Edward Carpenter (1844-1929)

Essays by Edward Carpenter were staples in the early Corvus Editions catalog and my files are full of material related to his life and work, but the vagaries of multiple archive relocations have left the Libertarian Labyrinth surprisingly short of that work. This author page is a start at rectifying that problem.

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BIOGRAPHICAL:

Edward Carpenter and His Message

THERE is no single feature in the literature of our times that is more profoundly significant and interesting than the revolt against modern society. A Tolstoi in Russia, a Zola in France, an Ibsen in Norway, a Howells in America, have all made their art the vehicle of a social message. In England this tendency is especially marked. We have seen John Ruskin and William Morris, two of the most striking literary figures of the Victorian era, break away from the old traditions, and throw the whole weight of their influence into the struggle for better social conditions. In the England of to-day we see a spectacle equally remarkable. We find communism—that bugaboo of the respectable classes, that very embodiment in the popular mind of all that is accursed—openly espoused by a group of literary men whose genius is recognized all over the world.

Edward Carpenter is perhaps the most talented member of this group, and he strikes a note in contemporary literature that is as unique as it is inspiring and beautiful. Carpenter stands for democracy in its fullest and broadest sense—democracy which represents not merely political forms, but which penetrates to the very roots of society. He turns with horror from the life of to-day, with its degradation of human life, and its subordination of beauty to profit, and pictures the days of the future, when commercialism has been supplanted by communism. In his dream of the society which is to be he realizes his ideal of brotherhood of art, of nature-love.

Thirty years ago Edward Carpenter, while at Cambridge University, came under the influence of the Rev. F. D. Maurice, the Christian socialist, and entered the Church of England. He relinquished his orders, however, and for some years was a university extension lecturer on art, music and science in the north of England. In 1877 he visited the United States and became acquainted with Walt Whitman. He had already fallen deeply beneath the spell of this great democratic thinker, and upon his return to England he took to farm life at Millthorpe, near Sheffield, and began to think out his “Towards Democracy.” Much of this book was written in the open air, and it breathes the spirit of the fields and flowers. “Towards Democracy” and its sister poems, were published in 1883 and were quite startling in their unconventionality. Carpenter had become saturated with the Whitman spirit. He used in his poems the same rough, unfettered form, and held out to the world the same democratic ideal. “Leaves of Grass” finds its transatlantic prototype in “Towards Democracy.” The poem “Towards Democracy” is a wonderful revelation of Carpenter’s personality. In a series of seventy dramatic stanzas, which sweep the reader along with impetuous force, the poet touches every emotion in human life. He associated himself with the lowest and vilest, as with the noblest; he hurls anathemas against modern society; he writes passionately of love, and of kinship with nature and animal life; he voices the hope of a new era of fraternity and beauty.

In one of the most striking passages of “Towards Democracy” Carpenter gives a panoramic survey of England. With a master hand he paints the picture he sees before him. Rivers, mountains and cities all pass beneath his gaze:

“The beautiful grass stands tall in the meadows, mixed with sorrel and buttercups; the steamships move on across the sea, leaving trails of distant smoke. I see the tall white cliffs of Albion.

“I smell the smell of the new-mown grass, the waft of the thought of Death—the white fleeces of the clouds move on in the everlasting blue—with the dashing and the spray of waves below. . . .

“I see the sweet-breathed cottage homes and homesteads dotted for miles and miles and miles. I enter the wheelright’s cottage by the angle of the river. The door stands open against the water, and catches its changing syllables all day long; roses twine, and the smell of the woodyard comes in wafts. . . .

“The oval-shaped manufacturing heart of England lies below me; at night the clouds flicker in the lurid glare; I hear the sob and gasp of pumps and the solid beat of steam and tilt-hammers; I see streams of pale lilac and saffron-tinted fire. I see the swarthy, Vulcan-reeking towns, the belching chimneys, the slums, the liquor shops, chapels, dancing saloons, running grounds, and blameless remote villa residences.’’

Finally comes the climax: “I see a land waiting for its own people to come and take possession of it.”

Edward Carpenter writes as one stifled by the artificiality of modern life. In fiercest words he lays bare the shams and hypocricies which he sees around him. He lashes “the insane greed of riches, of which poverty and its evils are but the necessary obverse and counterpart,” and “smooth-faced Respectability, so luxurious, refined, learned, pious—yet all out of other men’s labor.” He laughs at “ideas of exclusiveness, and of being in the swim; of the drivel of aristocratic connections; of drawing-rooms and levees and the theory of animated clothes pegs generally; of helplessly living in houses with people who feed you, dress you, clean you and despise you.” He sees a nation that has far departed from the laws of nature and of healthy life; ever is he haunted by the vision of the world that might be and thoughts of “the free sufficing life—sweet comradeship, few needs and common pleasures.” I propound a New Life to you,” he exclaims, “that you should bring the peace and grace of Nature into your own daily life—being freed from vain striving.”

In a poem entitled “After Civilization” Carpenter thus beautifully presents the idea of the unfolding of the new society:

“Slowly out of the ruins of the past—like a young fern-frond uncurling out of its own brown litter—

“Out of the litter of decaying society, out of the confused mass of broken-down creeds, customs, ideals;

“Out of distrust and unbelief and dishonesty, and fear, meanest of all (the stronger in the panic trampling the weaker underfoot);

“Out of the miserable rows of brick tenements with their cheap jack interiors, their glances of suspicion, and doors locked against each other;

“Out of the polite residences of congested idleness; out of the aimless life of wealth;

“Out of the dirty workshops of evil work, evilly done;

“I saw a New Life arise.”

In his essays Edward Carpenter has written definitely of the economic structure of the ideal society, but in his poems he rather gives us hopes and aspirations. He speaks of the spirit of mutual service and dependence under Communism, in which each will do the work before him “doubting no more of his reward than the hand doubts, or the foot, to which the blood flows according to the use to which it is put.” This conception of a social order based upon the idea “From each according to his ability, to each according to his need” is supported by references to the Law of Equality, which Carpenter interprets in this way:

“If you think yourself superior to the rest, in that instant you have proclaimed your own inferiority:

“And he that will be servant of all, helper of most, by that very fact becomes their lord and master.

“Seek not your own life—for that is death;

“But seek how you can best and most joyfully give your own life away—and every morning for ever fresh life shall come to you from over the hills.”

In another poem he writes of “the outspread pinions of Equality, whereon arising Man shall at last lift himself over the Earth and launch forth to sail through Heaven.” The stanzas entitled “The Curse of Property” are a tremendous indictment of existing property claims, and leave no doubt as to the trend of Carpenter’s communist teachings.

This truly remarkable book of poems strikes a note of intense realism. Edward Carpenter accents all the facts of life, “nothing blinked or concealed,” he makes himself the mouthpiece of the “vast unfettered human heart” in its every manifestation. But he is also saturated with an equally intense idealism. He lives and writes in the present, but his hope is in the future.

Edward Carpenter has given practical expression to his ideals by taking part in the Socialist agitation of England. About the year 1883, just after the first English Socialist society had been founded, and while William Morris and H. M. Hyndman were carrying on a vigorous propaganda in London, Carpenter was drawn into the Socialist movement. It was with his money that “Justice,” the first English Socialist paper, was started, and he both wrote and lectured on behalf of the Social Democratic Federation. When William Morris seceded from the Federation and founded the Socialist League, Edward Carpenter showed himself in sympathy with the new body, and contributed to Morris’ revolutionary journal, “The Commonweal.” He compiled and published during this period an interesting Socialist song book, with music, and shortly after some of his Socialist lectures and articles were issued under the title of “England’s Ideal.” In 1889 “Civilization, Its Causes and Cure,” and other scientific and social essays were published in book form, and a year later he wrote a long account of his travels in India, which he called “From Adam’s Peak to Elephanta.” During recent years Carpenter has given much attention to sexual problems, and a book entitled “Love’s Coming of Age” sums up his thoughts on love and marriage. Carpenter’s last contributions to literature are a series of essays on art and its relation to society, published under the name “Angels’ Wings,” and a translation of “The Story of Eros and Psyche,” from Homer’s Iliad.

