The Hive

The Hive

Will Levington Comfort
Will Levington Comfort

Author: Comfort, Will Levington, 1878-1932
Child development
American essays — 20th century
The Hive


There is much to say. Many have a part in this story of our days. Their work is on the table. Yet no manuscript, no chapter, is a real beginning. One must start a book this way—with a fresh sheet in the machine and tell what he is going to tell about…. First of all, it has to do with the unfolding of the child mind; all the Stonestudy work has been for that, but the brimming wonder of it all is that we have chiefly been employed unfolding ourselves.

No one can begin upon the sweet and sacred story of life to a child without taking a stride nearer into the centre of things, and living it. That’s what all telling is about—presently to stop talking and to catch up on conduct. The fairest culture of all is to become artists in life…. Thinking of this, thinking much upon this one thing, we have been lured out of the heaviness of work into the dimension of Play. We tell here about this particular passage.

Also something about the story of Man and Woman, hinting at what is contained in pages of the Book of Life not opened heretofore for the eyes of the many, but preparing now for the eyes of the children of the New Race—a beautiful story, be sure of that, but one that requires art in the telling. No one could bring this story to the lovers and the children of the New Race who had not found out that Beauty belongs to the divine trinity with Goodness and Truth.

Many seers have not held that well in mind, many sages have forgotten it, many saints have not learned it adequately at all. We have to build our own heavens here before we can have them anywhere else. The more of an artist a man is, the more reverent he becomes about perfecting his thought-forms. Just a mention now—that we rejoice to make much of the Beauty side of things in this book; that a thing cannot be beautiful and bad; that Beauty is the next quest of the many, as they escape one by one from the bondage of Gold.

We try to express the Soul of things rather than to delineate boundaries of matter, but a very strong point is made upon the fact that one cannot deal in the spirit until he has mastered to a good degree the coarser stuff that bodies and worlds are made of. We do not care how the young minds aspire mystically, so long as their abutments hold fast in the bottom-lands. A man must not drag his anchor as he climbs the hill; he must unfold line all the way—a line made of strands of himself, woven of his own wisdom, love and power.

Much is made in this book of the fact that we are given pounds for a purpose—that all here below is symbol and intimation of a globe and perfection elsewhere—that we cannot look upon the archetype of gold until we have mastered the imitation in clay…. We come even closer to this precious subject: For instance, we know that it is only from the soul of things that one can see materials—that no one can get a glimpse of the meaning of materials so long as he is lost in the ruck of them. At the same time we do not believe that we have access, even to the lesser grades of mysticism, until we have all the power and force of the material-minded. We believe we must do well that which the world is doing, even the tasks of the average man, that nothing can be missed.

We do not encourage that mystic or poet who requires endowment. If we are to be artists, we believe in supporting our own groups; we have a suspicion that we are not through with conditions, any conditions no matter how hateful, so long as they have us whipped.

We aspire to be writers and politicians and painters and heroes; we aspire to be masters in all the superb productions of life, but we are content to begin with the ground. We are content with poverty, yet we believe that very early as workmen, we are entitled to a fastidious poverty, which is expensive. No possessions—but all possessions. As writers we are convinced that it is necessary to do—and inimitably well—the things that the public wants and pays ten cents the word for, quite as well as to reveal the deeper folds of our growth for which we have to finance publication. We are not sure yet which is the worthier achievement.

Perhaps we speak much of Soul in this book, but we mean nothing more formidable than the better part of every man. This is the Big Fellow who takes us over when we do that which is worth while—in billiards or diplomacy, in art or love or trade. I think it is the Big Comrade which we are really unfolding—the Workman and Player. Much of Soul, we write, because it is the point of our educational drive—to set It free in the child or the young workman, to make It speak or write or play, and not mere brain and hand.

We speak much of love—not as an emotion, not as a sentiment, but as a cosmic force. You will see much more what we mean by this as you turn the pages. It is the most challenging thing in the world. It is the inner white-hot core of the Fatherland that is to be—the great white Democracy of the future….

Democracy—that’s the point of inception of it all; that word is the seed. The more you dwell upon it—you know what the Seamless Robe of the Christ means—the more you realise that the Master Jesus was the first Big Democrat…. We have them speak the word softly and thoughtfully here each day—we like to hear the young ones say it. They are apt to know as much about it as you do—for the word doesn’t mean exactly what they mean, who have used it most heretofore. It isn’t the name of a political party—yet…. It is government of the people by the people, but only to those who see the sons of God in the eyes of passing men. We only ask its magic, not its presence upon these pages…. They’re fighting for it gloriously—every hour. The boys here thrill with the boys there. We hold our hands high to them. Some of our boys are there. They are all our boys! Some are waiting the call to go—but there or here, we are pulling together for the real Fatherland, for the adequite fraternity, under the endless and thrilling magic of the word Equality.

