South Africa’s Philosopher Giants
All WTM Centres are immeasurably precious, but the South African Centres hold a unique place in the WTM’s heart, because South Africa is the home of four extraordinarily honest, profound, denial-free, prophetic thinkers who have contributed mightily to humanity’s journey to find the human-race-liberating understanding of the human condition that is presented Jeremy Griffith’s masterpiece, FREEDOM: The End Of The Human Condition.
SIR LAURENS VAN DER POST (1906–1996), who was knighted in 1981 ‘for public service’, was a South African author, farmer, war hero, political adviser to British heads of government, close friend of Prince Charles, godfather of Prince William, educator, journalist, humanitarian, explorer and, above all, a pre-eminent philosopher — philosophy being the all-important study of ‘the truths underlying all reality’.
The depth of Sir Laurens’ influence on Jeremy Griffith’s life and thinking is revealed by the fact that he is the author most quoted throughout his work. In Freedom Essay 51, which is all about Sir Laurens’ great vision, Jeremy wrote, “I cannot overstate the inspiring, soul-reinforcing influence Sir Laurens van der Post has had on my life. His books about humanity’s lost state of innocence helped me to hold onto the truth of the existence of another true world and ultimately solve the human condition. Indeed, the reason I chose to launch my book FREEDOM at the Royal Geographical Society (RGS) in London in 2016 was because that is where Sir Laurens, in his 1990 RGS Television Lecture of the Year, anticipated FREEDOM and its ultimate exploration, which is into the human condition.”
It is important to mention that, as is explained in Freedom Essay 51, since his death Sir Laurens has been disgracefully vilified for daring to truthfully acknowledge that the human race once lived in a cooperative and loving, ‘Garden of Eden’ state of innocence (see recognitions of this state in chapters 2:5 to 2:7 of FREEDOM), which became increasingly corrupted after we humans became conscious and heroically set out in search of knowledge some 2 million years ago (see the explanation of this heroic journey in chapter 3 of FREEDOM). Sir Laurens was also persecuted for daring to acknowledge the truth that there are differences in the degree various races of humans have been exposed to, and become adapted to, the corrupting battle of the human condition (see the full explanation of the inevitable differences in alienation between races in chapter 8:16E of FREEDOM) — such as writing that “There was indeed a cruelly denied and neglected first child of life, a Bushman in each of us … mere contact with twentieth-century life seemed lethal to the Bushman. He was essentially so innocent and natural a person that he had only to come near us for a sort of radioactive fall-out from our unnatural world to produce a fatal leukaemia in his spirit” (The Heart of the Hunter).
Thank goodness we now have in FREEDOM the reconciling understanding of our corrupted human condition that makes it unnecessary to persecute anyone who dares to talk about the all-important truth of the differences in alienation between races that is needed to enable all the different races of humans to finally get along peacefully and cooperatively together. No wonder Franklin Mukakanga, a Bantu in the line of succession to the chiefdom of his famed Ila tribe in Zambia, was so excited about setting up the Zambian WTM Centre. Understanding is certainly what the world needs!
So, what an incredibly brave pioneer Sir Laurens van der Post was — a true philosopher giant.
JAN SMUTS (1870–1950) was Prime Minister of South Africa from 1919 until 1924 and from 1939 until 1948, a military leader, barrister and very great philosopher. One of his tutors at the University of Cambridge, Professor Maitland, a leading figure among English legal historians, described Smuts as the most brilliant student he had ever met. Brilliant he certainly was because in his 1926 book Holism and Evolution, Smuts bravely pioneered recognition of the fundamental truth of what he labelled ‘Holism’, which he defined as “[the] fundamental factor operative towards the creation of wholes in the universe”.
As is explained in chapter 4 of FREEDOM, this truth of the integration of matter to form ever larger and more stable wholes is the most fundamental and important of all truths about the nature of existence. However, while it is the most fundamental and therefore important of all truths, it has also been the most confronting of all truths for us humans. This is because for a larger whole to form the parts obviously must consider the welfare of the whole above their own welfare; put simply, selfishness is divisive and dis-integrative, while selflessness is integrative — but this truth of the integrative meaning of existence has unbearably confronted us humans with the issue of our divisive, seemingly non-integrative, competitive, aggressive and selfish human condition. It is no wonder, therefore, that, as explained in chapter 4 of FREEDOM, while we couldn’t explain our divisive human condition, human-condition-avoiding mechanistic science has denied this truth of Integrative Meaning.
This reveals just how extraordinarily courageous, honest and prophetic a thinker Jan Smuts was — another true philosopher giant.
EUGENE MARAIS (1871–1936) was a South African lawyer, naturalist, poet and writer.
Marais’s great vision was to find clues about our species’ development through studying our primate relatives; indeed, he was the first person to study primates in their natural habitat. And, as a result of his great foresight, while he wasn’t able to explain the struggle between our instinct and intellect that we are now able to know created the human condition (see that explanation in chapter 1 of FREEDOM), his observations of primates, coupled with his exceptionally honest, profound and prophetic thinking, enabled him to recognise the clash between these two factions within us is fundamental to understanding human behaviour — writing that “The highest primate, man, is born an instinctive animal. All its behavior for a long period after its birth is dominated by the instinctive mentality…it has no memory, no conception of cause and effect, no consciousness…As the…individual memory slowly emerges, the instinctive soul becomes just as slowly submerged…For a time it is almost as though there were a struggle between the two” (The Soul of the Ape).
