LEISURE IN CHRISTIAN THOUGHT AND
by David Purcell, The New Times
October 10, 1958.
You will look in vain in a dictionary for a definition of
Leisure. A dictionary will express its meaning vaguely as being "free time,"
which conveys a completely inadequate impression of what leisure really is. Now
it is hardly surprising that a dictionary cannot help us. Leisure is a spiritual
and mental attitude-an Idea-and we cannot encompass in a single term or sentence
the definition of an Idea. An examination of some aspects of this Idea, however,
will help us to understand the nature of leisure. The first thing to note is that
leisure has a positive value of its own. It is not merely the negation of work.
In Greek and Latin there were only negative words to express the idea of work.
In Latin, the word for leisure was "otium." The word for business was
"neg-otium"-"not leisure." Similarly also in the Greek. Most
of the work in the Greek and Roman civilizations was performed by slaves. A free
citizen would however have been involved in negotiations of one kind or another
and would have regarded negotiation or what we call commerce or business as the
negation of leisure and hence work.
is an attitude of contemplation, of an inward calm, of surrendering to Reality.
The English word "leisure" is derived from the Latin word licere meaning
"to be allowed." The Book of Ecclesiasticus gives us an insight into
the nature of leisure when it tells us "The wisdom of a learned man cometh
by his time of leisure, and he that is less in action, shall receive wisdom."
(Ch. 38, v. 25).
"Leisure is a receptive attitude of mind, a contemplative
attitude, and is ... the capacity for steeping oneself in the whole of creation."
(Leisure The Basis of Culture, Josef Pieper, p. 49.) Here again we note this idea
of receptiveness-of letting things happen Licere-to be allowed. It should not
be supposed that leisure means just idleness. The meaning of the Old English word
''idel" was probably "empty." (Concise Oxford Dictionary.) An idle
person then was one who was empty of reality.
''Idleness . . . means that
a man prefers to forego the rights . . . that belong to his nature ... he does
not wish to be what he really, fundamentally IS." "At the zenith of
the Middle Ages ... it was held that sloth and restlessness, "leisure-lessness,"
the incapacity to enjoy leisure, were all closely connected, sloth was held to
be the source of restlessness, and the ultimate cause of "work for work's
sake." (Pieper, op. cit., pp. 48, 49.)
has been held by many philosophers that what is hard work is good. This view was
held by one of Plato's companions, by Emmanuel Kant, by Calvin and by a lamentably
large numbers of modern (self-styled) Christians. The historical Christian view,
still held (at least nominally) by the majority of Christians, is diametrically
opposed to this viewpoint.
St. Thomas Aquinas held that the essence of virtue
consists in the good rather than the difficult and that virtue makes us perfect
by enabling us to follow our natural bent in the right way. And he wrote:
should be men who devote their lives to contemplation ... necessary not only for
the good of the individual who so devotes himself, but for the good of human society."
(Commentary On Proverbs.)
It is obvious therefore
that in classical and mediaeval Christian thought leisure did not derive its value
from the relief it brings from work, nor from the fact that it can be a restorative
after work or a strengthening agent for present or future work. If leisure is
considered as merely a break in one's work it "is still a part of the world
of work. The pause is made for the sake of work . . . and a man is not only refreshed
from work but for work." (Pieper, op. cit., p. 56).
we will more clearly understand the nature of leisure by examining the idea of
leisure in Christian thought and teaching. Though one may only rarely find the
word "Leisure" mentioned in Christian writing-the idea is inherent in
Christianity and indeed is "one of the foundations of Western culture."
(Pieper, op. cit., p. 25.) We can only comprehend this by understanding the Christian
teaching on man's origin, nature and destiny. The Christian holds that "God
created man to His own image and likeness." (Genesis 1, 26-27), and that
"This image of God in man, is not in the body, but in the soul, which is
a spiritual substance, endued with understanding and free will." (Notes on
the Revised Rheims, Douay Bible, 1750, Bishop Challoner). Now although Christians
held this for many centuries and the majority still holds it, there has been a
denial of the true nature of man, which, as I will show later, has profoundly
affected man's attitude to leisure.
things are ordered to one good, as to their ultimate end . . . and this is God."
(Summa Contra Gentiles III, Ch. 17, St. Thomas Aquinas). Nothing can satisfy man's
will completely except God alone, for God is his beginning and his end. Man is
imbued with what has been called a "divine discontent."
what St. Augustine of Hippo had in mind when he prayed "Our hearts, O Lord,
are restless, until they rest in Thee." Christian belief then is that God
is the ultimate object; the ultimate end of all man's desires, and the possession
of God by the soul is complete happiness. Since then this is so, all human activity
should be directed towards true happiness. Every effort of man, which endeavours
to deny God, or to ignore Him, or to leave out of account the destiny of man,
will suffer the fate of the ancient Tower of Babel. Men then attempted to build
their own path to happiness. Because their actions were not in accord with reality,
their efforts disintegrated. And the very name of the edifice, which they attempted
to erect, has become the symbol of confusion-of feverish activity directed to
a futile end, of activism, or work for work's sake.
Leisure in the New
When we read the New Testament we notice immediately similarities
between the civilization in which Christ lived, and our own civilization. We must
be similarly struck with the contrast to these attitudes to life in Christ's teaching.
