"worship" and its role in proper relationships


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Not sure if this topic has been raised here, but I have been having a discussion on ObjectivismOnline.net about whether "worship" has a proper role in a healthy relationship and what exactly it means if it does.

Here is the thread

http://forum.objectivismonline.net/index.p...mp;#entry158958

For starters, Rand says:

(Ayn Rand from "About a Woman President")

The issue is primarily psychological. It involves a woman's fundamental view of life, of herself and of her basic values. For a woman qua woman, the essence of femininity is hero worship—the desire to look up to man. "To look up" does not mean dependence, obedience, or anything implying inferiority. It means an intense kind of admiration; and admiration is an emotion that can be experienced only by a person of strong character and independent value judgments. A "clinging vine" type of woman is not an admirer, but an exploiter of men. Hero worship is a demanding virtue: a woman has to be worthy of it and of the hero she worships. Intellectually and morally, i.e., as a human being, she has to be his equal; then the object of her worship is specifically his masculinity, not any human virtue she might lack.

This does not mean that a feminine woman feels or projects hero worship for any and every individual man; as human beings, many of them may, in fact, be her inferiors. Her worship is an abstract emotion for the metaphysical concept of masculinity as such—which she experiences fully and concretely only for the man she loves, but which colors her attitude toward all men. This does not mean that there is a romantic or sexual intention in her attitude toward all men; quite the contrary: the higher her view of masculinity, the more severely demanding her standards. It means that she never loses the awareness of her own sexual identity and theirs. It means that a properly feminine woman does not treat men as if she were their pal, sister, mother—or leader.

('The Voice Of Reason page 268')

For a woman qua woman, the essence of femininity is hero worship—the desire to look up to man. "To look up" does not mean dependence, obedience, or anything implying inferiority. It means an intense kind of admiration; and admiration is an emotion that can be experienced only by a person of strong character and independent value judgments. A "clinging vine" type of woman is not an admirer, but an exploiter of men. Hero worship is a demanding virtue: a woman has to be worthy of it and of the hero she worships. Intellectually and morally, i.e., as a human being, she has to be his equal; then the object of her worship is specifically his masculinity, not any human virtue she might lack.

To summarize my position so far:

Personally, I would be uncomfortable with a romantic partner telling me they 'worship' me, so I would seek to identify exactly what is meant by that. What ought to be present in a psychologically healthy and stimulating relationship for both partners? I am talking about a relationship where both partners are intellectually, emotionally, physically, and spiritually grow through being challenged and stimulated in those arenas. If a woman worships a man, how inspiring would the women be to the man? To contend that a woman ought to worship a man, implies that there is a relative difference between the two, that the man possesses qualities the woman does not, and that she 'looks up' to. To counter that, Rand and other people in that thread have asserted that there is not necessarily any difference implicit in 'looking up to' (which is understandable, as I can look up to or be inspired by someone but not necessarily wish to emulate them) but to remove any relative difference from the idea of looking up to or worshipping, means it ought to be something that can be reciprocal. Another suggestion has been that 'worshipping' is a feminine trait, yet to me it seems to exist in a continuum from respect --> admire --> love --> worship. If Worshipping is purely feminine, their ought to be a corollary masculine emotion of similar intensity, what is that, cherishing? I hardly think 'being worshipped by' is a trait to admire a woman for, and the person worthy of 'worship' in it's truest sense, probably wouldn’t want to be worshipped. Any concretes that have yet been provided to me about how this 'worship might be expressed or felt, are all things I have found it reasonable to think a man can feel for a woman. When that is the case, merely asserting that the word ought to be different even though it describes the same emotion is meaningless. If a woman worships a man for his masculinity, why then can a man not worship a woman for her femininity?

Ultimately, I think the best kind of relationship would be born from two partners who share similar values and exist at a near or similar level of intellectual, emotional, spiritual, physical strengths where a over abundance of one trait in one partner is balanced by one in the other partner, and where each is perpetually stimulated and challenged by the other, each growing and learning perpetually and neither coming to a stand still.

Thoughts or comments?

