THE CONTRASTS BETWEEN THE EAST AND WEST AS NEW SOURCES OF ART AND THOUGHT: THE INEXHAUSTIBLE WEALTH OF HUMAN NATURE
Armando Martins Janeira
When we consider the differences between East and West the first thing to surprise us is - why did the Western men go to the East, forcing their way through hardships and perils, while the men from the East closed their doors to this Western thirst of communication, and refused persistently any foreign contact? Why is there such a strong Western fascination for the East since the dawn of history? Why did the Portuguese, a small nation counting about one million people, with a smaller fleet than the Arab fleet and coming from much further away navigate to all the countries of the East and were with the Spaniards the first to circumnavigate the world?
The economic and political expansion and the defence of the religious faith have been given as reasons. But it is obvious that for similar reasons China, Japan or the Islam could have done it before.
The reason becomes clear when we consider the continuation of the Western development, reaching all the globe in an ecumenical expanse that transformed the destiny of human race. The genius of discovery and adventure was already expressed by the Greeks in the myth of the Argonauts’ expedition in quest of the Golden Fleece and in the voyages of Ulysses. The quest for knowledge and the thirst for gold were then already joined in the Western man’s ambition. From the oldest times, already before Herodotus, the West was under the fascination of the East. But the attraction of this polarity seems only to have excited the Westerners. Because in the three occasions when the West went to the East - with the expedition of Alexander the Great, by the adventure of Marco Polo and in the Era of Discovery - never the East moved to respond to the Western challenge, on the contrary it closed itself again, as long as it could, in its proud and hostile seclusion. While for the Westerners the maritime adventure was an irresistible impulse, stronger than life itself - the discoverer’s motto was “navigare necesse est, vivere non est necesse” - in some Eastern countries to go out to the sea and leave the country became a crime punished with death. (1)
In the heart of the West lived, of course, since the introduction of Christianity, an Asian creed. It took all the Middle Ages for Europe to digest this religion, Asiatic in nature and origin, to fuse the concepts of primitive Christianity with the ideas of Plato, through the Neo-platonists and St. Augustine, with the ideas of the discipline and ecumenism of the Romans. European spirituality was periodically renovated under the influence of the East since the time of Pythagoras and Parmenides. (2). This immense laborious synthesis took many centuries to achieve. The movement of Discoveries was the first result of an attained equilibrium and the fact that that movement began in Portugal shows simply that this country was the first where maturity and impulse for expansion were first reached through early political unity.
The dynamic impulse that brought Europe to the East had its first immense repercussions in Europe itself. The European world outlook suffered a complete revolution in thought and in economic and social conditions. While this deep transformation was going on in Europe, China and Japan, after a short period of restricted contacts, closed themselves again into their ancient seclusion. In India, Ceylon, in some islands and in a small number of cities on the coast, the contact with Europe continued through trade and war. But it was in Europe that the fact of knowing that another part of the world existed, inhabited by very different people, deeply influenced the minds. The newly acquired knowledge of the customs, languages, geography, fauna and flora of the newly discovered lands and seas gave an immense impulse to the advance of sciences, arts and thought in the West. In the East nothing was altered for the length of more than two centuries.
From the first time men from West and East met, they were surprised by the differences they mutually found in their appearance, their way of living, in their thought. Such a surprise has, since then, been expressed in a plenteous literature which concentrated in analysing the points of difference that separate, in various fields, these two poles of the world of culture. This copious river began in a little source, today forgotten, but still live and inexhausted, the “Treaty in which are very summarily pointed out some contradictions and differences in customs between the People of Europe and the People of Japan”, written in 1585 by Luis Fróis and published only in 1955, with the Portuguese original accompanied by the German translation (3). Since then, in this current, contradictions and differences have been emphasized with deeper analysis and great erudition up till a point that they menace to deform a suspect view of East and West.
