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DESTRUCTION OF WORLD’S EASTERN HERITAGE IN IRAQ: Eastern foundations of Western civilization


Paper No. 733                                               09.07.2003

 by K Gajendra Singh

‘It would be a good idea.’ Mahatma Gandhi, when asked about his views on western culture.

There was an international cry and outrage in April and May, when following the collapse of the Saddam Hussein regime, US armed forces as the occupying power, had allowed the heritage Museum in Baghdad and other museums in Iraq to be damaged and looted along with libraries, institutions and ministries, except for the ministry of oil (and the oil fields) In spite of warnings, the most comprehensive archives of Iraq's history were set ablaze.  Baghdad’s National Library smouldered for two days with its half a million books, newspapers and documents reduced to ashes.  The Awqaf Library in Baghdad with more than 5,000 manuscripts was destroyed. The Saddam Manuscripts Library, with more than 40,000 manuscripts was looted.

Dr Charles Tripp of the School of Oriental and African Studies in London, who had used the Iraqi National Library in the 1980s said, 'It had newspapers from the 1920s and thousands of documents telling tales of the Ottoman period and the British mandate. Its hard to accept it is all gone. ' Mosul University Library with its valuable collections was also partly looted and burnt.' These collections offered a representative sample of the intellectual output of Islamic civilisation,' said Tim Winter, a divinity lecturer at Cambridge University.  'The loss of a thousand years of scholarly interpretation will impoverish Islamic thought, and strengthen the extremists indifferent to it anyway. 'Iraq's history has been savagely massacred,' said Dr Irvine Finkle of the British Museum. “To burn books is possibly the lowest form of human activity. Who would do this And why?”

During the peak of anarchy, chaos and looting US Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld had commented "Free people are free to make mistakes and commit crimes and do bad things,”

Professor Michalowski of Michigan said that this was "a tragedy that has no parallel in world history; it is as if the Uffizi, the Louvre, or all the museums of Washington DC had been wiped out in one fell swoop".  Professor Zinab Bahrani from Columbia University claimed that, "Blame must be placed with the Bush administration for a catastrophic destruction of culture unparalleled in modern history. " From Edinburgh Professor Trevor Watkins lamented that, "The loss of Iraq's cultural heritage will go down in history - like the burning of the Library at Alexandria - and Britain and the US will be to blame. " Others used phrases such as cultural genocide and compared the US in particular to the Mongol invaders of 13th-century Iraq.

Cultural heritage bodies in USA and UK had requested their governments to protect hospitals, schools and cultural institutions, but these requests were largely ignored.  Martin Sullivan, Chairman of President’s Advisory Committee on Cultural Property and its member Gary Vikan resigned because the US military had had advance warning of the danger to Iraq’s historical treasures.  “We certainly know the value of oil but we certainly don’t know the value of historical artifacts,” said Vikan, director of the Walters Art Gallery in Baltimore.

On March 20, when US and its allies began their attack on Iraq with Stealth and B-52 bombers, Tomahawk cruise missiles, smart and stupid bombs, museums and curators, universities and scholars across the world were worried what that might do to monuments in Mesopotamia, the fertile crescent land between the rivers Tigris and Euphrates, the cradle of civilisations, the land of Nineveh, Babylon, Nimrud and Uruk, the world's first city.  Where the Sumerians invented writing 5,000 years ago, where the epic of Gilgamesh, which formed the model for Noah and the flood, was committed to cuneiform writing 1500 years before Homer.  The land of the Old Testament, of the Tower of Babel and of Ur, where Abraham, the father of the three great monotheistic religions, was born. The museum at Mosul, with its oldest churches and from nearby Nineveh has the remains of personality cult of Sennacherib, a seventh-century BC cruel Assyrian ruler.  From nearby Nimrud, the giant winged Assyrian bulls with human heads were stolen and now awe the visitors to the British Museum. The attack on the museum in Saddam's home town of Tikrit was, perhaps, a 21st century symbolic strike at the personality cult of Saddam Hussein.

