Mr. Elsom, an investment officer of a bank, finds time for free-lance exploration and explanation of the libertarian point of view.
All men desire to be free. It would be a mistake to suppose that the leftist loves freedom less than the conservative. Some men’s struggle for freedom, however, causes suffering and death while yet others come among their brothers as a healing balm. Why such opposite effects from the identical basic urge ?
Freedom, in human terms, has to do with two attributes: the capacity for choice and a newer attribute but recently arrived in the human gene, the moral faculty. It is the latter which is determinative of the character of our activity. On this sense hangs the survival of the species.
If morals are conceived of as conduct born of reason and training, they may be oriented at call both to the demands of a technologically organized society or to a given political structure. Custom and tradition may be made to order; morality will then be displayed as a relative thing, adjustable to varying specific demands according to the ascendant political influences of the day. Appropriate morality for the common citizen becomes but a matter of education and training of the young, with amendments of their ethical equipment to be supplied as necessary during later life by means of communication and entertainment media. Somehow though, this approach always brings wholesale death, imprisonment, and misery, for it involves an act of credulity difficult of achievement for the thoughtful individual against whom, in the end, force must be directed. He cannot go contrary to his own senses; he cannot repose confidence in the expertness and motivations of men in violation of his observation and experience. Religionists have seldom asked of him so great an act of faith.
If, on the other hand, morality is a life-growth; if it has had an orderly biological development, then the foregoing would be reversed: we would conform to its nature or sicken, just as our lives must accord with our anatomical structure. The formulation of ethics to support intellectually derived aims would be absurd.
There are clues which point to such a background; i. e., that the moral faculty rises naturally out of the processes of life. As a beginning, it is clear that the amoeba, a single celled creature, would be little perturbed by the state of right or wrong in its puddle. With many individual humans, moral acuity has attained high degree. Physical complexity, then, is a condition precedent to the perception of moral phenomena. If this were all, one could attribute the moral sense to the brain and nervous system. It would also put us back where we began—the erroneous concept that man’s proper conduct can be purely a product of reason. Also, we are told that man has not changed noticeably in brain or other physical characteristic in thousands of years, yet his ways and mores have developed greatly. A human being, however, is an organic whole. The brain is not insulated from the rest of his being. What happens in the liver affects the little toe; the function of the kidney has to do with heart and lungs. All exists in an organic medium, a physicochemical balance of blood, fluids, plasma, and lymph flowing through regional systems, organs and glands interchanging substances, regulating, accepting, rejecting. The organs have knowledge apart from the brain. If one kidney is removed, the other knows it and enlarges. In certain kinds of heart damage, repairs and growth offset the injury. Cicatrisation is a cooperative effort of blood, corpuscle, and tissue.
Within the parts there is a sensing of things to come. Certain cells in the embryo aggregate to form a spleen. The brain projects a portion of itself, takes on a covering of skin which becomes transparent, then changes into lens, cornea, and proceeds to constitute a complete optical system for use after birth. Our examples can be multiplied endlessly.
Such a range of complexity conditioned the advent of moral awareness, such complexity and something more; for not all men exhibit response to moral stimuli. As we have shown, purpose and knowledge exist in the organs and the fluids, though not in terms understood by us. They abide far below the turbulent surface of consciousness. At these depths are systems of tension and energies, both physical and psychic. Modification of this inner balance by God or by Nature or by man, himself, through his will, can change what man is and what he may become. Differentiation of a portion of the species could well go unnoticed because no change of form or feature is necessary. Evolution would be subtle—slight variations of brain, nerve, or organic balance, hidden glandular influences, and so forth. Moral man and his predecessor can exist side by side, presenting to the world seemingly identical anatomy and outward appearance.
Are there clues to suggest that such developments have, in fact, occurred?
