Category Archives: Sociology

The Earth


. . . . One night when I had tasted bitterness I went out on to the hill. Dark heather checked my feet. Below marched the suburban street lamps. Windows, their curtains drawn, were shut eyes, inwardly watching the lives of dreams. Beyond the seas’s level darkness a lighthouse pulsed. Overhead, obscurity.

I distinguished our own house, our islet in the tumultuous and bitter currents of the world. There, for a decade and a half, we two, so different in quality, had grown in and in to one another, for mutual support and nourishment, in intricate symbiosis. There daily we planned our several undertakings, and recounted the day’s oddities and vexations. There letters piled up to be answered, socks to be darned. There the children were born, those sudden new lives. There, under that roof, our own two lives, recalcitrant sometimes to one another, were all the while thankfully one, one larger, more conscious life than either alone.

All this, surely, was good. Yet there was bitterness. And bitterness not only invaded us from the world; it welled up also within our own magic circle. For horror at our futility, at our own unreality, and not only at the world’s delirium, had driven me out on to the hill.

We were always hurrying from one little urgent task to another, but the upshot was unsubstantial. Had we, perhaps, misconceived our whole existence? Were we, as it were, living from false premises? And in particular, this partnership of ours, this seemingly so well-based fulcrum for activity in the world, was it after all nothing but a little eddy of complacent and ingrown domesticity, ineffectively whirling on the surface of the great flux, having in itself no depth of being, and no significance? Had we perhaps after all deceived ourselves? Behind those rapt windows did we, like so many others, indeed live only a dream? In a sick world even the hale are sick. And we two, spinning our little life mostly by rote, seldom with clear cognizance, seldom with firm intent, were products of a sick world.

Yet this life of ours was not all sheer and barren fantasy. Was it not spun from the actual fibres of reality, which we gathered in with all the comings and goings through our door, all our traffic with the suburb and the city and with remoter cities, and with the ends of the earth? And were we not spinning together an authentic expression of our own nature? Did not our life issue daily as more or less firm threads of active living and mesh itself into the growing web, the intricate, ever-proliferating pattern of mankind?

I considered “us” with quiet interest and a kind of amused awe. How could I describe our relationship even to myself without either disparaging it or insulting it with the tawdry decoration of sentimentality? For this our delicate balance of dependence and independence, this coolly critical, shrewdly ridiculing, but loving mutual contact, was surely a microcosm of true community, was after all in its simple style an actual and living example of that high goal which the world seeks.

The whole world? The whole universe? Overheard, obscurity unveiled a star. One tremulous arrow of light, projected how many thousands of years ago, now stung my nerves with vision, and my heart with fear. For in such a universe as this what significance could there be in our fortuitous, our frail, our evanescent community?

But now irrationally I was seized with a strange worship, not, surely of the star, that mere furnace which mere distance falsely sanctified, but of something other, which the dire contrast of the star and us signified to the heart. Yet what, what could thus be signified? Intellect, peering beyond the star, discovered no Star Maker, but only darkness; no Love, no Power even, but only Nothing. And yet the heart praised.

– Olaf Stapledon [from Starmaker, 1937]

On Work


Work is something to be greatly desired, something to be praised and lauded by us all – our life-long friend, the giver of all gifts, the creator of everything we shall ever need or desire. And surely, with such thoughts in mind, our love for work will become deep and true. Then we shall gain the power to work even better – with greater capacity and talent – even with genius: for an intense love of work usually gives birth to genius.

Work for a great idea, and you arouse great ideas in your own mind. Great ideas produce great thoughts, and great thoughts produce great men. A man is exactly what he thinks himself to be. Therefore, the man who thinks great thoughts must necessarily become a great man, and the simplest way for anyone to form the habit of thinking great thoughts is to work for great ideas.

The man who shirks does not grow. The man who works poorly will remain small in mind. The man who works in the wrong concept of work will tire and wear out.

