Besides being a musician of world renown, Yehudi Menuhin is deeply concerned with problems of philosophy, morals and religion, both on the personal level and in terms of institutional structures. In this remarkable essay, which is concerned with the ecological crisis that now confronts the human race, he brings to bear the fruits of many years of sensitive awareness and reflection on the profounder issues of human destiny. Our sense of indebtedness in being permitted to present his material here is the greater for knowing he has been a subscriber and supporter of Resurgence since its earliest issues.

Man today has created as vicious and vindictive a God as ever extorted the tribute of a superstitious people. The dragon we worship enshrines the inanimate and consumes the animate: only the clank of metal survives the devastation of species and for all the human courage and sacrifice spent, only the coins and the weapons dug up centuries from now may bear testimony to the madness of the once-living.

But need it be so? Can we not subjugate the inanimate and enshrine the living? Life on earth exists on a severely limited budget. With each generation mankind has multiplied, but only in recorded times has he ceased enlarging his capital, life's organic capital, and only very recently has he been approaching at accelerating pace the limits of this budget. Oxygen, sweet water, green leaves and topsoil- these are but a few of the essential elements of life which have become exhaustible. Privately most of us know the limits of our personal financial budgets and when we exceed these only the culprit and his dependents suffer.

Humanity, however, just like many an individual has not yet learned that its survival depends upon resources which until now have been mostly free and apparently infinite. Money and weapons are merely measures of relative wealth and power between groups of human beingsm, but they can never form the basis for the absolute balance-sheet which is that of all life, man included, with Nature. God, the banker, does not deal in gold. His equity is Life's respect for Life, humanity's collective investment in the living and in the organic.

Our weapons and so many of our tools have been reduced to weapons against Nature, if not against man. However necessary they may be for relative survival, they are ultimately an investment in the dead. Our exploitation of man, woman and child, our extermination of species, as of recognizably different fellow-men, is an investment in death. Money and weapons cause instant effect, but can either grow a tree?

Our greatest efforts seem to serve to increase our dependence on that fire-breathing dragon with metal scales and a fissionable heart. As our dependence increases, so does the volume of our propitiatory sacrifices: we have discovered not only how to sacrifice present generations, but future ones as well. Now at least, and at last, we know this cannot go on for ever: it cannot even go on another fifty years.

Heaven will come to mankind when we learn to respect our limits. It sounds paradoxical that the infinity and eternity of Heaven is in reality only the distance to the heart of a stranger, to the heart of your enemy and eternity is the instant of recognition. To recognise truth is to win the trust of the innocent and the weaker.

God told man he was to be custodian of all life. Other animals, all kinds everywhere, were there for his pleasure. Pleasure is synonymous with protection. Is this not the case with our wives, our husbands, our children, our dogs, our trees? Is not our pleasure synonymous with their well-being, their security, independence and satisfaction? Why indeed is the conception"for our pleasure”; taken to mean "at our

mercy?" And if these objects that are essential to our pleasure, and indeed to our survival, are now largely at our mercy, must this not imply the injunction of mercy and protection to all things at our mercy? As Shakespeare with his infinite sensitivity said: "The quality of mercy is not strained, it droppeth as the gentle rain from Heaven upon the earth beneath . . . "

Our pleasure, everyone's pleasure, must be found henceforth in the non-competitive and the non-exploitative. In recent millennia the human race has thrown up quite a few men who have seen the emerging truth of man's condition: "Turn the other cheek," "Do unto others"-the latest being Gandhi's example of non-violence. Now we have reached the stage in man's evolution when we can no longer afford to crucify, poison or shoot our wisest men, or even belatedly to canonize them: we are now at the very gates of Heaven or, if we choose, of Hell.

What is this Heaven on Earth? The stress should be first on individuals and secondarily on interests, because the former are the heart and bloodstream of the latter. Here are a few rough definitions.

1. Our technology would live within our budget. At no time would it be allowed to deplete capital resources and resources essential to future generations of all life: nor would our technology be allowed to produce waste or poisonous matter not into the stream of life, or prejudicial to the of life.

