David Myatt – Prejudice of Abstractions

The Prejudice of Abstraction

The Immoral Prejudice of Abstraction

The prejudice of abstraction is the inhumanity of judging and categorizing people according to some abstraction which has been assigned to them by others, or which abstraction one projects upon them.

Thus, there is no empathy with the individual; between individuals. No direct, immediate, personal interaction between individuals, no coming-to-know-them in the immediacy of the moment through empathy. This is unethical, immoral, because it is such direct, immediate interaction – this empathy between individuals – which is human; which is the human way; which is the essence of our humanity and a sign of our own maturity, as human beings.

The prejudice of abstraction is similar to – and indeed often much worse than, often more immoral and more injurious than, and far more prevalent than – racial prejudice. Racial prejudice is judging another human being according to some racial (ethnic) abstraction; that is, according to some physical characteristic or some combination of characteristics that are regarded as being some identifying mark of such an abstraction, such as skin colour, or physiognomy.

Thus, in racial prejudice, an individual is assigned to some ethnic group or type, and then that individual judged according to what is assumed to be, or has come to be regarded as, the behaviour, the personality, the proclivities, and so on, of such a group or type.  Thus, assumptions are made about that individual – based on the behaviour and the personality, assumed or otherwise, of others who have, in the past, been identified as belonging to the same ethnic group, or type, as the individual.

That is, the individual is or becomes de-humanized because they are not perceived, or regarded, as a unique individual, as a unique human being. There is no empathy with them; or no attempt to empathize with them.

The prejudice of abstraction is or can be based upon three criteria, alone, or in some combination: (1) on judging, or interacting with, other human beings according to some value (or worth) assigned to them based on the assumption of them belonging to, or being a part of, some abstract group or grouping; (2) on them seeming to conform to, or believed to conform to, some criteria established by or based upon some median, or some so-called “representative sample” of what is regarded as or assumed to be “similar individuals”; or (3) on the accumulated personal experiences of others.

These three criteria have one thing in common – what we may term other-ness. That is, a lack of our own personal knowing, deriving as such personal knowing does from direct practical interaction with the individual who is being judged or assessed.

As with racial prejudice, the prejudice of abstraction de-humanizes human beings because the individual is judged by some impersonal criteria, and because there is little or no empathy with them, or no attempt is made to empathize with them. The prejudice of abstraction has long been part of what we may term the immaturity of our human condition.

In practical terms, the prejudice of abstraction involves us in making judgements based upon the apparent or seeming other-ness of human beings: on whether they are, or seem to be, similar to or distinct from us, in terms of such things as their manner of dress, their physical appearance, their occupation, behaviour, speech, habits, customs, their interests, their personal life, and their personal history and background (or their assumed or rumoured personal life and background and history). Our approval or disapproval of them – our judgement of their “worth” or merit – can and often does vary according to how closely we judge or we assume they are similar to us because we ourselves can and often do base our own identity, our own perception of life, on such outward or such assumed characteristics and abstractions.

In addition, such outward or such assumed characteristics and abstractions have often themselves resulted from some criteria or some abstraction which we human beings have, over millennia, manufactured in an attempt to provide ourselves, our lives, with a sense of identity, of meaning and of purpose, with such manufactured abstractions including the ways and dogma of religion, various “political -isms and -oligies”, and constructs such as The State and The Nation.

The Cosmic Nature of Life

One thing which gave, and which gives, rise to, and which aids, the prejudice of abstraction, is our limited and rather immature perspective regarding life.

Thus we have often tended to define ourselves – or have come to define ourselves – according to some generalization, some supra-personal grouping, some abstraction, such as our assumed nationality; or our “citizenship” of some State.

In addition, we often strive to control or limit or adapt our own personal feelings according to some category or some group which we personally identify with or to which we believe we belong to, or which we aspire to belong to. These groups and categories include “our family”, “our community”, our “nation”, our “State”, and often even our profession or the colleagues and the people we work with, especially if such work is of a dangerous nature.

Thus our feelings of love, of loyalty, of duty, come to be associated with such categories or such groups. We “are of them”, and thus to a greater or a lesser degree, “they” become our identity, or how we identify and define ourselves. Beyond “them and us” are “the others” – those who are not like us or are different from us in some way. Sometimes, the temptation is to assume or to believe that “we” and our group are somehow better than these “others”.

Thus, our perspective about life comes to be based upon, or is based upon, some category or some group we identify with or believe or assume we belong to, or which we aspire to belong to.

