|Definition of Culture
Psycho-Economic Exploitation and Pseudo Culture
Three Levels of Capitalistic Exploitation
Dogma versus Dharma
Spirituality and Mental Balance
Geo-sentiments, Socio-Sentiments, and Humanistic Sentiments versus Neo-Humanism
Local and Global Language
The Role of the Arts
Definition of Culture
Our collective life is characterized by our culture and civilization. Culture is to be distinguished from civilization. In the PROUT context, culture connotes the number and variety of human expressions, including beliefs, customs, arts, etc.. Civilization, on the other hand, pertains to the level of humanness and rationality present in the society. An elaborate social structure may represent a high degree of culture, but if it embodies discrimination or exploitation (based on racism, sexism or class oppression) it is uncivilized. Likewise, skillful but superficial art may also exhibit culture but lack in civilization. Hence, one may be cultured but not civilized, or civilized but not cultured. Many indigenous peoples may be relatively "uncultured," i.e. not having a large number of customs, crafts, technologies, etc., but be highly civilized. Similarly we see many scientifically and culturally "advanced" human beings whose demonic behavior has and does display an utter lack of civilization.
According to PROUT, civilization must always take prominence over culture and science. Culture develops naturally as human intellect develops, and it is crucial that it be based upon the solid foundation of civilization. And when science enjoys a higher position than civilization (the case in the Western World, especially, and increasingly in other parts), society is bound to be materialistic and imbalanced. This leads to phenomena like the creation of advanced weaponry while basic problems such as the food needs for much of the world go unsolved. Science which is not at the service of civilized people is antithetical to progress.
PROUT philosophy is based upon a universalistic outlook and seeks to acknowledge unity in human diversity. Hence, Proutists consider human culture to be essentially one entity, with many local variations. These variations should enhance the beauty of the totality rather than create divisions. The fundamental tendencies of the human mind are the same everywhere; but due to various factors, they are expressed in different ways and proportions. In order for true unity to develop, we must honor this diversity while recognizing our inherent similarity as human beings.
Essentially, there is one human culture, with local variations in how it is expressed. This variety in human expression is interpreted as different cultures. The history of humankind has shown that from among the myriad of local cultures a few emerge which try to destroy the cultural expression of other localities in order to put forward their own agenda. Nowadays, we can see that the first world capitalistic countries are attempting to force their way of life, both culturally and economically, on many of the other societies of the world.
One specific type of exploitation which has increasingly been used by capitalists is called psycho-economic exploitation. This often begins with the suppression of the local language and culture by the foreign invader. In the past foreign invaders have done this by force. Imperialists used superior weapons to invade and conquer the lands of others and even enslave the population. They told the defeated people, "Your culture is primitive, your religion is defective, your language is unsophisticated." Colonialists have used both violence and the imposition of inferiority complex to break people's will to resist. By the end of the Second World War, the world's people became increasingly intolerant of the violence and injustice of colonialism. Hence, capitalists have developed more clever techniques to continue their exploitation of newly independent countries.
To supplant local cultures, pseudo-culture is imposed. Pseudo-culture refers to that set of ideas, actions and products that paralyze the collective outlook of a people and prepare them for economic exploitation. On the surface it may resemble culture, yet it is antithetical to it. Such pseudo-culture consists of many things which might seem to make life more pleasurable than was the case under the previous native culture, but in fact it serves to undermine the resolve of the indigenous people. The widespread dissemination of "consumer culture," with its appeal to material pleasures ultimately has a debilitating effect psychologically and spiritually. It also lowers the resistance of those who try to maintain their cultural heritage. Over the last decades, cultural diversity has suffered tremendously as local cultures are drawn into a "global market" dominated by corporate pseudo-culture. Fast food franchises and the sex and violence of "pop" culture are challenging indigenous cultures throughout the world.
