By Leopoldo Cook, former telecommunications chief of PDVSA, columnist, author, member of Board of Director of PRIV
Translation of his presentation at the First Global Prout Conference in Venezuela, “Building a Solidarity Economy based on Ethics and Ecology”, July 7-9, 2011, Caracas.
Good morning everyone. Thanks to the organizers, those present and those who are listening to us via the Internet. As you see, my subject relates Neo-humanism and Prout to socialism as we see it today. We will review some of Sarkar’s thinking. What is consciousness? How does it develop? How is it rooted in different theories of the development of consciousness. Finally we will reach some conclusions.
We’ll begin by briefly mentioning Sarkar’s thinking. Many of us already know it from the three days of this conference. Prabhat Sarkar of the past century is a great philosopher with holistic thinking. He is the founder of the international movement that brings us here together during these three days. His thinking is holistic. He speaks of the need for a revolution that should be global, holistic, spiritual, socialist and cooperative. For this reason, his thinking encompasses many areas. For example, the study of human essence, the origin of the universe, social psychology and the triangle we are going to study: Neo-humanism, Prout and the Theory of the Social Cycle. In this triangle we identify three elements: Neo-humanism, the Prout philosophy with its economic model, and the historical Theory of the Social Cycle that we will examine later.
First, let’s see what Neo-humanism is. According to Dada Maheshvarananda’s book, After Capitalism, Neo-humanism is a large concept that promotes safety and physical well-being, intellectual stimulation, inspiration and spiritual growth. In essence, it is love and respect for all animate and inanimate beings. As human beings, we tend to be egocentric. Going beyond this implies looking after our family. Next is feeling attachment for our home place or country, what Sarkar calls geo-sentiment, then our society (socio-sentiment). Humanism definitely exceeds all of these. But beyond humanism there is Neo-humanism, which goes beyond the anthropocentric character that we have been submitted to in the last centuries and that currently rules our society.
Let’s talk briefly about Prout. In the afternoon workshop we can go into this in more detail. Again from Dada Maheshvarananda’s book, Prout is a macroeconomic model, designed to develop autonomous socio-economic regions. At the same time it preserves and improves our environment. It is definitely a post-capitalist project. The Prout triangle shows us the three fundamental component: the base is spirituality, of which we have been talking about these days; cooperatives as the fundamental way to own the means of production as suggested by Prout; and self-reliance, that in Venezuela has been called endogenous [grassroots] development.
Let us now discuss consciousness. Let’s go very quickly and start with an idea that Dada Jinanananda talked about yesterday. The book of Elaine de Beauport, The Three Faces of Mind, tells us that we have three brains: reptilian, limbic and neo-cortex. Each one has a different function. The first one, the reptilian brain, the basic one, covers all those qualities that help us to survive, acknowledge patterns and quickly move away from danger. The limbic brain controls emotional intelligence, the emotional mind that has to do with affection, mood, and everything related to motivation. And the most recent, the neocortex, links us with rationality, logic, thought, visual and auditive intelligence, and intuition, which is one of the highest functions of our minds.
Quantic physics also has a lot to do with consciousness. The book, The Quantum Self: Human Nature and Consciousness Defined by the New Physics by Danah Zohar, says that consciousness is the basic property of matter. Consciousness is holistic, not something that comes exclusively from our brain. It is much more complex. Maybe, she says, what makes up the universe goes beyond the relationship of mind and matter, and rather has the twin characteristics of matter and consciousness.
We cannot ignore what Sigmund Freud writes. He divides the mind into conscious, preconscious and unconscious. As in an iceberg, the conscious mind is on top, linking us to the external world. Deeper are the precounscious and the unconscious, which establishes behavior patterns that are not in the control of our will.
Carl Jung, a colleague of Freud, took a different path. He also tells us of the conscious and personal unconscious, but he adds the collective unconscious. This new concept that he introduced is behind the personal unconscious, and which we share in a social way, in a cultural way, with the community.
Yoga, beyond the practice of physical postures (asanas) that we know, is also a philosophy that tells us that we have an instinctive mind, an intellect and a spiritual mind. The first two we have mentioned before, but this is the first time we talk about the spiritual mind. Consciousness, according to yoga, is the light we see of the spirit; however that light is surrounded by some layers of unconsciousness. Such light is hidden to us, but consciousness is like the light of the spirit that we do see. According to Yogi Ramacharaka, a good yoga author: we can think that there are dark glass spheres that do not allow much light to pass through, so our consciousness does not see light clearly.
As we develop ethically and morally, as we read, interact, do social service and volunteer work, our consciousness grows. We peel off that wrapping, those layers from the soul, and we start seeing the light of our spirit more clearly. This is how yoga practically defines consciousness. That is, the light of the spirit we sense. Hence a person with a lower level of consciousness due to his or her development, will do things according to his or her ethics, about which one with a higher level of consciousness would say, “I wouldn’t do that.” But we should not judge, because each one has our own level of developed consciousness.
