1. THE AIM OF THIS CHAPTER
2. THE ROMAN CATHOLIC CHURCH
4. SCIENTIFIC MATERIALISM
5. LIBERAL DEMOCRACY
6. SOCIAL DEMOCRACY
9. UPSHOT OF THIS CHAPTER
1. THE AIM OF THIS CHAPTER
THE present war is a symptom of a disease which is at bottom partly political and social, but also psychological. Before trying to express the idea which alone, I believe, can give us light, and incidentally harmonize the conflicting values of the British and the Russians, I must sketch the phases of thought and feeling which have led us to our present mental disorder.
I shall tell a story which includes two themes. They .are intricately tangled together, but they are distinct. Neither of them has yet reached completion. To-day the stage is being set, I believe, for the culmination and fulfilment of both in a single coherent system of ideas. I am not, of course, going to give more than a sketch of these two great movements of thought and feeling. I am concerned with them only as the long-drawn-out prelude to the psychological crisis of our own day, the crisis about the right kind of life for individuals and societies.
The first of the two themes is the movement from religion to scientific materialism, or from belief in the supremacy of " spirit" to belief in the supremacy of "matter"; with the dawning discovery that, after all, simple materialism is not enough. To-day we are desperately in need of some kind of synthesis of religion and materialism, each of which contains a much-needed truth. I shall therefore begin by summarizing what I take to be the central experiences of the right and left "wings" of Christianity, namely Roman Catholicism and Puritanism, and then I shall consider scientific materialism.
The second theme is a movement which has oscillated between individualism and collectivism as social and moral ideals. Both of these principles also have proved inadequate. To-day we are being forced to see the dangers of both, and to grope for a synthesis of the good in each.
The two themes, that of religion and materialism and that of individualism and collectivism, are subtly entangled together. The oscillation between individualistic and collectivistic feeling begins politically with Liberal Democracy, passes through socialism and Communism, and reaches a violent climax in Nazism; but it has a precursor in the opposition between Roman Catholicism and Puritanism. For while Catholics are concerned chiefly with the collective enterprise of the Church, Puritans insist on the individual's spiritual rights and responsibilities.
On the other hand, the theme of individualism and collectivism is closely involved with the theme of religion and materialism. For materialism finds an expression in Liberal Democracy; though it is in conflict with the liberal's confused yearning toward the old Christian faith. In Socialism, though that yearning sometimes persists, there is a stronger tendency toward materialism, and also a reaction away from the liberal cult of individuality. Communism is whole-heartedly materialistic in profession, but in feeling and in action the best Communists seem to be, surprisingly and in spite of themselves, exponents of the very thing that the religious people call the "spirit ". So at least I shall argue. Communism, of course, is intensely collectivist, though it recognizes, at least in theory, that the goal of collective action should be individual well-being. Nazism is the reductio ad absurdum of pure collectivism; but it is also, I believe, an obscure protest against materialism, a tragically confused and perverted reassertion of the "spirit ".
2. THE ROMAN CATHOLIC CHURCH
I once had a correspondence with the head of a Jesuit College. He probably wanted to convert me. If so, he failed; but he certainly gave me something very valuable. He made me realize that the typical modern mind was a very sick mind, lacking, so to speak, a certain vitamin. He showed me that the Church really could administer this vitamin, though, as I believe, mixed in with quantities of dope and poison.
He gave a feeling of the power which the Roman Church has for the best of its members. The commoner sort, I knew, were held simply by the belief that by obeying the Church they would avoid eternal damnation. They surrendered conscience and intelligence into the hands of the priests, hoping thereby to gain bliss after death. I now had to recognize another sort- of Roman Catholic.
I had always thought of Roman Catholics, and particularly Jesuits, as beyond the pale. Many of them certainly are; but so are many Anglicans, Communists, Scientists, Socialists. Here was a Jesuit whom I was forced to respect, not only for his intelligence and sincerity, but for helping me to see and feel more clearly. He was in deadly earnest about his faith; and the bare core of his faith, though not the rest of it, I found I desperately needed. He was possessed by something which I had only vaguely glimpsed. The way in which he had reached that thing, and the intellectual formulæ by which he expressed it, were not open to me. They must surely be closed, I felt, to every sincere modern mind. But his was really not a modern mind at all. He seemed to me the mind of a past age speaking to me in an archaic language, and trying hard to give me a truth which I and the whole modern world had lost. His mind had been formed in isolation from the great forces of mental change that had made the modern world: He did not know this. He regarded himself as thoroughly in touch with those forces. But really he was not. He saw them at work, but at a distance, from the standpoint of the vanished age preserved in his Church. Long ago in the Middle Ages there must have been many of his kind. They dominated European civilization. Indeed they civilized Europe. To-day they are very few. The Roman Church and all the Churches are composed mainly, though of course not entirely, of moderns insincerely aping a way of life that they can never really live.
According to my Jesuit correspondent the Church's power over men begins with an appeal to an impulse which exists in each of us. That impulse may be merely dormant, expressing itself not to all or in a vague discontent with ordinary living. Or it may be already active, a strong but undirected urge for a new life. If it is dormant, the Church has to begin by waking it. If it is already active, then the Church can at once begin to clarify and direct the urge. My correspondent called .it an urge far the "spiritual life" or the "life of the spirit". His language was all wrong from my point of view, but somehow some of it struck home. He said that in everyone there was something which he exasperatingly called "the spirit", something which was continually pressing toward a way of life better than ordinary living. He spoke of" union with God ", and the "salvation of man’s immortal soul". All men, he said, at heart long for God and for eternal life. Some think of these in simple terms, some more subtly. The Church must speak to each in his own language, metaphorically; but the essential truth, that the way of the spirit is the way of life, is true for all. The word "spirit" outraged my modern mentality. It is indecently tangled up with vulgar, unctuous emotions. And it is vague; so meaningless that it can mean anything. But I knew the impulse for a way of life in which I should be more penetratingly aware of reality, and emotionally more at one with it. Dangerously vague words again; but I can find no better. We have no clean, clear words left to describe this impulse or its goal.
My friend (I have never met him, but in spite of the gulf between us I am proud to call him my friend) said that the " life of the spirit " implied among other things a certain attitude toward one's fellow human beings, an attitude of unfailing goodwill, of respect for them as individual spirits, of Christian love and helpfulness. With this I could easily agree. But he went on to say that the great aim of love was to save men's immortal souls from eternal damnation. This I could not but reject, because I was very far from believing that we had immortal souls to be saved. And the idea of hell filled me with contempt. Another thing he said, which troubled me more because I could not merely reject it. “You must love men", he said, "not simply for their own sakes but for God's, for the sake of the spirit which is in us all." I could not believe in his personal God. But emotionally I found a meaning in his words. In spite of my mind's scientific background I could not help feeling that somehow the good life was good not merely because it was the way of mutual profit, or because it was socially beneficial, but simply for its own sake, or because it expressed something essential, fundamental, in human nature. This feeling I had often known, but I had always dismissed it as merely a result of my up-bringing, in fact a product of "social conditioning", and at bottom a sort of confused hunger for self-importance. My Jesuit friend made me realize that to dismiss it in this way was to miss the whole point of it.
According to my Jesuit this appeal to the urge of the spirit in a man is only the beginning of the Church's work. The Church goes on to say to him something like this: "In spite of the spirit in you, you are weak and base and constantly sinning against the spirit. Unaided you cannot fulfil that impulse which you know to be the best in you. In the Church you will find light and strength. Even now in your heart you love the way of the spirit; but you cannot follow it, because you are blind and weak. Join the great company of the Church. We who are members of the Church have been strengthened by the truth that has been shown to us. We work together in a great organization to serve the spirit. In the Church you will move forward; in isolation you are held fast in a bog of doubt and sin and misery. With us, with the Church, you will find your heart's desire; which, though you may not admit it, is union with God. To reject the Church is to betray the spirit in you, to pervert the best in you with spiritual pride. For who are you, that you should set up your feeble individuality, bemused by upstart science, against the Church? Through the last two thousand years the Church has helped men to be a little more human, a little more spiritual. Without the Church, what would Europe have been? And what are you? Such flickering insight as you have into the life of the spirit comes to you wholly from the Church, though at second or third remove, and hideously impoverished and distorted by our barbarous modern materialistic culture."
