Letter to the Editor: The Power of Authenticity

It can be regarded as a general maxim that people derive many of their most fervent loyalties from an unconscious place. The act of decision-making, the laborious process of consciously factoring possibilities and accounting for all options, mostly conjures resolutions that are ephemeral and rarely solidify into something permanent, unless we refer to individuals who are ever vigilant in remaining loyal to these determined principles. Jean-Paul Sartre, an existential philosopher of the twentieth century, spoke of the capriciousness of rational directives of future action, or logical principles as they are commonly understood, noticing that people have a tendency to quickly forget promises they make to themselves – especially those principles which aim to provide clarity to one’s moral and intellectual sensibility. A smoker will tire themselves without end with the amount of times they declare emphatically that this cigarette will be their last. Before logic, there is the influence of something rather indefinable and formless – that is, the unconscious impulse which is consistent in the way it drives us, the way it upheaves the seemingly impregnable operations of the rational mind.

Republican GOP Debate pannel featuring the frontrunners in the Republican primaries; Photo Courtesy of: vanityfair

Photo Courtesy of: vanityfair

The ascent of Donald Trump in recent polls, and the alacrity with which his constituents support his campaign, speaks of an invaluable quality he possesses, a quality few others, if any, have ever possessed on such a grand stage. Before exploring this feature, it would first be useful differentiate between two operations of the unconscious: one of which is very familiar, while the other requires more considerable explanation. The first is craving, which stated before, can apply to the urge to smoke or the urge for sexual gratification – both of these need not be explained in too much detail, but what can be learned from these cravings is the remarkable manner by which the thinking region of the brain will submit itself to these cravings, with rationalizations which appear to come from the mind but ultimately emerge from the craving itself. The type of rationalization that suggests a single cigarette may in fact make it easier to quit because it will lessen the strain of the process – this is a rationalization which derives itself from the internal impetus of craving, not the sober dictation of reason.

It would be adequate for this description to also discuss the nature of decision-making itself, an act which may be split into two steps. The first step implements the logic, but does so in a specific manner, and only influences the final resolution to a certain extent. Thoughts themselves are not per se generative of action, only the landscape toward which intentionality may comport itself. That is to say that without logic, the intellectual terrain for future action is non-existent, or at least the possibility of premeditated action is non-existent. Without logic, the body would still be animate but would be entirely seized by the very same part that actuates the moment of choice – a part that because it is not itself conscious reason, only a supplementary companion to it, would represent an unconscious part of the human spirit.

Due this distinction between logic and the actualization of choice, a more detailed description of this relationship may be needed. David Hume, in his masterful work Treatise of Human Nature, discusses in detail the nature of belief, a sensation which accompanies preconceived knowledge and anticipation of future moments; both anticipation and preconceived “knowledge” require that the logical faculty of the mind presents the possibilities of not only a choice, but also in matters of future anticipation, a series of possible outcomes which manifest in the present and represent the choices to which the unconscious may calibrate. Depending on the extent of belief in a future anticipated moment, or the extent of belief in a chosen course of action, the vigor of the choice is strengthened; in other words, logic is not itself the determining factor of a choice, merely that which creates a mental terrain of “options” which are then chosen by the internal mechanism of intentionality, and this intentionality, or belief if related to anticipation of the future, is strengthened depending on the investment of the spirit emanating from the personal unconscious. The distinction of belief and intentionality is merely a difference in the context of the orientation of one’s will: in belief, the anticipation of the future, in choice, the intentionality of one’s action. These are being referenced alongside one another because they are both derived from the unconscious aspect of the human mind, and serve to underscore the presence of a sheer emotional, or spiritual, investment from the human unconscious. This investment itself, the intrinsic intentionality which enacts this attachment to intellectual choice or projections to the future, is not itself logical, merely a spiritedness which emerges from within the person at a level beneath conscious reason, an unconscious mechanism of no form or character besides the spirit behind its endorsements.

