Universal Brotherhood a Fact in Nature
A talk given at the World’s Parliament of Religions, September, 1893
I have been requested to speak on the subject of Universal Brotherhood as a fact in nature; not as a theory, not as a Utopian dream which can never be realized; not as a fact in society, not as a fact in government, but as a fact in nature. That is, that Universal Brotherhood is an actual thing, whether it is recognized or whether it is not. Christian priests have claimed for some years, without right, that Christianity introduced the idea of Universal Brotherhood. The reason the claim was made, I suppose, was because those who made it did not know that other religions at other times had the same doctrine. It is found in the Buddhist scriptures, it is found in the Chinese books, it is found in the Parsee books, it is found everywhere in the history of the world, long before the first year of the Christian Era began. So it is not a special idea from the Christian Scriptures. Every nation, then, every civilization has brought forward this doctrine, and the facts of history show us that, more than at any other time, the last eighteen hundred years have seen this doctrine violated in society, in government, and in nations. So that at last men have come to say, “Universal Brotherhood is very beautiful; it is something that we all desire, but it is impossible to realize.” With one word they declare the noble doctrine, and with the other they deny the possibility of its ever being realized.
Why is this the case? Why is it that although Christianity and other religions have brought forward this doctrine, it has been violated? We cannot deny that it has been. The history of even the last few years proves it. The history of the last forty years in America, without going any farther back, proves that this doctrine has been violated in the West. How could it have been a doctrine that the Americans believed in when they had slavery in their midst? How could it have been believed in by the French when they stretched out their hand and demanded of Siam, a weak and powerless nation, that it must give up to them its own property? How could it have been believed in by the Germans and French when they constructed engines of war and went into battle and destroyed each other by the thousand? Does not the American War of the Rebellion and the vast amount of treasure wasted and the thousands slain in that civil war prove conclusively that Universal Brotherhood has not been practiced? It has been professed but not practiced. Now, go further back, go back in the history of the nations in Europe, without going to any other country, and what do you find? Do you not find sectarian prejudice? Their view of Universal Brotherhood has for years prevented the progress of science. Is it not true that only since science became materialized—a most remarkable thing, but it is true—I insist that since then only science has made progress. If Universal Brotherhood had been a belief of this nation, then we would not have had the burning of witches in America; nor in other countries would we have had the burning of Catholics by Protestants, nor the burning of Protestants by Catholics; we would not have had the persecutions that have stained the pages of history; and yet we have always claimed that we have had Universal Brotherhood. We have had the theory but not the practice. Now, then, has there not been something wanting? It is a beautiful doctrine. It is the only doctrine of the Theosophical Society, the only thing that any man is asked by us to subscribe to. What, then, is the matter with it? Why so many men who say that it is beautiful, but it is impossible, simply impossible? There are even some branches of the Christian church which say, “There is Jesus; why, the altruistic, noble teachings of Christ are beautiful; but no State could live three months under such doctrine.” The reason that it has not prevailed in practice is that it has been denied in the heart.
The Theosophist who knows anything about life insists that Universal Brotherhood is not a mere theory. It is a fact, a living ever present fact, from which no nation can hope to escape; no man can escape from it, and every man who violates it violates a law, violates the greatest law of nature, which will react upon him and make him suffer. And that is why we have had suffering; that is why you have in Chicago, in London, in New York, in Berlin, in all the great cities of the world, masses of people who are claiming with violence what they call their rights and saying they must have them, and that another class is oppressing them; and danger lurks in every corner because men are insisting on Universal Brotherhood. This noble doctrine has already become a danger. The reason of all these things is that men have denied the fact. Now, we propose to show you, if we can, that it is a fact.
If you will notice you will find that when it rains over a certain area vast numbers of men are affected similarly. The rain has to fall on the fields in order that the harvest may grow, so that afterwards it may be gathered, and all the farmers are affected together by the rain. If you examine society you will find that at the same hour every day almost all the people are doing exactly the same thing. At a certain hour in the morning thousands of your citizens are going down that railway or rush all together to catch the train and at another few moments afterward they are rushing out of the train to get to business, all doing the same thing, one common thought inspiring them. That is one of the proofs—a small one—in social and business life that they are affected together, they are all united. Then in the evening they will come home at the same hour, and if you could see, at the same hour you would see them all eating together and digesting together, and then later on they are all lying down together at the same hour. Are they not united even in their social life? Brothers even in that? And what do we see here in business? Lately I have felt it; every man has felt it, and many women; doubtless all have felt it; lately we have had a financial crisis, perhaps have it yet, in which dollars have been scarce, during which men have discovered that there are only just so many dollars and half dollars to each person in the country, and we have altogether been suffering from that panic all over this vast country. Suffering, why? Because commercially we are united and cannot get out of it. China even is affected by it, and Japan. India, they say, was the cause of it. Some men say the reason for this panic is that India put the price of rupees down, and we who produce so much silver began to feel it. I do not know that is the reason. But I think there is another cause. I think the American nation is so fond of luxury, so fond of fine clothes, so fond of having a heap of money, that it has gone too far and there was bound to come a reaction, because it is all united together with the whole world, and when it spread itself out too far the slightest touch broke the fabric. That is the reason, and that is another proof of Universal Brotherhood. We are all united, not only with each other here, but with the entire world.