When you work simply for yourself, or for your own personal gain, your mind will seldom rise above the limitations of an undeveloped personal life. But when you are inspired by some great purpose, some extraordinary project, all your thoughts break their bonds: your mind transcends limitiations, your consciousness expands in every direction, and you find yourself in a new, great and wonderful world. Dormant forces, faculties and talents become alive, and you discover yourself to be a greater person by far than you ever dreamed yourself to be.

The majority work to make a living; some work to acquire wealth or fame, while a few work because there is something within them which demands expression. The majority dislike work. Only a few truly love it. Nearly everybody wearies of work and there is only a limited number that gain streangth from work. The average person works because he has to, so that it is the exceptional one who works because he want to. When we dream of Utopia we picture it as a place where there is less work and more pleasure, and the highest heaven is supposed to be a realm where one does nothing. With this idea of work, the multitudes are eternally longing for rest, but this longing is seldom satisfied because their whole conception of work is based on lies and falsehood.

To get something without working for it – that seems to be the acme of delight. But why is the desire to get something for nothing so strong in so many minds? For no other reason that this: we do not understand the true nature of work, and therefore dislike it. When we learn to understand work, however, and learn how to work, we shall go to our work with just as much delight as we go to our pleasure. And when we consider the real purpose of work and discover the work that builds the man [or woman], we will consider it a far greater privilege to work for everything we need or desire, than to go to a free mine and take all the gold we can carry away.

– E. B. Szekely (?)


. . . . Until one is committed there is hesitancy, the chance to draw back, always ineffectiveness. Concerning all acts of initiative (and creation), there is one elementary truth, the ignorance of which kills countless ideas and splendid plans: that the moment one definitely commits oneself, then providence moves too.

All sorts of things occur to help one that would never otherwise have occurred. A whole stream of events issues from the decision, raising in one’s favor all manner of unforeseen incidents and meetings and material assistance, which no man would have dreamt would have come his way.

I have learned a deep respect for one of Goethe’s couplets:

Whatever you can do, or dream you can, begin it.
Boldness has genius, power and magic in it.

– W. H. Murray


Voluntary Action vs. Compulsion



Militarily things seem pretty much the same today as 73 years ago – only not so much so. The inner laws of Nature, however, are still exactly the same.

Two thousand Allied bombers drop hundreds of tons of flaming death on German cities. The four great powers meet at Dumbarton Oaks to agree on means for maintaining peace in the world. Eight thousand Japanese exterminated on Pelieliu Island. Thousands of tons of food supplies and clothing distributed to the war indigent in Italy, France and Greece.

Those, and similar contrasting newspaper headlines, run through the mind, as wending a somewhat weary way from the great city, the peace and quiet of the wayside is gratefully received. What does it all mean? This destroying with one hand and constructing and helping with the other.

The answer to all problems can be found by a communing with Nature, as long as we do not qualify it by placing that word HUMAN before it. Nature requires a rather close observation at times. So it is that we can note that all growth, whether vegetable or animal, all evolution or change of form, seems to be controlled by two great laws. One is Voluntary Action and the other is Compulsion.

It does not seem to matter much which law is allowed to hold its sway, the results seem to be the same. However, we note that the law of Compulsion is generally accompanied by sufferings, while that of Voluntary Action always seems to be a joyous affair.

Another thing to be noted is that whenever Voluntary Action is spurned, the very effects of such spurning is what produces the manifestations of Compulsion. An entity partakes of too much food, repudiating self-control, voluntarily exercised. Such nausea is produced that COMPULSION causes abstinence, until balance is once more restored. Therefore, the Law of Compulsion is not enforced by exterior forces, but merely produced by the throwing aside of the Divine Law of Voluntary Action.

In Nature, if it be studied with the Seeing Eye, it will be found that the Mineral Kingdom is ruled by the Law of Compulsion alone. In the Vegetable Kingdom, Voluntary Action makes its appearance, but faintly. Many botanical species have appeared and disappeared on account of it, but the Vegetable Kingdom, as a whole, has wonderfully progressed, since the days of the primitive fungi and gigantic tree ferns.

