THEOSOPHY, Vol. 34, No. 7, May, 1946
(Pages 252-255; Size: 13K)
(Number 5 of a 12-part series)



THE first great civilizations established on earth by the Divine Instructors, the adept-teachers of infant humanity, were really schools of egoic evolution. The arts and sciences of those days preserved the analogies of initiation, so that even skills of hand might reflect the method and purpose of that greater skill of soul called "Yoga." History contains numerous examples of the classic correspondence between earthly labors and the higher psychic and spiritual processes of evolution. In the great guilds of the later Middle Ages may be seen the analogy between apprenticeship and discipleship; the fraternity of Freemasons resulted from a deliberate effort of the Adepts to use this correspondence as a means of moral instruction. The Pythagorean School, uniting training in citizenship with occult discipline, exhibits another phase of the correspondence. Tradition teems with countless illustrations of the use made of the arts and crafts by occult teachers. Music was taught throughout antiquity as one of the occult sciences and even in the twentieth century painting is still a sacred art in some oriental lands. The dance likewise was evolved from the symbolism of the Mysteries, it being only in modern times and among Western peoples that dancing has become separated from the archaic teachings of soul-evolution. Written language, as explained in The Secret Doctrine, had its origin in one of the disciplines of initiation.

It is a paradox of human evolution that the means of reaching to knowledge, and to freedom from the limitations of form, seem to require, in the early stages of the cycle, the use of forms for the purpose of instruction. But these forms have always been set apart from all others as in a sense unique, or sacred. The ancients called them Temples and paid them reverence. The temple is a form symbolic of the emancipation from form. The same paradox is represented in the Bhagavad-Gita, for Krishna at one time praises devotion to holy writ, while at another he seems to minimize following the Vedas, even speaking of "high indifference" to them. Like the bodies we use, which must be cared for as the means by which the bonds of matter are overcome, so the institutions devised for the unfoldment of civilization ought to be conceived as means through which men grow into a larger life, no longer needing external structures as rungs upon the ladder of moral and manasic development.

From the social forms established by Adepts as the foundation of civilization to the institutions of modern times is a far cry. The latter are, in the literal meaning of the term, profane, almost none of them bearing even a faint resemblance to the archetypal pattern of human organization. The text of Laws of Manu, for example, begins with a profound dissertation on the nature of things and the processes of manifestation. This great institutional source of government and of the social order in ancient Aryavarta was an expression of knowledge; if, through the passage of millennia, human applications of Manu's regulations became corrupt, this occurred only after ages of wise administration and appropriate advancement for countless egos during lives under a social order governed by initiates. In the Kali Yuga, the reverse process becomes dominant, so that the decline of a civilization once founded on occult truth may be regarded as a natural protection for the egos whose destiny compels them to live under such an order in its decadent phase. Weakness lessens the positive evil of which priestcraft is capable, rendering merely stultifying rather than actively bad the influence of corrupt institutions. The withdrawal, for example, of occult knowledge from the Western world in the early centuries of the Christian era was the sole protection for Europe against a cycle of unimaginable sorcery during that Dark Age. Ignorance, in that period, was indeed a blessing to those who would only turn to selfish purposes whatever occult knowledge they might possess.

The elder brothers of the race have in their charge knowledge of the laws of nature in all departments, and are ready, as said in The Ocean of Theosophy, when cyclic law permits, "to use it for the benefit of mankind." A key to the needs of the present cycle is provided in the further statement that the present is an age of transition, when every system of thought, science, religion, government and society is changing. This means, quite plainly, a transformation of all the fundamental institutions of modern society. It means that home and community life will change; that government and political economy will change; and schools and colleges, press and radio, commerce and industry, all, will be progressively transformed in response to the egoic mutations affecting the whole human race. Already massive changes have taken place in industrial activities since Mr. Judge wrote the Ocean. The factory system has reached a degree of specialization in the division of labor which has created serious psychological problems for the individual worker. For many millions occupied in the great industries of the United States, the daily tasks are a dreary routine to which men submit for the sake of necessary compensation in money. These millions work to live, instead of living to work, a reversal in the order of nature which must warp and distort the motives of a lifetime. The practical problems of government, always difficult, are now within the comprehension of only the few. As J. D. Bernal told British scientists recently:

