Western Civilization and Gandhi
Assignment: “Gandhi was asked what he thought about Western Civilization. He replied ‘I think it would be a good idea. ‘ Please comment referencing the various themes that we discussed in class – possibly from the perspective of Sophia. ” Course: Wisdom and Civilization, Garrison, NY. September 26th – 30th, 2011 For Credit towards my Master’s Degree in Wisdom/Spirituality with Wisdom University. Post-Paper by: Marie Trout [email protected] com Abstract
Western Civilization has been successful in some ways and not so in others. It has relied heavily on dogma and been characterized by linear patriarchal institutionalization, centralization and hierarchy. Western Civilization is based on a worldview of “Doctrinism”. Here an attitude of “us versus them,” “right versus wrong” and “good versus evil” have been dominant attributes. The Wisdom inherent in Sophia and Gaia might help inform and connect us with our innate wisdom instincts as we move onto a path of new discovery while the old structures fall around us.
A combination of both lessons from Western Civilization, the wisdom of Sophia and Gaia along with the new discoveries within quantum science, transpersonal psychology, nature resonance, astronomy, spirituality and much more will be needed as humanity trek ever onwards on its evolutionary road. Introduction “It is not nationalism that is evil; it is the narrowness, selfishness, exclusiveness which is the bane of modern nations which is evil. Each wants to profit at the expense of, and rise on the ruin of, the other. (1) This quote from Gandhi sums up fairly well, what I think he hinted at with his tongue in cheek answer to the question about Western Civilization. Narrowness (of mind), selfishness, and sense of being “better than” are all mental attitudes that shape the thoughts, feelings and actions of every man, woman and child who have them. If these thoughts are and have been prevalent in a civilization obviously you see the results manifest in the kinds of actions that are taken by same civilization.
I have looked at the historical background for some of these mental attitudes and a few other ones that I believe have contributed to shape the state and trajectory of Western Civilization today! I have also attempted to take a look at what a new World Civilization might a look like if we take these attitudes of narrowness, selfishness and exclusiveness out of the dominant societal equation. If humankind were to raise its consciousness level to live beyond these attitudes, what special prospects might be here for us precisely at this moment in time? What opportunities might be here that were never available to us before?
How much more efficient might we be at creating new structures if we look to how far we have come without applying feelings of guilt? How do we connect to a forward-looking attitude that offers us the chance, skill, and know-how to create the world anew at this time of partial or total collapse of the old? Nature Dominance and Destruction in Western Civilization (Selfishness) I have chosen to define Western Civilization as commencing around the fall of the Roman Empire and the simultaneous rise of the influence of the Christian faith in the early centuries AD.
Before Christianity became a weapon for political advancement of the power structures of society, pagan human self-understanding was rooted in nature-based animism. In the pre-Christian Greco-Roman era man believed that there were spirits in nature that needed to be consulted and appeased before man could chop down a tree or plow a field. (2) The new Christian faith endorsed a philosophy that encouraged the human race to be indubitably in command over nature.
This view was of course based on the Judaic notion that man was put on earth to be in charge, benefit from and in fact “subdue the earth” and “have dominion over every creeping thing that creepeth on the earth. ” (3) Thus in the Judeo-Christian worldview, furthered by the new Christian Empire, there was no longer an obligation to hesitate when it came to a utilization of nature for human gain and exploitation. Up through the Middle Ages, as Christianity increased its influence over human thinking and advanced into Northern Europe (which had not been possible for the “might alone” Romans), human connection to nature and the Cosmos was seen progressively more as sinful and punishable by death. This belief was based on quotes such as: “He deposed of…. those who burned incense to Baal, to the sun and the moon and the constellations and all the host of the heavens. ” (4) One might speculate that in order to really kill off the more nature based and druidic beliefs of the Northern European countries, the connection to nature came to be seen as a threat to the Christian faith by the church, and therefore it was made increasingly suspect to be communicating with, or be instinctually in touch with Nature.
In other words, if God himself could “depose of” those who believed in nature spirits and who honored a druidic appreciation of the Cosmos, well so could man! Therefore Christianity was able to cunningly take over where a military take-over had previously been impossible by the Romans. The Catholic Church managed this coup by very cleverly coming in as a wolf in sheep’s clothing masquerading as the natural continuation of the old pagan beliefs.
Previous holy sites and places of worship were acquisitioned and altered by the church – and little by little resistance faded and the new faith took root supported by local rulers and kings who stood to gain politically from embracing the new faith and its ability to contain the people. (5) As Christian self-righteousness and absolute faith progressively dominated a fearful population, the churches prosecuted and lit many a fire under practitioners of the ancient wisdom traditions and believers of nature based wisdom. This wisdom descendeth not from above, but is earthly, sensual, devilish. ” (6) As the battle cry of the church intensified in the Middle Ages, it became in vogue to burn and destroy not only nature itself, but nature- connected humans! Consequently many of the practitioners of the ancient wisdom traditions that were aligned with and connected to nature, cosmos, as well as those who had an “inner” knowledge/mystical awareness, were at grave risk of getting burned at the stake. They were labeled “sensual, earthly or devilish,” seen as a threat, made suspect, and eventually killed!
