THEOSOPHY, Vol. 37, No. 6, April, 1949
(Pages 253-257; Size: 15K)
(Number 12 of a 15-part series)
MIND OF THE AGE
XII: ANTI-SEMITISM AND RELIGION
THE unique quality of Theosophical philosophy is its capacity to inspire Synthesis. Although modern psychology has matured considerably, especially as impelled by the growing need for psychotherapy, its philosophy is still in large degree restricted to the physical man. Therefore, while in psychiatric terms one may discover a correlation between fear-neuroses and tendencies of the modern mind such as the popular return to supernaturalism or the growth of anti-Semitism, further relationships between these three will not be adequately suggested by psychiatric or psychoanalytical devices. For the modern psychologist still fails to grant the validity of the truism that ideas rule the world, and that behind any special manifestations of neuroses are certain basic ideative tendencies. A perfect example of the excessive departmentalizing of inquiry among modern psychiatrists is a passage from Karen Horney's Neurotic Personality of our Time:There are certain definite contradictions in our culture, which underlie the typical neurotic conflicts. It would be the task of the sociologist to study and describe these cultural contradictions. It must suffice for me to indicate briefly and schematically some of the main contradictory tendencies.Miss Horney, in leaving an important part of her task to the "sociologist," cripples her own ability for diagnosis. It is not within her "province," therefore, to take cognizance of the tremendous psychological impact of religious ideas in specific terms. Here and there we find a suggestion by some modern writer that man's viewpoint on ultimate questions has much to do with social habits, but such analyses are incidental and unrelated to a fully developed theme. One such aside, which could stand a great deal of careful development, occurs in John O'Hara Cosgrave's Man: A Citizen of the Universe (reviewed in the December THEOSOPHY)--Man's rights were charted by its [religion's] revelations, his civilizations rationalized by them. Justice, duty, and mercy were derived from religious architecture. So were the structures of morality and sin. The wings of romance were feathered from its fabrics, and events colored by its creeds.This may suggest to the student a practical need for analyzing the effect of institutions upon the individual "psyche" -- and the manner in which new institutions are created by modifications of the psyche. In order to live a fully self-conscious life, we may eventually have to persuade ourselves of a necessity for mentally translating every human emotion into its institutional counterpart, and of viewing each characteristic of every institution in terms of its effect upon the mind. In The Secret Doctrine (I, 293), H. P. Blavatsky makes use of the words of Herbert Spencer in describing one of the seven great occult forces of nature (Kundalini Sakti). This force of karmic attraction brings about that "continuous adjustment of internal relations to external relations and the continuous adjustment of external relations to internal relations" which is the basis of transmigration of souls, or rebirth. "A Yogi," H.P.B. writes, "must thoroughly subjugate this power before he can attain Moksham...."
The present series has been endeavoring to follow the type of inquiry which H. P. Blavatsky's words suggest. But the final work of analysis must consist in making practical applications of the principle of "internal" and "external" correlations. For the "citizens" of the Holy Roman Empire the problem was simpler: they were faced by one dominant institution. Our basic "institutions" today are mental attitudes, crystallized sufficiently to have almost the force of a political and a religious structure, but not yet entirely congealed, and therefore less easily isolated for analysis.
One correlation which might be attempted by the theosophical student is that presented by such diverse manifestations of the quality of the modern mind as, say, Trends in Modern Fiction, the Return to Religion, and the increase of manifestations of Anti-Semitism. What are the similarities in these phenomena?
An easy way to approach a consideration of modern trends in fiction is through the medium of the Book-of-the-Month Club, which has already reached large-scale institutional proportions. In relation to the other two trends, Book-of-the-Month selections show both a growing preoccupation with supernatural experience, and a definite avoidance of even the slightest anti-Semitic bias. Thus, at first glance, we might assume that modern fiction-writing inspires many to Seek Religion, but definitely discourages anti-Semitism. Since the theosophist is naturally distrustful of attempts to encourage a return to religion, however, he may be interested in the conclusion reached by a recent analyst of anti-Semitic developments (Carey McWilliams in A Mask for Privilege) that the Released Time programs for the furtherance of religious education in our public schools encourage anti-Semitism by their subtle sectarian emphasis in the classroom. Despite the fact that the major church groups responsible for the released-time plan have conducted extensive campaigns against racial prejudice, this is the basic psychological fact. Sectarian religion habituates its believers to the concept of moral and racial superiority.
