The Unity of Man and Cosmos


There is something pathological about the way knowledge’s are fragmented and divided; it causes violence, anguish and some sort of neurotic disorder. Is it possible to have a new quest for the kind of knowledge that heals, and unites man and cosmos? Radhakamal  Mukerjee—a great social philosopher—was a visionary. That is why, what he wrote in 1964, we believe, needs to be understood and comprehended by all those who think of education and the destiny of civilization.   

It is hardly realized in academic circles to what extent the current preoccupation with separate and virtually autonomous sciences and arts is responsible for modern tensions, nihilism and sense of despair. Modern knowledge is characterized by the pernicious dualisms of soul and matter, body and mind, spirit and flesh, natural and supernatural, factual and ideal. From this is derived the stultifying notion that truth cannot be found in the realm of the empirical sciences at all. As Hyman Lavy observes: 

Truth is a dangerous word to incorporate within the vocabulary of science. It drags with it in its train ideas of permanence and immutability that are foreign to the spirit of a study that is essentially a historically changing movement.

These concepts are the outcome of the contraction of the human mind, its withdrawal from the full understanding, vision and interpretation of the cosmos and all that it can be for man. The Eastern thought-pattern stresses that true knowledge is of an unified integral nature, grounded as it is on reality. The Western dualisms that feed and are fed in turn by partial or fragmentary knowledge seriously limit and blot out the total meanings, values and experiences he can extract from the cosmos. This obviously makes it impossible for him to carry on that full, intimate and sensitive interchange and interpenetration of osmosis of man and cosmos in which lie the coordination, enhancement and fulfillment of the values and possibilities of both.

It is the lapse of the sense of the essential values of mankind and cosmos that is the most powerful hindrance to both an intellectual clarification and reorganization and integration and synthesis of knowledge. Essentially does it foster a segmental view of life, mind and civilization torn from the whole and the complete—the community of mankind-and-cosmos to which they truly belong. Human life’s present situations and actualities rather than emergences, transcendences and potentialities are stressed. The severance of relations of man-and-cosmos that are real kindred, and the derogation of the ultimate and transcendent values account for his isolation and anxiety and his dread of alien forces , so poignantly revealed to the modern philosophy of Existentialism. The latter is opposed to all notions of unity, universality and coherence, and stresses the unique existence and pluralism of many independent centres. It finds its support from history, that according to it, belies all reason and order. Man is a being engulfed in cosmic irrationality and absurdity.

His spontaneity and freedom, instead of being perennial sources of joy, wholeness and transcendence, are a burden and source of anxiety and anguish. Such is the confusion of values raised to the height of metaphysical speculation in Existentialism.

On the one hand, the compartmentalization or atomization of the sciences, arts and humanities, pursued in a diffused and incoherent manner, is an outcome of the present chaos of values and disoriented living. On the other hand, the fragmentation, arrest and incompletion of the sciences, arts and humanities block man’s aesthetic and spiritual imagination and intuition, and bring about acute tensions and conflicts between his affective and intellectual life. These subvert the ‘natural” hierarchy of values , thwarting the cultivation and diffusion of intrinsic and cosmic values at the higher dimension of human living, and prove as great stumbling blocks for man standing on the threshold of a ne life-and-cosmos experience.

Source : Radhakamal Mukerjee, The Destiny of Civilization, Asia Publishing House,  Bombay, 1964
This article is published in The New Leam, February Issue( Vol.2  No.9) and available in print version.

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