Richard Feringer's Notes on Rosenstock-Huessy's Works

Argo Books, Norwich, VT 1988
Introduction by Clinton C. Gardner
Feringer notes
Notes started: 9-10-88
Last edited: 9-98



(from introductory notes by Clinton Gardner)

PRACTICAL KNOWLEDGE OF THE SOUL is the final chapter in Volume 1 of DIE SPRACHE DES MENSCHENGESDHLECTS (THE SPEECH OF MANKIND) first published as ANGEWANDTE SEELENKUNDE in 1924 by Roether-Verlag, Darmstadt. It is based on a manuscript Rosenstock-Huessy wrote in 1916 for his friend Frans Rosenzweig.  Rosenzweig subsequently described it as providing “the main influence” for his epochal book, THE STAR OF REDEMPTION.  Rosenstock-Huessy always identified  PRACTICAL KNOWLEDGE OF THE SOUL as the first elaboration of his proposed new method for the social sciences.

End of Introduction

Part 1 – Practical Study of The Soul

1.New names have a way of leading to new thoughts, even beyond those of the originator.  And the more   accessible to the reader a name is, the more its meaning is likely to be changed by the reader as he applies it to his own experience.

The title “Practical Study of  The Soul,” is a case in point.  With the rise of the field of psychology (especially in America), the meaning of the “soul,” originally defined to cover all “inner” life, was changed in keeping with the notion that psychology was a “science,” as in natural science.  The concept “soul” was narrowed to one that the method of natural science could research.  This was to say, applying to phenomena that  could be observed and measured.

Part 2 – The Science of Psychology

1.Psychology today doesn’t deal with the entire soul, but with its two “outer sides,”  the physical and mental aspects of life.(p.7), that is, to physical facets (senses & reactions) and mental facets (memory and intelligence).  In other words, “soul” was the same as “mind” – alternately  idea processor, memorizer, and  material responder.  This is considered the sum total of  the concept of  “mind” and what-ever is left from  the older concept of natural philosophy is relegated to the concern of theology.  Furthermore, as for Descartes,  mind was separated from body in the sense that thought was assumed to be capable of objectivity  (remaining outside of , or unrelated  to, whatever was the object of study, including other human beings).

Contrarily, Rosenstock-Huessy ASSUMES THAT MIND AND BODY ARE DIFFERENT FACETS OF A SINGLE ENTITY that must include phenomena more difficult to define, such as creativity, intuition, and love. Other scholars, namely  Wertheimer, Goldstein, Gelb, Koffka, and Adler, were like-minded.  These researchers averred that a proper method for discerning  social experience would need to include the whole person. The meaning of this will become apparent below.

Theodor Erismann’s book The Idiosyncracy of Things Mental: Inductive and Intuitive Psychology (1924)  is the latest example of an academic approach helplessly trapped between nature and mind like a donkey between two bundles of hay.  Even in the title, he confuses “mental”  research with research into the soul, and it gets worse in the body of the book.  This work is typical of hundreds like it. (p.8)

Part 3 – The Psyche

1.The term psyche means several different things to different people.  To M.D.’s the psyche is the patient’s temporary mental state in connection with physical ailments, a sort of  “…soul wedged between bodily and mental influences.”  Scholars, humanists, and teachers  also have reason to speak of the psyche, but from a different standpoint.  Here the psyche is the kind of holistic ability of the individual to absorb the more subtle expressions of life such as art, the purpose of mankind, moral and aesthetic judgments, and ability to learn.  This adds up to an individual’s  unique ability and outlook on life.

…the psyche is primarily the universal concept for a more or less capable “transformer,” which is what each man represents as he receives the infinite streams of the spirit. (p.9)

The analogy of the transformer might clarify why  the view of scientific psychology assumes that speed of comprehension and ability to save time is a mark of intelligence.  The notion is that different people inherit a “transformer” with different power.  Thus, all I.Q. tests are timed.  SCIENTIFIC PSYCHOLOGY SEES THE NOTION OF PSYCHE AS POSSESSING THE DUAL QUALITIES OF RESPONDING TO PHYSICAL REALITY OR RECEIVING SPIRITUAL REALITY.

Part 4 – The Occult Sciences

1.There is recognized yet another dimension of the term “soul” that is avoided  by legitimate studies, that upon which the occult sciences direct their attention.  Their focus is on the “cosmic powers of the human soul.”  This is a recognition of the creative powers within humans, capable of overwhelming all of the other powers of  mind and body.  “Magic, telepathy, spiritualism, and hypnosis concern themselves with the human soul as a ruling or yielding power in the world.” (p.10)

2.ERH contends there is a power, (one might say the creative or imaginative ability), that can take over and let us suddenly see the world in a new light, let us see laws of the world.  This power includes prophesy,  revelation, and receptivity to religious beliefs.  Psychologists, while recognizing such a power, relegate it to the domain of theologians.

