“AE” [George Russell], The National Being (1916; rep. Irish Academic Press, 1982) - Extracts

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In [1914] the birth of the infant state of Ireland was announced [...] Battles threatened between two hosts [...] 1 ] twin serpents of sectarianism ready to strangle this infant state of ours if its guardians were not watchful [...]

At first in Ireland our ideas will be borrowed from the Mother of Parliaments [2] After a time, if there is anything in the theory of Irish nationality, we will apply original principles as they are from time to time discovered to be fundamental in Irish character. [2]

National ideals are the possession of a few people only [2; see also 137]. We must rely on the ideas common among our people, and on their power to discern among their countrymen the aristocracy of character and intellect.

[3 German history - externalisation of ideals] That necessity is laid on all nations, on all individuals, to make their external life correspond in some measure to their internal dream. [...] Our mean and disordered little country towns in Ireland, with their drink-shops, their disregard of cleanliness or beauty, accord with the character of the civilians who inhabit them [4]

When we begin to develop a lofty world [...] soon the country becomes beautiful [...] our excited political controversies, our playing with militarism [see infra] Nations which form their ideals and marry them in a hurry of passion are likely to repent without leisure, and they will not be able to divorce those ideals without prolonged domestic squabbles and public cleansing of dirty linen [...] ought not to be a matter of reckless estimates or jerrybuilding [7]

[T]he nation was not conceived of as a democracy freely discussing its laws, but as a secret society with political chiefs meeting in the dark and issuing orders [...] Men who love Ireland ignobly brawl about her in their cups, quarrel about her with their neighbour, allow no freedom of thought of her or service of her other than their own, take cudgel and rifle, and join the sectarian orders or lodges in their own ignoble image [...] A nation is but a host of men [...] until that master idea is manifested to us [... 7] it is necessary to create national ideals [...] Unless this is done Ireland will be like Portugal, or any of the corrupt little penny-dreadful nationalities which so continually disturb the peace of the world with internal revolutions and external brawlings, and we shall only have achieved the mechanism of nationality, but the spirit will have eluded us. [...]

we have yet to settle fundamentals [9] united by ideals to a harmony of art and architecture and literature. [11]

national ideal [began as] tribal deity [...] some great hero Cuchulain [12]

[I]t is the great defect of our modern literature that it creates few such types [heroes] How hardly could one of our modern public men be made the hero of an epic. [13]

The gods departed, and the half-gods also, hero and saint after that, and we have dwindled down to a petty peasant nationality, rural and urban life alike mean in their externals. [...] There is stIll some incorruptible spiritual atom in our people. We are still in some relation to the divine order; and while that incorrupted spiritual atom still remains all things are possible if by some inspiration there could be revealed to us a way back or forward to greatness, an Irish polity in accord with national character. [14]

A theocratic state we shall have no more [...] the practical dominance of one religious idea would let loose illimitable passions, the most intense the human spirit can feel. the way out of the theocratic State was by the drawn sword and was lit by the martyr’s fires. The way back is unthinkable for all Protestant fears or Catholic aspirations. [15]

If we build our civilisation without integration labour into its economic structure, it will wreck civilisation, and will do so more swiftly than two thousand years ago because there is no longer the disparity of culture between high and low which existed in past centuries. [18] Ireland must begin its imaginative reconstruction of a civilisation by first considering that type which, in earlier civilisations of the world, has been slave, serf, or servile, working either on land or at industry, and must construct with reference to it. These workers must be the central figures, and how their material, intellectual, and spiritual needs are met must be the test of value of the social order we evolve. [19]

The folk of the country [...] since the destruction of the ancient clans [...] almost every economic factor in rural life has tended to separate farmrs from each other [...] until [...] IAOS [...] we still have over the larger part of Ireland conditions prevailing which tend to isolate the individual from the community. [...] individualistic agricultural production [20 ...]

the immense number of little shops [...] nobody has tried to amalgamate them [...] allow credit to the point where the small farmer becomes a tied customer [22]

‘Patrick Maloney’ [as] a [fictional] symbol of his class [...] almost the primitive economic cave-man, the darkness of his cave unillumined by any ray of general principles. [24] His reading is limited to local papers [...] But Patrick [...] has a soul [...] the culture of the Gaelic poets and storytellers, which not often actually remembered, still lingers like a fragrance about his mind [...] could we carve Attica out of Ireland? [24] his fantastic concentration on his family [...] must be sublimed into national feelings [24 [...] he becomes a citizen of the world [25] The centre of the citizen is his home. His circumference ought to be the nation [27]

An emotional relationship with Ireland is not enough [27] the long war over the land, which resulted in the transference of the land from landlord to cultivator [...] offered no complete solution [31 [...]

