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Title: The Middle Way - Poems and Essays from 'The Theosophical Path' Author: Talbot Mundy * A Project Gutenberg of Australia eBook * eBook No.: 1204281h.html Language: English Date first posted: December 2012 Most recent update: December 2012 This eBook was produced by: Roy Glashan Project Gutenberg of Australia eBooks are created from printed editions which are in the public domain in Australia, unless a copyright notice is included. We do NOT keep any eBooks in compliance with a particular paper edition. Copyright laws are changing all over the world. Be sure to check the copyright laws for your country before downloading or redistributing this file. This eBook is made available at no cost and with almost no restrictions whatsoever. You may copy it, give it away or re-use it under the terms of the Project Gutenberg of Australia License which may be viewed online at http://gutenberg.net.au/licence.html To contact Project Gutenberg of Australia go to http://gutenberg.net.au
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THE MOSLEMS call Jerusalem El-Quds 'The Holy' not without justification. They hold it next in importance and sanctity after Mecca and Medina, while painfully aware that Christians and Jews give it first place in their imaginations, if not actually in their hearts. Moslems own most of the property, and practically all the historic sites; the mayor is a Moslem, and so are the majority of the Legislative Assembly; but the Governor of the city is an Englishman, and the High Commissioner of Palestine a Jew. The police are mostly Moslems, with a small army to support them composed mainly of Indian troops under British officers. And under the eyes of that nervous administration, meet, move, and quarrel, representatives of all this world's fanaticisms.
The city is not visible from far-off, as one might think from studying the countless hymns and paeans in its praise. It stands about 3800 feet above sea-level. From the summit of the Mount of Olives one can view, like a turquoise framed in the yellow of the Mountains of Moab, the Dead Sea, 6000 feet lower and only twenty miles away. But the bald and rock-strewn Judaean Hills — with laden camels usually on the skyline — shut off the view in all other directions; so that even from the railway station there is nothing of the city visible but one corner of the medieval walls and a huge French convent.
However, romance begins from the moment the train leaves the plains at Ludd and begins to follow a spur-track into the limestone mountains. In the train are 'Parthians, Medes, and Elamites' — Jews from New York, Poland, and Bokhara; Abyssinians; Turkomans, Punjabis, Armenians, Egyptians, Englishmen, — representatives of nearly any nation and religion all the way from China to Peru — a Christian bishop, maybe, chin-by-jowl with a Moslem sheik. And there is always someone leaning from a window lecturing the rest, with plenty of material for his sermon.
They boast, and with sufficient truth, that every yard of those hills and gorges, among which the train toils noisily, has been fought over a thousand times. Not even Belgium has been such a battle-ground. They say the little red anemones, that grow wherever a pinch of dirt has settled in the crannies of the rocks, mark places where the dead fell fighting. And they point out dry stream-beds that "once ran blood for days." No two tales are quite alike; they vary with the creed of the individual, and again with his political prejudices, which are almost as divergent. But all take pride in the fighting, and are in agreement as to that if nothing else.
There are no trees. Men cut those down to fight with; and amber-eyed, black goats, that look like swarms of insects in the distance, devour the new shoots. There are ruins everywhere — caverns for hunted men to hide in -sepulchers, long looted — pralaya plain to see.
And then Jerusalem, with her domed roofs golden in the sunset, and history underfoot. You drive from the station up a dusty road, across a score of battle-fields, between stones once set in place by Solomon (whoever he was), with walls on your right hand built by the crusaders and repaired by modern British troops.
The walls are magnificent and perfect; there are no such city-walls elsewhere. They stand for the most part on the first foundations. There are stones in them that have been torn down and replaced a dozen times, as army succeeding army sacked the place, and men inspired by undying zeal rebuilt. It is safe to say, the only time when Jerusalem was taken and not sacked was this last, when Allenby, after terrific fighting, walked in alone on foot, when an Arab servant had surrendered the city keys to a British cook with the rank of private. The British army set to work at once to spare and preserve; prisoners and destitutes were paid to remove dead donkeys and the rest of it from the moat and drains; the Order of the Bath was introduced; the city was washed; Solomon's Pool, outside the walls, was cemented up and filled with water for the first time in centuries for the use of troops. The water-works left incomplete by Pontius Pilate were rediscovered and finished. Jerusalem still smells of everywhere and everything, but she is tolerable nowadays.
What strikes you first? Red heads. The boot-blacks at the Jafa Gate, who yell for your patronage, are blue-eyed, red-haired — almost certainly descendants of the Scots crusaders; Moslems all since Saladin prevailed, and recently Turk conscripts. There is no ill-will on that score. All concede that the Turk fought handsomely — all that is who fought against him and have lived beside him since. Islam, sword in hand, attends to business; having sheathed the sword, is tolerant. It is due to the humorously patient Turk that Christians in Jerusalem did not Kilkenny-cat themselves out of existence long ago.
Then, if it is night, and the modern meanness is invisible, all ancient history beckons. You pass by proud-looking Bedouins (some not too proud to beg, though wearing amber worth a farm or two) and plunge between laden camels into the dark throat of David Street, where the roofs nearly meet overhead, above rows of arches (now vegetable stalls) with open fronts, in which Knights Templar used to live. To right and left roofed passages, and darkness lit at intervals by feeble lamp-rays. Here and there the shadow of a Sikh on guard, silent, all-observing, mindful of his duty — and eleven rupees monthly, less deductions for his family in India. Greeks, Jews, Arabs, Levantines, brush by you, fitting less awkwardly by dark into the ancient molds. Then coffee-shops, where men in red tarboosh talk politics by candle light, and spies listen. Snatches of song in Arabic. Melancholy 'cello-music, by a Jew from Chicago or somewhere. Explosive bursts of quarreling. Silence.
Narrower and narrower the street grows, until in places you can touch the walls with either hand. Through key-hole arches you can peer down dark courts and passage-ways, where the mystery reigns. A door opens; a man in Arab robes steps out; stands for a moment as if conscious of the picture; disappears. Beyond another opening a shadowy camel trudges round and round, grinding out semsem, blindfolded, and cursed by someone stridently whenever he pauses for a rest.
Then the walls, and the Haram-es-Shariff, where Omar's Mosque stands; and the Dome of the Rock above the far-famed Rock of Abraham. They are lovelier by moonlight than the fame of Fars, and mounting the walls you can make the whole circuit of the city. Below lies the Valley of Jehoshaphat, glistening white with crowded tombs — "dry bones in the Valley of Death." The Hospice on the Mount of Olives, now government headquarters, looms against the sky, and around it and about are silhouettes of mosques, and churches, where once on a time the Assyrian, Babylonian, and Roman armies camped. From the walls you can see the place where Titus rode to reconnoitre, and came within an ace of being taken (which might have changed a deal of history).
On the other side, within a stone's throw of the walls, is Golgotha, where four roads used to meet, and crucifixions were. Some say the place where they buried Jesus is within a hundred yards of that skull-shaped hill, and they are probably right if the account in the gospels is at all accurate. The moonlight emphasizes the resemblance to a skull, leaving hardly any doubt of the locality. But the Christian sects have chosen to adopt as authentic a site within the walls where neither execution nor burial can possibly have taken place; and there the sects fight and bicker, while a soldier stands on guard to keep them from bloodshed. He used to be a Turk, but is nowadays an Indian, or a stalwart from some plough-tail in the English shires.
Most sites within Jerusalem are doubtful, although all are labeled, and those possessed by Moslems have at least the merit of really ancient tradition and logical argument. The Christian claims all date from the crusades, when 'proof' was what a priest or a monk said, and 'fragments of the true cross' became almost a drug on the market.
It is indisputable, for instance, that an enormous and very ancient building once stood on the site of the Haram-es-Shariff; and it may have been Solomon's Temple. The titanic, squared foundation-stones are there, and one wall is standing, to which go the orthodox Jews to mourn the departed glories of their race. No orthodox Jew will enter the courtyard surrounding the Dome of the Rock, for fear he might tread unwittingly an the spot (unknown now) where the Holy of Holies stood. And in any case, Jews are not welcome within the mosque, for the Moslems regard them as would-be usurpers.
Once, when Mohammed shaped his creed and welded Islam into one, he sought to attract the Jews by incorporating Jewish legend and the laws of Moses into the doctrine; but the Jews rejected all overtures, and ever since, although the Moslem has permitted synagogues, he has regarded the Jew as a hereditary enemy. He is forever suspicious of Jewish plans to regain possession of Jerusalem; the scorn and distrust are mutual, and there is not much love lost when Jew and Moslem meet.
Directly under the Dome of the Rock, protruding through the floor and surrounded by an iron railing, is the red rock said to be that on which Abraham offered up Isaac (although who first said so is not so clear). Underneath it is a cavern (conceivably a cistern once) lit by one small lamp, and the guide points out corners in which David, Solomon, Elijah, and Mohammed habitually prayed. There is a hollow in the low roof , which they tell you receded to let the Prophet of Islam stand upright when he rose from prayer, and they also permit you to stand on the very spot from which he rode to heaven on his horse Barak.
The floor of the cavern sounds hollow, and there have been many attempts to burrow secretly and discover ancient treasure there — the true Tomb of the Kings perhaps, or the hiding-place of ancient treasures. Some say that when Jerusalem was taken everything of value, chronicles included, was hidden down there. But the Moslems believe, or at any rate say, that underneath that cavern is a hole which reaches to the center of the earth, and thither the souls of dead men come once a week. So they guard all approaches carefully, and he who seeks to dig a tunnel does so at his own risk, which is imminent and not to be withstood by argument.
There is another story that the Rock of Abraham is the identical "threshing-floor of Araunah the Jebusite" that David purchased for the site of the temple his son should build. But there is nothing mentioned in the Old or New Testament whose exact location has not been identified by some enthusiast and accepted as authentic by others. Within the city-walls they show you Pilate's judgment-hall, the tomb of David, the upper room in which the Last Supper was held; and he who wishes may believe. Most of the city that Pilate knew lies seventy feet below the present level, smothered under the debris of centuries; but there are excavations now proceeding that are likely to throw wholly new light on history.
There are people in Jerusalem who have come there from the earth's ends to await the last blast of Gabriel's trumpet. The valleys are crowded with the graves of Jews, whose bones are expected to arise reclad with flesh and clothing when the time comes. Moslems declare that on the last day a hair will be stretched across the Valley of Jehosaphat, and over that the resurrected True-believer will be required to walk, to save himself from hell-fire. Christians have sent their hearts in hundreds to be buried near the Holy City. There is a profession, decidedly profitable, whose members receive steady remittances from oversea in return for prayers prayed in Jerusalem. It is a city of frauds, faith, fanaticism, and sudden death.
Easter is the riot season. Then, as is so well known, the Christians fly at one another, while the Moslem hot-heads are encouraged to attend a rival ceremony that takes them in procession to the reputed tomb of Moses, near the Dead Sea, an affair that lasts a week and gives the Christians time to control themselves. Nothing, not even danger, brings the Christians into unity; there is quite likely to be a fight in the Holy Sepulcher on any Easter morning, and troops are kept well within hail. The Moslems have their differences, too, and have learned these latter days, the art of accusing everybody else; but religion unites them at a touch, and they are one at the first suggestion of danger to Islam.
Zionism is regarded as a danger, and for the first time in history has found Moslem, Christian, and orthodox Jew making common cause. The Zionists base their claim to a national home in Palestine on Old Testament history. In fact, they have no other basis for their claim. The Moslems meet them on that ground and reply, that if the story of the conquest of the 'Promised Land' is true, as stated in the Jewish records, then that is reason enough for not admitting Jews today. They point to the accounts of butchery of the inhabitants, of intolerance, and of ruthless destruction of cities. They claim that they, the Arabs, too, are descendants of Abraham, and were there first, with prior right of inheritance. They declare, and the Christians and orthodox Jews admit it, that under Moslem rule there has been tolerance of other men's religions; and that, whether or not the Jews once owned Palestine, confessedly they took it by the sword, and by the sword were turned out.
Nowhere on earth stands the law so plainly written as in Jerusalem, that "as ye sow, so shall ye reap." It is a city whose Karma has overtaken her before the eyes of all the world, and again and again.
And Jerusalem stands "beautiful upon a mountain," recleaned, rebuilt, rerising like a Phoenix from the ashes of her past, as a symbol that something survives in spite of all men's treachery and hatred. Dome, minaret, convent roof, and synagogue stand crowded there; and among them and within them rivalries persist like worms in a camel's carcass. But the stars smile down on all of it — yet greater symbols, each in its appointed place. The flowers bloom and blow in league-long carpets. City of Peace is the meaning of the word Jerusalem. And there is peace for him who earns it, even there, as everywhere.
March 27, 1923
Dear Madame Tingley:
SINCE I first began to read Professor Kenneth Morris's poems and historical works I have found it impossible to speak of them without enthusiasm; and it has been a surprise to me to learn that some enterprising publisher has not pounced on Professor Morris long ago.
If only Wells could have gone to school to Morris before he wrote that Outline!
Of course, the day must come when we shall all see history in more nearly true proportion and perspective; but why not hasten the day, as it would be hastened, if the works of Professor Morris were more widely read?
Some of his poems, too, are magnificent. All of them are so far above the ordinary that, in my judgment, he is in the front rank of modern poets; and, at that, I do not know whom I would rank with him.
To those (and they must be many) who want to know what history is all about, instead of how it can be twisted into parish-pump and town-hall insignificance, the collected writings of Professor Morris should be the most welcome light — in a darkness, in which we otherwise grope amid the bellowing of Gibbon and his imitators.
The world-vision — the universal vision, is the need. Professor Morris holds a light that we may see by; he disperses historical shadows, and the present, in view of the past, becomes intelligible as a pulse-beat in the endless, law-obeying process of Evolution. I know of no authority now living whose public utterances on the subjects he has chosen I would dare to prefer to his.
The fact, of course is that Professor Morris has gone with open eyes to sources that are available to all of us, but which most of us have been taught to overlook. Then, not caring greatly for the prejudices of the parish-pump spell-binders, he has written honestly of what he knows, and in exquisite English.
The only fault I find with him is, that he does not write more, and oftener. Please persuade him to have his works published. It is a public duty.
Yours faithfully and friendly,
Tides in the ocean of stars and the infinite
rhythm of space;
Cycles on cycles of aeons adrone on an infinite beach;
Pause and recession and flow, and each atom of dust in its place
In the pulse of eternal becoming: no error, no breach,
But the calm and the sweep and swing of the leisurely, measureless roll
Of the absolute cause, the unthwarted effect — and no haste,
Neither discord, and nothing untimed in a calculus ruling the whole;
Unfolding, evolving; accretion, attrition; no waste.
Planet on planet a course that it keeps, and each swallow its flight;
Comet's ellipse and grace-note of the sudden fire-fly glow;
Jewels of Perseid splendor sprayed on summer's purple night;
Blossom adrift on the breath of spring; the whirl of snow;
Grit on the grinding beaches; spume of the storm-ridden wave
Cast on the blast of the north wind to blend with the tropic rain;
Hail and the hissing of torrents; song where sapphire ripples lave —
Long lullabies to coral reefs unguessed in a sleepy main.
Silt of the ceaseless rivers from the mountain summits worn,
Rolled amid league-long meadows till the salt, inflowing tide
Heaps it in shoals at harbor-mouth for continents unborn;
Earth where the naked rocks were reared; pine where the birches died;
Season on season proceeding, and birth in the shadow of death;
Dawning of luminous day in the dying night; and a Plan
In no wit, in no particle changing; each phase of becoming, a breath
Of the infinite karma of all things; its goal, evolution of Man.
THE THEME of Universal Brotherhood is one that seems to grow as we consider it; since, being universal, there is nowhere, no circumstance, in which its essence is not evident. As a teaspoonful of earth may be shown to contain forty millions of demonstrably living and intelligent organisms, every one of which suggests from the mere fact of its existence undiscoverable hordes of even smaller ones, so every human action is alive with countless and immeasurable causes and results. A finger's gesture throbs with undying, if forgotten, history; its movement is a consequence, again productive of results, however insignificant to us; and we may safely depend on it that nothing — not one thought or thing or action — can be without an absolutely infinite relation to the universe.
But generalities, however accurate, are too vast for human comprehension. The imagination reels, or else the mind's inert unwillingness to think, fogs, as it were, the picture. As precept must be taught by parable, the measureless and omnipresent fact of Brotherhood can only be brought home to us by concrete illustration, and then only provided we remember that, in the words of Job, these are [but] parts of His ways.
The smallest instances suffice. The rarest are least useful. It is from the point at which we are that we begin to grasp realities, and only as the theme grows real to us can we hope to understand it. Experientia docet* is a proverb that was old incalculable centuries before the Romans gave it currency and, being absolutely true, is just as true today as then. In day-by-day experience, and nohow else, we learn. Unless in day-by-day experience we practise that which we have learned, we have no part as yet in self-directed evolution, which, as Katherine Tingley† has told us, is the way.
[* experientia docet (Latin) — experience is the best teacher. William Whitaker's Words. ]
[* Katherine Tingley — Katherine Augusta Westcot Tingley (1847-1929), a social worker and prominent theosophist. Tingley was a social worker in New York when she met William Quan Judge (1851-1896), a prominent founding member of the original Theosophical Society ... After the Society split and after Judge's death she suceeded him as head of the faction of the Society that went with him. On February 13, 1900, she transferred the Society's international headquarters from New York City to Point Loma, California. Tingley founded the Raja-Yoga School and Theosophical University in Point Loma. Wikipedia. ]
I remember a dying Chinaman, in the swamps of the Umbuluzi River near Lourenço Marquez — an unlicensed dealer in illegal drink — who crawled from his sick-bed to help me because he had heard I had fever. We had never met until he staggered into my tent, and he died that evening without having accomplished anything — except to change one individual's whole concept of the Chinese race. Since that day it is impossible for me to think of Chinamen without remembering that one man's kindness; I remember it in spite of all the accusations of a hostile press, in spite of all-too-authentic fact, and in the face of frenzied prejudice. It is not in me to believe that the act of that unmoral, unrepentant 'Chink' (for he died quite proud of his disgraceful traffic) was, as Shakespeare hints, interred with his bones. I know the kindness multiplied and has more than once borne fruit.
Another man comes to memory — a coal-black, fuzzy-headed Sudanese, who had been a slave under the Mahdi* and whose back was a mass of scars where his owners had flogged him. He understood Brotherhood better than most of us, although he was not a Christian and used to grow offended at the mention of the word. He found his way down to Uganda, where he was enlisted in the local troops. I remember his grin when he was patted on the back and told to be a credit to the company. He straightened himself, and went on straightening himself until he could hardly get his heels down on the floor; but it was weeks before he realized he was not dreaming. When it dawned on him at last that his white-skinned officer actually did regard him as a fellow human being he wakened to a new sense of responsibility. It happened quite suddenly; he fell lame on a long march, and his officer, dismounting from the only mule, ordered him gruffly and without a trace of sentiment to mount and ride. It was funny to watch the awakening consciousness of something he had never understood before.
[* Mahdi — Muhammad Ahmad ibn as Sayyid Abd Allah (1844-1885)(otherwise known as The Mahdi or Mohammed Ahmed)was a Muslim religious leader, a fakir, in the Anglo-Egyptian Sudan. He declared a jihad and raised an army after declaring himself the Mahdi in 1881, and led a successful war of liberation from the Ottoman-Egyptian military occupation. He died soon after his liberation of Khartoum, and the state he founded fell victim to colonial maneuverings that doomed it to reconquest in 1899. Wikipedia. For more information see the Wikipedia article Mahdi. ]
Within twelve months of that he was a sergeant. Very shortly after his promotion, during a crisis, he was left with twenty-five men, all as black as himself and with almost equally humble origins, in a dangerous post about six days' march from the nearest possible support. It was at a time of almost general uprising, when premonitory symptoms of the great war were beginning to be felt from end to end of Africa. He was without ammunition, and his orders were to keep the peace.
There was naturally some anxiety among the handful of white officers, whose task it was to scatter themselves at strategic points over an enormous breadth of country, but it was three weeks before the chance came to visit his outpost, and in view of the fact that it was almost the first time he had been trusted out of sight, not too much was expected of him. Rumors spread in Africa like smoke in the wind, and there was a story that he and all his men had been massacred.
But the flag was flying over the tree-tops when the relieving patrol arrived close on sunset. As the sun went down the flag descended with it to the music of a bugle, and the first the relief saw of the detachment they were standing at the salute with arms presented to the tree that did for flag-pole, all present and correct. He had done what few white men could have accomplished; not one man of all the twenty-five had any charge against him; without bloodshed, and with no more force than that prodigious one of strict example, he had 'held down' a district notorious for its savagery, and unquestionably saved the lives of hundreds.
It was not thought wise to compliment him in the presence of his men; that might have led to the inference that they had done more than their duty. But he was led aside and complimented by an officer whom he had never seen before, and who expressed surprise that he should have behaved so splendidly. The man's answer told the whole story in ten words: Am I a dog? Nay, I am one of you!
It is easy to say that he was no Theosophist, and I am quite sure he had never heard the word; but as a man who proved his claim to be part and parcel of a universal brotherhood he stands out as a landmark in my memory.
Life is crowded with similar instances, and there is no need to wander far for them. We can even read of them in books. It is the thrill that counts — that warning from within that we have touched the sacred, splendid chord that unifies all being. If the heart is touched, the intellect responds not too long afterwards; and no one who has thrilled to an ideal, however vague, can ever quite relapse into unrecognition of it, nor can fail to pass the regenerating thrill along, in some way, even if he does not know it.
How much unselfishness and willingness to sacrifice for the benefit of others has been poured into the world through the pages of what is called profane history? The very color of my school-days — the whole flavor of my later life — was brightened by the story of the Plataeans at Marathon. There must be thousands who have felt the same thrill, generation after generation. When the hosts of the King, the great King Xerxes, lay between Athens and the sea, the Plataeans repaid a debt. The Athenians had helped them once, and now that the Athenians faced what seemed inevitable ruin the Plataeans marched to their aid with all they had. They left their old men and the women to guard Plataea's walls and came eight hundred strong — a handful — hardly a battalion. But no quarrels of historians, nor all the sins of Athens, nor the mists of time, can drown the echo of the roar that went up on the heights of Marathon when dawn rose on the spears of those eight hundred marching down to die beside their friends. No matter whether Persians or Athenians had the right of it; the Higher Law takes care of that. The Plataeans let some light into the world by proving what they understood of brotherhood. If they had known more and done less, there are nations today that would be poorer for it — poorer, that is, in the elements that count. For in the long run nothing counts but Brotherhood. Its highest unselfish expression from day to day, by each individual in his degree, is the only Path by which we may ascend the ever-rising rounds of evolution. There are more degrees of brotherhood, more phases of it, than there are living organisms in that spoonful of earth under the magnifying-glass.
What little wrong we do, and bury, lies
No deeper than the wire-grass spaded o'er
That under the smooth surface multiplies
And, ten times thriftier than before,
Crowds upward in the fertilizing rain.
No virtue lies in long forgetfulness.
The deed ill-done lives to be done again
Or undone, or to rise anew and dress
New difficulties in the graveyard hues
Of habit and accusing dread —
A nemesis — a phantom that pursues —
A foe to fight again, and courage dead.
IN EARLIER days, when Canada was hardly yet beginning to be won from the wilderness, it was the custom when sending a man on a long journey to supply him with three fish-hooks and a rabbit-snare. Those represented rations. It was his business to convert them into meat. When he failed, he perished. A great deal has been said and sung about the resourcefulness of the type of man evolved by that system, and there is considerable silence concerning those who found the fish-hooks and the rabbit-snare inadequate, and died. But it is noteworthy that the system, at any rate, has not survived. It has been found wiser to supply men in advance with adequate provision of the right kind, before expecting from them results worth mentioning.
The men who devised the fish-hook and rabbit-snare system were probably quite familiar with the New Testament parable that mentions men asking for bread and being given stones; but, if they reasoned about it at all, they may have argued that with stones men might go forth and kill meat, which, as far as it goes, is a sound enough material argument.
But these material arguments, however superficially logical, look less alluring when followed to their conclusion, which is this: that, just as no stream can flow to a point higher than its source, and like begets like, so no material noumenon* can produce spiritual phenomena. That which is born of the flesh is flesh, to quote the New Testament again; and no amount of torturing, tampering with, or studying mere flesh will ever gain a spiritual end.
[* noumenon (Greek) — in the philosophical system of Immanuel Kant, a "thing-in-itself" (Ding-an-Sich); it is opposed to phenomenon, the thing that appears to us. Noumena are the basic realities behind all sensory experience. According to Kant, they are not knowable because they cannot be perceived, but they must be thinkable because moral decision making and scientific investigation cannot proceed without the assumption that they exist. The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th edition. ]
But matter is deceptive stuff and we, being plunged into it, are easily deceived. No sooner is one material basis found unsuitable on which to build a tower that shall reach the skies than another presents itself, often so subtly disguised as to make the most cautious of us think it is not material at all, but something spiritual, on which we may safely rear our monument of progress.
Yet the world is strewn with proofs that nothing — absolutely nothing based on material cause and effect can endure, or can do anything but crumble. Consider the ancient temples. If beauty and purity of outline may be taken as criterion, then unquestionably the men who designed and built many of those ancient fanes were spiritual thinkers. Yet the ruins of their buildings strew the earth, and most of us are therefore willing to admit that neither their knowledge nor their art was in the stones they wrought, but in the minds of the men themselves.
The spirit and the art endure. It is possible, by purity of purpose and sincere effort, for any of us to become the servants of that spirit and to learn that art; and it would be inevitable then that beauty would adorn our path; whatever we should touch would take on dignity and charm. But equally inevitably, those who should think the spirit and the art were in the thing wrought, gainers though they might be for a while by contemplation of mere consequences, would base their own efforts on false premises and would descend by gradual or rapid stages to unspiritual ugliness. That is why great leaders, great reformers, and great artists have so seldom left behind them others who could carry on their work and carry it to greater heights; the most enthusiastic sometimes are most dazzled by the effects of the leader's work and, worshiping effects, fall soonest by the way.
"It is the spirit that quickeneth; the flesh profiteth nothing..." — John, 6:63.
We forever put the cart before the horse. In this age of machinery it is fashionable to assert that our progress, such as it is, has been due to machinery. We worship the machine — put faith in it, just as they who saw those marvelous ancient temples rise and change the whole face of their surroundings, came to worship the shrine instead of the Idea and the honesty that gave it birth. The truth is, that increasing intelligence has produced machinery, exactly as increasing spiritual vision would produce a higher art.
I remember three instances that serve to illustrate. In Assam, years ago, when they were building the first railway through the country, thousands of Indian laborers were employed to dig embankments. The means employed was the ancient one of filling baskets with dirt, to be carried on men's heads, sometimes for the length of half a mile, and dumped — a tedious, slow process that got severely on the nerves of one contractor. He was a rather young man, used to the new efficiency, full of ambition for a useful career, and equally full of scorn for ancient ways. Progress, in his mind, and machinery, were one. He decided to import machinery and, rather accurately gaging the intelligence of the laborers he had to deal with, decided that wheelbarrows would be enough for a beginning.
The wheelbarrows arrived — extremely up-to-date ones made of steel. The obedient laborers studied them with great distaste and worse bewilderment, filled them with rather less earth than they had formerly, put into the baskets in order to reduce the weight as nearly as possible to normal, and carried the wheelbarrows on their heads. Nor could they be persuaded to do otherwise. At the end of the second day they went on strike, arguing with perfect reason from their viewpoint that the contractor had made their work cruelly toilsome. What he had overlooked was that even so simple a sign of progress as a wheelbarrow and its proper use must be a result of progress in a man's mind, and can never be the cause of it.
A somewhat similar incident occurred in a native state in another part of India. There was famine, and as the result of the distress a commission was appointed to inquire into the causes. The commission in all honesty decided that the ancient ways were at fault; that men whose plows were little better than a forked stick could hardly be expected to produce crops in sufficient abundance to tide them over lean years. It was decided to import good steel plows from the United States, and that was done; the plows were distributed about the countryside, and the peasantry were told that an era of prosperity had dawned — the plows would solve the problem of supply. But to this day the remains of those imported mysteries lie rusting in the fields, and the peasantry still use the ancient implements. The only result accomplished was to convince the peasantry that for inscrutable reasons their rulers had tried to burden them with foreign difficulties in addition to their own — which, they reasonably argued, already were enough.
I was witness of another incident, yet better to the point, in Africa, away off in the wilderness, a good week's march from rail-head. Those were early days, when colonial government-machinery had been set up but was not yet fully functioning. Much of the local government of outlying districts was left to the tribes themselves, and their jealousies and rivalries led to a vast amount of bickering and murder. Serious cases of dispute were supposed to be submitted to the colonial official, fifty or a hundred miles away, but nothing could convince the natives that the official judgment was not prejudiced, and nearly every legal decision led to worse strife than it cured.
But there was a British sergeant sent to an outlying post in the district I have in mind, whose sole official business was to teach a company of newly raised native police the elements of discipline. He was not exactly an illiterate man, but he had received no more education than he had managed to pick up in the army-school, and the best thing he had learned was how to mind his own business; and the business was, by example, precept and watchfulness, to teach new standards of self-respect to naked recruits. They were of several tribes, and as many prejudices, so he had his hands full.
It dawned after a time on the recruits that there was something in his method, new to their experience, which was better than their own accustomed ways. He taught a new loyalty, to a brotherhood based on a high ideal, and the discipline grew, not because he punished them, for he was very sparing with penalties, but from imitation of his self-respect.
The marvel took place within sight of a dozen villages, whose inhabitants watched the amazing patience and good-humored justice of a stranger who accepted no bribes, played no favorites, and cared for nothing but the welfare of his proteges. He was not like any other stranger they had ever seen; he used to tell his men stories at night over a camp-fire, used to dance for them, sing to them, and — most remarkable of all — although he seemed so fond of them, he took the part of villagers whom they molested in their dawning consciousness of the power that goes hand-in-hand with fraternity.
It was not very long before the neighboring tribes began to bring their own disputes to him for settlement. He told them he had no authority, either to pass judgment or to enforce decisions. They liked that, and insisted all the more that he should act the part of judge. They offered him presents, if he would hold the scales of justice, and when he refused those they were all the more insistent. He told them he knew nothing about judicial procedure, and they answered that they were very glad to hear that, since they sought justice and merely what was right.
At last he yielded, very much against his inclination, and the unprecedented spectacle was seen day after day, of villagers from fifty miles away, whom nothing less than force could have induced to take their quarrels to the constituted courts, arguing their cases before this unauthorized, uneducated sergeant, accepting his decisions without question, and returning to their homes in peace to abide by them. Murders and inter-village fighting almost ceased. Unpaid, unpurchasable, plain, disinterested honesty succeeded, where an empire's legal processes had failed.
The sergeant returned in due course to the Birmingham slums and oblivion; but he had left behind him consequences that no official formulas or red tape could quite undo. The subsequent administration of the country took its tone, to some extent, from that one man's example, and for years to come his judgments (some of them hugely humorous) were cited as unofficial precedents for official guidance.
Men will ever rebel against machinery. We have machines in politics, in trade and in religion; yet no machine ever contributed one straw to the world's progress, and every machine is a degrading factor from the moment it becomes anything more than a means to eliminate toil — anything more than a consequence of intelligent and honest thinking.
It is so with Brotherhood. No man, no group of men or nations can create it by decree, or by new intricate machinery. The Brotherhood must come first, out of individual effort to attainment of its high ideal; the means of its expression afterwards. A League of Nations — all the nations — is inevitable when the nations recognize the Universal Law. A dozen men who recognize that Law, and live by it, accomplish more toward true peace than can all the machinery of law-courts and governments ever invented. Theosophists, by living their Theosophy, will sow the seed that can not fail to spring up and ripen into all-inclusive Brotherhood. If a League should be an accompaniment who shall complain? But shall we have the Brotherhood and Justice first, or the machinery?
I set my foot on the forest floor
Where all is cool and all is still,
And I will turn back nevermore
To the haunts I knew. I had my fill
Lived, handled, tasted all they prize,
Took, coveted, considered, weighed,
And I know all the honored lies
I, too, had honored had I stayed.
I learned the song of the God for hire,
Of boughten islands for the blest,
In gloom 'neath dome and gilded spire
Hymned to the roof. My way is best.
For the skies are mine, and the wind is mine,
And down between the breathing trees
Immeasurable beacons shine
A-twinkle in the silences.
All night is full of the friendly speech
Of leaf and earth and flowing stream;
Day's wide with league and span and reach
Of leisured distances a-dream
Of trails as new as years are long,
Flung across plain and sky-line crest
Unlonely solitude and song
Unsung as yet. My way is best
I know where the future's freedom's bred,
Where all things wait on him who loves,
And underfoot, and overhead,
And all around, the homing droves
Of ripples from the storied past
Uplift until the pilgrims scan
New realms of thought and, thinking, cast
New efforts forth for visioned Man.
I feel the sweetness and the thrill -
The summons-forth on Royal Quest,
Harped chords of harmony that fill
A Universe. My way is best.
TRUTH is King, and is never in the least concerned about the passions of the moment. With all eternity ahead and to look back upon, serenely autocratic in an everlasting Now, Truth rules impartially all the universe including this temporary world of ours.
And the world is quite full of a number of things, not least of them, proverbs. Proverbs are the oldest crystallizations of human thought, and some of them are diamond-hard, reflecting the fires of Truth in whatever light, from whichever angle they are studied. Such proverbs persist. Some fall by the way because men grow weary of them, seeing deeds so short of the ideal. Some lapse into disrespect because other proverbs, with meanings apparently exactly opposite, come into more general use. But all proverbs were originally efforts to express a glimpse of Truth and, however contradictory their meanings seem, all proverbs still are windows, as it were, through which some aspect of infinite Truth may be seen by discerning eyes.
From the dawn of recorded history men have always sought to coin short phrases that should be imperishable guides of conduct — brief, indisputable interpretations of the Higher Law, by use built into the familiar speech. And one of those proverbs was, that familiarity breeds contempt. Popularization of a proverb brings it into eventual disrepute, exactly as the dogmatization of religion foretells its disintegration and collapse. For it is the habit of the human mind to seek to standardize, and to obstruct spiritual progress by legalizing the dead letter of the proverb or the creed.
But nothing stands still; not even Truth. The more determined the effort of man's lower nature to produce inertia by literal enforcement of the dry husk of a truth, the swifter is the proof that evolution must prevail and that inertia is delusion.
The proper study of mankind is man. In the last analysis there is nothing else that man can study. He must be conscious of himself; and, as consciousness grows, its horizons widen until the task of self-knowledge becomes all-absorbing and all-useful. Not the least interesting discovery to which that study leads is the constant effort of man's lower nature to smother those rare glimpses of the Higher Law from which it cannot escape, and to corrupt their meaning, by substituting the letter for the spirit and by decreeing Thus far shalt thou go and no farther.
This method of the lower nature is that so anciently and frequently denounced, of setting up false gods, whose 'image and superscription'* differ hardly, if at all, from a superficial glimpse of Truth. The lower nature is nothing if not hypocritical. It will denounce most fervently those crimes it most loves to commit, and all the worst atrocities are perpetrated in the name of righteousness and progress, the secret of which is simple: evil being the reverse of Truth, as darkness is the opposite of light, it is impossible for evil to exist or to find expression without consciousness of Truth with which to contrast itself.
[* image and superscription — an allusion the passages in the New Testament (Matthew 22:20, Mark 12:16 and Luke 20:24) in which Jesus is shown a Roman coin and asked whether it is lawful to pay tribute to Caesar. He replies: "Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar's, and to God the things that are God's" ( Mark 12:17).]
Evil has no originality, it imitates; and all false gods are counterfeits of true ones. The invention of a lie is contingent on the existence of Truth to be lied about. It is possible to invent a lie about any of the infinite and glorious aspects of Truth; it is possible to believe that lie, and to legalize the belief in it. But the belief is a delusion of the lower nature, subject to the lower law that governs both. It moves as Truth moves, though the action is reversed. As Truth evolves in realms beyond the comprehension of such stuff as dreams are made of, ever ascending to higher and rarer being, the lie about Truth disperses and descends to irrecoverable chaos; until a new glimpse of Truth makes new lies possible and the habit of self-delusion re-begins a downward path.
There was a King of England who proclaimed a truth, to his own undoing, seeking to use Truth for his own ends, instead of letting Truth use him. Whoever is used by Truth is in the everlasting arms of absolute infallibility. Truth being King, there is no error in the formula the King can do no wrong. But he who sets out to reduce the King to human blood and bones and to confine Truth within the limits of a proclamation, levying blackmail in the name of pure Truth, is a traitor whose head is forfeit.
Charles the First, proclaiming that the King rules by divine right and that the King can do no wrong, quite likely believed his own words, but by applying them to his own person he nevertheless betrayed Omnipotence. Belief is quite another thing from knowledge, as the writers of the New Testament strove so diligently to make clear by the discriminating use of words that their translators subsequently bungled. Accident may cause belief to stumble on the right Path, but nothing less than Knowledge holds us there; it is belief — blind faith — that seizes on the letter of the law; the spirit of the law is only grasped by understanding, leading on to Knowledge.
Even in ermine robes and panoply of state Charles the First was not so unlike the rest of us that he was King-less. Had he understood the truth he uttered; had he allowed that royal Higher Nature, that is ever ready to govern every one of us, to take control of him it is likely he would have been less worried about his personal importance and less inclined to make use of phrases that might be too easily misunderstood; instead, he would have found his true royalty appealing to the Higher Nature that exists in every man. His body and his stupid senses then might not have been a target for his outraged countrymen. They charged him with treason to the State; but the treason he committed was to his own King, by permitting his lower nature to usurp the title of the Higher.
The old Priest-Kings, of whom dim records still remain, made no such error. They strode like Gods among men, and it may be that the crowd mistook their persons for the Truth they served, but the Priest-Kings had no ear for flattery. It was not until the lower nature swamped the Higher and usurped precedence — not until the letter of the Law was reckoned higher than its spirit — not until flesh and bones and the convenience of a moment grew to be considered more important than true Vision, and the pomp and circumstance of earthly power blinded them to the promptings of passionless Truth, that the Priest-Kings disappeared.
Kings are not different from other men, and other men not different from kings, except that the law of Karma, adjusting balances, has cast us each into our proper temporary orbit. All are prone to make the same mistakes. The King's head fell, but the King's mistake remained. Men said he needed no successor, seeing they all were kings by a right as divine as that one he had claimed. They spoke the truth, believing and not knowing, many of them doubtless tossing the mockery of the truth from lip to lip in jest. Belief, so vague it hardly yet amounted to belief, was crystallized into a lie more swiftly than running water changes into ice; and on to the ice the snow of dogma fell. The stream still flowed beneath the ice, as beneath every creed flows everlasting Truth; but the surface, like the letter of the law, proved barren, comfortless, unprofitable, cold needing the sun of true Vision to penetrate and melt it.
In very truth we all are Kings, if we remember who and what we really are; but in our lower nature we are nothing multiplied by all the ills that flesh is heir to. Times beyond number in human history the doctrine of the divine right of kings has changed into the formula Vox populi vox dei* — and back again by way of grim dictatorships — glimpses, both of them, of royal Truth immediately clouded over by the noxious fumes of ignorance. The clamor of bribed majorities, in place of one man's personal opinion, is labeled the accepted voice of God; and under such manipulated tyranny of ignorance men have even voted that the earth is flat — have insisted on the lie so vehemently that their priesthood dared not contradict them — even as today they vilify and loathe whoever dares to tell the truth in spite of massed opinion, and smother the voice of Truth with noise. Yet the world was never flat; twice two were never five; the truth, and nothing but the truth, is true. We are Kings — by divine right — and our Kingdom is an everlasting Kingdom. But the pity of it is that we allow our lower nature to usurp the throne.
[* Vox populi vox dei (Latin) — The voice of the people (is) the voice of God. See Brewer's Dictionary of Phrase and Fable. ]
The King can do no wrong. That is a positive statement of absolute fact that has been known since the beginning of the world. But it is equally true that whoever is governed by his lower nature can do no right. The lower nature has no vision, no far-sightedness, knows nothing of causes or of the ultimate; it seeks only to escape the consequences of its own wrong-doing and to perpetuate and justify itself. The lower nature is a vortex of ignorance into which we are plunged for our experience, and if we leave it as we find it we are not Kings, for we have not ruled, we have not conquered. If we increase the ignorance and add to the chaos of passions, as we surely will do if we serve the lower nature and let that make itself the King, we only pile up difficulties for ourselves to meet. The law of Karma, faithfully adjusting balances, is inescapable; for whosoever hath, to him shall be given, and he shall have more abundance: but whosoever hath not, from him shall be taken away even that he hath.
The divine right of the real Man is to leave the world a little better than he found it, careless of his own advantage since he is the heir of all the ages; and therein lies the secret of the law laid down by Teachers of the Mysteries in the very dawn of time. As they revealed to chosen individuals the 'might, majesty, dominion, and power' of all who recognize their own divinity, they stipulated that never in any conceivable circumstances should the consciousness of power be used for personal advantage, whether for fame, reward, money, or mere contentment; for those are the means by which the lower nature seeks to usurp the throne — the means by which it blinds itself to the truth of being.
Human opinion and the senses being the fons et origo* and the channel through which evil operates, to yield or to pander to either of them is to apply the old dishonored policy of setting thieves to catch thieves, seeking to destroy one evil with a greater, doing ill that good may come of it — a policy, as distinguished from a principle. So-called good policy, too often a convenient fraud in disguise and at best an expedient, bears no relation to true Principle, which, being Truth in one of its infinite aspects, can do no wrong, can lead to no wrong, and must infallibly produce results that impartially benefit everyone and in consequence, if only in minute degree, the Universe.
[* fons et origo (Latin) — the primary cause; literally: the source and the origin. William Whitaker's Words. ]
We are blinded by the temporary nature of this sense-delusion into which we are plunged. The 'three-score years and ten' that have been sung and standardized as the limit of a man's life have no real bearing on the problem that confronts us. Truth applied knows nothing of any limitations, least of all limits of time, and in no circumstances does Truth afford benefit to one, to the exclusion of any others. The King who can do no wrong, the immortal, real, spiritual, royal man is too far-sighted to suppose that temporary personal convenience can condition Truth. Knowing that the sense-delusion is as sure to be destroyed eventually as the fog is sure to be dispersed by wind and sun, he thinks on higher planes and acts without fear.
