Disarmament by Mutual Agreement

By Gottfried de Purucker

The question has often been asked of me whether I believe in complete disarmament by the universal consent of civilized peoples who are now staggering under the load of growing fear and of an incalculable expenditure of treasure to protect themselves against each other. My answer is an emphatic Yes; but this answer should be qualified in several respects, and before doing so, it is necessary to consider the situation which is facing us in the world today.

The chief cause of the general confusion in the world, the main reason for our mental wanderings and emotional gropings, is the loss of our understanding and hold of a common or universally accepted ethical and intellectual standard. This is shown in the babel of voices surrounding us everywhere, by the hungry hearts searching for Truth and not knowing where to find it, by the eager human minds longing for a sufficient and satisfactory inner light, as well as for guidance.

Our generation is a "lost generation," intellectually and morally, because it has lost its vision. "Without vision the people perish" -- an old Hebrew saying based on a comprehensive view of human psychology as demonstrated in history, and therefore a saying which is pregnant with truth. It is invariably a vision or an idea, or a body of ideas, which guides men upwards to glory or downwards to the pit; for Plato was fully right: it is ideas which make or unmake civilizations, build up or overthrow established institutions; and it is just grandly universal ideas, and the will to follow them -- ideas and ideals which all men feel to be true and inerrant from truth -- which men today lack. It is just because men today lack vision, i. e., an inner knowledge of the right thing to do, of a clear way out of their troubles, that as nations we are where we now are. Our whole generation is blind, walking in darkness, not knowing whither to turn for the longed-for light; and the babel of voices that arises from the immense human crowd is something frightful, and significant in its clamor and confused insistence upon panaceas and nostrums of various kinds, political and otherwise.

We are at the end of one form of civilization which, like the Roman Empire in its time, has reached its term, its breaking-up, and we are facing the opening measures of the cosmic drama which is now coming in. It will depend upon the innate wisdom and sense of high justice inherent in men's hearts and minds, whether our present civilization will go down in blood and despair, or whether it will take breath and time in order to recover itself: whether, with the dawning of a new intellectual and moral perception of justice and reason, it will stop its descent down the declivity and begin to rise to new highths overtopping the finest that as yet racially we have attained. This latter can be done; and it is man's higher nature only, his intuitions and instincts for justice and reason, nothing else, that will bring it to pass with surety: man's innate sense of justice, his inherent sense of right, and the common recognition that reason and not violence is the way out, and upwards, to safety, peace, and progress.

History with its silent but tremendously powerful voice shows us, as we hearken to its mandates, that there is absolutely no other way out for us; that there is no other complete solution, nor one which will be satisfactory to all types of human minds and character. Freedom for all; each people seeking its own salvation on its own lines, but in ethical directions accompanied by reason and a desire to do justice. Even an enlightened self-interest, with its always keen eye for individual advantage, must see the universal benefits and securities of such a plan. All stable human institutions are founded on these intuitions and instincts, and upon naught else; for were it otherwise, then our sense of order and law, our very respect for our courts of law, international and national, were collectively a monstrous deception, and an ignominious and miserable farce; and all sane men realize that our laws are based on the rules of justice and impartial reason, tempered with impersonal mercy.

I am not one of those gloomy pessimists who say that man is but a 'poor worm,' with instincts born of his association with dust, and intuitions that are unfounded in fact, and that therefore he cannot solve his problems adequately. He can indeed solve them if he has the will to do so. We are indeed approaching the end of our civilization, and are fascinated and hold our breath as we watch the phenomena of its breaking up; but all too often we forget that this has been a civilization of matter almost wholly, where things of matter often counted as the only ones permanently worth while. There are no longer new lands to which we may send our young people to colonize, for they all have been preempted or taken. The rule of force and of material values has prevailed almost universally, rather than the rules of international justice and common human rights. For 1800 years, more or less, it has been the rule: let everyone grab what he may; let everyone hold what he can. The conduct of the peoples of the earth has been largely based on this purely materialistic and selfish foundation. We sowed the wind; we are now as a body of spiritually bankrupt peoples reaping the whirlwind.

