What is it that Sunrise has hoped to accomplish? The fostering of a sense of oneness in spirit, of empathy, with everything that lives and breathes — and more especially with our human brothers — has been in the forefront of our interest. That this is a long-range goal is self-evident; but is there a worthier ideal to work for than universal brotherhood as a practical reality and not merely a noble dream?
What do we envision today when we speak of universal brotherhood? The hoped-for condition where all nations and races would continue their own lines of development, worship after their own fashion, administer in freedom their affairs, social and political, and yet, as human beings, feel inwardly linked by the powerful bonds of an inner oneness of origin, children of the divine sun who is our common parent. It all sounds so simple and natural that one wonders why the idea has never achieved the support it merits. If a census were taken of the deepest hopes of every man and woman on our globe, an overwhelming majority would say: give us peace, give us a world order that is benevolent and just to all, and we will abide by it.
Or would we? Maybe we think we would, but can we be so sure that when it comes to the actual living of our ideals we would make the required sacrifices? To begin with we would have to jettison our prejudices, for neither strong aversions nor strong preferences have any place where genuine accord is the goal.
The dream of a world where people of different ethnic, social, and religious origins might live under one universal law of harmony and justice is not new with us; it has been a recurrent ideal of the ancient world with varying degrees of realization in Sumer, China, India, and Egypt, as well as in Greece, Rome, and other civilizations.
A look at history may be salutary, especially where the tumultuous succession of outer events was often so disruptive that then, as now, the cry for a brotherhood, a union of peoples, was heard throughout the known world. I think particularly of 4th century bce Greece, of Alexander the Macedonian. Despite the terror of his exploits and his unwarranted acts of violence, he carried with him the dream of one world, of a brotherhood of peoples who would live together as equals, citizens of one commonwealth. The Greeks called it homonoia — of one mind or nous, a “union of hearts” as some translate the term. Later the Roman Stoics saw in the Ideal State of Zeno, the Greek founder of their philosophy, the universalizing influence that could touch people’s souls everywhere. They stressed the oneness of all, not for political gain but because they saw human beings as sparks of the one Mind-essence, the Mind-fire or divine Intelligence that ignited the whole of cosmos into life and consciousness. We see the ideal come forth with Ammonius Saccas and his theosophic school in 3rd century Alexandria, as well as with Jesus, who more than any other in those immediate centuries would demonstrate by his life that the 11th Commandment could work if people would but grasp its beauty and apply its saving principle.
What has prevented this noble ideal from taking solid root? Human nature changes slowly, often to our despair — but also to our benefit, odd as this may sound, for we are compounded not only of failings: our strengths equally endure. Fortunate it is that inborn in the soul is an infallible touchstone by which we may test what is essentially sound and what is false; more, what is inwardly right for us, and what is not. We dare not overlook the potency of free choice. What individual’s genius is so superlative that he can impose his will — however glorious a vision he may have — upon other human beings with impunity?
The weakness of the homonoia of the Greeks, of the Ideal State of the Stoics, of the eclectic theosophical system of Ammonius, or again of the brotherhood fostered by every well-intentioned organization even today, does not lie in the principle of unity but in its adherents. Brotherhood, harmony in thought and deed, sincere respect among individuals, nations, and races, cannot be imposed from without. It has to grow quietly, individually, in the silence of the soul. Every human being, then, is as deeply responsible as every other to weed out his own tares of ambition and self-seeking and to see that the seed of universalism is nurtured by the sunlight of altruistic purpose.
We are all inextricably linked together. What an Alexander or Ammonius does, what you and I think and do in the small circle of our personal lives, leaves its impress on the inner currents of world-consciousness. The memory bank of the soul — and of our earth-being as well — retains for all futurity the quality of our thoughts, our aspirations, our lofty as well as our mean desires. What we have laid up in the treasury of ourselves in former eras, wherever we were incarnated — in Greece, Iceland, or China, Africa or Peru — is with us now, prodding, illuminating, guiding.
Today it is as though the longing of the countless millions of human souls who have ever yearned in past lives for a universal concord of peoples is demanding that this time we make it work. “I and Thou are One” has been sung by Hindu sage, Sufi poet, and the bards of every age. Now we must invest this truth with meaning; it must become a turning point in our aspirations. Our challenge is dual: on the one hand, we have steadfastly to be true to the mandates of our inmost self; on the other, we have so to widen our sympathies and the horizons of our understanding that Love wells forth without hindrance, to eradicate separatism and distrust. Then, and only then, will we know this oneness, this union of hearts and minds — not as an intellectual or social accommodation, but as a living, breathing inflow-outflow of life-consciousness, enfolding suns and stones as it does every one of us.
If this be but a dream, it is the noblest we can live for, and one well worthy of every human being’s finest energies.
(From Sunrise magazine, Fall 2007; copyright © 2007 Theosophical University Press)
The lamp we light in the night has a wick which is small and oil which is very little. But there is no timidness in its tiny flame, burning as it is in the heart of an immense darkness, for the truth of the light, which sustains it, is infinite. — Rabindranath Tagore