Last and First Men

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3. a racial awakening

It is easy to speak of children; but how can I tell you anything significant of our adult experience, in relation to which not only the world of the First Men but the worlds of the most developed earlier species seem so naïve?

The source of the immense difference between ourselves and all other human races lies in the sexual group, which is in fact much more than a sexual group.

The designers of our species set out to produce a being that might be capable of an order of mentality higher than their own. The only possibility of doing so lay in planning a great increase of brain organization. But they knew that the brain of an individual human being could not safely be allowed to exceed a certain weight. They therefore sought to produce the new order of mentality in a system of distinct and specialized brains held in "telepathic" unity by means of ethereal radiation. Material brains were to be capable of becoming on some occasions mere nodes in a system of radiation which itself should then constitute the physical basis of a single mind. Hitherto there had been "telepathic" communication between many individuals, but no super-individual, or group-mind. It was known that such a unity of individual minds had never been attained before, save on Mars; and it was known how lamentably the racial mind of Mars had failed to transcend the minds of the Martians. By a combination of shrewdness and good luck the designers hit upon a policy which escaped the Martian failure. They planned as the basis of the super-individual a small multi-sexual group.

Of course the mental unity of the sexual group is not the direct outcome of the sexual intercourse of its members. Such intercourse does occur. Groups differ from one another very greatly in this respect; but in most groups all the members of the male sexes have intercourse with all the members of the female sexes. Thus sex is with us essentially social. It is impossible for me to give any idea of the great range and intensity of experience afforded by these diverse types of union. Apart from this emotional enrichment of the individuals, the importance of sexual activity in the group lies in its bringing individuals into that extreme intimacy, temperamental harmony and complementariness, without which no emergence into higher experience would be possible.

Individuals are not necessarily confined to the same group for ever. Little by little a group may change every one of its ninety-six members, and yet it will remain the same super-individual mind, though enriched with the memories grafted into it by the new-comers. Very rarely does an individual leave a group before he has been in it for ten thousand years. In some groups the members live together in a common home. In others they live apart. Sometimes an individual will form a sort of monogamous relation with another individual of his group, homing with the chosen one for many thousands of years, or even for a lifetime. Indeed some claim that lifelong monogamy is the ideal state, so deep and delicate is the intimacy which it affords. But of course, even in monogamy, each partner must be periodically refreshed by intercourse with other members of the group, not only for the spiritual health of the two partners themselves, but also that the group-mind may be maintained in full vigour. Whatever the sexual custom of the group, there is always in the mind of each member a very special loyalty toward the whole group, a peculiar sexually toned esprit de corps, unparalleled in any other species.

Occasionally there is a special kind of group intercourse in which, during the actual occurrence of group mentality, all the members of one group will have intercourse with those of another. Casual intercourse outside the group is not common, but not discouraged. When it occurs it comes as a symbolic act crowning a spiritual intimacy.

Unlike the physical sex-relationship, the mental unity of the group involves all the members of the group every time it occurs, and so long as it persists. During times of group experience the individual continues to perform his ordinary routine of work and recreation, save when some particular activity is demanded of him by the group-mind itself. But all that he does as a private individual is carried out in a profound absent-mindedness. In familiar situations he reacts correctly, even to the extent of executing familiar types of intellectual work or entertaining acquaintances with intelligent conversation. Yet all the while he is in fact "far away," rapt in the process of the group-mind. Nothing short of an urgent and unfamiliar crisis can recall him; and in recalling him it usually puts an end to the group's experience.

Each member of the group is fundamentally just a highly developed human animal. He enjoys his food. He has a quick eye for sexual attraction, within or without the group. He has his personal idiosyncrasies and foibles, and is pleased to ridicule the foibles of others—and of himself. He may be one of those who abhor children, or one of those who enter into children's antics with fervour, if they will tolerate him. He may move heaven and earth to procure permission for a holiday in the Land of the Young. And if he fails, as he almost surely does, he may go walking with a friend, or boating and swimming, or playing violent games. Or he may merely potter in his garden, or refresh his mind though not his body by exploring some favourite region of the past. Recreation occupies a large part of his life. For this reason he is always glad to get back to work in due season, whether his function is to maintain some part of the material organization of our world, or to educate, or to perform scientific research, or to co-operate in the endless artistic venture of the race, or, as is more likely, to help in some of those innumerable enterprises whose nature it is impossible for me to describe.

