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Title: Is civilization a disease?
Author: Coit, Stanton, 1857-1944
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

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Barbara Weinstock Lectures on The Morals of Trade









The Riverside Press Cambridge



_Published May 1917_


This series will contain essays by representative scholars and men of
affairs dealing with the various phases of the moral law in its bearing
on business life under the new economic order, first delivered at the
University of California on the Weinstock foundation.



In choosing "The Morals of Trade" as the general title of the Weinstock
Lectureship, I am informed that its founder meant the word "Trade" to
be understood in its comprehensive sense, as commensurate with our
whole system of socialized wealth--at least, upon the present occasion
I shall interpret it in this broad way.

I shall furthermore ask you to consider our system of socialized
wealth--its practice and principles--in relation to the whole of that
vast artificial structure of human life which is labelled
"Civilization," and which began to prevail some ten thousand years ago.
Such a comprehensive sweep of vision is, in my judgment, necessary if
we are to view trade in true human perspective; nor can we estimate the
degree of praise or blame we ought to confer upon it until we have
determined the worth of civilization itself. For trade is not only
bound up inextricably with the whole of our social order, but, as it
seems to me, manifests in a most acute form the universal character of
civilization in general. We must therefore discover the structural
principle which began to co-ordinate the lives of any group of human
beings when their tribe finally passed out of barbarism. Having
discovered this, we shall be able to judge whether by its
ever-advancing application to the life of men, and its ever-increasing
domination over their wills, it has furthered the cause of ideal
humanity or not. If we find that it has been essentially humane, we
shall have arrived at the conclusion that its offspring, trade, is
moral. If, however, we unearth in the very principle of historic
civilization something radically wrong, anti-human and inhuman, and if
we can discover another co-ordinating principle which is humane and
feasible, civilization will then be seen to be a thing to be
"superseded"--as Nietzsche thought man himself was--and trade, its
latest and lustiest issue, will be felt to be a usurper deserving to be
disinherited in favor of some true economic child of the "Holy Spirit
of Man."


In order to open such lines of anthropological investigation and
ethical reflection, I have raised the question: "Is Civilization a

Had I asked, "Is Civilization Christian?" I should have defeated my own
end. You would have answered "No" as soon as you saw the subject of my
discourse announced, and would have stayed at home. But you might still
have given your ethical sanction to trade. You might have said, "It
does not pretend to be Christian; but that is nothing against it, for
the vital principle of Christianity is sentimental and impracticable:
and what won't work can't be right."

Had I raised the question in the form, "Could trade ever have emanated
from an intelligent motive of universal love--of deference for the
humanity in every man?" you would have replied, "Never!" But you might
have consoled yourself with the thought that it is only a small part of
our boasted civilization. We have art and education and family life and
monogamy and religion; and these come in as correctives, so that trade,
although not conceived of benevolence and not bearing the stamp of
humanity in its character, is comparatively harmless under the
restraints laid upon it. Then, too, the idea of universal love savors
of theology, and would have put my lecture under that general ban which
in philosophical circles has been set up against theological ethics.

Indeed, I even shrank from asking, "Is civilization unethical, or
wrong, or bad?" For nowadays we find moral judgments more attractive
when they are disguised or at least slightly veiled. When we are really
curious to know what is good, we become shy; we are not sure that our
neighbors may not put a cynical interpretation upon any appearance of
enthusiasm in our effort to find out what is right. Anticipating such
delicacy in my prospective audience of to-night, I threw a
physiological drapery, not to say pathological, over the ethical
bareness of my theme, by introducing into it the idea of disease. For
while it may no longer be a stigma to be un-Christian, and while some
have been trying to break all the traditional tables of moral values
and prevent any new ones from being inscribed, nobody, so far as I have
been able to learn, has denied that disease, whether physical or only
mental, is an evil and a thing which it would be wicked to spread for
the mere delight in spreading it. Happily, there is still astir
throughout the community an active, virile, and unashamed desire--and
not only among women--for health. And in alertness and resourcefulness
it is second only to the desire for wealth itself. The result is, that
if anything which we have admired and been proud of has been discovered
by experts to be of the nature of disease, we want to be notified, so
that we may reverse our sentiments towards it, and if possible destroy
it. The word "disease" is still plainly one of reproach.

On the other hand, the very term "civilization" sets emotions vibrating
of deference and awe towards the institution it signifies. Indeed,
pride in being civilized is still so nearly universal--especially among
Americans--that many persons upon hearing the point mooted whether
civilization be a disease or not, are disposed to resent the bare
suggestion as smacking of whimsicality.


I, therefore, hasten to hide myself thus early in my discourse behind
the man, bigger than I, who many years ago first aroused this question
in my mind, a question which, having once fastened itself upon the
soul, may allow one no rest and may prevent one from ever again going
on gayly through life singing with Browning's _Pippa_:--

    God's in His Heaven--
      All's right with the world.

It is now twenty-six years since I first read Mr. Edward Carpenter's
penetrating essay, then but recently published, entitled _Civilization:
Its Cause and Cure_. The very name of the book made one ask: "Is
civilization then a disease?" And if one deigned, as I did, to read
the essay carefully, one found the author defending the affirmative
in all seriousness and with much thoroughness, and displaying acute
analytical power throughout his argument. The charge of whimsicality
could not hold against him. The author showed an adequate insight into
the social structure which is called civilization. What was equally
essential, his knowledge of the latest speculations as to the nature
of disease,--theories which have not yet been superseded and which
when applied by Sir Almroth Wright proved to be most fruitful working
hypotheses,--Carpenter's knowledge of these was comprehensive and
discriminating. He accordingly never pressed the analogy between
civilization and disease unduly--he knew that it could not be made to
fit all particulars. And he never fell into any confusion of thought;
he easily avoided being caught in his own metaphor. He employed it only
within limits and only when it rendered the moral issue more concrete
and vivid. Because he had a scientific knowledge both of civilization
and of disease, he could safely use language which appealed to the
moral emotions as an aid to our moral judgment.

Indeed, Mr. Carpenter showed himself not only scientific in his ethics,
but what is much rarer in these days, ethical in his science. For it is
questionable whether one can ever arrive at any moral judgment except
there be a deep and strong emotional accompaniment to one's rational
investigation. If we do not take sides with humanity at the outset, if
we eliminate all preference for certain kinds of conduct and goals of
pursuit which grew up in the human mind before we began our scientific
criticism of morals, how shall we ever get back again into the sphere
of distinctively ethical judgment? For instance, how could we strike
out from the field of observation the something which we count the
moral factor in life, and then proceed to investigate the morals of
trade? Evidently we must in every ethical enquiry start by taking sides
with that trend of the Race-Will in us, which moves plainly towards an
ever-increasing self-knowledge, self-reverence and self-control on the
part of man. For it is this race-will in us whereby we have the
capacity and interest to call any line of conduct or any disposition of
the mind good or bad, right or wrong.


Nor do I simply mean that we must show loyalty to life as opposed to
death, or to health as against disease. It is more than that. The
lifeward effort of some beings clashes with the corresponding attempt
to live on the part of others, and the actualization of one impersonal
ideal of beauty, truth, or society exacts the sacrifice of one set of
human lives and favors the survival of another, so that an opposition
in ideals may mean an antagonism in the struggle of classes and masses
of men for existence. There is a combat, and we are called upon to
choose which side to encourage and support. One and the same state of
things often spells disease and death to the one party and life and
health to the other. I shall be able on this account to show that
whether civilization appears to us as a disease or not depends upon
what sort of a person we are, and to which side we are constitutionally
disposed to attach ourselves. To show this, I will first draw an
analogy on the biological plane and then I will cite the judgment of
great humanists who have sided against civilization. After that, I will
submit instances in civilization itself for your own judgment. Only
then shall I return to Edward Carpenter, to give a _résumé_ of his
position, and to point out how far and why I agree with him, and at
what stage I part company with him and for what reasons. Then I shall
attempt to present a bird's-eye view of the steps in human advancement
towards civilization as the best anthropologists have traced them.
Thus, we shall be able to see our historic social order in right
relation to that ideal humanity which our own spiritual constitution
projects prophetically above the threshold of our consciousness. Then,
if ever, we shall be in a state of mind to judge whether the thing
which civilization has begotten after its own kind and named "trade" is
good or bad.


Now to my biological analogy: It was recently my privilege to be
conducted over the Rockefeller Institute for Medical Research in New
York City. You will remember that to it some millions of dollars have
been assigned, for the purpose of discovering the cause and cure of
bacterial diseases. In one department of the Institute a Japanese
professor showed under the rays of the ultra-microscope specimens of a
remarkable bacillus, the existence of which he had been the first to
detect. It was that kind of bacillus which, if it is present in the
marrow of a man's spinal cord, induces a state of the body that is
called locomotor-ataxy. This state is one in which the man who
manifests it is unable to control properly the movements of his feet
and legs. He has lost command from the supreme cerebral centre; the
lower nerve ganglia seem to have become insubordinate and to act on
their own initiative. But is locomotor-ataxy a disease? Clearly your
answer will depend upon whether you are on the side of the man or the
microbe. If you sympathize with the man and are thinking of him, it is
a disease; but if your heart is with the microbe there in the spinal
cord, the locomotor-ataxy will be to you life and health abundant, and
that not only for the individual specimen whom you pick out for
observation, but for his whole family which, as the ataxy advances,
reproduces itself proportionately, and with an inconceivable rapidity.

