Found - a fascinating book by a forgotten writer, Richard Ince (1881 to circa 1960). Although the author of 20+ books he has no Wikipedia page and there is not a lot about him on the web. He mainly looks up through his sister Gertrude's fortunate marriage into the engineering/ industrial dynasty De Ferranti. With her he edited her late husband's papers - The Life and Letters of Sebastian Ziani de Ferranti (Williams & Norgate London, 1934). He wrote novels,humorous works, biographies etc., One of his books, a collection of stories from 1926 At the Sign of Sagittarius, makes into Bleiler's Checklist of Science Fiction and Supernatural Fiction. The work we have scanned Talking Beast (Hodge & Co, London 1944) is a sort of self-help slightly ranting philosophical/ religious polemic, of its time with some ideas now unpalatable but a bold, fresh work. The title comes from Sir Philip Sidney's Arcadia 'This Man, this Talking Beast, this Walking Tree.' Here are the first 3 chapters...
Note–Archibald Weir - - - - - - - - - - - - - 205
Man may be considered from many angles; he is most justly regarded as the beast that talks. This faculty of conveying intelligent and intelligible sounds is worthy of much honour. It has enabled man to become the most gregarious of all animals. He can, by talking and planning, build himself cities and establish for brief periods the condition known as civilization. No other animal, save the talking species, has been able to do this. Birds build their nests and rabbits dig their burrows, but such intercommunion as exists among birds and beasts is instinctive and not based on intelligence or reasoning. Certain animals signal one to another in music, others by harsh noises, but neither the song of the nightingale nor the screech of the jay is capable of development into a language based upon the faculty of reason.
When all goes well in human affairs; when a civilization produces wealth, peaceful relations with other states, a due measure of freedom and general content, mankind is apt to pay excessive homage to this great gift of reason and this useful faculty of speech. But when civilization threatens to break down; when warfare and strife bring chaos into public and private affairs, mankind becomes teased and vexed by fears and uncertainties. He who seemed like a god among beasts now finds his world a kind of jungle with the only difference that whereas the untalking beasts of the woods are unable to direct their gregarious faculty, man the talker, can direct and organize. His warfare is far more deadly than that of the lower animals. His speech can be more subtly dangerous than any poison emitted by bird or beast. The adder can only poison the blood, but roan by his lying speech can poison the soul.
In the enlightened view of the gentle Sir Philip Sidney, man was just a talking beast. The phrase may seem a hard one to those accustomed to the complacencies of a more comfortable world than the one in which we find ourselves. But it is eminently and patently true. This faculty of speech and its underlying faculty of reason, are not in themselves ennobling nor have they any moral or spiritual value, raising their holders above their screaming, snarling, biting brethren of the woods and prairies. The ancient dogma that bestowed on man a soul but denied it to the brutes has long since ceased to satisfy modernist minds. Though individual members of the human species stand on widely different levels of spiritual attainment, average mankind is still, morally and spiritually, on the level of the untalking beasts.
No doubt the very ease and facility of acquiring speech has led us astray from the unforgiving fact. Wherever men and women meet together, there you will hear a babble of voices. There is only one condition (not counting physical pain or insensibility) in which man ceases from talking to his kind–the condition of sleep. He talks continually while he eats and while he works; he talks incessantly to friends, relatives, strangers, acquaintances. Words drip or gush from his lips like water from a tap that has been inadvertently left on or is leaky. In company with another or others there is one condition which he dislikes or secretly dreads–the condition of silence. It renders him nervous and fretful. If he is not continually saying that it is a fine day or a wet day to his companion, or making some cheerful but quite unnecessary remark, he feels that he is failing in his duty towards his neighbour, or risks being regarded as a fool or even as a knave. I remember sitting once in the presence of a great man, in company with two or three acquaintances, and for half fin hour no word was spoken by any of us. One of those present was w struck by this long cessation from the customary flow of words that he said to me afterwards: "That was a wonderful silence we had. It was so peaceful and healing." Perhaps I should add that the great man referred to was not a politician nor was he of those who have built Up big business in commerce or industry. In brief, his riches were not of this world.
In indulging such considerations I am certainly not advocating the cultivation of morose silence or sterile taciturnity. Timon may live in his tower for as long as he pleases and the world will be no whit better for his silence, though it may rejoice in his seclusion. But there is a need to bring home to consciousness the fact that speech is not in itself a blessing; nor is it by any means as important a feature of life as it is supposed to be. It is invariably the case that those who talk too much, carry little weight for all their loquacity. It is the people who talk little and infrequently whose words go home. To have to listen for long periods to a continually uncorked talker is one of the most exhausting experiences known to mankind. Ideas suggest ideas, words call up words, cerebral excitement begets further cerebral excitement, and while the word spinner enjoys himself to the full, the poor felloW doomed to listen, wilts in the process and at last drags himself wearily to some place where only the owl hoots or the leaves rustle.
One of the marks of the sage who has travelled far on the journey towards wisdom and enlightenment, is his refusal to lower his standards to the average level in this matter of talking. He has attained complete control and balance of his inner forces; and those in his company become aware instinctively that here is one who, if he speak at all, speaks with authority and not as the scribes. He gives the tone of conversation to any company in which he chances to be present. The trivial nothings of conventional conversation fade out at his coming, and in the language of broadcasting, "go off the air." If he speak, others will certainly listen and if he remain Silent they will find it expedient either to quit the company or to respect a silence which they do not understand. It is at such times and under such circumstances that one comes to realize the terrible truth and poignancy of Sir Philip Sidney's phrase. Because these beasts are clothed, because they sit on chairs or recline on sofas, and use metal instruments with which to put nourishment into their mouths; because they can gather together in company without flying at each other's throats like terriers, or spitting at one another like cats, but can continue for hours conversing in apparent amiability about nothing at all; the observer is easily led astray into believing that they really do belong to an entirely different order from the beasts who talk not. But for a true estimate the insight and unflinching honesty of a Sidney are required. To those who can look under the surface, listen to the inner being that is concealed beneath the spoken words, a new world is revealed; a fierce, greedy, jealous, irritable, lustful world; a world of beasts who, though they have attained self-consciousness and great facility of ideas and of speech, though they have attained many inventions and many useful accomplishments, and perfected many arts and sciences, are stilI no more than beasts living in a jungle of which we are not aware because it is disguised by magnificent mirages of churches and cathedrals, of vast cities, of temples of commerce and of art. And many of the Men who raise and serve these temples seem so wise and talk so big, but always they go in greater or less terror of silence and loneliness; for this reason they herd together, and everywhere among them you will hear the shrill laughter and the loud cackle of talk.
We may, if we will, quarrel with Sidney's phrase on the ground that it is anti-social; we may lay stress on the fact that human amelioration owes much to the faculty of speech. Such a view is true but is too much of a commonplace to need restatement anywhere save in a copybook. Sidney in using the phrase "talking beast" was moved by an infinite pity which saw clearly what man might become and what he actually is. He was moved by the same feelings as led Marcus Aurelius to refer to men as "vile humans." There is sanity in the view and, provided it is not held cynically and from contempt of others, much practical wisdom. For if we truly understand and accept the fact that men are vile; that they have inherited in full measure the nature of the beasts from which they spring, we shall be in a position to face up to life with a far greater assurance and a far deeper understanding than if we based our hopes on the supposed angelic nature of our friend or neighbour. To be born into this world involves inevitable irritation and continual disappointment; it involves being driven almost to despair by the words and actions of those others destined to cross our path, relatives, acquaintances and friends. If we expect them to behave always in a reasoned, kindly and gentle way, we are doomed to suffer much and grievously. But what reason have we to expect Io much of men when their jungle heritage is so varied and so near at hand? Wisdom consists in making the best of the material available, including our own physical, spiritual and mental equipment, so tainted by our ancestry, so weakened by our own follies, so frail and feeble as they must appear in the eyes of the least of the sages and the saints.
