Universal Brotherhood – December 1898

THE NECESSITY OF SACRIFICE — Hubert S. Turner

The necessity for sacrifice in all domains of nature is shown by a study of evolution. Sacrifice, conflict and a ceaseless struggle have made the world what it is. Life began with self-sacrifice, and self sacrifice will have to continue as long as there is a single cell of life to evolve into something higher.

The most rudimentary form of life we know of is the single cell. This cell had a duty to perform, as we all have, namely, to divide itself into two. Upon this basis all evolution rests. Life here gets its first instruction from Nature to sacrifice itself in order that Life's higher aims may be accomplished. These cells in turn sacrificed themselves, dividing again, that other forms might manifest from the invisible into the visible. For centuries and centuries this continued. Then nothing but these almost homogeneous forms existed. Their period of manifestation was limited; their duty apparently insignificant. For them, what was their reward? If they had had the power of thinking, would not they have had good grounds for doubting the justice in placing them there, and the uselessness of their avocation? The great law to them would have seemed monstrous, nothing before them but death, no future, only the past to look to, which but showed the same thing as they were enduring, nothing but sacrifice, without hope of gain. Yet if it was not for the sacrifice of these, the simplest yet the most wonderful of all manifested lives, we would not have the different evolving kingdoms and the many species that we see around us.

If the cell was a complex organism it would not be so wonderful, but here we have a homogeneous substance performing all the duties of a complex one. Truly we can learn a good deal from the cell. If we all did our duty as the cell does, this globe would soon change its appearance. The cells did not realize their own powers, that they alone were preparing the way for more experienced entities. All this was not wasted; this homogeneous substance began to show differences, the differences increased and multiplied, the apparent uselessness of the cell's development vanished. The differences continued until at last we had the mineral kingdom fully developed. By this time the vegetable kingdom appears in its rudimentary stages. Nature continued her efforts; more sacrifices, then the animal kingdom makes its appearance. Now the vegetable has to sacrifice its life that Nature's higher form, the animal, may have food to live on. The vegetable here reaps its reward in that its molecular structure is converted into the higher animal structure As the Kabalah puts it: "The stone becomes a plant, the plant an animal, the animal a man, the man a God." Species then began to develop; these species differentiated, then we find them warring upon each other.

This apparent necessary sacrifice appears to be one of the necessities of evolution. The opponents of the claim that "Brotherhood is a fact in nature" harp very strongly on this warring proclivity both of the animal and the human kingdoms. Yet, it seems to me, that until absolute self-consciousness and a full knowledge of the spiritual side of evolution is reached, this is the only way nature can force progression. If it was not for this sacrifice we would not have any birds, nor animal or human life. Man alone has the power of reasoning and thinking.

Nature developed this power in him through countless sacrifices and at fearful cost. This is why nature does not entirely force him to evolve as she does the lower kingdoms. Having developed this she expects man to evolve and to make all necessary sacrifices voluntarily, as he is now in a position to know why he should do so. Unfortunately he has not yet realized this.

Whenever we see a variation from any type in any kingdom, there we will find a conflict and necessarily a sacrifice demanded. When the increase of any species had arrived at the time when they were forced to occupy the same localities, the struggle became harder and harder, until the greatest law of Nature, "self-sacrifice" was in operation. Up to and including the present time, that law of conflict was compulsory on everything that lived and lives. Nature has ever been seeking "workers," the idlers she casts out as the drones are cast out of the bee-hive. It was work, or else give way to another, to await for a chance again to progress. Darwin's law "of the survival of the fittest " reigned supreme. This compelled all who wanted to live, to more perfectly adapt themselves to their surroundings; to change themselves as conditions changed; to progress.

Unless nature had forced these entities to evolve they never would have succeeded. How fortunate they had not the power of reasoning. The reptile might have been perfectly satisfied with its lot unless the receding of the waters had not compelled it to adapt itself to living on the land. It might still have been satisfied unless others of its kind warring on it had not simply forced it to protect itself some way. Ages and ages must pass; hundreds of reptiles must be the prey of their enemies before between the entity and its bodily habitation there was formed a closer tie and gradually the body changed little by little until our reptile has changed to a bird of the air. Does it seem possible that the reptile could have evolved into a bird any other way?

This method of evolution looks severe until we begin to fathom nature's ways a little more deeply. View it from the standpoint that when the reptile was killed, that was the end of that particular entity and the necessity and purpose would vanish — for what could be gained? — in this case the reptiles would have always remained the same. But look at it from the view that the entity will profit by the experience it has just had and when it again incarnates its body will be different, a mere trifle assuredly, but still enough so that in the course of time the entity that was a reptile now manifests as a bird, and is safe from attacks from that source. See how the law of reincarnation throws a light on evolution and the necessity for sacrifice. This is only an isolated case, but a few moments' thinking will show that this is the only way the lower animal kingdoms progressed.

To take up our evolving reptile again, it has escaped its old enemies only to meet new ones, more sacrifices are demanded as the price of further evolvement. The bird is still in the struggle for life; a continuous war with other species of birds is his lot. If he has not gained strength enough to conquer, then he is conquered and slain, and has again to appear, only the next time a little stronger. In this way our defenceless bird increases the strength and size of its beak, the sharpness and strength of its claws, its fleetness of wing, its power of endurance and keenness of sight, until at last we have after countless slaughter and sacrifice such a bird as the eagle.

