All Commentary
Thursday, September 1, 1960

The Inner World of Man


The Reverend Mr. Opitz is a member of the staff of the Foundation for Economic Education.

The modern world is coming un­glued! The traditional ties that have held people together in fami­lies and societies are weakened; the loyalties which once produced such a variety of voluntary asso­ciations and groups lose their at­tractive and cohesive powers. The disintegrative forces now at work on us are reflected in the literature of alienation and estrangement; they are manifested, above all, in the enormous growth of the pow­ers and functions of central gov­ernments in every country of the world. The increasing political di­rection of our lives introduces co­ercive relationships among people where the former attachments be­tween persons were voluntary. Such are the symptoms of that spiritual malaise which constitutes the core of the problem to which Dr. Franz E. Winkler, a medical man, addresses himself in his Man: the Bridge Between Two Worlds (Harper & Bros., 268 pp. $5.00).

There are two kinds of knowl­edge, Dr. Winkler argues, intel­lectual and intuitive. The former is analytical and critical; it takes something apart in its effort to un­derstand the thing in terms of its elements. The latter is synthesiz­ing and creative, seeking to under­stand a thing in terms of the whole of which it is a constituent part. Intellectual knowledge is knowl­edge about something; intuitive knowledge is immediate aware­ness.

Many languages have separate words to denote these two kinds of knowing. Goethe, whom Winkler greatly admires, used Verstand and Vernunft; but English does not distinguish between the sev­eral ways of knowing. Our diffi­culty may be illustrated by a crude example. “Do you know how to swim?” we ask. “Sure,” is the re­ply, “you just kick your feet and paddle with your hands.” “But can you swim,” we continue. “Oh, no,” comes the answer. Doing is one mode of knowing which is dif­ferent from intellectual knowl­edge; intuition is yet another mode.

Dr. Winkler’s more elegant il­lustration concerns a watch found by a man from Mars. He takes it apart and discovers wheels, springs, gears, and so on. Analyz­ing these items further, he breaks them down into their chemical ele­ments which are then further re­duced to positive and negative elec­trical charges—at which point the visitor from outer space may feel that he understands the watch. But we, who know the purpose of a watch, that it is a device for telling time, have to try to explain to the Martian that, although his knowl­edge about watches may not be without value, nevertheless, it is not the most relevant set of facts to know about watches.

Modern man’s predicament is similar to that of the Martian; he has developed the analytical and critical sides of his nature but neg­lected the intuitive and the crea­tive. The result is that, although his sciences are in good shape, his philosophy of science, his religion, and his art are in a mess. There is no inevitability about this re­sult; a regrouping of forces is pos­sible, even now. “We must not be­lieve that modern man has lost the gift of intuition,” writes Dr. Winkler. “It is rather that his in­terest has become so exclusively focused on the outer world, his mental activities so completely oc­cupied with analytical thinking, that he has lost the full apprecia­tion of inner experience. Thus he neglects one of the indispensable elements of his psyche, which must be rebuilt by an acceptable world of intangible truth.”

In short, there is an imbalance in man, which causes inner dislo­cations and strains in individuals. The inner distress is then pro­jected onto our societies and trans­lated into a need for social reform or revolution. Because half-men can know only half-truths we mod­erns read our current distresses solely in terms of social diagnosis for which we all too readily agree to accept a political remedy.

There is no disparagement of the intellect in this book; the author exhibits fine critical and analytical powers himself as he probes religion, art, mythology, and contemporary science to show the role which has been and may be played by the intuitive side of man’s nature. It is “the polarity between analysis and intuition,” writes Dr. Winkler, that “gives man his freedom.” But this free­dom is given up or lost because of “the growing inability of modern man to master his subconscious impulses…. There is an inner world accessible to man through nonphysical perception as there is an outer world manifesting itself to his physical sense organs.”

Dr. Winkler’s stress on the ur­gent necessity for bringing the inner and intuitive sides of man’s nature up to the level of develop­ment of his critical faculties may sound like a call for a return to re­ligion. In a sense it is just that, for genuine religion has always con­cerned itself with restoring bal­ance and composition to the pic­ture man entertains of himself by helping him discover new mean­ings able to assimilate every ad­vance in fact-finding. The seers, the saints, and the religious gen­iuses possess a clarity and depth of inner vision far surpassing that of the average man. They explore and map what is for the rest of us the dark inner continent of the soul. During periods of history when the critical faculties of aver­age people had not been developed at the expense of their intuitive faculties, “relatively great num­bers of people were able to confirm the important experiences of reli­gious leaders by lesser experiences of their own…. Yet the change in human consciousness took its course. Immediate knowledge of God turned into creed, and creed into a code of morals. But codes, even the most venerable ones, can­not meet the longings in the hu­man soul. So it was that mysticism, turning earthward, ultimately came to worship at the altars of Trotsky and Lenin.”

But man is so constructed that he cannot find fulfillment in any earthbound or materialistic creed. Spiritual religion needs a spiritual object which, in the nature of the case, can only be intuitively appre­hended. “Christianity itself can­not be comprehended unless the state of consciousness into which it was born is experienced.” This seems to be the crux of the matter. Argument and analysis may bring one to the point of admitting the need for a new frame of mind, a new mood. The next step is to train oneself to acquire these. Such a training exists, and although the volume under review is not a hand­book, the last chapter describes it.

This immensely stimulating book does not, of course, have all the answers, but it does raise a lot of the right questions.

 


  • The Rev. Edmund A. Opitz (1914-2006) was a Congregationalist minister, a FEE staff member, who for decades championed the cause of a free society and the need to anchor that society in a transcendent morality. A man of wide reading and high culture, Opitz was for many years on the staff of the Foundation for Economic Education in Irvington-on-Hudson, New York. He was one of the few voices in the 1950s through the 1990s calling for an integrated understanding between economic liberty and religious sensibility. He was the founder and coordinator of the Remnant, a fellowship of conservative and libertarian ministers.