In psychological terms, pseudo-culture has a devastating effect on personality. Advertisements of many products project an image of making life more "modern" and "pleasurable" than in the previous native culture. They make people want to be rich and whiteto enjoy the glamour they see projected in advertisements and television. One of the results is that third world children see their parents as poor and backward and their culture as primitive. The tragic result of the loss of local culture and local economy is the hundreds of thousands of runaway children and prostitutes on the streets of the world's cities.
Pseudo-culture also breaks the will of indigenous people to resist those who would rob them of their natural resources. For example, the imposition of a foreign tongue and mode of dress can cause a people to regard their own native language and dress as in some way inferior to that of the intruder. The psychological effect is that not only is the intruding culture seen as superior, but the native people may become, to a greater or lesser extent, paralyzed in resisting it. The people come to welcome it, not realizing the negative effect it will have on their well-being before it is too late.
Of course, this sort of exploitation also takes place within the capitalist nations themselves. Under the banner of freedom and individual rights, people are bombarded with a materialistic worldview that masks the social and environmental destruction that is caused by a profit driven, consumerist economy. The wide spread use of drugs, alcohol, pornography, cigarettes, guns, etc., especially in poor neighborhoods, that are victimized by the system, is particularly notable. The people are cowed and pacified, or instead turn to "street crimes" to meet their basic needs. They lose their self-esteem and cultural identity. The educational system does little to address these issues or explore alternative lifestyles. Capitalism promotes a "values-free" educational system that produces future workers but does not teach critical thinking. Hence there is little opportunity for the upcoming generations to develop a critical socio-economic consciousness, or any other consciousness beyond consumerism for that matter.
Yet psycho-economic exploitation is not the exclusive domain of corporate colonialism. Restricting the role of women in society (thus forcing them to be subservient to men economically), has its roots in religious institutions. Psycho-economic exploitation has been a device of the ruling class throughout history. Today, however, with the advent of mass media, it has been honed to such a science that people don't even know they are being exploited. They blame their misery on themselves.
In order to resist any type of exploitation, the nature of that exploitation must first be clearly understood. Prout points out that exploitation must be understood on all the levels in which it is occurring. Capitalist exploitation takes place in the physical sphere, the intellectual sphere, and the spiritual sphere.
Much has already been said about exploitation in the physical sphere. The capitalist system permits many people to suffer poverty, sometimes without even the basic necessities, while a few people grow fabulously wealthy. Capitalistic profit maximization leads to such anomalies as the extraction of a region's natural resources for export, followed by the sale of the finished products to the people of the area from which the raw materials were originally taken. Since Prout stands for decentralization and economic democracy, this scenario would never be allowed under a Proutist system.
What is meant by capitalist exploitation in the intellectual sphere? It manifests itself in several ways. First, the education of large numbers of people is neglected and their literacy skills are not encouraged. This can be seen in the US where 50% of students do not have the learning skills to read or write at required academic standards. Secondly, there is a lack of development of social and economic awareness, a factor which maintains the cycle of exploitation. Thirdly, those who are doing the exploiting like to encourage fear and inferiority complexes in the minds of the people in order to keep them subjugated. All of this hinders the moral and intellectual development of the people, leading to an increase in irrationality. This has led to narrowness of mind and an increase of racism, nationalism, and class oppression. Ultimately all of this exerts a very negative and destructive influence, keeping people from identifying the real enemy while maintaining consumerism.
When challenged, the capitalist system has always shown itself to be very resilient, changing itself sufficiently to silence its critics. Feudalism, capitalism, colonialism, imperialism, multinational corporatism, neo-liberalism, the global economy, etc., are all expressions of different stages of capitalism as it expands and adjusts to avoid its destruction. As people voice their criticisms, capitalism as a whole changes just enough to save itself. For example, as people become fearful of the astonishing destruction of the natural environment, the corporations put on an ad campaign expressing their concerns about recycling etc. Behind the scenes however, they maintain their destructive practices. This can easily be seen by the destructive social and environmental policies imposed on third world nations by the rich and powerful at the United Nations deliberations.
