Paul Brunton Philosophic Foundation homepage > Notebooks of Paul Brunton > Category 11: The Negatives > Chapter 5: Their Visible and Invisible Harm

Their Visible and Invisible Harm

At the heart of every atom of every universe there is Spirit, divine and deathless. It is for this reason that any human society based upon its denial has no future and cannot survive. As long as man exists he will need to satisfy inner hunger, to find spiritual comfort, to receive holy communion, and to hear words of eternal truth.

The sight of evil men rising to power over stupid or stupefied masses has brought good men to despair. But the universe has room for both. It is a school for all and the outcome of its instruction is yet to be seen.

It may well be that those who have banished the religious faith of childhood from their hearts and replaced it by the scientific scepticism of adulthood, followed by the political cynicism of maturity, will end by banishing hope, too. The perversity of mankind, the hypocrisy of its leaders, and the presence of materialistic society may well seem to justify it.

Through ignorance of destiny's laws and through weakness in his psychological being, man creates the conditions which must finally express themselves in violent conflict with his fellows.

Most people have failed to recognize that the forces of destiny are back of these events. Even the powerful impact of such stirring events as history has recorded in our own times has not been enough to bring about this recognition. Yet they sense their own helplessness, although they do not understand that it is the very inevitability of their karma which has made them feel this helplessness.

Some men radiate animosity as others radiate goodwill. The unfortunate members of the first class are victims of their own negative thinking.

Those of us who have been born and brought up in democratic countries like England and the USA rightly resent the idea of living under oppressive dictatorship. Yet we tend to overlook the fact that even in such countries the State is itself becoming more and more formidably dictatorial as it becomes more and more centralized. Those of us who value individuality and freedom are coming into inner conflict with it--some of us even into outer conflict.

Men who are scarcely sane, who are either pathological cases or in need of psychological treatment, become heroes and leaders among the young.

Confronted in actual firsthand experience by the terrors and errors, the tragedies and sufferings of these decades, the serious mind could lose its balance enough to declare life an unmitigated evil.

The disciples of Materialism say that the execution of 3000-odd persons in the French Revolution was a small price to pay for the beneficial reforms which it brought about. But only the philosopher can trace the line of connection between its hatred and violence and the Napoleonic wars which soon followed it, taking a half million French lives and hundreds of thousands wounded, mutilated, or crippled French bodies; these too must be added to the cost of hatred, the price of violence.

Cunning criminals and brutal plotters have found whole nations willing to follow them.

These sinister figures seek, and often get, key positions in politics, organized groups, etc., and from there manipulate the mass and use them as blind unwitting tools.

When we examine the forces which are active in the heart of sick humanity today, we must report little hope for the patient's future if we are to report faithfully at all.

Spiritual faith is stronger in a few individuals but weaker in the great masses. The future is bright for better machines yet dark for better morals. A moral awakening and religious renewal was hoped for. That, unfortunately, is not the situation which has actually developed. Humanity has suffered but has not been prepared enough by its sufferings to let the new spirit have entry into its heart. Nothing is gained by blinking at these facts. The end of the war did not bring that new spirit amongst mankind which is the prerequisite to a better era. The social, political, and economic structures now being erected will not succeed without it. It is a waste of time to enter any public activity which is foredoomed to defeat.

The disadvantage of attempting to avoid sufficient consideration of these truths and of shutting his eyes to their consequences, is that the pleasanter time thereby gained is much more than offset by the immense worsening of the climax when it does come.

Too many find their work boring, their careers futile, and their lives aimless. The result is spiritual torpor.

In other times what they sought from drink or sex, ambition or adventure, was happiness. But in these times what they seek from them is--short of killing themselves--refuge from unbearable hopelessness and fatiguing uselessness.

They must be uneasy whose hearts are spiritually empty but whose world is full of menace.

The past has become a grave of buried hopes, the present a dulled waiting for better times, and the future a bitter blankness which will not bear contemplation.

