Modern men and women, both older and younger, form a generation which we can, I believe, adequately describe as "a lost generation"; and the cause of it, the reason for our mental wanderings and emotional gropings, is the loss of our understanding and hold of a common or universally accepted ethical and intellectual standard. This is shown by the babel of voices surrounding us everywhere, by the hungry human hearts, and even by the eager human minds searching for Truth and not knowing where to find it, nor its guidance: human minds searching for a sufficient and satisfying inner light, for something that will guide us in solving the problems facing us. We are, indeed, a lost generation, and it is not the youth only who are "lost." Elders and youth are both lost in this sense; in fact it is the elders who are even more perplexed than are the youth of today. Our whole generation is blind, walking in darkness, not knowing whither to turn for the longed-for light; and the babel of voices that arises from the immense human crowd is something frightening and significant in its clamor and confused insistence upon panaceas and nostrums of various kinds, political and otherwise.
One hearkens vainly while lending an ear to this turbulent babel, which too often is mere babble, in order to find constructive suggestions which are of universal application. It is rare indeed to hear voices speaking with the authority of knowledge; and I will venture to suggest the reason of it all.
If there is a common struggle or fight in progress and you go down into the arena of turmoil definitely intending to fight those already fighting there, and to outshout them, the chances are small that what you have to say will receive attention; the probability is that you are going to be hurt. This is because the would-be reformer simply descends to the level of the shouting squabblers. Such is not the manner by which to bring about anything that is universally and definitely constructive in idea, or attractively new or helpful, or that will explain and solve the problems causing the universal disturbance. You are simply descending into the battle yourself, trying to overcome violence with violence, force with force; and this procedure never has succeeded, and I venture to say that it never will.
This does not mean to imply that force is always to be ignored in human relations. Sometimes it is necessary wisely albeit kindly to use force, but always without violence and in order to overcome an evil. Such employment of force or power should always be a merely temporary event or procedure, and should never be used save in an impersonal and upright manner, and for a good cause, and for the common weal. Justice to all is never to be gained by descending into the arena of battle and "fighting it out" there. Justice is rarely gathered into pockets, so to say; and very rarely indeed is it wholly on one side of a question.
Our generation is lost, intellectually and morally, because it has lost its vision. "Without a vision the people perish" — an old Hebrew saying based on a comprehensive view of human psychology as demonstrated in history, and therefore a saying which is full with truth. It is invariably a vision or an idea, or a body of ideas, which guides men upwards to glory or downwards to the pit; for Plato was fully right: it is ideas which make or unmake civilizations, build up or overthrow established institutions; and it is just grandly universal ideas, and the will to follow them — ideas and ideals which all men feel to be true and inerrant from truth — which men today lack. It is just because men today lack vision, i. e. an inner knowledge of the right thing to do, of a clear way out of their troubles, that as nations we are where we now are.
We are now at the end of one form of civilization, which, like the Roman Empire in its time, has reached its term, its breaking-up, and we are facing the opening measures of the cosmic drama which is now coming in. It will depend upon the innate wisdom and sense of high justice inherent in men's hearts and minds, whether our present civilization will go down in blood and despair, or whether it will take breath and time in order to recover itself: whether, with the dawning of a new intellectual and moral perception of justice and reason, it will stop its descent down the declivity and begin to rise to new heights overtopping the finest that as yet racially we have attained. This latter can be done; and it is man's higher nature only, his intuitions and instincts for justice and reason, nothing else, that will bring it to pass with surety: man's innate sense of justice, his inherent sense of right, and the common recognition that reason and not violence is the way out — and upwards to safety, peace, and progress.
History with its silent but tremendously powerful voice shows us, as we hearken to its mandates, that there is absolutely no other way out for us; that there is no other complete solution, nor one which will be satisfactory to all types of human minds, to all types of human character. Freedom for all; each people seeking its own salvation on its own lines, but in ethical directions accompanied by reason and a desire to do justice. Even an enlightened self-interest, with its always keen eye for individual advantage, must see the universal benefits and securities of such a plan. All stable human institutions are founded on these intuitions and instincts, and upon naught else; for were it otherwise, then our sense of order and law, our very respect for our courts of law, international or national, were collectively a monstrous deception, and an ignominious and miserable farce; and all sane men realize that our laws are based on the rules of justice and impartial reason, tempered with impersonal mercy.
I am not one of those gloomy pessimists who say that man is but a "poor worm," with instincts born of his association with dust, and intuitions that are unfounded in fact, and that therefore he cannot solve his problems adequately. He can indeed solve them if he has the will so to do. We are indeed approaching the end of our civilization, and are fascinated and hold our breath as we watch the phenomena of its breaking up; but all too often we forget that this has been a civilization of matter almost wholly, where things of matter often counted as the only ones permanently worth while. There are no longer new lands to which we may send our young people to colonize, for they all have been pre-empted or taken. The rule of force and of material values has prevailed almost universally, rather than the rules of international justice and common human rights. For 1800 years, more or less, it has been the rule: let everyone grab what he may; let everyone hold what he can. The conduct of the peoples of the earth has been largely based on this purely materialistic and selfish foundation. We sowed the wind; we are now as a body of spiritually bankrupt peoples reaping the whirlwind.