What is to determine whether you are on the side of the man or the
microbe? Surely the constitutional bent of your emotional and
volitional preference. It is not a matter for the science of fact to
consider. Mere intellect, mere reason, knows nothing of health and
disease, unless it assumes this distinction as its starting-point. It
knows only the order of sequences. Suppose, then, we were to find that
civilization had pitted itself against Man, so that it was a case of
Man _versus_ Civilization, as Herbert Spencer conceived an antagonism
between Man and the State. Should we not be compelled, in order to
decide what condition of things was one of health, to open up conscious
relations with our deepest trend of heart and will, and find out
whether we flowed with humanity or with civilization? Nor would there
be any escape from the necessity of remaining true to our own trend and
favoring whatever flowed the same way. In case of a clash between the
social order and humanity, the health of each is to the other as a
disease and, therefore, the question inevitably arises, "Which is in
our judgment to be preserved?" and each one's answer must depend on
whether he finds himself after full deliberation irresistibly drawn to
the one side or the other. Civilization may be to man as the microbe to
the locomotor-ataxy subject; but innate civilizationists would delight
in the surrender of humanity to the social order. To them what would
humanity be but civilization's opportunity, its habitat, its
food-supply? I am saying that, to prove trade immoral it is not enough
to show that man is a sacrifice to the economic order; you would be
required also to demonstrate that man ought not to be sacrificed to any
social order, that he must always be the final end, and never a mere
means. But that is exactly what you can never demonstrate to any one
who is not innately, spiritually, naturally, on the side of man against
all other objects of interest. I mean that there is no arguing with any
one who constitutionally hesitates to side with man. You might pray for
such a one; but it would be folly to reason with him, for the
foundation is not in him upon which your reasonings could mount. All
this seems to me necessary to say, because I get the impression from
books on political economy that most writers and readers first
dehumanize themselves as a prerequisite to a discussion of the morals
of trade.


In one of his allegorical poems, James Russell Lowell depicted the
antagonism of sentiment to which I am referring as existing between
Christ and his conventional worshippers. The poem is a slight thing:
although strict in metre and perfect in rhyme, it is too flowing and
fantastic to be classed high in literature. But if we view it as a
scientific essay in dynamic sociology, it is admirable beyond
criticism. As its meaning is quite separable from its form and sensuous
contents, I therefore ask you not to think of it as poetry or Christian
mythology, but to regard it only as a compact treatise in ethical
economics. Because this poem is familiar to you all, it will serve my
object the better. It represents Christ as coming back to earth after
eighteen hundred years, and all the grandees as rendering Him elaborate
homage. Nor do they omit to direct His attention to His own image set
up in the places of highest honor. But still, according to our dynamic

            ... wherever his steps they led,
    The Lord in sorrow bent down His head,
    And from under the heavy foundation stones
    The Son of Mary heard bitter groans.

    And in church and palace and judgment-hall,
    He marked great fissures that rent the wall,
    And opened wider and still more wide
    As the living foundations heaved and sighed.

    "Have ye founded your thrones and altars, then,
    On the bodies and souls of living men?
    And think ye that building shall endure
    Which shelters the noble and crushes the poor?"

          *      *      *      *      *

    Then Christ sought out an artisan--
    A low-browed, stunted, haggard man,
    And a motherless girl, whose fingers thin
    Pushed from her faintly Want and Sin.

    These set He in the midst of them,
    And as they drew back their garment-hem
    For fear of defilement, "Lo, here," said He,
    "The images ye have made of Me!"

To-day no one denies that the foundations are alive and that they heave
and sigh. In our age one need not be of the order of Christ to have
ears to hear the bitter groans. Everybody hears them, if one may judge
from the universal reports of the daily papers. Indeed, how to suppress
the groans or to prevent them from becoming more articulate and
coherent is the most vexing problem of the government of the most
civilized state in the world. At least Prince von Bülow so represents
the case in his book entitled _Imperial Germany_. And the party leaders
of the United States have all been alert for two decades to discover
how to render impossible an upheaval of the living foundations of
America. There is, as I say, no denying the fact that the foundations
are alive, and that they not only groan bitterly, but--what is more
serious--heave threateningly. Whether any one person, however, is on
the side of the living foundations, as according to Lowell Jesus Christ
was, or on the side of the thrones and altars, as his conventional
worshippers are depicted to be by Lowell and many another American
writer since, depends upon what the special person's innate taste is.
The thrones and altars have become more and more magnificent in beauty,
costliness, and splendor, with the progress of civilization; but not so
the mob, the rabble, the "underworld," whose stirrings have rent the
walls. Christ's taste, it would seem, was not primarily aesthetic. But
then not every one is a son of Mary, and not every carpenter's son
sides with the class to which his father belonged.


I said that after my biological analogy I should cite the judgments of
some great sages who saw in civilization an enemy of man. Of these I
have just been mentioning the greatest. The Founder of Christianity set
His Will dead against the established order of society, rebuking the
upholders of thrones and altars, and becoming the champion of the
outcasts. The kingdom, He announced, was not to be of this our world of
moneylenders. No wonder the rulers of His day gave Him short quarter,
so that after three years of agitation this speaker of rousing parables
to the multitude, who had no bank account, was silenced forever.
Likewise, it was a foregone conclusion that every disciple of Christ
whose spirit was to be set aflame by His--like St. Francis, and
Savonarola, Wycliffe, Luther (at the first), and John Wesley--should
turn in pity to the living foundations and in horror of spirit from the
entombing thrones.

But the protest against the sacrifice of man to mammonized society has
been no monopoly of Christ and those spiritually descended from Him.
The ancient Hebrew prophets taught equally a kingdom that was to be
diametrically the opposite in principle from that which prevailed in
the Jewish State or in Babylon, and later in Macedon or Rome. It should
be noted that the prophets and Christ accompanied their censure of the
formative principle, upon which nations and traders had built up their
dealings with one another, with a proposed substitute. But if we go
back to Gautama and the India of his time, we find that the Buddha's
protest against civilization was still more extreme; for he did not
wait to submit a new principle before condemning the old. Indeed, he
felt that self-conscious existence for the individual, as he beheld it
everywhere, was a tragic calamity, and altogether unendurable.
Preferable would be the extinction utterly of all individualized
selfhood. He would isolate the individual and submit him to a
discipline, the object of which was escape forever from the wheel of
existence. He advocated not mere individualistic anarchy, but the
annihilation of individuality as preferable to civilized life. A third
of the human race still believe in his discipline, and in the
alternative he proposed to the highly developed type of social order
which prevailed in his time in India.

Nor do Gautama, the prophets, and Christ stand alone. All the great
humanists of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, although
professing no discipleship of earlier teachers, were at one with them
in condemning the root-principle of the existing co-ordination of human
lives in politics, economics, and education. The cry of Rousseau, "Back
to Nature!" and all the watchwords of Voltaire and the encyclopædists,
were so many summonses to revolt against the entire order of organized
society. The same meaning underlay all the writings of Fourier and
Prudhomme, of Owen and the other English communists. It was as if they
all said, "Civilization is a disease; let us rid ourselves of it." With
the socialists, Marx and Lassalle, and the anarchists, like Stepniak
and Kropotkin, the condemnation of society, as it is and always had
been, was equally radical and sweeping. Even humanists less violent in
their protest, not so negative in their criticism, nor so positive in
their offered substitutes, like Carlyle and Emerson, like Shelley and
Whitman and Swinburne, like Henry George and Henry Demorest Lloyd, all
aim to create in us the judgment that civilization, as it has been from
the first, is no friend to the best in any man. No lover of humanity
seems ever to have worshipped the god who rules over the things that
are established. They all agree with the mediæval theologians that this
world has been given over to the Prince of Darkness.


We may come to wonder the less at this adverse judgment when we have
considered two instances of the effects which the highest types of
civilization have had upon the masses of mankind who were brought under
its sway. Take ancient Egypt and ancient Athens. Go back to the
building of the pyramids. Although they are among the earliest
monuments of civilization, they are yet among the most marvellous
illustrations of the mastery of the human mind over matter. Scarcely
three had passed of the ten thousand years which have constituted the
epoch that superseded barbarism, before these vast tombs, or whatever
they are, began to be erected. Lost in admiration as he stands before
the Great Pyramid, how can any one but resent the suggestion that the
social order, which made it at last possible, was a disease, preying
upon the body and spirit of men?

