AD's English Literature : George Bernard Shaw’s Philosophy of Life: Creative Evolution and Life Force,

Thursday, August 15, 2013

George Bernard Shaw’s Philosophy of Life: Creative Evolution and Life Force,

"Shaw's judgements are often scatterbrained, but at least he has brains to scatter."-                   Max Beerbohm 

Pre-eminently a first-rate dramatist whose work had a major influence on British drama, Shaw is a philosopher par excellence, with a definite philosophy of life. As a philosopher he is the chief exponent of the philosophic doctrine known as Creative Evolution. The earliest statement of his philosophic doctrine appears in his Man and Superman as the doctrine of Life Force. This doctrine runs through most of his later plays and takes final shape as the doctrine of Creative Evolution in his Back to Methuselah published in 1921. 

George Bernard Shaw
A. C. Ward has traced the growth and development of Shaw’s philosophic doctrine in the following wards: “This play was Bernard Shaw’s earliest full statement of his conception of the way of Salvation for the human race, through obedience to the Life Force, the term he uses to indicate a power continually working upon the hearts of men and endeavoring to impel them towards a better and fuller life. In later plays the Life Force seems to become more and more closely identified with what most people mean when they speak of the Will of god and the Holy Ghost ……………….The philosophy of the Life Force introduced in Man and Superman, ran through most of the later plays. 

Unlike Hardy’s Immanent Will, Shaw’s Life Force is represented as a power making consciously towards a state of existence far more abundantly vital than anything yet experienced by mankind. His  startling themes on slum landlordism and prostitution, the folly of punishment and revenge, religion, politics, the medical profession, marriage, parenthood, and phonetics—came into the stage.They came with the force of life. But the Life Force is not purposed to work unaided; men and women are required to act as willing and eager agents for the furtherance of its great work. The existing rage of men, however, (so Shaw thought in 1903), was too mean-spirited and too self-centered to serve the Life Force, which would consequently be compelled to supersede man by a more effective instrument of its will – the Superman!’ In Back to Methuselah once again the purpose and claims of the Life Force were stressed; Once again, and in plainer terms than before, he spoke his warning that if man did not come up to the mark, Man would be replaced by a less tragically futile creature.” Shaw “pleads for the substitution of Creative Evolution – his ‘religion of the twentieth century – which teaches not only that man is the potential Superman, but also that man can himself hasten the evolutionary process by ‘willing’ his own upward development ………….. ” 

In fact Shaw's intellect or ideas is imbibed with bold, critical intelligence and his sharp pen, brought to bear on contemporary issues, helped mold the thought of his own and later generations. Moreover, his Life Force accomplished this through a brilliance of wit that remains unsurpassed. now coming to the point, the Life Force is not named so frequently in Back to Methuselah as in Man and Superman, but it remains as the power behind the idea of Creative Evolution. The ultimate desire of the Life Force is to establish the city of God on earth. The intention at the back of the idea of Creative Evolution is that man should work intentionally towards to evolution of a human type that will be strong enough to establish and worthy enough to maintain the earthly Jerusalem. Creative Evolution is the doctrine commended by Shaw as a means through which the desire of man and the purpose of the Life Force may be made identical.”  

Ardhendu De      


  1. Shaw's theory of Creative Evolution rings all my intuitive bells, for what they're worth. It rings true to Jung’s definition of the modern man but the deceit of (Darwin's) physical evolution is too difficult to budge in getting it across to pseudo-moderns and the herd. It’s never got much press because we’re almost always in ‘either-or’ or dualist thought mode; black or white. The third way is a shade of grey in between in that it embodies elements of both ‘either-or’ (either Creation or evolution). Creation is true, but not that ‘a God’ did the creating. We did it, and by ‘we’ I mean the mind sub-set of Mind that the quantum physicists spoke of when telling us that we aren’t real in the physical sense we perceive with our eyes. (Eddington: ‘All is mind stuff’.) We’re energy; particles or waves in the illusory quantum. We know that and can prove it, whereas we don’t know about physical evolution because it’s illusory, and there is no and can be no worthwhile physical evidence to prove it. As for God creating the physical universe, it’s only true as a childish way of saying that the billions of differentiated parts of the Oneness contribute to the making of the illusion. In the Bible’s Genesis, oblique allusion is made to sparks of Divinity that have fallen. It was written a long time ago for a simpler folk than moderns of today. The Fall was a descent into unconsciousness by parts of the Oneness. Evolution is the painful and drawn-out spiritual process by which we regain knowledge of who we are, the mind aspect of Mind, and what has befallen us. It’s gained by finding the narrow gate that leads out of the mental prison the physical world, mere illusion, represents. Only the top rank scientists were able to appreciate the third way and go beyond the limits of the materialistic world view. It’s a view ordinary scientists are busy measuring and speculating on, locking themselves deeper in the illusion the quantum scientists found. This is probably the biggest thought we ‘mortals’ can think. It doesn’t require proof of the type the blind scientists seek. Sci-fi writer Philip K. Dick maintained that we get out of our mental nightmare by the process of anamnesis, or remembering, in which our psyches recognise truths that by far surpass any aspect of the illusion the scientists are locked into. We’re all at different levels of remembering what we lost. We’re not climbing higher than our ape cousins but regaining lost ground (lost consciousness); ground lost when we let ego take possession of us. Thank you.

    Anon 73582DM


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