X - WORLD PROBLEMS AND THE UNIVERSAL BROTHERHOOD:
Universal Brotherhood as a Law and the Dominant Ideas
119 - “Brotherhood, then, in its full meaning, is a law in nature. Stress has more than once been laid on this in our meetings, but not too much stress has thereon been laid. For it is the very object, the desire, of our work that brotherhood shall become practical in society, and it will never become practical until men understand that it is a law, and not only an aspiration.” (A. Besant, The Spiritual Life (Vol. II), p. 161)
The Universal Brotherhood is a Law, not only an Aspiration
Before we begin our examination of the bases for the currents prevailing in our times, and considering the facts just analyzed, there is an aspect of the greatest importance with regard to the view of humanity constituting a universal brotherhood such as has been presented here, which must be analyzed further.
This important aspect is that throughout this text the universal brotherhood of humanity has invariably been seen as a FACT of nature, or as a LAW if one prefers, which reveals the true relationship which exists among human beings. In this way we have tried to show, firstly, its two basic attributes: the underlying Unity and the manifested Diversity. And, secondly, that in the light of the Esoteric Philosophy the universal brotherhood of humanity is something which de facto exists in physical and supraphysical nature. And this occurs quite separate from whether or not men are aware of this fact, which is true as well for any other law of nature.
Let us take an example. It is a fact of nature that bodies attract one another in proportion to their respective mass (the larger the mass, the greater will be the attraction) and in inverse proportion to the square of the distance that separates them (the bigger the distance, the smaller the attraction). This fact has been studied and described minutely even in mathematical terms. However, the deeper aspects of this fact are still a great mystery, as is everything else in this life. This fact is called gravitational force, and its description is generally referred to as law of gravitation or of gravity.
It is this force that, when exercised by the Earth, makes objects fall, just as it is the force which maintains the celestial bodies in their orbits when balanced by the centrifugal force generated by the speed of their movements. Still, this force does not cease to exist when it is ignored, as is obvious in the case of a child jumping off a high place because in his innocence he ignored or was not sufficiently attentive to this fact or law.
The analogy we wish to show in this chapter is that conflicts and great human suffering originate as a result of ignorance of, or disregard for, the law or fact that humanity constitutes a universal brotherhood. Annie Besant comments this aspect in connection with the human brotherhood in the following passage:
120 - “(...) And has not Emerson taught the same lesson? Can you remember in one of those marvellous essays of his, he taught the great truth that Nature only looks cruel while we oppose her; she is our strongest helper when we join ourselves to her. For every law that crushes you when you oppose it, lifts you when you are united to it. (...) Nature is conquered by obedience, and the divine is found in a unity of justice and love.
“Brotherhood, then, in its full meaning, is a law in nature. Stress has more than once been laid on this in our meetings, but not too much stress has thereon been laid. For it is the very object, the desire, of our work that brotherhood shall become practical in society, and it will never become practical until men understand that it is a law, and not only an aspiration. It is a common experience that when men have discovered a law of nature they no longer fight against it. They at once accomodate themselves to the new knowledge. They at once adapt themselves to the newly understood conditions, and in that very way we have preached brotherhood. And yet brotherhood is but so little known (...).” (A. Besant, The Spiritual Life (Vol. II), p. 160)
In writing these words, Annie Besant was emphasizing a teaching that had already been given in the letters from the Mahatmas, as we can read in the following passage:
121 - “You so love mankind, you say, that were not your generation to benefit by it, you would reject ‘Knowledge’ itself. And yet, this philanthropic feeling does not even seem to inspire you towards those you regard as of an inferior intelligence. Why? Simply because the philanthropy you Western thinkers boast of, having no characther of universality; i.e. never having been established on the firm footing of a moral, universal principle; never having risen higher than theoretical talk; and that chiefly among the ubiquitous Protestant preachers, it is but a mere accidental manifestation but no recognised LAW. (...) This, I think is, the secret of the spiritual failure and unconscious egotism of this age. And you, otherwise a good and a wise man, being unconsciously to yourself the type of its spirit, are unable to understand our ideas upon the Society as a Universal Brotherhood, and hence – turn away your face from it.” (K.H., ML, L. 28, p. 215)
Since this is the secret of the spiritual failure of our times, this aspect of the universal brotherhood as a law is so important that, as Annie Besant said, however hard we try, it can never be stressed sufficiently. In the case of the TS, the necessity for this stress exists as well, and within the Society this point seems to be even more decisively relevant since it is exactly the law of the universal brotherhood that is its central idea and principal Object.
