The Threefold Nature of Man’s Basic Needs
MAN’S LIFE, as an individual, is lived in three worlds, which, while they can be mapped discretely for the purposes of study, are not usually consciously distinguished in everyday experience. There is the world of feeling, the world of thought, and the world of things. In these worlds, man is aware of three kinds of need: spiritual, intellectual, and physical. For these, man has three capacities which are not shared by animals as far as we know. He has the capacity to worship, the capacity to reason, and the capacity to create. As a result of these capacities, man has developed and elaborated three kinds of activities: religion, philosophy, and technology. Hugh Dryden, writing on “The Scientist in Contemporary Life,” remarked: (43)
“Man’s life at its fullest is a trinity of activity ï¿½- physical, mental, and spiritual. Man must cultivate all these if he is not to be imperfectly developed.”
And Viktor E. Frankl of Vienna has written: (44)
“Man lives in three dimensions: the somatic [physical, i.e., bodily], the mental, and the spiritual.”
Psychology shows that whenever these three personal needs are equally cultivated a full personality develops. It is only when one of these capacities has been denied or neglected that the development of the personality is unbalanced. The man who is entirely spiritual, who has cultivated his religious life to the exclusion of his mental life and his ability to deal with physical
43. Dryden, Hugh, “The Scientist in Contemporary Life,” Science, vol.120, 1954, p.1054.
44. Frankl, Viktor E., “The Concept of Man in Psychiatry,” Digest of Neurology and Psychiatry, Institute of Living, Hartford, Connecticut, vol.23, Feb., 1955, p.74.
things with reasonable success, is found to be an “odd” person — though the reasons for this are not always perceived. To the Christian, it is much more apparent that an incomplete personality has resulted when the individual has concentrated on skill and knowledge but entirely neglected his spiritual life. Then, of course, there are those who seem equally abnormal because they have concentrated on the intellectual life and neglected to develop either technical competence or worship.
What is true psychologically of the individual, history shows to have been true of whole cultures. Nations also have personalities. Whether this is genetically determined or not, is a matter of considerable debate. There are those who argue strongly against it because the concept could be the subject of national pride and corresponding abuse. But the existence of Modal Personality ï¿½ the idea that there is a recognizable English, French, or Chinese stereotype ï¿½ can be very forcibly argued. It is our contention that something of this nature has providentially been allowed to characterize the three branches of the family of man. Whenever the contributions of Shem, Ham, and Japheth have been blended into a single organized way of life, a high civilization has resulted. But when one element ï¿½ the spiritual, intellectual or technological ï¿½ receives over-emphasis to the detriment of the other two, then that civilization becomes unbalanced. It will momentarily appear to burst ahead with new vitality, only to collapse ï¿½ frequently with frightening suddenness. It does not require a vast acquaintance with the details of history to be able to see illustrations of this sequence of events. At the present time, one has to bear in mind that the original contribution of Shem has for a time been taken over by Japheth who has thus assumed responsibility for both the spiritual and the intellectual life of man. Thus, Western Culture has reached its present heights because it inherited, as a result of over-running and to some extent taking possession of the rest of the world, the accumulated cultural wealth and technology of Shem and Ham. There is no guarantee that this high civilization will maintain the proper balance of emphasis on man’s spiritual, intellectual, and physical needs. Indeed, many people feel that the first of these has already been neglected too long. And, unfortunately, there has been a tendency among those who have insisted on the importance of cultivating the human
spirit to be, themselves, without a realistic understanding of man’s intellectual and physical needs.
The Church has the responsibility of maintaining the duties originally appointed to Shem. If she fails in this, the result must be disastrous. The disaster will be all the more serious as the achievements of Japheth and Ham are all the more extended and powerful: the greater the potential of civilization, the greater the potential for evil ï¿½ unless it is continually purified and preserved from corruption. As Noah predicted, the responsibility which belonged to Shem was allocated to Japheth when the “times of the Gentiles” began. But it will be restored to Shem once more when the times of the Gentiles are fulfilled and the Kingdom is restored to Israel. This event will usher in a higher civilization than the world has ever seen because the specific contributions of Japheth and Ham will be perfectly balanced by the contribution of Shem.
It might be thought, and indeed is fondly imagined by some less realistic folk, that a highly spiritual culture which attaches little or no importance to material things or to the exercise of human reason, and lays almost all the emphasis on man’s spiritual needs, would have the best chance of producing a lasting era of peace and prosperity. But history shows that this has not been so. The early Church within a few centuries of its inception had created the hope of such a spiritual order. But the European world which was most influenced by it, collapsed almost completely in the face of the barbarian invasion ï¿½ and the Dark Ages resulted.
This has seemed a surprising thing to many people, but the reasons for this collapse are perhaps not too hard to see. The Lord pointed out that the children of this world are wiser in their own generation (i.e., in the contemporary situation) than the children of light (Luke 16:8). I think this means that the idealistic dreams of a spiritual society, which have prompted the establishment of numerous religious communities in the past, overlook the fact that such communities are only a part of the scene and, in their contacts with the world at large, they lack an essential ground of common understanding. They consequently become an easy prey to any society which does not accept the same standard of morality. In amateur sports, both teams accept the same set of rules. This makes it possible to play a meaningful game. But the moment you have opposing teams, one of which accepts the honourable rules of the game and the other rejecting
them without any qualms, the first team finds itself at a great disadvantage because it has no way of knowing how to deal realistically with the tactics of the enemy. Sir Alfred Zimmerman has pointed out that the breakdown of international relationships has resulted from the fact that the original ideals governing these relationships were formulated by men largely influenced and willing to accept Christian standards of morality. (45) But, today, many of the parties involved are in no sense Christian. The consequence is that they have no qualms about ignoring these laws when it suits their purpose, whereas the so-called Christian nations find it an embarrassment to do so. In such a situation, it is difficult for the latter to deal realistically with the former.
