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THE AIMS of this series are set out in the Argument which follows this Preface. My responsibilities as Editor are restricted to the selection of the contributors and occasionally to the suggestion of a subject. I must not be supposed to agree with any particular author's point of view, any more than one contributor can be assumed to agree with another — except on this, which gives the series its unity.
We are all agreed in believing that materialism is not enough. That is the lowest statement of our convictions. The belief in freedom, in human responsibility, in the authority of reason, in the duty of argument, in the claims of the individual, which arises from these convictions will be expressed in different ways and from different religious, philosophical and political standpoints.
For myself, I hold firmly that the great danger to civilization to-day comes from the tyranny of fear, the worship of power and from man's refusal to endure the burden of spiritual liberty. Men seek to be free from their selves, not through a passion of self-abnegation, but from a suspicion that the self is not worth while. They value security above safety, convenience above conviction; and would submerge themselves in the mass, not in a fellowship of free men seeking a fuller life, but in obedience to some dark sub-human impulse towards the domination of death.
Against that, all of us, Christians, Jews, agnostics, atheists, mystics, rationalists, orthodox, heretics, are agreed to make our protest.
R. ELLIS ROBERTS
THE two outstanding characteristics of our age are the revival of violence, of conflict, and the revival of religion. The revival of conflict is obvious enough — conflict between classes, between parties between races, between nations. The revival of religion is not so generally recognized. The reason for this is that for most Europeans and Americans — and it is their philosophers who are foremost in formulating and describing the clash of ideas — religion still means Christianity: and the religions of the new conflicting forces are at the antipodes to Christianity.
There is to-day no more important conflict than the conflict of ideas. It was possible for intelligent men in the nineteenth century to think that conduct could be divorced from belief. Indeed it was a common opinion: and it was as wrong as it was common. We see all over the world the disastrous consequences of the attempt to separate conduct from creed.
The most extreme conflict is that between those who believe in the world of freedom and those who believe in the world of fate. Between the disciples of reason and the instruments of the unconscious. Between the children of the: spirit and the servants of the machine.
The Editor of this series is a Christian; but he would not put forward the arrogant and ridiculous claim that no religion but Christianity is opposed to the worship of the mass and of a mechanical determinism, which are our peculiar foes. In the present conflict those who are not against the spirit are for it; all those who believe that. there is a world other than the sensuous, phenomenal world are on the same side. This is a series of books by those who are opposed to the forces in life which seek to destroy the dignity of the individual soul and to exalt the machine: who are opposed to the attempt to exalt violence above justice; and to the tendency to substitute persecution for argument.
The contributors will include historians, philosophers, men of science and theologians; but the chief aim of the series is to form a focus for the creative artists.
Each volume might be called "I Believe" The books, that is, will not be essays in opinion or conjecture; not experiments in speculation or desire, but adventures in faith. They will express the authors' innermost convictions. Some of the books will deal at large with the world of reality; others with certain aspects of it. Some of the authors have taken, as a starting-point and motto as it were, a clause or a phrase from the historic creeds of Christendom; others write from the standpoint of their own individual interpretation of philosophic, religious or historical subjects.
WHAT do I believe about man in his relation to the universe? Very little, and that little very doubtfully. But about man's own nature, and about his position on this planet to-day I have certain beliefs which are firm, precise and far-reaching in their consequences. Though in the last chapter of this book I shall make a few guesses about the universe, I shall in the main be concerned with matters nearer home.
“Belief" is a vague word. We may distinguish between three attitudes, which I shall call “surmise," "belief" and "conviction". The distinction is not rigid, but it is useful. In "surmise" I feel a minimum of belief, but not no belief at all. So far as possible I avoid taking action, but if action is inevitable I act as though the surmised proposition were true. In "belief", though I have not certainty, I am ready to bet very heavily on the truth of the proposition. I act unhesitatingly, or rather with no appreciable hesitation. In "conviction" I have no doubt whatever that the proposition is true. I cannot conceive its being false.
In the course of my life I have acquired a certain loose tissue of thought about man and the rest of the universe. This tissue is made up of bushels of woolly surmise, a few relatively firm threads of belief, and one or two indestructible convictions, like rare wires of steel maintaining the whole web. These indestructible convictions are intuitive. They do not present themselves to me as propositions which I might perhaps have doubted but do in fact believe; they are immediate perceptions. I find them very difficult to describe in a satisfactory manner, but as they actually present themselves to me they are indubitable.
For instance, I perceive intuitively that kindliness and mutual respect and co-operation are in some sense "good", intrinsically and universally. But what exactly I mean by saying this, I find it extremely difficult to determine. All the same, the statement does represent an intuition which I find indubitable and immensely significant for practical life.
With equal certainty I perceive that it is "good" to become, so far as possible, accurately and comprehensively aware of the world, including myself and other individuals. It is "good" to be as sensitive as possible and as intelligent as possible. It is "good" to strive to see things truly and to see things whole.
Kindliness and intelligence, or in more exalted language, love and reason, present themselves to me with a special savour in virtue of which I call them "good", and declare with absolute confidence that in general, and apart from particular qualifying circumstances, they ought to exist.
From this intuited savour of love and reason I derive one of my very few firm, but theoretically dubitable beliefs. I firmly believe that no mind which clearly apprehends love and reason as they really are can fail to perceive them as good, can fail to approve of them. To anyone who denies that he perceives them as good I reply, "Either you do not understand what these words mean, or you have never clearly apprehended love and reason in your own experience; or else, though you have indeed encountered them, something is preventing you from attending to the fact that you do actually perceive them as good, intrinsically and universally." In a later chapter I shall try to defend this position. Meanwhile I am merely giving examples of my convictions, beliefs and surmises.
Another of my few firm beliefs is one of a very different order. It is much more complex and much more questionable. None the less, in my case it is very firm, and it has very far-reaching consequences. Along with my conviction of the goodness of love and reason, it is a controlling factor in my attitude to life. I believe that I am living at a time when human society and human culture are being refashioned perhaps more radically and certainly more rapidly than ever before. Indeed I believe that, if this change fulfils its promise, all earlier ages, including our own, will come to be regarded as ages of darkness and barbarism. To-day, most of the ideas in terms of which we conceive our beliefs are dissolving. Some will be abolished altogether; others will be reshaped into almost unrecognizable forms. It is impossible to-day for anyone who retains any suppleness of mind to state his beliefs without having very soon to discover that he was in many respects deluded.
My belief in the fluidity of our culture persuades me that beliefs should be reduced to a minimum. This scepticism is connected with my intuitive conviction that reason, or intellectual integrity, is itself good. I believe that no proposition whatever should be believed which, when everything relevant has been considered, offends reason. To say this, of course, is not to say that no proposition should be believed which reason cannot prove. For reason must at bottom be a reasoning about unprovable but not unreasonable propositions, based on immediate experience. And for my part I do not believe that the only immediate experiences which reason must take into account are sense-perceptions.
Intellectual integrity, then, impels me to reduce my beliefs to a minimum. I must recognize the limitations of human thought. Some people tell me that they believe in God, a benevolent and almighty ruler of the universe. Some say they believe in personal immortality, some in Evolution as a metaphysical principle, others in Materialism and so on. In these remote spheres I cannot reach any firm belief at all. Do I believe in God? Is Materialism true? Almost as intelligibly I might ask myself, is the fundamental essence of things Sunday or is it Monday morning? I dare hazard the guess that, in a very metaphorical sense, reality is a good deal more Mondayish than Sundayish. And as to God and Materialism I might perhaps in a moment of self-confidence hazard the guess that there is something not wholly undeserving of the adjective "God-like" in or about the universe; and yet that from another point of view the universe may very well turn out to be "matterish" through and through, if matter may be interpreted in the Pickwickian manner of Dialectical Materialism. But to raise either part of this guess into the rank of belief, to take either Theism or Materialism as an article of faith, a principle for the guidance of one’s life, seems to me unwarrantable, unwise, and inconsistent with strict intellectual integrity.
For my part I believe that for right living we must cling not to the frail stuff of metaphysical surmise, however bright or however exhilaratingly bleak its pattern, but to those few steel-true threads of intuition on which the rest is woven; and also, though less confidently, to certain generalizations based on logic and science and history. Of these, one of the most secure and most important is the belief in the fluidity of contemporary institutions and culture.
Of course, though this fluidity is obvious, the direction of social and cultural change is by no means certain. Though the process of revolutionary development in our institutions and ideas has begun, it may be frustrated. For in the present condition of the human race, and therefore in contemporary culture, there are two conflicting tendencies, intricately entangled with one another in every geographical region, in every department of social and individual life, and indeed in every "ideology" or system of doctrine. The one is an impulse toward archaic values, the values of primitive man. The other is directed toward the values appropriate to a highly developed society.
The archaic values are those connected with the solidarity of the tribe against its enemies, and the triumph of the heroic individual as tribe-compeller. The developed values are those which centre round the remote but increasingly important ideal of a world-community of very diverse but mutually respecting and mutually enriching individuals. To the unwarped mind it is becoming increasingly clear that the right goal of all social policy has two aspects, which involve one another. One is the development of individuality in all human beings up to the limit of their capacity. This is no vague phrase. It stands for a concept which at a later stage I shall try to state with precision. The other aspect of the social goal is the development of culture; or, let us say, of a communal pattern of knowing, feeling and creating.
The struggle between the archaic and the developed aspirations is the great issue of our day. The forces of reaction may defeat the forces of progress. If this happens, unprecedented natural knowledge and physical power will be used to establish the archaic values. The result will be a new kind of barbarism, archaic in spirit, but equipped with aeroplanes, bombs, radio and pseudo-modern ideas. The driving force of this new barbarism will be mistrust and dread of all that is most prized in the half-born progressive culture; and hatred, therefore, of reasonableness and kindliness and the ideal of a harmoniously co-operating mankind. It is possible, though unlikely, that if the new barbarism triumphs throughout the world it may actually destroy man’s intuition that reasonableness and kindliness are good. Moreover by systematic persecution it may seriously reduce the capacity of the race for these most human and most precious activities, these powers by which man rose to mastery of this planet. Then our species will inevitably decline, and perhaps vanish. This disaster is improbable because the way of life which is signified by these little words, "reason" and "love", is the only way by which man can find lasting peace and satisfaction. Almost inevitably, then, through however much self-frustration and self-torture, the race will sooner or later attain full realization of this fact, and reorganize its institutions in accord with this most practical of all principles.
But even if the species does not destroy itself, a temporary disaster seems probable. The triumph of the archaic in a world that is by now structurally modern may well cause a long period of misery and mental darkness. We can but hope that the wide-spread access of fury, which seems to us who witness it an apocalyptic catastrophe, may after all in the view of history turn out to have been a necessary period of revitalization after a phase of lassitude.
The struggle of our age may well be regarded as a war of ideas. But the conflicting ideas are themselves the reflections of the conflicting tendencies in human circumstances. The new form of society, and the new culture, if they come into existence, will be in a sense an expression of the immense objective changes in man's conditions during the modern period. The new society and the new culture must of course be created by men's minds; but they will be products of men's minds acting in response to objective conditions, in fact to the very novel conditions brought about by physical science and the use of mechanical power. Some men, no doubt, will be in specially comfortable or specially secluded circumstances which will make them not desire but dread any great change of institutions and ideas. Again some will be blinded by obsessive devotion to the old order. Many, even though their distressful personal circumstances are all the while driving them toward the new order, may lack the sensitivity to feel which way the wind of circumstance is blowing. These will cling passionately to the order that is crushing them. But in time either the human race will be forced by the pressure of circumstances to adopt the developed attitude or it will stagnate and decline.
Of course no one, not even the most sensitive and intelligent and least hide-bound, can yet know in any detail what kind of a society and what kind of a culture will really fulfil the requirements of man's rapidly changing circumstances. No doubt many bright minds think they know. They tirelessly advocate some particular social system or cultural principle. They assure us that they have seen the truth. But for my part I cannot believe that any of the conflicting ideologies of our day is the culture toward which we are so painfully groping. Most of them, no doubt, contain some truth. Some are probably very much more true than others. Some point more or less in the right direction, are in the true line of development, are based on fertile principles; while others are relatively perverse and barren. But all alike are expressions of the present transitional state of human society and the present "half-baked" human intelligence, which is the best that such a society can produce. And so we may be sure that all, even the truest, are in one way or another fantastically mistaken. Not one of them is such as to merit that in our day a sensitive and reasonable man should adopt it literally and without qualification as a sacred article of faith in relation to which his whole life should be unswervingly directed.
It may sometimes be right for a man to behave as though he did believe the least false of these half-truths. Social loyalty may compel him to attach himself to some party or movement which seems to him to be on the whole the main defence of progress against reaction. But if he remains intelligent and sensitive he will still maintain an inner detachment from this orthodoxy. He will never forget that all contemporary ideas are necessarily inadequate to man's rapidly changing conditions. He will try to imagine the most probable direction of cultural advance. But also he will constantly remind himself that his own most cherished beliefs, which he has reached by trying to regard everything in his experience objectively, must be shot through with prejudice and error. He will try to keep his mind supple enough to alter them.
Though suppleness of mind and far-reaching agnosticism are demanded by our changing world, there remain the few very important beliefs about which We can reasonably feel sure. Our culture is indeed being revolutionized by our changing conditions, but in some fundamental respects our conditions will remain the same. And our own human nature will remain at bottom what it is to-day. Consequently the culture towards which we are striving will not be wholly different from ours. Though it will be stripped of many of our illusions and prejudices, and doubtless will have characteristic illusions and prejudices of its own, it will be based, like our culture, on certain fundamental and enduring human values.
Of these enduring values kindliness and critical intelligence, or love and reason, are by far the most important. Any culture which ignores these values, or pays merely lip-service to them, is inadequate to the facts of human experience, and must sooner or later lead to disaster.
The problem for anyone trying to form a clear view of this perplexing world is the problem of being at once thoroughly sensitive to all the, growing points of feeling and thought in his contemporary society and also thoroughly aware of all the perennial values, even of those which his society has tended to underestimate. In writing this book I shall set myself this unattainable but salutary ideal. I shall try to be at once supple and stable, at once forward-looking and backward-remembering.
But is it possible for anyone like me, whose mind was formed in the matrix of the English bourgeoisie at the height of its power, to divest himself of the prejudices of his age and class, so as to reach an objective and significant view of a new age, and of the mighty cultural revolution which is now germinating around us?
Modern psychology has emphasized the fact that our judgments may be confused by motives which are not open to introspection. Marxism, even if in some respects it is untrue, has emphasized one important manner in which a culture may be vitiated by unconscious motives, namely by the disposition of the dominant and culture-controlling class to believe ideas which are on the whole favourable to its enterprise of managing society, and to reject those which directly or indirectly seem to threaten its position. Such a class tends grossly to over-estimate its own importance, and the importance of the social order which it maintains, and of the culture on which it is nurtured. It over-estimates the value of its own peculiar manners and moral sentiments. It is on the whole incapable of recognizing that many of its most cherished opinions are at bottom sheer prejudice in favour of social stability.
In another respect also our modern European and American culture is vitiated, in this case by the circumstances not of the culture-controlling but of the culture-expressing class. Many of our intellectuals are emotionally entangled with the established order. Their education, their speech, their clothes, their whole way of life, demand the continuance of the established order. But since they are on the whole more sensitive and intelligent than the average, they cannot help being aware of the rottenness of the order which maintains them. Consequently, they are tortured by a conflict between their need to pander to a fundamentally self-complacent and blinded public and the impulse to rebel.
In some cases the impulse to rebel is successfully stifled. Intellectuals of this type plunge into specialism and stop their ears to politics. Their chief concern is then either with the skilled trade of satisfying the current demand for romanticism or elegance; or else it is with subtleties which in our day can have no meaning beyond the restricted circle of the intelligentsia themselves. Some of these subtleties are undoubtedly of real importance in the life of the mind. They are the growing points of pure intellectual and aesthetic experience. The culture of a future and happier age will revert to them with interest and enlightenment. But in our day the pursuit even of these "live" subtleties is largely vitiated by the prevailing prejudices of our society. Their devotees pursue them less in a spirit of service in the common human enterprise than from a craving for withdrawal and aristocratic fastidiousness. Consequently even the "live" subtleties tend to degenerate into insignificant minutiae.
I am not so foolish as to believe that all intellectuals are rendered sterile by capitalism. There may be some who, in the ivory tower, are even now creating treasures which only a future and more fortunate age will appreciate. Others there certainly are who have successfully surmounted their bourgeois imitations, and are playing a great part in the cultural change. But one and all are hampered. Many who are haunted by an obscure sense of the futility of contemporary society and their own lives, are yet unable to break loose from the dead hand of the past. They cannot conceive of a better society and a better culture, and so they cannot look forward with hope. Their minds are over-clouded with a vague dread of the disintegration of their world. On the other hand many who do succeed in breaking away break out into extravagance. They throw out the baby with the bathwater. Or rather they bury the legacy with the corpse. They spurn everything in the traditional culture, and praise uncritically everything which purports to belong to the new.
Bearing in mind the disabilities imposed by my class, I have to ask myself whether the very foundations of my own thought are unsound. If so, this book ought not to be written. The more so since in our day too many books are written, and too few that are worth reading.
But to be aware of a danger is to be forearmed against it. And to be aware of two opposite dangers, namely of capitalist and of anti-capitalist prejudice, is to find in each a defence against the other. Moreover I remind myself that one of the ways in which a revolutionary culture might be expected to err is in a tendency to do less than justice to the ideas of the social order which it intends to overthrow. In particular it is likely to disparage or ignore such of the perennial human values as the old culture has pharisaically praised and betrayed. Contemporary proletarian and would-be proletarian literature, though some of it is splendidly sincere and creative, reveals none the less the effects of this blindness. This exaggerated rejection of all traditional values, just because they are traditional, has, I believe, damaged the cause of the revolutionaries by repelling many moderate people who might otherwise have joined them.
All the same, even those traditional values which are perennial need to be re-expressed in concepts suited to the modern temper. In this book I shall try to sketch the kind of restatement which I myself find helpful. It will be a restatement not only of the old in the light of the new, but also of the new in the light of the old.
Faced with the chaos of the contemporary world, I ask myself whether it is possible to discover any simple, clear and fundamental principles and policies for the guidance of my own life and for the common task of rebuilding human society.
Broadly speaking two heroic kinds of policy are suggested by two very different heroic kinds of people. A third policy, or at least a third attitude of mind, is advocated by a third, less heroic party.
