“Asia in the Balance of the Scales” by Manly Palmer Hall, in Horizon: The Magazine of Useful and Intelligent Living, Spring, Volume 4, No. 1, April 1944.
The possible extent of the East's influence in the world of tomorrow
Asia in the Balance of the Scales
…his personal experiences but with his whole pattern of civilization. He finds he is out of key, out of step, out of tune with his world, for he has begun to think under the surface of things.
When the Oriental, on the other hand, takes up the problem of economics, he is out of key and harmony with all the traditions of his people. Now of course, Asia has the wise proviso of the caste system, which came early in the development of its civilization and has helped a lot. The caste system as an arbitrary political dictum was tyranny; but the caste system intelligently applied and intelligently understood is one of the most rational of all theories. Whoever invented the caste system had something. His basic idea was very important; he recognized (whether from divine inspiration or from common sense) that human beings were divided into groups, that disaster would follow if all members of a civilization should get the same fixation. A good example of that has been our modern theory of education, which is that every boy or girl should have a college education, have a Phi Beta Kappa key, and enter one of three or four learned professions. We have had little belief in the sovereign dignity of the crafts and trades, we have managed to forget that to be a good farmer is important. There was a time when the blacksmith who could shoe a horse well was an honored citizen, men to off their hats to him; now he would be regarded as a lowly ironworker, one of the inferior types of tradespeople.
The caste system is based upon the dignity of various kinds of necessary labor, with recognition to the importance of dividing up human effort so as not to have a hopeless surplus of some things and a complete lack of others. Theoretically, it was a wonderful idea. But it also gave glorious opportunity for exploitation, and the privileged class used it as a method of dominating those less privileged. Theoretically the idea is sound nevertheless. In India, for example, the military class fought if it wanted to fight, but it never interfered with the running of the country or anything of that kind; and in the trades class a good silversmith or coppersmith was just as important a man as a lawyer or a doctor. There was pride in supreme achievement in any field.
That is gone from our Western life, we are having and will continue to have increasing difficulty in taking care of some of the necessities, as we so load ourselves up with highly cultured individuals that we cannot find a plumber high or low. This state of affairs is complicated by restrictions which we can no longer import comparatively ignorant labor by immigration. In the old days all we had to do was lift the immigration barriers and let in a few million more peasants from less-advanced countries who were willing to come in and do our heavy work. With the 'less advanced' countries disappearing, there is no solution left but to mechanize our problems so all the hard work will be done by machinery. No one wants to do it any more. And probably the reason is, the human mind is unfolding constantly, and individual genius is releasing itself constantly, and so human beings are no longer inclined to devote themselves to monotonous routine; they want creative activity. That is evolution.
Evolution is constantly presenting problems we can not solve. On the other side of the world evolution is producing factories; over here, evolution is getting us out of factories. Over here, evolution is toward the creative. In Asia it is toward economics.
As every great order reaches out to complement itself, it sets up a conflict between internal impulse and external purpose. The great pressure groups of the Western Hemisphere have created a mass hypnosis that is affecting nearly all kinds of less advanced people, so-called. Hypnotized by the success, wealth, and grandeur of our Western civilization, these rising peoples have been trying to copy from us, on the assumption if it worked for us it will work for
them. This is a supreme fallacy. A civilization can never be copied; it must be evolved from within the people themselves. To impose an order of thought, or an order of political existence, upon a people which has not evolved this order from within its own consciousness, is tyranny and despotism. That is the reason why a good government by a foreign power is despotism, and a bad government by its own people is liberty.
Consider this from the human point of view. If we took an individual, a psychic, an introvert, as Asia is, and imposed upon him a formula of extroversion which he had never experienced himself, but which we convinced him would make him successful, the unfortunate introvert would end up a complete mental case. Extroversion is only to be brought about by a process of gradual outward expression. Release from introversion and transfer into extroversion is mentally almost the same process as being born into the physical world. It would require of you a process of orientation, in a process of moving out from yourself along lines consistent with your own determination, and acceptable to your own sense of values, and agreeable to your own emotional reflexes.