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Michael,

The following is Rand's writing on reverence and worship at its best. I am surprised it was not mentioned.

From the "Introduction" to the Twenty-fifth Anniversary Edition of The Fountainhead. Rand was discussing the use of the term "highest religious abstraction" that she wrote for Roark to say in his courtroom speech.

What I was referring to was not religion as such, but a special category of abstractions, the most exalted one, which, for centuries, had been the near-monopoly of religion: ethics—not the particular content of religious ethics, but the abstraction "ethics," the realm of values, man's code of good and evil, with the emotional connotations of height, uplift, nobility, reverence, grandeur, which pertain to the realm of man's values, but which religion has arrogated to itself.

. . .

Religion's monopoly in the field of ethics has made it extremely difficult to communicate the emotional meaning and connotations of a rational view of life. Just as religion has preempted the field of ethics, turning morality against man, so it has usurped the highest moral concepts of our language, placing them outside this earth and beyond man's reach. "Exaltation" is usually taken to mean an emotional state evoked by contemplating the supernatural. "Worship" means the emotional experience of loyalty and dedication to something higher than man. "Reverence" means the emotion of a sacred respect, to be experienced on one's knees. "Sacred" means superior to and not-to-be-touched-by any concerns of man or of this earth. Etc.

But such concepts do name actual emotions, even though no supernatural dimension exists; and these emotions are experienced as uplifting or ennobling, without the self-abasement required by religious definitions. What, then, is their source or referent in reality? It is the entire emotional realm of man's dedication to a moral ideal.

. . .

I would identify the sense of life dramatized in The Fountainhead as man-worship.

. . .

The man-worshipers, in my sense of the term, are those who see man's highest potential and strive to actualize it.

. . .

But if one takes it [the quote by Nietzsche below] as a poetic projection of an emotional experience (and if, intellectually, one substitutes the concept of an acquired "basic premise" for the concept of an innate "fundamental certainty"), then that quotation communicates the inner state of an exalted self-esteem—and sums up the emotional consequences for which The Fountainhead provides the rational, philosophical base:

"It is not the works, but the belief which is here decisive and determines the order of rank—to employ once more an old religious formula with a new and deeper meaning,—it is some fundamental certainty which a noble soul has about itself, something which is not to be sought, is not to be found, and perhaps, also, is not to be lost.—The noble soul has reverence for itself.—" (Friedrich Nietzsche, Beyond Good and Evil.)

The entire Introduction bears reading. However, I do not like Rand's constant emotional appeal of highlighting how the majority of mankind will betray itself. I did not quote those sections here. Anyway, I am much more optimistic about people.

Michael

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Michael,

The following is Rand's writing on reverence and worship at its best. I am surprised it was not mentioned.

From the "Introduction" to the Twenty-fifth Anniversary Edition of The Fountainhead. Rand was discussing the use of the term "highest religious abstraction" that she wrote for Roark to say in his courtroom speech.

What I was referring to was not religion as such, but a special category of abstractions, the most exalted one, which, for centuries, had been the near-monopoly of religion: ethics—not the particular content of religious ethics, but the abstraction "ethics," the realm of values, man's code of good and evil, with the emotional connotations of height, uplift, nobility, reverence, grandeur, which pertain to the realm of man's values, but which religion has arrogated to itself.

. . .

Religion's monopoly in the field of ethics has made it extremely difficult to communicate the emotional meaning and connotations of a rational view of life. Just as religion has preempted the field of ethics, turning morality against man, so it has usurped the highest moral concepts of our language, placing them outside this earth and beyond man's reach. "Exaltation" is usually taken to mean an emotional state evoked by contemplating the supernatural. "Worship" means the emotional experience of loyalty and dedication to something higher than man. "Reverence" means the emotion of a sacred respect, to be experienced on one's knees. "Sacred" means superior to and not-to-be-touched-by any concerns of man or of this earth. Etc.

But such concepts do name actual emotions, even though no supernatural dimension exists; and these emotions are experienced as uplifting or ennobling, without the self-abasement required by religious definitions. What, then, is their source or referent in reality? It is the entire emotional realm of man's dedication to a moral ideal.

