THEOSOPHY, Vol. 35, No. 2, December, 1946
(Pages 61-64; Size: 12K)
(Number 12 of a 12-part series)
THE CYCLE'S NEED
A LIVING MORALITY
WHILE the eyes, ears, and minds of the men of today are filled with the tumult of events, each one seeming to present a destiny-shaping crisis, there is a great emptiness in modern life. The events of current history are all "important" when measured by standards in which men have believed for several generations, yet somehow, after they have occurred, they drop into a limbo of meaninglessness, being replaced by some new "crucial" happening. The truth is that the moral forces of history have left the stage of contemporary world affairs; we witness, not the moving realities of men who act from deep conviction, but a dance of Kama-rupas, reflexes of a dying culture.
The modern world, if it is to have any moral existence at all, must find new sources of inspiration. Its life at present is conducted in a moral vacuum, void of principles, void of hope, void of the deeps of inner experience where principles are found, and on which hope is based.
"An age of great inspiration and unconscious productiveness," wrote H. P. Blavatsky, "is invariably followed by an age of criticism and consciousness. The one affords material for the analyzing and critical intellect of the other." Today, we live at the end of "an age of criticism and consciousness." It is the prenatal stage of the coming age of "great inspiration." Our analyzing and criticizing intellectuality has exhausted the last possibilities of inspirations brought forward from the past. Today, we are men of little faith. Only our longings and our apprehensions are great.
The great need of this cycle is for simple moral verities. The moral vacuum must be filled. This is not yet the "Time for Greatness" that one publicist has proclaimed. We do not know what greatness consists in, nor where to seek its qualities. This is the time for building, slowly and surely, the foundations for greatness. We have to learn how to restore a living conviction in moral reality. Ordinary men must learn, by precept and example, that principles are stronger than armies, greater than "gods," and alone worthy of the final allegiance of human beings. Slowly, we must build the sort of family and social matrix in which a Tom Paine, an Ethan Allen, and a Lincoln may seek and find their places of birth. This means people in whom dawns a light of recognition of moral essentials; people who can answer for themselves, in their own terms, the question of Arjuna: "What may such a sage declare? Where may he dwell? Does he move and act like other men?"
The Gita is not written in a contemporary idiom. A people who must have their ultimate truths presented in the jargon of an epoch are not people who can recognize the truth at all. It is the rendering of truth, each man for himself, into the terms of his daily life, that is the alchemy of moral growth. When people can see that the Paines and the Lincolns are the gnanis of our time, then the Gita will be reborn in their hearts. The distant Never-Never Land of Wisdom must be recreated on the unromantic soil of the prosaic and familiar present. The backlots of the city, the roadsides of the country, the shacks and shanties, the skyscrapers and the villages of the twentieth century: these form our Kurukshetra, the scene of our legend, the romance and mystery of our quest -- the temple we must rebuild anew to house our aspirations.
The cycle's need is written in reverse in every movement of the time; all, even the perversities of human error, reflect the chaotic energies of beings whose natures are denied, repressed and thwarted by both inner and outer circumstances. The religious instinct bursts forth to produce the partisan animus of political movements, frenzied acquisition, the cults of sensate pleasure. The intensity that men should find in the lure of truth breaks forth in a thousand lesser outlets. And because this fire was not kindled for the man of matter, it burns him up. The drive of the soul, when forced into paths of matter, makes tragedy of human life; man is crucified, not on some peak of Caucasus, but by his own desires, by self-betrayal. He is a Prometheus who has not found his mount, whose suffering is to no purpose, whose crime is the bitter sacrifice of himself before unworthy shrines.
The intellectuality that, twenty, forty, fifty years ago, was so strong and bold, so contemptuous of all but the physical, the "demonstrable," the obviously "real," is now weakly turning to religion with apologetic phrases. From soulless science it returns to soulless religion. And yet it is a hunger, a fearful but genuine hunger of the soul, that stirs the intellectuals to look to these old forms. With minds weak from superficiality, they look back, not inward.
Scientists, heavy-hearted with their responsibility for the structure of this civilization, are vying with one another in the production of "idealist" credos. They have fine principles, high themes, resounding "values" to proclaim, but no real audience to act upon them. These ideals are not connected with the mechanisms of human behavior. They are for verbal conjury, not daily life.
