Monday, March 29, 1999

The Problem Stated





Let us call this society, whose spatial limits we have been studying, Western Christendom; and, as soon as we bring our mental image of it into focus by finding a name for it, the images and names of its counterparts in the contemporary world come into focus side by side with it, especially if we keep our attention fixed upon the cultural plane. On this plane we can distinguish unmistakably the presence in the world to-day of at least four other living societies of the same species as ours:
(i) an Orthodox Christian Society in South-Eastern Europe and Russia;
(ii) an Islamic Society with its focus in the arid zone which stretches diagonally across North Africa and the Middle East from the Atlantic to the outer face of the Great Wall of China;
(iii) a Hindu Society in the tropical sub-continent of India;
(iv) a Far-Eastern Society in the sub-tropical and temperate regions between the arid zone and the Pacific.

On closer inspection we can also discern two sets of what may appear to be fossilized relics of similar societies now extinct, namely: one set including the Monophysite Christians of Armenia, Mesopotamia, Egypt and Abyssinia and the Nestorian Christians of Kurdistan and ex-Nestorians in Malabar, as well as the Jews and the Parsees; and a second set including the Lamaistic Mahayanian Buddhists of Tibet and Mongolia and the Hinayanian Buddhists of Ceylon, Burma, Siam and Cambodia, as well as the Jains of India.

It is interesting to notice that when we turn back to the cross-section at 775 A.D. we find that the number and identity of the societies on the world map are nearly the same as at the present time. Substantially the world map of societies of this species has remained constant since the first emergence of our Western Society. In the struggle for existence the West has driven its contemporaries to the wall and entangled them in the meshes of its economic and political ascendancy, but it has not yet disarmed them of their distinctive cultures. Hard pressed though they are, they can still call their souls their own.

The conclusion of the argument, as fat as we have carried it at present, is that we should draw a sharp distinction between relations of two kinds: those between communities within the same society and those of different societies with one another.


{I.B.IV.p.40}...Why did Rome stretch her long arm towards the north-west and gather into her Empire the western corner of Transalpine Europe? Because she was drawn in that direction by her life-and-death struggle with Carthage. Why, having once crossed the Alps, did she stop at the Rhine and not push on to the better physical frontier of the Baltic, the Vistula, and the Dniestr? Because in the Augustan Age her vitality gave out after two centuries of exhausting wars and revolutions. Why did 'the barbarians' ultimately break through? Because, when a frontier between a more highly and a less highly civilized society ceases to advance at the more backward society's expense, the balance does not settle down into a stable equilibrium but declines, with the passage of time, in the more backward societies favour.1 Why, when 'the barbarians' broke through the Roman frontier, did they encounter 'the Church' on the other side? Materially, because the economic and social revolutions following the Hannibalic War had brought multitudes of slaves from the Oriental World to work in the devastated areas of the West, and this forced migration of Oriental labour had been followed by the peaceful propagation of Oriental religions through 'the Graeco-Roman World'. 2 Spiritually, because these religions, with their promise of an 'other-worldly' personal salvation, found,

1 For an examination of this phenomenon see part VIII, below.
2 For this, see further II. D (vi), vol. ii, p. 213-6, below.

{p.41} fallow fields to cultivate in the devastated souls of a 'dominant minority' which had failed, in this world, to save the fortunes of the 'Graeco-Roman' Society.1

to the student of Hellenic history, both the Christians and the barbarians would present themselves as creatures of an alien underworld—the 'internal' and 'external' proletariat,3 as he might call them, of the Hellenic Society in its last phase.4 he would point out that the great masters of Hellenic culture, down to and including Marcus Aurelius, almost ignore their existence, and that in fact they did not begin to come into existence until after the Hannibabic War. He would diagnose both the Christian Church and the Barbarian war-bands as morbid affections which only appeared in the body of the Hellenic Society after its physique

3 The word 'proletariat' is used here and hereafter in this Study to mean any social element or group which in some way is 'in' but not 'of' any given society at any given stage of such society's history. That is, it is used in the scenes of the Latin word proletarius from which it is derived. In Roman legal terminology, proletarii were citizens who had no entry against their names in the census except their progeny (proles). The following definition is given in the Compendiosa Doctrina per Litteras of Nonius Marcellinus: 'Proletarii dicti sunt plebeii qui nihil rei publicae exhibeant sed tantum prolem sufficiant.' (Quoted by Bruns, C.C., in ,i) Fontes Iuris Romani Antiqui, ed. 7 (Tübingen 1909, Mohr), Pars Posterior, p. 65.) To say that 'proletarians' contribute nothing to the community but their progeny is a euphemism for saying that the community gives them no remuneration for any other contributions that they may make (whether voluntarily of under compulsion) to the common weal. In other words, a 'proletariat' is an element of group in a community which has no 'stake' in that community beyond the fact of its physical existence. It is in this broad sense that the word 'proletariat' is used throughout this Study, and not in the specialized sense of an urban labouring population which employs the modern Western economic technique called 'Industrialism' and is employed under the modern Western economic régime called 'Capitalism'. This restricted usage of the word, which is current to-day, was given currency by Karl Marx, as one of the technical terms which he coined in order to convey the results of his study of history. More than one of these Marxian coinages have become current even among people who reject Marxian dogmas.
4 For an examination of the phenomena of 'the internal proletariat' and 'the external proletariat', see the present part, Division C(i)(a), pp. 53-62, below, and also Parts IV, V, VI, VII, and VIII, passim, especially V.C.(i)(c) 2 and 3, vol. v, pp. 58-337.

{p.42} had been permanently undermined and its character enfeebled by that great disaster...




Our researches have yielded us nineteen societies, most of them related as parent or offspring to one or more of the others: namely the Western, the Orthodox, the Iranic, the Arabic (these last two being now united in the Islamic), the Hindu, the Far-Eastern, the Hellenic, the Syriac, the Indic, the Sinic, the Minoan, the Sumeric, the Hittite, the Babylonic, the Eygptaic, the Andean, the Mexic, the Yucatec and the Mayan. We have expressed doubt as to the separate existence of the Babylonic apart from the Sumeric, and some of the other pairs might perhaps be regarded as single societies with an 'epilogue' on the Eygptaic analogy. But we will respect their individualities until we find good reason fro doing otherwise. Indeed it is probably desirable to divide the Orthodox Christian Society into an Orthodox-Byzantine and an orthodox-Russian Society. This would raise our numbers to twenty-one...


