7.3 The Relation of Beyondism to Modern Eclectic Movements, as in Communism, Humanism and Existentialism


Clarification of the values of Beyondism by bringing out contrasts with revealed, dogmatic religions has had to be brief and approximate because of space. But clarification through contrast with more recent value systems, such as Humanism, Communism, Existentialism, suffers instead through these entities being far more vaguely defined in the minds of their adherents than are the dogmas of traditional religions, precisioned by one or a thousand years of philosophical and legal interpretation.

Yet in the immediate future the competition of Beyondism for emotional acceptance is likely to be decidedly more intense with the modern "religions" of Humanism, Communism, Existentialism, etc., than with the retreating revealed religions. Despite all their emotional "deals" the revealed religions have had a forthrightness about their values. They have marched under banners emblazoned with quite uncompromising doctrines concerning sin and virtue. But in Humanism, and its somewhat remote relative, Existentialism, the values hide in an excess of literary discussion. What one needs to recognize at the outset is that though these are movements professedly shaped by the intellectual himself, and claiming to be rational and progressive, yet actually their main substantial values are a conglomerate of traditional emotional (largely Christian) values. They make no disturbing, fundamental demands for readjustment, except for a willingness to accept an ill-defined eclecticism. The breadth of their appeal springs partly from their expedient alliances with political and social movements. Thus, especially in Humanism, we see a sprawling encampment on our line of march which is relatively invulnerable to scientific analysis and attack because it is so vague as to its fundamental principles.

Originally, the humanities (and the term "Humanistic" as an occasional derivative) referred simply to classical studies, history and literature. That meaning we will leave untouched and set aside from this discussion. But meanwhile, mostly by association with the revival of the classics at the Renaissance, and their battle with medieval dogma, the term "Humanistic" took on liberal and rationalist overtones. The literary companions of Lorenzo de Medici were inclined to trace the spirit of their times back to Plato; but in fact their version lacked Plato's other-worldliness. For them Humanism meant the humane liberal acceptance of individuality, moral or not, and the belief that man is good and indeed a lesser god in his own right. (Though Lorenzo, Ficino, Poliziano and Mirandola were duly followed by Savonarola, to whom Lorenzo confessed his sins!) Today it means a ripe urbanity of viewpoint, rooted in the whole sensitivity of literature, and acting as a loose set of ethical values and guiding principles in legislation, education, international conduct and many other fields.

Its values include, centrally, an appeal to rationality, humaneness and restraint, but this does not save it from being a hash of possibly discordant fundamental principles. The rationality, however, is very frequently based on the assumption that we command without the humility of scientific investigation all the facts necessary for our personal reasoning. And its restraint has been accused (notably in the political liberal movement) of hiding a conservative tendency not to get involved in any disturing fundamentals. Granting that we cut loose entirely from the narrow academic denotation of "Humanism," merely in connection with "the humanities," and avoid, on another flank, confusion with the equally definite (and substantially different) notion "Humanitarian," the social existence of a Humanistic movement, as we use it here, remains real enough. However, not being a recorded doctrine, it would need some sort of "social opinion survey" to fix its boundaries and nature. Perhaps one can indicate these boundaries best by indicating a span of writers such as Russell, Robert Bridges, Wells, Huxley and so to Sartre and Kafka (on its existential fringes) who are everywhere recognized as "Humanistic." Thence we proceed to Fromm and many modern journalists, and so to others (Leary, Ellis, and the writers of Hippiedom) who represent a somewhat rank outgrowth. Existentialism as such, it is true has the benefit of being more precisely defined by acknowledged prophets, philosophically competent, such as Kierkegaard (1941) and Heidegger (1949). However, it is far weaker and less important as a social value movement, or a generator of ethical values, and we shall center discussion on Humanism as the bigger brother. What they have in common is the placing of intuitively felt human values an inner truth as of more primary importance than any checks on the group outcome. The last includes the structure of institutions which an ethical system generates, and the capacity of the disciples, by deeds, to meet the demands of an external reality. It is precisely in working from without inward that Beyondism differs from them both.

To judge the nature of Humanism by its acts we may note that its "voting record" includes strong support of "permissive" and "Progressive" education (the capitalized P denoting a specific historical movement), of reduction of punishments for crimes (most of punishment being alleged to have nothing but a retributive aim); the advocacy of free love and sexual satisfaction in or out of marriage; an opposition to engendering guilt (and an expressed doubt that "sin" is a useful concept); a philosophical position of moral relativism, including belief that many religious creeds are "superstitious"; and a notion that all problems that matter are solved when we have affection and equality among all men. It would be a fair condensation of various other attitudes to say, in one phrase, that it favors a substitution of the worship of man for the worship of God.

Among the threads now woven into what has become an altar cloth for many intellectuals one perceives easily enough the traces of important Christian values (though not of the theological beliefs). Such general universalistic religious tenets have been accepted, for example, as are found in Unitarianism and in classical Platonic and other philosophical values (not extending however, to German, French, Scottish and other philosophers of the nineteenth century). It warmly embraces the liberal literary and artistic, but not the independent and scientific, thinking of our day (as far as that scientific thinking has yet extended to values).

Naturally such a plexus of values has a strong appeal with the liberally educated intellectual of our day. It is more blatantly expressed by the journalistic camp followers of culture, and has been the creed of energetic young reformers for three generations. In such circles the origin in "rationality" is alone stressed; the borrowings of Humanism of its central values from a diluted, dogma-free intuitive Christianity is not admitted, and any dependence on economic history (in a Marxian or any other sense) is simply not recognized at all. An historical analysis needs to investigate this last, for there is an obvious connection of the Humanistic trend with the spread of prosperity and the dynamics of a resultantly released narcism, as glanced at in the last chapter. It has particularly been observed (Horn and Knott, 1970) that student activism today really draws its idealism from this source. The new, more radical "cutting edge" of Beyondist thought has not reached the average student, and we witness an expression of the ironic fact noted by Bolitho (1929) that a new reform movement is often embarrassed by students embracing the cast off values belonging to the preceding wave of reform[4].

No space can be given here to the parallel systematic contrast with Communist values, but this can be dispensed with because the contrasts are made at a dozen points throughout the text (e.g., pages 54 and 304). Like Humanism, they owe much to Christianity and the Judaic religions; but as far as Christianity is concerned Communism is definitely pronounced a heresy, as it would be also with respect to the political ideal of democracy if doctrinally defined.

Nor can space be given to completing, by a three cornered comparison, the corresponding contrasts of Humanism and Beyondism with revealed religions. In a Gallup poll in America, showing a 98% belief in God (falling to lower values in Europe) it was explained that in intellectual circles in the latter "old fashioned atheism" is dying and that a "sophisticated Humanism" is replacing it. Curry, an explicit propagandist for Humanism, contrasts traditional and Humanistic religion by saying that the basis of virtue is not trust in God but "Love an instinct you see in every child or animal." And the contrast of the two positions is quite consistently rounded off by his dictum: "The world must be made to fit man, not man the world," (1937). Here, and in some other features, a scientifically based religion is actually closer in values to inspired religion than to modern eclectic humanism; for it considers that the universe has a lot to teach man, and that he would be absurd trying to shape it to his pygmy mind, instead of stretching his mental stature to its demands.















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