FOR EVERYBODY DISTURBED BY CURRENT WORLD EVENTS
I have a tatty First Edition of a book by the prescient HGWells, published in 1931, called WHAT ARE WE TO DO WITH OUR LIVES? Its contents underwent several revisions by Wells himself but it might as well have been written yesterday as the first paragraph shows very well. Perhaps Wells’ answer to the question is just as relevant now as it was then.
At the very least a careful reading of Wells’ text can make one realise, as if one didn’t know it before, just how great the problem of creating a way forward is likely to be – so many forces to be overcome, so much in the way of brain-reorientation to be accomplished, so many interrelationships to be taken into account.
In the introduction to this Glob (http://wp.me/p1QjJc-NE) I pointed out that Wells’ account amounts to a ‘Master Narrative’ and is therefore likely to be derided by anybody with a Postmodern kink in their brain. Postmodernists have been brainwashed into thinking we have to deal in disconnected chunks of ideas. There is also the problem of confronting the Power Possessors with their ability to completely skew the media with money. And then there are millions of individual minds…
Wells’ original text (rather greatly edited) is interspersed with my comments. As though he might have been writing just yesterday afternoon, but actually writing in 1931, this is how he starts:-
The world is undergoing immense changes. Never before have the conditions of life changed so swiftly and enormously as they have changed for humankind in the last fifty years. We have been carried along – with no means of measuring the increasing swiftness in the succession of events. We are only now beginning to realise the force and strength of the storm of change that has come upon us… Quite a small number of people, heedless of the ultimate consequence of what they did, one man here and a group there, have made discoveries and produced and adopted inventions that have changed all the conditions of social life…
Notably, since Wells’ time all the techniques of so-called mass communication have affected us. Since everything is now reduced to the endless exchange of ill-conceived sound-bites & simplistic chat, or the crass absurdities of Trolls, lacking any intellectual substance or unifying possibilities, proper communication has, paradoxically, as Marshall McLuhan predicted in the 1960’s, done a spectacular nose dive as a result.
Quite a small number of people, probably no more than 500, heedless and careless of the ultimate consequences of what they are doing against humankind, are taking over the world and fashioning it according to their own way of seeing things – ultra-right-wing weirdos and assassins – the Global Capitalist Conspirators.
Before it’s too late, though it’s getting on that way already, the question is how can we start ‘…to realise the nature of these changes, to find words and phrases for them and put them down so that they will…’
make sense to ordinary people, help them, against all the destructive power of the Capitalist Press, understand that they are being systematically hoodwinked… How can we convey the idea that all these changes, both technological and political, all of them… ‘are connected together?’ How can we help ordinary people ‘get the measure of their consequences?’ As things are, there is no coherent way of educating young people into what is being lost to the Power Possessors. Any sane attempt to correct the lies of the Capitalist Press is written off as ‘leftist propaganda’… How are we to tackle that lie?
Wells says that first of all we must be very clear about ‘the broad lines upon which these alterations’ in the condition of humankind ‘…are proceeding… They are more or less interdependent changes; they overlap and interact…’
It was only in the beginning of the twentieth century that people began to realise the real significance of that aspect of our changing conditions to which the phrase ‘the abolition of distance’ has been applied. For a whole century before that there had been a continual increase in the speed and safety of travel and transport and the ease and swiftness with which messages could be transmitted, but this increase had not seemed to be a matter of primary importance.
Various results of railway, steamship, and telegraph became manifest; towns grew larger, spreading into the countryside, once inaccessible lands became areas of rapid settlement and cultivation, industrial centres began to live on imported food, news from remote parts lost its time-lag and tended to become contemporary, but no one hailed these things as being more than ‘improvements’ in existing conditions. They are not observed to be the beginnings of a profound revolution in the life of mankind. The attention of young people was not drawn to them; no attempt was made, or considered necessary, to adapt political and social institutions to this creeping enlargement of scale.
Until the closing years of the nineteenth century there was no recognition of the real state of affairs. Then a few observant people began, in a rather tentative… sort of way, to call attention to what was happening. They did not seem to be moved by the idea that something had to be done about it; they merely remarked, brightly and intelligently, that it was going on. And then they went on to the realisation that this ‘abolition of distance’ was only one aspect of much more far-reaching advances.
People were travelling about so much faster and flashing their communications instantly about the world because a progressive conquest of force and substance was going on. Improved transport was only one of a number of portentous consequences of that conquest… It dawned upon them that in the last hundred years there had been a stupendous progress in obtaining and utilising mechanical power, a vast increase in the efficiency of mechanism, and associated with that an enormous increase in the substances available for human purposes, from vulcanised rubber to the modern steels, and from petroleum and margarine to tungsten and aluminium. At first the general intelligence was disposed to regard these things as lucky ‘finds’, happy chance discoveries. It was not apprehended that the shower of finds was systemic and continuous… these new powers and substances were modifying and transforming – unobtrusively, surely, and relentlessly – every particular of the normal life of mankind.
Since Wells, of course, ‘the abolition of distance’ has gone on apace – both physical and mental. Everything moves far more quickly and it is assumed that the pace of life must be adjusted accordingly; the laws of golf must be modified to make the game go more quickly (March 2017). Assuming that the monitors of the air-waves want us to know about it, something that happens in China is known about within seconds, The Internet, which Wells foresaw as the World Brain (1937) has greatly compacted human thought without necessarily improving proper exchange of ideas in an open way. Together with the ‘creeping enlargement of scale’ and ‘the abolition of distance’ goes a shift in the nature of the human brain; it shrinks; it does not concentrate on totalities: instead of the expansion of its ability to process information it has become more reliant on sound-bites and little bits of information which it takes to be the whole of an explanation; people don’t like reading at length – there will be few people who read this analysis thus far! – instant apprehension is required; the brain no longer functions on possibilities and maybes, has a very low toleration of ambiguity, and whizzes about from here to there; chat shows and small chunks of ‘news’ lead to further fragmentation of understanding – in fact, it’s arguable that we are not supposed to join things up at all. Short sentences in modern popular novels destroy the ability to follow a complex line of argument. It’s so much easier to be glued to moving pictures, no matter how irrelevant they may be, than to move the eyes along lines of print. ‘The abolition of distance’ applies as much to the human brain as it does to the conquest of time & space. We think differently. Instead of thinking things out for ourselves, there’s an inclination to Google some kind of answer to a question. The brain is being bashed into a new shape. Youth cannot imagine that the world has ever been otherwise than the way they experience it – there is a clash of brain power. Postmodernism rules…
[New powers and substances]… increased the amount of production and the methods of production; they made it possible for ‘Big Business’ to drive the small producer and the small distributor out of the market; they swept away factories and evoked new ones; they changed the face of the fields; they brought into the normal life, thing by thing and day by day, electric light and heating, bright cities at night, better aeration, new types of clothing, a fresh cleanliness; they changed a world where there had never been enough into a world of potential plenty, into a world of excessive plenty. It dawned upon their minds after their realisation of the ‘abolition of distance’ that shortage of supplier had also been abolished and that irksome toil was no longer necessary to produce everything material that might be required. It is only in the last dozen years [since the so-called Great War] that this broader and profounder fact has come through to the intelligence of any considerable number of people. Most of them have still to carry their realisation a step farther and see how complete is the revolution in the character of the daily life these things involve.
…Fewer and fewer human beings die young This has changed the social atmosphere about us. The tragedy of lives cut short and ended prematurely is passing out of general experience… The continual toothaches, headaches, rheumatism, neuralgias, coughs, colds, indigestions that made up so large a part of the briefer lives of our grandfathers and grandmothers fade out of experience. We may all live now, we discover, without any great burden of fear, wholesomely and abundantly, for as long as the desire to live is in us.
But we do not do so. All this possible freedom of movement, this power and abundance, remains for most of us no more than possibility. There is a sense of profound instability about these achievements of our race; …for the great multitude of mankind there is neither ease, plenty, nor freedom. Hard tasks, insufficiency, and unending money worries are still the ordinary stuff of life. Over everything human hangs the threat of such war as we have never known before, war armed and reinforced by all the powers and discoveries of modern science.
With ‘The Spirit of 1945’, things did change briefly for the better. The Labour Party mantra then ‘Fair Shares for All’ worked. The National Health Service mended the nation’s teeth and provided free health care – I remember being regularly weighed & tested in Junior School in the 1940’s. But Free Milk in school was done away with by Thatcher which was perhaps the beginning of the Capitalist fightback. Now, March 2017, we hear that people in hospital are being ‘consulted’ about signing ‘Do Not Resuscitate’ notices presumably in order to free up bed-space and save money.
And now there’s continual war, undeclared, not subject to the possibility of peace treaties, not conducted according to so-called ‘rules’ of warfare under a Convention – why would terrorists bother with such things when their aim is simply to cause terror? They would regard it as settling things to machine gun peace negotiators across a table.
…The general government of human affairs has hitherto been distributed among a number of sovereign states – there are about seventy of them now  – and until recently that was a quite tolerable system of frame-works into which a general way of living could be fitted. The standard of living may not have been as high as our present standards, but the social stability and assurance were greater. …We are continually being urged by our training and traditions to antagonisms and conflicts that will impoverish, starve, and destroy both our antagonists and ourselves. We are all trained to distrust and hate foreigners, salute our flag, stiffen up in a wooden obedient way at our national anthem, and prepare to follow the little fellows in spurs and feathers who pose as the heads of our states into the most horrible common destruction. Our political and economic ideas of living are out of date, and we find great difficulty in adjusting them and reconstructing them to meet the huge and strenuous demands of the new times…
Socially and politically we need a revised system of ideas about conduct, a view of social and political life brought up to date. We are not doing the effective thing with our lives, we are drifting, we are being hoodwinked and bamboozled and misled by those who trade upon the old traditions. It is preposterous that we should still be followed about and pestered by war, taxed for war preparations, and threatened bodily and in our liberties by this unnecessary and exaggerated and distorted survival of the disunited world of the pre-scientific era. And it is not simply that our political way of living is now no better than an inherited defect and malformation, but that our everyday life, our eating and drinking and clothing and housing and going about, is also cramped, thwarted, and impoverished, because we do not know how to set about shaking off the old ways and fitting the general life to our new opportunities. The strain takes the form of increased unemployment and a dislocation of spending power. We do not know whether to spend or save. Great swarms of us find ourselves unaccountably thrown out of work. Unjustly, irrationally. Colossal business reconstructions are made to increase production and accumulate profits, and meanwhile the customers with purchasing power dwindle in numbers and fade away. The economic machine creaks and makes every sign of stopping – and its stopping means universal want and starvation… There must be a reconstruction, a change-over. But what sort of a change-over?
Though none of us are yet clear as to the precise way in which this great change-over is to be effected, there is a world-wide feeling now, in certain sections of the population, that change must happen… or a vast catastrophe is before us. Increasing multitudes participate in that uneasy sense of insecure transition. In the course of one lifetime mankind has passed from a state of affairs that seems to us now to have been slow, dull, ill-provided, and limited, but at least picturesque and tranquil-minded, to a new phase of excitement, provocation, menace, urgency, and actual or potential distresses.
Our lives are part of one another. We cannot get away from it. As items in a social mass, what are we to do with our lives?
THE IDEA OF THE OPEN CONSPIRACY
[Around 1927] it seemed to me [Wells] that all over the world intelligent people were waking up to the indignity and absurdity of being endangered, restrained, and impoverished, by a mere uncritical adhesion to traditional governments, traditional ideas of economic life, and traditional forms of behaviour, and that these awaking intelligent people must constitute first a protest and then a creative resistance to the inertia that was stifling and threatening us. These people I imagined would say first, “We are drifting; we are doing nothing worth while with our lives. Our lives are dull and stupid and not good enough.”
They were making the same statement as Ouspensky in The Fourth Way: THERE MUST BE SOMETHING MORE TO LIFE THAN THIS…
Then they would say, “What are we to do with our lives?” In answer they might reply, “Let us get together with other people of our sort and make over the world into a great world-civilisation that will enable us to realise the promises and avoid the dangers of this new time.” It seemed to me that as, one after another, we woke up, that is what we should be saying.
Not in the way that politicians and presidents have said it all before in some sort of sloganistic sleep-walking kind of way or simply to rouse the ignorant millions to vote for them but as a deliberate policy to be acted on by the great majority against the 1%. It is a different kind of question, with a deliberate intention requiring specific attention not subject to the whims of party or personal gain.
It amounted to a protest, first mental and then practical, it amounted to a sort of unpremeditated and unorganised conspiracy, against the fragmentary and insufficient governments and the current wide-spread greed, appropriation, clumsiness, and waste… But unlike conspiracies in general this widening protest and conspiracy against established things would, by its very nature, go on in the daylight, and it would be willing to accept participation and help from every quarter. It would, in fact, become an ‘Open Conspiracy’, a necessary, naturally evolved conspiracy, to adjust our dislocated world…
The Open Conspiracy conveyed the general idea of a world reconstructed, but it was very vague about the particular way in which this or that individual life could be lived in relation to that general idea. It gave a general answer to the question, “What are we to do with our lives?” It said, “Help to make over the New World amidst the confusions of the Old.” But when the question was asked, “What am I to do with my life?” the reply was much less satisfactory.