Here there is no stressing the virtue of work for it's own sake; there is no praise
for material efficiency for its own sake. In fact we find the very opposite. In
the New Testament we read the message of peace and tranquility of mind, and we
find repeated warnings about the dangers of world-liness-of concentrating our
attention on material things. "No man can serve two masters. You cannot serve
God and mammon." (Matthew VI, 24). The Knox translation of the Scripture
puts it "you cannot serve God and money."
"Come unto Me all
you that labour and are burdened and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you
and you shall find rest unto your souls." (Matthew XI, 28.) I think that
the "rest" of which Christ spoke here, could not possibly have been
closer to the true nature of leisure. We find in the New Testament too a warning
to distinguish between shadow and substance, between what appears to be important
and what is in reality our destiny.
"Lay not up to yourselves treasures
on earth: where the rust and the moth consume and where thieves break through
and steal. But lay up to yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither the rust
nor moth doth consume and where thieves do not break through and steal. For where
thy treasure is, there is thy heart also." (Matthew VII, 19-21.)
is in the words of Christ Himself the first Christian pronouncement specifically
on the subject of what I term activism-that is, the practice of activity without
reference to the true purpose of Man-the modern concept of work. The scene was
at the village of Bethany and Our Lord was the guest of the two sisters Martha
and Mary. Mary sat at the Lord's feet and the Scripture tells us, she "heard
His word." But Martha, busy with the housework and serving, complained that
Mary had left her to do the work alone. And Christ rebuked her saying, "Martha,
Martha thou art careful and art troubled about many things. But one thing is necessary.
Mary hath chose the better part . . .". (Luke X, 38-42.)
The primacy of
the spirit, the supremacy of the spiritual over the material is exemplified in
the Old Testament in the words: "Not in bread alone doth man live, but in
every word that proceedeth from the mouth of God." (Deuteronomy VIII, 3.)
And in the New Testament: "For the Wisdom of the flesh is death, but
the wisdom of the spirit is life and peace." (Romans VIII, 6.)
Francis of Assisi
It is important not to misunderstand this attitude to
material things - to what in Christian parlance is called the "world."
The Christian speaks of this world as a "Vale of tears" and yet he knows
that all creation, even material creation bears witness to the existence of God
and a higher life.
If we try to divorce this world from its origin and if
we deny our own ultimate destiny, then this life becomes meaningless and empty
and well we may despair for then we are really idle persons.
one of the many paradoxes of Christianity. Of all men, this paradox of being
in and of the world and yet unworldly, of despising this world's goods for
their own sake and yet loving them as God's creation, is most clearly seen
in the life of St. Francis of Assisi.
A man so detached from material things
that he actively envied with a burning zeal the materially poor and the destitute,
and yet a man who so loved all created things that he bestowed upon them the title
of "Brother," "Brother Dog" and "Brother Sun," and
even his own body, with a paradoxical mixture of contempt and love, he affectionately
called "Brother Ass."
St. Francis of Assisi for another reason
He is a Saint who is revered by
Christians of all denominations and one who is frequently admired even by atheists
and agnostics, usually because there has come to be associated with his name a
kind of benevolent humanitarianism and because his poetic nature appeals to the
It is very strange, that such a man should be revered,
because in the sense that our civilization understands the term "work"
he was a waster. From youth onwards he didn't do a day's "work" for
the rest of his life!
Could there possibly be a greater antithesis to modern
thinking about work than the spirit of the Poverello of Assisi who typifies the
attitude of the Christian Saints?
appreciated profoundly the true meaning of leisure. He loved nature-more than
any other human being he considered the lilies of the field and the fowls of the
air, and because of this, more than any other man, he followed implicitly the
injunction: "Seek ye first the kingdom of God and His justice, and all things
shall be added to you." (Luke XII, 31.)
If a man first seeks the
Kingdom of God, and to the extent that he does so he will appreciate truly the
gifts of God. It is an interesting commentary on the 13th, 14th and 15th centuries
that St. Francis, because he first sought the Kingdom of God, inspired the art
and poetry of these ages. These were the centuries in which, however imperfect
in their individual lives they may have been, men had a clear idea of their nature
and their final destiny.
They knew the importance of developing one's personality,
which they termed personal sanctification, and so it was natural that one in whom
there was so great a development of sanctity should be revered as St. Francis
It was not a matter of indifference to the men of the 13th to the
15th century how their lives were spent. They understood craftsmanship because
they knew that God is glorified by beauty of form. The appearance of the Church
- the House of God - was a matter of importance, and in building the great cathedrals
they have left to us, they endeavoured to glorify God by building Him as fitting
an abode on earth as possible.
All this was directed towards their own sanctification
- towards the development of their own personalities through glorifying God. These
were the centuries of the artisan, the craftsman who was engaged in the creative,
organic process of true work. He was in contact with the finished product of his
labour and it was stamped with his personality.
He was "not the
servant but the master in the process of production." (The New Tower
of Babel, Dietrich von Hilde-brand, 1953.)
The artisan loved his work, and
he may have been attached to it for the joy he derived from it, quite apart from
its usefulness to him. The artisan has gone. He is replaced by the process worker,
who is engaged on what is called "repetition work," who is a cog in
the machine of the assembly line, who is no longer the master but the slave of
Relationship between Religion
It is, I hope, now evident that there is a definite relationship
between religion and leisure. Our modern materialistic "full employment"
social system however, requires for its service men that are spiritually bankrupt.