(1) Civilizations and Primitive Societies
(2) The Misconception of 'The Unity of Civilization'

The second argument against the comparability of our twenty-one civilizations is the contrary to the first. It is that there are not twenty-one distinct representatives of such a species of society but only one civilization--our own.

This thesis of unity of civilization is a misconception into which modern Western historians have been led by the influence of their own social environment. The misleading feature is the fact that, in modern times, our own Western Civilization has cast the net of its economic system all round the World, and this economic unification on a Western basis has been followed by a political unification on the same basis which has gone almost as far; for though the conquests of Western armies and governments have been neither as extensive nor as thorough as the conquests of Western manufactures and technicians, it is nevertheless a fact that all the states of the contemporary world form a part of a single political system of Western origin.

(3) The Case for the Comparability of Civilizations
(4) History, Science and Fiction



(1) The Problem Stated

What is the essential difference between the primitive and the higher societies? It does not consist in the presence or absence of institutions for institutions are the vehicles of the impersonal relations between individuals in which all societies have their existence, because even the smallest of primitive societies is built on a wider basis than the narrow circle of an individual's direct personal ties. Institutions are attributes of the whole genus "societies" and therefore common properties of both its species. Primitive societies have their institutions—the religion of the annual agricultural cycle; totemism and exogamy; tabus, initiations and age-classes; segregations of the sexes, at certain stages of life, in separate communal establishment—and some of these institutions are certainly as elaborate and perhaps as subtle as those which are characteristic of civilizations.

Nor are civilizations distinguished from primitive societies by the Division of Labour, for we can discern at least the rudiments of the Division of Labour in the lives of primitive societies also. Kings, magicians, smiths and minstrels are all "specialists" though the fact that Hephaestus, the smith of Hellenic legend, is lame, and Homer, the poet of Hellenic legends, is blind, suggests that in primitive societies specialism is abnormal and apt to be confined to those who lack the capacity to be "all-round men" or 'lacks of all trades."

{II.B.p.190} Indeed, The Division of Labour may be a necessary condition of the existence of institutions and therefore a generic feature in the lives of societies, since it is difficult to conceive how institutions could exist without in some way being embodied in the persons of particular human who are thus invested with special social functions. In primitive societies these incarnations are sometimes complete—the institutions and their human embodiments being absolutely identified with one another in the thoughts and feelings of those who participate in the social relations that are maintained by this means. In civilizations there is usually a greater ability to distinguish offices from office-holders and personalities from titles and uniforms; and there is sometimes a conscious endeavour to eliminate the personal factor and to place those essentially impersonal relations on an avowedly impersonal basis. In the United States, where official titles have been abolished and official uniforms reduced to a minimum, the ingrained desire for these outward shows has found non-official outlets—for instance, the ceremonials of private associations like the Rotarians or the Elks or the Knights of Columbus or the Daughters of the American Revolution or the Ku-Klux-Klan. In the British Empire, where 'the Crown' has been piously preserved after its powers have been transferred to half a dozen parliaments, this medieval incarnation of political unity has latterly acquired a new unforeseen institutional value as the trait d'union between the States members of the British Commonwealth of Nations. The relation in which these nations stand, and wish to stand, towards one another involves a logical antimony between the parlimentary self-government of each State member and the political unity of the Commonwealth as a whole; and hence this relation cannot be expressed in the
{p.191} logical terms of a constitutional relation between the parliaments that have severally inherited the powers once possessed by 'the Crown'. On the other hand, it can and does find expression in the incarnate institution of a personal monarch who 'reigns but does not govern' in each of his dominions.

Here we see an apparent anachronism acquiring a new value in anew age. Yet in every society institutions depend for their maintenance upon the services of specialists in some measure; and in that measure these human beings become invested with symbolic significance and prestige in their fellows' hearts and minds. This happens even in spheres of life in which tradition is at a discount. While millions of human beings who think of themselves as British subjects find their incarnations of the British Empire in the King of in the Prince of Wales, other millions who think of themselves as American citizens find their incarnations of 'Americanism' in Edison, or in Henry Ford. For almost all Westerners in our generation, the prowess of the Western Society in abstract science is incarnated in Einstein, its prowess in applied science in Marconi, its spirit of adventure in Lindbergh, its physical skill in its professional athletes, its physical strength in its professional pugilists, its physical beauty in its film-stars. It is a universal condition of social life that the majority of its members of any given society should be perpetually extending the narrow radius of their personal lives by living vicariously through the representative activities of a small number of their fellows; and the Division of labour between this majority and this minority is inherent in the nature of Society itself.

The compliment and antidote to the Division of labour is social imitation of mimesis,1 which may be defined as the acquisition, through imitation, of social 'assets'—aptitudes or emotions or ideas—which the acquisitors have not originated for themselves, and which they might never had come to possess if they had not encountered and imitated other people in whose possession these assets were already to be found. Mimesis, too is a generic feature of social life.2 Its operation can be observed both in primitive societies and in civilizations. It operates, however, in different

1 In this study, the Greek word (μίμησις from μιμεîσθαι) is used in order to avoid the connotations of 'unintelligent imitation' or 'satirical imitation' which attach to the derivative English word 'mimicry'. Mimesis, as used here, denotes social imitation 'without prejudice'.
2 The historical importance of mimesis was discerned by David Hume, as witness the following passage in his essay Of National Characters: The human mind is of a very imitative nature; nor is it possible for any set of men to converse often together without acquiring a similitude of manners and communication to each other their vices as well as their virtues. The propensity to company and society is strong in all rational creatures; and the same disposition which gives us this propensity makes us enter deeply into each other's sentiments and causes like passions and inclinations to run, as it were, by contagion through the whole club or knot of companions.'

