Typos p. 11: resistent [= resistant]; p. 12: an an [= as an;] p. 19: to day [= to-day]
The Quest of Regenerate National Values
Anthony M. Ludovici
The First or St. James's Kin of the English Mistery
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The need of such a restatement, after five years of actual work and growth, should neither surprise nor alarm anyone. The carpenter, the blacksmith, and the builder, all find that they have constantly to reapply the level, the square and the plumb-rule to their work, lest, beneath their hands and under the influence of incalculable human factors, it may have departed from their original design or plan. But, if in work relatively so simple as carpentry, iron-forging and house-building, a constant check is needed to keep the new construction approximately to pattern, how much more necessary must this be in work as intricate and complicated as that which the English Mistery undertook to accomplish five years ago?
The fact that we should from time to time find it necessary to apply the rule and the plumb-line in order to make sure that we have not departed from our original design or plan, far from depressing us, therefore, should rather convince us that we have under our hands a genuine piece of construction, and that it is growing. For this reason, without further preliminaries, we shall reconsider the following two important points:
(A) The objective at which, as a political body, the English Mistery is supposed to be aiming, and
(B) The means whereby it believes it can attain that objective.
Let us first deal with (A), i.e., the English Mistery's objective.
Observing what was going on about them in the camps of other so-called meliorist bodies, all of whom spoke and acted as if mere changes in the laws, institutions and economic conditions of the State, would ultimately bring about the millennium; and, feeling convinced that these methods and this attitude were not merely failing to cure the disease but were actually aggravating it, the founders of the English Mistery, probing the problem more deeply, arrived at the conclusion that, for a state of decadence to be so prevalent, and for the applied remedies to culminate with such regularity only in an aggravation of the disease, something more must be amiss than merely the decrepitude of its laws and its institutions, or the vices of its economic conditions. And they, therefore, turned their attention to the people themselves, and with unique daring propounded the question whether it was not perhaps in the living nationals all about them, in the very hearts and minds of this English population and in its inherited tastes and impulses, that the real trouble actually found its source.
In the words of Plato, they asked: "Do you imagine that political constitutions spring from a tree or a rock and not from the dispositions of the citizens which turn the scale and draw all else in their direction?"
For what was observed was not a state of complete anarchy, or lack of order, rules and standards. Such a state of utter chaos would, indeed, have been much easier to deal with than the state actually found, and for the simple reason that it would have been ripe for some guidance and some standards, if only they could be provided. But what was observed was that a certain order and certain standards prevailed over the decadence, so that the march to ultimate dissolution was proceeding, as it were, according to plan, according to choice aye and according to taste.
Various tests, which any of you can apply, soon proved beyond any possibility of doubt that this conclusion was only too tragically justified. Assert, claim, or propound any principle that is opposed to the standardised corrupt spiritual equipment of modern England, and see for yourselves with what uniformity the same hostile reaction will follow in every one of these people who are marching towards decadence and thinking it eminently right to do so.
Now this was a profoundly disquieting discovery. For it immediately became apparent that before anything could be attempted in the external structure of the nation, before any healthy reforms could be set on foot, the spiritual equipment of this standardised herd, high and low for all the classes are one in this respect would have to be transformed.
Men act and move in obedience to their values that is to say, their tables of all that they think is right and wrong, good and bad. Conduct and the exercise of taste are, therefore, intimately dependent upon the table of values which a people sets over itself. Ultimately a people's heart responds only to the values which it has long held in reverence.
If, therefore, a people march resolutely towards decadence, think it right to do so, and will even justify their itinerary to you by adducing their values and standards as their warrant for it, it simply means that their values themselves have become decadent. It means that their hearts and impulses have become attuned to decadent and corrupt values and that they are no longer the people they were in the heyday of their civilisation.
In short, then, what the founders of the English Mistery discovered was, that tinkering at laws and institutions and interfering with economic conditions was no longer any good and that the only hope of salvation lay in changing the heart of the English people themselves, in reconditioning their taste and impulses in such a way as to make them reject the
But the formidable difficulty of the task might well have dismayed less determined spirits. It may best be appreciated, perhaps, if we reflect that it was not merely a matter of filling an empty vessel or of refurnishing a heart that had been dismantled. It was a matter of substituting in a heart already furnished with loyalties and attachments to corrupt and decadent standards, a completely new equipment of regenerate impulses for the old degenerate ones.
