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It Is Herein Contended That Two Characteristics Of The Human Condition May Be Put Forward For Our Careful Examination:

(A) The urgency (in all of us) to enhance the affection among us;

(B) The urgency in us (collectively) constantly to improve the ways and forms of society, so that the first characteristic is more likely to be satisfied.

A Sense of Communion

William Line

By "Sense of Communion" is meant essentially the feeling of ease, comfort and at-homeness with other people. It implies all that is comprised by the time-honoured term "empathy" in its positive aspects, without any taint of stress, anxiety or tension communicated from one person to another. It is inter-personal in its reference, and reflects the joy and satisfaction of "shared-experience", thus making "development" possible.

Many of the words and phrases which reflect the core-values of society and of culture are in reality based upon true communion, words like "family", "home", "hearth", for example. The French word "foyer" is artistic in this regard, and therefore untranslatable. It means more than a mere sense of belonging, since "belonging" may be experienced as "being accepted" -- for reasons of social obligation only, paternalism or custom. It means more than "being acceptable" -- for reasons that imply acceptability to an established group, with the further implication that while we might not have met the standards for that group, somehow or other we have. And so on.

It is more than communication in the sense that without communion, true communication is impossible. "Communication" has come to mean someone telling (ordering, affirming) something to another, who accepts the telling. Communication thus interpreted is a one-way process, usually from the "prestige" or authoritarian person (or "rebel") to the "subservient".

Communion is a felt partnership, despite all social symbols of prestige, such as age, professional or other status, or "authority". It is a TWO-WAY, MUTUAL process; rather than an "order", an "instruction", a "reprimand", or a "shrug-of-the-shoulder approval." In communion there is true fellowship; and in fellowship there is value. Communion is reflected in, and basic to, the "art of conversation". "Conversation" is a much under-rated, ignored, or misinterpreted basic aspect of being human. It includes empathic silence, the experience of mutuality in the appreciation of the sunset or any work of art.

Communion is a term perhaps made most explicit as the central basis of our Judaeistic heritage. Being primordially human, its meaning has fundamental place in all "cultures"; but our Jewish forefathers were convinced that whatever Jehovah's ultimate purpose was, knowable or otherwise, the shared experiences of "communion" could not be something outside of that purpose.

Evidence from the thoughtful study of infants shows the importance of communion (as between mother and child, for example) from the earliest moments after birth, and prior to as well as accompanying the growth or existence of self-consciousness. Communion is made possible and necessary by the birth-event wherein two individuals (mother and child) still enjoy and appreciate a oneness despite difference. Every action (experience), as far as the infant is concerned, is a mutual (non-differentiated) action. The infant is fed, tendered, "cared-for", in a warm (or otherwise) social situation. Where communion is broken -- as by the impatience or anxiety of the mother, for example, the infant senses this fact. (This is where Harry Stack Sullivan (Interpersonal Theory of Psychiatry) places the meaning of "empathy" , namely in anxiety -- an anxious mother communicates anxiety to the infant.) And so the infant "warms to" or shares the experience of communion, or is threatened by those events, incidents and circumstances that challenge or threaten it. Personally, I regard this as one of the most sensitively artistic facts of human nature, of the Being that is Human.

The principle of communion is basic, without reference to any age, racial or other differential.

Think about the degree, now, of an individual's sensitivity to communion, and of the degree to which any social situation (such as your work arrangements), takes this important aspect of society into consideration.

In terms of the development of human beings, according to their own needs as persons, I would put this first-stated need as first. Without a sensitivity to communion, the human being is not.

Various members of your entourage will show differing degrees of interest in communion. You must expect this. An honest interest in fostering Communion, as first requisite of decent progressive human relationships, is basic to any organization of people, whether it be family, school, community, factory or office; in any society.

William Line, who died in 1964, was a former professor of psychology and member of the Senate of the University of Toronto. Born in England, in 1897 he was an undergraduate in chemistry at the University of London when he enlisted with the British Army at the outbreak of World War I. He served in Egypt, the Balkans and France and was twice wounded. On coming to Canada he finished his undergraduate work at Mount Allison University graduating in 1921 with honours in chemistry and mathematics. He studied briefly at Harvard and later taught chemistry at the university of Alberta. His interests then turned to Philosophy and Education and in 1922 he was awarded an M.A. in Philosophy, and in 1924 a master of Education, both from Alberta. He taught at the University of Manitoba for a short time, but soon returned to London to pursue studies in Psychology under Charles Spearman. He received his doctorate from London in 1928 for his experimental studies on the "Growth of Perception". He taught at Mount Allison before coming to the University of Toronto in 1929 which position he held until his death. In World War II he joined the Queen's Own Rifles of Canada, serving in Canada and overseas as Director of Personnel Selection, with the rank of Colonel. During this time he established the system of personnel selection and intelligence testing in the Canadian Army. Toward the end of the war he helped establish the rehabilitation programs for returning veterans. In recognition of his service he was made an officer of the Order of the British Empire.

On his return to the University he re-established his long-time interests in mental health and resumed his position as Consultant to the Canadian Mental Health Association. These interests quickly took on national and international importance; he became psychological advisor to the newly established Department of Veterans' Affairs in Ottawa, consultant to the World Health Organization and to the United Nations secretariat on personnel policies. He was founder and later consultant to the International Institute of Child Study established by UNESCO in Bangkok, Thailand. He was a member of the founding commission and later president of the World Federation for Mental Health, and also served as President of the Canadian Psychological Association and was elected a Fellow of that body. His main psychological studies are to be found in the learned journals of Canada, the United States, England, France and Germany.