To help the human race to realize its grand and mighty destiny — that is the declared object of the Universal Brotherhood Society; an object familiar to all who have read its prospectuses and are conversant with its literature and phraseology.
To some this may be a mere form of words, an idle phrase, a grandiloquent expression, designed to stand in ornate capitals at the head of a prospectus, or to sound sweet in the mouths of some exotic clique of cranks or dilletanti. Our modern world is so full of gaudy shams and big, swelling advertisements that phrases have lost their meaning and fall ineffectual upon our deafened ears. But let us consider the present state of humanity and the open and declared work of the Universal Brotherhood Organization, and see how true and real that avowed object is in its bearing upon the problem of human life.
To begin with, let us ask: What is man's mighty destiny? And in answering the question, let us invoke the aid of no set creed nor authoritative gospel, but see if we cannot infer our conclusions from the observed facts of human nature.
Looking, then, at man, we find him to be a creature endowed with a restless and ever-aspiring spirit, but surrounded by circumstances and conditions which fetter and limit that spirit, so that man is always striving to alter and improve them. Humanity has for ages been discontented, has not found its circumstances adequate to its aspirations, and has always been seeking and striving after something higher and better. There is in man a something which is greater and grander than the bodily and circumstantial environment, a something which demands ever more perfect expression — a growing force like that which unfolds the acorn and spreads the ample and perfect tree. This growing force can never be repressed; it makes itself felt in every rank of life. Even the professed materialist, though he would fain secure harmony by trying to stifle this importunate voice and make it move to the slow measure of a humdrum life, is obliged to yield to it when he frames his strange, uncouth theories. It drives him to extremes in his vaunted moderation; he has to be an out-and-out materialist; he must deny everything; and his "atom" assumes the proportions of a deity of the first order. Even the selfish recluse is driven by this ever-aspiring, illimitable fire to actions which frustrate his desired retirement; and, taking a partner to his pleasures, becomes the father of a family, being thus forced by nature's laws which he has invoked to undergo the sacrifices and generous toils of parentship. No one can remain still; all must move in some direction.
Let it be admitted, then, that man is growing; for it is a fact which no one will be disposed to deny, resting as it does upon no dogmatic sanction nor authoritative dictum, but on the observation and experience of all. The next question that arises is: Is there any limit to man's growth?
To this question the members of the Universal Brotherhood Organization answer an emphatic "NO." There is that in us which forbids us to entertain for a moment the idea that we have ceased or can cease growing. Man is full of unrealized aspirations and ambitions, restless and searching as ever; not like an old man, who has learnt all he can for one life and is resting on the fruits of the past, but like a man still young and ambitious. All around us are questions and searchings and strivings; we all feel the approach of a more gladsome day; our present condition is not so comfortable but that we can one and all imagine a better. Looking around upon Nature, teeming with its countless marvels of perfection, wherein the Divine Spirit has expressed Itself in endless and unfathomable beauty and variety, we find man the only incomplete and inharmonious being. The greater part of his wondrous nature remains as yet unexpressed: he is like a plant that has so far produced only leaves; the blossom is still stirring and struggling within, awaiting the day of its unfolding. Man's life is not a perpetual joy, even if it is ever a joy in the true sense of the word. Men have asked, "Is life worth living?" Weary bards have sung odes of woe, and pessimistic philosophers have invented marvelous cut-and-dried schemes of materialism. Religion gives up this life in despair and points to death as the gateway to possible bliss of an uncertain character. A "favored" few spend their days in the fever of pleasure or the monotony of cultured ease, and perchance mistake that for joy; while a far larger host grind an endless mill of labor to feed their bodies, harassed by worry and want.
Is this the goal for which Humanity was placed upon earth? To toil and sweat and snatch his uncertain pleasures at the expense of his neighbor, or to die and go to heaven?
