Pitirim Sorokin on the Four Techniques to Stimulate Authentic Love in Society

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Excerpts selected by Satyagraha [1]:

Altruization Through Fine Arts and Beauty

Pitirim Sorokin:

"Fine arts can and do serve the task of altruistic ennoblement as well as that of cognition of truth. … By its nature the fine art masterpiece represents a marvelous unity which arouses simultaneously our intellectual, emotional, affective, volitional, and vital energies. … Art can teach many … suprarational truths which cannot be communicated by words and concepts. … [A] masterpiece of painting or sculpture, the Parthenon or a great cathedral, uplifts us in the realm of creative spirit more efficiently than a statistical diagram, mathematical formula, or a chain of impeccable syllogisms can do. …

In mankind’s great and rich treasury of art masterpieces, however, including the beauty of the sunset, of starry skies, and of millions of natural phenomena, there always can be found the special art medium fit for altruistic transfiguration of a given person or group. Sometimes it lies in ‘the small voice’ of the sun reflected in a pool of water, or in a little tune of a beautiful folksong or in the joyful play of children, not to mention the chefs-d’oeuvre of the great artists and masters. With discernment the fine arts can and should be used much more than they are used now, for mental, moral, and the ‘total’ education of mankind. Additional merit of this technique is that it works in a most enjoyable way, free from the pains and fatigue of many other techniques. (Ways and Power of Love, Ch. 17)"

Altruization Through Individual Creative Activity

"The creative urge represents the focal point of human personality. … great creative achievements are inspired by the supraconscious and are executed by the conscious mind working under the guidance of the supraconscious genius which resides in the creative person. In a small degree the voice of the supraconscious speaks also in modest creative efforts. The creative urge is thus in a sense the holy of holies of every person. It is also the most distinctive mark of his individuality, of his conscious egos, and especially of his egoless self. Creativity and individuality both mean something new, something different from what already exists and from other persons. … a free display of the creative urge is one of the main forms of man’s freedom. Free manifestation of the creative urge is therefore one of the main ingredients of man’s happiness, self-respect, and peace of mind. Frustration of the creative urge means an undermining of his individuality, his freedom, and his happiness….

[The creative] individual or group is deflected from many mischiefs, squabbles, and enmities by the much more absorbing creative thoughts and deeds. The very nature of their constructively creative work tends to ennoble them mentally and morally. They increasingly become the instrument of the best conscious activities and of the supraconscious forces, and decreasingly the animal organisms controlled by discordant biological drives and by disharmonious, narrow egos. …

[A frustrated creative instinct] is possibly one of the important factors in … unrest, and interindividual, intergroup, and international tensions — war included — of our age. … The widening [of creative opportunities] is urgently needed not only for altruistic purposes and for mitigation of our ‘wars of everyone against everyone,’ but also for physical and mental welfare and the cultural progress of humanity. After all, “the Supreme Creator” is possibly the most important characteristic of God. Creativity is also the most important life mission of man. It is man’s royal road to the supraconscious, as well as of the supraconscious to man. It [unites] the mortal human being with the Immortal Cosmic Creator. Why then not open this royal road for all human beings?" (Ways and Power of Love, Ch. 17)

Altruization Through Private and Public Prayer

"Prayer is one of the most accessible and fruitful ways for spiritualization and altruization of human beings and groups. The more of this sort of prayer, the better for all of us. Supplication, worship, prayer are no superstition; they are acts more real than the acts of eating, drinking, sitting or walking. It is no exaggeration to say that they alone are real. …

The main objective of … prayer is a dissolution of one’s lilliputian egos, interests, and aspirations in the “Thy will be done,” in the infinitely greater Supreme Being, however it is called and conceived. Altruistic prayer strives to free the supraconscious in man from the shackles of his little egos for the union with the Supreme Supraconscious. Such prayer tends to turn our organism and our unconscious and conscious mind into an instrument of the supraconscious in us and, through that, of the Cosmic Supraconscious. …

[Pierre] Marinier correctly remarks that: “It is a discipline for unification of self with self and self with the world. Modern man often claims to reject it because it appears in conjunction with creeds or dogmatic conceptions to which he cannot adhere. But psychological value of prayer is independent of these creeds in their dogmatic form. … Modern man by refusing to pray deprives himself of the most fecund forces from his past and from his secret being. These forces remain unused, even repressed, while the individual, whose consciousness is no longer linked to the universal, flounders at the superficies of himself in an illusion of liberty — which conceals profound dissociation and despicable ignorance. For the vast majority of us, prayer meanwhile remains the only (I would say one of the few) practical road to physical and moral recovery, to reconciliation with our ancestors, to comprehension and acceptance of the real, to liberty itself….” (Ways and Power of Love, Ch. 18)

Altruization Through Contemplation and Meditation

"In [contemplation] words, verbal terms, and concepts cannot help much; if anything, they can rather mislead by replacing the total living grasp of the inexpressible whole by one of its differentiations embodied in verbal definition. For these reasons [it] is often going on in silence, without any words or verbal concepts. …

It is at the moments when the ‘chosen and anointed’ are possessed by the supraconscious that the great religions are born, the eternal moral verities are uttered, the superhuman moral deeds are done, the true prophecies are spoken, the incurables are cured, the hopeless sinners are redeemed, the moral and spiritual mission of humanity is set forth, and its foundations are laid down.

What is still more significant here is the fact that many of these [heroes of spirituality and love] discover, teach, and practice their verities without a serious labor of their conscious mind …. The hour of the supraconscious grace over, they … are often surprised at the thoughts, words, and deeds done by them in the state of supraconscious [contemplation] and creativity. …

[T]hese peaks … are reached only by the very few…. For the rank and file only much lower forms of moral meditation and creativity are available…. [H]owever, these forms should neither be depreciated nor discounted in their influence. Such a rational meditation assumes the forms of the examination of conscience, of thinking of one’s moral mistakes and improvements, of cultivation of the spirit of friendship and mutual aid, of scientific plans for improvement of one’s own and of others’ moral standards, for decreasing criminality, poverty, and disease, for increasing social service agencies, co-operative organizations, schools, recreation centers, youth organizations, religious institutions, community charities, and the like. Earnest thinking and doing along these planes lead the thinking individuals and the community to a notable ennoblement of their civic virtues and moral standards. In their totality these good thoughts and deeds, performed by millions, exert an enormous influence upon everyone and all. … [M]editation and moral creativity of the rank and file have inestimable importance for the altruistic progress of mankind." (Ways and Power of Love, Ch. 18)