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Full text of "Man In The Modern World"

MAN IN THE  MODERN WORLD
of desire and aspiration. Analogous to this last, but in the intellectual
instead of the emotional sphere, is man's concept-forming activity,
which inevitably gives rise to abstract terms like justice, truth, and
beauty. These, being abstract, are empty; but illimitable desire
perennially fills them with its imaginations. Then there is the fact of
childhood repression, with its consequences, only now beginning to be
realized by the world, of a burden of (often unconscious) guilt.
Closely linked with this is the obsession of certitude. 'The mechanism
of repression is an all-or-nonc mechanism : and the conscious accom-
paniment of such a mechanism is a subjective sense of certitude.
Another very important function is to provide something which is
felt as eternal and unchanging (even though in reality it may merely
be long-range and slow-changing) over against the limitations and
changes of ordinary existence.
But I must not spend too much time on mere analysis. The next
question is whether the scientific approach can throw any light on the
present crisis in religion and its possible future solution.
The particular situation that confronts the religion of western civil-
ization is this. The concept of God has reached the limits of its useful-
ness: it cannot evolve further. Supernatural powers were created by
man to carry the burden of religion. From diffuse magic mana to
personal spirits; from spirits to gods; from gods to Cod -so crudely
speaking, the evolution has gone. The particular phase of that
evolution which concerns us is that of gods. In one period of our
western civilization the gods were necessary fictions, useful hypotheses
by which to live.
But the gods are only necessary or useful in a certain phase of
evolution. For gods to be of value to man, three things are necessary,
The disasters of the outer world must still be sufficiently unoompre-
hended and uncontrolled to be mysteriously alarming* Or else the
beastliness and hopelessness of common life mast be such as to pre-
clude any pinning of faith to the improvement in this world: then
God can, and social life cannot, provide the necessary escape-
mechanism. The belief in magical power must still be current, even
ifit be in a refined or sublimated form. And the analytic exploration
of his own mind by man must not be so advanced that he can no
longer project and personify the unconscious forces of his Super-ego
and his Id as beings external to himself.
The advance of natural science, logic, and psychology has brought
us to a stage at which God is no longer a useful hypothesis. Natural
science has pushed God into an ever greater remoteness, until his
function "as ruler and dictator disappears and he becomes a mere first
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