All of the world's kings, rulers, statesmen — all of these whose names are held in honor long after they are dead, were men who abode by Principle; the good they did lived after them. There was a Roman once, named Regulus,* who was taken prisoner by his country's enemies. After long years of barbarous ill-treatment he was sent by his captors to Rome to mediate for a convenient peace, and, knowing he was an honorable man, they accepted his word that, if he should fail to negotiate peace, he would return to Carthage to be put to death. There was nothing new in that condition; the lower nature, recognizing the royal power of the Higher, forever seeks to take advantage of it for its own perpetuation.
[* Regulus — Marcus Atilius Regulus (d. ca. 250 BCE), a Roman general in the First Punic War. While consul (267 BCE) he conquered the Sallentini and captured Brundisium (now Brindisi). He became consul a second time (256), defeated the Carthaginians at sea, and waged war against them in Africa, at first with success. Soon afterward the Carthaginians won a complete victory and captured (255) Regulus. He was sent on parole to solicit peace from the Romans, but instead he advised the senate against accepting the Punic terms or exchanging prisoners. Resisting persuasions to break his parole, he returned to Carthage, where he was supposedly tortured to death. The story made Regulus famous as a Roman patriot-martyr. The Columbia Emcyclopedia. ]
But Regulus went to Rome and told the truth. He urged the Romans to make no peace with men, whose only object in negotiating temporary peace was to gain time for Rome's eventual destruction. Having persuaded his countrymen to take the course he knew was best, but that could only mean hideous death for himself, he kept his word and returned to Carthage, where the Carthaginians also kept their word and tortured him until he died.
If Regulus had let his personal convenience or his personal advantage govern him, there were no doubt scores of specious arguments he might have used and scores of men high in the public esteem who would have condoned those arguments. He could have died, perhaps, in comfort, not dishonored by the countrymen whom he chose, instead, to serve by upholding his own highest standard of true honor. Unquestionably, at the moment, by the mob, he was regarded as an altruistic fool, and it is not likely that the Carthaginians thought any better of him until they reaped the consequences of their own attempt to misuse a true man's honesty.
Regulus had served the whole world by ignoring his own personal safety. It may have made no difference in the long run whether Rome or Carthage won the war for control of the world's trade. What mattered was, that Regulus had raised a standard of good faith, true patriotism, and adherence to the highest glimpse of Principle. Of Carthage there is nothing left but legend, not too savory; and it is fashionable, too, to speak and to write of Rome as the Wolf of the Tiber, decadent and drenched in blood. None praises Rome for her debauchery.
But Rome survives in law, incorporated into all the statute-books of all the nations. Rome's new standard, manfully upheld by Regulus, became a measure by which men judged their deeds — so much so, that when Rome fell short of that high ideal, those who had seen her at her best were scandalized. Rome's legionaries laid all the known world under tribute, and wrought evil that reacted on them in the end and ruined Rome; but who forgets the manliness of Regulus? What nation has not benefited by the force of his example and by the spirit of loyalty to a high ideal with which he imbued his countrymen? — a spirit that marched with the conquering legionaries, surviving them and all their sins. More than two thousand years after Regulus made his supreme self-sacrifice, school-children, on continents of whose existence Regulus was unaware, speaking languages whose synonyms — Honor, Fidelity, Devotion, Constancy — are rooted in the speech of Regulus, are thrilled, as no story of ill-faith nor any history of conquest can thrill them, by the record of how Regulus stood up alone and played the man.
The good, that Shakespeare says is oft interred with our bones, survives in spite of death and all the ills that flesh is heir to. All good is rooted in unselfishness, and self-consideration is a thief that stalks by night to undo what can never be undone — the Truth of Being.
Truth is King. The Way is to be loyal to the King. The time is now. The question is not, what does the world think? or what is convenient? or what will the consequences be to me personally? But what do I know? What is my own individual highest understanding of the Truth? And what do I, now, free heir of all the ages, mean to think and do? The King can do no wrong, and he who is obedient to the King can do no other than the highest right, injuring none, not even himself, although unselfishness may cause a husk of imitation-life to fall away.
WE ARE the masters of our destiny, and our modern world appears to be waking to that fact, which the ancients knew well enough. They looked forward, whereas we for the most part waste time wishing for the might-have-been, blaming ourselves, our politicians, and our forebears for the dilemma with which we are faced, so psychologized by evil as to view the future only through the lens of hopelessness. Nevertheless, there are those who see that the past, so far as we can change it or its consequences, is a closed book; "nor all thy piety nor all thy wit can ... cancel half a line, nor all thy tears wash out a word of it." The past is sealed. Remains to scan the future, to relay its courses; and it can be done. There are more armed men in the world today than there were in 1914, and there is less apparent Brotherhood; but that is only on the surface, for the tide has turned — that "tide in the affairs of men" that sweeps whole nations forward, or drowns them. We have our choice to sink or swim.
The clearest symptom of the turning tide is discontent, as often as not amounting to contempt for outworn theories. There is not one land remaining in the world in which the doctrine of righteousness of war is not dishonored and discredited. It is still possible to believe, and to make others believe, that war is inevitable, but the prospect is no longer viewed with zeal. Treaties to prevent war are regarded cynically, but only because it is known how lightly "scraps of paper" were regarded in the past. There are comparatively very few today, even among those who constantly proclaim the certainty of future war, who are not ready to mock the theory that war can possibly benefit even the conqueror. It is beginning to be understood at last that no good comes of evil. And although that understanding brews despair in the hearts of those who can see nothing but evil on every hand, there are those who dare to look a second and a third time, and to hope, and to shout their hope above the din of pessimism — a brave, increasing company, not least of whom are L.P. Jacks and H.G. Wells, authors to whom the world is lending an increasingly attentive ear. The time is ripe. Their doctrine may be wrong. But it will not be their fault if the world does not look for itself, and hope again, and through hope discover a way out of its predicament.
It would be unfair to Wells, Jacks, and the world to pretend that either man has been doing more than splendid plow-work. They are breaking up barren fields in a dreary, horizontal wilderness, preceded in the task by G.B. Shaw, who smashed immovable rocks of self-contented stupidity, using a disrespectful hammer and the acid of merciless ridicule. The seed is being sown by another hand. The cultivation waits for the rest of us to do.
All three men — Shaw, Jacks, Wells — are perfectly aware that what the world needs is spiritual thinking. It may be that they all three know what spiritual thinking is. But if so they have held their hand wisely because if they had sown that seed in the unploughed waste of materialism, it never could have sprung up. What little spiritual propaganda they emit suggests plowmen whistling at their work, not accomplishing much music (the tune is now and then off-key) but encouraging themselves, which is the main thing, for because of it the breaking of long furrows in the rock-ribbed thought of men is being well done. One does not plow a wilderness by arguing in terms of semiquavers; nor need one respect the plowman any less if a blackbird's song in the hedgerow fails to divert his attention from the excellence of bread and cheese. For after all, and in the last analysis, it is of bread and cheese that all three sing. The point is, they are honest plowmen.
It is possible to imagine that Shaw, Jacks, and Wells may be dissatisfied with the seed that someone is planting in their tireless wake, for it is seed of a forgotten sort. All plowmen are conservatives. Cincinnatus, be it remembered, went back to his plowing after he had saved Rome; he broke up what was wrong, prepared the soil for something better, and, when progress came, took no delight in it. Nevertheless, he was a hero and his name survives, as those of Shaw, Jacks, and Wells surely should do long after the names of the abominations they assail shall have been forgotten.
Shaw has been so praised and hated, and so gloriously misunderstood; so much of his sledge-hammer work has been done, and he has survived the hornet-stings of criticism so cheerfully, that he may be left chuckling while he considers some new satirical assault on the world's cruelty and self-esteem. Shaw is sure to be surprising when he swings his sledge again. Meanwhile, Wells, and Jacks are more in the public eye.
"MEN LIKE GODS"
H.G. Wells has come out openly and said: "I desire the confederation of mankind." In the first of a series of syndicated newspaper articles, which provide for him a more numerous and probably more attentive audience than any previous writer has ever had in his own lifetime, he prefaces his effort with a statement which assures us we are not wasting time listening to a mere experimenter with the world's emotions. "Since 1917," he writes, "I have given much more of my waking life to that vision of a confederated mankind than I have given to any other single interest or subject." Good. That means, we have a duty to ourselves to listen seriously, for whatever may be said in disparagement of Wells by his critics he is undeniably a thinker, whose mode of expressing his thought is clear, who habitually thinks before he writes, and who is not afraid to irritate those who do not agree with him. Men Like Gods (1923) preceded these newspaper articles. It is the most recent of forty-five books by the same author, and it seems to be his effort to depict a vision that he sees, toward which he would like to lead the world. He seeks to show us what the world might be, if we would only abandon all the idiotic suppositions and false standards that have led us to the present state of conflict; and he undoubtedly succeeds in describing a prodigiously more agreeable planet than that on which we live and move and have our being at the moment.
His hero, Mr. Barnstaple, is a typical Wells hero, a kindly, obscure, rather bewildered father of a family, who loves his wife and grown-up sons with quiet devotion, but who finally rebels against the tyranny of a suburban household and starts out in a small motor-car on a vacation by himself. By a miracle that leaves the reader to imagine what he likes about Einstein's Relativity, but that does not preclude the probability that Wells has been studying The Secret Doctrine. Mr. Barnstaple suddenly finds himself on another planet, on another dimension. The miracle turns out to have been engineered by two scientific experimenters on this four-dimensional planet, and the same explosion (or whatever it was that happened) catches in its vortex and transfers along with Mr. Barnstaple another motor-car full of individuals whom the author adroitly uses to typify those elements of society that are holding our own world back from the fair development that would be possible if it were not for their political power, their stupidity, and their convictions.
The limousine's occupants consist of Mr. Catskill, Secretary of State for War; Mr. Burleigh, a great conservative leader; Lady Stella, one of the upper ten; Mr. Freddy Mush, secretary to Mr. Catskill and incidentally an intellectual poseur; Father Amerton, A Roman Catholic priest very much 'in society,' whose reputation has been made by denouncing society's sins; and Robert, the chauffeur. To these, in yet another car that has been caught in the blast of the experiment, are presently added Lord Barralanga, a business man who has recently purchased a peerage; Miss Greta Grey, a rather notorious actress; an American named Hunder, the 'cinema king'; Emile Dupont, a Frenchman; and Ridley, a chauffeur. The party of 'earthlings' now includes sufficient pegs for the author to hang most of our world's stupidities to, with Mr. Barstaple charmingly and modestly acting the part of Magdalene. He is the only sympathetic character among the 'earthlings,' as the author manifestly intends, and Mr. Barnstaple is so well drawn that he succeeds in balancing the purposely exaggerated crudity of all the others. But it is perhaps a pity that Lady Stella was not used to illustrate the effect on a really spiritual-minded woman of being suddenly transferred to the author's fourth-dimension planet. In fact, the book's one weakness is that there is not a woman in it whom we can like and with whom we can sympathize, as we like and sympathize with Mr. Barnstaple.
Even among the Utopian women whom we meet in the course of the story there is none whom we feel particularly sorry to leave behind us when the story is finished, although the author devotes considerable space to describing the condition of the women of this Utopia and several individuals have the stage to themselves for a while.
Like the men of Utopia, the women go without clothes; they are modest; and they realize that these earthlings are in no fit mental state to follow their example; when Greta Gray makes bold to imitate them, they provide her with a garment. And it is interesting to observe that the only members of the 'earthling' party who take offense at the Utopians' nudity are Father Amerton and the two chauffeurs.
The story is too good to be told in a review, and its imaginative scope is too vast to be compressed into any sort of tabloid form. The author has described for us a world in which there are no churches, no parliaments, no poverty, no idleness, not much disease, and in which nevertheless, men and women feel themselves no more than on the threshold of evolution. They are conscious of a past, by them referred to as the "Age of Confusion," in which conditions were about the same as those on our own world today; a past in which wars, disease, and competition were considered necessary. The author contrives to show the patient steps by which the Utopians escaped from the "Age of Confusion" and emerged into a truer civilization, not omitting to point out how slow and painstaking, as well as how worth while, the process necessarily must be.
But therein lies the principal weakness of the author's argument. It is beside the issue to suggest that other men and other women might imagine an Utopia more to their liking; Mr. Wells has a perfect right to paint his own picture, and he has produced one well worth studying. But he has also emphasized the fact that it will take time — long, faithfully, successively devoted lifetimes — years reckoned by the thousand before we can arrive at the Utopia of his vision. He has discarded commonplace religious dogmas — those alleged incentives toward altruism that have done their full share in bringing our world to its present sorry predicament. But what incentive has he substituted? The tawdry old retort "what did posterity ever do for me," swinish though it is and repugnant to every man or woman possessed of a spark of the Divine Fire, disarms him entirely unless he has the truth unanswerable in reserve. (And that may well be. Mr. Wells is plowing, not teaching; he is getting the ground ready for the seed.)
THE HEART-SATISFYING LOGIC OF REINCARNATION
He shows us, wittily and with a skill that compels admiration, how we mortals might react to an environment too good for our present mental and spiritual development. The humor of the situation is immense when the 'earthlings' — quarantined in a castle because they have brought disease with them to which the Utopians have long since ceased to be immune, the disease having vanished from their economy — proceed to try to conquer Utopia, relying partly on the disease they brought with them to weaken the ranks of their opponents. The speciousness with which the would-be conquerors justify themselves; the attitude of Hunker the American, who refuses to enter into an entangling alliance but is willing to help do the fighting and more than willing to share in the prospective profits; the insistence by Dupont, the Frenchman, that there must be "some guarantee, some effective guarantee, that the immense sacrifices France has made and still makes in the cause of civilized life, will receive their proper recognition and their due reward in this adventure," are all to the point; they emphasize the selfishness of the minds that must be changed before Utopia could be anything more than an excuse for new cruelty and conquest. They remind us of Pizarro and his conquistadores; of Blücher surveying London from the dome of St. Paul's saying "Was für Plunder!"; of Clive and Hastings and their swarm of followers "shaking the pagoda-tree"; of the Forty-niners tearing down the forests, wresting out the gold, and squandering the proceeds; of all the argonauts who ever saw a good thing and devoured it. Mr. Barnstaple's refusal to take part in the proposed conquest constitutes him, in the eyes of the others (the women included), a traitor to mankind. And that is all very marvelously drawn; probably no other pen than that of Wells could do it. But, except that he makes the reader sympathize, makes out no case against the proposed iniquity. The 'earthlings' are defeated by Utopian methods as drastic in their own way as those that the 'earthlings' had in mind to use. The result is merely the defeat of a lower materialism by one that is more intelligent and therefor possessed of more resources.
Mr. Barnstaple, responding to a truly spiritual impulse, offers himself at last for experiment. The Utopians are to try to return him to earth; and they succeed. Mr. Barnstaple rejoins his family in the London suburb, possessed by a vision of Utopia and a hope for the redemption of the world. But on what is his hope based? The reader is left wondering how Mr. Barnstaple shall persuade the world to mend its ways, without any prospect to offer them that he who shall truly labor for the advancement of mankind shall inevitably see the consequences of his labor. It is easy enough to enjoy Mr. Wells' vision of Utopia, and to realize how Mr. Barnstaple must have been thrilled by it. But Mr. Barnstaple is a more than middle-aged man, who must die before long. The author leaves him helpless without the heart-satisfying logic of reincarnation on which to base his program of reform.
If we accept the fact of reincarnation, Mr. Wells' vision of Utopia becomes a reasonable prospect, within reach, worth striving for, to be amended and improved as our imagination grows and we learn by experience. But if, when we die, we are dead and don't come back again, why all this plowing? Why not eat and drink, cease hoping and be done with it? There is, there must be, a tremendous faith, a knowledge, that makes Mr. Wells plow (and whistle) so sturdily. He would have done well had he intimated why evolution should be interesting to us all, how we are all a part of it, and how we are all inevitable gainers if we strive for posterity's benefit, because posterity is we ourselves.
"LEGENDS OF SMOKEOVER"
L.P. Jacks is Principal of Manchester College, Oxford, and Editor of "The Hibbert Journal". One may safely look to him, as to Wells, for a book that compels thinking. In The Legends of Smokeover, the most recent of eleven books, he has striven mightily to lift the world a little on an upward course and, unlike Wells, he more than hints at ways and means. He has written a delightful story, in which he seems to overrate the power of money to accomplish spiritual purposes — even as Wells appears to overrate the power of material comfort to produce a zeal for spiritual living — but he has brought out from the half-respect, to which the creeds have all conspired to relegate it, one of the splendid elements of human character; and his story contains two women who are really spiritual beings, blessing everyone and everything they touch. Withal, they are human, credible, likeable. And in the mouth of one of them he puts a question whose correct answer solves the whole riddle of the world's course out of its present tragic condition.
The quality that L.P. Jacks has stressed and seeks to build upon is sportsmanship. By frequent instance he shows what sturdy stuff that is, how it persists in all layers of society, and how the practice of it comforts even those who are dying in agony. To all intents and purposes the author invites the world to 'take a chance,' perhaps a very long chance, for the benefit of all mankind; and he has come extremely close to true prophecy or, to coin a word, true seersmanship.
The story is divided into five legends, the first of which concerns the rise to fortune of Rumbelow, the betting man. His birth is obscure, but in early youth he is the reputed son of a drunken rascal of that name, who goes the round of the country fairs with a Coco-nut Shy. At the age of ten the youth began his studies of the Doctrine of Probability, as the result of which he finally evolved a formula. The disreputable Rumbelow senior is conveniently killed, the boy takes over the Coco-nut Shy, sticks to his formula and makes a fortune, and for a while disappears from view. He is known to be traveling abroad, and it is hinted that he is acquiring an education.
Here at once is the Achilles' heel of Mr. Jacks' whole argument. His story is an appeal to the world to wake up and be educated; he shows wittily and well how that splendid quality of sportsmanship inherent in most human beings is the educators' opportunity; but he does not point out who shall teach the educators, or where they shall derive the knowledge which shall redeem mankind. He shows us Rumebelow, the man of zeal, who is afraid of nothing, not even the Pharisees; Mr Lady, Rumbelows's wife, with whom he returns from his mysterious journey in quest of an education and who thereafter is his wise confederate, adviser, guide, and friend. We are introduced to the "Mad Millionaire," Mr. Hooker, who has Quaker principles but who is foisted into a war-fortune in spite of himself and howled at as a profiteer. Mr. Hooker with his millions becomes one of the syndicate of five who conspire to teach the world; and a charming old conspirator he is, possessing tact and modesty. We have Miss Margaret Walfstone, a born educator, almost too wise and delightful to be true, whose successful school for girls is wrecked through the spite of the reactionary element in Smokeover. And that part of the story is amazingly well told. The fourth legend concerns Professor Ripplemark, "Regius Professor of Virtue in the University of Oxford," a V.C. man, possessed of humor, who ultimately resigns his "Chair of Virtue" to become the fifth member of the board of conspirators.
It is all very cleverly done, with such good humor and such earnestness that it is difficult to lay the book down once the first page is turned. The author has assembled five characters who convince themselves, and thus the reader, that the world must be educated out of its materialism. There is not a dull page in the book, nor a hint of pessimism. All that is lacking is the key. The reader is left wondering what this new education shall be all about, and whether the deadweight of Rumbelow's and Hooker's millions will not in any event prove to be more than the magnificent ideal can carry. From owning Coco-nut Shies Rumbelow proceeds until he is the proprietor of a titanic betting establishment which will work out mathematically and declare the odds on anything from a horse's chance to win a selling-plate to a clergyman's prospect of promotion to a bishopric. The firm even takes up insurance on a downright betting basis, naming the scientifically calculated odds and accepting wagers as to whether or not a house will burn down, whether or not a man will die before he shall have saved enough for his dependents. One suspects Mr. L.P. Jacks of deliberately poking fun at pious humbug, rather than of pretending that Rumbelow's fortune is acquired by desirable means.
At any rate, Rumbelow, a most appealing character, grows fabulously rich, and he worships that mysterious wife of his, whom he insists on everyone addressing as "My lady." It is she who directs his titanic energy along the altruistic course, and she who voices the question whose proper answer shall solve the riddle of the world's unrest.
"WHO IS MY NEIGHBOR?"
Rumbelow's experience as a gambler convinces him that the universe is not governed at all. The relation of Spirit to the world, according to him, is that of a lover to his beloved — anything but the relation of a power-loving potentate to his subjects. Professor Ripplemark, confirming that opinion, adds that "teaching" is primary, "ruling" is secondary. Rumbelow adds to that again: "Government should be a department of education instead of education a department of government." It is on that platform that the five conspirators agree, Rumbelow adding that sportsmanship is a "bridge between time and eternity." Says he: "the sporting instinct is the easiest transformed into its spiritual equivalents." But it is "My Lady" who transforms that platform from a mere experiment in phrasing into a spiritual possibility with her quiet question, "Who is my neighbor?" When the men and women of the world wake up and realize that all of us are neighbors there will be no more need to strive to pin down spiritual thinking into formulas; then there will be no more poverty and no more war between the nations — incidentally no need for Mr. Rumbelow and his gigantic betting firm.
But the fact that two such books as these by H.G. Wells and L.P. Jacks can command an audience is proof enough that the tide has turned. The world is waking up. Neither Wells nor Jacks has given us a satisfying reason why we should take seriously in hand the task of leaving behind us a world more fit for posterity to live in. Both speak of evolution as a fact. Neither of them shows how evolution is the intimate concern of all of us. But both have succeeded in showing by contrast and illustration how hugely better the world might be, and Jacks has hinted — hardly more than hinted — at the process by which transformation is to be accomplished.
Who is my neighbor? The word is hardly intimate enough. We all are brothers. Change Wells' word "confederacy" into "Brotherhood," add Jacks' "spiritual equivalent of the sporting instinct," and we are not far from the Path blazed by Theosophy. For sportsmanship is a will to meet the other fellow more than half-way and a determination never to accept unfair advantage.
But the underlying reason for the hope that rises eternal in the human breast, despite all the piled up horrors of materialism and the failure of all dogmas to provide more than a temporary anaesthetic, is the fair, heart-satisfying fact of Reincarnation, and of all-compensating Karma — fact that men know intuitively, and that springs forth as the clods of material delusion are broken up. The plowing is being well done. The seed is sown in secret. Let Theosophists not neglect its cultivation; for the weeds turned under by the plow persist interminably, and the one hope for the seed is to keep it growing.
THE WORD "international" has come on evil days, inevitably, since it was adopted as a panacea. In its very origin it presupposes the existence of a barrier between the nations. Every international theory hitherto invented has stirred more rancor than it healed, sometimes by denying the obvious, more often by asserting the absurdly untrue, always by raising material standards, which by their very nature invite conflict of opinions. Quot homines tot sententiae.
The so-called international control, set up by jealous governments to check the scramble for political advantage, resembles as much as anything a bandage wrapped around all the fingers of a hand, to prevent any one finger from acting independently; and the result is what might be expected — numbness and exasperation. Even international sports, conceived in the spirit of friendliness, develop into international rivalry, as instanced when an English crowd applauds the bad strokes of an American golfer, or an American crowd hisses an alien contestant — extreme instances, but neither rare nor on the wane.
Material standards, of whatever kind, inevitably lead to quarreling and chaos, because the standards in themselves are false. And nothing can be gained by calling black white, or by taking the result of false premises and trying to force it into more convenient shape. Dame Partington trying to sweep back the Atlantic with a broom, was acting no more illogically than the nations, the classes, the mobs and the dogmatists who seem disposed to strive forever to offstand Karma. In fact, she was wiser than they; for she made her experiment on a scale on which her finite human mind might grasp the absurdity of the attempt.
Truth is universal. Consequently all its proofs, if apparent at all, are universally apparent — as apparent in a bowl of water as in one drop of the same fluid or in an ocean. And it is easier for us to take the middle way, that our senses can grasp with least effort. There is no need to study drops under a microscope, or to sweep the vast expanse of the Pacific, in order to learn the elementary lessons of the Law. Its proofs, its demonstrations, its examples are all about us, in every move we make, in every sight we see, in every sound we hear. They always were; they always are; they always will be. There is no stage in our development as individuals, at which sufficient illustration of the Law as it applies to each one of us is not immediately at hand and comprehensible. It is impossible to invent a condition or a state of mind, out of which observance of the working of Universal Law can not, and will not, show a spirally progressive way.
A simple illustration is that one of the bandaged fingers. Loose them and the brain, which has no apparent connection with them, controls them separately; but each finger serves the hand, the hand the arm, the arm the man, the man his fellows, his fellows the world — and so on, up to heights beyond our present comprehension. The absurdity appears at once of any jealousy between the fingers or between the left hand and the right; yet it is no more absurd than international rivalry. The same law applies in either instance.
The United States' Declaration of Independence declares that all men are born free and equal; and that is a sturdy and honest effort to express a profound interpretation of the Universal Law. But to misinterpret that into the assumption that all men have the same grade of intelligence, that the same food, the same work, or even the same creed must suit all of them, that they all have the same ability, must speak the same language; that their immediate interests are all identical — would be, and is, as absurd as to say that they all experience the same weather and that the sun shines on all of them at once.
The fact is that, whatever their degree of present attainment, the same Universal Law applies to each, and that the possibilities for each and every one are absolutely limitless — beginning at the point at which he is, and progressing infinitely. The goal of us all is ineffable harmony. But to try to attain that harmony by preaching materialist theories of internationalism resembles the advice of the man on one side of a deep chasm to a stranger on the other side:
"Jump. I think you will make it in two jumps!"
We are confronted by conditions. We are governed by unalterable Law. Knowledge is the proof of Law; wisdom its application. Theories of internationalism, being based on local points of view, can accomplish no more than to reduce all nations to one dead-level of suppression, leading ultimately to explosion more terrific than the outbursts of Vesuvius — matter seeking to imprison force.
It is Universal Law that makes possible the playing of Beethoven's magic compositions by orchestra of a hundred pieces. To compel the first and second violins to use their bows simultaneously, would accomplish a result as futile in degree, and in its way, as any effort to bind the nations in one man- governed league. It is enough, and difficult enough, that nations should govern themselves; and they will never attain harmony by all striving to be first violins. Order is attained by listening, self-government, and work; and not by listening to the next piece in the orchestra but to the universal symphony.
An illustration comes to mind from memory. On a night in the Ituri Forest in the Congo Free State, many years before the recent world-war, there met more than a dozen men of different nations in one of those great clearings made by the Forest Administration, into which paths led from every direction, and in which travelers might pitch their tents. It was a bright oasis in a gloomy wilderness of trees so dense as to be impenetrable except along the paths, two meters wide, that threaded the forest like the filaments of a gigantic spider's web.
The men met quite by accident. There was a German grand-duke with a Prussian friend and a Bavarian non-commissioned officer; a Swiss merchant; two Roman Catholic priests, one a Hollander, the other a Portuguese; two Belgians with a handcuffed Greek prisoner; an Englishman; an Italian; a man whose identity remained in doubt, but who might have been a Lithuanian or Russian; an American big-game hunter suffering badly from malaria; and one or two others, including an East-Indian trader, whose names and nationalities I have forgotten.
We met on territory then being administered by Belgium, subject to an international treaty expressly devised for the protection of the natives and to prevent rival nations from coming to blows for possession of the rich, then hardly explored area. The only discoverable points of agreement between the various nationals assembled in that oasis were, that the natives were being cruelly exploited rather than protected; that war undoubtedly would come for the possession of the so-called Free State; and that, whatever local laws there might be, any man with brains and sufficient lack of scruple might break them with impunity.
The latter subject of conversation was brought up by contemplation of the Greek prisoner, who boasted openly to his captors that he had sufficient influence of the right sort to procure his release, no matter what the evidence against him, and he more than hinted that the influence was international, to be brought to bear through more than one legation. However, for the time being, he was a helpless and a pitiable prisoner, with red sores where the handcuffs chafed his wrists.
The whole company was at loggerheads. The German grand-duke and his friend were suspected of political intrigue and kept themselves as much aloof as possible. One of the Belgians was an atheist and took malicious satisfaction in offending the two priests. The East-Indian trader was regarded by all and sundry as an unfair competitor. The Belgians came in for pointed criticism as the uniformed representatives of misgovernment, and naturally replied in kind. Hardly any three were on speaking terms; and the Congo native, who had charge of the clearing, was thrashed by the Italian for giving the Germans' orders precedence. There were all the makings of an international "incident," when the Greek prisoner produced his flute.
For hours after that, the stars looked down through the circle of tree-tops in the midst of those leagues of forest on a scene that illustrated almost perfectly the difference between the working of Universal, as opposed to international Law.
The Greek was a musician — so excellent a musician that his captors, who were afraid of him, removed his handcuffs, and he played, after the first five minutes, with two rifles pointed at him over the knees of guards who leaned their backs against trees to listen in comfort. At the end of ten minutes not a man was sulking in his tent; everyone came out into the open and lay, or sat, or sprawled, in a semi-circle around the Greek. The night became full of eyes, as the natives who had fled from the clearing to avoid contact with the terrifying white men crept back to swell the audience. And the Greek played Chopin, Mozart, Handel — until the very night seemed full of exquisite music, and he ceased, after hours of it, from physical exhaustion.
Followed proof of what he had accomplished; laughter in place of snarling ill-humor. He had changed an international tragedy into a chapter of the Universal comedy — he, who stood charged with atrocious crimes and who needed to brag lest his own unlawful hope should perish in him. Men had forgotten their evening meal, and mutual dislike along with it; now they made common contributions to a bivouac-feast, although none could have told who proposed that. Conversation, once begun on that new basis, lasted until the stars grew pale in the morning sky; and when day dawned, all went their separate ways with at least the feeling that they had lost nothing by the ebb and flow of good-will with their fellow men.
So works the Universal Law; and nothing less than that can ever overcome the international inharmonies. Whatever presupposes separateness leads to separation and to selfishness and all the strife inevitably consequent on that. The universal, presupposing nothing, since it includes all truth, unites all life in the limitless scope of evolution, playing no favorites, excluding none. The Path lies straight ahead. The guides, the illustrations, the examples, are so near that they can not possibly escape us, if we look.
Therefore we, members of this Theosophical Peace Congress, may in confidence pursue our efforts to establish universal permanent Peace
WIDELY known though Mr. Long already is, his books deserve to be much more widely read and to be translated into other languages. He writes well. The truth is in him. And he is as sweetly reasonable as the processes of natural law, which he has observed, and which he justifies as against the "ferocious, red-with-ravin conception of a Nature that shrieks against human and divine love."
He proves his case (and Emerson's), that as men go forth into the field each sees his own mood dressed in fur or feathers, constructing for himself a philosophy of nature, tender or savage, out of his own reflexion. There are faults that can be found with Mr. Long's book, from the standpoint of Theosophy, but they are faults of omission, in no sense due to his observation or to any lack of it, but solely to the absence of that underlying recognition of the law of cause and effect, which Theosophy alone supplies. Mr. Long, for many years past, has gone forth into the wilds at intervals as an observer, armed with neither gun nor stupid sentiment, but with appreciation, which is a key to apprehension; with curiosity restrained by that important quality, good manners; and with sportsmanship, which has nothing whatever to do with trophy-hunting, cruelty, or contempt. His book could, consequently, not be other than a notable achievement.
Perhaps the most outstanding thought in the mind of this reviewer after turning the last page of Mother Nature is, that manners maketh animals, as well as man. If ever a man in clear and thoughtful printed page described -and it may be without intending exactly that — the generosity and courtesy of nature, Mr. Long has done it. And it follows that of course — and this he set himself to do — he has left the 'red-with-ravin' school, the supporters of the insane and pitiless 'competition' and 'survival of the fittest' theory, without a leg to stand on or an argument that is not proved ridiculous.
Co-operation, not competition, is the secret of all nature, and the sooner man learns that the better. It is the answer to the very riddle of the Sphinx. Wherever and whenever man has co-operated with the trees, streams, rocks, and animals, he has lost nothing, but has gained immeasureably.
It is man the destroyer, the upsetter, the unbalancer, the ravenous, hasty, inconsiderate, ill-mannered 'profiteer,' who sees cruelty wherever he looks; because cruelty is in his heart, and the cause and its effect are one.
COOPERATION IS INSTINCTIVE
The first of the unanswerable indictments that Mr. Long brings against the alleged observers of facts who uphold the orthodoxy of the competition-theory, is that they do not observe. They study beasts in cages; or, if they do go afield, it is in the firm conviction that all nature is "red in tooth and claw." They are determined beforehand to prove the comparatively recent (as Nature would reckon it), mainly occidental, wholly illogical theory that only the swiftest and strongest can survive. The weakest and most defenseless animals and birds are much the more numerous everywhere — so are the weakest and most defenseless men! — and the beasts of prey are as rare, but far more reasonable, than the two-gun ruffians, who murder wayfarers, but this self-evident fact is one that the 'observers' of so-called scientific laws unaccountably, and yet almost unanimously, seem to have agreed to overlook.
Co-operation is instinctive because instinct is the reflexion (on the lower plane) of intuition, which is the means of communication on the higher. Day and night, the planets in their courses, the myriad suns in the surge of the Milky Way, are not at war. Seasons follow seasons and relieve each other. Life and death are alternating phases in an endless evolution, whose first quality is mercy, whose first law is that all things shall co-operate, atom and earth and constellation, in one sublime, whole, interrelating Universe. Intuition knows this; instinct reflects the knowledge. It is easy to read reverence between the lines of Mr. Long's book. This is a man who has felt himself a part of one inseparable vastness, and has felt the urge of Brotherhood toward everything that lives. So he naturally has no use for the Malthusian theory of struggle, which, as he says, Darwin borrowed, while (to use his words) all "nature stands ready to produce abundance so soon as men cease from strife and follow her universal law." He speaks of human competition as "unholy doctrine," practising which, man is put to shame by the very "beasts that perish." For their ways are not our ways.
It may be that Mr. Long had never heard of Katherine Tingley's Râja-Yoga College when he wrote this book, and if so, one of his paragraphs is all the more worth quoting:
"We send our little children to school, children who are natural comrades, and there set them to working for rewards, marks, honors, prizes — for every empty and worthless bubble that shall foster a spirit of rivalry. Even our games feel the artificial curse, for we no longer play to enjoy but play to win. The instinct of children still leads them to play, as birds and animals all play, for conscious pleasure and unconscious bodily training; but ... there is hardly a game left in our schools or colleges which has not been divorced from its true function of giving pleasure to the player and wedded to the lake ideal of winning over rivals."
Which is one of the evils of modern education against which Katherine Tingley raised her standard and has kept it raised now for a quarter of a century. The more such men as Mr. Long go forth to observe, and the more fearlessly they write, the more clearly will appear the wisdom, genius, and inspiration with which Katherine Tingley laid the sane foundation of her system of education.
Mr. Long (himself a Christian minister) points out how timidly the theologians "murmur something about the harshness of nature as a foil for the tenderness of divine grace, not perceiving that nature and grace are two words of the same revelation"; and he goes on to say that "it is as certain as anything can be that grace could have found no welcome or lodgment on earth had not nature prepared the way for the gentle guest." He quotes even Calvin, the creed-bound, the believer in eternal hell, who in a moment of illumination wrote: "With reverence may this be said, that God and nature are one." The remainder of the book is mainly an illuminating series of observations, set down with restraint and without tendency to dogmatize, in support of that statement of Calvin's, which no more gibes with his "predestined to damnation" theory than does the practise of vivisection comply with the teaching of Jesus Christ.
The natural peace and trustfulness of animals is amply proved by the records of all explorers who have observed what is generally described as 'game' in natural surroundings before man has had opportunity to terrorize. Left to themselves animals multiply and are almost fearless; and they will live alongside man, giving him all the room he needs, doing their necessary share in maintaining the 'balance of nature,' if man will only let them. Nor is it true that man needs the 'product' of wild animals, nor that he can use that product profitably, at all events in any such quantity as to justify the slaughter that continues yearly. Man-invented, unnatural demand for fur and feathers, kept up and increased by the unhealthy competition and feverish selfishness of cities, is not only causing whole species of animals and birds to become extinct but is breeding the spirit of war and annihilation. The theory that animals must disappear, mercilessly exterminated, as civilization advances is the same infernal doctrine that declares that weak nations must give waq7 before the stronger. And that is the whole theory of war.
If man would observe the animals and learn from them, he would soon discover that practically all the accepted notions about them are totally wrong. Most of our books on natural history have been written by men who shot an animal before trying to become acquainted with it, and whose nearest approach to genuine study of a living beast was through the bars of a cage. It is true, there have been others, and today there is William Beebe, with his observation-post at the edge of the jungle in British Guiana, honestly observing and most delightfully writing what he knows; but for the most part, with the exception of the so-called scientific treatises turned out from laboratories in the name of biology, our information about wild life comes from men who have regarded animals as prey, and have hunted them either for profit or from a perverted sense of sport. It is from such sources that the economists have drawn their 'facts,' so that we find Mill deducing that nature is a chaos of struggling beasts, accepting the cruelty of the natural world as an axiom, and trying to teach us (too often, too successfully!) to pattern our own 'struggle for existence' on the same imagined lines.
John Stuart Mill was not alone in that egregious error. Huxley and a host of others made the mistake of taking alleged facts on faith and picturing a universe at war against itself, rending and tearing in a fiendish struggle to survive. Nine-tenths of nineteenth-century philosophy is based on gross misstatements, due to the confusion of dead carcases with living nature in the minds of men who saw to what a pass the world was coming and sought to justify economic warfare by contending that nature sets the example. The only trouble with their teaching is, that nature does nothing of the kind.
To quote Mr. Long again:
"The incredible thing is that you may search the 11brary from top to bottom without finding anything to indicate that any preacher of this degrading superstition of a terror-governed natural world has ever taken a single summer or winter to live peaceably among wild birds and beasts, to see with his own eyes just how they live, and to judge for himself what spirit governs them as they work and play, win their mates, protect their offspring, and seek food for themselves and their little ones."
ASK NOW THE BEASTS AND THEY WILL TEACH THEE
The book is full of paragraphs that are almost irresistible to quote, because Mr. Long has done exactly what the 'naturalists' have so seldom done. He has gone, looked, listened, used intelligence, and he is able to hear a morning hymn in the music of the birds at dawn, that shows how glad they are to be alive; whereas the man with a gun or bird-lime can think of them only as potential dead specimens. Death, that comes to animals and birds as inevitably as to men, is kindly and not cruel, except where men have interfered with nature, bringing perverted dogs, guns and traps into the wilderness.
One of Mr. Long's most illuminating experiences is that of taking a 'bad boy' into the wilds with him. By upsetting himself and the boy out of a canoe into the water he contrived to lose the boy's gun, with the result that the boy had to live next to nature without unnatural machinery for doing harm. Mr. Long turned him loose in the woods without a word of advice, trusting nature to do all needful preaching to the boy's own instincts. Several times that summer the boy (unarmed) met bears and other wild beasts face to face and it was not long, after his first fright or two were over, before he became silent and companionable, unconsciously copying the harmony around him.
"Then we began to watch the wood-folk with desire to learn something of their ways the rabbit that tried to frighten us by thumping the ground at our heels, the bull moose that stared at our passing canoe, the tiny warbler that nested by our tent, and the big owl that we called from his cedar swamp to hoot around our camp-fire. There was no preaching, no moralizing, nothing but nature's unobtrusive lesson; pet before the summer was over there was no more regret for the lost guns, and no further disposition to interfere with our wild neighbors."
And, as has been pointed out elsewhere on good authority, men do not gather figs from thistles. If nature were bloodthirsty, an incorrigible boy could hardly learn gentle manliness from living face to face with her. Who has not witnessed the improvement that takes place in boys who have a chance to learn from undomesticated animals?
STRUGGLE FOR EXISTENCE IS UNNATURAL
Nature is spontaneously joyous, and it is only man's attempt to justify his own unnatural habits and excitements by reading into nature what is not there that has produced the crass fiction on which so-called scientific theories have been built, and which nowadays it appears to be heresy not to believe. Mr. Long's remarks on animals at play could be enormously amplified by the present writer and hosts of others, from experience. All young creatures, from young elephants to young mice, are playful as soon as they have strength enough to carry their own weight; greed is the exception, not the rule in nature; few wild animals will gorge themselves, or eat one fragment more than is good for them, although in a state of captivity, having nothing else to do, some of them become gluttons. And even the big cats, lions, tigers, leopards and so on restrict their killing to what they actually need, often — very often — going several days in succession without hunting.
All so-called big game is dangerous when attacked by man, but only very rarely meddlesome if left alone — curious, yes; interested in the human stranger, yes; but 'treacherous' or pugnacious, so seldom that if men would only take example from them the world might then be reckoned safe and peaceable! Here is a personal experience in confirmation: on one occasion five lions investigated my tent at about ten o'clock at night, in a wild district of what was then called German East Africa. The tent was so small that it was impossible to move without touching some portion of it, so it was impossible to bring a loaded rifle into play without betraying movement. There was nothing to do but lie still and 'sham dead.' The lions sniffed all around the tent, and could not possibly have been ignorant that a man was in there, for their sense of smell is remarkably keen; at the end of a few minutes one of them roared, which — contrary to usual belief -is not an indication of ill temper, but the reverse; thereafter, for ten or fifteen minutes, they engaged in rough horseplay, rolling over and biting one another like puppies, and the only danger to me was that they might have upset the tent, when my own state of panic would undoubtedly have caused serious trouble. In the end they scampered off and I was able to catch sight of them; one was a full-grown lion, and the others, judging by a glimpse and by their foot-prints, were almost fully grown. Nor was that a fundamentally exceptional experience.
