Where we are
Even though written almost 70 years ago, these words of Jung's have a strangely familiar ring to them.
The "...nihilistic trend towards disintegration must be understood as the symptom and symbol of a mood of universal destruction and renewal that has set its mark on our age. This mood makes itself felt everywhere, politically, socially, and philosophically. We are living in what the Greeks called the 'kairos' -- the right moment -- for a 'metamorphosis of the gods,' of the fundamental principles and symbols. This peculiarity of our time, which is certainly not of our conscious choosing, is the expression of the unconscious man within us who is changing. Coming generations will have to take account of this momentous transformation if humanity is not to destroy itself through the might of its own technology and science." (Jung, CG 1970, p 304).
Jung saw, in the conflict of World War II, a clash of civilizations, each a different expression of the Collective Unconscious.
In a similarly prescient and highly influential article, now turned into a book, titled The Clash of Civilizations, Samuel Huntington, Eaton Professor of the Science of Government and Director of the John M. Olin Center for Strategic Studies at Harvard pointed out that our conceptual tools used to understand inter-group relations have had to change since the beginning of the 20th Century. Our very language, which speaks of "international" relations or sees the world in terms of the forces of economics or the politics of nation states, misses the point. We no longer live in a world in which nation states are the major players.
World War II and the Cold War weren't conflicts between nations and weren't understood as such, they were battles between ideologies. As the world has gotten smaller and more economically enmeshed, differences cross ideological and national boundaries. The process of globalization has separated people from their historical identities, cultures, and religions. Differences among civilizations are significant. They are differentiated from each other by history, language, culture, tradition, philosophy, and -- Huntington singles out for particular emphasis -- religion. At the beginning of the 21st Century, cultural, religious and ethnic identity have become the building blocks for identity and commitment that crosses national boundaries and unites civilizations. (Huntington, 1993)
In his novel Hawaii, James Michner remarks that living is difficult when the gods are changing. Civilizations need their members to be contained within an overarching, living myth which harmonizes our individual purposes into a larger, hopefully better, purpose. Religious and cultural identities are more emotional, visceral, fundamental, and collective than differences between nations. They are the lenses through which we view the world. They are the grammar of patterns and potentials that structure the data we perceive. They are the context into which facts fit. Differences between civilizations are rooted in aboriginal differences reaching deep into human history to our most basic sense of ourselves as members of our tribes. Again, Jung wrote:
"Even the primitive's distrust of the neighbouring tribe, which we thought we had long ago outgrown thanks to our global organizations, has come back again in this war, swollen to gigantic proportions. It is no longer a matter of burning down the neighbouring village, or of making a few heads roll: whole countries are devastated, millions are slaughtered. The enemy nation is stripped of every shred of decency, and our own faults appear in others, fantastically magnified. Where are the superior minds, capable of reflection, today? If they exist at all, nobody heeds them: instead there is a general running amok, a universal fatality against whose compelling sway the individual is powerless to defend himself. And yet this collective phenomenon is the fault of the individual as well, for nations are made up of individuals. Therefore the individual must consider by what means he can counteract the evil. Our rationalistic attitude leads us to believe that we can work wonders with international organizations, legislation, and other well-meant devices. But in reality only a change in the attitude of the individual can bring about a renewal in the spirit of the nations. Everything begins with the individual. (Jung, 1970, p 27)
Philosophers are familiar with this problem. Foucault coined the word episteme to describe big, cultural world-views and controlling ideas that create the lenses through which we gather, structure, and evaluate facts. Thomas Kuhn coined the word paradigm to describe those formative observations (experiments) that create models and patterns, the framework of perception for scientific research. Jürgen Habermas has insightfully discussed the limits of our ability to create reality through language. Words do not create worlds in the sense of altering facts beyond human control, but they do create personal, emotional, social, religious, and philosophical worlds of perception and action. These intuitions, organized in belief systems, cultures, and civilizations both reflect and alter the human world.