The Universal Brotherhood is Misunderstood Even in the TS
In spite of this fact, the members of the TS in general also find great difficulty not only in understanding brotherhood as a law but, consequently, in grasping how meaningful and important it is for the TS to offer to the world an organizational system which illustrates a practical application of the law of the universal brotherhood. This can be clearly seen in the above quotation concerning one of the most influential members of that time of whom the Master stated that he was “unable to grasp the basic idea of Universal Brotherhood of the Parent Society.” This generalized misunderstanding, however, continues to exist up to our time, having become one of the main points of what we call, in summary, the “paralysis of the Theosophical Society.”
In this sense, it is important to call attention to the fact that today the great majority of the members of the TS, including even its leaders, conceive the universal brotherhood as synonymous to love or, at least, of tolerance, in other words, as synonymous to altruism or to a tolerant and cordial relationship. Thus, the great majority of the members see the universal brotherhood not as a law but only as a virtue which individuals should develop, or even, not infrequently, as synonymous to a deep regeneration of the human psyche, in other words as synonymous to true Altruism, to the true Occultism or Theosophy (which, as HBP wrote, are the same).
The World Congress of the TS, held in
For those who conceive universal brotherhood to be synonymous to true Altruism, in other words, as a state of thorough regeneration of the individual psyche, as a Wise state of mind or of impersonal love, it would only be possible to form a nucleus of the universal brotherhood when a large amount of the members had reached that state.
Although not deliberately, these people appear to be under the influence of the false egalitarianism which is one of the dogmas or outstanding traits of the currents of though that prevail in our time (as we shall prove further on). Thus, they confuse Theosophy (which, as we have seen, is essentially synonymous with a Wise mind, with true Wisdom and Altruism) with the principle, the law, or the fact that humanity is, has always been, and always will be a universal brotherhood, separate from the fact whether or not the individuals that make up humanity understand this law. This is analogous to what occurs with any other law such as the example of the law of gravity we have examined.
These are examples of subtle and unconscious misinterpretation of the universal brotherhood, and of not understanding it also as a law. They transform it into an aspiration only, to be achieved, instead of conceiving it also as a law of nature, which must be applied and put into practice in the form of “clear, unequivocal conceptions of ethic ideas and duties, as well as of new social institutions, especially of a new model for organizational structure.
The Lack of a General Plan Consistent with the Universal Brotherhood
We would advise those who honestly and sincerely defend these ideas which we deem erroneous, and who consequently doubt this connection of the law of the universal brotherhood with the need for creating an organizational structure which illustrates it and thus turn their backs on the great importance the Mahatmas gave the task of offering its practical application to the world, to give some serious thought to the following passages:
122 - “(...) for my mentioning the subject related merely to the general plan and outward administration of the projected Society and not in the least to its esoteric studies; to the Branch of the Universal Brotherhood not to the “School of Magick” – the formation of the former being the sine qua non for the latter. (...) I have asked for a skeleton plan, and you imagined I clamoured for co-operation in the instructions to be given in spiritual sciences!” (...) And you, otherwise a good and a wise man, being unconsciously to yourself the type of its spirit, are unable to understand our ideas upon the Society as a Universal Brotherhood, and hence – turn away your face from it.” (K.H., ML, L. 28, pp. 213-215)
123 - “The Chiefs want a 'Brotherhood of Humanity', a real Universal Fraternity started; an institution which would make itself known throughout the world, and arrest the attention of the highest minds.” (K.H., ML, L. 6, p. 24)
We have seen that the Master made it clear that He expected help from that influential member of the TS of those days (A.O. Hume, an experienced administrator, who held a high position in the British administration of the India of that time) in the sense that he connect the universal brotherhood with a “general plan and outward administration of the projected Society.” In spite of the efforts made by the Adept, we see that Hume had not understood – nor did he ever do so – this highly important point.