Often in the past capitalists have been able to pacify resistance through buying off the agitators. Once those who have the ability to see capitalism's defects are on its payroll, they are less likely to voice their protests. It would seem that intelligent and educated people under a capitalist system are unmotivated and unwilling to use their talents in the name of the public welfare. Apathy and elitism are evident in such attitudes. Such an outlook is fostered by an economic system in which the rules hold that one need only look out for oneself, and that if everyone behaves accordingly all will be well. In truth, millions are dying each year from hunger and preventable diseases. This crime against humanity has been called "the hidden holocaust," but it is hidden only to those who close their eyes or make excuses for needless starvation, suffering and death.
Finally, capitalist exploitation also manifest itself in the spiritual realm. (This is different than religious exploitation, as discussed in the next section). This happens when one is concerned only with his or her personal spiritual elevation, disregarding the rest of humanity. To guard against this, spiritual aspirants should devote a certain portion of their time to selfless service of society in whatever way they can have the biggest impact.
In addition to material exploitation, exploitation exists on the psychological level as well. Perhaps the greatest obstacle to all-round human progress is dogma. Dogma is a belief or conviction no longer supported by rationality. Dogmas are deeply rooted in the human mind and entrenched in most belief systems. These irrational and contradictory beliefs cause tremendous conflict and suffering. They continue to be used for exploitation throughout the world. In the name of spirituality, religious, business and civic leaders consciously or unconsciously allow their irrational beliefs to divide humanity. By creating fear of God or by using God to prop up their goals, they serve their own selfish interests.
Similarly, the dogma of racial superiority, a belief not supported by any scientific evidence and refuted by common sense, has caused tremendous suffering. Another dogma is that of male superiority. Such beliefs and superstitions cause the human mind and society to lose its inherent vitality.
It was not so long ago in Europe and the United States that women were burnt at the stake in the name of religious dogmas. In India, Hindu women were compelled to join their deceased husbands on the funeral pyre. Today, though less overtly violent, fanatic followers continue to encourage blind obedience to their doctrines. It may seem as though dogmas are becoming less in this present age, but they still pervade the inner recesses of the human mind. They just take on more subtle forms and adjust to increasing skepticism. One very clever and time-honored strategy used to maintain dogmas is to declare religion "off limits" from rational analysis. In order to be progressive religious leaders must encourage rational discussion and exchange. It is the nature of human beings to search for the Absolute. This is not achieved by adopting a few rituals and customs and clinging to beliefs not supported by personal experience.
A distinction must be made here between religion and spirituality. According to Prout theory, spirituality is the universal quest by human beings to discover the nature of their innermost existenceto discover their relationship to the vast cosmos and the quiescent Divinity within. Religion is what happens when spirituality becomes institutionalized and codified, or confined and limited by dogmas. It is doubtful that any of the founders of religions ever directed the followers to create a religion as such. This happens sometimes hundreds of years afterward. The inner core of religion is spirituality, and this is, in fact, universal. In Sanskrit, spirituality is called dharma. Roughly translated, it means "innate purpose." It is the "innate purpose" or nature of human beings to become spiritually realized. This represents our highest potentiality.
An integral part of the social transformation envisioned by Prout is that people should cultivate spiritual practices, including scientific meditation for all-round human development. Meditation is ninety-nine percent practical, thus leaving very little scope for dogmas to develop. The minds of those who practice meditation develop the strength to penetrate the quagmire of dogmas. This intuitional science has been highly cultivated in Tibet, India, China, Japan and other places at different times, and is certainly the basis for both Oriental and Occidental religions. It is devoid of purely ritualistic and external practices which are characteristics of religion.
The underlying cultural goal of Prout is to enable all move on the path of spiritual fulfillment. In individual life this is achieved by the continuous endeavor to create a balanced mind. And just as mental equilibrium is indispensable in individual life, it is indispensable in collective life as well. The greatness of a social structure, culture or civilization is derived from the degree of mental equilibrium which that community attains. What is strange is that we do not feel the necessity of establishing this equilibrium in individual and collective life. Although the western world, for example, has made considerable material progress, it has done so at the expense of mental equilibrium.
