By Edward Carpenter
In conclusion there does not seem much to say, except to accentuate certain points which may still appear doubtful or capable of being understood.
The fact that the main argument of this volume is along the lines of psychological evolution will no doubt commend it to some, while on the other hand it will discredit the book to others whose eyes, being fixed on purely MATERIAL causes, can see no impetus in History except through these. But it must be remembered that there is not the least reason for SEPARATING the two factors. The fact that psychologically man has evolved from simple consciousness to self-consciousness, and is now in process of evolution towards another and more extended kind of consciousness, does not in the least bar the simultaneous appearance and influence of material evolution. It is clear indeed that the two must largely go together, acting and reacting on each other. Whatever the physical conditions of the animal brain may be which connect themselves with simple (unreflected and unreflecting) consciousness, it is evident that these conditions—in animals and primitive man—lasted for an enormous period, before the distinct consciousness of the individual and separate SELF arose. This second order of consciousness seems to have germinated at or about the same period as the discovery of the use of Tools (tools of stone, copper, bronze, &c.), the adoption of picture-writing and the use of reflective words (like “I” and “Thou”); and it led on to the appreciation of gold and of iron with their ornamental and practical values, the accumulation of Property, the establishment of slavery of various kinds, the subjection of Women, the encouragement of luxury and self-indulgence, the growth of crowded cities and the endless conflicts and wars so resulting. We can see plainly that the incoming of the self-motive exercised a direct stimulus on the pursuit of these material objects and adaptations; and that the material adaptations in their turn did largely accentuate the self-motive; but to insist that the real explanation of the whole process is only to be found along one channel—the material OR the psychical --is clearly quite unnecessary. Those who understand that all matter is conscious in some degree, and that all consciousness has a material form of some kind, will be the first to admit this.
The same remarks apply to the Third Stage. We can see that in modern times the huge and unlimited powers of production by machinery, united with a growing tendency towards intelligent Birth-control, are preparing the way for an age of Communism and communal Plenty which will inevitably be associated (partly as cause and partly as effect) with a new general phase of consciousness, involving the mitigation of the struggle for existence, the growth of intuitional and psychical perception, the spread of amity and solidarity, the disappearance of War, and the realization (in degree) of the Cosmic life.
Perhaps the greatest difficulty or stumbling-block to the general acceptance of the belief in a third (or ‘Golden-Age’) phase of human evolution is the obstinate and obdurate pre-judgment that the passing of Humanity out of the Second stage can only mean the entire ABANDONMENT OF SELF-CONSCIOUSNESS; and this people say—and quite rightly—is both impossible and undesirable. Throughout the preceding chapters I have striven, wherever feasible, to counter this misunderstanding—but I have little hope of success. The DETERMINATION of the world to misunderstand or misinterpret anything a little new or unfamiliar is a thing which perhaps only an author can duly appreciate. But while it is clear that self-consciousness originally came into being through a process of alienation and exile and fear which marked it with the Cain-like brand of loneliness and apartness, it is equally clear that to think of that apartness as an absolute and permanent separation is an illusion, since no being can really continue to live divorced from the source of its life. For a period in evolution the SELF took on this illusive form in consciousness, as of an ignis fatuus—the form of a being sundered from all other beings, atomic, lonely, without refuge, surrounded by dangers and struggling, for itself alone and for its own salvation in the midst of a hostile environment. Perhaps some such terrible imagination was necessary at first, as it were to start Humanity on its new path. But it had its compensation, for the sufferings and tortures, mental and bodily, the privations, persecutions, accusations, hatreds, the wars and conflicts—so endured by millions of individuals and whole races—have at length stamped upon the human mind a sense of individual responsibility which otherwise perhaps would never have emerged, and whose mark can now be effaced; ultimately, too, these things have searched our inner nature to its very depths and exposed its bed-rock foundation. They have convinced us that this idea of ultimate separation is an illusion, and that in truth we are all indefeasible and indestructible parts of one great Unity in which “we live and move and have our being.” That being so, it is clear that there remains in the end a self-consciousness which need by no means be abandoned, which indeed only comes to its true fruition and understanding when it recognizes its affiliation with the Whole, and glories in an individuality which is an expression both of itself AND of the whole. The human child at its mother’s knee probably comes first to know it HAS a ‘self’ on some fateful day when having wandered afar it goes lost among alien houses and streets or in the trackless fields. That appalling experience—the sense of danger, of fear, of loneliness—is never forgotten; it stamps some new sense of Being upon the childish mind, but that sense, instead of being destroyed, becomes all the prouder and more radiant in the hour of return to the mother’s arms. The return, the salvation, for which humanity looks, is the return of the little individual self to harmony and union with the great Self of the universe, but by no means its extinction or abandonment—rather the finding of its own true nature as never before.
