The Mystery of Evil

The topic of evil has already been touched upon in The Hidden Teaching Beyond Yoga, The Wisdom of the Overself , and in The Spiritual Crisis of Man. In the following essay, Paul Brunton discusses what was formerly not addressed in those texts, and what needs reinforcing in them. Indeed, the author goes further and asserts that not only are there visible and ordinary instruments of evil which are so apparent all around us, but also unseen ones—evil spirits, in fact.

The Two Viewpoints

What is the true place of evil in a universe whose informing soul is itself a benevolent one? We cannot arrive at the truth about this if we consider it in artificial isolation, but only if we consider it as part of the divine order of the universe. Whatever happens today in the world, or shall happen tomorrow, it will not happen outside of the divine knowl­edge and therefore will not escape the power of the divine laws.

Although the presence of evil was traditionally justified to blind faith as being the will of God, the modern religionist is developing his thinking power. He is ready to accept the will of God, but at least he wants a more rational answer as to why this thing exists at all. Two viewpoints present themselves to him: the popular and the profound. This problem defies rational solution if treated from the first viewpoint alone, but begins to yield if treated from both in combination. There is, indeed, no popular explanation of evil which could escape being riddled with criticism by a sufficiently sharp intellect. He must not rest satis­fied with what experience and common sense tell him; he must also hear what metaphysical reflection and mystical revelation have to tell. For practical purposes he can get along with the first, but for philo­sophic purposes it is needful to add the second. In a wide balanced mentality the two views are not mutually exclusive but can be readily mated; in a narrow mentality they cannot even meet.

The materialist, the egoist and the shallow-minded, when brought face to face with these two ways of viewing the world, find them opposite and incompatible, markedly conflicting and hopelessly irreconcilable. They are like a carriage whose wheels simultaneously turn in opposite directions. But the philosophic student, with his fuller and better-balanced cultivation of his psyche, is able to let them exist side by side without splitting himself into two disconnected personal­ities. It is quite possible for him to synthesize them without developing a divided mind. Thus, his rational comprehension of the world unites perfectly in the well-rounded personality with his sensual experience of it; his mystical apprehension of life balances itself agreeably with his emotional reactions to it. Nothing is subtracted and nothing denied.

The understanding of this matter is darkened to our mind through failing to give ourselves the trouble of defining our use of this word “evil.” We should refuse to deny or to admit the existence of evil before we have discussed the question, “What do you mean by the term ‘evil?’” When that has been achieved, we shall find that the evil from which we are to be saved is largely—but not wholly—within our­selves. What do we mean when we say that an event, a thing or a person is “evil?” In The Hidden Teaching Beyond Yoga it was explained how words are strongly interwoven with the very stuff of human understanding. When we investigate the language in which our con­cepts take shape, we are investigating the very concepts themselves. We may then discover, in startled surprise, how important are the psychological influences exerted by words and phrases which have become standardized cliches devoid of definite meaning. We may note how the whole character of obscure problems becomes illumined. The origin of evil will be easier to elicit after eliciting its nature.

We may watch in the tropics the “evil” frogs hunt “good” glowworms, and the “evil” snakes hunt “good” frogs in their turn. Whatever creates a state of conflict inside or outside a living creature, and thus disturbs or destroys its happiness, is “evil” to that creature. It may originate from some animal obeying its appetites, some human behaving wickedly or some violence of Nature. It may result from an event, an action, or the relation between them. Although this is quite true, it is true only in a limited and relative sense. The fact is that each creature “thinks” the evil of a situation.

When we ask why wild beasts should exist in the Universe, we are thinking of their effects upon other creatures including ourselves. We never stop to think why these beasts should not exist for their sake and for their own selves. What they came to be as a result of the action and interaction, the development and degeneration of the bright side of things, just had to be. The one was not intended exclusively to serve any species, any more than the other was intended exclusively to harm that species.

In the case of men, whatever is unpleasing to their human point of view, uncomfortable to their human selfishness, contrary to their human desires, and painful to their human bodies, is usually regarded as evil. The evil in the World is only relatively and partially such, never absolutely and eternally. It is evil at a particular time or in a particular place or in relation to a particular creature. This principle of the relativity of ideas leads to Strange results. One of the first is that something may be evil from the standpoint of an individual placed in particular circumstances at a particular time, but may not be evil from a universal standpoint. Charlemagne cut a way through benighted Europe with his sword for Catholic culture. But when that same culture became too narrow and too intolerant, the Turkish hordes who broke into Constantinople dispersed the classic texts so long hoarded in the Byzantine libraries, drove their keepers to Italy and thus released upon Europe new forces which greatly stimulated the Renaissance movement already in being. In both these cases “evil” warfare produced “good” cultural results. In our own lifetime we have seen atheistic evil launch its work of destroying decadent religion. But in the hands of a higher Providence, we are also seeing in the end that it was indirectly used to purify and thus truly promote religion.