There is another contributing factor. It has been observed that virtue can be more dangerous than vice, because its excesses are no longer modified by the activity of the conscience. Consequently, the over-spiritual community (like the over-spiritual individual) makes demands of others which are not consistent with real life situations and these demands lead in time to a general reaction, which views them as unreasonable. All too frequently it is found that spiritual communities become grossly materialistic within a generation or two. But this is merely a reaction to the strong emphasis on the spiritual nature of man, with the neglect or denial of his rational nature and physical needs. God intended that the latter should be balanced and governed by the proper exercise of the former.
In the family of Noah, Shem is given priority, Ham comes second, and Japheth is last. This order may well be intended to underline an important truth. Man’s spiritual needs are pre-eminent, and his physical needs are next. His intellectual needs are last. History indicates that this was the order of development. And historically, as Lord Raglan has pointed out, the expression of man’s religious nature came first and led, in due course, to technological development. Philosophy, the contribution of Japheth, came relatively very late in history.
The demands of the body cannot be neglected. Since the time of the Flood, the major contribution toward meeting these demands has been rendered by the family of Ham. Virtually no people have managed to survive without finding some way of satisfying their spiritual and physical needs. Many societies have survived without philosophy — which indicates that, in a sense,
44. Zimmerman, Sir Alfred, The Prospects of Civilization, Oxford Pamphlets of World Affairs, No.1, 1940, p.22.
the contribution of the family of Japheth is least important of all. Nevertheless, this contribution is directly responsible for the extension of the first two into other categories of experience ï¿½ religious belief into theology, and technology into science.
It seems, therefore, that over-emphasis of man’s spiritual life will not lead to a high civilization but tends rather in the opposite direction. The corollary is also true. Over-emphasis of man’s intellectual life or physical needs has the same detrimental effects. For centuries, the dominant social classes in India concentrated on the intellectual life of man to the neglect of the spiritual and physical components, with the consequent impoverishment of the whole man. In the New World we are in danger of allowing the material to dominate the spiritual — by too great an insistence on the value of technical education to the exclusion of philosophy and theology.
Such, then, according to our thesis is the biblical view of the stream of history insofar as the rise and fall of civilization is concerned. It is not, as some great historians have suggested, that cultures have a “life” and pass by nature through a process of birth, growth, maturity, senescence and death ï¿½ or, as others have suggested, always come to an end because of spiritual decay. It is rather that one of these three aspects of man’s basic needs has been neglected or over-emphasized. It was God’s intention that each of these needs should be taken care of specifically by an appointed branch of the family of man. To Shem is given the responsibility of maintaining man’s spiritual life; to Ham, the duty of guaranteeing man’s physical survival and dominion over the earth; and to Japheth, the enlargement of man’s thoughts and the elaboration of the contributions of Shem and of Ham.
The biblical record shows how the experience of these three families was suited to prepare them for their tasks. Ham was scattered far and wide at a very early time in history, reaching the most distant parts of the habitable world far in advance of Shem or Japheth. This experience forced them to bend every energy to the stupendous task of pioneering and achieving mastery over every kind of environment which would allow man to establish a permanent settlement. Necessity quite literally became the mother of invention and the Hamites became the world’s foremost technologists. Later in history, when the way had already been opened up, Japheth spread slowly into many of these areas where, becoming heirs to the solutions of their
predecessors the Hamites, they had leisure enough to spend more time in reflection and in due course developed their philosophies. Ham excelled in “know-how”; Japheth began to ask “why?”
Meanwhile, the spiritual life of man was in grave danger and the Truth was almost eclipsed. But God called out one man from the family of Shem, and renewed in him the purity of the original revelation. This man became a family, and this family became a nation. By persecution and bondage this nation was knit together into a self-conscious unit. Then by a series of miraculous experiences, strongly confirmatory of their mission, its people were planted in a small country which stood at the crossroads of those great world powers which were carriers of the world’s basic civilization. Through prophets and teachers this small nation was prepared for the task of being spread throughout the whole world as spiritual leaders, drawing their inspiration from a divine King whose throne would be set at the crossroads. From time to time fragments of Shem were scattered among the nations to bring an appropriate spiritual light wherever they went, but, by and large, the family remained a compact unit at the centre of things, that the source of Light might be one, and not many. As we know, they failed to recognize their King and Japheth inherited their right ï¿½ for a time.
The whole person is at his best when each area of life ï¿½ bodily needs, mental capacity and spiritual awareness ï¿½ are allowed to balance one another and grow together to maturity. In a remarkable way God has taken care to see that these three facets are each properly nourished and preserved so that the effects of the Fall may be always held in check and man never allowed to completely destroy himself while God has yet some purpose to work out and while history pursues its course.
A Note to the Reader
There may very well be differences between races, some being gifted in one way
and some in another. Whether such national characters are the result of cultural conditioning or are genetically determined is not at present clear. But differences there do seem to be and I, for one, believe that, however this has come about, it has been by God’s providential oversight of history and to serve His own purposes.
The really important thing is that we must never make the mistake of identifying differences with superiorities. To my mind, a great injury is done to the study of Scripture when the fear of being accused of promoting superiorities, merely because one is attempting to assess differences, has the effect of denying one the right even
to explore the possibility that differences might exist as part of the economy of God. The question is not one of levels of worth but of uniqueness of contribution, each
race making a contribution of immeasurable benefit both to it:self and to mankind
as a whole.
If these Papers encourage the belief that differences exist, it is NOT intended to encourage the belief that any one race is superior or inferior.
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