'Civilization on Trial' by Arnold Toynbee (1948)

A selection from Civilization on Trial, a collection of essay's and lectures by Arnold Toynbee published in 1948.

Note: for a selection from Arnold Toynbee's 12 Volume magnum opus 'A Study of History', see here.


The unity of outlook [in the essays collected in this volume] lies in the standpoint of a historian who sees the Universe and all that therein is... in irreversible movement through time-space. The common aim that runs through the series of papers is to gain some gleam of insight into the meaning of this mysterious spectacle.


  • My View of History
  • The Present Point in History
  • The Unification of the World and the Change in Historical Perspective
  • Civilization on Trial
  • Islam, the West, and the Future
  • Christianity and Civilization

My View of History

...Graeco-Roman history is visible to us in perspective and can be seen by us as a whole, because it is over-- in contrast to the history of our own Western world, which is a still-unfinished play of which we do not know the eventual ending and cannot even see the present general aspect from our own position as momentary actors on its crowded and agitated stage.

...the unconscious attitude of the Victorian Englishmen towards history was that of someone living outside history altogether. He took it for granted-- without warrant-- that he himself was standing on terra firma, secure against being engulfed in that ever-rolling stream in which Time had borne all his less privileged sons away. In his own privileged state of being emancipated, as he supposed, from history, the Victorian Englishman gazed with curiosity, condescension, and a touch of pity, but altogether without apprehension, at the spectacle of less fortunate denizens of other places and periods struggling and foundering in history's flood... .

On the time-scale now unfolded by geology and cosmogony, the five or six thousand years that had elapsed since the first emergence of representatives of... human society that we label 'civilizations' were an infinitesimally brief span of time compared to the age, up to date, of the human race, of life on this planet, of the planet itself, of our own solar system, of the galaxy in which it is one grain of dust, or of the immensely vaster and older sum total of the stellar cosmos.

What was it that, after so long a pause, had so recently set in such vigorous motion once again, towards some new and still unknown social and spiritual destination... ?

In the vision seen by the Prophets of Israel, Judah, and Iran, history is not a cyclic and not a mechanical process. It is the masterful and progressive execution, on the narrow stage of this world, of a divine plan which is revealed to us in this fragmentary glimpse, but which transcends our powers of vision and understanding in every dimension.

...if a vehicle is to move forward on a course which its driver has set, it must be born along on wheels that turn monotonously round and round. While civilizations rise and fall and, in falling, give rise to others, some purposeful enterprise, higher than theirs, may all the time be making headway, and, in a divine plan, the learning that comes through the suffering caused by the failures of civilizations may be the sovereign means of progress. Abraham was an emigre from a civilization in extremis; the Prophets were children of another civilization in disintegration; Christianity was born of the suffering of a disintegrating Graeco-Roman world. Will some comparable spiritual enlightenment be kindled in the 'displaced persons' who are the counterparts, in our world, of those Jewish exiles to whom so much was revealed in their painful exile by the waters of Babylon? The answer to this question, whatever the answer may be, is of greater moment than the still inscrutable destiny of our world-encompassing Western civilization.

The Present Point in History

Where does mankind stand in the year 1947 of the Christian era?

The writer's mind runs back fifty years, to an afternoon in London in the year 1897. He is sitting with his father at a window in Fleet Street and watching a procession of Canadian and Australian mounted troops who have come to celebrate Queen Victoria's Diamond Jubilee. He can still remember his excitement at the unfamiliar, picturesque uniforms of these magnificient 'colonial' troops, as they were still called in England then... . [...] Yet few in the English crowd gazing at that march... in London in 1897 were in the mood of Kipling's Recessional. They saw their sun at its zenith and assumed that it was their to stay... .

As they saw it, history, for them, was over. It had come to an end in foreign affairs in 1815, with the Battle of Waterloo; in home affairs in 1832, with the Great Reform Bill; and in imperial affairs in 1859, with the suppression of the Indian Mutiny. And they had every reason to congratulate themselves on the permanent state of felicity which this ending of history had conferred on them. 'The lines are fallen unto me in pleasant places; yea, I have a goodly heritage.
View from the historical vantage point of A.D. 1947, this fin de siecle middle-class English hallucination seems sheer lunacy... . In the United States... history.... had come to an end with the winning of the West and the Federal victory in the Civil War; and in Germany... the same permanent consummation had been reached with the overthrow of France and foundation of the Second Reich in 1871. For these three batches of Western... people fifty years ago, God's work of creation was completed... . Yet, though in 1897 the English, American, and German middle class, between them, were the political and economic masters of the world, they did not amount, in numbers, to more than a very small fraction of the living generation of mankind, and there were other people abroad who saw things differently... .

...this sense of finality, which was so gratifying to top dog, did not warm a defeated people's heart. For them it was nothing but a nightmare.

All over the world, in fact, though at that time still under the surface, there were peoples and classes who were just as discontented as the French or the Southerners were with the latest deal of history's cards, but who were quite unwilling to agree that the game was over. There were all the subject peoples and all the depressed classes, and what millions they amounted to!

The subterranean movements that could have been detected, even as far back as 1897, by a social seismologist who put his ear to the ground, go far to explain the upheavals and eruptions that have signalized the resumption of history's Juggernaut march during the past half-century.

It is always a test of character to be baffled and 'up against it,' but the test is particularly severe when the adversity comes suddenly at the noon of a halcyon day which one has fatuously expected to endure to eternity. In straights like these, the wrestler with destiny is tempted to look for bugbears and scapegoats to carry the burden of his own inadequacy. Yet to 'pass the buck' in adversity is still more dangerous than to persuade oneself that prosperity is everlasting. In the divided world of 1947, Communism and Capitalism are each performing  this insidious office for one another. [...] Centuries before Communism was heard of, our ancestors found their bugbear in Islam. As lately as the sixteenth century, Islam inspired the same hysteria in Western hears as Communism in the twentieth century, and this essentially for the same reasons. Like Communism, Islam was an anti-Western movement...; and, like Communism, it wielded a sword of the spirit against which there was no defence in material armaments.

Yet the fact that our adversary threatens us by showing up our defects, rather than by forcibly suppressing our virtues, is proof that the challenge he presents to us comes ultimately not from him, but from ourselves.


The Unification of the World and the Change in Historical Perspective

Familiarity is the opiate of the imagination; and, just because every Western schoolboy knows that the oceanic voyages of discovery made by West European mariners some four and a half centuries ago were an epoch-making historical event, adult Western minds are apt to take the consequences for granted. In addressing myself to a Western public I shall therefore make no apology for pointing out how dramatic and how revolutionary the effect of our ocean-faring ancestors' exploit has been. It has produced nothing less than a complete transformation of the map of the world.

External changes of this magnitude usually evoke corresponding re-adjustments in people's attitudes; and, sure enough, when we look around us, we can see that, among the great majority of mankind, the effects of those Western voyages of discovery-- recent though they are on even the shortest-sighted historical time-scale-- have in fact already brought about a drastic change in historical outlook. [...] The majority of mankind... is, of course, the non-Western part, and the paradox is that today we Westerners are the only people in the world whose outlook on history still remains pre-da Gaman [da Gama was a Portuguese explorer and navigator who, in between 1497 and 1498, the first person to sail directly from Europe to India]. Personally, I do not believe that this antediluvian Western traditional outlook is going to last much longer. I have no doubt that a reorientation is in store for us in our turn... . But why should we wait for History... to take us by the scruff of the neck and twist our heads straight for us? Though our neighbours have recently been re-educated in this unpleasant and humiliating way, we ought surely to do better, for we cannot plead that we have been taken by surprise, as they were. The facts stare us in the face, and... we can... anticipate the compulsory education that is already on its way to us. The Greek Stoic philosopher Cleanthes [editors note: who lived during the first Macedonian war and was a contemporary of Aristarchus of Samos', and suggested that Aristarchus be charged for impiety for 're-centering' the picture of the universe away from the domicile of the earth and upon the celestial fire, the sun (a 'revolution' which would later be repeated).] prays Zeus and Fate for grace to follow their lead of his own will without flinching; 'for if,' he adds, 'I quail and rebel, I shall have to follow just the same.' [editors note: recall the quote by Seneca at the end of Spengler's Decline: "Fate leads the willing and drags the unwilling".]

