1. The Ideal of Life:
After determining the worldview of a civilization, the second question that occupies a central place in the analysis of its positive and negative aspects is, ‘What ideal of life does that civilization present? The importance of this question lies in the fact that the natural direction of a person’s intentions and practical efforts is necessarily towards the one end and goal that he has declared to be his ideal of life. The formation of a mindset, right or wrong, good or bad, and the appropriateness or inappropriateness of lifestyle is fully dependent upon the correctness or lack thereof of this goal, Contingent upon this ideal being right or wrong are the highs and the lows of thoughts and concepts, the superiority or the inferiority of ethics, and the loftiness or the diminutiveness of economic and social pursuits.
Contingent upon this goal being clear and well directed or blurred and misdirected is the basis of life’s totality and that includes the organization or distortion of a person’s thoughts, constancy and inconsistency of the pattern of everyday life and the utilization of energies and capabilities in a focused or dispersed manner. Taken as a whole, the ideal is that criterion on the basis of which a person is able to choose his path from the many available paths of thought and action and then spending all of his mental and bodily energies as well as material and spiritual resources in that direction. Accordingly, when we wish to measure any civilization on the scale of excellence, an investigation into its Ideal of Life is indispensable.
2. The Essential Characteristics of a True Collective Ideal:
However, prior to taking the first steps in the direction of research and discussion, we should clearly determine as to what we mean by this ” True Collective Ideal” or ‘Ultimate Civilization Ideal’ (Which as we o along will, for convenience sake, be simply rendered as ideal’). It is quite clear that when we use the word; civilization’ we do not mean the personal views of civilization’ of the component people but the collective view and definition of that civilization. Accordingly, individual personal ideals cannot be the ideal of the civilization as a whole. On the contrary, it is fundamental that whatever is the ideal of a civilization also be the ideal of every one of its members, whether or not they are consciously aware of the same or not. Thus, the ideal of a civilization is that ideal which, consciously or unconsciously, has become the common collective aim of a large group of people and which has so overcome the ‘individual ideals’ of those people that by now individuals- in their personal capacities-also espouse the ideal that is held by the group.
There is one essential condition for this kind of collective ideal to be valid: that it should be in total consonance and agreement with the (separately held) individual ideals so that it is able simultaneously be both the ideal of the individual singularly as well as that of the group collectively. The reason for this is that it the collective ideal were not in accord with the ideals of the individual members, then, it would be difficult for it to become the collective ideal because a concept that is not individually acceptable to the members of a group is not likely to become collectively acceptable. And it, by virtue of some strong external pressure, it does become the group’s ideal, a subtle conflict between the group and individual ideals would then ensue until such a time that the individuals reverted to their personal objectives whenever the collective philosophy was weakened. Thereupon the whenever the collective philosophy was weakened thereupon the centripetal or communicative forces that maintained the collective structure dissipate in a process that not only nullifies the group’s ideal, but also ensure that no sign of the civilization itself remains.
Therefore, the true civilizational ideal can only be one that is wholly and indisputably the natural aim of the whole group of people. A civilization’s true merit lies in its ability to present a collective ideal that is or can also become the individual ideal of its members in an unaltered form. From this viewpoint, two questions arise. Without answering them, we cannot move ahead with our analysis. These are, first, ‘What is the natural (normative) personal ideal of human beings?’ And, secondly, ‘What are the ideals that the various civilizations of the world have put forward, and how far these in agreement with that natural ideal are?’
3. Man’s Natural Ideal and Ultimate Aim:
The question about man’s natural ideal is actually a question about the purpose for which human beings naturally strive in this temporal world the primary object of the desire of their inner selves. Researching this, if one was to individually ask a large number of people as to what they each wished to achieve in this world, many different answers would be forthcoming. It is possible that one does not find two people whose objectives and desired are exactly the same. However, upon deeper probing, one would learn that the outcomes which people have termed to be their objectives are not the end in themselves but only the means to reach such an end. By and large, that one end is prosperity and peace of mind. Every human being, irrespective of the intellectual status and social class to which he may belong, and in whichever walk of live he may be active, only has one ideal: the achievement of peace and tranquility, happiness and deep-felt harmony. It would not be wrong to call this the natural ideal of every human being.
4. A Critical View of Two Popular Collective Ideals:
If one were to view the collective sets of ideals presented by various civilizations in their minute entireties, there would be many differences between them, the coverage of which is neither aimed at here not is possible. However, in terms of broad principles, we can divide civilizations in two types. Civilizations that are not based upon any religious or spiritual concepts. These present an ideal of superiority to their followers. This ideal is a compound of several ingredients, the important among which are the following.
- A craving for political domination and hegemony
- A desire to exceed everyone in wealth and material well-being, irrespective of whether this comes through geographic conquest or control over commerce and industry.
- yearning to surpass all and sundry in the manifestations of sociological progress be it in the arts and sciences or architectural grandeur and civilization excellence.
This group ideal is apparently not in contradiction with the individual ideal mentioned above. This is because, even after some reflection, it can be easily stated that if the collective ideal is established on these bases, then the respective individual ideals shall also be so established on similar orientations and, indeed, with even greater vigor. The very fact that millions upon millions of individuals willingly allow their personal ideals to be facade. However, with a deeper view, and also from practical experience, it can be shown that this collective ideal is extremely incompatible with the ‘natural ideal’ of individuals.
