War Versus Patriotism

By Katherine Tingley

War and preparation for war and thought towards war: these are a confession of weakness. To maintain peace is a proof and manifestation of strength. I would not dare criticize the patriotism of any honest man or reflect in any way on those who do what they think is their duty; but a man's foes are they of his own household, and so it is with a nation. Our enemies are not outside, but within: in our own national mind and customs, our national aggressions and fallings short. We distrust our neighbors because we distrust ourselves. I do not mean in this or that nation alone, but all over the world. We might all of us talk less about being proud of our countries and work more for their spiritual advancement and regeneration.

It is universal ideals that the world is aching for today. We need to understand as never before that our responsibilities are not for ourselves alone, not for our own countries alone, but for the whole human family. Territory and trade may be much, national honor may be much, but the general salvation of human society here in this world -- that is all.

The most vital need of every people on earth is permanent peace, and to get permanent peace we must create and sustain an international spirit or world patriotism which will come as the result of recognition that what affects one nation, affects all; that as far as one ascends towards the peaks of knowledge and well-being, so far all others will follow, and as deep as one may fall away from its ideals and into national selfishness, to that depth or lower in the nature of things the others will be dragged down too; that each nation must partake of the good and bad karma of all.

In a country that based its life wholly on principle and the spirit of human brotherhood, patriotism would be altogether a noble thing, and its aim would not be to set hearts beating at the sound of a drum but to induct all minds into broader conceptions of the meaning of life. Were each nation to cultivate patriotism and national loyalty of that type, the world would soon be united in a universal beneficent system.

National interests ought to be dear to us, so dear that we should be eager to give our lives -- in the living, not in the dying -- to preserve the reality, the inner life and spiritual beauty of our countries; to protect future generations and leave them a heritage of noble life, an incorruptible dignity of culture such as money cannot purchase nor brute force attain or defend.

The highest law of our being demands that we should build our nations on the rock of that enduring wisdom which belongs to the divine soul of man, and rear up our children accordingly that they and their posterity after them may not know the sorrows we have known, but build of the rich results of our strivings the foundation of the great republic of the soul -- that inner republic of which all souls are citizens -- that it may be established "on earth as it is in heaven." But to stand merely and narrowly for one's own country is a suicidal substitute for patriotism. It is, eventually, a poisoning of the supposed object of its devotion because it implies working against the general life and spiritual health of the world, on which the life and spiritual health of each nation depend. We cannot separate ourselves from humanity.

The curse of our nations is separateness. We are not agreed upon any scheme of life or thought or action. We are separated one from another by the imaginary interests of daily life, and competition carried too far is ringing the death knell of our civilization. Money has become such a power as to make men lose sight of their souls and conscience and forget that they are a part of universal life. Our half-interest in ourselves -- devotion to the outward selves and ignoring of the inward and real -- closes against us the door to those deeper realms of thought where truth abides, and hides away from us the manifestation of the true and beautiful divinity latent within each.

The greed of the world is the death of the world. The man whose mind is occupied with trying to get control of others that he may stand before the public as powerful and prosperous -- that man is, from his soul's standpoint, in his death throes.

We forget that a future awaits us, verily the gods await us, and that there are more lives to be lived than this one. We ignore the spiritual will in man and that godlike part of our own nature which now more than ever should be brought into action, for this is the beginning of a cycle, a pivotal time in human history. Every age has its keynote: there was a period of political and religious despotism; this is one of inquiry, growth, and doubt. In proportion as we attain understanding of truth now, the evils that afflict the world will be eradicated as the cycle proceeds on its course. We are building the civilization of the future, and it is the first duty of the race today to see that the building is nobly done.

And yet it is now, today, that beneath the surface and in the undercurrents of life, in certain strata of society -- strata we need not here name -- there is a force luring us towards our undoing which, like a monster in a fairy tale, is growing day by day in power, energy, and foresight for its own advantage. What is the meaning of all this insidious propaganda, this urging upon us of armed peace and preparation for war, this constant insistence on the fallacy that man, to hold his place, must stand ready to resist his fellowmen by violence? To me it is one of the most terrible things in the world to hear it said that good can result from slaughter, or that it is possible to adjust rightly the conditions of the world by infringing on human rights.

