Freedom Expanded: Book 1––The Old Biology
Part 4:6 First Category of Thinker: Those who admitted the involvement of our moral instincts and corrupting intellect in producing the upset state of the human condition
As has been emphasised, humans have known since time immemorial that our moral instincts and corrupting conscious intellect are the elements involved in producing the upset state of the human condition, but without Darwin’s insight into the process of natural selection, which revealed that instincts are only orientations, it was not possible to explain why the clash between our moral instincts and conscious intellect occurred. So when we humans shook our fist at the heavens we were basically asserting our intrinsic belief that, despite that instinctive voice within us of our moral conscience making us feel guilty for being so competitive, aggressive and selfish, we, our conscious thinking self or sense of ‘I’, was not fundamentally bad.
Mythologies’, including religions’, recognition of the involvement of our moral instincts and corrupting intellect in producing the upset state of the human condition
The elements of instinct and intellect involved in producing the upset state of the human condition are recognised in all mythologies. As mentioned in Part 4:4D, in his book Memories & Visions of Paradise, Richard Heinberg described how every mythology contains a recognition that before becoming conscious and corrupted, humans lived in an upset-free, innocent instinctive state: ‘Every religion begins with the recognition that human consciousness has been separated from the divine Source, that a former sense of oneness…has been lost…everywhere in religion and myth there is an acknowledgment that we have departed from an original…innocence…the cause of the Fall is described variously as disobedience, as the eating of a forbidden fruit, and as spiritual amnesia [alienation].’
Within Christianity, in the Bible there is a passage in Ecclesiastes that reads, ‘God made mankind upright [uncorrupted], but men have gone in search of many schemes [understandings]’ (7:29). Christ similarly spoke of a time when God ‘loved [us] before the creation of the [upset] world’ (John 17:24), and a time of ‘the glory…before the [upset] world began’ (John 17:5). The story of the Garden of Eden in the book of Genesis, which was written by Moses some 3,500 years ago, recognised the underlying elements in the human condition of instinct and intellect; in it we were told that we were ‘created…in the image of God’ (1:27), presumably meaning that we were once perfectly orientated to the cooperative, selfless, loving ideals of life, but that Adam and Eve then ate the ‘fruit…from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil’ (ibid. 3:3, 2:17) because it was ‘desirable for gaining wisdom’ (ibid. 3:6), and as a result they/we had to suffer being ‘banished…from the Garden of Eden’ (ibid. 3:23) of our species’ original state of innocence because that act brought forth the emergence of ‘sin’ (ibid. 4:7). Our upset state developed, which then had to one day be understood in order for us to become ‘like God, knowing good and evil’ (ibid. 3:3); one day we had to find understanding of the upset state of our human condition and by doing so ameliorate it and return to the cooperative, Godly ideal state. In short, when we humans became fully conscious and went in search of understanding our upset corrupted, ‘fallen’, innocence-destroyed, supposedly ‘sinful’, ‘guilty’ state emerged.
Zen Buddhism also recognises the loss of an uncontaminated, pure state as result of the intervening conscious mind, referring to ‘the affective contamination (klesha)’ or ‘the interference of the conscious mind predominated by intellection (vijnana)’ (Zen Buddhism & Psychoanalysis, D.J. Suzuki, Erich Fromm, Richard Demartino, 1960, p.20). And, as mentioned in Part 4:4D, the eighth century Greek poet Hesiod was another who referred to an innocent, upset-free, ‘Golden Age’ in our species’ past in this passage from his poem Works and Days: ‘When gods alike and mortals rose to birth / A golden race the immortals formed on earth…Like gods they lived, with calm untroubled mind / Free from the toils and anguish of our kind / Nor e’er decrepit age misshaped their frame…Strangers to ill, their lives in feasts flowed by…Dying they sank in sleep, nor seemed to die / Theirs was each good; the life-sustaining soil / Yielded its copious fruits, unbribed by toil / They with abundant goods ’midst quiet lands / All willing shared the gathering of their hands.’
Although denial-complying mechanistic science has dismissed mythological and religious assertions of a paradisal, ‘Golden Age’ in our past as nothing more than unsubstantiated, without-any-factual-base, impossible, fanciful, unscientific, romantic dreams (despite the scientific evidence provided by the bonobos), the fact that our mythologies all recognise that our distant ancestors did live in an idyllic, loving state shows that if we were prepared to think truthfully about the human condition it wasn’t too difficult to come to the realisation that our ancestors did once live in such an idyllic state that we fully conscious, highly intelligent humans have radically departed from.
The problem, however, was that at the time these mythologies were created even if we were prepared to think in a denial-free, truthful way about the issue of the human condition and, in doing so, came to the realisation that we have loving instincts and a corrupting intellect, we still would not have been in a position to explain HOW or WHY those elements of instinct and intellect produced our corrupted state. We could not have explained that the intellect is actually the hero and not the villain it’s been portrayed as in all mythologies because, as emphasised, the ability to explain the human condition wasn’t possible until Darwin presented his idea of natural selection.