The word ‘Conspiracy’ is an abstraction. To come to terms with any abstraction is like trying to locate a little worm in a cesspit. Wells quite rightly revised his thinking in relation to an Open Conspiracy to focus on action that could be taken by people who dedicate themselves to being ‘Open Conspirators’. That, he thought, would help to ‘…present the thing in a better light and handle it with a surer touch…’
WE HAVE TO CLEAR AND CLEAN UP OUR MINDS
Now, one thing is fairly plain to most of us who are waking up to the need of living our lives in a new way and of making over the state, which is the framework of our lives, to meet the new demands upon it, and that is, that we have to put our own minds in order. Why have we only awakened now to the crisis in human affairs? The changes in progress have been going on with a steady acceleration for a couple of centuries. Clearly we must all have been very unobservant, our knowledge as it came to us must have been very badly arranged in our minds, and our way of dealing with it must have been cloudy and muddled, or else we should surely have awakened long ago to the immense necessities that now challenge us. And if that is so, if it has taken decades to rouse us, then quite probably we are not yet completely awake. Even now we may not have realised the job before us in its completeness. We may still have much to get plain in our minds, and we certainly have much more to learn. One primary and permanent duty therefore is to go on with our thinking and to think as well as we can about the way in which we think and about the ways in which we get and use knowledge.
Fundamentally the Open Conspiracy must be an intellectual rebirth. An open conspirator must work consistently through the whole brain, utilising intellect, emotion and action in parallel. What is absolutely essential is a proper attention to the words we use and their function as thinking tiddlywinks. This is critical; in the following paragraphs, Wells is spot on. Crucially, the problem of words and the things they are supposed to represent goes back a long way.
Human thought is still very much confused by the imperfection of the words and other symbols it employs and the consequences of this confused thinking are much more serious and extensive than is commonly realised. We still see the world through a mist of words; it is only the things immediately about us that are plain fact. Through symbols, and especially through words, we have raised ourselves above the level of the ape and come to a considerable mastery over our universe. But every step in our mental ascent has involved entanglement with the symbols and words we use; they are at once helpful and very dangerous and misleading. A great part of our affairs, social, political, intellectual, is in a perplexing and dangerous state to-day because of our loose, uncritical, slovenly use of words.
All through the later Middle Ages there were great disputes among the schoolmen about the use of words and symbols. There is a queer disposition in the human mind to think that symbols and words and logical deductions are truer than actual experiences, and these great controversies were due to the struggle of the human intelligence against that disposition. On the one side were the Realists, who were so called because they believed, in effect, that names were more real than facts, and on the other side were the Nominalists, who from the first were pervaded by a suspicion about names and words generally; who thought there might be some sort of catch in verbal processes, and who gradually worked their way towards verification by experiment which is the fundamental thing about experimental science – experimental science which has given our human world all these immense powers and possibilities that tempt and threaten it today. The controversies of the schoolmen were of the utmost importance to mankind. The modern world could not begin to come into existence until the human mind had broken away from the narrow-minded verbalist way of thinking which the Realists followed.
Those who fail to make this distinction, the bulk of humanity, simply marshal in their thinking processes ‘… phantoms and fantasies as though they were real and living things…’ They exist in ‘…a reverie of unrealities, … blind, slovenly, hypnotised, base and ineffective, blundering about in an extremely beautiful and an extremely dangerous world…’
Politicians and conventional religionists deal in such a reverie while conning us into accepting it as ‘reality’.
…Thinking clearly and effectively does not come by nature. Hunting the truth is an art. We blunder naturally into a thousand misleading generalisations and false processes. Yet there is hardly any intelligent mental training done in the schools of the world to-day. We have to learn this art, if we are to practise it at all. Our schoolteachers have had no proper training themselves, they miseducate by example and precept, and so it is that our press and current discussions are more like an impromptu riot of crippled and deaf and blind minds than an intelligent interchange of ideas. What bosh one reads! What rash and impudent assumptions! What imbecile inferences!
Re-educating oneself, getting one’s mind into health and exercising it and training it to think properly, is only the beginning of the task before the awakening Open Conspirator. We have not only to think clearly, but we have to see that our mind is equipped with the proper general ideas to form a true framework for our everyday judgments and decisions.
Wells outlines the way he built a repertoire of Knowledge and arrived at a certain higher degree of Understanding. Conveying the concept of the Open Conspiracy was his way of converting both to Understanding. We could use his process as a model of behaviour for advancing towards a New Age. He managed to get to three million people long before the advent of the Internet. Perhaps we now suffer from overload. Fusing Knowledge into Being and then acting on it is crucial for Understanding as Gurdjieff often points out.
It was the Great War first brought home to me how ignorant I was, and how ill-finished and untidy my mind, about the most important things of life. That disastrous waste of life, material and happiness, since it was practically world wide, was manifestly the outcome of the processes that constitute the bulk of history, and yet I found I did not know – and nobody else seemed to know – history in such a fashion as to be able to explain how the Great War came about or what ought to come out of it. ‘Versailles’, we all seem to be agreed nowadays, was silly, but how could Versailles be anything else than what it was in view of the imperfect, lopsided, historical knowledge and the consequent suspicion, emotion, and prejudice of those who assembled there. They did not know any better than the rest of us what the war was about, and so how could they know what the peace ought to be? I perceived that I was in the same case with everyone else, and I set myself first of all for my own guidance to make a summary if all history and get some sort of map to more serviceable conclusions about the political state of mankind. This summary I made was ‘The Outline of History’, a shameless compilation and arrangement of the main facts of the world story, written without a touch of art or elegance, written indeed in a considerable hurry and excitement, and its sale, which is now in the third million, showed how much I had in common with a great dispersed crowd of ordinary people, all wanting to know, all disgusted with the patriotic, litigious twaddling gossipy stuff given them as history by their schoolmasters and schoolmistresses which had led them into the disaster of the war.
‘The Outline of History’ is not a whole history of life. Its main theme is the growth of human intercommunication and human communities and their rulers and conflicts, the story of how and why the myriads of little tribal systems of ten thousand years ago have fought and coalesced into the sixty- or seventy-odd governments of to-day and are now straining and labouring in the grip of forces that must presently accomplish their final unison. And even as I completed The Outline, I realised that there remained outside its scope wider and more fundamental, and closer, more immediate fields of knowledge which I still had to get in order for my own practical ends and the ends of like-minded people who wanted to use their lives effectively, if my existence was to escape futility.
I realised that I did not know enough about the life in my body and its relations to the world of life and matter outside it to come to proper decisions about a number of urgent matters – from race conflicts, birth control, and my private life, to the public control of health and the conservation of natural resources. And also, I found, I was astonishingly ignorant about the everyday business of life, the how and why of the miner who provided the coal to cook my dinner, and the banker who took my money in return for a cheque-book, and the shopkeeper from whom I bought things, and the policeman who kept the streets in order for me. Yet I was voting for laws affecting my relations with these people, paying them directly or indirectly, airing my ignorant opinions about them, and generally contributing by my behaviour to sustain and affect their lives.
The first qualification for an Open Conspirator is to be able to admit one’s ignorance and then with complete openness of mind to set about remedying the ignorance. It requires a modern Socrates: the more I find out about the truth of things the more I realise I don’t know.
So with the aid and direction of two very competent biologists I set to work to get out as plain and clear a statement as possible of what was known about the sources and nature of life and the relation of species to individuals and to other species, and the processes of consciousness and thought. This I published as ‘The Science of Life’. And while this was going on I set myself to the task of making a review of all human activities in relation to each other, the work of people and the needs of people, cultivation, manufacture, trade, direction, government, and all. This was the most difficult part of this attempt to get a rational account of the modern world, and it called for the help and counsel of a great variety of people. I had to ask and find some general answer to the question, ‘What are the nineteen hundred-odd million human beings who are alive today doing, and how and why are they doing it?’ It was, in fact, an outline of economic, social, and political science, but since, after ‘The Outline of History’, the word ‘outline’ has been a good deal cheapened by various enterprising publishers, I have called it, ‘The Work, Wealth, and Happiness of Mankind’.
Things appear to be separate and that’s the way the Power Possessors would like to keep it. In fact, as Ouspensky says, everything is connected. Everything is systemic: you cannot bomb one lot of human beings without their wanting to bomb you back and so on.
Now, I find, by getting these three correlated compilations into existence, I have at last, in however rough a fashion, brought together a complete system of ideas upon which an Open Conspirator can go. Before anyone could hope to get on to anything like a practical working directive answer to ‘What are we to do with our lives?’ it was necessary to know what our lives were… People cannot possibly set about living properly and satisfactorily unless they know what they are, where they are, and how they stand to the people and things about them.
But now we are living in the post-historical period, in which thrives the idea that everything has been done – no art, no philosophy, ‘…just the perpetual caretaking of the museum of human history…’ (Fukuyama) The politics of the Right is cashing in on the idea that we have lost a clear sense of both our history and our future; we are supposed to be living in a perpetual present in which we have forgotten that things were different in the past and that there are, therefore, alternatives. Though they often mechanically mouth the idea that we can learn from the past, its functional reality has been buried; ideological clashes in British politics have faded out. Politics, paradoxically conducted according to the beliefs and ambitions of the elites, is now just ‘doing what works’. Jeremy Corbyn is derided for sticking to Socialist principles. The general shift is to what used to be called the Right. Trump & May can absurdly claim to be on the side of the ‘working man’ while instigating the museum-piece called Fascism – without the concentration camps (for now at least…). To accuse them of this provokes the simplistic accusation of Leftism.
Scientists have discovered tiny fossils that are thinner than a human hair and are an astounding 3.7/ 4.2 billion years old, making them the oldest known fossils on Earth. The fossils were likely created by bacteria that lived near hydrothermal vents and consumed iron. The discovery supports the idea that life emerged from hot, seafloor vents shortly after planet Earth formed… This is the News of the Day (1st March 2017) But we are intended to leap-frog over the intervening years, paying no attention to the things we might have learned, to the specious present when a so-called democratic politician rides roughshod over votes that go contrary to her intentions. Try explaining this whole process to the next person you pass in the street.
This is completely the reverse of Wells’ vision of history; to his holistic approach to knowledge. ‘…People cannot possibly set about living properly and satisfactorily unless they know what they are, where they are, and how they stand to the people and things about them…’ The modern craze is not to know who you are, where you are and how you relate to others. Bread and Circuitry! is the obstructive mantra.
This is what the Open Conspirator must conspire against. What chance is there? Some revolution in education? When I was training to be a teacher in the mid-sixties we were encouraged to consider whether the aim of education was to prepare children to fit into the existing scheme of things or to change society for the better – it was an open question and we were encouraged to think about possible answers. I very much doubt that this dangerous alternative-provoking exercise would be up for discussion nowadays. Wells had been dead 20 years, at the end of his tether; and here am I more or less at the end of mine.
THE REVOLUTION IN EDUCATION
Some sort of reckoning therefore between people awakened to the new world that dawns about us and the schools, colleges, and machinery of formal education is overdue. As a body the educated are getting nothing like that Account of Life which is needed to direct our conduct in this modern world.
It is the crowning absurdity in the world to-day that these institutions should go through a solemn parade of preparing the new generation for life and that then, afterwards, a minority of their victims, finding this preparation has left them almost totally unprepared, should have of their own accord to struggle out of our world heap of starved and distorted minds to some sort of real education. The world cannot be run by such a minority of escaped and re-educated minds alone, with all the rest of the heap against them. …Old-world teachers and schools have to be reformed or replaced… as a fundamental part of the adaptation of life to its new conditions…
The education these new dangerous times in which we are now living demands, must start right, from the beginning and there must be nothing to replace and nothing to relearn in it. Before we can talk politics, finance, business, or morals, we must see that we have got the right mental habits and the right foundation of realised facts. There is nothing much to be done with our lives until we have seen to that.
RELIGION IN THE NEW WORLD
“Yes,” objects a reader, “but does not our religion tell us what we are to do with our lives?”
[If it means anything at all] …Religion certainly should tell us what to do with our lives. But in the vast stir and occasions of modern life, so much of what we call religion remains irrelevant or dumb. Religion does not seem to ‘join on’ to the main parts of the general problem of living. It has lost touch.
Let us try and bring this problem of the Open Conspiracy to meet and make the new world, into relation with the traditions of religion. Clear-minded Open Conspirators who have got a modern ideology, a lucidly arranged account of the universe in order, is obliged to believe that only by giving life to the great processes of social reconstruction, and shaping conduct with reference to that, can they do well with their life. But that merely launches us into the most subtle and unending of struggles, the struggle against the incessant gravitation of our interests to ourselves. We have to live the broad life and escape from the close narrow life. …In the past that struggle has generally assumed the form of a religious struggle. Religion is the antagonist of self.
In their completeness, in the life that was professionally religious, religions have always demanded great subordinations of self. Therein lay their creative force. They demanded devotion and gave reasons for that demand. They disentangled the will from the egotistical preoccupations, often very completely. …The normal religious process takes the individual out of egotism for the service of the community. It is not a bargain, a ‘social contract’, between the individual and the community; it is a subordination of both the existing individual and the existing community in relation to something, a divinity, a divine order, a standard, a righteousness, more important than either.
One has to remember that there is a [seemingly inescapable] real will for religion scattered throughout mankind – a real desire to get away from self… The desire to give oneself to greater ends than the everyday life affords, and to give oneself freely, is clearly dominant in a minority, and traceable in an incalculable proportion of the majority.