The Divine Idea works itself out through human frailties as well as human virtues. In this sense evil is at times our teacher. It would be valuable to count the number of cases where trouble led to our own good and sorrow proved to be peace in disguise. After experiencing the darker side of life, we are in a better position to pass up to the brighter side to which it directs us. Before the war some of us long looked for a Messiah, but we wanted him on our own selfish terms. We wanted him to be soft and gentle—even sentimentally flattering towards us. We never dreamed that a precursor like Hitler might come instead, one utterly hard and mercilessly harsh, to punish us for personal material­ism and national selfishness. We looked for redemption, but never dreamed that we might have to be redeemed by the terrible power of suffering born out of evil. One compensation for wartime sufferings caused by other men is that they awaken the minds of a number of people and put them on the path to finding out the meaning of suffering and of life itself. But so long as they persist in ignoring the relativity of ideas and set up their personal opinions or individual preferences as truth, so long will they continue to mislead themselves and others; so long will they unnecessarily protract their sorrows. The evil which appears in the first sight of events, may disappear with the second sight. This is because there is an ultimate rightness in the ordering of universal life.

Who is Satan?

“Evil is ephemeral. In the end it defeats itself. It has only a negative life. It represents the not-seeing of what is, the not-doing in harmony, the not-understanding of truth. Evil is, in short, a lack of proper comprehension, a too-distant wandering from true being, an inadequate grasp of life. When insight is gained and these deficiencies are corrected, it ceases its activities and vanishes. The mystic who penetrates into the profound core of being finds no evil there.”

This quotation from The Wisdom of the Overself which a The Times Literary Supplement reviewer claims to be, and criticizes as, the author's “summing up” of evil, was never intended to be a “summing up” even then. But an adequate comprehension of the teaching calls for knowledge of the fact that its attitude towards evil is not exhausted by this quotation but is really twofold in character. The belief (which the reviewer seems to hold) in a satanic opposition is also, but in a different way, included in the author's own attitude. He does not deny but, on the contrary, fully admits the existence of individual forces adverse to spiritual evolution. He does not question the presence of malignant entities and satanic powers.

There are evil forces outside man as well as inside him. These super-physical agents operate in the invisible world and, under certain abnormal conditions, intermingle with living human personalities to influence their thoughts and actions or to oppose their spiritual pro­gress. The spiritual aspirant inevitably encounters opposition from these adverse elements, and the evil forces move against him in a cunning way. However well-meaning his intentions in the beginning and however noble his ideals, he may yet be unwillingly and subtly influenced by their malignant power. If he succumbs to them, some of those he trusts betray him, his judgements turn out to be wrong, his actions mistaken, and circumstances work against him. They lead from deed to deed, first by internal temptation but later by external compul­sion, each involving him more and more in their toils and menacing him with worse and worse consequences. To escape each consequence as it arises, he has to commit fresh acts which drag him farther down­wards. In the end he is caught by tragedy and overwhelmed by disaster. If we could trace apparent effects to their hidden causes, we would trace many a trouble to such adverse psychical forces of the invisible world.

World War II was an outstanding example. It had a psychical con­tent even before its physical, visible start. Whatever it was politically and militarily, it was also a dramatic struggle between the forces of good and the powers of darkness. We may be sure that whoever tries to arouse hatred of the good and inflames anger against the True has lent himself to the dark forces of Nature. The Nazi hierarchs were possessed by foul demons, animated by malignant powers from the occult regions. They attempted to cover their own guilt by the old trick of malicious fabrication. There were entities other than human at work behind Hitler. He tried to make men turn into the most danger­ous of all beasts by seeking to turn them into cunning animals devoid of moral discernment and debarred from higher reflection. There were wicked agencies, human but disincarnate, inspiring the Nazi move­ment. All were devilish: all were powers of the lowest hells. Hence the lies, oppression, cruelty, materialism, greed, and degradation which they spread everywhere. It was not so much by their arrogant aggres­siveness and violent brutality that the Nazis sought to crucify mankind. Rather it was by their denial of justice, their opposition to spirituality, and their contempt for truth that they sought to nail the human race to the cross of unexampled sufferings. At the innermost heart of Nazism lay a foulness indescribably black and immeasurably worse than any plague which ever beset humanity. For it sprang out of infernal diabolic regions, out of a gigantic mass attack of unseen sinister forces hoping to destroy the soul and enslave the body of man. This dangerous incursion of evil spirits into our world's affairs on such a vast scale had never happened before. It can be said that humanity barely escaped the most terrible setback in its history. Had the Nazis won, every spiritual ideal would have been strangled, every spiritual value stifled. The inner justice of things foiled them, and mankind emerged—sore and wounded but safe and alive—from its great peril, only to find itself facing a further attempt of the same dark forces to dominate the world again, but using a different channel.