But there is another current, made chiefly by idealist humanitarians, who propagate that between East an West there are no fundamental differences, as man is everywhere the same all over the earth. (4) The preoccupation of finding similarities went as far as to compare eighteenth century Kyoto with Versailles of Luis XIV and French Racine with Japanese Basho.
What is wrong in the usual approach to the problem of the cultural relations between East and West, was denounced by Japanese philosopher Hajime Nakamura in his remarkable book about the Ways of Thinking of Eastern Peoples. The widely made contention that Eastern thought is intuitive, synthetic, fundamentally religious or spiritual, passive, tending to escapism and indifferent towards social or political action, while the thought from the West is logical, analytic, dynamic, materialistic, Prof. Nakamura has proved to be wrong; in none of the features generally attributed to Eastern thought can we isolate a “definite trait which can be singled out for contrast with the West” and “there are no features of the ways of thinking exclusively shared by the East Asians as a whole” concludes Prof. Nakamura (5).
When we compare Japan with India, we see that Japan is not prone to philosophical speculation, her literature makes a large place for intuition, while India, on one hand, has been for centuries deeply plunged into metaphysical speculations, on the other hand shows in the complex Abhidharma literature a great skill in logical discourse. In the field of religion both China and Japan are little religious, much less than Europe, never had an important priesthood, while India has always made a large place for religious faith and mystic elaboration. Chinese have a strong inclination for historical records, having produced a larger historical literature than any other country; they have a great political genius and a remarkable political literature; Chinese thought is rationalist, and that is why it inspired the eighteenth century Enlightenment in Europe, and was praised by Voltaire. The Chinese empire achieved unity since two centuries before Christ. Indians have achieved unity for brief periods only and have been for most of their history under foreign domination. Differences like these pointed out among the three greatest Eastern countries could be found in a still greater extent if we would consider a greater number of Eastern countries, marked by deeper dissimilarities.
But when we look at the other side, we see that the Western countries are also divided among themselves by important dissimilarities. Keyserling and Salvador Madariaga have emphasized the deep differences that separate the English, as men of action, from the French, as men of thought, and the Spaniards as men of passion. This symbolism sorts out in its concision deep particular traits in psychology and culture. The separation will be still more pronounced if we compare Europeans with Americans.
Therefore, when we put together all the countries of the East to draw a parallel with the West, we cannot disregard that each country has peculiar characteristics. But there are, of course, common traits among Eastern countries: the absence of a sense of history and a concept of progress; static social and political forms while there was a despotic ruler, and the consequent lack of individual rights and independence outside the social group; blind obedience; courtesy and fatalism - a heritage of which many reminiscences are found still today.
The features common to the Eastern thought have been attributed to the absence in Asia of a “polis” or “civitas”, a city-state in which the Divinity became symbol and center of spiritual strength of the community and law developed in the sense of affirmation of the individual, of the consciousness and independence of the citizen.
These indications are enough to emphasize how difficult is the question of differences and similarities between East and West - differences which are probably as important and significant as the similarities.
The similarities between the Eastern and Western men are rather obvious today when Western science, technique and modern ways of life have penetrated into Asia as everywhere on earth. There are of course, before those, and deeper, similarities which flow from a common ground existing in the nature of all men. C. Jung has given us some surprising examples of it.
But there are dissimilarities in thought and behaviour that show an inexhaustible wealth in the nature of man. If it is particularly enlightening to find out these outstanding differences, it is also comforting to confront the cultural peaks which in East and West can be compared, in order to infer certain conclusions, to provoke new ideas, to unveil new meanings in the ways of man, new aspects and unsuspecting depths in human nature.
We will see briefly now how the attitudes of the East and the West towards the capital problems of man differ: in the problems of creation of man and the universe, of life and death, of respect towards other men (6). We must advise however that there is no scientific objective method for comparing cultural values, specially when they are of so different nature as Eastern and Western values are. However, to be able to foster and deepen the understanding between the East and the West, and also to explore the polarity between the two, some kind of approach or parallel is needed. From this parallel study we should be able to discern the degree of universalism implied in these values created in the East and in the West.
