Ac. Krtashivananda Avt.
Human history is not a series of secular happenings without any shape or direction; it is an evolutionary process, a meaningful development. Those who observe the peripheral movement are carried away by the wars and battles, economic disorder, and political upheavals. But the real drama is acted out in its inner layer, where the conflict between the limited effort of human beings and the sovereign purpose of the universe generate the momentum for progress.
History – an evolution of collective psychology
The quest for freedom is the genesis of social evolution. Human beings cannot rest in unresolved discord. The search for harmony, the striving for adjustment, and the struggle to move forward in all dimensions of existence – physical, mental and spiritual – are the natural characteristics of human psychology. The destiny of the human race, as of the individual, depends on the direction of its life forces, the lights, which guide it, and the values that mould it.
The real essence of progressive movement is from imperfection to perfection, from bondage to freedom. Security of life and satisfaction from sensory pleasures or the intellect are not the end point of human endeavour. Subtler human sentiments, like the happiness derived from harmony, love and the unity of the human soul, have inspired the human race for ages to search for spiritual dimensions of life.
In the early phase of human history, the struggle for existence against the vagaries of nature started their progressive march, and we have continued it progressively by struggles against social injustice, political subjugation, economic disparity, cultural regimentation and psychic suppression. Different social organizations, political and cultural institutions evolved to provide physical and psychic security and to fulfil the spiritual need of liberation of the soul.
For the first time in history, through the influence of science and technology, our planet and its inhabitants have become parts of one whole affected by each other. Economic and political phenomena are compelling us to treat the world as one unit. Yet the sense that humankind must become one community is a casual whim, a vague aspiration, and not generally accepted as a conscious ideal. Attempts to bring about human unity by creating political systems through force have proved abortive.
Even today we find that in the souls of humans there are clashing tides of colour, race, nation, religion, and gender which continue to create mutual antagonisms, myths and dreams that divide human society into hostile camps. These conflicts in human affairs are due to divisions in the human soul. It is essential at this juncture to judge why existing cultural influences and socio-economic systems have failed to lead human beings toward their cherished goal of freedom. Let us look back and trace the ideas, which rule the present.
The spiritual essence of Tantra, the social character of the Vedas, and the human compassion and nihilistic attitude of Buddhist culture synthesized to form the basis of Indo-Aryan culture. The foundation of religion and social belief in ancient India was influenced by Tantra. About 7000 years ago Lord Shiva systematized Tantra, which then became the foundation of Indo-Aryan civilization.
Tantra is not only an intuitional science, but also enriched knowledge, applied psychology, medicine, astronomy, music and dance, and moral and social values. Tantra also challenged the geo- and socio-sentiments of the Aryans and introduced a humanistic social outlook. By systematizing Tantra Shiva laid the foundation for the synthesis of Aryan, Dravidian and Mongolian culture.
The Vedas laid the foundation of philosophical knowledge expounded in later years. It also introduced ritualistic religion, social structure and codes and the caste system. After a few thousand years of confrontation, the Tantric and Vedic cultures synthesized.
Krishna was born about 3500 years ago in the setting of the philosophical beliefs of prapattivad, which postulates that behind every action or movement is divine intervention. Simultaneously two other schools emerged to challenge the concept of prapattivad–one that could be called “anti-prapattivad” and one that was neutral to prapattivad.
Krishna observed that the incorrect interpretation of prapattivad had created a passive psychology that was a negation to action. He also observed the useless ritualistic practices of the Vedic system. In opposition to both of these attitudes he introduced his philosophy of action, which was to fight against injustice (adharma). His spiritual teachings were influenced by Tantra, and his philosophy shows the influence of the Upanishads, the part of the Vedas concerned with knowledge. He also wanted to establish one Indian Nation by uniting the smaller principalities and kingdoms.
The religions of the world can be distinguished between those that emphasize the object and those, which insist on experience. The first type rests on an attitude toward a power without, something not part of the self. The Indo-Aryan and Buddhist religions, on the other hand, attach supreme value to experience transforming the individual self into the divine. For the latter religion is salvation.
In Indo-Aryan society religion in the sense of salvation has been the prime urge, the basis of its civilization and the striving force of its culture and the expression – in spite of its tragic failures, inconsistencies, contradictions and decadence – of its life in God. Belief and conduct, rituals and ceremonies, authorities and dogma are assigned a place subordinate to the art of conscious self-discovery and divine experience.