{p.192} directions of the two species. In primitive societies, as we know them, mimesis is directed towards the older generation of the living members, and towards the dead ancestors who stand, unseen but not unfelt, at the back of the living elders, reinforcing their power and enhancing their prestige. In a society where mimesis is thus directed backward towards the past, custom rules and the society remains static. On the other hand, in societies in process of civilization, mimesis is directed towards creative personalities which command a following because they are pioneers on the road towards the common goal of human endeavours. In a society where mimesis is thus directed forward towards the future, 'the cake of custom', 1 is broken and the Society is in dynamic motion along a course of change and growth.

1 Bagehot, W.: Physics and Politics, 10th edition (London 1894, Kegan Paul), pp. 27 and 35.

But if we ask ourselves whether this difference between primitive and higher societies is permanent and fundamental, we must answer in the negative; for, if we only know primitive societies in a static condition, that is because we know them from direct observation only in the last phases of their histories. Yet, though direct observation fails us, a train of reasoning informs us that there must have been earlier phases in the histories of primitive societies in which these were moving more dynamically than any 'civilized' society has moved yet. We have said that primitive societies are as old as the human race, but we should more properly have said that they are older. Social and institutional life of a kind is found among some of the higher mammals other than man, and it is clear that mankind could not have become human except in a social environment. This mutation of sub-man into man, which was accomplished, in circumstances of which we have no record, under the aegis of primitive societies, was a more profound change, a greater step in growth, than any progress which man has yet achieved under the aegis of civilization.

Primitive societies, as we know them by direct observation, may be likened to people lying torpid upon a ledge on a mountain-side, with a precipice below and a precipice above; civilizations may be likened to companions of these sleepers who have just risen to their feet and have started to climb up the face of the cliff above; while we for our part may liken ourselves to observers whose field of vision is limited to the ledge and to the lower slopes of the upper precipice and who have come upon the scene at the moment when the different members of the party happen to be in these respective postures and positions. At first sight we may be inclined to draw an absolute distinction between the two groups, acclaiming the climbers as athletes and dismissing the recumbent figures as paralytics; but on second thoughts we shall find it more prudent to suspend judgment.

After all the recumbent figures cannot be paralytics in reality; for they cannot have been horn on the ledge, and no human muscles except their own can have hoisted them to this halting-place up the face of the precipice below. On the other hand, their companions who are climbing at the moment have only just left this same ledge and started to climb the precipice above; and, since the next ledge is out of sight, we do not know how high or how arduous the next pitch may be. We only know that it
is impossible to halt and rest before the next ledge, wherever that may lie, is reached. Thus, even if we could estimate each present climber's strength and skill and nerve, we could not judge whether any of them have any prospect of gaining the ledge above, which is the goal of their present endeavours. We can, however, be sure that some of them will never attain it. And we can observe that, for every single one now strenuously climbing, twice that number (our extinct civilization) have fallen back onto the ledge, defeated.

This alternating rhythm of static and dynamic, of movement and pause and movement, has been regarded by many observers in many different ages as something fundamental in the nature of the Universe. In their pregnant imagery the sages of the Sinic[4] Society described these alternations in terms of Yin and Yang -- Yin the static and Yang the dynamic. The nucleus of the Sinic character which stands for Yin seems to represent dark coiling clouds overshadowing the Sun, while the nucleus of the character which stands for Yang seems to represent the unclouded sun-disk emitting its rays. In the Chinese formula Yin is always mentioned first, and within our field of vision, we can see that our breed, having reached the "ledge" of primitive human nature 300,000 years ago, has reposed there for ninety-eight per cent of that period before entering on the Yang-activity of civilization. We have now to seek for the positive factor, whatever it may be, which has set human life in motion again by its impetus.


(1) The Mythological Clue

An encounter between two superhuman personalities is the plot of some of the greatest dramas that the human imagination has conceived. An encounter between Yahweh[5] and the Serpent is the plot of the story of the Fall of Man in the Book of Genesis; a second encounter between the same antagonists, transfigured by a progressive enlightenment of Syriac souls, is the plot of the New Testament which tells the story of the Redemption; an encounter between the Lord and Satan is the plot of the Book of Job; an encounter between the Lord and Mephistopheles is the
plot of Goethe's Faust; an encounter between Gods and Demons is the plot of the Scandinavian Voluspa[6] an encounter between Artemis and Aphrodite[7] is the plot of Euripides' Hippolytus.

We find another version of the same plot in that ubiquitous and ever-recurring myth -- a "primordial image" if ever there was one -- of the encounter between the Virgin and the Father of her Child. The characters in this myth have played their allotted parts on a thousand different stages under an infinite variety of names: Danae and the Shower of Gold; Europa and the Bull; Semele the Stricken Earth and Zeus the Sky that launches the thunderbolt; Creusa and Apollo in Euripides' Ion; Psyche and Cupid; Gretchen and Faust. The theme recurs, transfigured, in the Annunciation. In our own day in the West this protean myth has re-expressed itself as the last word of our astronomers on the genesis of the planetary system, as witness the following credo:

"We believe…that some two thousand million years ago…a second star, wandering blindly through space, happened to come within hailing distance of the Sun. Just as the Sun and Moon raise tides on the Earth, this second star must have raised tides on the surface of the Sun. But they would be very different from the puny tides which the small mass of the Moon raises in our oceans; a huge tidal wave must have travelled over the surface of the Sun, ultimately forming a mountain of prodigious height, which would rise ever higher and higher as the cause of the disturbance came nearer and nearer. And, before the second star began to recede, its tidal pull had become so powerful that this mountain was torn to pieces and threw off small fragments of itself, much as the crest of a wave throws off spray. These small fragments have been circulating round their parent sun ever since. They are the planets, great and small, of which our Earth is one."[8]

Thus out of the mouth of the mathematical astronomer, when all his complex calculations are done, there comes forth, once again, the myth of the encounter between the Sun Goddess and her ravisher that is so familiar a tale in the mouths of the untutored children of nature.