In the essay, “Civilization, Its Causes and Cure,” we touch the heart of Edward Carpenter’s life philosophy. To the majority of readers the title will seem a strange audacity—the more so since Carpenter looks upon civilization in no mere humorous sense, but quite soberly and seriously, as a disease. He instances its unhealthiness and retinue of doctors, its feverish spirit of unrest, and its miserable poverty; comparing these features with the normal life of the more developed savage races. Carpenter lays great stress on the moral and physical qualities which humanity has lost in its progress from barbarism to civilization, and while he is far from advocating a mere return to first principles, he shows quite clearly that civilization has not meant all gain. He also lays emphasis on the fact that the men of to-day have almost wholly abandoned nature, and “disowned the very breasts that suckled them.” “Man,’’ he says, “deliberately turns his back upon the light of the sun, and hides himself away in boxes with breathing holes (which he calls houses), living ever more and more in darkness and asphyxia, and only coming forth perhaps once a day to blink at the bright god, or to run back again at the first breath of the free wind for fear of catching cold!” “He is the only animal,” he adds, in another passage, “who, instead of adorning and beautifying makes nature hideous by his presence. The fox and the squirrel may make their homes in the wood and add to its beauty in so doing; but when Alderman Smith plants his villa there, the gods pack up their trunks and depart; they can bear it no longer. The bushmen can hide themselves and become indistinguishable on a slope of bare rock; they twine their naked little bodies together, and look like a heap of dead sticks; but when the chimney-pot hat and frock-coat appears, the birds fly screaming from the trees!”

Edward Carpenter lays the blame for modern conditions chiefly on the institution of private property, and its accompanying system of class government. Property, he claims, has divorced man (1) from nature, (2) from his true self, (3) from his fellows. At the same time he realizes that the development of modern society is working out its own downfall. The industrial tendency to-day is ever toward co-operation and communal ownership, as opposed to private competition, and as Carpenter claims, the only logical culmination appears to be communism— that is, public ownership of the means of life. He claims that such conditions would insure a secure and brotherly life for all, and that the human spirit, freed from the bonds of a sordid commercialism, would soar to heights undreamed of to-day. He believes that there would be an almost universal return to nature and simplicity. “Then,” he says, “when our temples and common halls are not designed to glorify an individual architect or patron, but are built for the use of free men and women, to front the sky and the sea and the sun, to spring out of the earth, companionable with the trees and the rocks, not alien in spirit from the sunlit globe itself or the depth of the starry night— then, I say, their form and structure will quickly determine themselves, and men will have no difficulty in making them beautiful. In such new communal life near to nature—its fields, its farms, its workshops, its cities—we are fain to see far more humanity and sociability than ever before; an infinite helpfulness and sympathy, as between the children of a common mother.”

Edward Carpenter has much in common with two of America’s greatest sons, Henry D. Thoreau and Walt Whitman. He shares with both the passionate nature—love, amounting almost to religion; with both he revolts from the cumbrous machinery of a complex civilization. In the same way that Thoreau retired to his hut by Walden, Carpenter spends his days at a farm in a beautiful Yorkshire dale, and here he lives a simple country life, working day by day on the soil and alternating manual with intellectual toil. Occasionally also he lectures throughout England. He has entered into relations of true fellowship with the laboring people around him, who come to him to discuss their daily affairs, their trials and their hopes. Edward Carpenter’s personality is delightful. He is small and well-proportioned and his thoughtful face is one of singular beauty, with brown beard and expressive eyes.

“To meet Edward Carpenter,’’ says one of his friends, “or to listen to one of his characteristic lectures on social questions, is to find oneself in touch with a man who is absolutely free from the fetters of conventionality. Here in the human world is that which makes you think of nature—a wave of the sea, an oak on the free hillside; it is nature become intelligent and human, or man become a part of nature and still man! He does not strike one as brilliant, or as learned, or as eloquent, but as something entirely natural and fresh and unconstrained. Some happy secret is his, and life is made beautiful and calm and full of joy therewith.”

Perhaps Edward Carpenter told the world his “happy secret” when he wrote the following poem:

“Sweet secret of the open air—
That waits so long, and always there, unheeded.

Something uncaught, so free, so calm, large, confident—
The floating breeze, the far hills and broad sky,
And every little bird and tiny fly or flower
At home in the great whole, nor feeling lost at all or forsaken,
Save man—slight man!

He, Cain-like from the calm eyes of the Angels,
In houses hiding, in huge gas-lighted offices and dens, in ponderous churches,
Beset with darkness, cowers;
And like some hunted criminal torments his brain
For fresh means of escape, continually;
Builds thicker, higher walls, ramparts of stone and gold, piles flesh and skins of slaughtered beasts,
‘Twixt him and that he fears;
Fevers himself with plans, works harder and harder,
And wanders far and farther from the goal.
And still the great World waits by the door as ever,
The great World stretching endlessly on every hand, in deep on deep of fathomless content—
Where sing the morning-stars in joy together,
And all things are at home.”

Leonard D. Abbott.

Source: The International Socialist Review, 1, 5 (November, 1900) 275-281.


AN UNKNOWN PEOPLE

In late years (and since the arrival of the New Woman amongst us) many things in the relation of men and women to each other have altered, or at any rate become clearer. The growing sense of equality in habits and customs—university studies, art, music, politics, the bicycle, etc.—all these things have brought about a rapprochement between the sexes. If the modern woman is a little more masculine in some ways than her predecessor, the modern man (it is to be hoped), while by no means effeminate, is a little more sensitive in temperament and artistic in feeling than the original John Bull. It is beginning to be recognised that the sexes do not or should not normally form two groups hopelessly isolated in habit and feeling from each other, but that they rather represent the two poles of one group—which is the human race; so that while certainly the extreme specimens at either pole are vastly divergent, there are great numbers in the middle region who (though differing corporeally as men and women) are by emotion and temperament very near to each other. We all know women with a strong dash of the masculine temperament, and we all know men whose almost feminine sensibility and intuition seem to belie their bodily form. Nature, it might appear, in mixing the elements which go to compose each individual, does not always keep her two groups of ingredients—which represent the two sexes—properly apart, but often throws them crosswise in a somewhat baffling manner, now this way and now that; yet wisely, we must think—for if a severe distinction of elements were always maintained, the two sexes would soon drift into far latitudes and absolutely cease to understand each other. As it is, there are some remarkable and (we think) indispensable types of character, in whom there is such a union or balance of the feminine and masculine qualities that these people become to a great extent the interpreters of men and women to each other. There is another point which has become clearer of late. For as people are beginning to see that the sexes form in a certain sense a continuous group, so they are beginning to see that Love and Friendship—which have been so often set apart from each other as things distinct—are in reality closely related and shade imperceptibly into each other. Women are beginning to demand that Marriage shall mean Friendship as well as Passion; that a comrade-like Equality shall be included in the word Love; and it is recognised that from the one extreme of a ‘Platonic’ friendship (generally between persons of the same sex) up to the other extreme of passionate love (generally between persons of opposite sex) no hard and fast line can at any point be drawn effectively separating the different kinds of attachment We know, in fact, of Friendships so romantic in sentiment that they verge into love; we know of Loves so intellectual and spiritual that they hardly dwell in the sphere of Passion.