One thousand years later, when social discrimination based on caste divisions and meaningless ritualistic observances in the name of religion were strangling the vitality of society, Buddha appeared to protest against ritualism, racial prejudice and social discrimination and encouraged human compassion, love, self-restraint, and emphasized spiritual emancipation. He laid out the eightfold path to attain Nirvana. Buddhism synthesized with Indo-Aryan culture to change its psychological character.
Under the influence of Buddhism, five subdivisions of Tantric culture developed – Shakta Tantra, Vaesnav Tantra, Shaeva Tantra, Saura Tantra and Ganapatya Tantra. After Buddha, Buddhism was also divided, into two parts – one, the Northern school, called Mahayan, which spread over China, Tibet, Japan, Thailand, the Philippines, Malaysia and Indonesia; and two, the Southern school called Hinyan, which spread over India, Nepal, Sri Lanka and Burma. Mahayan accepted the existence of the soul, whereas Hinyan rejected the idea. Both continued to emphasize spiritual emancipation or Nirvana as the prime purpose of life.
Buddha gave much importance to spiritual emancipation, but his philosophy was a negation of life. He never cared to create a strong social structure or concern himself with physical development. His was a philosophy of abnegation in which it is not possible to find any charm in life. This negation created a passive psychology and nihilism in India in later years.
About 1300 years ago Shankaracharya appeared. With the aim of purging Buddhism from India, he revived Pauranic Dharma (traditional religion) in a new form. His philosophy of monism created a greater degree of negation than Buddhism, however, by declaring the world to be an illusion. Simultaneously with a quite cunning pseudo-sentimental strategy that actually contradicted his monistic philosophy he introduced four pillars of Pauranic Dharma: the supremacy of the Brahmins, the idea of the king as a divine incarnation, and the divinity of the cow and the Vedas. His efforts revived a religious dogma that had the effect of inducing a passive outlook towards life and causing social disintegration. Soon after Shankaracharya the so-called lower castes and women lost their social, religious and economic rights. This philosophy is the reason why India and the whole of Southeast Asia were in later years subjugated by Mughal, British and French imperialism. Today caste conflict and social disintegration in India can be attributed to the folly of Shankaracharya.
The decline of Buddhism in India can be attributed to its nihilist philosophy, the loss of support from the kings, a lack of ingredients for creating a strong social structure, and an emphasis on strict codes for monks and nuns but a lack of them for householders.
The Pauranic Dharma of Shankaracharya suppressed society so strongly that it suffocated its social consciousness. The spring-like natural flow of society was converted into a stagnant pool of parasites. In this period the Pathans (Muslims) entered India. The Pauranic Dharma’s defective psychology, defective values and its policy of excommunication compelled its victims to take shelter in the Islamic faith, which they to some extent found more humanistic. This Pauranic Dharma later came to be known as the Hindu religion.
With the advent of Guru Nanak in northwest India, Kabir in the north, and Caetanya Mahaprabhu in Bengal Islamic conversion was checked. The humanistic essence and devotional touch of their philosophies gave a soothing touch to millions who took shelter under their religions.
After the downfall of Muslim power, the British entered India and ultimately took hold of its reins. This became the darkest period in Indian history, and India looked like it had lost all its dynamism.
In the nineteenth century, tearing through the veil of darkness, a great personality, Raja Ranmohan Roy, the father of the Bengali Renaissance appeared in Bengal with the effulgent lamp of enlightenment in his hand. He initiated a movement known as Brahma Samaj. Brahma Samaj was directed against the sati system (the burning of widows), multiple marriage, child marriage, idolatry and casteism. He also fought for the economic rights of women and introduced educational rights for them. Later, Ramakrishna, Vivekananda, Ramtirtha, Ravindranath Tagore and others revolted against the heartless character of Hindu religion and to some extent revived its humanistic essence. The freedom movement against British domination was born in the bosom of this cultural and psychological awakening.
The impact of the Brahma Samaj movement was greatest in Bengal. Within 100 years of its inception we find: the abolition of child marriage and multiple marriage, the removal of obstructions to women’s education, the introduction of marriage for widows, and the shattering of the four pillars of Pauranic Dharma–Brahmin, king, cow and Vedas. Hindu society got a new lease on life. But in north and west India Pauranic Dharma continued its influence, though in lesser intensity. The caste politics of northern India (the “cow belt”) and acceptance of dynastic rule (the Nehru family) in Delhi can be understood against this background.
