I

THE SCOPE OF THIS BOOK

A. COMMUNISM AND FASCISM

B. ANOTHER OUTLINE

C. HUMANISM AND SUPERHUMANISM

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A. COMMUNISM AND FASCISM

THE present crisis in the affairs of man can be summed in a sentence. He has gained mechanical power, but he has not gained wisdom. He has stumbled upon a valuable and dangerous tool, and he uses it mainly for trivial ends.

This book arises from the conviction that there is something more seriously wrong with the world even than economic and social disorder. Social reconstruction is, no doubt, our most pressing need. Owing to the fact that economic power is in the hands of a few, who wield it mainly in the interest of their own class, the great majority of human beings live cramped lives, and are unable to develop such human capacity as they have. Social revolution is the most urgent task before the world to-day.

But if revolution is to achieve its end permanently and universally, if it is to carry mankind from our present condition of universal barbarism to universal civilization, it must be inspired by something more positive than the will to destroy a bad economic system. That the present economic system must be destroyed, or at the very least remoulded out of all recognition, appears to me indubitable. But if the revolutionary will to destroy it is to be worthy of its task, it must be inspired and controlled by the most penetrating and comprehensive insight into human nature, into the needs and potentialities of men and women, and especially into the needs and potentialities that young human beings will conceive when they are not born into a crippling and perverting economic environment.

In fact the enduring purpose needed for world-revolution must be rooted in a conscious, and deeply felt, and far-reaching, 'philosophy of life'. The Russian Revolution was thus rooted. I am not in a position to judge whether the philosophical basis of Russian Communism, which was obviously capable of inspiring the actual revolution, is also adequate for the more delicate task of constructing a new society. From the little that I know of it I suspect that it is a far deeper and more pregnant thing than we of the West are inclined to believe. The official philosophy of Communism, as worked out by Lenin on the basis of Marx, is a direct expression of a passionate and generous experience in a mind of very great intellectual power. Of this there can be no doubt. The combination of devotion and clear vision enabled Lenin, not only to lead to victory a revolution which without him would very quickly have succumbed, but also to give to Russia an effective social ideal which, directly or indirectly, is changing the outlook of all the peoples.

But whatever the truth about the philosophical theories of the Communists, the actual mentality of the new Russia is apparently in one respect no better than our own. Though the Communists of Russia have magnificently rejected the poison of Western economic individualism, they seem still to suffer from that more subtle disease of the Western world, the hypnotic reverence for machinery and mechanization.

I do not suggest that the Russian Government has made a mistake in seeking to develop Russian industry. This policy was absolutely necessary. I mean that, like ourselves, the Russians seem to be allowing the usefulness and glamour of machinery to cast a spell upon their minds, in such a manner that, perhaps even more naively than the Western peoples, they tend to set up as their ideal for individual and for society sheer industrial activity, Russia is already deeply infected by what might be called 'the mechanic's mentality'. The mechanic is a useful, and in many ways a very admirable, type. But there are important aspects of the world and of human nature which his way of life tends to obscure from him. He tends to be 'materialistic' not in philosophy but in actual life. He is apt to be insensitive to all but the crude, material values. The cast of mind which mechanism produces is not such as can afford a satisfactory mental style for a whole civilization.

Now the philosophical basis of Communism is a theory which is said to be 'materialistic'. But this theory, which Communists call the 'materialist dialectic' merely asserts that the world is what it is, independently of human opinion and desire, and that everything in the world, including human society, changes in virtue of a necessity in its own nature. This is at the least a reasonable theory, and is a very different kind of 'materialism' from the materialism of the mechanic's mentality. The materialistic philosophy of Communism is a development of the idealist philosophies of Spinoza and Hegel, and it does not seek to interpret the whole of existence in terms of 'physical mechanism'. But the average Russian mind, like the average Western mind, is being far less influenced by philosophy than by nineteenth-century science, and its concrete manifestation, machinery.

To-day, just when Western Europe is perhaps beginning to realize that its devotion to machinery is somewhat barren (partly through beholding its reductio ad absurdum in America), Russia and the East are enthusiastically sacrificing at the mechanic's shrine.

'The mechanic's mentality' is the product of a life dominated by machinery. Machinery is a product of Western science. But the huge success of machinery has itself had a very far-reaching effect on the development of Western science, and on the whole mental activity of Western man. It has inclined him to think certain kinds of thoughts rather than certain others, and to value certain kinds of activities rather than certain others. I shall discuss this matter in detail in later chapters. Meanwhile I will merely suggest that the most important of all problems before man at present is the problem of making full use of natural science, and of scientific invention, and of machinery, without succumbing to their hypnotic spell, without falling into the trance of 'the mechanic's mentality'. Or rather, the problem is no longer to avoid falling into that trance, but to struggle out of it, and thereby to discover at last the true use of science and of machinery.

