HotFreeBooks.com
The Life of Reason
by George Santayana
Previous Part     1  2  3  4  5  6  7  8  9  10  11  12  13  14  15  16  17  18 ... 22     Next Part
Home - Random Browse

[Sidenote: Vanity.]

Philosophers less pretentious and more worldly than these have sometimes felt, in their way, the absorbing force of self-consciousness. La Rochefoucauld could describe amour propre as the spring of all human sentiments. Amour propre involves preoccupation not merely with the idea of self, but with that idea reproduced in other men's minds; the soliloquy has become a dialogue, or rather a solo with an echoing chorus. Interest in one's own social figure is to some extent a material interest, for other men's love or aversion is a principle read into their acts; and a social animal like man is dependent on other men's acts for his happiness. An individual's concern for the attitude society takes toward him is therefore in the first instance concern for his own practical welfare. But imagination here refines upon worldly interest. What others think of us would be of little moment did it not, when known, so deeply tinge what we think of ourselves. Nothing could better prove the mythical character of self-consciousness than this extreme sensitiveness to alien opinions; for if a man really knew himself he would utterly despise the ignorant notions others might form on a subject in which he had such matchless opportunities for observation. Indeed, those opinions would hardly seem to him directed upon the reality at all, and he would laugh at them as he might at the stock fortune-telling of some itinerant gypsy.

As it is, however, the least breath of irresponsible and anonymous censure lashes our self-esteem and sometimes quite transforms our plans and affections. The passions grafted on wounded pride are the most inveterate; they are green and vigorous in old age. We crave support in vanity, as we do in religion, and never forgive contradictions in that sphere; for however persistent and passionate such prejudices may be, we know too well that they are woven of thin air. A hostile word, by starting a contrary imaginative current, buffets them rudely and threatens to dissolve their being.

[Sidenote: Ambiguities of fame.]

The highest form of vanity is love of fame. It is a passion easy to deride but hard to understand, and in men who live at all by imagination almost impossible to eradicate. The good opinion of posterity can have no possible effect on our fortunes, and the practical value which reputation may temporarily have is quite absent in posthumous fame. The direct object of this passion—that a name should survive in men's mouths to which no adequate idea of its original can be attached—seems a thin and fantastic satisfaction, especially when we consider how little we should probably sympathise with the creatures that are to remember us. What comfort would it be to Virgil that boys still read him at school, or to Pindar that he is sometimes mentioned in a world from which everything he loved has departed? Yet, beneath this desire for nominal longevity, apparently so inane, there may lurk an ideal ambition of which the ancients cannot have been unconscious when they set so high a value on fame. They often identified fame with immortality, a subject on which they had far more rational sentiments than have since prevailed.

[Sidenote: Its possible ideality.]

Fame, as a noble mind conceives and desires it, is not embodied in a monument, a biography, or the repetition of a strange name by strangers; it consists in the immortality of a man's work, his spirit, his efficacy, in the perpetual rejuvenation of his soul in the world. When Horace—no model of magnanimity—wrote his exegi monumentum, he was not thinking that the pleasure he would continue to give would remind people of his trivial personality, which indeed he never particularly celebrated and which had much better lie buried with his bones. He was thinking, of course, of that pleasure itself; thinking that the delight, half lyric, half sarcastic, which those delicate cameos had given him to carve would be perennially renewed in all who retraced them. Nay, perhaps we may not go too far in saying that even that impersonal satisfaction was not the deepest he felt; the deepest, very likely, flowed from the immortality, not of his monument, but of the subject and passion it commemorated; that tenderness, I mean, and that disillusion with mortal life which rendered his verse immortal. He had expressed, and in expressing appropriated, some recurring human moods, some mocking renunciations; and he knew that his spirit was immortal, being linked and identified with that portion of the truth. He had become a little spokesman of humanity, uttering what all experience repeats more or less articulately; and even if he should cease to be honoured in men's memories, he would continue to be unwittingly honoured and justified in their lives.

What we may conceive to have come in this way even within a Horace's apprehension is undoubtedly what has attached many nobler souls to fame. With an inversion of moral derivations which all mythical expression involves we speak of fame as the reward of genius, whereas in truth genius, the imaginative dominion of experience, is its own reward and fame is but a foolish image by which its worth is symbolised. When the Virgin in the Magnificat says, "Behold, from henceforth all generations shall call me blessed," the psalmist surely means to express a spiritual exaltation exempt from vanity; he merely translates into a rhetorical figure the fact that what had been first revealed to Mary would also bless all generations. That the Church should in consequence deem and pronounce her blessed is an incident describing, but not creating, the unanimity in their religious joys. Fame is thus the outward sign or recognition of an inward representative authority residing in genius or good fortune, an authority in which lies the whole worth of fame. Those will substantially remember and honour us who keep our ideals, and we shall live on in those ages whose experience we have anticipated.

Free society differs from that which is natural and legal precisely in this, that it does not cultivate relations which in the last analysis are experienced and material, but turns exclusively to unanimities in meanings, to collaborations in an ideal world. The basis of free society is of course natural, as we said, but free society has ideal goals. Spirits cannot touch save by becoming unanimous. At the same time public opinion, reputation, and impersonal sympathy reinforce only very general feelings, and reinforce them vaguely; and as the inner play of sentiment becomes precise, it craves more specific points of support or comparison. It is in creatures of our own species that we chiefly scent the aroma of inward sympathy, because it is they that are visibly moved on the same occasions as ourselves; and it is to those among our fellow-men who share our special haunts and habits that we feel more precise affinities. Though the ground for such feeling is animal contact and contagion, its deliverance does not revert to those natural accidents, but concerns a represented sympathy in represented souls. Friendship, springing from accidental association, terminates in a consciousness of ideal and essential agreement.

[Sidenote: Comradeship.]

Comradeship is a form of friendship still akin to general sociability and gregariousness. When men are "in the same boat together," when a common anxiety, occupation, or sport unites them, they feel their human kinship in an intensified form without any greater personal affinity subsisting between them. The same effect is produced by a common estrangement from the rest of society. For this reason comradeship lasts no longer than the circumstances that bring it about. Its constancy is proportionate to the monotony of people's lives and minds. There is a lasting bond among schoolfellows because no one can become a boy again and have a new set of playmates. There is a persistent comradeship with one's countrymen, especially abroad, because seldom is a man pliable and polyglot enough to be at home among foreigners, or really to understand them. There is an inevitable comradeship with men of the same breeding or profession, however bad these may be, because habits soon monopolise the man. Nevertheless a greater buoyancy, a longer youth, a richer experience, would break down all these limits of fellowship. Such clingings to the familiar are three parts dread of the unfamiliar and want of resource in its presence, for one part in them of genuine loyalty. Plasticity loves new moulds because it can fill them, but for a man of sluggish mind and bad manners there is decidedly no place like home.

[Sidenote: External conditions of friendship.]

Though comradeship is an accidental bond, it is the condition of ideal friendship, for the ideal, in all spheres, is nothing but the accidental confirming itself and generating its own standard. Men must meet to love, and many other accidents besides conjunction must conspire to make a true friendship possible. In order that friendship may fulfil the conditions even of comradeship, it is requisite that the friends have the same social status, so that they may live at ease together and have congenial tastes. They must further have enough community of occupation and gifts to give each an appreciation of the other's faculty; for qualities are not complementary unless they are qualities of the same substance. Nothing must be actual in either friend that is not potential in the other.

[Sidenote: Identity in sex required.]

For this reason, among others, friends are generally of the same sex, for when men and women agree, it is only in their conclusions; their reasons are always different. So that while intellectual harmony between men and women is easily possible, its delightful and magic quality lies precisely in the fact that it does not arise from mutual understanding, but is a conspiracy of alien essences and a kissing, as it were, in the dark. As man's body differs from woman's in sex and strength, so his mind differs from hers in quality and function: they can co-operate but can never fuse. The human race, in its intellectual life, is organised like the bees: the masculine soul is a worker, sexually atrophied, and essentially dedicated to impersonal and universal arts; the feminine is a queen, infinitely fertile, omnipresent in its brooding industry, but passive and abounding in intuitions without method and passions without justice. Friendship with a woman is therefore apt to be more or less than friendship: less, because there is no intellectual parity; more, because (even when the relation remains wholly dispassionate, as in respect to old ladies) there is something mysterious and oracular about a woman's mind which inspires a certain instinctive deference and puts it out of the question to judge what she says by masculine standards. She has a kind of sibylline intuition and the right to be irrationally a propos. There is a gallantry of the mind which pervades all conversation with a lady, as there is a natural courtesy toward children and mystics; but such a habit of respectful concession, marking as it does an intellectual alienation as profound as that which separates us from the dumb animals, is radically incompatible with friendship.

