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Creativity, Pax Mundi and Gandhi 



Ramjee Singh

Crisis of Knowledge and Loss of Creativity

One of the important causes of crisis in Western civilization is the loss of creativity. Nobody can deny that the West has achieved a high water-mark in the development of scientific knowledge and material advancement, but in spite of all these achievements the decline of the West has deeply shaken its innate sense of superiority as the natural leader of the world and the source of all intellect and progress. In Spengler’s characteristics of the last phase of civilization, the disappearance of creativity is an important feature. No new great creations appear, neither in art or religion, nor in politics. Life becomes intellectualized and commercialized. Though many changes, variations and mixtures of forms may still appear, no fundamentally new forms appear any more. ‘All that remains is the struggle for mere power, for animal advantage per se.’1 This lack of creativeness is the characteristic of our time. ‘What is practised as art today is impotence and falsehood. . . . We go through all the exhibitions, the concerts, the theatres and find only industrious cobblers and noisy fools, who delight to produce something for the market.’2 According to Toynbee, the core of the breakdown of civilizations is that the creative minority can no longer bring up sufficient creative force to meet the challenge of the moment. The source of action in each society rests with the creative minority since the mass is incapable of mentally and spiritually living through the same creative experience, hence there is general acceptance of imitation, which Toynbee calls mimesis.

We can trace creative forces in European politics to the idea of some form of unification — the Benelux economic union, the Western Union concluded between France, Great Britain and the Benelux countries in 1948, the creation of the Council of Europe, the plan for a European Defence Community (NATO); but the idea of a united Europe would be of little value if it were brought about merely by pressure from the U.S.A. However, the constant activity toward unification is clear proof of the urge of Europe for greater unity. In the field of the economy, we find creative forces in the European economy with the formation of a common European Market, European Recovery Plan, European Payment Union and the Schuman Plan. All these have achieved integration and the mass production needed. In the field of architecture, an entirely new style has sprung up from a maze of hitherto uncoordinated lines and imitative themes: the straight line and the principle of functionalism have emerged as the representative style of our time. In the film of cinematography and music we have achieved great success.

Similarly, we can find some creative force in American technology. That a nation with hardly 7 per cent of the world’s population produces about a third of all goods and services is an achievement of human creative power. In politics, both domestic (the federal system and the switch from bourgeois to mass democracy) and foreign (resisting aggression in Korea, Vietnam, Kuwait, etc.), America has given ample proof of that capacity to discern great issues and the audacity to deal with them which have always characterized great nations and great civilizations at the peak of their vitality. Except in the fields of film and architecture, America has not made significant contributions in music, drama or literature. Of course, it has shown startling progress in science and medicine, in chemical science, in biology, psychology and in social sciences.

Both Europe and America have amply proven our century to be one of the most prolific in scientific achievements, but since they are rooted in materialistic values, there is growing moroseness, cynicism and lack of faith. The West has shown creative genius but without direction, it has resulted in exploitation of the worst kind, political and cultural imperialism and arrogance and perfection in the business of arms and ammunition including the clandestine sale of dangerous components of nuclear bombs. They have no doubt shown a great concern for federation, democracy and human rights, but again, it has resulted in perpetuating their hegemony and exploitation. This is because democracy and the problem of human rights are instruments to consolidate their roots and browbeat the Third World countries. The U.S.A. has assumed the role of policeman of the world and also custodian of economic empires through the outfits of the IMF, the World Bank and the WTO. The U.S.A. has stolen the signboard of U.N. and it has made the world body unrepresentative through the permanency of five seats. It is rank hypocrisy to keep the treasure of the atomic stockpile and ask the atomic have-nots to observe atomic fasts. Hence, the West is incapable of seizing the moral and spiritual leadership either for world peace or for a united world. The world has too strongly the impression that the Western leadership limits itself to grants of material aid, and that too for improving its own economies. It is neither charity nor assistance but pure business if not sophisticated exploitation.

