Has anyone studied the works of Arnold Toynbee?

Jan 2018
11
United States
Hi everyone,

I've been reading the abridged version of 'A Study of History', by Arnold Toynbee. It is a monumental work that studies the forces behind the civilizations of the past and their influence on the present day. There is a lot about the role of religion as a revitalizing force in the cycles of dissolution and growth on the world stage. He comes to many conclusions that are in line with a Baha'i worldview.

Here is what he writes in his chapter, 'The need for a comprehensive study of human affairs':

"We shall, however, have to do more than just understand each other's cultural heritages, and more even than just appreciate them. We shall have to value them and love them as being parts of Mankind's common treasure and therefore being ours too, as truly as the heirlooms that we ourselves shall be contributing to the common stock. Without the fire of love, the dangerous fissures in Mankind's social solidarity cannot be annealed. Danger, even when it is as extreme as ours is today, is never a sufficient stimulus in itself to make men do what is necessary for their salvation. It is a poor stimulus because it is a negative one. A coldblooded calculation of expediency will not inspire us with the spiritual power to save ourselves. This power can come only from the disinterested pursuit of a positive aim that will outrange the negative one of trying to avoid self-destruction; and this positive aim can be given to men by nothing but love."

These words ring true in 2019. What are your thoughts?
 
Feb 2019
227
Chicago
Hi everyone,

I've been reading the abridged version of 'A Study of History', by Arnold Toynbee. It is a monumental work that studies the forces behind the civilizations of the past and their influence on the present day. There is a lot about the role of religion as a revitalizing force in the cycles of dissolution and growth on the world stage. He comes to many conclusions that are in line with a Baha'i worldview.

Here is what he writes in his chapter, 'The need for a comprehensive study of human affairs':

"We shall, however, have to do more than just understand each other's cultural heritages, and more even than just appreciate them. We shall have to value them and love them as being parts of Mankind's common treasure and therefore being ours too, as truly as the heirlooms that we ourselves shall be contributing to the common stock. Without the fire of love, the dangerous fissures in Mankind's social solidarity cannot be annealed. Danger, even when it is as extreme as ours is today, is never a sufficient stimulus in itself to make men do what is necessary for their salvation. It is a poor stimulus because it is a negative one. A coldblooded calculation of expediency will not inspire us with the spiritual power to save ourselves. This power can come only from the disinterested pursuit of a positive aim that will outrange the negative one of trying to avoid self-destruction; and this positive aim can be given to men by nothing but love."

These words ring true in 2019. What are your thoughts?
I agree and all religions and spiritual civilizations have placed a lot of importance on love. How does one manifest pure and perfect love. What prevents us from doing so. Why do people commit crimes in the name of religion when the religion teaches love?
 
Feb 2019
227
Chicago
Dr. Arnold Toynbee, British Historian On India and Hinduism

It is already becoming clear that a chapter which had a Western beginning will have to have an Indian ending if it is not to end in self-destruction of the human race. At this supremely dangerous moment
in human history , the only way of salvation is the ancient Hindu way.
Here we have the attitude and spirit that can make it possible for the
human race to grow together in to a single family.

So now we turn to India. This spiritual gift, that makes a man human,
is still alive in Indian souls. Go on giving the world Indian examples of it. Nothing else can do so much to help mankind to save itself from destruction

There may or may not be only one single absolute truth and only one single ultimate way of salvation. We do not know. But we do know that
there are more approaches to truth than one, and more means of
salvation than one. This is a hard saying for adherents of the
higher religions of the Judaic family (Judaism, Christianity, and
Islam), but it is a truism for Hindus. The spirit of mutual good-will, esteem and veritable love ... is the traditional spirit of the religions of the Indian family. This is one of India’s gifts to the world
 
Last edited:
Oct 2014
1,807
Stockholm
During my university years, I spent some time studying the Philosophy of History, reading such works as Toynbee's and Spengler's The Decline of the West, actually preparing a small thesis on the latter. Still, however, only when translating the Guardian's The Promised Day, I felt that I got a full grasp of the subject.