Is it not possible that a day will dawn when man can call himself happy, and sing from his heart, "Verily life is joy?" Will he never finish learning his toilsome and tedious lesson, and become serene and joyous and beautiful like the other products of creation? Will he always be a creature of doubt and despair, anxiety and fear? Why is man so unhappy and discordant in so harmonious and peaceful a universe?
Surely it is because he alone of all creatures is endowed with a free will, an intelligent power of choice. It is this tremendous and hazardous power that makes his life such a critical and significant one. It enables him to overleap the protecting and guiding laws that limit other creatures to their proper and safe spheres, and to rush wildly into adventures in his search for a larger and fuller life. Thus he has strayed away from the peaceful and divine life from which he came and has become lost in the darkness of outer regions, where glimmer the fires of selfish lust and low cunning, where self-seeking and cautious expediency replace holy trust and the certainty of knowledge.
But man has lost paradise only in order that he may regain it, for there is more joy in heaven over one soul that, being lost, has returned, than over many who have never strayed. To quit the joys of an innocent Paradise, to combat evil, and, combatting, to conquer it, and to choose the right — that is man's destiny. He is a divine messenger upon earth, charged with the glorious task of informing and controlling the lower kingdoms of nature. He descends into the nether world, loses for a time his sight of heaven, fights with the lusty dark forces, and finally wins and returns with the spoils of his conquest — a perfect man, having dominion over that which is above and that which is below.
Man's mighty destiny, then, is to regain the knowledge of his soul. By doing so he will unite heaven with earth, for he has explored all the regions of the lower creation until he has identified himself thoroughly with earth. Now he has to regain his original divine and spiritual knowledge, so that he may make a heaven upon this earth; not waste his time in waiting for a dim heaven after death and up in the clouds, but make a heaven here whither he has been sent.
He has to remember that the Soul is immortal, eternal, and that the body is as a garment which suffices for the needs of one day's work. Death must be regarded as a sleeping, for the resting of the Soul, before it resumes in another body its task upon earth. Hence the Universal Brotherhood upholds the forgotten truth of REBIRTH, and seeks to dispel that fatuous delusion which assigns to man but a single short life upon earth, and which makes every question of life seem so difficult and insoluble.
He has to remember that the Soul is ONE and not many. Man has strayed into the life of selfishness, and dwells in a narrow prison-house of self, isolated from the limitless and teeming life around him. He shuts himself up in a little world of his own, feeding on prejudices and caprices and personal aims and desires; this narrow life has grown so familiar to him that he can scarcely imagine a wider. The ideal of unselfishness has been presented to him in an unpalatable form — as a painful obligation, a kind of mortification, a penance undergone in view of possible post-mortem recompense.
The Universal Brotherhood holds up unselfishness as a joy, a liberation, a glorious and happy awakening from troubled dreams. For it means the awakening of the SOUL. When the Soul awakens, man will arise with a shout of joy and say that "Life is Joy." There is a heaven for man, and it is here on earth; it will come when he has realized the fact that all Life is One. The selfish man is a fool, for no joy can penetrate into his narrow cell; the warm, bright glow of Soul-life cannot be felt in any single isolated breast, but must find response in a harmony of human hearts. This is the true "fellow-feeling." Lovers know the joy of escaping from self, when for a time they lose their sense of personal isolation in conscious blending with another soul. This is the ever-present reminder of the far fuller life, the far deeper joys, that await us when we throw aside the intolerable weight of personal life and live for humanity instead of for self. Let that one universally known fact of the lovers' bliss be an example to us of the certain joy and freedom that attends the forgetting of self.
The Universal Brotherhood aims at bringing back into humanity the joy of soul-life. All its efforts and activities are means to that end, and they can all be explained by that one clue. Otherwise they might seem to be diverse and incoherent. Music, the elevation of the drama, the promotion of community-life, the practice of hygienic living, the training of children, the teaching of Rebirth and other half-forgotten truths — all are carried on with this same object in view, to bring back to forlorn humanity the joy of life and the knowledge of its grand and glorious destiny.
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