Mr. Long, in his book, confines himself to his own experiences on the North-American continent, and rightly so; but he deserves to be supported by actual evidence from Africa and Asia because, if his contentions are in the main correct, as this writer believes, they must apply everywhere and not to one continent only. His remarks on wolves are especially enlightening, although those, too, might be greatly amplified, and it does not seem to have occurred to him that the howl of wolves, so often spoken of with dread by 'tenderfeet' and written about sensationally by authors who have never heard it, is nothing more or less than music. Lawrence Trimble, who probably knows wolves more intimately than any other man alive today, describes it as the wolves' 'evening hymn,' and I have seen him persuade a pack of wolves to howl, by sitting down near to them and rendering a wolf solo so perfectly that they could not resist the inclination to sing the chorus. They throw up their heads, throw their very souls into the music, and usually engage in rough-and-tumble play directly afterwards. Lions behave in the same way; when they are roaring, and particularly when they roar in chorus, they are never 'up to mischief' but full of life, strength, and contentment.
Lawrence Trimble recently was at great pains, when in Canada, to discover an authenticated instance of a man having been attacked by wolves. He heard plenty of blood-curdling tales in the cities, fewer in the smaller towns, none in the villages, and in the outlying cabins and places where men know wolves his questions were laughed at. The fact is that not even a starving timber-wolf will attack a man except in self-defense.
A recent East-Indian census gives the number of human beings killed by wolves in one year as about 380. That is out of a human population of three hundred and twenty-five million people. The percentage is simply insignificant; a far greater percentage of people (to the total population) die on railroad crossings in the United States, or at the hands of 'civilized' murderers; and it is noteworthy that nothing whatever is said in that census as to how the human beings came to be killed — whether or not, for instance, they were hunting the wolves.
The same argument applies to snakes, which are among the very best friends of the agriculturists, but are regarded with horror by nearly all writers of fiction. In India, in any one year, the number of people killed by snake-bite averages about 35,000, which is so small in proportion to the number who die of plague, or cholera, or of knife-wounds o r in proportion to the number who die in the United States of diseases directly brought on by vice — that comparison becomes ridiculous. Most of those deaths by snake-bite are admitted to be due to carelessness, and another considerable proportion of them are due to cruelty attempted on the snakes. Beyond any doubt whatever, the snakes, on the other hand, preserve the lives of millions of people by reducing the number of rats, mice, and insects.
I have traveled in India from Bombay to the Himalayas, and along the base of the Himalayas into Assam; all up the east coast of Australia; the whole length of Africa, and the whole breadth of that continent from Mombasa to Boma, in every instance living in a tent almost all the time, and penetrating into places where snakes and wild animals were practically the only population. I was only once attacked by a snake — a python; and I would not be willing to take oath that the python actually did attack. I could count on the fingers of one hand the number of times I have been attacked by any wild animal whatever, when the animal did not receive first provocation; one of those was a so-called 'rogue' elephant, mad with pain from disease at the base of his tusk; one was a rhinoceros, that bore the marks of previous bullet-wounds and consequently had the right to regard man with more than suspicion; one was a female buffalo, whose calf had strayed, so that I was between her and the calf; and the other was a man-eating lion, diseased and decrepit from old age, and about on a par, as to normality, with one of those dope-fed gangsters who make life in American cities dangerous.
The number of times I have been close to 'dangerous' wild animals without really being in the slightest danger from them is beyond computation, for I made a practice for years of getting as close as I possibly could to every species I could find. Without qualification I endorse Mr. Long's affirmation that wild animals in natural conditions are less dangerous and less treacherous than the human inhabitants of cities — that is, head for head. There are, of course, exceptions, and wherever the balance of nature has been disturbed it is usually profitable not to take unnecessary risks.
The whole question is closely related in its essence to the problem of disarmament. The supply of deadly weapons and the theory that the other fellow has nefarious intentions psychologize the situation. The false but persistently inculcated teaching that nature is cruel and that all existence is a struggle of the strong against the weak, produces in the human mind a savagery that has no legitimate excuse. When it is once understood that Nature is merciful and considerate of the weak, and that any exceptions to that law are due to unnatural and therefore remediable circumstances, a decidedly wholesome change in human conduct is bound to follow.
IT IS MAN, NOT NATURE, WHO IS CRUEL
It is true that a certain small percentage of animals live by killing. Their supply of natural food is in many instances so reduced by the unnecessary ravages of man that they have to become sheep-killers or else starve; and having once killed sheep they would be more than human if they did not continue to follow the line of least resistance and repeat the process indefinitely; but it is the wanton destruction by man of the herds of deer and smaller 'game' that diverts them in the first instance from their natural habits. And there ends the whole case against the predatory animals. For in no case are their methods cruel. Mr. Long's contention is amply supported by the evidence of such well-known explorers as Livingstone and Selous, and very many others, whose unanimous verdict is that some kind of hypnosis accompanies the attack of wild animals; and although its cause may be a question on which scientists and those who have experienced it differ, its result is invariably the same — stupor, in which neither pain nor distress are felt. My own experience in that respect is limited to a single instance, of having been knocked down and stunned by a charging elephant; there was no pain, and not even a headache afterwards. But I have talked with at least a dozen men who have been mauled by 'big game' -one of them was tossed by a 'rhino' and had nearly every bone in his body broken, but survived — and every one of them assured me that at the time of the attack there was no pain. One man, who was badly torn by a lion, felt no pain for several hours afterwards, and in no single instance did pain begin to be felt for several minutes; it was usually more than half-an-hour. . Bearing in mind that when a lion kills its prey the business is over in less than thirty seconds, it becomes evident that nature's methods are not unmerciful; and there is certainly no comparison between a swift and painless death in that form and the lingering torture of a steel trap, such as professional hunters set by the thousand, or the agony of wounds caused by badly aimed bullets. The number of men who can invariably kill their animal with one shot is very small indeed, and a great many animals escape, to perish miserably, hiding away in thickets until their wounds stiffen and mortification sets in.
DO ANIMALS FEEL PAIN?
There is only one chapter in Mr. Long's book to which exception can be taken. True, he leaves the answer to his question open, but he takes the attitude that it is impossible to prove whether or not animals feel pain in any circumstances, and he seems rather to incline to the opinion that they do not. However, if it were true that they do not feel pain, then practically the whole of the rest of his contention must go by the board; for what would be the objection to wounding an animal that was incapable of suffering?
It is difficult to imagine how such an otherwise intelligent and careful observer should persuade himself even to temporize with any such conclusion - unless he adopts the formula of a certain latter-day sect, who maintain that pain has no real existence. But if all pain is imaginary, human beings nonetheless imagine it, and suffer. How exempt animals? What is the difference, except in terms of metaphysical abstraction, between pain and acute suffering endured in the imagination?
None of Mr. Long's arguments in this chapter will bear analysis. He cites an instance of a pampered pet-dog that yelled, imagining itself hurt, and ran off perfectly satisfied after a few words of encouragement. But who has not seen a child, or even a grown man, behave in the same way? And is that proof that pain does not exist?
He admits that animals feel pleasure. How can that be possible, unless they are equally capable of feeling pleasure's opposite? If they cannot feel pain, how do they learn to avoid things that would otherwise injure them? What is it, if not pain, that enrages them if struck? It is probably right to suppose that an animal's consciousness, of pain or pleasure, is far removed from that of a human being; but it is nonetheless consciousness, based on sensation and capable of two extremes.
Animals undoubtedly do not feel pain when killed in the natural way by beasts of prey, because of that provision of nature which induces stupor in the moment of attack; but whoever has witnessed the behavior of an animal caught by the leg in a steel trap must either admit that the agony is atrocious, or else deny that sensation exists for himself or any other creature. it is mere equivocation to assert that what the animal feels is something different from what humans feel. That may be true. But pain by any other name would be as cruel; and the man who will willingly inflict it is a fiend there is no politer name for him.
The vivisectionists will doubtless hail with glee this chapter of Mr. Long's. They will quote him as favoring their abominable practices, although he is careful to assure the reader that he holds no brief for them. It would be incredible, if it were not there in bold print, that such a warm-hearted and appreciative observer of Mother Nature should limp so lamely to a half-conclusion.
Wherein lies nature's kindness, that he set out to establish and so amply seems to prove, if what is called unkindness should cause no suffering? It is this very blindness to the sufferings of others that leads to all cruelty and all war; and it would be just as logical to assert that because they talk a different language and we cannot feel what they feel, therefore the enemy's wounded feel no pain and their mothers experience no anguish, as it is to maintain that trapped animals, or vivisected animals, do not suffer. Fortunately, however, that identical argument would destroy the vivisectionist's case; because a very large percentage of the experiments on living animals are made for the express purpose of discovering what effect pain has on them, and therefore, if they feel no pain, those experiments are useless.
The truth is that, left to herself, Mother Nature provides full and merciful means for the process of evolution that has been continuing for countless myriads of years. Death comes to us all naturally in due course, and the same Universal Law that governs the constellations takes care of men — and animals. It is only when man, with perverted imagination and a callousness born of lust, ignores the Law and tries to set up new rules for himself, that the balance of nature becomes disturbed and consequences (Karma) supervene that may take centuries on centuries to readjust themselves.
The only remedy is Brotherhood, and Brotherhood is universal — or else make-believe. The only time to begin to apply the remedy is now. Harm done in the past, and injuries inflicted, cannot be undone. But the process of inflicting injury can cease, and must begin with individuals. It is obvious to anyone at all conversant with Theosophy, that even if it could be proved beyond dispute that vivisection of animals would lead to the total elimination of disease, the price would be too heavy to pay for the result. The cowardice of vivisection is its worst feature. Its effect on those who practise it and, indirectly, on those who profess to benefit from its practice is worse, because it is moral, than the actual physical cruelty inflicted on the helpless animals. And the consequences cannot be escaped; ultimately they will rebound on the human race, that must account sooner or later for all its actions. Justice is inevitable, and is not confined within the limits of one human lifetime.
I once heard the whole argument for vivisection compressed into a sentence by a Cornish fisherman, who was skinning eels alive. They were squirming horribly, and I protested. The fisherman looked at me with honest blue eyes, shifted his pipe to the other corner of his mouth, went on with the skinning and answered:
"Lor' bless ye, boy, they like it!"
The whole argument against vivisection and all un-brotherhood was summed up centuries ago (and by no means for the first time then) in the advice to "do unto others as ye would they should do unto you." And the voice of Eternity, as clear as the cry of the birds and the music of wind in the trees and the laughing of water, says: "Both ways lie before you. Choose and take the consequences." Meanwhile, Mr. Long's book Mother Nature is a good one and a great advance on the usual method of writing so-called natural history.
JUSTICE, according to Xenophon,* was defined by Socrates as "knowledge of what is due to man." There is no other recorded instance of Socrates having committed himself to definitions, his purpose having been to show what things are not, rather than to limit the boundaries of what they might turn out to be if men would only apply themselves to the discovery. However, as far as it goes, the definition will serve well enough as a guide toward correct conclusions, and injustice, accordingly, might better be defined as ignorance of what is due by man to every living creature.
[* Xenophon (430?-355? BCE) — a Greek soldier and writer. A disciple of Socrates, he joined Cyrus the Younger in an attack on Persia. After the death of Cyrus, Xenophon led the Greek troops to the Black Sea, an ordeal he recounted in "Anabasis." The American Heritage Dictionary. For more information, see the Wikipedia article Xenophon. ]
There are a great many grades of ignorance, some wilful, some inherited, some due to sheer stupidity, and some that are the consequence of evil habits which have so corrupted thought that even temporary good intentions fail to disperse the mists of prejudice. The effect of ignorance is inevitably disastrous, unless knowledge can by some means be brought to the rescue.
Mere sentimentalism fails; and mock heroics masquerading as reforming zeal serve only to increase with a cloud of hypocrisy the evils at which they profess to be aimed. Mere appetite for knowledge to be used for personal advancement, being itself only a form of ignorance, is worse than useless in the effort that must certainly be made to lift the world from the state of ignorance into which it has fallen.
Injustice and ignorance go hand-in-hand invariably, and their result is a degenerating and self-propagating state of selfishness that descends from bad to worse, until it becomes so insupportable that nations wilt as from disease. As far back as we have any historical records, the invariable rule has been that nations which ignored the principle of justice have reaped want, revolution, and dishonor. No nation has ever become great, or sustained its greatness, except by adhering to the highest standards of justice of which it was capable. No armies and no fleets since history began have availed for long to enforce injustice; nor have all the votes of all the electors of any country succeeded in advancing the common prosperity one step when the majority opinion has been unjust.
There are plenty of instances where ignorant majorities, with dust thrown in their eyes by those who believe they can profit by injustice, have agreed to enforce laws and penalties which favored this or that adroitly organized minority; but there is no instance where the process has succeeded permanently. Despoiled and despised crowds have a way of waking suddenly and transferring the spoils and the scorn to other recipients. Thus ignorance proceeds from bad to worse, injustice finding no remedy by merely making an exchange of victims.
As great an effort as ever has been made on the material plane to relegate injustice to oblivion was heralded by the famous phrase "all men are born free and equal." Regarded as an effort, an expression of intention, it was admirable, but there are probably few who pretend that much proof of its truth has been forthcoming. There are many who can point to daily, hourly evidence that seems to prove the contrary.
The phrase has been explained to mean equality of opportunity. But are there any who will venture to assert, as a result of actual observation, that equality of opportunity exists anywhere in the world today? Conceding that the United States stands alone in advance of all nations in the exercise of justice, is it true, for instance, that the poor man enjoys equal opportunity with the rich before the courts? Is it true that the sons of the poor enjoy the same opportunity to be educated as the sons of the rich? Is it true, to take another instance, that a teacher of Theosophy is as immune from persecution as, say, a politician who advocates international mistrust and rivalry?
From what, then, are all men free? And to what are they equal? The great nations — great, that is, in wealth and armaments — exclude the weaker nations from an equal voice in international affairs; big business crowds smaller business out of existence; big political organizations suppress individual liberties; men with big brains and no squeamishness mock law by its manipulation for their private profit. Are men or women free from tyranny, robbery, blackmail, prejudice, oppression, violence, libel, slander? And if not, why?
There are laws beyond count — so many laws that nobody pretends to exact knowledge of more than a small proportion of them. It is evident that the greater the number of laws, the greater the opportunity becomes for clever men to perpetrate injustice, and for rascals to enrich themselves. Yet there are few who will pretend that in the aggregate the intention of those who elect the law-makers is not to provide equality of opportunity for all. The intention fails; all over the world it has failed so dismally that more than one nation has repudiated democratic government and has submitted to a dictatorship. Nevertheless, not even those dictators will pretend there is no miscarriage of justice in the countries they control. They have contrived to organize intolerance and to make injustice function profitably for a while. They have made material efficiency a goal, without attaining it; but have they even attempted to provide all men with equal opportunity?
To what are we all equal, or were born equal? Is a rich law-breaker, out on bail, the equal of a vagrant, held in the common lock-up awaiting trial? Is a man born with a genius for music the equal of another man born from a drug-soaked mother in the slums? Is a prize-fighter the equal of a poet; or a painter of landscapes the equal of a man born blind? Do any of those enjoy an equal opportunity? And if so, to do what? To live? Then has a man born with inherited disease an equal opportunity with another man born healthy, amid clean surroundings? It is true, there are many agencies, supported by compassionate and earnest people, who endeavor with all their energy to provide opportunity for those born in poverty and ill-health. But have they succeeded? Why not?
It would seem — if we accept the surface-view — that miscarriage of justice is an ineradicable evil, due to ignorance, creating deeper ignorance in which to propagate itself. But due to ignorance of what? For twenty centuries the churches have thundered dogmas that, they say, would solve all human problems if accepted. But countless millions, generation after generation, have accepted them. The churches boast of their conversions, of the thousands of their congregations, of the increase year by year. And has injustice ceased? Has it seemed to begin to cease? Does justice dwell among the churches? Or do they rail at one another, split asunder in loud disagreement and tear up the tenets they have hitherto proclaimed as being statements of divine law?
We are told, and we cannot be told too frequently, that education is the panacea that shall redeem the world from its distress. But who shall do the educating? With the proponents of a hundred creeds, and the protectors of a thousand policies insisting that their way, and only their way, can be right, who shall decide among them? Who shall trust the advocate of this or that theory of education, when so few among them are agreed, and so many admit that their method of teaching is devised expressly to prevent the evolution of individual thought but to establish fixed and arbitrary sets of principles, no two sets of which are alike?
There are those who say the Bible should be rigidly excluded from the schools. There are others who insist that it should be the basis of all education. There are advocates of a purely 'business training'; others of a military system; others who insist that nothing matters except citizenship (forgetting, perhaps, that those who must be depended on to teach this elusive quality belong of necessity to the generation whose crass ignorance of the rudimentary elements of true citizenship produced the worst disaster in recorded history — the war of 1914).
Insistence on the need of education presupposes ignorance, so there is no need to labor that point. The whole world is ignorant, although there never was a time when so much money was spent on education, nor when so many subjects were taught in schools. There were never, in all history, so many men, women, and children legally and illegally confined in prisons; never so many lunatics; never so many law-suits; never so much law-breaking; never so much propaganda in behalf of remedies for every ailment that the world is heir to. There was never less pretense at justice in the conduct of international affairs; there has been no period in recorded history when the truth about any aspect of life had less chance of unprejudiced consideration; never, since the stories of the nations first began to be written, have there been so many fads, recipes, and 'cure-alls' (some intentionally fraudulent, some honestly conceived and offered desperately for a world's salvation).
One section of the world is 'rolling in money,' while another section lacks the mere necessities of life. Two thirds of the world is arming itself deliberately in preparation for 'the next war,' which all agree will destroy civilization if allowed to happen; and taxes are being laid on unborn children to defray the cost of a war which concluded in a treaty, whose clauses none of the signatory nations has observed, or ever intended to observe.
Under a specious pretext that publicity is purifying, scandal has become an hourly entertainment, published in big-type editions as fast as the wires can collect it and enormous presses can be made to whirl. Injustice in the courts is ensured by incessant and untruthful propaganda, so adroitly handled that none can trace its origin, and yet no juryman can truthfully declare that his mind has not been prejudiced. Men of integrity and self-respect refuse to offer themselves for election to public office because of the certainty that their honor will be called in question and their past will be raked for incidents to which slander may be linked. And yet the very newspapers that hourly perpetrate all these injustices and by constant example increase the tendency toward unfairness in the public mind, preach justice, presumably believe in justice, and bemoan the miscarriage of justice when the all too frequent fact is called to their attention.
Ignorance is the reason, obviously. No man, unless mad, and no body of men, unless victimized by what has recently been renamed crowd-psychology, would deliberately do what they knew would react disastrously upon themselves. Who takes a red-hot iron in his naked hand, or stands in the way of an express train? A madman now and then, perhaps; a suicide; a child — a very young child; never a grown man in full possession of his reason and possessed of enough intelligence to recognize cause and effect. And yet, it would be safer to do either of those things than to continue in the way the world is drifting.
There is no escape from consequences. No deed can be separated from its ultimate effect, nor can it be dissociated from the doer, whether done in love or hate or ignorance (which is the mother of all crime). In the practice of law it is conceded that ignorance of the law is no excuse. It is so in nature; ignorance will not protect the man who touches a high-tension wire, or save the animal that walks into a trap. Mass-ignorance is no better (and perhaps worse, because self-multiplying) than that of individuals, and no number of ballots will avoid the ultimate conclusion; as for instance, if a million men should vote to have no earthquake, would the Law that governs Nature change itself to suit them? Ignorantly, men may build their city in an earthquake-zone, but it is they, not Nature, who must reap the consequences.
Who, if he knew with utter certainty that he must undo and redress whatever wrong he does, would perpetrate a wrong? Yet such is the fact, and there is no escape from it. The fallacy, that the Psalmist's three score years and ten are the sum-total of a man's experience, is at the bottom of the ignorant delusion that a man may do wrong and not pay for it in full. There is no escape through death's door, because death is no more than a period between two lives, and we return to earth again to face in naked justice the effects of all we did or left undone.
Precisely there is where the churches fail. They preach the Sermon on the Mount, but teach that men may not revisit scenes of earth-experience or meet again in justice those whom they have loved, neglected, wronged. They lull the conscience of the race to sleep with fables of vicarious salvation, and invent a death-bed remission of sins to disguise the sheer injustice of the doctrine.
Truth, Justice, Silence, are the Keepers of the Law. No pompous rituals are needed; no observances of fasts; no censored prayers. In silence the whole ritual of Nature, sun and moon and stars, the seasons and the sea, the grass — the very insects — are the witnesses of Truth. And prayer, in its highest form conceivable, is no more than acknowledgment of Justice.
For Justice is not mocked, although men mock themselves in ignorance of its unchanging Law. No pessimism can avoid the truth, that men reap mercy where they sowed good-will; no optimism can avert the consequence of wrong. Selfishness, whatever tyrannies it may invent, can find no enduring substitute for the Fact of Universal Brotherhood, which is, and was, and will be until the end of time, and must be recognized before the world can be redeemed.
The Law is silent. Tumult of elections and the roar of massed artillery are as useless to modify or cancel it by one degree as psalms sung to a cathedral roof are impotent to delay the procession of day and night or alter the position of the North Star. The Law is silent, but not secret: as a man sows, so shall he reap. He who takes the sword shall perish by the sword. Do unto others as ye would they should do unto you.
There is nothing in the Law imposing blame on others for disasters that befall ourselves. There is a line in one of Rudyard Kipling's poems (Tomlinson) that states the case exceeding clearly:
"The sins that ye do by two and two
Ye shall pay for one by one."
Therein is the conclusion of the matter. There is nothing there of dogma, no convenient side-exit to salvation through the medium of some other man's responsibility, or through repentance murmured on a deathbed when the consequence of wrong deeds seems to have no further personal significance and nothing can be gained by continued hypocrisy. The Justice of the Universe does not miscarry, and the Law cannot be bribed, deceived, or flattered.
The grand responsibility has been imposed on us that we create our destiny. The dignity of true divinity, the right of Universal Brotherhood, the power to control and discipline ourselves, are ours. The Law adjusts all balances and measures the exact effect of every thought and deed, detecting each hidden motive, registering justly. Energy is not lost. One tear shed, one sigh, one effort made in behalf of Brotherhood is as sure of its effect as is the act of multiplying two by two, no matter what all the creeds proclaim or all the legislatures try to do about it.
Neither man, nor cataclysm, nor the Hierarchies can undo one detail of the past or help one individual to avoid his full share of responsibility. The juryman who casts his vote on the score of prejudice, or for convenience, or because he seeks a personal reward, has no escape in the excuse that he was one of twelve; as he judged, so shall he be judged, his every secret motive taken into reckoning, for him or against him. The judge who misdirects a jury, the attorney who connives at falsehood, each, alone is answerable for his thought and act; each, for himself, has outlined one inevitable issue of his destiny.
There is nothing haphazard or unjust in the Universe. Each man, each insect, each imponderable atom, is exactly placed in the conditions it deserves, in which it must meet the consequences of the past, may profit by the accumulated strength of past experience, and may evolve to higher consciousness by dint of self-directed effort. Duty is the keynote of the Universe — duty and responsibility: Duty so to discipline and control oneself that every thought and act may make life grander and more frictionless for others; Responsibility before the Higher Law.
The fashion of the moment is to seize on personal advantage and to blame other men, other nations, other modes of thought for every failure to attain the momentary goal. And yet, each pauseless moment holds for every individual in all the Universe these three essentials — Duty, Responsibility, and Opportunity. As surely as a seed can spring to life in silence, burst asunder granite rocks and grow upward toward the invigorating light, each individual can, and each eventually must, allow the secret promptings of his heart to grow within him and expand until the very prison-walls go down and each steps forth with new and grander fields to conquer.
For there is no calculable end — no limit to the depth to which the careless may consign themselves, nor any limit to the heights to which each one of us may climb. Responsibility begets responsibility. Each duty faced, accepted, done, begets a greater duty and the power to deal with it. None knows whose duty is the greatest, whose the least. A hand extended to a man in jail, a word dropped quietly in a bewildered ear, one step taken, or not taken, can have immeasurable consequences; and the unknown motive is the element that counts.
The ignorance that halts us all and throws the world into confusion is the blind, insane belief that all life is material and limited within the actuary's law of average the three score years and ten that begin with nothing and end nowhere. Viewed within those limits, through the matter-legend lens, there is neither purpose nor motive in life and all, as the ancient preacher said, is vanity — with thirty thousand guesses at the nature of a hypothetical after-life to choose among, and no certainty but that woe is for the weak. Such thinking leads inevitably to the grossest forms of selfishness and to the vilest crimes; just as the belief that a man may save his soul by accepting the legend of another's sacrifice opens the door wide to cant, hypocrisy, and guile.
It is not until we ponder and absorb the oldest teaching in the world, Theosophy, that there is evoked within us knowledge which makes the heart sing, and understanding of the purpose and the justice of the Universe begins to dawn. Duality and the divinity of man, once recognized, bring laughter with them and a sweeping view of endless Evolution, forever mounting through a grand Eternity, in which no stone is overturned, no sigh escapes, no deed is done, and no least thought expended without exact, proportioned recompense.
For lo! — we are the brothers of the stars, and of the wind and rain and of the sunlight shimmering on azure seas.
O Ye who look to enter in through Discipline to
Ye shall not stray from out the way, if ye remember this:
Ye shall not waste a weary hour, nor hope for Hope in vain,
If ye persist with will until self righteousness is slain.
If through the mist of mortal eyes, deluded, ye discern
That ye are holier than these, ye have the whole to learn!
If ye are tied with tangled pride because ye learn the Law,
Know then, your purest thoughts deny the Truth ye never saw!
If ye resent in discontent the searchlight of reproof,
In hooded pride ye stand aside, at sin's not Soul's behoof!
Each gain for self denies the Self that knows the self is vain.
Who crowns accomplishment with pride must build the whole again!
But if, at each ascending step, more clearly ye perceive
That he must kill the lower will who would the world relieve
And they are last who would be first, their effort thrown away;
Be patient then, and persevere. Ye tread the Middle Way!
MOST of us pride ourselves on being sincere and reasonable. Modern systems of government are based on a theory that reasonable men and women shall elect their representatives, who, after reasoning out the issues of the day, shall reach decisions reasonably applicable for the common good. Nothing more annoys an individual than to be told he is unreasonable and insincere. International irritation is the invariable consequence whenever one nation's press and politicians charge the government of another nation with adopting an unreasonable attitude. Criticism that a creed or dogma is unreasonable induces frenzy and such rawly irreligious bickering as recently has broken out between the self-styled Fundamentalists and so-called Modernists. And we pride ourselves that our irritation is due to our sincerity.
Just how sincere and reasonable really are we? Man, catalogued by the scientists as homo sapiens, concedes himself to be the crowning glory of creation because his reason is developed, whereas, it is asserted, animals have only instinct and — it is again asserted — flowers, sun, moon, stars, and the imponderable universe have no intelligence whatever. But can this egoistic claim by homo sapiens be supported by evidence, in the light of the very reasonableness, which he asserts is his own exclusive attribute?
Will this vaunted reasonableness bear sincere scrutiny? How much of our thinking and our conduct of ourselves and our affairs is due to what in animals we arrogantly term 'blind instinct'; how much is due to what in nature we term 'blind forces'? And just how open-eyed and open-minded are we ourselves, as compared to the nations, sections of society, animals, vegetables, minerals, and unknown stars, which we regard as 'inferior' because devoid of that ability to reason of which we boast?
Webster's dictionary defines reason as "the power or faculty of comprehending and inferring." What is it that we comprehend? What is it we infer? Where are we, as a consequence? And whither is the process leading us? The question requires to be faced.
Do we reason from cause to effect? Do we comprehend causes at all? Or do we infer imaginary causes, and try to justify the inference by seeking, from a thousand different motives, to manipulate the effects of our wrong thinking? In the event that the latter should appear to be true, are we brave enough, and sufficiently reasonable, to reverse our mental processes and to face the issue? And if we refuse to face the issue, in what way are we superior to 'the beasts that perish' or to the vegetables, which we and the animals eat?
It is true that we can kill the animals. But they can also kill us. It is true, we have invented methods for butchering hecatombs of beasts, which place the beasts at a considerable disadvantage and appear to make it improbable at the moment that the beasts will ever gain the ascendancy. But it is also true that organized hosts of creatures, so small individually as to be almost, if not quite invisible under the most powerful microscope, can kill us with much more deadly certainty than we can massacre, say, elephants or rabbits. Consider the microbe.
We can, and we do kill one another; and we do it with more ingenuity, more cruelty, and more hypocrisy than can by any stretch of the imagination be charged against the animals to which we claim to be superior. We try to exterminate some animals on account of their alleged ferocity; but if their ferocity is bad, is not ours worse? Therefore, if they should be destroyed, should we not also be destroyed? It would appear, judging from the news in the sensational newspapers, that all humanity is surging forward to destruction; and although we do not like to believe that, but prefer to solace ourselves with the delusion that our particular nation, our particular political system, ourself and our circle of friends are immune from what we see, more or less clearly, to be impending on the 'inferior' peoples of the earth, it would likely do us no harm to consider wherein our alleged safety lies, and whether the causes that we are agreed endanger others are not also at the root of our own thinking.
It is fashionable nowadays to denounce as a 'knocker' everyone who discerns and dares to mention faults in the conduct of private, local, or national affairs, and the imputation is that all such individuals belong to the undesirable class of selfishly carping critics who loathe to see prosperity in other people. Alternatively, whoever cheers noisily for conditions as they are is called a 'booster,' and is supposed to belong to that respectable class of honest citizens who always loyally fulfill their obligations and on whom prosperity depends.
But that fashion is not new. The system of labeling oneself and one's opponents, with the absurd notion of monopolizing all the credit and assuming none of the responsibility, and with the criminal intention of masking one's own selfishness, while attributing ill-faith to one's opponents, is as old as savagery. The fact that these labels, religious as well as political, are as often as not chosen for the purpose of self-deception makes no important difference; it is just as criminal to deceive oneself as to deceive others, because self-deception is the underlying cause of all crime.
No one would commit any crime whatever, unless he were first self- deceived; the inevitable outcome would be too obvious. Unless first self- deceived, we could never be deceived by others, nor could we ever be induced to practise deception. We all know this. The very children know it. The first principle of banking, and of every other successful business, is to be on guard ceaselessly against self-deception, and the great majority of failures are attributed to lack of judgment, which is only another name for the same thing.
There are two outstanding peculiarities of human nature, which anyone can recognize who dares to examine his own thought processes; but although we like to pride ourselves on daring, we are seldom prone to it when we ourselves are to be the objects of experiment. The two peculiarities are these: that we always seek to transfer the blame for any sort of evil consequences, from ourselves to others; and that we will accept any makeshift, any harbor of refuge, rather than be radical, admit that our philosophy is wrong, and face the issue bravely reasonable. We pretend to, and to some extent we do hate insincerity (as for instance when we think we immeasurable it in the arguments and acts of others); but it remains the king-pin, so to speak, of our own and of all the world's calamities. Until we learn to be sincere, there is no hope whatever of relief from distress, whether individual or national. And the process must begin at home. We can never be sincere with others until we are first wholly sincere with ourselves.
It is an indisputable axiom, discernible in every circumstance of nature, that like begets like. In Bible-phraseology, we cannot gather figs from thistles or obtain both sweet and bitter water from the same spring. Nevertheless, we pretend to try to abolish crime by hanging criminals; we seek to abolish pain by permitting vivisection; we pretend to aspire to peace, while openly boasting of our preparations for 'the next war'; we prohibit alcoholic drink and censor plays, books, motion pictures, but insist that our newspapers shall print sensational reports of every abominable crime. In law we hold each individual responsible for his own acts, unless it can be proved he is out of his mind, in which case we lock him up and make ourselves responsible for him; yet we seek 'salvation' through 'vicarious atonement,' and try to substitute a 'profession of faith' for downright honesty, as a solution of the mystery of life after death.
These are only a few of our more obvious absurdities; anyone who cares to look about him frankly can discover countless others for himself. They are all due to our besetting sin of insincerity, which is the armor of ignorance.
The process of insincerity is easily illustrated, and the arguments by which it propagates itself will occur to everyone the moment the illustration is given. Consider the question of international rivalry and what has happened recently in that connection. Weary of a sort of warfare that exhausted all the combatants and left none with a perceptible advantage, the rival governments sent representatives to a conference, at which it was agreed to limit the more costly and 'out-of-date' engines of destruction. There has been a great deal of mutual suspicion since then, as to whether the governments who agreed to the contract have loyally obeyed its terms; but there is absolutely no question that every government concerned is working day and night to supply itself with cheaper and much more deadly means of making war!
That is no secret. It is openly discussed in the newspapers; and there are very few newspapers that do not urge their own government to assume the lead in deadly preparation. The excuse is, that unless this government is fully prepared to do wholesale murder on a scale never before dreamed of, that government will take the initiative and will seize the upper hand by means of ruthless butchery.
A nice new label has been made for this comparatively ancient form of international mistrust. But Xenophobia is nothing but another mask for insincerity — another way of deceiving ourselves and imputing the blame either to others or to a psychology over which we are supposed to have no control. It would be amusing, if it were not so disastrous, stupid, and yet simple of solution. The apparent helplessness of individuals takes all the humor from the situation. The individual who feels inclined to sneer would do better to remember that the acts and methods of governments are no more than a large-scale illustration of the workings of the human mind, his own included.
From the pulpits of a million churches the command is thundered: "Love ye one another!" There lies the solution certainly. But without sincerity it is impossible to love.
We are all afraid. Our lower nature, which persists in every one of us (or we should be invisible to mortal eyes and functioning on vastly higher planes of being) dreads its own destruction and deceives us — even the best of us — with arguments of ever-increasing subtly, of which a favorite one is that we should be at the mercy of the lower nature of others unless ready at all times to use dishonest methods for our own defense. But the truth is that the only absolute protection against treachery is honesty. The slightest compromise with dishonesty provides an opening through which the darkest forces surge and gain control of us. It is not the other man's dishonesty, but our own that endangers us as individuals. In other words, if we admit one trace of insincerity into our reasoning the effect is similar to that of poison introduced into a well; it does not poison one part of the water, but all of it; and the more colorless and unnoticeable it is, the more deadly the results.
It is not possible to exaggerate the inevitable consequences of continuing in insincerity; because the lower nature of every human being is capable of limitless evil and, if left to its own resources, is totally incapable of anything but evil. The lower nature of nations is a multiplication of the lower nature of individuals in the mass. It is what the churches call the devil. It possesses a sort of intelligence, which amounts to a keenly alert instinct of self-preservation combined with mercurial subtly. It knows no more of the higher nature than a stagnant pond knows of the sun that sterilizes it. And it is no more useful as a foundation on which to raise a spiritual edifice than a desert-mirage would be as a source of drinking water. Every concession to the lower nature is of the nature of a bargain with a heartless, conscienceless, 'blind force,' and is of the very essence of insincerity.
The common mistake is to regard sincerity as an emotion. Glimpsed through the mist of that mistake, it would appear to be the consequence of action, a variable product subject to the judgment of opinion, possessing qualities that differ in degree with individuals. Accepting that fallacy, we find ourselves at a loss for a word with which to define that stark, uncompromising habit of watchful self-analysis, which alone insures right activity.
It is customary (perhaps because we like to be respectful) to speak of the sincerity of politicians, churchmen, and (undoubtedly because of a desire for self-respect) particularly of ourselves. And yet, in whichever direction we look, we see in our own actions, and in the acts of others, the unquestionable effects of insincerity. A world-wide plebiscite for or against the Golden Rule would certainly produce an overwhelming, and possibly unanimous, vote in favor of it, but the vote would be perfectly insincere, and its only possible result would be a temporary smug self-righteousness and a delusion that the world was better than it is. Ignorance knows nothing of sincerity; and sincerity cannot be attained by protesting allegiance to a creed, whose tenets are obscure and incomprehensible.
Sincerity is impossible without knowledge. We must understand what we profess before there can be the remotest chance of putting the profession into practise. And it is surely obvious that we must understand ourselves before we can hope to understand others or be qualified to criticize them.
The occult, that is to say the concealed, inmost, meaning of sincerity is Self-knowledge. It is the only guide to right action. To wait for sincerity in others before striving to attain it in oneself would be as useless as to wait for the harvest without troubling to plant the seed. The Millennium will come when we have learned sincerity. We shall find it within ourselves — or nowhere.
The world's problems appear intricate and overwhelming. The more they are studied, the more impossible it seems that any of the plans for their solution can provide relief. It is beginning to dawn on businessmen, and even on the legislatures, that no nation, and no individual can live unto himself alone but that a disaster to one section of humanity is sure to be felt eventually in the remotest corners of the earth. But the converse of that is equally true, and is immensely more important to consider, because on it depends the redemption of the human race.
Improvement in any one individual must eventually benefit the whole world. Therein lies the solution of the whole difficulty, extremely simple, yet, in common with all simple things, prodigiously more difficult to do than may appear at first sight. Sincerity must be the watchword, or the effort is waste. Sincerity, which knows no thought of compromise, insists that the sole motive for self-improvement shall be that others may be the beneficiaries; and that is the exact opposite of all of the methods of self-improvement that the world endorses.
The Ancient Wisdom, which is the mother of all religions, teaches that man is the microcosm of the macrocosm, and we can prove this for ourselves, if we only examine ourselves fearlessly. Within our own consciousness we may discern every one of the motives that govern and misgovern all mankind. As individuals we have no resources and no virtues that are denied to other men; we are immune from none of the temptations that waylay others; we have the same destiny, whether or not we immeasurable it, the same broad duty to our fellow-men, the same Law for our guidance. And the only way in which we can obey the Law is by applying it in every instance to ourselves.
Our lower nature is incapable of comprehending, and consequently utterly incapable of obeying, the Higher Law. Our Higher Nature knows the Law. Which of the two is to govern us, which is to direct our thinking and the acts that are the outcome of our thinking, is the only real problem we are called on to decide.
We are. Each one of us knows that, if nothing else. In phraseology that is epochs older than the Bible that is commonly supposed to be its origin, "it doth not yet appear what we shall be." Very few are in agreement, even for five minutes at a time, as to the extremely recent past; and human memory is silent as to what preceded our birth into this particular existence.
We are; and we are now. Now, and our own consciousness, are the limits within which we function. Now, is the immeasurable point where past and future meet. Our consciousness is the immeasurable point at which the Higher and the lower nature meet. The only important difference between us and the animals is, that while the whole universe, ourselves and the animals included, is subject to the law of evolution, we, as human beings, have reached the stage of self-direction. We are no longer 'at the mercy' of what the scientists prefer to call 'blind forces,' but have the privilege of controlling our own individual destiny by the exercise of will. We may choose, that is, between the Higher and the lower. We may control and discipline our lower selves, or we may let our lower selves continue to deceive us. In either event we shall receive the full, logical, exactly just, inevitable consequences of our choice.
In other words, our consciousness — that of which we are conscious — will continue to be better or to grow worse in exact proportion to our effort to be governed by the Higher Law, by recognizing it, or our submission to the dictates of the lower nature. The problem is individual in every instance.
Our lower nature is dependable in one, and in only one respect: it is invariably a deceiver. Never, in any circumstances, does it tell the truth; because it does not, and cannot, know the truth. It presents expediency in the disguise of principle and, when that fails, it flatters us with the suggestion that we are making sacrifices when we forego personal advantage for the universal good. It is obvious at once to anyone who communes with his Higher nature even for a moment, that the universal good inevitably must include each individual, not excepting him who makes the 'sacrifice'; it becomes at once obvious that the only sacrifice that could entail the slightest, even momentary disadvantage would be to let go the Higher for the sake of the lower, foregoing the universal for the sake of the personal. But the ridiculous delusion of self-sacrifice persists and propagates the subtlest forms of vanity.
Another favorite method of the lower nature is to frighten or to flatter us with the belief that we must struggle terribly in an incessant warfare before the Higher Nature can prevail. But the Higher Nature knows absolutely nothing of any struggle. The illustration is at hand, in nature. The moment the light appears, the darkness disappears; there is no struggle between them. In the bright light of the Higher Nature the darkness of the lower vanishes; but as long as one prefers the lower there will be a struggle to cling to it, and the dawning of the Light into the consciousness will hurt.
The delusion of struggle is due to insincerity in the attempt at self- analysis. It means that one of the subtlest forms of personality is masquerading as a virtue. A sense of humor is the readiest solvent of that obscure condition, since whoever can laugh at himself is in a fair way to become impersonal. He is likely to discern that he has been struggling to benefit his personality by posing as a student of the Higher Law; whereas the first axiom of the Higher Law is that no degree of selfishness can possibly be beneficial, and that the only way in which we can really benefit ourselves is by first benefiting others.
Sincerity insists that the sole purpose of self-directed evolution, its only motive, and its constant care shall be, so to discipline, govern, and improve ourselves as individuals that we may be, not only not a handicap to the rest of humanity, but an assistance to it by becoming fit to bear at least our full share of the load. That is the law of Universal Brotherhood. Recognition of the Law — confession to oneself that the law exists — is the first step. Sincerity soon follows; and the first stage of sincerity appears when we find ourselves, even while continuing a certain course, admitting to ourselves that the course is wrong, instead of deceiving ourselves that it is right. In the second stage we discontinue doing what we know is wrong, for the simple reason that by injuring our own character we are committing a sin against our fellow-man. In the third stage we see clearly what the right course is, and from that moment we become a positive force for good.
We are our brother's keeper; but, like the sentinel on duty at the gate, we keep him by guarding ourselves against the enemy — our lower nature.
All the great teachers of whom there is any record have laid down the law that we must purify ourselves before we may hope to help others. Jesus of Nazareth is quoted as saying: "Cast out first the beam out of thine own eye, and then shalt thou see clearly to pull out the mote that is in thy brother's eye"; and that, with characteristic human insincerity, has come to be accepted as authentic doctrine by a civilization whose foremost characteristic is delight in condemnation of its neighbor while continuing its own self-indulgence in immorality.
But the reason is not far to seek. The two essential facts — Duality and Reincarnation — have been overlooked. The 'three-score years and ten' that statisticians and a prophet have assured us is about the limit of a human life, have so circumscribed our view that the task of raising the general standard of morality appears hopeless, if not useless. The old Latin proverb Cui Bono — in colloquial modern English, 'What's the use?' — must occur in some form or another to every man who assumes that he was 'born in sin,' lives for something less than a hundred years, dies, and 'that's the end of it.'