Plato’s admission of the involvement of our moral instincts and corrupting intellect in producing the upset state of the human condition
As we’ve already established, Plato was an extremely honest, denial-free thinker whose mind was focused on ‘the enlightenment or ignorance of our human conditions’. Given the extreme accuracy of his description of the human race being imprisoned in a dark cave of denial, it is not surprising that he also recognised and wrote about the conflict and struggle between our ideal-behaviour-demanding instincts and our corrupting intellect. In his 360 dialogue Phaedrus, Plato described our underlying situation using the allegory of a two-horsed chariot: ‘Let the figure be composite—a pair of winged horses and a charioteer. Now the winged horses and the charioteers of the gods are all of them noble and of noble descent, but those of other races are mixed; the human charioteer drives his in a pair; and one of them is noble and of noble breed, and the other is ignoble and of ignoble breed; and the driving of them of necessity gives a great deal of trouble to him’ (tr. Benjamin Jowett). Plato was saying that in an ideal situation, specifically that of the charioteer of the ‘gods’, the instinct and intellect would be in harmony, that there would be no ‘trouble’ to have to be managed or mediated by the ‘charioteer’, the owner of those two parts—they, the instinct and the intellect, would be ‘all of them noble and of noble descent’.
Plato then said that while this would be the ideal situation the reality in all species other than humans, ‘those of other races’, is that the two elements have a ‘mixed’ influence. Clearly what he was saying was that in non-human animals the intellect has not become sufficiently developed to attempt to take over management of the animal’s behaviour—as Aldous Huxley so truthfully and insightfully said, ‘Non-rational creatures do not look before or after, but live in the animal eternity of a perpetual present; instinct is their animal grace and constant inspiration; and they are never tempted to live otherwise than in accord with their own…immanent law.’
Plato went on to say that in the case of humans, however, the ‘ignoble’ ‘horse’, which is clearly the intellect, dominates to the point of causing ‘a great deal of trouble’. He said that when we became fully conscious, the conflict within us between these main elements of instinct and intellect became such that ‘one of them is noble and of noble breed, and the other is ignoble and of ignoble breed; and the driving of them of necessity gives a great deal of trouble to him [to us, the controller or ‘charioteer’ of our instincts and intellect]’.
Further on in Phaedrus Plato returned to the two-horsed chariot allegory, elaborating that ‘one of the horses was good and the other bad…the right-hand horse is upright and cleanly made…his colour is white…he is a lover of honour and modesty and temperance…The other is a crooked lumbering animal…of a dark colour…the mate of insolence and pride, shag-eared and deaf…heedless of the [charioteer]…plunges and runs away, giving all manner of trouble to his companion and the charioteer…[until] at last, when he persists in plaguing them, they yield and agree to do as he bids them.’ This is as clear a description as we could wish for of the upset, ‘crooked lumbering’, ‘dark’, ‘mate of insolence and pride, shag-eared and deaf [alienated]’ intellect rising in defiant ‘heedless’ influence until it finally usurps management from our cooperatively orientated, ideally behaved, ‘upright and cleanly made’, ‘white’, ‘lover of honour and modesty and temperance’ original instinctive self or soul that we acquired when our ape ancestors lived in an innocent, ‘Garden of Eden’, ‘Golden’ existence.
An exceptional denial-free thinker, Plato had no trouble admitting to an innocent, ‘upright and cleanly made’, ‘Golden Age’ in humanity’s past, and he presented a flawless account of how our intellect came to challenge our ideal-behaviour-demanding instincts. But like Moses with his story of consciousness developing in the Garden of Eden, Plato was still only able to view our intellect as an evil, ‘bad’, ‘ignoble’ influence in our lives. Despite being the greatest of philosophers, Plato couldn’t explain the human condition. He could describe the situation perfectly but he still couldn’t deliver the clarifying, psychosis-addressing-and-relieving explanation—he couldn’t explain HOW we humans could be good when we appeared to be bad.
I should mention that there have been different interpretations of Plato’s two-horsed chariot analogy than the obvious one I have just given. The main denial-based misinterpretation argues that the charioteer is our reasoning mind that must learn to master and control the two horses in our make-up of our supposed savage aggressive and selfish animal instincts and wanton sexual desires. To illustrate this misinterpretation, Australia’s greatest ever educator, Sir James Darling, described how the English poet laureate Robert Bridges, in his 1927 poem The Testament of Beauty, referred to ‘Plato’s two-horsed chariot, the charioteer Reason driving the two components of man’s character, the instincts of Selfhood and Breed, or Sex’ (The Education of a Civilized Man, 1962, p.70 of 223).