Now it is very important at this conjuncture in our affairs, not only to restate these findings about the English Mistery's first main objective, but also to place particular emphasis upon them; because, by so doing, it may be possible to compose certain differences and correct certain aberrations from the original plan, which have crept into our body, and the inception of which only the feverish and heavy work of the last few years could have made us overlook.
The first main objective of the English Mistery, as we have seen, is to change the heart of the English people.
What does this mean? It is essential that all the officers and every member of our body should understand the implications of this task.
It means, in the first place, that, like a united band of missionaries deposited among a still unconverted populace, we should represent a solid and determined phalanx of men, all standing for the same loyalties and attachments and regenerate standards and values; and that wherever we come into contact with the unconverted populace we should be able to propound and defend those new loyalties and attachments.
It means, secondly, that, as missionaries we should be in a position to break down and undermine the corrupt spiritual
It means, thirdly, that all Kin, like the Cells of the Communist Party, are merely disseminated strongholds purveying the new doctrine which is to change the heart of England.
And it means, fourthly, and above all, that at least until this first task of changing the heart of the unconverted populace is completed, and the position, consolidated for our further service, any pernickety or pedantic distinction between the thinking and executive side of our body in the business of purveying the new doctrine is largely artificial and unreal. Merely to see this distinction is to anticipate a stage in our progress which, far from being consummated, is not even perceptible in the most promising quarter of our horizon. To feel it is wholly to misunderstand the position we now occupy in modern England.
We are a militant organism, growing by the dynamic force of the faith we feel in the regenerate standards for which we stand. So long as we are confronted by an overwhelming majority still given up to the old corrupt loyalties and attachments, each member of our organism must be performing the same function, striving to change the heart of the nation. Our activities may differ in the degree of their complexity; but we must be heading for the same goal, the same victory.
Let there be no mistake, therefore, we are all committed to the same task, no matter where we may stand in the hierarchy of the Mistery, and to feel or see any distinction between us is to have lost sight in the dust and din of battle of the rule with which we started and which from time to time it is useful to apply to our work afresh.
If the time for translating the new loyalties and attachments of the English Mistery on a national scale into practical institutions, customs and services has admittedly not yet arrived, and if we are still engaged in the militant task of reindoctrinating a corruptly indoctrinated population, what is the Executive, what can it be and what can it do, that the thinking functionaries of the Mistery or their adjutants cannot be or cannot do? Surely no member of the so-called Executive to-day would hold so humble a view of his functions as to suppose that it was wholly discharged in the management of
The management of Kin cannot and does not, therefore, constitute the whole function of the Executive, or by any means its most important function. To limit it to such management would be to misunderstand the whole meaning of the Executive in our body.
Since, however, the major or more fundamental task of the Executive cannot be attempted until the first objective of the Mistery is attained, and this is not a stage in our development when any officer can be content to stand idly waiting for his future duty, the function of the Executive at this moment in our struggle is no other than to purvey the new doctrine, i.e., to bring about that change in the heart of the nation without which no subsequent service is possible.
If Executive implies that which "follows out" or "carries into effect," the function of the Executive to-day is to carry to into effect the proposed change of heart as laid down by authority, which is essential for its ultimate work of reconstruction on national lines.
Even when the time comes to translate the new spiritual equipment of the Mistery into national institutions and customs, the division between the thinking and the executive functionaries of our body will still be to a large extent gratuitous; because it is impossible to separate thought from action, and executive cannot therefore mean divorced or cut off from thought.
Now we suggest that it is because of this unjustifiable and unreal distinction between the so-called thinking and the so-called executive sides, that our first main objective has become indistinct and blurred. It is also because of this artificial distinction that we have lost sight of the fundamental need of our present ask, which is unity in the doctrinal front we present to the unconverted populace about us. That is the meaning of centralisation of thought. As to the decentralisation of action, that will be dealt with later.
Acting upon the misleading and artificial distinction between the thinking and the executive side, for instance, certain executive officers of Kin have not only hinted that they are not indoctrinated with the Mistery's spiritual equipment, but have also justified their deficiency on the score that this was not their department. We have seen how mistaken and unfounded this claim is, for although decentralisation of action, as distinct from centralisation of thought, must be provided for when in due course the executive leaders apply our body's spirit to local tasks of construction, at present even decentralisation of action is not possible except perhaps in the minor and trivial sense of interpreting the doctrine of the Mistery in the dialect of Somerset to Somerset peasants, and in the simple vocabulary of the cockney in Essex, in otherwise giving just that local twist to your metaphor and illustrations which increase the appeal of the Mistery's doctrine in a particular locality, and in making the members of your own Kin exemplars both in their work and in their persons of Mistery principles. Nor is it desirable that at present any greater claim should be made for the functions of the Executive.
