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Boris Sidis, Ph.D., M.D.

Boston: Badger, 1919

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        Where social life runs in moulds, hardened by civilization or specialization, crystallized in caste, class, group, league, and various other organizations of a highly complex structure, there the social aggregate tends to develop more and more connective tissue fibre of the inactive, supporting type. This gradually crowds out the living elements, smothers the individual units, paralyzes the activities of the upper self with its controlling, rational consciousness, leaving exposed the lower, automatic consciousness with its characteristic abnormal suggestibility and docility to the stimuli and suggestions coming from the external environment, and results in a permanent state of trance hypnosis, subject to all forms of gregarious plagues and mental epidemics. For all organic societies are based on subconscious activities which are but feebly held in check by a weak-minded upper self. Such human aggregates run wild in fads, crazes, manias, epidemics, plagues, mobs, riots, wars, without in the least making any real progress or in the least improving their wretched social state. It is not the humanistic type of society, but the organic, subconscious type of society which, is the suggestible victim and miserable subject of hypnotization.

        The fate of organic aggregates is sealed from the very start of their career. Organic societies, if left to themselves, may become stationary, or static, as it is sometimes termed, stagnating for centuries, like Egypt, India, China, and Byzantium, until destroyed by the onset of a young, vigorous society in which the structural elements have not yet gone far in their development, the living individual elements having still retained their social vitality and independent upper personal consciousness, so that the social self has not yet sunk into the decadent, massive, subconscious with its characteristic abnormal suggestibility, and its hypnotic trance state. This young aggressive aggregate, once it has taken the course of organic, social development is in its turn doomed to a similar fate. The ancient Babylonian and Hitite empires were destroyed by the Assyrian, the Assyrian and Egyptian empires by the Persian, the vast Persian empire by the Macedonian. After undergoing a process of segmentation the Macedonian empire succumbed to the iron grip of the Roman imperial rule. The Roman empire in its turn underwent a process of segmentation, in the western and eastern portion. The western portion fell a prey to the Germanic barbarians, while the eastern, the Byzantine empire, remained for centuries in a state of ossification, until destroyed by the onslaught of the Turks.

        In modern times we witnessed the fall of the Chinese empire at the hands of the Japanese, the great crash of the mighty Russian and structurally well organized German empire, along with Austro-Hungarian and Turkish empires, all falling together into heaps of ruins in the great hurricane of the world war.

        As long as societies choose the course of organic growth, of differentiation and specialization, becoming more and more inflexible, unyielding, and rigid, developing an hypertrophy of social connective tissue—laws, regulations, ordinances, commands, commandments, rites, ceremonies, formalities, and all sorts of prohibitions and taboos, and becoming crystallized into leagues, associations, and organizations with their respective constitutions, rules, and by-rules, all tending to stifle and smother the individual consciousness, so long will society be doomed to a state of subconscious activity with a predisposition to social somnambulism, getting, in consequence, afflicted with various forms of social diseases, often malignant in character, subject to riots, mobs, mental epidemics, crazes, and war-manias, and if not reformed by some radical revolution into a humanistic social type, ending in decay and death. Complexity of social organization is accompanied by corresponding diminution of vitality and ultimate loss of life of the aggregate. As Professor Minot tersely puts it: "With complication of organization the cells lose something of their vitality, something of their possibilities of perpetuation; and as the organization of cells becomes higher and higher (that is more differentiated), this necessity for change (differentiation and organization) becomes more and more imperative. But it involves the end. Differentiation leads up to its inevitable conclusion—death." A social aggregate which has chosen the fatal path of organic evolution must succumb to the same law of organic development to which all organisms are subject, namely greater and greater organization, increase of structure, greater differentiation, decrease of critical, personal, consciousness, loss of individual liberty, increased activity of the subconscious forces, falling into a state of somnambulism which can only be redeemed by revolution or by death.