Is it not time that the more far-seeing and superior minds of the world should see to it that calmness and reason and impartial justice shall henceforth prevail? Is there any other and better way out of our troubles and difficulties than by solving them wisely? The only way by which they may be solved is by reason, by justice. If men deliberately refuse to listen to reason, if men deliberately refuse to wish or to will to do justice, then it seems certain that down we shall go, and our civilization, our great cities and the manifold works and labors of millions of hands through the years, shall be dust and ruined heaps. There would seem to be no other way out; no god will step into the arena of human pain and wilful ignorance and pull us wretched mortals out of the world-mess that we have created for ourselves, mostly through rabid self-interest and through our wilfully turning away from the paths of justice and peace. We alone must save ourselves; and when we begin to do this in the manner pleasing to the higher Powers, then we shall make an undeniable appeal for their aid and guidance; and we shall receive it. Hercules helps the wagoner, indeed; but only when the wagoner begins to help himself — and in the right way.
It is the sheerest foolishness and the most blatant of all ethical and intellectual poppycock to aver that man's destiny, now that the waste places of the earth have been taken, is blocked; that there is no future for those who were not "in at the beginning." Such an attitude is contradicted by every page of the annals of universal history. We must remember that no thing, no human institution, is unchangeable, eternally the same; and that the shifting and continuously varying scenes of human history in the past — a certain fact of truth — promise that the future will be as full as the past has been with the shifting of cosmic scenery, and the changing of human interests and fields of activity. The greatest peoples of the earth have not been those possessing the greatest extent of territory, but precisely those who have been the foremost in the reception of ideas and in the application of progressive ideas to the upbuilding of human institutions based on and usually proclaiming, if not, alas, always following, the ideals of impersonal justice and trained reason; for these are spiritual qualities — which in fact are universal.
Let us fill our hearts with eternal gratitude to the watching though silent Cosmic Powers, that the horizons now before us as men in all parts of the earth, and without distinction of race or creed, are spiritual and intellectual horizons, beyond which there are for us unknown regions of infinitely vast extent waiting conquest by human genius, when we shall give rein to the instincts and intuitions of the human soul. Look then at what lies before us if we will to bring justice unmotivated by self-interest, and the love of honor and truth, to work amongst us!
One of the main causes, and perhaps the foremost cause, of our troubles, both national and international, is that men commonly, with many grand exceptions, however, are still holding to the belief in force, in violence, as being the way to solve our troubles. Such procedure never has succeeded permanently, and never will. Violence breeds violence; violence grows by violence. Hatred breeds hatred; selfishness breeds other selfishness.
It is one of the objectives, let me say duties, of the Theosophical Movement to show men the simple precepts of reason; that life should be governed by the grand ethical instincts of the human soul, which are based on no human conventions but on the orderliness of Nature's own structure and processes. Out of these ethical instincts spring the directing precepts of reason and our will to do justice, teaching us that the "way out" lies within ourselves: not in our armies nor in our navies, nor in all the dreadful methods of mutual destruction which man's evil genius has invented. These last are not even temporary remedies and bring no satisfactory adjusting of troubles. At best, the machinery of defence should be used as police machines; for then their use becomes justified, because then they would be employed in the cause of justice and used with reason only.
Our problems will never be solved by our mad rush in competitive armament, bringing about universal distrust, fear, anxiety, and crushing the peoples with taxation which threatens to grow beyond their power to meet, and almost making them hate the conditions under which they live their lives. It is the old folly, now recognised by all, to argue that by piling up armaments and inventing new devices of horrible destruction, and by increasing the use of violent force, by and by war will become so horrible that men will shrink in fearsome terror from it. Of all the fallacies and stupid arguments, this is the worst that has ever been inflicted on the suffering minds of mankind.
You will never succeed in stopping war by organizing yourselves into associations or societies swearing to refuse service to your government, and defying it in case of war. That procedure, in my judgment, is abominably wrong. We may admire the idealistic courage and ideal thoughts of the young men and women who, it seems, are doing this. But they overlook the fact that they are merely announcing their declaration to declare war of a kind upon their own government and country, if war should come, thereby introducing disorder and intestine strife among themselves.
Let the youth of the different peoples of whatever country set the example of fidelity and loyalty, each youth to his own government, thus proving the strength and worth of the moral ideal of citizenship; yet, on the other hand, as the world badly needs the idealisms and chivalry resident in the younger generation, let youth express these likewise by raising its voice loud and insistent, powerfully declaring itself for universal justice and reason, and do so by the measures of established law. In this manner, the voice of the world's youth will penetrate into all places, closed and open; for their insistence upon their rights as the coming generation soon to shoulder the burthen of the older, will reach sympathetic ears too numerous to count. Novus ordo saecloruml
I should like to see complete disarmament of the peoples take place, by mutual compact and convention, to be replaced by an international navy, officered and manned by men drawn in rotation from the different maritime or even inland peoples of the globe, and trained for this purpose. I should like to see the armies of the world reduced to relatively small national police forces solely. The duties of the international navy would be the policing of the seas, the repressing of piracy, and the making of the high seas and coastal waterways safe for the commerce of the peoples of the world. There is not one thing to prevent this double achievement of human constructive genius — except a psychology which everyone detests and all fear; a psychology that has merely grown up to be a habit of human thinking.
One may pray and hope that the prominent men in the world today, those who hold the destinies of the peoples more or less in their hands, will hearken, will listen, to the heart-beat, the unexpressed and growing Will of the peoples for a permanent solving of their troubles. If they do so, the names of these men will go down in history; they will be remembered not so much by statues and monuments in stone, but their names will be emblazoned in perpetuity in the perduring fabric of human hearts. Their memory shall remain for ages to come as the fire of love and gratitude burning in human hearts.
Again I repeat: a Brotherhood of the Peoples based on reason and justice, and functioning for the common good, for the progress of all, is both practicable and practical, and will some day be seen to be inevitable. Why not therefore lay the foundations of it Now!