THEOSOPHY, Vol. 34, No. 5, March, 1946
(Pages 168-171; Size: 13K)
(Number 3 of a 12-part series)



THE difficulty in understanding how it happens that so many good and intelligent men are bound by materialistic assumptions is resolved only through the Theosophical teaching of cycles. We live in the Kali Yuga, and scientists, like the rest of mankind, are subject to its inversions and distortions. In Kali Yuga, there is a shuffling, not only of caste, but of ideas, values and motives. Thus the scientists have the motives of Arjuna, but the intellectual resources of Duryodhana. Kali Yuga is a time of the greatest moral tragedy, when the laws of the Self of Matter become transposed, elevated to the moral plane, and obeyed as mandates of the Spirit.

Consider certain fundamentals of Science:

Man is an animal.

His primary needs are those of the body.

The individual is shaped solely by heredity and environment.

Selfishness is a basic dynamic in human conduct, necessary to survival.

The mind is a name for complex and obscure phenomena dependent on the brain and inseparable from it.

Material requirements must be served first; hence, physical security is the prime social objective.

These theories, or theories like them, support every scientific project for the betterment of mankind. They enter into every significant social project which has a conscious scientific character. They saturate the outlook of every educated man, weakening his intuitions and confining his aspirations. They are the false conceptions which bar the way to impartial study of the Theosophical teachings of Karma and Reincarnation.

If these ideas come to control education through the increasing authority of science, or if scientific teaching is used to rationalize the political acts of statesmen, the general effect on American institutions will be in opposition to the basic political credo of the Founders of the Republic. Few Americans of today realize the philosophic spirit which pervaded the last half of the eighteenth century, of which the first great Americans were exceptional representatives. The Founding Fathers were neither scientific materialists nor orthodox religionists, but, nearly every one, Deists or Unitarians -- men convinced of the moral nature of man, and reliant on reason instead of Revelation for moral guidance.

They belonged to a generation of thinkers which had rejected dogma, but had not yet adopted materialism. Their thought had much in common with the later Robert Ingersoll, of whom a historian has said: "His ideas were very largely those of Voltaire, of Gibbon, of Hume, of Thomas Paine, of Thomas Jefferson, of Benjamin Franklin, and of a good many other of our prominent Revolutionary heroes." A dismayed clergyman of 1831 published the disturbing fact that most of the founders of our country were "infidels," and that of the first seven presidents, not one of them professed his belief in Christianity. God was not omitted from the Constitution by oversight or accident. As reported by Thompson, the secretary of the Constitutional Convention, God was deliberately voted out of the Constitution after solemn debate!

The Deists inclined to acceptance of "God in Nature" and held that man's condition after death will be determined by his life on earth. There was close relation between Deism and the political philosophy of "Natural Right," carried forward from Greek democracy, Stoicism, and Roman law. The doctrine of the inherent freedom and essential equality of human beings pervaded the thought of Revolutionary times and was established as a principle of the Government of the United States. The practical optimism of Deist ideas derived from Neoplatonic currents. The leader of the Deist movement, Lord Shaftesbury, believed in the possibility of "the elevation of the soul above itself to more universal values, the living out of the whole peculiar power of the individual by the devotion to something higher." Religion he conceived to be "a knowing one's self to be one with the great connected all of reality."

These sublime conceptions gave the declarations and documents of the Founding Fathers their moral tone and impersonal grandeur. They enabled Paine to find words for the expression of his vision of a "new order of ages" and supported Washington in his faith that the United States might become a beacon light to all the world.

If these principles are gradually replaced by the assumptions and denials of modern science, the moral foundations of the ideal of freedom will be subverted and destroyed. In recent years numerous writers have pointed to this danger, but have urged chiefly a return to Deistic conceptions or to a liberal Christianity containing similar liberal principles. Catholic polemicists claim their creed to be the "spiritual" basis for democracy, despite the contradictory evidence of all history, and other sects repeat the same argument with varying subordinate themes. So-called "reactionary" or "conservative" interests increasingly retain apologists to show how laissez faire economics is a revealed truth of liberal philosophy, and ardent believers in individual freedom like Mrs. Rose Wilder Lane strenuously attempt a revival of the convictions which led to the establishment of the Bill of Rights.

