The Story of Utopias, by Lewis Mumford, , at sacred-texts.com
How the new Humanism of the Renascence brings us within sight of Christianopolis; and how we have for the first time a glimpse of a modern utopia.
p. 80 p. 81
A HUNDRED years pass, and the man who next conducts us into Utopia is a Humanist scholar. After the manner of his time, he answers to the latinized name, Johann Valentin Andreæ. He is a traveller, a social reformer, and above all things a preacher; and so the vision he imparts to us of Christianopolis seems occasionally to flicker into blackness whilst he moralizes for us and tells us to the point of tedium what his views are concerning the life of man, and in particular the conceptions of Christianity which his countrymen, the Germans, are debating about. Sometimes, when we are on the point of coming to grips with his utopia, he will annoy us by going off on a long tirade about the wickedness of the world and the necessity for fastening one's gaze upon the life hereafterfor Protestantism seems just as other-worldly as Catholicism. It is the Humanist Andreæ rather than the Lutheran Andreæ who paints the picture of a Christian city. While Andreæ sticks to Christianopolis his insight is deep, his views are sound, and his proposals are rational; and more than once he will amaze us by putting forward ideas which seem to leap three hundred years ahead of his time and environment.
It is impossible to get rid of the personal flavor of Andreæ: his fine intelligence and his candor make our contacts with Christianopolis quite different from the dreary guidebook sketches which some of the later
utopians will inflict upon us. The two other utopians who wrote in the same half century as AndreæFrancis Bacon and Tommaso Campanellaare quite second-rate in comparison; Bacon with his positively nauseating foppishness about details in dress and his superstitious regard for forms and ceremonials, and Campanella, the lonely monk whose City of the Sun seems a marriage of Plato's Republic and the Court of Montezuma. When Bacon talks about science, he talks like a court costumer who is in the habit of describing the stage properties for a masque; and it is hard to tell whether he is more interested in the experiments performed by the scientists. of the New Atlantis or the sort of clothes they wear while engaged in them. There is nothing of the snob or the dilettante about Andreæ: His eye fastens itself upon essentials, and he never leaves them except whenfor he is necessarily a man of his agehe turns his gaze piously to heaven.
This teeming, struggling European world that Andreæ turns his back upon he knows quite well; for he has lived in Herrenburg, Koenigsbrunn, Tuebingen, Strassburg, Heidelberg, Frankfurt, Geneva, Vaihingen, and Calw; and he is in correspondence with learned men abroad, in particular with Samuel Hartlib, who lives in England, and with John Amos Comenius. Like the Chancellor in Christianopolis, he longs for an "abode situated below the sky, but at the same time above the dregs of this known world." Quite simply, he finds himself wrecked on the shore of an island dominated by the city of Christianopolis. After being examined as to his ideas of life and morals, his person, and his culture, he is admitted to the community.
This island is a whole world in miniature. As in the Republic, the unit once more is the valley section, for the "island is rich in grain and pasture fields, watered with rivers and brooks, adorned with woods and vineyards, full of animals."
In outward appearance, Christianopolis does not differ very much from the pictures of the cities one finds in seventeenth century travel books, except for a unity and orderliness that these cities sometimes lack. "Its shape is a square whose side is 700 feet, well fortified with four towers and a wall. . . . It looks therefore towards the four quarters of the earth. Of buildings there are two rows, or if you count the seat of the government and the storehouses, four; there is only one public street, and only one marketplace, but this one is of a very high order." In the middle of the city there is a circular temple, a hundred feet in diameter; all the buildings are three stories; and public balconies lead to them. Provision against fire is made by building the houses of burnt stone and separating them by fireproof walls. In general, "things look much the same all around, not extravagant nor yet unclean; fresh air and ventilation are provided throughout. About four hundred citizens live here in religious faith and peace of the highest order." The whole city is divided into three parts, one to supply food, one for drill and exercise, and one for looks. The remainder of the island serves the purposes of agriculture, and for workshops.
When we look back upon the Republic, with its external organization so plainly modeled upon military
[paragraph continues] Sparta, we see the camp and the soldier giving the pattern to the life of the whole community. In Utopia, the fundamental unit was the farmstead and the family; and family discipline, which arises naturally enough in rural conditions, was transferred to the city. In Christianopolis, the workshop and the worker set the lines upon which the community is developed; and whatever else this society may be, it is a "republic of workers, living in equality, desiring peace, and renouncing riches." If Utopia exhibits the communism of the family, Christianopolis presents the communism of the guild.
