THEOSOPHY, Vol. 34, No. 11, September, 1946
(Pages 411-417; Size: 66K)
(Number 9 of a 12-part series)
THE CYCLE'S NEED
POLITICS IN TRANSITION
THE greatest need of the humanity of any age is psychological and mental balance. The attainment of "balance" requires a grasp of philosophy -- the deliberative assessment of all human values according to their relationship with individually-established principle. It is the unrecognized curse of Christianized civilization that men have been discouraged from the individual quest for principles by being induced to accept the specious security of dogma. Dogmas, whether of an external God or of a fanatically-pursued political panacea, are but substitutes for responsible, self-induced investigation of values. Truth is not determined by majority vote, nor by belief. For truth, to the individual, is never more than genuine self-realization.
When the medieval man sought the comfortable security afforded by reliance upon the pronouncements of the Church, he set in motion a chain of psychological causes and effects which have influenced each subsequent century. "Obey the Church and you will be saved!" became, finally, as the hold of theological superstition weakened, "follow the right revolutionary, the right political leader, and you will be secure!" Man in the latter 18th century attained a measure of enlightenment in the realization that heaven is not simply the reward in the future for unthinking virtue in the present, but that it is a state which must be created here on earth by the dedicated labors of men. Social panaceas and revolutionary political movements became prominent and vigorous, culminating in the revolutionary socialist doctrines of Karl Marx. However, the tendency to follow authority still persisted, making of man's painful transcendence of one dogma but the prologue to his acceptance of another.
Many men who were not content to accept the flagrant existence of mass social injustice have tried to use the tools of Marxism to right the world's many wrongs, but they failed to the extent that they became political partisans, hating those who opposed application of their particular panacea. It is notable, then, that one of the most intuitive philosophers of the political world, Dwight Macdonald, has grown through, and finally beyond, the dogmas of Marxism.
Macdonald's magazine, Politics, began with his realization that a balanced relation between philosophy and politics had not yet appeared. He renounced orthodox revolutionary doctrines in order to further a re-examination of values by all those who sensed the need for such an impartial approach. Macdonald has rejected, sequentially, the materialism of Marx, the materialism of modern science, and the unconscious materialism of the average man. He is a singularly effective expounder of one central view -- that man must become responsible for his creations by reliance upon individual judgment rather than on any form of mass power.
The practical social and political problem of this age, in Macdonald's view, is that of the encroachment of the state upon the individual, just as the medieval problem was the encroachment of the church upon the individual. In producing one of the most valuable discussions which has yet appeared of the Nazi character (see Lookout, May and June, 1945), a pamphlet entitled "The Responsibility of Peoples," Macdonald gives evidence that he rejects the implicit materialism of a partisan view. For he presents the Nazis, diametrically opposed both in theory and in practice to every principle of social action that he feels constructive, as simply the common victims of a politically-focused materialism which exacts obedience as an exchange for economic security. [Note: Copies from the two "On the Lookout" sections, a section which is in every issue of THEOSOPHY magazine, that are referred to above by the editors, are found at the end of this article; but a typesetting mistake must have occurred, since they were found in the May and July, 1945 issues, and not "May and June". --Compiler.]
In the April and July issues of Politics, under the title, "The Root is Man," Macdonald continues a (by now) admittedly philosophical investigation of materialism itself. Basic to his discussion is the conviction that the modern state is no longer -- if, indeed, it ever was -- capable of forwarding any higher aim than that of a strictly material nature. He clarifies the issue facing modern man with two alternatives -- either to be content with a purely materialistic evaluation of the world and of man, or to hold to a higher purpose and a greater end -- in which case the machine state must be rejected as not only non-productive of the necessary spiritual values, but actually morally debilitating.
Although Macdonald protests that he has "no philosophical training" and does not "feel at home in this field," he is conscious of a responsibility: "the course which our society is taking is so catastrophic that one is forced to rethink for himself all sorts of basic theoretical questions which in a happier age could have been more or less taken for granted.... Such questions are those of Determinism v. Free Will, Materialism v. Idealism, the concept of Progress, the basis for making value judgements, the precise usefulness of science to human ends, and the nature of man himself."
The approach proposed is thus "radical" in the original sense of the word, and Macdonald's text is: "To be radical is to grasp the matter by its root. Now the root for mankind is man himself." Macdonald thus identifies himself as primarily an ethical thinker. Of his approach he writes, "its ethical dynamic comes from absolute and non-historical values, such as Truth and Justice, rather than from the course of history." He is concerned with a sphere that science cannot investigate and where value judgments cannot be "proved" -- the "traditional sphere of art and morality," the province of the human being. A new approach is desperately needed because the social realities of our day are intolerable:The brutality and irrationality of Western social institutions have reached a pitch which would have seemed incredible a short generation ago; our lives have come to be dominated by warfare of a ferocity and on a scale unprecedented in history; horrors have been committed by the governments of civilized nations which could hardly have been improved on by Attila: the extermination of the Jewish people by the Nazis; the vast forced-labor camps of the Soviet Union; our own saturation bombing of German cities and the "atomization" of the residents of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. It is against this background that the present article is written; it is all this which has forced me to question beliefs I have long held.No compromise or half-measures, no partial salvage of ideals is permitted by current events: "Modern warfare is so insanely destructive that the seeds of a new order are wiped out along with the old order." This disposes of the 19th-century view that war may be a means to a better end, for "war has become an end in itself," and "tends more and more to make the situation of the 'victors' indistinguishable from that of the 'defeated'."
Nor is it any longer practical, from a human standpoint, to put faith in social and economic reforms -- "these are being made, but often go hand in hand with moral barbarism." The ethical analysis here exemplified brings great clarity to Macdonald's criticism of Marx, which is essentially a plea (familiar to theosophists) against the materialization of concepts. Pointing out that Marx made the historical process significant rather than the ethical values, Macdonald voices regret that a social philosopher capable of formulations "so wonderfully precise and imaginative" as Marx's should woodenly constrict his thinking in a historical-materialist pattern. The following illuminating comment indicates Macdonald's own intellectual emancipation: "One of the signs that Marx was a great thinker is that his thought is often more profound than his system."
