The Philosophy of War
Question No. 163
From the Rosicrucian viewpoint, can war be said to be right? What should be the stand of the Rosicrucian student in the present conflict? (World War I)
Answer: In the great crises of life we are brought face to face with certain issues and called upon to make decisions of such importance that they often require reversion of ideas and ideals, even of our most cherished principles as hitherto conceived. When such a crisis comes it will be nothing short of mental, moral, and spiritual suicide to shirk or evade the issue, no matter what the cost. Consistency is said to be a jewel, but if we would be truly wise we must be ready to change or revise our ideas whenever occasion really demands.
The Rosicrucian teaching has always been in conformity with the Bible dictum, "Thou shalt not kill." No qualification was made and some have carried this idea to such extremes that they would not kill a fly. But the majority rightly felt that the injunction was not intended to cover pests and microorganisms which take such a terrible toll of human life. These things, being manifestations of evil thoughts, are without the pale. These people have no intention of allowing their bodies or the bodies of their children to be overrun by vermin rather than to kill the pests, and they realize that extermination of insects was a great basic factor in America's success at Panama. In fact it turned the balance from failure to success, and this principle should be applied wherever necessary. They feel that it would be a foolish application of the injunction, "Thou shalt not kill," to allow beasts of prey or poisonous reptiles to roam about among us to endanger our lives, and they would cheerfully kill to remove such a menace from the community. In their code of ethics the injunction involves only the idea that it is wrong to kill for food, for sport, or for profit. To kill a human being seemed to remote a possibility to most of us that it was not considered even as a contingency. We always denounced capital punishment both on the ground that it is basically wrong and that it is worse than useless for when we free the Spirit of a murderer from his body we liberate him in the spiritual world where he can and often does work on others to influence them to similar crimes. Therefore, it is better to restrain him in a prison and strive to reform him so that even if he does not regain his liberty in this life, he will in future existences respect the sanctity of life of others.
But while it is possible thus to deal with the individual murderer, the case is different when an entire nation runs amuck against another, committing wholesale murder, arson, destruction, and pillage. It is then impossible to imprison a whole nation and more drastic means of self- defense must be found.
In civil life we recognize the law of self-defense, which gives the intended victim of a would-be murderer the right to slay rather than to be slain, and it would be specious to contend that this right is lost because a million murderers dress themselves in uniform or because they go out boldly and brazenly, proclaiming their intention to kill, or because they lie in ambush by companies instead of singly. Being the aggressors, they are murderers, and their intended victims have an unquestionable moral right to defend their own lives by slaying these murderers. Furthermore, there rests upon the strong the sacred duty of protecting the lives of those who are too weak to protect themselves. Even that involves the slaying of the murderers.
Ffrom the spiritual standpoint, therefore, the right or wrong of war hinges upon the question: Who is the aggressor and who is the victim?
This question is easily answered where war is started for the purpose of conquest, or when war is waged for an altruistic purpose such as the emancipation of a subjected people from physical, industrial, and religious bondage. It needs no argument to show that in such cases the oppressor is also the aggressor and the liberator is the defender of inalienable human rights. He is performing a sacred duty as his "brother's keeper."
When this is once understood we cannot be deceived by the jack-o- lanterns of diplomacy, for we have a true light, a simple standard of right and wrong.
Having made up our minds on that point, it follows that it is far more noble and heroic to face a firing squad for refusing to enter the army of the aggressor, or to flee from our native land, or even join the ranks of the defenders in the most menial capacity, than to hold a post of highest honor among the aggressors.
On the other hand it is a sacred duty in accord with the highest and noblest spiritual principles to fight among the defenders. The greater the sacrifice, the greater the merit, and he who shirks this sacred duty to defend hearth and home, kin and country, or who fails to fight for the oppressed, is beneath denunciation. Furthermore, the greater the emergency, the greater the sacrifice that is required.
Nor is this great privilege of sacrifice confined to those of brawn and broad shoulders. Not alone are they bound by duty; the work behind the lines is even more important and all can share according to talent and ability--mental, physical, and financial.
Furthermore, when the occasion arises where defense of others or self-defense becomes unavoidable, the harder the campaign is pushed, the shorter and more successful it will be. Therefore, no half measures should be tolerated, and neutrality under such circumstances must be regarded at least as a sin of omission.
