Crisis and visible effects
The intellectual event which announced the opening of the modern era was Francis Bacon's publication of Novum Organum. The age of hearsay, guesswork, and fumbling ignorance was rung out in the search for facts and the sharp reasonings of science. The religious event which announced it was Martin Luther's proclamation of independence which he nailed on the church door at Wittenberg. The age of soul-crushing churchianity and sanctified superstitions was rung out in the recognition that the only representatives of Christ are those who do what he taught. The historical event which announced its arrival in the clearest possible words was the French Revolution. The age of feudalism and slavery was rung out in blood and tears. The industrial event which announced it was Watt's invention of steam engines. The age of hand power was rung out in factory whistles and whirring wheels. Thus this momentous epoch, which is beginning to witness a veritable reconstruction in human existence, struck down the human arrogance which barred its way and broke through the human ignorance which failed to perceive its inevitability.
The widespread character of the present world ferment proves that it is a historical necessity and that a new epoch is about to dawn. For the generation which grew up after World War I grew up also in search of a fresh ideal. What happened here yesterday and what is happening here today has surprised and stirred before. The human race is indeed at a fateful turning point of its history. The shape of its physical, mental, and moral life for at least the next thousand years has been and is being effectually decided by the meteoric decade in which we live. Every successive stage of the immense drama which has unfolded itself before our eyes has proved this.
No crisis which humanity has faced in the past is comparable with the present one either for spiritual gravity or physical consequences.
When we speak in our writings of the war's general effect, we refer not only to the period of actual fighting but also to the confused periods of so-called peace which precede and follow it. It is only for the sake of literary convenience that we lump the three periods together, either under the short term "war" or under the more descriptive term "world crisis." This preamble will help to make clearer our point of view.
"Crisis" is derived from the Greek word meaning "to decide." I fitly used the term in the title of my last book [The Spiritual Crisis of Man--Ed.] because a decisive turning point had been reached in human history, forcing two alternative directions for an inescapable movement.
The crisis which has been growing within humanity will open completely in this century. It is an inner crisis, and its meaning is that humanity can go no farther in its downward path into the lust of the senses and the intellect into the forgetfulness of its innermost divine soul, without the most dangerous consequences to its future, without losing the very thread of the possibility of one day recovering its spiritual memory. In today's world there is such indifference to the things of the spirit, such moral lethargy, that the higher power is forcing us either to call a halt or to perish.
We see before our eyes that the world is changing, that society is moving, and that men and women are debating most things and affairs as never before. Some of this is bad, some good.
Our times are noteworthy for their supreme suspense, for the unpleasant chaos which grips now a country and then a continent, and for their state of continued crisis.
Everywhere frictions and oppositions prevail between groups, classes, religions, races, and the upholders of different political, moral, social, or aesthetic ideas. This ferment of questionings and disputes, attacks and revolts, only underlines the need to invent a new civilization.
The overpopulation explosion is worsened by the exhausted soil, the poisoned environment, and, worse, the poisoned mental and emotional climate. The crisis I alluded to in The Spiritual Crisis of Man, written more than a quarter of a century ago, has not only worsened but spread everywhere.
A civilization which has magnificence without significance cannot endure. Its very lack of soul is as much a threat to its existence as the tail of a burning comet could be to our own.
The situation has not improved with the years; it has deteriorated. This alone should be interpreted as a warning that the road taken was a wrong one and that fresh thinking is needed.
Lunacy and violence are not the only things in modern life. They are present, but the ferment and discussion of new ideas, the interest in the knowledge and betterment of life are also there.
The meaning of our age puzzles the thoughtful man and perplexes the religious one.
A static condition of society has never really existed. Change has always been there, even if slight and unnoticed. The struggle between orthodoxy and heterodoxy, old orders and new ones, has never come to an end. But today we have not merely changed, we have rapidly changed. The transitions are sharper and quicker.
No other epoch of history ever offered so much opportunity to create a worthwhile everyday life for all humanity. No other ever delivered so terrible a warning about the results of failure along with the opportunity.
Time flies so fast these days that no matter how much one does, too much is still left undone.
The pain of humanity in world war is appalling in its scope and depth. It is not possible for the limited human mind to take in more than a tithe of it and still retain its sanity. As a matter of fact, millions of people are today mentally unstable as a result of these events.
That we live in an age of insecurity is evidenced by the flourishing business done by those who profess to foretell the future. Astrologers and clairvoyants abound in the larger cities.
The vogue for fortune-tellers is natural during a period of widespread unsettlement and warlike upheaval. Continental Europe experienced a similar vogue during the Napoleonic period.
We live in a society driven by compulsive restlessness, knowing no peace either on its surface or at its centre.
People feel the confusion and unrest of our times and need someone to help or some book to guide them to the Truth that God exists and that the divine existence can be made to uphold their individual lives.
A fuller realization of the horrible nature of the world's crisis than that experienced by the masses--constant thought about it and acute sensitivity to it--has deeply affected a small minority of mystics, writers, artists, and religious fanatics. This has paralysed their ambitions, frozen their creative powers, petrified their hopes of happiness, and nullified their zest for living.
Amid the perplexities and monotonies, the wars and calamities of our times, some may well ask themselves whether what they do in life is worth doing at all, whether it is all futile or worthwhile.
Never before have there been seen so many evil tendencies and yet so many idealistic ones as in recent years. This commingling of extremes, or rather conflict of extremes, is a characteristic indicator of the forces loose among us.
There is uneasiness in every land, even alarm in some lands. There are fears and crises, anxieties, and menaces everywhere.
Most people who are at all thoughtful or sensitive have the feeling that they are living today in a squirrel's cage. The free space in which they can move physically is extremely limited. They constantly find themselves stopped short by its bars, in whatever direction they may turn. For world conditions dominate national conditions and thus predetermine everybody's future as they have never done in the past. Mental freedom is hampered by individual helplessness in the face of humanity's dismal condition.
In these tragic times, men have not only public anxieties pecking at their minds, but also the personal problems resulting from them. The future is so doubtful and confused that the very thought invokes worry and incites fear.
But if pessimism can be rejected, optimism cannot be justified.
Spiritual teachings of doubtful quality are well mingled with the others of much higher value. The confusion of the two has always been present but hardly ever has it been so great as it is at present.
Unbalanced religious theories and personalities and materialistic dogmatic slogans abound today. They are signs. There is more ferment on both sides than ever before, more violent discussion of such ideas, more verve in the interest shown.
Bernard Shaw once put forward the theory that this planet is the lunatic asylum for the whole solar system. Nobody took his theory seriously, and everybody complimented him on his wit and humour. I, however, have long held a kindred theory that the human race is evolving from insanity to sanity and that except in a few rare individuals--the sages--it is far from the goal. The dangers of expressing this view are such that I have hitherto held my tongue along with the view itself. To question the mental status of so many millions of people would have been an open invitation to be incarcerated without delay in an institution for the mad. But I am at last emboldened to say all this because a scientist, Dr. Estabrooks, a professor of psychology at Colgate University, has pronounced a similar judgement and even dared to put it into print.
The widespread area and enormous volume of pain and sorrow which have made themselves such front-rank features of human life in this generation have also made more people think about this side of the problem of their existence than ever before. The pain of the body, the sorrow of the emotions--these two dark shadows of their lives have been the subject of terrible contemplations for millions of suffering men and women. It has been hard for many of them to sustain belief in divine goodness, or at least in divine mercy. The optimistic blindness to plain appearances which would say with Browning that "all's right with the world" and see only the truth, beauty, and goodness everywhere, the intellectual one-sidedness which would prefer to hide from unacceptable realities, must have received a severe jolt in many parts of the world during the war.
The mood of total pessimism may easily be engendered in those who concentrate on the state of crisis which has held the world for several years.
This much is certain, that the crisis situation does not permit people to stand mentally still. They are compelled to form views and make decisions about the direction they want to take. These experiences of crisis or war become, in their totality, the door opening to a new era of thought for many persons. Some seek new paths to spiritual salvation and are prepared to welcome unfamiliar and unorthodox influences.
The realistic view has become so unpleasant that worldly minded people look for some able leader and spiritually minded people look for some inspired prophet, both groups seeking from him a message of cheer or hope about the world crisis and the war's menace.
The immense industrial expansion which has taken so many millions out of the open spaces of nature and cramped them in town apartments has also stimulated their intellects.
Causes, meaning of crisis
It is not only a spiritual crisis for mankind but also a spiritual opportunity.
The nations need collective outer peace, but men themselves need personal inner peace. The two are related.
The sufferings imposed by the last war were terrible, but those who found a deep religious or philosophical support within themselves were better able to meet them. In the coming age which will dawn soon, the working classes will come into their own, culturally speaking. It is therefore important that they should learn to understand the inner significance of life and not be led by merely superficial doctrines. The ultimate purpose of life here on earth is a spiritual one, and this must be remembered.
Any new order which offers to fill stomachs and actually empties hearts is but a mockery and a danger.
If we are not to be obliterated, a new way out will have to be found. The political way is a failure. It has been tried since the last war, and the nations have not been able to get any agreement, much less harmony, on the disputes that divide them about particular places or peoples, or on those that ought to unite them, like stopping nuclear tests and achieving disarmament. But the political way is not the only way, as the political leaders naturally and pardonably believe. There is an alternative one--the spiritual way. Jesus showed it to us and Buddha stated it. At this late hour, it is indeed the only practicable way. Any other will lead inevitably to obliteration, because it will fail to lead to peace. The divine law which controls destiny points brusquely and uncompromisingly to this single path. If we fail to obey, the punishment will be severe. If we heed it, the consequence may be unpalatable in the beginning, but it will be sweeter in the end.
The world crisis as a sign that mankind is passing through a spiritual turning-point includes truth-seekers also. It is time for them to stop living by other men's spiritual experience and to start living by their own.
Let us not waste time looking for a mastermind to straighten out the tangled threads of human misery with magical overnight suddenness. The conversion of mankind to better ways, like everything else which is worth having, must be worked for and won.
Through all this range of experience, human consciousness is evolving, is coming closer to the level where it will be able to take the next step forward and upward. This can be a false pretentious "mind expansion" got artificially and perilously through drugs, or it can be the real thing.
It is needful to note also that the forces which are operating are altogether beneath the face of the human psyche. There is a deep incentive in the inner being of modern man towards a more conscious, more illumined life.
Only the unveiled perception of what is going on in the interior world of man's being can render plainer the answer to the riddle of the twentieth century.
The spiritual awakening can come to mankind only as it comes to individuals--after it is strongly desired by the individual himself; and it will be desired only when all other desires have been tried and found wanting.
A sage, looking at the world-situation today, might declare that its issue will be neither all black with evil nor all white with good. New elements wearing both these colours will begin to appear, but the balance which will be struck between them is not easily predictable. The tremendous tension within the emotional nature of humanity, the enormous pressure suggesting a purely materialistic reading of life, the vast conflict and disharmony among men themselves, the wide mental ferment which has made serenity almost impossible--all these constitute for an appreciable number of people the labour-bed upon which the infant of a divine intuition is being born. This intuition may manifest itself in different intellectual forms, but its essence is always the same: that life has a meaning and a purpose beyond the sensuous and the selfish, that it is ultimately spiritual.
You raise the question whether the present world conditions will not result in a quickened progress of seekers. I hardly think so. They will quicken the progress of humanity, as suffering, impoverishments, uprooting, and deaths will teach the old but ever-new lesson of inner detachment through the emotion of being tired of such unsatisfying life. But in the case of the few who have already been striving for self-enlightenment, the disturbed physical conditions and the undesirable emotional atmosphere will tend to interfere with their efforts. The seekers, however, will be able to progress quickly when the present upsets come to an end, as you will one day observe.
In the individual life it mostly happens that grace descends only after a period of great suffering. In humanity's life it is the same. Only when war and crises have run their course will new spiritual light be shed on us.
The kingdom of heaven will have to be established in men's hearts, for it can be established nowhere else.
All attempts to better the world which do not better the basic element in the world situation--the human entity itself--are narcotic drugs, not radical cures.
If it is a materialistic exaggeration to assert that social improvement is the only way to individual improvement, it is not less a mystical exaggeration to assert that self-improvement is the only way to social improvement. Both methods are indeed necessary.
The psychological forces at work in the crisis and the spiritual laws of life itself must be understood if the crisis itself is to be understood.
Without that perspective of evolutionary and karmic movement which the study of philosophy bestows, we look in vain for the deeper meaning of historic trends, crises, and culminations.
Every doctrine which disregards this human need of finding a relationship with what is beyond the merely human will fail to understand the present world situation, and every doctrine which repudiates this need will consequently fail to offer any real help in dealing with such a situation.
Other forces are operating in the world-crisis which are quite beyond the knowledge, experience, and perception of most people. They are certain spiritual forces of destiny and evolution.
The ancient attitude, still much alive in the Orient, ascribed the horrible results of famine, the dread travels of pestilence, or the bloodied course of warfare to the scourging hand of God. Where it saw the presence of a punishing deity, the modern sees only the presence of man's handiwork. But philosophy sees the presence and action of both.
Both destiny and man are back of the tremendous happenings of our times. Both superhuman directive and human will are working behind them.
A physical reconstruction which is rotten at its moral centre, try as it may, can never bring more happiness. It will succeed only in bringing more misery.
Our victory on the military level is a good augury for humanity's victory over the grave problems which present themselves with the coming of peace. But just as the military victory came only after critical hours when we skirted the verge of disaster, so it may well be that the other will take a similar course. Just as in World War II the collapse of France in 1940, the blitz over London, the approach to Moscow, and the naval destruction at Pearl Harbor in 1941, the cutting of England's sea lifelines, the invasion of Egypt, and the conquests in the Far East in 1942 were grave crises of great danger that did not prevent our eventual triumph, so the difficulties and defeats of peace are not likely to prevent humanity's victorious solution of its worst problems. It will be a fateful period, but there is reason to believe that the attitude of despair is unjustified. Thus the struggle against the forces of evil, aggression, violence, hatred, and selfishness may be severe, yet there is good hope for eventual triumph over these things. But in the end, humanity will not be able to evade the challenge of Jesus. There is no salvation ultimately except through the spiritual way.
"In all that he sees he beholds a preacher of God," wrote German Jacob Boehme. Note the word all. For in the most revolting personal crimes and terrible international or civil wars, he sees the negative results of godless, or pseudo-godly, living. In the benign philanthropies and tolerant sympathies of the benefactors of the human race, he sees the positive results of godly living.
A pretentious society whose members are fakes and phonies despite their wealth, a closed world where snobbishness and insincerity are rampant--in such a society and such a world there is no room for a genuine spiritual aspirant.
A world humiliated and chastened by world war may be more ready to receive the world teacher when he comes. That alone would be the appropriate hour.
If enough men and women were to try to better their characters and discipline their lives, we might expect a new and better world. Otherwise we shall have the same bad old world, if not a worse one, with nothing new except perhaps its political and social clothes. It is true that clothes influence the man, but they do not make him--whatever the proverb may say. If enough men and women could be aroused from the stupor induced by materialism, if a new reverence could be kindled in their hearts, then there would be hope. For a world governed by a working team of reason and reverence could quickly be made worthwhile. If the tragedies of two world wars and the distresses of two peace periods are not to go in vain, the human race must loosen its ego's grip. The harder it clings to its old selfishness, the worse its insanity will become. The madness which drove Germany and Japan on their self-destructive course was a direct consequence of their rabid defiance of spiritual laws. If the symbols of this madness, the Swastika or the Rising Sun, did not fly in every capital, this was only because the intuition of most other nations led them to respond, in varying degrees, to the new and higher ideal fate had set before them and thus to keep saner than the other. A shift of emphasis away from excessive egoism has become indispensable if humanity is to keep its balance.
The old doctrine of karma is quite correct in explaining present-day world suffering, but not all of it. The explanation is too complicated and must be left for the future. However, it may be said that the one lesson humanity is compelled to learn is that of its interdependence and hence of its ultimate unity. The sufferings and unsatisfactory conditions of one nation affect distant nations also. The sufferings of the world can be removed only by removing their cause. But ignorance of this condition is so widespread that it is a sign that there are practically no sages active in the modern world.
On The Christian Paradox by Cyril Scott: The theme of this book is that world conditions are the accumulated result of following principles at variance with those enunciated by all the great Sages of the past, especially by Christ. By restating the esoteric truths which the churches deliberately suppressed, he exhibits the teachings of Christ in a new light.
Not only is the whole world faced with eventual war but large areas are already threatened with the collapse of their social structures, the crash of their economic systems, the half-starvation of their peoples. The quest for salvation from these perils goes on but only momentary palliatives are found. Civilization is wearing a garment consisting wholly of patches. Nothing can save it from progressively falling to pieces except getting a new garment. Nothing can save it from apocalypse except bringing to the surface the hidden truth about itself. No economic reform, no political change can save the human race today. Those who believe otherwise have been disillusioned in the past and are being disillusioned today, even though they often fail to see it. The only salvation which will be effectual must come from within, must reform and ennoble character. It must change thought and rule feeling, for then only will conduct and fate also change.
We must view this episode in the wider perspective of philosophy. If we do this we may learn a most important lesson. It will then be seen that the law of compensation takes account not only of sins of commission but also sins of omission. For we were in the position of a man who could see from his window that a householder in a distant street was being attacked and robbed with brutal violence, a man who wanted to help the victim but hesitated to interfere because he loathed fights and wanted to live a peaceful life. Thus he sways between two contending emotions until one or the other finally overcomes him. We had reached the latter part of this internal conflict and would undoubtedly have yielded to her better self and gone to the rescue of endangered humanity before long. But we were moving a little too slowly, hesitating a little too much, and the karmic consequence of this was tragic. It was the terrible price which had to be paid for delay in doing the right thing. Other peoples had to pay karmically for the same mistake but they paid far more heavily because they made the mistake in too many directions and for too long a time. There was a clear duty in this inter-dependent age to help actively on the right side. The world distress is mostly due to karma. But we need a broader interpretation of this word. Many of us may be good and innocent but we have to suffer with all others, not for what we have done but for what we left undone. Today sorrow misses nobody. This is because humanity is completely interdependent. That is the lesson we have to learn; that we let others remain in woe or ignorance at our own peril. We are one.
Much of the pollution problem on earth and in air, river, and sea is blamed on technology. But the latter's expansion is itself in part caused by something else: namely, overpopulation. And not only pollution but also other evils derive from it, such as unemployment, violence, riots, food shortage, and insufficient income. The matter does not stop there. To what is overpopulation itself due? The first answer is not the only one: overindulgence in sexual relationships, whether within or outside marriage. There are also some other causes. In the end it all sums up to spiritual ignorance.
In all parts of Asia until recent times the way of life for the masses was prescribed for them by authority, whether the authority of the state or of the church. They could not be kept forever at the same low level but have to grow up--and they have been growing and thinking, but only at a very juvenile level. They have still a long way to go in development. The violence and discontent and rebellion which we see in all parts of the world is a symptom, however unpleasant, of the beginnings of this growth. We see it also in the demands for freedom from those who are still too uncontrolled to have full freedom, but who need to be given a little freedom at least if they are not to be repressed forever.