        A chronological table will show the uninterrupted chain of European mental epidemics:

Pilgrimage epidemic . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1000 to 1095
Crusade epidemic,
Eastern and Western Crusades . . . . . . . .
1095 to 1270
Children's Crusade . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1095 to 1270
Flagellant epidemic . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1260 to 1348
Black Death and Antisemitic mania . . . .  1348
Dancing mania
St. John's dance . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1374
St. Vitus' dance . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1418
Tarantism . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  1470
    To the end of the fifteenth century
Demonophobia, or witchcraft mania . . . .  1488
    To the end of the seventeenth century
War mania
The Hundred Years' War . . . . . . . . . . . . .  1338 to 1453
The Wars of the Roses . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1455 to 1485
The Hundred Years of Religious Wars . . .
The Huguenot Wars . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1562 to 1629
The Massacre of St. Bartholomew's Day . . 1573
The Thirty Years' War . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1618 to 1648
The War of Austrian Succession . . . . . . . . 1740 to 1748
The Seven Years' War . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1756 to 1763
The French Revolution and . . . . . . . . . .  1789 to 1815
The Napoleonic Wars . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
The Imperialistic wars of modern times
  throughout the nineteenth century and
  ending with the catastrophe of the
  world war . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 

1914 to 1919

Bringing about the fall of the Russian,
  Turkish, Austrian, and German empires.
Speculative manias
Tulipomania . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1634
The Mississippi Scheme . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1717
The South Sea Bubble . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1720
And business bubbles to our own time.
  The speculative running a career from
  the highest excitement of business-
  revival, ending in a crisis of business
  depression in a cycle of ten years.


        If society is to progress on a truly humanistic basis, without being subject to mental epidemics and virulent social diseases to which the subconscious falls an easy victim, the personal consciousness of every individual should be cultivated to the highest degree possible. Every phase of individuality and originality, no matter how eccentric, should not only be tolerated, but jealously guarded and protected from all assaults and oppressions. All manifestations of individuality and personality, no matter how opposed to our notions and foreign to all our tastes, ideas, beliefs and feelings, should be carefully left to grow and develop without any inhibitions, prohibitions, and punishments, nor branded by social custom and law as "dangerous, seditious, and subversive of the welfare of the state," should not be oppressed and persecuted by organized society and scourged by the scorpions of law and order. We must revert to the Hellenic ideal of a good citizen in a good society as expressed by Thucydides in the person of the greatest of statesmen, Pericles, and clearly stated by the greatest of thinkers, Aristotle: "The full development of a free individuality in a community of equals, aiming at the best life of each individual citizen."

        By its famous proclamation that "All men are equals, and are, endowed with certain inalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness" the American Declaration of Independence has made a long step in the direction of the true progress of humanity. The framers of the American Constitution have without any qualifications, whether peace or war, declared the most fundamental elements, requisite for the development of a well-ordered, civilized society by proclaiming in the very first article of the amendments to the Constitution that: "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press, or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances." This is a fundamental limitation of congressional powers.

        We must say to the credit of the American Congress that never in its history has it attempted to transgress this important right claimed by the Constitution, namely the freedom of speech, liberty of press, and freedom of popular assembly for the redress of grievances. It is certainly to the credit of Congress that no matter under what circumstances, peace or war, it guards jealously over this important right of the individual, freedom of expression iri word, in speech, in press, and in assembly. The heroes of the American Revolution fought and died in their struggle with English rule that Liberty should live in the American colonies, in the states of the Union. The price of liberty is eternal vigilance. Congress, in defending the fundamental rights of the people, is ever vigilant that this right of freedom of word, press, and assembly should not for a moment pass from the people which they represent. Congress sees to it that the humblest person in the land should enjoy this right under all circumstances, war or peace. No post-master, no censor, no attorney-general is permitted for a moment even to meddle with the inalienable right of expressing one's opinion, whether by spoken or by written word, as to the course of public affairs. Congress watches closely over all agencies that no law should be passed and enforced which should in any way interfere with the freedom of the individual and the liberty of speech, press, and assembly which are at the basis of the free American institutions. Not a single paper, not a single pamphlet was ever excluded from the mails, not a single person was ever brought before the courts, nor was any person ever sentenced to jail, nor even fined for freely expressing his opinion, in press or in word, no matter how damning they may be or antagonistic to the laws of that centralized, legislating body. Well may Congress be congratulated for realizing its mission, not passing any oriental, monarchial espionage laws that might in the least rob the individual of his inalienable right to liberty of expression in speech, in print, or assembly. Congress is the guardian spirit of American liberty, seeing to it that not a single law is enacted that may possibly prevent anyone giving his opinion freely in public. Congress is the guardian spirit of the country. Every person, however humble, and no matter what his opinion may be, is given full freedom of expression as demanded by the Constitution. For Congress, as the bearer of the spirit of the Constitution, fully realizes that no civilized society may for a 'moment relinquish this great right of freedom of individuality and liberty of thought and expression by word, by press, and by assembly without sinking into a state of barbarism. Whether we stand at Armageddon and battle for 'the Lord', whether we fight for the ideal, or sit in the council of the great to make a world of empires fit for democracy, this liberty is like a sacred fire, jealously guarded, like a beacon shining on a hill for the humblest person in the land. For Congress in its anxiety to preserve the word and spirit of the Constitution fully realizes that freedom of individuality and liberty of expression in speech, press, assembly, being the basis of human progress, should be guarded and even specially cultivated before all else, by all well-ordered, progressive commonwealths.

