2. THE PERSON AND "THE SPIRIT"
3. PERSONAL WELL-BEING
4. THE UPPER REACHES OF PERSONALITY
5. "THE SPIRIT" IS WHAT WE ARE FOR
movement of thought and feeling which I have been describing
points towards some great new idea. As clearly as I can I must state
what that new, illuminating, vitalizing idea really is. To attempt this
may seem audacious. It would, indeed, be audacious were I alone in
attempting it. But the idea is co-operative. It is being worked out by
many people all over the world. I offer my contribution. As I see it,
the thing that is dawning on us is simply a new and purged realization
of the "spirit".
It takes a certain courage for anyone like me to use this word. As I have said, it is so misleading, so debased, so dirtied with cant and hypocrisy. For the word "spirit" has been fouled over and over again by those who have no real perception of the spirit. The whole language of religion, formerly significant, has degenerated into a mere jargon. Recently it was at least a smart though already shabby overcoat covering sins; to-day it is in tatters. We cannot help seeing through it to a peculiarly horrible corruption, to a disease of the spirit, a fatal addiction to self-deception, an irreparable lack of precision m feeling and in thought, an incapacity for sincere action. The great and bloody crime of the churches has been that they have so often and so subtly murdered the spirit in men, while affirming their loyalty to it. Lest one should seem to be an accomplice in this crime, it is necessary to protest against it before daring to use any of the old terms again. Modern scepticism, however superficial and trivial its little cleverness, at least sprang from a wholesome revulsion against something far worse; sprang, in fact, from unwitting loyalty to the spirit.
I might, of course, shun the word "spirit", and invent some new word for my special purpose, so as to avoid the misleading associations of the old word; but this would be a mistake. For though we must, indeed, avoid the errors of the past, we must have the courage to admit that the past had hold of a truth which we have lost, and must recover, purged of errors.
The spirit, the spirit, the spirit is the essential thing in us. It is not only the best thing in us but the essence of us. Everything else in us is but a confused, drowsy, somnambulistic approximation to the spirit, the fully awake and coherent spirit which each one of us at his best and in his own particular style of personal living, hesitantly manifests.
I know quite well that to say this is to lay oneself open to the charge of vague and sentimental verbiage. But to say this while remaining a modern mind, aware of the danger, is at least to break the spell of self-righteous, prudish intellectualism, and to point at feast in the direction of the great new-old idea which we so desperately need.
For this great new idea is, indeed, in essence very old. It is not a novelty to be invented by certain bright little human minds. In a sense it is not the work of men's minds at all. Man's part is only to discover it; and in our rediscover it, and see it more clearly than ever before, and without the false glamour and seductive illusions that our predecessors have so often projected upon it. Unfortunately, to rediscover it we have to look in a direction which has become for modern man somewhat unfamiliar. If we merely search the stars or the atoms for it, we shall never find it; though, once we have found it, stars and atoms can tell us more about it. To discover it, itself, a man has to have the courage to look into, or rather through, his own heart. The thing is to be seen only through the far-seeing eye of one's own heart.
The idea that we are seeking, though in some respects so new, so ultra-modern that it cannot yet be at' all clearly focussed, is in the main as old as the most ancient civilization, and far older. Its discovery was begun long before the early Christians learned from their master one great aspect of it, namely the rightness of loving one's fellow men; long before the best minds among the Greeks found in their passion for true thinking another great aspect of it, namely the beauty of sincere intelligence; long before the Jewish prophets obscurely and mythically conceived another aspect of it, imagining the one God. Centuries earlier, certain Indians had discovered something about it which is very alien to the modern West, namely the unity of the spirit in all conscious beings. Earlier still, Chinese sages and artists, in their elegant, matter-of-fact way, were giving expression to a very different face of it. And before them the Egyptians, in their cult of the holy family of Osiris, Isis and Horus, were quite evidently groping for it. No doubt the Sumerians, those earliest pioneers of civilization, were also sensitive to it in some manner or other. But, indeed, ever since men were men they must have been groping toward it.
Our new idea, I said, has to be discovered, not created out of nothing. In an important sense there is something about it far older even than the human species. Of course, man's apprehension of it did not begin before man began; but the truth itself, the fact which man's idea can never more than vaguely, misleadingly express, is far older than man, older than life on the earth, older than the stars, old at least as the cosmos itself. This great fact is involved in the very stuff of our bodies, which is at bottom identical with the stuff of the remotest stars and galaxies. For in the very substance of our bodies, and therefore of the stars, it is implied that ultimately the way of life must be the way of intelligence and love and creative action. Wherever and whenever creatures wake into clear conscious- ness, they must in the long run, but inevitably, either suffer extinction or sink into stagnation or move forward into the portal of this way. Wherever and whenever they become clearly aware of self and other they cannot but, according to their light, seek the spirit, though blindly, and with endless betrayals. It is the essential nature of man, and therefore of any self-conscious and other-conscious species, to grope toward ever clearer feeling and conception of this truth. To say this, believe me, is not to indulge in fantasy or groundless faith or wishful thinking. It is plain common sense.
