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A Sourcebook for the Worldwide Discovery of a Creative Organic Universe
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VI. Earth Life Emergence: Development of Body, Brain, Selves and Societies

4. The 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 social psychology report that western and eastern cultures do generally reflect polar autonomous individual or communal group attributes. For the purposes of this website, such quantified findings may then show how the universal archetypes seem manifest even on a global stage. But these reciprocal phases have rarely been understood and as set in opposition have caused much international strife and injustice. If civilizations that currently “clash” could actually be seen as naturally recurrent complementarity, a palliative path to their reconciliation might result. A unique role for Muslim culture as bridge between West and East is suggested in Bicameral World Religions.

During the cold war the United States and the Soviet Union went to the brink of nuclear conflict over individualism vs. communism. Before September 11, 2001, the U. S. was squaring off with China over the same dichotomy. An obvious solution would be a salutary reciprocity of both dispositions. Another area of much violence and hardship is post-colonial Africa. A lesser known but crucial finding is that the same complements equally hold for Southern and Northern hemispheres. A resolve might also accrue here, with especial avail for better racial understanding. (The Old Earth section records the fatal impediments of weapons proliferation, male warlords, and economic corruption which block constructive efforts everywhere.)

A further issue which has intensified in the 2010s is racial in kind, which again involves Southern and Northern complements. Many volumes of ancient and modern African wisdom are posted in World Philosophy, as they evoke an organic option to the reigning machine model. As recorded in the Writings section, we have written about Leopold Senghor’s emphasis on a “complementarity” of opposites or halves as the best resolution. See especially the work of Molefi Kete Asante, Maulana Karenga, and Messay Kebede, among many voices whom must be heard.

Such instances among many cry out for the promise of humankind’s own knowledge, which as MIT’s Thomas Malone (search) says, may be our only solution. An imperative transformation from this fanatical, militarist, inequitable, tribal, unsustainable world, descending into blunders, terror, and carnage, to an enlightened mutuality of personal welfare and caring community could be there for the asking. A further aspect which has intensified in the mid 2010s

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)

In the African view, we would speak of the harmonious interaction of the complementary Divine Feminine Masculine. (174) In the African world-view the European dichotomy of opposition between the “individual” and the group collapses, and, instead, the person and the community are defined in terms of each other. They are interdependent, merging beings who together form the meaningful reality. (352)

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.

Brooke, Roger. Ubuntu and the Individuation Process: Toward a Multicultural Analytical Psychology. Psychological Perspectives. 51/1, 2008. 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.

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.

Callicott, J. Baird and Roger Ames, eds. Nature in Asian Traditions of Thought. Albany: State University of New York Press, 1989. A look eastward in an effort to comprehend and mitigate the environmental crisis. The ”holistic-organic” Eastern milieu is recommended to balance a rampant “atomistic-mechanistic” Western paradigm.

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