3.”The soul either can conduct the streams of the spirit or it cannot. These powers of the soul should be investigated in terms of human, not supernatural, experience.” (p.11)  There needs to be a  distinction now between prophecy and magic.  Prophecy is embedded in human history, while magic is embedded in the cosmic, contemporary  universe.  The historical record is full of evidence of those who have been “taken by this power,”  this ability to see the world anew. The power involves creativity,  anticipating consequences of actions, and  sacrifice to build a better future for the community. This great power is necessary and must be called upon in our processes of rising above our animal nature, in our progress toward becoming “human.”  What is believed to be “magic,” on the  other hand, is a thing of the moment.

4.Psychologists, by not taking a stand of their own,  by avoiding “like the plague” this power of the human spirit to anticipate and directly shape social destiny,  robbed themselves of a fertile dimension of human power, neutralizing their ability to explain their own creativity.  And at the same time they :

…seem to allow theologians to promote an exaggerated cult of religious hero-worship….they’re  (theologians)  forced to treat a potentially higher study of the soul – the religious domain – without its natural ground floor.  (p.12)

This natural floor would unite religious study with all other aspects of natural human experience.  This dimension of the human soul is “…the natural foundation on which all faith rests, and the occult sciences preserve it.” Basically, the notion of needing to shape the future is either ignored, or denied as a possibility, by scientific psychology.  By contrast, the occult sciences are asking the right questions (how to shape the future), but with the wrong method (magic).  (p.12)

5.           What’s so frightening about the occult sciences?  They claim that any being, i.e. an individual soul, can exert a power over the world or over the immediate environment; a soul can train itself to master cunning abilities; it can call up spirits and phenomena…every being is the bearer of a separate consciousness, each `having it out with the world,’ ….Now we suspect that the order of the world would collapse if this were so. (p.13)

The psychologists also believe that the world is full of individuals (egos) who come to terms with the world by way of their reason; their assumption is that the powers derive from the reasoning mind.  The occultists assume to begin with a full blown “being.”

However, the `psyche’ of philosophy–as well as that of occultism—has been ripped out of the circuit that switched between God and the world, and lies isolated under glass. (p.13)

The occultists’ mistake is that their “soul beings” are endowed with the powers of the world, but lack divine reason that would restrain them.  The philosophers’ “I”s (egos)  are mental giants in the sense that they have the power to find truth, but are powerless before the laws of the natural world.  The occultists claim power over natural forces, but lack any divine reason.

6.These are the roots of two age-old  polar opposites –

…eccentricities of human nature: Orient and Occident, yoga and philosophy, asceticism of the body and `logicism’ of the mind.  …one-sided extremes…Buddha and Plato tyrannize the soul. …`the soul is not a thing.’  Both mistakes can be traced to the same error.  They apply a false grammar to the soul. (p.14)

Part 5 –  The Grammar of The Soul

THE GRAMMAR OF THE SOUL:  Here ERH asks if the soul has a grammar, is it defined? The assumption is that the soul is differentiated from mind, body, and spirit. Is it the sum of these?  If we are to create a science of society (and of the “individual”)  then there must be a method.

DOES THE SOUL have a grammar?  Now as the Word comes out of the soul, and the truest Word comes straight from the very depths of the soul; as we measure the power of speech precisely by the impact on the soul…then, just as the mind has logic, the soul will have a sense of the way words fit together–that is, “grammar” – as its inner structure. (p.15)

1.Logic and theory of cognition constitute the core of the humanities; logic and mathematics constitute the core of natural science; GRAMMAR constitutes the core of the soul, “…the key that unlocks the door…” (p.15)  No scholar or occultist understands this.

2.He likens the state of knowledge of the soul to that of science before experimentation and mathematics “…liberated it from the tyranny of logic.”

3.Today occultists and monists wish to master the soul with calculations based on space and nature, or astrology and mathematics. The innermost secret of the soul is believed by these to be rationality.

4.Academic psychologists assume that “I” included you, he, she, and it of things as well.

Children (all of us) learn that we are neither mother, nor father, nor God, but something else.  The first thing we learn is that we are spoken to. The child is always a “you” to a powerful being outside itself (i.e. it is spanked, corrected, adored, taught). We receive commands and become self-conscious, and are judged from outside.  (This is opposed to the modern social scientist’s perception – that we can say “I am” only after having been addressed as “you.”) We are given a proper name by that power.  No inanimate thing such as a tree or stone has a proper name.

