Monday, 17 November 2014

Revival of Humanism

Has the modern man lost his contact with the dimensions of reality that gives rise to religion? If religion is defined as an answer to man’s ultimate questions, then the modern man seemingly does not bother about such questions. The theological concepts and religious values of the bygone days are entirely out of tune with our present day outlooks, convictions and sense of values. There is a huge helplessness in the industrialized civilization, which is pathetically incongruous with the wholeness of contemporary metaphysics and religion. Perhaps, a sober, theistic humanism in modern times can provide some degree of corrective equally to a sedate religious transcendentalism. The crisis of faith that has befallen the modern man has got to be recovered.

What is the reason for these highly disturbing social phenomena? Bertrand Russell emphasizes the need for knowledge to rise into, in wisdom and warns the modern man in the following way:- “We are in the middle of a race between human skill as to means and human folly as to ends. Given sufficient folly as to ends, every increase in the skill required to achieve then is to the bad. The human race has survived hitherto owing to the ignorance and incompetence; but given knowledge and competence combined with folly, there can be no certainty of survival. Knowledge is power, but it is power of evil as much as for good. It follows that, unless men increase in wisdom as much as in knowledge, increase of knowledge will be increase of sorrow”.

Therefore the most important task before the human race is to free itself not only from the horrifying possibility of a nuclear war but also the distancing of oneself from his intimate self. The only rational approach is to acquire greater understanding of ourselves and a greater trust between humans. Although man has acquired tremendous control over nature yet he has not conquered himself: Unless it is done he cannot contribute to the preservation of humanity and to the promotion of peace and happiness among people. A genuine humanistic culture has to be promoted and accepted by all nations of the world as the basis of political ideologies and economic programmes. It means religion; caste and colour should not be allowed to come in the way of man in courting friendship with man. Dr. Josiah goldfields in the course of his speech on ‘War and Internationalism’ suggest “more wars are caused by bad tempered people seeking to discuss peace measures than by good-tempered people seeking to discuss war measures”. The UNESCO Preamble embodies this very sentiment “since wars begin in the minds of men, it is in the minds of men that the defense of peace must be constructed.”
Therefore, what is to be recognized is the unique status of man as human and the worth of life itself. Man is essentially a self-transcending being who has surpassed the given to his capacity of reflection and self-reflection. The physical world has a new meaning for him as comprehended by his reason and superior intellect, and the extent of this comprehension determines the event of his freedom. This continual interplay in man of the physical, mental and spiritual is both a blessing and a peril to him. No creature, as the modern existentialists says, is capable of such abysmal depths of loneliness, crime, bewilderment, and despair as man is. Yet by the organic development of his diverse capacities, he embodies the possibility of evolving a meaning and purpose to his life. Such a life when enkindled by an awareness of his deep abiding commitment to the world, can reach him to the highest strata of devotional life, which at the same time is the highest level of existential realization. Such a realization is the supreme concern of Universal Religion. It replaces the humanitarian ideals of compassion and charity with the spiritual precept of service to the living God dwelling in the hearts of all beings. This may be a new Vedanta which can focus on the new human possibilities- Seeing one Self in all. This harmony of the self with the other can not be attained by mere intellectual understanding and interfaith deliberations, nor can it be enacted by law. It is to be discovered and realized by deepening our individual God- Consciousness. As Vivekananda suggests: “show by your lives that religion does not mean words or names or sects, but that it means spiritual realization. Only those can understand who have felt. Only those who have attained spirituality can communicate it to others, can be great teachers of mankind. They alone are powers of lights”. As Heschel put it “Human is he, who is concerned with other selves…. A stone is self-sufficient, man is surpassing…Man cannot even be in accord with his own self unless he serves something beyond himself” The presence of the deep transitive concern opens up for man a new ontological dimensions:  the dimension of the holy. Surpassing the vegetative and the animal, man exhibits his deep transitive concern with God and it is in this that the Imago Dei rests”. Therefore, what is needed for the establishment of the world Peace and the functioning of a universal dynamic humanism is the overcoming of the beastliness in man, through his education being carried beyond the intellectual to the spiritual dimensions of his being. This is what Vivekananda calls a true religion, which he defines ‘as the manifestation of the divinity already in man’.

Post written by:
Professor Geeta Manaktala
Dept. of Philosophy
Panjab University, Chandigarh


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