It should be evident that at any given point in time, several nations have this collective ideal of national superiority and domination and all of them strive to achieve it. The net result of this competition is strong conflict political, economic and social that ensues amongst them and severe disorder caused by the ongoing competitiveness and resistance. So much so, that in this milieu of anxiety and disarray it becomes virtually impossible for individuals to attain peace and tranquility, prosperity and peace of mind.
It is this situation with which we see the Western world confronted today. However, it we were so assume that there could be a period in history in which only one nation strove for this ideal, and that there was no other nation offering resistance, even then there is no possibility that such individual ideal will be successfully manifested in the wake of collective success. The reason for this is that it is natural attribute of such a collective ideal that it not only generates rivalry between nations, but that is also brings about a competitive mentality amongst the vast numbers of individuals who comprise such nations. As a consequence, domination over fellow national compatriots enabling them to exceed others in terms of wealth and power, status and luxury, and access to public office become every individual’s aim of life. They desire to capture others means of sustenance and become sole masters of as many sources of wealth, benefit and profit and possible, leaving others only with loss and frustration, so that they become the people of authority and others become their followers and subordinated.
Firstly, there is no end at which the greed for material acquisitiveness of such people is satiated and, therefore, they always remain dissatisfied and troubled. Secondly, when competitiveness of this kind is internalized within the members of a nation, then every home and every workplace becomes a battlefield. Naturally, peace and harmony, happiness and prosperity vanish, notwithstanding the preponderance of wealth, power and material means. Furthermore, it is but natural that progress defined purely by way of material attribute one in which spirituality has no part shall never satisfy human beings. This is because the exclusive attainment of corporeal pleasures is entirely an animal aim. If it be true that human being are something m0ore than their essential animal existence, then it must also be true that the mere achievement of those pleasures which only gratify their animal nature will not be sufficient for fully satisfying such a supra-animal creature.
Civilization whose foundations have been established upon religious and spiritual principles.
- Generally such civilizations have declared their collective ideal to be ultimate salvation. Undoubtedly, this ideal carries within it the spiritual element that provides people with tranquility and peace of mind. It is also true that the achievement of salvation that can become a national ideal can just as well become the individual ideal of its members. However, upon undertaking a deeper critique, it appears that this ideal cannot become a true ideal. There are several reasons for this.
- First, there is a certain selfishness that lies concealed within this ‘salvation ideal’ the essential nature of which empowers individualism at the cost of collective enfeeblement. The reason for this simply the fact that if every individual could attain salvation by doing certain specified acts, totally on his own, there would remain nothing in the ideal that could give it a collective status,, instead of an individual one, and which could encourage individuals, to cooperate with the group for its establishment. This spirit of individualism is diametrically opposed to the ideal that a civilization holds dear by virtue of being a collective entity.
- Secondly, the issue of salvation is very deeply like with the process specified for attaining such deliverance. Thus, the fact of the salvation ideal being considered right or wrong is profoundly correlated with the suggested procedure for attaining salvation being considered right or wrong. For instance, salvation can neither become the individual ideal nor the collective ideal in religions that consider monasticism and renunciation of the temporal world to be the way to salvation. In order to separate the temporal form the spiritual which still maintain a pathway for the salvation of ‘worldly’ individuals, the followers to such faiths have been forced to invent ‘middle paths’ like service to the servants of the faith and atonement. The result of this has been twofold: first, this ideal has ceased to remain, in its cohesive entirely, the common ideal of both the individuals as well as the group. Secondly, apart from a small number of faithful followers the ideal no longer holds the loftiness, significance, and magnetism for the remainder of the group that one could have kept them devoted to it. As a consequence, most temporally oriented people have deiced to follow the materialistic ideal outlined above.
On the other hand religions that have declare salvation to be dependent upon the pleasure of certain idols and deities have failed to maintain the shared values of the ideal. Different groups turn to different deities due to which the ideal losses its true unity, the maintenance of which and uniting of all followers within whose fold is the real work of civilization. Thus, whenever the followers of such religions which to embark upon the path of temporal success naturally by severing their links with the group they feel the need for another ideal.
There is another category of religion whose message of religions whose message is into directed towards human beings in their generic natures as human beings, but is instead intended for a particular nation of certain ethnicity or one living within certain geographic boundaries. On this account, in the view of such religions, salvation is limited to that special ethnic group or nation. Such an ideal can undoubtedly serve as successful collective ideal in the early stages of a civilization, but since it does not meet the standards of true intellect the fundamental premise of restricting salvation to a certain race is something that any can person will reject the followers of such faiths themselves rebel against their ideal after moving only a few steps on the road to progress. While exorcizing such an ideal.
- Thirdly, howsoever pure the salvation ideal may be from a religious or spiritual view point, it does not have any substance within it that could, form a temporal point of view, elevate a group as a nation, and energize it with a force that is essential for mobilizing it to achieve national progress. It is because of this that no progressive nation has ever mad salvation its collective ideal. Even amongst those nations whose religions have presented salvation as an ideal, its status has been relegated to that of an individual ideal. These are the reasons because of which both material and spiritual ideals do not equate with the true measure of success.