The soul needs all three persons, I, it, and you – constantly changing and constantly indicating this change by inflections in speech. (p.18)

Here it is important to make a distinction between the ordinary grammar taught in school, which puts parts of speech in equal status, and the grammar of the soul, which accurately portrays one’s true feelings.  The former can be superficial and used as commerce (to give a false impression).  The latter reveals deeply held feelings.  The former  “…posits an artificial network of expedient `sewer’ technology as the essence of the fountainhead of speech which erupts so overpoweringly in men…. “Thus confusing the “ability to speak with the ” necessity to speak.” (p.19)

The important distinction here is between speech used for “small talk” or commerce (ordering coffee from the menu and selling a product) and speech used at important moments in life when one is committed; it is a distinction  between ordinary speech and “primal” speech.  Humankind is of course both ordinary and primal, and only occasionally are we capable of being fully articulate with primal speech.  Think, for instance, how often we feel misunderstood, or that we misunderstand others.  TO USE PRIMAL SPEECH IS TO EXERCISE OUR FREE WILL, TO EXERCISE THE “I” IN US. This is the subjunctive or optative mood.

The “I” represents power, the free will, things about to come into being, the subjunctive chorus, “Oh, that I had a thousand tongues,” – “If I for once were God.” (p.20)  This notion is also related to Idealism, and to freedom. “Freedom is the most pithy expression for not wanting to obey yet the laws of existence, for wishing to think of oneself not as a part of the world but as divinely inspired, as an Idealist”  (above the world).

5.Most would agree that love is the positive driving force for shaping the world.  Love is self-forgetting, not looking for unbridled  freedom, without wish or will.  Love also forgets the world.  as the poet says, “If I have only thee, if only thou art mine.”  “What do I care about Heaven or earth?” (p.21)  Love transforms.  It implores and commands.  “So the `you’ is virtually discovered for the first time in the imperative which arises from the transformation love creates.” (p.21)

Philosophy and  academe utilize the ” I”  to represent freedom from and power above the world, and the “it” to describe laws within the world. The third person represents the indicative mood, telling about things which are “resting,” unchanging, finished. (p.20)

BUT this grammar is incomplete.  There is no philosophy based on the YOU, because this is out of the world of philosophy, into the world of commitment.  The “I” is future tense, the “it” or indicative past tense, while  the “you” (imperative), or love, acts in the present.

Obviously it is primal grammar that reveals the true person, the soul.

6.To summarize: the soul needs all three tenses and moods to express itself fully.  Philosophies of freedom (idealism),  or of description (science) are incomplete; they have only one string on their fiddle of the complete soul, for which they attempt to sound what can only be sung by the other strings (all three).  “But the one sided “I” – oriented philosophers or matter-oriented occultists have a downright soul-destroying effect.  They discourage the soul from putting up all the strings placed at its disposal by the grammar of its speech.” (p.22) These limited philosophies continually are mistaken for the whole.  But to apply only these is to dwarf human potential.

To discover reality, one must constantly speak from one’s soul, honestly and courageously attempting to speak out about what seems “real.”  This means constant rediscovery, it means new expressions of speech.  True grammar (speech) that accomplishes this reaches for and develops the soul in mankind. It renews and awakens. Goethe said:  “Awaken in the blessed  hour and faithfully with every new union kiss, alive the old ones anew.”  (p.23)

7.Each new generation must transform speech.  In great literature –  epics, poetry, and drama – primal grammar is exponentially unfolded.  ERH  gives a number of examples from literature, of the soul speaking. (p.24)

8.Science carries us off into the world of space and of things finished.  The fine arts carry us off into the life of the first person.  THIS IS THE TREND TODAY, TO LIVE ONLY IN THE WORLDS OF SPACE AND SELF-CONSCIOUSNESS OF FREEDOM,  with the world of the second person, “thou shalt,” being assigned to the heads of state.  In this way the real life for ordinary persons is being loosened.

Separating the exterior life of government and law from common morality is an example of this trend. People are made into objects and statistics, into third persons.

“So between the state’s being a first person, and its treating people as third persons, all that is left for the soul is the categorical imperative of legally pre-established duty.  The only thing it isn’t meant to be is loving, listening, obedient soul, a soul with the power to transform itself, a soul which fuses law and ethics by suffering, a soul which asserts itself by acting, a soul beloved of God.” (p.25)


10.A person must have lived through a lot before he/she can assume the first-person form “I”  That person must first be summoned by her proper name.  The relation between the summons and response is the “I.”  Such  a summons produces self-recognition and self-knowledge by offering a concrete challenge.

Thus, through all of the stages of transformation, from youth to young adulthood to adulthood at each stage the person abandons the old gods that commanded him and pays more attention to other voices, to parents, to teachers in school, to politics, to people, to faith, philosophy, love.  The whole person passes through the stages of you, I, and it, and is transformed.

To be transformed, we must listen and be called, and answer “I am here,” and then act.  The soul suffocates in a world of only thought, as the philosophers would have us do, a world of thought sans action.

11.Grammar, as defined above, is the discipline of  transforming persons into becoming more human. Its methods are variation, transformation, and changes of time.  School grammar recognizes punctuation, while primal grammar aims toward changing  the human spirit.  Our present situation, the crisis in teaching if you will, is the lack of the ability of our classroom grammar to change us.

