Culture, Crisis & Creativity

by Dane Rudhyar

12. The Work of Civilization

Throughout this book the contrast between culture and civilization has been stressed. Yet it should also have become clear that all cultures are carrier-waves for the vast, planetary, all-human process of civilization. Culture operates fundamentally at the level of life; civilization at the level of mind. Archaic cultures were almost entirely the product of a human type of biospheric activity in which mind played the devoted servant role. With the extensive and precisely controlled use of fire, a new type of culture developed. The focus of mental activity gradually shifted away from a state of total subservience to biological and emotional needs. As the mind sought, at first hesitantly, then more deliberately, to free itself and to operate at its own level, internal conflicts began to develop.

After the sixth century B.C. a new stress was placed on the Mind of Reason and intellectual processes structured by logic. The Greek culture came to extol internal consistency in a type of rationalistic thinking rooted no longer in biology or personal psychology, but derived from universally valid principles of abstraction, generalization and classification. Later on, as minds long oppressed by dogmatic religion discovered in physical matter a most convenient field for the analytical activity of the mind, our Western culture, reaching its maturity, glorified the empirical and rationalistic methodology of modern science. This Faustian culture has been so pervaded with the restless spirit of civilization that it became utterly fascinated by research, invention, change at all cost, and even by a policy of planned obsolescence for its ever-multiplying products, a striking homage to the death instinct developing when the organic life-impulse begins definitely to deteriorate.

To clearly understand the character of the forms which the process of civilization takes as it affects the character and the development of culture-wholes, we have to realize that the patterns controlling biocultural activities are essentially static; they have a high degree of inertia, thus of resistance to change. Tribal life has a basic solidity that matches the massive strength of mountains, the ponderousness of earth, the unvarying ascent of redwoods and pines—a regular, unchanging kind of coherency and consistency. Cultural inertia manifests as the stubborn will to retain, on the basis of genetic exclusivism and in a specific land-area, a collective structure befitting a more or less definite group of people. We have also to realize that at the level of spirit a similar type of resistance to change operates; only there instead of "solidity" we should speak of "solidarity."

The term spirit has a variety of meanings. When I speak of the realm of spirit, differentiated from that of mind and of matter, I speak of a level of existential activity, not of some abstraction without form or substance. A cosmic cycle begins with a release of spirit. What is released operates as power, form, and substance. Similarly a vegetable seed is a mass of substance having a definite outer form and an internal structure—the potentiality of the future plant—and is animated by an at least latent power of life ready to operate according to a generic plan. The seed must protect itself from anything that could destroy its integrity or induce from the outside a mutation; the seed has inertia. So does the alpha stage of a cyclic process. It must retain its identity, unchanging and inviolate, so that at the end of the cycle it may become the glowing center around which the omega stage of the process will crystallize, as the symbolic perfect Diamond of fulfilled being; the Occult Brotherhood of which the Theosophist speaks; the Church triumphant (or Communion of the Saints) of the Catholic doctrine.

The "realm of spirit" is both alpha and omega; but it can also reflect itself at the middle-stage of human evolution (the mu stage) in the Avatar who, as Krishna states in the Bhagavad Gita, comes to restate the original dharma of this particular cycle of existence. Whoever exemplifies in his consciousness and inner being that original dharma (or seed-truth) lives in a state of solidarity with all those who have been and are in the same condition. "Solidarity" comes from the Greek word meaning companion. A true "Companion of the Spirit" is protected by the solidarity of each and all participants in the divine Companionship or Communion in the realm of spirit.(a)

There is a profound difference between earth solidity and spirit-solidarity; but in a sense, at both levels an intense resistance to change operates. H. P. Blavatsky spoke of "inertia of spirit." At the tribal biospheric level, blood is the potent symbol of psychosocial solidity; at the level of spirit-activity, light is the symbol of solidarity—for light operates as a wave, even if, when that wave encounters matter, it can be seen operating as a myriad of particles.

In the preceding chapter I stated that mind, as it stands "in the middle" charged with the task of relating spirit to matter, can easily become so entranced by either matter or spirit that it forgets, and thus fails in its function of mediator and integrator. In that statement the term mind is meant to refer to the whole realm of mental activity; but there is also a kind of mind which, operating at the level of matter, is entirely subservient to the power of life. This life-serving mind is not the autonomous mind that can be a steady intermediary between spirit and matter. The mediator-mind must be impervious to the fascination which life-energies can exert upon it. It is the mind of the civilizer, of the individual who has reached at least a basic degree of independence from the biopsychic and psychosocial patterns—the paradigms and taboos—of the culture in which he or she was born and educated.

What differentiates "civilization man" from "culture man" is the actual development of the form of the civilizer's mind. This mind bases his thinking processes on fundamental principles and universal or archetypal truths. From these principles and truths civilization-man deduces the framework he needs for consistent and integrating thinking. On the other hand, culture-man stresses inductive procedures, for his mind is solidly, and often ineradicably rooted in facts of everyday experience. Both deduction and induction are valid for civilization-man, because he stands in-between spirit-born principles and matter-born sensations; his task is to correlate and integrate both. But—and this is a crucial point—the mind of the true civilizer is always open to the fecundation of the spirit; Spirit in him takes the initiative.