Each people, each generation, each individual man and woman sees some aspect of this truth, with some particular degree of penetration, and lives in accordance with it in some particular degree of constancy and sincerity. To-day, under the influence of commercialism, the European apprehension of it has become peculiarly insensitive, insincere, false. And under the influence of our natural science, which itself may presently contribute brilliantly to the clarification of the idea, we have developed a passing mood of rather comically blinkered scepticism. But this is indeed rapidly passing. Our danger to-day, as the Nazis have shown us, is no longer scepticism but some form of blind-fold crazy faith, which, by exaggerating some superficial aspect of the idea and rejecting criticism, will lead us into further disasters. For us of to-day the new idea must be a new and more comprehensive expression of the one perennial and many-faceted principle. If we succeed in forming an adequate idea of the idea, of the most important of all truths, this will not be due to our peculiar genius but to our unique situation. For, like the wren which soared higher than the eagle, we must profit by the efforts of all our predecessors, and by their errors. Greece and Palestine, but also India, China, and the rest, must teach us. Most of all we must learn from our own terrible plight, from the pressure of a tragic world-situation upon out minds and hearts. We must rediscover in our own personal lives those significant experiences which in the past gave rise to the many diverse apprehensions of the spirit. Or rather, we must recover the power of noticing those experiences and allowing them their rightful weight in forming our ideas. Without this personal experience no amount of theoretical knowledge of past apprehensions of the idea can be of any use whatever. This, therefore, is the important part of our task, to rediscover those significant experiences. And we must feel the identity of the spirit, underlying the diversity of all these modes of experience. For in one aspect the spirit is sincere percipience and thinking, in another it is love, in another it is creative. imagination and creative action. Or rather, it is these along with full consciousness of what they are,. and of their rightness. And always the spirit is one and the same spirit or temper of men’s minds. The three facets of it involve one another. We must feel the unity of the spirit in all its diverse modes. Only in this way can we avoid being passionately faithful to one aspect of it while betraying the: rest. We must feel its identity also in all human beings, its identity underlying its manifold, lovely, particular, personal idiosyncrasy in each man and woman.
But I have not yet said clearly what I mean by "the spirit". There must be no more beating about the bush.. The truth is that it is not possible for me to say outright and all at once what I mean by "the spirit", lest I hurry myself and my readers along the old well-worn grooves of thought into the old errors.
Since all knowledge of the spirit must be rooted in direct personal experience, I shall begin by saying very briefly what it is in my own life that has forced me to recognize the spirit and see it in the particular way in which I do see it.
However fortunate a man is he cannot in these: days avoid knowing that millions of his fellows are grievously suffering. Added to the constant tragic waste of human personality through economic exploitation, comes the horror of Nazi persecution, and the war. Whatever a man's occupation, wherever he goes, even when in his locality there is a respite from bombing, he cannot but be haunted by the knowledge that hosts of men and women, and children too, whose lives were full of promise, are being terrified, hurt and killed. In these circumstances he may well feel that the universe is no more than a huge desert of matter with here and there an equally futile, and a tortured, living dust. I, at least, have recently faced this despair. Events in my personal life have perhaps quickened my perception of it, and forced me also to see beyond it.
For in my personal life I find the sure answer to that despair, and if I cannot succeed in clearly expressing it, my life has been in vain.
By great good fortune, terrifyingly great good fortune, I have had in my own life the opportunity to sample deeply the three kinds of activity which form the three main gateways to awareness of the spirit. I have known the three supreme joys of life, the joy of sincere perceiving and thinking, the joy of loving, the joy of creative action. For instance, I have watched with fascination great waves leaping like dogs around he feet of greater rocks. I have watched seals swimming deep down under the sea. I have 'latched mists flowing across moors. I have peered down a microscope at minute beasts jostling one another in a drop of stagnant water. I have watched birds on the tidal mud-flats, stars in the night, human beings in trains and streets and rooms. I have observed their dead bodies blackening, decomposing. I have listened to their voices, and to winds and torrents and the curlew, and to gunfire and great bombs. And I have thought long and hard about the strange world that we live in, and our stranger, mutually torturing, mutually vitalizing selves. I have known the exquisite mutual stimulation of inquiring minds. And I have loved. I have had sweet sudden loves and a love almost lifelong.
I have known what it is to grow ever more intimately knit together with another human spirit, very different from myself, very dear. I have known the conflict and strain and fundamental mutual need of marriage and of a little family community. And so I have known at first hand what is most vital in human relationship. Then also I have known the intense joy of creating, both in little matters, like designing .and making model boats, and in more considerable and more deeply satisfying matters. For I have known what it is to be swept forward on a strong and triumphant surge of creative imagination.
To experience all these things is not itself to know the spirit; but, as I have said, these are open gateways to the awareness of the spirit. For each of them in their different modes and degrees can make one feel with absolute certainty, and in spite of strong intellectual scepticism, that in such activities we not merely fulfil our deepest personal nature but also become in some lowly degree instruments or vessels and manifestations of something infinitely greater than our individual selves. If in the process of sincere perceiving or thinking, or in the course of true other-regarding love, or in the excitement of creative action, we can for a moment stand aside and watch what is happening, we may discover that clear awareness, love and creating are what we are for; not that these are merely for our fulfilling, but that we are for these.
2. THE PERSON AND "THE SPIRIT"
Like all my kind I desire personal well-being. But personal well-being, even in its richest form, is not simply identical with the life of the spirit. There are many planes and many directions in which the elements of personal well-being are to be obtained, but the only complete well-being is the well-being of the personality as a whole. On every plane, from the bodily to the spiritual, and in whatever directions capacity happens to point, the goal of purely personal well-being is the fulfilment of a particular personality. All the capacities of the personality must have adequate, but never excessive expression. All, if the goal is simply personal well-being, must be subordinated to the development of a lucid, integrated, active personality. No one can attain complete personal well-being. All are to some extent warped by nature and frustrated by circumstance. The great majority are seriously warped and grievously frustrated. But each one of us, however unwittingly and within whatever restricted fields, seeks according to his lights personal well-being. Not everyone consciously seeks to live in the way of the spirit.