I had to admit a large measure of truth in all this. But I could not possibly join the Church, because its doctrines and its ritual, far from being necessary, seemed to me not only false but a violation of the spirit which they were supposed to strengthen. The doctrines had no rational justification. The ritual was hypnotic. It generated mass emotions and put the critical faculty to sleep. All this I told him.
He replied more or less as follows: "You confuse the spirit with the intellect, which is infinitely less than the spirit. These doctrines and rituals offend not the spirit but the intellect, the blinkered modern intellect. They express, after all, truths which are beyond the range of the un-aided human intellect. And so your unsubdued, arrogant intellect is outraged. But it is whole- some that your intellect should be outraged. In your heart you seek the spirit. The Church is the vehicle of the spirit. The Church exhorts you to put aside intellectual scruples and believe the Christian doctrine although it seems impossible. Indeed, you must believe because it is impossible. You must sacrifice intellectual pride and spiritual pride, and surrender yourself utterly into the keeping of the Church. You deny the Church's doctrine presumably because it violates what you call science. But though science is a great power put into men's hands, it cannot tell them anything about the things that matter most. It has concentrated almost entirely on the physical, with immense success. Recently it has tried to deal with the mental; but what can it tell you about the workings of the mind save what we Jesuits knew long ago? And how it perverts such truth as it knows! It claims to explain the human entirely in terms of the animal and the physical. To your modern psychologists this seems plausible only because they have been blinded by the materialistic and commercial atmosphere of this age. They know nothing of the spirit at first hand; and what they know at second hand is so superficial and distorted that they can easily explain it away in terms of their little science. But we, the priests, who have given our lives to the study and service of the spirit, can see how utterly trivial their theories are."
I told him that, so far as I could see, the Church, far from being an organization for saving men's souls, was deliberately suffocating the spirit in them. This it did, I said, simply to extract money from them for its own support. Survival was its only motive. And to survive, it needed money. Therefore the Church persuaded men to invest their savings in the Church for profit in the life after death. Thus men were distracted from the urgent need of taking action here and now to change the present evil social order, which, I affirmed, was an outrage to the spirit.
He replied that the evil in the social order was due to the evil in men's hearts, and that the task of the Church was to purify their hearts, not to tinker with the social order. No social system, he said, even the most efficient and just, could work well unless the men and women in it were true to the spirit; and to be true to the spirit they must be members together in the great traditional Church. No doubt there was corruption within the Church itself, as in all human institutions. This was terribly regrettable. But this evil was as nothing compared with the immense good that the Church did in keeping the spirit awake in men's hearts.
Well, this voice speaking out of the past could not convert me. Too much had happened in the world since this kind of thing could over-master the free intelligence. And yet, many of my most brilliant contemporaries, I reminded myself, had gone over to Rome. Was it merely that they had given way to the longing for security and for obedience to a high spiritual authority? Or did they really feel that the Church, with all its faults and errors, was still the great exponent of this thing "the spirit", this something in us which presses toward an intrinsically better, a more awakened, a more illuminated way of living? Whatever their motive, I believed they were mistaken. But my Jesuit had at least made it clear to me that words such as "spirit" and phrases such as "the way of the spirit" and "the spiritual life" were not simply signposts pointing nowhere but into bogs of confusion and self-deception. They meant something real, though something very difficult to describe without falsification and sentimentality. It seemed almost impossible to fit this thing, the "spirit", satisfactorily into modern thought.
I shall use the word "spirit" quite a lot in this book. I do so with open eyes. I know that it is ambiguous and emotive. I know that while for one kind of mind it resounds with all that is best and loveliest in human experience, to another kind it suggests self-deception, flight from reality, wishful thinking, hypocrisy, unctuousness, and so on. But I cannot find any other word to express the thing that is recognized by all the religions at their best, though they all tend to bury it under unnecessary and improbable doctrine. The loss of awareness of this thing, the "spirit ", I maintain, .is the main psychological cause of our present disorder. Of course there are other important causes also, economic and political.
What I mean by the "spirit" will appear more clearly later in this book. Meanwhile, here is a rough and, I hope, a not too misleading definition.
The spirit is that in a man (however intellect may finally describe it) in virtue of which he recognizes that a certain temper of experience and action, in fact a certain way of living is right and beautiful absolutely. It is also that power in him by which, though precariously and intermittently, he actually lives in this way. Incidentally this kind of living affords him, when he .can attain to it, the greatest possible well-being. For it affords expression to his deepest nature, which is the spirit in him. But to be true to the spirit is to express it not in words merely, but in action; and not simply as a means for personal well-being, but for the spirit's sake alone.
I do not wish to imply that the spirit is a thing or a mind or a personal God other than him and at work in him, or that it is his immortal soul. About these matters I care little and know almost nothing. My point in this book is simply this. There is a temper of experience and action which a man in his most awakened, most lucid, state cannot but feel to be right. He cannot but feel that, in virtue of something in, him which some call the spirit, he absolutely ought to live in that way, so far as he has it in him to do so.
These statements involve very serious philosophical difficulties. I am not here concerned with them, but merely with expressing a normally intelligible idea. Nor am I concerned here to define what the relation of the spirit in a man is to the spirit in other individuals, and what its relation is to the universe as a whole. These are questions which, I suggest, the human mind cannot yet answer. We must therefore learn to live without the, answers. Of course, we may have feelings about them, and we may speculate; but we must not found any faith or any intellectual belief on our feelings, or on our speculation.
There came a time in European history when masses of men broke away from Roman Catholicism and took up a new religious attitude. What was the essential point of this new attitude, which we may call roughly "Puritanism" ? What impulse caused that violent ferment in men's minds, and threatened to overthrow the ancient church completely? No doubt the worst kind of Puritan was and is a "repressed" and embittered hater of all that is lovely in life. But what is it that the best kind of Puritan cared for supremely, and does care for supremely even to-day?
Sincere Puritans, like sincere Roman Catholics, have always been intensely conscious of the aspect of man which they call the life of the spirit; but with a difference. For the Roman Church the life of the spirit is more of a co-operative enterprise carrying on a great tradition. For, the Puritan it is rather a private enterprise, an attempt of the individual spirit to fulfil its personal nature and form a right relation with God. The Puritan revolt against the Church began with various forms of compromise, such as Lutheranism and Anglicanism, and developed into a swarm of more extreme sects. Here I want merely to emphasize the essential difference between the typical Roman Catholic attitude and the typical conviction of all kinds of Puritans.
No doubt the causes of the rise of Puritanism were largely political and economic. Indeed it was probably an economic change that made the new mode of thought and feeling possible to masses of human beings instead of merely to a few eccentrics. It would be a mistake to, suppose that the movement arose simply out of revolt against the corruption of the Church, for instance, against the sale of absolution for sins. There were gross corruptions in other ages, arid movements of purification; but no real Puritanism. The movement could not begin until a time when many people were becoming excruciatingly conscious of themselves as individual minds, when an important section of the European population was reaching toward a new and more intense awareness of human individuality. And this could not happen until' the rise of the bourgeois class. The new traders and workers for wages had no assured place in the old feudal hierarchy. Instead of being units in a great system which, whatever its faults, was co-operative, they had to fend for themselves and use their wits to gain what they could out at their fellows. They became economic individualists. And economic individualism made them more self-conscious, more self-reliant, more self-interested, more self-critical. It made them also more aware of each other as distinctive individuals, more interested in individuality and less interested in sociality.