In the Animal Kingdom, Voluntary Action becomes more perceptible, as locomotion, the ability to change position has entered the life picture. Pity the poor plant, over-shadowed by the growing tree: it cannot move over into the sunshine, but has to make the best of it. Partly by Voluntary Action, partly by Compulsion, many a plant has grown into a tree that has overshadowed the tree that almost snuffed it out of existence. Sometimes, it is itself snuffed out of existence. In the Human Kingdom, having locomotion, as well as self-conscious mind, the Law of Voluntary action becomes supreme, the Law of Compulsion only lurks in the shadows of man’s creation, ready with its whip-lash to drive him onward and upward, if he will not move on his own intiative.

Now read again the first paragraph, and see if you can reconcile the conflicting actions, in the light of the Law of Compulsion, acting through the man-made destruction, compelling man to do what he should have done voluntarily.

Moral: Man advances, willy-nilly. With joy in his heart, voluntarily, or under the whip-lash of the Law of Compulsion.
And that’s just simple Theosophy.

– The Wayfarer [Maj. Hubert S. Turner]

– From “Thoughts by the Wayside,” Theosophia, Nov.-Dec., 1944

– – – – – – – – – – – – – – –

What is Truth?


                – H. P. Blavatsky

“What is truth?” asked Pilate of one who, if the claims of the Christian Church are even approximately correct, must have known it. But he kept silent. And the truth which He did not divulge remained unrevealed, for his later followers as much as for the Roman Governor. The silence of Jesus, however, on this and other occasions, does not prevent his present followers from acting as though they had received the ultimate and absolute Truth itself, and from ignoring the fact that only such Words of Wisdom had been given them as contained a share of the truth, itself concealed in parables and dark, though beautiful, sayings. * (* Jesus says to the “twelve” – “Unto you is given the mystery of the kingdom of God; but unto them that are without, all things are done in parables,” etc, Mark, iv, 11.)

This policy led gradually to dogmatism and assertion. Dogmatism in churches, dogmatism in science, dogmatism everywhere. The possible truths, hazily perceived in the world of abstractions, like those inferred from observation and experiment in the world of matter, are forced upon the profane multitudes, too busy to think for themselves, under the form of Divine revelation and Scientific authority. But the same question stands open from the days of Socrates and Pilate down to our own age of wholesale negation: is there such a thing as absolute truth in the hands of any one party or man? Reason answers, “there cannot be.” There is no room for absolute truth upon any subject whatsoever, in a world as finite and conditioned as man is himself. But there are relative truths, and we have to make the best we can of them.

In every age there have been Sages who had mastered the absolute and yet could teach but relative truths. For none yet, born of mortal woman in our race, has, or could have given out, the whole and final truth to another man, for every one of us has to find that (to him) final knowledge in himself. As no two minds can be absolutely alike, each has to receive the supreme illumination through itself, according to its capacity, and from no human light. The greatest adept living can reveal of the Universal truth only so much as the mind he is impressing it upon can assimilate, and no more. Tot homines, aquot sententiae – – is an immortal truism. The sun is one, but its beams are numberless; and the effects produced are beneficent or maleficent, according to the nature and constitution of the objects they shine upon. Polarity is universal, but the polarizer lies in our own consciousness. In proportion as our consciousness is elevated towards absolute truth, so do we men assimilate it more or less absolutely. But man’s consciousness again, is only the sunflower of the earth. Longing for the warm ray, the plant can only turn to the sun, and move round and round in following the course of the unreachable luminary: its roots keep it fast to the soil, and half its life is passed in the shadow.

