One of our readers has presented us with a question which I paraphrase as follows:
"I am presuming, after reading the first three issues of your magazine, that you are attempting to maintain an editorial policy that is non-sectarian, non-political, and without prejudice toward any race, creed or color; and from the tone of the articles that have appeared thus far you are advocating universal brotherhood. With this in mind, what is your position, then, in the light of brotherhood, with regard to Communism in the world today? How are you to reconcile these two things and remain non-political?"
Our reader has presumed correctly. It is our policy to be un-sectarian, non-political, and to present our thoughts without prejudice toward any race, color or creed; and our hope is to share with all some practical thoughts regarding the altruistic inclinations of the human family, and in so doing promote the realization that brotherhood is not only a fact in nature, but is an attainable end for us all consciously to strive for.
We realize full well the razor's edge that divides the true from the false — facts versus appearances: while we are non-political, non-sectarian, etc., we must not allow ourselves to be non-spiritual. We dare not, as has been done so often in the past, tread the pathway toward brotherhood with rose-colored glasses, and kid ourselves into believing black is white. Life today, more than ever, is geared to a realism, spiritual as well as material, that reaches far beyond what is nominally called the letter of the law. We find ourselves at a point in the progress of civilization when we must strain every fiber of our moral constitutions in order to recognize that razor's edge of discrimination, not only between good and evil that is the religionist's limited goal, but between all positive and negative forces, whether they be ethical, philosophic or scientific, political or racial.
What principle, then, can we use in our efforts to discern the line of demarcation? There is a simple one, and we think it is this: any effort, any ideology, any political platform, any racial goal, that has as its objective, whether stated in words or observed in actions, the benefit of the whole of mankind, we can consider to be a contribution to the advance of civilization. Nationalism as well as ideologies of any kind can always be judged by their works — "by their fruits ye shall know them." I do not mean by this that there should not be a national pride and a national effort — not at all. Each nation has been born and has grown into what it is, just as each individual is born and grows, evolving, developing and strengthening an inherent characteristic which represents its individual contribution to the welfare of the whole, remaining not as a separated entity, but as a contributive element to the growth of civilization itself.
We have all seen in the history of the centuries, as well as in the events of the past few decades, efforts that have sprung from a beginning of altruistic statements which kindled the power of a people's imagination to the degree that a great strength was developed, but in no long time the selfish side of human nature took control. Instead of utilizing the power attained for the benefit of the whole, it has been used to establish a self-centered dictatorship which attempted to regiment the moral, civil, and intellectual life of the individual, and which history has proven fed only the flames of a self-consuming separateness that ended in disintegration and obliteration.
The world is faced today with that same quality of aggressive effort to compel the acceptance of a perverted altruism which if accomplished would forestall the progress of civilization for aeons to come. The danger we face is not from the originally stated altruistic aims, nor from any honest errors of judgment that may result in wrong action. The greatest danger lies in the path of compromise — compromise with the evil forces that ever seek to substitute the false for the true, the selfish for the unselfish. True, progress is attained through the principle of compromise — for we must learn to give and take in order to attain that brotherhood we seek — but it is never attained through the compromise of principle. Mr. Paul G. Hoffman, now director of the Ford Foundation, hit the nail squarely on the head in a talk before the Bond Club in Los Angeles, California, on Dec. 14, 1950: "You cannot compromise with the forces of evil." As the late Senator Arthur Vandenberg said, "Appeasement is just surrender on the installment plan." Mr. Hoffman made it clear that the forces of progress could survive a tactical defeat, but that they could never survive the sacrifice of principle. In this he defined the touchstone of true progress.
Now where does brotherhood fit into all of this? Let me ask in turn: where would brotherhood fit into the picture of any of our large cities if one were to say: "Well, we are all brothers, brotherhood is a fact in nature — we shall do away with our police force and live happily ever after." We all know what would happen. That is not being brotherly. Would you or I, if a thief came in the night, and in the course of his plundering attempted to harm or kill a loved one, say: "Oh, he is my brother, I cannot do anything about it." That would be compromising with principle. The drug addict or the alcoholic are our brothers also, but does that mean that we should become drug addicts or alcoholics too? Of course not. We have got to be realistic and honest, and uncompromising in the true spiritual sense, and recognize the weaknesses as well as the strong points in human nature, whether they find expression in the individual, in the family, or in the nation. We cannot condone or acquiesce in any action that makes an effort to benefit one at the expense of another, whether that action be moral, political, racial, religious, or what not. Such action automatically marks itself as negative and destructive.
Yes, brotherhood is an ideal situation to look forward to, but it will not come about in a decade, or for many, many centuries perhaps. Truth will have its ups and downs; but never to lose sight of that razor's edge and make the effort to the best of our ability to discriminate between the spiritual and the non-spiritual is our task as individuals and as nations. There is no doubt that the Russian people themselves will one day be free, and again take their rightful place as a collective group of nationals giving the world the benefit of the positive and constructive elements of their essential characteristics, which are a necessary part of the whole. But we cannot compromise to the slightest degree, even in thought, with the elements that are at present attempting to dictate the destiny of those people. I think that the world is in a position today to look up rather than down, to feel encouraged rather than discouraged. Because our newspapers are filled with tragedy daily, and the news generally seems to be of a disheartening nature, we miss at times the signposts here and there which are pointing to the fact that beneath and surrounding all of this so-called tragedy there is true progress being made, and that the inner character of the world's citizen is beginning, however dark the pre-dawn period, to approach a sunrise that will brighten the dark corners that are so evident. One of the signposts to which I refer is the Christmas Message of Juliana, Queen of The Netherlands. I quote:
When we reflect on the Christmas story, all words become silenced by the Word that became flesh. But who has understood that message? Judging by worldly standards, everything seems to point against any understanding of it. And yet, there are always those whose ears are vigilant to catch some touch of the marvelous.
Not only do I wish for us all that this Word may sound in our ears, but that we may also know how to listen; that Christmas will not be but a passing mood, of a few days. Rather do I wish that every one of us may feel the certainty that there is a path leading away from all distress, a path illuminated by the Light that will penetrate every dark corner.
This path leads always away from selfishness, the origin of all evil on this earth, and leads to liberation, not only of our innermost self, but of the world. No matter how much pain it may cause us now to tear ourselves away from ourselves, there is no other path if ever our souls shall breathe fully and in freedom.
All who understand what sacrifice means, understand also the thousandfold reward thereafter. We are not in the world for ourselves, but for each other. All that we do for ourselves is useless: all one does for another has value. This holds good with individuals as well as with groups of men, nationally and internationally.
Now, and in 1952, it is of the greatest moment that each power-station, and by that I mean each human being, works at fullest capacity. Truly, 1952, will need all hands on deck.
Alert to the signposts of a new day, with a sincere desire on the part of each one of us to give his small share to the common good, we will then add strength to that universal reservoir of faith that will hasten the era when brotherhood will become a realized factor in the lives of all men and in the relationships between all nations.
(From Sunrise magazine, January 1952; copyright © 1952 Theosophical University Press)