Culture is a vast word, but cultures can be understood as a collection of intuitions communicated by all available means to their members. They are acquired by pre-verbal teaching through sensations and role models. They are formed by education, tested by thinking, defended by feeling, and reinforced by a collective support system of identity, loyalty, love, reward, and punishment. Once imparted, they become second nature, an integral part of the person, automatically activated, and not easily changed.
Civilization is an even higher level of analysis. Huntington defines a civilization as "the highest cultural grouping of people and the broadest level of cultural identity people have short of that which distinguishes humans from other species". Civilizations can be huge, like China or small like the Anglophone Caribbeans. Huntington identifies about eight "major", that is, politically and culturally powerful and united civilizations, Western, Chinese, Japanese, Islamic, Hindu, Slavic-Orthodox, Latin American and possibly African civilization. (Huntington, 1993) Presumably this is not to overlook smaller or more scattered civilizations like the Caribbean or Native American civilizations, but to identify those most likely to play commanding roles in major conflicts to come.
The increasing unification of the world by easier travel, economic ties, and "modernization" (dare we read, Americanization) has forced close interaction between previously separated civilizations, forcing our differences into the open. Superficial similarities, such as closely tied economies, military cooperation, corporations, cell phones, TVs, McDonalds, and automobiles, obscure, but do not erase the deep cultural differences like those between Japan, Saudi Arabia, and the United States. They use the same tools but are members of different civilizations.
What to do
Anyone familiar with the works of Carl Jung may see a resemblance between intuition, paradigm, episteme, and culture. Cultures can be viewed as collections of intuitions shared by a large number of people. For Jung, intuition was a form of perception which could be concrete or abstract depending on how much sensation was included in the process of intuition. (Jung, CG 1971, p 453) Post-modernist words like episteme might be seen as describing era-defining intuitions. Post-modernism deals with the abstract side of intuition, intuition as an outgrowth of (if you're of a non-Jungian bent) or an admixture (if you're a Jungian) of feeling driven thinking. Paradigm, by contrast, can be understood as referring to intuitions activated, via sensation (concrete facts) through thinking (putting those facts in context) and understood to be natural laws.
Of course the disciplines and epistemologies of science, religion, and philosophy are specialized and not easily defined, but I suggest that scientific paradigms can be viewed as intuitions based on thinking and tested against sensations. Religious, and philosophical world-views can be read as intuitions, tested by feeling, compared with sensations, and defended by thinking.
Jung defined intuition as, "...the function that mediates perceptions in an unconscious way...In intuition a content presents itself whole and complete, without our being able to explain or discover how this content came into existence" (Jung, CG 1971, p 453) More succinctly he defined intuition as the function that tells you where something comes from and where it is going.
Intuitions may be more or less conscious. We are generally able to describe our intuitions and may be able explain and or discover how this content came into existence, as Jung further notes, "Although intuition is an irrational [perceiving rather than organizing] function many intuitions can afterwards be broken down into their component elements and their origin thus brought into harmony with the laws of reason." (Jung, CG 1971, p 454)
Religion comes from the root words to bind back as if something had come undone. That's why religion is a central ingredient of civilization. All religions have teachings rebinding intuitions to sensations, thinking to feeling, introversion to extroversion, and people to their roots. Monotheistic religions have tended to define intuitions as divine revelations and sensations as human observations. They are tied together by their common origin in the God who created everything.
Their sacred texts, which started out as records of people's experience with the divine have sometimes come, especially in the case of Islam, to serve as authoritative definers of sensory data in and of themselves, separate from and superior to human observations. The texts of Eastern Religions such as Taoism, have taught that the good life consists of the harmonization of all things, sensation and intuition included. They too, have tended to downplay human observations, but for different reasons. The ultimate nature of reality has been seen as remote and loosely tied to any immediate sensations people may experience, and so observations were passed over and folk wisdom and imitative magic prevailed.