One knows that mankind... is always and everywhere in danger of exaggerating the historical importance of contemporary events because of their personal importance to the particular generation that happens to be overtaken by them. All the same, I will hazard the guess that, when the age in which we ourselves are living has been left sufficiently far behind to be seen by future historians in a revealingly remote perspective, the particular contemporary event with which we are now concerned will stand out like a mountain peak on the horizon of the past. By 'the age in which we are living' I mean the last five or six thousand years... . I call the recent change in the map 'contemporary' because the four or five centuries during which it has been taking place are a twinkling of an eye on the time-scale that our geologists and astronomers have now revealed to us. And, when I am trying to picture to myself the perspective in which the events of these last few thousand years will appear to future historians, I am thinking of historians living 20,000 or 100,000 years later than the present date... .

If the claim that I am making for the historical importance of our subject seems a large one, let us recall how extraordinary an event this change in the map has been. [...] From the dawn of history to about that date [A.D. 1500], the earthly home of man had been divided into many isolated mansions; since about A.D. 1500, the human race has been brought under one roof.

In an effort to jump clear of my native Western standing-ground and to look at this question from a less eccentric point of view, I have asked myself who was the most centrally placed and most intelligent observer that I could think of among notable non-Westerners who were alive at the moment when a few ships' companies of Western mariners embarked on the enterprise of unifying the world, and I have found my man in the Emperor Babur [of Mongol, Turkic, Persian origins who founded the Mughal Empire in India]. Babur... made the last attempt to unify the world by land operations from a continental centre. Within Babur's lifetime-- 1483-1530-- Columbus reached America by sea from Spain and da Gama India from Portugal. [...] Babur invaded India overland twenty-one years after da Gama had arrived there by sea. last but not least, Babur was a man-of-letters whose brilliant autobiography in his Turkish mother-tongue reveals a spirit of outstanding intelligence and perceptiveness.
What was Babur's horizon? To the east of Farghana it included both India and China, and to the west it extended to Babur's own distant kinsmen, the Ottoman Turks. [...] Of course Babur was aware of the existence of the Franks, for he was a cultivated man and he knew his Islamic history. If he had had occasion to allude to them, he would probably have described them as ferocious but frustrated infidels living in a remote corner of the world at the extreme western tip of one of the many peninsulas of the Continent of Asia. ...these barbarians had made a demonic attempt to break out of their cramped and uninviting corner into the broader and richer domains of Rum and Dar-al-Islam. It had been a critical moment for the destinies of civilization, but the uncouth aggressors had been foiled by the genius of Saladin... .
The arrival of Frankish ships in India in A.D. 1498, twenty-one years before Babur's own first descent upon Indian in A.D. 1519, seems to have escaped Babur's attention-- unless his silence is to be explained not by ignorance of the event, but by a feeling that the wanderings of these water-gypsies were unworthy of a historian's notice. So this allegedly intelligent... man of letters... was blind to the portent of the Portuguese circumnavigation of Africa? He failed to perceive that these ocean-faring Franks had turned the flank of Islam and taken her in the rear? Yes, I believe Babur would have been utterly astonished if he had been told that the empire which he was founding in India was soon to pass from his descendants to Frankish successors. He had no inkling of the change that was to come over the face of the world between his own generation and ours. But this, I submit, is not a reflection on Babur's intelligence; it is one more indication of the queerness of the major event in the history of the world in our time.


Steppe-traversing horses, not ocean-traversing sailing ships, were the sovereign means of locomotion by which the separate civilizations of the world as it was before A.D. 1500 were linked together-- to the slight extent to which they did maintain contact with each other.
In that world, as you see, Babur's Farghana [city in Eastern Uzbekistan, gateway of the North silk road, and, in the Zorastorian literature, the Zorastorian homeland] was the central point, and the Turks were, in Babur's day, the central family of nations. A Turco-centric history of the world has been published in our lifetime by the latest in the series of the great Ottoman Turkish Westernizers, President Mustafa Kemal Ataturk.

...the Turkish-speaking peoples really were the keystone of the Asiatic arch from which the pre-da Gaman belt of civilizations hung suspended. During those twelve hundred years, the overland link between the separate civilizations was commanded by Turkish steppe-power... .
But now we come to the great revolution: a technological revolution by which the West made its fortune, got the better of all the other living civilizations, and forcibly united them into a single society of literally world-wide range. [...] This use of the Ocean, first by sailing ships and then by steamships, enabled the West to unify the whole inhabited and habitable world, including the Americas. Babur's Farghana had been the central point of a world united by horse-traffic over the Steppe; but in Babur's lifetime the centre of the world made a sudden big jump. From the heart of the Continent it jumped to its extreme western verge, and, after hovering round Seville and Lisbon, it settled for a time in Elizabeth's England. In our own lifetime we have seen this volatile world-centre flit again from London to New York... . [...] The steppe-ports were put out of action when the ocean-going sailing-ship superseded the camel and the horse; and now that, under our eyes, the ocean-going steamship is being superseded by the aeroplane we may ask ourselves whether the centre of the world is not likely to jump again... . I will recur to this possibility before I conclude.

For the Chinese, their compartment of the surface of the Earth was 'All that is under Heaven,' and the territory under the Imperial Government's immediate rule was 'the Middle Kingdom.' This point of view is expressed with a serene assurance in the celebrated reply of the great Emperor Ch'ien Lung (imperabat A.D. 1735-95) to a letter from King George the Third of Great Britain proposing that the two potentates should enter into diplomatic and commercial relations with each other.
As to your entreaty to send one of your nationals to be accredited to my Celestial Court and to be in control of your country's trade with China, this request is contrary to all usage of my dynasty and cannot possibly be entertained... . Our ceremonies and code of laws differ so completely from your own that, even if your envoy were able to acquire the rudiments of our civilization, you could not possibly transplant our manners and customs to your alien soil... . Swaying the wide world, I have but one aim in view, namely to maintain a perfect governance and to fulfil the duties of the State... . I set no value on objects strange or ingenious, and have no use for your country's manufactures.

The empire over which he ruled was the oldest, most successful, and most beneficent of all living political institutions. [...] During the twenty intervening centuries, this carefully ordered world peace had occasionally lapsed, but such lapses had always been temporary, and, at the close of Ch'ien Lung's reign, the latest restoration of 'the Middle Kingdom' was in its heyday.

On the strength of this historical background, was Ch'ien Lung right in answering George III as he did? Doubtless some of my Western readers smiled as they read his answer. They smiled, of course, because they knew the sequel, but what does the sequel prove? It proves, no doubt, that the Emperor Ch'ien Lung and his advisers were unaware of the overwhelming physical power which 'the South Sea Barbarians' had acquired... . At the date of Lord Macartney's mission there were Chinese men of letters, already in the flower of their age and holding responsible positions in the imperial service, who were to live to see Great Britain make war on China and dictate terms of peace to her at the cannon's mouth.

The siren voice of History, which lured 'the Son of Heaven' at peking into fancying himself to be the unique representative of Civilization with a capital 'C,' was playing the same trick, in A.D. 1500, on his counterpart the Caesar of Moscow. [...] The universal peace radiated by Augustus from a First Rome on the banks of the Tiber had been re-established by Constantine round a Second Rome on the shores of the Bosphorus; and, when the Constantinopolitan Empire, after dying and rising again three times over-- in the seventh, the eleventh, and the thirteenth centuries of the Christian era-- had fallen to the infidel Turks in A.D. 1453, the sceptre had passed to a Third Rome at Moscow whose kingdom was to have no end (so all pious Muscovites must believe).