“The grammar of primitive cultures already contains the entire miracle of being human as fully as does the grammar of the most advanced “cultures.”  People have received the former as well as the latter from a few original creators.

Part 6 – The Fate of The Soul

1.Occultists and psychologists  view the individual as an isolated being primarily controlled  either by one’s own willing of one’s behavior, or by the power of some outside “natural” force.  A natural force  would be either another person whose superior “will” can control others,  or (with psychologists) someone who might control propaganda.   In either case, the person controlled would be considered an “it” in the sense that he/she would be considered an “object.”  Astrologers would believe some influence from the position of stars, while the magician is believed to move natural objects at will.   A third, but weaker alternative to influence behavior would be a “calling” from the community,  when some necessary task needs to be committed to.

In relation to community, these same forces would seem to be contradictory, on the one hand implying  that the individual has free will, but on the other that that will is controlled by forces outside the soul. Both of these views, if true, would lead to egomania and mental or moral sickness.  Neither of these views can explain mental health in the environment of  normal life, which has pain and suffering.

2.The healthy person, although filled with pain and suffering and even failure, remains healthy if he/she is constantly transforming him/herself.  To remain mentally healthy, we must feel wanted,  and we must be open to be called, to be recognized, to feel competent and respected.  If we are free, which ERH believes we are,  community is held together by a spirit, and willingness to freely cooperate with others.  The implication for mental health, according to this view,  could not be more different than that of the occultists and psychologists.  This is to say that the first force that directs our lives is the call from the community to serve, which we must be willing to accept voluntarily.  Thus, the major driving force for our actions would be what the psychologists consider a weak third force.  In terms of ERH’s grammatical expressions, the primary forces in our lives that call us to action are not the ego centered “I,” or the other “it,” but rather the “you” (i.e. must do thus and so, else the community will fail.”)

“… a man who is not spoken to cannot become human.  Without being summoned, he will remain what he was, a natural being, an animal.”  (p.30)

3.Man remains an “it” until he is called.   He seeks uniqueness as well as belonging. the field of scientific psychology continues to miss the mark because it cannot recognize two souls.  The fact that two or more individuals  may be doing the same thing does not mean that those actions mean the same to them.  Nor do two or more individuals doing different things mean they are not thinking the same.  Psychology is therefore avoiding this type of problem.

4.Occultism plunges into the opposite stream from that of psychology, where prediction is concerned. They claim to describe the fate of one individual; science avoids this like the plague, applying actuarial statistics to predict probabilities of group behavior, but avoiding a study of the individual and thereby perpetuating pseudo-sciences. Superstitions – astrology, spiritualism, palm-reading, and theosophy – attempt to predict the future for individuals, their methods bound in mystery.

5.ERH defines the soul;

The microcosm of the soul is a parable of creation.

The essence of the soul fulfills itself as a life story.

The language of the soul transforms the world. (p.32)

In short, the soul is the creative force of humanity and only through it does humankind become transformed from animal to human during his/her life.  ERH asks how superstition can be replaced by a doctrine of historical method;  how the superstition of souls “chained by numerical combinations of matter or of the stars” can be replaced by mankind  transformed into a power that can shape the future for a better community;  and finally,  how laws of palmistry and phrenology can be replaced by  creativity and revelation?

Today the occult sciences employ the wrong method, and social science avoids these questions by employing an ineffective method for the study of the meaning of social experience.

Part 7 –  The Powers of The Soul

1.Soul and Psyche are different.  The soul seems to be the overall driving force that creates and exemplifies an individual “character” as it evolves through life.  Perception, association, thought, etc. have to be based on continuing lines of force; soul (character) is a bridge through the whole time of the individual’s life. (p.33)

Soul is not made up of habits, or talents, or one’s predisposition. Rather, it is one’s biography from the present to the time of death.   [ERH says somewhere that the purpose of life is to live; “living” appears to mean the meeting of crises and rising above them, evolving to the next stage of development.  No meeting of life on its terms, no soul is developed.  One is born only with a potential, which can only become realized as one participates in one’s own  spiritual evolution.

2.Courage and fear become the sustaining factors for a psychology of the individual soul. (p.33)  Fear and hope are the shaping powers.  Rarely do we perceive what we are indifferent to.  We must learn to rise above fear and pain, to persevere and grow in spite of barriers. “A person who avoids a crisis evades the soul-shaping tasks set before him. ….The deeper the suffering the soul goes through…the more forcefully it enters reality…”  (p.34)

Overcoming, striving, and undergoing occur completely in the solitude of the individual soul.  It is always a lonely battle.  All of these crises occur during changes in life-stages when the individual is challenged.  But the soul is not fragmented. It is the sum of a life, and the sum of the battle represents UNITY (a unique, individual character).

