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East/West, Spiritual Evolution?

January 25th, 2006 · No Comments

There is said to be a Great Divide between Eastern and Western thought.

Cinema, literature and other aspects of western culture are increasingly open to Asian influence. Not so western philosophy, which remains almost entirely sealed off from eastern traditions. Why? Institutionalised parochialism on the part of western philosophers and a loss of nerve among Asian thinkers

In one way the charge is completely fair. The whole question of the mystical gets filtered out of standard discourses, and in the process Eastern philosophies suffer badly.
But a closer look shows the illusory boundary between East and West, and almost all the questions of Eastern philosophy present from the beginning in the West, starting with Classical Greece.

From the moment of the Enlightenment Eastern thought has been flooding into the West, and a figure such as Schopenhauer makes clear the resonant echoes between the two worlds. In some ways, isolation allows a brief moment to recast the ancient theme in a new form: who can espy the Upanishad in German classical philosophy.

Other issues impinge on the practical reality of studying these philosophies. Nine out of ten books on the subject are rubbish. Eastern philosophy especially suffers that fate, for too much of it is regurgitated commentary on sutras whose meaning is lost. A case in point is the classic and beautiful Samkhya Sutra. But the meaning of this text is hard to decipher, and one thing is sure, most commentators are incompetent. Nor can you point to the references to Samkhya in the Gita, for these are confusions.
Next, those who approach these philosophies, espically the Indian traditon, confront the question of gurus and their propagandas. Too much of the literature is deceptive, and really a sales pitch for the agenda of authoritarian figures who hide behind ‘esoteric’ deceptions. That’s not a trivial question. Anyone trying to study Sufism will sooner or later try to deal with such figures as Idries Shah, or Gurdjieff, pathological liars of considerable influence that has fixed an immense tradition in falseness. It is not even psychologically safe to explore these labyrinths of predatory occultists masquerading as promoters of higher Eastern wisdom.
So there is another wisdom of not being taken for a ride by Eastern spiritual paper money.
In general, looking at the New Age movement, it is truer to say the West has overdosed on Eastern thought, and we see droves of former seekers puke it all out, to recover their equilibrium.

Tags: Evolution · General · History

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