What is mental equilibrium? It is a balance between the extroverted and the introverted tendencies of the mind. The extroverted tendency of mind is to identify with the objects of the material world. The introverted tendency is to move towards the Cosmic Entity (merging our individual mind with Cosmic Consciousness). Spiritual bliss is achieved by mental equilibrium attainable as a result of on-going spiritual practice (meditation). Spiritual practice focuses the mind on Oneness. As such the multiplicity of endless desires becomes reduced and eventually one achieves freedom from them. Unless attraction and repulsion are both transcended, the mind can never attain a state of equilibrium or spiritual bliss.
As a result of the extroverted tendency of mind we maintain our day to day relationships. Without such a mental projection we lose our ability to maintain adjustment with objective reality. On the other hand, without introverted movement, we lose our mental balance. If we analyze the history of different countries in the world, we notice that despite our tremendous physical, psychic and spiritual potentialities, we do not utilize the opportunity we have to establish a balance in our individual and collective lives. As such this remains the task of human beings today.
Sentimental feelings without the support of rationality lead to narrowness of mind and dogma. The collective psychology today is manipulated by three basic sentiments -- geo-sentiment, socio-sentiment and human sentiment. The first of these centers around a particular geographic region, thus the term "geo-sentiment." Geo-sentiments can express themselves in the political, religious, economic or other spheres. Many religions, for example, are fueled by the idea that their land is the land of God. Religious leaders manipulate geo-sentiments by saying that one place is "holy," one direction is best for prayer; that pilgrimages are to be made to "sacred" places, while not acknowledging the "sacred places" of others. This feeds irrationality.
Geo-sentiments also underlie material exploitation. Imperialism and colonialism are partially expressions of geo-sentiment. One may have great compassion for fellow countrymen, but will not hesitate to starve and bleed the people of another area. Such groupist sentiment supports all kinds of injustices toward others. This kind of narrow thinking is a serious mental weakness often fueled by clever politicians and vested economic interests to maintain their power.
Socio-sentiments are even more dangerous. These sentiments pertain to the placement of one's own society above those of others. The belief that ones nation, race, religion or lifestyle is superior and needs to be imposed on others, leads to the oppression of the weak by the strong. It leads to the suppression of minorities everywhere. Cultural superiority is one of the main expressions of socio-sentiment expressed as an imposition of a culture's art, literature, language, etc. on others. Without making an attempt to understand or appreciate another culture, socio-sentiment dubs it inferior, strange, etc. One can easily observe this in the attitude of westerners toward the cultures of third world countries and peoples. The languages of various peoples are termed vulgar, inferior to the colonist language and not permitted to be used in local schools. Socio-religion declares one people as God's people and their scriptures are the true word of God. One can see that the effects of socio-sentiment can be far more disastrous than geo-sentiment.
The third category of sentiment is the so-called human sentiment, or Humanism. In an attempt to overcome the limited outlook embodied in the above sentiments, the idea of humanism blossomed. "All humans are deserving of equal fundamental rights, having similar minds, feelings, etc." The only defect in this is that the same person, after having given a high-blown speech on humanism, may not have any regard for other living beings. In eating meat, wearing furs or buying other products of endangered species, this humanist has a sentiment for human equality, but he or she does not see that animals also suffer. And should we not also have a responsibility to plants and even inanimate matter?
When we are able to extend the spirit of humanism to all living beings, and we begin to take responsibility for the inanimate world as well, we begin to adopt a universal sentiment which can be called Neo-Humanism. Neo-Humanism has spirituality as its source of inspiration. One who seeks true inner knowledge will be filled with love for the entire creation, and will certainly have innate love for living beings and a sense of responsibility toward the environment.