Have we not seen how quickly the psychological influence of evil and selfishness can sweep over a whole continent, how easily the mind of a nation can be diverted from right channels into wrong? It would be better for the peoples of the earth to sink into sleep and never see the sun again, than to permit such another war as that we have recently suffered. I am thinking of the soldiers who die in battle -- pitted man against man, and going out under the pressure of their bitter and bloodthirsty moods and the hatred, frenzy, and madness of the conflict -- and wondering to what condition the souls of them will gravitate. Wondering and questioning, because hatred begets hatred, and brutality begets brutality; and though we had colossal intellects and all the wealth of the world, we could not bend the divine laws of nature to our desire.

Yet when the slightest suggestion is made that the country is menaced -- and the newspapers love to print such suggestions and are full of them -- the majority of minds fly out at once to ideas of defense by brutality and violence, that we may have new wars to devour the noblest of our men and kill off those whose lives should most be preserved to build up our civilization. Then we brag of our patriotism and sacrifices! I say, before the drums begin beating and we hear the tramp of our loved ones marching deathward -- before the phantom of death is stalking and ravening through the land -- oh, that we would unfurl the banners of a loftier kind of patriotism!

Could you have armed peace in your family, in your dealings with your children and those whom you profess to love? Could you have a peace there, regulated, enforced, and maintained with swords and bayonets and firearms? There is no substance in the idea at all: it is wholly false. A peace based on armaments is bound to be but a temporary makeshift, and its passing is bound to be always into worse bloodshed and horror.

Fear and apprehension of war are becoming a chronic disease among all so-called civilized peoples: an old disease that hangs on and will never be healed until the world discovers the secret of true patriotism. There is no nobility in fear. It is a thing born wholly in the realms of personality, smallness, and selfishness, and has nothing to do at all with the higher self which is the hero in man. No individual and no nation can make the slightest progress upwards until fear has been eliminated from his or its being.

In times of peace, we are told, we should prepare for war. In times of peace, were we decently fearless and had the least spiritual insight, we should prepare only for a higher peace; and peace in every succeeding age should mean something nobler and grander. For standing armies and navies we should have the wisdom of the higher man which would include knowledge how to meet our brothers, not brutally in battle but as divine beings should meet beings equally divine.

For the great power of the divine universe is in every human heart, even the most wretched and unfortunate, and it does not take a lifetime, it does not take a year, for a man to discover the god within himself. If he has the courage to face the issues he may find it in a moment of time. Let him, seeking truth, force the doors of his own soul and all human nature will be revealed to him. Let him find access there and the desires and passions that have hunted him through life will disappear. The light of the soul shining in on the mind and coloring the life of a man: that is the glory of God, that is the glorification of man, that is the establishment of everlasting peace. For each one of us is a universe in little and each one has all the secrets of time within himself.

Losing sight of the eternal in the transient, we fail to find the meaning of life. Had men discovered their true humanity, they would know that brute force can never, by any chance, under any circumstances, win any single real victory or anything profitable at all. Winning by it, we lose; its victories are our worst defeats. It is the ignorance and timidity of the age that hamper us, and both can be traced back to heredity and the long generations of the past. Each man and each nation is an epitome of all humanity, and the disastrous belief in separateness proves that our gaze is wholly turned away from the real and fixed on the objective plane.

There is but one true and legitimate battlefield: the mind of man, where the duality of our nature keeps us constantly at the only rightful war there is -- the war of the god in us against the lower self. The kingdom of heaven is within, and no one is so far from the light and the truth that he cannot turn tomorrow and find it. Then shall he work for the glory of God and shall know the secret of so working, for God is in man and through man's heart may be made manifest. And the glory of God is the glory of humanity: of manhood, of womanhood and motherhood, of a home life strong, pure, and beautiful, of a civic life lifted above all petty jealousies and differences, of an international world patriotism based on the fundamental brotherhood of man.