        No man is so low as to deserve oppression, no opinion is so mean as to merit suppression. As we look back to the history of the human race we almost invariably find that all fundamental changes of human nature may be traced in their origin to some one individual or group of men, often obscure and humble, whose opinions were regarded as antisocial and dangerous, on account of their extreme radicalism and deviation from the conventional traditions, customs, and beliefs. The Hebrew prophets who set justice above the Hebrew nation, and put righteousness above patriotism which was preached by the false prophets of that time, claiming loyalty to nationalism, were just the few men who dared to give expression to the small, still voice of human consciousness and conscience, and as such were the true bearers of man progress. These great harbingers of human justice were hunted and persecuted unto death by the false patriotic prophets who put loyalty to Israel and Judah above loyalty to humanity. The true country of the prophets was not soil, but soul. Their countrymen were the just and the righteous of the earth.

        What man would have dared even in our modern times of free speech and free press, what man would have dared to claim the prophesy of Hosea: "Ye have plowed wickedness, ye have reaped iniquity; ye have eaten the fruit of lies: because thou wouldst trust in thy way, in the multitude of thy mighty men. Therefore shall a tumult arise among thy people, and all thy fortresses shall be spoiled. . . . As for Ephraim, their glory shall fly away like a bird. . . . Though they bring up their children, yet will I bereave them, that there shall not be a man left. . . . Ephraim is smitten, their root is dried up, they shall bear no fruit. . . . my God will cast them away. . . . They shall be wanderers among nations." Such words are not only unpatriotic, but they are also "seditious." When the Assyrian threatened the national integrity of Judah, Isaiah carried to his nation the following message:

        Go unto them that decree unrighteous decrees, and that write grievances which they have prescribed; to turn aside the needy from judgment, and to take away the right from the poor of my people, that widows may be their prey, and that they may rob the fatherless! . . . . 0 Assyrian, the rod of mine anger, and the staff in their hand mine indignation. I will send him against an hypocritical nation, and against the people of my wrath will I give him a charge, to take the spoil, and to take the prey, and to tread them down like the mire of the street." . . . Is not it a clear case of "sedition ?" Is it not giving aid and comfort to the enemy?"

        When again the shadow of the later Babylonian empire: fell on the small kingdoms of Asia minor, and the Jewish state was in imminent danger of destruction, Jeremiah had the courage of proclaiming the patriotic prophets false. The true message to his nation was total national collapse which he claimed they fully deserved: "Lo, I will bring a nation against you from afar, 0 house of Israel, it is a mighty nation. . . . And they shall eat up thine harvest, and thy bread, which thy sons, and thy daughters should eat; they shall eat up thy flocks; they shall eat up the vines and thy fig trees; they shall impoverish thy fenced cities, wherein thou trustedst, with the sword. . . . And the carcasses of the people shall be meat for the fowls of heaven, and for the beasts of the earth." Even when the Chaldeans besieged the Jewish capital, Jeremiah declared to the king: "Thus saith the Lord; Behold I will turn back the weapons in your hands wherewith you fight against the Chaldeans which besiege you, and I will assemble them into the midst of this city. And I myself will fight against you. . . . And I will smite the inhabitants of this city, both man and beast; they shall die of a great pestilence." These are not patriotic speeches. From our standpoint they are not only full of sedition, but of the worst form of treason. Still it was Jeremiah who proved in the right, and the false prophets of nationalism and patriotism in the wrong. This is the soul of the prophet's burden: Justice is above my nation, and righteousness above my people.

        The prophets were but few individuals among nations and tribes vibrant with nationalism of the narrowest type, but it was just these few chosen spirits and not the multitude of false patriots who gave voice to the tendencies of true human progress. The prophets were seized by the authorities, sentenced, mobbed, tormented, and killed, but their spirit lived, while kingdoms succumbed, empires vanished, and nations perished. The acts and decrees of the great Assyrian, Egyptian, Babylonian, and Persian monarchs lie buried in the ruins and dust of their once magnificent palaces, but the living words of these few humble men, the prophets, ring loud and true across the gulf of ages. Insignificant as, those men might have been in the courts of a Sargon, Tiglath-Pileser, Esarhaddon, Cyrus, and Darius, it was nonetheless those lowly men who stood for human progress, and transmitted to humanity the precious treasures of human ideals.

