There is a famous saying in the Gospels that in the past was translated “What does it profit a man if he gains the world and loses his soul?” That translation is incorrect. These days it’s better translated, “What does it profit a man if he gains the world and loses his True Self?”
Unfortunately, I do not know what Jesus meant by “True Self.” I do know how you can never find that True Self – through a group of people. What I call “herds.” Mobs. Small mobs, big mobs, in-between mobs.
There is a famous saying about mobs – “My name is Legion, for there are many of us.” That saying was supposedly said by demons, but if anything in this life are corporeal demons, it’s a herd of people.
The late Erik von Kuehnelt-Leddihn, in his book, “Leftism Revisited,” wrote that “’I” is from God and ‘We’ is from the Devil.” He knew what he was talking about.
People in herds are trying to lose their old self and trying to gain a new one. “A mass movement,” writes Eric Hoffer in “The True Believer, “…appeals not to those intent on bolstering and advancing a cherished self, but to those who crave to be rid of an unwanted self.”
People in herds try to exalt themselves through being part of it. They find it exhilarating. It gives meaning and purpose – temporarily – to their lives. Hoffer said they seek “pride, confidence, hope, a sense of purpose and worth by identification with a holy cause.” They seek, he wrote, “a new life in [a] close-knit body.”
What sins – and they are sins -- propel people to joins these mobs? Meaningless and boredom are two of the biggest ones. Both fall under acedia -- a life without joy or purpose. Ennui. And when they join these herds of people, then they feel a false pride – and that kind of pride, too, is a sin.
Acedia, and pride. Others? Sloth, specifically mental sloth. And often, they join these herds to avoid feeling envy. In these groups everyone tries to be the same, and equal.
There are at least four major sins associated with herds of people – pride, acedia, sloth, envy.
Wrath is a fifth one. Any herd is going to project its flaws onto other people, specifically another herd. It’s called scapegoating, and it always leads to violence, i.e., wrath towards other people.
What about lust, gluttony and greed? The opposite of them is chastity, temperance and charity (and contrary to what people think, chastity is not celibacy). Herds, which have no brains and therefore no intelligence, show all of the Seven Deadly Sins.
Herds are gluttonous, because they want to absorb everyone into them. They insist, under threat of wrath, that everyone join them. And that kind of gluttony is also greedy and lustful.
People either join these mobs out of those sins, and develop those sins because of their involvement. And these herds are self-centered and therefore selfish, cruel, dishonest, and powered by superstition. Those, too, are sins.
The nearly-perfect modern-day, but fictional, mob, is the Borg from “Star Trek.”
They have consciousness but apparently very little self-consciousness, they feel no pain or fear or anxiety. They have no envy. They have been absorbed into the Borg womb. They have gained the world – indeed, many worlds -- but lost their True Selves.
Erich Fromm, along with Kuehnelt-Leddihn, said that when people want to be part of a group, they want to merge themselves in it to lose their anxiety and loneliness. They can lose their ego, their "self," in a group.
Herds, in a sense, are not truly human. They’re demonic more than anything else. Herds of people are in a sense “a monstrous self.” And as Russell Kirk wrote, “the monstrous self is the source of all evil.”