Asia is now externalizing; and it must not simply copy something else.
I am here reminded of a missionary discussing a religious problem with an agnostic—the missionary said that for twenty-five years he had been working at converting the heathen Red Man. The agnostic said, “Well, do they convert?” The missionary thought yes, they did. “Well, how many?” His reply was, “Well, I am pretty sure of one.” Said the agnostic, “And you’ve been at it twenty-five years? And you get from your church a couple of thousands of dollars a year? It has cost your church fifty thousand dollars to convert one Red Man! Are you sure you converted him?.
The missionary thought for a moment. "Well not absolutely. He will probably slip back if I leave him alone a while."
You can not force a religion upon another and make it stick. Either of two things happens: the new religion is re-interpreted by the learner’s mind until it is identical with the old one; or else it is gradually rejected.
A great many Chinese have supposedly been converted to Christianity, but what they have done actually is to apply the name Christianity to their own Taoist belief—they have not been converted at all: they have merely accepted a new name for something they have always believed. Not all of them know this, but it is true. They have accepted Christianity by interpreting it in the terms of their own belief. You cannot accept wholly that which is dissimilar to your own personal experience. A prominent native of China was educated at Heidelberg, and in the process he lost the basic ingredient of remaining Chinese; now trying to interpret his own people he is doing it with a Heidelberg accent; he has lost his own people; he is neither East nor West. This is what happens when these two civilizations meet. And so we talk about the inscrutable East, when there is nothing very inscrutable about it; the problem is mostly of it being difficult for one person to understand another who has different ideals and convictions.
This problem is now arising in the proportions of a world pattern, and there is no question but that Asia is coming forward* Occidental peoples are going back, losing ground. We are losing ground because our extroversion- al point of view does not give us enough basic material upon which to build a civilization. We cannot build one wholly upon externals. For externals collapse when they are challenged by in internals.
As individuals we have been trying to be happy by a series of external experiences. We never finish up by being happy, for we build almost entirely upon the strength of things we have. We have put a lot of faith, for instance, in our monetary superiority. We think we have the wealth of the world? -only so long as the world acknowledges that what we have is wealth!
We can believe that we dominate through the great institutionalized systems which we have built up; but such externals are important only so long as their importance Is acknowledged. And when the values we have bestowed upon them are artificial, the mere denying of these artificial values eliminates them.
An individual is neither rich nor poor because of what he has. He is rich or poor by what he is. The realization is needed that our western civilization must either build up an internal sense of values, or else the whole theory of our way of life will collapse. Ten years ago, if you talked about ethics it was regarded as a 'sickly sort of mysticism.' Ethics was something you could afford if you had everything else you wanted. Otherwise, it was an embarrassing handicap along the way of progress. If you talked about ethics and ideals, people looked at you as though you were mentally deficient. One thing was important, and that was success. There was one rule of life, and that was to get what you could, while you could get it. But now has come the war, and all of a sudden people are talking about ethics, and about integrity, and about consecration to ideals. But our past training has missed, our education has carefully ignored such things. Now, when we have a crying need for ethics, we seem to be a little short of it.
When we should have been developing it, we regarded it as a sickly overtone, impractical to our western culture.
And even as we suddenly realize that it is the most important thing in the world, all through our war industries and great problems of national defense there are innumerable bottlenecks caused by the lack of ethics, lack of patriotism, lack of willingness to sacrifice, and lack of basic integrity. It is these intangibles of character, which seemed so abstract and impractical when we have talked about them, that can be the breakers or makers of our civilization. Civilizations are destroyed by intangibles. How right were the old classical philosophers when they said the visible world is an illusion suspended from spiritual facts!
Relating this to the Oriental problem, we must acknowledge that peoples of the East are tremendously advanced in certain emotional and cultural truths. They are as certain of their spiritual truths as we are of our economics. But they have failed in the simple problems of application, in never interpreting spiritual values in terms of physical progress. The Oriental is as selfish as the Occidental, … to himself. The Chinese poet wrote magnificently and was appreciated by other scholars; but he never made any particular application of his own knowledge to the problem of the common good. The Chinese scholar remained totally without social consciousness, and so too the Hindu Rajah and the Brahmin priest. These were persons completely without the realization that a physical foundation can be eliminated by the lack of proper physical consciousness, and also that spiritual culture can perish from the world by the lack of an appropriate physical vehicle. The West built the vehicle and put nothing
in it. Asia had a very large load of material and no cart to put in it.