[Sidenote: and in age.]

Friends, moreover, should have been young together. Much difference in age defeats equality and forbids frankness on many a fundamental subject; it confronts two minds of unlike focus: one near-sighted and without perspective, the other seeing only the background of present things. While comparisons in these respects may be interesting and borrowings sometimes possible, lending the older mind life and the younger mind wisdom, such intercourse has hardly the value of spontaneous sympathy, in which the spark of mutual intelligence flies, as it should, almost without words. Contagion is the only source of valid mind-reading: you must imitate to understand, and where the plasticity of two minds is not similar their mutual interpretations are necessarily false. They idealise in their friends whatever they do not invent or ignore, and the friendship which should have lived on energies conspiring spontaneously together dies into conscious appreciation.

[Sidenote: Constituents of friendship.]

All these are merely permissive conditions for friendship; its positive essence is yet to find. How, we may ask, does the vision of the general socius, humanity, become specific in the vision of a particular friend without losing its ideality or reverting to practical values? Of course, individuals might be singled out for the special benefits they may have conferred; but a friend's only gift is himself, and friendship is not friendship, it is not a form of free or liberal society, if it does not terminate in an ideal possession, in an object loved for its own sake. Such objects can be ideas only, not forces, for forces are subterranean and instrumental things, having only such value as they borrow from their ulterior effects and manifestations. To praise the utility of friendship, as the ancients so often did, and to regard it as a political institution justified, like victory or government, by its material results, is to lose one's moral bearings. The value of victory or good government is rather to be found in the fact that, among other things, it might render friendship possible. We are not to look now for what makes friendship useful, but for whatever may be found in friendship that may lend utility to life.

[Sidenote: Personal liking.]

The first note that gives sociability a personal quality and raises the comrade into an incipient friend is doubtless sensuous affinity. Whatever reaction we may eventually make on an impression, after it has had time to soak in and to merge in some practical or intellectual habit, its first assault is always on the senses, and no sense is an indifferent organ. Each has, so to speak, its congenial rate of vibration and gives its stimuli a varying welcome. Little as we may attend to these instinctive hospitalities of sense, they betray themselves in unjustified likes and dislikes felt for casual persons and things, in the je ne sais quoi that makes instinctive sympathy. Voice, manner, aspect, hints of congenial tastes and judgments, a jest in the right key, a gesture marking the right aversions, all these trifles leave behind a pervasive impression. We reject a vision we find indigestible and without congruity to our inner dream; we accept and incorporate another into our private pantheon, where it becomes a legitimate figure, however dumb and subsidiary it may remain.

In a refined nature these sensuous premonitions of sympathy are seldom misleading. Liking cannot, of course, grow into friendship over night as it might into love; the pleasing impression, even if retained, will lie perfectly passive and harmless in the mind, until new and different impressions follow to deepen the interest at first evoked and to remove its centre of gravity altogether from the senses. In love, if the field is clear, a single glimpse may, like Tristan's potion, produce a violent and irresistible passion; but in friendship the result remains more proportionate to the incidental causes, discrimination is preserved, jealousy and exclusiveness are avoided. That vigilant, besetting, insatiable affection, so full of doubts and torments, with which the lover follows his object, is out of place here; for the friend has no property in his friend's body or leisure or residual ties; he accepts what is offered and what is acceptable, and the rest he leaves in peace. He is distinctly not his brother's keeper, for the society of friends is free.

[Sidenote: The refracting human medium for ideas.]

Friendship may indeed come to exist without sensuous liking or comradeship to pave the way; but unless intellectual sympathy and moral appreciation are powerful enough to react on natural instinct and to produce in the end the personal affection which at first was wanting, friendship does not arise. Recognition given to a man's talent or virtue is not properly friendship. Friends must desire to live as much as possible together and to share their work, thoughts, and pleasures. Good-fellowship and sensuous affinity are indispensable to give spiritual communion a personal accent; otherwise men would be indifferent vehicles for such thoughts and powers as emanated from them, and attention would not be in any way arrested or refracted by the human medium through which it beheld the good.

[Sidenote: Affection based on the refraction.]

No natural vehicle, however, is indifferent; no natural organ is or should be transparent. Transparency is a virtue only in artificial instruments, organs in which no blood flows and whose intrinsic operation is not itself a portion of human life. In looking through a field-glass I do not wish to perceive the lenses nor to see rainbows about their rim; yet I should not wish the eye itself to lose its pigments and add no dyes to the bulks it discerns. The sense for colour is a vital endowment and an ingredient in human happiness; but no vitality is added by the intervention of further media which are not themselves living organs.

A man is sometimes a coloured and sometimes a clear medium for the energies he exerts. When a thought conveyed or a work done enters alone into the observer's experience, no friendship is possible. This is always the case when the master is dead; for if his reconstructed personality retains any charm, it is only as an explanation or conceived nexus for the work he performed. In a philosopher or artist, too, personality is merely instrumental, for, although in a sense pervasive, a creative personality evaporates into its expression, and whatever part of it may not have been translated into ideas is completely negligible from the public point of view. That portion of a man's soul which he has not alienated and objectified is open only to those who know him otherwise than by his works and do not estimate him by his public attributions. Such persons are his friends. Into their lives he has entered not merely through an idea with which his name may be associated, nor through the fame of some feat he may have performed, but by awakening an inexpressible animal sympathy, by the contagion of emotions felt before the same objects. Estimation has been partly arrested at its medium and personal relations have added their homely accent to universal discourse. Friendship might thus be called ideal sympathy refracted by a human medium, or comradeship and sensuous affinity colouring a spiritual light.

[Sidenote: The medium must also be transparent.]

If we approach friendship from above and compare it with more ideal loyalties, its characteristic is its animal warmth and its basis in chance conjunctions; if we approach it from below and contrast it with mere comradeship or liking, its essence seems to be the presence of common ideal interests. That is a silly and effeminate friendship in which the parties are always thinking of the friendship itself and of how each stands in the other's eyes; a sentimental fancy of that sort, in which nothing tangible or ulterior brings people together, is rather a feeble form of love than properly a friendship. In extreme youth such a weakness may perhaps indicate capacity for friendship of a nobler type, because when taste and knowledge have not yet taken shape, the only way, often, in which ideal interests can herald themselves is in the guise of some imagined union from which it is vaguely felt they might be developed, just as in love sexual and social instincts mask themselves in an unreasoning obsession, or as for mystic devotion every ideal masks itself in God. All these sentimental feelings are at any rate mere preludes, but preludes in fortunate cases to more discriminating and solid interests, which such a tremulous overture may possibly pitch on a higher key.

[Sidenote: Common interests indispensable.]

The necessity of backing personal attachment with ideal interests is what makes true friendship so rare. It is found chiefly in youth, for youth best unites the two requisite conditions—affectionate comradeship and ardour in pursuing such liberal aims as may be pursued in common. Life in camp or college is favourable to friendship, for there generous activities are carried on in unison and yet leave leisure for playful expansion and opportunity for a choice in friends. The ancients, so long as they were free, spent their whole life in forum and palaestra, camp, theatre, and temple, and in consequence could live by friendship even in their maturer years; but modern life is unfavourable to its continuance. What with business cares, with political bonds remote and invisible, with the prior claims of family, and with individualities both of mind and habit growing daily more erratic, early friends find themselves very soon parted by unbridgeable chasms. For friendship to flourish personal life would have to become more public and social life more simple and humane.

[Sidenote: Friendship between man and wife.]