Christianity, heavily influenced by Aristotle through St Thomas Aquinas has to submit both intuition/revelation and sensation/observation to the organizing categories of thinking/logic. That worked until the enlightenment, but in the last century the fundamentally ethical content of Christianity reasserted itself and the archetypical Christian thinker has been more feeling/ethics driven than logic or data driven. Religion and philosophy are more tied to feeling and thinking respectively than sensation and tend to assess intuitions by feelings and thoughts. Sensation (facts) are afterthoughts which have to be explained, as in the problem of Evil, or explained away, as is the case with systems like Creationism.
The definition of intuition most palatable to natural scientists is natural law, those clear, observable, definable, predictable constructs, usually mathematical, of patterns of perceptions. What was once thought to be pure observation has now been shown to be partly culturally conditioned observation. Paradigms/intuitions determine the facts we look for in the first place.
Intuition, to the modernist mind, is built up of observations. Given enough observations, the patterns behind the sensations become hypotheses which are systematized and tested against further observations. Intuition, to the post-modern mind, is a perception in and of itself. Modernists tended to see intuitions as artifacts or illusions. Post-modernists tend to ignore the processes of verification and so make all perspectives, from whatever source derived, equal. Social constructionists view the self as a collection of internalized conversations soaked up "like sponges". (Nichols, MP & Schwartz, RC, 2001 p 315)
The sponge analogy is apt for our purposes because it can be used in one of two ways. Nichols and Schwartz use it in the post-modern sense that the self is a tabula rasa, a contentless structure which is filled with words and concepts given by the culture. From a Jungian point of view a sponge is a natural structure. It's a highly complex network, specific to each species, of genetically and environmentally programed skeletal holes, framework, cavities, nooks, crannies, tubes, and lacunae made up of spicules, spongin, and a subtle and complex plethora of biochemicals only just being discovered, let alone catalogued or understood.
Philosophy, religion, and culture mutually support one another within civilizations. Cultures are the larger sets of intuitions that subsume and coordinate religion and philosophy and sometimes science as well. Clifford Geertz, describes this, essentially semiotic relationship, this way:
Sacred symbols function to synthesize a people's ethos -- the tone, character, and quality of their life, its moral and aesthetic style and mood -- their world view -- the picture they have of the way things in sheer actuality actually are, their most comprehensive ideas of order. In religious belief and practice a group's ethos is rendered intellectually reasonable by being shown to represent a way of life ideally suited to the actual state of affairs the world view describes, while the world view is rendered emotionally convincing by being presented as an image of an actual state of affairs peculiarly well arranged to accommodate such a way of life. (Geertz, C. 1973, pp 89, 90).
Geertz sees the creation of culture as an action by the people of the culture. He seems to make culture, webs of significance, systems of meaning, or intuitions acts of the collective wills of the individuals engaged in cultural formation. Jung described intuition as more of an inborn, unconscious, and automatic perceptive process than a semiotic process.
Religion and philosophy, as the conscious reflections on the nature of intuitions, fulfill the role with intuition (specifically beliefs) that science fulfills with sensations (observations and facts). They choose, catalogue, study, combine, critique, and seek to understand them. This means that while religion is part of the problem in the coming clash of civilizations, it is also part of the solution if it embraces sufficiently healthy, whole, and harmonizing intuitions.
Where to go
Jefferson spoke for our civilization when he wrote that certain truths were self-evident listing life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Today it might be popular to add things like freedom of speech; the necessity of solving differences by debate based on evidence and reason, then submitted to the majority for judgment; and the equality of the sexes to that list. But the fact is different cultures, via different intuitions, seeing different patterns in the data, hold different truths to be self-evident. The equality of the sexes or the value of liberty, for example, does not draw any universal ascent. Neither does any one view of freedom of religion, rule of law, or human rights.
