Since the inception of human thought, man has been asking questions about the nature and destiny of the universe and of human beings. These questions have been the subject matter of a great deal of past philosophical work, what I would classify as speculative philosophy because man was unable to find verifiable answers to them before the recent development of a perennial fund of scientific knowledge. The other category in history of human thought includes not only philosophers but social and political thinkers and prophets, who involved themselves with the question of human misery and happiness. Their starting point was the observation that man is surrounded by misery both in his personal and collective dimensions: in his internal and external life. Misery that could be physical, emotional, moral, social or personal arising from cruelty, ignorance, injustice, deprivation, and many other factors. These thinkers reacted against this condition of unhappiness and misery and at the same time held a vision of human happiness: a belief that happiness is the destiny of man, and that he should be able to achieve it.
The most glaring example of this category is Buddha, who clearly reacted to human misery. He did not begin his search for truth on the basis of any speculative issue about the nature of the universe but arrived at such issues and questions after his observation of, and reaction to (in terms of rejection) human misery and search for happiness. All the prophets (including subsequent religious thinkers) and the various social as well as political thinkers of different eras have also addressed the same question. Take the example of Karl Marx, whose intellectual life did not begin with Economics or Philosophy but with an emotional reaction to human misery as he observed it. We can say the same about Lenin. All these thinkers have dealt with the issue of human happiness and misery in different ways and have offered an enormous variety of solutions to address it. Buddha, for example, came to the conclusion that since desire is the source of human misery, we free ourselves of misery if we free ourselves of desire.
Religions also offered various formulae based on dogmas, which mostly proposed the following of a certain path, or the observation of certain rules to rid man of misery, and to achieve happiness. Some religions, for instance Hinduism (in the period of Late Brahmanism), took up the position that since we cannot achieve happiness in this world, we must suffer misery here and achieve happiness only in the next world. During the culminating period of the European Renaissance (specifically in the Age of Enlightenment) we again find social and political thinkers reacting to, and criticizing prevailing political, social and cultural paradigms and institutions, which had produced the miserable and unhappy human condition of their times. Rousseau starts out with the premise that man is born free but is presently in the chains of misery, which can only be broken through challenging established institutions. Voltaire, Hugo and their other contemporaries declared that if we do away with feudalism, monarchy and their ‘tyranny’ as they called it, we will achieve human happiness. In modern times (after the Industrial revolution) Karl Marx concluded that if we socialize the means of production, and achieve a Communist Society on that basis, we will eliminate human misery and create the basis for happiness. More recently, during the struggle of independence in the Subcontinent, we find Gandhi involved with the same problem. He proposed that achieving ‘swaraj’ [Self Rule] would do away with misery and then ‘Ramraj’, would ensure happiness. ‘Ramraj’ was the epitome of happiness for Gandhi.
I want to clearly state that I consider myself to be a link in the chain of the above category of people who have pursued the issue of human misery and happiness; that has been my primary motivation. My pursuit of addressing this issue took the form of many practical attempts since 1942 starting from participation in the Indian (and then Pakistan) freedom struggle (1942-47) to involvement with Marxism/Socialist revolution and political activism (1948-1970) thereafter. In the light of my practical experience I found that these struggles were not the real solution to the problem of human misery and happiness. Consequently, after 1970, I started afresh to address the same question. I would like to enumerate here the materials examined for this attempt, and state the broad conclusions that emerged from it. My first area of focus was the experience of different revolutions in history. Then I looked at various religions and also explored miscellaneous sources of ideas from mythology, folklore, sayings of wise people like Confucius, Saadi (Persian Poet) and other poets and Sufis.
