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Tuesday, August 2, 2016

The Man with No Soul

This is a chapter in my next project on Soul Growing: Spiritual Exercises in Post Modern Times (or whatever I wind up naming it).

In previous reflections, I discussed what is meant by soul. I noted great-souled persons. And I described us weak-souled ones and why we need spiritual exercises along with physical exercises to grow our minds and the spirit of the universe. I asked the question of the possibility of a no-souled person which seems like a contradiction in terms since soul defines ones personality, character, and center of consciousness.

But then I encountered a man without a soul. Like Zelig in Woody Allen's movie of that name he is everywhere and no where. He is totally a creature of his environment and genes. Neither good nor bad, he is no-one, fits in anywhere, and takes on the guises of his situations. There is no transparency and no identity in such a man. He is pure reflection--which, by the way, is why he can have a following, even a large one. His words and actions reflect what others desire and fear. He has no position because he is not positioned. He is a brand, a slogan, a commercial. He is an actor without his own persona.

I was about to write a story of this man whom I named Harold Godman. He enters a crowded room of the Godman Center dressed in fine dark blue silk and a bright red tie. His hair is molded by a professional in what could be called a permanent. He wears a smile that seems molded by Da Vinci. On his arm and in his entourage are beautiful women from the cover of Vogue or the center page of Playboy. He looks like a god in his silk suit, with his manicured hands, and bronze skin. And if the gods exist because lesser men believe in them, he is indeed a god.

He puts himself and his name everywhere gaining as much publicity as he can and selling his name to investors. He places his name on all his properties, has ghostwritten books, and claims to have the answer to all persons' ills. I had him deliver a speech of dedication to the Godman Center, a huge hotel in the heart of Gotham, which on the surface used great phrases and yet, on analysis, said nothing.

By now you have guessed who my model of the man without a soul is. But I was intending on simply drawing a cartoon and writing a caricature or using what Weber would call an "ideal type" for making a point of distinction. But then I read the interview of Tony Swartz, the ghostwriter of Donald Trump's Art of the Deal. I discovered that my ideal type is real.

Here are some of the phrases Swartz used to describe the man after spending eighteen months shadowing him in the writing of his book:
  • pathologically impulsive and self-centered.
  • obsessed with publicity.
  • only takes two positions. "Either you’re a scummy loser, liar, whatever, or you’re the greatest. I became the greatest."
  • ruthless and single-minded in pursuit of profit.
  • no attention span.
  • impossible to keep focussed on any topic, other than his own self-aggrandizement.
  • a stunning level of superficial knowledge and plain ignorance.
  • seriously doubt that he has ever read a book straight through in his adult life.
  • driven entirely by a need for public attention. All he is is ‘stomp, stomp, stomp’—recognition from outside, bigger, more, a whole series of things that go nowhere in particular.
  • lied strategically. He had a complete lack of conscience about it.
  • his willingness to run over people, the gaudy, tacky, gigantic obsessions, the absolute lack of interest in anything beyond power and money.
  • need for attention is completely compulsive.
  • He’d like people when they were helpful, and turn on them when they weren’t. It wasn’t personal. He’s a transactional man—it was all about what you could do for him. 
  • People are dispensable and disposable.
If persons of great souls are centered and integrated, they grasp both poles of all the dimensions of the present. They are fully conscious with a robust interior life while acting passionately outwards in the world. They are a totally unique, creative individuals while being totally persons for others. They are always mindful of the lessons of the past while intending a better future. They totally acknowledge the world as it is while acting for the world as it should be. They transcend by questioning themselves and all their positions. They think.

The man (or woman) with no soul is fixed in the illusion of an independent self, of which depending on the circumstances he has many. He believes he has access to an absolute truth while being a creature of other opinions and cultural forces. He cannot be totally present in himself or with others. He has no empathy since he has no way to enter another person's consciousness. He is not with or for others. Others are things he uses. Without consciousness himself, he has no conscience. He behaves only for and by outside rewards. He does not question himself or his positions because he does not have any. He does not critically think. He denies or dismisses complexity in favor of simple formulas. He achieves a following and an ego by mirroring the basest of fears and desires of people. He will say or use anything to get his deal. 

Is such a man without a soul evil? I cannot call him good nor evil though I think that much evil results from his behavior. He is not responsible because he takes no responsibility; and I do not know if his refusal to take responsibility is culpable or pathological. He blames others whom he labels as evil in order to defend and glorify himself whom he claims is great. He fans the flames of fear in others in order to aggrandize himself. 

But do you recognize in all that an insecurity, a secret fear of failure, a secret distaste for who he is? If so and if he begins to acknowledge that insecurity, perhaps he can yet develop a soul. 

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