Imatges de pÓgina
PDF
EPUB

ancient pattern of feeling and thought the dogma of an inner life brought confusion and chaos. The ideal woman of the medieval world was a virgin; the ideal child was born without a father. The urge of sex was the temptation of the devil.

The ideal which had led men to marry and beget children to carry on their family line had lost its power. The meaning of fatherhood and motherhood was absorbed and lost in the very profundity of the inner life. To be a person was infinitely greater than to be a father or a mother. The old virtue of loyalty to family paled into insignificance before the rising virtue of chastity. The family of spirit took the place of the family of blood. In the Old Testament days a woman without a son was morally disgraced. Now a purely interior life, with chastity as a virtue, had become an end in itself.

Sabatier, in his Life of St. Francis, describes an experience of the saint in a little cabin in a retired spot near Sartiano. "There," he says, "he passed one of the most agonizing nights of his life. The thought that he had exaggerated the virtue of asceticism . . assailed him and suddenly he came to regret the use he had made of his life. A picture of what he might have been, of the tranquil and happy home that might have been his, rose up before him in such living colors that he felt himself giving way. In vain he disciplined himself with his hempen girdle until the blood came; the vision would not depart. It was mid-winter; a heavy fall of snow covered the ground; he rushed out without his garment, and gathering up great heaps of snow began to make a row of images. 'See,' he said,

'here is thy wife and behind her are two sons and two daughters, with the servant and the maid carrying all the baggage.' With this childlike representation of the tyranny of material cares which he had escaped, he finally put away the temptation" (P. 274).

The Inner Life and Property

There was another group of instincts, the instincts of hunger, of acquisitiveness, of ownership, and workmanship, which lay at the root of the institution of property. This group of instincts was also taboo. What had the ethics of the Inner Life, with its new sense of personality, in common with a group of instincts which crystallized into a disposition to get, to hold, to win? As the new conscience substituted for the love of family the virtue of chastity, so it substituted for the whole group of instincts which underlie property, the love of poverty. The best way to break with a social order which was wrong seemed to be to set up a different order with its own independent virtues.

The field of economics was influenced by the Christian conception of personality in the same way as that of the state or the family. In the classical Greek and Roman world there was a divorce between the instinct of workmanship and the ethics of personality. The explanation of this fact is, of course, the existence of the institution of slavery. In the sphere of economics the world was divided into free citizens and slaves. The citizen acted from his own personality as a center. The sense of power, the incentive of gain,

the romantic elements involved in military conquest, stimulate the emotions; they involve one's sentiments and ideals. Fighting one's enemies and lording it over one's slaves partake psychologically of the nature of a game. The citizen was free because he was an end in himself. He was a rational personality. The slave, on the other hand, was a part of the state not through himself, but through his master. All those economic interests which gave spontaneity and joy to the free citizen were impossible to the slave. His work was not determined by a system of ideals. His brain, his will, his sentiments, were instruments, tools, through which the free citizen expressed himself.

Now there was no less a conflict between the disposition to own and possess and the new sense of personality in the Hebrew tradition. It was an economic question that separated the North from the South and made two kingdoms at the death of Solomon. David, who would not accept a drink of cold water secured at the risk of the lives of his men, who could say to his comrades: Ye are my bones and my flesh, was the true spokesman of the ethics of solidarity. In Solomon this old ideal was threatened at its very foundations. Oriental slavery was the basis of the great wealth and luxury of the few. It was a question of taxation that split the kingdom at Solomon's death. It was the soul of Prophecy which voiced itself in the words of Jehovah to Solomon: "Because thou hast not asked for riches but hast asked for understanding; behold I have given thee a wise and an understanding heart and also both riches and honor." But the competitive trade life of the Canaanite cities was at war

with the prophetic morality of property. Under the Persians, the Greeks, and the Romans, the old pagan view of property held sway. It was as hard for a man of wealth to enter the kingdom of moral values as it was for a camel to go through the eye of a needle. The Son of Man had not where to lay his head. He became poor for others' sakes. It is better, he taught, to give than to receive. The pagan instinct to possess lay at the basis of an immoral materialism.

With a conception of labor so completely at war with the Christian view of personality, a dualism, a disassociation, psychological and ethical, was unavoidable between the instinct of workmanship and the new sense of personality. No one who held the newer view of personality could exploit his fellow human beings for his own economic gain or for the aggrandizement of a select few. The result was a radical disassociation between that entire group of instincts which underlie the struggle for food and property and the newer Christian conscience. Along with the differentiation of Church and State, along with the development of the virtue of chastity, there developed as the corresponding virtue in the economic sphere the new ideal of poverty. To do without property, to be independent of material things, was to prove the sufficiency of the newer ideal of the inner life. Why build temples and pyramids when it has to be done with slaves? Why not set free these laborers, these workers in wood and stone, these toilers on land and sea, with the message that the inner world alone has value, that the virtue of poverty can set men's hearts free from the tyranny of property? The inner state of mind, the

attitudes, the will, the heart, are of infinitely more value than the things men may possess.

The Inner Life and the Human Body

As Taine, in his Lectures on Greek Art has pointed out, sculpture is preeminently the form of art best suited to express the spirit of Greek life. Excluding the asceticism and orphic elements in such writers as Pythagoras and Plato, the Greek mind is predominantly naturalistic. The soul is the spirit, the "form," the meaning, which gives value to the body; the body is the stuff, the content, the "matter," through which the soul embodies itself. There is no asceticism. Arms and legs and shoulders are in Homer just as essential to the expression of personality as the face. Mediæval rationalism, building on the rationalism of Plato, and on that of Aristotle as well, has brought the physical body into disrepute. The face as the godlike abode of the reason has become the chief medium through which personality expresses itself. Emotion and bodily activity are regarded as animal processes; reason alone man shares with the divine. All this is foreign to the naturalism of the Greek mind. There is no "pure" intellect, no Platonic universal truth, which disdains the concrete movements of the physical body. It is a genuine function of an idea, as Taine points out, to control bodily movement. Sensations and muscular responses and emotions are the natural medium for the expression of intellect and soul. This is why classical nude art is never vulgar. It is vulgar only to the dualistic consciousness which we have in

« AnteriorContinua »