Just as the introduction of poisons into the human body harms it, so the introduction of unsuitable materials and forces into the earth's body will harm it too. Nature brings its own retribution to its dwellers for what they do to the planet. This applies just as much to the introduction of mental and psychical pollutions into the invisible atmosphere or aura.

The magnetic relationship between the two earth poles has been disturbed by the excessive amounts of radiation poured lately into space, with great weather disturbance as a result.

A despondent outlook can be an effective obstacle to hearing the Overself's voice.

History, both ancient and modern, shows that there is much evil in mankind, that its stupefying effect leads not only to an unwillingness to listen to truth and an unreadiness to understand it, but also to a hostile malignity against it expressed through vituperation and opposition.

Resistance to the spiritual forces and rejection of their message must lead in the end to the destructive penalties of which war, pestilence, and flood are instances.

"Conscious of danger in its depth, I would not preach the Law of Laws to men." Thus Buddha told his disciples of one of the reasons why he first refused to make public his discovery of ultimate truth. To whom was this danger? If to himself, he was above fear. It was to his own generation. He expressly declared, on another occasion, "I have seen these things before, yet I did not reveal them. I might have revealed it, and others would not have believed it. Now, had they not believed me, it would have been to their loss and sorrow." Buddha meant--and his meaning is further elucidated by other sayings--that those to whom he offers mystical truth and reject it, will bring hurt upon themselves by the very act of rejection. Such truth is accompanied by great power. It cannot be separated from its sayer. The sage doubted is the truth doubted. The sage rejected is the truth rejected. When this happens, the accompanying power--which would have blessed and helped if believed in--still affects those it touches but affects them adversely. It is like electricity, which is so useful a servant of man but so dangerous when not rightly treated, which may save life or destroy it altogether. The Prophet of an age or a continent knows these facts, as the law that brings him into birth knows it too. Consequently he appears when humanity has passed through such tremendous self-earned sufferings that the risk involved in saying the Word and thus showing them the only true way out, becomes an act of mercy by contrast.

When man becomes insensitive to the sacredness within himself, he is lost.

It is a sin to deny the Power from which his body draws its life, his mind its consciousness and intelligence, his soul its very existence. It invites punishment, which comes through being left alone with the opposing force in Nature, with its physical, intellectual, psychical and subtle forces, unguided by the intuitive and unprotected by the divine. Man then tries to live by his own light alone. He fails, stumbles, falls and suffers. This is his position today and this is why there is a world-crisis of stupendous proportions. This is his hour of real need. This is when he must turn, as in Biblical history, to his true Deliverer. Every other way out except this one is closing for him.

Atomic Energy. What the scientists have done is to destroy the atom, the stuff which God made and used to make the universe. They have released destructive forces into the world and degenerative forces along with them among mankind. Even the peaceful commercial use of nuclear energy in reactor-installations brings these evils among us and the precautionary safeguards fail to overcome them.

Man's intellect, when not balanced by intuitive feeling and when directed by his animalistic and egoistic impulses, can only lead him to self-destruction in the end. In a total sense, this will not be permitted by the World-Mind. Therefore, its course will be hindered and he himself restrained as soon as the time is appropriate.

The physical starvation or privation which afflicts so many millions in Europe and Asia is deplorable but the spiritual starvation or moral degeneration which afflicts many more is really a worse evil. This idea may seem strange, even repulsive, to most people. For its truth can become evident only after carefully thinking out the causes and consequences of both situations, although it is evident in a flash to those who have enough intuitive insight.

There is a grimmer prospect than overpopulation. By destroying his home, man as species is destroying himself, not to mention animals and plants who will pass with him. If this planet dies a new one will be born, yes, but he will carry the moral guilt.

In an unsympathetic society, what is deep in a man's heart may be deliberately denied expression and not allowed to come out.

