The Will to Self-mastery: The Health, Body & Earth based Philosophy

“The first half of life is devoted to forming a healthy ego, the second half is going inward and letting go of it.” ~ C.G. Jung

The will to survive is merely a foundational aspect of Nietzsche’s epistemic and subjective Will to Power (ego). The will to self-mastery, on the other hand, is the individuated personification of the will to power, to the extent, and beyond which, one gains power over power through sacred humor (letting go of ego).

To that extent, Amor Fati, love of fate, becomes central for the individuated person to achieve interdependence and self-overcoming; first, through the ego-centric will to power and, second, through the soul-centric will to self-mastery.

The will to self-mastery is a health-based, body-based, and earth-based philosophy. This is the raison d’être of the will to self-mastery: Where the will to power ends at ‘being a self-forging (independent) force,’ the will to self-mastery extends this concept to ‘becoming a self-recurring force of (interdependent) fate.’ Let’s break it down.

Health-based Philosophy:

“Be melting snow. Wash yourself of yourself.” ~ Rumi

Having a health-based philosophy in one’s arsenal is the core method of survival. Foremost, that which is healthy is that which functions best toward the goal of survival. Health is foundational. The will to self-mastery cannot be self-actualized without the will to survival as its groundwork.

One must breathe, one must hydrate, one must find nourishment, one must seek human relations, or all bets toward maintaining health are off. Taken as such, health is objectively valid regardless of subjective opinion. One cannot survive without oxygen. One cannot survive without water. One cannot survive without food.

One cannot survive without human relations. This is regardless of opinion, because if one’s opinion is that one does not need these to survive then one’s opinion would be invalid according to reality.

Health shrinks or expands in proportion to our ability to adapt and overcome. As such, the will to self-mastery is keen on maintaining an adaptation and improvisation to change, especially to unexpected change. When faced with the many vicissitudes of life, the self-actualizing, self-overcoming individual has basic health as his/her bedrock.

Even when life feels like quicksand, the ability to fall back on objective health, despite subjective opinion, is what keeps self-propelled, risk-taking, and flexible individuals “grounded.” Even after a great setback, there is always healthy relations, food, water, and oxygen to fall back on, and to make a “comeback.” Basic health is the whetstone upon which the struggling and tragic soul can be further sharpened.

Body-based Philosophy:

“Man cannot endure his own littleness unless he can translate it into meaningfulness on the largest possible level.” ~ Ernest Becker

The human mind is indistinguishable from the human body, and vice versa. The human soul emerges from this inherent indistinguishability.

To the extent that one has mastered health, the mastery of body-mind-soul is the next reasonable step on the path of self-mastery. One can attempt to master mind-body-soul without having mastered health, but one nonetheless risks having an unhealthy mind-body-soul as a result.

Having a body-based philosophy in one’s arsenal grounds the self in the moment, in the eternal Now. But it is also proactive and mobile, in the sense that the moment is transcended by action. Being in the body is being in time, which is a counterintuitive experience.

Now is just as much an illusion as Past and Present is. As such, a body-based perspective maintains the delicate, seemingly dualistic, balance between mindfulness and No-mind, as felt in deep meditation and certain Zen practices.

Mastering mind-body-soul is mastering mortality despite infinity. In other words, it’s the ability to discover and inject meaning regardless of an otherwise meaningless universe. This is no easy task. It’s akin to squaring a circle, keeping track of a Mobius Strip, or untying a Gordian Knot.

But one need only be with the squaring/tracking/untying, without attachment to achieving such, to master it. If that’s too cryptic for you, try this: the journey is the thing. All meaning is manmade and founded in the tragicomic throes of the journey, despite, and perhaps even because of, the knowledge that the journey will someday come to an end.

Earth-based Philosophy:

“Remain faithful to the earth, my brothers, with the power of your virtue. Let your gift-giving love and your knowledge serve the meaning of the earth. Thus, I beg and beseech you. Do not let them fly away from earthly things and beat with their wings against eternal walls. Alas, there has always been so much virtue that has flown away. Lead back to the earth the virtue that flew away, as I do—back to the body, back to life, that it may give the earth a meaning, a human meaning.” ~ Friedrich Nietzsche

The human mind-body-soul is indistinguishable from the cosmos. The concept of interdependence emerges from this indistinguishability. To the extent that one has mastered one’s mind-body-soul, the mastery of interdependence and interconnectedness is the next reasonable step on the path of self-mastery.

This is where the will to self-mastery distinguishes itself from the will to power. Where the will to power consumes itself in individual empowerment, the will to self-mastery overcomes itself in interdependent empowerment. Power, in and of itself, is “corrected” – checked and balanced – by the greater power of humor and humility.

Having an earth-based philosophy in one’s arsenal humbles the god-in-us even as it empowers the worm-in-us. It’s a world-as-self, self-as-world perspective that keeps the proactive-self connected to the indifferent cosmos. Indeed, it is the proactive self that is compelled to create difference (Meaning) within the all-encompassing indifference of the universe in the first place.

But a sense of interdependence just keeps the wave of the self from (unhealthily) floating off from the ocean of the cosmos. Where independence was necessary for the self to break away from codependence, interdependence is necessary for the ego to regroup with the cosmos in a healthy and empowering way.

Mastering interdependence is mastering humility and humor. It’s embracing absurdity in a heroic sense. One is both humbled and empowered by their feeling of interconnectedness. This humility-power dynamic creates an experience of absurdity, which the self-mastering individual embraces using a good sense of humor.

The “gold” and the “secret elixir” can thus be flexibly excavated, and brought forth to others, from the absurd experience of being a creature torn between spirit and flesh, mortality and eternity, tragedy and comedy.

If ever one’s mastery of interdependence should falter or give way to unexpected change, there is always the bedrock of health-based and body-based philosophies to fall back upon. In this sense, the will to self-mastery is a path of adaptable self-overcoming, a flexible cycle of life-death-rebirth processes without end within a single lifetime, and usually despite the almighty “I”.

As Thomas Moore profoundly stated, “Grant me a soul to which dullness is naught, knowing no complaint, grumble or sigh, and do not permit me to give too much thought to that domineering creature called the “I.” Endow me with a sense of humor, give me the grace of understanding jest, that I may know the joy that life harbors, and were able to grant it to the rest.”

Image source:

Jung quote

Polly Berends quote

Third eye tree of life

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  • Gary 'Z' McGee, a former Navy Intelligence Specialist turned philosopher, is the author of Birthday Suit of God and The Looking Glass Man. His works are inspired by the great philosophers of the ages and his wide awake view of the modern world.

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