In every sphere the individual began to assert himself against authority. He tested everything by his own experience and deliberate observation. In art he became more concerned to record what he saw than to deal in traditional symbolism. In literature he turned his attention to the great diversity of individuals. (One thinks of Chaucer’s Canterbury Pilgrims.) He also began exploring the hitherto unguessed depths of self-experience. (One thinks of Hamlet.) Sometimes the newly conscious individual took to scientific observation and experiment, trusting his eyes rather than traditional theory. He studied the flight of birds, dropped cannon balls from towers, made telescopes, poked about in corpses.
Faced with the corruption of the Church, and also by his own corruption and an intense longing for purity and perfection, the new individual took a new line in religion. He rejected the Church's claim to mediate between him and God. Two authorities he admitted, and no more: the Bible, which he regarded as the authentic word of God, and his own conscience, which he took to be the voice of God speaking within him. In this desire to face up to the facts, external and internal, the facts of "holy scripture" and the facts of his own spiritual experience, he showed the same empirical temper as was being shown in other spheres by the early scientists. Always he tested everything by the light of his own conscience and his own intelligence, just as the early scientists tested everything by their own perceptions of the external world. The dictates of authority, temporal, or spiritual, must be obeyed only if his own conscience and intelligence permitted. Always he cared more about the inner life and less about external relations. The Church had insisted that salvation was to be found mainly in doing good works, such as acts of charity, ritual acts of worship, active support of the Church itself. In deeds, and not merely in vague feelings, one must be loyal to the spirit. The Puritan felt that what mattered was the motive for which good works were done; and what mattered most of all was to love God in one's heart, to be loyal to the spirit in inner conviction. From this a life of good works in the external world would inevitably follow. One must not merely keep the law and conform to the respectable tradition of behaviour; one must test out every contemplated act in the light of individual conscience, and in the light of God's written words.
Thus long ago, and in a field other than politics, the two impulses confronted each other which are tearing the world to-day, the impulse toward community and. the impulse toward individuality. Puritans themselves, of course, had a strong sense of community; and churchmen of individuality. Some Puritans were economic communists; some churchmen were emphatic- ally economic individualists. But always, Puritans insisted on the final responsibility of the individual, and churchmen stressed the social aspect of religion.
Both Catholic and Puritan thought of the goal of the spiritual life as eternal bliss. But about the way, the typical Catholic and the typical Puritan differed. The Catholic looked with a more kindly eye on innocent pleasures. Though he condemned the world, the flesh and the devil, he was not, as a rule, obsessed by their temptations. He was on the whole friendly toward the well-rounded, well-developed personality. But the Puritan was devoured by his sense of the enmity between flesh and spirit. Self-denial and asceticism had of course always, particularly by the great saints of the Catholic Church, been recognized as a means of strengthening the spirit. But for the Puritan they were apt to become an end. They were not merely a means to the spiritual life; they constituted the spiritual life. Bliss, so far as it was permissible at all here on earth, must be the bliss of triumphant self-denial for the sake of a greater bliss in eternity. All other pleasures, even the most seemingly innocent, were suspect. They were all snares of Satan tempting men from the way of the spirit. To find eternal bliss, to gain personal salvation, a man must avoid all distractions. He must concentrate on purifying his own will, with the help of God. Always, of course, the impulse was in a sense self-regarding, since it sought eternal bliss for the self. But the way to bliss was to forget the self, to deny it, to love righteousness for its own sake, the spirit for its own sake, God for his own sake.
In both Puritan and Catholic the simple self-regarding will for personal happiness in the life after death was tangled up with this self-oblivious passion for the spirit, for the life of the spirit, the kind of behaviour dictated by the spirit. The craving which began as a desire for endless happy existence developed as a desire for happiness of a particular kind, namely spiritual happiness, the joy of living according to the spirit, of serving the spirit. At this stage personal happiness ceased to be the goal. For the goal was now simply to become a true "vessel " of the spirit. Oneself became a means to an end, the fulfilling of something greater than oneself, namely the spirit. And this thing, the spirit, was conceived of as at once within oneself, striving for light and fulness, and outside oneself, at work in all men and all existence. At this stage personal happiness became incidental. And at this stage the difference between Catholic and Puritan ceases to seem important.
This passion for the spirit was at one time a very real force in Europe. In, the Middle Ages it founded the great religious orders. Later, it flared up as Puritanism, caused ruthless wars, and drove many of the best English men and, women over to America. The modern mind can quite easily dismiss it by means of sociological or psychological explanations which certainly have a great deal of truth in them. It can be explained away as all due to repressed sexuality, to submerged mother-love or father-fear, and so on. To the mind drenched in modern ideas such explanations may well seem not merely true so far as they go but the whole truth. To believe this is easy, but a huge mistake. So at least I shall argue. The same kind of arguments as those which dismiss the passion for the spirit in terms of social influence can be used with equal effect against the sceptical modern mentality itself. Such ideas as repressed sexuality, mother-love and father-fear can all be used to explain away scientific materialism as a mere emotional prejudice. And there is some truth in this view, as there is in the other. Our present European tumults will not have been in vain if they force us to realize that the typical modern mina is a mind that has been blinded in certain important respects. To say this is not to say that we must go back to Puritanism or Roman Catholicism. What we need is a synthesis of the modern and the older truths.
4. SCIENTIFIC MATERIALISM
From the sixteenth to the nineteenth centuries a very far-reaching change took place in the mental climate of Europe. The innate biological foundations of men's minds remained, of course, the same throughout the period, but the traditional forms of thought and feeling were changed through and through. To-day we are on the threshold of yet another cultural revolution. To understand our own condition we must understand the earlier change.
Like Puritanism, science was made possible by the rise of the bourgeois. While some of the new individualists were busy with the search for individual salvation after death, and with the disinterested love of the way of life called "spiritual", others concentrated on tile physical. They studied the ways; in which physical events happened, and began to work out the easier parts of a vast system of natural laws. The early scientists had no desire to break with the Church. Galileo, Kepler, Descartes, Newton, for instance, were all devout churchmen. But they looked with fresh curiosity on the happenings of the physical world; and they came to doubt, not the essential doctrines of the Church, but the Church's account of nature. They were determined to find out for themselves just what did happen. Their explorations forced them little by little toward the conviction that for the understanding of physical events and the control of them one must seek physical not spiritual causes. Some of them began even to look for physical explanations of mentality. In fact they were tending toward scientific materialism.
It used to be thought that the rise of modern science was quite simply an expression of the free intelligence at work on natural events. It was this, but it was more than this. First, the new individualism which made science psychologically possible was itself a result of the rise of the bourgeois class of free individualists. Second, the play of curiosity alone. would never have provided the drive needed for so concentrated, sustained and co-operative an enterprise as modern science. The driving motive was the search for physical power. Francis Bacon, who called himself the trumpeter of a new; age, prophesied that science would enable the human race to found a new and happier world. Throughout the whole period of the rise of science it was the need of the commercial and industrial leaders of the bourgeois class for more efficient methods of production and distribution that stimulated scientific research. And it was this demand for power that directed research almost entirely toward the physical kind of scientific problem rather than the psychological.
Further, it was the huge expansion of mechanized industry that gradually captured such attention as men had formerly been able to give to the life of the spirit, and centred their interest more and more obsessively on the material world. .
It has generally been supposed that the decline of religion in modern times was due simply to the fact that scientific criticism made the old doctrines seem incredible. There has indeed been a great theoretical battle in which religion has been gradually forced to surrender one defensive post after another. Though few of the old theories about man and the, universe have been directly refuted by science, many of them have been made to look unplausible, some extremely so. Moreover their rise and their hold upon men's hearts can be very easily explained in terms of accepted sociological and psychological theories. For instance, belief in a loving God is obviously rooted in the child's dependence on terrestrial parents.
