THEOSOPHY, Vol. 20, No. 8, June, 1932
(Pages 368-372; Size: 15K)
(Number 6 of a 57-part series)

STUDIES IN KARMA

POVERTY AND WEALTH

AT the time of writing, fairly reliable estimates for Europe and America show eighty million human beings, including dependents, directly suffering either actual present material deprivation or equally painful -- sometimes even more painful -- apprehensions for the future. Added to this must be the enormous number whose positions are still secure in seeming, but who like the others are viewing the gaunt march of the spectres of futurity through the corridors of the mind.

Thus the question of poverty and riches, starvation and surfeit, has today achieved a personal keenness and pertinence, unparalleled in modern civilization -- and that at the close of the most exuberant cycle of materialistic cocksureness known to modern history.

"Man's extremity is God's opportunity" is the ecclesiastic perversion of a great truth. Hardly a man thinks on a full stomach. A ruler able to maintain his people in physical comfort without break could lead them unquestioning into the lowest abysses of moral Avitchi. During the just-ending cycle of Mammon, the American race well-nigh set foot on the path downward -- countless units of it did. Fortunate Karma intervened, purifying the racial brain with sharp pangs of deprivation, causing its men to turn eyes, even though despairing ones, upward away from the mire.

But at the end of the road of Karmic deprivation lies also the dearth of thought. Men hungry enough, goading one another in the mass, turn into animals whose unthinking ferocity shames the pets of Circe. In the long interim of want and apprehension that lies between the food-clogged brain and the brain out of control from hunger, lies the Theosophic opportunity to cast light upon causes lest they lead to worse effects than need be. The thought of the world has always lain sharply divided into two camps. That which has ruled for the most part, holds frankly, one might say shamelessly, to the right of might, to the priority of the first comer. Whoever has the power to get, holds title by that power, legal documents being but the record and regularization of that rule of force. Those of this school recognize no right in property or its use save the will of the possessor. Under this order, the bodies of those who have not, are as wholly the property of those who have as the tools they wield, whatever disguise may be made of the fact. The laws protecting the human rights of the propertyless are palliative slave's privileges won from grudging masters bit by bit through the centuries, working yet with pitiful ineffectiveness.

Opposed to this practice is a doctrine which from the point of view of abstract justice and logic, is impregnable. Its basic tenets are simple. It recognizes no merit in the unearned circumstances of a man's birth which entitles him to lie more softly than others. It recognizes no right in the tooth of the stronger to the flesh of the weaker. It sees in mankind not a congeries of unrelated and antagonistic entities, fated by nature to eternal internecine warfare. Rather the race is viewed as an endless united stream of life occupying the globe, the fruits of which belong by natural birthright to every cell thereof. It holds that each man should give of his best, and that the value of service should be reckoned against capacity and not against mere gross volume. Such is the communistic creed in its basic ethics; it is profoundly Theosophic, for it is the criterion which every true Theosophist applies to his own life.

But if capitalism as practiced is indefensible and rotten to the core -- even inadequate in these days to the task of feeding the people in a world flooded with plenty -- nevertheless socialism and communism are cursed by a foreshortened view and paucity of understanding. The true economic order has as yet neither name nor place in this age.

In Russia already they have encountered a giant hidden reef, the stored Karma inherited through the secret spiritual history of ages. For in Russia they have abandoned pure communism as food too ethereal for the economic digestion to operate upon without death, and have returned to the principle of differential wage and differential privilege as the reward of effort. Russian economy has thus become, no longer the exemplar of a new principle in human relations, but an experiment looking to a more workable method of allotting the spoils of nature; it has a different type of master for the slaves, a different type of digestive distribution through the body politic. On this basis it may go far. But the original vision is lost. Why? The Russian enthusiasts saw only material human nature, with its seventy years of personal existence. The eighteen million years behind they never dreamed of. By just such percentage therefore did their work fail to go toward the roots of things.

"To each according to his needs; from each according to his ability," is indeed the very root and apex of Theosophic principle. But material needs and material ability can only be understood in connection with spiritual needs and spiritual ability in each case. The one is the complement of the other; the one is age-old whereas the other is of the hour. It is in himself that a man carries poverty or riches. If he has pauperized himself in his soul, a donation of all the gold in the coffers of France and America cannot save him from hunger. The slum-dweller, lifted to be housed in the highest achievement of the builder's art, lapped by the freshest of silks, needs but a week to make a new sty of his new palace, achieving nothing save confusion to the sociologist. Yet there are men bare of possessions whose faces show serene, whose every surrounding takes on patrician touch at their approach.

What is the nature of this past action which decrees inexorable dearth or surfeit? Why are the great masses vouchsafed nothing but the slave's boon, the daily meal, living ever upon the verge so that at any slight disturbance of the golden metabolism they starve? Why are men so constituted that after rebelling against inequity, they force inequity upon every new order as the price of its existence?

