A Second Fall – Notes on a Wounded Culture
“…I always think how different everything would be
if we in the Orient had developed our own science.”
Junichiro Tanizaki – In Praise of Shadows
“Matter is meaningless in the absence of spirit.”
Just one example of the lethal effect the broadcasting of our blighted seeds has had on a hitherto profound and holistic culture, was the way in which Japan invited this cultural tragedy to be visited upon itself in its feverish haste to become ‘modern’, and accept what it was convinced of too easily was a superior culture, by importing the dualistic philosophies, and accompanying industries and technologies of the West in the nineteenth century. It is illustrated most graphically in the way in which the meaning of the Japanese term pronounced as jinen or shizen, was changed in the late nineteenth century, from an adjective and adverb, to a noun. The term jinen/shizen with its meanings of ‘naturalness’, ‘of’ or ‘from itself’, and ‘spontaneously’, was originally non-dualistic and inclusive of everything in the universe, describing nature/self as sharing the same reality, continuum, or relational matrix. But after its translation under Western philosophical influence in the Meiji period (1868-1912), and while the original Chinese characters themselves remained unaltered, it resulted in a change from its use as a non-dualistic adjective or adverb, to shizen as a noun – meaning ‘Nature’, as apart from humankind, and as having an oppositional, objective reality. And whereas previously Japan had adapted to, and sought kinship with the natural world, this began to alter to the West’s own antagonistic stance and controlling relationship towards nature, allowing Japan to efficiently and incrementally begin destroying the very natural environment which had once fed the roots of its profound cultural and spiritual genius, and which it had hitherto considered sacred – as the body of the Cosmic Buddha, the realm of the kami or nature deities and the spirits of the ancestors – with all the voracious appetite of a consumer superstar.
Once again the West’s ‘beads’, ‘blankets’, and ‘fire water’, in the form of an apparently superior dualistic philosophy, with its scientific, industrial and technological wares, leading to the disinheritance of sacred lands and the partitioning and impoverishment of a cultural psyche – in this instance, deepened and hastened, by postwar occupation. A deception, I believe, we originally, unknowingly carried off on ourselves in our unquestioning acceptance of so much in the past, and still today. In the case of Japan, an event, which despite Japan’s genius in integrating, accommodating and transforming foreign ideas and cultural forms, I believe has reduced it from a profound, Buddhist/Shinto culture, and Confucian-based society, to an industrialised consumer society based on confusion – a scenario also being enacted throughout the rest of Asia, that is,where its traditional cultures have not already been destroyed by totalitarianism in one form or another.
We have now reduced ourselves to a situation where the architects of this ‘advanced’, scientific and consumerised planet, have found it necessary to ghetto the environment into defined zones bearing such appellations as: ‘Sites of Special Scientific Interest’ – Nature as laboratory; and ‘Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty’ – a kind of directed, judgemental scale for appreciating and valuing the landscape. An increasingly urban/suburban and ‘managed’ landscape punctuated with national parks where the natural world is ‘protected’ by being placed on display, labelled and described by the wayside on interpretation boards, reducing it to a text, so that we may be carried conveniently, safely, and conceptually into the land. Nature safely banished, like those who lived symbiotically with it, to reservations. Their existence graphically describing the way in which we had already created an apartheid between ourselves and the natural world. A landscape frequently identified with, and described by reference to, art, literature or film – the Constable, Burns, Shakespeare or Wicker Man ‘countries’ billed a la carte. The natural world erroneously named and labelled as though it consists inanely, of shelves in a supermarket. A planet bagged, tagged, and documented; filmed, photographed and filed; logged, tracked and recorded, with flora and fauna weighed, measured and classified – a planet as scientific inventory, and ‘understood’ by being totally misunderstood. A biosphere trapped in the killing-jar of a legacy mind-set, bequeathed to us by our Cartesian confusion.
In our misguided attempts at environmental healing, instead of looking inwards, and examining the source of the problem – healing and transforming ourselves – we imagine we can continue to change and modify the natural environment without, yet again, as though it is a room we can merely move the furniture around in. Put a sheet over the sofa, and a notice saying, “Don’t sit in the rickety chair.”