It is well understood by students of occultism that wars are instigated and inspired by the divine hierarchies who thus use one nation to punish another for its sins. Even a superficial study of the Bible will furnish many instances. This does not always mean that the victor is altogether righteous, but it does show that the vanquished nation has done wrong and merits the punishment inflicted, usually on account of its arrogance and godlessness. Nor is it a sign that because it is victorious for a long time and extremely difficult to conquer, it enjoys divine favor- -at least in a measure. Such a course may be brought about by the invisible army who support the arms of the aggressor and prolong the struggle for the purpose of making the final defeat more thorough and disastrous; also to teach the defenders a lesson that could not be learned in a short decisive struggle.
Such, briefly, is the philosophy of war from the spiritual viewpoint, regardless of who are the nations involved. If we apply these principles and tests to the present war (World War I) it must be apparent to everyone who is not biased and will approach the subject with a broad and open mind that the militarists of the Central Empires have been preparing for this war for generations, and on the fifth of July, 1914, at the notorious Potsdam Conference which is now acknowledged by them, they agreed to start the war after a few weeks during which the bankers of these nations were so manipulating the markets as to amass the greatest possible financial resources. This stamps the Austro-German war parties as the aggressors, who under the spell of the Race Spirits have marshaled their millions against all the other nations of the world. In the beginning of the conflict France and England, who were the immediate neighbors of the outraged Belgians, made her cause their own and acted in that respect as their brother's keeper. However, being unprepared, they have been unable to bring the struggle to a decisive termination. Therefore it became necessary for America to enter the conflict and turn the balance, so that peace may be restored and safety secured to those who are too weak to protect themselves.
It has been a matter for rejoicing that whenever the United States has been forced to enter upon a military campaign it has always been either in self-defense or in the still more altruistic role of defender and emancipator of the weak. Were this a war of conquest or aggression, it would be better for any spiritually minded person to face a firing squad as already stated than to participate in such an unrighteous undertaking. On the other hand, seeing that the present struggle which is waged for the purpose of crushing the militarism of Central Europe has taken such a terrible toll of human life with the strength of the allied defenders nearly spent, it is the sacred duty of everyone to aid to the very limit according to his spiritual, mental, moral, or physical capacity, either at the front or behind the lines wherever the judgment of those in charge may require his or her service.
Therefore we would urge each and every one of the students of the Rosicrucian Fellowship, of whatever country now defending the cause of humanity against the militarist party of the Central Powers, to support his or her government to the very best of his ability that we may soon see "Peace on earth and among men good will."
Is the teaching of the Rosicrucians available for everyone? If so, how is it made available?
Answer: In order to promulgate this teaching The Rosicrucian Fellowship has been formed, and anyone who is not a hypnotist, professional medium, clairvoyant, palmist, or astrologer, may enroll as a Preliminary Course Student by writing to the General Secretary. There is no fee for initiation, or dues. Money cannot buy our teaching. Advancement depends upon merit.
After completing the Preliminary Course one is put on the Regular Student list for a period of two years, after which if he has become so imbued with the verity of the Rosicrucian teachings that he is prepared to sever his connection with all other occult or religious orders--the Christian Churches and Fraternal Orders are excepted--he may assume the Obligation which admits him to the degree of Probationer.
We do not mean to insinuate by the foregoing that all other schools of occultism are of no account--far from it. Many roads lead to Rome, but we shall attain with much less effort if we follow one of them than if we zigzag from path to path. Our time and energy are limited in the first place, and are still further curtailed by family and social duties not to be neglected for self-development. it is to husband the minimum of energy that we may legitimately expend upon ourselves, and to avoid waste of the scanty moments at our disposal that resignation from all other Orders is insisted upon.
The world is an aggregate of opportunities, but to take advantage of any one of them we must possess efficiency in a certain line of endeavor. Development of our spiritual powers will enable us to help or harm our weaker brothers. It is only justifiable when efficiency in service of humanity is the object.
The Rosicrucian method of attainment differs from other systems in one especial particular: It aims, even at the very start, to emancipate the pupil from dependence upon others, to make him self-reliant to the very highest degree, so that he may be able to stand alone under all circumstances and cope with all conditions. Only one who is thus strongly poised can help the weak.
Do you consider the ancient myths of actual value, or are they largely figments of the imagination?
Answer: They contain profound occult truths. The contest between light and darkness is described in innumerable myths which are alike in the main features, though circumstances vary according to the evolutionary stage of the people among whom they are found. Generally the appear fantastic to the normal mind because the picture drawn is highly symbolical, and therefore out of tune with the concrete realities of the material world. However, embodied in these legends are great truths which appear when they are stripped of their scale of materialism.
