Sunday, July 8, 2007

Erich Fromm on Universal Religion (4)

Hello again,

A possible page error in the original quotation I received brings this further clarification on Fromm, despite my “last foray” comment.

When I checked the page reference in my paperback copy of Fromm’s The Sane Society, it comes from the concluding passage in the last chapter, on pp. 305-306, not on p. 352 as the original email I received indicated.

But the quotation is correct.

By the way, I can’t take credit for finding this quotation. As mentioned, it was forwarded to me by Carol Rutstein and Rob Stockman. I don’t know where it all started. If I once read it in Fromm, I had forgotten it.

I realize that Ismael’s report based on Hugh McKinley’s assertion does not amount to “proof” as the notion exists, say, in the exact sciences or in historiography. So the sceptical “it’s all speculation” comment is perfectly justified. We know from David Piff’s book, Baha’i Lore, that some Baha’i hearsay is accurate; other hearsay is pure invention.

I know that from personal experience. I heard the most bizarre stories about how Dizzy Gillespie had become a Baha’i, but it wasn’t until I sat down with Bethy McKenty, who taught John Birks the Faith, that I realized everything I had heard was nonsense. But even documentary evidence can be fabricated, and all documents have point of view, which is a type of bias.

But the textual parallels are just too similar—to my mind at least—to be coincidental. I am obviously not attempting to impose a viewpoint, which usually proves futile in any case, unless one is predisposed to accepting it. In a court of law, there are possibilities, plausibilities and probabilities. There the jury decides based on the evidence. If we apply the legal criterion , “beyond a shadow of a doubt,” then Mr. McKinley’s assertion would not pass. If we found documentary evidence from either Eric Fromm or Hugh McKinley, that would be a different story.

In “the court of scholarship” one makes an argument and it is either accepted or rejected. I frankly don’t know what the consensus is on this one.

Jack McLean


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Pioneering Over Four Epochs said...

Good to see you again, Jack. I last spent some time in a room with you back in about 1962 in Etobicoke. Seeing your name always brings back good memories.-Ron Price, Tasmania
Here is a word or two on Erich Fromm.
------------- SOUND AND FURY

Some of the last writings of Erich Fromm were published in 1994 in a book The Art of Listening, some fourteen years after he died. I came across this book just the other day and I gobbled it up. I'd always loved Erich Fromm. He'd been with me for most of my pioneering journey, especially in its first two decades(1962-1982), but I had not read one of his books since the early eighties with his To Have or To Be.

The following poem is a reflection on some of Fromm's ideas in this new book. In particular, he tells me, in his clear and easy prose, that I should not take an inordinate interest in myself. Interest in oneself, concentration on one's own problems, "should and must go together with an increasing enlargement and intensification of one's interest in life,"1 in music, the arts, walking, the great ideas, the best of what has been written and thought. Only then do we come to form a set of directions, goals, values and convictions "which are not put in oneself by others."2 For the general goal is to penetrate through the surface of life "to the roots of existence."3 -Ron Price with thanks to Erich Fromm, The Art of Listening, Constable, London, 1994, 1p.166, 2p.167 and 3p.171,

We all must overcome our narcissism;
We must struggle with it, understand it;
it's a lifelong task this battle with self,
the insistent self, He called it.
And I'm not talking about
that affirmative, loving, attitude
towards oneself called self-love.

And one must recognize
the non-experiences
that people, here, call parties1
where there is no closeness,
just a three-ring-circus, short
conversational concentrations,
throw-away one-liners,
smiles and chuckles,
endless edibles and drinks,
enough to float away on,
leaving your brain completely
drained, a deep-emptiness,
as if you've been to a war,
not of guns and swords,
but words, popping all over
like those cap-guns
you used to buy as a kid,
which never make anything happen,
just a lot of sound and fury
signifying nothing at all.

1 Fromm describes this 'American habit'(ibid., p. 178), but it is found here in Australia and approached with the same enthusiasm.

Ron Price
8 December 2001

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