Religions hold different truths to be self evident as well. They specifically state and teach how people should live, the nature of the good, what is worth fighting for, and the highest cultural ideals. This is a good thing because all religions have some history of articulating their basic core assumptions and beliefs -- that is, making intuitions conscious. All religions have at least some component of self-criticism and are more self-reflective, self-aware, and self-conscious than cultures are. Instead of just knowing that "This is how we do things." and "We've always done it that way." Religions devote some time to the questions like, "What exactly do we believe?" "What exactly do we do? Why?" and "How is this similar of different from what how other people believe or how they do things?" Philosophy too tries to be honest about its methods, assumptions, conclusions, and relationship to other philosophies. Both religion and philosophy are critics of intuitions and evaluations in much the same way that scientists are critics of observations and theories. But philosophy, by limiting itself to the thinking function, has limited itself to being an apologist for its culture and become less relevant than religion to any substantive dialogue between cultures.
Religion is more flexible than civilization in that one can change one's religion and may be welcomed when one does so. While religions differ on instrumental values, most religions embrace some universal values like love or compassion, peace or submission to a higher reality, refraining from doing harm, and care for others or justice.
Universal ideals have a decidedly dynamic, intuitive character. By their nature ultimate values are not simple feeling (pleasure or pain) functions. They necessarily include intuitions, the perceptions of the purpose of things and the result of actions. Abraham Maslow came about as close as anyone to articulating universal values when he wrote that, at our most self-actualized (self-transcendent) we value: wholeness; (unity; integration; tendency to one-ness; interconnectedness; simplicity; organization; structure; dichotomy-transcendence; order); perfection; (necessity; just-right-ness; just-so-ness; inevitability; suitability; justice; completeness; "oughtness") completion; (ending; finality; justice; "it's finished"; fulfillment; finis and telos; destiny; fate); justice; (fairness; orderliness; lawfulness; "oughtness"); aliveness; (process; non-deadness; spontaneity; self-regulation; full-functioning); richness; (differentiation, complexity; intricacy); simplicity; (honesty; nakedness; essentiality; abstract, essential, skeletal structure); beauty; (rightness; form; aliveness; simplicity; richness; wholeness; perfection; completion; uniqueness; honesty); goodness; (rightness; desireability; oughtness; justice; benevolence; honesty); uniqueness; (idiosyncrasy; individuality; non-comparability; novelty); effortlessness; (ease; lack of strain, striving or difficulty; grace; perfect, beautiful functioning); playfulness; (fun; joy; amusement; gaiety; humor; exuberance; effortlessness); truth; honesty; reality; (nakedness; simplicity; richness; oughtness; beauty; pure, clean and unadulterated; completeness; essentiality), self-sufficiency; (autonomy; independence; not-needing-other-than-itself-in-order-to-be-itself; self-determining; environment-transcendence; separateness; living by its own laws). (Maslow, AH, 1968)
Lists of undesirable conditions tend to be similar across religions as well, including self-centeredness, anger, lust, greed, resentment, fear, ignorance, ambivalence, and disordered priorities (devotion to that which is unworthy of devotion). On the intuitive level the definitions of these words is similar. On the every day level their definitions can be completely different. But it is in applying the ideal to the every day that we try to self-transcend, "If a man is endowed with an ethical sense and is convinced of the sanctity of ethical values, he is on the surest road to a conflict of duty. And although this looks desperately like a moral catastrophe, it alone makes possible a higher differentiation of ethics and a broadening of consciousness. A conflict of duty forces us to examine our conscience and thereby to discover the shadow." (Jung, CG 1970, p 872)
The best and worst things in life are not things, they are conditions. The most desirable of conditions are not static states, they are trajectories. The most desirable of conditions are patterns and potentials of the way things are arranged, where they came from and where they are going. In The Republic, Plato uses a similar definition when he defines the good as "the saving and improving element" and evil as "the corrupting and destroying element" (Plato, 2002) For example, the archetypically valuable thing, money, is not valuable in and of itself. Money is valuable only insofar as it can bring about a constant transcending of circumstances, a constant influx of satisfactions such as helping others, protecting others, status, excitement, relaxation, convenience, and delight to the senses. Money can be useless when it cannot change condition (when a person is lost in the desert a canteen of water is more valuable than a mountain of gold) or corrupting when the change it produces is painful.
