The way to final freedom is within thy SELF. — H. P. Blavatsky in The Voice of the Silence
Age after age heroes have labored, battled, and perished in behalf of the cause of freedom. And now, today, from philosophers, economists, historians, even from fiction-writers, we begin to hear of "the new slavery." What, then, and where is freedom? Who are the free-in-life?
We are obliged to face the fact that there still linger in the world relics of every form of slavery that ever existed. Chattel slavery is largely a thing of the past, but statistics are available as to the number of slaves there still are. Liberty of conscience has been often proclaimed, but there are occasional rumors of differences in religion being used as a means of inciting men to bloody conflict, and is not the cold shoulder of prejudice against the unexamined beliefs of others a husky relic of religious persecution? Women enjoy a tremendous increase in personal liberty, but there is an international organization for the abolition of the white slave traffic. Children may no longer be sold away from their parents, but a newspaper in Shanghai recently reported the horrors of the boy-slavery that industrial enterprises have introduced there.
The "new slavery" is defined by some as the subjection of man to his own labor-saving inventions. Some of these, on account of their ubiquitous vocal suggestion have the power to form molds of mass-thought to imprison men's minds, while others actually threaten to render men superfluous as manual laborers.
Professor Nicolas Berdyaev, author of Freedom and the Spirit and The Meaning of History, predicts a fight to the death between man and the machine. (1) He states that through the triumphs of technical invention man has become a "cosmiurge," with the power to bring on cataclysms that can destroy large numbers of the human race at will; and that only the human spirit, united with God, can safeguard mankind in the present crisis. He declares that conditions cannot return to the way they were before all this mechanization developed, nor can man return to his former state: the time demands a "new man," one taking note of the eternal in himself.
General Smuts, the world-citizen, philosopher, and great statesman of South Africa, in a Rectorial Address in 1935, spoke of the menace to freedom in the world today and called on the youth to awaken to this danger and avert it. General Smuts declared his belief in freedom of thought, speech, and action for the kind of individual who is essential to world-progress, who has "inner freedom," who works for supra-individual purposes and values.
Mr. Gerald Heard, in his Source of Civilization, which has been called "a tract for the times of highest significance," writes that pari passu with man's conquest of objective nature there should be a mastery of man's own inner powers and faculties, an inner technique by which his self-consciousness can grow to include a larger whole than the human individual and deepen the feeling of unity with his fellow-men. In his Science in the Making Mr. Heard declares that granted the superhuman power that man has made his own, the only way he can make the world safe for himself is to find a superhuman purpose.
Theosophy has a direct bearing upon the conclusions reached by these thinkers. It presents a world-order, a hierarchical cosmic system, with which man in his inmost Self is co-eternal. A partaker of the consciousness, will, and compassion that brought forth and guided the manifested universe, man is destined consciously to harmonize his human life here on Earth with the purpose of the superior entity, the larger unit, of which he is an inseparable part. Upon the greater organism and its cosmic purpose is man dependent, as are the lesser lives of any organism. The inner, creative freedom, which is the conscious function of his higher intellectual, spiritual, and divine faculties, man wins by his obedience to the behests of the superhuman, supra-individual, inclusive Being in whom he moves and lives.
The "new man" called for at present is the human being more fully aware of who and what he is. It is the inner world of his own spiritual and divine nature that man must now bring to active function. This greatest of human discoveries will restore the lost balance, will enable man to control and direct for the benefit of all the tremendous forces his inventiveness has liberated, and prevent his becoming a victim of his own creations. "Humanity-minded," and Humanity-hearted must he be, to be safe. The resources of the inner Self of union and will have become a necessity in the face of the dangers we now recognise.
How long, how very long it is that this ancient wisdom of the Great Awakening, the Awakening to the Self, as we find it in The Crest Jewel of Wisdom of Sankaracharya, has been known, at least in the Orient! The loveliest secret that it unfolds is that all selves are rooted in the One Self. The realization of this fundamental unity is the basis for the conscious union of individuals. Only individuals aware of themselves as human, spiritual, and divine entities can unite consciously. The less awakened merge more or less partially in masses easily controlled by outside influences. Only enduring individualities, with a sense of the deeper unity of all, can differ without dividing, can permit or encourage others to develop their own creative faculties, in other words, to be free. To differ without dividing — is not this the key to all our present problems?
Theosophy, in removing the stigma of ape-ancestry from the human being, in showing man's intellectual, spiritual, and divine lineage, clears the channel from the inner source of all that is noblest and strongest in human nature. Too long have men's theories of life, and, perhaps unguessed by them, their relations with their fellows, been colored by this false materialistic teaching. It is unity with the Divinity within that will enable men to exert the cosmically-rooted power and love that shall disarm any merely selfish, however apparently powerful, users of man's conquest of objective nature. Is any one so lost in discouragement as not to have confidence that this can be done?
Theosophy reveals to us all the magic that gives to us the unshakable freedom of the heart. The path destined for awakened individuals, who accept the responsibility of the divinely-descended, leads to inner conquests — to no denial or ignoring of present conditions with all their implications — but to high resolve to bring to bear upon them the luminous forces of the Greater Self, in whom we become the Free-in-Life.
1. The Hibbert Journal, October, 1934: "Man, the Machine, and the New Heroism." (return to text)