THE GIFT OF PERSONAL INTEGRITY
At the winter solstice the trend toward collective action and socialization of feelings and of thoughts reaches its apex. Civilization - the organization of generalities and of universal values - triumphs. It is exalted in the average citizen of vast social organisms - cities, states or confederations - in which races and minds blend, and separate cultures are lost. Civilization makes for standardization and the catering to desires, impulses and interests common to most men. Yet these common human factors are strangely perverted, thwarted and emasculated in our metropoles. What universality of thinking and behavior there is is reached at the cost of an indifference toward, or an effective suppression of, the distinctions and contrasts which stimulate character and the use of creative powers. The transferable nature of all civilized values, while it makes them fit theoretically every person and every age, permeates the products of civilization with the vapid sentimentality of popular songs and motion pictures. Even man's love becomes curiously transferable and unindividualized, reaching up blandly toward the "pin-up" girl ideal.
With the winter solstice, the zodiacal sign Capricorn begins. It is traditionally a symbol of political action; but it also witnesses the birth of Christ. Caesarism and Christhood: the organization of empires or federated states, and the gospel of the inconquerable dignity and uniqueness of the human individual - how deep and poignant the contrast, how significant a theme for our meditations! But no one can truly resolve these opposites of human evolution unless one comes to the realization that, in man, two essential orders of activity co-exist in a state of dynamic interaction. One of them refers to the progressive evolution of personal and social "forms of living"; the other, to the transforming and creative activity of spirit in response to the need of the particles of humanity let loose and disintegrated as a result of this evolution.
In terms of zodiacal symbolism, the "psycho-mental" order has its origin at the summer solstice and in the sign of Cancer, ruled by the Moon; the "spiritual" order issues forth during the Christmas period of the year from the sign of Capricorn. Both types of activity operate throughout the year, but with varying and compensatory degrees of intensity. Likewise in every one of the twelve types of "human nature" defined by the basic characteristics of the twelve signs of the zodiac we find that the spirit-aroused and psycho-active traits interact, and in contrasting ways seek outer expression in organic or social behavior.
Man, in his psycho-mental being, is ceaselessly striving toward more inclusive forms of organization; yet, as he does so, he always takes in much more than he can actually assimilate and integrate, and he becomes the victim of the aroused energies of his still undifferentiated or long repressed depths. The organization becomes big, top-heavy with intellectual generalizations and standardizing regulations. It absorbs masses of elements which but superficially respond to the integrative rhythm of the organizing mind. In order to hold them in check, more regulations, more generalities, more formulas are produced, which apply to nothing in particular because they have to apply to everything in general. The over-conscious ruling elite loses real touch with the rootless, aroused and demanding, but fundamentally unconscious, masses; to their restlessness it can give no vital and truly integrative solution - only palliatives.
This is then the moment of greatest challenge to the spirit. A new logos, a new "word of power," a new creative meaning, a new quality of humanhood must be projected into the seething chaos of those parts of human nature and of society which cannot become actually integrated by the over-expanded and over-generalized "form of living" collectively constituting the state or the universal empire. The spirit must act with a fresh momentum and impregnate the masses of a disintegrating organism. It must establish a new rhythm, a new era; and, in order to do this, it must incorporate itself in those few portions of human nature - in those few individuals living in the over-civilized society - that can respond to this descent of the fecundative power and vision. Christ and his followers take birth in the Roman Empire of the Caesars.
In the Capricorn type of human nature and temperament we find at work the same precarious balance of forces which characterized the early Roman Empire. Then, new types of personal and social forms of living had reached their maturity, and the momentum of their growth was drawing into them an enormous mass of really unassimilable human substance. The collective Roman mind which had created these new forms had to stop creating, for it was over-occupied with the problem of organizing the heterogeneous materials (peoples, cultures, religions) it had absorbed. A new creation had to come, in polar relationship to the products of the Roman mind - a creation of the spirit. The spirit of Christ's message was an answer to the need of the millions drawn into the Empire, yet unable vitally to accept the Roman patterns of socio-cultural living, however much they might assent to these forms intellectually and in outer behavior.
