The Tendency of the Present Civilization
An Ancient Hindu Story.
The Path, January, 1886
Pretty much every subject comes up for discussion at our afternoon tea table. Hence I was not surprised lately, walking in upon our five-o’clock callers, to find an argument on crime going the rounds with the bread and butter.
“What is the worst thing you have seen in the papers lately?” This question imparted the flavor of caviare to the mild refreshment of the ladies. The Club Bachelor held a certain divorce case to be——; the mother drowned the rest in the peremptory rattle of her tea-cups and instanced cruelty to the child slave of an Italian padrone. Sue let off a pyrotechinic series of wrath-compelling wrongs to animals, whom she considers “miles above horrid humans.” The widow pilloried that brutal subject of recent press dispatches “who murdered his fifth wife at her tea-table. Fancy! What an invasion of the Sanctuary.” Pretty Polly was also heard battling vi et armis with the Medical Student over a breach of promise case, and all were moderately heated over these comparative claims to condemnation when the professor entered. Tumultuously appealed to, he replied in his serious way that if he must discriminate between evils, he should give precedence to the matter of the Chicago Anarchists. First, because of the blood-shed and riot; second, because of recent manifestations of incipient public sympathy with the criminals. “For,” said he, “considering the infectious nature of the evil, a crim e which strikes at principles as well as at humanity is a thousand-fold crime.”
A murmur of approbation showed that as usual, he had conveyed the ultimate sense of the tea-table,—minus a paltry minority. For the widow fixing her eyes on me where I had edged between Polly and the Student, remarked that Mr. Julius looked “as if he sympathised with incitors of riots rather than with their victims.”
The prompt horror visible on Polly’s face nettled me into this reply. “Madam, your discrimination merits my homage, I am not totally devoid of all sympathy with the incitors of riots,” (gutturals of dismay from every throat,) “for those incitors,” here I bowed in a semi circle, “are yourselves.”
The silent indignation of my peers was brought presently home to my recreant soul by the mother’s gentle—“Really, Mr. Julius, you will excuse me if I regret what you have just said.”
“Excuse me, you who are Charity itself, and read my clumsy speech in the light of a declaration made by a Hindu theosophist—Mr. Mohini:
“Whence springs the great diversity of conditions, the contemplation of which breeds Socialism? Is it not the direct outgrowth of the passion of acquisitiveness? The more a Western man gets, the more he wants, and while your world holds to this principle you can never be free from the danger and fear of socialism. The Brotherhood of Man which Jesus Christ believed in has become unthinkable to you, with your millionaires at one end of the scale and your tramps at the other.”1
“Do I understand you to conclude that Society, being responsible for
crime, should permit criminals to go unpunished?”
“By no means, Professor, but if you will excuse another quotation,—‘Give moral restraint to moral maladies, and not impious chastisements. Do not travel in a bloody circle in punishing murder by murder, for so you sanction assassination in one sense and you perpetuate a war of cannibals.’ . . . Remember the condemned man who said: ‘In assassinating I risked my head. You gain; I pay; we are quits.’ And in his heart he added: ‘we are equals.’”
“Who said that?” queried the widow.
“Eliphas Levi, at your service.”
“Thanks. I’ve no use for French morals!” Under cover of this dart she retired. What I love most in woman is her way of retreating from the field of defeat with all the honors of war!
“Seems to me,” said Sue, emerging from a monopoly of tea bun, “that things are just perfectly awful anyhow.”
“My Dear! What can you know about it?” remonstrated the mother.
Sue silently pointed a sticky and accusing finger towards those philanthropic journals which cheerfully fulfil their mission of household enlightment ad nauseam.
“Things are as they always were,” said the Professor smoothing his philosophic beard.
The old Lady ruffled up in her shady comer. “By no means. When I was young—”
The mother looked deprecatingly at me. “Mr. Julius, have you never wondered why Life should be so dark? And yet there was once a Golden Age!”
“The occultists say that every age has its own characteristics. This is Kali Yuga, the dark age. In the Satwa Yuga, cycle of causes or truth, the highest of the three conditions or states, known as Satwa Guna, prevailed.2 Consequently in that age, men lived longer, happier and more spiritual lives. In Treta, the second age, prevailed Raja Guna the second condition, and the life period and happiness of men deceased. In the Dwarapa (third age) there was less of Raja Guna. In the present Kali Yuga, there is more of Tamo Guna, and this is the worst of the cycles.
“The characteristics of these grand cycles and the different minor cycles are elaborately described in the sacred literature of the Hindus. If it would not weary you I could tell a story which gives some idea of the nature of cyclic influence and how coming events cast their shadows before.”
Popular opinion, led by Sue, clamored for the story.
“This story is taken from a secret sanscrit book, called the Diary of the Pandavas. It gives a diurnal account of the 18 years forest life of five exiled princely brothers immediately previous to our dark age. This book contains 18 x 360 stories describing the cumulative tendency of sin, and it is said was used in the last yugas as the first book of morals for boys;3 every story has its moral; the series reveals the genealogy of evil, or of the descent of spirit into matter.
The volume is secretly preserved for the training of occultists, and the entire order in which the stories are arranged is only revealed during initiations. An initiate who has passed three initiations and is preparing for the fourth, is only shown that series treating of such especial elements of his evil nature as he is then preparing to convert into higher energies. In this story, the five brothers are ideal kings. The eldest is regarded as an embodiment of Dharma, (the Law itself,) an incarnation of the God of Justice, yet so strong was the influence of the coming dark cycle, that one Adharma, (transgression of law, injustice) occurred daily within the palace. Late one evening the Maharaja, (elder brother) had retired and was chatting with his wife. The four younger brothers were as usual respectively guarding the four palace gates. Bhima, (the terrible) wisest of the younger brothers was invariably at the chief gate during the first three hours. To him comes a poor injured Brahmin who asks to see the Maharaja immediately and knocks the “Bell of Complaint.” The Maharaja sends a servant to say that he is in bed and will hear the complaint next morning. The Brahmin saw that the shadow of Kali Yuga had come and smiling, turned away.4 But Bhima would not let him go without knowing whether justice had been done him. The Brahmin refused to reply; he would not sit in judgment nor reveal the king’s faults. Bhima knew from the petitioner’s silence that no attention had been paid to his case, and ordered that a trumpet be sounded and a proclamation be thus issued: “Strange that our just brother the Monarch has relied upon tomorrow and sacrificed duty to pleasure.” The king heard the cry of the trumpeter and coming hastily on foot, he overtook the Brahmin, fell at his feet, heard and redressed his complaint, then walked sullenly back. Kali’s influence was thus doubly seen. First in the Monarch’s conduct and secondly, in that the younger brother should presume to judge and to teach the elder. If even in the palace of the five most law abiding persons, Kali played so powerful a part, we may imagine her influence in other circles of life, amongst the ignorant, or amongst us later mortals now when her momentum has full swing.”
There was a brief silence. Then a shooting fire ray revealed a divine gem in the Mother’s eye and her soft voice said lowly; “After all, it seems that we are our brother’s keeper.” And no one gainsayed her.
1. See N.Y. Tribune, Nov. 26, 1886.
2. See Bhagavad-Gita, Ch. 14.
3. The numbers here used are significant. In Bhagavad-Gita are 18 chapters, and Krishna as there revealed has a special meaning under the number 18. The five Pandavas are the same as those who are concerned in the Gita story. If the product of 18 x 360 be added, the sum is 18. The correspondence in all the Hindu stories will repay study.—Ed. [W.Q.J.]
4. The injured Brahmin was a sage who assuming that disguise desired to make a test.—Ed. [W.Q.J.]