Rosicrucian Writings Online
The Atomic Bomb and Ourselves
By Raymund Andrea, F. R. C.
Grand Master of AMORC of Great Britain
[From The Rosicrucian Digest March 1946]
I RECENTLY received a letter from a member which opened in this rather dramatic manner: "I wish you would write us one of your letters. The discovery of the atomic bomb seems such a tremendous happening." I do not know why I should be thought qualified to write about the discovery of bombs, atomic or ordinary. I used to hear the latter falling nightly, but the fact and conditions of their discovery had little interest for me.
But it so happened that just before receiving the above letter I had read and marked a comment by the Christian philosopher Jacques Maritain. True, it was written before the war. Had it been written later the tone might have been far more caustic than it is. I will quote the passage:
"Three centuries of mathematical empiricism have so bent the modern mind to a single interest in the invention of engines for the control of phenomena, a conceptual network, which procures for the mind a certain practical domination over and a deceptive understanding of nature, where thought is not resolved in being but in the sensible itself. Thus progressing, not by adding fresh truths to those already acquired, but by the substitution of new engines grown out of date; manipulating things without understanding them; gaining over the real, pettily, patiently, conquests which are always partial, always provisional; acquiring a secret relish for the matter which it seeks to trap, the modern mind has developed in this lower order of scientific demiurgy, a form of multiple and marvellously specialized sensitiveness, and admirable hunting instincts. But, at the same time, it has become miserably enfeebled and defenceless in regard to the proper objects of the intellect which it has basely renounced, and has become incapable of appreciating the universe of rational evidence otherwise than as a system of well-oiled cogs...."
I quite agree. We find ourselves caught up in a "system of well-oiled cogs"; and while the world became hilarious, dumbfounded, and thoroughly frightened by turns at the discovery of the latest (atomic) cog in the system, I confess to being indifferent about it. I saw nothing to be hilarious about, had no reason to be dumbfounded, and as to being frightened, I recalled Emerson's remark to the alarmed Millerite who stopped him in the street one day and informed him that the world would be destroyed in ten days. To this Emerson replied: "Well, what of it! I don't see but that we shall get along just as well without it."
In all the world comments I have read on the atomic bomb I have never encountered one approaching the serene and understanding one of Emerson. On the contrary, from high and low, lay and professional, politician and parson, the indication has been that the discovery of the atomic bomb had thoroughly jolted the "system of well-oiled cogs" with the fear of personal annihilation. This has struck me as a most unedifying comment upon the times we live in, and I must confess it does not increase my respect for them.
Genius of Destruction
Of course, this cog system has been developing for some considerable time. It was well under way during the first quarter of the century; and Maritain's judgment upon it is far from being merely a disgruntled and caustic one. It is that of a keen-sighted philosopher and profound religionist well able to assess the value of men and circumstances when he confronts them. Nor is his opinion a novel and sensational one: by no means. The truth of it is perceived only too well and held too widely by sane and enlightened individuals in every country. But it is a crying disgrace that we, at one of the high peaks of so-called civilization, should have to acknowledge it. This "tremendous happening" of the atomic bomb is undoubtedly a triumph of a materialistic age. The masters of materialism concentrated upon the evolution of the genius of destruction; and their dream has materialized in so frightful a form that they themselves "hover betwixt hope and fear." And considering the type of humanity which comprises today a formidable percentage of the cog system, and the itching fingers of those whose morbid curiosity craves to discover further diabolical tricks they can make nature perform, there may be, after all, some justification for the anxiety felt by men of compassion and vision as to the goal of a materialistic age if this curiosity reaps further rewards.
Indeed, there is reason for their anxiety for in this pre-eminently scientific and materialistic epoch such an example of supreme concentration and mental cleverness as the atomic bomb discovery sets before the world is a prime incentive to countless other aspiring and ambitious individuals in college and laboratory to achieve as much and more and to write their noble names in the roll of fame as masters of destructive art. For there is no limit to achievement. Infinity lies at both ends. The adept is but an ambitious and aspiring disciple on the path of endless ascension: and the scientist may probe so far in sinister research as to open up a deeper hell than any Atlantean ever plumbed. The mind is all: it can raise humanity to the presence of God, or lower it through unholy ambition to confederacy with the devil. We have ample evidence of both; and of the latter, in these advanced times, more than ample. The war of the nations has disclosed to us far more of the depths of hell in man than of the divinity of heaven. Nor can it be confuted that the masters of science have been the chief agents in the disclosure. The atomic bomb was in the making by German scientists long before the end of the European war. Can we deny that our discovery and use of it placed our own scientists in the same category as the former who were frustrated in the attempt? I am not raising the question as to whether it should have been used: I am only interested in the trend of the mind of the age. It may be a logical, even a necessary trend; but it is a pernicious one and still in hot pursuit of more "devilish enginery" to excel the first adventure.