Industrially speaking, there are three sections in Christianopolis. One of them is devoted to agriculture and animal husbandry. Each of these departments has appropriate buildings, and directly opposite them is a rather large tower which connects them with the city buildings; under the tower a broad vaulted entrance leads into the city, and a smaller one to the individual houses. The dome of this tower roofs what we should call a guildhall, and here the citizens of the quarter come together as often as required to "act on sacred as well as civil matters." It is plain that these workers are not sheep led by wise shepherds, as in the Republic, but the members of autonomous, self-regulating groups.
The next quarter contains the mills, bake-shops, meat-shops, and factories for making whatever is done with machinery apart from fire. As Christianopolis welcomes originality in invention, there are a variety of enterprises within this domain; among them, paper manufacturing plants, saw mills, and establishments for grinding and polishing arms and tools. There are common kitchens and wash houses, too; for, as we shall
see presently, life in this ideal city corresponds to what we experience today in New York, London, and many another modern industrial city.
The third quarter is given over to the metallurgical industries, as well as to those like the glass, brick, and earthenware industries which require constant fire. It is necessary to point out that in planning the industrial quarters of Christianopolis, these seventeenth century Utopians have anticipated the best practice that has been worked out today, after a century of disorderly building. The separation of the city into zones, the distinction between "heavy" industries and "light" industries, the grouping of similar industrial establishments, the provision of an agricultural zone adjacent to the cityin all this our garden cities are but belated reproductions of Christianopolis.
Moreover, in Christianopolis, there is a conscious application of science to industrial processes; one might almost say that these artisans believed in efficiency engineering; for "here in truth you see a testing of nature herself. The men are not driven to a work with which they are unfamiliar, like pack-animals to their task, but they have been trained before in an accurate knowledge of scientific matters," on the theory that "unless you analyze matter by experiment, unless you improve the deficiencies of knowledge by more capable instruments, you are worthless." The dependence of industrial improvement upon deliberate scientific research may be a new discovery for the practical man, but it is an old story in Utopia.
What is the character of this artisan democracy?
[paragraph continues] The answer to this is summed up in one of those sayings that Andreæ, in the midst of his energetic exposition, drops by the way.
"To he wise and to work are not incompatible, if there is moderation."
So it follows that "their artisans are almost entirely educated men. For that which other people think is the proper characteristic of a few (and yet if you consider the stuffing of inexperience by learning, the characteristic of too many already) this, the inhabitants argue, should be attained by all individuals. They say that neither the substance of letters is such, nor yet the difficulty of work, that one man, if given enough time, cannot master both."
"Their work, or as they prefer to hear it called, 'the employment of their hands,' is conducted in a certain prescribed way, and all things are brought into a public booth. From here every workman receives out of the stock on hand whatever is necessary for the work of the coming week. For the whole city is, as it were, one single workshop, but of all different sorts and crafts. The ones in charge of these duties are stationed in the small towers at the corners of the wall; they know ahead of time what is to be made, in what quantity, and of what form, and they inform the mechanics of these items. If the supply of material in the work booth is sufficient, the workmen are permitted to indulge and give free play to their inventive genius. No one has any money, nor is there any use for any private money; yet the republic has its own treasury. And in this respect the inhabitants are especially blessed, because no one can be superior to the other in the amount of riches owned, since the advantage is rather one of power
and genius, and the highest respect that of morals and piety. They have very few working hours, yet no less is accomplished than in other places, as it is considered disgraceful by all that one should take more rest and leisure time than is allowed."
In addition to the special trades, there are "public duties to which all citizens have obligation, such as watching, guarding, harvesting of grain and wine, working roads, erecting buildings, draining ground; also certain duties of assisting in the factories which are imposed upon all in turn according to age and sex, but not very often nor for a long time. For even though certain experienced men are put in charge of all the duties, yet when men are asked for, no one refuses the state his services and strength. For what we are in our homes, they are in their city, which they not undeservedly think a home. And for this reason it is no disgrace to perform any public function.... Hence all work, even that which is considered rather irksome, is accomplished in good time, and without much difficulty, since the promptness of the great number of workmen permits them easily to collect or distribute the great mass of things."
In this Christianopolis, as Mr. Bertrand Russell would put it, the creative rather than the possessive impulses are uppermost. Work is the main condition of existence, and this good community faces it. It is a pretty contrast to the attitude of the leisured classes who, as Andreæ says, with an entirely mistaken sense of delicacy shrink from touching earth, water, stones, coal, and things of that sort, but think it grand to have in their possession to delight them "horses, dogs, harlots and other similar creatures."