What kind of a civilization do we have? It has become top-heavy, lopsided, unbalanced, and therefore dangerous to the healthy development of the human race. Its intellectual and technical advance is indeed tremendous, but faith, intuition, and the moral virtues do not find in this iron-hard framework enough freedom for their operation. Indeed, they are being stifled. Such a course if continued can only end in their complete suffocation. Man is in danger of becoming a merely mechanistic, merely physical, and merely selfish entity. This is not in accord with the higher meaning of his life, and since civilization does not give sufficient signs of its willingness or evidence of its ability to correct this unbalance, since the valuable services which it has rendered in the past are coming to an end, Nature is no longer giving it the protection which it might otherwise have had against the destructive forces within itself. Between the incessant turmoil, the incessant multiplication of wants, the incessant physical and intellectual activities, the incessant stimulation of emotional desire, and the constant appeal to egoism--between these things and the inner voice that calls men back to the deeper things of spiritual life there is a hidden conflict which really exists under the obvious one.
So long as man does not know what the world really is, he can hardly be expected to know what he is talking about. And so long as his word lacks truth, so long will society lack worth. Chaos abounds everywhere because nothing else need be expected from a race which knows much about momentary affairs and so little about the Real. Universal affairs must first be understood properly before human life can be made worthwhile.
Large groups in the human race are trying to continue the old life in forms that belong to outgrown stages of their development. The effort is a misdirected one and brings confusion, strife, or self-injury as the penalty.
Although all leaders admit the annihilatory character of nuclear war and agree it is unthinkable, yet their actions reflect nineteenth-century thinking, as if pre-nuclear conditions still prevail. With both sides spending more and more on defense every year, the situation becomes utterly illogical. The pity of it all is that despite these fantastic expenditures we are no nearer any real peace than before.
A social danger which should be foreseen and prepared for, because it hinders the onset of abundant living, is the uncontrolled expansion of population, more especially in the Far East. Such rapid growth will make the maintenance of peace between nations a harder task. It is ironical that the poorer classes should also and everywhere be the prolific classes! The less food, the more babies!--such seems to be mankind's strange maxim. It is still more ironical that the Japanese could have claimed that they needed more living space after having encouraged their people to be the most prolific in the whole world. With similar logic they tried the bandit-like method of stealing it by brutal violence. Less brutality and more birth-control would have been a wiser policy. While the human race persistently overbreeds itself, it will continue to breed some of the causes of war, unemployment, famine, and epidemics. With a world in such a tragic condition and such a doubtful future, it is hardly fair to bring more and more children into it. Both ethics and reason would indeed counsel that we bring fewer and fewer children into it. The notion that a people should breed prolifically was wisely inculcated by the religious law-givers of antiquity when the race was still in its infancy and the land was sparsely inhabited. But times have changed and such self-multiplication has become senseless. If nations whose lands which are already swarming with men, women, and children insist on increasing their number instead of decreasing it, what other consequences may be expected except more disease and more conflict? By reducing the size of their families, they will reduce the discomforts and miseries of many parents and more children.
There is nothing wrong or evil in the development of Power, the spread of Prosperity, or the fostering of Education. The wrong comes in when these things are not utilized with wisdom.
Not to recognize his obligation to attend within his capacities and circumstances to this higher purpose of life is a criminal omission. That is why he is being punished so drastically in this century. He may have sinned in this manner to keep his life simpler, less complicated by further duties, as well as easier, less burdened by new disciplines. But he has failed in obedience to the law of his own being.
The world has foolishly made a fetish of organizations and institutions because it has undervalued the reality of thought, the power of character, and the potency of truth.
What is the use of idealistically proclaiming the illusion that the world is one and indivisible when everywhere we see that it is many and divided? We should be better occupied in proclaiming the truth, which is that humanity's real welfare is one and indivisible and that reason and circumstances are moving it in the direction of realizing this fact, but that it is still at so low a stage of evolution as to be generally unready and often unwilling to resolve correctly the resulting mental conflict within itself.
In earlier times man had to seek and find protection from Nature. In our own times he has to find protection from himself. His power is now too frightening.
The misuse of Nature, the spread of materialism, and the upsurge of negative emotion have led to our present plight.
The experiences which the human race has gathered during the past few hundred years have supplemented its knowledge, enriched its culture, and improved its environment. But they have done all this at a price. For they have increased its intellectual vanity, impoverished its religious feeling, and unbalanced its values.
So long as any civilization plays the hypocrite to its best beliefs, so long as the inner life does not matter while the outer life can give it all the satisfactions it seeks, so long may one predict with full assurance that the arc of its history will sooner or later take a downward plunge into disaster. Why this should be so is no mystery if one understands that God has set man upon this earth to fulfil and realize obscure higher purposes as well as the obvious lower ones. Man evades the challenge only at the risk of unwittingly calling into existence destructive forces that will terrorize his civilization and frighten him into remembrance of what these higher purposes demand of him.
The history of a nation is really a translation from the history of its soul.
History returns periodically to the same basic problems, the same fundamental crises. Where a whole people has failed to solve them, or tried to solve them in the wrong way, they are brought together again by reincarnation and presented with a fresh chance to make good or suffer the same consequences.
It is absurd to talk of humanity as though it presented a uniform psychological pattern. On the contrary, it presents a particularly uneven one. It is indeed a conglomeration of groups in various degrees of development. Some are intellectually advanced whereas others are intellectually backward. Some are very near to the noble in ideals whereas others are very far from them. All that can be said about their psychological situation is that the forward movement of evolution may be a halting and lagging one but it is a certain one.
It is a fact that all men are at different stages and see life in different ways or under different limitations. Their experience is always relative to their standpoint. Hence it is wrong to declare any man to be ignorant, for usually he does know what is proper to his own level.
Though I criticize our present age, do not imagine I would enthusiastically care to return to an earlier one. The few who talk about the good old days are welcome to them! Those were the times when heterodox men who dared to publish their free and independent thoughts were rewarded with the rack and the thumbscrew.
In The Spiritual Crisis of Man, I put forward some arguments in defense of older nations, peoples, or races who preferred a simpler life to the technological civilization of the modern world--and especially the modern Western world. This did not mean--as I hope was made clear in the book--that we, too, should revert to their attitude and become, as it were, disciples of Mahatma Gandhi. No, I have always advocated that we take what is useful from the past, what is wise and practicable for us, and leave the rest. In short, I spoke more than once in favour of an East-West civilization. I agreed with René Guénon that we had given too much weight to a utilitarian civilization and too little to the higher forms of culture, by which I mean philosophical, mystical, and the basic foundations of religion. Indeed, I criticized the ascetic regimes and asceticism generally when pushed to extreme, and pleaded for the conveniences and comforts brought in by modern ideas. But it is the extreme unbalanced one-sided forms of either the simple life or the materialistic life which I opposed. A sensible balance which enables us or rather helps us to keep mental and emotional equilibrium, inner calm, is the desirable thing.
To turn our gaze to past times and look for similar situations in them and then to observe what happened thereafter, will not avail us today. For such a situation has never before existed. It is without historical precedent.
We do not reincarnate only to continue or finish learning the same old lessons--much less to repeat them--but also to start learning new ones. Life itself demands of us that there should be a definite progression to a wider and higher level. Those who want blindly to imitate only what people did five thousand years ago, show their ignorance of life's requirement. This earth exists to enable man to progress from lower to higher levels and from narrower to wider areas.
The planetary spirit is accelerating its own development and this necessarily accelerates the development of all living creatures--plant, animal, and human--which dwell upon it. This is why man's experience crowds into one life what formerly he crowded into a few, and why world history crowds into one year the events which formerly took several years. If this increase in tempo has also accelerated human suffering by crowding it more closely together, it has also paradoxically increased human pleasures.
The era of dynamic democracy is at hand.
If you look back over the tremendous change which has come about in human society and civilization through the activities of science, invention, exploration, commerce, manufacture, and art, you will find that the period covered is roughly about three hundred years. The movement for religious freedom started about the same time, after a thousand years of religious straitjacket upon the human mind. Such freedom became necessary to prepare the way for the next great religious teacher, and his coming would be useless if men did not have enough chance to seek truth and enough freedom to choose their faith.
We have entered a period rarely seen before, a period that comes cyclically about every two thousand years. Great changes accompany it, on physical and cultural levels: it is also an avataric period.
It is an old doctrine among most of the Orientals and even among the early Greeks as well as the Roman Stoics, that the world comes to an end at certain long intervals of equal duration. This periodical death, which is always followed by a rebirth, is held accountable for such catastrophes as the sinking of Atlantis and the destruction of Lemuria. When the earth's axis last moved its direction to the one it now occupies, bringing an end to Atlantis, the length of the year was changed in consequence by an additional five days. According to this doctrine, these great changes in the global crust are due to a declination of the plane of the ecliptic to the plane of the equator--that is, to a change in the angle which the plane of the ecliptic makes with the plane of the equator. The larger this angle formerly was, the warmer were the polar regions, so that there was once a time when human and animal beings were living there in numbers and in comfort. As the planet moves in its curved orbit its cosmically preordained destiny moves on with it.
Ideas which belong to an age that is passing away are themselves doomed to pass away. They become barren and ineffective. We must try to unlearn them. Even certain mental attitudes which suited past epochs have now become retrograde. Emotional reactions which were correct in primitive peoples have now become impediments.
The procession of false prophets, self-styled Messiahs, and publicized Christs who have come and gone since the last century have served but to add to the bewilderment and uncertainty of the age. The confusion arose simply because the seekers after a spiritual prophet have tried to find him in a human form, and also prematurely. The true saviour was then and is still to be found only in the inner sanctum of men's own hearts. Christ--the true esoteric Saviour--is, since the death of the earthly Jesus, no man, but the divine self in every human being. Hence men who look outwards for him, whether in so-called reincarnations, organizations, or buildings, look in vain. He is not there. Nor is there any other way to look inwards than the way of the mystic quest. On the second count, that men are expecting him prematurely, it is true that we are approaching the end of an era, the close of a long cycle. The signs of this transition are everywhere around us. They are as vivid and pointed as they were when the last great era closed with Jesus' coming two thousand years ago. However, the destined hour when the next major prophet is to appear among us has not yet struck--indeed will not strike in this century. Certain events have to happen first, events involving tremendous changes in the life of earth and man. Not before the middle of the twenty-first century will the proper conditions exist for his coming. Meanwhile, minor prophets will appear and are appearing. Humanity, so far as it must seek outwards because it is unable to seek inwards, may and should draw what comfort and guidance it can from them.
One great error which is found alike among the Christians, the Jews, the Muhammedans, the Buddhists, and other religionists is the belief that the next avatar will appear only to enable the dogmas, hierarchies, and institutions of their particular religion to triumph over all others. The avatar is never exclusively their own because he always comes to bring a fresh message and sow new seeds. This was always historically true but it is most emphatically so today, when he has to speak to the whole world.
Where so many creatures are at early stages of descent into ego-experience and ego-development, it is foolish to expect them to respond to teachings suitable for advanced stages alone--where the need is for growing release from the ego. The first group naturally and inevitably has different, even opposing, outlooks, trends, ideas, beliefs, inclinations, and desires from those of the second one. It wants to fatten the ego, whereas the other wants to thin it down. To condemn it as wrongly directed is ignorant, impractical, and mistaken. If the history of mankind has teemed with war and bloodshed in the past, part of the cause can be found here. But that same history moves also in cycles. We stand today between two cycles, two eras, two cultures. The next one will not only be new; it will also be brighter and better in every way.
While the race was still infantile, both intellectually and ethically, it had to be instructed in a kindergarten method. Truths had to be explained in a picture-book manner, spiritual instruction given through symbolic plays, through rites, processions, and ceremonies to appeal to the show-loving childish imagination. But now that it has grown up into adolescence it is ready for a higher kind of religion.
A new religion will be born in this century because it is a historical necessity. It will grow and thrive at the expense of the older religions. And all indications point to the fact that it will be born in the West and thence spread to the East and over the whole world.
Religion will always remain. It is only the ecclesiastical bonds on us which may have to be loosened or even thrown away.
The priest will not disappear altogether in the new age but his status and duties will be transformed. In the past he claimed to be a mediator between God and man. Now he will be content with the less ambitious role of a teacher of men. In the past he exercised power in the government of society. Now he will be satisfied with demotion to being a counsellor of society.
We of the modern world have a cultural inheritance which takes in the religious, artistic, and intellectual products of all historic periods and all continents. The sane reaction is to accept it; the insane one is to reject it.
All the world's literature is now before us. What men have found, seen, reasoned, what has been revealed to men whose different levels of understanding and character stretch from the primitive to the profound, is now accessible to all seekers.
The human situation is the final resultant of various forces whose play and counterplay make it up. It is packed with complexities. The doctrinaire who oversimplifies it does so at the price of imperilling truth. Let us note two out of the several factors which control it. If every event were to be completely predetermined by karma, there would be nothing for us to do. But if every event were to happen exactly as we willed it, the universe would become a chaos.
All rules and institutions, habits and traditions should be adjustable if they are to remain relevant to actual needs.
Though the modern mood is impatient of theological theorizing, it nevertheless accepts the emptiest of all theories--that Matter is the be-all and end-all of life--and it indulges in the most superficial of all speculations--that which puts the world of the Skin far above the world of the Spirit. As a result, we witness Europe and America hanging the names of their politicians high in the heaven of emulation, but thrusting their mystics behind the hedge of contempt.
Not until the modern era were those who wanted freedom from tradition able to seek it so freely and find it so easily.
If men will not break away from what is bad in their past--as, for instance, the fear, suspicion, and distrust which develop between two races or two nations through their historic relationship--then Nature (that is, God, Life, call it as you like) will do it for them forcibly and violently through natural disasters (such as earthquakes, floods, climatic extremes, drought) or through merely presenting them with the fruits of their own thinking crystallized on the physical level--that is, with their karma in the form of war, revolution, and so on.
Progress seems to carry both good and evil along with it. If philanthropy now takes more numerous and thoughtful forms, so does crime.
The present revival of church-going religion has its parallel in the thirteenth century's vast increase of world-renouncing European monasticism on account of the end of the world being then expected. The same threatening situation existed in the fifth and sixth centuries, when thousands upon thousands joined the monkish ranks for the same reason.
Abraham was told that if only ten good men could be found, the civilization of Sodom and Gomorrah would be saved from destruction. This word "good" must be interpreted aright if the promise is to have any real meaning. For only men in whom the higher spiritual nature was sufficiently active and dominant to attract supernormal forces could bring about such a result.
So long as a nation does not accept the guidance of inspired or intuitive individuals, so long will its history repeat the age-old blunders.
It is more useful to follow the history of ideas than that of persons.
Some cynic has said that we learn from history that we learn nothing from history. This is because our cynical friend's knowledge of human history is too short. The few thousand years about which our scholars can talk--what are they in comparison with the millions of years during which man has played his little game on this planet?
History's first task will be to get a group of superior men who are dependable enough to carry out these aims faithfully and who are disinterested enough to carry them out selflessly. It is from such a group that there must arise educators of future generations.
There is a ridiculous notion among some mystical circles that new spiritual faculties are being unfolded in our time. The truth is that there was, proportionate to total population, a larger number of spiritually perceptive persons in ancient times and even in medieval times, than there is today. This was inevitable because external conditions were simpler and less filled with allurements and entanglements, and because intellectual development was in harmony with and not, as with us, away from the inner life. What, however, might be stated with verifiable truth about our own times is that a new kind of mentality is being evolved. We shall synthesize and harmonize the scientific, the metaphysical, the religious, the mystical, and the practical without falling back, as the ancients did, into monasticism and asceticism.
Formerly it was right and proper for man to think exactly as his ancestors thought. Today it is right and proper for him to think independently, as an individual.
We must be careful not to confuse inevitable developments with evolutionary developments, events that just have to be with events that better the preceding ones.
A trend of world history may be powerful and triumphant. Its consequences may be undesirable yet seem inevitable. But this does not mean that they must be God's will in any other sense than a karmic one.
The Greek states saw the value of arbitration not less than the World Union, and provided for it in their treaties. Yet it failed to keep the peace between them and broke down as a means of keeping out war. The trouble then was precisely the same as the trouble today. It was not in defective arrangements but in defective character. It was moral.
Those who, like René Guénon, nostalgically advocate a return to "tradition" usually mean a return to the social cultural and religious life of the Middle Ages. They do not see that such a return could only be possible by including the obsolete economic environment of the Middle Ages also. Consequently it would mean the reappearance of such social relics as feudal lords and feudal serfs, the disappearance of machines and the electric powerhouse, the reversion to an agricultural and pastoral activity, the use of simple methods of production and primitive methods of exchange. Much the same diagnosis and remedy as René Guénon's were put forth by T.S. Eliot in the world of poetry, but with more success and with the emphasis on mystical religion rather than on metaphysics. Eliot deplored the chaotic plight and sinful condition of modern society, the exaggerated individualism of modern literature. He demanded a return to tradition, a recovery of the sense of history and community, a submission to the Church in culture and morality. Granted that the unsatisfactory spiritual conditions of today point to the necessity of moving out of them, but the Guénons and Eliots seek to escape them by moving backwards. The wiser ones seek to overcome them by moving forward. The first group find comfort in a decayed past because they lack vision to enter an unknown future. The second group accepts the duty of hard pioneering and labours to create a new and better kind of life for humanity.
If it be asked, as I am often asked, how it is that the Japanese, a professedly Buddhistic people, could have taken to such un-Buddhistic ways, it must be replied first, that all institutionalized religions are nowadays largely rendered ethically ineffective because they have become matters more of social convenience than of personal conviction, and second, that after the great historical revolution of 1868, when the entire feudal system of government was abandoned, Buddhism also was largely abandoned with it. The new government disestablished it as a state religion, took possession of thousands of Buddhist temples, stripped them of their Buddha-images, and turned out their priests. Thus Buddhism, a religion of earthly renunciation, was discarded. A religion of earthly aggrandizement, combining feudalistic Shinto Mikado-worship with a feverish industrialistic ambition, replaced it. With this death-blow, the seeds of potential spiritual greatness were cast out and replaced by the dry-rot of a materialistic ambition. With it was lost the opportunity of becoming the torchbearer of a new and dynamic reform for the backward countries of Asia. This was because Japan, of all the Oriental nations of that time, was the only one wise enough in her unique religious vision to take the serenity and mind-control gained in inward contemplation and express it in the outward version of inspired action. The Japanese were provided with this striking opportunity during the nineteenth century to rejuvenate the vast continent of Asia in the right way and thus become its recognized leader. This would have prepared the way for the introduction of that new East-West spiritual-material civilization of which the whole world is unconsciously or half-consciously in desperate need. Had they lived up to this opportunity Japan would quite properly have earned our profound respect and all mankind's gratitude. But unhappily for themselves and unfortunately for us, the Japanese lost their moral and mental balance in the vast turn-over which they carried out and became the votaries of sordid materialism and ruthless militarism instead. The purifying fires of self-earned suffering became their lot for failure to grasp this grand opportunity and accomplish a truly divine mission. Prior to the transformation of which we speak, the ancient Japanese conception of life possessed a virility all its own. It was infused into the Buddhistic wisdom which they absorbed from India by way of Korea, because the negative quietism, trance-seeking yoga, and sepulchral asceticism of India did not suffice to satisfy them as a complete goal. They used these things, therefore, and refused to let themselves be used by them. They brought the study of truth and the practice of meditation into relation with the need of practical life and social existence, which meant that they brought these treasured gems across the walls of cloisters within which they had previously been confined into the wider world. With them, penetration into the deeper significance of human life ceased to be a preoccupation for lethargic monks who lacked the opportunities to put their learning into practice, and became the inspiration of active men engaged in the work and turmoil of earthly existence. They turned a metaphysic which usually ended in logical abstractions into a gospel which ended in inspired actions. They made bodily experience, rational thought, and aesthetic emotion combine to proclaim truth with united voice. This was the gospel of Zen, as it was called. But alas! we speak here of old Japan, of the land which had not yet been opened to the West and not yet been dazzled by its industrial prosperity and material achievements, a land which has vanished and now exists no longer.
