One of biggest dilemmas facing mankind at the moment is that of the affluence of the developed countries and the grinding poverty of some of the undeveloped ones. Millions of people enjoy a sufficiency and more of material needs whereas millions of others at the same time are suffering the rigours of real deprivation. They literally have nothing but their lives and in far too many cases these are hanging on a very slender thread. Ours is really a world of the haves and the have-nots in material terms, but neither the haves nor the have-nots are free from other anxieties, many of these in the field of health. In some parts of the world AIDS and cancer are the scourge; in others it is leprosy and blindness. On top of these ills there are those resulting from the deliberately man-made ones of revolution and war, and on top of all these there is the strife and suffering caused by divisive sectarian religion.
It might seem that the haves for the most part have happy and enjoyable lives but how many are without financial worries, how many are not under strain in this very competitive world, how many are worried for the future of their children and how many children are under pressure to succeed at school or face the consequences? It would appear that even the lives of the favoured few are often under clouds of doubt and personal insecurity.
What is then to become of our world which seems at times capable of offering us so many benefits and so much happiness? With our modern methods of food production there is obviously enough to feed the whole of the world's population quite adequately, but still millions starve. The benefits of real civilisation, if we could obviate greed and cut-throat competition, could provide everybody with a secure job, a more than reasonable standard of living and enough leisure to indulge in really civilised cultural pursuits.
With help, the third world and undeveloped countries could fairly soon build up their economies and the necessary superstructures of civilisation to provide their multitudinous populations with similar relaxed life circumstances.
Why can we not have these things? Why cannot the lot of the haves and the have-nots be more equable, if not equal? Why can we not be free from the awful diseases to which, for one reason or another, we are heir? Do we have to suffer the agonies of not making the grade or of the endemic unkindness of our societies? The world itself might inflict on us some hardships by way of extremes of climate, storms, earthquakes and the like, but man is very adaptable and has learnt to mitigate the effects of these things so as to make his life tolerable in almost any part of the world. It is not these natural rigours from which man really suffers; surely it is from himself, his lack of wisdom, his selfishness and his immaturity, not to mention his passions which often get completely out of hand, resulting in such dire consequences as we see in the current drug scene. When we add to all these troubles those associated with child abuse, sex perversion and over indulgence of all kinds with their inevitable consequences, those of us who think about these things at all are left with the great question - what can we do? Where can we go for guidance? Can no all-wise man come and help us in our extremity?
In the world's history there have been such reforming and guiding spirits aplenty. But we have not heeded them. Periodically there are movements which erupt into society with their special messages and their exhortations. A number of these come under the heading of moral rearmament. A number of them are interested in individual salvation. Some of them offer us political panaceas. Every religion exhorts its adherents to adopt some code of ethics or offers salvation by way of a world saviour. Each of these religions tells us to love our fellow man, but unfortunately they cannot love each other. Of the many world teachers in the past, great religious leaders like the Lord Sri Krishna, Buddha, Christ and Mohammed, it has been claimed that they were in fact divine. In spite of this divinity, however, they could not put the world to rights. All they could do was to exhort men to live rightly. We have an interesting parallel here: just as a doctor cannot restore a patient's health, because in the limit that is a natural process (maybe aided by his medicines) which according to natural law must be furthered by some effort by, or the right living of, the patient, so, if we would be healthy, then we must live healthily. If humanity with all its complex activities and institutions would be happy, then it seems that it must abide by both the natural rules and those moral ones which the great teachers have given us, because there is an all-important spiritual element in man's constitution. Here we come across a difficulty: humanity is an aggregate of the individuals that comprise it, that means you and me, and each of us must do what we have to do. From this there is no escape. There can be no world saviour who can do it for us. There can be no world doctor: somehow or another all we patients have to get together and work out our own salvation.
What then must we do? In a nutshell, one of the world's religious leaders said, "Love one another" and does this not say it all? If the ramifications of this statement were seen and then worked out would it not in fact put the world to rights?
But what does love in this context mean? It certainly has little to do with sexual love; it is more the kind of love that a mother bears for her children or that pupils might hold for a revered teacher. It is the kind of love wherein self, the little, selfish, personal self, is completely forgotten.
Is it not the measure of our almost total inability to put our world right that we can hardly contemplate this submergence of self-interest in the interests of others, and that with affection and fellow-feeling, and without a sense of deprivation to, or sacrifice of, ourselves. We might just be able to contemplate bearing such a noble feeling towards members of our family. We might even extend it to our immediate circle of friends, but could we extend it to all those outside that circle, to the rest of humanity? Could the city magnate who makes millions by speculation, by merely manipulating money while aiming to amass a large fortune, think of those at whose expense he has made that fortune? The idea that anybody has suffered by his so doing does not even enter his head, but wealth does not make itself. Someone has to create it: the producer, the manufacturer, the miner, the farmer, supplying a human need for the essentials of living, or maybe just satisfying a demand for items of pleasure and convenience, are doing something creative, and competition sees to it that they cannot usually make large profits. The speculator, however, supplies no need but his own. Those involved in most company take-overs are entirely selfishly motivated. The money made in such deals is not real wealth: it becomes a factor in inflation from which everybody suffers.