There is not and there cannot be, therefore, any material distinctions between the functions of the thinking and the executive sides relative to the unconverted
We are, or should be, a united body of missionaries, all intent on executing the Mistery's first task, which is to change the heart of the English people; and to see sharp distinctions between us as purveyors of the new doctrine is to misunderstand the stage we have reached in our campaign.
If however, it is pedantic and shortsighted to see material distinctions between the present functions of the thinking and the executive side in purveying the new doctrine, this is as nothing compared with the danger of allowing actual distinctions to exist and to be perpetuated.
If the only way to gain our first objective is to face the unconverted populace about us with an unbroken doctrinal
Do you suppose that we can hope to make any impression on this unconverted mass of corrupt doctrinaires, if we confront them as a divided body in conflict over this vital matter of doctrine?
The fact that to-day it is believed to be possible within the Mistery to carry on while yet these differences as to doctrine persist is proof enough of how far in the five years of our existence we have in the heat of battle departed from our original plan and the conception of our main objective. Because the English Mistery becomes no more than a farce, or at most an insignificant branch of the Conservative Party, if it sets out to change the heart of England before it has satisfied itself that, as a whole body, its own heart is changed and prepared stoutly to face the corrupt world outside.
Far better split the Mistery into two or even three than hope to achieve the formidable task it has set itself without maintaining unity of doctrine or, as it has been graphically termed, centralised thought. Otherwise, we shall simply make ourselves a laughing stock, and all our efforts will be nugatory.
We cannot indoctrinate on a common front unless we are already indoctrinated from a common source. We cannot act with strength and effect on that common front unless we agree as to what we have to indoctrinate the unconverted populace with.
But do not let us despair. There is nothing abnormal or desperate in the situation of a constructive workman who repeatedly applies the foot-rule, set-square and the plumb-line to his work, and occasionally finds that he has departed conspicuously from his original design.
But while there is nothing desperate in our situation, it is hardly necessary to point out to you that all the work of our hands in the past years will be irretrievably lost unless we are now magnanimous and courageous enough to do what the application of the rule has shown us is most necessary.
If we cannot achieve this unity we might just as well join the Boy Scouts or the Salvation Army as continue to belong to or believe in the English Mistery.
But there is every reason to be confident that we can achieve unity, and that, with a little more goodwill on the part of the dissentients and of those from whom they dissent, with a little more readiness to meet and confront one another with their differences, and with a little more patient hearing on both sides, there is no present difference which cannot be overcome.
This is a pressing need in the Mistery; because, unless it is met, a united doctrinal front will be impossible, and, failing a united doctrinal front, we cannot hope to change the heart of England.
Now let us turn to the second point: the means whereby the English Mistery believes it can attain its first main objective.
How does the Mistery proceed in framing and formulating its doctrine?
How does it determine the validity of its conclusions?
How, in fact, does it value in a manner which gives it the faith and strength to oppose a bold and resistent front to the mass of error pressing upon it from all sides?
It is of paramount importance to give you an answer to these questions, because every member of our body should know about the method which has been and still is being employed in trying to reach valid conclusions concerning regenerate values, and about the checks employed to remove error from these conclusions.
But before these questions are answered, three terms, the abuse of which in the Mistery has wrought untold mischief, must first be discussed.
These terms are "instinct," "tradition," and "leader." All these terms have been so loosely used in our circles in order to justify or condemn any or every opinion, prejudice,
To deal with instinct first, the time is surely ripe for us to drop this word as a term denoting any definite meaning whatsoever.
Apart from the fundamental trinity of instincts the self-preservative, the gregarious and the reproductive whose influence on conduct is too primitive and generalised to assist man in the detailed exercise of taste which modern problems impose, there are no instincts in modern Englishmen which are wholly reliable as guides to political conduct; while even the above-mentioned fundamental instincts themselves could be shown, by scores of instances, to be breaking down.
If by "instinct " we mean a "conditioned reflex" that is to say an automatic mechanism by which a group of creatures similarly reared react in a specific way to given stimuli, there can be to-day no such thing an an instinctive rule of conduct at least not one leading to desirable choice or rejection among modern men; and for the simple reason that the uniform conditions which might rigidly have imposed the necessary habits for generations, and created such instincts, have not existed for centuries
If to-day we could collect together in one hall only as many as five hundred Englishmen of England's best period say the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries the period when her people were beginning to reveal the character traits that had been laid down for them by two centuries of stable and uniform conditions involving rigid habituation, and when her people were pure bred and everything had been done to keep them so if, then, we could do that, instinct and decisions based on instinct would still have a meaning and the rulings of such a body would have, for Englishmen at least, first-class validity.
