THEOSOPHY, Vol. 37, No. 5, March, 1949
(Pages 223-226; Size: 12K)
(Number 11 of a 15-part series)
MIND OF THE AGE
XI: THE TENDENCY TOWARD DEVIATION
A CONSIDERABLE amount of space in this series has been devoted to establishing the proposition that ours is an increasingly regimented world, and, secondarily, that no one can hope to be happy or mentally healthy unless he develops and lives by his own philosophic principles. It is obvious that the standardization of human life has much to do with the karmic peculiarities of this cycle of civilization. Increased industrial production and increased populations constitute a strong environmental influence toward a mass production of attitudes, which parallels the mass production of commodities and of population. But, in Theosophical terms, such causal factors in the making of "concentration-camp minds" must be considered as of subsidiary importance. The primary cause of regimentation is psychological susceptibility, arising from the fear of what may happen to the man who refuses to be regimented. And this, in turn, is simply another way of stating that material values have been for a long time in the ascendancy over moral values. Security has a far higher modern rating than courage or integrity.
The habit of instilling a mass fear, of course, did not begin with modern industrialization. In Western history the first large-scale use of fear was in the Catholic Church of the Middle Ages. The word "Catholic," which by derivation means "universal," became identified with the attitude that all men ("universally") must believe one set of dogmas or face punishment for deviation in an after-life. Rather than proceeding from the assumption that true religion must represent a common ground for men of differing personal opinions, religion came to stand for the habit of forcing all men to have one opinion on all important philosophical matters. The Church used Man's susceptibility to supernatural anxieties to consolidate political power, but since the primary objective was the acquirement of that political power, it is not surprising that we have lately come to fear only the things of the material world. The heavily regimented state systems of Germany and of Russia have inspired fears as strong as those of the Spanish Inquisition, but today the consolidations of political power have become so overwhelming that they serve as their own excuse. Demagogues no longer need to add the fear of hell, since they can guarantee something quite as bad, if not worse, here and now, for whole populations.
Granting this analysis of the development of political and social anxiety neuroses, it is clear that the only choice for an individual is to accept those neuroses as inevitable, or to stand in constant opposition to the spirit and attitude of regimentation. Those who have promoted the Theosophical analysis of man's relation to society have perennially been "opposers" -- therefore often regarded by the majority as recalcitrants and eccentrics, and even, in the Middle Ages, as positively dangerous. Hypatia was stoned to death in Alexandria, Giordano Bruno perished at the stake, and thousands of Albigenses in Southern France were exterminated for philosophical heresies. Whatever the specific intentions of these and many other heretics, they were standing for the right of the human soul and mind to be free, and none of their persecutors missed the point.
When one challenges the rule of any authoritarianism, he not only challenges its prime representatives and leaders, but all those lesser individuals who have been sufficiently fearful to accept domination. If the heretic is right, those who had previously concluded that it does not pay to be a heretic may be wrong. The dominated man has a psychic investment in the very system which holds him in surveillance. His own integrity is directly questioned when the system is criticized. It might be said that this law of human nature accounts for the amazing viciousness of the attacks leveled at H. P. Blavatsky in the Theosophical Society, after the implications of her philosophy began to be apparent to various bigoted segments of the public. One who pursues the theosophical principles in practice in the modern world, will, it is evident, find himself in uncompromising opposition to all forms of materialism built upon the false logic of self-preservation or self-advancement. For example, since these two motivations are the dominant tone of militarization, the theosophist may assert an apparently "negative" thesis by refusing to support any national procedures inspired by the promptings of the lower psychic mind. Arguments for "self-protection" encounter a moral resistance, for, as H. P. Blavatsky has stated, if man follows the so-called "law of self-preservation," he encourages "re-involution into the animal kingdom."
The theosophical basis for moral action will uphold the man who opposes policies of racial and class segregation springing from the desire to promote the security of vested interests; educational policies moving toward the standardization of human thought at a materialistic level; and social conventions inspired by fear and self-righteousness. The student who seriously entertains Theosophical principles is bequeathed an inviolable "tendency to deviate" from the "norm" of the race mind. This, then, might be regarded as virtually a moral necessity in the present world. Yet it should not, and cannot, be regarded in any particular connection as a permanent necessity. Further, if all human beings were intensely individualistic, the only concern of theosophists would be to find a level of spiritual and moral rapport, to provide a basis for practical brotherhood. But an amity based on fear and weakness must be replaced with fraternity in moral philosophy and spiritual unity, established by individuals of fearlessness and integrity.
By "deviation" is not meant the specious variety of non-conformity which comes to the forefront with each large-scale breakdown of conventional mores. Under the guise of "liberated thought" a new type of convention often puts in an appearance, consisting largely of derision for older social habits of thought and action. Such tendencies are almost entirely of the negativistic and "debunking" sort, and by these qualities distinguish themselves from any serious efforts to pioneer in new directions. The man who pursues "the path of independent thought" in a theosophical sense may deal bluntly with the hypocrisies and inadequacies of the old mores, yet this will be incidental to the assertion of a positive principle of improved morality. This latter type of effort is not like rolling a snowball down hill, but rather may be figured as the incredibly difficult task of pushing one from the bottom to the top. As an example, H. P. Blavatsky's concern for the simple and contemporarily adequate faith of many Christians -- expressed in Isis Unveiled as a desire not to uproot that faith -- indicates that from the theosophical viewpoint no source of moral belief will be consciously removed from a man unless he himself displaces it with an improved basis for thought.
The question arises, what can we be sure of gaining by upholding a "revolutionary" attitude toward major institutions and habits of thought of our times? For those who are unacquainted with or unpersuaded by Theosophical principles, the only conceivable answer is the argument that men are actually "happier" as suffering individualists than as contented cogs in a machine. But in the light of Theosophical principles there is room for an ever-present hope that the courage of individual integrity may awaken a latent integrity in others. In this sense, theosophical students are laboring both to establish themselves firmly in relation to their own psychic nature, and also to establish nuclei in which moral courage rather than physical fear is the common denominator.
Viewed in this light, the allies as well as the enemies of Theosophical endeavor are not too difficult to discern. When a legislator introduces a bill to outlaw capital punishment, he is the friend of all who support the moral inviolability of the individual and the philosophy that retributive punishment is not within the lawful province of man's motivations. When a man stands before the world, as Gandhi stood, in devotion to the principles of non-violent alteration of a corrupt status quo, he deserves something of the prefix popularly assigned to him -- Mahatma, or "Great Soul." When a statesman addresses a political convention with the suggestion that the international crisis is so grave that party politics and biasses must be forgotten, he expresses a theosophical viewpoint, and when a public figure pledges himself unequivocally to the establishment of civil rights, in spite of political loss to himself, he speaks the same language -- the language of the soul. When educators redefine morality in terms of motivations and principles rather than in terms of accepted rigidities of social behavior, these men are seeking to give the Inner Self a chance for a free moral life.
All such men, to many of their fellows, are "dissenters." They deviate from what is to be expected and what is usually accepted, but their "negativism," in a social context, becomes constructive in influence because it is based on an underlying positive faith.
MIND OF THE AGE
XII: ANTI-SEMITISM AND RELIGION
(Part 12 of a 15-part series)
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