The supreme kind of personal well-being is found only in the life of the spirit, in service of the spirit. But to the extent to which a man lives for the spirit he sees and feels beyond the goal of personal well-being. His main concern is then simply the spirit, simply to use his personality for the expression of the spirit, to live in loyalty to the spirit, to become an effective Instrument or vessel of the spirit. And this he may do even if he happens to be in many ways gravely warped in his nature and frustrated by circumstance. The life of the spirit is not only for those who are blessed with a generous measure of personal well-being. Indeed there is a kind of personal well-being, upon all planes but the highest, which may be hostile to the life of the spirit. On the other hand the man who is possessed by the spirit will be a more effective instrument of the spirit the more well-grown and unfrustrated his personality. Jesus, Gautama Buddha, Socrates, were all well-grown and unfrustrated.
But the spirit? What really is the spirit? Many misleading and philosophically untenable half-truths, or fractional truths, can be said about it; but never the truth. Fractional truths, when they are taken for truths, become sheer lies and lethal. Yet absolutely to reject all the fractional truths because they offend against intellectual prudery is' to slip, into. another lie which is no less lethal:. So the fractional truths must be taken as symbols, vaguely suggesting a truth which is to be, found only in direct experience. Thus if I say that the spirit is the essence of each one of us, I say something philosophically rather shoddy; yet there is a truth in it. If I say, the spirit is identical in us all, yet different in each, I seem to be mystery-mongering; yet there is a truth in it. If I say, when a man is in love, really in love with a certain woman, he can see the spirit in her eyes, hear it' in her voice, feel it in the lightest touch of her hand, and know it most intimately in the modes of her thinking and feeling, I say something hackneyed and sentimental; yet there is truth in it. If I say, the spirit is manifested in every act of generosity and brotherhood, I say something vague and nauseatingly famil1ar; yet there is a truth in it. If I say, every intellectual triumph and every high achievement of creative imagination expresses the spirit, I say what is mere truism to some and unctuous verbiage to others; yet there is a truth in it.
The spirit is something within us and also something beyond us. It is something within us which strives, feebly or strongly, not simply for the well-being of the particular individual person himself, not even for the well-being of a whole society or world or universe of individual persons, but for that particular kind of well-being, in himself and others, which is called the way of the spirit, namely the way of clear awareness, of love, of creative action. It strives for these not only because they happen to be the way of supreme personal and social fulfilment, but for their own sakes.
Of course, for every self the goal must always and inevitably be in some sense "self-fulfilment", since whatever it seeks is a fulfilling of its own seeking, its own desire, its own will. But it seeks, desires, wills, many goals. The fulfilment of itself as a personality is only one among the many, though a very insistent one. The young self grows. It outgrows its childish aims, its play and its toys. Circumstances, impinging upon its maturing nature, force it to outgrow itself, often with torturing reluctance, so as to playa part in an ever wider field and as a maturer self, seeking new kinds of personal well-being. Throughout its life the self is moulded strongly and mercilessly by the impact of its world. Sometimes it is mutilated, sometimes given the opportunity of growth and an advancement m well-being. And then, according to its measure of courage and strength, it may either slink away from the opportunity, or press forward. At one stage, for instance, it may care solely for personal well- being, until one day it stumbles on the opportunity of love. Then it may either fail or triumph. In two ways it may fail. It may either retreat, hugging its familiar self; or it may devour the beloved for its own personal well-being. On the other hand, it may triumph. Scorning its familiar aim, it may. genuinely love. And so, oblivious of the familiar personal well-being, it may gain along with the beloved a new, ampler, more awakened life, and incidentally a new order of personal well-being. This is not, as such, the life of the spirit; but it is one of the experiences which may open the way into the life of the spirit. Or again, from caring supremely for self-advancement in society, the self may come to care more for the well-being of society itself, or rather of the people who make up society. For their sake it may even face pain and death and the end of personal well-being. Even this is not, as such, the life of the spirit; but only those who have seen the spirit in the persons of their fellows, and have therefore loved and served, can ever begin to live the life of the spirit.
But social service, it may be said, is only another and richer kind of self-fulfilment, only a loftier way to an ampler personal well-being. It is indeed a richer kind of personal fulfilment, but it is this almost, as it were, by accident. Essentially it is more than this. The true lover of men cares for the well-being of society not because this is the way of fuller personal well-being for himself; on the contrary, the struggle for the well-being of society has become for him the way of personal well-being because he has come to care for it for its own sake. And he has come to care for it simply because his eyes have been opened to realize what it is, and his heart has been enlarged to accept it as an end more important than his private well-being. Thus the well-being of his fellow men may be said to have been revealed to him as intrinsically good. It is good in the same sense as that in which personal well-being, which is beyond the short-sighted vision of the beasts, may be said to appear to him as intrinsically good.
Similarly with the spirit. The way of the spirit is the way of supreme personal well-being not because, through it, the ordinary personal self can gratify its will to be an integrated and harmonious personality, but because, or in so far as, the ordinary self has been possessed and transformed by awareness of the spirit, so that it has come to prize the spirit more than its dearest personal ends.
Even so, there will be shattering conflict within the self, conflict between the old self and the new self which has accepted the spirit. Only a self that has become wholly, utterly, possessed by the spirit could be entirely freed from that conflict.
3. PERSONAL WELL-BEING
The idea toward which we are all groping for the better regulation of our lives must include both a clear awareness of the spirit and a clear conception of personal well-being.