The success of the non-Western majority of mankind in re-educating themselves, while Western minds have been sticking in archaic mud, is not, of course, in itself a proof of innately superior acumen or virtue. The beginning of wisdom is a salutary shock, and the non-Western societies have had a tremendous shake-up administrated to them by the Western civilization's boisterous impact. The West alone has so far escaped this unceremonious treatment. Unshattered, up till now, by an upheaval of its own making, our local civilization is still hugging the smug and slovenly illusion in which its 'opposite numbers' indulged till they took their educative toss from the levelled horns of an unintentionally altruistic Western bull. Sooner or later, the repercussions of this collision will assuredly recoil upon the West herself; but for the present this Janus-like figure slumbers on-- abroad a charging bull, at home a now solitary Sleeping Beauty.
The shocks which the other civilizations have received have indeed been severe enough to wake even the Seven Sleepers of Ephesus. Imagine the psychological effect of the British diktat of A.D. 1852 on some Chinese scholar-statesmen who was old enough to remember the Emperor Ch'ien Lung's handling of Lord Macartney's embassy forty-nine years earlier!

An elite in all the non-Western societies has in fact by now successfully re-educated itself out of its traditional self-centred parochial point of view. Some of them, alas, have caught, instead, the Western ideological disease of Nationalism, but even Nationalism... draws them out their ancestral shell. In short, by one road or another, the emotionally upsetting but intellectually stimulating experience of being taken by storm by the West has educated these non-Western students of human affairs into realizing... that the past history of the West is not just the West's own parochial concern but is their past history too. It is theirs because the West... has thrust its way into its defenceless neighbours' lives; and these neighbours must therefore familiarize themselves with Western history if they are to learn how to take their bearings in a new world-wide society of which we Westerners have made them members by main force.
The paradox of our generation is that all the world has now profited by an education which the West has provided, except... the West herself. The West today is still looking at history from that old parochial self-centred standpoint which the other living societies have by now been compelled to transcend. Yet, sooner or later, the West, in her turn, is bound to receive the re-education which the other civilizations have obtained already from the unification of the world by Western action .
What is the probable course of this coming Western mental and moral revolution? [...] What, for instance, was the sequel to the impact of the Graeco-Roman civilization on its neighbours? [...] If we follow the thread through sixteen or seventeen centuries... we shall see an apparently irresistible Greek offensive on the military, political, economic, intellectual, and artistic planes being progressively contained, halted, and thrown into reverse by the counter-measures of its non-Greek victims. On all the planes on which they had been attacked, the Orientals' counter-offensive was successful on the whole... .

This fully told yet all but contemporary tale has an evident bearing on our own prospects; for a spiritual vacuum like the hollow place at the heart of that Hellenic culture which the Greeks temporarily imposed on the world has latterly made its appearance in the culture of our Western Christiandom in the form in which this culture has been 'processed' for export.

It will be harder for us to accept the not less plain fact that the past histories of our vociferous, and sometimes virtuperative, living contemporaries-- the Chinese and the Japanese, the Hindus and the Muslims, and our elder brothers the Orthodox Christians-- are going to become a part of our Western past history in a future world which will be neither Western nor non-Western but will inherit all the cultures which we Westerners have now brewed together in a single crucible. [...] Our own descendants are not going to be just Western, like ourselves. They are going to be heirs of Confucious and Lao-Tse as well as Socrates, Plato, Plotinus; Heirs of Gautama Buddha as well as Deutero-Isaiah and Jesus Christ; heirs of Zarathustra and Muhammad... .

Recapturing, if we can, an old-fashioned mode of thought and feeling, let us confess, with great humility, that, through the providence of God, the historical achievement of Western man has been to do something not simply for himself but for mankind as a whole--something so big that our own parochial history is going to be swallowed up by the results of it. By making history we have transcended our own history.

On this view then-- a humble view and yet a proud view too-- the main strand of our modern Western history is not the parish-pump politics of our Western society as inscribed on triumphal arches in a half-dozen parochial capitals or recorded in the national and municipal archives of ephemeral 'Great Powers.' The main strand is not even the expansion of the West over the world-- so long as we persist in thinking of that expansion as a private enterprise of the Western society's own. The main strand is the progressive erection, by Western hands, of a scaffolding within which all the once separate societies have built themselves into one. [...] The Western handiwork that has made this union possible has not been carried out with open eyes... ; it has been performed in heedless ignorance of its purpose. [...] In the fullness of time, when the oecumenical house of many mansions stands firmly on its own foundations and the temporary Western technological scaffolding falls away-- as I have no doubt that it will-- I believe it will become manifest that the foundations are firm at last because they have been carried down to the bedrock of religion.

In the chapter of history on which we are now entering, the seat of material power is moving at this moment still farther away from its pre-da Gaman locus. From the small island of Britain, lying a stone's throw from the Atlantic coast of the continent of Asia, it is moving to the larger island of North America, a bow-shot farther distant. But this transfer of Poseidon's trident from London to New York may prove to have marked the culmination of the dislocating effects of our current Oceanic age of intercommunication; for we are now passing into a new age in which the material medium of human intercourse is going to be neither the Steppe nor the Ocean, but the Air, and in an air age mankind may succeed in shaking its wings free from their fledgeling bondage to the freakish configuration of the surface--solid or liquid-- of the globe. 
In an air age the locus of the centre of gravity of human affairs may be determined... not by the lay-out of oceans and seas, steppes and deserts, rivers and mountain-ranges, passes and straits, but by the distribution of human numbers... . ...the weight of numbers may eventually come to count for more than its influence in the past. The separate civilizations of the pre da-Gaman age were created... by a tiny sophisticated ruling minority perched on the back of a neolithic peasantry... . This neolithic peasantry is the last and mightiest sleeper, before herself, whom the West has waked.
The rousing of this passively industrious mass of humanity has been a slow business. [...] It was left for modern England to urbanize the peasantry with sufficient energy on a large enough scale to set the movement travelling round the circumference of the Earth. The peasant has not taken this awakening kindly. [...] ...the French Revolution carried it on to the Continent; the Russian Revolution has propagated it from coast to coast; and, though today there are still some fifteen hundred  million not yet awakened peasants-- about three-quarters of the living generation of mankind-- in India, China, Indo-China, Indonesia, Dar-al-Islam, and Eastern Europe, their awakening is now only a matter of time... .
Their gravitational pull may then draw the centre-point of human affairs away from an Ultima Thule [editors note:
the term ultima Thule in medieval geographies denotes any distant place located beyond the "borders of the known world"] among the Isles of the Sea to some locus approximately equidistant from the western pole of the world's population in Europe and North America and its eastern pole in China and India, and this would indicate a site in the neighbourhood of Babylon, on the ancient portage across the isthmus between the Continent and its peninsulas of Arabia and Africa. The centre might even travel farther into the interior of the Continent to some locus between China and Russia (the two historic tamers of the Eurasian Nomads), and that would indicate a site in the neighbourhood of Babur's Farghana, in the familiar Transoxanian meeting-place and debating ground of the religion and philosophies of India, China, Iran, Syria, and Greece.
Of one thing we can be fairly confident: religion is likely to be the plane on which this coming centripetal counter-movement will first declare itself... . If our first precept should be to study our own history, not on its own account but for the part which the West has played in the unification of mankind, our second precept, in studying History as a whole, should be to relegate economic and political history to a subordinate place and give religious history the primacy. For religion, after all, is the serious business of the human race.

Civilization on Trial

Our present Western outlook on history is an extraordinarily contradictory one.While our historical horizon has been expanding vastly in both the space dimension and the time dimension, our historical vision.... has been contracting rapidly to the narrow field of what a horse sees between its blinkers or what a U-boat commander sees through his periscope.

Undoubtedly, the contrast between our expanding histroical horizon and our contracting historical vision is something characteristic of our age. ...what an astonishing contradiction it is!

In space, our Western field of vision has expanded to take in the whole of mankind over all the habitable and traversable surface of this planet, and the whole stellar universe in whcih this planet is an infinitesimally small speck of dust. In time, our Western field of vision has expanded to take in all the civilizations that have risen and fallen during these last 6,000 years; the previous history of the human race back to its genesis...; the history of life on this planet back to perhaps 8000 million years ago. What a marvellous widening of our historical horizon!