The tie that in contemporary society most nearly resembles the ancient ideal of friendship is a well-assorted marriage. In spite of intellectual disparity and of divergence in occupation, man and wife are bound together by a common dwelling, common friends, common affection for children, and, what is of great importance, common financial interests. These bonds often suffice for substantial and lasting unanimity, even when no ideal passion preceded; so that what is called a marriage of reason, if it is truly reasonable, may give a fair promise of happiness, since a normal married life can produce the sympathies it requires.

[Sidenote: Between master and disciple.]

When the common ideal interests needed to give friendship a noble strain become altogether predominant, so that comradeship and personal liking may be dispensed with, friendship passes into more and more political fellowships. Discipleship is a union of this kind. Without claiming any share in the master's private life, perhaps without having ever seen him, we may enjoy communion with his mind and feel his support and guidance in following the ideal which links us together. Hero-worship is an imaginative passion in which latent ideals assume picturesque shapes and take actual persons for their symbols. Such companionship, perhaps wholly imaginary, is a very clear and simple example of ideal society. The unconscious hero, to be sure, happens to exist, but his existence is irrelevant to his function, provided only he be present to the idealising mind. There is or need be no comradeship, no actual force or influence transmitted from him. Certain capacities and tendencies in the worshipper are brought to a focus by the hero's image, who is thereby first discovered and deputed to be a hero. He is an unmoved mover, like Aristotle's God and like every ideal to which thought or action is directed.

The symbol, however, is ambiguous in hero-worship, being in one sense ideal, the representation of an inner demand, and in another sense a sensible experience, the representative of an external reality. Accordingly the symbol, when highly prized and long contemplated, may easily become an idol; that in it which is not ideal nor representative of the worshipper's demand may be imported confusedly into the total adored, and may thus receive a senseless worship. The devotion which was, in its origin, an ideal tendency grown conscious and expressed in fancy may thus become a mechanical force vitiating that ideal. For this reason it is very important that the first objects to fix the soul's admiration should be really admirable, for otherwise their accidental blemishes will corrupt the mind to which they appear sub specie boni.

[Sidenote: Conflict between ideal and natural allegiance.]

Discipleship and hero-worship are not stable relations. Since the meaning they embody is ideal and radiates from within outward, and since the image to which that meaning is attributed is controlled by a real external object, meaning and image, as time goes on, will necessarily fall apart. The idol will be discredited. An ideal, ideally conceived and known to be an ideal, a spirit worshipped in spirit and in truth, will take the place of the pleasing phenomenon; and in regard to every actual being, however noble, discipleship will yield to emulation, and worship to an admiration more or less selective and critical.

[Sidenote: Automatic idealisation of heroes.]

A disembodied ideal, however, is unmanageable and vague; it cannot exercise the natural and material suasion proper to a model we are expected to imitate. The more fruitful procedure is accordingly to idealise some historical figure or natural force, to ignore or minimise in it what does not seem acceptable, and to retain at the same time all the unobjectionable personal colour and all the graphic traits that can help to give that model a persuasive vitality. This poetic process is all the more successful for being automatic. It is in this way that heroes and gods have been created. A legend or fable lying in the mind and continually repeated gained insensibly at each recurrence some new eloquence, some fresh congruity with the emotion it had already awakened, and was destined to awake again. To measure the importance of this truth the reader need only conceive the distance traversed from the Achilles that may have existed to the hero in Homer, or from Jesus as he might have been in real life, or even as he is in the gospels, to Christ in the Church.



CHAPTER VII

PATRIOTISM

[Sidenote: The creative social environment, since it eludes sense, must be represented symbolically.]

The mythical social idea most potent over practical minds is perhaps the idea of country. When a tribe, enlarged and domiciled, has become a state, much social feeling that was before evoked by things visible loses its sensuous object. Yet each man remains no less dependent than formerly on his nation, although less swayed by its visible presence and example; he is no less concerned, materially and ideally, in the fortunes of the community. If a sense for social relations is to endure, some symbol must take the place of the moving crowd, the visible stronghold, and the outspread fields and orchards that once made up his country; some intellectual figment must arise to focus political interests, no longer confined to the crops and the priest's medicinal auguries. It is altogether impossible that the individual should have a discursive and adequate knowledge of statecraft and economy. Whatever idea, then, he frames to represent his undistinguished political relations becomes the centre of his patriotism.

When intelligence is not keen this idea may remain sensuous. The visible instruments of social life—chieftains, armies, monuments, the dialect and dress of the district, with all customs and pleasures traditional there—these are what a sensuous man may understand by his country. Bereft of these sensations he would feel lost and incapable; the habits formed in that environment would be galled by any other. This fondness for home, this dread of change and exile, is all the love of country he knows. If by chance, without too much added thought, he could rise to a certain poetic sentiment, he might feel attachment also to the landscape, to the memorable spots and aspects of his native land. These objects, which rhetoric calls sacred, might really have a certain sanctity for him; a wave of pious emotion might run over him at the sight of them, a pang when in absence they were recalled. These very things, however, like the man who prizes them, are dependent on a much larger system; and if patriotism is to embrace ideally what really produces human well-being it should extend over a wider field and to less picturable objects.

[Sidenote: Ambiguous limits of a native country, geographical and moral.]

To define one's country is not so simple a matter as it may seem. The habitat of a man's youth, to which actual associations may bind him, is hardly his country until he has conceived the political and historical forces that include that habitat in their sphere of influence and have determined its familiar institutions. Such forces are numerous and their spheres include one another like concentric rings. France, for instance, is an uncommonly distinct and self-conscious nation, with a long historic identity and a compact territory. Yet what is the France a Frenchman is to think of and love? Paris itself has various quarters and moral climates, one of which may well be loved while another is detested. The provinces have customs, temperaments, political ideals, and even languages of their own. Is Alsace-Lorraine beyond the pale of French patriotism? And if not, why utterly exclude French-speaking Switzerland, the Channel Islands, Belgium, or Quebec? Or is a Frenchman rather to love the colonies by way of compensation? Is an Algerian Moor or a native of Tonquin his true fellow-citizen? Is Tahiti a part of his "country"? The truth is, if we look at the heart of the matter, a Protestant born in Paris is less a Frenchman than is a Catholic born in Geneva.

If we pass from geography to institutions the same vagueness exists. France to one man represents the Revolution, to another the Empire, to a third the Church, and the vestiges of the ancien regime. Furthermore, how far into the past is patriotism to look? Is Charlemagne one of the glories of French history? Is it Julius Caesar or Vicingetorix that is to warm the patriotic heart? Want of reflection and a blind subservience to the colours of the map has led some historians to call Roman victories defeats suffered by their country, even when that country is essentially so Roman, for instance, as Spain. With as good reason might a Sicilian or a Florentine chafe under the Latin conquest, or an American blush at the invasion of his country by the Pilgrim Fathers. Indeed, even geographically, the limits and the very heart of a man's country are often ambiguous. Was Alexander's country Macedon or Greece? Was General Lee's the United States or Virginia? The ancients defined their country from within outward; its heart was the city and its limits those of that city's dominion or affinities. Moderns generally define their country rather stupidly by its administrative frontiers; and yet an Austrian would have some difficulty in applying even this conventional criterion.

[Sidenote: Sentimental and political patriotism.]

The object of patriotism is in truth something ideal, a moral entity definable only by the ties which a man's imagination and reason can at any moment recognise. If he has insight and depth of feeling he will perceive that what deserves his loyalty is the entire civilisation to which he owes his spiritual life and into which that life will presently flow back, with whatever new elements he may have added. Patriotism accordingly has two aspects: it is partly sentiment by which it looks back upon the sources of culture, and partly policy, or allegiance to those ideals which, being suggested by what has already been attained, animate the better organs of society and demand further embodiment. To love one's country, unless that love is quite blind and lazy, must involve a distinction between the country's actual condition and its inherent ideal; and this distinction in turn involves a demand for changes and for effort. Party allegiance is a true form of patriotism. For a party, at least in its intent, is an association of persons advocating the same policy. Every thoughtful man must advocate some policy, and unless he has the misfortune to stand quite alone in his conception of public welfare he will seek to carry out that policy by the aid of such other persons as advocate it also.