A moment’s thought will show that the general conceptions indicated above—if anywhere near the truth—point to an immense diversity of human temperament and character in matters relating to sex and love; but though such diversity has probably always existed, it has only in comparatively recent times become a subject of study.

More than thirty years ago, however, an Austrian writer, K. H. Ulrichs, drew attention in a series of pamphlets (Memnon, Ara Spei, Inclusa, etc.) to the existence of a class of people who strongly illustrate the above remarks, and with whom specially this paper is concerned. He pointed out that there were people born in such a position—as it were on the dividing line between the sexes—that while belonging distinctly to one sex as far as their bodies are concerned they may be said to belong mentally and emotionally to the other; that there were men, for instance, who might be described as of feminine soul enclosed in a male body (anima muliebris in corpore virili inclusd), or in other cases, women whose definition would be just the reverse. And he maintained that this doubleness of nature was to a great extent proved by the special direction of their love-sentiment. For in such cases, as indeed might be expected, the (apparently) masculine person instead of forming a love-union with a female tended to contract romantic friendships with one of his own sex; while the apparently feminine would, instead of marrying in the usual way, devote herself to the love of another feminine.

People of this kind (i.e., having this special variation of the love-sentiment) he called Urnings; [1] and though we are not obliged to accept his theory about the crosswise connexion between ‘soul’ and ‘body,’ since at best these words are somewhat vague and indefinite; yet his work was important because it was one of the first attempts, in modern times, to recognise the existence of what might be called an Intermediate sex, and to give at any rate some explanation of it. [2]

Since that time the subject has been widely studied and written about by scientific men and others, especially on the Continent (though in England it is still comparatively unknown), and by means of an extended observation of present-day cases, as well as the indirect testimony of the history and literature of past times, quite a body of general conclusions has been arrived at—of which I propose in the following pages to give some slight account.

Contrary to the general impression, one of the first points that emerges from this study is that ‘Urnings’ are by no means so very rare; but that they form, beneath the surface of society, a large class. It remains difficult, however, to get an exact statement of their numbers; and this for more than one reason: partly because, owing to the want of any general understanding of their case, these folk tend to conceal their true feelings from all but their own kind, and indeed often deliberately act in such a manner as to lead the world astray—(whence it arises that a normal man living in a certain society will often refuse to believe that there is a single Urning in the circle of his acquaintance, while one of the latter, or one that understands the nature, living in the same society, can count perhaps a score or more)—and partly because it is indubitable that the numbers do vary very greatly, not only in different countries, but even in different classes in the same country. The consequence of all this being that we have estimates differing very widely from each other. Dr. Grabowsky, a well-known writer in Germany, quotes figures (which we think must be exaggerated) as high’ as one man in every 22, while Dr. Albert Moll (Die Contrdre Sexual-empfindung, chap. 3) gives estimates varying from I in every 50 to as low as I in every 500. [3] These figures apply to such as are exclusively of the said nature, i.e., to those whose deepest feelings of love and friendship go out only to persons of their own sex. Of course, if in addition are included those double-natured people (of whom there “is a great number) who experience the normal attachment, with the homogenic tendency in less or greater degree superadded, the estimates must be greatly higher.

In the second place it emerges (also contrary to the general impression) that men and women of the exclusive Urning type are by no means necessarily morbid in any way— unless, indeed, their peculiar temperament be pronounced in itself morbid. Formerly it was assumed, as a matter of course, that the type was merely a result of disease and degeneration; but now with the examination of the actual facts it appears that, on the contrary, many are fine, healthy specimens of their sex, muscular and well-developed in body, of powerful brain, high standard of conduct, and with nothing abnormal or morbid of any kind observable in their physical structure or constitution. This is, of course, not true of all, and there still remain a certain number of cases of weakly type to support the neuropathic view. Yet it is very noticeable that this view is much less insisted on by the later writers than by the earlier. It is also worth noticing that it is now acknowledged that even in the most healthy cases the special affectional temperament of the ‘Intermediate’ is, as a rule, ineradicable; so much so that when (as in not a few instances) such men and women, from social or other considerations, have forced themselves to marry and even have children, they have still not been able to overcome their own bias, or the leaning after all of their life-attachment to some friend of their own sex.

This subject, though obviously one of considerable interest and importance, has been hitherto, as I have pointed out, but little discussed in this country, partly owing to a certain amount of doubt and distrust which has, not unnaturally perhaps, surrounded it. And certainly if the men and women born with the tendency in question were only exceedingly rare, though it would not be fair on that account to ignore them, yet it would hardly be necessary to dwell at great length on their case. But as the class is really, on any computation, numerous, it becomes a duty for society not only to understand them but to help them to understand themselves.

For there is no doubt that in many cases people of this kind suffer a good deal from their own temperament—and yet after all it is possible that they may have an important part to play in the evolution of the race. Anyone who realises what Love is, the dedication of the heart, so profound, so absorbing, so mysterious, so imperative, and always just in the noblest natures so strong, cannot fail to see how difficult, how tragic even, must often be the fate of those whose deepest feelings are destined from the earliest days to be a riddle and a stumbling-block, unexplained to themselves, passed over in silence by others. To call people of such temperament ‘morbid,’ and so forth, is of no use. Such a term is, in fact, absurdly inapplicable to many, who are among the most active, the most amiable and accepted members of society; besides, it forms no solution of the problem in question, and only amounts to marking down for disparagement a fellow- creature who has already considerable difficulties to contend with. Says Dr. Moll, “Anyone who has seen many Urnings will probably admit that they form a by no means enervated human group; on the contrary, one finds powerful, healthy-looking folk among them;” but in the very next sentence he says that they “suffer severely” from the way they are regarded; and in the manifesto of a considerable community of such people in Germany occur these words, “The rays of sunshine in the night of our existence are so rare, that we are responsive and deeply grateful for the least movement, for every single voice that speaks in our favour in the forum of mankind.” [4]

In dealing with this class of folk, then, while I do not deny that they present a difficult problem, I think that just for that very reason their case needs discussion. It would be a great mistake to suppose that their attachments are necessarily sexual, or connected with sexual acts. On the contrary (as abundant evidence shows), they are often purely emotional in their character; and to confuse Urnings (as is so often done) with libertines having no law but curiosity in self-indulgence is to do them a great wrong. At the same time, it is evident that their special temperament may sometimes cause them difficulty in regard to their sexual relations. Into this subject we need not enter. But we may point out how hard it is, especially for the young among them, that a veil of complete silence should be drawn over the subject, leading to the most painful misunderstandings, and perversions and confusions of mind; and that there should be no hint of guidance; nor any recognition of the solitary and really serious inner struggles they may have to face! If the problem is a difficult one—as it undoubtedly is—the fate of those people is already hard who have to meet it in their own persons, without their suffering in addition from the refusal of society to give them any help. It is partly for these reasons, and to throw a little light where it may be needed,, that I have thought it might be advisable in this paper simply to give a few general characteristics of the Intermediate types.

As indicated then already, in bodily structure there is, as a rule, nothing to distinguish the subjects of our discussion from ordinary men and women; but if we take the general mental characteristics it appears from almost universal testimony that the male tends to be of a rather gentle, emotional disposition—with defects, if such exist, in the direction of subtlety, evasiveness, timidity, vanity, etc.; while the female is just the opposite, fiery, active, bold and truthful, with defects running to brusqueness and coarseness. Moreover, the mind of the former is generally intuitive and instinctive in its perceptions, with more or less of artistic feeling; while the mind of the latter is more logical, scientific, and precise than usual with the normal woman. So marked indeed are these general characteristics that sometimes by means of them (though not an infallible guide) the nature of the boy or girl can be detected in childhood, before full development has taken place; and needless to say it may often be very important to be able to do this.

