Rosicrucian Writings Online


World Catastrophe and Responsibility

By Raymund Andrea
 
Grand Master of AMORC of Great Britain
 
[From The Rosicrucian Digest October 1944]
 
 
IN BRITAIN we approach the sixth year of war; and while there is no doubt whatever that the aggressor nations will be overthrown, the end is not yet in sight. Direct action to that end is the keynote of the allied nations; so much so that there appears to be little time to reflect or trouble ourselves now about the causes of the world catastrophe. Yet there must be few intelligent persons who do not again and again, especially in times of crucial experience, ask themselves what is the cause of so far-reaching an effect.
 
Some esoterists assure us that we are witnessing a crisis in the evolution of humanity when the forces of good must declare their supremacy over the forces of evil, and that the untold suffering of millions is merited. The minds of many, seeking a cause at any price to rest upon and relieve themselves of further questioning or doubt, accept this statement as sufficient and satisfactory. It accords with their philosophical turn of mind to accept without question an abstruse, authoritative statement, even though it be incapable of proof and they themselves could not maintain an argument for it under the interrogation of the most just, open-minded questioner sincerely seeking enlightenment. But experience shows that persons of this mental trend are troubled little about the fact that they have no "reason for their belief," so long as they are in quiet enjoyment of the belief themselves and all doubt is allayed in consequence. I sometimes wonder whether their belief would have stood the fire of circumstances had they been subjected to it in Russia or Poland, or some other occupied country. Geographical position in a world catastrophe is apt to have a decided influence upon one's personal belief.
 

Fatalism Implies Helplessness
 
I am not suggesting that this particular philosophical view is untrue. I only think that few accept it who are really inwardly convinced of it. For instance, a note of fatalism is at once introduced by an assertion of this view, for the innocents have suffered with the guilty. We do not like the idea of fatalism. It implies a helplessness in the face of the circumstances of life: whereas the more liberal doctrine of cause and effect, as we know it, promises some control and personal shaping of those circumstances. But if the present clash between good and evil forces is inevitable at this point of evolution, and if the allied nations have been compelled to take their stand against world-wide evil domination, then there has been no choice in the matter. We have been pitched, good and bad alike, into the maelstrom together: the very good we would have done has been struck out of our hands; and we became the humble, or resentful, observers of an indifferent stroke of fate. In any case, the fact remains that the allied nations have been forced to take a stand, or perish; and we cannot be surprised if not a few, of all shades of culture and belief, should call it fate. Nor is it easy to dispossess them of this belief. Neither should it be met with anything less than understanding and tolerance. Can it surprise us that it is not only considered a hard saying, but cool and incompassionate to counter the universal suffering of innocents, through every gradation of personal privation and desolation up to wilful, calculated and brutal murder, with an esoteric conception that the whole hideous masquerade is but a case of cause and effect, even of personal blameworthiness in a forgotten past, and that every suffering unit has received a just and merited reward? It may be so, from the theoretical calculations of a recondite and philosophical point of view, and the abstruse interweaving technique of it may be visible to some very unusual minds; but who else has, or can be expected to have, experimental and exact cognizance of it? I know of none.
 
Some ambitious writers appear to have sought to elucidate, or, to speak more humbly, desired to comment upon this abstrusest of problems; but it requires little penetration to perceive that the position they adopt is an assumptive one and that their deductions are made from certain well worn Theosophical postulates introduced to buttress their views and give them an atmosphere of authority. These philosophical theories, or fundamental postulates, whichever they happen to be, appeal to such writers. They make them the basis of explanation of a universal catastrophe as completely beyond their own mental grasp or insight to fathom and justify, as those of their readers. That a negligible minority of the latter accept these attempts to read the inscrutable as indisputably true, is not to be denied; but even these, I suggest, find it difficult to reconcile the idea of compassion and justice with the indiscriminate penalizing and murder of countless innocents. For it is roundly affirmed that the innocents have suffered as the guilty. If therefore even one innocent has so suffered, the law of compassion and justice has been violated.
 