[Sidenote: The earth and the race the first objects of rational loyalty.]

The springs of culture, which retrospective patriotism regards, go back in the last instance to cosmic forces. The necessity that marshals the stars makes possible the world men live in, and is the first general and law-giver to every nation. The earth's geography, its inexorable climates with their flora and fauna, make a play-ground for the human will which should be well surveyed by any statesman who wishes to judge and act, not fantastically, but with reference to the real situation. Geography is a most enlightening science. In describing the habitat of man it largely explains his history. Animal battles give the right and only key to human conflicts, for the superadded rational element in man is not partisan, but on the contrary insinuates into his economy the novel principle of justice and peace. As this leaven, however, can mingle only with elements predisposed to receive it, the basis of reason itself, in so far as it attains expression, must be sought in the natural world. The fortunes of the human family among the animals thus come to concern reason and to be the background of progress.

Within humanity the next sphere of interest for a patriot is the race from which he is descended, with its traditional languages and religions. Blood is the ground of character and intelligence. The fruits of civilisation may, indeed, be transmitted from one race to another and consequently a certain artificial homogeneity may be secured amongst different nations; yet unless continual intermarriage takes place each race will soon recast and vitiate the common inheritance. The fall of the Roman Empire offered such a spectacle, when various types of barbarism, with a more or less classic veneer, re-established themselves everywhere. Perhaps modern cosmopolitanism, if not maintained by commerce or by permanent conquest, may break apart in the same way and yield to local civilisations no less diverse than Christendom and Islam.

[Sidenote: Race, when distinct, the greatest of distinctions.]

Community of race is a far deeper bond than community of language, education, or government. Where one political system dominates various races it forces their common culture to be external merely. This is perhaps the secret of that strange recrudescence of national feeling, apart often from political divisions, which has closely followed the French Revolution and the industrial era. The more two different peoples grow alike in externals the more conscious and jealous they become of diversity in their souls; and where individuals are too insignificant to preserve any personality or distinction of their own, they flock together into little intentional societies and factious groups, in the hope of giving their imagination, in its extremity, some little food and comfort. Private nationalities and private religions are luxuries at such a time in considerable demand. The future may possibly see in the Occident that divorce between administrative and ideal groups which is familiar in the Orient; so that under no matter what government and with utter cosmopolitanism in industry and science, each race may guard its own poetry, religion, and manners. Such traditions, however, would always be survivals or revivals rather than genuine expressions of life, because mind must either represent nature and the conditions of action or else be content to persist precariously and without a function, like a sort of ghost.

[Sidenote: "Pure" races may be morally sterile.]

Some races are obviously superior to others. A more thorough adjustment to the conditions of existence has given their spirit victory, scope, and a relative stability. It is therefore of the greatest importance not to obscure this superiority by intermarriage with inferior stock, and thus nullify the progress made by a painful evolution and a prolonged sifting of souls. Reason protests as much as instinct against any fusion, for instance, of white and black peoples. Mixture is in itself no evil if the two nations, being approximately equal, but having complementary gifts, can modify them without ultimate loss, and possibly to advantage. Indeed the so-called pure races, since their purity has gone with isolation and inexperience, have borne comparatively little spiritual fruit. Large contact and concentrated living bring out native genius, but mixture with an inferior stock can only tend to obliterate it. The Jews, the Greeks, the Romans, the English were never so great as when they confronted other nations, reacting against them and at the same time, perhaps, adopting their culture; but this greatness fails inwardly whenever contact leads to amalgamation.

There is something unmistakably illiberal, almost superstitious, in standing on race for its own sake, as if origins and not results were of moral value. It matters nothing what blood a man has, if he has the right spirit; and if there is some ground for identifying the two (since monkeys, however educated, are monkeys still) it is only when blood means character and capacity, and is tested by them, that it becomes important. Nor is it unjust to level the individual, in his political and moral status, with the race to which he belongs, if this race holds an approved position. Individual gifts and good intentions have little efficacy in the body politic if they neither express a great tradition nor can avail to found one; and this tradition, as religion shows, will falsify individual insights so soon as they are launched into the public medium. The common soul will destroy a noble genius in absorbing it, and therefore, to maintain progress, a general genius has to be invoked; and a general genius means an exceptional and distinct race.

[Sidenote: True nationality direction on a definite ideal.]

Environment, education, fashion, may be all powerful while they last and may make it seem a prejudice to insist on race, turning its assumed efficacy into a sheer dogma, with fanatical impulses behind it; yet in practice the question will soon recur: What shall sustain that omnipotent fashion, education, or environment? Nothing is more treacherous than tradition, when insight and force are lacking to keep it warm. Under Roman dominion, the inhabitants of Sparta still submitted to the laws of Lycurgus and their life continued to be a sort of ritualistic shadow of the past. Those enfranchised helots thought they were maintaining a heroic state when, in fact, they were only turning its forms into a retrospective religion. The old race was practically extinct; ephors, gymnasia, and common meals could do nothing to revive it. The ways of the Roman world—a kindred promiscuous population—prevailed over that local ritual and rendered it perfunctory, because there were no longer any living souls to understand that a man might place his happiness in his country's life and care nothing for Oriental luxury or Oriental superstition, things coming to flatter his personal lusts and make him useless and unhappy.

Institutions without men are as futile as men without institutions. Before race can be a rational object for patriotism there must exist a traditional genius, handed down by inheritance or else by adoption, when the persons adopted can really appreciate the mysteries they are initiated into. Blood could be disregarded, if only the political ideal remained constant and progress was sustained, the laws being modified only to preserve their spirit. A state lives in any case by exchanging persons, and all spiritual life is maintained by exchanging expressions. Life is a circulation; it can digest whatever materials will assume a form already determined ideally and enable that form to come forth more clearly and be determined in more particulars. Stagnant matter necessarily decays and in effect is false to the spirit no less than a spirit that changes is false to itself.

[Sidenote: Country well represented by domestic and civic religion.]

The spirit of a race is a mythical entity expressing the individual soul in its most constant and profound instincts and expanding it in the direction in which correct representation is most easily possible, in the direction of ancestors, kinsmen, and descendants. In ancient cities, where patriotism was intense, it was expressed in a tribal and civic religion. The lares, the local gods, the deified heroes associated with them, were either ancestors idealised or ideals of manhood taking the form of patrons and supernatural protectors. Jupiter Capitolinus and the Spirit of Rome were a single object. To worship Jupiter in that Capitol was to dedicate oneself to the service of Rome. A foreigner could no more share that devotion than a neighbour could share the religion of the hearth without sharing by adoption the life of the family. Paganism was the least artificial of religions and the most poetical; its myths were comparatively transparent and what they expressed was comparatively real. In that religion patriotism and family duties could take imaginable forms, and those forms, apart from the inevitable tinge of superstition which surrounded them, did not materially vitiate the allegiance due to the actual forces on which human happiness depends.

[Sidenote: Misleading identification of country with government.]

[Sidenote: Sporting or belligerent patriotism.]

What has driven patriotism, as commonly felt and conceived, so far from rational courses and has attached it to vapid objects has been the initial illegitimacy of all governments. Under such circumstances, patriotism is merely a passion for ascendency. Properly it animates the army, the government, the aristocracy; from those circles it can percolate, not perhaps without the help of some sophistry and intimidation, into the mass of the people, who are told that their government's fortunes are their own. Now the rabble has a great propensity to take sides, promptly and passionately, in any spectacular contest; the least feeling of affinity, the slightest emotional consonance, will turn the balance and divert in one direction sympathetic forces which, for every practical purpose, might just as well have rushed the other way. Most governments are in truth private societies pitted against one another in the international arena and giving meantime at home exhibitions of eloquence and more rarely of enterprise; but the people's passions are easily enlisted in such a game, of course on the side of their own government, just as each college or region backs its own athletes, even to the extent of paying their bills. Nations give the same kind of support to their fighting governments, and the sporting passions and illusions concerned are what, in the national game, is called patriotism.