In a world where no great event happens by chance, where even the tiniest seed sprouts under an all-governing law, the destruction of a whole continent such as Atlantis is full of significance for humanity. It means that Nature, which is but another name for God, could not proceed farther with its evolutionary purpose for the inhabitants of that continent without a fresh start, without a clean break from old ways which had exhausted themselves.
If you wish to study history properly, you should first study human nature, of which it is partly a reflection.
History brings many changes in the course of time, many new developments, many displacements of settled persons and a coming to the front of fresh ones. The same happens in structures, organizations, geographical situations, and even climatic ones. We must beware of making custom habit or convention too rigid a thing. For if this epoch particularly shows anything at all it shows that the world moves on, that change never ends.
It is the principle that is more important, not the event. For the latter passes, the former remains.
I like to reckon time as a wise history reckons it, not by the meaningless counting of calendared years. I look for the rise and fall of civilizations, for the birth and death of races, and above all for the grand manifestations of Himalayan men.
Nietzsche put Emerson's idea in another way. He wrote that a whole nation is a detour to create a dozen great men.
Such being the actuality of present conditions, the opening of a new channel between finite man and his infinite source has become essential. This means that a new religion must be born. The war and its aftermath have created conditions suitable to the establishment of a new faith. Therefore, if it be true that a sudden and widespread revival of the old conventional dogmatic beliefs after the war is unlikely, because orthodox religion in its present familiar forms has lost the inspiration and purity necessary to make it effective, it is equally true that with the coming of peace there will be more people ready for a new religious revelation than there have been at any time during the past hundred years.
The intellectual and spiritual requirements of one epoch are historically different from those of others. Human society changes, evolves or degenerates: it cannot stand still for long. Hence, it finds for itself in every epoch either a modification, alteration, and adaptation of traditional systems, or--if it is sufficiently creative at the time--gives birth to entirely new systems altogether. The truth of this statement has been attested to by every age of mankind and on every continent from ill-fated Atlantis to thriving America. To hold, as the representatives of vested interests and orthodox institutions usually hold, that a particular system is suited to all the needs of all humanity for all time and therefore cannot be replaced or should not be replaced by another system, is to write a full stop to human evolution. It is a senseless view, as historically unjustified as it is philosophically untenable. No revelation is or can be the last one, nor the exhaustive one. Now that we live in a time when so many of the old systems have exhausted their best possibilities and fail to meet our newer needs, those who have turned aside from them yet are unwilling to remain spiritually unnourished should not be blamed if they are willing to enlist as followers of a more vital, more timely, and more satisfying faith.
A divine man, born to fulfil a large and special religious mission, a man like the founders of the world-famed religions, not only has this educational task but he also reveals the Karmic will and expounds the evolutionary standards set for the coming age.
All civilized societies and all cultural forms of the past have shown that they are inexorably subject to a rhythm of birth, growth, and decay. They have their ardent springtime, their luxuriant summer, their cold autumn, their withered winter. Today, we witness the same storms of destructive events and the snows of miserable failure. Those who are not too timid to face the unpalatable truth know that this has only one meaning. We are at the end of an epoch. The old world is dying before our eyes. But death is only a transition--the joyous springtime of vital renewal always follows the freezing wintertime of outlived forms. A new epoch is indeed at hand, with fresh ideas to lead us and fresh ideals to sustain us. Only the mentally blind now fail to anticipate it.
It was a new comet which came to warn mankind that the old era was about to be liquidated and it was another comet which came to notify them that the new era had begun. This was no more a coincidence to those who understand the hidden workings of Nature than was the fact that all the three leading Axis powers--Germany, Italy, and Japan--started their nationalistic careers in the same year: 1871. The first harbinger appeared in the skies in the autumn of 1929. When the great economic blizzard hit America and thence spread to the whole world, it forced millions to realize that the old order was exhausted. Every country was affected by economic troubles with all their political, social, and cultural consequences. None escaped. Each reacted in its own way. Japan's reaction was shortly to plunge desperately into international robbery by invading Manchuria. If with the facts now at our command we think back, we shall realize that the Second World War really started in 1931 with this invasion. For the line of continuous fighting against Japan in China down to the time of America's involvement after Pearl Harbor was paralleled for three years on the other side of the world by the civil war in Spain, where not only the Spaniards themselves but also Nazi Germans and Fascist Italians battled against Red Russians.
Thus, the earlier comet indeed prognosticated the coming world war, and the second comet, which showed itself towards the end of 1942, heralded its closing. The military turning point of the world war was coincident with its appearance. For the great series of democratic nations' military victories began about this time. But the second comet's special association was to act as the harbinger of a new age. These victories not only brought about the external liberation of millions of people from militaristic oppression, but were the prelude to the entire liberation of all mankind from every form of social and cultural oppression by the past. The new age could not fail, therefore, to be a new religious age also. Thus the new universal spiritual enlightenment was dated by the second comet. Whoever perceives this cannot but believe that when the need is so great, the yearning so widespread, the urgency so sharp, the divine wisdom which holds this earth within its grasp will not fail to inspire the most evolved human being available with a universal Messianic mission of uplift, instruction, healing, and awakening. And nobody less than such an august being could undertake the responsibility of so tremendous a task, which will specifically be directed towards the masses, towards millions of people. Nothing truly great can be done without great men.
There must be a visible focus among us, even for the boldest of ideas. There must be a great leader. The spectacle confronting us today is the spectacle of a planet that is spiritually leaderless. We are told, "The hour produces the man." The hour is here, we believe, but we look around and see no Man. Spirituality is waiting to find its voice. Its reality is here, but its spokesman is not. Every half-baked cult and worn-out creed possesses its ambassador, but the ineffable divinity remains unvoiced. Nevertheless, we wait patiently for that one to come who shall utter anew the Christ-message to mankind. And his voice will not be as yours and mine, but will be a regenerative force which will startle the sleeping world. The world is in upheaval for a deeper reason than it suspects. For at a time of religious chaos and popular bewilderment, of world agony and human distress, such as the present, his coming is in perfect consonance with the fact that supreme intelligence rules the cosmos, that truth shall be uncovered once more for the sake of those who need it. However, it is not through any one prophet alone that the new dawn will be ushered in but through a planetary outpouring, which flows through every useful channel it can find. In this complex epoch, its manifestations are as complex and varied as are the needs of mankind. There will be different prophets bearing different messages to differently-delivered groups of people, but all will be inspired by one and the same timely power.
The human race has long been preparing for manhood. The end of war marks its crossing of the threshold. Now it must exercise manhood.
If the progressive character of the reincarnational chain be true, then we must grant that there are men half in and half out of the animal kingdom. They are clanking reminders of all that still has to be done still before a deep spiritual awareness of its best self becomes natural to the human race.
In the old days barbarians came down to civilized cities on foot or horse. Today they still come, but in machines.
We moderns have discovered how to release atomic energy. The ancients always knew, as the mystics still know, how to release spiritual energy. History will show those who cannot otherwise learn, which discovery is more important and most beneficial to mankind.
The Middle Ages of Europe produced many more saints than the modern epoch has been able to produce.
Those who refuse to turn the mind towards the centre of harmony within themselves do so because their experience of what is without is not full enough nor reflective enough.
Lao Tzu lamented the fall from simple living into extravagance and luxury during the period from primitive Chinese history until the highly civilized China of his own days. Juvenal criticized the same deterioration among his fellow Romans. Does this not illustrate two things: first, the inventiveness of the human mind, and second, the desires of human nature? These are innate, and will last as long as history itself.
It is somewhat ironic to write that what we regard as medieval, so far off in time as to be a museum-piece, was regarded by its own contemporaries as quite up-to-date, the very latest in thought and fashion! Erasmus, writing in 1514 about the various early Church Fathers' Greek sermons, commented, "Ambrose is not altogether appropriate to modern times"!
The longing for the triumph of goodness in world history is in most hearts. We may translate this as we wish.
The Oriental mystic is indifferent to world history because he is indifferent to time.
It is doubtful how far we have progressed, and even whether we have progressed, in the art of living, despite all our science and knowledge. We have only to remember those Greek colonists in Italy who banished all noises from their city to raise this question.
History traps the individual in its implacable movement.
There are occasions when the corruption of society is so high, its values so low, that the prophet must make a stand and challenge it.
Ancient cataclysms have buried whole continents, engulfed entire races, and hidden the evil horrors of man's own making.
The progression of human intellect is attended by the regression of human character.
It was not possible for earlier generations to crowd so much experience into so short a period of time, so much compulsory thinking about events into so many events themselves. Those alive today have the chance to make more quickly a forward move in spiritual growth, to learn certain lessons in which they have been laggards, but which Nature is determined to enforce.
Here and there doors are being opened through which the light needed by our darkened times is beginning to flow in.
Considering the world's nature and man's character, there has not yet been and there is no likelihood of ever being a Heaven on this earth. But much can and will be done to improve the one and exalt the other.
As he lay dying, H.G. Wells discarded his belief in the inevitability of progress and even felt that everything might end.
History is both a record and a confirmation of the transience of men, of the immutability of their civilizations and the evanescence of all their other creations. If there is any moral to be drawn at the end of every history book, it must surely be the old Latin one, "Thus passes the glory of the world."
The mastery of philosophy increases the capacity to interpret history correctly.
Because the social strata were too rigidly organized, because they did not permit the upward passage of worthy or gifted individuals, they provoked resentment and, in the end, rebellion. Democracy became the karma of aristocracy.
In this democratic age we preach equality but continue to practise, if and when we can, the contrary. We can hardly do otherwise. Social distinctions appear because there are differences of economic background, of upbringing and ways of life, because refinement does not easily mix with vulgarity. If each is the end product of a series of reincarnations, the differences in nature and experience are certain to show themselves, giving rise to social differences. But this is no excuse for exploitation and snobbishness in the more fortunate levels of society, or for rancour and class hatred in the less fortunate ones.
The hierarchical marks of class patterns, the differences of caste quality, the contrasting grades of status, prestige, culture, value, and refinement are blurred today, mixed up.
The philosophical group may have wisdom and character but despite this they are a small factor in such a large situation, being hopelessly outnumbered by all the others.
The philosophic minds are so heavily outnumbered that the world's fate is decided by the others.
The sage kings assumed the prerogative of their office not by heredity but by inner worth. They were kings of the mind before they became kings of men.
Neither historians in the Near East nor writers in the Roman Empire showed the slightest recognition of the coming power and eventual significance of Christianity during its first century of life. Is this an astonishing fact?
The Roman legions fought their way across Europe not merely to aggrandize the power and wealth of a city on the Tiber River, but unwittingly to lay a path through which the message of Jesus might spread.
The new religion should speak to the masses with more clearness and more common sense than the existing ones.
When we consider that two discoveries alone, electricity and the petrol engine, have shaped entirely new environments for the human being, we may well marvel at the kind of world in which mankind will live a hundred years from now.
These ideas are becoming vivid in the minds of so many persons not because of the activity of one man but because evolutionary forces from within and environmental ones from without have prepared and developed these persons to receive and appreciate them. Had this man never lived, they would still have been received and appreciated. Nevertheless it is also true that such a man brings the movement to a clear head and provides it with an impulsion along a definite road which he cuts for it.
The advent of a new era is now inevitable but the advent of a better one is not.
This dread of humanity's future spiritual destiny, this fear that without a powerful religious recall it is doomed, this belief that a lame external activity is needed to bring about such recall, this desire to set humanity on a quest beyond its own wish and strength--this is unfaith and unwisdom.
In all the history of man was there ever a period like this? Yet, although man has changed himself and his environment in every way, he has failed to change in the most important ways--morally and spiritually. Who has the hardihood to declare--in the face of the bestiality and cruelty which have appeared during this generation--that there is less evil abroad in the world now than formerly? And who has the equal hardihood to declare--in the face of the religious, mystical, and philosophic testament in writing which has come down with the centuries--that we have more intuitive knowledge of the eternal truths, more personal communion with the spiritual self, than the men of antiquity?
Unfortunately the land which produced a great psychologist like William James and a grand mystic like Ralph Waldo Emerson seems to have exhausted its resources with them. Its materialism has stemmed from the early needs of the nation, the inexorable necessity of firmly establishing a physical civilization before a cultural one could be established, the gathering together of ambitious, optimistic, energetic, determined, and enterprising men and women from the Old World. There are repulsive features in its culture still, and grave problems to be solved.
The human race has evolved to a point where its condition of receptivity to these teachings is more favourable than at any previous time.
New viewpoints develop among humanity as it passes through different historical phases. Sometimes they are merely revisions, developments, or improvements on the old viewpoints, but sometimes they are really fresh and notably different from the old ones. When we compare the earlier mental condition of mankind with that which prevails today, we are immediately struck by the enormous increase in the opportunities of the masses for education and enlightenment, together with the advance in knowledge of every kind. The result is seen in the changed outlook upon several departments of life, the widened views which have come to us. The contrast between human life of today and human life of a single century ago is vast and startling. In clothes, food, fuel, light, homes, cities, and social conditions on the external side; in literacy, journals, books, art, entertainment, discussion, standards, and intellectual development on the internal side, we see that an era of ferment has really come upon us. New ideas in religions of an advanced and idealistic character which, a generation ago, were furtively discussed only by a mere handful of people are now freely and widely discussed.
It is not the funeral of civilization that we are witnessing but the funeral of an outstanding phase of civilization.
The belief that the human race is improving requires careful definition and particularizing, for it is certainly retrogressing in some ways even though it is improving in others.
Before we can properly understand this we have first to understand a fragment of a theory which was held by the ancients throughout the world. This is the theory that history moves in rhythmic cycles of alternating life and death. This theory likens evolution to the course run by a new seed as it grows into a tree and yields fruit: it sheds its leaves and becomes barren in winter, but in the spring new green buds appear and the same course is run once again. According to the classic Chinese wisdom, every empire and every civilization passes through the varying situations of a periodic cycle whose turning begins with peace and unification, passes to prosperity and culture, moves with increasing age to decline and degeneration, and ends finally in disorder and disruption. Thus, the same wheel which lifted Rome to the height of her power and set her armed legions in control of Europe, North Africa, and the Near East dropped her, on its descending arc, prostrate at the feet of Huns, Goths, and Vandals. The rhythmic return to which this doctrine refers does not mean that epochs occur again exactly as before; for then existence would be meaningless and evolution a figment. It means that they occur in a similar yet more evolved way than before, as the twists of a spiral cover the same two dimensions of breadth and depth again but rise to a new third dimension of height. Karma has to find the best available human instruments, however imperfect they be, to carry out its will. Remove these men and you are left with steam hissing aimlessly into space, whereas they are like the piston of an engine which concentrates and applies it. Thus Alaric, Chief of the Goths, told a monk that he felt a secret and supernatural impulse which impelled his march to the gates of Rome. Accordingly, he descended on the Roman provinces when the fourth century had almost closed, and moved in triumph until his firebrands lit the proud palaces of Imperial Rome. "This may be considered as the fall of the Roman Empire," is the verdict of Gibbon upon Alaric's achievements. It is at the behest of karma that these Alarics, whatever such men may themselves superstitiously believe, have arisen to encourage mankind. Lenin, with all his distorted intellectual greatness, could only spend his powers impotently in Switzerland, unable to lift a little finger to effect the revolution he craved. He could do nothing until destiny stepped in and permitted him.
That prehistoric cataclysm--the sinking of Atlantis and the swallowing of its millions of inhabitants--affected the human race psychically and mentally.
We live in a word-culture where meaning does not sink deep enough to give inner experience but remains shallow and fugitive.
We have only to probe the truth out of history--a feat which requires almost philosophic impersonality and impartiality and research--to find that stupidity too often masquerades as patriotism or religion or some other unquestioned tradition or modern belief.
We complain about the disorderly conditions prevailing today. We do not realize that they would be considerably worse if the wise, the saintly, the inspired, and the prophetic had not lived among us. In this context, we may remember the words of a Chinese, Mo Tzu: "To give peace to the world is a function of the sages."
It would be more correct to talk of historical movement rather than historical progress.
The movement has always been slow, often erratic, with many relapses and much hesitance; but taken as a whole it has nevertheless been a forward one.
The old way of evolution led through a blind self-interest. The new way will lead through an enlightened self-interest. There is a vast difference between the two.
New era in evolution
All this unrest, disturbance, and violence which is going on in the world is a symptom of discontent with the kind of life into which materialism has precipitated so many members of the human race. It is also a symbol of the settling of karmic accounts which happens during the transition period in history from one zodiacal sign to the next.
It is true that the destruction, violence, and upheaval which have marked the last half-century are signs of the liquidation of the old era. This may be painful but at the same time heralds and overlaps the rise of a new era, the Aquarian age.
With the appearance of the atomic age it is not only the Christian era which is coming to an end, but also that of the Hindu--and all the others--as well.
The world crisis will not come to an end for some years. The whole religious outlook, as well as the cultural and institutional order of modern civilization, will be changed during this century. Only after these changes will the new spiritual forces become manifested.
It is not however the mechanistic nightmare which Marx dreamed of, nor the diabolic one which Hitler patterned, nor is it going to conform in the end to either. Both these men were too lopsided and too devoid of philosophical perspective to comprehend the proper significance of the mighty universal change whose coming they saw and sensed but whose meaning they grotesquely misinterpreted.
Mankind's spiritual forces could not be genuinely mobilized under the old order, which was mortgaged to antiquated theories and which could not struggle on indefinitely under such a burdensome load.
As we approach the close of this epoch, the tempo increases, the chaos spreads, the egotism waxes, and the face of evil smiles more and more triumphantly; but like the intersection of two arcs, a new epoch opens. If exhaustion and darkness have spread over the world scene, they have not spread alone--mingled with them are the beginnings of anticipation and light. If materialism has soaked so deeply into mass thinking that men and women tremble for their own future, spiritual truth has entered the minds of some who have resisted it, but because the old epoch has been with us so long and the new one is just being born, these latter form at present only a negligible group.
This condition of destructive criticism and hostile denunciation, of general tearing-down, exists partly because we live in an end-period, in a time of liquidation.
The end of a vanishing old arc is crossed by the beginning of the uprising new one. Hence the few hopes amid the many despairs, the few lights amid the wide darkness. Alas! it is not a new age that is here, not even its beginning, but only the dawn before the beginning of its beginning.
The great changes in human thought and society which marked the birth of the Christian epoch in the West, find their parallel in the great changes that are even now beginning to mark the coming birth of the next epoch. The labour pains have already begun, but actual birth will not take place until the next century.
This evolutionary change, this redirection of the ego's forces reflects itself in the chief events of the world crisis. But it would be naïve to expect such a colossal change to mature and bear all its fruits within our own lifetimes. It will need a hundred years at least for even the first small fruits to appear and ripen.
