What Is and What Might Be, by Edmond Holmes

That's French for "the ancient system," as in the ancient system of feudal privileges and the exercise of autocratic power over the peasants. The ancien regime never goes away, like vampires and dinosaur bones they are always hidden in the earth, exercising a mysterious influence. It is not paranoia to believe that the elites scheme against the common man. Inform yourself about their schemes here.

Re: What Is and What Might Be, by Edmond Holmes

Postby admin » Mon Oct 21, 2019 4:20 am

Part 2 of 2

In Utopia free conversation is systematically encouraged. No elementary school is supposed to open before 9 a.m.; but Egeria is in the habit of coming to school at 8.45 or earlier, so that the children who wish to do so may come and talk to her freely about the things that interest them, - what they have observed on their walks to or from school, what they have heard or read at home, what they think about things in general, and so on. The school has a good library of books which are worth reading, both in prose and verse. These the children read in school and out of school, and are thus brought into communication with other minds, with other times, with other lands. They are also accustomed to talk freely to one another about the books that they are reading. Whatever lesson may be going on, they are encouraged to ask questions about the matter in hand, and even to express their own views about it. They go out into the playground in groups and make up games and plays, discussing things freely among themselves. When they are preparing to act an historical scene or a passage from some dramatic author, they hold a sort of informal parliament, in which the actors are selected and various important questions are provisionally settled. They write letters in school to real people. The older girls take the little ones in hand, and talk to them and draw them out. When an interesting phenomenon is noticed, e.g. in a Nature ramble, the children are accustomed to discuss it in groups, and to try to think out among themselves its cause and its meaning. Gossip is of course discouraged; but it is scarcely necessary for Egeria to proscribe it; for idle talk has no attraction for children who are allowed to talk freely and frankly, at all times and in all places, about things that are really worth discussing. Life is full of interest for children who are allowed, as these are, to take an active interest in it; and subjects of conversation are therefore ever presenting themselves, in school and out of school, to the happy children of Utopia. This means that the life of each individual child is overflowing through many channels, an overflow which will carry the out-welling life into the lives of other living beings - human and infra-human, actual and imaginary - and even beyond these, when it has been met and reinforced by other surging currents, into the impersonal life of Humanity and of Nature.

(2) The Dramatic Instinct.

Whatever else young children may be, they are all born actors; and in a school which bases its scheme of education on the actualities of child life, it is but natural that the dramatic instinct should be fostered in every possible way. "Work while you work, and play while you play", is one of those trite maxims which have been unintelligently repeated till they have lost whatever value they may once have possessed. "Work while you play, and play while you work", seems to be Egeria's substitute for it; and she would, I think, do well to write those words over the porch of her school.

In the ordinary elementary school a fair amount of acting goes on in the infant department, and an occasional attempt is made, in one of the higher classes of the upper department, to act a scene from Shakespeare or an episode in English history. But during the five years or so of school life which intervene between the infant department and "Standard VI", the dramatic instinct is as a rule entirely neglected; and the consequent outgrowth of self-consciousness in the children is too often a fatal obstacle to the success of the spasmodic attempts at dramatisation which are made in the higher classes.

In Utopia "acting" is a vital part of the school life of every class, and every subject that admits of dramatic treatment is systematically dramatised. In History, for example, when the course of their study brings them to a suitable episode, the children set to work to dramatise it. With this end in view, they consult some advanced text-book or historical novel or other book of reference, and having studied with care the particular chapter in which they are interested, and having decided among themselves who are to play what parts, they proceed to make up their own dialogues, and their own costumes and other accessories. They then act the scene, putting their own interpretation on the various parts, and receiving the stimulus and guidance of Egeria's sympathetic and maeutic [ii] criticism. Their class-mates and the rest of the children in the main room look on, with their history books open in front of them, and applaud; and, by gradually familiarising themselves with the various parts, qualify themselves half-unconsciously to act as under-studies in the particular scene, and in due course to play their own parts as interpreters of some other historical episode. I know of no treatment of history which is so effective as this for young children. The actual knowledge of the facts of history which a child carries away with him from an elementary school cannot well be large, and is, in many cases, a negligible quantity. But the child who has once acted history will always be interested in it, and being interested in it will be able, without making a formal study of it, to absorb its spirit, its atmosphere, and the more significant of its facts. Nor do the advantages of the dramatic treatment of history end with the subject itself. The actors in these historical scenes are, as I have said, expressing their own interpretation of the various parts, and their own perception of the meaning of each episode as a whole. This means that they are training their imaginative sympathy, - a sovereign faculty which of all faculties is perhaps the most emancipative and expansive, - and training it, as I can testify, with striking success; for the dramatic power which they display is remarkable, and can have been generated by nothing less than sympathetic insight into the feelings of the various historical personages and the possibilities of the various situations.

It is probable that History lends itself more readily to dramatic treatment than any other subject, but it is by no means the only subject that is dramatised in Utopia. An interest in Geography is awakened by scenes in foreign lands and episodes from books of travel being acted by the children. An interest in Arithmetic, by a shop being opened, which is well equipped with weights, measures, and cardboard money, and in which a salesman stands behind the counter and sells goods to a succession of customers. An interest in Literature by the acting, with improvised costumes, of passages from Shakespeare's plays, or scenes from Scott's and Dickens' novels. Simple plays to illustrate Nature-study are acted by the younger children; while the Folk Songs, which, as we shall see, play a prominent part in the musical life of the children, are acted as well as sung.

However rude and simple the histrionic efforts of the children may be, they are doing two things for the actors. They are giving them a living interest in the various subjects that are dramatised; and, by teaching them to identify themselves, if only for a moment, with other human beings, they are leading them into the path of tolerance, of compassion, of charity, of sympathy, - the ever-widening path which makes at last for Nirvânic oneness with the One Life. (2)

(3) The Artistic Instinct.

The desire to reproduce with pencil, paint, or clay the form and colour of the outward world will, if duly cultivated, gradually transform itself into the desire to feel, to understand, to interpret, to express, not the form and colour only of the outward world, but also that less palpable but more spiritual quality which we call beauty. But in order that this transformation may take place, the child must always endeavour to reproduce with due fidelity the more palpable qualities of colour and form. In this endeavour he must bring many faculties into play. He must observe closely and attentively. He must reflect on what he observes. He must reflect on what he himself is doing. He must compare his work with the original, and try to discover how far he has succeeded, and where he has gone astray. The more faithfully he tries to reproduce what he has seen, the clearer and surer will be his insight into the less palpable properties of things, - into those details, those aspects, those qualities, which do not reveal themselves to the first careless glance, but which will gradually reveal themselves to those who will take the trouble to discover them. When he is asked to reproduce things which are intrinsically beautiful - flowers, branches, buds, shells, butterflies, and the like - he begins to realise that if his work is to be successful, he must do justice to many impalpable, though not imperceptible, details which go to the making up of beauty. So the sense of beauty, the feeling for it, the desire to bring it into his work, grows up in his heart; and a new kind of fidelity - fidelity to feeling rather than to fact (if I may speak for the moment in the delusive language of dualism) - begins to weave itself into his artistic consciousness.

If there is any school in England in which fidelity to feeling has evolved itself out of fidelity to fact, that school is in the village of Utopia. Some ten or twelve years ago a decree went out from Whitehall that Drawing was to be taught in all the elementary schools in England. Egeria at once took the children into her confidence, and said to them: "You have now got to learn to draw: you don't know how to draw, and I don't know how to draw, but we must all set to work and see what we can do". A few years later the school was visited by the inspector to whose zeal as a prophet, and skill as an expositor and teacher, the transformation in the teaching of drawing which is gradually taking effect in all parts of the country, has been largely due. Here is the report (3) that he wrote after his visit -

"In this school the teaching of Drawing reaches the highest educational level I have hitherto met with in our elementary schools, and the results are the genuine expression of the children's own thoughts. Flat copies are not used, and the scholars evolve their own technique, for the Head Teacher is not strong herself in this respect. The development of thought carries with it the development of skill, and this is clearly seen in the children's drawings, which show good form and proportion, some knowledge of light and shade, a delicate and refined perception of colour, and a wonderful power of dealing with the difficulties of foreshortening. The central law is self-effort, - confidence and self-reliance follow. The spontaneous activities of the children are duly recognised, and the latter decide what to draw, how to draw it, and the materials to be used. One cannot remain long in the school without observing the absence of that timidity, that haunting fear of making a mistake, which paralyses the minds and bodies of so many of our children. Under the influence of the Head Teacher the children become acute critics. Her methods coincide so exactly with those which I have long been advocating, that I give them in her own words -

"'I gave each child an ivy-leaf and said, "Now look well at it". We talked about its peculiarities, looking at it all the time, and then I told them to draw one, still looking back to the leaf from time to time. Then I examined their drawings. A good many were, of course, faulty. In those cases I did not say, "No, you are wrong; this is the way", and go to the blackboard. I said, "In such and such a part is yours the same as the leaf? What is different? How can you alter it?" etc., etc. I make them tell me their faults. There was no blackboard demonstration.'

"From a careful examination of their work it is clear that the children have not only been taught to draw, but that they love and enjoy their drawing. Form and colour are not only seen, but understood and felt. The children are impelled by an irresistible desire to reach and express the truth, and are thus carried along an ever-moving path of educative action ."

I have already spoken of the love of visible beauty which is a characteristic feature of the life of this school. It is in the drawing lesson that this love of beauty has in the main evolved itself. Other influences have no doubt been at work. Nature-study and literature, for example, have, as taught in this school, done much to foster the children's latent love of beauty; but had drawing never been taught, the influence of those subjects would have been much less effective than it has been. It is in the struggle to express what he perceives that the Utopian child has gradually strengthened and deepened his perceptive powers, till his sight has transformed itself into insight, and form and colour have come to be interpreted by him through the medium of the beauty which is behind them, - his feeling of beauty having, little by little, been awakened and evolved by his unceasing efforts to interpret the vraie vérité of form and colour, which, as he now begins to learn, are beauty's outward self.

(4) The Musical Instinct

In the development of the artistic sense the path of imitation is followed until it leads at last to heights which it cannot scale. The development of the musical sense takes from the first a widely different path. Nature has a beautiful music of her own, but the child seldom attempts to imitate this. Music belongs to the soul even more than to the outward world. So at least one feels disposed to think. But perhaps it is more correct to say that in the presence of music the provisional distinction between inward and outward, between the soul and the surrounding world, becomes wholly effaced. Expression is always the counterpart of perception; and we may rest assured that the deep, subtle, and elusive feelings to which music gives utterance have reality for their counterpart. The musician does not often reproduce in his compositions the audible sounds of the outward world, the voices of animals, the songs of birds, the rustle of leaves, the murmur of the sea, the sighing of the breeze, the thunder of the storm. What he does reproduce is the music that awakes in his soul when the emotions which these sounds kindle begin to struggle for expression, - the music that is behind all the audible sounds, and perhaps also behind all the inaudible vibrations of Nature, - the music that is in his heart because it is also at the heart of Nature, - the rhythm of the Universe, as one may perhaps call it for lack of a fitter phrase. It is the sense of this rhythm which inspires the great Composer when he builds up his masterpieces. It is the sense of this rhythm which inspires the child when, in the joy of his heart, he breaks spontaneously into dance and song. To bring the rhythm of the Universe into the daily life of the child, to give free play to his instinctive sense of its all-pervading presence, is one of the highest functions of the teacher. And the more carefully the sense of rhythm is cultivated, the more does it tend to spiritualise itself, and the more profound and more vital is the life which it struggles to interpret and evolve. There is no instinct which is so deeply seated as the musical. It is possible for a child, it is possible for a whole class of children, to sing out of the depths of the soul; and when this happens we may be sure that a fountain of spiritual joy has been unsealed, and that a great and sacred mystery has been unveiled. There is a school in one of the poorest slums of a large town, in which, some two or three years ago, the children were taught to sing, and the teachers to teach singing, by an inspired "master" who believes that to lift the sluices of spiritual feeling is to quicken into ever-increasing activity its hidden springs; and neither the teachers nor the children have yet forgotten their lesson. The children are poor, pale, thin, unkempt, ill-clad, unlovely; but I am told that when they sing their faces are transfigured, and they all become beautiful.

Egeria is an accomplished musician, and though Utopia belongs to one of the unmusical counties of England, she has found it easy to awaken the musical instinct in the hearts of its children. A few years ago she introduced the old English Folk Songs and Morris Dances into the school. The children took to them at once as ducklings take to the water; and within a year they were able to give an admirably successful performance of some two dozen songs and dances in the village hall. Some of these had been rehearsed only once; but the children, thanks to their having been systematically trained to educate themselves, are so versatile and resourceful that every item on their programme was a complete success. The Folk Songs and Morris Dances are still the delight of the children. They are ever adding to their repertory of songs; and when they go into the playground for recreation, they at once form into small groups for Morris Dancing, the older children taking the little ones in hand, and initiating them into the pleasures of rhythmical movement.

There is another way in which Egeria brings music into the lives of the children. In her own words, she "sets many of their lessons to music". For example, when they are doing needlework or drawing or any other quiet lesson, she plays high-class music to them, which forms a background to their efforts and their thoughts, and which gradually weaves itself, on the one hand into the outward and visible work that they are doing, and on the other hand into the mysterious tissue of their inward life.

(5) The Inquisitive Instinct.

As the inquisitive instinct makes the child an intolerable nuisance to his ignorant and indolent elders, it is but natural that in the unenlightened school, as in the unenlightened home, it should be forcibly exterminated. It is through the agency of the formula "Don't speak till you are spoken to", that its destruction is usually effected. But under Egeria's aegis conversation in school hours is, as we have seen, freely encouraged, and the child's right to ask questions fully recognised; and one may therefore conjecture that this proscribed and outlawed instinct will find a safe asylum in her school. Whatever lesson may be in progress, the Utopian children are allowed, and even expected, to seek for illumination whenever they find themselves in the dark, to pause inquiringly at every obstacle to their understanding what they have seen or heard or read.

The encouragement which is given in Utopia to the child who seeks to gratify his desire for knowledge, is positive as well as negative. When the obstacles which education usually places in his path have been removed, it is found that the whole atmosphere of the school is favourable to the growth of his inquisitive instinct. At every turn he is called upon to plan and contrive, and is thus made to realise his own limitations, and to try to escape from them. Whatever he may have in hand, - be it the preparation for acting a new scene, or the interpretation of a new Folk Song or Morris Dance, or the invention of a new school game, or the thinking out some new way of treating a "subject", - he is sure to find that knowledge is needed if he is to achieve success; and his desire for knowledge is therefore continually stimulated by the demands that his own initiative and activity are ever making upon him.

But it is in the "Nature lesson" that the inquisitive instinct finds in Utopia its freest scope and its fullest opportunity. To one who had persuaded himself of the innate stupidity of the average English child, a Nature lesson in Utopia would come as a revelation. He would learn for the first time that, far from being innately stupid, the average English child has it in him to reach a very high level of keenness, acuteness, and intellectual activity. Whenever a lesson is given on a natural object, e.g. a flower or a leaf, every child has a specimen and a lens. The object is then closely and carefully observed, in the hope of discovering features in it which might escape the unobservant. Whenever such features are discovered the children try to account for them. In these attempts they display much ingenuity and intelligence, and are led on by Egeria in the direction of the true explanation of each phenomenon, and the relation of this to what they know of the object as a whole, and of its meaning and function. The eagerness of the children to volunteer explanations of the facts that they observe is only equalled by the intelligence with which they grasp the general bearing of the problems that confront them, and the resourcefulness and quickness of wit with which they make repeated attempts to solve them.

And these are not the only qualities to which the Nature lesson gives free play. It is interesting to note that as on the one hand the inquisitive instinct is obviously near of kin to the communicative, so on the other hand it is ever tending to link itself to the artistic. The closeness of observation which is the basis of success in Nature-study, and by means of which the inquisitive instinct is fed and strengthened, is also the basis of success in drawing; and in each case it leads beyond itself into a region in which it has to be supplemented by, and even transfigured into, imagination, the faculty by means of which we observe what is at once impalpable and real. (4) And in that region the distinction between truth and beauty is ever tending to efface itself. The master sculptor is always an accomplished anatomist; and the genuine naturalist is a lover and admirer, as well as a student, of Nature. It has been well said that "to see things in their beauty is to see them in their truth"; and it is perhaps equally, though more remotely, true that to see things in their truth is to see them in their beauty. That being so, we need not wonder that among the Utopian children the love of what is beautiful in Nature has grown continuously with the growth of their interest in Nature-study, and that the inquisitive instinct is ever reinforcing and being reinforced by the artistic.

(6) The Constructive Instinct.

Active, intelligent, resourceful, self-helpful, the Utopian child takes to handwork of various kinds as readily and almost as spontaneously as the birds in spring-time take to the work of nest-building. It must indeed be admitted that the systematic instruction in Gardening, Cookery, and Woodwork which warrants the payment of special grants for these "subjects" is not given. But informal gardening, informal cookery, and informal woodwork are vital features of the school life. Nor are the children's essays in handwork limited to these subjects. Whatever implement, instrument, or other contrivance may be needed in order to illustrate or otherwise help forward the general work of the school will be made by the children, so far as their technical ability and the resources of the school permit. For example, they will make fences, seats, frames, and sheds for their gardens, and "properties" and dresses for their dramatic performances. They will illustrate their games and lessons by means of simple modelling and paper-cutting. The older girls will dress dolls for the little ones to their own fancy, using their own discretion as regards material, style of dress, and method of dress-making. And so on.

But ready as the Utopian children are to use their hands, and clever as they are at using them, it is not through manual activity only that the development of their constructive instinct is carried on. One of the characteristic features of the school is the largeness of the scale on which the constructive powers of the children are encouraged to energise, and the frequency and variety of the demands that are made upon them. The Utopian child is expected to educate himself, not merely in the sense of doing by and for himself whatever task may be set him, but also in the sense of devising new tasks for himself, in thinking out new ways of treating the different subjects that appear on the school time-table, in taking thought for the whole scheme of his education. As the years go by, Egeria makes more and greater demands on the initiative and the intelligence of the children, her aim being apparently to transform the school by slow degrees into a self-governing community which, under her presidency, shall order its own life and work out its own salvation. This means, as I have lately pointed out, that at every turn the Utopian child is being called upon to plan and contrive; and this, again, means that his constructive instinct, with his inquisitive instinct as its other self, is being continually exercised on the widest possible field and under the most stimulating of all influences. The result of this is that reciprocal action is ever going on in his mind between the faculties that acquire knowledge and the faculties that apply it, - action which makes for the rapid and healthy growth of both sets of faculties, and which is therefore ever tending to strengthen the child's capacity for thinking and to raise the plane of its activity.

What is the culture of the child's expansive instincts likely to do for him?

I will weave into my answer to this question my knowledge of what has been done and is being done in Utopia.

It is through the medium of his own exertions that the evolution of the child's instincts is carried on by Egeria. It may be possible to lay veneers of information on the surface of a child's mind, but it is not possible to lay on veneers of growth; and growth, not information, is the end at which Egeria has always aimed. If a child is to grow, he must exercise his own limbs, his own organs, his own faculties. No one else can do this for him; and unless he does it himself, it will never be done.

The school life in Utopia is therefore one of constant activity. The habit of doing things, of doing things for himself, of doing things by himself, is gradually built up in each child. There is no forced inertness in Utopia, no slackness, no boredom, no yawning. And the activity which is characteristic of the school is always the child's own activity. The child himself is behind everything that he does. The child himself is expressing himself in his every action. Mechanical activity, the doing of things, not merely at the bidding of another, but also under his minutely detailed direction, is as foreign to the genius of the school as is the passivity of the helpless victims of the unenlightened teacher's "chalk and talk".

The first consequence, then, of the training of the expansive instincts which is given in Utopia is the building up in each scholar of what I may call the habit of rational activity. In many schools the energies of the child are systematically dammed back, till at last the springs of his activity, finding that no demand is made upon them, cease to flow. In Utopia the sluices, though always regulated, are permanently lifted, and the energies of the child are ever moving, with a strong and steady current, in whatever channel they may have chanced to enter. So strong, indeed, and so steady is the current that it maintains its movement long after the child has left school. The employers of labour in the neighbourhood of Utopia will tell you that there are no slackers or loafers in the yearly output of the school. Egeria recently received a visit from one of her ex-pupils, a girl of fourteen who is at home keeping house for her father, and who said to her in the course of their conversation: "I do just love washing days; I get up before six and start. Then, when all the washing is done, I scrub everything bright in the copper while I have the hot soapsuds". Accustomed as he (or she) is from his (or her) earliest days to sincere and fearless self-expression, the Utopian child is entirely incapable of indulging in cant; and the genuineness of the sentiment which dictated those words is therefore above suspicion. To work vigorously, to do well whatever he (or she) has to do, is a real pleasure to the Utopian child. Indeed his whole being is a living response to the familiar precept: "Whatsoever thy hand findeth to do, do it with thy might." [Ecclesiastes 9:10]

And what he does with his might is always well worth doing. His constant effort to express himself has, as its necessary counterpart, a constant effort to find out what is worth expressing, to get to the truth of things, to see things as they are. The consequent growth of his perceptive powers may be looked at from two points of view. On the one hand his growing capacity for getting on terms with things - for feeling his way among them, for "getting the hang" of them, for making himself at home with them, for learning their ins and outs, for understanding their ways and works - will give him the power of putting forth an appropriate sense in response to the demands of each new environment, and, through the medium of this sense, of converting information into knowledge. For this reason new "subjects" have no terror for Egeria and her pupils. Though she has never thought in subjects, she is ready to extend her curriculum in any direction in which she thinks that her children are likely to find interest or profit. The versatility, the mental agility, of the children is as remarkable as their activity. The current of their energy is ready to adapt itself to every modifying influence, to every change of geological formation, that it may encounter in its course, and to shape its channel or channels accordingly.

On the other hand, as healthy vigorous growth is always upward (and downward) as well as outward, the lateral extension of the child's perceptive powers must needs be balanced in Utopia by the gradual elevation of his standpoint, with a corresponding widening of his outlook, and the proportionate deepening of his insight. When the school life of the child is one of continuous self-expression, opportunities for "putting his soul" into what he says and does will often present themselves to him; and if only a few of these are made use of, his outlook on life will widen, and his imaginative sympathy with life will deepen, to an extent which to one who had never visited Utopia might well seem incredible. I have spoken of the Utopian child's love of the beautiful. This is one aspect of the spiritual growth that he is always making. Other aspects of it are his strong sympathy with life in all its forms, and a certain large and free way of looking at things, which, as far as my experience of school children goes, is all his own.

There is yet another aspect of his spiritual growth which is perhaps the most vital and the most typical of all. When we say that the child is growing both laterally and vertically (like a shapely tree), we mean that he is growing as a whole, as a living soul. Now the growth of the soul as such must needs take the form of outgrowth, of escape from "self". Growth is, in its essence, an emancipative process; and though it sometimes intensifies selfishness and widens the sphere of its activity, that is invariably due to its being one-sided and therefore inharmonious and unhealthy. When the child or the man is growing as a living whole, with a happy, harmonious, many-sided growth, his growth is of necessity outgrowth, and he must needs be escaping from the thraldom of his lower and lesser self. This conclusion is no mere inference from accepted or postulated premises. What I have seen in Utopia has forced it upon me. The unselfishness, the natural, easy, spontaneous self-forgetfulness, of the Utopian child, is the central feature of his moral life, - so marked and withal so unique a feature that its presence proves to demonstration, first, that growth of the right sort is necessarily emancipative, and, next, that the growth made in Utopia is growth of the right sort. I have already commented on the singular charm of manner which distinguishes the children of Utopia. Their self-forgetfulness, their entire lack of self-consciousness, is one source of this charm. The tactfulness which their life of self-expression, and therefore of trained perception, tends to engender, is another. But the moral aspect of Utopianism is one of such surpassing interest, and also of such profound significance from the point of view of my fundamental "truism", that I must limit myself for the moment to this passing reference to it, and reserve it for fuller treatment in the remaining chapters.

I could easily make a long list of Utopian virtues and graces, but I must content myself with touching on one more typical product of Egeria's philosophy of education, - the joy which the children wear in their faces and bear in their hearts. The sense of well-being which must needs accompany healthy and harmonious growth is realised by him who experiences it as joy. The Utopian children are by many degrees the happiest that I have met with in an elementary school, and I must therefore conclude that all is well with them, that their well-being - the true end of all education - has been, and is being, achieved. If you look at any of them with more than a mere passing glance, you will be sure to win from him the quick response of a sunny smile, - a smile which is half gladness, half goodwill. And the joy of their hearts goes with them when their schooldays are over and they begin to work for their bread. Last year one of the boys, on leaving school, found employment in a large field on the lower slopes of the hills, where he had to collect flints and pile them in heaps, his wage for this dull and tiresome work being no more than fivepence a day. But he found the work neither dull nor tiresome; for as he marched up and down the field, collecting and piling the flints with cheery goodwill, he sang his Folk Songs with all the spontaneous happiness of a soaring lark.