Where parties and governments are bad, as they are in most ages and countries, it makes practically no difference to a community, apart from local ravages, whether its own army or the enemy's is victorious in war, nor does it really affect any man's welfare whether the party he happens to belong to is in office or not. These issues concern, in such cases, only the army itself, whose lives and fortunes are at stake, or the official classes, who lose their places when their leaders fall from power. The private citizen in any event continues in such countries to pay a maximum of taxes and to suffer, in all his private interests, a maximum of vexation and neglect. Nevertheless, because he has some son at the front, some cousin in the government, or some historical sentiment for the flag and the nominal essence of his country, the oppressed subject will glow like the rest with patriotic ardour, and will decry as dead to duty and honour anyone who points out how perverse is this helpless allegiance to a government representing no public interest.

[Sidenote: Exclusive patriotism rational only when the government supported is universally beneficent.]

In proportion as governments become good and begin to operate for the general welfare, patriotism itself becomes representative and an expression of reason; but just in the same measure does hostility to that government on the part of foreigners become groundless and perverse. A competitive patriotism involves ill-will toward all other states and a secret and constant desire to see them thrashed and subordinated. It follows that a good government, while it justifies this governmental patriotism in its subjects, disallows it in all other men. For a good government is an international benefit, and the prosperity and true greatness of any country is a boon sooner or later to the whole world; it may eclipse alien governments and draw away local populations or industries, but it necessarily benefits alien individuals in so far as it is allowed to affect them at all.

Animosity against a well-governed country is therefore madness. A rational patriotism would rather take the form of imitating and supporting that so-called foreign country, and even, if practicable, of fusing with it. The invidious and aggressive form of patriotism, though inspired generally only by local conceit, would nevertheless be really justified if such conceit happened to be well grounded. A dream of universal predominance visiting a truly virtuous and intelligent people would be an aspiration toward universal beneficence. For every man who is governed at all must be governed by others; the point is, that the others, in ruling him, shall help him to be himself and give scope to his congenial activities. When coerced in that direction he obeys a force which, in the best sense of the word, represents him, and consequently he is truly free; nor could he be ruled by a more native and rightful authority than by one that divines and satisfies his true necessities.

[Sidenote: Accidents of birth and training affect the ideal.]

A man's nature is not, however, a quantity or quality fixed unalterably and a priori. As breeding and selection improve a race, so every experience modifies the individual and offers a changed basis for future experience. The language, religion, education, and prejudices acquired in youth bias character and predetermine the directions in which development may go on. A child might possibly change his country; a man can only wish that he might change it. Therefore, among the true interests which a government should represent, nationality itself must be included.

[Sidenote: They are conditions and may contribute something.]

Mechanical forces, we must not weary of repeating, do not come merely to vitiate the ideal; they come to create it. The historical background of life is a part of its substance and the ideal can never grow independently of its spreading roots. A sanctity hangs about the sources of our being, whether physical, social, or imaginative. The ancients who kissed the earth on returning to their native country expressed nobly and passionately what every man feels for those regions and those traditions whence the sap of his own life has been sucked in. There is a profound friendliness in whatever revives primordial habits, however they may have been overlaid with later sophistications. For this reason the homelier words of a mother tongue, the more familiar assurances of an ancestral religion, and the very savour of childhood's dishes, remain always a potent means to awaken emotion. Such ingrained influences, in their vague totality, make a man's true nationality. A government, in order to represent the general interests of its subjects, must move in sympathy with their habits and memories; it must respect their idiosyncrasy for the same reason that it protects their lives. If parting from a single object of love be, as it is, true dying, how much more would a shifting of all the affections be death to the soul.

[Sidenote: They are not ends.]

Tenderness to such creative influences is a mark of profundity; it has the same relation to political life that transcendentalism has to science and morals; it shrinks back into radical facts, into centres of vital radiation, and quickens the sense for inner origins. Nationality is a natural force and a constituent in character which should be reckoned with and by no means be allowed to miss those fruits which it alone might bear; but, like the things it venerates, it is only a starting-point for liberal life. Just as to be always talking about transcendental points of reference, primordial reality, and the self to which everything appears, though at first it might pass for spiritual insight, is in the end nothing but pedantry and impotence, so to be always harping on nationality is to convert what should be a recognition of natural conditions into a ridiculous pride in one's own oddities. Nature has hidden the roots of things, and though botany must now and then dig them up for the sake of comprehension, their place is still under ground, if flowers and fruits are to be expected. The private loyalties which a man must have toward his own people, grounding as they alone can his morality and genius, need nevertheless to be seldom paraded. Attention, when well directed, turns rather to making immanent racial forces blossom out in the common medium and express themselves in ways consonant with practical reason and universal progress. A man's feet must be planted in his country, but his eyes should survey the world.

What a statesman might well aim at would be to give the special sentiments and gifts of his countrymen such a turn that, while continuing all vital traditions, they might find less and less of what is human alien to their genius. Differences in nationality, founded on race and habitat, must always subsist; but what has been superadded artificially by ignorance and bigotry may be gradually abolished in view of universal relations better understood. There is a certain plane on which all races, if they reach it at all, must live in common, the plane of morals and science; which is not to say that even in those activities the mind betrays no racial accent. What is excluded from science and morals is not variety, but contradiction. Any community which had begun to cultivate the Life of Reason in those highest fields would tend to live rationally on all subordinate levels also; for with science and morality rationally applied the best possible use would be made of every local and historical accident. Where traditions had some virtue or necessity about them they would be preserved; where they were remediable prejudices they would be superseded.

[Sidenote: The symbol for country may be a man and may become an idol.]

At the birth of society instincts existed, needful to the animal and having a certain glorious impetuosity about them, which prompted common action and speech, and a public morality, and men were led to construct myths that might seem to justify this co-operation. Paternal authority could easily suggest one symbol for social loyalty: the chief, probably a venerable and imperious personage, could be called a father and obeyed as a natural master. His command might by convention be regarded as an expression of the common voice, just as the father's will is by nature the representative of his children's interests. Again, the members of each community were distinguished from their enemies by many a sign and custom; these signs and customs might also become a graphic symbol for the common life.

Both these cases suggest how easily a symbol takes the place of its object and becomes an idol. If the symbol happens to be a man there are natural human sentiments awakened by him; and whatever respect his character or gifts may inspire, whatever charm there may be in his person, whatever graciousness he may add to his official favours or commands, increase immensely his personal ascendency. A king has a great opportunity to make himself loved. This scope given to private inclination is what, to ordinary fancy, makes royalty enviable; few envy its impersonal power and historic weight. Yet if a king were nothing but a man surrounded by flatterers, who was cheered when he drove abroad, there would be little stability in monarchy. A king is really the state's hinge and centre of gravity, the point where all private and party ambitions meet and, in a sense, are neutralised. It is not easy for factions to overturn him, for every other force in the state will instinctively support him against faction. His elevation above everyone, the identity of his sober interests with those of the state at large, is calculated to make him the people's natural representative; his word has therefore a genuine authority, and his ascendency, not being invidious, is able to secure internal peace, even when not enlightened enough to insure prosperity or to avoid foreign wars. Accordingly, whenever a monarchy is at all representative time has an irresistible tendency to increase its prestige; the king is felt to be the guardian as well as the symbol of all public greatness.

Meantime a double dislocation is possible here: patriotism may be wholly identified with personal loyalty to the sovereign, while the sovereign himself, instead of making public interests his own, may direct his policy so as to satisfy his private passions. The first confusion leads to a conflict between tradition and reason; the second to the ruin of either the state or the monarchy. In a word, a symbol needs to remain transparent and to become adequate; failing in either respect, it misses its function.

[Sidenote: Feudal representation sensitive but partial.]

The feudal system offers perhaps the best illustration of a patriotism wholly submerged in loyalty. The sense of mutual obligation and service was very clear in this case; the vassal in swearing fealty knew perfectly well what sort of a bargain he was striking. A feudal government, while it lasted, was accordingly highly responsive and responsible. If false to its calling, it could be readily disowned, for it is easy to break an oath and to make new military associations, especially where territorial units are small and their links accidental. But this personal, conscious, and jealous subordination of man to man constituted a government of insignificant scope. Military functions were alone considered and the rest was allowed to shift for itself. Feudalism could have been possible only in a barbarous age when the arts existed on sufferance and lived on by little tentative resurrections. The feudal lord was a genuine representative of a very small part of his vassal's interests. This slight bond sufficed, however, to give him a great prestige and to stimulate in him all the habits and virtues of a responsible master; so that in England, where vestiges of feudalism abound to this day, there is an aristocracy not merely titular.