Still each of us can relatively reach the Sun of Truth even on this earth, and assimilate its warmest and most direct rays, however differentiated they may become after their long journey through the physical particles in space.. To achieve this, there are two methods. On the physical plane we may use our mental polariscope; and, analyzing the properties of each ray, choose the purest. On the plane of spirituality, to reach the Sun of Truth we must work in dead earnest for the development of our higher nature. We know that by paralyzing gradually within ourselves the appetites of the lower personality, and thereby deadening the voice of the purely physiological mind – that mind which depends upon, and is inseparable from, its medium or vehicle, the organic brain – the animal man in us may make room for the spiritual; and once aroused from its latent state, the highest spiritual senses and perceptions grow in us in proportion, and develop pari passu with the “divine man.” This is what the great adepts, the Yogis in the East and the Mystics in the West, have always done and are still doing.

But we also know that with a few exceptions, no man of the world, no materialist, will ever believe in the existence of such adepts, or even in the possibility of such spiritual and psychic development. “The (ancient) fool hath said in his heart, there is no God”; the modern says, “There are no adepts on earth, they are figments of your diseased fancy.”

… It thus follows that, though “general abstract truth is the most precious of all blessings” for many of us, as it was for Rousseau, we have, meanwhile, to be satisfied with relative truths. In sober fact, we are a poor set of mortals at best, ever in dread before the face of even a relative truth, lest it should devour ourselves and our petty little preconceptions along with us. As for an absolute truth, most of us are as incapable of seeing it as of reaching the moon on a bicycle. Firstly, because absolute truth is as immovable as the mountain of Mohammed, which refused to disturb itself for the prophet, so that he had to go to it himself. And we have to follow his example if we would approach it even at a distance. Secondly, because the kingdom of absolute truth is not of this world, while we are too much of it. And thirdly, because notwithstanding that in the poet’s fancy man is

“…..the abstract
Of all perfection, which the workmanship
Of heaven hath modeled ……”

in reality he is a sorry bundle of anomalies and paradoxes, an empty windbag inflated with his own importance, with contradictory and easily influenced opinions. He is at once an arrogant and weak creature, which, though in constant dread of some authority, terrestrial or celestial, will yet –

“….like an angry ape,
Play such fantastic tricks before high Heaven
As make the angels weep.”

Now, since truth is a multifaced jewel, the facets of which it is impossible to perceive all at once; and since, again, no two men, however anxious to discern truth, can see even one of those facets alike, what can be done to help them to perceive it? As physical man, limited and trammeled from every side by illusions, cannot reach truth by the light of his terrestrial perceptions, we say – develop in you the inner knowledge. From the time when the Delphic oracle said to the enquirer “Man, know thyself,” no greater or more important truth was ever taught. Without such a perception, man will remain ever blind to even many a relative, let alone absolute, truth. Man has to know himself, i.e., acquire the inner perceptions which never deceive, before he can master any absolute truth. Absolute truth is the symbol of Eternity, and no finite mind can ever grasp the eternal, hence, no truth in its fullness can ever dawn upon it. To reach the state during which man sees and senses it, we have to paralyze the sense of the external man of clay. This is a difficult task, we may be told, and most people will, at this rate, prefer to remain satisfied with relative truths, no doubt. But to approach even terrestrial truths requires, first of all, love of truth for its own sake, for otherwise no recognition of it will follow. And who loves truth in this age for its own sake? How many of us are prepared to search for, accept, and carry it out, in the midst of a society in which anything that would achieve success has to be built on appearances, not on reality, on self-assertion, not on intrinsic value?

We are fully aware of the difficulties in the way of receiving truth. The fair heavenly maiden descends only on a (to her) congenial soil – the soil of an impartial, unprejudiced mind, illuminated by pure Spiritual Consciousness; and both are truly rare dwellers in civilized lands. In our century … when man lives at a maddening speed that leaves him barely time for reflection, he allows himself usually to be drifted down from cradle to grave, nailed to the Procrustean bed of custom and conventionality. Now conventionality – pure and simple – is a congenital LIE, as it is in every case a “simulation of feelings according to a received standard” (F.W. Robertsons definition); and where there is any simulation there cannot be any truth. How profound the remark made by Byron, that “truth is a gem that is found at a great depth; whilst on the surface of this world all things are weighed by the false scales of custom,” is best known by those who are forced to live in the stifling atmosphere of such social conventionalism, and who, even when willing and anxious to learn, dare not accept the truths they long for, for fear of the ferocious Moloch called Society.