2. Our technology would be made infinitely more refined and flexible. Power from the sun, tides, Earth-core, differences of temperature would be delivered unobtrusively, discretely, noiselessly to the user. A technology encouraging to regional and individual diversity by its infinite flexibility.

3. Organizational, administrative and bureaucratic structures offering a maximum of approaches and cross influences between governed and governor, the greatest possible adaptability to individual needs; gifts, talents, difficulties, schools and classes, of all kinds geared to every character and requirement.

4. The inculcation of a contemporary morality drawn from and built upon all religions, but relevant to our era, its discoveries, its responsibilities, its maturity, its revelations.

5. The humble wisdom of admitting that everything is not for everybody, nor can humanity any longer do everything in its power. A diversity of ambitions and a newly interpreted feudal structure (by feudal I mean not service given vertically to the baron above one, but the fee that each and every human being should pay laterally to his fellow-man as part of his debt to life itself and which might cure the crippling narcissism that commercialism and its Mephisto advertising has evoked in us all)–a structure in which money or power alone would no longer remain the chief yardstick of achievement: a pride and a humility of function and a respect for another's function be he landowner or garbageman-actually the garbageman should represent the first stage to resurrection, for he is the retriever!–a working faith and a trust in the slow and inevitable distillation of excellence, in the course of a lifetime, in the course of generations, provided it is achieved in ceaseless confrontation and through constant reassessment between ourselves, our fellow-men and our environment. A new appreciation, a new cultivation of our senses and of our intuition, a respect and an honesty in dealing with life, beauty and truth.

I have used the word feudal deliberately to evoke a concept which still carries, and quite rightly so, many reprehensible connotations: the wretched condition of serfs from Russia to Ireland, the exploitation not so much of conditions of the land as of the peasant-these were the abuses which condemn feudalism. But what about words like capitalism in China, communism in Texas, or Christianity in certain areas of the Middle East? Yet each one of these has contributed a very valuable ingredient or two to humanity's cumulative experience and wisdom. In like manner and in the same way I would wish an enlightened Moslem to speak about Christianity, an enlightened capitalist to analyse communism, and so on. The catch of course is that it would take a real Christian to do so and all who are Christian in name only are from my point of view not really Christian. In the same way it is essential to break down blind and prejudiced reflexes against different ways of life, different concepts of existence from which we too can retrieve and distil a valuable lesson and learn a few pointers.

Progress is neither inevitable nor continuous. Forgive me, therefore, if in line with my concept of a respect and curiosity owing every human manifestation from witchcraft to polytheism-forgive me if I offend with a word, but not with my heart. Of feudalism, of communism too, there is something to learn, something to conserve. The spirit of conservation must oft like the gold prospector sift a mountain of pebbles and sand for one nugget of gold. There are quite a few manifestations of the human spirit that are totally bad, but even they must be carefully studied to yield not inspiration, but warning of the way in which the partly bad or rotten can become wholly bad and rotten. Nazi Germany was one such example: it became a deliberate effort to collect together all the worst elements of the German people-it was wholly evil. It will always be to the glory of Great Britain that she was attacked, unprepared and without being directly provoked, that she refused peace offers and stood by her Allies, even alone, and finally won the day. Certainly no Jew or American can ever do enough for this country in return.

To return to our perception of our environment. Must we forever assault our senses or condemn them to their lowest uses? There is no need for mankind forever to remain imprisoned within his mechanism of aggression and defence. The eye is better when trained to observe through painting, architecture, sculpture, drawing, or through the eyepiece of a telescope or microscope, than it is in sighting through a rifle; the ear by music and lovely sounds, and so on for all our five senses-and from them the sixth, which is intuition.


We have so much to live for beyond the brute motivation of aggression and defence: these we gradually evolve through the generations and within each lifetime, and finally transform into their opposite expression–the creative act, as of a painter, sculptor, composer, great architect, or the creative vision of an inspired scientist.

