Philip Wylie was a preacher's son; mainly, a fiction writer in the 40's and 50's. His keen intellect tackled the controversies of his day through the characters in his novels. He was self-educated in that he had no degree, though he'd studied physics and psychology at Cal State and Princeton, "beyond the point at which doctorates are given." He was a critical thinker in pursuit of subjective truth.
I stumbled onto An Essay on Morals in high school. It was dedicated to C. G. Jung's psychology, the conceptual underpinnings of Mr. Wylie's philosophy. His social critique became a guiding thread in my own search for a subjective truth. These are some of his ideas:
"What shall we do?" he asked, concerned for the deepening psychic split he saw reflected in the conflict between science and religion. He described its resolution as an inner search: "The answer for the individual is clear. Through the use of his conscience, and with insight into natural law, he can extend his awareness as far as he will.
"To be conscious of the instincts and conscious in the instinctual sense is his chief function. Learning psychological law and meditating it in the intellect is of little avail. It must be applied by the man to every thought and notion, dream, fantasy, memory and motive. The illumination that ensues takes the form of inward experience, of heightened consciousness, of the fulfillment of the newly educated mind through performance."
He explored the possibilities of a society oriented to understanding its nature in the interest of collective consciousness and not just for the benefit of a few: "I think... education could profit if it were to embark upon the serious, subjective instruction of wisdom in the order man has learned it. Anthropology provides the proper schedule for subjective study by the child."
These are things mature, intelligent beings ponder when they envision their children's futures. When did you last hear a politician or preacher express such ideas? Very different notions of profit drive today's leaders.
"The great advantage of the deep, inner realization that man is an animal lies in the fact that it reveals the amount of work and effort he must expend to accomplish his good purposes -- to use his virtues creatively and his destructive impulses for the destruction of that which impedes his consciousness, beginning with his ego. The very acceptance of our animal nature and origin and state is, in itself, the biggest blow to the ego. We have imagined that, as super-beasts, as animals with souls, or animals made superior with reason, there ought to be for us a quick and handy way to personal perfection and the achievement of Heaven on Earth. But if we know we are animals, we see how we must evolve, and that the more conscious we make ourselves, the sooner shall we evolve."
He saw exposing the myth of racial purity as basic to a modern education in a global community: "... national and racial prejudice is founded upon ignorance and fear... he is afraid of other races because he is afraid of himself.
"...to protect himself from the knowledge of his constant panic, he develops an arrogance of race... and nations. This, he passes on to his son, generation after generation... its attending facts ought to be taught to the ten year old, and not just in college to a few candidates for philosophical doctorates.
"Next on the public curriculum should come that significant finding about man which next occurred in history: the discovery of the unconscious mind... The home and the schools of an animal that knows its universal kinship with beasts will be ready to receive the ideas. Sex symbols, totems, tabus... all the hidden, ageless patterns and data of sex should be taught so they are incorporated in the common mind and the common behavior.
"Society by then would be sufficiently conscious... productive of responsible individuals, and sufficiently understanding of its own instincts, to govern itself on a world basis and maintain at the same time, peace and liberty. Half of the ill -- the psychosomatics -- would heal. Prisons and asylums would empty. Common knowledge of psychology would supplant the shortage of psychiatrists. These gentlemen bemoan the incidence of neurosis and madness today. The idea that their science could become the property of home and school would irritate and maybe amuse them: they are haughtily learned." (Whether they bemoan it as much as exploit it today is another question.)
Is it just another ideal in our search for meaning? Maybe, but it may also be more realistic than any we've conceived; one which would incorporate our highest achievements through education. The subjective complement to objective knowledge, our psychic history, however, is still buried deep in an unconscious religious heritage, far below scientific inquiry, now to peer back at us through fractured ideological and political interests. Only the conflicts and prejudices of the past remain; that we never absorbed its wisdom is plain.
Wylie saw Jung's model as a way to heal the schizophrenic effects of ideological differences though attention to our own natures; that we study ourselves as ardently as we study objects. Self-study indicates that we value who we are. That subjective "truth" is, in a scientific age, still defined largely by ideology and ego reflects an undeveloped soul (Russian philosopher, Gurdjieff, described it in the corporate businessman of the 1950's as a "small, deformed thing"). Why would we give attention to something we don't value?
As Wylie suggested, the recovery of the soul begins in the confrontation with ego. A recent shift in values was all that was needed to strip the bright veil of Christian ego-worship and expose its underside. The new spiritual authority is now the naked god of technological materialism. Sadly, for the modern scientific world: "... meditating it in the intellect is of little avail."
How can we be educated in a world where competing ideological interests seek only to capitalize on our lack of development? How do we recover the subject in a world of objects?
Don't read here if you're not concerned about the future.