THEOSOPHY, Vol. 21, No. 12, October, 1933
(Pages 551-555; Size: 14K)
(Number 21 of a 57-part series)
STUDIES IN KARMA
CYCLES OF GOVERNMENT
THE child or the savage sees the surface of the earth as a plane, simply because of his inability to perceive its slight curvature. But that curvature carried on for what is astronomically but a short distance, outlines the fully rounded globe. Thus through shortness of vision, a sphere is taken for that which in every respect is its exact opposite. This flat perspective, the short view, applied in all directions, results in almost the whole of our ideas concerning the origin and nature of man and things. It gave us the Ussher four-thousand-year chronology of creation; it gave us the hypothesis of a cooling sun and a dying earth; it gave us the "heat-death" or "running-down" picture of the Universe; it gave us the orthogenetic picture of the evolution of man from the animal kingdom; it gives us the idea of a rectilinear development of human history, the idea of a "straight-line" development of civilization and government in regular steps from primitive savagery to the highest type of civilization.
In this foreshortened view are great dangers. Not the least of these is the generation of a blind faith that all change is "progress" and that all such progress must necessarily continue in beneficent directions. In the American sense, we are particularly subject to the idea that representative government as we have it is not only the highest form ever known, but that it is invulnerable, self-sustaining, inexorably bound to rise ever to greater heights. Behind all this is the subtle delusion that we are the people and that wisdom was born with us; but if we are of anything like the same stuff as all other races, then history, both past and contemporary, gives the lie to such hopes and indicates that if we are to go on and on from beneficence to beneficence, it will be a feat never yet accomplished by mankind.
We look upon the various phases of government in the world now -- patriarchism, tribalism, feudalism, despotism, constitutionalism, democracy, dictatorship -- as being separate evolutions or forms applying hap-hazard, helter-skelter, to particular races, circumstances, and conditions. We do not see the underlying pattern of a Karmic cycle of unvarying design; but our viewpoint is as foolish as that of one looking upon a mixed crowd of men and children, who should jump to the conclusion that the human race is permanently divided into great and small individuals. Looking at various forms of government, various forms of society, what we in reality are seeing is a widespread exhibit of the various stages of growth and decline which follow one another as night follows the day.
And yet we have perfect examples of the whole completed cycle; Rome, for instance. The various stages through which Rome went -- primitive tyranny, revolt, republicanism, decay, dictatorship, monarchy, and destruction, are as clearly marked in the Republic, the Consulate, the Empire, and the Fall, as are the stratifications in any geological cross-section. Nor, in any Occidental order, is it difficult to follow the same invariable sequence, if one looks beneath the form to the spirit and the modus operandi.
Some such cycles run their course with amazing rapidity. In France it was only a few years from tyranny through revolt to anarchy, from there to Napoleonic dictatorship and Napoleonic empire; then again to a fall, and so on. In Germany of today we have seen the transition from the libertarian forms of the early and middle last century to the dictatorship which arose in the Franco-Prussian war, the growth into the Hohenzollern Empire, the downfall of the Great War, republicanism, and now dictatorship, on the way either to monarchy or to a class autocracy following upon Communist revolt.
Some advocates of dictatorship in the United States advance the theory that when a democracy has recourse to dictatorship in an emergency, it takes back its powers again when the emergency is over. They point to the epoch of the Great War as proof. What they overlook is the fact that we never did recover our democratic liberties after that epoch. On the contrary, we have seen liberty of action, freedom of speech and press and even of thought, insidiously cramped more and more, year by year. Only a part of the old powers did we ever recover. The reason is simple and obvious. If the people are to rule, the people must be intelligent, educated; above all, self-energized and possessed of initiative. It is the inevitable trend of a dictatorship to destroy all these qualities -- never very highly developed at best. And so a dictatorship leads to a democratic weakening, which in the next emergency calls for a still stronger dictatorship, and so on and so on until central control becomes fixed.
If the new autocracy is vicious, and the spirit of independence still lives in the people, sooner or later new revolts eventuate, and the cycle is again repeated. If the people are docile, or the despotism benevolent, the problem arises of the continuance of the benevolent rule. And who better fitted to name a successor than the great man who has for so long, and so beneficently, done the rest of our thinking for us? And in turn, whom should he name more logically than the offspring of his own blood, the fallacies of eugenism at this point becoming indistinguishable from the "Divine Right of Kings?" If in a Republic, it is "three generations from shirt-sleeves to shirt-sleeves," in hereditary monarchy it is the alternation of strength and weakness from father to son; and in an ancient and inbred dynasty, strengthening the family traits for good and ill, we have an alternation of geniuses and monsters. And thus from cycle to cycle the people descend to deeper miseries until flesh can endure no longer; revolt explodes, the attempt at liberty is made once more, and so again the weary cycle. Thus through all history the masses have enjoyed, not a steady ascent toward life, light, and liberty, but only transitory periods of well-being when things have come to a democratic balance after revolution, while men's hearts were still fired with the new ideal; or in temporary periods of wise and benevolent autocracy. For the rest, and ever since the onset of Kali Yuga, the lot of the people has been darkness.