The Islamic religion has the same historical background as Judaism and Christianity. Like Jews and Christians, Muslims also believe in the myth that only one religion can be true. Those who do not believe in the Koran, the holy book of Islam, are declared as non-believers, or kafirs. Like Christians they developed their passion for world domination and converted non-believers even through intimidation. Declaring Hajrat Muhammad to be the last prophet and the Koran and Hadish as the last words on knowledge, they shut off all possibilities for the evolution of knowledge. In the last 200 years the world has experienced tremendous progress in the fields of science, literature, and music as well as in social, economic and political thinking. But the contributions of Islamic society in this regard remain negligible. The scope of the Islamic world has remained confined to establishing an Islamic Nation and to obeying the Shariat, laws that severely curtail the freedom of women and non-believers.
During the last 900 years interaction between Islamic society and Hindu society has remained negligible. The contradictions in philosophy, faith, social customs, outlook on life, and even in the perception of history are quite evident. There has been no effort by either community to initiate a social synthesis through marriage or by any other means. Strong mistrust between the two communities resulted in the bloody partition of India in 1947, and occasional communal conflict remains an inevitable phenomenon.
The narrow, dogmatic character of Islamic religion is a stumbling block to social synthesis. Whether on the Indian subcontinent, in the Middle East, the Philippines or the Balkan states, the Islamic community is at daggers drawn with the other religious communities.
Chinese civilization, in turn, is a synthesis of Taoism – that is, Tantra, Confucianism and Buddhism. Tantra gave a spiritual approach to life, Confucianism introduced social values and customs, and Buddhism contributed human compassion along with its negation of life. The philosophy of dualism expressed in the yin and yang concept has had great influence on the philosophical doctrines of China and its collective psychology.
It is essential to note that neither India nor China developed a viable socio-economic principle or political process based on their spiritual values. Consequently, western socio-economic ideas – either democracy, capitalism or communism – have had great effect on the collective psychology of the Orient and at the same time opened the doors to economic exploitation and political subjugation.
Western civilization is based on three foundations: the scientific attitudes of Greek culture, and the organizational bent and imperialistic tendencies of Roman culture, and the religious aspect of Jewish culture.
The essence of Greek science was to analyse and explore, to test and prove theories about phenomena in the light of reason. Their main concern was to understand human beings in their full reality. Physical desires and mental powers should get free and full scope for expression. All dimensions should develop in such a way as to produce a harmony in which no part tyrannizes the rest.
To the Greeks happiness and success had a limited meaning. Aristotle defined happiness as “Prosperity combined with virtue, or independence of life, or that existence which, being safe, is pleasant; or a flourishing state of prosperity and of body, with the faculty of guarding and producing this; for it may be said that all men allow happiness to one or more of these things.”
The Greeks were not famous for their religious genius or moral fervour. Neither were they concerned with anything mystic or did they have any curiosity about the eternal or any passionate indignation against injustice. Religious beliefs were useful for political purposes. It is true that in the pre-Socratics, Pythagoras, Plato, the Orphics and the Neoplatonists mystic elements were found, but these tendencies by no means represented the Greek spirit.
The essence of Greek consciousness was their devotion to the city-state. Greek patriotism centred around the city-state as well. Since each city had a consciousness of its own superiority, the Greeks failed to unite the Greek world into a whole. Conflict, war and military conquest were frequent phenomena appearing in the wake of the political ambitions of Greek rulers. The collapse of Greek civilisation can be attributed to their adherence to the false religion of patriotism. According to A.J. Toynbee, “This state worship was the spiritual disease that Hellenism died of.” While it gave Europe the curiosity to pursue knowledge, rationality and reasoning and the analytical approach, it also left a negative legacy, which considered patriotism the highest virtue. The encouragement of nationalism based on geo-sentiment was ultimately the motive force behind wars, conquest and colonial expansion.
Rome succeeded Greece with the aura of a powerful empire. Roman conquests imposed unity on a large part of Europe and gave Europe a civilization based on its laws and language as well as a sense of organization and the concept of social utility. It also influenced the emergence of a socio-political character, which encouraged colonial domination based on racial, geographical and social sentiments.