But though Communism has been seriously infected by the mechanic's mentality, it has certainly inspired large numbers of men and women with a new social loyalty and zeal. To use a hackneyed phrase, it has given them a new vision. If that vision is in most cases limited to the cruder and less distinctively human values, the fault is due not so much to Communist theory as to the hypnotic spell of Western industrialism.

One other serious fault, besides adulation of industrial power, is committed by Russian Communism to-day. The Government makes a resolute and seemingly successful attempt to impose uniformity of thought and feeling, or at least to prevent the public expression of ideas opposed to its own 'ideology'. It educates the young in a thoroughly doctrinaire manner, instead of encouraging them to use their intelligence critically in all directions. This error, this most pernicious folly, is on the increase all over the world to-day. At a later stage I shall discuss the importance of free expression in some detail, but for the moment it is enough to assert dogmatically that freedom of speech, freedom of the Press, and impartiality of broadcasting, are absolutely essential for the creation of a fully adult human world. Even if they cause inconvenience to governments, they must never under any circumstances whatever be infringed. Any attempt to restrict them convicts the violating authority as barbarian and muddle-headed.

But Russia is not the only country where free expression is restricted. Even in England, pioneer of free speech, a serious effort is now being made to copy the crazy policy of other countries in this respect. The coming fight for free expression in England is of world-wide importance. It seems to be the special task of the saner and more courageous sections of our own people to lead a crusade against this particular and most insidious kind of reaction. An effective struggle in England may well do immense service to the disheartened forces of sanity in Fascist Italy and Fascist Germany, where there is now less freedom of expression than in Russia.

Fascism is at present the only social ideal which competes with Communism in its emotional appeal. Now Fascism is not a coherent theory or policy. It is merely a jumble of principles gathered from many sources, and used according to the exigences of the moment. But it has undoubtedly roused enthusiasm in the two great nations which have recently suffered seriously from a sense of inferiority. This enthusiasm seems to have two very different roots. Like Communism, Fascism makes an appeal to a distressed class, in this case the middle class. In Western Europe to-day the middle class is as important a factor as the proletariat. Any idea which captures its imagination is bound to have far-reaching effects, for good or ill. Fascism is, in part, a protest of the much-harassed middle class against the tyranny of big business on the one hand, and the dreaded upward thrust of the revolutionary proletariat on the other. But this is not the only source of Fascist enthusiasm. The other, though the less effective influence in Fascist policy, is the more significant root of Fascism for anyone who would understand the present mental crisis of mankind.

To the Russian Communist, Fascism naturally appears as no more than a backwash of the Capitalist torrent on its fated course toward disaster. There can indeed be no doubt that Fascism owes its power to the fact that big business has found a use for it, and is unobtrusively financing it. But to the sincere Fascist himself Fascism appears, I imagine, as a heroic protest of' ordinary decent folk' against mechanization, against materialism, against the destruction of local culture by one or other of the two great mechanizing influences, namely Capitalism and Communism.

The fantastic and often self-contradictory ideology of Fascism is, no doubt, a confused outcome of many conflicting needs, and of a vast campaign of propaganda which has sought to give those needs an expression convenient to the capitalists, the militarists, and the mere demagogues who thrive upon this movement. The result is a strange medley of borrowed ideas and slogans, and a policy which vacillates between sham socialism and frank capitalism, between technocracy and agrarianism, between peace and war.

But beneath all this opportunism of Fascist leadership there lies, I suggest, in the rank and file of Fascists in all countries an obscure but sincere conviction that there is something radically wrong with the contemporary 'scientific' culture of Europe and America. Fascists are united in their hatred of 'Bolshevism', and by Bolshevism they seem to mean, not merely a social policy, but 'materialistic' culture and the mechanization of society. Unfortunately the leaders of Fascism, like their rank and file, are apparently quite incapable of critical thought, and so they have to fall back upon archaic notions and trivial ideals. Revolting against commercialism, they praise martial and barbaric virtues, the tribal spirit, and the fictitious entity which they call 'the race'. Sickened by the ineffectiveness of so-called democracy, they crave a dictator, and ruthless suppression of all criticism. And inevitably their dictator, since ruthlessness is demanded of him, encourages the most flagrant hooliganism and sadism on the part of the horde of muddle-headed young men whom he uses to enforce his will.

