Today we find ourselves witness to, if not participants in a world-revolution: a revolution so sweeping that no field of experience is left unscathed; whose by-products are wars on the battlefield, but whose core has as central issue the upheaval and overthrow of crystallization in every form: spiritual, intellectual, moral and physical.
Looking back over the past hundred or more years, what do we find? In 1830 Sir Charles Lyell venturing the publication of his Principles of Geology — a work so brashly unconventional as to incite a seething ferment in intellectual circles, the effects of which we are yet experiencing. If not the forerunner, Sir Charles' work was certainly the champion of Darwin's at that time 'shocking' Origin of Species, published in 1859. Two books that today are scarcely read, yet their appearance in the mid-1800's caused no small revolution, for here were scientists, and gentlemen too, daring to undercut the very foundation of religious belief.
A great battle ensued, overturning the crusty earth of complacency, with creed and dogma crashing to the ground. As with all things, the pendulum swung too far, and where for centuries "faith in the Creed" had been a moral safeguard, under the X-ray of scientific inquiry long cherished beliefs were at best ignored, at worst reviled.
The world moves forward, however, despite the habits of men. Toward the end of the century a new impulse was felt throughout the earth. The Piscean Age was closing, the age of Aquarius, symbol of the spirit of universal brotherhood, was on the horizon. With the sun entering the new zodiacal sign, the impact on the world at large was not without effect, for well has Science come to realize that the cycles of the sun, including the sun-spots, play an enormous part in weather, tides, epidemics, and meteorological affairs. If such be true in physical things, may there not be a similar if not greater effect on those currents of energy that affect the spiritual course of man's thinking?
1952 — and what is our legacy? World upheaval, turmoil, and global revolution? In part, yes. Perhaps the citizens of 2052 will be saying the same thing, and again with each new mid-century! The dis-integration, i.e. the separation and bursting apart of long established molds some 100 years ago, has left its mark on the spiritual fabric of the race. The blind faith that had held millions to a sort of negative goodness became in the space of a few years shattered into a thousand fragments, to be replaced by ardent investigation, atheism, with a healthy upturning of spiritual and moral values — all of which is the legacy of the present generation. Is it small wonder that wars have succeeded wars, with ideologies of every sort ruthlessly swept away to be followed by an ever new and more glittering ideology?
Where is man, the common man, throughout this turmoil? Where can he find that inner center of peace, of security, and that ancient faith in the divine goodness of the universe? Has science really gone so far in its development of atomic and nuclear physics that the sense of moral balance has fled the world? Have religionists become so politically minded that they have lost their pristine faith in the ultimate godhood of man? And what of the philosophers? Have they no longer power to integrate rapidly developing science with the plain, old-fashioned morality of religion?
These are the questions that are revolutionizing our thinking in 1952. Yet the citizens of this mid-century have a legacy that carries within it seeds of a spiritual prosperity that will far override the tidal wave of dis-integration, if not destruction. What then is that legacy?
As an individual, man is his own legatee, with the world too the legatee of all that it has experienced through countless centuries in the past. We need not look far in the publications of today to realize that the dis-integration of concept, the separation off into hide-bound cubicles of knowledge, is on the way out. Men of quality, searching for the pattern of truth, are themselves re-integrating their thinking, with firm recognition that neither religion, science or philosophy alone, will ever yield the Whole.
The British Broadcasting Corporation in London is at present running a series of talks, titled "Letters to Posterity," wherein men of varied experience are writing letters to their great-grandchildren 100 years hence. Fortunately, we do not have to wait until 2052 to share the thoughts of these men. Careful study reveals a cross-section of thinking and speculation adding up to one basic theme, that of hope and enlightenment, with a recognition as Dr. Bronowski says that "every great work of the imagination has first outraged the conventions of its time and then re-made them." (Letter — II)
In the third of these Letters, Joyce Cary decries the fact that there is so much talk about "the breakdown of Christian civilization in the West," emphasizing that the very experiences of terror and war, both physical and spiritual, have produced to the advantage of all a "front-line feeling." — Which reminds us of the ancient exhortation to live always as though there were but one day left, with a spiritual expectancy that accompanies the courage to "live on the slopes of death." In other words, the inner revolution that is taking place might well be summed up as a concentration of pressure so forceful that man is compelled to decide between essentials and non-essentials. When the great problems of "front-line" activity fill the heart, there is no room for small issues. An integration of spiritual force, "a drawing together of common fundamental interests," as Cary suggests, is weaving its quiet yet potent magic.
