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How are passions organized in a society and what is their functionality?

Fear is a natural emotion that we share with animals. Overcoming fear is like making a hero out of yourself for a moment. Why? Because we have gone beyond our conditioning to touch our immaterial, permanent nature, that which is our nobility.

Fear being natural, it is more related to our physical dimension. It allows us to preserve our body. It guarantees our survival. On the contrary, the absence of fear guarantees the preservation of what is most sacred, our honor, our dignity, our sense of sacrifice, our self-sacrifice and I dare say our humanity.

The human being is built by his capacity to overcome ordeals

The hero is an augmented human being, he takes up challenges, he transforms himself at the same time. In doing so, he is on a par with the gods. He is not their equal but he gets closer to what is most divine in him.

The human has noble but also prosaic aspirations. He delights in the sublime but he willingly frequents the ugliest without blushing. What makes him so different from the other species of creation is his ability to go beyond his simple physiological needs. That’s two levels higher on Maslow’s pyramid than the other animals that make up creation.

Since we (our ancestors) have lived for ages in fear and anxiety, these two emotions are easily reactivated so that they easily manifest themselves without warning.

In another register, one can imagine that sexual impulses have also manifested themselves in a sudden way. Rape was probably commonplace in prehistoric times, and men would readily use physical force to achieve their ends if they came across a woman wandering around in search of berries or prey in the wild. Man has not totally forgotten, at least in his subconscious, the period when he was only a more or less clothed animal.

City life and the imposition of consequent social norms have forced our ancestors to dominate their fear and their sexual impulses. To live in society is to contribute to security in order to enjoy protection in turn. This is what we call the social contract. This pact obliges the individuals composing the group to repress any hostile or predatory behavior to direct it against the group. Conversely, hostility is encouraged against the enemies of the group. War, through conscription and the license it grants to citizens, allows them to express their death drive in a periodic manner and thus brings us back to ancient times, when the law was only that of the strongest.

The law of the strongest against the law of the weakest

If society exists, it is to give the weak the right to exist because they have a productive role within the social group. The weak in nature is not necessarily weak in society. Physical and moral strength are not as important in the city. What matters more is social intelligence and strategic thinking. To dominate a social group, one must have moral or economic authority.

However, there is a common rule between society and nature: the more people you are useful and helpful, the more influence you will have.

Since society is a fear-free environment, humans can perform specialized roles. He can become more productive by sticking to one job as long as the other aspects of his life are taken care of by the rest of the group.

Sexuality changes its role in the city

Aristocrats and bourgeois have become accustomed to considering sex as a distraction, thus distancing it from its reproductive functions. Normally, it was marriage that gave license to the indulgence of sexual desire. Marriage offers material protection to the wife while providing, in return, the certainty that the offspring belong to the husband.

In older societies, marriage was not as codified as it is today, but there could be de facto monogamy between members of the same clan.

The economic and power elites have an undeniable advantage in the search for the most attractive elements of the social group. The security that they can offer through their status is a tremendous promotion for women who would manage to achieve a matrimonial agreement with one of their members.

The very fact that the elite have potential access to the “best” women makes them prone to abuse this power by not fulfilling their social counterpart, marriage.

The nobility of man lies in his ability to overcome or tame his most animal desires. However, wanting to repress nature at all costs is not good either because it generates frustrations and even neuroses. To overcome this problem, one must succeed in sublimating these impulses. Anger or death impulses can find an expression or an escape in artistic creation. The sexual drive can also be tamed by art, science or sport.

Overcoming one’s impulsive desires in order to fully integrate into society through life as a couple implies mastering certain techniques for sublimating one’s impulses.

All modern societies teach perhaps without knowing it these techniques, one of which is study. The school (and the church or any other place of worship) is indeed the place that is supposed to teach us to channel our energies, to discipline our will so as not to be an individual in a wild state where the reign of force is the law.

Of course, there are intermittent episodes during which the law of the strongest takes over. This happens on a national scale and is commonly referred to as war. During the war, the law becomes silent, as Cicero liked to say. All social prohibitions are shattered: murder, pillage, forced labor (slavery), rape and torture are practiced without any moral authority being able to put an end to them unless it is simply stronger. War is a return to the natural state, with the only difference that nations play the role of individuals (social prohibitions are preserved within each social group).

The way of wisdom

The Ancients of the Greek world had understood one thing: one can overcome one’s passions if one adopts a practical philosophy that allows one to eradicate them. Epicureanism is one of the most characteristic examples of this. It distinguishes between natural and unnatural needs as well as between those qualified as necessary and unnecessary. The goal is to preserve the natural and necessary needs and to eliminate all the rest. All the success of this philosophy would reside in the capacity to keep a discipline of life which would consist in keeping the same course and not giving in to the unnatural nor necessary desires. Easier said than done, you may think. Yes, all progress is earned through effort.

Catharsis to atone for passions

If some people manage to follow a philosophy of life, others cannot or do not want to. They always have the possibility to call upon catharsis. It consists in atoning for one’s passions in a roundabout way. For example, if you have a violent streak in you that is just waiting to be expressed, you can practice martial arts or play video games that depict this violence. Any society is normally constituted to favor catharsis, which is made possible by the entertainment society. Cinema, pop culture, in short mass artistic production, are not only objects of consumption and profit, they offer a reflection of society at a precise moment. They are also and above all the image of catharsis which is proposed to the public and thus evokes the problems from which the whole of the people who constitute this social body suffer.

God is the one who is invoked to sublimate his passions

God, even if he takes different forms according to the cultures, he plays a fundamental role in that he allows to sublimate the most natural desires. Sublimation consists in giving a different form or expression to a desire. In physics, sublimation is the passage from a solid to a gaseous state. In short, it is the act of moving to a more subtle level. The analogy is true for the world of desires and ideas. A crude or gross thought can be sublimated by intense spiritual effort and released like molecules trapped in a solid mass to take flight in a gaseous cloud.

To sublimate one’s impulses is to succeed in making the vital energy (the kundalini as it is called in India) not be blocked at the lower or intermediate chakras but on the contrary that the energy reaches the 7th chakra, the one of the spiritual realization. When one is dominated by sexual desires, it means that the kundalini is blocked at the second chakra for example. This can be due to bad habits of thought or to a mainly tamasic or rajasic food, i.e. they lead respectively to indolence/ignorance or to desire and greed.

To conclude, there is no progress without sacrifice. Sacrifice is never a loss, it is a transformation, like the caterpillar that sacrifices its life for a while by becoming a cocoon and then transforming itself into a butterfly. Any conscious effort lifts us up while any laziness or simple hedonism lowers us or hinders our progress.

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