It is universal ideals that the world is aching for today. We need to understand as never before that our responsibilities are not for ourselves alone, not for our own countries alone, but for the whole human family. Territory and trade may be much, national honor may be much, but the general salvation of human society here in this world — that is all.
The most vital need of every people on earth is permanent peace, and to get permanent peace we must create and sustain an international spirit or world patriotism which will come as the result of recognition that what affects one nation, affects all; that as far as one ascends towards the peaks of knowledge and well-being, so far all others will follow, and as deep as one may fall away from its ideals and into national selfishness, to that depth or lower in the nature of things the others will be dragged down too; that each nation must partake of the good and bad karma of all.
In a country that based its life wholly on principle and the spirit of human brotherhood, patriotism would be altogether a noble thing, and its aim would not be to set hearts beating at the sound of a drum but to induct all minds into broader conceptions of the meaning of life. Were each nation to cultivate patriotism and national loyalty of that type, the world would soon be united in a universal beneficent system.
The highest law of our being demands that we should build our nations on the rock of that enduring wisdom which belongs to the divine soul of man, and rear up our children accordingly that they and their posterity after them may not know the sorrows we have known, but build on the rich results of our strivings the foundation of the great republic of the soul — that inner republic of which all souls are citizens — that it may be established "on earth as it is in heaven."
But to stand merely and narrowly for one's own country is a suicidal substitute for patriotism. It is, eventually, a poisoning of the supposed object of its devotion because it implies working against the general life and spiritual health of the world, on which the life and spiritual health of each nation depend. We cannot separate ourselves from humanity.
The curse of our nations is separateness. We are separated one from another by the imaginary interests of daily life, and competition carried too far is ringing the death knell of our civilization. Money has become such a power as to make men lose sight of their souls and conscience and forget that they are a part of universal life. Our half-interest in ourselves — devotion to the outward selves and ignoring of the inward and real — closes against us the door to those deeper realms of thought where truth abides, and hides away from us the manifestation of the true and beautiful divinity latent within each. The man whose mind is occupied with trying to get control of others that he may stand before the public as powerful and prosperous — that man is, from his soul's standpoint, in his death throes.
We forget that a future awaits us — verily the gods await us — and that there are more lives to be lived than this one. We ignore the spiritual will in man and that godlike part of our own nature which now more than ever should be brought into action, for this is the beginning of a cycle, a pivotal time in human history. Every age has its keynote: there was a period of political and religious despotism; this is one of inquiry, growth, and doubt. In proportion as we attain understanding of truth now, the evils that afflict the world will be eradicated as the cycle proceeds on its course. We are building the civilization of the future, and it is the first duty of the race today to see that the building is nobly done.
Link to picture of The Permanent Peace Committe, Temple of Peace, Point Loma, July 1923 (names of individuals given)
What is the meaning of all this insidious propaganda, this urging upon us of armed peace and preparation for war, this constant insistence on the fallacy that man, to hold his place, must stand ready to resist his fellowmen by violence? To me it is one of the most terrible things in the world to hear it said that good can result from slaughter, or that it is possible to adjust rightly the conditions of the world by infringing on human rights.
Have we not seen how quickly the psychological influence of evil and selfishness can sweep over a whole continent, how easily the mind of a nation can be diverted from right channels into wrong? It would be better for the peoples of the earth to sink into sleep and never see the sun again, than to permit another war such as that we have recently suffered. Hatred begets hatred, and brutality begets brutality; and though we had colossal intellects and all the wealth of the world, we could not bend the divine laws of nature to our desire.
Fear and apprehension of war are becoming a chronic disease among all so-called civilized peoples: an old disease that hangs on and will never be healed until the world discovers the secret of true patriotism. There is no nobility in fear. It is a thing born wholly in the realms of personality, smallness, and selfishness, and has nothing to do at all with the higher self which is the hero in man. No individual and no nation can make the slightest progress upwards until fear has been eliminated from his or its being. For the great power of the divine universe is in every human heart, even the most wretched and unfortunate, and it does not take a lifetime, it does not take a year, for a man to discover the god within himself. If he has the courage to face the issues he may find it in a moment of time.
Losing sight of the eternal in the transient, we fail to find the meaning of life. Had men discovered their true humanity, they would know that brute force can never, by any chance, under any circumstances, win any single real victory or anything profitable at all. Winning by it, we lose; its victories are our worst defeats. It is the ignorance and timidity of the age that hamper us, and both can be traced back to heredity and the long generations of the past. Each man and each nation is an epitome of all humanity, and the disastrous belief in separateness proves that our gaze is wholly turned away from the real and fixed on the objective plane.
There is but one true and legitimate battlefield: the mind of man, where the duality of our nature keeps us constantly at the only rightful war there is — the war of the god in us against the lower self. The kingdom of heaven is within, and no one is so far from the light and the truth that he cannot turn tomorrow and find it.
We have come to be overweighted with our exterior and worldly interests and have lost that natural human equilibrium by which we might live undisturbedly in the spiritual side of our nature, making our minds subservient to our real selves and using them as a means of service and growth. For we should regard the idea of adjusting national differences by brute force as an insult to the dignity of spiritual manhood. We should see that the men we train for war — and whether we or they know it or not, humiliate in the training — might be trained wonderfully for peace instead: to be statesmen and teachers, the efficient guardians of their nations' peace.