no first-class thinking on the life of the countryman. [32 ...] disease [of] discontent with rural life [33 ...] the rural population, no longer existing as a rural community, sank into stagnation [36] The farmers [in North-West Ireland] were at the mercy of the gombeen traders and the agricultural middlemen [38 [...] a co-operative was started [...] the reign of the gombeen man is over [38 ...] there never can be any progress [...] without such farmers’ organizations or guilds. [39 Analogy of cells of the body with men in society [41 ...] union of myriads [...] real organism [...] feel their unity [41]

We in Ireland are in quest of a civilization [42 ...] Our conception of a civilization must include [...] the life of the average man or manual worker, for if we neglect him we built on sand. [43 [...] not cash alone [43]

The final urgings of men and women are towards humanity [44] the co-operative seed in Denmark, Germany, Italy [45 ...] there will be of course a villge hall with a library and gymnasium [...] a village choir or bound [48 [...] teaching altered to suit the new social order [49 [...] girls their own industries [50 ...]

we see such communities naturally growing up in Ireland [50 ...] complete control over all the business connected with their industry [50] trade terms [52 [...] in the struggle to create a true democracy numbers and the poower of moral ideas are with the insurgents [54 landless] labour [...] badly paid [55 [...] collective farming [58]

the succes if one colony would lead to others [58 [...] the feeling of shame that any should be poor [60 [...] necessary for the physical health and beauty of our race that our people should live more in the country and less in the cities [62 [...] Nature, the Great Mother [...] sunlight and fresh air [63 [...] civilizations [as] nightmare [...] modern cities [...] 63 [...] little clans co-operating together [64] men gladly labour [for] common good [...] loathesome [...] labour market [73 ...] power of dismissal [...] stunts the soul [74 ...]

The first fundamental idea inspiring an Irish polity should be this idea of freedom in all spheres of thought [...] the devil and hell have organised their forces in this unfortunate land in sectarian and secret societies [75] revolt of labour [...] baser clergyman [...] 76 [...] what can labour oppose to this confederation of State and Church [...] nothing but a spiritual revolution will bring other classes into comradeship with them [labour 77 ...] fiery spirits among the proletarians [...] earthly paradise [78 ...] a policy of emancipation [...] strike [incapable of] dealing a knock-out blow to the present social order [...] 79]

I believe in an orderly evolution of society [...] and doubt whether by revolution people can eb raised to an intelligence, a humanity, or a nobility of nature greater than they formerly possessed. [80] the emancipation of labour [...] not [...] gained by revolution but by prolonged effort [81] Our religious hatreds created sectarian organizations [...] organizations habituated to sectarian action [89 [...] we must make harmony in its economic life [90 ...] the interest of the farmer to supprt any urban movement whose object is to see that every worker in the towns is remunerated so that he, his wife, and his children can prduce as much food as they require. [91]

co-operative commonwealth [96]

the bitter reflections which arise when one lives in the Iron Age and knows it to be Iron [104 ...] to let the general will have free play we require something better than the English invention of representative government which, if it exitss at present, is simply a device to enable all kinds of compromises to be made on matters where there should be no compromise, as if right and wrong could come to an agreement honestly to let things be partly right and partly wrong. [...] I dread Irish people becoming slaves of this machine [108]

the signature of the Irish mind is not apparent anywhere in this new machinery of self-government [110 ...]

the continuous efficiency of State departments can only be maintained when they are controlled in respect of policy, not by the casual politician [...] but by the class or industry the State institution was created to serve. [112] The greatest common denominator of the constituents is as a rule some fluent utterer of platitudes [11]

[...] but if each [trade] choose a man to represent them [...] they would] select its best intelligence [114 [...] the supreme Assembly [120 [...] The clan was [...] aristocratic in leadership and democratic in its economic basis [...] Races [...] do not change in essentials [...] We can see later in Irish literature or politics [...] Swift, Goldsmith, Berkely, O’Grady, Shaw, Wilde, Parnell, Davitt, Plunkett, [...] were intensely democratic in economic theory, adding that to an aristocratic freedom of mind. [125]

aristocracy of character and intelligence [...] Ireland gave Parnell [...] the loge which springs from the deeps of its being [...] 127 ...] Idee fixe] this ignoble crew declared alcohol to be the only possible basis of Irish nationality [128 [...] This heroic literature, as our Standish O’Grady declared, rather prophecy than history. [128 [...] militarism, error to overlook - among other modern uprisings of ancient Irish character - the revivla of the military spirit and its possible development in relation to the national being [132]