In the days of the long Victorian peace, those more fortunate citizens who had attained leisure and ease sat back in their armchairs fully convinced that they belonged to an order of nature vastly superior to that of the "dumb" animals. They occupied themselves very pleasantly with fantasies about their origin, about vague abstractions and generalities such as original sin and eternal punishment, and were entirely content with a fixed time and space opposed to an equally fixed non-time-and-space which they labeled Eternity–a kind of time which goes on for ever and yet does not go on at all. They talked and lectured and grew rich and endowed hospitals and orphanages and public libraries and lectureships and chairs in universities. And they were so immensely busy and so enormously talkative that they completely overlooked one little fact: the fact that homo vulgaris, the species to which they belonged, is no more and no less than a beast that has attained the faculty of talking. They had moreover a pathetic trust in and a stubborn reliance on what they called their "reason," but this rationalizing faculty was continually leading them astray because whenever they were off their guard, and this happened every two minutes out of three, they were at the mercy of something quite different, with which reason had nothing to do. And this non-reasoning part often expressed itself in the form of temper, irritability, lust, greed, vanity, or malice. In short, the Victorian unconscious was continually breaking in. But in the good Queen's day not even the Archbishop was aware that he had an unconscious.
Today, thanks to our being flung back with considerable violence into the struggle for survival, assurance and complacency have gone or are doomed to go. We now know, as we knew in earlier ages of strife, that our earthly lot is that of a beast who is laboriously and for the most part blindly struggling to become a better one.
It is usually assumed that when a child reaches a certain age and becomes adult, it naturally and inevitably puts away childishness and becomes a reasonable self-controlled man or woman. Nothing could be further from the fact. Most men and women continue all their lives to be just grown children playing with a different kind of toy which they call "my. house,” “my baby,” “my business,” “my career" or "my art." Most of them, it is true, have to earn a living, but it is an attitude of mind I am referring to–the attitude which unduly stresses the possessive "my" and which snares the poor beast in the entanglements of the world. Were you to suggest, no matter how tactfully, that your rector or your lawyer is no better than a talking beast, he would resent it keenly. And yet the fact is patent enough directly you probe beneath the conventional surface of their lives and consider the childish muddles they get into, making themselves ill by wrong feeding, quarrelling about trifles, marrying the wrong partners, getting divorced and then marrying other wrong partners, taking a secret delight in making themselves (and as many other people as possible) unhappy, fussing about one another's private affairs, persuading themselves that sex is equivalent to love, and that the solution of many of our discontents is for every woman to bear a minimum of two babies (preferably boys) without having to live in holy wedlock, treating their children as though they were their own personal chattels and seeking to interfere and dominate in a way that would make them furious if their creator did the same by them. Truly the animals that have not learned to talk, behave better and more in accordance with such light as they, have.
It will probably be objected that such a picture is too dark; that there are exceptions; that the adult state as I have described it is not the lot of all; that the normal progression for mankind is to pass from the adult state, the state of the grown child, to maturity.
Such a statement is true so long as one bears in mind that always and everywhere it is only the few who make any attempt to attain maturity. The mature being is one who is not satisfied to be a straw tossed about on the surface of life. He has awakened to the fact that there are a great many forces within him which he does not understand and which he is determined to examine. He is one who has arrived at the conclusion to which Socrates came, namely, that the unexamined life is not worth living.
He cannot live contentedly the meaningless animal life of nescience which finds its sufficiency in the daily business and the daily distractions of living. He must withdraw sometimes from the herd and look into his own consciousness without fear or favour. His lot will still be beset with difficulties, doubts and confusions but he will feel more and more that he is able to co-operate with the great unknown force which has brought him into space-time and maintains him.
Gradually the geography of his own inner kingdom is revealed to the mature being. He has passed from adult confusion and can no longer be regarded as a talking beast and nothing more. He has arrived at a trust in the deep currents of life and in a power that guides him and invites his co-operation. The causes of the difficulties both within himself and in his environment become ever more manifest. A better knowledge of his being informs him that he has a personality and an ego, and that behind these there is at times manifested a strange and exceedingly powerful being which is best referred to as Self. Self is an illusive pilgrim, the consideration of whom had better be left until a later stage of the inquiry. Personality and ego demand immediate inspection in any investigation into the nature of man. The stresses of life in our space-time world help to form what the world knows as personalities and egos, the active results of space-time evolution.
This statement, announced categorically, may not meet with immediate acceptance. We beasts usually make the mistake of assuming that personality comprises the whole of our being. The fact that the latest findings of science and psychology do not bear out such a view, does not weigh with us at all. The modern world has a pathetic respect for great personalities. Consequently modern leaders demagogues and dictators alike gain a large and docile following. A Mussolini, a Hitler, a Napoleon or a Peter the Great is a talking beast with a strong and fanatical will. He hypnotises himself with the idea of domination and so long as his orders are implicitly obeyed by his slaves, his power is irresistible. But he has no aspiration, no inner life in which Self can make itself authoritative, no insight beyond the average, and his actions are prompted by that lower unconscious which has grown out of the natural desires of the beast.
Personality (the word is derived from persona = a mask) is simply that agent we have come to use in our intercourse with others. It owes its special features to heredity, to early environment and to the form which the struggle for life has taken in each individual. It is not a "good" thing or a "bad" thing in itself; it is simply an inevitable garment woven for itself by each incarnated being.
Personality is only a menace when it seeks to dominate other personalities or when it identifies itself with the whole man and fails to understand its subordinate position to something far deeper and more potent.
If we would gain a clearer idea of what personality is we should study the lives and teachings of the great spiritual leaders of mankind. In their utterances we find much that derives from Self but little that derives from personalities wielding power over their fellows. Great leaders in war, politics and industry, on the other hand, develop personalities that make a brave show in the pages of history. For a man to be acclaimed "the Great" is sufficient to acquaint us with the fact that he is essentially little–a child of that sound and fury which signifies nothing.
The genuine spiritual leaders on the other hand, are hard to find and difficult to know. They are apt to withdraw themselves at our approach and yet when they have gone we feel impelled to search for them. Personality is easily distinguished for it has many cherished prejudices, talks loudly and delights in assertion and argument. Self has no need to assert authority for it is linked up with pure being and expresses the will of the creator who is still creating. “My 'me' is God," said St. Catherine of Genoa, "nor do I know my Selfhood save in Him." In the process of maturing, we become aware of many things. Prejudices fall away and our life reveals a greater orderliness as a result of a better understanding of our own nature. We no longer run away from the emptiness within, seeking escape in business or pleasure. Our religion (if we have one) becomes less conventional and more sincere; the prose of space-time life begins to be starred with the poetry of reality. We begin to feel stirring within the ineradicable Self, "the luminously self-evident being." We become aware of a warfare within ourselves between this being, which is not at all concerned with the struggle for existence in space-time, and the personality and ego which have been called into existence by that struggle.
At this point in his reading, talking beast may grow impatient and execrate the writer for leading him into a region of abstractions and vain dreams. I must therefore intrude my personality to ask pardon of the talking beast I have the honour to address. But I must add that his objection springs from a misapprehension. I am seeking to draw his attention away from the region of fantasy and vain abstraction in which the majority spend their lives, into the region of those things which are real and enduring. For if he is so blind as to imagine that the ephemeral phenomena of daily life are the real and the abiding things, then to refer to him as a talking beast would be a misnomer; it would be necessary to strain politeness still further and refer to him as a benighted idiot. And having disposed of a possible interruption in some minds, we can now proceed to a consideration of that other instrument of Self which is a most useful tool when it is not, as it usually is, abused.