The presence and potency of this duality in the causation of the civilizations whose genesis we are studying is admitted by a Modern Western archaeologist whose studies begin with a concentration on environment and end with an intuition of the mystery of life:

"Environment … is not the total causation in culture-shaping. …It is, beyond doubt, the most conspicuous single factor. …But there is still an indefinable factor which may best be designated quite frankly as x, the unknown quantity, apparently psychological in kind. …If x be not the most conspicuous factor in the matter, it certainly is the most important, the most fate4aden."[9]

In our present study of history this insistent theme of the superhuman encounter has asserted itself already. At an early stage we observed that "a society … is confronted in the course of its life by a succession of problems" and that "the presentation of each problem is a challenge to undergo an ordeal."

Let us try to analyse the plot of this story or drama which repeats itself in such different contexts and in such various forms. We may begin with two general features: the encounter is conceived of as a rare and sometimes as a unique event; and it has consequences which are vast in proportion to the vastness of the breach which it makes in the customary course of nature.

Even in the easy-going world of Hellenic mythology, where the gods saw the daughters of men that they were fair, and had their way with so many of them that their victims could be marshalled and paraded in poetic catalogues, such incidents never ceased to be sensational affairs and invariably resulted in the births of heroes. In the versions of the plot in which both parties to the encounter are superhuman, the rarity and momentousness of the event are thrown into stronger relief. In the Book of Job, "the day when the Sons of Cod came to present themselves before the Lord, and Satan came also among them," is evidently conceived of as an unusual occasion; and so is the encounter between the
Lord and Mephistopheles in the "Prologue in Heaven" (suggested, of course, by the opening of the Book of Job) which starts the action of Goethe's Faust. In both these dramas the consequences on Earth of the encounter in Heaven are tremendous. The personal ordeals of Job and Faust represent, in the intuitive language of fiction, the infinitely multiple ordeal of mankind; and, in the language of theology, the same vast consequence is represented as following from the superhuman encounters that are portrayed in the Book of Genesis and in the New Testament. The expulsion of Adam and Eve from the Garden of Eden, which follows the encounter between Yahweh and the Serpent, is nothing less than the Fall of Man; the passion of Christ in the New Testament is nothing less than Man's Redemption. Even the birth of our planetary system from the encounter of two suns, as pictured by our modern astronomer, is declared by the same authority to be "an event of almost unimaginable rarity."

In every case the story opens with a perfect state of Yin. Faust is perfect in knowledge; Job is perfect in goodness and prosperity; Adam and Eve are perfect in innocence and ease; the Virgins -- Gretchen, Danae and the rest -- are perfect in purity and beauty. In the astronomer's universe the Sun, a perfect orb, travels on its course intact and whole. When Yin is thus complete, it is ready to pass over into Yang. But what is to make it pass? A change in a state which, by definition, is perfect after its kind can only he started by an impulse or motive which comes from outside. If we think of the state as one of physical equilibrium, we must bring in another star. If we think of it as one of psychic beatitude or nirvana,[10] we must bring another actor on to the stage: a critic to set the mind thinking again by suggesting doubts; an adversary to set the heart feeling again by instilling distress or discontent or fear or antipathy. This is the role of the Serpent in Genesis, of Satan in the Book of Job, or Mephistopheles in Faust, of Loki in the Scandinavian mythology, of the Divine Lovers in the Virgin myths.

In the language of science we may say that the function of the intruding factor is to supply that on which it intrudes with a stimulus of the kind best calculated to evoke the most potently creative variations. In the language of mythology and theology, the impulse or motive which makes a perfect Yin-state pass over into new Yang-activity comes from an intrusion of the Devil into the universe of God. The event can best be described in these mythological images because they are not embarrassed by the contradiction that arises when the statement is translated into logical terms. In logic, if God's universe is perfect, there cannot he a Devil outside it, while, if the Devil exists, the perfection which he comes to spoil must have been incomplete already through the very fact of his existence. This logical contradiction, which cannot be logically resolved, is intuitively transcended in the imagery of the poet and prophet, who give glory to an omnipotent God yet take it for granted that He is subject to two crucial limitations.

The first limitation is that, in the perfection of what He has created already, He cannot find an opportunity for further creative activity. If God is conceived of as transcendent, the works of creation are as glorious as ever they were but they cannot "be changed from glory into glory." The second limitation on God's power is that when the opportunity for fresh creation is offered to Him from outside He cannot but take it. When the Devil challenges Him He cannot refuse to take the challenge up. God is bound to accept the predicament because He can refuse only at the price of denying His own nature and ceasing to be God.

If God is thus not omnipotent in logical terms, is He still
mythologically invincible? If He is bound to take up the Devil's
challenge, is He also bound to win the ensuing battle? In Euripides' Hippolytus, where God's part is played by Artemis and the Devil's by Aphrodite, Artemis is not only unable to decline the combat but is foredoomed to defeat. The relations between the Olympians are anarchic and Artemis in the epilogue can console herself only by making up her mind that one day she will play the Devil's role herself at Aphrodite's expense. The result is not creation but destruction. In the Scandinavian version destruction is likewise the outcome in Ragnarok[11] - when "Gods and Demons slay and are slain" -- though the unique genius of the author of Voluspa makes his Sibyl's vision pierce the gloom to behold the light of a new dawn beyond it. On the other hand, in another version of the plot, the combat which follows the compulsory acceptance of the challenge takes the form, not of an exchange of fire in which the Devil bas the first shot and cannot fail to kill his man, but of a wager which the Devil is apparently hound to lose. The classic works in which this wager motif is worked out are the Book of Job and Goethe's Faust.

It is in Goethe's drama that the point is most clearly made. After the Lord has accepted the wager with Mephistopheles in Heaven, the terms are agreed on Earth, between Mephistopheles and Faust, as follows:

Comfort and quite-no, no! None of these
For me-I ask them not-I seek them not.
If ever I upon the bed of sloth
Lie down and rest, then be the hour in which
I so lie down and rest my last of life.
Canst thou by falsehood or by flattery
Delude me into self-complacent ~miles,
Cheat me into tranquillity? Come then,
And welcome, life's last day-he this our wager.