The large cities have become large blots on mankind's inner life and outer health. They are marvels of ingenious arrangements but monstrosities of nervous strain and psychoneurosis. Their inhabitants follow an artificial existence under the delusion that it is a human existence. Everything within them is abnormal yet custom and cowardice, ignorance and selfishness have proclaimed it normal. The air is filled with chemical poisons by travelling vehicles and factories and industrial plants. Their water flows through miles and miles of sediment-lined pipes. Their food is stale, devitalized, adulterated, and often disease-breeding. The unnatural living and high tension of millions of city-prisoned people exposes them to physical and nervous sickness.

It becomes harder with each year for the inhabitants of modern London or modern New York to achieve this gentle receptiveness to intuitive spiritual moods.

Science has not served the world if its industrial constructions have turned wandering streams into foul gutters, green fields into filthy slums, and pleasant valleys into mean joyless streets. Worse is the poisoned air and food, the mechanized worker.

In destroying woods and forests, in building over glades and dells, men have been destroying one of their principal resources of spiritual welfare. The message which their loveliness and silence could give is lost; the benefit to feeling and thought is not received.

Bafflement in the face of the world problem produces inertia and paralyses initiative.

We all are suffering the evil effects of dispersed radioactivity even now. The dosage is small but cumulative, worsening with every year that passes.

An exhausted people may become too tired to believe in anything or to hold on to principles, may live from moment to moment in weary opportunism.

Despite delusions about their progress in conquering Nature all men are still controlled by Nature's higher laws. Violation of those laws always brings suffering but the present-day violation will bring disaster.

An ethically blinded world may not perceive the actuality and factuality of karma. Hence, it may not comprehend that it was Europe's remorseless collective karma which compelled Neville Chamberlain--pacifist though he was--finally to declare the war for whose avoidance he had dedicated the work of a whole decade. There is no other God pulling historic strings than the karmic laws of retribution and re-adjustment. And let us not forget that this destiny is not an arbitrary tyrannical power; it is self-earned by the nations as by individuals and thus self-called into operation. The sufferings it brings to peoples are really the reactions of their own near or remote deeds. They are visited by the consequences of their own making. Karma works in its own time to set straight all crooked things, not in ours. Nevertheless we can sometimes see it move quickly enough to teach a vivid lesson both to those who suffer its consequences and those who observe that suffering.

Because sufficient people were unable or unwilling to learn the proper lessons of the first world war, they had to suffer the consequences of this failure in a worse form--the second world war. If the latter's lessons are in turn also left unlearned, then those consequences will come in the worst possible form--a third and atomic world war.

When a civilization becomes so mechanized or brutalized or sensualized or materialized as to be quite insensitive to the higher values of life, it invokes its own slow passing away or abrupt disappearance.

The violence and vice of our times are the direct consequences of the irreverence and materialism of our times.

When men who have spent their whole lives harbouring destructive ideas are given a constructive teaching, they are naturally impermeable and unreceptive to it. There are materialists who are impatient at hearing philosophic truths and even irritated by them. Such persons may even become quite violently abusive. This happens because they have completely lost their capacity to practise calm unprejudiced abstract thinking, and because they have crushed the feeling of veneration before something higher or nobler than themselves--whether it be a beautiful landscape or God.

The hard, almost callous, insensitivity of so many moderns, their sceptical, contemptuous, sarcastic, and conceited attitude when confronted with the finer and subtler things of life, show how deeply atheism, or materialism, has eaten into their souls, how ignorant they are of the higher laws governing life.

The search for truth is impossible in a society where freedom of thought is forbidden, where public activity on behalf of mystical truth is totally forbidden and on behalf of religious truth progressively throttled.

Man is more miserable, more restless and unsatisfied than ever before, simply because half his nature--the spiritual--is starving for true food, and the other half--the material--is fed with bad food.

Whilst so many are obsessed by materialistic outlooks, it is inevitable that they should lose the moral sense and commit blunder after blunder and consequently suffer distress after distress. Yet of the worst result of these obsessions they are not even aware. And that is, to live so remote from their own inner core of divinity as to miss the most worthwhile values and meanings of life itself.