Nothing is as killing to initiative as the habit of turning to others for economic or financial assistance. It was the political genius of Alexander the Great to establish his imperial super-system and the autonomy of the Greek polis. It will be the almost superhuman task of Western statesmanship in the modern world to strike the right balance between world guidance and respect for the independence of others. If the West reinvigorates its fundamental moral and spiritual values embedded in the Greek and Judaeo-Christian cultures, it can meet the challenges of the present crisis. We need a civilization-wide peace and a civilization-wide world. If the West has to survive as the leader of the world, instead of raising its military might and its economic imperialism, it has to raise the standards of the millions who still exist in the basest poverty and squalor by practising austerity and self-control. This will kindle the creative spirit of the West, which had earlier been found in Beethoven’s symphonies, motivated Washington, Jefferson and Lincoln to create respect for individual freedom, erected the Notre Dam and the Rockefeller Center for philanthropy and so on.

The West, in the glamour of achievement, forgot to explore the secrets of the inner world: contemporary Western civilization is still rooted in Cartesian dualistic metaphysics of subject-object dualism. In the pride of science, they have come to despise and reject intuitive and instinctual perceptions that earlier animated and gave perspective and hope and meaning to human existence. For creativity, we need a new instrument of thought and a perception of the ‘unbroken wholeness’ in a non-dual frame which can understand life directly and in a concrete manner rather than in abstract, linear terms. The subject-object dualistic mode of intellectual knowledge has its own limitations. It cannot understand the deeper level of mind-brain interaction. Max Born also thinks that ‘clever, rational ways of thinking are not enough’.3 It has no cure for psychological imbalances and loss of creativity. ‘The world-view implied by modern physicists’, as Fritz of Capra says, ‘is inconsistent with our society, which does not reflect the harmonious interrelatedness we observe in nature.’4 The present dualistic knowledge mechanism to bifurcate the ‘seer’ and the ‘seen’ is mutilation of knowledge.5 This is only one-sided and partial knowledge which leads to an ‘argument between nature and man’.6 Dualistic epistemology provides a divided world of subject and object. But as Schrodinger says, ‘Subject and object are only one. The barrier between them cannot be said to have broken down as a result of recent experience in physical sciences, for this barrier does not exist.’7 We need an understanding which is immediate, non-dual, and holistic. This is intuition, which is not against reason but beyond reason and is the fulfilment of all scientific and intellectual knowledge or the logic of creativity.

Logic of Non-absolutism

Aristotelian logic is formal, dualistic and absolutist, hence it is most inadequate to grasp the true nature of reality. Since it is based on the principles of identity and non-contradiction, it is either true or false. According to this logic, ‘there are no two ways about it’, ‘you must be either one thing or the other’. This leads to the typical disjunctive attitude. Disjunction must disjoin completely because alternatives are alternatives only with reference to one subject and hence both the alternatives can be accepted at the same time. Mechanism says that the fallacy of the false alternative is due to our ‘slovenly habits’.8 The Pragmatists complain that ‘any purely formalistic "either . . . or" formulation of contrast eliminates reference to any universe of discourse. The form either-one-or-the-other-but-not both, based on the principle of the Excluded Middle, is meaningless in view of its incompatibility with existence in transition. So the mathematical logicians think that it is a ‘mistake to interpret the "either . . . or" as exclusive. In other words, "or" does not exclude both.’9

The World is sharply divided into multiple opposed camps. There is an ‘either . . . or’ in world politics. `If a person does not agree with you, it is wicked; if a country does not agree with your country, it is wicked; there is no half-way’.10 Thus neutrality has become a crime and tolerance, a vice. Today one man or one group or one country fights with others because their views differ. But views are bound to differ, because we are guided by different conditions. Hence, it is wrong to think oneself absolutely right and all others absolutely wrong. Such an attitude or outlook is imperialism in thought. Peace, therefore, demands a new logic, a new outlook, a new asceticism and a new civilization. This is the philosophy of ‘neither . . . nor’, which is simply an extension of the Gandhian principle of non-violence into the intellectual field. This non-absolutist approach is ‘an endeavour to frame a coherent, logical, necessary system of general ideas in terms of which every element of our experience can be interpreted’.11 Even C.E.M. Joad opines that we must have a synoptic view of the universe.12 In an absolute sense, a thing is neither real nor unreal, neither permanent nor evanescent, but both. Hence formal two-valued logic is inadequate. On the other hand, non-absolutist epistemology avoids vicious intellectualism and the fallacy of exclusive particularity. Such a dynamics of thinking is based on catholicism and regard for truth seen from different angles. Intellectualistic abstractionism has to be given up and we should try to dehumanize the ideal and realize the real. The reality is not a rounded ready-made whole or an abstract unity of many definite or determinate aspects. The multi-valued logic shows all possible sides of a thing and thus does not postulate about it in any fixed way. A thing is neither real nor unreal, neither eternal nor non-eternal, neither static nor mobile, neither small nor big in the absolute sense, but has dual nature. Two-valued logic seems to be unreal if there is loyalty to experience.