It is all extremely puerile, and pitiable, and extremely hurtful to the community. Owing to the sinister fact that Fascism, throughout the world, is financed and manipulated by big industrialists for their own ends, it has been changed from a confused but sincere emotional protest to a very serious menace, comparable in more ways than one to poison gas. But we shall not deal with it effectively if we ignore the underlying sense that civilization has somehow, somewhere, taken a wrong turn, that mechanization has led us to adopt false ideals, and that the view of human nature accepted by the typical 'scientific' culture of recent decades is incomplete.

If this analysis is correct, one of the urgent tasks before us to-day is to work out and to propagate, in as simple terms as possible, a view of human nature which, though truly scientific and not sentimental or superstitious, shall also take into account the limitations of contemporary science. Further, with the help of such a comprehensive view of human nature, we must set forth a social ideal which shall make full use of man's new-found mechanical power, and yet also pass far beyond the mechanic's mentality.

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B. ANOTHER OUTLINE

In this book I shall describe human nature, or rather human behaviour, as simply as possible from a certain point of view which is at once very friendly toward modern science and very critical. I shall not try to give a detailed defence of my position or of the view which I observe from it. For the most part, I shall merely describe. I shall attempt to paint a picture, or at least to draw a very slight sketch, of man and his relation to the rest of things, as they appear from my chosen position. Of .course, my sketch is certain to be only a very crude caricature, but caricatures have their use. They select and emphasize significant aspects of their subject.

This, then, is really a book of dogmas. Take them or leave them; but do not expect me to defend them at all thoroughly, for that is not what I am setting out to do. An adequate defence would involve writing many books and repeating much that has already been said far better than I can say it. Few of the ideas contained in this book are original. Not even the pattern into which they are woven has any claim to be essentially novel. All I can hope is that this particular expression of them may be comprehensive and clear. A few of my dogmas are indeed more or less original; but these, like the others, appear without detailed defence. For my aim in this book is to paint a picture, not to prove that it is true to the facts of life.

I shall, of course, try to say only what I believe to be true, or at least consider more likely to be true than false. The most that anyone can possibly say on such a great subject as this must inevitably turn out in the long run to be mistaken. Nevertheless it may be well worth saying and hearing. Errors clearly expressed may lead to truth by clearly exposing themselves to criticism.

The reader may protest, 'Do you expect me to trouble my head about your dogmas if you yourself do not take them seriously?' I answer that I do at present take them very seriously indeed. I believe (to-day) that the main tenor of this book is both true and important, that it presents (however inadequately) the body of truths which is most important for our age, the truth which must come to be believed far and wide if our civilization is to save itself from destruction. But I know very well that I may be mistaken, and I hold myself free to change my mind at any moment, perhaps even before this book appears in public. In the present fluid state of thought no individual has the right to adopt an attitude more confident than this. Of course, I do not feel that I shall, in fact, change my mind. I feel sure, probably much more sure than is reasonable, that my view, which grows clearer year by year, month by month, is the right view. But how often does that feeling mislead one!

I refrain not only from defending my picture but also from filling it in with detail. I present only an outline. Now 'Outlines' are treacherous things. When they are lucid, they give the reader a dangerous illusion that he understands. When they are obscure, even if their obscurity springs from the author's sheer muddle-headedness they suggest to the reader that he is up against a mystery beyond the plain man's comprehension. Such at least are the dangers of outlines of special subjects put forward by experts.

But I am no expert. Though I have had some special training in philosophy, I cannot claim to be a professional philosopher. I am a 'plain man' though one who has had the opportunity of wandering from field to field of thought and of talking to experts at work in their respective spheres. I have brought away only gleanings. But these gleanings, gathered from many fields, are, I believe, good samples of man's mental agriculture.

But why not let the experts speak for themselves? I answer respectfully, but firmly. Specialists do not always see as clearly as spectators the relation between their special subjects and other activities. Human experience has become so very complicated that correlation of its many aspects is more necessary than ever; and correlation must be carried out, not simply by experts, but by persons who, though themselves unspecialized, are sensitive to the specialists, and have, moreover, a certain imaginative power of 'seeing things whole'.

I claim that power, or some degree of that power. Hence this book. It is for the reader to judge whether I substantiate the claim, whether I have that power in a degree adequate to the task of producing a helpful sketch of man in relation to his world. But for my own part, since I seem to see a clear and unifying principle running through all my experience of the world, I must try to describe the world in terms of that principle, even at the risk of producing a mere hotch-potch of the obvious and the preposterous. On almost every page of this book the reader may find statements which he will regard as too obvious to need restating and others which will seem to him too dubious to be stated without lengthy defence. I make no apology. I have undertaken simply to trace out the pattern as it appears to me. Take it or leave it! The book may be rather good and significant; or it may be very bad and misleading. I do not pretend to know which it is. But the pattern which, it tries to trace is for me the supreme thing in life.