But hitherto religion has never been presented simply as a devotion to a universal cause. The devotion has always been in it, but it has been complicated by other considerations. The leaders in every great religious movement have considered it necessary that it should explain itself in the form of history and a cosmogony. It has been felt necessary to say Why? and To what end? Every religion therefore has had to adopt the physical conceptions, and usually also to assume many of the moral and social values, current at the time of its formation. It could not transcend the philosophical phrases and attitudes that seemed then to supply the natural frame for a faith, nor draw upon anything beyond the store of scientific knowledge of its time. In this lurked the seeds of the ultimate decay and supersession of every successive religion.
The suggestion of the possibility of further restatement is an unsettling suggestion [to the orthodoxies]; it undermines conviction and breaks the ranks of the believers, because there are enormous variations in the capacities of men to recognise the same spirit under a changing shape. These variations cause endless difficulties to-day. While some intelligences can recognise the same God under a variety of names and symbols without any severe strain, others cannot even detect the most contrasted Gods one from the other provided they wear the same mask and title It appears a perfectly natural and reasonable thing to many minds to restate religion now in terms of biological and psychological necessity, while to others any variation whatever in the phrasing of the faith seems to be nothing less than atheistical misrepresentations of the most damnable kind. For these latter God a God still anthropomorphic enough to have a will and purpose to display preferences and reciprocate emotions, to be indeed in person, must be retained until the end of time. For others, God can be thought of as a Great First Cause, as impersonal and inhuman as atomic structure.
The idea of getting close to God in any form seems to me to be a step too far. An unnecessary step – enough it would be to discover what’s there when you’ve tipped everything out without prejudging the issue, without entertaining a burning desire to give it a name and thus limit things again by identifying with whatever word you chose. There’s ordinary experience and then there’s an awareness of something rather larger than self – is that an awareness of the Greater Being? Expanded consciousness? Oceanic Being? Being, Consciousness, God – equivalents? Which is easiest to deal with conceptually? ‘God’ of course because it can be clothed in all the elements of your Personality, can be projected into or reduced to relatively human proportions. Being & Consciousness are slippery customers; they have to be worked at, intuited, heard, felt, seen, experienced to the full. ‘God’ is an opting out of the effort required.
‘God’ is the poor person’s version of Being & Consciousness fully vivified, to use Gurdjieff’s term. ‘You are God’, he says somewhere. The knower and the known are one and the same. God and I, we are one in knowledge. Then abandon the Word ‘God’ itself. One must never hold to anything that’s unnecessary. Being and I is one.
Consciousness requires no worship, no temple, no liturgy or book of common prayer; if it has prophets it’s every single human-being that ever lived; it requires nothing in the way of prayer or devotion, no trumpets or drums, no outlandish uniforms, no collection, no service to have a collection at the end of, no crucifixion, no crusade, no hoarding of treasure, no monasteries or nunneries. Its good work is in its exercise.
The word ‘God’ is in most minds so associated with the concept of religion that it is abandoned only with the greatest reluctance. The word remains, though the idea is continually attenuated. Respect for Him demands that He should have no limitations. He is pushed farther and farther from actuality, therefore, and His definition becomes increasingly a bundle of negations, until at last, in His rôle of The Absolute, He becomes an entirely negative expression. While we can speak of good, say some, can speak of God. God is the possibility of goodness, the good side of things. If phrases in which the name of God is used are to be abandoned, they argue, religion will be left speechless before many occasions.
…One type of mind can accept a reality in itself which another must project and dramatise before it can comprehend it and react to it…
The reality is that ‘God’ is an invention of the human spirit; nobody can possibly prove otherwise; it is an unnecessary construction that enables people to shuffle off personal responsibility. ‘God will provide’, ‘God will be on our side’ and so on. All the human characteristics that we project on to this imaginary outside agency are actually part of ourselves – for God’s sake let’s recognise them as such. One result would be to actually accept that we, not any of the multiplicity of Gods, are Love. God is our Consciousness – all that remains is to expand it, nurture it, into something akin to the old image of ‘God’ which is a much lesser puny concept in comparison .
…It seems unavoidable that if religion is to develop unifying and directive power in the present confusion of human affairs it must adapt itself to a forward-looking, individuality-analysing turn of mind; it must divest itself of its sacred histories, its gross preoccupations, its posthumous prolongation of personal ends. The desire for service, for subordination, for permanent effect, for an escape from the distressful pettiness and mortality of the individual life, is the undying element in every religious system.
The time has come to strip religion right down to that, to strip it for greater tasks than it has ever faced before. The histories and symbols that served our fathers encumber and divide us. Sacraments and rituals harbour disputes and waste our scanty emotions. The explanation of why things are is an unnecessary effort in religion. The essential fact in religion is the desire for religion and not how it came about. If you do not want religion, no persuasions, no convictions about your place in the universe can give it to you. The first sentence in the modern creed must be, not ‘I believe’, but ‘I give myself.’
MODERN RELIGION IS OBJECTIVE
To give oneself religiously is a continuing operation expressed in a series of acts. It can be nothing else. You cannot dedicate yourself and then go away to live just as you have lived before. It is a poor travesty of religion that does not produce an essential change in the life which embraces it. But in the established and older religions of our race, this change of conduct has involved much self-abasement merely to the God or Gods, or much self-mortification merely with a view to the moral perfecting of self. Christian devotion, for example, in these early stages, before the hermit life gave place to organised monastic life, did not to any extent direct itself to service except the spiritual service of other human beings. But as Christianity became a definite social organising force, it took on a great series of healing, comforting, helping, and educational activities.
The modern tendency has been and is all in the direction of minimising what one might call self-centred devotion and self-subjugation, and of expanding and developing external service. The idea of inner perfectibility dwindles with the diminishing importance attached to individuality. We cease to think of mortifying or exalting or perfecting ourselves and seek to lose ourselves in a greater life. We think less and less of ‘conquering’ self and more and more of escaping from self…
This is the ‘religion’ of the Open Conspirator: a recognition that there is a certain something much larger than oneself; the ‘oneself’ becomes a minute integer in the whole systemic process of life; all that it can offer is a small contribution to the life of all.
…The modern religious life, like all forms of religious life, must needs have its own subtle and deep inner activities, its meditations, its self-confrontations, its phases of stress and search and appeal, its serene and prayerful moods…
Mindfulness, satori all the time, an understanding of the effect of accepting the concept of Multiple-I’s, disidentification, the arrival at Essence and Second Education…
…It is possible now to imagine an order in human affairs from which previous evils have been largely or entirely eliminated. More and more people are coming to realise that such an order is a material possibility. And with the realisation that this is a material possibility, we can no longer be content with a field of ‘good deeds’ and right action restricted to palliative and consolatory activities. Such things are merely ‘first aid’. The religious mind grows bolder than it has ever been before. It pushes through the curtain it once imagined was a barrier. It apprehends its larger obligations. The way in which our activities conduce to the realisation of that conceivable better order in human affairs, becomes the new criterion of conduct. Other-worldliness has become unnecessary.
… Evil political, social, and economic usages and arrangements may seem obdurate and huge, but they are neither permanent nor uncontrollable. They can be controlled, however, only by an effort more powerful and determined than the instincts and inertias that sustain them. Religion, modern and disillusioned, has for its outward task to set itself to the control and direction of political, social, and economic life. If it does not do that, then it is no more than a drug for easing discomfort, ‘the opium of the peoples’…
The European Union is a modest and perhaps flawed attempt to produce a unification of nations who had at one time been at war. In 2016 its breakup began to be a possibility. The mood of general Fascism is forcing nations apart again. One wonders how soon it will before they are at war.
The word ‘religion’ is a problem. The word ‘Fascism’ is a problem. All shorthand words (abstractions) that are intended to indicate polymorphous concepts are a problem. and require constant attention.
As outlined in the introduction, two things get in the way: the money of the Power Possessors and the philosophy of Postmodernism.
WHAT HUMANKIND HAS TO DO
Before we can consider the forms and methods of attacking the inevitable task of reconstruction it will be well to draw the main lines and to attempt some measure of the magnitude of that task. What are the new forms that it is thus proposed to impose upon human life, and how are they to be evolved from or imposed upon the current forms? And against what passive and active resistance has this to be done?
There can be no pause for replacement in the affairs of life. Day must follow day, and the common activities continue. The new world as a going concern must arise out of the old as a going concern; the most comprehensive conception of this new world is of one politically, socially, and economically unified. Within that frame fall all the other ideas of our progressive ambition…
Many there are at present who apprehend it as a possibility but do not dare, it seems, to desire it, because of the enormous difficulties that intervene, and because they see as yet no intimations of a way through or round these difficulties. They do not see a way of escape from the patchwork of governments that grips them and divides mankind. The great majority of human beings have still to see the human adventure as one whole; they are obsessed by the air of permanence and finality in established things; they accept current reality as ultimate reality. As the saying goes, they take the world as they find it.
But here we are writing for the modern-minded, and for them it is impossible to think of the world as secure and satisfactory until there exists a single world commonweal, preventing war and controlling those moral, biological, and economic forces and wastage that would otherwise lead to wars. And controlling them in the sense that science and human realisation and control of powers and possibilities continually increase.
Let us make clear what sort of government we are trying to substitute for the patchwork of today. It will be a new sort of direction with a new psychology. The method of direction of such a world commonweal is not likely to imitate the methods of existing sovereign states. It will be something new and altogether different. This point is not yet generally realised. It is too often assumed that the world commonweal will be, as it were, just the one heir and survivor of existing states, and that it will be a sort of megatherium of the same form and anatomy as its predecessors.
But a little reflection will show that this is a mistake. Existing states are primarily militant states, and a world state cannot be militant. There will be little need for president or king to lead the marshalled hosts of humanity, for where there is no war there is no need of any leader to lead hosts anywhere, and in a polyglot world a parliament of mankind or any sort of council that meets and talks is an inconceivable instrument of government. The voice will cease to be a suitable vehicle. World government, like scientific process, will be conducted by statement, criticism, and publication that will be capable of efficient translation.
The fundamental organisation of contemporary states is plainly still military, and that is exactly what a world organisation cannot be. Flags, uniforms, national anthems, patriotism sedulously cultivated in church and school, the brag, blare, and bluster of our competing sovereignties, belong to the phase of development the Open Conspiracy will supersede. We have to get clear of that clutter. The reasonable desire of all of us is that we should have the collective affairs of the world managed by suitably equipped groups of the most interested, intelligent, [magnanimous – big of soul] and devoted people, and that their activities should be subjected to a free, open, watchful criticism, restrained from making spasmodic interruptions but powerful enough to modify or supersede without haste or delay whatever is weakening or unsatisfactory in the general direction.
A number of readers will be disposed to say that this is a very vague, undefined, and complicated conception of world government. But indeed it is a simplification. Not only are the present governments of the world a fragmentary competitive confusion, but none of them is as simple as it appears. They seem to be simple because they have formal heads and definite forms, councils, voting assemblies, and so forth, for arriving at decisions. But the formal heads, the kings, presidents, and so forth, are really not the directive heads. They are merely the figure heads. They do not decide. They merely make gestures of potent and dignified acquiescence when decisions are put to them. They are complicating shams. Nor do the councils and assemblies really decide. They record, often very imperfectly and exasperatingly, the accumulating purpose of outer forces. These outer really directive forces are no doubt very intricate in their operation; they depend finally on religious and educational forms and upon waves of gregarious feeling, but it does not in the least simplify the process of collective human activity to pretend that it is simple and to set up symbols and dummies in the guise of rulers and dictators to embody that pretence. To recognise the incurable intricacy of collective action is a mental simplification; to remain satisfied with the pretensions of existing governmental institutions, and to bring in all the problems of their procedure and interaction is to complicate the question.
Governments are empty shams; actual decisions are made by big business, the military, and and a host of secret operatives who infiltrate what is called ‘democracy’ to set things up to suit their own purposes and line their own pockets. Government is merely an elaborate Rubber Stamp.
The present rudimentary development of collective psychology obliges us to be vague and provisional about the way in which the collective mind may best define its will for the purpose of administrative action. We may know that a thing is possible and still be unable to do it as yet, just as we knew that aviation was possible in 1900. Some method of decision there must certainly be and a definite administrative machinery. But it may turn out to be a much slighter, less elaborate organisation than a consideration of existing methods might lead us to imagine. It may never become one single interlocking administrative system. We may have systems of world control rather than a single world state. The practical regulations, enforcements, and officials needed to keep the world in good health, for example may be only very loosely related to the system of controls that will maintain its communications in a state of efficiency. Enforcement and legal decisions, as we know them now, may be found to be enormously and needlessly cumbrous by our descendants. As the reasonableness of a thing is made plain, the need for its enforcement is diminished, and the necessity for litigation disappears.
The Open Conspiracy, the world movement for the supercession or enlargement or fusion of existing political, economic, and social institutions must necessarily, as it grows, draw closer and closer to questions of practical control. It is likely in its growth to incorporate many active public servants and many industrial and financial leaders and directors. It may assimilate great masses of intelligent workers. As its activities spread it will work out a whole system of special methods of cooperation. As it grows, and by growing, it will learn the business of general direction and how to develop its critical function. A lucid, dispassionate, and immanent criticism is the primary necessity, the living spirit of a world civilisation. The Open Conspiracy… will by its very nature be aiming not so much to set up a world direction, as to become itself a world direction, and the educational and militant forms of its opening phase will evoke, step by step, as experience is gained and power and responsibility acquired, forms of administration and research and correlation.
