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Table of Contents

Part I

Part II

Part III


Part V

Part VI

Part VII



Part IV: The Development of Personality: The Old and the New

Chapter 4

The "Normal" Personality

The Search for a Definition: Universals in Behaviour

     IN VIEW OF the different patterns of behaviour which have been brought to light from the Alorese, Arapesh, Mundugumor, and so forth, each of which is considered by the participants in the culture to be quite normal, the question arises as to how we are to define abnormal behaviour. It has been proposed that abnormal behaviour should be defined as any form of behaviour which the individual is unable to recognize as exceptional, even when transplanted into an entirely different culture. The person who continues to act according to the previous pattern and is unable to see that his behaviour is different would then be an abnormal individual. This is perhaps more novel than satisfactory. It suggests, however, that the judgment of normality or otherwise can no longer be made by reference to the individual's native culture alone. Abnormal behaviou r in one culture may be quite normal in another. This discovery is strictly an anthropological one. And having made it, the anthropologists at once set about the search for "universals." By the term "universals" is meant those forms of human behaviour which are completely independent of local cultural pressures and are theoretically characteristic of all healthy individuals. For example, it was assumed that mother-love was one of these universals. This assumption was pretty well unchallenged until Cora DuBois found it to be explicitly absent among the Alorese. It then became apparent that there were other cultures in which it appeared only by a kind of cultural permission. This was particularly true in those societies in which children treated the whole of their mothers' generation as "mothers" indiscriminately. There were no specifically personal attachments.

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The Universality of Abnormal Behaviour Patterns

     The search continued for many years, and always seemingly with a negative result until a strange fact began to appear. This is that the only universal forms of behaviour appear to be characteristic of people who must be termed abnormal. Those who are mentally ill, no matter what nationality or culture they belong to, tend to share the same fantasies and behave in the same odd ways (often in the same dangerous ways) with such remarkable consistency that their behaviour patterns can be treated descriptively by the same terms. We have the strange paradox, therefore, that it is only abnormal individuals, people who have rejected cultural influences, who can give us an insight into the nature of "normal" human behaviour. Such people are acting, disappointing though this may be, according to the true nature of man because they are not under any artificial restraints. Cultured man is not natural man. Natural man does not naturally behave in a cultured way. It is in this sense that Kroeber observed that the only discoverable universals are not cultural at all but super-cultural --or perhaps infra-cultural would be better still. (25) Clyde Kluckhohn puts it this way: (26)

     When a person has surrendered much of his physiological autonomy to cultural control, when he behaves most of the time as others do in following cultural routines, he is then socialized. Those who retain too great a measure of independence are necessarily confined to the asylum or the jail.

     Culture is any artificial restraint of natural conduct. This anthropological conclusion is remarkably close to the theological view of man as a sinner. And it reflects the psychological view of the "unconscious," which according to Freud is that "man's basic nature is primarily made up of instincts which would, if permitted expression, result in incest, murder, and other crimes." (27) The theological view has been stated with remarkable insight by Karl Barth: "Sin is man as we now know him." And all that we know of history forces us to assent to his judgment. So deeply ingrained is this natural bent for destruction of himself and society that we have to conclude with Augustine that man was free to choose to do either good or evil until he fell, thereafter he had freedom only to choose the kind of evil he would do. And

25. Kroeber, A. L., An Appraisal of Anthropology Today, University of Chicago, 1953, p.119. "It seems to me that the universal categories of culture are unquestionably there, but they are non-cultural. . .  It is important to recognize that things which underlie culture are not the same as culture. My own feeling is that these constants exist, but they exist on the subcultural level and that is why they are constant."
26. Kluckhohn, C., Mirror for Man, McGraw-Hill, New York, 1949, p.197.
27. Viteles, M. S., "The New Utopia, Science, vol.122, 1955, p.1170.

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Dostoevsky said, "Man commits sin simply to remind himself that he is free." (28)
     As with the individual, so it is with the group. D. R. Davies said, (29) with keen insight:

     The most dramatic and easily understood demonstration of the quality of sin is war. Its falsification of intention is so obvious that it becomes visible to the most short-sighted. In this, as in everything else, war simply brings to the surface what is existing all the time during so-called peace. In war, a society's way of life comes to maturity. The mask is thrown off, so to speak, and processes hitherto camouflaged are exposed for what they are. . .  It merely demonstrates, in a more concentrated form, what is happening all the time.

     This specifically human characteristic has even been noticed by evolutionists who, for all their hopes for the future, are realistic enough to see that any further progress will be the result of deliberate effort on man's part and not, as they think it has been in the past, a natural process. P. D. Ouspensky has remarked: (30)

. . . in Mankind evolution can only be conscious. It is only degeneration which can proceed unconsciously in man.

