It is postulated that the change in thought
and technology in France, America and England in the late 18th
century is paralleled in the change in contemporary modes of behaviour
and ways of looking at the self. The philosophy articulated at
that time was by the philosophers of the enlightenment an also
In this nuclear age we are threatened
with nuclear war, over-population, ecological imbalance with irreversible
destruction of living and technological resources.
The contemporary philosophical and technological
changes are on a global basis as is the current conflict which
reflects a war of man against himself. This can lead to either
complete annihilation of man or a reappraisal of himself through
a holistic approach to himself and his planet based on internationalism.
"What are the roots that clutch, what branches
Out of this stony rubbish? Son of man,
You cannot say, or guess, for you know only
A heap of broken images, where the sun beats,
And the dead tree gives no shelter, the cricket no relief,
and the dry stone no sound of water".
This excerpt is from T.S. Eliot's "The
Waste Land" and to my mind symbolises a vacuum
in the hearts of man and a plea for some kind of enlightenment
or rebirth. This poem was written at the end of World War I and
was published in 1922, so it does express a certain feeling of
futility about the future of man.
To look at this poem is historical perspective and to view the
present international scene of hijacks, famine, homelessness and
the threat of nuclear war, poses the question : What can be done
to alleviate the human predicaments when sudden changes in history
and the flow of events created crises corresponding to those of
The Atlanto-Democratic Revolution
As a past example, I should like to consider
the Atlanto-democratic revolution that was postulated to have
occurred in the late eighteenth century. The theory was formulated
by two historians, Jacques Godechot and R.R. Palmer.
Revolutionary reactions leading to democratic changes occurred
in France, North America and England during this period. Godechot
says that these changes were the result of a transformation of
the social structure, a population explosion, an unfavourable
state in an economic cycle, philosophic enlightenment and political
factors. A major point is whether or not it was revolution that
actually led to democracy, and I will discuss this later.
At that time, a fervour of revolutionary democratic
philosophy was prevalent, and people believed that changes were
occurring in society.
As to the causes stated, it is indeed true that France was in
an extremely unfavourable economic position, and that the storming
of the Bastille occurred when the price of wheat grain was at
As to political causes, the revolutions in Franc
and America can be seen as partly engendered by over-centralisation
and by tightening up processes, in France by the monarchy and
in America by England. But in addition to economic and political
factors there was the birth of new ideas with a common denominator
which led to a change in the way humanity viewed itself.
The birth of the new thinking, called "The Enlightenment",
was associated with the industrial revolution.
The schools of philosophy or the philosophies
of the Enlightenment were those of John Locke and Charles de Secondat
Montesquieu, Francoise Voltaire, and John Jacques Rousseau. Targets
of these philosophers were arbitrariness of government, lack of
toleration, privileges of the noblemen, the authority of the Church
and superstition fostered by the Church.
Montesquieu saw three principal power in the
State : legislative, executive and judicial. In the ideal situation
he considered the laws would be made, interpreted and carried
out independently by three separate bodies. Voltaire attacked
the intolerance of the old French regime. Himself a deist, he
hated the superstition sustained by the Church, and his ideal
government was an absolute but enlightened monarch.
Rousseau's philosophy was a rebelliousness towards
the established modes of thought, with an emphasis on the individual
and on originality of action rather than on following a definite
set of rules. He stressed movement and change, as against the
static and unchanging character of the established order. He was
a subjective philosopher who preached a return to simplicity and
withdrawal from the world; his ideal society was a community which
was sovereign and where if there was disagreement the general
will was pre-emptive.
Wordswoth & the Romantic Poets
These concepts formed an ideological basis for
modern democracy which was probably the unifying theme, coupled
with the growth of technology, underlying the Atlanto-democratic
revolution. The new ideas were accompanied by a revolution in
European poetry: Wordsworth, Coleridge, Keats, Shelley and others
were making poetry out of their own moods. This was called "Romanticism".
These poets had a sense of humanity and wished to express themselves
from their deepest feelings.