This spiritual investment which underlies logical calculation is a fundamental necessity in gauging the validity of any choice, particularly a personal choice. For certain choices, there are a number of equally valid options, none of which can be definitively identified as the correct one through logic alone. For instance, the question of abortion cannot be solved strictly by logic due to a conflict of unconscious prioritization: meaning that depending on how an individual perceives the situation, from what stance of priority, it can be said that the life of the female is at stake, or the life of the child is at stake. Kant, a philosopher of the seventeenth century, in his aptly entitled Critique of Pure Reason, discusses the difficulties in solving such problems. He speaks of the interpretive element of any analysis, presenting the scenario of trying to insert a ball in a hole in which it will not fit. He then states that the mind cannot logically say whether the ball is too large for the hole or the hole is too small for the ball, both of these answers depending on the slant of the interpreter. This analogy relates to a number of issues in the public domain, and as such, the decisions themselves often come from a different source. The question: from where and why?

For personal choice, we may identify this as being a matter of intuition. There are certain personal decisions which are not dictated by logic alone, although logic may lay out the options in which one’s unconscious may invest itself. Note that the word “unconscious” is being used as opposed to “subconscious”, which would more commonly be attributed to this discussion. The reason is that “subconscious” poses far too many connotative meanings which typically align themselves with “brain” or “mind”. The actual texture of this unconscious investment is not reducible to a single form intelligible to the mind, for it possesses no tangible form, only degree of investment and strength of spiritedness; it is no form, but only a texture of human existence. To resolve the debate of whether there is in fact intangible spiritedness or it is derived from the material conception of brain would require another full length work which would be superfluous to the overall argument at hand.

The materiality or immateriality of investment and spiritedness can be avoided by simply stating that there is a moment of internal investment that is itself not thought, merely that which ascribes preference to one thought over another. In the state of a personal dilemma, one in which the consequences only apply to the individual who is tasked with making the choice, an individual very often chooses among equally valid options that logic will not decisively resolve. In such a case, reason assumes the role of presenting the range of options, while the intuitive decider aligns itself with one of these possibilities yielded by reason; in this way, logic serves as a passive advisor, while the fervor of resolution derives from something beneath the array of intellectual possibilities. Consciously, we are allowed only to yield a proposal, however, the intuitive decider is the ultimate judge and overseer of any future action. This fact is most obvious in decisions which are only marginally influenced by logic, such as choosing a lover or deciding upon a city to reinvent one’s life. Often, while such personal decisions are being made, reason will be unsuccessful in mounting a case for any potential choice, as it is virtually indistinguishable which one possesses the greatest amount of foreseeable advantage or disadvantage assigned to it. The amount of factors the mind will consider in the moment prior to choice can be countless, and thus the decision is derived from another place. The term “follow your heart” is the most common bypass of irresolute paralysis while someone is in the thralls of indecision.

The previous description does not imply that there are certain individuals for whom logic does not play a stronger role in their decision-making process. Based on various factors, an individual may have assigned more value to logic in the decisions they make, but there are several possibilities for this predisposition. Conditioning may have instilled this prioritization or it may have naturally developed in the person – in either case, the primordial character of the intuitive decider is tempered to an extent.

Without the investment of spirit, thoughts are inert and inactive. They exist like intangible fog in one’s perception, a veil that stifles a person as opposed to impelling them. So often a person is rational but ineffectual, able to conceive of a number of possibilities but never manifesting them in reality. This is observable whenever a person speaks of a theory towards which they are themselves dispassionate. In this way, a person may find themselves an automatic mechanism for logical analysis, but wanting in an essential feature requisite of an assertive agent for change. This is particularly obvious in the realm of social interaction, wherein a person can be seen to be reasonable but their words lack the spirit of congruence. This essential feature of congruence may only be observed in those speakers whose thoughts, words and actions are in complete alignment. This feature is a very powerful element, and is ultimately a matter of someone’s authenticity, the degree to which the core of their being is manifest in their words and actions.

A person who lacks authenticity might as well not be a person to those on the receiving end of their words. This measure for another’s authenticity is derived from one’s intuition, the pre-logical evaluation that becomes immediately known to a person. People develop “gut-feelings” about others based on this intuition. Very often this reflects an individual’s inability to perceive another’s most innate characteristics, due to the speaker’s intuitive spiritedness being concealed beneath a logical veil. Without the investment of spirit, a person cannot authentically connect to another, for the intuitive decider of any listener, the place where decisions ultimately come from, is not reached directly, this connection being curtailed by the veil of reason. Due to this, it can be said that individuals communicate most effectively when both parties are congruent to their words, their intuitive deciders reaching each other in a very direct and clear manner. In other words, communication of strictly logic lacks authentic communication, for people are a synthesis of both logic and spirit, and thus any person who lacks the authentic investment of their intuitive decider, or spirited decider, is not communicating at all.