Reincarnation instantly changes the aspect of things and events. The moment we realize that no effort can possibly be lost, that no thought and no deed can remain uncompensated, that full and perfect justice is unavoidable, and that we return into the world again, and again, and again, to meet exactly the conditions that our former efforts have deserved, we begin to discern the purpose and the joy of evolution and to take our part in it with a sincerity that has no use for self-pity and laughs at adversity as an experience whose sublime and encouraging purpose is that we may learn from it self-mastery — the Key of Life eternal.
He who puts his hand into the fire knows what he
Nor may the fire be blamed.
He who intrudes on a neighbor may receive what he does not expect.
Nor may the neighbor be blamed.
The fire will not be harmed; but the neighbor may be.
Therefore, it is wiser to intrude into the fire than into other men's affairs;
because every deed, of every kind, bears corresponding consequences to the doer.
The effect of meddling with fire is swiftly met. That debt is paid and done with.
But a man may spend a thousand lives repaying wrong done to a neighbor.
Therefore, of the two indiscretions prefer thrusting thine own hand into the fire.
But there is a Middle Way, which avoids all trespassing.
Oh, I went where the Gods are, and I have seen
Where Beauty and the Muses and the Seven Reasons dwell,
And I saw Hope accoutred with a lantern and a horn
Whose clarion and rays reach the inner rings of hell.
Oh, I was in the storehouse of the jewels of the dew
And the laughter of the motion of the wind-blown grass,
The mystery of morning and the music, and the hue
Of petals of the roses when the rain-clouds pass.
And So I know who Hope is and why she never sleeps,
And seven of the Secrets that are jewels on her breast;
I stood within the Silence of the Garden that she keeps,
Where flowers fill the footprints that her sandals pressed;
And I know the springs of laughter, for I trod the Middle Way
Where sympathies are sign-posts and merry Gods the Guides;
I have been where Hope is Ruler and evolving realms obey;
I know the Secret Nearness where the Ancient Wisdom hides.
THE ASPECTS of Theosophy are infinite, but Hope is foremost at our present stage of evolution. For without Hope there would be no aim in living, and that poet who wrote "Hope springs eternal" was an accurate observer of eternal truth. The difficulty is, that hope, as it is commonly accepted, is a chancy, vain, imaginary creature of the lower senses, based on appetite and doomed inevitably to be disappointed for the reason that although its objects may appear to be attained, they are illusory. The yearnings of the lower hope are selfish; they are rooted in doubt, which is ignorance, and in personality, which is a fraud; they presuppose that there can be effect without its cause or an effect not justly and exactly consequent upon its cause. But true Hope knows there is a Higher Law which guides the Universe, and that as surely as the sun shines there is a Higher Purpose, which includes all individuals within its scope and works infallibly, through evolution, toward an outcome too glorious for human brains to comprehend. The Higher Hope is an expression of the knowledge of the Soul.
It appears to be a rule that every aspect of the Higher Nature must be counterfeited on the lower plane, and though that is ultimately only an illusion, it is none the less a practical condition now with which we must cope. We have accepted a physical world, and human birth that subjects us to physical circumstances; and it is with those that we must deal, although there is a popular philosophy which claims that, everything being illusion in this world, and illusion having no existence, all we have to do is to assert the truth of being and be prosperous.
But that popular philosophy overlooks this all-important detail: those very senses with which we are invited to assert the truth of being are themselves illusory; those senses do not know the truth of being, are incapable of knowing it, and no amount of technical phrasing or mass-psychology can give them power to change the effect of cause or to avoid the results of ignorance. It is very easy to admit that physical conditions must be unreal, when discomfort forces us to yearn for comfort; it is not so easy to admit that, however, when fortune appears to favor us; and the admission becomes impossible, except as a mere obstinate reiteration of a formula, when we find ourselves obliged to take action of any kind. Action presupposes the reality of that on which we act and react. We find ourselves, to all practical intents and purposes, in the midst of conditions in which it is impossible to foresee, or even to guess the immediate, to say nothing of the ultimate outcome; and although, as for instance in war, we can sometimes force an issue, not the ablest human brain can calculate what the real effect of that force will be, to ourselves or to others.
Recognition of this fact has led to fatalism. Rebellion against it leads to mediumship, fortune-telling, and innumerable doctrines that aim at establishing control of unseen forces by means of which the individual is supposed to be able to rise above necessity and justify his own immediate desires. A glimpse of the world through the pages of the daily newspapers is proof enough that very few of us are satisfied with circumstances as they are, and that very many of us are applying opposed and often violent remedies, the only outcome of which must be chaos. And yet, Hope springs eternal. The sun rises. The stars keep their appointed places in the sky. And here are we. What is this Hope that so inspires us, even in the face of superficial fatalism and continuous calamity? What is the Higher Impulse that impels us constantly?
We see in crudest form the lower hope and its absurdities when a man hopes for rain, and his wife for fine weather; or when some individuals hope that prices of commodities will rise, while others hope with equal fervor that the same prices will fall. Criminals hope for a successful outcome of their crime. It used to be a practice in many coast settlements to hope, and even to pray to God, for a good shipwreck to enrich the community; and it is no rare thing in modern life to hope for the downfall of another nation or a rival mercantile concern, on the supposition that the disaster may benefit others. We have all heard the expression " I hope he may choke," and most of us have shared the sentiment at some time or another, even if we have not voiced it. Gamblers hope that someone else may lose in order that they may win. There are innumerable forms, some not so crude as others, in which this counterfeit of Hope has grown familiar to all of us; and, since its essence is that somebody must be disappointed in order that somebody else may profit, there are few who will deny that at its very best it is no more than an emotion, based on ignorance of what is really going to happen. The lower hope is speculative, at its best, not moral, and never in the long run satisfying. But the Higher Hope is born of knowledge of the Higher Law. It is the breath of that knowledge, its divine and satisfying presence. It is eternal, all-embracing, and it knows.
The surest way to become hopeless is to hope for material reward for spiritual effort; that brings swift and dire dissatisfaction. A material goal precludes all knowledge of what spiritual values are, although the false hope may persuade us that we are striving spiritually, and the ultimate effect is consequently doubly disappointing. To seek spiritual knowledge in order to apply it to material ends is the rankest sacrilege and is more inevitably dangerous than to linger a while longer in frank materialism; because to be a self-confessed materialist infers sincerity, which is a virtue, whereas hypocrisy is the meanest, most cowardly and fatal shape that the lower hope assumes. There is no hypocrisy in the Higher Hope, no doubt, no self- deception.
Optimism, in the ordinary meaning of the word, is hardly an advance on pessimism, being only the reverse of it; the one 'hopes for the best' without justification, the other 'looks for the worst' and very often fails to find it. The last degree of optimism is the hope that the observance of some stipulated forms of worship will pilot the faithful ritualist into heaven, where all traces of sin will vanish instantly and there will be no awkward consequences from the misdeeds of the past; and the last degree of pessimism is the mad belief in hell, where no good deeds can ever be rewarded and eternity is one long torture. Hope — true Hope, that is — knows neither of these lawless lower-plane inventions, but exists, triumphant, knowing that Justice, though tempered with mercy, is unfailing and is utterly inseparable from existence.
Faith, Hope, and Love, that divine Triad so often named, so seldom understood, are One, and cannot be understood if the attempt is made to separate them or to limit them within the confines of materiality. They are spiritual — that is infinite and universal. Even momentary apprehension of them brings us into harmony with all the unseen, spiritual forces of the Universe, asserting in our consciousness the true divinity of man.
Hope is the voice of the Soul that assures us all is well, and that experience, of any kind whatever, is a means by which we may learn how to live in our Higher Nature instead of yielding to the ignorant solicitations of the lower. Faith is conviction of the Higher Universal Purpose that includes all life in one grand scheme of evolution. Love is recognition of the Universal Brotherhood that would not, even if it could, exclude one individual from its all-comprehensive school of experience.
We know, and mock the fecklessness of Charles Dickens's Micawber. who was always expecting "something to turn up"; and even on the mere material plane of day to day affairs, in which no law is recognized except the hour's necessity, we act on the assumption that we must do something before we can get anything. The lowest criminal and the vilest sensualist alike know that the satisfaction they seek can only be attained by action in some form or other; and their acts are the expression of the hope they entertain; the viler their desires, the worse the acts that they commit. Not hearing that Hope which is the Soul's voice singing of the Universal Purpose, they are deceived by the counterfeit voice that echoes in the empty caverns of the lower self, where envy and suspicion and all Truth's opposites hold sway, in darkness.
All deeds — even the Micawber-like indignity of doing almost nothing — are expressions of some form of hope; and the effect of acts committed is related intimately to the hope that governs them. The lower hope is blind; it calculates in minutes, hours — at most in terms of one short lifetime limited by death, whose hour is unpredictable. The Higher Hope, triumphant in the knowledge of the Universal Law, assured that every deed produces justly and exactly measured consequences, inspires deeds that not only can do no harm, but that must contribute to the universal benefit. It finds its expression now, in deeds that are utterly unselfish, and it leaves their consequences to the Higher Law. Hope exists in beneficial action.
Faith is the strength and the substance of Hope. It is the knowledge that the Higher Law exists and deals unerring justice. Faith is the begetter of sincerity, that staunchest of virtues, which, if a man has it, will redeem — inevitably must redeem — him, howsoever gross his sins. Few words are more abused than Faith in their everyday interpretation; like the lower hope, the lower faith is nothing but a counterfeit. It varies from a so-called faith in luck to a belief in a vicarious 'salvation' based on the acceptance of a stipulated doctrine. Men speak of keeping faith with one another, who have not the remotest notion of what real Faith is, and who have no intention of preserving even the appearance of honesty toward any but their own immediate acquaintances. Such faith is either a belief based on ignorance, a loosely applied synonym for policy, or unadulterated fraud. It is a label which hypocrisy too easily applies to selfish plans, and, like personal honor, it depends for its interpretation on the personal caprice of those who walk in ignorance or in defiance of the Higher Law.
True Faith is more impregnable than iron. It is divine. Its strength increases in emergency. It governs deeds, ignoring the emotions of the moment and the threats of temporary storm. It knows no compromise. It is the consciousness of true divinity, the will to hope, the confident acceptance of the Higher Law, the essence of all right action. There is no fear in Faith, for fear cannot exist in contact with it. Faith and Hope together are the very spirit of the trees and flowers, of the stars and the clouds and the rolling rivers that bear the dust of mountains to the sea to make new earth for unborn continents.
Faith, discerning 'now' to be the presence of eternity, postpones no proper duty to a more convenient time. As the sun makes its presence felt by light and heat, Faith finds its being in deeds. Its very breath is action. It knows neither haste nor weariness, but everlastingly supplies the energy of Hope and Love.
Not even Faith is commonly more misinterpreted than Love. The whole dark fiber of sensuality, double-dyed with sentiment, is woven into a shroud with which to hide the glory of divine Love. The rankest, most destructive forms of selfishness are used to screen Love's rays. There is not one foul crime that has not been committed in Love's name. Men speak of Love, and store up deadly gas with which to poison men of other nations; they preach concerning Love, and hang convicted boys, whose crimes were mainly due to other men's neglect or other men's example. The doctrine "Love ye one another" is regarded as extremely good advice to other men to love us and our peculiarities, but is not allowed to influence us much in our initiative toward them.
Yet Love is recognition of the fact of Universal Brotherhood and is inseparable from Faith and Hope. It is the opposite of selfishness. Its action is obedience to the Law that no good can be gained except by benefiting all, and injury to one is injury to all, the injurer included. Being totally unselfish in its motive, the first impulse of divine Love stirring in the consciousness is toward self-regeneration in order that the self may not harm or impede others; and the instant companions of that impulse are the voice of Hope, that foretells progress, and the thrill of Faith assuring us of what the Bible calls "the everlasting arms" — the Forces that support and guide the constellations, Mother Nature, and ourselves.
Neither Hope nor Faith nor Love are in any way conditioned by the senses, which they purify and change until the lower nature yields under the invincible influence of the Higher and we see the grandest of all triumphs — one step upward in man's evolution. Hope, then, has a wider view, and understanding dawns that evolution is eternal and the spiritual progress of the individual is linked inseparably with the life of every living thing.
Thereafter, Hope becomes a challenge. No retrogression then, no overwhelming flood of circumstance can drown the consciousness of individual responsibility. We know, for Hope has told us and the inspiration cannot die, that we direct our destiny and reap exactly as we sow. The Law, that as we do to others shall be done to us, becomes intelligible and so blended in our thought that every action is intuitively governed by it. Not a circumstance arises but we immeasurable the challenge to maintain our spiritual vision and to reject the suggestions of our lower nature in order that the Higher may prevail and benefit mankind.
Illimitable fields lie fallow in the view of Hope, awaiting husbandry. No three-score years and ten outline the vision. Temporary barriers that name themselves impossible, and temporary needs that trumpet their importance, sink to insignificance in the perspective when the Higher Hope reveals the spiritual truth of rebirth and the endless scope of action. When it dawns on understanding that a deed done now must have its corresponding consequence and that, in after-lives forever, we must feel in our environment the unspent sum of every effort we have made unselfishly for others; when we realize that out of deeds done now power to do greater deeds is born, the least, unnoticed effort becomes glorious, and every waking minute then presents itself as golden opportunity.
Time loses its hypnotic spell when Hope outcharms it. We become aware of a new reckoning of time, in spiritual terms, recording spiritual progress. Within the sanctuary of the Soul, where no material sense-clouds can dim or tumult penetrate, the secret knowledge of the Higher Law broods permanently and inspires to wise, unselfish action that contributes to the universal need instead of flattering the temporary mood of passing hours. So Hope engenders wisdom, of which ignorance knows nothing, and the ignorant attempts of those who lend themselves to malice fail because they cannot even see the goal or comprehend the purpose. In the Sanctuary of the Soul — "the Secret Place of the Most High," the Psalmist calls it — he who recognizes the inspiring challenge of the Higher Hope is safe.
Hope, inseparably joined to Faith and Love, is no weak suppliant, no pleading seeker to escape responsibility. Hope urges no remission of the sins of selfishness but challenges experience to bring forth opportunity, so that the consequences of wrong action may be met and lessons mastered. Responsibility is Hope's proud Gonfalon.* No blame of others, no attempt to justify wrong-doing by the plea that others did the same, or worse, no self- pity and no self-righteousness can live within Hope's realm, where all the consequences of the past are bravely met and, moment after moment, thought on thought and deed on deed, the foundations of the future are deliberately laid.
[* gonfalon (Italian "gonfalone") — a banner suspended from a crosspiece, especially as a standard in an ecclesiastical procession or as the ensign of a medieval Italian republic. The American Heritage Dictionary. ]
Vain regrets and vain desires all vanish in the light of Hope. Mere personal ambitions, sloth, inertia, and jealousy all cease. The grander vision of the spirally ascending march of spiritual evolution so absorbs the thought that every word and deed assume new values and are governed by a higher motive. Health responds. The Law of Karma may impose conditions that may not be avoided, but Hope gives royal courage and supplies the strength with which to meet them — strength, and the assurance that a Universal Brotherhood will be the better for one Soul's experience well met and triumphed over.
The only selfishness permitted in the realm of Hope is self-watchfulness, self-discipline, self-control, with one unselfish end in view: that we may not harm others or neglect one opportunity to serve the whole world wisely. Pride of achievement becomes as offensive in ourselves as false humility, or as a loathsome habit, as soon as Hope reveals to us the limitless eternity of spiritual evolution; for true achievement, though it satisfies, impels to further effort; though it thrills with proof of power and responsibility, it lays bare need for self-regeneration never previously dreamed of.
Old-age, illness, and adversity are transient and not discouraging incidents when the Higher Law is recognized and Hope reveals how limitless and universal are our opportunities, how grand our destiny, and how each spiritual conquest of the self contributes to the evolution of the Universal Brotherhood. No thought is lost; no effort made to lessen the anguish of one individual is made in vain; each spiritual thought admitted into consciousness is added to the common store and helps in the regeneration of the world.
The lower, sensual, blind hope is never satisfied and never can be, for it seeks contentment in a rearrangement of the evils that provide its impulse; it is ever looking to find happiness in some conclusion and to reach a state of 'thus far and no further' in which the lower nature may indulge itself unchallenged by the Soul. It presupposes a beginning and an end; it assumes that justice is not inevitable; it supposes that material comfort and material success are the purpose of life and the goal, not only of all energy, but of religion. When it accepts, to save itself from tiresome creed and ritual observance, the less restricting view of evolution, it excites itself with what it thinks is new-found freedom, casts all self-discipline aside, and gives rein to the self-indulgence that convention hitherto had held in check. There is no wisdom and no safety in the lower hope, nor any peace.
But to the Higher Hope each new discovery of Universal Law is spiritual healing and a trumpet-call to rise to higher vision yet, uncluttered by the rubbish of the lower senses. Knowing there is no beginning and no end, discerning the ascending, ever-satisfying, ever-challenging, and infinitely various delight of self-directed evolution, true Hope springs eternal, brave and buoyant, Truth her watchword, Brotherhood her breath, the Ancient Wisdom her aspiring wings.
O Ye, who buy fruit of desire,
Esteeming fair what eyes can see;
Who for the Unknown Voyage hire
No other guides than shall agree
That what appears to be must be;
Ye seekers of a Cosmic Law
That must adjust itself to creed;
O ye, who all conclusion draw
From cravings; ye, who only heed
The lure of things ye think ye need;
Be thoughtful. Though the sun descends
Below the red, revolving rim
Of earth, and though the darkness lends
Illusion; though the stars that swim
In night are distant and are dim,
Ye know anon the sun returns.
Ye know the word the Guru saith:
'Who sees with open eye discerns
And at his likeness wondereth,
Why dread the mystery of death?'
Ye see the sun's descending glow,
Ye see the smiling Pleiades,
The phases of the moon ye know,
The ebb and flow of seven seas.
Are ye so different from these!
"He who knows, is unafraid and is therefore too wise to
threaten; because a threat is an admission that the cause he has at heart is
unjust. He who knows not, threatens; and accordingly the knowing are
forewarned. Justice has a sharp sword, and its sheath is Silence."
— From The Book of the Sayings of Tsiang Samdup
BLACKMAIL is a predominating evil of this age and generation. We are largely governed by it, in private and in public life, nationally and internationally. Our views of history are warped and obscured by a process of so-called education, of which blackmail is an intrinsic principle. Business is limited and hindered by it. Our law courts are in countless instances its unintentional agents. All altruism is restricted by the dread of what the blackmailers may say or do to discredit anyone who dares to act with true nobility.
The blackmailer is one who fears that his own tricky interests cannot be served except by unjustly accusing another, and who threatens infamy, loss, or violence in order to compel compliance with his arbitrary will or concession to his plots.
The system, which is practically universal in this generation, draws its strength and pertinacity from the fixed conviction that the life of a man is only three-score years and ten; in consequence of which, all calculations are based on an absurdly narrow supposition that immediate profit and loss are the only waymarks of success or failure.
Extreme instances sometimes provide the simplest illustrations, and the broadest are the easiest to understand. A nation, for instance, more powerful than another threatens war unless the weaker shall comply with a peremptory demand. That is blackmail in a sense in one of its crudest and most cruel forms, although it is sometimes glorified under the deceptive name of patriotism.
Or, a group of individuals, having what they believe to be interests in common, threaten their elected legislators with political oblivion unless they shall vote as instructed, whether or not the legislators think that course is right. The legislators, yielding to the threat in fear for their own pockets and careers, form a caucus and refuse to pass just laws proposed by the representatives of other interests unless their own requirements shall have precedence. In this way the evil multiplies itself and a small body of expert politicians frequently blackmails a whole nation; but the system is glorified under the misused title of Right.
An institution or an individual receives a substantial bequest, from someone who, perhaps, made during his lifetime such provision for his immediate relatives as he considered just and who wished the balance of his fortune to be used for the general good of humanity. But the testator's body is hardly decently disposed of before lawsuits are begun to set aside the will on the trumped-up excuse of undue influence, the theory being that the legatee will rather settle out of court than be put to the expense and inconvenience of defending the lawsuit, or the indignity of having to disprove false accusations. This is legal blackmail, increasingly common, and glorified under the astonishingly misused name of justice.
The simpler forms of blackmail are all outlawed, but are none the less effective in a host of instances. The commonest, and all too frequently successful method, is to discover some discreditable fact, or one that appears discreditable, in an individual's career, and to threaten him with exposure unless he pays a sum of money. There the process is unable to disguise itself but stands out raw and hideous; the victim who yields to it is reckoned cowardly; the blackmailers themselves, if caught, are punished drastically and regarded with loathing.
But there is no essential difference between the blackguardly motive of the blackmailer who extorts money by threat of exposure, and that of the lawyer, for instance, who 'earns' a fat fee by using the courts to extort money from individuals or institutions who, by force of accident, may be unable at the moment to defend themselves against insinuation and false evidence. Nor is the self-styled 'reformer' or religionist, who threatens organized boycott of individuals unless he shall have his arbitrary way, one degree removed in lack of principle from the merchant who threatens to withdraw his advertising unless a newspaper shall color its news and editorials to comply with his opinions.
As for the victims, who shall separate them? Who shall elevate them one above the other in the ranks of the unwise? Whether or not Helena Petrovna Blavatsky* coined the word 'flapdoodle' to apply to spineless folk who yield to the threats and to the stings of organized ill will, it is sure she used it freely; and the name fits. She never yielded. She earned by her courage and honesty the full right to unmask weaklings to themselves and to deny their claim to be respectable, however much she pitied them. She stood unfrightened, and defied such batteries of blackmail as in all recorded history have not been aimed more cruelly at any individual. And she died unconquered, her nerves and body racked by the persistent malice of those whom she strove to help, her heart triumphant, her mind clear and active to the last. The good she did lives after her; her tortures were cremated with her bones.
[* Blavatsky Helena Petrovna Blavatsky (1831- 1891) — Russian theosophist and occultist. She was the daughter of a German named Hahn who had settled in Russia and who was distantly connected with the Russian aristocracy. At the age of 16 she married an elderly man, Nicephore Blavatsky, whom she soon left. She traveled extensively in Asia, the United States, and Europe. An imposing and persuasive woman, she claimed to have spent seven years in Tibet, where she was supposedly initiated into mysteries of the occult. In 1873 she went to New York City, and in collaboration with prominent persons interested in spiritism she founded (1875) the Theosophical Society. The society soon experienced serious schisms, and in 1878 Madame Blavatsky, as she was known, left for India, where she established headquarters at Adyar near Madras. There she devoted herself, with some success, to theosophical organization and propaganda. She demonstrated many supernormal phenomena, which were accepted as miracles by her followers, but published claims of fraud in the 1880s and 1890s seriously damaged her reputation. Her major works were "Isis Unveiled" (1877) and "The Secret Doctrine" (1888), which became the textbooks of her disciples. The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th edition. For more information, see the Blavatsky Study Center website. ]
But Helena Petrovna Blavatsky was not short-sighted, which accounts for some part of her courage. She was not obsessed by the absurd belief that cause and consequence, aim, effort, and attainment, all must be confined within the span of one short human life. Her whole ambition was to serve humanity by reviving in its consciousness the Wisdom that was in the world from the beginning, and she knew that the cause she served was mightier than that of all the hosts of selfishness.
It needs no exploration into occultism, nor any somersaults of intellect to find that supreme selfishness is the only medium in which the principle of blackmail can exist. The victim is as selfish in degree as the criminal who makes threats in order to enforce his own will or advantage. Selfishness and short sight are inseparable, and the only remedy for either is the patient exercise of all the faculties in continuous effort to apply, in the thinking and acting of daily life, the purest philosophy we know. We can never prevent evil, in ourselves or others, except by deliberately and continuously doing right.
The putting into practice of what small philosophy we do know, inevitably leads to our learning more and is, in fact, the only way in which we can learn; for it should not be overlooked that the mere study of philosophy as something abstract and impractical is only one of the subtler forms of selfishness, which leads to the slimy quagmires of hypocrisy and cant. An old, old proverb, familiar in the dawn of history, when latter-day perplexities, perhaps, were still discernible as simple problems uninvolved by the millions of mixed considerations that have crept in during the course of time, lays down the law — the true law — that Experience makes wise. There is no wisdom but is gained in actual experience. There is no reason for our being in the Universe, except that we may meet experience and learn from it, and so evolve forever upward in the endless cycles of eternity into the grandeur that is our destiny.
It is well to consider blackmail from that viewpoint, and to govern ourselves accordingly. Deprived by moral blindness of the broader view that recognizes this earth-life as but an incident in an eternal chain of lives, we become hypnotized by the apparent dangers or advantages of any given moment, and so we succumb to the temptations of the lower nature. But the fact once recognized, and steadfastly retained in thought, that we are here to build the character on which an endless series of future lives inevitably will be based, then the absurdity of yielding to threat or immoral suggestion becomes evident, along with the equally clear understanding that to threaten others, in order to enforce our own will or to obtain an unjust 'profit,a is at least as harmful to ourselves as to them. The perspective changes when we take the broader view. The advantage of a moment assumes very small proportions as against the grand panorama of eternally progressing lives in which, with utterly unerring justice, each succeeding life is, in every detail, conditioned by the character we have evolved by our own effort in the lives lived previously.
The apparent paradox that we can only help ourselves by continually serving others, and that therefore sheer unselfishness is the only form of selfishness we can afford to entertain, is an eternal truth. At first sight, we being what we are and face to face with effects whose causes lie hidden in the unremembered past, it may sometimes be difficult to grasp the fact that threats of momentary loss, or promises of momentary gain, are unimportant. But the only question of real importance at any moment is, whether our own action shall, or shall not, be based on our highest sense of justice and our highest concept of unselfishness. It is not easy to be unselfish, until the habit takes firm hold of us, and that habit never comes except from constant practice. It is absolutely impossible to act justly until we have first acquired the habit of considering each daily problem with the eternal law in mind, that we can only benefit ourselves by benefiting all the universe.
We flatter ourselves when we suppose that this is an enlightened age. It is fashionable nowadays to sneer at the bygone era when ecclesiastically-minded tyrants used to impose their notions of what conduct should be, by threatening hell-fire to whoever dared to disagree. But that medieval attitude of mind was only simpler — is only easier to analyze at first glance, than our modern systems of politics, business, education, religion, and psychology. There were brave, broad-thinking men in those days, even as there are now; and the persecution to which brave men and women are subjected in this twentieth century, if now and then more subtle, is no less torturing, and no less cruel and illogical, than were the penalties imposed during what are so inaccurately named the 'middle ages.'
The difference is this: that while we hunt through the pages of history for light on human nature we can easily discern the processes of blackmail striving to throttle honesty and all the grandeur of the higher nature; but the moment we turn to latter-day conditions those same processes, that blinded our 'medieval' ancestors, making victims of them, blind and victimize ourselves. We can laugh at or pity those who trembled when a bishop threatened them with hell unless they paid outrageously unrighteous tithes; but we permit our children to act like libertines, lest they accuse us of old-fogeyism or disturb our lethargy with irritating clamor — we submit to extortion in a thousand ways, from fear of slander and inconvenience — we condone (with our votes or our silence) the crimes of the ambitious men who intrigue in behalf of war, lest we be accused of lack of 'patriotism' — we sometimes refrain from doing what is right, lest the advocates of what is wrong should hold us up to obloquy or ridicule; — and we fail to see that we are in no way better or more wise than were the pitiable victims of blackmail of whom we read with such unjustified sensations of superiority in the pages of comparatively ancient history. Morally, and in the main, we are a spineless generation. It will do us no harm if we immeasurable the fact instead of further poisoning ourselves with flattery.
We can never learn to guard ourselves against the unsuspected blackmailer, whose subtly escapes detection in our present state of self-approving ignorance, until we first accustom ourselves to dealing bravely and in protest and at once with those immoral methods of oppression and suppression that a moment's thought makes obvious. Nor can we ever cease to be the unconscious agents of oppression and suppression until we first refuse, in hourly intercourse with others, to impose our will on them by means of threats in any form whatever.
Katherine Tingley, Founder of the Raja-Yoga system of education, has set the true example in this, as in so many other ways; and as the Leader and Teacher of the Universal Brotherhood and Theosophical Society, in common with all true examples, hers is magnificently simple. The pupils at the Raja-Yoga College and Schools are never punished or discouraged. There is no threat hanging over them to dull their inspiration and deprive them of their divine privilege to grow and develop as the flowers grow, in sunlight and fresh air — to grow, that is, into awareness of their own divinity. They are given encouragement, not nagging and repression; example, not temptation; opportunity to learn for themselves the difference between unselfishness and selfishness, between the joy of being useful, moral, and constructive and the dreary discontent of being drones and disintegrators.
There is an infinite gulf between the honor-system that confers intangible rewards which increase the individual's self-respect, for doing good, and the commoner method of threatening with punishments for failure. The first and almost instantly attained result of Katherine Tingley's educational system is, that the pupils themselves adopt it and no longer threaten misbehavior in order to force concessions from their teachers. The system evokes their self-respect; they neither look for nor would they appreciate material reward for spiritual progress, but, by putting all their enthusiasm into their studies and by exercising self-control they earn the right to study in a wider field.
This system is the opposite of blackmail, which is why it is successful. Like begets like — a law no natural scientist would gainsay. The ancient proverb that the child is father to the man, is just as true today as centuries ago; and the child who has been threatened and coerced into obedience grows up into a man, or woman, who coerces — or else, who submits to coercion because the habit has become ingrained. The child who has never been threatened or bribed, grows up into a wholly different and grander type of citizen.
Our lower nature is a blackmailer by instinct. It threatens inconvenience unless we yield to it. All other arguments failing, it proceeds to terrify us with the threat that we shall be ostracized as cranks by our immediate acquaintances and by society at large unless we submit to its impositions. But whoever yields to that threat has descended to the plane on which all other threats are powerful; one concession leads inevitably to another and all liberty of thought or action vanishes, obliterated by the tyranny of popular opinion and the clamor of the lower senses.
Like begetting like, it follows that whoever seeks to enforce his will by threats, himself becomes amenable to threats. The story of the little fleas, with lesser fleas to bite 'em, and which in turn have lesser fleas, and so ad infinitum, has its universal application; the threatener is threatened; the coercer is in turn coerced; and so the vicious chain is forged that binds humanity in an intolerable grip, which chokes and hinders until spiritual death ensues and all society goes down in one of those catastrophes that mark the carnage-trail of history.
The world agrees (with its tongue in its cheek undoubtedly, but it agrees) that reputation is the choicest gift at its disposal and that it is better for man or woman to lose life than an unsullied name. High, very high among its list of attributes on which a fair repute depends, the world ranks courage, honesty, clean living and magnanimity, at any rate pretending to regard those as the proofs of true manhood and true womanhood. What then shall be said in favor of the men and women who make use of utterly unproved allegations to destroy the reputation of an innocent person, either for the sake of greed, self-advertisement, or to strangle the life-work of the individual whom they accuse? What shall be said in favor of any liar who circulates false stories, simply to quiet his own consciousness of inferiority by slandering someone whose conduct, he intuitively knows, is nobler than his own? The pitiable criminal, who offers to abstain from libeling and slandering provided he is paid a sum of money, cowardly masking his threat under a pretense of give and take, is not much worse, and no more pitiable, than the slanderer who hides in anonymity, repeating hearsay allegations for the purpose of discrediting another's reputation and thereby ruining a cause, and for gain for his personal desires.
If it is true, as the world agrees, whether hypocritically or not, that an unsullied reputation is superior to life itself, then slander is at least as bad as murder and those who blackmail others by attacking their reputations are committing a more cowardly crime.
But the truth is, that the world is obsessed by a conviction that it has only one short life in which to experience the whole of its emotions and to grasp the temporary pleasures that it yearns for; consequently it does not hold reputation as superior to life, except as something that may be destroyed in order to pursue advantage. It does not value magnanimity, except as a peculiarity of certain rare individuals that makes them rather easier to rob. When it encounters moral courage, to which it renders so much hypocritical lip-praise, it is only to denounce it by whatever catchwords of opprobrium may be fashionable at the moment. Honesty, to escape the slander of the world, must appear to compromise and be conditioned by a thousand subterfuges that have crystallized into accepted custom. Clean living, which of all the essentials to spiritual progress the world hates most, is made the butt of ridicule, if not of cowardly attempts to ruin by means of slander those who practise it.
The upshot of it all is this: that we cannot afford to yield even to attempts at blackmail if our purpose is to serve humanity and to make that gradual, well-balanced progress of the Soul to which our destiny entitles us; nor will we yield to it if we remember that the business of existence is the patient building up of character — our own first — the world's by our own example.
There is sanity and calm assurance in the knowledge that we reap exactly as we sow. The Theosophical teaching of Karma is the friend of honesty — the enemy of crime. The law of retribution and reward is utterly infallible and absolutely just; it knows no haste, no hindrance, no exceptions; least of all is it confined within the limits of an earth-life, which is no more than a moment in an endless chain of objective existences interspaced with periods that we call death — existences each of which is in every way conditioned by the character evolved in previous lives.
We are now the sum-total of what we have been. According to the doctrine of Reincarnation we shall be — this, conditioned by the exactly measured consequence of every deed we do in each life. Deeds being the result of character, it is inevitably only character that really counts; but character is weighed by deeds, whose quality depends entirely on the motive that provides their impulse. No hidden motive, even though so subtly hidden that it is totally unperceived, can escape detection by the unerring eye of Karma; each concession to the lower nature is against us; each self-identification with our Higher Nature, that inevitably leads to conquest of the lower, is placed to our credit and can never be forgotten or expunged.
Alertness in detecting wrongs and weighing them, leads to a progressive habit, that in turn evokes a readier skill and firmer constancy, until the subtler forms of blackmail that have victimized us hitherto, become uncovered to our mental vision. Courage employed in withstanding the more obvious and superficial threats, or in refusing to be party to them, leads to the greater moral courage needed to withstand the more evasive and dangerous forms of mental blackmail that increasing spiritual vision lays bare. Thus, by deeds done through conscience, spiritual progress is achieved.
And an attribute of spiritual progress is increasing magnanimity, associated with a decrease of the instinct for revenge. Enriched by our own experience, increasingly we understand the nature of the pitfalls into which those less experienced have blundered. Savagery, envy, and slander aimed at ourselves excite in us less resentment and more sympathy; and, as that change takes place in our own attitude, there gradually grows in us the wisdom necessary to the just determination of each problem in true, theosophical living as it actually comes up for decision.
True solutions of a difficulty must be totally unselfish. Retaliation is no remedy, but only serves to increase the ultimate amount of evil by adding to the ill will already in circulation. To repay the blackmailer with threats, to silence slanderers with slander or money, to oppose ill will with self-stupefying anger, is to court the whole savagery of the animal in man. By admitting anger and the spirit of revenge into our own motive, we have lowered the only shield we have, and have dulled our only weapon.
First and foremost, we may safely be assured of this: that any problem whatsoever, any threat, and any slander, is an opportunity to exercise such wisdom as we have, and to learn more wisdom by attaining nobler character. There is no other problem, and no other duty, in the last analysis. But wisdom is never selfish. The motive of revenge is no more vitiating than the equally unmanly subterfuge of cowardice, that offers peace under the pretense of piety.
Theosophy and Courage are one. We have not to defend ourselves, but to uphold a Principle. Our persons and our profits are a very small consideration in the endless evolution of the Universe. The only real profit we can make is in the increase of our spiritual growth; the personalities, in which in future lives we are to make our new experience, will correspond exactly to that growth; we jettison that prospect, corrupt and undermine it, if we value temporary benefit and our momentary mask more highly than the duty to do service to humanity.
Accordingly, the theosophical reply to every threat, whatever motive may be ambushed under it, is fearless and is aimed at evil, not at individuals. The accuracy of its aim depends entirely on its truthfulness; its force is gaged by its unselfishness; its consequences will be measured by the quantity of contribution that it makes to the spiritual welfare of humanity.
Infallibly, those consequences will provide grief — and they may bring ruin — to the unwise individuals who have preferred to take the side of slander and identify themselves with animal- and evil-nature. But the consequences are exactly measured by the Law of Karma, which will judge ourselves and others with impartiality. If we act justly, in the general interest, devoid of any sense of personal retaliation but equally unsubmissive to the claims of lethargy and cowardice, we need have no fear that the consequences will not serve the common welfare, whatever the immediate appearance may be.
Patience is a Godlike attribute; but there is a lower patience: it degenerates into a sort of fatalistic lethargy and ceases then to be a virtue. It is hardly possible to set a limit to the amount of patience we may wisely use in keeping silence as to what we know, or think we know, that is discreditable to other individuals. Silence and strength are one, when no more is at stake than our own personal emotions; envy, hatred, malice, and all uncharitableness, both in ourselves and others, are easiest to smother and destroy by never lending them the dignity of speech. In silence, as to personal emotions and the merely personal aspects of temporary loss or gain, we gather strength and courage, as well as wisdom, to act downrightly and nobly, without fear or favor, at the measured moment, when the opportunity arrives to act in behalf of Principle and thereby benefit the human race.
It is always unwise to support the claims of personality, by asserting or opposing them. But it is also unwise to submit to blackmail, because it is the enemy of Principle. Wisdom is the inseparable companion of Principle; and in Wisdom lie the very roots of strength.
[ *The anniversary of death of Helena Petrovna Blavatsky, the Foundress of the modern Theosophical Movement, is celebrated as "White Lotus Day" on May 8 every year. ]
COMRADES: Those of us who are of the present younger generation of Theosophists, and who have not had the advantage of a personal acquaintance with that grand Leader, H.P. Blavatsky, have none the less the privilege of being loyal to her teachings. And it may he, perhaps, that after all we have not lost so much, because we are forced to look within ourselves for that spiritual Faith which shall make firm our loyalty, without which — I mean without loyalty — there is no spiritual life.
Of course the day will come when all the world will accept Theosophy as its spiritual guide and its law. We do not know how far ahead that wonderful development will be, but we can hope for it and work for it, and the more we hope and the harder we work, the sooner it will happen. Much depends on us, and on our watchfulness. The seed has been sown, and a grand beginning has been made; but most of the work lies ahead. However, a change is taking place. Its signs are obvious all over the world. There is an aspect of Theosophy that will be recognised by the world long before it accepts the spiritual teachings as a whole. In spite of war, and an armed peace in which the nations re-arm for further war, there is evident a change within the minds of men, in every nation, although there are not many yet who recognise that change, and there are fewer still who know the meaning of it. But the truth is this: Theosophy is occult, and works in unseen ways.
H.P. Blavatsky founded a new nation, a universal nation, that knows no limits of geography, whose citizenship is not based on color, race, or creed, but it depends on character. The Capital of that new nation I take it to be here, and it is on us that that nation's future must depend, on us and on our loyalty to H.P. Blavatsky and to our present Leader. And I would like to add this: that there will ever come crises and emergencies which we must face; but we may well remember this: that whatever the difficulties we must face, whatever the crises, there will be none so dire as H.P. Blavatsky stood up against and faced alone; and the more and the nearer we appreciate the grandeur and the majesty of what she did, the nearer we shall be worthy of citizenship in that new nation which she founded.
"OUR minds should be restless for noble and beautiful things."
"TO exist the healthy mind must have beautiful things — the rapture of a song, the music of running water, the glory of the sunset and its dreams, and the deeper dreams of the dawn."
"A MAN must be prepared to labor for an end that may be realized only in another generation."
"LET the cultivation of a brave, high spirit be our great task; it will make of each man's soul an unassailable fortress."*
[ *Quotations from The Principles of Freedom by Terence McSweeney. ]
DUTY and danger are words whose stark significance is nowadays obscured by misuse. Yes and no, however, are the only words in any language that are more exactly definite or which, if used with true intention, are the keys to more perplexing riddles. One of our many modern troubles, that should be one of the easiest to overcome, is that we use words much too vaguely and divorce them from their real meaning by admitting reservations and equivocations that lead off into endless byways of perplexity.
Duty is that which is due, and there is no escape from it, although the ways are limitless by which we may deceive ourselves, and others, with a temporary, false sensation of escape. But that is because we are all too prone to overlook the fact that all life is eternal, and that death provides no 'alibi' or refuge from the inexorable law, that as we sow, we reap. The Higher Law, that actually governs us, is neither limited nor qualified by time; its range is the eternal Now, and though each succeeding minute may provide new opportunities for progress, neither minutes nor aeons affect the Law, which is, and was, and forever will be the sole arbiter of individual and of collective destiny.
When a bill is due, we have to pay it; the alternatives are an appeal to the more or less elastic patience of the creditor, or bankruptcy. The first postpones the day of reckoning but is often costly in accruing interest; the other compels us to relinquish all our assets, and to begin again from the beginning, without credit and without the benefit of such momentum as a business-in-being normally provides. In either event, there is nothing gained beyond a breathing-spell; and the only sure way in which a bankrupt can regain his credit is by making use of opportunity to settle with his creditors to their satisfaction.
That is no more than a simple illustration of the occult law, that what is due eventually must be paid; with interest, if we delay the payment; with increased difficulty and without the assistance of reserved resources, if we delay too long, or if we are caught deliberately trying to evade a settlement.
A very common cause of bankruptcy is signing other people's notes: that is, guaranteeing that another individual shall pay his debts. That individual defaults — and does so the more readily because his sense of responsibility has been weakened by what may have been intended by the guarantor simply as an act of friendship — the guarantor is called on to fulfill his guarantee; he finds it impossible, fails, and the law takes its course. He then joins the host of hurt and disappointed good-intention-mongers, who chant the dirge the ages have all listened to (so often that the 'recording angel' must have more than plenty of that gramophonic bleat in store) — "Never, no never again!"
But he will do it again. He will do it, in some form or other, the first moment that the risk looks profitable. Nothing less than wisdom, that has so grown from within that it has become identified with the individual, will save him from forever trying the impossible; and, in the end, he is better off should his attempts to avoid the law of individual responsibility meet disaster at the outset; because 'nothing succeeds like success' in convincing a man that his mistakes are wise, and the longer he seems able to avoid the law without distress to himself, the harder it will be for him to learn when the inevitable consequence begins to function, and the greater the distress will be. Failure in the early stages of an error is good fortune in disguise.