The problem of the existence of a Creator raises in all Eastern religions, philosophies and arts little interest or none at all. By contrast, in the West, the problem of the Creation of man and the universe is a dominant theme. This theme has absorbed nearly all the great European artists during the Middle Ages and the Renaissance, having reached its highest expression in Michelangelo. For Michelangelo, the making of man was the first and unique act, was the creation of life itself; the act of creation of man was almost his exclusive artistic preoccupation.
The image of man itself is of the highest value in Western art, is the most important theme and takes a religious significance. Nature is of second importance and serves as a background or a stage of the human drama. The portrait in the Renaissance emphasizes this thought. La Gioconda dominates, with her graceful and strong personality, the immense landscape which is only there to enhance her imposing presence.
Such a prominence is recognized to the value of man, that it is only natural that the image of God is represented by a human figure. Thus God and all his saints are represented like men and women, often identifiable only by the title of the painting or sculpture.
This does not happen always in Oriental Art. The images of the gods exceed often the proportions of man; the gods are many and each needs to show his power by his enormous size, by the display of many arms or several eyes or by the exhibition of one thousand and one equal images gathered in one hall. Man here does not believe in the harmonious balance of the strength of his mind and the weakness of his flesh. The monstrosity of supernatural power haunts man and becomes an obsession. Man, simple man, disappears or shrinks before such a dehumanized concept of the deity. In Chinese and Japanese painting, man is but a minute detail lost in the immensity of the landscape. Nature is the dominant theme. Man´s life and his social drama were not considered a proper subject for art. That is why in Chinese and Japanese painting, the idea of relinquishing from the world of men is expressed with a skill and frequency that has no counterpart in Western art: by placing a single branch or a small bird on a large void space, the Oriental painter expresses the feeling of withdrawal from society and his perception of emptiness. Behind this aesthetic attitude lies the philosophical tradition, rooted in Hinduism and Buddhism, that man is a mere element of the Universe, not its master, that the supreme wisdom is to annihilate the self and the highest beatitude is the feeling of being dissolved in the Universe of man identified with things. There is no opposition between life and death: death indeed does not exist, as the endless line of reincarnations give man the certitude of coming back to this world of which he is forced to be part of for the infinity of time. This thought has inspired the Japanese poetry since its beginnings until today, attaining its apex in Basho.
Contrasting with this, we find in the West a deep reverence for life, as the source of creation, together with a dark fear, and respect, for death, as implacable force of destruction. Death is the absolute measure of all human things. Death, writes Heidegger, is the “capital fact in the light of which human existence is to be interpreted”. All the great florentines, from Dante to Savonarola, were preoccupied with death. The morbid theme of the Danse Macabre haunted the Middle Age and was the subject of many French and German painters and even adornment of some noble homes. Life and death are like the two inseparable faces of a coin.
Time, in the West, has an absolute reality, because life is the only chance to be on this pleasant world, man´s only true possession.
Love of life in the West goes deeper than the Dionysian joys of creation, it reaches death, goes even beyond death. Botticelli was entrusted to paint the portraits of the Pazzi conspirators after they were executed - Lorenzo de Medici suppressed them because they had to be punished, but he wanted to keep their image as a symbol of life for posterity. All great European minds were preoccupied with death, and most of them, in the sad images of death they left us, have put a nobility that comes still from their love of life. This trait can be seen in the European respect for the human body which left a luminous trail since, in Greece, poets sang the beauty of the ephebi competing in the stadium, and the sculptors filled the gardens of Athens with beautiful statues, shining in their chaste nudity. The human body not only was considered beautiful to see, but was regarded as having dignity and nobility. In the Greek and Roman statues, in the painters of the Middle ages, with the figures of Adam and Eve, whose nakedness expresses a religious fervour and simplicity, in the classic god of the Renaissance, in the admirable modern woman of whom La Maja Desnuda of Goya is the charming elder sister, we see the same deep respect for the aesthetic values of the naked body. But this Western respect and love for the human body goes beyond life, prolongs itself after death. La Bella Simonetta, who died in Renaissance Florence, in her early youth was carried to the grave with her beautiful face uncovered.