Values are the interaction between ultimate goal and next move. Justice, for example, is embodied in different rules depending on a civilization's anthropology. From a Western point of view one component of justice is maximum liberty for all. This assumes people were intended to be free. In other civilizations justice is maximized when people become what they were intended to become too, but they may be intended for different ends. The ideal of justice to which Hindus, Christians, and Muslims all subscribe will look very different in practice when we're talking about the proper role of women or the role of class or cast in determining just treatment.
How to get there
Superficial participation in a culture is easy (enjoying Chinese food, for example). Actual formative participation in a culture or religious community is a much deeper, more intimate matter. Westerners are generally welcome at Buddhist or Shinto festivals as are Chinese people at a rodeo. But participation in the formation of the core identity of a religion or a culture is only available to those who buy into the values and identity of the culture. One has to prove their trustworthiness, meaning their commitment to the ultimate values of a group, before they can participate in the formation of that group. This is why interreligious "dialogue" rarely changes anyone. Ultimately, the dialogue ends and people agree to disagree. Religions and cultures can incorporate different activities, celebrations, and even rituals but they cannot tolerate different ideals, values, or core identifications.
Recent history from the genocide in Rwanda and the collapse of Yugoslavia to the events of September 11th highlight the role of religion and cultural identity in civilizations. The fact that we now live with, interact with, and sometimes fight with people who have different intuitions that organize their lives makes reflection necessary and comparisons inevitable. Tolerance of and participation in different cultures and religions has only been at the level of activities and celebrations, not realistic participation in one another's core values and identifications. If different cultures pick different intuitions from which to create their world-views, it is probably impossible to participate in different cultures or different religions unless the intuitions one picks are unifying intuitions.
I do not believe that a universal culture or religion such as is sought by Unitarians or the Baha'i is possible. The holistic unifiers tend to fail because they jump to unity prematurely. Ends direct, but cannot eclipse, means. On the other hand, conflict is inevitable but so is self- transcendence. Paradigms change. They can diverge and converge. While religion, and to a lesser extent philosophy, might be the dialogue points between civilizations, no view of reality will ever bring an end to conflict because of our inborn hero archetype. The hero goes beyond the known and comes back with new knowledge that overcomes the old. Hegel was right. We are always transcending ourselves.
Conflict can be healthy, "To confront a person with his shadow is to show him his own light. Once one has experienced a few times what it is like to stand judgingly between the opposites, one begins to understand what is meant by the self. Anyone who perceives his shadow and his light simultaneously sees himself from two sides and thus gets in the middle." (Jung, 1970, p 872)
"Getting in the middle" is, for Jung, balance -- a good thing.
Conflict is inevitable but violence need not be. In the democratic process conflict is sublimated. We fight verbally and politically rather than by physical force. According to the democratic ideal, the actual enforcement of rules by violence is limited to enforcing the rules by which the game is played, not enforcing which side will win. Conflict can be kept non-violent only when the stakes are low or when people trust the rules by which we fight to lead to the right outcome.
In Western history for the last 200 years, tired of religious wars, we established a process of intercultural dialogue which we generally trust. But this should not leave us with the illusion that religious or cultural differences are trivial. The stakes are just as high as they ever were. The Western distinction between religion in the political arena and religion as believed by individuals is far too superficial a distinction for most cultures. In fact, the idea that religion can be a personal matter, kept out of politics, is an artifact of Protestant Christianities role in the founding of the United States. Protestantism created a culture in America and then disappeared into it. Protestant Christians set up a society, school system, and legal system based on biblical principles and then slipped into a privileged, passive, comfortable, ceremonial role. They tolerated people pursuing their passions -- social action, anti-Nuke activism, prosperity preaching, biblical literalism, pro-choice, pro-life, pro-gay, anti-gay, or any of the other endless fights over interpretations of Scripture and church policy. Within and between denominations they played up their favorites and bad-mouthed the rest and studied ways to keep the doors open.
