Philanthropy and Conscience

.


PHILANTHROPY AND CONSCIENCE


  The great and peaceful ones live regenerating the world like the coming of the spring; having crossed the ocean of embodied existence themselves, they freely aid all others who seek to cross it. The very essence and inherent will of Mahatmas is to remove the suffering of others, just as the ambrosia-rayed moon of itself cools the earth heated by the intense rays of the sun.

Shankaracharya


 As man is a creature born with a free will and endowed with reason, whence spring all his notions of right and wrong, he does not per se represent any definite moral ideal. The conception of morality in general relates first of all to the object or motive, and only then to the means or modes of action. Hence, if we do not and would never call a moral man him who, following the rule of a famous religious schemer uses bad means for a good object, how much less would we call him moral who uses seemingly good and noble means to achieve a decidedly wicked or contemptible object? . . .

 The Hindu mind is pre-eminently open to the quick and clear perception of the most transcendental, the most abstruse metaphysical truths. Some of the most unlettered ones will seize at a glance that which would often escape the best Western metaphysician. You may be, and most assuredly are our superiors in every branch of physical knowledge; in spiritual sciences we were, are and always will be your - MASTERS. . . .

 My dear sir, we neither want men to rush on blind-fold, nor are we prepared to abandon tried friends - who rather pass for fools than reveal what they may have learnt under a solemn pledge of never revealing it unless permitted - even for the chance of getting men of the very highest class - nor are we especially anxious to have anyone work for us except with entire spontaneity. We want true and unselfish hearts; fearless and confiding souls, and are quite willing to leave the men of the "higher class" and far higher intellects to grope their own way to the light. . . .

 Be it as it may, we are content to live as we do - unknown and undisturbed by a civilization which rests so exclusively upon intellect. Nor do we feel in any way concerned about the revival of our ancient arts and high civilization, for these are as sure to come back in their time, and in a higher form as the Plesiosaurus and the Megatherium in theirs. We have the weakness to believe in ever recurrent cycles and hope to quicken the resurrection of what is past and gone. We could not impede it even if we would. The "new civilization" will be but the child of the old one, and we have but to leave the eternal law to take its own course to have our dead ones come out of their graves; yet, we are certainly anxious to hasten the welcome event. Fear not; although we do "cling superstitiously to the relics of the Past" our knowledge will not pass away from the sight of man. It is the "gift of the gods" and the most precious of all. The keepers of the sacred Light did not safely cross so many ages but to find themselves wrecked on the rocks of modern scepticism. Our pilots are too experienced sailors to allow us [to] fear any such disaster. We will always find volunteers to replace the tired sentries, and the world, bad as it is in its present state of transitory period, can yet furnish us with a few men now and then. . . .

 We, who have studied a little Kant's moral teachings, analyzed them somewhat carefully, have come to the conclusion that even this great thinker's views on that form of duty (das Sollen) which defines the methods of moral action - notwithstanding his one-sided affirmation to the contrary - falls short of a full definition of an unconditional absolute principle of morality - as we understand it. And this Kantian note sounds throughout your letter. You so love mankind, you say, that were not your generation to benefit by it, you would reject "Knowledge" itself. And yet, this philanthropic feeling does not even seem to inspire you with charity towards those you regard as of an inferior intelligence. Why? Simply because the philanthropy you Western thinkers boast of, having no character of universality; i.e. never having been established on the firm footing of a moral, universal principle; never having risen higher than theoretical talk; and that chiefly among the ubiquitous Protestant preachers, it is but a mere accidental manifestation but no recognised LAW. The most superficial analysis will show that, no more than any other empirical phenomenon in human nature, can it be taken as an absolute standard of moral activity, i.e. one productive of efficient action. Since, in its empirical nature this kind of philanthropy is like love, but something accidental, exceptional, and like that has its selfish preferences and affinities, it is necessarily unable to warm all mankind with its beneficent rays. This, I think, is the secret of the spiritual failure and unconscious egotism of this age. And you, otherwise a good and a wise man, being unconsciously to yourself the type of its spirit, are unable to understand our ideas upon the Society as a Universal Brotherhood, and hence - turn away your face from it. . . .

Your intuition would make you feel but that which really was - for the time being; and as to your conscience - you then accept Kant's definition of it? You, perhaps, believe with him that under all circumstances, and even with the full absence of definite religious notions, and occasionally even with no firm notions about right and wrong at all, MAN has ever a sure guide in his own inner moral perceptions or - conscience? The greatest of mistakes! With all the formidable importance of this moral factor, it has one radical defect. Conscience, as it was already remarked may be well compared to that demon whose dictates were so zealously listened to and so promptly obeyed by Socrates. Like that demon, conscience may perchance tell us what we must not do; yet it never guides us as to what we ought to perform, nor gives any definite object to our activity. And - nothing can be more easily lulled to sleep and even completely paralyzed, than this same conscience by a trained will stronger than that of its possessor. Your conscience will NEVER show you whether the mesmeriser is a true adept or a very clever juggler, if he once has passed your threshold and got control of the aura surrounding your person. . . . Imagination as well as will - creates.

Mahatma K.H.