domingo, 1 de novembro de 2015

BROTHERHOOD — James M. Pryse

Universal Brotherhood – March 1898



The consciousness of material life depends upon the alternation of agreeable and disagreeable sensations. If a man were to become absolutely happy, he would no longer be conscious of existence. Perfect misery would be equivalent to annihilation. That theologian was philosopher in his way who taught that the Devil provided a certain amount of pleasure for the damned, so that they might feel the full measure of their sufferings. But it is equally true that without an occasional visitation of sorrow the dwellers in heaven would have no appreciation of happiness. Heaven and Hell represent the opposite extremes of sensation. Some men take comfort in their belief that there is a Heaven, but no Hell. Such are not philosophers. They believe in the zenith, but not in the nadir. It is Hell that makes Heaven possible, and man is the container of both, yet superior to them. For they are but concomitants of objective existence, and in True Being there is neither Hell nor Heaven. Man can attain to the Heavens only by extending his range of sensation; but this range is downward as well as upward, so that to the same extent that he can ascend into the supernal he is capable of descending into the infernal. The wise man, becoming indifferent alike to pleasure and to pain, seeks only the sphere of True Being.

So long as man is ignorant of the actualities of life, and does not understand his own real needs, he is unable to conceive of a right state of existence for himself, here or hereafter. His notions of future worlds will be as fantastic as his life here on earth is purposeless and ill-governed. He is incapable even of forming sensible notions as to what should be the true state of society for mankind. It is easy to talk about universal brotherhood in the abstract; it is not so easy to picture mentally the exact conditions that would prevail if universal brotherhood were established, or to designate specifically the methods by which those conditions could be brought about. Would it be practicable to have liberty, equality, and fraternity, throughout the whole world? Not unqualifiedly. Fraternity limits liberty; brotherhood implies obligations. Human beings are interdependent, not independent. If all men were equal in every respect they would have to be labelled to distinguish them one from another, and even the labels would destroy their equality. The heavenly bodies are not equal, and not even the comets are free. Yet the heavenly bodies constitute the cosmos, while humanity is only a chaos at present. In that fact lies the clue to this problem of brotherhood. True brotherhood is lacking because men cling to a false and chaotic freedom.

It may be that "whatever is, is right"; but surface appearances would seem rather to warrant the opposite conclusion, that whatever is, is wrong. It may be possible "to justify the ways of God to man"; but it would seem more difficult to justify the ways of men to their fellows. Man does not seem to fit in with things as they are on the surface of this planet. Eden, the pleasure-park which God originally laid out for him, was doubtless a more suitable environment than are the regions he now inhabits. All the religions agree that in the remote past man went wrong somehow, and that he is now a creature out of place. The scientific theory seems plausible, that the appearance of man on the earth was a mere accident, and that probably nowhere else in the universe is there a being exactly like him. His entire existence is a protracted struggle against the unfriendly elements. The extremes of heat and cold, the tempest, the thunderbolt, wild beasts, and venomous reptiles, are all inimical to him; he maintains his upright attitude only by pitting his will power and vitality against the attraction of the earth, which seeks to draw him down. He subsists by killing and devouring lower forms of life. Among the few eatable things offered him by the vegetable kingdom, Nature has artfully introduced many poisonous ones difficult to be distinguished from the others. At all times recorded in history man's energies have been chiefly devoted to war, and the "God of battles" has ever had a prominent place in his pantheon. The savage, as he dipped his arrow-tips in deadliest poison, prayed fervently to his war-god; while the civilized man, less consistently, directs his petitions to the God of Peace while preparing hundred-ton rifles for the wholesale slaughter of his fellow-men. Yet where war has slain its thousands, a false industrial system, based on selfishness and greed, has slain its tens of thousands. And individual man is himself a battle-field; the animal instincts, passions, and longings waging war against all that is truly human and divine in his nature.

To assert that whatever is, is right, is merely to fall back to the cowardly position of Fatalism, to excuse one's hopelessness, disbelief in man's innate divinity, and unwillingness to aid in the righting of wrongs, by a pretence of faith in God or in Nature. It may be a consistent belief for those who claim that material Nature is but plastic clay in the hands of an Over-lord whose slave man is, or for those who regard the Universe as soulless; but it is not reconcilable with the teaching that man is a free moral agent and the arbiter of his own destiny. When things are indeed right, it is because man has made them so; when they are wrong, it is because he himself has brought about the wrong. Yet rather than blame themselves for the ills they suffer, men seek to evade their responsibility by attributing the results of their own actions to Providence, Chance, the Deity or the Devil. Out of this same desire to find some cause or causes outside of man's own nature which advance or retard him, has sprung the modern notion of evolution. No being, from Amoeba to man, "evolves" except through its own efforts; each has the power of going forward or backward. The scientists have failed to find the "missing link," but have discovered the "degenerate." The latter is simply a being who is going backward, and in this sense humanity collectively is a "degenerate." The potency of generating carries with it the possibility both of degeneration and of regeneration. Earth is the sphere of generation, Heaven is the abode of regenerate souls, and Hell is the nether region of degenerate ones. Man goes, after death, to that state — whether Hell or Heaven — which he has made for himself during life; and in reality his consciousness is always in the one state or the other, quite irrespective of whether he is in the body or out of it. He cannot enter any after-death state for which his earth-life has demonstrated his unfitness.

Before men will make a serious attempt to realize brotherhood they must be convinced that they have placed themselves in their present evil plight, and that they must be their own saviours, not relying upon, or expecting aid from, any power outside of themselves. They will never be convinced of this until they have recognized the fact of reincarnation. Individual reformation must precede collective social redemption. Until individual man has harmonized the warring elements of his own nature, he is incapable of right conduct toward his fellows, and of holding a place in a higher social order. An attempt to found an Utopia by organizing undeveloped men on the principle of an arbitrary social and economic system is as futile as the plan of the builders of the tower of Babel, who thought to pierce Heaven by carrying up a structure of sun-burnt bricks.

The only true Builders are the souls of men. It is misleading to say that man is a soul. He is a compound of soul and animality. His real self is indeed one of the Host of the Light of the Logos, but his outer self has been formed from the indigesta moles of Chaos, in which all things evil inhere as do malarial germs in the slime in tropical regions. Only when this self of matter is purified can the soul shine forth. This labor of purification each man must perform for himself, and having accomplished it, he becomes part of that nucleus of an Universal Brotherhood which is the centre, heart, and soul of humanity. It may be hard to give up the notion that one can steal into a Heaven he does not merit, or that humanity can enjoy good external conditions while evil exists within themselves; but hypocritical hopes lead only to despair, and the futility of making clean the outside of the platter is obvious. Man becomes truly a Brother only when his nature is attuned to the inner harmony; and mankind can constitute a Brotherhood only by cherishing spiritual aspirations. It is idle to surmise what would be the material conditions if true Brotherhood were attained; doubtless Earth and Heaven would vanish, and a new Heaven and a new Earth appear. The Seer of Patmos was a most practical socialist, and he set no limits to human progress. Men as happy and well-fed animals, with cooperative industries and a paternal government, may be seen in the vision of a dim but not distant future; but he, the Seer, looked beyond the Darkness, beholding a regenerated humanity in that time when "night will be no more, and there will be no need of lamp or light of sun, for the Master-God will illumine them, and they will reign throughout the eons of the aeons."