And yet, if one turns from it to examine that organization of human
labor and that control of the wills of the masses of Egypt which made
it possible, and then again looks up at it, one marks great fissures
that rend the whole mass and one hears the foundations groan. To speak
thus is only an imaginative way of saying, what all the anthropologists
and archaeologists tell us, that to the building of any one of the
great pyramids went the enforced labor of upwards of a million men for
many years, who were literally driven by the lash of the whip. There is
no ground for supposing that the feel of the whip, when the back of an
Egyptian slave began to bleed, was different from what we should suffer
if the stroke fell now on us: nor that cries of pain were any the less
natural then. And we must remember that, according to the unanimous
opinion of anthropologists, the organization of enforced labor is one
of the essentials of civilization. Picturesque and vivid, but not
exaggerated, is the saying of the author of that able book, _The
Nemesis of Nations_: "Civilization begins with the crack of the whip."
Lord Cromer quotes this dictum in his work on Egypt as giving an
epitome of the kind of power behind the civilizing process as it has
always manifested itself in the land of the Nile; and then, lest those
of his readers who live in the glass house of English history should
commit the ridiculous sin of unconscious hypocrisy, he gently but
firmly reminds us that many inhumanities of a similar spirit,
especially towards offenders against the laws of property, were not
suppressed in England till the beginning of the nineteenth century.

In these comments of mine upon Egypt, I may seem to have appealed to
your sentiment of humanity; but I have never for a moment forgotten
that no instance from history can prove civilization a disease except
to those who are intuitively on the side of the man instead of the
microbe, of the people instead of the pyramid. Such instances, however,
are of value in bringing those who listen to them to a clear
self-consciousness of their own primal preference--and that is a
distinct gain, even when the preference is for the pyramid.

It cannot be denied that the masses of Egypt were a sacrifice--and not
willingly--to civilization. In the preceding periods of savagery and
barbarism, there had been no such enslavement; the organization of
enforced labor had not proceeded so far. The crack of the whip was
still as yet intermittent. According to Lewis Morgan, civilization is
the progress of man from beast to citizen. Well, until ten thousand
years ago, man was more beast than citizen; but, happily for him, among
the beasts of the field there is nothing parallel to this organization
of labor through the will of one by means of the stroke of the courbash
upon the backs of the many.

Some students who shrink in horror from the Egyptian type of
civilization plead nevertheless for the type which was manifested in
ancient Greece. Let us go, then, to Athens in the age of Pericles, that
period of her glory concerning which Professor Freeman somewhere says
that to have lived but ten years in the midst of it would have been
worth a hundred of modern mediocrity. Who can think otherwise as he
recalls the Athenian drama, eloquence and philosophy, architecture and
sculpture? But when one turns to the organization of society, as it was
in Athens, to find out at what human price the splendor was bought of
that dazzling decade when the Parthenon was being built, one finds that
of the inhabitants of that City of the Light scarcely more than thirty
thousand were free men, while two hundred thousand were slaves. Again,
the living foundations groan! And if our heart, by its nature, insists
on going out to the sacrificed, our delight in Athenian _Kultur_ will
be henceforth shot through with anguish. Our only way of escape will be
by absorbing Nietzsche into our system until the poison paralyzes our
impulse to pity. But you may think that if we shift our investigation,
we shall find relief. Let us enquire, then, into the position of woman
instead of the man-slave in Athens. Alas! we are now confronted with
facts which reveal, on the part of one whole half of Greek mankind, the
surrender of their distinctive humanity to civilization, to that
process whereby sentient beings are transformed from beasts into
citizens. Professor Westermarck sums up the attitude of civilization to
women in these terms:--

    Nowhere else has the difference in culture between men and women
    been so immense as in the fully-developed Greek civilization. The
    lot of a wife in Greece was retirement and ignorance. She lived in
    almost absolute seclusion, in a separate part of the house,
    together with her female slaves, deprived of all the educating
    influence of male society, and having no place at those public
    spectacles which were the chief means of culture.

He then calls attention to the startling absence from the whole of
Greek literature of any evidence that any man who had received the
training which Greek culture gave ever fell in love with any woman. In
his chapter on the "Subjection of Wives," Professor Westermarck further

    The status of wives is in various respects connected with the ideas
    held about the female sex in general. Woman is commonly looked upon
    as a slight, dainty, and relatively weak creature, destitute of all
    nobler qualities. Especially among nations more advanced in culture
    she is regarded as intellectually and morally inferior to man. In
    Greece, in the historic age, the latter recognized in her no other
    end than to minister to his pleasure and to become the mother of
    his children.

This author finds the Greek subjection of wives, as you will have
noted, no exception to the universal rule as to the relation of culture
to womanhood. After speaking of the status of woman among the ancient
Hebrews, and the position assigned her by that greatest instrument of
European civilization called the Roman Catholic Church, he repeats his
generalization in these terms:--

    Progress in civilization has exercised an unfavorable influence on
    the position of woman by widening the gulf between the sexes, as
    the higher culture was almost exclusively the prerogative of the
    men. Moreover, religion, and especially the great religions of the
    world, has contributed to the degradation of the female sex by
    regarding woman as unclean.


Is this degradation an inevitable outcome of the animating principle at
the heart of the process whereby sentient beings have thus far been
transformed from beasts into citizens? We are forced to answer "Yes."
Otherwise, why has the relative degradation of woman deepened
universally with the progress of civilization? If Westermarck is right,
it would seem that the lowest foundations of highly developed society
have always consisted of the bodies and souls of women. If such be the
historic fact, it may seem strange that only in our day, but now the
world over, is heard the wail of women crying to be freed. Perhaps the
reason, however, that we for the first time hear the wail is because
never before had the fissures grown wide enough to allow the fainter,
but more piteous, sighs to escape.

The fact, too, of which there is no doubt, that at last in our age even
women are beginning to be revered as responsible moral and spiritual
agents may be a sign that the Day of the Foundations is come, that the
age of civilization is nearing its close, and that a new era, animated
by a fresh principle of human co-ordination, is at hand. There is at
least evidence that many women are asking: "Are the products of
civilization worth the price which we women have been compelled to pay,
in order that they may exist? Is our subjection justifiable?" In reply,
the men who entertain an innate contempt for woman answer, "Yes"; those
who are moved by the extreme opposite of sentiment have arrived at the
bitter, though chivalrous, thought, "Better the non-existence of the
human race than the continued sacrifice of its womankind"; while even
the sons of the golden mean in judgment go so far as to say that not
only the already acquired benefits of civilization, but finer ones and
more abundant, can from now on be attained by some other process, which
will involve no degradation either to workingman or to woman, and which
in structural principle and human effects will differ as much from
civilization as civilization itself differed from the barbarism and
savagery which preceded it.

My own judgment is, that civilization is nearing its close. Four or
five deadly blows were dealt out to it by four or five events which
happened in the middle of the fifteenth century after Christ, and it
has been staggering ever since. In that century, certain things
occurred which produced the very opposite effect upon the masses of
mankind to that produced by the wonderful thing which had happened ten
thousand years ago and by its occurrence had changed radically the
relation of men and women to the community and to the physical universe
in which they lived. What was begun in the fifteenth century by the
events that took place then, and what was continued as a destructive
process until recently, is, in my judgment, being finished now through
a constructive process which has been set up by certain other
things--some ten or twenty--which have happened since the beginning of
the present century.


It has seemed to me necessary at this point in my argument to call
attention to the introduction into social life in the fifteenth century
of a new working principle which has been in direct antagonism to the
basic idea of civilization, because it must be borne in mind that
during the last four centuries the history of Europe and the New World
furnishes illustrations of two conflicting processes of social
integration. Not everything that has happened since the New World was
discovered can be set down to the credit of that process which is still
ascendant in Prussia. Instances, therefore, from modern history which
go against my account of civilization have no weight against my
contention and cannot be raised against me; modern instances must not
only be shown to be facts, but to be vital outputs of the same
principle that animates the old order. To account every co-ordination
of modern social life as an instance of civilization is as if any one
should cite the turbine engine and its achievements and set these down
to the credit of the piston engine. But the idea of the one is wholly
new and not a further evolution of the old. Or it is as if one should
assign the glory of the motor-car to the inventor of the bicycle, or of
the bicycle to the originator of the horse-cart; or as if one should
point to an aeroplane as an illustration of a further stage in the
evolution of the motor-car. It is a fact that the aeroplane came after,
but not a fact that it came _from_, the motor-car. If, as I believe,
the new order which began to manifest itself in the fifteenth century
stands to civilization as the aeroplane to the motorcar, and as the
motor-car to the bicycle and the horse-cart, or as the turbine to the
piston engine, then I am right in claiming that we ought not to call it
civilization. If we do, we should be acting like any one who insisted
upon calling an airship a horse-cart. There might be reasons for so
doing: and there may be reasons for calling things civilization which
are something quite different. For instance, I can conceive that the
new order might be more easily insinuated into general acceptance if
those whose interests are all vested in the old are not informed that
it is new. But tonight I am treating not of words, but of things; and
if it will hasten the triumph of the new order to pretend that it is
civilization, let us by all means do so--just as we call six o'clock
seven in order to gain an extra hour of sunlight during the waking day.