Both the opening of such a transitional era and its close are marked by a stupendous crisis. With them, not less than with the whole stream of events between both, the law of consequences punishes wrong-doing, expiates sins, strikes balances, and grants justice.
Thirty-three years ago, in The Hidden Teaching Beyond Yoga, it was said that we were living in a period of accelerated change. The acceleration has been plainly visible and increasing ever since. It is going on not merely in one particular department of existence, but in all departments in all ways.
The nations are faced with the challenging sword of repentance. They will eventually accept it and be blessed, or reject it and be struck down. Meanwhile, the business of the mystically sensitive is to open themselves up by prayer, meditation, study, self-improvement, and surrender to this divine force, not only for their own spiritual benefit but also for humanity's benefit. Their thoughts and deeds must bear witness to the fact that they are seeking to respond to its holy presence. These are assuredly the "last days" of which the New Testament speaks. The opportunity, choice, and responsibility which lie before us are all highly critical and decisive.
An all-around overnight moral change in human nature seems highly improbable. But if these divine forces are really in our midst a quickened moral development in human nature is not at all improbable.
The point now attained in human evolution by the ego offers us the key to a correct understanding of the world crisis.
The human entity's present evolutionary position is just about midway in the whole journey through its own kingdom.
Although it is true that humanity is everywhere found in different stages of spiritual evolution, that some peoples are more advanced and others more backward, it is also true that a broad band of average condition comprises the greater part of those incarnated today. And it is this general average which will be most affected by the ego's cosmic change.
The important change will not be undergone by all the egos but only by the general mass of them.
There are, of course, in every land a few who long ago passed this point in their development and more who have recently passed it. They are the pioneers, sensitive to spiritual ideals and struggling to follow them. But now the challenge has been issued to humanity as a whole. Its unseen guardian has issued an ultimatum. It must make the passage and will not be allowed to delay any longer.
If, with ordinary sight, we look at the contemporary scene, there is little to keep us from despair. But if we look with philosophic sight there is nevertheless something to give us hope. The terrible curse of the war may be converted into a blessing if it arouses man from materialist pursuits and turns him to the quest of the eternal intangibles. The fatuousness of seeking for true and lasting happiness in the unstable affairs of material life is being etched deeply in his heart. He is being taught the wisdom of seeking to live in the consciousness of the Christ within him.
The notion that humanity will have bought a new and better world at the heavy price of the tragic war years is true in the sense that an unheard-of opportunity has been presented to humanity to make a new and better world. That some advantage will be taken of this opportunity is certain, but that sufficient advantage will be taken of it to create a vastly different world is quite uncertain. The selfishness, the greed, and the hatred which hinder human advance are not likely to disappear overnight; despite the forced social adjustments of the war period, we have a very long way yet to travel to catch up with the golden rule. I do not therefore share the intemperate enthusiasms, opalescent visions, and unrealistic hopes of well-meaning political, religious, and mystical reformers. Neither do I say that we should all sit down with folded hands and wait a few more million years while evolution does its grim work of instructing men through constant suffering to cease their conflicts. If a perfect new age is far from fulfilment, an imperfect new age can, nevertheless, be had. Let us have it, then, by all means. For unless we strive to move even one inch forward we shall not move at all. We must set up ideals and we must work for their realization. We must try to make even a little part of our visions come true. If we take a pessimistic view of the possibilities of elevating mankind, then no effort will be made and no progress can be expected. But if we make a start and do what little can be done then some progress will be made. There will be this difference, however, between us and the impractical idealists, that whereas they believe all their visions can be materialized today, we are more prudent, more scientific, but nevertheless not a bit less visionary. The difficulties of making a new and better world are frighteningly formidable. But the difficulties of carrying on the old and bad world are also frighteningly formidable. If the sufferings of war awaken the conscience and purify the desires of mankind, its leaders may endeavour to atone for their errors and omissions of the past. Thus only can they go forward to meet the coming age and open a path to a better life for all mankind.
We are passing through a disheartening period of violent and unprecedented storms, but if we have learned the single lesson of hoping on and holding on, we shall win through into clear weather.
The spiritual possibility of man's improvement will be realized through the pressure of forces working both within his entity and within his environment. But it will not be realized smoothly. There will be lapses, setbacks, and retrogressions, albeit temporary ones.
The world's need is not new doctrinal fads, but new life, new inspiration, and a new heart.
It is clear that the crisis will not be overcome unless we acknowledge the worth of moral values above those which have hitherto reigned in actual practice rather than in hypocritical theory. That such an acknowledgment has begun to shine in the hearts of some powerful leaders is good, but it will have to shine in the hearts of several more if a successful result is to be attained. A section of people has vaguely felt this already, but it will become creative in their minds and lives only when it is clearly formulated. This century will not have much use for any gospel which keeps the worldly life and the spiritual life mutually exclusive.
It is a good thing in ordinary times to go back to the past for its spiritual treasures casketed in fine books. It is then a privilege and a satisfaction to find that they have come down well-presented and quite safe through century after century. But these are extraordinary times, urgent times, filled with pressure and crisis. The voices we most need to hear are living ones, speaking from out of the same circumstances as those amid which we dwell, continuous and contemporaneous with us.
If God can speak to one man he can speak to any other--if to Jesus' and Muhammed's times, then to our own times also; if in Palestine and Arabia then in Europe and America also. Help for modern man can best come from those who understand the modern mind. Man's environment alters with the course of time and so does man's mentality. A simple repetition of what he was in former centuries or a mere revival of what he knew in former centuries is not efficient today. There is no traditional form of this teaching which will hold good for all time. This is always true but it is particularly true today, when we live in the middle of a general transition from the separative cycle of evolution to the unitive. During the period of human evolution in which our generation lives, it is unwise retrogressive and inexpedient to look only to ancient sources for inspiration knowledge and revelation.
The inner wisdom itself, being out of time and space, does not and cannot vary, but the outer forms under which it is found do vary. This is not only because of the geographical and historical differences which condition those forms, but because an evolutionary development is also affecting them. This is an important reason why the coming era must find an inspiration adequate to its more progressive needs, must add new truths to the old ones.
Only that nation will act wisely in this critical phase of human history which acts on the recognition that this is not the medieval world, not the antique world, but the nuclear world. This is a new era which demands a transvaluation of values, method, and even men!
Humanity still clings much too strongly to its egoism in most matters, despite the tuition of war crisis and upheaval; this is the very standpoint which must be abandoned, or at least markedly modified, if humanity is not to pass through further large-scale suffering. And this in turn must itself be the fruit of an awakening to the higher purpose of earthly life--it does not matter whether or not such an awakening takes place through or outside the church. After the war's end, we had to wait a couple of years for the situation to clarify itself and for the uprising tendencies to show themselves.
Those who insist on this excessive adherence to materialistic thought and refuse to recognize the new evolutionary current of stimulated intelligence and spiritual individualization are trying to live in the modes of the past and have failed to find the purpose of their present incarnation.
Such is the swiftly moving time-spirit. It will not be denied, none can successfully impede it, and it must be accommodated. It is a challenging demand that human life be deliberately hooked to a better ethical basis, that the continuance of materialism is insanity.
The only effectual way to meet this crisis is the way of recognizing that an era of materialist error and extreme selfishness has come to an end, the way of wiping the slate of old wrong-doing quite clean, the way of making a complete break with the past, the way of doing the large and generous deed as a start-off for the new era.
There is no third way open to us. The world is rapidly moving into a new age. We may either cling to the remnants of the age that is vanishing or we may meet the age which is coming. We must make our choice. We have had enough and more than enough of the high-sounding platitudes of babblers. We need now some concrete expression that will be more truthful and less talkative. For the problems will stand squarely confronting them and cannot be avoided or evaded as lesser problems have often been.
If the crisis can force enough men to acknowledge their own insufficiency, if it can bring them to recognize that the old ways of living have led to a dead end, and if it can arouse them to search for higher values as well as newer paths, it will be passed successfully.
If enough people in positions of power and authority were persuaded that a change of direction must be taken, the solution would be simple. Or if enough of the masses were persuaded of the same thing, here again the solution would be simple. In both cases, the risky path of new direction would have to be accepted. In practice we know what to expect of the rulers and politicians of today. And we know what to expect of the multitude also.
There is little room today for servile accommodation to conventions. Necessity forces us to rip through red tape.
A colossal revision of attitudes is called for, an abandonment of outmoded ideas which belong to the story of the nineteenth century and which create self-deception when carried into the mid-twentieth century.
Ideals must still be given to the world, even if they seem quite impractical and even if the giver is crucified as Jesus was, or shot as Kennedy was. They are needed to offset the egoism and materialism which come so much more easily to most people.
Struggling students must make the best of this dark age, and while deriving inspiration and guidance from the texts of dead sages learn to think and act for themselves as children of the twentieth century should think and act.
It would be foolish to turn our backs entirely on the past. And it would also be foolish to fail in the comprehension of what we have to learn from it. But this does not mean that we are to live in it. Not to feel the clamant urgency of the present is to fit one's eyes with blinders. There is only one way whereby we can bury the troubled mental pictures of an unhappy past and an uncertain future, and that way is to create a worthwhile present. It is needful to comprehend that there is no other way open for humanity except to make the creative effort needed to start a genuine new life. If it starts a pretended new one or a camouflaged old one, then all the troubles which it is seeking to escape will once more descend on its head. To look backwards for guidance will be to look for trouble. The old passé point of view was good for its period but has now fulfilled its function and lost its creativity. It must be displaced by a timelier one. Humanity must look forwards and let the dead bury the dead if it is to save itself. The problem today is not how best to return to the customs and complexes of a past phase which was long ago finished with, but how best to advance to the creations and visions of a new one. Humanity is called upon to keep in mind the inner developments, the outer events, and the spiritual significance of what is happening everywhere. And this can be done only by appreciating the inner significance of this sensational epoch. It provides an opportunity for mental expansion which may be accepted comprehendingly or rejected ignorantly. Acceptance may be a bitter drink at first but will be sweet in the end, whereas rejection may be sweet at first but will certainly be bitter in the end. That is why humanity must be realistic while not renouncing its ideals and must do the utmost that can be done under the circumstances, fortified by the knowledge that an upward movement will quite quickly attract divine support. Indeed, it is moving at a speed that makes a dramatic and dynamic changeover in this direction from materialistic ideas urgent and imperative.
The picturesque or exquisite survivals of a feudal age may continue for longer periods here or shorter ones there, but change is working and necessity is pressing: they will crumble away.
The old formulas will not fit the new conditions. Renaissance, not retrogression; forward to new achievements, not back to old decadence. Mankind must be flexible and adapt themselves to new times, accommodate themselves to new necessities, or else they will suffer. There can be no creeping back to the ignoble. The powerful tide of evolution will catch and drown all those who make such a foolish attempt. It is cowardly to flee backward into the familiar past because the present is too hard for our weak souls. It is foolish to lag behind the century's needs. It is courageous to move forward into the unknown future.
New age directions
In The Wisdom of the Overself it was briefly hinted that the twentieth century was the era of universal human enlightenment. I have been asked to expand upon this point. Just as the nineteenth century was the era of scientific enlightenment, so our own is the century of universal enlightenment. This is taking three forms. First, general education, intellectual knowledge, and scientific discovery will continue to spread throughout the whole world and will not reside mainly in the West. Second, they will become available to all classes and not be confined mostly to the middle and upper classes. Third, religion, mysticism, and metaphysics will reveal their realities and shed their superstitions, will be made more rational and thus will no longer be regarded as being displaced by science but rather as being necessary to complete it. Furthermore, the philosophy of truth, which is the highest kind of enlightenment possible to mankind, will become as easily accessible as it was remotely hidden in former centuries. Because we are at a cyclic turning-point, this is the century when truth will be let loose on the world. Not only ultimate truth which philosophy reveals for the few but also political, economic, social, religious, and scientific truth for the many. The falsehoods which dominate human society, the illusions which individuals and groups hug so fondly, and the lies under which society lives are being--and, we venture to predict, will be still more--shown up for what they are. This is one reason why we saw the phenomenon of a Nazi falsification of every branch of cultural and practical facts on a scale unheard-of in history. For it represents the scum which rose to the surface so that it might be cleared entirely away, the night which attained its darkest pitch just before the first ray of dawn. It also explains why we are seeing a second and similar falsification being attempted by the hierarchs of Communism. It is certain that if the Nazis had conquered, this world-wide illumination could not have spread but instead humanity would have been plunged into a new dark age far worse and far more materialistic than anything it had hitherto historically experienced. The danger of falling into spiritual eclipse was therefore real.
We moderns have striven for power. We have gained it but lost peace. Even the power itself has run riot in our hands and half-destroyed our lives, our cities, and our societies. If we are to restore contentment to our hearts, we must restore balance to our strivings.
The time has come when education should re-educate itself, when medicine should give Nature's herbs their due and demand that all foods be rid of their added poisons, when the body-soul relationship should be correctly revealed by psychology and psychiatry, when for their health's sake and their soul's sake human beings should stop devouring corpses. The events and changes which have come on the world scene since the turn of the century stagger the mind, but those which will come before the end of it will be even more startling.
The sooner utopian dreams of perfectibility of the human race are dropped, the less disappointment there will be. The sooner we find out what measure and what kind of transcendence we can realize, the more contentment we shall attain. The first is an unanswerable question because at that level there is no individual.
To reject modern civilization and its culture utterly--to condemn its faults, sins, errors, and evils to the point of refusing to have anything more to do with it--is to end in nihilism. This helps no one, not even the nihilist. Nor are sensualism, drugs, or suicide ways out. Those who say that a man cannot keep his moral integrity, cannot honour his conscience and still take part in the present culture, are not right, though they are not entirely wrong.
A mystical purpose must be introduced into our common life to balance the mechanical principle that now sways us. Then the State will become a sacrament. This is not to say that we need a new state religion. The less the state tries to impose a religion on the people, the better for that religion; it will then have to develop a real life of its own from within. This is simply an intimation that the ordinary institutions of our society should be so arranged and so balanced as to permit men to face Mother Earth, Nature, more often, and to enable them to turn their minds towards the couch of repose more frequently.
Twentieth-century man has to find a way of solving his problems, not of evading them.
It is not only capitalism which is being seriously threatened by its own defects or deficiencies, but also Communism. Both must not only reform themselves, but also modify one another, if they are not to break down.
It is true that a state which combines the practical, the modern, and the scientific with the spiritual (by which I do not mean the ecclesiastical) has yet to rise and seems unlikely to do so. But that is no reason why it should not be tried. The beginning can best be made by a few pioneers, on a small scale, and in the relative freedom of private effort.
The kind of unit which philosophy advocates in the political and economic, the national and international realms is a co-operative and not compulsory one. The higher ideal of complete world unification is beyond the understanding and hence the practice of humanity at its present stage of evolution.
Man's dependence on the earth for fuel such as wood, coal, oil, and gas, will give way in the future to dependence on the sun. Its rays will give him all that he needs for this purpose.
The world could be improved but it could not be turned into a Utopia. As Ramana Maharshi once said when dissension arose within his ashram, "There will always be complaints!" But let people try. They may make things a little better, but fundamentally they must make themselves better first. History alone teaches that. Hope easily deludes us, especially the idealists and optimists. In the end we must work on ourselves. As we grow better the world can get better.
An ideal solution would apply only to ideal people.
All external attempts to unite the different sects within a single faith are a pitiable confession of their failure. Such an artificial federation will not achieve much. Union must come naturally and spontaneously from within, from the innermost heart, or it had better not come at all--and because religious organizations are basically in competition with each other, this will not happen.
The keynote of yoga for this coming age should be divine immanence--that which is in oneself, in others, and in Nature. Democracy--the unification of society--will triumph. The opportunity to acquire knowledge will be freely available to the lowest. This includes mystical and philosophical as well as worldly knowledge. The racial prejudices, the political separativeness, and the religious preferences which assisted human progress at a former level of evolution but which now hinder it and cause strife and conflict will be broken down.
Destiny is compelling us to think internationally, which is the way a philosopher always thought without destiny's grim compulsions.
The problem of a common world language is an interesting and important one. Out of the crucible of war only two of the existing languages will emerge with any likelihood of leadership. They are English and Russian. And of these two, English will count most in a general reckoning of their pros and cons--chiefly because it is already in world-wide use. Therefore it would seem a safe and sound counsel to affirm that in addition to his or her mother tongue every pupil throughout the world be taught English as a secondary and universal one. But the matter is not so simple as that. For an age when so much will have to be constructed anew and when so many defective ideas will have to be replaced by better ones will find it more profitable to construct a better means of intercommunication also. Such an endeavour must be made. For the foreigner finds certain avoidable difficulties in his way when he seeks to learn English. These difficulties can be got rid of if England has the courage to cast convention to the winds and boldly inaugurate some much-needed changes in its tongue. English must first be simplified, regularized, and phoneticized. Such an auxiliary language will then become the supreme medium for international culture and commerce, travel, and conference. Books and magazines of planetary importance will appear not only in the language of the country of origin but as quickly as possible, if not simultaneously, in the language of the whole race too.
The chief advantage of Esperanto over English as a means of international intercourse is that it can be mastered in one-twentieth the time. This is a tremendous advantage. Those who have seen at first hand what difficulties foreigners encounter in the study of the complexities and confusion of English can alone appreciate it.
The twentieth century will assuredly see one language chosen to be universally spoken and written and to be taught as a second tongue among all the peoples of the world.
This opening up of old mentally shut-in states, this dissolution of long-standing bigoted sectarianism, will increasingly be one characteristic of the age. They are being brought to pay, by attack from without and disintegration from within, for the falsity they contain. It is true that in the course of time, human nature being what it is at the present degree of evolution, the new conditions that will replace them will become as shut-in, as bigoted, and as selfish as the earlier ones. When that happens they too will be called to an accounting.
The belief that this new shrinking of the planet, this closeness of peoples heretofore alien, this multiplication of transport and contact, would bring about universal brotherhood is a self-deceptive one. Propinquity of bodies cannot create propinquity of hearts and minds.
Sri Aurobindo's hopeful view about the establishment of a perfect society on this earth is one which, I must humbly say, does not seem quite in accord with realities. I wish he were right and I were wrong, for it would be delightful to expect such a Utopia to be realized one day. But the raising of human consciousness to the level of superman will not guarantee unity of outlook and attitude. Differences in these respects and, consequently, differences in action will still remain. Take, for example, the difference in attitude towards the world war shown by Sri Aurobindo himself, Sri Ramana Maharshi, and Swami Ramdas. If unity is to be really attained it could only be attained by evolving to a level even higher still than that of superman. And this indeed is the ultimate goal. But there is a further reason for the difficulty of realizing Utopia. When such a goal has been attained there will be no need to reincarnate on this earth, which is, in some ways, a purgatorial planet. That is to say, it is the natural residence for imperfect persons and not for perfect ones.
In the coming age, nuclear energy will be brought to the service of creative peaceful purposes. Its concentration on destructive military ones will be brought to an end.
A new and higher epoch in our history will come by divine cyclic law: nothing and no one can prevent its birth. And that will occur through the incarnation of spiritually intuitive men born for this special purpose. It is such an epoch alone which will witness the realization of dreams of world peace and justice, dreams whose failure of realization by political, military, and other means will force by necessity the attempt through the last and only effectual means--moral and intellectual renewal.
