Beyond Individualism

The Psychology of Transformation

by Dane Rudhyar


5. The Pattern of Differentitation & Conflict

c. The Trader and the Producer

Two basically different types of trading and production have to be considered, even if the second type gradually develops from the first. In the early stages of agriculture, production operates at the strictly biological level as a means to survival, and there is usually no surplus. If there is, it is probably preserved to alleviate the distress caused by a year of drought or by flooding and other calamities. Production is strictly local, and it affects the operation of the biological functions. When trading begins, it takes the form of barter which, most likely at first, does not involve the development of any new functions— only a kind of 'cunning' which constitutes the first stage of the development of a type of human intelligence hardly superior to animal instinct.

Some of the first products to be traded are probably salt, perhaps some spices, and objects of ornamentation for women. When trade involves the exchange of commodities whose rarity and attractiveness tend to make them standards of value, trade acquires a socio-cultural character, and we can speak of it literally as 'commerce' because it brings together groups of people of at least somewhat different cultures or cultural status; it incites different types of human beings to 'co-merge' in certain localities and at definite times of the year. The market place begins to take on an intercultural character. The products of one group or village are compared with those of another. Competition and specialization develop. Eventually a Merchant class arises which displays some characteristic mental and emotional features. These lead to the growth of possessiveness and greed for wealth —wealth now being increasingly represented by not only the marketable value of what is produced, but the ability to sell products at a profit; and profit more and more takes the form of accumulatable money.

Money is at the socio-cultural level what, to some extent, hormones are at the biological level. Hormones control the growth and the balance of functional activity in the biological organism. As money circulates in an organized society, it carries with it social power—that is, it makes possible or enhances productivity, whether it be physical-biological or artistic-cultural productivity. When concentrated in a particular class of people, or in the hands of a powerful individual or family, it can incite and support another group of persons who, in return for money, specialize in producing a particular kind of wares or service. When specialized, production acquires a new character. It becomes technologized. This requires the development of the technical mind which specializes in the invention of new means of production. The nature of these means of production differs according to the state of intellectual development of the Philosopher and Scientist type; but whether these means are slaves or machines requiring a 'proletariat' to operate them, the new type of productivity-for-profit gives rise to a bourgeoisie.

In Europe, this class—the Tiers Etat (Third Estate) rising after a period of protracted conflict between the Emperor and the Pope—is at first a class of merchants, but the Trader Type assumes an ever more dominant role. The men of this type are personally eager to increase their wealth, social power and prestige, while at the same time, they are more or less unconsciously compelled by the need inherent in the culture-whole to expand the intensity of its internal dynamism (by linking more closely provinces and towns) and the scope of its outreaching activity (by interacting with external culture-wholes). By calling for a more abundant and specialized productivity, the mercantile class stimulates the inventiveness of an elite group of engineers whose technological inventions achieve the transformation of the old, strictly biologically conditioned—even if religiously inclined—peasantry living close to the soil and attuned to seasonal rhythms. Sooner or later, the bourgeoisie absorbs every other social class through the lure of profit and the bait of money-power.

This dynamic development and actual (even if camouflaged) triumph of the bourgeoisie has varied consequences. It changes the internal patterns of society's operations; it also has a radically transformative effect upon the psychological functioning of the members of the society. As the society expands through increasing relationships with other culture-wholes—relationships which in many cases manifest as the ruthless conquest of more primitive races still operating at a strictly biological-cultural level—the defining patterns of the society's collective organizations and the religious and educational sanctions that gave them psychic and intellectual solidity gradually lose their cohesion and credibility. They slowly but irremediably break down; and the change in the psychological character of the members of the society—already brought about by the accelerated development of the discursive, analytical mind and the incitements of the profit motive—assumes a radical character. Human beings under mounting psychological and social pressures find themselves uprooted by the tidal process of individualization. They react by developing increasingly abrasive and alienated egos.

In a very real sense, the ego can be related to the Trader Type. It uses relationship jor profit; and profit means an increase in size or a strengthening and decoration of what constitutes the circumference of the personal being. What is usually called the self is the center of the being; the ego is essentially the power that deals with the security, health and comfort of that part of the total being which, because as a circumference it is in constant contact with the outside world, is affected by, and also strives to affect, whatever surrounds the personality; and circumference may mean the actual borders of a nation, or the psychic as well as physical boundaries of the organized field of activity we call an individual person.