But the theoretical attack on religion might well have led not to irreligion but to a further purifying and strengthening of the essential loyalty to the spirit, had it not been for the blinding influence of commercialism. It is quite true that the theoretical trappings of religion have been torn to pieces by criticism derived from the new scientific temper. The virgin birth, the remission of sins, the resurrection, trans-substantiation, the Bible story of creation, can only be believed in a very metaphorical sense, if at all, by those who have come under the influence of science. Personal immortality is now, to say the least, very doubtful. "God", the almighty and all-loving person, source and goal of all existence, is no longer an ever-present reality in men's minds. For many men the word " God" is reduced to an almost meaningless noise. At most it calls up an outworn fantasy bred of wishful thinking. Nevertheless, all these intellectual formulations, even "God", could have been sacrificed without harm if only men could have retained the inarticulate feeling of the reality and beauty of the spirit, the sense of the absolute rightness of a certain mode or temper of experience and conduct.
If men had been able to retain this feeling, they might then have said to themselves something like this: "Human intellect is too feeble to reach any important truth about the universe as a whole. But no amount of intellectual criticism can shake our conviction, or rather destroy our direct perception, that something which we call the spirit is at work within us, and that the way of life dictated by the spirit is absolutely the right way of life."
But they did not take this line. They could not. They had lost that direct perception. The overwhelming flood of commercialism, by nailing their attention upon material things, blotted out their awareness of the spirit. Economic individualism forced them to become absorbed more deeply and desperately than ever before in the individualistic fight for a livelihood, or in the c less-excusably individualistic struggle to become top-dog in the universal brawl, and to out-do their fellows in the display of money-power.
Of course there had always been the passion for individualistic power and self-display. But now this passion was exaggerated by the destruction of the old feudal ties and by the individualistic texture of the new society. There had always been that desperate battle to win a livelihood from the material world. But now it was more flagrantly a battle against other individuals. And the measure of, success was increasingly money, the symbol of material power. Moreover, now that the human species was discovering and feverishly exploiting new and seemingly limitless resources of material power, matter came to seem the only reality, and all that used to be meant by the spirit and the life of the spirit faded into the dim background of men's minds, until at last it did not seem real at all. Formerly, there had always been a recognized authority standing, however inadequately and insincerely, for the spirit. Religion was a real power in men's minds. Even the most "worldly" men paid lip service to it, admitted the authority of the spirit and expected damnation if they sinned against the spirit. Now, all that was changed. What with the corruption of the churches, the feebleness of their vision of their own truth, and their intellectual defeat by the scientists, religion lost its hold upon the great majority of sensitive and thoughtful people.
Authority now began to pass from the priests to the scientists. Their miracles were far more spectacular than the priests' miracles. Their truth was more intelligible and convincing than the priests' truth. Their helpfulness was more concrete. Inevitably the temper which scientific research fostered gained great. prestige, and spread far beyond the actual scientific workers. In fact the scientific temper, combined with the temper induced by individualistic economic enterprise, became the dominant mood of the modern age.
There can be no doubt that natural science is the great permanent and distinctive contribution of our age to human experience. But for us, who are immersed in the scientific age, it is as difficult to see the limitations of science, and the special weaknesses of the scientific temper, as it was for the people of the Middle Ages to see the limitations of their religion. No one can really transcend the mental climate of his age. But in transitional moments, and our time is one of them, it is possible to "feel forward" a little toward the temper of the coming age. I t is very important to do so. For only by" feeling forward" can we develop the new temper, suited to the changed circumstances of mankind. A mental climate is always the result of the impact of a certain new set of economic and social conditions upon the existing mentality of masses of men. The more sensitive we are to that impact, the more quickly we shall re-adjust ourselves.
What were the forces that created the scientific temper? They were forces acting through the experience of scientists in their work. Increasingly the explorers found in the course of their work that certain principles and methods gave good results. The constant preoccupation with these bred in them the typical scientific temper. Their method, as we all know, was and is to test all theories by experience. Faced with a problem, they would attend to the relevant characters of the situation, ignoring all else. In fact they analysed and abstracted and formed generalizations about how things actually happened in nature. They tried to relate the new problem to generalizations already formed from past experience. Every new theory they tested out by observation and, if possible, by experiment. Their theories were always descriptions, of the way in which events did observably happen, or of the way in which, by inference from observed events, they must have happened, if the established theories were true. They were concerned with the material rather than the mental, partly because they were in search of material power, partly because the material is much more easily studied by scientific method than the mental. They sought to explain the complex by means of the simple, the whole by means of its parts. They sought ultimate atomic units and ultimate laws of the interaction of these units; hoping more and more, as science advanced, to describe everything material. and mental in the universe by means of these laws. They conceived the ultimate units as essentially physical, though capable of secreting, in some mysterious way, thoughts and feelings "as the liver secretes bile". Thus arose the doctrine of scientific materialism. As a method of inquiry it was immensely potent.
Such were the principles and methods which went to the making of the scientific temper. Another influence was, of course, the "battle against religious orthodoxy. This produced in the typical scientist's mind a deep suspicion of all highfalutin metaphysical explanations of natural events in terms of divine purpose or indwelling purposive spirits. It had another effect. It produced a vivid consciousness of the way in. which our wishes and emotions can distort our thinking. Thus arose a strong prejudice in favour of being unprejudiced, and a strong passion for rationality. In extremists this led to a cult of "matter-of-factness" and of cynicism, along with a quite irrational dislike of all emotion.
The triumph of science thus gradually ousted from men's minds not only the old religious doctrines but the old ideals of conduct. This last was a slow process. The early scientists accepted both Christian doctrine and Christian virtue. Later, doctrine was discarded, but the old moral ideals maintained their emotional hold. In this phase it was necessary to find some new sanction for morality. One must be chaste, truthful, kind-hearted, and so on, not because God willed it or the Church commanded it, or because intuitively one felt this to be the way of the spirit, and absolutely right, but for some other reason. The new moral sanction for the old morality gradually appeared in utilitarianism. The moral goal was the greatest happiness of the greatest number. Tested by this touchstone, some of the old virtues had to be discarded, others survived. The most important of all, Christian charity or human brotherhood, remained acceptable; but its rightness had, of course, to be derived from social utility alone, and this in turn from self-interest. All human action, it was assumed, sprang from self-interest, short-sighted or long-sighted. Properly regarded, the self-interest of each demanded a stable and prosperous society in which to function. Consequently the feeling of human brotherhood, without which no society could thrive, was sanctioned by the self-interest of each. Christian love was scientifically justified.
Certain new virtues were added. These were consequences of the scientific temper itself. Gradually scientific integrity, intellectual honesty, came to be felt as the supreme virtue, and wishful thinking became the deepest sin against the spirit. The spirit? But for the materialistic scientist there was no spirit. The supreme virtue and the basest sin were still felt as right and wrong in the spiritual sense, but they must be. derived from the utilitarian sanction. Intellectual integrity was needed for the advancement of human society. This was its sole “moral” justification. The austere love of truth for its own sake, which was supposed to be the dominant motive of all science, was thus made philosophically defensible; and was more and. more revered. Detachment from all human passions and desires save only the passion for truth became the hall-mark of scientific respectability, and was often, an excuse for ignoring the fact that the results of scientific research were used more for commercial profit-making than for public utility. Emotion, since it interfered with intellect, was always suspected and often condemned outright. The ideal came to be cold intellectualism and calculated self-interest, which was innocently supposed to lead to devoted self- sacrifice in the search for truth, and to self- forgetfulness in the great co-operative enterprise. For the advancement of knowledge there must be universal free access to facts and theories. No restriction on freedom of speech must be permitted. All human beings must be educated to use their intelligence and form balanced judgments. No truth must be withheld from them. No opinion, however pernicious, must be banned. Since all men were believed to be at bottom rational animals, the truth was bound to prevail in the long run. Every kind of thought and action must be tolerated, with one restriction: acts harmful to the freedom or happiness of one's fellow-men must be forbidden.