So, as described in paragraph 187 of FREEDOM, Marais’s extraordinarily truthful mind enabled him to recognise that our human condition is an ‘instinct vs intellect’, psychologically embattled state — a truly brilliant accomplishment!
OLIVE SCHREINER (1855–1920) was a South African author, anti-war campaigner and another extraordinarily penetrating, prophetic thinker. Jeremy Griffith describes her as “one of the three most denial-free, unevasive, honest female thinkers I have encountered, the other two being author Simone Weil and anthropologist Dian Fossey” (from the section about Schreiner on page 223 of Jeremy’s bestselling 2003 book A Species In Denial).
The integrity of Schreiner’s thinking is clearly apparent in the following three quotes from her writing. Firstly, two quotes from her deservedly famous 1883 book, The Story of an African Farm. In this quote Schreiner admits how critically important yet extremely compromised women’s role of nurturing has been since the embattled state of the human condition emerged (see paragraph 974 of FREEDOM): “They say women have one great and noble work left them, and they do it ill … We bear the world, and we make it. The souls of little children are marvellously delicate and tender things, and keep for ever the shadow that first falls on them, and that is the mother’s or at best a woman’s. There was never a great man who had not a great mother — it is hardly an exaggeration. The first six years of our life make us; all that is added later is veneer … The mightiest and noblest of human work is given to us, and we do it ill.”
In this second quote from The Story of an African Farm (which is referred to in paragraph 807 of FREEDOM), Schreiner talks extraordinarily honestly about how tragically and horrifically compromising having to be a sex object has been for women: “we are…born cursed from the time our mothers bring us into the world … It is not what is done to us, but what is made of us…that wrongs us … To you [men] it says — Work! and to us it says — Seem! … Look at this little chin of mine with the dimple in it. It is but a small part of my person; but though I had a knowledge of all things under the sun, and the wisdom to use it, and the deep loving heart of an angel, it would not stead me through life like this little chin. I can win money with it, I can win love; I can win power with it, I can win fame. What would knowledge help me? The less a woman has in her head the lighter she is for climbing. I once heard an old man say, that he never saw an intellect help a woman so much as a pretty ankle; and it was the truth … A little bitterness, a little longing when we are young, a little futile searching for work, a little passionate striving for room for the exercise of our powers,—and then we go with the drove. A woman must march with her regiment. In the end she must be trodden down or go with it; and if she is wise she goes.”
What denial-complying, human-condition-avoiding feminist would be comfortable with these admissions from Schreiner that “We bear the world, and we make it”, and “A woman must march with her regiment” and accept being a sex object! How incredibly courageous was Schreiner — and how precious is it now that the understanding of the human condition brings an end to the oppression and sexualisation of women, the reconciling explanation of which you can read about in chapter 8:11B of FREEDOM.
This third quote, from an essay by Schreiner titled Somewhere, Some Time, Some Place, is an absolutely extraordinarily honest acknowledgment of the most important event in human life — yet completely denied by human-condition-avoiding mechanistic science — of the psychological process of Resignation that adolescents go through. It also contains incredibly honest acknowledgment of how solving the human condition is the only way to end human suffering. (Resignation is explained in chapter 2:2 of FREEDOM — and the full quote and discussion that these two paragraphs below are drawn from can be read in the section about Schreiner in A Species In Denial.)
Acknowledging the fundamental question in human life of the reason for our horrifically corrupted human condition, Schreiner wrote about how when she was a young girl, “All the world seemed wrong to me”; “Why did everyone press on everyone and try to make them do what they wanted? Why did the strong always crush the weak? Why did we hate and kill and torture? Why was it all as it was? Why had the world ever been made? Why, oh why, had I ever been born?”. Schreiner said she could not accept that “The world was as it was!”, without “hope”, and said she even “began to think and question myself”, concluding “Is it not possible to put out a sponge and wipe up humanity from the earth? It is stain!”; and with regard to herself, “Within my own soul I have perceived elements militating against all I hungered for”, adding “you cannot even remake your own soul so that there shall be no tendency to evil in it”; which all led to “the darkest hour” of depression where “the whole Universe seemed to be weighing on me” and where “The band about my heart seemed to grow tighter and tighter”, asking “why, oh why, had I ever been born? Why did the Universe exist?”
Schreiner tried to resist Resignation, saying I “tried to look nakedly in the face those facts which make most against all hope”, adding “I have tried to wear no blinkers. I have not held a veil before my eyes”. Then, to hold back Resignation, Schreiner held onto “the consciousness which I carried back with me that morning” after she had been for a walk, where, in “a flash of almost blinding light”, she realised that “nothing in the Universe is quite alone”; we are “a part of the great Universe” that “strives for” “something” that we can “hope” for which is “that glory” of a cooperative and loving, human-condition-reconciled destiny for humankind where, “Somewhere, some time, some place”, through “a growing knowledge of human nature”, we will produce “a world” in which “creatures [will] no more [be] hated and crushed, in which the strong help the weak, and men understand each other, and forgive each other, and do not try to crush others, but to help” — a reconciling understanding, which has now arrived in Jeremy Griffith’s book FREEDOM, that leads to a lifting of the human condition and, as Schreiner predicted, “a joy without limit”!
HOW’S THAT FOR A CONTRIBUTION FROM GREAT SOUTH AFRICAN THINKERS — PHILOSOPHER GIANTS INDEED!
So please get involved with our WTM Cape Town Centre and help us bring the precious reconciling understanding of the human condition that we have in FREEDOM to the world — and by so doing fulfil Schreiner’s great hope that “somewhere, some time, some place” humans would “forgive” and “understand each other at last!