Done, say I: clench we at once the bargain.
Soothing my spirits in such oblivion
That in the pleasut trance I would arrest
And hail the happy moment in its course,
Bidding it linger with me. …
Then willingly do I consent to perish.[12]

The bearing of this mythical compact upon our problem of the genesis of civilizations can he brought out by identifying Faust, at the moment when he makes his bet, with one of those "awakened sleepers" who have risen from the ledge on which they had been lying torpid and have started to climb on up the face of the cliff. In the language of our simile, Faust is saying: "I have made up my mind to leave this ledge and climb this precipice in search of the next ledge above. In attempting this I am aware that I am leaving safety behind me. Yet, for the sake of the possibility of achievement, I will take the risk of a fall and destruction."

In the story as told by Goethe the intrepid climber, after an ordeal of mortal dangers and desperate reverses, succeeds in the end in scaling the cliff triumphantly. In the New Testament the same ending is given, through the revelation of a second encounter between the same pair of antagonists, to the combat between Yahweh and the Serpent which, in the original version in Genesis, had ended rather in the manner of the combat between Artemis and Aphrodite in the Hippolytus.

In Job, Faust and the New Testament alike it is suggested, or even declared outright, that the wager cannot be won by the Devil; that the Devil, in meddling with God's work, cannot frustrate but can only serve the purpose of God, who remains master of the situation all the time and gives the Devil rope for the Devil to hang himself. Then has the Devil been created? Did God accept a wager which He knew He could not lose? That would be a hard saying; for if it were true the whole transaction would have been a sham. An encounter which was no encounter could not produce the consequences of an encounter -- the vast cosmic consequence of causing Yin to pass over into Yang. Perhaps the explanation is that the wager which the Devil offers and which Cod accepts covers, and thereby puts in real jeopardy, a part of God's creation but not the whole of it. The part really is at stake; and, though the whole is not, the chances and changes to which the part is exposed cannot conceivably leave the whole unaffected. In the language of mythology, when one of God's creatures is tempted by the Devil, God Himself is thereby given the opportunity to re-create the World. The Devil's intervention, whether it succeeds or fails on the particular issue and either result is possible -- has accomplished that transition from Yin to Yang for which God has been yearning.

As for the human protagonist's part, suffering is the keynote of it in every presentation of the drama, whether the player of the part is Jesus or Job or Faust or Adam and Eve. The picture of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden is a reminiscence of the Yin-state to which primitive man attained in the food-gathering phase of economy, after he had established his ascendancy over the rest of the flora and fauna of the Earth. The Fall, in response to the temptation to eat of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil, symbolizes the acceptance of a challenge to abandon this achieved integration and to venture upon a fresh differentiation out of which a fresh integration may -- or may not -- arise. The expulsion from the Garden into an unfriendly world in which the Woman must bring forth children in sorrow and the Man must eat bread in the sweat of his face, is the ordeal which the acceptance of the Serpent's challenge has entailed. The sexual intercourse between Adam and Eve, which follows, is an act of social creation. It bears fruit in the birth of two sons who impersonate two nascent civilizations: Abel the keeper of sheep and Cain the tiller of the ground.

In our own generation, one of our most distinguished and original-minded students of the physical environment of human life tells the same story in his own way:

"Ages ago a band of naked, houseless, fireless savages started from their warm home in the torrid zone and pushed steadily northward from the beginning of spring to the end of summer. They never guessed that they had left the land of constant warmth until in September they began to feel an uncomfortable chill at night. Day by day it grew worse. Not knowing its cause, they travelled this way or that to escape. Some went southward, but only a handful returned to their former home. There they resumed the old life, and their descendants are untutored savages to this day. Of those who wandered in other directions, all perished except one small band. Finding that they could not escape the nipping air, the members of this band used the loftiest of human faculties, the power of conscious invention. Some tried to find shelter by digging in the ground, some gathered branches and leaves to make huts and warm beds, and some wrapped themselves in the skins of the beasts that they had slain. Soon these savages had taken some of the greatest steps towards civilization. The naked were clothed; the houseless sheltered; the improvident learnt to dry meat and store it, with nuts, for the winter; and at last the art of preparing fire was discovered as a means of keeping warm. Thus they subsisted where at first they thought that they were doomed. And in the process of adjusting themselves to a hard environment they advanced by enormous strides, leaving the tropical part of mankind far in the rear.[13]

A classical scholar likewise translates the story into the scientific terminology of our age:
"It is ... a paradox of advancement that, if Necessity be the mother of Invention the other parent is Obstinacy, the determination that you will go on living under adverse conditions rather than cut your losses and go where life is easier. It was no accident, that is, that civilization, as we know it, began in that ebb and flow of climate, flora and fauna which characterizes the fourfold Ice Age. Those primates who just 'got out' as arboreal conditions wilted retained their primacy among the servants of natural law, but they forewent the conquest of nature. Those others won through, and became men, who stood their ground when they were no more trees to Sit in, who 'made do' with meat when fruit did not ripen, who made fires and clothes rather than follow the sunshine; who fortified their lairs and trained their young and vindicated the reasonableness of a world that seemed so reasonless."[14]

The first stage, then, of the human protagonist's ordeal is a
transition from Yin to Yang through a dynamic act - performed by God's creature under temptation from the Adversary -- which enables God Himself to resume His creative activity. But this progress has to be paid for; and it is not God but God's servant, the human sower, who pays the price. Finally, after many vicissitudes, the sufferer triumphant serves as the pioneer. The human protagonist in the divine drama not only serves God by enabling Him to renew His creation but also serves his fellow men by pointing the way for others to follow.

(2) The Myth Applied To The Problem

The Unpredictable Factor

By the light of mythology we have gained some insight into the nature of challenges and responses. We have come to see that creation is the outcome of an encounter, that genesis is a product of interaction. …We shall no longer be surprised if, in the production of civilizations, the same race or the same environment appears to be fruitful in one instance and sterile in another. …We shall be prepared now to recognize that, even if we were exactly acquainted with all the racial, environmental, and other data that are capable of being formulated scientifically, we should not be able to predict the outcome of the interaction between the forces which these data represent, any more than a military expert can predict the outcome of a battle or campaign from an "inside knowledge" of the dispositions and resources and both the opposing general staffs, or a bridge expert the outcome of a game from a similar knowledge of all the cards in every hand.