In the first place it should be borne in mind that the contest between light and darkness, as fought here in the physical world, is but the manifestation of a similar contest fought also in the moral, mental, and spiritual realms. This is a fundamental truth, and he who would know truth should realize that the concrete world, with all the things which we now think so real, solid, and enduring is but an evanescent manifestation created by the divine thought, and it will dissolve into dust millions of years before the other worlds which we think of us unreal and intangible are similarly dissolved and we once more return to the bosom of the Father, to rest until the dawn of another and greater Cosmic Day.
It is particularly at Christmas, when the light is low and the night long, that humanity turns its attention to the Southern Sun, and waits in an attitude of expectancy for the moment when it shall again commence its northward journey to bring back the light and life to our frozen hemisphere. In the Bible we learn how Samson, the Sun, waxed strong while his rays grew longer; how the powers of darkness, the Philistines, ferreted out the secret of his power and had his hair, or rays, cut, to rob him of his strength; how they deprived him of his sight by piercing his eyes and finally slew him at the temple of the Winter Solstice.
The Anglo-Saxons speak of the victory of King George over the dragon; the Teutons call to mind how Beowolf slew the fire drake and how Siegfried conquered the dragon Fafner. Among the Greeks we find Apollos victorious over Python, and hercules over the dragon of the Hesperides. Most of the myths tell only the victory of the newborn Sun, but there are others which, like the story of Samson just recited, and Hiram Abiff of the Masonic Legend, tell also of how the old year's Sun was vanquished after having completed its circle and was then ready to give birth to a new Sun, which rises from the ashes of the old Phoenix to be the Lightbearer of a new year.
It is in such a myth that we learn of the origin of the mistletoe, a tale which is told in Scandinavia and Iceland, particularly at Yuletide when the red holly mingles in decorative effect with the white mistletoe--a shadowy symbol of the blood that was scarlet with sin but has become white as snow. The story follows:
In ancient days when the Gods of Olympus reigned over the Southland, Wotan with his company of Gods, held sway in Walhall where the icicles reflected the winter Sun in all tints of the rainbow and the beautiful coverlet of snow made light the darkest night eve without the aid of the flaming Aurora Borealis. They were a wonderful company; Tyr, the God of War, still lives in memory among us, for him we have named Tuesday. Wotan, the wisest among them, is remembered in Wednesday; Thor still is with us as the God of Thursday. He was the hammer swinger. When he threw his hammer after the giants, the enemies of God and man, he made thunder and lightning by the terrific force with which his hammer struck the clouds. The gentle Freya, the Goddess of beauty, for whom we have named Friday, and the treacherous Loke, whose name lives in the Scandinavian Saturday, are other present-day fragments of a forgotten faith.
But there was no one like Baldur. He was the second son of Odin and Freya. He was the noblest and most gentle of the Gods, beloved of everything in nature. He exceeded all beings, not only in gentleness, but in prudence and eloquence, also, and was so fair and graceful that light radiated from him. In a dream it was revealed to him that his life was in danger and this weighted so heavily on his Spirit that he shunned the society of the Gods. His mother Freya, having at length prevailed upon him to tell her the cause of his melancholy, called a council of the Gods, and all were filled with sad forebodings, for they knew that the death of Baldur would be the forerunner of their downfall--the first victory of the giants, or powers of darkness.
Wotan therefore cast runes, magic characters, which were used to foretell the future, but all seemed dark to him. He could gain no insight. The "Vessel of Wisdom," which might have served them in their need was in the keeping of one of the Norns, the Goddesses of Fate, so that could not help them now. Ydun, the Goddess of health, whose golden apples kept the Gods ever young, had been betrayed into the powers of the giants by the trickery of Loke, the spirit of evil, but a delegation was sent to her, in order that she might be consulted on the nature of the sickness which threatened Baldur, if such it be. However, she only answered with tears, and finally after a solemn council held by all the Gods, it was determined that all the elements, and everything in nature should be bound by an oath not to harm the gentle God. This was done and a pledge was obtained from everything, except one insignificant plant which grew westward of the Palace of the Gods; this seemed so frail and fragile that the Gods deemed it to be innocuous.
However, Wotan's mind still misgave him that all was not right. it seemed to him that the Norns of good fortune had flown away. Therefore, he resolved to visit the home of a celebrated prophetess by the name of Vala. This is the spirit of the earth, and from her he would learn the Fate in store for the Gods, but he received no comfort from her and returned to Walhall more cast down than formerly.