But all this does not place these opposing powers on a level of equality with the force of good in the universal struggle; they play their necessary roles and we need not regard them as unforeseen lapses or evil accidents in the divine thought. The evil forces are always aggressive because they must always try to destroy that which in the end will destroy them. The good alone will endure. It is in the very nature of evil beings, as of evil thoughts, to attack each other and, in the end, to destroy each other. Meanwhile, their powers are strictly limited and their opposition, when overcome, actually helps to develop the good in us. We need not hesitate to believe that the good will always triumph ultimately and always outlive the bad, that no kind of evil has an indepen­dent existence but all kinds are only relative aspects of existence. But this struggle and this triumph can exist only in each individual entity. They do not and cannot exist in the cosmos as a whole, because this is itself a manifestation of God. God's will alone prevails here.

Evil men and evil spirits do exist, but whether there is an indepen­dent principle of evil is another matter. Whoever believes in the eternal existence of God and admits the eternal reality of evil, will have to trace the latter to its source. If that source is a personality or a principle coeval and co-enduring with the universe, then it works its fiendish will in spite of God; then there are really two supreme beings. The logical demands of unity do not permit such an impossible conclusion. It deprives God of his much-vaunted omnipotence and represents a dualism which puts its thoughtful believers in a profound dilemma. If, on the other hand, he traces the source of evil to a lesser principle or personality, he again puts them in a dilemma. For such conclusion leaves unexplained the question why God tolerates the existence of this dreadful entity instead of extinguishing every trace of evil from His Universe. If this were true, then God must share Satan's guilt! If, finally, he traces evil to man himself, then God, in letting him fall to his doom, is either ignorant of His creatures' misdeeds or else indifferent to them.

Just as philosophy says that the man-like conception of God is suitable only for immature intelligences, so it says that the man-like conception of evil personified under the figure of Satan is also only for immature intelligences. There are individual evil influences, individual evil spirits even, and they constitute at times an opposition to the aspirant. But the greatest opposition comes not from a creature called Satan; it comes from the aspirant's own heart, his own weaknesses, his own evil thoughts. The recognition of those unseen forces must not be allowed to occlude the recognition of his own primary responsibility.

It is not pertinent to take up the question of the nature of God's existence here, except to note that philosophy combines both the transcendental and immanental views. But any dualistic thought which admits both good and evil as separate, real and eternal forces in the universe, will always involve itself in these contradictions. And every doctrine is a dualistic doctrine which teaches that the primal forces in the world are two and not one. The orthodox and popular view, which holds that the divine power is forever fighting desperately against a satanic power, and that the latter is entirely independent of and eternally opposed to it, is dualistic. Therefore it is caught in these contradictions, too, yet it represents the most tenable immediate point of view. Philosophy, however, goes further and deeper than mere appearances and hence represents the ultimate viewpoint.

We are entitled to ask those who have banished spiritual values from their world view, what they have gained. No answer can hide the ugly fact of a world in the grip of evil and distress. Their failure to integrate spiritual reality into their view of life has produced the most unfortunate inner and outer consequences. It has produced a decade when the unheard-of crimes of unprincipled tyrants and the misfortunes of help­less masses dismayed and distressed all thoughtful, good-hearted people. This gloomy derogation of human dignity is the logical end of material­ism, and it is for such reasons that those who can comprehend the momentous issues of the human race's destiny which confront it today must engage in the hard struggle against materialism as in a holy war. The war and the crisis constitute a tragic judgement on a society which was falling headlong into the abyss of such a wrong world view. Its present anguish and bewildered state show, to their shame, how little wisdom and how much frailty there still is in human beings. It demon­strates, too, that materialism has no future, for it cannot provide a sound moral basis for living or a hopeful metaphysical basis for thinking about humanity.