In both these analogies "inside knowledge" is not sufficient to enable its possessor to predict results with any exactness or assurance because it is not the same thing as complete knowledge. There is one thing which must remain an unknown quantity to the best-informed onlooker because it is beyond the knowledge of the combatants, or players, themselves; and it is the most important term in the equation which the would-be calculator has to solve. This unknown quantity is the reaction of the actors to the ordeal when it actually comes. These psychological momenta, which are inherently impossible to weigh and measure and therefore to estimate scientifically in advance, are the very forces which actually decide the issue when the encounter takes place. And that is why the very greatest military geniuses have admitted an incalculable element in their successes. If religious, they have attributed their victories to God, like Cromwell; if merely superstitious, to the ascendancy of their "star," like

[1] The Greek god of fire, metallurgy, and and craftsmanship.

[2] Something important to remember, a significant reservation.

[3] Nineteenth-century economist.

[4] "Sinic" refers to the Chinese.

[5] Jehovah.

[6] An ancient epic poem in Old Norse.

[7] The play by Euripides focuses on Aphrodite's (the goddess of love)
revenue against Hippolytus, who was vowed to chastity as a follower of
Artemis (Diana).

[8] Sir James Jeans, The Mysterious Universe (Cambridge:
Cambridge University Press, 1930), pp.1-2.

[9] P. A. Means, Ancient Civilizations of the Andes (New York and
London: Scribners, 1931), pp.25-26.

[10] In Buddhism, a state of enlightenment free from passion and

[11] In the Volupsa, a destructive battle between the gods and
the powers of evil led by Loki, gives way to a vision (by the Sibyl,
Voluspa) of a world resurrected through the efforts of the god Balder,
where the sole surviving human beings, called "Life" and "Desiring
Life" repopulate the earth.

[12] Faust, 11. 1692-1706 (John Anster's translation).

[13] Ellsworth Huntington, Civilization and Climate, 3rd
edition (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1924), pp.405-406.

[14] J. L. Myers, Who Were the Greeks? (Berkeley: University of
California Press, 1930), pp. 277-278.



(1) The Stimulus of Hard Countries
(2) The Stimulus of New Ground
(3) The Stimulus of Blows
(4) The Stimulus of Pressures
(5) The Stimulus of Penalizations


(1) Enough and Too Much
(2) Comparisons in Three Terms

Non the less , it can be proved that challenges can be too severe: i.e. the maximum challenge will not always produce the optimum response. The Viking emigrants from Norway responded splendidly to the severe challenge of Iceland but collapsed before the severer challenge of Greenland. Massachusetts presented European colonists with a severer challenge than 'Dixie' and evoked a better response, but Labrador, presenting a severer challenge still, proved too much for them. Other examples follow: e.g. the stimulus of blows can be severe, especially if prolonged, as in the effect of the Hannibalic War on Italy. The Chinese are stimulated by the social challenge involved in emigrating to Malaya but are defeated by the severer social challenge of a white man's country, e.g. California. Finally, varying degrees of challenge presented by civilizations to neighboring barbarians are reviewed.

(3) Two Abortive Civilizations

(4) The Impact of Islam on the Christendoms

Ibn Khaldūn

{III.C.II.(b), p. 321} The last member of our Pleiad of historians is 'Abd-ar-Rahman ibn Muhammad ibn Khaldun al-Hadrami of Tunis (vivebat A.D. 1332-1406) - an Arabic genius who achieved in a single 'acquiescence' of less than four years' length, out of a fifty-four years' span of adult working life, a life-work in the shape of a piece of literature which can bear comparison with the work of a Thucydides or the work of a Machiavelli for both breadth and profundity of vision as well as for sheer intellectual power. Ibn Khaldun's star shines the more brightly by contrast with the foil of darkness against which it flashes out; for while Thucydides and Machiavelli and Clarendon are all brilliant representatives of brilliant times and places, Ibn Khaldun is the sole point of light in his quarter of the firmament. He is indeed the one outstanding personality in the history of a civilization whose social life on the whole was 'solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short'.1 In his chosen field of intellectual activity he appears to have been inspired by no predecessors2 and to have found no kindred souls among his contemporaries and to have kindled no answering spark of inspiration in any successors; and yet, in the Prolegomena (Muqaddimat) to his Universal History he has conceived and formulated a philosophy of history which is undoubtedly the greatest work of its kind that has ever yet been created by any mind in any time or place. It was his single brief 'acquiescence' from a life of practical activity that gave Ibn Khaldun his opportunity to cast his creative thought into literary shape.

Ibn Khaldun was born into the Arabic World in an age when the infant Arabic Civilization was struggling (as it proved, in vain) to bring order out of the chaos which was its legacy from a recent social interregnum. This interregnum (circa A.D. 975-1275) had been the sequel to the break-up of the Umayyad and 'Abbasid Caliphates, which had been the final embodiments of the Syriac universal state; and at the western extremity of the derelict Syriac World - in North-West Africa and in the Iberian Peninsula - the last vestiges of the old order had been swept away by a conflux of barbarians from three continents: European Asturians and Franks from the Pyrenees; African Nomads from the Sahara3 and highlanders from the Atlas4 who made themselves a name as the 'Berbers' par excellence;5 and Asiatic Arab Badu from the North Arabian Steppe who were perhaps the most barbarous and destructive of them all.

The destruction which these barbarians had worked was brought home to Ibn Khaldun by his family history as well as by his personal experience. The Khalduns were a prominent house of the aristocracy of Seville6 who had emigrated from Andalusia to Africa, about a century before 'Abd-ar-Rahman ibn Khaldun's birth, in anticipation of the conquest of Seville by the Castilians;7 and in the

1 The famous description of the life of Primitive Man in the State of Nature which is given by Thomas Hobbe. in Leviathan, part i, ch. 13. For the history of the Arabic Civilization into which Ibn Khaldun happened to be born, see I. C (i) (6), vol. i, pp. 70-2, with Annex I, above.

2 The education which he received from hs. masters of whom he gives an account in his Autobiography seems to have been exceedingly thorough but entirely scholastic. (Stt tilt ftlt\..l\t P&%"~, in Frwch t~$latioo, in Ibn Khaldun: Muqaddimah, trans- Istcd by de Slane, McG. (Pari. 1863-8, Imprimerie Imperiale, 3 vol..), vol. i, Introduction, pp. xix-xxvi.)

