The East-West dichotomy /Chapter 13
The bias of ‘Western standard’ – after all, the whole project of cultural anthropology, 18th, 19th, 20th centuries’ orientalism, letting alone the History of Sciences in China, an objective presentation of “what China herself thought about her traditions” (Butler, 1927), are all Western disciplines - caused some difficulties for unabashed historians to distinguish between genuine Western thought and classy adaptations of East-Asian or Hindu concepts in the West. There are some prominent examples of the latter: Derrida’s differénce, Foucault’s archaeology, Husserl’s transcendental phenomenology, even Satre’s existentialism - although highly original – all have orientalist themes (Moore, 2003). Some Western protagonists revealed their Asian sources, other did not (Wang, 2001).
Hegel’s ‘philosophy of history’ and ‘Weltgeist’ or ‘world-spirit’, the ‘great man theory’, all which took Europe’s intelligentsia by storm, were a blatant extension of Mahayana Buddhism concepts such as Brahmatmaikyam (the merge of Brahman and atman) and Hindu tradition of Vardhamana Mahavira (The Great Hero) or the Tirthankaras (Sanskrit for fordmakers).
In his Die Welt als Wille und Vorstellung (1819), Schopenhauer wrote:
“Wollte ich die Resultate meiner Philosophie zum Maßstab der Wahrheit nehmen, so müßte ich dem Buddhismus den Vorzug vor anderen Religionen zugestehn” (Schopenhauer, 1819).
Nietzsche’s concepts of ‘Übermensch’ (lit. over-man) and ‘Meister- und Sklavenmoral’ (lit. master- and slave-morality) are heavily influenced by Hindu concepts of ‘vasudeva’ (super-human) and ‘jatis’ (hereditary groups or castes), while he elsewhere confessed that, after having read Louis Jacolliot’s 1876 translation of the Manava Dharmasastra, the Vedic Laws of Manu was his “epitome of all civic moral order” (Behler, 1987). And last, Martin Heidegger (1889-1976) and his philosophy of Western being-ness and time was a direct response to Eastern concepts of non-being-ness and non-time (May, 1996).
And then there was Adolf Hitler (1889-1945). Like Friedrich Nietzsche (1844-1900), Hitler worshipped might, and might was what he dreamt about when his utopian ‘Third Reich’ took shape in Mein Kampf (1925/26). Nazi ideologies were deeply influenced by 18th, 19th, and 20th centuries German orientalism, and I am not just referring to the Buddhist ‘Swastika’ as the chosen symbol for Aryan supremacy (referring to the Aryan-invasion theory of India).
The idea of ‘Third Reich’ did not, as many Western historians tend to believe, only derive from studying the Holy Roman Empire, or French or British colonial empires at their heydays. Far from it, neither the ancient nor past nor recent or contemporary highly diversified European histories had a precursor to the things lying ahead of the Nazi master-plan: It was the German’s 18th, 19th and 20th centuries’ obsession with Oriental themes, this so-called longing for the ‘exotic Other’, romanticism, nostalgia for greatness, and its rise to great power status between 1871 and 1918 (Said, 1978; Zizek, 1997-2001), all which pressured the Germans into their search for identity and cultural legitimacy (Greek roots, the Holy German Empire, the Aryan invasion of India etc.).
The rational, analytic, deductive Western Germans, consciously or unconsciously indulged into the spiritual misson to make Europe ‘coherent’, and ‘uniform’ – they wanted to easter-fy it. By doing that, by adopting the inductive Eastern ways, some historians believe German orientalism had “helped to destroy Western self-satisfaction, and to provoke a momentous change in the culture of the West: the relinquishing of Christianity and classical antiquity as universal norms” (Marchand, 2001).
The Germans wanted to destroy deductive Europe’s regional, provincial, fragmentary character, that is, to write an ethnocentric Aryan history – just like in China they wrote the ethnocentric Chinese history - that connects simultaneously to the past, present, and future, that worships its great ancestors and their deeds, that gives authority to memory and historians, that sees human action and its consequences reigning over time, rather than just passing through time in discrete temporal units - days, hours, minutes. To the horror of the deductive West, the newly elected and well-educated Nazis despised the deductive, rational, all fabricated ‘intellect’, but adored the intuitive, spiritual, the human ‘instinct’.
It is no surprise then that even today the average American Joe has great difficulties in distinguishing between German-style totalitarianism or Soviet-style/Maoism totalitarianism, and there is no blaming him for that. As Hannah Arendt put it: they were two sides of the same coin, not opposing philosophies (Arendt, 1973).