Firstly, to look at Bridges’ misinterpretation of the charioteer as being our reasoning intellect. As described in Part 4:4C, we humans have been so insecure about our reasoning intellect, so unable to cope with the possibility that it has been the most destructive force the world has ever seen, so not wanting to see it as the ‘bad’ and ‘ignoble’ influence that Plato so honestly did, that we have tried to present it in the most positive light possible. In this case, Bridges has interpreted the charioteer as being our reasoning mind, the superior, noble, controlling master of our supposed brutish animal instincts and wanton sexuality, when, as has been explained, Plato’s charioteer can be none other than us, the individual resulting from the effects of both our instinct and our intellect.
Secondly, to look at Bridges’ misinterpretation of the two horses being ‘the instincts of Selfhood and Breed, or Sex’. As just mentioned in Part 4:4D, rather than admit that our human instinctive orientation was to behaving in an utterly cooperative, selfless, loving way—as the ‘good’, ‘upright and cleanly made’, ‘white’, ‘a love of honour and modesty and temperance’ that Plato so honestly acknowledged it as—many tried to blame our corrupt behaviour on supposed brutish, savage, selfish and aggressive animal instincts in our make-up, just as Bridges did when he talked about our ‘instincts of Selfhood and Breed, or Sex’. Obviously, however, neither of these supposed ‘horses’ of brutish, selfish animal instincts or wanton sexuality could be described as ‘good’, ‘upright and cleanly made’, ‘white’, ‘a love of honour and modesty and temperance’, so this interpretation cannot be right.
In his poem, Bridges tried to explain this second anomaly by saying our ‘charioteer Reason’ had to learn, through good nurturing and education, to control and master our supposed brutish animal instincts and, in so doing, both develop a moral sense and learn to convert wanton sexuality into spiritual love. However, again, Plato didn’t describe the two horses as bad and then both of them becoming good—he described one as being bad and the other good, so by this reasoning Bridges is also incorrect.
In summary, once we are familiar with the classic denials of claiming that we humans have brutish, savage, selfish, aggressive, divisive instincts, and making our intellect out to be the noble, good aspect of ourselves that has to control our barbaric instincts (when the truth was completely the reverse, namely that our instincts were noble and that the emergence of our conscious intellect was what caused all our upset), it becomes very clear that Bridges’ reasoning is a denial-based misinterpretation of Plato’s meaning.
I should include with this presentation of Plato’s analogy of the two-horsed chariot his recognition of our cooperatively orientated, all-loving instinctive self or soul. Of the more than two dozen dialogues Plato composed, The Republic and the Phaedo (both of which were written during his inspired middle period) are considered his greatest works. The dialogue in the Phaedo commenced with the assertion that humans are born with the ability to recognise what is ideal and what is not, that humans have an innate ability to know when something ‘falls short’ of, or ‘inadequately resembles’, or lacks ‘equality’ with what is ideal (Phaedo, tr. H. Tredennick). Plato went on to say that if we obtained ‘knowledge of these standards…these absolute realities, such as beauty and goodness…before our birth, and possessed it when we were born, we had knowledge, both before and at the moment of birth, not only of equality and relative magnitudes, but of all absolute standards. Our present argument applies no more to equality than it does to absolute beauty, goodness, uprightness, holiness, and, as I maintain, all those characteristics which we designate in our discussions by the term “absolute”’ (ibid). Plato was acknowledging that humans are born with not only what we now refer to as a moral ‘conscience’, an ability to recognise what is ‘right’ and ‘wrong’ behaviour—in fact, what is consistent with the ‘absolute’ of Integrative Meaning—but with an awareness of what is beautiful and what is not. Plato linked our innate awareness of ‘these absolute realities, such as beauty and goodness’ with our soul, saying, ‘it is logically just as certain that our souls exist before our birth as it is that these realities exist…[and our] soul is in every possible way more like the invariable’, which he described as ‘the pure and everlasting and immortal and changeless…realm of the absolute’. In a beautifully unambiguous statement Plato went on to say that our ‘soul resembles the divine’ (ibid).
Plato clearly had no trouble confronting and admitting that we humans have an instinctive orientation to the cooperative ideals of life. His capacity to think in a denial-free way was so great that had he known of Darwin’s idea of natural selection he would no doubt have been able to explain the human condition, explain why ‘the driving of’ the ‘two horses’ has ‘give[n] a great deal of trouble to’ us, the ‘charioteer’, and the ensuing 2,300 years of terrible bloodshed and suffering would have been avoided—but, of course, the discipline of science that led to Darwin’s great insight was only being formulated during Plato’s time; indeed, as has been explained, Plato played a significant part in its development.
