Globalization is not defined by one-way Westernization, argues Peter Berger in his new blog at The American Interest Online. Rather, it is a far more complex process than is commonly imagined, and this is indicated, for starters, by the often overlooked influence of Eastern traditions on contemporary Western culture.
Citing, for example, yoga, meditation, and alternative therapeutic techniques, Berger discusses both the presence of Eastern religions in the West and the ways in which they are adapted for and inscribed into Western—especially American—culture, as well as the challenges they may pose to the latter:
To be sure, sometimes these practices have been detached from their original religious meanings. One may do yoga to lose weight (to misquote Freud—“sometimes a cigar is just a cigar”). Much of the time, though, the religious/”spiritual” intention is deliberate and overt. That is even clearer with expressed beliefs. Large numbers of Westerners believe in reincarnation, and some think that they can, with the right exercises, remember previous lives. A survey in Europe reported that a surprising number of Catholics think that reincarnation is a doctrine of their church. Probably more importantly, many people believe that Western civilization has disrupted the harmony between human beings and nature, and that this is a pathology that should be remedied. There is a strong anti-individualistic theme in the latter belief, often linked to leftist ideology (capitalism as the source of “excessive individualism”), environmentalism (reconciling with a supposedly benign Mother Nature, or with Gaia, the earth as a living being), and radical feminism (the healing power of female spirituality).
Continue reading Berger’s “Wisdom from the East” here.