We have come to be overweighted with our exterior and worldly interests and have lost that natural human equilibrium by which we might live undisturbedly in the spiritual side of our nature, making our minds subservient to our real selves and using them as a means of service and growth. For we should regard the idea of adjusting national differences by brute force as an insult to the dignity of spiritual manhood. We should see that the men we train for war -- and whether we or they know it or not, humiliate in the training -- might be trained wonderfully for peace instead: to be statesmen and teachers, the efficient guardians of their nations' peace.

We should no longer seek, as we have been doing for ages, to arm ourselves against our neighbors. Our whole care should be to protect our neighbors against our own lower selves. Cultivate a fear of invasion and you are moving far away from justice, far away from duty. Shame on the people that so distrusts its higher self and godlike abilities as to feel unable to resist invasion by any other means than brute force!

Those against whom we work up our propagandas of hatred, and who may be made our enemies tomorrow, are our brothers, and there is a way to reach them -- and it is not by force or menace or insult or the psychological suggestion created by piling up armaments. We have our brain-mind plans, our guns and ships and fortresses, we have our youth trained for battle and restless under the enforced inactivity of circumstance, and it is all a challenge and a daring of foreign countries. We dare and incite them to come over and test us; we announce to them our opinion that we and they are equally blind.

We have become so accustomed to believing that the victor is right that it has become a kind of creed with us, and we bring up our children to believe in it. The side that wins is in the right, the defeated side is in the wrong: it is all a matter of brute force. And we take religion and our so-called God to support our miserable theory. It is insanity -- the insanity of the age! Only insanity could confuse brute force with power.

And yet there is enough heroism on earth today to turn earth into a heaven. If the energy and time that have been wasted in warlike preparations had been given to preparations for peace, our nations would be stronger now than ever they were and infinitely better protected. The soul of a nation -- the living essence of its being -- is the aggregation of its thoughts, feelings, actions, and ideals, backed by the divine quality of the god within. To the degree that the people of any country nourish their national soul with thought of that spiritual and godlike kind, to that degree their country is protected, impregnable, beyond the reach of violation. Look at it rationally and you must see that this is the truth; but hug to your mind and heart the old contemptible fallacy that moral victories can be won by force and you will go on being duped by foolishness and creating misery for yourself by sowing the seeds of war.

Nation against nation, brother against brother, and family against family, we shall always be at warfare as long as we place dependence on our lower natures -- on physical force or on the selfish interest -- for the adjustment of those affairs which can only be settled by the spiritual side of man's nature. It must not be thought that I blame too much the people of today. We are the progeny, spiritually as well as physically, of our ancestors, as they were of theirs. Century after century men have been living in ignorance and with faces turned away from the universal plan of life, which is brotherhood -- an ideal we might uphold, one would think, with at least half the interest we take in our narrow nationalisms and preoccupations with war. The influence of the past lies dark on the present. For ages humanity has been accustoming itself to unbrotherliness, selfishness, and injustice, and men have been growing, not nearer together, but farther apart.

This is true of all, so that when war breaks out we have no right to blame this or that man or nation. We must do away with this sitting in judgment on our neighbors if we are to find the divine light in ourselves. We cannot draw upon, we cannot support or awaken, the soul, the part that is worthwhile, in our own nation while our minds are so busied concerning themselves with the supposed faults and various failings of some other nation. Those who have learned to distinguish between the mortal and the immortal within themselves are the most charitable people on earth: they know how easy it is for one unacquainted with his own divine nature to drift in the wrong direction.

Men and nations, it is this continual thought of self that is our undoing. We excuse ourselves; often we believe that we would sacrifice our very lives for humanity when really we would not sacrifice the smallest whim. Sometimes some insignificant personal desire may turn the whole nature and add unspeakable weight to the burden of the future, and we cannot see it and have no notion it is weighing us down. We sow the seeds of our misfortunes in the moments when we cannot sacrifice the small things we have set our hearts on.