What do we need for personal well-being? Since we are all members of one biological species, well-being is at bottom the same for us all. But since our species is human, and our fundamental identity blossoms out into rich diversity of individual character, well-being varies greatly from individual to individual. What is food for one is poison for another. It is the privilege of the human species that its individuals differ from one another far more than the individuals of any other natural species, in native equipment ,and still more in acquired character. And it is the glory of man at his best that the immense differences between human beings may lead not to mere bate and conflict but to mutual enrichment and mutual responsibility. And this is the way to the spirit. Indeed, since to be human involves being incipiently superhuman, all of us are alike in that we need for true well-being to be sensitive to the spirit and to behave according to the spirit, so far as in us lies.
For well-being we need to exercise our powers and develop our potentialities. We have to do this not at random but coherently. Otherwise we are torn by conflict, and we defeat ourselves. For well-being we must refrain from being merely the sport of impulse; we must be integrated personalities. Two dangers constantly waylay us:' the danger of dissociation and the danger of becoming a one-track mind. The first danger leads to incoherent behaviour and culminates in multiple personality. The other is that state in which all experiences but those of some one particular stereotyped form simply slide off the mind like water off a duck's back, leaving no mark. In the well-integrated personality every kind of experience is welcomed, every kind of activity practised, but all are subordinated to the needs of the sensitive, active, growing personality as a whole.
We are capable of different grades or orders of experience and activity. Some are very simple, and typical of the subhuman animals; though even these we practise in a distinctively human manner. Like the beasts, we eat, copulate, fight, and so on; but all these acts we perform with some degree of human intel1igence, human tradition, human self-consciousness, human other-consciousness. I eat with a knife and fork, and with consideration for social intercourse and my awn health. I copulate with knowledge of the possible consequences of the act, and with a sense, of the myriads that have- performed it before me, and with consciousness of the other and myself as persons; and with consciousness of the spirit. If I were to fight, it would be not blind infuriated instinctive fighting; it would be fighting with modern weapons and a conflict of motives. Some of our activities, such as poetry, science, embarking on a career, forging a cheque, bombing our fellow mortals from the air, are essentially beyond the range of the beasts. It is true that they spring partly from deep-lying primitive motives which we share with the beasts; but these have been so transformed by human intelligence and tradition, and by entanglement with distinctively human motives, that they form no sufficient clue to human nature.
Of these essentially human activities some are well within the range of all men; but others demand powers which even human beings can exercise only when they are far above the average in the distinctively human capacities. To perform these a man must be mentally awakened to the fullest extent possible to human beings. He must be very percipient, very intelligent, very imaginative, very integrated, very deeply self-conscious and other-conscious, and so on. Or at least he must excel in some one of these distinctively human capacities.
For all-round personal well-being a man needs activity upon all these three planes the sub-human, the average human, the incipiently super-human, if I may so call it. Probably all of us who are above the moron level have some latent capacity for the incipiently super-human activities.
Let us consider for a moment the lower reaches of our nature. I call them lower not to disparage them but because they really are simpler, less developed than the higher. The activities in which they express themselves are good in themselves, so far as they go, since they are, in their degree, expressions of our nature. They are bad only when they run riot and frustrate the higher reaches of our nature, or the needs of other persons .The main function of the simple activities is to contribute to the more complex; much as, in music, the individual tones contribute Ito the harmonies and themes.
As mere human animals we need for well-being to exercise our bodily powers. For well-being we need in the first place general bodily health. When the machinery of the body is out of order we are hampered and distracted and more or less mentally warped. Some claim, I know, that a certain amount of bodily ill-health is necessary for the proper working of the mind. Rude physical health, they say, clogs the mind and blunts all the finer sensibilities. This may be true for some, but so far as I am concerned, the healthier my body the more awake my thinking and feeling; provided, of course, that too much time and attention is not given to the life of the body, so that the mind is starved. I hazard a guess that, while for some a certain amount of ill-health may quicken the mental and also the spiritual life, the fullest expression of mind and spirit demands bodily health; not only in the negative manner, in which the body works so smoothly that it is not noticed, but in a more positive manner; for the sense of physical power and vitality may itself be a stimulus to mental action and one of the many manifestations of the spirit.
Besides needing general bodily health, we need Ito exercise particular bodily powers. When our bodies are ripe for muscular activity, or for rest, or sleep, or eating, or the release of sexual potency, and so on, these actions, even as simple impulses unco-ordinated with the rest of the personality, can afford intense well-being. But since we are more than the subhuman beasts, our human well-being demands that we should also exercise these powers not merely at random but as means to, or factors in, more developed activities. We must sometimes use our muscles in skilled sport, or better still on skilled work for self-advancement or social benefit. We must sometimes spend sexual energy as a factor in a genuinely human sexual personal relationship, as an expression of personal love. For my part I see nothing wrong with fleeting and light-hearted sexual intercourse, so long as it neither damages a more fully "personal" union nor leads to a debilitating obsession with sex. But those trivial unions are not the best that can be. Better, whether in marriage or apart from marriage or in adultery, are those in which sexual intercourse is a symbol of developed personal love. Whether the best of all is necessarily a strict monogamy, or necessarily not a strict monogamy, I do not know.
We are capable of acquiring all sorts of skills and techniques, bodily and mental. All skills and techniques are in a sense mental, and all have a bodily aspect; but we distinguish between those that are more obviously bodily and those in which mentality plays the major part. For personal well-being we need to acquire and exercise skills of both sorts, to some extent. In bodily skills we may express surprisingly much of our personality, in our personal style of swimming, dancing, tennis, rock-climbing or simple walking. And in performing such actions with style, with the best style possible to us we may find intense aesthetic satisfaction. For true personal well-being we need also to acquire and exercise, so far as our capacity permits, some of the more mental skills, whether mathematics, scientific research, musical technique and sensibility, personal tact or aptitude for organizing. But again, since we are more than mere1y skilful, we need to exercise our skills not solely for the joy of exercising them but also, so far as possible, in service of ulterior ends, such as self-advancement, love, parenthood, patriotism, loyalty to the spirit.