3.Each stage of life threatens us.  Such a challenge is a rehearsal for death, a kind of metaphorical death suffered during life.  The consequence is negative when we fail the challenge, and positive in  the sense of  the discontinuance of undesirable habits, paving the way for new life (change).  THIS IS THE EVERYDAY ENACTMENT OF DEATH AND RESURRECTION.

4.Death needs to be kept in mind in the act of meeting these challenges, because we need to remind ourselves of what we hope to become.  And thus our response to the challenge should lead us in that direction. THIS REPRESENTS A POSITIVE POWER OF FACING DEATH THROUGHOUT LIFE.  This is an important concept of ERH, in contrast to traditional scientific psychological views, which infer that we are at the mercy of forces outside ourselves.  The presence of a healthy “soul” is intended to overcome such environmental forces, thus allowing us to possess the power to participate in our own and in the group’s life to better both.

5.”The life of the soul awakens only in a person who boldly affirms the law of death and crisis…A crisis, after all, is a forestalled piece of death.” (p.35)  This is at once the risk and price one pays to become fulfilled, that is to be willing to submit to the pain of change.  The formative power of the soul must be trusted, “…to risk being shaped into what you and only you are called upon to become and are allowed to become.”   To do this one must listen for, and accept a call to act in some way, becoming a “thou” to listen and respond.  One must not to become addicted to only intellect, or glitter.  Relying solely on intellectual forces fragments (kills) the soul. (p.36)

Psychosomatic medicine, long since accepted as a force in healing of sickness, is an example of the power of a soul at work.   And how many diseases have their origins in the mind?

Part 8 – Community

1.When people are able to rely on one another, it relieves the crushing burdens one experiences when feeling totally alone in the world. The creation of community is essential to survival. To establish community requires trust in others, and trust occurs only between souls.  This counter balances the pain and suffering in life, and is why belonging is such a fundamental need.

2.The community retains its healing power (healing the soul torn by too many challenges)  when it accepts the same life-threatening tensions the individual suffers.

The existence of community, or the effect of entering a community, holds both risk and healing power.  In the process of entering community, the individual soul must suffer the “dissolving” of the framework that protects it.

“When the soul searches out a path for itself through the changes of body, or through the illusions of mental prejudices, it needs elbow-room, a husk, “space around its feeling,” so that it can wax and wane, be affirmed and denied, be checked and praised.  In the tension between fear and hope, the soul can shape itself only if it has a measure of freedom to experiment, of uncommitted elasticity, only if it is not subject to the public law of cause and effect at every moment.  (p.37)

3.     SHAME provides that elbow-room.  Without shame, before shame, or beyond shame, the soul does not grow.  Shame is the housing sheltering anything connected with the soul.  Shame is the grove in which anything to do with the soul has to be planted in order to grow.  To an empiricist inquiring about it from naked, indigenous people, the shyness accompanying shame seems as arbitrary as it does to an idealistic psychologist, who considers it highly unreasonable.  Shame does not fit the “system.”  If the soul were an “it” or an “I,” i.e. an object or subject, a thing or God, it would certainly have no need of shame.  Things and gods do not blush (see Homer!), nor do they tremble or sweat. (Remember Nietzsche’s angry outburst, “A god who sweats!”)  But a human soul, like you, conceals itself and shies away from things.  Thisverecundia (shyness) is the way we appear primarily when living in the second person singular.”  (pp. 37,38)

4.ERH goes on to say that the community (of souls) serves the individual, not by abolishing shame, but by “continually re-implanting the shame’s field of force into one of higher tension.”  In other words, we are more sensitive to our shame when among those of our own community.

The metaphor “naked soul” is descriptive.  The soul is delicate and needs a cloak or mask before the cold, objective world.  Paradoxically, the soul needs to reveal itself to others (souls) in order to evolve.  A community of souls provides both the protection in the form of acceptance of the individual, and the opportunity to listen lovingly and sympathetically to others.

5.Psychoanalysis is also parallel to the community in dealing with “diseases of shame.”  It attempts to destroy or overcome shame, an ambiguous function.  ERH points out that the soul cannot be healed by simply opening it up (to outside inspection); it needs a mask.  Like air coming into contact with a raw nerve, the process of “opening up” is always painful, and thus the soul needs some protection.  “Souls may only open themselves to other souls.”  [THIS IS FUNDAMENTAL].  For the psychoanalyst to open it up to searching “intellect,” he may only do this successfully by answering with his own soul.

6.Here again ERH speaks out  succinctly and eloquently.

That is why psychoanalysts (who are also natural ministers of the soul) often accomplish amazing things.  They offer their own shame, their own souls, when encountering the souls of others; they gaze out of their own souls as much as they gaze into the souls of others.(pp.38-39)

Part 9 – The Speech of The Community

1.The problem here appears to be, “How do we create a regenerative community?”  Regenerative means a community has suffered and experienced crisis, and, recovered from it.   In discussing this, ERH appears to be asking two other questions that this chapter discusses in some detail, namely  1) Why do we need community? and 2) What is primal speech and how is it engendered?   This latter point answers  his overall question by pointing out that regenerative communities are those in which primal speech is spoken.  Primal speech is speech about crucial problems.