The spiritual void in the life of modern man is filled with "work"
and his total occupation with this activity in, one form or another, gives him
a false sense of fulfilment which mitigates the despair into which he inevitably
A man spiritually enlightened achieves fulfilment - achieves his instinct
of "belonging" to God and in God's creation in his religion.
spiritually bankrupt feels a spurious fulfilment in "work." And so "work"
has become the "religion" of our materialist age.
happened then to break down the idea of leisure, which we have considered, so
that, even though the idea survives, it is become clouded and is jostled into
the background by new ideas?
Original Sin and Leisure
this point it is necessary to explain the Christian doctrines of Original Sin
and Justification, for the Christian attitude to leisure is dependent upon the
truth about the nature of man, and his state before and after the Fall of Adam.
When the truth of these doctrines was denied, then the basis of the idea of
leisure was undermined. Briefly then, I summarise the teaching, which was denied
in varying degrees by Luther, Calvin, Jansen and others.
the Genesis story:
God created Adam as the
first man and Eve the first woman. From Adam and Eve the whole human race descends.
When God created man, He gave him, in addition to his nature, certain other endowments
to which man could lay no claim by virtue of his nature. Of these gifts the primary
one was sanctifying grace. God gave Adam other gifts - immortality (ie., freedom
from bodily death and from sickness and pain) and integrity.
By the gift of
integrity man was free from that inclination to evil, called concupiscence. These
gifts Adam lost through the Fall and through Adam they were lost by his descendents
- the whole human race. Justification is a Divine act, which conveys sanctifying
grace to the soul, which by sin, either original or actual, was spiritually dead.
As simply and as briefly as I can put it, those are the doctrines, which were
held generally by Christians until the time of Martin Luther. It is true
that early in the fifth century, a British monk, Pelagius, denied the doctrine
of Original Sin. His view and the views held by Luther on
the matter were poles
apart, and we need not concern ourselves in the context of Leisure with Pelagianism.
It held sway for only some 25 years, and its chief opponent was St. Augustine
Primarily it was the doctrine of Justification, which Martin
Luther denied. Luther's teaching is not pertinent to the subject of the Christian
view of leisure except in one aspect, and that is the influence of his
teaching on his own and subsequent generations, which opened up the way for
(I am not here dealing with what is held by modern Lutherans or Presbyterians,
on which I am not qualified to comment. Here, and in the paragraphs which follow,
I speak of what Calvin himself believed and taught.)
In the middle sixteenth
century John Calvin accepted the Lutheran view that human nature is irremediably
vitiated by original sin. But Calvin was a much clearer and more logical thinker
than Luther. He developed Luther's ideas and held that view of the absolute predestination
of mankind which though humourously expressed by Robert Burns in "Holy Willie's
Prayer" is by no means misrepresented:
"O Thou, that in the heavens
dost dwell, Wha as it pleases best Thysel',
Sends ane to Heaven and ten to
A' for Thy glory,
And not for onie guid or ill They've done afore
Calvinism spread from Geneva to France (where its adherents
were called Hugenots), to Scotland (where John Knox was its chief propounder to
Holland, to Poland, and to England through the Puritans. From England it crossed
the Atlantic to America.
In Geneva where Calvin
had complete control, doctrine was quickly translated into action. Elders were
appointed whose function was to watch over the lives of all individuals. They
were stationed in every quarter of the city so that nothing could escape their
There must be no leisure for its own sake - "those that
are prodigal of their time despise their own souls." (The Worth of the Soul,"
Matthew Henry.) Contemplation became for the Puritan, a form of self-indulgence.
Work was exalted into a virtue - "God hath commanded you in some way or other
to labour for your daily bread." (Baxter's Christian Directory, Vol. 1, p.
Calvin's followers accepted "the necessity of ... large scale commerce
and finance, and the other practical facts of business life." (Religion and
the Rise of Capitalism, p. 113, Prof. R. H. Tawney, 1926.) The word business is
more correctly written and pronounced busy-ness.
the year 1640, there was published a book (Augustinus) which was the fruit of
twenty years' study of the writings of St. Augustine. Its author, Cornelius Jansen,
a Flemish Catholic Bishop, had died two years before its publication.
book he refused to recognize that in the state in which man was created by God,
he was endowed with numerous gifts and graces that were the pure gifts of God,
in no way due to human nature. Since these gifts were, according to Jansen, an
integral part of man's natural
equipment, and since they were forfeited in
the Fall of Adam, it followed that by Original Sin, our nature was corrupted in
Man fell helplessly under the control of evil, so that, do what
he would, there was an irresistible inclination drawing him towards evil.
counteract this inclination, Jansen held, God gives grace as a force drawing man
in the opposite direction, consequently man is drawn, and drawn irresistibly towards
good or towards evil according to the relative strength of these two conflicting
inclinations. The Jansenist doctrine was taken up in France by many who had hitherto
rejected the teachings of Luther and Calvin, and led to a campaign of rigorism
in the Catholic Church in France which lasted for nearly a century, and which
was reminiscent of Pharisaism or Puritanism, which have much in common.
has been said that the Jansenists never learned to smile.
were the logical outcome of the philosophies from which they sprang. They have
reached their apotheosis in the period from the end of World War I to the present
day. Exactly how successful they have been in completely changing the social structure
of the world is, I think, self-evident. Why they were so successful and how the
policies have been helped to fruition is outside my scope and would require a
The Greek and Roman Attitude to Work
To the Greeks
and the Romans work was un-leisure. To the modern world leisure has become un-work.