From infancy onwards, particular circumstances mould our particular inherited natures so that each of us acquires a distinctive character, a unique temper and a unique tissue of skills and sentiments. By a sentiment I mean an acquired interest in some particular object or class of objects. We may have sentiments of love and hate for a particular individual or for a society; or for physical things, such as a house or a countryside; or for activities, such as swimming, scientific research, falling in love, discussing, writing verse, pub-crawling; or for abstractions, such as truth, love, justice, economics, art, personality. Some sentiments are simple, and possible to all men in some degree; some are very complex and subtle, and only the most developed minds are capable of them.
For personal well-being we need to give adequate expression to all the sentiments that play a considerable part in our nature; otherwise their constant unreleased energies will inflame and distort the personality. And if, as happens to some extent to all of us, some of our frustrated sentiments are unconscious; if, because they are in violent conflict with our sentiment of self-esteem, we dare not recognize their existence; if in fact they are "complexes", they may have far reaching and disastrous effect on our behaviour.
But though serious frustration of major sentiments is damaging, and though grave conflict between the energies within the personality inevitably leads to frustration and mental sickness, yet some frustration and some conflict are salutary. They generate a head of pent-up power without which we should accomplish little. For well-being, life must not be too easy for us, lest the "muscles" of the personality go flabby; but neither must it be too difficult, lest we break under the strain.
To live entirely in the exercise of easy activities leads to stagnation, which is incompatible with well-being because personality is essentially a growing thing; and to stagnate is in some measure to die. On the other hand, to strain after the impossible is damaging, and may lead to revulsion. To perform, as best we may, those activities which lie upon the upper limit of our nature, but are not Impossible, is necessary for personal well-being. In the successful execution of such acts we excel our normal selves, becoming more integrated, more awakened.
4. THE UPPER REACHES OF PERSONALITY
Roughly we may say that there are three kinds of action which are distinctive of the upper reaches of personality and are needed for full personal, well-being. For lack of better names I shall call them sensitive and intelligent awareness (or simply intelligence), love and creative action. These form also the main approaches to the life of the spirit, but they are not simply identical with the life of the spirit. They are the powers in respect of which man differs essentially from the subhuman animals. They seem to derive from man's more delicate sensibility and more close-knit mental unity. Not only has man more subtle and colourful eyesight and more cunning manual dexterity than any beast; he has also far greater power of noticing differences and likenesses in things under his observation. This power of intelligent analysis and synthesis he applies not only to the external world but to his own experiencing.. And so he comes to know far more of the world and of himself and other selves than any beast can know. When he is most fully human his awareness is far better unified, more comprehensive, more precise. His feeling, too, is much more discriminate. His action is more coherent, graded, appropriate to his aims. And his aims themselves are better related to one another, more conscious, more criticized, more far-reaching.
The expressions "sensitive and intelligent awareness", "love" and "creative action" are very ambiguous. Moreover I wish to use them all in rather special senses, which I shall presently describe. Intelligence, love and creative action really involve one another, in some sense and some degree. All three kinds of action are, broadly speaking, intelligent, all involve a kind of love, all are creative. But for practical purposes we may distinguish between acts which are mainly intelligent, those which are mainly loving and those which are mainly creative of some new and more developed state of affairs in the world or the self or other selves.
Intelligence must be understood to include every kind of discriminating awareness. It may be exercised either on practical or theoretical matters, and in awareness either of one's own feelings and motives or of those of other persons, or the perception of the relationship between persons, or, of course, in the material sphere. Thus it embraces activities as different from one another as the sincere attempt to understand the economic influences that are at work in the modem world, and the discrimination' of the flavours of different kinds of apples; the understanding of the scope and limitations of natural science, and the grasp of the form and detail of a sonata; the unflinching effort to detect one’s' own deepest motives, and noting the difference between one sparrow and another; watching one's fellow men with Breughel-like exactness and the philosophical effort to see all experience as a coherent whole.
Intelligence is practised normally as a means to some end or other; but also it can become aw end in itself. Its exercise may be recognized as a part of personal well-being such it sets up its own special moral standard. The moral ideal of intelligence is to face all facts as objectively as possible, to permit. no distortion by desire. What begins as a means of practical control over the environment becomes in the developed mind a disinterested love of truth, a desire to see the world, and the self as they really are, a piety toward reality. I know, of course, that we are never really disinterested, never purely objective; but the practice of sensitive intelligent awareness for its own sake involves the attempt to be fully disinterested, fully objective. And this longing for disinterestedness and objectivity involves a kind of piety toward the object, in fact a kind of love for the objective world, a longing to be at one with it simply by knowing it as it is, and simply because it is reality other than the knowing self. Such disinterested, loving awareness is itself a factor in the life of the spirit.
Love is essentially the prizing of something not as a means to an ulterior end but for its own sake. In this sense all men love themselves and the exercise of their powers. But a relationship with another person, though it is sometimes only a case of hungry guzzling, of fulfilling one's own needs, or at best co-operative self-seeking, may involve something else in addition, namely it may be a genuine love of the other as a personality. Genuine personal love must be distinguished from mere mutual utilization and possessiveness. It involves self-consciousness and other-consciousness, realization of the. other as a person, having a character different from one’s own. The differences are respected and indeed welcomed; even though at the same time, on the obverse side of the sentiment, they are inevitably resented, because they conflict with one's own needs. Nevertheless they are not merely forgiven for the sake of a far more important accord of, temper and interest; they are positively welcomed as a source of mutual personal enrichment In genuine love, sexual other, the lover discovers along with the beloved a relationship of co-operative personal well-being. Each prizes not only the other but the relationship of love, or rather the unity made up of the two of them in this relation, the little community composed of the two of them. And prizing this, one may come to love love itself as a manifestation of the spirit. It is certainly possible to love the spirit, though in a groping way. And in a sense we may -sometimes even love the universe. We may emotionally accept it as it is, without wishing away the evil and filthiness and horror in it; as Spinoza did in his "intellectual love of God".