Those propagandists who eagerly use recent history to foretell the advent of a society which will be completely materialistic are completely wrong. For a world where everyone rejected the idea of a soul in man and God behind the universe would not last long. Such atheism is a sin against the Holy Ghost, and would be punished accordingly.
It is correct to say that one consequence of this evolutionary development will be the achievement of emotional harmony among mankind through mutual goodwill. But this is not the same as the achievement of intellectual unity, of perfect identity in view and attitude. This is impossible and unattainable. Each human ego has its own peculiarities, its own unique experience and its own psychological differences. No two are the same. Harmony as an ideal relation and ethical goal, yes, but unity as a necessary prerequisite of it, no!
Humanity will need more mental resilience, more readiness to accept change, reform, betterment, or sacrifice, and less of the inveterate idolatry of custom. It will need more imagination, intelligence, and intuition if it is to understand the pattern which the coming period is certain to assume. Those who suffer from stiffened mental arteries, who are incapable of profiting by past failures, of re-adjusting themselves to these changes and of meeting the new problems, will blunder badly. Whether they like it or not, whether it be for better or for worse, the fact stares them in the face that they are witnessing tremendous disruptive forces at work. They must understand what is happening and be courageous enough to accept intellectually that this is really a period of dramatic upheaval. To scrap old ideas which can have no place in the coming age will prove more profitable in the end. Those who remain foolishly purblind or selfishly prejudiced against what is happening all around them during this critical and swift transition cause themselves unnecessary suffering. They persist at their own peril in the delusion that the old materialistic ways which seemed to suffice before will continue to suffice in the future. For if a sufficient number of people do not accept a readiness to change, sufficient to influence the general social condition, then the entire fabric of society will bring down upon itself the terrible nemesis of violent destruction. Modern civilization as we know it will come to an end, self-liquidated by its own blindness. But its disappearance will be only to clear the ground for the arisal of a new and better one. Thus the coming era will assuredly bring mankind a better world. But whether it arrives at this happy goal through disaster and depopulation or through reason and peace is an unpredictable matter at the moment. It depends on the factor of free will which exists in a man's make-up. The time grows shorter for a conscious selection of the higher concerns of life.
I agree with H.G. Wells that science and technology have altered man's environment too completely to allow him to follow antiquated social and economic ways. I agree that the world could be organized to give a more abundant material existence to the masses of poor, underpaid, or unemployed workers. I agree that the lack of applied intelligence in the present social structure is appalling and that failure to adapt society to altered conditions is a menace to us all. I do not agree, however, that the iconoclastic and swift solution of these difficulties depends on the formation of a "world university" to collect and utilize all available knowledge. It depends, and has ever depended, on the discovery and application of the philosophic and ultimate truth about life, a truth which is not a totality of separate facts but a single central principle of being.
How is the human race to recover these truer instincts, these holier intuitions? The change required will be required in all the parts of the human being--thought, feeling, and body. Physically, there will be the need of counteracting a hostile environment and a wrong diet. Retreat from the cities to the country and great reform in the selection and preparation of foods will be indispensable as a groundwork for the mental training. The first need is to abandon chemically poisoned, denatured, and devitalized foods, to leave the air of cities rendered impure with soot and filth as well as harmful with gasoline fumes, and to indulge in short one- to three-day fasts during the four equinoctial days marking the changeovers of the seasons.
We cannot reject the special needs of our century but we need not be enslaved by them.
If one thing is clear about the coming age, it is that henceforth a brusquely awakened humanity refuses to drift helplessly but intends energetically to give a positive direction to its fate and fortune.
Hitherto, developments naturally tended to centralize industry in huge establishments. This was absolutely necessary to heavy industries such as steel manufacture. It was done to reduce cost, but it was also done irrespective of the human factor involved. It promotes neither mental nor physical health for people to live dreary diurnal lives under a smoky sky and work in factories where giant machines pound at their nerves. The owner-worker--that is, the little capitalist who labours for himself, the workman who prefers independence, and the peasant with a small land-holding--each of these has a right to exist. Under a wiser arrangement he could still do so without having to compete with the owners of factories, for he could collaborate with them.
A nation ought not to abandon itself to the hypnotic glamour of gigantic factories for the mass machine production of huge quantities of goods. On the other hand, it need not abandon such factories for the medieval notion of making everything by hand. It could make in factories whatever is best made there, such as automobiles and pencils, but it ought to encourage hand manufacture wherever that will serve best. A balanced industrial economy is ideal and will require both the big manufacturing, assembling, and distributing units in cities and the decentralized cottage crafts in villages. Small parts such as components and accessories can be made in the village workshops, and larger articles such as heavy goods and mass productions in the former. If the old idea was to take the worker to a machine in the factory, the new idea will be to take the machine to a worker in his or her home. The principle of mass production can still be employed, the most modern machinery may still be used, and yet the worker may have his freedom and retain his individuality by making part or all of an article in surroundings and under conditions where he can still be himself. This has indeed been done for many years in Switzerland, where village workshops carry out many of the processes needed in that country's famous watch and clock making industry. Such a scheme, of course, could be applicable only where the worker lived in a cottage or house of his own and not where he lived in an apartment or tenement situated in a building housing several other apartments or tenements. It would be ideal for "garden cities," which ought in any case to represent the type preferred in future town planning. Small-scale industries should be regarded as complementary and not contradictory to large-scale ones. The value and practicability of this arrangement have been well demonstrated by wartime experience, when a great diffusion of subcontracting enabled stupendous programs to be completed on time.
Why should not the towns themselves be converted into "garden cities" where every family has its own little house and its own little garden surrounding that house? In the garden city, beauty and use have demonstrated under the test of time a happy and successful marriage. Nobody who has seen Letchworth and Welwyn in England, understood their significance and appreciated their worth, would again be satisfied with disorderly drift. There should be a feeling of space and air, a presence of green grass and leafy trees in the modern town. The garden city idea, which balances industrial, residential, and aesthetic needs, is the best for dealing with the problem of placing manufacturing plants and housing their workers. The Lever Brothers at Port Sunlight and the Cadburys at Bournville have shown how clean, artistic, individuality-preserving, and kindly the factory system can be made when those who administer it have taste and heart as well as minds.
Metropolitan towns exist already, however, and have become too indispensable a part of each nation's economy to be eliminated. The solution of the problem they pose is to turn part of them into a group of connected garden-city units, arranged like concentric circles around a common centre.
A metropolis like London or New York needs at least half its population transferred to a dozen different newly built garden cities set in the clean healthy spaciousness of the green countryside. When the size of towns is kept moderate, their streets will be quieter and the health, happiness, and outlook of their inhabitants better.
A proper relation must be found between town and country life, between existence in the large factories and in the little workshops. A healthy modern society will be neither excessively industrial nor exclusively agricultural. A well-balanced society will enable its members to choose their work from a wider set of activities than merely industrial or solely agricultural ones. The worth of a sane equilibrium between such antithetical factors of life as machine toil and hand toil needs remembering. The decentralization of advanced countries is only part of the answer to the evils associated with their present industrial economy. We must think out an economic structure which will still make use of people as human beings, even while they themselves are making use of machines.
There is no reason why village handicrafts and cottage light-powered industries should not be encouraged alongside large-scale mass-production in factories. An avenue should be developed which combines the merits of modern mechanical production methods with the merits of medieval hand methods. Cheap and widespread electric power, small and easily manipulated machines, local centres for the supply of raw materials and the purchase of finished goods--all these will combine excellently with the "garden city" plan for urban workers and also furnish profitable winter employment for agricultural workers. This factor must now be taken into account.
Where a family wants particularly to keep all its members together during all the working day, it should be provided with a small agricultural property or a small workshop, which are better suited to such a purpose. It is desirable that small-scale industries should exist alongside heavy industry, and cottage industries diffused alongside factory ones. There is plenty of room for mass-production and there is plenty of room for individual production. The mass production of automobiles brought within the purse of the middle class what was before within the purse of the rich alone. It is in the making of common necessities especially that mechanical mass-production has an impregnable case. But even here the mechanic may and should work in co-operation with the artist. Much material could be fabricated in little one-room workshops and then sent to the central assembly depots or chief finishing factories.
Between the sentimentality of theosophical "universal brotherhood" and the sometimes callous rigidity of an aged caste-system, whether Eastern or Western, there is a sensible middle way.
The collisions within a family, an institution, a nation, all humanity, show how hard it is to make this dream of universal brotherhood a fact.
Only when the best in science and industry blend with the best in spiritual and artistic culture shall we have a civilization justifying the name.
Wendell Wilkie's book One World is in harmony with the philosophical position. I think that the author would have modified his views a little if he had known Asia for a longer time and in a deeper way. Humanity is not emotionally ready for the world-state, which would be the only way to implement his ideals with 100% efficiency, but it certainly is ready for an association of nations more advanced in its form and stronger in its power than ever before. Co-operation is perhaps the proper keyword to present problems; union must come later. However, in the consideration of all political and social problems, we have to return again and again to the human problem. The spiritual darkness of the human race is the real root of its external troubles. Only its spiritual illumination will really remove those troubles permanently. Until that happens we must necessarily alleviate the situation, so far as it can be done, by utilizing external methods. The result will never be quite satisfactory but it can be progressively so. The same applies to the settlement of internal social and economic problems.
The coming age will arise, phoenix-like, out of the destruction and violence of the dying one. It will, by reaction, be a constructive and peaceful one. The spectre of war will be exorcised. Mankind will learn to inhabit a peaceful planet.
Who can study recent history and not perceive that the world is being forged with relentless finality into a single unit, into a consolidating reconstruction which is long overdue?
To be a neighbour does not necessarily make one neighbourly. Modern transport and communication have brought the most distant nations together. Yet they have still to learn to live in peace. And this would be the result not of human engineering but of human understanding.
If we create a more generous and better-enlightened environment, it will better serve mankind during the new upward twist of the evolutionary spiral. Warned by our dangers and illumined by our sufferings, relaxed from hesitancies and relieved of complexes, we should not find this tremendous task beyond our capacity.
It is undesirable for the capital of a country to be situated in a mammoth industrial city. Those who govern a nation ought to reside in a small city set by the sea or in the green countryside. A rigorous process of liberating millions of industrial and commercial workers from the clutches of mammoth cities must form an essential part of the new program.
What groups are most unlikely to attain wholesale may be quite possible for individuals to attain singly. This is the fact behind the utopia theory. Here and there, uncommonly, a man detaches himself from the herd and climbs to the mountain top. But the herd is satisfied to remain below.
The Oriental belief that former golden ages were necessarily happier, wiser, and better ones than ours is true only in a superficial sense. While the people of those times were still primitive and had only partially developed their latent possibilities, the character of mankind was only partially developed for evil, too. But since then, they have had to evolve the powers of intellect applied to practical life and to individualize themselves out of tribal dependence. The consequence has been less communal spirit and greater personal selfishness, less response to spiritual intuitions and more reliance on materialistic sense promptings. Again, while the planet was still thinly peopled, the struggle of man against man was less, hence the call on his evil propensities was less, too. Actually, we have all lived through this or other planetary evolutions before and therefore have all possessed those manifold qualities and characteristics which belonged to the men of those earlier ages. If they were happier and better, then so were we. Those qualities and characteristics are still within us, but they have been overshadowed for a time by the other ones which evolution has since stressed. Lapsed for a time they may be, but lost forever they cannot be. Evolution does not discard its former gains but takes them up into itself, preserves and transmutes them while it moves onward.
Empires built upon pyramids of skulls and rivers of blood rise but to fall. Where is the Assyrian Kingdom today? The Greek might has cracked and dwindled. The broken clay bricks of vanished Babylon afford fit haunts for spiders and cockroaches. But the Assyrians, the Greeks, and the Babylonians themselves have not vanished. They are with us today, albeit in different bodies and in other lands. The law of physical rebirth has brought them back to the school of life, either to learn fresh lessons or to re-learn the old ones which were insufficiently mastered. Hence we have within us today the stored experiences, the unfolded capacities, and the accumulated knowledge of all the previously- born races of mankind. Only, some of them are temporarily overlaid or temporarily neglected or even temporarily inaccessible. But they are there. We have to recover or express them alongside what we have additionally gained since then. Over-concentration on the intellectual-physical phase of life may have made us materialists, but the shift of emphasis which the tide of evolution has now to bring about will make us something better. The time has indeed come to restore the balance, to realize that what we once were in the distant past we still are and much more besides, to open out all sides of our nature to fullest bloom in equal measure. In an age which has experienced awful disintegrations, we should begin to integrate ourselves. Such a rich integral life was not possible in primitive times. History has made us more ready for such a fuller quest than were earlier races. That is why we of this century must have the boldness to be ourselves and not pale imitations of the men of the distant past. Every historical period must find its own outlook, work out its own world-view afresh. How much more must this be the case in a period of such unique character as the one in which we live today!
The notion that we shall enter a marvellous new age when the lion will lie down with the lamb is an idle one. Human nature would have to alter first and it does not ordinarily alter with such excessive speed. But the notion that we can have a better age than the wretched one which is dying, is a sensible hope.
I dedicated The Wisdom of the Overself to the pioneers of a nobler epoch. Does that mean I believe such an epoch will soon begin? My answer is that I do believe it will begin but not necessarily soon. The arrival of a nobler epoch, in the sense of one that will witness society being organized for the material benefit of the masses rather than for the benefit of the few, is becoming obvious to all. But a society organized for the spiritual benefit of all classes is very far from obvious and I do not at all see it coming soon. We are indeed a very long way from it, as I stated in the preface to The Hidden Teaching Beyond Yoga. If anything may be predicted of the age which we are entering, it is that the tempo of change will be tremendously accelerated, and that new inventions and new ideas will come quickly and plentifully to the front.
The interdependence of mankind was not understood through the logic of philosophic reflection, so it had to be understood through the logic of terrible calamities. Thus Soviet Russia and conservative England were forced by bitter necessity to make a military alliance. And what began as a war in one continent, Europe, ended by having repercussions on the whole world. For more than two hundred million people in a highly civilized continent like Europe could not proceed along a road without the rest of mankind having to follow in the same direction to some extent. This is a lesson in human interdependence which history has never before given. Thus the need of a long interlude of peace will enable the leading states to modify their self-sufficiency and take to some form of world-union and thus to become eventually a single unit.
The Belgians, who brutally enslaved the unhappy inhabitants of the Congo, were themselves twice enslaved by the Germans. Can nobody see the hand of Karma here? Life has taught us severe lessons by the sheer compulsion of events. The first and foremost of such lessons is that no race, no country, no class, and no individual can afford to stand aside in callous indifference to the welfare of other races, countries, classes, and individuals or in narrow nationalist isolation. The war showed up the interdependence of peoples as nothing else did. The British failure to respond to India's natural need of liberty sent thousands of Indian soldiers to death through the temptation thus given to Japan to pretend to "liberate" India, while the Indian failure to respond to the Cripps offer sent thousands of British and American soldiers to their graves. The truth is that humanity is even now secretly becoming, and must one day openly become, a great family. Such are the sufferings and upheavals of this unique period that men have been compelled under their duress to look the real issues at last in the eye. And those issues are primarily moral and mental ones. We may see in the miseries of today a powerful testimony to the moral degradation of yesterday. The tragic misunderstandings of mankind which fail to recognize this are deplorable but repairable.
It would be absurd to attempt to change mankind overnight. Human character and human outlook are produced by the course of evolutionary experience during immense periods of time. But if we ought not to embark on such a futile task we ought to embark on the nobler and wiser task of making the knowledge of Karma available to all. Then, if people continue to injure others, they will at least know that retribution must eventually come to them. To remove their ignorance and to increase their comprehension of truth is our clear duty. To act towards their neighbours with goodwill, will then be theirs.
To the profound thinker, the history of the last hundred years plainly evidences the existence of a higher power which is guiding the destinies of mankind no less than it evidences the existence of a karmic law which is tying pain to wrong actions. The careful study of history by a mind which is not only capable of independent thinking but also able to bear the consequences of such thinking, and which is equipped with a knowledge of the law of Karma, will lead to significant results of a most philosophical character. In this connection, Buckle's History of Civilization in Europe is a book worth reading even though its author had but an unconscious knowledge of the truth of Karma. We may learn therefrom that societies, like men, rise to their zenith and fall into their decline through their own moral and mental defects.
The Coming of a New Era
The amazing inventions and technological advances which the liberated intellect of humanity has developed open up an era of plenty, prosperity, leisure, and comfort for all. The Machine Age is ousting the Muscle Age. People today use less bodily energy for daily work and living than their forefathers ever did. Consequently, they ought to have more leisure for higher tasks. If, as is the case, they haven't such leisure, it is not the machine's fault but society's. Electric servants and other mechanical aids to living will do much to lighten even the domestic labour of the new age as they have already lightened its industrial labour. They will cook, sew, wash, carry, clean. It is not unreasonable to expect that at least one-half of the human effort expended in the operations involved in industrial, mining, and agricultural processes will become quite unnecessary. The Machine Age has made possible the Leisure Age. Individuals, for the first time, may work less and produce more. We are on the threshold of an era of unheard-of plenty, leisure, and culture, not for a few, as in the past, but for all. We can cross that threshold as soon as we reorganize society. Culture for all and not merely for the few may come into its own. Record players, for instance, are today grinding out the art of the few in the homes of the many. Once the struggle for bare existence is over, once men are able to give themselves less to the day-long drudgery of physical work and more to leisure-hour mental education, once we take full advantage of the machine's potentialities and make its benefits freely available to all, a big step forward in the possibility of human liberation will have been taken.
The inventions and innovations, the new discoveries, materials, and processes which will begin as a trickle during the opening years of the twenty-first century will pour out as a flood before the closing ones. The wars have given the sharpest stimulus to this development so far, but the real peace to come will complete it. The impetus of technological development in our own century has already become so swift and its inventiveness so enormous that the entire economic and domestic life of humanity will in the next century be magically altered. The first significance of this is that it will give both men and women more leisure; the second, that it will give them less labour. It will then be not beyond human intelligence and human goodwill to make the leisure and luxury that could emerge from a more effective use of the machine serve hapless millions. For too long, life for them has been too hard a struggle merely to exist. The lowliest man will share in a minimum of comforts and conveniences which the labour of the scientist, the power of the engineer, and the knowledge of the chemist will bring him. Scientific progress is multiplying the wealth of man. It can and will be converted into economic plenty. Modern power productivity has rendered more easily attainable the realization of idealistic dreams of economic betterment. It may be said that when James Watt sold and set to work in 1776 the steam engine on which his fame rests, he inaugurated the era of applied science. From that epochal year, men were able to manufacture goods with a swiftness and a plentifulness previously unknown.
There is no scarcity in Nature. It is simply a matter of competently mobilizing, by machine power, what she is willing to give us. It is not wrong to take advantage of new inventions and human ingenuity to give the body more comfort and the mind more freedom.
Those who are frightened by what the machine has done in the war may be cheered by what it could do in peace. Anyway, it is here and they'd better accept it. For so long as man's mind functions, so long as his thinking process continues, so long will the process of inventing new or better machines go on. The only way to eliminate their destructive use is not by eliminating the machine but by improving man.