It was no doubt in consequence of the observation of these signs that K. H. Ulrichs proposed his theory; and though the theory, as we have said, does not by any means meet all the facts, still it is perhaps not without merit, and may be worth bearing in mind.

In the case, for instance, of a woman of this temperament (defined we suppose as “a male soul in a female body “) the theory helps us to understand how it might be possible for her to fall bond-fide in love with another woman. Krafft-Ebing, of Vienna, gives [5] the case of a lady (A.), 28 years of age, who fell deeply in love with a younger one (B.). “I loved her divinely,” she said. They lived together, and the union lasted four years, but was then broken by the marriage of B. A. suffered in consequence from frightful depression; but in the end—though without real love—got married herself. Her depression however only increased, and deepened into illness. The doctors, when consulted, said that all would be well if she could only have a child. The husband, who loved his wife sincerely, could not understand her enigmatic behaviour. She was friendly to him, suffered his caresses, but for days afterwards remained “dull, exhausted, plagued with irritation of the spine, and nervous.” Presently a journey of the married pair led to another meeting with the female friend—who had now been wedded (but also unhappily) for three years. “Both ladies trembled with joy and excitement as they fell into each other’s arms, and were thenceforth inseparable. The man found that this friendship relation was a singular one, and hastened the departure. When the opportunity occurred, he convinced himself from the correspondence between his wife and her ‘friend’ that their letters were exactly like those of two lovers.”

It appears that the loves of such women are often very intense, and (as also in the case of male Urnings) life-long. Both classes feel themselves blessed when they love happily. Nevertheless, to many of them it is a painful fact that—in consequence of their peculiar temperament—they are, though fond of children, not in the position to found a family.

We have so far limited ourselves to some very general characteristics of the Intermediate race. It may help to clear and fix our ideas if we now describe more in detail, first, what may be called the extreme and exaggerated types of the race, and then the more normal and perfect types. By doing so we shall get a more definite and concrete view of our subject.

In the first place, then, the extreme specimens—as in most cases of extremes—are not particularly attractive, sometimes quite the reverse. In the male of this kind we have a distinctly effeminate type, sentimental, lackadaisical, mincing in gait and manners, something of a chatterbox, skilful at the needle and in woman’s work, sometimes taking pleasure in dressing in woman’s clothes; his figure not unfrequently betraying a tendency towards the feminine, large at the hips, supple, not muscular, the face wanting in hair, the voice inclining to be high-pitched, etc.; while his dwelling-room is orderly in the extreme, even natty, and choice of decoration and perfume. His affection too is often feminine in character, clinging, dependent and jealous, as of one desiring to be loved almost more than to love. [6]

On the other hand, as the extreme type of the homogenic female, we have a rather markedly aggressive person, of strong passions, masculine manners and movements, practical in the conduct of life, sensuous rather than sentimental in love, often untidy, and outré in attire; her figure muscular, her voice rather low in pitch; her dwelling-room decorated with sporting-scenes, pistols, etc., and not without a suspicion of the fragrant weed in the atmosphere; while her love (generally to rather soft and feminine specimens of her own sex) is often a sort of furor, similar to the ordinary masculine love, and at times almost uncontrollable.

Perhaps, like Queen Christine of Sweden, who rode across Europe, on her visit to Italy, in jack-boots and sitting astride of her horse. It is said that she shook the Pope’s hand, on seeing him, so heartily that the doctor had to attend to it afterwards!

These are types which, on account of their salience, everyone will recognise more or less. Naturally, when they occur, they excite a good deal of attention, and it is not an uncommon impression that most persons of the homo- genie nature belong to either one or other of these classes. But in reality, of course, these extreme developments are rare, and for the most part the temperament in question is embodied in men and women of quite normal and unsensational exterior. Speaking of this subject, and the connection between effeminateness and the homogenic nature in men, Dr. Moll says: “It is, however, as well to point out at the outset that effeminacy does not by any means show itself in all Urnings. Though one may find this or that indication in a great number of cases, yet it cannot be denied that a very large percentage, perhaps by far the majority of them, do not exhibit pronounced Effeminacy.” And it may be supposed that we may draw the same conclusion with regard to women of this class—namely, that the majority of them do not exhibit pronounced masculine habits. In fact, while these extreme cases are of the greatest value from a scientific point of view as marking tendencies and limits of development in certain directions, it would be a serious mistake to look upon them as representative cases of the whole phases of human evolution concerned.

If now we come to what may be called the more normal type of Urning, we find a man who, while possessing thoroughly masculine powers of mind and body, combines with them the tenderer and more emotional soul-nature of the woman—and sometimes to a remarkable degree. Such men, as said, are often muscular and well-built, and not distinguishable in exterior structure and the carriage of body from others of their own sex; but emotionally they are extremely complex, tender, sensitive, pitiful and loving, “ full of storm and stress, of ferment and fluctuation” of the heart; the logical faculty may or may not, in their case, be well-developed, but intuition is always strong; like women they read characters at a glance, and know, without knowing how, what is passing in the minds of others; for nursing and waiting on the needs of others they have often a peculiar gift; at the bottom lies the artist-nature, with the artist’s sensibility and perception. Such an one is often a dreamer, of brooding reserved habits, often a musician, or a man of culture, courted in society, which nevertheless does not understand him—though sometimes a child of the people, without any culture, but almost always with a peculiar inborn refinement. De Joux, who speaks on the whole favourably of Urning men and women, says of the former: “They are enthusiastic for poetry and music, are often eminently skilful in the fine arts, and are overcome with emotion and sympathy at the least sad occurrence. Their sensitiveness, their endless tenderness for children, their love of flowers, their great pity for beggars and crippled folk are truly womanly.” And in another passage he indicates the artist-nature, when he says: “The nerve-system of many an Urning is the finest and the most complicated musical instrument in the service of the interior personality that can be imagined.”

It would seem probable that the attachment of such an one is of a very tender and profound character; indeed, it is possible that in this class of men we have the love sentiment in one of its most perfect forms—a form in which from the necessities of the situation the sensuous element, though present, is exquisitely subordinated to the spiritual. Says one writer on this subject, a Swiss, “Happy indeed is that man who has won a real Urning for his friend—he walks on roses, without ever having to fear the thorns;” and he adds, “Can there ever be a more perfect sick-nurse than an Urning?” And though these are ex parte utterances, we may believe that there is an appreciable grain of truth in them. Another writer, quoted by De Joux, speaks to somewhat the same effect, and may perhaps be received in a similar spirit. “We form,” he says, “a peculiar aristocracy of modest spirits, of good and refined habit, and in many masculine circles are the representatives of the higher mental and artistic element. In us dreamers and enthusiasts lies the continual counterpoise to the sheer masculine portion of society—inclining, as it always does, to mere restless greed of gain and material sensual pleasures.” That men of this kind despise women, though a not uncommon belief, is one which hardly appears to be justified. Indeed, though naturally not inclined to “fall in love” in this direction, such men are by their nature drawn rather near to women, and it would seem that they often feel a singular appreciation and understanding of the emotional needs and destinies of the other sex, leading in many cases to a genuine though what is called ‘Platonic’ friendship. There is little doubt that they are often instinctively sought after by women, who, without suspecting the real cause, are conscious of a sympathetic chord in the homogenic which they miss in the normal man. To quote De Joux once more: “ It would be a mistake to suppose that all Urnings must be women-haters. Quite the contrary. They are not seldom the faithfulest friends, the truest allies, and most convinced defenders of women.”

