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Frithjof Schuon

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Extract from “Against the Abuse of an Argument”

The argument that the outward ego is not really ourselves is aimed at individualism, which lends a quasi-absolute value to the fact of being a given individual, of having certain memories and desires; the argument helps us break away from this obsession to the extent such detachment is required, for we have the right to be men.

But this spiritual argument cannot dispense with effort toward perfection, nor for all the more reason can it exonerate the sinner; that is, it cannot be brought to bear in favor of an imperfection, negligence, or sin the responsibility for which one would like to shift to something other than oneself: namely, the empirical ego precisely, hypocritically charged with “unreality”, even though the ego is morally real in the case of the sinner; otherwise the name “sinner” would not be given to one who sins.

When the soul is conscious of being attached to inward or outward phenomena to such a degree that it is drawn away from God, it is necessary to say: this ego, which I cherish and which deceives me, and which is made of images and desires, is not my true being. But when the soul is conscious of an imperfection, a sin, or a vice, one has no right to say: this sin or vice is not myself and hence does not concern me. As long as a man sins by his actions or character, he is identified with his sin. It is only after being purified and with the intention of remaining within the norm that he may tell himself: this sin was not really myself.

Once again, the argument in question operates against individualism, which seduces us and causes us to suffer, and not in favor of an imperfection about which we are complacent. In general a spiritual argument should not be used apart from its concrete intention, for otherwise one may fall into affectation and hypocrisy; the soul should not be told things that it does not understand and that therefore flatter it, so to speak. The individual has a duty to escape evil, but he does not have a duty to be sublime.

There is no Knowledge without objectivity of intelligence; there is no Freedom without objectivity of the will; there is no Nobility without objectivity of the soul. The value of the human person is objectivity, which is at once extinction and reintegration.

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