What's important about this for the topic tonight is to understand what was going on in the U.S. at that time. Essentially what was happening in the U.S. in the 1890's? We had reached a peak of what's called the "spiritual crisis of America." This spiritual crisis was the result of the changes and transformations that were brought about by what was then called "modern science". The impact of the Darwinian theory of evolution had a major effect on religious orthodoxy, as everyone knows. In short, it wasn't for sure that God was in his heaven, and that all was right with the world, which led to Nietzsche's expression that perhaps "God is dead."
Many thinking people who were well read and educated went through a deep personal spiritual crisis, my grandparents being two of them. After having been brought up in an orthodox, traditional religious framework, they suddenly met principles of geology, biology, and astronomy.
Sigmund Freud captured it really well when he said, "the self-love of mankind has been three times wounded by science." That is, our view of ourselves, or the ego, was three times wounded by modern science. He was referring to the Copernican Revolution, followed by Galileo, who said, "Hey, this isn't the center of the universe." And a lot of people had trouble with that. The Earth had been the center of the universe for them, and everything revolved around it; suddenly it was just a tiny speck. We are still finding out that this world is getting less and less significant, as we probe further and further into what people think is the end of space, which they never seem to find. So it goes on and on.
Freud didn't include himself in one of the wounds, but I will. Freud wounded our ego in the sense of saying that we are not in control. We are not the masters of our own fate; impulses and desires drive us beyond the reach of our rational minds: the unconscious. And it's quite nasty in there. He called it the Id. That realization really took Man out of his exalted state of measurable things and the rational animal.
Following that came Darwin, who stated that the gulf between animal and man isn't as wide as we had thought, either. In fact, it may be that we descended from animals—that is, according to the Darwinian view—which was less than flattering. Thus whole fields of study began to develop along those lines, and the idea that we were an especially created species divinely touched by God alone underwent a shock. The Darwinian shock was the one that really hit many people.
The third wound was Marx and Marxism. That was on what I would consider the social dimension. In the Marxian world we were suddenly animals driven by economic desires. It is the Freudian equivalent at the social and economic level. That means we are not driven by humanistic, altruistic impulses—not even religious ones. And of course if Darwin wasn't enough to do in religion, Marx would come in and say, well you can have it, but it is a kind of opium.
Thus the combination of Freud, Darwin, and Marx three times wounded the human psyche. Now historians talked about this unfortunate split between matter and spirit and there is a number of ways we can categorize it. We can say it's a split between matter and spirit, a split between faith and reason, a split between science and religion, a dichotomy between fact and values/ethics. At a more personal level, it is the mind-body dualism. However you want to characterize this split, this is what's really significant about the late 19th and early 20th centuries, and I would argue it's still with us today. This is something that still haunts our psyches.
Much of today's therapies, religions, and even the "New Age" phenomena are attempts in one way or another to reconcile and bridge this unfortunate split to which we are heirs. This becomes, in a sense, the problem of the Modern Age, so much so that John Dewey, the pragmatic philosopher of the late 19th and early 20th century said, "The pathological segregation of facts and value, matter and spirit, or the bifurcation of nature, this integration [the problem of integrating this] poses the deepest problem of modern life." He defined this split as the beginning of where all philosophy and religion takes off. If we don't heal this split, we will never be whole; we will never get it back together again.
Even more significantly, Alfred North Whitehead looked at this thing and made a paraphrase, "The future course of history would center on this generation's [meaning our generation's] resolving the issue of the proper relationship between science and religion; so fundamental are the religious symbols through which people give meaning to their lives [being religion] and so powerful the scientific knowledge through which we shape and control our lives." So you see, these two things are going to be the most important.
To be continued