Sunday, July 8, 2007

Erich Fromm on Universal Religion (3)

Hello again,

This will be the final foray into the remarkable Eric Fromm quotation. One of the respondents to my message was scholar, Ismael Valesco (Spain), who offered the following explanation for Fromm’s quote, which is so strikingly similar, if not entirely identical, to the main lines of Baha’i theology. If Ismael’s source is correct, it would be a very plausible, if not probable, explanation of why Fromm’s statement is identical to Baha’i teaching. Could such a close textual resemblance be entirely coincidental? You decide. (By the way, possibility, plausibility and probability in law and in science show ascending degrees of certitude).

Ismael tells me that the source is “kosher.” He heard it form Hugh McKinley himself. I don’t doubt that Hugh was able to change Fromm’s mind. This is not to say that he turned him into a theist, but I think it seems clear that Mr. McKinley convinced EF to see religion in a new light, one that agreed with his progressive, socialist mind-set. And I should add, that if all this is true, Hugh did a very good job and Eric Fromm was a very perceptive and articulate student. The time frame, as Ismael has pointed out, also fits since The Sane Society was published in 1955.
Of course, the whole theory would fall down if Hugh McKinley arrived at his pioneering post after 1955. So perhaps Ismael, or some other enterprising soul, could check that date.

Jack McLean

Here is Ismael’s comment:

“I believe that it may very well be that it was a Bahá'í who was responsible for that passage by Fromm. One of the Knights of Bahá'u'lláh for Cyprus, Hugh McKinley, lived on a little Greek island and wrote a literary column for the Athens Daily Times. He reviewed new books and took the opportunity to correspond with authors, striking solid friendships with great figures such as Kathleen Raine, Helen Shaw and May Sarton. One of these exchanges took place with Erich Fromm, in which Hugh questioned Fromm's dismissal of religion, and engaged him in a debate that led Fromm to change his treatment of the subject subsequently. For years I have been meaning to look for the passage in question, and I believe the quote you shared, coinciding perfectly with the timescales involved, is a prime and highly probable candidate. It explains the seeming anomaly of such a Bahá'í description of world religion, precisely in those dates, from an otherwise consistent dismissal of the subject.”

With love and gratitude,

Ismael [Velasco]


Anonymous said...

Erich Fromm is a theorist who brings other theories together. He also emphasizes how your personality is embedded in class, status, education, vocation, your religious and philosophical background and so forth. Since this autobiography and my personality is embedded to a great extent in these factors that Fromm describes, it seems timely to start this first appendix with a note on Fromm. I read Fromm's books off and on for thirty years. -Ron Price with thanks to Michael Maccoby, "The Two Voices of Erich Fromm: The Prophetic and the Analytic," Society, July/August 1994.

The year I began my pioneering experience, 1962, Erich Fromm, American psychoanalyst and prolific writer in the field of existential psychology, stated his 'credo' in his book Beyond the Chains of Illusions. I have written some of his Credo below since it was consistent with my views back in 1962 and still is. I have commented on some of his Credo expressing views that have remained part of my beliefs during this pioneering venture spanning, as it does now, more than forty years.

"The most important factor for the development of the individual is the structure and the values of the society into which he has been born." Given this fact, my role as a Baha'i has been to spend my life trying to build the kind of society fit for human beings to be born into. For, as Fromm says in his Credo, "society has both a furthering and an inhibiting function. Only in cooperation with others, and in the process of work, does man develop his powers, only in the historical process do humans create themselves. Only when society's aim will have become identical with the aims of humanity will society cease to cripple man and to further evil." In attempting to transform society, Fromm underestimated the need for individuals to adapt to their society. For the Baha'i to be an effective teacher, propagator, of the New Society he has become associated with, he needs to adapt to the larger society in which he has been born and in which he lives his life. The difficulties I had in the first decade of my pioneering experience came, it seems to me in retrospect, from a slow adapting to my society. Later, in the following decades, my effectiveness was due significantly to my more effective adapting to my society.