Furthermore, I intuitively realized the necessity of taking a comprehensive view of the emerging scientific knowledge fund as the explosion in science and technology was already underway. Genes, and Big Bang had been discovered and the transistor had been invented. New discoveries about man and other living species were being made in the evolutionary sciences, alongside huge advances in technology. Cybernetics had already come into being. So, I proceeded to examine the products of this ongoing scientific and technological revolution. While considering everything relevant for my inquiry I realized how the issue of human misery and happiness is integrally connected to further human evolution. The real problem is that man is still evolving and mistakenly thinking his evolution is complete. Hence he is not taking the next logical step in his evolution but merely resorting to various devises to deal with his problems. It is only when man is able to intelligently take the next step in his evolution as a species, which would primarily mean intelligently understanding and evolving his mind, that the problem of human misery will be effectively and practically resolved. I also found another important feature in the existing situation of man: the list of the varieties of misery he had been suffering over centuries was now undergoing a change. Today it is no longer only the misery arising from poverty or other external factors and processes but the misery of a much more complicated and primarily mental—that is emotional and psychological—phenomenon. It now includes a disintegration and destruction of relationships and the ability to communicate as well as new forms of conflicts and contradictions at the mental level. In this context, I came to the conclusion that man has reached a stage in the process of evolution in which he is being positively punished by Nature for not taking the next evolutionary step. Improving his condition using only existing means, without evolving further was no longer an option. His current list of miseries clearly arose out of his insistence on trying to live off and build his life upon his previous state of evolution and refusing (consciously and unconsciously) to move forward. So I found that today man was not only in an adversarial relationship with man but also with Nature, which surely made it impossible for him to succeed. However, it was also obvious to me that if man took the next evolutionary step his pre-existing motivations, ideas, emotional structure, assumptions, mind-set, in short his existing ‘human nature,’ would change dramatically. And with it the present causes and sources of misery would disappear because they were in reality only a product of his existing mental complex, which was fundamentally adversarial or man versus man [this includes man versus Nature].
At that stage I began to focus especially on the Sciences concerning themselves with the human brain and mind and the nature of living things, particularly their cellular and genetic make-up. I felt that man was approaching a point where he would begin to make a systematic, scientific inquiry into the nature of the brain and mind, which would no longer remain as mysterious as they had been in the past, when they had been beyond the reach of human knowledge. Today, man’s knowledge was reaching out to his brain/mind, which in itself was a basis for optimism. What has so far inhibited intelligence in the area of our mental evolution has been the conviction that the brain/mind was a mystery and beyond the pale of knowledge. This had paralyzed our intelligence, preventing it from becoming aware of our capability to evolve further. So now I could see this myth being broken and shattered. If man were to accept his transitionary state and take the above mentioned evolutionary step within himself, he would be able to use his growing and inexorable scientific and technological development to provide for his own happiness and prosperity. An increasing knowledge about ourselves and the outside world would enable us to remove the causes of misery and at the same time ensure an explosion in human productivity, both internal and external, that would lead to new capabilities and forms of happiness. It is against this backdrop that I decided to create an Institute and name it “Sanjan Nagar Institute of Philosophy and Arts”. This Institute symbolises my answer to the age-old question of human misery and happiness: taking the next step in human evolution through mental intelligence. I felt that we were witnessing the dawning of the ‘age of mental intelligence’ in this phase of human history, which provided the principle theme and means for taking the next step in our evolution.
The purpose of the Institute was to build an organization, and eventually a movement, based on taking this next step in our mental intelligence-based evolution. However, my purpose and desire aside, I want to clarify that my fundamental loyalty is and always will be to the original issue/question I began with and not to the solution. If my concept of the Institution turns out to be flawed or defective, I will not hesitate to accept responsibility since it is entirely the product of my own thinking. On the other hand, if it appears not to be fundamentally flawed and false, work will be necessary to supplement, improve and chisel it. I also know that if there are individuals and groups who can find in it a working basis for a fresh beginning, then that will be the time for them to determine how to build a movement from it.
Postscript The first twenty or so years of this work were disorganized and sporadic, while the last eighteen have been much more organized and recorded, leading to what we call ‘Evolutionary Mentology’ (EM) and which presently add up to about five thousand pages of transcripts which when edited will reduce to somewhat less than half. Our defined purpose for sharing this work now is twofold. Firstly, to focus the interest of people in other parts of the world to undertake a sustained interest in the logical and holistic study of mental processes. Secondly, to make available the preliminary foundational work we have undertaken in the hope that some of it may be useful to future intellectual workers who will dedicate themselves to an inquiry into mental processes.
- RAZA KAZIM
[Note: This foreword is based on the transcript of one of the earliest recordings of Evolutionary Mentology (Lecture # 48, dated Dec 1995) when formal documentation of this work began. The postscript, footnote references and bibliography have been added recently. Some references are for lay people and may be redundant for those who are already familiar with or experts in these areas of enquiry.]
i. Here we refer to human thought which started developing with civilization or the post-agriculture period of human history.
ii. Human thought in relation to the ultimate nature of reality and human existence began to appear in all cultures of the world--- China, the Sub-continent, and Persia---roughly four to five thousand years ago, however, ‘Philosophy’, in the proper sense of the term, commenced with the early Greek philosophers. That is when man began to seek a rational, and natural as opposed to a theological, mystical or supernatural explanation of all phenomena. Of course, at that stage there was complete unavailability of scientific knowledge about these phenomena, so one had to speculate through a strict method based on observation, and reason/logic based inferences. That is why in modern times, and not earlier, the work of these philosophers is characterized as ‘speculative philosophy’ and is distinguished from science (whose accent was on positive knowledge through verification and not just theories).
