As I think it over it seems to me that the high civilisations of the world have produced exactly three different views of the constitution of nature, of the physical universe. And to enumerate them I would call them respectively, nature as a construct, nature as a drama, and nature as an organism. The first two, nature of the construct, has until very recently been characteristic of the Western world. The view of nature as a drama has been largely characteristic of India. And finally of nature, as an organism, has been characteristic of the Far East. I’d like to compare these three views and point out the certain of their advantages, disadvantages, and the ways in which they complement each other. And I think that was part of the interest of this is that our thinking more and more I’ve been fascinated by this, that are thinking about the world is strongly influenced by analogies. By, sometimes analogies that are almost hidden, so far back in the history of the thought of any given civilization or culture. That they have taken as something more than analogies, they are taken out almost you could say as logical patterns. And they are basic to our grammar, to our common sense, and to our attitudes, in ways that often go unsuspected.
Why don’t we start with the Western view of the world as a construct? By this I mean, the the the physical world has historically in the west been looked upon as a created or manufactured article. The work of a creator external to the world, and this view has continued in many ways even after the rise of deism in the eighteenth century and the general tendency of the scientist to dispense with the hypothesis of the Creator, the idea still remains that the world is a construct analogous to a machine, and indeed obeying laws all plans in the same way as a machine obeys a blueprint. Even though the law giver and the planner himself seems to have disappeared. The basic metaphor though, underlying this is not so much the machine. As the work of clay the pot or the sculpture, of the modeled figure. For as you know it is said in the book of Genesis that the lord God created Adam out of the dust of the ground and breathed the breath of life into his nostrils.
And so our language, our poetry is full of all of allusions to the fact that we are really after all clay. Imperial Caesar dead, and turned to clay. Might stop a hole to keep the window away. And because of this figure, it is as I have often said come to mental to our common sense. But the world is formed matter. The forming the shape of the pot, the matter being the clay. And thus, we think of life as being basically. Something done to a medium the medium is stuff, a kind of ominous and inert self in out and unintelligent goo, which requires an external agency to give it form and intelligence and life. And naturally because we have thought this way for so long it’s a terribly difficult idea to abandon to get out of I had the notion. That, in the same way that tables are made of wood and houses of stone.
So we tend to think that trees made of wood and mountains of stone and people are flesh and all of it eventually reducing itself to the primordial goo that the universal Clay the primal matter, the formless original water over which the Spirit of God is said to have moved in the beginning of all time. Now, beyond the idea of the world as a work of pottery lies the most sophisticated idea of the world as a mechanism. In this western view of the world as a construct. As soon as men began to understand mechanical principles, it became extraordinarily convenient to make analogies between various types of machinery, and things to be found in the world. And it is really upon this analogy, that the great achievements of Western technology have hitherto been based. And, it’s really very difficult to think that we could have devised our technology and that our practical sciences could have made such progress. Without the idea of the analogy between the world and a constructed machine. You see, one of the most fundamental things about a machine is that it is an assemblage of parts. And, the successful measurement and description of nature depends upon the calculus, upon reducing it to parts. You know the word calculus originally meant pebbles, and pebbles were one of the oldest methods of calculating. Counting pebbles. In a funny, kind of association of words, calculus is also calculating, in the sense of having a calculating attitude. Scheming. And scheming is associated with turning things to calculate. It is a sort of killing the world, reducing it from the living to the dead, from the organism to the machine. But nevertheless, it has had the most marvelous consequences so far as we are concerned and the cultures which thought of nature by analogy with drama and by analogy with the organism did not produce the technology that we in the West produced. Let me just for a moment, contrast the attitudes. The Indian attitude of the world as a drama. In Hindu thought, the world is not thought of as being made or constructed by God, but as being actually God himself playing a game. The idea of one single divine actor who is playing all the parts of all the creatures in the world imagining himself to be them. To see me as it were, myriads of masks behind which there is simply one where of the mask.
In a forthcoming book, the second volume of the masks of God is not published yet but I’ve seen a copy of Joseph Campbell. Contrasts the way in which the myth of the one who became to the one that became many, has gone into quite different directions beginning in ancient Sumeria, which constitutes as it were a sort of cultural watershed. It has flowed eastwards in one way and west woods and another to the east the idea that the one the Godhead in other words split itself. And dismembered itself into many parts quite voluntarily, and thus became the world as a play. To the west, the theme of the one who became many is different because, as he points out in the book of Genesis it is not the divine who becomes male and female it is the creature. In the Upanishads say the breed had the long ago punish od the divine self. Is. Described as have a saying in the beginning of time let me become two and he splits into male and female and thus generates the world but in the book of end of Genesis it is not the Godhead who spits it is ma’am the creature who is split into Adam and then into Eve.
But thus in the Eastern world we have the dramatic view, in India in particular. And although it’s interesting to note that in say in the writings of the great philosopher Shankara and others the or very often encounter the analogy of the potter, or of pots as representing the world the roles are reversed. The it is the clay is used as the symbol, for the divine reality. Just as pots are all made of clay or as jewels or all made of gold. So, all things in the world are of one divine substance which is of the nature of the Godhead, or Brahman. Is interesting, the different use of the simile. And so, from the standpoint of the dramatic view of the universe, all the divisions and distinctions of the world are looked upon as being a kind of as if. They are in play, they are not quite serious. And this contrasts very sharply with what has been the characteristic Western view the distinctions in the world are the most important things about it. That they are deeply serious. The distinction for good and evil is an eternal distinction as is the distinction between the creator and the creature. The world in this view is not a drama. It is played not by actors, but by what we call real individuals even real persons although funnily enough as I suppose you know the word person is originally persona. The megaphone mask worn by actors in classical Greek drama.