There is another thing which may be said here: namely, that the disentanglement, as above, of three main stages of psychological evolution as great formative influences in the history of mankind, does not by any means preclude the establishment of lesser stages within the boundaries of these. In all probability subdivisions of all the three will come in time to be recognized and allowed for. To take the Second stage only, it MAY appear that Self-consciousness in its first development is characterized by an accentuation of Timidity; in its second development by a more deliberate pursuit of sensual Pleasure (lust, food, drink, &c.); in its third by the pursuit of mental gratifications (vanities, ambitions, enslavement of others); in its fourth by the pursuit of Property, as a means of attaining these objects; in its fifth by the access of enmities, jealousies, wars and so forth, consequent on all these things; and so on. I have no intention at present of following out this line of thought, but only wish to suggest its feasibility and the degree to which it may throw light on the social evolutions of the Past.
 For an analysis of the nature of Self-consciousness see vol. iii, p. 375 sq. of the three ponderous tomes by Wilhelm Wundt—Grund-zuge der Physiologischen Psychologie—in which amid an enormous mass of verbiage occasional gleams of useful suggestion are to be found.
As a kind of rude general philosophy we may say that there are only two main factors in life, namely, Love and Ignorance. And of these we may also say that the two are not in the same plane: one is positive and substantial, the other is negative and merely illusory. It may be thought at first that Fear and Hatred and Cruelty, and the like, are very positive things, but in the end we see that they are due merely to ABSENCE of perception, to dullness of understanding. Or we may put the statement in a rather less crude form, and say that there are only two factors in life: (1) the sense of Unity with others (and with Nature)
· which covers Love, Faith, Courage, Truth, and so forth, and (2) Non-perception of the same—which covers Enmity, Fear, Hatred, Self-pity, Cruelty, Jealousy, Meanness and an endless similar list. The present world which we see around us, with its idiotic wars, its senseless jealousies of nations and classes, its fears and greeds and vanities and its futile endeavors—as of people struggling in a swamp— to find one’s own salvation by treading others underfoot, is a negative phenomenon. Ignorance, non-perception, are at the root of it. But it is the blessed virtue of Ignorance and of non-perception that they inevitably-if only slowly and painfully—DESTROY THEMSELVES. All experience serves to dissipate them. The world, as it is, carries’ the doom of its own transformation in its bosom; and in proportion as that which is negative disappears the positive element must establish itself more and more.
So we come back to that with which we began, to Fear bred by Ignorance. From that source has sprung the long catalogue of follies, cruelties and sufferings which mark the records of the human race since the dawn of history; and to the overcoming of this Fear we perforce must look for our future deliverance, and for the discovery, even in the midst of this world, of our true Home. The time is coming when the positive constructive element must dominate. It is inevitable that Man must ever build a state of society around him after the pattern and image of his own interior state. The whole futile and idiotic structure of commerce and industry in which we are now imprisoned springs from that falsehood of individualistic self-seeking which marks the second stage of human evolution. That stage is already tottering to its fall, destroyed by the very flood of egotistic passions and interests, of vanities, greeds, and cruelties, all warring with each other, which are the sure outcome and culmination of its operation. With the restoration of the sentiment of the Common Life, and the gradual growth of a mental attitude corresponding, there will emerge from the flood something like a solid earth—something on which it will be possible to build with good hope for the future. Schemes of reconstruction are well enough in their way, but if there is no ground of REAL HUMAN SOLIDARITY beneath, of what avail are they?
 See Introduction, Ch. I.