. . .

I believe someone did post that in the thread I linked to. Obviously, given my sig, I have no problem trying to take back words hijacked by religion, I'm just not quite sure whether "worship" is one that should be taken back in the context of a romantic relationship and if it were, why it couldnt go both ways, and if it could not, what exactly it means.

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[...] The entire Introduction [to The Fountainhead] bears reading. However, I do not like Rand's constant emotional appeal of highlighting how the majority of mankind will betray itself. I did not quote those sections here. Anyway, I am much more optimistic about people.

With what had gone on in the 20th Century by then, when I read those words of Rand's thirty years ago, I saw it as neither an emotional appeal nor bitter cynicism. I saw it as realism, and being willing to call barbarism and betrayal — in any and all realms of life — by their right names.

I hadn't encountered Rand beyond the movie of that book, which had hugely impressed me and haunted my thoughts as I graduated, with trepidation, from high school.

When I picked up the paperback, in July 1977, and read that introduction, my first thought was: This woman doesn't equivocate or deny history, does she? Now, that's refreshing. I bought the book and devoured it. I might not have, if she hadn't spoken so plainly.

Most do betray what is best in human beings, on a small or large scale, in compromise and irrationality. If anyone sees an acknowledgment of that, though, as being less than "optimistic," it's missing Rand's point: Those who resist doing this, on a large or small scale, are those who move the world and advance human potential. They're the only ones, in the long run, who matter. And they're the only possible source of optimism.

I've seen nothing to deny, and much to support, Rand's viewpoint in that essay, in the third of a century since then. If she hadn't been that clearheaded — however much the tumult in her life, as we found out later, may have contributed to her strong language — I would have missed the benefits of that viewpoint.

It's an odd bit of synchrony: I was playing, while composing this, a song by Enya.

Who can say where the road goes

Where the day flows

Only time

And who can say if your love grows

As your heart chose

Only time

Who can say why your heart sighs

As your love flies

Only time

And who can say why your heart cries

When your love lies

Only time

I leave the overlays as to Rand's life to the reader (of this, and of the Branden books). As to what the times do to one's heart in a broader sense, though, I was ready, well over half my life ago, to have someone call betrayal by its right name. She did that. Time has only strengthened her heart-cry.

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Steve,

I suppose it depends on what we are looking at. I read somewhere once that man was biologically one of the most successful species on the planet. When I look around at what we have today compared to 1988, all I can do is marvel at the lack of betrayal of values. This holds even when comparing back then to when Rand wrote the book. For me, now is an awfully good time to be alive.

Michael

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  • 4 weeks later...
I believe someone did post that in the thread I linked to. Obviously, given my sig, I have no problem trying to take back words hijacked by religion, I'm just not quite sure whether "worship" is one that should be taken back in the context of a romantic relationship and if it were, why it couldnt go both ways, and if it could not, what exactly it means.

As I understand the term, to worship someone in the context of a romantic relationship simply means to see them for the embodiment of one's values (which, if you are in a relationship with them, they should be). And of course it can be reciprocal, indeed it should be.

In a way, worship of someone who is the embodiment of your values can be an extremely self-aggrandizing experience... after all, you are saying:

1. My perception of things is reliable

2. My values are correct and I was wise enough to see that my values are true values

3. I percieve that you embody my values

4. Because of 1 and 2, I can state that you are good

5. Because of that I worship you

Thats a very, very prideful chain of logic. It presupposes one is capable and competent to make rational evaluations.

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A worshiping B is heathen idolatry. First comes worship. The comes sacrifice. Ugh! Feh!

There is no physical mortal being worth of worship any anyone.

Ba'al Chatzaf

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There is no physical mortal being worth of worship any anyone.

Thats a very depressing attitude. What about one's own self? Im certainly worthy of my own worship.

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Thats a very depressing attitude. What about one's own self? Im certainly worthy of my own worship.