But the danger to the Western civilization is that the Oriental, being a mystic, has done first things first.
With a spiritual culture laid down, now the Oriental must build a material culture to supplement it. That is the natural motion of cause to effect.
In the West we have built our physical vehicle first, and now we must try to capture our spiritual truths. And this is far more difficult and complicated than is the Oriental's way. The Oriental works from the great spiritual truths of life downward into matter. This enables him to build a civilization that is the exact physical counterpart of his spiritual existence.
But we have built our physical civilization without any consideration of spiritual values, and as we reach up toward the spiritual, we are likely to find these values are out of kilter with our physical structures. In order to spiritualize the West we would have to tear it to pieces; for we have begun at the wrong end. Spiritualization is thus something we view as a constant process of reformation. The word "reformation" is to us a very familiar one, but it is almost unknown in Asia. Things do not have to be reformed unless they have been done badly in the first place. Western life measures growth by a series of reformations, a process of correcting mistakes all along the way.
Our task is to gradually unfold a spiritual condition out of a structure that is badly designed for the very purpose we want to accomplish.
The East is in a far better condition. With the exception of a small amount of culture it has taken on from us, the East has not made the errors that we have. Asia having avoided large errors can create its own system without having to tear one down. It does not have to work through a doctrine of fallacy, as we have to do.
A major error has been the Occidental love of war within its own races. In a series of great wars, lasting generations, Western civilization has been weakening itself. And we can look back even to the Roman Empire destroying itself; for it was not destroyed by a foreign power.
Up to the present war Asia has had very little actual participation in the dominating world politics, Western politics. If that is changing now, by the same token Asia has long been comparatively free from Western influence on the life of its people; we may have dominated it to some degree, but we never were able to change the basic attitude of the average Asiatic person. Only one nation tried to take on our viewpoint enthusiastically, Japan; it tried desperately to be Occidental. But even to Japan, shortly before the war, came a definite realization that a westernized Japan, Americanized or Occidentalized, was not going to work.
We know it was bitten by the ambition bug, and that is very largely an Occidental germ; through a period of prejudice and disaster Japan will now have to stagger, before the far off day will come when it will be allowed to establish itself in the family of nations.
In the next ten years we will have to rebuild a world civilization. I hope for some psychologists and even philosophers to be among those appointed to administer this problem. Without them we are just going to get into more trouble. The relationships of human beings, whether nations or families, cannot be administered by politicians of the type the world has produced in the last 250 years. The problem is one for scholars, and some day we are going to have to recognize again the dynamic fact of the intellectual intangible. When world leaders come together to try to
patch up this disaster their task will be to lay the foundation for long range politics. They will have to realize that the required forces must be brought about from within the people themselves, and not imposed upon them by legislation.
The plebescites attempted after the first World War showed how inadequate is control by externals in the hands of the people. We are thinking now of a world police force, and yet a prominent officer on the police force of a large city has stated that a police force in a city is an indictment against the religion and ethics of that city. In other words, a police force is not a solution to crime. It never has been and never will be. It controls a certain amount of violence, and is necessary under existing conditions, but it is not solutional. It is almost certain that there will be two or three murders reported on the morning following newspaper accounts of the execution of a criminal. The gallows does not frighten criminals. A police force is no more a solution to crime than the poor farm is a solution to the economic problem, or the county hospital is a solution to the health problem. We are trying constantly to solve the problems of this world by policing the bad boys, in the same way that we try to control juvenile delinquencies by policemen on the corner watching for boys stealing peanuts; and neither is a solution, it is merely a temporary remedy.