Gradual disillusionment with the French Revolution
and its bloodbath led Wordsworth initially to follow Godwin, whose
ideas were expressed in 1793 in "Political Justice".
Godwin was proposing that reason, and reason above all else, could
improve man's lot and contribute towards democracy. He thought
that man was capable of perfecting himself, but that the most
important external influence on man were not material but moral,
among which those from government and education were the most
crucial. However, Wordsworth reacted against this philosophy of
rationalism, and in the book of "The Prelude"
titled "Rejection of Reason", written in 1804, his metaphors
indicate that he realised retrospectively that his methods had
been wrong, and that he had violated sacred things.
The great crisis of Wordsworth's life was his
redefinition of the work "nature". As a young man he
saw nature as a law that governed the conduct of the Universe,
and as the perfect rational state of which man was capable. However,
settling with his wife in Dorset in 1795, he was able to see that
only way he could express himself was, not through rationalism,
but through romanticism. Here, deep in the heart of Dorset, he
became a man of great visionary power, articulating a philosophy
of nature and proposing a moral solution to problems of humankind,
the contemporary revolution, and the impact of industrialisation.
He was representing the artist, in conjunction with William Blake
and D.H. Lawrence [who later revolted against the dehumanizing
aspects of technology, the domination of man by the machine].
In the third book of "The Preludes",
Wordsworth describes how he came to respect man, as not distinct
from the rest of creation but as a part of nature. Nature, he
believed, was essentially good. It influenced the responsive individual
in a moral direction. The naturally responsive person was generally
somebody who had been relatively untouched or unfettered by society,
like a child or a peasant or an idiot. he concentrated particularly
on the dignity of the human being.
The Contemporary Revolution
Does this revolutionary change and review of
the self, as expressed in the eighteenth century revolution, have
any bearing on contemporary modes of behaviour and ways of looking
at oneself? I believe that at present the world is reaching a
crisis and a change. In the eighteenth century the Atlanto-democratic
and the industrial revolutions occurred at the same time. Now,
two hundred years later, there is change with several similar
components. The economic developments this time, however, are
on a global basis. Much of the new technology enhances communication
between nations. The war with which we are threatened expresses
the ultimate revolution. It reflects a war of man against himself
which will lead to complete annihilation or the rebirth of the
The economic changes at the global level involve
a division between the developed nations and the third world,
illustrated by poverty, inequity, illiteracy, poor health, deprivation,
and inequality of wealth between nations. Although nations aim
to advance their own interests and may assert nationalistic tendencies,
the fact is that all people are now members of an international
community. The problem we face finally is the confrontation between
the machine and the power generated by it and the person. The
machine is the metaphor for economic rationalism, technology,
and the rise of atificial intellegence rendering people redundant
It is therefore to be expected that in the present
crisis, like the phoenix arising from its ashes, there should
be a growth of awareness reaching out for a new expression of
understanding and communication. This can only be spiritual, coming
from human emotions, and as Wordsworth said, "expresses his
Erikson, in "Childhood and Society",
says, for the sake of its emotional health, a democracy cannot
afford to let matters develop to a point where intelligent youth,
proud in its independence and burning with initiative must leave
matters of legislation, law and international affairs; not to
speak of war and peace, to insiders and bosses. American youth
can gain the full measure of its identity and its vitality only
by being aware of autocratic trends in this and in any other lands
as the young repeatedly emerge from changing history. Bosses are
the economic autocrats of big businesses who run themselves and
run the people and the world as machinery". Erikson says
that the American adolescent is free and easy, the product of
an easygoing democratic family, but is pursued by the autocrats
of the large corporations. Thus the executive dictates the course
of history, while youth, not realising the tremendous power and
initiative they have within them, become victims of society rather
than changing it for the better.
I think that this problems experienced by American
youth reflects modern society with its excessive emphasis on commercial
return, economic growth, wealth and material success. The autocrats
of today are no longer monarchs but those who control the economic
and financial worlds.