Ethics cannot be derived from history, Macdonald shows, for history records the existence of far more Machiavellians than disciples of Socrates. History does show, however, that the concept of inherited ethics would not promote the perception of moral truths, but impel only the profession of conventional morality, and this has for too long been a substitute (and a deterrent) for moral action.The fact that "everybody" agrees that war, torture, and the massacre of helpless people are Evil is not reassuring to me [Macdonald writes]. It seems to show that our ethical code is no longer experienced, but is simply assumed, so that it becomes a collection of "mere platitudes." One does not take any risks for a platitude. Ask a dozen passersby, picked at random, whether they believe it is right to kill helpless people; they will reply of course not (the "of course" is ominous) and will probably denounce the inquirer as a monster for even suggesting there could be two answers to the question. But they will all "go along" with their government in World War III and kill as many helpless enemy people as possible.In order to discuss ethical action at all, we must premise free will, or, in Macdonald's words, "One must conclude, and I do conclude, that although vast areas of human motivation are determined, there is a certain area -- a vital core, so to speak -- where we have a free choice.... So far as action goes, this core is the 'point,' since the rest is determined -- i.e., we react rather than act." This is an aspect of the duality Macdonald recognizes as characterizing man's existence: "there are two worlds and we in practice live on two levels all the time." The practical relevance of this distinction appears:To take into account the process of history in realizing one's values is one thing, and to build one's values on this process, as the Marxists do, is quite another.... [The latter] makes it impossible to stand up against overwhelming odds for one's idea of what is right. For I do assert that one's values, if they are real in the sense of causing one to act on them even when the odds are against them (as is the case unhappily today), must be based on a free choice that takes place in an ethical sphere intrinsically impervious to scientific examination.The importance of Macdonald's presence on the contemporary scene of political journalism may be illuminated by consideration of two factors. First, he represents no political party or faction, which gives to his political utterances an objectivity (in Theosophical terms "impersonality," although Macdonald would hardly agree with this use of the word) that is philosophically clarifying. Secondly, the objectivity thus engendered has a focal point deep in the realms of genuine philosophy. Witness his inclusion of the idea of Karma, and the moral principles of the Pythagoreans, as suggesting the only alternative to "the attitude of materialism" in politics:The Progressive [one who believes that History, not individuals, "progress"] insists that one has a duty in every situation to choose between what he calls "real" alternatives, and that it is irresponsible to refuse to make such a choice.... The Radical believes -- and I think logic is on his side -- that only an alternative which is antithetical to the existing system can lead one to the abolition of that system. For him, it is unrealistic to hope to secure a peaceful world through war, to hope to defeat the brutality and oppression of Hitler by ... brutality....Here Macdonald begins to consciously define Karma, by indicating his belief that there is a perpetuation of "the nature" of all our actions. He refers to an article by Simone Weil on "The Iliad, or Poem of Force" (Politics, November, 1945):Writing of Homer's constant demonstration of the evanescence of power, Simone Weil observes:Macdonald does not offer himself and his development of ideas as a panacea, for he is unalterably opposed to panaceas, through the courtesy of discouraging experience. Nor has he completely solved the most difficult of real political problems -- what are the sources of sustaining self-disciplines? While he begins with a philosophical approach to the problem through his thoughtful consideration of the idea of Karma, he also writes that the first step "is for each person to decide what he thinks is right, what satisfies him, what he wants. It is not difficult to sketch out the kind of society we need.... It would be one whose only aim, justification, and principle would be the full development of each individual, and the removal of all social bars to his complete and immediate satisfaction in his work, his leisure, his sex life...." Immediate satisfaction of the wants of the individual can hardly be the goal of any disciplined society -- even when the discipline sought is self-discipline. But Macdonald's desire to reverse the hypocrisy of nearly all present values leads him quite naturally to such a recommendation -- a trend which will probably be much in evidence among many of the most creative and courageous of useful transition figures.
"This retribution ... was the main subject of Greek thought. It is the soul of the epic. Under the name of Nemesis, it functions as the mainspring of Aeschylus's tragedies. To the Pythagoreans, to Socrates and Plato, it was the jumping-off point of speculation upon the nature of man and the universe. Wherever Hellenism has penetrated, we find the idea of it familiar. In Oriental countries, which are steeped in Buddhism, it is perhaps this Greek idea that has lived on under the name of Kharma [sic]. The Occident, however, has lost it, and no longer even has a word to express it in any of its languages: conceptions of limit, measure, equilibrium, which ought to determine the conduct of life are, in the West, restricted to a servile function in the vocabulary of technics. We are only geometricians of matter; the Greeks were, first of all, geometricians in their apprenticeship to virtue."...
The time will come, however, when the revolutionary has to build, when he must substitute for the external disciplines and controls which did not produce the "good" society, disciplines which will produce the good society. The fact that successful discipline must be internally discovered and internally administered does not imply that matters of such discipline are unimportant. While it might sound somewhat doctrinaire to Macdonald, the ideas of Karma and Reincarnation, as the only rational basis for ethics will need opportunity for permeation of the consciousness of "free men."