As a human individual, then, he or she is somewhat of the same type as a member of the Fifth species. Here once more is the perfected glandular outfit and instinctive nature. Here too is the highly developed sense perception and intellection. As in the Fifth species, so in the Eighteenth, each individual has his own private needs, which he heartily craves to fulfil; but also, in both species, he subordinates these private cravings to the good of the race absolutely and without struggle. The only kind of conflict which ever occurs between individuals is, not the irreconcilable conflict of wills, but the conflict due to misunderstanding, to imperfect knowledge of the matter under dispute; and this can always be abolished by patient telepathic explication.

In addition to the brain organization necessary to this perfection of Individual human nature, each member of a sexual group has in his own brain a special organ which, useless by itself, can co-operate "telepathically" with the special organs of other members of the group to produce a single electro-magnetic system, the physical basis of the group-mind. In each sub-sex this organ has a peculiar form and function; and only by the simultaneous operation of the whole ninety-six does the group attain unified mental life. These organs do not merely enable each member to share the experience of all; for this is already provided in the sensitivity to radiation which is characteristic of all brain-tissue in our species. By means of the harmonious activity of the special organs a true group-mind emerges, with experience far beyond the range of the individuals in isolation.

This would not be possible did not the temperament and capacity of each sub-sex differ appropriately from those of the others. I can only hint at these differences by analogy. Among the First Men there are many temperamental types whose essential natures the psychologists of that species never fully analysed. I may mention, however, as superficial designations of these types, the meditative, the active, the mystical, the intellectual, the artistic, the theoretical, the concrete, the placid, the highly-strung. Now our sub-sexes differ from one another temperamentally in some such manners as these, but with a far greater range and diversity. These differences of temperament are utilized for the enrichment of a group self, such as could never have been attained by the First Men, even if they had been capable of "telepathic" communication and electro-magnetic unity; for they had not the range of specialized brain form.

For all the daily business of life, then, each of us is mentally a distinct individual, though his ordinary means of communication with others is "telepathic." But frequently he wakes up to be a group-mind. Apart from this "waking of individuals together," if I may so call it, the group-mind has no existence; for its being is solely the being of the individuals comprehended together. When this communal awakening occurs, each individual experiences all the bodies of the group as "his own multiple body," and perceives the world equally from all those bodies. This awakening happens to all the individuals at the same time. But over and above this simple enlargement of the experienced field, is the awakening into new kinds of experience. Of this obviously, I can tell you nothing, save that it differs from the lowlier state more radically than the infant mind differs from the mind of the individual adult, and that it consists of insight into many unsuspected and previously inconceivable features of the familiar world of men and things. Hence, in our group mode, most, but not all, of the perennial philosophical puzzles, especially those connected with the nature of personality, can be so lucidly restated that they cease to be puzzles.

Upon this higher plane of mentality the sexual groups, and therefore the individuals participating in them, have social intercourse with one another as super-individuals. Thus they form together a community of minded communities. For each group is a person differing from other groups in character and experience somewhat as individuals differ. The groups themselves are not allocated to different works, in such a manner that one group should be wholly engaged in industry, another in astronomy, and so on. Only the individuals are thus allocated. In each group there will be members of many professions. The function of the group itself is purely some special manner of insight and mode of appreciation; in relation to which, of course, the work of the individuals is constantly controlled, not only while they are actually supporting the group self, but also when they have each fallen once more into the limited experience which is ordinary individual selfhood. For though, as individuals, they cannot retain clear insight into the high matters which they so recently experienced, they do remember so much as is not beyond the range of individual mentality; and in particular they remember the bearing of the group experience upon their own conduct as individuals.