Activity, versatility, imaginative sympathy, a wide and free outlook, self-forgetfulness, charm of manner, joy of heart, - these are qualities which might be expected to unfold themselves under the influence of the Utopian training, and which do, in point of fact, flourish vigorously in the soil and atmosphere of Utopia. They are the outcome of a type of education which differs radically from that which has hitherto been accepted as orthodox, - differing from it with the unfathomable difference between vital and mechanical obedience, between life and machinery.

_______________

Notes:

i. Wordsworth Ode to Duty.

ii. In Greek, 'maeutic' refers to midwifery.

(1) The child is struggling to do this, and more than this. The search for order resolves itself into the search for cause; and the search for cause will resolve itself, in the last resort, into the greatest of all adventures, - the search for that pure essence of things on which all the deeper desires of the soul converge, which imagination dreams of as absolute beauty, and reason as a beacon-lamp of all-illuminating light, flashing forth alternately as absolute reality and absolute truth.
 
(2) I shall perhaps be told that my extravagant idealism is out of place in a book on elementary education. To this possible reproach I can but answer, in Mrs. Browning's words, that -
 
 It takes the ideal to blow a hair's breadth off
The dust of the actual.
[Elizabeth Barrett Browning Aurora Leigh 1857]


My experience of Utopia has convinced me that in taking thought for the education of the young it is impossible to be too idealistic, and that the more "commonsensical" and "utilitarian" one's philosophy of education, the shallower and falser it will prove to be.
 
(3) An informal report to me, not a formal report to the Board of Education.
 
(4) Real, in the sense that the beauty of form and colour is more real than either form or colour, and that a law of Nature is more real than an isolated fact.
 
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Re: What Is and What Might Be, by Edmond Holmes

Postby admin » Mon Oct 21, 2019 4:21 am

Part 1 of 2

CHAPTER V. EDUCATION THROUGH SELF-REALISATION

ACTIVITY, versatility, imaginative sympathy, a large and free outlook, self-forgetfulness, charm of manner, joy of heart, - are there many schools in England in which the soil and atmosphere are favourable to the vigorous growth of all these qualities? I doubt it. In the secondary schools, of all grades and types, the education given is so one-sided, thanks to the inexorable pressure of the scholarship system, that the harmonious development of the child's nature is not to be looked for. In the elementary schools, from which the chilling shadow cast by thirty years of "payment by results" is passing slowly - very slowly - away, the instinct of the teacher is to distrust the child and do everything, or nearly everything, for him, the result being that the whole régime is still unfavourable to the spontaneous outgrowth of the child's higher qualities. There are of course schools, both secondary and elementary, in which one or more of the Utopian qualities flourish with considerable vigour. There are elementary schools, for example, in which the children, being allowed by enterprising teachers to walk in new paths without leading strings, have become unexpectedly active and versatile. And there are others - mostly in the slum regions of great towns - in which the devotion, the sympathetic kindness, and the gracious bearing of the teachers have won from the children the response of unselfish affection, attractive manners, and happy faces. (1) Yet even in these exceptional cases it may be doubted if the development of the particular quality or qualities for which the school is distinguished reaches the high-water mark which is reached in each and all of the seven qualities in Utopia. As for the elementary schools which remain faithful, as so many still do, to the traditions of the old régime, - if in these any of the seven qualities manage to resist the adverse influences to which they are all exposed, they have at best but a starved and stunted life.

I have spoken much and with unsparing frankness of the shortcomings of our elementary schools. The time has come for me to say with emphasis that however grave and however numerous may be the defects of elementary education in England, they are defects which it shares with all other branches of education, and which England shares with all other Western lands. The plain truth is that education as such is a failure in the West, a failure in the sense that the very qualities which it ought to foster - the cardinal virtues, mental, moral, and spiritual, which are present in embryo in every child, waiting to be realised - are not merely neglected by it, in its insane ardour for "results", but are also exposed, in most of its schools, to strongly adverse influences. And the reason why education as such is a failure in the West is that from its earliest days it has been a house divided against itself, those who were and are responsible for it having been under the influence of two mutually destructive assumptions, which they have vainly tried to reconcile with one another.

The first of these assumptions is my initial "truism," - that the function of education is to foster growth. This is admitted, implicitly if not directly, by all who think and speak about education, and even, in their unguarded moments, by most of those who teach. It is generally admitted, for example, that such mental qualities as attention, memory, judgment, intelligence, reason, such moral qualities as loyalty, courage, truthfulness, kindness, unselfishness, such semi-moral qualities as cleanliness, orderliness, carefulness, alertness, industry, punctuality, are capable of being developed by education. It is further admitted that such special qualities as literary or artistic taste, the mathematical or the historical sense, an aptitude for business or finance, are ready to evolve themselves, in response to the fostering influence of practical experience directed by skilful teaching. It is admitted, in other words, that there is much in human nature, apart from what is purely or mainly physical, which is both capable and worthy of cultivation, and which education ought therefore to try to cultivate.

So far, so good. These admissions, with the fundamental admission which underlies them all, might form the basis of a sound philosophy of education, if they were not liable to be stultified and even nullified by the counter assumption that human nature is innately evil and corrupt. For from the latter assumption has followed, both logically and naturally, a theory of education which is not merely unfavourable but fatal to growth. If human nature is innately evil, if it has no inborn capacity for goodness or truth, what is there in it that is worth training? So far as the "great matters" of life are concerned, the child must be educated by being told in minute detail what to do, and by being alternately bribed and bullied into doing it. As he can neither think, nor believe, nor desire, nor do what is right, he must be told what to think, what to believe, what to desire, what to do; and as it is assumed that the tasks set him by his teacher will not be intrinsically attractive, he must he induced to perform them by the threat of external punishments and the promise of external rewards. In other words, in the spheres of religion and morals, so far as these can be walled off from the rest of human life, he must be educated, not by being helped to grow, but by being compelled to obey; and as the spheres of religion and morals cannot possibly be walled off from the rest of human life, the idea of educating the child through the medium of passive and mechanical obedience will gradually extend its influence over all the other departments and aspects of his home and school life, his innate sinfulness finding its equivalent, in secular matters, in his innate helplessness and stupidity, while in the place of the creeds, codes, and catechisms by which his spiritual welfare is provided for, he will be fed during the hours of secular instruction on rations of information, formulated rules, and minute directions of various kinds. Under this régime of wire-pulling on the part of the teacher and puppet-like dancing on the part of the child, the growth of the child's faculties, - of the whole range of his faculties, for they will all come under the blighting influence of the current misconception of the bent of his nature and the consequent under-estimate of his powers, - far from being fostered, will be systematically thwarted and starved. This is the fate which might be expected to befall the child if the doctrine of his innate sinfulness were allowed to dominate his education; and this is the fate which has befallen and is befalling him in all grades of society and in all the countries of the West.

It is the doctrine of original sin, of the congenital depravity of man's nature, which blocks the way to the reform of education, - blocks the way to it by compelling education to become the destroying angel instead of the foster-nurse of the child's expanding life. In criticising the defects of our educational system, we have too long mistaken symptoms for causes, and believed that we were removing the latter when we were only palliating or at best excising the former. To pinch off a withered bud, to lop off a withered limb, of the diseased tree of education, to train in this or that direction a branch which is as yet unaffected, is but lost labour so long as the tree is being slowly poisoned at its roots by a fundamental misconception of the character and capacity of the child. It is time that we should reconsider our whole attitude towards human nature. The widespread belief that sundry faculties, physical, mental, and moral, admit of being cultivated and ought to be cultivated in the schoolroom - a belief which is ever affirming itself against the educational systems and practices that are ever giving it the lie - may surely be construed into an admission that my primary truism is at least a truth. If this is so, if the business of the teacher is, as I contend, to help the child to grow, healthily, vigorously, and symmetrically, on all the planes of his being, the inference is irresistible that education will achieve nothing but failure until its foundations have been entirely relaid. For faith in the inherent soundness, in the natural goodness, of the seed or sapling, or whatever else he may undertake to rear, is the first condition of success on the part of the grower. And to ask education to bring to sane and healthy maturity the plant which we call human nature, and in the same breath to tell it that human nature is intrinsically corrupt and evil, is to set it an obviously impracticable task. One might as well supply a farmer with the seeds of wild grasses and poisonous weeds, and ask him to grow a crop of wheat. Growth can and does transform potential into actual good, but no process of growth can transform what is innately evil into what is finally good. A poisonous seed will ripen of inner necessity into a poisonous plant; and the more carefully it is fed and tended, the larger and stronger will the poisonous plant become.

The time has come, then, for us to throw to the winds the time-honoured, but otherwise dishonoured and discredited, belief that the child is conceived in sin and shapen in iniquity, and that therefore his nature, if allowed to obey its own laws and follow its own tendencies, will ripen into death, instead of into a larger and richer life. I shall perhaps be told that if this belief is abandoned, other religious beliefs will go with it. Let them go. They have kept bad company, and if they cannot dissociate themselves from it, they had better share its fate. What is real and vital in our religious beliefs will gain incalculably by being disengaged from what may once have had a life and a meaning of its own but is now nothing better than a morbid growth. To tell a man that, apart from a miracle, he is predestined to perdition, is the surest way to send him there; and it is probable that the doctrine of his own innate depravity is the deadliest instrument for achieving his ruin, that Man, in his groping endeavours to explain to himself the dominant facts of his existence, has ever devised.

Nor is the practical failure of the doctrine - its failure to achieve any lasting result but the strangulation of Man's expanding life - the only proof that it is inherently unsound. There is positive proof that the counter doctrine, the doctrine of Man's potential goodness, is inherently true. We have seen that the great arterial instincts which manifest themselves in the undirected play of young children, are making for three supreme ends, - the sympathetic instincts for the goal of Love, the artistic instincts for the goal of Beauty, the scientific instincts for the goal of Truth. We have seen, in other words, that the push of Nature's forces in the inner life of the young child is ever tending to take him out of himself in the direction of a triune goal which I may surely be allowed to call Divine. If we follow towards "infinity" the lines of love, of beauty, and of truth, we shall begin at last to dream of an ideal point - the meeting-point of all and the vanishing-point of each - for which no name will suffice less pregnant with meaning or less suggestive of reality than that of God. It is towards God, then, not towards the Devil, that the ripening, expansive forces of Nature which are at work in the child, are directing the process of his growth. We are taught that Man is by nature a "child of wrath". The more closely we study his ways and works when, as a young child, he is left (more or less) to his own devices, the stronger does our conviction become that he is by nature a "child of God". Those who are in a position to speak tell us that the normal child is born physically healthy. If the men of science would study the other sides of his being as carefully as they have studied his physique, they would, I feel sure, be able to tell us that he is also born mentally, morally, and spiritually healthy, and that on these sides, as well as on the physical side, his growth might be and ought to be a natural movement towards perfection.

For some of my readers such arguments as these are perhaps too much in the air to be convincing. Well, then, let us appeal to experience. Let us see what the systematic cultivation of his natural faculties has done for the child in Utopia. I have already pointed out that the unselfishness of the children - the complete absence of self-seeking and self-assertion - is one of the most noticeable features of the life of their school. Now there is no place for moral teaching on the time-table of the school; and I can say without hesitation that the direct inculcation of morality is wholly foreign to Egeria's conception of education. How, then, has the emancipation of the child from the first enemy of Man's well-being - from all those narrowing, hardening, and demoralising influences which we speak of collectively as egoistic or selfish - been effected in Utopia. By no other means than that of allowing the child's nature to unfold itself, on many sides of its being and under thoroughly favourable conditions. The twofold desire which we all experience, - to accept and rest in the ordinary undeveloped self, and at the same time to exalt and magnify it, - is the surest and most fruitful source of moral evil. Indeed, it may be doubted if there is any source of moral evil, apart from those which are purely sensual, which has not at least an underground connection with this. If we are to "cap" this deadly fountain, and so prevent it from desolating human life, we must realise, once and for all, that the two desires which master us cannot be simultaneously gratified; that we cannot both rest in the ordinary self and magnify it; that we can magnify it only by making it great, by helping it to grow. When we have realised this, we shall be ready to receive the further lesson that in proportion as the self magnifies itself by the natural process of growth, so does its desire to magnify itself gradually die away, - die away with the dawning consciousness that in and through the process of its growth it is outgrowing itself, forgetting itself, escaping from itself, that the thing which so ardently desired to be magnified is in fact ceasing to be. This vital truth, - which my visits to Utopia have borne in upon me, - that healthy and harmonious growth is in its very essence outgrowth or escape from self, has depths of meaning which are waiting to be fathomed. For one thing, it means, if it has any meaning, that what is central in human nature is, not its inborn wickedness but its infinite capacity for good, not its rebellious instincts and backsliding tendencies but its many-sided effort to achieve perfection.

We must now make our choice between two alternatives. We must decide, once and for all, whether the function of education is to foster growth or to exact mechanical obedience. If we choose the latter alternative, we shall enter a path which leads in the direction of spiritual death. If we choose the former, we must cease to halt between two opinions, and must henceforth base our system of education, boldly and confidently, on the conviction that growth is in its essence a movement towards perfection, and therefore that self-realisation is the first and last duty of Man.

It is by answering possible objections to Utopianism that I shall best be able to unfold Egeria's philosophy of education. I shall perhaps be told that in my advocacy of that philosophy I am preaching dangerous doctrines; that the only alternative for obedience is the lawlessness of unbridled licence; and that anarchy, social, moral, and spiritual, is the ultimate goal of the path which I am urging the teacher to enter. Let me point out, in answer to this protest, that it is mechanical obedience which I condemn, not obedience as such.

If I condemn mechanical obedience, I do so because it is unworthy of the name of obedience, because the higher faculties of Man's being, the faculties which are distinctively human - reason, imagination, aspiration, spiritual intuition, and the like - take no part in it, because it is the obedience of an automaton, not of a living soul. What I wish to oppose to it is vital obedience, obedience to the master laws of Man's being, obedience to the laws which assert themselves as central and supreme, obedience more particularly to those larger and obscurer laws which obedience itself helps us to discover, obedience in fine to that hierarchy of laws - (the superior law always claiming the fuller measure and the higher kind of obedience) - which, if we are to use the Divine Name, we must needs identify with the will of God. Obedience, in this sense of the word, is a sustained and soul-deep effort in which all the higher faculties of Man's being take part, an effort which is in some sort a voyage of discovery, the doing of the more obvious duty being always rewarded by the deepening of the doer's insight and the widening of his outlook, and by the consequent unveiling to him of the way in which he is to walk and the goal at which he is to aim. That the path of soul-growth is the path of vital obedience can scarcely be doubted. The effort to grow is always successful just so far as it implies knowledge of the laws of the nature that is unfolding itself, and readiness to obey those laws; and so far as it is successful, it carries with it the outgrowth of the very faculties by which knowledge - the higher knowledge which makes further growth possible - is to be gained.

Here, as elsewhere, there is an unceasing interaction between perception and expression, between knowledge of law and obedience to law, what is given as obedience being received back as enlightenment, and what is received as enlightenment being given back as larger, fuller, and more significant obedience.

And, be it carefully observed, it is obedience to the laws of human nature, not obedience to the idiosyncrasies of the individual nature, which the process of soul-growth at once implies and makes possible. Growth is, in its essence, a movement towards that perfect type which is the real self of each individual in turn, and the approach to which involves the gradual surrender of individuality, and the gradual escape from the ordinary self. A man is to cling to and affirm his individuality, not in order that he may rest in it and make much of it, but in order that he may outgrow it and pass far beyond it in that one way - the best way for him - which it, and it alone, is able to mark out for him. In other words, he is to assert his individual self in order that he may universalise himself in his own way, and not in obedience to the ruling of custom and authority, in order that he may escape from himself through the real outlet of sincere self-expression, and not through the sham outlet of hypocrisy and cant.

What I may call the Utopian scheme of education, far from making for antinomianism [opposition to the obligatoriness of the moral law] and anarchy, is the sworn enemy of individualism and therefore, a fortiori [even more so], of everything that savours of licence. It is the conventional type of education, with its demands for mechanical obedience to external authority, which leads through despotism to social and political chaos. The whole régime of mechanical obedience is favourable, in the long run, to the development of anarchy. Let us take the case of a church or an autocracy which demands implicit obedience from its subjects, and is prepared to exact such obedience by the application of physical force or its moral equivalent. What will happen to it when its subjects begin to ask it for its credentials? The fact that it has always demanded from them literal rather than spiritual obedience, and that, in its application of motive force, it has appealed to their baser desires and baser fears, makes it impossible for it to justify itself to their higher faculties, rational or emotional, and makes it necessary for it to meet their incipient criticism with renewed threats of punishment and renewed promises of reward. But the very fact that it is being asked for its credentials means that the force on which it has hitherto relied is weakening, that its power to punish and reward, which has always been resolvable into the power to make people believe: that it can punish and reward, is being called in question and is therefore crumbling away. And behind that power there is nothing but chaos. For the régime of mechanical obedience, by arresting the spontaneous growth of Man's higher nature, and by making its chief appeal to his baser desires and baser fears, becomes of necessity the foster-mother of egoism; and when egoism, which makes each man a law to himself and the potential enemy of his kind, is unrestrained by authority, the door is thrown wide open to anarchy, and through anarchy to chaos. This is what is happening in the West, in our self-conscious and critical age. In every field of human action, in religion, in politics, in social life, in art, in letters, authority is being asked for its credentials; and as this demand, besides being a disintegrating influence, is a sign that the force on which authority relies is weakening, it is not to be wondered at that there is a steady drift in many Western countries in the direction of anarchy, - religious, political, social, artistic, literary, - or that this régime of incipient anarchy is taking the form of an ignoble scramble for wealth, for power, for position, for fame, for notoriety, for anything in fine which may serve to exalt a man above his fellows, and so minister to the aggrandizement of his lower self.


In this drift towards anarchy the school is playing its part. I do not wish to suggest that the boys and girls of this or any other Western country are beginning to ask their teachers for their credentials, or are likely to rise in rebellion against them. The preparation for anarchy that is going on in the school is not only quite compatible with what is known as "strict discipline", but is also, in part at least, the effect of it. What is happening is that in an acutely critical age the régime of mechanical obedience to external authority which has been in force in the West for nearly 2000 years, and which is now taking its victims straight towards anarchy, is being carefully rehearsed in our schools of all types and grades. During the years when human nature is most pliable (owing to its richness in sap), most easily trained, and most amenable to influence, good or evil, the child's spontaneous effort to outgrow himself and so escape from his lower self, - an end which is not to be reached except by the path of free self-expression, - is persistently thwarted till at last it dies away; blind and literal obedience to external authority, for which the consent of his higher faculties is not asked, and in the giving of which they are not allowed to take part, is persistently exacted from him till at last his higher faculties cease to energise, and his lower nature begins to monopolise the rising sap of his life; in order to enforce the blind obedience that is asked for, an appeal is made, by an elaborate system of external rewards and external punishments, to his selfish desires and ignoble fears; while the examination system, with its inevitable accompaniments of prizes and class-lists, makes a special appeal to his competitive instincts, - instincts which are antisocial, and may even, in extreme cases, become anti-human in their tendency. And when authority has thus been presented to him, in a form which he has never been expected to welcome, and when, by the same process, the growth of his higher self has been arrested, and his anarchical instincts - his selfishness and self-assertion - have been systematically cultivated, the critical spirit and temper will be deliberately aroused in him, especially if he happens to attend one of those secondary schools which are regarded as highly efficient because their lists of University distinctions and other "successes" are inordinately long; for the education given to him in such a school by his scholarship-hunting teachers is of necessity so bookish and so one-sided that his intellectual, dialectically critical faculties are apt to become hypertrophied [enlarged by excessive nutrition], while other faculties which might have kept these in check are neglected and starved. The product of such a system of education, - benumbed or paralysed on many sides of his being by the repressive régime to which he has so long been subjected, but vigorously alive on the sides of egoism and intellectual criticism, - will be an anarchist in posse [potentially] (unless, indeed, his vitality has been depressed by his school-life below the point at which reaction becomes possible); - an anarchist in posse, even though, in his terror of anarchism in others, he should become a pillar of the Established Church of his country, a J.P. [Justice of the Peace] of his town or county, and an active member of the nearest Conservative Association.

In Utopia, on the other hand, where selfishness is outgrown and forgotten, and where the spirit of comradeship and brotherhood pervades the school, there can be no preparation for anarchy, if only for the reason that there is no authority - no despotic authority, forcibly imposing its will on the school ab extra [from outside] - to be potentially dethroned. For all her scholars, Egeria is the very symbol and embodiment of love, the centre whence all happy, harmonious, life-giving, peace-diffusing influences radiate, and to which, when they have vitalised the souls of the children and transformed themselves into sentiments of loyalty and devotion, they all return. I am not exaggerating a whit when I say that the Utopian school is an ideal community, a community whose social system, instead of being inspired by that spirit of "competitive selfishness" which makes "each for himself, and the devil take the hindmost" its motto, seems to have realised the Socialistic dream of "Each for all, and all for each."

I shall perhaps be asked what provision is made in Utopia for enabling the children to go through the drudgery of school-life, to master the "3 R's", to "get up" the various subjects which the Code prescribes, and so forth. To this question there is but one answer: the best possible provision. "Qui veut la fin veut les moyens". In the life of organised play which the children lead, attractive ends are ever being set before them. If they are to achieve these ends, they must take the appropriate means. What children in other schools might regard as drudgery, the Utopian takes in his stride. Reading, writing, and arithmetic are means to ends beyond themselves, ends which are constantly presenting themselves to the Utopian. If he is to gratify his communicative instinct, he must learn to read and write. If he is to gratify his dramatic instinct, he must, inter alia [among other things], read with intelligence books of reference which would be considered too advanced for the ordinary school-child. If he is to gratify his inquisitive and constructive instincts, he must learn to count, measure, and calculate. For whatever means may have to be taken, must be taken by him. Egeria, as he knows well, will do nothing for him which he can reasonably be expected to do for himself. There are subjects, such as drawing, dancing, and singing, which are, or at any rate ought to be, intrinsically delightful, as being natural channels of self-expression. There are other subjects, such as history, geography, and English, which can be made delightful by being treated dramatically. The word "drudgery" has no meaning for the Utopian child. A group of children in the highest class recently committed to memory the whole "Trial Scene" of the Merchant of Venice - some 300 lines or so of blank verse - in order that they might give themselves the pleasure of acting it. They accomplished this feat in a little more than a month. In the ordinary elementary school the child who has committed 150 lines to memory in the course of a year has done all that is required of him. The getting up of a subject is drudgery only when the child can see no meaning in what he is doing, only when the getting up of the subject is regarded as an end in itself. In Utopia no subject, apart from those which I have spoken of as intrinsically delightful, is taught for its own sake. Subjects are taught there either as the means to desired ends, or because they afford opportunities for the training of the expansive instincts, the gratification of which is a pure pleasure to every healthy child.

But not only does the Utopian child, with his eyes always fixed on desirable ends, find a pleasure in doing things which other children are wont to regard as drudgery, but he has the further advantage of being able to master with comparative facility what other children find difficult as well as distasteful. From first to last, the training given in Utopia makes, as we have seen, for the development of faculty. In my last chapter I set forth in detail some of the ways and means by which Egeria tries to cultivate the expansive instincts of her pupils. Behind all these ways and means stands the master method - or shall I say the master principle? - of self-expression. Recognising, as she does, that each of the expansive instincts is a definite expression of the soul's spontaneous effort to grow, and a clear indication of a particular direction in which Nature wishes the soul to grow, - and recognising, as she also does, that the business of growing must be done by the growing organism and cannot be delegated to anyone else, - Egeria entrusts the work of self-realisation to the child himself, and makes no attempt to relieve him of an obligation which no one but himself can discharge.