Logic without spirit can be compared to a state of sedation, wherein the true essence of a person is hidden beneath the words their mind has consciously or unconsciously attributed to their shadow self. This term applies to people that have had their intuitive decider, or spirit, tempered so much that they scarcely appear alive, let alone authentic. Thoughts without spirit render the person as a shadow, wherein the spirit is masked by the conditioned self, a shadow that consists only of thought and nothing else. We see their shadow, but know nothing of their spirit, nothing of the character of their intuitive decider. A person may only be reached fully through spirit to spirit interaction, for logic to logic interaction is not nearly as impactful or real, a transfer of only thoughts, a neglect of the basic substratum of the person in their most genuine essence. To reiterate, a person communicates not only with logic, but something far more fundamental, far more essential to our very Being, and people who is able to access spiritual vitality and investment behind their words will be communicating directly with this essential aspect of consciousness which is largely concealed beneath the logic which most people mistake as the true overseer of the decisions we make.

Many people exhibit the trait of inauthenticity but it has become so commonplace that authenticity is now considered peculiar or even indecent. The normative manner of communication most readily observed in all advanced cultures is that of inauthenticity, of an individual being subsumed into a systematic intellectual model of proper behavior and good taste. In such a case, when a person submits themselves to the intellectual perception of the human character, they in turn suppress, or conceal entirely, their unconditioned spirit – that essence which is beneath the realm of thoughts and serves, among other roles presumably, as the ultimate decider of the possible options thoroughly established through the power of logic. In Buddhism, among other Eastern philosophies, the Ego is referred to as the false self, and can be taken as the intellectual vision of one’s self, that which represents an individual’s mental representation of their character. These representations, however, are typically devoid of spiritual investment, for the conditioned self consists of thoughts without intuition, of a self that is foisted upon the spirit and oppresses it. A person completely consumed by the social doctrine of self is immediately recognizable to those who encounter them. A person under the spell of such a delusion can be said to be “fake”, “unaware”, or “have their heads up their ass”, but ultimately what is at play is a complete subjugation of their unconditioned spirit by the conditioned – or “false” – self, a manner of behavior that is derived from the mind and not the soul – in this way, a person is not themselves, for a person without the synthesis of logic and spirit becomes a shadow, a figure two-dimensional and vacuous, and everyone is able to at least sense it, regardless of whether they are aware of what they sense.

The response which generally results from inauthenticity is something which is intuitively perceived, rarely being outwardly acknowledged unless the subject is particularly egregious in their masquerade. The response to such people is most commonly that of aversion, as those who are intuitively felt to be inauthentic are generally repellant to others. This authenticity further extends to the trait of neediness or want, for whenever an interaction is predicated upon the basis of subjective exchange, or one-sided bartering, the response is likewise heavily aversive. As explored extensively in Eastern doctrines, the origins of want generally result from an attachment to the Ego, an intellectual notion of Self which is, by virtue of it being a derivative of consciousness itself, mistakenly attributed the role of one’s ultimate identity. In this realm of the intellectual Ego, there is much to gain and much to lose. The Ego exists in a state of interminable want, a state which is inherent to its very existence, and thus anyone who possesses an Ego which is particularly depleted of fulfillment will find themselves consistently engaging others with an agenda, a subjective need that is intellectually rooted in themselves and submerges the unconditioned Self, which is authentically the spirit of Self. The unbridled spirit becomes concealed beneath an agenda that does not even resemble the spirit’s own volition, as the intellectual model of “reality” disempowers and quiets its free expression, a will being reflected vibrantly in words and actions.