This is the kind of argument we have to face on this subject, and it is a well-grounded one. Among aspirants, and those who are not aspirants, we meet with many who turn away from it, much as they are affected by it. They see the logical conclusion but are afraid of it. No matter what the extent of their reading or their culture, they refuse to venture an opinion upon it. Others can find no satisfying answer in heart, mind or soul. Keen thinkers, those of decided opinions in all other matters of life, here are silent and have neither solution or suggestion. It would appear almost better to say to them emphatically that every person, even those they know to be of most blameless character and fruitful service, must have suffered or have been slain because of past guiltiness, if thereby they could be given some inward satisfaction of reason and justice for the slaughter of innocents and not left numbed with the pain of a wounded heart for the rest of their lives. But we cannot assert anything of the kind. We have no right to make an assertion of this nature, for we do not know; and if we did, what right have we to insult the maimed and desolated living, and, far worse, the silent dead?
 

The War's Innocents
 
A member from Canada, prominent and respected in one of our lodges there, came to Britain to attach himself to the air force. After training he was drafted into a bomber squadron. He came to see me several times during his training; and the last time he came he told me that, before an interview with his commanding officer who was to assign him to specific bombing operations over Germany, he had decided to ask to be relieved of this particular duty in view of his aversion to killing. While preparing himself for the interview he happened to speak with a young woman who related to him the sufferings of her own family in a recent raid. He was so moved by the account that all scruples were swept at once from his mind and he thereupon accepted duty without question. He wished to have my confirmation of his decision, which I unhesitatingly gave him. He was lost soon after in a heavy raid upon Cologne. We may ask ourselves: Was this then the effect of long range guiltiness as a cause?
 
No one who knew this young man would say so. He told me of his companions in service, robust and fearless men, caring nothing for tomorrow and with no thought of an afterlife, very unlike himself. He was one of the kindest, gentlest and most lovable characters I have met. In fact, so unfitted did he appear for the task assigned him that I appealed to a higher authority in the hope of having him transferred from it. But it was too late. We believe in the law of cause and effect. We use it and know its value. But let us beware when and how we apply its doctrine when the innocents, the flower of a generation, go to their graves for a world unworthy of them.
 
These reflections face us with a thorny problem. Our theories little avail the desolated heart. There are arguments for and against, and after due attention to both I am not sure that our interrogators will still remain unconvinced. Schopenhauer wrote that "all great suffering, whether mental or physical, reveals what we deserve: for it could not visit us if we did not deserve it." For this sweeping statement an acute psychologist called him "a poisoner and slanderer of life." Schopenhauer's statement is very familiar to us. He found it where we ourselves found it, in Eastern literature. We have accepted it as true, not because we have any actual proof of its truth but because it comes from an Eastern source and is implicitly accepted by many. But if it is true we must speak no more of an outraged world and the slaughter of innocents. There are no innocents. Every one of them was guilty and has received his reward.
 

Church Influence Diminishing
 
Not only are men and women of all ranks and culture at a loss to assign a reasonable and just cause for so disastrous an effect on an outraged world; our church dignitaries are in the same position. Some of them however have been as ambitious as the writers mentioned to assign authoritatively a cause. They have been quick to make a case for themselves by placing the blame upon the irreligiousness of the people. If the former case of philosophy appears untenable, this of religion is more so. The established church in Britain at least has had good innings to date; and if periodical world wars arise because of the irreligiousness of the people, it is to be inferred that the influence of the church on the people has been exceedingly negligible. The late Archbishop of Canterbury in a recent broadcast sadly proclaimed that some 80 per cent of the people of Britain did not bear witness to the Christian faith. This fact, if fact it is, should be far more alarming to the church than to the people. It is not a condemnation of the people, but of the church. It is a plain confession that it has no voice for the growing consciousness of the people. Nor is it true that even though 80 per cent of the people do not bear witness to the Christian faith, that is, within the church or other religious houses, that therefore they have no religious faith. Such a statement reveals either a distortion of the fact or a complete ignorance of the national mind. If the church has lost its hold upon the minds of 80 per cent of the people, or fails to influence that percentage, then the church has failed in its mission as a mystical body. We know that the church has so failed: Some of its own leaders have born witness to its failure out of their own mouths; for it is bound hand and voice by its traditional and obsolete articles; and the people of Britain are less disposed than ever before to subscribe to that bondage or listen to the deadening, orthodoxical, platitudinarian teaching which oozes from it. They demand and will have onward, progressive living, thinking and action.
 