In this attitude there is obviously an immense amount of good. The scientific temper is one of the great achievements of the human mind. But to-day it is scarcely necessary to dwell upon its excellence; what is needed is to emphasize the special dangers which -it incurs. So easily is it perverted. Intellectual integrity may degenerate into a puritanical fear of emotion, thoroughness into a blinkered specialism, detachment into callous rejection of the call for sympathy and aid, piety toward the facts of sense-experience into obtuseness to the facts' of spiritual experience, loathing of the cant of religion into a canting cynicism. In a later chapter I shall give a fuller statement of the sceptical scientific attitude, and I shall try to show its fundamental weakness.
5. LIBERAL DEMOCRACY
Thus far I have been describing the movement of thought and feeling which began with Christian orthodoxy, developed into Puritanism, and finally swung over into scientific materialism. I have now to follow that other movement which has oscillated between individualism and collectivism. As I have said, this movement too begins with Catholicism, in its collectivist aspect, veeres into mainly individualistic Puritanism, reaches its individualistic climax in nineteenth-century liberalism, and then swings increasingly toward collectivism, through democratic socialism, Marxian communism and contemporary totalitarianism.
The reader may ask, what is the connection between these two cultural streams? The connection is first, that they are both aspects of the single great cultural problem of our day, second that, as I shall later show, the synthesis of the first pair of opposites (religion and science) turns out to be also the guiding principle for the synthesis of the other pair (individualism and collectivism).
In considering Roman Catholicism and Puritanism I have already noted their opposition in respect of collectivism and individualism; so I can proceed at once to deal with liberal democracy.
By "liberal democracy" I mean not merely the policy of the Liberal Party but the social and political principles which were associated with that policy and were on the whole accepted, however grudgingly, by other parties also during the nineteenth century. In fact I mean the whole system of ideas and values which formed the mental climate of the democracies during the nineteenth century and early twentieth centuries. Throughout the nineteenth century Britain tended to become more and more a liberal democracy. The same is true of many other European states and of the British Dominions and the. U.S.A. Not long ago it seemed that the whole world was bound to adopt liberal democracy and to accept the whole liberal ideal. To-day this seems very improbable.
Liberalism has two roots. Like science it could not have occurred without the intensified individualistic feeling which was caused by the rise of the bourgeois class; but also, again like science, it would not have occurred had not that class needed it. For it provided an ideology and a policy favourable to private economic enterprise. Inevitably a class which is triumphing by means of individualism stresses the importance of the right of individuals to freedom in the economic, political, moral and intellectual spheres.
Liberalism took over much from the scientific temper, and. gave much in return. It was also closely related with the puritanism of the early bourgeois pioneers. Perhaps it would be more true to say that these three movements, puritanism, science and liberalism, all of them expressions of the new individualistic temper, had much in common. .
The core of liberalism is the emotional attitude which values individuality more than sociality. Individuals, it was felt, were real things; society was merely the abstract system of the relations of individuals. The new, intensely self-conscious bourgeois, imperfectly integrated into the existing feudal society, trying out new methods of production, hampered by old customs and regulations, steadily accumulating money-power, ousting the old feudal aristocracy, successfully resisting and crippling the authority of the king, was naturally disposed to prize freedom very highly, and to demand equality of opportunity and the abolition of feudal privilege. The state appeared to be only a necessary evil. Its function was simply to prevent individuals from hurting one another by their free activity. The fundamental rights of individuals must be restricted only in so far as they might conflict with one another. The state must be the servant of the individuals that composed it, not an end in itself. Its time-honoured but always more or less out-of-date institutions must not be allowed to stand in the way of change when change was needed for the better functioning of private, enterprise.
The early bourgeois was a Christian, often a puritan. He recognized at least in theory the individual's responsibility toward his fellow-men; but he insisted that, in fulfilling this responsibility, he must be faithful to his own intelligence and his own conscience. Later, when, under the influence of science, the liberal bourgeois was discarding Christian doctrine, he still retained the essential moral conviction of Christianity, the sense of the rightness of loving and serving one's fellows; but he had to find some new sanction for this moral principle. His philosophical leaders, who also in this respect led the scientists, told him that a man could only seek his own pleasure, that pleasure was the sole good, and that therefore the greatest happiness of the greatest number was the morally right aim of all social activity. Some liberals had a feeling that, after all, some pleasures were better than others, even though they might be less intense; but this feeling was really inconsistent with the theory. According to the utilitarian theory the sole measure must be intensity of pleasure in the individual mind. It followed also that in calculating the social good one must assign equal weight to all individuals. The test must be amount of pleasure, no matter for whom.
Since all individuals had equal rights, the proper system of government was, of course, democracy, in which the mass of free and enlightened citizens were supposed to decide for themselves, by majority vote, how they should be governed.
Clearly the right policy for a democracy was to allow equal opportunity to each citizen to act in his own interest. The Utopian society, it was thought, would be one in which interlocking selfishnesses would produce the greatest happiness for all. Society must be a system of rational self-interests, keyed together. Buying in the cheapest market and selling in the dearest would work out for the general profit, if everyone cared intelligently for his own happiness. The finally effective appeal to men would always be the appeal to enlightened self-interest. The more educated the individuals, the more rational and informed would their self-interest be. Therefore all men must be educated. For another reason also it was necessary that all men should have at least elementary education, namely that they might be efficient workers in the great industrial system. This, it may well be, was the main motive behind the movement for universal education.
Unfortunately the theory that free buying and selling would produce universal happiness assumed that all individuals would have equal bargaining power. This was not so. Some started with financial advantages, some without. Some were more capable than' others. To the self-made commercial and industrial pioneers it seemed only right that the more able individuals, on whom the general advancement depended, should win greater power than the less able. But it was overlooked that, when this happened, the upshot would not, after all, be the greatest happiness of the greatest number. For the more powerful individuals would control more of the means to happiness. Moreover by their money-power they would be able to control the state and the markets in such a way as to strengthen their own class and enslave the less fortunate. It has become increasingly obvious that political democracy of the nineteenth-century type does not make for equality of opportunity and universal happiness. .
The evolution of free commercialism is familiar to us all. First came a period of spectacular industrial expansion, accompanied by complete disregard of the interests of the industrial workers, whose lives were fantastically brutish and abject. Later, as the demand for labour increased and the workers began to organize themselves in their own defence, there dawned a grudging recognition of the workers' right to be protected from exploitation of the grosser kind. This movement, it should be noted, was greatly helped by a number of generous-hearted individuals whose guiding motive was simply goodwill toward their fellow-men, not enlightened self-interest. At last it began to be realized that, purely for the sake of efficiency, the workers should be kept in health and contentment. For one reason or another the employing class permitted the workers to gain somewhat better conditions and wages. But at a. later stage, when capitalists were having more difficulty to make profits, this tendency was checked.
Meanwhile, as between individuals so between peoples, the system of economic individualism resulted in the exploitation of the weak by the strong. To make mass-production pay, it was necessary to have expanding markets. "Backward countries" afforded the most profitable field for expansion. To maintain law and order, to enforce the payment of debts, and to ensure steady economic development, it became necessary to rule these countries. Hence economic imperialism.
So long as there were plenty of backward lands and not too many empires and would-be empires, the system worked, The ruling class became richer and richer; and even the subject class, the workers in the industrial countries, came in for fairly plentiful crumbs from the rich men's table. But as the methods of production improved, and competition for markets became fiercer and fiercer, It became increasingly difficult to keep the machines profitably employed. The war of 1914 had, no doubt, many causes. The rivalry of economic empires and would-be empires was amongst the most important. .