And it is no surprise either that to this day the majority of Western scientist, who have never sufficiently studied the East-West dichotomy, ascribe history’s darkest events to mere outer-world, materialistic circumstances like brainless youth bulges (Heinsohn, 2003, 2005), guns, germs and steel (Diamond, 2003, 2006), or other material convulsions, while ignoring all the evidences that suggest that the ultimate cause of history’s darkest events was an inner-world, monstrous, deadly psychology: the communion of Eastern and Western souls:
European “discovery” of India brought the opportunity to appropriate its rich tradition for the sake of the European’s obsession to re-imagine their own history. Many rival theories emerged, each claiming a new historiography. The new European preoccupation among scholars was to reinvent identities of various European peoples by suitably locating Sanskrit amidst other selective facts of history to create Grand Narratives of European supremacy […] in order to fulfill their own ideological imperatives of reconciling theology with their self-imposed role of world ruler. (Kapil Kapoor, 2001, here condemning the promoters of Aryan theories such as Max Müller [1823-1900])
What the German orientalists and politicians prior to 1938 suggested – leaning towards Eastern-inflected Mackinder’s heartland theory (1904), Max Müller’s Aryan supremacy (1892), and Nietzsche’s prophetic Übermensch (1885) - was that the Western hemisphere needs a domesticated super-race of Aryans in order to occupy Eurasia and counter the disciplined, ever increasing and expanding powers of the East hemisphere. Germany feared the rising inductive East, not the deductive West, of which it was already the most powerful culture. She was accurate, but all from the wrong premises, about the challenges from the East, as the Allies and NATO indeed needed another 46 years until the Cold War was won, a pyrrhic victory, as it turned out: Today the West is helpless and in disbelieve, starring at the (until now peaceful) rise of not one, recovering Russia, but more than eleven new players: China, India, and the nine Tiger States, plus the world’s number two standing superpower, Japan.
In order to understand the mechanics of ‘history’s darkest events’ caused by a inner-world, monstrous, deadly psychology, the communion of Eastern and Western souls, this concept, we have to talk again about Right and Tact.
The German’s Third Reich’s master-plan was hard to execute in the real world, but not at all difficult to comprehend for any serious student of history today. What the Germans - in reference to what I said before about Right and Tact - did was Right, but without Tact. Now, before you send me ill-wishes for arguing that the German were ‘right’, we should carefully examine the meaning of ‘righteousness’ in this “respective European context”. The Germans did the right thing, but not in a tactful manner. Order, discipline, submission for unity is Right, so is the unity of Europe led by its most populous, industrious and powerful people, the Germanic people. Was it not the enlightenment philosopher and Jean-Jacques Rousseau (1712-1778) who urged the Europeans that every individual must submit to the ‘general will’ and become a ‘indivisible part’ of the whole or the ‘national will’ (Rousseau, 1762)?
Striving for unification, as opposed to separatism, was the ‘right’ thing to do for the most populous nation of Europe, Germany. China did unify, the United States did unify and India did unify. But the Germans did not know how to do it, they did know about Right, but did not know about Tact. They thought that scientific methods and powerful materialism may replace all ‘Tact’ and thus caused unbelievable suffering and pain. The Germans had to brutally force all Europeans into submissions, instead of tactfully leading them into submission. This is an example of the inner-world, monstrous, deadly psychology of communion: the Western analytic-deductive mind of ‘deconstruction’ flirting with Eastern intuitive-inductive theories of ‘oneness’ and caused an historical holocaust, just as the Japanese intuitive-inductive mind flirted with Western analytic-deductive theories and set out to destroy their neighbors with their newly won, uncontrollable powers.
The Japanese, of course, were different from the Germans; traditional Japan culture knew about Tact. And, before the dawn of modernity, they knew about Right too. Japan before the dawn of modernity knew that is was not Right for them to rule over the ancient and mighty Chinese, Russians, Koreans – it wasn’t Right for them to aspire for the whole of Asia. But when they adopted to the Western analytic-deductive mindset, they ignored what was ‘right’, set food on the Asian continent, and when they were confronted with the reality of things, that is was not Right to rule over China, they panicked and threw away their ‘Tact’, slaying their prisoners of wars (as with the Rape of Nanking) just because this small island folk was neither physically nor psychological able to rule over an ancient culture and hundred of millions of Chinese, Koreans etc.
Similar to the German misery, this misery of Japan, too, was initiated by the careless communion of the inductive Eastern and deductive Western souls, causing untold suffering and pain. Fortunately, when Russian and Chinese souls adopted to Western-minded communism, they refined it in the last minute, calling it Stalinism and Maoism, yet look at what destruction and pity the communion of Eastern and Western souls still caused to their people.