We point with pride to the great philanthropist who gives away five or ten million dollars to help the less fortunate. Charity is not a solution to anything. The problem will never be solved until there exists no such thing as the less fortunate. Charity does not solve poverty, punishment does not solve crime; but we do not know what else to do, for this is all we have been educated to do. So we fall back on a plan to keep a standing army of a couple of million men somewhere to take care of Peck's Bad Boy and the peck of other bad boys. We'll police all peoples.
We will first perhaps try to make a great world plan. We will sit at a council table and figure how to iron out the troubles on the earth. At that table will be Orientals and Occidentals. Japan in all probability will be there in the end. All peoples will be represented by rulers or statesmen-administrating, promising, wondering, crossing and double-crossing. And they of course will be scheming and conniving to accomplish their own particular purposes, plotting with a good conscience, the same as always. Even if they are absolutely honest-wonderful thought! millennium interpretation!- most of them are sure to say to the council: "Count on my people to stand right behind us; my country is with me to a man!" They'll say that, but the truth is, no people has ever been back of any country since the beginning of time! Leaders always promise to do thus and so, but whatever it is, it is not done, because back of the promise is populace lethargy. World problems will not be solved except by creating a solution up through and out through the people themselves; and so, no postwar program can be successful unless at least three and probably five generations of social conditioning goes with it.
The way of that conditioning would be the one used in Central Europe to condition Nazi Minds. There the circulation of an ideology began in the public schools, began with the small child; which is where we will have to begin, and educate not only our own people but
the peoples of the world. And we will have to have five generations of the consciousness concept of democratic cooperation before we can create a world capable of mental and emotional tolerance.
It has to be done. It could start with a postwar international planning commission devising a world concept of education, a world concept of internal relationships. Teaching it would have to start in the first grade of the public schools. There is no use trying to impose it from the top. It would be pointless to issue an edict that beginning at half past nine tomorrow we are all going to be good friends; it will not work. There is no way of making it work because it is contrary to every instinct born in us. We are trained from the cradle to be selfish. There is no use telling us suddenly to be unselfish. What we have to do, Asia does not have to do. The great democracy of Asia is going to be an Asiatic democracy, and not a Western democracy; we cannot impose our rules upon Asia. We can contribute however toward the release of the Asiatic ideologies that are compatible with a world system of peace and cooperation.
Walking around, talking with friends, acquaintances, taxicab drivers, listening to people on street corners or to comments over the radio, you become more and more aware that the average person does not know what democracy is. He does not know what it means to be tolerant; his mental vision is myopic in international perspective. Totally beyond his experience is a good neighbor policy, and his idea of a proper world system is one in which he can do as he pleases and everyone else will like it. A good neighbor is one who has patience with us. As one person said, "I have an excellent neighbor next door; he never bothers me." He had given no thought to whether he bothered his neighbor. We have no conception of what it means for nations and races to get together. We haven't yet learned to solve the problems of our own family, which is the basic unit of discord in most cases. So we are hardly equipped to solve the problems of our own community or neighborhood. There's the neighbor who ggrrrs the self-starter of his car at five o'clock in the morning when we want to sleep. The neighbor who is always borrowing something and never bringing it back. The other neighbor who insists on playing his radio until three o'clock in the morning. Neighbors, neighbors, each with his own personal interest. One is perfectly willing to permit his dog to play in our backyard. Another borrows an egg and very meticulously returns it, then imposes on us in a larger manner and pays no attention. And there are the inevitable strangers who insist on reading our newspaper over our shoulder in the street car; the ones who push and shove; the motorist who tries to get to the corner first; the driver who thinks he owns the road — all neighbors who give us the hundreds of problems that make up the life of a commonwealth.
And what of our own personal family problems? Never mention the Methodists to Uncle Ebenezer; he is sensitive. Do not discuss Willkie with Cousin Ambrose; he does not like him. Do not discuss Roosevelt with Aunt Jane; she does not like him. Do not discuss anything with Grandfather; he is against everything. When the relatives gather for Thanksgiving dinner, and no one dares to say more than to discuss the weather, you have a miniature League of Nations; and too, unless we are very careful, a miniature of the Postwar Planning Commission.
