Written circa 1940.
It is well known to you that the great Law of Rebirth is the controlling and major law in all the processes of manifestation. It governs the exoteric expression of a solar Logos or of a human being, and the object of this constantly recurring process is to bring an increasingly perfect form to the expanding service of the soul. For the first time since its inception, the human family is in a position to note for itself the processes of the rebirth of a civilization as an expression of spiritual culture at a particular point in evolution. Hence the magnitude of this crisis as it assumes its place in the human consciousness. Many lesser crises, initiating specific tribal, national and racial experiments in the renewal of form have gone on and have been registered by some group within a nation or by a nation itself (if advanced enough). Such a national registration took place for the first time in connection with the French Revolution. Such registrations of evolutionary intent have taken place with increasing clarity and understanding during the past two hundred years. Such crises have taken place in practically every nation in modern times and have been recognized to some degree, and upon them historians have enlarged and philosophers speculated. But the crisis today is far vaster, embracing as it does the majority of nations in both hemispheres. No nation remains at this time unaffected and the results are and must be registered in some aspect of the national life.
Owing to the factual interrelation between nations everywhere and to the rapidity of inter-communication, the present crisis is the first major international crisis in human affairs and covers a period of twenty-eight years (from 1914 till 1942). These are interesting numbers, for 28 is 4 x 7, which are the years of a complete personality cycle. I do not wish you to infer from the above that the period of active combat and conflict must necessarily be prolonged until 1942. Such is not the case. The early termination of the conflict or its indefinite extension lies in the keeping of humanity itself; men must increasingly determine their own fate as they emerge from the stage of adolescence into that of maturity, responsibility and achievement. This period of twenty-eight years is, however, of paramount importance and upon the next three years much depends.
Again I tell you that even the Hierarchy itself, with all its knowledge, vision and understanding and with all its resources, cannot coerce and cannot forecast what mankind will do. It can and does stimulate to right action; it can and does indicate possibility and responsibility; it can and does send out its teachers and disciples to educate and lead the race; but at no point and in no situation does it command or assume control. It can and does bring good out of evil, illuminating situations and indicating the solution of a problem, but further than this the Hierarchy cannot go. If it assumed authoritative control, a race of automatons would be developed and not a race of responsible, self-directed, aspiring men. This must surely be apparent to you and may serve to answer the question which is uppermost in the minds of the unthinking, occult students today: Why could not the Hierarchy have prevented this catastrophe? Unquestionably the Masters of the Wisdom with Their knowledge and Their command of forces could have interfered, but in so doing They would have broken an occult law and hindered the true development of mankind. This They will never do. At all costs, man must learn to stand and act alone. Instead, having done all that was permissible, They now stand beside suffering and bewildered humanity and – with the deepest compassion and love – will help men to right the wrongs they have initiated, to learn the needed lessons and to come through this crisis (which they have themselves precipitated) enriched thereby, and purified in the fires of adversity. These are not platitudes but eternal truths.
This world crisis, with all its horror and suffering, is – in the last analysis – the result of successful evolutionary processes. We are ready to recognize that when a man’s life cycle has been run and he has learnt the lessons which the experience of any particular life has been intended to teach, his physical body and the inner form aspects (making the sum total of his personality expression) will begin to deteriorate; destructive agencies within the form itself will become active and eventually death will take place, resulting in the liberation of the indwelling life in order that a new and better form may be built. This, we perforce accept either blindly or intelligently, regarding it as a natural and unavoidable process, but normal and inevitable. We are apt, however, to forget that what is true of the individual is true of humanity. Cycles of civilization such as that we call our modern civilization are analogous to a particular, individual, human incarnation with its inception, its progress and growth, its useful maturity and its ensuing deterioration and subsequent death or the passing away of the form.
Forms are ever open to attack. A strong subjective life and spiritual detachment are the two safeguards. Where the form is more potent than the life, danger is imminent; where attachment to the material aspect or organization is present, spiritual values are lost.
