The Virtues of Enlightened Selfishness

By Yasuhiko Kimura

Published in The Cosmic Light, Autumn 1999

Quarterly Magazine of The University of Science & Philosophy

The human being has two wings - the wing of universality and the wing of individuality - with which to fly above the earth and to soar into the heavens. The wing of universality grows in the awareness of selflessness, while the wing of individuality grows through the creation of selfhood. In this seeming paradox lies the secret of human evolution–and of human happiness. To be universal is to be inseparably one, in the oneness of which there is no separate self. To be aThe human being has two wings–the wing of universality and the wing of individuality–with which to fly above the earth and to soar into the heavens. The wing of universality grows in the awareness of selflessness, while the wing of individuality grows through the creation of selfhood. In this seeming paradon individual is to be indivisibly one, in the oneness of which there is an indivisible whole self. In being universal, you come to know what Emerson calls the Over-Soul, and in being indivisibly whole, you come to realize your singular individual soul. With both wings spread freely, to soar into the whole sphere of the Universe and to fly in the entire realm of Reality is to live a Life Immortal. And that is the ecstasy of Enlightened Selfishness.

When you look at the reading list from my transformational programs, you will find books by Ayn Rand (1905-1983) and Lao Russell (1904-1988) side by side. These were two of the most powerful women of the 20th century, sharing almost identical spans of time in history. However, their philosophical outlooks are diametrically opposite to one another. Rand is an atheist and argues for the virtues of selfishness, while Russell is a theist and preaches the virtues of selflessness. People ask me how I can reconcile these two seemingly contradictory philosophical positions. A complete treatment of this question requires a formal philosophical treatise, but it will suffice here to state the following:

Ayn Rand is a philosopher of rare genius who nonetheless never had the experience of spiritual illumination of which Lao Russell was intimately aware through her husband, Walter Russell, one of the greatest spiritual illuminates in history. Rand’s philosophy, which is a rational philosophic integration of the facts of secular human experience, does not contain anywhere in its entire philosophic equations the experiential data obtainable only through spiritual illumination. Her system, Objectivism, is quintessentially rational, but does not include the realm of the transrational. In fact, being an arch-rationalist, Ayn Rand would categorically deny the cognitive validity of such "mystical experience" as spiritual illumination or transrational awareness or kosmic (cosmic) consciousness.

Rand’s philosophy is an attempt at constructing a rational theory of reality based solely on the absoluteness of reason and the evidence of the senses (a premise which ultimately breaks down in the kosmic awareness of Primary Reality) which can lead to the attainment of moral character and human happiness within the parameters of individuation and individuated identity. Her system, though incomplete, is consistent and coherent, giving us a rational foundation for living in the realm of life in which there is individuation, individuality, and the diremption (separation) between you and me–the realm of reality which constitutes what is called secular experience, within which we all exist as individual or individuated human beings.

Ayn Rand states: "My philosophy, in essence, is the concept of man as a heroic being, with his own happiness as the moral purpose of his life, with productive achievement as his noblest activity, and with reason as his only absolute." (Atlas Shrugged) Regarding "selfishness" she states:

"The meaning ascribed in popular usage to the word "selfishness" is not merely wrong; it represents a devastating intellectual "package-deal," which is responsible, more than any other single factor, for the arrested moral development of mankind. In popular usage, the word "selfishness" is a synonym of evil: the image it conjures is a murderous brute who tramples over piles of corpses to achieve his own end, who cares for no living being and pursues nothing but the gratification of the mindless whims of any immediate moment. Yet the exact meaning and dictionary definition of the word "selfishness" is concern with one’s own interests. This concept does not include a moral evaluation; it does not tell us whether concern with one’s own interests is good or evil, nor does it tell us what constitutes man’s actual interests. It is the task of ethics to answer such questions." (The Virtues of Selfishness)

Further, regarding ethics she states:

"The Objectivist ethics proudly advocates and upholds rational selfishness–which means: the values required for man’s survival qua man–which means: the values required for human survival–not the values produced by the desires, the emotions, the "aspirations," the feelings, the whims or the needs of irrational brutes, who have never discovered an industrial society and can conceive of no self-interest but of grabbing the loot of the moment. The Objectivist ethics holds that human good does not require human sacrifice and cannot be achieved by the sacrifice of anyone to anyone. It holds that the rational interests of men do not clash–that there is no conflict of interests among men who do not desire the unearned, who do not make sacrifices nor accept them, who deal with one another as traders, giving value for value." (The Virtues of Selfishness)