Then, on a more personal note, there is so much talk about love. I often feel that we'd do better if we talked less about love and practised more tolerance instead.

Best,

from

gnat
 
Feb 2019
227
Chicago
During my university years, I spent some time studying the Philosophy of History, reading such works as Toynbee's and Spengler's The Decline of the West, actually preparing a small thesis on the latter. Still, however, only when translating the Guardian's The Promised Day, I felt that I got a full grasp of the subject.

Then, on a more personal note, there is so much talk about love. I often feel that we'd do better if we talked less about love and practised more tolerance instead.

Best,

from

gnat
Why do you want to limit yourself to tolerance my friend. Tolerance is often rooted in a superiority complex. For example, you may not like your neighbor's religion because you believe it is distorted, outdated or inferior to yours but you will tolerate it for social reasons. Would you not want to go beyond tolerance and practice acceptance. And then take it to the next level and embrace all good things including true religions with love.
 
Oct 2014
1,807
Stockholm
Why do you want to limit yourself to tolerance my friend.

I was not talking about limiting oneself. On the contrary, when you read my text, you notice that I wrote that "we'd do better if we talked less about love and practised more tolerance instead." This time, I put the key words in italics. :)

gnat
 
Feb 2019
227
Chicago
O SON OF BEING! My love is My stronghold; he that entereth therein is safe and secure, and he that turneth away shall surely stray and perish. - The Hidden words of Bahaullah
 
Jul 2019
1
Christchurch, New Zealand
Hi everyone,

I've been reading the abridged version of 'A Study of History', by Arnold Toynbee. It is a monumental work that studies the forces behind the civilizations of the past and their influence on the present day. There is a lot about the role of religion as a revitalizing force in the cycles of dissolution and growth on the world stage. He comes to many conclusions that are in line with a Baha'i worldview.

Here is what he writes in his chapter, 'The need for a comprehensive study of human affairs':

"We shall, however, have to do more than just understand each other's cultural heritages, and more even than just appreciate them. We shall have to value them and love them as being parts of Mankind's common treasure and therefore being ours too, as truly as the heirlooms that we ourselves shall be contributing to the common stock. Without the fire of love, the dangerous fissures in Mankind's social solidarity cannot be annealed. Danger, even when it is as extreme as ours is today, is never a sufficient stimulus in itself to make men do what is necessary for their salvation. It is a poor stimulus because it is a negative one. A coldblooded calculation of expediency will not inspire us with the spiritual power to save ourselves. This power can come only from the disinterested pursuit of a positive aim that will outrange the negative one of trying to avoid self-destruction; and this positive aim can be given to men by nothing but love."

These words ring true in 2019. What are your thoughts?
I also studied history in my first University, Earlham College (Quaker undergraduate in Richmond Indiana) and read the two Summerville synopses. Most interestingly, Dr Dave Earl, a Baha'i historian and member of the first NSA of East Asia, and then Korea when it split, and who served with me on the NSA of the Caroline Islands, said that Toynbee later studied the Baha'i Faith and said it had all the hallmarks of the new Higher Religion (that should be showing up sometime given the now long decline of Western and Islamic civilizations.)
  1. Civilization on Trial (London: Oxford University Press, 1948) p.204.
“Indeed, under the impact of the West, the great deeps of Islam are already stirring, and even in these early days we can discern certain spiritual movements which might conceivably become the embryos of new higher religions. The Baha’i and Ahmadi movements, which, from Acre and Lahore, have begun to send out their missionaries to Europe and America, will occur to the contemporary Western observer’s mind; but at this point of prognostication we have reached our Pillars of Hercules, where the prudent investigator stays his course and refrains from at tempting to sail out into an ocean of future time in which he can take no more than the most general bearings.”