We simply do not understand the natural environment any more than we understand our own natures, and yet we speak of ‘managing’ it, while we cannot even manage ourselves, and where the word ‘manage’ is actually a camouflage term meaning ‘control’. While in most people’s minds, the so-called ‘Gaia hypothesis’ is a new concept expounded by a scientist, instead of some of the most ancient, revealed, and experienced knowledge and wisdom, shared by the past’s holistic cultures, and by a few peoples who still manage to survive in remote areas on this planet. And not merely a theory or hypothesis yet to be “scientifically proven”, as claimed by its author. It is just this scientific mind-set that trades genes as patented commodities in the market place, and indulges in worrying agendas for genetic-and-geo-engineering, and is bent on turning space into a new territory of real estate for commercial profit, scientific research, military advantage, and the new colonialism. Space is not in that sickening phrase of human ambition, hubris, and ignorance, ‘the last frontier’ – and we all know the dangerous characteristics and results of a ‘frontier mentality’. And do not believe that the idea of searching for new planets to colonise has all to do with the problems of population on Earth – we would be pursuing this path as our imagined heroic ‘right’, anyway. Human curiosity, while being natural and creative on one hand, can on the other, be the kind of curiosity that not only kills the cat, but also the goose that lays the golden egg – particularly when the left hand does not know what the right is doing. With our inflated ego-selves, we got “above ourselves”, and began thinking we are gods.
Those of us who are in disagreement with this kind of scientific approach are not anti-science-and-technology per se, but are against the wrong kinds of science and technology. Ones that are almost entirely developed by those with no belief other than in the supremacy and superiority of this ultimately illusory human ego-self, and founded on this overly dualistic and objectifying, anthropocentrically-based, hierarchical description of reality. Broadly speaking, these sciences and technologies are based on a fundamental distrust of life, and fear of death – a flight from Nature and all that is naturally ourselves (all that is literally embodied in us) – an invasive, and antagonistic stance towards the universe, in spite of the new paradigms suggested by avant-garde science. And anyone who still doubts or is unaware of the criminal insanity of certain sections of the scientific community, should take a look at the aspirations and aims of organisations like The High Frequency Active Auroral Research Program or HAARP, jointly funded by the U.S. Air Force and the U.S. Navy, and similar research projects, to understand just how profoundly deep our sickness has become. And with regard to nuclear energy, even with the ‘nuclear option’ as a ‘ploughshare’, and in spite of some environmentalists currently supporting it in the face of carbon-based energy sources, the situation remains the same – nuclear energy is the power of fools.
Yet how easy it is for us in this faithless age, without any knowledge, to espouse scientific faith, and accept its pronouncements as ‘gospel’. To hear or read something in the media, classroom or pub, for us to believe it to the point of repeating it to any willing audience with all the authority and assertion of the newly converted – a blind faith indeed!
While in holistic cultures it is the natural world that teaches humankind (Taoism for example, is based on the laws, energies, and rhythms of Nature), and from where in the most common examples, naming, dance, music, martial arts, poetry, religion, philosophy, and healing etc. are originally derived; in the West, it became humankind who named natural features and celestial bodies, most often with the names of those who are said to have ‘discovered’ or ‘conquered’ them – likewise, animal species. And it is humankind that takes it upon itself to order, manage and teach Nature. An obvious example of this, as we were taught in school, being of St. Francis of Assisi, who allegedly preached to birds about God – a fatal misunderstanding and a disastrously arrogant reversal of the holistic paradigm.
Another thing that we were taught at school was that all that matters is matter, with spirit locked away in a dark cupboard labelled ‘superstition’. The truth of the matter is that matter is fundamentally spirit, or pure energy/intelligence, manifest at the vibratory frequencies of gross form – reality being a dance of interplay between these ‘two’ different/same states, and that no matter how unpopular or unpalatable the notion may be to many people, the real underlying nature of the universe, or cosmos, is spiritual, not material; while our popular interpretations of religion have often misunderstood and misrepresented the nature of this truth.
Malcolm Ritchie’s essay A Second Fall – Notes on a Wounded Culture will be published in six parts on International Times.