The first heroic party declares that the only way to reform the world is to persuade masses of people to become far more kindly and reasonable than usual, in fact to become saints. Nothing, we are told, but a change of heart, a spiritual change, can save the world. The second heroic party insists that no such widespread change of heart can be created by mere exhortation, and that we must begin by changing the structure of society. Only when conditions are favourable, they say, can minds develop sanely. To raise men to a higher degree of moral integrity without first improving their conditions would be to perform a miracle. To this the first party replies that you cannot change conditions without first creating a widespread desire to do so; and we are nearly all too selfish or cowardly to risk much even for the sake of the new world. The root of our trouble is something to do with the quality of individual minds. So long as most men remain the frail or base creatures that they are, social revolution, it is insisted, cannot produce anything but a fresh tyranny. In this view, what we need is to be shaken out of our lethargy, wakened into a more lucid and vigorous frame of mind. Appeal must be made to our noblest impulses. All else will follow. So we are told.
The two views are expressed most strikingly by two kinds of people whom I shall call the saints and the revolutionaries. I shall use the word "saint" in rather a special sense. The genuine saint, whatever his religion, and even if he claims to have no religion, feels that unless he first learns to know himself in relation to the universe or in relation to what he calls his God, and unless he thereby gains self-mastery, he can neither know what is truly desirable nor have the strength to live in service of his fellows. The genuine revolutionary, on the other hand, feels that to worry about his own soul is selfish and mean. Instead of brooding on himself as a unique individual, he seeks to understand society, its origins, its present condition, and his own true function in it. He seeks this understanding in order that he may be able to act effectively, that he may be an effective instrument of the historical forces which, he believes, are pressing toward a far-reaching social change.
Though there is much in common in the characters of the saint and the revolutionary at their best, their attitudes to human society are very different. In general, any ordinary person who feels the importance of the values to which saints are loyal is a poor revolutionary; and ordinary "good revolutionaries" are not as a rule saints in the sense that I am giving to the word. They may and ought to be "social saints", in the sense of being wholly devoted to the cause of creating a new society. But revolutionaries generally lack that "inner life" which, rightly or wrongly, the saint regards as the root of all strength and understanding.
In the modern world the saints and the revolutionaries are often opposed to one another. The saints tend to regard the revolutionaries as superficial, hasty, rather insincere, self-deceiving, doctrinaire and prone to sacrifice individuals to abstractions. Sometimes they go so far as to say that many revolutionaries are inspired rather by hate than by love. On the other hand the revolutionaries insist that the saints themselves are the insincere self-deceivers, and moreover, that they are "escapists" who weave a dream-world around themselves, like a cocoon to protect them from unpleasant reality.
I believe that the opposition between the saints and the revolutionaries is largely due to misconceptions and short-comings on both sides. It does not spring from any insoluble conflict in the central convictions of the two parties. If the mass of ordinary men and women could come to see and feel the complementariness of the saint's characteristic experience, and the revolutionary's characteristic experience, we might have more hope of solving the tragic discord which is now besetting us all, and giving to gangsters the opportunity of destroying civilization.
The saint and the revolutionary are both essentially heroic. Between them stands the not essentially heroic, but ostensibly clear-headed, sceptic, refusing to be pulled in either direction. He is resolutely determined to criticize all beliefs, all values, all policies. His effective allegiance is given wholly to intellectual integrity. With John Locke he declares that the troubles of mankind are due mainly to our habit of forming opinions on insufficient evidence. Scepticism has undoubtedly played a great part in modern thought; for good and ill. Unfortunately the sceptic's loyalty to intellect tends to distract him from all other values. Indeed one of the main causes of the distress of our age is the disintegration of morals caused by the triumph of scepticism, an emotional scepticism which sprang from a well-justified but unbalanced revulsion against superstition and humbug. Scepticism by itself is certainly not enough. It affords no inspiration for the remaking of a world. It is incapable of dealing with a situation which demands an heroic change of heart. And undoubtedly unless by one means or another we achieve a widespread and heroic change of heart (and of other things) there is no hope for us. Both saint and revolutionary agree to this; though they propose very different methods of creating it.
To-day neither saintliness alone nor revolutionary zeal alone nor scepticism alone can solve the vast and delicate problems of the modern world. But each of them contains an important truth and an important precept for action. We need now a kind of glorified common sense which can be courageous enough and clear-headed enough to grasp the good of each, while avoiding its excesses.
Historically these three temperaments and associated doctrines have come into prominence in a certain order, namely, first saintliness, then scepticism, and now revolutionary zeal. It is perhaps worth while to point out that this process has been in a manner dialectical. It has been a movement from "thesis" to "antithesis" and on to a comprehensive "synthesis". But the synthesis, I suggest, is incomplete. This is a twofold dialectic which has yet to issue in a more comprehensive synthesis.
The religious attitude, with its emphasis on faith and on morality, generated within itself its own negation in the form of scepticism, the exaltation of intellectual integrity at the expense of faith and of morality. But man cannot live by intellect alone. Nor can he live without morality. Revolutionary Marxism is in a sense a synthesis of the claims of the saints and of the sceptics. It combines both the saint's moral fervour and the sceptic's iconoclastic contempt for superstition. The synthesis, however, is not complete. The Marxian temperament has not yet, I submit, gathered into itself and transmuted all that is of perennial value in the religious temperament. Rightly it embodies and transmutes the sceptic's contempt for superstition; though possibly, as I shall later argue, it sometimes indulges in superstitions of its own. No doubt this is inevitable in any comprehensive and militant ideology. But the real charge against revolutionary Marxism is that many Marxists tend to regard as mere superstition everything which contemporary science cannot readily sanction. In this respect the thought of actual revolutionaries in our day seems to lag behind the philosophy of Marx and Engels, which is in its very essence flexible and expandable. It can easily be interpreted to accommodate much more than the orthodoxy preached by strict Marxists.
In this book I shall say what it is that I personally have learnt from saints, sceptics and revolutionaries. I shall not attempt an historical study of the three movements of feeling and thought. I shall merely trace the twofold dialectical movement of my own mind in this respect. It is a movement which for me personally, whatever its public value, culminates in a hopeful synthesis. At the end of this book I shall venture on one or two speculations about the universe as a whole and man's place in it. This I shall do, not out of idle curiosity, but in the belief that such speculation, so long as it knows itself for what it is, can have a tonic effect on the mind. Indeed I believe that in shunning all speculation we violate one side of our nature just as much as, by indulging in loose speculation, we violate another side. Speculate we inevitably shall, unless our mental eyes have been destroyed. Therefore let us speculate critically, and without indulging in any confident belief.
IN this chapter I shall consider the behaviour and beliefs of those exceptional people whom I call saints. I had better begin by saying that, though some of them are consciously religious, others are not. Indeed many who are at least potential saints are men and women who for one reason or another have been violently repelled by the insincerity of conventional religion, and have come to affect a "worldly" attitude. They cannot, however, go far in self-knowledge without recognizing that their concern is not with worldly ends but with a form of relationship between individuals, namely that of mutual respect and mutual responsibility. This relationship they strongly feel to be right and beautiful; even though they may never formulate the conviction to themselves. If they do become clearly conscious of it, and if they earnestly strive to live according to its dictates, they are true saints, whatever their doctrines.
For one of the saint's essential characters, from which many of his other characters arise, is the constant attempt to behave with friendliness toward all men. Of course many who have the reputation of saintliness are not really saints at all, but plausible sham saints. By "sham saint" I mean not one who aspires and fails to be a real saint, but one who consciously or unconsciously imitates the appearance of saintliness without seriously trying to conform to the saintly pattern of conduct.
There seem to be three kinds of sham saint: those in whom the ruling passion is not love but hate, masquerading as righteous indignation against the wicked; those in whom not hate is dominant but cold self-regard, seeking to profit by the trappings of saintliness; and those would-be-saintly self-deceivers who are incapable of attending to the fact that their conduct gives the lie to their protestations. The three classes overlap. Some people are at once vindictive, coldly self-seeking and self-deceiving.
Of true saints there are many kinds. Some are intellectually simple, some subtle. Some are frail and inconstant in their saintliness, some constant and heroic. Some remain unknown save to a few friends; some have momentous effect as moral leaders of mankind. The great saints, naturally, are very rare, and one does not come across them. But saints of less exalted order are to be found in every social class and in most occupations; though I should be surprised and interested to find one who was an armament manufacturer.
Genuine saints, I suspect, tend not to rise very far in their trades or professions. They often lack the self-regarding drive, the pushfulness, which is needed if one is to pass beyond mere efficiency to spectacular success. Not that saints are necessarily self-effacing, or necessarily mediocre in their professional attainments. Indeed some of them, when they secure work which they know to be in accord with their ideal, pursue it with outstanding vigour and brilliance. But in general saints tend to be hampered professionally both by lack of self-regard and by absorption in what they sometimes call the life of the spirit.
On the whole saints tend to choose work which affords them opportunity for direct personal service of their fellow human beings. Many of them live in a continuous rush of personal contacts. But this is a strain on them, for they are so constituted that they need a certain amount of solitude in which to digest their experience, and (as they express it) to keep in touch with the inner source of their strength.
It is difficult to say how one knows a saint when one meets him. There is something distinctive in the quality of his whole behaviour, a certain quietness and simplicity. True saints are always at once practical and contemplative. Though they are contemplative they are not necessarily thinkers. They do not as a rule contemplate by means of discursive thought, analysing and classifying in terms of well-established concepts. They contemplate rather, I believe, by attending minutely to their concrete experience, by seeking to get the true "feel" of it. In this sense they may be called scientific, since they practise accurate observation. But their interest is different from the scientist's interest. And the phenomena which they observe are not the same as those studied by the scientists. Though sometimes they do zestfully contemplate the flux of sensory objects, they have little interest in discovering physical laws. Their aim in contemplation is to get the true "feel" of being a self in relation to the universe, and particularly of being a self in a world along with other selves. This is a dangerous occupation, since it may lead men to waste their lives in the pursuit of phantoms. But though dangerous, the saint's venture is, I believe, of great importance to his fellow men. Some Marxists may smile at this view. I shall argue, however, that their philosophy is not fundamentally opposed to it.
It is important to insist that the contemplative disposition of saints does not prevent them from, being mostly very practical people. I do not mean that they are addicted to manual activities, but that they are concerned more with practice than with theory. At any rate their essential friendliness takes practical forms. And because they are earnestly and sometimes impatiently practical, their friendliness expresses itself more readily in personal contacts than in relation to groups and organizations. This is to be expected, since all saints are deeply concerned with individuality and the quality of personal relationships. They are sometimes unimaginative about institutions and about political and social movements which treat individuals merely as members of a group or class. They are apt to believe too readily that even great public wrongs can be righted merely by the effect of kindly personal contacts.
Because saints are by nature unpolitical, they are often bitterly condemned by the less understanding kind of earnest revolutionary, who cannot realize that there is a special function for saints even in times of revolution. All the same, the saints are partly to blame. They are citizens like the rest of us; and they are sometimes ineffective in relation to large-scale economic and political forces which in our day are destructive both of individual freedom and of social harmony. Certainly we should recognize that saints have their own appropriate task, and one that is no less important than that of the revolutionaries; but when the house is on fire all hands must carry buckets. The true saint will not shun this humble labour. Instead, he will turn bucket-carrying into a medium for expressing his faith. In revolutionary times the genuine saint will contrive to fulfil his special work through his practical support of the revolution. But what am I saying? Who am I that I should tell the saint what he should do?
I do not suggest that all saints who have ever chosen to withdraw from the world were necessarily sham saints. There may be periods in history when what is most needed is that some men should seek complete seclusion in order to cultivate their "spiritual sensibility," their power of regarding their whole experience at once with insight and detachment. But this course is not justified when terrible wrongs need to be righted. And I doubt whether even in a healthy society it is justified unless .here is some channel by which the illumination of the recluse may be in some measure passed on to the world.
The defenders of the monastic way of life assert that the individual's first concern should be not with the ordinary world but with the perfecting of his individual spirit, or, metaphorically, with another world, for which this world is only a preparation. Of this theory I will at the moment say only that, although it contains an important truth, it is also easily misunderstood and terribly dangerous. Paradoxically we may affirm that, though in a sense a man's first concern must be his own moral integrity, he cannot preserve this unless his attention is given mainly to service of his fellows. "He who would save his life shall lose it." Of course it is theoretically possible that the meditation and prayers of the spiritually mature recluse may in some telepathic manner strengthen the weaker brethren throughout the world; but, in default of cogent evidence, this possibility ought not to be taken as a reason for retirement from practical service.
The saint, however, has certainly a very different practical function from that of the politician. No doubt some saints may happen to have political genius, but these are rare. Most ordinary saints are quite equipped for politics. And I doubt whether even with good equipment the ordinary saint who is not exceptionally shrewd can ever be a whole-hearted and effective revolutionary. Vivid consciousness of the fundamental humanity of all men, even of the enemies of the revolution, is apt to snare him into being tolerant and conciliatory when he should be firm. On the other hand a revolution in which the saints exercise no influence is sure to degenerate sooner or later into a ruthless tyranny.
Perhaps it is not quite fair to say that the saints are likely to be too tolerant towards the enemies of the revolution. For, although saints are concerned primarily with individual relationships, and are therefore predisposed to be friendly toward all kinds of people, and often strangely tolerant toward particular individuals who sin rather through weakness than through wickedness, they are not at all tolerant of hatred and cruelty and callous self-seeking.
Sham saints, on the other hand, often indulge in a certain kind of tolerance, either through canting adulation of impartiality, or because they have no real convictions, or are morally lazy, or out of sheer stupidity. Moreover they tend to use toleration as a convenient excuse for taking no action against powerful malefactors. They reserve their righteous indignation for the sins of those who are not able to retaliate; and for those who, in our day, begin to grow restive and vengeful on account of flagrant social injustice. They wish to believe that all revolutionaries are inspired by envy and hate and the desire to produce chaos. They dare not open their eyes to the generous kind of revolutionary ardour, the burning compassion for frustrated lives, the impatience to act devotedly that others may have the chance of happiness. I would add that, even when revolutionaries do succumb to hate and the sheer lust of destruction, they are far better men than the sham saints who censure them.
The men and women whom I regard as true saints have all, I believe, a strong sense of the individuality of other people; and this in spite of the fact that they may be sometimes lacking in perception of the particular character or idiosyncrasies of others. Because of this lack, some of them are easily deceived by knaves, who trade upon their readiness to give everyone the benefit of the doubt. Perhaps I had better say, not that saints have a strong sense of the individuality of others, but that they have a strong disposition to treat others as real individuals, and to respect them, even if they appear inscrutable, or alien.
The saint shows his interest in individuals not merely by talking to them and drawing them out, but more particularly in imaginatively living their lives with them, and unostentatiously helping them. This he does spontaneously, not merely because he has an established principle of kindliness (though he has such a principle), nor yet simply through warm impulses of affection (though these also he may have), but chiefly because he is interested in the lives of others as the rest of us are interested in our own lives. Although in his own way the saint is very self-conscious, the distinction between "myself" and another self is not for him a very important distinction.
Here I must be careful. There are many consistently kind-hearted people who might well be called saints in a loose sense, but in the sense in which the word is used in this book they are not really saints. They conform more to the old idea of the "angelic" than to the saintly. Because they are unconsciously and without effort virtuous, they have never had to pass through the saint's agony of heart-searching and self-discipline. Nor have they known the desperately concentrated meditation which, seemingly, is the source of the saint's ultimate gentleness and strength. In the old mythology angels did not sin, save fallen angels. Saints, on the other hand, were sinners or potential sinners who by self-discipline and contemplation had been born again, had won for themselves a new nature. And because they knew so well what it was to sin, they were peculiarly charitable to sinners, and peculiarly gifted for helping sinners.
The account that saints give of their struggle with sin is something like this. There was a time, a saint may say, when he cared mainly for bodily or personal advancement. On the whole he lived by rote, without clear direction, or at least without any deep satisfaction in the aims that he pursued. His life was automatic, and a vague disgust haunted him. At last, suddenly or gradually, he began to be seriously troubled. He began to realize emotionally the difference between right living and wrong. Through the declarations of people whom he trusted, or the reports of famous saints or great men, but also through the quickening of his own sensibility, his perfunctory lip-service to morality was transformed into a vivid, overmastering sense of the triviality and baseness of his own style of life. The right way of living, he now discovered, was twofold. It involved unfailing practical friendliness toward his fellows, and it involved absolute submission to something "in the depth of" his own being, which apparently could increase his moral strength. He may say that the right way of living begins with "discovering God" in others and in himself.
According to the saint the vivid realization of the intrinsic beauty of right living, with its consequent sense of one's own sinfulness, is the first step toward being "born again," toward being psychologically remade on a new and better pattern. But though in this early stage the future saint sees or feels the beauty of right living and the foulness of sin, he cannot yet bring himself to live rightly. When he tries to do so, he fails to break the old habits. He cannot resist the temptation to continue pursuing the old seductive aims, which in his heart he has already rejected for the sake of better aims.
The saint's disposition to feel other people's interest as his own is not, then, an inborn or an easily acquired disposition. Unlike the "angelic" people, he attains it after a struggle to throw off the blinkers of the self-centred outlook. The struggle is generally long and severe, but little by little he develops a spontaneous and happy inclination to respect the individuality of others. Thus it comes that the true saint can be relied on never to let you down. Though in the political sphere he may sometimes seem unresponsive and unreliable, he is absolutely reliable as between man and man. To avoid hurting anyone he will sacrifice almost everything. He loathes to give hurt even in a good cause. And he loathes to deceive. For to deceive is to violate mutual trust, which to the saint is sacred. In his view the right relation between individuals is mutual awareness, mutual respect, mutual trust and mutual enrichment.
Because of their disposition to respect human individuality and the community-relationship of individuals, all true saints are strongly inclined toward pacifism. Many of them condemn the use of violence absolutely, as morally wrong, and as spiritually damaging to the individual who uses violence. These absolutists affirm that violence can never produce good effects. In its place they advocate persuasion and passive resistance, between individuals, between peoples, between social classes. This view is open to question; but one need not oneself be an absolute pacifist to feel convinced that when Marxists of the harsher kind ridicule or revile absolute pacifism, they miss the point of it. These harsh revolutionaries bring revolution into discredit. They give some excuse for the fear that if they were in power they would prove as insensitive and ruthless as their opponents.
All saints realize passionately the rightness of mutual kindliness and trust. They also see that these qualities are essential to any decent social life. They are convinced that people who do not feel pacifist, people who have not a strong and almost over-powering revulsion against the use of violence, are either mentally immature or mentally perverted. They recognize also that in most people, though this feeling does occur, it is easily submerged by hate and fear. They insist that the main way to increase the pacific feeling in the world is by the example of kindliness and trust, carried if necessary to heroic lengths in the face of danger.
All saints, and many of us who are by no means saints, heartily agree with this view. But some saints, and many of the rest of us, cannot persuade themselves that this principle alone is enough. This party take what they regard as a realistic view of human nature and of human society. The disposition toward evil, they say, is so deeply ingrained in human nature that in some situations men must be restrained by violence from doing irreparable harm to their fellows.