All this is – or rather, has been – natural, a part of our present and past human manner of living. However, according to The Numinous Way, we human beings possess the potential to go beyond this particular manner of living, this limited perspective, with this limited perspective of ours – based on abstractions –  thus representing only an early stage of our possible development, as human beings.

That is, The Numinous Way regards this limited perspective, our current manner of living, as an immature one, appropriate to children, and affirms that it is time for us, as human beings to become mature – to grow up, to evolve into adults, and to thus acquire a genuine human perspective regarding life; to thus go beyond the abstractions that we have hitherto relied upon in our attempt to understand ourselves, and life; in our attempts to define ourselves, as an individual living, human, being.

Central to the new mature perspective is empathy. That is, an awareness of, a sensitivity to, other human beings as individuals, and a placing of ourselves according to a Cosmic perspective, as opposed to placing ourselves in relation to some abstraction, some group, or some category which we and other human beings have relied on in the past or have manufactured according to some theory or some dogma or some ideology or even according to some accumulated personal experiences, of our own or of others.

Furthermore, according to The Numinous Way, all life – sentient, human, and otherwise – is numinous, and connected, because all life is a presencing of acausal energy in the causal. That is, all life – each and every living being – is a nexion; one connexion between the causal continuum (the causal Universe) and the acausal continuum (the acausal Universe). [1]

Thus, we as individual human beings should define and come to understand ourselves according to the Cosmic perspective of the connectedness of all life; that is, according to empathy, for empathy is how we are aware of or can become aware of this connexion, of how we are more than seemingly separate individuals, alone, or divided up into some group or some category, abstract or otherwise. Of how we can become aware of the Cosmos itself, with its vastness, with we ourselves – we human beings – just one type of life upon one planet around just one star among billions upon billions of stars in just one Galaxy among the billions and billions of Galaxies in the physical, causal, Universe.

Thus empathy makes us aware of, or can make us aware of, our true human identity: which lies far beyond the cosmically un-important, the lifeless, the un-numinous, and the suffering-causing abstractions we have imposed ourselves, upon other human beings and upon our world.

Unfortunately, instead of embracing and developing empathy – instead of evolving into mature human beings – we have not only allowed ourselves to continue to accept the prejudice of abstractions, we are allowing such prejudice to increase, and thus have created and are creating more and more human suffering, not less [2].

The Prejudice of The State

The growing prejudice and the growing problem of abstraction is inseparably bound up with the rise of the modern State because such prejudice is inherent in The State. Why? Because not only is The State itself an abstraction, but also because The State is predicated on the presumption of a supra-personal sovereignty.

Thus, The State itself, by its very nature, by its very existence, is immoral because it disrupts – by its presumption of, and its assumption of, authority – the natural, human, empathy between human beings. That is, it disrupts the numinous itself – our connexion to all other life, and to the Cosmos itself.

It does this because its ascribes to itself (and thus to its Institutions and its organized bodies) the process and means of judgement, of individuals; and the so-called “right” to use physical force against individuals according to some abstract criteria which its Institutions and its organized bodies manufacture and/or which they regard as “right”. Thus, The State – its Institutions and its organized bodies – incorrectly and unethically gives to itself the authority to decide what is “unlawful”, and it gives to itself the authority to “punish” (by such things as imprisonment) those who transgress what The State has decided is “lawful”. In effect, it behaves, and acts, like a strict and very often unfeeling parent over its “children” (its citizens).

Furthermore, The State presumes its authority over all individuals who live within what it declares or has declared is its territory, and can and does use physical force to enforce this presumption. That is, the individual is afforded no practical opportunity to dissent from, to not accept, this presumption of authority and this use of physical force. In effect, “the parent” (The State) maintains and exercises its authority over its “children” from their birth to their death, thus preventing them from growing up, from becoming mature human beings, aware of their own individual connexion to all life, on Earth and beyond. In addition, The State gives to itself the authority to demand and to collect taxes from its citizens, and tolerates no dissent from this so-called “duty of taxation”, with any practical dissent against such taxes (which taxes ensure the continued survival of The State) suppressed by force.

By any other name, this presumption and assumption of authority, this life-long control of individuals by threat and use of force, and this demand for and enforcement of payment of taxes, is tyranny.