        The Gospel of Christ and his apostles ran counter to all Jewish tradition as represented by the Pharisees and Sadducees. Christianity conflicted with the imperial patriotism of the Romans. Cruel persecutions followed. The great historian, Tacitus, regarded the Christians with horror as we do anarchists and Bolsheviki, and he branded them as "the enemies of the human race." The mild Pliny in his report to emperor Trajan considers the Christians as deserving of punishments from a purely civic principle of subduing the obstinate and the obdurate. A quotation from Pliny's correspondence is both interesting and instructive as a warning to our own times: "The method I have observed," Pliny, as Governor of the province of Bythinia, reports to emperor Trajan "towards those who have been brought before me as Christians is this: I asked them whether they were Christians; if they admitted it, I repeated the question twice, and threatened them with punishment. If they persisted, I ordered them at once to be punished. For I was persuaded, whatever the nature of their opinions might be, a contumacious and inflexible obstinacy certainly deserved correction. . . . According to your commands, I forbade the meetings of any (Christian) assemblies. . . . I judged it necessary to endeavor to obtain the real truth, by putting two female slaves to torture, who were said to officiate in their religious rites, but all I could discover was evidence of an absurd and extravagant superstition. I deemed it expedient to adjourn all further proceedings in order to consult you. For it appears to me a matter highly deserving your consideration, more especially as great numbers must be involved in the danger of these persecutions. . . . In fact, this contagious superstition is not confined to the cities only, but has spread its infection among neighboring villages and country. Nevertheless, it still seems possible to restrain its progress." Pliny's opinion was the mildest statement made by a Roman official on the character of the despised Christians.

        As the Christians grew in numbers they were no longer regarded in the light of superstitious, misguided people, but as people who were dangerous to the foundations and pillars of society. The Christians were accused of being cannibalistic, ghoulish in their religious services; it was charged that at their secret meetings they drank the blood of children as a sacrament, that they consumed the flesh of human victims as a sacrosanct piaculum, that they were drunk with human blood, and generally rejoiced in offering theanthropic victims to Christ, a crucified, criminal Jew. The Christians were abandoned as criminals and degenerates who hated mankind, who delighted in excess, in ruin and destruction of civilization. The Christians were accused of crimes more heinous and nefarious than those brought at present against anarchists, Bolsheviki, and I. W. W. Incendiary crimes in large cities throughout the empire, conflagrations in Rome, robberies, incest, foul murders of men, women, and children for sacrificial purposes were charged against those inhuman Christians who consorted with slaves and with criminals of the most abject and depraved kind, belonging to the Spartacus group, full of sedition and treason, conspiring for the overthrow of the Roman government, and undermining the most sacred foundations of human life.

        The writers of the day could not find words abusive enough to express the villainy and depravity of those Christian vipers who breathe poison and hatred for the human race, those Christian deniers of God and of all things divine, those cannibal atheists who delighted in the seduction of poor, ignorant, misguided slaves, those Christians who entertained the absurd superstitions of that degraded and debased, an abject race, the Jews, the Gypsies of the Roman world, those Christians who delighted in the desecration of all that is true, good, and beautiful, who enjoyed the profanation of all that is pure and holy in man. Christianity was a plague which threatened with infection the body-politic and with pollution the very sources of society, a fatal scourge that surely tended towards dissolution of all ties, sacred to family, society, and humanity. Christians were moral lepers. No punishment, no torture was adequate for such fiends in human shape. Such were the terrible charges brought against the Christians, accusations circulated among the populace by writers, by reliable witnesses, government agents, informers, professional spies and detectives, and by respectable citizens. The Christians were "the enemies of the human race," the sworn foes of all law and order, and as such, they were hunted by police, by the populace, they were mobbed, jailed, deported, impaled, crucified, thrown to wild beasts on the arena, or hanged as flaming torches in the public parks or in Caesar's gardens for the amusement of the people. Even the imperial, ethical philosopher, Marcus Aurelius, joined in the hunting down of "the superstitious" and dangerous Christians.