… I can say no more splendid word to you than My Equal: I know of no greater adventure than to become one of the Many. It is true that you and I—the best of us, the Immortal within us each, are of one house—that this is but a far outpost of the journey, Egypt if you like, the husks if you like—but that we have arisen and are on our way home to the Father’s House.

Canyon, Santa Monica, California.


I North Americans 17
II Quickenings 24
III Conquest of Fears 36
IV The Stuff of Comrades 45
V John’s Things 56
VI Values of Letter Writing 70
VII The New Dancing 79
VIII Old Pictures in Red 91
IX Steve 101
X Hejira 111
XI The Spectator 118
XII Tom and the Little Girl 129
XIII The Abbot 139
XIV The Artist Unleashed 155
XV Work in Short Stories 164
XVI Valley Road Girl 172
XVII Beauty 183
XVIII Shuk 192
XIX Imagination 205
XX Boys and Dogs 211
XXI The Man Who Found Peace 219
XXII A Dithyramb and a Letter 233
XXIII The Mating Mystery 241
XXIV Chapter of Letters 252
XXV Romance 267
XXVI The Cosmic Peasant 277
XXVII Résumé 315




The thing called the New Race—the passion of poets, the phantom running ahead and forever calling the dreamer and revolutionist and occultist, is far from a reality as yet among the commonplaces of the world. It is the spirit of everything worth while, but that means nothing to one who has not a breath of it in his own body…. A story went forth from this shop recently in which certain ideals and presences of the new social order were carried through to a cheerful ending. The publisher wrote, “Yes, but what is the New Race?”

It’s a fair question, but remember one cannot adequately describe a spiritual thing in terms of matter. It is only possible of portrayal where it has broken through into terms of three-space. First you are apt to get the nearest and most striking picture of the New Race at your own supper-table—the presence of one of your own children, especially if the young one is hard to understand.

Parents and children of all times have found confusion and alarm in each other’s ways. But there are rare periods of human history when the difference between two generations has been not a normal and superficial crack, but an abyss. It is so now. The Old has reached its climacteric point of destructivity. All self-passions destroy themselves in time. Fear, greed, sensuality—all are self-destructive. Great human numbers and decadent principles have been recently broken down in the world with a swiftness and abandonment heretofore unrecorded, except in the traditions of planetary flood and flame….

You may watch closely the child under seven who plays in the Unseen, whose companions are not in the room for older eyes; watch the one of fancies and fairies and fragrances which others cannot quite discern. Many a child has been driven with a soul-wound into corroding silence by parents who thought they were punishing falsehood, when they were in reality repressing the imagination—the faculty which master-artists denote as the first and loveliest possession of the creative mind. Too coarse and unlit to see what the child saw, the parents again and again have looked gravely at each other, saying:

“This is a crisis. Our child has begun to lie. We must forget her own feelings and punish her——”

So often it is her—but not always. The boys who are to do the great tasks of song and prophecy and architecture—they, too, dream dreams and see visions and have the rapt eyes of Joan in the forests of Domremy; they, too, are severely questioned by the pharisees; none escape this scourging; they, too, in many cases shall be put to death.

The new ideals of the parenthood, education, romance, are now being introduced and promulgated by pioneers long since emerged from the old litter and humus. Education will mean first of all a turning for power to the Unseen. The quest of the Swan and the Star and the Beloved, are never carried along on the levels and inequalities of the earth—always the uplifted face for the saint and the sage and the seer. Great parents kneel beside their children and beg to be delivered from the heaviness which holds them to the dim shadows, where the child sees face to face. Education will mean finding his intrinsic task for the child—the intensive cultivation of the human spirit from the Soul outward, not alone from the brain inward.

The quest of the passing age was for Gold. The real meaning and symbol and glory of gold, as the highest, smoothest and most finished of minerals, has been lost in the bulkier products and possessions it meant to measure and signify. More and more has gold itself hid away from vulgar hands and been represented by objects intrinsically inferior. We now behold a civilisation destroying itself for commodities and destroying the commodities for which the destruction began.