So US pro-Consul in Iraq Paul Bremer allowed the gates of Baghdad’s heritage museum to be opened on July 3 for some diplomats and media, with heavily armed US troops and black-uniformed Italian carabinieri providing security.  But it was only a symbolic one day photo opportunity. The opening was symbolic to convey the message that things were under control.  The Museum once had one of the world's best collections of pre-Hellenic statuary, gold jewellery and cuneiform tablets "It's important that people know the museum is coming back.  We hope to open properly within a year or two," said Dr Donny George, an Assyrian Christian and the museum's director of studies.

But a most remarkable thing has been the return of around 3000 priceless pieces under the ”no questions asked “amnesty in which the clerics played an important role.  Some looters brought back the stolen artifacts, after imams had threatened to ban thieves from worship at mosques. The retrieved treasures included a statue of King Shalmanezzer III from 852BC, the Warka vase - a 5ft-high alabaster vessel from 3000 BC, encircled by several layers of sculpted figures, still with traces of red and grain colouring. Another rare exhibit is the gold treasures of Nimrud consisting of exquisitely crafted crowns, bracelets, cups and pendants discovered only in 1989 and rarely exhibited.  These had been stored in a vault of the central bank and had survived the US invasion, when the bank building was looted, set on fire and partly flooded. When the banks vaults were opened, bodies of looters killed in shoot-outs with rival gangs, were found inside, but the seals on the crates of the antiquities were intact.  The collection had been carefully stored with thousands of pieces hidden in secure rooms around the museum, in vaults in the central bank and in bunkers around Baghdad. This was done according to plans drawn up for 1991 Gulf war. 

But of the 42 most valuable items, 32 are still missing, including a bronze relief from 4000 BC, “worth 100 Mona Lisas.  And many pieces still remained unaccounted, with thousands gone from the storerooms. The museum did not have an inventory of its collection, not even on a handwritten card index, let alone on a computer. Who stole the museum's best items would take time to find out.  Dr George denied that some of the looting was done by museum staff.  But it was not just vandalism, he added.  It was clear that there were some professional thieves. "They had plans, glasscutters, and knowledge. We found keys brought by the looters. They opened the museum director's safe where they found other keys. " There are reports that some retrieved pieces are copies.

Why the initial reports of the losses were exaggerated remains a mystery but Dr George clarified that it was because of a misunderstanding that the 170,000 pieces were reported missing.  He had only given the total number of objects. The reports had outraged the world making it a symbol of the lawlessness of postwar Iraq and America's failure to establish security after its quick victory.  Now investigations are under way, with help from Interpol and FBI teams.  It is quite possible that the reports of losses were intentionally exaggerated to attract world attention for provision of security by US authorities which was then lacking and to scare away the professional as well as amateur looters

While playing down the numbers stolen, Colonel Matthew Bogdanos, head of the investigating team appointed by USA said,  "Almost 3,000 items have been recovered, but over 12,000 are still missing. " He divided the looters into three kinds, those who went through the public galleries, picking out the most valuable or easily transportable items.  "They were selective in what they stole," he said.  When it came to the items looted from storage chambers, two dynamics were visible. "One was absolute indiscriminate looting.  Bags and boxes were taken from one end of the museum and dropped at the other." The "most troubling" thefts were of items "in the most remote corner of the most remote room. Other stuff on the way to it was not taken. You couldn't get there unless you knew it well. This was the priceless collection of cylinder seals and Hellenistic, Roman and Islamic coins". Under amnesty half the items were returned by people who took them for  “safe keeping “or given by friends, the other 1,500 were seized after tip offs.

About ancient monuments, experience with US armed forces is not very encouraging. American bulldozers had razed the ruins of Tell al-Lahm, south of Ur, during the 1991 Gulf war. The great arch of Ctesphion, still the widest unsupported brick arch in the world, was cracked by the vibrations of the American carpet bombing. John Curtis, the keeper of the department of the ancient near east at the British Museum, who visited Ur last year had little doubt the Americans strafed the ziggurat - a great, stepped pyramid - with heavy machine-gun fire the last time they passed that way.  “Whether this was an accident, I couldn't say," he says.  Another European invader Napolean had tested his artillery against Cairo’s pyramids.  Talibans had bombed Buddhist statues at Bamiyan in Afghanistan a few years ago, leading to international uproar.

