Rosicrucian Writings Online
When Psychic Evolution FailsA LECTURE DELIVERED BY THE IMPERATOR TO THE MEMBERS
ON THEIR TOUR TO EGYPT AFTER VISITING ALGIERS
[From The Mystic Triangle June 1929]
(Editor's Note: We have received a great many letters from members who were not on the tour to Egypt stating that they have heard from others about the interesting facts contained in this lecture given by the Imperator. Many of them have asked if it is not possible to publish the lecture in "The Mystic Triangle." Fortunately, stenographic notes were taken of every one of the Imperator's lectures, and this makes it possible to publish this particular one, and at some later date we may publish others.)
WE are back on the ship again and have had an opportunity to cleanse our outer selves of the contamination received during our terrible visit through the old section of Algiers, and we are breathing wholesome air once again. Let us consider, for a few minutes, the manifestation of certain laws revealed to us during our day's journey.
First of all, we must divide today's trip into two sections: the morning section with the horrifying sights in the old Arab section; and the afternoon section beginning with our wonderful lunch in that magnificent hotel and including the visit to the botanical gardens, the boulevards, department stores, and other parts of the new French section of the city. The morning section will ever stand out in our minds in contrast to the afternoon section of our visit. Could there be two more opposite and more extreme contrarities in any city or at any place of the world? I know that some of you have already felt that if some of the other lands we are to visit, much older in history and in civilization than Algiers, are anything like what we have seen today, then the real history of civilization has never been written. Undoubtedly, as long as any of us live, we will recall the sights of this morning, and when we return to America again and are comfortably settled in our homes once more, living no matter how humble or how mediocre in the scale of social conditions, we will always feel that the poorest and the most humble of homes in the Western World are like palaces compared to the ones we saw this morning.
But the most important impression that must have been made on the minds of all of us was in regard to the evolutionary stage of the men, women, and children whom we saw living in those horrifying, filthy, degraded, and unsanitary homes and streets that constitute the worst community of civilization in Africa. I do not want to recount again tonight all of the misery that we saw, nor re-picture the horrors that were photographed upon our minds; but I must draw your attention to some of the details in order that you will understand more thoroughly the point of my lecture tonight.
In the first place, you undoubtedly noticed that the streets of this Arab section were very narrow and hardly wide enough for five of us to walk abreast; and you probably noticed that they were paved with small round cobblestones and so graded in the center that they really formed a v-shaped trough so that the sewerage from the homes and the little water that was poured into the streets would find a natural groove in which to accumulate. You probably observed, also, that the houses facing these narrow streets were made of old stone, mud, rotten wood, sugar-cane, straw, and any other form of cheap material. These homes had one doorway and perhaps one window, and the rooms within were dark, dirty to the utmost degree of filth, and foul of smell because of the terrible air held constantly within the walls. You noticed the absence of sanitary conveniences, and that the only water they used was the dirty water from a common pump or fountain in the center of each section of the community, carried to the individual homes in unclean vessels and poured into open pans in the center of the principal living room for men, women, children, and animals alike to drink from. You saw the bodies of the men, women, and children diseased, sore, and covered with dirt and contagious eruptions. You noticed how their eyes were injured or partly sightless, diseased, and almost useless. You saw children and women sitting or lying in the center of the narrow streets amid the filth and sewerage, seemingly unconscious of their terrible state. You saw vegetables being peddled or on display in some of their native stores so unsanitary and unwholesome that you could not imagine anyone buying such things for food. You saw parts of cattle, hung before what seemed to be native butcher shops, and you noticed that the stench from these pieces of meat was due to the fact that it was decaying and unfit for use as food. You saw the men sitting about idly, drinking, playing cards, and smoking various forms of drugs. You saw the women attempting to do what little work was done for each family, and you saw children of twelve to fourteen years of age being forced to work in the carpet factories, weaving the oriental rugs that are sold for thousands of dollars in America, and for which these little children receive compensation at the rate of six cents a day. You saw an absence of furniture in each home, and nothing but gravel and straw for the adults, children, and animals to sleep upon, together in one room. You saw windows broken, doors off their hinges, steps decaying and falling down, and walls cracked, threatening to topple at almost any time. You observed, also, an absence of any form of light at nighttime, except small candles or smoky lamps, and little sunlight or light of any kind in the streets and houses during the daytime.
You know how glad we were to get out of that section, and how most of us had to cast away the rubbers we wore over our shoes, or the shoes themselves when we returned to this ship, so that we would not carry into our staterooms or onto this clean boat the germ-filled and putrid deposits of those alleys.
