The great lost chord of modern civilization is forgetfulness of the fact in nature of universal brotherhood which means not merely a sentimental or political brotherhood at all; it means that we are all of one common cosmic or spiritual origin, and that what affects one affects all, and therefore that the interests of the unit are insignificant as compared with the interests of the multitudes. But forget not that the multitude is composed of units, so that you cannot be unjust or cruel or do wrong even to a single unit without offending the whole. These are simple laws that have been hammered into the consciousness of mankind from time out of mind, from an age preceding ours so far back in the remote past that what we now call the eternal mountains were not even yet dreamed of and were sleeping in the ooze of archaeozoic slime.
Now this lost chord, this forgotten truth, the forgetfulness of human brotherhood, can be expressed otherwise: the loss of the conviction that nature is fundamentally spiritual, and therefore is ruled by law, and therefore has compensation for meritorious conduct, and retribution for unmeritorious; and that these twain, the compensation and the retribution, are as infallible as is that cosmic law itself, for they are but the expressions of it.
When a man allows these wondrous and yet so simple thoughts to sink into his consciousness, so that they become a part of the very fibre of his being and of his feeling, no longer would he wilfully injure another. He cannot. It is no longer his character. He has drawn himself out of the mud, and seen the golden sunshine. He then recognizes that fundamentally all is one, and that all beings are one, and that the unit is just as important as the whole, and that the whole is just as important as the unit; and that the unit within the whole is infinitely more important than the unit, single, alone. By the units themselves thinking in this way, the cosmic rule of harmony is preserved unto infinity.
I have often wondered how many men may think of these things in the silent hours of night, or when they are puzzled and anxious as to what course to follow, and are afraid to follow because the multitude does not follow. The multitude likes to follow what it thinks is enlightened selfishness. I cannot conceive a more diabolic or satanic notion than what is covered by that phrase, 'enlightened selfishness.' It is a deliberate obscuring of every noble intuition of the human soul. Just ask yourselves. Do they do a thing because the thing is beautiful and because it is right and because it is just, and because it will bring happiness and security and peace to all men? No, these men of enlightened selfishness say "If I do it, it ultimately will be good for me and mine." Now suppose men in different parts of the world followed that gospel, what would you see? What you see today. And it can all be stopped, all human conflict. And mind you, I don't mean stopping differences of opinion, which is one of the most beautiful things about us humans. Differences of opinion, if honestly and courteously and altruistically cultivated, lend spice and enchantment to life, lend charm and beauty. The French have a wonderful proverb: Du choc des idees jaillit la lumie're. — From the shock of ideas exchanged among men springs forth light. That is the principle of congresses and parliaments and unions and reunions of men: to exchange ideas and to skim off the best.
So I don't refer to differences of ideas. These are natural. I mean conflicts, hatreds, lack of respect for the other man, lack of seeing in him something which is as wonderful as what he can see in you. Have you ever tried just this little simple rule, looking into the eyes of some other man when you are talking with him; not trying to force your idea into his head as we all do; not trying to persuade him and make him believe as you do; but just looking into the eyes of that man. Do you know, you can see marvels, a world of hitherto unexpressed and unknown beauty there. That whole man's soul, if you just give him a chance, is ready to come out and meet you. But of course he may be just as much scared of you as you are scared of him, and just as much afraid of being a man as you are afraid of being a man.
I assure you that if men would trust each other, and expect decency from each other, they would get it. That is what we have lost in the Occident: the conviction that we shall meet compensation or retribution for our thoughts and for our feelings; that good will infallibly come to us if we sow good and do good, and feel right, and sow seeds of justice and honor and probity and decency in our conduct towards all other men — all other men, not merely 'my' friends, all. For the cosmos is a unity and knows no divisions or human separations. This is what we have lost. This is where we fail. This is the secret of all human conflict.
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God, give us men! A time like this demands
Strong minds, great hearts, true faith and ready hands;
Men whom the lust of office does not kill;
Men whom the spoils of office cannot buy;
Men who possess opinions and a will;
Men who have honor; men who will not lie;
Men who can stand before a demagogue
And damn his treacherous flatteries without winking!
Tall men, sun-crowned, who live above the fog
In public duty and in private thinking;
For while the rabble, with their thumb-worn creeds,
Their large professions and their little deeds, —
Mingle in selfish strife, lo! Freedom weeps,
Wrong rules the land and waiting Justice sleeps.
— Josiah Gilbert Holland (1818-1881)