The sixteenth century English parliamentarian and author Lord Brooke Fulke Greville described our human condition in these partially honest and partially dishonest terms: ‘Oh wearisome Condition of Humanity! Borne under one Law, to another bound: Vainely begot, and yet forbidden vanity, Created sicke, commanded to be sound: What meaneth Nature by these diverse Lawes? Passion and Reason, selfe-division cause’ (Mustapha, c.1594–96). Greville has been very truthful and insightful in recognising that our ‘wearisome Condition’ arises from a war between our instincts and reasoning intellect, however in using the Social Darwinist-type idea that our instincts were brutal, savage, competitive and ‘vain’, and that these ugly ‘sick’ ‘Passion[s]’ had to be controlled or ‘forbidden’ by both religious ‘command[ment]’ and ‘Reason[ing]’ thought in order for us to be ‘sound’, was a reverse of the truth lie, because it was our instincts that were ‘sound’ and the emergence of our reasoning intellect that led us to become ‘sick’.
While discussing Greville’s quote I should mention that although Aldous Huxley acknowledged how other animals live obedient to their instincts while we were tempted to challenge them, saying, ‘Non-rational creatures do not look before or after, but live in the animal eternity of a perpetual present; instinct is their animal grace and constant inspiration; and they are never tempted to live otherwise than in accord with their own dharma [law], or immanent [intrinsic] law’ (The Perennial Philosophy, 1946, p.141 of 352), unlike our mythologies and Plato, Huxley didn’t acknowledge that we humans have cooperative, idealistic, moral instincts, because he went on to say that ‘man…has no instincts to tell him what to do; [he] must rely on personal cleverness, rather than on inspiration from the divine Nature of Things’ (ibid). Huxley went further, agreeing with Greville, saying that Greville’s ‘wearisome condition of humanity’ referred to a ‘chronic civil war between passion and prudence and, on a higher level of awareness and ethical sensibility, between egotism and dawning spirituality’ (ibid).
We saw how Robert Bridges misinterpreted Plato’s honest description of the human condition as our reasoning mind having to learn to control our supposedly brutish animal instincts and our wanton sexuality. Greville and Huxley’s interpretation here, of the clash being between the ‘passion’ of ‘egotism’ and the ‘prudence’ of a ‘dawning spirituality’, is a similar denial-based misinterpretation of the real elements involved in the human condition of our ideal-behaviour-demanding instincts and our non-ideally-behaved intellect. Like Bridges and Greville, Huxley was trying to suggest that the task for us conscious, reasoning humans was to ‘pruden[tly]’ learn to control, even ‘spiritual[ly]’ aspire to transcend, our destructive ‘passion[ate]’ ‘egotism’ rather than be honest about it, confront the underlying issue of the human condition and, through doing so, explain and resolve that underlying dilemma. It is dishonest, denial-based, defensive thinking rather than honest thinking, and although defensive thinking can temporarily make us feel better about ourselves, it couldn’t bring about healing understanding. Arguing that our ‘human’ ‘condition’ is about a battle between the passion of our ego and the need for our reasoning mind to control that passion doesn’t make sense of what we all know the ‘human’ ‘condition’ to be all about, namely a battle between our moral instincts and our corruptly-behaved intellect. Also, we aren’t ‘born’ to be egocentric, rather we become egocentric as a result of the insecurity that develops in us as we grow up. And it is obviously our instinctive moral conscience that ‘command[s]’ us ‘to be sound’ and not act with ‘vanity’. Further, Greville’s discussion about the hypocrisy of our moral instincts makes it very clear it was our moral instincts that he was referring to, not our ego.
However, as mentioned in Part 4:4C, despite these dishonest, denial-based, defensive views, Huxley’s recognition that non-rational animals are obedient to their instincts and never tempted to live otherwise is a truthful acknowledgment that non-rational animals don’t disobey their instincts, which leaves the insightful inference that we rational creatures have been tempted to do so. Huxley made some real progress in thinking about the elements involved in the human condition before veering off into denial, a pattern we will shortly see also occurred in biology when scientists such as E.O. Wilson and Robert Wright set out with Darwin’s truthful biological insights only to develop biological explanations that were deeply committed to denial of the issue of the human condition, dangerously so in Wilson’s case. The truth has been bearable up to a point, after which it was deemed intolerable.
The issue of the human condition was a very difficult subject to stay thinking truthfully about. In fact, as we will see, it couldn’t be penetrated unless you were sound enough to never have become resigned to living in denial—a fact William Wordsworth acknowledged when, as will be described below, he spoke of ‘Thou best Philosopher, who yet dost keep / Thy heritage, thou Eye among the blind / That, deaf and silent, read’st the eternal deep / Haunted for ever by the eternal mind / Mighty Prophet! Seer blest! / On whom those truths do rest / Which we are toiling all our lives to find / In darkness lost, the darkness of the grave.’
