OUR inquiry into the cause of the breakdowns of civilizations has led us, so far, to a succession of negative conclusions. We have found out that these breakdowns are not acts of God—at any rate in the sense that lawyers attach to that phrase; nor are they vain repetitions of senseless laws of Nature. We have also found that we cannot attribute them to a loss of command over the environment, physical or human; they are due neither to failures in industrial or artistic techniques nor to homicidal assaults from alien adversaries. In successively rejecting these untenable explanations we have not arrived at the object of our search; but the last of the fallacies we have just cited has incidentally given us a clue. In demonstrating that the broken-down civilizations have not met their death from an assassin's hand we have found no reason to dispute the allegation that they have been victims of violence, and in almost every instance we have been led, by the logical process of exhaustion, to return a verdict of suicide. Our best hope of making some positive progress in our inquiry is to follow up this clue; and there is one hopeful feature in our verdict which we can observe at once. There is nothing original about it.
The conclusion at which we have arrived at the end of a rather laborious search has been divined with sure intuition by a modern Western poet:
In tragic life, God wot,
No villain need be! Passions spin the plot:
We are betrayed by what is false within.
This flash of insight (from Meredith's Love's Grave) was not a new discovery. We can find it in earlier and higher authorities. It reveals itself in the last lines of Shakespeare's King John:
This England never did, nor never shall,
Lie at the proud foot of a conqueror,
But when it first did help to wound itself.
... Nought shall makes us rue
If England to itself do rest but true.
It likewise reveals itself in the words of Jesus (Matt. xv. 18-20):
'Whatsoever entereth in at the mouth goeth into the belly and is cast out into the draught. But those things which proceed out of the mouth come forth from the heart; and they defile the man. For out
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Publication information: Book title: A Study of History. Contributors: Arnold J. Toynbee - Author, D. C. Somervell - Author. Publisher: Oxford University Press. Place of publication: New York. Publication year: 1947. Page number: Not available.