Schumacher has assailed the modern approach to education and life which clings to the quantitative, flat, horizontal axis alone. The Cartesian thought structure has caused the vertical dimensions of the good, the qualitative the spirit to suffer banishment. And so he says:
We modern people, who reject traditional wisdom and deny the existence of the vertical dimension of spirit like our forefathers desire nothing more somehow to be able to rise above the humdrum state of present life.
In other words, as long as we persist in our arrogance, which dismiss the entirety of traditional wisdom as ‘pre-scientific’ and therefore not to be taken seriously, fit only for the museum, there is no basis for any education other than training for worldly success. Education for good work is quite impossible; how could be we possibly distinguish good work from bad work if human life on earth has no meaning or purpose? The word ‘good’ presupposes an aim: good for what? Good for making money; good for promotion; good for fame or power? All this may also be attained by work which from another point of view, would be considered very bad work. Without traditional wisdom, no answer can be found.
Behind the rejection of traditional wisdom rests a strong intellectual argument that in changing (dynamic?) societies and cultures, there can be no absolute, universal values or norms. Hence a journey to the shores of traditional thought for guidance is an exercise in futility. There were no computers or space shuttles, no nuclear bombs or communication satellites, no planes or robots in days bygone. So what clues for the effective management of contemporary times can we derive from the past? And so we begin to invent new values – probably each one a set for oneself. And they too are violated at almost every turn of events. The end of the second world war provoked an anguished Sorokin to write this:
Much the same effect has been produced by the wholesale relativization and degradation of legal and ethical norms that has occurred in the Western culture of the past four centuries. This culture has rebelled against all absolute and universal values and norms
No wonder, then that with increasing relativization and degradation of law and ethical norms during the modern period, especially the twentieth century, wars and revolutions have shown an upward trend, as well as the delinquency of the generations born and reared in this atmosphere of devitalized, debased and contradictory norms.
Is it probable that a hypnotized humanity today is unconsciously transferring to human and social values the same accelerated rate of obsolescence which is being wrought for material goods and services? Have we not been a witness in India to this process of relativization in our socio-political million especially during the last decade? It is indeed dangerous to adopt superficial pose of a liberated, intellectual maverick and proclaim that all values are relative. Such a stance forgets that the assertion of relativity regarding all values opens the pandora’s box of a free for all scramble for selfish pursuits. It is often seen that those very persons who assert this view, begin to invoke ‘absolute’ values when they find themselves at the receiving end in the game of relativization. This indeed is a consequence of sophistry – a term rooted in ‘Sophists’, a school of Greek speculators asserting that standards of right and wrong, truth and falsehood are all relative depending only on individual opinion or social customs.
There is another important factor which strongly contributes to the timelessness and hence contemporary relevance of traditional wisdom. There is a Sanskrit word for India’s ancient men of wisdom –trikaldarshi i.e. the knower or seer of past, present and future. This is not mere fantasy. It is pure science, it is pure sense. These seers could by strict self discipline reduce their mind to the simplest ground state. This meant quietening the discursive intellect, in-drawing the outgoing senses, and chastening the fickle mind. In this state they could ‘see’ things-as-they-are, with the eye of the Infinite. As a result they could fathom the mysteries of the Universe and of humanity free from the limitations of time, space and causation. They thus proved also that a human’s so called normal consciousness is not his or her optimum state of awareness. Judgments, decisions and conclusions originating from this imperfect state are bound to be relative, contradictory, confusing and therefore frequently ineffective.