On the other hand US and its allies point out that Iraqis have used ancient defences for parking tanks and point out that Iraqi airbase is in the shadow of the great ziggurat of Ur, city of Abraham.  Incidentally “the Ur airbase was built by the British in the days of its colonial mandate, when the RAF first demonstrated the civilising capabilities of bombing civilians from the air.” Also if you put a machine-gun emplacement anywhere in Mosul, for instance, it will only be next to antiquities.  But that doesn't make Mosul a valid target.

There was another reason for the Iraqis placing machine guns outside museums.  After the last Gulf war, when Kurds and Shiites of Iraq were encouraged by US president to rise up against Saddam, several important museums and archaeological sites were looted in the chaos. Of the 4,000 precious objects missing (many more were destroyed), most stolen items followed the well-worn route to Israel, Switzerland and, finally, to London, where many Assyrian pieces, broken up for easier transit, ended up on the art market or in the back rooms of antiquarian dealers.  As a pariah state, Iraq could not get them back through official channels, but the Iraqis were still trying to buy some of them back from western collectors when the 2003 invasion started.”  Any responsible government must protect their cultural heritage," said a western expert.  Dan Cruickshank, the architectural historian whose film on the subject was screened by the BBC, said, 'It is simply not true that the people of Baghdad looted their own museum,' 'they have far too much respect for their own heritage to do that, he added.

For all his faults, Saddam Hussein was protective of archaeology, promoting it for a national rebirth and a repeat of the glories of the past, and comparing himself to Nebuchadnezzar (what about US presidents as Roman emperors ) who had built the Hanging Gardens of Babylon. His rebuilding the old city walls with bricks embossed with his own name next to that of Nebuchadnezzar was a crime against archaeology and aesthetics.  But to protect Iraq's heritage as a patriotic duty, five years ago, 10 men from near Mosul who had cut the head off an Assyrian winged bull at Khorsabad, were executed.

But such is the insatiable hunger of western collectors for eastern artifacts that Iraqis continue to loot and smuggle them out of Iraq. Some American and European experts say that most of the 33 missing items were taken in the first few hours of the collapse of Saddam's regime and were stolen 'to order'.  Professor McGuire Gibson, an Oriental specialist from Chicago University and a member of the Unesco team investigating the thefts, had received reports that the 'top five' items among the 33 had been smuggled to Tehran and Paris within days of their removal.  The loot of eastern heritage has continued since millennia.  But ignorant Europeans have derided eastern civilization and culture.  One ignorant Englishman gave more weight to works of William Shakespeare than the whole of Indian literature.  Recently an uncouth Italian Prime minister described Muslims as culturally inferior.


In the arbitrary division of the world in to the West and the East along the straits of Bosporus, Dardanelles and Gibraltar ( from Arabic Jebel el Tariq ) or into Europe ( and USA ) and Asia, the Europeans first came in to contact with Asians and were either civilised or evolved their own civilisation after encountering  superior and existing civilistaions in Asia.  These Eastern countries i.e. Egypt, Syria, Iraq , Iran and Turkey, now Muslim countries, have fallen on bad days .In their heydays the Muslim empires, the Arabs ruled and civilised most of Spain and Ottoman Turks reached right up to the Gates of Vienna .  They developed and spread culture and civilised Europe. Classical Greek and Hellenic works were translated into Arabic and thus saved as these had been lost in the west.  As conservative fundamentalist forces emerged on top, Muslim empires and civilisation decayed and they were colonised by the west with superior arms for waging wars.  As had been done earlier by the Indo-Europeans, Turks and Mongols. 

