Need for a Stable Holistic Model

for Contemporary Man Based on Mature Rationality  

 

Crisis of Contemporary Individual and Social Existence

     Technological developments in the last fifty years, and particularly in the past fifteen years, have not only impacted human life but also human mind and thinking. Some notable technological feats responsible for this include earlier developments like television, air travel, and more recently computers, internet, cell phones, along with peripheral breakthroughs in material sciences, nanotechnology etc. All these, and the enormous global growth in material production have produced discernible changes in human thinking and unleashed a flood of ideas, so to speak. A manifest reflection of this can be found in the area of media and entertainment, and human relationships.   

 

The issue however is that these changes are neither clear-cut nor designer but in fact messy, ad-hoc, eclectic, and unstructured. One is unable to map a clear picture of contemporary man emerging from these modifications in his thinking. More importantly, one finds that in a number of areas man has not changed at all. For instance his survival drive remains fundamentally the same. It is an old and fundamental component of existing man and there is nothing modern or new about it.  Another unchanged feature is a self-centered life revolving around an individual’s own personality (his physical person and individual mental formation). This is again an old feature which has become exaggerated today, in its modern form. One can witness it even in advanced societies which had a much developed social dimension (or national dimension coming from their past), in addition to the individual and communal dimensions. We know this larger dimension emerged with the cultivation of certain human values which were a logical outcome of collective consideration, sensitivity and identity that developed during the various forms of communal life in these countries. And we are a witness to the products of this human dimension in the form of various national and international social and economic institutions set up by developed Nation states, and the personal and work culture of individuals in these countries. Although in modern times this social dimension has diminished and the growing personal dimension is increasingly occupying that space, resulting in the shrinking of the human dimension. This, if anything, is a retrograde aspect of modern human life. So one finds modernization and progress accompanied by this feature without any clear new design of man’s mind and consequently his life.  

 

Meanwhile, as a result of the narrowing human dimension, the dogmas (coming from racism, nationalism, or one’s religious identity) of yesterday have become prejudices of today. When there was more of the human element these dogmas tended to be more tolerant but today in the intensely personalized dimension they have become elaborate and strong biases, prejudices and hatred. One can observe how these mental behaviors come more naturally to the modern man compared to his pre-modern ancestors. It is this kind of picture that one sees of contemporary man which is far from being a stable and crystallized new model. A number of attempts have been made over the last two centuries to discover and design a model for modern man. The existentialist, Marxist and hippie movements, fierce varieties like Kampuchea, Nazi Germany, Mussolini’s Italy and Japan and then a few other fringe models (the most recent of which is religious fundamentalism) have emerged during this period. However, none of these were able to produce a mature and stable prototype for man. 

The only model that seems to have survived, in the sense of being wide spread and generally accepted, is the European Renaissance and Enlightenment model of reason and enterprise. Despite the fact that in contemporary man’s mind it does not exist in its original form but in amalgamation with the old elements and features mentioned earlier. In all these models, including the renaissance and enlightenment, the real problem was the gap between ideology and vision that drove their inception and the practical form in which they were concretized. A gap which has consistently grown with time. This tells us that in reality they did not have a clear-cut design of the new man. They were primarily about negating and breaking away from the old. For instance, the real substance in the bourgeois oomph of European Renaissance and Enlightenment was really a negation of the feudal man rather than a design of the new man. The reason for this statement being that  bourgeois man over time has not matured into a crystallized shape and form as the feudal man had over a few thousand years. Even today when we need a foundation for our personalities we have to borrow from the stronger, stable and more crystallized ingredients of the feudal period. This is the best we have done so far.  

 

Today the crisis of the bourgeois man is his failure to develop a framework for his mind and life which is stable, dependable, beneficial and profitable for his human happiness and prosperity, not only at the material level but his full human dimension. We are by no means saying that in the feudal period man was prosperous and happy but at least he was more stable and relatively integrated. In the bourgeois period there was a promise of prosperity but that promise has not matured, and nothing stable has come out of it. In fact there has been a growing instability and decline in many respects, and progress only in few (mostly related to his material life). To take an example, we have had a revival of religious radicalism and dogma in a nastier form than in the past, which has only bred anarchism.  