Macdonald is a focal point for a study of many of the most philosophical advances of the transition age. He is a scholar, but he is fully alive to the limitations of scholarship. He is a "revolutionary," an accomplished Marxist theoretician, but, like Thomas Paine, he has abandoned materialism. He is a philosopher who, like Robert Hutchins, Milton Mayer, and Plato, has discovered just how necessary it is for other men to become philosophers. These directions are signposts on a road which many need to find, each in his own way. Many such men may become, unconsciously, aids to the march of self-instituted progress referred to by Theosophical students as "the Theosophical Movement." Macdonald's final passages in "The Root is Man" are direct evidence of the maturity of thought sometimes inspired by the very tragedies of our times.Technological progress, the organization from the top of human life ..., the overconfidence of the past two centuries in scientific method -- these have led us, literally, into a dead end. Their trend is now clear: atomic warfare, bureaucratic collectivism, "the crystallization of social activity into an objective power above us, growing out of our control, thwarting our expectations, bringing to naught our calculations...." To try to fight this trend, as the Progressives of all shades do, with the same forces that have brought it about appears absurd to me. We must emphasize the emotions, the imagination, the moral feelings, the primacy of the individual human being once more, must restore the balance that has been broken by the hypertrophy of science in the last two centuries. The root is man, here and not there, now and not then.Macdonald's conclusion may be said to be philosophically inevitable, and the theosophist reader cannot help but be reminded of the principle of association, rather than organization, that has been the "social doctrine" of the Declaration of the United Lodge of Theosophists. A positive faith is sustained not because of, but in spite of organization, as Evan Thomas has demonstrated (see Lookout for July, 1942). [Note: A copy of this is found at the end of this article, following the copies of the first two items earlier referred to. --Compiler.] Macdonald's summing up is--From all of this one thing seems to follow: we must reduce political action to a modest, unpretentious, personal level -- one that is real in the sense that it satisfies, here and now, the psychological needs and the ethical values of the particular persons taking part in it. We must begin way at the bottom again, with small groups of individuals in various countries, grouped around certain principles and feelings they have in common.... They should probably consist of individuals -- families, rather -- who live and make their living in the everyday world but who come together often enough and intimately enough to form a psychological (as against a geographical) community.... What he [the individual] does, is considered to be just as "real" as what History does.Macdonald's thesis, in essence, then, is that "individual actions, based on moral convictions," is the only force capable of forging either individual happiness or social advancement. This philosophical perception certifies his place in the ranks of those who are engaged in the true service of Humanity, and who help on the education designed to promulgate this view.
Members of the groups would get into the habit, discouraged by the Progressive [historical materialist] frame of mind, of acting here and now, on however tiny a scale, for their beliefs
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:
In sober fact, we are a poor set of mortals at best, ever in dread before the face of even a relative truth, lest it should devour ourselves and our petty little preconceptions along with us. As for an absolute truth, most of us are as incapable of seeing it as of reaching the moon on a bicycle. Firstly, because absolute truth is as immovable as the mountain of Mahomet, which refused to disturb itself for the prophet, so that he had to go to it himself. And we have to follow his example if we would approach it even at a distance. Secondly, because the kingdom of absolute truth is not of this world, while we are too much of it.
--H. P. BLAVATSKY
[Note: Here are the three items that were referred to by the Editors in the above article. They are from the "On the Lookout" sections of three different issues of THEOSOPHY magazine. Each of these items are only a part of the particular "On the Lookout" section they are in, as each section features and comments on other subjects also, which I have not included. --Compiler.]
THEOSOPHY, Vol. 33, No. 7, May, 1945
ON THE LOOKOUT
"THE RESPONSIBILITY OF PEOPLES"
Under the above title and through the courtesy of the radical press (Politics, March, 1945), appears one of the most searching analyses of war guilt yet produced. The writer, editor Dwight Macdonald, is a Socialist by conviction and reputation, but his observations in this article are those of a genuine humanitarian, far above the level of partisan politics. The Theosophical student who re-reads H. P. Blavatsky's "Cyclic Evolution and Karma" in the Secret Doctrine will see the relevance of Macdonald's commentary to the Karma of Kali Yuga. Macdonald begins with an objective consideration of that most startlingly inhuman phenomenon -- the Nazi death camps. These serve as a dramatic focus for the inevitable and logical results of a purely materialistic scale of social values.We may say [Macdonald writes] that those who planned and carried out such things were insane. This may have often been true, in a medical sense. But once granted the ends, the means were rational enough -- all too rational. The Nazis learned much from mass production, from modern business organization. It all reads like a sinister parody of Victorian illusions about scientific method and the desirability in itself of man's learning to control his environment. The environment was controlled at Maidanek. It was the human beings who ran amok."Liberal" writers variously array themselves on the question of total German responsibility for war crimes, generally inclining to draw a sharp distinction between the Nazi superstructure and the majority of the 80 million German people. But the disturbing fact remains: the German people as a whole have, by acquiescence, if not by active participation, made possible the machinations of the Nazi system. Why? To the degree that we are able to answer that question, Macdonald believes, will we be able to create a less brutal world. To the extent that we seek to localize the root of evil in special people, whether individuals or nations, will we be subscribing to the essence of Nazi doctrines and allowing those doctrines final victory in a retrograde world revolution.
There is a form of psychological indulgence which permeates the aura of a civilization when materialism rises to ascendancy. That indulgence is the fixing of blame for one's circumstances on external factors. Whatever the external factors, and whatever the circumstances, the indulgence is essentially the same. During the dark ages of Christian history, the greatest hold of the Church was in its pronouncement of ultimate irresponsibility for the individual. An outside moral monitor, the priest, externalized ethical judgment and the individual was largely deprived of control over his own spiritual fate. Vicarious atonement and salvation by faith completed the circuit, leaving the individual bound mind and soul by fear and ignorance, and the Church free to prosper temporally. People, as a columnist said recently, are "those strange bipeds who can be pushed around indefinitely if you just tell them that they are being made free" -- and the forces inimical to human progress and enlightenment have long thrived on the use of this principle. Today, the State has become a moral monitor.
In medieval times, and among some Christian sects to this day, the scapegoats for the ills and fears of mankind are the doctrine of original sin and the personality of Satan. An age when it is believed that human motivations must ever be the result of external economic and political factors is similarly deluded. In both instances there is an abrogation of individual moral responsibility.