From these historical perspective, I think that
people should take a closer look at their relationships with organisations
of all types to which they belong. Can we free ourselves from
the insidious spectre of the organisation and the clone it produces
which may stifle freedom and individuality and prevent us from
expressing our true creative sense and urges? Do we understand
the inextricable relationship between ourselves and all life on
this planet? Do we realise the catastrophe that can afflict us
on this planet, whether it be ecological, technological or nuclear?
Are we truly internationally minded?
The Significance of the Individual
Jung in "The Undiscovered Self",
stated that the structure and physiology of the brain poses no
explanation of the psyche. The psyche has a peculiar nature which
cannot be reduced to anything else. Consciousness is a precondition
of being human. Thus the psyche is endowed with a dignity which
philosophically gives it a position equal to physical being. If
consciousness must be granted this status for human existence,
then the individual, who is the only source of consciousness,
must be allowed a corresponding significance in society. Institutions
of religion and ideology permit individuality only in so far as
the individual does not oppose their dogmas, otherwise he is condemned
as heretical, arrogant or eccentric.
Similarly, the modern state with its industrial-military
complex in the hands of a comparatively few people has a tendency
to dictate the course of society and suppress any full expression
of individuality amongst the masses of the population. The dangerous
habit of our age is to think only of large numbers, mass organisations
and mega deaths.
Technology has marched forward conquering virtually
everything in its path, and has succeeded in capturing and exploiting
virtually every ecological niche on the planet. Humanity finds
itself at the crossroads of its history.
Role of the Physician
In the structure of the scientific medicine,
disease is considered to be a disorder of a system or organ. Disease
of a particular system or organ is often looked at in isolation
from the rest of the person. Even in psychiatry, mental illness
is considered to be a cerebral disorder rather than a disease
of the whole person - it has been a characteristic of western
medicine since Vasaleus and Harvey, to view disease in a reductive
and analytic way.
The East, however, has a great tradition of
holistic medicine stemming from an understanding of man's harmony
with nature. The Chinese book of medicine, "The Yellow Emperor's
Handbook", goes back thousands of years and is based on an
understanding that life energy or life force circulates from the
body and then out into the cosmos. Although this information may
be unacceptable to modern physicians, the basic concepts of human
life being innately related to the seasons, lifestyle and environment,
is surely very apt to today's society. I believe a new medical
ethos is growing. We have now to be concerned with the health
of humankind as a whole. No longer can we be content just to treat
diseases; we also have to attempt to understand the nature of
the human being and to heal the biosphere and respect and sustain
this intricate matrix of life.
The need for health - the integrity of body
and mind in our patients - requires us to contribute to abolishing
all forms of war, and to dealing constructively with the threat
of world overpopulation and with ecological imbalance. The developing
countries of the world still need the basic essentials of sanitation,
drinking water and appropriate technology to enable them to survive,
while in the next twenty years the world population will continue
to rise to reach 8-10 billion.
We have also to be concerned with the ecological
pollution by modern technologies, the imbalance in wealth between
the developed and developing countries, the unchecked growth of
population, the threat of nuclear war, and the drive to dominate
and control the environment rather than to be in harmony with
||Eliot, T.S., 'Collected Poems'
1909-1962, Faber & Faber Ltd '74.
First published in 1936 in London as 'Collected Poems' 1909-1935.s
||Godechot J. 'France &L
the Atlantic Revolution of the 18th Century1770-1799'
The Free Press, New York 1965.
||Godwin W 'Enquiry Concerning
Political Justice' Editor, Carter K. Publishers -
Oxford University Press.
||Wordsworth W 'The Preludes'
Toutledge Press, Editor - Yarker, London 1969.
||Erikson Eric H 'Childhood
& Society' Penguin Books LTD 1965, first published in
USA in 1950.
||Jung, C.G. 'The Undiscovered
Self'. Translated from German by Hull R.F.C. first
published in England by Routledge & Keegan Paul Ltd.,
London in 1958.