 

How to Approach this Issue 

The issue is, those of us who feel discontented with the ample experience of the bourgeois period, and its three phases (commercial, industrial and technological) and therefore searching for a shared stability, what course of action should they take? We are perfectly aware that lots of people do not feel this discontentment and in fact want the existing phase to continue in order to avail more from it. But there is a large section of the world population who are approaching this stage of dissatisfaction due to their individual experiences of multiplying instabilities, conflicts and contradictions. Which keep assuming new forms they have not experienced before, and hence unable to cope with collectively. In the absence of a shared model of stability they are obliged to respond to them individually, which only makes matters worse. Because the individual cannot possibly cope with conflicts and instabilities which are generated on a collective scale. He can try and survive in them but at a very heavy human cost. Hence our focus is on these discontented people amongst us, who we feel are sufficient in number to furnish a base upon which if man so chooses he can construct the design for a future. That too with the confidence that if it works better than the attempts made in the last two centuries, then it would be more credible. Especially because the experiences of past models are also within our reach, and we can refer to them for comparison. 

 

The dissatisfactory experience of these attempts has produced a deep rooted cynicism in us. Although cynicism is primarily negative in character but it also has a positive aspect. If a new idea comes up for consideration we can refer it to the cynicism fund within us which provides a useful basis for comparison and sets a benchmark for credibility. By the same token if we produce that credibility then we can expect the modern man to willingly build upon it. We feel this is certainly the time to search for a new movement and holistic model for contemporary human beings because at present we are really without one. The only archetypes we have today are the World Bank driven specialist corporate models, which again are not for man as a whole but just for specific aspects of his material dimension. More importantly they are not for the bulk of the middle classes but only for corporations and governments. Anthropology and Sociology have also not produced any models but only a lot of research. For common people it seems that individuals like Guru Rajneesh have produced more idea frameworks than the World Bank. 

 

It is this internal and external situation of man which led us to an inquiry into human mental processes and come up with a model based upon a better understanding of them instead of ethical, moral, humanistic, idealistic or dogmatic ideas. We have not ignored these ideas which emerged in human history and became the basis of different models and movements. In fact, it was on the basis of historical experience and careful examination of these ideas that we realized why they cannot be the basis of any new construct for man. 

 

What we need today is a new thought construct for contemporary man, which can successfully and straightforwardly (without resorting to any tricks or cleverness) deal with the criteria and queries that arise out of modern cynicism. And we will have to do this without the tools that hitherto worked in producing human thought; the tools of half-baked omnibus ideas, which are in fact tools of dogmas, even the best of them such as humanist, ethical and moral paradigms. The reason being that truths of those dogmatic ideas have not been able to cope with the development, power and rationality of science and technology. They have neither been able to establish a harmonious integration with this new force, nor win the day by being a counterpoint to it. The growth of science and technology clearly proved to be superior. Of course one does find hybrids today, such as some engineers, scientists, and some highly educated modern people who also become religious fanatics but that does not prove the power of those ideas. What it does prove is the powerlessness of science and technology in dealing with the whole of man. They can only deal with man’s material conditions but not man himself. In fact they largely exclude him from their purview, which just reflects their imperfection and inadequacy. Even the attention that various Sciences have focused on the biological state of man is unsatisfactory, what to speak of his other dimensions. The forays of Science into Psychology as an attempt to deal with man and his mind are again as much a failure as Marxism has been in politics. 

 

Thus today man can neither use the pre-existing tools of dogmatic ideas nor the tools and assets of the most complex and developed intellectual methodologies of the bourgeois period. There is no doubt it would have been very convenient if we found a genuine answer with their help. But in view of our experience of these tools and the track record of experiments with them (to produce a qualitatively better model for human thought and life), we cannot just look for our convenience. Hence the discontented amongst us should not make seriously flawed attempts to produce yet another model which is deficient and ineffective. This time the stakes are far too serious. They are nothing less than rescuing man from his increasing unhappiness and leading him firmly on to a path where he can in reality create happiness for himself and his future generations. If we have the above motivation in mind then we cannot approach this issue of making a new model as a PR or an advertising campaign that we are designing for the market. That too in the short term and for successfully pursuing a political office or some monetary profit. We are clearly looking for the future of man as a whole and not the future of his monetary dimension or illusory authority. 

 

Mature Rationality as the Foundation of the New Model

 

At the outset we would like to clearly state that any new model cannot abandon the consistent thread of inquiry, reason, rationality and intelligence, which has been the source of human progress and betterment since the beginning of civilization. Any attempts that man has so far made to improve his life have been based on this thread. It is true that where his reason was not sufficient it would break down under stress and produce partial and lopsided understanding, which in turn would generate distortions (defects and shortcomings) after having produced progress and a better structure of human life. Of course the consequences of these distortions and defects also had to be confronted. Nevertheless betterment was a continuous process requiring untiring inquiry, and use of reason and rationality. It is this very process we want to hopefully put on a more advanced plane so that it can produce a more mature and crystallized model. 

