The Need for a Great Intellectual Reform
106 - “For all those who see the sterility and folly of an existence blinded by materialism and ferociously indifferent to the fate of its neighbour, this is the moment to act; now is the time for them to devote all their energies, all their courage and all their efforts to a great intellectual reform.” (CW, Vol. XI, p. 134)
107 - “The great intellectual reform which HPB foresaw as the immediate need of her day has still to take place.” (R. Burnier, The Theosophist, Jan. 89, pp. 123-124)
In the fifth chapter (Theosophy and the Universal Brotherhood) we have tried to show, with the help of quotations from letters of the Sages who ordered and inspired the foundation of the TS, the truly altruistic (theosophical) nature of this organization, at least according to its original conception, and abstract formulation of its aims. This implies that the TS must have as its central concern the welfare of humanity as a whole, which is made clear in the following quotation:
108 - “The term “Universal Brotherhood” is no idle phrase. Humanity in the mass has a paramount claim upon us (...) It is the only secure foundation for universal morality.” (K.H., ML, L. 4, p. 17)
We also saw that, as a result of this main concern, these Sages hoped that the TS might offer “consistent solutions” to the great world problems as can be read in the well known passage of the letter with the views of the Maha-Chohan, which follows:
109 - “To be true, religion and philosophy must offer the solution of every problem. That the world is in such a bad condition morally is a conclusive evidence that none of its religions and philosophies, those of the civilised races less than any other, have ever possessed the truth. The right and logical explanations on the subject of the problems of the great dual principles – right and wrong, good and evil, liberty and despotism, pain and pleasure, egotism and altruism – are as impossible to them now as they were 1881 years ago. They are as far from the solution as they ever were; but to these there must be somewhere a consistent solution, and if our doctrines prove their competence to offer it, then the world will be quick to confess that must be the true philosophy, the true religion, the true light, which gives truth and nothing but truth.” (LMW, 1st Series, L. 1, p. 9)
In that same chapter we read that the fundamental Object, as well as the leading idea of the TS, is the Universal Brotherhood. As this is a crucial point, it is worthwhile to repeat two quotations about this question:
110 - “Our fundamental object is Universal Brotherhood (...)” (HPB, CW, Vol. IV, p. 470)
111 - “But, the new Society, if formed at all, must (though bearing a
distinctive title of his own) be, in fact, a Branch of the Parent Society as is
the British Theosophical Society at London, and contribute to its vitality and
usefulness by promoting its leading idea of a Universal Brotherhood, and in
other practical ways.” (ML, L. 2, p. 8-9)
Denial of the Universal Brotherhood is at the Root of the Problems
Therefore, since the TS aims at both the welfare of humanity as a whole and to offer “consistent solutions” to the great world problems, and since its fundamental Object and leading idea is that of the Universal Brotherhood, then, it is not difficult to understand that the law of the Universal Brotherhood must be centrally linked to the great problems of humanity, as well as to the solutions that the TS should offer to them.
After we have examined these points, in the chapters entitled “The Perennial Philosophy and the Universal Brotherhood”, we saw that the perspective of humanity as a Universal Brotherhood is a conceptual framework which which in the light of the Perennial Philosophy perfectly summarizes the fundamental characteristics of human beings when considered as a whole]. We have also seen that this perspective has two main aspects, which may be resumed as: the underlying Unity of all the human beings; and the manifested Diversity of capacities or talents, not to speak of the well known differences of temperaments or psychological types.
