Spiral, Spirituality and Social Progress
The Eastern worldviews tend to describe the world in cyclical terms. Life and death, creation and destruction, summer and winter, and time itself, are conceived in circular manner in which life repeats continuously. In the West, we see a linear worldview, in which human activity builds on itself to attain at an ongoing progressive change. From this I posit a pathway that is a combination of the Western and Eastern thought and affectuates the virtues of both while doing away with the flaws of both.
This pathway can be visualized as a spiral.
A spiral repeats cyclically along the X and Y dimensions while consistently rising along the Z dimension. The cycles of growth and reproduction - the cycles of natural growth and rebirth - the cycles of childhood, youth, adulthood and old age - continue as they do in nature. Meanwhile human activity builds on itself to affectuate ongoing progressive improvement. Science, technology, and economic well-being build on themselves to result in ongoing improvement in matters of civilization. Meanwhile natural cycles remain what they are, and people get to enjoy their benefits.
In the spiral model, people have the benefit of both the natural and the man-made. They are free to enjoy the richness and beauty of nature; free also to affectuate ongoing improvement in civilization. Both the natural and the man-made are honored, and people have the benefit of both.
The spiral model is congruent with rationality. A human being possesses both the physical aspect, which follows the laws of nature, and the intellectual and volitional aspect, from which he conceptualizes, invents, creates and builds. The first is congruent with nature; the second is the creator of civilization. As a being of both nature and civilization, the human being is happiest when he gets to enjoy the fruits of both nature and civilization - as such, of the rightful application of both the cyclical and the linear mentalities.
The cyclical model, by itself, does not allow for ongoing growth and improvement. The history of imperial China, which practiced the cyclical worldview in all matters, was one story repeated any number of times. Someone comes in to create a dynasty; the dynasty does well for a while; then someone in the dynasty governs badly; after which someone starts a revolution and puts another dynasty into place. This kept repeating through centuries, and China did not register ongoing improvement during those centuries. A person from the West would say, what a waste. And he would be right.
The linear model, where misapplied, also leads to undesirable outcomes. A generation might believe, as it itself goes from youth to adulthood to old age, that its changing attitudes reflect a linear progression in the consciousness of humanity. It may start with romantic love and sex and music, then go to business and science, then go to religion, and think that it is creating through its changing attitudes a linear progressive change in the world; but it would be wrong. What it is experiencing is progression from being one age to being another age - a natural cyclical alteration - and natural changes in attitudes that are functional of it being that age. Meanwhile at the same time there are in the world other generations that are of different ages; and these generations are prevented from going through their natural growth cycles by this generation claiming that its progression through natural cyclical changes comprises a linear progress that speaks for the the whole of humanity. There will always be young people; there will always be middle-aged people; and there will always be old people. Functional to the natural cycles, these will all want what is wanted by people of their age. To see one generation's changing attitudes as linear progress, and as such reflecting the progress of humanity, is a vast error of judgment. These are natural, cyclical changes; and they will be such for any generation that comes to live on the planet Earth.
Some changes are reflection of natural cycles and are by their nature cyclical. Other changes are a reality of human activity building linearly upon itself. It is important to know which changes are which in order that they rightfully be approached and rightfully dealt with. Changes from youth to middle age to old age are natural and cyclical and will go on for as long as there is humanity. Whereas going from horse and buggy to personal computer is a progressive, linear change;a result of knowledge and its application building upon itself toward ever more advanced outcomes.
Cycles therefore are appropriate to things of nature, and linear progress to things of civilization, science and technology. For as long as people remain people, they cannot escape the first; and for as long as people remain interested in their economic and material well-being, they will want to partake in the second. A strong distinction must be drawn between the natural matters - the matters that are cyclical in their logic - and matters of man-made reason, creation and productive activity - matters that can and should build linearly and progressively upon themselves.
For this reason I postulate the spiral model as a way to combine both nature and civilization in a way that is congruent with their reality and affectuates outcomes for humankind that are consistent with the logic of both and combining the benefits of each.
The description of human being as possessing a natural aspect and the purely human intellectual-volitional nature may leave some unsatisfied. Someone might say, what about spirituality. My response is that the issue is irrelevant. Spirituality of one kind or another has always existed, in all kinds of social covenants and in all kinds of lifestyles. Native indigenous populations, nomadic tribes, agricultural societies, and industrial and information age societies, all had people practicing one or another kind of spirituality; and the right of people to have a spiritual orientation to life is not here under attack.
Rather the thinking relates to matters of physical and social reality. We are dealing with matters of nature and civilization - with matters that is of the human physical, emotional nature that is congruent with the non-man-made world of nature; and of the human intellectual, volitional nature that is uniquely human and that has created the man-made world of civilization. Possessing both aspects, people will have orientation toward both worlds; and the rational solution consists of maximizing their enjoment of both. This is as much the case for the native populations that believe in the Great Mystery as it is for the Asians who believe in Buddha or Syrians who believe in Allah or Southerners who believe in Christ.