To come now to the more normal and perfect specimens of the homogenic woman, we find a type in which the body is thoroughly feminine and gracious, with the rondure and fulness of the female form, and the continence and aptness of its movements, but in which the inner nature is to a great extent masculine; a temperament active, brave, originative, somewhat decisive, not too emotional; fond of out-door life, of games and sports, of science, politics, or even business; good at organisation, and well-pleased with positions of responsibility, sometimes indeed making an excellent and generous leader. Such a woman, it is easily seen, from her special combination of qualities, is often fitted for remarkable work, in professional life, or as manageress of institutions, or even as ruler of a country. Her love goes out to younger and more feminine natures than her own; it is a powerful passion, almost of heroic type, and capable of inspiring to great deeds; and when held duly in leash may sometimes become an invaluable force in the teaching and training of girl-hood, or in the creation of a school of thought or action among women. Many a Santa Clara, or abbess-founder of religious houses, has probably been a woman of this type; and in all times such women—not being bound to men by the ordinary ties—have been able to work the more freely for the interests of their sex, a cause to which their own temperament impels them to devote themselves con amore.

I have now sketched—very briefly and inadequately it is true—both the extreme types and the more healthy types of the ‘Intermediate’ man and woman: types which can be verified from history and literature, though more certainly and satisfactorily perhaps from actual life around us. And unfamiliar though the subject is, it begins to appear that it is one which modern thought and science will have to face. Of the latter and more normal types it may be said that they exist, and have always existed, in considerable abundance, and from that circumstance alone there is a strong probability that they have their place and purpose. As pointed out there is no particular indication of morbidity about them, unless the special nature of their love-sentiment be itself accounted morbid; and in the alienation of the sexes from each other, of which complaint is so often made to-day, it must be admitted that they do much to fill the gap.

The instinctive artistic nature of the male of this class, his sensitive spirit, his wavelike emotional temperament, combined with hardihood of intellect and body; and the frank, free nature of the female, her masculine independence and strength wedded to thoroughly feminine grace of form and manner; may be said to give them both, through their double nature, command of life in all its phases, and a certain freemasonry of the secrets of the two sexes which may well favour their function as reconcilers and interpreters. Certainly it is remarkable that some of the world’s greatest leaders and artists have either been complete Urnings or dowered with a strong dash of the temperament—like Michel Angelo, Shakespeare, Marlowe, Alexander the Great, Julius Caesar, or, among women, Christine of Sweden, Sappho the poetess, and others.

[1] From Uranos, heaven; his idea being that the Urning-love was of a higher order than the ordinary attachment.

[2] Charles G. Leland (“Hans Breitmann”) in his book “The Alternate Sex” (Wellby, 1904), insists much on the frequent combination of the characteristics of both sexes in remarkable men and women, and has a chapter on “ The Female Mind in Man,” and another on “The Male Intellect in Woman.”

[3] Some late statistical inquiries (see Statistische Untersuchungen, von Dr. M. Hirschfeld, Leipzig, 1904) yield 1.5 to 2.0 per cent, as a probable ratio.

[4] See De Joux, Die Enterbten des Licbes-gliickes (Leipzig, 1893), p. 21

[5] Psychopathia Sexualis, 7th ed., p. 276.

[6] A good deal in this description may remind readers of history of the habits and character of Henry III of France.


Exfoliation: Darwin Vs. Lamarck

“Creation’s incessant unrest, exfoliation.”—Whitman.

I think it may perhaps be agreed, once for all, that the human mind is incapable of really defining even the smallest fact of nature. The simplest thing, or event, baffles us at the last. It is like trying to look at the front and back of a mirror at the same time. The utmost squinting avails not. The ego and the non-ego dance eluding through creation. To catch them both in any mortal object and pin them there, surpasses our powers. And yet they are there. Montaigne quotes somewhere the words of S. Augustine: Modus quo corporibus adhaerent spiritus. . . omnino mirus est, nec comprehendi ab homine potest; et hoc ipse homo est. “The manner whereby spirits adhere to bodies is altogether wonderful, and cannot be conceived of by men; and yet this is man.” Man himself contains, or rather is, the reconcilement of this and numberless other contradictions. We actually every day perform and exhibit miracles which the mental part of us is utterly powerless to grapple with. Yet the solution, the intelligent solution and understanding of them is in us; only it involves a higher order of consciousness than we usually deal with—a consciousness possibly which includes and transcends the ego and the non-ego, and so can envisage both at the same time and equally—a fourth-dimensional consciousness to whose gaze the interiors of solid bodies are exposed like mere surfaces—a consciousness to whose perception some usual antitheses like cause and effect, matter and spirit, past and future, simply do not exist. I say these higher orders of consciousness are in us waiting for their evolution and, until they evolve, we are powerless really to understand anything of the world around us.

Meanwhile, since we must have formulæ and generalisations to think by, we are fain to accept our local views, and look on the world from this side or from that. Sometimes we are idealists, sometimes we are materialists; sometimes we believe in mechanics, sometimes in human or spiritual forces. The science of the last fifty years has, as pointed out in a preceding paper, looked at things more from the mechanical than the distinctively human side—from the point of view of the non-ego, rather than of the ego. Reacting from an extreme tendency towards a subjective view of phenomena, which characterised the older speculations, and fearing to be swayed by a kind of partiality towards himself the modern scientist has endeavored to remove the human and conscious element from his observations of Nature. And he has done valuable work in this way—but of course has been betrayed into a corresponding narrowness.

In fact the main scientific doctrine of the day, Evolution, is obviously suffering from this treatment, and the following remarks are merely a few notes by way of suggestion of some things which may be said on its more specially human side. For since each man is a part of nature, and in that sense a part also of the evolution-process, his own subjective experience ought at least to throw some light on the condition under which evolution takes place, and to contribute something towards an understanding of the problem.

If the question is: What is the cause of Variation among animals? some approximation towards an answer ought to be got by each person asking himself, “Why do I vary?” Why—he might say—am I a different person from what I was ten years ago, or when I was a boy? Why have I varied in one direction and my brothers and sisters from the same nest in other directions? Though my individual consciousness only covers the small ground of my own life, and does not extend back to that of my father or forward to that of my son, still the intimate knowledge that I have of the forces acting on me during that short period may help me to an understanding of the forces that bring about the modification of men and animals at large, and the discovery of some laws of my own growth may reveal to me the laws of race-growth.

In answer to such a question, it would speedily appear that there were two general causes determining direction of change or growth in the individual, which might be conveniently distinguished from each other—an external and an internal. In the first place the supposed person might say, “External conditions forced me along these lines. My father was a town artisan, but he apprenticed me to a farmer. I grew up a farmer’s boy, and became an agricultural type as you see. I did not particularly care for farming, sometimes indeed I would have been glad to be out of it; but practically I succumbed to circumstances, and here I am.” But in the second place he might answer thus:—”My father was himself a farmer; I was early used to the craft, and should no doubt have grown up in it, had I not hated it like poison. I loved music, broke away from home, joined a band, got on the musical staff of a small theatre, and am now a professional musician. My frame is comparatively slight, and my hands are of the nervous type, as you see. Of course, I have some of the old agricultural stock left in me, but I feel that that is dying out.” The one cause would be a change of external conditions, forcing the man to accommodate himself to them; the other would be a change of internal conditions, an inward growth, expressing itself first in the form of an intense desire, and compelling the man to change himself and probably also his environment in obedience to it. Two such general sets of causes, I say, could be roughly distinguished from each other; and probably indeed are recognized less or more distinctly by everyone as acting to modify his life. Nor can the life of a man at any time be said to be ruled by one of these forces alone. No man is modified by external conditions alone, without any play or reaction of inner needs and desires and growth from within; nor is any man transformed in obedience to an inner expansion without sundry lets and hindrances from without. The two forces are in constant play upon one another; but in some ways that would appear to be the more important which proceeds from the Man (or creature) himself, since this is obviously vital and organic to him, and therefore the most consistent and reliable factor in his modification, while the external force—arising from various and remote causes—must rather be regarded as discontinuous and accidental.