We saw as well in those chapters that in the present evolutionary stage of mankind only a small minority shows a high spiritual or Egoic development, which guarantees this minority a mental potency much greater than that of the rest of mankind, and that this impose upon them a great responsibility regarding the destinies of all societies. We have already quoted the passage from the Maha-Chohan the in which this overwhelming influence and responsibility of the elite in relation to the welfare of the population as a whole is stated in unequivocal terms, but, since it is of decisive importance to the logic of this text, it is presented once more:
112 - “Those ‘intellectual classes,’ reacting upon the ignorant masses which they attract and which look up to them as noble and fit examples to follow, degrade and morally ruin those they ought to protect and guide.” (LMW, 1st Series, L. 1, p. 4)
There is also a passage by HPB in which she refers to this influence of the elite in different words but in an equally clear and unequivocal way:
113 - “(...) this our generation seems to evince but a very rudimentary spiritual grasp while apparently developed in intellect to the utmost extent possible. It is, indeed, a hard, materialistic age: a fragment of sparkling quartz is its appropriate symbol. And yet of what ‘age’ and ‘generation’ do we speak? Not of that of the masses, for they change but little from generation to generation: no, but of the educated class, the leaders of thought, the controllers and stimulators of the opinions of that great middle social group lying between the highly cultured and the brutishly ignorant. They are the sceptics of today who are as incapable of rising to the sublimity of Vedantic or Buddhistic philosophy as a tortoise to soar like an eagle.” (CW, Vol. III, p. 104)
Once this decisive strategic role played by the elite, or the ‘intellectual classes,’ is well understood, it will be clear that, just because of the overwhelming influence of the elite, the ideas, or the currents of thought that happen to be dominant at the elite level (which, as we saw, is the only portion of the whole society that is able to grasp them reasonably well), will project themselves invariably upon the whole of the social body, in the form of its main ethical conceptions, as well as in the more concrete form of the main social and political institutions. This being so, this information also enables us to better understand the accuracy of the statement quoted bellow, from one of the Mahatma Letters, where it is pointed out that the ideas do, indeed, rule the world:
114 - “Even the Spiritists with their mistaken, grotesquely pervated views and notions (...) prophesy and their prophecies are not always without a point of truth in them, of intuitional pre-vision, so to say. Hear some of them asserting the old, old axiom that ‘Ideas rule the world;’ and as men’s minds receive new ideas, laying aside the old and effete the world (will) advance; mighty revolutions (will) spring from them; institutions (aye, and even creeds and powers, they may add) - WILL crumble before their onward march crushed by their own inherent force (...) It will be just as impossible to resist their influence when the time comes as to stay the progress of the tide, – to be sure.” (K.H., ML, L. 92, p. 425)
In the same way, we saw previously in a passage quoted from the letter with the views of the Maha-Chohan, which we partially repeat below, that the religions and philosophies are far from giving a correct perspective of humanity:
115 - “That the world is in such a bad condition morally is a conclusive evidence that none of its religions and philosophies, those of the civilised races less than any other, have ever possessed the truth.” (LMW, 1st Series, L. 1, p. 9)
In this same letter we saw that, because they are far from the truth, they are unable to offer “consistent solutions” to the problems connected with the great questions that are challenging humanity. These questions are connected with the problems of the great dual principles – right and wrong, good and evil, pain and pleasure, egotism and altruism. Now, the answers to those questions must necessarily configurate imply a system of ethical ideas and of duties.
By the same token, the answer to the problem of the great dual principle of “liberty and despotism” (also mentioned in that letter) implies the visualization of a competent model of social organization, that is, a consistent model of the main social and political institutions of humanity. As these answers do affect the general welfare of humanity in a decisive way, both physically and morally, it is not difficult to see the reason why we can read the following statement in one of the letters from the Adepts:
116 - “The problem of true Theosophy and its great mission is the working
out of clear, unequivocal conceptions of ethic ideas and duties which would
satisfy most and best the altruistic and right feelings in us; and the modelling of these conceptions for their adaptation into
such forms of daily life where they may be applied with most equitableness...
Such is the common work in view for all who are willing to act on these
principles.” (LMW, 2nd Series, L.
82, p. 158)
Denial of the Universal Brotherhood and the Need for Reforms
As we have seen in the previous chapters, the concept of humanity as a Universal Brotherhood is derived logically from the fundamental principles of the Esoteric Doctrines, and “is the only secure foundation for universal morality”, that is, it is the only secure foundation for a system “of clear, unequivocal conceptions of ethic ideas and duties”, and also that it is the leading idea of the TS. Thus, the logical conclusion arises (here assumed as a hypothesis) that the dominant currents of thought, that is, the ideas that actually rule the world of our days must contradict or negate in some way or other this conception of humanity as a Universal Brotherhood.