MANAGEMENT AND MATERIALISM
Society ever has two choices of management: responsibility voluntarily assumed by a populace imbued with a moral sense of fraternity, -- or authoritarianism. Materialism, whether incorporated in Church or State, can but lead to the latter. The individual becomes a moral cipher. He blames all things distasteful upon conditions over which he imagines himself to have no control, and he accepts submergence in the power of organized authority as a means of reaching "security." In other words, he is willing to stop thinking if he is promised material gain or retention of present possessions. On the basis of such an analysis, it is not difficult to see the philosophical foundation for the Catholic Church's laissez-faire policy with regard to Nazism in Germany -- until Catholic prestige and power began to be affected. This un-Christian compromise with expediency is examined by Dr. Charles Singer in The Christian Failure and found to be an integral part of "historic Christianity":The loathsome and satanic religion of National Socialism seems to have come as a surprise to Christians. It has not come at all as a surprise to some of the observers of historic Christianity. Those who have read the life of Martin Luther or Alexander VI need not be astounded at the life of Adolf Hitler."THINGS HAPPEN TO PEOPLE"
To return to Macdonald. His article is of such length and detail that we can select only the central theme and a few statements which suggest his approach to the problem. Surveying the progressive "mechanization" of government everywhere, Macdonald remarks:Modern society has become so tightly organized, so rationalized and routinized that it has the character of a mechanism which grinds on without human consciousness or control. The individual, be he "leader" or mass-man, is reduced to powerlessness vis-a-vis the mechanism. More and more, things happen TO people.The article quotes a New Yorker interview with an Army Air Force lieutenant, who said:The more I think about it, and I've thought about it a lot lately, the more it looks as if I'd been a cog in one thing after another since the day I was born. Whenever I get set to do what I want to do, something a whole lot bigger than me comes along and shoves me back into place. It's not especially pleasant, but there it is.The pattern of this age marks the increasing encroachment of the state upon the individual. Our morally indifferent, mechanical civilization responds to the control of ambitious leaders like a machine. Propaganda. Slogans. Appeal to National Security. Racism. The disease is not localized.
"A TYPICAL MODERN PROBLEM"
The full force of the pattern is illustrated by the incident at Mare Island, California, last summer, when two munitions ships blew up at the naval base, killing 300 sailors. "The next day," Macdonald recounts, "the admiral in charge issued an Order of the Day in which he paid tribute to the 'heroism' and 'self-sacrifice' of the dead." But these men, Macdonald points out, were killed not because of any action or decision of their own, but because they happened to be around when the explosives went off.The admiral's Order of the Day was thus a fantastic distortion of reality. Yet the administrative reflex which prompted him to issue it was sound. Instinctively, he felt it necessary to give to something which was non-purposive and impersonal a human meaning, to maintain the fiction that men who die in modern war do so not as chance victims but as active "patriots," who heroically choose to sacrifice their lives for their countries.The impersonality of the mobilized state has been abundantly demonstrated on the continent of Europe. The Germans, for instance, have impressed into service in their Army "great numbers of Poles, Russians, Frenchmen, Italians, Czechs, Georgians, Mongolians -- most of them war prisoners given a choice between starvation and service in the Reichswehr." Many of these have surrendered to the Allies--giving our High Command a typical modern problem. Were they allies? (But they wore the German uniform.) Or were they prisoners? (But they hated the uniform they wore.) All that could be said with certainty is that they were fought on the German side. The passive verb is intentional: the modern soldier does not "fight"; he "is fought," like a battleship or other inanimate mechanism."A TERRIBLE FACT"
The powerlessness of the individual is dangerously but inevitably combined with the feeling of irresponsibility which the dogmas of Church and State have fixed in the race mind. Macdonald observes:It is a terrible fact, but it is a fact, that few people have the imagination or the moral sensitivity to get very excited about actions which they don't participate in themselves (and hence about which they feel no personal responsibility). The scale and complexity of modern Governmental organization, and the concentration of political power at the top, are such that the vast majority of people are excluded from this participation.This is not an age in which we can allow ourselves both "luxurious materialism" and polite sentiments, unless we mean to keep ourselves forever confused and apparently "victimized." The problem is not merely to assign responsibility for the immediate causes of world disaster, but to expose to view the underlying factors which made their operation possible. It is not a matter for righteous judgment of other nations, nor mawkish self-condemnation which overlooks the relativities of guilt, but of impartial examination of historic processes and the cycles of race and national Karma. For the lesser allegiances of time and place, we must substitute, if we can, a larger loyalty to the great objective of understanding. Are we mature enough to assume our own burden of responsibility, as individuals?
"WHAT HAVE I DONE?"
Consider the significance of the following incident, recounted by Macdonald: A captured German official, paymaster in a death-camp, was told that he was to be hung as a war criminal. He burst into tears. "What have I done?"What have I done? These words ring true. One feels that the worthy paymaster -- imagine the civilization that has produced the job of paymaster in a death camp! -- is sincerely outraged by the proposal to hang him for his part in killing several million human beings. What had he done indeed? Simply obeyed orders and kept his mouth shut. It was what he had not done that shocks our moral sensibilities. But from the standpoint of the Organic Nation, he is no more and no less guilty than every other person in Germany.... Soldiers must obey their officers, just as citizens must obey the law.A HUMAN PROBLEM
Macdonald concludes with a statement which shows how profoundly the foregoing reflections have at least temporarily moved him from pre-occupation with any political panacea:We must look both more widely and more deeply for relief from the dilemma of increasing political impotence accompanied by increasing political responsibility. To our essential humanity and to a more sensitive and passionate respect for our own and other people's humanity.What is the final verdict? The need is not to be "told" a verdict, but to find the verdict as an individual, to act as an individual, to remember that the choice is between the life of the heart and soul and the life of an automaton. War is not a political phenomenon. It is not primarily economic. It is a human problem, and it must be met by men, men of minds and hearts, not by the machines that have come so nearly to master humankind. The hope of our human race in this, as in any, cycle is with those who are able to transcend the limitations of the age, of their creeds, and who find the living meaning of Theosophical principles.