Non-absolutism is the ideology of a new civilization of peace and non-violence. It is not only an intellectual utopia but a concrete moral guide and a social stabilizer. The ‘all or none’ approach has brought us to the brink of total annihilation, hence the non-absolutist approach in thought, word and deed is the only way before us.

The Gandhian Approach to World Peace

Peace, as Gandhi envisaged it, is far more than the absence of war and violence.13 It is a state of positive and constructive world-view and world-order, where individuals, groups and nations eschew to dominate or exploit one another and live in cooperation and mutual aid. This means that peace needs a new life-style and a new culture. However, such a philosophy of civilization of peace does not work in a vacuum. Therefore Gandhi enunciates both an epistemology of peace and non-violence and also formulates a sociology of peace. Unlike others, he starts with technology, because technology and ideology largely go together. The mode of technology determines development, defence and democracy — in short, our whole theory of life. E.F. Schumacher’s Small Is Beautiful is already a protest against the present development model and blind worship of bigness. The Club of Rome thesis — The Limits of Growth14 — is a warning against the depletion of non-renewable resources,15 so is the danger signal given by Blueprint for Survival. Fritzof Capra warns us of the dangers of ‘environmental pollution, continuing proliferation, and the likelihood of global extinction’.16 But the root problem lies in our infinite greed and consumerism. An ever-growing material standard of life can only be achieved through the multiplication of machinery and the cruel exploitation of natural resources. Besides, concentration of production in a few hands creates pockets of prosperity leading to a hierarchical mode of social organization and alienation of the population from its own labour. Community life breaks down and quality of life deteriorates. Inequality grows so much that U.S.A., with 6 per cent of the world’s population, consumes 30 to 50 per cent of the world’s resources. Technological civilization creates confrontation, not only between employers and employees but also between capitalist countries for markets. Even socialization of industries is no cure for industrialization, as exploitation was rooted in machine technology itself. Then technology determines the model of development as well as the paradigm of defence. Thanks to technology we have perfected the weapons of man-annihilation. If malignant hands manipulate the gifts of science, the Frankenstein’s monster of super-technology will swallow up Homo Sapiens and burn up civilization. Hence technology has ‘become a value-choice between Dawn and Doom, when nuclear power is in issue’.17 The world spends 600 billion dollars every year on military budgets while millions of humans continue to starve and suffer. The world military machine usurps research and development money (about 135 billion dollars) and engages 50 million people in military support and production. More than 60,000 atomic missiles and bombs have by now been piled up in the bunkers of the industrialized societies, amounting to an average of three tons of conventional explosive per world citizen.18 Even if nuclear war does not take place, the stockpile will cause havoc: ‘By. . . 2000 A.D., there will be less water available, less fertile land, less clean air, less wilderness. One fifth of the sapiens will probably be extinct. . . . The gap between the affluent and the hungry is expected to widen.’19 Hence Professor Toynbee rightly said: ‘If we do not abolish war, war is going to abolish us.’ Einstein’s warning is dreadfully suggestive: ‘I do not [know] about the Third World War but in the Fourth World War they will fight with sticks and stones.’ In fact, war has lost its dynamics. Today, there is only one alternative to the atom, and that is ahimsa (non-violence). Gorbachev had made a declaration of unilateral measures to prevent the militarization of space. Only unilateralism can remove the obstacles in the path of disarmament. The concept of national security is outdated. It is now related to the global context. Gandhi had declared about unilateralism with the greatest emphasis at his command: ‘Whether one or many, I must declare my faith that it is better for India to discard violence altogether, even for defending her borders. For India to enter into the race of armament is to court suicide. With the loss of India to non-violence, the last hope of the world will be gone.’19 Economically, the armaments race is disastrous, strategically it is futile, politically it is like a blind alley. Legally or morally, it is a crime against humanity. Unilateralism, if it fails, might risk the lives of an entire nation, but the present policy of nuclear proliferation risks the lives of all humanity and dooms future generations. If unilateral steps are taken, the moral, social and economic strength of a nation will protect it from its adversaries better than nuclear weapons or nuclear alliances.20 Gandhi had made many references to unilateral non-violent national defence in his writing: ‘If I Were a Czech’,21 ‘How to Combat Hitlerism?’,22 ‘Appeal to Every Japanese’23 and so on.