3 The Muribits.

4 The Muwahhids.

5 See II. D (v), vol. ii, p. 204, above.

6 By origin, the family were Yamania from the Hadramawt who had migrated to Andalusia, after the Umayyad conquest, in one of the military colonies which were then drafted out to the Iberian Peninsula from the live garrison. of Arab troopasin Syria (de Slane, op. cit., vol. i, pp. ix-x).

7 Ibn Khaldun, in his Autobiography (translation in de Slane, op. cit., vol. i, p. xv), mentions that his ancestors migrated from Seville to Ceuta some twenty year. before the fall of Cordova (A.D. 1236), Cannona (A.D. 1243), Seville (A.D. 1244), and Jaen (A.D. 1246).

family's new home in Ifriqiyah 'Abd-ar-Rahman, comparing the local conditions in his own generation, as he saw them, with the descriptions of Ifriqiyah in earlier ages which he read in historical works, was evidently impressed by the greatness of the contrast between present and past and was convinced that the immense change for the worse which had taken place within the last three centuries was the handiwork of the Arab Badawi tribes - the Banu Hilal and the Banu Sulaym - who had been unleashed in A.D. 1051 upon a rebellious Maghrib by the Fatimid rulers of Syria and Egypt.

'lfriqiyah and the Maghrib',1 he writes, care suffering still from their devastation by the Arabs. The Banu Hilal and the Sulaym broke their way in during the fifth century of the Hijrah [the 11Ith century of the Christian Era]; and they have continued to wreak their fury on these countries for three centuries and a half, Hence devastation and solitude still reign there. Before this invasion, the whole region extending from the [Western] Sudan to the Mediterranean was thickly populated: the traces of an ancient civilization, the debris of monuments and buildings, the ruins of towns and villages, are there to testify to the fact.'2

Ibn Khaldun was conscious of the difference between this purely destructive Arab invasion during the post-Syriac interregnum and the movement which, some three or four centuries earlier, had brought his own ancestors westward from the Hadramawt to AndaIusia. For these Arab emissaries of the Umayyads had come to the Maghrib not to destroy but to fulfil. They had come to step into the shoes of the previous Roman garrisons and Roman officials and to retrieve for the ancient Syriac Society, in its latter days, the former colonial domain of which it had been deprived during eight or nine centuries of alien rule,3

'After the preaching of Islam,' Ibn Khaldun observes, 'the Arab armies penetrated into the Maghrib and captured all the cities of the country; but they did not establish themselves there as tent-dwellers or as Nomads, since their need to make sure of their dominion in the

1In Ihe language of Arabic political geography, the Maghrib (i.e., 'the West') means in a general way the whole of the Arabic World west of Egypt, though the term is apt to be confined to the Arabic domain in North-West Africa to the exclusion of the Arabic domain in the Iberian Peninsula (Andalus). Maghrib aI-Aqsa (i.e., 'the Far West') means Morocco. Ifriqiyah (an Arabization of the Latin name' Africa') means a region of rather wider extent than the modern Tunisia in which urban and agricultural life had the ascendancy over Nomadism The successive capitals of Ifriqiyah have been Carthage, Qayrawan, Mahdiyah, and Tunis.

2 Ibn Khaldun: Muqaddamat, translation by de Slane, vol, i, p. 312. Cp. pp. 66-7.

3The Syriac culture had been planted on the coasts of North-West Africa and Spain by Phoenician colonists from about the ninth century B.C. onwards. The interval of alien rule between the end of the Carthaginian regime and the beginning of the Umayyad regime had lasted in Spain from the close of the third century B.C. to the beginning of the eighth century of the Christian Era, and in Africa from the middle of the second century B.C. to the middle of the seventh century of the Christian Era.


Maghrib compelled them to keep to the towns. So in the Maghrib at this stage the Arabs did not occupy the open country. It was not until the fifth century of the Hijrah that they came to take up their abode there and to spread tribe-wise in order to camp allover this immense region.'1

The first of the two passages here quoted from the Universal History of Ibn Khaldun occurs in a chapter2 which is perhaps the most crushing indictment of Nomad rule over sedentary populations that has ever been delivered from the mouth of a first-hand witness.3 But the thought which had been set in motion in Ibn Khaldun's mind by his apprehension of the ruin which the Nomads had brought upon the Maghrib did not come to a standstill here. It moved on, with a gathering momentum, to contemplate the contrast between the Nomadic and the sedentary way of life and to analyze the nature of each; to ponder over the group-feeling or sense of social solidarity or esprit de corps ('asabiyah) which is the Nomad's psychological response to the challenge of life in the desert; to trace out a connexion of cause and effect between esprit de corps and empire-building and between empire-building and religious propaganda; and thence to broaden out until at last it embraced, in a panoramic vision, the rises and falls of empires and the geneses and growths and breakdowns and disintegrations of civilizations.4

This mighty tree of thought, with its towering stem and symmetrically branching boughs and delicate tracery of twigs was the eventual outcome of the seedling that germinated in the young 'Abd-ar-Rahman's mind under the early impression of the contrast between present and past in his native Ifriqiyah. But Ibn Khaldun did not begin his career by sitting down to put these burgeoning thoughts into order. It seemed a more pressing task to be putting some rudiments of order into the struggling, chaotic social life of

1Ibn Khaldun: A History of the Berbers = A Universal History, vols. vi and vii, French translation by de Slane (Algiers 1852-6, 4 vols.), vol. i, p. 28. The passage here quoted is taken for the text of his tenth chapter by Gautier, E. F. : Les Siecles Obscurs du Maghreb (Paris 1927, Payot). See further Marcais, G.: Les Arabes en Berberie du XI au XIV. Siecle (Paris 1913, Leroux).

2Ibn Khaldun: Muqaddamat, Bk. I, section ii, ad fin. The chapter-headings speak for themselves: 'Every country that is conquered by Arabs rapidly goes to ruin'; 'In general, Arabs are incapable of founding an empire unless they have received a tincture of religion of a certain strength from some prophet or saint' ; 'Of all peoples, Arabs are the least capable of governing an empire.'