Without knowledge of these higher laws, men blunder into sin and suffering. With the increased power to hurt others which the advances of science have brought them, the need of this knowledge has become acute. For the fear and hate which they have brought over from their animal phase of evolution will still motivate the use of this power.

We naturally and normally shrink from entering into the study of spiritual mysteries, so materialized have we become.

It was not a moralist or religionist, but an economist--J.M. Keynes himself--who looked back on life and confessed that "in truth, it was the Benthamite Calculus, based on over-valuation of the economic criterion, which was destroying the quality of the popular ideal."

Higher values vanish, morals disappear, and character becomes baser when the shallow atheism replaces superstition and imposture masquerades as religious faith.

Their faith in a higher purpose of life having failed, it is not long before the labour of correcting and purifying human nature will seem unnecessary.

The suffering which people have gone through has not awakened them sufficiently, and spiritually people have even declined. This is a grave problem everywhere, and has its roots in a materialistic obsession with a merely external life.

The worth or worthlessness of a materialistic attitude towards life will come out not only in dealing with the ordinary questions and everyday problems but much more in special difficulties, emergencies, and crises.

The danger today is that most men are not only unaware of their true relation to Nature but also obsessed by their deceptive materialistic illusions about it.

The very sense of an inner lack which exists in so many people today, is itself a recognition of their spiritual deficiency.

A world without meaning, a life without purpose--this is the miserable consequence of materialism!

The number of awakened individuals must be compared with the number who still remain asleep in ignorance and materialism. Then it will be realized how greatly the latter rules humanity.

Millions of people seem to carry on their lives quite comfortably and form their opinions quite easily without the necessity of troubling themselves about the place in one for spiritual laws and in the other for spiritual truths. It is as if such things simply did not exist. The realm of spiritual truths has become like a foreign country to them, the spiritual life like a queer eccentricity. It is not that they are incapable of understanding the truths, for many of them have fair intelligence, or that they are too distant from the life, for many of them are good in heart and conduct. But when so many people are so unaware of, or so indifferent to, the higher purpose of life it requires no special foresight to forecast what gloomy changes will take place in their future course. Those whose interest in life begins and ends in their little egos, who cannot believe in and immediately reject the need of putting a higher purpose into all their activities, naturally fall into unavoidable error and experience avoidable sufferings.

Both the protagonists in our contemporary international scene have really fallen into the same soul-sickness; the chief difference is only in the way and the extent to which they fell into it. Both have sold their spiritual birthright for a mess of materialistic pottage, the one through temptation and freedom and the other through blindness and compulsion. The goals of both civilizations are similar, only their methods and atmosphere differ, and differ widely. Both seek the mechanistic and materialistic life, but one only partially, the other wholly. Hence the real struggle is between two varieties of materialism. The only correct conclusion is that this is not so much a conflict of clashing ideologies as of two different variants of the same ideology--a good variant and an evil one. This leads to a confused rather than a clear issue. The clean-cut difference in ethical values, aims, and ideals which made the war against the previous incarnation of the aggressive spirit a defensive struggle against obvious evil is still present today, but the metaphysical issues are somewhat chaotically distributed on both sides.

But how far is it enough from the point of view of higher culture? Will they learn to appreciate the values of truth, goodness, and beauty or despise and trample on them? For the juncture of social justice with mechanical development could provide them for the first time with more freedom every day. What use will they make of this enlarged or even new freedom? We may not let such questions hinder us from creating the opportunity to think about higher matters. What use or abuse will be made of it is history's concern.

