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By David R. Loy

A Buddhist interpretation of Western background that exhibits civilization formed by means of the self's wish for groundedness.

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Extra info for A Buddhist History of the West: Studies in Lack

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Bouwsma 6)8 Yet the City of God also discouraged this conflation. Written to justify the fall of Rome, it did not identify the City of God with the City of Man. Instead of being the privileged vehicle of God’s will, the Roman empire was only one in a series of historical societies. It was neither sacred nor necessary for human salvation. , greater sovereignal freedom. This in turn encouraged the development of doctrines that justified resistance to unjust rulers. It was “a short step from the question which sphere of power—the spiritual or the secular—should dominate to the deeper question of the nature of power itself and the sources of its authority.

Just as important is the implication for what Patterson calls sovereignal freedom, the power to do utterly as one pleased with another person. In spite of the authoritarian nature of most human societies, such sovereignal freedom did not normally exist, because all social relationships existed within a network of countervailing powers (including divine powers that limited human hubris). This points to one of the tragic paradoxes that have dogged the history of the West: personal freedom and totalitarianism are not opposites but brothers, for the historical conditions that made democracy possible also made totalitarianism possible.

Another way to try to resolve one’s sense of lack is by extending control over others. If the self is groundless and therefore naturally anxious, it can try to defend itself and gain control by seeking to dominate what is outside it. “This absoluteness, the sense of being one (my identity is entirely independent and consistent) and alone (‘There is nothing outside of me that I do not control’) is the basis for domination—and the master-slave relationship” (Benjamin 33). If, again, no amount of control can allay the insecurity that haunts the self, this search for control also has a tendency to become demonic.

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