For my part I am with bitter regret convinced that absolute pacifism springs from an obsession with one good principle at the expense of all others. In our tortured world many individuals have been so perverted by psychologically unfavourable conditions that they are impervious to the appeal of non-violence. Or, if they are not strictly impervious, there is at any rate not the slightest prospect of touching their hearts in time to prevent them from doing frightful hurt to others. The absolute pacifist is so dazzled by the light of his passion for non-violence that he sometimes fails to recognize the limitations of its power over these unfortunate and dangerous persons. Nor does he fully recognize the consequences of the fact that some individuals of this type, individuals who have since youth hardened their hearts with inveterate habits of hate or fear or lust for power, to-day wield prodigious weapons of coercion and propaganda.
Some absolute pacifists, no doubt, do recognize this tragic fact. But they deny that it should persuade us to countenance violence, which, they insist, is so completely debasing that it is bound to do more harm than good. In the present state of the world this view involves deep pessimism; for there is no prospect that violence will be speedily eliminated. But it may be doubted whether violence can never produce good effects. Civilization, such as it is, could never have survived without it in the past; and it will almost certainly be necessary in one form or another for a long period to come.
Certainly, violence is always damaging to the individual who uses it, or countenances it. And it always breeds fear and hate and callousness. Certainly, nothing but the courageous will for peace, nothing but the spirit of friendliness and understanding, can do away with war. The tradition of pacific behaviour must somehow be firmly established. But in the present condition of the world it is also extremely important to establish and enforce a tradition of just dealing toward all, and of mercy toward the weak. And, if necessary, violence and the threat of violence, so long as the means for it are retained, must be used in support of this principle, even though its, use may also do great mental harm.
Horrible and "soul-destroying" as violence is, the principle of non-violence must not be set up as an absolute. The possession of power brings with it a responsibility. To refrain from succouring those who are being ill-treated is to support tyranny. To retain power, and yet not use it to prevent brutality, is base. You cannot be a pacifist with a gun in your hand. And in an armed State you cannot rightly be a pure pacifist unless you disown your citizenship and your share in the collective responsibility; and unless you stop paying your taxes.
But when I try to apply this force-countenancing principle to the actual plight of civilization to-day, I find myself faced with a grave practical doubt. Is there any serious hope that in the present international conflict and the underlying class conflict the threat or use of violence can restrain brigands and establish justice? Is it not by now obvious that in every land those who are in a position to use violence effectively are themselves to a greater or less degree tainted with brigandism? Are they to be trusted to use their power solely in support of justice and mercy?
There was a time, just after the war of 1914-18, when the pacifist spirit, if it had been conscientiously applied by Governments and the employing class, might have changed the whole course of history. The opportunity was missed. Subsequently the principle of armed Collective Security, if it had been conscientiously applied, might have established the authority of international law. That opportunity also was missed. Consequently the moral authority of Governments and of employing classes throughout the world was destroyed. Not only so, but the prestige of justice and mercy and freedom is everywhere declining. Brutality is increasingly triumphant, not only in politics but in men's hearts.
In these circumstances, even if we reject pacifism as an absolute principle, should We perhaps argue as follows? The rot in civilization, we may say, has gone so far that any use of violence is suspect. Almost certainly its real motive will be base. Consequently it is hopeless to expect violence to establish trust in the principle of justice and mercy. Consequently all those who care for this principle should dissociate themselves from all attempts to persuade existing authorities to use violence in defence of justice, and should instead concentrate on propagating the feeling for justice and mercy, and for integrity and freedom.
Perhaps this is the right course. But let us realize what it involves in the way of sacrifice. In the present state of the world its first effect would certainly be to increase the scope of tyranny, and to harm still further the very values that it was meant to defend. This may be necessary. It may be that only by passing through a terrible purgatory can we generate the moral strength to establish the spirit of peace. But let us not forgot that tyrant oligarchies to-day control not only unprecedented force but also unprecedented means of propaganda for the poisoning of men’s wills. The spirit of civilization is being steadily destroyed. It may be that unless the peoples can contrive to wrest power from tyrants to-day their minds to-morrow will be as servile as the minds of cattle.
For me personally, the upshot is this. My first duty is to keep the pacific spirit alive in myself and to spread it. by any means in my power. But since I am a member of a community which has not discarded the use of violence, I must not withdraw myself from all responsibility for its direction. Instead I must face the fact that, in the world as it is to-day, violence must sometimes be used; and that to abjure it is sometimes to betray the very cause that pacifists have at heart. Recognizing this, I must also do my utmost to ensure that violence is used as little as is possible without sacrificing the security and freedom and well-being of the majority.
After this long digression we can return to the saints. So far as they are concerned, it is clear that they all earnestly preach the will for peace, even though some of them sometimes countenance the use of violence.
This will for peace, this deep conviction of the rightness of kindliness and reasonableness, springs from their intense self-consciousness and other-consciousness. A true saint is thoroughly aware of himself. He knows himself. He knows the best in himself, and the worst in himself. He abhors self-deception as he abhors deceiving other people. He is free from "self-consciousness" in the colloquial sense just because in the literal sense his self-consciousness is so clear and penetrating. Just because he is confident that he sees through himself and beyond himself to something which he may call his God or his ideal, he is not worried about the kind of impression that he makes on other people. And so his behaviour is natural and "unself-conscious." There was a time, no doubt, when he was worried very much, not about appearances, but about his actual state. But having passed through his phase of self-searching and self-discipline, and having surrendered himself (as he might put it) into the keeping of his: God, he no longer troubles about himself. Not that he is self-satisfied. He is essentially modest,; aware of the gap between his attainments and his ideal. He knows his own weakness when faced with grave temptation. But by now he has almost completely conquered his evil will, and largely overcome his frailty. Such sins as he commits are sins rather of weakness than of wickedness. For this reason, though he may often blame himself, he is fundamentally at peace. His behaviour shows all the characteristics of the man who is at heart unperturbed, unanxious.
This inner calm seems to be maintained by the saint not only when he himself is in danger or distress but even when he is confronted by the suffering of others. In minds that are sensitive and compassionate, and more apt than most of us to sacrifice their own comfort, and even their lives, in service of others, this is surprising. Often the saint's behaviour betrays that there is a conflict in his mind between compassion and peace. But if he is a true saint compassion fulfils itself wholly in compassionate action, not in hate against individual malefactors, nor in indignation against the universe; and his inner peace expresses itself not in carelessness of the suffering of others but in the temper of his whole behaviour. Even in the fervour of compassion and devoted service he maintains his glad acceptance of the universe. This is odd, perhaps illogical; but by the test of action it is right. Historically this twofold temper has been a great civilizing influence.
The saint's emotional acceptance of the suffering and evil in the universe is of course connected with his discovery that in his own life suffering has been the means to the attainment of mental or (as he would say) spiritual maturity. So deeply impressed is he with this fact about his own life that he cannot but feel it as a universal truth. Indeed he clings to the faith that in the universe as a whole all suffering and all evil contribute to the development of mind, or the awakening of spirit.
In the long run, the longest of all possible runs, this intuitive conviction may be justified. But as an intellectual statement about the universe, as a metaphysical proposition, it is in our epoch without adequate support. The valuable core of the saint's conviction is his own experience about suffering, not the generalization that he derives from it. Suffering certainly can in some circumstances be a means of spiritual growth; but to infer that a universe in which suffering plays a large part is therefore planned for spiritual growth is illogical.
The saint's unshakable peace expresses itself all too readily in optimistic doctrines about the nature of the universe. But the fact that many of these doctrines are conceived in terms of an outworn mythology, that some are to-day quite incredible to the typical modern mind, and that all are at least doubtful, should not make us forget that in the true saint these metaphysical "rationalizations" spring from a special and I believe a very important emotional experience, an emotional acceptance of life with all its distress and horror, an acceptance which may rise to ecstatic joy, and is reported by the saint himself to be his great source of moral strength.
That this should be so must seem to some incredible. For how can the mood which accepts evil be a source of strength to the moral will which is absolutely opposed to evil? I shall not yet discuss this problem. Perhaps it is intellectually insoluble in terms of our present culture. Perhaps it is wrongly stated, and there is really no problem at all. Here I wish merely to emphasize that in practice these two emotional activities are often found to support one another. And I implore the Marxist reader, if he has not already thrown this book away in disgust, to entertain the possibility that this strange peace and joy in relation to the universe may after all have an important part to play in the founding of the new world society, and in maintaining it in a wholesome condition.
In describing his experience the saint may say that he came to be aware of "spiritual" values. What does he mean essentially by this word "spiritual", which in our day has become so lamentably debased? We must beware of condemning him merely because some of his favourite words now "date" so badly. He contrasts the "spiritual" life with the "worldly" life, which is centred wholly on, and enslaved to, everyday mundane interests. The spiritual life, he claims, is fundamentally detached from everyday interests. This does not mean that it is opposed to those interests, but that it is not obsessed by them. Nor does it mean that to live the spiritual life is to withdraw from the world. On the contrary it involves generally that one should playa vigorous part in the world; but always without enslavement, and always, so to speak, with an ear for an ulterior significance in every event. For the spiritual life, we are told, is based on deeper insight into one's own nature, the nature of others, and the nature of the universe. This insight, it is claimed, is not an intellectual understanding; it is a direct perception. So we are told. Round about this experience the saint may weave special doctrines, such as that the individual is an "eternal spirit", or that "reality is spiritual", or that "God" is love, and so on. These are intellectual interpretations, couched in language which, as he himself recognizes, is inadequate.
Modern psychology can give a very plausible account of the saint's fundamental experience in terms of established psychological principles. It is said to be at bottom a sense of ecstatic personal' well-being or euphoria, unwittingly "projected" upon the external world. Its cause may either purely physiological and "all an affair of glands", or it may be psycho-analytical and a case of morbid self-magnification, or again it may be due (we are told) to the mind's wistful creation of fantasies to appease its craving for safety.
Along with the psychologist, the philosopher may throw doubt upon the saint's contentions. .Philosophical analysis can easily make the intellectual interpretations offered by the saints appear incredible or even meaningless. The statement that a way of living is objectively "right" or "beautiful" can easily be made to look intellectually disreputable; for no logically satisfactory meaning can be given to it. Even more easily one can show the intellectual meaninglessness of the saint's contention that by concentrating on something "in the depths of our own being" we can make contact with "God". But such philosophical analysis, though it is valuable, and though it convicts the saint of a failure to express himself satisfactorily, does not disprove the worth for human beings of the experience which he is trying to describe. It proves merely that his intellectual interpretation of his experience is faulty.
We cannot blame him for this. Human language and ideas have developed under the stimulus of practical economic needs. They are ill-adapted to express experience of a very different order.
But what of the psychological criticism of the actual emotional experience on which the intellectual constructions are based? I can well believe that very much of what passes for "religious experience" should be dismissed in the manner suggested by the psychologists. But we must distinguish between experience in which one factor in the personality morbidly blots out all other capacities and, on the other hand, experience which is an expression of the fully integrated personality, in fact between sane and insane experience. Consideration of the lives of the best type of saints suggests that in them integration is not less but more complete than in most men, and that the main integrating factor is this very experience. Further, anyone who in his own life has known anything at all like the experience described by the saints cannot but recognize that it occurs only at times when he is more than normally integrated, when he is more comprehensively and more lucidly aware than usual. Moreover, he will observe that it, in turn, becomes the supreme integrating experience of his life. Thus both objectively and subjectively the genuine religious feeling, far from being a symptom of insanity, is rather an expression of abnormal sanity. For my part I am prepared to say, if psychology denies this, so much the worse for psychology. If I must choose between this infant science and this most integrating, most lucid, and most energizing experience, I must reject psychology, or at least demand that it should be modified.
What of the methods by which saints have at one time or another disciplined themselves so as to attain the spiritual point of view'? Ritual, self-denial, mortification of the flesh, "good works" (including practical undertakings both of kindliness and of piety), self-scrutiny, and contemplation of experience as a whole, are all regarded as means of purifying and strengthening the spirit. The saint himself admits that each of these methods has its special dangers. Anyone of them or all of them may become obsessive, may cease to be a means, and instead become an end, distracting the mind from the true end. The most striking and the most important part of the testimony of the saints, both great and humble, is the claim that in the struggle for self-mastery they have little success so long as they depend only on efforts of the unaided individual will. So long as the saint's attitude is simply "I will not succumb" to these temptations, he fails. Victory, we are told, is to be gained rather by surrender of the will to the control of that "something" which is felt to reside deep within the self, and yet to be infinitely greater than the individual self. Contemplation of this "something" is at once the most effective means and the supreme goal of the saint's whole adventure.
The saints insist that it is by learning to direct attention toward this inner "something", which is at first unobservable, that they begin to win mastery over the unruly impulses. It is by concentrating attention on this thing, by persistently contemplating it, or rather by passively laying themselves open to its influence, that they become in time possessed by it. Then at last the battle is won. Henceforth they have a constant light and a constant source of strength.
What is this "something" discovered in the depth of the saint's own being, and also in the world?
To this question the saints give answers which to those whose ideas are mainly derived from modern science are very unconvincing. What they believe themselves to discover is "God", or the "universal spirit". And God they conceive, if they are Christians, as in some sense an eternal but personal or "supra-personal" mind; and as the divine principle of love, which they affirm is the governing principle of the universe. They declare that the individual spirit finds union with this universal spirit, or (according to Indian saints) that it advances toward annihilation, as an individual, and absorption in the universal. They claim, too, that this discovery of God gives a man assurance that he is not ephemeral but eternal.
If the effects of the experience called "discovering God" are what the saints say they are, we had better not simply reject it out of hand as sheer delusion. And it certainly does seem to have remarkable effects in the saint's life. Nevertheless it does not follow that his description of it, and the inferences that he draws from it, are necessarily true. Some of his statements, no doubt, may have important symbolical or metaphorical truth which cannot be otherwise expressed. But to those who have not first-hand acquaintance with the saint's experience the symbolization of it is misleading. For instance, logically I cannot conceive of a personal spirit that is also "eternal", or "outside time", for passage seems essential to personality. I cannot logically conceive how the finite individual can discover in his own depth that the universe is governed according to the principle of love. I cannot conceive how in his fleeting experience he can find valid evidence about the state of the universe as a whole, or. assurance of his own immortality.
One possible consequence of the belief in personal immortality seems to me extremely obnoxious. I shall call it the attitude of "other-worldliness". Or, since that name may signify to some a very different and wholly admirable attitude, I had better call the reprehensible attitude "self-regarding other-worldliness." According to some religious people this life is of no importance save in its bearing upon individual life "in the other world". Worldly joy is simply a snare, and worldly pain a heaven-sent means to salvation in the other world. I reject this doctrine not because I can refute it, which I cannot do, but because I find no reason to believe it; and also because, quite irrationally perhaps, I feel that to dismiss all the intricacy and delicacy, all the splendour and horror, the delight and agony and infinite tedium of this world as mere probationary exercises is a. kind of sacrilege.
Nevertheless "other-worldliness", in the metaphorical sense, is a very desirable attitude of mind. Though the first task for all of us is to play an effective and right part in "this world", we cannot properly do so unless we strive to hold this world at arm's length, so to speak, and to see it and ourselves, as it were, "through the eyes of God", in detachment from all special human desires. In some moods one cannot help feeling, irrationally but not perhaps unreasonably, that in seeing the world and ourselves in this detached way we do, in some sense and to a minute extent, participate in the universal spirit. But this is an unreliable speculation on which no faith should be built.
Leaving aside this speculation, what are we to conclude about the doctrines of the saints? The difficulties in them incline one to dismiss the whole matter as sheer verbiage. But for my part, when I remember the anti-religious people and their glib arguments, I realize that these obscure phrases of the saints do refer, however misleadingly, to something which I myself in a halting way have known.
For sometimes, when I am more than usually awake, I do have a deeply moving experience. There is nothing mysterious, or in any way magical, about it. It is just ordinary experience of the world and oneself, only much more lucid and comprehensive. I cannot but regard it as the rightful compass-needle of my whole life. It may happen unexpectedly, in response to some particular and even insignificant event, which now suddenly opens up vistas of significance; or it may come when I try persistently to "get the feel of" being a self in relation to other selves and the rest of the universe. In either case it brings an unusually precise and poignant awareness both of my present surroundings and of things remote in space and in time. It seems to be simply a very comprehensive act of attention, an attending to everything at once, or to the wholeness of everything at once. And in response to all that this act of attention reveals I feel a very special emotion, which I can describe only as a tension of fervour and peace.
The experience is one which, if I were less sceptical, I might easily regard as some sort of contact with "God". But being sceptical I refrain from this interpretation. There may be a sense in which the old religious language is true, but in our day it is far less true than misleading. I am content, therefore, with the bald statement that in contemplation I sometimes have an intense exaltation about being a self in relation to other selves and the world at large. I am immensely. thankful that I and we and it exist. In spite of all the frustration and horror of the human world, I am at these times perfectly sure that all our suffering and all our baseness is somehow needed, not for our personal salvation, for of this I know nothing, but for the rightness of the universe as a whole. Though of course I know only a minute fraction of the universe, and though doubtless my knowledge of this is in many ways wildly false, yet in this state of peaceful exaltation I perceive that even in my superficial and false view there is somehow assurance of the rightness of the whole. I have at the same time a strong conviction that if I, the particular little finite timorous mind, could see the whole as it really is, I should not, after all, be able to recognize its rightness, but should probably be overwhelmed with horror, so alien would it be even to the most clear-sighted of my actual desires. Nevertheless, because of the tenor of my own immature experience, I am sure that the whole is right, with its own dread rightness. In saying this I mean that if I could both see the whole as it really is and also steel myself to feel it with appropriate courage and sensitivity, I should then recognize its rightness.
But what about this "something discovered in, the depth of one's own being"? This I interpret as a metaphorical way of saying that in persistent contemplation of myself and the world I discover, beneath all the personal desires which make up the everyday "I", another desire or will, so alien from the everyday "I" as to seem indeed another being. It is a detached will for the good, not for my good nor even for mankind’s good, but for the good of the universe, whatever that may turn out to involve. I recognize that this will ought to be the supreme determinant of my conduct, and in a fickle sort of way I strive to submit my normal self to it. I recognize also that in some sense this will is a potentiality of all minds. Inevitably the awakening of a mind must lead it to this desire, this will. Evidently, then, this will is a very important factor in the universe. But what its metaphysical status is, I do not pretend to know.
To say all this is to suggest merely my own reaction to an experience which I cannot at all clearly grasp, let alone describe. All that I can say of it is that it gives meaning to life, that it is the supreme consolation, the supreme inspiration, and yet also, strangely, a most urgent spur to action.