The reason for the rapidly diminishing influence of the church on the public mind in Britain is that it has shown neither understanding or sympathy with the advancing mind in Britain. Within the past twenty years remarkable advancement has been made in the fields of psychology and psychiatry. A corpus of literature is now available in these sciences of the highest value and significance, and intelligent and thinking persons everywhere have eagerly studied and applied its teachings to a solution of their personal and perplexing problems of mind and conduct. Acknowledged experts in these sciences have offered to the public a wise and understanding guidance in the way of adjustment to life. They have probed into the world of individual causes so thoroughly, profoundly and revealingly, as to make the antiquated church appear in comparison and in fact as whited sepulchres, full of dead men's bones. The time has passed when the people can be in the least convinced that they are abject sinners, and that their manifold personal aberrations, which the clergy and the laity equally share, are the basic cause of world wars and bloody massacres.
 

The Repudiation of Truth
 
I will quote a little from Jung, that master psychologist of world-wide repute, on this subject. It is a sober and damning indictment. "I have found," he writes: "that modern man has an ineradicable aversion for traditional opinions and inherited truths. He is a Bolshevist for whom all the spiritual standards and forms of the past have lost their validity, and who therefore wants to experiment in the world of the spirit as the Bolshevist experiments with economics. When confronted with this modern attitude, every ecclesiastical system is in a parlous state, be it Catholic, Protestant, Buddhist or Confucian. Among these moderns there are of course certain of those denigrating, destructive and perverse natures-unbalanced eccentrics--who are never satisfied anywhere, and who therefore flock to every new banner, much to the hurt of these movements and undertakings, in the hope of finding something for once which will atone at a low cost for their own insufficiency. It goes without saying that, in my professional work, I have come to know a great many modern men and women, and such pathological pseudo-moderns among them. But I prefer to leave these aside. Those of whom I am thinking are by no means sickly eccentrics, but are most often exceptionally able, courageous and upright persons who have repudiated our traditional truths for honest and decent reasons, and not from wickedness of heart. Every one of them has the feeling that our religious truths have somehow or other grown empty. Either they cannot reconcile the scientific and the religious outlooks, or Christian tenets have lost their authority and their psychological justification. People no longer feel themselves to have been redeemed by the death of Christ; they cannot believe--they cannot compel themselves to believe, however happy they may deem the man who has a belief. Sin has for them become something quite relative: what is evil for one, is good for the other. After all, why should not Buddha be in the right, also."
 
And what have statesmen to offer as a just cause for the wholesale slaughter of innocents? No more than the church, but something far less crude and disquieting. They burn with indignation and resentment against those who wilfully instituted the role of the barbarian and compelled decent peoples to adopt a similar role to avenge it. They do not adopt the miserable subterfuge of the church and openly or tacitly lay the burden of blame and responsibility upon a harmless 80 per cent of the populace which does not choose to wear its heart upon its sleeve and bear witness on the Sabbath to its faith. The statesmen know, as every intelligent person knows, that we wage war against an evil thing; and their sorrow is no less deep than their indignation that unoffending millions go to their death in furious onslaught to annihilate it. That is kinder, more just, and more compassionate, in my opinion, than in writing a universal epitaph upon these same millions: They died for their past blindness and wrongdoing.
 

