In all ages men of kindred persuasion and convictions have banded together into groups, setting themselves apart from the masses. Similarity of religious beliefs or educational background, experience on the field of battle or in some disaster, membership in the same profession or occupation, have brought people closer together. Common tests or experiences create a kinship among men which welds them together in the bonds of union and friendship. Thus so-called brotherhoods are formed whose members consider themselves under special obligation to each other.
Brotherhood, as generally understood, implies a common parentage. Blood relationship forms a mystic tie which generally resists the onslaughts of all adversaries. No human ties exceed in strength the ties of blood. Brothers and sisters may quarrel among themselves, but let one of them be attacked by a stranger and all the rest will hasten to his or her defense.
These are the limited phases of brotherhood which need no further elaboration. They are confined to comparatively small groups which hold themselves more or less aloof from the rest of the human family. Generally the human animal, especially in urban society, cares little for his neighbor's problems. Each faces his own trials in the struggle for existence. The best exhibition of human selfishness can be seen during rush hours in public conveyances or in a crowded public place in time of panic. In the latter case, during the resulting stampede for exits, the fallen will be trampled ruthlessly under foot. The instinct for self-preservation overshadows all other considerations. In the herd many of us have not yet risen far above the level of the beast.
But let us not be too severe in our judgment of the human race. Normally there is stirring within the human soul a divine spark which lifts man above and sets him apart from all other forms of life. In all its forms, life is a manifestation of the all-embracing and dynamic Cosmic Spirit. But no other form of life has reached the heights of understanding attained by man's intellect.
Brotherhood goes far beyond the ties of blood and friendship. It has its roots deep in the evolutionary process of organic life. The evolution of life, from its very beginning on our earth, has depended upon cooperation for its survival and further development. It is through cooperation between individual cells that the thousands of different species of plant and animal life have developed. It is through cooperation between organized groups of cells that the human body came to be what it is today. By cooperation human society has developed the codes of ethics by which we live. Cooperation is the outward manifestation of the Creative Life Force which dwells within the human soul. This is the unifying bond which welds the human race into one great brotherhood — the lofty aspiration of all good men.
This bond is the source of strength and devotion which impels the surgeon to repair a shattered limb when amputation would be easier. It is this bond which induces us to save the life of a fallen foe in battle when shortly before we tried to annihilate him. In a thousand ways at every hour of the day and night this overpowering urge, called love, saves lives or alleviates suffering. For love it is which cements all mankind into one vast brotherhood.
There is a still deeper significance to this love born of cooperation. It extends even beyond the human race to every form of life. How else can we explain the love with which the gardener cares for his flowers and plants? He may be unaware of the reason why he marvels at the sprouting seed or of the Power which drives him to toil in the field. The same impulse is behind the care and affection we bestow on our pet animals and the deep sorrow we experience when they die. There is more to life than appears on the surface. There is a kinship between all living things. From the humble blade of grass to the majestic oak, from the single-celled amoeba to the complex organism of the human body, within all breathes the unifying and life-giving Spirit we call God.
(From Sunrise magazine, July 1954; copyright © 1954 Theosophical University Press)