It is rather unfortunate that Muslims, because of Islam ‘s origin in  Arabian Peninsula have classified everything that existed before it, even elsewhere, as Jahilya ( ignorance).  Most lands conquered by the swords of Islam or Sufis and saints had ancient and flourishing civilisations. Thus, unfortunately little work has been done by Muslim countries to discover their hoary past, which are such rich sources of ancient history, culture, human thought and philosophy.  Only tourism has made them take some interest in their past i.e. Egypt and secular Turkey.  Even in Turkey, Government publications on their history start with 6th century Gök Turk empire (in Mongolia) and then come to 11th century AD after the Byzantine defeat at Manzikert by Turkic tribes.  Thus a mis-conceived attempt is made to black out its pre-Greek, Greek, Hellenic, Roman and Byzantine past. The percentage of Turkic blood, mostly Turcomen would not be more than 15% in the Republic of Turkey. Other examples are the governmental attitude to Pharaonic past in Egypt and Indus Valley and Vedic past in Pakistan.   

Most ancient Indo-Aryan and eastern writings were brought to world attention by western scholars.  But some of them were not so enlightened and writing in 19th and first half of 20th century at the height of colonial period, tended to strengthen the notion of ruling white man’s civilising mission and hence his superiority and supremacy over the native genius throughout history.  The propensity of the Brahmins, the highest caste among Aryans, to control and keep everything to themselves i.e. their close family members or caste men led to lack of transparency and hindrance to the culture of writing.  So there are few reliable records. Only the oral tradition remained.  Lack of transparency persists even to this day in Indian polity encouraging nepotism, inefficiency and corruption. India is No 71 in world transparency order.  Writing has been acknowledged as one of the most important tools of civilisation. 

Apart from intrepid Buddhist travelers from China and others like Megesthnese, Alberuni, Ibn-batuta etc we have to rely mainly on Western sources or translations when it comes to the origins of history, religions, culture and civilisations.  As for the western bias we can see even today how CNN and BBC moderate, distort and even tell blatant lies about events taking place in Afghanistan, Pakistani, Jammu and Kashmir and now Iraq. Even TV channels like Discovery and National Geographic distort the truth.  Truth is becoming a major casualty because of western control of communications and thought, more so after fall of the Berlin Wall. Pravada and Izvestia had exercised some check. But the so-called impartiality, especially of US media has been exposed by independent Arab channels like Al Jazeera etc during the recent US war on Iraq.  

How Alexander “the Great “ has been glorified as a Western conqueror of the East.  He was a small town homosexual boy who was taught the intricacies of state protocol, running of an empire and the divinity of the emperor by older civilisations of Asia Minor, Egypt and Persia. If he had followed the advice of his teacher Aristotle and not learnt from the so called barbarians, his vision would have remained limited and shallow.  The desert Arab tribes were civilised by the Byzantine courtiers and princesses in Damascus and Sassanians from Persia in Iraq after being conquered by Muslim Arabs.  So were the nomad Central Asian Turks and Mongols (also by Chinese) by the Persians.   

As there was little comparable civilisation in Western Europe and certainly USA in pre Christian era, they claim that there civilisation, culture and thought originates from the Greeks of Aegean and Asia Minor (Turkey).  According to them, Greek civilisation and culture evolved and flourished in Crete and evolved when Greeks (pirates) coming from the Aegean islands settled on the west coast of Asia Minor (called Ionia-Yunani) There fore Minoan civilisation of Crete forms the basis of Greek and hence Western civilisation.   It is too simplistic and illogical, if not downright absurd. Why not Cyprus, Malta, Sicily?  At that time, there were flourishing civilisations in Egypt, Asia minor, Mesopotamia, Persia, Sogdiana and India. Persian Empire extended up to western Turkish coast with Sardis as its out post. Most Greek city states in Asia Minor were under the Persians, who could cross over the Dardanelles or the Bosporus at will or occupy Greek lands.  The first Greek victory over Persians is celebrated as Marathon race in sports.  The first victory of the West over East!  