The Order's Viewpoint
 
I have sometimes been asked by members why the Order has not made authoritative pronouncements upon the war. No doubt some of these members had this particular problem of cause and effect in connection with world suffering and slaughter in mind, and expected that we should have a definitive statement to offer which would satisfy them. They no doubt had before them the various solutions of the problem as given by various schools of thought, and felt that we, too, should be at least as oracular as these on so important a matter. For one thing, it is not within the province of the Order to speculate on world catastrophes. It is observed in "Temple Echoes" in the February "Rosicrucian Digest" that "AMORC has made and undoubtedly will make few political prophecies." It might also be added: Nor will it make dogmatic pronouncements on the origin and causes of racial madness, suicide and murder. It is questionable whether any statements so far put forth are not open to severe and honest criticism and likely to do more harm than good by the controversies they promote and the embittered feelings they leave behind them. Wars and the causes of wars are political issues and fall within the jurisdiction of political discussion and determination. If this is disputed and it is contended that they fall also within the jurisdiction of spiritual and other societies of men, I deny it. Interest in such issues by such societies is granted; they are or should be the interest of all societies and of all men. But wars are decided and waged at the instance of governments, which are none other than political bodies; and while any society of men may speculate and comment, criticise and assign causes for what transpires in the wars decreed by governments, the beginning and the end of them lies in the power and authority of the latter, and what you or I may think or say does not one whit affect the issues. If this were not so, why have spiritual esoteric, churchly, and other societies of men proved so utterly impotent in the political jurisdictions of nations, whether from within or from without? Indeed, the church in Britain has recently ventured to raise its voice within the precincts of parliament on certain issues of the war, only to be peremptorily reduced to silence and withdrawal of its misguided interference by those with professional experience and far more knowledge of the matters concerned. And I might quote from letters of recent date addressed to a leading organ of the British press. They refer to two ill-timed and presumptuous statements made by the Priest of Rome. "Centuries ago," says one writer, "the British people threw over the Pope's domination. We do not desire to be dictated to now by the spiritual head of the Roman Catholics, especially when he advocates a negotiated peace with the enemies of Christianity." The other writer, commenting on the Pope's statement that "a just policy must give to the defeated nation a dignified place," writes thus: "This means Germany. A dignified place! Not if millions of sailors, soldiers and airmen have their way, to say nothing of those bereaved of their loved ones." I welcome the manifest and superior justice in the perspective of these correspondents and deplore the lack of it in the Priest of Rome.
 
I ask you to consider the nature of the controversies likely to have resulted from the above mentioned letters, or rather from the papal pronouncements quoted in them, and the consequent criticism and resentful feeling, especially in view of the palpable jesuitry of the Pope during the course of the war and the strong public denunciation of it. I personally should deprecate very much the Order setting up a political platform and involving itself in questions of government policy and matters which are not within the scope of its constitution. They would deflect its energies from the high and dignified purpose to which it is dedicated, namely, to enable its members to a better understanding of themselves and to live life more scientifically, and to soften and ameliorate and offset much of the suffering of human life. That purpose is quite comprehensive enough for most of us. It is enough if we assist others who are perplexed and suffer under the world catastrophe to face their particular circumstances with patience and fortitude and become more influential in them. Several arresting articles have appeared during the past year in the "Rosicrucian Digest" elaborating this point of view, and very few who have read them will not agree that their influence in the individual life has proved infinitely greater than would a series of abstruse speculations, magisterial pronouncements or political intrusions on the fundamental causes of world upheavals which can but satisfy the intellectually curious or furnish controversial material for debating societies.
 
So far as my observation of members goes, they are fulfilling this purpose conscientiously and to the best of their ability. This applies not only to members here, but to those I contact from overseas who are in service in Europe. They are practical students, good at heart and bent on greater service. The law of cause and effect is very present to them; their thought and action are based upon it; and nothing would shake their confidence in it, for they have experimental proof of it. But when we are confronted with the profounder issues of the cause of an outraged world and of untold innocents going to their death to avenge it, let us stand in silence with those who have suffered and lost; or let us confess that we do not know, since it is one of the enigmas of inscrutable destiny before which nations rise and fall, and that we are helpless in the face of it. Let us not thrust upon them some philosophical or religious platitude which they would never tolerate for their neighbor, much less for themselves. It is better, in such circumstances, to be ignorant than overwise and crush a fellowman with a questionable truth which he cannot accept but would deeply resent and repudiate.

 

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