Roman Church from the century VIII especially, and with this meaning writes Ivan Karamazov the poem. Reducing still something more its sense, this poem can be adduced as illustration of the process that in his book Metamorphosis of the christianity Jacinto Choza describes in some fragments of the Roman Church from the century XVI in general, and from the century XIX especially. Also Aliosha Karamazov says that “it is not the whole Rome”, but only “the inquirers”. But the sense of “The Great Inquirer” can be diminished to the limit, considering this poem as a parable of the interior particular history of each one of us. From an initial condition of administration, usufruct or lease, Ivan Karamazov’s story describes a process that has six stages: first is monopolized the administration of the source of life or of the founding principle; then one adapts it; after having been monopolized, it is supplanted; as soon as it has been supplanted, it is expelled; after having been expelled, it is denied; and finally, after having been denied, it becomes forgotten forever.
This process can happen to level of civilization or of historical epoch. It can happen with the Church as administrator of salus, with the courts as managers of justice, or with any another institution which administrates any other source of life. But also it can happen to individual and interior level, inside each of us, with this the founding principle for each of us which is our personal being.
The self-consciousness is not the founding principle of the personal being, but its interior manifestation (regardless of that, as manifestation, in its own level it is self-constituing – as Fichte supports especially from 1804-), but an interior manifestation that not only expresses for itself the personal being, but which administrates it. Only God is reserved to say: “I am that I am”, because in no other part there is identity of self and being. But though in us this identity is not given, nevertheless our being has been entrusted us in order that we dispose of it.
But because as manifestation it is self-constituting, the self-consciousness is constantly exposed to yielding to the temptation of thinking that it is the founding principle of being; the temptation of thinking that “being is to know that one is”, or that “being for the man is to be known”; but if the self-consciousness takes itself as founding principle of being, as it is a manifestation, it will tend to consider being as manifestation, that is to say, as exhibition, as self-exhibition, and will believe that “being is to exhibit myself and that the others see me”, which leads to voyeurism and to the trend to be dependent on the others and in general on everything that happens, the trend to live dependent on the information. Dependence of an external, empty and superfluous information, but seasoned with urgency and tightness, which then stimulates the appetite of being incessantly informed. This one is the temptation for the self-consciousness of monopolizing and of appropriating of the personal being; and after having had on it, it will supplant and usurp it, will expel it, will deny it and will forget it. Finally, the self-consciousness will become a “false self-consciousness”, as Jacinto Choza designates it. And if the immediate and primary way of experimenting the promotion of the merely restored on institution is the sensation of victory and of achievement, the immediate and primary way of experiencing the falsification of the self-consciousness that represents its self-establishment is the sensation of self-conviction, of being a self-made man, of self-safety and of self-firmness: let’s say, sensation of success, about which so much one speaks today, beginning for the infantile pedagogy.
The supplanting and usurpation of the founding principle for its manifestation inside a world of self-established and mutually hanging and dependent manifestations some of others, or saying it with other Jacinto Choza’s terms, the supplanting and usurpation of the author for the personage as a temptation to which the actor has yielded, finds a literary treatment in one of the Dostoievski’s first novels, titled precisely The double, whose personage, in this respect, can be considered to be a particular and comical precedent, but also intimately, of what in The demons and “Great Inquirer” Dostoievski will promote of respectively tragic and dramatic way to the respective dimensions of the Russian modern history and of the universal history of the humanity. The possessed ones are the usurped ones, the demons, or as Lauth says, the “diabolos”, are the suplantadores.
The double, The demons, The Great Inquirer: in three different levels, all three novels narrate the history of a usurpation, and looking at them together, they make us see the way as the big universal revolutions find an echo in the interior life of each one of us. Somehow, we are drops or pupils where the universe of the humanity is reflected. Somehow, the whole humanity is inside each of us.