I NOW turn to the sceptics. By "sceptics" I mean those who, because their main concern is, intellectual integrity, reject all theories that offend their extremely fastidious intellectual conscience. For this reason they refuse to accept the teaching, either of saints or of revolutionaries.
It is important to emphasize that the true sceptic is dominated by loyalty to the distinctively human capacity for critical intelligence, just as the saint is dominated by loyalty to the other distinctively human capacity, namely mutual awareness and kindliness. Reason and love may be fancifully described as the two wings of the human spirit. Flight is not possible with one wing alone. With love and no reason the saint becomes amiably ineffective and superstitious. With reason and no love the sceptic becomes a clever cynic. The perfect man would be a sceptical saint. And in our day he would be also a revolutionary.
I am by nature specially sympathetic toward scepticism. For that reason I feel bound to be critical of it. The sceptical attitude is of great value, but, like all other principles, scepticism is capable of becoming a fetish and of doing great harm.
The true sceptic's chief loyalty is to honest reasoning. What he most detests is deception, particularly self-deception. His scepticism begins with an emotional reaction against cant and humbug. He is also opposed emotionally to emotion itself. He has heard so much about the value of fine emotions and about the aridity of the purely intellectual attitude, and he has encountered so much self-deceiving sentimentality, that he has been driven to conceive an ideal of completely unemotional, dispassionate, detached behaviour. He is inclined to forget that admiration even of this ideal is emotional.
Just as there are true and false saints, so there are true and false sceptics. The true sceptic is one whose ruling motive really is intellectual honesty, who refuses at all costs to believe or pretend to believe theories that cannot withstand intellectual criticism. He is determined not to allow emotion to interfere with his reasoning, and is thus driven to doubt nearly all the theories that other men believe.
The false sceptic is the cynic. He is not at heart concerned with intellectual honesty but with setting up an intellectual smoke-screen between himself and duty. In rebellion against pretentious "faith", he conceives a morbid passion to put the worst possible interpretation on man and the universe. He is not concerned with the ideal of the dispassionate life. He cares only for the irresponsible life. Consciously or unconsciously he seeks only an excuse for detachment from all desires except selfish desires. It is with glee, frank or veiled or unwitting, that he denies the validity of moral obligation. The true sceptic also denies the validity of moral obligation, but the motive of his denial is intellectual honesty, even if, as I believe, it is misguided intellectual honesty. It is not sheer moral laziness or cowardice. Many true sceptics, though they profess to disbelieve in the objectivity of good and evil, would gladly believe, if intellectual honesty did not seem to forbid it. Often the actual behaviour of true sceptics is more moral than the average. Sometimes their devotion to the ideals of the intellectual conscience is heroic. Yet when they perform what appear to be acts of moral self-sacrifice they assure us that they do so merely because they are socially conditioned to behave in such a manner, or because of ingrained habits of group-feeling.
The generous sceptic's loyalty to reason helps to produce in him a strong loyalty to reasonableness. His guiding principle in intercourse with others is that he must try to understand the other's motives and appeal to them reasonably. He tends to believe in persuasion rather than force, and in rational persuasion rather than in appeal to emotion. In this respect he comes in line with the saints; and partly, I believe, through the same motive as theirs, though in him it is not a clearly recognized motive. At heart and more or less unwittingly this kind of sceptic is faithful to the ideal of genuine community, based on the mutual respect and co-operation of reasonable beings.
Even the most rigorous sceptic is sceptical primarily because of an emotional bias, namely toward intellectual honesty. Because he is a sceptic about ethics, he himself, of course, declares that his emotional bias in favour of intellectual honesty is just a subjective feeling in his own mind, that intellectual honesty is not in any strict sense intrinsically good. But he does behave as though he believed it to be intrinsically good.
Sometimes the emotional root of scepticism is simply a cold and phlegmatic disposition. Sometimes it is a sensitive emotional nature which must be protected by means of a cloak of detachment. But sometimes scepticism is an expression of the personality as a whole in response to the widespread superstitions of mankind. Whatever its emotional root, its conscious expression, in the true sceptic, is a passionate moral loyalty to intellectual integrity.
The sceptic is suspicious of all emotion. He rebels both against his own emotion and against emotion in others. He is constantly offended by self-deceivers and canting hypocrites. Particularly he objects to the sham saint; and in his view all saints are in a sense sham saints, since he regards even the most sincere of them as self-deceivers. His scepticism is largely a rejection of the vague and doubtful dogmas of religion, and a protest against what, in his view, is the gigantic humbug perpetrated by the churches.
Starting with his initial bias in favour of intellectual honesty, he soon comes to the conclusion that the intellectual side of religion is a pretentious sham. Its arguments are specious, its theories often unintelligible. If the sceptic is strictly true to his own lights, he does not positively deny all religious doctrines. He does not profess atheism. For the positive denial of theological theories seems to him as unsound intellectually as the affirmation of them. They simply lie beyond the range of intellect. The legitimate scope of intellectual enquiry, he says, is much more restricted than is generally supposed. Moreover, at every turn it is liable to be frustrated not only by logical obtuseness but by irrelevant and often unwitting emotion. In subtle manners our wishes falsify our thinking. For instance we crave the right to praise and blame, and so we believe that good and evil are not mere matters of whim. We crave comfort and security, and so we persuade ourselves that some power in the universe will cherish us.
Two kinds of reasons are given by religious people for this belief in a benevolent universal power. First, evidence derived from our experience of the external world is put forward to suggest that a benevolent power is in fact at work in it. To the sceptic this evidence seems to be all of the type of the old belief that God made the winds to fill the sails of our ships. The sceptic is not impressed. This kind of argument puts the cart before the horse. Sails were adapted to winds, not vice versa; and man laboriously adapts himself to the universe.
One form of this argument deserves more careful consideration. It begins with the assertion that human beings inevitably frustrate their own nature whenever they fall short of love and reason. This I believe to be in an important sense true. The next step is to point out that inevitably the human race as a whole must either progress toward love and reason or frustrate its own nature. This also I believe to be true. The argument then claims that this must necessarily apply to all beings and races which have reached the human degree of intelligence and self-consciousness. This also is in my view true. But it is surely illogical to infer that, if all this is so, there must be a power making for love and reason throughout the universe, and that this power is God, who intends us to behave in accordance with the principle of love and reason. Presumably the point of the argument lies in the conviction that anything so striking as love and reason must be a product of divine intention. But though it seems on the whole likely that in some sense love and reason are important factors in the universe, but it gives scarcely any support to the belief that they were ordained by a purposeful God.
The second kind of reason for the belief in a universal benevolent power is the saint's own intuitive conviction that there is indeed a God and he is loving. To this the sceptic replies that no mere feeling on the part of an individual can logically afford information about the universe as a whole. The loftiest of feelings, he says, is an event in an individual mind. Logically there is no necessity that the conviction generated by this feeling should be true of anything beyond the feeling itself. It is perhaps conceivable that the mystic has some kind of immediate acquaintance with the universe as a whole and its essential rightness, or with a benevolent universal spirit. But if so the mystic's mind must be of a radically different type from ordinary minds. This seems to the sceptic highly improbable, if not actually meaningless. Anyhow the mystic's experience, whatever it is, cannot be communicated to others, who do not themselves have such experience. Therefore it is of no public value whatever.
Against this reduction of religious experience to mere "feeling" some reply by turning the sceptic's argument against himself. His loyalty to truth, and even his intuitive sense of "true" and "false", are after all mere "feelings", and therefore they have no objective validity.
To this the sceptic may answer that there is just one thing which, in principle, cannot be undermined by reasoning, namely, reason itself; since, if the argument against reason is true, it must itself be condemned as worthless, because it is a case of reasoning. But, the sceptic may add, if reason is, after all, valid, the argument against religious experience must be dealt with on its own merits.
The sceptic insists that if people had a clearer idea of the scope and limitations of intellect, they would not be so ready to accept metaphysical beliefs. The true function of intellect, he says, is not to probe behind the world of ordinary experience, not to deduce metaphysical reality, but to clarify ordinary experience. It detects likenesses and differences within the flux of ordinary experience. In its scientific mode it formulates handy descriptions of the ways in which events observably happen and may be expected to happen. But it can discover no necessity in virtue of which they must do so. Nor can it logically deduce from ordinary experience a hidden reality of an essentially different kind from experienced reality. From the study of the world of perceived and fleeting events, whether physical events or mental events "in our own minds", it is logically impossible, according to the sceptic, to deduce any truth whatever about the universe as a whole, or about "the eternal reality". Therefore in his view the theories of the churches are completely without foundation.
Evidence of a purely scientific kind might, of course, make it seem probable that some benevolent power was interfering with the natural course of events in man's interest. The sceptic sees no evidence that this is so, but it is not logically impossible. What he regards as impossible is to deduce rationally any truths about the whole of reality. Again, evidence of a purely scientific kind might suggest that, as a matter of fact, individual human minds survive death, and succeed in communicating with us intelligently. The sceptic does not deny this possibility. On the other hand such evidence as there is in favour of it does not impress him. However, if he is true to his fundamental principles, he is very ready to examine the evidence scientifically. What he denies is that we can deduce the immortality, the eternal persistence, of individual spirits from anything whatever in the nature of an ordinary fleeting experience.
Thus far I agree with the sceptic, at any rate to a very large extent. The qualification is necessary because I feel that his scepticism is a little too dogmatic and sweeping. In fact he is not quite sceptical enough about his own sceptical theories. So far as I can see, there is indeed at present very little possibility of deducing necessary truths about the whole universe from ordinary individual fleeting experience; but how does the sceptic know that this sceptical doctrine itself is a universal and necessary truth about every possible kind of experience? So many doctrines that have been confidently asserted to be absolute truths have turned out to be too sweepingly stated, or even wholly false. I content myself therefore with saying that, in the present state of human experience, and with our present technique of reasoning, most statements about the essential or eternal nature of reality must be regarded as extremely doubtful. Those few that can be made with any confidence are in the main negative. Thus it is pretty clear that reality is not simply one unanalysable and featureless "absolute", or that all particular things are unreal. On the other hand, it is equally clear that reality is not a number of self-complete things, with no internal connections with one another. Reality is both one and many. But how far it is one and how far it is many we cannot yet determine.
One important criticism of the sceptic's general principle must be suggested. He assumes at the outset that a particular mental state is in fact something wholly distinct from other things in the universe, and from the universe as a whole. It is not clear to me that this assumption is justified. I am not convinced that it does not beg the whole question. Some mental states, such as sense-perceptions, certainly do seem to contain within themselves, or to apprehend directly, something other than themselves; and some, we are told by the mystics, seem to apprehend something of the whole's essential nature. Perhaps this is an illusion; but I do not see that the sceptics do anything to prove that it is so. They merely assume at the outset of their argument that a mental state or mental event must be a compact little bit of mental stuff, confined, so to speak, within its own skin. They do not entertain the possibility of its being a relation between something apprehending and something apprehended, and that the apprehended thing may sometimes be an aspect of the universe as a whole.
On the other hand, I am convinced that the sceptics are justified in pointing out that most metaphysical and theological theories are either meaningless or extremely doubtful.
So much for the sceptic's general position. I now turn to one particular sphere in which, I am convinced, he has allowed his scepticism to blind him to certain facts of experience. It so happens that this sphere is the most important of all for the practical life of mankind. Not only does he deny metaphysics and theology; he also denies morality. In his view the statement that anything is absolutely or objectively good is meaningless. The sceptic admits, of course, that we do have moral feelings, feelings of approval and disapproval. He denies that these feelings afford any justification for saying, "I ought to do so and so whether I like it or not"; unless the sense be merely, "I have a purely subjective feeling of approval of my doing so and so."
He explains these moral feelings in terms of ordinary psychology and sociology. They result partly, he may say, from the child's dependence on the law-making parent, partly from the individual's relation to the group. The root of morality lies partly in the family relationship, partly in gregariousness. The will to conform and enforce conformity has survival value. Hence arises the disposition to accept and to feel awe about the customs of the tribe, or of some dominating section of the tribe.
There can be no doubt that these principles form a very effective key to the understanding of the evolution of particular moral ideas. But they do not afford adequate grounds for denying the objective basis of morality. Any theory which simply explains morality away in terms of subjective mental states over-reaches itself, reduces itself to absurdity. There is something in moral experience which is far more cogent than any theory. Of course We may make mistakes about particular moral situations. We may misconceive the facts. Or we may be in some particular respect morally insensitive. But on occasions when a man is faced with a clear moral choice which comes, so to speak, within his particular moral compass, he perceives without the slightest possibility of doubt that the duty which confronts him derives its power from something beyond his own subjective feeling, beyond his craving for safety in another world or prestige in this world, and beyond his desire to conform to socially approved custom. In some sense, very difficult to describe, the rightness of the right course is logically prior both to personal feeling and to tribal custom. When one is confronted with a fellow mortal in grave distress, it is perfectly obvious that to refrain from helping him is to violate something more fundamental, and in the fullest sense more sacred, than self-esteem or than social convention. This is an obtrusive and inescapable experience which certainly needs to be related to scientific culture, but is no more to be denied than sense- perception of physical objects is to be denied. One might as well deny the reality of a charging bull perceived in broad daylight. The analogy with physical objects is helpful. No doubt physical objects are philosophically very different from what they seem to common sense; but simply to reduce them to feelings in one's own mind is to adopt a philosophy which, even if it is logically unassailable, no man can believe. Similarly with morality. "Good" and "bad", doubtless, are not the simple objective characters that they appear to common sense; but to reduce them to mere feelings in one's own mind is to adopt a theory which cannot be consistently practised. When it is sporadically practised it reduces the individual to self-loathing, and society to confusion.
This is not the occasion to try to work out a logically satisfactory ethical theory, but I must at least suggest what I regard as the right starting point and direction of such an enterprise. The root of the sceptic's error, as I have already said, lies in the illegitimate use of the immensely valuable method of analysis. A feeling, and in particular a moral feeling, is not a self-complete "mental event", confined within its own skin. A feeling is an abstraction from a concrete situation consisting of a conscious being in an environment. Far from explaining away morality in terms of feeling, we should describe feeling in terms of morality! It is more true to say that a pleasant feeling is our feeling in relation to something good than to say that a moral experience is merely a subjective mental state.
By saying that anything is "good" we mean essentially to say something about the thing itself, not about any mind that judges it. But what we mean, so far as I can see, is essentially this. The thing or event in question is such that any mind capable of apprehending it as it really is, and without distraction or perversion by irrelevant, influences, cannot but approve of it, because of what it is and because of what a mind is. And by "approve of" we mean "recognize that it ought to be". But again, by "ought to be" We mean simply that any mind apprehending it truly, and without being perverted by irrelevant influences, cannot but desire that it should be. In really clear moral experience this is how we feel. We may be mistaken about the facts of the situation that we are judging; but if it is as it appears to us, then any mind that apprehends it truly, and is sufficiently developed to appreciate it, and is not perverted by irrelevant influences, would approve of the action which We call "the right action". The meanings of "good", "right", "approve", and "ought" involve each other, and cannot be defined save by reference to something given in moral experience and, I believe, in all feeling and desire.
I believe that there is one kind of thing, or rather one kind of event, which can truly be called good in the universal sense mentioned above. Conscious beings, when they are not distracted by irrelevant influences, cannot but approve of the free activity of conscious beings. They cannot but disapprove of its frustration. These statements obviously need qualification. In saying that all free activity is good we do not, of course, deny that a particular instance of free activity may have evil consequences which outweigh its own intrinsic goodness. Further, men may contract evil habits, such as deliberate cruelty or deceit or self-indulgence. In these cases, though the action is good in so far as it is a free expression of the individual's extant nature, it is also harmful both to others and to himself. It is an expression of a nature that has been perverted, since one insistent factor in it needs for its expression a kind of action which is dangerous to the rest of it and to other individuals. Another qualification is needed. Naturally I cannot approve of a particular activity if it happens to be of a type that I am too obtuse to apprehend. Again, even if it is within the compass of my sensibility, I may be prevented from consciously recognizing that I do approve of it, that I do apprehend it as good. Circumstances in my past life may have generated in me an obsession in favour of one particular kind of good, to such an extent that I am now incapable of admitting the goodness of anything which conflicts with my favoured kind of good.
The sceptic, of course, objects that, if some moral intuitions can be "perverted", we have no right to trust any, no matter how widely they are accepted. It is true, indeed, that in principle every moral intuition is open to doubt, just as in principle every percept may be illusory. But we do not doubt a percept unless it conflicts with the general system of our percepts; and similarly we need not doubt a moral intuition unless we have some positive reason for doing so. And just as in every percept, even in every hallucination, there is something objective to the perceiving, so in every moral intuition there is something objectively good, in the sense defined above. The error arises through a failure (either from ignorance or perversion) to relate this particular good to other relevant goods and evils.
The activities and capacities of conscious beings may be said to vary in three respects. First, one act, or rather one capacity or need to act, may be more insistent than another, may be less easily restrained. The impulse to cough may be more insistent than the need to listen quietly to a lecture. Second, one act may promise more beneficial effects than another to the individual himself or to others. That is, it may facilitate more activity in the long run. A surgical operation may promise more free activity in the long run than a course of drugs. Third, one act may be intrinsically more subtle, more developed, or mentally more lucid, or more deeply fulfilling than another. Creating a work of art or a scientific theory or a social institution may be a more developed, a more complex, subtle, objectively correlated and mentally lucid activity than enjoying a drink. The words "subtle", "developed", "lucid", "fulfilling" signify different aspects of one and the same fundamental character in respect of which the acts of conscious beings vary. In the final analysis this one character, which is perhaps best called fulfilment of capacity, is essentially what we recognize as "good" in the universal sense described above.
In comparing two acts in respect of this character we use one or other or both of two methods. Either we intuitively perceive one act to be better than the other; or we intellectually judge one act to belong to a class of acts which on other occasions we have intuitively perceived to be better than acts of the other type.
To choose morally, then, is to choose that act which is believed either to constitute or to afford in the future the greatest possible fulfilment of capacity of conscious beings. But we must distinguish between the extent or depth of fulfilment afforded by an act and on the other hand the act's mere insistence or urgency. There are, of course times when the most insistent activity affords the deepest fulfilment, as when, in great hunger, the need to eat becomes obsessive and crippling, or when sexual starvation warps the mind. But there are occasions when the more insistent activity ought to be restrained for the sake of an activity which, though less insistent, is intuitively recognized as more deeply fulfilling, more expressive of capacity. For instance one may recognize that eating ought to be postponed in order to rescue a friend. Self-regarding activity is nearly always more insistent than genuine altruistic activity; yet it may be less deeply fulfilling even to the agent himself. It exercises greater powers of imagination and integrated will.