Looking back to even more elementary ages than our own it is easy to see how great was the need for the man-ape to assert himself. If he and his mate did not continually fight the other apes there could be no chance of survival. It was essential to be strong and assert all one's strength and cunning in order to continue to live from day to day. It was an age of tooth and claw existence with no rewards for those who were not ready to jump into the mêlée at any moment. Such were our remote ancestors, and one of the curses of life which have to be turned into blessings is this beast-nature they have left us. Man as we know him is made up not only of a conscious but of an unconscious mind. In this vast region of the unconscious, float as in a sea, not only our own past thoughts and desires but also the feelings and instincts of our ancestors. Modern man is vaguely conscious of a distressingly disturbing visitor in his house, an uncomfortably wild and Insubordinate evacuee from the slums of the far past; a protean evacuee who is continually taking different shapes; now he is a greedy child shouting for jam; now he is a frantic maniac imagining hatred and ill-will in others which are really in himself; now he is a miser pretending to be a pauper; again he is the embodiment of inertia demanding to be left alone to sleep and snore like a sleek cat on the hearthrug. He is always sitting by the fire and when one goes out for a brief spell, on returning, he is still there, toes on fender, nose in air. The human animal has agreed to call this visitor the ego.
The average man is usually quite unaware of the presence of this visitor in his house. On becoming dimly conscious of him, he gives him vague but entirely respectable names, such as My Business, My Religion, My Art, My Country, or My Party, but in fact, were the visitor called by his right name, he would be My Ego, that rich and energetic inheritor of the past who, through lack of discipline, wrecks so many lives, spoils so many homes, and destroys so many states.
We have been considering personality and ego. We now come to a more fundamental aspect of the single life which certain psychologists and philosophers have called Self.
Before considering this most elusive aspect of talking beast it is necessary to make sure that we understand how consciousness works. The ordinary space-time consciousness, the only kind with which the beast has a direct acquaintance, is slight, thin, wayward and fitful. It is like a candle-flame in vast darkness or like the lighted spot in a passing reel of film. If you try to hold it fixed on one idea for even a few minutes you will become aware of its fitful, discontinuous nature. It jumps about from point to point, the original thought is jerked aside by a crowd of other thoughts that come in unbidden from some region of surrounding darkness. Our mind, as we express it, wanders. This dark region is the unconscious mind which is always with us for weal or woe. It is this unconscious, and not tile conscious mind, which plays far the most important part in our life. Homo vulgaris is justly proud of his faculty of talking and even prouder of his faculty of thinking, but it is the unconscious region of his mind, with its vast stores of atavistic tendencies, which is always liable to bring down his house in ruins. Consciousness, as we know it, has grown up around the ego and is simply an instrument designed to help Self to live in that environment of transient change which we call the space-time world. It is excellently adapted for life in this world, but directly it tries to transcend the phenomena which our males use for their own purposes, it gets into serious difficulties. It becomes aware of conditions, states, experiences which are incapable of being translated into space-time thought. For this reason the mystics and many of the deeper philosophers can only express in their manner of living what cannot be revealed in speech or writing: It is of course very humiliating to be told that there is a region where talking and even thinking, as we understand it, avail nothing. But since the Creator has so arranged matters we shall, if wise, accept it with a good grace. There are certain matters and certain experiences which are untellable and which not even the poets or the musicians can adequately convey.
Consciousness, as we know it, could not exist without its surrounding unconscious. Into this dark region pass all the feelings, desires and thoughts we have ever had and these are liable at any time to return into the spotlight of consciousness. Herein lies the ever-present danger, with the results of which psychiatrists are required to deal; the danger lest in impatience, pride, fear or disgust we thrust certain memories with violent aversion into this region of darkness. When this happens we are always liable to be made physically or psychically ill by the unpleasant experience that has been thus dealt with. Talking beast imagines that by the simple act of forgetting, the hated thing is done with. He becomes aware of his mistake when mental or physical disturbance results, which can only be adequately dealt with by bringing the forgotten experience back into consciousness so that the patient may look at it fairly and squarely without running away. He then becomes master of the situation and the lost balance is restored.
Few people realize the important part which the unconscious plays in their lives. Consciousness has never seen itself at work. It might be likened to a man fishing on the margin of a deep lake. All it can do is to drop data into the unconscious and wait for the required result. In the act of thinking, the conscious mind does nothing but wait for results. If you multiply seven by nine you cannot watch your mind at work in the process of multiplication. No such process takes place. The required sixty-three is fished up from where it has been stored in the unconscious along with myriads of other facts, feelings and desires. From the child's multiplication of two by two to the deepest speculations of a Newton or an Einstein, the process is precisely the same.
These matters are to-day so much a commonplace of psychology that one hesitates to restate them, but it is necessary to be explicit and to make sure that I and the reader are speaking the same language.
And so we return to that elusive being, Self. What is Self and how are we to be assured of his existence? Perhaps, before saying anything further, it will be helpful to use a simple fiction to describe a simple fact.
Let us suppose there are three men occupying the three storeys of a house. Between these three there seems to be sort of family relationship. As to what exactly the relationship is, their neighbours are not agreed. Some think the gentleman on the top floor is uncle to the other two. Others declare they are brothers. Each gentleman lives independently of the other two and yet each renders some sort of service to the others.
On the ground floor lives Bert, a sharp-featured little man with an active gait and restless, roving eyes. He has a phrase of which his friends grow tired–Business is Business, and his actions interpret this to mean that unless he gets the best of a bargain the transaction is not business and therefore to be deplored. He is extraordinarily acquisitive and his cupboards and store-rooms are packed with all sorts of goods, from home-made jam to rusty iron fenders which he bought cheap at an auction and hopes some day to sell for twice the cost. Bert delights in business of all kinds and is only completely happy when he is setting his wits against somebody else's.
Above Bert, on the first floor, lives Claud, a gentleman of independent means who has never had any occasion to work for a living. He is rather large of build and stoutish. He has a soft voice with a burr in it, slow-moving grey eyes and a warm, moist handshake. Claud is of a strong, social and philanthropic nature. He finds himself (and is found) so delightful in society that his company is everywhere in request. He is a director of most of the orphanages in England and chairman of the famous Dr. Hartstring's Homes for Incurables. He has so many philanthropic irons in the fire that some of these irons forgotten and grow cold by neglect. He has a host of acquaintances, but no friends, and he evolves the most wonderful schemes for the betterment of mankind. He looks hopefully forward to an age when everyone will receive a dole of £1000 a year free of income tax and no work demanded except that each man shall polish his own shoes. Though Claud appears so happy to the world and so successful he is often moist with terror. There is one person of whom he is afraid. He cannot bear to be left alone with Claud for more than a few minutes. That is the real reason why he is so tremendously busy. People tell one another how hard he works and all for the sake of others. But they do not know that there is a devil who drives him. And that devil is Claud.
If you ask me to describe Renny, the gentleman on the top floor, I am overcome with shyness and diffidence. Renny is a most unusual person and quite unpredictable in his actions. He does not appear w have any business and Claud seem to supply most of his needs. He is always neatly dressed and closely shaved, rather dapper in appearance and he walks on his toes with a step so light that he always appears to be in flight for heaven. He moves very little in society but spends hours alone in his room. If he goes out to see anyone it is usually with the purpose of talking to them about their private affairs or because they are very unhappy and do not know what to do about it. Renny does not appear to have any fixed religion or any definite code of morality. He judges everything and everybody on their Own merits.
Bert and Claud are certainly rather in awe of Renny, whose manner is to leave them alone. But when, as frequently happens, they have got into a complete muddle, they feel compelled to seek his advice.
When this happens, Renny does not beat about the bush. He tells Bert that unless he takes himself in hand and remembers that there are many other spheres besides the sphere where Business is Business, his condition will become worse and worse until he is a certified lunatic with a keeper at his elbow.
