THEOSOPHY, Vol. 35, No. 4, February, 1947
(Pages 159-162; Size: 13K)
(Number 42 of a 57-part series)
STUDIES IN KARMA
THE SURVIVAL OF THE FITTEST
TO posit Karma is to assert that the laws of man's internal being will in time operate to establish the real "conditions of existence" for the individual. Further, that the desire of men to construct a civilization built upon material, rather than spiritual, "goods" will ultimately be frustrated by the fact that civilization -- which must of necessity be a growth in human instead of animalistic attributes -- can neither be successfully established nor maintained without attention to man's moral interdependence with others. This is the fundamental limitation, from a theosophical view, upon the "freedom of the will." In practical terms, and in Kali Yuga, this means that only the morally fit can survive in the life of the soul, for those who live as creatures of the jungle must die in the same way.
A "materialistic" civilization rises from the belief that the fittest are those who wield the greatest temporal power, and that those who wield the greatest power will survive. The attainment of sufficient "survival power" makes strenuous demands upon all of the vital energies of the human beings concerned, producing the familiar characteristics of the modern militarized state. It is necessary to examine this broad, social consequence of modern materialism in some detail, for it is rapidly becoming the most obvious focus for the play of the collective karma of the twentieth century. The peoples who become the "strongest" must devote themselves to protecting their material guarantees of strength, and this, in the course of Nationalistic history, has always meant vigilant and effective militarization. In the process, it is necessary for the individual citizen to relinquish a large portion of individual judgment in the interest of "military necessity" -- else he weakens the military power upon which he depends. Therefore the most important question which can be asked the modern man who has sought security or protection through organized might, is whether or not he can have a life of moral growth while supporting a highly-organized form of society which tends to make all crucial decisions for him.
This problem is objectively focussed in modern warfare, because social opinion does not encourage the individual to decide on moral grounds whether or not he should join an army or pay taxes for the maintenance of military institutions. The individual has a certain specious type of choice -- he can refuse the military, but he cannot do so and retain a respectable place in society. And unless he is dedicated to a philosophy which gives genuine pre-eminence to spiritual realities, he will think his "place in society" is his only refuge. He can refuse to join a politically-inclined trade union because he does not believe in the politics of the organization, but he cannot do so, if the "closed shop" policy prevails, and continue to practice his chosen trade.
Thus the nature of Kali Yuga -- particularly its objectivized materialism in the form of modern institutions -- would seem to make it inevitable that the free individual, at some point or other, must either renounce a respectable position in society or renounce his opportunity to think and choose for himself. From this dilemma, though it will not come clearly to many, perhaps, for thousands of years, there can logically be no escape.
The materialization of the idea of "security" is a basic element in the nature of organizations. Hence there is less morality in organizations than in individuals. An army is more brutal than any of its units, for a man will do many things as a soldier which he would never contemplate otherwise. The reason for this is simply that any organization formed for the production of external security receives a disproportionate impulsion from the more animalistic, "lower" nature of man. In the end, institutions will either sap all moral strength from the individual, or be transcended by him.
If the recent and most horrible of all wars had been fought by men who entered the ranks of the various armies because they believed, by virtue of free judgment, that such a course was designed to help the life of soul, no war would have been fought. German military might depended upon fear -- fear that one's security and livelihood would be endangered if the party in power were not obeyed. Of this political materialism the German Nazi was an extreme, though not a unique, example. He was not alone in his failure to perceive that though war begins with the plea for attaining greater external security, the final development of its technique brings about the complete destruction of security -- the most striking illustration of this eventuality being the atom bomb.
The seeking of all security through external protection is, however, a tendency found elsewhere than in preparation for national defense. Consider the strange "Karma" of the excessively wealthy. Years spent in amassing wealth, years given over to the problem of protecting whatever of wealth is acquired, until finally the too-wealthy man sits like a spider in the middle of a gigantic web representing his "interests" and concerns, and though he knows it not except as a vague feeling of dissatisfaction, he himself is securely caught in the web. Every move made by another man which appears to threaten one of his properties calls forth an automatic response from him -- conferences with lawyers and banks -- a tedious and often vicious defensive action. In thus re-acting, the wealthy man becomes as much an automaton as the conscript in the army.
