History, Evolution, and The Darwin Debate

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Buddhism and modernity

January 2nd, 2015 · No Comments


The question of modernity and revolution is a complicated one, but we can see that revolutions against modernity have never really produced anything. Why is that? There are a host of stealth new age attempts to try and find a ‘new new age’ beyond the modern, one satisfying some spiritual canon of antiquity: we are in the process of trying to evaluate those now in our own generation. The strongest candidates are variants of ‘stealth buddhism’ wishing upon some ‘Aquarian’ era to come to fulfill the hopes of a spiritual society to replace ‘modernity’. But these attempts are probably doomed, even as trivialization overcomes these legacies, witness the case of the mindfulness movement.
The question of buddhism is tricky. Few can see that the modern transition conceals a stealth ‘reformation’ of what we now see as a distinct ‘new age’ category. The injection of buddhist studies into the secular era is a fait accompli and one reason for the strength of that religion in transition in modern societies. A closer look shows the way that German Classical Philosophy produced a remorphed version of buddhist psychology in the works of Schopenhauer, whose effort is neglected by all parties. But Schopenhauer is a clear example of the way that the modern transition at the last moment responded to the complexities of globalization. Ironically Schopenhauer was too advanced for most new agers who wish to explore the exotica of religious antiquity. But the future is going to ask more than a replication of antiquity: something in the way or recreation will be demanded, whether in the home sphere of India, or elsewhere. Another irony is that ‘secularism’ really began in antiquity, and we see in Ancient Axial Age Greece, and Buddhist India the first intimations of modern secularism. We will see if the ‘new age’ hypothesis is fulfilled: the ironic passing away of ‘new age’ cults before their rebirth in a new era of modernity is already underway with the colossus of buddhism, still caught between two epochs.

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