This situation is at least partly duplicated by the one confronting the world at this time. Anglo-American democracy has produced political and cultural forms of living which spread all over the world. The peoples subjected to this deliberate or matter-of-fact propaganda are asked to assent to and imitate our democratic way of life which we Americans feel sure is the best possible - at least insofar as basic principles are concerned. Back of the asking is the power of America, which has been symbolized in the eyes of countless millions by the atomic bomb. Therefore, the world at large may have to answer as the Mediterranean and the Germanic world answered to the Rome of the Caesars.
Can our form of democracy fill the need of Asia or Africa? Did it fill the need of Germany, of Italy, even of France, after the first World War? What is giving power to our democratic institutions and way of life is the typical character of our people and of our past history; what has held Great Britain firm so long is the character and traditions of the English people. Transport these institutions to Africa or South Asia, and the relative chaos these lands know today will not be automatically transformed into order - no more than the Roman philosophy of social organization brought real social order to Egypt, Syria, or to the countries of the Franks and the Teutons.
Man is essentially triune. In him there is a psycho-mental life which builds mature forms of individual character from small seeds of behavior and thought. In him, too, there is an instinctual physiological life and half-repudiated ancestral traditions filled with confusion, contradictory pulls, uncertainties and unconscious fears, especially after the ebullience of youth has vanished.
This chaos will not become ordered and harmonized by the conscious mind and its individualized "forms of living"; the less so, the more the individual has expanded into a variety of fields and absorbed, but not assimilated, a great complexity of experiences. What is needed to bring about real personal integration is an act of the spirit, a divine Incarnation within the total personality. The need is not for better or more thoroughly organized patterns of organization - more managers, more bureaucrats and stronger policemen of the individualized consciousness - but rather for a new spiritual quality, a new logos.
The individual's "forms of living" may be of use; for instance, we know that Roman Law remained the legalistic foundation of the Christian European world. But what regenerates and integrates, what stamps an essential character of order and purpose upon the future personality or society are not the slowly matured products of the psycho-mental or cultural life, but the rhythm and the living example of the incorporated spirit - not the Roman way of life developed through five centuries of Roman history, but the gospel of Christ and the new quality of the spirit Christ incarnated and demonstrated as Jesus.
Today, the world of man is once more a chaos of disintegrating cultures, religious and political entities. The Anglo-American mind - with its essential European, and particularly French, roots - has produced a way of life, a typical kind of political structure (a universally copied Constitution, etc.), a democratic pattern of rights and culture. Yet this mind and its products have not in themselves the power to integrate the present world-chaos. The integration, which must become global in the centuries yet to tome, can only be brought about by an act of the creative, divine spirit, by a new logos focusing a new potentiality of Man, activating new faculties.
That this is always and forever the case is the great lesson which mankind, and particularly the Capricorn type of human individual, have to learn. Capricorn symbolizes the stage of maturity of social forms of collective living, the ultimate product of the human mind having reached its full development - and the imperialism, mild or harsh, inevitably associated with an individual's maturity - through collective expansion, generalization, standardization, legalization and rationalization (all Sagittarian characteristics). In Capricorn the trend which began with Cancer, and was foreshadowed in the spring signs of the zodiac, comes to its fullest expression.
The Roman Empire is the traditional symbol of the fulfillment of this trend. Every Capricornian type of man has in himself a potential Caesar Augustus, if not a Nero! Within him lurks the Roman political machine of proconsuls and the power of Roman legions seeking to hold in check a disintegrating and a barbaric world - the past and the unborn. To every Capricornian and his conflicts there may come, in the night of his soul, a Christ - the light that alone integrates the chaos of the world. This gift of the spirit, this Christ-logos, represents the essential answer to the need of a humanity blinded by the worship of the biggest and most efficient political machine, state or federal structure civilization can produce at any time. Yet blinded though he be, man keeps yearning in his depth for that which no pattern of social organization and no planned society can give: the clear realization by every individual, and within every individual, of his essential identity.
Such a realization, as it operates in everyday life, is what might be called the sense of personal integrity, from which derives also a sense of personal responsibility and individual destiny. Such an interior "sensing" may manifest in a number of ways. It may be a conscious, vibrant realization; or it may be a dim awareness of essential selfhood, of the divinity within. But wherever there is such a vital feeling and knowing of that quality of "personal integrity," there also we may say that the spirit is operative, that God has acted and brought His most wondrous gift - His "son" - to a confused and oppressed human mentality.