That is only an example on the most objective plane, where it is easiest to understand it. The Law, that as we sow we reap, is universal; it is everywhere, and it applies to everything and to everybody. It governs all the consequences of the most elusive and abstract thinking, as well as the effect of a blow struck in anger and the mixing of selected chemicals. Cause and effect are one, and they cannot be separated, although time, which is the mother of delusions, frequently persuades us that they can be.
Every individual is finally and unavoidably responsible for his own acts. Being causes, they set up consequences, that in turn become causes and bring endless chains of consequences in their wake; and for every one of those the originator must inevitably answer, at some time, in some place. It becomes easy to realize that the conditions we must meet in future lives depend entirely on performances in this life and the lives behind us, although no human brain can understand more than a fraction of the intricacies and adjustments of the Law of Karma.
A little thinking — a little facing of the facts without seeking to force them to fit time-rooted prejudices — brings to the surface the delightfully contenting knowledge that our problems are our own; that we have nobody to blame except ourselves, and no acts but our own to answer for, in the ultimate analysis. Hundreds of thousands — millions — of people have dimly realized that fact, and have sought to apply it; but, because they have only dimly realized one aspect of it, they have fallen headlong into selfishness, assuring themselves that the Law reads 'I come first.'
But whoever adopts that policy of selfishness will find himself degraded to a plane of consciousness on which, in self-defense, all others will be quite as selfish as himself; just as he who adopts a policy of unselfish usefulness will eventually find himself promoted to a plane on which his fellow-men will act unselfishly toward him. Nor are these far-away planes, to be reached in future incarnations or avoided by some superstitious supplications to an 'unknown God.' They are nearer than breathing; they are closer than hands and feet. They are here, immediately ready, and as easy to attain to, or to tumble down into, as a cold bath or the measles.
So a selfish policy is not the remedy for any process of unwisdom. Like creating like, and action bringing its exactly measured consequences to the doer, it is clear, when we have once been bold enough to face facts, that we cannot help anyone by trying to help him to do the impossible: that is to say, by trying to help him to succeed in error or to avoid the consequences to himself of his own unwisdom. In that respect we have enough to do to keep our own course straight amid the massed perplexities our own unwisdom has produced. If we associate ourselves with his unwisdom we become identified with it and, however self-righteously contenting the emotion that impels us, all that we succeed in doing is to add to the amount of trouble in the world, of which there is already quite enough without our interference.
Our business is to reduce the amount of trouble; and there is one royal way, but only one, in which that possibly may be accomplished. All other ways are vanity and a delusion.
A simple illustration will suggest the real process and convey a hint of its infallibility: suppose a fleet of ships to be sailing toward one destination. Some of them are keeping a correct course; others are diverging toward rocks and shoals, with which the course is limited on both sides. There is an adverse current, but each ship has sufficient power, and a little over, to force itself against the wind and tide; each is supplied with charts and is in charge of a navigator, whose duty is to bring his ship to port.
What would happen if the ships that are on the proper course should diverge from it in order to head the others in the right direction? Or if they should stop their engines and lose headway in order that their captains might argue the point with the other captains who were heading for the shoals? The probability of disaster, of course, would simply be increased, and nobody would be the gainer by it.
On the other hand, suppose that the captains who were on the proper course, and who knew they were, having taken all the seamanlike precautions, should call attention to the direction they were taking and should 'carry on,' they would be doing their full duty, by giving clear warning of the danger to the others, and by showing the course where safety lay.
Life is not so different from that, that we cannot profit by the illustration. There are, of course, and for instance, schoolmasters whose duty is to go long ways, and drastically now and then, in interference with the navigation of the frail barks with which the young begin life's journey; but even they find that example is the most efficient remedy for error, and that constant fault-finding not only deadens the beginner's alertness but deprives him of capacity for self-direction. They do not find it profitable to do a pupil's duty for him.
And there are extremes to which unselfishness may rightly go in rescuing those who have met disaster, provided that it truly is unselfishness and not self-righteousness, or a craving for self-advertisement, or the prospect of possible reward that gives the impulse. There are men and women whose very presence in the world uplifts it, so endowed by Nature with compassion for all suffering and all hopelessness that it becomes their duty to plunge into the stream of events and make other people's business theirs. Such was H. P. Blavatsky. But then that quality of true compassion that possessed her, had its natural corollary of wisdom, so that she could do the right thing, at the right time, in the right place. Wisdom provided foresight, and she knew full well what consequences her brave altruism would inevitably bring down on herself; and, aware in advance of the slander and the persecution that would be her lot, she took her course deliberately, gallantly, surrendering her own peace for a lifetime solely that the coming generations might be benefited.
Privileges such as hers were must be earned; and they cannot be earned by talking, or by meddling with other people's duty. No man knows how many lives were spent by H. P. Blavatsky in mastering the measureless experience that made her fit to undertake the work she did. And no man knows the tenth of what she suffered in one lifetime, which she might have lived at ease, in enjoyment of wealth and an unchallenged reputation. Neither is it possible for anyone to measure her reward, because those who are incapable of doing what she did are equally incapable of guessing at the heights she climbed by the unsparing use of all her spiritual gifts. Those who work for reward are not those who receive it, because its nature is beyond their comprehension; all the higher spheres of influence are kept for those who do not seek them, but who strive to serve in order that they may learn to serve more usefully.
Service does not consist in doing other people's duty for them, but in so well finishing one's own that there is nothing of it left to burden others; in such painstaking exercise of self-control that not a creature can be injured by our lapses; in such alert and patient progress on the narrow way that leads between ambition and neglect, that we may lead no fellow-pilgrim off the Path. For it is very much less harmful in the long run to ourselves, to bring disaster on ourselves, than to imperil others.
Danger is a grim word, fraught with meaning. The danger in another's duty is as grim and sure as that which we know we run if we neglect our own. The fact is, that we cannot do another's duty and our own as well, and the attempt to prove the contrary entails neglect and oversight, which are the source of half our difficulties and of most of our delay along the Path of Evolution. The desire to do another's duty very often is a masked form of intolerance or pride; as often, it conceals a mean scorn for another's weakness; sometimes, it is tyranny, grimacing in the cloak of kindness. It is never quite unselfish for at best it robs another of an opportunity.
The weird, illogical, and blind belief that one short life is all there is of us, is a delusion, under which in one form or another all the nations of the world succumb to hopelessness, or struggle onward in a false hope that some whim of an incomprehensible Destiny may show them a life better worth the living after death shall have imposed the final irony on this one.
Stultified by this delusion and obsessed by the impossible ambition to compress Eternity's whole panorama into one short earth-life, men grow mad, ascribing all their own discomfort to their fellow-men's iniquity. They seek to make themselves more comfortable by controlling and compelling others. They quote what have been said to be the words of Jesus — "Do unto others as ye would that others should do unto you "; but they neglect to bear in mind that other equally profound and simple caution — "Let your light so shine that they may see your good works." Duty, in this age and generation, has become a synonym for making other men do what we ignorantly think is theirs, in order that we may feel self-righteous, or may live more lazily, or possibly that we may get to heaven on the wings of other men's behavior.
It is impossible for anyone to understand another's duty, let alone to do it. Before we can qualify to sit in judgment of a fellow-man's neglect, or of his ignorance, or of his ill-will, we must first attain to the ability to see the whole of the procession of preceding lives that he has lived, and then so wisely weigh the interlacing causes and effects of myriads of years that not a single one escapes us.
A sneer at that statement is about the only recourse left to those who cling to the delusion named above that has brought the world to its present pass. But the sneer will not answer the charge that whoever sits in judgment on a fellow-man, or dares to try to do another's duty, or who makes claim to be better than his fellow, mocks himself and makes himself ridiculous; for either he asserts impossible ability to see the whole procession of past lives, and boasts of sufficient wisdom to review and weigh them all, or else he impudently claims to judge without the facts which hardly the most arbitrary God invented by the stupidest of men would think of doing!
Let him who knows exactly whence he came, and whither he is going, and can prove it, pass such judgments as he sees fit; let him do another's duty if he has the time. For the rest of us, who immeasurable this life as but an interlude between eternities, in which an endless chain of lives supplies us with the changing circumstance and the environment we need in which to work out our own spiritual progress, there is only just exactly time enough to attain our own self-mastery, and no time at all to spare for criticizing others.
To attempt to do another's duty is an act of criticism. It implies an assertion of omniscience. It is an arrogant and ignorant concession to the self-esteem that flatters us that we are better than our neighbor, and more wise. Carried to its ultimate, it leads to a confusion of responsibility. The seeds of war are sown when any nation starts to interfere with the duty or the privileges of another; none will gainsay that. But we are prone to overlook the fact that nations are but congeries of individuals, and that the same eternal Laws apply to all of us.
In one sense, and in only one, are we responsible for our neighbor's duty. He has his rights, and they are neither more nor less than ours. It follows that our duty toward him includes our giving him full room and opportunity to attend to his own affairs, while we attend to our own so thoroughly as not to interfere with him and not to leave neglected details for him to clean up after us.
There is an everyday expression which betrays the common attitude toward life and its problems and lays bare the roots of the ridiculous philosophy with which the greater part of what we call the civilized world today endeavors to console itself. "Life is too short for that!" We have all heard it. Most of us have used the phrase at one time or another. But the truth is, Life is too long for anything but strict attention to our duty and a generous permission to the other man to do his.
If all we had to live was one life — three score years and ten — there might be something in the theory that life is much too short for anything except enjoyment; and that if another does not do his duty, then we may do it for him in order to enjoy immediate comfort of mind or body. But even the Psalmist, who sang of three score years and ten, sang also that "a thousand years are but a moment." Life is so long — so eternally, incalculably long — that there is time for every act, however apparently insignificant, to reach its full fruition; and there is time for us to meet — to be compelled to meet and be compelled to deal with — all the consequences of the acts that we ourselves commit.
We see around us all the evidence of rebirth, ceaselessly progressing. There are sermons in the stones, and running brooks, and trees. The very nestling, newly hatched, knows whence to expect its food. The tree knows how to grow as soon as it bursts forth in darkness from the seed. Who taught it? Where did it learn the trick of thrusting upward to the light, and how does it know the light is there? Ourselves, possessed of habits that were never taught us since we came adventuring into this short span of years between a cradle and the grave, live, move, and have our being amid circumstances and conditions that we know intuitively how to deal with. Is it possible, or by any thinking mind conceivable, that we could conduct ourselves as men and women without accumulated stores of past experience on which to base our judgment of events as they arise? It is insanity to base our estimate of life and its recurrent problems on the proofless, blind assumption that we have but one short earth-life in which to make our whole experience.
What then is the danger in another's duty? This: that every injustice brings its retribution on the perpetrator. It is not just to deprive another of the opportunity to work out his experience. And it is unjust to ourselves to rob ourselves by interfering with another, thus misusing time and opportunity that might have been applied to our own problem. So to do another's duty entails two injustices, and we will have to meet the consequence of both, at some time or another, in this earth-life or another, and then we will have to devote both time and energy to the solution of a difficulty that would certainly have been avoided had we sooner learned the art and the necessity of minding our own business.
Minding our own business is the all-important principle of living. We are what we are — a nuisance to our neighbors very often, and a danger and obstruction to ourselves. It is becoming what we can become that is our duty to our fellow-man; and by becoming better than we are, and better able, from constant practice, to mind our own business wisely, we can become of increasing benefit to ourselves, our neighbor, our nation, the world, and the universe. By trying to do others' duty, we can only go from bad to worse.
Duty is that which is due — not that which we think, perhaps, may possibly be due before long. Duty, like ourselves, exists in the eternal Now. It is at hand, immediate, in front of us, invariably simple; and it sometimes takes the form of opportunity to learn a little self-control by refraining in thought or word or deed from interference with another.
It must be clear to the most immature human intelligence that no man can be helpful, or anything except a burden to his fellows, until he has acquired the art of orderly self-government. It follows, that our first duty at all times and in any set of circumstances is to control ourselves and so make sure that, whatever else, at all events we do not add to the inharmony around us. It sometimes happens then, although not nearly so often as our vanity would like to persuade us, that after we have exercised our utmost self-control, so giving wisdom opportunity to function, there is just a little surplus left that we may safely offer to the other fellow; but even so, the wisdom born of self-control, will oblige us to make the offer very diffidently. Wisdom will remind us that we are ignorant of many of the facts, and possibly of nearly all of them.
Briefly, our whole duty to our neighbor may be summed up in one sentence of four words: "Mind your own business." Business is that which ought to keep us busy, even if it does not. If it does not, then our duty is to find out why, and to remedy the failure by giving business more strict attention. That which ought to keep us busy is the instant and unceasing task of learning how to regulate and improve our own character, forever watchful of results as evidenced by deeds, and to the one end that we may become more useful by becoming more spiritual.
The only influence that we should dare to exercise is that which comes from spiritual progress. And that is automatic. It requires no exercise of brain, and no self-assertion to exert the uplifting beneficence of spirituality. In fact, on the contrary, self-assertion is a gross impediment that not only makes us stumble in our effort but assumes far greater proportions, in the eyes of the beholder, than those spiritual qualities that we propose to advertise. There is nothing more insulting to one's neighbor or more stultifying to oneself than conduct based on a self-flattering claim of spiritual superiority. The moment that we feel ourselves superior to others is the time, of all others, when we most need self-control — and then self-criticism — and then drastic self-direction, bearing well in mind that there are countless future lives in which to meet in full the consequences of the positive and negative commissions and omissions made in this one.
The conclusion of it all is this: that we are here to learn, not how to do our neighbor's duty, but to do our own — not for our own advantage, but for that of others. The only real blessing we can offer to our fellow-men is self-improvement, to the end that we may not increase inharmony but may exercise an honest, pure, uplifting influence. The basis of all spiritual progress is in self-examination and self-watchfulness. The proof of it consists in deeds that do no injury, depriving no man of his right to equal room and unhampered liberty along the Path of Progress.
They threw a tinker into Bedford jail lest wise
heads should be troubled by his tongue;
They burned the Maid of Orleans to still the voice forever that she claimed to hear;
They gave the hemlock draught to Socrates to drown disturbing truths he taught the young;
They slew Hypatia to kill such courage as makes cowards fear;
They burned the Prophet's books and said: 'Henceforth we make a better law from day to day';
They said: 'The past is dead and cannot trouble us again, if we forget.
The moment is the goal. There is no higher law that unseen truths obey;
If we but bury consequences deep enough the cause dies too.' And yet —
They saw the pebble thrown into the pool and watched the unprevented ripples spread;
They calculated cycles of eclipse and timed Orion rising in the sky;
They bragged of a heredity from ancestors a dozen generations dead;
Then tried to take the cash and let the debit go, and failed — and wondered why.
A CERTAIN sort of modern scientist is fond of describing the human race as animals, and from his own point of view, which is as circumscribed by material limitations as a frog's at the bottom of a well, he may be right; but he might just as well, and just as logically, describe animals as men. In fact, the animals might be the better for it — might receive a more intelligent consideration and more mercy from homo sapiens, who is seldom as wise as the pundits of materialism flatter themselves that he is.
From the viewpoint of the sheer materialist, who weighs a dying man to prove that life has no weight whatever and therefore that soul does not exist, there is no soul and evolution is a blind, mechanical procession of events that follows undiscoverable laws with no comprehensible purpose except to develop what must ultimately be destroyed. And if we accept that view there remains but one mystery: why should anyone trouble himself to continue living, or — if we cannot quite force ourselves to such flat depths of cynicism — why not eat, drink, and be immoral, since tomorrow or the next day we must disintegrate into unthinking atoms?
There are strange inconsistencies in human nature, and particularly in scientific human nature, which are easy to immeasurable but very difficult to understand. For instance, one and the same intensely educated biologist will speak of the 'blind laws' of nature with as fanatical conviction as the out-of-date enthusiast's who used to speak of everlasting hellfire; but almost in the same breath he will boast of his own will that differentiates him from the common run of men and makes it possible for him to force his tired brain and his exhausted body in the search after new discoveries. He is willing to divide his neighbors into classes and to publish statistics, which are alleged to prove that about nine-tenths of the human race are his mental inferiors; but he denies that there is any spiritual basis for his theory, and he shuts his eyes deliberately to that very "will" and "will not," which in practice have made his life-work possible.
The average nature-lover, much better than the most expert analytical naturalist, knows what an animal will or will not do in given circumstances. The differences between the species and genera are much more evident in their behavior than in conformation or in structural anatomy; they have evolved up to a certain point, and at that point they function, always in the same way, always in obedience to the law of their kind. Their will, which is their state of consciousness, obliges them to respond in certain ways to given circumstances; and when one animal — as a dog, for instance, or an elephant — evolves a disposition to act differently from the rest, that individual's state of consciousness is changing, usually to a slightly higher level. Then, there being no exception possible to law, it follows that exception must become law; the level to which one member of the species has attained becomes possible to all that species, and evolution takes one step forward. Thenceforward the "I will" and "I will not" of all that species has one less limitation. Example being more contagious than disease, it is only a matter of time before the ability of the one becomes the law — the will — the state of consciousness of the entire species.
It is so with men, but with this difference: that men have reached the stage of evolution in which it is possible for them to become aware of it and consciously to direct its progress. Animals evolve unconsciously, the lower species hardly more aware of what compels them than the trees are, or the rocks and rivers. The higher mammals very often are aware of spiritual forces, although only for short periods, amid surroundings and in circumstances that provide the necessary stimulus; and although they give every evidence then to a discerning observer of being conscious of unseen powers whose presence thrills them, they rarely, if ever, appear to change in character in consequence.
My own observation suggests, in fact, the contrary. A lion is never so much a lion as when he has stood for a few minutes staring into infinity, motionless, absorbed in contemplation of the unseen. At such moments his normally keen senses appear to be in a state of suspended function; he can neither hear the sounds that usually alarm him, smell the scents that normally enrage him, nor see what should make him suspicious, were his purely animal consciousness alert. He is alert to something else, and in another way. For a moment he seems aware of the divinity of everything that lives and breathes, and of his own place in the universe.
On many such occasions I have had the opportunity to watch lions in the open, when the weather, his own vitality, and every other circumstance was in the lion's favor, giving him nothing to think about but the satisfaction of being alive. In such moments the very spirit of pantheism seems expressed, and that wonderful old psalm comes to mind in which the singer adjures: "O all ye beasts, praise ye the Lord; praise him and magnify him forever."
The moment passes, and the lion always roars — roars as if a glimpse of the reality of things has thrilled him to the marrow — roars and roars — and then reasserts the animal. He is dangerous then. It is as if, in the words of the Bible, the flesh lusteth against the spirit. He reverts to blind laws and the lion's will, which is to go in search of what he may devour and to slay because he can.
It is the same with wolves. Sometimes, particularly toward evening in fine weather, when they have eaten and slept and played, so that they feel in the pink of condition and their senses are in harmony, they seem to grow conscious of another element. Usually one wolf feels it first, and howls; but the howl is an entirely different note from the hunting-call. Each wolf in turn takes it up until they all howl in chorus, putting all their heart into the music. No observer then, unless afraid, or so prejudiced that he is incapable of recognizing anything except what he has been told he should expect, could mistake that chorus for the usual wolf-cry. It is more like an evening hymn. They throw up their throats and take extraordinary pains to pitch on exactly the right quarter-tone. They are doing something they enjoy, and for the sake of doing it — something that is neither play nor work — an ecstasy.
They are not wolves while they are doing that, but a conscious part of Nature, one with all the rocks and trees and rivers, one with the wind and the twilight, one with Life itself. But it is only for short moments that they can hold to that realization; then they are wolves again, and dangerous, asserting their condition and the fang and claw with which they hold such sway in the forest as is theirs by right of evolution.
It is only man who can explain to himself what such ecstatic moments mean and can direct himself in order consciously to profit by them. And that is why it is unfair and ignorant to label man an animal, and why, the less a man regards himself as animal, the swifter his advancement to the higher planes of consciousness. We all are spiritual — rocks and trees and rivers, wind and weather, stars — birds, reptiles, beasts; we all evolve; we all work out our destiny exactly from the point at which we stand; but the dividing chasm between man and animal is greater than that between animal and tree, because man alone is able to be conscious of the Soul that guides him.
The animal's "I will" is an obedience to the law of his existence that he heeds but does not understand. He is a lion or a sheep, a wolf or a hyena; evolution is directed for him and he spends his life in being what he is, without a discernible trace of will to become something higher. Unless compelled, as a few rare individuals know how to compel, he shows no disposition to imitate anything higher than himself, or even to immeasurable that there is any higher condition than his own. His will is to be wolf or sheep or lion, and to make the most of that, adapting himself as best he can to changing conditions. His "I will not" is his unwillingness to change himself — his inability to do it.
Man's "I will" is all too often no more than the animal's expression of desire. His "I will not" descends too often, and particularly when the individual surrenders to the mean massed instinct of the mob, to the plane on which all consciousness of self-direction ceases and, in common with the vegetables, he exists within his senses and self-rooted to the earth. In such moods men are not superior to animals, but worse, and for this reason: that whoever once has felt within himself and recognized the working of the Higher Law, thereafter is responsible; and he who lets that feeling of responsibility escape him or be crowded out by swinishness and greed commits sin. It is impossible to sin without a consciousness of what sin means.
Accordingly, a man's "I will," if he shall have the right to call himself a man and to enjoy man's heritage, must entail some higher object than the mere expression of his appetite or his ambition to impose his own desires on others. As an animal, man is a weakling so inferior in strength and obstinacy to the ass, for instance, that no comparison is possible between them. Man's intelligence, if set to perform the asses' labor in the asses' way, still leaves him so inferior to the beast that mere economy would give the ass a higher market value. It is in a man's unwillingness to be an ass, to be described as one, to be made to work as one, that the hint of his way of salvation lies.
The meanest man, at intervals at any rate, is conscious of his manhood and aware of a compelling force within himself (he calls it 'conscience' oftener than not) that drives him to remorse, and through remorse to self- improvement. Then his "I will" strikes a nobler key, no longer flatted by disgusting appetite but thrilling with authority. He has accepted man's responsibility — the privilege of self-direction. Self-control and self-improvement follow, and the "I will not" falls like a sword into his right hand — a sword that points every way.
And "I will not" is equally important with "I will." The animal within a man is stirred by every evidence of strengthened will. The "I will not" restrains it, and converts the animal emotion into higher forms of energy. No latter-day condition is more noticeable and productive of bewilderment than that increasing education and intelligence bring with them an increasing animality and cleverness in crime; but that is because "thou shalt not" has been allowed to substitute for "I will not," paternalism (of a sad, short- sighted kind) stalking stupidly where individual responsibility should be the first law of the land and the first concern of educators.
An man who has responded to the Soul-note in himself (his conscience, if you will) and has deliberately set his face toward the future and the light, has felt — perhaps instantly — in some degree increasing influence upon his fellow men. They begin to regard his word and to accord him the beginnings of authority, most often without knowing why they do it, because few men pause to analyze and to dissect their own reasons for this and that attitude. And if the truth could be set down in cold statistics (we are fortunate, perhaps, to be spared that mathematical indictment of a whole race!) we might be staggered by the revelation of what follows; our belief in human nature would need readjusting drastically before we could resume that buoyant optimism that we need in daily life.
Let each man analyze himself. Let each discover for himself the need for constant watchfulness. Our memories are not for nothing. There are few of us who need to look back more than one day down the line of zigzag and sporadic evolution to discover that each time we have been conscious of a forward step, however short, our lower nature instantly has sought to take advantage of it, causing us, subtly perhaps, to use the opportunity for self-aggrandizement.
I remember a black man who set himself deliberately to improve his moral status. The effort was easy to immeasurable, and the result was obvious, although only he knew what extremes of self-denial it had cost him. He had left his native village, as he told me. (He was born in a village of thieves, where murder was considered bravery, and it was a Sikh skin-trader who first suggested to him higher standards of morality.)
In course of time he came to the attention of a high government official, who employed him and, finding him diligent, caused him to be enlisted in the police force, in which he began with such a splendid record in his favor that he was placed in positions of trust much sooner than was usual with recruits. His "I will" was as ready as the knife he used to wield in the old days in his native village; discipline seemed second nature to him, and his influence among the raw recruits enlisted later than himself was excellent. His "I will not," however, had not kept pace, and the feel of the new-found influence went like wine to his head. He became a bully, and from that went on to mutiny; and the last I knew of him he was a member of the chain-gang, cleaning township streets.
Now human nature varies only in degree. As long as we are humans we are subject to the laws that govern human life and conduct. What is possible to one is possible to everyone, and the degree of our advancement can be measured solely by the strength or weakness of our individual self-control. Unlike the animals, we have the power of self-direction; we may exercise our will in the deliberate judgment of ourselves by spiritual standards, steadfastly aspiring to new levels of discretion, sturdily rejecting all inducements to descend again on to the lower plane on which the animal controls us.
The secret of success is balance. We are all familiar with characters who shine with a resplendent genius and lack, nevertheless, that moral stamina that challenges respect. The jails are full of them. The most of them lack balance — lack the "I will not" to serve as counterweight and regulator to "I will." Without "I will" we never may attain to that self-government that is our goal, nor ever may evolve into such consciousness as can conceive self-government throughout a universe. Without the "I will not" we never can escape from the attraction of the lower nature, which provides us with an infinite variety of opportunities to resubmerge ourselves into its depths for every forward spiritual step we take.
The Middle Way — Theosophy — lies midway between animal ambition and the subtler maze of spiritual pride. A man needs balance more than any other faculty, if he would keep the true course, and the surest aid to learning balance is a sense of humor that enables one to laugh at his own erratic judgment and, instead of pitying himself, to pity others whom his own mistakes may have misled. There is no more certain prelude to a fall than self-approval; self-condemnation and self-pity are such dead-weights as the strongest cannot bear upward; but a sense of humor is no burden. The ability to laugh at one's own flounderings, and above all to laugh at one's own claims to superiority above his fellow men, is a magic talisman that costs nothing, weighs nothing, and occupies no space. Unlike those patent medicines that they used to sell to travelers, it really cures all ills and is available in every accident.
It is the lack of any sense of humor that has darkened all religion until men fight and go to law about past participles and the dull, dead letter of a printed creed. Paul the Apostle, who did more than any man to compose and formulate the religion since called Christianity, was no apostle of self- righteousness and gloom. One can imagine how he laughed and how he tapped his own breast when he voiced that famous phrase "the evil which I would not, that I do!" And doubtless he would laugh (and at himself) if he could hear the din of the debates over his phrases that have kept men quarreling among themselves for nineteen hundred years. Paul had sufficient sense of humor to preserve himself from bishoprics and too much praise; he earned his own living as a tent-maker; he laid no claim to be immune from limitations and obsessions that beset the rest of us, and he foresaw the evil that he might do while attempting the great benefit he would.
So, whether we agree with the Apostle Paul in all his teachings, or agree to disagree with him, we may admire the manliness that made him immeasurable his own humanity and saved him from the mire of self-esteem, into which too many of the world's would-be reformers have slid headlong. Thus far we all may follow him, conceding our intention to do well by all the world but laying no claim to infallibility, our sense of humor coming to our aid to save us from self-praise — such heady stuff that, balance we like Blondin, we should nevertheless lose footing if the least whiff of it were allowed to poison the immediate air.
"I will" and "I will not" are grand assertions. They include the whole of man's prerogatives; and neither is complete without the other. The infinite immensity of will, forever broadening as man ascends by purifying and controlling his own character, reveals such realms to revel in as blind and dazzle or bewilder at the first glimpse. Power not subject to restraint — power even over oneself, without the sanity that shall restrain and guide it — is madness, self-destroying and destructive of all else that meets it while its short-lived frenzy lasts.
Power over oneself can be attained, and must be, before progress becomes possible. But it is power held in trust and the least abuse of it is treason to the Soul — rank sacrilege. "I will" is an expression of the consciousness of power. "I will not" is born of the determination never to betray the trust that power imposes.
So the two go hand in hand, the will to become one with our Higher Nature and the Higher Law being balanced and restrained by will not to offend or injure. Therein lies the difference between man and animal-man, if he is worthy of the name of man, evolving character and race, and laying down his destiny, by serving others first, himself last — the animal unconsciously obeying laws that seem to him to legalize the theory of self first.
Animals, in fact, are far from selfish, because their very instinct to protect themselves is based on laws beyond their comprehension that oblige them to protect their offspring and the herd and, consequently, all their ways are suitably conditioned to the state of consciousness at which they have arrived. Nature guides them.
Man is his own guide. He has attained to spiritual consciousness and may, and can, if he sees fit, take cognizance of spiritual laws and by their aid advance to higher spiritual knowledge, benefiting all humanity and all life less advanced than he is, not by self-assertion but by vigilant self-government that requires each thought and act to be unselfish and constructive. Man, if he will be man, not a major animal, will — must — live, and alone may live, by spiritual service.
When that caressing light forgets the hills
That change their hue in its evolving grace;
When, harmony of swaying reeds and rills,
The breeze forgets its music and the face
Of Nature smiles no longer in the pond,
Divinity revealed! When morning peeps
Above earth's rim, and no bird notes respond;
When half a world in mellow moonlight sleeps
And no peace pours along the silver beam;
When dew brings no wet wonder of delight
On jeweled spider-web and scented lair
Of drone and hue and honey; when the night
No longer shadows the retreating day,
Her purple dawn pursues the graying dark;
And no child laughs; and no wind bears away
The bursting glory of the meadow-lark;
Then — then may be — never until then
May death be dreadful or assurance wane
That we shall die a while, to waken when
New morning summons us to earth again.
ONE must search the pages of The Secret Doctrine for true light on the history of Yucatan. The Mayas — latter-day descendants of the ancient Itza civilization — themselves preserve a myth, much scoffed at by historians and referred to by the guide-book writers in the smallest print, to the effect that the hero-god Itzamna brought their ancestors through the ocean from the east. The thought of the tourist leaps at once to submarines; he laughs. To others, not so eager to class myth as mere absurdity, there occurs at once the story of lost Atlantis.
The Yucatan Peninsula is one vast plain, with an area of nearly a hundred thousand square miles, largely covered with dense jungle and virgin forests, and it is nowhere more than five hundred feet above sea-level. With the exception of enormous plantations of henequen-fiber, laid out comparatively recently, there is very little cultivation, owing mainly to lack of surface- water, and the jungle might have continued unexplored for centuries to come were it not for manufacturers of chewing-gum, who send their agents into the forest in search of chicle, from which chewing-gum is made.
These agents, mostly Mestizos, or half-castes (although some are pure Indian), occasionally bring news of great areas of ancient ruins, and it is to them in the first instance that almost every fresh discovery is due; but they are an uncommunicative breed, and very cautious in their dealings with the alien. From the purely Maya Indian one can learn almost absolutely nothing, his racial recollection of the conqueror's heel having closed his mind against inquisitors.
That conqueror's heel, it may be added, was no imaginary infliction. La Casa del Conquistador Motejo still stands on the south side of the principal public square in Merida, the modern capital. It was the first house built by the Spanish conquerors and its facade bears the escutcheon of the Montejo family; on either side of the entrance, carved in stone and well preserved, are the figures of two Spanish knights, clad in the costume in vogue at the time of the conquest, each with his foot resting on the head of a conquered Maya India. That symbolizes well enough what Mayas have had to endure. There is not much room for doubt that they were suppressed, and by methods more drastic than we moderns fortunately can imagine. They have not yet re-arisen from the effects of it.
The conqueror did not destroy the Maya buildings, as so often has been charged. There were extensive ruins all over Yucatan before the Spaniards came, and it seems probably that great areas had been abandoned to the jungle long before 1570, owing to lack of water, and possibly owing to a pestilence that may have followed in the wake of drought.
There are practically no surface-streams, although there are considerable rivers that flow underground and find their way into the limestone caverns with which the whole country abounds. The principal water-supply is from rain preserved in natural cisterns, and it is easy to imagine how a prolonged period of drought may have forced the ancient inhabitants to abandon city after city.
What the conquerors methodically did destroy was anything in writing or in sculpture that could help to connect the Mayas with their ancient culture and the storied past. So fanatically and so thoroughly did they obliterate whatever they regarded as unchristian, and therefore damnable, that though the Mayas possessed at that time (1527) an extensive literature, consisting mainly of historic records, in a script at a stage of development apparently about midway between pictograph and letter, not one document or carving now remains to provide a key for modern language-students. The agents of the church were 'thorough.' Scientists, comparatively easily, have worked out the system of numbers and dates, and they are continually searching for some carving — enthusiastically hoping for some document — that may explain the code in which the Maya narrative was written. But until now the history, myth, legend, and religion of the Mayas remains for the most part a forgotten mystery, in spite of square miles of monuments that have resisted time and weather — unless it is true, as some say, that among the Indians there are individuals who have preserved the record, handing it on from generation to generation, and who could tell the secret if they chose.
It is certain that no area in the world possesses such a Wealth of archaeological antiquity as that part of Central America that includes the Yucatan Peninsula, Honduras, and Guatemala. There are expeditions from a number of scientific foundations and universities now studying the jungle-ruins at widely extended points, but those points are like proverbial drops of water in an ocean; there is such abundance of material that one point seems almost as good as any other at which to begin exploring, and there is no guessing where the most important secrets may be brought to light.
It appears, from what already is uncovered, that the early Maya civilization — subsequent, that is, to the arrival of the Mayas from some continent that may have been Atlantis — had its beginnings in what is now called Guatemala, since it is there that are found carvings, photographs of which were long since published in The Theosophical Path, for November 1920, so ancient that few antiquarians have dared to assign a date to them.
From Guatemala the Maya race seems gradually to have extended its civilization northward into Yucatan, the theme and nature of its monuments not changing much but rather evolving slowly toward greater elegance and less solidity, until, as far north as Chichen-Itza, about a hundred miles from Merida, we find well preserved buildings probably not more than three thousand years old, with beams of the time-resisting zapote-wood still supporting the stone arches.
The Chichen-Itza ruins (the name is a Maya word meaning 'by the well of the Itzas') are on the site of the Maya or Itza capital. The well, or cenote, remains — a huge, natural pool in the limestone rock, fed by underground springs of extremely cold water that takes on a peculiar jade-green color. Ever since the arrival of the Spaniards that sacred well has been the center of romantic legends about maidens sacrificed to the rain-god, and prisoners of war permitted rather than obliged to sacrifice themselves by plunging in and drowning. (They say, though, that the principle of mercy was not wholly overlooked: whoever lived from dawn to sunset on the surface of the pool was rescued and allowed to live.) Unlike most legends, these have been checked up and in a large degree confirmed by M. E.H. Thompson, formerly U.S. Consul in Yucatan, who has spent the last thirty years in carefully exploring Chichen-Itza and its neighborhood.
Mr. Thompson procured a diving apparatus and spent, in all, more than a month under-water, stirring deep layers of mud with a rake, uncovering treasures of gold and a peculiar jade found nowhere else on earth, besides the bones of young women and warriors. A peculiarity about the jade is, not only that its source is unknown (for nothing like it has been found in Central America or elsewhere) but that every piece of it is broken, as if the priests, who performed the sacrifice, went through the form of releasing its spirit before, as it were, consigning its material shell to oblivion.
Whoever has studied Maya architecture and such fragments as are known of their ancient religion, is impressed by the marked resemblance to the ancient Egyptian culture. It is in the pages of The Secret Doctrine that one finds the key to this enigma, and, supposing it to be true that the originators of Maya and Egyptian culture came, before the period of any history we know, from one and the same continent, we might reasonably expect to find a parallel development.
We know, for instance, that the culture of ancient Egypt passed through cycles of adolescence, splendor, and decay. In course of time pure doctrine became corrupted as men ceased to aspire to the higher mysteries. What once had been a hierarchy was replaced by an ambitious priesthood; and the sacrifices that had once been imagery of the opulence of life became degraded into superstitious rites.
Why not the same in Yucatan? This key would fit the latter-day discoveries of bones and jewels thrown into the sacred pool — barbaric practices that otherwise it is impossible to correlate with the unquestionably esoteric nature of the ancient Maya art. It is incredible that men who rose to such artistic heights that they designed those carvings and the caste, high arches of those dim interiors should condescend to drowning human victims to appease a wrathful rain-god. But it might be that, as in Egypt, men forgot the ancient Key. The hierarchy may have died out from below, for lack of aspirants with moral strength to endure the higher ordeals of the Mystery. And so, while buildings by the thousand stood, that traced the dignity and grandeur of the past; while pictograph and symbol still remained in witness that the men who built those temples knew more than the mere surface-secrets of an ancient Wisdom, a degenerate, though still religious offspring of the builders, taking letter for the spirit of the law, grew morbid and disgraced themselves with human sacrifice. If so, that would not be the first, nor yet the last, great culture to decay in the gloom of superstitious cruelty. It is at such times of spiritual decadence that races become helpless to defend themselves against the conqueror. Then hundreds, in the vigor of material expansion overwhelm with ease the hundred-thousands, who have lost their spiritual vision yet affect still to despise materiality on which, in fact, they lean. No nation in the growth or the maturity of spiritual grandeur is in danger from the sword of the aggressor. Witness China, that kept peace a thousand years. But let the vision cease and, like a tree whose sap no longer answers to the challenge of the sun, that nation totters to its fall.
These latter days the Mayas, as a whole, display the symptoms of a conquered people. There is no revolt in them. They are a quiet-loving people, hospitable, kind, habitually clean, addicted to no outlandish vices — hardly even to the vices of their conquerors — and noticeably honest. But they submit. There is no vigor in their protests against exploitation. They take no part in the recurring revolutions that have boiled across the face of Mexico these fifty years. They are not soldiers; and with very rare exceptions they hold no public office. Courteous, secretive, patient, indifferent to hardship, they resemble in feature the images carved on the ruins that testify to the ancient glory of their race.
Uxmal and Chichen-Itza, where the principal uncovered ruins are, though ages of neglect, of wind and weather and the inroads of the jungle have combined to blot them from the memory of man, still mutely vouch for the enlightenment and taste of their forgotten builders. Civilization was there, and at a pinnacle, when Rome, it may be, was a scattering of hovels and the splendors of Nineveh and Babylon were not yet dreamed of.
Strange, and hitherto incomprehensible designs, wrought with consummate artistry, cover the whole face of building after building, alternating with elephants, leopards, leaves, flowers, and conventionalized human faces. Where did the ancient Mayas find their elephants? Who taught them how to carve with such unerring skill? If there was never an Atlantis, as some historians still insist, and if the arts, philosophy, and science, as the same historians maintain, derive from what they call the Old World — Rome, Greece, Egypt—whence came the Maya arts and sciences?
The predominant character of all the larger ancient Maya structures is that they are built on artificial elevations: a pyramid or truncate cone, approached by magnificent stone stairs, supports a building that thus crowns the view, suggesting elemental dignity and a conception of life's grandeur. The walls are usually of tremendous thickness, so that the silence which today reigns over that unpeopled wilderness was more than probably essential to existence when the thinkers lived who wrought that artistry.
Interiors are quiet, oftener than not devoid of any other contribution to their beauty than the sheer simplicity of strong design, but sometimes carved, like the exteriors, with hieroglyphic cornices or adorned with paintings that permit no other comparison than with those of ancient Egypt.
The finest workmanship is displayed in the broad and elevated cornices; and whether the artists excelled more in the skill with which they assembled prodigious numbers of small pieces with which to construct their effect, or in the accuracy to nature of the scenes they represented, is a matter solely of opinion. Certainly their craftsmanship has never been surpassed on the American continent.
The Mexican authorities have wisely ruled that no more plunder shall be taken from the ruins, and no foreign collections shall be enriched by specimens from Yucatan. Facilities are given to qualified archaeologists and to expeditions from foreign universities, who are allowed to fence off areas and dig, uncover, reconstruct; but what antiquities they find must remain in their proper surroundings, so that some day it will be possible to study the whole scheme of ancient Maya life and culture where it had its being.
But the study of it is unlikely to lead men far until they search The Secret Doctrine's pages and so reconstruct the past and read it with the Key that H.P. Blavatsky provided. The world, men say, is full of mysteries; but far the greatest of them all, most baffling and least suggestive of intelligence in homo sapiens is this: that after fifty years, with The Secret Doctrine and Isis Unveiled almost anywhere obtainable, men still search blindly for a key with which to solve the riddles of the past. Men still deny the 'fable' of Atlantis — still search for the source of light among the shadows — and, when H.P. Blavatsky's authoritative statements month after month become confirmed, still prefer to ignore her teaching instead of making use of what she taught for the uncovering of more.
I ADMIT it was a greatly daring editor who first published OM as a serial in Adventure, a magazine which, though it stands for manliness, omits religious subjects as a rule. It was a daring firm of publishers who brought the story out in book-form last November. OM treats of a mystery that to one half of the world, the whole of the eastern hemisphere, is concrete fact, however many explanations of it may be current; whereas to the western half it sounds not mystery so much as a mere fairy-tale. And it is the western half of the world that buys books in English.
However, both the magazine and the book publishers now admit that their daring must have been a sort of inspiration; while I, the author of the story, have been swamped under a mass of correspondence, to the greater part of which I have not yet had time to reply (and to none of it adequately).
The amazing part of it is this: that among all of the hundreds of letters I have received about the book, not one finds fault with it. I had expected to be deluged with abuse and ridicule!
I wrote the book from knowledge; but I did not know there were so many people in the western hemisphere not only willing but apparently quite eager to accept an explanation of life's handicap based solely on what Asia calls the Ancient Wisdom. I am almost tempted to believe — perhaps to hope — that prejudice and dogma are not after all so firmly seated on the throne of Christianity as the professional religionists would have us think.
Has the world gone mad, that it accepts my book? Or is it waking up? Or am I dreaming? All I know is, that the book is being widely read. The answer must be left to wiser heads than mine.
