There was, until a year ago, a little and very grimy-looking shop near Seven Dials, over which, in weather-worn yellow lettering, the name of “C. Cave, Naturalist and Dealer in Antiquities,” was inscribed. The contents of its window were curiously variegated. They comprised some elephant tusks and an imperfect set of chessmen, beads and weapons, a box of eyes, two skulls of tigers and one human, several moth-eaten stuffed monkeys (one holding a lamp), an old-fashioned cabinet, a flyblown ostrich egg or so, some fishing-tackle, and an extraordinarily dirty, empty glass fish-tank. There was also, at the moment the story begins, a mass of crystal, worked into the shape of an egg and brilliantly polished. And at that two people, who stood outside the window, were looking, one of them a tall, thin clergyman, the other a black-bearded young man of dusky complexion and unobtrusive costume. The dusky young man spoke with eager gesticulation, and seemed anxious for his companion to purchase the article.
The development of the modern scientific method, however, informs humanity that this attitude is mistaken, and that regardless of just how ‘perfect’ each cultural expression happens to believe itself to be, there is always another equally important (or impressive) cultural expression waiting just around the evolutionary corner! Throughout pre-modern times, emerging cultures, (regardless of their technical or architectural achievements), were relative affairs that could be toppled with just the right amount of pressure applied to the correct place! China’s long history of continuous and impressive cultural expression is no exception to this rule!
The cultural and religious baggage within Asian cultures generally means that it takes decades to finally arrive at the ability that Systema teaches from the first day of training (and only then, if the practitioner of the Asian arts has found a competent Master). This signifies the ‘Socialist’ egalitarian nature of ‘Systema’ where there were no coloured belts representing a fascistic and hierarchical grading system – as is common within Japanese culture. In the original Soviet – (and now ‘Russian’) – martial system (Systema), the highest form of inner and outer awareness, body-alignment, organisation and movement, as well as advanced technical manifestation – is taught first without any hesitation, whilst an individual’s psychological and emotional (spiritual) understanding of what a practitioner is physically experiencing has to catch-up over the many years of training.
I am reminded of Bertrand Russell’s now classic text (delivered as a speech at a relatively small meeting in South London) entitled ‘On Why I
Theistic religion was once suitable to the emerging intellect of humanity, but is no longer suitable for an advancing species. Modern humanity benefits from science, technology, medicine and the internet, and no amount of praying will save the life of a relative, or produce space travel, or the latest breakthrough in the fight against human disease. The Buddha denied the validity of theistic belief and advocated mental development and discipline (behavioural modification) as a means of over-coming alienation. The Buddha taught non-identification with thought (i.e. non-attachment), and can not be considered ‘idealistic’, and he criticised certain types of materialist thinking prevalent in his day, and can not be called a ‘materialist’. Karl Marx advocated the study of the physical circumstances humanity finds itself within, (i.e. historical materialism), but as he fully acknowledges the existence and functioning of human consciousness, he can not be termed a gross materialist. Marx wrote often about human consciousness, and stated that when consciousness is inverted, (i.e. deluded), it can not perceive things as they actually are, and falls into the error of religiosity. However, as Marx denied the validity of philosophies that limit the interpretation of the world to a set of thoughts, or thought constructs, (i.e. attachment to thought), he can not be called an ‘idealist’, or ‘ideologue’.