As a musician, I am accustomed to the submission and transfiguration of emotions, thoughts, motives and acts. Surely if the artist indulged in the reverse process of reverting to primal motives, he might be the criminal of all time, but one easily caught, for by my very definition he would act out of his first impulse! And we would have no art. For it is the very removal from and distance between primitive desires and sublimated realisation which spells the quality of human expression. Literature, which is merely a photographic record of acts, can never be great literature and certainly never be poetry. Knowledge and beauty do not require quantitative material corroboration. Truth is true even if proven only once; moreover it will never be within the bounds of reason for every man to tread the surface of the moon: he must be content to dream and write about it and express it in his art.

One of the most disturbing symptoms of the superstition of our day, to which I referred, that blind faith in a monstrous god so antagonistic to man and his art-is our passion for anonymity. Our obsession and prostration' in front of the scientific abstract induces a mania for reducing the name to the cypher.

We can see this in the complete and unnecessary removal of those convenient memory aids to our telephone numbers such as Whitehall or Archway, which are in fact shorthand for three numbers and a human reminder of origin. This same obsession will substitute numbers for names in the categories of restaurants, motorcars and so on. We are suffering from a sick obsession for numbered corpses: "So many killed today". This sickness extends to a preference for an antiquated decimal system instead of introducing a logical duo-decimal system. If only God had given us twelve fingers! We evince an emotional blockage and embarrassment, a certain intellectual cowardice and laziness in the face of guineas and shillings.

A genuine innovation for the better is still highly suspect, but a change authorised by the venal high priests of our age-this is embraced with meek dutifulness and trust.

To call a child, we shall soon be saying "Hey, 427," just like with our car licence plates. At least with our licences that practicability of combined alphabet and numerals has been recognised! We no longer will say "My mother, my child, my King or Queen," but will cite a cyphered function which only the computer will react to. We may not even say "My God!", but simply "No. I, Latitude 60, Longitude 65". That way lies madness and destruction.

One great characteristic of life is its aspiration towards uniqueness. As we rise in the consciousness of life, this hallmark becomes ever more pronounced. Although no doubt every crystal snowflake is recognizably unique and so must every leaf be different, only man can so savagely distort the concept of uniqueness as to equate it with the idea of being himself only–above and at the expense of all others. Uniqueness, which should be a doctrine of mutually respected variety, becomes in man the doctrine of tyranny.

Man must pursue his knowledge and understanding of nature and of himself not with the object of domination and the extension of power, but in a way in which awe and humility in front of the mystery of life and nature grow in equal proportion to his knowledge. -'

Man must continue to worship nature. That short period of simple-minded and vainglorious consciousness in man's capacity to reconstruct nature is finally giving way to a conception of the magnitude to which we belong and the complexity which we are.

Only in the last weeks it has been revealed that the genetic code in a microscopic bacteria allows for 20 million variables or possibilities for each single individual: in a human being these possibilities are of the order of 12 billion. To calculate the weather, the micro-climate of an area only 15 miles square, the factors and variables are so complex that to cope with them would necessitate a computer extending from London to Moscow. Such is the order of variety in the individual's and society's means of expression.

Our main concern is to allow this almost infinite range of free, automatic choice-genetic and otherwise–to remain undamaged, and to guide the choice towards ideals of beauty and perfection. So far our deliberate efforts towards change have for the most part only reduced and damaged our potentialities, as for instance through radiation, and debased our ideals and multiplied our monsters. This is true not only figuratively, but literally, for they are born in greater numbers than ever before.

I have always wished that in our age of comparative studies, in addition to anthropology-which was one of the first, thanks to Darwin-and along with comparative religions, that comparative political systems would be assessed for their qualities, defects, timeliness and achievements. For my part I can conceive of many permutations and commutations, but the lucky societies will always be those which are blessed with a hereditary, constitutional monarch as Head of State.

This political comment is absolutely in place. Its absence would have been an unpardonable oversight, for we are discussing the conservation of the most evolved, beneficent, organic and civilising manifestations of the human spirit. Politically this manifestation is without doubt the distillation through generations of the crude tyrant into the living human symbol of unity in diversity, of tolerance and respect, that is surely the hallmark of constitutional monarchy.