2.The flow of ERH’s logic would seem to go something like this:

a.The community is an essential entity for human evolution for a number of reasons, the principle of which is that without it speech would not have evolved.

b.By “speech” he refers to what he calls “primal” speech – speech addressing important matters in human  affairs, as contrasted with “small talk,”  which deals with the weather and politeness.

c.Primal speech comes from the human soul, and it deals with deeply felt attitudes.  This is why it is so necessary to maintain a regenerative community, because its people speak honestly about important issues.

d.Primal speech is brought about by religion, which represents a spirit that in turn is engendered by a willingness of individuals to accept a command to go forth and carry out necessary deeds, regardless of the individual sacrifice required.

3.Details of these arguments are as follows:

Introduction:  In order to survive, grow, and prosper we need to comprehend reality to the highest degree possible, and to do this we must form associations with others (communities).  These in turn engender language, communication, and the creation of knowledge,  all of which allows us to transform the environment – social, mental, and material.  However, our comprehension of reality is never complete. Not only does the physical environment constantly change, but also our knowledge of it remains flawed. We must constantly renew that comprehension.

Only the change of attitudes and convictions causes such a renewal, which  also transforms the individual.  The motive for such transformation is always brought about by consciousness of the failure of our actions. This should set in motion forces that cause reconsideration of  old ways and invention of new ones.  To change deeply felt beliefs is often terrifying and risky.  Reflect on the adage, “The devil we know is better than the devil we don’t know.” Overcoming deep fears and engendering a willingness to suffer pain and sacrifice requires the maximum power we can command. The soul is therefore always riven with passion.  It is precisely the source of such power that ERH defines as “the soul.”

4.WHY DO WE NEED COMMUNITY?  We need community (a true regenerative community) because it provides a cloak (protection) for the individual so that he/she can speak truth  (from the soul) with some protection, for speaking the truth can often be a great risk.  Without such protection, the objective world would tear us apart.  Schizophrenia is an example of such ravage. (p.41)  Mental health, on the other hand, is maintained by being spoken to,  whether in love or hate. (All mental illness is a turning inward and closing out the world.)

5.Communities also have a dark side against which the individual soul needs protection.  People e mass, institutionalized individuals, “the establishment” – whether business, government, clubs, or even families — tend toward  seeking power instead of inner strength. These tend to the shifting of guilt instead of defending justice, toward the passionate obscuring of issues instead of revealing truth. p.49  These tendencies of institutions force individuals in their formal roles to lie.  Thus, institutional life,  like many other facets of experience, is a paradox; it is needed for our growth, yet the source of distorting reality and social destruction.  Another facet of stress of institutional life is focussed on the difference between group perceptions of reality on the one hand and the individual perceptions on the other – always different because each individual experiences only a little piece of reality.

6.If this paradox cannot be resolved,  what we call community is little more than a collection of people, but with no deep reservoir of common  understanding  or trust.  Such a community  self-destructs eventually because it has a low tolerance for stresses of any type. A regenerative community conversely  is precisely one that has the power and resolve to balance this paradox. Only through the existence of  primal speech can we have a true community of souls (individuals who have accepted and committed themselves to defend and work for a common spirit).  Trust and creativity are therefore essentials to the future of any community.

7.           Work transforms the world by pursuing its laws of cause and effect. The creative mind transforms thoughts, which it ponders in the light of a uniform point of  view. But neither mind nor matter alone can transform the person himself.  They have to be subordinated to a community that can. (p.50)

PRIMAL LANGUAGE:  Primal language is necessary language, language from the soul.  The Bible has served as an important force in the evolution of Western cultures because, 1) “…it tells the story of the universe of a history of people and souls,”  2) as a carrier of primal language. Primal language gives voice to our transformations in life, unifying people, fusing “…God, man, the World into a resounding we. (p.40)

8.Social grammar, as ERH contrasts with the textbook grammar of nouns and conjugations, is a necessary component to understand primal language.  Art exemplifies the first person plural,  representing a transfiguration and apotheosis (making a god of a person), as only a god can be creative.  “To create is the life of the soul.” (p.42)  Grammatically, the creative act, is represented by the first person “I” (subjunctive, conjunctive, optative, voluntative). The artist creates “maybes,” possibilities for the future, as contrasted with the cause/effect “laws” established by science.  Ironically, the social scientist can apply his method to many things, but  cannot account for his own creativity.   The “I” begins with the eternal freedom to change.