The place of commerce in this scheme of life is simple. It does not exist for the sake of individual gain. Hence no one engages in commerce on his own hook, for such matters are put in the hands of "those selected to attend to them," and the aim of commerce is not to gain money but to increase the variety of things at the disposal of the local community; so thatand again Andreæ steps in for emphasis"we may see the peculiar production of each land, and so communicate with each other that we may seem to have the advantages of the universe in one place, as it were."
The constitution of the family in Christianopolis follows pretty definitely upon the lines dictated by urban occupations; for Andreæ is a city man, and since he does not despise the advantages city life can give, he does not shrink from their consequences. One of these consequences is, surely, the restriction of domesticity, or rather, the projection in the city at large of the functions that in a farmstead would be carried on within the bosom of the family.
When a lad is twenty-four and a lass is eighteen, they are permitted to marry, with the benefit of Christian rites and services, and a decorous avoidance of drunkenness and gluttony after the ceremony. Marriage is a simple matter. There are no dowries to consider, no professional anxieties to face, no housing shortage to keep one from finding a home, and above all, perhaps, no landlord to propitiate with money, since all houses are owned by the city and are granted and assigned to
individuals for their use. Virtue and beauty are the only qualities that govern a marriage in Christianopolis. Furniture is provided with the house out of the public store. If in Utopia the families are grouped together in a patriarchal household, such as More himself maintained at Chelsea, in Christianopolis they consist of isolated couples, four, at most six people in all, a woman, a man, and such children as are not yet of school age.
Let us visit a young couple in Christianopolis. We reach the house by way of a street, twenty feet broad, faced by houses with a wide frontage on the street, some forty feet in length, and of from fifteen to twenty-five feet in depth. In our crowded towns, today, where people pay for land by the front foot, the frontage is narrow and the houses are deep; and as a result there is a dreadful insufficiency of light and air; but in Christianopolis, as in some of the older European towns, the houses are built to get a maximum of air and sunlight. If it is raining when we make our visit, a covered walk, five feet wide, supported by columns twelve feet high, will shelter us from the rain.
Our friends live, we shall say, in one of the average apartments; so they have three rooms, a bathroom, a sleeping apartment, and a kitchen. "The middle part within the tower has a little open space with a wide window, where wood and the heavier things are raised aloft by pulleys"in short, a dumbwaiter. Looking out from the window in the rear, we face a well-kept garden; and if our host is inclined to give us wine, he may let us take our pick from among the cobwebs of a small private cellar in the basement, where such things are kept. If it is a cold day, the furnace is going; or
if we happen to make our visit in the summer time, the awnings are drawn.
Our host makes apologies, perhaps, for a litter of wood and shavings that occupies a corner of the kitchen, for he has just been putting up a few shelves in his spare time, and has borrowed a kit of tools from the public supply house. (Since he is not a carpenter, he has no need for these tools the rest of the year; and other people can have their turn at them.) Coming from Utopia, one of the things that strikes us is the absence of domestic attendance; and when we ask our hostess about it, she tells us that she will not have anyone to wait upon her until she is confined.
"But isn't there a lot of work for you to do all by yourself?" we shall ask.
"Not for anybody with a college training," she will answer. "You see that our furnishings are quite simple; and since there are no gimcracks to be dusted, no polished tables to be oiled, no carpets to be swept, and nothing in our apartment that is just for show to prove that we can afford to live better than our neighbors, the work is scarcely more than enough to keep one in good health and temper. Of course, cooking meals is always something of a nuisance; and washing up is worse. But my husband and I share the work together, in everything but sewing and washing clothes, and you would be surprised how quickly everything gets done. Work is usually galling when somebody else is taking his ease while one is doing it; but where husband and wife share alike, as in Christianopolis, there is really nothing to it. If you'll stay to dinner, you'll find out how easily it goes. Since you haven't brought your
rations, my husband will get some cooked meats in the public kitchen, and that will do for all of us."
"No one need be surprised at the rather cramped quarters," Andrea hastens to interject. "People who house vanity . . . can never live spaciously enough. They burden others and are burdened themselves, and no one measures their necessities, nay even their comforts, easily otherwise than by an unbearable and unmovable mass. Oh, only those persons are rich who have all of which they have real need, who admit nothing else, merely because it is possible to have it in abundance."
Carried to its extreme, you will find this philosophy put once for all in Thoreau's Walden. We have got our bearings in Utopia, I believe, when we have determined what a life abundance consists of, and what will suffice for it.
