THEOSOPHY, Vol. 34, No. 9, July, 1946
(Pages 339-342; Size: 13K)
(Number 7 of a 12-part series)

THE CYCLE'S NEED

SOCIAL IMPASSES

THE tragedy of our time lies in the fact that the Western races are almost entirely devoid of an appropriate psychic preparation for the study of philosophy. How shall the personified Goddess, Nemesis, be re-interpreted as Karmic Law to a civilization that in its childhood cherished not Nemesis but Jehovah? There can be no natural transition from the instruction of legend and allegory to the propositions of metaphysics, as in Plato's day, for the traditional imagery of the West has little if any similitude to truth. The childhood of the race was spent in absorbing the corrupt symbology of Christian teachings, constructed from stolen and perverted pagan images and made subservient to the personal God of the Old Testament. These symbolic forms have not been transformed by the awakening mind of the race; they have been rejected and attacked as entirely false -- and so they were, nearly.

Thus, as the powers of the youthful race grew, as the common actions of men and nations entered upon cycles of increased moral responsibility, the Karma of ignorance weighed heavily in every great decision. Massive tendencies to separateness were allowed to gain momentum with hardly a warning voice. Continents were ravished, primitive peoples destroyed, old civilizations enslaved, with never a thought to the moral responsibility of these forms of action. The callow motives of childhood remained as atavistic drives, stamping the western culture with the signature of ungoverned desire, of lust for empire and domination, and the greed for things. These motives took on almost religious significance and were justified by popular apostles of the Western credo. Schools of learning made them into "laws of nature" and published scientific dissertations on the habits of acquisitive and material man. The Church preached a shrunken, anti-scientific, sin-and-salvation morality which touched only the surface of human affairs, while the secular gospels of political reform, of economic freedom, and finally, of proletarian emancipation and the class struggle absorbed the moral energies of rebellious men in the partisan programs of materialism. The profound psychological truths known to the ancients became the shibboleths of shallow cults and objects of ridicule for the intellectual coteries. The vocabulary of altruism was identified as sentimentality by cynical critics, whose brutal idiom debased and corrupted all natural, spontaneous expressions. The contrast between what might have been, in this cycle, with what is taking place, is stated by H. P. Blavatsky:

From the turning point, it is the Higher Ego, or incarnating principle, the nous or Mind, which reigns over the animal Ego, and rules it whenever it is not carried down by the latter. In short, Spirituality is on its ascending arc, and the animal or physical impedes it from steadily progressing on the path of its evolution only when the selfishness of the personality has so strongly infected the real inner man with its lethal virus, that the upward attraction has lost all its power on the thinking reasonable man. In sober truth, vice and wickedness are an abnormal, unnatural manifestation, at this period of our human evolution -- at least they ought to be so. The fact that mankind was never more selfish and vicious than it is now, civilized nations having succeeded in making of the first an ethical characteristic, of the second an art, is an additional proof of the exceptional nature of the phenomenon.
The social and international impasses of the present may be understood as the karmic outcome of misapplied human powers. The motives belonging to racial immaturity have been carried forward into the cycle that should be marked by increasing brotherhood and mutual understanding. In the period in which we of the West should have been establishing the larger patterns of fraternity and mutual aid, the mind-powers which are the fitting tools of this evolutionary obligation have been devoted to building and supporting citadels of selfishness -- the terrible institutions of modern society. The typical relationships of this age are a revelation in atavism. In international affairs, war is the leading characteristic. In the domestic realm, ruthless economic competition prevails. Demagoguery dominates government and the veniality of public servants is proverbial. Even the good will of men suffers ultimate distortion and is twisted to the perpetuation of ignorance. The wealth accumulated by the Kshatriyas of trade is used to found enormous institutions of research where men of science spend their lives in rationalizing the animalistic dogmas of science, the product of their labors becoming the orthodoxy of medical practice. The genius of inventors blooms in the mechanical perfection of the modern printing press, which then becomes the instrument of an endless debasement of the intellectual faculties, saturating the mind of the race with the aimless, the trivial and the infantile.