Thus, it becomes necessary for us to assume the hypothesis that this must be the reason why the systems of ethical ideas and duties, as well as the models of social and political organization derived from the dominant thought currents are mistaken. And so, that they must have as concrete results a lot of conflicts and immense moral and physical suffering for human beings as a whole - which is certainly the world picture that we can observe in our days. More than a century ago, the views of the Maha-Chohan pointed to the failure of the present forms of social organization. As this is a fundamental question, and full of misconceptions, even among the TS members, it is worthwhile to repeat a small part of the quotation previously given:
117 - “The world in general, the Christendom especially, left for two thousand years to the regime of a personal God, as well as its political and social systems based on that idea, has now proved a failure.” (LMW, 1st Series, L. 1, p. 7)
The above passage belongs to a letter dated in
118 - “In 1889 Madame Blavatsky made an assessment of her times thus:
“‘Of all the past centuries our nineteenth has been the most criminal. It is criminal in its frightful selfishness, in its scepticism which grimaces at the very idea of anything beyond the material; in its idiotic indifference to all that does not pertain to the personal self, more than any of the previous centuries of ignorant barbarism and intellectual darkness. (...) For all those who see the sterility and folly of an existence blinded by materialism and ferociously indifferent to the fate of its neighbour, this is the moment to act; now is the time for them to devote all their energies, all their courage and all their efforts to a great intellectual reform. This reform can only be accomplished by Theosophy, and, let us add, by Occultism or the wisdom of the Orient.’ (CW, Vol. XI, p. 134)
“She further described the nineteenth century as the hybrid child of medieval superstition and a profligate impostor known as “modern civilisation”.
“The twentieth century has far surpassed the nineteenth in barbarism, criminal selfishness, materialistic blindness and indifference to all that is beyond personal self-interest. It has risen to peaks of destructive activity never before reached. The dead and wounded in the two World Wars were counted by the million, and more millions were forcibly displaced from their homes and compelled to suffer acute distress of various kinds. A series of other wars on a lesser scale have added to the century's toll of carnage. These are the decades which have also seen the merciless decimation of countless numbers of people in several parts of the world for ideological, tribal, racial or political reasons. Rarely, or perhaps never, has cruelty been practised on so large a scale towards both man and animals as in the twentieth century. Plant life, too, has been reduced dramatically and mineral resources depleted. Environmental degradation and pollution now pose hazards so grave that some scientists believe this to be a greater threat than nuclear war.
“War-making has been one of the most important commercial activities of the century, bringing enormous wealth to some individuals and firms. Nations, too, if they have the required capability, are vying with one onother to amass riches by the manufacture and sale of arms. Criminal psychology is at work in other kinds of business with which we have became familiar such as the traffic in drugs, and the commerce in substandard medicines and food which the poor and the ignorant populations of underdeveloped countries are hood winked into buying. Modern civilization has systematically fostered violence and it has now spread into homes and streets. It has also let loose the forces of decadence by setting up pleasure and success as the most worthy of goals. Addiction to enjoyment, money and drugs has attained epidemic levels. Though here and there there are signs of concerns for the human condition and enquiry into the validity of the premises in which present-day civilization is built, the vast majority of people continue to be in the same state of idiotic indifference to the problems which face mankind and the authenticity or otherwise of the assumptions which lie behind them.
“The great intellectual reform which HPB foresaw as the immediate need of her
day has still to take place.” (R. Burnier, The
Theosophist, Jan. 89, pp. 123-124)
Universal Laws in Opposition to a Personal God
The other aspect to be commented is related to the harmful effects of the conception of the existence of a personal God. One of the main problems implicit in this mistaken conception is that it opens the doors to a vision of the universe which is not ruled, in an absolute way, by eternal and impersonal Laws. A universe ruled by a personal God permits the existence of miracles and of ruptures in the absolute domination of the great Laws.
When the doors are opened to interventions of this kind, the vital idea of an absolute domination BY Laws is shifted to a secondary place in the universal scheme, and that results in a lack of confidence in the Laws. This lack of confidence in the Laws, in its turn, results in a disbelief in the intrinsic capacity of the human being of advancing, with the help of his own intelligence, to the level where he finds Truth, the Divine Wisdom or Theosophy. Therefore, this results in a disbelief in the possibility of the development by the human being of a truly altruistic state of being. At this moment, also, the doors are opened for spiritual blidness and a countless number of miseries which are necessarily derived from it.
It is also important to notice the fact that the philosphical materialistic conceptions of the universe equally result (altough by different paths, which we will examine later) in mistakes that are very similar to those described in the previous paragraph. When we withdraw from the great universal Laws the meaning, the purpose and the higher intelligence which are inherent in them and begin to believe that they are the children of the random clash of blind forces - that is, of blind chance - the result is curiously very similar to that which we have seen in connection with the concept of a personal God.
In this case, the conception of the glorious destiny of the human being is also debased, since the concept of an absolute domination by Laws is also subverted in the sense that they no longer have a meaning by themselves, except that which is attributed to them by the reasoning of the human beings. All the higher meanings of life become, in this way, relative and subjective questions. In view of this, it is not surprising that these philosophies have resulted in similarly cruel social practices and in models of political organization equally incapable of constructing a harmonious society.