The differences in nature and function between the world controls of the future and the state governments of the present age which we have just pointed out favours a hope that the Open Conspiracy may come to its own in many cases rather by the fading out of these state governments through the inhibition and paralysis of their destructive militant and competitive activities than by a direct conflict to overthrow them. As new world controls develop, it becomes the supreme business of the Open Conspiracy to keep them world wide and impartial, to save them by an incessant critical educational and propagandist activity from entanglement with the old traditional rivalries and feuds of states and nations. It is quite possible that such world controls should be able to develop independently, but it is highly probable, on the other hand, that they will continue to be entangled as they are to-day, and that they will need to be disengaged with a struggle. We repeat, the new directive organisations of human affairs will not be of the same nature as old-fashioned governments. They will be in their nature biological, financial, and generally economic, and the old governments were primarily nothing of the sort. Their directive force will be (1) an effective criticism having the quality of science, and (2) the growing will in men to have things right. The directive force of the older governments was the uncriticised fantasies and wilfulness of an individual, a class, a tribe, or a majority.
The modernisation of the religious impulse leads us straight to this effort for the establishment of the world state as a duty, and the close consideration of the necessary organisation of that effort will bring the reader to the conclusion that a movement aiming at the establishment of a world directorate, however restricted that movement may be at first in numbers and power, must either contemplate the prospect of itself developing into a world directorate, and by the digestion and assimilation of superseded factors into an entire modern world community, or admit from the outset the futility, the spare-time amateurishness, of its gestures.
BROAD CHARACTERISTICS OF A SCIENTIFIC WORLD COMMONWEAL
… We aim at a particular sort of unification; a world Caesar is hardly better from the progressive viewpoint than world chaos; the unity we seek must mean a world-wide liberation of thought, experiment and creative effort. A successful Open Conspiracy merely to seize governments and wield and retain world power would be at best only the empty frame of success. It might be the exact reverse of success. Release from the threat of war and from the waste of international economic conflicts is a poor release if it demands as its price the loss of all other liberties.
It is because we desire a unification of human direction, not simply for the sake of unity, but as a means of release to happiness and power, that it is necessary, at any cost – in delay, in loss of effective force, in strategic or tactical disadvantage – that the light of free, abundant criticism should play upon that direction and upon the movements and unifying organisations leading to the establishment of that unifying direction.
Human-beings are imperfect animals and never quite trustworthy in the dark… Most of us who are past our first youth know how little we can trust ourselves and are glad to have our activities checked and guarded by a sense of helpful inspection. It is for this reason that a movement to realise the conceivable better state of the world must deny itself the advantages of secret methods and tactical insincerities. It must leave that to its adversaries. We must declare our end plainly from the outset and risk no misunderstandings of our procedure.
The Open Conspiracy against the traditional and now cramping and dangerous institutions of the world must be an Open Conspiracy and cannot remain righteous otherwise. It is lost if it goes underground. Every step to world unity must be taken in the daylight with the understanding sympathy of as many people as possible, or the sort of unity that will be won will be found to be scarcely worth the winning…
This candid attempt to take possession of the whole world, this Open Conspiracy of ours, must be made in the name of and for the sake of science and creative activity. Its aim is to release science and creative activity and every stage in the struggle must be watched and criticised, lest there be any sacrifice of these ends to the exigencies of conflict.
…As soon as the time-honoured preoccupation with the allotment of the shares of originators, organisers, workers, owners of material, credit dealers, and tax collectors in the total product, ceases to be dealt with as the primary question in economics; as soon as we liberate our minds from a preoccupation which from the outset necessarily makes that science a squabble rather than a science, and begin our attack upon the subject with a survey of the machinery and other productive material required in order that the staple needs of mankind should be satisfied, if we go on from that to consider the way in which all this material and machinery can be worked and the product distributed with the least labour and the greatest possible satisfaction, we shift our treatment of economic questions towards standards by which all current methods of exploitation, employment, and finance can be judged rather than wrangled over…
Manifestly the supreme direction of the complex of human economic activities in [our new] world must centre upon a bureau of information and advice, which will take account of all the resources of the planet, estimate current needs, apportion productive activities and control distribution. The topographical and geological surveys of modern civilised communities, their government maps, their periodic issue of agricultural and industrial statistics, are the first crude and uncoordinated beginnings of such an economic world intelligence… Such a great central organisation of economic science would necessarily produce direction; it would indicate what had best be done here, there, and everywhere, solve general tangles, examine, approve and initiate fresh methods and arrange the transitional process from old to new. It would not be an organisation of will, imposing its will upon a reluctant or recalcitrant race; it would be a direction, just as a map is a direction.
A map imposes no will on anyone, breaks no one in to its ‘policy’. And yet we obey our maps.
The will to have the map full, accurate, and up to date, and the determination to have its indications respected, would have to pervade the whole community. To nourish and sustain that will must be the task not of any particular social or economic division of the community, but of the whole body of right-minded people in that community. The organisation and preservation of that power of will is the primary undertaking, therefore, of a world revolution aiming at universal peace, welfare and happy activity. It will produce as the central organ the brain of the modern community, a great encyclopaedic organisation, kept constantly up to date and giving approximate estimates and directions for all the material activities of humankind.
The older and still prevalent conception of government is bullying, is the breaking-in and subjugation of the ‘subject’, to the God, or king, or lords of the community. Will-bending, the overcoming of the recalcitrant junior and inferior, was an essential process in the establishment of primitive societies, and its tradition still rules our education and law. No doubt there must be a necessary accommodation of the normal human will to every form of society; nobody is innately virtuous; but compulsion and restraint are the friction of the social machine and, other things being equal, the less compulsive social arrangements are, the more willingly, naturally, and easily they are accepted, the less wasteful of moral effort and the happier that community will be. The ideal state, other things being equal, is the state with the fewest possible number of will fights and will suppressions. This must be a primary consideration in arranging the economic, biological, and mental organisation of the world community at which we aim…
We know nowadays that the nineteenth century expended a great wealth of intelligence upon a barren controversy between Individualism and Socialism. They were treated as mutually exclusive alternatives, instead of being questions of degree. Human society has been is and always must be an intricate system of adjustments between unconditional liberty and the disciplines and subordinations of cooperative enterprise. Affairs do not move simply from a more individualist to a more socialist state or vice versa; there may be a release of individual initiative going on here and standardisation or restraint increasing there. Personal property never can be socially guaranteed as the extremer individualists desired, nor can it be ‘abolished’ as the extremer socialists proposed. Property is not robbery, as Proudhon asserted; it is the protection of things against promiscuous and mainly wasteful use. Property is not necessarily personal. In some cases property may restrict or forbid a use of things that could be generally advantageous, and it may be and is frequently unfair in its assignment of initiative, but the remedy for that is not an abolition but a revision of property. In the concrete it is a form necessary for liberty of action upon material, while abstracted as money, which is a liquidated generalised form of property, it is a ticket for individual liberty of movement and individual choice of reward…
Certain things, the ocean, the air, rare wild animals, must be the collective property of all mankind and cannot be altogether safe until they are so regarded, and until some concrete body exists to exercise these proprietary rights. Whatever collective control exists must protect these universal properties, the sea from derelicts, the strange shy things of the wild from extermination by the hunter and the foolish collector. The extinction of many beautiful creatures is one of the penalties our world is paying for its sluggishness in developing a collective common rule. And there are many staple things and general needs that now also demand a unified control in the common interest. The raw material of the earth should be for all, not to be monopolised by any acquisitive individual or acquisitive sovereign state, and not to be withheld from exploitation for the general benefit of any chance claims to territorial priority of this or that backward or bargaining person or tribe.
In the past, most of these universal concerns have had to be left to the competitive enterprise of profit-seeking individuals because there were as yet no collectivities organised to the pitch of ability needed to develop and control these concerns, but surely nobody in his senses believes that the supply and distribution of staple commodities about the earth by irresponsible persons and companies working entirely for monetary gain is the best possible method from the point of view of the race as a whole. The land of the earth, all utilisable natural products, have fallen very largely under the rules and usages of personal property because in the past that was the only recognised and practicable form of administrative proprietorship. The development both of extensive proprietary companies and of government departments with economic functions has been a matter of the last few centuries, the development, that is to say, of communal, more or less impersonal ownership, and it is only through these developments that the idea of organised collectivity of proprietorship has become credible.
Even in quite modern state enterprises there is a tendency to recall the rôle of the vigilant, jealous, and primitive personal proprietor in the fiction of ownership by His Majesty the King. In Great Britain, for example, George Rex is still dimly supposed to hover over the Postmaster General of his Post Office, approve, disapprove, and call him to account. But the Postal Union of the world which steers a registered letter from Chile to Norway or from Ireland to Pekin is almost completely divorced from the convention of an individual owner. It works; it is criticised without awe or malice. Except for the stealing and steaming of letters practised by the political police of various countries, it works fairly well. And the only force behind it to keep it working well is the conscious common sense of mankind.
The current bunch of fascistically-inclined politicians in the United Kingdom involved the Queen in an unseemly privatisation of the postal service; her face is still on the stamps as a lickable lie.
But when we have stipulated for the replacement of individual private ownership by more highly organised forms of collective ownership, subject to free criticism and responsible to the whole republic of mankind, in the general control of sea and land, in the getting, preparation, and distribution of staple products and in transport, we have really named all the possible generalisations of concrete ownership that the most socialistic of contemporaries will be disposed to demand. And if we add to that the necessary maintenance of a money system by a central world authority upon a basis that will make money keep faith with the worker who earns it, and represent from first to last for him the value in staple commodities he was given to understand it was his to have, and if we conceive credit adequately controlled in the general interest by a socialised world banking organisation, we shall have defined the entire realm from which individual property and unrestricted individual enterprise have been excluded. Beyond that, the science of social psychology will probably assure us that the best work will be done for the world by individuals free to exploit their abilities as they wish. If the individual landowner or mineral-owner disappears altogether from the world, he will probably be replaced over large areas by tenants with considerable security of tenure, by householders and by licensees under collective proprietors. It will be the practice, the recognised best course, to allow the cultivator to profit as fully as possible by his own individual productivity and to leave the householder to fashion his house and garden after his own desire.
NO STABLE UTOPIA IS NOW CONCEIVABLE
The unified world towards which the Open Conspiracy would direct its activities cannot be pictured for the reader as any static and stereotyped spectacle of happiness. Indeed, one may doubt if such a thing as happiness is possible without steadily changing conditions involving continually enlarging and exhilarating opportunities. Mankind, released from the pressure of population, the waste of warfare and the private monopolisation of the sources of wealth, will face the universe with a great and increasing surplus of will and energy. Change and novelty will be the order of life; each day will differ from its predecessor in its great amplitude of interest. Life which was once routine, endurance, and mischance will become adventure and discovery. It will no longer be ‘the old, old story’.
We have still barely emerged from among the animals in their struggle for existence. We live only in the early dawn of human self-consciousness and in the first awakening of the spirit of mastery. We believe that the persistent exploration of our outward and inward worlds by scientific and artistic endeavour will lead to developments of power and activity upon which at present we can set no limits nor give any certain form.
The antagonists are confusion of mind, want of courage, want of curiosity and want of imagination, indolence, and spendthrift egotism. These are the enemies against which the Open Conspiracy arrays itself; these are the jailers of human freedom and achievement.
Meaningfulness is more certain than ‘happiness’ as a state to be aimed at.
THE OPEN CONSPIRACY IS NOT TO BE THOUGHT OF AS A SINGLE ORGANISATION; IT IS A CONCEPTION OF LIFE OUT OF WHICH EFFORTS, ORGANISATIONS, AND NEW ORIENTATIONS WILL ARISE
The open and declared intention of establishing a world order out of the present patchwork of particularist governments, of effacing the militarist conceptions that have hitherto given governments their typical form, and of removing credit and the broad fundamental processes of economic life out of reach of private profit-seeking and individual monopolisation, which is the substance of the Open Conspiracy to which the modern ‘religious’ mind must necessarily address its practical activities, cannot fail to arouse enormous opposition. It is not a creative effort in a clear field; it is a creative effort that can hardly stir without attacking established things. It is the repudiation of drift, of ‘leaving things alone’. It criticises everything in human life from the top to the bottom and finds everything not good enough. It strikes at the universal human desire to feel that things are ‘all right’…
When we come to the general functioning classes, landowners, industrial organisers, bankers, and so forth, who control the present system, such as it is, it should be still plainer that it is very largely from the ranks of these classes, and from their stores of experience and traditions of method, that the directive forces of the new order must emerge. The Open Conspiracy can have nothing to do with the heresy that the path of human progress lies through an extensive class war…
Let us consider, for example, how the Open Conspiracy stands to such a complex of activities, usages, accumulations, advantages as constitutes the banking world. There are no doubt many bankers and many practices in banking which make for personal or group advantage to the general detriment. They forestall, monopolise, constrain, and extort, and so increase their riches. And another large part of that banking world follows routine and established usage; it is carrying on and keeping things going, and it is neither inimical nor conducive to the development of a progressive world organisation of finance. But there remains a residuum of original and intelligent people in banking or associated with banking or mentally interested in banking, who do realise that banking plays a very important, interesting part in the world’s affairs, who are curious about their own intricate function and disposed towards a scientific investigation of its origins, conditions, and future possibilities. Such types move naturally towards the Open Conspiracy. Their enquiries carry them inevitably outside the bankers’ habitual field to an examination of the nature, drift, and destiny of the entire economic process.