 

The criteria of maturity are two-fold. One, it gets us out of the situation in which we find ourselves today (in view of our recent past) so that we can breathe some fresh air and become truly optimistic about our own futures as human beings. The other criterion which can now be added due to hitherto human journey is, whatever understanding we achieve today to meet the first criterion should not suffer from the illusion of it being an eternal truth or complete answer which would last us forever. Which was a defect of the past installments of progress. In fact we should have the humility (which is an integral part of a mature intelligence) to understand that whatever path we discover and travel upon now will smoothly and harmoniously link up with the next stage of human progress after the existing stage is exhausted. Because it is neither perfect nor absolute but only a step which should intelligently connect to the next one rather than being an obstruction like all previous steps have been. Man should not have to pay this price again in future. In order to produce a mature rational model for human progress which meets the above two criteria it is necessary for man to become intelligent about the working of his own mind. The reason being that the primary sources of our hitherto failures, errors and inadequacies in relation to our own prosperity and well-being and the price we had to pay for them, came from within us and not from our lack of mastery over material things around us in Nature. 

 

In fact we can see how our lopsided progress with its focus on science and technology has been producing more (and new forms) of adversarial conflicts amongst human beings instead of lessening them. Hence it is clear, the cause of the problem is not material progress itself but the way man has been responding to it. The issue is not the knowledge through which we have achieved material progress but our ignorance of how we respond to it on the mental plane; it is darkness in this area that has produced these civilizational and human problems causing contemporary discontentment. 

The real problem is the gross mismatch between our ignorance about ourselves as producers of ideas, feelings and thoughts on the one hand, and the progress we have made in our understanding of the external material world. It is this imbalance we need to address and correct. We need to match an intelligent understanding of our own minds and what happens within them with the understanding we have achieved (and continuing to do so) in relation to the outside world including space travel, etc. This alone will ensure that we do not use our progress in science and technology unintelligently and perversely. We must realize if any phenomenon in Nature is not progressing or improving it will begin to decay. Thus if we are not able to become more intelligent about what is happening in our minds and put that in better shape then parts of our mind which are not progressing will go from bad to worse. More so because the world around us is growing in any case due to our own progress in relation to it. So the undeveloped parts of our minds will only create more and new forms of problems which we will not be able to control and manage. History of mankind shows whenever we acquire knowledge in any area we are able to manage its problems and issues. Our performance always improves as our understanding increases. But our understanding of our own minds has not progressed, and we have been living for too long with its substitutes, i.e. dogmas, half- baked ideas, prejudices and motivated thinking, which is another way of saying distorted or defective thinking. We can keep all these provided we keep them away from what we need to understand. In our present stage we will have to make an armistice with the existing half-baked man, asking him to do his ego, dogma and motivated thinking away from the area of understanding and responsibility. 

 

While understanding and becoming intelligent about our mental processes (ideas, feelings, etc.) we will also confront another problem. The issue of not only preventing our motivated thinking from intervening but to raise our intellectual capability to a level greater than what is required in science and engineering. The reason is, while doing any specific engineering we are only required (and also able to) to keep our polluted mind away from the responsibility and discipline applicable to it and not to raise our intellectual capability beyond the level needed to learn that engineering. To undertake an inquiry into contemporary human mental processes (for their understanding and engineering) we have to take our reason and inquiry to a higher plane altogether. Because it is not just another item we need to know within the existing framework of understanding of a related phenomenon. For example, if we have been to Mars and have gathered knowledge about it then going to Jupiter will only be another item of understanding, within the same basic framework. Not so in the case of the mind. Here we need to not only stretch our existing grasp of all things and processes we are capable of comprehending but also revisit the already acquired understanding of the mind. We have to seriously upgrade our ability to acquire knowledge in this area because we do not yet have the tools for it like those available for engineering. So we need a body of knowledge which can produce the tools of understanding required for mental engineering. We have so far been content with speculating about the mind in Psychology, Philosophy, Brain and Neuroscience and Consciousness Studies, which is nowhere near sufficient to produce tools that would enable us to do its engineering. So in a manner of speaking our knowledge of the mind is virtually where we left it when we were primitive. On top of that we are starting with a mind which is defective and uneducated about itself and has all the hurdles to understanding that modern man has created for himself due to his current decadence. Thus raising the level of our comprehension in this area will be like lifting ourselves by our bootstraps, as it were. 

 

The willingness to undertake this process will depend upon our discontentment. We will need to make a personal choice in this matter, keeping in mind it is not something being sold on easy installments. Any serious discussion about a new model for man will have to be straight forward, in the sense of spelling out the difficulties and problems of this undertaking. So that people who come together to share that burden do so knowingly and on the basis of a choice they make between their existing discontentment and the difficulties that lie on the path of resolving that discontentment and escaping its clutches. 