This adaptive process is slow and arduous work and, for Baha'is, it takes place in the context of action toward goals using a map provided by the Founders of their religion and the legitimate Successors.

"I believe that every man represents humanity. We are different as to intelligence, health and talents. Yet we are all one. We are all saints and sinners, adults and children, and no one is anybody's superior or judge. We have all been awakened with the Buddha, we have all been crucified with Christ, and we have all killed and robbed with Genghis Khan, Stalin, and Hitler. Man's task in life is precisely the paradoxical one of realizing his individuality and at the same time transcending it and arriving at the experience of universality. Only the fully developed individual self can drop the ego." Perhaps this is one way of defining the nature of 'Abdu'l-Baha and the reason for his effectiveness and efficiency. -Ron Price, Pioneeering Over Four Epochs, 9 October 2002.

There is much truth here, Erich.
I must thank you for your wonderful
and illuminating books, enriching
my life as they have, approximating
the jewelled wisdom of this lucid Faith
that I set out with in '62 when I moved
to Dundas and began to pray in those
back streets on cold Canadian afternoons,
read from His sweet-scented streams
and taste of the fruits of His tree
in those years when my father's white hair
blew in the wind for the last time,
my mother was driven to the end of her tether
and that charisma became institutionalized
at the apex of this wondrous Order.

Erich Fromm, Beyond the Chains of Illusions, Simon and Schuster, NY, 1962, pp.174-182.

Ron Price

Pioneering Over Four Epochs said...

I posted an introduction to the paradigmatic shift in the Baha’i community, the new culture of learning and growth that is at the heart of this paradigm, nearly three years ago. I did this posting at several internet sites and have revised that post in these last three years as developments in the paradigm have come about, as new messages from Bahá'í institutions have been published and as many individuals have commented verbally and in print on this new culture. It seemed like a good idea to give readers some specific steps on how to access this now revised article, what is now a book of more than 160,000 words and more than 350 pages and is found at Baha’i Library Online(BLO).

In the time this book has been on the internet there have been many thousand views of this analysis, this statement on the new paradigm at the few sites where it has been posted. In addition to googling “Baha’i Culture of Learning and Growth” and accessing this article in the process at several internet sites, readers can find this piece of writing at BLO by clicking on the following:

Readers can also access the latest edition of this article at BLO by taking the following steps: (i) type Baha’i Library Online or Baha’i Academics Resource Library into your search engine; (ii) click on the small box “By author” at the top of the access page at BLO; (iii) type “Price” into the small box that then appears and click on the word “Go;” and then (iv) scroll down to article/document item #47 and (v) click on that item and read to your heart’s content. When your eyes and your mind start to glaze over, stop reading. The article can be downloaded free and you will then have access to this book, this context for all this new paradigmatic terminology that has come into the Baha’i community in the last 15 years.

The statement is a personal one, does not assume an adversarial attitude, attempts to give birth of as fine an etiquette of expression as I can muster and, I like to think, possesses both candour and critical thought on the one hand and praise and delight at the many interrelated processes involved in the execution of this paradigm on the other. I invite readers to what I also like to think is “a context on which relevant fundamental questions” regarding this new paradigm may be discussed within the Baha’i community.

This book also contains an update, an inclusion of commentary on the most recent messages from the institutions of the Cause—including the Ridvan message of 2010. One of the advantages of the BLO site is the freedom it gives to a writer to update the article right on the site in an ongoing process as new insights from major thinkers in the Baha’i community and information from the elected and appointed institutions of the Cause comes to hand.

If time and the inclination permit, check it out. No worries, no obligation, just if it interests you. You may find the piece of writing too long as I’m sure many readers do. It is certainly a view from the inside, but it is just one person’s view building as it does on the ideas and writings of others: Bahá'í institutions and individuals. We each have a different experience on the inside of this paradigm, on the inside of this Faith or, indeed, living on the inside of our global society. You may find this book too personal due to the fact that I attempt to answer the question: “where do I fit into this new paradigm?” After a few paragraphs of reading, you will get the flavour of the exercise. Just keep reading if your mind and spirit are enjoying the process.