THE PROGRESSIVE UTILISATION THEORY
The concept of Progress
It is the innate desire of the human mind to move forward from imperfection to perfection and to eliminate all physical and mental obstructions in the movement towards freedom.
It is in this striving for freedom that the genesis of social progress lies. Although human existence is trifarious – physical, mental and spiritual – generally, the human mind is not conscious of its desire for spiritual freedom. However, the inspiration derived from this unconscious desire also fuels human expression in objective spheres such as social organization, culture, science, art, literature, politics, economics, and others.
The two counterbalanced needs of freedom and the security of life are the two primary desires of human beings. Besides physical security human being also wants emotional security. There are subtler human sentiments such as the striving for happiness through mutual love and acceptance – sentiments which if frustrated may create a psychic crisis. This is quite evident from the growing restlessness in affluent countries. This realization of the primary needs of human beings, of the basic nature of human character, is the foundation of a society. The psycho-social crisis of our times can thus be attributed to the fact that the two prevalent socio-economic systems (capitalism and Marxism) are based on materialism.
Existence and Mental Expantion
The natural desire of human beings is not only to exist but also to expand their psychic horizon to embrace some higher values of life. This is the fundamental difference in psychology between human beings and animals. If human beings can achieve their purpose of expansion, even the cost of sacrificing their existence will not be too great, as proven by those who have given their lives for a noble cause. The human mind expands through the struggle to break free from bondages and servitude, as well as in seeking to transcend the limits of time, space and person…
The momentary fulfilment of sensual pleasure cannot be the measuring stick of progress towards the ultimate goal toward which humans are striving.
A social system must be aimed at helping individuals to achieve this ultimate freedom. If it rather endeavours to suppress any strong human emotion or sentiment in this regard, the people will revolt. It has been observed that in the course of history, one class always tried to dominate those outside its periphery, and the suffering classes ultimately revolted against that domination…
In order to move towards spiritual freedom it is essential to have social freedom. The urge for spiritual freedom motivates human beings to eliminate all obstacles in the physical, psychic and social spheres that obstruct the unfolding of the mind towards real knowledge.
Thus, we see that human beings started their quest for freedom with the struggle for existence, and this continued progressively with struggle against economic disparity, political suppression, and social injustice. Any socio-economic system must hence be judged by its capacity to help human beings attain their cherished goal of freedom. If any socio-economic system fails to lead its members towards ultimate freedom, it cannot claim to be a civilized society in real sense of the term.
In economic terminology every usable commodity has a utility value and in some cases has an exchange value also. All consumable and capital goods have a utility value. The very idea of utility is a variable quantity which changes according to time, place and person. Take a daily newspaper for example – it loses its value after the date has expired. Mica has lost much of their utility value today due to the popularity of plastic goods. Similarly, a bullock cart has no utility value in a developed country. Many rivers have lost their value as sources of drinking water due to pollution. A physics book may have no utility value to a farmer who has no knowledge about the subject.
Utility value is also dependent upon the existing social psychology and culture. In India, an artistic idol of a goddess may be worshipped with pomp and celebration for a day and then thrown into a river, whereas in another country it may be preserved in an art gallery for display. A cow is a source of meat in many countries, but Hindus worship it as a goddess and will not allow it to be butchered. In any materialistic society the worth of human beings is measured by their capacity to contribute to the gigantic system of production.
Prout rejects such limited valuations of human worth.
The scope of utilisation, according to Prout, is not confined to crude physicality. The utilisation of all crude, subtle and causal resources of unit entities and of the universe has to be considered. Considering the physical, psychic and spiritual potentialities of the unit and collective bodies, Prout’s concept of “maximum utilisation,” “balanced utilisation” and “progressive utilisation” will be explained in the following pages. Furthermore, Prout’s idea of valuation is not confined to use or utility value and exchange value. Every inanimate object and animate being has both a utility value and an existential value. Both have equal worth and impact on ecological balance and social stability.
Many creatures may not have any apparent utility value, but they definitely have existential value. Human beings generally preserve those creatures which have an immediate utility value. Take the cows for example: human beings protect them because they have some utility value, whereas horses have mostly lost their utility value and hence, are not protected as usual except for some isolated purpose. Similarly, if milk will be produced by some other means, humans will not hesitate to discard the cows. But this is the blind ignorance of human beings. Those creatures may or may not have lost their utility value, but nobody has the right to say that only human beings have the right to live and non-humans do not. All creatures have existential value, although they may not fulfil the immediate need to human beings, or we may not be aware of their intrinsic value. This existential value is sometimes specific, sometimes collective and sometimes both. It may be mentioned here that non-human creatures have the same existential value as human beings.