Now, then, go further still materially and you find that all men are alike. We have the same sort of bodies, a little different perhaps in height, weight, and extension, but as human beings we are all alike, all the same color in one country, all the same shape in any country, so that as mere bodies of flesh they are united, they are the same. We know every man and woman has exuding from him or her what is called perspiration. The doctors will tell you there is a finer perspiration you cannot see, the invisible perspiration which goes out a short distance around about us; we know it comes out from every person, and the emanations of each person are affecting every other person, being interchanged always. All those in this room are being affected by these emanations and also by the ideas of each other, and the ideas of the speakers speaking to you. So it is in every direction; wherever you go, wherever you look, we are united; in whatever plane, the plane of mind as well as the plane of the body; the plane of the emotions, of the spirit, what not, we are all united, and it is a fact from which we cannot escape. Now, then, further: science is beginning to admit what the old Theosophists have always said, that there is going on every minute in every person a death, a dissolution, a disappearance. It used to be taught and thought in the West that we could see matter, that this table is made of matter. It is admitted today by your best scientific men in every part of Western civilization that you do not see matter at all; it is only the phenomena of matter we see; and it is my senses which enable me to perceive these phenomena. It is not matter at all, and so we do not see matter. Now admitting that, they go further and say there is a constant change in matter so-called; that is, this table is in motion. This is not a purely Theosophical theory. Go to any doctor of Physics and he will admit to you as I have stated it. This table is in motion; every molecule is separate from every other, and there is space between them, and they are moving. So it is with every man; he is made of atoms and they are in motion. Then how is it we remain the same size and weight nearly always from the moment of maturity until death? We eat tons of meat and vegetables but remain the same. It is not because of the things you have eaten. In addition to that the atoms are alive, constantly moving, coming and going from one person to another; and this is the modern doctrine today as well as it was the doctrine of ancient India. They call it the momentary dissolution of atoms; that is to say, to put it in another way, I am losing, all of you in this room are losing, a certain number of atoms, but they are being replaced by other atoms. Now, where do these other atoms come from? Do they not come from the people in this room? These atoms help to rebuild your body as well as does the food you eat. And we are exuding atoms from our minds, and we are receiving into ourselves the atoms other men have used. For, remember, science teaches you, and Theosophy has always insisted, that matter is invisible before it is turned into this combination of the life cycle, which makes it visible, makes it tangible to us. So these atoms leave us in a stream and rush into other people. And therefore the atoms of good men go into bad men, the atoms impressed by bad men go into good men, and vice versa. In that way as well as others we are affecting everybody in this world; and the people in Chicago who are living mean, selfish lives are impressing these invisible atoms with mean and selfish characters, and these mean and selfish atoms will be distributed by other men, and by you again to your and their detriment. That is another phase of Universal Brotherhood. It teaches us to be careful to see that we use and keep the atoms in our charge in such a condition that they shall benefit others to whom they shall go.
There is another view of Universal Brotherhood, and I don’t pretend to exhaust the argument on this point, for I have not the time nor force to state all that is put forward in the Theosophical books and literature and thought. That is, that there is in this world an actual Universal Brotherhood of men and women, of souls, a brotherhood of beings who practice Universal Brotherhood by always trying to influence the souls of men for their good. I bring to you the message of these men; I bring to you the words of that brotherhood. Why will you longer call yourselves miserable men and women who are willing to go to a Heaven where you will do nothing? Do you not like to be gods? Do you not want to be gods? I hear some men say, “What, a god! Impossible!” Perhaps they do not like the responsibility. Why, when you get to that position you will understand the responsibility. This actual Brotherhood of living men says, Why, men of the West, why will you so long refuse to believe you are gods? We are your brothers and we are gods with you. Be then as gods! Believe that you are gods, and then, after experience and attainment, you will have a place consciously in the great Brotherhood which governs the entire world, but cannot go against the law. This great Brotherhood of living men, living souls, would, if they could, alter the face of civilization; they would, if they could, come down and make saints of every one of you; but evolution is the law and they cannot violate it; they must wait for you. And why will you so long be satisfied to believe that you are born in original sin and cannot escape? I do not believe in any such doctrine as that. I do not believe I was born in original sin. I believe that I am pretty bad, but that potentially I am a god, and I propose to take the inheritance if it is possible. For what purpose? So that I may help all the rest to do the same thing, for that is the law of Universal Brotherhood; and the Theosophical Society wishes to enforce it on the West, to make it see this great truth, that we are as gods, and are only prevented from being so in fact by our own insanity, ignorance, and fear to take the position.
So, then, we insist that Universal Brotherhood is a fact in nature. It is a fact for the lowest part of nature; for the animal kingdom, for the vegetable kingdom, and the mineral kingdom. We are all atoms, obeying the law together. Our denying it does not disprove it. It simply puts off the day of reward and keeps us miserable, poor, and selfish. Why, just think of it! If all in Chicago, in the United States, would act as Jesus has said, as Buddha has said, as Confucius said, as all the great ethical teachers of the world have said, “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you,” would there be any necessity for legal measures and policemen with clubs in this park as you had them the other day? No, I think there would be no necessity, and that is what one of this great Brotherhood has said. He said all the troubles of the world would disappear in a moment if men would only do one-quarter of what they could and what they ought. It is not God who is to damn you to death, to misery. It is yourself. And the Theosophical Society desires above all things, not that you should understand spiritualism, not that wonderful occult works should be performed, but to understand the constitution of matter and of Life as they are, which we can never understand but by practicing right ethics. Live with each other as brothers; for the misery and the trouble of the world are of more importance than all the scientific progress that may be imagined. I conclude by calling upon you by all that humanity holds dear to remember what I say, and whether Christians, Atheists, Jews, Pagans, Heathen, or Theosophists, try to practice Universal Brotherhood, which is the universal duty of all men.