In the tomb of the young Cardinal Jacopo di Portogallo, who died on a visit to Florence, this epitaph is engraved: insignis forma fuit et mirabili modestia: “he was of a beautiful shape and admirable modesty”; the tomb, in the church of San Miniato, was a beautiful work of art sculpted by Antonio Rossellini and adorned with the most beautiful works of Luca della Robbia. In the Middle Ages, Christian monks asked to be buried naked, covered with a simple white sheet; in this humility of going into the earth in the same simple state as man comes into the world is implicit a deep reverence for life and the human figure. This does not exist in the East, where some religions prescribe the destruction of the body by means of cremation or even by being devoured by vultures. Buddha compared the body with a wound, without being attached to it. The body, said Buddha, resembles a pot full of snakes at war with each other: where there is a body there is such suffering as disease, old age, hunger, thirst. And the mind, which is dependent on the body, feels grief, discontent, anger, fear and all kinds of suffering.
The West, on the contrary, not only exalted the human body in all forms of art, but even worshipped it. Isn’t in the adoration of infant Christ implicit an homage to the budding human body, symbolizing the highest principle of life? The worship of the human body, especially of female body is considered by Lin Yu Tang the most singular characteristic of the West. Nothing similar existed in Oriental Art, and Buddhism, instead of proposing a child for adoration, shows a fat, old, impassible man, full of wisdom and absent in his Nirvana, from whose body all the freshness of life has gone already.
It was only recently that Oriental countries discovered the wealth of philosophical and aesthetic values suggested by the human body. “The discovery of the human body”, affirms Lin Yu Tang, “is, today, one of the most potent influences of Western civilization in China, for it changes the whole outlook of life by changing the source of artistic inspiration”. (7) This, of course, is not true for India, where the naked body always had a religious rich symbolism, the naked gods and goddesses coming off the stone of the temples with festoons of flowers.
The Hindus have an attitude similar to the Western concerning the aesthetic values of human body and the deep respect for its religious symbolism. They go still further, because for the Hinduist there is a divine quality immanent in man, while in the West divinity is outside man. In the Vedas we find hymns in praise of the greatness of man, “the lord of immortality”.
In Islam, though the image of man is forbidden in temples because it is considered a sacrilege to represent God by the image of a man, the concept of man’s greatness is the highest that has been expressed, - as in these words of the Koran:
“All that exists on earth and in the sky is subordinate to man”. And a Sufi poet wrote:
“You think that you are a small body; you ignore that a universe larger than the physical body is inside you”.
These variations and nuances show that it is impossible to make generalizations. We can affirm that there is not a concept of man which could be called specifically Eastern or Western. We find different conception in East and West, which reflect different concepts of the world.
The Eastern principles of the transitory quality of all things, on the dissolution of man in the universe are the bases of those ideas on man. But there are also Western thinkers, like Hume, Lichtenberg, Mach, who believe that the existence of the self is as transitory as the body. However, the idea of the non-existence of an individual self is not found in the West.
The contemplative ideal which brought to the metaphysical necessity of the annihilation of the individual self was always of little importance to European man. In the works of the Greek thinkers we do not find a contemplative ideal, except in some passages of Plato. The main conception is one of active reason, not of passive meditation. There are contemplative tendencies in Christianity, but this was rapidly Europeanized and Greek reason took the upper hand. In the Orient, the characteristics mentioned can be explained by a vision of the world based, to use the words of an Oriental, Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan - on “the belief of an invisible reality, of which all life is a manifestation, on the primacy of spiritual experience and on the preoccupation of reconciling notions apparently opposite”.
