Wednesday, November 11, 2015

"We are the savages of outer modernity."

We have imagined our world to be tamed, or civilized, since we live in cities and seem to have nature under control. It is hard for us to think of ourselves as wild and untamed. But 'civilized' should mean something more than just living in cities. It should mean that we are wise, gentle, just, and even artistic in our dealings with the world and with other animals and humans. Our civilization is what I call an 'outer civilization'; its modernity is an outer modernity. It is based on turning the full force of human reason on the enterprise of conquering and taming the outer universe -- the universe of matter and energy, lands and continents, materials and products--and on viewing people as resources to be managed and developed for production. [...]
And what we have not controlled? We have not tamed our own minds very much at all. Our religions did do something of a taming job up to the modern period. They kept our world picture wholesome and made it meaningful for us to restrain our more bestial impulses most of the time. [...]
We are the savages of outer modernity. We have reached the point where the lethal passions are emerging as planetary enemy number one.  [...]
The middle way between the two extremes of authoritarian repression and self-defeating nihilism is to take our systematic and scientific cleverness, enthusiasm, and ingenuity and turn our attention toward the inner self the way we have turned in to so successfully on outer nature.  Why not engineer spiritual balance and harmony? We can investigate the lethal passions and their institutional foundations, find out precisely how they work, how they take hold of us and use us as their instruments. Then we can devise technologies and arts to conquer them and to transmute them into useful energies. Or we can use the technologies of the adepts who have gone before.
-Robert Thurman, Inner Revolution, pgs. 216-218.