Part 1. The Present World
Peace and War.
The tower of modern civilization, built on the foundations of “the enlightenment” and “the industrial revolution”, is tottering. The edifices of human construction have been crashing down literally and metaphorically. They had ceased to be constructions for human edification. The word aedis, from which “edification” is derived, means “temple”. Even religion has become profane, for it has lost meaning and life.
The world is full of ruins — material, emotional, rational and spiritual. The ruins are haunted by souls like ghosts that cannot find peace. After the mad riot of well thought-out and organized theft and destruction of the Second World War, a resemblance of peace has come here and there. There may or there may not be war on the physical plane, but whatever be the case, it continues in the emotional and mental worlds. If peace has come, it is only on the surface. Below that surface, within the soul, remains a hunting ground of desires, passion and delusions. Peace in the psyche, crowned by the Peace of God, is known by very few.
What is peace? The Latin pax, from which “peace” is derived, means “a compact, a bargain”. “Pact” is a related word.
True inner peace does not depend on pacts between men and nations. It cannot come as long as men have a pact with the devil — their ego. The Sanskrit word paśa, etymologically related to “peace”, means bondage. It is used to denote the pact of the soul with “the things of this world”, and implies the bondage of selfishness and sinfulness. True Peace, on the other hand, comes with the Covenant between man and God, between the lower and the higher man. It is “a state of heart”, a pact with the Divine Higher Self, demanding obedience to the spirit of the sacred traditions of old. The condition of the pact is man’s mastery over self and its world.
The masses of this age are only interested in the peace depending on man-made pacts. They do not understand the only true way to peace of heart by fulfillment of the Divine Covenant.
For as long as there is no change of heart, a happier world cannot be expected. War is raging within the psyche. Here and there it is of such chronic nature, that people know no better and have accepted it as a matter of course, not realizing in the least that another, happier, state is at all possible. Many battles are taking place within the soul of modern man. Those he sees with his conscious mind may not cause too much trouble. But many he cannot see, very often because he refuses to see them. These may have, and do have at times, most unhappy, and even catastrophic, results.
The Robot has risen against the Spirit and obtained the upper hand in the lower realms. The Spirit has all but fled away. Which of the two will win the last round? The very exterior of man has taken on a Robot’s characteristics: nearly all humanity is in “uniform”, military, civil, political, professional, and nearly all humanity in modern states is in the bondage of an indefinitely extended network of laws, regulations and stereotyped forms. Unlike the Rules or Commandments of sacred tradition, which never change, their profane substitutes are in continuous revolution, tending thereby to ever greater complication, confusion and dissension. While the former aim at Liberation, the latter make for bondage.
Man has become progressively focussed in consciousness and egotism on the material plane and the substances and energies of matter have become the predominating factors in his life. The higher faculties of intuition, reason and feeling have become subservient to the ends of “materialism”. At the present time the powers released by man have begun to threaten his physical existence. There seems to be nothing but death before him, in spite of his clever efforts to preserved and lengthen life. Now he is engaged in unharnessing the very powers of Creation which are latent in the atoms of the Earth Element, the material plane. In nuclear fission he has released the dormant power of the heaviest and hence the most earthly of the physical elements. “Chemistry, the invention of the Titans” (Syncellus) is beginning to reach its zenith. The modern Prometheus is stealing the Fire from Heaven in a far more serious form than the Prometheus of old.
Man has been learning to control matter. There would be no harm in this, if he capable of controlling himself. But he has not learned that. On the contrary, he has lost much of the control he exercised over himself in the days of old. The discipline he applies is Titanic in nature.
Amidst the modern mechanical and regimented forms of life the human soul is suffering agonies of spiritual imprisonment and starvation. In spite of the achievements modern man is a bored and lonely creature. For the Spirit is the greatest friend and most lively companion, the source of inspiration and joy, the guide on supreme adventures. But modern man has lost all acquaintance with the Spirit.