The prevalent idea of utility is confined to its objective value, that is, consumption and exchange values. Utilisation however does not only consider utility and exchange values, but also subjective value.
The maximum utilisation of mundane resources without caring for their existential value and utter disregard of neo-humanistic essence, has escalated violence, tension, and the insanity of the arms race. It has disturbed ecological balance, encouraged greed and envy, and created alienation in the human mind. The whole social character has degenerated to its lowest level.
In his book ‘Small Is Beautiful’, E.F. Schumacher wrote: “Economy as a content of life is a deadly illness, because infinite growth does not fit into a finite world. That economy should not be the sum of life, has been told to mankind by many great teachers; that can be as evident today. If one wants to describe the deadly in more detail, one can say that it is similar to addiction, like alcoholism or drug addiction. It does not matter too much whether this addiction appears in a more egotistical or altruistic form, whether it seeks satisfaction only in a crude materialistic way or also in an artistically, culturally, or scientifically refined way. Poison is poison, even if wrapped up in silver paper. If the spiritual culture of inner man is neglected, then selfishness, like capitalism, fits this orientation better than a system of love for one’s fellow beings”.1
That is why PROUT proposes to develop the branch of psycho-economics where a system for the utilisation of subtler human potentialities will be encouraged, in order to find a balanced approach to human progress.
The Characteristics of a Theory
A theory for social reconstruction must be based on the nature and essence of human character and our relation to the environment.
The practicality of a system depends upon the correct analysis of individual nature, collective psychology, objective and subjective needs and the correct understanding of availability of resources.
We need a socio-economic political theory that is based on the ideals of universalism. Human society is one and indivisible. Any problem in any part of the world is the problem of the whole human society. Society has the responsibility, not only for human beings, but for all living beings as well – animals and plants must not be neglected. We must endeavour to create an environment which guarantees the security and dignity of all living beings, and at the same time ensure the all round progress of each and every individual.
The criteria of the growth of a civilisation lie in its evaluation of subtle or aesthetic values. There was a time when human beings used to eat meat by just roasting it in a fire and then holding it with their hands. Then, over the course of time and with the development of refined attitudes, they decided to cut their food into pieces, arrange it on plates, and use a spoon, fork or chopsticks, and wash their hands with soap. Similarly, from living in caves humans gradually learnt to build houses, furnish and decorate them. In all spheres of life, the collective evolution of aesthetic taste is the measure of the advancement of a civilisation.
Human beings strive for higher values of life such as mutual love and cooperation. The advancement of civilisation can be ensured not only by improving the means of production, but also by utilising all the crude, subtle and causal resources of the universe to accelerate a balanced growth in the physical, psychic and spiritual spheres. Different dimensions of human existence can be categorised as physical, physico-psychic or psycho-physical, psychic and psycho-spiritual.
Considering the different levels of existence, the entire resources of the universe can be categorised as crude, subtle or causal. The entire multitude of resources are hidden in potential form in the Cosmic Mind, either within the crude layers of matter, within the subtle layers of mind, or in the spiritual layer of the Causal Body. Similarly, every unit human existence has three potentialities – physical, metaphysical (intellectual) and spiritual (intuitional).
Crude or mundane potentiality consists of all the resources in the material level: the solid, liquid, luminous, aerial and etherial factors. More precisely, they are land, water (rivers, oceans, etc.), solar energy, atmospheric resources, the etherial field, and all associated energies – light, heat, magnetism, electricity, atomic energy, et al.
The subtle or supra-mundane potentiality is the silver lining between the psycho-spiritual and the spiritual strata of existence. This includes all subtle knowledge which is not perceived through sensory experience, but is conceived through inner experience, such as telepathy, clairvoyance, aesthetic and super-aesthetic knowledge, intuitional faculty, occult power, cardinal values, and higher emotional values.
Spiritual potentiality is the subtle flow of consciousness, which encompasses the entire universe. The objective expression of this potentiality can be experienced when it is personified in the form of love, unity, courage, service, sacrifice, and other creative potentiality and emotions. Spirituality should not be equated with religion which is a dogma.
Physical potentiality is the physical potentiality of a unit living being, while metaphysical potentiality is the intellectual potentiality of the unit mind.