THEOSOPHY, Vol. 33, No. 9, July, 1945
ON THE LOOKOUT
BROTHERHOOD IN EXTREMIS
Lookout for May contained comment upon one of the few philosophically evaluative articles extant concerned with a basic analysis of moral responsibility in relation to the present war. That essay, "The Responsibility of Peoples," appeared in a leftist political journal. The Philadelphia Evening Bulletin, whose politics could hardly be confused with "the left," recently contained a special article by Malcolm Bingay, repeating the same thesis of the universality of guilt as that dramatically presented by Dwight Macdonald in Politics. Mr. Bingay is Editorial Director of the Detroit Free Press and was a member of the delegation of editors invited to Europe by General Eisenhower.When we landed at LaGuardia Airport [Mr. Bingay writes], we were surrounded by reporters. The burden of their questioning was: "How deep is the guilt of the German people?""UNAVOIDABLE" COMPLICITY
This is the question the delegation of American editors heard everywhere; wherever we went in Europe, in England, in Iceland. It is the question we have been asking ourselves ever since that awful day when we had visited upon us the first gruesome impact of the horrors of Buchenwald.
On the way home, flying high above the clouds, away from the heart-tearing agonies of man's bestiality, his sacrifices, his heroism, his spiritual exaltation, I pondered this question to myself.
And I thought of the Painted Desert of Arizona, for reasons that at first were not clear to me. Then the idea clicked. The sands of that painted desert are of many hues, brilliant greens, reds, yellows. But take any one grain of sand and look at it in the palm of your hand and you cannot tell by the naked eye what color it is.
So it is when you attempt to assay the guilt or innocence of 80 million people.
The enormity of the problem will not permit a yes or no answer to any phase of it.... The great, significant thing about the German picture is this: There is not a person in Europe today who will admit ever having been a Nazi at heart.
Not in all Germany can you find a man who will admit that he is a Nazi at heart any more than in America will you ever find a man who admits he believes in the horrible doctrines of the Ku Klux Klan.Throughout Germany the refrain is the same: "We did as we were told.""HOW DEEP IS OURS"?
I was thinking of American business and professional leaders whom I have heard say the same thing in many ways, that "they had to play ball."
All the time I was listening to these alibis from scientists, scholars, manufacturers, merchants and the little people, I was seeing my own America -- as though looking through one picture into another.
I was thinking of the dark post-war days in America when the hideous Ku Klux Klan rose to an estimated membership of 5,100,000 and dominated much of the political thought of America. There are men in high places today who gave the same excuse for joining it as the German civilians now give for Nazi membership; they thought it good business or good politics....
The story of the rise of Nazism in Germany is the story of people who lost their moral sense in seeking security. It is the story of the world today....The only difference between what happened in Germany and what could happen in America is that the Germans, for countless generations, have learned to obey while we have not; that Germany had 80 million people crowded into an area much smaller than Texas, and that the Nazis could apply the Huey Long-Al Capone methods, while the vastness of America precludes such efficiency in destroying all opposition.MACDONALD AGAIN
Yes, the German people are guilty, guilty of selling their souls to a criminal system because it gave them what they thought was prosperity and security -- as long as they obeyed.
But to what degree can we of America free ourselves of just such guilt?
Have we not, too, been ... lured by the mirage of personal prosperity and security?
It is going to take more than pious platitudes to save us. There must be a rebirth of conscience, a realization that real success cannot be determined either by the social register or rating in Dun & Bradstreet. It must come from the mind and heart and soul of the individual American citizen.
How deep is the guilt of the German people?
I do not know.
Nor do I know, as I look over America, how deep is ours.
Additions made by Dwight Macdonald to "Responsibility of Peoples," when the article was reprinted in pamphlet form, emphasize the close agreement between Macdonald and Bingay on the point that we must ask ourselves, "How deep is our own guilt?" For that matter, Macdonald says of his article that "it was written primarily to show that we cannot feel superior to the German people."
Writings in the vein of the Macdonald and Bingay articles will arouse some heated dispute for the following reason: Most representatives of the two major divisions of thought on the significance of this war are alike reluctant to look at "war-guilt" in the light suggested. The "pro-war" majority is reluctant because a large part of the incentive to total war has been the belief that the source of most international evil has been localized in Central Europe. It is therefore disquieting to think that "we," the "peace loving nations," have exterminated millions of Germans, if it suddenly appears that these Germans are no more morally culpable than ourselves.
The anti-war minority finds a different variety of difficulty in accepting and respecting the Macdonald thesis. First, the war opposition has been largely concerned with the argument that stories of Nazi inhumanity are propaganda, that "nothing is so very wrong over there." This has characterized a considerable proportion of pacifist and semi-pacifist as well as isolationist thinking. If the death camps are a fact, as seems proven beyond any reasonable doubt, this position becomes extremely shaky. Something was very wrong over there -- but not just "there." The fact of Nazism has not been met, nor can it be met, by saying that "Nazism is not really so bad." It must be met by combatting its essential elements. Also, such a phenomenon as Nazism -- and its psychological roots are indeed universally present -- cannot be met effectively by adopting the position that certain people or certain groups of people are singly responsible for inhumanities. This attitude is virtually an unqualified acceptance of the central Nazi doctrine itself.
THE RESPONSIBILITY OF INDIVIDUALS
Unless the "victor nations" can look more widely and deeply than they have hitherto -- for the universality of responsibility -- any number of future wars become imminent. When individuals acquire enough moral stamina to face the essential nature of the tragic heritage of our times, they may vitalize what Macdonald expresses in these words: "Every now and then the sense of fellowship flashes out like a vital flame darting out from under the rubbish-heap of hate-the-enemy propaganda. The source of this hidden fire is the sense of human identity...." And the sense of human identity is the only bulwark strong enough to withstand the psychological effects of "hate the enemy" propaganda now being manufactured wholesale on the screen and in the press to cover our own inhumanities to man.