It is therefore not too farfetched to say that a connectedness to Nature within and without has been demonized by the church and the political power structures throughout Western Civilization. It has in actuality for many centuries been directly punishable by death! Is it any wonder that the human race has erased from its awareness much of our ancient memory of connectedness to nature? For centuries we have been categorically dissuaded from any attempts to honor or to communicate with the natural world.
Any desire to do so in the Christianity based Western Civilization has been punished by banishment from the community or ultimately by death. Certitude and Exclusivity (Narrowness and Exclusiveness) In the Gospel of John Jesus is quoted as saying: “I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man comes unto the Father, but by me. ”(7) And elsewhere also in the Gospel of John: “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. ” (8) The Christian faith is very specific about the absolute promise of Salvation to the exclusive chosen ones who stay true to the One True God.
Building on the sense of the Jews as God’s chosen people; the Christian faith went even further. By removing the faith from its tribal limitations it was able to sweep people of all races and all nationalities, making the Christian faith the new tribe of individual salvation. (9) The Catholic Church was able to persuade king after king, in both city states and nations, to adopt Christianity as the political power-faith of choice. The option given was always one of “us” or “them”. If you were not one of the chosen ones, the True Believers, you were seen as unworthy and lost.
It was therefore sanctioned by the church to make others “like us. ” Missionary work was encouraged, and the ones that were not able to be converted were not worthy of living and could easily be disposed of. As it states in Matthew 28:19-20 “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations,” was cleverly thought of to mean that the missionaries were not serving the church but rather was helping to save humanity. It was a matter of preserving the souls of the ignorant pagans and not relinquishing them to eternal damnation! So off the Christian Missionaries went to “save the world. Of course, since there was one way and one way only, it was paramount that the missionaries taught the others, but did not themselves pick up any “bad habits. ” This was a “my way or the highway” type of approach. Thus the missionaries were authorized by the church to convert, dominate or control people who thought different, or who simply were different. A horrifying example of this can be seen in the White Man’s conquest of the native population both in Australia and the United States that allowed the Christian invaders to simply demolish and destroy the native population in cold blood.
These violent and arrogant actions were approved and encouraged by the church. And interpretations of the natives as primitive, non-Christian and savage were at the core of this paradigm. Thus to slaughter and destroy this native population was no more an immoral proposition than it was to cut down a tree or slaughter a buffalo. The native population was seen as pagan (half-naked, with different laws around sexuality) and as devilish (worshiping and honoring nature) and therefore there was nothing wrong with the Christian man slaughtering and destroying the native population.
The Native population was simply regarded as if they were weeds to pull out of the fields before they could be put under the plow. The “us” killed “them” and it was all done out of good Christian duty! Certitude has been encouraged by the Abrahamic Religions in general. Christianity share the same jealous Judaic God syndrome with Islam and therefore many a religious war, crusade and terrorist attack has been waged at the behest of a proposed defense of the “one and only truth”.
Western science has likewise been caught up in the syndrome of certitude in its quest to appear unquestionable and absolute. The interesting thing about this kind of belief is that one can only “prove objectively” that which builds on previous findings! Science is slow to embrace new evidence, especially the kind of proof that shatters the preconceived findings that have been accepted before. Giordano Bruno was burned at the stake in Rome in the year 1600 for his refusal to back down from his conviction that Copernicus was right in his heliocentric understanding of our universe.
I believe we find ourselves in similar quandaries today as we grapple with the inclusion of the radical findings of neuroscience, transpersonal psychology as well as quantum science. Thankfully we do not burn people at the stake anymore! Serious science prides itself at being provable. And as much as I agree with the need to verify and critically analyze findings, I also know that sometimes we need to accept results that consistently prove themselves, but are outside the realm the current paradigm of accepted science.
So how does one enlarge one’s world view? How do we add new knowledge, if we are limited by what has been accepted within the current paradigm? We are living with a scientific model that only validates what can be measured and weighed with our five senses. Anything beyond that is scoffed at and relegated to the realms of “the para-normal,” “psychic” or “the religious. ” Richard Dawkins proudly proclaims that “science is based upon verifiable evidence. Religious faith not only lacks evidence, its independence from evidence is its pride and joy. (10) Proponents of a strictly scientific worldview allude to the spiritual experience as a kind of mumbo jumbo that is lumped in with proponents of organized religion. “There’s all the difference in the world between a belief that one is prepared to defend by quoting evidence and logic and a belief that is supported by nothing more than tradition, authority, or revelation. ”. (11) However to me there is a world of difference between a dogmatic acceptance of creed and a spiritual experience that is personal, intense and undeniable.