In order to make progress today it is a dire necessity to overcome these limited geo, socio, and even humanistic sentiments. The dissemination of unbiased knowledge is an absolute necessity. In order to free our minds from these dogmatic sentiments, the spirit of social equality must be widely held. The only way to accomplish this is for intellectually developed people to engage themselves for the welfare of others and to take active roles in mass education. So many intellectually developed people are not interested in involving themselves in the upliftment of humanity. Many are solely interested in maintaining their elitist positions. Others, although actively engaged in social service of various types are forced to work for the capital gain of exploitive interests.
There is a need to develop "benevolent intellect" - intellect used for service and upliftment. People with developed minds should consider the impact of their work and use their discriminating power to help people overcome their irrational sentiments. They should help expose exploitation in the social, political and economic spheres. A small number of intellectuals today have created considerable positive influence with their benevolent intellects. One who has developed the spirit of Neo-Humanism along with benevolent intellect is an incredible asset to human society. PROUT seeks to create such people, and to help them occupy leadership positions.
The educational system should be re-cast to promote Neo-Humanism. Education should be society's highest priority. It should be available to all free of charge. Educators in a Proutist system would have status as high as judges, for they, along with the parents, are the true social foundation. It is indicative of society's neglect that in some parts of the USA, teachers receive less income than sanitation workers (not to belittle the importance of sanitation workers). Child care workers earn from $2 to $7 an hour which puts them in the category of the working poor. Needless to say, under such conditions, only the most dedicated become child care providers and school teachers nowadays.
Education must free people from the bondage of narrow sentiments and promote universalism. It must focus on developing all-round human potential -- cognitive skills, sensory-motor skills, the creative and analytical faculties, social-emotional maturity, universal morality, practical skills, and all branches of knowledge. The main purport of Neo-Humanist education is the inculcation of respect and love for all living beings in the universe in which we exist. Intellectual growth without such a base becomes used for selfish or destructive purposes. Therefore, let education first create moral human beings. Such educated people will easily follow the path of universal spirituality and be a great asset to society.
Communication is an essential aspect of everyday life. In the present age of mass media and global communication, it is even more important that people, whether of the same or different cultures, are able to communicate and understand each other. PROUT recognizes the benefits of having a common language which is used for global communication.
As well as having a universal language, it is important that people are free to speak in their own native tongues. Indeed, all languages should be able to enjoy equal rights and recognition. Since language represents the foundation of the culture of its people, its use should be encouraged in daily working life and not just as an academic exercise. Education, commerce, legal matters, etc., can all occur in the local language, except in such situations where the need arises for a common tongue (the global language). This will provide a firm foundation for culture, while not promoting backwardness and regionalism. Through their own language people are able to express thoughts and ideas much more clearly than they are able to in a less familiar language. Among those people who are forced to speak in an unfamiliar language, an inferiority complex often arises and they tend to lose their moral courage and power to protest. This leads to a defeatist psychology in such people. This is the status of many colonial and post-colonial peoples and immigrants.
The language which today is most suitable to become the global language is English. This is because it is spoken so widely in many different countries. It also has already become the language of the modern technological and business world. However, the suitability of one particular language as a universal language may very well change over time, so it should not be written in stone that English, or any other specific language will always remain as the universal language. There was a time not so long ago when French was considered to be the best language for such a purpose. Also, a common script is necessary if communication is to be optimal. Presently the Roman script, as used in English and many of the other languages of the world, is very suited to this purpose. But that should not mean the demise of local scripts. On the contrary, both Roman and local scripts should be encouraged to live and thrive side by side.
Encouraging the development of indigenous cultural expression holds a high place in PROUT. The many distinct variations in local dress, speech, arts and crafts, mannerisms, and social outlook add to the beauty and richness of humanity. The collective strength of a people is directly related to the strength of their culture. The most important facet of a local culture is the native language (discussed previously) and its literature. Any attempt to undermine these is a form of psychic exploitation. Besides lingual suppression, pseudo-culture is perhaps the most powerful enemy of local cultures. Every effort must be made to curtail the ability of exploiters to supplant indigenous cultures with the mindless consumerism that accompanies the spread of the global economy. By now this is a difficult task, as we are all affected by pseudo-culture and are often unable to even recognize it. Exploiters hide themselves under the cloak of free speech - not at all caring for the freedom of humans to live and develop their innate potential in a society free of degrading influences. This a problem which deserves the serious and benevolent attention of all educators and leaders.