In general the better or more fulfilling or more awakened act is that which involves the more accurate and comprehensive awareness of oneself and of the world, and the more appropriate feeling and striving in relation to the world thus apprehended. This appropriateness must of course take into account the whole of one's experienced world. Nothing relevant should be neglected in determining one's action.
I said that feeling and striving must be "appropriate" to the world apprehended. If one of two possible events constitutes in fact a deeper fulfilment than the other, the appropriate feeling in relation to it is preference, and the appropriate action is to strive for it. But often, owing to ignorance or perversion or both, we prefer the lesser good. Some particular distorting influence in our experience may have generated in us an obsessive craving for the one kind of good, so that we are blinded to the other. Or we may even prefer an intrinsic evil, such as vindictive destruction, to an intrinsic good, because this particular evil has been associated with, and has become symbolic of, some obscure personal fulfilment which has been constantly denied us and is now desperately insistent.
Throughout I distinguish between actual objective fulfilment of capacity and our subjective feelings and judgments of fulfilment. These may err, may be inappropriate, Of course, our only way of knowing anything about fulfilment is through intuitive feelings of fulfilment; but intense feelings of fulfilment (or frustration) in some limited sphere, such as self-regard, may prevent attention to greater frustration (or fulfilment) in some other sphere. And so the final judgment of value may be perverted.
There is a valid distinction between sanity and insanity. Both sane and insane judgments of value are at bottom intuitive; but whereas the insane judgment is determined by a minor, and probably unwitting, obsessive or insistent need, the sane judgment grasps all relevant needs, yet holds all, so to speak, at arm's length, so that the final intuitive valuation may be unbiased. The fact that no man is ever completely sane should not be allowed to discredit the distinction between sanity and insanity.
Action, then, must be appropriate to the circumstances. To be fully appropriate, it may have to be in an important sense creative. That is, it may have to produce significantly novel conditions. By this I think I mean conditions which will not only fulfil existing capacity or existing felt needs (in oneself or others), but will cause new and more awakened capacity to come into being. Examples of creative capacity in this sense are: the production of an intellectual theory which reorganizes understanding and opens new vistas before the mind's eye; the production of a highly original and significant work of art; the production of a personal relationship which raises both individuals to finer percipience or greater integrity; the production of "vitalizing" social changes, in a narrow or a wide sphere.
So far I have spoken as though the mind were a bundle of distinct capacities, and as though it were possible to calculate the relative amounts of fulfilment afforded by each. We do, of course, compare the satisfaction to be derived from different capacities. But strictly our capacities are not fixed, distinct things. Though some of them, no doubt, are relatively constant, all are to a greater or less extent variable, and intricately involved together. Also, from time to time, they vary in importance in relation to the personality as a whole. There are occasions, for instance, when pub-crawling may be spiritually more beneficial than attempting to contemplate the eternal verities. Evidently what is intrinsically good is not simply the fulfilling of distinct activities which can be relatively evaluated; rather what is good is the harmonious and developing life of the personality as a whole, of the single experiencing individual. His well-being demands now this, now that activity; and activities of the most exalted and of the humblest kinds. In some sense the individual is not just a system of activities; he is himself. This must not be understood to mean that he is an eternal spirit, or even that, though ephemeral, he is an unanalysable unique something, distinct from his flux of experience. It means simply that he is an organic unity in which everything is what it is in virtue of its relation to other things.
In the harmonious life of the personality, then, the primitive activities must playa part, both because they are intrinsically good and because they are necessary as means to the continued healthy life of the individual. But for the proper fulfilling of individuality the more awakened activities must preside, must be the final determining consideration. The primitive activities must not be practised at random, but on such occasions as will not interfere with the full development of the more awakened activities.
I have been considering the individual simply as an individual. Even from that point of view it must be remembered that he is essentially social. He cannot fulfil himself in isolation, nor even as a purely selfish unit in society. Not only has he personal needs for intercourse and affection. Quite apart from these needs, he is to some extent aware of other individuals as living persons, as centres of conscious activity and conscious needs. It is far more difficult for him to apprehend the needs of others than his own needs. And even when he does apprehend the needs of others, his own more insistent self-regard may prevent him from acting appropriately to them. Because of all this, society puts a premium on mutual kindliness. In fact, just because altruism is more difficult and awakened than self-regard, traditional morality teaches that the claims of others should be allowed more weight than one's own claims. It is important for social cohesion that the principle of altruism should be respected.
Roughly we may say that the system of thought from which ethical scepticism is derived is analytic and materialistic. This system of thought has certainly had very great achievements, both theoretical and emotional. It has created natural science, and it has created the scientific spirit of faithful observation and dispassionate reasoning. This is a wholesome reaction from the inveterate habit of wishful thinking. The scientific spirit is valuable for two reasons. First, even though intellectual enquiry is always instigated and controlled by needs, yet, while intellect is operating, we must try to prevent irrelevant emotion from confusing it. Second, in its best, its sincerest form scientific detachment contains, I believe, a core of piety, an emotional acceptance of the universe whatever its nature turns out to be. This I regard as a more sincere piety than the attitude of those religious people who insist that the universe must conform to certain moral standards if it is to be emotionally accepted.
But though scientific detachment at its best is valuable in these two respects, in its commoner form it is nothing but a mental carapace to shield the morally lazy from the stings of compassion and conscience. And when scientific detachment supports a simple materialistic metaphysic, and denies right and wrong and all the higher reaches of human experience, it takes the first step toward social disaster.
To say this of the positivistic attitude of science is not to advocate a return to superstition. Even if the sceptic is mistaken in denying, on logical grounds, the very possibility of attaining metaphysical truths, he is surely right in denying that metaphysical speculation is likely to be of much profit in the present state of man's intellectual equipment.
The sceptic's criticism of the metaphysical theories of the saint seems to me valid. On the other hand the actual experience of the saints must not be confused with their theoretical interpretation of it. As I have said, the fact that genuine saints observably behave in a manner which it is tempting to call superhuman strongly suggests that their experience is not simply illusory.
Let us apply the same test to the sceptics. Some of them certainly behave in a manner worthy of saints. They do so, I believe, in spite of their scepticism, or at least in spite of their ethical scepticism, and because of their moral, though unconsciously moral, loyalty to intellectual integrity.
Though some ethical sceptics succeed in behaving very morally in spite of their theory, many more are, I believe, definitely hampered by it. The conviction that after all nothing really matters cannot but weaken a man's fibre. Of course some sceptics have strong feelings of social loyalty. Without any moral sanction, they simply desire to behave socially. But for the majority ethical scepticism points to a merely self-indulgent life. Also it may cause a prejudice against tender feelings; for, from the sceptic's point of view, tenderness toward others is apt to seem more irrational than self-regard. But this conviction is itself irrational.
This prejudice against the tender emotions is characteristic of our age. After the war of 1914-18 a far-reaching change of emotional fashion, so to speak, swept over Western civilization. It had long been brewing. It was partly a reaction against religious orthodoxy and a sentimental morality which was becoming more and more insincere. It was partly a result of scientific materialism and ethical scepticism. Partly, no doubt, it was a product of cynical commercialism. Psychoanalysis, too, was connected with it, both as cause and as effect. Probably it was also an expression of the disillusionment and cynicism, and the widespread disgust with human nature, which crippled the war-racked generations.
From the psychologist's point of view this great emotional change can be explained as a social manifestation of a principle well known in the mental life of the individual. When the developing mind faces one of the great personal problems which stand in the way of maturity, and fails to solve it, there is often a regression to a relatively infantile mode of behaviour. This is what threatens European civilization. Science and mechanized industry confronted it with a gigantic problem which it has lamentably failed to solve. Consequently it tends to a relatively primitive way of feeling and acting.
Whatever the causes of this far-reaching emotional change which came to fruition in Europe after the war, it was manifested as a revulsion from the two distinctively human capacities by which man rose from sub-human savagery, namely, kindliness and reason. These capacities are essential to genuine human sociality, which demands mutual respect and intelligent co-operation.
Genuine sociality tends now to be rejected in favour of the more primitive kind of sociality based on sheer animal gregariousness, in which the dominant motive is not mutual respect but the will to conform to the behaviour of the group, and to enforce conformity. Loss of faith in the free intelligence has been manifested prodigiously in the Fascist countries and less obviously elsewhere. One of its causes was the purely negative triumph of scepticism. Intuitively and rightly men inclined to revolt against a doctrine that stultified the whole of human endeavour, plunged thousands of morally frail individuals into a directionless and tortured life of self-indulgence, and to a greater or less extent undermined men's faith in themselves, in one another, and in their species.
The revolt against scepticism went too far. It developed into a revolt against reason itself.
The revolt against emotion, or rather against sentimentality, also went too far. It developed into a revolt against kindliness.
Thus men now are impelled to glorify not reason but sheer dogma, not kindliness but ruthlessness, not the free responsible individual but the servile unit of the mob and the equally servile mob-leader.
I NOW turn to consider the contribution of a temper and a doctrine, very different both from the saint's and from the sceptic's.
The genuine revolutionary lives wholly for the revolution, as the genuine saint lives wholly for his God. Like the saint, the sincere revolutionary is inspired by generous feeling for his fellow men. He is possessed, obsessed, by the spirit of comradeship, in fact by what Christians claim to be the truly Christian spirit, the spirit of active love. To regard the revolutionary as possessed by hate, as many affect to do, is to miss the truth completely. Can there ever have been a more contemptible spectacle in the sordid history of human affairs than the concerted effort of a wealthy and parasitic class to discredit the revolutionaries by misrepresenting their righteous indignation as mere hate and envy? By their fruits ye shall know them. The fruits of the revolutionary are life-long courageous efforts to defend the oppressed.
I have mainly in mind the sincere kind of Marxian revolutionary, because he is the effective champion of revolution in our day. But much that I shall say about the behaviour, as distinct from the theories, of revolutionaries applies to any kind of genuine revolutionary, whether Marxian or Anarchist or what not. Even among professed advocates of Fascism there are almost certainly many whom I should regard as genuine though terribly misguided revolutionaries. Much that I shall say is true of them also.
The word genuine, of course, is necessary. The sham revolutionary is often a very plausible imitation. It is worth noting that there are two kinds of sham revolutionaries. First, there are some, certainly, in whom the ruling motive is no longer (if it ever was) love or comradeship but simply envy and hate. These glory in hate, and thereby do much harm to the cause. In this they are similar to some sham saints who are more concerned for the damnation of sinners than for the salvation of the elect. Hate can be a disinterested passion, in the sense that a man can sacrifice everything, even his life, for sheer hate. It follows that hate can also be a prodigious source of energy. Some sincere revolutionaries therefore deliberately cultivate it in themselves and others. I believe that this is a short-sighted policy, for in the long run hate poisons the spirit of the individual and of the revolution.
The other kind of sham revolutionary is much the commoner kind. These are the self-seekers, conscious or unconscious, who masquerade as revolutionaries, hoping to secure private advancement or prestige by an appearance of revolutionary zeal. The sham revolutionary of this commoner kind tries to give the impression that he is living wholly for the revolution while he is in fact assiduously avoiding all serious risks. Most of these people do, no doubt, want a revolution, or at least they think they do; but they do not want it whole-heartedly. Some do not really want it at all. They merely want to make profit out of the idea of it, either by talking impressively about it, or by gaining power and prestige through the control of some revolutionary organization, or by actually drawing pay from revolutionary funds. In the sham revolutionary of this type, self-interest and self-respect feed upon the possibility of an ever-unfulfilled revolution. Naturally he is reluctant to set in motion any great change which might destroy his comfortable position. In fact he is a conservative in revolutionary clothing. The genuine revolutionary not only desires the revolution more than anything else; conscious that he would sacrifice himself for it, he is ready to sacrifice others if they stand in the way. The sham revolutionary, on the other hand, though he will sacrifice others, will not when it comes to the point sacrifice himself. Both the genuine revolutionary and the genuine saint habitually and heroically transcend the urge of self-regard; their shams do not.
But between the genuine saint and the genuine revolutionary there is a great gulf, which appears! not only in their professions but in their behaviour. The saint is chiefly concerned with individuals and their personal relations with one another. The revolutionary is interested in groups and their mutual repercussions.
This statement may perhaps seem untrue. The saint himself, of course, is concerned not only with the individual but with masses of individuals. And the revolutionary, the genuine revolutionary, is in a sense concerned primarily not with abstract groups or classes but with the well-being of the individuals that compose them. His controlling motive is a passionate will to relieve hosts of individuals from tyranny and frustration. It is because he so vividly realizes this tyranny, and the day-by-day frustration of John Smith and Joan Brown, that he devotes himself to revolution.
All the same, it is true and important that, while the saint's main interest is in individuals, the revolutionary's is in groups. For the texture of the saint's behaviour is made up largely of acts directed toward the strengthening of individuality in particular individuals, while the revolutionary's behaviour is mainly composed of acts directed toward strengthening group-consciousness in masses of individuals, or toward controlling in one manner or another the thought and action of groups. In fact the saint is more interested in, individuality and the revolutionary in sociality.
This preponderant interest in sociality sometimes leads revolutionaries to disparage individuality and hypostatize society. They realize vividly that the individual mind is an expression of its social environment. And in spite of their fundamental concern for the individual's fulfilment they tend to subordinate him to the large pattern of social relationships. And though their source of inspiration is the will to free the oppressed individual, they seek meanwhile to discipline him for the revolution. The Party members regard themselves as consecrated to the task of spreading a gospel not only of service but of self-abnegation, and moreover of obedience to revolutionary authority. They insist that the individual cannot fulfil himself save as an instrument of society, or a channel for social forces. Idiosyncrasy and eccentricity they tend to condemn. Its expression in culture they are apt to regard as mere "escapism."
In times of desperate social crisis this attitude may be justified. But the fact that revolutionaries incline emotionally in this direction makes it likely that they will too readily conform to revolutionary orthodoxy, and too readily insist on conformity in others.
The genuine saint is not in danger of succumbing to herd-mindedness, or of imposing herd-mindedness on others. He is too self-conscious either to desire to bay with the pack or to seek to be the mouthpiece and leader of the pack. The saint, of course, regards community as the supreme human value; but the community that he applauds is essentially a community of self-aware and other-aware individuals. His particular danger, avoided, of course, by the best of his kind, is not herd-mindedness but a kind of individualism, not selfish individualism, but the individualism which inclines to over-estimate the worth of private moral intuitions. With the revolutionary the reverse is the case. He is impressed by social forces and mass movements of opinion. He distrusts private intuitions and all eccentricity. He has an admirably clear consciousness of the form of existing society, and of its rottenness compared with the society that he desires; but in comparison with the saint he seems to be only superficially self-conscious, and therefore only superficially other-conscious. He may, of course, be intensely, but is not penetratingly conscious of himself; and consequently he cannot be penetratingly conscious of others.
This statement may seem unjustified. The revolutionary, I may be told, is more, not less, penetratingly self-conscious than the saint; since he is more clearly aware of the way in which motives are determined by unconscious influences, such as the pressure of the economic environment. The saint, according to the revolutionary, is the supreme self-deceiver.
This view is surely mistaken. The revolutionary has, of course, a certain kind of knowledge of himself. He has the normal acquaintance with himself as needing food, success, comradeship, and so on. But beyond this his knowledge of himself is a scientific, abstract, theoretical, indirect kind of knowledge. It is not derived from meticulous self-scrutiny, as the saint's is, but from scientific and sociological theories.
In saying this I do not intend to condemn scientific knowledge. Physiology, psychology, anthropology, sociology have an important part to play in clarifying self-knowledge. But they are only aids. Self-knowledge must be founded on minute observation of one's actual experience and motives.
Nor do I intend to condemn the revolutionary. It is no more his function to be deeply conscious of individuality than it is the function of the saint to be an effective politician. Each of them, of course, if he is to be true to his own calling, must to some extent share in the others' special aptitude. The saint must think socially. The revolutionary, on his side, must at least have intense consciousness of certain important but simple aspects of individuality which in the less fortunate classes are grossly frustrated.
Moreover there is, of course, an important identity in the emotional experience of the saint and the revolutionary. Both feel warmly toward the average individual. Not princes, politicians, intellectuals, great ecclesiastics, or great revolutionary leaders do they cherish, but Everyman.
This democratic feeling may be combined, in both saints and revolutionaries, with an aristocratic sense that some individuals are much more developed, more awakened, than others, and more valuable to society. Some, indeed, rise much further than others beyond the merely animal mentality. They are capable of much more precise, subtle and comprehensive awareness, and of much more integrated conduct. But this recognition of the different natural ranks of men is always subordinate. It is a sense of the differences of attainment of the members of one family. Always there is a tacit assumption that even the weakest of the brethren or of the comrades is potentially equal to the leader, the eldest brother.
In the pure aristocrat, on the other hand, whether the social or the intellectual aristocrat, the sense of difference is such that average individuals are regarded as an inferior species. Saints and revolutionaries both reject this cult of the superior person, and find in the experience of common men and women, united in practical comradeship, the great source of inspiration and enlightenment. In their view the life of aristocrats, social or intellectual, is artificial and false. Divorced from the community life of the masses, it develops an exaggerated cult of refinement and of the separate individual. For my part, though I see little value in a social aristocracy, I am convinced that an intellectual, or rather cultural, aristocracy is necessary for the healthy life of a society; but its members must regard themselves as specialists in a particular form of social service, not as superior persons.
Though saints and revolutionaries agree in rejecting the aristocratic view, beyond this point their convictions diverge. The saint must specialize in consciousness of individuality-in-community, and the technique of raising individuality to a higher calibre in himself and others. The revolutionary's source of inspiration and strength is his simpler but no less passionately generous awareness of the frustration of individuality in the masses. This awareness he has to use as a source of energy for a life devoted to changing the social order.
There may be, there probably are, times in the history of a community when nothing whatever should be allowed to stand in the way of revolution. There may be other times when nothing is more important than a direct improving of personal relationship. To-day the need for revolution and the need for better personal relationship are complementary, and must be pursued together. To-day we cannot be saved by saints alone, nor by revolutionaries alone. Saints and revolutionaries must co-operate. Also they must acquire something of one another's nature. Saints must to some extent become revolutionaries, and revolutionaries saints.
When I was considering saints, I said that the true saint's absolute moral principle was respect for individuality and right personal relationship. Kindliness and trustworthiness are for him the supreme virtues. It would be untrue to say that the saint will never, and the revolutionary will sometimes, desert this principle. No doubt many true saints may sometimes in emergency use or countenance violence. No doubt also they may sometimes deceive, namely when they see no other way of preventing greater evil. But the saint, even if his devotion to non-violence and to truthfulness is not absolute, uses violence and deceit only in the most desperate emergency, and with an agony of horror and shame; whereas the revolutionary can use them with equanimity. If it seems to him that violence or deceit is necessary for the advancement of the cause, he will use it without hesitation, sometimes even with relish.