The war and the cynical, abject policy of the leaders of capitalism since the war were among the main causes of the recent widespread, revulsion against the whole system of ideas and values associated with liberal democracy. But even before the war of 1914 the process of disillusionment was far advanced. The early glamour of industrial expansion had faded. Men were asking themselves what it was all about. The war and the subsequent phase of economic collapse and appeasement of international brigandage combined with the morally ennervating effect of scientific materialism to make more people realize more clearly that the life-blood of modern society was turning into a kind of watery sewage.
A flood of moral disillusionment and unrestrained sensuality swept over the cities of Europe and America, reaching its greatest depth in Germany. Rebellion against a prudish and false morality had been well justified, but the swing over to unrestrained indulgence brought in turn another rebellion, namely against licentiousness itself. The Germans, always rather aloof from western civilization and critical of its values, had nevertheless suffered most from its corruption. Thus it was in Germany that the change of feeling was most dramatic. Widespread revulsion against scientific materialism, individualistic commercialism, liberal democracy, Christian morality, and finally against post-war licentiousness, expressed itself extravagantly in a new set of values.
Before telling that story I must hark back to the beginnings of this great change of feeling, and tell how from the early revulsion against liberal individualism something more positive began to arise.
6. SOCIAL DEMOCRACY
The revulsion against liberal democracy has produced two very different positive social and moral ideals, namely democratic socialism and authoritarian fascism, of which the extreme form is German Nazism. The common Source of both lies far back in the past. William Morris and Thomas Carlyle may be regarded as pioneers of the two movements. In both cases the starting-point is disgust and shame at the injustice, tyranny, disorder, ruthless self-seeking and lack of moral direction in the new industrial society.
The socialist movement began in two different sections of society, namely among the more sensitive and generous minority of the bourgeois class and among the oppressed workers themselves. While the social critics and the humitarians were exposing the rottenness of the new order and fighting to reform particular abuses, the workers themselves were learning to combine, and founding trade unions to secure better conditions of work, shorter hours, higher wages. It was in practical experience of mutual aid and mutual responsibility, in fact through active comradeship and social service, that socialism was born. By combining for defence against the employers the advance-guard of the workers gained not only power but the experience of the essential brotherhood of human beings and the absolute rightness of mutual respect and responsibility; in fact, of community.
It is important to realize that this experience,- this feeling for community, bred of comradeship in a common enterprise, was at least as strong a motive among the pioneers of socialism as co-operative self-interest. No doubt self-interest played a great part in bringing masses of workers into the movement. No doubt also sheer hate of the oppressors has often been one of the driving forces of socialist action. Was not Lenin's whole career set in motion by the will to avenge the death of his brother? But the characteristic emotional root of socialism, in contrast with liberalism, was the feeling of solidarity with one's fellow-workers.
The early socialists accepted the values which liberalism had taken over from Christianity, but gave them a different emphasis. Christianity stood for the importance of the individual, but also for the importance of the right relationship between individuals. Liberalism had taken over both these values, but had stressed the former at the expense of the latter. Liberals had emphasized individual rights, such as freedom of speech, freedom of movement, freedom to buy and sell, and had been misled by their doctrine of co-operative self-interests into falsifying the practical conflict between self-interest and the will for community. They inclined to think of this conflict as at bottom merely a conflict between short-sighted and far-sighted self-interest. But that is not how it actually feels to the mind that experiences it. It is felt as a conflict between the interest of this individual and the interest of that individual, or individuals, or a group. The genuine will for community involves the acceptance of the needs of others as of equal importance with one's own. This acceptance the early socialists learned in their co-operative action. Recognizing both the importance of the individual and the importance of community, they emphasized the latter. This was right; but some of their successors went to the opposite extreme from liberalism. Ever more impressed by the abuses of individualism and by the successful combination of the workers, they tended to disparage individuality and glorify society. But of this, later.
Early socialists took over from Liberalism a belief in the fundamental reasonableness of men. For them, however, the motives to which reason might appeal included, along with self-interest, the will for community. Show men that; socialism would bring satisfaction to both these interests, and they must surely accept it. Unfortunately men are not nearly so reasonable as was thought. The socialists did not succeed in persuading the bulk of the workers to support-the, cause. No doubt they were hampered by lack of money-power and by the constant oppression and propaganda used by the employers. But there was something else lacking. Early Christianity had triumphed over all obstacles. So did, Russian Communism and Italian and German Fascism. Socialism has had no such triumph.
Socialism could never be more than a body of doctrine unless it was rooted in a strong and widespread feeling for community. Though many socialist pioneers and a minority of the later socialists were indeed fully possessed by that feeling, in the majority of the members .of the great socialist parties the feeling for community was largely vitiated by the prevailing atmosphere of commercialism and materialism. With them, socialism was not a religion but a theory. They were products of their society. As such they still felt as individuals, though they were persuaded that socialism, in the long run, was the way to the fulfilment of the mass of individuals. They were ready to work for socialism, often with great devotion; but they had not given their souls to socialism, in the sense in which many of the Early Christians gave their souls to Christianity and many of the Russian Communists gave their souls to Communism. They were born-liberals who were intellectually persuaded to socialism. They conscientiously put their minds into socialist uniform, but under it they remained emotionally individualist. Consequently, in spite of their devoted service of the cause, in spite of the fact that they built up great political parties and exercised considerable power over national policies, there was never really any possibility that they should revolutionize the temper of the age. They had, no doubt, in some degree the essential feeling that community, brotherhood, was absolutely the right way of life, otherwise they would not have been socialists; but the feeling was not strong enough to overcome the deadening effect of the prevalent ethical scepticism and of their own inner individualism. It was strong enough in some of them to produce quite a high degree of practical devotion to the social democratic cause, conceived as a political movement, but It was not strong enough to transform their whole attitude to life; nor strong enough to shine out from them and startle the average man into recognizing that something new and formidable, something perhaps deadly perhaps life-giving, was happening in the world.
The difference between the typical Social Democrat and the typical Marxian Communist is not merely that one believes in gradual improvement while the other stands for revolution. Their essential difference is emotional. The Social Democratic Parties, the British Labour Party, the Trade Union Movement, were common-sense movements, seeking their ends by cautious diplomacy and rational appeal. The leaders of Russian Communism were not common-sense men but fanatics obsessed with an idea; and the rank and file had found in suffering and mutual aid the passion for community which had once inspired the pioneers of the workers' movement in Britain. The emotional source of Russian Communism was not the enlightened self-interest of masses of individual workers, but the two most violent forces that can move mankind, love and hate. Of the two, hate was often more prominent, bitter hatred of the tyrants; but it is important to realize that this passion was essentially hate of those who had committed crimes against human brotherhood. It was hate not merely on behalf of one's individual self but on behalf of one's comrades in adversity. Lenin's passion of revolutionary zeal began with hate, but hate on behalf of his brother. His hate sprang from love. But even to say this is not to say the whole truth. His hate, and the hate that often possessed so many of the revolutionaries, was at bottom righteous hate. It was felt as hate against those who had violated the sacred thing, community. It was felt as hate against those who had sinned against the spirit.
I realize that these statements will seem to many readers, both on the Left and the Right, quite fantastic. The Right cannot see anything in the Russian Revolution but the bottom dog’s spite against the top dog. The Left has its own explanation of the emotional fervour which brought the revolution to victory. It was all due, we are told, to the working of dialectical materialism. So far was it from being caused by "love of spirit" that one of its best achievements lay in the overthrow of the priests who traded in such religious "dope". The revolutionaries themselves certainly rejected the spirit intellectually. And surely, it may be argued, they ought to know best what their own, motives were. What they believed themselves to be doing was simply this. They were playing a part in the great and inevitable movement of history by which a tyrant class was to be overthrown and leadership must pass to another class, in preparation for the founding of a truly communistic society. This great historical process they conceived as the result of the impact of economic conditions on the economic motives of men. The guiding motive of the revolutionaries, we are told, was simply the will to play an effective' part in furthering this great process of history. To co-operate with it promised supreme self- expression. To resist it or neglect it must lead to utter self-frustration.