But you all know that we can do no such thing. Even so few as five hundred such Englishmen could not be found to-day.
If it be true, and it can be demonstrated as true, that the trinity of primitive instincts referred to above are not wholly reliable in us in this twentieth century; if it be true, and there is a mass of cogent evidence proving it to be true, that the average modern Englishman cannot trust to his instincts in even such comparatively simple matters as selecting his
And if you say that not only do such instinctive mechanisms still survive, but also that the rigidly imposed and uniform conditions for rearing them have actually existed in the immediate past and still survive in the nation, we may ask you where in the length and breadth of England is there any sign of these uniform conditions? Where is there any manifestation to-day of the uniform results which might reasonably be expected from such uniformly imposed conditions?
If uniform and rigid habituation is seen in modern England and if instincts are forming from it, it is all in the direction of Liberalism, Romanticism, and a fantastic Utopianism, based on an unsound psychological theory of man.
If we are to speak of instincts at all, they are therefore probably unsound instincts, reared by uniform conditions in a vast school of terror. But how many of us to-day have the simplicity or perversity to trust such instincts? How many of us have not again and again in our lives found ourselves prompted to check such instincts instincts we knew we had formed in the nursery under the care of corruptly indoctrinated modern working-class nurses, or at our schools and universities, at the hands of corruptly indoctrinated scholars and teachers.
Not only, therefore, is there no sign in the nation of those uniform conditions which are necessary to rear standardised instincts; but, even if it could be proved that they did exist, no one would dream of maintaining that they were of a kind which could rear sound and reliable instincts, capable of directing a man in choosing correctly in the intricate matter of the public policies of his country.
To speak of instinct in this concern of ours, which is political, and therefore occupied with the most difficult problems with which a man can deal; to speak of instinct as if it stood for some reliable basis, some authority for wise action, is
Let a few examples be given.
If you still labour under the delusion that instinctive guidance is reliable in the modern world, and if you still imagine that your own instincts are trustworthy guides in the choice of simple alternatives in your own life and of more complicated alternatives in the life of your nation, you are, as an individual, really pleading for extreme individualism, which has little to distinguish it from anarchy. Seeing that there have not been for centuries in England either the stable environment or the values which alone can rear uniform and reliable instincts that can work for the national good, all you do in accepting instinct for your personal direction is to enthrone highly differentiated subjective feelings and open the way for a bellum omnium contra omnes which, like the fight of the Kilkenny cats, must end in mutual destruction.
Secondly, if you claim a high authority for your personal instincts, what you are virtually doing is to claim authority for your unconscious impulses, however reared, however differentiated by your special individual conditions, and however modified they may be individually by varying degrees of ill-health and faulty functioning. Because instincts operate by unconscious impulses. Thus you are really doing no more than providing a colourable warrant for our old bugbear, the Nonconformist conscience. Everybody who objects to your policy, even you who object to someone else's policy, can always say: "It is by my conscience that I know." For remember that although we speak of this power as conscience, it is by unconscious mechanisms and not by conscious reasoning that it operates. But if there is nothing now to distinguish your alleged instinctive objection to a certain policy from a conscientious objection to it, we are not only committed to the Nonconformist conscience, but also to the omnipotence of individual opinions. And this, as you hardly need be told, means simply modern democracy and confusion.
Finally, if you, claim that instinct is adequate and sufficient to-day, you confront the rest of your fellow countrymen, who may and indeed will be found in these times to have different
Admittedly our task in the English Mistery, by reaching our first objective, is to establish those uniform conditions in England which will rear the sound instinctive equipment above all desirable for correct and reliable human conduct. For correct instinctive guidance, particularly among the masses, is always a much more valuable, because more unerring, power than precept, example or coercion.
But that time has not yet come. It is still a long way off. Meanwhile, to speak of your personal instincts as if the word meant anything in the sense of an authority or warrant for any course of action, or any ruling which should have general validity, is simply nonsense, and the sooner we drop the word in that sense, the better.
We now come to the word "tradition." This, also, is a much abused word in Mistery circles. Ask the average Mistery man what is his authority for advocating a certain policy and he will promptly reply, "Tradition." Now, if by tradition, we mean the handing on from one generation to another of a practice, or practices, adopted and thought valuable by our ancestors and the word can have no other meaning then tradition, as an authority for sound political action to-day would appear to be the most untrustworthy guide of all.