Look around you reader; study the accounts given by world known travelers, recall the joint observations of literary thinkers, the data of science and of statistics, Draw the picture of modern society, of modem politics, of modern religion and modern life in general before your mind’s eye. Remember the ways and customs of every cultured race and nation under the sun. Observe the doings and the moral attitude of people in the civilized centres of Europe, America, and even of the far East…. everywhere where the white man has carried the “benefits” of so-called civilization. And now, having passed in review all this, pause and reflect, and then name, if you can, that blessed Eldorado, that exceptional spot on the globe, where TRUTH is the honoured guest, and LIE and SHAM the ostracized outcasts? YOU CANNOT. Nor can anyone else, unless he is prepared and determined to add his mite to the mass of falsehood that reigns supreme in every department of national and social life.

“Truth!” cried Carlyle, “truth, though the heavens crush me for following her, no falsehood, though a whole celestial Lubberland were the prize of Apostasy.” Noble words, these. But how many think and how many will dare to speak as Carlyle did, in our… day? Does not the gigantic appalling majority prefer to a man the “paradise of do-nothings,” the pays de Cocagne of heartless selfishness? It is this majority that recoils terror-stricken before the most shadowy outline of every new and unpopular truth, out of mere cowardly fear, lest Mrs. Harris should denounce, and Mrs. Grundy condemn, its converts to the torture of being rent piece-meal by her murderous tongue.

SELFISHNESS, the first-born of Ignorance, and the fruit of the teaching which asserts that for ever newly-born infant a new soul, separate and distinct from the Universal Soul, is “created” – this Selfishness is the impassable wall between the personal Self and The Truth. It is the prolific mother of all human vices, Lie being born out of the necessity for dissembling, and Hypocrisy out of the desire to mask Lie. It is the fungus growing and strengthening with age in every human heart in which it has devoured all better feelings. Selfishness kills every noble impulse in our natures, and is the one deity, fearing no faithlessness or desertion from its votaries. Hence, we see it reign supreme in the world and in so-called fashionable society. As a result, we live, and move, and have our being in this god of darkness under his trinitarian aspect of Sham, Humbug, and Falsehood, called RESPECTABILITY.

…… To sum up the idea, with regard to absolute and relative truth, we can only repeat what we said before. Outside a certain highly spiritual and elevated state of mind, during which Man is at one with the UNIVERSAL MIND – he can get nought on earth but relative truth, or truths, from whatsoever philosophy or religion. Were even the goddess who dwells at the bottom of the well to issue from her place of confinement, she could give man no more than he can assimilate. Meanwhile, every one can sit near that well – the name of which is Knowledge and gaze into its depths in the hope of seeing Truth’s fair image reflected, at least, on the dark waters. This, however, as remarked by Richter, presents a certain danger. Some truth, to be sure, may be occasionally reflected as in a mirror on the spot we gaze upon, and thus reward the patient student. But, adds the German thinker, “I have heard that some philosophers in seeking for Truth, to pay homage to her, have seen their own image in the water and adored it instead.”

(“Lucifer,” Feb., 1888)


A Short Christmas Parable


From the New York Herald, about Christmas, 1878:

An aged man, presiding at a public meeting, said he would avail himself of the opportunity to relate a vision he had witnessed on the previous night.

“He thought he was standing in the pulpit of the most gorgeous and magnificent cathedral he had ever seen. Before him was the priest or pastor of the church, and beside him stood an angel with a tablet and pencil in hand, whose mission it was to make record of every act of worship or prayer that transpired in his presence and ascended as an acceptable offering to the throne of God. Every pew was filled with richly-attired worshippers of either sex. The most sublime music that ever fell on his enraptured ear filled the air with melody. All the beautiful ritualistic Church services, including a surpassingly eloquent sermon from the gifted minister, had in turn transpired, and yet the recording angel made no entry in his tablet! The congregation were at length dismissed by the pastor with a lengthy and beautifully-worded prayer, followed by a benediction, and yet the angel made no sign!

