THEOSOPHY, Vol. 22, No. 8, June, 1934
(Pages 343-347; Size: 15K)
(Number 24 of a 57-part series)

STUDIES IN KARMA

THE DECREE OF ORLOG

It is simply knowledge and mathematically correct computations which enable the WISE MEN OF THE EAST to foretell, for instance, that England is on the eve of such or another catastrophe; France, nearing such a point of her cycle, and Europe in general threatened with, or rather, on the eve of, a cataclysm, which her own cycle of racial Karma has led her to. (The Secret Doctrine, 1888, I, 646.)
HERE we have prophecies couched in terms revealing the methods by which such prophecies are made. Let us look at the events of history since these prophecies were published. This was about twenty years after the close of the last preceding Western European war, and in the midst of the most prolonged peace known to those lands in historical times. It was a period of general advance in the sciences and industries. The "Pax Brittanica" was firmly established on the seas, and that Empire at the height of its power; the rapid progress of the Victorian age was in its glory. So friendly were the relations between Great Britain and Germany that two years after the writing of The Secret Doctrine, the former turned over to the latter the Island of Heliogoland, occupying a commanding position in the North Sea -- which Germany at once made into an impregnable fortress. The next serious threat to West European peace came through the "Fashoda Incident," which almost caused war between England and France. Suppose H. P. Blavatsky in fact had made the prophecies a trifle more definite, and revealed the actual alignment of the Great Powers in the war which was the beginning of the destruction of European civilization?

In spite of the savage shocks of the past few years, there is still, in America at least, a great deal of the "millennial" psychology; a foggy, vague idea that the race is progressing steadily to greater heights, being now at the world-peak of achievement to date. To minds of this nature, of course, such dreams as "universal peace," "The United States of Europe," "The League of Nations," etc., etc., are potential realities of a comparatively near future, even though they represent complete reversals of the whole of known history.

To apply the mathematics of morals to the present situation -- to determine whether in fact the nations are going to disarm, whether science will be turned at last from destruction to construction, whether in fact a Parliament of Man will ever have being, whether the new social dreams will materialize, we have but to examine the causes which were being created by this same mankind in the mass when it lived last; for it is here now to reap the effects of those causes.

In what age, then, lies the last mass incarnation of the present races? The average cycle of fifteen hundred years is given. The present Karma of the world-order needs to be considered from the viewpoint of the Karma then being generated, plus possible new elements which may now have entered the situation. So far as the motives of the mass Karma are concerned, there is no change. We uniformly exaggerate the degradations of the Roman decline and even of the Dark Ages in our minds and in our literature. We as uniformly exaggerate the blessing of our own. Life is as brutal now as it was in any of those times. Only, we do our iniquities in a sort of impersonal mass way. The broken and starving poor, the suicides, the insane and broken-minded, are "victims of social forces" instead of victims of the racks and dungeons of individual petty tyrants -- but it is none-the-less the insane greed of some and the blank ignorance and indifference of others that make things so. We do not kill our war victims in an incessant dribble of a few hundreds per year in bow-and-arrow bickering, but instead, after leaving them in "peace" for a generation, gather them by the millions for mass slaughter with heavy guns, air craft, submarines, and battleships, while the dribble of killings of the feudal ages is repeated by the hundred thousand per year killed accidentally in the United States. It is true few could read in the years 500 to 1500, and equally true that nearly all who could, abused their learning. It is equally true that the universal education of the present day has mostly served the purpose of making ignorance, prejudice, and vulgarity articulate, popular hysterias and delusions faster-running and more dangerous, and has succeeded in swamping beyond discovery what remains of good literature under the blind, gargantuan mass of trash and worse written to the popular taste.

The hardships and brutalities of the old times never led to any greater unhappiness than do modern conditions. We have somewhat different things to be unhappy about, but if the suicide and insanity indices mean anything, we succeed admirably at being miserable. No, the popular Karma of today has not changed. How could it, since our popular motives have changed no whit? The great nations of Europe have almost run their fifteen-hundred-year cycles; that which has been is that which is about to be.

What? Can the teeming invention, energy, and intelligence of Europe die and vanish as did the mind and power of Rome? Must not its very momentum carry it on to ever greater heights? Unless the Cosmic machinery be reversed for the performance of a miracle, we may look for a rapid decline in the quality of Egos incarnating, just as took place during the decay of Rome. In the equilibrium of Nature, a declining cycle is always accompanied by a rising cycle elsewhere. Once again let us look to the past for some understanding of what is to come. What were the rising cycles at the time of the Roman decline?

There were several; two in unknown America, which do not belong to the present discussion, others in Asia, and a mixture of vigor and decay, of creative art and liberalism, and of political corruption, which then stood in nearly the same point of its national cycle as the present United States -- the Byzantine Empire, which was to be the mainstay of Western science, philosophy, and art, for nearly a thousand years after the Roman Fall. And if Byzantium is not reincarnating in America day by day, swamping out the dying remnants of the Western Roman mass incarnation which obviously inaugurated the United States -- then there is nothing in likeness of temperament, Karma, and national destiny. America has grown out of Britain exactly as did Byzantium out of Rome, following the same ancient pattern of parturition.