[Sidenote: Monarchical representation comprehensive but treacherous.]

A highly concentrated monarchy presents the exactly opposite phenomenon. Here subordination is involuntary and mutual responsibility largely unconscious. On the other hand, the scope of representation is very wide and the monarch may well embody the whole life of the nation. A great court, with officers of state and a standing army, is sensitive to nothing so much as to general appearances and general results. The invisible forces of industry, morality, and personal ambition that really sustain the state are not studied or fomented by such a government; so that when these resources begin to fail, the ensuing catastrophes are a mystery to everybody. The king and his ministers never cease wondering how they can be so constantly unfortunate.

So long, however, as the nation's vital force is unspent and taxes and soldiers are available in plenty, a great monarchy tends to turn those resources to notable results. The arts and sciences are encouraged by the patronage of men of breeding and affairs; they are disciplined into a certain firmness and amplitude which artists and scholars, if left to themselves, are commonly incapable of. Life is refined; religion itself, unless fanaticism be too hopelessly in the ascendant, is co-ordinated with other public interests and compelled to serve mankind; a liberal life is made possible; the imagination is stimulated and set free by that same brilliant concentration of all human energies which defeats practical liberty. At the same time luxury and all manner of conceits are part and parcel of such a courtly civilisation, and its best products are the first to be lost; so that very likely the dumb forces of society—hunger, conscience, and malice—will not do any great harm when they destroy those treacherous institutions which, after giving the spirit a momentary expression, had become an offence to both spirit and flesh. Observers at the time may lament the collapse of so much elegance and greatness; but nature has no memory and brushes away without a qualm her card-castle of yesterday, if a new constructive impulse possesses her to-day.

[Sidenote: Impersonal symbols no advantage.]

Where no suitable persons are found to embody the state's unity, other symbols have to be chosen. Besides the gods and their temples, there are the laws which may, as among the Jews and Mohammedans, become as much a fetich as any monarch, and one more long-lived; or else some traditional policy of revenge or conquest, or even the country's name or flag, may serve this symbolic purpose. A trivial emblem, which no thinking man can substitute for the thing signified, is not so great an advantage as at first sight it might seem; for in the first place men are often thoughtless and adore words and symbols with a terrible earnestness; while, on the other hand, an abstract token, because of its natural insipidity, can be made to stand for anything; so that patriotism, when it uses pompous words alone for its stimulus, is very apt to be a cloak for private interests, which the speaker may sincerely conceive to be the only interests in question.

[Sidenote: Patriotism not self-interest, save to the social man whose aims are ideal.]

The essence of patriotism is thus annulled, for patriotism does not consist in considering the private and sordid interests of others as well as one's own, by a kind of sympathy which is merely vicarious or epidemic selfishness; patriotism consists rather in being sensitive to a set of interests which no one could have had if he had lived in isolation, but which accrue to men conscious of living in society, and in a society having the scope and history of a nation. It was the vice of liberalism to believe that common interests covered nothing but the sum of those objects which each individual might pursue alone; whereby science, religion, art, language, and nationality itself would cease to be matters of public concern and would appeal to the individual merely as instruments. The welfare of a flock of sheep is secured if each is well fed and watered, but the welfare of a human society involves the partial withdrawal of every member from such pursuits to attend instead to memory and to ideal possessions; these involve a certain conscious continuity and organisation in the state not necessary for animal existence. It is not for man's interest to live unless he can live in the spirit, because his spiritual capacity, when unused, will lacerate and derange even his physical life. The brutal individualist falls into the same error into which despots fall when they declare war out of personal pique or tax the people to build themselves a pyramid, not discerning their country's interests, which they might have appropriated, from interests of their own which no one else can share.

Democracies, too, are full of patriots of this lordly stripe, men whose patriotism consists in joy at their personal possessions and in desire to increase them. The resultant of general selfishness might conceivably be a general order; but though intelligent selfishness, if universal, might suffice for good government, it could not suffice for nationality. Patriotism is an imaginative passion, and imagination is ingenuous. The value of patriotism is not utilitarian, but ideal. It belongs to the free forms of society and ennobles a man not so much because it nerves him to work or to die, which the basest passions may also do, but because it associates him, in working or dying, with an immortal and friendly companion, the spirit of his race. This he received from his ancestors tempered by their achievements, and may transmit to posterity qualified by his own.



CHAPTER VIII

IDEAL SOCIETY

[Sidenote: The gregarious instinct all social instincts in suspense.]

To many beings—to almost all that people the earth and sky—each soul is not attached by any practical interest. Some are too distant to be perceived; the proximity of others passes unnoticed. It is far from requisite, in pursuing safety, that every strange animal be regarded as either a friend or an enemy. Wanton hostilities would waste ammunition and idle attachments would waste time. Yet it often happens that some of these beings, having something in common with creatures we are wont to notice, since we stand to them in sexual, parental, or hostile relations, cannot well go unobserved. Their presence fills us with a vague general emotion, the arrested possibility at once of sexual, of parental, and of hostile actions. This emotion is gregarious or impersonally social. The flock it commonly regards may be described as an aggregate in which parents and children have been submerged, in which mates are not yet selected, and enemies not yet descried.

Gregarious sentiment is passive, watchful, expectant, at once powerful and indistinct, troubled and fascinated by things merely possible. It renders solitude terrible without making society particularly delightful. A dull feeling of familiarity and comfort is all we can reasonably attribute to uninterrupted trooping together. Yet banishment from an accustomed society is often unbearable. A creature separated from his group finds all his social instincts bereft of objects and of possible exercise; the sexual, if by chance the sexual be at the time active; the parental, with all its extensions; and the combative, with all its supports. He is helpless and idle, deprived of all resource and employment. Yet when restored to his tribe, he merely resumes a normal existence. All particular feats and opportunities are still to seek. Company is not occupation. Society is like the air, necessary to breathe but insufficient to live on.

Similar beings herding together in the same places are naturally subject to simultaneous reactions, and the sense of this common reaction makes possible the conception of many minds having a common experience. The elements of this experience they express to one another by signs. For when spontaneous reactions occur together in many animals, each, knowing well his own emotion, will inevitably take the perceived attitude and gesture of his fellows for its expression—for his own attitude and gesture he knows nothing of; and he will thus possess, without further instruction, the outward sign for his inner experience.

[Sidenote: It gives rise to conscience or sympathy with the public voice.]

It is see how a moral world can grow out of these primary intuitions. Knowing, for instance, the expression of anger, a man may come to find anger directed against himself; together with physical fear in the presence of attack, he will feel the contagion of his enemy's passion, especially if his enemy be the whole group whose reactions he is wont to share, and something in him will strive to be angry together with the rest of the world. He will perfectly understand that indignation against himself which in fact he instinctively shares. This self-condemning emotion will be his sense of shame and his conscience. Words soon come to give definition to such a feeling, which without expression in language would have but little stability. For when a man is attracted to an act, even if it be condemned by others, he views it as delightful and eligible in itself; but when he is forced, by the conventional use of words, to attach to that act an opprobrious epithet, an epithet which he himself has always applied with scorn, he finds himself unable to suppress the emotion connoted by the word; he cannot defend his rebellious intuition against the tyranny of language; he is inwardly confused and divided against himself, and out of his own mouth convicted of wickedness.

A proof of the notable influence that language has on these emotions may be found in their transformations. The connivance of a very few persons is sufficient to establish among them a new application of eulogistic terms; it will suffice to suppress all qualms in the pursuance of their common impulse and to consecrate a new ideal of character. It is accordingly no paradox that there should be honour among thieves, kindness among harlots, and probity among fanatics. They have not lost their conscience; they have merely introduced a flattering heresy into the conventional code, to make room for the particular passion indulged in their little world.