“Attended still by the angel, the speaker left the door of the church in rear of the richly-attired congregation. A poor, tattered castaway stood in the gutter beside the curbstone, with her pale, famished hand extended, silently pleading for alms. As the richly-attired worshippers from the church passed by, they shrank from the poor Magdalen, the ladies withdrawing aside their silken, jewel-bedecked robes, lest they should be polluted by her touch.

“Just then an intoxicated sailor came reeling down the sidewalk on the other side. When he got opposite the poor forsaken girl, he staggered across the street to where she stood, and, taking a few pennies from his pocket, he thrust them into her hand, accompanied with the adjuration, ‘Here, you poor forsaken cuss, take this!’ A celestial radiance now lighted up the face of the recording angel, who instantly entered the sailor’s act of sympathy and charity in his tablet, and departed with it as a sweet sacrifice to God.”

– from “The Theosophist,” Dec, 1879, “Christmas Then and Christmas Now,” by H. P. Blavatsky


The Mass Mind


by Ely Culbertson


…. In the notes below, I shall outline some of my concepts of the psychology of the mass mind which may prove to be of interest to those who have dealings with the masses. I will make no attempt here to present a complete picture. This tremendously complicated subject requires a book, which I hope to write someday.

Early in my youth, as a revolutionist I ran up against the blank wall of the mystery of the mass mind. I then realized that one may have the noblest and the most practical ideals [for] levers [to] move the masses; that propaganda is often more powerful than the truth. All around me I saw political charlatans and demagogues drench the people with lies and the spit of hatred and yet carry them off their feet; while my teachers floundered, although they understood the truth and were sincere. I rushed to libraries to find out about this wonderful science of influencing people. But there was very little information.

The practical application of the knowledge of the mass mind, which is based on crude trial and-error methods, has been known since earliest times. The structure of armies and churches is unconsciously based on these little-known laws; the Communists and Fascists have perfected the methods; and the American advertising industry has brought in a wealth of practical discoveries. But even today, there are no scientific definitions or acceptable theories on the anatomy of the mass mind, how it behaves, and why.

The Individual and the Crowd

It is already known that there is a certain difference between a person taken singly and the same person taken as part of a crowd. Actually, the difference is tremendous. A crowd is something very much more than the sum total of the individuals that comprise it. It is a new entity, personality, possessing its own emotional and thinking organs.

I define a crowd as consisting of five or more individuals. One of these individuals is always the leader. The moment several individuals get together to form a crowd, a number of their usual emotional reactions become atrophied, while other emotional reactions, theretofore dormant, become intensified. In a crowd, the individual loses most of his initiative; his fears and doubts are dissipated, and his reasoning faculties are narrowed down to one or two simple issues; he acquires new emotions of a religious or mystic nature; he feels a compelling sense of communal responsibility and a confidence that borders on omnipotence. Under the spell of the crowd emanations, he is capable of acts of supreme heroism or of dastardly cowardice – acts which he might not perform as an individual. Thus, a crowd is always composed of demigods who are at the same time savage beasts; of heroes who are simultaneously cruel cowards.

The basic fact from which all study of the mass mind must start, is this; every crowd possesses its own anatomy, its own brain, and its own nervous system, as distinct from the psychology of the individuals who comprise it.

This mass mind operates not only when people are gathered together in physical crowds – in auditoriums or on street corners – but continuously. Every individual is endowed, from time immemorial, with a number of instincts that make him a part of the herd and subject to reactions of the herd. He is dominated by crowd influences and crowd emotions wherever he is – whether he talks to other people, listens to the radio, or reads a newspaper in front of his own fireplace. Besides, in the course of the day most individuals are at some time or other in contact with different physical crowds, where they easily pick up the highly contagious germs of crowd emotions.