Cretian civilisation is derived from Egyptian and Phoenician.  Both are indebted to Mesopotamian, verily the mother of all civilisations, which evolved mostly between Tigris in Euphrates in Iraq and  southeast Turkey.  The evolution in human progress took off six millennia ago.  But fourth millennia BC was remarkable, not only in Mesopotamia but in the Nile valley and the Indus Valley. From family units polity developed into villages and cities, kingdoms and empires.  The cities were ruled by a god and in his name by the king.  To begin with, the first deity was Earth, Mother Goddess. Civilisations in Mesopotamia were created by Sumerians, Babylonians, Akkadians, Assyrians and others. Nile got cylindrical seals from Mesopotamia and the beginnings of writing.  The Nile civilisation is magnificent, well preserved but unidirectional and flourished in isolation, without the stimulus of exchange.  

If one studies the Egyptian or Pharoanic civilisation, much has been contributed to it by the Nubians of Upper Egypt.  Many  Pharao’s had  thick lips and crinky hair.  Or La la, Egyptians are bad enough and now to claim that the Sudanese might have influenced the Greek and hence the Western Judo-Hellenic Christian civilisation. Yes, after the development of civilisations in Mesopotamia and the Nile valley, it filtered to eastern Mediterranean, which became a cradle of civilisations, with exchange of ideas through trade and people. That is how the island of Crete acquired civilisation. 

The achievement of a civilization may be expressed in terms of its best points—moral and ethical, aesthetic, scientific, and, not least, literary. Legal theory flourished and was sophisticated. Early on, it was expressed in several collections of legal decisions, the so-called codes, of which the best-known and the earliest is the Code of Hammurabi.  Throughout these codes recurs the concern of the ruler for the weak, the widow, and the orphan.

There are 25 firsts achieved by Sumerians.  These include wheels, the plough, the loom, the potter’s wheels, the brick, and the sail, working with metals and finally writing. Technical accomplishments were perfected in the building of amazingly accurate Ziggurats (temple towers resembling pyramids), with their huge bulk, and in irrigation, both in practical execution and in theoretical calculations.  At the beginning of the 3rd millennium BC, an artificial stone often regarded as a forerunner of concrete was in use at Uruk (160 miles south-southeast of modern Baghdad), The ultimate weapon to spread civilisations remains systematic writing.  

Judaism, mother of all revealed Abrahmic religions in West Asia is claimed to be the first monotheistic religion.  But it could have been perhaps influenced by Avestan/Zoroastrian/ pre-Vedic religions in Mesopotamia. In 14th century BC it was an Aryan Mitanni (a kingdom at the borders of Turkey and Syria) princess Gilukhepa, perhaps the well known and famous Nefertiti, who fully supported her husband Pharaoh Akhneton’s (AmonhotepIV) efforts to bring in (and perhaps inspire) monotheism, for single God Aton (Sun or Mithra like!). This concept was too sudden and undermined the vested powers of the priests.  It was dislodged and soon after Akhneton was removed from power.  New work in Egypt is moving in that direction.  It was from Egypt that Moses led the Hebrews out to lay the foundations of Judaism.  

Now let us take the story of Illiad and Odyssey. For Western culture and civilization, they are almost like Mahabharata and Ramayana are for India, making its author Homer one of the most influential authors in the widest sense. The two epics provided the basis for Greek education and culture throughout the classical age and formed the backbone of humane education down to the time of the Roman Empire and the spread of Christianity.  The Homeric epics had a profound impact on the Renaissance culture of Italy.  Since then the proliferation of translations has helped to make them the most important poems of the classical European tradition. 

Illiad was finalised probably around 750 BC and Odyssey 650 BC (Greek writing started around 650 BC).  It is felt that Odyssey, so different from Iliad was not composed by Homer, the blind bard born in Asia Minor, but probably by a young lady (a Jane Austin) somewhere on the Sicilian coast with time to spare.  Let that pass. But there certainly is historical basis for the story of abduction of Spartan King Menelus’s wife Helen by Trojan Prince Paris.  Menelus’s brother King Agamemnon of Achaeans, then decided on a voyage of punishment and retrieval. This is when strangely an artificial line, straits of Dardanelles, has been introduced by the Europeans to divide the world into East and West and the victory over Trojans is taken as of the west over East.  Why?  Later Alexander made offerings at Troy (also at Egyptian oasis Siva) before embarking on his conquest of Asia. Ottoman Sultan Fethi after conquering Constantinople, also visited Troy.   