In past ages before man discovered the common denominators of science, in biology and finally in psychology, he viewed each phenomenon as separate, assigning deities to each. With one God, however. He began to see relationships and to discover the broad lines of a basic structure. He also began to reduce and to gather into common likeness his fellow-men-into armies, into slaves, or for that matter into Christians.

We are beginning to emerge from this crudeness and this brutal conception of "order" as we discover an infinity of degrees between contrasting phenomena, degrees which as in an arc link the opposites.


Now, having achieved this, we must begin finally to cultivate, to respect, to delight in variety. We must formulate the philosophy and the morality which sees every act of blind and automatic multiplication as, in degree, a gesture of death, whether it be the endless piling of apartment blocks or the repetitive gestures of a factory worker. Discipline again is a different thing; for instance the discipline of choice, of a craft, an art, a science, a scholastic field, in the preparation for adventure, or of a companion.

But by and large man now–to achieve his Heaven–must nurture, cherish, revel in every variety of life, every manifestation of colour, language, dress, gesture he can see, hear or study. Man's great destiny is to bring the infinite variety of life into harmony, but decidedly not to reduce it to uniformity and false order.

Perhaps the most misused words at the moment are "progress" (which is a shoddy and transparent cloak for convenience) and "order"; but one must ask "progress where?" and "whose order?". These words still carry an echo of romantic interpretation, just as democracy, socialism and the much-regretted concept of freedom (freedom for what?) had until recently.

Other words are used indiscriminately and prejudicially as well: words like "weeds" and "vermin" are used to condemn. We have seen that progress is not uniformly bad. Mice and guineapigs are used in medical experiments-often unnecessarily-because they are so close in many ways to human beings, and among the weeds there are some very good and useful grasses.

Personally I cannot wait for the debunking of that inevitable "progress" which is supposed to happen as soon as we surrender our prerogatives to the high priests of technocrazed greed and power. Nor for the debunking of the inevitable blessing of "order" at all costs: that order which does not stand for a living, changing, balancing state as in that form of art, the mobile, but which is represented by the reduction of all differences, all variety to a common denominator, a common yardstick.

I would suggest a new crusade, a new slogan–one already discernible among the younger generation, perhaps not yet spelled out in its full implication. "Create and conserve beauty. Destroy ugliness and replace it with beauty". Is it not fortunate that by divine coincidence what we most desperately need is also beautiful? Sewage is neither beautiful nor healthful; oxygen is purest where green plants and open space are at hand; pure water flows in bubbling streams where salmon thrive. Imagine were it the opposite! Imagine that oxygen were only available in cylinders at the bottom of coalpits and that we had to drink sewage for health! That this nightmarish myth has all but become a reality in some urban industrial areas is a thought too uncomfortable to be taken seriously.

By ugliness I mean not only the obvious assaults upon our senses-visual, aural, our sense of smell, of taste; not only offences against our innate, instinctive and intellectual sense of balance, proportion and reason, but equally the ugliness of human facial expressions conditioned by pre-occupation with suppression, aggression, fear, hypocrisy, false values, moral superiority, cruelty, exploitation, greed; so much of sickness and disease is a result either immediate or once-removed of these causes. We all known the precedents of thalilomide, cyclamates, and shortly to come of a thousand other death-dealing and sophisticated substances.


By beauty I mean the constant search and effort to create in all objects which we use, handle, in all activities, and foremost in ourselves to create expressions of nobility and exaltation, as of humour and compassion, each different, as varied, personal and particular as possible. This cannot happen suddenly.