If, as we believe, it be true that history moves in cycles, the world is now entering a new cycle. The old Chinese culture featured this theory of collective fortunes moving through a series of phases, whilst a similar doctrine has long been held in India. We well remember one evening many years ago listening at a riverside village near Gaya, where Buddha attained Nirvana, to one of those melancholy Hindu melodies whose monotonous repetition of the same low wailing notes depresses most Westerners. We complained about this to our cultured companion. He was an extremely old man who sat twice a day in the yogi posture of intertwined ankles--so pleasing to behold, so difficult to perform--with his gaze fixed into space and the fading sunlight playing in quivering undulating waves around his figure. The sacred cord of the twice-born, the white triple thread of the Brahmin, hung around his neck. He did not answer for a full two minutes, for he had been wedded by long habit to silence. Then, without turning his head, he said slowly:

"My son, among our people it is otherwise. We are not, like the Westerners, afraid of truth's sadness, while welcoming its joy. We know that the scenes of this world come and pass like a dream of the night. And this is true of all the events and fortunes of a people's life also--more especially now that we live in the Iron Age, which is ruled by frequent death and covered by spiritual darkness. You know that we measure the world's history in great epochs, each divided into four successive lesser epochs and each endlessly departing and returning on itself like a wheel. Do not blame us, then, if our minds fall quickly into despondency and if our music reflects this sadness. We accept it resignedly, and through such resignation find contentment. We know that karma is always active and we try to accommodate ourselves to it.

"Once I brooded for long over the strange prophecies to be found in an ancient Sanskrit book, a Purana. In it I found this passage: `When the earth is bound by iron chains (are they not your railways?), when men speak to each other across immense spaces (is this not your telephone without wires?), and when materialism rules supreme (has history shown a less spiritual age than ours?), in that time there will incarnate Kalki, the Slayer of Men, who (it is written symbolically) will carry a flaming sword in his hand.'"

The negative and undesirable traits of character will tend to reproduce themselves in undesirable and inharmonious forms of experience.

The rule of casting out all negative thoughts, and keeping them out, is an absolute one. There are no exceptions and no deviations. Such negatives as hate, irritability, and fault-finding make poisons in the body and neuroses in the mind. They irritate the nerves, disturb the proper movement of the blood, distort the internal secretions, and destructively affect the chemical composition of tissue cells. Nor is this the end. They provoke like emotions in other people with whom we are constantly thrown in contact. We then have to suffer the effects as if they were echoes of our own making. Thus the discords inside oneself throw up disturbances outside oneself. One's anger provokes the other person's anger, for instance.

Negative emotions and memories hold accumulations of worthless, even self-harming material, useless debris that serves only to hinder progress.

Fierce intense hate blinds the eyes of reason, hurts the hater, and creates delusion.

Whoever holds fiercely to his hatreds not only can never enter the kingdom of heaven, but will certainly never enter the kingdom of truth.

The man who is happy only when he hates will one day be tutored by having to experience the results of his own destructive feelings.

He who slanders others attracts slander to himself.

If these negative traits are too strong, they may not only hinder the appearance of "the flash" but also the progress in meditation. This is one of the reasons why the medieval mystical authorities laid down a ruling that cleansing of the heart, purification of the mind, must precede or at least accompany the practice of meditation. That they often carried this process too far and enjoined a rigid extreme asceticism does not invalidate the excellence of their ruling.

Arrogance and pride not only prepare the way for a fall, as history so often tells us, but also make a man stick more stubbornly to his deviation from the correct way.

The compromise with evil leads in the end to confusion and weakness, a gradual decline of standards, a wavering fealty to opportunism, and a fatal contradiction of principles.

If a negative emotion is strong enough, it may not only colour his reasoning faculty, but even preclude its use altogether.

It is hard for a man who is filled with bitterness about a situation in which he is involved to be strictly objective toward it.

We are weakened every time we give harbourage to snarling thoughts about other people and whimpering ones about ourselves.

The negative person too frequently expresses criticism, disapproval, or anger. This contributes to his own bad health.

When the lower passions of violence, aggression, and greed are more developed than reason, they enslave reason and put it to their own selfish service. Excessive greed and unscrupulous ambition easily distort the straight shapes of rational truth and put plausible disguises on ancient errors. The defect in all such thinking is that it has not been pushed far enough. It stops too short and too soon. It stops working when confronted by ethical considerations and it will not go on to reckon with the existence of retributive karma. The defeat and failure of its wrong-doers illustrates the eventual defeat and failure which always overtake wrong-doing in the end.