Turn instead to the supposed opposite pole of the social situation -- leaders of large labor organizations. While they profess to represent a necessary phase of the social struggle and while some are bona fide reformers by nature and by action, how often do the lieutenants and captains of labor's armies think for themselves? To what degree are they wedded completely to the preservation of an organization which many outsiders (and some insiders) continually threaten to destroy, in their bids for power? All too often they, like the "capitalist" and the army man, think in terms of the organization, not in terms of what is humanly better, or best.
The pattern is clear enough. Whenever a man devotes his concentrated life-energy to a career based upon a desire to find security by external means -- whether it be by armies, by a financial empire, or by an extremely powerful trade union, he increases the attention which people will pay to that sort of ideal -- makes the competition, in a sense, more difficult for himself. Others are struck by his example, and the example is dangerous.
This, in fact, is exactly what seems to have happened during a whole cycle of civilization. Men, following the example of a struggle for survival on animal terms, constantly create bigger and more de-humanized institutions. This is psychologically why armies and wars have grown larger and larger; why General Motors is bigger than any of the fabulous financial structures built in the days of great personal industrial achievement. And it is also why the huge trade unions, originally designed to fight a necessary war for the right of collective bargaining, have left the individual workman far behind -- just as did long ago the Republican and Democratic parties in the political sphere. In fact the unions, more than parties, have imposed a regimen in part dependent upon the fear of many of their members. Out of just such a combination of psychological elements was that terrible scourge, Nazism, created. The State became the object of veneration, the object to be feared, and the source from which one hoped to gain sufficient security. (Germany, it should be remembered, literally starved following the last war -- just as literally as she is starving today. Security did seem worth a premium payment!)
The point at which Karma is most immediately invoked is when the example of the victors in armed or financial or organizational warfare indicates, to all those who suffer from lack of similar success, that security can be achieved only through bitter struggle, through highly organized effort, and finally by physical triumph in terms of control over goods and methods of production. Then does the circle of ruthless means begin to return upon itself. Then arise new besiegers and new defenders of material goods -- which merely guarantee the existence of the body.
Need there be any more convincing proof that Kali Yuga is a reality? Who among men fights for knowledge as other men fight for land, goods, and organizational power? How many seek security in the only place where it can actually be found -- in sufficient self-knowledge to help men find the roots of life in the human and not the animal realms?
Must there be Revolution, a complete change of "systems," before it is actually possible to enlighten men in the Wisdom Religion? No, though the degradation of prevailing "systems" gives sufficient reason why so many well-intentioned revolutionaries, socialist and otherwise, have been extremely impatient with Theosophical efforts to right the maladjustments of society by use of principles of philosophy, rather than by organized rebellion against unjust "systems." Completely new values must indeed be found, but these must play a causal part in social change -- and not be expected to arrive with the happy millennium which succeeds "revolution." The Theosophist may in fact be much more revolutionary than the most determined socialist. He wants his revolution to last. And he knows that he cannot but create the necessity for another and later revolution unless the men who "revolt" against unjust conditions of society, revolt against what is fundamentally unjust about them -- the placing of material security above the security which only spiritual self-knowledge affords.
If people do not learn to prefer to survive in the manner of Socrates, Karma will inevitably decree that they will not survive at all.
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:
With every effort of will toward purification and unity with the "Self-god," the seventh principle, one of the lower rays breaks and the spiritual entity of man is drawn higher and ever higher to the ray that supersedes the first, until, from ray to ray, the inner man is drawn into the one and highest beam of the Parent-SUN.
--H. P. Blavatsky
STUDIES IN KARMA
THE KARMA OF CALUMNY
(Part 43 of a 57-part series)
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