Like the structure of defence, technology has also affected our politics and its democratic fabric. Political leaders ‘recognize violence as the foundation of realistic politics’.24 Modern technology necessarily brings in centralization, which implies concentration of power. Power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely. Centralization adds to the complexity of life, which is a destruction of all creative moral endeavour. It damages initiative, resourcefulness, courage and creativeness and diminishes opportunities of self-government. So the more centralization, the less democracy.25 Centralization cannot be sustained and defended without adequate force.26 So to root out violence in the structure of politics, Gandhi had a vision of self-sufficient and self-managed village republics serving as the grassroots democracy as an alternative to a centralized party system and parliamentary democracy.

The Gandhian concept of Pax Mundi is neither Utopian nor simply ethico-spiritual but also structural and holistic. Unesco’s declaration of peace-making, that ‘since wars begin in the minds of men, it is in the minds of men that the defence of peace must be constructed’, is significant and fundamental, but structural aspects needs to be highlighted. The minds of men do not work in a vacuum. They are conditioned by structures of society. Unless our socio-economic and political system is re-oriented towards peace, our minds cannot grasp it properly. Even our societal framework is determined by our technological model. These days we talk about dependence theory without realizing that Gandhi had described the international dialectics of industrial development long before the model of centre versus periphery was introduced. The foresight of Gandhi can be assessed in his warning against the mad rush to industrialism: ‘God forbid that India should ever take [to] industrialism after the manner of the West. The economic imperialism of a single island (U.K.) is today keeping the world in chains. If the entire nation of 300 [now 900] millions took to similar economic exploitation, it would strip the world bare like locusts.’27 Max Weber reminds us that we must develop a universal development concept. He says: ‘Good fortune thus wants to be legitimate fortune.’28 Gandhi therefore said: ‘You cannot build non-violence on factory civilization.’29 The rural economy eschews exploitation. Centralization as a system is inconsistent with a non-violent structure of society.30 Gandhi was convinced that the ‘mania for mass-production is responsible for the world crisis’31. No scheme of global peace can prove lasting unless it is linked to the creation of an equitable world economic order. Similarly, one of the great impediments in the creation of international understanding and peace is our sacrosanct faith in the doctrine of ‘national sovereignty’. Gandhi’s dialectical approach to sovereignty is useful, by which the role of sovereignty can be reduced but which does not violate principles of equality and justice. In fact, the ideal of ‘one world’ is the natural Gandhian ideal, but so far as it is not achieved, Gandhi advocated, ‘think globally and act locally’. The ideal of a global village is a legitimate step towards overcoming aggressive nationalism. We have also to develop education for peace. In the total crisis of the world, education has its full share. Unfortunately, we have inherited a philosophy of struggle for existence, which is often portrayed as a battle between creature and nature, neglecting man and his tendency to learn the laws of harmony between himself and the universe. Because of increasing world tensions threatening the very survival of man, peace education has become important.