Science, by contrast, describes the world as it is. The “natural” world, attempting to discern the laws of cause/effect in how something works.  Grammatically, it (nature)  is represented by the third person, the “it,”  removed from the observer;  therein lies his ” objective” situation.  The beginning and end of scientific process is theories and laws.  This is the indicative mood, the most simple of the parts of social grammar. It seeks to find causes and effects, i.e. the internal workings of nature. (p.46)

9.The Missing Person:  It is ERH’s contention that traditional  social science methods, as described above, represent incomplete thinking patterns. One missing part is the commitment, the emotional attachment or dedication to a cause that engenders willingness to sacrifice, to set aside self-interest.  The part of speech represented by this voice is the “you,”  the voice of the second person, the person willing to listen to authority  and to respond. The first and third grammatical voices described above represent command (the “I”) and description of the world (the “it”), but where is the human dedication to cause?  This is the second person, both singular and plural,  the listener, the power that does more than describe. It is the power to act and complete causes.

10.Much language represents small talk, using cliches, the thoughts and words of others, superficial speech to describe (make ideas intelligible),  but with no power to move others.  The power to move others and be moved includes Religion.  “Religious language towers above art and science, because it integrates into “we’s” all three of the grammatical persons.” (p.41)  Religion’s shrine preserves transformation (change), as does legislation into law.  The fundamental principle of religion is that it is “the mystical marriage between God, man, and  the world of  I, you, it.”

Part 10 – Our People

OUR PEOPLE and chapter 11, SPIRIT, SOUL AND BODY will be described here as a unified piece.  The central theme (problem) appears to be a summary of the thesis that our major problem in life is to grow from animal into human being.  The first step in this process is understanding our experience, and this cannot occur with the present methods for social science.   A new science of society must be centered around Grammar; not the grammar of classroom texts, but a social grammar reflecting human commitment to causes.  He summarizes this new grammar by pointing out that LOGIC exposes errors in reasoning, SCIENCE (mathematics) exposes errors of the senses, and PRIMAL GRAMMAR exposes errors in commitment.  Our present social problems are causes because, while we employ logic and science on the one hand, we need a science of the soul (commitment), which is powered by the energy of the soul. This is  not the soul of “mind” conceived by present social science.  Therefore:

We need a new science of the soul…Meanwhile our field of study is being overrun by philosophy and psychology on the one hand and occultism and mathematics on the other… (p.53)

ERH offers in Chapter 10 a case study of Germany after WWI.  Some Germans made an impassioned plea to see themselves as victors, as a world power.  What they needed, ERH avers, is to re-create a people:

1.     A people, when a true congregation, is neither an authoritarian state (first person),  nor a population of  60 million (third person), but rather a people ready for its calling and for that reason alone is capable of facing the present and also of  regenerating itself physically and spiritually. The soul can renew body and spirit, but not vice versa.  Because when a “you” contemplates its task, both spiritual and physical paths open up.  Both convictions and one’s awareness of the outer world originate in contemplation. [German play on words: on Besinnung (contemplation), Gesinnung (convictions), and Sinne (the senses). Contemplation can renew the spiritual sense of self-consciousness, as well as the physical senses. (p.51)

2.Grammar in this schema is the discipline of change.  Reaching for material things as the dominating force in our lives makes one lose one’s inner bearings because the material world changes daily.  Acting only on ideals, principles, or dogmas makes one “pigheaded,” unchanging, as abstractions are outside concrete experience.

3.HAVING STABLE INNER BEARING, BUT CHANGING IN THE RIGHT WAY AND AT THE RIGHT TIME,  GIVES ONE SHAPE  (character, commitment, soul). (p.54)  Primal grammar is the method for renewal that Germany needed  at that time.  Our language today tends not to be “primal,” but rather more superficial, and thus resistant to change.  [RF – I am reminded here of the research of Chris Argyris who developed the concepts of single and double loop decision-making.  The single loop (the common practice) keeps repeating error. See REASONING, LEARNING AND ACTION, Josey-Bass]

4.In the final chapter, ERH makes a distinction between the soul (singular), spirit (plural)  and body.

One can say, namely, for both  men and women,  everything about them that has to do with the total duration and unity of their existence belongs to the soul.  Destiny, profession, marriage, children, honor, fame, disappointment, suffering, sacrifice, names–all these things are given meaning from the fact that they all belong to one united line, one life story for mankind. (p.55)

One’s bodily, material needs, on the other hand, start with daily bread and daily requirements of shelter, clothing, and urges.  So from the material point of view, marriage is only an expansion of sex and reproductive urges;  professions are only an expanded concern for dailybread, and so forth, just as Lasalle articulated it in his iron law of wages.  And yet there remains an immense difference between these needs and the meaning of the soul.  No matter how many daily wages are added together, they won’t equal the course of a life; no matter how many sexual acts, they won’t equal a marriage.