Now the theme of the preceding paragraph might be repeated with variations through a score of paragraphs in which appropriate modifications would adapt it to the industrial organiser, the merchant and organiser of transport, the advertiser, the retail distributor, the agriculturalist, the engineer, the builder, the economic chemist, and a number of other types functional in the contemporary community. In all we should distinguish firstly a base and harmful section, then a mediocre section following established usage, and lastly, an active, progressive section to whom we turn naturally for developments leading towards the progressive world commonweal of our desires. And our analysis might penetrate further than separation into types of individuals. In nearly every individual instance we should find a mixed composition, a human being of fluctuating moods and confused purposes, sometimes base, sometimes drifting with the tide and sometimes alert and intellectually and morally quickened. The Open Conspiracy must be content to take a fraction of a man, as it appeals to fractions of many classes, if it cannot get him altogether.
This idea of drawing together a proportion of all or nearly all the functional classes in contemporary communities in order to weave the beginnings of a world community out of their selection is a fairly obvious one – and yet it has still to win practical recognition. Man is a morbidly gregarious and partisan creature; he is deep in his immediate struggles and stands by his own kind because in so doing he defends himself; the industrialist is best equipped to criticise his fellow industrialist, but he finds the root of all evil in the banker; the wages worker shifts the blame for all social wrongs on the ‘employing class’. There is an element of exasperation in most economic and social reactions, and there is hardly a reforming or revolutionary movement in history which is not essentially an indiscriminate attack of one functioning class or type upon another, on the assumption that the attacked class is entirely to blame for the clash and that the attacking class is self-sufficient in the commonweal and can dispense with its annoying collaborator. A considerable element of justice usually enters into such recriminations. But the Open Conspiracy cannot avail itself of these class animosities for its driving force. It can have, therefore, no uniform method of approach. For each class it has a conception of modification and development, and each class it approaches therefore at a distinctive angle. Some classes, no doubt, it would supersede altogether; others – the scientific investigator, for example – it must regard as almost wholly good and seek only to multiply and empower, but it can no more adopt the prejudices and extravagances of any particular class as its basis than it can adopt the claims of any existing state or empire.
When it is clearly understood that the binding links of the Open Conspiracy we have in mind are certain broad general ideas, and that – except perhaps in the case of scientific workers – we have no current set of attitudes of mind and habits of activity which we can turn over directly and unmodified to the service of the conspiracy, we are in a position to realise that the movement we contemplate must from the outset be diversified in its traditions and elements and various in its methods. It must fight upon several fronts and with many sorts of equipment. It will have a common spirit, but it is quite conceivable that between many of its contributory factors there may be very wide gaps in understanding and sympathy. It is no sort of simple organisation.
FORCES AND RESISTANCES IN THE GREAT MODERN COMMUNITIES NOW PREVALENT, WHICH ARE ANTAGONISTIC TO THE OPEN CONSPIRACY.
THE WAR WITH TRADITION
We have now stated broadly but plainly the idea of the world commonweal which is the objective of the Open Conspiracy, and we have made a preliminary examination of the composition of that movement, showing that it must be necessarily not a class development, but a convergence of many different sorts of people upon a common idea. Its opening task must be the elaboration, exposition, and propaganda of this common idea, a steady campaign to revolutionise education and establish a modern ideology in men’s minds and, arising out of this, the incomparably vaster task of the realisation of its ideas.
These are tasks not to be done in vacuo; they have to be done in a dense world of crowding, incessant, passionate, uncoordinated activities, the world of market and newspaper, seed-time and harvest, births, deaths, jails, hospitals, riots, barracks and army manoeuvres, false prophets and royal processions, games and shows, fire, storm, pestilence, earthquake, war. Every day and every hour things will be happening to help or thwart, stimulate or undermine, obstruct or defeat the creative effort to set up the world commonweal.
What are the main antagonistic forces with which, from its very inception, the Open Conspiracy will be – is now – in conflict…
The Open Conspiracy is not necessarily antagonistic to any existing government. The Open Conspiracy is a creative, organising movement and not an anarchistic one. It does not want to destroy existing controls and forms of human association, but either to supersede or amalgamate them into a common world directorate. If constitutions, parliaments, and kings can be dealt with as provisional institutions, trustees for the coming of age of the world commonweal, and in so far as they are conducted in that spirit, the Open Conspiracy makes no attack upon them.
But most governments will not set about their business as in any way provisional; they and their supporters insist upon a reverence and obedience which repudiate any possibility of supersession. What should be an instrument becomes a divinity. In nearly every country of the world there is, in deference to the pretended necessities of a possible war, a vast degrading and dangerous cultivation of loyalty and mechanical subservience to flags, uniforms, presidents, and kings. A president or king who does his appointed work well and righteously is entitled to as much subservience as a bricklayer who does his work well and righteously and to no more, but instead there is a sustained endeavour to give him the privileges of an idol above criticism or reproach, and the organised worship of flags has become – with changed conditions of intercourse and warfare – an entirely evil misdirection of the gregarious impulses of our race. Emotion and sentimentality are evoked in the cause of disciplines and cooperations that could quite easily be sustained and that are better sustained by rational conviction.
The Open Conspiracy is necessarily opposed to all such implacable loyalties, and still more so to the aggressive assertion and propaganda of such loyalties. When these things take the form of suppressing reasonable criticism and forbidding even the suggestion of other forms of government, they become plainly antagonists to any comprehensive project for human welfare. They become manifestly, from the wider point of view, seditious, and loyalty to ‘king and country’ passes into plain treason to mankind. Almost everywhere, at present, educational institutions organise barriers in the path of progress, and there are only the feeblest attempts at any counter-education that will break up these barriers. There is little or no effort to restrain the aggressive nationalist when he waves his flag against the welfare of our race, or to protect the children of the world from the infection of his enthusiasms. And this last is as true now of the American system as it is of any European State.
…A change of mental direction would be possible for the majority of people now without any violent disorganisation of their intimate lives or any serious social or economic readjustments for them. Mental infection in such cases could be countered by mental sanitation. A majority of people in Europe, and a still larger majority in the United States and the other American Republics, could become citizens of the world without any serious hindrance to their present occupations, and with an incalculably vast increase of their present security.
‘Citizens of the world’… Because a small majority of ill-informed individuals in the United Kingdom voted in June 2016 to leave the European Union which was in itself a small move towards world citizenship, the rest of us have to return to the bad old days of separate nation states which have been in the past at war with one another – there’s no guarantee that won’t happen again now…The horrifying rise of the Ultra-right across the world makes internecine conflict quite likely. The patriots will pocket the profits as usual.
There remains a net of special classes in every community, from kings to custom-house officers, far more deeply involved in patriotism because it is their trade and their source of honour, and prepared in consequence with an instinctive resistance to any reorientation of ideas towards a broader outlook. In the case of such people no mental sanitation is possible without dangerous and alarming changes in their way of living. For the majority of these patriots by métier, the Open Conspiracy unlocks the gates leading from a fussy paradise of eminence, respect, and privilege and motions them towards an austere wilderness which does not present even the faintest promise of a congenial, distinguished life for them. Nearly everything in human nature will dispose them to turn away from these gates which open towards the world peace, to bang-to and lock them again if they can, and to grow thickets as speedily as possible to conceal them and get them forgotten. The suggestion of being trustees in a transition will seem to most of such people only the camouflage of an ultimate degradation.
From such classes of patriots by métier, it is manifest that the Open Conspiracy can expect only opposition. It may detach individuals from them, but only by depriving them of their essential class loyalties and characteristics. The class as a class will remain none the less antagonistic. About royal courts and presidential residences, in diplomatic, consular, military, and naval circles, and wherever people wear titles and uniforms and enjoy pride and precedences based on existing political institutions, there will be the completest general inability to grasp the need for the Open Conspiracy. These people and their womankind, their friends and connections, their servants and dependents, are fortified by time-honoured traditions of social usage, of sentiment and romantic prestige. They will insist that they are reality and Cosmopolis a dream. Only individuals of exceptional liveliness, rare intellectual power, and innate moral force can be expected to break away from the anti-progressive habits such class conditions impose upon them.
This tangle of traditions and loyalties, of interested trades and professions, of privileged classes and official patriots, this complex of human beings embodying very easy and natural and time-honoured ideas of eternal national separation and unending international and class conflict, is the main objective of the Open Conspiracy in its opening phase. This tangle must be disentangled as the Open Conspiracy advances, and until it is largely disentangled and cleared up that Open Conspiracy cannot become anything very much more than a desire and a project…
The complex of classes in any country interested in the current method of government is sustained by traditions and impelled by its nature and conditions to protect itself against exploratory criticism. It is therefore unable to escape from the forms of competitive and militant nationalism in which it was evolved. It cannot, without grave danger of enfeeblement, change any such innate form. So that while parallel complexes of patriotic classes are found in greater or less intricacy grouped about the flags and governments of most existing states, these complexes are by their nature obliged to remain separate, nationalist, and mutually antagonistic. You cannot expect a world union of soldiers or diplomats. Their existence and nature depend upon the idea that national separation is real and incurable, and that war, in the long run, is unavoidable. Their conceptions of loyalty involve an antagonism to all foreigners, even to foreigners of exactly the same types as themselves, and make for a continual campaign of annoyances, suspicions, and precautions – together with a general propaganda, affecting all other classes, of the necessity of an international antagonism – that creeps persistently towards war…
There’s another great complex of persons, interests, traditions – the world of education, the various religious organisations, and, beyond these, the ramifying, indeterminate world of newspapers and other periodicals, books, the drama, art, and all the instruments of presentation and suggestion that mould opinion and direct action. The sum of the operations of this complex will be either to sustain or to demolish the old nationalist militant ascendancy. Its easiest immediate course is to accept it. Educational organisations on that account are now largely a conservative force in the community; they are in most cases directly controlled by authority and bound officially as well as practically to respect current fears and prejudices. It evokes fewer difficulties for them if they limit and mould rather than release the young. The schoolmaster tends, therefore, to accept and standardise and stereotype, even in the living, progressive fields of science and philosophy. Even there he is a brake on the forward movement. It is clear that the Open Conspiracy must either continually disturb and revivify him or else frankly antagonise him. Universities also struggle between the honourable past on which their prestige rests, and the need of adaptation to a world of enquiry, experiment, and change. It is an open question whether these particular organisations of intellectual prestige are of any real value in the living world. A modern world planned de novo would probably produce nothing like a contemporary university. Modern research, one may argue, would be stimulated rather than injured by complete detachment from the lingering mediaevalism of such institutions, their entanglement with adolescent education, and their ancient and contagious conceptions of precedence and honour…
The Open Conspiracy can have little use for mere resentments as a driving force towards its ends; it starts with a proposal not to exalt the labour class but to abolish it, its sustaining purpose is to throw drudges out of employment and eliminate the inept – and it is far more likely to incur suspicion and distrust in the lower ranks of the developing industrial order of to-day than to win support there. There, just as everywhere else in the changing social complexes of our time, it can appeal only to the exceptionally understanding individual who can without personal humiliation consider his present activities and relationships as provisional and who can, without taking offence, endure a searching criticising of his present quality and mode of living…
RESISTANCES AND ANTAGONISTIC FORCES
IN OUR CONSCIOUS AND UNCONSCIOUS SELVES
The Open Conspiracy is in partial possession of us, and we attempt to serve it. But the Open Conspiracy is a natural and necessary development of contemporary thought arising here, there, and everywhere. There are doubts and sympathies that weigh on the side of the Open Conspiracy in nearly everyone, and not one of us but retains many impulses, habits, and ideas in conflict with our general devotion, checking and limiting our service.
The question What are we to do with our lives? quite obviously has a practical thrust. Without a practical way of making the impulse for change happen, without a tub-thumping elevation to the production of headlines in the News of the Day, without the power to consign millions either to misery or salvation, the desire for a different way of doing things remains a kind of quasi-religious fervour. I have felt it many times for an hour or two marching through the streets of London in step with a multitude of like-minded people, seemingly at one in their beliefs and aspirations, as enunciated in concluding speeches in Trafalgar Square. It is of course possible, even likely, that I project my own revolutionary spirit on to others who might very well turn out to have beliefs and identifications quite contrary to those I imagine I have which would in the end result in a new intellectual struggle. I am not claiming anything for myself when I say that I doubt that very many of my fellow-marchers have reduced (or expanded) their mental contents to a sublime Nothingness – that which I believe is a necessary starting point for qualifying as an Open Conspirator. Adherence to a particular party line or orthodox religious set of dogmas results in identification and a forgetting of oneself – and I am clear that a assertion to the contrary in itself opens up into the kind of quasi-religious fervour which
…seizes upon some of us and exalts us for one hour now and then, for a day now and then; it may leave its afterglow upon our conduct for some time; it may establish restraints and habitual dispositions; sometimes it dominates us with but brief intermissions through long spells, and then we can be saints and martyrs. In all our ‘religious’ phases there appears a desire to hold the phase, to subdue the rest of our life to its standards and exigencies. Our quickened intelligence sets itself to a general analysis of our conduct and to the problem of establishing controls over our unilluminated intervals.