Because our generation has been violently confronted with and shaken by those shaded aspects of life, such as death and suffering, which most generations habitually ignore, it has either to consider them or to flee from them. The first course brings it to a vital religious feeling or a rebellious atheistic one. The second course plunges it into sensualism. This is the century of challenge. Humanity must choose between continuing in the old materialistic way of life or starting a more spiritual one. And unless the suffering of the war and crisis awakens a sufficient number of people spiritually, the outlook will be dark. The situation is still grave. We shall shortly learn exactly how far this awakening has gone. Events will not let humanity alone; they are forcing it against a blank wall from whence there is no escape. It must find a new and better way of life—or sink down and perish. It was written in The Wisdom of the Overself that humanity was walking on the edge of a precipice. The warning must be reiterated here that if it does not respond to the new call while there is yet time, its days of safety are numbered. The alternatives are clear. Humanity must either penitently enlarge its outlook to include the spiritual basis of life or continue to restrict itself to a sometimes open, sometimes camouflaged materialism. In the first case, it will save itself and its civilization; in the second, it will succumb to the evils bred by such materialism.

When we interpret these events in the light of philosophy, we observe that while men sought only a personal, a partisan or a group triumph over other men, instead of seeking for the triumph of good over evil and truth over falsehood, their affairs continued to move from one blunder and one misery to another. Such people naturally, but quite wrongly, apportion censure to other men or to untoward events or things. The political and social problems covered a still deeper problem. Those who made quick judgement on limited data, or those who believed that mind is a mere by-product of matter, could not perceive this truth. Amid all this clamour of tongues and systems, individuals and interests, the fundamental issues became obscured and their essentially mental and ethical character remained unseen. The spiritual failure and political crisis of this epoch went deep before the war; neither its mind nor heart was capable of retrieving the one or solving the other. Its boasted progress was found to be surface-deep.

Philosophy rejects the esoteric Hindu views that the Universe is nothing more than an illusion, that its struggles are God's jesting sport or its birth God's blunder.

Yet it is wrong to say the Supreme creates evil. Man creates it; the Supreme merely permits it. If this were not so, man could claim freedom from personal responsibility for his wrong-doing. If man's individual will is included in, and subject to, the more powerful will of Nature (God), it still has the independence to choose the power to create and the freedom to act within set limits.

It is not inconsistent to grant that, in its immediate character, evil does exist and does have widespread range and formidable power, whereas in its ultimate character it is rather the absence of good. Experience testifies to that. But it exists as our human idea and in a relative sense. It has neither more nor less reality than any of our other ideas. Philosophy enunciates no new doctrine here. In the Middle Ages, Thomas Aquinas argued that sin is a privation of good. In earlier times, Plotinus argued that the very infinitude of God must therefore involve imperfections like moral and physical evils and that instead of infringing on the omnipotence of God, these imperfections really point to His infinitude. In the pre-Christian age, Plato transmitted a tradi­tion which explained evil as the negation of God's positive and benefi­cent activity.

It is a long way and a trying one, but it is a fact that until men reach an advanced stage of development, they will not learn except by taking to themselves the teaching of suffering and the lessons of trouble by noting the miseries which follow in the wake of mistaken action and evil-doing. The results of past evil or foolish actions sooner or later confront them.

The terrible spectacle of organized hatred would alone be enough to make anyone cynically pessimistic about human nature. But when he realizes the monstrous extent of the evil in human character all over the world, and especially when he discovers its deep penetration in so-­called spiritual circles, he must draw back appalled and affrighted for himself, despairing and hopeless for humanity. He must feel that the Roman Catholic dogma of original sin is not far from practical truth, however distant from ultimate truth. Such a position as humanity's present one is filled with the gravest dangers and cannot continue much longer. If it is not soon brought to an end, the evolutionary forces will bring our pretentious human civilization to an end.

They took a man possessed by devils—Hitler—as a new Messiah, as a prophet of God. That Hitler did more in less time to shape the thought and life of millions for evil than any other man has ever been able to do for good, is sad proof that morality will fall sooner than rise and that spirituality is harder to come by than materiality. The Ger­mans followed this Anti-Christ with a devotion and faith greater than they had shown to Christ.