This act of the spirit does not deal with the formation of social-political institutions or with the thoughts-feelings of an individual person. In its essential aspect, the spirit (foes not deal with the collective patterns of democracy, with Constitutions and electoral systems, any more than Christ dealt with the Roman magistrates. "Render unto Caesar what belongs to Caesar, and unto God what belongs to God," said the Galilean. The forms of living which structure the social and personal everyday life belong to "Caesar" - that is, to the state or the federation of states, and also to the ego which, in every man, is the ruling power of the socially conditioned conscious life. What belongs to "God'' is the gift of the spirit, the divine spark which arouses, animates and sustains, in every true individual person, the sense of personal integrity.
Identity, integrity, self - these are words that touch the core of the activity of the spirit in man. They are Christ-words, utterances which centuries ago awakened from the limbo of human potentiality new tones of spirit-essence, new melodies of human living. These tones and melodies have made use of the most significant forms of living and institutions that the Roman Empires had built, strengthening their new meanings and permeating them with a new goal and a new feeling of universal consecration to humanity as a whole, beyond geographical space and limiting centuries. But the sense of personal integrity transcends the realm of political-social or psycho-mental structures. It could operate in the Roman elite of old and in the slave hiding in the catacombs, as well as in a Walt Whitman, or in a fighter of the French Movement of Resistance asserting the triumph of the power of the spirit over a ruthless political machine - or in a Gandhi.
What adequate social institutions or personal patterns of thinking and feeling can do is to allow the sense of personal integrity to radiate and freely to permeate the fabric of civilization. Yet the contagion of spirit often works more powerfully under the pressure of an antagonistic and oppressive political system, or even of an uncooperative personal ego. This is particularly true where the Capricornian type of human nature is concerned; for this type reveals more often than not a Herod frightened by the news of Christ-birth, an entrenched ruling class (or personal ego) clinging stubbornly to the structures of empire.
This clinging to the social mechanisms of power (or to traditional-cultural and religious forms of living) is caused by spiritual deafness as well as by psycho-mental inertia. Man is unable to hear, or refuses to hear, the voice of the spirit. What the spirit proclaims is that all forms of living are as nothing unless they be pervaded and inspirited by the logos - the message - of personal integrity. Dependence upon "free institutions" does not insure a real kind of individual freedom. Men are free only where they live in terms of personal integrity and personal responsibility.
How crucially the world needs at this time to realize such truths! Even from our own legislative and executive councils we have heard voices seeking to impose our democratic procedures and forms of living upon ancient nations or youthful societies, and many people believed that we could and should monopolize the tremendous new power which a host of minds from all over the world had placed in our hands. Even though these voices did often ring with the tone of paternal beneficence and were free from the most obvious harshness of imperialism, yet they revealed a naive faith in the omnipotence of social institutions and forms of organization.*
*Written in the Fall 1946.
This faith is a delusion. Institutions alone will not, because they cannot, bring to Europe, Asia - and, as we of late have had to realize, to ourselves, Americans - the peace and the creative happiness men desperately need. What is needed is a new impregnation by the spirit, a new arousal of the spiritual power of personal integrity within the hearts of countless individuals, a contagious refusal to rely upon formulas or institutions, upon any systems of thinking and any traditional patterns. True, there are ways of life and social procedures which will allow better than others the outer and collective expression of the spirit of personal integrity. These, all men should study and assimilate. They should never take them for granted.
Man is a maker of forms. But these forms are prisons without the animating power of the spirit. They may compel; they will not integrate. They can destroy the decaying past - as an atomic bomb, Hiroshima, city of lust and political decadence. They cannot breathe the life of tomorrow into anachronistic cultures. Our faith must not be placed in procedures or institutions; but, instead, in the spiritual contagion of our example. Nations will make of democracy a blessing in proportion as they create their own forms of living and refuse to accept ours; and they will hungrily seek to emulate our democracy, in proportion as we, ourselves, live democracy in terms of personal integrity and responsibility.
An Astrological Triptych