The German holocaust, Japanese militarism, Soviet and Chinese communism, all these are gruesome warnings about what I meant with “the ultimate cause of history’s darkest events was a inner-world, monstrous, deadly psychology: the communion of inductive Eastern and deductive Western souls”.
The main focus of academic attention in the Western analytic-deductive world about those darkest events in history seems to be, of course, the ‘methods’, the ‘what’ and ‘how’ by which the suffering and pain was executed; not the ‘souls’, not the ‘who’ did the execution. About the ‘methods’, the ‘what’ and ‘how’, the ‘German Auschwitzes’ or the Japanese ‘Rape of Nankings’, there is so much written today, that I shall only add this jewel: against all the hypocrisy of Western educationalist about the unbelievable cruel methods used to annihilate one’s enemy, all those methods are the least difficult to comprehend for any serious student of history. On the contrary, a basic understanding of the cruelest methods available to destroy one’s enemy, in this century, is the minimum tactical, if not crucial intellectual requirement of any 14-year old ‘virtual officer’ today playing a strategic computer-game like Warcraft (Blizzard, 2001), where distinctive races fight for honor, resources and territories, or just like reading a bestselling fiction like J. R. R. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings (Shippey, 2002; Garth, 2005).
Analyzing methods, numbers or any other materialistic components of “history’s darkest events”, the ‘what’ and ‘how’, is de-humanized bean-counting; a more accurate understanding of what happened to the people of this world in their darkest times can only be achieved by also looking at the ‘who’, by looking at their souls.
Having talked about the presence of Right and the absence of Tact of the Germans prior to the Great Wars, we must not forget to discuss another important component of the German mindset - ‘Will’, the Will to make great things happen, the Will to power.
As said elsewhere, Europe before “history’s darkest events” was fractured, balkanized, useless, tactless, and in moral decline anyway. The only sense of unity came from the Church, but the self-interested, materialistic European nation states had separated from this source of spiritual unity in favor of independence, nationalism and sovereignty. Then and before the Great Wars, who could ever possible unite all Europeans in order to face the civilizations of the East? The Englishman always knew what was Right, it was not Right for them to set foot on the continent, nor to aspire rule over Europe. In Europe, they made no great leaders either. The French were few in numbers, had a sorry history of defeat and failures against the British, and in any case, similar to the Scandinavian countries, could trace back their ancestors to Germanic tribes.
The Germans of central Europe, in 1930 by far the most populous nation in Europe, 60 millions within Germany not counting Austria and the diasporas all over Europe, had been the discredited loser of World War One, stripped of all overseas colonies and 1/3 of its European territory, with their enormous sense of ‘righteousness’, naturally felt that their situation was ‘not right’, that no gang-up of mediocre European neighbor-states with their tinsel cultures should keep Europe small:
There is a Chinese saying that all mothers teach their children: Xiao Xin “make your heart small!” That really is the basic tendency of all later civilizations: I do not doubt, the ancient Greeks would spot today’s European self-inflicted reduction in size at first sight, - this alone would be sufficient to disgust them. (Friedrich Nietzsche,  1909)
Needless to say that Nietzsche had his own vocabulary for the East-West dichotomy. He distinguished between two modes of culture: the (Western) individual, rational, technical, cognitive, useful, hierarchical Apollonian and the (Eastern) collective, emotional, sexual, mystic, fertile, revolutionary Dionysian (Nietzsche, 1872). Any reader knowledgeable in the history of thought will have noticed that pre-war Germany, in an incredible shift of paradigm later supervised by the Nazis, had cultivated upon their soil of a pure Apollonian Western culture the mindset of a collective, emotional, sexual, mystic, fertile, revolutionary Dionysian Eastern soul – with disastrous consequences for the well-being of Europe.
It is helpful to remind oneself that there is a reason why so many of the above German thinkers were so evidently admired among intellectual circles in the East, most notably in Japan [Kyoto School, 京都派], India, but also China: The intuitive Germans, from Goethe over Hegel, Schelling, Fichte, Schopenhauer, Nietzsche, Heidegger etc. were all pregnant with Oriental thought.
So, there has been a borrowing and adaptation of Eastern concepts throughout European history, sometimes for the worse, often for the better, however the median of standard and the narration of history remained Euro-centric. Asian values were communicated, refined, but not openly acknowledged. Whatever the East offered in those strange languages and spiritual terminology, it did not matter much unless it was translated and sealed for approval by the dominant civilization: the West. Why this Western ‘verbal dominance’ over the course of world history?