Recently another and far more penetrating kind of experience has been attained, partly by good fortune, partly through research directed by the group-minds. For these have specialized themselves for particular functions in the mental life of the race, as previously the individuals were specialized for functions within the mind of a group. Very rarely and precariously has this supreme experience been achieved. In it the individual passes beyond this group experience, and becomes the mind of the race. At all times, of course, he can communicate "telepathically" with other individuals anywhere upon the planet; and frequently the whole race "listens in" while one individual addresses the world. But in the true racial experience the situation is different. The system of radiation which embraces the whole planet, and includes the million million brains of the race, becomes the physical basis of a racial self. The individual discovers himself to be embodied in all the bodies of the race. He savours in a single intuition all bodily contacts, including the mutual embraces of all lovers. Through the myriad feet of all men and women he enfolds his world in a single grasp. He sees with all eyes, and comprehends in a single vision all visual fields. Thus he perceives at once and as a continuous, variegated sphere, the whole surface of the planet. But not only so. He now stands above the group-minds as they above the individuals. He regards them as a man may regard his own vital tissues, with mingled contempt, sympathy, reverence, and dispassion. He watches them as one might study the living cells of his own brain; but also with the aloof interest of one observing an ant hill; and yet again as one enthralled by the strange and diverse ways of his fellow men; and further as one who, from above the battle, watches himself and his comrades agonizing in some desperate venture; yet chiefly as the artist who has no thought but for his vision and its embodiment. In the racial mode a man apprehends all things astronomically. Through all eyes and all observatories, he beholds his voyaging world, and peers outward into space. Thus he merges in one view, as it were, the views of deck-hand, captain, stoker, and the man in the crow's-nest. Regarding the solar system simultaneously from both limbs of Nep tune, he perceives the planets and the sun stereoscopically, as though in binocular vision. Further, his perceived "now" embraces not a moment but a vast age. Thus, observing the galaxy from every point in succession along Neptune's wide orbit, and watching the nearer stars shift hither and thither, he actually perceives some of the constellations in three dimensions. Nay, with the aid of our most recent instruments the whole galaxy appears stereoscopically. But the great nebulae and remote universes remain mere marks upon the flat sky; and in contemplation of their remoteness man, even as the racial self of the mightiest of all human races, realizes his own minuteness and impotence.

But chiefly the racial mind transcends the minds of groups and individuals in philosophical insight into the true nature of space and time, mind and its objects, cosmical striving and cosmical perfection. Some hints of this great elucidation must presently be given; but in the main it cannot be communicated. Indeed such insight is beyond the reach of ourselves as isolated individuals, and even beyond the group-minds. When we have declined from the racial mentality, we cannot clearly remember what it was that we experienced.

In particular we have one very perplexing recollection about our racial experience, one which involves a seeming impossibility. In the racial mind our experience was enlarged not only spatially but temporally in a very strange manner. In respect of temporal perception, of course, minds may differ in two ways, in the length of the span which they can comprehend as "now," and the minuteness of the successive events which they can discriminate within the "now." As individuals we can hold within one "now" a duration equal to the old terrestrial day; and within that duration, we can if we will, discriminate rapid pulsations such as commonly we hear together as a high musical tone. As the race-mind we perceived as "now" the whole period since the birth of the oldest living individuals, and the whole past of the species appeared as personal memory, stretching back into the mists of infancy. Yet we could, if we willed, discriminate within the "now" one light-vibration from the next. In this mere increased breadth and precision of temporal perception there is no contradiction. But how, we ask ourselves, could the race-mind experience as "now" a vast period in which it had no existence whatever? Our first experience of racial mentality lasted only as long as Neptune's moon takes to complete one circuit. Before that period, then, the race-mind was not. Yet during the month of its existence it regarded the whole previous career of the race as "present."

Indeed, the racial experience has greatly perplexed us as individuals, and we can scarcely be said to remember more of it than that it was of extreme subtlety and extreme beauty. At the same time we often have of it an impression of unspeakable horror. We who, in our familiar individual sphere are able to regard all conceivable tragedy not merely with fortitude but with exultation, are obscurely conscious that as the racial mind we have looked into an abyss of evil such as we cannot now conceive, and could not endure to conceive. Yet even this hell we know to have been acceptable as an organic member in the austere form of the cosmos. We remember obscurely, and yet with a strange conviction, that all the age-long striving of the human spirit, no less than the petty cravings of individuals, was seen as a fair component in something far more admirable than itself; and that man ultimately defeated, no less than man for a while triumphant, contributes to this higher excellence.