We think there are. Not laboratory proof, of course. One cannot compare the nervous structure of a citizen of
Twelve Million Years Ago
Since the moral sense began with man, it is appropriate that we tie one end of our thread to amoral subman. Some anthropologists are willing to fix our origins in the Miocene period, twelve million years ago. Let us secure the knot then to Proconsul, an orthograde primate found in Miocene deposits in
Next comes a truly debatable specimen, Pithecanthropus erectus, found on the
Without exactitude as to sequence, it seems conclusive that the threshold of humanity was crossed by Sinanthropus pekinensis and Homo Neanderthalensis. This would have been in the late Pliocene or early Pleistocene period, say, one million years ago. With Sinanthropoid skeletons have been found quartz tools, fire hearths, and the remains of Pleistocene animals. He killed game, dragged it to his cave, and cooked it. Neanderthals were very numerous, finds having turned up at various locations in
A Recent Development
Anthropologists give little explanation as to why primitive humans ceased to be or how or why neanthropic or modern man came upon the scene. He appeared suddenly. Cro-Magnon and neanthropic forms may have lived contemporaneously with palaeoanthropic versions. This fact provides clues to the moral state of both. Many Sinanthropoid skulls have the base broken out. Neanderthal bones show knife knicks and scrape marks where the flesh had been removed. Many of the bones had been cracked and the marrow extracted. Artificial enlargements of the foramen magnum indicate removal of the brain. It is quite possible that some other form of human, perhaps modern man, was systematically preying on these primitive individuals to the point of their extinction. Perhaps cannibalism was widespread. At any rate, only modern man remains and as he enters upon the stage, he is a killer; he is still burdened with bestial motivations, undiluted by moral stimulus.
How long ago was this?
The First Faint Sign
Here let us postulate something from our fancy—yet not altogether fanciful for probability forms our base. At some point in the past—no record can tell us where or when—one man, having grown from one unique egg cell, possessed for the first time in the experience of life on earth, a new faculty. It was like the rudimentary eye that cannot distinguish objects because its cells have attained only light sensitivity, not focus. Just so, the new faculty received intimations of the objects with which it was to deal, intimations so formless, so lacking in definition, that its possessor could not realize that he experienced anything at all. Yet so disturbing was it that it gave uncertainty to his cudgel, upraised above his guiltless brother.
Whether the club fell is immaterial now. What is important is that the wielder of the club begat offspring. Some of these, during other sequences of pillage and despoilment, felt the same disquiet. It had entered the blood of the species to scatter mutants through the centuries. At last it began to leave scratchings and wedge marks on stone and clay. With the unfolding of time, some of its inheritors could descry glimmerings of its form and meaning.
Archeologists exhibit to us an oblong of light brown clay, dried by a sun that shone upon the
They show us also a stele of dark greenstone that stands as tall as the ceiling of a modern home in suburbia. It was found near
These writings are physical evidence of growth of the moral faculty. The idea of the benefaction of mankind was present. So was the idea that business dealings should be honest and that mere weakness did not justify pillage. True, all authority was founded on amoral conquest. True, the ego of the ruler was the consideration above all others. True, superstition, slavery, infanticide, and other forms of murder were sanctioned. Withal, these codes were the work of moral vision that could seek order and justice within a complex of human rights and obligations. They were light years above the bestiality of Neanderthal and early neanthropic man.
We fix our attention now upon the
These texts date from the latter half of the second millennium, B. C. Various languages were employed including Sumerian, Babylonian, Hittite, Egyptian, and Phoenician or Canaanite. This variety of tongues coupled with a broad range of art objects from
Archaic Hebrew and Phoenician or Canaanite were one language. Their religious stem was the same. Canaanite writings lead directly to portions of the Bible. Daniel appears first in Canaanite literature. So do Adam and Eve. "El" or "Elohim" as a designation of God was common to both languages. Both partook of the same cultural tradition, were subject to the same conquests, stood in the same line of moral development. Before Moses, the codes of Lipit-Ishtar, UrNammu, and Hammurabi had placed limitations on murder, stealing, lying, and other infractions. Sections of the Hammurabic code were carried over into the Old Testament, parts of Exodus, Deuteronomy, and Leviticus being seeming transplants of language and substance.