I know that to many the idea will appear grotesquely naive, that an
institution as old as civilization and so wide-spreading should come to
an end and be superseded by something else, and that this change should
be taking place under our very eyes. But, happily for me, the
world-conflict which is now devastating Europe has begun to undermine
in the soul of many the fetish-worship of civilization. And to assist
further in breaking the spell which civilization may have cast over the
imagination of most of my audience, I would remind you that
civilization is, after all, a mere mushroom growth, and that what has
sprung up only overnight cannot have taken deep root (as if it were a
thing practically eternal), and could not be very difficult to replace
by something more deliberately thought out--by something learned
through ten thousand years of the tragic effects experienced by
thousands of millions of human beings. Civilization, I say, is a mere
mushroom growth, as compared with the whole life-period of man's
existence on earth. It is only ten thousand years old; while, by the
most modest and cautious calculation, man has existed one hundred
thousand years; and during the ninety thousand which preceded the last
ten, he made gigantic progress towards self-knowledge and
self-reverence. Let us, therefore, not be browbeaten by civilization on
account of its antiquity.


Equally must we guard against the fallacy of attributing only the
beneficent effects of civilization to its inherent principle, while we
trace all the evils which have arisen in its train to extrinsic
causes--to human nature, or to superficial and local obstructions. This
word of warning brings me back to Mr. Edward Carpenter's essay on
_Civilization: Its Cause and Cure_; for when I first read it he
appeared to me to exaggerate out of all proportion the evils in modern
life as compared with the good in it: especially did I feel that he
erred in that he accounted the evils as permanent and organic
characteristics of the civilizing process itself, and believed that
they must increase with its development and could not be eradicated
except with its extinction. During the last twenty-six years, however,
I have learned a thing or two. I have not lost one jot or tittle of my
early faith in man, and I have even gained fresh hope for a speedy
issue of the human race out of most of its sufferings and sins; but I
have gained this fresh hope only because I have been drawn by wider and
closer observation of economic events--and especially of the new
developments of trade and politics the world over--to the conclusion
that the evils, however great, are to be traced to the false principle
that animates the civilizing process, and that they will fall away of
themselves when once that principle has been exchanged for another that
is already well known, and which, as I have remarked, began four
centuries ago to disintegrate the established order.

Carpenter's indictment of civilization seems to me incontrovertible.
The best way for me to present it briefly will be by means of a number
of typical quotations, in which he indicates the nature of disease and
shows that such is the state--mental, physical, social, and
moral--induced in man by the organization of enforced labor and the
whole of the adopted method of making citizens out of wild beasts:--

    When we come to analyze the conception of disease, physical or
    mental, in society or the individual, it evidently means ... loss
    of unity. Health, therefore, should mean unity. ... The idea should
    be a positive one--a condition of the body in which it is an
    entirety, a unity, a central force maintaining that condition; and
    disease being the break-up--or break-down--of that entirety into
    multiplicity.... Thus in a body, the establishment of an
    insubordinate centre--a boil, a tumor, the introduction and spread
    of a germ with innumerable progeny throughout the system, the
    enlargement out of all reason of an existing organ--means disease.
    In the mind, disease begins when any passion asserts itself as an
    independent centre of thought and action.... What is a taint in the
    mind is also a taint in the body. The stomach has started the
    original idea of becoming itself the centre of the human system.
    The sexual organs may start a similar idea. Here are distinct
    threats, menaces made against the central authority--against the
    Man himself. For the man must rule, or disappear; it is impossible
    to imagine a man presided over by a Stomach--a walking Stomach,
    using hands, feet, and all the other members merely to carry it
    from place to place, and serve its assimilative mania. So of the
    Brain, or any other organ; for the Man is no organ, resides in no
    organ, but is the central life ruling and radiating among all
    organs, and assigning them their parts to play. Disease, then, in
    mind or body, is ... the abeyance of a central power and the growth
    of insubordinate centres--life in each creature being conceived of
    as a continual exercise of energy or conquest, by which external or
    antagonistic forces (or organisms) are brought into subjection and
    compelled into the service of the creature, or are thrown off as
    harmful to it. Thus, by way of illustration, we find that plants or
    animals, when in good health, have a remarkable power of throwing
    off the attacks of any parasites which incline to infest them;
    while those that are weakly are very soon eaten up by the same. A
    rose-tree, for instance, brought indoors, will soon fall a prey to
    the aphis, though when hardened out of doors the pest makes next to
    no impression on it. In dry seasons when the young turnip plants in
    the field are weakly from want of water, the entire crop is
    sometimes destroyed by the turnip-fly, which then multiplies
    enormously; but if a shower or two of rain comes before much damage
    is done, the plant will then grow vigorously, its tissues become
    more robust and resist the attacks of the fly, which in its turn
    dies. Late investigations seem to show that one of the functions of
    the white corpuscles of the blood is to devour disease-germs and
    bacteria present in the circulation,--thus absorbing these
    organisms into subjection to the central life of the body,--and
    that for this object they congregate in numbers toward any part of
    the body which is wounded or diseased.


To cast Carpenter's metaphor, according to which civilization is a
thing to be cured, into the form of an analogy, we might say that the
civilizing process has been to man what the bringing indoors is to a
rose-tree, or the coming of a drought to the turnips in a field. And I
ask you to assume with me that this is so; as it will help me to get on
with my argument, which, as it advances, will reveal more and more
whether it be inherently weak or strong. Nor do I anticipate much
opposition to Carpenter's mere indictment of civilization. At least it
is only when he outlines his remedy that my own protest is aroused. And
I suspect that many a reader will feel with me, that while to cure a
rose-tree or a turnip plant may require only the taking of the one out
of doors again and the falling of the kindly showers upon the other,
the restoration of civilized man to health would necessitate something
more than a mere return on his part to Nature and savagery. Indeed,
such a return may be altogether impossible, and even undesirable. In my
judgment, man having (as Carpenter himself points out) become
"self-conscious," can never go back to Nature, since he is no longer
the same being he was when he emerged from his more primitive state.
Yet what Carpenter recommends so far as he recommends any cure, is
exactly this: Human beings are to wear less clothes--if any at all; man
will again live out of doors, for the most part, instead of in houses;
he will return to the eating of uncooked food--mainly fruit and grains;
he will begin to feel himself one again with Nature; he is to lose his
sense of sin; every man will do the work he likes--and presumably not
do the work he does not like. "As to External Government and Law, they
will disappear," says Carpenter, "for they are only the travesties and
transitory substitutes of Inward Government and Order." In religion,
there is to be a like return to Nature. The author says:--

    And when the civilization-period has passed away, the old
    Nature-religion--perhaps greatly grown--will come back.... Our
    Christian ceremonial is saturated with sexual and astronomical
    symbols; and long before Christianity existed, the sexual and
    astronomical were the main forms of religion.... On the high tops
    once more gathering he will celebrate with naked dances the glory
    of the human form and the great processions of the stars....

Carpenter sees signs already here and there of the beginning of this

    The present competitive society is more and more rapidly becoming a
    mere dead formula and husk within which the outlines of the new and
    _human_ society are already discernible. Simultaneously, and as if
    to match this growth, a move toward Nature and Savagery is for the
    first time taking place from within, instead of being forced upon
    Society from without. The Nature-movement, begun years ago in
    Literature and Art, is now among the more advanced sections of the
    civilized world rapidly realizing itself in actual life, going so
    far even as a denial, among some, of machinery and the complex
    products of Civilization, and developing among others into a gospel
    of salvation by sandals and sunbaths!

In order to help us to judge aright whether a return to Nature and a
primitive communism would restore to man that centrality and health of
which we assume that civilization has deprived him, we should do well
to consider what it was that happened ten thousand years ago and proved
so sinister in changing the relation of men and women to the community
in which they lived, and to the physical universe. But of that event we
cannot gain an adequate appreciation unless we view it in perspective
along the line of analogous events, some six, which had occurred from
time to time during the ninety thousand years preceding.


A hundred thousand years ago, among our ancestors, who then were only
inarticulate mammals, living in trees and caves, one of them by
himself, or a little group of them together, hit upon the use of
articulate vocal signs as a means of conveying to his mates his needs,
his fears, his desires and threats. It was probably by a happy fluke
that he hit upon this use, or by some transcendent flash of insight due
to a spontaneous variation of ability above that of the average ape; or
else some unusual stress of hunger or danger of attack drove even a
mediocre individual to an unwonted exercise of ingenuity. In any case,
by inventing articulate speech, he brought into existence a new species
of mammal--man. I must leave to your imagination the thousand
transforming effects of this new device for communicating perceptions,
feelings, and intentions. The speaking ape stood to his own species,
and through them to other kinds of animals and to the material
universe, in a different relation from that in which the speechless
stood. The power of combined action among the members of any group
became immeasurably greater than it had previously been. A social unity
of will was possible that could never have existed on earth hitherto.
For all we know, thirty thousand years may have passed away before any
other event occurred among human beings comparable in practical
importance to the invention of spoken language. This, however, was all
the time being gradually perfected under the stress of new experiences
in general and of trying predicaments in particular.