The world's chief outliner is Mr. H. G. Wells. This little book cannot for a moment compete with the vast and able summaries which he has produced. It makes no attempt to do so. Mr. Wells is in his own sphere beyond criticism. To belittle his achievement as mere bourgeois blundering, or as mere plebeian blundering, is silly. But Mr. Wells does, it seems to me, ignore much' that is of importance, and something that is of very great importance. I should say that, though he is an extraordinarily good observer and describer, the point of view from which he observes is not finally adequate. He adopts a position from which it is impossible to see things whole. Very much, I repeat, he sees with great accuracy and describes with great sincerity and courage. But something else is shut out from his vision. And because of this lack the whole picture that he paints turns out to be, in spite of its boldness and truth in so many respects, in others seriously incomplete, both as a photograph of man's present state and as a symbol capable of firing him to change his state. '

I myself have learnt much from Mr. Wells. I gladly recognize that his work is of very great importance to our age. But I refuse to be blinded by gratitude. I must be at once grateful and critical. I must not overlook that character of his work which the Communist condemns as 'bourgeois', and that other character which the mental aristocrat condemns as ' plebeian '.

I find myself in the uncomfortable position of sympathizing with much that is said by both types of Mr. Wells's critics. This is strange, for they do not often sympathize with one another. I am impressed by the Communist charge that he has greatly under-estimated the significance of the Communist movement throughout the world, both as a revolutionary force rooted (if I may so put it) in the dialectic of modem conditions, and as a germ destined to reorganize much of modern thought. In particular, he seems to me to do far less than justice to the doctrine of the economic interpretation of history.

On the other hand, I agree with much of the criticism levelled against Mr. Wells from the opposite camp, criticism which, I imagine, good Communists would dismiss as mere 'blather' put up by the highbrow sections of bourgeois society. Now I am no highbrow, or only a very imperfect one. But bourgeois I certainly am, in up-bringing and in present circumstances. I live chiefly on dividends and other ill-gotten gains, even while I proclaim that the system on which I live must go. But live I must, or will; and so must, or shall, my family; and as amply as is needed for their development in personality. Having failed to earn enough by honest toil (toil there has been, but of a sort that society does not see fit to recompense adequately), I fall back with due thankfulness on dividends, until such time as the community has the sense to take to itself the ownership of the means of production, and to afford me some less disreputable source of income.

Such being my case, it is clear that I am a bourgeois. Therefore, in the Communist theory, all my views about the individual and society are sure to be subtly and dangerously prejudiced by a capitalistic bias that I myself can never bring into the focus of my consciousness. Now I recognize that this may be so. I recognize that in this age both social organization and thought are passing through an exceptionally drastic revolution; and that people like me may be so blinded by circumstance that they cannot possibly contribute anything useful to that revolution; and, further, I am convinced that the body of ideas called Communism has a very important part to play in founding the new order. But also I remind myself that every great revolutionary movement tends, owing to the exigencies of the struggle and the uncomprehending bitterness of its opponents, to develop extravagance and blind dogmatism. It is very unlikely that Communism is an exception. It is possible therefore that some of those who, like myself, are outside the main current of revolution may yet be able to see some aspects of it which are obscured from the view of those who are in the thick of it.

But to return to Mr. Wells. It is not my purpose to criticize his position in detail, but only to salute his achievement, and pass on, taking my difference with him as a point of departure. And this difference I would express by saying that, from my point of view, he is at once not Communist enough in social principles, and yet too limited in general outlook by the assumptions that lie not only under Communism but under all distinctively 'modern' thought.

Mr. Wells is a 'humanist', at least in one sense of that word. He holds that the proper object of man's devotion is man. But some of us feel that he does not take the whole of man's nature into account. He regards man as a fairly intelligent mammal, which he is; but he does not see all that is involved in being such a creature. Mr. Wells never quite grasps the fact, or at least never thoroughly realizes the full implications of the fact, that the gifts of intelligence and imagination open up for man vast spheres of activity which cannot in the present state of knowledge be fully understood in terms of our biological concepts. These activities, and even the most subtle modes of them, are just as necessary to man's human fulfilment as eating and mating are to his animal fulfilment.