        Pliny's assurance that the spread of Christianity could be stayed was not realized. Christianity could not be stayed by the force of edict and persecution. Christ and his small band of disciples triumphed; lowly and ignorant as they appeared to the haughty Roman patricians, mean as the Christians appeared to the aristocratic Sadducees and the learned doctors of the law, because Christianity originated among the poor and the lowly, the slaves and day-laborers, carpenters and fishermen, still it was just these few individuals who really constituted the advance guard of true human progress. What Tacitus, Pliny, Marcus Aurelius with all their culture deemed "an absurd and extravagant superstition, a contagion and infection" turned out to be the beacon alight of humanity. Those whom the great Romans regarded as "the enemies of the human race" we, who have the advantage of historical perspective, now glorify as saintly martyrs who have given their lives for the highest principles of humanity. The stone which the builders neglected hath become the corner stone.

        No opinion should be disdained and scorned. No individuality should be suppressed and crushed. The manifestation of individuality and originally should in every well-ordered and progressive community not only be persecuted, but on the contrary it should be cherished, protected, and cultivated as the fons et origo of civilization and human progress.

        If we wish social life not to become stationary and stagnant, we should give free scope to all individuality and originality, no matter how eccentric they may seem to us. We should allow free play to all opinions, doctrines, and expressions of human thought, no matter how absurd and contagious the superstitions may appear to us. New ideas, ideals, and beliefs should not be persecuted but should rather be left for discussion and criticism, because we should not assume that we are in possession of the whole truth, and that no further advance is possible. We may learn from other people who look at the world from a different angle, and thus may be able to see things in a different light which may either add to the truth which we already possess, or may even transform it by some new additional element or principle which at first may appear to us as bizarre and paradoxical.

        Even such simple sciences as Geometry, Physics, and Astronomy were revolutionized by principles which appeared quite absurd and paradoxical to the learned profession What was more absurd to an Egyptian Ahmes than the assumptions of surfaces without thickness, of lines without breadth, and of points without any dimensions whatever? The principle of inertia appeared in opposition to the commonsense of antiquity. Heavenly bodies must have the support of crystal spheres, the assumption that they revolve in space without any support seemed absurd. The assumption by Newton that the force of attraction is transmitted through space instantaneously and without any known medium appeared paradoxical even to such a mind as Leibnitz. It was not long ago when a well known professor in Physics in one of the greatest universities thought that there was not any more original work to be accomplished in the domain of physical science. Then came the Roentgen X-ray and the radio-active force which have revolutionized science. A physicist of high standing confessed to me that when rumors of the X-ray properties and of radioactive forces began to circulate in the papers as miracles of science, he sat down to write a series of scientific papers on the "extravagant superstitions" of the X-ray and radium. The existence of antipodes was a standing joke and an example of absurdity among the scientists of antiquity. When Mayers discovered the law of conservation of energy every scientific journal refused to publish his work, and the great discoverer died of a broken heart in a sanitarium. Ohm lost his position when he discovered his great law of electricity. Dr. Jenner lost his practice when he gave to the world his method of vaccination. These instances can be multiplied indefinitely. Men hate new ideas of a radical character and are terrified by radical innovations in practice, especially when the innovations are of a political, and more so when of a social, religious, or economic nature. It is told that a workman came to one of the Roman emperors, Trajan or Hadrian, with a newly discovered metal that looked just like silver. The emperor had the inventor arrested and had him beheaded, fearing that the new metal might undermine the silver currency of the empire. While we rarely deal out such rewards to inventors and discoverers, any new ideas of a radical or revolutionary character are still met with social ostracism and governmental persecution. This rooted tendency of disapprobation of new ideas and innovations as generally bad and harmful is well illustrated by the remark of a Chinese sage, in Confucius' Analects: "Nang-kung Kwoh, who was consulting Confucius, observed respecting I, the skillful archer, and Ngau who could propel a boat on dry land, that neither of them died a natural death; while Yu and Tsih, who with their own hands had labored at husbandry, came to wield imperial sway." This Chinese remark clearly reveals the fear not only of innovations, but also the fear of all originality, talent, and genius. The unusual individual comes to an untimely end. And the time was when the unusual was shunned as a Plague, and the unusual individual was actually put to death.

        The value of freedom of opinion is by no means lessened even if the given opinion or examination turns out to be wholly false. For the true value of an opinion is not so much in its truth as in its freedom. In our search for truth we should be anxious for every ray of light that might possibly elucidate the subject from a different angle. The failure of the opinion in actually finding such an angle does not matter, more important is the open-mindedness which the free thinking man should constantly maintain. We must have as many opinions as possible to select from, true or false, or only partly so, and use our critical selective sense. The keeping alive of this critical selective sense is of the highest moment in man's rational life activity. In the rational equipment of the human mind it is of the utmost consequence to keep the edge of the critical sense bright and keen. In the course of examination of some new opinion which may afterwards be rejected some new sidelights may appear which may give a deeper insight into the nature of the subject, whether it be of a theoretical or practical character; some new views and modes of thought, new methods may be suggested which in their turn may result in the evolvement of new principles and important laws.

