October 18 in the frame of the Day of Spiritual Accord, at 14:00 (GMT + 6), Nur-Sultan (Kazakhstan) will host an International conference themed: "Strengthening interfaith and interethnic harmony as an answer to modern world challenges ".
EVANGELOS DENAXAS, Ambassador of Greece to Kazakhstan Some Remarks on the Notion of Culture Ladies and Gentlemen, I am very glad to address the Section 1 of the “World Forum of Spiritual Culture“, which has been placed under the high patronage of H.E. Mr. Nursultan Nazarbayev, President of the Republic of Kazakhstan, and has been arduously organised by the International Association “Peace Through Culture” under the capable chairmanship of H.E. Senator Mr. Tolegen Mukhamedzhanov. The Astana Forum is expected, through a multi-dimensional, a multi-disciplinary approach, to search and delimit solutions to the systemic crisis of modern civilisation by realising the priority of spirituality and culture, prime universal values of humanity whose importance grows more and more nowadays. I look forward to original presentations and to fruitful deliberations among the participants in this Section of the Forum which deals with the very core of spiritual culture.
At the outset of these rather fragmentary remarks, let me point out that spiritual culture is not something new, is not a concept of our times. Already in Greek antiquity, Aristotle defined in his “Politics” as the objective of “paideia”, that is education, the ethical, intellectual, and spiritual culture of the individual. He stressed in particular that “paideia” nurtures the mind and personality of the individual and moulds, forms the culture of the good citizen so as he may achieve virtual acts at free will.
Again, in the 18th century, the Age of Reason, “Le Siècle des Lumières” of France, in the language, in the ideology of the Enlightenment, which developed the ancients’ heritage, including that of the Greek classical philosophers (Socrates, Plato, Aristotle), the word “culture” progressively was used alone to signify the education of the spirit, the state of the spirit cultivated through education. Condorcet namely, in his “Esquisse d’un tableau historique des progrès de l’esprit humain” – “Sketch for a Historical Picture of the Progress of the Human Spirit”, envisaged the moral, intellectual, and spiritual improvement of humanity that would arise through better instruction.
The modern idea, notion of culture in its extended sense, spanning from the spiritual to the political, refers to ways of life and thought, be it with certain ambiguities, due primarily to social, political or other particularities. In a way, culture may be regarded as an ensemble of intellectual, spiritual, ethical-moral, artistic, and aesthetic conquests and achievements. However, over recent decades, the word “culture” has known an increased success and has grown polysemantic, supplanting, sometimes abusively, other terms used previously, such as “spirit”, “mentality”, “tradition”, or even “ideology”.
Generally speaking, every human being is essentially a being of culture taken also in its spiritual dimension, given that culture in substance stems from, is an expression of the profound soul and of the genuine spirit of man. The notion of culture does not apply but to what is human. Still, it does not refer only to the intellectual and spiritual development of the individual; it also refers to and enriches itself from a collective dimension. As a result, it offers the possibility to conceive the unity of the human kind in its diversity of life modes and beliefs.
Characteristics of culture are considered to be, mainly and among others (such as sincerity or profoundness), intellectualism and spirituality; on the other hand, what contributes to the intellectual or spiritual enrichment is definitely considered as relevant to culture.
A distinction has to be made between culture of the individual and culture of the groups, of the societies, the latter assuming clear political features. Again, a relation is to be found, to be traced between culture and identity. Their combined use results in the “cultural identity”, which bears a strong politico-social import, especially when, going beyond individuals and their groups of origin, it applies to nation-states and develops into a state affair.
In our days, we witness an on-going cultural mutation because of the globalisation in the three last decades (e.g. its impact on the so-called “cultural industries”), of the increasing multiculturalism in many a country, and of a potentially emerging “global culture”. All these should sensitise, render individuals, organised groups and societies conscious or more conscious, it depends, of the intellectual and spiritual values which are inherent in the notion of culture and are founded on science, art, philosophy, as well as on ethics and religion.
This collective consciousness can ensure the unity of humanity in its diversity and the universality of human rights. It can bring about a new, harmonious and functional, cultural adaptation, not only at the intellectual and spiritual levels, but also at the sociological, ethnological, anthropological levels and, last but surely not least, at the political level.
Such a new culture, guided by the universal, profound and authentic, intellectual and spiritual values while maintaining its diversity, the richness of humanity, would make attainable the transformation of the society, of the human community as a whole. It is well understood that the application of these universal values is susceptible to evolutions, even to transformations. In addition, these values may render in turn universal, yet neither uniform nor homogeneous, the notion of culture. This eventual, hypothetic evolution has been idealised in theory as the “culture of humanity”.
In conclusion of the above remarks, allow me, Ladies and Gentlemen, to emphasise that the neglected spirit in the past has to become the driving force in the future with a process that may be launched from Astana, Kazakhstan’s new capital. The spiritual dimension of culture is indicated to guide henceforth the individual, the nation-states, and the human community in their path to eternity. As Antoine de Saint-Exupèry, the great French novelist and essayist, put it in his own quest for spiritual fraternity of mankind, ”C’est l’esprit qui mène le monde et non l’intelligence.’’ – ‘’It is the spirit that leads the world and not the intelligence .“