William Shakespeare’s recognition of the dilemma of the human condition
In approximately 1601 the greatest of all playwrights, the Englishman William Shakespeare (c.1564-1616), had the character Hamlet, from the play of the same name, famously say: ‘What a piece of work is a man! How noble in reason! How infinite in faculty! In form and moving how express and admirable! In action how like an angel! In apprehension how like a god! The beauty of the world! The paragon of animals! And yet, to me, what is this quintessence of dust? Man delights not me’ (Hamlet, Act 2 Scene 2). While Shakespeare didn’t acknowledge the involvement of moral instincts in the dilemma of the human condition in this passage, he has recognised the core dilemma of our condition of being ‘like a god’ in our intellectual capacity for ‘apprehension’ (which is our capacity to consciously understand cause and effect and be insightful) and yet capable of behaving in such an ‘un-Godly way as to be an ‘[un]delight[ful]’, ‘quintessence of dust’, nasty ‘piece of work’. Again, the intellect is still only able to be regarded as bad or ‘un-Godly’.
William Wordsworth’s admission of the involvement of our moral instincts and corrupting intellect in producing the upset state of the human condition
Plato’s acknowledgment that our ‘soul resembles the divine’ is echoed in one of the greatest (that is, most honest) poems ever written, the English poet laureate William Wordsworth’s Intimations of Immortality from Recollections of Early Childhood (1807), in the most wonderful line, ‘But trailing clouds of glory do we come / From God, who is our home.’
As we are about to see, while Wordsworth (1770-1850) wasn’t able to explain the conflict between our moral instinctive self and newer conscious self, with this poem he did most truthfully and accurately recognise the nature of the conflict, writing, ‘High instincts before which our mortal Nature [our troubled, insecure, selfish, life-and-death-preoccupied conscious self] / Did tremble like a guilty thing surprised.’
Wordsworth began his incredible poem by bravely recalling the fabled state of cooperative harmony and enthralment that our distant ape ancestors lived in before ‘the fall’, before the emergence of our present good-and-evil-stricken state of upset—a state that children still come into the world innocently expecting, and when they don’t encounter it are deeply troubled and then psychologically forced to resign to living a life of alienating, deadening, soul-destroying denial of that magically wonderful existence. He wrote: ‘There was a time when meadow, grove, and streams / The earth, and every common sight / To me did seem / Apparelled in celestial light / The glory and the freshness of a dream / It is not now as it hath been of yore / Turn wheresoe’er I may / By night or day / The things which I have seen I now can see no more // The Rainbow comes and goes / And lovely is the Rose / The Moon doth with delight / Look round her when the heavens are bare / Waters on a starry night / Are beautiful and fair / The sunshine is a glorious birth / But yet I know, where’er I go / That there hath past away a glory from the earth.’
Wordsworth went on to describe how nature and the innocence of youth reminded him of this lost paradise, this soulful, all-loving, all-trusting and all-sensitive world that when he resigned he had to block out, live in denial of, become alienated from: ‘Thou Child of Joy / Shout round me, let me hear thy shouts, thou happy Shepherd-boy! // Ye blessed Creatures, I have heard the call / Ye to each other make; I see / The heavens laugh with you in your jubilee / …While Earth herself is adorning / This sweet May-morning / And the Children are culling / On every side / In a thousand valleys far and wide.’
Wordsworth was then reminded of his own human-condition-afflicted state of lost innocence and the associated alienation from his soul that had set in after he resigned, adding: ‘But there’s a Tree, of many, one / A single Field which I have looked upon / Both of them speak of something that is gone / …Whither is fled the visionary gleam? / Where is it now, the glory and the dream? // Our birth is but a sleep and a forgetting / The Soul that rises with us, our life’s Star / Hath had elsewhere its setting / And cometh from afar / Not in entire forgetfulness / And not in utter nakedness / But trailing clouds of glory do we come / From God, who is our home / Heaven lies about us in our infancy! / Shades of the prison-house begin to close / Upon the growing Boy / …And by the vision splendid / Is on his way attended / At length the Man perceives it die away / And fade into the light of common day / …Forget the glories he hath known / And that imperial palace whence he came.’ Note again Wordsworth’s acknowledgment that our species’ original self or soul’s instinctive memory is of a loving, harmonious existence: ‘The Soul that rises with us, our life’s Star / Hath had elsewhere its setting / And cometh from afar / Not in entire forgetfulness / And not in utter nakedness / But trailing clouds of glory do we come / From God [the representation of the integrative, cooperative, loving ideal state], who is our home.’
Most remarkably, Wordsworth proceeded to acknowledge that only a denial-free thinker or ‘prophet’ could plumb the depths of the much repressed, denied and forgotten realm where the truths needed to think effectively about the human condition reside: ‘Thou best Philosopher, who yet dost keep / Thy heritage, thou Eye among the blind / That, deaf and silent, read’st the eternal deep / Haunted for ever by the eternal mind / Mighty Prophet! Seer blest! / On whom those truths do rest / Which we are toiling all our lives to find / In darkness lost, the darkness of the grave.’ The ‘darkness lost, the darkness of the grave’, and the ‘Shades of the prison-house [that] begin to close’ that Wordsworth referred to earlier, perfectly equates with Plato’s cave existence.