We need not go into the details of the two epics and Troy.  But in the search to find the exact place and the time of the events, credit might be given to Heinrich Schliemann.  Inspired by Iliad’s description, he started digging at Troy site but damaged the real Troy.  He was a mythomaniac and big liar.  Paris’s father King Priam King of Troy is an hour's walk on the Asian side from the Dardanelles.  This strategic site, controlling the sea borne trade from the Mediterranean and Aegean to the Black Sea and beyond has been inhabited since fourth millennium BC. Troy 6, site of Homer’s Illiad has been dated to about 1260 BC.  

At the same time, there was the majestic and magnificent Asian Hittite Empire (1800 BC to 1200 BC) in central Turkey, whose capital Bogazkoy ‘s citadel has a circumference of five kilometres.  The Troy fortress measures 200 yards by 150 yards.  Excavations show that Troy perhaps fell as a result of weakening by an earthquake.  It was assaulted and set on fire, women and children taken as slaves.  Evidence from Hittite archives indicates that Troy was a small state in alliance or subordinate to it. It was attacked when the Hittite empire was in decline and fighting its new enemy the Assyrians in the East.  So all this 10 year long Great Trojan war drama was a storm in a tea cup in the ocean of Hittite Empire, which extended from north of Turkey to Syria and up to Babylon (Iraq.)  Hittites were contenders for the control of Syria with the Egyptian Pharaohs and local Aryan kingdom of Mitannis in Turkey and Syria.   

The regions linking the river basins of Euphrates and Tigris, Oxus and Jaxartes, Indus and Ganges have contributed more to religion, culture and civilisation than the rest of the world put together. Comprising of Turkey, Syria, Iraq, Iran, Central Asian Republics, Afghanistan and the Indian sub-continent, there has always been natural interaction in the area through travel, trade, migration and conquest for over five millennia, with many civilisations having also evolved and flourished in desert oasis.  The more civilised areas were dominated first by Indo-Europeans charioteers and then the horse riders from Asian Steppes who shaped the Eurasian history.  Aryans of India migrated from the steppes of north of the Black and Caspian Seas and Khazakhstan from 3rd to 1st millennia BC.  Later Turks and Mongols migrated from the eastern Asian steppes to the Indian sub-continent, Iran and Turkey then known as Asia Minor, where as mentioned earlier had evolved and flowered ancient Greek and Hellenic thought, culture and polity as a result of interaction of incoming Greeks with the existing Asian civilisations of Asia Minor, Mesopotamia, Egypt, Persia, and India beyond.  Turkey has more Greek sites than Greece and more Roman monuments than Italy. 

With a continuous history this area has been the cradle of most civilizations, thought, philosophy and religions; pre-Vedic to Vedic religions, Buddhism, Hinduism, Jainism, Sikhism, Avestan, Zoroasterism, Manichaeism, Judaism, Christianity with its various strands and schisms, Islam and such bye-lanes as Alevis, Alawaites, Yezidis, Druzes and many others.  Indo-Iranian, Ural- Altaic and Semitic languages have mingled with each other and local languages to produce such a mosaic of languages and tongues.  Culturally, linguistically, ethnically and spiritually there is no region in the world which is so rich and diverse but also has so much in common. 

Let us now take western (hence Greek) philosophy, which begins with Thales (who predicted 585 BC solar eclipse). Thales who established the Miletian school (near Smyrna-Izmir, Turkey) speculated that everything consisted of liquid, his disciples Anaximander said there was unity behind multiplicity and Anaximanes that everything was vapour. They are considered spiritual forefathers of Socrates, Plato and Aristotle.  By 6th century BC schools of Jain and Buddhist philosophy were well established apart from Upanishads, Yoga, Charakva and Sankhya, which have an even older tradition perhaps going back to 8th century BC.  While religion and philosophy in India are fused; Buddhism, Jainism and some other schools started as philosophy of life without creating or relying on Gods.  Socrates with his inner (intuitive) voice and trances with Plato made a team like Ramakrishna Paramhansa with Swami Vivekananda i.e. intuitive speculator and philosopher with his eloquent spokesman.  We know about Socrates only from Plato’ writings. 

