Arnold Toynbee

‘What, then, makes the difference between a successful civilisation and an unsuccessful one? And here Toynbee formulates one of his most valuable conceptions: that of ‘creative minorities.’ In this, he was influenced by Bergson, who, in his Two Sources of Morality and Religion, states his belief that civilisations progress because of individuals, not because of ‘subterranean currents of thought’ or ‘the great unconscious soul of the race.’ It is the conception which Harry Haller, the Steppenwolf, expressed: the Outsiders and men of genius are the spearheads of society; without them, society would fall to pieces.’


‘Toynbee calls the Outsider ‘the creative minority’ (mentioning, at the same time, that it can be a minority of one). The creative minority is the few individuals who are capable of meeting the challenges that confront a society. How do they do this? Once again, the reason is of immense interest in a study of the Outsider: by a process of ‘withdrawal and return.’ These solitary creative individuals withdraw from society into solitude and there wrestle with the problems alone. There, in solitude their vitality and insight increases; and when they emerge, it is with the power to stimulate the rest of society to overcome the challenges.’


‘What Toynbee has actually done is to make a major anti-materialistic statement. Not only do individuals depend upon moral vitality to create and evolve: civilisations need it too. It is pure anti-Marxism. Marxism states: Civilisations develop according to economic pressures; there is no free will. Toynbee states: Civilisations flourish or decline according to the moral vitality of the ‘creative minority,’ and the words ‘moral vitality’ would be meaningless if free will did not exist.’


‘But it is in these last volumes that Toynbee completes his concept of history. Now he is more candid about his notion that all history is the manifestation of God in matter. The aim for the individual — at any time and in any place — is the vision of God; the only thing worth striving for is sainthood. And it is significant that Jung’s theory of ‘psychological types’ was one of the major influences on his religious thinking. Jung’s psychological types correspond roughly to the three types of  Outsider that I have named: the ‘physical,’ the ‘emotional’ and the ‘intellectual.’