[Sidenote: Guises of public opinion.]

Sympathy with the general mind may also take other forms. Public opinion, in a vivacious and clear-headed community, may be felt to be the casual and irresponsible thing which in truth it is. Homer, for instance, has no more solemn vehicle for it than the indefinite and unaccountable [Greek: tis]. "So," he tells us, "somebody or anybody said." In the Greek tragedians this unauthoritative entity was replaced by the chorus, an assemblage of conventional persons, incapable of any original perception, but possessing a fund of traditional lore, a just if somewhat encumbered conscience, and the gift of song. This chorus was therefore much like the Christian Church and like that celestial choir of which the church wishes to be the earthly echo. Like the church, the tragic chorus had authority, because it represented a wide, if ill-digested, experience; and it had solemnity, because it spoke in archaic tropes, emotional and obscure symbols of prehistoric conflicts. These sacramental forms retained their power to move in spite of their little pertinence to living issues, partly on account of the mystery which enshrouded their forgotten passion and partly on account of the fantastic interpretations which that pregnant obscurity allowed.

[Sidenote: Oracles and revelations.]

Far more powerful, however, are those embodiments of the general conscience which religion furnishes in its first and spontaneous phase, as when the Hebrew prophets dared to cry, "So saith the Lord." Such faith in one's own inspiration is a more pliable oracle than tradition or a tragic chorus, and more responsive to the needs and changes of the hour. Occidental philosophers, in their less simple and less eloquent manner, have often repeated that arrogant Hebraic cry: they have told us in their systems what God thinks about the world. Such pretensions would be surprising did we not remind ourselves of the obvious truth that what men attribute to God is nothing but the ideal they value and grope for in themselves, and that the commandments, mythically said to come from the Most High, flow in fact from common reason and local experience.

If history did not enable us to trace this derivation, the ever-present practical standard for faith would sufficiently indicate it; for no one would accept as divine a revelation which he felt to be immoral or found to be pernicious. And yet such a deviation into the maleficent is always possible when a code is uprooted from its rational soil and transplanted into a realm of imagination, where it is subject to all sorts of arbitrary distortions. If the sexual instinct should attach us (as in its extensions and dislocations it sometimes does) to beings incapable of satisfying it or of uniting with us in propagating the race, we should, of course, study to correct that aberration so that our joys and desires might march in step with the possible progress of the world. In the same way, if the gregarious instinct should bring us into the imagined presence of companions that really did not exist, or on whose attitude and co-operation our successes in no way depended, we should try to lead back our sense of fellowship to its natural foundations and possible sanctions.

Society exists so far as does analogous existence and community of ends. We may, in refining the social instinct, find some fellowship in the clouds and in the stars, for these, though remote, are companions of our career. By poetic analogy we may include in the social world whatever helps or thwarts our development, and is auxiliary to the energies of the soul, even if that object be inanimate. Whatever spirit in the past or future, or in the remotest regions of the sky, shares our love and pursuit, say of mathematics or of music, or of any ideal object, becomes, if we can somehow divine his existence, a partner in our joys and sorrows, and a welcome friend.

[Sidenote: The ideal a measure for all existences and no existence itself.]

Those ideal objects, however, for whose sake all revolutions in space and time may be followed with interest, are not themselves members of our society. The ideal to which all forces should minister is itself no force or factor in its own realisation. Such a possible disposition of things is a mere idea, eternal and inert, a form life might possibly take on and the one our endeavours, if they were consistent, would wish to impose on it. This ideal itself, however, has often been expressed in some mythical figure or Utopia. So to express it is simply to indulge an innocent instinct for prophecy and metaphor; but unfortunately the very innocence of fancy may engage it all the more hopelessly in a tangle of bad dreams. If we once identify our Utopia or other ideal with the real forces that surround us, or with any one of them, we have fallen into an illusion from which we shall emerge only after bitter disappointments; and even when we have come out again into the open, we shall long carry with us the desolating sense of wasted opportunities and vitiated characters. For to have taken our purposes for our helpers is to have defeated the first and ignored the second; it is to have neglected rational labour and at the same time debauched social sense.

The religious extensions of society should therefore be carefully watched; for while sometimes, as with the Hebrew prophets, religion gives dramatic expression to actual social forces and helps to intensify moral feeling, it often, as in mystics of all creeds and ages, deadens the consciousness of real ties by feigning ties which are purely imaginary. This self-deception is the more frequent because there float before men who live in the spirit ideals which they look to with the respect naturally rendered to whatever is true, beautiful, or good; and the symbolic rendering of these ideals, which is the rational function of religion, may be confused with its superstitious or utilitarian part—with exploiting occult forces to aid us in the work of life.

Occult forces may indeed exist, and they may even be so disposed that the ideal is served by their agency; but the most notable embodiment of a principle is not itself a principle, being only an instance, and the most exact fulfilment of a law is not a law, being simply an event. To discover a law may meantime be the most interesting of events, and the image or formula that expresses a principle may be the most welcome of intellectual presences. These symbols, weighted with their wide significance, may hold the mind and attract its energies into their vortex; and human genius is certainly not at its worst when employed in framing a good myth or a good argument. The lover of representation, be he thinker or dramatist, moves by preference in an ideal society. His communion with the world is half a soliloquy, for the personages in his dialogue are private symbols, and being symbols they stand for what is not themselves; the language he imputes to them is his own, though it is their ways that prompt him to impute that language to them. Plastic images of his own making and shifting are his sole means of envisaging eternal principles and ultimate substances, things ideal and potential, which can never become phenomenal in their own persons.

[Sidenote: Contrast between natural and intellectual bonds.]

It is an inspiring thought, and a true one, that in proportion as a man's interests become humane and his efforts rational, he appropriates and expands a common life, which reappears in all individuals who reach the same impersonal level of ideas—a level which his own influence may help them to maintain. Patriotism envisages this ideal life in so far as it is locally coloured and grounded in certain racial aptitudes and traditions; but the community recognised in patriotism is imbedded in a larger one embracing all living creatures. While in some respects we find sympathy more complete the nearer home we remain, in another sense there is no true companionship except with the universe. Instinctive society, with its compulsory affections, is of course deeper and more elementary than any free or intellectual union. Love is at once more animal than friendship and more divine; and the same thing may be said of family affection when compared with patriotism. What lies nearer the roots of our being must needs enjoy a wider prevalence and engage the soul more completely, being able to touch its depths and hush its primordial murmurs.

On the other hand, the free spirit, the political and speculative genius in man, chafes under those blind involutions and material bonds. Natural, beneficent, sacred, as in a sense they may be, they somehow oppress the intellect and, like a brooding mother, half stifle what they feed. Something drives the youth afield, into solitude, into alien friendships; only in the face of nature and an indifferent world can he become himself. Such a flight from home and all its pieties grows more urgent when there is some real conflict of temper or conscience between the young man and what is established in his family; and this happens often because, after all, the most beneficent conventions are but mechanisms which must ignore the nicer sensibilities and divergences of living souls.

[Sidenote: Appeal from man to God, from real to ideal society.]

Common men accept these spiritual tyrannies, weak men repine at them, and great men break them down. But to defy the world is a serious business, and requires the greatest courage, even if the defiance touch in the first place only the world's ideals. Most men's conscience, habits, and opinions are borrowed from convention and gather continual comforting assurances from the same social consensus that originally suggested them. To reverse this process, to consult one's own experience and elicit one's own judgment, challenging those in vogue, seems too often audacious and futile; but there are impetuous minds born to disregard the chances against them, even to the extent of denying that they are taking chances at all. For in the first instance it never occurs to the inventor that he is the source of his new insight; he thinks he has merely opened his eyes and seen what, by an inconceivable folly, the whole world had grown blind to. Wise men in antiquity, he imagines, saw the facts as he sees them, as the gods see them now, and as all sane men shall see them henceforward.