Finally, regarding consciousness, let’s consider what Noam Chomsky says, who has earlier been quoted in this conference. He tells us how we integrate everything we understand with the concept of the physical. For example, distant attraction. When Newton discovered the law of gravitation, that concept that was a mystery became known and we integrated it to the world of the conscious. In the same way, regarding electromagnetic phenomenon, only after we knew of the existence of photons, with wave-particle duality, were we able to integrate this concept and its laws as part of the physical. Chomsky concludes by saying, “When we start to understand the properties of the mind, simply, I’m sure we will extend the idea of the ‘physical’ to also include these mental processes.” [Language and Politics]
To conclude about consciousness, the human brain is a fundamental support for consciousness, but it definitely isn’t everything. Consciousness is beyond the brain, and holistic.
Now let us see the development of consciousness. Development psychology shows us how individuals grow and gain knowledge, in communities, in societies. I’d like to introduce the Gravesian model of Clare Graves, who died in 1986, a fairly recent model. He tells us that basically we are subject to duality: for every condition of life that we have as groups, there is a mental brain capacity and vice versa. What is the condition of life? It is the way we live, the historic moment we live in, the geographical, social, economic and cultural space – all that context is what we call the condition of life. In a group, for a specific condition of life, there is a corresponding mental capacity. If our life condition changes, our mental and brain capacity tends to change, even morphologically and vice versa. This is what we call a bio-phycho-social system. For example, primitive humans had a specific life condition, and a corresponding way of thinking, a thought system, some paradigms, a way to see the world. Modern humans have a different lifestyle and other life conditions, and so the functions and structure of our brain have changed.
The second postulate of Graves also tells us that people are of two kinds: a kind of people who are willing to sacrifice themselves for the common good, who he called the ‘deny self’ group, who tend to act collectively. On the other hand, there is a group of people who consider expressing themselves to be most important, to tell what they feel, who are called the ‘express self’ group. It is not that one group is better than the other. There are two kinds of people according to this principle, that is, for each life condition there is a corresponding brain condition, a way of thinking, a way to see life.
Then using the concepts of Graves, we can see how his followers assigned colors to each of the bio-phycho-social systems, and they viewed the evolution of society as a cycle that is spiraling upwards to a higher degree of complexity, to a higher degree of consciousness. From the ‘express self’ group to a ‘deny self’ group; then to another ‘express self’ group of a more complex degree, and so forth. Historically, starting with primitive people, there were isolated groups 100,000 years ago; then some 40,000 years ago they formed tribes, a ‘deny self’ group; 10,000 years ago empires grew, determined by the ‘express self’ group; later going upwards in a spiral to a absolutist group 5,000 years ago; then an interactive group to the left 50 years ago. This continues up from ‘express self’ to ‘deny self’ . For example socialism in the Soviet Union can be placed in a group called “egalitarian” that emerged 100 years ago and has been overcome. Then another ‘express self’ group came, and possibly we are talking about what we call socialism in the 21st Century in that scale of the bio-phycho-social system that has emerged very recenttly.
Here we see it from another perspective. How bio-phycho-social system represented by colors are emerging one from the other. As Adalberto Barreto and Didi Ananda Sadhana said, tradition is very important, because each one of them is based on the previous one, always determined by the law that for every life condition there is a corresponding mental capacity.
This afternoon in the workshop we will compare this with Marxism, and we’ll see coincidences and discussion topics that we find in both. It is important what Adalberto said, that tradition is not an obstacle for growth, but on the contrary, each system is built on the others.
Finally I mention Sarkar’s Theory of the Social Cycle, which is another way of explaining how societies function. There are four kinds of typology according to Sarkar: the workers, the warriors, the intellectuals and the traders or merchants. These are typologies, ways of thinking, and in the same cyclical spiral, they are evolving. And according to Sarkar, there is always a social revolution from one cycle to another.
Combining all the ways of thinking by Sarkar, Marx, etc., we can see how society is in evolution, going through various social stages, bio-phycho-social systems, or whatever name we want to call them.
- Neo-humanism and Prout are a complete, holistic and anti-capitalist proposal.
- Consciousness is constantly developed in the universe within the simplest beings up to the most complex ones.
- Because of this, our vision of the world changes and expands.
- Bio-phycho-social systems evolve, history is cyclical and spirals upwards, so there is always a more complex future.
- There are a lot of similarities between Marx and Sarkar. I invite you this afternoon to analyze the relationship among Sarkar, Graves and Marx.
- As a global society, we are changing. Not only are we changing our economic patterns, we are changing our civilization.
- This civilization we can call 21st Century Socialism. Neo-humanism-Prout is the name we want to give it. Only if we work for it we can help history.
[Translated by Eugenio Mendoza and Dada Maheshvarananda]
Copyright The author 2011