Churches in Europe and the United States became a combination of special interest groups and museums where people could go to go to observe the ritual of imitating the Early Church in a greatly scaled down way. They could do this because, to be wholly honest, in the United States Church didn't matter. Christians in the US felt they could trust the "secular" culture to fulfill basically Jewish/Christian/Humanitarian values. But then disturbing clouds appeared on the horizon as secular people began to abandon those values and embrace either other religions or worse, a culture of egoism where service to the Self is replaced by service to the Ego. To the Protestant mind self-serving behavior was self-evidently dysfunctional. Apparently it isn't to the secular mind and, by a turn of events where Christianity follows the culture, it isn't to Protestants or Europeans any more.
In the book God's Debris, Scott Adams says that practically nobody believes in God. He defends the assertion by writing, "If people believed in God they would live every minute of their lives in support of that belief. Rich people would give their wealth to the needy. Everyone would be frantic to determine which religion was the true one. No one could be comfortable in the thought that they might have picked the wrong religion and blundered into eternal damnation, or bad reincarnation, or some other unthinkable consequence. People would dedicate their lives to converting others to their religions." (Adams, S 2001) Since this is obviously not the case, Adams concludes, nobody (in America, where he is writing) really believes in God. That may be true for America or maybe we just trust the process, but it is obviously not true in all parts of the world.
It is, sometimes, popular to talk in terms of religious tolerance or even progress in religious tolerance. In a Liberal Democracy such as the United States, one can study, practice, or compare religions without conflict. An individual can say that he or she affirms one religion without "putting down" another. That is not possible in theocracies. Seemingly secular beliefs, like the belief that all religions should be treated equally before the law, are clearly shown, in their Western form, to grow out of the Christian beliefs in the Sovereignty of God and original sin. It is possible to argue from a Muslim perspective that all religions should be allowed, but they certainly shouldn't be treated equally before the law.
Even in Liberal Democracies the fact that all religions should be treated equally before the law does not mean that any individual should -- or even can -- believe that all religions are equally correct, accurate, moral, or desirable. It is difficult to be a member of more than one civilization at a time and equally difficult to be a member of more than one religion at a time. The Shadow archetype is alive and well, turning the "other" into the enemy. The Syzygy archetype helps overcome the split, but no archetype is the one size that fits all. Religions are equal before the law because the law enforces the rules of the game, not the outcome. As Voltaire put it, "I may not agree with what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it."
Interreligious and true cross-cultural debate were shied away from in the United States in the 20th Century, precisely when religion and culture were taking on a bigger and bigger role in world conflicts. The interreligious dialogues were respectful but unconvincing and multiculturalism took on a stilted, stereotyping, overly optimistic, polemical, academic quality in the Century that began with the death of colonialism and 19th Century Liberalism, the ascendency of Communism, the rise of Fascism, the Holocaust, the resurgence of the Klu Klux Klan, and ended with the Gulf War and the rise of Radical Islam.
Broadening the policy of religious equality before the law, an intellectual dogma of the equality of all religions and, indeed all ideas, was brought into academic circles. This lead to two results. In academic and liberal circles it led to dialogue not debate and ended in a kind of mutual admiration by serial monologue. As in the prototypic joke, a Priest, a Rabbi, a Minister, an Imam, and a Buddhist in the end emphasized their similarities and became silent on points of conflict.
In conservative and religion-centered circles equality itself was attacked as relativism. Apologeticists met to strategize overt or covert religious coercion. Religious casuists turned inward, rejecting outsiders and creating pure communities giving rise to Fundamentalism, religious jingoism, and in-house conflict.