Now self-realisation is a twofold process. In the absence of a fitter and more adequate word, I have applied the term perceptive to those faculties by means of which we lay hold upon the world that surrounds us, and draw it into ourselves and make it our own. And I have contended that this group of faculties has, as its counterpart and correlate, another group of faculties which I have called expressive, - the faculties by means of which we go out of ourselves into the world that surrounds us, and give ourselves to it and try to identify ourselves with it, - and that the relation between these two groups is so vital and so intimate that each in turn may be regarded as the very life and soul of the other. In words which I have already used, the perceptive faculties, at any rate in childhood, grow through the interpretation which expression gives them, and in no other way, and the expressive faculties grow by interpreting perception, and in no other way. That these two groups of faculties are, as it were, the reciprocating engines by means of which the vital movement which we call self-realisation is effected, is the conviction on which Egeria's whole scheme of education may be said to be pivoted. In Utopia self-expression is the medium through which the expansive instincts are encouraged to unfold themselves. And this life of self-expression has as its necessary counterpart the continuous development of the perceptive faculties along the whole range of the child's nature.
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Re: What Is and What Might Be, by Edmond Holmes

Postby admin » Mon Oct 21, 2019 4:34 am

Part 2 of 2

Hence the all-round capacity of the Utopian child. The development of his perceptive faculties which his life of self-expression tends to produce, takes many forms. One of these, and one which in some sort underlies and interpenetrates all the rest, is the outgrowth of what I may call the intuitional faculty, - a general capacity for getting into touch with any new environment in which the child may find himself, of subconsciously apprehending its laws and properties, of feeling his way through its unexplored land. It is by means of this capacity for putting forth a new sense in response to the stimulus of each new environment, that the Utopian child is able to master with comparative ease the various subjects which he is expected to learn. And not with ease only, but with effect. It is, as we have seen, through the action of an appropriate sense, and in no other way, that the information which is supplied to the scholar, when he is learning this or that subject, is converted into knowledge, and is so made available both for the further understanding of the given subject and for the nutrition of the scholar's own inner life.

From every point of view, then, the Utopian scholar has a marked advantage, in respect of the things with which education is supposed to be mainly concerned - the mastery of subjects and the acquisition of knowledge - over the product of the conventional type of school. Whatever the Utopian may have to learn, is a pleasure to him either for its own sake or as a means to some desirable end. Whatever he may have to learn, he learns with comparative ease, because his perceptive faculties have been systematically trained, and he is therefore at home, in greater or lesser degree, in any new environment. And whatever he may have to learn, he learns with effect, because he is able to digest the information that he receives, and convert it into knowledge, and so retain it in the form in which it will best conduce both to his further progress in that particular branch of study and to the general building up of his mind.

In the ordinary result-hunting school the scholar fares very differently from this. As a rule, he takes but little pleasure in his work, for subjects which have their chief value as means to desirable ends are presented to him as ends in themselves, and as such are rightly regarded by him as meaningless and therefore as intolerably dull; while subjects which are either intrinsically attractive, as being natural channels of self-expression, or potentially attractive as providing opportunities for self-expression, have no attraction for him, as in neither case is self-expression on his part permitted. Again, he finds great difficulty in mastering the subjects on his time-table, or even in making the first step towards mastering them, for, owing to his perceptive faculties as a whole having been starved by the repressive régime which denied them the outlet of expression, he has not evolved the power of putting forth an appropriate sense in response to the stimulus of a new environment, and is therefore helpless in the presence of what is unfamiliar or unexpected. One of his faculties, his memory, has indeed been hypertrophied [enlarged by excessive nutrition] by being unduly exercised, and his capacity for receiving information is in consequence unhealthily great; but because he lacks, in this case or in that, the sense which might enable him to digest the information received and convert it into knowledge, the food with which he has been crammed speedily passes through him, undigested and unassimilated, and the hours which he has spent in acquiring information will have done as little for his progress in the given subject as for the general growth of his mind.

The difference between the two schemes of education - that which exacts mechanical obedience, and that which seeks to foster growth - may be looked at from another point of view. Under the former, interference with what I may call the subconscious processes of Nature is at its maximum. Under the latter, at its minimum. In order to realise what this means let us suppose that such interference were possible where fortunately it is and must ever be impossible, - in the first and second years of the child's life. Fortunately for the child, it is impossible for us to educate him, in any formal sense of the word, until he has mastered his mother tongue. Were it otherwise, his mother tongue would never be mastered. Before he reaches the age of two the child accomplishes the marvellous feat of acquiring an entirely new language. While he is learning it Nature is his only teacher, and under her tuition he masters the new language without the least strain and with complete success. But let us suppose that it was possible for a teacher of the conventional type to give minute directions to a child by some other medium of expression than that of language. And let us suppose that such a teacher made up her mind that she, and not Nature, was to teach the child his mother tongue. One can readily imagine what would happen. The teacher would probably have a theory that no child should begin to talk till he was two or even two and a half years old; and if so, the child would be kept in a state of enforced dumbness till he reached that age. In any case, he would be strictly forbidden to speak till his teacher gave him formal permission to do so. Half-an-hour in the morning, and half-an-hour in the afternoon would probably be set aside for the language lesson. For so many weeks or months the child would be strictly limited to words of two or three letters. For so many more weeks or months, to words of four or five letters. Things which had names of more than the prescribed number of letters would be kept away from the child; or, if that was impossible, he would not be allowed to talk about them. For half a year perhaps he would be limited to the use of nouns and verbs. Prepositions might then be introduced into his vocabulary; and, later, adjectives and adverbs. And so on; and so on. And the outcome of all this elaborate training would be that the child would never learn to talk his mother tongue.

It is by methods analogous in all respects to this that many of the subjects on the time-table are taught in thousands of our schools. The teacher seems to imagine that he knows, fully and precisely, how each subject ought to be taught; and instead of standing aside, and trying to learn how Nature wishes this or that subject to be taught (if Nature can be said to take any interest in "subjects"), and then trying to co-operate with her subconscious tendencies, he makes out his elaborate scheme of instruction, sets before the child as the goal of his efforts the production of certain formal results, and drives him towards these with whip and bridle, satisfied that if he succeeds in producing them, the subject will have been duly mastered. And all the time he will not have given a thought to what is happening to the child's inner life. Yet it is more than probable that the teachers' disregard of, and therefore incessant interference with, the subconscious processes of Nature has quite as disastrous results in the teaching of composition, let us say, or drawing, as it would certainly have in the hypothetical case of the teaching of the child's mother tongue.

But in truth the Utopian conception of what constitutes efficiency differs so radically from the current conception, that little is to be gained by comparing them. If I am asked by those who value outward and visible results for their own sake, whether the training given in Utopia is "efficient", I can but answer: "Yes, but efficient in a sense which you cannot even begin to understand, efficient in the sense of developing faculty and fostering life, whereas the price paid for your boasted efficiency is the starvation of faculty and the destruction of life."

"But how", it will be asked. "are the Utopian children, one and all, induced to exert themselves? The standard of activity in the school is, on your own showing, exceptionally high. Much is expected of the children. Yet there are no rewards for them to hope for, and no punishments for them to fear. How, then, are those who are by nature less energetic or less persevering than the rest to be induced to rise to the level of the teacher's expectation?" By implication this question has been answered again and again. But it deserves a direct answer, and I will try to give it one.

To begin with, it is incorrect to say that there are no rewards or punishments in Utopia. Outward rewards and outward punishments are entirely unknown there; but there are inward rewards to be had for the seeking, and there are inward punishments to be feared, though it must be admitted that the fear of them seldom overshadows, even for a passing moment, the sunlit life of the Utopian child. What induces the Utopian child to work is, in brief, delight in his work. He is allowed and even encouraged to energise along the lines which his nature seems to have marked out for him, and in response to the stress of forces which seem to be welling up from the depths of his inner life. Exertion of this kind is in itself a delight. Nature has taken care to make all the exercises by which growth is fostered, at any rate in the days of childhood when growth is most rapid and vigorous, intrinsically attractive. Had she done otherwise she would have failed to make due provision for the growth of Man's being during the years which precede the outgrowth of self-consciousness, and the possibility of self-discipline, of the narrower and sterner kind.

And not only are the exercises by which healthy and harmonious growth is secured intrinsically attractive, but also the sense of well-being which accompanies such growth is an unfailing source of happiness. In Utopia the end for which the children are working is not an external reward or prize to be conferred on them if they achieve certain prescribed results, but rather the actual goal to which the path that they have entered is taking them, - a goal which is ever lighting the path with its foreglow, and which is therefore at once an infinitely distant lodestar and an ever present delight. For the consummation of any process of growth is always the perfection, the final well-being, of the thing that grows; and therefore in each successive stage of the process there is a truer prefigurement of the perfection which is being gradually achieved, and a fuller sense of that well-being which, at its highest level, is perfection's other self.

For the Utopian, then, to walk in the path of self-realisation is its own reward; and to wander from that path is its own punishment. But as the forces of Nature are all co-operating to keep the child in the path of self-realisation, and as Egeria has allied herself with those forces and is working with them in every possible way, the rewards which the Utopian wins for himself are very many, while the punishments which he inflicts on himself are very few. In other words, the pressure on him to exert himself is so strong, his opportunities for exerting himself (under Egeria's sympathetic rule) are so many, and the pleasure of exerting himself is found to be so great, that the temptation to be idle or rebellious can scarcely be said to exist.

It is indeed in respect of the motives to exertion which they respectively supply, that the superiority of the Utopian to the conventional type of education is perhaps most pronounced. I have said that Egeria allies herself with the expansive forces of Nature. The teacher of the conventional type has to fight against those forces. Let us assume that the two teachers are on a level in respect of their capacity for influencing and stimulating their pupils, and let us indicate that level by the algebraical symbol x. Then the difference between the motive force which Egeria exerts, and the motive force which her rival exerts, is the difference between x + y, and x - y, y being used to symbolise the aggregate motive force of the expansive tendencies of the child's inner nature. Such a difference is incalculable. The scheme of education which is based on distrust of the child's nature and belief in its intrinsic sinfulness and stupidity, necessarily arrays against itself the hidden forces of that maligned and despised nature, and must needs overcome their resistance before it can hope to achieve its proposed end. While Egeria is helping Nature to provide suitable channels for the various expansive tendencies that are at work in the child, and to guide them all into the central channel of self-realisation, her rival is engaged in digging a canal (to be filled, when finished, with dead, stagnant water) which is so designed that not only will no use be made by it of the life stream of the child's latent energies, but also costly culverts and other works will have to be constructed for it in order to divert and send to waste that troublesome current.

The waste of motive force which goes on under any scheme of education through mechanical obedience, is indeed enormous. And what is most lamentable is that the energies of the teacher are being largely wasted in the effort to neutralise the latent energies of the child. No wonder that, in order to produce his meagre and illusory "results", the teacher should have to resort to motive forces which, by appealing to the lower side of the child's nature, will enable him to bear down the resistance, and, in doing so, to impede the outgrowth of the higher, - to the hope of external rewards and the threat of external punishments. And no wonder that, owing to the teacher having to work unceasingly against the grain of the child's nature, of these two demoralising forces, the fear of punishment - which, if not the more demoralising, is certainly the more wasteful of energy - should bulk the more largely in the eyes of the child.

In fine, then, whereas the conventional type of education is so wasteful of motive force that it dissipates the greater part of the teachers' and the scholars' energies in needless friction, - in Utopia, on the other hand, there is such an economy of motive force that the very joy which, under its scheme of education, always accompanies the child's expenditure of energy, and which might be regarded as merely a waste by-product, becomes in its turn a powerful incentive to further exertion.

"But is there not too much joy in Utopia? Is not the sky too cloudless? Is not the atmosphere too clear? Does the Utopian never act from a sense of duty? Has he never to do anything that is distasteful to him?" This objection raises an interesting question. Is the function of the sense of duty to enable us to do distasteful things? And if so, are we to regard it as the highest of motives to moral action? In the days when Kant's idea of the "moral imperative" was in the ascendant, the belief got abroad that the essence of virtue was to do what you hated doing. Looking back to my Oxford days, I recall some doggerel lines, of German origin, in which this belief finds apt expression. A disciple who is in trouble about his soul says to his master:

"Willing serve I my friends, but do it, alas! with affection,
And so gnaws me my heart, that I'm not virtuous yet."
To this the master replies:
"Help except this there is none; you must strive with might to contemn them,
And with horror perform then what the law may enjoin."


If this conception of morality is correct, if it is true that the atmosphere of the virtuous life should be one of horror and even of hatred, then it must be admitted that the Utopian children are receiving a seriously defective education. But the "if" is a large one; and for my part I incline to the belief that love, as a motive to action, is better than hatred, joy than horror, sunshine than gloom.

The day will indeed come when the Utopian - a child no longer - will have to do things, either for his own sake or in order to discharge obligations to others, which will be, or will seem to be, against the grain even of his happy nature; and the sense of duty will then have to come to his aid. But there is no reason why he, or his teachers, should anticipate that day. To compel him, while still a child, to work against the grain of his nature, when there was no real need for this, would not be the best preparation for the trials that await him. To compel him to spend the greater part of his school-life in doing what was distasteful to him, would be the worst possible preparation for them.

For, to begin with, the sense of duty is not the highest motive to action. A far higher motive is love. If the sense of duty to God, for example, had not devotion to God and love of God behind it, the object of one's worship would be a malignant rather than a beneficent deity, a devil rather than a God. Or let us take the case of a child who is dangerously ill, and who needs to be carefully and even devotedly nursed. By whom will he be the more effectively nursed, - by his mother who loves him passionately, or by a hired nurse who cannot be expected to love him but who has a strong sense of duty to her employers? (I am assuming that as regards professional skill, and the sense of duty to God, the two women are on a level.) Surely the mother, sustained by love in the endurance of sleeplessness and fatigue, and in the exercise of that unceasing vigilance which lets no symptom escape it, will be the better nurse. Love, as a motive to moral action, has the immense advantage over the sense of duty of being able to rob the hour of trial of its gloom, by strengthening the lover to make light of labour and difficulty till at last the sense of effort is lost in the sense of joy. But if love is the highest of all motives, is it not well that the child's life should as far as possible, and for as long as possible, be kept under its influence, to the exclusion of other motives. We have seen that the Utopian child takes many things in his stride which other children would regard as distasteful. If they are not distasteful to him, the reason is that he does them, not from a sense of duty, but under the inspiration of love, - love of life, love of Egeria, love of his schoolmates, love of his school. And the longer he can remain on the high plane of love, the better it will be for his after life.

And when the time comes for him to yield himself to the "saving arms" of duty, he will have had the best of all preparations for that hour of trial, for he will have been braced and strengthened for it by the most moralising of all disciplines, that of growth. What is the sense of duty? We too seldom ask ourselves this question. Is it not a feeling of obligation, of being in debt, to some person, or persons, or institution, or society, or even to some invisible Power; - to a friend, for example, a relative, a dependent, an employer, a "contracting party", a commanding officer, - or, again, to one's trade or profession, to one's political party, to one's church, to one's country, - or, in the last resort, to God? And is not this feeling accompanied by the secret conviction that until the debt has been liquidated, to the best of the debtor's ability, justice will not have been done? The sense of duty is, I think, a derivative sense, an offshoot from the more primitive sense of justice, - a sense so primitive that it may almost be said to have made possible our social life. If this is so, if the sense of duty is resolvable into the sense of justice, then the training which is given in Utopia - a training which makes for healthy and harmonious growth, and therefore (as we have seen) for outgrowth or escape from self - is the best preparation for a life of duty, that can possibly be given. For under its influence the sense of justice, which is essentially a social instinct, knowing no distinction between oneself and one's neighbour, will be relieved of the hostile pressure of its arch-enemy, the anti-social instinct of selfishness, (2) and will therefore make rapid and vigorous growth. The sense of justice is, as might be expected, strongly developed in the selfless atmosphere of Utopia, where indeed it has helped, in no small degree, to evolve the wonderful social life of the school; and, that being so, there is no fear but what the Utopian will be sustained by the sense of duty when the time comes for him to work against the grain of his nature. But however strong may be his sense of duty, he will always have the great advantage of being seldom called upon to do what he dislikes, and therefore of being able to keep the fibre of his sense of duty from being either unduly relaxed or unduly hardened by overwork; for he has been accustomed from his earliest days to make light of, and even find a pleasure in, what is usually accounted drudgery, and he has been accustomed to work, in school and out of school, under the inspiration of joy and love.

But is the education given in Utopia useful? I wish I knew who was asking this question, for I cannot hope to answer it to his satisfaction until I know what is his standard of values. What end does he set before the teachers of our elementary schools? If he would tell me this, I might be able to say Yes or No to his question.

At present there seems to be no agreement among educationalists, professional or amateur, as to what constitutes usefulness in education. Those who belong to the "upper classes" are apt to assume that the "lower orders" will have been adequately educated when they have been taught reading, writing, arithmetic, needlework, and "religion", subjected to a certain amount of repressive discipline, and compelled to go to church or chapel. If, after having passed through this mill, the children of the "lower orders" do not develop into good men and women and useful citizens, it is not their education which is to blame, but the inborn sinfulness of their corrupt and fallen natures. Such an education is regarded by those who advocate it as pre-eminently useful. There is no nonsense about it, no cant of idealism, no taint of socialism. It keeps the "lower orders" in their places, and forbids them to dream of rising above "that state of life unto which it has pleased God to call them". As it is a reductio ad absurdum [reduction to its most absurd extreme], of the conventional type of education, my objection to it is that it makes the best possible provision for securing the end which the conventional type seems to have set before itself, - in other words, for depressing the vitality of the child, for starving his faculties, for arresting his growth. As such, it has not even the merit of being sordidly useful; for unless stupidity is a better thing than intelligence, slowness than alertness, helplessness than initiative, lifelessness than vital activity, the child who has passed through that dreary mill will be far less effective, even as a day-labourer, than the child whose school-life has been one of continuous and many-sided growth. It is strange that the reactionary members of the "upper classes" should be too short-sighted to discern this obvious truth. But perhaps they have a secret conviction that by so educating the "lower orders" as to make them slow and stupid, helpless and lifeless, they will be the better able to keep them in a state of subservience to and dependence on themselves. (3) If this is so, there is method in the madness of the "upper classes"; and their conception of the course that education ought to take has the merit of being entirely true to their basely selfish conception of the end that education ought to serve.

I have alluded to this pseudo-utilitarian theory, not because it is intrinsically worthy of serious attention, but because there is undoubtedly a strong and influential current of opinion which sets in its direction. There are other advocates of a "useful" education who seem to regard the elementary school, not as a training ground for good men and women, but as a kind of technical institute in which the children are to be trained for the various callings by which, when they grow up, they will have to earn their daily bread. This theory need not be seriously considered, for its inherent absurdity has caused it to be tacitly abandoned by all whose opinion carries weight; and the more reasonable theory that the education given in the elementary school should be as far as possible adapted to the environment of the school - that it should be given a rural bias, for example, or a marine bias, or even an urban bias - has begun to take its place. That it should ever have found advocates is interesting as showing how easy it is for unenlightened public opinion to misinterpret the word "useful". (4)

There is a third class of critics, composed for the most part of members of Local Education Committees, who seem to think that ability to pass a "leaving" examination is the only valid proof of the usefulness of elementary education. If these influential critics, who are showing in various ways that they care more for machinery than for life, could have their will, they would probably revert to the "good old days" of cut-and-dried syllabuses, formal examinations of individual scholars, percentages of passes, and the like. As I have already taken pains to explain what the régime of the "good old days" really meant, I need not waste my time in exposing the fallacies which underlie this conception of "usefulness".

Here, then, are three distinct standards of usefulness in elementary education. According to the first, education is useful in proportion as it tends, by repressing the activities and atrophying the faculties of the scholars, to keep the "lower orders" in their places, and in so doing to provide the "upper classes" with a sufficiency of labourers and servants. According to the second, it is useful in proportion as it is able to prepare the scholars for their various callings in after life. (5) According to the third, in proportion as it enables the scholars to pass with credit certain "leaving" and other examinations of a formal type.

I will now assume that the end of education is to produce, or at any rate contribute to the production of, good men and women; and that the education given in elementary schools is useful in exact proportion as it serves this end. I am not using the word "good" in its Sunday School sense. Nor does the word suggest to my mind that blend of stupidity, patience, and submissiveness which sometimes passes for "goodness" when the "upper classes" are taking thought for the welfare of the "lower orders". The good man, as I understand the phrase, is a good son, a good brother, a good husband, a good father, a good citizen, a good townsman, a good workman, a good servant, a good master. In fine, he is a good specimen of his kind, well grown and well developed, efficient on all the planes of his being, - physical, mental, moral, spiritual. This conception of what constitutes useful education differs radically from those which I have just been considering; but I believe that when it has been adequately expounded, and submitted to the judgment of those whose opinion is worth having, it will not be seriously gainsaid.

If education is useful in proportion as it tends to produce good men and women, the education given in Utopia is useful to the highest degree. For a child cannot become a good man (or woman) except by growing good; and if he is to grow good, his nature must be allowed to develop itself freely and harmoniously (for just so far as it is normal and healthy it is necessarily making for its own perfection), and the one end and aim of the teacher must be to stimulate and direct this process of spontaneous growth. This, as we have seen, is the one end and aim of Egeria; and it is therefore clear that she is taking effective steps - the most effective that can possibly be taken - to produce good men and women. We have but to name the qualities which are characteristic, as we have already seen, of her pupils and ex-pupils, - activity, versatility, imaginative sympathy, a large and free outlook, self-forgetfulness, charm of manner, joy of heart, - in order to convince ourselves that those who have passed through the Utopian school are on the high road which leads to "goodness". So obvious is all this, that in defining the word "useful" I may be said to have decided the question in favour of Utopia; and what is now in dispute is not whether Utopianism is "useful", in any sense of the word, but whether my sense of the word is the right one.

I cannot go much further into this question without exceeding the limits of the theme which I am handling in this chapter. For in considering the after life of the Utopian child, I am entering a region in which the idea of education begins to merge itself in the larger idea of salvation; and though education, as begun in Utopia, is in its essence a life-long process, I must pay some heed to the limits which tradition and custom have imposed on the meaning of the word.

But before I close this chapter I must be allowed to give one illustration in support of my contention that the education given in Utopia is useful. Of the many complaints that are brought against the output of our elementary schools, one of the most serious is that the boys and girls who have recently left school are voracious readers of a vicious and demoralising literature which seems to be provided for their special benefit. The reason why they take so readily to this garbage is that they have lost their appetite for wholesome food. They are not interested in healthy literature, in Nature-study, in music, in art, in handicraft, - in any pursuit which might take them out of themselves into a larger and freer life; and so they fall victims to the allurements of a literature which appeals to their baser, more sensual, and more selfish instincts, - the very instincts which growth (in the true sense of the word) spontaneously relegates to a subordinate position and places under effective control. It is the inertness, the apathy, the low vitality of the average child of fourteen, which is the cause of his undoing. His taste for false and meretricious excitement - a taste which may lead him far along the downward path - is the outcome of his very instinct to live, an instinct which, though repressed by the influences that have choked its natural channels, cannot resign itself to extinction, and at last, in its despairing effort to energise, forces for itself the artificial outlet of an imaginative interest in vice and crime.

The "young person" who, on leaving school, becomes a voracious devourer of unwholesome literature, cannot be said to have received a "useful" education. That vice and crime - whether practised or imagined - are in the first instance artificial outlets, outlets which the soul would not use if its expansive instincts were duly fostered, is proved by the absence of "naughtiness" in the Utopian school, and the absence of any taste for morbid excitement amongst Utopian ex-scholars. The unwholesome literature which gives so much concern to those who are interested in the welfare of the young, is unknown in Utopia. And in this, as in other matter, the "goodness" of the children and "young persons" is due, not to any lack of life and spirit, but to the very abundance of their vitality. Apart from the fact that vigorous growth, whether in plant or animal or human soul, is in itself a sure prophylactic against the various evils to which growing life is exposed, the Utopians are guarded against the danger of demoralising books and demoralising amusements by their many-sided interest in life. Their instinct to live, finding natural and adequate outlets in many directions, has no need to force for itself the artificial outlet of morbid excitement, - an outlet for imprisoned energies, which has too often proved an opening to a life of vice and crime. There is a Shakespeare in every cottage in Utopia; but the advocates of a repressive and restrictive education for the "lower orders" need not be alarmed at this, for the Utopians, who have found the secret of true happiness, are freer than most villagers from social discontent. Nor are Egeria's ex-pupils less efficient as labourers or domestic servants because they are interested in good literature, in Nature-study, in acting, or because they can still dance the Morris Dances and sing the Folk Songs which they learned in school.

_______________

Notes:

(1) I am thinking more particularly of some of the Roman Catholic schools in the Irish quarter of Liverpool, where the singularly kind and gracious bearing of the teaching "sisters" towards their poor, ill-fed, and ill-clad pupils is an educative influence of incalculable value.
 
(2) The sense of justice, which would give to each his due, and therefore not more than his due to oneself, seems to hold the balance between selfishness and love, being as it were, equidistant from the greed and self-indulgence of the former and the lavishness and self-devotion of the latter. If this is so, and if the sense of duty is, as I have suggested, an offshoot from the sense of justice, one can understand why, on the one hand, the sense of duty should be needed to hold the self-seeking instincts in check, and why, on the other hand, it should be an altogether lower and weaker motive than love, by which indeed, in its own interest, it should always be ready to be superseded.
 