It would, however, be of the greatest importance for us to perceive that analogous misunderstandings continue to paralyze the TS up to our days and to what degree they are present even among the leaders of TS in general. We shall take up this point again further on because it will become more obvious after we finish the analysis of the way in which the solutions of the world’s problems depend on a major intellectual reform which would offer clear ideas of ethics and duties, as well as a new model for institutions or social organization, which would be based on the law of the universal brotherhood.
Also in this connection, we shall be presenting some basic remarks on how these new institutions or this new structure of socio-political organization would function in a derivative and coherent manner with the prospect of humanity as a universal brotherhood. The TS should be, even if only on a small scale, a practical example to the world of this new model, since the principles of the Perennial Philosophy, which contain the concept of humanity as a universal brotherhood:
124 - “(...) have to prove both destructive and constructive – destructive in the pernicious errors of the past, in the old creeds and superstitions which suffocate in their poisonous embrace like the Mexican weed nigh all mankind; but constructive of new institutions of a genuine, practical Brotherhood of Humanity where all will become co-workers of nature (...) (K.H., ML, L. 6, p. 24)
With this in mind, we shall now examine e the currents of thought prevailing at this time, and how in one way or another they differ from the law which reveals to us the prospect of humanity as a universal brotherhood. As stated previously, the object of this analysis is to show how most of the world’s problems are directly related to the central principles of these currents of thought, which deny the view of humanity as a universal brotherhood, and to the resulting failure of the structures of social organization which derive from these principles.
In the first place, we must clarify what are in reality the currents of thought prevailing in the world today. In other words, what are the currents from which derive the systems of ethical ideas and duties, as well as the models or the principal institutions which really organize the political, social and economic life of the societies in this second half of the XX century.
It is not sufficient in this sense to examine which are the ideas which abide in the largest number of heads, because, as we have seen, what really matters are the currents which prevail in the elite and which, therefore, affect the behavior of this small minority. This behavior, again, always ends up projecting itself on the social whole in the shape of its main organizing institutions.
The Currents of Religious Thought Have Lost Ground
The first point to be clearly perceived, therefore, is that the currents of religious thought have largely lost ground since the XIX century, and even more so in the XX, to secular philosophies highly influenced by the knowledge and theories that prevail in the field of contemporary sciences.
Just recently, the current International President of the TS, Radha Burnier, summed up this movement in the following words:
125 - “Faith in religious tenets and commandments was eroded more than a century ago by the advent of modern education based on logic and reason and the advancement of scientific knowledge.” (R. Burnier, The Theosophist, Jun. 93)
This becomes even clearer when we observe the ethics which prevail in the behavior of the elite and, even more, if we observe the models of socio-political organization which mold the destinies of the great majority of the nations and, very specially, of those that are richer, more powerful, and more influential.
Concerning the values and prevailing behavior, we can again quote Radha Burnier:
126 - “The homocentricity of Biblical Christianity was replaced by the pride of a species which believed it has risen to the pinnacle in a gigantic process of chance that went by the name of evolution. God’s will, religious commandments, moral laws – all these faded into insignificance before man’s image of himself as thinker and doer.
“As a result of these forces, increasingly the individual has regarded himself as an absolutely independent entity with the unconditional right to promote his own progress and fulfill his desires irrespective of how this affects other people and forms of life. (...) The new ‘morality’ is based on disbelief in a concious or intelligent purpose behind the evolutionary process. If everything is a matter of chance, one must play the game cleverly and see that the chances are favourable to oneself.” (R. Burnier, The Theosophist, Jun. 93)
The Gods of our Age: Might, Greed and Luck
With regard to ethical values, therefore, a form of individualistic utilitarianism – in other words, the belief in the “virtues” of the selfish pursuit of individual well being and the supposition that this will result in the greatest happiness for the greatest number of people (always supposing that this individual pursuit be very well balanced by a rational formula for general control) – became totally dominant. It is not surprising that in this context success and might have come to be considered as synonyms of the good and the correct.