Then, in the fulness of time, and once more by a happy fluke, or by a
stroke of spontaneous genius, or under the pressure of some
unprecedented danger, or through the educative influence of some new
order of experience, one of the speaking apes hit upon the use of fire,
and thereby introduced a new era in the advancement of man. Practically
infinite was the increase of man's new mastery over Nature. Into
temperate and even icy regions he could now penetrate and, as it were,
create around him a little temporary zone of tropical warmth. With
speech had come social unity; with fire at man's disposal came mastery
over matter. But the unity thereby suffered a change. With the
invention of means of creating artificial warmth the social homogeneity
of the tribe began to be broken. Whoever controlled fire controlled the
rest of his group, since no other way for the tribal appropriation of
the blessings of regulated fire was possible among talking apes, except
that one individual, or a very few, should assume the office of owner
of the sticks or flints for igniting the fire, and should become
dispenser of the flame. The group thus was divided into the controller
and the controlled, the owner and the owned, the master and the man,
the governor and the governed, the chief and his followers.


Such a differentiation of society was, among apes, the condition for
any sort of social unity; but control by the few could at the first
have been only rudimentary and intermittent. Fire is not everything,
and was indispensable only on certain occasions, as when the group
were caught unexpectedly in some wintry region. Then the choice for
any man might lie between freezing or obeying. Be it observed that
fire under such circumstances would be shared by all, but the power of
social control would be monopolized by one. Had you been there, but
not the mightiest of your group, the condition of your surviving the
cold would have been that you surrendered whatever individual
initiative you had had. You gained fire, but lost freedom. At this
point, by some innate sense of logical identity, my mind is carried
forward a hundred thousand years to that centre of to-day's highest
civilization--Detroit, and to its very palladium, the Ford Motor
Works. For in that far-famed institution is to be found a very
striking similarity to the primeval monopoly of initiative which arose
with the first control of fire. Mr. Henry Ford has been magnanimously
ready to share profits with his men, but, so far as I can learn, no
iota of the industrial control.

Before I go to the next step towards citizenship, I would call
attention to the fact that thus, near to the beginning of things human,
when the use of fire was introduced, we are able to detect the two
distinguishing characteristics of all civilization, and of trade in
particular, which are the sharing by the tribe of the blessings of
man's mastery over Nature, but, as the condition of the sharing, a
monopoly of power and initiative by the few who dispense the blessings.
So much of good and of goods--but no more--could the mass of men enjoy
as was compatible with the continuance of the master's ascendancy over
the men and over the public. We shall find no other than these marks in
all future civilization, to distinguish it from savagery and barbarism.
The only difference will be that in the period of civilization
proper--that is, from ten thousand years ago to the end of the
fifteenth century after Christ, when the established social order began
to break up--the monopoly of initiative and control is practically
absolute. As we trace the future steps in human evolution, we shall see
how this concentration of power in the hands of rulers occurred. But it
must be further observed that it is not only rudimentary civilization
which we detect as ensuing upon the introduction of the use of fire: it
is trade, socialized wealth, the division of the community into the
"haves" and the "have-nots," the introduction of the working of the
law, that to him that hath shall be given and that from him that hath
nothing but his labor to offer shall be taken with it his liberty also.
It should likewise be borne in mind that with the stealing of fire from
heaven came also that coalition of government with trade, of politics
with commerce, of the monopolists of economic power with the dictators
of life and death, of peace and war, which is manifested to the highest
conceivable degree to-day in the states most assertive of their
leadership in the vanguard of civilization. I said that with the use of
fire came the enslavement of men; but government and enslavement were
one and the same thing. Neither, however, was as yet dominant over
social life.


The talking, fire-using anthropoid in the course of time invented the
bow and arrow. So great and so enduring were the benefits of this new
device that it is almost impossible for us, who have profited by them,
to imagine the state of human society when men could kill animals or
destroy enemies only by throwing stones or clubs, or by striking with
the fist. But it is easy to see that the chief of a tribe of men
received an incalculable increase of power when, besides the
instruments of ignition, bows and arrows were in his possession to deal
out at his will. Whatever equality of initiative and diffused
sovereignty had existed before the use of fire was known, it now began
to vanish, and the men of any tribe saw power concentrated in the will
and word of the chief and those nearest him, while submission to his
command was the condition of survival. And no doubt, with the loss of
that individual liberty and that self-reliance which characterize the
lower animals, there also died away a certain joyousness and zest of
spontaneous self-fulfilment, such as we observe in wild creatures so
long as they are free from hunger and thirst and secure from the
pursuit of enemies.

It was perhaps another ten thousand years before one more new link in
the chain of man's mastery over Nature and the chief's mastery over his
men was forged. This time it was probably a woman who--again by a happy
chance or by necessity of maternal solicitude--noticed the effect of
heat upon clay and introduced the art of pottery. Until then men had no
utensils that could withstand the action of fire; they could not boil
water except by dropping hot stones into some receptacle of wood or
skin. Now, by the new device of boiling, the food-supply was enormously
increased. The blessing of another mastery over matter was henceforth
shared by all the members of the tribe. But, at the same time, there
was a corresponding force added to the chief's grip upon his men. We
see the law illustrated, that every new invention, owned by the few,
becomes one more trap for the many. The differentiation between the
owner of the tribe's wealth and the propertyless became with the
introduction of pottery fixed and hopeless. The master dealt out not
only fire and arrows, but cooking-utensils; or he withheld all these if
he saw fit; and if you had been there, but not in command, you, too,
would have tamely submitted or have died.


The word "tamely" which I have just used, brings me to the next great
event which moved mankind perceptibly nearer to civilization proper.
It is an event which was not only a literal fact of prime importance,
but which is eternally a symbol of man's own fate. It was probably
first the dog that lent himself to the imagination of the speaking,
fire-making, arrow-shooting, clay-baking, anthropoid ape, as a
stimulus to the idea that captive animals might be of service to human
beings. Man began to tame not only the dog, but the sheep, the ox, the
camel, the goat, the horse, and the elephant. The gain to all the
tribe was enormous. The men all shared in the profit, but once more
their master appropriated the new increment in power. He became the
owner of the domesticated animals as well as of the inanimate pot and
arrow and flame. But at this stage it must have seemed to all the
other members of the tribe that they also were owned, soul and body,
by their chief. They could not help seeing, nor could he, that they
were _his_ men. And how natural it was for them to rejoice in the fact
that they belonged to some one who was mightier than themselves, and
who identified his own prosperity with that of the tribe, and of every
individual in it who served it according to his will. Loyalty to the
beloved community became loyalty to the chief. But it is evident that
what mankind had caused to happen to the dog and the horse, the chief
had accomplished in regard to the human beings who had come under his
power. He had tamed them; they were no longer wild animals. They had
rendered up individual liberty and self-reliant independence such as
we see among many species of wild beasts. But instead, as the price of
obedience to a will outside their own, they had received a thousand

Only one more invention was needed to lift them to the highest and
latest stage of barbarism. Some one now hit upon the art of smelting
iron--the first invention that had not directly to do with the
supplying of food. By leaps and bounds the art of smelting iron
advanced man in the equipment of war, in the building of houses, roads,
and vehicles of transportation. Now what magnificent returns
individuals received for having surrendered their original liberty to
do as they pleased! After all, what would independent initiative have
been worth without fire or arrow or earthern kettle, or cow or horse or
wheel, or sword and shield? Who would not have forfeited the bare
birthright of empty (although healthy) independence for participation
in the ever richer conquest over the physical resources of Nature?


But now at last, only ten thousand years ago, the event occurred which
put forever out of the question any possibility of prudence in any
waywardness of individual whim, or any deviation from the rule dictated
by the owner of things. This time the something that happened did not
cause an increase of man's mastery over physical Nature. It was,
instead, like that initial invention which turned apes into men. And
again, like spoken language, it was a device to facilitate
communication of mind with mind. In some one of the many groups of
beings who had learned the use of fire, arrows, pots, sheep, and
swords, some genius hit upon the idea of written signs as a medium of
communication with those distant in space, and as a means of
perpetuating a knowledge of the will of the dead among his survivors.
But be it observed that only the master, never the man, only the owner
of things, the controller of circumstances, was in a position to embody
and preserve his judgment and desire in written signs. The new art of
writing enhanced the power of rulers, of chiefs. The Pharaoh, not the
fellah, dictated the inscription that was to be engraved. Thus all the
rulers of the past were now able to perpetuate their power by adding
their sanction to the word of the living chief, while no voice from the
ranks of the governed would be allowed to immortalize itself in written
speech. This is the reason that written language introduced
civilization proper. There was no longer any chance for the wildness of
the beast to crop out. Here began the empire of the dead over the
living; but it was the empire of dead rulers over living slaves. The
mastery over Nature and the monopoly of social power thereby became
practically infinite. The tamers were now omnipotent in comparison with
the tamed. It must be noticed that the process of transforming beasts
into citizens was one to which only the tamed, but not the tamers, were
subjected. The ruler stood outside of and above the rule he made. The
law was for his subjects. This was the case with Henry VIII at the acme
of civilization as it had been with the first of the Pharaohs.