Both revolutionary and saint can be fired with righteous indignation. But whereas the revolutionary hates the enemies of the revolution, and may even glory in doing so, the saint strives never to hate human beings, and regards hate as the very spirit of evil. The saint's danger is that he may allow great harm to be done to one set of individuals because of his overwhelming revulsion from using violence or deceit against another set. The revolutionary's danger is that through lack of this extreme repugnance he may sometimes practise or applaud violence or deceit in order to gain immediate advantage for the cause, when as a matter of fact this advantage is outweighed by a greater hurt in the future, namely damage to the tradition of kindliness and reasonableness.
So far as mere private interest is concerned the true revolutionary, of course, will never use violence or deceit, for he knows very well that these practices are socially harmful. But in the view of the typical sincere revolutionary an occasional act of violence or of deceit is abundantly justified if it is needed for helping the cause in a tight place. Information damaging to the cause must be suppressed. False information favourable to the cause may be propagated. Traitors must be shot. And of course the revolution itself may have to be achieved by fighting in the streets. Even torture, presumably, might in some circumstances seem to the revolutionary a necessary and therefore permissible means of serving the revolution. For, after all, many who can snap their fingers at death are cowed by torture.
Now even the condemnation of torture, I suggest, should be qualified. There may, for all I know, be circumstances in which a man ought to be subjected to some degree of physical or mental pain "for his soul's good", or to save others from great disaster. I find it exceedingly difficult to imagine any such circumstances, but I recognize the abstract possibility that they may occur. The charge, however, against some revolutionaries is not that they refrain from an absolute condemnation of torture, but that sometimes they too readily condone brutality when it is committed for the revolution. The only adequate reply to Fascist ruthlessness, we are sometimes told, is ruthlessness for the revolution. This attitude suggests a dangerous coarseness of feeling. And, indeed, that the consciousness of some revolutionaries is in some important respects obtuse is evident from their startling failure to comprehend the pacifist's position.
In the matter of intellectual honesty also some revolutionaries are very unperceptive. The trouble is not merely that while insisting on free speech for revolutionaries they demand restrictions upon Fascist agitators. It is at least arguable that in times of grave crisis those who advocate the overthrow of the State and vilify the community's most sacred values should be restrained. But it is disturbing that some revolutionaries seem as ready as their opponents to suppress or distort the truth for the sake of some quite trivial gain for the cause.
The revolutionary, in fact, since he is less self-conscious than the saint, is less vividly aware of what the saint would call the "spiritual" damage done by the use of violence and deceit. He does not so clearly realize that these are very dangerous drugs, perhaps necessary at times, but always seriously poisonous, and moreover habit-forming. Their harmfulness, the saint believes, is two-fold. In the man on whom they are used they produce distrust and hate. In the user they breed not only an addiction but guilty suspicion and a protective shell of callousness. Further, rather perversely, they produce hate against the maltreated individual.
The controlling emotional inclination of the saint is toward that aspect of human life which in our day is easily ridiculed with the label "spiritual uplift". That of the revolutionary is in the main toward "de-bunking". Naturally the one thing that the revolutionary does not want to de-bunk is revolution and the social ideal which he hopes to attain by revolution. These are for him just as sacred as righteousness for the saint. But the general texture of his behaviour is one of indefatigable de-bunking. He is out to expose the pretensions of the employers, of the politicians, including right-wing Labour politicians, of the churches, of Liberal Idealism, of capitalist democracy, of philosophy, of intellectual detachment, of "art for art's sake", of bourgeois culture in general.
The psychological roots of this passion for de-bunking are probably very complex. But whatever its causes in individual experience, the common source of iconoclasm in all revolutionaries is the sense of the prodigious injustice of contemporary human society, and of the discrepancy between the much advertized ideals and the shady achievements of our time. The Churches promised us eternal life if we would practise Christian love. They themselves did not practise as they preached. The Liberal idealists promised us the gradual evolution of a better society if only we would give capitalist individualism a fair chance. Injustice increases. Prosperity wanes, and security too.
The craving to de-bunk is associated with the scientific mentality. The revolutionary is well disposed toward science, for this reason. But his temperament is very different from the completely sceptical disillusionment which triumphed after the war of 1914-1918. The genuine revolutionary's ruling passion is essentially a moral passion. Certain conditions of human affairs are in his view wrong. They ought not to be. We ought to get together to put them right. Though theoretically Marxists reject all universal ethical principles, in practice they exhort us to sacrifice ourselves in a cause which is at bottom the cause of justice and righteousness.
Without attempting to summarize the Marxian philosophy, I shall now very briefly discuss certain parts of it which seem to me relevant to the attempt to create a synthesis out of the temper of the saints, the sceptics and the revolutionaries.
From observation of the actual course of history the Marxist infers that the evolution of institutions and ideas is an expression of the impact of the environment on the economic motives of men; that is, on their need for security, food, comfort. These economic motives are not purely individualistic, since a man is concerned largely with the needs of his family. And besides economic needs, men have other motives. But according to the Marxian theory these other motives are much less powerful than the economic motives. Also they are so varied and individual that in relation to large social changes they cancel out and may be neglected.
In saying that history is "determined" in this way Marxists do not deny that it depends on spontaneous human choices. But human choices turn out to be in practice and in the long run very largely predictable. Men do in practice choose in such manners as to justify the theory of economic determinism. Whether they could in any sense behave otherwise is debatable, but in fact they do on the whole behave in this manner. Economic determinism is a true inductive law of the behaviour of masses of men. Being what they are, and wanting what in the main they do want, they cannot but behave in this manner.
The Marxist declares also that even those acts which are not simply expressions of economic motives are none the less very largely determined by economic influences. The desire for fame or power, for instance, must satisfy itself by taking economic factors into account. The economic structure of society determines the direction which the power-lover will pursue.
The Marxist does not deny that personal idiosyncrasies take effect on the course of events. He allows, too, that outstanding individuals may play an important part in history. But he claims that their power is merely to retard or side-track or advance the inevitable effect of massed economic motives. Outstanding individuals, he says, are most powerful when they are the conscious instruments of social evolution, when they see the direction of social growth, and use their abilities to further it.
Not only institutions but also ideas and valuations must be understood in terms of economic forces. The culture of a society is said to be due to the impact of economic, and particularly technological, conditions on successive generations of individuals. The form of men's minds, or more correctly the form of their mental behaviour, is said to be determined by their economic environment. Thus the culture of ancient Greece is to be understood as an expression of the economic and technological conditions which produced it. These conditions stimulated and set a limit to the possible development of Greek culture in the minds of a property-owning and leisured class. Later on, chivalry was an expression of medieval technological development as it effected an owner-class whose power was military and its social structure hierarchical. Puritanism was a system of ideas and values generated in and appropriate to a rising bourgeois class whose power was based on economic individualism. Modern scientific culture could not have appeared till technological development had reached a certain level of complexity and power. Modern science was beyond the reach of feudalism, but within the reach of early industrialism. And now science has increased a thousand-fold man's technological power, which in turn has enabled science to advance beyond all expectation by means of immensely complicated and costly research and world-wide co-ordination. But to-day, says the Marxist, science is outrageously hobbled by the fact that research is directed mainly for private commercial profit. It should be single-mindedly used for the benefit of the community.
Since the dominant class of a society has far greater influence than any other class, a culture is to be understood mainly in terms of the economic conditions of the dominant class. Sometimes however the ideas and values of a subject-class may, through special circumstances, play an important part. For instance, during the disintegration of the Roman Empire and the birth of feudalism, Christianity, which was produced by the proletariat, was a very important influence in the new culture.
Normally, however, culture is in the main a product of the class which controls the productive forces, though it is not originated by the particular individuals who control those forces. The division of society into exploiters and exploited arose long ago when for the first time the technique of production advanced from the most primitive level so far as to enable some men to accumulate a surplus of wealth beyond that which was required for the bare needs of life. The Marxist summarizes the observed course of history since those days by saying that class after class has risen to power and in turn been overthrown by a class rising from beneath it. At any given stage of social development the ruling class is that which controls the economic structure of the society. So long as the structure is favourable to the full and free activity of the society's technique of production, the structure is stable. But technological development continues, and sooner or later the established social order becomes inadequate. It fails to allow full scope to the increasing productive forces. The ruling class tries to maintain the old order against the rising power of a new productive class which has come into being as the wielders of the new productive forces. The strain increases, till at last the new class gains power, and founds a new social order and a new culture adapted to the mental needs of the new society.
Thus the movement of social change, according to the Marxist, is "dialectical". Fundamentally, and apart from complicating accidents, it is like the movement of thought from a "thesis" to an "antithesis", and on to a "synthesis" which unites the truths of "thesis" and "antithesis" in a new conception. But the dialectic of society is a dialectic not primarily of ideas but .of objective conditions.
So long as a culture expresses and serves the trend of social development, it retains its vitality and flexibility. But; when the economic system which generated it ceases to be adequate to the developing powers of the society, the established culture, which is the mental instrument of the established dominant class, begins to grow rigid, formalistic, remote from the actual circumstances of the life of the society. Thus, when the old feudal aristocracy lost its power to the rising bourgeois class, medieval culture withered. In the clash of the two classes there emerged a new society and a new culture. This new, bourgeois culture included, of course, much of the old culture, but it was moulded by the mental needs of the bourgeoisie. In its early days, when it stood for democracy against feudalism, it was vital and flexible. It founded science. It conceived the right of every individual to a full life, to education, to freedom of expression, to a voice in the government. These principles were convenient to a class fighting for power. When the bourgeoisie had obtained control, its ideals were largely accepted, at least in theory, by both political parties. And so long as capitalism was flourishing the ruling class could permit the workers to acquire a number of social benefits in the name of liberal idealism.
But in our day, when the capitalist system is insecure, and the power of the ruling class is everywhere threatened, our rulers are compelled by circumstances to belie their liberal principles. There is a tendency to reverse the process of social amelioration, and to tighten up social discipline. Moreover, says the Marxist, the bourgeoisie is faced with the unpleasant fact that in one great segment of the world, namely Russia, a new, non-capitalist order has been firmly established, By every method of propaganda and strong government, therefore, our rulers will seek to prevent the masses from going "bolshevik",
The plight of capitalism in our day is the supreme example of the way in which an outworn economic system frustrates and actually reverses the proper development of the productive forces, Our individualistic economic system depends on the mass-production of goods by machinery on an ever-increasing scale, and their sale in ever-expanding markets, But by restricting wages for the sake of profits it prevents an adequate rise of purchasing power among its own workers, To keep pace with increasing production it must rely on increasing foreign markets, To secure and regularize those markets, and prevent competitors from seizing them, it is forced into imperialistic annexation of territory.
By selling machinery to "backward" countries, and lending them money at interest, it gradually equips these countries to satisfy their own demand for goods, thus depriving itself of its own foreign markets, Not only so, but as industrialism spreads, rival industrial powers enter the competition for markets and empires. Wars between rival empires and would-be-empires become inevitable. Meanwhile with the failure of foreign markets the social structure of the highly industrialized countries is more and more strained. Wages fall. Unemployment increases. The standard of living declines. Social services are crippled. Discontent breeds disorder, which has to be repressed with ever-increasing harshness.
The dominant class, nurtured in the old system, lacks both the imagination and the courage to conceive and execute the necessary heroic measures of social reconstruction. And the established culture, once vital and fertile, degenerates into a system of rigid and out-worn mental habits. In particular its exponents tend either to hark back to the archaic values of the militant tribe and the heroic tribal leader or to indulge in sheer "escapism". Either they more or less frankly express the ideas which are suited to an increasingly militarized state, or they conceive seductive dreams to distract the mind from the distressing reality.
The present condition of the world may be summarized thus. By increasing the productive forces a thousandfold, modern science has immensely accelerated and intensified the process of social evolution. The discrepancy between the world's actual production and its potentiality of production is Unprecedented. Further, owing to the vast increase in the means of communication, the world has become a single economic field. The dialectical process which formerly occurred in isolated societies is now being enacted on a worldwide scale.
According to the orthodox Marxist this distressing state of the world must lead, through ever-increasing economic disorder and ever more desperate capitalist wars, to social revolution in one state after another, Until the workers of the world have completely destroyed the capitalist class and inaugurated a dictatorship of the proletariat. This will be the prelude to a worldwide classless communistic society.
I believe that there is much truth in this account of the changes of institutions and ideas. How far the movement is strictly dialectical may be doubted. There is of course a loose sense in which it must be so. Every change may be regarded as due to the fact that an initial situation; had generated within itself a conflicting tendency, which subsequently produced a new synthesis. But the Marxian theory implies more than this. It claims that history necessarily moves in alternating phases of stability and crises. I have neither the knowledge nor the aptitude to judge this claim, and it is not relevant to my theme. I merely remark in passing that the dialectical principle, so long as it is not interpreted in a rigid, doctrinaire manner, does seem to cast light on certain movements of history. But there is a danger that devotion to the principle may lead to distortion of the facts of past social change and to rash prophesies about the future. For instance, it seems doubtful whether the world-revolution will occur precisely in the manner prophesied by Marxists. In the highly organized industrial state an orthodox proletarian revolution is becoming less and less possible. The change is more likely to come through the sheer rotting away and collapse of capitalism, and the re-organization of society under the guidance of the highly skilled technicians, stimulated, no doubt, by proletarian pressure; unless, of course, general war comes, and an epidemic of revolutions.
Human nature is a very much more complex and subtle thing than the Marxist supposes. Human history is much more chancy, and much more dependent on the idiosyncrasies of prominent individuals and the sentimentality of the masses. But although I cannot altogether trust the Marxist's prophecies, I recognize that he has seized upon one of the most important sociological principles. Indeed there is a broad sense in which economic determinism is the all-sufficient principle for the understanding of social and cultural change. All ideas spring directly or indirectly from the interaction of individual minds and their environment. Even if some ideas spring not from the economic aspect of experience but from some other aspect, such as the purely aesthetic or the abstractly intellectual or the religious, they will have little chance of survival, of general acceptance, unless they happen to be in harmony with the prevailing economically-determined mental climate of the society and period. The idea of Christian brotherhood, for instance, would never have "caught on" in the ancient world if it had not suited the mental needs of an economically oppressed class, amongst whom circumstances were already forcing individuals to feel communally in the face of common hardship.
Nevertheless, to regard Christianity solely as an expression of economic determinism would be to ignore its essential nature. It was at bottom an apprehension, on the part of Jesus and his followers, of individuality and community as the supreme ends of social action. Economic circumstances set the stage for this new vision, but they were not the whole cause of it. They directed attention to a certain value which hosts of human beings had experienced throughout the ages, but which had not hitherto been clearly apprehended and abstracted from experience. Nor had it been compellingly expressed as a supreme principle of conduct. Thus, though economic determinism affords a true account of cultural changes, its account is external. It does not go to the root of the matter. Economic circumstances control the movement of attention in the individual and in large masses of individuals. They do not create any fundamental values. They incline men to attend more to one set of values than to another. Such values as they do in a manner "create", for instance the value of secure employment or of coal-mines or of money, are derivative.
This qualification of the principle of economic determinism, if true, is very important. It means that, at any rate in exceptional circumstances, other motives than economic motives may playa crucial part in determining the course of history. No doubt the circumstances which call forth these other motives are, in the broadest sense, economic circumstances. Thus the principle of economic determinism is in a sense preserved. But we must allow for the possibility that, just as during the rise of Christianity economic circumstances evoked a will for genuine community, so on other occasions also the distinctively human motives may playa crucial part. Moreover there may come a time, perhaps in a very remote future, when utopian economic circumstances may deprive the economic motives of their urgency, and enable purely cultural motives to become the main determinants of history.
Economic determinism, I should say, is an invaluable key, but not the master-key to all the locks of history. Bertrand Russell has pointed out that when individuals or communities have a fair degree of economic security they will gladly sacrifice economic interest to the sheer will for power; and that the power-lust of outstanding individuals and of whole communities has often been the crucial influence in determining the course of events.
There is one very obtrusive and important factor in the modern world which, I believe, cannot be wholly explained in terms of economic influences, namely Fascism. According to the Marxist, Fascism is simply the extreme development of the reactionary tendency of capitalism. The whole Fascist movement is a machiavellian device on the part of the capitalist class to marshal the people in defence of the capitalist national state against the gathering forces of revolution. It is particularly dangerous because it side-tracks an immense drive of genuine revolutionary zeal and draws it off into channels convenient to the capitalist class. But though in its early stage it is stimulated and used by capitalism, later it becomes a power in itself, and finally it controls individualistic capitalism very thoroughly in the interest of the totalitarian state.
I believe that, though this theory is true so far as it goes, and very important, it is not the whole truth about Fascism. Besides its root in capitalism Fascism has other roots. One of its sources, as I have already suggested, is the emotional revulsion from love and reason, which is spreading over the world in protest against the failure of Christianity and science to create a better world. It springs also, as Marxists themselves admit, from a genuine, even if largely perverted, revolutionary zeal. And further, as Marxists fail to recognize, it draws strength from a deep and widespread yearning for spiritual regeneration, no doubt equally perverted. Fascism as an institution is, of course, largely a capitalist device; but Fascism as a disposition in the hearts of men and women is in part revolutionary and religious. Marxists deny that any motive deserving the adjective "spiritual" can ever be a causal factor in history. In this respect I believe they are profoundly mistaken. All normal human beings are at least feebly and intermittently, and some are strongly and constantly, moved by the disinterested desire to conform to some ideal of conduct, conceived as intrinsically better, more righteous, than the life of impulse and self-seeking. The tragedy is that this desire is sometimes most potent when it is most misguided. To omit this motive from the interpretation of history, or to account for it wholly in terms of economic influences is almost as perverse as to ignore the economic.
The modern desire for regeneration began as a popular revulsion from ethical scepticism and cynical individualism, and indeed from the whole materialistic attitude which for so long had dominated Europe, and was a main factor in post-war disillusion. This revulsion was at bottom a desperate longing to have something to live for, something super-individual and even super-social, which could be the supreme object of devotion, and could raise the tension of the individual's whole life. This longing was muddle-headed and easily turned to evil account, but it was and is at bottom sincere. At bottom it is the desire for right living, for the awakened life.
Excessive faith in economic determinism, I suggest, blinds the Marxist to an essentially religious motive both in Fascism and in Communism itself. Both movements have a root in a genuinely moral, an essentially spiritual, protest against individualism as a way of life, against what the Christian calls "worldliness". Both insist on a life of consecrated service of the community. While Communism takes the community at its face-value, Fascism exalts it to a pseudo-mystical status. Although in this respect Communism is right and Fascism tragically wrong, the need which both attempt to satisfy is at bottom a spiritual need, though Marxists refuse to recognize it as such. It is a need for something not merely super-individual but genuinely universal that can inspire devotion. It is a need that in our day has been desperately frustrated, partly by the vogue of mechanistic metaphysics, partly by the failure of the churches to give a moral lead.