In the realm of reality where there is individuation, individuality, and the diremption between you and me, an element that unites you and me is our adherence to reason and rational principles, and what brings happiness to us is the pursuit of our own rational self-interests, which, in principle, do not conflict with one another. This philosophy leads to the development of human character based on the virtues of rationality, productivity, integrity, and honesty, and to the creation of a benevolent society in which people pursue their rational self-interests and happiness, while trading (giving and regiving) the results of their creative expressions (products and services) with one another, value for value. Love, according to Rand, is the "response to one’s highest value in the person of another." It is Eros, but not Agape. It is conditional love based on one’s own judgement and discernment, but not unconditional love that embraces all.

This philosophy of the virtues of selfishness, or of the pursuit of rational self-interests, is consistent with the logic of the ontological realm of individuation and individuality. In addition, it is a powerful antidote to the century-old religious teaching of altruism or self-sacrifice as misunderstood by the masses. The teaching of altruism as misunderstood by the masses existing in the realm of individuation is the philosophy that "man has no right to exist for his own sake, that service to others is the only justification of his existence and that self-sacrifice is his highest moral duty, virtue, and value." (Ayn Rand) This misconceived philosophy of altruism has caused tremendous damage to the psychological wellbeing of the whole of humanity by destroying the very foundation of self-esteem. The belief in self-sacrifice made humanity nakedly vulnerable to the manipulation by the religious and political power structures of the world. Just think of how many millions of people have died in the past, sacrificing themselves or their lives, "for the sake of" their countries or gods.

True altruism, which is not really an "ism" but a spontaneous expression of Agapeic love for fellow human beings, emanates from the state of being in which one is aware of the oneness of self with others, the world, and the universe–of the fact that "everything that is, is of everything else that is." (Walter Russell) This state of being is possible in and through spiritual illumination or the dawning of kosmic (cosmic) consciousness, wherein you become consciously aware of Kosmic Oneness beyond the realm of individuation-diremption. This means that genuine altruism is fundamentally incompatible and incongruent with the consciousness of individuation-diremption within which the majority of humanity exists.

The real virtue of selflessness is the virtue of the Kosmic Knowledge that there is no separate self in the higher/deeper realm of Reality or Being–the realm that is called the Spiritosphere (the sphere of Spirit). From the Spiritospheric point of view, "Everything that is, is of everything else that is," (Walter Russell) or "Every thing contains all things in itself." (Plotinus) The Spiritosphere is Primary Reality, which is called Mind in the Hermetic philosophy and in other esoteric traditions, including the Russellian philosophy. Reality, or the Universe, is Mental/Spiritual, out of which arises the distinction between the subject and the object, matter and mind, and you and me, all of which are real in their respective realms of reality, and yet illusory from the perspective of Primary Reality or the Spiritosphere.

Selflessness is not a state of doing but a state of being and knowing. Wherefore, the virtues of selflessness are bound to be misunderstood by those who lack the experience of, or an insight into, Kosmic Oneness. Therefore, their attempt at selflessness becomes the contrived act of self-sacrifice and the irrational denial of self-interests. They exist in the reality of separate, individual selves, but try to be selfless by subjugating their own selves to the selves of others, or to some "causes," such as countries or "movements" or gods, which they consider to be intrinsically higher in value or ontologically more primary than their own selves. This is self-abnegation and has nothing to do with genuine spirituality or altruism.

Wherefore, it is of critical importance to rid ourselves of the belief in self-sacrifice in order to achieve happiness as a rational individual before approaching the temple of spiritual illumination and transrationality. Transrationality is not really possible for a person who has not attained rationality. Therefore, Ayn Rand’s philosophy is tremendously valuable in the development of a rational foundation for living in the world of individuation, the world in which we live in terms of ethics, politics, and economics–so long as we do not form a philosophic monad that has no window–so long as we remain open to the possibility of further evolution, and of the dimensions beyond the merely rational. The fundamental error that Ayn Rand and her followers (an oxymoron!) have made is to have built a windowless philosophic monad by presuming that her philosophy essentially is all that there is in terms of reality apprehension, whereby closing the portal for the further reaches of human evolution and knowledge.