(3) I was once present when the Utopian children were going through a programme of Folk Songs and Morris Dances in the village hall. A lady who was looking on remarked to me: "This is all very fine; but if this sort of thing goes on, where are we going to find our servants?" The selfishness of this remark is obvious. What is less obvious, but more significant, is its purblindness. In point of fact the Utopian girls make excellent domestic servants, and are well content to "go into service".
 
(4) Some two or three years ago it was seriously proposed that marine navigation should be taught in all the elementary schools of a certain maritime county!
 
(5) The parent who wrote to a schoolmaster, "Please do not teach my boy any more poetry, as he is going to be a grocer", must have been under the influence of this conception of usefulness.
 
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Re: What Is and What Might Be, by Edmond Holmes

Postby admin » Mon Oct 21, 2019 4:34 am

Part 1 of 4

CHAPTER VI. SALVATION THROUGH SELF-REALISATION

IN Utopia the transition from education to salvation, both in theory and practice, is obvious and direct. The difference between education and salvation is, indeed, purely nominal: in their essence the two processes are one. As the education given in Utopia is, in the main, self-education, there is no reason why it should not be continued indefinitely after the child has left school; and as its function is to foster the growth of the child's many-sided nature (with its vast potentialities), there is every reason why it should be continued as long as he lives. In other words, the path of salvation is the path of self-realisation, the most important part of which is traversed in childhood; and to attain to salvation (which is in a sense unattainable) is to remain faithful to that path till it passes beyond our thought.

Outside Utopia there is a widely different conception of the meaning and purpose of education, and a correspondingly different conception of the nature of salvation and the means by which it is to be achieved. The idea of salvation, with the complementary idea of perdition, may be regarded as the crown and completion of that scheme of external rewards and punishments which plays so prominent a part in Western education. Salvation, which is the highest of all external rewards, just as perdition is the severest of all external punishments, is not a path to be followed, but a state of happiness to be won and enjoyed. It follows that the relation between education and salvation is, in the main, one of analogy, rather than of identity (as in Utopia), or even of vital connection. Or shall we say that education is not so much the first act in the drama of salvation as the first rehearsal of the play?

There are, of course, two conceptions of salvation in the West, just as there are two worlds to be lived in, - the Supernatural world and the world of Nature.

In what are called religious circles, to be saved is to have gained admission to Heaven, and, in doing so, to have escaped the torment and misery of Hell. There was a time when Hell was taken very seriously; but the idea of never-ending torment and misery is found, when steadily faced, to be so intolerable that popular thought, even in religious circles, is now turning away from it; and so loosely do men sit, in these "degenerate days", to the old doctrine of eternal punishment, that "to die" and "to go to heaven" are becoming interchangeable terms. But if all men are to be admitted to Heaven (or to its ante-room, Purgatory) at the end of this, their one earth-life, it is clear that there can be no causal connection between conduct and salvation. For though there may be degrees of happiness in Heaven to reward the varying degrees of virtue on earth, all these are dwarfed to nothing by the unimaginable abyss of difference which yawns between Heaven and Hell; and the practical upshot of the current eschatology [doctrine of death] is that all men - the self-sacrificing equally with the self-indulgent, the kind and compassionate equally with the hard-hearted, the spiritually-minded equally with the worldly, the aspiring equally with the indifferent - are to reap the same reward. If a man is a notoriously evil liver, those who have suffered at his hands or been violently scandalised by his conduct may perhaps find a sombre pleasure in consigning him to Hell, which, indeed, might otherwise have to put up its shutters. But though the doors of Heaven may be closed against a few exceptional scoundrels, they are nowadays thrown open to all the rest of Mankind; and the maxim, "Live anyhow, and you will be saved somehow", seems to sum up with tolerable accuracy the popular attitude towards the twofold problem of duty and destiny.

I do not for a moment suggest that this happy-go-lucky eschatology is formally countenanced by the Churches and Sects. They would doubtless repudiate it with indignation; but the fact remains that their own teaching is largely responsible for it. For not only is the idea of natural retribution wholly foreign to the genius of supernaturalism, but also, in the two great schools of Western theology, there is, and always has been, a strong tendency to undervalue conduct (in the broad, human sense of the word), and to make the means of salvation mechanical rather than vital. At any rate the sacramental teaching of the Catholic Church, and the Calvinistic doctrine of salvation through faith in the finished work of Christ, readily lend themselves to such an interpretation.

So ineffective is the current eschatology, in its bearing on conduct, that the latent energy of Man's nature - his latent desire to have a central purpose in life - is compelling him to work out for himself another and a more mundane conception of salvation, to set before himself as the end of life the winning of certain temporal prizes, and to keep this end steadily in view from day to day and from year to year. Such a conception of salvation has always had a strong attraction for him, though in his more orthodox days he found it desirable to subordinate it to, or if possible harmonise it with, the conception which his religion dictated to him; and of late its attractiveness has been increased by the fact that he is beginning to throw his eschatology (even in its present emasculated form) to the winds.

So far, I have had in my mind those quarters of Western thought in which the belief in the reality of the soul and the kindred belief in immortality still survive. But in point of fact both beliefs are dying before our eyes, - dying as a dumb protest against the inadequacy of the popular philosophy, against the intrinsic incredibility of its premises, against its fundamental misconception of the meaning of life and the nature and conditions of salvation, above all against the way in which the beliefs themselves have been persistently misinterpreted and travestied. And where the beliefs are dying, the latent externalism and materialism of Western thought and Western life are able to assert themselves without let or hindrance. "To be saved", as the phrase is now widely understood, means to get on in life, to succeed in business or in a profession, to make money, to rise in the social scale (if necessary, on the shoulders of others), to force one's way to the front (if necessary, by trampling down others), to be talked about in the daily papers, to make a "splash" in some circle or coterie, - in these and in other ways to achieve some measure of what is called "success".

And in proportion as this mundane conception of salvation tends to establish itself, so does the drift towards social and political anarchy, which is now beginning to alarm all the lovers of order and "progress", tend to widen its range and accelerate its movement. For though the current idea of achieving salvation through "success" is a comfortable doctrine for the successful few, it is the reverse of comfortable for the unsuccessful many, among whom the idea is gaining ground that as salvation is the reward, not of virtue, but of a judicious blend of cleverness, unscrupulousness, selfishness, and greed, there is no reason, in the moral order of things, why it should not be wrested from those who are enjoying it, either by organised social warfare or by open violence and crime. And even if an anarchical outbreak should result in perdition all round instead of salvation all round, it would at least be some consolation to the "lost" to feel that they had dragged the "saved" down into their own bottomless pit. This would not be a lofty sentiment; yet I do not see who is in a position to condemn it, - not the supporter of the existing social order, which legalises a general scramble, first for the "prizes" of life and then for the bare means of subsistence, and is well content that in that scramble the weak, the ignorant, and the unfortunate should go to the wall, - not the exponent of the conventional theology, which has taught men to dream of a Heaven in which the happiness of the "elect" will be unruffled by the knowledge that an eternity of misery is the doom of perhaps a majority of their fellow-men.

In the West, then, there are two conceptions of salvation, - a selfish, worldly conception which is daily becoming more effective, and a selfish other-worldly conception which is daily becoming more ineffective, and is therefore less and less able to compete with or control its rival. Out of the attempts that are made to realise both these conceptions and to keep them on friendly terms with one another, there is emerging a state of chaos - political, social, moral, spiritual, - a weltering chaos of new and old ideals, new and old theories of life, new and old standards of values, new and old centres of authority, new and old ambitions and dreams. And in this chaos there are only two principles of order, the first (which is also the ultimate cause of all our disorder) being the pathetic fact that nearly all the actors in the bewildering drama are still seeking for happiness outside themselves, the second being the fundamental goodness of man's heart.

I will now go back to Utopia. There a new conception of salvation is implicit in the new theory of education which has revolutionised the life of the school. Humble as is the sphere and small as is the scale of Egeria's labours, her work is, I firmly believe, of world-wide importance and lasting value, for she has provided an experimental basis for the idea that salvation is to be achieved by growth, and growth alone.

I will now try to interpret that idea.

The education of the child in school begins when he is four or five years old, and lasts till he is thirteen or fourteen. But he enters the path of salvation the day he is born. He comes into the world a weak, helpless baby; but, like every other seedling, he has in him all the potencies of perfection, - the perfection of his kind. To realise those potencies, so far as they can be realised within the limits of one earth-life, is to achieve salvation. Are those potencies worth realising? To this question I can but answer: "Such as they are, they are our all". We might ask the same question with regard to an acorn or a grain of wheat; and in each case the answer would be the same. There are, indeed, plants and animals which are noxious from our point of view. But that is not the view which they take of themselves. Each of them regards his own potencies in the light of a sacred trust, and strives with untiring energy to realise them. If the potencies of our nature are not worth realising we had better give up the business of living. If they are, we had better fall into line with other living things.

An unceasing pressure is being put upon us to do so. The perfect manhood which is present in embryo in the new-born infant, just as the oak-tree is present in embryo in the acorn, will struggle unceasingly to evolve itself. With the dawn of self-consciousness, we shall gradually acquire the power of either co-operating with, or thwarting, the spontaneous energies that are welling up in us and making for our growth. In this respect we stand, in some sort, apart from the rest of living things. But the power to co-operate with our own spontaneous energies is to the full as natural as are the energies themselves. To fathom the mystery of self-consciousness is beyond my power and beside my present purpose; but we may perhaps regard our power of interfering, for good or ill, with the spontaneous energies of our nature, as the outcome of a successful effort which our nature has made both to widen the sphere of its own life and to accelerate the process of its own growth. But just because we possess that power, it is essential that we, above all other living things, should believe in ourselves, should believe in the intrinsic value of our natural potencies, with a whole-hearted faith. For if we do not, we shall hinder instead of helping the forces that are at work in us, and we shall retard instead of accelerating the process of our growth.

We have seen that education in the West has hitherto been a failure because, owing to the ascendancy of the doctrine of original sin, it has been based on distrust of human nature; and we have seen that in Utopia, where Egeria's faith in human nature is so profound that she has allowed the children to go far towards educating themselves, the results achieved have gone beyond my wildest dream of what was practicable, at any rate within the limits of the school life of village children. What is true of education is true a fortiori [even more so] of salvation. If it is impossible to construct a satisfactory scheme of education on the basis of distrust of human nature, it is even more impossible (if there are degrees in impossibility) to construct on the same basis a satisfactory scheme of salvation. I have already contended that if education is to be reformed, the doctrine of original sin must go; and I now contend that if our philosophy of life is to be reformed, we must abandon, not that doctrine only, but the whole dualistic philosophy which centres in the opposition of Nature to the Supernatural. For trust in human nature - the microcosm - is impossible, so long as Nature - the macrocosm - is liable to be disparaged and discredited (in our minds) by the visionary splendours of the Supernatural world; and to devise a harmonious scheme of life is impossible so long as an inharmonious conception of the Universe dominates our thought, - a conception so inharmonious that it divides the Universe, the All of Being, into two hostile camps, and in doing so introduces the "war of the worlds" into each individual life.

When a fruit-grower plants a fruit-tree, he does three things for it. By choosing an appropriate soil and aspect, he brings adequate supplies of nourishment within reach of it. By manuring it at the right season, he both adds to its store of nourishment and gives it the stimulus which will help it to absorb and assimilate the nourishment that is immediately available for its use. And, by pruning and training it judiciously, he gives it the guidance which will enable it to develop itself to the best advantage from the fruit-bearing point of view (fruit-bearing being the end which he sets it). He does these three things for it, but he does no more than these. He realises that in all these operations he is only taking advantage of the innate powers and tendencies of the tree, and enabling these to deploy themselves under as favourable conditions as possible; and he is therefore well content to leave the rest to the tree itself, feeling sure that its own spontaneous effort to achieve perfection will do all that is needed. His trust in the ability and willingness of the tree to work out its salvation is complete.

These are the lines on which the farmer and the fruit-grower conduct their business, - lines, the neglect of which would involve them in early disaster and in ultimate ruin. And these are the lines on which human nature ought to be trained, in school and out of school, from the day of birth to the day of death. But they are lines on which it will never be trained so long as the doctrine of the depravity of Nature in general and human nature in particular controls our philosophy of life.

The doctrine of natural depravity, or original sin, is the outcome of Man's attempt to explain to himself the glaring fact of his own imperfection. The doctrine grew up in an age when men were ignorant of the fundamental laws of Nature, and among a people who, though otherwise richly gifted, had no turn for sustained thought. So long as men were ignorant of Nature's master law of evolution, it was but natural that they should account for their own imperfection by looking back to a Golden Age, - a state of innocence and bliss from which they had somehow fallen, and to which they could not, by any effort or process of their corrupted nature, hope to return. While this idea - half myth and half doctrine - was growing up in the mind of Israel, the counter idea of the evolution or growth of the soul, of its ascent from "weak beginnings" towards a state of spiritual perfection, was growing up among the thinkers of India, and the derivative doctrine of salvation through the natural process of soul-growth was being gradually elaborated. But though the philosophy of India produced some impression on the conscious thought, and a far deeper impression on the subconscious thought, of the West, its master idea of spiritual evolution - through a long sequence of lives - was wholly foreign to the genius of Christendom, which had borrowed its ideas from the commonplace philosophy of Israel; and it was not till the nineteenth century of our era that the idea of evolution began to make its way, from the quarter of physical science, into Western thought.

The doctrine of original sin must once have had a meaning and a purpose. For one thing, it must have been generated by a sudden rise in Man's moral standard; and as such it must have had a salutary influence on his conduct and inward life. But it is now outstaying its welcome. The Biblical story of the Fall, in virtue of which it was once authoritatively taught, is ceasing to be regarded as serious history; and the doctrine must therefore either justify itself to critical thought or resign itself to rejection as inadequate and unsound. But there is only one line of defence which its supporters can take. As the doctrine was the outcome of Man's premature attempt to explain the fact of his own imperfection, if it is to survive in the world of ideas it must be able to show, first and foremost, that the fact in question cannot be accounted for on other grounds. Will it be able to do this, at a time when the idea of evolution is beginning to impregnate our mental atmosphere, and in doing so is making us realise that we are near of kin to all other living things, and that our lives, like theirs, are dominated by the master-law of growth?

That there is much moral evil in the world is undeniable. Are we therefore to predicate original depravity of man's heart and soul? But there is also much physical evil in the world, - pain, weakness, disease, decay, and death. Are we therefore to predicate original depravity of man's body? And this physical evil, this liability to disease, is not confined to man, but also affects all other living things. Are we therefore to predicate original depravity of a new-born lamb, of a new-laid egg, of an acorn, of a grain of wheat?

Let us consider certain typical forms of moral evil, and see if we can account for them, without having recourse to the hypothesis of original sin. The vicious propensities which manifest themselves in children and "young persons" may be divided into two main classes, apparent and actual. (1) Of the former class the chief cause is, in a word, immaturity. Of the latter, environment.

Analogies drawn from plant life may help us to understand how these causes operate.

Immaturity. If an Englishman who had never before tasted an apple were to eat one in July, he would probably come to the conclusion that it was a hard, sour, indigestible fruit, "conceived in sin and shapen in iniquity", and fit only to be consigned to perdition (on a dustheap, or elsewhere). But if the same man were to wait till October and then eat an apple from the same tree, he would form a wholly different conception of its value. He would find that the sourness had ripened into wholesome and refreshing acidity; the hardness into that firmness of fibre which, besides being pleasant to the palate, makes the apple "keep" better than any other fruit; the indigestibility into certain valuable dietetic qualities; and so on. It is the same with the growing child. Most of his vices are virtues in the making. During the first year or so of his life he is a monster of selfishness; and selfishness is the most comprehensive and far-reaching of all vicious tendencies. Does this mean that he has been conceived in sin? Not in the least. It means that he is making a whole-hearted effort to guard and unfold the potencies of life - in the first instance, of physical life - which have been entrusted to him. It means that he has entered the path of self-realisation, and that if he will be as faithful to that path during the rest of his life as he has been during those early months of uncompromising selfishness, he will be able at last to scale the loftiest heights of self-forgetfulness and self-sacrifice.

Environment. The influences which environment exerts seem to fall under three heads -

(1) General influences of a more or less permanent character, such as home, neighbourhood, social grade, etc.

(2) General influences of a more or less variable character, such as education, employment, friendship, etc.

(3) Particular influences, such as companionship (good or bad), literature (wholesome or pernicious), places of amusement (elevating or debasing), special opportunities for self-sacrifice or self-indulgence, etc.

Corresponding to these in plant-life we have

(1) Soil, situation, and climate:

(2) Cultivation and weather:

(3) The various insects and micro-organisms which are ready to assail or protect growing life.

(1) If two acorns from the same tree were sown, the one in a deep clay soil and a favourable situation, the other in a light sandy soil and an unfavourable situation, the former would in time develop into a large and shapely, the latter into a puny and misshapen oak-tree. It would be the same, mutatis mutandis [with the necessary changes], with two human beings who were exposed from their earliest days to widely different permanent influences.

(2) If wheat of a certain strain were sown on the same day in two adjoining fields, one of which was well farmed and the other badly farmed, the resulting crops would differ widely in yield and value. It would be the same with two human beings, one of whom (to take a pertinent example) attended a school of Utopian tendencies, and the other a school of a more conventional type. Of all moralising (or demoralising) influences education is by far the most important, owing to the fact that it can do more, and is in a position to do more, than any other influence either to foster or to hinder growth.

The influence of weather on plant-life is, of course, enormous. In one year the fruit-crop in a given neighbourhood is a failure: in another year it gluts the market. One explanation of this fact, which has its exact analogies in human life, will be given in the next paragraph.

(3) All forms of life are exposed to the attacks of enemies of various kinds. Whether they shall beat off those attacks or succumb to them depends in large measure on the nature of the growth that they are making; and this again depends, largely if not wholly, on the nature of the general influences to which they have been exposed. For many years I lived in a district in which hops were grown on a large scale; and I naturally took an interest in the staple industry of my adopted county. I noticed that whenever (during the summer months) there came a spell of cold winds from the north-east - winds which tend to arrest plant-growth - the hopbines were at once assailed by blight and other pests, and the safety of the growing crop was imperilled. And I noticed further that when the wind got round to the south-west, and warm showers began to stimulate the growth of the flagging plants, the pests that had assailed them disappeared as if by magic, and the anxieties of the growers were relieved. As it is with plants, so it is with human beings. They too have their enemies, - temptations of various kinds and other evil influences that "war against the soul". And they too will be able to beat off their assailants just so far as their own growth is vigorous and healthy; and will succumb to their attacks, to their own serious detriment, just so far as their own growth is feeble and sickly.

The bearing of this fact on the problem of the origin of moral evil is obvious. That the evils which assail the organism, be it a plant or a human being, are not inherent in its nature, is proved by the fact that when the growth of the organism is normal and unimpeded, the assailants are always beaten off. As it is the growth of the organism - the development of its own nature - which enables it to resist the evils that threaten it, we must assume that its nature is good. Indeed the evils that threaten it are called evils for no other reason than that they imperil its well-being; and it follows that in calling them evils we imply that the organism is intrinsically good.

When we have eliminated from human nature the vicious tendencies which are due either to immaturity or to the numberless influences that come under the general head of environment, we shall find that a very small percentage remain to be accounted for. We need not have recourse to the doctrine of original sin in order to account for these. So far I have said nothing about heredity, partly because its influence on the moral development of the individual is, I think, very small compared with that of environment, and partly because it is impossible to consider the extent and character of its influence, without going deeply into certain large and complicated problems. For example, it would be impossible for me to say much about the current, though gradually waning, belief in the force of heredity, without saying something about its Far Eastern equivalent, the belief in re-incarnation, - in other words, without asking whether a man inherits from his parents and other ancestors, or from his former selves. That different persons are born with widely different moral tendencies and propensities, is as certain as that some strains of wheat are hardier and more productive than others. And it is possible, and even probable, that there are exceptional cases of moral evil which point to congenital depravity, and cannot otherwise be accounted for. But in these admissions I am making no concession to the believer in original sin; for he regards human nature as such as congenitally depraved, and therefore can take no cognisance of exceptional cases of congenital depravity, cases which by breaking the rule that the new-born child is morally and spiritually healthy, may be said to prove it.

In fine, then, all moral evil can be accounted for on grounds which are quite compatible with the assumption that the normal child is healthy, on all the planes of his being, at the moment of his birth. That he carries with him into the world the capacity for being affected by adverse influences of various kinds, is undeniable; but so does every other living thing; and if congenital depravity is to be predicated of him for that reason, it must also be predicated of every new-born animal and plant.

But the final proof that Man is by nature a child of God, is one which has already been hinted at, and will presently be further developed, - namely, that growth - the healthy, vigorous growth of the whole human being, the harmonious development of his whole nature - is in its essence a movement towards moral and spiritual perfection. And the final proof that the doctrine of Man's congenital depravity is false is the practical one that the doctrine is ever tending to fulfil its own gloomy predictions, and to justify its own low estimate of human nature, - in other words, that by making education repressive and devitalising, by introducing externalism, with its endless train of attendant evils, into Man's daily life, and by making him disbelieve in and even despair of himself, it has done more perhaps than all other influences added together to deprave his heart and to wreck his life.

To one who has convinced himself that human nature is fundamentally good, in the sense that the new-born child is as a rule sound and healthy on all the planes of his being, it must be clear that the path of soul-growth or self-realisation is the only way of salvation. What salvation means, what the path of self-realisation will do for him who enters it, is a theme to which I could not hope to do justice within the limits of this work. I will therefore content myself with indicating certain typical aspects of the process which I have called self-realisation, and saying something about each of these. Four aspects suggest themselves to me as worthy of special consideration, - the mental, the moral, the social, and the religious. (2)

The Mental Aspect of Self-realisation.

There are two features of the process of self-realisation, on the importance of which I cannot insist too often or too strongly. The first is that the growth which the life of self-realisation fosters is, in its essence, harmonious and many-sided. The second is that the life of self-realisation is, from first to last, a life of self-expression, and that self-expression and perception are the face and obverse of the same mental effort.

If the life of self-realisation did not provide for the growth of the self in its totality, the self as a living whole, it would not be worthy of its name. One-sided growth, inharmonious growth, growth in which some faculties are hypertrophied [enlarged by excessive nutrition] and others atrophied, is not self-realisation. When trees are planted close together, as in the beech-forests of the Continent, they climb to great heights in their struggle for air and light, but they make no lateral growth. When trees are pollarded, they make abundant lateral growth, but they cease to climb upward. When trees are exposed to the prevailing winds of an open sea-coast, they are blown over away from the sea, and make all their growth, such as it is, on the landward side. When trees are on the border of a thick plantation, they make all their growth towards the open air, and are bare and leafless on the opposite side. In each of these cases the growth made is inharmonious and one-sided: the balance between the two intersecting planes of growth, or between the two opposite sides, has been lost. But when a tree is planted in the open, and when all the other conditions of growth are favourable, it grows harmoniously in all directions, - upward, outward, and all around. In other words, it is growing as a whole, growing, as it ought to grow, through every fibre of its being, and yet maintaining a perfect symmetry of form and the harmony of true proportion among its various parts.

This is the kind of growth which the soul makes in the life of self-realisation; and if it falls appreciably short of this standard, if it develops itself on this side or that, to the neglect of all other sides, then we must say of it that, though it is realising this or that faculty or group of faculties, it is not realising itself. I have spoken of the six great expansive instincts which indicate the main lines of the child's natural growth, and I have shown that in Utopia the cultivation of all those instincts is duly provided for. In the life of self-realisation the soul would continue to grow on the lines which those instincts had marked out for it. I do not mean that when the child goes out into the work-a-day world, he must give to all six instincts the systematic training which they received, or ought to have received, in school. The exigencies of the daily round of life are such as to make that impossible, in all but the most exceptional cases. But that is all the more reason why the expansive instincts should be carefully and skilfully trained in school. For where they are so trained, an impetus is given to each of them which will keep it alive and active long after the direct influence of the school has ceased, and will enable it to absorb and assimilate whatever nutriment may come in its way. If the Utopian training cannot be followed up, in its entirety, in the child's after-life, it can at least initiate a movement which need never be arrested, - a movement in the direction of the triune goal of Mans being, the goal towards which his expansive instincts are ever tending to take him, the goal of Love, Beauty, and Truth.

