THEOSOPHY, Vol. 15, No. 11, September, 1927
(Pages 481-488; Size: 23K)
(Number 12 of a 13-part series)
THE RISING CYCLE
GREAT changes have come about in the last half-century in ideas and ideals of education -- as great as in science, in religion, in economics and in social theory and practice.
The key-note running through all these changes is emancipation. No doubt that license has been mistaken for freedom in all too many cases; no doubt that a sense of moral and mental irresponsibility has in many directions sprung into activity coincidently with the throwing away of the old conventions which had done duty as standards of conduct. This is paralleled by the exuberance of weedy growths in a field suffered to lie fallow for any reason.
The student of racial history(1) in the light of the Theosophical teaching that all evolution is cyclic, like the turning of a wheel, does not expect to see the evidences of progression present an uniformly straight line of testimony. Regeneration and preservation go on in the midst of and not apart from the decay and dissolution of the unfit and the outgrown. Life does not exist apart from death for the two are but the polar points of a metaphysical as well as a physical cycle. The "seven ages of man" exist, in every sense, at the same time in the same space, and civilizations as well as individuals must pass through them all.
Reincarnation is but a concrete and materialistic term to bring home to our senses and our sense-governed minds the abstract mathematical formula that nature is an incessant repetition on an ascending, and therefore also of necessity on a descending spiral. Without this Theosophical view of evolution it is inevitable that the Path will be mistaken for the Pilgrim, and so, a mortal view of immortal Life prevail. At each new injection of the ancient Wisdom-Religion a few use their eyes to see by the light it throws and so become the pioneers of a new order of the ages in the midst of the effete and the self-destroying.
Theosophical education goes on endlessly, for though"The Path is one for all, the means to reach the goal must vary with the pilgrim."Each embodied soul comes into our world wrapped in the chrysalis of his own past and few, in any one life, are able to rise beyond the larval, or transitional, form -- existence within the limitations of our defects. Few of us learn from philosophy, many from failure. Few recognize any higher principle of being than Desire, but many, affected more or less unconsciously to themselves by the universal prevalence of the Theosophical Movement, strive unceasingly to elevate their desires to nobler heights. The Theosophical Movement affects mankind and all nature as an influence, perceived or unperceived, recognized or unrecognized. For every great Poet there are a thousand poetasters and numberless lovers of poetry. Were this not so, the truly great poet could never find aliment in the prosaic elements which for the most part constitute human life. Without fuel, no fire on any plane of nature. True Theosophists in the full meaning must ever be rare amongst mankind in its adolescence or its senility, but it should not be forgotten that it is the unconscious and partly conscious humanitarians who set up the attractive force which draws into incarnation the great Teachers and their Messages.
This attractive power is exerted, not so much by that form of desire which seeks merely to know, any more than by that form which seeks merely to be saved, for both these are but selfish desire. Were these forms fit to mother a new race then religion and science would long since have achieved their longed-for goal. No; the true material is provided by those whose desire runs to universal benefit, the amelioration of the general welfare. This is still desire, but desire colored and guided, as well as impelled by the spiritual principles which, as unrecognized as the Theosophical Movement itself by the generality of men, do none the less abide in the hearts of all, and provide the Karmic stamina which makes the great patriot, the great philanthropist, the great examples of the race, in no matter what division of energy and usefulness their life-work may be turned. The Messengers of Theosophy have, since the fourteenth century of our era, been coming in the last quarter of each, according to the cyclic calculation stated by H. P. Blavatsky. The force of the Movement has not in each century been directed into the same human channel, but has none the less been cumulative. Luther's reformation is declared to have been one of its products; the rise of modern science in its practical aspect, another; a third was the American revolution, while a fourth can easily be discerned in the wide-spread growth of human intercourse.
Searching for the preparatory indices of the great mission of H. P. Blavatsky in the half century preceding her coming, it is possible to see how the various lines laid by former efforts were to find their coordination and union. Her mission was one of education, not religious education, not scientific education, not economic education, not even philosophical education -- but Education: an education in the great purpose of life, and the means of its orderly fulfilment. One such preparatory index may be found in the story of Horace Mann.