We rest from work only to repair the wear and tear of past work - only to build
a reserve of energy to fit us for more efficient work.
The work of man has
become the same as the work of animals.
Both men and animals work to produce
The sheep works of its nature to produce wool and lambs.
is no intention on the part of the sheep to do this - it does so of its very nature,
operating by instinct. But in the work of man there is an element other than the
result produced-this element is intention or purpose, which involves the exercise
of reason and will and which includes self-perfection or self-development.
regarding the nature of personal beings have led to the idea that the importance
of a man consists primarily in the production of impersonal goods or in some aspect
of organization of that production, and in his accomplishments for the State,
for art, for science, for economics- even for sport. Achievement, as such, is
placed above personality. Within the range of goods produced, the preference is
given to those which are least stamped with the impress of individual personality.
These goods are considered to represent the "important" and "serious"
part of life such as the sphere of economics, politics, national "development"
and so on.Pure knowledge or art, or communities such
as family and marriage, are relegated to the background.
Work, as such, is immensely overrated. The terrible rhythm of work enslaves the
individual person and prevents him from fulfilling his true purpose. Pope Pius
XI pointed out (in Quadragesima Anno) that " ... it may be said with
all truth, that nowadays the conditions of social and economic life are such that
vast multitudes of men can only with great difficulty pay attention to that one
thing necessary-namely, their eternal salvation." This is a modern reminder
of the injunction of Christ to Martha "... one thing is necessary . . ..
Speaking as the shepherd about his flock he remarked in a most poignant passage:
"We can scarcely restrain our tears when we reflect upon the dangers which
Work for Work's Sake
The position to which
the function of work has been exalted, does not mean that all persons are engaged
in the work itself for particularly long stretches of time. In fact, it is probable
that the majority of people work for less time than they have done in past epochs.
The important thing is though, that the function of work has been elevated
into an end in itself. Individuals, trades' unions, employers' unions, political
partie; whole nations are pursuing work as an end in itself.
Employment' at All Costs
All clamour insistently that we must have "full
employment." Since work has become an end in itself, life is orientated towards
it. Studies of the aged are made with the primary aim of equipping them for useful
work. They must not be allowed even to grow old in graceful leisure. Hours of
work are shortened, and leave from work is increased, so that work may become
more efficient. Special universities are instituted for the specific purpose of
training people for work. Even the insane are conscripted for work. It has been
found that they excel at certain functions, which are soul-killing for a normal
person. There has been speculation about what this type of work will do to one
who is normal.
The alternative to work is amusement, and this is regarded
as important and necessary, but of course, somewhat frivolous in comparison with
the really serious business of work. Amusement plays an enormous role and is considered
an essential part of life. The racecourses, the football field, the television
screen, the radio, the picture theatre, the hotel, have become the alternatives
to work. We hear frequently the terms "escape films" and "escape
literature." Escape from the soul-destroying tedium of work into the dream
world of amusement. Idleness in its true sense. Beelzebub is invoked to cast
"The modern alternative to work on the one hand and
amusement on the other is, in a certain way, an expression of infantilism. It
is normal for children to consider school as being the serious part of life and
to identify seriousness - with unpleasant, burdensome tasks.
The child is
free to play only when schoolwork is done, and playing thus becomes identified
with the joyful. The same unfortunate alternative has sometimes grave consequences
in education. Many guilt complexes are due to the fact that work is considered
to be the only serious part in life. Some people feel morally guilty as soon as
they are not working. They even feel "guilty" when they give their time
to some important human affair rather than to professional work, even though in
doing so they behave in the morally right way." (Von Hilderbrand, op. cit.,
Anthony Cooney ("Social Credit: Aspects" - Myths of the Mayflower),
"The curious myopia ... which regards history as the events
subsequent to the landing of Norman William, with his select body of Jews, in
A.D. 1066, enables the statement that Christopher Columbus' discovered America
at the end of the fifteenth century to be accepted as accurate.
the fact that Columbus never saw America, the mainland of which was 'discovered'
by John Cabot, who sailed from Bristol in 1497, there is strong reason to believe
that various Scandinavian peoples had fairly constant intercourse with the North
American Continent hundreds, if not thousands, of years earlier. Their traditional
name for it was Markland." (C. H. Douglas Programme for the Third World War")
of the illusions of my childhood, which I suppose would be termed a "block"
in the jargon of today, was that the "Pilgrim' Fathers" were Quakers.
It created confusion in my study of history until in my early 'teens I was able
to fix firmly in my mind that the Puritans were Calvinists: Quakers were not
Puritans: the Pilgrim Fathers were not Quakers: the Pilgrim Fathers were Calvinists.
For many years I supposed that the illusion had arisen, not from school history
books, not from a general miasma of misinformation, but from denseness on my own
To this day I cannot say exactly how and where I got this impression,
but I had a distinct idea that it was general among my peers. When I had finally
sorted the matter out and was free of the delusion I concluded that it was quite
impossible that the delusion had been shared and that it must, all through school
days, have been peculiar to myself.