It is useless to say nature might have taken another way of evolving, we know she did not, no other way could have succeeded. We have here an illustration of the fate of those who idle and do not profit by their opportunities, there is one such example in the bird family that I happen to think of, there may be more. The Dodo was once a powerful bird that for some inexplicable reason had advanced so far and became satisfied with its lot, but declined to take advantage of its opportunities for still further advancement. Not caring to fly, its wings gradually grew shorter and shorter and lost their powerful muscles; contented to stand and sleep all day long, it lost its keenness of sight, its beak grew shorter, its claws contracted. Slaughter of its kind by other birds did not awaken it from its stupor. Gradually degenerating, suffering under the curse of inaction, what remains of the Dodo today? — not a single known specimen is in existence. As one of the Scriptures has it "Nature spews up the luke warm." Here again Nature shows us the "necessity for sacrifice," this whole species had to be sacrificed to save it from still further degeneration, to save it from itself. Truly "Justice rules all."

We find a parallel to this in the human kingdom, in those who advance so far along the "Path" that they think they have reached the goal, and instead of toiling on, stop and rest contented. They think they have done enough, that no more sacrifices ought to be demanded of them, refusing to listen to those who know. Then the door closes in front of them and they have to await another opportunity in a future incarnation. They, like the Dodo, have been saved from themselves. Suppose the rabbit had never been chased by its natural enemies, where would have been its fleetness of foot, its long ears to catch the slightest sound? If it had not been forced to be constantly alert it too might have thought it had reached the "Supreme," rested, and also degenerated.

Man is the climax of life on this planet and his physical body represents the perfection of all the kingdoms of nature adapted to his needs. He has now almost grown out of the necessity of being forced to evolve, yet conflict and antagonism still hold their sway over him. What a struggle man has to conquer the lower and to develop the higher nature! How many times must that lower nature be sacrificed before he succeeds; a constant struggle and conflict must be kept up all the time. What is this life to most of us but a bitter struggle, sometimes against almost unsurmountable obstacles? How hard it all seems; every bit of experience and knowledge gained only by a series of hardships? Nature is taking good care that when we do learn our lesson, we will know it well. When everything looks desperate, when you think as the cell might have thought, of the uselessness of it all, and the apparent injustice of life, just look back at what the lower kingdoms suffered, and how you profited by their sufferings which were really yours and how you will eventually profit by your present sufferings. Do a little thinking and you will soon see how necessary it is, this eternal goading onward and yearning for something better.

The restless energy we see in this country, especially lately, is but another manifestation of this same force. We are always wanting something, never satisfied, constantly seeking change and variety. This is one of the results of the schooling we have been through. Is it not this that has made this country what it is? Again, we see, if it was not for this conflict and sacrifice, man also would be liable to degenerate. We unfortunately have too many men who are degenerates like the Dodo. For years and years we have been striving to find the origin of evil. The most wonderful thing is the origin of good, not that of evil. Where and when did man get the ability to say, "this is good, that is evil," if not in the struggle and sacrifice of the lower nature, and the higher self ever striving to manifest. Primitive man gradually awakens from his useless paths, slowly he realizes his mission, gradually he begins to know what is right, and what is wrong. "Slowly the Bible of the race is writ, Each age, each kindred, adds a verse to it."

Man's proclivity to fight is a relic of the lower animal self, it will cease as he becomes more spiritual, and as the necessity for it ceases. Man now, ought to have enough intelligence to evolve himself willingly, aided but not forced by Nature and her laws. Here is his necessity for sacrifice. H. P. Blavatsky says in the Secret Doctrine, "The sole purpose of nature on this globe is to evolve men; and, from men, Gods." Man from his present position having profited by all sacrifices in the past and being in a position to appreciate it, should now sacrifice himself and endeavor to assist "Humanity and all creatures" in their evolution to a higher state. He can do it or not as he pleases, the penalty for not doing is stagnation, for himself, as he can not leave this plane of action until his duty is done. Ceaseless reincarnations will be his lot until by hard experience he learns Nature's great law "that by compassion and self-abnegation only can he progress."

We see the working of the "law" again, when anybody is strong enough to come out and say what he thinks when it is different from what people have been in the habit of thinking. Look back through history and see what has been the price of all reforms. When a Society such as the Theosophical Society was formed with its radical change of thought, what is the result? Nature again enacts her law that "any variation of a type must be capable of sustaining itself against the old forms," we find it not only in the animal but in all domains of life. Think of the sacrifices made by the Founders of the Theosophical Society, and how we are all benefiting by them, how necessary was that movement they began, and which has now culminated in the Universal Brotherhood. We and all creatures benefit thereby. If it was not necessary to make some kind of sacrifice to hold up such a movement, what would be the result? If it was not for the law of conflict compelling us to fight every inch of the way it would have been the same as with the Dodo and we would not have carried it to the point we have. Events just passed through in the history of the work show the result of thinking sacrifice is unnecessary. The fate of the inactive and over-confident is always to be thrown out in every work that is along the lines of Nature. Like everything else in Nature, man has to learn by hard experience and sacrifice, consciously or unconsciously, how to properly use the powers he is developing. Yet the majority of people today live solely for individual gain; they have not yet learnt the law. All men are still under the "necessity for sacrifice," and until they learn this, the law of cause and effect will bring them again and again back to this plane of action, until at last all will realize it and fulfil their mission. How long this will be is hard to tell, though we find the beginning of this universal recognition of the law in the formation of the Universal Brotherhood Organization formed "for the benefit of the people of the earth and all creatures." What better opportunity can be had for all those who realize the "necessity for sacrifice." Here certainly is a chance for all to help, however little it may be. Let us keep in consideration the "cells" performing their duties as they find them however insignificant, remembering that therefrom springs the welfare of the whole and our own true development. Let us do our duty and remember the advice given in the Bhagavad Gita "Be not attached to the fruit of action," "the duty of another is full of danger." If we all do this, eventually the movement will truly become universal and everything then will be beyond the "necessity for sacrifice."


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