Horace Mann's work was done in the middle half of the last century. Frail, poor, against the army of adverse circumstance he acquired an education. In the midst of hard manual labor he fitted himself for college, graduating at 23 with highest honors. He studied, he taught, he was admitted to the bar, and in his early thirties became a leading lawyer of Massachusetts, a member of the State legislature, and President of the State senate. At forty he became secretary of the newly created board of education of the State, and then only may his life work be said to have begun. In the next seven years he reorganized, reformed, recreated the public school system of his state, and thus became the veritable Parent of the present public school system of the United States -- greatly as that system has fallen short of his ideals and ideas. He instituted educational work for teachers themselves, established the first institutes for teachers, vivified the teaching body with his own life, and established a morale amongst public school teachers that has never waned. To him it is due that so great a measure of freedom of conscience, of liberty of thought, of absence of bigotry and sectarianism amongst school-teachers and in the common mind has been made possible and has been maintained despite all sinister influences.
Resigning his secretaryship in 1848 he was thrice elected to the national House of Representatives, where he was active and influential in his opposition to slavery. He consented to serve as the Free-Soil candidate for Governor of Massachusetts, and though defeated at the polls, his activities and his sacrifices made possible the larger work of Lincoln in the same field.
After his retirement from Congress, Mr. Mann took the presidency of Antioch College at Yellow Springs, Ohio, and there, from 1853 until his death, he labored for true moral and spiritual education hand in hand with the physical and intellectual training of youth. He ignored the hallowed distinctions of race, creed, and sex, and made his institution co-educational -- the first, we believe, to be firmly established. Mr. Mann in his public affiliation was originally Unitarian, but he became the friend and disciple of George Combe, another benefactor of mankind, and so was in his later years identified with the Christian Connexion founded by Combe, and which had originally established the College.
Mr. Mann had many enemies and his career was beset with battle against the forces of reaction in education, in politics, in human rights, and in religion. He believed -- in the consecrated phrase of Mr. Judge -- "in the infinite perfectibility of mankind," and labored in that high cause without variableness or the shadow of turning. Who shall set limits to the influence of such ideals and such devotion to them? Certainly without the advance work of such men as Lincoln, Emerson, Mann, and others of the "sacred tribe of heroes," forerunners of a nobler Humanity, the coming of a Messenger from the Masters, the sowing of a great philosophy, the impartation of the great Message of the Theosophical Movement, had not been possible, and the mission of H. P. Blavatsky would have been but a barren one.
After Mr. Mann's death in 1859, the College sank to ebb-tide. It was a pioneer country, its supporters and patrons were poor -- poor in every sense, yet with the divine spark burning in them, for the College never wholly ceased. But it shared the financial, the intellectual, the moral, the schismatic fortunes of the community of faith which had sponsored it -- and those fortunes were as varied, but always on the descending arc, as those which followed among Theosophists after the passing of H.P.B. and Mr. Judge. As a force, as an influence, as a heritage, Antioch College became, like the Theosophical Society, a liability and not an asset to the original impulse and the original purpose. So true is it that it is warriors, not weapons, which constitute an army, Teachers, not books, which make education possible, the Spirit of devotion, not gifts, which sustains a Cause, Benefactors, not benefactions, which make for a nucleus of Universal Brotherhood. Unless ensouled, of what avail body or mind, however fine or refined?
The benefactor, the teacher, the true Disciple in the service of humanity is ever distinguishable by his ability to turn seeming evils into power for good. The Miami Valley was swept in 1913 by a flood, the most disastrous which, up to that time, had ever visited the Karma of nature upon an American community. Ruin, dissensions, fears, doubts, bewilderments, and all the brood that profit by disaster, preyed upon the community as a moral consequence. Finally, Mr. Arthur E. Morgan, an American engineer, was called in for consultation and advice. Mr. Morgan had nourished a life-dream of more than material usefulness, more than material success, and in the course of his engineering and other duties he became acquainted with Antioch College, its history, and its ideals still as yet far below the horizon of the hopes lingering and languishing from the days of Horace Mann. His task completed, he took the presidency of Antioch College and set himself to work to bring about a resurrection of the dying if not the dead institution.