Personal love shows most dearly what loving is. It has many forms and degrees, for instance in marriage, in passing sexual union (provided that it really is based on mutual personal valuing), in family groups, in friendship, in comradeship in work and play. Love may be mutual or one-sided; but when it is one-sided it cannot afford real well-being to either party. In every love there is some degree of hate, on account of the inevitable personal conflict of interest with the beloved. This hate may be either clearly conscious or suppressed, in which case it will distort behaviour.
Love is the most intimate form of the relationship of genuine community, which is the distinctively human or personal form of social behaviour. Subhuman animals, because they are so much less precisely self-conscious and other-conscious than human animals, are incapable of true community. Their way of living together is the way of mere gregariousness, in which the members of the group have no clear realization of one another as centres of conscious activity, differing in temper and interest. In typical gregarious behaviour there is merely a vague impulse to conform to the behaviour sanctioned by the group, and to enforce conformity on any individuals who are noticeably eccentric. Most human social behaviour is more animal than human; but men are all, in varying degrees, capable of true community, of mutual realization, mutual respect, mutual mental enrichment, mutual responsibility and aid.
Even between individuals in personal contact true community is all too rare; in a large society in which the members are not all in personal contact with one another, it is far more difficult and far more rare. Its occurrence depends on two conditions. First the existence of the society, as an organized system, must be a source of personal well-being to the great majority of the members. Second, there must be in the great majority an active will for true community throughout the society; not merely a will for an efficient social order, strong government, and a body of citizens with mass-produced, uniform minds. This active will for community is possible only to those who have experienced concrete community in their personal contacts. Only those who have been confronted by the reality of another individual and have known what love is, in one or several of its forms, can ever actively will the wider and more tenuous kind of community which alone is possible in a great society. And not all of these can do so. It is necessary to have enough imagination to see and feel that, after all, other human individuals, whether known or unknown, are of the same order of being as oneself and one's personal friends. Even where such imagination does exist, tribal passions may prevent a man from realizing that all human individuals, and not merely his fellow nationals or the members of his own social class, are real persons whose personality must be respected.
It is obvious that in no existing society are the members knit together by a universal active will for community. In ,all of them there are severe internal strains and conflicts of self-interest between class and class, group and group. Consequently such will for community as does exist is poisoned by jealousy and fear. In normal times what passes for a will for community is no more than perfunctory lip-service to an ideal which is abandoned in every situation of practical strain between groups within the society. Even so, in times of grave social danger a genuine will for community may wake into action and play an important part. And at all times there is a certain amount of true community within some of the groups that make up the national society.
In our day one of the great issues is the establishment of a true will for community not only within the limits of the nation but universally. Even to-day the sense of our common humanity and the will for an all-embracing human community play an increasingly important part in the minds of the more awakened kinds of individuals. But for most men at most times the feeling of community does not extend beyond the circle of personal acquaintance, and even within this narrow sphere it is precarious and feeble.
The third kind of activity which is distinctive of the upper reaches of personality is the kind which, though it involves elements of the other two, is most obviously creative. By this I mean that the most striking character of these activities is: their; novelty, or the novelty of their results. These are the activities which involve for the person who does them a rise in lucidity and integrity. Or else they produce in the outside world some object which is a symbolical expression of or a means to the attainment of, a rise in lucidity and integrity in other persons. The most familiar example is creative art, in which also there is a great deal of intelligence and love. No less creative are the most vital kinds of scientific research and philosophical inquiry. Equally so may be action in practical matters, such as political or economic organization, and all the kinds of manual skill or construction. In fact all activities which are not merely repetitive, but which demand radically fresh design may be called creative. Thus we must include in this class, along with all creative art, such actions as planning and making a boat or a garden, bringing up a child, contributing to human culture some jot of new literary sensibility or philosophical understanding, working out principles for a new social order, leading an army, a platoon, a gang, stimulating a social revolution.
Unfortunately creative imagination may be used: for uncreative and lethal purposes. Such, for instance was the use of Hitler's genius for propaganda. The most fully creative action is that which, itself an expression of creative imagination, serves also a purpose which springs from creative imagination.
One important field of creative action is the field of personal relations. Community, true community, is itself creative, in that it creates new and more developed awareness in the minds of those entering into the community relation, and opens up for them the possibility of a great range of developed activities which are inconceivable without community. That personal love is creative is obvious. It transforms the personality not only by bringing, as it were, a new world within its ken but by quickening the perception even of familiar things. The more far-reaching and diffuse kind of community is really no less creative since it brings cultural interchange and enrichment.
For full personal well-being, then, the individual needs opportunity for all these kinds of distinctively human action, up to the limit his particular capacity and bent. And these are the activities which afford to the more awakened and unperverted sort of mind the deepest and most lasting satisfaction.