Thus, if the innovator be a religious soul, grown conscious of some new spiritual principle, he will try to find support for his inspiration in some lost book of the law or in some early divine revelation corrupted, as he will assert, by wicked men, or even in some direct voice from heaven; no delusion will be too obvious, no re-interpretation too forced, if it can help him to find external support somewhere for his spontaneous conviction. To denounce one authority he needs to invoke another, and if no other be found, he will invent or, as they say, he will postulate one. His courage in facing the actual world is thus supported by his ability to expand the world in imagination. In separating himself from his fellow-men he has made a new companion out of his ideal. An impetuous spirit when betrayed by the world will cry, "I know that my redeemer liveth"; and the antiphonal response will come more wistfully after reflection:

"It fortifies my soul to know That though I wander, Truth is so."

[Sidenote: Significant symbols revert to the concrete.]

The deceptions which nature practises on men are not always cruel. These are also kindly deceptions which prompt him to pursue or expect his own good when, though not destined to come in the form he looks for, this good is really destined to come in some shape or other. Such, for instance, are the illusions of romantic love, which may really terminate in a family life practically better than the absolute and chimerical unions which that love had dreamed of. Such, again, are those illusions of conscience which attach unspeakable vague penalties and repugnances to acts which commonly have bad results, though these are impossible to forecast with precision. When disillusion comes, while it may bring a momentary shock, it ends by producing a settled satisfaction unknown before, a satisfaction which the coveted prize, could it have been attained, would hardly have secured. When on the day of judgment, or earlier, a man perceives that what he thought he was doing for the Lord's sake he was really doing for the benefit of the least, perhaps, of the Lord's creatures, his satisfaction, after a moment's surprise, will certainly be very genuine.

[Sidenote: Nature a symbol for destiny.]

Such kindly illusions are involved in the symbolic method by which general relations and the inconceivably diffuse reality of things have to be apprehended. The stars are in human thought a symbol for the silent forces of destiny, really embodied in forms beyond our apprehension; for who shall say what actual being may or may not correspond to that potentiality of life or sensation which is all that the external world can be to our science? When astrology invented the horoscope it made an absurdly premature translation of celestial hieroglyphics into that language of universal destiny which in the end they may be made to speak. The perfect astronomer, when he understood at last exactly what pragmatic value the universe has, and what fortunes the stars actually forebode, would be pleasantly surprised to discover that he was nothing but an astrologer grown competent and honest.

[Sidenote: Representative notions have also inherent values.]

Ideal society belongs entirely to this realm of kindly illusion, for it is the society of symbols. Whenever religion, art, or science presents us with an image or a formula, involving no matter how momentous a truth, there is something delusive in the representation. It needs translation into the detailed experience which it sums up in our own past or prophecies elsewhere. This eventual change in form, far from nullifying our knowledge, can alone legitimise it. A conception not reducible to the small change of daily experience is like a currency not exchangeable for articles of consumption; it is not a symbol, but a fraud. And yet there is another aspect to the matter. Symbols are presences, and they are those particularly congenial presences which we have inwardly evoked and cast in a form intelligible and familiar to human thinking. Their function is to give flat experience a rational perspective, translating the general flux into stable objects and making it representable in human discourse. They are therefore precious, not only for their representative or practical value, implying useful adjustments to the environing world, but even more, sometimes, for their immediate or aesthetic power, for their kinship to the spirit they enlighten and exercise.

This is prevailingly true in the fine arts which seem to express man even more than they express nature; although in art also the symbol would lose all its significance and much of its inward articulation if natural objects and eventual experience could be disregarded in constructing it. In music, indeed, this ulterior significance is reduced to a minimum; yet it persists, since music brings an ideal object before the mind which needs, to some extent, translation into terms no longer musical—terms, for instance, of skill, dramatic passion, or moral sentiment. But in music pre-eminently, and very largely in all the arts, external propriety is adventitious; so much can the mere presence and weight of a symbol fill the mind and constitute an absolute possession.

[Sidenote: Religion and science indirectly cognitive and directly ideal.]

In religion and science the overt purpose of symbols is to represent external truths. The inventors of these symbols think they are merely uncovering a self-existent reality, having in itself the very form seen in their idea. They do not perceive that the society of God or Nature is an ideal society, nor that these phantoms, looming in their imagination, are but significant figments whose existent basis is a minute and indefinite series of ordinary perceptions. They consequently attribute whatever value their genial syntheses may have to the object as they picture it. The gods have, they fancy, the aspect and passions, the history and influence which their myth unfolds; nature in its turn contains hypostatically just those laws and forces which are described by theory. Consequently the presence of God or Nature seems to the mythologist not an ideal, but a real and mutual society, as if collateral beings, endowed with the conceived characters, actually existed as men exist. But this opinion is untenable. As Hobbes said, in a phrase which ought to be inscribed in golden letters over the head of every talking philosopher: No discourse whatsoever can end in absolute knowledge of fact. Absolute knowledge of fact is immediate, it is experiential. We should have to become God or Nature in order to know for a fact that they existed. Intellectual knowledge, on the other hand, where it relates to existence, is faith only, a faith which in these matters means trust. For the forces of Nature or the gods, if they had crude existence, so that we might conceivably become what they are, would lose that causal and that religious function which are their essence respectively. They would be merely collateral existences, loaded with all sorts of irrelevant properties, parts of the universal flux, members of a natural society; and while as such they would have their relative importance, they would be embraced in turn within an intelligible system of relations, while their rights and dignities would need to be determined by some supervening ideal. A nature existing in act would require metaphysics—the account of a deeper nature—to express its relation to the mind that knew and judged it. Any actual god would need to possess a religion of his own, in order to fix his ideal of conduct and his rights in respect to his creatures or rather, as we should then be, to his neighbours. This situation may have no terrors for the thoughtless; but it evidently introduces something deeper than Nature and something higher than God, depriving these words of the best sense in which a philosopher might care to use them.

[Sidenote: Their opposite outlook.]

The divine and the material are contrasted points of reference required by the actual. Reason, working on the immediate flux of appearances, reaches these ideal realms and, resting in them, perforce calls them realities. One—the realm of causes—supplies appearances with a basis and calculable order; the other—the realm of truth and felicity—supplies them with a standard and justification. Natural society may accordingly be contrasted with ideal society, not because Nature is not, logically speaking, ideal too, but because in natural society we ally ourselves consciously with our origins and surroundings, in ideal society with our purposes. There is an immense difference in spirituality, in ideality of the moral sort, between gathering or conciliating forces for action and fixing the ends which action should pursue. Both fields are ideal in the sense that intelligence alone could discover or exploit them; yet to call nature ideal is undoubtedly equivocal, since its ideal function is precisely to be the substance and cause of the given flux, a ground-work for experience which, while merely inferred and potential, is none the less mechanical and material. The ideality of nature is indeed of such a sort as to be forfeited if the trusty instrument and true antecedent of human life were not found there. We should be frivolous and inconstant, taking our philosophy for a game and not for method in living, if having set out to look for the causes and practical order of things, and having found them, we should declare that they were not really casual or efficient, on the strange ground that our discovery of them had been a feat of intelligence and had proved a priceless boon. The absurdity could not be greater if in moral science, after the goal of all effort had been determined and happiness defined, we declared that this was not really the good.

Those who are shocked at the assertion that God and Nature are ideal, and that their contrasted prerogatives depend on that fact, may, of course, use the same words in a different way, making them synonymous, and may readily "prove" that God or Nature exists materially and has absolute being. We need but agree to designate by those terms the sum of existences, whatever they (or it) may be to their own feeling. Then the ontological proof asserts its rights unmistakably. Science and religion, however, are superfluous if what we wish to learn is that there is Something, and that All-there-is must assuredly be All-there-is. Ecstasies may doubtless ensue upon considering that Being is and Non-Being is not, as they are said to ensue upon long enough considering one's navel; but the Life of Reason is made of more variegated stuff. Science, when it is not dialectical, describes an ideal order of existences in space and time, such that all incidental facts, as they come, may fill it in and lend it body. Religion, when pure, contemplates some pertinent ideal of intelligence and goodness. Both religion and science live in imaginative discourse, one being an aspiration and the other a hypothesis. Both introduce into the mind an ideal society.

Previous Part     1  2  3  4  5  6  7  8  9  10  11  12  13  14  15  16  17  18 ... 22     Next Part
Home - Random Browse