Gold itself will serve Beauty in the coming age; commerce will serve æsthetics. The lovers of Beauty begin with the sand, with the clay. They love nature from the ground up; they are fervent for light and air, for sun and sky and water, for fruits and grains and bees, for stars and rains and romances. They say such things are holy. Words are inadequate for their loves and appreciations. They find the ways to love God infinite. They see Him in stone and stream; they see Him in the eyes of the deep down men; they see Him risen and inevitable in the eyes of their lovers….

Straight goodness will not do for the New Race, nor straight intellectuality. Artists, singers, painters and idealists will be the heroes of the generations to come, for they will add the quest of Beauty to the unwashed goodness of the saints and pilgrims.

These are but flaring points; one is embarrassed in short space because of a myriad things to say. Free verse is a sign of the New, also the dream of a free world and the planetary patriotism. The immanence of the spirit of all things, is a sign; the sense of the underlying oneness of humanity; not alone the Fatherland, but the Kinterland, where new Fountains are established and sages and masters come for inspiration—all these, like a passing train of wonder, a glimpse of many cars….

I think I can bring the picture in closer by using a few pages of work from one of the young men with me. His name is Steve. I called him The Dakotan,[1] in the book, Child and Country. We’ve romped and ridden together for three years, and I’ve known Steve better every day—still far from the end. The rest of the chapter is Steve’s writing:


Out of the centuries of moil and mix and fuse of Europe, the orient and the north countries, a gleaming archetype has emerged here which may be called the real North Americans. They are scattered here and there among the younger generation—young people new in name only; in soul they are as old as Zeus. Often they are strangers in their father’s house. They blend the mind of the occidental with the soul of the east; splendid firstlings of an untried future. They betray themselves by their genius. Heredity is the first fetich overthrown by them.

From the first they are a law unto themselves. They cast off churches, codes, creeds, schools and parents as preliminary steps in their teens. In the twenties they are prodigies, leaders in the arts or the revolutions. It is their aim to over-reach themselves, not to further a type. Very early they conjourn together in secret and obscure places, revolting against life as it is lived, like a handful of white dwellers in a foreign city.

There is always an alien, intangible something about these people. One senses the double life they lead, their own, and others. Conditions are not yet adjusted for them. They are super-nationalists, the first mark of the new. They are dreamers who make their dreams come true in matter, and first among their dreams is of the planet in one piece. They are naturally intolerant of barriers and partitions. They see ahead a new social order vast and shining as a devachanic vision—the real democracy of the future. They see that the new has come in not to kill, but to build. Theirs will be the spiritual heroics. Yet all this, of the greater patriotism, must not yet be spoken. It only alienates them the more from those they must live with. Their arch enemy is Ignorance, personified so often in their elders.

It is noticeable that these young people are healthier, stronger, swifter, sharper, tougher, bolder and at the same time lighter and finer than the passing generation. They have the new healthiness. They belong to the open and are practically immune to disease. Theirs is the health of sun and wind and spirit—vitality instead of constitution, something the old can never understand. Constitution is weight, solid, ungiving. Vitality is volatile, springy, electric, constantly being given, constantly being acquired, self-refining. Constitution does not change; it accumulates all it can, then begins to die….

The young women of this new Race are open, strong, eye-to-eye, free spoken. They are capable of friendships; they are not adverse to being wholly understood by males. They are not popular with ordinary women, who surmise their superiority but comprehend it not. Deceit, jealousy and such common disturbances evident in the sex are unknown to them. They have character and are lovely rather than beautiful. They are apt to go half way in their love-making, for who should know better when the chosen father of their children arrives.

All of these people are bringers of true love. Love is their philosophy and religion. They listen to the heart as well as the brain. Others think them cruel in their discrimination in mating. They take all or nothing—prodigious riskers, great sufferers, throwing even love’s dream on the board to be played for, and laughing as they play. The slightest blight on the loved one is deepest agony.

Perhaps the surest way of discovering these young giants is to search about for the most sorely harassed children. Invariably they are put to it, to break into this day and generation. They fight their way up through all the banked-up ignorance and antagonism of unlit humanity. Often they are solitaires, coming and going with the secrecy of kings and eagles.



A few pages of drift first of all with the younger boys…. There is a lane of Lombardy poplars from the Lake to the interurban car-line—a half mile. It is a lifting walk at any time, but summer evenings are wonderful with all the sounds and scents of a true pastorale—lake-breath and meadow-lands, the whole sky to look at, and the murmuring dissonance of the poplars. Often we walk to the car with passing guests. One evening a guest went away whom we loved very much. A lad of seven, named John, and I walked back from the car alone.

He was ignited. I felt this at last through his hand. I had been thinking about my own

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