Religious liberals are deep in mystical exploration. Quietist themes, forgotten since the high Middle Ages, are seriously revived. Monkish young men wear cowls and pray for hours. "It is later than you think," they say. The world is so rotten that only a spiritual revival can avail -- a revival which, they say, must be realized in the unity of man with God, not man with man. And yet, were the lines of true religion less obscure; if the alternatives to negative withdrawal from the world were clearly outlined for all to see, these energies would not be wasted in Narcissistic pools of selfish devotion.
The world of political thought is confronted by an insoluble dilemma. The "good of man" is no longer described in terms that the heart can accept. Revolutions are being fought for the good of men's bodies. The falsity of such causes makes fanatics of those who defend them. Moral systems are conceived and supported without moral principles. The strength of moral conviction is gone, so the wild energy of hate must serve these causes. Deception and betrayal become the methods of reform; denial of the divine in man is the practice of those who would feed the animal. Conceptions of moral freedom are only echoes from a liberal past. What are the individual and his choices worth, if there is no soul who lives and grows from choosing? Without soul, men must decide between Leviathan and ruleless anarchy. Government becomes simply the regulated compromise of these extremes, and not a dynamic balance maintained in a society which is regarded as simply the protective framework of a common moral life.
As the West sinks into chaotic decline, the star of the Orient is rising. It is a fact of curious interest and historic importance that the new religion of India shows no apathy toward the dominant social issues confronting that country. Gandhi's revival of devotion to ancient ideals and practices does not preach quietistic escape from the wicked world. His faith is positive and active; it invades the chancelleries of government, the marketplaces of trade. It is a force men feel in their daily lives. Its essence is integrity of purpose; its method is consistency of means with ends. While Western mystics long for asylum, Eastern thinkers have entered the arena of the political struggle, but as philosophers, not politicians. Gandhi has proved that patriotism and universal ethics are not incompatible -- a historic and revolutionary demonstration. Nehru is an Indian Tom Paine, Radhakrishnan an unaloof Plato whose loyalty to the Indian cause is strengthened, not weakened, by his scholarly mastery of philosophic subtleties. The Renaissance is on the way in India. Indians are beginning to apply their high philosophy to the great human problems of their time. They are becoming whole men. They are accepting the lesson which the West had to teach them and have begun the war on lethargy and psychic impotence. Manas is aroused.
Meanwhile, the West is desperately in need of the truths the East has known for millenniums. The West is slow to recognize the ancient truth that man is a soul. What ought to be a new level of soul-activity is emerging in Western experience as merely psychic "phenomena." Powers and faculties of the inner man are becoming known. Telepathy is widely acknowledged as a fact, but not a fact of soul. Abnormal psychology is being forced to deal with the obscure workings of the inner, psychic principles, but without knowledge of the soul as the true healer of minds diseased. Hypnotism is a perverted power of the soul.
Every phase of modern thought and modern life is a battlefront for pressing the cause of soul-knowledge. All efforts and movements promising potential good are weak and inadequate without the deep and enduring inspiration that the teaching of the soul can provide. All reactionary tendencies reflect the static faith of men who lack the soul's encouragement to believe in the future and in the creative power of men to make it better. The fierce partisanships of class, color and blood grow strong with the default of teachings about the soul. Humanists may say, and they are right, that only principles can dissolve these conflicts, and point to common grounds for building the brotherhood of man. But only feeling and understanding of the soul can make these principles live for modern man.
The great task, the mighty challenge, today, for theosophists, is in showing how soul-knowledge is a necessity for all these reasons. The teaching of Karma and Reincarnation will not only integrate the good will of men, but it will explain the evil and dissipate the force of wrong-doing and injustice that grows from ignorance. This teaching unites the resolve to serve with understanding of the obstacles to that resolve's fulfillment. It is indeed the key that will unlock the enigmas of the age, the solvent of dilemmas and the cement of common determination.
This is Theosophy applied. It is not an "intellectual" study, but a realization of the meaning of Theosophy which comes from personal participation in the great problems of men, and from relating that meaning to those problems. Out of such applications will be born a new idiom of principle, a new dynamics of action on the basis of soul. It will be the language of practical morality, and it will be understood by the common man.
[Reminder: THE CYCLE'S NEED series has now ended.]
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