Civilized society is the result of man’s early efforts to overcome his dislike of isolation. But this does not necessarily signify mutual affection, and the present turbulent state of certain primitive groups well illustrates what the early tribes came up through. But though the individuals of a civilization may collide with each other and struggle against one another, and though civilization itself may appear to be an inconsistent mass of striving and struggling, it does evidence earnest striving, not the deadly monotony of stagnation.
While the level of intelligence has contributed considerably to the rate of cultural progress, society is essentially designed to lessen the risk element in the individual’s mode of living, and it has progressed just as fast as it has succeeded in lessening pain and increasing the pleasure element in life. Thus does the whole social body push on slowly toward the goal of destiny—extinction or survival—depending on whether that goal is self-maintenance or self-gratification. Self-maintenance originates society, while excessive self-gratification destroys civilization.
Society is concerned with self-perpetuation, self-maintenance, and self-gratification, but human self-realization is worthy of becoming the immediate goal of many cultural groups.
The herd instinct in natural man is hardly sufficient to account for the development of such a social organization as now exists on Urantia. Though this innate gregarious propensity lies at the bottom of human society, much of man’s sociability is an acquirement. Two great influences which contributed to the early association of human beings were food hunger and sex love; these instinctive urges man shares with the animal world. Two other emotions which drove human beings together and held them together were vanity and fear, more particularly ghost fear.
History is but the record of man’s agelong food struggle. Primitive man only thought when he was hungry; food saving was his first self-denial, self-discipline. With the growth of society, food hunger ceased to be the only incentive for mutual association. Numerous other sorts of hunger, the realization of various needs, all led to the closer association of mankind. But today society is top-heavy with the overgrowth of supposed human needs. Occidental civilization of the twentieth century groans wearily under the tremendous overload of luxury and the inordinate multiplication of human desires and longings. Modern society is enduring the strain of one of its most dangerous phases of far-flung interassociation and highly complicated interdependence.
Hunger, vanity, and ghost fear were continuous in their social pressure, but sex gratification was transient and spasmodic. The sex urge alone did not impel primitive men and women to assume the heavy burdens of home maintenance. The early home was founded upon the sex restlessness of the male when deprived of frequent gratification and upon that devoted mother love of the human female, which in measure she shares with the females of all the higher animals. The presence of a helpless baby determined the early differentiation of male and female activities; the woman had to maintain a settled residence where she could cultivate the soil. And from earliest times, where woman was has always been regarded as the home.
Woman thus early became indispensable to the evolving social scheme, not so much because of the fleeting sex passion as in consequence of food requirement; she was an essential partner in self-maintenance. She was a food provider, a beast of burden, and a companion who would stand great abuse without violent resentment, and in addition to all of these desirable traits, she was an ever-present means of sex gratification.
Almost everything of lasting value in civilization has its roots in the family. The family was the first successful peace group, the man and woman learning how to adjust their antagonisms while at the same time teaching the pursuits of peace to their children.
The function of marriage in evolution is the insurance of race survival, not merely the realization of personal happiness; self-maintenance and self-perpetuation are the real objects of the home. Self-gratification is incidental and not essential except as an incentive insuring sex association. Nature demands survival, but the arts of civilization continue to increase the pleasures of marriage and the satisfactions of family life.
If vanity be enlarged to cover pride, ambition, and honor, then we may discern not only how these propensities contribute to the formation of human associations, but how they also hold men together, since such emotions are futile without an audience to parade before. Soon vanity associated with itself other emotions and impulses which required a social arena wherein they might exhibit and gratify themselves. This group of emotions gave origin to the early beginnings of all art, ceremonial, and all forms of sportive games and contests.
Vanity contributed mightily to the birth of society; but at the time of these revelations the devious strivings of a vainglorious generation threaten to swamp and submerge the whole complicated structure of a highly specialized civilization. Pleasure-want has long since superseded hunger-want; the legitimate social aims of self-maintenance are rapidly translating themselves into base and threatening forms of self-gratification. Self-maintenance builds society; unbridled self-gratification unfailingly destroys civilization.