Now think of that kind of civilization existing but a few hundred feet from the other and more beautiful and cleanly part of the city. What is it that holds these thousands of Arabs and their children in the confines of a district not large enough to contain proper homes for a small fraction of them? What is it that makes them prefer to live under such circumstances rather than go out into the newer and better sections of Algiers? And what is it that makes them tolerate the conditions in which they live, instead of protesting, individually or collectively, and demanding better places to live or seeking, for their children at least, a cleaner environment?
Socialistic doctrines would tell us that it is because these persons are poor and have no money that they must, therefore, live as we saw them living today. I think, however, that we have seen that this explanation is not sufficient, even if it is true in some degree. We saw Arab farmers living in primitive homes made almost exclusively out of mud and sugar-cane, out in the open fields of Algiers and in other places we have visited, who were certainly no more wealthy so far as material possessions or money are concerned, than those living in the horrible sections of the Algerian-Arab quarters. Yet these farmers and workers in the soil have at least wholesome air, bright sunlight, and clean water and food. We know that workers are wanted in the fields of agriculture, and that every able bodied Arab can go out into the country and earn sufficient living to support himself and his family if he chooses to do so. Furthermore, we saw many of these natives in the Arab quarters wearing jewelry and having other valuable possessions which they keep because of superstitious beliefs connected with them, or because of the vanity of their men in desiring to adorn themselves with valuable ornaments which could be easily exchanged for sufficient money to enable them to start life in a better, cleaner, and more wholesome environment. We could not fail to notice that the men apparently had no desire to work; for the thousands of them that were gathered together in the many gambling places, drinking, smoking, and betting with coins which they seemed to possess, and the many hundreds of others who were sleeping idly and wasting their time, plainly indicated that they were quite satisfied to allow the children to secure money by begging for "Baksheesh" or gratuities from the constant stream of tourists through their section during the tourist season.
While we were tramping through these streets and moving pictures were being taken, and each one of you was trying to hold your breath and screen your face from the many flies and insects that tried to alight upon your face and arms, and you were trying to analyze the situation, some of you asked the guides, who were with us, if what we saw constituted the original, primitive form of living amongst these Arabs. And I overheard one of the guides say that what we saw was in no way the primitive form of life for these persons, and that their present predicament was not due to lack of advancement in civilization for them, but really to a retrogression. He explained further that their great grandparents had undoubtedly lived more wholesomely and more cleanly than these people now live. I know that the guide spoke the truth when he made those astounding statements, and that fact is the key of my talk to you this evening.
What we really saw during our morning visit was not an example of primitive life, held in the early stages of its development and lacking merely the opportunities and advancement of modernism, but a typical example of retrogression in civilization. I know that there are tribes living in the South Seas like unto tribes living in other parts of Africa that have had but very little contact with modern civilization in all the centuries that have passed, and in some cases have seen but few white persons and have never had any knowledge of the achievements in the sciences and arts of the Western World; and yet these tribes live more wholesomely, more cleanly, and with more determination continuously to improve their lot in life than those we saw today.
What is the cause, then, of the retrogression that has taken place among these Arabs in Algiers? It used to be claimed that the environment made the man, and that whenever we found any form of civilization or any stage of evolution so far as man individually and collectively was concerned, we would find the personal element a reflection of his environment. Do you believe that the Arabs we saw this morning are a result of the environment in which they live, or do you believe that the environment is a result of the mental and moral attitude of the individuals? If we believe that environment so makes the person or the individual or affects his personal evolution that a change of environment for the better would bring a change of evolution within the being of the person to a higher stage, then how can we explain the fact that these Arabs in their jaunts on holidays and in their solicitations for gratuities from tourists make daily visits through some of the better streets and better sections of Algiers, and yet can return to their squalid, filthy homes and tolerate the conditions in which they live? Would not just one momentary contact with cleaner streets, cleaner buildings, cleaner people, cleaner food, and cleaner water leave some sort of indelible impression upon the inner nature of these persons which would start some process of evolution within them that would eventually manifest outwardly? Is it not true all through the history of civilization that as rapidly as man has seen physically or psychically or conceived of better things for himself, he has spontaneously, although often unconsciously, sought to bring these better things into his own life? Is not the upward trend of civilization due entirely to man's natural, normal desire to improve his environment? Yet in spite of all this, we are told by those who have lived with these Arabs and understand them, and we find also from the investigations of eminent authorities, that these Arabs have gone backward and retrograded in their appreciation of the better things of life and in their acceptance of conditions and circumstances surrounding their homes and their living.