Thus, the mass mind functions even when there is not a physical crowd, except that then its emotions are not so intense and its psychological reactions do not occur so rapidly.

All the observations in this appendix, therefore, apply not only to physical crowds, but to all individuals who have social contact with the world around them.

The Structure of the Crowd or Mass Mind

If the crowd does have a mind of its own, just what is its structure, and how does it operate?

The crowd is made up of two elements: the mass and the leaders. Its structure is somewhat analogous to that of a cell, with its protoplasm and nucleus. The mass element in the crowd is nameless and passive, its essential function is to provide “nourishment” for the active principle, which is the nucleus. The crowd’s nucleus is composed of the crowd’s leaders, in whom practically the entire activity of the crowd is concentrated. And here the analogy between a cell and a crowd ceases. For a crowd is not comparable to one gigantic cell, but is actually made up of a great number of units, or crowd-cells. Each of these crowd-cells consists of five, six, or seven individuals, and each has its group leader. Thoughts and emotions are communicated from one unit or crowd cell to another through these group leaders, who act in the double capacity of transmitters and initiators of action.

The important point is that, of the individuals who make up a crowd-cell, only the leader is active; the others, so to speak, have delegated to him not only most of their authority, but a great part of their emotional and intellectual mechanisms. They leave to their leader the task of making decisions, and even the emotional function of becoming cruel or loving, heroic or cowardly. This process of delegation is, in my opinion, one of the underlying principles in the structure of the crowd. The group leader stands at the front of the stage, and his six or seven followers stand in the background, imitating his every gesture, thought, or emotion. It is the group leader who organizes a bridge game, selects a brand of cigarettes, decides that Roosevelt is a hero or a monster, throws rice and old shoes at the newlyweds, or lynches ….. He counts; his followers are but shadows in his image.

The Leaders

The group leaders in turn are organized into special leader-cells, each of which is controlled by a higher leader. Finally, there is a still higher leader-cell, composed of leaders of the leaders, and controlled by the supreme leader. At each intermediate stage the lower group of leaders transmits a large part of its authority and will to the higher leaders.

Thus, the structure of a crowd can be compared to a skyscraper built like a pyramid: its skeleton of steel is the leadership factor, its backbone and brain; the bricks that fill in this framework to complete the building make up the passive element, or the mass of the crowd. The higher “stories” of this tapering skyscraper are made up entirely of the higher leaders, where most of the power is concentrated; while the foundation is cemented and held together by the group leaders incrustated within the mass.

These leaders are always potentially present in any crowd. They spring up from the mass spontaneously. In a theater someone shouts, “Fire!” There are a few seconds of hesitation, during which the leaders crystalize. If the leaders are panicky, the crowd is panicky; if the leaders walk calmly to the nearest exit, so does the crowd. It may happen that the struggle of opposing leaders neutralizes the action of the crowd, leaving it temporarily leaderless; then there is a stampede.

This leadership structure is the characteristic organ of any crowd – its brain, its nervous and muscular systems, all in one. It is common to masses, crowds, and even herds of animals. These leaders are to be found among males and females, and in every conceivable human activity. Their presence, and not the so-called “tribal inheritance,” is the true explanation for the transmission of innumerable customs, traditions, and learned aptitudes of society.

The structure of a crowd of one hundred people is exactly the same as that of one hundred thousand; and its dynamics are the same, whether it be a crowd of Chinese, Russians, or Americans, and whether it be a crowd of delegates to the Republican convention or a lynching mob. The same laws apply to all crowds or masses of people, and most of these laws deal with the leadership factor. The essential difference, for instance, between a mob and an army does not lie in the structure, but in the difference between trained and spontaneous leadership. The army has discipline; that is, the leaders have been trained how to command, and the masses, how to obey. Thus, discipline merely intensifies the leadership principle in the structure of the mass mind.