Not only the blond beast of prey, but the swarthy also dictated an
ethic for his subjects in order to keep himself in ascendancy. It was
because Nietzsche admired all beasts of prey and felt contempt for
their victims that he hated Jesus Christ and proudly assumed the title
of Anti-Christ. For Christ had set up an ethic which encouraged the
victims to protest and attempt to win back their primeval initiative,
to take over the sovereignty which had been concentrated in the hands
of the mighty and to diffuse it among the nobodies of the tribe. St.
Luke goes so far as to assert that even before Jesus was born his
Mother entertained levelling ideas. Into her lips he puts a song in
which she magnifies the Lord because she believed her Son would bring
down the mighty and exalt them of low degree. But alas! civilization
went on for fifteen hundred years and succeeded in tying Christianity
to the chariot-wheel of monopolized initiative.


Christianity had to wait for something to happen that would lend force
to its Gospel. That something did not occur until the middle of the
fifteenth century. Then, as I have already said without specifying what
they were, a number of unforeseen events took place which opened the
door to the divine bridegroom of humanity.

I have said that in the fifteenth century after Christ a new principle
began to work in society; but I did not say that it was then for the
first time promulgated. Civilization was the organization of man's
mastery over Nature on a basis of self-interest; it was the giving
only so much of wealth and power to the many as was compatible with
the retention of one's own ascendancy. To be civilized, then, is
evidently not to be Christian any more than it is to be Buddhistic or
Judaic, socialistic or democratic. Everybody admits that one can be
civilized and be none of these things: just as one may be "cultured"
without being kind. In other words, it is consistent with being
civilized to be highly selfish; one need only be rationalized in one's
egoism. Indeed, civilization is the incarnation of self-interest. If
self-interest, its basic principle, should give way to social
interest; if the monopoly of social power should be broken and the
power transferred to the general will of the community; if the
community should relegate its administration to representatives, but
should prevent these by some social device from ever usurping the
power entrusted to them, then something new--something as different
from civilization as the airship from the horse-cart--would have begun
to establish itself. A new species of social order can be nothing
other than an order whose basic principle is totally new; and what
greater difference could exist in structuralizing tendencies than that
between self-interest and the interest of the community? Whenever the
latter gets the upper hand, it will be because Fate, the Cosmos, the
Universe, the force within unconscious evolution, has caught up the
song of the _Magnificat_. No such consummation of humanity has taken
place, but it is undeniable that in the fifteenth century the Word
entered like a seed into the soil of Fact. The Virgin's prophecy began
to fulfil itself.

Familiar to everybody, and quickly to be specified, are the wonderful
events which turned the vision into reality. One of these events was
the invention of gunpowder; another was the mariner's compass; a third
was the invention of paper; a fourth, the printing-press; a fifth was
the discovery that the earth goes round the sun once a year, and whirls
on its own axis once a day; a sixth was that indiscretion of
Christopher Columbus, whereby instead of over-populated India he opened
up a way to the vast and sparsely denizened Americas.

These events, each and severally and all together, produced in one
particular the same sort of effect as the use of fire and of the bow
and arrow, of pottery, the domestication of animals, and the smelting
of iron: they enhanced incalculably the mastery of man over matter. But
in the other particular characteristic of civilization they acted in
the very opposite direction from all preceding inventions. Instead of
entrenching the master in his monopoly of social power, instead of
furthering the differentiation of society into master and man, they all
played into the hands of the man. For the first time since the
beginning of human evolution, inventions checked the monopolization of
control over others. But the initiative that now flowed to the
multitude of nobodies was not that puny freedom and narrow scope of
self-realization which the talking ape had enjoyed. It was the
accumulated foresight and control of the universe outside of man which
had been storing itself up more and more for ninety thousand years in
the intellects and wills of the favored few. The floodgates were opened
for the first time in the fifteenth century, and this godlike energy
flowed in among the people at large, so that man, the many, the
multitude, were quickened by it into hope on earth, unto life here and
now, into liberty, creative originality, and the joy of

But it was only the beginning: the effects of the introduction of
gunpowder, the compass, the printing-press and paper, and the new ideas
about the heavens, and the opening-up of relatively uninhabited lands,
were scarcely discernible for two centuries, and then only as a
destructive force. Indeed, for still another hundred years the process
was one chiefly of disintegration. There was taking place a
transference of power from the few to the many; a diffusion of
sovereignty, as well as a redistribution of wealth; and the change was
accompanied by an awakening of the masses to the meaning of the
transformation which they were undergoing. The people began to realize
that the invention of gun-powder had raised the peasant as a fighter to
the level of the armed knight; that the compass and the opening-up of
the Western hemisphere made it possible for the poor to escape from
European masters whom they were unable to vanquish; and that the
cheapness of books was linking the minds of the masses to the sources
of learning and of religious tradition. It cannot but excite our mystic
wonder that for nearly one hundred thousand years every new mastery of
man over physical Nature was such that it inevitably played into the
hands of rulers by strengthening their monopoly of initiative; and that
then, at last, and ever since the fifteenth century after Christ, each
new mechanical invention or discovery has had the unintended and
undesired effect ultimately of scattering among the many the pent-up
power of owners and rulers, and of creating in the many fresh psychic
energy and a new capacity of invention.

This great process of levelling-up took again an enormous leap forward
in the middle of the nineteenth century. The steam-engine advanced it
almost as much as all the fifteenth-century inventions and discoveries
together. The new facilities of travel brought new experiences, and
these, by the psychological law of contrast and novelty, stimulated
intelligence many-fold. The new speed in transportation made it
possible for thousands to escape from oppression where scarcely one had
been able to do so in former generations. The Irish peasants began to
pour into America; then followed the Germans; soon Russians and Latins
were helped to leave the Old World; sometimes in all came a million-odd
in one year. Wealth was multiplied and scattered to a degree that had
never been dreamed to be possible. Not only in the United States, but
in France, Italy, Scandinavia, the British Empire, and South America,
the diffusion of social initiative was taking place. First, power
spread from the few to the many severally; but now, for a quarter of a
century, the many, without surrendering, have been pooling their new
power in the general will of the nation. There, in the unified and
unifying purpose of nations like America, and of each of her federate
States, the power is being safeguarded for the community and for its
members severally by political devices which render public servants
incapable of prolonged usurpation.


Still, the new order is far from being in the ascendant. As
civilization began with the introduction of the use of fire, but was
not triumphant until the invention of written language, so the new
order--call it what you will: Christianity, the Meaning of America, the
Dream of California, the Wisconsin Idea, Social Democracy,
Humanity--this new order has only entered in as yeast which has not yet
had a chance to leaven the whole lump. But the fermentation now goes on
apace. The World-War is perhaps best understood when it is looked upon
as a struggle of civilization against its successor. Alarmed and armed
to the teeth, civilization (applied science organized on a basis of
reasoned self-interest) is attempting to expand itself over territory
which had been preempted and mapped out by social democracy, and was
being devoted, in the spirit of the ideal commonwealth foreshadowed in
Christian sentiment and Jewish prophecy, to the co-ordination of wealth
and power on the principle of deference to the humanity in every man.

But more significant than the World-War of the passing away of the old
order and its supersession by a new are the ten or twenty inventions,
ideas, discoveries, and new social contacts which marked the first
decade of the present century. No doubt even the World-War has been
precipitated by the sudden inrush of these unprecedented forces, and
the realization of their trend by the self-centred leaders of

It would seem that the civilized, anticipating a move on the part of
the humanized, and fearing an appropriation of the benefits of new
inventions, stole a march upon the unsuspecting. The result is, that we
saw at the outset of the war the latest appliances seized upon by the
upholders of arbitrary power, and only now, after the first shock of
attack, are the builders of an earthly paradise demonstrating their
ability and intention to turn all the forces of Nature and devices of
reason to the service of each in the brotherhood of the common life. We
are beginning to see, also, that every one of the latest inventions is
such in its nature that soon victory must come to the cause of economic
and political equality.

Even the cheapness of motor-cars will overtake the champions of
industrial monopoly, who at the first used them for the hoarding of
social power. The submarine can at the first only be turned against the
freedom of the seas during times of peace. The aeroplane and the
airship, more than any other instruments of locomotion, will assist in
the diffusion of initiative among all the outlying and small nations of
the earth. More than anything else they will assist the weak and the
meek of the earth to rush together to one another's rescue; and
wireless telegraphy, as soon as it is established universally, will
sound to them the alarum in the twinkling of an eye. All the new
inventions are, as it were, God's detectives for the exposing of the
subtle and disguised crimes of the great; or they are God's captains
for the mobilization of the scattered forces of the meek when the plot
of an oppressor has been unearthed. The people need only to realize
that the new inventions are by their very nature breakers of
power-monopolies, in order to find in them an irresistible incentive to
rise and act in the cause of world-wide democratic initiative. High
explosives, the gas-engine, the giant gun, sheets of flame, deadly
gases, all these are within the reach of Christ's little ones to
encircle their kingdom-that-is-coming against the attacks of inhuman
humans. The new inventions are humanity's destructors to annihilate
civilization's destroyers.