Where religious and spiritual attitudes do become problematic is when they militate against either the physical nature or the intellectual-volitional nature, or against both. As someone who has intensively studied different kinds of spiritualities and religions, from ones with billions of followers to ones "out there," I have found them used for all sorts of purposes; and most of these purposes are very much human. Whether it's used to control one's wife and one's children, or to "scare people straight," or to run communities, or to wield authority, or to reward people for collaborating and punish them for not collaborating, or to mold people's personalities, or to overcome fear of death so that one would be willing to go to war, or to console oneself over bad things happening, spirituality and religion are for the most part tools of human agendas. These human agendas come, once again, either from the natural, physical, emotional aspect that is congruent with all of life; or from the intellectual-volitional aspect that is uniquely human. In either case, we are dealing with something that is a tool of either aspect - and, for as long as it is used for what it is used for, meant to be treated as such.
If the person has genuinely spiritual aspirations - if he wants to transcend the world, or to become enlightened, or to contact spirits, or to have high spiritual experiences, or to have a relationship with Christ, or to commune with nature - then it is his or her right to look for and practice the spiritual paths that exist toward that end or make his or her own. This is not what we are dealing with here. Nature and civilization exist both regardless of spirituality; and spirituality exists as much among tribes that live a fully natural lifestyle with no civilization component as it exists among people who live fully in civilization and think themselves beyond nature.
Within civilization itself there have been many spiritual masters and leaders, as well as many followers of these masters and leaders. Some had a cyclical view of life; others a linear view of life. Once again that is not the issue at hand. It is possible to have spirituality whether one lives in a world of cycles or in a world of lines. And it is likewise possible, though not necessary, to have spirituality when one lives in a spiral.
Whereas many indigenous populations possess beliefs that are affirming fully of nature and have no use for civilization - and whereas many white people possess beliefs that are affirming only of civilization and see nature merely as resources - it is in the Orient that we find beliefs affirming of both nature and civilization. Japanese tradition stresses extreme refinement, excellence, and self-control; it also respects nature and tells people to tread lightly thereon. In China, we have seen two belief structures exist side by side: Confucianism that seeks a deified social order of "li" and Taoism that seeks wisdom in nature and outside society. In both cases, civilization has existed for a long time side by side with nature, and people had benefits of both worlds.
From the standpoint of the Orient, both the white people who blindly and stupidly tramp on nature and the nomads who have no use for civilization come across as barbarians. Whereas in their more crystalline arrangement, nature was honored while civilization was cultivated by its side. The Orient has had success in maintaining the world's longest-running civilizations; yet the Orient too has had a flaw in its mentality.
This flaw consists of its failure to achieve ongoing, linear scientific, technological and economic progress until it was made to embrace the same by the West's technological superiority. The linear thinking, which the Orientals and the indigenous are right to claim inadequate for describing the world of nature until it is taken to a high enough level of knowledge and rarefecation, is nevertheless useful for creating machines, canons of knowledge, and ongoing technological and economic growth. It also becomes adequate for describing nature when taken to a high enough level - something that the Orientals did not expect. China was caught off-guard by the West's rising and had no way to prepare itself for what came at it in 19th century. It is only now that they are beginning to recover and to regain their place in the world.
Of China's religions, it is Taoism rather than Confucianism that has been of more interest to people outside of China. In part, the reason is that the people in the West who take interest in Eastern religions are typically the people who have disagreements with Western religions - disagreements as such with societies in which these have strong influence. They seek the Taoist path of getting their minds out of such societies and into more clear perception - a purpose that Taoism is uniquely suited to fulfil. In fact, Taoist techniques are perfect for deconstructing bigotry and could be used in the academia to help students get rid of prejudice and prepare them for scientific inquiry. Whereas Confucianism does not do any such thing, and being more socially authoritarian than the Western religions poses to Western seekers a much more limited interest.
According to Confucianism, as much as according to Solomon, all human things are cyclical and generic - "there is nothing new under the sun." Of course there are many things new under the Sun, from computers to mobile phones to, well, death metal; but what we see here is an inherent clash of worldviews. Are all things social made of cycles, in which everything remains fundamentally the same, or is there a linear progression toward one or another outcome? Once again, we are seeing possibilities for both; and either is capable of desirable or undesirable results.
The physical, emotional nature of people is congruent with nature and will be common through ages and generations. Their intellectual and volitional nature, being uniquely human, can and will when free to do so produce things of innovation and ingenuity. We see in society therefore both the cyclical qualities and the linear qualities; and these are again optimized best in the situation of the spiral. Along the X and Y dimensions - the dimensions of the natural - cycles govern. Along the Z dimension - the dimension of the manmade - rules the line.
While matters of science, technology and economy are therefore best treated as linear, and matters of nature as cyclical, there are matters that are not solely either. One of these matters is what is known as social progress, especially as far as women's rights are concerned. Is there such a thing as social progress, and is it a rational thing to believe in? The history presents a mixed verdict.