Rome inherited the spiritual legacy of Greece. This was practised for political expediency rather than the fulfilment of spiritual longing. Difference provinces of Rome had their own religious forms and practices and despised the religions of their neighbours. Rome’s military conquests brought her into contact with other communities and her spiritual poverty exposed her to different religious influences. After a period of struggle Christianity set in.
The influence of religion
The conversion of Constantine gave official recognition to the victory of Christianity. Christianity retained the Jewish belief in a living God, a patriarchal social order, and its passion for righteousness and justice. It also absorbed Greek thought and the Roman tradition. Both Judaism and Christianity are based on faith and revelation. To Greek thinkers God was the “Idea of the Good,” “The First Mover,” “The Ruling Principle,” “Reason or Logos,” whereas for the Jews and Christians God is a supreme person who reveals His will to His lawgivers and prophets. The Jews believe that some great decisive event will solve their historical problem. The Messianic idea, which is the determining factor in Jewish history, survived in Christianity also. The synthesis of Greek and Jewish conceptions of history can be traced into Christianity. But the Jewish emphasis on the historical and the Christian doctrine of incarnation are difficult to reconcile with the absolute and non-historical character of the Godhead. There was an attempt in the theological writings of Thomas Aquinas to build a system of Christian theology based on Aristotle’s logic; however, this theology failed to explain the relation of history and divine life because at bottom the concept of evolution is incompatible with Christian consciousness.
When ethics or righteousness are practised because they are ordained by God with no relevance to history, logical support or spiritual justification, it leads to dogma. Such belief may give definiteness, conviction and urgency to the ethical message, but it shuts the door on progress.
Jews propagated the myth that only one religion could be true, but did not feel that they had a mission to convert the world. Christianity inherited the ethical passion of the Jews, the logical explanations of spiritual mysteries of the Greeks, and the organizational aptitude of the Romans which they used to institutionalize religion. The simple faith of Jesus was transformed into a fierce creed that had as one of its tenets the conversion of the world. After the time of Constantine, religious and secular authorities displayed systematic intolerance towards other religions with the slogan, “He that is not with me is against me, and he that gathered not with me, scattereth.” Naturally under the shadow of such a doctrine social dynamism declined, and intellectual curiosity diminished.
The primitive church supported the doctrine that the state is a divine creation. Though at the end of the fifth century the Roman Empire declined and the political unity was lost, cultural unity was sustained to some extent by the Holy Roman Empire. Great personalities of the Middle Ages like Charlemagne, Otto, Barbarossa, Hildebrand, Aquinas and Dante believed in one Church and one Empire. The last remains of the Roman Empire collapsed with the fall of Constantinople to the Turks in 1453.
Medieval Christianity gave to Europe a sense of reality of the divine; it defined the process of right conduct and the destiny of man. Intellectual query and artistic aptitude, which had been confined within the objective form of nature, found a new dimension in the search for divine form. Simultaneously it also imposed on Europe a religious dogma that stifled intellectual inquiry and promoted obscurantism.
But infinite mental potentiality cannot remain confined within the narrow fences of dogma for long. The desire for freedom eventually lifted the shadows of antiquity from the Middle Ages. The natural thought of the ancient Greeks and their idea of reasoning power and analysis again began to attract attention. The scholastic movement prepared the way for a rationalistic revival, and at the same time perception of the interrelationships between the human and the divine gained force. Dante explained that divine providence has set before man two ends: blessedness in this life, which consists in the execution of his natural powers, and the blessedness of eternal life, which consists in the realization of God. The belief that religion and humanism are complementary to each other gained momentum. This recognition prepared the way for the belief in the perfectibility of human beings and society, which led to another dogma.
Luther challenged the authority of the Catholic Church and put the Bible in place of an infallible Church. The Protestant movement, by giving people a desire for freedom, removed certain psychic complexes and mental inertia; this stimulated a revolt against institutionalism (the Catholic Church in this case), but not against religion. Later, the discoveries of science challenged the basis of religion itself, which ultimately neutralized the authority of religious doctrines and the influence of religious institutions.
