Esse is a mish-mash of existential metaphysics, humanist spirituality and, in the case of Universal Stranger, Christian ethics (feel free to substitute the ethics of your own faith tradition).
20 things you need to know about Esse but are too shy to ask….
- Esse (Latin, “to be”) is not a religion, ideology or systematic philosophy. It consists of one person’s ruminations and reflections on life.
- The person is real, but anonymous. The anonymity is intended not to obscure, but to clarify: to remove the veil of individual personality so that the general human relevance of the ruminations and reflections (if any) can reveal itself more easily.
- In the terminology of Esse, this person is referred to as The Stranger. To the extent that his/her ruminations and reflections connect with others and others respond, the others are referred to, collectively and individually, as (the) Universal Stranger.
There is only one Esse, and the Universal Stranger is its Prophet
- To the extent that Esse can be said to possess a methodology, the methodology is grounded in existentialism and humanism. Out of respect to the Western intellectual tradition, however, Esse addresses a metaphysical issue: the idea and nature of God.
- In Esse, God is existence and existence is God. The explanation for this maxim can be found in Book One, Chapter 14 of Rody and The Stranger, also known as The Book of Esse, one of the foundational texts of Esse. Yes, Esse can be pretentious at times.
- Other notable maxims derived from The Stranger’s ruminations and reflections include:
- The purpose of life is creativity, the meaning of life is relationships
- The universe isn’t moral, but that doesn’t mean there’s no such thing as a moral universe: there is, and it’s called civilisation
- The first and greatest and most enduring symbol of civilisation is the wall
- The most profound and enduring truths of religion are psychological truths
- Religion can be rationally and sympathetically understood as a branch of human creativity
- If the Bible was meant to be taken literally, why did Christ speak in parables?
- There are no answers, there is only creativity
7. At a time of spiritual and intellectual crisis in the West, one of the greatest threats to a free, secular society comes from the secular culture’s unwillingness or inability to make a constructive statement about God. The creative impulse behind Esse arises from The Stranger’s “dark epiphany”—a profound sense of alienation—and his/her attempts to come to terms with it.
8. One of the tenets of Esse is that alienation is not an exclusively modern phenomenon, but has been a structural characteristic of settled societies since ancient times.
- This is supported by The Stranger’s Alienation Theory of History, which proposes that the historical roots of alienation lie in the Neolithic era, when the human lifestyle bifurcated into hunter-gatherer and agrarian.
- The Theory draws on readings of ancient texts such as The Epic of Gilgamesh and the Old Testament. The Stranger’s interpretive criticism of Gilgamesh has opened the work to being regarded, within Esse, as a foundational text.
- To the extent that Esse concerns itself with epistemology, it proposes a taxonomic view of reality and human experience, holding that they fall into three categories: change, continuity and crisis (alternatively, disruption or chaos).
- These categories are optical rather than substantive—lenses through which the alienated and fragmented mind can dynamically assess situations in a way that recognises patterns and relationships, and so helps to create or infer an intelligible behavioural model.
- For convenience, and to introduce an element of systematisation, these categories are permanently and arbitrarily designated as alpha (change), beta (continuity) and gamma (crisis). This taxonomic approach is known within Esse as The Rule of Three.
- Within Esse, there are maxims specific to The Rule of Three. For example:
- The three pillars of Western civilisation are Greek spirit (alpha), Roman character (beta) and Jewish suffering (gamma).
- To the extent that Esse addresses ethics, its approach draws from the psychological positivity of the New Testament, romanticism and other sources. It regards imagination, creativity and love as cardinal virtues.
- These virtues are not innate human characteristics but ideals to which individuals can aspire. The mental concentration and effort to practice them can result in a constructive, transcendent energy analogous to the euphoria traditionally associated with religious faith.
- Esse is sceptical toward human nature, however, and shares with the Christian tradition a wariness of the sin of spiritual pride. Esse counsels that, while the will is ideally buoyed by spirituality, it should also be aligned to human and societal norms.
- Each cardinal virtue is potentially redemptive for the alienated psyche. The idea of redemption within Esse is best understood as a form of psychological therapy; it is not intended to invite comparisons with redemption offered by Christianity or other religions.
- Esse is secular in nature and liberal in outlook—an attempt to recover human spirituality outside the context of formal religion. It understands the value of religion in tradition and society, however, and seeks to recognise its own limitations.
- In the words of The Stranger, “Esse can serve as a half-way house between the darkness and the light. If we can draw some of our fellow humans back from the darkness and point them towards the light, we will have achieved some good.”