Anti-Christ always takes the field before, during or after the hour destined for the appearance of the true Christ. But in our time this is not only true of spiritual—that is, religious, mystical, moral, and metaphysical—issues, it is also true of the social images reflected from them. Because the swift movement of modern technique is compelling a parallel movement of modern nations towards a supranational world association, Nazism offered in advance its own selfish caricatured ver­sion of what such an association should be and tried forcibly to materialize it. Success would have prevented the establishment of a true world association. The Nazi version was quite simple. It consisted in the German python's swallowing up all the other animals and thus creating a union of them all! The Nazis had sufficient intelligence and willingness to appropriate some spiritual values by offering their materialist counterfeits. The startling fact is that they created a hideous travesty of leading ideas which have become timely for incorporation in the modern man's outlook on life. It is thus that they hoped to take advantage of the time-spirit to deceive him.

It may be asked, if evil is a relative and not an absolute thing, why do we call the forces which inspired the Nazis “evil” forces? The first answer is that at the stage of ethical culture which the German masses had generally reached, that which should have been right to them was represented by the Nazis as wrong, while what should have been wrong to them was represented as right. The second is that malignant lying spirits did direct the Nazi movement from within. . . Why not work for self-aggrandizement alone if self be nothing more than the physical and egoistic person? Why not let war destroy a million men, women and children when they stand in the path to such personal triumph—if, sooner or later, they are doomed to perish forever any­way? Why not set up the acquisition of more and still more possessions by the most frightful means if successful acquisition of material things be the only sensible aim in a man's life? Why not bludgeon the brains out of every minister of religion, every student of literature, every preacher of ethics, every philosopher of spirit, every artist of exalted mood whose influence gives his followers the weakening idea that there can be a reality beyond this lump of flesh and its earthly environ­ment? These were reasonable questions to the Nazi mind because it was filled with hostility to the divine in itself and with hatred of the divine in others. Hence, its worst postwar legacy to the world is prejudice, malice, suspicion, intolerance, envy, wrath, unbalance, greed, cruelty, violence, and hatred—evils that are corroding the hearts of millions with terrible intensity. This is the dangerous emotional situation which Nazism has left to humanity. Never in history was there so much hatred and malice in the world. Never in history was there so much need for goodwill and mutuality among human beings. The situation shocks and dismays every true well-wisher of mankind. What lesson, therefore, does humanity now need to learn most? The lesson of pity, compassion. The need for more love and less hate in the world is obvious. Yet the external events and emotional movements of our time show more hate and less love. Where is our vaunted progress? The ultimate issue of all this trend in the pre-1939 world was the desolation and violence of war. The ultimate issue of it in the peacetime world may be disastrous in its own way. The younger generation has grown up in an explosive, selfish, and materialist atmosphere. If the public tragedy and private emptiness of our time cannot turn them and enough of their elders towards a spiritual way of life, nothing can do so quickly enough. In that case, utter destruction will before long end our failing civilization.

For those who had eyes to see it was clear, even during the very zenith of Nazism, that one of its main historic tasks would be to quicken this process in Germany itself where Nazi forms collapsed altogether after a briefer existence still. This is because those forms were essentially too retrograde in such an age. They provided their adherents with all the illusion but little of the reality of progress. In this way they were poisoned offshoots from the true line of progress. Part of Hitler's half-conscious mission was to liquidate the old order of things and destroy world views which had lost their timeliness and serviceability. But although in this way far ahead of his times, in others Hitler was, of course, far behind it. He did not understand that the age of moral dinosaurs and mental pterodactyls was long past.

The prevalent state of materialism in the world and its consequent influence on human character may lead to something even more devas­tating than war. Nature might take a hand in the game. Within a couple of months, there were slain by the influenza epidemic just after the First World War many times more people than were slain during the four years of that war itself. The science and civilization, the culture and cities of Atlantis were erased from the earth's surface, engulfed by a vast mass of water which has since, during thousands of years' ceaseless rolling, washed its site clean of the ancient foulness. Through such cataclysms does Nature free herself from the obnoxious presence of evil men, purify her body from nests of corruption and defend herself against the vices which her own spawn seeks to plant upon her. Thus she returns to mankind the penalties of their own iniquities. When Nature's violence, as in earthquakes and cyclones, is so great or when fate's blows are so hard as to make men feel their littleness and helplessness, the instinct to turn to some higher power in resignation or petition arises spontaneously. Many in our age have been so stupefied by a hard materialism as to deny the reality of this instinct, but they have only covered it over. They cannot destroy it.