From a karmic point of view, the most significant issue of these tendencies is the increasing necessity of social coordination to prevent the great centrifugal forces of the age from flying in every direction and destroying humanity in the process. The atom bomb is a symbol of these forces, a type of the moral contradictions which have been allowed to develop along with the rise of technology. One of the consequences of the broad trend toward centralization of control, and therefore of authority, is the gradual merger of private and public morality. The mechanical unification of society by technology, brings an interpenetration of the great areas of duty -- duty to family, to community, to nation and race -- so that the responsibilities in each become more difficult of separate identification. Instead of the normal course of the extension of responsibility, in which the individual progressively reaches out to larger duties as his perception widens and his sympathies expand to include more and more of the human family, the process has been reversed. The social structure itself, as a complex evolution of institutions, now reaches in to the individual, demanding conformity, exacting allegiance and the tribute of obedience to the rationalized materialism of the age.

Victory in the individual moral struggle depends upon self-knowledge, it depends upon the capacity of the disciple to take the position of the Higher Self, and then to study his whole being as representing a focus of the forces of nature which he has himself organized into a personal unity and directed into channels of action. He has to recognize in himself the origin and nature of these forces and redirect their energy according to the purposes of the Soul. At times he has to break with his own creations of the past, as Arjuna was called upon to do on the battlefield of Kurukshetra. He has to sever time-honored loyalties and defy the compulsions of circumstance, establishing at the same time new allegiances which are to form the paving stones of the road to knowledge and spiritual independence. He has to see the personality, the external pattern and structure of his earthly life, "as not himself, but that thing which he has with pain created for his own use, and by means of which he purposes, as his growth slowly develops his intelligence, to reach the life beyond."

So, also, with the common human personality of the race mind, and its pattern of daily existence. Even as the habits of the individual must be examined for their origin in past action, so have we to study the growth and development of social relationships, and their roots in moral attitude and motive. The collective irresponsibilities of the age are not uncaused phenomena. They sprang from human choice, they grew from human nurture and they will pass only through the exercise of human discrimination and acts of the will. The errors of the past, the moral divagations from the path of evolution, the rationalizations and self-justifications of our common mistakes must all be sought out, understood and corrected. They must be understood in principle, if not in history, and new foundations laid on clean places for the cycles that are yet unborn.

As the Karma of the West unfolds, created through long centuries and in ignorance of the great law of destiny which shapes the future according to human action and resolve, the enigmas of the cycle will assume more and more threatening aspects. Hope will lie, then, with those who have understanding, and the courage which only understanding can provide. That will be the hour of true salvation for the West, when men will listen to the explanation of their self-made destiny, and begin at last to create their lives anew.


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:

SOCIAL CHANGE

Ideas have effects as well as causes. The history of Darwinian individualism, however, is a clear example of the rule that changes in the structure of social ideas wait on general changes in economic and political life. In determining whether such ideas are accepted, truth and logic are less important than their suitability to the intellectual needs and preconceptions of social interests....

Whatever the course of social philosophy in the future, however, a few conclusions are now accepted by most humanists: that such biological ideas as "the survival of the fittest," whatever their doubtful value in natural science, are utterly useless in attempting to understand society; that the life of man in society, while it is incidentally a biological fact, has characteristics which are not reducible to biology and must be explained in the distinctive terms of a cultural analysis; that the physical well-being of men is a result of their social organization and not vice versa; that social improvement is a product of advances in technology and social organization, and not of breeding or selective elimination; that judgments as to the value of competition between men or enterprises or nations must be based upon social and not allegedly biological consequences; and finally, that there is nothing in nature or a naturalistic philosophy of life which makes impossible the acceptance of moral sanctions which can be employed for the common good. 


--RICHARD HOFSTADTER, Social Darwinism, 1944

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THE CYCLE'S NEED
TIME OF CHOICE
(Part 8 of a 12-part series)

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