Even more extraordinarily, Wordsworth went on to very truthfully and thus accurately recognise that our loss of innocence and sensitivity—the corrupted state of the human condition—was due to a clash between our original innocent instinctive self and our more recent conscious-thinking, self-managing intellectual self: ‘High instincts before which our mortal Nature / Did tremble like a guilty thing surprised.’ Again, however, what is missing is the biological explanation for WHY our conscious ‘mortal’ self was made to ‘tremble’ and feel ‘guilty’ by our moralising ‘High instincts’. He wrote: ‘But for those obstinate questionings / Of sense and outward things / Fallings from us, vanishings / Blank misgivings of a Creature / Moving about in worlds not realised / High instincts before which our mortal Nature / Did tremble like a guilty thing surprised / But for those first affections / Those shadowy recollections / Which, be they what they may / Are yet the fountain-light of all our day / Are yet a master-light of all our seeing / … Hence in a season of calm weather / Though inland far we be / Our Souls have sight of that immortal sea / Which brought us hither / Can in a moment travel thither / And see the Children sport upon the shore / And hear the mighty waters rolling evermore // Then sing, ye Birds, sing, sing a joyous song!’ Wordsworth’s reference to ‘those obstinate questionings’ is a reference to our species’ historic inability to explain the human condition, which we eventually resigned ourselves to having to stop thinking about, hence those questions are ‘Fallings from us, vanishings’, resulting in a state of alienated ‘Blank misgivings of a Creature / Moving about in worlds not realised’, in a place ‘far’ ‘inland’ from our true self or soul. Wordsworth then wrote that although we humans had to become resigned to a life of deadening, ‘blank’ denial, in rare moments when our mind managed to find some relief from the agony of the human condition—‘a season of calm weather’—we could, ‘in a moment’ of inspiration from ‘see[ing] the Children sport upon the shore’, be reconnected to the greater truth of our species’ destiny of one day finding relieving understanding of our human condition, at which time we will be able to ‘hear the mighty waters rolling evermore’—know and be able to savour the all-wonderful, true world forever, which the finding of understanding of the human condition has finally made possible.
Regarding the lines in his poem, ‘obstinate questionings / Of sense and outward things / Fallings from us, vanishings’, Wordsworth once acknowledged that he was referring to an abyss of depression that he as a boy, and in truth all adolescents, experienced when he/they tried to face down the issue of the human condition—struggled with the ‘obstinate questionings’—before resigning to a ‘blank’ life of denial, writing that ‘Nothing was more difficult for me in childhood than to admit the notion of death as a state applicable to my own being…Many times while going to school have I grasped at a wall or tree to recall myself from this abyss of idealism to the reality. At that time I was afraid of such processes. In later periods of life I have deplored, as we have all reason to do, a subjugation of an opposite character, and have rejoiced over the remembrances’ (The Fenwick Notes of William Wordsworth, dictated to Isabella Fenwick in 1843). Wordsworth’s description of having ‘grasped at a wall or tree to recall myself [bring myself back] from this abyss of [the suicidally depressing comparison of] idealism to the reality’ of a human-condition-afflicted ‘state’ of ‘being’ equivalent to ‘death’ is as powerful a description as we can hope to find of what adolescents experienced during Resignation. (Later in Parts 6:1 and 9:1, I include a picture I have drawn of this ‘abyss’ of suicidal depression that trying to think about the human condition has caused humans.)
Wordsworth concluded his absolutely extraordinary honest poem with this description of the agony of our human condition: ‘The Clouds that gather round the setting sun / Do take a sober colouring from an eye / That hath kept watch o’er man’s mortality / …To me the meanest flower that blows can give / Thoughts that do often lie too deep for tears.’ Thus the emergence of our good-and-evil-human-condition-stricken state made us red-eyed from being worried about our life’s value, meaning and worth. Wordsworth was saying that our anxiety over our mortality now is due to being insecure about our life’s value and worth—hence the reference in the poem’s title to the ‘intimations of immortality’ we had during our species’ pre-‘fallen’, pristine, innocent, uncorrupted, secure, loved-and-loving ‘early childhood’. The thoughts that became buried so deep that they were beyond the reach of our everyday emotional selves (they are ‘too deep for tears’) are the thoughts about our species’ present corrupted state that the beauty of even the plainest flower can remind us of, if we let it—if we have not practiced mentally denying and burying the issue deeply enough.