Like any other phenomena which manifests in our perception, we can monitor the qualities which most consistently unfold before us. Through this method we can uncover some of the behaviors of the unconscious which may not readily be attributed to it. There are some aspects of the unconscious which seem to be readily evident. One manifestation might be the feeling of alienation, or feeling that “one does not belong”. In this case, there may be some reality to this alienation, if a person finds themselves in a position of being regarded as “odd” by their peers, or have been at the receiving end of stark criticism or expressions of genuine dislike; however, this feeling emerges mostly from a basic, even primordial, feeling which emerges at a level beneath the intellectual processing of the situation – in either case, it is not an individual’s logic which prompts this sentiment (besides situations resembling those above). The trait being discussed in this piece, however, is the aversion to inauthenticity. This aversion may sometimes even manifest as fear or extreme uneasiness, which is generally reserved for the most extreme displays of spiritual incongruence. The unconscious is a character in itself, a formless figure which is familiar to an individual in so far as they not only acknowledge its presence but heed to its often muted instruction. When the unconscious does emerge, however, it can sometimes inspire bemusement in those who try to make sense of the often bizarre or “irrational” directions it takes us. In the present case, the ascent of Donald Trump can be explained primarily as coming from this source.

Before moving further, it should be noted that this piece is not meant to comment on the logic or proposed policies of Donald Trump, for that is highly debatable and depends on the political slant of an individual. Whether his policies have legitimacy or not is irrelevant to this piece, as what is most undeniable about Donald Trump is his contentious and often repellant character. The question that must be answered: What is the reason for his success thus far?

In contemporary politics, the development of the two-party system, along with career politicians, has rendered the American political landscape as rife with inauthenticity. The structure of congress has allowed for men to make a career out of being a congressmen, which contradicts the overall vision which prompted the inception of The United States. In a situation in which one is employed to make policy and govern at any capacity, there will inevitably be a point in which the concern for one’s career will outstrip the need to do what is genuine and right. Likewise, close affiliations with political parties render an individual bereft of genuine character beyond the concerns of the Shadow Self – the intellectualized sense of identity which always feels at the point of crisis and impending loss, and will conduct themselves like any other fearful creature concerned with survival. In this case, a politician will recite the party’s talking points, extol the party’s official policy, and generally do all that is necessary to preserve their favorable position in the hierarchy of the party. Whenever a person is entrapped by the snare of public image, they inevitably become the Shadow yet again, and as stated before, most people are able to sense it, and almost everyone is averse to it on some level.

To more clearly conceive of the notion of the unconscious, it can be thought as something formless beneath the form of thoughts, and is that which attaches to thoughts, ascribes belief to some notions while excluding others, and animates the body while performing certain actions and not others. It is that which gives an individual life and spirit, and has a character which undergirds logic, serving as an imperceptible overseer which supplies spirit to our decisions and almost instantly recognizes elements of the environment, or people therein, which logic cannot. To emphasize a bit further, the moment of decision is a “kind of mental wobbling”, to quote Allen Watts, but the act of the decision, the moment a course is chosen from the proposed options, comes from a place that is not the logic itself, for without the vitality beneath this network of logic, nothing would happen, no action would result from it; in this way, a decision is both logic and spirit synthesized, and nothing occurs without their reciprocity, their mutual exchange which makes the fullness of a person.

It has been said numerous times that logic without the backing of the spirit is a form of communication that is not only highly ineffective but also a display of inauthenticity which is unconsciously recognized in the listener. Due to this primordial tendency, the words of a person are often irrelevant to the quality of the response. The spirit behind words can be an extremely powerful element, as an individual can eschew constructing rational points in order to manipulate a crowd – if there is logic, it can be distorted or utilized to fulfill one’s will in a disingenuous or prejudiced fashion. A blatant example would be the rise of Adolph Hitler prior to World War II. If one is to analyze the logic of his points, one will observe an individual masterful at appropriating the functions of logic in order to propagate a message more rooted in a strong sentiment than pure rationality. If you are take an even deeper look at the preamble to his rise, you will see the state of Germany as being dispirited and crestfallen, a state which was prompted by their ill-treatment following the previous world war.

