Erich Fromm, Escape from Freedom (Progress in the Mind & Heart)

…It becomes ever increasingly clear to many students of man and of the contemporary scene that the crucial difficulty with which we are confronted lies in the fact that the development of man’s intellectual capacities has far outstripped the development of his emotions. Man’s brain lives in the 20th century; the heart of most men lives still in the Stone Age. The majority of men have not acquired the maturity to be independent, to be rational, to be objective. They need myths and idols to endure the fact that man is all by himself, that there is no authority which gives meaning to life except man himself. Man represses the irrational passions of destructiveness, hate, envy, revenge; he worships power, money, the sovereign state, the nation; while he pays lip service to the teachings of the great spiritual leaders of the human race, those of Buddha, the prophets, Socrates, Jesus, Mohammed – he has transformed these teachings into a jungle of superstition and idol-worship. How can mankind save itself from destroying itself by this discrepancy between intellectual-technical over-maturity and emotional backwardness?

As far as I can see there is only one answer: the increasing awareness of the most essential facts of our social existence, an awareness sufficient to prevent us from committing irreparable follies, and to raise to some small extent our capacity for objectivity and reason. We can not hope to overcome most follies of the heart and their detrimental influence on our imagination and thought… maybe it will take a thousand years until man has lifted himself from a pre-human history of hundreds of thousands of years. At this crucial moment, however, a modicum of increased insight – objectivity – can make the difference between life and death for the human race. For this reason the development of a scientific and dynamic social psychology is of vital importance. Progress in social psychology is necessary to counteract the dangers which arise from the progress in physic and medicine.


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