Self-analysis should bring us to an inexhaustible compassion. We should have it in mind always that every living thing is an expression of the infinite, no matter what its outward aspects may be. Our supposed enemies, or the men or nations that we blame, have been educated, as we have, to look on life wholly from the outside. It has been impressed on us all, generation by generation, till the taint runs in our very blood and being, that conquest by force is sometimes possible and legitimate. And now we have quite forgotten the spiritual powers by which alone success can be achieved.

With no more than brain-mind knowledge and scholarship, however great these may be, a man is half asleep. He has not found himself nor the key to life. He cannot see ahead, he has no vision. Reason has its place, but it is the spirit of his work that makes a man a god; and as his life is, so will his understanding be. There is of course great value in acquiring knowledge and sharpening the mind, but there is that which is infinitely more important: to discover within the mysterious recesses of the soul the operations that illuminate the heart and vivify the mind with spiritual light. Character is higher than mind, but highest of all is the spiritual life.

It follows that none of the great world problems can be solved by mere cleverness. The man who depends solely on that can make nothing of any of them. In the direction of the mind our powers are always and necessarily limited. That is not the part of us which is immortal or without bounds. Therefore war cannot be abolished by argument or political intrigues or manipulations, but only by bringing to bear on our international questions the instincts and inspirations of that divinity which stands now in the background of human consciousness awaiting the summons of a humanity at last grown aware of the tremendous dignity of being human.

While the shadows are over us and the darkness still is about us, we should turn our eyes to the east and realize that from within these death cells of the body and mind we can look forth and see, faint as yet and far away perhaps, the promise of a new most glorious life for mankind. The divine laws are greater than human laws. They are permanent and eternal and there is no change in them: political systems do not touch them nor sectarian influences corrupt. Right thought and action can lift us for the time being, always, onto the plane of the soul, and when we are there we are raising the whole human race towards the level of its rights, possibilities, and spiritual heritage.

We have but to grasp that central idea that none can ever find the soul's way, or conform to the great universal scheme of life, by mere exercise of brain-power; that the brain-mind can never bring the nations into stable peace or create any genuine fellowship or union. There must be that common divine-human something which dwells behind the mentality. The soul must hold the scepter and be given direction of affairs. If but a few could understand their duty in this matter they would look into the future with broad and far vision; they would put away every fallacy and selfish aim in order to prepare for humanity a civilization in which war would be impossible. Their noble efforts would be directed towards welding, first their own countries, then the whole human family, into one impregnable unity.

If we can so easily be carried away by these war-fevers and psychological waves of confusion, why should we not be lifted by the opposite kind of force to heights of clear discrimination, and in place of finding flaws in foreign countries and preparing for wars with them, set ourselves to clearing of their weeds the gardens of our own countries' lives? Why should not our eyes be fixed on golden ages to be, when the seeds of genius, dormant now in all human nature, shall be developed in the glow and sunshine of the infinite law? The mountains shall be covered with the unselfish and courageous who walk the rugged paths with their eyes upon the light, and they will look down into the valley of the shadow that was and see there no longer heartache and sorrow, ignorance and degradation. For their compassion and love will have kindled the hearts of the dwellers in darkness, and they too will have begun the grand ascent.

The hidden truth about us is that we do love our neighbor as ourselves, though we have not found the way to express the love which we do not even know exists. But it is there: the love of our fellows sleeps latent in our hearts with the deity that watches there. Though we are quite unconscious of it, our very humanity implies its existence. It is in the inmost depths of the nature even of the most brutal and debased: in us, and equally in those whom tomorrow we might come to look on as our enemies, whom we would kill, and delight in killing, were war declared. For wherever human life is, there the god is seeking its expression. It would put forth its leaves as the trees do; it would blossom like the flowers, and its blossoms would be deeds and thoughts full of gentleness and courage and beauty. It desires to sing as the birds desire to sing, and its song would be honor, friendship, justice, ringing through the clear serenity of our lives.

As it begins to push and urge itself through the mind and into the life of us, we shall see the light of it grow ever brighter and brighter in the world, until we too may echo the spirit of its grandeur and be clothed in the glory of those who have preceded us on the way.

  • (Condensed from The Gods Await by Katherine Tingley)

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