Abram, or Abraham, of Genesis was much among the Canaanites and scarcely superior to them. He could permit his wife to suffer the desire of another man as a measure of his own self-preservation. The slaughter of entire peoples did not offend his senses. These thoughts and acts agreed well with the mores of the times in the
Who then could distinguish Hebrew and Canaanite? How were the Chosen Ones different?
Yet as we turn the opening pages of the Old Testament,
But not all Hebrews. Their bulk remained as it was. They became homesick for idolatry. When Moses left them for but forty days, they made themselves a golden calf, worshipped and sacrificed to it, and "rose up to play." With Moses, Joshua, and Aaron dead, the people reverted to the worship of Baal and Ashtaroth. They wearied of theocracy and asked Samuel to depose God; their preference was to have a human king as did other nations.
Was it political factors then that worked the cleavage ?
No, these were transient things of alignment and re-alignment, a continuing flow of advantage and disadvantage.
God Above Man
The thing that they saw most clearly was that man was less than he had thought himself to be. The laws of
Moreover, they could see that the thread of life connected man with God. This being true, one’s ancestors were custodians of the vision and bearers of the seed. The generations were a sequence of flesh and spirit, each the fruit of those long since transformed to dust. The generation which honored not gifts received or which despoiled posterity of its birthright would be aborted. The species must cling to the thread of creativity in order to endure (Honor thy father and mother; that thy days may be long upon the land which the Lord thy God giveth thee).
They despised the predatory heart. The fixing of attention upon inevitable inequalities of person and possession was defined as covetousness and proscribed. A people could be secure only as its members were secure. What extraordinary fortune or skill could gain in righteousness, affection, office, or goods was, in the long run, to the betterment of the whole. Greed and envy could only jeopardize the entire body of society. The commandment was clear: "Thou shalt not covet."
The Prophets’ Rote
That the prophets considered their gifts as unique was inherent in their conviction that they had been chosen by a single, everlasting God. It is also clear that they held a narrower, more literal view of their invigorated sense as well. They adduced their knowledge as something they had seen or heard, since they knew no novel means of perception. Listen to Proverbs XXIX, 18, "Where there is no vision, the people perish." Or Habakkuk II, 2, "Write the vision and make it plain upon tables, that he may run that readeth it." Or Jeremiah VI, 16, "Stand ye in the ways and see…." They were talking about actual sense perceptions.
They were not reasoners as the Greeks were. They did not attempt to define their knowledge nor fathom its distant implications. Others were to accept their vision without question—it was the will of God. It was enough that they could fix the errant one with glittering eye and drive him with lashing tongue.
Neither did their heightened special sense work much change in men themselves. The Jew remained as superstitious as his neighbors. He was as brutally possessive of wife and child. Cruelty was common. Moses could instruct the Levites, "Go in and out from gate to gate throughout the camp, and slay every man his brother, and every man his companion, and every man his neighbor." More routine punishments for violations of the Law included stoning, execution by fire, and garroting. The tribes were still narrow, bigoted, savage. Hebrew thought was feculent with error. Hardness of heart was ingrained and unchallenged. One must remember, however, that the biological requirement at this point in history was simply that the moral attribute be viable, tough enough to live in a savage environment.
The Need Was Urgent
It was none too soon. Already the beginnings of mathematics and physics had taken place with the Egyptians, Greeks, and earlier peoples. The surveyor’s stakes marking the road to E = me² were in place. Its destination was inevitable—the extinction of man. Except for one factor. The teleology of life had functioned thousands of years earlier with the injection of moral unrest into that unknown primitive progenitor. Now it was evolved into the Law and the Prophets.
The Law and the Prophets were not enough.
They were inadequate to the necessities of the world that was developing. They were inadequate because their application was external, their acceptance involuntary. The Israelites were a bullied and frightened people. Understanding of the significance of the Law, there was none. It was constrictive of personality and choice because the patriarchs had not understood that they, themselves, were an outcropping of a deep inner life development. In Christ’s phraseology, it remained for the Law to be "fulfilled."
What was necessary?