An industrial system which is no real industrial order, but only (on the part of the employers) a devil’s device for securing private profit under the guise of public utility, and (on the part of the employed) a dismal and poor-spirited renunciation—for the sake of a bare living—of all real interest in life and work: such a ‘system’ must infallibly pass away. It cannot in the nature of things be permanent. The first condition of social happiness and prosperity must be the sense of the Common Life. This sense, which instinctively underlay the whole Tribal order of the far past— which first came to consciousness in the worship of a thousand pagan divinities, and in the rituals of countless sacrifices, initiations, redemptions, love-feasts and communions, which inspired the dreams of the Golden Age, and flashed out for a time in the Communism of the early Christians and in their adorations of the risen Savior—must in the end be the creative condition of a new order: it must provide the material of which the Golden City waits to be built. The long travail of the World-religion will not have been in vain, which assures this consummation. What the signs and conditions of any general advance into this new order of life and consciousness will be, we know not. It may be that as to individuals the revelation of a new vision often comes quite suddenly, and GENERALLY perhaps after a period of great suffering, so to society at large a similar revelation will arrive—like “the lightning which cometh out of the East and shineth even unto the West”—with unexpected swiftness. On the other hand it would perhaps be wise not to count too much on any such sudden transformation. When we look abroad (and at home) in this year of grace and hoped-for peace, 1919, and see the spirits of rancor and revenge, the fears, the selfish blindness and the ignorance, which still hold in their paralyzing grasp huge classes and coteries in every country in the world, we see that the second stage of human development is by no means yet at its full term, and that, as in some vast chrysalis, for the liberation of the creature within still more and more terrible struggles MAY be necessary. We can only pray that such may not be the case. Anyhow, if we have followed the argument of this book we can hardly doubt that the destruction (which is going on everywhere) of the outer form of the present society marks the first stage of man’s final liberation; and that, sooner or later, and in its own good time, that further ‘divine event’ will surely be realized.
Nor need we fear that Humanity, when it has once entered into the great Deliverance, will be again overpowered by evil. From Knowledge back to Ignorance there is no complete return. The nations that have come to enlightenment need entertain no dread of those others (however hostile they appear) who are still plunging darkly in the troubled waters of self-greed. The dastardly Fears which inspire all brutishness and cruelty of warfare—whether of White against White or it may be of White against Yellow or Black—may be dismissed for good and all by that blest race which once shall have gained the shore --since from the very nature of the case those who are on dry land can fear nothing and need fear nothing from the unfortunates who are yet tossing in the welter and turmoil of the waves.
Dr. Frazer, in the conclusion of his great work The Golden Bough, bids farewell to his readers with the following words: “The laws of Nature are merely hypotheses devised to explain that ever-shifting phantasmagoria of thought which we dignify with the high-sounding names of the World and the Universe. In the last analysis magic, religion and science are nothing but theories [of thought]; and as Science has supplanted its predecessors so it may hereafter itself be superseded by some more perfect hypothesis, perhaps by some perfectly different way of looking at phenomena—of registering the shadows on the screen—of which we in this generation can form no idea.” I imagine Dr. Frazer is right in thinking that “a way of looking at phenomena” different from the way of Science, may some day prevail. But I think this change will come, not so much by the growth of Science itself or the extension of its ‘hypotheses,’ as by a growth and expansion of the human HEART and a change in its psychology and powers of perception. Perhaps some of the preceding chapters will help to show how much the outlook of humanity on the world has been guided through the centuries by the slow evolution of its inner consciousness. Gradually, out of an infinite mass of folly and delusion, the human soul has in this way disentangled itself, and will in the future disentangle itself, to emerge at length in the light of true FREEDOM. All the taboos, the insane terrors, the fatuous forbiddals of this and that (with their consequent heart-searchings and distress) may perhaps have been in their way necessary, in order to rivet and define the meaning and the understanding of that word. To-day these taboos and terrors still linger, many of them, in the form of conventions of morality, uneasy strivings of conscience, doubts and desperations of religion; but ultimately Man will emerge from all these things, FREE—familiar, that is, with them all, making use of all, allowing generously for the values of all, but hampered and bound by NONE. He will realize the inner meaning of the creeds and rituals of the ancient religions, and will hail with joy the fulfillment of their far prophecy down the ages—finding after all the long-expected Savior of the world within his own breast, and Paradise in the disclosure there of the everlasting peace of the soul. See “Balder,” vol. ii, pp. 306, 307. (“Farewell to Nemi.”)
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