Suppose that our friends have children. During the early years of their life they are in the care of their mother. When they have completed their sixth year, the children are given over to the care of the community, and both sexes continue in school through the stages of childhood, youth, and early maturity. "No parent gives closer or more careful attention to his children than is given here, for the most upright preceptors, men as well as women, are placed over them. Moreover," the parents "can visit their children, even unseen by them, as often as they have leisure. As this is an institution for the public good, it is managed agreeably as a common charge for all the citizens. They see to it that the food is appetizing and wholesome,
that the couches and beds are clean and comfortable, and that the clothes arid attire of the whole body are clean.... If diseases of the skin or body are contracted, the individuals are cared for in good time; and to avoid the spreading of infection, they are quarantined."
There is scarcely need to examine the program of study except in its broad outlines. It is enough to observe that "the young men have their study period in the morning, the girls in the afternoon, and matrons as well as learned men are their instructors. . . . The rest of their time is devoted to manual training and domestic art and science, as each one's occupation is assigned to his natural inclination. When they have vacant time they are permitted to engage in honorable physical exercises either in the open spaces of the town or in the field."
Two points, however, deserve our attention. The first is that the school is run as a miniature republic. The second is the calibre of the instructors. "The instructors," says our zealous humanist, "are not men from the dregs of human society nor such as are useless for other occupations, but the choice of all the citizens, persons whose standing in the Republic is known and who very often have access to the highest positions of the state."
The last phrase again transports me back to the modern world. I see this fine humanist ideal budding in another place. This time it is a summer school in the hills of New Hampshire, where the children govern themselves in the classroom, where there is no punishment except temporary exclusion from the group, and where, above all, each instructor is chosen because of
his creative practice in the subject which he teaches: a highly gifted composer teaches music, an athlete teaches gymnastics, a poet teaches literature. Then I think of all the casual and wasted talents of people who for little more than the asking would share their love of the arts and sciences with little children, if only those who are in charge of little children were not too blind or too fearful to make use of them. Faraday's classic lectures on the physics of the candle, and Ruskin's addresses to a young ladies' boarding school on the function of literaturesuch things might be multiplied. It is not the creation of this utopian method that is difficult; for the thing has already been done: what we need is its extension. Then children might come to school as gaily as they do in Peterborough, N. H., on the lush summer mornings; and people would not turn their backs on learning any more than they would turn their backs on life. If anyone thinks that Johann Andreæ's prescription for a teaching staff is an impossible one, let him visit the Peterborough School, and examine its records and achievements.
It remains to record the further stages of learning. The halls of the central citadel are divided into twelve departments, and except for the armory, the archives, the printing establishment, and the treasury, these halls are devoted entirely to the arts and sciences.
There is, to begin with, a laboratory of physical science. "Here the properties of metals, minerals, and vegetables, and even the life of animals, are examined, purified, increased, and united for the use of the human race and in the interests of health.. . . Here men learn to regulate fire, make use of air, value the water, and test the earth."
Next to this laboratory is a Drug Supply House, where a pharmacy is scientifically developed, for the curing of physical disease, and adjoining this is a school of medicine, or as Andreæ reports, "a place given over to anatomy. . . . The value of ascertaining the location of the organs and of assisting the struggles of nature no one would deny, unless he be as ignorant of himself as are the barbarians. . . . The inhabitants of Christianopolis teach their youth the operations of life and the various organs, from the parts of the physical body."
We come now then to a Natural Science laboratory which is in effect a Museum of Natural History, an institution founded in Utopia a century and a half before a partial and inadequate substitutea mere extension of the curio chamber of a Country Housewas presented to an admiring world as the British Museum. "This," as Andreæ says, "cannot be too elegantly described," and I heartily agree with him; for he paints the picture of a museum which the American Museum at New York or South Kensington in London has only begun to realize within the last decade or two of their existence.
"Natural history is here seen painted on the walls in detail, and with greatest skill. The phenomena of the sky, views of the earth in different regions, the different races of men, representations of animals, the forms of growing things, classes of stones and gems, are not only on hand and named, but they even teach and make known their nature and qualities. . . . Truly is not recognition of things of the earth much easier of competent demonstration if illustrative materials are at hand and if there is some guide to the memory? For
instruction enters altogether more easily through the eyes than through the ears, and much more pleasantly in the presence of refinement than among the base. They are deceived who think it is impossible to teach except in dark caves and with a gloomy brow. A liberal minded man is never so keen as when he has his instructors on confidential terms."