THEOSOPHY, Vol. 30, No. 9, July, 1942
ON THE LOOKOUT
NO BLUE-PRINTS FOR MORAL ORDER
Dr. Evan W. Thomas, assistant professor of Medicine at the New York University College of Medicine, writing on ways and means to achieve permanent peace, offers the following discussion of "The Meaning of Organization," which should be of particular interest to theosophists who have adopted the "Declaration" of the U.L.T. ["ULT" stands for The United Lodge of Theosophists. --Compiler.]:Well meaning materialists and idealists have long sought to save mankind by impressive blue-prints of a planned society. On the whole, the result of their political machinations and choice of methods has pushed society still farther towards the goal of a regimented and static civilization. Organization per se seeks short cuts and immediate results. Therefore, it demands authoritative leadership and uniformity of action. Because it recognizes success only in terms of power it imposes its will by coërcion and organized violence. Once successful, it invariably seeks to become an end in itself. This is the lesson of totalitarianism, whether communist, fascist or the absolutism of a Holy Roman Empire.ENDS, MEANS, AND ORGANIZATIONAs long as man seeks salvation through the search for bread alone, or power alone, organization will inevitably require increasing coërcion and regimentation. Regardless of the nature of the ideals we claim to seek, whenever men think primarily in terms of organization, any means will be accepted which promotes the power of organization. It is a mistake to believe that the end does not justify the means, provided we really attain the end sought. Both logic and history prove that good ends are not achieved by evil methods. To realize this, however, we must never confuse organization with ends. If we do, we inevitably accept any means which strengthens the organization. In the light of history none can deny the effectiveness of coërcion, misrepresentation and even violence in promoting the power of organization. They are the natural and logical methods of organized power and, if power is our goal, the end vindicates them. Once we realize, however, that organization is not and never can be the means to a more abundant life, apart from the struggle for bread alone, our first loyalty belongs elsewhere. Justice is not achieved through injustice, nor is the truth promoted by lies. Means must be consistent with the ends sought. The confusing element in the age-old controversy about means and ends lies in organization. If we kept our eyes less on the organization and more on the actual conditions of life, we would not be so blind about the relationship of ends and means. A communist who once attempted to justify the acknowledged misrepresentation of his party propaganda on the grounds that it led to ultimate truth was confusing the demands of organized power with ultimate truth. Misrepresentation might well have served the interests of communist organization; it certainly did not serve the truth.ORGANIZATIONS ARE AMORALTo be of service to life, organization must always be accepted as a means and never as an end. In other words, the same principles of honesty and fair dealing must be accepted by organization as by individuals. If this is done, we will never confuse organization with life, and we will always put first things first. Liberal education has failed utterly to make this distinction with the result that many college professors and preachers confuse organizational ideals with morality. Morals are concerned with methods and even undergraduates are beginning to be aware of the contradiction involved in fighting evil with evil. If morality is to mean anything, individuals are responsible for their actions and individuals alone can make organization respect moral values. Left to its own devices organization itself has no use for morality except as ideals can be used to fool the people it wishes to control. Neither Church nor State has refrained from using immoral methods for the sake of organization gains. The only restraining factors have been the faith and loyalty of individuals who constantly challenge such methods and refuse to accept organization as an end in itself.WHAT PRICE "EFFICIENCY"?In the process of the struggle for complete mastery, organization can be extraordinarily dynamic. Both communism and nazism are instances of this. When organization finally succeeds, however, human values are crushed and there is nothing left but a machine-like efficiency with no other purpose than its own perpetuation. This is not salvation but death. It marks the end of the struggle which alone can give meaning to freedom and life itself.THE "ESCAPE" APPEAL
Absolute power and efficiency of organization are mighty assets in war, which destroys life, but they can never make men creative or good. No greater folly was ever perpetrated than the idea that men can be saved by the efforts of others or by the decrees of government. War results largely from the insatiable desire to achieve some new organized utopia through which man is saved in spite of himself. The logic of all such efforts, however idealistic in purpose, results only in the enslavement of all.
Dr. Thomas is aware of the psychological appeal of "organization," warning:We can become so enamored of our particular theories about an ideal society that our individual responsibility to the values which create the good life becomes submerged in the responsibilities demanded by organization. The escape which this offers is a constant temptation. It is far easier to work for ideals through an organized effort to make others good than it is to remain true to principles of action which are demanded by morality.The modern tendency to rely on organization -- for "doing good," as through the Community Chest; for repressing social injustice, as by the growing body of restrictive laws; for achieving security, as promised by the Townsend Plan -- while doubtless of complex origins, is certainly to be explained in part by the unwillingness of individuals to assume personal responsibility. Subconscious desires to be free of private obligation are at the root of human susceptibility to organizational propaganda. Also, to "belong" to an organization is often a prop to egotism for those who lack inner resources of self-respect.
