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Understanding Human Nature and Tapping the Best Out Of It

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My friend Fred Gohlke, who has one of the finest of minds, was discussing the means to usher in a system of democracy that is truly ‘government of the people, by the people and for the people’. In relation to “the need to harness human nature by making probity an asset in our electoral processes” he was discussing the question, ‘Where does human nature come from?’

He rightly stated that "we must understand our nature before we can develop institutions that capitalize on our strengths and control our weaknesses". He went on to surmise the evolution of human nature on lines of the dominant thinking of our times, which is the Darwinian theory of 'survival of the fittest'. He classifies personalities into ‘stronger’ and ‘weaker’ people and goes on to say that the ‘will to believe’ (meaning faith) has caused great harm to the human society by making people ‘believe’ in the kind of people who finally end up ruling them.

His delightfully methodical description of what could have happened is available here: Human Nature and the Will-To-Believe - Posts - Quora

Though erudite, I felt that the above description is not enough to fully describe what is happening to the human race (and not just the American society, whom Fred addresses). While he is the original author of the ‘triad system’ I have mentioned below, his dismissal of the quality of faith as destructive is worrisome, since it is symptomatic of a widespread social malaise. I suggested that the following could have happened based on a 'view from inside' as against his 'view from outside'. It allows a constructive approach to tackle this general pessimism regarding faith and the state of human race.

Let me start with a statement made by Fred himself: "However those beings (primitive man) did not become 'human' until they began to change their animalistic behavior. The ability to make such a change defines what we call humans." Now, what was the ability that led the 'beings' to change their animalistic behavior? It is not merely higher intelligence. Along with higher intelligence that led to reasoning and abstract thinking, was the working of man’s spiritual intelligence that made him distinguish between right and wrong.

Spiritual intelligence (synonymous with conscience at work) is a basic faculty that integrates the information gained through the senses as well as the thoughts arising within one and gives meaning. The meaning is sensed by the core of one's being or the ‘inner self’, which is felt as bliss during deep sleep. When there is lack of meaning the ‘inner self’ does not rest in peace. Thus something is good (or right) when it is meaningful to the ‘inner self’ and bad (or wrong) when it produces conflict and disturbs peace.

Western psychology recognizes 'self' as the basis of human personality, which is 'perceived reality' and that could include any of the human perceptions including peace. However recently the core of 'self' or the 'inner self' is being recognized, which is 'pure consciousness' or 'bliss' enjoyed during deep sleep. While 'self' is perceived reality, the 'inner self' is the core reality.

Animals too have a primitive spiritual intelligence but their capacity for reasoning and abstract thinking is elementary, the potential for conflict minimal and the 'inner self' rests in peace. Since the primitive man’s spiritual intelligence had to contend with complex perceptions, it started working at a deeper level. The concept of good and bad or right and wrong first arises with respect to the effect on the 'inner self' of the individual. By extension, the same is applied to the society as a whole.

Apart from spiritual intelligence there are three tendencies that determine human nature, namely the active, passive and the serene tendencies. Indian philosophy calls them as rajasic, tamasic and the sathwic tendencies respectively. All three tendencies exist in every individual in varying proportions. The active tendency spurs the individual into action, passive tends to enjoy and the serene tendency seeks peace. The serene tendency is unique in that it heals the disturbances caused by the other two tendencies.

Those with dominant active tendency seek to push forwards with their thought and action. Active tendency spurred the caveman to kill animal for food and the king to rule over his subjects. Those with dominant passive tendency end up primarily seeking enjoyment in life. They are self-centered with little concern for others. Those with dominant serene tendency are more balanced, consider matters more objectively and are concerned with the welfare of the society as a whole. Fred Gohlke's 'stronger' people, corresponds to those with dominant active and passive tendencies and 'weaker' people to dominant active and serene tendencies.

Faith or the ‘will to believe’ as Fred puts it, is related to the satisfaction derived by the ‘self’ while considering a matter. It depends on peace of the ‘inner self’. Faith is a basic requirement for normal human personality. Without faith there is dissatisfaction with every matter and peace disappears. Having faith benefits the person having faith, even if the matter or person on whom faith is reposed does not qualify for it. So the working rule that would be beneficial would be repose faith after due consideration, but to be watchful to note if the faith is justified.

Similar to faith, the word ‘conscience’ has become outdated and is generally considered irrelevant to present times. The term ‘spiritual intelligence at work’ makes better sense for the modern mind. Intuition derived from spiritual intelligence is undervalued and logical thinking with ‘evidence’ is more acceptable. The ‘view from outside’ has resulted in an understanding of human nature and human civilization in superficial terms. The human being without faith and conscience is merely a theoretical construct; without these we will be reverting back to animal nature.

The apparent shift in human perception of ‘faith’ and ‘conscience’ coincides with the domination of passive tendency over the serene tendency causing widespread social unrest at the community, national and international levels. The basic way to tackle this situation is to nurture and promote serene tendency and limit passive tendency within every human being. While spirituality and religion (in its true sense) help to nurture serene tendency, understanding the genesis of human nature helps everyone to contribute to revival of serene tendency in human nature.

The electoral processes are at the apex of the pyramid of institutions that help society to function. Currently the people with dominant active and passive tendencies are more likely to rule the governments throughout the world. The electoral system based on political parties and relying on self-centeredness is conducive to such people. We need an electoral system that gives people with dominant active and serene tendencies and capable of selflessness, a fair chance to advance politically. This would have a cascading effect on all other aspects of the society for the benefit of all.

I suggest that the following model of electoral process (in the form of a web-site design), titled Ideal Democracy be considered for implementation. It promotes the objective thinking of serene tendency and allows it to act in concert with active tendency, unlike the present system based on political parties that facilitates the passive tendency to act in concert with active tendency: Independent Network for Democracy

The two methods of selecting candidates for election suggested in that model (Sortition and Triad system) ensure probity of the candidate. The methods of initiative and referendum suggested at the micro-level ensure that the voters are able to express their opinion on day to day governance and make their opinions ‘relevant’ during the process of any ensuing election. The model as a whole does not require the existence of political parties and can work on an independent basis.

If humanity is to tide over the present crisis of self-centeredness overwhelming the best of human nature then it is not enough to think in terms of ‘good’ and ‘bad’ or ‘right’ and ‘wrong’. Thinking in terms of an imbalance of human tendencies and trying to restore the balance intelligently is needed to transcend self-centeredness at all levels and to arrest the downhill course that human race finds itself in.



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