Going farther, we find a mathematics laboratory and a department of mathematical instruments. The first is "remarkable for its diagrams of the heavens, as the hall of physics for its diagrams of the earth. . . . A chart of the star-studded heavens and a reproduction of the whole shining host above were shown," . . . and also "different illustrations representing tools and machines, small models, figures of geometry; instruments of the mechanical arts, drawn, named, and explained." I cannot help expressing my admiration here for the concrete imagination of this remarkable scholar: he deliberately anticipated, not in the vague, allegorical form that Bacon does, but as lucidly as an architect or a museum curator, the sort of institute which South Kensington, with its Departments of Physical and Natural Science, or perhaps the Smithsonian in America, has just begun to resemble. If our museums had begun with the ideal Andreæ had in mind, instead of with the miscellaneous rubbish which was the nucleus of their collectionsand still remains the nucleus in many of the less advanced institutionsthe presentation of the sciences would be a more adequate thing than it is.
Does Andreæ leave the fine arts out of his picture? By no means. "Opposite the pharmacy is a very roomy shop for pictorial art, an art in which the city takes the greatest delight. For the city, besides being decorated
all over with pictures representing the various phases of the earth, makes use of them especially in the instruction of youth and for rendering learning more easy. . . . Besides, pictures and statues of famous men are to be seen everywhere, an incentive of no mean value to the young for striving to imitate their virtue. . . . At the same time also, the beauty of forms is so pleasing to them that they embrace with a whole heart the inner beauty of virtue itself."
At the summit of art and science we naturally find in Christianopolis the temple of religion. Alas! the hand of Calvin has been busy in Christianopolisrecollect that Andreæ once lived in Geneva and admired its ordinancesand attendance at prayers is compulsory. In order to get an idea of this great circular temple, three hundred sixteen feet in circumference and seventy feet high, we must think of a colossal moving picture theater in a modern metropolis. The comparison is not essentially sacrilegious; and I believe that those who will take the trouble to look below the surface will find without difficulty the common denominator between the profane and the ecclesiastical institution. (Attendance at motion pictures, I must quickly add for the benefit of the future historian, has not yet been made compulsory in the modern metropolis.)
One-half of the temple is where the public gatherings take place; and the other is reserved for the distribution of the sacraments and for music. "At the same time, the sacred comedies, by which they set so much store, and are entertained every three months, are shown in the temple."
We have discussed folk, work, and place in Christianopolis; and we have dealt in an admittedly sketchy fashion with culture and art. We must now turn attention to the polity; and here we must note that Andreæ's description shifts for once to an allegorical plane, and departs not a little from the realism of his treatment of science and the arts.
At the bottom of the polity there are glimpses of a local industrial association, meeting in the common halls that are provided in the towers of each of the industrial quarters; and we gather that to represent the city at large twenty-four councilmen are chosen, while as the executive department there is a triumvirate consisting of a Minister, a Judge, and a Director of Learning, each of whom is married, for metaphorical point, to Conscience, Understanding, and Truth, respectively. "Each one of the leaders does his own duty, yet not without the knowledge of others; all consult together in matters that concern the safety of the state."
In the censorship of books, Christianopolis reminds us of the Republic; in the exclusion of lawyers it calls up nearly every other utopia; and in its attitude towards crime it has a temperance and leniency that is all its own, for "the judges of this Christian city observe this custom especially, that they punish most severely those misdeeds which are directed straight against God, less severely those which injure men, and lightest of all those which harm only property. As the Christian citizens are always chary of spilling blood,
they do not willingly agree upon the death sentence as a form of punishment. . . . For anyone can destroy a man but only the best can reform."
How shall we sum up this government? Let Andreæ speak his own words; for he has reached the innermost shrine of Christianopolis and perceives the center of activity in the state.
"Here religion, justice, and, learning have their abode, and theirs is the control of the city. . . I often wonder what people mean who separate and disjoint their best powers, the joining of which might render them blessed as far as may be on earth. There are those who would be considered religious, who throw off all things human; there are some who are pleased to rule, though without any religion at all; learning makes a great noise, flattering now this one, now that, yet applauding itself most. What finally may the tongue do except provoke God, confuse men, and destroy itself? So there would seem to be a need of co-operation which only Christianity can giveChristianity which conciliates God with men and unites men together, so that they have pious thoughts, do good deeds, know the truth, and finally die happily to live eternally."
There are some who might object to this statement on the ground that it smacked too heartily of supernatural religion; but it remains just as valid if we translate it into terms whose theological reactions have been neutralized. To have a sense of values, to know the world in which they ore set, and to be able to distribute themthis is our modern version of Andreæ's conception of religion, learning, and justice. A little search might uncover another expression of the Humanist
ideal as complete and magnificent as this; but I doubt if it would find a better one. In essence, this blunt and forthright German scholar is standing shoulder to shoulder with Plato: his Christianopolis is as enduring as the best nature of men.