Under Tang dynasty in China, in 8th century, women had many of the rights and freedoms that are enjoyed by the better off women in the West. After the Tang dynasty, Chinese women lost most of these rights and freedoms. Under the Roman Empire, women enjoyed many rights and freedoms in 1st century BC and 1st century AD; which rights and freedoms were lost when Roman Empire became Christian. In the West, we have seen periods of improvement, periods of degradation, and periods with outcomes that were mixed. Renaissance, Enlightenment and Romanticism, early 20th century, and 1960s and 1970s, saw many gains by women in the West. The Reformation, the Victorian era, the period from 1930s through 1950s, the 1980s, and the Bush-Eminem-Bin Laden decade, saw many of these gains taken away.
One ongoing problem has been dischordance between what is advocated by leaders of feminism and what most women want. The bulk of women do not want to go without male partners, or to be denied the benefits of beauty and romance, or to be childless, or to be nasty mean-spirited harpies, or to live a grim workaholic existence without anyone to appreciate them. They want to be women; they want to have fruitful relationships with men. Some want to have careers; some want to be stay-at-home parents; some want both. In this matter the question to ask is, What is it that constitutes progress toward greater well-being for women? And is it the same as the directions espoused by the leaders of feminism?
The verdict here also appears to be mixed. Most women do not want to live as women did in the Middle Ages; but neither do they want to live the way that Andrea Dworkin and Catherine McKinnon want women to live. Many want a more wholesome, holistic existence in which they can have a fulfilling home life and a fulfilling work life; some want either one or the other. If there is such a thing as social progress, it is therefore not the same as what Marxist feminists believe social progress to be. Rather it is a progression toward a point at which more women have a chance at an existence they find fulfilling, and in which they have greater choice as to what kind of lifestyle they can have.
What is the reality of the situation? Same as above. Men and women are both beings of nature and beings of intellectual and volitional consciousness. They possess a physical, emotional aspect that is of nature and that is and will always be gendered; and they possess an intellectual and volitional nature in which men and women are the same. Many leaders of feminism, operating from the position of the intellectual and volitional nature, have denied women the right to their physical, emotional nature, and in so doing have alienated many women, severely sabotaging the cause of women's empowerment and women's rights.
What, then, is social progress? If there is such a thing as a social progress, it can be summarized in one word: Choice. By this I mean choice over one's lifestyle and over one's self. Choice - meaningful, real choice - is the essence of freedom. The more meaningful choices that people have, the greater the freedom, the more advanced the society.
I mean therefore more people having a chance at a life that they would want. In matters of man-woman relationships, it means creating better relationships that work both for the women and for the men according to facts of male and female physical and emotional nature. And in matters of business, science, politics, and all other endeavors involving intellectual and volitional nature, it means women attaining complete equality with men.
This, once again, is based upon a calculus that the human being contains aspects that are congruent with nature and aspects that are uniquely human. In matters concerning aspects that are uniquely human, is applicable the rational and progressive logic of full equality. In matters that are natural and gendered, is applicable the logic congruent with that gendered nature: The logic of men and women coming together in fruitful relationships to fulfil their gendered nature and to produce and sustain new life.
Once again, optimization is achieved through understanding the nature of the matter. A human being, possessing both the natural aspect and the intellectual-volitional aspect, will benefit from both being honored and applied where such are appropriate. This is as much the case for the natural, physical aspect as it is for the non-gendered intellectual-volitional aspect.
Errors of feminism - such as their referring to mothers as "breeders" and their attacks on romance, beauty and sexuality - have done much to hold back real social progress. Without mothers, they would not be alive; as for romance, beauty and sexuality, these are some of life's greatest joys, both for women and for men. Such blundering misdirections of feminism have been a vast drain on the cause of women's rights and do not belong as part of any agenda that dares to call itself progressive. Whereas confronting the real wrong facing women - domestic violence - is a burning matter that requires urgent attention of anyone who cares about the world in which we live.
Will there be women who will want nothing to do with men and relationships? Of course there will be such women; and they deserve to have as much the right to their choices as does anyone else. If these women genuinely want to improve the lot of women, the best thing they can do is help other women stand up to abuses of power that many men like to inflict on their partners, instead of attacking women for wanting to be loved or for wanting to be beautiful or for wanting fulfilling relationships with men. With a class of butch women who have the strength to stand up to bullies, there will be defenders of women against abusive partners; and standing up to these bullies, not attacking women for wanting love or romance or children, actually has a chance of genuinely improving the lot of women on Earth.
A progression toward greater choice, greater freedom and more dignified and empowered existence does not come naturally. It takes place for as long as people push it along. As soon as people stop doing that, such a progression stops and is met with a reaction. This is in no way a natural or unavoidable outcome and takes place only for as long as people work determinedly toward that end.