That was in 1920 -- only seven years ago. In that seven years Antioch College has become something far more than a cenotaph to Horace Mann. It has become a living embodiment of his spirit and soul.
In an article entitled "The Budget for Your Life," contributed by Mr. Morgan to the Woman's Home Companion for March, 1927, he discusses at some length the outlook of youth, its necessities, its aspirations, its sense of values, its obstacles to be faced, its means of usefulness. Appealing as the views there expressed must be to the thoughtful and inquiring youth, they are a veritable education to the thoughtful parent or other adult interested in the duty of the going to the coming generation. Read in this light, there are few who may not profit by a self stock-taking as to how far our own attitude and conduct, our own "budget of life" calls for revision and reformation if we would confer upon those who take their example from us, a true inspiration -- which is the first step in education.
But it is to the literature of the College itself that one may best turn to read the invisible history visibly expressed in the conduct and product of Antioch, for here one may find the mental and moral, the spiritual and ideal expression of those principles of which the College is of necessity but an ever-growing embodiment. Here we learn how the practical and the theoretical go hand in hand, so that the whole nature of man is rightly developed, rightly exercised, rightly disciplined. In brief, it is an alternation of study and work that leads to right coordination of that which is heard, that which is seen, that which is done.
Theosophical students will naturally be more interested in the Antioch attitude and conduct toward what is generally included in the term religion. Under the caption "Religion at Antioch," the College Bulletin speaks as follows:"Comparatively few young people are interested in traditional theology or in sectarian views. Many intelligent boys and girls are tremendously interested in discovering the meaning of life, and in bringing their aspirations into harmony with the knowledge that modern science has put at their disposal. They have decided that the authority of tradition is not an adequate basis for religious belief, and frequently they are at a loss to find any other basis.With this clear statement of principles as foundation, the work of the College is but their application in practice. Such principles and such work can never make for sectarianism in religion, or materialism in science.
"Of all the American college and university students to-day, we might guess at the following distribution. Perhaps one-half have no concern about religion, either old or new. Some of them tacitly 'believe' and some 'disbelieve.' They go to college to improve their economic or social status, and not to find the way of life. Perhaps ten or fifteen per cent are sincere, active adherents of some orthodox faith, while perhaps thirty or forty per cent are sincerely concerned about the significance of life, but have permanently abandoned orthodox beliefs. They cannot be forced back into these beliefs, and unless valid purposes and objectives can be presented to them or discovered by them, they may lose the hope of finding any. Antioch College is especially interested in this thirty or forty per cent, and in such accessions to their ranks as may come from the other groups. Any young man or woman who under favorable conditions cannot become seriously concerned over the purposes of life, and seriously desirous of doing his or her part toward accomplishing those purposes, is not Antioch material. The College holds:
"1. That to discover valid purposes and objectives is a matter of highest importance.
"2. That the aspiration and determination to find and fulfill the purposes of life should be the ultimate control of conduct.
"3. That whatever are the valid purposes of life, they can be fulfilled best by men and women who develop self-mastery, who have integrity of personal conduct and social relations, and who maintain the highest degree of cleanliness and sanity of body and mind.
"4. That the way to truth lies through sincere, open-minded inquiry, and not through unquestioning acceptance of dogma or creed."
Antioch Notes is a mere leaflet published twice a month, yet in itself is an educational power, and is widely read. Pamphlets are issued from time to time of equal educational and inspirational value. One such is entitled "An Adventure In Education" and is by Mr. Morgan.
The Theosophists, again, should be inspired as well as interested by the Antioch program because the very first steps taken by H.P.B. in the foundation of the Parent Theosophical Society -- the Three Objects given it -- laid the foundation of a World University in the spiritual and cultural sense; because almost the first work of Colonel Olcott in India -- indeed his real work throughout -- was educational. Not only did he revive pure Buddhism with his "Catechism," but he at once started in Ceylon a system of schools free from sectarianism which still survives, and in India a series of "Panchama Schools" for the education of outcasts and "Untouchables" which opened the doors for a veritable New India. Sir Chunder Bose's Institute, Rabindranath Tagore's School, and numerous educational establishments maintained by the Native States, as well as reforms in the British-controlled schools, really owe their inception or their improvement to the work begun by Colonel Olcott under the inspiration and instruction of H.P.B. and her Masters.