Before the widening of our horizon began-- before our Western seamen circumnavigated the globe, and before our Western cosmogonists and geologists pushed out the bounds of our universe in both time and space-- our prenationalist mediaeval ancestors had a broader and juster historical vision that we have today. [...] ...even if they were mistaken in believing that the world was created in 4004 B.C., it is at any rate better to look as far back as 4004 B.C. than to look back no farther than the Declaration of Independence or the voyages of the May-flower or Columbus or Hengist and Horsa. (As a matter of fact, 4004 B.C happens, though our ancestors did not know this, to be a quite important date: it approximately marks the first appearance of representatives of the species of human society called civilizations [editors note: i.e., corresponding with pre-Dynastic Egypt and the
Uruk period in Summerian history].)
...for our ancestors, Rome and Jerusalem meant much more than their own home towns.


Western Christendom is a product of Christianity, but Christianity did not arise in the Western world; it arose outside the bounds of Western Christendom, in a district that lies today within the domain of a different civilization: Islam. We Western Christians did once try to capture from the Muslims the cradle of our religion in Palestine.


Islam, the West, and the Future


In the past, Islam and our Western society have acted and reacted upon one another several times in succession, in different situations and in alternating roles.

The first encounter between them occurred when the Western society was in its infancy and when Islam was the distinctive religion of the Arabs in their heroic age. The Arabs had just conquered and reunited the domains of the ancient civilizations of the Middle East and they were attempting to enlarge this empire into a world state. In that first encounter, the Muslims overran nearly half the original domain of the Western society and only just failed to make themselves masters of the whole."

"Of course, the enduring economic and cultural results of the Crusaders’ temporary political acquisitions from Islam were far more important. Economically and culturally, conquered Islam took her savage conquerors captive and introduced the arts of civilization into the rustic life of Latin Christendom."

"Yet this was not the last act in the play; for the attempt made by the medieval West to exterminate Islam failed as signally as the Arab empire-builders’ at tempt to capture the cradle of a nascent Western civilization had failed before; and, once more, a counter-attack was provoked by the unsuccessful offensive."

"This time Islam was represented by the Ottoman descendants of the converted Central Asian Nomads, who conquered and reunited the domain of Orthodox Christendom and then attempted to extend this empire into a world state on the Arab and Roman pattern. After the final failure of the Crusades, Western

Christendom stood on the defensive against this Ottoman attack during the late medieval and early modern ages of Western history-and this not only on the old maritime front in the Mediterranean but on a new continental front in the Danube Basin. These defensive tactics, however, were not so much a confession of weakness as a masterly piece of half-unconscious strategy on the grand scale; for the Westerners managed to bring the Ottoman offensive to a halt without employing more than a small part of their energies; and, while half the energies of Islam were being absorbed in this local border warfare, the Westerners were putting forth their strength to make themselves masters of the ocean and thereby potential masters of the world. Thus they not only anticipated the Muslims in the discovery and occupation of America; they also entered into the Muslims’ prospective heritage in Indonesia, India, and tropical Africa; and finally, having encircled the Islamic world and cast their net about it, they proceeded to attack their old adversary in his native lair."

"This concentric attack of the modern West upon the Islamic world has inaugurated the present encounter between the two civilizations. It will be seen that this is part of a still larger and more ambitious movement, in which the Western civilization is aiming at nothing less than the incorporation of all mankind in a single great society, and the control of everything in the earth, air, and sea which mankind can turn to account by means of modern Western technique. What the West is doing now to Islam, it is doing simultaneously to the other surviving civilizations-- the Orthodox Christian, the Hindu, and the Far Eastern world-and to the surviving primitive societies, which are now at bay even in their last strongholds in tropical Africa. Thus the contemporary encounter between Islam and the West is not only more active and intimate than any phase of their contact in the past; it is also distinctive in being an incident in an attempt by Western man to ‘Westernize’ the world-- an enterprise which will possibly rank as the most momentous, and almost certainly as the most interesting, feature in the history even of a generation that has lived through two world wars.

Thus Islam is once more facing the West with her back to the wall; but this time the odds are more heavily against her than they were even at the most critical moment of the Crusades, for the modern West is superior to her not only in arms but also in the technique of economic life, on which military science ultimately depends, and above all in spiritual culture-- the inward force which alone creates and sustains the outward manifestations of what is called civilization."

"Whenever one civilized society finds itself in this dangerous situation vis-à-vis another, there are two alternative ways open to it of responding to the challenge; and we can see obvious examples of both these types of response in the reaction of Islam to Western pressure today. It is legitimate as well as convenient to apply to the present situation certain terms which were coined when a similar situation once arose in the encounter between the ancient civilizations of Greece and Syria. Under the impact of Hellenism during the centuries immediately before and after the beginning of the Christian era, the Jews (and, we might add, the Iranians and the Egyptians) split into two parties. Some became ‘Zealots’ and others ‘Herodians.’

The ‘Zealot’ is the man who takes refuge from the unknown in the familiar; and when he joins battle with a stranger who practises superior tactics and employs formidable newfangled weapons, and finds himself getting the worst of the encounter, he responds by practising his own traditional art of war with abnormally scrupulous exactitude. ‘Zealotism,’ in fact, may be described as archaism evoked by foreign pressure; and its most conspicuous representatives in the contemporary Islamic world are ‘puritans’ like the North African Sanusis and the Central Arabian Wahhabis.

The first point to notice about these Islamic ‘Zealots’ is that their strongholds lie in sterile and sparsely populated regions which are remote from the main international thoroughfares of the modern world and which have been un-attractive to Western enterprise until the recent dawn of the oil age. [...]  as the Romans overthrew the Jewish ‘Zealots’ in the first and second centuries of the Christian era, so some great power of the Western world of today--Let us say, the United States--could overthrow the Wahhabis now any time it chose if the Wahhabis’ ‘Zealotism’ became a sufficient nuisance to make the trouble of suppressing it seem worth while. Suppose, for instance, that the Sa’udi Arabian government, under pressure from its fanatical henchmen, were to demand exorbitant terms for oil concessions, or were to prohibit altogether the exploitation of its oil resources. The recent discovery of this hidden wealth beneath her arid soil is decidedly a menace to the independence of Arabia; for the West has now learnt how to conquer the desert by bringing into play its own technical inventions-railroads and armoured cars, tractors that can crawl like centipedes over sand-dunes, and aeroplanes that can skim above them like vultures."


...Mehmed Ali was a representative of ‘Herodianism’ whose genius entitles him to rank with the eponymous hero of the sect. Mehmed Ali was not actually the first ‘Herodian’ to arise in Islam. He was, however, the first to take the ‘Herodian’ course with impunity, after it had been the death of the one Muslim statesman who had anticipated him: the unfortunate Ottoman Sultan Selim III. Mehmed Ali was also the first to pursue the ‘Herodian’ course steadily with substantial success... ."

"The ‘Herodian’ is the man who acts on the principle that the most effective way to guard against the danger of the unknown is to master its secret; and, when he finds himself in the predicament of being confronted by a more highly skilled and better armed opponent, he responds by discarding his traditional art of war and  9 learning to fight his enemy with the enemy’s own tactics and own weapons. If ‘Zealotism’ is a form of archaism evoked by foreign pressure, ‘Herodianism’ is a form of cosmopolitanism evoked by the self-same external agency; and it is no accident that, whereas the strongholds of modern Islamic ‘Zealotism’ have lain in the inhospitable steppes and oases of Najd and the Sahara, modern Islamic ‘Herodianism’ -which was generated by the same forces at about the same time, rather more than a century and a half ago-has been focused, since the days of Selim III and Mehmed ‘Ali, at Constantinople and Cairo. Geographically, Constantinople and Cairo represent the opposite extreme, in the domain of modern Islam, to the Wahhabis’ capital at Riyadh on the steppes of the Najd and to the Sanusis’ stronghold at Kufarii. The oases that have been the fastnesses of Islamic ‘Zealotism’ are conspicuously inaccessible; the cities that have been the nurseries of Islamic ‘Herodianism’ lie on, or close to, the great natural international thoroughfares of the Black Sea Straits and the Isthmus of Suez; and for this reason, as well as on account of the strategic importance and economic wealth of the two countries of which they have been the respective capitals, Cairo and Constantinople have exerted the strongest attraction upon Western enterprise of all kinds, ever since the modern West began to draw its net close round the citadel of Islam.