The Renaissance: emergence of a capitalist society
The Renaissance is the age of disintegration and rebirth. The religious orientation of the Middle Ages decayed, and a new world of Luther and Calvin, Copernicus and Columbus, Galileo and Descartes, Hobbes and Locke, Newton and Rembrandt was born. The history of the last four hundred years in Europe has been a simultaneous achievement of social reform, cultural evolution, political freedom, economic prosperity and intellectual advancement. Consequently, there was a decline in the influence of traditional religion, moral values and a cohesive social order and integrated family relations. The goal of the Renaissance was to liberate Europe from the regimentalism of authoritative religion and the trappings of “the divine rights of kings,” i.e., the state. A new civilization, based on three Greek contributions–rationalist philosophy, humanist ethics and nationalist politics – emerged. But the spiritual foundation of life, the sense of mental security contained in religious faith, was severely shaken.
With an aim to rehabilitate the human spirit, science started on its unfettered journey. Philosophical thought was moulded by the prestige of science. Truth was to be contained only in that which can be recognized clearly and distinctively. Knowledge was defined as a result of the intellectual analysis of our sensual experience. What is unclear and mysterious is not true. Metaphysics should be strict science and contain no ambiguity.
Spinoza formed his idea of metaphysics from geometrical propositions. He treated God, understanding and human emotion as if they were circles and triangles. Kant doubted the possibility of a science of metaphysics with a similar logical structure, that of mathematics and natural science. For Hegel, philosophy was the self-development of the Spirit, its natural and necessary unfolding. The English school of empiricism rejected all ideas, which do not correspond to actual facts, that is, any propositions that lie beyond the scope of sensory experience. Thus we find that the infallibility of scientific reason replaced the infallibility of the Church.
To awaken human consciousness with a spontaneous expression of life was the aim of the humanist thinkers of the Renaissance. Their aim was to escape from a life regulated by the rigid ecclesiastical tradition into one of joyous freedom and unfettered spontaneity. Worldly life, which is confined to sensual and intellectual satisfaction, became the object of all striving and action. The concepts of “civil liberty”, “freedom of expression,” “adult franchise;” and “free enterprise” opened up new vistas of freedom to western society. Political philosophers such as Hobbes, Locke, Rousseau, and Hegel proposed new politico-economic systems based on the concept that “human beings are born free.” This concept has become what is now called the philosophy of liberalism.
Today, however, there are doubts and questions being raised about liberalism and its definition of freedom. Though the divine right of kings and the regimentation of the Catholic Church were challenged, the ritualistic character of Catholicism was not changed. The only thing that happened in this regard was that the State or Nation replaced the institution of the Church, and God was replaced by another suprapersonal entity – capital. Freedom from convention was mistaken for real freedom. Hence real freedom remained an obscure chimera. A matter-centred philosophy had come into being that ignored human emotions and failed to recognize the spiritual urge.
As a result the feudal society of the Medieval Era collapsed and a new money economy heralding the era of economic individualism and the promise of modern industrialism emerged. With the consequent increase in the mechanization of life under capitalism, the human relationship between employer and employee become impersonal. Direct personal authority disappeared and human beings began to submit to more anonymous authority. With the decay of human obligation, the employee turned into a mere commodity.
Capitalism is based on the principle of “the use of man by man.” To fulfil the need for production a gigantic superstructure with its bureaucratic apparatus developed as a powerful external authority. Submission to this authority became the inevitable compulsion of this era, leading to the psychic ailment of self-alienation.
The qualitative or money value or an object is of prime concern in capitalist society, far more than its qualitative or aesthetic value. This psychic attitude confines the thought process within the narrow feeling of the material object, and this ultimately leads to mechanization of life. That satisfaction of physical needs cannot bring real satisfaction has been proven by the predominance of psychic ailments in western society.
An idolatrous man spends his energy and his artistic capacities building an idol. He then worships this idol, which is not experienced as an inseparable part of his life, but as something apart from himself, to which he submits. Every act of submissive worship is an act of alienation and idolatry. In Rousseau’s theory of the state, as in contemporary totalitarianism, the individual is supposed to abdicate his own rights and project them onto the state as the only arbiter. In fascism and Stalinism the absolutely alienated individual worships at the altar of the idol of the state, class or collective.
Capitalist influence did not remain confined to the means of production. By controlling the educational, cultural, social and political institutions and the mass media and enacting a legal process they influenced the collective psychology of the society. Observing the all-encompassing influence of monopoly capitalism Marx commented that the individual, standing before the power of the establishment, will feel alienated.