The Mass

In a crowd, the mass never acts of its own volition, never takes any initiative, never attacks or runs. I am not attempting a paradox when I say that for all practical purposes of initiative or action, the mass does not exist!

The mass, however, does have one basic function, other than serving as “roughage”: it furnishes the raw material from which the leaders are produced.

The number and quality of the leaders, however, depends upon the mood, the climate of the mass. For want of a better word, I use the word “climate” to indicate the combination of physical, economic, and psychological conditions which influence the mass. It is this mass-climate which determines whether the mass accelerates or retards the formation and the acceptance of leaders. If the mass-climate is favorable to a movement, then the mass easily produces new leaders and the movement is accelerated. But if the climate is unfavorable, then the mass forms but few leaders, or forms leaders who are in opposition to the movement; as a result, the movement is either retarded or stopped…..

These two basic principles of leadership and mass apply not only to the psychology of crowds, but also to the structure of societies, as well as to the dynamics of social movements – be they wars, migrations, or an advertising campaign to launch a new kind of soap. In the preceding pages I have tried to explain a little of the theoretical background of the structure of the mass mind. These theories are of great practical value when applied to the technique of advertising, publicity, showmanship, and general mass appeal…..

…..There is another fallacy, caused by ignorance of the structure of the mass mind, which is costing the motion-picture industry alone many millions of dollars and which explains some of the monstrosities which they produce. It is the belief that the average intelligence of the masses is that of a twelve-year-old. Taken individually this may be true. But taken as a level at which to produce movies, it is a serious mistake, for every individual who sees a movie is part of a crowd. And the intelligence level of every crowd is that of its group leaders. If the intelligence level of the group leaders equals that of a college graduate, then the intelligence of the crowd, for all practical purposes, equals the college graduate; if, on the other hand, the intelligence level of the crowd’s group leaders is that of a twelve-year-old (which is relatively rare), then even a crowd of senators would be on the same level (and sometimes is). The important fact about any crowd is that the level of the group leaders’ intelligence is usually several notches higher that the average of the individuals which comprise the crowd. Here I am sharply at variance with Le Bon and modern students of the crowd, who believe that a crowd is per se stupid, cruel, and cowardly, and is of lower mentality than the individuals comprising it.

The group and higher leaders are the censors and sentinels of the masses. It is at them advertising and motion pictures should be aimed…..

Intellectually, it is quite possible to fool most of the people most of the time, and they are being so fooled continuously through various political doctrines and war propaganda, for instance; emotionally, however, it is much more difficult to fool the crowds. For a crowd, like a woman, follows intellectual arguments only superficially; all its attention is concentrated on feeling whether or not the speaker is sincere…..

Dictatorship and Democracy

….. A democracy – even at its worst, with the waste, stupid greed, and sloppiness we see in our country today – offers the best chances for initiative and fruitful struggle among rival groups of leaders in every walk of life. Its very instability and apparent disorganization insure the indispensable freedom for the maximum application of initiative and the correction of errors. And whatever a democracy may lose temporarily through less efficiency, it more than regains through greater initiative and freedom. The best safeguard of democracy is to be found in the education of both the masses and the leaders, so as to favor the maximum development of superior and freely competing leaders in all walks of life…..

There is also the principle of velocity in social movements; it results from the physical factor of tremendously increased facilities for communication and transportation. The masses are subject to thousands of influences from all sides, through radio, motion pictures, newspapers, books, automobiles; the mass-climate can be changed in the course of months or years, instead of generations. Group leaders are produced more quickly, and movements spread at terrific speed… The greater the velocity of social movements, the greater the instability and strife in the world. It follows that we are entering upon an era of great wars and revolutions, when classes and nations will be reshuffled, and the earth divided anew. Peace will come, perhaps several generations later, with the progress of science and the development of a system whereby the new leaders of the world will be technicians, specialists, and philosophers.

[From The Strange Lives of One Man, by Ely Culbertson, 1940.]