Money, a freely exchangeable currency, will always he needed; it is in fact in many ways one of the blessings of civilisation, but as we cannot buy everything we covet, so too, by the same token, we cannot convert all things into money. Wars will still happen, engulfing millions of people in agony; plagues and famine too, but above it all and maintained by those peoples who may be spared the ultimate in annihilation, above it all must be borne high the greatest obligation, the most binding duty of mankind: to redeem his fellow-men from ugliness, and for his fellow-men to create a living, working, continuum of beauty in all spheres. I believe that most people in Britain and all the Western countries–as North America and Western Europe-are becoming aware of the issues which concern us. I would like to refer you to a wonderful article by Peter Laurie in one of the recent Supplements of the Sunday Times. But it was even more heartening to read of the same concerns in a young people's journal in which many articles confirmed my trust in our young generation, articles wherein they prove their preoccupation with these very problems, all related – the needs for beauty, justice and conservation.

By conservation, I do not mean the conservation of everything intact-as of a corpse. I mean the conservation of everything beneficient and life maintaining which nature bequeathed man, and the conservation of every expression of man's need for beauty. The Georgian squares of London are an example; the blue whale, the narwhal another; the few remaining oak forests a third! I also mean the conservation of things, values and institutions which represent a very long, expensive and painful investment of experience. Today with our instant explosive and brutal shock methods we threaten all and everything which has taken time, centuries and millennia to accumulate, to achieve. So long as man belongs to the animal kingdom, so long as he is born of flesh and blood, so long as man and woman join in the creative act-so long is he bound to the realm of nature.

Regardless of how far his intellect may explore the word of inorganic matter, for his pleasures, his pains, his fulfilment and peace of mind, he belongs to the pulsating life he shares with his frail and fragile co-breathers on this earth.

Just like "progress" and "order," so too the ambiguity in the different interpretations of the word conservation.

Our ear, so dominated by man-made change and by the new has lent the word conservation a rather dusty connotation. It has lost the commanding concern of maintaining, of conserving a way of life–our way of life, and implies a somewhat charitable, almost superfluous concern with a fossilized preservation in suspended states of alien matter.

It is hard to drive home that total concept of life on earth, that ecological unity which makes us all at least as dependent upon all life as we are competitive with all life.

When I speak of conservation, I have in mind the defence of humanity, of the living protoplasm which has struggled with and triumphed over the vast mass of inorganic, molten, cooling matter. I speak of defending our global heritage, this life-promoting environment which is our only defence against the timeless inanimate-the ageless dragon whom we worship, now clothed in steel, plutonium and plastic which has risen to new powers to challenge all life anew, even as we assume we are about to dominate it.


Naturally, at the lowest level life is overwhelmingly competitive, but this is because each species fills only one segment of the ecological structure of life; it is one thread in the pattern of a gigantic interwoven living and changing tapestry of which it is not aware. Here stability and continuity are achieved by the automatic checks and balances of opposing forces, by their own individual inbuilt limitations and restrictions, and by the fact that all destruction of life, i.e. death from all causes, only enriches and builds up the reserves of living matter. Thus even our fuel is provided by coal, the material remains of living plant-life and oil, the material remains of living animal life.

Man, however, has raised himself by grafting himself on to bigger and bigger brains (now about to be done surgically) to a position from where he can see a goodly part of that living tapestry, even while his native physical equipment has fallen: claws, fangs, fur, armour, even wings-these he has forsworn biologically but, in league with the inanimate demon he has achieved all of these and with a vengeance!

But the cruder defensive and aggressive means belong by right only to the fractionally alive, because as we reach the higher levels of life and as we enjoy a broader view of our living tapestry, the competitive requirements of survival must give way to the collaborative requirements of both society and survival.

As we begin to identify ourselves not only with the immediate in time and place-as does, say the ant-but with life generally and literally everywhere, we must by the same token depend for our survival upon the broad realm which we perceive and upon which we exercise effect; upon which we therefore depend for survival and for which we are responsible.

Remember, God told man that he was to be custodian of all living matter, not its destroyer.

As a musician, I live with vibrations, a state which is neither animate nor inanimate, but is common to both. Vibrations are of all phenomena the ones which allow us to touch, as it were, the most distant source, both in space and time. Because we are vibrating, pulsating beings, we can sense and in fact relive the sensations, sentiments, impulses and thoughts of thousands of other musicians, and as musicians we can communicate these to millions of people.