And when the religious elements in the mind set themselves to such self-analysis, and attempt to order and unify the whole being upon this basis of the service and advancement of the race, they discover first a great series of indifferent moods, wherein the resistance to thought and word for the Open Conspiracy is merely passive and in the nature of inertia. There is a whole class of states of mind which may be brought together under the head of ‘everydayism’. The dinner bell and the playing fields, the cinema and the newspaper, the weekend visit and the factory siren, a host of such expectant things calls to a vast majority of people in our modern world to stop thinking and get busy with the interest in hand, and so on to the next, without a thought for the general frame and drama in which these momentary and personal incidents are set. We are driven along these marked and established routes and turned this way or that by the accidents of upbringing, of rivalries and loves, of chance encounters and vivid experiences, and it is rarely for many of us, and never for some, that the phases of broad reflection and self-questioning arise. For many people the religious life now, as in the past, has been a quite desperate effort to withdraw sufficient attention and energy from the flood of events to get some sort of grasp, and keep whatever grip is won, upon the relations of the self to the whole. Far more recoil in terror from such a possibility and would struggle strenuously against solitude in the desert, solitude under the stars, solitude in a silent room or indeed any occasion for comprehensive thought.
But the instinct and purpose of the ‘religious type’ is to keep hold upon the comprehensive drama, and at the heart of all the great religions of the world we find a parallel disposition to escape in some manner from the aimless drive and compulsion of accident and everyday. Escape is attempted either by withdrawal from the presence of crowding circumstance into a mystical contemplation and austere retirement, or – what is more difficult and desperate and reasonable – by imposing the mighty standards of enduring issues upon the whole mass of transitory problems which constitute the actual business of life… The tumult of life has to be met and conquered. Aim must prevail over the aimless. Remaining in normal life we must yet keep our wills and thoughts aloof from normal life and fixed upon creative processes. However busied we may be, however challenged, we must yet save something of our best mental activity for self-examination and keep ourselves alert against the endless treacheries within that would trip us back into everydayism and disconnected responses to the stimuli of life.
So the question becomes – what general philosophical line of thought could be adopted to conquer a descent into unthinking everydayism? Everydayism is the default position for all of us – what kind of thinking would change its quality? What might render it capable of transforming the way we do things by every thought & act?
Religions in the past, though they have been apt to give a preference to the renunciation of things mundane, have sought by a considerable variety of expedients to preserve the faith of those whom chance or duty still kept in normal contact with the world. It would provide material for an interesting study to enquire how its organisations to do this have worked in the past and how far they may be imitated and paralleled in the progressive life of the future. All the wide-reaching religions which came into existence in the five centuries before and the five centuries after Christ have made great use of periodic meetings for mutual reassurance, of sacred books, creeds, fundamental heart-searchings, of confession, prayer, sacraments, seasons of withdrawal, meditation, fasting, and prayer. Do these methods mark a phase in the world’s development, or are they still to be considered available?
Wells says that the answer to the question was beyond him: he could not ‘picture a secular Mass nor congregations singing hymns about the Open Conspiracy… He wondered whether ‘the modern soul in trouble will resort to the psychoanalysts instead of the confessional; in which case we need to pray for better psychoanalysts…’ Not being able or willing to jettison ‘religion’ completely, he can only make rather archly ironical statements about another way of harnessing the ‘religious instinct’. He is hamstrung by a word, just as he says we are all bamboozled by the words we habitually turn to.
Can the modern mind work in societies? Perhaps the daily paper is slowly usurping the functions of morning prayer, a daily mental reminder of large things, with more vividness and, at present, lower standards? One of the most distressful facts of the spread of education in the nineteenth century was the unscrupulous exploitation of the new reading public by a group of trash-dealers who grew rich and mighty in the process. Is the popular publisher and newspaper proprietor always to remain a trash-dealer? Or are we to see, in the future, publications taking at times some or all of the influence of revivalist movements, and particular newspapers rising to the task of sustaining a common faith in a gathering section of the public?
The mass of the population is deeply dependent on trash-dealers. ‘News’ is now propaganda for the trash-dealing owners.
The modern temple in which we shall go to meditate may be a museum; the modern religious house and its religious life may be a research organisation. The Open Conspirator must see to it that the museums show their meaning plain. There may be not only literature presently, but even plays, shows, and music, to subserve new ideas instead of trading upon tradition.
It is plain that to read and be moved by great ideas and to form good resolutions with no subsequent reminders and moral stocktaking is not enough to keep people in the way of the Open Conspiracy. The relapse to everydayism is too easy. We contemporary Open Conspirators may forget when there is nothing to remind us; we relapse, and there is nothing to remind us of relapse. Nowhere has he recorded a vow. ‘Everyday’ has endless ways of justifying the return of the believer to sceptical casualness. It is easy to persuade oneself that one is taking life or oneself ‘too seriously’. The mind is very self-protective; it has a disposition to abandon too great or too far-reaching an effort and return to things indisputably within its scope. We have an instinctive preference for thinking things are ‘all right’; we economise anxiety; we defend the delusions that we can work with, even though we half realise they are no more than delusions. We resent the warning voice, the critical question that robs our activities of assurance. Our everyday moods are not only the antagonists of our religious [or more broadly philosophical] moods, but they resent all outward appeals to our religious [consistently thinking] moods, and they welcome every help against religious [philosophical] appeals. We pass very readily from the merely defensive to the defensive aggressive, and from refusing to hear the word that might stir our consciences to a vigorous effort to suppress its utterance.
Churches, religious organisations, try to keep the revivifying phase and usage where it may strike upon the waning or slumbering faith of the convert, but modern religion as yet has no such organised rebinders. They cannot be improvised. Crude attempts to supply the needed corrective of conduct may do less good than harm. Each one of us for himself must do what he can to keep his high resolve in mind and protect himself from the snare of his own moods of fatigue or inadvertency.
At the end of this section Wells is quite clear that gods must have a museum label hung round their necks. One must be quite clear, as Wells is not, that when he talks about ‘religion’ he is referring to a spirit of commitment to a higher purpose, or something of that kind. To ‘keep to the high resolve’ is not a matter of maintaining the abstraction ‘religion’ with all its unseemly baggage; its holy wars and dead babies and sexual perversions. There’s a much simpler way – it’s called ‘self-remembering’. A constancy of resolve is possible when one gets into the habit of shouting STOP! at oneself; this can bring one back to asserting ‘this is me here and now being me here and now!’ This is where I am: I am an Open Conspirator now and forever.
Meanwhile, the Power Possessors thrive on the expectation that EVERYDAYISM will help people to forget that there is a different way of doing things. As it does…
Humans have pranced a soldier in reality and fancy for so many generations that few of us can altogether release our imaginations from the brilliant pretensions of flags, empire, patriotism, and aggression. Business men, especially in America, seem to feel a sort of glory in calling even the underselling and overadvertising of rival enterprises ‘fighting’. Pill vendors and public departments can have their ‘wars’, their heroisms, their desperate mischiefs, and so get that Napoleonic feeling. The world and our reveries are full of the sentimentalities, the false glories and loyalties of the old combative traditions, trailing after them, as they do, so much worth and virtue in a dulled and stupefied condition. It is difficult to resist the fine gravity, the high self-respect, the examples of honour and good style in small things, that the military and naval services can present to us, for all that they are now no more than noxious parasites upon the nascent world commonweal… There will be many Open Conspirators at first who will scarcely dare to say these words even to themselves.
But all these obsolete values and attitudes with which our minds are cumbered must be cleared out if the new faith is to have free play. We have to clear them out not only from our own minds but from the minds of others who are to become our associates. The finer and more picturesque these obsolescent loyalties, obsolescent standards of honour, obsolescent religious associations, may seem to us, the more thoroughly must we seek to release our minds and the minds of those about us from them and cut off all thought of a return.
We must embrace Nothingness. Then begin to fill it with a provisional Somethingness that fits perfectly word by word, move by move, sentiment by sentiment with the New Way.
We cannot compromise with these vestiges of the ancient order and be faithful servants of the new. Whatever we retain of them will come back to life and grow again. It is no good to operate for cancer unless the whole growth is removed. Leave a crown about and presently you will find it being worn by someone resolved to be a king. Keep the name and image of a god without a distinct museum label and sooner or later you will discover a worshiper on his knees to it and be lucky not to find a human sacrifice upon the altar. Wave a flag and it will wrap about you. Of yourself even more than of the community is this true; these can be no half measures.
You have not yet completed your escape to the Open Conspiracy from the cities of the plain while it is still possible for you to take a single backward glance.
THE OPEN CONSPIRACY BEGINS AS A MOVEMENT OF DISCUSSION,
EXPLANATION, AND PROPAGANDA
A new and happier world, a world community, is awakening, within the body of the old order, to the possibility of its emergence. Our phrase, ‘the Open Conspiracy’ is merely a name for that awakening. To begin with, the Open Conspiracy is necessarily a group of ideas.
What in the end have to be called the forces of fascism will not want anybody to know this; they keep the Main Stream Media from publicising it – but it is probably true to say that there is an awakening: mass demonstrations against what is called ‘Austerity’ take place in cities all over the world. At the moment the forces of fascism cannot entirely control the Internet which is where one can pick up accounts of what can be called an ‘Awakening’. The important question is how to mobilise it so it becomes a force to be reckoned with.
There have been reports of the Power Possessors, being aware of the coming Awakening, buying remote islands and hidey-holes where they can escape when it happens. The obscene savagery of the current British Prime Minister May towards the upstart Jeremy Corbyn is an indication of how his policies symbolise to her and her party the beginning of the Awakening. We cannot leave it to one man.
When Wells was writing The Open Conspiracy seemed like ‘…a system of modern ideas which [had] been growing together in the last quarter of the century [1915 to 1931], and particularly since the [Great…] war. It [was] the reaction of a rapidly progressing biological conception of life and of enlarged historical realisations upon the needs and urgencies of the times… Essentially at first it is a dissemination of this new ideology that must occur. The statement must be tried over and spread before a widening circle of people…’
Even more important now before the lights go out completely at the flick of the fascist switch.
Since the idea of the Open Conspiracy rests upon and arises out of a synthesis of historical, biological, and sociological realisations, we may look for these realisations already in the case of people with sound knowledge in these fields; such people will be prepared for acquiescence without any explanatory work; there is nothing to set out to them beyond the suggestion that it is time they became actively conscious of where they stand. They constitute already the Open Conspiracy in an unorganised solution, and they will not so much adhere as admit to themselves and others their state of mind. They will say, ‘We knew all that’. Directly we pass beyond that comparatively restricted world, however, we find that we have to deal with partial knowledge, with distorted views, or with blank ignorance, and that a revision and extension of historical and biological ideas and a considerable elucidation of economic misconceptions have to be undertaken. Such people have to be brought up to date with their information.
[Wells] schemed out a group of writings to embody the necessary ideas of the new time in a form adapted to the current reading public. [He had] made a sort of provisional ‘Bible’, so to speak, for some factors at least in the Open Conspiracy. It [was] an early sketch. As the current reading public changes, all this work will become obsolescent so far as its present form and method go. But not so far as its substantial method goes… Everywhere Open Conspirators should be organising themselves for educational reform.
It is to prevent this happening that ‘schools’ in the UK, already straitjacketed by the National Curriculum, are being renamed ‘academies’. Somebody in power with a classical education remembered that the word ‘school’ derives from the Greek word meaning ‘play’, school = a time when one had the freedom to play constructively with ideas and techniques in order to come to personal conclusions about the world, make sense of it for oneself. Now children must study ‘academically’ in order to become good wage slaves & cannon fodder..
And also within the influence of this comprehensive project there will be all sorts of groupings for study and progressive activity. One can presuppose the formation of groups of friends, of family groups, of students and employees or other sorts of people, meeting and conversing frequently in the course of their normal occupations, who will exchange views and find themselves in agreement upon this idea of a constructive change of the world as the guiding form of human activities.
Fundamentally important issues upon which unanimity must be achieved from the outset are:
• the entirely provisional nature of all existing governments, and the entirely provisional nature, therefore, of all loyalties associated therewith;
• the supreme importance of population regulation in human biology and the possibility it affords us of a release from the pressure of the struggle for existence on ourselves; and
• the urgent necessity of protective resistance against the present traditional drift towards war.
People who do not grasp the vital significance of these test issues do not really begin to understand the Open Conspiracy. Groups coming into agreement upon these matters, and upon their general interpretation of history, will be in a position to seek adherents, enlarge themselves, and attempt to establish communication and cooperation with kindred groups for common ends. They can take up a variety of activities to develop a sense and habit of combined action and feel their way to greater enterprises.
We have seen already that the Open Conspiracy must be heterogeneous in origin. Its initial groupings and associations will be of no uniform pattern. They will be of a very different size, average age, social experience, and influence. Their particular activities will be determined by these things. Their diverse qualities and influences will express themselves by diverse attempts at organisation, each effective in its own sphere. A group or movement of students may find itself capable of little more than self-education and personal propaganda; a handful of middle-class people in small town may find its small resources fully engaged at first in such things as, for example, seeing that desirable literature is available for sale or in local public library, protecting books and news vendors from suppression, or influencing local teachers. Most parents of school children can press for the teaching of universal history and sound biology and protest against the inculcation of aggressive patriotism. There is much scope for the single individual in this direction. On the other hand, a group of ampler experience and resources may undertake the printing, publication, and distribution of literature, and exercise considerable influence upon public opinion in turning education in the right direction. The League of Nations movement, the Birth Control movement, and most radical and socialist societies, are fields into which Open Conspirators may go to find adherents more than half prepared for their wider outlook. The Open Conspiracy is a fuller and ampler movement into which these incomplete activities must necessarily merge as its idea takes possession of imagination…
The anticipatory repudiation of military service, so far as this last may be imposed by existing governments in their factitious international rivalries, need not necessarily involve a denial of the need of military action on behalf of the world commonweal for the suppression of nationalist brigandage, nor need it prevent the military training of Open Conspirators. It is simply the practical form of assertion that the normal militant diplomacy and warfare of the present time are offences against civilisation, processes in the nature of brigandage, sedition, and civil war, and that serious men cannot be expected to play anything but a rôle of disapproval, non-participation, or active prevention towards them. Our loyalty to our current government, we would intimate, is subject to its sane and adult behaviour.