Or findings in transpersonal psychology outside the strict Western medical paradigm, and therefore is relegated to the realms of “mental illness”. Or actual “hard science” that seems to prove that there is a potential for traveling faster than light, or particles smaller than we thought. Science however, is slow to come around and accept such findings when they are fundamentally changing what we previously accepted as “fact”. Again we have an “us versus them” view that pits proponents of “good verifiable science” and the more experimental and paradigm-shattering kind against each other.
The level of certitude of what is true and false tends to be absolute for both proponents of both Western science and organized religion and therefore as much as Dawkins might want to set himself apart from believers of religion, I believe he himself is just as caught up in a limiting world view as those he denounces with intense fervor. Nonetheless both science and religion are stuck in world views that keep them both from really looking outside their own limited world view. Repression and Violence John Harvey Kellogg was an esteemed business man and the co-creator of the Kelloggs Cereal Company.
He was also a leader in the formation of the American Medical Missionary College and an influential writer on health and wellness in the late 1800’s America. He was a Seventh Day Adventist and advocated such practices as applying carbolic acid to the clitoris of young women to prevent sexual arousal. He was a staunch proponent of sexual abstinence and saw masturbation as threatening to human health and society. He suggested wiring the foreskin shut in young boys to effectively prevent an erection. He also advocated applying electrical current to the sexual organs at time of arousal.
These kinds of measures would be efficient tools in ridding society of all the ills stemming from the sexual urges. He was a proponent of circumcision of boys with no anesthetic, “especially (…to) be connected with the idea of punishment. ” (12) In marriage Mr. Kellogg saw the sexual urge as no less than “legalized prostitution. ” (13) Mr. Kellogg was just one of many respected medical practitioners of the time, who interpreted the sexual drive as something to repress and inhibit at all cost. Many societal ills, death and destruction were interpreted by him and many like him as directly linked to the human sexuality.
Long before Mr. Kellogg’s wonder practices became all the rage on the American plains, the Catholic Church had long been one of the largest contributors to this kind of suppression of the human urge to procreate. Prohibiting the sexual urges has directly led to centuries of sexual abuse in the church. These cases are now well documented and starting to undermine the reign of the Papal Dynasty. The way the fundamentalist Islamic world treats human sexuality is even more barbaric and laden with including female circumcision and prevalent rape.
The Abrahamic religions, and the power structures that have embraced them, have systematically labored to make human nature, including our sexuality, seem so suspect and dangerous that it has been at the heart of its mission to demonize it. Much energy has been spent on how to punish humans who were transgressing, and how to make an example out of them. This has of course directly led to violence perpetrated by the power structures trying to contain the people from exploring (their own) nature (burnings, executions, torture, Mr. Kellogg’s prescriptions, etc. But it has also led down the path of repressed and frustrated urges manifesting and expressing themselves in their shadowy forms of violence, scorn and cruelty. In America, judging by the standards used to rate movies, we are still much more lenient towards allowing unspeakable violence than we are comfortable at allowing a bare breast or a naked buttock to be seen on the screen by our youth. Blood, gore and violence are however included in almost every video game and every movie that we allow to babysit our popcorn-eating youngsters.
Human nature expressed holistically includes our basic urge to procreate, expressed in our sexuality. When made suspect and repressed (beyond a normal level that allows us to function among other people) powerful, perverse and brutal actions might result. The shadow side of our sexuality if it is not allowed to find appropriate and adequate expression is often tragic. Grof has another way of linking sex and violence by pointing out that the two are intrinsically linked in the 3rd birth matrix.
He would say that as we wander through life without consciously looking at the deeper personal pre-natal layers, as well as the archetypal collective forces, we are doomed to relive and in fact attract certain patterns all through our lives in unconscious search for completion. Grof thus joins the theories about human behavior of Freud (sexual drive) and Adler (will for power) with his own transpersonal views and offers an understanding that points out that the joining of sex and violence stems from an unconscious desire for freedom from the painful experiences in the third perinatal birth matrix. 14) Grof, however would agree that the worst thing to do with any urges from the unconscious mind is to suppress them permanently. During most of the time span of Western Civilization Nature and human nature has been reduced to its most basic, shadowy and lowly tendencies by the repression and denial of its natural form by church and other powers. There is no doubt in my mind that this mistaken expression of religion, through the denial of sexual nature, has contributed to further the violent outbursts inherent in terrorism and in the wars of our world. 15) The connection between repressed, abusive sexuality and violence is beyond doubt, whether you view this through the lens of Adler, Jung, Freud or Grof. This same trend of forced sexual suppression is also seen in fundamentalist Islamic countries. Whether in Judaism, Islam or Christianity this repression of natural urges stems from a misunderstood practice of the religion of a jealous monotheistic (and sex-hating) God who accepts no competition from nature, cosmos or man himself.