Understanding between religions, cultures, and civilizations is not easily come by. Enormous destructive power can be unleashed by the well intentioned when different civilizations borrow incompatible ideas from one another. Jung saw this as a salient lesson of World War II. "The fact is, our unconscious is not to be got at with over-ingenious and grotesque interpretations. The psychotherapist with a Jewish background awakens in the Germanic psyche not those wistful and whimsical residues from the time of David, but the barbarian of yesterday, a being for whom matters suddenly become serious in the most unpleasant way." (Jung, 1970, p 12)
Unlike Jung, who saw intuitions as self-revelatory, I think they need to be built up from -- or at least tested against -- observations. In an Hegelian spirit of hope that a good dialectic leads to a good synthesis, and following the "Z" Model of problem solving suggested by Sandra Krebb Hersch, I offer three foundational conditions for interreligious, and hopefully cross-civilized understanding.
1. For any debate to be effective both sides must begin with scientific (sensorially observable) data. Paradigms play a big role in science, but the basic corrective to all paradigms, the bottom line that prevents subjectivity, inaccuracy, and solipsism is the appeal to sensory data accessible to all.
Sensory data includes predictions of observable outcomes given certain circumstances defined beforehand. Any view of "Truth" must recognize that truth is both accessible, at least in principle, to all and above or beyond any individual perspective. Different ways of approaching and understanding the truth, while real and inescapable, are necessarily correctable by the Truth above all individuals and cultures. Either point of view -- that there is no truth but ours, or that there is no truth -- leaves an unbridgeable chasm ending any meaningful dialogue.
By far the greatest challenge of this principle is that, for true resolution of conflict to take place, philosophies, religions, and civilizations must be willing to submit their doctrines and predictions to the actual observed verdict of history and then change if change is called for. I certainly don't propose that it will be easy or even doable. Muslims, for example, begin with the a priori assumption that the Koran is true, totally, completely, utterly. No sensory data can contradict it. My only defense is that conflict is happening anyway, and that this is the only productive way I can see to objectively (to the satisfaction of all) evaluate outcomes.
2. For any debate to be meaningful it must be couched in intuitive terms meaningful to both parties. Possible and desirable results must be agreed upon. For example, it is generally agreed that peace is more desirable than war or that agreement through discovery or enlightenment is superior to coerced agreement.
Here again, democratic principles of open debate and the balance of powers, the corporate processes parallel to individual honesty, awareness, and integration of new facts into conscious life, comes into play. The best pattern for this fight is to ensure that both sides get a full and fair hearing, and that the perceptions of the ultimate conditions are refined by one another and agreed upon, even if the areas of agreement are limited.
3. Realistic, logical rules must be followed. The scientific method of experimentation and observation gives real substance to the predictions of outcomes and structure to the debate. I may hope that total honesty will produce equality, but I may discover that, in practice, total honesty is not reciprocated and that, by giving the dishonest side unfair advantage, it becomes counterproductive. Logic cannot decide outcomes, but it's the best predictor we have.
4. Values must be agreed upon. A Buddhist will only recognize "superiority" if it's defined in terms of the value of compassion. A Muslim will only recognize "superiority" if it's defined in terms of obedience to God revealed through the Koran. A Christian will only recognize "superiority" if it's defined in terms of love. Fortunately, when it comes to the highest values, there is broad agreement. Since the debates tend to be over how to actually live these values the meaning of these terms will have to be referred back to the data so the cycle can begin again.
To be sure, religions have been a source of conflict at the borders of civilizations, but because of their inherent sense that the reality we live in is less real, true, and good than the best reality possible, religions may also be a source of hope for resolution of some of those conflicts. Such resolution is already going on in some places. In an unpublished dissertation Dr John Wheatley described the way a variety of religious professionals work together at Walter Reed Army Medical Center as follows:
The chaplains demonstrated a common factors approach to ministry and pastoral care at Walter Reed Army Medical Center with a sense of integrity and consistency. The common factors that arose from the observations and self-reported practices are: (a) a sense of parallel coexistence with dissimilar faith groups which does not rely upon the comparative test of equality but upon the unanimous peaceful purpose of service to God and human beings; (b) a service orientation to human beings that honors the unique beliefs of patients/clients as intrinsically valid and simultaneously transcends those particulars and validates a universally valued humanity regardless of beliefs; (c) believes that worship with dissimilar faith traditions brings unity in humanity; (d) counseling and humanitarian assistance must be demonstrated on a unbiased basis; (e) collegial affiliation allows all chaplains to contribute to truth; (f) integrity with one's own beliefs as a chaplain is essential and always complimented by non-invasive dialogue with chaplains of dissimilar backgrounds." (Wheatley, JC, 2001)
While the Religious Professionals at Walter Reed are not overcoming differences in the sense of creating a new religion that transcends their present ones, they were working together in harmony which is a big step in the right direction.