Here enters another, almost eerie, illustration of the Karmic heredity of nations. It is well enough known that France, Germany, Great Britain, and other nations, owe their lives to the death of the Roman Empire of which their beginnings were constituent elements. It is not so generally known that the United States owes her own life to the death of the Byzantine Empire. The capture of Constantinople in 1453 by the Turks, signalizing the end of the already dissected Byzantine Empire, closed the direct trade routes to the East and gave immediate rise to the hectic search for other passages, which inspired Columbus. American trend away from its original Roman agrarian and republican simplicity toward urban complexity and toward bureaucracy in government, is no coincidence. We have been Byzantium; we shall again be---?

There were two other great rising cycles; that of Islam, and that of one of the highest periods of happiness and culture that China has ever known. Mohammed was born in 570, and Christian prejudices notwithstanding, his teachings led to the founding of several empires which vastly forwarded the cause of true knowledge. It was in an Islamic order that an Adept (Avicenna) four hundred years later, became renowned and esteemed in the public eye. In Islam, art, science, and literature rose to as great heights as in Byzantium, and Theosophy rose higher. In one of the great Islamic empires, two hundred years after the Fall, it is related, poetically but not untruthfully, that a child could carry a bag of gold from the Mediterranean to China. When the actual contemporary literature is studied, and the reader manages to disembarrass himself from the overload of Christian slanders and prejudices against Islam, it is discovered that under Islam arose some societies as nearly approaching the "Golden Age" type as the world has known for five thousand years.

Turning to China, we find a similar cycle inaugurated with the Tang Dynasty in 619, with which China came herself out of a four-hundred-year Dark Age -- not nearly so dark, by the way, as the European brand. Then, from the Fall of Rome right up to the Ming Period of the 17th Century, China maintained herself in a condition of culture, happiness, and prosperity admittedly far in advance of any other world state.

If we are to regard Graeco-Roman Europe as the head and forefront of world civilization, upon whose fate hangs all the world history, the outlook is dark indeed. If we are to place her in her true light, and if we realize that in the times of her agony which bulk so large in her histories the Eastern world was happy, prosperous, and cultured, we will attain a better sense of proportion, and learn to regard European vicissitudes with more equanimity.

How much, then, may we guess of the future from the past? In Europe despair has become quite outspoken among thinkers -- as it was in Rome during her degeneracy, and we have there indeed all the phenomena of the Fall reincarnated. But where are we to look for the scene of the next Chinese and of the next Western Asiatic renaissance? China is nearing the end of her racial as of her national cycle; nevermore shall we see a Tang, a Sung, or a Ming in that moribund land; yet that mighty energy must be ready to reincarnate somewhere. In a new Mongolian empire founded by Japan upon the limitless resources of Manchuria? Or in the half-Mongolian order of Russia, obviously upon an upward cycle of some kind? Shall we see Islam reborn in a revivified Near East? All these possibilities are visible; all these tendencies exist. Where, in Assyria, Egypt, Rome, Greece, Byzantium, or India, was the vast applied magic of modern science and invention? The morals, the politics, the business methods of those cycles were the same as now. But with the present is a material power whose traces are not discernible there. The explanation lies in fusion. Memory of certain kinds is no individual affair. Reacting upon one another, mutually stimulating ourselves to good or evil, we recover again the powers once used in concert, misused, and then lost for ages.

The flesh of the American is no new thing; it has grown out of the race bodies of Europe. Neither is his Ego a new creation, or even one long dormant and now returned to life. He was of Egypt, of Greece, of Rome, Babylon and Byzantium; but in those cycles he had but few of his powers developed, helpless, when separated, to accomplish what is now easy, almost automatic, when gathered with his ancient brethren. Thus the elements of these old civilizations, reborn in him, are fortified by others, greater, dormant for tens of thousands rather than a few hundred years. What we shall become is not yet shown, though the vast ebullition of good and evil, which is the still infant soul of America, may give some index to the nature of our full-grown future. Sure it is that the Roman phase is nearly gone, others strangely mingling together and so giving new and weird hues.

Even for long ages after her main power was broken, Atlantis stood to the west as a terror to her newer and lesser neighbors. Can New Atlantis, chastened somewhat by the individual woes of a million years of weak and separated wanderings, rise to be something else -- a Teacher instead of a Terror to men? If so, then from her vantage-point on the fringe, can she ameliorate indeed the woes of that dark age! But the struggle for light in America has yet to be won.

"Occult philosophy teaches that even now, under our very eyes, the new Race and Races are preparing to be formed, and that it is in America that the transformation will take place, and has already silently commenced." (The Secret Doctrine, II, 444.)


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