I have specified some of the twentieth century's inventions to show
that, like the compass and the printing-press, they will be scatterers
of privileges to the masses. I might go on indefinitely adding to the
list, but I will cite only one more. It was only in the last decade of
the nineteenth century that a new way of making cheap paper was
discovered--so cheap that it became possible to sell great dailies for
one cent. But this practice was not established until the twentieth
century. And it was only a few years ago that the greatest newspaper of
the world--and a very stronghold of upper-class monopoly--was able, or
driven, to reduce its price from threepence (six cents) to a penny. But
I specify the case of the London _Times_ because, like a miracle of
divine healing, but entirely due to the cheapness of paper, is the
change of its policy from that of brutal imperialism to the democratic
one of transforming the British Empire into a commonwealth of equal
states. Now that the _Times_ has been converted, we may be sure that
the universe itself has come round to the side of the right, and has
taken up the cause of the poor. By the pricking of my thumbs I know
that something better than civilization this way comes. Dull indeed
must be that man whose blood does not tingle with anticipation. Yet the
physical inventions of the twentieth century are not to be compared in
pregnancy of good with its less palpable, its spiritual, novelties.


Before passing, however, from the physical inventions to the new moral
ideas and mental contacts, I must interpolate a comment to save myself
from misunderstanding. Generally, those who trace to mechanical
utilities new epochs in the development of mankind proceed upon the
materialistic theory of history. But this theory I have in no wise
committed myself to, for I count it to be false. It is true that I have
traced all the great steps in human advancement to physical inventions,
but I have in no word implied that the inventions themselves were
caused by anything material whatsoever. And if they themselves were, as
I believe, the result of man's mental and spiritual activities reacting
against events, then my tracing of human advancement to them implies no
belief in the materialistic theory of history. Every effect of the
inventions must be set down ultimately not to them, but to their
causes; and their causes were mental. Casually I have said as much, in
remarking several times that they took place by a happy chance, or by a
stroke of insight on the part of some rare genius, or by the reaction
of some mediocre person's intelligent volition against some
extraordinary experience which made the idea of the invention so
obtrusively evident that even a mind not unusually gifted could
scarcely have avoided lighting upon it.

The only phrase I have used by which I cannot absolutely stand is the
expression "by a happy chance"; for I believe that the mental
productions of each person are due not to uncaused chance, or to
accident, but to trends of the social mind that have been set in motion
by mental exigencies arising out of current events. As primitive
peoples, however, have left no record of their mental sequences, we
cannot say with confidence what were the exact experiences that led to
the idea of using fire, or to any other device that transformed the
relation of human beings to one another or to their material habitat. I
only repeat that whatever caused the inventions caused all the remote
effects of these, and that if the causes of the inventions were mental
and spiritual, then an interpretation of history is not materialistic
merely because it traces advancement to mechanical utilities. That I am
right in tracing these to mental and spiritual causes is proved at
least in the case of recent inventions. For we know that their causes
were psychic; we know the mental atmosphere, and how it arose, that
brought forth the telephone and aeroplane and submarine. We know that
these were not due to physical necessities or to any material causes.
They arose from the brooding of creative imaginations disciplined in a
method learned by reflection upon former successes in discovery. We
also know in what main particulars this modern atmosphere differs from
that of former centuries. But such questions are not germane to my
central theme, and so I pass them over lightly. Let me then return
without further delay from this digression which has been made in the
interests, not of my argument, but of my self-respect as a student of
social facts.


Consider, for instance, that at the beginning of our century, for the
first time in more than fifteen hundred years, the Christian nations
came into contact with a mighty pagan power, and were compelled to
acknowledge it as not only a political, but a moral, equal. Whoever
knows the magical effect in the quickening of intellectual and
spiritual life due to new contact with a contrasting type of national
culture will agree that the meeting thus of Christendom with the
so-called "heathen" world is a fact of prime significance in the
history of man.

Nor is it simply the contact of heathen and Christian on terms of moral
equality. There is another aspect to Japan's ascendancy and her
recognition by the West. The East and the West meet at last. The
psychic invasion of each by the other must be epoch-making and in the
direction of the completeness and unification spiritually of all
mankind in a brotherhood of nations and nation-states. The new contact
of heathen and Christian, and of white and colored, of East and West,
means that the exploitation of the dark races by nations more highly
organized on a basis of self-interest is about to cease forever. With
the humanization of the West will come the salvation of those tribes
who never divided themselves so absolutely into the "haves" and the
"have-nots," or who never attained a high mastery over the physical

Are there persons in America who say what, until the present war, many
in Old England thought--that there is nothing new under the sun? Then I
would call their attention to the unprecedented and revolutionary
character of the contact in the United States, on a basis of relative
political and social equality, of immigrants from some fifty-one
different nations of the Old World. These people will mix their blood,
their temperaments, and their traditions, and not only will a new
variety of human being emerge, but the mixing of opposites in idea and
temperament will quicken self-consciousness and heighten mental power
and speed up its activity. The opportunity of the blond beasts of prey
has lain in the torpor and inactivity and ignorance of the multitude.
But I find no torpor in California. And where there is no one that will
allow himself to be preyed upon, even blond beasts take up the new
enterprise of co-operation among equals. This is an inevitable result
of the contact of many varieties of unlikes, the unification, not of
equals, but of supplementary equivalents. When such psychic conditions
have prevailed for a century or more, it is inconceivable that trade
can continue to consist of competition between individuals and the
permission of the successful to amass and hoard fortunes. Either
production and distribution will become communal, or the community will
tax large fortunes into the state and national treasury.

But there are three other distinguishing characteristics of the
twentieth century which make for the replacing of civilization by
humanization, and for the transition of trade from the harshness of the
law into the abounding grace of the gospel.


First, the limiting of population by the will of human individuals. In
the beginning men stole fire from the gods; but life they allowed the
Almighty to continue to dispense at his own inscrutable pleasure, while
they remained his pleased but puzzled agents in its transmission. It
was only in the eighties of the last century, after a hundred thousand
years, that man hit upon the idea and the practice of controlling life
as he had controlled fire. From the beginning, he had planted the
fire-seed according to his own purpose and social need. And now at last
he has come to look upon the life-seed as not simply in his keeping as
a trust for another, but as his own property to control in the interest
of his own future. Can human audacity reach higher? Can the assumption
of divine and creative responsibility by man out-strip this latest act
of self-government? From beast to citizen, did we say? But have we not
found the process during the last four hundred years to be from
citizenship to godship, from creature to creator? It was one of your
American reformers who entitled a book _Man as Social Creator_. From
beast to citizen seemed dull enough; but from citizen to God--what
intoxication of zest does this thought engender! Can the creature dare
it? Is this the great venture? Is this the meaning of the travail of
the ages? Or is it only a process from citizen to man, from tamed beast
to free spirit feeling the Soul of All at the inmost centre of himself,
and finding the means at last of incarnating that soul in the
community, in politics, trade, and domestic life? Howsoever the new
facts and the newer outlook are to be interpreted, it becomes quite
clear that if civilization was the taming of beasts, something that is
not civilization has begun to assert itself. The liberating of
citizens, as it moves to triumphant attainment, must scrap many an
institution, many a habit, and set up the reverse of many a rule of
conduct. We have indeed reached a new era, one which is not that of
taming animals, when young women can--and know that they can--as
war-brides strike against the labor of maternity and against the
foreseen horror of a fate for one's offspring such as they would never
choose for the fruit of their love.

But, secondly, close upon the invention of means for controlling the
transmission of life has followed the idea that this control shall not
rest with the individuals most intimately concerned, but with the will
of the community--of the nation--of federated humanity. If a man has no
exclusive right to do as he pleases with his power of labor, to
withhold it or direct it irrespective of the general welfare and the
will of the commonweal, how much less, say the advocates of eugenic
marriage, shall men and women be permitted to follow their own whim and
their selfish pleasure as regards the use or waste of the power to
communicate life? This new doctrine that men are only trustees for the
nation and posterity in their central power to control the future
quantity and quality of human beings whom they may bring into
existence, recognizes no division of society into the tamed and the
tamers. There is no class suggested of monopolists of social power who
will regulate the rest of the community, as the owner of cattle
controls the breeding of them. The general will of the community,
administered under diffused public opinion and through the educated
judgment of the individual himself, will decide. Only in cases of what
are agreed to be downright crimes will the law step in to condemn and
prevent, and then only through agents who are directly accountable to
an enlightened and alert public opinion. The retaining of this new
mastery of man over the quantity and quality of human life, by the
communal conscience against all monopolists, is the transcendent
feature of the new order. But if this be so, then trade, our system of
producing and distributing wealth, ceases to be merely a question of
the control of labor and becomes a question of the control of the
transmission of human life. Such control might have been accounted a
possible privilege among Virginian breeders of slaves. But so to regard
it seems monstrous, now that chattel slavery has been universally
condemned, thanks to the triumphant levellers of the last hundred
years. What is more, all trade is beginning to be regarded as a
question ultimately, not of the manufacture of machines and their
products, nor of the propagation of plants and animals, but of the
begetting of spiritual agents, who in their turn are to become the
makers and masters of the universe in which they are to live.

