Of The Doctrine Of Our Priests


As to the doctrine of the Circles it may briefly be summed up in a

single maxim, "Attend to your Configuration." Whether political,

ecclesiastical, or moral, all their teaching has for its object the

improvement of individual and collective Configuration--with special

reference of course to the Configuration of the Circles, to which all

other objects are subordinated.

It is the merit of the Circles that
hey have effectually suppressed

those ancient heresies which led men to waste energy and sympathy in

the vain belief that conduct depends upon will, effort, training,

encouragement, praise, or anything else but Configuration. It was

Pantocyclus--the illustrious Circle mentioned above, as the queller of

the Colour Revolt--who first convinced mankind that Configuration makes

the man; that if, for example, you are born an Isosceles with two

uneven sides, you will assuredly go wrong unless you have them made

even--for which purpose you must go to the Isosceles Hospital;

similarly, if you are a Triangle, or Square, or even a Polygon, born

with any Irregularity, you must be taken to one of the Regular

Hospitals to have your disease cured; otherwise you will end your days

in the State Prison or by the angle of the State Executioner.

All faults or defects, from the slightest misconduct to the most

flagitious crime, Pantocyclus attributed to some deviation from perfect

Regularity in the bodily figure, caused perhaps (if not congenital) by

some collision in a crowd; by neglect to take exercise, or by taking

too much of it; or even by a sudden change of temperature, resulting in

a shrinkage or expansion in some too susceptible part of the frame.

Therefore, concluded that illustrious Philosopher, neither good conduct

nor bad conduct is a fit subject, in any sober estimation, for either

praise or blame. For why should you praise, for example, the integrity

of a Square who faithfully defends the interests of his client, when

you ought in reality rather to admire the exact precision of his right

angles? Or again, why blame a lying, thievish Isosceles, when you

ought rather to deplore the incurable inequality of his sides?

Theoretically, this doctrine is unquestionable; but it has practical

drawbacks. In dealing with an Isosceles, if a rascal pleads that he

cannot help stealing because of his unevenness, you reply that for that

very reason, because he cannot help being a nuisance to his neighbours,

you, the Magistrate, cannot help sentencing him to be consumed--and

there's an end of the matter. But in little domestic difficulties,

when the penalty of consumption, or death, is out of the question, this

theory of Configuration sometimes comes in awkwardly; and I must

confess that occasionally when one of my own Hexagonal Grandsons pleads

as an excuse for his disobedience that a sudden change of temperature

has been too much for his Perimeter, and that I ought to lay the blame

not on him but on his Configuration, which can only be strengthened by

abundance of the choicest sweetmeats, I neither see my way logically to

reject, nor practically to accept, his conclusions.

For my own part, I find it best to assume that a good sound scolding or

castigation has some latent and strengthening influence on my

Grandson's Configuration; though I own that I have no grounds for

thinking so. At all events I am not alone in my way of extricating

myself from this dilemma; for I find that many of the highest Circles,

sitting as Judges in law courts, use praise and blame towards Regular

and Irregular Figures; and in their homes I know by experience that,

when scolding their children, they speak about "right" and "wrong" as

vehemently and passionately as if they believe that these names

represented real existence, and that a human Figure is really capable

of choosing between them.

Constantly carrying out their policy of making Configuration the

leading idea in every mind, the Circles reverse the nature of that

Commandment which in Spaceland regulates the relations between parents

and children. With you, children are taught to honour their parents;

with us--next to the Circles, who are the chief object of universal

homage--a man is taught to honour his Grandson, if he has one; or, if

not, his Son. By "honour," however, is by no means mean "indulgence,"

but a reverent regard for their highest interests: and the Circles

teach that the duty of fathers is to subordinate their own interests to

those of posterity, thereby advancing the welfare of the whole State as

well as that of their own immediate descendants.

The weak point in the system of the Circles--if a humble Square may

venture to speak of anything Circular as containing any element of

weakness--appears to me to be found in their relations with Women.

As it is of the utmost importance for Society that Irregular births

should be discouraged, it follows that no Woman who has any

Irregularities in her ancestry is a fit partner for one who desires

that his posterity should rise by regular degrees in the social scale.

