The Theosophical Forum – April 1937


Dear Editors: May we have a statement of what Theosophy explains about the evils resulting from capital punishment? M. P.


The real reason we have capital punishment is because enough determined men and women haven't yet faced up to the problems of our civilization. By civilization we mean the natural compromises and agreements which any community of clans or groups eventually evolve to meet the necessities and problems of their common situation. And no civilization is a true one which leaves the worst half of those problems unsolved. Our penal system and all that it involves is simply a disease of modern industrial civilization. It is due to unhealthy conditions and our failure to eliminate them. Criminals are sick men and women — acute and chronic cases which result from this failure.

The complete facts, however, as Theosophy can explain, are far more serious than we imagine. For the disease is a psychological one. There is a secret psychological infection widespread in our modern world which is directly due to the practice of capital punishment. What is the state of most criminals as they sit helplessly awaiting execution? Hatred, horror, a desperate craving for life and for revenge upon society, a swarm of unsatisfied appetites — what a picture! And it is this fearful complex of evil that we eject violently — where? Believe me, in the words of Hamlet — that is the question.

Theosophy explains that when a human being is cut off from life artificially — he is not dead. Death is the beneficent process by which Mother Nature gently disrobes her tired children of their mortal garments, so that they may pass into freedom and rest. And one of these garments is made of the earthly dross of our mental and emotional natures. With our selfishness and egoistic passions we have woven about ourselves an ugly vesture that must be done away with before the Spirit-soul can be free.

But when a man is killed before his time Nature has nothing to do with it, for his normal store of vitality has not been exhausted. We have simply deprived him of his physical body. The disimbodied man (for it is not the body that is the man but his feelings and his mind) — that disimbodied man still lives. Where? Why, in our mental atmosphere of course, the same as before — where you and I live our daily lives of thought and feeling. But now, while he is yet seething with evil passions — he has no body of his own to gratify them. So naturally he seeks or is automatically drawn into the mental and emotional atmosphere of his own kind. And here through the urge of his cravings he has an influence even more dangerous than in his past life because it is unsuspected by its victim. The only gratification he can know is in goading other weaklings into self-indulgence or violence. Thus he may commit fresh crimes through suggestion for which others must suffer. Many a criminal has protested that he does not know why he so acted. He was urged by something outside of himself. And still we ignore this warning. Then there are the condemned, often the young, who are not naturally evil but are the victims of their untrained impulses. These may sincerely repent. But after execution they must still be earth-bound and their horror and remorse add to the intensity of these dark currents surrounding and penetrating human life.

Wherever there is war and bloodshed, violence or crime, or any other hotbed of human passions, at that emotional vortex swarm hosts of these unnaturally disimbodied creatures. Our prisons attract them. There these diseased souls congregate like a pest of microbes spreading moral and mental contagions. Do you wonder that in our large cities we have "crime waves'? That it is almost impossible to touch the hearts of criminals to reform? — or for the matter of that to arouse the conscience of normal men and women to the horrors of war and prison conditions and other equally festering plague-spots in human society? We live, unless we are aware of our danger, in an atmosphere more or less saturated with the mental and emotional outpourings of such disimbodied but still intensely active beings. Of course the truly good and pure are protected to a great extent by their virtue. Still . . .?

If the statistics of crime were compiled with these teachings in view we should certainly uncover some lurid data. Capital punishment may seem to be the easiest way out but — can civilization afford to take this chance? What Theosophy is doing about our crime-problems will be presented in the next issue.

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