Objectivist or positivist thinkers would deny the existence or the cognitive validity of spiritual illumination and transrational dimensions. There is a substantial amount of evidence, however, in the world throughout recorded history, to compel a rational person to remain open for such a possibility. In fact, not to do so is irrational and against the spirit of science. For, to deny the experience of another just because it does not fit into the whole scheme of one’s philosophy is to deny the very spirit of science and thus rationality. The writings of celebrated illuminates, such as Walter Russell or Gopi Krishna, whose theoretic expositions are of the utmost originality and of paradigm-breaking scientific importance, lead us to deem that kosmic spiritual illumination, and thus transrationality, is in reality possible and worthy of earnest rational-transrational pursuit. When we study someone like Plotinus or Nargarjuna, we realize that we are in the presence of the greatest minds humanity has ever seen, completely sane and rational, yet transcending the realm of the rational to reveal eternal kosmic truths, which show us a universe as yet unseen, evoking in our soul a longing for the spiritual light that he has seen as himself.

The renowned physicist Sir James Jeans has cogently defined science as an attempt at setting in order the facts of experience. Transrational understanding (or innerstanding) begins when we start to set in order the facts of experience that include not only the secular-rational kind but also the spiritual-transrational kind, which is the conscious experience of Kosmic Oneness, leading to a rational-transrational integration of the whole sphere of Reality, which is the Spiritosphere encompassing the noosphere and the physiosphere arising therein and therefrom. This kind of rational-transrational integral knowledge is what the visionary researcher Paul Von Ward calls Metascience, of which the Russellian Cosmogony is an epitome.

All the foregoing should have answered the questions raised at the beginning of this article. My philosophy is more on the side of Lao Russell in the sense that I consider spiritual illumination not only a possibility but also an actuality of human evolution. When understood in the proper evolutionary context (which I briefly touched upon in The Creation of the Cosmic Age), Ayn Rand’s philosophy can be transformed into a philosophy of Homo Sapiens Integratus (from that of Homo Sapiens Materialensis), while Lao Russell’s philosophy can be transformed into a philosophy of Homo Sapiens Holisticus (from that of Homo Sapiens Absoluticus/Humanisticus), leading to a philosophy of Homo Sapiens Universalis and of Homo Sapiens Kosmicus (Cosmicus). This is how I reconcile the philosophies of Ayn Rand and Lao Russell, though there is in my reality no contradiction requiring reconciliation to begin with.

Ayn Rand advocated the virtues of rational selfishness, while Lao Russell advocated the virtues of spiritual selflessness. Ayn Rand epitomizes the wing of individuality, while Lao Russell epitomizes the wing of universality. Standing on the shoulders of these two giants of the intellect (Rand) and the spirit (Russell), I hereby propose a philosophy that advocates the virtues of Enlightened Selfishness. Enlightened Selfishness is selfishness that has blossomed to Selfishness–rational individual selfishness that has effloresced to transrational Universal Selfishness. No sacrifice of any kind is involved in Enlightened Selfishness except for the sacrifice of suffering, which is only a vestige of the primitive egological self. No self-abnegation will lead us to the Enlightened Self. No rational selfishness that self-truncates its efflorescence to transrational Universal Selfishness will lead to the Enlightened Self. The Enlightened Self is the evolutionary attractor that calls us ever higher to the limitless sky of spiritual evolution or self-realization through self-transcendence.

When in our lives rational selfishness effloresces to transrational Selfishness to embrace not only the individual self but also the Universal Self, not only the individuated soul but also the Over-Soul, we have both the wings of individuality and universality spread–to fly joyously in the realm of the Many and to soar ecstatically in the realm of the One. Now allow me to close this article by repeating the first paragraph for which the rest is but an auxiliary comment:

The human being has two wings–the wing of universality and the wing of individuality–with which to fly above the earth and to soar into the heavens. The wing of universality grows in the awareness of selflessness, while the wing of individuality grows through the creation of selfhood. In this seeming paradox lies the secret of human evolution–and of human happiness. To be universal is to be inseparably one, in the oneness of which there is no separate self. To be an individual is to be indivisibly one, in the oneness of which there is an indivisible whole self. In being universal, you come to know what Emerson calls the Over-Soul, and in being indivisibly whole, you come to realize your singular individual soul. With both wings spread freely, to soar into the whole sphere of the Universe and to fly in the entire realm of Reality is to live a Life Immortal. And that is the ecstasy of Enlightened Selfishness.


Yasuhiko Kimura is the Executive Director of the Twilight Club