Is it not time that the more far-seeing and superior minds of the world should see to it that calmness and reason and impartial justice shall henceforth prevail? Is there any other and better way out of our troubles and difficulties than by solving them wisely? The only way by which they may be solved is by reason, by justice. If men deliberately refuse to listen to reason, if men deliberately refuse to wish or to will to do justice, then it seems certain that down we shall go; our civilization, our great cities and the manifold works and labors of millions of hands through the years, shall be dust and ruined heaps. There would seem to be no other way out; no god will step into the arena of human pain and wilful ignorance and pull us wretched mortals out of the world-mess that we have created for ourselves, mostly through rabid self-interest and through our wilfully turning away from the paths of justice and peace. We alone must save ourselves; and when we begin to do this in the manner pleasing to the higher Powers, then we shall make an undeniable appeal for their aid and guidance; and we shall receive it. Hercules helps the wagoner, indeed; but only when the wagoner begins to help himself -- and in the right way.

It is the sheerest foolishness and the most blatant of all ethical and intellectual poppycock to aver that man's destiny, now that the waste places of the earth have been taken, is blocked; that there is no future for those who were not 'in at the beginning.' Such an attitude is contradicted by every page of the annals of universal history. We must remember that no thing, no human institution, is unchangeable, eternally the same; and that the shifting and continuously varying scenes of human history in the past -- a certain fact of truth -- promise that the future will be as full as the past has been with the shifting of cosmic scenery, and the changing of human interests and fields of activity. The greatest peoples of the earth have not been those possessing the greatest extent of territory, but precisely those who have been the foremost in the reception of ideas and in the application of progressive ideas to the upbuilding of human institutions based on and usually proclaiming, if not, alas, always following, the ideals of impersonal justice and trained reason; for these are spiritual qualities -- which in fact are universal.

One of the main causes, and perhaps the foremost cause, of our troubles, both national and international, is that men commonly, with many grand exceptions, however, are still holding to the belief in force, in violence, as being the way to solve our troubles. Such procedure never has succeeded permanently, and never will. Violence breeds violence; violence grows by violence. Hatred breeds hatred; selfishness breeds other selfishness.

If there is a common struggle or fight in progress and you go down into the arena of turmoil definitely intending to fight those already fighting there, and to outshout them, the chances are small that what you have to say will receive attention; the probability is that you are going to be hurt. This is because the would-be reformer simply descends to the level of the shouting squabblers. Such is not the manner by which to bring about anything that is universally and definitely constructive in idea, or attractively new and helpful, or that will explain and solve the problems causing the universal disturbance. You are simply descending into the battle yourself, trying to overcome violence with violence, force with force; and this procedure never has succeeded, and I venture to say that it never will.

This does not mean to imply that force is always to be ignored in human relations. Sometimes it is necessary wisely albeit kindly to use force, but always without violence and in order to overcome an evil. Such employment of force or power should always be a merely temporary event or procedure, and should never be used save in an impersonal and upright manner, and for a good cause, and for the common weal. Justice to all is never to be gained by descending into the arena of battle and 'fighting it out' there. Justice is rarely gathered into pockets, so to say; and very rarely indeed is it wholly on one side of a question.

Our problem will never be solved by our mad rush in competitive armament, bringing about universal distrust, fear, anxiety, and crushing the peoples with taxation which threatens to grow beyond their power to meet, and almost making them hate the conditions under which they live their lives. It is the old folly, now recognised by all, to argue that by piling up armaments and inventing new devices of horrible destruction, and by increasing the use of violent force, by and by war will become so horrible that men will shrink in fearsome terror from it. Of all the fallacies and stupid arguments, this is the worst that has ever been inflicted on the suffering minds of mankind.

