Saturday, October 3, 2009



An idea is neutral. There are good ideas and bad ideas, peaceful ideas and warring ideas, republican ideas and democratic ideas. The human mind is filled with many ideas. It is what the mind does. The human mind does not come up with most of these ideas, they just arrive. Sometimes they come from other people, sometimes they seem to [1]float in from the ethers. Nietzsche wrote, “A thought comes when ‘it’ wants to and not when ‘I’ want; thus it is a falsification to say: the subject ‘I’ is the condition for the predicate ‘think.’ 'It' thinks: but there is…no immediate certainty that this ‘it’ is just the famous old ‘I’.” (Beyond Good and Evil)

Freud recognized this and made it a central piece of his psychology, “Besides the ‘I’ (ego) we recognize also another region of the soul, more extensive, grander, and more obscure than the ‘I’ (ego), and this we call the ‘it’.” (The Question of Lay Analysis) In English translations, this ‘it’ is called the 'Id'. The Id (it) is the vast Unconscious Realm which contains ideas that are 'more extensive, grander and more obscure' than the little repository of ideas in my ego-mind. This experience of myriad ideas intruding is most obvious in dreams, but actually occurs all day long.


An ideal is a sought after standard, a high and perfect goal. There is the ideal man, ideal woman, ideal football player, ideal flower arrangement, etc. These are typical definitions from any English dictionary:


a conception of something in its perfection.


a person or thing conceived as embodying such a conception or conforming to such a standard, and taken as a model for imitation: Thomas Jefferson was his ideal.


An ideology is the systematic organization of an ideal. It has an authoritative source, a set of beliefs, a community of supporters, standard expressions or ways of operating and a clear aim or goal. Here are some standard definitions:


the body of doctrine, myth, belief, etc., that guides an individual, social movement, institution, class, or large group.


such a body of doctrine, myth, etc., with reference to some political and social plan, as that of fascism, along with the devices for putting it into operation.

It is sometimes religious, sometimes political, frequently though not always a combination of religion and politics. It is usually consciously or unconsciously seen to be somewhat Utopian, or held as the perfect solution. There are many ideologies ranging from one extreme to the other.

What’s the point?

The point is that there are many ideas in the universe, and some are better than others. Every ideologue thinks his/her ideas are right, or at minimum, the best. His/her ideas have become ideals which morph into an ideology. There is the Christian ideology, the Marxist ideology, the Socialist ideology, Muslim ideology, Progressive and Conservative ideologies, etc. And those I quoted in the singular actually have varied ideological permutations, though it is fair to say that each has basic common ideas and ideals.

If Nietzsche and Freud are correct that thoughts and ideas are independent of the self (‘I’), then it behooves us to seriously explore alternative ideas thoroughly before permanently taking up our ‘ideal’ and subscribing to a fixed ideology. I don’t mean exploring with a view to proving another set of ideas, or an opposing ideology false, but with a view to really letting the ideas from the ‘it’ take up residence and become familiar before we dismiss them.

A great negative example is in the biblical story of Nicodemus, the elite Jewish religious scholar and teacher. He covertly met with Jesus in the dark of night because he was fascinated with some of Jesus’ ideas. Nicodemus didn’t want to be seen with the Nazarene peasant who was challenging certain Judaic ideas and ideals. Jesus said, “Men love darkness rather than light because their deeds are evil,” thereby calling Nicodemus' secret summit an evil deed. This must have come as a shock because Nicodemus was most certainly a very moral man. When Jesus referred to evil, he was speaking of Nicodemus' cowardice. The religious elitist didn't want to be seen in public questioning the correct ideology. The evil was not in the traditional moral sense, but in making a living off of an ideology that was suddenly suspect. The evil occurred when this prominent man placed his social prestige, financial gain and political power ahead of vetting the truth.The evil was in allowing an ideology to trump better ideas.

This applies to our current culture very pointedly. Christians and non-Christians, Republicans and Democrats, and all of us who take sides are famous for bashing the ‘bad guys’ before really understanding the actual ideas and ideals of these so called opponents. How many of us have confidently and ignorantly attacked others with hearsay or fabricated ‘historical facts,’ 'scientific studies,' 'statistics' and other convenient ‘evidences’? Shame on us! Face it. We are [2] bigots.

Jesus calls this uninformed, exclusivistic ideological chauvinism the 'unpardonable sin’. Jesus' judgment comes out of a story in the Gospel of Matthew where the unorthodox Jesus was casting out demons with the wrong ideology. The orthodox Hebrew idealists then accused Jesus of being possessed by Satan and of committing wicked deeds. Jesus shocked them by saying that the attribution of evil to someone doing good cannot be forgiven. In other words, that sort of ideological infection systematically rots the soul from the inside out, destroying the very essence of the man or women in their self-righteous idealism.

So beware, whomever we are – traditional conservative or progressive liberal, Christian or New Age, male or female, black or white, American or Muslim. This does not mean we ought not evaluate and critique ideas, ideologies and idealisms. It does mean that we ought to do our best to seriously understand another ideology before we criticize it. As I said, some ideas are better than others. Some ideologies are more beneficial than others -- politically, religiously and economically. But before we take a firm position and critique another, which I encourage by the way, let's find out what our ‘opponents’ really think, believe and practice. Then our critiques have power and authority, and the possibility of changing things for the good of all.

[1] It is interesting that the Sankhya Hindu philosophy posits three ways of knowing:

  1. Empirically – through the sense organs.
  2. Rationally – through the reasoning process.
  3. Auditorially – through hearing.

They recognize the usual western categories of empirics and reason, but add hearing.

[2] The word 'bigot' is etymologically related to the 'by - God' and was used of those who said they had the absolute truth or ideology because it came from their God.

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