The excellence of knowledge and the value of action
These concepts of man, life and death are reflected in the man’s two fundamental activities: knowledge and action. “Knowledge”, writes Emmanuel Mounier, “is a tragic destiny - Le savoir est une destinée tragique. At the summit of Western thought we find indeed a tragic concept of life. The tragic is one of the two faces of knowledge; the other is the epic. There is in the two an opposition between man and the universe: in the tragic man becomes the victim of this conflict, he is destroyed in the combat, but he does not submit; in the epic, man vanquishes and attains the greatness of the gods - he becomes a hero. Well, in the Orient there is no true epic poetry and there is no tragedy. This fact can be explained by the differences between Eastern and Western attitude towards knowledge and action.
Shakespeare expressed the greatest agony of the West: “To be or not to be, that is the question”. The greatest tragedy of man is in the fact of existing, and Christianity made of this fact the original, the greatest sin. Man is separated from the world; more, he is opposed to it. His duty is to go out and fight in the world all evil, to do good, to strive to perfect himself and to improve the universe.
To know, for the Western man, is to take consciousness of the limits of his power before an indifferent or hostile world. Knowledge in the West leads to anguish and despair, because the mind cannot know all. Faust sold his soul to the devil in exchange for the secret of knowledge.
In the East, the aim of knowledge is not to increase man’s power over the universe, but on the contrary to suppress all that is personal in himself, to attain selflessness and dissolve into the great self that is the whole. The aim of knowledge in the tree of knowledge is the root of evil and the beginning of sin and damnation. The obstacle of salvation, in the Orient, is not knowledge, not even evil, but rather, in Hinduism and Buddhism, is ignorance and ephemeral life. In Hinduism, the three main ways to attain salvation are: action (karma), devotion (bakhti) and knowledge (jnana). Taoists consider knowledge, or learning, dangerous because it is a source of dissipation; its multiplicity destroys the unity of being.
The first Western’s man certitude, that of being, the cogito ergo sum of Descartes put besides the Buddhist doctrine of non-self (anatmya) is like a great illusion and the origin to all evil. In Buddhism, as well as in Hinduism and Taoism, man does not exist separated from the universe.
“All things of the Universe come from Being
And Being comes from Non-being”.
is written in the book of Lao Tzu.
“Nothing exists except what is seen by the mind”. “There is only mind, the exterior world does not exist” is written in the Surangama Sutra (359).
Death, in Buddhism and in Taoism does not exist, nothing separates life from death, both are one; life and death are merely changes of form.
While the West gives the first importance to Being, the limited and definite of existing, the Orient gives preference to Non-being, the boundless, the indefinite. Hence while the West emphasizes the importance of movement and action, the Orient emphasizes the importance of quiescence and non-action.
This brings us to another fundamental difference between East and West: the value of Action.
The Western man is separated from the world, he strives to transform the world. The value and the bend for action is the basis of Western realism. Even the poets, in their lyric ecstasies, never forget reality. When the archaeologist discovered Cretan civilization, going, at once, twenty or thirty centuries back, confirmed, through the study of the fossils, the truth of the chants of Homer. As in the statues of the great Greek sculptures, in the Homeric poems the reality of dream is as true as life.
The Hinduist concept of action (Karma) is different from the Western one. Indeed in the Advaita Vedanta school the last aim of life is inaction. The liberation of the spirit from the chains of this world is the supreme aim of the Hinduist religion. Even Hinduist philosophy is only preoccupied with salvation. In Buddhism, meditation has also a fundamental value and the supreme ideal of perfection is non-action, nirvana, that is the suppression of the self.
In Taoism the concept of Wu-wei the practice of non-action is at the basis of the doctrine. “Act by non-action”; is written in the Tao Te Ching: “by non-action everything can be done”.
The ideas of quietude, unity of existence and cosmic fusion of man with the universe are fundamental in all Oriental religions and philosophies.
The concept of non-action implies the acceptance of suffering. Buddha teaches that life is suffering (dukkha). The four Buddhist holy truths teach us to support suffering in order to be delivered from suffering. The deliverance is in the liberation from the wheel of existences and from pain, is the extinction in nirvana.