3The indictment is the more remarkable when we consider that the particular Nomads at whose expense Ibn Khaldun makes his argumentum ad hominem shared the name of Arab with the author himself; but perhaps it is actually this ostensible kinship which inspires Ibn Khaldun with his animus against the Banu Hilal; for the House of Khaldun had not only been bourgeois for centuries; there was no Nomadic chapter at all in their past; for the peasantry of the Hadramawt is just as sedentary as the bourgeoisie of Mecca or Medina or San'a. The very accent and argot of the Banu Hilal set Ibn Khaldun's teeth on edge. (For this, see the passages quoted by Gautier in op. cit., p. 387.)

4See, further, Annex III, below.


contemporary Ifriqiyah; and this was the task to which the young man found himself called both by family tradition and by personal need of a livelihood. The Macrocosm called him; the Microcosm could wait. And so, at the age of twenty, Abd al-Rahman ibn Khaldun followed in his forbears' footsteps by plunging into local politics as a courtier and a minister of state.

The Arabic adventurer's own account, in his Autobiography, of his life during the next twenty-two years reminds a modern Western student of history, who re-reads the story in A.D. 1935, of nothing so much as the life of some latter-day Western-style Chinese politician during the equal span of time which has elapsed since the outbreak of the Chinese Revolution. It was, indeed, a life of meeting at night and parting at morning'; for, within this span of twenty-two years, Ibn Khaldun saw service with no less than seven different princelings; and from almost every one of these successive royal masters his parting was abrupt and violent. In his native principality of Tunis, where he made his debut, he remained no longer than a few weeks; and thereafter we find him making a series of brief appearances now in Fez and now in Granada (whence his momentary employer sends him, in A.D. 1363, on an embassy to the court of Peter the Cruel in Seville)1 and now again in this or that city of Ifriqiyah. In all these peregrinations, his only tranquil 'getaway' was the last; and this, too, was effected more sinico.

In the spring of A.D. 1375 Ibn Khaldun had just settled down at Tilimsan (Tlemcen), under the patronage of the local prince, to give public instruction as a change from practical politics, when it pleased the prince to send his accomplished guest on a political mission to a Nomad Arab tribe in the interior.

'As I had renounced public affairs,' Ibn Khaldun proceeds, in order to live in retreat, the prospect of this mission filled me with repugnance; but I affected to accept it with pleasure. [On my road], I fell in with the 'Awlad' Arif [who appear to have been a branch of the Duwawidah tribe which Ibn Khaldun had been instructed to visit]; and they welcomed me with gifts and honours. I took up my abode with them; and they sent to Tilimsan to fetch my family and my children. They promised at the same time to represent to the Sultan that it was positively impossible for me to fulfil the mission with which he had charged me; and in fact they induced him to accept my excuses. Thereupon I established myself with my family at Qal'at ibn Salamah, a castle situated in the country of the Banu Tujin which was held from the Sultan by

1This was how' Abd-ar-Rahman ibn Khaldun visited, for the first and 1st time, the home of his ancestors. 'When I arrived at Seville', he writes, 'I remarked a number of monuments of my ancestors' greatness'. Peter received' Abd-ar-Rahman with honour, and actually offered to reinstate him in his ancestral property if he would consent to enter his service-an offer which' Abd-ar-Rahman politely declined. (See the relevant passage from the Autobiopaphy in de Slane'a translation of the Muqaddamat, vol. i, p. xliv.)


during his creative 'acquiescence' at Qal'at ibn Salamah. The task of committing to writing the Universal History which was in his mind was not at an end until the Prolegomena had been followed by six further volumes; and we may conjecture that these last six- sevenths of the work might never have seen the light if the successful composition of the prelude, during those four exceptional years of tranquility, had not inspired the philosopher with an impetus to write which persisted through the subsequent years of recurrent turmoil. We must add that the relative value of the different parts of the work as 'everlasting possessions' is not to be measured by any quantitative standard; and that if Posterity were confronted with the cruel choice between losing the first volume alone of Ibn Khaldun's Universal History or saving the Muqaddamat at the price of losing all the other six, we should unhesitatingly sacrifice the six volumes which the author contrived to compose after his re- emergence from Qal'at ibn Salamah in order to preserve the single volume which came to birth in that tranquil retreat. In fact, Ibn Khaldun's life-work is the work which he accomplished in the four years devoted to creation out of half a century spent in a whirl of public activity. And the great philosopher's true return from his brief withdrawal was not the second chapter of practical life in which he emulated the vagaries of the first. In one aspect, the Ibn Khaldun who bade farewell to Qal'at ibn Salamah in the autumn of A.D. 1378 reassumed, at Tunis and in Cairo, the role of the restless politician who had whimsically taken his conge from the Court of Tilimsan in the spring of A.D. 1375. In another aspect, the ephemeral man of affairs re-emerged from his retreat transfigured, once for all, into the immortal philosopher whose thought still lives in the mind of every reader of the Muqaddamat.



(1) Introduction ‘The Renaissance’
(2) Renaissances of Political Ideas and Institutions
(3) Renaissances of Systems of Law
(4) Renaissances of Philosophies
(5) Renaissances of Languages and Literatures
(6) Renaissances of Visual Arts
(7) Renaissances of Religious Ideals and Institutions





(1) The Meaning of 'Law'
(2) The Antinomianism of Modern Western Historians


(1) A Survey of the Evidence

(a) The Private Affairs of Individuals
(b) The Industrial Affairs of Modern Western Societies
(c) The Rivalries of Parochial States: The Balance of Power
(d) The Disintegrations of Civilizations
(e) The Growth of Civilizations
(f) ‘There is no armour against Fate’

(2) Possible Explanations of the Currency of ‘Laws of Nature’ in History
(3) Are Laws of Nature current in History inexorable or controllable?







(1) Western Experiences with Non-Western Precedents
(2) Unprecedented Western Experiences







The Crescendo and Diminuendo of Militarism in Western Europe
The Significance of Hitler's Bid for World-Dominion
The Temper generated by Militarization in the Non-Western Peasantry
The Temper in the Soviet Union and in the United States
The Psychological Consequences of Atomic Warfare



(2) Mechanization and Private Enterprise


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