Civilization and the individual

In 2013, for a while, I was posting quotations from my reading, calling the series “Wisdom Every Day” On Feb 11, my posting led to a query and things went on from there.


“In human terms, how are we to describe… our own Western civilization, or any other of the 10 or 20 civilizations which we can count up on our fingers? In human terms, I should say that each of these civilizations is, while in action, a distinctive attempt at a single great common human experience, or, when it is seen in retrospect, after the action is over, it is a distinctive instance of a single great common human experience. The enterprise or experience is an effort to perform an act of creation. In each of these civilizations, mankind, I think, is trying to rise above mere humanity — above primitive humanity, that is, — toward some higher kind of spiritual life. One cannot depict the goal because it has never been reached, — or, rather, I should say that it has never been reached by any human society. It has, perhaps, been reached by individual men and women. At least, I can think of certain saints and sages…. But if there have been a few transfigured men and women, there has never been such a thing as a civilized society. Civilization, as we know it, is a movement and not a condition, a voyage and not a harbor. No known civilization has ever reached the goal of civilization yet. There has never been a communion of saints on earth. In the least uncivilized society at its least uncivilized moment, the vast majority of its members have remained very near indeed to the primitive human level. And no society has ever been secure of holding such ground as it has managed to gain in its spiritual advance.”

Arnold Toynbee, Civilization on Trial

Terry Contreras Not even a “Type 1″ civilization yet. That classification makes me ask…. What the standard is being measured by. That implies other civilizations. Which most scientists deny exist….”?” Any word from “The Guys Upstairs” on this subject?


Terry, okay, a word from the guys follows. (It will be interesting to see what it is.)

“The only real work is work on yourself. All the rest of the world exists to support that work for each person. Although work on yourself may seem to be an evasion of the “real” and “serious” and “important” issues of your day (of any given day), in fact it is the only real work there is, because abstractions are not alive in the way individuals are. Every civilization has its own subset of reality which it takes as an absolute, and within those game-rules, people can explore and evolve different parts of themselves, like flowers in a greenhouse’s artificially maintained climate. Thus, to expect a perfect society made up of imperfect beings is to make a couple of dubious assumptions: First, that one could have a perfect society, two, that one could have an imperfect being. In short, work on yourself more and worry about abstractions less, and you will be happier, more productive — and you will be helping the abstraction that you call your society to change its ground-rules to accommodate more conscious beings.”

That was interesting. Thanks for the question, Terry.

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