One of the characteristics of the new age is that you cannot take a step in any social or political scheme without involving yourself in highly technical and scientific questions. It does not mean that scientists claim to be Government or to have any other statutory position. It only means that government and administration are impossible unless they are thoroughly scientific, in the sense of having people in control who know what they are doing. We are very far from that position today.
What has happened, actually, to Western civilization, is that its many and varied social institutions have been built up around profane motives, but with the energy of a young and vigorous race, and to this has been added the ever-strengthening current of Atlantean skill in the control and manipulation of the material forces of nature. Today, those institutions are growing out of any sort of control. The institution of private enterprise has its traditional motives and established patterns which prevent even the best of employers from ameliorating very much the psycho-physical conditions of the modern assembly line. The frequency of wildcat and runaway strikes illustrate the rampant counter-development of another great institution with quite different motives and traditions -- the labor movement. A reading of Louis Adamic's Dynamite, a history of violence in the American labor movement, will reveal the karmic heritage of this sector of human organization.

Modern education is already under sufficient criticism to show how inadequate is schooling at all levels in preparing the young for participation in modern society. And yet, even if the needed reforms were well understood by educational leaders -- which they are not -- the recalcitrant institutionalism of the country's schools and universities would long delay their adoption. Harold Rugg's That Men May Understand, a case study of educational reaction in America, makes this abundantly clear. Government itself, once conceived as the humble servant of the public and malleable to the popular will, is again assuming the authority and arbitrary power which were thought to have passed from human history with oriental despotism. This development was not malicious or intended, but came in consequence of the extraordinary complexity of many independent social processes which are seen to require integration for the common good -- and progressive regulation and coercion by the centralized power of the State is the most obvious solution to modern man.

It is plain that the world needs new institutions, not merely "reforms" or tinkering repairs of the structures which twist the lives and color the motives of the masses of mankind. The need is for new beginnings. In the words of a Great Teacher:

New ideas have to be planted on clean places, for these ideas touch upon the most momentous subjects.... They touch man's true position in the universe, in relation to his previous and future births; his origin and ultimate destiny; the relation of the mortal to the immortal, of the temporary to the eternal, of the finite to the infinite; ideas larger, grander, more comprehensive, recognizing the universal reign of Immutable Law....

They have to prove both destructive and constructive -- destructive in the pernicious errors of the past, in the old creeds and superstitions which suffocate in their poisonous embrace like the Mexican weed nigh all mankind; but constructive of new institutions of a genuine practical Brotherhood of Humanity where all will become co-workers of nature, will work for the good of mankind....

Plato was right; ideas rule the world; and, as men's minds will receive new ideas, laying aside the old and effete, the world will advance; mighty revolutions will spring from them; creeds and even powers will crumble before their onward march, crushed by the inestimable force. It will be just as impossible to resist their influx, when the time comes, as to stay the progress of the tide. But all this will come gradually on, and before it comes we have a duty set before us; that of sweeping away as much as possible the dross left to us by our pious forefathers.

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:


Who knows the possibilities of a lifetime spent in service for one's fellow men, or of even a single day of noble thought? Who can measure the outcome of one fleeting hour of high resolve? A determined effort now to cast out doubt and to rise above despair can spell the slackening of the dark forces in some future Kali Yuga. Today's endeavor to live a higher life may supply the needed impetus toward a better age in a coming Manvantara. The prototypal plan for all worlds is made by self-conscious beings. Study the life of a single man and you see pictured in small the mighty sweep of tomorrow's universe.

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