Again, that assemblage of words in Wordsworth’s great poem—‘But trailing clouds of glory do we come’—must surely be about the most beautiful description of any subject ever written, so it’s fitting that the subject the description has been reserved for also happens to be the most beautiful of subjects, namely that child within us, our species’ Garden-of-Eden-nurseried, heavenly, cooperatively-nurtured-and-orientated, original, instinctive self or soul.
Sir Laurens van der Post’s admission of the involvement of our moral instincts and corrupting intellect in producing the upset state of the human condition
Much more will be said in Parts 5:2 and 10:4 about the work of Sir Laurens van der Post, the pre-eminent philosopher of the twentieth century from South Africa, especially about his writings about the relatively innocent Bushmen people of the Kalahari desert, however, in terms of his ability to acknowledge the involvement of our moral instincts and corrupting intellect in producing the upset state of the human condition the following passage from his 1984 book Testament to the Bushmen is worth citing here. In it Sir Laurens bravely acknowledged that ‘before the dawning of individual consciousness’ humans lived in a state of ‘togetherness’—a state that he said we have had such a hunger to return to that it has been ‘like an unappeasable homesickness at the base of the human heart’. He wrote: ‘This shrill, brittle, self-important life of today is by comparison a graveyard where the living are dead and the dead are alive and talking [through our soul] in the still, small, clear voice of a love and trust in life that we have for the moment lost…[there was a time when] All on earth and in the universe were still members and family of the early race seeking comfort and warmth through the long, cold night before the dawning of individual consciousness in a togetherness which still gnaws like an unappeasable homesickness at the base of the human heart’ (pp.127-128 of 176). In an even more explicit reference, Sir Laurens also recognised the actual ‘war’ that exists between our original innocent instinctive self and our newer intellect when he wrote, ‘I spoke to you earlier on of this dark child of nature, this other primitive man within each one of us with whom we are at war in our spirit’ (The Dark Eye in Africa, 1955, p.154 of 159).
Significantly, while Sir Laurens was able to clearly recognise the ‘war’ between our original, innocent, instinctive soulful ‘child of nature’ and our newer ‘individual conscious’ intellect or ‘spirit’ he wasn’t able to explain the reason for the ‘war’. As described in Parts 5:2 and 10:4, his great vision was the ‘hope’ that by ‘reveal[ing]’ the ‘inner life’ of the ‘child’ in ‘man’ he ‘might start the first movement towards a reconciliation’, a ‘hope’ of ‘reconciliation’ that has been achieved in my book FREEDOM.
In recognising the relative innocence of the Bushmen people of the Kalahari, Sir Laurens defiantly rebelled against the practice of denial of the truth that we humans did once live in an upset-free innocent state prior to the emergence of the human condition. For example, he wrote that ‘There was indeed a cruelly denied and neglected first child of life, a Bushman in each of us’ (The Heart of The Hunter, 1961, p.126 of 233). He even described the relatively uncorrupted harmony and sensitivity of the more innocent state of the Bushman, writing that ‘He [the Bushman] and his needs were committed to the nature of Africa and the swing of its wide seasons as a fish to the sea. He and they all participated so deeply of one another’s being that the experience could almost be called mystical. For instance, he seemed to know what it actually felt like to be an elephant, a lion, an antelope, a steenbuck, a lizard, a striped mouse, mantis, baobab tree, yellow-crested cobra, or starry-eyed amaryllis, to mention only a few of the brilliant multitudes through which he so nimbly moved. Even as a child it seemed to me that his world was one without secrets between one form of being and another’ (The Lost World of the Kalahari, 1958, p.21 of 253). (Again, more will be said in Part 5:2 about science’s denial of the relative innocence of so-called ‘primitive’ races.)
In discussing these primitive states, it might be mentioned that while the English novelist and poet D.H. Lawrence (1885-1930) did not acknowledge the elements of instinct and intellect involved in the upset state of the human condition, he did bravely recognise our species’ lost state of sensitive innocence when he wrote that ‘In the dust, where we have buried / The silent races and their abominations [their confronting innocence] / We have buried so much of the delicate magic of life’ (Son of Woman: The Story of D.H. Lawrence, D.H. Lawrence, 1931, p.227 of 402). The French philosopher Jean-Jacques Rousseau (1712-1778) was another who bravely acknowledged the innocence of our original instinctive state and our present corrupted state when he wrote that ‘nothing is more gentle than man in his primitive state’ (The Social Contract and Discourses, 1755; tr. G.D.H. Cole, pub. 1913, Book IV, The Origin of Inequality, p.198 of 269) and that ‘Man is born free but is everywhere in chains’ (Le Contrat Social, 1762 [published in English as The Social Contract, 1791]).