Now the Irregularity of a Male is a matter of measurement; but as all

Women are straight, and therefore visibly Regular so to speak, one has

to device some other means of ascertaining what I may call their

invisible Irregularity, that is to say their potential Irregularities

as regards possible offspring. This is effected by carefully-kept

pedigrees, which are preserved and supervised by the State; and without

a certified pedigree no Woman is allowed to marry.

Now it might have been supposed the a Circle--proud of his ancestry and

regardful for a posterity which might possibly issue hereafter in a

Chief Circle--would be more careful than any other to choose a wife who

had no blot on her escutcheon. But it is not so. The care in choosing

a Regular wife appears to diminish as one rises in the social scale.

Nothing would induce an aspiring Isosceles, who has hopes of generating

an Equilateral Son, to take a wife who reckoned a single Irregularity

among her Ancestors; a Square or Pentagon, who is confident that his

family is steadily on the rise, does not inquire above the

five-hundredth generation; a Hexagon or Dodecagon is even more careless

of the wife's pedigree; but a Circle has been known deliberately to

take a wife who has had an Irregular Great-Grandfather, and all because

of some slight superiority of lustre, or because of the charms of a low

voice--which, with us, even more than with you, is thought "an

excellent thing in a Woman."

Such ill-judged marriages are, as might be expected, barren, if they do

not result in positive Irregularity or in diminution of sides; but none

of these evils have hitherto provided sufficiently deterrent. The loss

of a few sides in a highly-developed Polygon is not easily noticed, and

is sometimes compensated by a successful operation in the

Neo-Therapeutic Gymnasium, as I have described above; and the Circles

are too much disposed to acquiesce in infecundity as a law of the

superior development. Yet, if this evil be not arrested, the gradual

diminution of the Circular class may soon become more rapid, and the

time may not be far distant when, the race being no longer able to

produce a Chief Circle, the Constitution of Flatland must fall.

One other word of warning suggest itself to me, though I cannot so

easily mention a remedy; and this also refers to our relations with

Women. About three hundred years ago, it was decreed by the Chief

Circle that, since women are deficient in Reason but abundant in

Emotion, they ought no longer to be treated as rational, nor receive

any mental education. The consequence was that they were no longer

taught to read, nor even to master Arithmetic enough to enable them to

count the angles of their husband or children; and hence they sensibly

declined during each generation in intellectual power. And this system

of female non-education or quietism still prevails.

My fear is that, with the best intentions, this policy has been carried

so far as to react injuriously on the Male Sex.

For the consequence is that, as things now are, we Males have to lead a

kind of bi-lingual, and I may almost say bimental, existence. With

Women, we speak of "love," "duty," "right," "wrong," "pity," "hope,"

and other irrational and emotional conceptions, which have no

existence, and the fiction of which has no object except to control

feminine exuberances; but among ourselves, and in our books, we have an

entirely different vocabulary and I may also say, idiom. "Love" them

becomes "the anticipation of benefits"; "duty" becomes "necessity" or

"fitness"; and other words are correspondingly transmuted. Moreover,

among Women, we use language implying the utmost deference for their

Sex; and they fully believe that the Chief Circle Himself is not more

devoutly adored by us than they are: but behind their backs they are

both regarded and spoken of--by all but the very young--as being little

better than "mindless organisms."

Our Theology also in the Women's chambers is entirely different from

our Theology elsewhere.

Now my humble fear is that this double training, in language as well as

in thought, imposes somewhat too heavy a burden upon the young,

especially when, at the age of three years old, they are taken from the

maternal care and taught to unlearn the old language--except for the

purpose of repeating it in the presence of the Mothers and Nurses--and

to learn the vocabulary and idiom of science. Already methinks I

discern a weakness in the grasp of mathematical truth at the present

time as compared with the more robust intellect of our ancestors three

hundred years ago. I say nothing of the possible danger if a Woman

should ever surreptitiously learn to read and convey to her Sex the

result of her perusal of a single popular volume; nor of the

possibility that the indiscretion or disobedience of some infant Male

might reveal to a Mother the secrets of the logical dialect. On the

simple ground of the enfeebling of the male intellect, I rest this

humble appeal to the highest Authorities to reconsider the regulations

of Female education.