The Five Fundamental Principles of PROUT
1. No individual should be allowed to accumulate any physical wealth without the clear permission or approval of the collective body.
This principle defines our social outlook towards physical wealth. Physical wealth means material wealth – the moveable and immovable property of this universe. Matter means the solid, liquid, luminous, aerial and etherial factors. The material wealth of this universe is limited, and even more limited when one considers that human beings at present can only acquire material wealth on this planet. Since this material is limited, the right to accumulate it should be restricted. This philosophy is quite different from capitalist or socialist philosophies in connection with property rights. Capitalism is based on the right of the individual to unlimited accumulation, whereas socialism advocates state ownership of property. In both cases, the result is centralized control over property and economy.
PROUT introduces a new concept: that no one in reality owns anything permanently. Prout believes in the collective inheritance of property: everyone has the right to utilise it, but in actual fact nobody owns anything. So, neither the individual nor the state has the absolute right of ownership of property. All mundane, supra-mundane and spiritual property is the joint property of the society as a whole.
In order to facilitate proper utilisation, some accumulation of material wealth is allowed, but in a restricted sense, by taking into account minimum requirements and the capacity of utilisation as prescribed by the “collective body” or the civic society. However, accumulation in the intellectual and spiritual spheres is not restricted, because these kinds of wealth are unlimited (see next chapters for details).
2. There should be maximum utilisation and rational distribution of all mundane, supra-mundane and spiritual potentialities of this universe.
PROUT’s economy is based on the conception of maximum utilisation of not only mundane property, but also supra-mundane and spiritual properties which are still in potential form. With the maximum utilisation of mundane property, the problem of minimum requirements can be solved. Non-utilisation and misuse of mundane property is to be avoided. Mundane property includes the solid, liquid, luminous, aerial and etherial factors.
The potentialities concealed in land, water, sun, air and ether are yet to be utilised to their maximum capacity for human welfare. When wealth becomes unused due to the hoarding by a few, millions suffer. This is non-utilisation of mundane wealth. While millions are starving around the world, vast resources are wasted to build war materials. This is the misuse of mundane resources.
Mundane property is limited. Its over-accumulation by a few individuals may cause millions to suffer. There should be a rational distribution of mundane property. After guaranteeing everyone’s minimum requirements, the excess property should be distributed according to each person’s qualifications, effort, and contribution to society. The needs of human beings are not all the same; they vary according to changes in time, place and person.
Although there will be a gap between the minimum and maximum incomes, efforts should be made to minimize that gap. There should also be efforts to raise the standard of living. These are the motivating forces behind economic growth. However, this gap will never be eliminated completely, otherwise it would cause stagnancy in economic growth. Economic incentives are an essential factor to create motivation for economic progress.
The difference between this proutistic approach and that of capitalist and communist economies is obvious. Both in capitalist and communist states there is a wide income gap and the benefits of economic growth are enjoyed by just a few. In communist countries, Party bosses used to enjoy economic surpluses at the cost of the labour force.
Supra-mundane property refers to the potentialities in the causal layers of the mind. All these subtle potentialities can be acquired directly by the unit mind only, and not through the sensory organs or with the help of the brain. Subtle knowledge includes telepathy, clairvoyance, aesthetic and supra-aesthetic science, and intuition.
Spiritual property constitutes the collective flow of the spiritual wave. This can be utilised to create a spiritual environment in the society to evolve the subtler human qualities and aesthetic and super aesthetic values. For rational distribution of supra-mundane and spiritual potentialities, opportunities have to be created for every individual to acquire those potentialities.
3. There should be maximum utilisation of the physical, metaphysical and spiritual potentialities of the unit and collective body of human society.
Physical property denotes the physical capacity of any unit or collective body, while the metaphysical property of an individual implies their intellectual and intuitional property. This principle indicates the maximum utilisation of these potentials, enabling individuals to get the fullest scope to develop their potentials and utilise them for the progress of human society.
Similarly, in any society different groups possess particular talents. Some groups have the talent to produce art and music, and some have the talent of inventing new technologies. Each will be encouraged to express their potentialities and utilise them for the welfare of the entire human society.
No knowledge or power should remain the monopoly of any individual or group, and care must be taken to avoid intellectual and spiritual exploitation. Spiritual potentiality means the subtler human qualities. By reorienting the education system these qualities can be nurtured and developed.