For what are our traditions? So many of them, though wholly corrupt, are full of life and vigour, and so many, although sound, have long since sunk into infirmity, that this word, too, is incapable of serving any useful purpose.
What traditions does a man refer to, when he stands by the tradition of English family life? Is he thinking of the tradition that endured down to the middle of the nineteenth century, until when the majority of women were only wives and mothers, and reared families and cared for their homes, or at most performed lucrative work inside the home? Or is he referring to the tradition of the last three generations, according to which women have, in steadily increasing
To what traditions does a man refer who stands by the traditional sound common sense of the English working man? Does he refer to the tradition of self-reliance, and sound instinctive judgment, which began to decline with the industrial revolution, and which had merely such subsequent desultory manifestations as the opposition to compulsory education and |insurance? Or is he referring to the tradition of corrupt indoctrination which has lasted for generations, and during which the working man has been taught among other things the materialistic doctrine that the best way to test the wisdom of a national policy or plan is literally to weigh the meat and bones behind it? Or during which he has been taught that the negro, the Eskimo and the South American Zambo are equal to the breeds who have created the cultures of Europe?
There is the tradition of the Puritan, the teetotaller, the Liberal, the Nonconformist and, above all, of the usurer. There is the tradition of the patent drug, the cocktail, the night club and lipstick. But, to whichever tradition the speaker may refer when he pronounces the word and often he has no particular tradition in mind at all be sure of this, that very few of the surviving traditions in England to-day can be healthy traditions. And to use the word, therefore, as if it stood for something hallowed and venerable, imparting authority to any proposal for modern practice, is, as a rule, to be talking nonsense.
Thus, unless we try to be more precise and to take care to specify the particular sound tradition (now probably dead) to which we wish to refer, it would be far better to drop the word altogether. In any case, if we cannot define it narrowly, it is advisable to avoid it most rigorously as a designation of the authority we may claim for any policy or plan we advocate; for in that connexion it can create only confusion.
As to the word "leader," or "leader type," which has, also acquired a rather disreputable notoriety in the Mistery,
If we aim at a hierarchy at all, it is one based on mutual service and protection, a perfectly matter-of-fact unsentimental arrangement, in which ability, efficiency and loyalty to a Cause, more important than persons, should be the principal cohering factors.
Our system and its aims are such that it should be possible to create loyalties independent of the personal factor, which, with its innumerable subjective reactions, is a slippery and therefore insecure basis on which to build. It should be remembered too that all over-emphasis on personality betrays a tendency to place the trivial, immediate and local factor above the great and remote objective, and to forget the wood for the adjacent trees
There has been too much of this already and it denotes a decline in the dynamic force of our inspiration.
Mistery people are heard saying: "Oh if only So-and-so likes he can pull us together again," or "If only So-and-so were in good form all dissensions would vanish."
Now such utterances are not only in the wrong spirit, but also betray an ignorance of where our real strength lies to wit, in the wisdom and sanity of our doctrine as opposed to the lunacy that is rampant all about us.
Our movement has less need of demagogy and the personal factor than any movement in the country; because, with its sound doctrine as our equipment, we have embarked upon the mighty task of indoctrinating England at a time when most of thinking England, although corrupt, is at least aware that things are hopelessly wrong.
The farcical dispersion of the League of Nations mirage, has shown whither expensive romantic and Liberal thinking must lead. And this is but one example. There are scores of other disquieting signs which are making the corruptly indoctrinated mass outside our ranks peculiarly vulnerable to our approach. We have but to lay our doctrine cogently before them to achieve their conversion.
With this doctrine as our strength, therefore, we should strive to make ourselves independent of personality and forge a loyalty to our official leaders through our devotion to the
That is how the Communists behaved in the decades before the Great War when, in spite of their party being torn and shaken by internal quarrels and external acts of violence which depleted their ranks, they found in their doctrine a rock on which all the scattered elements of their body could always be reunited and inspired. It is only women who become attached to Causes through their attachment to men. It is healthier for men to become attached to each other through their common attachment to Causes.
For humbler members of the Mistery, therefore, it ought to be possible to face the complete demise of their officers and yet to know and feel that the Mistery still stands and still functions. It ought, in fact, to be possible for the whole of our organisation to vanish, as the organisation of the Communists repeatedly did before the War, under the decapitating policy of the Ochrana, and yet for the power and influence of the English Mistery to continue unimpaired.
