A Study of History

By Arnold J. Toynbee; D. C. Somervell | Go to book overview

XIX. SCHISM IN THE SOUL

(1) ALTERNATIVE WAYS OF BEHAVIOUR, FEELING
AND LIFE

THE schism in the body social, which we have been hitherto examining, is a collective experience and therefore superficial. Its significance lies in its being the outward and visible sign of an inward and spiritual rift. A schism in the souls of human beings will be found to underlie any schism that reveals itself on the surface of the society which is the common ground of these human actors' respective fields of activity; and the several forms which this inward schism may take must now engage our attention.

Schism in the souls of members of a disintegrating society displays itself in a variety of shapes because it arises in every one of the various ways of behaviour, feeling and life which we have found to be characteristic of the action of human beings who play their part in the geneses and growths of civilizations. In the disintegration phase each of these single lines of action is apt to split into a pair of mutually antithetical and antipathetic variations or substitutes, in which the response to a challenge is polarized into two alternatives—one passive and the other active, but neither of them creative. A choice between the active and the passive option is the only freedom that is left to a soul which has lost the opportunity (though not, of course, the capacity) for creative action through being cast for a part in the tragedy of social disintegration. As the process of disintegration works itself out, the alternative choices tend to become more rigid in their limitations, more extreme in their divergence and more momentous in their consequences. That is to say, the spiritual experience of schism in the soul is a dynamic movement, not a static situation.

To begin with, there are two ways of personal behaviour which are alternative substitutes for the exercise of the creative faculty. Both of them are attempts at self-expression. The passive attempt consists in an abandon (ἀκρáτεια) in which the soul 'lets itself go' in the belief that, by giving free rein to its own spontaneous appetites and aversions, it will be 'living according to nature' and will automatically receive back from that mysterious goddess the precious gift of creativity which it has been conscious of losing. The active alternative is an effort at self-control (∊́γκρáτ∊ια) in which the soul 'takes itself in hand' and seeks to discipline its 'natural passions' in the opposite belief that nature is the bane of creativity and not its source and that to 'gain the mastery over nature' is the only way of recovering the lost creative faculty.

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A Study of History
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • A Study of History *
  • Plan of the Book *
  • Preface *
  • Note by the Editor of the Abridgement *
  • Table of Contents *
  • I- Introduction *
  • I. the Unit of Historical Study *
  • Ii. the Comparative Study of Civilizations *
  • Iii. the Comparability of Societies *
  • II- The Geneses of Civilizations *
  • Iv. the Problem and How Not to Solve It *
  • V. Challenge and Response *
  • Vi. the Virtues of Adversity *
  • Vii. the Challenge of the Environment *
  • Viii. the Golden Mean *
  • III- The Growths of Civilizations *
  • Ix. the Arrested Civilizations *
  • X. the Nature of the Growths of Civilizations *
  • Xi. an Analysis of Growth *
  • Xii. Differentiation through Growth *
  • IV- The Breakdowns of Civilizations *
  • Xiii. the Nature of the Problem *
  • Xiv. Deterministic Solutions *
  • Xv. Loss of Command over the Environment *
  • Xvi. Failure of Self-Determination *
  • V- The Disintegrations of Civilizations *
  • Xvii. the Nature of Disintegration *
  • Xviii. Schism in the Body Social *
  • Xix. Schism in the Soul *
  • Xx. the Relation between Disintegrating Societies and Individuals *
  • Xxi. the Rhythm of Disintegration *
  • Xxii. Standardization through Disintegration *
  • Editor''s Note *
  • Argument *
  • Index *
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