FREEDOM, POSITIVE AND NEGATIVE
The movement to organization has reached massive proportions in Europe. The regimented societies of the continent illustrate what happens when the problems of the individual become so forbidding that he welcomes the "protection" of the totalitarian scheme. Erich Fromm, a sociologist, regards the rise of fascism in Europe as an "Escape from Freedom." A writer in the Saturday Review of Literature (August 30, 1941) summarizes Fromm's recent book of this title:The most alarming portent in the world today [is] the rejection by free men of their freedom in favor of voluntary slavery.... Fromm finds that the growth of human freedom has been attended by grave psychological dangers, since the loosing of the primary ties which bound men to nature and to one another in unself-conscious unity, has too often left all but the most favored individuals feeling helpless and alone, a prey to hostile and unintelligible forces and to dark, irrational fears. Many of the institutions and ideologies which men have constructed in their slow, reluctant progress towards freedom can be understood as attempts on the part of the newly freed to overcome this feeling of moral isolation. The trouble seems to be that man's negative freedom, his freedom from bondage and control, has usually increased faster than his positive freedom, his freedom to mold and dominate his environment, and the same insecurity and anxiety has resulted as occurs in children who, after they realize their separateness from their parents, find themselves thwarted by them. This sense of insecurity and isolation has been particularly characteristic, Fromm believes, of the middle class ever since the rise of capitalism.ENSLAVED BY DESIRE
The nihilistic revolution that has resulted from the misuse of freedom by western civilization was clearly anticipated and warned against by the Agents of the Theosophical Movement. Mme. Blavatsky wrote in 1890:This is the age which, although proclaimed as one of physical and moral freedom, is in truth the age of the most ferocious moral and mental slavery, the like of which was never known before. Slavery to State and men has disappeared only to make room for slavery to things and Self, to one's own vices and idiotic social customs and ways. Rapid civilization, adapted to the needs of the higher and middle classes, has doomed by contrast to only greater wretchedness the starving masses. (THEOSOPHY III, 453.) [Note: This reference is to the article by HPB entitled "The Dual Aspect of Wisdom". A link to it, as well as the number of the paragraph that the quote is found in, has been placed at the end of this article. --Compiler.]In Echoes from the Orient, W. Q. Judge said:For the civilization of today, and especially of the United States, is an attempt to accentuate and glorify the individual.... the Mahatmas who guard the truth through the ages while nations are decaying, assert that the reaction is sure to come in a relapse into the worst forms of anarchy. (p. 5.)CYCLE OF "UNREST"
Mr. Judge wrote elsewhere:We are here a new race in a new cycle, and persons who know say that a cycle is going to end in a few years and a new one begin, and that that ending and beginning will be accompanied by convulsions of society and of nature. We can all almost see it coming.... The people will rise. For what, who can tell? The statesman who can see for what the uprising will be might take measures to counteract. But all your measures cannot turn back the iron will of fate.... Let those whose ears can hear the whispers, and the noise of the gathering clouds, of the future, take notice; let them read, if they know how, the physiognomy of the United States, whereon the mighty hand of nature has traced the furrows to indicate the character of the moral storms that will pursue their course no matter what the legislation may be. But enough. Theosophists can go on unmoved, for they know that as Krishna said to Arjuna, these bodies are not the real man, and that "no one has ever been non-existent nor shall any of us ever cease to exist." (THEOSOPHY XXX, 164; III, 67.) [Note: This reference is put together from two of his articles, entitled "Cyclic Impression and Return and Our Evolution" and "Another Theosophical Prophecy". Links to them, as well as the numbers of the paragraphs that the quoted excerpts are found in, have been placed at the end of this article. --Compiler.]"ILL FARES THE LAND"
The "Turkish Effendi" warned in 1880:In the degree in which the State depends for its political, commercial, and social well-being and prosperity, not upon a moral but a mechanical basis, is its foundation perilous. When the lifeblood of a nation is its wealth, and the existence of that wealth depends upon the regularity with which railroads and telegraphs perform their function, it is in the power of a few skilled artisans, by means of combined operation, to strangle it.... Combinations among the working classes are now rendered practicable ... which formerly were impossible; and the facilities, which exist for secret conspiracy, have turned Europe into a slumbering volcano, an eruption of which is rapidly approaching.HUNDRED-YEAR CYCLE
Thus it is that the laws of retribution run their course, and that the injuries that Anti-Christendom has inflicted upon the more primitive and simple races of the world, which, under the pretext of civilizing them, it has explored to its own profit -- will be amply avenged. THEOSOPHY III, 65.) [Note: This excerpt is from the article entitled "A Turkish Effendi on Christendom and Islam". The footnote in the full reprint of it in THEOSOPHY magazine says: "This article was first printed by H. P. Blavatsky in The Theosophist for March 1880." Since it is very long and I have not found a link to it that I can provide, and the compilation in this article, due to the other references, is already very long, I decided not to scan, proofread, and offer it here. --Compiler.]
As a concrete example of the principles and prophecies enunciated in the foregoing, the historical events in connection with the conquest of Hongkong, as well as those signalizing its loss, may be recalled. Hongkong became a British possession exactly one hundred years ago, ceded "in perpetuity" according to the Treaty of Nangking, which was signed by the defeated Chinese at the close of the Opium War. Justin McCarthy, the English historian, explains the motive for this conflict:Reduced to plain words, the principle for which we fought in the China War was the right of Great Britain to force a peculiar trade [a market for opium] upon a foreign people in spite of the protestations of the Government and all such public opinion as there was of the nation. Of course this was not the avowed motive of the war. Not often in history is the real and inspiring motive of a war proclaimed in so many words by those who carry it on. Not often, indeed, is it seen, naked and avowed, even in the minds of its promoters themselves.... All traffic in opium was strictly forbidden by the governments and laws of China; yet our English traders carried on a brisk and profitable trade in the forbidden article.... (A History of Our Times, Volume I, Chapter 8.)When China attempted to prevent the spread of the opium habit among her people, demanding forfeiture of a large quantity of the drug, war broke out. Speaking of his own government, Mr. McCarthy observes: "In dealing with China the ministry never seems to have thought the right or wrong of the question a matter worthy of any consideration." And to the English people in general (to their credit, if only negatively), "it seemed as if the safety of English subjects and the honor of England were compromised in some way by the high-handed proceedings of the Chinese government."
