The philosophical goal of every Christian is to live, as Kierkegaard put it, as an “individual alone before God.” Having experienced redemption through God the Son, Christians understand that no task on earth is more important than this, and if they are to successfully dwell in perpetual relation to the Divine then they must properly interpret and order all the elements of daily experience.
The best place to begin, then, is with understanding what it means to be an “individual.” And one of the most important ways that we can explore the importance of the individual is to look at its opposite, what is termed in the Scriptures as the “world” (literally the “kosmos”) and in philosophical writings as the crowd, the herd, and They (1).
Understanding the crowd in a philosophical sense will not only deepen one’s understanding of the New Testament, it will also make one aware of the various pitfalls that can prevent proper development of the individual. For the crowd is one of the primary sources of opposition in our spiritual and psychological growth, a constant temptation and perpetual barrier should we allow it to interfere with our perceptions and intentions.
In the coming weeks, we will explore the various components that make up the crowd and how those components thwart individual growth. They are as follows:
- Equalization — the removal of individual differences to establish sameness between all members of the crowd, with the result that conformity abides as the primary unity between all of its parts.
- Mediocrity — the establishment of a standard of what constitutes “the good life,” with the result that one’s telos or vision is obscured, if not obliterated, and replaced instead with standardized sources of satisfaction.
- Efficiency — the propagation of maximum effectiveness in all situations, with the result that systemization and reliance upon technological advancement replaces human creativity and spontaneity.
- Interpretation — the abolishment of “outsider” hermeneutics and individual appropriations of knowledge, with the result that knowledge itself becomes altered to no longer correspond with truth, but instead with the reality shaped by the crowd itself.
In our analyses of these components of the crowd, we will see how the movements of society are often identifiable with these characteristics, and how they manage to sinisterly infiltrate even those groups with good intentions — the Protestant church in America being a primary example.
Yet all is not lost. Through careful, humble examination we can learn how to break away from the crowd, in just the same way that the first disciples abandoned their nets to follow Christ. Indeed, it is only as we identify those components of the crowd which have formed parts of ourselves that we can successfully recover and grow into the people that God created us to be, who bear fruit and so bring glory to His name.
- Kierkegaard, Nietzsche, and Heidegger respectively
PC. Davide Ragusa