THEOSOPHY, Vol. 37, No. 3, January, 1949
(Pages 106-110; Size: 14K)
(Number 9 of a 15-part series)

MIND OF THE AGE

IX: PSYCHOLOGICAL EQUIVALENTS

IT is obvious to any thinking man that whatever social patterns presently exert a detrimental influence upon men's personal lives are in themselves simply crystallizations of tendencies originating in "personal lives." H. P. Blavatsky wrote, "We cut these numerous windings in our destinies daily with our own hands, while we imagine that we are pursuing a track on the royal high road of respectability and duty, and then complain of those ways being so intricate and so dark. We stand bewildered before the mystery of our own making, and the riddles of life that we will not solve, and then accuse the great Sphinx of devouring us."

Man's powers of psychic generation, often unconsciously operative, are perhaps analogous to the dangerous secrets of atomic fission. When individuals or social groups become preoccupied with one or another type of exploitation -- if the motive is self-seeking -- sooner or later there comes a destructive crystallization of all the energies expended. No one is really "ready" for wars or for depressions, just as no one was really "ready" for the atomic bomb. In the latter instance, the very feverishness displayed by the bomb's apologists indicated a grave unease -- a disquietude aptly analyzed by Edmond Taylor in passages of Richer by Asia cited in "Mind of the Age" last month. [Note: This refers to the article just before this one. --Compiler.]

Certainly, also, the world was not altogether "ready" for the existence of Concentration Camps and Death Camps. The majority of men were profoundly shocked, while some refuse to admit that Death Camps were a reality, even in Germany. Nor have the majority felt themselves fully prepared for the decline in standards of marital morality which their own "sophisticated" experimentations over many, many long years have hastened to bring to a climax in the Kinsey Report. Seldom, if ever, have parents expected to see their child repeat some of the more regrettable sequences of their own lives. In the same way, totalitarianism is not fully acceptable anywhere, yet the grip of conscriptive legislation tightens in all corners of the world, and many everyday human attitudes help to tighten it. This, despite the fact that very few were joyful about giving over the prerogative of independent choice to the State -- when war came -- whether they were German, Russian, English or American. Perhaps we are never quite "ready" for the mass application of any materialistic views in which we have privately indulged, because a mass application of such attitudes affects us in a cycle of karma which destroys the lingering remains of our dignity, and exposes the hypocrisy of our personal lives.

An entirely new science of the mind is needed, of course, to assist us in correlating dangerous attitudes with dangerous institutions and social "forms." Many modern psychiatrists are striving with genuine fervor to supply these missing links, so that we can counteract the trends our own psychological energies have generated. Yet the psychiatrist has a discouraging handicap -- he is unable to determine whether or not those trends which are subversive of democratic values are inevitable. Should we adjust to conditions, or should we proclaim the faith that drastic changes in human behavior are possible? One thing is sure: we cannot expect an essentially different or better civilization if our motivations are destined always to be animal motivations, if the struggle for survival must always eclipse every other sort of human dedication. Suppose the whole world continues to increase its resemblance to a huge concentration camp? How can the psychiatrists best serve their fellow men? Must they instruct them on how to adjust themselves to the requirements of regimentation, or is there some undiscovered ground for believing that those who dare to revolt against the oppressive power may find a greater happiness and psychic balance through their "unpopular" assertion of the right to be morally free? In the event of modern war, should men condition themselves to feel that military service is a good and proper thing, or be encouraged in the belief that they are participating in nothing more than the destructive effluvia of world neuroses? It will manifestly be difficult for medical scientists and psychiatrists who are sincerely questioning the "human situation" to know how to proceed, while these two-sided questions constantly intrude themselves. Perhaps confusion attracts men to adopt the least troublesome answer: the greater proportion of psychiatrists have already pledged themselves to aid nationalist interests by counselling military officialdom, and the questioning few have to challenge these "well-adjusted" comrades while constantly challenging themselves.