If the body of the national soul is too martial in character, it will by reflex action communicate its character to the spirit, and make it harsh and domineering, and unite against it in hatred all other nations. [133] war as a conflict of ideals and civilizations] Without the inspiration of great memories or of great hopes, men are incapable of great sacrifices. [134] A military organization may strengthen the national veing, but if it dominates, it will impoverish life. How little Sparta has given to the world compared with Attica. [134] We have seen how Belgium, a country with a population larger than that of Ireland, was thrust aside, crushed an bleeding, by one stroke from the paw of its mighty neighbour. [ftn., Since this book was written Ireland has had a tragic illustration of the truth of what is urged in these pages [viz, 1916]. [135]

National ideas [...] would have the same power of resistance as religion which is, of all things, most unconquerable by physical force [136] National ideals have been the possession of few in Ireland [136 [...] The great problem of all civilizations is to create citizens [136] Military discipline works miracles. [How inspire civilians with the same discipline and `passion’ as soldiers? 137] We shall have a wretched future unless the soul of teh country can dominate the physical forces in it, unless ideal of national conduct, liberty of speech and thought, of justice and brotherhood, exist to inspire and guide it, and are recognised by all and appealed to by all parties equally. [139]

Civil Conscription [142]

every young man in Ireland give two years of his life in a comradeship of labour with other young men [...] in great works of public utility [143 [...] dissipate all the slackness, lack of precision, and laziness [145 [...] public gardens, baths, gymnasiums, recreation rooms, hospitals, sanatoriums, national schools, picture-gallieres, public halls, libraries [...] the postal service [...] carried on by conscripted citizens [147 [...] in half a century [...] make our mean cities and our backward countryside the most beautiful in the world [149]. Hatred [...] a warning that conscience is battling in his own being with the very thing he loathes [...] why it is that our countrymen in Ulster and [...] the rest of Ireland should at last appear to have exchanged characters [...] a law of psychology [152]

The great tragedy of Europe caused not [by individual kings and statesmen] but by nations [154] Evil is not overcome by evil but by good [155 On empires and wars [...] nothing will put an end to race conflicts except the equally determined and heroic development of the spiritual, moral, and intellectual forces which disdain to use the force and fury of material powers. [156 [...] rage will beget rage [156]

The people who are trying to create these new ideals in the world are the outposts, sentinels, and frontiersmen thrown out before the armies of the the intellectual and spiritual races yet to come into being. [156] I would cry out to our idealist to come out of this present-day Irish Babylon, so filled with sectarian, politcal, and race hatreds, and to work for the future. [...] as the people of of the Lord were called by the divine voice to come out of Babylon [157] economic brotherhood [...] I don’t not believe in legal and formal solutions [158] cosmic consciousness [159] spiritual power of the State [160 [...] in real truth we are all seeking in the majesties we create for union with a greater majesty [162]

The real nature of these energies manifesting in humanity I do not know, but they have been hinted at in the Scriptures, the oracles of the Oversoul, which speak of the whole creation labouring upwards and the entry into humanity of the Divine Mind, and of the re-introcession of That Itslef with Its myriad unity into Deity, so that God might be all in all. [162]

The idea of the national being emerged at no recognizable point in our history of Ireland. It is older than any name we know [...] the syunthesis of many heroic and beautiful moments [...] divine in their origin [...] subtly intermingled with the shining of old romance [...] Through] the bards [...] The dream began to enter into the children of our race [...] We can concieve of the national spirit of Ireland as first manifesting through individual heroes or kings [164] An aristocracy of lordly and chivalrous heroes is bound in time to great a great democracy by the reflection of their character in the mass, and the idea of the divine right of kings is succeeded by the idea of the divine right of the people [...] the antique names begin to stir us again with their power, and the antique ideals to reincarnate in us and renew dominion over us. [165]

I beseech audience from the churches [...] the fading hold the heavens have over the world is due to the neglect of the economic basis of spiritual life [...] daily bread and bread of Christ [...] I beseech poets, writers, and thinkers of Ireland for their aid [...] Our literature certainly manifests beauty but not greatness or majesty [...] Our feebleness arises from economic individualism. We continually neutralise each other’s efforts [169]

elemental energies [electricity, Nature, and Man himself 170]

The creation of a harmonious life must come from within [171] What really prevents the organic unity of Ireland is the economic individualism of our lives [172] Those who feel this to be true must gather round any movement which gives hope for the future [...] a policy by which organic unity in Ireland might be attained [173] The co-operative movement alone of all movements has aspired to make an economic solidarity [174]

Let us not be the Laodiceans of Europe [175] We should aim at a society where people will be at harmony in their economic life, will readily listen to different opinions from their own, will not turn sour faces on those who do no think as they do, but will, by reason and sympathy, comprehend each other and come at last, through sympathy and affection, to a balancing of their diversities, as in that multitudinous diversity, which is the universe, powers and dominions and elements are balanced, and are guided harmoniously by the Shepherd of the Ages. [END.]

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