Needing a higher image of the human being

Schopenhauer, the great 19th century philosopher, has been described as ‘the first Western philosopher to stumble on’ the Upanishads. In his Afterward to Easwaran’s ‘The Upanishads,’ Michael Nagler says that Schopenhauer, thence, ‘was trying to draw our attention … to a habit of looking beneath the surface of life to its underlying causes … and … to the courage to discover in ourselves a higher image of the human being.’ Nagler also quotes Gandhi thus: ‘there must be “heart unity” among all, meaning spontaneous concern for the welfare of others … ‘

Against that, we have Firestone, et al claiming that mankind is now in the Sixth Extinction on Earth, referring in part to over-population and damage to our environment. Greed – both corporate and governmental – rules. Covert hegemonic wars by nations, overt religious wars, migratory invasions by Middle Easterners of Europe and other nations of the West, and crass greed by armed political factions in many places, all suggest that mankind needs another century or two (or three) before mutual destruction can give way to mutual support globally. Well, one can only hope, and pray!

Yet, from my own experience in Australia, there are so many of us contributing to civil society – both in Australia and overseas. But, there are not just enough of us. Against that, a rampaging age of expectation – claiming more and more of other people’s hard-earned money (euphemistically described as government money) – is devaluing moral standards overall.

I therefore fear that Fukuyama’s ‘The Great Deterioration,’ referring to the de-moralisation of advanced Western societies, will continue to have relevance. As well, Huntington’s clash of civilisations may have already begun. Perhaps only a tri-polar global governance (by 3 powers representing divergent cultures) can bring political stability and relative security.

Empires, hegemonic or not, just do not last! Ask Ashoka, Rome, Genghis Khan, Britain.

Looking beneath the surface of life

“It is only when the concept of a transcendent and immanent Creator is conjoined with the means of realisation of the Self, through meditation, and the related emphasis on states of consciousness, that one begins to understand why a Western philosopher like Schopenhauer was drawn to the Upanishads. In these, he saw, not Hinduism or India but “… a habit of looking beneath the surface of life to its underlying causes …”. He also drew attention “… to the courage to discover in ourselves a desperately needed higher image of the human being”.

And, one does not need any intermediaries. The human being may indeed have access to a ‘hotline’ to the ultimate energy source or ocean of consciousness.

The power and poetry of the Upanishads can be seen from these extracts from Easwaran’s ‘The Upanishads’:

The world is the wheel of God, turning round
And round with all living creatures upon its rim.
The world is the river of God,
Flowing from him and flowing back to him.

On this ever-revolving wheel of being
The individual self goes round and round
Through life after life, believing itself
To be a separate creature, until
It sees its destiny with the Lord of Love
And attains immortality in the indivisible whole.
(Shveta 1 .4-6)

Meher Baba summarised it all beautifully and succinctly: The finding of God is the coming to one’s own self”.

An important corollary is provided by Kahlil Gibran when he said: “For what is prayer but the expansion of yourself into the living ether?”

Of relevance too is the view of Erasmus, the great philosopher of the European Renaissance: “The sum of religion is peace, which can only be when definitions are as few as possible, and opinion is left free on many subjects”.

(All of the above were taken from my book ‘Hidden Footprints of Unity.’ It is available as an ebook from Amazon Kindle at $US 2.99)