According to Arthur E. Murphy “Starting in about the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries in Britain, “Speculative philosophy” was used to distinguish distinctively philosophical studies from ‘natural philosophy’, later called science or natural science… the first speculative philosopher was Thales, or else Anaximander, a pupil of ‘Thales’. Philosophers now lumped together as Pre-Socratics speculated about the nature and origin of the universe and life on earth and the nature of that from which all things derive. So the pre-Socratic philosophers were speculative philosophers in that sense.” (Murphy, 1996, p. viii)
iii. As his scientific knowledge both about Nature and man has been increasing the area of speculation has been decreasing but he still does not have clear cut answers. He has been getting piece meal answers in some tangible areas but these are far from satisfactory.
iv. One can see the basic emotional drive behind Buddha’s quest in Karen Armstrong’s biography on Buddha. According to her “When he looked at human life, Gotama (Buddha) could see only a grim cycle of suffering, which began with the trauma of birth and proceeded inexorably to ‘aging, illness, death, sorrow and corruption…” (p. 3). So we can see that he began his quest with an emotional reaction to what he observed around him. The subsequent stage of this reaction was to search for how he could break this cycle. “… he reasoned to himself, if there is ‘birth, aging, illness, death, sorrow and corruption’ in our lives, these suffering states must have their positive counterparts; there must be another mode of existence, therefore, and it was up to him to find it…. So Gotama was leaving home to find a cure for the sickness that plagues humanity and which fills men and women with unhappiness…” (Armstrong, 2002, pp. 5-6)
v. Marx’s emotional drive can be seen in the following quote from a biography of Marx written by Franz Mehring “..The ceaseless striving for the greatest truth which always characterized Marx sprang from the depths of his heart. As he once said bluntly, his hide was not thick enough to let him turn his back on “the sufferings of humanity”, or, as Hutten has expressed the same idea, God had burdened him with a heart which caused the common sorrows of humanity to touch him more acutely than the others….” (Mehring, 1936, p. 14)
vi. In a translation of Dhammapada the following sayings of Buddha give us an insight into his basic positions regarding human misery and happiness. He says “From craving is born grief, from craving is born fear, For one freed from craving there is no grief—so how fear?” (Ven. Thanissaro, 1998, p. 80) Then at another instance we find him saying “Cut down the forest of desire, not the forest of trees. From the forest of desire come danger & fear. Having cut down this forest & its underbrush, monks be deforested…” (Ven. Thanissaro, 1998, p. 97) There are many more such sayings which inform us that freeing ourselves of desire was viewed by Buddha as a necessary step for addressing human misery.
vii. According to Hackett Lewis (Lewis, 1992) “…in his (Rousseau’s) numerous writings he spoke as a rebel against all established institutions. The most famous of these works, The Social Contract (1762), was Rousseau’s indictment of absolute monarchy. It began with the stirring manifesto: “Man is born free, but today he is everywhere in chains.” (See link to the article)
viii. The intense dislike and revulsion of these social thinkers for cruelty, injustice, and inequality arising from feudal monarchy can be seen clearly in their thinking (as expressed in their writings) and what they did. Their vision was clearly of a post-feudal society based on the tenets of humanism. According to Smith (Smith, 1885) Hugo’s own words were “…it is a higher society, and a more elevated humanity at which I am aiming—a society without kings, a humanity without barriers. I want to universalize property, not to abolish it; I would suppress parasitism; I want to see every man a proprietor, and no man a master.” (To read see: http://www.gutenberg.org/files/37635/37635-h/37635-h.htm ).
ix. In the twentieth point of ‘The principles of Communism’, Engels (Engels, 1847) states “Society will take all forces of production and means of commerce, as well as the exchange and distribution of products, out of the hands of private capitalists and will manage them in accordance with a plan based on the availability of resources and the needs of the whole society. In this way, most important of all, the evil consequences which are now associated with the conduct of big industry will be abolished. There will be no more crises; the expanded production, which for the present order of society is overproduction and hence a prevailing cause of misery, will then be insufficient and in need of being expanded much further. Instead of generating misery, overproduction will reach beyond the elementary requirements of society to assure the satisfaction of the needs of all…” (To read see: http://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/1847/11/prin-com.htm) From this quote one can see the critical place of socialization of means of production and its implications in the conceptual construct of Marx and Engels.
