Translated from the Polish


CHAPTER IV ASSOCIATIONS AND SYSTEMS



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CHAPTER IV

ASSOCIATIONS AND SYSTEMS



I SYSTEM IN THE QUINCUNX OF SOCIETY

We have traced what is common to the beginnings of all civilisations and how far these common elements extend. They prove to be extremely few in number. Not everybody even knows how to kindle fire, and the keeping of domestic cattle is not general. And from the beginning people have differed under differing clan systems and differing systems of the triple law. Are there, therefore, not more resemblances than differences?

Only when one gives up trying to include the whole of humanity does the number of differences decline and more common features appear. Thus in our considerations we may confine “humanity” to those societies which know how to kindle fire and keep domestic animals; we may make a still smaller sector of humanity the object of research, confining ourselves for instance to societies which have passed from clan communities to clan despotisms, from polygamy to quasi monogamy, from pastoralism to agriculture — when the number of points of development in common increases considerably. Similarly, the generalisation could be made that in every culture without exception a tradition and an ethic — some kind of tradition, some kind of ethic — must emerge, but when one begins to describe them, not similarities but differences appear. It might be said that the resemblances are algebraic, and after the value has been stated differences appear, that only in narrower groupings does humanity reveal more concrete community.

Those who do not know how to kindle fire are exceptional and already so few that we may leave them out without committing any serious falsification of reality. Those who have not domesticated any animal are it is true quite numerous, but are off the main tracks to any kind of higher development, so that they may in any classification be treated as people from another world. Confining ourselves to kindlers of fire and keepers of domestic animals, we may assert that differentiation in their communal life began with differentiation in the clan system and the triple law. These are the two fundamental things in any kind of historical development; on these bases in fact everything which is human rests.

There are thousands of questions and thousands of complications, increasingly involved as development proceeds. At innumerable and most varied levels the triple law continues a development which appears to be without limit, but alongside it, numerous other departments of law appear. On the bases which have been described in the preceding chapters a structure has arisen resembling both a pyramid seeking the sky and a labyrinth. How to count and how to include all that is human? In what abbreviation can the material and moral heritage of thousands of years be represented to the mind? What formula will embody all the possibilities of communal life of all countries and all times?

It is impossible to follow stage by stage from the emancipation of the family from the clan to the Improvisation in Mickiewicz’s “Forefathers” and aeroplane flight. One must observe the organisation of human things as a whole, seize hold of some leading thread, examine lines making for understanding of the composition and ordering of things and affairs, collect observation points offering refuge from chaos. In a word, our argument must be generalized.

No broader or more many-sided generalisation of human affairs exists than that in the small catechism for children which teaches that man consists of soul and body. Let us take this as a starting point for our conclusions and discussions.

Body and soul make up man and all that is human and bears any kind of relation to man; all this possesses form and content, an internal and an external side. Fullness of life requires both, for the failure of one leads to dislocation of the whole. To the internal, spiritual side of life belong the concepts of Good (morality) and Truth; to the bodily, health and prosperity; in addition there exists the category of Beauty common to body and soul. There is no manifestation of life which does not bear some relation to one of these categories, often to two or more. Here every fact and every opinion belogs.

There thus exist five categories of human being. Unceasing reciprocal relations make up as it were their organisation. And where there is organisation, there is hierarchy. Now for a Christian the hierarchy in this our quincunx is of course straightforward, since first place obviously belongs to morality and the spiritual categories in general have priority over the bodily — but in life it is only exceptionally that exclusive choice occurs between one and the other, since reality joins them in the unity of earthly being.

It is only exceptionally a duty to neglect the body. In periods when the exception becomes the rule (even if in the name of the loftiest motives) great disadvantages rapidly ensue, not only in physical categories, but in spiritual categories as well. Such generations occur, but history shows that characters are spoiled. Neglect of the body leads commonly to lowering of the spirit. Is it possible to imagine sanctity in dirt? As a rule the principle of a healthy soul in a healthy body is binding, and Buckle’s statement has not lost its force: “The pleasures of the body are, in our actual condition, as essential a part of the great scheme of life, and are as necessary to human affairs as are the pleasures of the mind”.358

The whole point is that the pleasures of the body should be of such a kind as not to stand in the way of the pleasures of the spirit. In the spiritualised man, the man who is properly developed, this happens of itself, as it were automatically.

It is a fact that in life these five categories ceaselessly mingle, constantly impinging one upon the other. There are exceptions who arrive at spiritual heights by torturing their own bodies, but they are the exception confirming the rule. It is only too easy to see that excessive popularisation of asceticism leads to caricature. The state of health affects the mental state; the healthy man will as a rule soar higher in spirit than the sick man — and as important — can remain longer on the heights of the spirit. And correspondingly, a lofty mental state is the most powerful lever for lifting a burden of physical misery. He who needs illness in order to think of eternal things is not normal; it may be said indulgently of such a one that better ill than never. Naive minds and incompletely-instructed heads confuse prosperity with materialism. Yet it is possible to be a high idealist in considerable comfort, and for the generality what more desirable than that idealists should dispose of considerable funds to realise their ideals. If I were to write a treatise on morality, I should devote a separate section to showing that to strive for prosperity is a moral duty, a raising of morality. The extent to which prosperity favours development of spiritual resources was already very well known to Nicholas Copernicus. He was the first to remark that base money brings with it a shortage of artists, scholars and even good artisans.359