The life of many-sided growth is also a life of self-expression. This means that the self-expression, like the growth which it fosters, is many-sided; and this again means that the perceptive faculties, which unfold themselves through the medium of self-expression, are not so much separate faculties as a general capacity for getting on terms with one's environment and gaining an insight into its laws and properties. In a school which lays itself out to teach one or two subjects thoroughly, to the neglect of others, a sense, or special perceptive faculty, will gradually be evolved by the study of each subject, provided, of course, that the path of self-expression is followed, - a literary sense, a historical sense, a mathematical sense, and so on. But while these special senses are being developed, the remaining perceptive faculties are being starved, and no attempt is being made to cultivate that general capacity of which I have just spoken. The consequent loss to the child, both in his school-life and in his after-life, is very great. For not only is his mental growth one-sided and inharmonious, but even in the subjects in which he specialises he will lose appreciably, owing to his special perceptive faculties not having as their background any general capacity for seeing things as they are.
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Re: What Is and What Might Be, by Edmond Holmes

Postby admin » Mon Oct 21, 2019 4:35 am

Part 2 of 4

I will try to explain what I mean. In what is known as "Society" there is a valuable quality called "tact", in virtue of which the man or woman who is endowed with it always says and does "the right thing". This quality is compounded partly of sympathetic insight into the feelings, actual and possible, of others, and partly of a keen and subtle sense for all the nuances of social propriety. Like every other perceptive faculty, it is the outcome of self-expression, - of years of self-expression on the plane of social intercourse. That general perceptive faculty, or perceptive capacity, which is the outcome of years of self-expression on many sides of one's being, has so much in common with the tact of the man of society, that the epithet tactful may perhaps be applied to it. The larger, like the lesser, faculty is compounded, partly of sympathetic insight into latent possibilities, and partly of a delicate sense for nuances of all kinds. But even this formula does less than justice to its complex nature. Generated as it is by a life of many-sided self-expression, it reflects its origin in its internal constitution. Many elements of thought and feeling have woven themselves into it; and it is ready to take a colour from each new environment or even from each new situation. It can become emotional, for example, when the matter in hand appeals, in any sort or degree, to the emotions; and there are occasions when its latent sense of humour becomes an invaluable antidote to that over-seriousness which so often leads men astray. Above all, it is in its essence, imaginative, for it is ever learning to picture things to itself as they are or as they might be; and the higher the level and the wider the sphere of its activity, the more boldly imaginative it becomes. A faculty so subtle and so sympathetic must needs play a vitally important rôle, not only when its possessor is studying "subjects" or handling concrete problems, but also, and more especially, when he is dealing with the "affairs of life"; and we can understand that when it is wholly or largely lacking, each of the special faculties which specialising is supposed to foster will suffer from not being tempered and yet vitalised by its all-penetrating influence.

That we may the better understand this, and the better understand what the path of self-realisation does for the mental development of him who walks in it, let us ask ourselves what type of mind the conventional type of education is likely to produce. And let us study the conventional type of education on what is supposed to be its highest level. Let us consider the education given to the sons of the "upper classes". And let us take this highest level at its own highest level. Let us take the case of those who go through that tri-partite course of education which begins in a high-class "Preparatory School", is continued in one of the "Great Public Schools", and is completed at Oxford or Cambridge. A boy enters a Preparatory School at the age of eight or nine, and is there prepared, in general for entrance into one of the Great Public Schools, and in particular for one of the competitive examinations on the results of which the entrance scholarships of the Great Public Schools are awarded, He enters one of the Great Public Schools at the age of thirteen or fourteen, and is there prepared, in general for admission to Oxford or Cambridge, and in particular for the scholarship examinations of the various Oxford and Cambridge Colleges. He enters Oxford or Cambridge at the age of eighteen or nineteen, and is there prepared, directly for his degree examination - "Pass" or "Honours" as the case may be - and indirectly for the public examination which admits to the Indian and Colonial, and the higher grades of the Home, Civil Service. This course of education lasts about fourteen years, and costs from £1,500 to £4,500.

What will it do for the boy who goes through it? The education given in the Preparatory School is completely dominated by the scholarship and entrance examinations at the Great Public Schools. The lines on which those examinations are conducted are the lines on which the Preparatory Schoolmaster must educate his pupils. He has no choice in the matter. The title "Preparatory" seals his doom. His business is, not to give his pupils the education that is best suited to their capacities and their years, but to prepare them for admission to a more advanced school. The more scholarships he can win at Eton, Harrow, Winchester, Rugby, and the rest, the higher will be the repute of his school; and as the competition between school and school is fierce and unintermittent, he cannot afford to throwaway a single chance. In other words, he cannot afford to make a single serious experiment. The education given in the Great Public Schools is similarly dominated by the scholarship and entrance examinations held by the Oxford and Cambridge Colleges. The lines on which those examinations are conducted are in the main the lines on which the boys must be educated. It is possible that the Great Public Schools are freer to go their own ways than are the Preparatory Schools; but if they are, they make but little use of their freedom.

So far as the rank and file of the boys are concerned, it may be doubted if the word "educative" is applicable, in any sense or degree, to the daily round of their work. Of the six great expansive instincts which are struggling to evolve themselves in every healthy child, not one can be said to find a congenial soil or a stimulating atmosphere in the ordinary classroom either of the Preparatory or of the Public School. Four of the six - the dramatic, the artistic, the musical, and the constructive - are entirely or almost entirely neglected. Music and Handwork (3) are "extras" (a fatally significant word); the teaching of Drawing is, as a rule, quite perfunctory; and Acting is not a recognised part of the school curriculum. The truth is that marks are not given for these "subjects" - for in the eyes of the schoolmaster they are all "subjects" - in any entrance or scholarship examination, and that therefore it does not pay to teach them. There remain two instincts, - the communicative and the inquisitive. The study of the "Humanities" - History and Literature, ancient and modern - ought to train the former; and the study of Science ought to train the latter. But in the case of the average boy, the study of the Humanities resolves itself, in the main, into a prolonged and unsuccessful tussle with the difficulties of the Greek and Latin languages, the mastering of which is regarded as an end in itself instead of as the gateway to the wonder-worlds of ancient life and thought; and the study of Science is, as a rule, a pure farce. (4) Not one, then, of the expansive instincts of the average boy receives any training during the nine or ten years of his school life; and as, in his struggle for the "Pass" degree of his University, he will follow the lines on which he has been accustomed to work in both his schools, he will go out into the world at the age of twenty-two or twenty-three, the victim of a course of education which has lasted for fourteen years and cost thousands of pounds, and which has done nothing whatever to foster his mental or spiritual growth. It is true that in all the Public Schools a certain amount of informal education is done through the medium of Musical Societies, Natural History Societies, Debating Societies, School Magazines, and the like; that the discipline of a Public School, with its system of School and House prefects, has considerable educational value; that the playing fields do something towards the formation of character; that the boys, by exchanging experiences and discussing things freely among themselves, help to educate one another; and that during the four months of each year which the schoolboy spends away from school, he is, or may be, exposed to educative influences of various kinds. (5) But the broad fact remains that the studies of the youthful graduate, whether in school classroom or college lecture-room, have been wholly unformative and therefore wholly uneducative.

But let us consider the education given in our Public Schools and Universities, at what is presumably the highest of all its levels. Let us see what is done for the boys who have sufficient ability to win Scholarships and read for Honours at Oxford and Cambridge. It is to the supposed interests of these brighter boys that the vital interests of their duller schoolfellows are perforce sacrificed. Are the results worth the sacrifice? The brighter boys fall into two main groups, - those who have a turn for the "Humanities", and those who have a turn for Mathematics and Science. Where the "Humanities" are effectively taught, - where, for example, the scholar is allowed to pass through the portals of Latin and Greek grammar and composition into the wonder-world that lies beyond them, - the communicative instinct receives a valuable training. It is, unfortunately, quite possible for a boy, or even for a man, to be what is called a "good scholar", and yet to take no interest whatever in the history or literature of Greece and Rome; and the examination system undoubtedly tends to foster this bastard type of humanism. But when, as a result of his school and University training, a scholar has passed the linguistic portals and found pleasure in the worlds beyond, we may say of him that his education has fostered the growth of one of his expansive instincts, - perhaps the most important of all, but still only one. When Science is effectively taught, the growth of the inquisitive instinct is similarly fostered; but the inquisitive instinct, though of great value, when trained in conjunction with other instincts, has but little value as a "formative" when trained by itself. From this point of view it compares unfavourably with the communicative instinct, being as much less formative than the latter, as the mysteries of the material world are less significant and less able to inspire and vitalise their interpreter than the mysteries of human life; and a purely (or mainly) scientific training is therefore worth far less as an instrument of education than a purely (or mainly) humanistic training.

But why should the boys at our Great Public Schools and the young men at our Universities have to choose between a scientific and a humanistic training? Why should these ancient and famous institutions be content to train one only of the six expansive instincts instead of at least two? Here, as elsewhere, the scholarship system blocks the way. Some scholarships are given for Classics, others for History, others for Mathematics, others for Natural Science. Not a single scholarship is given, at either University, for general capacity, as measured by the results of a many-sided examination. Why should this be? The answer is that under any system of formal examination many-sidedness in education necessarily means smattering [slight superficial knowledge]; and that against smattering the Universities have, very properly, set their faces. But, after all, there is no necessary connection between many-sidedness and smattering. In Utopia, where the concentric rings of growth are formed by the gradual evolution of an inner life, whatever feeds that inner life is a contribution, however humble, to the growth of the whole tree; and many-sidedness, far from being a defect, is one of the first conditions of success in education. But in the Great Public Schools, where veneers of information are being assiduously laid on the surface of the boy's mind with a view to his passing some impending examination, the greater the number and variety of such veneers, the more certain they all are to split and waste and perish. Indeed the real reason why specialising has to be resorted to in the case of the brighter boys, is that in no other way can provision be made for the fatal process of veneering being dispensed with, and for faculty being evolved by growth from within.

But a heavy price has to be paid for the growth of these specialised faculties. If Science is to be seriously studied the student must give the whole of his time to it. This means that he must give up the idea of educating himself. It is only by turning his back on history, on literature, on philosophy, on music, on art, that he can hope to meet the exacting and ever-growing demands which Science makes on those who desire to be initiated into its mysteries. To say that when he has "taken his degree" he is only half-educated, is greatly to over-estimate the formative influence of his highly specialised training. A sense has undoubtedly been developed in him, an instinct has been awakened, one or two of his mental faculties have been vigorously cultivated; but his training has been the reverse of humanising; and as his studies and his consequent attitude towards Nature have been essentially analytical, he may, in the absence of those correctives which his compulsory specialising has withheld from him, have learned to regard the dead side of things as the real side, - a conception which, if it mastered him, would materialise his whole outlook on life.

The case of the "humanist" is different. The subjects which he studies appeal to many sides of his being; and if he could respond to their appeal, they might do much for his mental and spiritual development. That he should be able to respond to their appeal is of vital importance. When he has become a decent "scholar", a chance is given to him, which if he neglects he will probably lose for ever, - the chance of making good, in part at least, the deficiencies of his early education. Had he lived in Utopia, his life of many-sided self-expression would have given a general training to his perceptive faculties, in which the twin faculties of imagination and sympathy would have had their share. But neither in his Preparatory School nor in the lower classes of his Public School has any serious attempt been made during school hours to ripen either of those mighty faculties, whereas much has been done in both schools to retard their growth. He is doomed, then, to begin his study of the history and literature of the Ancient World with a considerable knowledge of the Latin and Greek languages, but (in too many cases) with an unimaginative mind and an unsympathetic heart. There is, however, much in that history and that literature, - not to speak of the history and the literature of his own and other modern countries, - which, if it could but have its way, would appeal strongly to his imagination and his sympathy, dormant and undeveloped as these faculties are, - appeal to them so strongly as to awaken them at last from their slumber and quicken them into active life. But alas! the shadow of an impending examination is always falling on his humanistic studies, nullifying the appeal that they make to him, and compelling him to look at them from a sordidly utilitarian point of view. For to give marks for the response that he might make to their appeal, or even to set questions which would afford free scope for the play of his imagination or the flow of his sympathy, is beyond the power of any examiner. There are two things, and two only, which "pay" on the examination day, - the possession of information and the power to make use of it; and the humanist who would win prizes at his school or gain high honours at his University, must therefore regard the memorable doings and the imperishable sayings of his fellow-men, not as things to be imagined and felt, admired and loved, wondered at and pondered over, but as things to be pigeon-holed in his memory, to be taken out and arranged under headings, to be dissected and commented on and criticised. (6)

Of the part that memory plays in the education of our humanist, I need not speak. An undue burden is probably laid upon it; but that is a matter of minor importance. What is of supreme importance is that in cultivating his critical faculty with an almost intensive culture, while they starve, or at any rate leave untended, his more vital and more emancipative faculties of imagination and sympathy, our Great Public Schools and Universities are doing him a serious and lasting injury. Let us take the case of a young man of energy and ability who has just left Oxford or Cambridge, having won high honours in one of the humanistic "schools". Let us assume that, like so many of his kind, he has a keenly critical mind, but is deficient in imagination and sympathy; and let us then try to forecast his future. That the faith of his childhood, undermined by his criticism, has already fallen to pieces or will shortly do so, is more than probable. That he will be too unimaginative to attempt to construct a new faith out of the ruins of the old, is practically certain. His lack of faith, in the broader sense of the word, will incapacitate him for high seriousness (which he will regard as "bad form"), and a fortiori [even more so] for enthusiasm (which he will shun like the plague), and will therefore predispose him to frivolity. Being fully persuaded, owing to his lack of imaginative sympathy, that his own outlook on life is alone compatible with mental sanity, and yet being too clear-sighted to accept that outlook as satisfactory, he will mingle with his frivolity a strain of bitterness and discontent, - the bitterness of self-corroding scepticism, and the discontent which grows apace through its very effort to ignore its own existence. In a word, his attitude towards life will be one of cynicism, - that blend of hardness and bitterness with frivolity which exactly inverts the ideal of the modern poet, when he dreams of an age in the far-off future,

[quote]Which without hardness will be sage,
And gay without frivolity. (7)[quote]

And the bitterness of his cynicism will be made bitterer still by the fact that, owing to his being (in all probability) unmusical, inartistic, and unable to amuse himself with any form of handwork, he will have no taste or hobby to distract him from himself. For a time, indeed, the "genial sense of youth" will keep his sinister tendencies in check; and in the middle period of life, his struggle to achieve "success" - for of course he will be an externalist to the core - will tend to keep them in the background. But in his later years, when he will have either failed to achieve "success" or discovered - too late - that it was not worth achieving, his cynicism will assert itself without let or hindrance, and, with his growing incapacity for frivolity, will become harder and bitterer, till at last the dark shadow of incurable pessimism will fall on him and involve his declining years in ever deepening gloom. I do not say that many of our University humanists will conform to this type; but I do say that the type is easily recognisable and is becoming increasingly familiar.

Even the intellectual development of our humanist, who is nothing if not intellectual, will be adversely affected by the onesidedness of his education. Well-informed and acutely critical he will probably be; but he will lack the saving grace of that "tactful" faculty which years of many-sided self-expression can alone evolve, - a faculty which (as we have seen) is subtly adaptive when it deals with small matters, boldly imaginative when it deals with great matters, and delicately sympathetic along the whole range of its activity. This sinuous and penetrative sense is to the more logically critical faculty what equity is to law; and in its absence the intellectuality of our young "intellectual" will be as incomplete as would be the legal system of a country which knew nothing of equity and tried to bring all legal problems under the direct control of positive law. For it will be his business, as he goes through life, to deal in and with words and phrases; and as words and phrases are ever tending to change their force, and even their meaning, under our hands, and as his use and treatment of them will be logical and "legal" rather than tactful and "equitable", he will again and again misinterpret and misuse them, and will so do badly the very thing which he is expected to do well. The man who, though endowed with an acute and vigorous intellect, can neither think imaginatively nor reason tactfully, has grave intellectual defects; and the blinder he is to the existence of these defects the more pronounced will they become.

The pity of it is that when these unimaginative "intellectuals" go out into the world, they will fill posts in which they will have unrivalled opportunities for establishing and disseminating their unwholesome influence. A section of them will go into the teaching profession, the higher grades of which are almost entirely recruited from Oxford and Cambridge. Another section will go into the legal profession, and through it will enter Parliament in considerable numbers, where, being trained advocates, they will exercise an influence out of all proportion to their numerical strength. And a third section will man the higher grades of the Home, Colonial, and Indian Civil Services. Teachers, legislators, administrators, - if there are any walks in life in which cynicism and a capacity for merely destructive criticism are out of place, and in which imagination and sympathy are imperatively demanded, they are these three; and it is nothing short of a national calamity that these great and commanding professions should be manned, in part at least, by men whose mission in life is to paralyse rather than to vitalise, to fetter rather than to set free.

The further pity of it is that the training of these "intellectuals" might easily have taken an entirely different course. Much of the specialising which goes on in our Great Public Schools and Universities, and which is so destructive of mental and spiritual vitality, is wholly unnecessary. The course of education which the sons of the "upper classes" go through has this in common with elementary education, that in neither case need "utilitarian" considerations weigh with the teachers. The parents of a large proportion of our Public School boys can afford to give their sons a liberal education (in the truest and fullest sense of the word) up to the age of twenty-two or twenty-three; and in the case of these boys, at any rate, the excessive specialisation which makes their education so illiberal is done, not in response to the demands of professions (such as the medical or the engineering) which necessitate early specialising, but solely in response to the demands of an examination system which we adopted before we had begun to ask ourselves what education meant, and which, partly from the force of habit and partly because it is in keeping with our general attitude towards life, we still bow down before with a devotion as ardent and as irrational as that which inspired the cry of "Great is Diana of the Ephesians". (8)

At its best, then, the education given by the Great Public Schools and Universities fosters the growth of one of the expansive instincts, - the communicative, a mighty instinct which opens up to imagination and sympathy the whole wide world of human life; but because it leaves all the other expansive instincts untended, it gives that one instinct an inadequate and unsymmetrical training, a training which checks the growth of the very faculties - imagination and sympathy - of which the instinct is largely compounded and for the sake of which it may almost be said to exist. At its second best, this costly education fosters the growth of the inquisitive instinct, - a grandly expansive instinct when trained in conjunction with the others, but one which is constrictive rather than expansive when trained by itself and for its own sake. At its ordinary level, it trains no instinct whatever, and is therefore unworthy of the name of education. Why should this be so? Why should a course of education which lasts so long and costs so much do so little for its victims, and do that little so badly or, at any rate, so inadequately? Because from first to last it has looked outward instead of inward: because it has laboured unceasingly to produce "results", and has never given a thought to growth. (9)

Let us now go to the other end of the social scale. What the path of self-realisation might do for the children of the "upper classes" if they were allowed to follow it, we may roughly calculate, partly by measuring what the alternative scheme of education has failed to do for them, partly by reminding ourselves of what the path has done for the village children of Utopia. The children of the "upper classes" have such an advantage over the children of Utopia in the matter of environment, - to say nothing of inherited capacity, - that one would expect the path to do much more for their mental development than it has done for the mental development of the Utopians, especially as they could afford to remain much longer in the first and most important of its stages, the stage of self-education (in the more limited sense of the word). The gain to the whole nation if the mental development of the highest social stratum could be raised as much above its normal level as the mental development of youthful Utopia has been raised above the normal level of an English rural village, would be incalculably great. But greater still - incalculably greater - would be the gain to the nation if the rank and file of its children could be led into the path of self-realisation, and therein rise to the high level of brightness, intelligence, and resourcefulness which has been reached in Utopia.

Nor is this dream so wildly impracticable as some might imagine. So far as the natural capacity of the average child is concerned, there is no bar to its realisation. Egeria has taught me that the mental capacity of the average child, even in a rustic village belonging to a county which is proverbial for the slow wits of its rustics, is very great. It is sometimes said that of the children who have been trained in our elementary schools, not one in twenty is fit to profit by the education given in a secondary school: and if by this is meant that in nineteen cases out of twenty the elementary scholar, educated as he has probably been, is unlikely to profit by the education given in a secondary school, conducted as those schools usually are, I am not prepared to say offhand that the statement is untrue. But if it means that the average mental capacity of the children of our "lower orders" is hopelessly inferior to that of the children of our middle and upper classes, I can say without hesitation that it is a slander and a lie. Whether there is any difference, in respect of innate mental capacity, between level and level of our social scale, may be doubted; but the Utopian experiment has proved to demonstration that in the lowest level of all the innate mental capacity is so great that we cannot well expect to find any considerable advance on it even in the highest level of all.

But where, it will be asked, are we to find Egerias to man our elementary schools? For the moment this problem does not admit of a practical solution. But that need not discourage us. I admit that in far too many of our schools the teachers, through no fault of their own, are what I may call machine-made, and that they are engaged in turning out machine-made scholars, some of whom in the fullness of time will develop into machine-made teachers. But there is a way of escape from this vicious circle, - the path of self-realisation. That path has transformed the children of a rustic village in a slow-witted county into Utopians. Why should it not transform some at least among the boys and girls who are thinking of entering the teaching profession into Egerias, or at any rate into teachers of Egeria's type? Even as it is, replicas of Egeria, - not exact replicas, for she is too original to be easily replicated, but teachers who, like her, preach and practise the gospel of self-education, - are beginning to spring up in various parts of the country; and each of their schools, besides being a centre of light, may well become a nursery for teachers who will follow in the footsteps of those who have trained them, and will in their turn do pioneer work in other schools. The thin end of the wedge is even now being driven into the close-grained mass of tradition and routine; and each successive blow that is struck by a teacher of intelligence and initiative will widen the incipient cleft.

The dream, then, of leading the children of England - the children of the "masses" as well as of the "classes" - into the path of self-realisation, is not so widely impracticable as to convict the dreamer of insanity. And if we could realise the dream, if we could go but a little way towards realising it, how immense would be the gain to our country! If the average level of mental development in England were as high as it is in Utopia, to what height would not the men and women of exceptional ability be able to rise? The mountain peaks that spring from an upland plateau soar higher towards the sky than the peaks, of the same apparent height, that spring from a low-lying plain. And "the great mountains lift the lowlands on to their sides". [i]

But this is not the only reason why the gospel of self-realisation should be preached in all parts of the land. There is another reason which is becoming more and more urgent. If the Utopian scheme of education were widely adopted, an antidote would be found to a grave and growing evil which is beginning to imperil the mental health of every civilised community, and of this more than any other. The more civilised (in the Western sense of the word) a country becomes, the less educative does life - the rough-and-tumble life of the work-a-day world - tend to become. In a thoroughly "civilised" country, where the material conditions of life are highly organised, and where industry is highly specialised, so much is done for the individual by those who organise his life and labour, that it ceases to be necessary for him, except within narrow limits, to shift for himself. In a less civilised community men have to use their wits as well as their hands at every turn; and resourcefulness and versatility are therefore in constant demand. The industrial life of a Russian peasant, who is of necessity a Jack-of-many-trades, is incomparably more educative than that of the Lancashire cotton operative, most of whose thinking and much of whose operating may be said to be done for him by the complicated machinery which he controls; who does, indeed, learn to do one thing surpassingly well, but in doing that one thing becomes, as he progresses, more and more automatic, so that the highest praise we can give him is to say that he does his work with the sureness and accuracy of a machine. It follows that the more civilised a country becomes, the more important is the part that the elementary school plays in the life of the nation, - and that not merely because the ability to read, write, and cipher is, in the conditions which modern civilisation imposes, almost as much a "necessary of life" as the ability to walk or talk, but also and more especially because it devolves upon the school to do for the citizen in his childhood what life will not do for him in his manhood, or will do for him but in scant measure, to stimulate his vital powers into healthful activity, to foster the growth of his soul. And the more the people in a civilised country are withdrawn from the soil and herded into mines and mills and offices, the more imperative is it that the school should quicken rather than deaden the child's innate faculties, should bring sunshine rather than frost into his adolescent life. In such a country as ours the responsibilities of the teacher are only equalled by his opportunities; for the child is in his hands during the most impressionable years of life; and those years will have been wasted, and worse than wasted, unless they have fitted the child to face the world with resourcefulness, intelligence, and vital energy, ready to wrest from his environment, by enlarging and otherwise transforming it, those educative influences which are still to be had for the seeking, but are no longer automatically supplied.

The Moral Aspect of Self-Realisation.

If Man, if each man in turn, is born good, the process of growth, or self-realisation, which is presumably taking him towards the perfection of which his nature admits, must needs make him continuously better. In other words, growth, provided that it is healthy, harmonious, and many-sided, provided that it is growth of the whole being, is in itself and of inner necessity the most moralising of all processes. Nay, it is the only moralising process, for in no other way can what is naturally good be transformed into what is ideally best.

This argument, apart from its being open to the possible objection that it plays on the meaning of the word "good", is perhaps too conclusive to be really convincing. I will therefore try to make my way to its conclusion by another line of thought.

The desire to grow, to advance towards maturity, to realise his true self - the self that is his in embryo from the very beginning - is strong in every living thing, and is therefore strong in every child of man. But the desire, which necessarily takes its share in the general process of growth, must needs pass through many stages on its way to its own highest form. In infancy, it is a desire for physical life, for the preservation and expansion of the physical self; and in this stage it is, as I have already pointed out, uncompromisingly selfish. The new-born baby is the incarnation of selfishness; and it is quite right that he should be so. It is his way of trying to realise himself. As the child grows older, the desire to grow becomes a desire for self-aggrandisement, - a desire to shine in various ways, to surpass others, to be admired, to be praised; and though in this stage it may give rise to much vanity and selfishness, still, so long as it has vigorous growth behind it and is in its essence a desire for further growth, it is in the main a healthy tendency, and to call it sinful or vicious would be a misuse of words.