Man's outer, physical evolution, which includes the evolution of his personal, physical being and the evolution of his environment, is always a result of the psychic evolution that is going on within the inner self. We may speculate with science in regard to the evolutionary stages of man's physical body, and trace academically the pedigree of man's skeleton and the origin of his various physical attributes. We may agree or disagree with the hypothesis that man of today is the culmination of a process of development from one lower stage of physical manifestation to others that are higher. We must agree, however, that the greatest change and the most important evolutionary advancement that man has made since the dawn of civilization has been the psychic evolution that has raised his mental and moral consciousness, and his ability to comprehend and apprehend to the present high state. Man's psychic evolution may be attuned with Cosmic laws so that it is in harmony with the progressive, creative powers that tend to evolve him toward a state of perfection; but, on the other hand, man individually or in a collective body, representing a unified community, may refrain from attunement with the Cosmic laws and permit his psychic development to retrograde. Then we have an example of a complete lack of psychic development and physical evolution.
When psychic evolution fails man, he is wholly lost, mentally, morally, and physically. We saw in these Arabs, today, examples of beings unconscious of even the most fundamental and the most common moral laws. We know that even animals, lower in the scale of evolution than man, refuse to tolerate conditions in which these Arabs lived with seeming indifference; and we know that many domesticated animals in the Western World would refuse to eat and sleep in the midst of such filth and disorder as we saw this morning. There is something in the nature of every living being that abhors a total lack of hygienic cleanliness, and there is an intuitive or instinctive principle in even the lowest animals which makes all creatures refrain from those moral practices that are crimes against nature. Yet these persons, who have retrograded in their evolution and have lost their psychic contact with the Cosmic laws, are not only unconscious of the violations of all natural and spiritual laws which they tolerate, but are unconscious of the instinctive repulsion that one finds in the lowest of living things.
What can we expect of these people in the future? Will education help them? Will the missionary work of the Western churches or the directional work of the governments bring them out of the conditions in which they now live? Not at all. The French and other governments have tried to redeem these peoples, and have tried to educate them and show them the way to better living. Laws have been passed enforcing obedience to certain sanitary laws, but even this has failed miserably. Will reincarnation or rebirth solve the problem for any of them? No, not according to the Cosmic laws as we understand them. Man's rebirths on earth are progressive only in accordance with man's determination and will power to co-operate with the Cosmic laws in such progression. As long as these individuals are satisfied to live as they live, or tolerate the conditions around them, or make no move to better themselves in any way, rebirth will bring them back into the same situation again and again. But let the least among them, like one of the little children that we saw trying to smile in the midst of the dirt and foul conditions, whose eyes twinkled when the bright sunlight came between the trees at the edge of the Arabian cemetery, when he found that he had successfully run away from the narrow streets and found an opening toward the sky; let one of these little waifs who seemed to have an awakening of a soul-sense that others did not have, determine to keep his hands clean, or to be more careful of where he walks, or where he plays, or more particular about the things he eats, and the water he drinks, and you will find that child attuning himself psychically with the progressive laws of evolution, and preparing the way for advancement. And if at the close of his life, whether it be at a young or elderly period, he has brought about one single change in his personal conduct or his relationship with the environment in which he was born, that is for the better or the higher, he will be reborn again in an environment and in such circumstances and conditions as will give him an advantage and an opportunity to rise still higher through his own efforts and determination.
Thus such a one through psychic evolution from within, and co-operation with the Cosmic laws from without, may rise to a higher stage than those who remained satisfied and indifferent. Yet, if at any time this one should feel again that the improved or better conditions in which he was born or found himself placed were entirely satisfactory and sufficient for his needs, and he found no reason to attempt any further improvement, he would lose his contact with the psychic evolution of his soul and being, and would be born again in his next incarnation in the same state and same stage as the one from which he had departed. His lack of determination to improve conditions, and his indifference toward circumstances around him, would permit him to retrograde once again as those we saw this morning, who are retrograding most rapidly.
We see, therefore, that those of us in the Western World who enjoy the advantages of so many modern conveniences and are especially blessed with the privileges of a better civilization and a better environment, and those in other parts of the world, East and West, North and South, who are rising in their evolution and improving their environments, are ones who have of their own volition attempted to raise the standard of their lives and improve themselves. They are those who have maintained, in all incarnations, their psychic contact and kept alive and quickened, with enthusiasm and serious analysis and meditation, the soul of God and God's creative powers, and have unceasingly sought association with those of like mind and like spirit, contributing to the advancement of others and ordaining their own advancement as the compensation of Karma.
Therefore, on the remaining days of our journey through so many lands, let us feel the pity and the sorrow that we should feel in the presence of those who have failed in psychic evolution, and remember that while they are our Brothers and Sisters, we are helpless to aid them; but we can rejoice in the fact that it is possible to help others who are ready. And while we think of the things that we find so lacking with others, let us not be vain or selfish in our rejoicing, but remember that if unto us it has been given, with others it must be shared in accordance with the law.
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