I specifically said A worships B. Meaning worshiping another. It is heathen idolatry. That is the kind of thing Canaanites and the Muslims do. It may be a depressing attitude, but worshiping another mortal is even more depressing. Worshiping another belongs in the same trash can as Romantic Love. Bogus. Bogus. Feh! Ugh!

Ba'al Chatzaf

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I specifically said A worships B. Meaning worshiping another. It is heathen idolatry. That is the kind of thing Canaanites and the Muslims do. It may be a depressing attitude, but worshiping another mortal is even more depressing. Worshiping another belongs in the same trash can as Romantic Love. Bogus. Bogus. Feh! Ugh!

As much as I hate the Hollywood fantasy presented as Romantic Love, I think you are ruling out the fact that the Hollywood fantasy is simply that: a fantasy.

As for heathen idolatory, do remember that most people here are heathens (well technically speaking, infidels and unbelievers, but whatever). Even though there are some deists/theists here, the majority are atheists and hence have no Platonic reifications to project their worship towards.

Edited by studiodekadent
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As much as I hate the Hollywood fantasy presented as Romantic Love, I think you are ruling out the fact that the Hollywood fantasy is simply that: a fantasy.

As for heathen idolatory, do remember that most people here are heathens (well technically speaking, infidels and unbelievers, but whatever). Even though there are some deists/theists here, the majority are atheists and hence have no Platonic reifications to project their worship towards.

You don't have to be a Believer to avoid heathen idolatry. It is reifying the abstraction that is the problem. Pretending that a concept (which is really a brain-fart) is of Supreme Importance is a disease. The only real things are Facts. Everything else is mental stew. Anyone who puts a Principle before a Fact is committing idolatry.

Ba'al Chatzaf

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Anyone who puts a Principle before a Fact is committing idolatry.

Technically speaking the definition of idolatory is worshipping a concrete object rather than what the object represents. Putting principles before facts is "rationalism" rather than "idolatory."

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Anyone who puts a Principle before a Fact is committing idolatry.

Technically speaking the definition of idolatory is worshipping a concrete object rather than what the object represents. Putting principles before facts is "rationalism" rather than "idolatory."

Principles are artifacts. As artificial as stone gods. They are not real. Facts are real. Idolatry is two things: 1. Confusing the artificial and the real. 2. Reductionism: A is nothing but B. Primitive Idolatry is a concrete instance of this more general malfunction.

Ask yourself: where would all our principles be if humans disappeared? Answer: They would be nowhere because they would cease to exist, along with the humans.

Ba'al Chatzaf

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Admiration and high regard makes more sense than worship.

Ba'al Chatzaf

Edited by BaalChatzaf
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Admiration and high regard makes more sense than worship.

Ba'al Chatzaf

I agree, it's hard for me to see a person 'worshipping' another (at least in its typical religious connotation) as something healthy, certainly not something I would want someone to do for me. But, perhaps (and this is what Rand was arguing) like other religious terms it does have a proper humanistic spiritual connotation and should be taken back. Admiration and High Regard can both be platonic, so it seems a stronger idea is in order for the feelings toward a partner one loves immenselely. So what might that that connotation be exactly. I havent heard any concretes yet that did not also make sense both ways in a male female relationship, something which Rand clearly indicated was not something a man should feel for his female partner.

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The idea that some human beings -- men, in this instance -- are to be worshipped, is one of the crucial issues that has led to the moralistic denunciations so common to Ayn Rand and to many Objectivist true believers. One does not worship an imperfect being; to be worthy of worship, the being must be without flaw. Then what happens when the unthinkable occurs? -- when the object of one's worship reveals that he is not without flaw, that he is "guilty" of making serious mistakes, perhaps even guilty of moral errors. He becomes that ugliest of all creatures: a god with feet of clay. Human imperfections, as one god after another fails one's demands, become a threat to the entire concept of human perfection and to the possibility of achieving it -- and a threat to the duty one supposedly has, in this view of man, to achieve perfection in one's own person. The sinful god must therefore be denounced as irredeemably evil, and ejected from heaven before he can contaminate the other gods and instill doubts in them.

God has become Satan.