If his senses provide him with raw materials with which he has to deal in his life-work as an individual person, he seeks first of all to orient his consciousness toward the realm of spirit. He allows the revelatory power of spirit (what Sri Aurobindo calls the Supermind) to take form within his mind. That form could be an image or vision, a voice seemingly speaking inaudible words, or an irresistible impulse to act in response to whatever the situation requires; but if it is any of these, it should also carry the "signature" of the spirit within, otherwise what takes place would have to be considered a "psychic message," a reflection of spirit, not a fecundation by spirit. The clarity, purity, and reliability of a "reflection" depends entirely upon the quality of the reflecting surface; and in most cases this surface is usually only the type of mind operating mainly, if not solely, in the realm of matter. This is the realm where we usually find at work a personality not yet liberated from the pull of bio-psychological energies and from the pressures exerted by an ego whose inertia is matched only by its possessiveness and its passion for exclusive power.

What therefore differentiates civilization-man from culture-man is the nature, character, and operation of their minds. The mind of culture-man is "solid" but bound by the resistance to change of instinctual or traditional modes of biosocial activity, unless it is challenged by external forces and intertribal relationships. On the contrary, the mind of civilization-man is essentially dynamic, eager for transformative experiences, usually restless and at times scattered by a multiplicity of envisioned possibilities. In the civilizer's mind potentiality constantly (or at least periodically) presses upon actualized mental formations, impelling them to open themselves to the as-yet-unknown. This pressure manifests as the capacity for creative ideation.

This word, ideation, today is little used, but it is an essential symbol for the creative process of transformation of the human mind that so easily becomes set and enamored of his own past creations. This mental narcissism is responsible for the formation of schools of thought, set patterns of behavior, artistic cènacles or coteries, and indeed organized religions. Culture seizes the new ideas civilization creates and erects them into systems and truths endowed with permanent value. The civilizer "plays with" ideas; this is the lila (or Play) of the creator. His mind experiences ideas; while usually culture-man merely thinks. The civilizer's mind "sees"; the culture-man's mind cogitates and endlessly argues pros and cons. To see and experience at the level where ideas are spontaneously arising formations of "mind-stuff" requires inner freedom; the inertia of both the realm of spirit and the world of matter has to be overcome.

The typical civilizer often is convinced that everything is possible, that he can produce miracles. This conviction differs from the belief of the God-trusting devotee (or mystic) who has an emotional faith that "with God everything is possible" because the inherently creative civilizer, in whose consciousness the fiery realization of a "mission" burns, experiences his individuality as an Act of God through his person. He is the possibility of creation of everything, but actually only of the things that are needed for the accomplishment of his mission. To him the spiritual life can be defined as thinking only the necessary thoughts, feeling only the necessary feelings, performing only the necessary deeds. He is that necessity. He is ONE in operation; but ONE is simply the everlasting, ever present, and protean answer to every need for integration. Where every duality exists ONE is at work; and all existence is duality.

This is what is meant in Mahayana Buddhism by the Bodhisattva's pledge of renouncing the final liberation of nirvana until "every sentient creature" reaches that liberated state. As long as anything exists, there is the bondage of duality—of spirit and matter. The Bodhisattva refuses to identify himself totally and irrevocably with spirit, for if he did so a mind of absolute materiality would inevitably have to balance his identification, and an at least relatively unresolvable dualism would be created opposing pure matter to pure spirit. The Bodhisattva refuses identification with pure spirit, but he accepts being an ever-open, ever-ready channel for the integrative operation of ONE. He is, however, no longer a particular individual, because he has become the archetypal Individual.

It has been said that the Buddha, having experienced the reality of nirvana, "returned" to teach mankind the truth that could liberate. But what returned was not Gautama, but Buddhahood in the form that had been built by an individual who had been given the name of Gautama. Even at levels of lesser perfection the civilizer nevertheless always is his work. To separate him from his work is to reduce him to the condition of culture-man, to make of him a worshipable personage, a "reverent." It is to force him into the framework of an ego, when the only framework that really befits him is the archetypal structure of the work he performed in answer to a collective need. He had first to experience that need within his culture-bound consciousness in order to be able to identify himself with the answer ONE is providing to that need; but if he is a true civilizer he has become totally and irrevocably that answer. He is no longer a culture-bound individual person; he is a person through whom the Individual, ONE, freely operates. He is the process of civilization at work in a particular place and at a particular time. Upon all he touches he bestows the potentiality of self-transformation; and this bestowal implies as well, for whomever has been touched, the responsibility of actualizing the revealed potentiality in the world of persons and cultural relationships.

It should be a conscious, deliberate, and unswerving response; and such a response demands courage and the mobilization of will. It demands action, clear and well focused action. And there can be action at other levels than that of muscular physical activity, even though all activity—even that of thinking—involves physical and to some extent muscular processes. The civilizer is a man of action. He is a "warrior" even though his weapons may be only ideas and art-forms, plus the contagion of faith and vision he may focus upon those he attracts by the light and warmth of the fire of ONE burning within his compassionate mind. He is the true Noble Man ever ready to fulfill his function and his responsibility to whomever is attracted to his realm of consciousness and the charismatic emanation of his being—because he is that function, whatever the character of the function may be.