     Even more explicit and pessimistic is Wood Jones, who said: (31)

     That man is likely to develop his intellectual capacities in the direction of higher ethical standards and increased moral responsibility is more of the nature of a pious hope than a justified expectation.

     Without seeking to overdo this theme, it nevertheless seems essential to establish clearly what the real nature of man is. Only then can we see how inadequate mere reformation would be. Erich Fromm, who has seen the hopelessness of the situation so clearly that at times it has driven him to distraction, said: (32)

     Freud has broken through the fiction of the rational purposeful character of the human mind, and opened a path that allows a view into the abyss of human passions.

     Kenneth Walker put the matter this way: (33)

     Freud's investigation of the contents of the submerged parts of the mind showed that these were of a very primitive nature. . .  According to

28. Dostoevsky, Letters from the Underworld, quoted by D. R. Davies, Down Peacocks' Feathers, Centenary Press, London, 1947, p.10.
29. Davies, D. R, "Down Peacocks' Feathers," Centenary Press, London, 1947, p.52.
30. Ouspensky, P. D., A New Model of the Universe, quoted by Kenneth Walker, Meaning and Purpose, Penguin, London, 1950, p.115.
31. Jones, F. Wood, Trends of Life, Arnold, London, 1953, p.181.
32. Fromm, Erich, Escape from Freedom, Rinehart, New York, 1941, p.246.
33. Walker, Kenneth, Meaning and Purpose, Penguin, London, 1950, p.86.

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him, we are whited sepulchers and are only outwardly decent and cultured. We all carry about within us, locked in some dark cellar of the mind, not a comparatively respectable skeleton, but a full-bodied and lascivious savage. In spite of our efforts to isolate this unwelcome guest in his cellar, he rules our thoughts and actions.

     It appears that the most cultured among us is, in a sense, only accidentally so. Scrape off the varnish and underneath is the same basic material in all of us. Moreover, it is a common experience to find ourselves acting in shameful ways which we scarcely believed possible. Such experiences mortify us, for they reveal to ourselves what we really are. These revelations are like the bubbles of marsh gas which ooze up now and then from the murky deeps to disturb the placid surface and remind us of what is hidden. Ernest White drew these thoughts together with brevity and clarity when he said: (34)

     Investigation of the unconscious has brought to light evil and destructive forces which are held down by repression, itself an unconscious mechanism. In it lurks a shadow self, very different from the conscious educated ego with which we are familiar. It contains strong emotions which have been rejected by the ego in the past because they were unacceptable, hidden hates and resentments which might well shock us by their crudity and primitiveness, and which appear more allied to the savage than to the civilized state we so painfully acquire and maintain. . . .
     It is the basic stuff of the mind -- crude, irrational, and often childish -- the untamed wilderness from which we laboriously wrest that portion which becomes the garden of our moral, educated, cultured selves. Its language is the language of pictures rather than of words, and it is rich in symbols closely allied to those occurring in the ancient myths of the human race. This similarity to mythical conceptions, and the fact that the same symbols occur in the dreams of people of different races and of differing upbringing and environment, led Jung to postulate what he called the collective unconscious. He thinks of each individual as possessing a personal unconscious derived from his own experiences, and therefore peculiar to himself. Behind this is the collective unconscious which he inherits from his ancestors.

     It is clear that these men are speaking fundamentally of the depravity of man, and if virtually every impulse receives part of its drive from this fearful root, then every action is to some extent infected and man is in this sense totally depraved. It is not that he cannot do any good, but rather that in every good thing he does this taint of evil exists. Napoleon observed, so it is said, that man will believe almost anything -- so long as it is not in the Bible. While scholarly dignity nods assent (albeit reluctantly) to these insights into the nature of human

34. White, Ernest, Christian Life and the Unconscious, Hodder and Stoughton, London, 1955, p.15.

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nature, it has been customary to overlook biblical statements on the same topic. But the Lord far antedated Freud when He declared (Mark 7:21-23):

     Out of the heart of men proceed evil thoughts, adulteries, fornications, murders, thefts, covetousness, wickedness, deceit, lasciviousness, an evil eye, blasphemy, pride, foolishness. All these evil things come from within.

     This is acknowledged at times where one might least expect it. Thus David Lack, a Fellow of the Royal Society, admitted it when he wrote: (35)

     The nature of the Fall has been variously interpreted in different ages. . . . Whether a more literal or more allegorical view is taken, the doctrine of the Fall is basic to Christian belief. The statement by Darwinists such as G. G. Simpson [The Meaning of Evolution, 1951] that man has risen, not fallen, misses the point.