Since groups are bound to be different and miscellaneous in form, size, quality, and ability, any early attempts to organise them into common general action or even into regular common gatherings are to be deprecated. There should be many types of groups. Collective action had better for a time – perhaps for a long time – be undertaken not through the merging of groups but through the formation of ad hoc associations for definitely specialised ends, all making for the new world civilisation. Open Conspirators will come into these associations to make a contribution very much as people come into limited liability companies, that is to say with a subscription and not with their whole capital. A comprehensive organisation attempting from the first to cover all activities would necessarily rest upon and promote one prevalent pattern of activity and hamper or estrange the more original and interesting forms. It would develop a premature orthodoxy, it would cease almost at once to be creative, and it would begin to form a crust of tradition. It would become anchylosed. With the dreadful examples of Christianity and Communism before us, we must insist that the idea of the Open Conspiracy ever becoming a single organisation must be dismissed from the mind. It is a movement, yes, a system of purposes, but its end is a free and living, if unified, world.
The idea of leaderless ‘ad hoc associations for definitely specialised ends’ should become the general notion leading to the Open Conspiracy. So the question is how to promote and sell the idea.
At the utmost seven broad principles may be stated as defining the Open Conspiracy and holding it together:-
• The complete assertion, practical as well as theoretical, of the provisional nature of existing governments and of our acquiescence in them
• The resolve to minimise by all available means the conflicts of these governments, their militant use of individuals and property, and their interferences with the establishment of a world economic system
• The determination to replace private, local or national ownership of at least credit, transport, and staple production by a responsible world directorate serving the common ends of the race
• The practical recognition of the necessity for world biological controls, for example, of population and disease
• The support of a minimum standard of individual freedom and welfare in the world
• The supreme duty of subordinating the personal career to the creation of a world directorate capable of these tasks and to the general advancement of human knowledge, capacity, and power
• The admission therewith that our immortality is conditional and lies in the race and not in our individual selves
Wells was uncertain about this last point but it fits Gurdjieff’s injunction to always ‘remember that you must die…’ which has a very real effect on the way one lives in the now.
EARLY CONSTRUCTIVE WORK OF THE OPEN CONSPIRACY
We do not present [the Open Conspiracy] as a movement initiated by any individual or radiating from any particular centre; we are not starting something; we are describing and participating in something which has already started. It arises naturally and necessarily from the present increase of knowledge and the broadening outlook of many minds throughout the world, and gradually it becomes conscious of itself. It is reasonable therefore to anticipate its appearance all over the world in sporadic mutually independent groupings and movements, and to recognise not only that they will be extremely various, but that many of them will trail with them racial and regional habits and characteristics which will only be shaken off as its cosmopolitan character becomes imperatively evident.
The passage from the partial anticipations of the Open Conspiracy that already abound everywhere to its complete and completely self-conscious statement may be made by almost imperceptible degrees. To-day it may seem no more than a visionary idea; to-morrow it may be realised as a world-wide force of opinion and will. People will pass with no great inconsistency from saying that the Open Conspiracy is impossible to saying that it has always been plain and clear to them, that to this fashion they have shaped their lives as long as they can remember.
In its opening phase, in the day of small things, quite minor accidents may help or delay the clear definition and popularisation of its main ideas. The changing pattern of public events may disperse or concentrate attention upon it, or it may win the early adherence of men of exceptional resources, energy, or ability. It is impossible to foretell the speed of its advance. Its development may be slower or faster, direct or devious, but the logic of accumulating realisations thrusts it forward, will persist in thrusting it on, and sooner or later it will be discovered, conscious and potent, the working ‘religion’ [spiritual drive] of most sane and energetic people. Meanwhile our supreme virtues must be faith and persistence.
The propaganda of confidence in the possible world commonweal, and its immediate practical attempt to systematise resistance to militant and competitive imperialism and nationalism are the groundwork undertakings; they do no more than clear the site and make the atmosphere possible for more organised constructive efforts… the general advancement of science, the protection and support of scientific research, and the diffusion of scientific knowledge…
The Open Conspiracy extends its invitation to all sorts and conditions of people, but the service of scientific progress is for those only who are specially equipped or who are sufficiently interested to equip themselves. For scientific work there is first of all a great need of endowment and the setting up of laboratories, observatories, experimental stations, and the like, in all parts of the world. Numbers of men and women capable of scientific work never achieve it for want of the stimulus of opportunity afforded by endowment. Few contrive to create their own opportunities. The essential man of science is very rarely an able collector or administrator of money, and anyhow, the detailed work of organisation is a grave call upon his special mental energy. But many people capable of a broad and intelligent appreciation of scientific work, but not capable of the peculiar intensities of research, have the gift of extracting money from private and public sources, and it is for them to use that gift modestly and generously in providing the framework for those more especially endowed.
And there is already a steadily increasing need for the proper storage and indexing of scientific results, and every fresh worker enhances it. Quite a considerable amount of scientific work goes fruitless or is needlessly repeated because of the growing volume of publication, and people make discoveries in the field of reality only to lose them again in the lumber room of record. Here is a second line of activity to which the Open Conspirator with a scientific bias may direct attention…
Through special ad hoc organisations, societies for the promotion of Research, for Research Defence, for World Indexing, for the translation of Scientific Papers, for the Diffusion of New Knowledge, the surplus energies of a great number of Open Conspirators can be directed to entirely creative ends and a new world system of scientific work built up, within which such dear old institutions as the Royal Society of London, the various European Academies of Science and the like, now overgrown and inadequate, can maintain their venerable pride in themselves, their mellowing prestige, and their distinguished exclusiveness, without their present privilege of inflicting cramping slights and restrictions upon the more abundant scientific activities of to-day.
So in relation to science – and here the word is being used in its narrower accepted meaning for what is often spoken of as pure science, the search for physical and biological realities, uncomplicated by moral, social, and ‘practical’ considerations – we evoke a conception of the Open Conspiracy as producing groups of socially associated individuals, who engage primarily in the general basic activities of the Conspiracy and adhere to and promote the seven broad principles previously summarised, but who work also with the larger part of their energies, through international and cosmopolitan societies and in a multitude of special ways, for the establishment of an enduring and progressive world organisation of pure research. They will have come to this special work because their distinctive gifts, their inclinations, their positions and opportunities have indicated it as theirs.
Now a very parallel system of Open Conspiracy groups is conceivable, in relation to business and industrial life. It would necessarily be a vastly bulkier and more heterogeneous system of groups, but otherwise the analogy is complete. Here we imagine those people whose gifts, inclinations, positions and opportunities as directors, workers, or associates give them an exceptional insight into and influence in the processes of producing and distributing commodities, can also be drawn together into groups within the Open Conspiracy. But these groups will be concerned with the huge and more complicated problems of the processes by which even now the small isolated individual adventures in production and trading that constituted the economic life of former civilisations, are giving place to larger, better instructed, better planned industrial organisations, whose operations and combinations become at last world wide.
The amalgamations and combinations, the substitution of large-scale business for multitudes of small-scale businesses, which are going on now, go on with all the cruelty and disregards of a natural process. If a man is to profit and survive, these unconscious blunderings – which now stagger towards but which may never attain world organisation – must be watched, controlled, mastered, and directed. As uncertainty diminishes, the quality of adventure and the amount of waste diminish also, and large speculative profits are no longer possible or justifiable. The transition from speculative adventure to organised foresight in the common interest, in the whole world of economic life, is the substantial task of the Open Conspiracy. And it is these specially interested and equipped groups, and not the movement as a whole, which may best begin the attack upon these fundamental readjustments.
The economic groups of the Open Conspiracy, which may come indeed to be a large part of the Open Conspiracy, will be working in that vast task of economic reconstruction – which from the point of view of the older socialism was the sole task before mankind. They will be conducting experiments and observing processes according to their opportunities. Through ad hoc societies and journals they will be comparing and examining their methods and preparing reports and clear information for the movement at large. The whole question of money and monetary methods in our modern communities, so extraordinarily disregarded in socialist literature, will be examined under the assumption that money is the token of the community’s obligation, direct or indirect, to an individual, and credit its permission to deal freely with material…
The whole psychology of industry and industrial relationship needs to be revised and restated in terms of the collective efficiency and welfare of mankind. And just as far as can be contrived, the counsel and the confidences of those who now direct great industrial and financial operations will be invoked. The first special task of a banker, or a bank clerk for that matter, who joins the Open Conspiracy, will be to answer the questions: ‘What is a bank?’ ‘What are you going to do about it?’ ‘What have we to do about it?’ The first questions to a manufacturer will be: ‘What are you making and why?’ and ‘What are you and we to do about it?’ Instead of the crude proposals to ‘expropriate’ and ‘take over by the State’ of primitive socialism, the Open Conspiracy will build up an encyclopaedic conception of the modern economic complex as a labyrinthine pseudo-system progressively eliminating waste and working its way along multitudinous channels towards unity, towards clarity of purpose and method, towards abundant productivity and efficient social service.
It will be the duty of ordinary adherents to the Open Conspiracy, adherents considered not in relation to special aptitudes and services, but in relation to the movement as a whole and to those special constructive organisations outside their own field, to keep their mind in touch with the progressing concepts of the scientific work so far as they are able and with the larger issues of the economic reconstruction that is afoot, to take their cues from the special groups and organisations engaged upon that work, and to help where they find opportunity and when there is a call. But no adherent of the Open Conspiracy can remain merely and completely an ordinary adherent. There can be no pawns in the game of the Open Conspiracy, no ‘cannon fodder’ in its war. A special activity, quite as much as a general understanding, is demanded from everyone who looks creatively towards the future of mankind.
We have instanced first the fine and distinctive world organisation of pure science, and then the huge massive movement towards cooperating unity of aim in the economic life, until at last the production and distribution of staple necessities is apprehended as one world business, and we have suggested that this latter movement may gradually pervade and incorporate a very great bulk of human activities. But besides this fine current and this great torrent of evolving activities and relationships there are also a very considerable variety of other great functions in the community towards which Open Conspiracy groups must direct their organising enquiries and suggestions in their common intention of ultimately assimilating all the confused processes of today into a world community.
This sounds very much like ‘Globalisation’ – a part of the great Capitalist Conspiracy to defraud human beings of life & welfare. The question always recurs – how will all this happen and who will make sure that Rapaciousness will not rule. As things are at the moment it feels as though the Power Possessors are quite happy for little insurrections to take place from time to time which they can ignore completely because they are not touched by them. It’s either brickbats through their windows or some way of rendering them completely superfluous – are they the only two alternatives?
I find it really interesting to notice how one swings between a gut support for an idea that Wells proposes and a certain hopelessness at the idea of trying to make it happen.
…The Open Conspiracy consists of a great multitude and variety of overlapping groups, …all organised for collective political, social, and educational as well as propagandist action. They will recognise each other much more clearly than they did at first, and they will have acquired a common name.
The groups, however, almost all of them, will still have specific work also. Some will be organising a sounder setting for scientific progress, some exploring new social and educational possibilities, many concentrated upon this or that phase in the reorganisation of the world’s economic life, and so forth. The individual Open Conspirator may belong to one or more groups and in addition to the ad hoc societies and organisations which the movement will sustain, often in cooperation with partially sympathetic people still outside its ranks.
The character of the Open Conspiracy will now be plainly displayed. It will have become a great world movement as wide-spread and evident as socialism or communism. It will have taken the place of these movements very largely. It will be more than they were, it will be frankly a world ‘religion’. This large, loose assimilatory mass of movements, groups, and societies will be definitely and obviously attempting to swallow up the entire population of the world and become the new human community.
EXISTING AND DEVELOPING MOVEMENTS WHICH ARE CONTRIBUTORY TO THE OPEN CONSPIRACY AND WHICH MUST DEVELOP A COMMON CONSCIOUSNESS
There already exist in the world a considerable number of movements in industry, in political life, in social matters, in education, which point in the same direction as the Open Conspiracy and are inspired by the same spirit. It will be interesting to discuss how far some of these movements may not become confluent with others and by a mere process of logical completion identify themselves consciously with the Open Conspiracy in its entirety…
The now very numerous associations for world peace halt in alarm on the edge of their own implications. World Peace remains a vast aspiration until there is some substitute for the present competition of states for markets and raw material, and some restraint upon population pressure. League of Nations Societies and all forms of pacifist organisation are either futile or insincere until they come into line with the complementary propositions of the Open Conspiracy…
The Open Conspiracy may achieve the more or less complete amalgamation of all the radical impulses in the Atlantic community of to-day. But its scope is not confined to the variety of sympathetic movements which are brought to mind by that loose word radical. In the past fifty years or so, while Socialists and Communists have been denouncing the current processes of economic life in the same invariable phrases and with the same undiscriminating animosity, these processes have been undergoing the profoundest and most interesting changes. While socialist thought has recited its phrases, with witty rather than substantial variations, a thousand times as many clever people have been busy upon industrial, mercantile and financial processes. The Socialist still reiterates that this greater body of intelligence has been merely seeking private gain, which has just as much truth in it as is necessary to make it an intoxicating lie. Everywhere competitive businesses have been giving way to amalgamated enterprises, marching towards monopoly, and personally owned businesses to organisations so large as to acquire more and more the character of publicly responsible bodies…
Now I know that to all this urging towards a unification of constructive effort, a great number of people will be disposed to a reply which will, I hope, be less popular in the future than it is at the present time. They will assume first an expression of great sagacity, an elderly air. Then, smiling gently, they will ask whether there is not something preposterously ambitious in looking at the problem of life as one whole. Is it not wiser to concentrate our forces on more practicable things, to attempt one thing at a time, not to antagonise the whole order of established things against our poor desires, to begin tentatively, to refrain from putting too great a strain upon people, to trust to the growing common sense of the world to adjust this or that line of progress to the general scheme of things. Far better accomplish something definite here and there than challenge a general failure. That is, they declare, how reformers and creative things have gone on in the past; that is how they are going on now; muddling forward in a mild and confused and partially successful way. Why not trust them to go on like that? Let each man do his bit with a complete disregard of the logical interlocking of progressive effort to which I have been drawing attention…
How tedious, says Wells…
THE CREATIVE HOME, SOCIAL GROUP, AND SCHOOL:
THE PRESENT WASTE OF IDEALISTIC WILL
Human society began with the family. The natural history of gregariousness is a history of the establishment of mutual toleration among human animals, so that a litter or a herd keeps together instead of breaking up. It is in the family group that the restraints, disciplines, and self-sacrifices which make human society possible were worked out and our fundamental prejudices established, and it is in the family group, enlarged perhaps in many respects, and more and more responsive to collective social influences, that our social life must be relearnt, generation after generation.