You will never succeed in stopping war by organizing yourselves into associations and societies swearing to refuse service to your government, and defying it in case of war. That procedure, in my judgment, is abominably wrong. We may admire the idealistic courage and ideal thoughts of the young men and women who, it seems, are doing this. But they overlook the fact that they are merely announcing their declaration to declare war of a kind upon their own government and country, if war should come, thereby introducing disorder and intestine strife among themselves.

Let the youth of the different peoples of whatever country set the example of fidelity and loyalty, each youth to his own government, thus proving the strength and worth of the moral ideal of citizenship; yet, on the other hand, as the world badly needs the idealism and chivalry resident in the younger generation, let youth express these likewise by raising its voice loud and insistent, powerfully declaring itself for universal justice and reason, and do so by the measure of established law. In this same manner, the voice of the world's youth will penetrate into all places, closed and open; for their insistence upon their rights as the coming generation soon to shoulder the burthen of the older, will reach ears too numerous to count. Novus ordo saeclorum!

I should like to see complete disarmament of the peoples take place, by mutual compact and convention. This I must qualify, however, by pointing out that in my judgment, admitting that complete disarmament would be one of the best safeguards against war of any kind, especially aggressive war, it would nevertheless be necessary to have an armed force for the seas and an armed force for the land. These would no longer be an army and navy, as such, specifically for war-purposes, but would in each case act as a highly dignified police, service in either body carrying with it, for both officers and men, honor, dignity, and universal approbation, because of the high purpose to which they devote themselves.

Further, it is my belief that, as far as the naval police is concerned, it should be of an international character; this would avoid the struggle for supremacy in force on the seas. Such international naval police-force would be under the control of an international body, each nation contributing to the expenses; and the command of this international force, though under the orders of an international commission, would be entrusted in rotation to a capable chief naval officer selected in turn from each one of the contributory and signatory national units. This naval police-force would be officered and manned by men drawn from the different maritime or even inland peoples of the globe, and trained for this purpose. Such international naval police-force would exist for the purpose of suppressing piracy on the high seas, for the protection of international commerce, and for the gaining of general security on the seas and the coastal waterways throughout the world.

I do not think this plan at all too idealistic; I think it to be extremely sane, and perfectly workable in practice, and, when thoroughly understood, it certainly would achieve its object. Last but not least, it would save the expenditure through the years of billions of dollars now spent in competitive armament-races; these billions could then be employed for the glorious and productive uses of peace -- for the helping of the poor, for the building of schools and universities, for the safe-guarding of men against national disasters such as floods, earthquakes, drouths, epidemic and endemic disease, etc., etc.

Furthermore, while I for one believe with all my soul that disarmament should be complete, that we should do away with the competitive struggle to build up armed forces by land and sea, I likewise believe that each nation should have its own national armed force for internal police-protection. National armies with their immense cost of upkeep and the constant consequent temptation to employ such armies for aggressive wars would thereby be reduced to minimum requirements of each individual people, in the form of a national police-force, for the securing of internal order, the suppression of outbreaks of forcible resistance to law, and such other similar purposes as a national police-force would naturally subserve.

This would in no wise prevent each nation from also contributing its quota to the building up of an international naval police-force under international control, for the securing of maritime safety, for the protection of commerce, and for the control of unruly elements of all kinds, as well as being a powerful instrument bringing succor and relief over the waters to localities which may have been devastated by one or other of the great natural catastrophes that at times horrify and shock mankind.

The plan does not put forth the idea of an international army, as the latter would present more danger and an almost certain and fecund cause for disputes arising in jealousies, than would even the present system with all its defects and weaknesses. This last reason would not apply to an international naval police whose functions by agreement would be quite different from an international army, the very suggestion of which last implicitly though tacitly envisages conquest.