4. There should be a proper adjustment amongst these physical, metaphysical, mundane, supra-mundane and spiritual utilisations
The balanced utilisation of all aspects of life is the spirit of this principle. Overemphasis on any aspect of life may cause an unbalanced development of the individual personality and of the society too. The Eastern world is suffering due to
overemphasis on the subjective approach to life, whereas the Western world has given too much importance to economic and technological aspects and has neglected the subjective dimension. In the case of the individual, a balanced development of physical, psychic and spiritual aspects are essential for an integrated growth of personality.
In the modern world, there is a lack of parallelism between mundane, supra-mundane and spiritual utilisations. For instance, half the population of a country may be starving, while millions of dollars are spent to build luxury goods and war materials. While building industries, care must be taken about the environmental effects and about any possible pollution of the atmosphere which could be detrimental to health and create environmental hazards like global warming.
Intellectual property is more valuable than physical property, and spiritual property most valuable of all. Those who have a highly developed physical capacity should utilise that physical capacity to the maximum, but at the same time they should get the opportunity to develop their intellectual and spiritual potentialities. Those whose intellectual capacity is more pronounced than the other two qualities, should utilise that ability to its maximum. Among those in whom spiritual potentiality is more prominent, this should ideally be utilised to its optimum capacity. However, the proper development of the personality needs a parallelism in all three spheres of life.
5. The method of utilisation should vary in accordance with the changes in time, place and person and the utilisation should be of a progressive nature.
While the principle itself does not change, the policy of utilisation will change in accordance with changes in time, place and person. In the material world, due to the continual advance of science, considerable changes take place in methods of utilisation; for instance, different synthetic yarns are replacing cotton goods. Similarly there are changes in ideas, thoughts and lifestyles.
A particular social, political and economic system contains a certain usefulness in a particular environment and psychological situation, but with changes in time place and people, it will gradually lose its relevance. All symbolic expressions are relative in nature; if they fail to change, they become dogmas. Even today, we find such fossilised systems still exist behind crumbling philosophical facades in the religious, social, political and economic spheres. These dogmas are the perennial cause of exploitation in the society. Take religious codes, for example: religions evolved in particular eras and psychological conditions, but today, as the socio-psychological conditions have changed, these age-old systems and laws have no more relevance.
The renaissance movement was a revolt against both the religious institutions and the monarchical system. It brought about scientific inventions and the discovery of new continents, the evolution of socio-political and economic philosophies, economic theory and colonial expansion which gave birth to capitalism in Europe. Again, within a century, capitalism was challenged with socialist thought. Marxism was born when scientific evolution started its journey, yet it subsequently transmuted into Leninism, Stalinism, Maoism and finally Euro communism. Communism, once heralded as a tool for breaking the chains of the labouring classes, became rigidified into a formalism and dogmatism which was misused for cementing power, justifying tyranny and violating human conscience. As a natural consequence, after the revolt of intellectuals and workers, communism collapsed in Eastern Europe. Today, an extreme form of monopoly capitalism is in the process of imposing its domination on the globe. However, both liberal democracy and capitalism are the concepts of previous centuries and will ultimately collapse into oblivion.
Human civilization continues to pass through different eras. The evolution of rationality and conscious intellect will continue to oppose all forms of dogmas. Human beings are starting to realize that it is self-defeating to encourage any narrow sentiment based on tribalism, casteism, nationalism, religion, racism or gender. Humanistic ideals are appearing to replace the narrow ideas of the past. Yet this humanistic essence is not the last word in social awakening.
We have to remember that this universe is not the patrimony of human beings alone. Other living beings have the same right to survive as do humans. To solve all physical, economic and social problems is the joint responsibility of the entire human society. This age of ours is the age of Neo-Humanism. In a just society, no individual should get the scope to think that she or he has been neglected.
Everything is transitory in this relative universe. Our movement is an effort to restore an unstable equilibrium. According to Shrii P.R. Sarkar, in this progressive movement, pure spiritual stance is the goal, Neo-Humanism is the ideal, and the state where there is a happy blending of physical, intellectual and spiritual movement, is the way.
The 21st century is awaiting to embrace the effulgent appearance of Neo-Humanism, surmounting all narrow sentiments that have tried so far to restrain human progress.
1. Schumacher, E.F. Small is Beautiful, Harper & Row, N.Y. 1973
2. Sarkar, P.R. Microvitum in a Nutshell, A.M. Publications, Calcutta 1988.