It is self-evident that ‘Herodianism’ is by far the more effective of the two alternative responses which may be evoked in a society that has been thrown on the defensive by the impact of an alien force in superior strength. The “Zealot’ tries to take cover in the past, like an .ostrich burying its head in the sand to hide from its pursuers; the ‘Herodian’ courageously faces the present and explores the future. The ‘Zealot’ acts on instinct, the ‘Herodian’ by reason. In fact, the ‘Herodian’ has to make a combined effort of intellect and will in order to overcome the ‘Zealot’ impulse, which is the normal first spontaneous reaction of human nature to the challenge confronting ‘Zealot’ and ‘Herodian’ alike. To have turned ‘Herodian’ is in itself a mark of character (though not necessarily of an amiable character) ; and it is noteworthy that the Japanese, who, of all the non-Western peoples that the modern West has challenged, have been perhaps the least unsuccessful exponents of ‘Herodianism’ in the world so far, were the most effective exponents of ‘Zealotism’ previously, from the sixteen-thirties to the eighteen-sixties. Being people of strong character, the Japanese made the best that could be made out of the ‘Zealot’s’ response; and for the same reason, when the hard facts ultimately convinced them that a persistence in this response would lead them into disaster, they deliberately veered about and proceeded to sail their ship on the ‘Herodian’ tack.

Nevertheless, ‘Herodianism,’ though it is an incomparably more effective response than ‘Zealotism’ to the inexorable ‘Western question’ that confronts the whole contemporary world, does not really offer a solution. [...]  In Egypt and Turkey, for example--the two countries which have served the Islamic pioneers of ‘Herodianism’ as the fields for their experiment--the epigoni proved unequal to the extraordinarily difficult task which the ‘elder statesmen’ had bequeathed to them. The consequence was that in both countries the ‘Herodian’ movement fell on evil days less than a hundred years after its initiation, that is to say, in the earlier years of the last quarter of the nineteenth century; and the stunting and retarding effect of this set-back is still painfully visible, in different forms, in the life of both countries."

"This ‘Herodian’ revolution in Turkey has been carried through with such spirit, under such serious handicaps and against such heavy odds, that any generousminded observer will make allowances for its blunders and even for its crimes and will wish it success in its formidable task. Tantus labor non sit cassus - and it would be particularly ungracious in a Western observer to cavil or scoff; for, after all, these Turkish ‘Herodians’ have been trying to turn their people and their country into something which, since Islam and the West first met, we have always denounced them for not being by nature: they have been trying, thus late in the day, to produce replicas, in Turkey, of a Western nation and a Western state. Yet, as soon as we have clearly realized the goal, we cannot help wondering whether all this labour and travail that has been spent on striving to reach it has been really worth while."

"Certainly we did not like the outrageous old-fashioned Turkish ‘Zealot’ who flouted us in the posture of the Pharisee thanking God daily that he was not as other men were. So long as he prided himself on being ‘a peculiar people’ we set ourselves to humble his pride by making his peculiarity odious; and so we called him ‘the Unspeakable Turk’ until we pierced his psychological armor and goaded him into that ‘Herodian’ revolution which he has now consummated under our eyes. Yet now that, under the goad of our censure, he has changed his tune and has searched out every means of making himself indistinguishable from the nations around him, we are embarrassed and even inclined to be indignant-as Samuel was when the Israelites confessed the vulgarity of their motive for desiring a king."

"It is at this point that the two inherent weaknesses of ‘Herodianism’ reveal themselves. The first of them is that ‘Herodianism’ is, ex hypothesi, mimetic and not creative, so that, even if it succeeds, it is apt simply to enlarge the quantity of the machine-made products of the imitated society instead of releasing new creative energies in human souls. The second weakness is that this uninspiring success, which is the best that ‘Herodianism’ has to offer, can bring salvation even mere salvation in this world-only to a small minority of any community which takes the ‘Herodian’ path. The majority cannot look forward even to becoming passive members of the imitated civilization’s ruling class. Their destiny is to swell the ranks of the imitated civilization’s proletariat. Mussolini once acutely remarked that there are proletarian nations as well as proletarian classes and individuals; and this is evidently the category into which the non-Western peoples of the contemporary world are likely to enter, even if, by a tour de force of ‘Herodianism,’ they succeed outwardly in transforming their countries into sovereign independent national states on the Western pattern and become associated with their Western sisters as nominally free and equal members of an all-embracing international society."

"Thus, in considering the subject of this paper- the influence which the present encounter between Islam and the West may be expected to have on the future of mankind- we may ignore both the Islamic ‘Zealot’ and the Islamic ‘Herodian’ in so far as they carry their respective reactions through to such measure of success as is open to them; for their utmost possible success is the negative achievement of material survival. The rare ‘Zealot’ who escapes extermination becomes the fossil of a civilization which is extinct as a living force; the rather less infrequent ‘Herodian’ who escapes submergence becomes a mimic of the living civilization to which he assimilates himself. Neither the one nor the other is in a position to make any creative contribution to this living civilization’s further growth."

"We may note incidentally that, in the modern encounter of Islam with the West, the ‘Herodian’ and ‘Zealot’ reactions have several times actually collided with each other and to some extent cancelled each other out. The first use which Mehmed ‘All made of his new ‘Westernized’ army was to attack the Wahhabis and quell the first outburst of their zeal. Two generations later, it was the uprising of the Mahdi against the Egyptian regime in the Eastern Sudan that gave the coup de grace to the first ‘Herodian’ effort to make Egypt into a power capable of standing politically on her own feet ‘under the strenuous conditions of the modern world’; for it was this that confirmed the British military occupation of 1882, with all the political consequences which have flowed therefrom since then."

"It may be noted, in passing, that the ‘Herodian,’ when he does collide with the ‘Zealot’ of his own household, is apt to deal with him much more ruthlessly than the Westerner would have the heart to do. The Westerner chastises the Islamic ‘Zealot’ with whips; the Islamic ‘Herodian’ chastises him with scorpions."

"To what conclusion does our investigation lead us? Are we to conclude that, because, for our purpose, both the successful Islamic ‘Herodian’ and the successful Islamic ‘Zealot’ are to be ignored, the present encounter between Islam and the West will have on the future of mankind no influence whatsoever? By no means; for, in dismissing from consideration the successful ‘Herodian’ and ‘Zealot,’ we have only disposed of a small minority of the members of the Islamic society. The destiny of the majority, it has already been suggested above, is neither to be exterminated nor to be fossilized nor to be assimilated, but to be submerged by being enrolled in that vast, cosmopolitan, ubiquitous proletariat which is one of the most portentous by-products of the ‘Westernization’ of the world.

At first sight it might appear that, in thus envisaging the future of the majority of Muslims in a ‘Westernized’ world, we had completed the answer to our question, and this in the same sense as before. If we convict the ‘Herodian’ Muslim and the ‘Zealot’ Muslim of cultural sterility, must we not convict the ‘proletarian’ Muslim of the same fatal defect a fortiori? Indeed, is there anyone who would dissent from that verdict on first thoughts? We can imagine arch-‘Herodians’ like the late President Mustafa Kemal Ataturk and arch-‘Zealots’ like the Grand Sanusi concurring with enlightened Western colonial administrators like the late Lord Cromer or General Lyautey to exclaim with one accord: ‘Can any creative contribution to the civilization of the future be expected from the Egyptian fallah or the Constantinopolitan hammal?’ Just so, in the early years of the Christian era, when Syria was feeling the pressure of Greece, Herod Antipas and Gamaliel and those zealous Theudases and Judases who, in Gamaliel’s memory, had perished by the sword, would almost certainly have concurred with a Greek poet in partibus Orientalium like Meleager of Gadara, or a Roman provincial governor like Gallio, in asking, in the same satirical tone: ‘Can any good thing come out of Nazareth?’ Now when the question is put in that historic form, we have no doubt as to the answer, because the Greek and Syrian civilizations have both run their course and the story of their relations is known to us from beginning to end. The answer is so familiar now that it requires a certain effort of the imagination for us to realize how surprising and even shocking this particular verdict of history would have been to intelligent Greeks and Romans and Idumaeans and Jews of the generation in which the question was originally asked. For although, from their profoundly different  standpoints, they might have agreed in hardly anything else, they would almost certainly have agreed in answering that particular question with an emphatic and contemptuous ‘No.’