It came therefore as both a surprise and
relief to find the Welsh-Quaker author and scholar, the late H.W.J. Edwards, examining
this illusion, and finding it common. I must add here, "at least among ordinary
people," because the response of an Oxford history lecturer when I first
aired this matter was, "Of course nobody imagines the Quakers were Puritans."
The evidence for this, even if it were the only piece of evidence,
is in the nature of the case, overwhelming and may be stated briefly:
Villiers, Captain of the Mayflower replica which crossed the Atlantic in 1957,
attended a civic reception at Plymouth wearing Quaker costume! I consider that
sufficient evidence that the illusion was popular and widespread.
dispersion of such an illusion suggests a source, and a source suggests a policy.
The purpose of such a policy is not difficult to determine. The Quakers were tolerant
and quietist, the Puritans were not. Whiggery however, which is closely allied
to Puritanism, pretends to the virtue of Tolerance.
As C. H. Douglas
"That is where Whiggism is so successful in that it
puts forward in moral form something which it is extraordinarily difficult to
disentangle for its slyness, something which, in fact, it is not really aiming
at all." ("The Policy of a Philosophy")
brings us to the second Mayflower myth, that of the "Pilgrim Fathers."
The word "Pilgrim" carries the connotation of someone making a journey
for a worthy purpose.
There is a general belief that the voyagers on the Mayflower
were escaping religious intolerance with the intention of establishing tolerance
The word "Fathers" suggests originators, and not surprisingly
we find the widely held belief that the Mayflower's passengers were the first
British settlers and hence the "Founding Fathers" of British America
and therefore of the United States of America.
Indeed the six hundred
families who trace their descent from the Mayflower's passengers now constitute
an American aristocracy.
The facts are
We may easily dispose of the Quaker illusion: George Fox founder
of the Society of Friends, was not born until four years after the Mayflower voyage.
The "Founding Fathers" notion could also be disposed of without
difficulty if the mere citation of fact were sufficient to dispel cherished illusion.
Douglas has pointed out America was rediscovered by Cabot, sailing under the English
flag, in 1497, some years before Amerigo set foot on the mainland. Nevertheless
the established fact of Cabot's achievement has failed to dispel the popular illusion
of Columbus' "discovery."
The fact of British North America is that
Jamestown and "The Old Dominion" of Virginia werc established in 1607,
thirteen years before the Mayflower sailed.
may perhaps be necessary to justify "rediscovery," in relation to North
America. It is now established that there existed, until late in the 13th Century,
regular trade between Scandinavia, Iceland, Greenland and "Vinland,"
(the territory around the St. Lawrence estuary.) Scandinavian colonies werc established
on the southern coasts of Greenland, and possibly on the American coastline itself.
Both trade and the Greenland colonies came to an abrupt end, something which remains
an historical puzzle.
My suggested solution is that this was the result of
a dramatic chance in climate in the early 14th Century, when Europe experienced
several years of wet summers and a general fall in temperature, followed by repeated
visitations of the Plague. The movement south of land and sea animals upon which
the Esqimaux depended, forced the latter to follow and they overwhelmed the Greenland
colonies, probably greatly weakened by failed harvests or even Plague. Contact
with Europe was lost and "Vinland" remained all but forgotten for nearly
two centuries until the voyages of discovery began.
propagation and perpetuation of the Pilgrim Tolerance image is entwined and contingent
upon the Quaker illusion and the "Founding Fathers" myth.
Mayflower's destination. in company with a supply ship which find to return to
port, was not the barren coast of Massachusetts, nor was the intention the founding
of a new colony. The Mayflower arrived at Plymouth Rock as the result of a combination
of bad weather and poor navigation. The intended destination was Virginia and
the purpose was to reinforce the Puritan element there.
In 1619, Argall,
the Puritan governor of Virginia had been deposed by the Episcopalians, and there
was clearly a determination to reverse the set-back to the Whig-Puritan cause.
In short, the "Pilgrims" left not England, where they were restrained,
but Holland, where the Puritans enjoyed power; not to escape religious intolerance
but to establish it in the New World.
THE FEAR OF LEISURE
Eric D. Butler
Notes of Eric D. Butler's
paper at the Fourth Social Credit Seminar:
New Times," vol.24. no.21. November 8, 1958.
In spite of the
fact that it can be easily demonstrated that it is possible for a small and decreasing
number of people in a modern industrial society to produce all the physical requirements
for the whole community, and that the most important potential of the semi-automatic
production system is increasing leisure time for all, any suggestion of a policy
which would enable the individual to obtain a financial income, however small
for a start, without first being compelled to engage in economic activities, or
in filling in forms of some description in the growing Government bureaucracies,
meets with widespread opposition.
and non-Communist Governments are in complete agreement on a policy of "Full
Employment" as the only means through which the individual is entitled to
life. And as every policy must derive from a philosophy, it is clear, as a number
of outstanding Western thinkers have pointed out that although the West is referred
to as the free world, it is progressively retreating from freedom.
is still paid to freedom in the Western world, but in fact the individual is being
increasingly subjected to centralised direction of all aspects of his life. Many
express concern at the effects of this centralised direction but at the same time
endorse the policy of "Full Employment" which makes these effects inevitable.
