American society continues its slide into the darkness of Hell, but few Americans are willing to turn away from one of main causes of their downward fall. Ræther, they tend to praise it: individualism.
To be sure, one must avoid the other extreme of collectivism, in which the person is destroyed for the sake of the whole. But in the extreme of Western individualism there is also the destruction of the person. Metropolitan John Zizioulas writes, ‘Death is . . . the sealing of hypostasis [person--W.G.] as individuality’ (Being As Communion, Crestwood, Ny.: St Vladimir’s, 1985, p. 51). The fewer loving connections we have with one another, the less of a soð (true) person we become, and more like the demons. Fr Dumitru Staniloae of Romania says of this,
The man who is no longer completely human has become inhuman because he has become, in part, impersonal and this nature of his is no longer completely consistent, which means that it is no longer in full communion with the nature found in other persons. Personalized nature feels in itself the power that comes to it from full relation to the nature found in other persons because it can thereby be continually both source and continuous recipient of new acts and thoughts that are generous, good, and at the same time original, for in every person nature finds an original expression of itself while remaining simultaneously in communion with all other persons. By its openness and the reciprocal enrichment it receives in these positive relationships between persons, nature understood in this way is profoundly human and creative.
When, in every case, nature had fallen into this condition of unfulfilled personalization, it broke up into fragments that do not communicate fully among themselves, and into individuals who shut each other out and, instead of enriching one another, remain within a selfish poverty, sinking deeper and deeper while each strives to annex the other to himself so as to enrich himself with what the other has, against the other’s will. This tendency in the one provokes the same tendency in the others, and a general struggle ensues among them, and consequently, a general weakening of nature. In the highest degree, this condition belongs to the demons also. They co-exist because they need to torment one another and to fight against those who are good. This co-existence of battle has become for them a necessity and attests to the fact that no one can live totally cut off from those who possess the same nature. “Thus, the unique nature has been cut up into countless particles, and we who possess the same nature devour each other as the reptiles and the beasts do.” Evil is violent not in order to build up existence, but so as to diminish and destroy it; this is the violence of those who are impotent to strengthen themselves in existence, the violence of those greedy to wax fat at the expense of others. It is the avalanche set off by a reality that seeks its enrichment wrongly and so hurtles down towards nothingness; it is the violence of a reality that wishes to hold itself in existence without God, the source of existence, and without the voluntary and loving contribution of others, which because of pride, it does not seek. Yet the avalanche has its cause in free will and is sustained by it (The Experience of God: Orthodox Dogmatic Theology, Vol. 2, The World: Creation and Deification, Ionita and Barringer, trans., Brookline, Mass.: Holy Cross, 2000 , pgs. 152-4).
One may see very close likenesses between the actions of the de-personalized individuals and demons described by Fr Dumitru above and the actions of dedicated Republicans and Democrats (or between other unChristian interest groups) towards one another in America: They seek ways on a daily basis to torment one another, to tear one another to pieces, but will never let these enemies of theirs sunder themselves from them. For then they would have lost their only way of keeping themselves somewhat human and alive. Thus, also, the South must always remain in the American Empire, Greece cannot leave the European Union, and so on, no matter how much the Elite of the synthetic super-nations say they despise the lazy, backwards Southrons, Greeks, etc.
St Paisios of Mt Athos once said that so long as the qualities of the devil remain in us - things like ‘Rationalism, contradiction (arguing), stubbornness, wilfulness, disobedience, impudence’ - so long will we be ‘vulnerable to external demonic influence’ (Spiritual Counsels, Vol. I, Tsakiridou and Spanou, trans., Thessaloniki, Greece: Evangelist John the Theologian Monastery, 2011 , p. 54). However, if we have humility, then we have ‘kinship with God’, and the devil and the demons will be powerless to harm us (p. 65).
But in order to regain our full personhood, we must go farther. We must strive to know what the saints have known: ‘the existence and the destiny of the human race are not alien to’ us. Each of us must unite himself with all other men through pure prayer, must make all other men ‘the content of [our] hypostatic existence’, must see as St Silouan the Athonite ‘that “our brother is our life”’ (Archimandrite Zacharias, The Enlargement of the Heart, 2nd ed., Dalton, Penn.: Mt Thabor, 2012 , p. 126).
Our mindset should be like that of the monk described by Archimandrite Zacharias: ‘Once a monk came to confess to me; he was crying and I thought, “Kyrie eleison! What happened to him?” I became afraid. Do you know what he told me? -- “I am looking into my heart, searching into it, and one of the brethren is absent, and I am not happy.” He was weeping because he had grown a little cold towards one of the brethren’ (p. 126).
It will seem impossible to some, but the Old South, through her experience with slavery, had developed a sense of this ‘ontological unity of all men’ (p. 126). It may be seen in this wording-share from Mr George Fitzhugh’s book Sociology for the South (p. 69):
Say the Abolitionists - "Man ought not to have property in man." What a dreary, cold, bleak, inhospitable world this would be with such a doctrine carried into practice. Men living to themselves, like owls and wolves and lions and birds and beasts of prey? No: "Love thy neighbor as thyself." [Fr Zacharias also saw the hypostatic prayer mentioned above as fulfilling this commandment (ibid., p. 126)--W.G.] And this can't be done till he has a property in your services as well as a place in your heart. Homo sum, humani nihil a me alienum puto! ['Nothing that is human is alien to me!' - Terrence--W.G.] This, the noblest sentiment ever uttered by uninspired man, recognises the great truth which lies at the foundation of all society - that every man has property in his fellow-man! (© This work is the property of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. 1998 . http://docsouth.unc.edu/southlit/fitzhughsoc/fitzhugh.html)
Perhaps this is one of the reasons why our Lord allowed slavery to grow up in the South: as a sign, a warning, to the rest of Western European society that there was indeed a better way of living than in the bleakness of pure individualism.
Howsobeit, the token was not heeded, the Confederacy fell, and the black of the demonic night darkens all around us. But we may yet dispel it through repentance, through uniting with Christ’s one true Body, the Orthodox Church, and thus with all our Holy Mothers and Fathers and our other departed brothers and sisters of the First Europe, Orthodox Europe (and of Orthodox Africa), before the Great Schism of Rome and the Germanic Reformations (further schisms) that followed. We may yet dispel it by building an organic, hierarchic theod (nation) centered on the Church and the family, that recognizes the ġe-bondedness of all mankind, that develops the true personhood of each man, woman, and child by imitating the oneness and manyness of the Three Persons of the All Holy Trinity Who live a life of self-emptying love for One Another.