I propose, therefore, in these few pages to consider especially this inner force producing modification in man and animal to try and find out of what nature it is, what is the law, and what are the limits of its action—premising always, as already suggested, that this distinction between “inner” and “outer,” which is convenient and easy to handle on certain planes of thought, may ultimately, and in the last resort, prove very difficult or even impossible to maintain.

It is often said by Biologists that function precedes organisation—that is, man fights with his fellows before he makes weapons to fight with; the rudimentary animal digests food (as in the case of the amoeba) before it acquires a stomach or organ of digestion; it sees or is sensitive to light before it grows an eye; in society letters are carried by private hands before an organised postal system is created. Such facts properly considered are of vital importance. They show us, as it were by a sign post, the direction of creation. They show how any new thing or modification of an old thing may come into being. They may be supplemented by a second statement—namely that desire precedes function. That is, man desires to injure his fellow before he actually fights with him; he experiences the wish to communicate with distant friends before ever he thinks of sending such a thing as a letter; the amoeba craves for food first, and circumvents its prey afterwards. Desire, or inward change, comes first, action follows, and organisation or outward structure is the result.

In man this “order of creation,” if it may so be called, i.e., from within outwards, is very marked. Whenever a man creates anything new he pursues it; when he builds a house, for instance, or composes a poem or piece of music, or designs an Alpine tunnel, or whatever it may be. The order seems to be: first, a feeling—a dim want or desire; then the feeling becomes conscious of itself, takes shape in thought; the thought becomes more defined and issues in a distinct plan; the plan is committed to paper, models are made, etc.; and finally the actual work is begun and completed. The process appears as a movement from within outwards—the earliest and most authentic discernible source of the movement being a feeling—(though there may lie something behind that). Even in ordinary action the same order is manifest; for, though of course every action is not preceded by desire—since we know that actions soon become habitual and more or less unconscious—still a vast number of them are immediately so preceded; and in the case of any action that is new, either to the individual or to the race, its inception is generally accompanied by effort so painful that it would not be exerted unless the desire were very strong. The difficulty which a man experiences in learning any new art, and the records of the many failures, struggles, oppositions, persecutions, etc., which have attended every new invention or innovation of any kind in human history, afford plenty of evidence of this last point. Certainly the effort that accompanies a new action is not always faced so much from sheer desire of the new thing itself as from fear perhaps of something else—as it may be contended that monkeys did not take to climbing trees because they loved trees, but because they feared the beasts below, or that the giraffe did not stretch its neck because it particularly desired to feed on leaves, as because it could not get food any other way—but still, even in these cases the desire may be said to exist, though it is secondary—being founded upon another and more elementary desire the desire namely of escaping pain or obtaining food. In either case a desire of some kind is a precedent condition of the new action. And so as we know of no case of a new action coming into play without being preceded by desire, we seem to be justified in supposing that all our actions when they were first initiated (in our forefathers, if not in ourselves) were so preceded. If this is so, then, since function is always preceded by desire, and organisation is preceded by function, organisation must necessarily be preceded by desire. And if this is the order of creation in man, should we not reasonably look in this direction for the key to the variation of animals and the order of creation in general?[1]

If a farmer’s son is occasionally born who hates farming and loves music, and who ultimately through the force of his desire (driving him into oppositions and difficulties and penurious struggles) transforms himself into a musician, is it not also likely that occasionally an animal is born who hates the customs of his tribe, and at last (also through struggles) transforms himself into something else? Even if he does not succeed (the animal) in entirely transforming himself, he likely transmits the desire in some degree to his descendants, and the transformation is thus carried on and completed later. For everywhere among the animals there is desire, of some kind or another, obviously acting; and if in man, by our own experience, desire is the precursor and first expression of growth, is there any reason why it should not also be so among animals? Lamarck gives the instance—among others—of a gasteropod; how the need or desire of touching bodies in front of it as it crawled along would result in the formation of tentacles. The gasteropod, he says, would keep making efforts to feel with the front of its head, and the determination of consciousness that way would be accompanied by a supply of nervous and other fluids, which would nourish the part and cause growth there—the form of the growth continuing in the same way to be determined by need—till at last two or more tentacles would appear. True, the inward determinations of consciousness may not be so vivid and varied in animals as they are in men; but they are persistent, and by the very cumulative force of habit which is so strong in animals, must at length penetrate down through function into organisation and external form. Who shall say that the lark, by the mere love of soaring and singing in the face of the sun, has not altered the shape of its wings, or that the forms of the shark or of the gazelle are not the long-stored results of character leaning always in certain directions, as much as the forms of the miser or the libertine are among men?

Such modification as this is very different from the “survival of the fittest” of the Darwinian evolution theory. We may fairly suppose that both kinds of modification take place; but the latter is a sort of easy success won by an external accident of birth—a success of the kind that would readily be lost again; while the former is the uphill fight of a nature that has grown inwardly and wins expression for itself in spite of external obstacles—an expression which therefore is likely to be permanent. If the progenitors of man took to going upright on two legs instead of on all fours, merely because a few of them by chance were born with a talent for that position, which enabled them to escape the fanged and pursuing beasts, then when this danger was removed they might have plumped down again into the old attitude; but if the change was part and parcel of a true evolution, the fulfillment of a positive desire for the upright position, a true unfolding of a higher form latent within—an organic growth of the creature itself, then, though the moment of the evolution of this particular faculty might be deter. mined by the fanged beasts, the fact of such evolution could not be determined by them. Besides, are we to suppose that Man, the lord and ruler of the animals, came merely by way of escape from the animals? Do lords and rulers generally come so? Was it fear that made him a man? Were it not likelier that in that case he would have turned into a worm? He would have escaped better perhaps that way. Is it not rather probable that it was some nobler power that worked transforming—some dim desire and prevision of a more perfect form, the desire itself being the first consciousness of the urge of growth in that direction—that prompted him to push in the one direction rather than the other when he had to hold his own against the tigers? In fact is it not thus today, when a man has to meet danger, that the ideal which he has within him determines how he shall meet that danger, and others like it, and so ultimately determines the whole attitude and carriage of his body?

On the whole then, judging from man himself (and it seems most cautious and scientific to derive our main evidence from the being that we are best acquainted with), it certainly seems to me that, though external conditions are a very important factor in Variation, the central explanation of this phenomenon should be sought in an inner law of Growth—a law of expansion more or less common to all animate nature. Partly because, as said before, the unfolding of the creature from its own needs and inward nature is an organic process, and likely to be persistent, while its modification by external causes must be more or less fortuitous and accidental and sometimes in one direction and sometimes in another; partly also because the movement from within outwards seems to be most like the law of creation in general. Under this view the external conditions would be considered a secondary—though important cause of modification; and regarded rather as the influences that give form and detail to the great primal impulse of growth from within; while the creature’s own ingenuity and good luck would occupy the ground between the two—as the means whereby the external conditions in each individual case would be turned to account to satisfy the inner needs, or the inner life would be accommodated to the external conditions.