The Anglican Archbishop of York, (England)
in his book. The Church of England Today, points out that the modern, planned
industrial society takes "responsibility and incentive from individuals who
soon feel that they are impotent in a mass-organised society which provides for
their livelihood, arranges their work, and caters for their amusement.. . The
result is dangerous, for the individual loses the power of independent judgment
. . . We are drifting toward the formation of a mass society in which the individual
have been made by other leading Churchmen, but the Christian flocks are given
no guidance on policies necessary to prevent the development of the mass society.
Christian chaplains in industry may help minimise some of the effects of the mass
society but can make no basic contribution to the growing threat to individual
freedom and the human personality so long as it is accepted that the economic
system exists, not to provide the individual with the production he requires with
the minimum of human time and energy, but to keep him at work.
fact must be faced that Christians generally, who should be more concerned about
making freedom a reality than other people, share the widespread fear of leisure.
Whether or not this fear can be overcome will be one of the decisive factors
in the ultimate outcome of the clash between two philosophies: that of freedom
and that of totalitarianism.
When we consider the efforts by large numbers
of people to gain economic independence for life by purchasing tickets in lotteries
or by guessing the number of goals football teams will kick, it does appear contradictory
that there is such general fear of leisure. But it is significant that individuals
are not afraid of having economic independence and leisure for themselves.
have been no recorded instances where any of those winning a substantial lottery
or football pool have refused to take the prize because they have been afraid
of having leisure time! In fact surveys taken of those winning big lottery prizes
reveal that very few have used their money foolishly.
people do not fear leisure for themselves. It is the other fellow they are concerned
The purpose of this paper is to make an examination of the basic
causes of the fear of leisure and to indicate how the re-orientation of society
towards a policy of increasing leisure and freedom for the individual may be obtained.
It is essential for our examination that we first clearly define our meaning of
the two words "Leisure" and "Work."
Words are one of the
principal media through which individuals attempt to convey their ideas to one
another, and even when there is no conscious attempt to pervert the meaning of
words in order to distort the conception of reality, it is easy for different
people to obtain different ideas from the same word.
Leisure to many people conjures up a picture of passive idleness.
The very fact that many people are repulsed by the thought of individuals being
little more than vegetables, neither engaging in any physical activities nor in
conscious thought or contemplation indicates that the normal man, no matter how
much he may have been depersonalised by an environment which stifles his individual
initiative, is basically creative.
We can term a man of leisure as one who
possesses sufficient economic independence to enable him to choose how he shall
express and develop his creative powers. A man of leisure does not have his activity,
whatever form it may take, forced upon him.
We can therefore define leisure
as free, voluntary or unenforced activity in contrast with forced activity, which
we call Work or Labour.
In order to clarify
still further our conception of Leisure, we do need to look a little closer at
what we mean by work. Douglas pointed out that physically there is no basic difference
between one man expending energy in playing football and another man expending
energy in some economic activity. But there is a tremendous psychological difference.
The man playing football is prepared to put up with a great deal of physical discomfort,
even risking injury, without any offer of material reward, simply because he is
acting voluntarily. He enjoys expending his energy in this way. But the man working
in a factory may be there only under the compulsion of obtaining a financial income
with which to purchase the necessities of life.
cannot be pointed out too often that the normal man is creative and, if freed
to do so, will express his creativeness in accordance with his natural abilities
and desires. The individual desires not so much to be employed, or "set to
work," as to be able to seek his own employment. In his address entitled
The Approach to Reality, Douglas said:
"Most people prefer to be
employed - - but on the things they like rather than on the things they don't
like to be employed upon. The proposals of Social Credit are in no sense intended
to produce a nation of idlers-and would not. There never was a more ridiculous
piece of misrepresentation than to say that as a class the rich are idle. They
may be wrongly employed, but they are not idle. The danger to the world does not
come from the idle rich --it comes from the busy rich.
Credit would not produce idlers: it would allow people to allocate themselves
to those jobs to which they are suited. A job you do well is a job you like, and
a job you like is a job you do well. Under Social Credit you would begin to tap
the amazing efficiency inseparable from enforced labour, and the efficiency of
the whole industrial system would go up."
While many will readily
grasp that the man possessing free time can develop himself through physical activities
of his own choosing, it is easy to overlook the important fact that a man with
leisure may also develop himself through contemplation.
This important aspect
of the subject has been dealt with beautifully in the following extract from Professor
Thomas Robertson's great work, Human Ecology:
"To expand the individuality
... is the chief end of man, but growth in reality requires proper conditions,
such as are almost unattainable in Occidental society, where visible activity
alone is a measure of efficiency. This is evident from the common English idiom
about 'doing nothing." Thus, to sit and feast the eyes on nature is 'doing
nothing.' One of the most serious sources of human dissatisfaction today is the
confounding of physical inactivity with inaction.
Unless we are to admit the
need for 'doing nothing,' we dethrone the human and make man no better than a
beast of burden. Life becomes futile the moment we forget the end of existence,
and permit activity for any other end, or even for its own sake. This is precisely
what, in ever-increasing degree, the financial mechanism imposes on us. Life becomes
an empty round of doing things, which are meaningless. In Upton Sinclair's description,
'We go to work to earn the cash to buy the bread to get the strength to go to
work to earn the cash to buy the bread,' and so on.