x. Literally meaning kingdom of Ram but as a concept it has been given many meanings over time and has been used by nationalist politicians, religious leaders, etc. for their ends and purposes.
xi. Lutgendorf (Lutgendorf, 1991, p. 381), in his book ‘The life of a text: performing the Ramcaritmanas of Tulsidas’ writes “The notion of Ramraj forms a recurring theme in Gandhi’s discourse. He used the term to articulate his dream of an independent India, often equating it with or preferring it to the term svaraj (self-rule) used by other Congress leaders… Ramraj was “not only the political Home Rule but also dharmaraj… which was something higher than ordinary political emancipation”….” Elsewhere he quotes Gandhi as saying “ “Ramraj means rule of the people. A person like Ram would never wish to rule”” (p. 382). In the following passage from the book ‘Congress and Indian Nationalism: The pre-independence phase’ we can again see Gandhi advocating Swaraj and Ramraj as the ultimate solutions to the problems of Indians. Gandhi, while addressing the Third Kathiawar Political Conference in 1925 says “…British India must first attain swaraj, and then it would “not work for the destruction of the Indian States, but will be helpful to them.” The princes should establish Ramraj, which Gandhi interpreted to mean an end to extravagant visits to Europe and a shallow imitation of the West by the princes and a reform of the revenue system in their states. Gandhi also called on the people to prepare themselves for Ramraj through dedication to satyagraha, tolerance, and suffering and constructive work such as spinning, wearing Khadi, Harijan uplift, and the promotion of Hindu-Muslim unity…”(Sisson (Ed.), 1988, p. 383)
xii. Our approach to the issue of human misery and happiness is not limited to the hitherto connotations of misery and happiness, which primarily pertain to their physical and material (tangible) sources. It associates happiness with the integration and growth of all human dimensions. This will be further elaborated in the forthcoming chapters on the human pleasure and happiness process.
xiii. We are referring here to the rapid scientific and technological advances from 1950 onward.
xiv. Between individuals, groups and Nations and in all spheres of human activity.
xvi. Here we are reminded of the following quote in Steven Pinker’s book ‘How the mind works’ which informs us of the knowledge driven transition in thinking about the mind “The linguistic Noam Chomsky once suggested that our ignorance can be divided into problems and mysteries. When we face a problem, we may not know its solution, but we have insight, increasing knowledge, and an inkling of what we are looking for. When we face a mystery however, we can only stare in wonder and bewilderment, not knowing what an explanation will even look like. I wrote this book because dozens of mysteries of the mind, from mental images to romantic love, have recently been upgraded to problems…” (Pinker, 1997, p. ix).
xvii. We are referring here to the knowledge which started emerging in the form of disciplines like neurobiology and the neurosciences, computational sciences and Artificial intelligence, and the more recent Brain Sciences and Cognitive Sciences, each of which were in turn made up of knowledge inputs from other separate disciplines including Biology, Physics and its various branches, Psychology, Philosophy, Anthropology, etc. How the knowledge coming from these disciplines has been changing our perceptions and understanding about the brain and mind can be seen from the following quotes “….Before computation, there was a sharp distinction between brain and mind: one was a physical organ, the other a ghostly nonentity that was hardly a respectable topic of investigation… After computers, there can be no such skepticism: a machine can be controlled by a ‘program’ of symbolic instructions, and there is nothing ghostly about a computer program. Perhaps the mind stands to the brain in much the same way that the program stands to the computer. There can be a science of the mind.” (Johnson-Laird, 1993, pp. 7-8). According to Steven Rose “…Formal designations apart, the huge expansion of the neurosciences which has taken place over recent years has led many to suggest that the first ten years of this new century should be claimed as The Decade of the Mind.” (Rose, 2006, p. 3).
xviii. By ‘mental intelligence’ we mean a comprehensive knowing of the origins, evolution, structure and functioning of mental processes in general and particularly of civilized man, including the understanding of how to change (restructure existing and produce new) them. This knowing will also encompass an understanding of the evolutionary working and journey of Nature, of which the mental processes are an integral part and product.