THEOSOPHY, Vol. 34, No. 10, August, 1946
(Pages 372-375; Size: 12K)
(Number 8 of a 12-part series)



THE pall of "realism" lies heavy on the present age. The "era of disenchantment" referred to in the first chapter of Isis Unveiled has blanketed the world with gloom, spreading a dull, gray fog of apprehension that smothers the hopes of ordinary men, and leaving to philosophers, madmen and fools the task of formulating the future course of mankind.

The mad, the foolish and the wise gain this circumstantial unity from the fact that, in normal times, they are all three rejected by the mass of mankind. Hence it is that their voices can be heard only when the masses find themselves leaderless and alone, when the mantrams of yesterday's Utopias echo dully in the bleak morning of betrayal, and the day to come has no new prophecy to regenerate the popular faiths of the past.

Rising with the grim ascendancy of despair, the madmen lead the wild rebellion of those who reject both the tragedy of human failure and the discipline of turning failure into growth. The demonic themes of Kali Yuga are shrill with the notes of their mindless revolt. The logical inheritors of the rule of a civilization which founds its security upon atomic bombs are the madmen -- those whose intellectual processes are so grooved to universal destruction that nihilism has replaced the ethical resolves of sanity.

The foolish and their followers expand mere sentiments to the scope of a panacea. An attempt to construct a social philosophy out of the flabby materials of wishful thinking, these doctrines lack the angry drive of repressed, irrational desire. The foolish represent the lukewarm of humanity, the purely psychic beings, dissociated from will, from Manas, and with only a reflected energy of the kamic impulse. The foolish are so lacking in intellectual and moral perception as to be wholly unaware of the shallowness of their optimism. Like the doctor who kept repeating that there was "nothing serious" the matter, even after his patient had died, the apostles of foolishness live upon the phantoms of dead hopes, reciting the necrology of lost causes.

A time such as the present bears many analogies to the moment of choice destined to overtake the entire human race in the great cycle of the distant future. It is a time of endings and beginnings. The evolutionary principle involved is that stated in The Secret Doctrine: The "Ego, progressing in an arc of ascending subjectivity, must exhaust the experience of every plane." In this case, the "exhaustion" is of the energy provided by previous evolutionary impulses. Looking back upon recent centuries, it is impossible to find a single race-mind conception which has today the power to inspire mankind to dynamic action. Religion, science, politics, philosophic speculation -- none has any savor for the modern man. Religion, to him, is a Church, the symbol of pious reaction -- powerless for good, morally weak, intellectually childish. The nineteenth-century dream of scientific progress has dissolved into the "air-conditioned nightmare" of twentieth-century gadgetry, while the more serious members of society are laying careful plans for underground cities, deep enough, they hope, to escape the menace of the atomic bomb. Science threatens to turn the planet into a vast burrow where each man may hide from the inhumanity of his fellows. Politics -- the politics of eighteenth-century liberalism and materialistic radicalism -- has nothing new to offer, and the old slogans are not enough. Regulated competition cannot exist in a totalitarian world. Materialism chokes off the breath of freedom, recreating society in the pattern of the hive. Speculative philosophy, long the avocation of scholars, never touched the common man at all.

Such old forms of cultural motivation represent experiences which have been "exhausted" by Western man, who is, therefore, in the position of one who has been released from past illusions, and has found no new dream of hope and progress. At such a time, some men will listen to the wise. As the bewilderments of the interim cycle of transition increase, the number of men willing to seek the truth will grow, while others are slowly drawn to the path of madness, or fling themselves into atavistic currents of blind belief. These are the choices of the present, brought to the race by the compulsion of events, which will be ever more insistent as the cycle moves onward.