This is not all that definitive. In further searching, I found that Toynbee had hoped the League of Nations would help, and then the United Nations, but he always thought they both needed a firm religious foundation. This caused many other historians and commentators to think he had really lost the plot.
Here are some extracts from: (you can get this online)
Luca G. Castellin (2015) Arnold J. Toynbee’s Quest for a New World Order: A
Survey, The European Legacy, 20:6, 619-635, DOI: 10.1080/10848770.2015.1049903
To link to this article: https://doi.org/10.1080/10848770.2015.1049903

In “The Issues
in British Foreign Policy” (1938), he argued for the need to create a solid supranational
structure—a “world-wide system of law and order,” equipped with a solid
degree of “collective security”—to ward off a forced political unification at the hands
of Germany or the Soviet Union. It was again in the League of Nations that he saw
“the first and last line of defence.”66 Though well aware of the many problematic
aspects posed by this endeavor, he wrote a year later in “A Turning Point in History,”
that if the League dies, so could his own legacy.67

Toynbee recognized that all of these were “ambitious undertakings,” and although the
task of putting “the secular super-structure back onto religious foundations” was “in
the long run by far the most important,”
he was convinced that the other two were
“the more urgent.”80
Toynbee’s notion of religion, with its strong utopian connotations, revealed the
problematic aspect of his conception of the relationship between civilization and religion.
117 His tireless research in the realms of philosophy and religion, along with the
strong influence of thinkers such as Henri Bergson, Carl Gustav Jung, and Jan C.
Smuts on his thought, enabled him to develop a holistic approach to history and religion
as a method for relating the dynamics of civilization to contemporary events. Yet
his conclusions seemed to be very different from the common understanding of the
state of world affairs. The convergence of agnosticism, latitudinarianism, relativism and
a form of evolutionism contributed to the formation of his existentialist conception of
religion. In his mature vision, during his final years, the role of traditional religions
was replaced by a more or less explicit form of gnosis.118 As various critics have
pointed out, it appears that Toynbee’s utopian solution to the instability of the world
order was not only an interpretation of Whig history on a global scale,119 but also, as
Morgenthau suggested, a personal failure.120

CONCLUSION
Felix Oppenheim was probably right to suggest that, from the publication in 1946 of
Civilization on Trial onwards, Toynbee shifted his attention from the study of history
to an inquiry into the future.121 By sacrificing the accurate analysis that characterized
Arnold J. Toynbee’s Quest for a New World Order: A Survey 629
the Survey, Toynbee thus became the time-traveller who later earned the singular
posthumous homage in the title of Ray Bradbury’s science fiction story—” The
Toynbee Convector.”122
Toynbee’s position had shifted from liberal idealism to a religiously inspired utopia.
With the path of religion now prevailing over the path of politics, the accurate
analyses of the Survey on the inter- and postwar world order gradually gave way to
unlikely forecasts on international dynamics. Toynbee, as Charles E. Jones wrote, was
a “devout agnostic,”123 whose largely inconclusive religious research seemed to have
led him from his youthful latitudinarianism to the relativism and syncretism of maturity.
124 This path gradually distorted the lens through which he saw the reality of his
time. In the space of only a few decades, when his work on the monumental A Study
of History intersected with the annual Survey of International Affairs,125 he wrote his A
Study of International Affairs, a very personal interpretation of the dynamics underlying
the international system. His disenchantment with any political or institutional solution
to the perilously disordered state of the world gradually guided him to a new utopian
enchantment. In the last part of his long life, he believed in a utopia without politics,
underpinned by a vague syncretic religion. He thus replaced his earlier confidence in
the League of Nations and the United Nations with an irenic self-illusion. Paraphrasing
the opening sentence, one could say that Toynbee’s outlook on the world order
was “extraordinarily contradictory.” For, while the “historical horizon” has continuously
widened, Toynbee’s historical vision “has been contracting” to the limited vision
“of what a horse sees between its blinkers or what a U-boat commander sees through
his periscope.”
{derek - So...Unfortunately Toynbee appeared not to have studied the Baha'i answer to how a world government could and would be formed in such a way as to get past the limitations of the League of Nations, the United Nations, and other problems of governance.
 

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