This view seems to me superficial. After all, people are seldom able to see deeply into their own motives. The truth, I suggest, was something quite different from the account given by Communists themselves. The effective motive, the motive which carried the revolution to success, was a passion for human brotherhood, combined with moral hatred of acts which violated human brotherhood. The revolutionaries perceived as clearly as the Early Christians had done that a certain way of life was absolutely right, and another wrong. And this perception, bred of comradeship in suffering, roused them to acts of mass heroism which would have been utterly impossible to them if they had been guided solely by enlightened self-interest, or by the will to further the inevitable process of history, in fact merely to be on the winning side.
This perception of the rightness of community, however, was hopelessly confused by their intellectual theories about the nature of morality. Though the drive which carried the Russian Communists to victory was rooted in a genuinely moral passion, three influences prevented them from admitting the moral nature of that passion. First, though commercialism was comparatively new in Russia, and the town population was less deeply commercialized emotionally than its western counterpart, yet its leaders had taken over from the West the theory that economic motives alone really count. Second, the revolutionaries were intensely loyal to the temper of analytical science. They therefore regarded morality from the strictly psychological point of view, which cannot admit that certain kinds of behaviour can be intrinsically better than others. (Yet the Marxian theory of dialectical "materialism” does, as a matter of fact, admit the possibility of higher levels of behaviour which cannot be explained in terms of the lower.) Third, since morality, in their experience, was associated with the Church, which was corrupt and reactionary, they had to explain their own moral passion in terms of their sociological theories.
I am not suggesting that the Marxian ideology, which played so great a part in inspiring the Russian Revolution and bringing it to victory, was a tissue of error, and that the revolution would have been better without it. So far as I can judge, Marxism includes many extremely important social principles. Without It the revolution probably could not have occurred. But Marxism was an expression of the scientific temper, and was subject to the limitations of the scientific temper. In particular, detestation of the churches blinded scientists and Marxists to the kind of truth which formerly inspired Christianity, and which the Churches had subsequently betrayed. Moreover in the case of the 'Russian Communists this blindness was intensified by the fact that the Orthodox Church in Russia was outstandingly corrupt. The result was that the main motive of the revolutionary movement, the passion for human brotherhood, had at all costs to be described in terms of scientific materialism and not in genuinely ethical terms. For ethics, like religion, was taboo. So we were given the strange spectacle of a movement which trumpeted its irreligion yet sprang from a singularly pure religious motive, namely disinterested loyalty to the principle of true community, and therefore, unwittingly, from loyalty to the spirit.
This intellectual perversity probably did little harm during the actual revolutionary period; while the passion for community was at its height. But later there was trouble.
According to Marxian theory morality is at bottom the expression of the needs of a social class; and these needs are the expression of the economic situation of that class. Thus during the dominance of the capitalist class a system of moral ideas which suited that class was accepted not only by the capitalists themselves but also throughout society; for the moral tone of society was set by the capitalists. But the rising proletariat needed a new morality. For capitalism the supreme value was individual fulfilment; for the proletariat it must be the selfless devotion of the individual to the service of his class, in fact to the proletarian revolution. So far, so good. But in this view of morality as simply an expression of class needs there was no possibility of an absolute value, no room for the recognition that a certain way of life, namely, loyalty to the spirit, was right absolutely. If proletarian morality was justified from the proletarian point of view, so equally was capitalist morality from the capitalist point of view.
An attempt was made by some Communists and near-communists to avoid this conclusion. The capitalist class, it was rightly said, had outlived its function; the proletariat was the new instrument of social evolution. Its success was demanded so that it might lead humanity forward to the next stage of development. Therefore its morality was justified not merely in relation to the need of a particular class but for mankind as a whole. Thus proletarian morality was given a sort of relative absoluteness. It was made relative to human development.
This was to come dangerously near to the truth without actually reaching it. There was little attempt to face the question "What does 'human development' really mean?" By some the goal was assumed to be simply the familiar utilitarian goal, the greatest happiness of the greatest number, the greatest possible fulfilment of impulse. By others a more sinister view was taken. Since the real motive of science was the winning of power over the environment, the goal of all human co-operative enterprise was taken to be just that, the winning of power. Thus the will for human brotherhood, for true community for its own sake, was justified simply as a means to power.
The inadequate moral theory accepted by Communists has not been their only theoretical weakness. Since their guiding motive, as I have said, has been the passion for community, revulsion against the prevailing individualism has led them into uncritical contempt of individuality. They accepted the theory about individuality which Marx derived from Hegel and altered to suit his special purpose. According to Hegel the individual is not as "real" as society. He is a particular expression of society. Everything in him is caused by the influence of society. Nothing in him is simply he, himself. Consequently, as a particular individual he does not matter. What matters is the form and texture, the institutions and culture, of society. He is but an organ of society; a cell which is justified solely by its function in society.
Marxists do not go to this extreme. For them, what matters emotionally is the happiness of individuals. This is the goal of the revolution. But their concern is with masses of individuals, not with Tom and Dick and Harry. They are concerned with Tom primarily as a member of the proletariat or the capitalist class, not simply as Tom. In spite of their generous passion for the happiness of all Tom's class (if he is not a capitalist), they are inclined to overlook Tom himself. In this their theory leads them astray. It explains the Tomminess of Tom simply as an expression of society, and his function wholly as a social function. Consequently, if Tom happens to get in the way of the revolution or of the Communist Party, or even of a particular faithful Communist, there is always a convenient theory at hand to justify his being treated ruthlessly.
It is easy to say that in the throes of revolution there. is no possibility of forbearance, gentleness, respect for personality. True. But these dangerous theories probably mattered little during the throes of the Revolution. They may have done little harm, too, during the subsequent period of heroic reconstruction. For during these phases the will for true community, the unwitting passion for the spirit, was strong and disinterested. No amount of false theory could frustrate it. But little by little the situation changed. The fervent passion for community, which had blazed up like a new star, died down to its normal magnitude. Theory had increasingly to be relied on to take its place. And the only available theory was inadequate. I am very far from being well informed on Russia, but I find it difficult to believe that the superb achievement of the regime in respect of social creative planning has not been to some extent warped by the kind of tyranny which is so apt to occur when there is more consciousness of political expediency than of the spirit. To say this is not to deny that the social achievement of the Russian Communists has been by far the greatest social achievement of our age.
That there is something wrong with the morality of contemporary Communism seems to be borne out by the behaviour of British communists. Though the essential feeling for community has often been more evident in them than in members of any other party, they do seem to, be hampered by their lack of clear and genuinely moral guiding principles. In the best of them the effective motive is indeed moral, since it is that passion for practical human brotherhood which is an 'essential part of the disinterested loyalty to the spirit. But their theory that morality is wholly subservient to the needs of the revolution trips them sometimes into acts which do not express the best that is in them. They have certainly been guilty of tendentious reporting, of twisting the facts to suit their purposes, of attributing the worst motives to their opponents and the best to their own party. (I do not, of course, suggest that other parties have been free of these vices.) Though the behaviour of Communists may be guided by loyalty to their conception of the needs of the revolution, they sometimes overlook the fact that the revolution needs more than courage, devotion and Macchiavellian diplomacy. It needs leaders whom the plain man can recognize as embodiments of his own best ideals. Above all, it needs leaders whom the plain man can trust; not merely to look after his interests but also to lift him to a somewhat higher level of integrity than he could otherwise attain. What the plain man needs to-day, at least in this country, though he would not himself express it in these words, is leaders who are manifestly faithful to the spirit, and who will spur him also into loyalty to the spirit. And he, according to his lights, feels the urge of the spirit as his own inner urge to personal integrity. And this, I should say, means for him being always honest with himself, loyal to his mates, and accepting full human responsibility even toward his enemies. Self-deception, self-seeking and vindictiveness or lack of Christian charity are vices which come within his ken. He may often be guilty of them all himself, but he knows them for what they are, and is very ready to condemn them in others. He longs for leaders who shall excel him in these respects. I am not suggesting that the leaders of Communism have been specially guilty. Indeed, so far as self-seeking is concerned, most of them have probably been beyond reproach. But self-deception and vindictiveness against their opponents as persons, they do seem to me to have perpetrated.