Claud usually slips out of the house directly he hears Renny's door opening. But sooner or later he gets one of his attacks so severely that he does not hear anything. That is Renny's opportunity. He comes in, sits down and tells Claud quite simply and directly what is the matter with him. The plaudits of the world for his philanthropic labours are just so much smoke which serves to hide the truth from himself. He rushes into all this activity simply because he does not want to face the fact that he refuses to reform himself. "Reform the state, reform the other fellow, reform the drunkards, the thieves and the murderers, but hands off me." That, Renny informs him, is the sum and substance of his true philosophy.
If anybody else told him these things, which he knows are true, Claud would fly into a tigerish rage. But Renny has a way with him and when he talks of these matters argument dies on the lips. I suppose it is because he has no axe to grind; not so much as a penknife to sharpen. He does not care a damn whether Bert or Claud is offended or not. The true and vital gifts are all his to bestow, not theirs. His is the real sterling, theirs worthless paper. There is much about Renny that they cannot understand and something in him which makes them afraid. So they usually try, for a time, to reform. But they soon forget and fall, more or less, into their old easy-going ways.
I think there is no need to explain the parable. If ego does not see itself reflected in Bert, personality in Claud, and Self in Renny, then no labouring of the homily would throw further light. Self is its own witness.
At this point I seem to hear the voice of a very talkative member of the talking species interrupt with the assertion that he is simply being fobbed off with a new edition of our old friend Conscience. My dear talkative one, just have patience and I will explain. Conscience is talkative and excitable, Self is calm and for the most part, silent. Conscience comes of a wholly mixed parentage. It has its roots in ego and personality as well as in Self. People argue and quarrel about matters of conscience. They never differ as to the results in consciousness of the influence of Self. Conscience has at certain times prompted murder by burning and the rack; it has prompted dominating cruelty of parents to their children. The influence of Self is always and everywhere directed to gentleness and tolerance. It universally condemns cruelty, murder and rape; it advises that the relations between the sexes, though customs change, always remain a matter closely connected with right and wrong. The fact that our conscience forbids us to do certain things may be due to the whisperings of an outworn code which still lingers in the unconscious. A Nazi who tortured Jews during the Hitler regime was obeying his conscience, but the conscience derived from an earlier and even more brutal age when one had to kill in order to survive. In our unconscious are many taboos which may to-day be good, bad, or indifferent. There can be no such thing as a fixed morality any more than there can be a fixed religion in a world of change passing every moment to further change. Conscience is sometimes right but as many of the cruelties of the past which it prompted will remind us, it is frequently wrong.
Self must not be confused either with conscience which is a variable quality, or with the soul which is a term sometimes applied to Self while manifesting in an animal organism. Self is that luminously self-evident point at the gateway between consciousness and the unconscious which informs the single life that it exists. It is a pilgrim in this space-time world of change but it also abides in timelessness. It has not come into being, as have ego and personality, as a result off the struggle for survival. It has nothing whatever to do with struggle or survival, for it continues in a timeless state of which our small and ineffective space-time consciousness is unaware and from which it is shut off by the senses which act as a material screen round day-to-day existence. Self knows no struggle and exists beyond the region where "survival" has any significance.
Some moderns of the more intellectual type have tried to derive the humanitarian influences from the evolutionary struggle for survival. Obviously this cannot be done without unpardonable violence to all sane and intelligent thinking. Passionate hatred, killing and cruelty do not lead to gentleness, kindness and humanitarianism; they lead to more hatred, killing and cruelty.
In the struggle of daily life there is only a small margin of room for Self to exert influence. All the noise and fury, all the glitter and variety are produced by ego striving with ego and personality encountering personality. Adult men and women find entire absorption and even a degree of happiness in this strenuous whirligig.
It is only when fortune favours him, when a full measure of wealth and notoriety have come upon him that the average, unaspiring toiler suddenly finds himself in the position of a man taking part in a tug-of-war when the rope breaks. His bottom encounters the earth abruptly and there is nothing more to be done. But such activities as ego and personality are engaged in set up a rhythm which cannot be suddenly broken or stayed with impunity. If you have built up a large and successful business which has occupied every moment of your life from the age of sixteen to sixty, you are not likely to be able to rest and do nothing for your remaining years without experiencing the acute misery of boredom. Time which used to seem so short suddenly stretches out into a wearisome infinity.
Yet this is one of the great opportunities which Destiny provides The unconscious has been all the while trying to send messages through Self, messages of vital importance for the direction and guidance of the single life while in space-time, but these messages cannot be heard because personality and ego are all the while creating such a racket. It is only the leisured few who have the opportunity to listen. Unfortunately they seldom do. On retirement from business they at once plunge into a round of physical and social activity. They play golf and bridge, hitch their restless minds on to cross-word problems, become directors of companies and magistrates, get themselves appointed mayors or aldermen or enter parliament and become the mouthpiece of a political party. They are ready to do anything that will come between them and that dreaded spectre, Boredom.
The leisured class which should stand in the van of true progress by setting an example of intelligent living, have failed most lamentably. They see no further than when they were in the hurlyburly, nor do they seek to live in such a. way that further insight may come to them. All that distinguishes them from the herd is that they talk more and listen less. Happily, at this point a dilemma is encountered. Talking beast is confronted with two alternatives; either he must be content to endure the dull and insipid existence of the whole-time bored or he must brace himself to take the initial step from the adult life of the herd towards maturity, which consists in paying less heed to the demands and promptings of personality and ego and turning his attention to the influences which derive from Self.
When we consider the status of civilized man as he is to-day, the chances of his availing himself of such an opportunity seem remote. For the most part the poor beast is either so involved in the struggle to pay his income tax and maintain the status quo of his standard of living or so bored by the futility of day to day existence when the spate of things to be done has subsided, that he is like a prisoner seeking a way of escape. He is prone to be sorry for himself and lays the blame for his woes on his environment or the wickedness of the class above or below him. He seems to himself to be entangled in a net of more or less malevolent circumstance. He is frequently ill; he is seldom at peace with himself or with those around him. Marriage, which seemed to offer so much at the start, usually lets him down with bumps.
Despite the prevailing darkness, however, there is one little point of light which seems to offer refuge from the bleakness of the storm. A minority has in all ages been open more or less to the influences of culture either in the form of learning, religion (of whatever brand) or science.
Culture is a word which must always be suspect and should not be taken at its face value. It is required to cover a multitude of incongruities including some truth and no little sham. Out of it come bishops and archbishops, doctors, lawyers, surgeons and professors. The aims of culture are mainly concerned with the struggle to live and the effort to render the process as little painful as possible. In its ranks are many clever men and a few brilliant ones, and so genuinely aspiring are some of these that one hesitates to include them in the genus talking beast. But at the other end of the scale are those who, no matter how highly placed or liberally paid, are still just adult and nothing more; medicos who are hidebound in a stupid professionalism and will at all costs save their face though they may not save their patient; conventionally-minded professors at old and new universities, and scholar-worldlings who, gifted with an abnormal faculty for storing memory with facts, pass automatically by competitive examination into honourable and lucrative positions.
But when the worst that can be said has been advanced against Culture it must be allowed that it does at times encourage that type of mind and temper which is ready to examine life with open-minded candour and freedom from prejudice. In so far as it does this it opens the way for the single life to continue its pilgrimage in space-time towards maturity.
The first step in this movement from the merely adult towards the mature is the discovery by the single life that Self exists. This discovery, a momentous one, is not arrived at by logical reasoning or any intellectual process but by Self making its presence manifest, beyond all per adventure or doubt, to space-time consciousness. The manner of this discovery varies with each individual who makes it. It may come gradually, it may come suddenly.