Then thirdly, there is the organic view characteristic of China. In this there is no real thought of there being a divine creator or a divine actor behind the world. But rather the world is thought of as being self-moving and self-creating. The word for nature in Chinese means what is of itself so. When, in the West, a child asks its mother. Who made me? And she replies darling God made you and the child asked But who made god. She has to say nobody made God. And that is a great puzzle to the child who thinks of the world as a construct. And, it may be explained to the child if you like, that god makes himself, he exists off him self because he is existence. To put it in more theological language, he has the attribute called Say it. From the Latin OS A by himself.
Perhaps, some kind of off on telly but would ask the question well if that’s true of God Why couldn’t it be true of the world in the first place? Why did you have to make that additional step in the first place? If he did so he would be thinking more or less in the Chinese way. Which does not think of the world either as an artifact of some make all as a mosque or appearance warm by some sort of deeper reality. He doesn’t, in other words, have a two level view of nature, as an appearance underneath which there is something else to explain it. He sees it all rather as self evident. As being something which regulates itself. And indeed alters itself. There is a sudden sense you see in which the Chinese view is fundamentally Or you could almost call it anarchical. Or if you don’t like that word, you could call it democratic. A world which is self-governing. Not even through a president. But self-governing in every way a great and colossal an it because which moves itself in the same way as you and I move our fingers. Without directing them in the sense that we know exactly what we are doing and how we move them. We don’t.
Now, I’ve said that the Western view is probably what made it possible for us to develop our highly advanced technology. By thinking about the world as a construct. We could think about the laws or principles, or plans, or regularities upon which it was based. We could think for example, of the calculus, of number, as the basic characteristic of the law upon which nature is based. By doing that, we caught on to the idea of thinking of all things as reducible to atoms to parts, to bits. And then by thinking of bits, we found that we could measure the world very accurately, describe its regularities very accurately. And that gave us an astonishing degree of control over it.
But this is a point of view which is successful to a certain degree. It goes well up to a certain level after which it begins to develop complications. One thing, you could say, it has complications which of psychological on the one hand and practical and technical on another. From a psychological point of view, it’s complication is that when it becomes common sensical to us to look at the world as a mechanism, we begin as humans, as people capable of feeling and love, to feel the external world rather alien to us. Yes, it’s a machine. It’s a great big automatic mechanical arrangement. Which, in essence, is simply stupid energy. We thereupon feel that it has nothing in common with ourselves, and perhaps even though we try to give the same sort of account of ourselves, and try to reduce our brains and emotions to some kind of neurological computer mechanism, that makes us in a way hate ourselves. Because soon as we start thinking of ourselves as automata, we begin ethically and psychologically treating ourselves as automata. We lose respect for ourselves and thereupon feel that what is central to us the feeling center of the person is trapped in a cosmos that is a mechanical night to match foreign and strange. We can see ourselves as a kind of ghastly accident. And I don’t wonder that this engender has certain kinds of suicidal tendencies in our culture. So much for the psychological point of view. From the technical point of view, the analogy of nature with mechanism develops its own disadvantages after a certain point. That is to say, the disadvantage of trying to manage the physical universe as if it were indeed a an assemblage of separate parts or separable parts. The first sort of person to notice this mistake would be the extreme subject law medical specialist. Who knows for example. All about hearts or about stomachs but they’re little about brains or lungs. And who treats one or going at a time and becomes unaware of the imbalances inflicted upon other organs by what he’s done to the organ in which he specializes. Also in the same way, the specialist always tends to see the units of nature and to be unaware of that connection is all relationships, which are after all inseparable relationships with all the other parts.
There is you might say also, another technical disadvantage again which develops them in the course of time to this particular mechanical analogy. And that is, that when you begin to rely more on more upon minute and careful description of the world. For dealing with it, and that of course involves the reduction of the weld to describable units it. The world then becomes terribly complicated, and it becomes increasingly difficult to keep track of all the minute units that you’ve described. Hence the difficulty of specialists in the various sciences communicating with each other and the difficulty of the scientific specialist in communicating with the layman. The whole thing becomes much too complicated to manage. And this then means that. The more we know, the greater our skill in managing the world as a mechanical construct, the more difficult it becomes to control because it becomes increasingly complex. We talk endlessly about the increasing complexity of political, social and economic affairs which makes the problems of the world increasingly unintelligible to even the average well-educated citizen.
Now, it has been suggested that the Western view, nature as a construct, has in some ways done its job. And that from here on we need to explore to a greater degree, other views, perhaps the organic view of the Chinese where in we get a became really a harmony of points of view with our own sciences biology, ecology, and so forth. As if somehow this view had been tucked away in a store cupboard, waiting for us to be available at just the time when we needed it. The problem here is an entirely new one, because we’re so used to thinking of our problems of controlling and understanding the world in terms of the methods of mechanical science.
Not so long ago, I was talking to Lyn White, who used to be president of Mills College, and he was saying that our academic world, values only three kinds of intelligence whereas it is said there are many more that at least seven I don’t remember what all the seven were but he said that the kinds of intelligence that we value our first of all mnemonic. Which is the ability to remember. Computational intelligence, the ability to figure. And verbal intelligence the ability to read write and talk. But he said there is also social intelligence. And that is also kinesthetic intelligence. A kind of intelligence, kinesthetic, in which we learn as children to walk to run and throw and catch balls and to do all kinds of acts dreamily complex and very subtle actions without being able to describe, or counts what we are doing. Perhaps, in handling far more complex matters, and catching balls, or skiing, or riding bicycles we may have unknown resources of kinesthetic intelligence for dealing with some of the problems that now face us. Here is the germ of an idea, which Chinese culture and Far Eastern culture in general suggest to us. Perhaps they themselves have only dimly begun to explore these things, but I think that it’s in that direction that the future of practical philosophy and government of the world may lie.