THE DISCOVERY OF MUTUALITY
By Uriah J. Fields
SOME YEARS AGO, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and seventeen other persons including myself, organized the Montgomery Improvement Association to provide Leadership for the Montgomery Bus Boycott. A few days prior to organizing the Association, of which Martin Luther King, Jr., was elected president and this writer, Uriah J. Fields, was elected recording secretary, an African American woman named Rosa Parks had been arrested because she took a seat in the front of the bus in violation of the segregation laws of Alabama. That incident developed into an episode that gave birth to the Black Liberation Movement in America, which spanned the decade of the mid-fifties to the mid-sixties. The objective of the civil rights activists was to achieve integration. They maintained that integration was a healthy alternative to segregation and separation.
During those turbulent years of confrontation, bombings (which included bombing of the church that I pastored), imprisonments, and several deaths, integration replaced segregation in many facets of American life. Some cities became integrated and later re-segregated as white people made their exodus to the suburbs. In all of this turmoil it became increasingly clear that integration was a farce or a failure.
Then, something happened. I visited a small town, also in the state of Alabama, during the period of the Montgomery Bus Boycott and observed black people and white people sharing with each other, respecting each other, living side by side, and expressing good will. In analyzing what I observed, it was apparent that the relations between black people and white people were not what could be described as separation, segregation, or integration. What I saw changed my attitude and may yet change the nature of human relations in America, including race relations as well as other personal and interpersonal relations. ...
Upon my return to Montgomery I informed Martin Luther King, Jr., of my decision to resign as secretary and sever my relationship with the integration movement. Subsequently, I broke with Martin Luther King, Jr., and began to refer to myself and was referred to by the news media, as an ex-integrationist. King writes:
Rev. U. J. Fields made a statement to the press claiming
that he was resigning as recording secretary of the MIA.
In his announcement the youthful, goateed pastor of the
Bell Street Baptist Church, who had been an officer of
the Association from the beginning accused the members
of 'misusing money sent' from all over the nation: ...
The Association, he said, no longer represented what he
had stood for, and he was severing" his relations with a
movement in which the many are exploited by the few.
(From Stride Toward Freedom By Martin Luther King, Jr., p.153)
What Dr. King did not say is that I severed my relationship with him and with that movement because I saw the inadequacy of integration and had discovered a better way of life. However, I regarded then, and still do regard, Dr. King as a great man whose life had a tremendous impact upon my own life. Inspiration received from him and from the movement has contributed to my understanding and to the development of the philosophy I now embrace.
For seven years I traveled throughout much of the United States and Canada searching for other examples of what I had seen in that small Alabama town. Such examples were hard to find. I discovered that what had been observed in that little hamlet in Alabama did not exist in communities that were all white or in communities that were all black or in communities that were integrated. In other words, the racial composition of the community appeared to have nothing to do with what I had found in that hamlet. My next encounter with this quality of life was in a small Eastern town. Here the people were kind and sharing, respected each other, and had goodwill. Later, I made a similar discovery in a medium-size city in Saskatchewan, Canada.
What I saw as a way of life in that Alabama hamlet, which I revisited several times, and in a few other towns baffled me. Furthermore, interracial problems made it clear that the major problem that plagues man is, in fact, essentially something other than a racial problem.
Shortly before President John F Kennedy was assassinated, I was lecturing on "United States Leadership at Home and Abroad" in a town in southern Illinois. (I was scheduled to speak in Boston the day the President was assassinated.) After one of my speeches I responded to several questions. It was during the question-and-answer period that I spoke of mutuality as being the answer to the race problem. I went on to explain what it meant. The next day the town's local newspaper carried an article on the front page with the headline: "Black Minister Says Mutuality Is Alternative to Integration." Subsequently, I spoke about mutuality on university campuses and before groups as diverse as the NAACP and the John Birch Society. (I have been an active member of both organizations.) When People listened to what I had to say they agreed that this was a healthy and practical philosophy. It became increasingly clear to me that this was the one philosophy that would resolve the race problem and unite, rather than polarize, people. It was also clear that this view was for the courageous who believed in freedom and the dignity of man.
Several years later I established the Mutuality Center in Los Angeles. It has served as a laboratory to test mutuality as a life-oriented philosophy. Employing discussions, encounters, seminars, counseling psychodrama, confrontation, marathons, applied human relations training, and group living experiences
which involved people from affluent Beverly Hills and poverty-stricken Watts, California, as well as people from other areas and various backgrounds and interests we have proved that mutuality can be applied effectively to living, involving all kinds of relationships where meaning is an ultimate concern. And while there is evidence to support the view that it is the only viable hope for solving the race problem, this writer is convinced that it is the only hope for meaning in survival and, in fact, may be the only hope for survival itself.
It seems apparent that life for all but a few people is meaningless. Racism, alienation, and neurosis are but manifestations of individual and collective meaninglessness. In our society meaninglessness dictates the way man behaves. Meaninglessness is boss.
Mutuality is designed to enable a person to discover meaning. It is revolutionary because it successfully combines religion, science, philosophy, and sociology; and it involves a nongoal and nonsystem approach to living a full life.
Mutuality is an outgrowth of my observations about dynamic living and the transformation of personality. It should be emphasized, however, that the theory, or perhaps more correctly the doctrine did not precede scientific and nonscientific experience. When I observed the people living in that Alabama hamlet and people in a few other places practicing the way of life of which I speak I had no idea what to call it. I knew only too well what not to call it. The philosophy has been expanded, deepened, and heightened by the practice of mutuality by persons whose lives have been transformed.
(Taken from the "Introduction" of Mutuality: The Full Life Process by Uriah J. Fields. pp. 260. Published 1977).
Please Note: There are several articles on "mutuality" are on this website. I invite you to read them. - ujf
Copyright 1977 and 2014 by Uriah J. Fields