        In the general history of science and in the history of each individual investigation we find this freedom of thought and critical sense ceaselessly at work. Rarely, if ever, do we strike in science the truth at a flash. We usually pass through a series of hypotheses, theories, speculations, and experimentations, often false or defective. Ever new lines of thought are struck out and new ways of experimentation are undertaken only to be ejected again and again. They who have undertaken a series of experiments on any subject realize the amount of work requisite before even the preliminaries may be started well under way. There must go on a ceaseless selection, an active criticism which is merciless to itself, ever hostile to routine, ever awake to new points of view and better methods of work, ever welcoming a different, but truer and better way of handling and treating the facts, observations, and experiments, ever ready to modify and change the course of the work, now in one place, now in another, ever retracing the steps of the research now in one way, now in another, until some satisfactory and unitary point of view is gained. And still with all that labor one must always be ready to abandon the whole line as false and start on a new track, ever revising his work, ever criticizing each step in advance, ever doubtful, looking at the work as if it might be on the false track, allowing for error, alive to new facts which may contradict the methods of observation and experimentation or the apparently established facts, rejecting hypothesis and theories which are attractive, or which have become endeared to the heart of the investigator, either because they are his pet view, or because they fall in line with his previous works, or h cause in sheer desperation of finding a sure, true, definite path in the jungle of facts he decides to adhere to one course and follow up one trail which may be entirely misleading and end in a blind alley from which he must once more retrace his steps, and start all over again. Of all this the true investigator must be acutely conscious, if he wishes to track the truth. The truly indefatigable and earnest investigate must be keenly conscious of failures, shortcomings, both of method an result. He must look at his truth as if about to be false, and a falsehood as if about to be true. Everything is relative, and nothing is final. It is only by such an attitude of mind and such a mode of procedure that truth can be attained.

        If ceaseless vigilance is the price of liberty, more so is it true that ceaseless criticism of ever new opinions and ever new views, however distasteful, bizarre, and paradoxical, is the price of truth. For we must keep in mind the fact that truth does not come as deus ex machina or like Athena out of the head of Zeus; but must be found after persistent, laborious, painstaking searching of heart, mind, and fact. Truth is in the deep, as a Greek sage puts it. One must dive again and again often bringing up nothing but brilliant falsehoods before the homely truths are found.

        It is by a devious course of long search and patient testing of apparent truths and falsehoods that the investigator may be assured that he has got a hold of the truth, and even then he must be constantly on the lookout never to relinquish a re-examination of it so as to gain a understanding of its actual relationships, of its limitations and relativity, that the truth may not slip away after all by a dogmatic position and by the neglect of circumstances and unforseen conditions which he may have omitted to take into consideration, or by not bringing it into line with work and discoveries in other directions. By over-generalizing he may lose much that is vital in the truth and thus lay more stress on the false than on the true. Recent ruthless criticism of all that is dogmatic in Mathematics, Logic, Physics, Biology, and other sciences have resulted in new points of view and in the opening of new horizons to investigations which have revolutionized the sciences themselves. This sense of ceaseless active criticism must be kept alive and keen, if science and truth are to keep on advancing. It is due to this critical sense turned on the fundamental principles and postulates of science that such phenomenal progress has been made recently in the domain of science and human thought. This critical sense must be kept fresh and alive, if human thought and love of truth are not to fall, into a state of hebetude and desuetude.

        The manifestation of the apparently false opinion keeps thought awake; it constantly challenges us, making us review again and again our established truths, and contributes to an ever deeper realization of what has been gained by severe thought and hard labor. The freedom of the seemingly false opinion and our tolerance of it and our willingness to meet with it in the open help test the validity of truth while keeping alive the critical sense which is the main spring of all advancement of human thought and is the vital point, the very soul, of all human progress. In a certain sense it may be said that it is the function of the false to keep the truth alive. The suppression of the freedom of thought or the liberty of individual expression, whether in speech or in press, is the crushing of all true human progress. Thus science, Sociology, Social Psychology, all go to confirm the same central attitude towards the free manifestation of individuality in the life existence of a well-ordered, progressive commonwealth.