It may come after a period of acute stress or suffering; it may come as a result of the impingement of one personality upon another. Human testimony provides many records of those who were indebted to some teacher for a real advance towards maturity. Such an experience usually takes the form of a psychological release. The individual becomes aware that a deep-seated change has taken place and that consciousness has been freed from many hampering disabilities which have their roots in personality and ego. Insight into their own psychic condition and into the condition of others becomes clearer. But such experience belongs invariably to the untellable order and nothing can be said to others who have not experienced it, to acquaint them with the change. It has nothing to do with the inspiration of the artist or the musician, and it belongs to an order of experience where verbal expression is wholly inadequate. Having reached it, the talking beast is in the curious position of finding his unique faculty of speech powerless. Asked what has happened he cannot say and if he attempts any explanation, he may be certain of being entirely misunderstood. Nor by so doing will he render himself popular with other talking beasts. For to tell them that there are certain high experiences which they have not reached and which cannot be expressed in their language is to invite brickbats and rotten eggs.
The thinkers and philosophers who have advanced far enough to be able to help others in this way, are few in any age and probably never fewer than to-day. Plato when he reigned supreme in the Academy at Athens exerted that powerful kind of suggestion which may alter the course of a life. Such teachers usually avoid the market place and the academy. They are men in whom aspiration has taken the place of ambition, nor have they need to profess any philosophy or any religion. Their lives are their witness. Their direction and quality are known by their fruits.
We have a vivid portrait of such a teacher in the pages of Lucian. Though Lucian of Samosata was an avowed satirist he was certainly not writing satire when he drew his famous portrait of the old philosopher, Demonax:
"Not Athens only, but all Greece was so in love with him that as he passed the great would give him place and there would be a general hush. Towards the end of his long life he would go uninvited into the first house that offered and there get his dinner and his bed, the household regarding it as the visit of some heavenly being which brought them a blessing. When they saw him go by the baker-women would contend for the honour of supplying him, and a happy woman was the actual donor. Children too used to call him father, and bring him offerings of fruit.
"Party-spirit was once running high at Athens; he came into the Assembly, and his mere appearance was enough to still the storm. When he saw that they were ashamed he departed without having uttered a word."
SELF AND OTHERS
Let us return to talking beast, remembering always that although he has high potentialities and has already travelled a considerable distance (it is a long way from amoeba to man) he is still for the most part incredulous of the possibility of such lofty spiritual attainment as that described by Lucian in his portrait of Demonax. His frail and discontinuous consciousness is always handicapped by the difficulty of knowing what is inside the organic envelope of another. His talk is usually little more than a smokescreen, conscious or unconscious, to hide the not too creditable motives within. Physically these others all have the same features, the same form, But when considered from the moral or the psychological angle, the difference between them is found to be considerable. If the tigerish man took the form of a tiger and the cunning man the form of a fox, discrimination would present no difficulty. I read the other day in a newspaper of a talking beast (the reporter with pardonable inaccuracy referred to him as a man) who offered two children of five and six a lift in his car. A few days later their mutilated bodies were found in a ditch. Between such a being and Demonax there stretches a considerable gulf. The murderer is an adult in whom ego has assumed the supreme control of a dictator. Not until the mature talking beast has reached a further stage tan he truly be called a Man. Of such was Demonax. Until he has reached that condition we cannot truly regard him as other than a beast, usually objectionable, sometimes dangerous, armed with the deceptive faculty of speech.
The majority Will feel some stirring of affection for Demonax and an uneasy horror of the man who murdered the babes in the wood. And this would seem to indicate the direction in which mankind as a whole is moving. He is moving away from the status of the murderer towards the status of Demonax. But such development is slow, slow that in contemplating it some feel impatience. They would like to live in a world where there were more men like Demonax and fewer talking beasts like the murderer. And they would like, in place of vague assurances and timeworn religious or moral platitudes, a definite, practical way of development such as all who would might follow.
Let us return then to Self, the gentleman who lives on the top floor and whom I called Renny in the previous chapter. This Renny, as I have said, is always trying make his influence felt but his relatives below have so mud to say and so much to do that he seldom finds them in a mood to listen. The majority are not aware of the presence of Self in and behind consciousness, owing to the ceaseless activity of ego and the authoritative eagerness of personality. But there are everywhere a few who, perhaps dimly, perhaps vividly, perceive the presence of Self. They would like to give him a better chance: they want to hear more clearly what he says. Such stirrings of the spirit may not be a process of conscious thought at all but just vague uneasiness or dissatisfaction with the external framework of life. The process of living, it should be remembered, is not a rational process at all. We do not rational control our life, living "according to plan" as military bulletins phrase it. We take a step in one direction an a step in another and then a sort o£ vague Thing called Destiny suddenly looms up out of the fog of uncertainty and gives us a great push which alters ore/direction. In these encounters those fare worst who are always take by surprise and who regard Destiny resentfully. Those are best who realize that the process of moving forward in a straight line is by no means essential to satisfactory living, and that it is all-important to accept the shoves and pokes of Destiny cheerfully and graciously.
The pressure of modern life is powerful and continuous owing to muddled thought resulting in muddled living. It is therefore impossible to give detailed, practical advice which all can helpfully follow. There is moreover no common denominator or universal representative of homo vulgaris. Nevertheless some general rules can be laid down, some universal instructions given which will probably seem entirely trite and commonplace to those who must be always gaping for something new and uniquely original. The first effort of homo vulgaris, if he would become something less offensive and futile than an adult talking beast, must always and everywhere be to get into his mind a clearer and more accurate comprehension of his psychological make-up. When he can really live in the understanding that his inner being consists of an ego, a personality and the illusive but predominating Self; and when he realises that he is constantly indebted to his unconscious mind, not only for higher guidance but for every process of rational thought, from the simplest arithmetical calculation to the most abstruse investigations of a Newton or an Einstein, he is far better equipped for life's pilgrimage than the poor beast who is not aware of how much he is at the mercy of the predatory ego and the fussy, assertive, gregarious personality–those useful servants of Self who have been born of the struggle for survival in a world where the weaker must go to the wall. But the time approaches when the struggle will abate and when these servants will inevitably do much mischief unless Self definitely exerts his authority and calls them to order.
Here the reader who has had patience with what he may deem my madness so far, will certainly begin to spread his claws and bare his teeth. There can be no speech so unpopular as the speech which calls personality and ego by their right names and tells them unequivocally what they are, for they are accustomed to parade themselves as the children of heavenly parentage, destined to eternal life and as much to be respected as our rich uncle in Australia who will some day die and leave us a fortune. Indeed, I seem to hear Master Ego and Miss Personality whispering together: “He wants to get rid of us,” hisses Ego. “Or change us out of all recognition,” rejoins Personality, “He’ll be shutting us up in a cloister next like those beastly old monks and nuns: saying prayers all day, twanging masses and matins through their red noses and meditating in chilly cells.”
Believe me, my dear fellow beast, you are doing me an injustice. Though I am willing to admit there have been good monks, and that probably, man for man, a good monk is more desirable than a good merchant, I do not like them any better than you do, and for reasons that will appear later. But if I am to be truthful I must stick to facts as I apprehend them. And I find homo vulgaris so constructed that he can make no further evolutionary advance unless he learns to withdraw from the turmoil created and kept alive by his own and other people’s egos and personalities. He must, in short, learn to live at least for short daily periods in the comparative stillness of Self. Self when awake, yet undisturbed by the importunities of space-time life, has immense possibilities for bringing health, harmony and directive power into the life.