The earth is the heritage of all men. But the inner relationship of each to that heritage is different. Under the necessary law of evolution, the Universe is hierarchic; no two are equal on the path of power or knowledge. Thus at the dawn of material Humanity, men found themselves, little understanding, in control of unequal possessions. The great electro-magnetic can lift a half-carload of iron. The puny plaything of the child, though of like nature, picks up a needle with difficulty. It is as simple as that, once possessions are seen as continuous with flesh; matter understood as threaded through with unseen nerves radiating from the human will.

Upon what meat, then, did these our Caesars feed, that they have grown so great? Upon the power of will developed in past Manvantaras. Secret history records that in the early ages the greater material power in some was acquiesced in by all. Why? Because these, fresh from assimilated lessons, but governed that of which they found themselves in possession; they ruled but did not own. And recognizing the common title of all men in the earth, they ruled for the benefit of all, no more thinking of taking personal privilege thereof than an honest cashier thinks of dipping into the bank vaults.

Among the humbler it was known that no man obsequiously served a master; that all men served Life; served Life in beast and plant and soil and mulch; served Life not by any specific material act as such, but by the spirit of true work, by recognition of the commonalty of Life-Power and potential evolution in the foot and that upon which it trod; the hand and the wood it shaped. And all Nature responded, blindly, but truly, to the impress of Man's soul, as the flower opens to the sun. In such a world, how could there be that enmity between Man and Matter which now moves the erstwhile willing servant to leave its repudiated master to starve? How could there be that mad thirst to enslave, to mutilate, to domineer and deface the world which now obsesses mankind, forever driving the life of the planet to blind reprisal through "natural" horrors?

The breach between Power and Service began when the idea of Possession crept into the mind of man; when the rulers slipped insidiously into the enjoyment of benefits beyond the mass reach, setting for the latter an evil example. Then the lower aspired, not to serve, but to get; and so began the strife which has ever since set the hand of each man against his brother. The vestigial remnants of the great Fall are in each of us. Who of us, employed, but feels ever the whip at his back, forgetting that the willing horse never heard of a whip? Who of us, employer, looks upon his helpers as other than those divinely ordained to minister to his comfort? Who of us, employer or employed, but looks upon matter and money as blind, soulless, inert stuff having naught to do with our own flesh, our own minds, our own souls?

Disguise it as we will, under sham loyalty on the one side, sham altruism on the other, such is the fact. Does not the employee who donates true service feel a glow of self-righteousness, as though he had done, not the minimum of duty, but sacrifice instead? Does not the employer, relinquishing to his men spoils that he might have kept, feel that self-same glow, even though over only a plate of scraps cast from the dining-room window of his mansion?

Thus, workers, thinking our works grudging service to grudging masters, not plain duty to all Life, we quarrel with our food. Employers, thinking our men made for our comfort, to be cajoled for our benefit by fair words and reluctant gold where force fails, we quarrel with our duties and embezzle our trusts. Folly upon folly! Folly below and folly above, and ever-recurrent cycles of misery, revolution, new masters, new oppressions, new miseries, and new revolutions!

In far times, the forsworn governors, hurled stripped by their own shocked souls -- for that is the way of Karma -- down into pits of misery during succedent lives, left vacant the seats of control. The lowly, drawn by Karmic vacuum into the abandoned places, unprepared, did what they could; knowing neither themselves nor others, they succumbed to the lure of ease and sensuality, beckoned on by the ill example of their predecessors; tossed the ways of communal life into confusion, generated in themselves dire miseries for the future -- and fell in their turn. So on the alternating tides of poverty and riches, surfeit and suffering, each man has washed to and fro through the centuries, now up, now down, ever in blind ignorance and denial of inner causes, ever blaming master and fellow-man, never self. Neither god nor man may prevail against this fatal nescience by material means however great in volume; by mere scheming of machinery and system, however acute. Liberation shall never come until a "nucleus of universal brotherhood" will embrace true duty in daily life, governors and governed alike. Neither may prevail without the other. It matters no whit whether the master be named Morgan or Stalin, the laborer be called mechanic or moujik -- until the hearts of both sides, -- not one only -- be right.


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:

DO WE REMEMBER?

A New York doctor and his wife found their young twins communicating with each other in a language which the parents were unable to understand. Relatives and friends listened and were as baffled as the parents. Someone suggested that the language departments at Columbia University might at least be able to decide whether the children were using a developed language, or were simply able to make each other understand in their own instinctual way. The children were taken to the University. The Department of Modern Languages listened in vain, but the Department of Ancient Languages discovered that the children were talking to each other in ancient Hebrew. Both parents are of Irish descent.

Yet they say, "If reincarnation were true, we would remember!"


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STUDIES IN KARMA
DISEASE
(Part 7 of a 57-part series)

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