The Orphic and Pythagorean and later Parmenides philosophy or cults are similar to Indian philosophy.  Perhaps the ideas had traveled via Alexandria, hub of eastern Mediterranean, then held in high regard as a place for learning and wisdom , where  Greeks and others used to congregate and learn. Ugarit port on the Syrian coast was another meeting place for traders, travelers and wise men from the west i.e. Cyprus, Crete etc and east i.e. Iraq, Persia and India beyond.  Greeks and Indians were employed in Susan, capital of the Persian Empire, which also ruled north India.  So exchange of ideas and philosophy was normal. Scylax, a Greek origin Persian subject from Asia minor was commanded by Emperor Darius to navigate river Indus from Kabul to its delta on the Arabian Sea, from whose records Herodotus and West learnt about India. 

Earlier Greek writings and thought had everything; logic, speculation, myths, mystery and beliefs.  It's a difficult to say when the divergence between East and West commenced.  And why? European rationalism and renaissance! Does it have something to do with the colder climate of Europe, which made them think more rationally and did not lend to development of intuitive powers.  We can see the divergence even in the evolution of Christianity, Western and Orthodox.  Western theology turns towards dualism making a distinction between the spirit and the matter. Eastern theology maintains that spirit and matter are the two interdependent manifestations of the same ultimate reality.  Christianity has been influenced by Mithraism (from pre-Vedic cult ), then very popular with Roman legions, senators and even Emperors who built Mithra temples all over central and east Europe and Asia Minor. Christmas is celebrated on 24 December eve, time of  Mithra’s birth ( when the Sun starts waxing ).   

The divergence between conscious intuition of the East and rational thought of the West was perhaps complete after de la Carte announced  “I think therefore I am. ‘ Of course there's no place for intuition in this.  But many western scientists have declared that only intuition had led them to the discoveries of science.  Zen masters use Kaons, apparently illogical riddles, to unlock intuitive powers. West then took as faith Darwin’s theory of evolution that mutations cause species to change at random and the fittest survives and not Lamarck’s theory that species change because they make determined effort to change.  It has played havoc with human history. Survival of the fittest theory brought in colonialism, imperialism and cultural orientalism. West also evolved divisive nationalism, Marxism, capitalism, ideological totalitarianism.  For these causes and ideologies many scores of millions were butchered in, so far the most violent of all , the 20th century.  

And now globalisation (forceful promotion of western corporate interests), under the garb of economic deregulation and integration, creating a system akin to Capitulations ie granting sovereign power to foreign interests and expatriates, roles now played by local presidents, prime ministers and others.  Capitulations undermined the mighty Ottoman empire.  Globalisation is another ruse to control wealth around the world with out any accountability. No concern of the ruler for the weak, the widow, and the orphan. It started with the mercantilism of Genoa and Venice if not Miletians, when  merchants started emerging as power brokers in Europe. 

West now believes that there is nothing superior to human rational knowledge. In Greek philosophy, the idea of unwritten laws exists - which ''live always and forever, and no man knows from where they have arisen”.  Western belief in an external moral universe, to which men owe obedience, has been changed to a rational secular alternative to this moral structure. Isaiah Berlin advice that ''solutions to the central problems existed, that one could discover them, and, with sufficient selfless effort, realize them on earth'' has been lost.  Popular religious belief in the West still remains strong, but since mid 20 century its elites have become secularized with radical autonomy and absolute freedom to do whatever one chooses - alone in the universe.  

What are a few centuries in human evolution ? Should we not change course. Does West need more stunning events like 11 September, which could be really devastating and catastrophic.  The course being followed by US neo-conservatives in Iraq and elsewhere bodes ill for all.

(K Gajendra Singh, served as Indian Ambassador to Turkey and Azerbaijan in 1992-96. Prior to that, he served as ambassador to Jordan (during the 1990-91 Gulf war), Romania and Senegal.  He is currently chairman of the Foundation for Indo-Turkic Studies