In this era of mechanization, alienation is complete. As long as there was a concept of divine power beyond the scope of relativities and there existed the effort for self-realization, the feeling of alienation was not so strong. This is because faith in divine power provided a kind of psychic security. In the religious era, although people submitted to church and temple, a faith in divine power saved them from a feeling of complete self-alienation. But during the capitalist era, especially in western countries, alienation became total because faith in God or something superhuman and divine disappeared and was replaced by a new material god – Capital.
What is the state of the western world today? In the words of Eric Fromm:
“The great promise of Unlimited Progress – the promise of domination over nature, of material abundance, of the greatest happiness for the greatest number and of unimpeded personal freedom – has sustained the hopes and faith of generations since the beginning of the industrial age.”
The achievement of wealth and comfort for all was supposed to result in unrestricted happiness for all. The trinity of unlimited production, absolute freedom, and unrestricted happiness formed the nucleus of a new religion – progress – and a new earthly City of Progress was to replace the City of God. It is not at all astonishing that this new religion provided its believers with energy, vitality and hope. The grandeur of the Great Promise, the marvellous material and intellectual achievements of the industrial age, must be visualized in order to understand the trauma that realization of its failure is producing today. For the industrial age has indeed failed to fulfil the Great Promise, and growing numbers of people are become aware that:
- Unrestricted satisfaction of all desires is not conducive to well being nor is it the way to happiness or even maximum pleasure.
- The dream of being independent masters of our life ended when we began awakening to the fact that we have all become cogs in the bureaucratic machine, with our thoughts, feelings and taste manipulated by the government and industry and the mass communications they control.
- Economic progress has remained restricted to rich nations, and the gap between rich and poor nations has ever widened.
- Technical progress itself has created ecological danger and the danger of nuclear war, either or both of which may put an end to all civilization and possibly all life.
- This materialistic tendency has accelerated the dehumanizing process of modern civilization. Instead of achieving real freedom, new bondages are now suffocating human aspirations.
Human beings have to free themselves from all these bondages. Bondages in the field of religion, law, politics and economics are nothing but self-alienation. To fulfil the need for liberation, the total transformation of society is inevitable and this may be termed “social revolution.”
Socialist society: the unrealized dream of freedom
Thinkers like Proudhon, Bakunin, Marx and Engels all saw the de-humanizing nature of capitalist society and contributed to a new social concept, which we call socialism. According to Eric Fromm, “whether we consider Proudhon, Tolstoy, Baudelaire, Marx or Kroptkin, they all had a concept of man which was essentially a religious and moral one. Man is the end and must never be used as a means; material production is for man, not man for material production; the aim of life is the unfolding of man’s creative power; the aim of history is the transformation of society into one governed by justice and truth. These are the principles on which, explicitly or implicitly, all criticism of modern capitalism was based.”
But has socialism in practice lived up to its theory? At the beginning of the 20th century, we find the frank abandonment of democracy and the adoption of totalitarianism in the form of fascism, Nazism and Stalinism, with promises of socialism. However, what became of the individual in these systems? The individual was made to feel powerless and taught to surrender to the state apparatus. Freedom still remained far away. The political machinery and means of production were snatched from the capitalist class but the ills of capitalist society were not removed. The importance given to the spiritual and moral aspects of individual existence to the power of reasoning and to self-awareness continued to diminish. We can consider this the culminating point of the alienation of the individual.
“This [is because the] inherent potentiality of human character was overlooked by Marx. He did not give any credit to human beings for social evolution or revolution. According to him, it is the forces of production which are the cause of social evolution. But historical events show that economic determinism proved to be a defective pointer of social science,” Fromm opined.
Although Marx was fundamentally a humanist, his theory of economic determinism converted human beings into atomized individuals. M.N. Roy remarked, “Obsessed with the Hegelian organic conception of society, Marx ignored the self-evident truth that society is an association of individuals, that social relations result from the activities of individuals constituting the society. Being human creations, they can be altered by man. Human will and human actions are primary factors of social existence.”
Roy further added, “The dialectic process does not however leave any room for the greatest of revolutionaries, armed with the philosophy of Marxism, to change the world. The irreconcilable contradiction between dialectical materialism and the program of a revolutionary reconstruction of society is the basic fallacy of Marxism. Neither of the conflicting ideas originated in Marx. One was inherited from Hegel and the other from the tradition of the French revolution.”