The purely biological view of man was a very wholesome reaction from the pre-scientific view. It made us realize that man is all of a piece with his world, and not a princely alien in a strange land. But those who are sympathetic to the biological view of man, and are able to reject the pre-scientific doctrines, incur a special danger. If they are not very careful, if they do not constantly exercise their critical powers. on their own scientific theories as well as on the doctrines of the unscientific, they are likely to reject too much, to pour out the baby with the bath. water, to ignore all that is most distinctively human, simply because it cannot yet be stated adequately in biological terms.

With diffidence, but also with firmness, I would suggest, then, that the insufficiency of Mr. Wells lies in the superficiality of his view of human nature, and the consequent triviality of his particular kind of humanistic ideal. In this book I shall try to give a picture of human nature which will be more comprehensive, one which, though no less true biologically, will also do justice to the features of human nature which the primarily biological view cannot yet satisfactorily explain.

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C. HUMANISM AND SUPERHUMANISM

I shall also attempt to do something of a different kind. It is no use ignoring the fact that many human beings crave more than the satisfaction which is afforded by humanism even in its most developed and comprehensive form. They need as the supreme ruling principle of their lives something more than loyalty to human society, or to the ideal of a perfected human society, or even a perfected human nature. They fully admit that these are very important principles which must be greatly strengthened if our world is to save itself from destruction or stagnation; but they feel an impulse of admiration, or of piety, toward something other than man. And this object of their piety, though they cannot describe it at all clearly either in religious or in scientific jargon, somehow gives a meaning and a passion to their human loyalty which. otherwise would be lacking. It is as unscientific to belittle this impulse as it is to make it an excuse for superstition.

Their purely scientific friends, and their purely humanistic friends also, tell them that they are simply deceiving themselves, that this craving for the superhuman, which has so misled men in the past, must be outgrown, that the vague object which they seem to discover is but a creature of their own desire.

Well, though the people whom I have in mind are quite unable to accept any orthodox religious account of this obscure but compelling object of their piety, they are equally unable to dismiss it merely as illusion and a dangerous irrelevance.

Toward the end of this book I shall try to complete my outline of man, or of man-in-his-world, by describing this impulse of piety in some detail, and distinguishing as well as I can between the essence of it and the doctrines that have grown up around it. I shall represent it as a genuine human capacity, and no mere aberration or perversion. I shall represent the object on which it is directed as no mere illusion. But at the same time I shall try to show that what generally passes for this piety is in fact nothing of the sort, and that the orthodox accounts of its object of worship are for the most part untrue and cramping to the fledgling spirit of man. And I shall try, in all humility, to give an account of this piety and its object in such a vein as to help toward a clearer apprehension of them.

This is the only part of my book which can make any claim to originality. The earlier part consists entirely of ideas selected from the chaotic mass of contemporary thought, and put together as a pattern. For the selection; I am of course partly responsible, but not for the several ideas. For the main contention of Chapter XIII, however, no one can be blamed but myself.

If, as is all too likely, I fail to effect a liaison between the relentlessly scientific people and the relentlessly religious people, and merely get myself ridiculed by the one party and damned by the other, or simply ignored, by both, no great harm will have been done.

Before giving any detailed account of human nature and its relation to the environment, I shall set down a purely abstract and even platitudinous declaration of the true social aim. I shall emphasize what should surely by now be obvious to all thinking persons, and should be unwittingly assumed by all others, namely that the social aim, the practical' world-aim' is the fulfilment of man's capacities, both his animal capacities and his distinctively human capacities, whatever these in fact are. I shall then briefly argue that mechanical power has put man for the first time in a position to realize this ideal, though it has also confronted him with very serious material and spiritual dangers. This also should be obvious, but is not universally recognized. Readers who have already clearly envisaged the 'world-aim' and the proper use of machinery are urged to skip these chapters. I shall then maintain that in our own day the state of the world is changing rapidly for the worse, and that the root of the trouble is not only economic, but psychological, or rather spiritual. Nothing can save us, I shall maintain, but a much more vivid and comprehensive view of human nature, and a much more resolute and much more widespread devotion to the 'world-aim'. I shall then be ready to embark on my main theme, namely an account of man as a strange medley of three natures, the animal, the distinctively human, and a halting and bewildered propensity toward the superhuman. This will involve describing what I take to be the essential features of personality and personal relationships, and of the activities of art, science, history, philosophy and religion. The last two chapters will set forth a bare outline of the basic principles of action, which, I believe, must be rigorously adhered to if we are to pass from our present barbarism into true civilization.

Chapter 2

Waking World Contents