In the world as it is to-day it is impossible for any intelligent man or woman to find any deep personal well-being. Millions are in distress, thousands in agony. To shut this fact out from one's consciousness, apart from being a sin against the spirit, is a restriction or maiming of the personality. To accept it and do nothing about it is no less a sin against the spirit, and no less a maiming. There is only one adequate way to deal with it, and this calls for rare heroism, namely to devote one's life to the struggle to change the world. Those who do this, whether by social or political action or in education or medicine and so on or again by heroic action in war, may be loosely said to find great personal well-being; but it is more accurate to say that, finding well-being on one plane, they lose it on others; and that they are indifferent to it for the sake of the spirit.
5. "THE SPIRIT" IS WHAT WE ARE FOR
It is a commonplace with religious people that a man cannot gain the fullest personal well-being for himself unless he cares more for the spirit than for himself as a person. It is less easily recognized that he cannot serve social well-being in the fullest manner unless he cares more for the spirit than for society, more even than for his fellow men as individual persons. If the right attitude toward himself is the will not for personal well-being but to use himself in service of the spirit for the spirit's sake alone, equally the ultimately right attitude toward his fellows is not simply to afford them the greatest possible measure of personal well-being but to help them to use themselves as fully as possible for the service of the spirit. Thereby, if he succeeds, he will incidentally afford them the greatest possible personal well-being.
No doubt it is very dangerous to believe that we cannot serve our fellows properly without caring more for the spirit than for them as individuals. It is only a half of the truth. It may lead some of us ruthlessly to sacrifice the well- being of our fellows to some false idea of the spirit, or some foul thing masquerading as the spirit. This is perhaps what Hitler did.
Overawed by this danger, many sincere people insist that nothing whatsoever should be put before the well-being of one's fellows. And this in a sense is true, but in another sense it falls short of the truth. And the deeper truth, though dangerous, must not be shunned. The point is this. Unless, in a sense, a man puts the spirit before the well-being of his fellows he betrays both the spirit and his fellows, since it is their essential nature to be servants of the spirit. But if his idea of the spirit is unperverted, he will be in no danger of neglecting their personal well- being; since, in the true way of the spirit, respect for one's fellows as individual persons and as independent manifestations of the spirit is essential.
It is only a perverted idea of the spirit that can lead to violation of the personality of one's fellows. For the true life of the spirit is complementary to well-being, personal and social. While a man cannot have true well-being without subordinating well-being .to the service of the spirit in himself and others, equally he cannot serve the spirit rightly unless he respects human personality, in others and in himself. And to respect personality means simply this: to take, as the aim of all his practical action the helping of persons to achieve well-being, to fulfil whatever powers they have for being sensitive, intelligent, loving and creatively active persons.
But if they do not want to be anything of the sort? If they are content to be merely monkeys, pigs or tigers? Then perhaps at least we can help them to want to be something better. But if we fail, and they remain perversely content with their brutishness? Then there is nothing more to be done about them but to prevent them from hurting their fellows. We cannot force them to live the life of the spirit. You can take a horse to the water, but you cannot make it drink. To try to force men to live the life of the spirit is to violate the spirit in them, and in oneself also. One cannot compel people to be sensitively and intelligently aware, to be loving, to be creatively active. To try to compel them to do this is to suppress these characters in oneself.
But the life of the spirit is not simply to be aware, loving and creative; it is to behave in this way with full consciousness of what is being done, and to do it not merely because it affords personal well-being, nor merely because it is socially beneficial, but out of disinterested passion for the spirit itself. This passion involves not only being clearly aware, loving and creative in relation to the world around us but also being clearly aware of the spirit, loving the spirit and creating in one's own heart further potentiality' of the spirit.
In this connection I shall dare to say something about the experience known as "religious conversion", though in doing so I may offend both the religious people who know all about it and the anti-religious people who think they know even more.
In each religion conversion is described in terms of the accepted doctrines of that religion, the accepted theories about man and the universe. The experience itself is not a matter of theory, but of emotional change. Modern minds are rightly suspicious of religious experience, not only because it is associated with doubtful theories about the universe but also for another reason. Very often experiences which pass for religious conversion are remarkably reminiscent of certain neurotic experiences studied by psychiatrists and believed to be caused simply by suppressed sexual: or self-regarding hunger. Even when the true saints express their religious feeling, primitive impulse seems to play a part, since the images which they use (always protesting that they are utterly inadequate) are often derived from primitive sexual passion or self-regard.. For this reason it is often held that there is nothing at all in religious conversion but sublimation of primitive desire.
This is a mistake. Something else does occur in religious conversion, something which does not involve doubtful theories about the universe and man's place in it, and is not simply a product of suppressed primitive cravings. This something also plays a part in experiences which are not ordinarily called religious and are not expressed in the language of religion, but are in fact essentially identical with the essential core of religious experience. For the essential thing in religious experience is the discovery of the spirit, or the discovery of the supreme rightness and beauty of the way of life which is called the way of the spirit, the discovery not merely that the way of the spirit is the way of true personal well-being but that this way of living is what persons are for, that they are essentially instruments for the expressing, manifesting, actualising of the spirit in concrete living, just as wings are for flying and violins for music. Oh, yes, I know that this is intellectually a very doubtful statement, but for, the moment I am merely describing a state of mind, not defending a theory.