Those who find nourishment in tales of horror and drink in reports of crime open their minds to evil suggestion. In strong characters and truly adult persons the influence may be but slight, but in weak ones and mere adolescents it is more serious.

His stumblings and his fallings may depress his heart and reduce his aspiration. They may deter his will from further endeavour.

For those monsters of hate and cruelty, either utterly materialistic and God-denying or fanatic and taking the name of God in vain, there is no shelter where they can hide once they are forced across the barrier of death.

The qualities of determination, intelligence, and persistence--so useful in philosophy--can be used for good or evil. They can make a more successful criminal as well as a better philosopher. The upsurge of well-thought-out, daring, resourceful, and highly ambitious crime in modern times is a sign of misapplied powers, while its violence is a sign of merciless egocentricity. The end for such persons is commensurate. Then may come a crippling deformed future birth, or a sudden and radical awakening to the grave peril toward which they are heading--and a change of course to a better life.

The unfortunate experiences which sometimes befall an individual's worldly life are, or may be, partly induced by his own psychic practices of the period immediately preceding them. One may have been drawn into a vortex of psychic evil which has harmed his spiritual life and brought suffering into his worldly existence.

What are the inner causes which can produce these dismal outer effects? Here are some of them: shock, worry, fear, resentment, anger, excessive criticism, condemnation of others.

The English woman novelist named Ouida, who wrote during the earlier part of this century, was so successful that she became the highest-paid fiction writer of her time. Yet when she died she was alone, penniless, half-blind, and dwelling in a back alley of Viareggio, Italy. Why? She was brilliant, fluent, and vibrant in her style, but most of her written work was scathing, bitter, highly critical, filled with prejudices and even hates. To what extent did a mind and heart holding so many negatives contribute to these unpleasant results? Yet she was unquestionably a lady in manners, breeding, dress, and way of life. She wrote her letters and even her manuscripts on the finest quality paper. She was highly independent and refused an offer to write her own life story, even though a substantial amount of money was the prize. Her reply was that it would be lowering herself to feed her own egotism and vanity to do so!

It is quite true and utterly obvious that bad physical conditions make their contribution also, but it is even more true that bad inner conditions are the fundamental causes which turn outward remedies to disappointments in the end.

Blind selfishness brings mutilated lives and ugly minds.

Pessimism is practical defeatism and psychological suicide. It is the child of despair and the parent of dissolution.

Long ago Buddha said that if we make room in our minds for negative, bitter thoughts of complaint, outrage, or injury against those who mistreat us, we shall not be free and will remain unable to find peace.

Beware of giving birth to thoughts of hate, envy, malice, or wrath and sending them to another person. For they will reach him, yes, but will then return like a boomerang to their source.

The Sanskrit proverb which says that wicked men may gain the fruits of their aggressions and desires, may win victories over others, also says, "But at the end they are destroyed at the roots."

The coldly calculated torture of animals in the name of scientific progress must be paid for in different degrees by those who allow it as well as by those who perpetrate it. The practice of vivisection is a sinful one. The men who do it will have to pay the penalty one day, quite often by being born into a maimed and hurt body. Some among them, who gradually lose every vestige of pity from their character, become heartless monsters.

Through violent aggression whereby impassioned men seek to destroy others, they work their own destruction--at first moral, in the end, physical.

These undesirable thoughts and feelings are bad for others as well as himself, besides wasting so much of his own energies.

An evil man's mistakes sometimes strike back at him later when he least expects them, and can least afford them.

Is it prudent to heed all this talk of coming calamity? Is it a mistake to read material speculating on its likelihood or imagining its horrors? Each person must answer such a question for himself, but the philosophic person approaches it in a different manner. On general principles he dislikes negative thoughts and repels them. He seeks a clear recognition of what is happening in the world around him, but he trains himself--disciplines his mind and detaches his emotions--to do so without picking up the accompaniments of panic or depression. He practises living with complete calm in the face of provocations and irritations, keeping his head, when others all around are losing theirs.

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