Whether these discoveries will be ultimately used to save or slay is another question which the future will decide. In any case, the anxiety and fear expressed by statesmen at the discovery and the doubtful decision to safeguard the secret of it, is a plain indication that human nature is not considered evolved enough to be trusted with it. But as the scientific mind is the same the world over, the attempt of any body of scientists to isolate and claim a monopoly in discovery is ridiculous. As I write, the Press is voicing the same opinion. What man has found, man will find: what man has demonstrated under the ambitious urge for power, he will demonstrate again. The question remains: To what end will he demonstrate it? The future will also determine this question.
The Mind of the Age
The same philosopher, Maritain, wrote fifteen years ago: "Imperilled by a degraded civilization which abandons man to the indetermination of matter, the mind must defend itself at all costs, assert its rights and its essential superiority. It is itself responsible for the evil. It attempted to hold truth captive, affected to disregard what surpasses the level of reason and, finally, reason itself. It is punished by the flesh for having sought to emancipate itself--by denying their (the senses) existence--from the supreme realities which are to be assessed by the measure of God, not man. The control of the senses by reason and of reason itself by God is the essential condition of order and peace in the human being, and this can only be achieved through faith and supernatural love. The first subordination depends in practice upon the second. Adam shattered both: Christ re-established them by His grace and the gifts of His spirit. The error of the modern world and the modern mind consists in the claim to ensure the domination of nature by reason while at the same time refusing the domination of reason by supernature...."
This declaration is more true today than when it was written. Truly it refers to our "degraded civilization," and declares pointedly and accurately that the trend of the modern mind is the cause of it. We feel uncomfortable when the rigid finger of censure points menacingly at the mind of the age, the mind which we worship so boastfully, and declares it to be a common culprit. But if it is a fact, and no honest person can repudiate it, we have to face it. It is not for us, as mystics, to concern ourselves about the discovery of bombs. At the highest point, the indifference of Emerson has something to teach us. Our concern should be, in the first place, with our own minds. It is for us to make sure that we have not been a causal factor in the degradation of civilization. I do not see how we can have been if we have taken our studies of the path seriously. Those who are not serious do not usually waste their time upon these matters. Many of them give their allegiance to politics; and there is always enough degradation in politics to besmirch the honour and dignity of any man. The intellectualists demonstrate to perfection the "control of the senses by reason"; the scientists "claim to ensure the domination of nature by reason"; and both have to share the responsibility of a chaotic world by "refusing the domination of reason by supernature."
It has been left to us, and a comparative few like us, to attempt the control of the senses and reason by supernature, or the superphysical, by the grace of Christ and the gifts of His spirit. That demands an inward strength and courage which it is hopeless to expect from the majority in church or state. We are not disconcerted by this temper of the times. We accept the truth of it. But it is not our responsibility. Some students seem to think it is pre-eminently their responsibility and are disturbed about it. They might as logically hold themselves responsible for the havoc and desolation caused by the elements when nature demonstrates her superior strength and indifference to man. If, as is sometimes impressed upon us, the world chaos reflects the consciousness of men, we may find this difficult to confute, but I fail to see how any of us who have looked persistently toward a more harmonious world and worked consistently for it, in however small a way, can feel any responsibility for a result so contrary to our mental attitude. If we do accept responsibility, this is tantamount to a confession that our allegiance to the Christ Spirit and its works is no better than allegiance to the arch criminals of East and West and the pestilential crew which evolution has thrown up around them. That reflection should make us sit up and clear our minds of cant.