The third characteristic event of our century which is to help us to
slough off civilization, as our ancestors ten thousand years ago rid
themselves of the wild-beast features of barbarism and savagery, is the
awakening of women. Their claim to social initiative and responsibility
is the extremest possible reach of democratic self-assertion. The
remarkable peculiarity of their entrance into trade is not, however,
that they are women, but that they are the one half of mankind who have
never worked for hire, but always from love, and who have desired the
wage less than the approval of those they served. The morals of trade,
as it has existed under the relation of master to wage-earner, even the
ethics of trades-unionism, cannot survive the censure of women, who on
other principles demand for themselves the right of maintenance by the
state to protect them in the bearing and rearing of children and the
making of homes, and the nursing of the wounded and the sick. Now that
women no longer allow themselves as social agents to be ignored, they
will insist that not only the morals of marriage and of democratic
relations must become humane, but that all trade, as well as all
legislation, must be guided by the eugenic motive.


I have presumed to say that modern trade discloses civilization in its
acutest form. The strict sobriety of this assertion we cannot, perhaps,
appreciate to the full, unless we note the relation of trade during the
last three hundred years to aggressive warfare. There prevails in the
public mind the false notion that somehow peace and trade are akin in
spirit and identical in their interests. This notion has been
assiduously foisted upon the public by kings of industry and some
professors of sociology, who possibly believe that it is true. But the
facts of history prove that every great war during the last three
centuries has been undertaken in the service of foreign traders, who
call upon their government to back their claims. According to Sir John
Seeley, the greatest political historian of the British Empire, foreign
trade and modern war have always been one and the same thing. Some
small nation-state resented the advent and methods of the foreign
traders, and began to prepare for self-defence, asserting that it
wished to be left alone, and that it meant to defend its own sacred
traditions. This the government that backed the traders would not
permit, and a clash of arms ensued. Or two rival sets of foreigners
were jealous of each other in their effort to possess one and the same
market and induced their respective governments to spring at each
other's throats. Under such circumstances war does not always arise,
because the mere show of vastly superior might is often sufficient to
compel immediate submission. Such was the case when the United States
in 1853 exhibited in the harbors of bewildered and terrified Japan a
fleet of great steamships. The threatened nation, having admitted no
foreigners since the Jesuits in the seventeenth century plotted against
its political independence, and not knowing how to use steam to propel
engines, saw that there was no alternative to violent conquest by their
uninvited guests but peaceful submission on their own part.

Such peace, however, is not the holy thing which some persons declare
all peace to be. When a man holds up his hands in answer to the
challenge of a highway robber, bloodshed is avoided; but the outrage is
none the less detestable because perfect quiet prevails. Nor is it the
kind of social calm which the angels meant when they proclaimed peace
on earth to men of good will. On the contrary, it is that stillness of
unchallenged iniquity of which our Lord expressed his menacing hate
when He declared that He came not to bring peace but a sword. Trade
illustrates civilization in its highest degree of intelligence and
elaboration; and foreign trade is only trade in its widest
transactions. But foreign trade being the cause of all war, the only
way to end warfare is to displace civilization by a system of wealth
produced and distributed under communal control. Then commerce will no
longer be inspired by the financial interest of private investors, but
by the total welfare of the whole people of the nation. But I have
touched upon the identity of war and trade only to show their vital
connection with civilization as a whole.


Civilization is still advancing by leaps and bounds. Nevertheless, at
the same time, with a greater acceleration of development, the men are
checkmating the master and transferring control and initiative to the
will of the commonwealth. At least, not otherwise am I able to
interpret the new deference for nationality which has been aroused in
protest against aggressive militarism; nor the kind of industrial
legislation that has been enacted during the last decade in California
and other western states, in New Zealand and Australia, and even in
Italy and England. It all means that the new inventions, although at
first seized upon by monopolists, are seen to be such as to provide
channels through which the pent-up instincts and hopes of the masses
can act with concerted power. It means that also political machinery is
being devised for securing the public welfare and protecting
opportunities for individual genius and talent. No man asks for more.
The world over we have reached the threshold of collective democracy,
wherein the consuming of material wealth will be shared with
approximate equality and wherein social control will be retained by the
collective will, to safeguard individual initiative, and will be
administered by public servants who have proved their superior ability,
but who remain subject to almost instantaneous recall.

Such a substitute for civilization, however, is the opposite of a
return to the individualism of Nature or to a primeval communism. It
presupposes the highest mastery of man over matter and social unity
among all mankind co-operating as nation-states and federations of

As regards external government and law, it is the antithesis of Mr.
Carpenter's proposal that they should disappear, because they are the
travesty of inward government and order. On the contrary, I hope that
external government, animated by the general will of a social
democratic commonwealth and vested in representatives sensitively
accountable to an alert and intelligent public opinion, will appear to
my listeners not as a travesty, but as the very incarnation of that
inward government and order which every individual man must feel to be
the law of his own being unless he has lost his manhood's centrality. A
crushing indictment of Mr. Carpenter's modern movement back to Nature
is to be found in the fact that it has declined instead of advancing
during the twenty-six years since he wrote. Probably fewer persons in
England preach salvation by sandals and sunbaths to-day than did a
quarter of a century ago, while the sandals themselves and sunbaths
have become but items among the general products of industry and
governmental hygiene. The sunbath is only one of the many remedies
prescribed to the poor by doctors impanelled by the British state, and
the sandals are better made by machinery than by the hands of poetic

But while the vision of philosophical anarchy has been fading away,
whole nations on a gigantic scale have been subjecting the power of
trusts and monopolies to the general will of the community. In America
you have changed your federal law and many of your state constitutions,
in order that the right of the common will to dictate may be
unquestioned, and that no occasion for lawless violence need ever arise
through any legal barrier to the full assertion of the mind of the
common life.

So in every particular of his cure for civilization Mr. Carpenter's
worship of savagery and barbarism is being rejected as fantastic. We
may return to uncooked fruits and grains. But what a task for the most
highly developed industrial state, to raise and distribute an adequate
supply of grapes, apples, and nuts the year round for the 1,000,000,000
inhabitants of the globe! What a call for many wizards of California to
produce new species of luscious edibles! It would seem to me that the
curse of civilization has lain in the direction of too little of either
cooked or uncooked food, instead of too much. If the common people are
to come into their own, trade in every necessity and luxury must be
more highly integrated. The difference of the new era as regards
foreign commerce will chiefly be that nations as a whole by their
governments will conduct it instead of private traders. In other words,
foreign trade will be nationalized, in the way that social democrats
have long demanded that land and capital should be. The community will
own and control it through state agents for the common welfare. Nothing
of good which civilization has brought forth will be lost, nor will the
organization of wealth be relaxed.

Machinery will be multiplied a thousandfold. Like the human body
itself, social life must become as complex as it can without losing its
centrality. Be it remembered that the truly simple life is not gained
by meagreness of possessions and interests, but by singleness of aim
controlling a seemingly infinite number of detailed means. But this
unity dominating a multiplicity of interests is attainable only through
the entire mechanism of external government. And again, as the man
resides in all the organs of the body, but is himself no organ, and as
by the central unity of his life-energy is able to rush the white
corpuscles to any part that is wounded or poisoned, so the general
will, the community-self of the social democratic state, is beginning
to direct all the healing agencies in the body politic to the rescue of
the unfortunate. Such beneficence and benevolence, systematized and
alert, is more than civilization. It is Christianity, it is the doing
unto the least of one's fellow-men what self-interest prompts one never
to do; but its power is equal to the redemptive goodness that inspires
it. In motive and method it is not business, it is different from
trade; for it is a progeny of pity. But nevertheless, it is socialized
wealth and applied science and politics. It is government by the

When civilization has been superseded by this democratic process, which
in our century is advancing at such rapid gait, there will surely be in
the sphere of religion no more return to Nature than in that of
economics. There will be no more the worship of any one instinct or
organ, or any external object or agent. How could Carpenter have so far
forgotten his own definition of health as to applaud the primitive
ritualistic worship of the glories of the human body and the procession
of the stars? That ritual was itself the symptom of the break-up of
man's character into multiplicity, and the insubordination of specific
organs. Surely when man has gained centrality of health, he will
worship the unifying will which is dominant whenever health prevails.
He will adore the spirit which makes the many one. But men will never
gain that centrality of health until they have established this worship
of the one heart that beats in every human breast and, being inspired
with religious passion for it, have brought the entire economic order
into conformity with its behests.

_The Riverside Press_
U · S · A

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