The Western attitude towards suffering is the opposite - is in non accepting it. All the great minds, innovators and rebels from the West have fought against human suffering with implacable determination, convinced as they were that suffering is not a fundament of existence but an imperfection of this world which needs to be fought against without respite. This idea is spread today all over the world and it is due to the combat against misery that the Asian countries owe their material progress and improvement of living conditions.
Connected with the idea of action is the idea of method. The Discours de la Méthode of Descartes, the father of modern philosophy, is the basis of science. Descartes did not write his book with a speculative purpose, but rather with a practical aim: pour nous rendre maîtres de la nature, to make us masters of nature. The Western scientific thought developed on the basis of method. And it is in the nature of Western method to begin by defining itself, by saying in what method consists of.
Here again we are very far from the oriental thought. In Chinese Tao can mean method and in Japanese method is translated by hōhō or dō. However, the true nature of Tao consents no definition. The Tao Te Ching opens with these words: “The Tao that can be expressed is no Tao”. Tao means of course much more than “method”, because “Tao produces all things”. Vagueness in Orient incites to thought and puts a luminous veil of poetry around all things.
Connected with the problem of action is the problem of behaviour, of the relations from man to man. I am referring to politeness. It is known that in the stratified European society of the Middle Ages, and again in the eighteenth century, rigid rules of politeness had to be observed in human relations. These rules concerned particularly a part of the society, nobility, but all social classes were more or less sensitive to that atmosphere of refinement and elegance and learned from it. The code or courtesy smoothed the relations among men, specially in a time of medieval brutality and cruelty. With liberalism and the ideas of equality spread after French Revolution, good manners became to be somewhat regarded more and more as the foible of an oppressive class and attempting against individual independence. The new feeling of liberty imposed the removal of everything old and traditional. After the Russian Revolution Mayakovsky would sing: “old people... of their skulls we will make ashtrays”. The fault was of the higher classes, because they did not endeavour to spread culture and good manners among the ordinary people. This explains why good manners in Europe are today so rare. Politeness is not an empty outward form of etiquette, but an important civilized form of behaviour. Goethe said that any exterior sign of politeness is rooted in a deep moral ground. Confucius exhorted people to respect the traditional ritual, as good manners help simple and harmonious intercourse to develop. Politeness is a duty of respect towards our fellowmen and at the same time “the instinctive gesture of a mind conscious of its humanity. The perfect deportment of a soul which dominates itself shines outwardly in this courtesy, this perfect deportment of the body, in the face always smiling and differential, in words invariably measured and affable, This constant perfection of behaviour exacts as much self-control and courage as it brings sweetness and amenity into human values”. This is the concept that Chinese have of politeness as an important element in human relations. The Chinese Communist Revolution has preserved the humanist values contained in the traditional forms of politeness. Mao Tse Tung, in 1947, in “Eight Points of Attention” has included not less than three points connected with politeness: 1st, speak politely, 5th, do not hit or swear at people, 7th, do not take liberties with women. Thus, Chinese communism has kept the traditional humanist principles conducting toward pleasant, amenable relations among people. Why was it that politeness was kept in the habits of the East and was not spread in the West? The main reason must be in the structure of society in both cases. Nobility, in the West, was a close society, which had not as a principle to communicate its culture and knowledge to the lower classes. On the contrary, in Japan, the nobility considered its duty to spread its culture and good manners to its subordinates: the lower classes were encouraged to acquire learning, to practice tea ceremony, the art of flower arrangement and other distinguished manners of the nobility. In China the spread of culture among the people was also easy, as the high State officials were chosen through the system of official examinations open to everybody with intelligence and knowledge.
This differences explain also why politeness in China is included in the body of precepts of communism, and in the West is sometimes derided and undemocratic.
It is greatly to be wished that those three points of Mao Tse Tung be followed both in communist and capitalist countries of the West.