What the medieval mystics called meditation certain of our own thinkers have called attention without effort. The process is easy to describe but not so easy to practise. The would-be writer was advised by Charles Dickens to apply the seat of his trousers to the seat of a chair at regular intervals and go ahead. The preliminaries of attention without effort are the same. Self bids the animal organism in which he is temporarily housed, to sit on a chair (preferably a hard one), his back straight, his hands folded on his knees. He must then, without becoming rigid or tense, try to hold his attention without mind-wandering, on some universal ideal, such as Truth, Courage, Humility, Good-will. He will soon discover that the mind is as fluid as quicksilver and as variable in the wind. It will not "stay put" for more than a few seconds. It wanders, it jumps, it pursues a meaningless maze of dreams. Yet with practice, Self can gain some measure of control, bringing thought back when it wanders, watching it as it springs like a monkey from tree to tree. Progress must be wayward, slow, fitful. Some cannot attempt the effort at all with benefit and must seek another line of advance. Sitting thus for an hour, free from the intrusions of the world, the talking beast will become aware of a stillness creeping over him, a stillness which must not be allowed to induce sleep. The world of tumult and confusion drifts further off; the preoccupations of space-time life become less insistent. And if he is persistent (few are) and continues with the practice despite the ironical whispers of personality that he is making a complete ass of himself, he will gradually become aware that his life is changing for the better. He is less frequently ill or out of condition, for energy which used to escape in fretfulness and worry, and the activity involved in funning away from the unpleasant moment are now conserved. He is less at the mercy of his moods, for he is able to look at these more objectively and as though they belonged to another. He can say to himself with some assurance: the moods revolve, let them resolve. He becomes more sure of himself and less liable to be unduly influenced; far less dominated either by his own or by other people's egos and personalities. It is, in fact, to us an analogy, as though a pilot had stepped on board and taken control of the ship.
Man does not live by bread alone. He lives also by catchwords. At this point there is a certain term, picked up from the psychologists, he is certain to hurl at me with considerable violence: "Escapist! You are just another of these escapists," he insists, "trying to persuade us to run away from our obvious duties in order to luxuriate, hermit-like, in certain psychological sensations: This is a kind of spiritual, opium you are offering us. Most dangerous. Don't have anything to do with it, my boy.” And then carrying the war into the enemy's camp, he will proceed to accuse me of selfishness. "You are really an apostle selfishness," he adds, "to advocate shutting oneself up and spending long hours in an attempt to save one's own soul instead of doing what one can to help other people. Just suppose Abraham Lincoln or Florence Nightingale had acted in that way: suppose, instead of going to Scutari she had obeyed the wishes of her mother and the War Office and stayed at home.”
My dear beast, let us leave Florence Nightingale out of the discussion, also her mother and the War Office.
You have, if you will have the patience to allow me to say so become a little confused. The practice I refer to has no taint of selfishness, for it is directed to the good, not only the individual but of the community. The unco-ordinated person, that is to say, the person who goes hooting about the world in the rude adult condition, is a danger not only to himself but to his home town. He comes croppers of all kinds; he gets ill unnecessarily; he gets drunk (either with whisky or with rage); he interferes disastrously in the lives of others; he is at the mercy of his moods, now soaring to heaven like glorious Apollo, now plunging like proud Lucifer down to hell. He becomes querulous and takes a jealous delight in annoying other people; he is obstinate and the victim of a number of fixed opinions based on prejudices in defence of which he delights to argue. In short, while regarding himself as a fine fellow he is really a child whom we have to treat as grown-up merely because he has lived through certain changes which we measure by months and years and attained a certain length in feet and inches.
Has Self then no duty towards others? Certainly he has.
But the fulfilment of that obligation is by no means easy or simple. It demands much thought and careful attention. To feed the hungry is easy; to guide the lost who do not know that they are lost and do not want to be guided, is difficult.
In this connexion two classic utterances ring in our ears. The first is: "Am I my brother's keeper?" And the second is: "Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself." These represent extreme points of view. The first is the expression of an enraged personality, too emotionally stirred to be aware of anything except that others are beasts who do horrible things; commit disgusting crimes; tell lies with smooth deceitful faces, and behave, each on his little stage, like a Hitler or a Mussolini. Acutely aware of these things he feels inclined to wash his hands of the whole dirty business: "It's not my affair." Then comes that other voice : "Thou shalt love thy neighbour." That way should work better. But does it? Looking at the human scene one feels there is something wrong. That second utterance was given nearly two thousand years ago. There would appear to be a time-lag somewhere? "Love" is a very hard word to define. Its definition is not rendered easier by the fact that the modern world is continually confusing it with sex. Love is a word that is required to cover vast number of thoughts, desires, feelings, aspirations and actions. Unspeakable things have been done in the name of love, and talking beasts have taken great delight in the word because, like the epitaph on the tombstone, it can cover ugly deeds with suck a brave show of piety. The Crusaders murdered many pagans for the love of God, Mr. Dombey, in Charles Dickens's book, so loved his son that, in the sheer devotion of his stupid egotism, he killed him. The same kind of "love" is being expressed in more or less the same way to-day in numberless homes. For “love” read “egotism” would be a frequent emendation in a world where things were called by their right names.
Is adult man then to obey Cain's injunction? To wash his hands of any duty towards his kind and live for himself alone? By no means. This obligation, this trusteeship, is so important a part of his life in this space-time world, that he must consider it carefully, regard it with some measure of detachment and be sure that he understands at least the rudiments of what is required of him. In fact, this necessity of maintaining a right attitude towards others is so imperative that Self’s relations with his Creator, who, be it remembered, is still creating, cannot be properly maintained’ unless Self’s trusteeship is made the fons et origo of all its activities in space-time.
It was once my fortune to come upon a man sawing a log with the wrong side of the saw. Puzzled, I asked him whether it worked well with the teeth in the air. “Splendidly," he replied, and whispered knowingly in my ear, "there's so much less friction." He certainly had some truth on his side, but nevertheless when I next saw him he was in a mental home. The medieval mystic who gave himself up entirely to a life of devotion and meditation was like that man. He certainly avoided friction but the log he was sent into the world to deal with never got sawn.
It is impossible to find any purpose in space-time life unless it be the trusteeship of Self towards others. In a world where others were perfectly good, or wherein there were no others, Self would be entirely without purpose. There can be no use for a saw in a world where there are no trees.
Self is flung at birth into physical proximity with others.
It finds itself in what is called a family. Herein is a common background, a common atmosphere. For a period of years the family continues to be the soil on which Self relies for nourishment. There is a common likeness between all the members of the group and a community spirit which is unthinking, dogmatic and exacting. At first, father or mother calls the tune and the others willy-nilly have to dance. They may not like the tune and they may not want to dance, but the community spirit discourages all fundamental questioning. Self, with its attendant ego and personality, plunged into the scene with bewildering suddenness, for a long while takes it all at face value. It hears things said and sees things done and only gradually does it come to understand that there is a serious discrepancy between speech and deed. The common interest appears as something to be relied upon. Just because my brother is my brother it seems to my crude young mind inevitable that he will act in a brotherly way towards me. Gradually it dawns on the deepening intelligence that this expected integrity is based on a fallacy. Brothers and sisters are not at all alike. They have strikingly different personalities which are continually warring rebelliously against the make-believe of family harmony. This discovery is made with pain and resultant peevishness, for extremely few parents are intelligently aware of the conditions prevailing, being themselves only in the adult state, and as much at the mercy of their egos and personalities as their offspring.
The time comes when the dissimilarities in the home prove exasperating. A true likeness of soul is then sought outside the family circle. Here there seems fair promise of better results. But the promise is not for long maintained. However well conducted the enterprise may be, however wisely and circumspectly the choice of friends may be pursued, the twin soul is never found. Everywhere among others we find multitudinous shades of dissimilarity. These personalities are like waves of the sea breaking or, the shore. They seem the same, yet no two are exactly alike, and almost before we can look at them they have changed and are gone. Thus we may come to understand that in our dealings with others we must not build upon the sand of our own fantasy and vain imaginings. We must content ourselves with the knowledge that every other is an unknown quantity. If he have a Self, our own Self can never by any conscious or rational process, get into direct touch with it. The worst and most fatal blunder we can make with regard to others is to imagine that they are exact replicas of ourself. Only when we have learnt and thoroughly digested this lesson can we be in a position to fulfil Self’s obligation to exercise a kind, just and careful trusteeship on behalf of those others to whom Destiny introduces us. Such obligation, because it is far more difficult than the giving of alms or the repetition of worldly-wise platitudes, is usually neglected.