But when, in the course of time, the average, ordinary, surface self - the self with which we are all only too familiar - has been fully evolved and firmly established, the day may come when, owing to various adverse conditions, the growth of the soul will be arrested, and the ordinary self will come to be regarded as the true self, as the self which the man may henceforth accept and rest in, as the self in virtue of which he is what he is. Should the desire for self-aggrandisement survive that day, the door would be thrown open to selfishness of a malignant type and to general demoralisation. And this is what would assuredly come to pass. In the first place, the desire for self-aggrandisement, which always has the push of Nature's expansive forces behind it, would certainly survive that ill-omened day. Indeed, it were well that it should do so; for "while there is life, there is hope", and when the soul is ceasing to grow, it is through the desire for self-aggrandisement that Nature makes her last effort to keep it alive, by compelling it to energise on one or two at least of the many sides of its being. In the second place, the desire would gradually cease to be resolvable into the desire for continued growth, and would gradually transform itself into the desire to glorify and make much of the ordinary self, to minister to its selfish demands, to give it possessions, riches, honour, power, social rank, and whatever else might serve to feed its self-esteem, and make it think well of itself because it was well thought of by "the world". And in the third place, in its effort to glorify and make much of the ordinary self, the desire would, without a moment's compunction, see other persons pushed to the wall, trampled under foot, slighted and humiliated, robbed of what they valued most, outraged and wounded in their tenderest feelings. It is my firm conviction that at the present day three-fourths of the moral evil in the world, or at any rate in the Western world, are the direct or indirect outcome of egoism, - egoism which, as a rule, is mean, petty, and small-minded, but is often cruel and ruthless, and can on occasion become heroic and even titanic in its capacity for evil and in the havoc that it works, - egoism which in ninety-nine cases out of a hundred is generated by the desire for self-aggrandisement having outlived its better self, the desire to grow.

If arrested growth is the chief source of malignant egoism, there is an obvious remedy for the deadly malady. The egoist must re-enter the path of self-realisation. His great enemy is his lower self; (10) and the surest way to conquer this enemy is to outgrow it, to leave it far behind. When the path of self-realisation has been re-entered, when the soul has resumed the interrupted process of its growth, the desire for self-aggrandisement will spontaneously transform itself, first into the desire for further growth, and then into the desire for outgrowth or escape from self, and will cease to minister to the selfish demands of the lower self; and as the lower self is all the while being gradually left behind by the growing soul, and is therefore ceasing to assert itself, and ceasing to clamour, like a spoilt child, for this thing and for that, - it will not be long before the antidote to the poison of egoism will have taken due effect, and the health of the soul will have been restored.

But let me say again - for I can scarcely say it too often - that the growth which emancipates from self is many-sided growth, the growth, not of any one faculty, or group of faculties, but of the soul as such. Were it not so, the life of self-realisation might easily become a life of glorified and therefore intensified selfishness. It is quite possible, as we know from experience, for a high degree of "culture" to co-exist with a high degree of egoism. It is possible, for example, for the aesthetic instincts, when not kept aglow by the sympathetic, or hardened with an alloy of the scientific, to evolve a peculiar form of selfishness which leads at last to looseness of life and general demoralisation. And it is possible for the scientific instincts, when developed at the expense of the aesthetic and the sympathetic, to evolve a hard, unemotional type of character which is self-centred and selfish owing to its positiveness and lack of imagination. But these are instances of inharmonious growth. When growth is harmonious and many-sided, it leads of necessity to out-growth, to escape from self. For the expansive instincts are so many ways of escape from self which Nature opens up to the soul; - the sympathetic instincts, a way of escape into the boundless aether [ether] of love; the aesthetic instincts, a way of escape into the wonder-world of beauty; the scientific instincts, a way of escape into the world of mysteries which is lighted by the "high white star of truth". It is only when one of the expansive instincts is allowed to aggrandise itself at the expense of the others, that the consequent outgrowth of selfishness in what I may call the internal economy of one's nature begins to reflect itself in a general selfishness of character. An instinct may readily become egoistic in its effort to affirm or over-affirm itself, to grasp at its share or more than its share of the child's rising life: and if it does, it may gradually suck down into the vortex of its egoism the whole character of the child as he ripens into the man. But growth, as such, is anti-egoistic just because it is growth, because it is a movement towards a larger, fuller, and freer life: and it is restricted, even more than one-sided growth, - it is the apathy, the helplessness, the deadness of soul that overtakes, first the child and then the man, when his expansive instincts are systematically starved and thwarted, - which is the chief cause of his incarceration in his petty self.

If three-fourths of the moral evil in the world are due to malignant egoism, the source of the remaining fourth is, in a word, sensuality. By sensuality I mean the undue or perverted development of the desires and passions of the animal self, - the desire for food and drink, the sexual desires, the desire for physical or semi-physical excitement, the animal passion of anger, and the rest. As an enemy of the soul, sensuality is less dangerous, because more open and less insidious, than egoism. The egoist, who mistakes his ordinary for his real self, may well lead a life of systematic selfishness without in the least realising that he is living amiss. But the animal self is never mistaken for the real self; and the sensualist always has an uneasy feeling in the back of his mind that, in indulging his animal desires and passions to excess, he is doing wrong. This feeling may, indeed, die out when he "grows hard" in his "viciousness"; but in the earlier stages of the sensual life it is sure to "give pause"; and there are, I think, few persons who do not feel that the sensual desires and passions are so remote from the headquarters of human life, that in yielding to them beyond due measure they are acting unworthily of their higher selves. At any rate we may regard the temptations to sensual indulgence that lie in our path as evil influences which are assailing us from without rather than from within; and we may therefore liken them to the blight, rust, mites, mildew, and other pests that assail hops, fruit, wheat, and other growing plants.

And, like the pests that assail growing plants, the sensual pests that war against the soul must be beaten off by vigorous and continuous growth. No other prophylactic is so sure or so effective as this. When I was asked whether the Utopian education was useful or not, I adduced, as an instance of its usefulness, its power of protecting the young from the allurements of a pernicious literature, to which the victims of the conventional type of education, with their lowered vitality and their lack of interest in life, too readily succumb. This is a typical example of the way in which the rising sap of life strengthens the soul to resist the temptations to undue sensual indulgence by which it is always liable to be assailed. The victim of a repressive, growth-arresting type of education, having few if any interests in life, not infrequently takes to the meretricious excitements of sensuality in order to relieve the intolerable monotony of his days. But the training which makes for many-sided growth, by filling the life of the "adolescent" with many and various interests, removes temptations of this particular type from his path. And it does more for him than this. It generates in him a state of health and well-being, in which the very vigour and elasticity of his spiritual fibre automatically shields him from temptation by refusing to allow the germs of moral disease to effect a lodgment in his soul. It would be well if our moralists could realise that the chief causes of weakness in the presence of sensual temptation are, on the one hand, boredom and ennui, and on the other hand flabbiness and degeneracy of spiritual fibre, and that the remedy for both these defects is to give the young the type of education which will foster rather than hinder growth.
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Re: What Is and What Might Be, by Edmond Holmes

Postby admin » Thu Oct 24, 2019 11:04 am

Part 3 of 4

We are now in a position to estimate the respective values, as moralising influences, of the path of self-realisation and the path that leads to "results". Whatever tends to arrest growth tends also and in an equal degree to demoralise Man's life; for, on the one hand, by transforming the healthy desire for continued growth into the unhealthy desire for mere self-aggrandisement, it generates malignant egoism, with its endless train of attendant evils; and, on the other hand, by depressing the vitality of the soul and so weakening its powers of resistance, it exposes it to the attacks of those powers and desires which we speak of in the aggregate as sensuality. If this is so, the inference is irresistible that the externalism of "civilised" life, with the repressive and devitalising system of education which it necessitates, is responsible for the greater part of the immorality - I am using the word in its widest sense - of the present age. Contrariwise, whatever tends to foster growth tends also, and in an equal degree, to moralise Man's life; for, on the one hand, by transforming the desire for self-aggrandisement into the desire, first for continued growth and then for out-growth, it gives the soul strength to eliminate the poison of egoism from its system; and, on the other hand, by vitalising the soul and so strengthening its powers of resistance, it enables it to beat off the attacks of those enemies of its well-being which serve under the banner of sensuality. If this is so, the inference is irresistible that self-realisation is the only effective remedy for the immorality of the present age.

The comparison between the two schemes of life may be carried a stage further. If egoism and sensuality are the two primary vices, the secondary vices will be the various ways and means by which egoism and sensuality try to compass their respective ends. Let us select for consideration one group of these vices, - the important group which fall under the general head of untruthfulness. Insincerity, disingenuousness, shiftiness, trickery, duplicity, chicanery, evasion, intrigue, suppressio veri, suggestio falsi, [presumably, suppression of the truth and false suggestions] fraud, mendacity, treachery, hypocrisy, cant, - their name is Legion. That externalism, whether in school or out of school, is the foster-mother of the whole brood, is almost too obvious to need demonstration. In school the child lives in an atmosphere of unreality and make-believe. The demand for mechanical obedience which is always pressing upon him is a demand that he shall be untrue to himself. Sincerity of expression, which is the fountain-head of all truthfulness, is not merely slighted by his teacher, but is systematically proscribed. He is always (under compulsion) pretending to be what he is not, - to know what he does not know, to see what he does not see, to think what he does not think, to believe what he does not believe. And he lives, from hour to hour, under the dark shadow of severity and distrust, - severity which is too often answered by servility, and distrust which is too often answered by deceit. When he goes out into the world, he finds that though there are many sins for which there is forgiveness, there is one for which there is no forgiveness, - the sin of being found out; and he orders his life accordingly. He finds that he must give account of himself to public opinion, which necessarily judges according to the appearance of things, and is only too ready to be hoodwinked and gulled [duped]. He finds that to "succeed" is to achieve certain outward and visible results, - results which are out of relation to the vraie vérité of things, which are in no way symbolical of merit, and for the winning of which any means may be resorted to provided that scandals are avoided and the letter of the law is obeyed. He finds that the system of advertising which plays so large a part in modern life, and without which it is so hard to "succeed", is in the main a system of organised mendacity. Finally, and above all, he finds that the examination system, with its implicit demands for trickery and shiftiness, and its almost open invitation to cram and cheat, is not confined to the school but has its equivalent in "the world", and is in fact the basis of civilisation as well as of education in the West.

This is the provision that externalism makes for the practical inculcation of truthfulness, - a virtue which its religion and its ethics profess to honour above all others. The life of self-realisation, on the other hand, is a life of genuine self-expression; and a life of genuine self-expression is obviously a life of fearless sincerity. In such a life there is no place for untruthfulness or any member of its impish brood. The one concern of the child, as of the man, is to be loyal to intrinsic reality, to be true to his true self. His standard is always inward, not outward. He knows that he is what he is, not what he is reputed to be. Quantum unusquisque est in oculis Tuis, tantum est et non amplius.

Here, then, as elsewhere, we see that the difference between the morality of externalism and the morality of self-realisation is a difference, not of degree but of direct antagonism, - the difference between a poison and its antidote, between the cause of a malady and the cure.

While the path of self-realisation is emancipating us from egoism and sensuality, in what general direction is it leading us? Is its ethical ideal positive or merely negative? And if it is positive, what is its character, and how is it to be realised? The answer to this question will be given in the remaining sections.

The Social Aspect of Self-realisation.

He must either be richly endowed with "the good things of life" or be of an exceptionally optimistic disposition, who can view the existing social order with complete satisfaction. Even among those who are richly endowed with "the good things of life" there must be many who realise that the "Have-nots" have some cause for complaint. And even among those who are of an exceptionally optimistic disposition there must be some who realise that the grounds of their optimism are personal to themselves, and that they cannot expect many others to share their satisfaction with things as they are.

The phrase "the good things of life" is significant, and explains much. It means that an outward standard of reality has fully established itself in the community, that money and the possessions of various kinds which money can buy are regarded as the good things of life, - things which are intrinsically good, and therefore legitimate ends of Man's ambition and endeavour, things to pursue which is to fulfil one's destiny and to win which is to achieve salvation. It means, in other words, that the life of the community is a scramble for material possessions and outward and visible "results" - a scramble which on its lowest level becomes a struggle for bare existence, and on the next level a struggle for the "necessaries of life" - and that this legalised scramble is the basis of the whole social order. In such a scramble the great prizes are necessarily few, and the number of complete failures is always considerable; for the wealthier a country, the higher is its standard of comfort, so that the proportion of failures - the percentage of men who are submerged and outcast, who are in want and misery - is at least as great in the wealthiest as in the poorest community, while the extremes of wealth and poverty are as a rule greatest where the pursuit of riches is carried on with the keenest vigour and the most complete success.

There are many persons, rich as well as poor, who, viewing the legalised scramble from an entirely impersonal standpoint, are filled with disgust and dismay, and who dream of making an end of it, by substituting what they call collectivism for the individualism which they regard as the source of all our troubles. These persons are known as Socialists. Their ruling idea is that the "State" should become the sole owner of property, and that this radical change should be effected by a series of legislative measures. With their social ideal, regarded as an ideal, one has of course the deepest sympathy. Their motto is, I believe, "Each for all, and all for each"; and if this ideal could be realised, the social millennium would indeed have begun. But in trying to compass their ends by legislation, before the standard of reality has been changed, they are making a disastrous mistake. For, to go no further, our schools are hotbeds of individualism, the spirit of "competitive selfishness" being actively and systematically fostered in all of them, with a few exceptions; and so long as this is so, so long as our highly individualised society is recruited, year by year, by a large contingent of individualists of all ranks, drawn from schools of all grades, for so long will the Socialistic ideal remain an impracticable dream. An impracticable and a mischievous dream; for in the attempt to realise it, the community will almost inevitably be brought to the verge of civil war. When the seeds of socialistic legislation, or even of socialistic agitation, are sown in a soil which is highly charged with the poison of individualism, the resulting crop will be class hatred and social strife.

No, we must change our standard of reality before we can hope to reform society. Where the outward standard prevails, where material possessions are regarded as "the good things of life", the basis of society must needs be competitive rather than communal, for there will never be enough of those "good things" to satisfy the desires of all the members of any community. And even if the socialistic dream of state-ownership could be universally realised, the change - so long as the outward standard of reality prevailed - would not necessarily be for the better, and might well be for the worse. Competition for "the good things of life" would probably go on as fiercely as ever; but it would be a scramble among nations rather than individuals, and it might conceivably take the form of open warfare waged on a titanic scale. (11) Even now there are indications that such a struggle, or series of struggles, if not actually approaching, is at any rate not beyond the bounds of possibility. And on the way to the realisation of the collectivist ideal, we should probably have in each community a similar struggle for wealth and power among political parties, - a struggle which would generate many social evils, of which civil war might not be the most malignant.

But if we are to change our standard of reality we must change it, first and foremost, in the school. The way to do this is quite simple. We need not give lessons on altruism. We need not teach or preach a new philosophy of life. All that we need do is to foster the growth of the child's soul. When the growth of the soul is healthy and harmonious, the cultivation of all the expansive instincts having been fully provided for, the communal instinct will evolve itself in its own season; and when the communal instinct has been fully evolved, the social order will begin to reform itself. This is what has happened in Utopia. There, where competition is unknown, where prizes are undreamed of, where the growth of the child's natural faculties, and the consequent well-being of his soul, is "its own exceeding great reward", the communal instinct has grown with the growth of the child's whole nature, and has generated an ideal social life.

At the end of the last section I asked myself what was the ethical ideal of the life of self-realisation, - the positive ideal as distinguished from the more negative ideal of emancipating from egoism and sensuality. I will now try to answer this question. Emancipation from egoism and sensuality is effected by the outgrowth of a larger and truer self. This larger and truer self, as it unfolds itself, directs our eyes towards the ideal self - the goal of the whole process of growth - which is to the ordinary self what the full-grown tree, embodying in itself the perfection of oakhood, is to the sapling oak, or what the ripe peach, embodying in itself the perfection of peachhood, is to the green unripened fruit. The ideal self is, in brief, perfect Manhood. What perfect Manhood may be, we need not pause to inquire. Whatever it may be, it is the true self of each of us. It follows that the nearer each of us gets to it, the nearer he is to the true self of each of his fellow-men; that the more closely he is able to identify himself with it, the more closely he is able to identify himself with each of his fellow-men; that in realising it, he is realising, he is entering into, he is becoming one with, the real life of each of his fellow-men. And not of each of his fellow-men only. He is also entering into the life of the whole community of men - (for it is the presence of the ideal self in each of us which makes communal life possible) and, through this, of each of the lesser communities to which he may happen to belong. In other words, he is losing himself in the lives of others, and is finding his well-being, and therefore his happiness, in doing so. But self-loss, with joy in the loss of self, is, in a word, love.

The path of self-realisation is, then, in its higher stages, a life of love. He who walks in that path must needs lead a life of love. He will love and serve his fellow-men, both as individuals and as members of this or that community, not because he is consciously trying to live up to a high ideal, but because he has reached a stage in his development beyond which he cannot develop himself except by leading a life of love, because the path of self-realisation has led him into the sunshine of love, and if he will not henceforth walk in that sunshine he will cease to follow his path. He has indeed long walked in the foreglow of the sunshine of love. The dawn of the orb of love is heralded by a gradual twilight, which lights the path of self-realisation, even in its earlier stages. In Utopia the joy on the faces of the children is the joy of goodwill not less than of well-being. Or rather it is the joy of goodwill because it is the joy of well-being, because well-being would not be well-being if it did not ceaselessly generate goodwill.

That love is "the fulfilling of the law", and therefore the keystone of every sound system of ethics, is a truth on which I need scarcely insist. The final proof that the ethics of self-realisation are sound to the core lies in the fact that the path of self-realisation, besides emancipating from egoism and sensuality, leads all who walk in it, first into the foreglow and then into the sunshine of love. But it is with the social rather than the ethical aspect of self-realisation that I am now concerned. And the social aspect of the fact which has just been stated is obviously of vital importance. Love, which is commensurate with life, has innumerable phases. One of these is what I have called the communal instinct, - the sense of belonging to a community, of being a vital part of it, of sharing in its life, of being what one is (in part at least) because one shares in its life. If Socialism is to realise its noble dream, this instinct, strongly developed and directed towards the well-being of the whole social order, must become part of the normal equipment of every citizen. And if this is to come to pass, self-realisation must be made the basis of education in all our schools. What it has done for the children of Utopia, in the way of developing their communal instinct and making their school an ideal community, it is capable of doing for every school in England, - I might almost say for every school on the face of the earth.

There are faddists who advocate the teaching of patriotism in our elementary schools. There are Local Education Committees which insist on citizenship being taught in the schools under their control. By teaching patriotism and citizenship is meant treating them as "subjects", finding places for them on the "time-table", and giving formal lessons on them. Where this is done, the time of the teachers and the children is wasted. The teaching of patriotism and citizenship, if it is to produce any effect, must be entirely informal and indirect. Let the child be so educated that he will develop himself freely on all the sides of his being, and his communal instinct will, as I have said, evolve itself in its own season. Until it has evolved itself, patriotism and citizenship will be mere names to him, and what he is taught about them will make no impression on him. When it has evolved itself, he will be a patriot and a good citizen in posse [potentially], and will be ready on occasion to prove his patriotism and his good citizenship by his deeds, or, better still, by his life. (12)

While the communal instinct is evolving itself, first in the school and then in the community at large, the standard of reality will, by a parallel or perhaps identical process, be transforming itself in all the grades of society. The inward will be taking the place of the outward standard; and men will be learning to form a different conception of "the good things of life" from that which now dominates our social life. The Socialist will then have his opportunity. That any member of the community should be in physical want or irremediable misery, will begin to be felt, partly as a personal grief, partly as a reflection on himself, by each member of the community in turn; and steps will begin to be taken - what steps I cannot pretend to forecast - to make physical want and irremediable misery impossible. Meanwhile, with the gradual substitution of the inward for the outward standard of reality, the mad scramble for wealth and possessions and distinctions will gradually cease, the conception of what constitutes "comfort" and of what are the real "necessaries of life" will be correspondingly changed, and men will begin to realise that of the genuine "good things of life" - the good things which the children of Utopia carry with them into the world, and which make them exceedingly rich in spite of their apparent poverty - there are enough and more than enough "to go round."


The Religious Aspect of Self-realisation.

The oak-tree is present in embryo in the acorn. What is it that is present in embryo in the newborn child? To achieve salvation is to realise one's true self. But what is one's true self? The "perfection of manhood" is an obvious answer to this question; but it explains so little that we cannot accept it as final. We may, however, accept it as a resting-place in our search for the final answer.

It is on the religious aspect of self-realisation that I now propose to dwell. The function of Religion is to bring a central aim into man's life, to direct his eyes towards the true end of his being and to help him to reach it. The true end of Man's being is the perfection of his nature; and the way to this end is the process which we call growth. When I speak of Man's nature I am thinking of his universal nature, of the nature which is common to all men, the nature of Man as Man. Each of us has his own particular nature, his individuality, as it is sometimes called. The nature of Man as Man is no mere common measure of these particular natures, but is rather what I may call their organised totality, the many-sided nature which includes, explains, and even justifies them all.

What perfection may mean when we predicate the term of our common nature, we cannot even imagine. The potentialities of our nature seem to be infinite, and our knowledge of them is limited and shallow. When we compare an untutored savage or a brutal, ignorant European with a Christ or a Buddha, or again with a Shakespeare or a Goethe, we realise how vast is the range - the lineal even more than the lateral range - of Man's nature, and we find it easy to believe that in any ordinary man there are whole tracts, whole aspects of human nature, in which his consciousness has not yet been awakened, and which therefore seem to be non-existent in him, though in reality they are only dormant or inert. These, however, are matters with which we need not at present concern ourselves. Let the potentialities of our common nature be what they may. Our business is to realise them as, little by little, they present themselves to us for realisation. Let the end of the process of growth be what it may. Our business is to grow.

In the effort to grow we are not left without guidance. The stimulus to grow, the forces and the tendencies that make for growth, all come from within ourselves. Yet it is only to a limited extent that they come under our direct control. So, too, the goal of growth, the ideal perfection of our nature, is our own; and yet on the way to it we must needs outgrow ourselves. What part do we play in this mighty drama? The mystery of selfhood is unfathomable. The word self changes its meaning the moment we begin to think about it. So does the word nature. The range of meaning is in each case unlimited. Yet there are limits beyond which we cannot use either word without some risk of being misunderstood. When we are meditating on our origin and our destiny, some other word seems to be needed to enable us to complete the span of our thoughts.

Is not that word God? The source of our life, the ideal end of our being, - how shall we think about these if we may not speak of them as divine? And in using the word "divine", do we not set ourselves free to stretch the respective meanings of the words "self" and "nature" beyond what would otherwise have been the breaking point of each? The true self is worthier of the name of "self" than the apparent self. The true nature is worthier of the name of "nature" than the lower nature. But the true self is the Divine Self; and the highest nature is the Nature of God. If this is so, we serve God best and obey God best by trying to perfect our nature in response to a stimulus, a pressure, and a guidance which is at once natural and divine.

In other words, we serve God best by following the path of self-realisation. And the better we serve God, the more truly and fully do we learn to know him. If to know him, and to live up to our knowledge of him, is to be truly religious, then the life of self-realisation is, in the truest and deepest sense of the word, a religious life. Or rather it is the only religious life, for in no other way can knowledge of God be won.


Let me try to make good this statement. Knowledge of God is the outcome, not of definite dogmatic instruction in theology, but of spiritual growth. Knowledge, whatever may be its object, is always the outcome of growth. Even knowledge of number is the outcome, not of definite dogmatic instruction in the arithmetical rules and tables, but of the growth of the arithmetical sense. It is the same with literature, the same with history, the same with chemistry, the same with "business", the same with navigation, the same with the driving of vehicles in crowded streets, the same with every art, craft, sport, game, and pursuit. In evolving a special sense, the soul is growing in one particular direction, a direction which is marked out for it by the environment in which it finds it needful or desirable to energise. The soul has, as we have seen, a general power of adapting itself to its environment, of permeating it, of feeling its way through it, of getting to understand it, of dealing with it at last with skill and success. As is the particular environment, so is the subtle, tactful, adaptive, directly perceptive, subconsciously cognitive faculty, - the "sense", as I have called it - by means of which the soul acquires the particular knowledge that it needs. The more highly specialised (whether by subdivision or by abstraction) the environment, the more highly specialised the sense. The larger and more comprehensive the environment, the larger and more "massive" the sense.