How colourless these words! How unworthy of that wholly satisfying beauty of all things, which in our awakened racial mode we see face to face. Every human being, of whatever species, may occasionally glimpse some fragment or aspect of existence transfigured thus with the cold beauty which normally he cannot see. Even the First Men, in their respect for tragic art, had something of this experience. The Second, and still more surely the Fifth, sought it deliberately. The winged Seventh happened upon it while they were in the air. But their minds were cramped; and all that they could appreciate was their own small world and their own tragic story. We, the Last Men, have all their zest in private and in racial life, whether it fares well or ill. We have it at all times, and we have it in respect of matters inconceivable to lesser minds. We have it, moreover, intelligently. Knowing well how strange it is to admire evil along with good, we see clearly the subversiveness of this experience. Even we, as mere individuals, cannot reconcile our loyalty to the striving spirit of man with our own divine aloofness. And so, if we were mere individuals, there would remain conflict in each of us. But in the racial mode each one of us has now experienced the great elucidation of intellect and of feeling. And though, as individuals once more, we can never recapture that far-seeing vision, the obscure memory of it masters us always, and controls all our policies. Among yourselves, the artist, after his phase of creative insight is passed, and he is once more a partisan in the struggle for existence, may carry out in detail the design conceived in his brief period of clarity. He remembers, but no longer sees the vision. He tries to fashion some perceptible embodiment of the vanished splendour. So we, living our individual lives, delighting in the contacts of flesh, the relations of minds, and all the delicate activities of human culture, co-operating and conflicting in a thousand individual undertakings and performing each his office in the material maintenance of our society, see all things as though transfused With light from a source which is itself no longer revealed.

I have tried to tell you something of the most distinctive characteristics of our species. You can imagine that the frequent occasions of group mentality, and even more the rare occasions of race mentality, have a far-reaching effect on every individual mind, and therefore on our whole social order. Ours is in fact a society dominated, as no previous society, by a single racial purpose which is in a sense religious. Not that the individual's private effiorescence is at all thwarted by the racial purpose. Indeed, far otherwise; for that purpose demands as the first condition of its fulfilment a wealth of individual fulfilment, physical and mental. But in each mind of man or woman the racial purpose presides absolutely; and hence it is the unquestioned motive of all social policy.

I must not stay to describe in detail this society of ours, in which a million million citizens, grouped in over a thousand nations, live in perfect accord without the aid of armies or even a police force. I must not tell of our much prized social organization, which assigns a unique function to each citizen, controls the procreation of new citizens of every type in relation to social need, and yet provides an endless supply of originality. We have no government and no laws, if by law is meant a stereotyped convention supported by force, and not to be altered without the aid of cumbersome machinery. Yet, though our society is in this sense an anarchy, it lives by means of a very intricate system of customs, some of which are so ancient as to have become spontaneous taboos, rather than deliberate conventions. It is the business of those among us who correspond to your lawyers and politicians to study these customs and suggest improvements. Those suggestions are submitted to no representative body, but to the whole world-population in "telepathic" conference. Ours is thus in a sense the most democratic of all societies. Yet in another sense it is extremely bureaucratic, since it is already some millions of terrestrial years since any suggestion put forward by the College of Organizers was rejected or even seriously criticized, so thoroughly do these social engineers study their material. The only serious possibility of conflict lies now between the world population as individuals and the same individuals as group-minds or racial mind. But though in these respects there have formerly occurred serious conflicts, peculiarly distressing to the individuals who experienced them, such conflicts are now extremely rare. For, even as mere individuals, we are learning to trust more and more to the judgment and dictates of our own super-individual experience.

It is time to grapple with the most difficult part of my whole task. Somehow, and very briefly, I must give you an idea of that outlook upon existence which has determined our racial purpose, making it essentially a religious purpose. This outlook has come to us partly through the work of individuals in scientific research and philosophic thought, partly through the influence of our group and racial experiences. You can imagine that it is not easy to describe this modern vision of the nature of things in any manner intelligible to those who have not our advantages. There is much in this vision which will remind you of your mystics; yet between them and us there is far more difference than similarity, in respect both of the matter and the manner of our thought. For while they are confident that the cosmos is perfect, we are sure only that it is very beautiful. While they pass to their conclusion without the aid of intellect, we have used that staff every step of the way. Thus, even when in respect of conclusions we agree with your mystics rather than your plodding intellectuals, in respect of method we applaud most your intellectuals; for they scorned to deceive themselves with comfortable fantasies.

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