The machine was born to help humanity. In the next century, it will help so amazingly and so widely that it will provide sufficient food, goods, and services to banish poverty and eliminate the jungle-like struggle for existence. Science has shown the way to enormously increased productivity. The inventive power of man has constructed wonderful machines, devised amazing techniques, developed extraordinary skills, created new materials, and made possible astronomical production figures. It has begun to make it possible for him to extract enough food, clothing, fuel, and shelter from the earth to give a worthwhile existence to all the members of his species. The multiplication of his power on earth is becoming a tremendous actuality. The human being stands behind the machine. He invented it, he exploits it, he must partake of its products. The sight of starving, ragged people could, in the next century, everywhere disappear. The degradation of slums could be wiped out once and for all. There would be no need for continuous class wars, no necessity for endless capital-labour struggles.
The amplitude of choice in attractive new materials and gleaming new colours which are available for manufacturing and constructional purposes are nothing less than amazing. Architectural beauty and practical utility meet and marry as they could never before. Utter cleanliness and dignified simplicity become possible for enrichment of the poorest home. Efficient accomplishment and aesthetic charm may join to satisfy everybody's everyday needs. All this casting aside of ancient limitations, crudenesses, and inefficiencies tends to change the stuff, the utility, and the appearance of our environmental forms and to change them greatly for the better. Life in the external physical sense could become better worth living for the toiling classes as it has always been for the sheltered few. Easily controlled temperatures in homes and vehicles could defy the worst inconveniences of arctic snow and tropic sun. The new materials of the coming age, the lighter metals and the stronger plastics, would alone make possible a productive transformation which could raise living standards, improve construction possibilities, and provide better opportunities and better employment. These materials will reflect the dynamic spirit of this age. Instead of waiting a whole lifetime for timber to grow, we can wave a wizard's wand over milk or grain or chemicals and compress the result into an instantly available substance which can be used in most of the ways that we have hitherto used wood. The most revolutionary invention of the century has yet to manifest itself, however. Steam changed the industrial character of the nineteenth century. Petrol and electricity have already changed the transport and domestic character of the first half of the twentieth century. But a cleaner, cheaper, safer source of power drawn from the air itself could yet immeasurably change its closing decade. Thus the setting of man's bodily life could be radically altered and rapidly evolved in the twenty-first century, both to express and to stimulate the alternations and evolutions of his mental life. New ideas and ideals will move in a flowing stream across the world. New patterns will spontaneously shape themselves to reflect and promote them.
It will be the business of the community to ensure that every member is able to earn a livelihood, to give him work that will support him, or, if it fails to do so, to supply him with the food, goods, and services which he needs. This will be regarded as not only ethical duty on its part, but also economic wisdom. A public dole system of relief is a confession of failure; a public works system, of half-failure. Such systems are bred by minds steeped in a psychology of scarcity. Success lies with an expansionist outlook, a full-employment policy, and a higher standard of common living. In this machine age, it is not production but consumption that lags behind. The equilibrium between the two must be maintained if economic health is to be maintained.
If the working masses could be delivered from the worst extremes of their economic servitude, they might begin to benefit by and even contribute towards the spiritual enlightenment which is historically due. This indeed is one of the main hidden reasons why destiny has decreed the immense economic and social changes happening today.
When economic anxieties, pressures, or deprivations absorb men's minds to the extent that they are unable to find the will, hope, time, or energy for spiritual studies, then the form of society which creates such a condition is harmful and undesirable. The toiling masses have had little time to think of spiritual truth in the past, much less to undertake its conscious and independent investigation. Hence, they have had to accept ready-made religion from others--mysticism and philosophy being so remote from their lives as to be almost non-existent for them. Thus, by promoting their exterior welfare, we shall not merely provide for the demands of social justice but also surround the masses with conditions more favourable for their progress spiritually. Physical well-being and worldly security are a necessary part of any economy which is to provide expression for higher values. Those who are interested only in their own comfort and security may not be interested in any altruistic proposals for the uplift of the underprivileged, but those who acknowledge an interest in the spiritual advancement of humanity cannot escape their responsibility in this matter.
We have, on the one hand, the machinery, the people, and the techniques whereby immense quantities of consumable goods and foods could be produced. We have, on the other hand, an immense human demand for them. But what prevents us from converting this potential demand into an actual one? For the transformation could be made if a great change of heart and a little change of head could be brought about. Society has ceased to desert and begun to accept its responsibility for the individual. Many of the overworked objections about the so-called impracticability of ethical and social idealism have been disarmed and disproved. We are ruefully waking up to the fact that the mentality which begins by imagining rigid restrictions on what can be done to construct a better world, ends by imposing them. We had to wait for the terrible stimulus of war before beginning to make needed reforms and overdue changes. Wartime necessity has shown that abundant production can be successfully achieved; peacetime events will one day show that abundant consumption can just as successfully be got, too.
When the world changed over from manual to mechanical production, it began to change over from feudalistic to modern ideas also. The twenty-first century will complete the process and apply it to the financial sphere, too. The twirling of a knob on a radio set and the touch of a control on an airplane switchboard--simple physical operations such as these, for instance--have twirled and touched a new order of financial ideas into actuality. Consider how the so-called bankrupt Germany which Hitler took over was able successfully to finance its gigantic preparations for the greatest war in history. It could not have done this if it had followed fear and tradition and limited itself to "bank wealth" or to the full backing of its paper currency by metallic reserve in gold and silver. It departed from the classic traditions of political economists with their mesmerisms of "sound" monetary equilibrium, economic cycles, and the law of supply and demand, knowing that the State's prestige assured the circulation of its paper. It went ahead with full confidence in the principle that there was no real bankruptcy while there was a sufficiency of labour, machinery, and materials--the rest was a matter of organization.
Only in this way can we advance at last to social sanity. If and when it comes, with the twenty-first century, we shall see the co-partnership of co-operative classes replacing the menagerie of conflicting ones. We shall see that nation greeted by history which knows how to serve best, not how to grab most. We shall see the stronger races, groups, and classes using their strength not to oppress the weaker ones, but to lift them up. We shall see a world of diverse peoples who have ceased trying to impose their will, their creeds, their trade upon each other and have learned to live and let live. We shall see public life converted from a wrangle for prizes into a field of constructive service. We shall see a world where the children of the lowest classes can share freely and adequately in the fruits of the highest education.
Such an order will bring out the best possibilities, as Communism brings out the worst. And instead of inducing men to struggle against each other, it will induce them to co-operate with each other. The principle of co-operation will help to crush individual and national selfishness and thus tend to promote ethical progress.
Role of philosophy, mysticism now
In his humbling discovery that for all his physical vigour and intellectual power he is still spiritually weak, contemporary man is discovering the need of religion, mysticism, or philosophy.
The crisis in the world today is such that straight answers must be given to straight questions. In former eras it was possible to accommodate the truth to the level of understanding of those addressed, to clothe it in symbol and allegory or to hide it behind enigmatic puzzling and obscure words, phrases, or sentences. But today there are ominous clouds in the sky which ought not to be ignored, and because of them the risk must be taken that those who cannot now understand may gather at least something, some part or some hint of the truth.
In ordinary times, when a new idea has to be introduced amongst a conservative people, it is best introduced by easy stages. Its advocates must seek out what is immediately practicable. But if many hindrances in the way of spiritual advance do exist, if progress must be proportioned to human receptivity, it is also true that we live in exceptional times and that a whole cycle of civilization is coming to an end. A new one is struggling to be born. Hence a definite speeding up of the tempo of progress will be right and successful just now, because it will be helped by karmic forces and evolutionary trends. Such a conjuncture of events and influences provides not only the opportunity to serve humanity spiritually as never before, it provides also the obligation to do so. We might have been quite content to wait for the vindication of the overwhelming rightness of philosophy, because events themselves have been contributing to our work for us. But they have been doing it slowly and cautiously, little step by little step. Now civilization's danger of collapse has come near enough to make us less patient. It is because we live in unprecedentedly troubled days that the light of philosophy is so needed. The more distressing the time in which we live, the more necessary is the quest for what will raise us above all distress. The critical changes and unprecedented events through which we are passing today call for a correct lead. It is an inescapable duty and sacred responsibility on the part of those who have the requisite knowledge to provide such a lead. The obligation to help the birth of a better world is both a moral and a practical one; it is now paramount. It is one of the philosopher's functions to reveal the true meaning of this world-experience, to explain the deeper causes of its chaos and turmoil, and to point the way toward a better life for mankind. His duty lies therefore not in making propaganda but in letting people become aware that the knowledge of truth does exist among men, that it is available for whoever seeks it earnestly enough. The gospel which humanity needs for the healing of its frightful malady already exists within its midst. But its existence is known only to a few.
Mystical culture must now reconcile itself with the new era's demands, must deepen its thought and widen its attitude.
In our epoch, when business enterprise is supreme, the need of fitting these doctrines to practical uses is also supreme.
It had to come, with history moving as it has done. The ferment of ideas, of minds provoked to seek truth, brought it on. This democratization of knowledge is happening in every other branch. How long could it have been avoided in this one?
We live in a time when mysticism must come out of the ashrams and monasteries and get to work in the marketplaces, the college halls, and the householders' abodes.
Philosophy is naturally best expounded out of gaiety of heart at the universe's wonderful meaning; but its lessons are best received, and its discipline best enforced, in the sadness of mind which comes to thought over the conditions of life today.
The threefold ideal of rational religion, practical mysticism, and livable philosophy should be better appreciated in these times than ever before.
It is now possible, because of the momentous evolutionary change which is marking out our epoch as one of the most important ever known to history, for a larger individual adherence to be given to philosophical mystical doctrines than in former epochs. The blind slavish tribal adherence of patriarchal times to revelatory religious teaching is quite a different thing.
The more brutal our times become, the more does a sensitive soul long for the kindly peace which meditation affords.
The psychoanalysts who assert that those who turn toward mysticism or philosophy to escape from the large-scale dehumanization, chaos, disorder, and tension of our times are taking an easy way out which lets them avoid facing their problems, are asserting what is true of some persons but quite false of others.
The education of human intelligence, the culture of spiritual intuition, and the ennoblement of character are necessities, since it is they, together, that stand between mankind and catastrophe.
In this situation of world crisis, intelligent mystics should feel no longer able to support the traditional policies of inertia, indifference, and escapism. They should be interested in humanity's present upheaval and future direction. They should be thinking about how they can contribute something--however little--to help it go upwards out of this terrible trial to a higher life and not sink downwards to a lower one.
If he remains completely preoccupied with his personal salvation and tries to ignore the destruction and suffering rippling through the world, that is his own affair. He is entitled to do it. There may even be nothing else that he can do. But the falling bombs will break into the quiescence of his meditations.
Only wisdom can keep its serenity and look behind the horrible events of yesterday and beyond the chaotic events of today. The unpurified heart and unequilibrated mind of the unwise confine understanding to the short-range point of view, limit perception to the surface of things, and agitate feeling within the immediate moment.
There is developing in the contemporary world an increasing sympathy with mystical attitudes and an increasing realization of the insufficiency of intellectual ones.
The world crisis has not only made it possible for these ideas to penetrate minds which were formerly indifferent towards them, but also to show their immense value when practically and personally applied.
Those of us who are driven by troubles, disappointments, or frustrations to seek solace in mysticism do well. Nevertheless, we do not understand that the inner peace it will yield us is after all an intermittent one. Only from the philosophical standpoint will we be able to find an enduring peace. Those of us who started to endure the wartime horrors with such a standpoint were able not only to maintain but also to fortify it. After the violent stresses of war, we shall need constructive principles to guide our disturbed thoughts and mystical practices to steady our disturbed emotions. Only such principles can remain unclouded by the happenings of a world in crisis. The message philosophy proclaims, with its balanced estimate of fundamental human nature, brings tranquillity to the heart depressed by grim appearances to the contrary.
Mystics may disregard the events of their time but philosophers cannot.
Philosophy today represents a refuge for those suffering from the hatred and strife in the world as well as a source of goodness and wisdom for those who seek to permeate their lives with meaning.
Through the efforts of pioneers and the evolution of thought, there has unquestionably been some awakening in many countries, particularly European countries, to these new-old teachings and practices of a mystical or Oriental character. They are no longer so startling or so unfamiliar as they formerly were. This awakening has been greatly accelerated by their presentation in a modern form, however primeval they are historically. The need for them was very real as a necessary counterbalance to the contemporary tendencies, and as a self-protective reaction to the contemporary helplessness.
When we consider such a situation and ways to remedy it, it is noticeable that people who are limited by merely intellectual views are impatient and want to get quick results. They offer methods which will supposedly bring them quick results. But the fact is, all they can get are either imperfect or even bad results. The other way, the philosophic way, works in a deeper realm, sees quite clearly more of the basic factors, the real character, and is consequently more patient. It penetrates directly through the formal appearances of the situation to its fundamental realities. Therefore it can render better service to humanity by pointing out these realities than the most well-meaning statesmen who blindly grope their way round and round can render. Its counsel hacks at the single roots of all our troubles instead of hacking at a thousand branches.
The writings of the wisest spirits of the modern era are in their hands, the records of the great mystics of the medieval era can be consulted in their libraries, and the literature of the sages of the antique era has been translated for their benefit.
Ought we to congratulate ourselves that in these days the sages appear within paper covers on the same shelves as the popular entertainers and romanticists?
The need today is for Christ militant, for the spiritualization of life in the world, and not for flight from the world. The appearance in our own time of anti-Christ Communism is itself suggestive of this necessity.
For those who properly understand it and faithfully practise it, philosophy stands amid the uncertainties and threats of our time as a secure citadel. In it one finds assurance for heart and mind, and will find safe guidance for one's body.
Philosophy knows well that it could contribute worthwhile ideas towards the easing of humanity's hard situation. But it believes that its voice would be a whisper crying in the wilderness, that too few would listen to it to make any effective difference. If it is pessimistic about the outcome of present tendencies, that is because it perceives, from abundant evidence provided, that their conflict with the divine plan can only end in their own destruction.
It is not to be expected that the mass of people, with their weak moral and mental capabilities, could accept and follow the philosophic ideals. This was true in every past century and it is still true today. But never before has so widespread and so devastating a peril threatened mankind. It may be that a certain number of persons who might otherwise have passed the philosophic revelation carelessly by will feel the pressure of the times sufficiently to take warning and to take more heed for themselves.
Religions must rise and fall, change and die, because men's beliefs must change with the changing times. This is why I see in the higher philosophy of Truth the only enduring hope for a peace on earth which will be unbreakable, and the only charger for goodwill towards men which will survive as long as this planet survives.
How emotionally refreshing, how intellectually valuable, and how practically applicable are the certitude, the clarity, and the insight of philosophy at a time like ours of confusion and doubt, uncertainty and despair.
Men's lives are so disoriented in this age, their minds so confused and their feelings so frustrated, that the spiritual truth--could they only appreciate its worth--would be accompanied by proportionately more solace now than it was at other times in the past.
Can anyone escape the tension, the disturbance, and involvement in the world crisis today? Even the fact that Tibet--the hermit country--could not do so is both a symbol and a warning.
The custodians of the higher philosophy will not waste their time by engaging in futile activities. They recognize the psychological fact that only those people who want higher spiritual help will be prepared to accept the higher philosophical teaching. When dissatisfaction with the orthodox teachings is present and inability to find another to replace them is also present, and when the proper moral intellectual and intuitive capacities also exist, then there will be favourable ground for the reception of such philosophy--but not before such conditions do exist.
It is because painful experience has combined with scientific discovery to teach mankind that human resources unguided by divine revelation are not enough that mankind will have to listen to the voice of philosophy in the end.
A Prayer For The World:
In this time of confusion and anxiety, of strife and trouble, it is our holy duty to remember our dependence on Thee, O real Governor of the world!
We realize that the darkness in the world today has come because so many have forgotten their dependence on Thee.
Those whose positions of power or influence have placed them in the nations' councils need, in their grave responsibility, the help of Thy communion and the benefit of Thy guidance as never before, that they may not stray into error or weakness.
Therefore, we shall daily pray for them and for ourselves, in minutes of private worship or silent meditation, that all may regain the feeling of Thy presence. We shall constantly confess our shortcomings and faults, but we promise to strive to better and ennoble our lives. We shall endeavour to cast out all evil thinking and materialistic belief.
Our need of Thy mercy and grace is vast. Show us the way to win them, O Infinite Father of all beings, Whose love is our last resource.
Need for wisdom, peace
The twentieth century must bring forth its own prophets, the West its own appropriate wisdom.
Every prophet or prophetic writer who arises for the guidance of erring humanity is only a secondary help on the path of life from ignorance to enlightenment. The primary guide must in the end be humanity's own intelligence, as it develops itself through growing experience. At first, when misdirected by appearances, it makes many mistakes and humanity suffers as a result. But later, tutored into the seeking of realities, it becomes wiser and plays its proper role.
The present awakening of the nonwhite races is full of significance. We hear much of the barbaric cruelty and savage violence accompanying it, but not enough of the saintliness which occasionally flashes across the black man's sky. Martin Luther King, for instance, now as I write a Nobel Peace Prize-man, comes closer to the character of Jesus than the vast majority of white men. The spiritual future of this planet may hold surprises and one of the greatest could well be the appearance of the next great prophet in the despised body of a dark-skinned man. No divine law has prescribed seership as a white-fleshed thing only, nor established the bringing of spiritual balm as a white monopoly for all time. This is mere human opinion frozen to the past by its own historic past. But the past becomes musty, faded, and has to give way to the new forces now pressing for entrance.
There is such a confusion in contemporary human affairs, such a threat to human nobility from its physical environment, that ordinary rational knowledge proves insufficient to carry the thoughtful human being through a serene and peaceful day-to-day existence. Only a super-rational and mystically revealed knowledge can provide the added elements necessary to such an existence.
The need today is for compounds of inspired visionaries and determined workers.
Is there any single source to which we can track down the entire multitude of disturbing events which continue to afflict the nations year after year? Is there one fundamental explanation which will explain all the other explanations that are constantly being offered us? For our answer we must go to those who possess no accredited position in the scheme of things today, whose very existence is largely unknown and whose voices are so quiet that they are seldom heard above those of the multitude which come to our ears.
We must go to the men of deeper insight, clearer vision, and impersonal outlook. Truth is a shy goddess and reveals herself only to those who court her in the right spirit, ready to crush all personal prejudice and to put aside all other desires at her bidding. Such men are rare and therefore the true understanding of life is equally rare. The eyes of such men are really open because they are no longer blinded by self-interest.
The philosopher who has opened his mouth too freely and frankly, told what he has foreseen in the belief that preparation for the worst offers some protection against the worst, soon learns to shut it tight again. For he learns that if it is unpleasant such truth is unwanted, and also that he is dangerously misunderstood as regarding as desirable what he merely regards as inevitable. During the First World War a few illumined seers, both Oriental and Occidental, knew how it would develop and how it would end. Before the peace treaty was signed they knew that a second war would break out about twenty years later. As early as 1942 they knew both the outcome of that conflict as well as the course to be taken by the peace to succeed it. They knew then the general direction of world events, for the following years confirmed their understanding, which did not come to them by reasoning or by calculation but by revelation. Where it could serve a worthier cause, they passed on fragments of this knowledge to responsible leaders during both wars, to sustain and inspire them. So long as the seers could give a message of hope, their words were welcome. So soon as, with the first years of peace, they gave a message of warning in both cases, their words were unwelcome. Because man is inwardly free however outwardly bound, free in his spirit but not in his ego, their prophecies were always conditional upon his rising to fulfil his spiritual possibilities, when they would necessarily have to be entirely changed. This was the unknown factor which made and makes perfect prediction quite impossible. But the likelihood of its fulfilment has become thinner with each year; the most crucial and fateful period was the eighteen months following the second war's end. Its failures point the way to the realization of forebodings, to the fulfilment of doom.