In Europe generally, even in those countries where the preponderant population is Catholic, the steady trend in recent years has been towards as sharp a cleavage between education and religion, as between religion and government. Secularism and secular education have achieved a firm footing, and it is probable that even in the most reactionary countries the public schools are less influenced by Catholic and Protestant pressure than ever before. Moreover, the idea of co-education gains strength increasingly, and the position of women has as greatly changed in a generation in Europe itself as in the newly established Turkish republic. The throes of China, the struggle in Mexico, all show the same ferment, the working of the same leaven.
In England, Board schools, the great private establishments, and even what may be classified as denominational institutions show a marked progress in the direction of greater freedom of opportunity, broader scope of curriculum, a leveling of class and caste distinctions, a diminished subservience to the rigidity and narrowness of "orthodox" views of what constitutes education. In the United States, the general progression is best illustrated by the simple fact that among the religious sects themselves, in the schools and colleges for the education of ministers as well as of the children of laymen, the tendency is less and less to stress creedal and dogmatic views and interpretations, more and more to emphasize morality and ethics at the expense of sectarian articles of faith. The recent attempts, concerted and sustained in many quarters, to repudiate the principles and facts adduced by modern science, under the specious guise of opposition to materialistic theories of human descent, have served to call out as vigorous opposition from thousands of clergymen and church-members. All these factors serve to educate the public mind to the fact that moral education is not only the great need, a need that has no more been filled by sectarian religion than by materialistic science, but to bring out more and more strongly a search for common terms that shall place before the growing mind of youth the cardinal truths of all experience, freed alike from the dead letter of outworn interpretations and the new revelations of speculative science. It is a time of winnowing in many quarters, and greatest of all, perhaps, in the educational field.
As we have tried to indicate, every transitional period, such as the middle term of the last century, has produced its humanitarians who, casting aside the old fetters, have gone boldly forward with whatever of good they have found in the old order, and thus prepared the way for a fresh sowing of the Wisdom-Religion. But we should all remind ourselves that it is of equal moment, once the new seed has been sown, that pioneers be found to cultivate and nourish the harvest. However many the workers in the various paths of human inquiry and activity, however sincere, liberal-minded and ardent the advocates and propagandists of one and another idea, good in itself, it remains the responsibility and therefore the duty of Theosophists to do what none or all of these co-workers with nature can do -- it is for Theosophists to preserve in its purity, to teach, preach, and practice the philosophy entrusted to them by H. P. Blavatsky and her Masters. It is precisely because Theosophy is a philosophy of life, and not a segregated collection of unrelated verities, that its mission is supremely important. There have never been lacking in the world good ideas, noble ideals, true-hearted men and women consecrating their lives to the service of their fellows. But no more than scattered soldiers make an army, or scattered bricks an edifice, do ideas or ideals, however exalted, or however many, contain the moral force which can save a nation, or a civilization, or a race. Individuals may benefit by them, as a lone traveler by his solitary camp-fire, but the Light that shall lighten the way for all men must needs be a philosophy that is coherent throughout, that leaves out of account no element or principle in nature or in man, as it must include within its educational sphere the humblest as the greatest, the sinner as the saint, -- and this, in our day, is to be found only in the Message of H. P. Blavatsky.
The cohesive power of a Theosophical education will restore unity among Theosophists, will enable the benefits of the Theosophical Movement to extend to all creatures, give a new impetus in the affairs of mankind, and make possible a coming of age indeed for the men and women of the twenty-first century.
The Rising Cycle
(Part 13 of 13)
Back to the
"About the Theosophical Movement"
complete list of articles.
Back to the full listing containing all of the
"Additional Categories of Articles".
ONE (1) FOOTNOTE LISTED BELOW:
COMPILER'S NOTE: I added this footnote; it was not in the article. If it doesn't paint an accurate enough picture, or is incorrect, I hope the Editors of THEOSOPHY magazine will spot it and point it out to me, so that I can make the necessary corrections.
(1) "Racial History" as used here, and three paragraphs further on when you run into the idea of "a new race", simply refer to all of humanity.
Back to text.