The function of the civilizer may have any character, because an answer must be as varied as the needs of the many types of human beings in the world of culture. Always, however, it implies piercing through the conditions characterizing either the biopsychological or the psychosocial realms of human existence. Such a breakthrough demands both a lucid mind and a well-tempered and effective will. Will alone cannot produce the needed results, because it is only an instrument. It is like a sword; it will cut or pierce only in the direction given by the hand holding it and the mind controlling the hand. A hand uncontrolled by an enlightened mind and obeying only the impulses of emotions, however inspiring and beautiful these may be, cannot be a true civilizer's hand. It will fail even if it calls upon what men call "love" to overcome the will of ego-dominated and ruthless individuals who represent the shadow aspect of civilization and are always ready to materialize the vision of the light-radiating civilizer and confuse or seduce his followers.

The enlightened mind is the mind that fully and irrevocably accepts the function of agent of ONE, the universal power of integration. It pierces through duality by accepting the inevitability of opposite polarities, the chiaroscuro of existence. It uses light and dark to produce forms into which it instills the quintessence of meaning whence arises the revelation of purpose. But meaning and purpose can take an expressible and operative form only if realized within an all-encompassing frame of reference. The essential function of the civilizer is to present such a frame of reference in relation to which the individual person may discover where he or she stands. Such a discovery may then lead to a significant and effective realization of who is standing, and for what purpose, thus, why there is at that place a being, rather than nothing.

Thus, as we conclude this volume, we return to the questions with which it began: Where do we stand, now, in relation to our culture? Who are we, and why are we here standing—or perhaps reclining in doped semi-slumber, dreaming of the beyond of existence and of illusory nirvanas?

It is our relation to our culture that will define for us our concept of civilization, whether we see civilization as a Spenglerian nightmare, or as the New Jerusalem, the Holy City, in which the perfectly formed Mind finds a cosmic and hieratic manifestation. As is our understanding, so will be our acts—and thoughts are potentialities of action.

If we accept the ordinary way of life characterizing the megalopolis as the only possibility of determining our individual responses to human existence and interpersonal relationships within the deteriorating field of our culture-whole, we will inevitably open ourselves wholly, even if reluctantly, to the poisons of city-living; slowly or rapidly we will die from them, divorced from the reality of spirit, even if lulled to comfortable dying by the drugs of success or of religious respectability and naive faith. On the other hand, if we react emotionally and blindly against megalopolitan values we have come to hate, we may escape from their miasmas only to see our individuality dissolve into various types of return to Mother Nature, or fall asleep while holding the illusory hope that some day we shall be reawakened by some new "second Coming" leading us to a Promised Land of milk and honey. History, past and present, should make us wise about Promised Lands and what happens in them, but it is easier to bounce along unconcernedly and refuse to know the past!

We can nevertheless so clearly understand the state of our culture, and realize the potentiality of development and action inherent in our living, now and at the very place where we are standing, that we may see ourselves as agents through whom a vaster rhythm of existence could and would operate if we were not merely open and ready, but, what is more, steady in our willingness to let it operate. This vaster rhythm is the planetary all-human process of civilization. The existence of such a process does not deny or impair the validity of culture, any more than mind denies the validity of life. Culture is, I repeat, the carrier-wave of civilization; and life establishes the foundation upon which mind is able to operate in human beings.

At every level and in every mode of existence, mind is formative power. But the forms created by mind may be filled by the binding and dark energies of life or illumined by spirit. Human relationships may operate according to the biological, organic and tribal order, or they may unfold their potentialities of harmony and meaning according to the companionate order. Mind may give form to the pure unitive activity of spirit, or to the compulsive drives of instinct-driven and emotionally blind human beings. The creative artist may attune his or her power of visualization and intonation to the universal rhythms of the Music of the Spheres; or as servant of men who at any particular time constitute the ruling aristocracy of the culture-whole, he may be satisfied to produce the repetitive forms glorifying the particular style of the century or even the fast changing fashion of the year—and by so doing acquire fame and in some cases wealth.

To face at all times two basic alternatives is our inherent destiny. Because of this, human life (when it ceases to be totally and unconsciously controlled by biological energies playing their fateful drama of birth, growth, copulation, and death) is a life of crises that can be resolved only by consciously meeting them and making of them catharses leading to creative transformation and reorganization at a higher—because more encompassing—level of consciousness, meaning, and purpose. Through crises courageously accepted and lucidly understood within the framework of some larger process, culture-man proves his creative stature to himself and to his world. He emerges as civilizer and myth-maker. His whole individualized being may become a poem celebrating Humanity's essential function as integrator and revealer of meaning.

a. Editor's Note: Recent discoveries in physics regarding "non-locality" and "entanglement" may facilitate the 21st century mind comprehend the states and conditions Rudhyar discusses here. For more about "entanglement," see Science and the Akashic Field, by Ervin Laszlo; 2007.   Return

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