THEOSOPHY, Vol. 24, No. 10, August, 1936
(Pages 464-467; Size: 12K)
(Number 31 of a 57-part series)
STUDIES IN KARMA
THE COURSE OF EMPIRE
A RECENT plebiscite, taken by an organization whose specialty is ascertaining public opinion, revealed the fact that the majority of the American people desired extension of the power of the Federal Government and curtailment of that of the States. It is significant of the future that the younger voters were more in favor of this move than their elders. It was also significant that this revelation took place at a time when nearly all the influential journals were in hot protest against the recent enlargement of Federal power instituted under President Roosevelt. Significant, because it shows the set of some current too strong to be damned even by the power which ordinarily rules us -- the press.
To liberal economists, the immediate reasons for that current are apparent enough. With a Government purporting to be that of a single nation, we have been doing business as though we were forty-eight independent nations -- this in the face of the fact that much of our business has now become nation-wide. Such stresses were set up in the national economic fabric that some means had to be sought to equalize them lest the entire system break down into chaos. Some men who saw this most clearly in 1932 and would brook no denial of national coördination are now among those most frantically against the price that must necessarily be paid for that service.
All this is but the inevitability of a cycle through which all empires pass in their turns. To begin it, a series of nations or tribes enter into relationships, either by alliance or conquest, which sooner or later brings an ever closer coördination of their local governments. The increasing closeness of relationship leads at last to centralization and the loss of local autonomy. The complexity of the problems to be handled by the central power then become too much for any bureaucracy. The once-firm ties rot away, leaving the constituent elements to undertake once more their own evolution, precisely as takes place at any other death. Then, based upon modified groupings of the ancient tribes or states, a number of new powers rise, born amid blood and tears, pursuing the same old course.
Where is the vast empire that once existed where blow the sands of the Gobi now? It is represented by Tibet, Mongolia, and the scattered, unclassifiable fragments of a hundred "lost tribes." What became of the great realm of Asoka, of Akbar? Broken into a multitude of native Indian States, now officially or unofficially provinces of Great Britain. Where is Rome? It is France, England, Germany, Egypt, Greece, Spain, and a polyglot litter of quarreling entities scattered over Europe. Spain? She has become the realm of nations that stretch from the Rio Grande to Cape Horn. Great Britain? Fast dissolving into the new nations: Canada, Australia, Ireland, the Transvaal, New Zealand -- and India.
Seen thus, the present trend and status of the United States is clear enough. Following the ancient cycle, it is evolving by steps from separateness to integration; from a scattered group of unimportant seaboard colonies into a close-knit empire; to be, perhaps, more closely welded than any empire that has ever existed, because of unprecedented speed of communication and mutuality of interest. Periodically must crises come where the alternative is closer integration -- or disintegration.
In reality, our men of power are pawns on the Karmic chessboard; they must move in the appointed direction regardless of party, power, or pledges. He among them only can be called great who sees the course he has to take, and follows Karma knowingly rather than blindly. The ship of State moves in its preordained direction. The only questions are two -- how many times will it be half-shattered, damaged, dented with irreparable leaks that might have been avoided by wiser pilotage; and how much farther might it have gone whole than it will go? Washington, and Paine, the Creators, and Lincoln, the first, but we hope not the last, of the Preservers: they all saw this. But in the very power of preservation lies destruction; the close-knitting that is again and again forced in itself brings about the smothering, the oppression, the impractical hugeness of growth, that means death in the end.
In the very surge of a new wave of integration nearly paralleling that following the Civil War, the new nations of the future raise their heads. "Regionalism" is a doctrine eagerly embraced by a few daring political thinkers, contemptuously condemned by a few others; as yet not taken seriously by the many.
But what does it mean? It is simply a proposal to obliterate State lines, and to reform the forty-eight into larger new local Governments delimited by community of local interests. Arguments advanced for this are many. The folly of supporting forty-eight Governments where a half-dozen will do the work; the better coördination of national problems possible with fewer local centers; the higher type of government possible with larger units -- well illustrated by the fact that County Governments are in general less corrupt than city, State less than County, and National least of all. If it should be carried out, the new "Regions" will be the seeds of the new nations that must arise in time.
There is nothing absurd about an individual providing for the disposition of his body and property after death; still less so, the biological preparation for subdivision that goes on in a living cell which has reached its term. Since this is the law of national cycles also, why should not the process be rational, instead of irrational, perverted, often bloody and violent, as it now is? True, if the limits of natural subdivisions were predetermined scientifically, and afterward formed the bases of real and viable nations, it would be for the first time in history. Yet we have a close parallel in the peaceful current liquidation of the British Empire, its dissolution into what in reality is the British League. And this is the only manner in which an empire can end without incurring in the process both internecine strife and foreign conquest.
The British nations are as strong against conquest, in their free-willed unity, as they ever were when forced to be formal and nominal parts of a single system. And the sooner England applies to India the lesson of Canada, Australia, and New Zealand, the better for all concerned. True, there are many difficulties in the way as concerns the welfare of both governor and governed; but they are not insuperable. To retain as part of the body politic, and by force, entities which by the law of Nature should be free to pursue their own evolution, is as bootless as for parents to try to keep their children in the nursing stage all their lives.
How long may be the life-cycle of the United States? It is hinted by Madame Blavatsky that by a certain time we will have "become a new race and many new nations." Elsewhere it is stated that when the sun of the new race rises, "there may be no United States for it to rise upon."
Using the analogy of Rome, our own former national incarnation and nearest of kin in spirit and institutions, we find that from the foundation to the revolution against the Etruscan Kings was about 300 years, as against 150 years for the corresponding period of our own life.
Her period of conquest and expansion lasted for about 350 years, as against our own 150. As with us, internal difficulties supervened upon the close of that expansion, and the social wars began. The transition state to the Empire lasted some 70 years or so; the Empire itself began with Augustus, who retained the republican form on paper but so manipulated it that the representative branch was a mere social club without power.
From the beginning of the Empire to the end was 500 years, marked by alternating periods of light and darkness, integration and disintegration, none of which turned aside the steady march to imperial death. The rise of the provinces as independent powers and new nations became marked some fifty years prior to the official end of the Empire. If, then, we are to draw a parallel based on the vast acceleration of the typical cycle as exemplified in America, we may expect a death-struggle between conflicting ideals of government, just now becoming incipient, about 1975. A few hundred years thence, we may expect the United States in its present form to come to an end, which if wisdom prevails during the rest of this century, the crucial period, we may expect to be peaceful and beneficial, like the freeing of the British Dominions.
To envision the whole picture, it is necessary to realize that the United States is but part of the Roman reincarnation, Great Britain being to all appearance the other major portion. And the United States represents culturally and philosophically much more the Eastern Empire, which itself endured through a thousand years of independent existence, while the Western Empire and the Europe that followed it fell into a thousand years of deepest night.
But that which is all-important, Theosophically speaking, is that the "moment of choice" for this nation will, to all indications, practically end with this century. The crucial stage will be coincident with the coming of the next Agent of the Great Lodge. What He can accomplish within his period of opportunity will without question be determinative, not only as to our history but as to the nations to follow us -- crucial as to the empires that are to rise and dissolve southward of us, all playing their parts with us in the evolution of the New Race. And in turn, what He can do will depend very, very greatly upon the means, which latter is in the hands of the current generations of Theosophists.
STUDIES IN KARMA
(Part 32 of a 57-part series)
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