But the challenge has been dramatically made final, urgent, and pointed by a new force which has been let loose in the world—the atomic and hydrogen bombs! The energy released by atomic disintegra­tion is now in our hands. What was once the fantastic dream of a few scientists has become the awful reality of contemporary history. The new type of bomb has unparalleled effects. It can blast and burn a vast area with a thoroughness previously unknown; it can obliterate whole cities in a single raid by its tremendous concentration of incendiary and explosive power. It has outmoded all known military weapons and outdated many security problems. Its possibilities for mass slaughter constitute the major revelation of our times. It is significant that the atomic bomb did not appear until the end of the war against Japan and did not appear at all in the war against Germany. This points to the fact that if another [major] war develops, this new kind of warfare has been reserved for it alone in fate's design and history's record. War must now either slay most of the human race altogether or slay itself through its own perfection. It is perhaps the most dramatic and the most visible form of evil in the whole history of mankind.

The order which humanity constructs itself for is, after all, the expression of its own spiritual perception or spiritual blindness. The new order will be no better if understanding is not better. All will fall into false hopes who fail to perceive the direct causal relation between the inner and the outer life and who ignore the precise unfailing operation of the moral law. The widespread crises and calamities which have struck the world have aroused millions of people to lively expecta­tions of an impending social change and universal renovation in the spiritual and material forms of society. These terrible distresses have caused a number of sufferers to engage in the quest of self-redemption. How large this number is nobody can yet accurately determine, but how small it must be in proportion to the total population anybody can begin to perceive.

Because fate permitted the tremendous consequences of nuclear power to be placed at the disposal of mankind at this precise juncture of history, we may be sure that there is a tremendous reason for it. That everything in this generation has been thrown into a state of crisis is therefore no accident. A higher will is guiding world affairs. This state could not have developed earlier, for then it would have been quite premature. It is karmically synchronized and inwardly connected with the grand turning-point in the human entity's evolution, with the shift away from the unbalanced immersion in physical externals and exces­sive attachment to the personality. How much human evil would vanish when men enlarge their outlook and belittle their self­centredness! The outer effects of this inner evolutionary movement are being everywhere greatly felt but nowhere clearly understood. The statement in The Hidden Teaching Beyond Yoga that humanity is approaching the threshold of adulthood means that, from the moment that the new evolutionary twist began, the human entity's ignorant, childlike development also began to come to an end. Hitherto, it had blundered about half-blindly in its adolescence and youth. Henceforth, it will receive knowledge and be able to move more consciously; it will also have to assume more and more of the responsibilities of spiritual maturity. When the present crisis eventually draws to a close, there will interiorly be released a divine influx and there will exteriorly manifest various high-grade spiritual teachers. The twentieth century will indeed be “the century of enlightenment.” Thus, at first involuntarily and later voluntarily, man obeys the higher purpose for him of the divine plan. This purpose cannot but be fulfilled, for everything in this universe works to that end. It does not depend for such fulfilment on his conscious co-operation, nor will it be thwarted by his blind opposition. He may work with it or oppose it. The first course will lead in the end to rejoicing, the second to suffering. It is not easy for him, constituted as he is, to take the wiser course. Yet evolution will force him into it by degrees, easy or not, for the world is a rightly ordered one.

The movement of mankind is cyclic and in this moment when the wheel must take a fresh turn, the two universal forces which forever struggle with each other—the force which elevates man and the force which degrades him, the evolutionary and the adverse elements in Nature—are meeting in a tremendous grapple whose tension was unheard-of before. Whoever fails to perceive that this is the fundamen­tal problem or whoever, perceiving, seeks to evade it, contributes to the responsibility for the sequence of events. If we do not understand the human and superhuman forces which are at work in the world, we shall not understand how rightly to deal with the world crisis itself. We must arrive at a consciousness of what direction inevitable historic forces are taking beneath visible events; and we must learn to interpret aright the various currents and cross-currents which have been started by the post-war period.

The nuclear discoveries force humanity to choose between the two alternatives: real acceptance of the moral law or virtual self-destruction. This is the divine working. Today is indeed a fateful time. Today we all live with such terrible bombs invisibly suspended over our heads! Only a drastic change in moral attitudes can effectively meet their dangerous challenge. And what else is this except a choice between cultivating a greater self-discipline or clinging to an outmoded selfishness; a decision between an alliance with the sacred presence or a continuance of indifference to it? If we fail to make a right choice, then it will not be long before civilized life on this planet comes to an end.

The course of events after the Second World War cannot resemble the course of events after the First World War. Everything is against it. For this time an ultimatum confronts humanity, a final challenge to inaugurate a new and nobler epoch or else largely perish from the earth. The alternatives have been clearly presented for us to choose between. There is no middle way.