Universal Brotherhood Path – June 1901

THE NATION'S NEEDS — Gertrude W. Van Pelt

A wise man once said that sermons are to be found in stones, and books in running brooks. The pity is that these sermons and books are not universally read. In the world we call Nature are written in indelible characters all we need to know for the conduct of human affairs. In her kingdoms the great Law works unimpeded, evolution proceeds untrammelled, and here we might find our models for life; while in the human kingdom all is in confusion, our institutions are still human, not divine, and creation is in process. We have not yet the proper conditions for a normal evolution.

Could we but have a more living conception of the unity of life, and of the law of analogies, our instincts would lead us to ask of Nature an explanation of our failures, rather than of that most fallible arguing instrument — the human mind. But imperfect as this is, man's body belongs to the realm of Nature. It is formed under the workings of the Law, as a fitting habitation for the Soul, and to it we might naturally turn as to one of the books worthy to be read.

Although we can, perhaps, nowhere find a perfectly healthy body, yet this has been sufficiently approximated for us to know the general method of its operation, and we find it to be a marvelously complex organization, governed by a system which yields perfect results. The frequent lack of health is due not to the inefficiency of the system, but to the interferences caused by the evolving human mind. Is it not at least suggestive, that a body which Nature has planned as suitable for one man, might be useful as a model for that larger body for many men — the social body?

Supposing we so accept it, how do we find this model to be constructed? It is composed of molecules, as the social organism is of men. The molecules group themselves to form cells, as mankind group themselves in families. The cells combine to form organs, and although each has its special function, it is subservient to that of the organ. They work together for a common purpose — the purpose of the organ. And this, though a distinct entity, having duties which in no wise resemble the duties of the other organs, is yet dependent upon every other. Let one to the slightest degree fail in its part, and the whole system is out of key. All of the organs are under the instant and intimate control of the central nervous system, which in turn yields itself to the final authority — the heart. And the heart, with untiring energy, sends its impulses night and day to every last ramification of the body. The life of the body, that which sets in motion this whole complex organism, comes through the heart. Let this energizing force, which is of a higher order than the body, withdraw itself, and the heart instantly ceases to beat. The molecules continue their separate existence, but disintegration sets in, and as an organism the body ceases to exist. Moreover, that something which has left the body, which held it together and governed it, is of a quality not like unto itself.

In healthy conditions, all runs without friction, no organ is overburdened, no function disturbed. All the cells are occupied, but with perfect ease they do their part. Imagine a social body run after this pattern, with all the units in their natural places, working toward a common end, none trying to grasp from the others, but each fulfilling its function, normally, healthfully, and controlled by a central government, of a higher quality than any of the units composing the body. What a picture of contentment it presents! And is it a picture which cannot be realized? Are we so sure the stories of Golden Ages, and divine kings, which have filtered down through the sands of time, and carry with them that quality of sweetness which can even yet stir our souls to enthusiasm — are we so sure these are myths? Is it not because somewhere within our beings we know they are true, and also that what has been, can be again, that they hold us fascinated?

As a contrast to this picture, what do we find in the present social body? Do the units work together to a common end, with a realization of their common destiny? Is there a connecting thread through all the degrees of governing centers, like the nerve filaments in the body, unifying their work, so that they can work to a common purpose? And is there yet at the head of the nation that quality which knows how to govern? On the contrary, there is everywhere disunion in these United States. The principle of competition so permeates the social body as soon as we leave the family groups, that it is regarded by many thinking people as a natural law, as part of the divine purpose. Each man works toward his own end, which to his mind is separate from the others, and practically, as a nation, the units have forgotten they are souls, and bound their horizon by the grave.

As a result of these ideas, we have the abnormal condition of overfed, conjested sections, surrounded by the hungry and starved. The loose irresponsible elements of society, like the animal tendencies in each man, not being held subordinate and attuned to the proper authorities, run rampant producing crime, vice, and manias of every description. The lack of co-ordination in every department encourages and fosters these conditions. Talents are buried and ignorance brought to the front, and only too often beggars and thieves control the public affairs. Side by side, we find an enormous prosperity, making the country rich beyond precedent, and a degradation and discouragement, making the people heavy unto hopelessness. We may be better than other nations, but it is a slow road to the goal, if indeed we are on the road at all.

We might with truth say that the nation needs in its members more honesty, integrity, charity, love; a deeper sense of justice, a more general endowment of common sense. But behind all this is a more fundamental need. I believe, if they possessed the whole list of virtues, and were gifted with all the graces, that none of these could be used to advantage, unless they were properly placed, and unified in their diversity, through a synthetic controlling center. Without this, friction and final disintegration would inevitably ensue. However perfect a machine is in each of its parts, if one of these is out of place or broken, all work is blocked. The separate wheels may be able to go on turning if power is applied to them separately, but they accomplish nothing. And the intelligence which places these parts is one which understands and grasps them not only as parts but as a whole.

So I should say that first and foremost the nation needs to be imbued with the idea that it is an organism: that the soul is endeavoring to precipitate on this plane what already exists fully formed on the inner planes. It needs a philosophy of life which will bring this underlying basic fact to its perception. Until this is brought about, society is bound to be unformed, forever doing but to undo, worn out with friction, diseased, crippled, the relative health of its parts never free from the poisonous miasms arising from its decaying masses. But once this conception is rooted in the public mind, there will develop a new sense of order, and mankind will begin consciously to work with the Law. Their hearts will ask with yearning for a true Leader, and who shall say that from the fullness of space there will come no answer?

Theosophical University Press Online Edition