Man has only grasped one aspect of reality. He has plucked the forbidden fruit from the tree of knowledge before it was ripe. It gave us the knowledge of all things save ourselves.
Now we are advancing on the road of time, dependent on the progress of technology and completely unconcerned about the elementary needs of our bodies and minds. Though we are still immersed in matter, we fancy ourselves independent of it. We wish to ignore the fact that our survival depends on behaving in the way demanded by our own structure and that of the things about us. For centuries, civilized humanity has been plunging deeper and deeper into this error.
The exclusively intellectual formation of the young violates an essential law of the development of the mind. The human spirit displays nonrational as well as rational activities. Activities not specifically rational, such as the moral, esthetic and mystical senses, play a most important part in the development of personality. We have made the mistake of neglecting the affective formation of the child.
We still do not grasp that physiological development is inseparable from the development of the feelings. To accord fully with nature's intentions, education should also concern itself with organic activities and with those mental activities which are not concerned simply with the process of reasoning. Parents and teachers commit still graver sins against life. One essential law for the development of living beings is that of effort. Muscles, vital organs, intelligence and will can only be strengthened by work. No error can be more fatal than that of suppressing the voluntary effort of mind and muscle and the involuntary one of the adaptive systems. Our ancestral laws of conduct were the expression of a profound intuition of human nature. Christian morality also imposes rules which are none other than those intended by life itself. Life has replied to our disobedience to its laws by estranging itself from us; a reply at once silent and brutal. Only the most clear-sighted have been aware of the danger. Slowly, over a long period, life has been working out its answer.
Less than a century ago, French institutions were the envy of Europe. France produced the cream of artists, writers and scientists; her riches were constantly increasing: she was a great nation. Yet already she was showing irrefutable proofs of decay. By 1830, the malady of civilization was far advanced among the French, though the definite breakdown did not come till later. This flight from life was made spontaneously. The human body possesses an almost miraculous power of standing up to the most adverse circumstances. When it reaches the limit of its power of adaptation, various disorders appear: moral corruption, feeble-mindedness, neurosis, criminality and sterility. Like a machine not driven as its structure demands, it breaks down. You cannot go straight from top gear into reverse, nor can you run your engine on sand or water. In conducting one's life, as in driving a car, every mistake brings retribution. Those who transgress natural laws are annihilated by the mere play of the inherent mechanism of things.
Both the disease of civilization and that of universal war are inevitable consequences of transgressing natural laws. The absence of all internal discipline leads to giving up voluntary effort. It also leads to the abuse of comfort and to a general softening up of life; hence to the slackening of our adaptive functions and the suppression of the constant effort imposed on our organs and nerve centers by the unremitting fight against bad weather, hunger, sleep and fatigue. Yet this effort is the essential condition of the development of our tissues and our minds. Children and young people not brought up to realize the need for effort have become submen too weak to maintain the civilization of their forebears. In such individuals, the intelligence, however cultured, remains frail, superficial and incapable of great creative work. Intelligence, to be strong and well-balanced, needs a sound organic substratum. Moral emancipation and economic changes have confused the specific functions of man and woman. Woman cannot, or will not, carry out her true feminine function; hence the decay in quality as well as quantity in a nation. Our forefathers in the sixteenth century never suspected what the consequences would be for humanity when they so lightly substituted the love of profit for the love of God. Putting economics first brought about the industrial revolution, the rise of Liberalism, a vast increase in wealth and a general improvement in living conditions. These resulted in a huge increase in the population of Europe and a frantic search for primary raw materials and markets. Hence came total war and, finally, chaos. Such was life's reply to man's disobedience.