The East has known, for no man knows how many centuries, that there exist (and always have existed) individuals — known variously as the Keepers of the Ancient Wisdom, Teachers, Masters, Gurus — who, from philosophic heights attained by heroism of self-mastery in former lives, keep watch over the world, inspiring it, whenever opportunity presents itself, with pure, uplifting thought. These men (and they are men, not spirits) have attained to greater heights of evolution than the rest of us have glimpsed. They live apart from the world, and so have always lived since long before such history as we find recorded in the western text-books; and this, less from dread of defilement by the world's dense thinking than because of the uselessness of mingling with a crowd that crucifies, idolizes or prevents all teachers whom it fails to understand. On one point all who know of these men are agreed: that they are practical, and faithful to the vast responsibility entailed by knowing more than others know.
I am reliably informed that at this present time the home of the Masters is in Tibet, that country being difficult of access and affording them the opportunity they need to think and move and have their being in an undisturbed calm, beneath whose unruffled surface they persist in pauseless effort to induce into the world high thinking and its consequences, purity of living; since through purity alone comes true enlightenment.
But this may give a false impression of them. They are manly men, not meditative fakirs. Except that they are human they resemble not at all the popularity pursuing 'swamis,' self-styled 'mahatmas' or 'yogis' who posture on rocks for the plaudits of ignorant people — or who cross the Atlantic to pocket the dollars of fools. They do not advertise. They shun the fawning adulation of the mob as sedulously as they keep aloof from its vindictiveness and passion. To them, I have been told, all forms of selfishness appear ridiculous, since selfishness contains its own destroying agent, and to them there is no profit under the sun except in benefiting others.
Their religion, as I understand it, recognizing thought as the precursor of all deed, and regulating thought as the precursor, consequently in the last analysis is wholly one of deeds and of abstaining from such deeds as might, by their inherent selfishness, destroy the harmony of others. No life like that could possibly be lived without more wisdom than is given to the ordinary run of men. None, surely, will deny that wisdom is a stark necessity if one is to discriminate between what benefits humanity at large and what does not. Reforms, 'revivals,' social crusades and all familiar attempts to legislate or wheedle nations into righteousness are self-destroyed inevitably by the lack of wisdom in their frequently too energetic advocates. It was Solomon, I think, who is supposed to have advised us to seek wisdom first.
I have been told — and I believe it — that these Masters have, by high unselfishness and self-control in former lives, attained to higher wisdom than the rest of us can understand. If so, then we show less wisdom than we might, if we should challenge or resent their privilege of keeping to themselves. If they are so wise that in spite of all our modern methods of inquisitive research they can retain aloofness and can pass among us, when they so please, utterly unrecognized, it serves no useful purpose to deny their right to do so, or, in the alternative, to argue they do not exist.
I can imagine (who cannot?) that multitudes of higher forms of life exist of which nine-tenths of us at present have no cognizance. But ignorance proves nothing. I am sure, for instance, that in every realm of art and science there are men innumerable who know more than I do, but my ignorance of what they know does not disprove their knowledge. Rather they serve as an avenue through which I may attain their knowledge, if I will.
When we behold art, do we stultify our own intelligence by arguing that the artist knew no more than we? Or, because we have never seen the artist, do we deny that art exists? Or, because we see fraudulent copies of art, do we deny that there are many artists whose integrity is above dispute?
Admitting as, for one, I do admit that there is high philosophy abroad among us, that is freshening our thought and working like precipitating acid on our outworn, half-abandoned creeds; maintaining that philosophy necessitates philosophers to bring it into being, as it were; and so admitting as, for one, I do admit, that the existence of the Masters is no myth but an established certainty; conceding at the same time, as we must, that if they do exist they must be wiser than the rest of us in order to escape the searchlight of our pitiless publicity (the name preferred by persecution-mongers); what avails then to pit our ignorance against their wisdom and insist, with the world at large, that they are non-existent or that they are selfish not to satisfy our curiosity by coming out of their seclusion and, with magic, entertaining us. Doubtless they know better than to do it — or do it they would. Theirs is the prerogative of wisdom.
What is magic? It is certainly not humbug, though we know too well how many humbugs pose among us as magicians, in the same way that too many cacophonists claim the title of musician and too many doctors mutilate our bodies in the name of healing. The exposure of a thousand tricksters never has disproved one truth, though many a magician has been branded as a fraud because, for lack of enough wisdom, and perhaps because of vanity, he has displayed more knowledge of the esoteric laws of nature than the prejudices of the human mind permit to any man. Knowledge and wisdom are not the same thing.
A century ago would radio not have been magic? What of Newton and his laws? And what of Galileo? Would our fathers have believed it possible to transmit by a mechanism, through the ether without wires, the pictures of events within a half-hour of their happening? Can there be any object other than to glorify our ignorance, in stubbornly denying that there might be men who know how to project their thought without the intervening agency of a machine?
The handicap of all humanity is fear. We are afraid to lift ourselves above the ruts in which we run, and glance into the storehouse of the Infinite. A century ago (and less) it was religion under which we covered up our eyes and hugged our totally illogical conservatism. Now with flattery we fool ourselves that science has uncovered all laws and the portals of all knowledge. What the licensed and accredited observers of the shadows of the real say is true, we must believe or else be damned. And being damned by fellow-men is much more comfortless (because more real) than the hell our ancestors believed in!
We are still, like the fabled ostrich with its head stuck in the sand, absurd conservatives, for we conserve not much else than our own opinion of ourselves — no pleasant one, at that, maintaining as it generally does that we were born in sin.
But of the Masters I am told on good authority that they conserve the Ancient Wisdom, which is something not so worthless as our theories of God- appointed and prenatally implanted vice.
Presuming, as I think the preachers mostly do, that there was wisdom in the ordering of all this universe, and that the stars that keep their courses, and the flowers that obey the summons of the spring, have not entirely lost their contact (yet, in spite of jazz and boot-leg liquor!) with the First Cause, that obeyed the Wisdom, that impelled them forth; presuming that; admitting, as we must, that we ourselves are not wise, or our affairs were better ordered; yet admitting, too, that most of us would like to be wise and would cherish wisdom if it might be had without too much self-sacrifice — to me it does not seem too far-fetched to presuppose that Wisdom does exist.
And since we rather dimly and sporadically long for it, particularly when the aftermath of unwise deeds propels us into gloom, I think it logical (and surely some agree with me) that contact with the Ancient Wisdom never has been absolutely broken. If it had been broken, we could hardly be aware of its suggestive thrills.
We search, or rather, some of us still search among the animals in far- off lands for that weird figment of imagination called the missing link, to prove material evolution. Why not — in the name of manhood, why not search at least as far afield for proof of spiritual ancestry? The dignity would certainly be greater, and the shock less numbing to our morals, to discover ourselves linked in spiritual evolution to the Gods, instead of, as the scientists would have us, chained to a material progression with the apes.
A spiritual link there must be. Otherwise, whence come the streams of spiritual thought that in our calmer moments of reflection raise us higher than the animals? Life, we nowadays agree, is a becoming. What of those who have become? If there is progress, where are those who have progressed?
To a believer in the very modern, unauthenticated doctrine, totally impossible of proof and more illogical than any other phantasy invented by the mind of man, that we are doomed to one earth-life, and only one, whereafter we are dead and done with this world, it is manifestly difficult to think, and almost an impossibility to understand that in the order of the universe evolving hierarchies fill the realms of evolution, stage beyond stage.
But whoever dares — and two-thirds of the world does dare — to open up his mind and think that possibly, perhaps, this earth-life that we now live is a short link in a chain of many lives, past and to come, lived and to be lived on this self-same earth, the purpose of them all the same, that by experience we may evolve into a higher spiritual type; whoever dares to let imagination wander in that realm of thought can see, at least the possibility, that higher types of men, who have preceded us along the path of evolution, may exist among us, though unrecognized, and through familiarity with purer wisdom than our own may make our own ascent less difficult.
We may imagine that such men would no more mingle with us socially than would our own least prejudiced and most enthusiastic advocates of the equality of man permit themselves to live with cannibals. We may imagine, too, that they would much bestir themselves to raise us by the best means from the moral mud, wherein we cheat, recriminate and fight; and, being wise, that they would go about it with more wisdom than our own brass-band enthusiasts display when they set forth to educate the heathen in his blindness.
I am told — and I believe it — that the password to association with the Masters is no spoken word at all, but stark integrity, that they can recognize as instantly as trainers see the good points of a horse.
It is of such integrity, and of the Path that leads up to association with such men, that I wrote my story OM; and of all the things in life that have amazed me, first is this: that in this said-to-be-materially minded western hemisphere so many men and women have not only read the book, but have agreed to like it, and to ask for more of the same character.
ON ONE point there is very nearly a consensus throughout all the world. They are not many who deny that literacy is a symptom of the progress of the individual and of the race. Some nations have insisted on a test of literacy before they will admit an immigrant at all, and in civilized communities it is compulsory to learn to read and write. In fact, as much stress has been laid on literacy as on sanitation, with the consequence that what was patronizingly referred to as the 'Fourth Estate' has grown into a social element whose boundaries are no more easy to define than is its influence to measure.
The accepted critics speak of modern literature as a flood, and they are right, for it is not less 'floodsome' than was Noah's fabled deluge. They refer particularly to the books that thunder off the presses of the world so fast that none can possibly keep track of them or read the tenth of one per cent. The books, though, are as one drop in the ocean in comparison with all the magazines, newspapers, bulletins and pamphlets that pour forth day by day. Nor do these complete the flood.
Who reckons up the tons of correspondence that the postmen carry to and fro? Has anybody sought to measure up the influence for good and evil that the stamped and sealed hand-written letters wield, which pass in billions back and forth in what amounts to legally protected secrecy? The hand that writes the letter rules the world, these latter days.
All superstition dies hard, and it lingers in the veins of men long generations after its pretensions have been expertly exposed and drenched with vitriolic ridicule. We do a thousand things from superstition that our reason would reject if we should pause to analyze them; and by no means least is the effect that we permit the written or the printed word to exercise upon our thought, and so upon ourselves and our reaction toward one another.
What poet said he cared not who should write a nation's laws, provided he might write its songs? His was a modest preference. The harm he might do, or the good, though vast, would be as nothing to the influence of poisoned pens that scribble in the darkness and suggest, to minds all unsuspicious of the subtlety, solutions of life's handicap that lull into a lazy dream of self- absorbed indifference, or stir the lower lees of animality to madness.
All of us attach too much significance to what is written. We forget that the essentials of life, intangible and tenuous, the inner spiritual meanings of the symbols that we see, are inexpressible in any form whatever. Ink and the best hand-woven paper are not mediums through which the spirit can emerge, and no man, pen he ever so adroitly, from a motive utterly unselfish, with an aim however high, can write one line that is not capable of misinterpretation.
We are too prone to believe whatever we may see in print. We take less care to look into the source of what is fed to our imaginations from the printed page than to investigate the food we eat (though we are careless about that). Incorrigible superstition guiding, we assert or take for granted that no individual, or group, or organized association would attempt to drug our minds; and we forget that the drug-craving almost always is unconsciously acquired. From very small beginnings it becomes a tyranny that owns, eats, empties, and leaves nothing but the shell of manhood. Do we stop to think that drugging of the mind and its imagination is a subtler and a worse form of corruption than the peddled poison that can only wreck one human being at a time? With pen and ink we can be poisonous at wholesale and a million can fill their minds from the suggestions of one black filling of a fountain-pen.
Time was, when literacy was the privilege of few and the majority were at the mercy of the masters of the art of writing; pens were mightier than swords in those days; he who took his pen in hand was conscious of responsibility. So well was that condition realized that censorship was rigidly enforced by church and state, both equally aware that superstition lent exaggerated value to whatever might be written and regardless of who wrote it. In the early days of printing censorship increased in rigor, aided and abetted by the fears of long-hand secretaries that their own profession of the pen might fall on evil days.
In spite of censorship, it was as evident in those days as it is now, that a man equipped with fluency and malice might undo more governments, upset more nicely balanced calculations and leave greater ruin in his wake than all the culverins and powder in the arsenals of Europe. None denied, as few deny today, that printing, writing, correspondence have in them the germ of liberation for the minds of men; the benefit of literacy was conceded, but the dread prevailed of what might happen if the gift of literacy and the freedom of the press should actually pass into the keeping of the common people.
Those who had inherited, or had assumed the custody of public morals were agreed on the necessity of rigidly reviewing in advance of publication anything the printers might intend to loose upon the public. But — "quis custodiet ipsos custodes?"* It was discovered, then as now, that what goes through a sieve is governed by the nature of the meshes of the sieve; it was impossible to keep a higher standard of morality than that of any individual entrusted with enforcing it. The leak began there flowed in rapidly increasing streams into the channels sanctioned by authority all manner of polluting filth to find its level in the lower swamps of public consciousness.
[* Quis custodiet ipsos custodes? (Latin) — Who will guard the guards themselves? Juvenal (55 CE-127 CE), Satire VI "Against Women," verse 345. For more information, see the Wikipedia articles Juvenal and Satire VI (Juvenal). For an English translation of Satire VI, see the Internet Ancient History Sourcebook website. ]
Stupidity increased the weakness of the censorship, since good intentions never were the gage of government. Excluded works of merit, whose plain writing or originality had shocked the appointed guardians of thought, found outlet to the public somehow and men mocked a censorship that tried to keep from them such mental stimulant — until, since ridicule is all-corrosive, censorship became discredited and, knowing its own weakness, vanished into nothing more than name and a few emoluments.
Then license had its day, with now and then reactionary swings that but intensified the common will to read, or to be read to, from whatever was forbidden. Side by side with a perpetually gaining literary habit, that as generations came and went alchemically changed the medium of thought- communication from the sung and spoken to the written word, there flowed out of the stagnant lower levels of the human mind a habit of indecency unable to express itself except in the corruption of the noble, the artistic, the sublime.
So, side by side, the literary bay-tree and the worm both flourished, the worm spoiling what the nature of the tree produced; until, unable any longer to restrain the human appetite for knowledge easily acquired, those in authority let down all barriers and, making virtue of necessity, decreed that literacy, if no more, should be the common heritage of all men.
'If no more' was where the canker entered in. By law it was compulsory to learn to read and write, but not to learn to judge between the good and evil. Canons of good taste, artistic standards, literary judgment were omitted from the new curriculum, imposed on men, or else conceded to them by the keepers of the nations' weal. There came a generation, taught to read and write and stirred to mental hunger by the consciousness of an ability its ancestors did not possess, but utterly unable to discriminate and no less bound than formerly by superstitious reverence for anything in writing or in print.
On them, in their simplicity as helpless as young birds about to leave the nest, the hawks of opportunity descended. There was born, within a generation, an enormous system, sprung Minerva-like from out the forehead of the century, equipped with thundering machinery, devised expressly to exploit the common people's craving for a mental anodyne. It praised itself. It flattered its eager victims. Flamboyantly it flourished fragments of the truth and drenched them in a stream of printer's ink. It cultivated in the public mind the theory that all men had the right to know their neighbors' business and, reckless of the consequence, excited to the limit the awakened craving for sensation.
The printing-press became the governing machinery of nations. With the youth compelled to go to school, it was a simple thing to cultivate in coming generations markets for the ever-growing, ever more sensationally written flood of daily fiction masquerading as the truth.
The proper field of fiction was invaded. To obtain an audience the story- writers yielded to the impulse to appeal to the sensation-appetite, soon learning the advantage of the indirect suggestion over downright loathsomeness. Deliberately books were written with the unconcealed intention of evading legal penalties while pandering suggestively to all the lowest human instincts — they themselves, the writers, in their own youth caught within the toils of the impersonal, intangible perverter of men's minds, whose modern engine of perversion is the press.
Now this is clear: as much today as in its first beginnings literature has in it the seed, the possibility of liberation for men's minds. Men live today, as yesterday, whose destiny has charged them with possession of great 'organs of opinion' — who are publishers of magazines, and books, and newspapers — and who are striving with all their might to purify the streams of print that flood the public mind. But they have learned in the expensive college of experiment that appetite, once whetted, is impossible to appease or to ignore, and they are faced with the fact that the public is glutting itself with trash and, on the whole, prefers it to the better wares that those aware of their responsibility persist in offering.
The flood, in other words, has got beyond control. Discolored, foul, polluted with the reputations of its victims, it has burst the banks of dignity and flows over the whole wide realm of thought. Like Noah in his ark, some writers float on it, some publishers preserve their self-respect, some readers swim, selecting flotsam to support their interest and finding quiet counter-currents — now and then an island or a rock in mid-stream. But the most go down along the flood, and no man knows to what depravity it leads.
The pessimist's persuasion then, is easy — lazy might define it more correctly. If we view what Kipling calls the "unforgiving minute" with the concentrated gaze of appetite that throws the wider views of time and cycles out of focus, it may be difficult to disbelieve that all humanity is drowning. Then — hope lost for the world, ourself the looker-on — there might be some good sense in resignation to the thought that all is vanity.
They say that Solomon composed that epigram, in some despairing mood when he had tasted all the ashes of sensation. Yet the same man, in the same mood, wrote "there is nothing new under the sun." Nor is it new then, that the world should foul its own nest and pollute the stream of literature. Always it has done the same thing. It erects its cities and pollutes its rivers; it discerns art dimly and invents the chromograph; it hears the symphonies of Beethoven, and dances to the cacophonic barbarism of machine-made jazz.
None knows the number of the wise men and the prophets who have brought into the world new torches lighted at the Ancient Fire of Wisdom. No historian can count the creeds, philosophies, fanaticisms, canons and dissensions that have leaped up from the darkness to distort that light, have flickered in it for a while, and vanished. When the rain drops on the thirsty earth, the mud forms. When the light shines in the darkness, shadows multiply themselves. When wind blows, there are waves that wreck ill-managed ships.
No floods persist. They leave destruction in their wake and carcasses, the ruins of homes unwisely built and tumbled, littered acres where the land- marks stood; but from them, in the leisured course of time, men learn a little wisdom — as they learn from the polluted streams they labor to repurify at last and to protect. Men die from the pollution — die in droves, until at last survivors listen to the advocates of cleanliness.
There is an endless store of Wisdom, and the acts of men can no more empty it than can the night blot out the sun. By night, how many of us think the day has gone forever and no dawn will gleam along the hills? Not even maniacs succumb to that delusion. All of us expect the coming dawn, and some of us prepare for it. We may await a new dawn of the Ancient Wisdom in the world with equal confidence. We may as well be ready for it when it comes.
Undoubtedly the night of literature lingers; there are many who have bad dreams, some who sleep too deeply to be dreaming, and a horde who dance the night through to the tune of any instrument, who will be weary and will sleep late when the morning comes. But stars shine all the brighter for the darkness, and considering the stars is better for us, and more restful, than to woo sensation in the yellow light that seeks to dim them with its artificial glare.
H. P. Blavatsky was the morning star. The literary dawn will not be far behind her. She retaught the ancient law of individual responsibility, and of the dignity and the divinity of man. Her theme was theme enough for all the writers of the world for centuries to come. With morning, when the world perceives there was no profit in the yellow glare of cheap sensation; when it sees the littered nastiness of what the lamps made to resemble virtue, it will turn toward the sun.
But there is no need now, because the morning star is merged into the faint rays of the rising sun, to waste time waiting for the full dawn. There is still with us that "unforgiving minute," and the words we write are as reactive as the stuff we read. We are responsible. In these days, when the youngest of us is a letter-writer and the oldest makes his book of reminiscences, not one of us escapes responsibility for some share in the stream of written thought that goes forth influencing men's minds. Responsibility comes home to roost.
We are in school, as all the universe was always — in the school that fits us for the ascending path of evolution. We are learning, or if not we will be forced to learn, to use the written and the printed word as medium for transference of thought, in preparation for the day — it may be centuries ahead of us — when thought-communication will be understood and used without mechanical assistance.
It requires no deep investigation into logic, and it needs no pinnacles of purity from which to realize that just so long as we are willing to admit into our thought the written vapors of suggestiveness and all indignity, we never shall be fit to guard our minds against a more insidious, unwritten method of approach. It is what we read now — what we are willing to spend time on reading — that provides us with a part of the experience on which our evolution will be based.
And so with writing. Whether it be letters to our friends, the daily news or books intended to be read by fellow-men whose personality and views are totally unknown to us, we must respect their dignity although we fail to recognize our own. We may not trespass in a man's house; laws are rigidly enforced against offenders who befoul the air with smoke or keep their premises in such condition as may spread disease. We keep all those who are likely to spread contagion isolated. But we must learn not to contaminate the thought of others, nor to obscure truth, nor to deny it with the written word, before we shall be fit for further progress.
In our hands, available to all of us, there is a means of thought- communication. We have fouled it until all too few of us can recognize the foulness, and we have to purify it carefully, persistently and one by one, each individual attending to his own share of the whole. No one man, nor any group of men is rightfully to blame for the incredible debasement of our modern literary output, which is due to the inherent craving of the lower natures of us all for anything that will keep our eyes masked from the light. Indignity desires indignity, like craving like.
The dawning of the dignity of man affords the remedy. When writers, whether of books or news or private letters, learn that they imbue the written matter with their own true character, revealing to the educated eye their meannesses as well as what of virtue they may have, there will be more attempt to cleanse and prune the thought that goes on to the page. When it is realized that every contribution to the mass of sordid thinking adds to the inevitable karma that contributor will have to meet, there will be caution, if for no more reason than a mere enlightened selfishness. When it is understood that the reception into consciousness of sordid views and misinterpretations of the facts of life unfits the thinker for true thinking on his own account, the market will diminish for the wares of the sensualist and for sheer self-preservation he will have to strive to turn out better reading-matter.
The last phase of literary degradation has arrived, exactly as the deepest darkness usually precedes dawn. The so-called 'realistic' school of letters foists on us a presentation of the worst side of men's character, their worst indecencies and lowest aims, as the truth about human nature; and they scream, as they scream of the indignity of nature, that the truth and art are one.
That wail exposes their own falsity. As surely as that truth and art are one, depiction and delineation and description of the dignity of manhood are the first pre-requisites of art. The rebirth of the art of writing, though the midwives of the so-called realism scream however loud that their brain-child is nature's favorite, was heralded when first H. P. Blavatsky dared to come among us and reteach that fundamental principle of all art — that life is spiritual evolution, aspiration, ever climbing upward, and the picture of degeneracy is not, never was and never can be worth a minute's spattering of pen and ink.
With dignity (of which two attributes are tolerance and humor) let the spiritual aspect of humanity become the theme of art, and soon there will be greater men than Shakespeare in our midst, because we shall be plowing up a field of thought in which the seeds of renaissance can grow.
THERE was once a nobleman, or there is said to have been one (Las Casas* mentions him), who caused thirteen Indians to be burned alive in honor of Christ and the twelve Apostles. Applause perhaps appeased his morbid appetite for adulation, though there may have been concomitant emotions. He achieved success, precisely as he measured it. And though he may have passed out of the world less painfully than did the victims of his orgy of aspiration, the permanence and quality of his success are unconvincing.
[* Las Casas — Bartolomé de Las Casas (1474-1566), a Spanish missionary and historian, called the apostle of the Indies. He went to Hispaniola with his father in 1502, and eight years later he was ordained a priest. In 1514 he began to work for the improvement of conditions among the indigenous population, especially for the abolition of their slavery and of the forced labor of the encomienda. He devoted the rest of his life to that cause ... The Columbia Encyclopedia. ]
And there was Caesar, who came, saw, conquered — his genius, brain, influence, and hardihood all concentrated on the one determination to assert himself and yoke the strength of conquered peoples to his chariot. He even deified himself and set his image in a Roman temple. There are more who envy Caesar than who crave to emulate the nobleman who burned the Indians to death; he has more apologists because he peacocked on a grander scale. And yet, if numbers are significant, and if attainment shall be measured by extent and aftermath, it needs not much discernment to observe that Caesar merely wrought more havoc, more titanically than did the immolator of the Indians.
So much depends on how we measure failure and success; and, probably, each individual on earth possesses secret standards of his own, in many cases secret from himself for lack of self-examination, by which he measures both his own attainments and those of others.
There was Hypatia,* who taught that happiness may be attained by searching for the truth, and living, reckless of the consequences, decently. The advocates of the accepted dogmas of that day not only slew her but in indignation at the purity she preached defiled her body, scraping every scrap of flesh from off her bones. Said they, 'that proves she failed.'
[* Hypatia — Hypatia of Alexandria (ca. 370- 415 CE). A Greek philosopher. The daughter of another philosopher, Theon of Alexandria, who taught her mathematics. About 400 CE she became head of the Platonist school at Alexandria, where she lectured on the philosophy known as Neoplatonism. This combined Plato's ideas with a mix of Christian, Jewish, and East Asian influences and emphasized striving for an unreachable ultimate reality. Her edition of Euclid's Elements, prepared with her father, became the basis for all later versions. Christians deemed her philosophical views pagan and killed her during antipagan riots. She is considered to be the first woman of any importance in the history of mathematics. History of Science and Technology, Houghton Mifflin Company, 2004. For more information, visit the Hypatia page at the Encyclopaedia Romana website. ]
And there was Socrates, whom the Athenians put to death. That obstinate old hero, sweetly reasonable and unreasonably (so said the Athenians) impulsive in his efforts to direct attention to contemporary evils, resisted all persuasion to desist from breaking up the molds of thought — until the rulers of the city made him toast the tired humanity he loved in a cup of hemlock. Did he fail? Or did the tyrants fail, whose very names have vanished?
H. P. Blavatsky came into the West within the memory of men and women who have spoken with her and have heard from her own lips her message of the Ancient Wisdom. Measured by the standards that apply to commerce and the race for personal advantage, she could not be called a 'favorite of fortune.' She did not die rich. She left no legacies of carefully invested funds whose income should endow establishments for proving to the world how thrifty Wisdom is, and how materially buttressed are its children. She did not taste fame, but infamy. No legislatures voted her a tablet on their walls. The satirists and journalists aimed stinging jibes at her; religious dogmatists persecuted her; her very ill health, caused by her unselfish efforts for humanity, was made a butt for ridicule. She died. The evil her accusers coined still echoes faintly here and there. She died tired; she was doubtless glad enough to go; but did she fail? No. She succeeded amazingly. Her work lives after her as a world-wide movement, yearly growing in power and influence.
The human mind is an amazing breeding-place of paradox. We hero-worship when the mood is on us, but the mood depends, too often, on the comforts we imagine that we need. Our military heroes are the men who died defending gaps in a material defense, providing safety for the rest of us. We can admire that sacrifice. We can admit that their failure to preserve themselves was glorious, and justly we inscribe their records in the rolls of fame.
And we are willing — all the nations of the earth have done it in their years of decadence — to go a step or two beyond the totally material, when things material have somehow lost their taste and death seems more than formerly convincing — we are willing then to hero-worship at the shrines of saints and prophets who are said, however falsely said, to have performed self-immolation for remission of our sins.
But he who dares to challenge all the hatred of reaction by suggesting to us that we should think and, thinking, make ourselves a battlefield of light against the darkness, higher against lower nature, inspiration against habit, that one becomes a nuisance, not a hero in our eyes, however selflessly he suffers in his fight for all humanity.
What is success? We live this little life and leave behind us bones that crumble into dust; what else? It is a platitude to say that money never purchased happiness; all know it, he who wallows in his wealth as well as he who winces for the lack of half enough. Possessions, though we crave them, simply add their ball-and-chain to the encumbrances with which we litter up our lives; and though some seek their happiness in dying rich, that their survivors may enjoy the fruit of all their energy, it remains yet to be shown in any instance that wealth resolves life's handicap, though many of the rich have sought to buy contentment for the poor.
And nations are as individuals. In all recorded history there is not one instance of a nation's happiness increasing as a result of material conquest, which, on the contrary, merely magnifies the problems to be met and leaves to generations yet unborn an aftermath of rancor and revenge.
Analysis of motives that impel humanity along its turbulent and constantly repeated course, each generation deeming itself wiser than its forbears, yet adopting the same methods to escape the same old pitfalls and lamenting with the same cries when the same results ensue, reveals that competition holds a foremost place. Men, cities, nations, races, even continents of people, judge their progress by material advantage. Life has been accepted as a 'struggle for existence.' The profound experience of ages, out of which was minted the immortal warning "Give, and it shall be given unto you," when not forgotten is reduced to a refined, far-seeing selfishness. We give, that we may get. We sacrifice, in order that "bread cast upon the waters" may return to us. The wise words "unto him who hath shall more be given" have been tortured into a command to grab — get — keep — and get more, whether it be wealth, fame, authority, or (subtlest of sensual deceptions) self- esteem.
Not many of us like to see conceit in others. We ignore it in ourselves., or misinterpret it to mean the consciousness of goodness. Most of us have met at some time persons who inflict the pride of their humility on neighbors, and not many of us have refrained from the commission of that impudence at times, when the reaction from our positive conceit set in. The ebb and flow of ugly pride and uglier humility will never cease until we change the basis of our thought and judge ourselves by what we are, not by what we would like to seem to be.
We presuppose, in theory, a universe that is exactly what it is; that is becoming what it is becoming; that has purpose, possibly inscrutable; whose government is Law, unvarying, admitting no exceptions. And in practice we proceed to try to break that Law, to be exceptions, to become something different from what is purposed for us, and to be what we are not. The result is failure, which persists in myriads of guises just as long as the delusion lasts that we can break eternal Law. Ignorance of the Law avails us nothing, nor does remedy consist in an attempt to change the Law, but in discovering what the Law is and in directing our own efforts in accordance with it, when discovered.
Failure is at least unpleasant, and its sting lies in its inescapable conclusion: it obliges us to reconsider life — but that, too, is the reason why so many failures are precursors of success. Failure so convincing that the clamor of dissatisfaction dies and silence supervenes, is victory at last. No pig under a gate can yell more self-intently than a failed man's pride can clamor against luck or against other people's falseness; but in the stillness of what seems uttermost disaster other impulses can find their way into the consciousness, and new hope dawns.
Success consists in being what we are, not in deceiving ourselves and others that we are something else than what we are. If we can recognize ourselves, and be, with all our might, that Man that we discern, if dimly, in our moments of true inspiration, no other purpose will remain, nor will any sense of competition cloud the issue. We shall see ourselves becoming, not by pretending to be, and not by theorizing, but by being something. In the death of our delusions, stung by discontent, eventually we are driven to discern that mere lip-service to ideals destroys the very vision of the goal we crave; and we must be the very spirit we aspire to, just as rain is wet and not a theory of wetness. Calendars, however beautifully printed, grow no crops; it is the spring that starts the seeds, the warmth that nurtures them in nature's breast. Ungoverned by the heart no intellect, no will, can find the upward way.
When aspiration enters consciousness, we waste time if we worry over consequences. Is the aspiration true, or is it false? Shall we accept it, or reject? Is it a glimpse of real being, or a whiff out of the swamps of the delusion-breeding lower consciousness that tempts us?
There, momentarily and forever, the dividing line between success and failure runs; but so intense is racial habit and inherited predisposition to adopting subterfuge, that we attempt all sorts of methods of evading exercise of judgment. There are those who go to 'advisers' for the decision; there are others who seek fortune-tellers; there are many who take whichever course at first appears the easiest, consulting none but their own surface-impulses. And there are not a few who steep themselves in what they have been told is occultism, hoping, as it were, to run before they have begun to learn to walk, aspiring to results before they have remotely made acquaintance with the causes.
No man knows more, nor can know more, of occultism than his hourly exercise of judgment demonstrates. The child, who is spontaneously joyous, is a vastly deeper occultist than he who strains his intellect in order to acquire 'control of forces,' which, if rightly his, he would possess as naturally and apply with as much ease as he does the law of circulation of the blood. Success in occultism, as in all else, lies in doing with the whole heart eagerly the instant task at hand, if that be chopping wood or intricately managing finance.
"That thou doest, do with all thy might," is counsel taken from the deepest wisdom of the ages; but — be it noted — it says nothing about watching for immediate results. Discouragement is always due to that peculiarly human vice of seeking instant, open recompense for effort. They who dabble in the dark of occultism, trespassing beyond the confines of the 'now and this,' are no whit wiser than the men and women who forget that deeds done in the dawn of history are hedging us today with consequences. He who strives, by delving into mysteries, to find a short cut to a higher dignity is actually more materialistic in his aim than is his fellow who digs and plants potatoes. Both seek to satisfy a human craving, but the man who digs the dirt goes straight to nature, doing what he knows and leaving nature to produce the consequences. He who tries to soar into the unknown by a short cut, making intellectual experiments too subtle for his present stage of evolution, seeks material phenomena no less than the potato-digger, with the difference that he ignores his own unwisdom while he violates his soul in the pursuit of intellectual sensation.
No issue can be taken with the man who fancies he has only one earth-life to live, whereafter night and nothing, or else the grim alternative of yelling hell or sentimental heaven. He can have no sense of ultimate responsibility nor see the value of the passing minute. If he can escape, or thinks he can escape, the outcome of his thinking and his doing, of his thoughtlessness and of his own neglect, by the accident of death or by the importunity of prayer, he will govern himself accordingly. He must be left to grow until, confronted by experience, he reaches for the deathless Spirit in himself, and learns.
But there are those who have escaped from the delusion of the one earthlife; who have abandoned fear of hell or hope of heaven; who have seen a nobler vision of their destiny than everlasting idleness in a Semitic sanctuary; who have replaced fear with feeling of responsibility; who know that there are many lives, and that the living of them is the means of evolution.
Nobility of purpose is revealed, and new horizons reach into an infinite, that is appealing and assuring because Now is of the very essence of it and no swamps of an incalculable chance waylay the pilgrim's feet. No longer is there any question what we leave behind us except bones that crumble into dust. Our very dust becomes ennobled; it becomes the stuff of which ensuing molds are fashioned in which infinite varieties of life shall have experience.
When the eternal vastness and the dignity of evolution has begun to dawn in consciousness, no thought, no deed, is insignificant. No minute lacks importance. The division between failure and success lies visible and comprehensible. Success is seen as new ennoblement, attained by effort and so fluxed into the character by Nature's alchemy that thought and act thereby forever more are governed. Failure becomes revelation of the next step to be taken in the ascending scale of Manhood; and the end of a material mistake becomes a challenge to dehypnotize the vision, to look for the ascending Path exactly at one's feet, to learn that lesson, and go forward wiser for the experience, more tolerant of others' blunders and more generous.
For generosity is of the essence of success. We judge a lamp by the effulgence of its rays. That lamp that gives the brightest light, with least annoyance and expense, is a suggestive symbol of the alchemy of evolution. There is no improvidence in spiritual living; not an effort made at spiritual self-improvement that can fail of its proportionate effect on all the universe. Incessant self-control, so governing ourselves as to become more capable of spiritual vision and less capable of false enthusiasms, is our objective; its attainment is the greatest gift we can bestow on all mankind.
Now a lamp that burns in daylight might be put to better uses. They who cavil at unequal distribution of the world's material rewards may well consider the suggestiveness of lamplight wasted while the sun shines. A no less authority than Jesus is reported to have remarked "the poor ye have always with you"; and a countless series of sermons has been preached, an utterly innumerable stream of books brought forth, in efforts to explain that saying or to twist it, either into an apparent compromise with human hopes or else into a brief for fatalistic resignation. Yet its paradox is easy to interpret if we bear in mind that evolution goes on simultaneously on the spiritual plane and the material.
We being here to make experience, through which we may evolve into a higher state of consciousness and simultaneously change, by our employment of it, the particular material environment at which we have arrived, there is a dignity — and more than that, a glorious responsibility in being born into the stratum of society where quality of manhood obviously most is needed. The illogic of the situation vanishes when that viewpoint is realized; for who shall know the needs of poverty unless he learn them at first hand? Who otherwise shall learn compassion?
Is it beyond the reach of human comprehension that a great soul, rich from the experience of aeons of earth-lives, as daring as the ray of light that plunges into gloom, and having reached that stage of self-directed evolution when it even can select its own next line of effort, should deliberately choose a birth into the very depths of poverty? Of what use else were all its well-earned alchemy? Shall it paint the lily white, or shall it plunge into a sea of misery and transmute that? Which effort is the nobler?
Shall a soul learn all the intricate economy of Nature through a series of births into -a world of lethargy and ease? And may there not be souls whose turn has come to test themselves in that wide realm of opportunity that poverty presents?
Too readily we all identify ourselves with matter — shapes with which time clothes us when we go forth into earth-experience. It would be as sensible to call ourselves the clothes we wear. Brain, body, intellect, the senses, are the aggregate of what we have deserved through previous exertion; our environment is the exactly measured scope of our ability to play the man.
The paradox, so baffling to the men and women who believe they visit earth but once and then are done with it, grows clear as daylight if we keep man's true essential divinity in mind. The mystery of how, and why, "the poor are always with us" and no money can be made to buy more than a momentary anodyne, ceases to be a mystery at all. Materiality can no more change itself than darkness can. It is through spiritual consciousness that matter yields and men grow masters of their destiny; and disregard of mere material results, while aiming at the spiritual goal, lays matter in subjection.
To try to place matter in subjection by manipulating matter is the snare that traps the would-be 'higher occultist,' who, if he should expend the half of the amount of energy in striving to identify himself, by wholesome living, with that true divinity that is his higher self, would earn more virtue in a minute than a life-time of ambitious conjuring can gain for him.
The higher knowledge comes of higher living at the stage at which we are, not of trying to obtain it by manipulations of the intellect. All Nature is exactly balanced and the individual who leaves the royal road of duty, seeking to escape responsibility by stealing marches on his Karma, though he may attain a sort of misty half-acquaintance with another plane, will be unbalanced by it, having not the necessary wisdom. And the end of that is chaos, with the way out difficult to find.
We forget that Wisdom seeks us; that its line of least resistance is a balanced character; that he who has attained to self-control and a delight in duty is inseparably one with Wisdom, which will find him out and feel its way into his consciousness exactly in proportion to his value to the human race.
The survival of the fittest is undoubtedly a law of Nature; but the fittest are not necessarily the fattest, nor the richest, nor the most successful on the plane of mere material results. Viewed through the distorting lenses of materiality, Lao-Tse, the Buddha, Jesus, and Pythagoras, the Druids, and all truly spiritual teachers, have been failures; it is not recorded that they slew their tens of thousands, or excelled in sport, or left invested money to endow associations that should standardize religion and enforce its rule. With a convincing unanimity they all ignored the weight of popular opinion, the threat of violence, the said-to-be omnipotence of numbers and the lure of gold. Is there a financier on record, or a demagogue, or an elected ruler, or a conqueror by force of arms, whose efforts have achieved one fraction of the benefit that theirs did? How many men were happier or wiser as a consequence of Caesar's triumphs? Was it Croesus who expressed the Golden Rule? Did Roman arms, or Roman gladiators, pave the way for Vergil's poems, or was Shakespeare raised on the rapine of Drake? There have been great kings; which of them has wrought surviving changes on the earth remotely comparable to the bloodless revolution set in force by Lao-Tse, to cite one simple instance?
What then is fittest to survive? that is the question — not whether to be or not to be, as Shakespeare makes the unhinged Hamlet ask. The dullest wit can answer, if the elementary and fundamental fact is not forgotten, that we shall return to earth — it may be a million times, or oftener — to meet the consequences of our action and neglect. What nature of conditions do we choose to meet when we revisit earth? And do we wish to be the victims, or to be the agents through whom the regenerative forces of the universe may find expression and prevail over materiality?
Success reshapes itself in that perspective. Failure dons new hues. Time loses its significance in the importance of the everlasting Now. Desirable results appear less tangible and not so measurable in the scale with dollars and political control. Intolerance of other men's and other nations' vanity succumbs before alertness to our own imprisonment within a mold of prejudice that we begin to work to break. Self-discipline replaces the desire to govern others. True self-interest is seen to be attainment of such self-command as shall admit more wisdom into our own complex nature, driving out the dregs of ignorance in front of it, thus fitting us for manlier life now. So destiny is fashioned. So are laid the genuine foundations of success.
The problem is one and the same, whether a man possesses millions, or owes them; whether he has been elected to a legislature as the representative of millions, or whether a community, for lack of wisdom, in itself and him, has thrown him into prison. Destiny appoints no favorites, anoints no specially favored sons, avoids no issues, and ignores no subtleties of surreptitious lapses from integrity. We carve our own careers; and he who wrings extravagant amounts of money from the sweated labor of men, women, and children driven to obey him by the pressure of necessity, will learn inevitably, in experience, the sharpness of that shape of selfishness. Death may afford a breathing-spell, but it avoids no consequences of the acts that we commit; and there is many a man in prison, brought up short by that predicament, and so provided with an opportunity to think and look for the solution of life's problem in himself, whose destiny will uplift and enrich the world.
Success and failure are twin frauds until the mask is stripped from them and we discern that dread of one is as unjustified as craving for the other. Then, those frauds exposed, we see the true direction for expenditure of effort and thereafter we permit the Lords of Destiny to measure our success exactly, by providing us with opportunity to prove, now, in experience, how far we have identified ourselves with the divine in us. That is the only test worth taking, and the only evidence that counts.
I REMEMBER the occasion when I first began to learn to swim. There was a deep end and a shallow end. The deeper looked more satisfying, so I jumped in while the teacher was not looking. The indignity of having to be fished out was humiliating, but the worst part was the distaste that it gave me for the whole business of swimming, with the result that younger boys, who had approached the problem reasonably, left me far behind and it was several years before I began to acquire much confidence in the water or any genuine liking for it.
Then there was school. We studied Shakespeare in the English class; but not once, during four years of instruction, were we encouraged to enjoy the poet's plays or to appreciate their beauty. We were set to parsing and analysis, to definition of the obsolete and rare words, and to memorizing drily written footnotes — with the consequence that poetry, particularly Shakespeare's poetry, became a synonym for drudgery. I believe I was thirty years old before it ever really occurred to me that poetry was something that a man might blend into his life and breathe into his efforts, thus ennobling any task he touched.
The simplest means opponents of Theosophy could use in order to delay and to obscure its message to humanity, would be to encourage all beginners to plunge into it heads foremost at the deeper end and swamp their intellects with Sanskrit definitions. If they could be kept thereafter struggling to possess Theosophy in a bewilderment of words, Theosophy would die out from beneath as certainly as poetry has vanished from the schools, since there would be no natural responsiveness in which the love of it could flourish.
