Faults will turn to good, provided we use them to our own humiliation, without slackening in the effort to correct ourselves. Discouragement serves no possible purpose; it is simply the despair of wounded self-love. The real way of profiting by the humiliation of one’s own faults is to face them in their true hideousness, without ceasing to hope in God [the transformational powers of the revolution], while hoping nothing from self [our own self-defeating liberal tendencies]. (Fenelon, “The Need of Devotion in a Worldly Life,” 1689)
The reason that so much of what might be called “wisdom traditions” (e.g., this quote from 18th-century Catholic archbishop Fenelon that I found in Aldous Huxley’s anthology and analysis of wisdom, The Perennial Philosophy) can be incorporated into Maoism is because Maoism is the first manifestation of Marxism that takes the transformation of the self completely seriously.
It is true that all the saints throughout history wishing for a sincerely good society had only the most haphazard ideas about how our material surroundings limit and condition our ability to transform ourselves, but it’s also true that the Marxists up to Mao’s point were too content to wait for the external conditions to do their slow, passive, easily-reversed work.
Maoism incorporates both–and scientifically, understanding each in its place.
All successful communist movements up to this point *have* incorporated self-transformation, even if it was less explicit. The people have decisive advantages at our disposal, namely that we hold the machinery that makes the world run in our hands and have vastly superior numbers. But these advantages are useless until we are forged into an iron unity, and nothing can forge that unity without a culture of self-respecting humility–without a culture that gives us room and support to lower somewhat the walls of the ego so that we can hop over ourselves, look at things from our neighbors’ and comrades’ perspectives, and find ways to change ourselves that are mutually beneficial, building an ever bigger, stronger, faster organization. This process involving constant acts of humility is the *only* way communism can arise, mighty, from within the dangerous capitalist world.
We Maoists more than even other communists are often accused of being cultists. This charge will never go away until we win, because we always *will* place a massive importance on transformation of the self, of prioritizing looking for our own faults and errors instead of immediately looking for others to blame. We *do* embrace attitudes and practices that have traditionally been emphasized by spiritual traditions.
To carefully and thoughtfully tend to the deepest, subtlest, and most powerful parts of the mind–what is called the soul, which contains both our deepest love and our greatest fears–so carefully as Maoism does, this is what many people, myself included, understand as spirituality (or, if one prefers, the science of wisdom). Those who find us so spooky have no healthy model of the role “spirituality” can play in keeping a community strong and healthy. They have never seen a materialist “spiritual” practice, one legitimately guided by science.
When I first became a communist it was obvious to me that Marxism had to be combined with wisdom traditions to succeed. I have discovered that Maoism is already far closer to that than I would ever have imagined. We will build a truly good world with it–not with useless wishing nor with the rude fetishization of productivity, but in a way that is both humble and scientific. I have put all my hopes in it. I could not be more hopeful or more excited at what a thing we have at our disposal in Maoism.
Note from 7/26/17: If this subject interests you, be sure to also check these follow-up posts on the same subject: