Intrinsic To Universe

Intrinsic To Universe

by Kheng Yeang Tan

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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781426955747
Publisher: Trafford Publishing
Publication date: 04/15/2011
Pages: 404
Product dimensions: 6.00(w) x 9.00(h) x 0.83(d)

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Intrinsic to UNIVERSE


By Tan Kheng Yeang

Trafford Publishing

Copyright © 2011 Tan Kheng Yeang
All right reserved.

ISBN: 978-1-4269-5574-7


Chapter One

What Is Civilization?

When we study any group of people living together, we find certain rules and ways that constitute their common property. They exist in what is termed society, into which is interwoven an intricate network of principles enveloping the lives of its members, a network that may persist for centuries or millennia. This network is often torn in places and mended as the occasion requires, sometimes with threads of a hue absolutely different from that of the rest. Seldom has a new version replaced the old in its entirety, and the inevitable consequence is that society is not a harmonious entity but a thing of shreds and patches.

When a society attains a certain level of development, we say it enjoys civilization, which is associated with cities, refinement, culture, and knowledge. We look down on barbarians as beings who are fundamentally different from us, the civilized; however, as a matter of fact, there is a good deal of resemblance between the two modes of existence. Both have usually been moved by the potent force of religion, and both exhibit some kind of law and order—that is, what we may call state organization; religion and state are the two most significant elements of a society. The principal distinction of a civilized person is supposed to be gentleness of manners, but barbarians cannot be said to behave violently toward their friends and relatives, while many civilized races indulge in crude practices. Some primitive tribes expressed their pleasure by slashing their backs; the Germans, in their extremely refined universities, demonstrated their heroism by slashing one another's faces. The fact is that barbarism and civilization constitute dissimilar forms of organization of society, with the latter higher on the scale of evolution, yet often retaining the characteristics of the former. At various times, a number of distinct civilizations have flourished, and each was apt to regard the rest of the world as barbaric. The Greeks called all other people barbarians, including the Persians, who were every bit as cultured as they; in the nineteenth century, some Western writers referred to Oriental barbarism, while Chinese officials, in their memorials to their emperor, invariably called foreigners barbarians.

The lamentable tendency to confer this opprobrious epithet on members of other forms of social organization is based on a narrow definition of the term civilization. Every population possesses a certain standard of values, any deviation from which is stigmatized as barbaric. Because of its predominant position and consequent prestige, Western civilization has come to be the norm by which to measure the quality of other modes of existence. Its chief ingredient is the multiplicity and diversity of material products and inventions, which have steadily increased over the last few centuries, and this standard is used to determine the evolutionary stage of the numerous peoples of the world. This is no less preposterous than Oriental apologists harping on the supposedly spiritual excellence by which they connote their own particular national brand of metaphysical concepts and ethical decrees.

A comprehensive definition of civilization may be advanced. The first postulate is that there must be a community of people living in sufficient proximity to allow constant mutual intercourse. A number of hermits, each dwelling within a separate oasis and unknown to the rest, could not properly be said to constitute a society, much less a civilization. This does not mean, of course, that the individuals may not be highly cultivated and lead laudable lives; they may indeed be extremely civilized, yet, paradoxical though it sounds, they do not dwell in civilization. There must be a closely knit society whose size, beyond a minimum of a few thousand persons, is not greatly material, though a high population is one advantage.

The presence or absence of community organization is notable, and some common denominators are a prerequisite. Owing to the imitative nature of human beings, wherever people congregate, certain notions and practices automatically emerge and envelop the majority. If there are to be security and understanding, if life is to run its course on a plane of peace and prosperity, if a person is to believe that the man with whom he is amicably conversing will not abruptly draw out a dagger and swiftly dispatch him and that he can with reasonable certainty awake the next morning safe and sound, then there must be at least a minimal pattern of behavior in force and working smoothly. Food could not be well prepared, clothing comfortable, architecture a fine art, books stocked in libraries, poetry a delight, and science a marvel were there no society in which they could develop. I would not possess the paper on which I am writing had the Han Dynasty not ruled over an assemblage of mutually dependent humanity; nor would that sweating group outside my window be struggling to throw a ball into a basket if their minds had not been trained to adhere to rules.

In their primitive stage, humans were at the mercy of their environment, with few tools and little knowledge of how to fabricate any product. Beyond devouring wild flesh and satisfying their sexual instinct, they experienced no other needs. Little difference existed between these primitive people and the beasts they slew for food and that, in turn, preyed upon them; they were at once hunter and hunted, and this wholesome sport was their raison d'être. They retired to their natural caves to pass the horrid hours of night as a tiger crawls into its equally serviceable lair or an eagle flies to its more comfortable and commodious aerie. In their own way, these early people probably lived happy, satisfactory lives. Blessed (or cursed) with no haunting vision of a multiplicity of commodities, they could hardly suffer from the arch begetter of misery, discontent.

Well would it be if a mellifluous stream of joy could spontaneously generate in a person's heart and be pumped along with oxygen-carrying blood to the multitude of tiny cells that constitute his complex organs. Unfortunately, he has to depend on external aids, and the more he invents for himself, the more he desires, his appetite growing with its satisfaction. In the last few centuries, humans have stumbled upon the discovery that there is practically no limit to what we can fashion with our brains. We can cause symphonies to travel through space, winged vehicles to transport us from London to Tokyo, and machines to stock our homes with attractive objects created from a collection of crude elements transformed in a strange metamorphosis as wonderful as the emergence of the beautiful butterfly from the ugly caterpillar. What were at first luxuries have, through incessant use, become necessities. People have reached the pathetic stage of finding it difficult to subsist without their numerous crutches; should they sustain any deprivation, they suffer physical and mental pain. Should they lose their fortune and their ability to make purchases, they may even resort to suicide. Perceiving their brethren to be surrounded by the abundance they lack, the denizens of the slums pass their days in tenfold greater misery than the cave dwellers, whose possessions were certainly more exiguous than theirs.

We are captivated by comfort, and, frankly, there is nothing reprehensible in this. After all, pain is a symptom of disease, of derangement of the organism; it is not indicative of good to be desired but of evil to be eschewed. The fanatics who lived "in hope to merit heaven by making earth a hell" were evidently ignorant of the most elementary physiological law; fakirs and monks, with their dirt, fasts, vigils, mortifications, penances, and tortures, were acting in direct contravention of natural imperatives. It is true that too much of anything spells evil; an inordinate profusion of natural props breeds sloth, weakness, and vice, and a sumptuous life often results in intellectual degeneration and the loss of moral fiber. It is clear that spirit is superior to flesh, but, nevertheless, woes are not to be cherished and cultivated. Their mitigation is a proper objective and a minimum standard of well-being is requisite.

Human-created products enrich and beautify life. As the legendary Pan Ku hewed the heavens and earth out of chaos, so must his heirs mold their environment and, by the sweat of their brows, produce tools and appliances, buildings and furniture, statues and paintings and books. They must work relentlessly with their hands and strive with their brains to raise their standard of production and fill their homes and towns with amenities that distinguish them from the beasts. It may be taken as axiomatic that they would not have been endowed with their fertile faculty of invention had it not been intended to make the world a finer and more congenial place in which to live.

Civilization is impossible without refinement, the elaborate alteration of matter, and though exclusive concentration on this process is narrow and pernicious, it is not derogatory to give it its due place. How could civilization have come into existence if crude caves had continued to serve as abodes and jungle trails as lines of communication? Expecting life to be urbane and satisfactory amid filth and a diet of raw meat is irrational; if gentle behavior alone sufficed, then a flock of sheep or a flight of swallows could be considered a civilized community. Most writers are apt to stress some specific mental trait, but some primitive people did indeed display this capacity. The greatest visible distinction of an enlightened people lies in its skilled contrivances and conveniences.

Homo sapiens is the only species that possesses intelligence. While animals live by instinct, the paramount faculty of humans is reason, though, unfortunately, we are not always, or even usually, rational. With our puny bodies, we would have been quickly and easily exterminated by powerful quadrupeds if we had not relied on our supreme weapon. We are now rulers of the earth, monarchs of all we survey, though we emerged last in the lengthy drama of evolution, and we owe this triumph to our superior knowledge.

Primitive humans were endowed with all the faculties their posterity are proud to possess, they were not destitute of reason or imagination, and their capacity for invention is not to be denigrated. Their achievements were varied: they founded villages and built shacks, domesticated animals and originated agriculture, played on drums and pipes, sailed in boats, and fabricated axes and other tools. They practiced magic, which is fumbling science; they endeavored to solve the riddle of the universe, and the mere fact that they could evolve religious theories, however farfetched and ludicrous they might seem today, demonstrates their intellectual curiosity. The Cro-Magnon paintings reveal the presence of an artistic sense. Civilization did not spring into being all at once but was the product of gradual, laborious growth. Who were the contributors—the long succession of the forgotten great who added a noble idea here and created a utilitarian article there? Paradoxical as it may seem, civilization was the handiwork of barbarians, the product of their hands and brains, for they were gifted with that most sublime of attributes—genius, the natural power of origination.

If the cranial contents of the first humans did not essentially differ from ours, what then is the distinction between the barbarous and the civilized? In what way is life today superior to that which flourished a hundred centuries ago? Quantity of knowledge is the answer. The conception of a new idea is an ungrateful task, but its retention is a facile accomplishment. The body of learning, meager at first, gradually accumulated, eventually achieving goodly proportions and far exceeding what was understood in the past. After eons of continual use, the intellect has become keener; it has not changed in kind but in degree. Mind, the tool, and knowledge, its product, have advanced so considerably that there is justification in categorically averring that early cave dwellers were doltish; excellence in anything is purely a matter of comparison. Knowledge has come to be the principal ingredient of civilization, and rightly so. The term knowledge must be employed in its broadest sense, not confined to pedants; it must embrace philosophy, concepts of the essence of the universe, science, nature, poetry, literature, music, art, engineering, medicine, ceramics, and agriculture. A people has crossed the Rubicon, dividing barbarism from civilization, when its accumulated knowledge is more than elementary and its ranking on the scale of evolution varies as directly as its culture. Latent intelligence must blossom and bear fruit before we pass our judgment.

There are various types of knowledge, the highest and noblest being the ability to comprehend the universe as a whole. Immense is the totality of things and small is the quantity of gray matter, and it is surely cause for wonder that the unlimited cultivation of the spirit has been justifiably held in boundless esteem and that the mind has been viewed as superior to matter; common sense is all well and good, but it cannot be credited with that genuine grandeur pertaining to reflective science. The exercise of reason is the goal of life, and pure thought marks the greatest advance; a society devoted to pleasure and devoid of sages cuts a sorry figure. The aim of culture is the liberation of mind, and what promotes this most is best.

An ingredient of paramount importance in every society is an ethical system, which tends to harden into painful rigidity. Though in some communities it gives wide latitude to freedom, in most it is inflexibly severe and remorselessly punishes its transgressors. Its primary aim is the preservation of the race, and as such it is unobjectionable; but its methods differ from place to place and from age to age, inviting ample adverse criticism. Very often the precepts of an ethical system, originally embodying a grain of truth and necessity, become meaningless and are maintained from sheer inertia; however, priests cannot take all the blame, as they can do little without general acquiescence.

In spite of easily discernible divergences and variations, the deliverances of the conscience always bear a certain resemblance, the reason being that human nature is one at the core. No discovery is more difficult than that of a new moral truth: the contempt poured on what are termed platitudes is almost unjustifiable, as the impugners are not themselves enunciating anything new; all they do is reverse the maxims in their conduct and adopt practices just as ancient. Hedonists champion in theory what libertines did long ago, and Nietzsche only adopted what primitive people knew; such is not the way of progress.

There is no doubt whatsoever that a moral system is essential to civilization, though this, more than anything else, is common to barbarism, its difference consisting in its higher degree of rationality and coherence, nobility and gentleness. Without a substratum of common behavior, mutual understanding would not be attainable nor life secure. Intercourse could not be cultivated, so no society could possibly come into existence. It was no accident that so many of the world's greatest thinkers, even one like Kant, who was zealous in the quest for pure knowledge, placed such emphasis on proper conduct and ranked it above all other acquisitions. Sickened with hypocrisy, one is apt to turn away from long-winded moralists and talk of law as the real restraint on crime, but law is nothing more than the forceful embodiment of ethics.

We may therefore sum up by stating that civilization is organized society, rich in material productions, irradiated with knowledge, and inspired by lofty moral principles. The three attributes of organization—material development, knowledge, and goodness—are not specific to it, for in elementary form they are found in barbarism; the distinction is only in degree and quantity, not in kind. In judgment, values are seldom absolute, only relative; the swift hare and the slow tortoise are both dowered with motion, and it's just a question of more or less. The human race, throughout history, has changed and developed, but it would be strange if it has completely shed all the general characteristics of its earlier days; if it were to do so, it would have to evolve into a new species. Physically, it has remained much the same, while mentally it has gone forward by leaps and bounds. Civilization is the flower grown by the mind in toto.

(Continues...)



Excerpted from Intrinsic to UNIVERSE by Tan Kheng Yeang Copyright © 2011 by Tan Kheng Yeang. Excerpted by permission of Trafford Publishing. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Table of Contents

Contents

Author's Note....................ix
Preface....................xi
1. What Is Civilization?....................3
2. History of Civilization....................11
3. Critique of Barbarism....................20
4. Critique of Eastern Civilization....................27
5. Critique of Western Civilization....................40
6. The Modern World....................53
7. Unregulated Course....................59
8. Fundamental Revolution....................64
9. Method....................70
10. Intrinsicalism....................77
11. Contents....................85
12. The Two Bases....................91
13. Material Structure....................99
14. Creative Culture....................108
15. Knowledge....................116
16. Recreation....................124
17. Miscellaneous Constituents....................131
18. Organization....................140
1. Religion and Philosophy....................151
2. The Spherical Method....................158
3. Theory of Knowledge....................167
4. Experience....................176
5. Entity....................187
6. Matter....................194
7. Mind....................200
8. The Primary Entity....................209
9. The Determinate Entity....................217
10. Permanent Existence....................222
11. Beginning and End....................227
12. Cosmos....................232
13. Ethical System....................238
14. Moral Code....................250
15. Way of Life....................261
1. Society....................269
2. Method....................274
3. Exchange....................282
4. Economy....................290
5. Operation....................297
6. Distribution....................305
7. Income....................311
8. Regulation....................319
9. Political Organization....................326
10. Agent of Exchange....................334
11. The Legislative Organ....................340
12. The Advisory Organ....................346
13. The Executive Organ....................351
14. The Legal System....................360
15. Social Cohesion....................367
16. Family....................374
17. Population and Race....................381
18. Territory....................386
About the Author....................391

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