Initially, as a feudal domain or nation attempts to establish a safe frontier or expand its borders until its conquest of the environment is definitely checked, it is the Warrior Class (usually assisted by the priests) that is in charge of the operations. The process of growth has a quasi-biological character which demands strength, daring and the kind of almost animal cunning we call, at least in its early stages, diplomacy. But as a Merchant Class assumes power, another kind of expansion develops, eventually taking precedence over the physico-biological kind in which the Warrior Type excelled: mercantile and economic expansion. As this occurs, the Warrior Class not only takes a relatively secondary role, it backs with physical force the mercantile adventures which have become the dominant (even if perhaps not officially mentioned) social function—but it changes its character and becomes what is called 'the Military' or 'the Services'; later on, it is further transformed into an army of mercenaries.

Mercantile and economic expansion result from the growth of the bourgeoisie, and it also feeds such a growth. The great difference between a warrior-type of expansion and trade expansion is that in the first case, expansion means either the killing or physical enslavement of human beings and often the destruction of the resources of the land, while in the case of trading, the people to which one sells goods, and even the land from which one extracts materials needed for industrial production, must be kept in a condition of relative well-being, otherwise the 'colonized' people could not buy manufactured wares or provide conqueror's factories with necessary raw materials. Thus the relationship between the conqueror and the conquered—who may be allowed to retain the appearance of freedom—takes on a special character; it is 'relationship for profit'.

What applies to a nation intent upon mercantile and economic expansion ('economic' referring here to the 'loaning' (!) of money to serve as capital to feed the trade operations) applies also to the individual person in the process of developing an ego. The ego uses relationship to other people in order to satisfy the desires of the personal being—desires for comfort, pleasure, social prestige, and also what is called 'love'. These desires (or wants) refer to the circumference of being, because they can only be satisfied by some form of exchange with other beings in the more or less immediate surroundings. They do not primarily refer to basic biological needs; the satisfaction of these needs is instinctively sought by the organism itself, by muscular activity, by hunting and quasi-animal cunning. What the ego characteristically wants, it seeks through the clever manipulation of its relationships with other egos; and this often implies the use of deceit —the ego-form of decoy and camouflage.

A bourgeois society thus becomes a society of egos, ruled by egos especially adept at dealing with social processes and getting around various kinds of laws and regulations, and for the glorification of the one essential goal of ego-activity, success. Such a society is adequately characterized and symbolized by the 'American dream' of ever-increasing individual wealth and power, backed by a typical quasi-religious 'New Thought' glorifying health, wealth and happiness—and business. The keyword of this mercantile society is productivity. The Gross National Product must always rise; there must be more of everything, not only at the physical level, but at the emotional and mental levels as well. Trade operates not only in terms of exchange of products, raw and industrially manufactured, but also through the interpenetration of cultures and ideas. This leads to a Babel of tongues, a melting pot of concepts, symbols and vestigial traditions.

Every person, regardless of social conditioning, race, color and religion must be considered equal; but 'equal' in what sense, and at what level? Such a question is not asked because, when the ego is lord, "every man is a king"; but if every man is a king, kingship as an office no longer has any meaning. In fact, when this happens, no function has any humanly essential and inspiring meaning. Meaning has come to reside only in the fact of being 'an individual' functionally unrelated to anything else and therefore an abstract entity—a citizen considered merely as a voting unit, a number within a statistical percentage. Percentage has become the ruling principle of the society.

Theoretically, this could mean that the 'greater number'— thus the masses—rule. But this is the supreme social illusion; the masses never rule. During the later period of the culture-whole, they are ruled by the promoters of fashions—whether in clothing, in thinking or in the arts—who themselves are merely puppets or mediums controlled by Karma—that is, by the accumulating pressure of cultural sclerosis or senescence and the tragic fate of having to constantly produce new thrills, new gadgets and new techniques. For an ego-rewarding moment, the attention of the masses can only fix upon something that will allow a few persons to act as 'the beautiful people'—or as the leader, the star, the psychologist or the swami in the spotlight— and the rest, to imitate them.

An unconscious type of servility can hide under the cloak of individual freedom. Even if sheer, inorganic power inheres in the aroused masses, its fate-ordained display reveals the essential impotence of power detached from function. When a society reaches the last phase of its organic existence, it tends to be seized by spasms of dysfunction because neither the group of individuals who actually control social productivity, wealth and police power, nor the 'proletariat'—whether in suburban bourgeois attire or in festering tenements—can any longer feel, think and act in functional relationship to the culture-whole. Yet even the illusion of freedom can be turned into the reality of severance; and mass-servility to fashion and ephemeral dictators can act as a polarizing force to spur the rise of 'seed' men and women who, after breaking away from the binding power of relationships that have become a 'dance of death', self-consecrate their lives and total being to the service of a new descent of creative power.

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Copyright © 1979 by Dane Rudhyar.
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