The word will be passed around: Do not discuss religion in front of the Russian delegates; do not discuss the British Empire in the presence of the Indian delegates — and so on. How the delegates will be appointed will be another problem. We know by experience the chances for representation or misrepresentation of constituencies. When these groups gather they are going to represent a gamut of biases never
corrected in human nature. And, the interesting point is, Asia will have the top hand; because Asia has less to unlearn than we have.
This postwar day will be one when those who have not done anything will be, apparently, in a better position — at least, temporarily. To make things right we will have to undo much that is cherished error. The problem of revising the Bible shows how difficult it is to do this. For the last hundred years we have been trying to get out an edition of the Bible that is reasonably correct; but nobody wants it. What's wanted is the good old King James version, every jot and tittle of it, because most people are convinced that God dictated the Bible to King James in English. Now, if you can not get a correct translation of an existing work when the manuscripts are available, how are you going to work with the deeply seated prejudices of human beings, especially when they are so lacking in a common denominator? The only answer is, out of this last fifty years or so of research has come the solution, but we have not recognized it. "No problem is presented to man without the solution being suggested with it" — that is a true saying, if we can recognize the solution when presented. The solution to this whole problem which has been given to us is the basic science which we now call psychology, and which has been evolved in the last fifty years. Psychology is the first systematic effort to analyze human thinking. Philosophy generalized and laid the foundation upon which psychology has been developed, and psychology can be the basic science of human tolerance, because it is the one department of knowledge capable of seeing how other human beings tick, what makes them work, where the mainspring is.
Psychology should no longer be regarded as a supplementary branch of higher education; it should be an absolute requisite of education from the grammar school up. It should be the beginning of our entire theory of schooling, because today the most important form of knowledge is to find out how other people think.
It is important to know that two and two make four; but it is more important to be able to bridge the interval between yourself and someone else. Cooperation, world coordination, setting up the great family of nations - this is a dream that depends for its fulfillment on the ability of the average man to bridge the interval between himself and someone else, and no longer to think about people but with people!
It is difficult for us to get a start on this. We have been brought up in an isolationist mental policy which we have held to for five centuries. We have to get away from this individualized isolation before we can get away from international isolation.
Internationalism is possible only as a composite of individuals. Optimistic, hopeful, and inspired as we are at this time, especially during the war, if we look around among these peoples who are voting for cooperation we will find as individuals they do not want to be cooperative. As long as the farmers in the Mid-West do not want to cooperate with the cotton growers in the South; as long as the business men on the Pacific Coast do not want to cooperate with business practices on the Atlantic Coast, and as long as our policy is based upon the fear of mutual economic exploitation, unity can not be achieved. I have talked to a number of the young men who are going off to war, and they say: "When we come back things are going to be different. We are not going out and take our chances on being killed to sustain the selfishness of people back home." They are beginning to think. They are beginning to realize that the cause for which they are fighting has never been clearly stated by the very people they are attempting to protect. And, unfortunately and lamentably, the majority of people do not know what the world struggle is all about; and a great many are still assessing it as a magnificent opportunity for private profit.
Asia has a different psychology. If we do not corrupt it, their psychology will bring their culture down to their material life. The Asiatic wants to live in the physical world in the terms of art, sculpture, literature, philosophy, and religion. What we want to do is live in the spiritual world — in terms of economics and industrialism. To us, heaven is a highly glorified First National Bank. The Oriental's idea of the world is a physical form of poetry; he wants to see his world emerging as a safe place for the functioning of the creative arts. He has this conviction because he is now extroverting from within himself.
The Oriental has always been willing to spend money for beauty; always he has been ready to pay a tremendous price in physical things for anything that satisfied his soul, this being his introversion. But he is gradually extroverting from that premise. His civilization, if he builds it in his own way, is going to be a world safe for his mystical overtones. The world we have thought of is one safe for physical extension and expansion. Some day these two violently opposed factors are going to meet in an effort to plan a world. This meeting is going to be loaded with potentials for world peace in centuries to come, or with the certainty of another world war. It depends upon how these two policies meet.
