THEOSOPHY, Vol. 35, No. 11, September, 1947
(Pages 492-496; Size: 15K)
(Number 47 of a 57-part series)
STUDIES IN KARMA
III: TRANSITION AND TRAVAIL
[Part 3 of 3 about war]
KALI YUGA, the Iron Age, "black with horrors," is black because it witnesses the deepest descent of man into matter; it is iron because that metal and concentration upon its uses symbolize neglect of the needs of the spiritual nature and of moral evolution. Emergence from Kali Yuga will be attained only by a further incarnation of Manas, by the transition from "man possessed of the germ of mind to the man of mind complete" -- by the building of a bridge between the world of matter and the world of moral responsibility.
In Kali Yuga, the world of matter, moved by desire, whirls ever faster, enmeshing "the sodden self" in the intricacies of compounded collective Karma. And the world of matter, thus impelled, moves to its own destruction, with the Atom bomb as an appropriate symbol of its Armageddon.
The inertia of moral irresponsibility in the West manifested itself, first, in the adoption by the Western World of the Personal God of loves, hates, and inexplicable interventions, with man as a puppet. Contrast with this the philosophy of the third fundamental of The Secret Doctrine: "The pivotal doctrine of the Esoteric philosophy admits no privileges or special gifts in man save those won by his own Ego through personal effort and merit throughout a long series of metempsychoses and reincarnations." This is the fundamental doctrine of the responsibility of man as creator, while the law of compounded Karma is the doctrine of responsibility for all of his creations.
We are in the throes of an age wherein the individual has apparently been reduced to a cipher by the pressure of self-created circumstances. Men tend to move amorally as part of a vast pattern or process. How shall the tide be turned? In the "Summing Up" of The Secret Doctrine, H. P. Blavatsky gives indication that the only road back is that road which is travelled with an awakened sense of individual moral responsibility:The Universe is worked and guided from within outwards. As above so it is below, as in heaven so on earth; and man -- the microcosm and miniature copy of the macrocosm -- is the living witness to this Universal Law and to the mode of its action. We see that every external motion, act, gesture, whether voluntary or mechanical, organic or mental, is produced and preceded by internal feeling or emotion, will or volition, and thought or mind. As no outward motion or change, when normal, in man s external body can take place unless provoked by an inward impulse, given through one of the three functions named, so with the external or manifested Universe. (S.D. I, 274.)Certain events of World War II need original study from the perspective of "Theosophical sociology." To say that this war "was no different from any other" is simply an anti-war slogan which has lost most of its meaning. But the purported crusade to oppose totalitarianism has apparently lost much of its meaning also.
The Nazi death camps descended to new depths of inhumanity. So, also, the slave-labor policies -- the transplanting of great masses of people -- first practiced by the Germans, and subsequently by the Russians upon the Germans; so, too, the atomic bomb and the circumstances of its use. All these horrors revolve around the problem of the individual, the unit who is engulfed by the modern State. If we consider these "inhumanities to man" consecutively, it is possible to discern the outline of a single Karmic cycle represented in them all.
The military machine of no modern nation allows the individual soldier to question or philosophize about the moral implications of the orders he is required to carry out. Only four of the crew that dropped the first atomic bomb knew anything whatever of the nature of their cargo. Is not the average man belonging to any military order in a similar predicament? Granted, that men conscripted by the United States were not asked to be paymasters in death camps -- but if they had been? ... The danger is always present as long as men conform submissively to patterns, for the man who controls the pattern may carry from step to step the tendency to regard human beings as means to the end of the State rather than as ends in themselves. And human evolution stops for the man who simply conforms to patterns to the degree that such compliance makes him amoral.
One of the interesting documents of the last war was an evaluation of "Military Society" by a man who served three years in the American Army, first published in the magazine Politics, October 1945:Never before in history has man mobilized such huge armies as are contending in this war. Every color of skin in every color of uniform is marching today -- recruited, trained, rationed, housed, and deployed by the various nations. To achieve the organization of these vast forces, great pyramidal structures, based on the authority principle and hierarchical in nature, have been created. There is an astonishing resemblance between them, whatever the differences in the civil societies that produced them.... The man who enters the armed services of his country becomes the "citizen" of a totalitarian society. This society is based upon absolute authority and backed up by threat of death in many forms. It is this salient fact which, it seems to me, has been neglected by almost all writers dealing with the subject at hand.... We are not yet aware of the implications of life under a highly-organized, all-pervading totalitarian society, which has now endured long enough to leave some permanent traces upon the individuals who have lived under it. The organization of the Army, for example, is perfectly pyramidal and more tightly knit by the hierarchic principle of rank than any civilian society of our day, including the most totalitarian.This devaluation of the individual is characteristic of all modern "national" movements; it underlay the Nazi transplantation of Poles, Frenchmen, and other ethnic groups from their homes to areas where they could serve more efficiently the needs of the "total state." The Russian Government then imported many thousands of Germans showing the same type of unconcern in the breaking up of families formerly evidenced by the Nazis.
