Who do we think we are?

Would all men automatically become brothers?

Who do we think we are?

The ever diminishing focus on the individual in favor of the community, is experienced as a socially desirable attitude during times such as a lockdown. But culturally, this can be regarded as a backward step in the individuals’ experience of freedom. Are we actually ‘mature’ enough to subordinate our ego to a soul that is related to a universal group consciousness? Would all men automatically become brothers [1] because of the withdrawl of our I-centricity on the basis of fear of the risks to public health, and compliance to a controlled society?

The existing cultures that focus on the ‘community’ often have their origins in a compartmentalized past and orthodox belief system. They are cultures in which the majority of its population are used to their individual needs being subordinate to the desires and welfare of the state, the clan or tribe. A great social control can result from this. At the same time it also concerns cultures where people care for each other and where no, more or less, informal care seems necessary. It is therefore not entirely correct to call these cultures ‘backwards’.

Community based cultures, in a broader sense, are once again in the spotlight, because ‘I-centered’ cultures are in danger of collapse, through their empty pursuit of materialism and the growth of selfishness, all at the expense of others.

The Second Mountain

The American writer and columnist, David Brooks, in his book, The Second Mountain [2], describes how we, as an I-centrered culture, focus too much on success, achievements, and prerstige, in other words, on ourselves. He calls that focus, the ‘First Mountain’, with short lived happiness as a reward. He then posits the second mountain as that about relationships, compassion, and community. In short, the formation of a new culture that moves beyond the signature of the twentieth century, towards the culture of community. David Brooks writes that on that second mountain,

our souls begin to glow softly and we experience joy.

On the ‘first mountain’, that of the ‘I-centered’ culture, we have become so autonomous that we seem to have lost the connection with other people. Psychologist, Paul Verhaeghe [3] writes,

It is a kind of invisible armor forced on us under the guise of autonomy and freedom that is becoming increasingly oppressive, and we see more and more people wanting to distance themselves from it.

For David Brooks this meant moving into a ‘dedicated’ life, a new ‘community consciousness’, a post ‘me’ era. Thus we ascend the ‘Second Mountain’, the True Mountain. But how do we safeguard the enthousiasm of a ‘community culture’ from conflict and undermining threats, when it is based on idealistic non-ego principles. After all, the constant threat for any new cultural direction such as a move towards a stronger community or group awareness, will be the existing individualism, the ‘I’ or ‘me first’ attitude.

David Brooks warns against the potential for ‘tribal’ warfare; joining a partisan group, although driven by shared values, it does not negate the survival instincts of the individual. ‘Tribal warfare is the community’s dark twin’, he points out. We may also ask what the differences have been between the orthodox communities of the past, and those of the present.

Painful Confrontation

Living within the confines of todays’ moral codes, and driven by the social constructs of yesteryear, many people have come to realize the true nature of the stifling ‘togetherness’ experienced during the post war era. The advancment of individualism from the 1960’s onwards was a reaction to this ‘awakening’, with it’s signature call for freedom. And now the wheel has come back to it’s starting point, as it were. David Brooks points out that when personal, social, and emotional freedoms become an ultimate goal, they must of necessity, fail, because ultimate freedom, the idea of ‘living well’ is founded on total commitment.

When we focus on the ‘freedom’ of:

I decide how I dress, whom I associate with, what path to follow in life, whom to marry etc, and also I want to be free to choose, uncontrolled by the influences of parents or society,

then we soon discover that such a pursuit can have confronting consequences, due to the incompatability of the ‘community’ and ‘individual’ driven cultures. The ‘community’ culture goes hand in hand with security, but also fear and conformity, while the culture of individualism with an unfulfilled urge for freedom, resulting in a compulsion towards freedom, to self-esteem.

If self-esteem becomes our primary focus, it can have a disruptive effect on many fronts, both for nature, the world and humanity, with the ‘predatory economy’ of the past half century as catalyst for this influence. Only a community based culture, can bring about a harmony, a balance, to the situation of ‘incompatibility’, an ascension of the Second Mountain. However, this unifying process also has its many obstacles, such as tribal conflict, false security, and the reassertion of individuality, creating the need for a deeper awareness of who we think we are.

It requires thoughtfulness in a time ruled by emotions. We live in an ‘emocracy’ as it were, in which the powers rallying for the move towards ‘community’, derive their energy surprisingly, from the negative hype and bombardment of the world media through such reporting as the extremes created by the global pandemic. Fear being the underlying emotion, results in a stimulus and energy to move towards a new culture away from I-centrality. Although fear might be a strong motivator to seek a form of self development, its intrinsic energy vibration is too low to bring about a complete renewal in the direction of a community focused culture.

The conscious realization of ‘who we are’, becomes more important than ever if we are to reach the necessary experience that will bring about this new culture of unity. We will know who we are only when we come to realize that the ultimate aim of being human is to learn to develop a love for everything and everyone; to transcend fear and the nature of the ‘I’, and not to allow our spiritual seeking to be restrained by orthodoxy.

The next step, attainment of the field of ‘being’, transcends as it were, the stage of ‘who do we think we are’ [4], by realizing that we are all divine beings who share a common experience as human beings. It is an actualization, and not so much about people who are going to become divine beings.

Therefore there exists the potential possibility of a ‘new age awakening’, a realisation of the ‘god within us’ that we really are. The experience of this potential has driven some young people to say, ‘I have already been realised’.

What then is the relationship with that ‘I’ culture of yesteryear? There is an ever increasing move away from the endless striving for power, property, and prestige, which were such prevelant drivers of ambition of the past. Underlying this we can also see the urge to perfection losing its power over people. This urge for perfection, which is a primal emotion of the ego to protect itself in the delusion of ‘completeness’, is also rooted in ‘I-centrality’, and opposes the true god within us. It imitates, and therefore separates itself from true spirituality, true spiritual community.

The arts often reflect this urge for perfection, or at least the urge to express themselves in a regulated pattern, following an existing design, in absolute knowledge of the expert. But artists also realize that their efforts to express these values, fall dramatically short and do not represent the true connection between soul and ‘being’.

If the starting point is ‘less me, and more we’, then this also goes together with a more creative freedom, more ‘venture capital’ for the soul so to speak, more investment in ‘being’. You must then dare to let go of tradition, trust that the universal unity of people already fundamentally exists, and that the dawn of all men becoming brothers has arrived. In fact, this is a culture of community, a group unity, which does not need to be nurtured, but which is essentially and literally already present.

May our souls glow ever gently in the experience of this unified joy.



[1] Alle Menschen werden Brüder, Friedrich Schiller Ode of Joy in 9th symphony of Ludwig van Beethoven

[2] David Brooks, The Second Mountain: The Quest for a Moral Life, Penguin Books 2020

[3] Interview Paul Verhaege, Trouw, July 2020

[4] Christiaan Weijts, Wie denken wij wel dat wij zijn? (Who do we think we are?), NRC 25 july 2020.

[5] Christina von Dreien, Consciousness creates Peace, Govinda 2020

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Date: January 20, 2021
Author: Frans Spakman (Netherlands)
Photo: Ruth Alice Kosnick CCO

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