Conversion may be a sudden or a prolonged experience. Short or long, true conversion, conversion toward the spirit, involves four moods, which may either occur in a single and final dramatic sequence or may be repeated many times throughout a man’s life. There is first the worldly mood, in which there is no realization of1he spirit, or at best a vague and shunned memory of it. In this state attention is fully occupied with the commonplace life of impulse or of self-regard, or of merely formal social service. The second mood is that in which realization of the spirit floods in upon the mind with a sense of the beauty of the way of life which is the way of the spirit: and along with this there comes a devastating sense of personal inadequacy, of betrayal, in fact of sin against the spirit, and a torturing conflict between the will for the spirit and the will for sin, or (let us say) between the will for the light and the will for darkness and death. For the will for the spirit is the will for clear awareness and action, and the will for sin, when it is not merely the consequence of human weakness in the presence of temptation by some irrelevant and minor good, is the diabolic will that says "Evil, be thou my good". Realization of the spirit may at any time give way to a third mood, of utter disillusionment, the "dark night of the soul", in which nothing, neither the spirit nor anything else, can rouse any enthusiasm. Everything is turned to dust and ashes. The fourth mood is the mood of purification, culminating in whole-hearted acceptance of the spirit, in which zest returns yet sin fails to attract; and the spirit alone is felt to be desirable. This mood is unfortunately precarious and evanescent in most of us. It certainly is so with me. But when it is upon me I feel with passion the will to be as clearly aware, as loving, as creatively active as possible, simply for the spirit's sake, simply to manifest the spirit in action and to establish it in the world.
Here it is necessary to say something about the sense of sin, which has played so great a part in religion and is so unfashionable a feeling in our own day. It is generally regarded by average modernistic minds as a symptom of mental disorder. There is, indeed, a kind of sin-consciousness which is morbid, and poisonous to the spirit, but there is another which is salutary. The un- wholesome kind is simply a haunting fear of the unpleasant consequences of an act believed to be evil. Such is a murderer's fear of punishment, in which there is no genuine repentance. Such is the objectless dread that a neurotic may feel as a result of some repressed violation of parental taboo. But there is another guiltiness which arises from the true sense of sin, the sense of having betrayed values which one holds sacred. The former is a guiltiness rooted simply in fear for one's own personal well-being; the other is guiltiness rooted in disinterested love. Fear-guilt is merely cramping and poisoning; love-guilt is an inevitable and wholesome consequence of disloyalty to the thing loved. The true sense of sin is love-guilt on account of the spirit. Without it no one can begin to live according to the dictates of the spirit.
Let me summarize this chapter. Every kind pf sensitive arid intelligent awareness of the world, including the self and other selves; every kind of love for anything that deserves love; every kind of creative action for personal or social well- being or for further manifestation of the spirit; all these, when I am under the spell of the spirit, I feel to be beautiful in themselves, my proper function, the true end of man. I feel it with passion, if that is a permissible word for a deep and calm conviction which no sceptical argument can shake.
No one can be always under the spell of the spirit. Indeed it is good that we should often give free rein to impulse simply for its own sake, so long as in doing so we do not violate the spirit. But while a man actually is under the spell of the spirit, all that he does will be done fundamentally for the spirit's sake. This, I take it, is the essence of what the religious people mean when they speak of doing things "for the glory of God". Every little act can be done with consciousness of its bearing upon the spirit. Every person encountered will be seen as an instrument and manifestation of the spirit, however weak an instrument and distorted a manifestation. Consequently in all dealings which affect other persons, even in conflict with them, there will be an underlying respect for them as "vessels of the spirit", and an indefatigable disposition toward friendliness. The will for the spirit cannot be clear or at all sincere unless it expresses itself in treating people always as persons, never as things or cattle, or as vermin. And this will to treat people as persons must obviously extend far beyond the limits of personal contact. Under the spell of the spirit. I will that all human beings shall be treated with full respect for their personality, and I will to do my best to secure that they shall in fact be so treated. This means that they shall be given adequa1e conditions of living, adequate sexual freedom, adequate food, adequate medical attention, adequate recreation, adequate education, no matter what the difficulty of organizing all this in the teeth of vested interests and snobbishness. To treat people with respect for their personality when one is in personal contact with them is not too difficult for us; but to insist that they shall be so treated universally is desperately difficult. To do so in our present social order involves heroic action, and most of us are not heroes.
In the way of the spirit people are not to be treated as persons only when we approve of them. They will be treated so even if their behaviour is hostile to social well-being and to the spirit. This does not involve. a spineless toleration of evil, the "non-intervention" or "Munich" attitude; it means that, along with unswerving championship of the spirit, there will yet be a will to treat even the enemies of the spirit as nevertheless themselves persons, as themselves spirit, though perverted, and to refrain from treating them as vermin. The point is this. The supreme duty is, indeed, to stand unflinchingly and uncompromisingly for the spirit always, never giving way out of easy-going and false-hearted tolerance in any jot that concerns the spirit; but at the same time, in all matters in which the spirit is not at stake we must give the enemies of the spirit their due as persons. This I take to be the meaning of "love your enemies", in those situations in which you believe your enemies to be also the enemies of the spirit. It is not easy to treat the enemies of the spirit as persons and yet firmly as enemies of the spirit. We all fail in one direction or the other. Enthusiasts for any cause tend to forget that the enemies of the cause are, after all, persons, and vessels of the spirit. Fanatical Christians, Communists, Nazis have all fallen into this error. In service not only of bad causes but very good causes one may deceive, lie, misrepresent, vilify, hate, and with unwitting glee one may dominate and torture. All this one may do even in the name of the spirit. But in this way one cannot really serve the spirit. Any small practical advantages that are thus gained for the spirit in the short run will be overwhelmingly outweighed by the harm done in the long run. For to behave in this way is to violate the spirit both in others and in oneself. For those who are deceived and dominated in the name of the spirit are likely to turn against the spirit in contempt. And the one who deceives and dominates gradually loses all clear sight of the spirit and becomes incapable of serving it. But, to repeat, if this is the fate of fanatics, those who pride themselves on their tolerance and open-mindedness and charitableness may easily, unless they constantly bear the spirit in mind, slip into acquiescence with the enemies of the spirit.
Beyond the "Isms" Contents