When I speak of conservation as a musician, it is not only in terms of wonderful illuminated manuscripts from the Middle Ages, but in terms of their actual sound, the complex of vibrations they provoke in the human mind.

My Heaven on Earth is not a museum or a static state of unlikely bliss, but a situation fraught with problems and challenges, ones that would absorb tremendous amounts of courage, curiosity, effort, patience, dedication and self-sacrifice.


But above all, my Earth-Heaven is for me the acceptance by civilised man of those bonds which make all life interdependent and which make of us conscious custodians of the future.

After all, we already determine our future; we condemn it in fact when we say "apres moi le deluge:' I am afraid that death, pain and disappointment are an intrinsic part of my Heaven, but suffering would, I hope, not be inflicted deliberately by blind men and selfish men, blind and deaf to the consequences of their actions.

Perhaps the greatest importance must be attached to the inculcation of a respect for continuity, a respect for all life, a sense of relative values, and a readiness to admit error. By relative values I mean, for instance, the multiplication of cars and roads without building a commensurate organisation for handling road accidents. I mean the production of jet and internal combustion engines and nuclear bombs without any thought of the amount of pollution our living atmosphere can absorb.

I mean the infliction of untold horror in the name of liberty, democracy, communism and socialism. l mean the multiplication of both the sick and their care without the measures necessary for preventive medicine. I mean the exploitation of life for its lowest common denominator, for greed and power, as man did in the instances of slavery and child labour, and as we do now at the other extreme of consumer power, in which for the purpose of profit, the appetite is constantly irritated and whetted so that the market can depend upon a continuously unsatisfied and restless people.

Each time we destroy irreversibly an organic element on our planet, we are cutting the ground from under our own feet; we are destroying our own living tissues and those of our children and our children's children. We are destroying the helpless water and air, the helpless leaves, the helpless blood cells and bone marrow of living flesh.

The problem that faces us now is actually behind us and beside us too, that is to say we have to think spherically, as it were, to see synoptically and to learn to live and judge at two levels: that of the visionary long-term one and that of the day-to-day one.

Immediates are indissolubly linked to ultimates, the wind to the whirlwind; sow the one and you will reap the other, and with the frightening acceleration of our present age neither King nor Head of State can hope for the "deluge" to overtake his successor–the likelihood is that he will be drowned in the instant after-effects of his own actions!

Will this shrinking of time-space evoke greater caution in the wrong sense? More conservative reaction in the negative sense? Or will we be able to expand and extend our minds, become aware but not frightened of dangers, consider responsibilities the inevitable concomitant of rights and find dignity in being an active part of a general community, instead of an isolated cog in a wheel that seems to turn to ever smaller and less worthy purpose?

Do we know what we should conserve? Can we agree upon it? I think of the good burgher of Bath who recently could only envisage a particularly beautiful sweep of lawn, not as had the 18th century architect to whom it was an intrinsic part of the design of his terrace, but as "A criminal waste of building space"… Must finance in its short-term aspect always dictate? For that it is short-term and eventually disastrous has been proven in this last decade in America, where the structure of the cities of the 19th century mainly as huge market places has so alienated the human being that those who cannot escape to the suburbs stay behind to be mugged (or if they are lucky to mug others).

Must fear of other men, of ourselves, forever determine our behaviour? If the human creature could advance in goodwill, tolerance and self abnegation at the same speed as has been the case with his scientific inventions: could he replace his lost faith in the institutional religions with a real sense of the stake each and every member of the human race has in the human condition, then we might see a recrudescence of the spirit of man and redress the sad imbalance visible to the young who search for values and find none, who have weighed us older generation in the balance and found us wanting.

Solomon said: "A wise man's heart discerneth both time and judgment." How far we still are from wise man! And yet our only hope for self-preservation is just the exercise of this, the ability to focus on the far-off while dealing with the everyday.

Yehudi Menuhin (1916–99) was one of the greatest classical violinists of the 20th century.