 

In our view it is possible today to undertake this process of inquiry and knowledge acquisition in relation to our minds. Although we accept that our understanding in relation to our mental processes is roughly where primitive man’s understanding was in relation to Nature. But today we are not quite in that position, because of the extensive knowledge we have acquired about external phenomena in Nature, which has led to an exponential increase in our capabilities of intellect, reason and rationality. So today we are definitely equipped enough to achieve a level of knowledge about our minds which would enable us to move towards developing holistic and mature rationality as the basis for a new model of man. 

 

Notes

i. Changes in human life have been widely recorded and explored by mainstream social and economic thinking as opposed to changes in the human mind, which also require our focus and detailed exploration. 

ii. Which today operates in the form of a complex of primary drives and motivations for opportunities and secondary drives arising out of their pursuit. So it has become quite an elaborate process in us (compared to its simple form in animals).

iii. The primacy of any individual’s existing personal experiences, agendas, motivations, feelings, etc., has become like a religious cult today. It is like an entrenched belief accompanied by an unwillingness to question it.    

iv. Tribal, family, village, suburb, street, pub, workplace, etc.

v. This human or social dimension was largely missing in underdeveloped countries, which mainly remained confined to the communal and personal dimensions of life.

vi. institutions like the different bodies of UN, World Bank, European Union, and universities, etc.

vii. Due to the fact that contemporary ideals or ideas, whether ethical, moral, humanist, etc. are all products of the European Renaissance and the Bourgeois Revolution. 

viii. Here we are not just referring to commercial enterprise but also an enterprising life, of seeing places and adventuring and the emergence of new models of education like Montessori or McMillan.   

ix. Enlightenment as a cultural movement was more about promoting a breaking away from the tyranny of the monarchic/feudal system and the church rather than providing a comprehensive understanding and direction for all dimensions of man.

x. For example, a clear and strong sense of duty and obligation, loyalty and religious dogma based integrity and strength of character. 

xi. For us the full human dimension encompasses not only the physical/material, personal and social but also the internal emotional/ sensitivity, intellectual and spiritual (not in the religious or mystical sense but as a developed mental process) dimensions.

xii.  Here we would like to digress and briefly mention a detail about religious dogmas. Ideas arising out of religion have broadly speaking three dimensions or forms. One is the ideas of the prophets or the founders of various religions in the ancient period. The other form of religious ideas was the real life concepts and cultural structures that they produced during the feudal period. And the third form is the one which was produced in the post feudal period after the renaissance. It is interesting and ironic that the religious forms produced in the bourgeois period of history were much worse than those produced during the feudal period. Even though the renaissance ideas and their successor bourgeois ideas were vehemently anti-feudal and negated the religion based cultural constructs and dogmatic ideas that were produced during the feudal period. Which just shows that the bourgeois period could not really destroy religious dogma. All it had done was to use some half-baked pesticides, which produced a few years’ crops and then produced mutations on which the pesticides no longer work, as a result the pests, etc., simply come back with a vengeance. So this is one indicator of the need to look for a post bourgeois period of human history and a new model without any quick fixes that we have experienced during the last two centuries, including Marxist Socialism et al.

xiii. This phase has been short but very intensive as an experience.

xiv. Stability can only become a reality when it is shared. A fragmented stability can only be the breeding ground for instability leading to anarchism. Similarly, if a personality remains amorphous and does not crystallize then that can only produce disintegration and that too in an ad-hoc manner. 

xv. Not new ones but rehashed versions of pre-existing ones.

xvi. Actually it is this fact which makes space for the above mentioned hybrid individuals.

xvii.  The experience of which is like falling in a ditch or being stuck in quicksand.

xviii. The reason why the causes are not external is that the progress we have already made in science and engineering has given us a degree of mastery over material things, leading towards a stage of material prosperity that would make adversarial relationships between human beings on this count, redundant and unnecessary. Since we can produce today, with available and growing science and technology, enough to meet all sensible criteria for material prosperity, hence we are assured that tomorrow’s technology will enable us to produce abundance with much less effort than we need to put in today. 

xix. One can see clear evidence of it if one tries to do motivated science or engineering instead of doing disciplined science objectively.  Its consequences can range from blowing up of the laboratory to all kinds of other disasters. We have enough experience of science and engineering to know that it is totally intolerant of misunderstandings. For example, in space technology the margin of error is infinitesimally small so one only has that much space for motivated thinking.

xx. We can keep it at its existing level and just continue making quantitative improvements in accordance with any changing requirements of that specific engineering.

xxi.These tools include not only laboratory tools but tools of mathematics, equations and the respective knowledge fund of the specific disciplines of engineering. 

xxii. Here we are referring to internal mental tools that will emerge from an intelligence about the working of the mind.