If we take the external view of Variation—which is the one most favored by modern science—modification or race-growth appears as an unconscious or accretive process, similar to the formation of a coral reef. There is no line of growth native in the race itself, but at any moment it is supposed to have an equal tendency to vary in any direction. Surrounding conditions act selectively; and by a process of weeding out certain types survive; small successive modifications are thus accumulated; and gradually and in the lapse of ages a more pliable and differentiated creature, and more-adaptable to a variety of conditions, is produced—in whom however mind is incidental, and has played but small part in the creature’s evolution. This in the main is the Darwinian-evolution theory.

If we take the internal view, growth is from the first eminently conscious. Every change begins in the mental region—is felt first as a desire gradually taking form into thought, passes down into the bodily region, expresses itself in action (more or less dependent on conditions), and finally solidifies itself in organisation and structure. The process is not accretive, but exfoliatory—a continual movement from within outwards. When the desire or mental condition, which at first was painfully conscious, has overcome opposition and established itself in altered bodily structure, it has done its work, and becomes unconscious—the bodily function continuing for a long period to act automatically, till finally it is thrown off to make room for some later development. Thus race-growth or Variation is a process by which change begins in the mental region, passes into the bodily region where it becomes organised, and finally is thrown off like a husk. This may be called the theory of Exfoliation.

To illustrate our meaning. Let us take the development of an eye. In the amoeba there is a dim pervasive sensitiveness to light over the whole body, but there is no eye, nothing that we should call vision. Still this vague sensitiveness is of use to the amoeba. The shadow of its prey falling upon the creature and exciting a sensation hardly yet differentiated from touch helps to guide its movements. On this dim sensation it relies to some extent; its attention is directed towards it. Gradually, and in some descendant form, there comes to be a point on the body on which this attention is most specially concentrated. The faculty is localised; and from that moment a change is effected there, a differentiation and a special structure; everything that favors sensitiveness is encouraged at that pace, everything that dulls it is removed; and before long—there is a rudimentary eye. To-day we use our perfected eyes, and are hardly conscious that we are doing so; but every power of vision that we have was thus won for us by some lowlier creature, step by step, with effort and with concentration. Or to take an illustration from society. To-day society is ill at ease; a dim feeling of discontent pervades all ranks and classes. A new sense of justice, of fraternity, has descended among us, which is not satisfied with mere chatter of demand and supply. For a long time this new sentiment or desire remains vague and unformed, but at last it resolves itself into shape; it takes intellectual form, books are written, plans formed; then after a time definite new organizations, for the distinct purpose of expressing these ideas, begin to exist in the body of the old society; and before so very long the whole outer structure of society will have been reorganized by them. After a few centuries the ideas for whose realization we now fight and struggle with an intense consciousness will have become commonplace, accepted institutions, more or less effete and ready to succumb before fresh mental births taking place from within.

The modern evolution theory would maintain that among many amoebas and descendant forms, one would at last by chance be born having the usual sensitiveness localised in a particular spot, and, surviving by force of this advantage, would transmit this “eye” to its posterity; or that in the progress of society, new economic conditions having arisen, that people would prosper best which most effectually and rapidly adapted itself to them. But though there is doubtless truth in this view, yet it seems, when all has been said, to be inadequate and even feeble; it omits at least one half of the problem. If we look at ourselves, as already pointed out, we see the two forces—the inner and the outer—acting and re-acting on each other. May it not be so in animals? Lamarck, poorly off, blind, derided, was a true poet. “Animals vary from low and primitive types chiefly by dint of wishing”—and the world laughed and still laughs. But it was his deep sympathy even with the worms and insects (which he studied till he could discern them with his mortal eyes no longer) that led Lamarck to see the human nature and the human laws that moved within them; and as his outward sight grew dim there arose before him the inward vision of the true relationship which binds together all living creatures—which was indeed a vision of divine things, and as different from the mere mechanism-theory of the survival of the fittest as the sight of the starry heavens is different from a governess’s lesson on the use of the globes.

On the theory of Exfoliation, which was practically Lamarck’s theory, there is a force at work throughout creation, ever urging each type onward into new and newer forms. This force appears first in consciousness in the form of desire. Within each shape of life sleep needs and wants without number, from the lowest and simplest to the most complex and ideal. As each new desire or ideal is evolved, it brings the creature into conflict with its surroundings, then gaining its satisfaction externalizes itself in the structure of the creature, and leaves the way open for the birth of a new ideal. If then we would find a key to the understanding of the expansion and growth of all animate creation, such a key may exist in the nature of desire itself and the comprehension of its real meaning. It is not certain that it can be found here; but it may be.

What then is desire in Man? Here we come back again, as suggested at the outset, to Man himself. Though we see pretty clearly that desire is at work in the animals, and that it is the same in kind as exists in man, still, among the animals it is but dim and inchoate, while in man it is developed and luminous; in ourselves, too, we know it immediately, while in the animals only by inference. For both reasons, therefore, if we want to know the nature of desire even to know its nature among animals—we should study it in Man. What then is this desire in Man, which seems to be the instigation and origin of all his growth and development? At first it seems a hydra-headed senseless thing without rhyme or reason; but the more one regards it the more clearly one sees that even in its lowest forms it is steadily building up and liberating all the functions of the human being. In its most perfect form—as in what we call Love it is the sum and solution of human activities, that in which they converge, for which they all exist, and without which they would be considered useless. The more you look into this matter, the plainer it becomes. The lesser desires—the self-preservation desires—hunger, thirst, the desire of power exist, but when they are satisfied they empty themselves into this one; they find their interpretation in it. The other desires are nothing by themselves—the most absorbing, avarice, ambition, desire of knowledge, taken alone, stultify themselves but Love perpetuates itself: it is a flame which uses all the rest as its fuel. And this Love, which is the culmination of desire, does it not appear to us as a worship of and desire for the human form? In our bodies a desire for the bodily human form; in our interior selves a perception and worship of an ideal human form, the revelation of a Splendor dwelling in others, which—clouded and dimmed as it inevitably may come to be—remains after all one of the most real, perhaps the most real, of the facts of existence? Desire, therefore—as it exists in man, look at it how you will—as it unfolds and its ultimate aim becomes clearer and clearer to itself, is seen to be the desire and longing for the deliverance and expression of the real human Being. May it-not, must it not, be the same thing in animals and all through creation? Beginning in the most elementary and dim shapes, does it not grow through all the stages of organic life clearer and more and more powerful, till at last it attains to self-consciousness in humanity and becomes avowedly the leading factor in our development?

The desire which runs through creation is one desire. Rudimentary at first and hardly conscious of itself, throwing out a tentacle here, a foot there, developing an eye, a claw, a nostril, a wing, it seeks in innumerable shapes and with ever-partial success to realize the image it has dimly conceived. The animal kingdom is the gymnasium, the school, the antechamber, of humanity; to walk through a zoological garden is to see the inchoate types of man, perched on branches, or browsing grass, or boring holes in the ground; it is to witness a grand rehearsal of some stupendous part, whose character we do not even yet fully see or understand. From such half-conscious beginnings the desire grows, its aim becomes clearer, till in the higher animals the horse, the dog, the elephant, the bird, and many others it becomes a marked and unmistakable force drawing them close to man, uniting them to him in a kind of acknowledged kinship, and as obviously at work modifying their structure as can be. Finally in man himself it becomes an absorbing power; love becomes a conscious worship of the divine form; generation itself is the means whereby, in time, the supreme object of desire is realized.

When at last the perfect Man appears, the key to all nature is found, every creature falls into its place and finds its Interpreter, and the purpose of creation is at last made manifest.