John M. Keynes, the well-known English economist, illustrates this point very clearly to the extent that it has become a justification for the appropriatenes of individualistic utilitarian values. As this passage was written by Keynes, whose writings influenced generations of economists, it makes it possible for us to evaluate the respectability and preeminence this attitude has acquired in our age:
127 - “For at least another hundred years we must pretend to ourselves and to every one that fair is foul and foul is fair; for foul is useful and fair is not. Avarice and usury and precaution must be our gods for a little longer still.” (J.M. Keynes, quoted by E.F. Schumacher, Small is Beautiful, p. 82)
In one of the Masters’ letters we can find what is clearly a reference to this standard of values prevailing today:
128 - “(...) as any one can perceive, your social as your private life is not based upon a common moral solidarity but only on constant mutual counteraction and purely mechanical equilibrium of individual powers and interests... If you would be a Theosophist, you must not do as those around you who call on a God of Truth and Love and serve the dark Powers of Might, Greed and Luck.” (LMW, 2nd Series, L. 82, p. 155)
In this quotation, the Master gives us a synthesis of who the “gods” are that are worshiped and feared by the majority of the intellectualized minds (of the elite) of our age: Might, Greed, and Luck. This is a most encompassing synthesis which, at the same time, is so precise – as will become clear in our analysis – that probably only the powerful mind of an Adept would able to formulate it, especially at the end of the XIX century.
Be this as it may, this generalized standard of values is by itself a clear indication of what are the ideas that prevail in our age. But the answer to this question – regarding which are really the prevailing currents of thought – becomes even clearer when we observe the principal political, social and economic institutions which control the life of most of the nations. This, because, as we have seen, in the last analysis, the ideas that prevail for the elite are always projected as the principal social institutions in the country. And it is thus that, while analyzing these institutions, we can always, while following the road inversely, clearly see which are the prevailing currents at any given moment in history.
Dominant Currents Today: Liberalism and Marxism
Thus, when we examine even cursorily the models of socio-political organization of the majority of countries in this second half of the XX century, it is not difficult for us to realize that they fall within two major categories. On the one hand we see the models of political and economic organization derived from liberal thought – or neoliberal, if we wish, as the Liberalism of our times is not the same that in its beginnings fought Absolutism two or three centuries ago. On the other hand, we have the models of political and economic organization that are based on Marxist though – or neo-Marxist (which includes Leninism and others).
It is true that, due to the recent transformations in the former
In view of the above, we shall now analyze these two currents of thought, which are the principal pictures (or maps) from which the elite of our times developes its concepts with regard to humanity considered as a whole. As stated before, these are two secular currents of philosophy which presume to be based on present-day scientific knowledge.
We should point out that the fact that we give special attention to these currents does not imply that others, especially those corresponding to religious traditions, are not still influential. We merely insist on asserting that in our days, although still strongly influencial, the religious traditions are no longer those that show a greater centrality within the belief systems of the elite. The concept of greater centrality makes reference to those ideas that carry more weight over, or the power to influence, people’s attitudes and behavior. In the case of a conflict among different ideas or attitudes, those of greater centrality will prevail.
All we assert here is that in this age the premises and basic doctrines of these two secular philosophies carry a higher grade of centrality in the belief systems of the elite than does any other current, for the simple reason that these are the principles that are molding the greater part of its behavior; and, consequently, they are the ones that are projecting themselves as the principal organizational institutions in the majority of societies.
Within these currents we must, above all, examine the premises that encompass their views of man and humanity. This, because all social philosophy must necessarily develop around a nucleus of premises concerning man and humanity.
As stated previously, these are the premises that we must compare with the concept of man and humanity as revealed to us by the Perennial Philosophy, which shows man as a being of infinite possibilities engaged in a process of evolution in the direction of the glory of a sublime perfection, even though human beings find themselves at different points of this vast evolutionary journey. As we have seen, this view of the Esoterical Philosophy is summarized by the vision of humanity as a universal brotherhood.
Having made this statement, let us begin by the view of man and of humanity that Liberalism offers us, this being the older of these two currents and the one dominant in these times.