And if you think this could not happen, if you think that at this moment the removal of our principal officers would be a death-blow to the Mistery, what is wrong is not that you suppose certain men to be indispensable, but that you are really shaky and uncertain about the cause you are serving and the doctrine with which you wish to promote it.
Let us therefore drop this emphasis on leaders and personality in the Mistery; for it reveals not only a lack of precision in our thought and aims, but also points to a fundamental unawareness of our doctrine and of the mission we are pledged to fulfil with it. We are a body united in the common task of changing the heart of England. Our officers are but administrative points in the framework, of our body. If it really is a living movement with the fire of love and creation in its heart, its members will not dwell so much on theirs subjective reactions to a local figure, however great or small, but upon their duty and function in furthering the great Cause which alone is the justification of the Mistery's existence.
Having dismissed instinct and tradition as meaningless and actually dangerous to our purpose, and having
Now what is your doctrine or, rather, since it would take too long to cover this ground what is the authority or warrant for your doctrine which inspires your faith in it? Do you claim that it is woven out of your unconscious minds, "out of your entrails" as they used to say of the eighteenth century philosophers? No, because if you did, you would be back on instinct, and, as we have seen, instinct can be no authority to day. For, even where it does prompt the mass of the population uniformly it is usually corrupt, and there is no such phenomenon as a modern man whose instincts have not been impaired even for the simplest personal accomplishments.
Instinct cannot, therefore, be claimed as a justification of your doctrine.
Do you claim tradition as your authority? Yes and no. In a strictly eclectic sense, yes; but in the loose and general way in which it is commonly spoken of, emphatically no!
Do you claim one man, one thinker, alive or dead, as your authority? No, certainly not! To do so would be to forget that you are men, not women, and that there is not one among us who is not in some respects marked with the stigmata of degeneration. As circumstances have for years demonstrated, mankind can roughly be divided into two classes those who know and those who do not know that they are degenerate. There is no such thing as a wholly regenerate specimen of modern manhood.
You cannot, therefore, make a man your authority, although the regrettable tendency to hero-worship, effeminacy, and the stress on personality, with all that it involves in a bias towards dictatorship, makes many a modern man inclined that way.
Let us try to understand the actual plight of the modern seeker for authority.
He lives in an age when every kind of foothold is becoming every day more unsteady and more insecure. Soon, where the majority are now standing, there will be no foothold at all. He belongs to a generation every one of whose native impulses is suspect. He has grown up in a world from which, quite unconsciously, he has acquired a whole apparatus of doubtful values and prejudices. And yet not one of these values and prejudices is, strictly speaking, his own. Until he has wrenched them from their unconscious setting, questioned them and justified them to himself afresh, they are not his values. But by the time he has tried to question and justify them afresh, in order to make them his own, he will have found that most of them will have to be rejected.
With unconscious motivation and guidance no longer trustworthy, in fact actually suspect, he is therefore thrown back on consciousness. He has consciously to face his problems and solve them, whether they consist of personal difficulties relating to his psycho-physical make-up, or difficulties outside himself. There is no other way, and in every department of life you can now see consciousness replacing the old instinctive guidance, which no longer avails.
What is the new school of psychology but a congeries of technical methods for maintaining or recovering sanity by increasing the domain of consciousness? What is the new school of conscious control of the body but a similar movement, found necessary owing to the loss of reliable instinctive control a loss which has sent heart disease to the top of the list of lethal disorders in all modern countries? What is the meaning of the tremendous activity of science if, apart from its work in industry and the treatment of organic disease, it is not an effort to find a conscious means of orientation and mastery in a world in which the instinctive means have vanished?
Now we are in the same plight in politics and sociology. Because the reliable instincts have gone we are committed to increasing the domain of consciousness.
Nobody who knew what he was talking about would pretend that intellect is better than instinct. We all appreciate with how much greater ease and certainty instinct guides and decides than thought does. That is why we teach our children at as tender an age as possible how to ride, shoot, play tennis, and observe certain other disciplines, because we know that successfully conditioned reflexes, or secondary instincts, even in the individual life, are more certain guides to efficient action in these spheres than any amount of intelligence applied to them in later life. And remember, these are only secondary instincts, i.e., those which a man requires in his own career. What about those deeper primary instincts, which are the conditioned reflexes of a race or nation, reared through generations of a sound standardised habit, outlook and table of values?
But when these instincts have gone we are, as we have declared, committed to man's next best and only best the intellect, or, as it has been called, "the lantern of the body."