        The great philosopher, logician, and economist, John Stuart Mill, known for his candor and moderation, entered a strong plea for the liberty of the individual. Mill's work 'On Liberty' is so well known that I almost hesitate to quote from it, and still the work is of such importance that I cannot resist the temptation of making a few quotations from it, even if they become somewhat lengthy: "People" Mill writes, genius a fine thing, if it enables a man to write an exciting poem, or paint a picture. But in its true sense, that of originality in thought and action, though no one says that it is not a thing to be admired, nearly all, at heart, think they can do very well without it. Unhappily this is top natural to be wondered at. Originality is the one thing which unoriginal minds cannot feel the use of. They cannot see what it is to do for them. How should they? If they should see what it would do for them, it would, not be originality. The first service which originality has to render them is that of opening their eyes: which being once fully done, they would have a chance of being themselves original. Meanwhile, recollecting that nothing was ever yet done which someone was not the first to do; and that all things which exist are the fruits of originality let them be modest enough to believe that there is something s till left for it to accomplish, and assure themselves that they are the more in need of originality, the less they are conscious of the want.

        "In sober truth whatever homage may be professed, or eve paid, to real or supposed mental superiority, the general tendency of things throughout the world is to render mediocrity the ascendant power among mankind. . . . At present individuals are lost the crowd. . . . The thinking (of the masses) is done for them by men much like themselves, addressing them or speaking in their name, on the spur of the moment, through the newspapers. I am not complaining of all this. I do not assert that anything better is compatible, as a general rule, with the present low state of the human mind. But it does not hinder the government of mediocrity to be a mediocre government. . . . In this age of mass-action the mere example of non-conformity, the mere refusal to bend the knee to custom, is itself a service. Precisely because the tyranny of opinion is such as to make eccentricity a reproach, it is desirable, in order to break through that tyranny, that people should be eccentric. Eccentricity has always abounded where and when strength of character has abounded; and the amount of eccentricity in a society has generally been proportional to the amount of genius, mental vigor, and moral courage which it contained. That so few now dare to be eccentric, marks the chief danger of the time. There is only too great a tendency in the best beliefs and practices to degenerate into the mechanical; and unless there were a succession of persons whose ever recurring originality prevents the grounds of those beliefs and practices from becoming merely traditional, such dead matter would not resist the smallest shock from anything really alive, and there would be no reason why civilization should not die out, as in the Byzantine empire.

        "It is not by wearing down into uniformity all that is individual, but by cultivating it and calling it forth, within the limits imposed by the rights and interests of others, that human beings become a noble and beautiful object of contemplation, and as the works partake the character of those who do them, by the same process human life also becomes rich, diversified and animating, furnishing more abundant aliment to high thoughts and elevating feelings, and strengthening the tie which binds every individual to the race infinitely better worth belonging to. In proportion to the development of this individuality, each person becomes more valuable to himself, and is therefore more capable of being valuable to others. There is a greater fullness of life about his own existence, and when there is more life in the units there is more in the mass which is composed of them.

        "There is one characteristic of the present direction of public opinion, peculiarly calculated to make it intolerant of any marked demonstration of individuality. The general average of mankind are not only moderate in intellect, but also in inclinations; they have no tastes or wishes strong enough to incline them to do anything unusual, and they consequently do not understand those who have, and class all such as wild and intemperate whom they are accustomed to look down upon. . . . There is a moral and prudential spirit abroad for the exercise of which there is no more inviting field than the moral and the prudential improvement of our fellow-creatures. These tendencies of the times cause the public to be more disposed than in former time periods to prescribe general rules of conduct, and endeavor to make everyone conform to the approved standard. Its ideal of character is to be without any marked character; to maim by compression, like a Chinese lady's foot, every part of human nature which stands out prominently, and tends to make the person markedly dissimilar in outline to commonplace humanity. Instead of great energies guided by vigorous reason, and strong feelings, strongly controlled by a conscientious will, its result is weak feelings and weak energies which therefore can be kept in outward conformity to rule without any strength either of will or of reason."

        Thus we are brought once more to the same view from which we started that the essential factor in human progress is the cultivation of the upper controlling, critical, personal consciousness. "The only unfailing and permanent source of improvement" says Mill "is liberty, since by it there are as many possible, independent centres of improvement as there are individuals."