Love is the life of the Ancient Wisdom, and unless we love it ardently — unless it comforts and convinces by the flow of confidence outwelling from within — we may be sure we are but grasping at, or arguing against, the printed word; its spirit has escaped us. We cannot absorb Theosophy like patent medicine, and the attempt to masticate it all and crowd it into one gray brain is madness. It is infinite, with no beginning and no end. It would be easier to swallow all earth's air and drink up all the rivers than to possess Theosophy, in the sense that we possess degrees from universities or stock certificates.
A hundred years before the birth of Christianity Shu Kuang wrote: "The genius of men who possess is stunted by possession. Wealth only aggravates the imbecility of fools." (From Gems of Chinese Literature, translated by H. A. Giles.) No wiser summary of the futility of all possession ever dripped from a satiric pen, and if the epigram were printed on the front page of all text-books and engraved on every dollar-bill in circulation there might be some hope of civilizing earth within a hundred years. It is an axiom for all beginners in Theosophy.
Meanwhile, we struggle to possess, beginners just as keenly as the older hands who have accumulated what are euphemistically termed resources. Public education is designed to cultivate a memory for facts, as if a crowded brain were an essential to living. And a number of us, having been so educated, try to 'cram' Theosophy as if we had to pass examinations in it and be judged according to an arbitrary scale of marks.
It is true indeed that we must pass examinations in it, but their incidence is hourly. We receive marks, and are judged. But the impersonal Judge, Karma, utterly ignores the feats of memory and all unproved claims, examining the progress of the heart's integrity as demonstrated by experience. Examination questions are the incidents of daily life. We act and react, do and leave undone, think and refuse to think, stand firm or are seduced, while Karma — incorruptible and inescapable — inscribes our spiritual progress on the rolls of destiny.
"The moving finger writes and, having writ, moves on."
I write as one who has but recently become a member of the Universal Brotherhood and Theosophical Society: that is, as a beginner, who had never seen a copy of The Secret Doctrine until about three years ago, nor ever read a copy of The Theosophical Path or any of the Theosophical Manuals until the magic of Blavatsky's pen stirred in me something deeper and more challenging than I had known was there and capable of being stirred. And I remember the bewilderment of all the knowledge crowded into her immortal book; and what thoughts first occurred to me when I had laughed a while (for there is humor in all logic, and the logic of the Law of Karma is complete).
For days on end I wrestled with the Sanskrit technicalities and tried to memorize them, caught in the enthusiasm of the universal theme but blinded by the habit of attributing all knowledge to the brain-mind. I would master this magnificent philosophy and make it mine! Then, failing to remember more than half-a-dozen Sanskrit words or to recall, for more than half-a-day, to which Root-race and Sub-race I belong, I scrambled out of that deep water and proposed to myself to try the shallow end. It looked, and was, much easier, but there was mystery enough.
I studied the significance of Karma, as applied to me, and found it not so easy or amusing as the thought of its retributive effect on others. There was too much justice in it. I began to be aware that there were incidents which, had I known of Karma at the time, might not have happened; and it irked me to discover that a more or less meticulous observance of convention during forty years or so, a reasonably decent reputation, and a habit of avoiding what is known as lawlessness, were not masks that could affect the final outcome. Theoretically, having had parents who hired somebody to teach me morals, I had never quite forgotten the necessity to play safe with a watchful Providence; but there was something in the Catechism I remembered about the forgiveness of sins, and it came as something of a shock to realize that all that I had done, for good or evil, must produce inevitable consequences, for me or against me, as the case might be.
I daresay all beginners, when they think a while, face that predicament.
It seemed, to state it mildly, not quite just that a man should have to face the consequences of an act he did in ignorance of the Law of Retribution. Nevertheless, exactly like a landlord pocketing his rents, I felt the justice of receiving compensation for investments on the side of virtue, whether made in this life and in ignorance of Karma, or in past lives utterly forgotten. We enjoy our income. It is outgo that obliges us to think.
Reincarnation, logical though it might be, began to lose that roseate, romantic lure that first appealed to my inquiring mind. I started there and then to reconsider it, and much more critically.
But that was where a little understanding entered in. I had been looking forward to possess Theosophy — to make of it a tool with which to tickle self-esteem and cut a nice wide swath along contenting aeons of eternity. The first glimpse makes the brain reel! It was the humor of my own imagination that upset that view of things. Some spark of Theosophical illumination made me wonder just how long the universe would last if each of us might manage his own destiny unguided by experience and by Intelligences higher than our own?
That thought began to lead me somewhere. Who, or what, is this that shall be guided by experience? Our bodies? Possibly, to some extent; but the experience of past lives hardly could be said to educate a body that developed from an embryo in this one; neither could a body destined to be burned to ashes be supposed to have much influence on future lives. Though atoms, or the subdivisions of which atoms are composed, are indestructible; and though our bodies are an aggregate of atoms, purposely assembled in accordance with a law beyond our comprehension; though the atoms so assembled undergo a change and are dispersed for other uses — so that you, or I, or anyone may have the dust of Alexander in our veins and Caesar's clay may stop a bung-hole; nevertheless, the education of those atoms comes a long way short of answering the riddle of the universe.
The brain? Another congeries of atoms, grouped within a section of a skull and destined to disperse at death. The brain of Socrates, of Plato, and of Shakespeare was returned into the common storehouse of disintegrated matter when the change took place that we call death. And unimaginable though it may be that the particles of matter they employed to clothe their bones were not affected by the thinking that they did, and not enriched by the association, none the less those scattered particles are not, and never can have been, the man.
Who is the man? What is he? We all identify ourselves with blood and bones, and we undoubtedly provide our blood and bones with mixed experience. The most conservative of scientists admit that evolution seems to be a fact in nature, and that all things are in process of becoming something else. The brain-chambers of skulls discovered in the prehistoric drifts are differently shaped from those we humans use today, which would suggest, at any rate, that men knew other limitations than our own when those skulls had employment. Yet, the owners of the skulls could think — if not exactly as we think, still thoughtfully and to a purpose.
Has all the thinking that they did died with them? Were the atoms of their vanished flesh the only beneficiaries of the lives they lived? Who were they? Is this all of them, or even the important part of them, that lies in a museum-case or in the gravel of a prehistoric river-bed?
Theosophy does not withhold the answer, though the brain-mind may reject it and keep on rejecting it, until it has exhausted all the arguments of habit, all its prejudices, and the stored-up miscellany of remembered speciocity acquired at second-hand.
The brain-mind clings to what it thinks it knows, and dreads enlightenment. I know mine did, and does, and I believe myself not different, except in relatively unimportant details, from the rank and file of ordinary men. As we identify ourselves with flesh and blood, that flesh and blood in turn identifies itself with us and it grows very difficult, in consequence, at times to differentiate. But surely it is evident, that if we are that flesh and blood and bone and brain that, at our death, is buried and decays, then there is not much hope for us as individuals and such experiences as we suffer or enjoy can be, at best, a school for atoms.
And we know, though we are clothed in atoms , that ourselves are something vastly more. The very atheist, who says he disbelieves in anything but what his senses indicate, himself is proof upstanding of Intelligence so subtle and pervading that the atoms he assures us are himself took shape and grew into the thing he thinks he is.
Theosophy unfolds to us two natures, spiritual and material, the one immortal and the other governed by the alternating law of life and death. That stuff that we discard, and that they burn or bury (brain and all), when we have "shuffled off this mortal coil," has been subjected to the alchemy of use and we have changed its nature — possibly not much, but we have changed it for the better or the worse. Who then are we?
It dawns after a while; and all the words in all the bibles and the dictionaries ever written lack ability to tell the wonder of it when it wakes into the consciousness. That knowledge comes to us in silence, though the world may yell with passion, and there rises in us from within a dignity beyond all measure — hope that is whole and deathless — an illimitable patience — and, like gentle rain on dry earth, the assurance of our own essential divinity.
Then, actually for the first time, we begin to understand the teachings of Blavatsky and appreciate why, with the alternative of wealth at her disposal, she preferred a life of hardship and the task of bringing the Masters' message of the Ancient Wisdom to humanity.
To understand that message is impossible, unless we do as she did: that is, let the lures of selfish ambition go. The love of reputation and of easy short cuts to a brain-mind Utopia, just as surely as resentment of injustice, and as subtly as contempt for others' seemingly less spiritual efforts, lead astray.
There must be thousands who have read The Secret Doctrine and have leaped to the conclusion that the simplest, surest way to follow in its author's footsteps is to make the desperately toilsome journey into Tibet and there learn the doctrines from the Great Teachers, just as she did. There are some who have rejected the whole teaching of Theosophy because, to them, that journey is impossible. And there are others who, for other reasons, have assailed the mountain-passes and by dint of almost superhuman energy have reached what maps declare to be the heart of the forbidden land and then, returning, have announced in lectures and on printed page that Tibet is the home of superstition, so engrossed in ritual and devil-worship as to harbor no conceivable philosophy worth study.
Notwithstanding which, there is no doubt even in the minds of her most prejudiced accusers, who, for the sake of organized opinions that are tottering, and for their own emoluments that must cease when the world wakes up and thinks, would leap at another chance to vilify her — there is no doubt, even in the minds of those men, who have done their utmost to destroy her and her work, that H. P. Blavatsky did receive her teaching in the land, so inaccessible, that lies beyond the Himalayan range.
There lies exposed the inconsistency of human argument. The man who fights his way against the wind and snow across the passes into Tibet may be — we may say undoubtedly he is — a marvel of endurance. He may be a good geographer, a linguist, an intelligent observer of barometers, and an exact recorder of the things he sees. But he is no more likely to unearth Tibetan secrets, or to recognize a Master if he met one face to face, than is a memorizer of The Secret Doctrine likely to become a true Theosophist without, in every deed of daily life, expressing — living — what he learns.
It will be time enough to meet the Great Teachers when we know enough to make it possible to understand them; and there is no way of attaining to that state except by putting into practice daily, hourly, and with vigilance, such rudiments of wisdom as we now know, taught to us in elementary Theosophy. It is not book-learning only, it is deed-doing, that establishes Theosophy in human hearts. And no deed may be measured by the clamor that it makes, or by the number of the men who see it done, or by the market-price of its immediate result. Dimensions, weight, and price all vanish in the scales of Karma, leaving nothing to be judged but quality.
The consciousness of our essential divinity includes a sense of the indignity of work not nobly done, no matter what the work is. There are no ranks in Theosophy, and no soft sinecures; who works well finds more work to do; our Leader is the busiest of us all.
Now, as I said before, I write as a beginner, with the first impressions of Theosophy still easily remembered. I am sure of this: that we are all beginners, always. If we vigilantly guard ourselves against the idiotic thought that we are separate from others, favored more than others, capable of being or becoming greater than others; if we keep in mind that any virtue, any knowledge that we have, however individual it may seem to ourselves, is something we receive in trust for others' use and cannot be of benefit to us until we use it in behalf of others; and if, above all, we refuse to be deluded by the dream of occult powers that shall make us privileged magicians with authority to govern others by expedients unknown to them: then I am confident that each advancing step of spiritual evolution will reveal to us horizons that expand precisely in proportion to our merit, and the more we know from having done, not talked, the more there will appear for us to learn. And there is only one school actual experience.
Thus the apparent paradox resolves itself into a plain fact: personality — the flesh and bones and intellect in which we temporarily appear on life's stage is, of itself, the least important part of us, being hardly more than mask and buskins; yet, that personality is all important in the sense that we must govern it, and that by our use or misuse of it we are judged.
New dignity is thrust on us the moment we begin to let Theosophy emerge into our minds. As we identify ourselves with what is spiritual in us — with the incarnating ego, rather than with that in which it clothes itself for one appearance on the stage of evolution — we assume responsibility and are ennobled. No more whining at the "slings and arrows of outrageous fortune"! No more crawling on our knees to an imagined God to beg for favors or implore forgiveness! The remission of our sins becomes our own affair! We wipe them out, henceforth, by standing up and facing consequences, proving, by the way we meet those consequences, that a portion of life's lesson has been learned.
So, less and ever less resentment; less unwillingness to bear our own blame for our own shortcomings. More sympathy for others (since we know the sting of criticism); greater, and forever greater tolerance. No more regret than is enough to help us recognize our own remissness; courage then, and faith, and hope, with now and then a little laughter at our own mistakes (since humor is the music of enlightenment).
The means of the pursuit of happiness is changed. Wealth, fame, amusement, appetite, by gradual, unnoticed stages lose their charm, and boredom ceases because minutes become laden with new interest, new views of life. Reviving energy attacks life's problems in a new direction. Poetry and music — all the arts — assume new values; and the knowledge that the quality of work done is the measure of its value elevates into an art the very sweeping of a work-room floor.
The grandeur that Theosophy reveals is like the sunrise. Shadows fade, and change, and cease, until a golden light gleams on a world worth working in. And at our feet — exactly at our feet — the Path lies, leading straight ahead. There is no need to look too far ahead. Each step rich with opportunity to think thoughts and to do deeds that shall lessen the sum total of earth's agony and add to the increasing harmony of nature.
Silence is the best way to learn courage of conviction. It is easy to bewilder the beginner with confusing argument. Debate is best avoided. But I know this: once Theosophy has dawned into the consciousness, although a man's own weakness may betray him into lapses from the Path, and though he wreck himself beyond recovery in one earth-life; though cowardice should cause him to deny his faith, and death should find him neither brave nor ready, nothing — "neither death nor life nor angels, nor principalities nor powers" can deprive him of the knowledge that he has another chance awaiting him, and that the sins of this life may be faced again, and overcome, and used as stepping-stones to progress in the lives that follow.
There is nothing purposeless, nor any set of circumstances that cannot be turned into enlightening experience. And death, that most religions have regarded as an enemy to be endured with dread, to the Theosophist becomes the friend that draws the curtain after one act of life's royal drama, while we rest a while in preparation for the next.
SENTIMENTALISM is the source of probably nine- tenths of human cruelty. Dickens' Bill Sykes was a sentimentalist, and so was Torquemada; so were all those proud conquistadores who destroyed the pagan culture of the Mayas; so were the crusaders ("louts in iron suits," as someone perfectly described them) who invaded Palestine to impose their ignorance on gentler people than themselves. Most of what is miscalled patriotism is the trashiest and least humane disguise of sentimentalism, as is easily discovered when events destroy the mask and open war begins.
And there is this to be observed: the pot invariably calls the kettle black, that being one rule that apparently has no exceptions. Bill Sykes would have branded as a sentimentalist, or whatever the equivalent of that word was in his vocabulary, anyone who pitied Nancy. It is the invariable taunt that vivisectionists employ, when they attempt to silence criticism; whereas vivisection, being sentimentalism carried to the nth, reveals it as the vilest phase of human nature, masquerading under a pretense of dignity.
The rankest sentimentalists are always the most cruel. History relates how Romans wept over the death-agonies of elephants in the arena; but the miles of gibbets on the Via Appia, each gibbet ghastly with its writhing human burden, grieved them not at all; nor did the death of gladiators. Men who most delight in sentimental songs are by no means always the least cruel. I remember a case in point. At a smoking-concert in London I sat next to a fellow who grew maudlin over a song about 'my gray-haired mother'; but when his mother arrived at the door and sent in a message asking him to come home, he went outside and kicked her so ferociously that the police arrested him. Nero, as sentimental a man as ever disgraced a throne, kicked his own wife to death, under peculiarly atrocious circumstances. 'Lynch-law' executions of men who have not been legally convicted could never occur unless sentimentalism first blinded the perpetrators, causing them to lose all sense of dignity and justice.
It is necessary, then, before considering the problem of capital punishment to take care to dismiss as many sentimental prejudices as we can, and to guard that none shall enter into the discussion, not forgetting that, since sentimentalism is an evil in itself, it is as dangerous on one side as the other. A part, at least, of the responsibility for the execution of criminals (actual and alleged) in our said-to-be civilized lands, may be laid to the door of those who oppose the uncivilized practise all too frequently with grossly sentimental arguments. They kill their own case. Untruth is no remedy for untruth. It requires the truth about a situation to uncover its false basis, after which the remedy is more often than not forthcoming and acceptable.
Theosophists, of course, need no persuasion. They were long ago convinced, on Theosophical grounds, that capital punishment is contrary to science, in the highest meaning of that word. Theosophy, continually widening its orbit in the world's thought, will eventually make the execution of criminals unlawful and unthinkable.
Meanwhile, though Theosophy is spreading faster than it ever has done and its consequences are apparent all over the world (even in the motion- pictures!), the resistance to its teaching is not likely to be overcome for many generations; for Theosophists to sit down and await that eventual day, as sleepers await morning, would be tantamount to a repudiation of their principle of Universal Brotherhood. Capital punishment will persist until a change occurs in human thought. That change, Theosophists must strive to bring about. The abolition of capital punishment will be one of the effects of the change, and will itself make further progress easier along the line of spiritual evolution — somewhat in the way that exercise promotes a good digestion and the good digestion makes it easier to take the exercise.
It is no use to accuse of inhumanity the men who are entrusted with the gruesome task of enforcing a country's laws. A judge who sentences a man to death, a governor who refuses to override a jury's verdict and a judge's sentence, or a pardon board that, after full investigation, does not recommend a commutation of the sentence, is no more inhumane (and possibly is less so) than society which tolerates such laws.
I have heard the argument propounded, that if juries were obliged to be eye-witnesses of every legal death to which they had condemned a fellow human-being, death-sentences would cease. But that is nonsense. In the first place, juries as well as judges are placed under oath to observe the law, and anything that should tend to undermine their honesty of judgment would corrupt the processes of justice that already function all too doubtfully. Juries have hard enough work to arrive at verdicts without increasing the perplexities in which they struggle.
In the second place, whoever is not blind to the peculiarities of human nature, knows that horror, of whatever kind, grows fascinating after the first shock. If it were true that to force juries to attend the executions would prevent death-sentences, then it would be equally true that to force the public to attend bull-fights would prevent bull-fights; whereas the reverse is the case. Executions used to be held publicly in London, on a scaffold erected outside Newgate prison; these public executions were abolished, not because of the indecency or the disgust of passersby, but because the fascinated crowd flocked in such numbers as to block the traffic. Whatever is brutal is brutalizing, and invariably leads from bad to worse.
In order to abolish legal sentences of death, it must be logically shown to a majority of voters, that their reasons for legally murdering convicted murderers are wrong and foolish. That is easy to say, but not easy to do, because majorities forever think illogically, although individuals, not rendered half-unconscious by the trumpetings of sentimental oratory or the sensuous hysteria that maddens crowds, can usually comprehend a fact when it is decently presented. One difficulty is, that facts are hardly ever decently presented; an appeal is usually made to the emotions that are most discreditable to the human race. I have heard men, and women, too, when speaking in behalf of abolition of capital punishment, make use of arguments such as any demagogue well knows can be depended on to stir the passions of an audience.
It will be reasonable, wise, and more in line with truth than not, to begin by admitting that those who have hitherto favored the legal execution of persons convicted of certain crimes, have done so, not from conscious cowardice or in a spirit of revenge, but for reasons that seemed to them dignified, judicious and, on reflection, weightier than any reasons they have heard advanced against it. To insult society with suggested, or with all too definite insinuations of deliberate unfairness, is no way to arouse a public sense of justice.
It is stupid to assert, as I have heard asserted, that the voters do not think at all about the subject. Legal executions are all mentioned in the daily press, in the United States at any rate. All murder trials are reported in such fashion as to stir the thought of anybody who can read. It would be nearer to the truth to say that people think too much about murder and are too impressed by its increasing prevalence, with the result that — more on the theory, perhaps, that 'like cures like' — they listen to the sentimentalists who sob for vengeance. If left to themselves as individuals it is likely they would think their own way through the problems that beset the human race. But demagogues have learned, what the lower nature of each one of us knows instinctively: that sentimentalism stirred becomes a cloud beneath which it is easy to commit whatever treachery; with the result that efforts never cease to stir the sentimentalism of the public, and the business of thinking, always difficult enough, is rendered very difficult indeed.
Who profits, or imagines there is profit in the execution of a criminal?
The executioner, of course, is no more than the agent of the law- enforcing branch of government. It is the government itself that sees, or thinks it sees the profit. There is, first, the suggestion that the public safety will be easier to maintain after the convicted man is killed; and second, the consideration that it costs less and is more convenient to kill a man than to confine him where he must be clothed, fed, guarded and (distressing possibility!) perhaps re-educated into something the community could 'view with pride.'
But in parenthesis it should be emphasized that governments are not intended to be scapegoats. They are, theoretically, representative of the collective public will; and if a government is stupid, not too honest, and (when honest) frequently mistaken in its methods, that is the result of our stupidity, of our dishonesty and our false reasoning. A government presents a picture of the public mind, and as the public mind improves, so does the government. But — be this also noted: contemplation of deformity, unless with the intention of improving it, may lead to substitution of deformity for right ideals. The Greek legend of Narcissus who, indifferent to Echo (the idea of his higher, spiritual self), became enamored of his own reflection in a pool — and perished — is as full of wise instruction as the ancient pagan myths invariably are.
So, if we criticize the government, we do well to remember that we criticize ourselves and too much of that may lead to despair or indifference; but if, as the result of criticizing, we improve ourselves, our government will take example from us, just as our reflection takes example from us in the mirror.
A government (elected by ourselves) is held responsible for the conduct of all public affairs, including administration of our laws and the protection of life and property. It finds itself presented with accomplished fact — a murder: an infraction, that is, of the law. A citizen, entitled to exactly the protection that the rest of us enjoy, has been slain by another citizen, who is equally entitled to society's protection against all those dangers that are recognized as such and have been made the objects of legislation. The murderer is caught, tried, found guilty, and put to death. The government — the agent of society — considers it has said the last word and has taken the only course compatible with justice, dignity and wisdom. But is this so?
Statistics are misleading, and it may be merely a coincidence that the infliction of the death-penalty appears to prevent murder to some extent in one country, but not in another. The disparity suggests that there are national peculiarities, for instance, to be carefully considered in relation to those figures. The United Kingdom, where a sentence to the gallows follows swiftly on commission of a crime, has recently had vastly fewer murders in proportion to its population than the United States, where sentiment against the penalty of death is stronger on the whole and there are more ways of voiding a jury's verdict. "Post hoc, ergo propter hoc,"* announce the advocates of hanging. But they leave out of the reckoning the fact that sentimentalism and a certain sort of lawyer have not made of the United Kingdom a breeding-ground of murder. No more can logically be deduced from the comparison than this: that there are fewer hangings in the United Kingdom because there are fewer murders; and there are fewer murders because murderers are neither hero-worshiped, nor flattered. In most European countries a murderer is regarded as a coward, and it is the stigma of cowardice that acts as the deterrent exactly as the public contempt for a wife-beater has almost abolished that crime in the United States.
[* Post hoc, ergo propter hoc (Latin) — "after this, therefore because of this." It is often shortened to simply post hoc... Post hoc, also known as "coincidental correlation" or "false cause", is a logical fallacy which assumes or asserts that if one event happens after another, then the first must be the cause of the second. It is a particularly tempting error because temporal sequence is integral to causality — it is true that a cause always happens before its effect. The fallacy lies in coming to a conclusion based only on the order of events, which is not an accurate indicator. That is to say, it is not always true that the first event caused the second event. Wikipedia . ]
Society orders a murderer killed, is obeyed and confesses itself beaten by one individual, whose lack of self-control should make it clear to anyone's perception that he was below the average, not necessarily of a certain kind of intelligence, but below the average of manhood.
We do not like to confess ourselves beaten at games, in business, or even when an earthquake shatters a whole city. Such calamities as periodically visit nations — epidemics, tidal-waves, fire, storm — challenge our intelligence and energy, our generosity, and all our finer intuitions. Yet, when one man kills another, can we think of no more manly course than to confess ourselves defeated and repeat his crime by killing him?
Few people are legally executed nowadays except for a premeditated murder. It is gradually coming to be understood that sudden impulses derived from the lower nature are uncontrollable by individuals untrained in self-control. But was the legal execution not premeditated? Could there be, by any stretch of the imagination, a more thoroughly considered, planned and prepared killing than that perpetrated by society when it executes a 'presumably guilty' individual?
If premeditation adds to the enormity of crime (as is conceded universally) society is much more guilty than the man it executes! When we amend the constitution or elect a president, responsibility is ours. So are the electric chair, the gallows and the gas-room ours; and it is we who have done murder when our agent, the official executioner, turns on the current, pulls the trap, or lets the gas into the air-tight cell. Whoever, without protest, or without such lawful effort as he can make, tolerates a public execution, must accept a full share of responsibility. He is accessory, before and after the fact, to a killing; of which the final proof is, that he pays, in the form of taxes, his share of the expense.
So there is no escape from the responsibility. The blood-guilt rests on every member of society who tolerates the execution without lawfully made protest. That blood-guilt might be borne, perhaps, without indignity if no alternative were available. But is there none?
Three favorite excuses in behalf of the death-penalty are: that it costs too much to keep a man in prison; that the risk of the sentenced man's escaping from prison by means of influence or legal subterfuge is too great; and that infliction of the death-penalty discourages other criminals. Which of those excuses stands investigation?
The expense, to the state and to the accused, of any modern murder trial, vastly exceeds what it would cost to keep the convicted man in a thoroughly up-to-date and well-policed establishment for the rest of his natural life (supposing that were necessary.) There is no doubt in the minds of judges, or of criminal lawyers, or of anyone familiar with our legal processes, that the legal safeguards we have erected to prevent the condemnation of a man on insufficient proof, have acted rather as a way of escape from, than as an aid to justice. They have bred a class of lawyers (totally abhorrent to the more humane, less sentimental and deliberately honest bulk of the profession) who enrich themselves by battening off criminals and by defeating justice. The expense of a criminal trial both to the public and to the man accused, increases steadily; and so does the number of unquestionably guilty men who are at liberty through the misuse of legal technicalities. Sentimentality lies at the root of this state of affairs — a sentimentality stirred and aroused by experts in psychology, who, diligent in making profit for themselves, becloud the genuine issue, which is this:
Crime having been committed, what course can the public profitably take with a view to the ultimate benefit of all concerned, the criminal included?
As to the risk of a sentenced man's escaping from prison: that, again, is illogical and sentimental claptrap, as can readily be demonstrated. There are laws in certain states, devised for the protection of society and individuals against the ravages of tuberculosis. It is recognized that individuals in certain stages of that dread disease are dangerous to others, and that if allowed their liberty they are likely to spread the disease and consequently cause the death, not only of one or two individuals, but perhaps of many. They are therefore arrested and confined to suitable locations where they may receive attention from properly qualified specialists; and we are informed that, as a result of this, not only is tuberculosis decreasing but the patients themselves are often benefited.
Nevertheless, the risk that a tuberculous patient might escape from one of those institutions and spread a deadly disease, is quite as real as that other alleged risk, that murderers might escape, on legal technicalities, from institutions to which they might be committed for their own reeducation and for society's protection. Consequently, it would be just as logical and vastly more far-reaching as a theoretical preventive, to send all tuberculous people to the gallows on the ground that (1) it costs too much to keep them in confinement and (2) they might escape if deprived of their liberty until cured.
And now as to the third excuse: exactly the same argument applies. It is admitted — custom, common-sense, the law, society at large, and all our theories of government admit, that murder is not normal; that is to say, that a murderer is not on a par with the average man. His character is lacking in those qualities that make him a good citizen. Society has long ago accepted the responsibility of shaping character as well as of improving and protecting public health — hence the public schools and compulsory education, night schools for the education of the immigrant, and so on. There are even classes (although far too few) in certain prisons; and the properly accredited representatives of societies devoted to reforming prisoners are admitted into all the prisons of the land.
But that is not all. It requires but a moment's reflection to realize that society as a whole, through its own neglect, mismanagement and lack of discipline, has done its share (in many instances a very large one) in creating the environment and underlying causes of the murder that one individual commits. It would be difficult to find exceptions to that statement that will bear examination. Murder is the offspring of insanitary mental environment as certainly as physical contagions spring from unclean drains, insanitary cesspools and the like.
So there is no escape for society as a whole from responsibility, at least in part, and sometimes for a very large part, for whatever crimes its weaker individuals commit. And this responsibility has been acknowledged, practically and for many years, by means of the efforts society makes, and pays for, to eliminate the obvious injustices and public evils that incite to crime.
When murder is committed, then, society has failed. It is responsible, in part at least, for the conditions that produced the crime. Accepting that responsibility, it undertook to remedy conditions, to police its neighborhoods, to educate its citizenry, and to uphold standards of morality agreed to as wholesome and dignified — exactly as it has also undertaken to set up, constantly improve, and steadfastly enforce, sanitary standards that are wholesome and scientific.
When enforcement of the sanitary regulations fails, with the result that tuberculosis, or smallpox, or typhus ravages a whole community, the underlying causes are at once sought out and remedied. As far as possible the chief contributors to the insanitary state of affairs are found and brought to book. A campaign of re-education in that neighborhood is started promptly. And last, but not least, the dangerous and possibly guilty victims of the foul conditions are rounded up, cared for, given expert treatment, protected against their own ignorance, and kept out of harm's way until they have recovered.
But when a murder is committed (one mere murder as compared to, possibly, a thousand deaths from a preventable disease) the mind-sick murderer is hanged or otherwise deprived of life and opportunity to learn the error of his ways! If the affair has been at all sensational (and the most obviously mind-sick cases cause the greatest amount of comment) newspapers by hundreds will print editorials invoking vengeance, sentimentally appealing to the passions of society that actually are the source of all the crime committed in the world!
Dignity obliges us to care for the tuberculous, it being evident that though they are a danger to society, society itself contributed to their condition. So we quarantine them and re-educate them, taking care to isolate them from the victims of less virulent disease, lest the isolation institutions should become mere hot-beds for the propagation and dissemination of the germs. Why not isolate and educate the murderer. Not only would it cost less than to make the trial-court a tilting ground for rival profiteers. It would be dignified. It would enhance the public self-respect. It would constitute at least an effort to counteract destructive evil with constructive good. It would eliminate that sentimental irritant of crime — bravado; there is no cheap heroism to be had from isolation, as a citizen whose character is sick; nor would the remedy, of discipline and schooling, tempt undisciplined and ignorant, immoral men and women to commit crime for the sake of posing in the limelight.
There is a play called Heliogabalus written by Messrs. Mencken and Nathan, in which that peculiarity of human nature is adroitly used. Heliogabalus, the Roman emperor, sentences to an excruciating death some members of a new creed that is annoying him; but he discovers that these people simply yearn for martyrdom, so he cancels the sentence, thus depriving them of the reward for which they have so selfishly and sentimentally disturbed the public peace! Self-pity, self-advertisement, vanity and false ideals (too often mingled with a consciousness of grave injustice) tend to stir fanaticism in the minds of people of unbalanced character. Make death at the hands of an executioner the penalty for giving rein to their passionate impulse, and they begin to imagine that death heroic.
But let it once be known that he who slays shall be regarded as an individual whose character is ailing; that he shall be taken from the limelight, quarantined, provided with a wholesome occupation, medically treated, and firmly disciplined by experts who are under no delusions about heroism — and he will hesitate before he gives his passions rein as juries will not hesitate to convict.
The conscientious dread of sending a man to his death who may, after all, be innocent, too often impels juries to let individuals go free who obviously are a danger to society. The knowledge that a verdict of 'guilty of killing' would entail re-education for the convict, and his rehabilitation should he not be too degraded to recover in one lifetime, would remove not only one of the main difficulties in obtaining juries but also, by eliminating nine-tenths of the sentimentalism that confuses issues, would encourage reasonable verdicts.
The advocates of capital punishment assert that the majority of murders are committed by young criminals addicted to the use of drugs and so conscienceless as to be beyond the reach of moral suasion; that the prevalence of murder is a product of the war; and that prison holds no terrors for the bandit who will 'shoot to kill.'
But terror is no remedy. When prisons were insanitary hells, in which the sentenced men and women were deliberately starved and bullied, there was no resultant lessening of crime. The criminals, released after they had served a sentence, repeated their crime and returned into prison more frequently than they do nowadays, when prisons are less terrible.
If drugs have anything to do with it, as seems to be admitted by most investigators, then society must accept the responsibility. By failing to control the distribution of the medically necessary drugs, and secure the suppression of the traffic in unnecessary ones, society is just as much at fault as if it had neglected to inspect the sewers. If the drugs made young men murderous, the isolation of those young men in a place where drugs were unobtainable, with scientific discipline unsentimentally enforced, would provide the reasonable remedy besides removing the attraction of a mock-heroic death. Many a youth educated among seasoned criminals and maddened by the recent war, as well as irritated by injustice and psychologized by public sentimentalism, feels the same way about death by execution as the prize-fighter feels about a possible defeat in the ring. He regards himself as a 'good sport' if he accepts the risk, and as a 'poor sport' if he does not. He imagines for himself a glamor in being hanged. He mocks society, and his intelligence assures him that the public proves itself contemptible by hanging him. He would feel very differently toward isolation and a scientific course of education calculated to expose his own degeneracy to his own awakened consciousness.
It is no doubt true, the war aroused a murderous bravado in the minds of many of the weaker characters who had no voice whatever in declaring war, no share in its atrocities, and no remotest notion why the war was fought. Their characterless, utterly unmoral attitude toward life made them as susceptible to 'crime waves' as a slum environment would have made them susceptible to disease of the body. Society accepts responsibility for slums — eradicates them, cleans them, punishes the landlords, and endeavors to restore to health the victims of the slum conditions. Did society not cause the war? If the results of war include a murderous proclivity among the country's youth, does the penalty of death for young men who have yielded to the war-psychology approximate, or even vaguely suggest, justice?
There was far more justice in the ancient 'pagan' rule that he who slew should recompense the slain man's family, and that if he had no property from which to make a reasonable tribute he must yield himself into their service. Crude, and capable of harsh interpretation though that system was, it did accept the principle that death is not a remedy for death and vengeance is not justice. It was an attempt, however rudimentary, to yield to any man, however criminal his character, the right to rehabilitate himself. It recognized the fact that breaking platters does not mend plates.
I recall an execution I was forced to witness as the official representative of a colonial government. The man had been convicted of a triple murder, after fair trial, in the course of which all the evidence was carefully investigated although the man had already confessed his guilt. There was no doubt whatever about the facts of the murder, or about the law of the land; the jury and the judge had no alternative but to find the man guilty and sentence him to death. Efforts, after he was sentenced, to have him certified insane, were abortive; the doctors, who would have liked to save his life, found no insanity, and the law, being such as it was, had to be carried out.
Knowing I would have to witness the man's death, and having done what could be done, in vain, toward obtaining a reprieve, I spent as much time in the man's cell as the regulations would permit, in part, in the beginning, out of curiosity to know what thoughts were passing in his mind. I have never, since, heard of a case that more completely covered the situation of the 'average' criminal condemned to death, although the details were superficially different from most.
He was a half-breed. That is to say, from earliest infancy he had suffered social ostracism and, despite intelligence above the ordinary as well as a full share of energy and ambition, practically all the well-paid and dignified callings were closed against him. He had been obliged to seek companionship among other half-breeds, all of whom suffered from the same disadvantage and resented it with concentrated bitterness. He had a worm's-eye view of things. He had observed that his alleged superiors were better paid for doing less work; accorded dignity, although infrequently entitled to it on their merits; better housed and fed than he had ever been without, as far as he could see, contributing as much as he did to the public effort; privileged to misbehave, in ways for which he would have suffered punishment; apparently taxed less and favored, as he saw it, by the law, the church, society at large, and even by the miserable layers of humanity considered lower than his own.
He had inherited a grievance. He had done his best, or what appeared to him to be his best, to remedy the situation. Coveting a 'cushion up in front,' as he expressed it, he was relegated to a 'place where you can sniff the gravy as it goes by.' And although, for the sake of his poorly paid job, he had behaved himself apparently respectfully toward his betters, he had suffered all his life long from resentment, that increased as he dwelt on it and discussed its irritating causes in the only intimate company that society permitted to him.
That is the case of the average criminal. It is the case of nine murderers out of ten — an undeniable grievance, irritated by a consciousness of baffled energy and of superiority (whether physical, intellectual or along the line of mere brute courage) to many of those members of society who pass for his betters.
Exactly the same form of resentment, widely enough spread, and given time, produces revolutions — always has produced them — always will.
The man under consideration, nursing his grievance and thoroughly convinced, from observation, of the sheer futility of expecting any justice from the public, found himself presented with an outlet for his indignation. He proposed to himself to marry the daughter of a man, whose strain of white blood was reputedly not quite so much diluted as his own. The girl, apparently, was willing but the father heaped insults on him and, to add to the indignity, spread slanderous reports, which were believed by two of the man's friends, who turned on him. So he found himself without friends and the butt of ridicule; and when he sought for legal remedy he was informed that no criminal law had been broken and that his only recourse would be a civil suit for damages, for which he had not nearly enough money, even if he could have produced the necessary witnesses.
So he began to brood over his wrongs and to drink, although he was not drunk on the day when he at last let passion have its way, and went and murdered the three men who had maligned him. On the day before his execution, this is what he said:
"You're white and I'm not. You've never felt what I've been through, but I've heard you admit that you don't know what you would do if you had the half of my inducement. All right. Now I'll tell you this; and it's straight, from as deep inside me as a man can dig when he's to die tomorrow morning: I had to kill those three men. There was something crept into me, and took hold of me, that was stronger than reason, and stronger than fear, and stronger than me. But I would have been stronger than 'it,' if somebody had come along and been my friend before it took hold of me. But nobody did come, and they were all my enemies. If anyone had asked me a week ago 'would I do it again?' I would have answered 'yes'; and I tell you, I meant to die tomorrow morning cursing the mother who brought me into the world. But you've talked me into feeling different. You've made me feel friendly — honest friendly — for the first time since I can remember. You've made me feel — " (He hesitated and sat still for a long time, searching for words with which to express himself.) " — If I could have another chance, I'd lick that thing that — that came over me like a sickness and — but you can't understand. It was something that wasn't me, and I stood it off at first. But it felt good, and I didn't feel so lonely and downhearted when I let myself go. So I did. And it got me. And I went and killed."
I had told him nothing about reincarnation, because, in those days, although I believed in it, I did not know anything definite or authoritative and did not care to urge what might be my mistaken views on a man in his desperate situation. I had merely expressed to him my conviction that we are all members of one purposeful universe, and had encouraged him to talk to me. But this is what he said:
"Somehow or other you have made me feel that I can wipe out what I've done. I'll die tomorrow feeling pretty good, because that balances the score. The public that's going to hang me has done me more cruelty than ever I did to those three, and I suppose the public'll have to pay, the same as I'm paying for my outbreak. Come to think of it, I'm sorry for the public. They'll have to pay dear, and they won't know what they're paying for! Well: do you know what I believe?"
He stood up, squared himself, and seemed to throw off the last dregs of the depression that had overwhelmed him.
"I've only thought of it this minute, but I'm going to stick to it and die thinking of it! I believe I've been in the world before, and I've been suffering this time for past offenses. And I believe I'm coming back."
"Supposing that's true," said I, "what will you do when you come back? "
He was rather slow with his answer and by the peculiar smile on his face I judged that he was thinking of revenge. However, he surprised me:
"Next time," he said, "I won't be fooled by things. I'll take my medicine. I'll know more. Say: it seems like a pity doesn't it, that I can't stay on and get some practise this time!"
I agreed with him, and I still agree with him. I saw him die, and he was unresentful — occupied, I thought, with the new glimpse of the meaning of life, that had dawned on him in his last hours. There was a dignity about him that impressed all those who saw him at the end.
And it appears to me, that there would be more dignity about ourselves, if we should isolate our murderers and spend the necessary money, time and energy required to educate them to that point of view, instead of cheapening ourselves by wreaking a disgraceful vengeance. Actually, criminals present us with an opportunity to learn how to rehabilitate them. But do we try? I think not. We vacillate between a nauseating sentimentalism that permits the criminal to take advantage of us, and a brutal sentimentalism that induces us to act as criminally as the criminal we hang. Why not accept responsibility and face it, and begin to challenge crime by showing criminals how they can — nay, must — like all of us, offset the past by building for the countless lives to come?
UNLESS one should be what the Australians so aptly describe as a 'wowser;'* or a propagandist for some crazy brand of politics; or a dyspeptic; or one of those unfortunates who crave for 'self-expression'; I suppose the most difficult question to answer is: Why do you write? But the question is perfectly fair — particularly if the writer has not made the answer obvious in every single story he has written. The enormous cost of ham and eggs in the United States is no excuse for posing in the limelight; the 'ham' might all too justly appear in the form of a sobriquet — the eggs out of the cases invoiced to the trade as 'rots and spots.' Since Caesar wrote his 'Commentaries' and President Wilson penned his 'Fourteen Points' there has always been ample excuse for putting any writer through a third degree.
[* wowser (Australian slang) — straight- laced person, prude, puritan, spoilsport. KoalaNet Australian Slang Dictionary. ]
He may be posing as our superior; in which case he should be made to prove it or be still. He may be, tongue in cheek, too skillfully and much too greedily outreaching for our pocket-book; if so, then caveat emptor.* But he is possibly a fellow human being, tolerant of others' weaknesses since he is conscious of his own; a rather happy man because he likes things, thoughts, and people; a man who finds life fabulously interesting and who makes up tales about what he has seen and heard (and thinks he has understood), for the excellent reason that no other course provides him such a satisfying outlet for his energy. That man is worth considering on his merits. If his books provide the reader with a hundredth part of the enjoyment he himself had, writing them, then fellow human beings may share his entertainment without grudging him a good seat at the show.
[* Caveat emptor (Latin) — Let the buyer beware! The axiom or principle in commerce that the buyer alone is responsible for assessing the quality of a purchase before buying. The American Heritage Dictionary. ]
Or so it seems to me. And life is entertaining. Also, it is splendidly worth while. Nor am I one of those unfortunates who never knew the seamy side of it, or felt the desperate emotions of the under-dog. Though I have written ten books and, I suppose, ten times as many stories for the magazines, I have never yet succeeded in inventing for the vilest villain situations more embarrassing than some that have occurred to me; although, except in The Ivory Trail, I have written nothing in the nature of autobiography. However, I must make that statement with a reservation.