"To live properly,
it is the significance of experience, even of the humblest and most commonplace,
which is of vital importance to man. This significance cannot be grasped without
time and opportunity. Putting it another way, we are so busy doing things that
we have no time to utilise experience. The pace is too hot. Leisure is rightly
understood as free time from occupation. It is commonly used for purposes of play
and sport, but there is another variety of use, which assumes importance as maturity
and age approach. It is contemplative leisure, which is the unique human technique
of browsing on events, of chewing the cud of experience, to digest out the virtue
It is the tragedy of European and American culture that in
it there is no place for contemplative leisure, which, far from being a doing
of nothing, is a doing of the one thing which pre-eminently separates man from
animals. At one end it is a simple turning over of events in quiet seclusion.
At the other it represents the highest activity of man in contemplation of 'reality.'
It is a phase of creative quiescence, the very antithesis of inactivity, which
is vital to human welfare and satisfaction. It represents the solitary aspect
of development in distinction to all other phases of activity which are best carried
out in fellowship with others."
the fears which prevent the acceptance of increasing leisure, it may appear waste
of time and merely perverse to suggest that there is a fear of scarcity at a time
when there is talk once again of "over-production" and automation. But
it is true that there is still a deep, subconscious fear in the mind of man that
the threat of scarcity is never far away and still a reality. Man's history does
partly account for this fear.
There have been approximately 7000 years
of recorded human history and it is only one-seventieth of that time since Faraday
invented the dynamo and the industrial revolution got under way. Insidious propaganda
keeps alive the idea that life is a permanent and grim struggle, and that any
widespread leisure must inevitably lead to decadence and disaster. History is
perverted to attempt to show how leisured classes in the past became "soft"
and passed under the control of vigorous barbarians. No reference is made to the
fact that leisured classes and the civilisations they helped build were destroyed
by policies of financial and economic centralism.
The class-war propaganda
of the Communists and Socialists, which insists that those enjoying a degree of
economic independence only do so at the expense of the poor, also helps create
the impression that there is a limited amount of real wealth and that there must
be a levelling down. The idea of leisure and economic independence for the individual
is repugnant to the Communist, who is dominated by the false doctrine that "Labour
produces all wealth."
The Communist is at one with the puritan who preaches
that work is "good" for the individual. A number of competent observers
of Russian society have commented upon the dominating puritan atmosphere.
reinforced by finanial polices
The subconscious fear of scarcity is strongly
reinforced by present economic and financial policies, which foster economic sabotage
on so vast a scale that most people are unaware that much of the activity in which
they are engaged is unnecessary and robs them of potential leisure.
complexities of the system make it difficult for the individual to realise that
what he thinks is most essential is in reality nothing but a waste of precious
human lives and a squandering of economic resources.
of the thousands engaged in fantastic advertising, much of it designed to stimulate
support for the ever-changing models in motor cars, washing machines, refrigerators
and other mechanical appliances. All this feverish activity is designed to "make
Even women must in increasing numbers leave their homes to enter
the production system. Economic "experts" now state that it is "impractical"
for women to stay at home; the production system would collapse without their
As Douglas pointed out, the perversion
of technological development merely resulted in more work being done, not in the
freeing of the individual. The urgent appeals for still greater increases in production
ignore the fundamental question of whether the increased economic activity does
serve the genuine requirements of the individual or whether it is part of a never-ending
programme of making work. It is undoubtedly true that many do find some satisfaction
in the unnecessary activities in which they are engaged.
engineer striving to solve the problem of moving an increasing number of people
to and from their places of work considers that he is spending his time and using
his talents creatively. And there can be no logical quarrel with this attitude
so long as no questions are asked concerning the alleged necessity for moving
people and production around. Enormous numbers of very competent people are harnessed
up dealing with effects. Until there is sufficient clarification of the perversion
of means into ends in the economic field, it will always be difficult to present
to people the vision of the Leisure Society that is physically impossible. The
perversion of the money system and the misrepresentation of the true nature of
money have also had such a deep psychological impact upon most people that, even
when there is some grasp of economic realities, they shrink from the prospect
of receiving money without first participating in some form of economic activity.
it is true that there has been a widespread exposure of the Money Myth over the
past 40 years, nevertheless the belief still persists amongst large numbers of
people that money of itself is important. In his Policy of a Philosophy,
Douglas pointed out that most policies today "have no relationship to Christianity."
"Our policy, " (i.e., the Western world's) he said, "so far
as it can be defined ... is related philosophically to the adulation of money.
Money is an abstraction. Money is a thing of no value whatever. Money is nothing
but an accounting system. Money is nothing worthy of our attention at all, but
we base the whole of our actions, the whole of our policy, on the pursuit of money;
and the consequence is, of course, that we become the prey of mere abstractions
. . .."
The great Francis Bacon appealed for a just relationship
between the mind and things.
It is because there is no such just relationship
today that the worship of abstractionism, which prevents the emergence of reality,
is so prevalent. One of Christ's major crimes in the eyes of Jewish Sanhedrin
was that He attacked the religious abstractionism, which had been developed to
the stage where it took precedence over the real needs of individuals. It is not
money that is the root of all evil, but the love of money. The reference to the
love of money is a condemnation of the worship of abstractionism, as was Christ's
famous statement that it is impossible to worship both God and Mammon. So long
as the worship of the abstraction money continues and its true nature is obscured,
there will be fear of any proposal to pay individuals a financial dividend in
order that they may enjoy genuine independence and leisure.
linked to the worship of the abstraction money is the carefully-fostered idea
that "something for nothing" is morally bad for the individual -- and,
of course, can only be obtained at the expense of other individuals.
of the fundamental philosophical cleavages between Christianity and Judaism concerns
this very question. Judaism repudiates the Christian conception of unearned grace
- and criticism of "something for nothing," so widely prevalent amongst
those who call themselves Christians, demonstrates the powerful influence of the
very philosophy which Christ challenged.