In attempting an analysis of "the Mind of the Age" from a Theosophical point of view, we have examined certain instances wherein prevailing opinions have become lodged in formidable institutions. But, granting that the intimations of Theosophical writing are correct, and that any institutional interference with the free moral choice of the individual is deleterious to the purposes of "soul," the most important research will be some sort of self-questioning which will reveal to the individual, in precise terms, his own participation in the creation of the modern world. A few experimental departures for such analysis may be suggested: Where, in ourselves, are we able to view at close range the conflict between "romance" -- the urge to bold living -- and "religion," heretofore described as a major psychological struggle during many centuries of Western history? How "religious," in the fear-of-life sense, for instance, have we allowed ourselves to become? Our mistakes in the sensory world have too often made us angry at that world or fearful of it. Yet how foolish to be angry at a "world"! A world, any world, is before us to be understood, not shunned. Perhaps, once, the yearning for the romance of fearless questing, the sharing of the spirit of Walt Whitman, was characteristic of ourselves -- during our few years of youthful exuberance. Like Whitman we have all loved life, if not wisely enough, at least well enough. We have wished to experience everything there is to be experienced, not necessarily with the attitude of the decadent sophisticate who tastes life with a calculating desire to extract all of the ultimates in sensual enjoyment, but simply with the attitude of adventure and wholehearted enthusiasm. Yet on Walt Whitman's "Open Road" how easy it has been to succumb to the desire of isolating ourselves in some secluded corner along the way, to repeat the enjoyments life has brought us, and to forget the prompting of an inner, spiritual Self for the continuation of soul progress. And when we have sought to entrench ourselves, when we are no longer willing to "move along" for fear of losing the treasures in hand, we forget that whatever these "treasures" be they are inadequate as permanent accoutrements. We can, in Theosophical terms, surpass all these by further journeying, unless we come to be fearful.

If we do become fearful people, we frequently turn to "religion" -- the word religion, in its present connotation, chiefly representing a complex of those psychological elements which guarantee us a moral status quo. At this point we join the ranks of the negators of life's idealisms. We become distrustful of revolutionary minorities, and of single individuals who, somewhat in imitation of Socrates, refuse to end the adventure of life at any given point by paying obeisance to Authority or Convention. We become apologists for Things as they Are, and are dogmatic in our assertions of the creed "thus far and no further shall men go." And in our personal relations, we may often regard our family in a manner dangerously similar to the attitude with which the Nazis regarded the populace under their control. We wish to do the thinking for those younger or temporarily less powerful than ourselves, because we wish to run no risk that they will develop something new, different and upsetting. "They" must do as we wish them to do; be the sort of "daughter" or "husband" or "wife" we deem they should be.

We can be possessive and cruel in manifestations of our status-quo possessiveness. To state that many marriages are Psychic Concentration Camps seems cynical, but it is not altogether untrue. If we are not people who create "concentration camp" marriages and families, how, under any law of natural justice, can we find ourselves surrounded by a Concentration Camp world? Have we really planted violets and reaped thistles? Have we really been virtuous, and the Devil, for whom we are not responsible, been fiendishly powerful? Or must it not be true, to paraphrase words attributed to Jesus, that when the fruit grows we shall be able to know what we planted?

The moment that we decide to consolidate our present position in life and exploit it while we "protect" it, we become the followers of a World program, the allies of dogmatic religion and of authoritarian statecraft. We swell the number of those who acquiesce to the doctrine that man can never be expected to surpass sin or sensuality, and must content himself with the artificial strictures of an externally imposed compromise-morality. When we let the State assume the complete responsibility for educating our children, we support the Nazi-state or the Communist State. When we woodenly resist changes and innovations in individual or group behavior, we support the more subtle forms of Fascism, such as represented by the Loyalty Test, by the Dies Committee, or by the Tenney Committee. When we find our friends or neighbors supporting an idea which threatens, by implication, the dogmas of our own lives, and when we indulge in the vituperation which is the measure of our fear of change, we again increase the psychological impetus of the forces which make for Fascism and Death Camps.

Few are the men whose moral instincts are sufficiently strong to cause them to stand out from a greedy and fear-ridden majority. The fact that any such do exist is a powerful persuasion of the transcendent power of the Soul. Yet for most men, torn between the "protective" way of life and the "crusading" way of life, a resurgence of faith in the reality of the free Soul may turn intolerant, backbiting, fearful creatures into men of dignity and evolutionary promise.


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:

"IN DREAMS AWAKE"

We bless and curse ourselves. Some dreams are divine, as well as some waking thoughts. Donne sings of one "Who dreamt devoutlier than most use to pray." Dreams are the touchstones of our characters. We are scarcely less afflicted when we remember some unworthiness in our conduct in a dream, than if it had been actual, and the intensity of our grief, which is our atonement, measures inversely the degree by which this is separated from an actual unworthiness. For in dreams we but act a part which must have been learned and rehearsed in our waking hours, and no doubt could discover some waking consent thereto. If this meanness has not its foundation in us, why are we grieved at it? In dreams we see ourselves naked and acting out our real characters, even more clearly than we see others awake. But an unwavering and commanding virtue would compel even its most fantastic and faintest dreams to respect its ever wakeful authority; as we are accustomed to say carelessly, we should never have dreamed of such a thing. Our truest life is when we are in dreams awake. 


--THOREAU

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MIND OF THE AGE
X: DUAL MIND IN SOCIETY
(Part 10 of a 15-part series)

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