Prout: Part 3 - Progress, Utilisation and Theory

"Freedom from dogma is a sign of progress because dogma keeps the mind from expansion and fulfilment."

he Progressive Utilization Theory (PROUT), as the name implies, is a theory inspired by the idea of progressive utilization.


According to philosophy and science, every entity in this universe is moving. The movement has meaning, however, only when a direction or goal is present. Progress denotes movement toward a goal. In Prout philosophy, progress is best explained by the Sanskrit word pragati, which means well-directed motion. According to Prout, progress is a movement directed toward the goal of well-being for all. Progressive applies to such things that are conducive to universal well-being.

In common parlance, the word progress is often associated with an increase of comfort in the material sphere or with sophistication in the sphere of technology. To go by aeroplane instead of a covered wagon is termed progress. However, according to Prout's definition of progress, such advancements may or may not be termed progressive. It depends upon their contribution to all-around human welfare. Upon deeper analysis, we find that, in the material world, an advance in pleasure or comfort on the one side is always associated with some adverse effects or difficulties on the other side. Technologies that increase convenience may, on the other hand, hurt the environment. Nuclear power, automobiles, plastic, and many other scientific advances have proven themselves to be mixed blessings. 

It is due to the nature of the material world characterized by the law of cause and effect. Therefore, even the most seemingly progressive advances in science are not without negative ramifications. However, it is not to say that efforts in the physical realm are to be avoided. It is simply necessary to acknowledge that true progress cannot be achieved in the physical realm alone, as any advance is coupled with corresponding problems.

In the psychic or intellectual world, we also find that an increase in mental activity and knowledge is often accompanied by mental suffering due to a rise in mental contradictions. We observe that psychic diseases and insanity are much more prevalent among intellectuals and educated urban populations than uneducated village people. Increased intellectual development allows new mental disorders to arise, especially in an imbalanced or materialistic society. Hence, it is difficult to say that true progress can come about solely through intellectual development.

The spiritual sphere is concerned solely with linking the finite to the Infinite. Movement or progress in the spiritual sphere is not associated with an opposite movement but is purely one-directional. The goal of movement in the spiritual sphere is the resolution of contradiction. It allows mental expansion toward the state of perfect equilibrium and equipoise. When the mind is in this balanced state, one experiences true inner peace or happiness. Human beings are always seeking this state of mind. 

This state of consciousness lies beyond the realm of pain and pleasure that characterizes the mind when attached to the physical-psychic world. The endeavour to attain this blissful state is the human quest known as spirituality. Therefore, in Prout, all actions and ideas leading to this state of Oneness are considered progressive. In truth, human progress in the more profound sense is only possible in the spiritual realm. The spiritual realm is found within the subjective rather than the objective state of mind. It is experienced in the inner core of the heart. Knowingly or unknowingly, it is the source of all our inspiration and aspirations.

If we can achieve true progress only in the spiritual world, should human beings be concerned with the material and psychic world? Should we shun involvement in physical pursuits and retreat to mountain caves or secluded monasteries? Given the state of human affairs today, this could reflect an escapist mentality, having little to do with the development of spirituality.

"So while spiritual progress in our lives should be the goal, we need to attend to our physical and psychic environment and progressively adjust them to allow our forward spiritual movement." 

Human beings exist in three spheres - physical, mental, and spiritual - the sincere effort will have to be made for cultivation in all spheres. For spiritual progress, a human body and mind are needed, and to maintain them; we require a proper environment. So while spiritual progress in our lives should be the goal, we need to attend to our physical and psychic environment and progressively adjust them to allow our forward spiritual movement. 

Prout, as a theory, addresses the need to continually make progressive adjustments in our political, economic and social systems to achieve the highest cultivation of humanity's psychic and spiritual potential. While the fundamental principles of Prout are based on the perennial spiritual philosophy of life, the applications and policies of Prout must change as per the requirements of time, place and person. This built-in adaptability will safeguard against the pitfalls of dogmatism. Freedom from dogma is a sign of progress because dogma keeps the mind from expansion and fulfilment.


Utilization is the second keyword in understanding Prout. Utilization means the capacity of things to satisfy the needs of living beings and spur development in the material, mental, and spiritual spheres. Thus, satisfying human needs is the primary aim of economic activity. Here we find a fundamental difference between a Proutist system and the present-day capitalist system. In capitalism, it is well known that corporations are in business to maximize returns on investment. Without this bottom line, there would be no support from investors, shareholders or banks. The obsession with propreitarian absolutism of the Private and/or State control of resources has led to the current staticity in the world economic system.

Instead of the shareholderism of competitive capitalism for the profit of a few and/or sterile bureaucratic State control of the productive resources, Prout advocates cooperative stakeholderism in the local resource utilisation for collective well-being. The bottom line is to meet the needs and spur the all-round growth of living beings. Hence, the innate potential of different economic variables is not viewed as how they may create profit for the owners of capital but rather how they may progressively utilize them for collective well-being.

Karl Marx first analyzed the concept of commodity value and showed its dual nature -- utility value and exchange value. Then, he went to great lengths to analyze and describe the differences and relations between these two values. Finally, he concluded that the capitalistic mode of production is based on the calculation of exchange value, with utility value being secondary. 

A Proutist economy takes the opposite approach and looks first and foremost towards utility value. Prout is designed to satisfy human needs. Under Prout, it may be tenable for unprofitable industries to be established if they provide substantial long-term benefits to the people. 

In our interaction with the environment, Prout places the existential value of all entities above their utility value. We cannot continue to treat this universe with hungry eyes, looking only at the value of things to satisfy our never-ending desires. Frequently we overlook the subtle value of things, as our limited understanding still hides it. Our obsession with turning everything into commodities prevent us from detecting the beauty and harmony in the world around us. As we come to understand and correct our past limitations, this world has the potential to become a paradise for all humanity, animals and plants.


Finally, let us look at what we mean by theory. There are a great variety of theories around. These are all mental constructs, with or without practical value. Some are only intellectual extravaganzas, while some have value within a certain intellectual climate. Others seem well constructed but become a total failure when we try to implement them in hard reality. 

Prout, as a theory, is not an intellectual creation. Its perennial principles are based upon spiritual intuition. In contrast, planning and implementation details are based on the practical human problems existing in a particular place at a certain time. Thus, the development of Prout arises from establishing rationality and social justice for all and bringing human activity into harmony with our inner spiritual aspirations. 


(Edited extract from New York Writers Group publication)

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