In the first of these Letters, written by Lord Beveridge, a significant paragraph is included. After describing the social changes that are "sweeping enough to be called a revolution," where the sharp distinction between the favored few and the unfavored masses has gone out with the tide, he asks the pertinent question: "How shall we find the right natural leaders in place of the hereditary leaders of the past, for small affairs and for great affairs, for the nation, for the town, for the village? That is a question that many of us are thinking about today."
Then almost as if brushed by the wand of truth he writes:
If there is one gift rather than another that I would like to get now from our fairy godmothers, the natural scientists, it is that they should make it possible for anyone who wanted this, to take his alloted span of life not together and continuously, but partly in short periods spread over centuries. I would gladly give up one of my few remaining years of life if I could turn it into weeks or months spread over intervals from now to your time and beyond. I would love to sleep and wake and open a window to look at you and Newton Aycliffe [a new town called a "unique experiment" in building] again in 2052. The scientists have split the unsplittable atom; it ought not really to be harder to split a man's life for him like this. — The Listener, organ of the British Broadcasting Corporation, London, England, January 3, 1952, page 4.
In a few succinct words, Lord Beveridge has spelled out not only the possibilities but the modus operandi of the soul's immortality. Why should we for the past thirteen to fifteen thousand years have thought that our alloted span of life is concentrated all in the short space of fifty, sixty, or even eighty odd years? What is there to prevent the soul from continuing indefinitely its experiences "in short periods spread over centuries"?
"Oh, you are talking about Reincarnation. Well, I don't go in for that!" you might counter. It hardly concerns Nature whether you or I or anyone else "goes in" for it, the fact of the matter being that Nature does renew her energies in unceasing recurrence of cyclic activity. And with the return of Spring each year, with the resurgence of life in every form and sphere, why should we take it upon ourselves to isolate the human kingdom and declare that "we came here newly created, once and for all, and when death comes that is the end of everything"! Man has been called a conceited animal, but this theory that death of the physical body is the end of the life of the soul is the acme of intellectual egoism.
Fortunately the greatest minds of the centuries have held to views other than this, so that there is a pattern of confirmation stemming from archaic times to the present. That pattern assures the renewal of energy in the human soul, persuading it to take on again and again another birth on earth.
Granting this theory of the rebirth of the soul, what then is man? Is he not truly the legatee of himself? There can be no other answer. He has not only a life-interest in his own estate, but the entire principal is his to spend wisely or foolishly. Some with folly attempt to cash in on their principal, and find themselves born on earth with little to steady them through the upheavals of life. Others with acquisitive and selfish motive have robbed the life-interests, not only of themselves, but of their brothers too, attempting to annex their capital earnings. However, through the process of death following birth, and birth following death, there is a higher tribunal which assures for man a rigid balancing of cause and effect, so that when the final case of each human soul is probated, justice and honor rule.
Man himself, therefore, is his own legacy. He who stores up treasures where moth and rust cannot corrupt is born with a heritage of inner strength that carries him through the tortuous labyrinths of troubled experience. He who plunders his inner resources, and those of others, is born again with sorrow in his heart, but with fresh opportunity to rectify his balance sheet.
So much for the individual. What about the world and its heritage? In the affairs of men, we have reached that crisis when nationalistic, selfish and individual interests must yield before the greater need of global, altruistic and international concerns — a turning point in the history of our civilization which challenges us to weigh well the injunction of Socrates: "I am a citizen, not of Athens, or of Greece, but of the world." No longer dare we live unto ourselves alone, hugging our intellectual and moral concepts at the expense of the views of others. Recognition of world responsibility and the world demand for a re-integration of values is becoming an essential in today's thinking.
But where is today the faith born of knowledge that will insure confidence in our spiritual ability to meet the world challenge? Can we find it in religion; can we find it in the scores of philosophies of East and West; or is science able to provide our need? In any one of those fields our answer could lie, yet each and all prove barren to him who lacks that quality of integration which will see the Whole in the part, and the part in the Whole.
Where then is that thread of truth that has bound the nations of the earth in ages past? Where the Ariadne thread that stretches "without break or flaw, surely and steadily into the very night of time" that will illumine the pattern of world living so that knotted and twisted as it may have been through the labyrinth of human strife, there may yet be discerned its golden sheen?
At the heart of every religion is the self-same pattern of eternity. Those of us who selfishly twist and knot the thread of our weaving see but the torn fragments. Those who look for the thread of gold may glimpse a little of that pattern woven through unnumbered ages by the sacrifice of Christs and Buddhas.
That is a legacy, surely, for which posterity, whether in 2052 or later, might well be grateful.
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