We should no longer seek, as we have been doing for ages, to arm ourselves against our neighbors. Our whole care should be to protect our neighbors against our own lower selves. Cultivate a fear of invasion and you are moving far away from justice, far away from duty. Those against whom we work up our propagandas of hatred, and who may be made our enemies tomorrow, are our brothers, and there is a way to reach them — and it is not by force or menace or insult or the psychological suggestion created by piling up armaments. We have our brain-mind plans, our guns and ships and fortresses, we have our youth trained for battle and restless under the enforced inactivity of circumstance, and it is all a challenge and a daring of foreign countries. We dare and incite them to come over and test us; we announce to them our opinion that we and they are equally blind.
The soul of a nation — the living essence of its being — is the aggregation of its thoughts, feelings, actions, and ideals, backed by the divine quality of the god within. To the degree that the people of any country nourish their national soul with thought of that spiritual and godlike kind, to that degree their country is protected, impregnable, beyond the reach of violation. Hug to your mind and heart the old contemptible fallacy that moral victories can be won by force and you will go on being duped by foolishness and creating misery for yourself by sowing the seeds of war.
Nation against nation, brother against brother, and family against family, we shall always be at warfare as long as we place dependence on our lower natures — on physical force or on the selfish interest — for the adjustment of those affairs which can be settled only by the spiritual side of man's nature. Century after century men have been living in ignorance and with faces turned away from the universal plan of life, which is brotherhood — an ideal we might uphold, one would think, with at least half the interest we take in our narrow nationalisms and preoccupations with war. The influence of the past lies dark on the present. For ages humanity has been accustoming itself to un- brotherliness, selfishness, and injustice, and men have been growing, not nearer together, but farther apart.
This is true of all, so that when war breaks out we have no right to blame this or that man or nation. We must do away with this sitting in judgment on our neighbors if we are to find the divine light in ourselves. We cannot draw upon, we cannot support or awaken the soul in our own nation while our minds are so busied concerning themselves with the supposed faults and various failings of some other nation. Those who have learned to distinguish between the mortal and the immortal within themselves are the most charitable people on earth: they know how easy it is for one unacquainted with his own divine nature to drift in the wrong direction.
Self-analysis should bring us to an inexhaustible compassion. We should have it in mind always that every living thing is an expression of the infinite, no matter what its outward aspects may be. Our supposed enemies, or the men or nations that we blame, have been educated, as we have, to look on life wholly from the outside. It has been impressed on us all, generation by generation, till the taint runs in our very blood and being, that conquest by force is sometimes possible and legitimate. And now we have quite forgotten the spiritual powers by which alone success can be achieved.
What wonder that we have grown so prone to war-fevers, and that these brutal tendencies so easily overmaster us that we know no way to defend our rights or arrange our differences but — perhaps after a little quarrelsome brain-mind argument — by having recourse to all the chaos and agony in which thousands of lives are snuffed out in the twinkling of an eye? And all the while the two sides pray the one against the other, each seeking to make omnipotence and infinity its accomplice in the horror and in every manner of force.
We might attain vision of eternal existence by penetrating beyond the mind to the real self within, by finding there the conscious power that will carry us away from the sense-life and over the high walls of the mind. None of the great world problems can be solved by mere cleverness. In the direction of the mind our powers are always and necessarily limited. That is not the part of us which is immortal or without bounds. Therefore war cannot be abolished by argument or political intrigues or manipulations, but only by bringing to bear on our international questions the instincts and inspirations of that divinity which stands now in the background of human consciousness awaiting the summons of a humanity at last grown aware of the tremendous dignity of being human.
The divine laws are greater than human laws. They are permanent and eternal and there is no change in them: political systems do not touch them nor sectarian influences corrupt. Right thought and action can lift us for the time being, always, onto the plane of the soul, and when we are there we are raising the whole human race towards the level of its rights, possibilities, and spiritual heritage. If we can so easily be carried away by these war-fevers and psychological waves of confusion, why should we not be lifted by the opposite kind of force to heights of clear discrimination, and in place of finding flaws in foreign countries and preparing for wars with them, set ourselves to clearing of their weeds the gardens of our own countries' lives?
No man can take a step forward towards the goal of human perfection without becoming aware that hundreds are on the way who started before him and are now in advance. He cannot see them with his eyes, but is aware of their companionship. The light that made brilliant every golden age of the past is still discoverable; for men and nations alike, every tomorrow may be a new day, a royal day of conquest, and the beginning of a progress that will never end.
The hidden truth about us is that we do love our neighbor as ourselves, though we have not found the way to express the love which we do not even know exists. But it is there: the love of our fellows sleeps latent in our hearts with the deity that watches there. Though we are quite unconscious of it, our very humanity implies its existence. It is in the inmost depths of the nature even of the most brutal and debased: in us, and equally in those whom tomorrow we might come to look on as our enemies, whom we would kill, and delight in killing, were war declared. For wherever human life is, there the god is seeking its expression. As it begins to push and urge itself through the mind and into the life of us, we shall see the light of it grow ever brighter and brighter in the world, until we too may echo the spirit of its grandeur and be clothed in the glory of those who have preceded us on the way.
(From Sunrise magazine, April/May 1998. Copyright © 1998 by Theosophical University Press)
Let thy Soul lend its ear to every cry of pain like as the lotus bares its heart to drink the morning sun.
Let not the fierce Sun dry one tear of pain before thyself hast wiped it from the sufferer's eye. — H. P. Blavatsky, The Voice of the Silence