So for men and women, the material things about them are summed up in the concerns for units of time shorter than the ages of their own lives.  This explains, on the one hand, the immense importance  material things  have for people without real  destiny in their lives,  for the proletariate and all other people who have fallen prey to daily life. On the other hand, this explains the limits of material concerns, which remain passing in comparison with the course of a whole life. (p.55)

5.SPIRIT, the plural of soul,  goes beyond and above time of the soul. It is more than one soul’s lifetime,   an inherited succession of souls.  The carrying on of an idea beyond one lifetime, “Spirit is the power of mankind”  as compared to the power of an individual.  (p.56) Theology has been till now the custodian of all secrets of the soul.

A person remains inspired only as long as he finds himself within a structure that reaches beyond himself.

6.Spirit – of a club, organization, country, or profession – is what individuals subject themselves to.  The stronger the soul (of the individual),  the more they can embrace spirit. (p.57)  The spirit thus engulfs and restricts some personal freedom.   This  is necessary because unconfined “will” becomes total tyranny.

7.All causes (technology, science, professions, etc.) requires dedication by souls.  Souls in community commonly committed to a cause form a spirit, which is the only way social progress can be made. Society and social change, as with the soul, is regenerated by dedication to the spirit of social grammar as ERH defines it, by unifying the three grammatical persons of the “it,” the “you,” and the “I,” alternating between them with the appropriate rhythm.  To carry this out requires sacrifice by the soul, of time and  offered from the heart.  Voluntarism is needed to enlarge the soul.

The basic problem ERH seems to be addressing here is, “How can truly productive and healthy individuals and communities be created?”  He states near the end of the essay that a test of the true community is that it can emerge from catastrophe rejuvenated.  The method for such accomplishment is an education that develops the “soul.” In traditional socio/psychological,  secular language of today, the term soul would be translated to mean “character,” or “integrity.”  But, as pointed out, this conception falls short of accounting for social vitality.   He goes on the say that only souls are capable of responding to and evolving the “spirit” of an idea or institution, and thus souls are the fundamental input necessary to achieve true communities of associations.


This treatise is significant, but subtle and difficult to clarify and summarize.  It addresses the question, “What  empowers us to rise above mere animal nature to become fully `human’ ?”  What, in other words, are the elements of our mental powers, with particular reference to the power to change and grow (i.e. the soul)?

The following matrix-type diagrams are intended as an aid to the reader to see the structure of  Rosenstock-Huessy’s argument.  By his own admission, this treatise formed the original structure for a new method for social science.  He suggests there exist four approaches to this question, three representing points of view from the past,  which are parochial and therefore inadequate to explaining the full nature of our mental powers.  The fourth diagram describing his “Grammatical Method” integrates the preceding three powers into a more comprehensive and sufficient whole.

The first point of view is that of the natural scientist, who defines the primary power of the “mind” as a receptor of sensory experience, capable of logically processing those data.  While some scientists may concede that the mind can also receive divine revelation as the source of creativity, and that there is a necessity for ethical values to guide human behavior, those phenomena are outside its method and concern.  In other words, the scientific can explain neither the scientist’s creativity nor the structures of religion.

The second point of view, interestingly comes from the ancient occult sciences such as magic, telepathy, spiritualism, and hypnosis.  This view posits “mind” as the creative force of the universe, its mental powers  capable of dominating the concrete world.  The mind, in other words, is capable of creativity on its own. However, these sciences recognize no ethical constraints as a necessity.  Rosenstock-Huessy concludes that while this point of view defends the right issue, the creative powers of our mind, it utilizes the wrong method and goal.  If there were validity to this method, he asserts, the social world would have torn itself apart long ago.  As with the natural scientist, this method precludes any integration with the other two sources of power.

The third aspect of the mind is the province of religion, the divine power that created the universe. Instilled into the human psyche, this harbors the power to overcome personal greed and avarice, and act selflessly along the models of Jesus, Buddha, Moses, and other religious founders and prophets.  Such behavior must, by necessity, guide the socially related decisions that engender human survival.  The limitation of this view is that it is oriented toward something outside society – paradise – and therefore does not make strong connections between the divine spirit and concrete experience.  Working to get into heaven does not necessarily imply a necessary foundation of social life, nor do religious mandates claim to do so.

The “Grammatical Method” recognizes the positive contributions of each of these methods and asserts that in order for us to understand the meaning of our experience as fully as possible and incorporate the power to change and grow, we need all three.   At the point of decision-making we would be empowered to recognize the significance of the decision and have the power to overcome the enormous forces presenting barriers to change and growth.  All such powers, also furnish the foundations for improving community.

The mind is made up of these three elements, the central position of which is the individual’s ability and willingness to think for him/herself, drawing on all three parts,  under the guidance of ethical (religious) behavior.  This action is the source of soul building.  One is not born with a soul, only with the capacity to develop the soul.   Greatness of spirit can be founded only on a strong soul.  The fundamental method by which the spirit of  all methods is conveyed in speech!