Dialogue of Cultures and Civilizations in the Global World
The world has grown global; and even though global consciousness has still not seized humanity, the ideal of human unity has begun to figure largely among the determining forces of the future. Intellectual and material circumstances of the age have made the global world irreversible. The scientific discoveries have made our earth so small that the vastest kingdoms and civilizations and cultures of the word are being obliged to be influenced by each other and even to be shaped by each other. At the same time, the angularities and the sharp edges of civilizations and cultures are openly in battle with each other, and the Time – Spirit demands that these battles are worked out in a new way, – in the way that is appropriate to the higher aims of civilization. It is in that context that the method of dialogue must be accepted and practised to its logical conclusion.
The clash of civilizations and cultures can prove to be perilous; it can even be disastrous, if we find ourselves unprepared for practicing the art and
science of learning from each other. We cannot afford to be superficial or casual and platitudinous. We need to be much more analytic and much more synthetic than what we have been hitherto. We need to have greater precision and greater flexibility in realizing that civilizations and cultures have behind them vast stores of human experience and wisdom and that civilizations and cultures tend to invite deepest urges and aspirations in their self-defense, in the cause of their survival, and in their attempt to fulfill themselves. In our enthusiasm, we are likely to be colored, positively or negatively, and if there is one obstacle that we need to strive to overcome consciously and deliberately, it is the tendency towards exclusivism and the tendency towards uniformity which is intolerant of diversity.
In its ordinary sense, civilization means the state of civic society, governed, policed, organized, educated, possessed of knowledge and appliances. But the main point is that in any society which we can call civilized, the mentality of man must be active, the mental pursuits developed and the regulation and improvement of his life by the mental being a clearly self-conscious concept in his better mind. In other words, civilizations are largely connected with modes of governance that reflect refinement of culture. But what is culture? Culture
is essentially concerned with ultimate quests of humanity by means of increasing perfection of the faculties of rationality, ethicality and aesthetics. The clash of civilizations and cultures has its roots in differences of visions that aim at relating the individuals and collectivities and in utilizing different groups of faculties of higher mentality which run on parallel lines and even on conflicting lines. The dialogue of civilizations and cultures of the global world needs to take into account the lessons of history which have witnessed the collision between ethics and aesthetics and the frequent failure of rationality to resolve the dilemmas of ethics. These collisions and failures have not ceased, and we are still today required to discover the alchemy by which the pursuit of truth through rationality, the pursuit of the good through ethics and morality, and the pursuit of beauty through aesthetic creativity can be harmonized and synthesized.
The conflicts of cultures and civilizations have various aspects among which economic and socio-political aspects loom large and have begun to affect the life of humanity in a very disturbing manner. There is, first, the old idea and philosophy of expansionism which, taking the advantage of globalization, aims at exploiting the opportunities
for purposes of domination and competitive economic gains. Whereas we are required today to develop global consciousness, what is being developed is global market and hegemonistic formations of economic and political groupings. While there is a need to develop sustainable economies that would favour equity for the undeveloped and developing countries of the world, what is being developed is the philosophy of consumerism, which is the modern version of barbarism. But what is most disconcerting is the global push of extremism and exclusivism under the irrational pressure of passions of the philosophy of violence. Globalization has unwittingly generated the tyranny of global terrorism. This has rendered all the countries of the world, and innocent people in particular, helpless spectators who are obliged to remain and live in fear and at constant risk. If modern means of communication and transport are placed at the service of guerilla warfare, the very roots of civilizations and cultures begin to be shaken. To live in constant fear and to allow people to live in constant fear is a brutal defeat of civilization; and this should awaken all the leaders of politics, ethics and culture to create a climate where the ends of civilizations and cultures can triumph. Indeed, the movement of dialogue of
cultures and civilizations can become an effective answer to the philosophy of violence, but what has been done so far is a beginning, even though a most welcome beginning. Much more needs to be done, and the dialogue must become more and more effective.
We should address three problems: firstly, the problem of the truths of individuality and collectivity and their harmonization; secondly, the problem of the truths of various methods and forms of governance and their harmonization; and thirdly, the problem of the truths of cognition, conation and affection and their harmonization. It will, however, be found that, at the present juncture, dialogues are likely to manifest one overarching concern on which the entire humanity can be welded in unity, - and that concern is related to the quest for the loftiest peaks of knowledge and noblest means of action that seek the highest welfare of all members of humanity.
In this connection, we shall need to go deeper and notice the role that religions have sought to play in harmonizing philosophy and science with conflicting standards of conduct and various modes
or creation and enjoyment of works of arts and crafts. It seems that a point has been reached in our study where all religions stand today with their great promise to heal the world of its conflicts. And yet the conflict among religions themselves is found to be perhaps the most difficult conflict, since each religion goes about the task in its own exclusive manner, - and this seems to create deeper conflicts in civilizations and cultures. We need to address this problem as a problem of central focus.