Today we are watching the death of a civilization or cycle of incarnation of humanity. In all fields of human expression, crystallization and deterioration had set in. Worn-out religious dogmas and the grip of theology and the orthodox churches have no longer sufficed to hold the allegiance of the potent, inner, spiritual life; humanity is deeply spiritual and innately religious but needs today a new form with which to clothe the ancient verities. Old political schools have been deemed inadequate and new ideologies bear witness to the strength of the life which is seeking more adequate expression; the educational systems, having served their purpose, are fast being recognized as inadequate to meet the need of the demanding life of the race; there is everywhere a cry for change and for those new forms in the religious, political, educational and economic life of the race which will allow of freer and better spiritual expression. Such a change is rapidly coming and is regarded by some as death – terrible and to be avoided if possible. It is indeed death but it is beneficent and needed. It is this realization of the passing of a civilization which gives rise to the recurrent and foreboding cry, “This is the death of civilization; it must not be”; “This is the end of the order, and the old order must be saved”; “This is the destruction of the old and loved values, and it must not be permitted.”
That humanity is bringing about this needed change in unnecessary, cruel and painful ways is indeed true, just as it is true today that human beings by their wrong thinking, foolish habits of physical living and undesirable emotional attitudes do precipitate a final, physical breakdown and eventually death. Nevertheless, for the progress of the soul of the individual and the soul of humanity, death is inevitable, good and necessary; it is also a practice with which we are all most familiar in our own experience and in watching it in others. But we need to remember that the worst death of all (as far as humanity is concerned) would be if a form of civilization or a body form became static and eternal; if the old order never altered and the old values were never transmuted into higher and better ones, that would indeed be a disaster.
We need to bear in mind also that the forces of destruction or death are two-fold: first, the rapidly emerging and developing life with its demand for more room for expression and fuller experience, and its spiritual aspiration for change and progress; and secondly, the reactionary forces and the conservative attitudes which adhere to the well-known and the familiar, and which hate the new, the untried and the unknown. Both of these produce the great and divine transition from the past into the future, and from the old into the new, from experience into fruition and then into experience again. The realities are eternal and undying; the forms are ephemeral and temporary; the soul is persistent and deathless; the form is changing and doomed to die. The processes of evolution have in the past and will in the future prove successful in bringing forms to birth, to maturity and to death.
But (and this is the interesting and significant point) humanity is for the first time, aware of process. It has for the first time chosen intelligently to observe what is going on and to relate it to experience and to environment. This in itself indicates a stage of true and much to be desired development. Reasoning, analysis and the presentation of differing viewpoints are going on in every country on a large scale with varying results, based on differences of temperament, of tradition, of development and of training.
This stage of death and of birth (for the two are proceeding simultaneously) can be easily grasped by the esotericist as he studies the world war in its two distinctive periods: 1914 to 1918, and 1939 until 1942. The first stage (if you could see the situation as it truly is) was most definitely the death stage; the second stage, in which we now find ourselves, is literally the stage of birth – the birth pangs of the new order and of the new civilization through which humanity’s sense of life can express itself. The mother dies in order that the child may live; the form is sacrificed to the life. But today, the form aspect, the Mother or matter aspect, is dying consciously, and just as consciously the child, the infant civilization, is coming into being. This is the new thing and it is in this that we are all participating. It is the death of the personality of humanity and the coming in of the soul.
Such a dying is ever a painful process. Pain has always been the purifying agent, employed by the Lords of Destiny, to bring about liberation. The accumulated pain of the present war and the inherited pain of the earlier stage (begun in 1914) is bringing about a salutary and changing world consciousness. The Lord of Pain has descended from His throne and is treading the ways of earth today, bringing distress, agony and terror to those who cannot interpret His ends, but bringing also a restimulation of the instinct to self-preservation which – in its higher aspect – is the instinct to immortality; it tends to focus humanity’s attention upon the life aspect and not upon the form. The names of the Lords of Karma signify, symbolically and from the angle of their inner meaning, Relationship, Enlightenment, Pain and Return. Ponder on this. They are all peculiarly active at this time, and in their activity lies the hope of humanity.
The Externalization of the Hierarchy – Section II – The General World Picture
By Alice Bailey & Djwhal Khul