But their forces, like those of Duryodhana, are "not sufficient." While the Deist synthesis sufficed for the eighteenth century, it fails in the twentieth. Its positive doctrines are almost invariably identified with the abuses which have grown up with their distortion ("rugged individualism"), and the problems it fails to meet are precisely those which are uppermost in the modern world. Today the generalized faith of Deism in the moral nature of man must encounter the vast body of scientific theory claiming man to be an animal -- a being without substantial spiritual elements in his nature, and therefore without any source of transcendental aspiration. The existence of soul is denied or ignored, and to bolster this agnosticism endless misinterpreted "facts" are arrayed in the texts of science.

The Deist infusion of ideals and sentiments cannot penetrate the intellectual armor of modern Materialism. The only hope lies in occult philosophy, with its disciplined metaphysics, providing obvious integration to all the facts of science, according to a great spiritual scheme, thus creating rational channels for the flow of moral idealism based on the teaching of the soul-nature of man. The need, obviously, is for the Theosophical Fundamentals: An impersonal God acceptable to the impartiality of scientific thought; Karma and Reincarnation as the only possible reconciliation between the idea of justice and the mishaps and inequities of life; and soul evolution as the meaning of human existence.

How may this need be best supplied?

There would be little value in the composition of learned treatises presenting point-by-point refutations of scientific fallacies. These would be read -- if at all -- only by the scholarly, by those with the least capacity for open-mindedness because of their intensive training in thought-processes with an opposite tendency. Rather, the appeal must be made to the common man, to people of average intelligence and education, whose minds are not yet wholly captured by prevailing dogmas, and whose intuitions are still free from the veils of academic intellectualism. The members of this great majority, however, have been profoundly affected by the intellectual movement toward materialism, and while their questions may arise from the spirit of soul-searching, many of their doubts and misgivings will derive from half-digested scientific conceptions. It is here that a broad understanding of the cycle and its needs becomes of the greatest importance. It is for them that the nature of the obstacles to be overcome must be clearly understood by Theosophical students, who may, as a result, be able to present clarifying ideas that will resolve those doubts by showing the inclusive synthesis of the Theosophical teaching.

Students need to be able to explain why materialism has such a hold on the race mind, as well as to offer counter-doctrines. Our race and time suffers from a massive neurosis of unbelief and false belief. Individual recovery from neurosis is not a matter simply of seeing the truth and adopting it. We may learn from modern psychiatry that the process of liberating the sick in mind and in psychic nature from their delusions involves first of all an exposé of the pressures and biasses which produced the distorted view in the first place. Then, when a true perspective has been established, impersonal consideration of true ideas becomes possible.

We have not only to affirm the true, but also to affirm it in a way that will assist others to see why it is true. This is to learn well the doctrines of Karma and Reincarnation.

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:


Children in all countries play at death. Before the sense of personal identity comes, death cannot be seriously considered; and childhood thinks in this regard more correctly, perhaps, than self-conscious maturity. Of course, if these little ones were told, some bright morning, that a playfellow had gone away forever, -- gone away to be reborn elsewhere, -- there would be a very real though vague sense of loss, and much wiping of eyes with many-colored sleeves; but presently the loss would be forgotten and the playing resumed. The idea of ceasing to exist could not possibly enter a child-mind; the butterflies and birds, the flowers, the foliage, the sweet summer itself, only play at dying; -- they seem to go, but they all come back again after the snow is gone. The real sorrow and fear of death arise in us only through slow accumulation of experience with doubt and pain; and these little boys and girls, being Japanese and Buddhists, will never, in any event, feel about death just as you or I do. They will find reason to fear it for somebody else's sake, but not for their own, because they will learn that they have died millions of times already, and have forgotten the trouble of it. 


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