The question arises: are we responsible for our heirs? Are we accountable for what our successors make out of our ideas
A valid question but it is safer not to answer.
Jean Jacques Rousseau was born the 28th June 1712 in Geneva, 300 years ago!
If you read Swiss books of history, you may find references to Nicolas de Flue or the general Dufour but no one has influenced the modern age like Jean Jacques Rousseau. He is indeed a citizen from this part of Europe, having found the source of his strength in nature, so splendid and generous in the Alpine region of mountains and lakes.
After visiting Diderot, prisoner in the dungeon of Vincennes, Rousseau was visited by a sort of illumination. There is therefore a touch of mysticism as the cornerstone of the Social Contract, the founding pact at the roots of the ideal society. Man is good by nature but it is society that corrupts him. And when, in his goodness, he offers the prerogatives of his own individuality to build the greater good of the collective, he constructs a just society. What was this mystical insight through which our very un-mystical democracies established their justification?
Beyond the sixth seal of the Agnya chakra, whose hard wax is made of ego and conditionings, Rousseau might have peered with his great sensitivity and intelligence into a new territory. Has he visited thoughtless awareness from where the universal unconscious releases the intuitions that guide mankind? He might have got a glimpse at the portal of collective consciousness, onwards beyond the rhythm of arguments and confrontations dear to Hobbes and Voltaire.
Alas an intuition that is not equally received cannot be adequately shared. Shall we betray every religious instructor or philosopher ?
The heritage of Rousseau went in all directions, leading to permissive education systems, 1968, Woodstock or totalitarian regimes as he inspired the likes of Robespierre and Lenin.
Equally dangerously, he unleashed the power of emotions in « l’age des lumières » an age that was only to discover reason. In doing so he went a bit overboard too, singing a hymn of his distress and making a show of his sufferings. We lost with him the classy detachment of the old stoics.
As a member of a global movement that carries the unbearable naivety of working for a better world I must admit my debt to Rousseau. Baby boomers were Rousseau’s. The goodness of man is real. However, lost in our gone by origin, only too absent in our confused present, it can only be found in our destination. The goodness we are is yet to manifest. The one we are is yet to become, this is the paradox of our metaphysics and political philosophy. What we are meant to be is something yet to be found, a result that cannot be taken for granted. The existentialists did not find this funny.
If I would borrow the genre of the « Confessions » or of the « Rêveries d’un promeneur solitaire » I would admit that my only chance of success is to admit failure. Accepting to be the last gives me the last chance to join those who may be the first; the first to understand that we cannot change the world if we do not truly change ourselves.
Otherwise religion breed hypocrisy, the drive for greater unity brings fascism and the aspiration for communal fraternity ends in the communist goulag.
The sphere of harmony of true democracy rests on our own self-empowerment. Rousseau invented it but no wonder it is yet to be accomplished. Breaking the sixth seal is the key.