By David R. Loy
A Buddhist interpretation of Western heritage that exhibits civilization formed by means of the self's wish for groundedness.
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Additional resources for A Buddhist History of the West: Studies in Lack
Testify to the literally extraordinary range of their thought. There remains a significant exception: the Greeks did not develop a higher religion. (H. , humanism—and the result of their experiment was the discovery that such a religion does not work. , the Roman conquest of Greece, the barbarian conquest of Rome) but because it self-destructed. Its distinctive contribution to the development of freedom (and the individual self) survived only as sublated into the Augustinian synthesis of Neoplatonic thought with Christian theology, which devised another way to cope with the greater anxiety of greater inwardness: by postulating an original sin, caused by Adam’s misuse of freedom.
Yet is this virtue losing some of its luster? 1 Nonetheless, the history of freedom contains enough contradictions to make us pause. As important as the Renaissance was for the development of personal freedom, we also see in it the roots of the problems that haunt us today, especially the extreme individualism that liberated greed as the engine of economic development and that continues to rationalize the erosion of community bonds. The French, Russian, and Chinese revolutions resulted in Napoleon, Stalin, and Mao, respectively, vindicating Burke’s warnings about the sudden disintegration of even oppressive political authority.
These elitist views were a response to changing social realities. If the fifth century was one of civic freedom, the fourth century (which began with Socrates’ execution) increasingly became that of individual freedom and self-indulgence. The integrity of the polis declined in favor of concern for personal advancement, which came to preoccupy those The Lack of Freedom 31 who controlled economic life and many of those who controlled political affairs. Demosthenes lamented that politics had become the path to riches, for individuals no longer place the state before themselves but view the state as a way to promote their own personal wealth.