Finally, all civilizations need self-criticism. All religions have a concept of Reality beyond this reality. All of them have some teaching that humans are either sinful or ignorant, and that we need enlightenment, obedience, or salvation. All people have convictions and must act on those convictions, but the idea that all humans are fallible means that each person, religious institution, scriptural interpretation, political, or philosophical system, culture and civilization is fallible. It is that virtue of humility that allows us to refrain from the use of violence to enforce our values.
In a passage as prescient as Huntington's Jung wrote:
The fact that this whole disturbance or reactivation of the unconscious took place around the year 1800 is, in my view, connected with the French Revolution. This was less a political revolution than a revolution of minds. It was a colossal explosion of all the inflammable matter that had been piling up ever since the Age of Enlightenment. The official deposition of Christianity by the Revolution must have made a tremendous impression on the unconscious pagan in us, for from then on he found no rest. In the greatest German of the age, Goethe, he could really live and breathe, and in Hölderlin he could at least cry loudly for the glory that was Greece. After that, the dechristianization of man's view of the world made rapid progress despite occasional reactionaries. Hand in hand with this went the importation of strange gods. Besides the fetishism and shamanism already mentioned, the prime import was Buddhism, retailed by Schopenhauer. Mystery religions spread apace, including that higher form of shamanism, Christian Science. This picture reminds us vividly of the first centuries of our era, when Rome began to find the old gods ridiculous and felt the need to import new ones on a large scale. As today, they imported pretty well everything that existed, from the lowest, most squalid superstition to the noblest flowerings of the human spirit. Our time is fatally reminiscent of that epoch, when again everything was not in order, and again the unconscious burst forth and brought back things immemorially buried. If anything, the chaos of minds was perhaps less pronounced then than it is today. (Jung, 1970, p 14)
The French Revolution proves that any religion or secular philosophy that lacks the concept of universal human limitations, sin if you will, can be secure in its revelation and will inevitably be prone to dogma and violence. This Revolution was conducted by rationalists seeking to form a better world. When the crucifix was replaced on Notre Dame's altar with the goddess of reason the carnage began. The American Revolution, by contrast, was conducted by Puritans in the Augustinian tradition. We had no guillotine, no mass executions. The French rationalists, like the Communists of recent history, and anyone without a healthy respect for human fallibility lack a necessary political and philosophical corrective humility. (Statloff, D 1995)
Recognition of the shadow, on the other hand, leads to the modesty we need in order to acknowledge imperfection. And it is just this conscious recognition and consideration that are needed whenever a human relationship is to be established. A human relationship is not based on differentiation and perfection, for these only emphasize the differences or call forth the exact opposite; it is based, rather on imperfection, on what is weak, helpless and in need of support -- the very ground and motive for dependence. The perfect have no need of others, but weakness has, for it seeks support and does not confront its partner with anything that might force him into an inferior position and even humiliate him. This humiliation may happen only too easily when high idealism plays too prominent a role. (Jung, CG, 1970, p 579)
We cannot escape conflict and change, but perhaps some of our collective history can provide intuitions of the best rules for change. Maybe we can provide some laws apropos to our dialogue, and retrain violence with the goal of our collective flourishing.
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William R. Clough, D.Min. is an Associate Professor in the School of Psychology and Behavioral Sciences, and Director of the Pastoral Community Counseling Program at Argosy University, Sarasota, FL.