There have already been many such crises in human history. The disruption of classical antiquity was one. The downfall in Europe of north-western Catholicism was another. While as to countries outside Europe, we know that Confucius came at a moment of grave disorder in China, when the old feudal conditions were breaking up and the country was groaning for a fresh orientation. Moses, too, appeared at just such a moment in the history of his race, and no doubt applied much of what his intellect had gathered in Egypt to the fresh indoctrination of his followers. Even in Persia, Zarathustra's doctrine came as a reform and an epuration among a people who had given themselves up to barbarous magic, brigandage and internal strife.
Thus, instinct and intellect take the field alternately, the latter always stepping into a breach left by the former when it has become corrupted or unreliable.
History, therefore, gives us a colourable warrant for the belief, not only that future instinctive action is conditioned by
But is intellect infallible? Is it wholly trustworthy and all-compelling?
It is none of these things. Because it happens to be our last resort, do not let us exaggerate its virtues. The mistakes made after the downfall of classical antiquity and after the partial overthrow of sixteenth-century Catholicism suffice to show that it is not an ideal weapon.
The question really is, how can we make the best of it? How can we endow the results of its work with adequate authority?
By applying a rigorous method to its processes it is possible to attain to a very high level of authority, and therefore to produce a compelling warrant for the findings at which it arrives, in order to condition sound instincts in the future. In any case, we have no choice. Instincts having gone, intellect becomes indispensable. It is only a matter of making the very best of a deplorable situation.
Now what is the rigorous method which must be applied to intellectual processes before the results obtained can approximate to authoritative findings?
It is a method demanding much self-denial and humility. Its first and most essential condition is an attitude of objectivity.
Its second and equally essential condition is that a rigid inductive reasoning process should always be adopted.
We must explain:
What do we mean when we insist on an objective attitude in a thinker? Actually it is one of the most difficult of feats. It means that he should regard the object, the fact, and gauge its implications without allowing his personal reactions to it, or its effect on him, to weigh in his judgment of it. It is really the reverse of the instinctive process, in which the man who judges waits for his personal reactions before judging the object.
The only reason why this instinctive judgment (when instincts are sound and uniform throughout a people) is
But in a highly differentiated people like ourselves, in which the mass has become either atomised or in which there are reasons for supposing that where instincts have remained uniform they are probably corrupt, not only are you unable to argue from A's reaction to an object that it is valid for B, but the chances are that A's reaction may he unique and actually injurious to B. Consequently, if A makes his reactions a rule for all he will injure everyone, possibly himself included.
In a state like the present, therefore, if intellect is to help us and it is our only hope it is essential that the thinker should be objective, i.e., able to discount entirely his personal reactions to the object and its possible effect on him. Let a few examples, be given, because objective judgments have become rare to-day, possibly owing to the fact that although instincts have grown unreliable, and have lost uniformity and soundness, we are still inclined by force of habit to act as if they still were reliable in ourselves, and therefore to be subjective.
Example 1. If Jones says of Smith: "Smith is a very likeable and intelligent person," we can, as a rule determine the degree of subjectivity or objectivity in the statement by enquiring into the relationship of Jones to Smith.
If Jones has been injured by Smith, or has recently suffered a rebuff at his hands, the statement probably possesses a high degree of objectivity; because Jones is discounting his personal reactions to Smith. It still may not be true; because in order to be true, Jones would have to be a fit person to judge whether another is either likeable or intelligent, and that fitness of Jones has to be determined.
If, on the other, hand, we hear that Smith has recently conferred a benefit on Jones, or flattered his self-esteem, the suspicion arises that the judgment may be subjective, i.e., coloured by personal reactions. It may still be a true statement in spite of this; but we feel that in these circumstances it requires at least some corroboration.
Example 2. If, during a war in which his country is involved, a man assumes conscientious objections to war, and resists compulsory enlistment, we may suspect that his attitude is subjective if it has been assumed after the outbreak
If, on the other hand, all through his adult life he has professed conscientious objections to war, and we happen to know him as a brave man who has one or two intrepid actions to his name, we may infer that he is probably objective.
Now, over a century ago it was pointed out by Goethe that decadent ages are usually subjective. Why? Because subjectivity is preponderatingly a feminine or feminised attitude. And when men become feminised they find difficulty in assuming the Strictly objective attitude requisite for the quest of truth.
But it is not enough to exclude your own reactions in an intellectual process. This is only one step. If a truth of high validity is to be reached, a further essential condition is to make sure the judgment is not a guess, or a conclusion a priori, but an inference induced willy nilly by a careful scrutiny of the available and relevant facts.
