Saturday 26 July 2014



Excerpts from chapter 25 of Satish Kumar's You Are Therefore I Am

‘I think, therefore I am’,  proclaimed René Descartes… As I learned more about Western culture, I realised how Cartesian dualism was an essential feature of a thought process which divided mind and matter, separated soul and body and looked at the world as a collection of objects…  This Cartesian subject-object dualism or mind-matter split has become the dominant paradigm of Western culture…

These theories [the dominant Judaeo-Christian influence, Newtonian physics, Darwinian biology and Freudian psychology] are, in my view, at the root of the ecological, social and spiritual crisis of our times.  The dualistic world-view gives the illusion that I exist independently of the Other…

This is Separational Philosophy.

The whole beyond the parts

There are other philosophies which seek the whole beyond the parts… Here are examples of such Relational Philosophies: [those of the Jains, the Buddhists, parts of Africa where they use the word ‘ubuntu’ (‘we are’), Native Americans, Hindus]…

There is no separate, isolated, disconnected self.  Things appear separate if we see them as separate, they appear related when we see them as related.  It is all in the seeing.  Seers see the whole.  Unlike Descartes, who believed the soul to live in the pineal gland, St Thomas Aquinas saw that the soul is not in the body, but the body is in the soul.  We are part of the anima mundi, the world soul…

The consequences  of Cartesian dualism is to put individuals in opposition to each other and the world at large, making life a battleground. … Individualism gives birth to exploitation of the weak by the strong, fights for power and wealth, subjugation of animals and nature, and the ultimate frustration of an unfulfilled and meaningless life.
In Separational Philosophy the individual is encouraged to take, take, take, and this ceaseless taking leads to nothing but anxiety…

Relational Philosophy

In the relational paradigm, the individual receives from the universe at large. … We are all givers and receivers. This leads to caring for each other, and nurturing the earth, because ultimately there is no distinction between the Earth and ourselves.
Separational Philosophy leads to a position of either ‘one’ or the ‘other’.  Either individualism or collectivism, either materialism or spirituality, either art or science…  Relational Philosophy equips us to recognise the reality of ‘both… and …’  Individual and society are two sides of the same coin. Matter and spirit exist together; art and science complement each other…  We need rationalism in balance with intuition and emotion.  Life is not a battleground …  Rather, life is a ground of symbiotic relationships, where even battles and conflicts have a place, as do compassion and harmony…

What is the fundamental cause of conflict, highlighted by 11th September but in evidence all around the world? It is the paradigm that all individuals, families, communities, classes, societies and nations must seek their own, separate self-interest.
The Marxist class analysis is very much based on dualism …

Even the environmental movement … is often driven by a pragmatic, utilitarian, dualistic and anthropocentric world-view.  This is a kind of selfish ecology…  The unity of life is not just about human survival, it is about deep respect and reverence for all life… This is Reverential Ecology…

A Reverential Ecology

Without reverence there can be no ecology, and without spirituality there can be no sustainability. Unless we are prepared to make a radical shift in our thinking and act accordingly, we will not be able to bring an equilibrium between conflict and harmony, and attain wholeness. 

(Ed:) And just for comparison, with no explicit connection whatsoever, here some words of Pope Francis in November 2013:
The great danger in today’s world, pervaded as it is by consumerism, is the desolation and anguish born of a complacent yet covetous heart, the feverish pursuit of frivolous pleasures, and a blunted conscience.  Whenever our interior life becomes caught up in its own interest and concerns, there is no longer room for others, no place for the poor.  God’s voice is no longer heard, the quiet joy of his love is no longer felt, and the desire to do good fades.”

And Roger Scruton:
"By remaking humans and their habitat as objects to consume rather than subjects to revere we invite the degradation of both." (Gifford Lectures, 2010, published as THE FACE OF GOD, 2012)

Join us on August 3rd as we discuss Satish Kumar's philosophy at Wychwood Library in West Oxfordshire. 

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