        In these times of human agony, when the individual is crucified for social glory and national power, when men are sacrificed by the millions and their labor by the billions for the grandeur of the nation, when the world is made safe for all sorts of 'cracies' by fire and sword, may be well to give heed to the following reflections by Tocqueville and Tarde:

        "In democratic societies" as Tocqueville remarks "majorities as well as 'capitals' have prestige. As citizens become more equal and more alike (as far as their subconscious is concerned) regarded from 1 he standpoint of Social Psychology) the tendency of each to believe blindly in a given man or class, diminishes. The disposition to believe the masses increases, and public opinion guides the masses more and more. Since the majority becomes the real political power, the universally recognized superior, its prestige is submitted to for the same reason as that of a monarch or nobility was formerly bowed down to. Moreover, in times of equality. (of the mediocre subconscious considered from the point of view of Social Psychology) men have no faith in one another, because of their mutual (subconscious, mediocre) likeness. This very resemblance, however, inspires them almost with all unlimited confidence in the judgment of the public. For it seems improbable to them that when all have the same amount of light, the truth should not be found on the side of the greatest number." "This appears logical" comments Tarde "and mathematical. If men are like units, then it is the greatest sum of these units which must be in the right. In reality this is an illusion, based on constant oversight of the role played by imitation. When an idea rises in triumph from the ballot-box, we should be less inclined to bow down before it, if we realized that nine hundred and ninety-nine thousandths of the votes that it polled were but echoes. Unanimities should be greatly distrusted. Nothing is a better indication of the impulse of imitation." In other words, with the increase of mental disaggregation in a crowd of (subconscious) mediocrities individuality and the critical self are at a minimum, the subconscious self is left unprotected, a target to the arrows of suggestion. Social suggestibility is at its maximum, and the body­politic is thrown into hysterical convulsions of mob-frenzies, into maniacal, nationalistic excitement with fixed paranoidal delusions of national grandeur, demoniacal obsessions of world-dominion, resulting in homicidal and suicidal world-wars.

        What then is the remedy for all those human sufferings, virulent mental epidemics, and other severe social maladies that plague mankind in its aggregate capacity? Only one answer is given by science, by Biology, Sociology, and Social Psychology: Fortify the resistance of the individual by freedom of individuality and by the full development of personality. Immunize the individual against social, mental plagues by the full development of his rational reflective self, controlling the suggestible, automatic subconscious with its reflex consciousness. Put no barriers to man's self expression, lay no chains on man, put no taboos on the human spirit. Do not, like the savage, run man's mind and skull into ugly shapes and distorted moulds of social traditions. Liberate man's spirit from the dark, narrow, and oppressive, social dungeon. Full freedom of individuality and cultivation of the critical rational self constitute the essential conditions of a healthy social consciousness. The full development of a synthetic unity of the conscious in control of the subconscious in a pure atmosphere of liberty is sure immunity against all mental plagues, and is at the same time the source and aim of all true human progress.

        Here we may pause for the present. As far as our present purpose is concerned Social Psychology needs not take us any further. Perhaps, the words of Professor Minot's may be appropriated here where we have laid so much stress on the Logos, on Thought, on Reason, as being the savior of humanity: "The time, I hope, will come" says Professor Minot "when it will be generally understood that the investigators and thinkers of the world are those upon whom the world depends. I should like, indeed, to live to a time when it will be universally recognized that the military man and the government-maker are types which have survived from a previous condition of civilization, not ours; and when they will no longer be looked upon as heroes of mankind. In that future those persons who have really created our civilization will receive the recognition which is their due. Let these thoughts dwell long in your meditation, because it is a serious problem in all our civilization to-day how to secure due recognition of the value of thought, and how to encourage it. I believe every word spoken in support of that recognition which is due to the power of thought is a good word, and will help forward toward good results."

        When the great American biologist made this earnest appeal to his countrymen had he had a foreboding of the approaching storm of the world-war with all the horrors of frenzied militarism which has obsessed deluded humanity?

        One thing stands out clear and distinct, and this is,―the source and aim of true human progress are the cultivation and development of Man's self-ruling, rational, free individuality. This is also Man's happiness. For as the great Stagirite puts it: ή εύδαιμονία τών αύτάρχwn  έσtί.


LC Control Number:     19019682

Type of Material:   Text (Book, Microform, Electronic, etc.)

Personal Name:      Sidis, Boris, 1867- [from old catalog]

Main Title:         The source and aim of human progress,

Published/Created:  Boston, R. G. Badger [c1919]

Description:        63 p. 24 cm.

Subjects:           Progress. [from old catalog]
                   Social psychology. [from old catalog]

LC Classification:  HM101 .S5


CALL NUMBER:        HM101 .S5
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