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Cultural and spiritual grounding: the human cycle

Sri Aurobindo (17) was an Indian "guru" and political activist who was a very influential figure in the early part of the last century. Indeed a whole city, Auroville in South India, has been created to establish "the unity of mankind".

In Aurobindo's terms from the outset: "Auroville belongs to nobody in particular. Auroville belongs to humanity as a whole. But to live in Auroville, one must be the willing servitor of the Divine Consciousness. Auroville will be the place of an unending education, of constant progress, and a youth that never ages. Auroville wants to be the bridge between the past and the future. Taking advantage of all discoveries from without and from within, Auroville will boldly spring towards future realizations. Auroville will be a site of material and spiritual researches for a living embodiment of an actual Human Unity."

Aurobindo, moreover, with the help of German historian Karl Lamprecht (18), came up with the notion of a "human cycle" which, as we shall see in Chapter 8, can be closely aligned with our own GENE, that is with:

• a symbolic stage linked up with grounding;

• a typal, or more specifically archetypal stage, aligned with emergence;

• an individual, conventional and rational stage correlated with navigating;

• a subjective stage ultimately aligned with our effecting.

The Indian sage as such has the generally "Eastern", or more specifically Indian tendency to focus on the individual-and-the-universal, thereby tending to by-pass organization and enterprise, which is a more "Northern" orientation.

Spiral Dynamics Integral: The Emergence of Cultural Memes

Spiral Dynamics picks up in the latter part of the 20th century from where Aurobindo's human cycle leaves off in the early part, in effect combining his Eastern spirit with Western technique. Originating in the work of American developmental psychologist Clare Graves in the 1960s, it was extended and enriched by his countryman Don Beck, in terms of so-called "cultural memes" as we shall see in Chapter 8, in the 1980s and 1990s. In fact Beck was heavily involved with South Africa's transition to democracy. For a contemporary disciple of both, Lebanese American Said Dawlabani (19):

• MEMEs affect individuals and societies.

• Different value systems can co-exist in a person or a society.

• Each value system can exhibit both healthy and unhealthy expressions. Democracy in the West might appear to be a healthy form of expression of the order-given fourth level system, while other forms of government like Iran's theocracy might be considered an unhealthy expression of such.

• As a person or culture moves up to a higher-order system, they transcend and include all lower level value systems.

• When a person or culture solves the problems of existence within their value system, they immediately create the problems which will trigger the emergence of the next value system.

• Cultures cannot skip a developmental stage. Law and order, for example as such, must precede prosperity and science.

As we shall see in Chapter 8, South Africa's Loraine Laubscher, who studied under both Graves and Beck, subsequently applied, and evolved Spiral Dynamics in Asia, Africa and the Americas. Such a developmental perspective with culture to the fore, subsequently embodied in emergent, Eastern European guise, is one adopted by Rudolf Steiner, as we shall see, Towards Social Renewal.

Cultural and Spiritual Navigation: Threefold Commonwealth

In more explicitly structural guise, Austria's Rudolf Steiner (20), like, and indeed prior to, his American counterparts, early last century, adopted an integral approach (subsequently to be developed by Ibrahim Abouleish through Sekem – see Chapter 22). Steiner was an Eastern European polymath who devoted himself to developing what he called a "spiritual science" that he termed "anthroposophy", which postulates the existence of an objective, intellectually comprehensible spiritual world accessible to direct experience

through inner development. As such he turned, in theory and in practice, to art and music, to health and education, to philosophy and psychology, as well as to agriculture and to enterprise. Overall, and in his focus on societal renewal, Steiner maintained that a threefold commonwealth, constituted of cultural, political and economic life, mirrored, respectively, liberty, equality and fraternity.

In other words, and with a view to societal renewal, the pursuit of liberty was to be associated with cultural life, including the arts and sciences, rather than with politics and economics. Politics then was directly associated with the pursuit of equality, or human rights, and economics with fraternity, or indeed association. This, for us overall, becomes the "Eastern" means of navigating our way toward an integral polity, constituted of all of the above.

We now turn our attention, to exemplify the effecting of such, that is in cultural, political and economic terms, in south-east Asia adjacent to India, rather than in Africa or Europe, to Sarvodaya in Sri Lanka.

Cultural and Spiritual Effect: Sarvodaya: Awakening All

For A.T. Ariyaratne (21), the founder of Sri Lanka's Sarvodaya, some 50 years ago, "a country cannot develop unless one has faith in the intelligence of its people". How is this intelligence tapped? It was the villagers first and foremost, not the urban elite or government officials, that Ariyaratne and his colleagues sought to communicate with; and since true communication is a two-way street, that meant listening, too. For Sarvodaya the villagers were the experts. Instead of coming up with a pre-formulated blueprint for action, organizers instigate "family gatherings" where the local community itself assessed its needs and determined its priorities by consensus. It has permitted, over the course of 50 years, some 15,000 villagers to believe that they count and have some ownership of Sarvodaya programmes.

Sarvodaya's dynamism in sum, for Ariyaratne, derives to a large extent from its capacity to merge people's spiritual aspirations with engagement in community action. Seeking to "awaken" both person and society, Sarvodaya aims for individual fulfilment as well as social transformation. The retelling of history can enrich it and make it more relevant to present ends. When thwarted or misguided, it can turn pathological, tearing the social fabric; but the need itself is legitimate. This brings us onto the "North", and from culturally-based, developmental polity, to a knowledge-based, societal one. We now turn from nature and community, culture and spirituality, by way of pre-emphasis, to society and technology, starting with former Czech President Vaclav Havel.

 
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