What can be the deep meaning of these fundamental contrasts and how much can they inspire anew in artists and thinkers of the world? Can or should these differences be conciliated? Can Eastern artists learn there a lesson from the West and the Western ones from the East? The simple act of putting these differences side by side can itself bring out the extraordinary power of affirmation of the themes of creation in Western art, as well as it stresses and carries further the meaning of Oriental self-abandonment and of longing for quietude and emptiness, which are deeply linked with the yearning for purity and righteousness. The act of bringing these two concepts together and exploring their significance in parallel, not only adds depth to both but also strengthens and deepens the feeling of interrelationship of men through so diversified expressions.
The Eastern artists have already profited from these contrasts when they introduced this Western lesson into their art.
We saw the importance of discovery of human body for China, having changed the whole outlook of life by changing the source of artistic inspiration, according to Lin Yu Tang. The greatest Japanese modern writer, Junichiro Tanizaki, wrote that the “liberation of love”, the rising of the woman to a pedestal on which she is loved by man, is the most substantial influence received from Western Literature. But these are only illustrative examples, of an infinite number.
Some sociologists have tried to conciliate the contradictory values of Eastern and Western civilizations. I doubt of the validity of this fusion, of which only hybrid and weak works have resulted. Why to want to erase differences which only mean vigour and luxuriant variety of the human race? What is important is to come to a clear consciousness of the immense diversity of things and ideas created by man. It is because the contrasts between East and West are deep and fundamental that humanity is richer, man deeper immeasurable, multiform. What is different from us, said André Gide, teaches us more than separates us. These contrasts and contradictions mean richness of thought, a polymorphy of man´s mind and sensibility without which life and earth will be insupportable dull. If any conciliation or fusion has to be done, it should be done in the way of increasing such richness and variety. And I can add that if someone is going to do it, it should not be the sociologist, not even the philosopher, but the artist and the novelist, because only these, by their creative imagination, can transcend the contradiction into new forms and ideas, fraternal sentiments, even into stronger, more fertile planes of new contradiction.
Under all these rich and inspiring diversities, we know that a ground of sentiments and ideas common to all men lies. It is this community in fundamental things that makes possible the unity of knowledge towards which we are advancing. How this harmonization of diversities should be made is mainly for the artist to discover. But it is already very important to have a clear consciousness of these diversities and to be able to assess their meaning and far-reaching implications.
Under this wealth of contracts a deep common ground of ideas and feelings exists, in religion, in thought, in literature, in art, sometimes showing a surprising identity or similarity and even simultaneity when there were no links and no contacts between East and West. When this kinship will be widely known, it can foster, with wider human understanding, a vast new field for new thought and artistic creation.
East and West are like two poles of human nature.
The West came to the East in order to find out the mystery of this eternal antithesis, of this creative polarity of Orient and Occident, constantly renewed along the centuries, through new waves of ideas and forms which came to fertilize Eastern and Western civilizations.
Among the greatest contrasts between East and West, the greatest of all is the inner force working up in the heart of the West, which has sent constantly through the ages Western men to discover the secrets of the East, while no Eastern man ever, before the forced contact, felt the need of searching in the West for the other half of human truth that would complete his being as a total man. The West feels deeper this fascination for the discovery of the unknown, this obscure force that drives peoples and civilizations to look for the new forms and ideas which they need to revitalize their social structures, to refresh their old systems of thought. The West found out, before the East, that the world is only one and that in this union lies our only salvation. And this inner knowledge is in the heart of Western civilization since its dawn.
Western religions placed eternal life and bliss in the East: the Garden of Eden was in the East and Egyptian religion describes the journey of the soul toward the East. Eastern religions tell us of the voyage of the soul toward the West, and Amida’s pure Land Paradise is in the West. Man tried always to search elsewhere for the mysteries of life and his soul. After so much search and anguish we realize that East and West are one. And there is no mystery in the Orient more than in the Occident. Indeed the mystery is in man. From this mystery science dugs up its verities and art composes all its creative harmonies.