We may also relate the trends in fiction, in religion and in class prejudice to the effect of warfare and national conscription. The psychology of warfare is militant exclusiveness. Temporarily, a "brotherhood in arms" may be felt by the participants, and certain class and racial barriers minimized. But the main effect of institutionalized warfare comes in the form of a delayed reaction. Since the major emphasis was upon militant exclusiveness -- the chastisement of unworthy groups -- this psychic impetus will find its way to the surface in the context of peacetime when its former outlet, the "enemy," has been vanquished, or when peace has been concluded. Since any war gives abnormal stimulus to fear, we inevitably see a return to supernaturalism in religion following a period of warfare. Similarly, fiction writers, accurately diagnosing the desires of the public and mirroring the psychic tendency of the mass man in the development of plots, dwell upon supernatural occurrences in a manner which would have seemed most peculiar a generation or two ago. Recent Book-of-the-Month selections bring to light the fact that such widely divergent novelists as Thomas Mann and Somerset Maugham now work the supernatural into their stories without apology, and -- significantly -- without any attempt at a rational explanation. While such tendencies have received forewarning in Mann's writing, they have never before been so easy to recognize and so definitely a part of the central theme as in Dr. Faustus (BoM selection for last November). Somerset Maugham's latest novel, Catalina, seems to be a new departure for this author, and, as with Mann, the story revolves around a supernatural occurrence. Within the past year, another BoM choice, The Great Mischief, by Josephine Pinckney, was based entirely upon supernatural events.
These correlations are not too difficult to establish, nor is it difficult to see why the violation, by the slaughter of warfare, of the principle asserting the dignity of each individual soul, and the violation of man's spiritual integrity by a return to revealed religion, fit in with the revival of supernaturalism. But another important factor remains unassimilated. These trends are suggestive of the attitude of mind which breeds anti-Semitism, yet we see in modern fiction an instinctive aversion to anything which tends toward racial prejudice. The "leaning" is in fact in the opposite direction. Many modern novelists have chosen to combat anti-Semitism and have made this objective a minor if not a major theme in the development of their plots.
We have need here of some comprehensive time-sense which will make more rational the movements of the modern mind. Consider the Theosophical view that each segment of society has its own karma, to be worked out in a particular way at the appropriate time. Fiction writers pay considerable attention to the exorcising of obvious evils, but are so involved in perpetuating subtle contributing causes of those same difficulties that many of the ultimate correlations never occur to them. The psychic trend of fiction plots is but automatic action, at the emotional level, responding to the drawing force of men's unfulfilled wishes. The novels inciting a return to religion may give the same amount of attention in the same chapters to denouncing racial exclusiveness. Yet, by encouraging a religious revival -- which in turn is contrary to the Supreme Court decision against released time programs in public schools -- such writers will, however unknowingly, have added to the psychic impetus of anti-Semitism.
Anti-Semitism of itself, of course, is an excellent example of mass paranoia. It has been our legacy from all the written and spoken words of the past which have enhanced the special value of certain racial and religious stock and designated differing groups as "inferior." Every encouragement to American imperialism or world domination, however carefully phrased or concealed behind a professed desire to "improve the world," gives psychological impetus to anti-Semitic and other forms of prejudice. Every defense of national conscription is similarly fraught with psychic danger. If we regard the Indian people as "backward," if we develop in our society and political life the growing mass aversion to the principles of free thought and social experimentation, we encourage the forces that make, finally, for overt legislation against minority racial and religious groups. Eventually, when the insidious anti-Semitism which we deny access to in our conscious lives is able to manifest in conscious terms, we shall have political discrimination against the Jewish people and finally, too, novels which acquiesce in this type of denial of "equal rights."
Perhaps it was the perception of the weakness of average fiction-writing that led H. P. Blavatsky to pay such marked tribute to Feodor Dostoevsky. (See "The Tidal Wave," THEOSOPHY XXVII, 501-2.) [Note: A link to it has been placed at the end of this article. --Compiler.] Dostoevsky, like Tolstoy, was in much of his writing a penetrating psychiatrist who laid bare the ill health of the contemporary mind. To extend Madame Blavatsky's literary analysis to the present and future, we might say that the most valuable and significant novels will be those which reveal such things as the relation between a mass return to institutional religion and the growth of anti-Semitism. We might see, in the "ideal novel," the development of characters whose internal questionings and questings led them beyond both of these escapes from moral responsibility to the affirmation of the spiritual brotherhood of man.
COMPILER'S NOTE: The following is a separate item which followed the above article but was on the same page. I felt it was useful to include it here:
"A SOUND ARISING ..."
Amid all the external discord and disorganization of social harmony; amid confusion and the weak and cowardly hesitations of the masses, tied down to the narrow frames of routine, propriety and cant; amid that late dead calm of public thought that had exiled from literature every reference to Soul and Spirit and their divine working during the whole of the middle period of our century -- we hear a sound arising. Like a clear, definite, far-reaching note of promise, the voice of the great human Soul proclaims, in no longer timid tones, the rise and almost the resurrection of the human Spirit in the masses. It is now awakening in the foremost representatives of thought and learning; it speaks in the lowest as in the highest, and stimulates them all to action.
--H. P. BLAVATSKY in 1889
[Note: Here is the link to HPB's article, entitled "The Tidal Wave", that was spoken of and pointed to by the Editors in the above article. --Compiler.]
MIND OF THE AGE
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