What do the wise say? H. P. Blavatsky wrote in Isis Unveiled (II, 635):

We would that all who have a voice in the education of the masses should first know and then teach that the safest guides to human happiness and enlightenment are those writings which have descended to us from the remotest antiquity; and that nobler spiritual aspirations and a higher average morality prevail in the countries where the people take their precepts as the rule of their lives.
This is the teaching which must make its way amid the clamor of conflicting claims, the threats, counter-threats and accusations of the hour -- which must penetrate the shells of scepticism and revive the famished longings of the human spirit. This is the word of the wise -- simple, direct, and profoundly true.

In the present, this doctrine of the ancients and the evidence of its applicability to all human problems are in the custody of the very few -- the yeomen of the Theosophical Movement in its interim phase. The work of those few is clearly outlined in the concluding pages of The Key to Theosophy as a work of preservation, consolidation and preparation.

The troubled middle years of the century present the successive impacts of preparatory events -- the effect aspect of the genetic years of the cycle. Each blow accomplishes another disenchantment, exhausting one more key experience of this plane of psycho-manasic evolution. The corresponding causes, the spiritual and moral events that are to shape the human sense of "reality" for future centuries will be the work of the Teachers in the last quarter of the century. Thus the present task, for theosophists, is the building of a solid foundation for the constructive work to come. They have, so to say, to prepare the "lower mind" of the race for a further incarnation of the higher Manas. The Teachers will need workers who can be depended upon to stand firm during the terrible moral cataclysms of the last half of the twentieth century. They will need disciples who are efficient as well as ardent, who have touch with the common mind as well as intuitions of spiritual truth.

The great need of the present is the finding and fostering of devoted individuals who are determined to remain sane, even as the world about them succumbs to the madness of the Kali Yuga. Sanity, in this case, means a firm reliance on moral principles, upon the ancient verities which have descended to mankind from the remotest antiquity. It means an invincible conviction that no good can come to race, nation or family from methods or actions that ignore or deny the soul-nature of man. It means readiness to face dreadful disaster, when averting that disaster seems to mean desertion of principle. Sanity, in the modern world, requires men and women who refuse to drift with the psychic tide that sweeps countless others on to destruction.

Civilization, in the best meaning of the term, implies the general recognition of basic moral standards -- principles by which men may guide their lives and judge events and circumstances. When moral standards are lost, civilization dies; there is no longer a common cultural foundation for human action. Men revert to their individual moral resources, while the community life tends to degrade instead of serving as a common inspiration.

The source of all civilization lies in the teachings of the Sages, which, when applied, create an atmosphere of aspiration and moral striving. The simple truth is that there can be no civilization without these teachings. In a transition age, men have the difficult task of transferring their allegiance from a corrupt to a faithful presentation of the Wisdom-Religion. If it were simply a matter of the reflective comparison of philosophic ideas, and if philosophy were an enduring interest of the many, this transition would proceed as a natural evolutionary process. But the fact is that the philosophic conceptions of a civilization never remain "on high," separate from the life of the people, but are applied in countless ways in all the ordinary customs and activities of daily existence. Corrupt ideas, therefore, inevitably corrupt society in all its aspects, and the regeneration of a civilization involves much more than a new declaration of principles or a political revolution. Transition, fundamentally, is moral rebirth.

Transition, in the modern world, is different from the "new beginnings" of past evolutionary cycles. The Fifth Great Race started afresh on the virgin lands of central Asia. The Pilgrim Fathers came to a land all but untouched by man. But the moral transition demanded of mankind in the twentieth century offers no new and clean place of nature. The nucleus of future World Brotherhood has to draw its sustenance from those who are deeply involved in the material structure of the old order. The foundations of the new civilization must be truly "metaphysical," existing first in the minds of men who live and act according to the material patterns of the old. Transition means that death and rebirth go on simultaneously.

There is, in everyone, a potential madman, fool, and sage. Today, these tendencies are precipitating in patterns of social relations as well as in individuals. As the cycle continues, they will become increasingly apparent, until, finally, all men will be compelled by circumstances to choose between the three. Those who would help with the founding of the great civilization of the future must now begin to discriminate and choose, lest there be some, in years to come, who fail only because they were not warned in time. Transition means that men must choose.

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