The difference here is similar to that between instinctive and sound intellectual judgments.
Instinct judges, as a rule, from one fact alone. It does not wait to be compelled by a mass of evidence to form a judgment. If it did so wait, it would often involve its host in crushing disaster.
Inductive reasoning, however, must wait until the conclusion imposes itself as a force majeure by the weight of the assembled facts. It is always concerned with judgments a posteriori.
Let an example of inductive reasoning be given.
It has been observed since the beginning of time that human bodies, the bodies of animals, and vegetable matter do not putrefy in very dry climates, and that any such organic product when completely, dried and kept in a dry atmosphere will not putrefy. It has also been observed more recently that the putrefaction of animal and other azotized bodies is a chemical process, by which they are dissipated into gases, chiefly those of carbonic acid and ammonia. Now, to convert the carbon of a body into carbonic acid requires oxygen, and to convert the azote or nitrogen into ammonia requires hydrogen. But both oxygen and hydrogen are constituents of water, and it was, indeed, found by experience that organic products do decompose rapidly where there is much water or
But this process, although leading to a high degree of validity, is not in itself foolproof as is shown by the fact that for a very long while it was thought that all swans were white.
This cannot have been a good induction, since the conclusion has turned out erroneous. The experience on which it was based at the time, however, was genuine, because all evidence from the known world pointed that way; and it was only when the black swan of Australia and the black-necked swan of Antarctic America were discovered that a different induction had to be made.
With objectivity and inductive reasoning, therefore, we possess a rigorous method for the checking of our intellectual processes. But it is only a matter of common prudence to bear in mind that, even with this method, intellectual processes although they are our only resort to-day are not infallible.
We possess however, in the field of politics and sociology, a still further check a sort of final check, which we can always apply to findings reached with scrupulous objectivity and inductive reasoning. And that check is to be sought in the records of the innumerable practical experiments on a massive scale which, throughout recorded history, mankind has been carrying out on itself.
We know which races have flourished, how long they have lasted, the kind of cultures they produced, the degree of beauty and of health they attained, and the power they exerted over other people, whether contemporaries or belonging to their posterity.
We also know the conditions in which they lived, the tables of values they held sacred, and some of the causes which brought about their decline or evanescence.
Above all, we know the precise moment in their history when they reached the peak of their power and beauty, health and harmony, and we are often able to ascertain what they believed and how they behaved at their zenith.
And these facts provide us with a kind of acid test for all the conclusions we may reach by our rigorously objective and inductive method.
As has already been pointed out to you in another context, it is a test and a check not often applied by modern science; for if it were more often applied we should not witness, as we too often do, those humiliating recantations and contradictions which mar and disfigure the progress of scientific investigation.
But it is a test which we are admirably equipped to apply in politics and sociology, because in these spheres although most thinkers neglect it, there is a mass of accumulated experience.
Naturally, it cannot apply when we are considering innovations with which past civilisations and our own people in their prime could not have been familiar such practices as, tobacco smoking, sugar eating, the riding of bicycles, the drinking of chlorinated water, etc., which almost everybody has adopted to-day. And on these matters, where our acid test cannot be applied, it is wise to be either silent or becomingly non-committal. But, in the majority of cases, after attaining to a high degree of validity in our findings by means of our rigorous method, this final acid test may be applied to seal our conclusions with the stamp of a very high authority, an authority which, even if it is not absolute, is at least the highest obtainable in our present bewildering condition of dissolution and decay.
Now, this intellectual method, with these checks upon it, is the one on which we rely in the Mistery, and we are probably unique, if only in this sense, that we do not strive to attain to an authoritative standard by these means. Nobody else, not even the scientist, is doing as much. Nobody else, certainly in politics, has ever imagined either that our first objective is a desirable one, or that the means whereby we wish to attain it are at all commendable.
This part of our work alone is difficult in the extreme, requiring, as you have just seen, an unusual display of
If you question this authority, if you believe its basis to be insecure and inadequate for the foundation of a faith that can move mountains, we ask you where on earth to-day can you find a better, more scrupulously founded authority? And if you have discovered it, you may be asked further on what sub-soil or substructure it is based? For the whole of modern civilisation is in flux. All railings, balusters, and buttresses are shaking, and at any moment may join the rest of the wreckage of our social structure. Soon, where we are standing, the very ground will quake and shift. We are committed to intellect for our salvation. And you have been shown how its frail powers can be strengthened and stiffened to produce authoritative findings.