The Concept of Humanity and the Values of Life
Philosophy in its deepest sense must embody the philosophy of life – human life in its entirety, and not just in part. A theory of life is needed to guide humanity towards its destiny. Other creatures don’t need such theory because they are guided by nature, by instinct. The aim of philosophy is to suggest and inspire a way of life. Scientific and analytical thought have opened new vistas and dispelled many dogmas. Simultaneously, it must be accepted that this growing scientific and analytic spirit should not destroy and ignore the inner values of life or deny the soul. Humanism needs to be redefined.
We have to rediscover ourselves, acknowledge that we humans are the prime mover in all our activities, whether they be religious, scientific, ethical, artistic or spiritual. Science, politics, and economics should not dictate to humanity, rather they should be useful tools guided by awakened intellects for the benefit of all.
Religions and Humanism
Different religions tried to define humans within their own terms. Eastern religions were long guided by the idea of the spiritual essence of life. This was based on the traditional belief of transcendental monism, that matter is the metamorphosed form of consciousness, which gave rise to a culture based on the concept of unity in diversity. Transcendental monism asserts our spiritual connection with the infinite and encourages the evolution of inner wisdom in order to realise the bond of unity amongst all dimensions of creation.
Later, Eastern religions relapsed into traditionalism and confined themselves within meaningless ritualistic observance and idolatry. Monism, the essence of spiritual tradition, ultimately became transformed into dualism that separated the unit beings from supreme consciousness. This religious dogma fragmented the society and created a passive psychology.
In the West, the Judeo-Christian tradition took a very different course, personifying God as a being who lived in a distant and separate realm and whose attention was centered on earth and its human inhabitants. In this tradition, God’s will and wisdom were revealed through prophets, such as Moses, or through the incarnation of his son, Jesus. The earth was believed to be the center of the universe, with the sun, stars, and planets revolving around it. These beliefs remained the foundation of scientific thought and moral and political authority in Europe until as recently as five hundred years ago.
Aristotle’s philosophical outlook, later associated with Christian metaphysics, dominated European social psychology for nearly two thousand years, from 500 BC until approximately 1,500 A.D. As a result, society was dominated by the clergy, and scientific investigation was neglected until the startling discoveries of Galileo, Copernicus and others in the sixteenth century.
When the absoluteness of the claims of religions were questioned, their impact largely collapsed. Dr. Radhakrisnan wrote, “Humanism is a legitimate protest against those forms of religion which separate the secular and the sacred, divide time and eternity and break up the unity of soul and flesh… religion should have sufficient respect for the dignity of man and the right of human personality… Humanist revivals occur when religions disintegrate and fail to attract men’s attention.”
Renaissance and Humanism
Newton’s mechanistic worldview, supported by Descartes and other dualistic philosophers, dominated the socio-political thought of the western world for three hundred years, up until the twentieth century. Although science has now largely discarded Newton’s mechanistic worldview, this change has yet to create an impact on social psychology. The psychological premises of radical hedonism, an inevitable result of materialism and dualism, have continued to influence western socio-political thought up to the present day, and hence it has failed to discover and recognise the real essence of humanism. Descartes and his followers failed to solve the body-mind relation and were unable to realise that human beings are an integral unity of matter, mind, life, reason and spirit.
Henceforth, the institutions of religion and science, each with its own view of reality competed for the soul of Western societies. Dualism, the view that matter and spirit are two distinct and independent aspects of reality, provided a philosophical validation of this split. While the church ministered to its followers, advocating a traditional religious life, secular society came to embrace the material world as the primary reality, materialism as the dominant value, and ultimately economic growth as the primary human pourpose.
“Materialistic monism also prepared the way for an economics that, intent on achieving the status of a true science, embraced market prices, which can be observed and measured, as the sole arbiter of human values. It is virtually impossible to understand or explain more than purely habitual human behavior without addressing the values, loyalties, aspirations, love, psychological conflicts, altruism, spirituality, conscience, and even metaphysical beliefs that inform them – which are very difficult to observe and measure. Thus, as science defines itself, the term social science is a contradiction.
The social scientist must either redefine the assumptions of science or redefine the human being to accord with those assumptions. Economists chose the latter, postulating a hypothetical, mechanistic economic man who seeks only his own pleasure, which it subsequently defined in purely financial terms. Whenever a model requires a human decision maker irrespective of gender, the economist substitutes the imaginary, decidedly nonhuman, economic man, who evaluates every choice on the basis of its economic return.
Having eliminated the human, economists then eliminated the behavior. Finding the interactions among people too hopelessly complex and difficult to measure, economists chose to observe the behavior of markets rather than the behavior of people. Market behavior involves prices and flows of money, which are easily observed and measured.”
Today’s materialistic and individualistic psychology indicates that the society has yet to accept a homogenous interrelation among all living beings, irrespective of caste, creed, nation, religion, race, or species. The dualistic attitude of society is responsible for splitting people into different groups based on race, nationality, politics and other factors. Self-motivation or group motivation dominates the socio-political attitudes. This spirit of fragmentation ignores the basic spirit of human soul and its urge to search for unity.
We have to define human identity widely, not in a form of reductionism, or in one dimension alone. Human characteristics need to be defined in all dimensions of their existence. As humans, we have a physical dimension which wants to survive; and we want to relate to the external world through our sensory and motor organs. We are living beings with an internal purpose or immanent teleology, and strive to maintain ourselves intact in our surroundings. We are also psychological beings with minds of our own who desire to explore the depths of knowledge, to dive into the past, present and future, and to discover own inner worlds in search for peace and harmony. We are social and ethical beings with emotions and sentiments towards others, developing our personalities in a social environment. The ethical dimension leads not only to an intensification of our own interiority, but also to a recognition of the same within others. Human beings are also spiritual, craving and searching for a cosmic and divine support for our life and activities, and desiring communion with this. We are also rational – questioning, reasoning and evaluating our thoughts and actions, and analysing whether they are right or wrong, good or evil and trying to explore the truth utilising our analytical intellect.