"ENGLAND OF THE ORIENT"
While the United States refused to have anything to do with Britain's "nefarious enterprise," as Caleb Cushing called the Opium War, two years later (in 1844) America concluded its first treaty with China, obtaining concessions equal to those of the British, excluding, however, territorial privileges. Thus the opium war brought us trade advantages, although the shame of the conquest was England's! During these years of expanding American "empire," the phrase, "Manifest Destiny," came into popularity in Washington. Nine years later, in 1853, Commodore Perry's warships "opened up" Japan. Perry seized several islands (later relinquished) close to Japan, and he wanted to "annex" Formosa, but Washington, fortunately, disapproved. America's first diplomatic representative to Japan was Townsend Harris, who introduced the "big brother" school of thought with regard to the relation of the United States to the Japanese. Warning Japan against the threat of Britain's naval power, and her "opium salesmen," he offered America's tutelage in western ways and methods. "If you accept my proposals," Harris promised, "Japan will become the England of the Orient."
JAPAN'S "NEW WEAPON"
The sordid tale of Japan's westernization is well known. She soon learned the lesson of occidental commerce, industry, and finally, of militarism and naval power. The Japanese, as H.P.B. said in 1889, were "mad and crazy to acquire Western civilization." After defeating China in 1894-5, Japan was surprised to find European powers growing "respectful" in their attitude. This respect increased still more following the Japanese victory over Russia in 1905. But with every successful imitation of the "fighting and trading West," the Japanese rulers lost more and more their moral perspective. Carl Crow, writing in the Survey Graphic for August, 1940, has characterized the Japanese invasion of China: "An army under tight discipline, literate, civilized in all the superficials, using the most modern technical developments, is resorting to the bestial methods of savages." In a more recent article, he calls "dope" Japan's new weapon. He presents damning evidence from the files of the League of Nations and the Institute of Pacific Relations, showing that Japan is systematically attempting to enslave still more of the Chinese people to the drug habit. Of this "opium war," even more revolting than that of a century ago, he writes:Advance guards of dope peddlers debauch populations, particularly young men of fighting age, to pave the way for army victories. Special agents plot to make addicts of Chinese who are or might become dangerous to the conquerors. Battalions of dope peddlers come in with the troops, to keep the people enslaved -- and to make money. And the drug traffic helps finance the Japanese army. (Reader's Digest, March, 1940.)THE SAME OBJECTIVE?
But while this infamous program of debauchery was being carried out, the British Ambassador at Tokyo, Sir Robert Leslie Craigie -- on March 28, 1940 -- delivered himself of the following sentiments at a meeting of the Japan-British Society:Japan and Great Britain are two maritime Powers on the fringe of continents and vitally concerned with events on those Continents. Methods may in some cases differ, but both countries are ultimately striving for the same objective, namely, lasting peace and the preservation of our institutions from extraneous subversive influences. It is surely not beyond the powers of constructive statesmanship to bring the aims of the national policies into full harmony. (Foreign Policy Reports, July 1, 1940.)1000 TO 7
Over against the curious morality of this declaration, we may set a paragraph by an Australian journalist, included by C. Hartley Grattan in his recent book, Introducing Australia. Australia, be it remembered, is determined to "stay white," and has "the most ruthlessly maintained color bar in the world." The Australian writer says to his countrymen:Just look around you. There are 7,000,000 of us occupying the world's fifth continent. Next door is the most crowded, poverty-stricken, restless, hungry corner of the globe. China, India, Japan -- a thousand million people, half the world's population, living on the world's lowest standard of living, grown envious of Occidental habits, appetites and privileges. Are they waiting for something? Have they been waiting for a long time?"WITHOUT DISTINCTION"
There are two fitting commentaries to all this, which may be expressed in the words of H. P. Blavatsky. She wrote:One day the millions of China and Mongolia, heathen and Musselman, furnished with every murderous weapon invented by civilization, and forced upon the Celestial of the East, by the infernal spirit of trade and love of lucre of the West, drilled, moreover, to perfection by Christian man-slayers -- will pour into and invade decaying Europe like an irrepressible torrent. (THEOSOPHY XXVIII, 538.) [Note: This reference is to the article by HPB entitled "Theosophy or Jesuitism?". A link to it, as well as the number of the paragraph that the quote is found in, has been placed at the end of this article. --Compiler.]
It is not violence that can ever insure bread and comfort for all; nor is the kingdom of peace and love, of mutual help and charity and "food for all," to be conquered by a cold, reasoning, diplomatic policy. It is only by the close brotherly union of men's inner SELVES, of soul-solidarity, of the growth and development of that feeling which makes one suffer when one thinks of the suffering of others, that the reign of Justice and equality for all can ever be inaugurated. This is the first of the three fundamental objects for which the Theosophical Society was established, and called the "Universal Brotherhood of Man," without distinction of race, colour or creed." (THEOSOPHY XXX, 295.) [Note: This reference is to the article by HPB entitled "The Theosophical Society: Its Mission and Its Future". A link to it, as well as the number of the paragraph that the quote is found in, has been placed at the end of this article. --Compiler.]
[Note: These are the links, less the one for which no link to the article could be found, that the quoted excerpts were taken from. All of these excerpts are from just the last of the three add-ons (from the "On the Lookout" section of THEOSOPHY magazine) to this ninth article in "The Cycle's Need" series, which referred to them. When counting the paragraphs, in order to identify the location of the excerpts for you, I counted both the indented and the regular ones. --Compiler.]
(1) "The Dual Aspect of Wisdom", by HPB (the quoted excerpt is found in the 5th paragraph).
(2) "Cyclic Impression and Return and Our Evolution", by WQJ (the quoted excerpt is found in the 29th of 33 paragraphs).
(3) "Another Theosophical Prophecy", by WQJ, (the quoted excerpt is found in the last paragraph).
(4) "Theosophy or Jesuitism?", by HPB (the quoted excerpt is found in the last paragraph).
(5) "The Theosophical Society: Its Mission and Its Future", by HPB (the quoted excerpt is found in the 41st of 59 paragraphs).
THE CYCLE'S NEED
FRUITS OF INDECISION
(Part 10 of a 12-part series)
"THE CYCLE'S NEED"
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