He runs everywhere in search of other company and in quest of adventure, not knowing that he need not go anywhere to find happiness, for the Spirit is everywhere he happens to be himself — if he would but hear and see it.
Nothing but a change of heart, an awakening from sleep, a rebirth from death (to use the traditional terms) can save humanity from expiring in its psychical prison, from dying in its spiritual sleep, from falling into deeper gloom and doom.
The power of thought.
This is the age of reason. Even now the world’s leaders are engaged in thinking and working out solutions of the problems of reconstruction in the same way in which they thought and worked out the problems of destruction. Without realizing it, they are preparing the ground for other World Wars. For thought by itself can never save the world. It is indeed the excessive emphasis on thinking that provokes most of the problems of the present day. There is no lack of cleverness, but not all the clever put together can transform the world.
Here and there faith in higher matters is found but a faith groping and uncertain, even if it is pure and genuine. It is a faith knocking at the Gate, not a faith that has been admitted to the inside of things.
On the whole neither the leaders nor the led put much faith in anything except the very powers which contributed to the catastrophes of this age, namely, the powers of reason, and the powers derived from their application in mechanics and regimentation — including the power of money and paper.
Of all the powers used in dissociation from the remaining human faculties, those of reason have proved themselves the least “reasonable”. Of this the contemporary world presents one vast illustration.
The earth has become too narrow and too small for many. There are no more unknown continents, lands or peoples to be discovered that are of any importance to modern man. People dream of greater conquests, they want to be shot in rockets to other continents and into space. Actually they want to escape from the world they have created for themselves. They run after more and more science and mechanics, which all the time bring greater and greater complications, leading to more and more problems.
All the while people do not realize that they are escaping from their own soul, and that there are great worlds to be discovered, or rather, re-discovered, within their own selves. They do not know of the great adventures to be experienced during that quest and do not dream that they hold the greatest treasure within their own heart.
The greatest part of philosophy — that is, rational and natural philosophy — nourishes and appeals to the rational function alone. It serves a part, only, of the human psyche and is not concerned with the complete, integrated personality, the whole man. Thus it is useless from the point of view of the fullness of life. The effect is to overstimulate and overfeed the rational function and ignore, neglect and starve the remainder and this leads to unbalance and disintegration of the whole psyche.
Only that which feeds all inner organs of man in such a harmonious way that he is not aware that he has different organs in his body at all, is “wholesome” food. The fruit of the Tree of Life alone feeds his inner faculties in that manner. Whatever overfeeds some parts of his being and starve others should be left alone or discarded. Modern man is possessed by his thinking faculty. “Grey is all theory, green grows the Tree of Life alone”, as Goethe wrote. Many types of modern leaders are bloodless and dry like books of paper, while the led are shedding their lifeblood like sacrificial animals and their sweat like slaves.
It is not necessary to devote space to the forms of materialistic philosophy.
Warning voices have been heard of people who very well realize what is taking place within the human psyche and consequently in the world of social relations. Side-by-side with them are found the mere critics, always ready, sometimes with the best of motives, to criticize other people and institutions. They do not improve the world, for they do not offer anything constructive in the place of what they condemn. Many people do not know that the only way to improve the world is by improving oneself. Others are sincerely desirous of improving themselves, but do not know how, and lack inspiration and guidance.
In all parts of the world established religion is the religion of “the letter of the Law”. That “letter” is upheld at the expense of its “spirit”. Perhaps it is more correct to say that the letter of the Law is upheld at the expense of the spiritual life of man, for the spirit of the Tradition, that is, the language of symbols, has been forgotten long ago. It has become deeply hidden in the unconscious.
Many people in all walks of life and belonging to various traditions in the East and in the West have realized that religion in its present forms fails to satisfy the aspirations and the intelligence of the men and women of the time, many of whom consequently turn to cheap substitutes or to some form of pseudo-religion or atheism.