Overemphasis on the economic aspects of life resulted in the totalitarianism of Stalin. Abolition of individual ownership of property and centralized planning did not bring the “good society” as desired by the prophet. Rather we find more regimentation of people, ruthless exploitation of the working class, obsessional striving for material development and the establishment of a personality cult as an inevitable result of Marxist doctrine, which was evident in the USSR and Mao’s China. The collapse of Soviet Russia and Eastern Europe shows the degree of hatred and reaction that had been generated in the minds of people against communist leadership and the system of Communism. Marx made a great mistake in considering economic factors to be the criteria of social evolution. By doing so, he inadvertently created the basis for a psychology that considers human beings to be nothing more than machines. This meant that individual freedom had to be sacrificed completely at the alter of state authority. It was forgotten that the criterion of any social relation’s value is the extent to which it brings freedom. Although Marx was basically a humanist and advocated human supremacy over the economic factor, his concept of economic determinism limited the scope of an individual for progress towards spiritual freedom, which is complete freedom. Marx started with the idea of liberating human beings from self-alienation, but in a Marxist society alienation is more evident than in a capitalist society. Communism collapsed due to centralization of economic power and the strangulation of individual freedom.
M.N. Roy commented, ”Marxist materialism is dogmatic, unscientific and a negation of morality. Without the recognition of some permanent values, no ethics are possible. If they are not to be found in human nature, morality must have a transcendental sanction. The choice of Marxist materialism, therefore, was between the negation of abiding moral values and relapse into religion. Theoretically it chose the first, although in practice dogmatism also eventually put on it a stamp of religious fanaticism.”
Due to the unscientific base and contradictions of Marxist thought, the communist movement divided into different factions after the Second World War. The model of Euro-communism was definitely a departure from orthodox Marxism, Leninism and Stalinism. The long-term co-existence of public and private property, abolition of the term “proletarian dictatorship,” and acceptance of democratic methods and the maintenance of the status quo of systems that originated in capitalist society are its main features.
In his study of political systems, Santiago Carillo writes that “the political system established in western Europe is based on representative political institutions (parliament, political and philosophical pluralism), the theory of separation of powers, decentralization, human rights, etc. That system will still be more effective with a socialist and not a capitalist economic foundation, in order to make it still more democratic, and bring power closer to the people.”
Revolt against party dictatorship in Eastern Europe and the emergence of democracy announce the triumph of radical humanists. Social democrats in western Europe and communists within or outside the Soviet Union characterized socialism solely as an economic concept, the goal of which was maximum consumption and the maximal use of machines. The idea was to provide the same pleasure of consumption to the whole population that capitalism gave only to a minority. This form of socialism cannot eradicate the dehumanizing process of capitalism, however.
The socio-economic system should not condition human beings; it should adjust in order to fulfil the highest human aspirations for spiritual liberation. A society can be transformed by changing hearts and minds – the collective psychology. Remaining in the roots of the old it is not possible to usher in a new era.
PROUT: a comprehensive ideal
The Progressive Utilization Theory is a comprehensive socio-political principle aimed at revitalizing the socio-economic structure by encouraging the free expression of sentimental legacy, by establishing economic democracy, and through the spiritual orientation of cultural values and social character. Harmonious progress in al three dimensions of life – physical, psychic and spiritual – is the criterion for PROUT in theory and practice. Science has contributed to reducing the physical and cultural gaps between people. A synthesis between races, groups and cultures is already in progress. At this juncture PROUT is proposing recognition of human society as one world community which will enhance spiritual unity within the plethora of diversified cultural expressions. PROUT is also proposing the formation one world nation with one constitutional structure and decentralized economic power. Freedom of expression in the spiritual and intellectual spheres, restricted accumulation of mundane wealth, limited ownership of the means of production, and maximum, balanced and progressive utilization of all mundane, intellectual and spiritual resources will guarantee economic security and real freedom to each member of society.
Today the soul of man no longer rests on a secure foundation. Everything around him is contradictory and uncertain. But the slow death of the old order need not fill us with despair. It is the law of Nature that life comes after death. Every civilization is an expression of some inner realization, an essay in creation, to be discarded upon a new awakening of consciousness.
It is a crime to believe in the ultimate unredressed defeat of humanity. The appearance of the pure self will begin at the sunrise of the new dawn. Invincible humans will move forward on the path of a victorious journey, surmount all obstructions and recover their divine dignity.
From Neo-socialism of the 21st Century
Copyright The author 2011