True, violence has lost its dynamics in this thermonuclear age but ‘the hold of violence is so great that even though violence has failed a thousand times, we still put faith in its capacity to succeed’.32 Perhaps it is rooted in our mental dispositions. It might be that man has inherited from the animals the instincts of aggression, hate and jealousy.33 He still retains many things that he possessed before he became man. We need a mind which is free from its own conditioning. Hence during very ancient times, there had been provision for the study of military science but so far as the science of peace was concerned, it was left only to religious saints and seers. Today, we badly need a science of peace and non-violence in all our educational curricula and research. We have spent tremendous amount of time and resources to explore the science of violence now it is high time to turn our attention towards the power of non-violence. The only alternative to non-violence is non-existence. What is needed is an intellectual revolution. If we can discard the absolutist style of our thinking, there is hardly any scope for religious fundamentalism, national chauvinism, or even ideological fanaticism. But the ideology of Pax Mundi presupposes a Pax Mundi in our societal structure also. If bloodshed and murder are violence, exploitation is also violence. A society free from inequality and exploitation can pave the way for Pax Mundi.


1. Spengler, Oswald, The Decline of the West, Eng. trans., New York, 1926-28, Vol.II, Ch.II., VI, p. 49.

2. Ibid., Vol. I, Ch.VIII, IX, p. 293.

3. Max Born, quoted in Hindeki Yukawa, Creativity and Intuition, Tokyo: Kodansha International, 1973, pp.189-90.

4. Fritzof Capra, The Tao of Physics, New York: Bantam, 1988, 2nd edn., p. 298.

5. Brown, G. Spencer, Laws of Nature, New York: Julian Press, 1972, pp.104-05.

6. Hisenberg, A., in Ken Wilber, ed., The Spectrum of Consciousness, New York: Julian Press, 1972, pp.104-05.

7. Schrodinger, Erwin., What Is Life?, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1967, p.137.

8. Mechanism, F.H., The Principles of Logic, Vol. I., p.131.

9. Stebbing, L.S., Logic For Practice, p. 57.

10. Seminar on the Contributions of the Gandhian Outlook and Techniques to the Solution of Tensions Between and Within Nations, inaugural address by Jawaharlal Nehru.

11. Whitehead, A.N., Process and Reality, 1929, p. 4.

12. Joad, C.E.M., Logical Positivism, 1950, p. 29.

13. Hart, Robert., "A Gandhian Approach to the Fourth World", Gandhi Marg, Delhi, Vol. III. No. 9, December 1981, p. 515.

14. Gowan, Susan, Moving Towards a New Society, Philadelphia, 1976.

15. Statement by 33 Great Britain Distinguished Scientists, The Texas Quarterly, 1967, Note 69, p. 89.

16. Fritzof Capra, The Turning Point, Science, Society and Rising Culture, London, 1983, p. 3.

17. Iyer, T.R. Krishna, ‘Nuclear Nationalism and the Law’, Philosophy and Social Action, Vol. XI, No. 2, April-June 1985, p. 9.

18. New Zurchar Zietung, 6.3.1981, quoted by Detlef Kantousky in Gandhi Marg, June 1983, p.134.

19. Thapar, Romesh, ‘Unilateral Disarmament’, Gandhi Marg.

20. Jack, Honur A., ‘Gandhian Unilateralism Revisited’, Gandhi Marg, Vol. IV., Nos. 2-3, May-June 1982, p. 334.

21. Ibid., 15.10.1938.

22. Ibid., 22.6.1940.

23. Ibid., 26.7.1942.

24. Sharp, Gene, Social Power and Political Freedom, Boston: Porter, Sargent, 1980, p. 29.

25. Dhawan, G.N., The Political Philosophy of Mahatma Gandhi, Ahmedabad: Navajeevan Press, Third Rev. edn., 1987, p. 284.

26. Harijan, 13.1.1942.

27. Gandhi, M.K., My Picture of Free India, Bombay: Pearl Publications, 1965, p. 52.

28. Weber, Max., Essays in Sociology, London: Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1948, p. 271.

29. Harijan, 18.1.1942.

30. Ibid., 2.11.1934.

31. Ibid., 2.11.1934.

32. Bhave, V., Swaraj Shastra (Principles of Non-violent Political Order) Trans. B. Kumarappa, A.B.S.S. Prakashan, 1955, p. 82.

33. Krishnamurti, J., Krishnamurti To Himself, London: Victor Gollancz, 1987, p. 27.


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