To resolve the dialectical conflict of dualism, human beings should be acknowledged as cosmic beings, not just in a metaphysical sense, but accepting our interrelation with the whole universe. Humans are just actors in the plethora of a multidimensional creation. In the eternal process of evolution, human existence is only a stage. We too are constantly evolving towards a higher state of consciousness and are destined to realise the essence of unity in diversity, transcending all dualistic contradictions.
Through millions of years of existence, human beings gradually evolved through different stages of evolution. These ranged from the stage of struggle for existence, to intellectual development, to the evolution of religious and social consciousness. A revival of the human spirit happened during the Renaissance, as the idea of freedom in all spheres of life found momentum. Even then, this humanistic revival, due to its belief in dualism, could not transcend nationalism, communalism and racism, et al. This resulted in enormous conflict, suppression and exploitation of the weaker section of the society, the devastation of nature, and also promoted an unjust social order. Hedonist psychology and a materialistic monoculture took a distorted view of the essence of human beings, seeing them as mere conglomeration of atoms.
The evolution of life and mind cannot be attributed to a rigid materialistic process. This contradicts the essence of human value. Dr. Karl Stern , a psychologist, commented on a purely materialistic argument of evolution:
“At a certain moment of time the temperature of the earth was such that it became most favourable for the aggregation of carbon atoms and oxygen with the nitrogen-hydrogen combination, and that random occurrences of large clusters of molecules occurred which were most favourably structured for the creation of life, and from that point it went on through vast stretches of time, until through the processes of natural selection, a being finally occurred which is capable of choosing love over hate and justice over injustice, of writing poetry like Dante, composing music that of Mozart, and making drawings like of Leonardo. Of course, such a view of cosmogenesis is crazy. I do not mean crazy in the sense of slangy invective but rather technical meaning of psychotic. Indeed such a view has much in common with certain aspects of schizophrenic thinking.”
Now, in this twenty-first century, humanism must transcend to a higher state of consciousness. According to Shrii P.R. Sarkar, the new state is Neo-Humanism. This is the collective assimilation of all the natural expressions of the human species and the entire world of flora and fauna. Human personality is not only physical and psychic but also spiritual. Spirituality is neither a negation of life, nor it is separated from the created universe. Spiritual awareness can create a harmonious interrelation between the material world and the subtler dimensions, through creative emotions, love, a sense of unity, justice, courage and conviction. Neo-Humanism, together with the effort for spiritual emancipation, opens the door of knowledge towards a balanced, comprehensive outlook on life.
“My true identity
Cannot be measured
by flesh only.
It cannot be worn out
By seconds and minutes,
It cannot be mired
By the dust of the path
I am not just a joke
Of the creator;
I have been created by the splendour
Of immortal wealth,
To reach a glorious end“.
The disharmony of human existence generates needs which far transcend those of our animal origin. These needs result in an imperative drive to restore a unity and equipoise between ourselves and the rest of nature. We have to strive for the experience of unity and oneness in all spheres of our being in order to find this essential equilibrium.
Hence, any satisfactory system by which we may orient ourselves, necessitates not only intellectual elements but also elements of feeling, and the sense that they can be realised in all fields of human endeavour. Devotion which has been suppressed within has to be aroused. It may be devotion towards a noble aim, a great idea, or a power transcending personality. Devotion express the need for completeness in the course of one’s life.
In this universal creation, the state of matter is the result of the metamorphosis of Consciousness into mind and then to matter. The journey of evolution is from inanimate matter to life, to undeveloped mind, to the intellectual level, to the intuitional level or the level of higher consciousness, and ultimately to the state of total liberation in a completion of the cycle. This is the essence of monism.
Our journey is from the imperfection of limited self to the idea of universal existence. Freedom of mind means relinquishing the fetters of narrow ideas and expanding one’s consciousness to that of Cosmic status. This must be reflected in our endeavours in the physical stratum, in our pursuit of knowledge, and through a devotional urge for the higher realisations of life. In other words, we have to explore our inner potentialities to realise the spirit of unity in diversity.
The Social Values of PROUT
While rediscovering ourselves and our connectedness with all creation, it is vital to deeply understand and put into practice the following social values, which are the basis of Prout’s socio-economic principles:
- The fate of all animate and inanimate objects are interrelated. From the spiritual point of view, every being has a Cosmic inheritance. Hence all sentiments based on caste, creed, religion and race are artificial, illogical and divisive. Human society is one and indivisible. Universalism should be the basis of the socio-economic-political system.
- Human society also includes other living beings. Humans do not have the right to destroy the existence of other living beings for pleasure or for the interest of the industry.
- Neither an individual nor the State has unlimited right to control and accumulate mundane property. However, everybody has the right to use or enjoy the hitherto cultivated or unexploited potentialities of this universe without depriving other beings. Collective ownership should be the basis of the economic system.
- A happy blending of physico-psychic and spiritual potentialities should be fostered by the society.
- Progress in the real sense means evolution of minds towards higher values of life, culminating in the state of freedom, discarding the bondages caused to complexes, dogmas, divisive tendencies and all other limitations.
 Radhakrishnan, Dr. S. (ex-president of India): The Recovery of Faith, Allen and Urdwin Ltd., London 1956
2 Korten, David C: When Corporations Rule the World, Kumarian Press and Brett Koehler Publisher, U.S 1995
3 Stern, Karl: Flight from Woman, New York 1955