If, as is too often the case, the injunction to love our neighbour is interpreted to mean that we must be violently and volubly gregarious, treat everybody with hearty backslapping good-humour and dash about in a frantic effort to to make everybody as happy as a skylark, we shall very soon land ourselves and others in a considerable mess. As it was once put by a teacher of the first magnitude: if the blind lead the blind shall not both fall into the pit?
What then can we do?
Our humble efforts can at least be directed towards such measures, social and legislative, as will tend to ease the burden of daily living wherever it presses most heavily. Absolute equality of burdens can never be attained but much can be done to remove the worst abuses and to insure that fair treatment for all, and not class antagonism, is the inspiration of effort. Regular employment with as good a wage as the economic situation will allow and moderate hours of labour must always be an objective, and with these, adequate insurance against sickness and infirmity. In pursuing this goal we must remember that we are doomed always to press forward in a scrum of conflicting egos and personalities, and that our own ego and personality will be eager at times to join in the universal shouting. The majority of these personalities, it must be remembered, have no conception of a Self and the medieval belief in a soul no longer operates in their consciousness. Many of them regard themselves as finished productions with a comfortable immortality awaiting their space-time personalities after death. Nothing, of course, could be more crude or more childish, but to the unreflecting any cherished fantasy will serve. The still, small voice of Self will only be heard faintly and afar off pleading for a more intelligent examination of life and insisting on the axiom, so obvious to some, so far from obvious to others, that space-time activities constitute only a small arc of the circle of existence.
Considered in general terms, Self’s trusteeship towards others must also be concerned with their education. The fires of savagery still smoulder in the heart of talking beast and education can at least do something to avert the catastrophe that is always threatening civilization. Here are thorny problems indeed and such as have never been solved and distilled for practical application. We do not know what to teach or how to teach it. We have never made up our minds whether we are concerned with the children's souls or with their bodies. If we are going to feed religion to them as well as milk, what kind is it to be? The religion of their parents? But perhaps their father inclines to one faith and their mother to another? Or perhaps the parents have no religion and so we have to start without a background, assured of only one thing, that the atavistic tendencies of distant apes and tigers (some call them "original sin") are in the blood-stream of this sweet child. We have never been able to decide whether we are trying to educate those others to be better citizens or to earn higher wages; two paths which lead to entirely different goals. Usually we hesitate between the two aims and accomplish little. But Self's obligation always remains. If Self would keep in touch with his creator it is imperative that he should shoulder this responsibility. If he does not, he will. bring down the inevitable curses upon his head.
The worst blunder that can be made in this matter of education is to work upon the theory that all men are born equal and alike. Such a premise in view of the facts, even the credulous Herodotus would have dismissed as "silly nonsense." And yet it is widely adopted in the work of education. We are born into the world unequal. We have different capacities, different personalities, different destinies. Largely because of the blunders perpetrated in the name of education, the world is full of round men in square jobs. It is bad for the jobs and uncomfortable for the men. On first introduction, Smith and Jones appear much alike. It is only after a considerable period of close contact with each other that they discover how unlike they are. Obviously, confronted always with these fundamental differences, it is impossible to attain anything like uniformity. Socialistic schemes work well so long as the menace of war or starvation draws a curtain over these differences. The Dictator builds on the assumption that all men are alike and can be drilled into uniformity. He usually does not discover his mistake until some of the others who are dangerously unlike him, put a bullet through his heart.
Self has to try to educate others but must not attempt to dragoon them into similarity. He can at least avoid the major pitfalls; he can, while equipping the young for the work for which they are best fitted, try to lead them to that degree of culture which their inner condition is capable of assimilating. This may reach hardly deeper than teaching them to catch their sneezes in a handkerchief, or saying good-morning politely, to an unpopular relative, or it may reach to an intelligent study of Plato and a desire to look beneath the surface of daily life; but in any case care must be taken that the pace is not forced. And there is always the possibility that when these others have attained to the highest degree of culture possible for them and some degree of leisure, they will be utterly and entirely bored. Self therefore will receive no thanks for any efforts it may have made. But Self never looks for gratitude or seeks reward. Self can only fulfil its purpose in space-time by exercising a wise trusteeship for others. It is not concerned with their struggles or their difficulties; it is concerned only with their development from the status of talking beast to the status of Manhood. Results must be left to "the creator to whom others also belong and whom he is still in process of creating.
Always it must be remembered that Self’s trusteeship for others is a very intimate and personal one. It is a tie more intimate and far more troublesome than friendship. It begins always, and everywhere with the necessity of humanizing one's own ego and personality. The politician and social reformer, religious or secular, performs much useful work, but through lack of an intelligent philosophy of consciousness, he is seldom awake to the need to keep ego and personality under control, with the result that his grand schemes and earnest efforts defeat themselves. The forces which have grown out of struggle and strife are only servants and can never direct as Self can direct, for Self is linked up with the universal in all men and has its source in the unknown creative power, the unconscious which cannot be known except through the messages and guidance with which it amplifies space-time consciousness. Unless the social reformer recognizes the need to continually humanize his own ego and personality (even though he be an archbishop or a cabinet minister) and takes practical measures to insure that this shall be done, so far as the work of Self is concerned and the fulfilling of the purpose for which he was born, he is a complete failure.
In any consideration of Self's obligation towards others, the nettlesome problem of marriage must not be left out of account. It was stated on an earlier page that marriage usually lets the talking beast down with bumps. The home-life of talking beasthood in this twentieth century amply bears out the unhappy statement. The easy-going optimist, to-day known as the wishful thinker, looks on the brighter side, and thanks God that there is really nothing much wrong with modern marriage. But easy-going optimism is our worst enemy. It lands us unprepared in wars, illness, strikes, bankruptcy and evils of all kinds. In this life, if we would avoid disillusion, we have to face facts, and not indulge in rosy dreams.
Confronted with the chaotic condition of marriage to-day, man is prone to lay the blame on the hard-and-fast marriage laws imposed on him by ancestors even more rude than himself, and his muddled ideas of the inevitability of progress lead him to suppose that if only the marriage laws were brought up to date, conditions would improve. The female thinks that if she might have babies without the troublesome necessity of a husband, she would be much happier; and the male of the species thinks that if only he might have two or three wives instead of one, the monotony of monogamy would be overcome and the clash of personality at least diffused over a wider area. In such moods he indulges visions of the noble savage living very happily, tended by a multitude of shiny black wives, who cook and scrub and prevent the children from being too damned a nuisance. But it is all a vain vision, a fantasy, a mirage of the possessive ego.
In this matter of marriage we English-speaking people are at a disadvantage. We are romantically-minded folk who take delight in wedding bells, honeymoons and all the froth and glitter of romantic marriage. Our novelists are allowed only two themes–sex and crime. Considering how drab and unromantic industrial progress has rendered life it is not surprising. This aspect of marriage has its dangers. For whatever i.t may lead to, it certainly does not tend to a fearless facing of facts.
The principal fact to be faced in any consideration of marriage is that sex is not a blessing but a curse. This Cinderella of the flesh, born under a curse, may become a princess, but in the process heavy odds have to be encountered. A cynic declared that if the boldest man was transformed by a magician into a fair nubile girl, he would retreat forthwith into the nearest convent. Certainly when one considers the average male, the young lady's prospects do not appear very bright. She may be allowed as long an engagement as you please, but at the end of it she will not know who or what she is marrying. Nor does she know with any greater degree of certainty who or what is marrying him. She has only the vaguest and most shadowy idea of what sort of a person she is. Her consciousness is continually occupied with a stream of events and happenings in the world without. She is, no doubt, very well educated and finished, but if Socrates were to return from the shadows and point out to her in the kindest possible manner that she was just a female beast with the capacity for fluent talking, she would not be convinced, she would be furious. This fact renders the situation acutely dangerous.