The Theory of Exfoliation then differs from that very specialized form of Evolution which has been adopted by modern science, in this particular among others: that it fixes the attention on that which appears last in order of Time, as the most important in order of causation, rather than on that which appears first; and recalls to us the fact that often in any succession of phenomena, that which is first in order of precedence and importance is the last to be externalized. Thus in the growth of a plant we find leaf after leaf appearing, petal within petal—a continual exfoliation of husks, sepals, petals, stamens and what-not; but the object of all this movement, and that which in a sense sets it all in motion, namely the seed, is the very last thing of all to be manifested. Or when a volcano breaks out—first of all we have a cracking and upheaval of superficial layers of ground, then of layers below these, then the outflow of lava, and last of all the uprush of the inner fires and forces which set it all agoing. What appears first in time, or in the outer world is—in the case of the building of a house, the making of bricks; in the case of the flower, the outermost bracts; in the case of a volcano, the stirring of the surface of the ground; and in the case of Life on the Earth, the appearance of protoplasms and primordial cells. The bricks are not the cause of the house (if indeed the word “cause” should be used here at all) but rather the house—or the conception of the house—is the cause of the bricks; and the cells are not the origin of Man, but Man is the original of the cells. The rationale of sea-anemones and mud-fish and flying foxes and elephants has to be looked for in man: he alone underlies them. And man is not a vertebrate because his ancestors were vertebrate; but the animals are vertebrate, because or in so far as they are forerunners and offshoots of Man.

It has been frequently said that great material changes are succeeded by intellectual and finally by moral revolutions as the conquests of Alexander passed on into the literary expansion of the Alexandrian schools and thence into the establishment of Christianity, or as the mechanical developments of our own time have been followed by immense literary and scientific activities, and are obviously passing over now into a great social regeneration; but a reconsideration of the matter might, I take it, lead us not so much to look on the later changes as caused by the earlier, as to look on the earlier as the indications and first outward and visible signs of the coming of the later. When a man feels in himself the upheaval of a new moral fact, he sees plainly enough that that fact cannot come into the actual world all at once—not without first a destruction of the existing order of society—such a destruction as makes him feel satanic; then an intellectual revolution, and lastly only, a new order embodying the new impulse. When this new impulse has thoroughly materialized itself, then after a time will come another inward birth, and similar changes will be passed through again. So it might be said that the work of each age is not to build on the past, but to rise out of the past and throw it off; only of course in such matters where all forms of thought are inadequate it is hard to say that one way of looking at the subject is truer than another. As before, we should endeavor to look at the thing from different sides.

We are obliged to use images to think by e.g. the opening of a flower or the accretive growth of a coral reef—and possibly it would save a good deal of trouble if we did not disguise by long words the truth that all our theories in science and philosophy are simply metaphors of this kind—but the fact still lies behind and below them.

Perhaps, if we are to use the word Cause at all, we should do well to use it in the old sense in which the final cause and the efficient cause are one (the eidos of Aristotle)—to use it not so much to link phenomena or externals to each other as to link each phenomenon in a group to the thought or feeling which underlies that group. The notes in the Dead March in Saul, for instance. We cannot say that one note is the cause of another, but we might say that each note stands in a causal subordination to the feeling which inspired the piece—which is the origin of the piece and the result of its performance—the alpha and omega of it. Similarly, the ground floor in a house is not the cause of the first floor, nor the first floor of the second floor, nor that of the roof; but these actualities and the whole house itself stand in strict relationship to a mental something which is not in the same plane with them at all, nor an actuality in the same sense.

According to this view the notion that one configuration of atoms or bodies determines the next configuration turns out to be illusive. Both configurations are determined by a third something which does not belong to quite the same order of existence as the said atoms or bodies. Chance “laws” of succession may doubtless be found among physical events, and are valuable for practical purposes, but at any moment—owing to their superficiality—they may fail. Thus, an insect observing the expansion of the petals of a chrysanthemum might frame a law of their order of succession in size and color, which would be valid for a time, but would fail entirely when the stamens appeared. Or, to take another illustration, physical science acts like a man trying to find direct causal relations between the various leaves of a tree, without first finding the relations of these to the branches and trunk—and so solving the problem indirectly. It deals only with the surface of the world of Man.

In thinking about such matters, Music, as Schopenhauer shows, is wonderfully illustrative, because in creating music man recognizes that he is creating a world of his own—apart from and not to be confused with that other world of Nature (in which he does not recognize any of his handiwork). Supposing a non-musical person were to examine and analyze the score of a Beethoven symphony, he would be in the same position as a man examining and analyzing Nature by purely scientific or intellectual methods. He would discover the recurrence of certain groups among the notes, he would establish laws of their sequences, would make all kinds of curious generalisations about them, and point out some remarkable exceptions, would even very likely be able to predict a bar or two over the page; his treatise would be very learned, and from a certain point of view interesting also, but how far would he be from any real understanding of his subject? Let him change his method: let him train his ear, let him hear the symphony performed, over and over, till he understands its meaning and knows it by heart; and then he will know at any rate something of why each note is there, he will see its fitness and feel in himself the “law” of its occurrence, and possibly in some new case will be able to predict several bars over the page. The symphony is not understood by examination and comparison of the notes alone, but by experience of their relation to deepest feelings; and Nature is not explained by laws, but by its becoming—or rather being felt to be—the body of Man; marvelous interpreter and symbol of his inward being.

There is a kind of knowledge or consciousness in us—as of our bodily parts, or affections, or deep-seated mental beliefs—which forms the base of our more obvious and self-conscious thought. This systemic knowledge grows even while the brain sleeps. It is not by any means absolute or infallible, but it affords, at any moment in man’s history, the axiomatic ground on which his thought-structure, scientific and other, are built. Thus the axioms of Euclid are part of our present systemic knowledge, and afford the ground of all our geometry structures. But as the systemic consciousness grows, the ground shifts and the structures reared upon it fall. All our modern science, for instance, is founded on the acceptation of mechanical cause and effect as a basic fact of consciousness; but when that base gives way the entire structure will cave in, and a new edifice will have to be reared. Similarly, when the human form becomes distinctly visible to us in the animals—as an unavoidable part of our consciousness: this consciousness will form a new base or axiom for all our thought on the subject, and the theory of evolution, as hitherto conceived by science, will be entirely transformed.

Thus, although the experimental investigatory coral-reef accretion method of modern science is very valuable within its range, it must not be forgotten that the human mind does not progress more than temporarily by this method—that its progression is a matter of growth from within, and involves a continual breaking away of the bases of all thought-structures; so that, while this latter—i.e., the progression of the systemic consciousness of man—is necessary and continuous, the rise and fall of his thought-systems is accidental, so to speak, and discontinuous.

It is then finally in Man—in our own deepest and most vital experience—that we have to look for the key and explanation of the changes that we see going on around us in external Nature, as we call it; and our understanding of the latter, and of History, must ever depend from point to point on the exfoliation of new facts in the individual consciousness. Round the ultimate disclosure of the essential Man all creation (hitherto groaning and travailing towards that perfect birth) ranges itself, as it were, like some vast flower, in concentric cycles; rank beyond rank; first all social life and history, then the animal kingdom, then the vegetable and mineral worlds. And if the outer circles have been the first in fact to show themselves, it is by this last disclosure that light is ultimately thrown on the whole plan; and, as in the myth of the Eden-garden, with the appearance of the perfected human form that the work of creation definitely completes itself.

[1] This does not, of course, preclude the action of external conditions, or imply that organisation is determined by desire alone. In fact organisation may be regarded as the expression of desire acting under conditions as in the cases of the monkey and giraffe above.

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From Civilisation, Its Cause and Cure, and Other Essays (New York, Scribner, 1921).


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About Shawn P. Wilbur 2247 Articles
Independent scholar, translator and archivist.