VII. Our Earthuman Ascent: A Major Evolutionary Transition in Individuality
4. A Complementarity of Civilizations
“East is east and west is west, and never the twain shall meet” wrote Rudhyar Kipling long ago. Nowadays many research studies in comparative social psychology report that western and eastern cultures do indeed generally reflect polar autonomous individual or communal group attributes. This website module serves to document how the universal archetypes are manifestly evident even on a global stage. But these reciprocal phases are rarely appreciated and often set in opposition with strife and injustice. If civilizations that are long bent on “clashing” could be seen as natural complements, a path to their salutary mutual reconciliation might result.
Abe, Masao. Zen and the Modern World. Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press, 2003. In response to an incommensurable Western postmodernism, the revered author conceives a Japanese wisdom wherein the purpose of human beings is to bring cosmic existence to be aware of itself.
Adams, Glenn and Victoria Plaut. The Cultural Grounding of Personal Relationship: Friendship in North American and West African Worlds. Personal Relationships. 10/3, 2003. A research study finds an individualist bias and an atomistic construction of reality for North America and a relational emphasis within a field concept of nature for people from Ghana. Once again a South/North complementarity is in place between values of interdependence and autonomy.
Ani, Marimba. Yurugu: An African-Centered Critique of European Cultural Thought and Behavior. Trenton, NJ: Africa World Press, 1994. A Hunter College professor writes a 600-page indictment that is becoming a cited source for a holistic, life-affirming, feminine universe in contrast to the Euro-American male machine which oppresses people and nature. This patriarchy came to power some two millennia ago from an indigenous maternal tradition whereof persons are one with each other and a living cosmos. Its dominant, enlightened method is to exalt separate objects at the expense of nurture and community. The Kiswahili concept of asili, similar to a paradigm, is introduced as the “explanatory principle of a culture,“ its seed or DNA, from which everything organically springs. Western societies are thus impaired by an aberrant, ultimately destructive mindset.
The African world-view, and the world-views of other people who are not of European origin, all appear to have certain themes in common. The universe to which they relate is sacred in origin, is organic, and is a true “cosmos.” Human beings are part of the cosmos, and, as such, relate intimately with other cosmic beings. Knowledge of the universe comes through relationship with it and through perception of spirit in matter. The universe is one; spheres are joined because a single unifying force that pervades all being. (29)
Asouzu, Innocent. The Method and Principle of Complementary Reflection in and Beyond African Philosophy. Munster: Lit Verlag, 2005. A Nigerian scholar from the Igbo community draws from traditional Africa its essential insight not of conflict and polarity, often a European view, but of salutary accord between mutual elements and modes. How much the world needs such wisdom today, he argues and advises. Also cited in World Philosophy.
Bao, Yan and Ernst Poppel. Anthropological Universals and Cultural Specifics: Conceptual and Methodological Challenges in Cultural Neuroscience. Neuroscience & Biobehavioral Reviews. 36/9, 2012. In a response to an earlier paper in this journal “Concerns about Cultural Neurosciences” by Marina Martinez Mateo, et al (36/1) which said that social preferences should be excluded, Peking University and Ludwig Maximillians-Universitat psychologists (search each website) contend that “universalism and differentialism,” as eastern interdependence and western individualism, do indeed exist on their own. Together they form a “complementarity,” and as many others entries here aver, exert a major influence on a person’s cognition and customs.
Bao, Yan, et al. Complementarity as Generative Principle: A Thought Pattern for Aesthetic and Cognitive Appreciations. Frontiers in Psychology. Online May, 2017. Peking University and Ludwig-Maximilian University research psychologists including Ernst Poppel post a strong case, with reference to organic Asian wisdom, that dual principles of isolate particle and holistic field are natural complements required for visual perception to achieve full comprehension. See also East of West, West of East: A Matter of Global and Local Identity by coauthor Ernst Poppel in Cognitive Processing (19/S.1, 2018).
In experimental aesthetics the relationship between the arts and cognitive neuroscience has gained particular interest in recent years. But has cognitive neuroscience indeed something to offer when studying the arts? Here we propose a theoretical neurocognitive frame within which the concept of complementarity is a generative or creative principle. On that basis a thought pattern is suggested for aesthetic appreciations and cognitive appraisals in general. This thought pattern is deeply rooted in the history of philosophy and art theory, while neural cognitive processes are equally seen as complementary. Finally, we emphasize complementarity as a generative principle on a practical level when artists and scientists work directly together which can lead to new insights and broader perspectives on both sides. (Abstract excerpt)
Belgrave, Faye and Kevin Allison. African-American Psychology. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications, 2006. Considered as the best overview of the subject so far, the work covers many aspects from philosophical roots to education and social issues. In so doing, a collective, holistic, sensitive culture can be distinguished, well represented by theologian John Mbiti’s aphorism: I am because we are; and because we are, therefore, I am. These indigenous qualities have been much compromised by a long and brutal diaspora to lands which preach just the opposite. So an educative method which emphasizes the individual is not conducive for learning, and so on. A valuable addition.
Brook, Joshua. Red World, Blue World: A Global Overview. World Policy Journal. 24/2, 2007. Not only the United States appears to be divided between such ‘pluralists’ and ‘particularists,’ but a similar dichotomy can be identified across historical civilizations. From this expanded perspective, a long-term trend seems to be from red to blue, which could be observed as a focus on the past or the future, male to feminine, war to peace.
Ubuntu and the Individuation Process: Toward a Multicultural Analytical Psychology.
This contribution by the Duquesne University psychologist and 1994 South African expatriate of a vital African complement is reviewed more in Archetypal Psychology.
Buchtel, Emma and Ara Norenzayan. Thinking Across Cultures: Implications for Dual Processes. Evans, Jonathan and Keith Frankish, eds. In Two Minds: Dual Processes and Beyond. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2009. University of British Columbia psychologists provide a thorough historic, global, and technical review of the archetypal reason/intuition, analytic/holistic, abstract/associative complements that distinguish for the most part Western and Eastern hemispheres. And it begs the imagination that along with similar Southern and Northern cultures why could not these Me and We phases join in peaceful, mutual partnership.
Buckley, Chris. Bristling Against the West, China Rallies Domestic Sympathy for Russia. New York Times. April 4, 2022. The article describes a deep, sharp “ideological” contrast on the planet between this Eastern authoritarian fixation which feels compelled to defend itself against perceived encroachments by polar Western individualist, liberal, decadent cultures. As a result a torrent of misinformed, distorted confusions, along with nuclear threats, consume these late years as our precious bioplanet lies in a critical to terminal state. See The Bifocal Stance Theory of Cultural Evolution (Jagiello, et al, April 2022) for an Oxford University paper on nature’s common bireciprocal societies. However might we learn in the short time?
Buruma, Ian and Avishai Margalit. Occidentalism: The West in the Eyes of its Enemies. New York: Penguin Press, 2004. An important analysis that contrasts from this viewpoint a purportedly more holistic, romantic, spiritual Oriental and Islamic realm with Europe and America seen as secular, rational, mechanistic, and materially consumptive.