The acquired aptitude which enables an omnibus driver to steer his bulky vehicle through the traffic of London is a highly specialised sense. At the other end of the scale we have the "massive" spiritual faculties which deal with whole aspects of life or Nature, such as the sense of beauty or of moral worth.

But there is a sense which is larger and more "massive" even than these. When the environment is all-embracing, when it covers the whole circle of which the soul is or can be the centre, the growth made in response to it is the growth of the soul as such, and the knowledge which rewards that growth is the knowledge of supreme reality, or, in the language of religion, the knowledge of God. The highest of all senses is the religious sense, the sense which gives us knowledge of God. But the religious sense is not, as we are apt to imagine, one of many senses. No one individual sense, however "massive" or subtle it might be, could enable its possessor to get on terms, so to speak, with the totality of things, with the all-vitalising Life, with the all-embracing Whole. The religious sense is the well-being of the soul. For the soul as such grows in and through the growth of its various senses, - its own growth being reinforced by the growth of each of these when Nature's balance is kept, and retarded by the growth of one or more of them when Nature's balance is lost, - and in proportion as its own vital, central growth is vigorous and healthy, its power of apprehending reality unfolds itself little by little. That power is of its inmost essence. When reality, in the full sense of the word, is its object, it sees with the whole of its being; it is itself, when it is at the centre of its universe, its own supreme perceptive faculty, its own religious sense.

If this is so, if the soul in its totality, the soul acting through its whole "apperceptive mass", is its own religious sense, it is abundantly clear that the path of self-realisation is the only path which leads to knowledge of God, and through knowledge of God to salvation. For self-realisation is the only scheme of life which provides for the growth of the soul in its totality, for the harmonious, many-sided development of the soul as such.
I have often dwelt on this point. If we have never before realised its importance we must surely do so now. A one-sided training, even when its onesidedness takes the form of specialising in theology, is a non-religious, and may well become an irreligious training, for it does not lead to, and may well lead away from, knowledge of God.

And if we have never before realised how great are the opportunities and responsibilities of the teacher, we must surely do so now. For a certain number of years - the number varies with the social standing of the child, and the financial resources of his parents - the teacher can afford to disregard utilitarian considerations and think only of what is best for the child. What use will he make of those years? Will he lead the child into the path of self-realisation, and so give a lifelong impetus to the growth of his soul? Or will he, in his thirst for "results", lead him into the path of mechanical obedience, or, at best, of one-sided development, and so blight his budding faculties and arrest the growth of his soul? On the practical answer that he gives to this question will depend the fate of the child. For to the child the difference between the two paths will be the difference between fulfilling and missing his destiny, between knowledge and ignorance of God.

If any of my readers have imagined that I am an advocate of what is called "secular education", they will, I hope, now realise that they have misread this book. Far from wishing to secularise education, I hold that it cannot be too religious. And, far from wishing to limit its religious activities to the first forty minutes of the morning sessions, I hold that it should be actively religious through every minute of every school session, that whatever it does it should do to the glory of God.

But how does knowledge of God show itself? Knowledge, so far as it is real, always shows itself in right bearing, and (if action is called for) in right action. Knowledge of arithmetic and of other more or less abstract subjects, shows itself in the successful working of the corresponding problems, theoretical or practical as the case may be. Knowledge of the laws of physical nature shows itself in practical mastery of the forces and resources of physical nature. Knowledge of history and geography, in a right attitude towards the problems and sub-problems of these complex and comprehensive subjects, an attitude which may on occasion translate itself into right action. And so on. Knowledge of God, being a state or attitude of the soul as such, must show itself in the right bearing and the right action of the soul as such, in other words, of Man as Man, - not as mathematician, not as financier, not as sculptor, not as cricketer, but simply as Man. Now Man as Man has to bear himself aright towards the world in which he finds himself, and in particular towards the world which touches him most closely and envelops him most completely, - the world of human life. Therefore knowledge of God will show itself, principally and chiefly, though by no means wholly, in dealing aright with one's fellow-men, in being rightly disposed towards them, and in doing the right things to them. I have found it convenient to disconnect the moral from the religious aspect of self-realisation. We can now see that in the last resort the two aspects are one.

From every point of view, then, and above all from that of Religion, the path of self-realisation is seen to be the path of salvation. For it is the only scheme of life which enables him who follows it to attain to knowledge of God; and knowledge of God has, as its necessary counterpart, a right attitude, in general towards the world which surrounds him, and in particular towards his fellow-men.


But is it possible, within the limits of one earth-life, to follow the path of self-realisation to its appointed goal? And if not, will the path be continued beyond that abrupt turn in it which we call death? The respective attitudes of the two great schools of popular thought towards the problem of the grave, are in brief as follows. The Materialists (or Naturalists, as they miscall themselves) believe that death is the end of life. The Supernaturalists believe that one earth-life (or even a few years or months) of mechanical obedience to supernatural direction will be rewarded by an eternity of happiness in "Heaven". But those who walk in the path of self-realisation, and whose unswerving loyalty to Nature is rewarded by some measure of insight into her deeper laws, know that the goal of the path is infinitely far away, and in their heart of hearts they laugh both the current eschatologies [doctrines of death] to scorn. And the higher they ascend, as they follow the path, the more vividly do they realise how unimaginably high above them is the summit of the mountain which the path is ascending in spiral coils.
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Re: What Is and What Might Be, by Edmond Holmes

Postby admin » Mon Oct 28, 2019 8:03 pm

Part 4 of 4

The Utopian experiment, humble as it is, can, I think, throw some light on these mighty problems. The relations between the type and the various sub-types, between the type and the individual, between the sub-type and the individual - whether in plant or beast or man - are matters which could not be handled within the limits of this book, and which I have therefore as far as possible ignored. Nor have I attempted to deal with the difficult problems that are presented by the existence of races, such as the Negro, which seem to be far below the normal level of human development. There is, however, in the vast region of thought which these and kindred problems open out to us, one by-way which I must be allowed to follow for a while.

The wild bullace is, I believe, the ancestor of many of our yellow plums. In other words, bullacehood can develop into plumhood, and even into the perfection of plumhood. Similarly human nature can develop into something so high above the normal level of human nature that it might almost seem to belong to another genus. But there is a difference between the two cases. The bullace ideal is in the individual bullace tree. So, in a sense, is the plum ideal. But the latter cannot be realised, or even approached, by the individual bullace tree. It cannot be realised, or even approached, by the bullace species except through a long course of culture and breeding.


The statesman, both for himself and others, must recognise ... the necessity for real and imaginary aggregations to sustain men in their practical service of the order of the world. He must be a sociologist; he must study the whole science of aggregations in relation to that World State to which his reason and his maturest thought direct him. He must lend himself to the development of aggregatory ideas that favour the civilising process, and he must do his best to promote the disintegration of aggregations and the effacement of aggregatory ideas, that keep men narrow and unreasonably prejudiced one against another....

The natural man does not feel he is aggregating at all, unless he aggregates against something. He refers himself to the tribe; he is loyal to the tribe, and quite inseparably he fears or dislikes those others outside the tribe. The tribe is always at least defensively hostile and usually actively hostile to humanity beyond the aggregation....

One finds among the civilised peoples of the world certain broad types of aggregatory idea. There are, firstly, the national ideas, ideas which, in their perfection, require a uniformity of physical and mental type, a common idiom, a common religion, a distinctive style of costume, decoration, and thought, and a compact organisation acting with complete external unity.... And I will confess and point out that my own detachment from these delusions is so imperfect and discontinuous that in another passage I have committed myself to a short assertion of the exceptionally noble quality of the English imagination... I am constantly gratified by flattering untruths about English superiority which I should reject indignantly were the application bluntly personal, and I am ever ready to believe the scenery of England, the poetry of England, even the decoration and music of England, in some mystic and impregnable way, the best. This habit of intensifying all class definitions, and particularly those in which one has a personal interest, is in the very constitution of man's mind. It is part of the defect of that instrument.... And a too consistent attack on it may lead simply to its inversion, to a vindictively pro-foreigner attitude that is equally unwise.

The second sort of aggregatory ideas, running very often across the boundaries of national ideas and in conflict with them, are religious ideas.... There was, and there remains to this day, a profound disregard of local dialect and race in the Roman Catholic tradition, which has made that Church a persistently disintegrating influence in national life. Equally spacious and equally regardless of tongues and peoples is the great Arabic-speaking religion of Mahomet....

True to the law that all human aggregation involves the development of a spirit of opposition to whatever is external to the aggregation, extraordinary intensifications of racial definition are going on; the vileness, the inhumanity, the incompatibility of alien races is being steadily exaggerated. The natural tendency of every human being towards a stupid conceit in himself and his kind, a stupid depreciation of all unlikeness, is traded upon by this bastard science.... These new arbitrary and unsubstantial race prejudices become daily more formidable. They are shaping policies and modifying laws, and they will certainly be responsible for a large proportion of the wars, hardships, and cruelties the immediate future holds in store for our earth.

No generalisations about race are too extravagant for the inflamed credulity of the present time. No attempt is ever made to distinguish differences in inherent quality—the true racial differences—from artificial differences due to culture.....

It surely needs at least the gifts and training of a first-class novelist, combined with a sedulous patience that probably cannot be hoped for in combination with these, to gauge the all-round differences between man and man.... And then consider the sort of people who pronounce judgments on the moral and intellectual capacity of the negro, the Malay, or the Chinaman. You have missionaries, native schoolmasters, employers of coolies, traders, simple downright men, who scarcely suspect the existence of any sources of error in their verdicts, who are incapable of understanding the difference between what is innate and what is acquired, much less of distinguishing them in their interplay....

But all such questions are illuminated as soon as we recognise the nature of the spiritual essence which lies at the back of our blood. Who can deny that this question is closely linked to that of race, which at the present time is once more coming markedly to the front? Yet this question of race is one that we can never understand until we understand the mysteries of the blood and of the results accruing from the mingling of the blood of different races. And finally, there is yet one other question, the importance of which is becoming more and more acute as we endeavour to extricate ourselves from the hitherto aimless methods of dealing with it, and seek to approach it in its more comprehensive bearings. This problem is that of colonisation, which crops up wherever civilised races come into contact with the uncivilised: namely -- To what extent are uncivilised peoples capable of becoming civilised? How can a negro or an utterly barbaric savage become civilised? And in what way ought we to deal with them? And here we have to consider not only the feelings due to a vague morality, but we are also confronted by great, serious, and vital problems of existence itself.

Those who are not aware of the conditions governing a people -- whether it be on the up- or down-grade of its evolution, and whether the one or the other is a matter conditioned by its blood -- such people as these will, indeed, be unlikely to hit on the right mode of introducing civilisation to an alien race. These are all matters which arise as soon as the Blood Question is touched upon....


At the present time everything in a man's environment is impressed upon his blood; hence the environment fashions the inner man in accordance with the outer world. In the case of primitive man it was that which was contained within the body that was more fully expressed in the blood. In those early times the recollection of ancestral experiences was inherited, and, along with this, good or evil tendencies. In the blood of the descendants were to be traced the effects of the ancestors' tendencies. But, when the blood was mixed through exogamy, this close connection with ancestors was severed, and man began to live his own personal life. He began to regulate his moral tendencies according to what he experienced in his own personal life. Thus, in an unmixed blood is expressed the power of the ancestral life, and in a mixed blood the power of personal experience....

When two groups of people come into contact, as is the case in colonisation, then those who are acquainted with the conditions of evolution are able to foretell whether or no an alien form of civilisation can be assimilated by the others. Take, for example, a people that is the product of its environment, into whose blood this environment has built itself, and try to graft upon such a people a new form of civilisation. The thing is impossible. This is the reason why certain aboriginal peoples have to go under, as soon as colonists come to their particular parts of the world.


It is from this point of view that the question will have to be considered, and the idea that changes are capable of being forced upon all and sundry will in time cease to be upheld, for it is useless to demand from blood more than it can endure....

Whoever, therefore, would master a man, must first master that man's blood. This must be borne in mind if any advance is to be made in practical life. For example, the individuality of a people may be destroyed if, when colonising, you demand from its blood more than it can bear, for in the blood the ego is expressed. Beauty and truth possess a man only when they possess his blood.

-- The Occult Significance of Blood, by Rudolf Steiner


For my own part I am disposed to discount all adverse judgments and all statements of insurmountable differences between race and race.... Here or there is a brutish or evil face, but you can find as brutish and evil in the Strand on any afternoon. There are differences no doubt, but fundamental incompatibilities—no!....

A great and increasing number of people are persuaded that “half-breeds” are peculiarly evil creatures—as hunchbacks and bastards were supposed to be in the middle ages.... It may be that most “half-breeds” are failures in life, but that proves nothing. They are, in an enormous number of cases, illegitimate and outcast from the normal education of either race; they are brought up in homes that are the battle-grounds of conflicting cultures; they labour under a heavy premium of disadvantage....

Suppose, then, for a moment, that there is an all-round inferior race; a Modern Utopia is under the hard logic of life, and it would have to exterminate such a race as quickly as it could. On the whole, the Fijian device seems the least cruel. But Utopia would do that without any clumsiness of race distinction, in exactly the same manner, and by the same machinery, as it exterminates all its own defective and inferior strains; that is to say, as we have already discussed in Chapter the Fifth, § 1, by its marriage laws, and by the laws of the minimum wage. That extinction need never be discriminatory. If any of the race did, after all, prove to be fit to survive, they would survive—they would be picked out with a sure and automatic justice from the over-ready condemnation of all their kind.

Is there, however, an all-round inferior race in the world? Even the Australian black-fellow is, perhaps, not quite so entirely eligible for extinction as a good, wholesome, horse-racing, sheep-farming Australian white may think. These queer little races, the black-fellows, the Pigmies, the Bushmen, may have their little gifts, a greater keenness, a greater fineness of this sense or that, a quaintness of the imagination or what not, that may serve as their little unique addition to the totality of our Utopian civilisation. We are supposing that every individual alive on earth is alive in Utopia, and so all the surviving “black-fellows” are there. Every one of them in Utopia has had what none have had on earth, a fair education and fair treatment, justice, and opportunity. Suppose that the common idea is right about the general inferiority of these people, then it would follow that in Utopia most of them are childless, and working at or about the minimum wage, and some will have passed out of all possibility of offspring under the hand of the offended law; but still—cannot we imagine some few of these little people—whom you must suppose neither naked nor clothed in the European style, but robed in the Utopian fashion—may have found some delicate art to practise, some peculiar sort of carving, for example, that justifies God in creating them? Utopia has sound sanitary laws, sound social laws, sound economic laws; what harm are these people going to do?....

And, indeed, coming along that terrace in Utopia, I see a little figure, a little bright-eyed, bearded man, inky black, frizzy haired, and clad in a white tunic and black hose, and with a mantle of lemon yellow wrapped about his shoulders. He walks, as most Utopians walk, as though he had reason to be proud of something, as though he had no reason to be afraid of anything in the world. He carries a portfolio in his hand....

When you say Chinaman, you think of a creature with a pigtail, long nails, and insanitary habits, and when you say negro you think of a filthy-headed, black creature in an old hat. You do this because your imagination is too feeble to disentangle the inherent qualities of a thing from its habitual associations....

Because the proportion of undesirables is higher among negroes, that does not justify a sweeping condemnation. You may have to condemn most, but why all? There may be—neither of us knows enough to deny—negroes who are handsome, capable, courageous.”...

It would seem that the ideal of the British Liberals and of the American Democrats is to favour the existence of just as many petty, loosely allied, or quite independent nationalities as possible, just as many languages as possible, to deprecate armies and all controls, and to trust to the innate goodness of disorder and the powers of an ardent sentimentality to keep the world clean and sweet. The Liberals will not face the plain consequence that such a state of affairs is hopelessly unstable, that it involves the maximum risk of war with the minimum of permanent benefit and public order. They will not reflect that the stars in their courses rule inexorably against it. It is a vague, impossible ideal, with a rude sort of unworldly moral beauty....

Neither of these two schools of policy, neither the international laisser faire of the Liberals, nor “hustle to the top” Imperialism, promise any reality of permanent progress for the world of men. They are the resort, the moral reference, of those who will not think frankly and exhaustively over the whole field of this question....

It would be so easy to bring about a world peace within a few decades, was there but the will for it among men!... There are the common people and the subject peoples to be educated and drilled, to be led to a common speech and a common literature, to be assimilated and made citizens....

How foolish and dangerous it is still to sustain linguistic differences and custom houses, and all sorts of foolish and irritating distinctions between their various citizens! Why should not all these peoples agree to teach some common language, French, for example, in their common schools, or to teach each other's languages reciprocally? Why should they not aim at a common literature, and bring their various common laws, their marriage laws, and so on, into uniformity? Why should they not work for a uniform minimum of labour conditions through all their communities? Why, then, should they not—except in the interests of a few rascal plutocrats—trade freely and exchange their citizenship freely throughout their common boundaries? No doubt there are difficulties to be found, but they are quite finite difficulties. What is there to prevent a parallel movement of all the civilised Powers in the world towards a common ideal and assimilation?

Stupidity—nothing but stupidity, a stupid brute jealousy, aimless and unjustifiable.

-- Race in Utopia, from "A Modern Utopia," by H. G. Wells


Is it the same with Man? Let us take English rusticity as a particular type of human nature, - the equivalent of bullacehood for the purpose of argument. This is a distinct type, and may be said to have its own ideal. (13) Emerging from this, and gradually transforming it, is the ideal of human nature, the ideal for Man as Man. As the bullace ideal is to the plum ideal, so is the ideal of English rusticity to the ideal of human nature. But whereas the plum ideal cannot be realised in any appreciable degree by the individual bullace, the human ideal can be realised in a quite appreciable degree by the individual English rustic. There have always been and will always be isolated cases to prove that this is so, - cases of men of quite humble origin who have attained to high degrees of mental and spiritual development. These have hitherto been regarded as exceptional cases. But Egeria has convinced me that under favourable conditions the average child can become the rare exception, and attain to what is usually regarded as a remarkably high degree of mental and spiritual development. Innocent joy, self-forgetfulness, communal devotion, heartfelt goodwill, gracious manners - to speak of spiritual development only - are characteristics of every Utopian child. What are we to infer from this? The bullace ideal is realisable (under favourable conditions) by each individual bullace tree, - but the plum ideal is not. The English rustic ideal is realisable by each individual rustic child. But so is the human ideal in Utopia.

But what of the children who do not belong to Utopia? What would have happened to the Utopian children if there had been no Egeria to lead them into the path of self-realisation? They would have lived and died ordinary English rustics, - healthy bullaces, but in no respect or degree plums. Egeria has convinced me that the average child, besides being born mentally and spiritually healthy, has immense capacity on every side of his being. The plum ideal is the true nature of the plum, but is not the true nature of the bullace. But Egeria has convinced me that the human ideal - the divine self - is the true nature of each of us, even of the average rustic child; and she has also convinced me that each of us can go a long way towards realising that ideal. Had there been no Egeria in Utopia, the Utopians would have lived and died undeveloped, having arrived at a maturity of a kind, the maturity of the bullace as distinguished from that of the plum, but having failed to realise in any appreciable degree what the Utopian experiment has proved to be their true nature.

Utopia served equally to move more sharply into focus Holmes’ views on the nature of human development. As he admitted later on, prior to his initial visit he had broadly supported the prevailing belief in the congenital (genetic) superiority of the upper classes over the lower orders. Given the fin de siècle concern with eugenics and those such as William Bateson – himself cited by Holmes – who were popularizing Mendelian genetics and its impact upon heredity this initial stance was less surprising than one might expect and was to be equally concerning to other liberal thinkers such as H.G. Wells and George Bernard Shaw. Nonetheless, in observing the creative endeavours of children within Utopia as well as in other comparable establishments in the country when Chief Inspect, Holmes became convinced that Finlay-Johnson’s school in particular disproved this theory. In using the analogy of the plum he was to write,

My answer to this argument [Bateson’s] … is that plums those children certainly were, and plums of a very high quality, -- that the average Utopian child was in fact a better specimen of plumhood than the average product of what we call ‘good breeding’ and ‘gentle birth.’

-- Holmes, 1917a, 69-70)

-- Edmond Holmes and Progressive Education, by John Howlett


The long-standing controversy as to the relative importance of nature and nurture, to use Galton’s “convenient jingle of words,” is drawing to an end, and of the overwhelmingly greater significance of nature there is no longer any possibility of doubt. It may be well briefly to recapitulate the arguments on which naturalists rely in coming to this decision both as regards races and individuals. First, as regards human individuals, there is the common experience that children of the same parents, reared under conditions sensibly identical, may develop quite differently, exhibiting in character and aptitudes a segregation just as great as in their colors or hair forms. Conversely all the more marked aptitudes have at various times appeared and not rarely reached perfection in circumstances the least favorable for their development. Next, appeal can be made to the universal experience of the breeder, whether of animals or plants, that strain is absolutely essential; that though bad conditions may easily enough spoil a good strain, yet that under the best conditions a bad strain will never give a fine result. It is faith, not evidence, which encourages educationists and economists to hope so greatly in the ameliorating effects of the conditions of life. Let us consider what they can do and what they can not. By reference to some sentences in a charming though pathetic book, “What Is, and What Might Be,” by Mr. Edmond Holmes, which will be well known in the educational section, I may make the point of view of us naturalists clear. I take Mr. Holmes’s pronouncement partly because he is an enthusiastic believer in the efficacy of nurture as opposed to nature, and also because he illustrates his views by frequent appeals to biological analogies which help us to a common ground. Wheat badly cultivated will give a bad yield, though, as Mr. Holmes truly says, wheat of the same strain in similar soil well cultivated may give a good harvest. But, having witnessed the success of a great natural teacher in helping unpromising peasant children to develop their natural powers, he gives us another botanical parallel. Assuming that the wild bullace is the origin of domesticated plums, he tells us that by cultivation the bullace can no doubt be improved so far as to become a better bullace, but by no means can the bullace be made to bear plums. All this is sound biology; but translating these facts into the human analogy, he declares that the work of the successful teacher shows that with man the facts are otherwise, and that the average rustic child, whose normal ideal is “bullacehood,” can become the rare exception, developing to a stage corresponding with that of the plum. But the naturalist knows exactly where the parallel is at fault. For the wheat and the bullace are both breeding approximately true, whereas the human crop, like jute and various cottons, is in a state of polymorphic mixture. The population of many English villages may be compared with the crop which would result from sowing a bushel of kernels gathered mostly from the hedges, with an occasional few from an orchard. If anyone asks how it happens that there are any plum kernels in the sample at all, he may find the answer perhaps in spontaneous variation, but more probably in the appearance of a long-hidden recessive. For the want of that genetic variation, consisting probably, as I have argued, in loss of inhibiting factors, by which the plum arose from the wild form, neither food, nor education, nor hygiene can in any way atone. Many wild plants are half starved through competition, and transferred to garden soil they grow much bigger; so good conditions might certainly enable the bullace population to develop beyond the stunted physical and mental stature they commonly attain, but plums they can never be. Modern statesmanship aims rightly at helping those who have got sown as wildings to come into their proper class; but let not any one suppose such a policy democratic in its ultimate effects, for no course of action can be more effective in strengthening the upper classes whilst weakening the lower.

In all practical schemes for social reform the congenital diversity, the essential polymorphism of all civilized communities, must be recognized as a fundamental fact, and reformers should rather direct their efforts to facilitating and rectifying class distinctions than to any futile attempt to abolish them. The teaching of biology is perfectly clear. We are what we are by virtue of our differentiation. The value of civilization has in all ages been doubted. Since, however, the first variations were not strangled in their birth we are launched on that course of variability of which civilization is the consequence. We can not go back to homogeneity again, and differentiated we are likely to continue. For a period measures designed to create a spurious homogeneity may be appolied. Such attempts will, I anticipate, be made when the present unstable social state reaches a climax of instability, which may not be long hence. Their effects can be but evanescent. The instability is due not to inequality, which is inherent and congenital, but rather to the fact that in periods of rapid change, like the present, convection currents are set up such that the elements of the strata get intermixed, and the apparent stratification corresponds only roughly with the genetic. In a few generations under uniform conditions these elements settle in their true levels once more.

In such equilibrium is content most surely to be expected. To the naturalist the broad lines of solution of the problems of social discontent are evident. They lie neither in vain dreams of a mystical and disintegrating equality nor in the promotion of that malignant individualism which in older civilizations has threatened mortification of the humbler organs, but rather in a physiological coordination of the constituent parts of the social organism. The rewards of commerce are grossly out of proportion to those attainable by intellect or industry. Even regarded as compensation for a dull life, they far exceed the value of the services rendered to the community. Such disparity is an incident of the abnormally rapid growth of population and is quite indefensible as a permanent social condition. Nevertheless capital, distinguished as a provision for offspring, is a eugenic institution; and unless human instinct undergoes some profound and improbable variation abolition of capital means the abolition of effort. But as in the body the power of independent growth of the parts is limited and subordinated to the whole; similarly in the community we may limit the powers of capital, preserving so much inequality of privilege as corresponds with physiological fact.