There is not one thing to prevent this double achievement of human constructive genius -- except a psychology which everyone detests and all fear; a psychology that has merely grown up to be a habit of human thinking.

As a result of the plan outlined above, peaceful means of settling disputes would follow as a matter of logical course, either by using an already established international agency, like The Hague Court, or by the setting up of some international Court with perhaps broader powers for the adjudication and settlement of any difficulties whatsoever, that could arise among any two or more of the civilized peoples of the globe. In this manner all international disputes would be submitted to the arbitrament of an international tribunal composed of eminent jurists selected by agreement from among the peoples.

Once that by common international agreement such a system of international naval police and national police has been established, it goes without saying that the other knotty questions and problems concerning national expansions, outlets for commerce, colonial development, etc., would be solved in due course of time by the usual legal and commercial methods which all civilized peoples recognize in their own internal economy. In fact such solutions would automatically come about, mainly for the reason that the habit of gain and rule through and by means of force would no longer be possible; because any people or national unit attempting such action, disarmed as it is, would immediately be seen to be embarking on an act of insanity subversive of the common good, and would arouse not only the conscience but the indignation of the civilized world. The rights of small nations would be automatically protected, these being contributory units to the common international weal and stability, and any hitherto unsolved problems of international and intercommunal justice would almost automatically as time passes find their solutions in the peaceable will of reasonable and justice-loving men.

It is one of the objectives, let me say duties, of the Theosophical Movement to show men the simple precepts of reason; that life should be governed by the grand ethical instincts of the human soul, which are based on no human conventions but on the orderliness of Nature's own structure and processes. Out of these ethical instincts spring the directing precepts of reason and our will to do justice, teaching us that the 'way out' lies within ourselves: not in our armies nor in our navies, nor in all the dreadful methods of mutual destruction which man's evil genius has invented. These last are not even temporary remedies and bring no satisfactory adjusting of troubles.

I firmly believe that in the plan outlined above, which is well within the bounds of reason, and thoroughly consonant with human conscience and love of order and stability, lies the way out of the horror which now looms on the horizon of the future. It can offend none; in my judgment, it dignifies greatly each participating national unit; and because none gains to the loss and detriment of any other, but all gain in equal measure, it is practical as a plan, and easily practicable in operation. Existing treaties of defense and offense, which are confessedly supposed to be measures of future safety, would by common consent of the contracting parties be abandoned in favor of the incomparably greater security and guarantees offered by the plan above sketched.

It seems to me after nearly a lifetime of pondering over human folly, as exemplified in the devastating disasters which always follow upon the great wars of history, that the only manner in which our present difficulties can be solved, is by an obedience to the ethical mandates and spiritual rules which govern the conduct of humans as individuals, and I have condensed this thought above, by speaking of 'reason and justice' as the sole basis upon which permanent peace for mankind may be gained.

International alliances, blocs of shifting and temporary agreements, as among the Powers, are packed with more social dynamite, and have more internal explosive force than any other evil system that could have been devised by man's evil genius, or genius for evil, for such alliances or blocs infallibly arouse suspicion, smothered or open hatreds, and cankering suspicion. Why? Because they amount to threats against all those who are not included within them, and thus again infallibly bring about the creation of opposing and openly antagonistic alliances and blocs.

One may pray and hope that the prominent men in the world today, those who hold the destinies of the peoples more or less in their hands, will hearken, will listen, to the heart-beat, the unexpressed and growing Will of the people for a permanent solving of their troubles. If they do so, the names of these men will go down in history; they will be remembered not so much by statues and monuments in stone, but their names will be emblazoned in perpetuity in the perduring fabric of human hearts. Their memory shall remain for ages to come as the fire of love and gratitude burning in human hearts.

Again I repeat: a Brotherhood of the Peoples based on reason and justice, and functioning for the common good, for the progress of all, is both practicable and practical, and will some day be seen to be inevitable. Why not therefore lay the foundations of it NOW!

Issues Menu