Bruce Chatwin’s admission of the involvement of our moral instincts and corrupting intellect in producing the upset state of the human condition
In his best-selling 1987 book The Songlines, the English explorer and philosopher Bruce Chatwin bravely and honestly recognised the harmony that originally existed between our own instinct and still not fully developed intellect when he wrote that ‘[the third century theologian Origen argued that] at the beginning of human history, men were under supernatural protection, so there was no division between their divine and human natures: or, to rephrase the passage, there was no contradiction between a man’s instinctual life and his reason’ (The Songlines, 1987, p.227 of 325). Chatwin was saying that prior to our species becoming fully conscious the emerging conscious state wasn’t at odds with our instincts. Obviously the conscious mind was not sufficiently developed to challenge the instincts and take over management our life; the ‘divine’, integratively-orientated, ‘Godly’ instincts were still in control. But while Chatwin implied that a ‘contradiction’ and ‘division’ occurred when ‘reason’ developed, he still didn’t provide clarifying explanation for how and why it happened.
Also in The Songlines, Chatwin bravely acknowledges how all mythologies recognise that our species did once live in a state of innocence, writing that ‘Every mythology remembers the innocence of the first state: Adam in the Garden, the peaceful Hyperboreans, the Uttarakurus or “the Men of Perfect Virtue” of the Taoists. Pessimists often interpret the story of the Golden Age as a tendency to turn our backs on the ills of the present, and sigh for the happiness of youth. But nothing in Hesiod’s text exceeds the bounds of probability. The real or half-real tribes which hover on the fringe of ancient geographies—Atavantes, Fenni, Parrossits or the dancing Spermatophagi—have their modern equivalents in the Bushman, the Shoshonean, the Eskimo and the Aboriginal’ (p.227 of 325).
Summary of the admissions given so far of the involvement of our moral instincts and corrupting intellect in producing the upset state of the human condition
To summarise to this point, mythologies, including Moses’ 3,500 year old story of the Garden of Eden, truthfully acknowledged the two elements involved in producing the human condition: the cooperatively orientated, idealistic, innocent instincts, and the emergence of the less-than-ideally-behaved fully conscious intellect.
Over 2,300 years ago Plato similarly acknowledged these elements of the instinctive moral, ‘good’, ‘upright and cleanly made’, ‘lover of honour and modesty and temperance’, ‘white’ ‘horse’ and the rebellious, ‘trouble[some]’, ‘bad’, ‘crooked’, ‘mate of insolence and pride, shag-eared and deaf’, ‘black’ ‘horse’ of the conscious intellect.
In approximately 1595 Greville truthfully recognised that our wearisome condition arises from a war between our instincts and reasoning intellect, but denied we have cooperative and loving, moral instincts and instead dishonestly asserted we have savage competitive instincts.
Around 1601 Shakespeare, while not recognising the element of ideal-behaviour-demanding, moral instincts, did acknowledge the element of our corrupted-behaviour-producing powers of apprehension or reasoning.
In 1807 Wordsworth recognised both elements of our ideal-behaviour-demanding, moral instincts and our insecure, mortality-aware conscious mind.
In 1946 Aldous Huxley didn’t recognise the element involved of our cooperative instincts but did truthfully recognise that non-rational animals have stayed obedient to their instinctive orientations, while, by inference, we rational beings haven’t.
In the mid to late 1900s Sir Laurens van der Post recognised the war between our original pre-conscious, innocent instinctive self and our newer conscious self.
In 1987 Bruce Chatwin recognised that originally there was no contradiction between our original innocent instinctual state and our emerging rational mind.
Significantly, while considerable truth about the elements involved in the human condition was acknowledged by all the men mentioned here, none were able to explain how and why the cataclysmic clash between our instincts and intellect occurred.
Thus, in the creation of our mythologies and amongst brave contemporary thinkers there have been those who perfectly described the elements involved in the human condition. I have described Wordsworth, van der Post, Lawrence, Rousseau and Chatwin as ‘brave’ because each admitted to the truth that we humans once lived in a cooperative, harmonious, loving, innocent state—the instinctive memory of which is our moral conscience. Wordsworth acknowledged that our ‘Soul that rises with us, our life’s Star…cometh from afar…trailing clouds of glory do we come / From God, who is our home.’ Chatwin bravely admitted that ‘at the beginning of human history…[we had] divine…natures…[that were] instinctual’.
Before concluding this Part, I should mention that mythologies often expressed the truth about our species’ past state of uncorrupted innocence in story form where their meaning is not always clear. The benefit of presenting the truth in such a way was that it allowed people to recognise the truth that the mythology contained only to the extent that they were secure enough to do so. For example, even Plato’s two-horsed chariot allegory, the meaning of which is relatively unambiguous despite being presented in story form, has been interpreted in a way that avoided acknowledging that when Plato wrote of the ‘white’ ‘horse’ that was ‘noble’ and the ‘dark’ ‘horse’ which was ‘ignoble’, ‘shag-eared’ and ‘trouble[some]’, he was in fact referring to our original instinctive, cooperatively orientated, innocent self and our newer immensely upset, conscious self.