Modern religions have lost organic contact with actual life and so too their power to inspire and convince. Their creeds and dogmas have ceased to be of real interest.
Many old traditions and customs are condemned or even damned as forms of superstition.
The outer man is out of joint with the inner man. The result is disease: of the soul, of the nerves, of the body, of human relationships in every field and on every plane of existence, and of society.
If the average man of this day accepts or believes in a Divinity at all, his God is a glorified version of his own mentality — a super-professor of physics and mathematics and super-mechanic in one, who has invented a super-machine run by transcendent super-wireless. His God is not to be associated with any form of “humanity”, for that would be anthropomorphism, nor “personality”, for that would be unworthy of the achievements of this enlightened age. He is an “abstract” God.
Modern forms of religion are hardly compatible with modern intelligence. Because they are so unintelligible they have ceased to command the interest of the thinking man. Modern theologians have, consciously or unconsciously, to engage constantly in acrobatic adjustments. Their creeds are doomed to pass away, unless they can be infused with new life through renewal of the original and true meaning. For man is at heart too great to be satisfied with a letter from which the meaning has gone.
Within and without “established religion” and its creeds and forms, the religion of the heart, which is private and individual, blossoms here and there. For it is timeless, ever ancient and ever modern.
Because the older forms of religion did not satisfy many people, various new cults have sprung into existence, many of which are systems of mystery-mongering. Their leaders have hinted at mysterious secrets, to be learned only by those who join their ranks and contribute tangible power to the movements or their leaders. They have played with symbols, but not given an interpretation of their meaning. Nothing tickles the mind more than secret knowledge and its (imagined) possession, withheld from others like a trade monopoly. Books on “occult” knowledge and secret places and beings have been published in large numbers and eagerly read by the many who are attracted by this forbidden canned fruit. Some imagine that by indulging in pitiful superstitions they are reaching back to ancient traditions. There are masses of people who have a vulgar desire for various mental and psychic powers. Many forms of thought and “religion” openly or disguisedly aim at strengthening that from which true religion liberates the soul: egotism and selfishness.
Comparative religion has so far been little more than a rationalistic academic subject. It has been studied in the same spirit as that in which a merchant studies the laws and regulations of trade, in order that he may outwit his competitors.
Questions that arise.
The ideals of former periods were full of commonplaces, phrases and bloodless abstractions. Endless repetition has made them completely meaningless. What will take the place of the clichés and bankrupt ideas? What can heal the boredom of spirit? What can hold back the recklessness of sense which results from an all-round exhaustion of the human faculties? What food will be available for the starving soul? What will take the place of the patriotic ideals of wartime? What forms of struggle will replace the fight against the aggression, greed and tyranny of other nations? What will be able to shatter the faith of people in the fiery rationalistic powers which have been running amok?
Whence shall come new life, new faith, new ideals? Where can inspiration, peace, and joy in life be found? How can modern man regain his self-respect? What service can he attempt to do in the world that may bear fruit not for the day alone, but for all time?
Where should one search for God? In scriptures? In a church or a temple? In the self-forgetfulness of service? In the woods and plains or in the expanse of the waters? In the words of a preacher? In one’s own heart? In the face of a friend or a parent? In a flower? In a machine? In heaven or hell? Is it necessary to search for God at all? Is there a God?
Such separate questions arise in periods when the integrity of life has been lost, because the meaning of life has been forgotten. Their solution comes with the rediscovery of the meaning and the reestablishment of the integrity of life at its hand. In order to bring this about it is necessary to turn to the traditional science which embraces, unifies and synthesizes all aspects of life, and which connects the actual everyday life of the world with the most exalted things. That science is the Tradition of old — a system of psychology and theology in one.
“What shall it profit a man if he gain the whole world, and lose his own soul?” That is what modern man has been engaged in doing. How much will it profit a man to lose all worldliness and gain his own soul!