In the light of history, we perceive that their answer would have been ludicrously wrong if we take as our criterion of goodness the manifestation of creative power. In that pammixia which arose from the intrusion of the Greek civilization upon the civilizations of Syria and Iran and Egypt and Babylonia and India, the proverbial sterility of the hybrid seems to have descended upon the dominant class of the Hellenic society as well as upon those Orientals who followed out to the end the alternative ‘Herodian’ and ‘Zealot’ courses. The one sphere in which this Graeco Oriental cosmopolitan society was undoubtedly exempted from that course was the underworld of the Oriental proletariat, of which Nazareth was one type and symbol; and from this underworld, under these apparently adverse conditions, there came forth some of the mightiest creations hitherto achieved by the spirit of man: a cluster of higher religions. Their sound has gone forth into all lands, and it is still echoing in our ears. Their names are names of power: Christianity and Mithraism and Manichaeism; the worship of the Mother and her dying and rising husband-son under the alternative names of Cybele-Isis and Attis-Osiris; the worship of the heavenly bodies; and the Mahayana School of Buddhism, which-changing, as it travelled, from a philosophy into a religion under Iranian and Syrian influence-irradiated the Far East with Indian thought embodied in a new art of Greek inspiration. If these precedents have any significance for us--and they are the only beams of light which we can bring to bear upon the darkness that shrouds our own future--they portend that Islam, in entering into the proletarian underworld of our latter day Western civilization, may eventually compete with India and the Far East and Russia for the prize of influencing the future in ways that may pass our understanding.

Indeed, under the impact of the West, the great deeps of Islam are already stirring, and even in these early days we can discern certain spiritual movements which might conceivably become the embryos of new higher religions. ... but at this point of prognostication we have reached our Pillars of Hercules, where the prudent investigator stays his course and refrains from at tempting to sail out into an ocean of future time in which he can take no more than the most general bearings. While we can speculate with profit on the general shape of things to come, we can foresee the precise shadows of particular coming events only a very short way ahead; and those historical precedents which we have taken as our guiding lights inform us that the religions which are generated when civilizations clash take many centuries to grow to maturity and that, in a race that is so long drawn out, a dark horse is often the winner.

Six and a half centuries separated the year in which Constantine gave public patronage to Christianity from the year in which the Hellespont had been crossed by Alexander the Great; five and a half centuries separated the age of the first Chinese pilgrims to the Buddhist Holy Land in Bihar from that of Menander, the Greek ruler of Hindustan who put to Indian Buddhist sages the question: ‘What is truth?’ The present impact of the West on Islam, which began to make its pressure felt little more than a hundred and fifty years ago, is evidently unlikely, on these analogies, to produce comparable effects within any time that falls within the range of our powers of precise prevision; and therefore any attempt to forecast such possible effects might be an unprofitable exercise of the fancy.

We can, however, discern certain principles of Islam which, if brought to bear on the social life of the new cosmopolitan proletariat, might have important salutary effects on ‘the great society’ in a nearer future."


The extinction of race consciousness as between Muslims is one of the outstanding moral achievements of Islam, and in the contemporary world there is, as it happens, a crying need for the propagation of this Islamic virtue; for, although the record of history would seem on the whole to show that race consciousness has been the exception and not the rule in the constant interbreeding of the human species, it is a fatality of the present situation that this consciousness is felt-and felt strongly-by the very peoples which, in the competition of the last four centuries between several Western powers, have won-at least for the moment-the lion’s share of the inheritance of the Earth.

Though in certain other respects the triumph of the English-speaking peoples may be judged, in retrospect, to have been a blessing to mankind, in this perilous matter of race feeling it can hardly be denied that it has been a misfortune. The English-speaking nations that have established themselves in the New World overseas have not, on the whole, been ‘good mixers.’ They have mostly swept away their primitive predecessors; and, where they have either allowed a primitive population to survive, as in South Africa, or have imported primitive ‘man-power’ from elsewhere, as in North America, they have developed the rudiments of that paralyzing institution which in India -- where in the course of many centuries it has grown to its full stature-we have learnt to deplore under the name of ‘caste.’ Moreover, the alternative to extermination or segregation has been exclusion-a policy which averts the danger of internal schism in the life of the community which practices it, but does so at the price of producing a not less dangerous state of international tension between the excluding and the excluded races-especially when this policy is applied to representatives of alien races who are not primitive but civilized, like the Hindus and Chinese and Japanese. In this respect, then, the triumph of the English-speaking peoples has imposed on mankind a ‘race question’ which would hardly have arisen, or at least hardly in such an acute form and over so wide an area, if the French, for example, and not the English, had been victorious in the eighteenth-century struggle for the possession of India and North America.

As things are now, the exponents of racial intolerance are in the ascendant, and, if their attitude towards ‘the race question’ prevails, it may eventually provoke a general catastrophe. Yet the forces of racial toleration, which at present seem to be fighting a losing battle in a spiritual struggle of immense importance to mankind, might still regain the upper hand if any strong influence militating against race consciousness that has hitherto been held in reserve were now to be thrown into the scales. It is conceivable that the spirit of Islam might be the timely reinforcement which would decide this issue in favour of tolerance and peace."


In these recently and rapidly ‘opened up’ tropical territories, the Western civilization has produced an economic and political plenum and, in the same breath, a social and spiritual void. The frail customary institutions of the primitive societies which were formerly at home ill. the land have been shattered to pieces by the impact of the ponderous Western machine, and millions of ‘native’ men, women, and children, suddenly deprived of their traditional social environment, have been left spiritually naked and abashed. The more liberalminded and intelligent of the Western administrators have lately realized the vast extent of the psychological destruction which the process of Western penetration has unintentionally but inevitably caused; and they are now making sympathetic efforts to save what can still be saved from the wreck of the ‘native’ social heritage, and even to reconstruct artificially, on firmer foundations, certain valuable ‘native’ institutions which have been already overthrown. Yet the spiritual void in the ‘native’s’ soul has been, and still remains, a great abyss; the proposition that ‘Nature abhors a vacuum’ is as true in the spiritual world as in the material; and the Western civilization, which has failed to fill this spiritual vacuum itself, has placed at the disposal of any other spiritual forces which may choose to take the field an incomparable system of material means of communication.

In two of these tropical regions, Central Africa and Indonesia, Islam is the spiritual force which has taken advantage of the opportunity thus thrown open by the Western pioneers of material civilization to all comers on the spiritual plane; and, if ever the ‘natives’ of these regions succeed in recapturing a spiritual state in which they are able to call their souls their own, it may prove to have been the Islamic spirit that has given fresh form to the void. This spirit may be expected to manifest itself in many practical ways; and one of these. manifestations might be a liberation from alcohol which was inspired by religious conviction and which was therefore able to accomplish what could never be enforced by the external sanction of an alien law.

Here, then, in the foreground of the future, we can remark two valuable influences which Islam may exert upon the cosmopolitan proletariat of a Western society that has cast its net round the world and embraced the whole of mankind; while in the more distant future we may speculate on the possible contributions of Islam to some new manifestation of religion. These several possibilities, however, are all alike contingent upon a happy outcome of the situation in which mankind finds itself to-day. They presuppose that the discordant pammixia set up by the Western conquest of the world will gradually and peacefully shape itself into a harmonious synthesis out of which, centuries hence, new creative variations might again gradually and peacefully arise. This presupposition, however, is merely an unverifiable assumption which mayor may not be justified by the event. A pammixia may end in a synthesis, but it may equally well end in an explosion; and, in that disaster, Islam might have quite a different part to play as the active ingredient in some violent reaction of the cosmopolitan underworld against its Western masters.