I suppose that, first and last, at least five hundred people have asked me: How is a story written? There are three unanswered letters on my desk now, in each of which that question is put; but I believe that whoever could answer it truthfully, could also tell what holds the stars in place. Repeatedly I have put that problem to myself and other writers, but I have never heard or read an explanation that explained.
However, I am almost sure of this: as fishermen develop 'fish sense'; horsemen achieve 'horse sense' (some, of course, are born with it); musicians develop ability to listen to the music of the spheres; and painters educate their eyes until they see what other men cannot distinguish until it has been selected for them, and interpreted in paint, and framed; so writers, who are not too densely wrapped in dogmatisms of their own or (worse yet!) dogmatisms learned at second-hand, inflicted on them by the pundits of mediocrity, learn how to use what I must call a sense for lack of any other word in English that suggests it.
Oskar A. H. Schmitz, in a recent essay in the Kölnische Zeitung, asks: Does a writer need to know anything? But the answer is, that a writer does know. If he does not know, he cannot write. He knows as the musician hears, and as the painter sees; although I don't know how he knows, and I certainly can't explain it.
But to know is not nearly the whole of the problem. There remains the technical, extremely difficult, accomplishment of differentiating, of selecting, of interpreting into literary form, and of convincing the reader. A man may know where fish are, but it is another thing to catch them, and still another thing to get them, fresh and pleasant to the eye, to market. It is possible to fish for mackerel and catch dog-fish. There are also jellyfish, and some sorts that are poisonous.
One other thing seems obvious to me: we humans are as composite as any other thing in nature. We are capable of unplumbed depths of infamy, and of unreached heights of godliness. In each of us are all the elements, both spiritual and material, that go to make up what is human nature in the aggregate. We are microcosms of the macrocosm. Consequently, what a man writes in his books (though incidents and details may be all imaginary, and though nothing in the book is therefore true, in one sense of the word) essentially is a picture of his own mind, of his own life, of his own (latent though they may be) possibilities.
Shakespeare was not Falstaff. He was capable of being Falstaff. He was capable of being Hamlet. He knew all about both those characters and all the others because their essences were in himself. What made him the greatest dramatist since Aeschylus was his (divine, I like to think) ability to read his own rich human nature, to select from it, and to write down what he knew in an appealing way.
The intellect, I think, is a machine that can be constantly improved, and that only wears out when allowed to lie idle or bury itself into pits of its own digging. As the intellect improves with use a writer (or any other individual) should find new phases of humanity to wonder at, and ponder over, and admire; he should discern new aspects (new to him, at any rate), and by abandoning old views incur the obloquy of inconsistency. The obloquy is very good for him, because it will reveal to him a wealth of unexplored intolerances in himself.
The only thoroughly consistent people are the dead ones. Let them bury their own dead. Our business is living, and life is a perpetual ascent from peak to higher peak of comprehension.
So what is a tale, after all, but a picture of any man's mind? And does it make the slightest difference, when you have read the book, or before you have read it, that you should know its author stands seventy-three inches in his boots, weighs one hundred and eighty-five pounds, has a wife and an Airedale dog, and once walked all the length of Africa? The important question is, what thinking has he done? And is he a 'wowser' or a 'muckrake'? Are his villains human, and his heroes and his heroines not too immaculate? Can you read his book without wishing you had not? And does he make you feel that there are wide horizons, unfenced and not marked 'No Trespassers,' toward which any one may go adventuring without incurring self-contempt?
The latest of my own books, OM, has brought such floods of correspondence that, although that makes me feel acquainted with all manner of agreeable folk in many lands, there is some difficulty in reserving time enough in which to write another book! How much of it is true? Is Tsiang Samdup a real Lama? Where is the Book of the Sayings of Tsiang Samdup published? Who is Ommony in real life? How did I learn my Indian lore?
To answer the last first, I don't know. That it is lore, is apparent to me from the sparks that fly wherever its flint strikes steel; I have no other means of determining. Ommony, in 'real' life, is myself or any other man who, if only for an hour or two, sees a vista of events from his particular point of view. So is the villain, Dawa Tsering, who is, after all, more villainous than vile (like most of us). The Book of the Sayings of Tsiang Samdup probably was published at the time when the Stars of the Morning danced and sang. As I was fortunate enough to glimpse a page of it, I have been generous enough to share it. What more can I do?
If Tsiang Samdup is not real, how could it be possible to write a book about him? If I had known more about him, would I not have written it? And all of it is true, except the bad part, and the weak part, and the artless, dull, uninteresting part. It is as true as you are in your interesting moments.
What next? I have filed away eight hundred letters asking for a sequel to Om — The Secret of Ahbor Valley. I am keeping them to remind me not to write it! I would rather try to put a pair of arms on the Venus of Milo, or invent an ending for Schubert's 'Unfinished Symphony.'
There is a beach near San Diego where the gulls make music, to a swelling and descending obbligato of surf thundering on sand. It is a usually lonely beach, but there is something in its harmonies that stirs imagination and establishes remoteness from the jazz of 'realism' by lifting, now and then, the curtain that obscures reality. I go there, maybe as the ancients once went to Eleusis;* that is, not invariably with success because it is a difficult trick to leave opinions behind, and incredulity, and zeal, and all that other rubbish with which we stop our ears and clog our understandings. (The Gods are not exactly lazy, but they are self-respecting and refuse to waste good mystery on work that we should do ourselves.) But once in a while, as at Eleusis in the ancient days, the veil is lifted; so, if I can only overcome the bewildering difficulty, experienced by every musician, painter, and writer, of translating into definiteness the elusive visions seen (and almost understood), there will be a much better story than OM before long. Be good enough to wait, and I will do my utmost not to disappoint you.
[* Eleusis — an allusion to the the Eleusinian Mysteries — the annual initiation ceremonies for the cult of Demeter and Persephone based at Eleusis in ancient Greece. Of all the mysteries celebrated in ancient times these were held to be the ones of greatest importance. These myths and mysteries later spread to Rome. The rites and cultic worships and beliefs were kept secret, and initiation rites united the worshipper with god, including promises of divine power and rewards in life after death. Wikipedia.]
VOLUMES that are marvels of research and detailed facts concerning Easter have been published. Wonderful works are available in which the esoteric meaning of the Easter-celebrations is explained. Sermons, some of them so full of inspiration that they shake the battlements of sorrow, have been written, spoken, thundered — and remain, a few of them, as indestructible as THAT of which they vibrate in the hearts of men. The simpler are the better, and the Gospel-story, stripped of comment, stands as luminous and stirring as on the day when it was written. And yet no man needs another volume than his own, his inward heart, in which his own divinity responds to inspiration from the ONE, by whom, in whom, he lives, has lived, and is to live forever. "I have risen" is the thought — and then the murmur — then the song of triumph of the Soul that learns, within itself, what Easter means.
There are as many Easters in the universe as there are conscious beings. Easter is not limited to time or place; it knows no season other than the mainspring of all seasons and the changeless change forever burgeoning all buds until the blossoms scatter pollen on the rain-wet face of Nature. Easter is within you, as the power is within that puts forth poems — as the harvest is within the seed, the end in the beginning. Easter's "I have Risen" is the answer to the challenge of the Lords of Life, on watch, who demand, through the dark of the Valley of Death: "Who comes?" That valley is the very Gates of Glory, and the password "I have Risen" rips the veil of misery and shows what none may see, save only those whose tested courage gave them title to the Word long lost, and only to be found where it was lost, within the heart of him who lost it.
There is a dewy-wet, warm wonder of delight that only Easter morning knows. But it is always Easter morning when the heart remembers it is young. It is darkness that is old and dying. Youth lives on forever, though its face be hidden for a while by creeping shadow. As old as Truth is and as young as Love, is the Life that sings because the Light within can — does — and everlastingly will conquer, shadow and all dreams of darkness. Grief is no more than a shadow of the inward pilot-light that leads through Silence to the dimless Sun.
And it is written, Fear not. That was uttered when the new-created shapes first loomed in Chaos, limiting idea within form and line, illusion gilding glory until glory seemed to vanish in the veil of finite cause and fearful consequence. The dawn of Easter is a reinterpretation, which is resurrection; and the gloaming that retreats before it and the darkness, is the death of fear. And there is neither sin nor sorrow where no fear is.
But we are in fear; we exist in it. Then fear is like the feathers of the flame that hatch the Phoenix's egg. Its agony shall change into the alchemy of rebirth. That Phoenix who is hatched in flame knows better than to linger in the restless nest; he flies forth sunward and he needs no brooding; he is born full-pinioned, knowing that the flame which hatched him might, if he should linger, scorch his flying feathers. Jesus was not twice crucified. He let fear wreak its havoc on the only thing that fear could touch, which was illusion. When illusion left him, burned up in that agony, he went forth free. That was Easter morning. I is written that he gave thanks.
Fear not! We become destroyers when we let fear fight out battles. We identify ourselves with fear and wear its livery, its coat of arms and crest. We emblazon its motto — "What is Truth?" — on helm and breastplate. We become not only front-rank fight-men against the very Truth we seek, but we are also foragers, recruiting agents, pick and-shovel men, and propagandists for the tyrant — Fear, the origin, the instigator and the owner of all anguish and its fruits. To be afraid of fear and of its phantoms is to be in bondage. It is Easter morning when we recognise the nothingness of fear.
And when we see that void — that emptiness — and know that it is void, there fills it on the instant THAT which neither fear can find nor darkness dim. There floods in on the consciousness a rhythm such as no inharmony can silence and no limits touch. It is the balanced peace that passeth physics and all logic and the desires, and from the Tyranny of Things. And who shall speak of that, when that dawn breaks. Who needs? An empty nest — dark cells are visited — old gloom forgotten, and old foolishness unraveled and undone — dead ashes of desire, wind-scattered, fertilizing someone's birth — the tale has told itself.
Is Easter then abandonment? Are things a sacrifice that should be thrown into a Moloch's jaws, that we may burn our way into a real and thingless bliss? It is not written that the Lords of Life require the waste or loss of one single[?] concept. Reinterpretation is not ruin. Made and unmade, known or unknown, everything has its use and has its place in the eternal plan; if we are guardians, not owners of the things we say that we possess. We build on blasphemy and limit life — we close against ourselves the real gates of affluence, by craving too much ourselves[?] and the selfish ownership of things. By desire[?] we undo all effort. It is Easter morning and we know all affluence is ours — all beauty and all goodness. It is Easter when the heart is bursting with the vibrance of the Spirit and owns all universes and denies no wanderer a home, no traveler a right of way.
And shall we get, then, out of Easter more than we put into it? The very shadows of our own dreams mock such melancholy unwisdom. Unto him who hath the dawning knowledge of what Easter means, more knowledge shall be given, until Easter morning wakens him at last with music that the Silence sings above, beneath, without, within the chattering inharmony of matter. We get nothing out of Easter. What need? We put nothing into it! Why should we? What does the All-giving need? And what does the All-having lack? It is Easter morning when we know within our hearts that all's hear — all's well with the universe — and when the password rings within the inward consciousness — the answering, spontaneous, inevitable: "I have risen! I lack nothing! I have all endowments of all values; and forever all the gates of affluence, in all the spheres, are open wide! I give. Forever I forgive. For I have risen!"
THE APOSTLE Paul wrote: "I die daily"; and he meant exactly what he wrote, without reserve or equivocation. But Paul had the advantage over us moderns in that he wrote for people thoroughly familiar with theories of life and death that have become submerged since his day — submerged in part by the after-wave of Paul's own huge enthusiasm. Deathless and indestructible in essence, insofar as they were based on truth and rooted in absolute being, they were doomed as theories to die awhile, as men die too, and, like men, destined to be reborn in after time.
Theories are, after all, not more nor less than bodies of ideas, even as our bodies are the temporary clothing of our souls. True ideas reincarnate into theories on the cyclic tides of time, as our bodies do also[?]; the temporary clothing of our souls. True ideas reincarnate into theories on the cyclic tides of time as certainly as do all other forms of the Eternal — forms so infinite that he who seeks to limit them or number their incalculable changes is as silly as the savage trying to put sunlight in a bottle. Every atom in the whole created universe 'dies daily,' if we mean what Paul meant by the words.
But must we therefore so identify ourselves with death, by act of will or lack of spiritual energy, that we become death's servants? In an age so given to advertisement that neither creed nor politics nor tooth-paste can resist oblivion without such struggles for publicity as would have paid the whole expense of Caesar's armies, death is better advertised than are all the other old and new illusions that human flesh is heir to.
Death is as importunate as cigarettes; daily we are asked to make a blind- fold test of it — to choose which death we would prefer to die — instead of testing life with open eyes and choosing which life we shall prefer to live, which half-a-second's thinking should suggest were much more profitable. Death and taxes, says the many-jawed-machine made myth, are inescapable. But are they? Death of what? Taxes to whom payable?
If we must render unto Caesar what is Caesar's — and we must, as even stars must render overflow of glory to the night — are we thereby identified with Caesar's dim, inglorious beginning, with his vanity and vices, with his end at the mercy of any accident that stutters through the cogs of human prejudice? If we should render unto God the spirit that is God's and that we feel within us, who shall tax that? Can death reach that holy thing?
Dying daily is the art of living. It is the art of letting go all prejudices — of refusing to be buried in the shrouds of dogma — of repudiating selfishness. It is the lower self that dies — that lower self which, caught between the prongs of Karma, can, if we permit, provide us with opportunity to learn and put in practice what we have been born into the world to learn and inwardly digest.
That inward WE is not these bodies that we too much value or, in moments of discouragement, accuse like dogs who bite the stick that beats them. Bodies are the suits we wear, in which to strut out parts on life's amusing stage; and there is no greater mistake than to suppose that the actor should so emerge himself into the part he plays as to forget his own identity.
"I and my Father are one" — not, be it noted, I and my body are one. If we forget that the Eternal Man is deathless, as long as we forget (no longer) we become death's victims, self-identified with the illusion which we came into the world to conquer; worse than victims, traitors; we submit ourselves to be the instruments of cruelty, deceit, and death, increasing others' difficulty, adding to the sorrow of the world instead of mastering our share of it, and squandering the overflow of vibrance for the benefit of others. We become bad actors, whimpering for praise, entitled to no better than the rotten eggs of a disgusted audience.
For we forget, sometimes, there is an audience. Each man, as Shakespeare wrote, in urn plays many parts, and it appears to be a law that each of us, in course of time, must don dark buskins and a drab cloak, signifying loneliness. An empty stage, swept of its flowers that paid gay homage to some other actor — properties suggesting affluence and comfort all departed to the wings — dim light and the howling of lonely wind — no opportunity for bombast — silence that makes the house seem empty. Dread presents no opportunity for bombast — silence that makes the house seem empty. Dread presents itself. Sorrow is so encompassing that joy seems like a litter of decaying jetsam on the beach of grief. No support, no prompter — and an audience wholly unseen.
Is that a despicable part to play? It is the greatest part of all, the richest in opportunity. It is a challenge to the actor who is cast for it to fill that stage so full of a divine unconquerable spirit that his victory over desolation charges life anew with faith and hope and sends his audience away refreshed — as earth is stirred to new endeavor by the assault of spring against the tyranny of winter storms. The actor may, if he chooses, so forget his own identity as to assume the very substance of the part and go down under it to earned oblivion. It is his privilege, however, to remember who he is, and who his audience — that unseen audience forever instant to detect good work, forever eager, when the curtain rings down, to applaud: "Well done, thou good and faithful servant."
Death, to such an actor, is the open door to Life, not too soon to be entered, since he knows there is no hurry and no need for it. He meets all anguish and adversity as a front-rank fighter, rapier in hand — the rapier of faith; unwilling to betray one trust by grudging one last effort, knowing that every blow he strikes at the world's belief in purposeless calamity is struck for all eternity and all mankind. He knows, too, that the Lords of Life are cognizant and judging, not the noise he makes and not the fame men give him or withhold. They judge the quality of courage and of faith and good-will that he adds to the relief of tired humanity. Though death to him is Life Triumphant, since he knows that he and his immortal soul are one, and are one with Life Eternal, he refuses to accept release in death until the hour of victory when Life at last enfolds him in such Light that men no longer see him, and the shadow that they thought was he, disintegrates.
For him, that is the curtain. He has played his part. His audience was not the men and women of the world; they, too, are players. For the Lords of Life and for the ever present Brotherhood he did his utmost. He has earned and retires to enjoy their comradeship in another phase of the eternal drama of the progress of the Soul of Man; his knowledge that the Eternal Man can never die, having raised him to the ranks of the Helpers from the undisciplined flocks of the helped.
HAIL AND FAREWELL! You have led beyond that veil through which we follow presently; and you have left your light — no Jack-o'-lantern — golden glowing where it may be seen with the inward eye that measures neither height nor distance but judges values. Hail and farewell!
What is leadership? We, who have trodden the dust and mud of stricken fields, where our friends died gallantly and we were left to wonder for whose profit and to what end they died; we, who have lent enthusiasm to the tumult of the war of words when politics pretended to be Providence and old illusion brayed new panaceas; we, who have prayed in the crowded pews of churches, and have gone forth hungry from a meal of moldy words, to try to understand life's irony; we, who have been misled too often into ambuscades and have beheld such virtue as we thought we had, yield all its vanity and leave us naked to the hail of discontent; we, who have tasted now and then the bitterness of false ideals sturdily pursued — and of true ideals lip- served, but betrayed; we, who have nevertheless, perceived, though dimly, something of Katherine Tingley's goal and something of the Spirit that inspired her to lead upward to it, can, it may be, answer better What is Leadership? than they can who have felt themselves too self-sure to be led.
She was no empurpled Caesar, cadging votes and flattering opponents until opportunity revealed an opening into which to thrust the sudden violence of drilled troops craving plunder and the feel of pride. Nor was she a Diogenes, contemptuous of human practice and so proud of theory as to shrink from fact and to hunt by lantern-light for undiscoverable honesty; since she was honest. She had honesty to share, to give away, to pour forth from a hilltop and by day-light — honesty of motive, purpose, method, thought, speech, aim and — last, but not least, tolerance.
Integrity devoid of tolerance is more unkind than tyranny that frankly names itself and forces means to a mistaken end. Hers was the integrity that strikes no bargain with inhumanity in any form. Fanaticism never touched her. Harmony, the essence of her teaching, was no goose-step drum-beat to which everyone must march in step or else be relegated to the pains of purgatory or the dump-heap of the damned. Her sense of harmony was cosmic and included good-will and encouragement for all those not in step with her, who, none the less, strove upward toward glimpsed ideals.
And she knew — no woman in the world knew better — that the surface shows but seldom what goes on within the secret cauldron of the human heart, where spiritual alchemy transmutes a chaos of corrupted hopes and fallen aims into a fertile mold for the reception of the seed of re-birth. Having faith, in man's essential divinity as well as in the omnipresence of divine Life, she sowed that seed continually. And because the Truth was in her she was patient and not discouraged by the semblance of delay. Love, which was the secret of her courage and the substance of her efforts, let her not be misled by appearances or baffled by sour ingratitude. She knew, and no amount of ignorance could overwhelm her knowledge. No ingratitude could shake her faith, though it struck repeatedly with all its venom at the brave heart that preferred to suffer indignity and injustice rather than retaliate and injure someone else. So she was one whose meanest enemies if privileged to get to know her, became admirers — even friends.
She led. Truly she led, and not in circles but in spirals. All her way-marks pointed upward. With the natural gifts that were hers, and with the strength of purpose and unflinching will that never failed her, Katherine Tingley might have reaped, had she so chosen, any prizes whatsoever that the world could offer. Personal wealth and what is known as power could have been hers for the merest fraction of the effort that she spent on leading tired humanity toward a nobler goal.
But she was true to her charge. She never flinched from it. She never even wavered. In the face of bitter accusation, mistrust, misunderstanding, apparent defeat and confusing advice from those who loved her but who could not see the outcome that she saw, she steadfastly clung to her principles and trusted wholly in the Law of Universal Brotherhood, that she taught with all her skill, and that she served with all her might, not compromising with convenience, not seeking her own reward but leaving that to the Lords of Life who mete out Justice.
Whatever rewards the world had showered on her, it is sure that Katherine Tingley would have shared them to the last atom with those in need. But the world was a little asleep and, for the most part, missed that opportunity; she was left to lead her loyal cohort ill supplied with funds, and far too much of her abundant energy was used on problems of material supply, whose utmost stringency, however, never made her yield or even think of yielding. She never begged; who gave to her, gave freely and his gift was multiplied to ten times ten by wisdom in the use to which she put it.
This earth is crowded with memorials to men and women who have led in some direction or another, some of them with great zeal and high-flung purpose. Tower on tower, the piles commemorate great merchants; statesmen and soldiers stand in effigy; the great ships, racing to the world's ends bear the names of famous men, some few of whom led upward; though the great majority were pleased to let themselves be lifted by a tide of popular greed or indignation.
Very few indeed have dared to stand against such tides or cared to lead their little cohort upward while the legions took the long descent in the din of emotion and glamor of prosperous guile. Yet some names stand unsullied, though contemporaries sought by all known means to blacken them, and each of us can number on the fingers of his two hands those who sought unselfishly to lead a people, or a group of peoples, to a higher sense of Brotherhood and Universal Law. And now, lest we dishonor judgement, let us add the name of Katherine Tingley to that list, and build for her a high memorial in our hearts.
She led. Faithfully, truthfully, loyally; tolerantly, generously and with malice toward none, she led whither all may follow, up the middle of the Path of Justice where the effort of each pilgrim earns exactly its own recompense and each one wins his way by merit and no other means. Her appeal was to the heart of all humanity, and she has left her light within men's hearts that, if they let it not grow dim, it shall inevitably lead them to the view of visions such as she saw, and to victories over all the powers of darkness, such as she has won.
A very great Leader has passed beyond the veil which hides from mortal eyes the secrets of the Life Beyond. Let those who hope to follow on the Path she trod look well to it that they lack not gratitude. No other oil will burn as brightly in the lamp she lit. No other key than gratitude can unlock secret after secret until we, too, following her footsteps, find that we can tread the Middle Way.
ACCUSTOMED as it is to violence the mind of man enjoys the military metaphor; it likes its similes assembled from the ordnance-list. Such words as 'cannonade' and 'culverin' suggest a victory and their significance is all heroic, since imagination dims itself toward the other aspect. If I liken Kenneth Morris to a lonely culverin assailing Bigots' Castle the suggestion should not be extended to include the 'villainous saltpeter' and the malice. Year in, year out, he has kept on cannonading the redoubts of ignorance, and now a breach begins to show, through which, it may be, even the 'authorities' will march with blaring bands — forgetful of the man who laid that lonely culverin and served it faithfully; ignoring the great general who gave him that fatiguing post; and thoughtful only of the plunder. For there will be plunder when the walls are down and men see history with unobstructed view. There will be riches beyond dream, of food for the intelligence and stimulus for the imagination; treasures from the fabled past that turn out to be beautiful and true; recovered provinces of knowledge in which educators will discern that evocation is a higher calling and the grandeur of the ever-present past is rediscoverable in the hearts of men.
It was H.P. Blavatsky, of course, who fired the first arousing shot. She carried the first entrenchments. Men and women rallied to her, some of whom went down before the shafts of ridicule and slander, or lost the way amid the smoke; and some grew weary. But before H.P. Blavatsky died she had accomplished what she came to do, and had assembled an unconquerable nucleus of followers. The doctrine of the Ancient Wisdom had been re-established in the western world; and under William Q. Judge, and Katherine Tingley, it has been lived and proved and made to flourish.
In the days when Katherine Tingley, demonstrating her ability to lead, appointed Kenneth Morris to a professorship of history at Point Loma, there was probably no other college principal on earth who would have dared to endorse such entirely unorthodox views as his were reckoned by the so-called educators who controlled the text-books and examinations. Those were the days when we had to suppose that the world was created in a week, six thousand years ago, or else be punished for impertinence and infidelity.
But Kenneth Morris had answered H.P. Blavatsky's trumpet-call while his youthful intelligence was still in process of being cribbed, cabined, and confined within the said-to-be so safe and comfortable walls of orthodoxy -literary, racial, and religious. A preliminary necessary to a powerful explosion is compression. The rule applies throughout dynamics. So it may be that the iron-ribbed doctrines of the public schools of England deserve credit for the consequent effectiveness of the explosion when the spark lit by H.P. Blavatsky fired the youth's imagination and he wrote a school prize-essay that excluded him forever from the cage of dry-as-dust pol-parroted, polite belief in the incorrigible savagery of the ancients and the ne plus ultra culture of ourselves.
At any rate, he broke forth — flew forth — sang his song — and has been singing ever since beside the sea, in Lomaland, whence his songs and his poems, his wholly unorthodox views and his brilliant survey of history as cyclic evolution, have been spread to all corners of the earth. Children of a quarter of a hundred nations have received from him the spark he caught and cherished from the anvil of the Founder of the Theosophic Movement.
Kenneth Morris saw and wove into a rhythmical, broad-visioned series of lectures the long hidden facts of ebb and flow in history. Not once avoiding the authentic facts as given in The Secret Doctrine and the other writings of the modern Founder of the Theosophical Movement, nor trespassing beyond the pale of record into legend (lest the easily disgruntled critics should accuse him of constructing his own evidence) he took the commonly accepted facts and reinterpreted their meaning with a logic and a clarity of diction that permitted no misunderstanding. Criticasters might find any fault they pleased with his discovery and his elucidation of it, but they could not pretend to misinterpret it. He had defined the issue, marshaled the acknowledged facts, and thrown a concentrated light on evolution in the history of man.
He accepted the Ancient-Wisdom teaching of the law of cycles; investigating history he applied it, recognising that the law is universal and that, consequently, no phase of existence can escape its government. As tides flow back and forth, the seasons follow one another in their order, and the night embosoms day, so there are days and nights of evolution in which nations feel the impulse of creative energy and rise — until the inescapable, imponderable law removes the energy and they decline, through twilight, into darkness — until energy returns and they again become a force to reckon with.
By illustrations from the pages of recorded history Professor Morris showed, and proved, that the average length of the cycle — from the rise into the clash of world-importance to descent into comparative obscurity — is one hundred and thirty years, the span not varying by more than insignificant degrees accounted for by the discrepancies of records and a margin for opinion as to just exactly when a rise began or a descent was finished.
It was caviare to the general doctrinarian. It stung the pride of the proponents of the Nordic theory of race-supremacy and the philosophers who judge intelligence by color of the epidermis or possession of a craving for machinery, to be invited to agree that Oriental races have attained to higher culture than our own and will again surpass us when the time shall come. And he offended them by speaking of pralaya and manvantara, two terms that suggest esoteric teaching. It was all very well, it might be and perhaps, to assert an unorthodox theory; but to use terms (comprehensible to two-thirds of the world) whose use implied that the ancient 'heathen' who invented them knew anything worth knowing, was an insult to men possessed of framed certificates from colleges. Some of those colleges could actually boast four centuries of repetition of the same poll-parrot cries! Great is Diana of the Ephesians! Vox literati vox dei! Was there ever a time in history when they, whose honor and emoluments depended on established theories, did not denounce the man with broader and less marketable views?
It certainly was scandalous. Professor Morris boldly taught that we are not the last word in civilization, morality, intelligence, government, artistic enlightenment, philosophy, or in any other field; that, on the contrary, the storied past holds records of peoples who have far surpassed us, as the crest-wave of the Force that causes evolution lifted each in turn.
We were parceling up China when he made his first explosive observations. Races, whose progenitors were savages when China reached her apogee of art and scientific government, were landing missionaries then, under the guns of warships, to teach the Golden Rule to 'yellow heathen' while their governments greedily watched for the first chance to avenge a murdered missionary and seize the richest slice of the defenseless country. From burned and rifled palaces of Peking, loot was being brought by stokers and their commanding officers — loot such as no modern hand could imitate nor any auctioneer appraise — to be sold in second-hand shops to the heirs of what has been politely called 'the white man's burden.'
The future is likely to prove that burden to be heavier than the loot was that the sailors freighted home; but it was more unfashionable then than now to mention Karma. "Vengeance is mine, saith the Lord," was a nice theoretical, incomprehensible, quotable, innocuous abstraction meant, if anything, to absolve men of responsibility for what they do.
Men bent on proving to themselves that temporary might is final right were not in any mood to listen to the doctrine of the cycles. To have believed that all our boasted superiority is as evanescent as "the flowers that bloom in the spring, tra-la," and will have "nothing to do with the case" when Nature-Forces acting in obedience to Law withdraw the energy so many of us have abused, and concentrate it elsewhere, would have robbed supremacy of zest. It might have lessened zeal. The second-hand shops might have had to change the signs above their plateglass windows.
I remember being warned against Professor Morris. I was told he was not 'recognised' by the 'authorities' and that his 'iconoclasm' was only atheism in disguise. According to my informant, a college-principal who had charge of the education of several hundred youths, there would be anarchy in education as well as religion and 'disaster would undoubtedly ensue' if such 'red heresies' should be allowed to gain a footing. He argued that if children were allowed to question the infallibility of text-books; to consider the possibility that 'heathendom' has ever reached our heights of intellectual attainment; or to believe that 'heathen' ever shall be able to surpass us unless, or until, they adopt our standards of civilization and morals; then patriotism would cease to exist and within a generation 'culture' would vanish along with it.
He admitted that he himself had not read the works of Professor Kenneth Morris, and he advised me for the future to confine my reading to the books of standard authors, of whom he very kindly made a penciled list on the back of an envelope. The name of one of them was Flinders Petrie.
"You will find those writers safe and sane," he assured me. "If they differ here and there in detail, they agree as to essentials. Their interpretation of the meaning of the facts of history will give you plenty to think about and will help you to appreciate the glories of our present civilization."
However, Kenneth Morris had given me 'plenty to think about,' so it was only very recently that there was time to study Flinders Petrie, whose historical works on ancient Egypt long ago won him recognition as one of the ablest of modern historians. Books that can be slipped into the pocket are attractive in this hurried age, so it was almost by Darwinian selection that the first of Petrie's books to be attempted was Revolutions Of Civilization, the first edition of which was published in April 1911.
That date is important. There seem to have been only three editions of the book, so it is fair to presume it is much the least popular of Flinders Petrie's works — a circumstance that hardly causes wonder. He agrees with Kenneth Morris!
It appears that at the time when Morris, the Point Loma 'heretic,' was formulating his 'dangerous iconoclasms,' Petrie had already ventured into print with arguments and illustrations — and the statement (page 5) that "civilization is an intermittent phenomenon." He outlines a theory of a law of cycles and crowds his short book with evidence in proof of it. He refers to the 'summer' and 'winter' of racial rise and decay as the recurrent phenomena produced by natural causes which should be "examined like any other action of nature."
Instances in the realm of astronomy and other sciences are numberless in which individuals, working alone and in ignorance of each other's efforts, have made identical, or almost identical discoveries simultaneously. There is sufficient evidence of this to justify a theory (even if the law were not already known and understood by those who keep alive the teachings of the Ancient Wisdom), that Truth, being universal, and its manifestations being also obedient to the law of cycles, finds its way into human consciousness recurrently, availing itself of whichever individuals in any place are ready to receive it at that time. The spirit flows along the line of least resistance, like water, electricity, sound, currents in the air, or any other form of energy.
A very careful reading of Professor Flinders Petrie's book discloses no evidence that he has read The Secret Doctrine, which is the source from which Professor Morris drew not only inspiration but his argument. Professor Flinders Petrie beyond question followed his own line of study, dared to let imagination raise him far above the level of the judgments of his day, and with the courage of conviction published what imagination glimpsed. The fact that The Secret Doctrine had been long in print detracts in no way from the merit of his book; he is entitled to full credit as an independent thinker; and is fortunate that the teachings of the Ancient Wisdom confirm him while repudiating the more commonly accepted notions of what history means.
Naturally, Flinders Petrie's statement of his case is not as clear or comprehensive as that of Kenneth Morris; he did not consult The Secret Doctrine — it is possible he never heard of it and consequently had to grope his way amid the facts of history at the guidance of his own intuition, tracing the periodic rise and fall of nations mainly through observations of the renaissance and decadence of art, of which he gives profuse illustrations. His only reference to "the great and important elements of moral ideas and religion" is the remark that he has chosen to omit them altogether — probably a wise omission in the circumstances; had he ventured to include them in his outline he would surely have needed a thousand pages instead of one hundred and thirty-one, and would inevitably have aroused the indignation of those hierarchies of conservatism who belligerently loathe the dignified ideals which the plan of spiritual evolution indicates.
There is enough in Professor Flinders Petrie's book to stir imagination and to compel thought, which is the principal requirement in this age of standardized ideas. It actually matters very little whether the historians and scientists, who day by day confirm through 'new' discoveries those statements of fact for which H.P. Blavatsky was mocked, do or do not credit her with having definitely and in no uncertain words forestalled them all some half a century ago. The point is that she did her work. She broke, as it were, the crust of human consciousness; since when, that inner wisdom that is the heritage of all humanity has been gradually working its way through.
Professor Petrie's book is so condensed that it is no simple matter to make extracts from it that will fairly indicate the point of view from which he has approached his subject; he has knitted his whole theme together admirably and included nothing foreign to the issue; to remove one statement from its context and to quote it in support of him might have the opposite effect to that intended. Here and there, however, there are phrases indicative of a vastly wider vision than his book includes; hints though they are, they suggest that he has seen through more than one veil while he pondered his solution of the rise and decay of nations.
One illuminating statement that he makes is that "the power of vox populi is a regular feature of a decaying civilization." It needs courage to adopt that viewpoint in an age when nearly all material accomplishment is made contingent on acknowledging the voice of demos as the arbiter of destiny. He also mentions parthenogenesis (as he calls it) affirming that in the birth of nations there is no such element — wherein he is stoutly supported by The Secret Doctrine and by Professor Kenneth Morris. He assures us "there is no new generation without a mixture of blood"; and his statement that, if generations average thirty years, each one of us must have had one hundred million ancestors in the course of the past eight centuries, should go far toward exploding the abominable theories of racial superiority that have made our vaunted civilization not much nobler than a cockpit.
Mathematically it is evident that so-called 'purity of race' is a delusion. If it could exist, it would inevitably lead to racial extinction. And, as Flinders Petrie says: "When the full maximum number of different ancestors are blended, and every strain of one race has crossed with every strain of the other, this is the period of greatest ability."
But it would not be fair to Professor Flinders Petrie to suggest by implication that he has confined his argument to racial admixture. Admirably, in the compass of his short book, he has indicated many other processes of Nature on the plane of objectivity; that these may be effects, not causes, hardly weakens the book's value. If he cites a famine, or a series of famines, as the cause of Arab restlessness or of Egyptian decay, he indicates by inference a subtiler cause again, behind the famine, and compels imagination to bestir itself, since he has raised already that suggestive theory of cycles.
Professor Flinders Petrie's disadvantage is that he ignores the law of Karma and the hope-inspiring theme of the rebirth of individuals. There Kenneth Morris so far has the weather-gage of him that there is no conceivable comparison between their books. Morris explains convincingly and makes the heart sing with the knowledge of the cyclic progress, that always has been and forever shall be ours — where Flinders Petrie only gropes for a solution of the problem. He has observed, and he has reasoned shrewdly; he has given his imagination rein, and he has dared to set down what he sees — which is no mean performance and undoubtedly required the utmost courage. Imagination grows with exercise and there are more unlikely things than that Professor Flinders Petrie may discern such truths as shall illuminate the whole of his patiently acquired familiarity with ancient history and make him the outstanding historian of his age.
And now Spengler, who has taken literary Germany by storm. He is the man who introduced philosophy to railway bookstalls. He philosophizes with a club, and his principal weakness seems to be his incandescent rage. He has no pity for the old school; he prefers to smash it and, like Flinders Petrie, he is not yet ready to replace the "incredibly meager and senseless scheme" with one that really solves the mystery of ages.
In his book Der Untergang des Abendlandes, he boasts: "In this book for the first time an attempt is hazarded at determining history in advance. Its purpose is to pursue, through its still unrun stages, the destiny of a culture, and precisely the one culture on the earth at this time which is nearing completion: that of Western Europe."
That expression, 'for the first time,' is amusing. Indubitably Spengler thinks he is the first to break into print in that field, and it may be that he needs the thunder of the boastful drums to call attention to the wares he has to offer. They are good wares; but they will be better when the quiet forward movement of Theosophy in Germany shall reach him and reveal to him that H.P. Blavatsky introduced immensely better ones some half a century ago. In his manner Spengler brings Nietzsche to mind. He is so vehement against the fallacies of education that he sees around him as to have no patience, and apparently not much hope. Like Flinders Petrie, though with less tact, he has drawn attention to the cyclic course of history and has ignored the laws of Karma and of Rebirth, without which there would be no logic in the law of cycles. He conceives of a logic of time as an organic necessity of fate, to complement his otherwise obviously incomplete conception of cause and effect as 'the logic of space'; and he seeks for a 'logic of history' but fails to find it — as any man must whose eyes are blind to the higher law of spiritual evolution, which includes the key to all the others.
In common with Flinders Petrie, Spengler turns to the arts to illustrate his theory; but to Spengler 'culture' and 'civilization' have widely different meanings, which he stresses vehemently. A 'culture' according to Spengler precedes a 'civilization,' of which latter phase imperialism is the "typical symbol of conclusion." Our present phase is one of civilization, not of culture. "One may regret this, but one cannot alter it." It does not appear to have dawned on him that we are now creating our own future and that cycles, whether of decay or progress, do no more than to provide and to control the circumstances and conditions in which, and against which, we may struggle, if we will, toward a higher spiritual destiny.
Spengler conceives of cultures as ('living organisms of the highest type, growing up in exalted aimlessness, like flowers of the field. They belong, like plants and animals, to the living nature of Goethe, not to the dead nature of Newton.... I see in universal history the vision of an eternal formation and transformation, a marvelous rising and passing of organic forms. The standard historian sees it as a tapeworm which is the 'preliminary' to inexhaustible epochs." They are views magnificent that Spengler sees; he is a sure sign of the awakening of growth in human thought; but there is little he can do, except to break up into fragments the already damaged dogmas of the schools of thought he rails against, until the Ancient Wisdom shall include him in its orbit and reveal to him not only cultures that are living organisms, but cycles within cycles that know nothing of 'exalted aimlessness.'
It is a mystery, much more insoluble than any riddle that the Sphinx propounded, how Spengler reconciles exalted aimlessness with his equally stressed assertion that it is man's business to discover the particular stage at which history finds him and to govern his actions accordingly. Self-government implies a purpose, a conviction, and a goal. Cui bono, if exalted aimlessness is all that actuates the higher types of living organisms?
Spengler is at his best in his destructiveness. He withers with his scorn the hobby-riding of the "highly intelligent connoisseur" concerned with "the mastery of absurd instrumental tone-masses and harmonic obstacles or with the 'doing' of a problem in color." Everything, he says, is centralized, the metropolis dictating to the provinces what they shall think, and money is the standard of all measurement of value. This, he points out, parallels exactly the decay of Rome, where panem et circenses symbolized precisely the same causes that are undermining our latter-day civilization. He points out many other parallels — the many-storied tenements, for instance, of Byzantium and Rome and of our own great cities; Rome's financial magnates, whose burial monuments obscured the view along the Via Appia, and our own great capitalists, who, with similar immodesty, erect advertisements of their opulence. But Spengler misses the significance of all this. Though he can coin a flaming epigram in scorn of Guyau, Bergson, Düring, Euchen, and a host of other thinkers, asserting that "they have dropped from the bird's-eye view to the frog's-eye view" and have become "mere theorists," he himself submits to us a theory that is only different from theirs and newer. He accepts quite cheerfully conditions that he holds up to our ridicule, asserting they are "part of an organic sequence, a type of historic act (biographically predetermined hundreds of years before.)"
He recommends us to accept conditions also, his theory being that the only possible course left to the occidental intellect corresponds to Hellenic skepticism. "Everything," he says, "depends upon one's clarifying and grasping the situation; this destiny; one can deceive himself about it, but cannot disregard it. Whoever does not admit it to himself, does not count among the men of his generation. He remains a fool, a charlatan, or a pedant."
Spengler possibly forgets that there were prophets of despair before his day, and that human hope perennially lives in spite of them. He has accomplished wonders of invective. But he seems so pleased with having pricked a few thin bladders and exposed the emptiness within, that he has neither capacity nor inclination left to discern what forces move the mere phenomena that he would sweep away as worthless. He prefers "the splendidly clear, highly intellectual lines of a fast steamer" to any of what he terms our present-day "stylistic trash"; and he prefers a Roman aqueduct to all Roman temples and statues. He seems to overlook the fact that even aqueducts and steamers are phenomena.
But he is doing good. He is exploding bombs into the ranks of those who would like to pass laws to compel us to think as they dictate. He has none of Kenneth Morris's vision, none of Flinders Petrie's tact. It might improve his usefulness to learn that vehemence is very often merely waste of energy, and that scorn robs truth of its attractiveness. In ignorance of Spengler's age one hesitates to guess that he has yet reached forty. Time with its logic may suggest to him economy of invective, to the end that he may reach, through sympathy, a more distinct and hopeful view of that history which, he believes, he is the first lo seek to outline in advance.
Flinders Petrie, diffidently, with authority and tact, has drawn aside a veil and rather hinted than asserted possibilities of new interpretation of the well-known facts of history. Spengler, a scornful bigot in revolt against the bigots, shakes the ranks of orthodoxy; he is likely to persuade few and to compel none to agree with him, although, like some 'revivalists,' he can create a nine-days' wonder and a stir intensely satisfying to his own esteem. Kenneth Morris, speaking with authority, because he had The Secret Doctrine to rely on, making use of the Key that H.P. Blavatsky brought westward, has unlocked the storehouse of antiquity. Whoever will, may enter, even though Spengler's diatribes suggest to them that there is no hope for the human race.
These are signs of the times. There is a good time coming, when the western world will wake up and discern what history can teach about the proper use of energy. Then — hardly until then — we may expect a renaissance of art and government that truly shall surpass all former crest-waves of recorded history.
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