The ascent of Adolph Hitler was an example of a vapid state of “averageness”, to quote Martin Heidegger, being penetrated by the impassioned presence and delusive rationality he proposed. The reason for his success was not the rationality of his words, but the disparity which existed between his own internal state and that of German society at the time. In this way, is was not only the state of Adolph Hitler which promoted his ascension in their political arena at the time, but a reciprocal relationship in which the perceived state of each were accentuated by their juxtaposition: the state of Germany being further perceived as fruitless and desolate while Hitler’s persona was alternatively elevated in captivation; if one were to hold a lighter in a pitch dark room, both the backdrop of darkness and the light of the flame would be accentuated, the brightness and the darkness more pronounced. This example is not meant to compare Donald Trump to Adolph Hitler, however, it does reveal the incredible power of authenticity and passion while dealing with people in general.

To understand the ascent of Donald Trump, one must look at the traits that most separate him from his opponents. These traits can be narrowed down to two major ones: his ability to fund himself and his career beyond politics. Trump’s ability to speak so candidly, often to the point of revilement and disgracefulness, is due to the fact that he is entering the political scene without needing funding from donors and support from the Republican Party. Unlike the other candidates, he is not monetarily dependent on anyone, nor is his “career” as a politician at stake. In the public arena, true authenticity is often precluded due to one’s need to fit into some system or larger body. This is typically predicated upon the need to remain financially stable, as one must remain employed in order to survive. Also, whenever an individual identifies themselves as fitting a certain role (in this case, a politician), they are likewise unable to be authentic due to their need to remain in good graces with voters and their constituent party. It should be noticed that each of these reasons for inauthenticity are predicated upon dependence and grasping. The other candidates are dependent on their donors and party for money, and voters and party for their career. Trump is not grasping for anything in his candidacy, for he is financially independent and also does not have his livelihood at stake. In this way, he is able to free himself from the standard condition of inauthenticity intrinsic to society, for only when someone fundamentally has nothing to lose, can one truly be authentic in their actions, unstifled by the “standards” and “rules” adjudicating proper behavior, not reliant upon a system which systemizes personal identity and suppresses the human spirit.

The reason for Donald Trump’s success can thus be attributed to his authenticity in comparison to the rampant inauthenticity which defines the contemporary political scene. As objectionable as Trump may appear at times, regardless of any asinine or acerbic statements he delivers, he is at least honest about his character (as offensive as it may be), for he is spiritually congruent, in that his spirit (or spiritedness), words and actions are aligned in their intentions; for this reason, the voters’ immediate response is that of approval, however, this primordial response will likely eventually dissipate in the face of logic which may be suspended momentarily. The intuitive response is one which may be initially most pronounced, however, it is typically the case that logic will eventually curtail its influence. Trump’s advantage is based on his immediate connection to the pre-reflective intuition which responds powerfully to certain traits in others, and in this case, a very powerful response to authenticity.

In closing this piece, there is something that should be noted about authenticity. The contention of this paper may appear at first glance to be misanthropic in nature, but it is not the intention. What is being stated is that authenticity, the synthesis of spirit and logic, inspires the most favorable and endearing response from others, and may even, for a time, conceal the logical inappropriateness or even repulsiveness of an individual from others. So in this way, an authentic person is immediately ahead of the pack, regardless of their actual character; however, intuition likewise responds to truthfulness and beneficence, and thus someone with authenticity along with a scrupulous character, ingenuous speech, and integrity would surpass someone of Trump’s nature very quickly. Such examples would be Ghandi or Martin Luther King Jr, men who were able to break away from the inauthentic “averageness” of the social and political scene, but also were noble in their intentions, truthful in their cause. People of authenticity are on an equal plane, while those unable to break from the level of inauthenticity, a state of grasping and reliance upon a system, will not generate an intuitive response of excitement or immediate loyalty from the general public. The ascension of Trump merely exposes a trait inherent to the intuitive response, but it also reveals the crucial need for politicians that are both good and authentic, for such figures are few and far between in contemporary politics. If he were to be elected, perhaps it would be the best result of this election, for it would turn an eye upon the American political landscape, and hopefully expose the importance of spiritual congruence and intuitive alignment in truly being one’s self. Beneath the logical veil we think is the sole dictate of human engagement, the unseen and unspoken part of the human spirit presides over it all, and those who are able to summon its full investment will yield great power in not only the political arena but all walks of life, standing always as a blazing ensign amid a dimming light.

-Timothy Murphy

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