PROUT advocates the maximum admixture of strong local cultures. People should be encouraged to learn multiple languages and explore different cultures for maximum expansion of mind. Also, if enthusiasm for inter-cultural marriages can be developed, the barriers between human beings will slowly drop and a true global culture can develop. PROUT suggests the abolition of the visa and passport system to allow people greater travel and cultural exchange. True cultural synthesis can become a reality in this way. This is not the synthesis taking place today in which the first world pseudo-culture supplants the native culture.
PROUT theory recognizes the extraordinary role that the arts play in human life. Art can be defined in the broadest sense as bringing subtlety to any expression. When language, sound, visual forms, etc. become subtle then they come within the scope of art. The fine arts of music, dance, painting, literature, etc., as well as the culinary arts, decoration, speech, architecture, and more are included.
Art is a specialized area of culture. Art develops the subtle faculties of the mind and transforms cruder tendencies into subtle expression. It is art (also called "aesthetic science") which brings human beings from animal existence to the threshold of spirituality. Hence, it is impossible for true art to have a degrading affect upon human beings. If art does not benefit the human mind it cant be called art. The idea of "Art for art's sake" has no positive role in a dynamic and progressive social order. Rather, let the ideal be "Art for service and blessedness (anandam)." The various expressions of pseudo-culture are antithetical to the existence of art. Pseudo-culture appeals to and strengthens the cruder human tendencies toward materialistic and sensual gratification. Art, on the other hand, inspires noble qualities and sentiments, producing a subtle mentality that culminates in spirituality.
Artists have a tremendous impact upon the collective mind, and hence a corresponding responsibility. Their primary duty should be to ensure that they are having the greatest possible benefit upon society. Art is not the depiction of fantasy worlds or daydream images; rather art is an expression of reality, the reality of the human mental world. Expression of the multifarious longings of the human heart can awaken the dormant subtlety of others, provided that the portrayed concepts can be grasped. Hence, art should always be a few steps ahead of the collective mind or target audience. It should be within reach, yet drawing it forward. Artists themselves must be of a high moral standard, possessing benevolent intellect and creativity along with highly developed talent and skills. They must make all efforts to selflessly accelerate human development.
Perhaps literature is the most accessible and effective media for most people, as it is normally less abstract than visual arts, music, and dance. It portrays directly the realm of ideas. People engaged in writing literature have a special responsibility because they are able to portray images of future potentialities. Hence, it is within their capacity to show glorious images of the human future as a feasible outcome of the present.
Dance expresses human sentiments through rhythm and gestures, refining human expressive capacity. Visual arts and music develop the subtle facets of the human mind through abstraction, directly vibrating and awakening the subtlest layers of the mind - hence they are the subtlest of the arts. These four artistic modes can be found in almost every past and present culture.
Art must always be dynamic. In a Proutist framework, the arts would be given maximum encouragement. They would be considered an integral aspect of education. Aesthetics will be encouraged in any human endeavor, be it constructing a house, planting a garden, or cooking food. This consideration gives maximum scope for mental development. As the collective mind is a dynamic entity, progressive change in art is to be encouraged while drawing upon the strengths of the past. A balance must be strived for that respects adherence to cherished traditions without rejecting creativity and the need for progress. Without such a balance we will have sub-standard art.
Neo-Humanism: the Liberation of Intellect.
An exposition on society and Neo-Humanism, essential for a deep understanding of PROUT.
PROUT in a Nutshell.
Pertinent discourses can be found throughout the twenty plus volumes of this series, but Volume Six in particular has relevant material to this chapter, while Volume Thirteen is pertinent to language issues.
A Few Problems Solved, Part One.
The essay, "The Practice of Art and Literature" discusses this topic in further detail.
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