Thus bodily categories are not to be treated exclusively as opposites of the spiritual categories. They complement each other very well, and it is just this that normal life demands. If body and soul stand opposed to each other, if health and prosperity weaken the spirit, there is patently dislocation, derangement, perhaps even degeneration. The view that mutual exclusiveness between soul and body is something natural in the earthly life of man is entirely mistaken. On the contrary, such a formulation of the antithesis is abnormal. Wherever we meet it, we know that an unnatural, sickly condition exists.

Let us look at the monasteries on Mount Athos: they may serve to witness that a man cannot cultivate the categories of the spirit alone, disregarding the bodily. On Mount Athos priests have never engaged in agriculture, mining, building or kindred occupations of Western European monks. On Mount Athos only supernatural Truth and spiritual Good are cultivated. What caricatures have resulted from this, and what caricatures of religious orders have spread thence throughout Orthodoxy!360 Apparently Chinese philosophy refuses discussion of bodily categories, yet no country has less of the spirit than China.

Some unyielding law requires that man, composed of body and soul, must perfect himself in both parts of his being or decline in both. Any perfecting of one category of life leads to the establishment of connections with other categories; if this does not happen, a standstill ensues even in the category in which excellence is desired. How deeply, for example, Beauty enters into all categories! The aesthetic of daily life is no slight aid to hygiene, and every applied art is also a source of earnings. Beauty enters no less into the categories of the spirit. Why should Truth or Good be ugly or boring? The Renaissance cured us of the superstition that virtue could only be expressed by an ugly body, emaciated with fasting, withered and if possible tormented. Since the Renaissance there has been an obligation to give the categories of Good and Truth a beautiful exterior. These two spiritual categories are harnessed together, morality, mother of duty, contributing to the cult of Truth and in return, love of Truth elevating morality.

The perfection of man thus demands solicitude for all the categories of life. But life does not everywhere and always possess all five categories. They become articulate in only a small fraction of humanity, so that it is only rarely that there exists the fullness of life, or more accurately the possibility of reaching that plenitude. Even in fortunate lands and times only a minority of the population attains it.

Let us only glance at the Orient, how foreign to it as a whole is the scientific way of looking at things, of judging life’s problems from a scientific point of view. Investigation of natural truth does not exist for Asiatics; but they like to deceive themselves that morality can develop without devotion to the discovery of truth. The Hindu thinker is prepared to consider the whole of our science as a manifestation of materialism because he has no understanding of scientific discovery, accepting only inventions and seeing only the practical results of applied science. He knows steam and electric machinery, but not physics. The Hindu, the Korean, the Chinese boast that their thought is directed more to the spiritual side of life, cares less for earthly prosperity. But they are empty words, for in the field of morals their thought, unexercised in the abstract, has halted at formulae without living content. The whole secret of the history of Asia lies in this failure to reach fullness of life, and “the renaissance of Asia” will remain an empty phrase until Asiatics possess all five categories of life.

In any case, life complete on all sides is extremely rare. As a rule one or other category is made less of, and the perfecting of life does not take place in all directions uniformly. Universality is the more difficult because the degrees of developing life are unlimited. Many complicated tangles are involved for each category of life is composed of numerous divisions, and the more highly developed the category the more numerous these divisions are. While they add to the complexity of life, the loftier mind masters them the more easily, and employs them in greater quantity.

In the absence of universality, development of life is determined by the many-sidedness of its possibilities, and the nearer these come to universality the more perfect the pattern of life.

This perfecting process grows more complex as it increasingly affects each of the five categories of life. The higher the level of existence, the more categories go to its composition and the more involved their impingement upon each other.

In the best regulated life there is harmony of all five categories; in a well regulated life harmony of those of which the given life consists. The ideal of universality with nothing left out remains a dream. A man must limit himself. It is better to leave out some part of this or that category, some fraction of the human quincunx, even to make one’s existence defective by almost entirely leaving out one of the four categories (the Good excepted) than to permit disharmony in that complex of categories against which we propose, are able or perhaps even obliged to live out our lives. Order and organisation are the condition of a sound pattern of life, private and public, whether for family, community or State.

But it is never possible completely to leave out both bodily categories or both spiritual categories from a pattern of life. Rejection of both health and prosperity turns life into an experiment in empty phraseology; while rejection of truth and morality is tantamount to bestialisation. Hence the plain conclusion that communal life stands higher the more categories and, within these, the more divisions it embraces; and the greater the harmony reigning among them.

When the rules of the quincunx of humanity are set forth in this way — in exclusive reliance on historical experience and so on the inductive method — we see that the categories of life may arrange themselves in very various relations, orders and proportions. “Humanity” harbours the most various opinions and fantasies about Truth, morality and Beauty, even about prosperity and (most curious) even about health. With this fact in mind, let us now move to the next link in our chain of inquiry.


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