They foresaw the crisis and the war, knew that the entire planet had begun to spin in a whirlpool of increasing disaster, but they were helpless. They did not count in the conventional social world. Whatever they could do would be a mere drop in a bottomless bucket of planetary tragedy. All that they can do nowadays is to fashion, each for himself, an attitude which shall be resistant to the corrosive cynicisms around them and which shall be immune to the dark impurities beneath.
We need to employ but little reflection to perceive that the religious enthusiasts' dream of an absolute and sudden conversion of mankind by the millions is contrary to possibility, is in fact but a piece of wishful thinking. It dare not be said that it will be an era of renascent spirituality. Is the whole expectation of such an era merely a piece of wishful thinking? Not that the ultimate destiny of every living creature is inglorious: the eventual awakening of its individual mind into the universal divine self is indeed as certain as the dawn of the next day's sun, but truth can be understood only by those who are willing to accept the atmosphere of eternity.
It is not without worth to humanity that in a transitional era of catastrophe and violence, in a society of superficiality, neuroticism, and insanity, there should be some men and women who can act as direct links, as it were, between it and the divine world, as shining lighthouses in the darkened sea of their time. Only the mystical philosophers possess the essential knowledge of all the forces which are active behind the leading episodes of the world scenes, because they alone possess insight. And only the mystical philosophers estimate those episodes adequately and accurately, because they alone possess enough selfless impartiality and inner freedom to do so aright.
It is a characteristic of human groups that they cannot keep their foothold continuously on lofty moral heights through successive generations, but sooner or later sag and weaken. Religion, as the fountainhead of morals, advances but to decline and eventually exhaust itself. Hence inward renewal is needed, and hence new inspiration-bringing prophets must periodically appear. The task of a prophet today differs from the tasks of all other prophets who have hitherto appeared amongst mankind. For whereas they came for the benefit of some particular area or some definite race, he must come for the benefit of the whole world and all races. Where is the God-inspired soul who can inaugurate such a world-wide religion and who is conscious of being invested with such a divine world-encircling mission? We may search far and wide and yet find him not. Where is the beacon on the spiritual horizon? Where is the sign that humanity is about to witness the arisal of a prophet who will lead it out of this dangerous chaos? Where is the ground for hope that God-guided men will soon appear, ready to place their light and power at the service of their groping fellows? We must sadly confess that the sign is absent, the ground lacking. He who is to bring a new spiritual dispensation to humanity is still invisible. But his coming is certain. He will come to uplift the millions who have fallen into the abyss of despair, hopelessness, and misery. The war was an awakener. It is bad enough that we have forgotten our divine self. It is worse that we have forgotten that we have forgotten it. This is why the work of an awakener has to precede the work of a teacher. The proper time for the Messiah's appearance will be in the chaos after the third postwar period. For humanity must again go through the purifying and educative fire of wartime agonies. He will bear an unusual message and bear it personally to the whole world through travel--which no previous teacher has done, not even Bahaullah, who claimed to teach all nations.
The world's urgent need is more peace. But peace can come only out of goodwill if it is to last for any length of time. Therefore the world's real need is more goodwill. The individual's need, however, is not the same. It is for more truth.
Confusion and disorder rule the postwar world. This is inevitable because they already rule the minds and hearts of men. Human thought projects itself upon its environment. The mental confusion of our times prevails in every department of the inner life. The need for spiritual principles, clear thinking, and consistent analysis, if much more desirable here, becomes much less attainable. There is all the more need, therefore, for an illuminating knowledge which can act as a pathfinder through the confusions, a bestower of peace amid the disorders.
Ideals of spiritual excellence are a necessity if society is to survive and not destroy itself.
However grave the events of contemporary history may appear, one may draw strength and courage in the knowledge that Infinite Intelligence is always behind them, directing things.
The modern world has rightly sought and attained knowledge. Now it must quickly seek and attain wisdom, the next higher octave of knowledge, or it risks losing its gains and destroying itself.
What can even the most enlightened man do in these circumstances other than to withdraw into a retreat where he may help by meditation to purify the polluted mental atmosphere and bide his time?
The talisman in these difficult days is to hold to a sense of spiritual proportion, for to surrender to the suggestions of environment is no cure but only makes the trouble worse.
The dearth of sages in our time is ominous for the destiny of our time.
Even though it has taken such an unattractive form, there is a spiritual opportunity in the world crisis. For whom is this crisis? It is for the ego. But who is he? He is infinite being and timeless. So he puts Appearance in its proper place, stops being hypnotized and victimized by it, and remains in the Real, indestructible by war, imperturbable in its own sacred stillness.
We are not here offering likely speculations or problematic probabilities. We are trying, with guidance higher than such merely intellectual guesswork, to hold a flickering match in the awful night which surrounds us.
There are great truths which the world needs today but which the world is not consciously seeking for and therefore will not readily accept. Those who have found these truths, tested their correctness and worth, are consequently not willing to engage in the futile path of aggressive proselytizing. They quietly make the truth available to whosoever is willing to take the trouble to seek it out.
One prediction may be safely made. If a new saviour of humanity really does arise and does something to save humanity instead of merely talking about it, he will definitely not arise from any political party.
Amid the confusions and dangers of today, this faith in a divine plan of the world can support us like a rock.
We are men in the hard grip of adverse fate, who struggle even when we fear we cannot win, who go on and on like the heroes of Greek tragedy, despite frustration and defeat.
Amid the babel of passion-led or self-interested earth-limited voices which we hear today, we listen wistfully for a truer voice speaking with a new accent. We are waiting piously to hear the divine Word. Some suppose it can speak in Sanskrit and will echo forth only from the Himalayas. But they are wrong. It may speak in English or Dutch, may echo forth in Arizona or the Hague. Who knows? Let us commit ourselves to no narrow doctrine of spiritual monopoly, be it Hebrew or Hindu. Some think it must speak resoundingly and masterfully, like a missionary. They too are wrong. It may speak quietly gently and humbly, like a mystic.
It is not only a real solace to have the reassurance that a higher power supports the universe and a higher intelligence sustains its operations but, in this period of widespread calamity and evil, a vital necessity.
The enormous danger of this situation is not to be met with escapist apathy and alarmist fear.
The world's need is silently crying out for inspired and selfless people who will awaken the world's attention to spiritual values. There is little need today for a philosophy which is merely academic, or mostly antiquarian, or utterly antediluvian.
It was this same High Lama whom I met at Angkor who foretold that the world's spiritual enlightenment would next come through a Western channel. The fulfilment of this prediction cannot be far off now.
We must begin to see what the philosophers have long ago seen--that, psychologically, the maladjustments, the frustrations, and the spiritual impoverishments of modern man are the root causes of his outer troubles, that, given the right atmosphere of co-operative goodwill and creative intelligence, all practical problems involving human relationships will soon solve themselves within it. That most strife-breeding political, economic, and social questions would vanish altogether if we could create this new atmosphere, this new spiritual outlook, has become quite evident to them. The widespread exclusion of higher principles and ethical considerations from the ruling policies of modern states is something that has brought its own Nemesis upon the modern world. Only when the world will consent to become inspired by higher principles can it hope to find the real solution of the multitude of economic, political, and social problems that face it. All solutions which lack these principles are but paint and varnish which hide but do not change the real problems. Only by raising the public conscience through the efforts of inspired individuals and true religious teachers will real change come about. The higher executive posts in every country throughout the world should be filled by individuals who are as spiritually minded as they must needs be practically minded, if mankind is to make true progress. Such individuals should be put at the head of the social pyramid, as was formerly done in the prehistoric times under the system of king-sages, or spiritually minded advisers should be put at the sides of those in authority to ensure wisdom in action.
No true reform is likely to be created by a committee. It is the single uncommon outstanding person who is usually responsible for bringing it brilliantly about. A committee can also achieve results but they will be of a mediocre kind.
Someone must give a lead, must initiate the higher development, must create the first new way. Until then the world remains what it is.
What cannot be achieved by all mankind as a whole, since their negative conditions are too deep and too widespread, can still be achieved by those individuals who are less caught in such conditions and more responsive to right ideas.
In a world subject to change there are no lasting solutions to its problems. But to the extent that individual men stop making further problems for themselves and others, and reduce old ones by changing themselves, they can better the world situation. For without some knowledge of the World-Idea and the higher laws, how can they act wisely in matters concerning their personal lives and relationships, their surroundings and their people?
The prospects for mankind are materially very unpromising. However, it is through every kind of experience that the species has to grow and learn its lessons, and ultimately acquire understanding and goodness. Meanwhile, the individual can still build his own independent inner world for himself to some limited extent.
The clear Stoic perception of Marcus Aurelius Antonius lamented, "Rome is dying because Rome has nothing more to live for." But the awakened persons of today who refuse to yield to the animality and materialism of their epoch have something tremendously important to live for. They have escaped conquest by it because their own escape is to be the first fateful step towards achieving the future world-remnant's survival and escape. In doing so, in making their lone stand against this inner peril, they perform a valuable service of defense against the outer one.
It is not enough to ask for help from Heaven. Mankind is in the throes of leaving adolescence and approaching maturity. Consequently Heaven wants it to stand a little more on its own feet, make its own choice, and learn to be more like men. It must do this of its own volition.
Wherever the fortunes of life may take you and whatever the dangers it may bring you, I hope you will always keep the thought of the Divine Overself as the best talisman to cling to. It is in these terrible times that you may come to appreciate more than ever the value of faith in divine wisdom behind life and assured immortality after death.
What is the use of philosophy in a social situation that is hopelessly imperilled, in a struggle that moves before our eyes to the anguish of defeat? Its acceptance by a few individuals cannot change the situation itself, cannot save civilization from the doom it has brought upon itself. What philosophy can do is to help the individual, both in the privacy of his inner life and in the reactions to his outer fate. In a desperate situation such as we have confronting us today, philosophy bids him remember that this reaction offers him the chance of rising swiftly to a higher status, the opportunity to be ennobled rather than crushed by disaster. It reminds him of what is, after all, the higher purpose of life--the building of character and the pursuit of wisdom. It bids him develop the spiritual hero in himself and face what must be faced with serenity and reflection. If such advice seems too high for his modest powers, it is nonetheless practical. For even if no one could live up to it--which is untrue--anyone would be better able to cope with fate if he tried to.
He soon sees that although there is really nothing that he can do about humanity's dangerous situation, there is something that he can do about his personal situation. He may try to put his body into surroundings more attuned to, and expressive of, his ideals, and he may try to put his mind into a state more imbued with, and fortified by, those ideals.
Governments may prepare systems of defense and rescue, of protection and relief, but the only adequate form that will save half their peoples is outside their capacity and beyond their courage. They are too hypnotized by the past to be able to rise abruptly out of it and meet an utterly different kind of future. It is for the individual who does not want to die prematurely to prepare now with the work of saving himself. This is neither a selfish nor an antisocial course to follow, for in doing so he will best be able to help and save others. It is the only practical thing he can do and it is a duty which he owes himself and his family: to refuse to hang onto the coats of helpless leaders who are being driven toward the edge of an abyss. There is nothing wrong in practising such self-preservation, and any real service that he can render to humanity will only become possible through it.
What is the hope left to a man in such a frightful historical situation? In terms of direct effort he can do much for himself but little for others. He can resolve to clear his own spiritual darkness and correct his own graver weakness.
If we insist on looking at the world's worst, we ought in fairness to couple it with the world's best. Only then can we get a clue as to the world's trend.
Nothing here written should be read as a prediction; everything should be read as a warning only. Humanity as yet is on trial and no verdict has been finally given.
Powerful forces in the heaven worlds are gathering for a transmission and will enter our world at an appropriate time, which is fixed and measurable within this century. These forces will stimulate new thoughts and new feelings, new intuitions and new ideals of a religious, mystical, and philosophic kind in humanity. It will verily be the opening of a new epoch on earth, comparable to that which was opened 2000 years ago by the coming of Christ. The impulse will bring science into religion and religion into science: each will sustain the other and both, purified and vitalized, will guide humanity to a better and truer life. Insofar as science is an expression of man's desire to know, it is in perfect harmony with the highest spirituality. Only when it is unguided by his intuitive feelings, his heart, and put at the service of his animal nature alone, does it become anti-spiritual and bring him self-destruction as a punishment.
Suffering is not leading into world despair but into world hope. Mankind's crisis has been fateful, but it need not be fatal.
Many sensitive persons suffer on account of their awareness of humanity's tragic suffering. But they must realize that life is still in God's hands and will assuredly remain so. The human viewpoint receives only a limited fraction of the whole picture. God's love is greater than ours has yet shown itself to be, and it is infinitely wiser. Despite the activity of evil forces and the horrors of the contemporary scene, this is nevertheless a dominant fact.
Postwar economic difficulties afflict practically all the countries of the world. It requires not only genius to handle them, but a mind awake to the fact that a new era is dawning for mankind, a mind unhampered by past prejudices or limitations. But just as serious is the spiritual crisis, for Nature is demanding a choice of roads and destinations also. After all, we are here on earth not just to bake bread in order to keep the body alive, but ultimately to use that body to effect spiritual salvation. If the response to this crisis is not right, then our economic geniuses will not be needed, for the planet will simply shake her back and swallow up millions of people and their economic systems. It would be pleasant to look the other way and be blandly optimistic, but experiences of the past few years incline those who understand, more and more towards pessimism.
The refusal to recognize the obsoleteness of war, the inability to change a point of view with which men have lived until now, will in the end destroy those men and liquidate their civilization. There is no possibility of escape by mere drifting and no evasion by mere ignoring of the challenge. Time is short, the decision must be made now. The correct one will necessarily be also a humbling one. It is a crisis in human affairs such as human beings never formerly dreamed possible. More than that, it is an unprecedented spiritual crisis of man. He is being put to the ultimate test. For if we study the history of evolution we shall have to note the implacable fact that those creatures which could not adapt themselves to altered conditions could not survive. They perished, and their forms perished with them.
If nations have suffered appalling wars in our time, and if, to the consternation of the thoughtful, even more appalling ones are still possible, let them learn that there is no real preventative while they continue to rebel against Truth and reject its messengers.
Enthusiastic dreamers know no balanced factual appraisal of the world's spiritual situation. Either they declare mournfully that we are all doomed to cataclysmic self-made destruction or they assert joyfully that the perfect millennium will shortly dawn. The truth is that men are too good and too sensible to fall into the first fate but they are too wicked and too foolish to deserve the second.
Some have heeded the message and will receive its protection. But most have not. The response is sadly insufficient to prevent the doom which menaces contemporary society.
If men and women have to move once again through the whole cycle of war and chaos, tragedy and suffering, before they will be willing to listen to a true prophet, then they are unlikely to be deprived of the experience.
That we must expect the advent of immense renovations in religion and vast innovations in thought can be reasonably denied by nobody. The forces of retribution or reward, which are adjusting all accounts and which are now operative in all departments, are too impersonal in their purpose, too universal in their scope, and too powerful in their character to be ignored or resisted successfully. The twentieth-century world cannot escape from its extraordinary destiny. It is for them to see that it is no longer a question of their private ambitions or wishes and personal interests or leanings. It is a question of whether they are willing to bend before the storm or else be broken by it. For the new forces of enlightenment tread on the heels of the Four Horsemen. If history is forcing these changes into human understanding today, it is doing so at a heavy price in untold agony. Are we to have further necessary ideas taught us in the same way or are we going to embrace them consciously deliberately and willingly?
Is this to be the inglorious end of the human race, to be melted down to a whiff of powder? Was it all but an empty and useless experiment?
In the Anguttara Nikaya, Chatukka Nipata, Buddha says: "When the rulers or their representatives become unrighteous, the Brahmin householders become unrighteous; when they become unrighteous, men in the towns and villages become unrighteous; when they become unrighteous, the influence of the sun and moon becomes poisonous. The planetary influences become bad, the days and nights are affected, the seasons are changed, poisonous winds begin to blow, the roads become impassable, the gods become angry, the rains do not fall regularly, the corn-fields become impregnated with poison, and when people eat the produce of these fields, they become weak and many diseases attack them."
If we make a comparison between our times and the conditions which preceded the destruction of the Greek and Roman civilizations, and if we note the chaos, dissension, strife, and violence which then prevailed and now prevail, we shall be forced to regard the future of our own civilization with apprehension.
That the world's peace will eventually come we may believe, but it will come only after receiving a further experience of suffering, since humanity does not heed sufficiently spiritual messages from its teachers.
The world may have to undergo another war. Life, like Nature, teaches at times by harsh violence without sentimentality. If the good suffer with the bad, it is because of their ignorance. They too must wake up and acquire knowledge of the truth. They also must grow. There is a threefold evolution going on separately: physical, mental, and spiritual. We suffer through, and because of, their ignorance on these three levels. They are not here on this planet only for enjoyment of the animal urges or satisfaction of the ego-pressures which drive them, but for the purpose of growth in all three of these evolutions. "We are not here for Bhoga [pleasure], but for Yoga," said an Indian holy man to me. Each movement must go on, heedless of personal feelings or thoughts. Despite its largeness and grandeur, the World-Idea has already mapped out each individual course of growth among myriads.
The opening postwar period will be the hollow of the world-crisis wave.
That a new age will come, and come in this century, is surely written in the stars. But whether or not we shall have to pass it over the blood-splashed route of a third world war, a large depopulation of this planet, and a virtual collapse of our civilization, is within our own power to choose.
If the modern world's descent into extreme violence, aided by the skill of science, is not to be utterly self-destructive, it must be stopped at some point. How near or how far we are from that point is visible enough to the seers. This is certain, that we shall reach it and that if no other way is effectual by then, we shall reach it with a shock so great as to affect the nervous system and mental outlook of the larger part of the human race. That will be the historic moment when the West and the East will begin their upward climb once again toward Spiritual values, although each hemisphere in its own way.
"The will of God which is revealed through prophets, holy men, should be received in humility," the old Chinese Book of Changes warns the present-day inhabitants of Cathay, but we also must heed these words. I am neither a prophet nor a holy man but I feel very strongly and know very deeply that it is the divine will for man today for him to put the violence of war aside by a certain date, or else be punished terribly for his arrogance and obstinacy. There is a time-limit. Those who give no heed to these warnings will later have to bear the severer whippings of self-earned destiny.
Those who know what will be the true outcome of these world events are not yet permitted to make any prophecy: they are permitted only to utter the warning that mankind is in a position of extreme danger, a position from which he can free himself by one means alone. He cannot save himself by military, political, or economic means; he can save himself only by spiritual means.
I do not say that war must come. I say only that another crisis, as desperate as war, will arise, that a tide of catastrophe will break suddenly over the world.
The crisis gives us a last opportunity either to arouse our consciousness of life's higher purposes and orientate ourselves to a life closer to them or to stay in the old ones and wait inert, unhoping, for the end.
