In German, the older term for ethnology is “Völkerkunde,” literally “the study or science of peoples.” In the English-speaking world, this science, the science of human beings in the past and the future is referred to as “cultural anthropology,” or anthropology in its broadest sense.
To comprehend the entire bandwidth and complexity of all human cultures, anthropology has long-established connections with both the social and cultural sciences and the natural sciences. It is by its very nature inter-disciplinary. While classical ethnology primarily dealt with describing and understanding other cultures – and then taught its findings in universities – and since today most of the world’s cultures have already been studied, anthropology is in the process of reorienting itself in completely new ways, specifically in two directions: on the one hand it is increasingly in search of “cultural universals” – social, psychological, religious, cognitive and linguistic elements, structures and patterns that all cultures have in common. The aggregate of cultural universals provides knowledge and insight into the conditio humana – human nature and the human condition.
But it is also “applied anthropology,” an active and engaged anthropology, whose central concern is the application of knowledge about humanity to solving the problems confronting humanity. It places particular emphasis on topics relating to globalization, human rights, new programs for education and health, social justice, conservation of natural resources, protection of remaining indigenous peoples and integration of social and ethnic minorities.
Study of humanity
The study of humanity requires respect for diversity of individuals, cultures, societies and systems of knowledge. Anthropologists need a sustaining, professional – unshakeable – ethical code, a Tigermind, otherwise their work is worthless. For this reason no other discipline is better suited to unite opposites than the new anthropology. I expect that in the science of tomorrow it will not only take on an overall foundational function, but will also serve as bridge-builder between disciplines; similar to the humanistic concept of a studium generale, a comprehensive general education – with the purpose of providing the abundance of specialized instrumental knowledge with a universal orientation resource. The new anthropology may well take “Unity in Diversity” as its motto.
Today’s world – and tomorrow’s world even more – will need an ability to synthesize at warp speed from the multiplicity of data. In view of the ongoing rough-and-tumble, often brutal collisions of opposing attitudes, opinions and convictions, the ability to mediate is increasingly gaining in importance: “Mediation rather than war.” Competence in change and renewal is teaming up with classical academic doctrine. Anthropologists as observers and witnesses to the conditio humana are therefore no longer mere specialists focusing on particular peoples, but far more public advocates of a new quality of being in the world; they are addressing their work to a broad public. In the past, ethnology was an elite luxury science. Today it is increasingly aimed at “average” people, motivating them to broaden their horizons and welcome the challenge of change.
When we look back at the beginnings of ethnology during the colonial period, when newly-discovered peoples were considered “primitive” and phenomena such as shamanism were classified as illnesses (“Arctic hysteria”) – so much has changed! And yet: how much injustice, arrogance and exploitation are being committed today against the last of these peoples, in most cases because they live in regions with coveted mineral resources, valuable grazing land or natural paradises such as rainforests.
The new anthropologists are destined to combat the world’s injustices and assist in bringing about constructive change. Their competences are invaluable where global values, social renewal and transformation of consciousness in general are concerned. At home in both worlds – in the cultures they study as well as in their own, which they are able to see far more clearly through the perspective of the “other” – they are not only wanderers and mediators between worlds, they are also active agents of renewal in both.
Made visible and accessible by the Universal Process, the essence of our world cultural heritage brings an even greater rigor and precision to the anthropologist’s work by presenting an additional perspective: while the conditio humana represents the overall framework, the UP serves as the center of the circle, so to speak. All cultural universals are united within it. It is the root, the common source of inner nature and outer culture, and thus the connective element per se. As such, it is a process-oriented parameter that offers guidance through all kinds of processes of change and communication with unerring surety. But it does not provide ready-made solutions, instead it points out the path to discovering solutions. At the end of the process there is always something “good” – or the process is not yet over.
“Faced with increasingly complex issues, today’s world – and tomorrow’s world even more – will need an ability to synthesize at warp speed from the multiplicity of data: wild thinking.”
Mandala: Jeppe Dyrendom Graugaard/dark-mountain.net
When a Hopi elder was asked what was going to come, he clapped his hands, laughed and said:
“This can become a good time!
The river is flowing very fast now. It is so powerful that some of you are afraid. They will try to cling to the riverbanks. They will feel the undertow and realize that they are being swept away, and they will suffer greatly. Know that the river follows a destiny. The elders say that we must leave the banks, strike out to the middle of the river, keep out eyes open and our head above water. And I say, see who is with you, and celebrate! At this moment of history we must not take anything personally. Ourselves least of all. Because as soon as we do so, our spiritual growth and our journey come to a standstill. The time of the lone wolf is over. Come together. Banish the word ‘struggle’ from your mind-set and your vocabulary. Everything that we do now should take place in a sacred manner and in joy. We are the ones we have been waiting for!”