This example merely shows how seemingly removed from the real human scene is a company take-over (this is quite apart from the employees who very often suffer from such take-overs). The importance of individuals learning and acknowledging their responsibilities to society has to be realized. We none of us can escape from this responsibility.
So where do we go from here? Most of us know essentially what we have to do, but we certainly need reminding - very frequently. If we do not know, that is, if we are youngsters or have otherwise never given any thought to these things, where can we go for instruction? We can go to our religionists but are they really worthy teachers? Apart from the 'divine' beings who founded the major religions of the world and gave us the elements of teaching, and some of it, such as that which has come to us from the East, is of a very high standard, the rest are not so reliable. The teaching is purely man-made. It is speculative, a conceptual belief structure, theological wrangling, in no way based on fact. Yet the fundamentalists of any religion would have us believe implicitly, but to what purpose? Most of them would have us live in fear of God, take God into our lives, importune God and, if we could, have Him bend the rules in our favour We do this when we go to war, invoking his aid to make sure that we win, regardless of all the good and worthy men on the other side who might also be praying likewise. Does this not make a mockery of God? This is the God of human imagination, made in the image and likeness of man.
Is there then no God as such? If so, what and where is He, She or It? All the reputable inspired scriptures have told us - It is within ourselves. They have also said that if It is not found there, It cannot be found anywhere else. This is the stark truth. It has nothing to do with holy books, priests, churches or temples. As to what It is, surely by the common origin idea, It is of the essential nature of man himself. Man is, as we have seen, a creature of Nature. Everything that comprises a man must also be a constituent of Nature or even of the Universe of which our world is an infinitesimally small part. This means that man is not only his physical body and his physical functions, but all his inner, subjective aspects including his consciousness, and these too must derive from the great Cosmos itself. If there is a God it must be that which manifests in or through all that comprises the Universe in its entirety, both in space and time and content. Man in his inner nature must be directly and inseverably both related to and part of all that. There can be no other source of his being, in all respects. In his own nature then he is potentially as divine as Cosmos itself. The aim of all real religion is to acquaint him of this fact and to help him consciously to realize it.
In order to achieve this consummation, he has to be instructed properly and so to discipline his personal nature as to live according to universal law. The injunctions that most of the religions give us by way of their precepts and commandments tell us that we must do to do this, but these commandments are not just to be learned and uttered by way of answers in a catechism once in a way - they have to become verily part of our lives, every day and all day. The rationale for our so-doing should be explained to us by our teachers, but where are the teachers? Who is now acquainted with this ancient, ageless wisdom? This is the world's tragedy, its greatest tragedy. It has lost its way. It is like a ship without a rudder. Our religions ought to have been able to not only give us the 'commandments' but also their justifications. Their theologies should have related to fact and not to fictions of belief wherein, so we have been led to believe, lies our only salvation. In fact these beliefs have been our perdition. The doctrine of vicarious atonement is such a one. Man's salvation must in all justice lie in man himself, but man divine, not a 'miserable sinner'.
There have been throughout history would-be reformers who have come to tell us, not only what we should do, but also why. All the great religious teachers in the world's history have done this. If the ground of our being is in Cosmos, and that is all there is, all religions too must have a common source. At the end of the nineteenth century, there was a teacher who demonstrated this par excellence, and that was Mme H.P. Blavatsky, a Russian noblewoman who gave us some of the most sublime and staggeringly erudite literature that now exists in the world. This literature has outfaced most of our modern scholars and, to the extent that is has been understood, totally rejected by orthodox 'denominational' religionists. It goes beyond the reach of current academia, but it is something that the world ignores to its tremendous cost because it tells of man's proper place in the grand scheme of things and the purpose of his living. Traditionally a knowledge of the inner nature of things, the causative realms, has always existed. It was the basis of the Mysteries, it was the Gnosis behind Gnosticism, it was the Ancient Wisdom, the Wisdom-Religion, all known latterly as Theosophy, at least from Neo-Platonist times.
For those who would care to learn about and maybe become teachers in their turn, Mme Blavatsky's "The Key to Theosophy" (1875) is perhaps the best start. An assimilation and earnest application of all that is said in that book would be enough to start the most enthusiastic reformer on his or her way. It could start a mighty beneficent revolution in human affairs. In its teachings lies the panacea for all the world's ills. This may be a hopelessly idealistic statement but it is no exaggeration!