Intertwined with the daily life of these two individuals, there appears to be a mysterious something known as Time Time obviously has no real existence, being simply a generalization for change; that change which in our transient world is always producing fresh combinations and permutations. This man and this woman will certainly undergo many changes in the process of living, but what exactly those changes will be none can predict except in the vaguest and most general terms. Feeling a little uneasy on this score, the authors of the marriage service published in the book known as Common Prayer insist upon the marriage being "for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer." Poor little bride, so much at the mercy of forces of whose existence she is hardly aware! Possibly she would have done better to run into the Convent? But then again, there are so many unknown quantities in the Convent. Here she would be among a number of unmarried women who know little or nothing about the processes of sex and whose egos and personalities are like fires damped down under a quantity of coal dust. They may slumber for a time but sooner or later they are bound to burst out in flame and dense smoke and noisome fumes. The celebate life is only justified in those who are not strong enough to bear the burden of sex or upon whom Destiny has thrust another burden which can be carried with so much of goodwill and understanding their the curse is turned into a blessing. No, the poor little unknown quantity under the yards of white satin will probably do better to take this man, despite his roving, fishy eyes and weak chin.
Perhaps the parson's homily which he reads to all couples under sixty on these occasions, will help her to bear the burden. But in case it is too vague or commonplace or scholarly, I venture to submit a little homily which she may read at leisure in later days when the glamour is not so strong and the marital shoe though not pinching, of course, does not feel quite so easy as it did. Therefore, Sweetheart (for though you are not mine, you have been somebody's and are so still, I trust), therefore, Sweetheart, remember this :
Marriage is only another and more intimate application of that general law which lays an obligation upon Self to act in a certain manner towards others. Remember that you have a personality and an ego and that your husband has these also. But your ego and your personality are not the same as his. There is the difference of sex as well as the individual differences which distinguish others from others of like sex. You must try to remember that these servants of Self which is the highest and best part of you that you can never know, and which on earth you can never know fully, for it soars far upwards and outwards into that unknown which we call the unconscious–these servants known as personality and ego, have been evolved as a result of the struggle for life. Therefore they delight in struggle and contention; the contention of will against will and desire against desire. You and he must often find yourselves in conflict; that is inevitable. Do not be surprised by the fact, for it is unavoidable. But the pain and resentment which are apt to result are caused by living too much in your personality and wrongly identifying yourself with it. You can learn to live more and more in the detachment of Self and less and less in the activities of ego and personality. In this way the light of wisdom and the assurance of guidance will come to you and you will find the life of contention and strife will recede further and further into the unreal background of transience.
But what of him, you will ask. He may not be at all inclined to look at the matter in that way. He may take a delight in those lower activities which you call ego and personality. It may not be possible for him to rise to the higher view of Self. What am I to do in the face of that?
You must try always to be true to that Self which is what philosophers call the only true value, because it exists in and by itself without support from any entity. Self is the supreme master as certainly as ego is the servant. Self is the pilgrim that walks for a short distance in that space-time world which is to him no more substantial than a dream. You can help that other best by following the guidance of Self faithfully. And for heaven's sake don't try to improve or dominate him either for his own good or for your comfort. Only disaster can result from efforts of that kind. The benefits of persuasion are few and uncertain and should never be attempted except by those rare ones who have travelled so far on the road to spiritual attainment and wisdom that they are no longer talking beasts, Be gentle, be kind, be patient; remember always that you are three parts a fool no matter how clever other people (who probably have an interest in singing your praises) may think you. Be firm in holding to those general principles which Self is always seeking to impose and you cannot go far wrong.
And now as you read my words I see a pucker on your brow. For if you be the sensitive soul I hope you are, you remain a little wistful. Can it be that I have dissipated some cherished dream of yours? Ah ,yes, I know what it is even before you explain. You have been reading somewhere of the ideal marriage; of the soul that meets a twin-soul and how they coalesce to form the perfect union which shall never be dissolved. You had always hoped to experience that true union which should endure not only for a lifetime but perhaps beyond. Perhaps beyond. That is a valiant hope and likely to lead us into deep waters. Are there or have there been such marriages in our world? Here, as everywhere, we seem to move in a region of uncertainty. There is the beautiful story of Eloise and Abelard, and to set against it there are those disillusioning lines of the poet:
"No man or woman has loved otherwise
Than in brief longing and deceiving hope
And bodily tenderness; and he who longs
For happier love, but finds unhappiness,
And falls among the dreams the drowsy gods
Breathe on the burnished mirror of the world,
And then smooth out with ivory hands and sigh."
As I have before insisted, our feeble, space-time consciousness is concerned only with the conditions of earthly life, out of which it is developed. Directly it seeks to get deeper it loses itself in the unconscious which surrounds it’s Self in space-time can never get into direct touch with the self of another; it can but exchange signals and the servants who wave the torch in that vast darkness are ego and personality. Marriage consists of a struggle of personality with personality; it may be a pleasant struggle; it may be just dull and uneventful or it may be unendurably exasperating; but, so far as personality is concerned marital activities are confined to space-time life, for personality as we know it must inevitably disintegrate with the body. Only Self endures. And herein we discern a hope that may one day become an assurance. Our intercourse with others is almost entirely on the surface. Talking beast is continually conversing with talking (or, as he hopes, listening) beast about the inevitable necessities of daily existence. Yet that there are deeper levels of intercourse possible, we know from the fact that on rare occasions something happens, something slight, vague, unexpected but portentous. He may suddenly find himself talking with another on matters that have power to move and stir him though they have nothing to do with the business of daily living. It is as though the two of them were transferred to another sphere. Mood, direction, outlook have changed. It is as though on a dark night, to use an analogy, heavy clouds had suddenly rolled away and the stars shone down, too numerous to count, too brilliant to describe. Then humans draw nearer to humans, not physically but in the truest and most vital sense. They have drawn nearer in reality. Sympathy, affection, aspiration are quickened. Self has approached as near to Self as, in this life of transience, it ever can.
Existence in the real is to existence in space-time as light compared with darkness. Personal experience in such matters attains nothing in the telling, for such experience belongs to the untellable. To become conscious of reality while still in the flesh is to feel the world of change drop away and the exhilaration of the eternal moment supervene. It is to step out of the world of face into the world where all dreams are born. It is the most significant experience of a life-time and the rarest, whether it come to the silent spirit sitting quietly alone or to the stir-forgetting warrior in the terror, tumult and exhilaration of battle. "Blustering facts that bludgeon and bombard the senses, often provoke us, by the very violence of their self-announcement, to suspect them as illusory. Reality is a low-voiced, soft-footed thing; a mean between two extremes, clothed at all times in the garments of modesty and reserve, which neither strives nor cries, nor lifts up its voice in the streets. But when the gods are drunk and the heavens in uproar, and the thing called 'fact' is unrestrained, ranting and storming about the stage, like an ill-mannered actor–then it is that the cup begins to pass away from us, and a still small voice whispers within that the whole performance is a masquerade."
Here we are in a region, not of mysticism or reverie or dream or fantasy or wishful thinking but of vital, fundamental experience which is attested in consciousness as well as in the records of the past. There is no need to quote in this connexion. Let each search within and meditate upon ouch scriptures as speak to him in his own language.
Are there then, friendships, unions so rooted and established in the real that underlies and supports the transient, that they may survive the dropping of the body and the loss of personality?
Here again we move in the region of the untellabe. Experience cannot be handed from one to another and retaian any value. Each must experience the fundamental things for himself or remain in nescience. The law stands: seek and ye shall find. But such experiences are by no means thrust upon us. Without seeking there can be no finding. And personality and ego are so averse to the effort of seeking that they would fain persuade us that it is all silly nonsense and there is nothing to find. The great Seekers know it to be far otherwise. They know that death is no enemy but a friend to an intimacy that is established and maintained in utter sincerity, with no tribute paid motives of greed, self-interest, inertia or flattery.