At every turn the student of political science is confronted with problems that demand biological knowledge for their solution. Most obviously is this true in regard to education, the criminal law, and all those numerous branches of policy and administration which are directly concerned with the physiological capacities of mankind. Assumptions as to what can be done and what can not be done to modify individuals and races have continually to be made, and the basis of fact on which such decisions are founded can be drawn only from biological study.

A knowledge of the facts of nature is not yet deemed an essential part of the mental equipment of politicians; but as the priest who began in other ages as medicine man has been obliged to abandon the medical parts of his practice, so will the future behold the schoolmaster, the magistrate, the lawyer, and ultimately the statesman, compelled to share with the naturalist those functions which are concerned with the physiology of race.

-- Heredity, by Prof. William Bateson, M.A., F.R.S.


What then? Is this the end of the average man? Will Nature admit final defeat? The curve of a man's life, as it sweeps round from birth to death, passes through the point of apparent maturity; but the real nature of the man has never ripened, and when he descends into the grave he is still the embryo of his true self. Will the true self never be realised? Never, if death is indeed the end of life. But in that case the man will have failed to fulfil the central purpose of Nature, and, alone among her children, will have escaped from the control of her all-pervading law of growth.

It is in their desire to keep Man in line with the rest of Nature's children that so many thinkers and scientists in the West forbid him to look beyond the horizon of the grave. But in truth it is only by being allowed to look beyond that horizon that Man can be kept in line with the rest of Nature's children; for if death means extinction to him, as it means (or seems to mean) to the beetle or the fly, he will have lived to no purpose, having failed to realise in any appreciable degree what every other living thing realises within its appointed limits, - the central tendencies of his being. That a living thing, an average specimen of its kind, should within the limits of a normal life fail completely to realise those potentialities which are distinctive of its real nature, - fail so completely that the very existence of those potentialities might, but for an occasional and quite exceptional revelation, have remained unsuspected, - is entirely at variance with what we know of the ways and works of Nature. Yet failure to realise his true manhood is, outside the confines of Utopia, the apparent lot of nine men out of ten. An entire range of qualities, spiritual and mental, which blossom freely in the stimulating atmosphere of Utopia, and which must therefore exist in embryo in every normal child, fail to germinate (or at best only just begin to germinate) within the lifetime of the average non-Utopian. (14) The inference to be drawn from these significant facts is that the apparent limits of Man's life are not the real limits; that the one earth-life of which each of us is conscious, far from being the whole of one's life, is but a tiny fragment of it, - one term of its ascending "series", one day in its cycle of years. In other words, the spiritual fertility of the average Utopian child, taken in conjunction with the spiritual sterility of the average non-Utopian child (and man), points to the conclusion which the thinkers of the Far East reached thousands of years ago, - that for the full development of human nature a plurality of lives is needed, which will do for the individual soul what generations of scientific breeding and culture will do for the bullace that is to be transformed into a plum.


This is one lesson which Utopia has taught me. There is another which had also been anticipated by the thinkers of the Far East. If under exceptionally favourable conditions certain spiritual and mental qualities are able to blossom freely in the space of a few years, which under normal conditions would remain undeveloped during a lifetime of seventy or eighty years, may we not infer that there is a directer path to spiritual maturity than that which is ordinarily followed? May we not infer that there are ways of living, ways into which parents and teachers can lead the young, which, if faithfully followed, will allow the potencies of Man's higher nature to evolve themselves with what we, with our limited experience, must regard as abnormal celerity, and which will therefore shorten appreciably Man's journey to his goal? (15) And if there is a directer path to spiritual maturity than that which is ordinarily followed, is not the name for it Self-realisation?

I will not pursue these speculations further. But, speaking for myself, I will say that the vista which the idea of self-realisation opens up to me goes far beyond the limits of anyone earth-life or sequence of earth-lives, and far, immeasurably far, beyond the limits of the sham eternity of the conventional Heaven and Hell.

TIBETAN BUDDHIST DUALISM MIRRORS MEDIEVAL CHRISTIANITY RATHER CLOSELY

While the spineless submissiveness of the Rigpa crowd may seem shocking, the truth is, the lamas had their work made easy for them by our Christian upbringing. Most of us grew up with Christian images of hell -– throngs of naked humans suffering endless torment in a fiery pit, abused by leering demons armed with flaming pitchforks. Fundamentalist families were subjected to fire and brimstone sermons at mealtimes, bedtime, and on interminable Sundays that began with a trip to church and ended with an instant replay of canned piety on television. Catholics were subjected to gory crucifixion statuary depicting a tortured man hanging over the altar where his body and blood were offered up for consumption by the faithful in a cannibalistic rite that is deemed the central mystery of the faith. So normalized was the institution of torture that no one asked why every church was crowned with a cross -– an ancient symbol that the Romans used to terrify conquered nations and quell slave rebellions.

In Sunday school, many Christian children were given a detailed tour of Dante’s Inferno, a multileveled horror that competes with any of the Eastern hells, and has petrified the souls of numberless believers throughout the centuries. And like the Buddhist Hells, that weren’t spoken of by Gautama Buddha, and were injected into the Buddhist canon during Ashoka’s reign, “[ i]t was only after church melded with state in the Roman Empire that hell became a generally accepted doctrine of fear used as a means of controlling the masses.”[98]

In addition to being born in the cradle of a militarist monarchy, Christian doctrines of hell parallel Eastern doctrines in myriads of other ways, because Eastern and Western faiths and philosophies moved along the Silk Road, through the Near East, across the Mediterranean and into Continental Europe. Although the Christians claimed to be monotheistic, they were charmed by the Eastern love of divine triangles. Consider how the Holy Trinity of Catholicism mirrors the Mahayana Buddhist doctrine of the Three Bodies of the Buddha, the Nirmanakaya, Sambhogakaya and Dharmakaya, corresponding to the physical, aesthetic, and mental realms of experience. On the other hand, the Mahayana Buddhists may have borrowed the humane warmth and heavenly splendor of the Christian savior and his celestial court by establishing the doctrine of liberating compassion emanating from innumerable Pure Lands.

Eastern and Western traditions mingled in an area that might well have been called “Greek India,” historically known as “Gandhara,” located in what is now the Swat region of Northern Pakistan and the Kandahar region of Afghanistan. “As one would expect, cross-cultural influences in Gandhara went in both directions. In some cases there is evidence that local cults adopted Greek forms of worship…. Likewise, certain Indian notions may have made their way westward into the budding Christianity of the Mediterranean world through the channels of the Greek diaspora.”[99] “[ i]n the 1st century CE, rulers of the Kushan empire, which included Gandhara, maintained contacts with Rome. In its interpretation of Buddhist legends, the Gandhara school incorporated many motifs and techniques from Classical Roman art, including vine scrolls, cherubs bearing garlands, tritons, and centaurs.”[100]

Christians believe that every human being has an “immortal soul” whose ultimate destiny after death is to spend an eternity of bliss in the bosom of our Maker, or an eternity of pain in the jaws of Satan. Buddhists are ever so proud to believe in the nonexistence of the self, but in the case of Tibetan Buddhists, they are mistaken, because the philosophy of reincarnation compels belief in the existence of a durable soul. You’ll recall that in the delok stories, we learned that Tibetan Buddhists believe that after death, the consciousness of the dead person moves into a ghandarva body that eats odors and travels with the speed of thought. If it can’t merge with the “Pure Light of Reality,” and become a Bodhisattva, that body wanders into another rebirth -– either through a human or animal womb, or by being reborn “miraculously” into the body of a god, a demon, or a hungry ghost. Call it what you like, this story implies the existence of something that is, to all intents and purposes, a soul. Tibetan Buddhists would do well to stop feeling superior to Christians, who believe in eternal souls, and Hindus, who believe that the deathless Atman resides in the heart center of every human being.

The Tibetan Buddhist philosophy of reincarnation would be nowhere without a soul to reincarnate, and their theory of karmically-determined rebirth is meaningless without an afterlife justice system. Christians also believe that people are judged after death -– by Jesus Christ. As all good Catholics recite at Mass in the Apostles Creed: “I believe in Jesus Christ … who was crucified, died and was buried, who descended into hell, and on the third day arose again, and will come again in glory to judge the living and the dead.” A medieval bas relief of The Last Judgment at Notre Dame shows close parallels to the scenes described by the deloks who have watched Shinje Yamaraja at work. Christ sits in judgment, while Michael the Archangel holds the center of the scale. In one pan of the scale, a good spirit stands, hands folded in prayer, and in the other pan, held by Satan, there’s a bestial figure. A smaller demon bursting up from the nether realms, is also pulling on the bad side of the scale. To the right of Satan, two horned demons lead away a dozen damned souls in a chaingang bound for hell. Thus, the after-death drama depicted by Tibetan deloks and Christian doctrine is essentially identical.

Divine mercy is an important component of all dualistic religions, and Christianity has tucked an important doctrine into the Apostle’s Creed, where it says that Jesus “descended into hell, and on the third day arose again….” This refers to “the triumphant descent of Christ into Hell when he brought salvation to all the righteous who had died since the beginning of the world.” This doctrine was very popular, from the early ages of Christendom through the Middle Ages, and formed an important scene in the English mystery plays used to educate the common people in England.[101] Tibetan Buddhists have a parallel tradition. Vajrasattva, who dispenses forgiveness to those who confess, repent and recite his mantra, is said to “empty the hells.”[102] Recitation of the six-syllable mantra of Chenresig, closes the door to the hells, and he “may appear in any of the different realms, such as the hell realm or the hungry ghost realm.”[103]

So, many of the after-death beliefs of medieval Catholics paralleled those of Tibetan Buddhists. But what of hell itself? Buddhists emphasize that condemnation to Buddhist hells is not permanent, so let’s consider the significance of that statement. In the Buddhist cosmology, living beings rotate through the Six Realms of Samsara for a potentially infinite time. Within the Six Realms, hell is the most common place to incarnate, because sentient beings are said to generate far more evil karma than good karma. The damned don’t stay in Naraka forever, but their term of damnation “is usually incomprehensibly long, from hundreds of millions to sextillions (ten to the twenty-first power) of years.”[104] Finally, there is no guarantee that any one living being will ever exit Samsara, and there is no permanent place in Samsara to remain; therefore, living beings unable to stop the turning wheel of rebirth return to hell again and again, forever. The collapse of universes doesn’t stop the wheel of samsara from turning, and life is a ticket to repeated incarnations, within which damnation is the most common fate. There will never be any rest in any Buddhist cosmological venue. Heavenly, earthly, animal, ghostly, and hell realms are all waystations to further misery. So when we consider the matter in detail, it is mere doctrinal caviling to claim that Buddhist hells are transitory, and if the point be granted, they may in fact be all the worse for that, because they are recurrent and inescapable.

To summarize: Tibetan Buddhism endorses the existence of a soul whose eternal destiny is adjudicated in the afterlife, when their good and evil deeds are weighed. Thus, the Tibetan Buddhist doctrine of the afterlife differs little from Christianity in its essential outlines. The only difference is that, for Tibetan Buddhists, the process of judgment is repeated infinitely after every reincarnated lifetime, while Christians do it once, and either get it right or get it wrong, forever. But the implications for the believer in this life are the same -– good deeds take you upstairs, bad deeds take you down. Tibetan Buddhists contend that their philosophy is non-dualistic, but the claim is mere wordplay, because “this and that” are always present in the form of virtue and non-virtue, that are constantly accumulating based on dualistic choice. Non-dualism is based on acceptance of life as it is, appreciation of oneself without ambitious self-improvement projects, acceptance of others as they are. Tibetan Buddhism views this present life as a vale of tears through which sentient beings migrate endlessly, doomed by their very existence to shift from good to bad circumstances, and back again, unless and until they can accumulate a stack of merit big enough to buy their way out of the slavery of compelled self-existence.

The similarity between Christianity and Buddhism grows stronger when we consider how Tibetan Buddhists actually practice their religion. Tibetan Buddhists like to say their practices are all about purifying the mind through meditation, but this is not quite true. Tibetan Buddhists fill their temples with sacred images because they are obsessed with earning merit by making an endless stream of offerings. Further, while they believe that making offerings to a statue is good, the best way to improve their chances of a positive rebirth is by making offerings to the lamas, imagined to be incarnated Buddhas.

Because Tibetan Buddhists place primary emphasis on “accumulating merit,” the religion has developed what we might call a “merit economy,” in which merit is gained by giving gifts to the lamas, reciting mantras, prostrating before images, and walking in circles around a sacred building or statue, called “circumambulation.” Like medieval Christians, they also believe that you can pay other people to perform pious acts on your behalf, and get the same benefit! Thus, American students are currently paying Tibetans to perform recitations on their behalf, after hiring a diviner to determine how many recitations of what deity need to be performed to remove obstacles. This procedure would have been familiar to a medieval Catholic, who could reduce their stay in purgatory, or that of their relatives, by donating to the clergy, that imagined “a vast community of mutual help … uniting the living and the dead” in sacred exertions. People with more money than piety could earn indulgences through “commutation, through which any services, obligations, or goods could be converted into a corresponding monetary payment.” In 1343 Pope Clement VI decreed himself the manager of the “Treasury of Merit,” and officially took charge of the business, becoming God’s counting house.[105]

Like medieval Christians, Tibetan Buddhists believe that the fates of their eternal souls, and those of their loved ones, are determined by their “stock of merit,” whether accumulated by their own efforts, or by the efforts of persons employed to accumulate merit on their behalf. Although it seems blatantly venal, the entire religion is based on the belief that the greatest merit is accumulated by making donations to the priests who run the religion.

Before we conclude our comparison between Christianity and Tibetan Buddhism, we have to examine some popular labels that are applied to these religions. Christianity is clearly monotheistic, but Tibetan Buddhists like to claim that their religion is “non-theistic,” a term originated by Chogyam Trungpa. The Shambhala cult, that Bercholz helps to administer, even pretends that it is not a religion at all, and is a new thing called “secular spirituality.” We can thank Bercholz for clearing this up by giving us A Guided Tour of Hell, because whatever someone might imagine secular spirituality to be, it’s safe to assume that hell would not be part of it.

Bercholz’s book also makes it clear that the Tibetan Buddhist vision is dualistic -– he presents hell as an afterlife experience that anyone would want to avoid. Theoretically, Buddhists claim to be striving to reach un-heaven, un-hell, un-everything. But in practice, they hope to enter a Pure Land, a beautiful, perfect Buddha realm, where beings have luminous forms, like a god realm, but much better, because once reborn in a Pure Land, one inevitably goes on to enlightenment, and is never again subject to compelled rebirth. So in practice, Tibetan Buddhists embrace a dualistic cosmology. On the one hand, we have the realm of compelled reincarnation, where you are judged lifetime after lifetime, and spend most of your time in hell, and on the other hand, we have the Pure Lands that provide the exit from reincarnation into the near-perfection of Bodhisattvahood. After working for myriads of lifetimes to liberate living beings, Bodhisattvas achieve Buddhahood, establish Pure Lands, and reign in compassionate splendor beyond the reach of time, space, existence, non-existence, in a state of pure, unitive awareness. All Buddhas and Bodhisattvas, indeed all beings, emanate from a single source of goodness and inspiration that has two pure qualities -– emptiness and compassion. Accordingly, this supreme force is often depicted as the male and female deities embracing in sexual union, the female representing emptiness, the male representing compassion. It is essentially a monotheistic vision of goodness with a twist of androgyny.

What of the other side of the dualistic setup? What about evil? Again, the doctrinaire Tibetan Buddhist will insist that there is no evil in Buddhism, and the pure vision that liberates is precisely the vision of “no good, no bad,” as the insipid Shambhala slogan goes. There is little to support this contention, however, when we read through the sadhanas and scriptures. While there are occasional resting places where the devotee is allowed to “rest in meditative equipoise enjoying the realm free from activity,” the bulk of the practices and doctrines are dedicated to keeping practitioners on the road to the palace of wisdom through energetic efforts in the right direction, that must be distinguished from the wrong direction. And where do those impulses to go in the wrong direction come from? You guessed it –- from yourself. Temptation in the Tibetan Buddhist picture, as it has come down to us today, comes from within. It’s your own impulses that draw you into “selfish concerns,” so you end up spending money on your own needs, instead of donating to the lamas, or paying to attend teachings, ceremonies, and retreats. It’s your own impulses that cause you to spend time with friends, family, and running about doing your own thing, instead of donating time to the temple, serving the lamas and their relatives, and doing practices. So the devil in Tibetan Buddhism is you, other people like you, and the entire world that distracts you from pious, merit-generating activities. Self-sacrifice is, therefore, the core remedy for all that ails you.

Among Tibetan Buddhists, there is a growing enthusiasm for Chöd, the practice of self-exorcism, in which “adepts” visualize their body being dismembered by Tröma, a black dakini who leaps from an aperture at the crown of their head and violently attacks her former abode with the ferocity of a demented butcher. Using a hooked knife, Tröma cuts off the practitioner’s cranial cap, inverts it on a tripod of skulls, fills it with the Chödpa’s dismembered bones, meat and organs, and cooks the grisly stew over the flame of a glowing mantric seed syllable, generating an ocean of bliss and radiant offerings that are shared with a crowd of ghosts, demons, and enlightened beings. Although this self-extirpating practice is known to imperil the sanity of its practitioners, it is glorified as a form of “dakini power,” because the most famous Chödpa was Machik Labdron, a woman who rambled about Tibet naked, performing self-exorcism.[106]

Once Tibetan Buddhists adopt self-elimination as a positive value, they are ready to load up on more paradoxes, that will become the core of their “spiritual understanding.” They will speak glibly of possessing an essential awareness beyond happiness and sadness, while affirming vajra vows that commit them to believe that they are in permanent danger of falling into vajra hell. They will tell themselves that the lamas are faultless, and deny the evidence that many lamas are hypocrites. They will ignore their own best impulses, and surrender control of their lives to Dharma authorities, believing that they have no choice in the matter, because when vajra samaya is taken, the door closes behind them. This “locked in” situation is evident from some Internet chats we will review in an upcoming section. As a popular website puts it, using a traditional metaphor: “Tantric Buddhists are in the position of a snake inside a bamboo tube; one hole faces up to the Dharmakaya, the other down toward Vajra Hell. There are only two options -- up or down; no in-between. Keeping samaya (commitment) determines which way the snake slides.”[107]

In conclusion, the doctrines of Tibetan Buddhism closely parallel the dualistic cosmology of medieval Christianity: Samsara is a vale of tears; living beings are animated by an eternal essence, “consciousnness” or “soul”; our eternal souls face an eternity of consequences; we accumulate consequences in this life, and are subject to judgment after death; all goodness comes from a single beneficent celestial source, and is channeled exclusively through the clergy; we accumulate virtue by making offerings to the clergy, who can be hired to cleanse sin; and, our ultimate goal is to return to a divine, non-physical, spiritual home where we can be free of suffering and obligation. There are really only two differences: In Tibetan Buddhism, disobedience to the lamas can result in damnation, and the Devil does not exist as an external entity, so all the blame for evil is directed inward, towards the individual. In all candor, medieval Christians were better off. They didn’t have to prostrate before their priests, and could blame the Devil for their suffering.

-- Against Hell: A Refutation of the Buddhist Hell Realms, Based on Their Historic Origins, Political Purpose, Psychological Destructiveness, Irrationality, and Demonstrable Inconsistency With the Original Buddhist Teachings, Framed as A Searching Review of Sam Bercholz’s After-Death Memoir, "A Guided Tour of Hell", by Charles Carreon


But even if there is the fullest provision in Nature (whether by a spiral ascent through a long chain of lives, or by some directer path) for the final development in each individual man of the potencies of perfect manhood, for the final realisation of the divine or true self, - what then? What does it all mean? Why are we to follow the path of self-realisation? What is the purpose of the cycle of existence? There is an answer to this obstinate question, - an answer which explains nothing, and yet is final, in that it leaves nothing to be explained. The expansive energies and desires, to yield to which is our wisdom and our happiness, are ever transforming themselves, as we yield to them, into the might and the ardour of Love. And for love there is no final resting-place but the sea of Divine Love from which it came. "Amor ex Deo natus est, nec potest nisi in Deo requiescere."

THE END

________________

Notes:

i. Possibly a quotation from an essay by John Ruskin.
 
(1) There is of course an intermediate class of vicious tendencies, which may be described as apparent rather than actual, and which are caused partly by immaturity, partly by environment. Many of the "naughtinesses" of school children belong to this class.
 
(2) The physical aspect is, of course, of incalculable importance. My only reason for ignoring it is that I am not competent to deal with it. The aesthetic aspect is also of incalculable importance; but I know so little about music or art, that I must limit my treatment of this aspect to pointing out that until the musical and artistic instincts of the masses are systematically trained in our elementary schools, through the medium of free self-expression on the part of the children, we shall have neither a national music nor a national art.
 
(3) Workshops, for the use of the engineering classes, are, I believe, attached to the "Modern Side" of some of our Great Public Schools; but I doubt if there is one among the Great Public Schools, or even among the Preparatory Schools which lead up to them, in which "hand-work" is part of the normal curriculum.
 
(4) I know a youth who recently attended Science lectures for two years at one of the most famous of our Great Public Schools, and at the end of that time had not the faintest idea what branch of Science he had been studying. Science is, I believe, seriously taught in the Great Public Schools to those who wish to take it seriously; but, if taught at all, it is certainly not taught seriously to the rank and file of the boys who belong to the "Classical side" of their respective schools.
 
(5) See also footnote 2 to page 270.

(6) When I was an undergraduate at Oxford, there was one at least of my friends who took a genuine delight in the literary masterpieces of Greece and Rome, - the delight, not of a fastidious scholar but of a born lover of good literature. He got a "Third" in Classical "Mods", and was "gulfed" in "Greats". "Serve him right", his "dons" must have said, for I am afraid he cut their lectures. [There followed a sentence in Greek.]
 
(7) Stanzas on the Grande Chartreuse, by Matthew Arnold.
 
(8) When I apply the epithet "irrational" to the outcry at Ephesus, I am thinking of the mob, not of the silversmiths. The latter knew what they were about.
 
(9) Having said so much in disparagement of the mental training given in the great Public Schools and the older Universities, let me now try to make my peace with my old school and my University by expressing my conviction that those who are studying the "Humanities", whether at school or college, and finding pleasure in their studies, are receiving the best education that is at present procurable in England. An old Oxonian may perhaps be allowed to make public profession of his faith in the special efficacy of that course of study which is known familiarly as "Greats", the examination in which is, of all examinations, the most difficult to cram for and the most profitable to read for.
 
It is scarcely necessary for me to add that in the older Universities, as in the great Public Schools, many valuable educative influences are at work outside the lecture-room. For one thing, the undergraduates, who come from all parts of the world, are always educating one another. For another thing, the "atmosphere" of Oxford and Cambridge does much for the mental and spiritual development of those who are able to respond to its stimulus. Even the genius loci [unique, distinctive aspects or atmosphere of a place] is educative, in its own quiet, subtle way. But it would be an impertinence on my part to labour this point. It is because Oxford and Cambridge educate their alumni in a thousand ways, the worth of which no formal examination can test or measure, that they stand apart from all other Universities.
 
(10) I mean by the "lower self", not the animal base of one's existence, but the ordinary self claiming to be the true self, and so rising in rebellion against its lawful lord.
 
(11) In other words, it might conceivably take the form of clan warfare, highly organised and waged on a world-wide field; and we learn from the history of the Highlands of Scotland and of Old Japan that of all forms of warfare the most cruel and relentless, with the exception of that which is waged in the name of religion, is the warfare between clan and clan.

(12) There is such a thing as communal egoism, when a man regards the community or society to which he belongs as a kind of "possession", to be paraded and bragged about, just as in personal love there is such a thing as egoism à deux. But the communal instinct which is generated by self-realisation readily purges itself of every egoistic taint.
 
(13) I mean by the" ideal" the true nature of the given species, and the true self of each individual specimen.
 
(14) When I compare the average Utopian with the average non-Utopian, I am of course thinking of the "masses", not of the "classes". If the comparison is to have any value, the conditions in the two cases must be fairly equal. Mentally, the "classes" are, on the whole, more highly developed (thanks to their more favourable environment) than the "masses". Spiritually and morally, they are perhaps on a par with them.
 
(15) This was the idea which inspired the Founder of Buddhism, and led him to formulate a scheme of life, in virtue of which he takes rank (as it seems to me) as the greatest educationalist, as well as the greatest moralist, that the world has ever known.
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