At the moment, it is true, this destructive possibility does not appear to be imminent; for the impressive word ‘Pan-Islamism’-which has been the bugbear of Western colonial administrators since it was first given currency by the policy of Sultan ‘Abd-al-Hamid-has lately been losing such hold as it may ever have obtained over the minds of Muslims. The inherent difficulties of conducting a ‘Pan-Islamic’ movement are, indeed, plain to see. ‘PanIslamism’ is simply a manifestation of that instinct which prompts a herd of buffalo, grazing scattered over the plain, to form a phalanx, heads down and horns outward, as soon as an enemy appears within range. In other words, it is an example of that reversion to traditional tactics in face of a superior and unfamiliar opponent, to which the name of ‘Zealotism’ has been given in this paper. Psychologically, therefore, ‘Pan-Islamism’ should appeal par excellence to Islamic ‘Zealots’ in the Wahhabi or Sanusi vein; but this psychological predisposition is balked by a technical difficulty; for in a society that is dispersed abroad, as Islam is, from Morocco to the Philippines and from the Volga to the Zambesi, the tactics of solidarity are as difficult to execute as they are easy to imagine.

The herd-instinct emerges spontaneously; but it can hardly be translated into effective action without taking advantage of the elaborate system of mechanical communications which modem Western ingenuity has conjured up: steamships, railways, telegraphs, telephones, aeroplanes, motor-cars, newspapers, and the rest. Now the use of these instruments is beyond the compass of the Islamic

‘Zealot’s’ ability; and the Islamic ‘Herodian,’ who has succeeded in making himself more or less master of them, ex hypothesi desires to employ them, not in captaining a ‘Holy War’ against the West, but in reorganizing his own life on a Western pattern. One of the most remarkable signs of the times in the contemporary Islamic world is the emphasis with which the Turkish Republic has repudiated the tradition of Islamic solidarity. ‘We are determined to work out our own salvation,’ the Turks seem to say, ‘and this salvation, as we see it, lies in learning how to stand on our own feet in the posture of an economically selfsufficient and politically independent sovereign state on the Western model. It is for other Muslims to work out their salvation for themselves as may seem good to them. We neither ask their help any longer nor offer them ours. Every people for itself, and the Devil take the hindermost, alIa franca!’

Now though, since 1922, the Turks have done almost everything conceivable to flout Islamic sentiment, they have gained rather than lost prestige among other Muslims -even among some Muslims who have publicly denounced the Turks’ audacious course-in virtue of the very success with which their audacities have so far been attended. And this makes it probable that the path of nationalism which the Turks are taking so decidedly to-day will be taken by other Muslim peoples with equal conviction tomorrow. The Arabs and the Persians are already on the move. Even the remote and hitherto ‘Zealot’ Afghans have set their feet on this course, and they will not be the last. In fact, nationalism, and not Pan-Islamism, is the formation into which the Islamic peoples are falling; and for the majority of Muslims the inevitable, though undesired, outcome of nationalism will be submergence in the cosmopolitan proletariat of the Western world.

This view of the present prospects of ‘Pan- Islamism’ is borne out by the failure of the attempt to resuscitate the Caliphate. During the last quarter of the nineteenth century the Ottoman Sultan ‘Abd-al-Hamld, discovering the title of Caliph in the lumber-room of the Seraglio, began to make play with it as a means of rallying ‘Pan-1slamic’ feeling round his own person. After 1922, however, Mustafa Kemal Ataturk and his companions, finding this resuscitated Caliphate incompatible with their own radically ‘Herodian’ political ideas, first committed the historical solecism of equating the Caliphate with ‘spiritual’ as opposed to ‘temporal’ power and finally abolished the office altogether. This action on the part of the Turks stimulated other Muslims, who were distressed by such highhanded treatment of a historic Muslim institution, to hold a Caliphate Conference at Cairo in 1926 in order to see if anything could be done to adapt a historic Muslim institution to the needs of a newfangled age. Anyone who examines the records of this conference will carry away the conviction that the Caliphate is dead, and that this is so because Pan-Islamism is dormant.

Pan-Islamism is dormant-yet we have to reckon with the possibility that the sleeper may awake if ever the cosmopolitan proletariat of a ‘Westernized’ world revolts against Western domination and cries out for anti-Western leadership. That call might have incalculable psychological effects in evoking the militant spirit of Islam-even if it had slumbered as long as the Seven Sleepers-because it might awaken echoes of a heroic age. On two historic occasions in the past, Islam has been the sign in which an Oriental society has risen up victoriously against an Occidental intruder. Under the first successors of the Prophet, Islam liberated Syria and Egypt from a Hellenic domination which had weighed on them for nearly a thousand years. Under Zangi and Nur-ad-Din and Saladin and the Mamliiks, Islam held the fort against the assaults of Crusaders and Mongols. If the present situation of mankind were to precipitate a ‘race war,’ Islam might be moved to play her historic role once again. Absit omen."

Christianity and Civilization

This is a question [the relations between Christianity and civilization] which has always been at issue since the foundation of the Christian Church... .
One of the oldest and most persistent views is that Christianity was the destroyer of the civilization within whose framework it grew up. [...] It was most emphatically and violently the view of... the Emperor Julian, and it was also the view of the English historian Gibbon, who recorded the decline and fall of the Roman Empire long after the event. In the last chapter of Gibbon's history there is one sentence in which he sums up the theme of the whole work. Looking back, he says: 'I have described the triumph of barbarism and religion.' And, to understand his meaning, you have to turn... to the opening passage of Chapter I, that extraordinarily majestic description of the Roman Empire at peace in the age of the Antonines, in the second century after Christ [i.e., between Pax Augusta and the crisis of the third century].

Gibbon assumes that the Graeco-Roman civilization stood at its height in the age of the Antonines and that in tracing its decline fromt hat moment he is tracing that decline from the beginning. Evidently, if you take that view, Christianity rises as the empire sinks, and the rise of Christianity is the fall of Civilization. I think Gibbon's initial error lies in supposing that the ancient civilization of the Graeco-Roman world began to decline int he second cetnury after Christ and that the age of the Antonines was that civilizations highest point. I think it really began to decline in the fifth century before Christ. [...] ...the rise of the philosophies, and the subsequent rise of the religions out of which Christianity emerged as the final successor of them all, was something that happened after the Graeco-Roman civilization had already put itself to death. The rise of the philosophies, and a fortiori that of the religions, was not a cause; it was a consequence. [note: on this comparison between philosophy and christianity, on the grounds that both represent refusals to participate in the affairs of the world-- their monastic character-- see his 'Study of History']
When Gibbon in that opening passage of his work looks as the Roman Empire in the age of the Antonines, he does not say explicitly-- but I am sure this was in his mind-- that he is also thinking of himself as standing on another peak of civilization and looking back towards that distant peak in the past across a broad trough of barbarism in between. Gibbon thought to himself: 'On the morrow of the death of the Emperor Marcus the Roman Empire went into decline. All the values that I, Gibbon, and my kind care for began then to be degraded. Religion and barbarism began to triumph. This lamentable state of affairs continued to prevail for hundreds and hundreds of years; and then, a few generations before my time, no longer ago than the close of the seventeenth century, a rational civilization began to emerge again.' From his peak in the eighteenth century Gibbon looks back to the Antonine peak in the second century, and that view-- which is, I think, implicit in Gibbon's work-- has been put very clearly and sharply by a writer of the twentieth century...:

Greek and Roman society was built on the conception of the subordination of the individual to the community, of the citizen to the state; it set the safety of the commonwealth, as the supreme aim of conduct, above the safety of the individual whether in this world or in a world to come. Trained from infancy in this unselfish ideal, the citizens devoted their lives to the public service and were ready to lay them down for the common good; or, if they shrank from the supreme sacrifice, it never occured to them that they acted otherwise than basely in preferring their personal existence to the interests of their country. All this was changed by the spread of Oriental religions which inculcated the communion of the soul with God and its eternal salvation as the only objects worth living for, objects in comparison with which the prosperity and even the existence of the state sank into insignificance. The inevitable result of this selfish and immoral doctrine was to withdraw the devotee more and more. to concentrate his thoughts on his own spiritual emotions, and to breed in him a contempt for the present life, which he regarded merely as a probation for a better and eternal. The saint and the recluse, disdainful of earth and rapt in ecstatic contemplation of heaven, became in popular opinion the highest ideal of humanity, displacing the old ideal of the patriot and hero who, forgetful of self, lives and is ready to die for the good of his country. The earthly city seemed poor and contemptible to men whose eyes beheld the City of God coming in the clouds of heaven. Thus the centre of gravity, so to say, was shifted from the present to a future life, and, however much the other world may have gained, there can be little doubt that this one lost heavily by the change. A general disintegration of the body politic set in. The ties of the state and the family were loosened: the structure of society tended to resolve itself into its individual elements and thereby to relapse into barbarism; for civilization is only possible through the active co-operation of the citizens and their willingness to subordinate their private interests to the common good. Men refused to defend their country and even to continue their kind. In their anxiety to save their own souls and the souls of others, they were content to leave the material world, which they identified with the principle of evil, to perish around them. This obsession lasted for a thousand years. The revival of Roman law, of the Aristotelian philosophy, of ancient art and literature at the close of the Middle Ages, marked the return of Europe to native ideals of life and condusct, to saner, manlier views of the world, The long halt in the march of civilization was over. The tide of Oriental invasion had turned at last. It is ebbing still.