Douglas related how a Jewish millionaire
stated that Social Credit financial proposals would save Western Civilization,
but that that Civilization was not worth saving. It is not without significance
that a number of historians have drawn attention to the fact that there are many
striking similarities between Judaism and Marxism.
God is one of love Whose abundant Universe offers the life more abundant.
The philosophy underlying the doctrine that "Labour produces all wealth"
logically elevates man into his own God and infers that he alone is responsible
for the basis of life.
But the truth is that, to use Douglas's words, "The
laws of the universe transcend human thinking. ' If these laws are discovered
and obeyed, they provide the individual with increasing freedom. The truths of
the Universe are gifts to the individual: "something for nothing."
is an heir to a heritage, which his forefathers built up by their discovery and
application of the truths of the universe. Rejection of this fundamental fact
is one of the major barriers to the creation of the Leisure State.
is appropriate that we mention here that, contrary to what might be reasonably
expected, the modern Trade Union Movement has both directly and indirectly opposed
the leisure idea. Instead of demanding that "the wages of the machine"
by paid to the individual who can be displaced by technological advances, Trade
Union leaders have consistently attacked both profits and the dividends arising
out of profits. They fear the independence, which an extension of the dividend
system would bring.
Douglas drew attention
to this matter in Social Credit, in which he said:
"Now it is fair
to say that Labour leaders are, although they may not consciously know it amongst
the most valuable assets of the financial control of industry - - are, in fact,
almost indispensable to that control; and the reason for this is not far to seek.
They do not speak as representatives of individuals; they speak, as they
are never tired of explaining, as the representatives of Labour, and the
more Labour there is, the more they represent. It is natural that
employment should be represented by them as being the chief interest of man: as
the representatives of the employed, their importance is enhanced thereby."
The insistence upon forced work as the only
means to a financial income makes the production system an instrument of government.
High-sounding references to the alleged virtues of work cannot completely mask
the fact that the economic system, dominated by financial policy, has been developed
into a system through which the will-to-power of those controlling policy is expressed.
Those seeking complete power over all others fear leisure and independence more
than anyone else. There is adequate evidence to indicate that it is those seeking
complete power that foster and encourage all the other fears, which prevent the
realisation of leisure.
The deliberate elevation of the production system into
a system of control, and the consequent subordination of the individual to functionalism,
is a manifestation of the growing dominance of the philosophy of materialism and
The situation is a deadly
challenge to Christianity and the Christian Church.
The Church could and
must give a lead to remove the fear of leisure by stating in unequivocal terms
the true purpose of man and his systems.
If it is prepared to stand passively
by and allow the growing knowledge of God's gifts and truths, as demonstrated
by the growth of automation, to be described as a "problem," then the
victory of the anti-Christ is certain.
If the Church believes that freedom
is indispensable for the moral and spiritual growth of the individual, then it
should be giving an authoritative lead by insisting that the individual be permitted
full access to his heritage of leisure.
There are, of course, legitimate
grounds for the view that a too sudden access to leisure and economic independence
may result in some undesirable developments. We all know that the habits of some
of the new rich are not very pleasant, a fact which Social Credit recognises.
But if we accept the Christian view of man, that he must express his sovereignty
through himself, and not through others, then a start must be made towards placing
him in the position where he can develop that sovereignty.
The Welfare State
is undoubtedly the most insidious barrier to the creation of a society of genuinely
free, independent individuals, because it guarantees the individual a minimum
of the material requirements of life in exchange for the loss of freedom of choice,
the only real freedom.
The much-publicised Four Freedoms are provided
in any prison.
In some American prisons today prisoners are given the
best possible food, entertainment is provided, they can earn money at some trade,
and even sexual intercourse with their wives is permitted.
The question then
arises, "Well, what constitutes the punishment in these prisons?" And
the answer is that work, play and breeding is all done at the behest of those
who have sovereignty over the prisoners. The real punishment is the lack of
Man does not live by bread alone. It is what free time the
individual possesses after providing bread, and what he does with that time that
Increasing leisure for self-development and the spiritualising
of his life is today possible for all individuals. Is fear going to be used to
deny man his God-given heritage? No real Christian can ignore this issue.
then, can fear of leisure be overcome?
The brief answer is the application
of the Christian teaching concerning love. The foundation of Christian teaching
is love. The tremendous implications of this teaching have unfortunately been
blurred by the modern mania for sex, which many people mistake as the same thing
The Christian teaching is that "Perfect love casteth
The Social Credit policy of growing leisure and financial
dividends for all is based upon this type of love. It is a policy stemming from
love of, and faith in, one's fellow human beings. It is the antithesis of policies
based upon fear of what one's fellows would do if they had genuine leisure.
fear leisure for others is a manifestation of distrust; it denies the divine nature
A society whose members were dominated by the Christian conception
of love would be transformed into one in which individuals would freely and voluntarily
associate in expanding leisure for all in order that they could know God, love
God, and serve Him more completely.