     Lack then points out that even so great an antagonist of Christianity as T. H. Huxley acknowledged that: (36)

. . . it is the secret of the superiority of the best theological teachers to the majority of their opponents that they substantially recognize these realities. . . .
     The doctrines of . . . original sin, of the innate depravity of man . . . of the primacy of Satan in this world . . . of a malevolent Demiurgus subordinate to a benevolent Almighty Who has only lately revealed Himself, faulty as they are, appear to me to be vastly nearer the truth than the liberal, popular illusions that babies are all born good, and that the example of a corrupt society is responsible for their failure to remain so; that it is given to everybody to reach the ethic ideal if he will only try . . . and other optimistic figments.

     So David Lack concluded, "Darwinism can never give an adequate account of man's nature." (37)

What Is Wrong With Man?

     One of the Greek philosophers -- I think it was Heraclitus -- suggested this rather intriguing way of resolving conflicts of opinion. He proposed that if two quite reasonable people are arguing intelligently (i.e., obeying the laws of contradiction and therefore being logical) about some particular problem and, having been in essential agreement to begin with, now find themselves reaching completely contradictory conclusions, they can resolve the problem in the following way. If they will trace back the logical steps of their reasoning until

35. Lack, David, Evolutionary Theory and Christian Belief, Methuen, London, 1957, p.107.
36. Ibid., p.108.
37. Ibid., p.109.

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they reach the very first point at which they are once more in agreement, they will probably find that this is the point at which they went astray. In answering the question, What is wrong with man, we have a case in point. All are agreed something is wrong, but there is not the same agreement as to what it is and therefore how to deal with it. John H. Hallowell bore witness to this impasse when he said: (38)

     It is my conviction, shared by many others and based on a study of the historical evidence, that the present day crisis in which we find ourselves is in large part the product of the unsuccessful attempt of modern times to found our political philosophies and systems of government upon a conception of man that ignores or minimizes his capacity for evil, and hence has no adequate means of dealing with it.

     It may be said that the diagnosis takes one of the following forms: The evolutionist argues that the trouble with man is that he has not had time to develop sufficiently. In due course he will learn by experience how to handle himself. The view held by those who believe in eugenics is that proper breeding will eliminate or greatly minimize the problem by a process akin to the inheritance of acquired characteristics in a specialized way. Sociologists tend to argue that the problem is one of environment. Allow a child to be brought up in an atmosphere where violence and dishonesty are considered proper, and you cannot expect anything but juvenile delinquency to result. The answer is to correct the environment. Educationists, like the Greek philosophers, have tended to equate sin with ignorance. In fairness to them it must be said there is considerable evidence that this optimistic view so characteristic of the close of the last century is receiving thoughtful re-appraisal. Yet, the conviction is still very strong that if a man can only be shown what is best, he will adopt it.
     And now let's apply the philosopher's theorem. What is the single point of agreement in all these views? It is simply that man's wickedness is the result of something lacking. The evolutionist says time is lacking; the eugenicist, that breeding is lacking; the sociologist, that the proper environment is lacking; the educationist, that knowledge is lacking. We might argue perhaps that the basic fallacy which has led to divergence of opinion and an unsuccessful attempt to deal with the problem thus far, is that there is not something lacking, not something yet to be achieved, but something that has somehow got in at the very base of human nature. Sin is positive, active, effective, there! Sin entered (Romans 5:12), and has ever since found expression at the root of every man's

38. Hallowell, J. H., Religious Perspectives of College Teachings: in Political Science, Hazen Foundation, New Haven, no date, p.13.

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nature. It has thus become a hereditary part of the content of man's personality, and its degrading influences bear upon the structure also, though less disastrously.
     Because it is hereditary, like a disease infecting the whole man, sin is not dealt with by forgiveness. It needs eradication somehow, or at least to be bypassed in the constitution of the new man. The fruits, which are expressions of it, need forgiveness, but the basic root must be dealt with by some other method. (39) This root is the locus of infection. We have already spoken of the unconscious part of man as being essentially destructive. The situation has been summed up cogently in these words: (40)

     It is its suicidal character which proves it to be a disease. Sin injures the interest, mars the enjoyments, and shortens the days of the individual who indulges in it; therefore it is not an instinct. It has not a single element of goodness in it, or connected with it, so that a moderate indulgence in it might be salutary. It is essentially and entirely evil, and, what proves most conclusively that it is no part of our proper constitution is that it injures the individual who sins more than it injures the individual who is sinned against. Where will the anthropologists find anything approaching this throughout the wide domain of nature?

     Such is the frightening picture of that which lies at the root of every man's personality. Seen in its true light it must be apparent even to the most idealistic humanist that reformation is out of the question. A will that is so diseased cannot will its own perfection, for such a high aspiration does not spring from such a low source.

39. In the Old Testament, sin is "covered" (atonement), in the New Testament, "taken away" (John 1:26), "put away" (Hebrews 7:28), "cleansed" (John 1:29).
40. Primeval Man Unveiled, Hamilton Adams, London, 1871, p.91.

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Copyright © 1988 Evelyn White. All rights reserved

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