Was it not that the newest human sense be given equal, no, superior, status in relation to the older senses? This seems probable from Christ’s teaching method. In his words we find almost nothing of syllogism, no abstract construetion of theory, no laying down of a logical case. Rather, he seemed to aim at startling or surprising a dormant sense so that in a burst of unaccustomed activity it should break the surface of the subconscious to be seen and dealt with. He triggered unused psychic complexes in friend and foe—intuitions, insights, theretofore suppressed emotions. Parable, imagery, allusion, the shock of incredible assertion—in greater or lesser degree, these would provoke the inward sentience of his audience. These were no move to convince the intellect, but only the application of stimuli to which a special sense could respond. His struggle was frustrating. Listen to him in John VIII, 43: "Why do ye not understand my speech? even because ye cannot hear my word." He sought those who could respond: "He that hath ears to hear, let him hear." Later, Paul was to expand upon this fact: "… the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned." The phenomena had to be perceived before it could enter into the mental processes.
First, as Christ implied, one must see the real source of the law. Scribes and Pharisees occupied the position of lawgivers. Theirs was external law applied to the externals of man: his acts, his property, his outward relationships. Such lawmakers, "bind heavy burdens, grievous to be borne." True law is in the nature of things and in the nature of the human being (The Kingdom of God is within you). Christ knew that murder, for example, was the end product of an inner ferment; it was objectified anger or greed. So also, with adultery, theft, and the rest of the list. These were evil fruits whose roots drew sustenance from the older elements in man. True law would operate here, in the individual’s own faculties.
This individualism should be cultivated at whatever cost. Many would suffer but some would succeed (Wide is the gate and broad is the way, that leadeth to destruction but strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it). This was the hard fact: the destiny of the species depended on the toughness and wisdom of those possessing the capability of perceiving God and his creative principles of life. These were the things of God; Caesar had no proper function in them save to permit them to operate and to defend them.
Having developed this capability, men should sustain it in their consciousness, have faith in it, and be guided by it (Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind). By doing this, men could achieve freedom (Ye shall know the truth and the truth shall make you free). But no man could be free who coerced his neighbor (Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself). Only through equality of respect for the conscience, responsibility, and volition of others could men become whole. Indeed, only through this sort of equality could the species be safe.
A Higher Goal
What was the reason of it all? Why the millions of years of struggle of life on earth? Its achievement of ever greater corn-plexity of tissue, organ, and sense? To what end does man, by means of his new awareness, consciously strain to be something other than what he has been? Once more we turn our secular gaze upon the Bible.
The answers stated there can be encompassed briefly: joy, happiness, well-being. In Chapter V of the Book of Matthew, Jesus, in the first eleven verses, uses the word, "blessed," meaning a bestowal of happiness, nine times. In the twelfth, he tells us to "rejoice and be exceedingly glad." His expositor, Paul, in Ephesians, describes singing in the spirit and melody in the heart. There are many such examples, spoken in the shadow of mortal adversity. With the right sort of awareness one could see the principles of life, individual and social, which could free him from the crush of his terrible heritage. Such freedom, such resonance with divine pulse, would mean joy.
Moral Emphasis in the Declaration of
That the possessors of the enlivened moral faculty grew in numbers, history evidences abundantly. The unique sense began to assert itself in "the things that are Caesar’s." We overleap seventeen centuries to find them expressing what they have seen in a political document. We hear them saying, "We hold these truths to be self-evident," that is, phenomena to be accepted because exhibited to the senses. They were deemed to be true because they were the verified content of moral perception. They believed men to be creatures of God, under equal obligation, one to the other, each to the whole, to preserve and defend individual human effort to survive and achieve; to hold the individual harmless in the effectuation of any chosen purpose not violative of the personality or property of another, safety and happiness of the citizen being the explicitly stated objectives of proper government.
Some years later they draft an agreement by which they propose to live together. In it they said that men should be free to follow their personal routines in peace (insure domestic tranquillity). They should be safe (provide for the common defense). They were to be free from the vexations and dangers attendant upon personal settlement of disputes, unjust taxation, monetary chicanery, and caprice of government (establish justice, promote the general welfare). The generations were recognized as being bound together in sacred compact (secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our posterity).