What is it, then, finally, that is lacking in Communist morality? I should say it has two weaknesses. First, it recognizes no absolute moral standard. Second it encourages men to treat one another as mere social .units, not as persons; as mere cells in society, not as vessels of the spirit.
German "National Socialism" is the culmination of the Fascist movement which began in Italy and has appeared in one form or another in every European country. I shall consider only the German form of Fascism, because, in it the true nature of Fascism is most clearly revealed.
National Socialism, or Nazism, seems to rest on a fantastic exaggeration of a fault which appears also in Russian Communism, but far less flagrantly, namely the disparagement of the individual. Another fault of Russian Communism it vehemently rejects, namely materialism; but the thing that it substitutes for materialism is something far worse, a false mysticism based on the false concept of race.
But the emotional source of Nazism is not simply bad. No great movement which gathers to itself the loyalty of millions and spurs them to extreme self-sacrifice is to be dismissed as sheer devilishness.
Communists tell us that the whole Fascist movement, of which Nazism is the extreme expression, is simply a clever device by which " big business" seeks to rouse the masses against revolutionary Communism. In their view, Fascism is the last, most desperate effort of "capitalism in decline" to strengthen its waning power. No doubt big business did play an important part in launching Italian Fascism and the corresponding movements in France and Britain. No doubt it financed Hitler, and hoped to use him for its own ends. But the capitalists would not have succeeded as they did, nor would they have found themselves overmastered by the movement that they had supported, if there had not been a deep and wide- spread emotional need for the ideas and values of Fascism.
In considering the causes of Nazism we have to distinguish between those influences which were at work throughout the whole Fascist movement and those which were peculiar to Germany.
Causes which were at work alike in Nazism and in other forms of Fascism, but which worked more violently in Germany because of Germany's suffering after the last war, were: revulsion against laissez- faire and a grossly individualistic social order and culture; revulsion against materialism as a theory about the world and the sources of human behaviour; revulsion against intellectualism; revulsion against the moral ideals of love and gentleness which had been so long preached and so little practised; vague revulsion against a whole civilization which had obviously gone rotten.
The Germans had suffered more from the rottenness of western civilisation than any other European people, and therefore their disgust with it was peculiarly violent. The economic collapse after the last war spread a profound distrust of the system of free buying and selling. It also roused a strong suspicion that high finance was based on superstitious veneration for merely man-made economic laws. It prepared men for a movement which would triumphantly violate all the recognized principles. The treatment which Germany suffered from the Allies after the military defeat turned the German people against the whole civilization which the Allies claimed to be leading. The post-war orgy of sensuality and every kind of self-indulgence disgusted the more earnest kind of German, and made him seek some kind of firm moral standards.
Two causes of Nazism were peculiar to Germany. One, no doubt, was the long-established and powerful German tradition of opposition to the civilization of Western Europe. Normally this impulse was kept in abeyance by the many great and truly civilized leaders of German culture; but the post-war situation enabled it to break out and set the tone of the new movement. This impulse to reject the established values of civilization took the form of a reversion to the old Teutonic impulse to glorify ruthless might instead of Christian loving-kindness, and to trust superstition, or "thinking with the blood", instead of Greek reasoning.
The other specially German cause of Nazism was the fact that this great people, with its recurrent dream of becoming the acknowledged "Herrenvolk" of the world, had suffered a decisive defeat in war. This disaster combined with the effects of economic collapse to produce a general social neurosis, a national inferiority complex with all the typical symptoms of arrogance and vindictiveness.
Though these specifically German causes had a great effect in exaggerating the Fascist movement in Germany, it must never be forgotten that the main causes were at work in every country and had produced everywhere the symptoms of Fascism. Everywhere there was a deep sense that civilization had somehow gone bad and was stinking. Everywhere masses of men and women found themselvesmin abject poverty or desperate insecurity while a few flaunted their luxury. Everywhere the unemployed rotted in idleness. No one needed their service. No one cared for them. Masses of men in every European country were feeling that, since civilization did not want ,them, they did not want civilization. There was widespread disgust with licentious individualism and the ennervating doctrines of materialism. There was a longing for a new and bracing idea to save man from his directionless, self-indulgent way of living.
This was the social situation which bred the exasperated, neurotic condition favourable to Fascism and Nazism. The more positive motives which created it were broadly of two kinds, self-regarding and spiritual. Very powerful, no doubt, were motives of anxious self-regard and family responsibility in a crumbling and precarious society. Personal anxiety of this kind made men susceptible to any movement which condemned the existing order and promised security, and incidentally satisfied the craving for vengeance. But there was another kind of motive at work, connected with man's deep but often unwitting need to serve the spirit. To attribute any such motive to the Nazis may sound fantastic. And indeed it may well be that in the great mass of Nazis, both leaders and led, the hunger for the spirit was but a very minor factor. Certainly, crude self-interest, in the form of craving for security or craving for power and self-display, has been the main consideration with most of the Nazi leaders and many of their supporters. But I find it impossible to believe that this was all. The gravely wounded captive German airman who preferred to die rather than receive into his veins the blood of donors who were not German could not have been moved merely by self-regard. He believed his blood to be sacred, to be a vessel of the spirit. And he felt it his moral duty not to let it be contaminated. Similarly in the great mass of earnest young Germans who are ready to fling away their lives for the Nazi cause, who sometimes, it seems, actually long to do so, the ruling motive is obviously a sincere though hideously perverted loyalty to the spirit.
This passion of loyalty to the spirit has certainly been tragically misguided. Its expressions have been very far from spiritual in the true sense. Revulsion from individualism sprang from a spiritual motive, the feeling for community; but the feeling expressed itself in the form of mere brutish self-surrender to the tribe, mere surrender of individuality, mere surrender of individual conscience and intelligence into the keeping of the mob-leader. The essence of community was utterly missed, namely that it is a relationship between clearly self-conscious and other-conscious individuals bound together in mutual respect and mutual responsibility. Further, the groping desire for the spirit was misled into a cult of the primitive. Because sophisticated values had gone bad on men's hands, primitive values acquired a fresh attraction.
But though Nazism is a sorry perversion of the will for the spirit, we must avoid supposing that it is wholly bad and that it has nothing to teach us. It can at least teach us that the ideas and values which dominated the democracies during the period of advancing industrialism are not the final, inevitable and emotionally satisfying truth.
9. UPSHOT OF THIS CHAPTER
The attitudes which I have been reviewing have all proved inadequate in one way, or another. We are now' on the threshold of a great emotional crisis in which we shall have to feel our way to a more satisfactory attitude. It is easy to see that the over-emphasis either of individuality or of sociality is bound to lead to disaster. What is not so easy is to see how to do full justice to both these values together. Similarly it is easy to see that doctrinal religion and doctrinal materialism are both inadequate. It is not easy to do justice to the claims of the spirit without violating the temper of science.
shall try to show that for the solving of both these problems what
is needed is an advance in the quality of the individual’s
consciousness of himself and of his fellows. We have to gain a clearer
view of our own nature and our relationship to others, and a more
precise feeling about ourselves and others. It is in the awareness of
personality and of community, the proper relation between persons, that
we shall feel our way forward and do justice to the spirit without
violating the scientific temper. For the temper of science at its best,
the will for dispassionate observation and intellectual integrity, is
itself a factor in the life of the spirit.
Beyond the "Isms" Contents