...one might speculate about what the author of this passage, which was first published in 1906, would now write if he were revising for a fourth edition to-day. Many reading this article are, of course, familiar with the passage. I have not yet mentioned the author's name; but, for those who do not know it already, I would say that it is not Alfred Rosenberg [i.e., Myth of the 20th Century]; it is Sir James Frazer [Frazer, Sir J.G.: The Golden Bough, Part iv: 'Adonis, Attis, Osiris,', vol. I.]. I wonder what that gentle scholar thinks of the latest form in which Europe's return 'to native ideals of life and conduct' is manifesting itself.
Frazer is at the same time putting Gibbon's thesis and stating it in explicit terms; and on this point I would give Frazer the answer that I have already ventured to give to Gibbon: that Christianity was not the destroyer of the ancient Greek civilization, because that civilization had decayed from inherent defects of its own before Christianity arose. But I would agree with Frazer, and would ask you to agree with me, that the tide of Christianity has been ebbing and that our post-Christian Western secular civilization that has emerged is a civilization of the same order as the pre-Christian Graeco-Roman civilization.
This observation opens up a second possible view of the relation between Christianity and civilization --not the same view in which Christianity appears in the role of civilization's humble servant.

According to this second possible view, Christianity is, as it were, the egg, grub and chrysalis between butterfly and butterfly. Christianity is a transitional thing which bridges the gap between one civilization and another, and I confess that I myself held this rather patronizing view for many years. [
On this view you] find the ancient Graeco-Roman civilization in decline from the close of the second century after Christ onwards. And then after an interval you find --perhaps as early as the ninth century in Byzantium, and as early as the thirteenth century in the West in the person of the Stupor Mundi Frederick II-- a new secular civilization arising out of the ruins of its Graeco-Roman predecessor. And you look at the role of Christianity in the interval and conclude that Christianity is a kind of chrysalis which has held and preserved the hidden germs of life until these have been able to break out again into a new growth of secular civilization. That is an alternative view to the theory of Christianity being the destroyer of the ancient Graeco-Roman civilization... .

...[the] analysis of the relation between civilizations and higher religions... suggests a third possible view of that relation... .

The breakdowns and disintegrations of civilizations might be stepping-stones to higher things on the religious plane. After all, one of the deepest spiritual laws that we know is the law that is proclaimed by Aeschylus in the two words [greek script] --'it is through suffering that learning comes-- and in the New Testament in the verse 'whom the Lord loveth, He chasteneth; and scourgeth every son whom He receiveth.' If you apply that to the rise of the higher religions which has culminated in the flowering of Christianity, you might say that in the mythical passions of Tammuz and Adonis and Attis and Osiris the Passion of Christ was foreshadowed, and that the Passion of Christ was the culminating and crowning experience of the sufferings of human souls in successive failures in the enterprise of secular civilization. The Christian Church itself arose out of the spiritual travail which was a consequence of the breakdown of the Graeco-Roman civilization. Again, the Christian Church has Jewish and Zoroastrian roots, and those roots sprang from an earlier breakdown, the breakdown of a Syrian civilization which was a sister to the Graeco-Roman. The kingdoms of Israel and Judah were two of the many states of this ancient Syrian world; and it was the premature and permanent overthrow of these worldly commonwealths and the extinction of all the political hopes which had been bound up with their existence as independent polities that brought the religion of Judaism to birth and evoked the highest expression of its spirit in the elegy of the suffering Servant, which is appended in the Bible to the book of the prophet Isaiah. Judaism, likewise, has a Mosaic root which in its turn sprang from the withering of the second crop of the ancient Egyptian civilization. ...Mose's forefather and forerunner Abraham received his enlightenment and his promise at the dissolution, in the nineteenth or eighteenth century before Christ, of the ancient civilization of Sumer and Akkad --the earliest case, known to us, of a civilization going to ruin. These men of sorrows were precursors of Christ; and the sufferings through which they won their enlightenment were Stations of the Cross in anticipation of the Crucifixion. That is, no doubt, a very old idea, but it is also an ever new one.
If religion is a chariot, it looks as if the wheels on which it mounts towards Heaven may be the periodic downfalls of civilizations on Earth.

If civilizations are the handmaids of religion and if the Greco-Roman civilization served as a good handmaid to Christianity by bringing it to birth before that civilization finally went to pieces, then the civilizations of the third generation may be vain repetitions of the Gentiles. If, so far from its being the historical function of higher religions to minister, as chrysalises, to the cyclic process of the reproduction of civilizations to serve, by their downfalls, as stepping-stones to a progressive process of the revelation of always deeper religious insight, and the gift of ever more grace to act on this insight, then the societies of the species called civilizations will have fulfilled their function when once they have brought a mature higher religion to birth; and, on this showing, our own Western post-Christian secular civilization might at best be a superfluous repetition of the pre- Christian Graeco-Roman one, and at worst a pernicious back-sliding from the path of spiritual progress. In our Western world of to-day, the worship of Leviathan --the self-worship of the tribe-- is a religion to which all of us pay some measure of allegiance; and this tribal religion is, of course, sheer idolatry. Communism, which is another of our latter-day religions, is, I think, a leaf taken from the book of Christianity --a leaf torn out and misread. Democracy is another leaf from the book of Christianity, which has also, I fear, been torn out and... half emptied of meaning by being divorced from its Christian context and secularized; and we have obviously, for a number of generations past, been living on spiritual capital, I mean clinging to Christian practice without possessing the Christian belief... .

If this self-criticism is just, then we must revise the whole of our present conception of modern history; and if we can make the effort of will and imagination to think this ingrained and familiar conception away, we shall arrive at a very different picture of the historical retrospect. Our present view of modern history focuses attention on the rise of our modern Western secular civilization as the latest great new event in the world.
As we follow that rise , from the first premonition of it in the genius of Frederick II Hohenstaufen, through the Renaissance to the eruption of democracy and science and modern scientific technique, we think of all this as being the great new event in the world which demands our admiration. If we can bring ourselves to think of it, instead, as one of the vain repetitions of the Gentiles --an almost meaningless repetition of something that the Greeks and Romans did before us and did supremely well-- then the greatest new event in the history of mankind will be seen to be a very different one. The greatest new event will then not be the monotonous rise of yet another secular civilization out of the bosom of the Christian Church in the course of these latter centuries; it will still be the Crucifixion and its spiritual consequences. There is one curious result of our immense modern scientific discoveries which is, I think, often overlooked. On the vastly changed time-scale which our astronomers and geologists have opened up to us, the beginning of the Christian era is an extremely recent date; on a time-scale in which nineteen hundred years are no more than the twinkling of an eye, the beginning of the Christian era is only yesterday. [...] ...and that brings us to a consideration of the prospects of Christianity in the future history of mankind.

...if our secular Western civilization perishes, Christianity may be expected not only to endure but to grow in wisdom and stature as the result of a fresh experience of secular catastrophe.
There is one unprecedented feature of our own post-Christian secular civilization which... has a certain importance in this connection. In the course of its expansion our modern Western secular civilization has become literally world-wide and has drawn into its net all other surviving civilizations as well as primitive societies.

We have not quite arrived at our Roman Empire yet, though the victor in this war [WWII? the cold war?] may be the founder of it.