Having said something to the credit of Fascism I must repeat that this spiritual source in it is utterly poisoned and wasted. Fascism inculcates the primitive herd-mentality. It discourages, nay destroys, individuality. It suppresses criticism and all free expression. In place of reason and love it glorifies superstitious dogma and brutal might. It glorifies war. It prostitutes science for research into the means of murder. It is essentially opposed to the spirit of science, which is cosmopolitan, demands free access to facts, free criticism, and the collaboration of mutually respecting individuals.
The sources of Fascism, then, are not wholly economic. But let there be no mistake about the importance of economic determinism. In the case of Fascism it is economic determinism, working through the minds of a declining bourgeois oligarchy that has tapped and directed and perverted the reviving spiritual energy. Moreover the whole of contemporary culture must certainly be regarded in the light of economic determinism, namely as mainly a product of the industrial revolution and the circumstances of the bourgeois class. And because the circumstances of this class have greatly changed since its early days, we find in its culture two different strains, namely Liberalism and Fascism, the products of its rise and of its decline. How many young "executives", conscious of their own efficiency and public spirit, and impatient with the muddle and lethargy and palaver and sheer corruption around them, are to-day looking enviously toward the new Germany? Although in all sincerity they profess horror at Nazi brutality and superstition, and praise the fundamental rightness of democracy, their imagination is kindled by the thought of a great people disciplined, devoted, capable of speedy and resolute action, and full of hope. Who can blame them? But this feeling, if it is not balanced by a passion for the spirit of democracy, leads straight to Fascism.
The Marxist is opposed both to Liberal Democracy and to Fascism. He is opposed to Fascism because it denies his fundamental values. Liberalism he rejects for two reasons. First, since in the end it leads to a desperate defence of capitalism by the bourgeois oligarchy, though logically it is opposed to Fascism it must in practice lead to Fascism, whether veiled or frank; since in the end it produces a situation in which the bourgeois oligarchy is forced into an increasingly ruthless defence of capitalism. Second, though it appears to be founded on the fundamental values which the Marxist himself accepts, it states them in such a manner as to falsify them.
Liberalism is based on the intrinsic value of the human individual, but it does not sufficiently stress the necessity that society shall have the means of restraining powerful individuals who seek self-aggrandisement at its expense. The theory assumes that if every individual seeks his own economic interest in the open market the upshot will be the greatest possible happiness for all. This could only be true if all individuals had equal bargaining power, which they have not. Under laissez faire the inequality of bargaining power has led inevitably to grave social injustice. From the Marxian point of view, liberal democracy, as preached and practised by the privileged class, seems fundamentally insincere. Its doctrine of individualism is no more than an excuse for gross self-seeking on the part of a class composed of powerful individuals.
The Marxist’s intellectual reasons for denying the self-completeness and importance of the individual are derived from Hegel’s view of the individual as something less real than society, because less self-complete. In Hegel’s view the individual mind is a mere excerpt from the "social mind", from the culture of his society. There is nothing in him that is not socially conditioned. His every act, thought and desire are what they are in virtue of the social whole of which he is a particular expression. The whole texture of his mind, for instance, is linguistic, and therefore socially determined. His most sacred loyalties and his most peculiar whimsies are one and all products of social influences focused in him.
Both Marxists and Fascists disparage the individual, but at bottom there is an important difference between their attitudes. The Fascist, following Hegel, tends to regard the State or the race as a super-individual entity. The Marxist, more influenced by analytical science, refrains from what he regards as a mystical hypostatization of society. But Marxists tend to overlook the individualistic aspect of their theory, and to deny individuality almost as ruthlessly as Fascists.
The denial of the importance of the individual is at once the strength and the weakness of Marxism. It is its strength because it impels the individual to live for something more than himself, more even than other individuals to whom he is attached, namely for the ideal of comradeship and for the creating of a world in which comradeship shall be the ruling principle. This is the very essence of Christian brotherhood. The Early Christians experienced community in small groups of individuals living in personal contact and living in devotion to a universal ideal. The same spirit animates the revolutionary cell or society at its best. And in both cases the exaltation of concrete community is an expression of the mutual helpfulness and loyalty which is natural to an oppressed class, and much more difficult for the individuals of a commercial oligarchy.
But this emotional experience of concrete community and of the universal rightness of comradeship, which is the root both of Christianity and of revolutionary zeal, is very different from the denial of the worth and the reality of the individual, and the exaltation of the abstract State, or the abstract world-state, or world-wide communistic social organization. This is the dangerous and perverted element in some expressions of Marxism. The emotional experience of community is of course opposed to individualism, to the cherishing of one individual, namely oneself, at the expense of others. But it is equally opposed to the subjection of all individuals to the abstract form of organization. For essentially the experience of community is the experience of mutual awareness, mutual respect, mutual service and mutual mental enrichment. In the cult of the group and the disparagement of the individual there are grave dangers.
In the first place, though the old view of the individual as a self-complete spiritual substance and initiator of acts must, I think, be rejected, and though the new emphasis on the part played by the environment is wholesome, we must beware of an extravagant swing of the pendulum. Though the individual's behaviour is through and through determined by the social environment, it is also determined by his own nature. And though his own nature at any moment is determined by his past environments and by his biological inheritance, and so by the selective force of ancestral environments, there must at every stage be something (however caused) capable of responding to the environment. No doubt it is a long journey from the unicellular ancestor to Shakespeare, and the whole route is partly determined by environmental influences. But at every stage there must be something capable of behaving, of actively responding to those influences. Moreover, whatever the causes which brought John Smith into being, once he is in being, he is what he is, namely an actual living biological organism with characteristic potentialities of behaviour, physical and mental.
The danger of Marxism is that, though it starts with a protest against tyranny, its emphasis on the social aspect of individuality may lead it to subject the individual to a tyranny not of class but of the community as a whole. In this connection it is interesting to note the difference between the Marxist and the Liberal ideas of liberty. For the Liberal, liberty consists simply of freedom from social constraint. Rightly Marxists have pointed out that liberty should mean something more than this. For, if this is all that liberty is, the most free of all individuals is the "jungle child"; but he, if he survives, grows up an imbecile. Liberty, then, must rather be conceived as the opportunity for free and full exercise of capacity. And since man is essentially social, this involves complex social relations, for stimulus and discipline and full development. What is opposed to liberty, says the Marxist, is not social relations as such but the bad social relations imposed by an unsound and unjust social system. This is true and important. But liberty involves more than fertile social relations and the absence of oligarchical tyranny. Even a thoroughly democratic society, if it had an exaggerated respect for social discipline, might seriously frustrate the development of its individual members, and reduce itself to mental sterility.
The second grave danger in the disparagement of individuality is that it encourages herd-mindedness, and condemns originality of thought and feeling. In all ages the sole instrument of progress has been the original mind, the individual who is to a greater or less degree different from the average individual just because he is more sensitive than others, either to the ever-changing pressure of the environment or to the more obscure or delicate features of human nature itself; or again because he is more capable of heroic self-transcendence.
The denial of the importance of the individual leads the revolutionary to reject individual experience whenever it diverges from the body of doctrine which he has already accepted as the authentic expression of the developing life of his society, namely Marxism; or Fascism, if his revolutionary zeal has been side-tracked in that direction. He tends to subordinate his individual intelligence and conscience to an orthodox ideology, and to the will of "the Party". This is true although revolutionaries are often in disagreement as to the right interpretation of their sacred texts.
Further, the disparagement of individuality, since it leads to neglect of all experiences other than those that are possible to average human beings, disposes revolutionaries to ignore or misinterpret all the subtler or more refined kinds of experience, including those of the artists, intellectuals, and adepts in personal sensibility, and of course those of the saints. He therefore tends to accept a theory of the universe which leaves out of account or explains away all evidence derived from these sources. His strength lies in his rejection of old-fashioned idealism, the arguments for which are mainly verbalistic; and in his firm grip on the facts of common experience. His weakness lies in his obsession with the physical and with the commonplace.
The Marxist, of course, would strongly protest against this criticism, and would point to the fact that artists of all sorts fulfil an important and respected function in the U.S.S.R. True, but artistic expression under the Soviets has been subordinated to the exigences of social propaganda.
The reader may protest that in an age of crisis, when the supreme and urgent need is for radical social change, this neglect of the more developed capacities of our nature does not matter. When the house is on fire we need not poets but firemen. There is some force in the argument, but the analogy is not accurate. Unless the revolution can become clearly conscious that its motive is at bottom a spiritual motive, it will certainly, as soon as its initial enthusiasm wanes, degenerate into a mundane tyranny. There is danger, for instance, that under the influence of Marxism art, instead of being the main instrument for the exercise and development of human sensibility, might degenerate into a mere expression of social cohesion and of such values as fall within the range of average minds.
The Marxian revolutionary claims to adopt a scientific attitude to all intellectual matters.
He accepts scientific positivism, the typical scientist's denial of the possibility of metaphysics. In his view, metaphysical problems, even if not actually meaningless, cannot be solved by human intellect. No theory is to be accepted without the support of positive scientific evidence. And no metaphysical theory can be adequately supported by scientific evidence. This positivistic tendency is sound, so long as it does not become a dogmatic denial of the very possibility of metaphysics, or a cult of the physical and a contempt for all that is most developed in man.
Though the Marxian claims that he rejects all metaphysics, he is apt to accept unwittingly a certain type of metaphysical theory, namely materialism. He claims that his materialism, far from being metaphysical, is simply a scientific generalization from experience. But in practice he is apt to pass on to make far-reaching metaphysical generalizations about the universe.
Though the genuine Marxist is by conscious profession a materialist, subconsciously, as I have said, he seems to me to be moved by a spiritual impulse, the worship of comradeship. And even his theory t though it is professedly a materialistic theory, is elastic, and capable of accommodating all that the saint has any right to demand. The Marxian's materialism is not the old-fashioned crude materialism. He calls it "dialectical", not "mechanical" materialism. Mechanical materialism affirms that everything, including mental phenomena, can be accounted for in terms of physical mechanism. Dialectical materialism denies this. It is materialistic only in the sense that it is not idealistic. It rejects the view that all reality is essentially mental, and that matter is an illusion; but it does not affirm that mechanical principles can explain everything. By "matter" it means simply whatever is objectively real. Matter, of course, is observed to behave physically; but it is also observed to behave mentally. Dialectical Materialism recognizes different spheres or levels of reality, each of which is to be described scientifically in terms of its own special set of laws.
Marx, of course, derived his dialectical principle from Hegel. But he turned Hegel's philosophy inside out. According to Hegel, reality is essentially mental and logical, and its development is dialectical. According to Marx, the dialectical relationship is not in the first instance a movement of ideas but a characteristic of the objective world. And to emphasize the fact that the objective world is not "idea", Marx said that it was "matter". Mind merely reflects the dialectical process of "matter".
But "matter", according to Marx, is not fully described or describable by physical science. Each of the sciences, physics, biology, psychology, sociology, describes some special aspect of matter. And each develops laws of its own, in relation to its special data. The laws of one science cannot be described simply in terms of sciences lower in the hierarchy. All that can be said is that the sciences can be arranged in a certain order, corresponding to the complexity of their subject matter, and that there is a systematic relationship between the laws of all the different sciences. This relationship is dialectical. I find it difficult to form a really clear idea of Dialectical Materialism, but so far as I can grasp it, it is to be understood as follows. Matter in certain physical and chemical conditions may generate within itself a conflict from which arise new qualities and a new kind of behaviour. These novel characters are a necessary outcome of the nature of matter; but for their adequate description special laws must be devised. Thus, within the physical sphere, an .increase of "quantity" (we are told) may produce a new "quality", as when a rise of temperature turns ice into water. Similarly out of a conflict on the physical plane there may emerge a new kind of behaviour, namely biological behaviour, which again is a necessary but unpredictable outcome of the nature of matter. And this biological behaviour in certain conditions may generate another kind of necessary consequence, namely mental behaviour. And out of the clash of individual minds arises yet another necessary manifestation of the potentiality of matter, namely society, the special nature of which is studied by sociology. I do not feel at all sure that I understand the principle correctly. But if I do, then at each superior level a new kind of whole emerges, fully analysable into lower-level parts; yet its own organic form, and therefore, its behaviour as a whole, is novel, and must be described by a new set of laws.
Dialectical Materialism seems to me a very valuable principle. Indeed, if it is interpreted in a liberal, and perhaps heretical, manner, it can provide the ground plan of a comprehensive and satisfying philosophy. But unless I have seriously misunderstood it, it is open to a grave charge of ambiguity. It is said to be distinguished from Mechanical Materialism by its recognition that real novelty occurs in the dialectical process by which the "higher" levels of reality are manifested. The "higher", it is insisted, cannot be explained in terms of the lower. But this contention is the main tenet of those who believe in the theory of "Emergence." According to this theory, in certain very complex physical configurations a new mode of behaviour, namely biological behaviour, "emerges" from the physical. This biological behaviour, it is said, is not logically reducible to the laws of physics, since it is purposive, and physics has no room for purpose. There seem therefore to be two possible interpretations of the Marxian theory of Dialectical Materialism. If the occurrence of novelty is to be taken seriously, the theory seems to become identical with the Emergence theory, at least in this fundamental respect. Yet Marxists emphatically reject the Emergence theory, reviling it as "mystical". If on the other hand the occurrence of novelty is not taken seriously, then Dialectical Materialism becomes identical with Mechanical Materialism, which also is explicitly rejected by Marxists.
I am not concerned to discover which is the true view of Dialectical Materialism. I am concerned merely to say in the most general way what it is in Marxism that seems to me of real importance for anyone who, like myself, is attempting to form a reasonable and helpful world-view, and what seems to me mistaken..
In Marxian metaphysics (if I may use the word without offence to Marxists) two principles seem to be of very great value. The first is the principle of objectivity, according to which the form which mind assumes is to be understood by reference to the impact of the environment. Mind does not spin webs of idea out of its own intrinsic nature.
The second valuable principle is the dialectical principle itself, when it is taken seriously. Science must postulate a hierarchy of spheres of natural laws, dialectically related.
But if this principle is true, we must beware of dogmatically rejecting ideas merely because from the common-sense point of view they are unintelligible or incredible. We must recognize, as Marx himself recognized, that the common sense of one phase of culture may need to be stretched to the breaking point if it is to give rise to the common sense of a more developed phase. For instance we must beware of regarding the mysterious modern theories of space-time with the same unimaginative contempt as was formerly directed against, for example, Galileo's views. Of course we must take all recent advances of science as merely provisional half-truths, and we must be very suspicious of any metaphysical theories based on them. But at the same time we must recognize them as growing points of thought, and try to be sensitive to their mind-stretching power.
Further, if we accept the Dialectical principle, we must recognize its destructive effect on old-fashioned naturalism. We must recognize, for instance, that it makes room for much that would formerly have been regarded as "supernatural". In particular, even though it does not sanction orthodox religious doctrines, it can quite well accommodate the conclusions which I suggested about the testimony of the saints.
AT the beginning of this book I said that two kinds of experience afforded me acquaintance with great good, namely the experience (including the practice) of community, and the experience (and practice) of critical intelligence. I called these two activities love and reason. I believe that they are significant not only for the understanding of man but for the understanding of the universe. I do not mean that the universe is governed by the principle of love and the principle of reason. There may be some sense in which this is true, but I find no clear evidence for it. I mean simply this. Love and reason seem to me to be essential characteristics of the behaviour of a conscious being that has reached a certain stage of mental growth. In a sense they are implied in the very nature of consciousness. Inevitably there comes a point in the development of consciousness at which a conscious being cannot but recognize love and reason as good. If this is so, then, since it seems almost incredible that consciousness should be without significance for the understanding of the universe, we may well believe that love and reason, even though they may not be the supreme controlling principles of the universe, playa great part in it.
By love I mean in the first instance a certain kind of felt personal relationship, issuing in a certain kind of conduct, namely the relationship in which one individual wills to enrich, and is enriched by, another individual, apprehended as alike yet different. By reason I mean in the first instance simply intelligent behaviour, in which a situation is clearly and comprehensively apprehended, and an appropriate action is taken, an action appropriate in the light of all the relevant facts, including the agent's own felt needs. The more developed kind of intelligent or reasonable behaviour, which is possible only to those who are clearly self-conscious and other-conscious, involves also recognizing and taking into account the needs of others.
Personal relationships are of many kinds. In some there is no clear apprehension of the other as a live individual. In some we perceive and shun. In others we perceive and respect, or even adore. Personal relationship begins with the child's blankly unperceptive friendships and antagonisms. It develops into the more detailed but still largely unseeing romances of love and hate which trouble adolescence. Later, along with increase of self-awareness, comes; or may come, an increasingly objective and perceptive relation to one's fellows. The huge majority of them remain uninteresting and unperceived, but a few loom up as real distinctive individuals, sometimes to be passionately loved or loathed, sometimes to be peacefully co-operated with, more often to be merely shunned. Little by little, as the years pass, one or two may take on great detail of form, though inevitably remaining in important respects unknown or misconceived.
The whole gamut of these experiences contributes to our awareness of community. Even the contacts that we loathe, can be enriching, so long as they do not wound us too deeply. Indeed, even in hate there can be an element of love, a detached relish of the other's alien vitality. But the kind of relationship which is most significant, and the norm of all the others, is that in which each individual is clearly aware of himself and of the other; and in which the two are of very diverse character, bound in mutual respect and mutual enrichment, and in a common task. This relationship varies from superficial and fleeting comradeship to the most intimate life-long partnership, in which each member is radically and often painfully moulded by the other; and in which, though inevitably there is mutual restriction and frustration, there is also mutual strengthening and spiritual increase. Thus there is formed a true community which, though in a sense it is nothing but its members, is also far more than they could possibly be if they existed in isolation from one another.
This kind of relationship cannot be healthy unless the members are united, not only in mutual respect and affection, but also in some kind of common task, whether the rearing of a family or some external work for society.
Further, I believe that it cannot attain full health and full lucidity of experience unless the members are united also in a common attitude to life. I do not mean necessarily in explicit intellectual doctrines but in a common emotional undertone of daily conduct.
In large societies, of course, and in small ones where there is no spontaneous mutual respect, the truly social spirit (if it exists at all) is maintained by the acceptance of the principle that individuality should be respected. This principle is a generalization from the experience of concrete community in personal contacts.