The East is willing to die for an idea. That is proven by Russia, perfectly willing to sacrifice everything for its ideology. Russia has proved its complete realism. We do not realize the reality of ideals as Russia does. We do not realize that a conviction is more important than a bank account. We talk about it, but we do not realize it. We have never accepted the dynamic realities of intangibles. If we are looking for them, we are not finding them.
Oriental civilization rests in two tremendous qualities: One is the willingness to sacrifice all for convictions. The second is infinite patience, in a concept of an eternity of time in which to achieve. Conviction plus patience is an almost unbeatable combination.
As the Russian policy about its basic ideology is absolute realism, so does this same conviction extend throughout Asia. China is willing to expend fifty million lives to achieve the dream of China. India was perfectly willing to sacrifice its trades and industries for the ideals of Gandhi. All Asia is moved by ideology. Asia is the servant of dramatic personalities who epitomize themselves in great convictions. This is the great motivating power of Asia. No possible political force or economic interest could have created in India what Gandhi achieved without any political machinery whatsoever, but by the dramatic statement of an ideology. In Russia the 175,000,000 Russians actually live the ideology of communal life. These convictions represent the Asiatic as one posited in the introversional sphere of personal conviction. What he *believes* is all important.
Contrast this with the Western point of view: What *I have must be protected. We of the West think in terms of things possessed; our ideology is not interpreted in terms of basic convictions, but in terms of economic consequences.
One man said to me several years ago, "Why should I study philosophy? Can you show me any many who has made a million dollars as the result of studying philosophy?". The Oriental would have said: "If your philosophy will improve me, I will give a million dollars for it."
The conflict of ideals *versus* what we might term utilities, is the problem world leaders will have to face at some future council table. The East must make Eastern civilization safe for Eastern ideals. The West will have to make Western ideals safe for the world. Orientals will have to change their physical structure. We have to change our metaphysical premise. Our thoughtful men are going to be confronted with the thoughtfulness of Asia, and it is going to challenge us. The Asia of a colonial empire is going. Asia is rising in her
power and right to profit by our mistakes where we are unable to.
And out of a newly developed hemispherical theory is going to come the possibility of these great powers having their own real existences. Then there will be a competition based upon merit alone. And we have to deepen our ideologies if we expect to win. We can win the war with physical strength, but spiritual strength is necessary to reconstruct the world. Had this spiritual strength been present it could have prevented the war. One great spiritual conviction held in common by our people-I mean the people of Europe and America-would have made the little dictator farce ridiculous. It became so tremendous only because it was the peculiar conviction of the majority of the people. It became a menace only when the conviction of one man interfered with the convictions of other men. So we are faced with the problem of getting down to the source and root. To do that we must recognize the necessity of peoples emerging according to their own needs. We have to realize that the problem of the East is to create a vehicle for its ideology. And that the problem of the West is to create an ideology worthy of immense physical structure we have built up. In that process we shall very likely discard a great deal of this physical structure because it is a load and not a help. The East has a plan which it has not executed; and the West has executed without a plan. The Western world must have a constructive purpose and plan or it will perish. The Eastern world must develop a vehicle for its plan, one strong enough to sustain its great ethical tradition. And then out of it all must come one thing we need more than anything else, and that is a universal tolerance which will enable all peoples of all races and nations to think in terms of world planning.
To achieve this we must begin in the home with small children being taught inter-hemispherical thinking; with the school teaching viewpoints other than our own, emphasizing the great universal democracy of human purpose, with the churches teaching the integrity of the religions of other peoples; and with our economics based upon the rights of individuals to survive as an individual economic unity; with politics teaching the basic doctrine that it is the right of great and small nations to govern themselves according to their convictions, as long as those convictions to not interfere with other nations pursuing the same policy.
We have to be conditioned all the way through our struggle for a world viewpoint. And education, religion, the sciences and arts and the professions must lead the way, because they represent the intellectual over-strata from which the thinking of the average people must be derived. Leadership must become international, inter-racial, and inter-religious or it cannot meet the challenge of this present emergency. Our big problem is going to come in the fifty years after this war. We in this period will finally then discover how much we have learned from the catastrophe through which we are now passing.