In recent times, there have been a number of studies that aim at the solution of religious conflicts. In a recent work by Cottingham, entitled “The Spiritual Dimension”, the author argues that the conflicts of the religions can be resolved not by comparing and contrasting and attempting to reconcile various prepositions of religious beliefs; which are not rooted in one’s own culture. He goes farther and suggests that we should not believe that the salvation lies in carrying with us the label of the name of the religion which is rooted in our culture; he lays a special emphasis on praxis rather than on doctrines of religions, and he points out that the praxis of religions consists of deepening of our inner awareness which can lead to integration of our being. It is noteworthy that Cottingham seems to come very close to the solution of pluralism of
religions in the context of Indian experience of religion and spirituality. For what has been most important in India has been the religious spirit rather than theological credo. The Indian religious thinkers came to admit that the deepest core of religion transcends the intellectual formulation, rituals and ceremonies. They also came to recognize that the highest object of the religions is the Reality that is Infinite and it is in its nature many-sided and therefore capable of being experienced through various doors and expressed through varieties of intellectual formulations. The process of reconciliation among religions has been inspired in India by the spirit that declared that there are no true and false religions but rather that all religions are true in their own way and degree. But above all, the Indian experiment encouraged the pursuit of spiritual praxis. As a result, we find in the Indian religion varieties of schools or sects developing and living side by side under a general consensus that spiritual realization and spiritual praxes is one thing needful.
If religions cannot resolve the conflicts among themselves, we shall have to fall back on the state of crisis that humanity is confronted with today. On the one hand, there is a force that is trying to assert the powers of infra-rational such as those of terrorism, which are likely to develop new forms of
barbarism within the civilized state of society. Or else, it is possible, to utilize the present scientific and technical knowledge to create an order of existence in which physical and vital wants of the human being can greatly, if not fully, be satisfied, and this order of existence can be maintained by mechanical and even destructive devices; and it is obvious that application of power of machines can imprison the human spirit. It can be said that the latest trends of competitive methods of governance of individual and collectivity are likely to nourish the modern economic barbarism. On the other hand, there is likely to be still a new lease of life for the scientific and philosophical rationalism; the contemporary post modernization may come to be overpassed, and rationalism may come to drop its dogmatism that binds it to assume that only the sensible is intelligible but this alternative is not likely to resolve the deeper issues of the conflicts of civilizations and cultures. We have, therefore, to look for a third alternative. And this alternative can be greatly helped by the process of dialogue which can uplift the contemporary thrust of the quest for the loftiest peaks of knowledge and noblest means of actions that seeks the highest welfare of all members of humanity. This would mean that the quest of religion is uplifted into a quest of
spirituality, and the quest of knowledge which is pursued by science is uplifted into the quest of cosmic consciousness that seems to be vibrating, according to the latest trends of science, in all domains of existence, – Matter, Life, Mind and Spirit. It is, therefore, by harmonizing science and spirituality that the dialogue amongst civilizations and cultures of the global world of today can heal the conflicts and provide to humanity an assured foundation for durable harmony and unity.
The most helpful element is the recent breakthroughs that we find in physical sciences, biological sciences and even in psychological sciences. Roger Penrose has, in his celebrated book, ‘Shadows of the Mind: A Search for the Missing Science of Consciousness’, contended that there are reasons for believing that there is in the realm of physical laws a hidden non-computational action and that phenomena like consciousness should be inherent at least potentially in all material things. David Bohm and other scientists are struck by the revelations of Quantum Physics and they have come to consider these revelations as a serious challenge to the mechanistic order. In the field of life sciences, scientists like Roger Sperry have come to acknowledge that the new macromental paradigm of behaviour science permits integration of matter and
consciousness. In the field of psychological sciences, the neurological model appears to offer a plausible explanation of how we experience the mystical state of pure awareness. The behaviouristic psychology has come to be questioned because the phenomenon of understanding, it seems, can be explained only if consciousness is present as an indivisible reality of the functioning of the physical brain. On the other hand, in the field of spirituality, there are new trends which have come to accept that the physical world is not an illusion created by physical senses, but a dynamic reality reflecting the operations of spiritual consciousness. Science and spirituality are today advancing so rapidly that the Cartesian model or Newtonian model is already overpassed, and with the increasing proof of the unity of Matter and Spirit, we are at a point where the conflict between science and spirituality can be overcome. As a result, conflict among religions can be resolved more harmoniously and more and more convincingly. It is hoped that humanity will seek the resolution of conflicts of civilizations and cultures through this route of synthesis of science and spirituality.