Barbara

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Bob,

Your arguments sound funny to me. I thought you worshiped your tribe.

:)

(I couldn't resist that...)

Michael

There are many things I admire and respect. But I worship none of them.

Ba'al Chatzaf

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In its religious meaning yes. But is not the point here to look at nonreligious meanings and potential meanings of the term?

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Worship another human being? Hardly wise, and very likely to lead to bitterness.

To admire - yes. To recognize someone's track record of speaking wisely to the point that when they same something which seems wrong to you, your instinct is to check your reasoning and your premises - this is quite reasonable.

But worship implies a blank check which I don't want to write.

Alfonso

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Officially Ayn Rand was in favor of "man worship" which is not the same thing as worshipping a man. Unofficially she mixed the two up. I'm not in favor of either. I can admire a man or a woman and moral rectitude, but the only thing I might worship is human ability and accomplishment.

--Brant

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The sinful god must therefore be denounced as irredeemably evil, and ejected from heaven before he can contaminate the other gods and instill doubts in them.

God has become Satan.

Barbara

Satan -- as Lucifer, the Bright, the Radiant One -- was the best-loved son of God before he and his followers were ejected from heaven. The parallels are interesting. ;-)

E-

___

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Jesus Johannesburg, South-frickin'-Africa -- it would really help if you people would read what Rand actually wrote, instead of chewing on a straw-man!

In "Introduction to The Fountainhead," The Objectivist, March 1968, Rand points out that concepts such as "exaltation," "worship," "reverence," and "sacred":

do name actual emotions, even though no supernatural dimension exists; and these emotions are experienced as uplifting or enobling, without the self-abasement required by religious definitions. What, then, is their source or referent in reality? It is the entire emotional realm of man's dedication to a moral ideal...The man-worshipers, in my sense of the term, are those who see man's highest potential and strive to actualize it....[Man-worshipers are] those dedicated to the
exaltation
of man's self-esteem and the
sacredness
of his happiness on earth...[W]hatever their future, at the dawn of their lives, men seek a noble vision of man's nature and of life's potential."

In "An Answer to Readers (About a Woman President," The Objectivist, December 1968, Rand wrote:

For a woman
qua
woman, the essence of femininity is hero-worship--the desire to look up to man. "To look up" does not mean dependence, obedience or anything implying inferiority. It means an intense kind of admiration...[T]he object of her worship is specifically his
masculinity
...Her worship is an abstract emotion for the
metaphysical
concept of masculinity as such--which she experiences fully and concretely only for the man she loves, but which colors her attitude toward all men.

From these two sources, written close to one another (and, interestingly, to the Split), it is clear that worship is intended to have an abstract object, not individual human beings per se, but their nature and their potential. I worship my wife's femininity and nobility of spirit; and I adore her. I worship the human potential, and I admire those who actualize it.

I don't have any problem keeping all of this straight (as against the conflation of the two pespectives in the song lyric quoted below), and I'm surprised that there is such controversy over this.

REB

"You are all I long for, all I worship and adore." (lyric from "Fly Me to the Moon")

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Roger, I for one am very much aware of what Rand said about hero-worship, and as you wrote, "it is clear that worship is intended to have an abstract object, not individual human beings per se, but their nature and their potential." That is, it is clear in some of Rand's statements.

As you presented her view, it is an ungraspable concept. What can it possibly mean to "worship an absract object" somehow residing in the individual one loves, but not to worship that individual? The only abstract object I can conceive of worshiping is God, but He is not said to reside in indviduals whom one does not worship.

And if it is only human nature we are expected to worship, why did Rand say that it is only the male sex that is to be worshipped and not women as well, who surely partake of human nature and the human potential? Yet she shuddered at the idea of a man "worshiping" the human potential residing in a woman -- and she wrote that the essence of masculinity is man's relationship to existence, the essence of femininity is hero-worship. If we are to worship a potential, what could that possibly have to do with femininity? And why should women not worship every man on earth, since all of them possess a human nature?

The more one attempts to concretize this issue and discover what actions and reactions it suggests, the more confusing it becomes.

Barbara

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