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.
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)
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
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)
Even more explicit and pessimistic is Wood Jones, who said: (31)
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)
Kenneth Walker put the matter this way: (33)
28. Dostoevsky, Letters from the Underworld,
quoted by D. R. Davies, Down Peacocks' Feathers, Centenary
Press, London, 1947, p.10.
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)
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.
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)
Lack then points out that even so great an antagonist of Christianity as T. H. Huxley acknowledged that: (36)
So David Lack concluded, "Darwinism can never give an adequate account of man's nature." (37)
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.
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 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.
38. Hallowell, J. H., Religious Perspectives of College Teachings: in Political Science, Hazen Foundation, New Haven, no date, p.13.
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
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"