Why should this be? It is not because liberty is violently reft away, nor is it for the most due to any conscious effort to erect tyrannies, on the part of anyone. It is because the people, engrossed in selfish objects, weave about themselves and their fellows such a Karmic network of social inequities that, having no slightest understanding of the reign of cause and effect, they perforce call upon saviors to rescue them from the conditions of their own making. And saviors a-plenty answer the call. Necessarily, of all the candidates for the redeemer's throne, that one is selected who can talk best to the people in their own language and thought. The quality of this man is thus determined by the quality of the people, by the nature of the Karma they have engendered. So in the world today, undergoing a general cycle of dictatorship, but with very diverse racial Karmas, we have before us dictatorships by the lowest of the low, the worst of the worst, and at the same time dictatorships by men who, though far from perfect, do represent the best available in public circles. Everywhere the people of the world cry for the strong man to rescue them without penalty from the consequences of their own sins; and alas, too often their cry has been answered by men strong only in passion, adept only in echoing the cries of the mob.
In America the same cycle is working, though in some ways under a deceptive guise. Other peoples have revolted against starvation, where we have strangled our fortunes with surplus. Other peoples driven by blind selfishness have bound themselves to the ground with social tyrannies, where we have used somewhat higher reaches of the mind to enmesh ourselves in the cogs of an industrial machine which has ramified beyond human control. We have performed the appointed cycle on a higher plane, but it is of the same orthodox pattern. We are erecting, or trying to erect, a more enlightened dictatorship, but it is a dictatorship nevertheless, a confession of public weakness, public ineptitude, public will-lessness. However benevolent, however successful, that dictatorship may be, its effect must be a still further weakening the public will, a step toward the inevitable course; in fact, the more benevolent, the more inevitable the course.
The trend is patently fixed. The discrepancy between the complexities of the machinery and the simplicities of the public mind simply renders democratic control of commerce impossible for the future. And upon the control of commerce rests the control of politics.
The conventional pattern is the archetypal pattern of social history in Kali Yuga. The Aryan Kali Yuga has yet to run 427,000 years and in the course of it will arise many new social orders, many new races reborn from the old. In the world will be seen conditions, even in the depths of the Dark Age, which will be heaven to those we now know; and in it will be seen horrors almost inconceivable to our minds. As forerunners of the Sixth Race we in America have far to go before emerging from the Aryan shadow into the Golden Age of a new race which will for long overlap the hells of vanishing Arya. In that vast sweep of history, a thousand years of American night, a new Dark Age, would be but a temporary delay in the course of evolution. We are to become, not merely a new race, but many new nations, and this involves the death of nations too. That America as we know it must die is certain. Among us already is the conflict of vast currents; Americans nearly all, high and low, dream of a fairer new order to be erected upon the ruins of an old now admittedly dying. But let us not neglect the fact that, in spite of the growth of a new spirit of equity, a new understanding, the actual progress of the United States for over thirty years has been retrograde in every real sense, and that its direction today, so far as practical results are concerned, is still retrograde. The moral retrogression, upon which inevitably followed corruption everywhere, set in coincidentally with the Great Betrayal in the Theosophical world of 1896. There is no clearer evidence of the relation which the Theosophical Movement bears to the race mind, no clearer evidence of the issues hanging upon the success of Theosophists in living the life and furthering the doctrines.
Dictatorships we shall have; dictatorships of individuals, of boards, of committees. Dictatorships of scientists, of politicians, of classes of various kinds, perhaps; ultimately monarchy in future cycles, whether or not under that name. With whom does it rest whether or not those dynasties shall be dark or light, infernal or divine?
COMPILER'S NOTE: The following is a separate item which followed the above article but was on the same page. I felt it was useful to include it here:
THE TRUE IRENICON
Real culture is spiritual. It proceeds from within outwards, and unless a person is naturally noble-minded and strives to progress on the spiritual before he does so on the physical or outward plane, such culture and civilization will be no better than whitened sepulchres of dead men's bones and decay. --H.P.B.
The only object to be striven for is the amelioration of the condition of man by the spread of truth suited to the various stages of his development and that of the country he inhabits and belongs to. Truth has no ear-mark and does not suffer from the name under which it is promulgated -- if the said object is attained. --From A Master's Letter.
STUDIES IN KARMA
(Part 22 of a 57-part series)
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