In a democratic society (and any civil society is democratic in comparison with any military society of our day), authority and responsibility operate in a complex, relatively humane fashion, determined at least theoretically by the citizen himself, his needs, and wishes. In the authoritarian society of the armed forces, however, responsibility can only be downward, toward the lower ranks; and authority lies in one direction: upward. The soldier, therefore, is the subject, not the object of his society.
The militarists of every great power are today pressing for universal "peacetime" conscription. Another armaments race has thus already begun. And what guarantees are being given that these armaments are even intended to secure "the self-determination of nations" -- or of individuals? The "Atlantic Charter" is finally revealed to have served little function other than idealistic publicity, never having even the dignity of a formal recording. The "freedoms" supposedly guaranteed therein to all countries had been long denied to India, and this not simply through military occupation, but by such despotic means as the political imprisonments of Jawarharlal Nehru and Mohandas Gandhi. But a few years ago Nehru's sister, attending the highly publicized "International" San Francisco Conference of 1946, in an attempt to explain India's political plight, was unable to attract serious attention; at which time, incidentally, her brother was still in a British prison for peaceably advocating the four freedoms in his mother land.... This is not in special condemnation of British policy, but in condemnation of Western culture as basically conscienceless, operating politically at the level of the "law of self-preservation."
Warped and often abortive in effect, the revolutions of the eighteenth century were a struggle to break the chains of a social system which held the individual helpless. The concept of democracy, for which so many profess instinctive veneration, grew from the same tree, the roots of which thirstily seek the waters of new life for the individual. But where is new vitality for that tree now to be found? Its foliage is dying, while withered branches masquerade in pretense of a strength never existent except when nurtured by the freedom and strength of the individual human spirit.
New sustenance is to be found in a philosophy which enlightens the problem of "good" and "evil" by teaching the evolution of the dual nature of man -- thus making the individual a "creature of promise" indeed -- and by postulating man as a pilgrim whose opportunities to come to terms with himself and with all beings extend through the limitless vistas of countless incarnations on earth. "Help is to be found in these and in no other doctrines," and in the inspiration of the lives of the courageous few who instinctively embody these principles in action, who themselves refuse to perpetrate the amoral patterns of society, and who make their choice with a sense of individual moral responsibility.
The day of the death camps, of slave labor, of universal conscription, of the atom bomb, is a day of collective irresponsibility. Moral man must be rediscovered in the debris of an amoral society concerned chiefly with the mechanical preservation of institutions. The age of greatest physical destruction has been prepared by the destruction of the idea of the importance of the individual soul. It is the obligation and trust of the Theosophical Movement to renew man's faith in man, by providing a metaphysical foundation for the "new order of ages" -- the intellectual and moral courage which must attend the travail of its birth. When society tends to be amoral, the acts of the moral man who fights to establish principles of justice will often appear to be oppositional rather than directly constructive. This is one of the inversions of Kali Yuga, as well as a tragedy for the individuals who in one way or another "stand out" and are separate. Yet Theosophists already have a constructive plan for the spread of moral principles -- a plan and a vehicle for education in soul responsibility.
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 DOMINANT DRIFT"
Every despotism has a specially keen and hostile instinct for whatever keeps up human dignity, and independence. And it is curious to see scientific and realist teaching used everywhere as a means of stifling all freedom of investigation as addressed to moral questions under a dead weight of facts. Materialism is the auxiliary doctrine of every tyranny, whether of the one or of the masses. To crush what is spiritual, moral, human so to speak, in man, by specializing him; to form mere wheels of the great social machine, instead of perfect individuals; to make society and not conscience the center of life, to enslave the soul of things, to depersonalize man, this is the dominant drift of our epoch. Everywhere you may see a tendency to substitute the laws of dead matter (number, mass) for the laws of the moral nature (persuasion, adhesion, faith); equality, the principle of mediocrity, becoming a dogma; unity aimed at through uniformity; numbers doing duty for argument; negative liberty, which has no law in itself, and recognizes no limit except in force, everywhere taking the place of positive liberty, which means action guided by an inner law and curbed by a moral authority.
STUDIES IN KARMA
ASPECTS OF PSYCHICAL RESEARCH
(Part 48 of a 57-part series)
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