If we do not succeed in solving these problems, we shall tremble on the verge of perils as immense and deadly as the war itself: economic disaster, social cataclysm, famine, pestilence, the general dissolution of religion, morality, and civilization, with a fleeting reversion to barbarism as the end of it all. Only then, only after whole countries and continents have been largely depopulated through tasting the extremes of suffering, will the scanty remnant of people find their way back to a new and nobler and healthier way of life than that which prevailed before. It will surely come, even at this fearful price, because it must come. It was hinted in two earlier books that if our civilization does not better itself, it will have to sink and make way for another one. And we have hinted also that humanity is walking on the edge of a precipice. But this does not mean that our failure will necessarily result in a total lapse into barbarism. Rather will it clear the way through wide depopulation and sharp anguish for the coming of a nobler and more advanced society than the present one. The sins and sufferings of our generation cannot destroy the faith of the philosopher in humanity's nature. He knows that its better nature will triumph in the end, even though the price of that triumph may be an utter destruction of all its civilization and a fresh start after still worse suffering. For it faces the necessity of giving up the materialistic outlook which brought it into such catastrophe. There is no escape from this necessity.
No one knows with any certainty what is to come out of such a desperate world situation, what future mankind has amid such conflicting forces.
Prophets have often been wrong over every Armageddon date they were incautious enough to give us. The fateful day or year has usually arrived only to depart and be forgotten. These failures may serve a good purpose if they serve to warn the next batch of prophets to keep dates out of their prophecies!
A near-miracle like this arrest of the drift toward war would not be credible to those who do not know the power of the spirit in man's personal life. If it can do that for one why not for two billions?
There comes a time however when catastrophe cannot be averted, when both self-amendment and sincere prayer are fruitless to alter fate's decree.
None of us in this generation will live to see spiders spinning their webs across atomic bombs or ballistic missiles, but no prophecy is more certain to be fulfilled in the lifetime of a later generation. For suffering will force its lesson home on the unwilling minds of reluctant pupils, new egos will incarnate with more receptive hearts, and the World-Idea will impose its rule under an iron law.
There is an old Buddhist prophecy that this planet will split apart, that the great roaring explosion will tear the mineral world and the mountain ranges into dust. But before this event, a Buddha will come, full of loving kindness, to show us the way of salvation.
In the twelve months between the full moons of May, 1956-1957, the world will take or miss its most important chance to appreciate or ignore these teachings. Inner decision and outer destiny are here locked together.
The world's fate hinged on those eighteen months after the second war, as it did again on that year of final choice and chance--1959.
The war is not at all inevitable; it is preventable, but neglecting to take the prescribed and proper course will render it inevitable.
The world situation is worse in some ways since the great crisis of 1962, but in more ways it is better. The outcome is at present quite unclear and only a rash person would venture to make any dogmatic positive announcement. The war risks still remain, but in a somewhat mitigated form.
Nostradamus predicted that art and religion would dominate the coming era (the twenty-first century onwards) and that wars would no longer be waged.
While mankind will be driven to take eventually the only practical means for its self-protection against war, which is the creation of an international form of association with a single international police army, such an external means would in the end not be enough if it were not accompanied by an internal means, which is the casting out of those antisocial aggressive or destructive lower forms of thinking and feeling which it has brought over from the animal stage of existence.
In the very week that Hitler started his invasion of Russia, I told India, in a Bombay newspaper interview, that it would end in disaster, and why. Events confirmed that prediction.
Further sorrow awaits modern society unless it can produce a finer quality of thought and a better way of living. It has reached the parting of the ways. Only a recognition of this fact can save it from further blunders and consequent disastrous suffering. It will be compelled by events themselves to face the issue which cannot longer be postponed. We approach the zero hour. Procrastination will gain nothing but lose everything. For if it does not end materialism, then materialism will end it. The human race walks on the very edge of a yawning chasm. If it misses its step or takes a false one or loses it balance, it may fall and this civilization will reach its terminus. Unless it can bring less blind selfishness and less materialistic prejudice into its view of the world, its civilization will not escape its final Nemesis. Modern man must rediscover these higher truths or his civilization will perish with him in a holocaust both man-made and nature-made to which the past has no parallel.
Is it too late to overcome the tragedy in which the world is so deeply involved? The answer is that if enough people and if enough leaders of the people gather around the standards of a genuinely spiritual ideal it would not be too late. The likelihood of such an event seems remote, yet it is the adoption of these ideas and attitudes, these ideals and practices which is absolutely indispensable to overcome this tragedy and save humanity.
Can we be saved from going headlong over the dangerous precipice which we are skirting so uncomfortably? Out of this world catastrophe there could have emerged an era dedicated to truer religious ideas and higher social forms. But instead the war years have brought to many people a degradation of outward circumstance and, what is much worse, a degradation of inward character. It has brought out bad instincts like hatred, violence, brutality, lust, greed, and envy. Suffering has taught them the wrong lessons. It has made them more materialistic instead of more spiritual. If civilization is destroyed, such people will be largely to blame. Our generation has been given its last chance to survive. At present utter collapse is merely possible. But if wiser principles are not adhered to or if their acceptance is too long delayed, then utter collapse will be sadly inevitable. If humanity cannot or will not respond to the call of this evolutionary voice, then its civilized life will collapse in a new Armageddon followed by devastating famine and widespread disease. Only after it has lost everything in unheard-of sufferings will the remnant that will be left alive after the inevitable interval of anarchy realize the need and have the will to make a fresh start in a nobler direction. There is sufficient reason to support the hope that a total collapse is unlikely. The human race will not wholly perish, although much in it that deserves to do so will perish. A remnant will emerge alive and pass into a new and better phase and purified form of its evolution.
The road to the salvage of civilization is still open to us, but it will remain open for a shorter period than the twenty years which separated the two world wars. The situation is tense; it may become grave; it may even end in the utter disaster that so many fear--but it will never end in the defeat of the divine plan. That is impossible. We may lose this world battle, the forces of destruction may burn down all that we see around us, humanity itself may perish in the titanic holocaust, but human life will return, will go on and slowly rebuild its house again. But, humbled a little or purified by its suffering, it will build more nobly next time.
Nothing is gained by letting the wish for peace override the certainty of war. Since it is now too late to avert the latter, all hopes and thoughts, projects and plans for the future ought to be nurtured with this tremendous and terrible ultimate development in mind. Since the warnings which I gave many years ago when the tide might have been turned remained unheeded, all reckonings concerning the next few years must include this Armageddon which will terminate a whole cycle of human materialism.
If men insist on bombing each other out of existence--which will not happen even though the attempt will--this does not mean that the higher power must abandon its higher laws, deprive them of the full result of their insistence, and maintain an enforced peace among them.
Operation W.W.3: Its object is not to benefit certain persons while others, equally meritorious, remain unbenefitted, but to guard the higher philosophy and to preserve the Quest's practices and disciplines for generations yet to come. The benefit to individuals is incidental and due in most cases to favourable karma created by devoted service.
That the war's end will bring a new trouble--namely, a condition of chaos--should not seem surprising but a logical corollary to the tremendous devastation which will characterize this new kind of war.
The refusal to recognize and apply this truth, that man is divine in essence and evolutionary goal--let alone its complete rejection--must bring disasters in the end, must provoke raging storms from time to time.
When this atomic nightmare will have passed and the anarchy which it brings about will have ended, humanity will pick itself up again and rebuild its civilization in a new way. Warned by its own sufferings and by the devastation of its environment, it will surrender to the unavoidable and make higher principles the basis of communal life.
Karma has determined to shatter to pieces the obtuse conservatism which clings to disguised materialism and camouflaged immorality.
If civilization falls, it will not be utterly obliterated. Something will be left, some scattered remnants of population will here and there gather up its shattered fragments and slowly, arduously begin the work of reconstruction.
Civilization will be terribly wounded but not mortally wounded. The larger cities will suffer destruction but here and there a remnant of people will remain.
Karma is not and can never be a merely individual matter. Society as a whole creates the slum which creates the criminal. If society calls him to account for his crimes, he may in his turn call society to account for making his criminal character possible. Consequently society must also share with him, if in lesser degree, the karmic responsibility for his misdeeds.
For no nation can escape collective responsibility for its acceptance of the codes and policies, the ideas and actions, the standards and loyalties that bear its name.
If it be unpleasant to accept the grim inevitability of world disaster, it is better than hiding from it. For at least we shall thus give ourselves the chance to meet the thought with proper preparedness every time it harasses us. By learning the art of thought-control, by studying the higher laws that govern life, above all by seeking out the true self within us, we shall be able to create enough mental peace and emotional courage to make the best of the worst.
The world does not need a change of head so much as a change of heart; it needs newer attitudes rather than newer ideas.
Einstein thought that an atomic war would destroy ninety percent of mankind. We doubt that but we do not doubt that it would destroy at least half of mankind. Yet we do not think that it will be either the explosiveness of the bombs nor the radioactive emanations which follow in their wake that will be so responsible for this result, as the consequent breakdown of the highly centralized form of civilized living which has been developed in modern times. For with it will come the disorganization of city supplies and the temporary paralysis of country farms, the disappearance of orderly government, the moral chaos and gross selfishness that will manifest themselves during the anarchic struggle for survival, and the inability of city-dwellers to endure and adapt themselves like pioneers to the primitive conditions with which they will abruptly be faced.
We have said for years that the atomic war is inescapable and that the planetary devastation consequent upon it is unimaginable. But because of its very nature, it can last only a short time. What will last comparatively longer is the period of chaos and anarchy which will succeed it. During that period, more people are likely to die than during the period of bombing itself. For the great centres of population, where millions of people are now cooped up in towns and cities, will either be destroyed by the actual explosions and their inhabitants by the radioactive emanations left by the explosions, or if not destroyed they will become paralysed and unable to supply their inhabitants with the necessary food and materials wherewith to live and carry on their vocations. The entire commercial and industrial system of today is so centralized and so complex that the means of supporting those people will be absent. The system itself will be disastrously disorganized. The transportation and distribution of food and goods will cease for a period of time. It is during that period, which in some cases may be only a few months but in others as much as a few years, that the difficulty of survival will be most pronounced. The sensible thing to do is to prepare ourselves for it and to learn how to keep ourselves fed, sheltered, and alive until the reorganization of communal existence and the beginnings of normal living return again.
The problem of preparing to meet the onset of war and its destructiveness has never before had to be met in such a way and on such a scale as it will have to be met in the impending future. Only an ostrich-like attitude or a paralysis induced by fear will refuse to admit it into consciousness as a problem that must be thought about and whose solution must be sought. Those who dislike giving it such thought in advance will not have the time to do so when the terrible actuality does arrive. They are making a grave mistake. Everyone knows that the first places to receive bombs will be the metropolitan cities, the centres of government, the industrial towns, the ports and junctions, the military bases and aerial fields. Is it not practical wisdom therefore for those who can to withdraw from them and for those who cannot to explore every possible means to find a way out, making every possible sacrifice to do so rather than waiting passively until the fatal day? It is a tragic irony that most explosions and destructions will certainly happen in the temperate zone, where people are least fitted for primitive forms of living, whereas the least will happen in the tropical and semi-tropical zones, where people are better fitted for such living and better able to endure and survive the breakdown of civilized existence. Therefore the first physical preparation is to accustom ourselves to a simple hardy life and to train ourselves in the techniques of pioneer living.
In view of the immense hardships and difficulties that will face us after the war, part of the advance preparation for this period should be the building up of bodily health and strength, endurance and robustness. Another part should be to learn how to live simply with a few things and without luxuries, how to live in and with Nature by our own labour. Thoreau's book Walden is very relevant today.
Anti-escapism: It is a fallacy to believe that there are any special zones which are not danger zones. Therefore it is a wrong course to emigrate anywhere expecting that such a place will provide safety and security when destruction and poison fall upon the globe. Running away is no way out; whatever place you run to remains as dangerous as the place you run from. It is better to go into the silence and find your protection there. Then, if the higher self directs you in or after meditation to move to another zone, you may accept its guidance. The removal will be a right course, because intuitive, whereas the other is dictated by the blind intellect's cleverness. This is another way of saying, "Seek ye first the kingdom of heaven, and all these things [including protection] will be added unto you." In his 1962 book Witness, J.G. Bennett confirms this. He writes: "The group of people working with me was very little affected by the war. None was killed or seriously wounded. This was done without deliberate withdrawal from war activity, and it appeared to be the consequence of having set ourselves to serve an aim beyond our own welfare . . . those who are called to serve a great purpose." He also says: "If the leaders of mankind were so lacking in responsibility and understanding, and the masses so passive and inarticulate, what could the future bring but new and more terrible wars?"
With each war cumulatively worse than the one which happened before, humanity hardly dares imagine the horrors of this latest and worst war which menaces it. Its work of self-destruction will be assisted by Nature, who will not herself remain idle. She too will scourge the world with flood and famine, pestilence and earthquake, storm and upheaval. Such a universal catastrophe will be more than civilized society can bear, more even than man's will to live can endure. Great destructive forces will be used by mankind in its process of self-annihilation. All this planet's people would not be destroyed by these forces, but the greater part of them would.
The physical condition of the civilized world, the mental condition of civilized mankind, and the moral condition of all mankind will be, after such destruction, so deplorable as to stagger the imagination.
Those who look for and those who expect a millennium of spirituality and justice, of goodness and truth--or even the beginning of such a millennium--as a result of the spread and acceptance of some cult, have always been disappointed in the past and must be so again in our own time.
We live in the last days, not of the world but of an age.
Historical disaster and outward catastrophe might destroy civilization but could not destroy humanity. Its inner life will go on.
Western man has touched the low water mark of his ethical materialism; he will fall no farther. Henceforth he will begin to rise toward the realization of his nobler possibilities.
Just as the pendulum swings farther backwards if it has first swung farther forwards, so the human being rises to the loftiest heights of spiritual consciousness only if it has first sunk into the blackest depths of materialistic ignorance.
We see every indication around us that the old order of foolish ideas and self-centered ideals is undergoing its last stages of existence. Its cultural possibilities are close to exhaustion.
If the opportunity which existed during the one-and-a-half-year period after WWI had been properly appreciated and used, today's menaces would not have come into existence.
Many people in different parts of the world escaped being disturbed by the first world war. Some people in some parts escaped the second world war. But no person in any part of the world will be able to escape the planet-circling atomic forces of the third world Armageddon.
Those who are destined to survive the ordeals of this crisis will also survive to confirm the truth of these dismal warnings of inescapable challenge and verify the accuracy of these hopeful predictions of general enlightenment. Only a minority will escape the general catastrophe. Out of this remnant a new and spiritual race will develop. The war of bombs and shells will be displaced by a war of ideas. Men's minds and not their bodies will clash against each other. If conflict will not come to an end, at least bloodshed will. The steely clash of arms will give way to the verbal clash of opinion.
What does the future hold for mankind?--this is a question often asked and variously answered. One of the answers is given by Hinduism which says that the present period is the Kali Yuga--that is, the iron age--when life is at its darkest, man more corrupt, sinful, and wicked than ever, spirituality, religion, morals at their lowest ebb, sufferings, catastrophes, diseases at their highest tide. Moreover it says we are only at the first quarter of the iron age and we still have the other three quarters to go and that as we go farther into Kali Yuga the conditions will get worse and man more wicked. However Hinduism also says in its scripture the Bhagavad Gita, through the person (mythological though he may be) of Sri Krishna, that the Avatar--one who descends from a higher plane into human incarnation to bring in a new and better period--will come near the end of the iron age and use his power and knowledge to usher in the reign of goodness and righteousness, Truth, and above all Peace. Everywhere throughout the world today we see violence, agitation, and destruction, and this too, according to Hinduism, is to be expected in the Kali Yuga. Therefore attempts to end war are unlikely to meet with much success until the Avatar comes. If however we go not to Hinduism, but to the astrologers and ask for their predictions, the story changes, brightens, and becomes full of hope, for they say we are entering the Aquarian age, the age which spreads knowledge, goodness, harmony, and peace. It might be asked, "What does philosophy say?" The answer is that there is something of truth in both the Hindu and the astrological prognostications. First the evils of war, violence, destruction, and so on, will come to a climax with the materialization of nuclear war. Too much has been created on the mental plane and is being created not to find its way back to earth again in physical explosion. Only after a nuclear war with the major part of the human population wiped out will it be possible for a new start to be made, will mankind have learned the lesson of substituting goodwill for ill will. Secondly, philosophy says that there are ages within ages--that is to say minor, lesser, and shorter periods within the great period--and we will after the nuclear war and after the chaos it brings enter one of these better periods. [Editor's note: With the exception only of the last para in this section, we know neither the dates nor the historical sequence of when this predictive material was written. We do know, however, that this para in category 13, chapter 4, number 421 is the most recent, and that it was written in the last year of P.B.'s life.]
Good will ultimately prevail
Those of us who are the humble spokesmen of philosophy neither seek cheap triumphs nor expect swift victories. We know where human nature stands today. We are resigned to accept whatever results may come because we are convinced that the forces promoting human moral and mental growth are irresistible, that however slow and long the human journey may be, its final arrival at Truth and Beauty and Goodness can never be prevented.
It is pardonable and natural to take short views of life and Nature, and consequently to become impatient of long views. Yet the short one reveals horrors and evils that are often unreconcilable with the belief in a beneficent and omnipotent Power, whereas the long one reveals both ameliorative adjustment and an emerging significance, a unifying World-Idea which gives a place and purpose to all things.
These men, the scientists and technicians of our time, the businessmen and engineers, the professionals and lawyers, need their opposites, the prophets and mystics, to remind them of life's deeper side, to warn them of the incompleteness of their own lives, and to impart to them some appreciation of subtler and finer states of being where the promises of all that is best in religion and philosophy, art and culture, become fulfilled.
Somewhere between a roseate optimism and a gloomy pessimism, truth hovers. It does not stand still. For each person touches it at some point predetermined by his own personal experiences of life.
No aspirant need be distressed because so few accept the higher teaching. Religious prophets and mystical seers arise in different localities to take care of the others, those who lack the subtlety of perception and the refinement of intuition to respond sufficiently to it. All aspirants have to acquire something of the immense patience of the sages, who know that evolution is always in progress and that Nature takes her time. But along with that patience they have constantly to suffer the remembrance of a terrible fact--a crisis in human history has been reached and failure to return to a truer spiritual basis for life quickly enough will bring terrible catastrophe. Nevertheless all events will be used in the unfoldment of the World-Idea and all will work out for good in the end. They must trust the divine wisdom. It never makes a mistake and its hidden purpose is utterly beneficent.
It is inevitable that during the uncertainty and danger of war people often turn for help to God, but after the war there is a reaction away from God. This has usually happened throughout history. However, there is very little that an individual can do about the world's spiritual condition, but there is a great deal that he can do to improve his own. The more he can understand the universal laws by increasing his knowledge of them, the better he will understand that even in the darkest times, when evil seems to be triumphant, still that is only temporary and limited because only the good can triumph in the end.
Humanity is not likely to remain impervious to the call of intuition forever; and even now we may see, especially in the Western world, signs of a silent gathering up of spiritual forces which will lead, when it finally erupts after the next Armageddon, to a tremendous renewal of the inner life of mankind.
This is the future of the human race--that all its traits of character, all its faculties of mind, all its activities of feeling and body will one day be unfolded into happy equilibrium.