According to The Numinous Way, what is good, or ethical, is that which does not cause, or which does not contribute to, the suffering of any living being, sentient, human or otherwise; and we know or can come to know suffering and the causes of suffering by means of our faculty of empathy. Thus, what is ethical is that which manifests, and that which increases, empathy. Furthermore, empathy is and can only and ever be, by its very nature, individual, and based upon the immediacy of a personal knowing; that is, it is founded upon, having its own being in, a personal, individual, judgement; founded, in essence, on the numinosity of a personal knowing.

This immediacy of personal knowing – this personal judgement – cannot be extracted out from such immediacy and such personal knowing because empathy itself is a direct connexion – a nexion – between two living beings, and thus is numinous. That is, no abstract law can ever describe or determine or even suggest or point to what is “right” and what is “wrong” because all such abstractions, all such generalizations, are not and can never re-present, that direct connexion – a nexion – between two living beings, which nexion itself is living while such a direct and immediate connexion, between two living beings, exists. As explained elsewhere [3] personal honour is how empathy is or can be practically manifest in the lives of individuals who are free from – who have escaped from – the tyranny of The State, and who thus are free to grow to be mature, adult, human beings, and who thus evolve our own human species, which species has remained immature for thousands upon thousands of years due to the constraints of un-numinous abstractions, such as The State, and due to us living according to the prejudice of abstractions and according to our own, often suffering-causing, desires.

The Development of Empathy

To mature as human beings – to develope a new and Cosmic perspective – is to acquire and/or to develope, empathy. That is, to be aware of, to have a synchronicity with, other life, so that we possess or have an awareness of, and a compassion for, the suffering of living beings. To develope empathy is to go beyond our own feelings to the extent that the suffering of some other life is or becomes our own suffering.

Thus, through empathy and the compassion that arises from it, do we desire not to cause any suffering to any living being, as we desire to seek in a compassionate way to alleviate whatever suffering we may encounter, because we desire other life – sentient, human and otherwise – to be treated as we ourselves would wish to be treated.

In actuality, we – as individual human beings – are not only connected to all other life, sentient, human and otherwise, but we are part of that other life, part of all life; or, more accurately, the causal life that we appropriate as “ours” and which “we” as an individual identify with, is not separate from other life, and it is only the illusion of our self-identity – caused or formed by abstractions and often maintained by the immoral prejudice of abstraction – which prevents us from feeling this, knowing this, understanding this, and acting upon this most fundamental and ethical truth concerning the interconnected and dependant nature of all life in the vastness of the Cosmos.

David Myatt


[1] Refer to Ontology, Ethics and The Numinous Way.

[2] The sad and rather shameful reality of our times is that while there is more and more meaningless rhetoric about “peace” and “humanity”, there is less and less genuine peace, and more and more inhumanity.

For instance, in the last hundred years alone, human beings – as especially those residing in what is termed The West – have been responsible for inflicting the greatest suffering the world has ever known, resulting in the deaths of an estimated two hundred million people, at least, world-wide. In addition, the natural world itself – the other life with which we share this planet – has been decimated by us to a degree unprecedented in human history.

A lot of this suffering can be attributed to recent abstractions such as: (1) The State, and The Nation, with various imposed and manufactured forms of these abstractions contending against, and opposing, one another; (2) abstract concepts and ideologies such as “communism”, capitalism, and a so-called “peace” that is and has to be enforced and imposed by war, occupation, regime change, revolution, sanctions, and so on; and (3) conflicts between religions and various world-views.

In addition, we ourselves, as individuals, are directly to blame for inflicting much suffering on life – human and otherwise – because of our own personal, childish, immaturity and thus because of our lack of empathy, which immaturity allows us and which immaturity has allowed us to indulge ourselves, regardless of how much suffering we cause, directly or indirectly, to other life by so indulging ourselves, by so allowing our emotions and our desires to control us.

There has been a general and world-wide move away from individuals and from empathy and genuine freedom, toward direct and indirect control of individuals by supra-personal abstractions and “authorities” until there is hardly anywhere in the world – no land, territory, public space; no sea, river, lake or mountain – that is not considered to be controlled by, or claimed to be controlled by, some government or some national or some supra-national agency, who and which claim the “right” or “the duty” to make laws to control such parts of our world. Human activity – and the activity of most if not all domestic animals and wildlife – is now monitored, judged and controlled, according to abstract criteria and by means of powerful governments, agencies, and impersonal supra-national authorities.

[3] Refer, for example, to Honour, Empathy and the Question of Suffering.

Source: David Myatt – The Numinous Way (pdf)

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