I believe that in the experience of concrete community at its best, based on love and reason, we gain a deeper insight into the nature of the universe than in splitting atoms or in logical analysis of concepts, valuable though these pursuits are. Whatever the truth about the universe, it is certainly capable of producing this thing, community, which we intuitively recognize as being a very great intrinsic good. But since in our day human society is obviously both immature and diseased, and since human nature itself is obviously but a primitive, half-formed and perhaps abortive thing, our experience of individuality-in-community must be regarded as merely a token of what might be. Even our own imperfect human nature is capable of far fuller expression than is possible in our tortured age. And when we think of the astronomical cosmos, in which our planet is a microscopic grain, we cannot but surmise that human community, even in its perfected state, is but a hint of cosmical promise altogether inconceivable to us, yet in essence identical with our own experience of community.
Though the psychical activity that I am calling love manifests for human beings its fullest, clearest expression in the active life of intimate community, there is a love-factor, so to speak, in all experience.. For experience, at bottom, is a relishing of the object by the experient, and a will for mutual intercourse. This is particularly clear in aesthetic experience, in which the artist both creates his work and is created by it. And even in the experience of frustration and pain there may be a factor of love, of acceptance, of enrichment, if the frustration does not go so deep as to be gravely destructive.
In religious contemplation of the universe the factor of love is dominant. It combines hunger to receive the universe and the longing to contribute to it. In its purest form it accepts the universe with piety, even though also with dread, and moral protest against the suffering and wickedness which it recognizes as necessary factors in the rich and excellent whole.
I said that in my experience reason appeared along with love as one of the two great goods. Like love, reason must be interpreted very broadly. It is seen most clearly in any simple intelligent act. It is essentially a disinterested apprehension and scrutiny, issuing in appropriate action. I have no doubt that, like love, its simplest root lies in the simplest kind of awareness and appropriate response. On a higher plane it shows itself as delight in the exercise of intelligence, in whatever field. One form of it is zestful intellectual analysis. But by reason I mean more than intellect. The distinction between intellect and intuition is superficial and misleading. Intellectual activity itself consists of an intuitive correlation of data which are at bottom intuitive. And the more developed and far-reaching intuitions are in part a product of past intellection. None the less there is a sense in which intellect and intuition may be contrasted. In some spheres the laborious intellectual process is more reliable than the intuitive leap. But sometimes the reverse is the case. Sometimes it is definitely unreasonable to trust to intellectual analysis rather than to intuition.
In the sphere of human community reason takes the form of reasonable behaviour, which springs from the will for self-detachment and the will to apprehend objectively the characters and motives of others and of oneself, so as to take them into account in action.
In religious contemplation the reason-factor is very important. I do not for a moment believe that religious contemplation transcends reason, though it certainly transcends intellect. It transcends, though it may use, the abstract concepts which are the medium of intellect. But it is essentially reasonable, since it is a patient striving to see life whole and to put first things first; and its goal is an all-embracing vision and appropriate action. Of course the word "reason" is ambiguous; but, in the sense in which I intend it, reason is certainly a factor in contemplation, which, indeed, is the supreme manifestation of reason.
Both the kinds of experience that seem to me most significant may be regarded as products of creative imagination. The word "creative" is suspect. By "creative imagination" I mean any use of imagination which produces something significantly new either in the mind of the imaginer or in society or in the physical world. No doubt, all imagination is to some slight extent "creative"; but in practice we must distinguish between mainly reproductive imagination and imagination which is mainly and significantly creative.
It is by creative imagination that the child first grasps the universal numerical identity of twice two and four, or the universal redness of all red things and all shades of red. It is by creative imagination that we become more clearly aware of ourselves and of one another as definite personalities, and are able to transcend the life of mere impulsive self-assertion, impulsive affection and impulsive obsequiousness to the herd. In fact it is by creative imagination that we learn to behave with considered self-respect, respect for others and for the common enterprise of society. It is by creative imagination that we bring about new and more vitalizing personal relations, whether with colleagues, friends, lovers, rivals, opponents or enemies. It is by creative imagination that we change the structure of society to meet changing conditions. By the same mental process we devise new mechanisms of physical power and new forms of physical beauty. By creative imagination we develop culture in all its spheres of art, science and philosophy. It is by this power that we expand the horizon of our awareness of the universe, and conceive ways of developing the potentiality of the universe within the narrow confines of our power.
Finally it is by means of creative imagination that we learn detachment not merely from self-regarding desires but from the common human enterprise itself, and reach toward the universal view. In fact the most lucid contemplation is itself the supreme fruit of creative imagination; which on its humblest plane, as on its highest, is simply the power of apprehending the subtle forms of things experienced, and of re-combining them into new forms significant for creative action in the physical or mental spheres.
Now, as I see it, all the acts of creative imagination include a factor of love and a factor of reason, though sometimes it may seem far-fetched to use these words in this connection. For instance it is easy to see that the child's first apprehension of the identity of twice two and four is typical of all the intuitive flashes that make up a process of reason; but has it anything to do with love'? I believe that it has. In my experience everything that is apprehended through creative imagination is in a sense loved. It arouses delight and admiration, even though, if it happens to be something antagonistic to our enterprises, it may also arouse hate. On the other hand, every act of creative imagination involves something which is essentially reason, which is essentially a "putting two and two together", an intuitive grasp of a pattern of many things as one thing. Such is the process by which a man becomes aware of himself as a distinctive person, and of others as persons. Such also are the methods of science and of creative art, and of all the activities mentioned above.
In the case of the supreme activity of contemplation, reason and love seem to me to be equally important factors. For this activity consists essentially in apprehending the experienced world as a whole, not merely in terms of a vast array of intellectual concepts (though these are instrumental), but with something like the immediacy by which We grasp the identity of twice two and four. I do not mean that in the activity which I am calling contemplation we are aware simply of the wholeness of the experienced world and not of any particular detail in it. On the contrary we are more likely to contemplate the whole through some one particular detail, such as, the tone of a certain remark made by a certain remark made by a certain person on a certain occasion, or the sweeping motion of a certain gannet in flight, or some particular general principle, such as the physical theory of Relativity, or the sociological theory of dialectical change. But in contemplation the particular is attended to not simply for itself but for its significance in relation to the whole. We feel the whole through it. In contemplation we feel the universe as a whole, much as we feel a work of art. We do not, of course, feel literally the whole of it, any more than we feel literally all that is in a work of art. We feel extremely little of the universe, even in the most lucid contemplation. But we feel it as a whole, as a unity in which all the infinite diversities, physical and mental, are organic to the whole; in which all joy and grief, all love and hate, all beauty and foulness, con- tribute to the whole. And the whole we salute with an emotion which I have not the wit to describe save lamely as a process of delight and dread and admiration and protest, culminating in mute, unqualified praise. But no sooner have I written these words than I realize how empty and insincere they must sound to anyone who has not seriously attended to this aspect of experience.
I have described the two most significant kinds of experience in my own life, most significant, I mean, for my attempt to form a reasonable belief about the universe. These I now relate to the firm belief stated in the first chapter of this book, namely that I am living in an age of very grave crisis in the struggle between the primitive and the developed ways of social life. The discovery of science and of mechanical power opened up the possibility not only of a more prosperous world in which no human beings need be enslaved to drudgery, but of a world in which personal relationship and contemplation might begin to be not only the most significant but actually the dominating facts of life. The opportunity, as I said, has for the present been missed. We are now in the throes of a regression from love and reason, by which alone the advance could be made; we are falling under the spell of ruthlessness and superstition, which are essentially, opposed to it.
Nevertheless there is a possibility, perhaps a probability, that advance has only been postponed, not permanently frustrated. Perhaps after another ten or fifty years, or at any rate after some centuries, or maybe a millennium or two, our species may successfully negotiate this awkward corner, this terrible psychological crisis of its infancy.
About the immediate issue the revolutionaries seem to me to be largely in the right. Is the world to be freed from the fetters of an outworn economic system and an economic oligarchy with an outworn mentality? Or is the world to be consciously directed for the good of the world-community as a whole? Is the ultimate control of public affairs to lie with the general will of the world-community under the guidance, but not the dictatorship, of experts; of experts in social philosophy, experts in social and economic organization, experts in psychology, experts in education, experts in technology and the various applied sciences? Perhaps human nature is incapable of solving this gigantic and novel world-problem. If it is, then again and again man will approach this critical corner of his career only to recoil frustrated. And sooner or later he will probably lose even such powers as he now has, and the human species will stagnate and decline and vanish.
But even if, some time or other, the critical corner is turned, this will be merely the first and perhaps the easiest phase of a more lengthy crisis. When at last the age-old obstruction has been cleared away, it will be possible to begin re-organizing the planet so that man's new powers may be used single-mindedly for the fulfilling and the further developing of man's capacity for conscious individuality in community. If history takes the right turn, not only will the world-society of the future be a reasonably planned society; it will also be composed of individuals who have not suffered the mental frustration and distortion that renders the present population of the world so unamenable to the methods of kindliness and reason. This great improvement in mental health will enable the world society to be in a very real sense anarchistic; since compulsion, the imposition of an alien fiat (whether of an individual, or a class, or a Marxian directorate), will be unnecessary. Law, however intricate, will be simply the universally accepted custom.
It is of course impossible to foresee how the world-society will develop, but we may be fairly sure about some of its most important features. The full use. of mechanical power and scientific knowledge will do away with the necessity that some human lives should be devoted to sheer drudgery, and crippled by penury. On the other hand for the running of an inconceivably complex world-society there will be limitless scope for every kind and every grade of intelligence and sensitivity, and also for the mentality that thrives best on steady routine.
And the upshot? An immense amount of human energy and ability will be released from socially wasteful and actually harmful occupations, to be directed into the endless task of maintaining and developing the mental life of the world-society. Education, we must suppose, will be a very different thing from what it now is, for it will be single-mindedly directed toward the creation of responsible world-citizens and the development of such creative powers as each individual possesses. The constant aim will be to increase by every possible means, generation by generation, the capacity of our species for personality-in-community. Men will thus become increasingly diverse and individual, and yet at the same time the race as a whole will become more and more unified in respect of mutual knowledge and of fundamental aims.
It seems possible that the human race may embark upon a long phase of prosperity and advancement, a sort of continuously evolving Utopia. During this phase, I imagine, the steady development of the capacity of the world-society, and steady improvement of the average mental calibre will continuously open up new possibilities of social and cultural advance at present inconceivable. No doubt at every stage of this progress there will occur violent conflicts of opinion and policy. But, as I see it, once the foundations of society have been properly laid, and all individuals are conditioned by a strong tradition of civilized behaviour, these conflicts will not threaten to disintegrate society.
Beyond this point the future of man must remain for us very obscure. But we must avoid supposing that, because we can see no further, there is nothing beyond the veil but satiety and stagnation. Let us therefore, in order to dispel this very unreasonable fancy, indulge for moment in daring speculation.
The Utopian phase, which may last for a few hundred or a few thousand years, will surely be no more than a moment in the career of the human species. Sooner or later, as I see it, the process of social and cultural development of the species in its present biological form, and within the confines of its native planet, will reach a point beyond which there is no possibility of further advance in knowing-feeling-striving without a profound refashioning of human nature. This will have to be achieved by means of a biological technique which, fortunately, is at present far beyond our powers. It would indeed be disastrous if we could radically change human nature before we had, as a race, a clear understanding of its true goal. But sooner or later man will be forced by circumstances, such as the planet's inevitable loss of air and water, to utilize the resources of other planets, where the present type of human being could not live. It will also be forced to increase the capacity of the human animal for sensibility and intelligence. By external and internal necessity man will thus enter into a new and drastic dialectical change.
It seems probable, then, that the phase of steadily developing Utopia will at last give place to a second and more profoundly revolutionary "chrysalis" phase of desperate internal conflict, of far-reaching experiment and adventure and re-construction. From this the human race may emerge as different from us, both physically and mentally, as we are from our unicellular ancestors.
We, of course, are incapable of conceiving even the bare outlines of such a remote process. But one thing we can, I believe, say of it with complete confidence. If ever it does occur, it will be controlled by the supreme social purpose which we ourselves are tardily beginning to recognize as the sole reasonable aim of intelligent beings; namely to develop the capacity for conscious living, the power of knowing, feeling, and creative striving.
It is beyond our power to foresee whither the pursuit of this ideal will subsequently lead man. We should not rule out the possibility of a community of highly developed worlds in the solar system, and even of communication and mental intercourse with other intelligent beings scattered throughout the galaxy within which our solar system is a mere atom. It is far more difficult to imagine physical communication between our own galaxy and others in the remotest depths of space. But direct mental intercourse of the kind known as telepathic is not inconceivable.
One other possibility must be mentioned. It may well be that in the distant future the individual, the effective unit in the social texture of personality-in-community, will be something much more like a minded world than like a man or any other known biological organism. Nevertheless so long as the biological individual remains the ground of conscious personality, as in our own case, we must guard against all attempts to subordinate him to the purely mythical personality of race or state.
I mention these speculations about the astronomical future of man only to show that We can set no limit to the development of individuality-in-community, which is the goal or rather the direction implied in our own still primitive nature. In our contemporary world this social aim is not clearly envisaged, save by a few. But if man successfully negotiates the present crisis of his career it will be accepted by all human beings. And in view of the immensity of the universe, and the fundamental physical similarity even of its remotest parts, we may feel confident that, scattered throughout space, other conscious beings have also envisaged this goal. It may well be that in far-distant worlds there are races so unlike us that, if we were to encounter them, each party would at first regard the other as wholly unintelligible, wholly alien, perhaps diabolic. Yet we have already learnt enough to be sure that for awakened minds of all possible races the goal of all social activity is identical; however special its practical interpretation in special circumstances. And we can dimly conceive the possibility that in the fullness of time the physical cosmos as a whole may become the stage on which the final act of the great drama will be performed, the act in which the achievement of individuality-in-community will reach its highest development before the inexorable law of "increase of entropy" begins to undermine the ultimate cosmical society of worlds by starving it of physical energy.
It may be, of course, that the law of entropy is not, after all, inexorable. Our physical science is no more than the first guesswork of a primitive intelligence. Or it may be that, long before the operation of this law begins to curtail the physical resources of mind in the cosmos, mind will have freed itself from dependence on the physical, by some means inconceivable to us. But it would be very rash to put any confidence in this speculation. No doubt recent enquiries into supernormal mental phenomena do suggest that the dependence of mind on body is not as rigid as was supposed; but in the present state of knowledge we must certainly recognize the possibility, some would say probability, that at some point in the process of time there will be a climax in the development of consciousness in the cosmos, followed by a prolonged decline and final extinction.
At this point in my speculation I remind myself that time is suspect. If our experience of events as "passing" gives us the whole truth about time, We must, I believe, in spite of the modern mathematical theory of continuity, suppose that past events and future events are absolutely non- existent, and that what does exist is an instantaneous present universe. Yet it is impossible to conceive of the instantaneous reality as containing passage within itself. If, on the other hand, we insist on something more than an instantaneous present, if we allow the present to be a span so as to accommodate passage, then there is no reason why the minute span of the present should not be extended to embrace the whole past and the whole future. In this view, past events and future events are no less real, no less existent than present events. "Now" becomes merely a point of view. All events of the temporal series have objectively the same status, and the mind itself travels along the series, like the movement of a spot light, illuminating now this, now that event with "presentness". But if we do this, then change is banished from the objective universe, and becomes merely a figment of the mind. Not only so, but, since all events are What they are eternally, free will becomes an illusion. For if all events are eternal, it is nonsense to suppose that they are ever in any way dependent on arbitrary acts of choosing, occurring at particular points of the series of events. The only way to avoid this difficulty is to allow that our choices themselves are simply determinate events coherent with the whole series.
I mention these considerations merely to remind the reader that our temporal experience is not fully intelligible, and to suggest that this is perhaps due to the limitations of our nature. A being who was conscious only of two spatial dimensions could not make sense of the experience of living on a three-dimensional sphere. Perhaps our temporal experience is unintelligible for some such reason. Perhaps only a superhuman mind could make sense of it. For us, what is reasonable is, not to dismiss one or other of the two conflicting aspects of our temporal experience in the interests of some tidy theory, but to hold firmly to both, to the vital experience of passage, of change, of movement, and also to the intuitive conviction that in some sense, as yet unintelligible, all events have an eternal aspect, that they do not simply flash into being and vanish into nonentity.
Perhaps this mystery will some day be solved. Perhaps our own descendants will solve it at no very distant date. On the other hand perhaps the intuitive grasp of the truth about time will not come until mind in the cosmos reaches the climax of its development.
It may be that in the climax of the cosmical process, the fruit of all the toil and suffering of innumerable worlds is the awakening of mind or spirit into full philosophical religious comprehension and full creative power. Perhaps the ultimate truth about mind and the cosmical process may be haltingly conceived by us in terms of a myth. We may imagine that the fully awakened spirit which, in the temporal view, is the fruit of the whole cosmical process, is identical, in the eternal view, with the origin and constant ground of the whole temporal process. Thus, mythically, eternal God, who, in the temporal view, created and supports the world in all its aeons, is also the final offspring and crowning glory of the world.
But perhaps this speculation is false in essence. Perhaps mind in the cosmos is not destined ever to attain to any such perfection and apotheosis. Perhaps the story of the cosmos must be one of sporadic and isolated and unfulfilled spiritual adventures, here and there, in the more fortunate worlds, scattered up and down the galaxies, up and down the aeons. Nay further, perhaps this vast disjointed drama is relished by no universal spectator and is the work of no universal artist.
Probably all these speculations are equally far from the truth. And probably it is well that the truth is hidden from us, for almost certainly the ultimate truth if it could be clearly revealed to us would be too formidable for our tender, our embryonic minds to bear.
Yet we have, I believe, in our own immediate experience something in virtue of which we are entitled to affirm that, whatever the issue of the cosmical process, there is great good in it. For there is love, reason, sensuous delight, creative action; and there is the ecstasy of contemplation. In this last, moreover, we may have an overwhelming sense of the rightness of the whole, whatever the intellectual truth about it. To this experience, so long as we do not overlay it with metaphysical theories, we may reasonably cling. It is the supreme consolation; and, strangely, it is an insistent spur to action. For the felt rightness of the cosmos goads us to play our part in the great drama.
On the earth to-day a poignant and heroic episode in that drama is about to be enacted; nay, is already on foot. Mankind has seized for the first time in its brief career far-reaching knowledge and prodigious power. In adolescent haste it has prostituted that knowledge, abused that power. The penalty is our present phase of world-wide distress, despair, and maniacal fury. But already there are signs that all mankind is awaking. Terrible, hideous, may be the years that are immediately to come. The old order will not easily die, nor the new be easily born. But our suffering shall not be in vain. For out of this confiict of nations, of classes, of creeds, some day soon or late there will emerge a new still unconceived world-order, a new Humanity. And we, we of to-day, in our half blind, half seeing bewilderment, have somehow to make ourselves the instruments of that great change.
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