20 MARCH 1942, Page 20

What is Man ?

Diagnosis of Man. By Kenneth Walker. (Cape. los. 6d.)

THE development of photography has made it possible for the single living cell, many times magnified, to be observed and studied on the cinematograph screen ; and few who have watched, when its moment has come, the division of a parent cell can have elsewhere witnessed such an almost terrifying spectacle of unstoppable energy. But is the " purpose " with which Mr. Kenneth Walker, in his Diagnosis of Man, credits even the lowliest single cell in the human body the same in kind and origin as that which deckles Mr. Jones, of whom the cell is perhaps a two thousand billionth part, to put on his hat and cross the road for a quick one at the Coach and Horses? Is Mr. Jones wholly explainable in terms of cellular activity and co-operation, the composition and balance of his endocrine glands, and an elaborate series of conditioned reflexes? These are the questions that Mr. Kenneth Walker sets out to answer in this outstandingly sane, serene and brilliantly written book. In its earlier chapters he sums up, with a minimum of technical terms, what modern anatomy, physiology, biology and psychology have been able to discover or guess about the physical and mental make-up of man and his relation to the universe • and his training as a surgeon has enabled him to do this with admirable concision and lucidity. But he has been forced to admit, having done this, that there are aspects of the problem not amenable of approach by the methods of science, in the strict sense of the word. A man may be taken to pieces and each piece analysed, measured and studied. But the whole man remains obviously something more than the sum of his component parts. Consciousness cannot be measured. There are kinds of knowledge and experience—dcmnies immediates—not explainable in terms of intellect or by means of controlled laboratory experiment. For light on these higher levels of consciousness, as he describes them—the experiences, for example, of the great and even the lesser mystics, poets and artists—recourse can only be had to philosophy and religion ; and in the latter part of his book Mr. Kenneth Walker is con- cerned to show that these two avenues to knowledge are at least as essential and valid as the approach by science. He is convinced that, in the discovery of the " thing in itself " which lies behind the world of appearances as conveyed to us by our sense organs and analysed by our brain cells, the disciplined and contemplative researches of Oriental sages have in some respects outreached our own and have much to teach us. Indeed, his book is perhaps really, in the main, a plea for a return to, or recognition of, the realisation of the immense importance of religion, not merely as a code of conduct, but as an actual method of acquiring know- ledge that cannot be gained in any other way. And by religion he means an individual striving and reaching out for something that, when it comes, is a real and individual, if unexplainable, enlightenment and experience—the attainment of a higher, just as there is admittedly a lower, level than that of normal consciousness.

" Most works devoted " (he says) " to the comparative study of religions are really studies of religious husks. Only a few deal with the grain. And the reason for this is at once obvious. It is only the husk that differs ; the grain, the inner soul, of all great religions, is the same. . . . If it were not so, if each religion differed in its essentials, all would be suspect."

Mr. Kenneth Walker has written a book worthy to be placed on the same shelf as Professor Wood Jones' Life and Living. Both demonstrate how profound has been the reorientation of biology from the rather cocksure rationalism and mechanistic