Philosopher, The Expounder
Let us preserve the dignity and the equanimity becoming those who can still hold and profess a sound philosophy in a "system of well-oiled cogs." But there is a price to be paid for indulging even in that harmless occupation. The Russian philosopher, Berdyaev, made some pertinent remarks about philosophy in 1938, and the intervening years of war have not qualified the truth of them. "The philosopher's situation," he says, "is truly tragic in face of the almost universal hostility directed against him. This hostility has manifested itself in various ways throughout the history of civilization. Philosophy is, indeed, the most vulnerable part of culture; even its initial premise is incessantly questioned; and every philosopher has, first of all, to justify the validity of his claim to exercise his function. Philosophy is the victim of heterogeneous attacks: religion and science are its avowed enemies. In short, it has never enjoyed the least semblance of popular support; nor does the philosopher ever create the impression that he is satisfying any social demand...." Again: "The true philosopher is not satisfied only to apprehend the world; he also desires to modify, to improve, and to regenerate it. How could it be otherwise, since philosophy is essentially concerned with the purpose of our existence, of our destiny? The philosopher has always claimed not only to be inspired by the love of wisdom, but to be the expounder of wisdom itself; so that to renounce wisdom would be to renounce philosophy itself. It is true that philosophy is primarily knowledge, but it is a totalitarian knowledge, one that comprehends all the aspects of human existence. Its essential aim is to discover ways of realizing Meaning. Philosophers have sometimes been content to expound a crude empiricism or materialism. But the essential character of a true philosopher is the love of the extra-natural; in this sphere he grapples with the transcendental world and refuses to reconcile himself to any interpretation of knowledge which would restrict his activities to the inferior world. It is the aim of philosophy to investigate beyond the limits of the empirical universe, and thus to penetrate into the intelligible universe, into the transcendental world...."
These are the sentiments of an open-minded and independent thinker who sees very well where the tragedy of life arises and upon whose shoulders the main responsibility for it rests. We should rejoice to see independent and fearless thinkers state the modern case in plain terms and pass judgment according to the light that is in them. And if I may be as bold as they, I would say that the charge against ourselves and others in the field of mysticism and occultism is that we do not state the case against our "degraded civilization" and the enemies of advanced culture with anything like the same force and conviction as they do. I know not whether this is due to fear of criticism, or because our philosophy is still with us more a theory than flesh and blood reality which informs our hands, kindles on our tongues, and announces itself in soulful eyes. It is there that our responsibility lies, if it lies anywhere. It lies not in what we are, or in what we believe, but if in anything, in what we omit to do.
I have talked with aspirants of many nationalities and I do not question their sincerity in their studies, their desire for progress, or their ambition to succeed in life; but one thing is often lacking in them. There is not sufficient emphasis in their minds upon being of distinct and outstanding service in other lives. I do not question that they are greatly interested in demonstrating something to themselves; it may be the exercise of some one or other psychic faculty which will be a sign in them of superior ability or achievement, a seizure of special knowledge which will give them, at least in their own eyes, an approved standing on the path. But these are mere rudiments or preliminaries, if they exist at all, in the life of a great soul. They scarcely exist on the mystic way except to be surpassed and almost forgotten as the full meaning of the exact discipline of the path comes to rule the mind. So long as our studies continue to be the means and end of our effort in life, we may indeed be on the path; but it is still the path on the plain, not the ascension towards the mountaintop of vision and the radiation of true mystical influence. Our studies should be an incentive and inspiration to the discovery of personal force and its application in world service. That is their intention, not to narrow the interest and vision to the limits of world achievement, however profitable it may promise to be. I say this advisedly, not critically: for the limitations of personal interest and ambition are responsible for the "degraded civilization" we face today in the four quarters of the globe. Those limitations are responsible for all we have suffered and shall yet suffer as a consequence for the rest of our troubled days.
A world destroyed by the self-blinded consciousness of men is the worst of all possible judgments upon man, and nothing but a new and regenerated consciousness can build a better one. The consciousness that destroyed it still lives and rankles amid the ruins of it, impenitent and awaiting a future hour. And as the wheel of life turns, that hour will assuredly come in the future as it has come in the past unless the peoples of the nations raise themselves on to a higher spiral of consciousness than that upon which they are today standing. This may be strongly objected to by those whose ears are charmed by the deceptive promises which have been voiced by politicians and others since the termination of the war. But no promises will raise the consciousness of men; only an enlightened and understanding mind and the will of man to impose upon himself the hard discipline demanded for inner development will do so. If our influence as professed pioneers on the path of higher culture has been so negligible in the history of our own time, it is not difficult to assess the value of the influence of the rank and file of humanity in it. One thing is obvious: to make any appreciable impression upon this materialistic age, we shall need to make a far different assessment of our objective in life than hitherto has been the case. Young aspirants will need to be brought rigidly to attention and asked to face up squarely to the hardness and responsibility of the highest soul-personality development, not to the passing success of the hour. Not that they have to do this. It is a matter of personal choice. But if they do offer themselves for it, they must realize there is not a single easy avenue or short cut to it. It will be the hardest uphill journey they have ever taken.
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It will take a great deal of moral courage for America to apply the principles of the Master Jesus to her social problems and create a quality of mental energy that will be as effective in preserving the peace as the atomic energy was in ending the war.--Hazel Sparrow.
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