Now in each generation the Open Conspiracy, until it can develop its own reproductive methods, must remain a minority movement of intelligent converts. A unified progressive world community demands its own type of home and training. It needs to have its fundamental concepts firmly established in as many minds as possible and to guard its children from the infection of the old racial and national hatreds and jealousies, old superstitions and bad mental habits, and base interpretations of life. From its outset the Open Conspiracy will be setting itself to influence the existing educational machinery, but for a long time it will find itself confronted in school and college by powerful religious and political authorities determined to set back the children at the point or even behind the point from which their parents made their escape. At best, the liberalism of the state-controlled schools will be a compromise. Originally schools and colleges were transmitters of tradition and conservative forces. So they remain in essence to this day.
Organised teaching has always aimed, and will always tend to guide, train, and direct, the mind. The problem of reconstructing education so as to make it a releasing instead of a binding process has still to be solved. During the early phases of its struggle, therefore, the Open Conspiracy will be obliged to adopt a certain sectarianism of domestic and social life in the interests of its children, to experiment in novel educational methods and educational atmospheres, and it may even in many cases have to consider the grouping of its families and the establishment of its own schools. In many modern communities, the English-speaking states, for example, there is still liberty to establish educational companies, running schools of a special type. In every country where that right does not exist it has to be fought for.
There lies a great work for various groups of the Open Conspiracy. Successful schools would become laboratories of educational methods and patterns for new state schools. Necessarily for a time, but we may hope unconsciously, the Open Conspiracy children will become a social elite; from their first conscious moments they will begin to think and talk among clear-headed people speaking distinctly and behaving frankly, and it will be a waste and loss to put them back for the scholastic stage among their mentally indistinct and morally muddled contemporaries. A phase when there will be a special educational system for the Open Conspiracy seems, therefore, to be indicated. Its children will learn to speak, draw, think, compute lucidly and subtly, and into their vigorous minds they will take the broad concepts of history, biology, and mechanical progress, the basis of the new world, naturally and easily. Meanwhile, those who grow up outside the advancing educational frontier of the Open Conspiracy will never come under the full influence of its ideas, or they will get hold of them only after a severe struggle against a mass of misrepresentations and elaborately instilled prejudices. An adolescent and adult educational campaign, to undo the fixations and suggestions of the normal conservative and reactionary schools and colleges, is and will long remain an important part of the work of the Open Conspiracy.
Always, as long as I can remember, there has been a dispute and invidious comparison between the old and the young. The young find the old prey upon and restrain them, and the old find the young shallow, disappointing, and aimless in vivid contrast to their revised memories of their own early days. The present time is one in which these perennial accusations flower with exceptional vigour. But there does seem to be some truth in the statement that the facilities to live frivolously are greater now than they have ever been for old and young alike. For example, in the great modern communities that emerge now from Christendom, there is a widespread disposition to regard Sunday as merely a holiday. But that was certainly not the original intention of Sunday – it was a day dedicated to the greater issues of life. Now great multitudes of people do not even pretend to set aside any time at all to the greater issues of life. The greater issues are neglected altogether. The churches are neglected, and nothing of a unifying or exalting sort takes their place.
What the contemporary senior tells his junior to-day is perfectly correct. In his own youth, no serious impulse of his went to waste. He was not distracted by a thousand merry but petty temptations, and the local religious powers, whatever they happened to be, seemed to believe in themselves more and made a more comprehensive attack upon his conscience and imagination. Now the old faiths are damaged and discredited, and the new and greater one, which is the Open Conspiracy, takes shape only gradually. A decade or so ago, socialism preached its confident hopes, and patriotism and imperial pride shared its attraction for the ever grave and passionate will of emergent youth. Now socialism and democracy are ‘under revision’ and the flags that once waved so bravely reek of poison gas, are stiff with blood and mud and shameful with exposed dishonesties. Youth is what youth has always been, eager for fine interpretations of life, capable of splendid resolves. It has no natural disposition towards the shallow and confused life. Its demand as ever is, ‘What am I to do with myself?’ But it comes up out of its childhood to-day [1931!] into a world of ruthless exposures and cynical pretensions. We are all a little ashamed of ‘earnestness’. The past ten years have seen the shy and powerful idealism of youth at a loss and dismayed and ashamed as perhaps it has never been before. It is in the world still, but masked, hiding even from itself in a whirl of small excitements and futile, defiant depravities.
The old flags and faiths have lost their magic for the intelligence of the young; they can command it no more; it is in the mighty revolution to which the Open Conspiracy directs itself that the youth of mankind must find its soul, if ever it is to find its soul again.
PROGRESSIVE DEVELOPMENT OF THE ACTIVITIES OF THE OPEN CONSPIRACY
INTO A WORLD CONTROL AND COMMONWEAL: THE HAZARDS OF THE ATTEMPT
We have now sketched out in these Blue Prints the methods by which the confused radicalism and constructive forces of the present time may, can, and probably will be drawn together about a core of modernised ‘religious’ feeling into one great and multifarious creative effort. A way has been shown by which this effort may be developed from a mere propagandist campaign and a merely resistant protest against contemporary militarism into an organised foreshadowing in research, publicity, and experiment in educational, economic, and political reconstructions, of that Pax Mundi which has become already the tantalised desire of great multitudes throughout the world. These foreshadowings and reconstructions will ignore and transcend the political boundaries of to-day. They will continually become more substantial as project passes into attempt and performance. In phase after phase and at point after point, therefore, the Open Conspiracy will come to grips with the powers that sustain these boundaries.
And it will not be merely topographical boundaries that will be passed. The Open Conspiracy will also be dissolving and repudiating many existing restrictions upon conduct and many social prejudices. The Open Conspiracy proposes to end and shows how an end may be put to that huge substratum of underdeveloped, undereducated, subjugated, exploited, and frustrated lives upon which such civilisation as the world has known hitherto has rested, and upon which most of our social systems still rest.
Whenever possible, the Open Conspiracy will advance by illumination and persuasion. But it has to advance, and even from the outset, where it is not allowed to illuminate and persuade, it must fight. Its first fights will probably be for the right to spread its system of ideas plainly and clearly throughout the world.
There is, I suppose, a flavour of treason about the assumption that any established government is provisional, and a quality of immorality in any criticism of accepted moral standards. Still more is the proposal, made even in times of peace, to resist war levies and conscription an offence against absolute conceptions of loyalty…
…In the face of unscrupulous opposition creative ideas must become aggressive, must define their enemies and attack them. By its own organisations or through the police and military strength of governments amenable to its ideas, the movement is bound to find itself fighting for open roads, open frontiers, freedom of speech, and the realities of peace in regions of oppression. The Open Conspiracy rests upon a disrespect for nationality, and there is no reason why it should tolerate noxious or obstructive governments because they hold their own in this or that patch of human territory…
The most inconsistent factor in the liberal and radical thought of to-day is its prejudice against the interference of highly developed modern states in the affairs of less stable and less advanced regions. This is denounced as ‘imperialism’, and regarded as criminal. It may have assumed grotesque and dangerous forms under the now decaying traditions of national competition, but as the merger of the Atlantic states proceeds, the possibility and necessity of bringing areas of misgovernment and disorder under world control increase. A great war like the war of 1914-1918 may never happen again. [1931!] The common sense of mankind may suffice to avert that. But there is still much actual warfare before mankind, on the frontiers everywhere, against brigands, against ancient loyalties and traditions which will become at last no better than excuses for brigandage and obstructive exaction. All the weight of the Open Conspiracy will be on the side of the world order and against that sort of local independence which holds back its subject people from the citizenship of he world.
Brigandage has now become international terrorism. There’s no negotiating with terrorists.
But in this broad prospect of far-reaching political amalgamations under the impulses of the Open Conspiracy lurk a thousand antagonisms and adverse chances, like the unsuspected gulleys and ravines and thickets in a wide and distant landscape. We know not what unexpected chasms may presently be discovered. The Open Conspirator may realise that he is one of an advancing and victorious force and still find himself outnumbered and outfought in his own particular corner of the battlefield. No one can yet estimate the possible strength of reaction against world unification; no one can foresee the extent of the divisions and confusions that may arise among ourselves. The ideas in this book may spread about without any serious resistance in most civilised countries, but there are still governments under which the persistent expression of such thoughts will be dealt with as crimes and bring men and women to prison, torment, and death. Nevertheless, they must be expressed.
While the Open Conspiracy is no more than a discussion it may spread unopposed because it is disregarded. As a mainly passive resistance to militarism it may still be tolerable. But as its knowledge and experience accumulate and its organisation become more effective and aggressive, as it begins to lay hands upon education, upon social habits, upon business developments, as it proceeds to take over the organisation of the community, it will marshal not only its own forces but its enemies. A complex of interests will find themselves restrained and threatened by it, and it may easily evoke that most dangerous of human mass feelings, fear. In ways quite unpredictable it may raise a storm against itself beyond all our present imaginings. Our conception of an almost bloodless domination of the Atlantic communities may be merely the confident dream of a thinker whose thoughts have yet to be squarely challenged.
We are not even sure of the common peace. Across the path of mankind the storm of another Great War may break, bringing with it for a time more brutal repressions and vaster injuries even than its predecessor. The scaffoldings and work-sheds of the Open Conspiracy may fare violently in that tornado. The restoration of progress may seem an almost hopeless struggle.
And that’s how it’s turned out…
The vision of a world at peace and liberated for an unending growth of knowledge and power is worth every danger of the way. And since in this age of confusion we must live imperfectly and anyhow die, we may as well suffer, if need be, and die for a great end as for none. Never has the translation of vision into realities been easy since the beginning of human effort. The establishment of the world community will surely exact a price – and who can tell what that price may be? – in toil, suffering, and blood.
HUMAN LIFE IN THE COMING WORLD COMMUNITY
…We will not be left with our soul tangled, haunted by monstrous and irrational fears and a prey to malicious impulse. From birth we will breathe sweetness and generosity and use our mind and hands cleanly and exactly. We will feel better, will better, think better, see, taste, and hear better than people do now. Our under-soul will no longer be a mutinous cavern of ill-treated suppressions and of impulses repressed without understanding. All these releases are plainly possible for us. They pass out of our tormented desire now, they elude and mock us, because chance, confusion, and squalor rule our life. All the gifts of destiny are overlaid and lost to us. We must still suspect and fear. Not one of us is yet as clear and free and happy within ourselves as most people will some day be. Before humankind lies the prospect not only of health but of magnanimity.
Within the peace and freedom that the Open Conspiracy is winning for us, all these good things that escape us now may be ensured. A graver humanity, stronger, more lovely, longer lived, will learn and develop the ever enlarging possibilities of its destiny. For the first time, the full beauty of this world will be revealed to its unhurried eyes. Its thoughts will be to our thoughts as the thoughts of a grownup to the troubled mental experimenting of a child. And all the best of us will be living on in that ampler life, as the child and the things it tried and learnt still live in the grownup. When we were children, we could not think or feel as we think and feel to-day, but to-day we can peer back and still recall something of the ignorances and guesses and wild hopes of those nigh forgotten years.
And so humankind, ourselves still living, but dispersed and reconstructed again in the future, will recall with affection and understanding the desperate wishes and troubled efforts of our present state.
How far can we anticipate the habitations and ways, the usages and adventures, the mighty employments, the ever increasing knowledge and power of the days to come? No more than a child with its scribbling paper and its box of bricks can picture or model the undertakings of its adult years. Our battle is with cruelties and frustrations, stupid, heavy and hateful things from which we shall escape at last, less like victors conquering a world than like sleepers awaking from a nightmare in the dawn. From any dream, however dismal and horrible, one can escape by realising that it is a dream; by saying, ‘I will awake’.
The Open Conspiracy is the awaking of mankind from a nightmare, an infantile nightmare, of the struggle for existence and the inevitability of war. The light of day thrusts between our eyelids, and the multitudinous sounds of morning clamour in our ears. A time will come when we will sit with history before us or with some old newspaper and ask incredulously, ‘Was there ever such a world?’
Wells would have approved of this:-