What echoes of the patriarchs and the prophets! What magnificent assent to the "fulfillment" of the Law! How spectacular and undreamed was the harvest!
Still, there are those among us, historians and sociologists, who tell us that morals are no more than custom and environment; who cite other peoples in other places who believed in other rights and wrongs and other gods; who believe that the common man may be thumped and kneaded into any sort of thing that politics and technology may require. They work much grief—they withhold the animate part of the truth. Where the moral sense has not been nourished or has been diverted from its main direction, among great or little peoples, that nation or race has been stultified. Its exit from history has been a series of needless frustrations and pointless disasters clustered about a core of ethical error.
A Vital Attribute
The rewarding path is along the way discerned by the moral vision. It is a vital attribute even though many of our kind have not, as yet, acquired confidence in the stimuli it provides. Many of us continue to believe falsehoods which the use of this sense would destroy, even as some centuries ago some men had preposterous credulity concerning physical facts which disciplined use of their regular senses would have precluded. As a current example, many of us, evidently a voting majority, believe that individual wrongdoing can be transmuted into collective virtue; that individual sin can be purified by democratic ritual. We join together to vote ourselves exemption from the Decalogue, the New Testament, the Constitution, and the operations of Nature.
And because our disdain of moral principle is collective, because it is implemented by technology, never was human hazard greater. We have parted with the safeguards of variety, multiplicity, diversity of purpose, and limited means of ages gone. Our more satanic Caesars were but pranksters when set against the scale of our Hitlers and Stalins; these, in turn, dwindle before the looming potential. Only the active use of the peculiar sense can be of any effect against the drift of the times. Not to rely upon it is as foolish as to forego sight or hearing. It is at fearful risk that we continue to view its promptings as romantic idealism, scarce suited to the uses of this world.
Moral awareness began in the jungle in men who were mostly beast. It was viable from the beginning, capable of surviving the wilderness; equal to growth amid bludgeon and ignorance. It had moved against all vicissitudes before history began. It stood up to stonings, crucifixions, hemlock, and the arena because it was tough. It is not weakened by sentiment. It is practical. Its goal is the wholeness of man because when man is complete, he is free.
From birth to birth, century to century, the communion spreads. Its members willingly wear the manacles of the spirit. Because they do, they cannot resort to force to thrust their knowledge upon others. They cannot rig voting blocs; they cannot bilk their brother politically, economically, or intellectually. They give but to those who seek. They demonstrate only to those willing to observe.
They look upon the mutilation of the earth, the poisonings of its soils, its winds, its waters, and its minds with sorrow. They can see great nations and great peoples sickened with the malady of centralized coercion, the symptoms affecting every member of the social body: the family, the arts, public and private morals, education, religion.
Strangely enough, they expect all of these things to live. They believe that the moral attribute was inserted into the species long ago for two purposes: to serve as a safety mechanism, and to sense the way in which it should go. Despite the moiling of historical waters, it has been effective on both counts. Observed from primitive beginning to formal expression in documents utilized in the founding of the greatest nation in history, the increase of the moral faculty as a factor in human destiny appears considerable. In view of its source, it is not likely that it will fall short of its objective—man as a whole creature.
Moral man, speaking of us all, may well join with the English Book of Common Prayer in the supplication, "Grant that the old Adam in these persons may be so buried, that the new man may be raised up in them." History points in this direction. It is the direction in which the libertarian would go.
A Double Standard
Thievery and covetousness will persist and grow, and the basic morals of ourselves, our children, and our children’s children will continue to deteriorate unless we destroy the virus of immorality that is embedded in the concept of the welfare state; unless we come to understand how the moral code of individual conduct must apply also to collective conduct, because the collective is composed solely of individuals. Moral individual conduct cannot persist in the face of collective immorality under the welfare state program. One side or the other of the double standard of morals will have to be surrendered.
F. A. HARPER, Morals and the Welfare State