Loke, the spirit of evil, and treachery, was in reality one of the giants, or powers of darkness, but part of the time he lived with the Gods. He was a turncoat, who could be depended upon by neither party, and therefore he was usually distrusted and despised by both Gods and giants. One day while he was sitting bemoaning his Fate a dense cloud began to rise from the ocean, and after a time the dark figure of the Giant King issued from it. Loke in some terror demanded what brought him hither. The monarch began to reproach him with the contemptible part he, a demon by birth, was acting in consenting to be the tool of the Gods in their warfare against the giants, to whom he owed his origin. It was out of no affection for himself that he was admitted to the society of the Gods, but because Wotan knew well the ruin which he and his offspring were destined to bring upon them and thought by thus conciliating him to defer the evil day. He who from his power and cunning might have been a leader with either party, was now despised and rejected by all. The Giant King further reproached him with having already frequently saved the Gods from ruin and even with furnishing them with weapons against the giants, and ended by appealing to the hatred which rankled in his bosom against Wotan and his whole race as a proof that his natural place was with the giants.
Loke acknowledged the truth of this and professed his readiness to aid his brethren by all means in his power. The Giant King then told him that the moment was now at hand when he might seal the Fate of the Gods; that if Baldur was slain their destruction must sooner or later follow and that the gentle God's life was at that time threatened by some as yet undiscovered danger. Loke replied that the anxiety of the Gods was already at an end, for Freya had bound everything in nature by oath not to injure her son. The dark monarch said that one thing only had been omitted. However, what that was lay concealed in the breast of the Goddess and was known to no other. He then sank down again to his dark abyss and left Loke to his darker thoughts.
Loke then, having assumed the figure of an old woman, appeared to Freya and by his cunning drew from her the fatal secret; that presuming on the insignificant nature of the mistletoe she had omitted to obtain from it the pledge wherewith she had bound everything else. Loke lost no time in repairing to the place where the mistletoe grew, and tearing it up by the roots, gave it to the dwarfs, who were cunning smiths, to form into a spear. This weapon was made with many incantations, and when the spear was completed one called for blood to temper it. A child free from all taint was brought in, th dwarf plunged the spear into its breast and sang:
In the meantime the Gods and the dead braves, who are with them assembled for a tournament, in order to convince Baldur how groundless were his apprehensions, now that his life was deemed to be charmed, made him the butt of all their weapons.
Loke repaired there also with the fatal spear and seeing the blind and strong God, Hoedur, standing apart from the rest, asked him why he did not honor his brother Baldur by tilting with him, also. Hoedur excused himself on account of his blindness and because he had no weapon. Loke then put the enchanted spear into his hands and Hoedur, unsuspicious of malice, pierced Baldur through the breast with the spear made from the mistletoe, so that he fell lifeless to the ground to the unspeakable grief of all creatures.
Baldur is the summer Sun, beloved by everything in nature, and in the blind God, Hoedur, who slays him with the spear, we may readily recognize the sign Sagittarius, for when the Sun enters that sign in December it is nearly without light and is therefore said to be slain by the blind God Hoedur. The bow of Sagittarius, as pictured on the zodiac of the south presents symbolically the same idea as the spear of the story in the Eddas.
The legend of Baldur's death teaches the same cosmic Truth as all other myths of kindred nature, namely, that the Spirit of the Sun must die to the glories of the Universe while, as Christ, it enters the earth to bring it the renewed life, without which all physical manifestations on our planet must cease. As death here precedes a birth into the spiritual realms, so also there is a death upon the spiritual plane of existence before a birth can take place into the physical body. As Osiris in Egypt is slain by Typhon, ere Horus, the Sun of the New Year, may be born, so also Christ die to the higher world before He an be born into the earth and bring to us the needed annual spiritual impulse; but our Holy Season commemorates no greater manifestation of Love than that of which the mistletoe is emblematical. Being physically the extreme of weakness, it clings to the oak which is the symbol of strength. it is the very weakness of the weakest of beings that pierces the heart of the noblest and gentlest of Gods so that, compelled by his love for the lowly, he descends to the shades in the underworld, even as Christ for our sake dies to the spiritual world each year and is born into our planet that He may permeate it anew with His radiant Life and Energy.
What is the Rosicrucian attitude toward prayer, in the light of Biblical admonitions?
Answer: In one place the Bible directs us to pray without ceasing. In another Christ repudiates the practice, saying that we should not imitate those who believe they are heard for their many words. There can, of course, be no contradiction between the words of Christ and those of His disciples, and we must therefore reconstruct our ideas of prayer in such a manner that we may pray always and yet without voluminous verbal or mental expression. Emerson said:
In other words, every act is a prayer, which, under the law of cause and effect, brings to us adequate results. We get exactly what we want. Expression in words is unnecessary, but sustained action along a certain line indicates what we wish, even if we ourselves do not realize it, and in time, longer or shorter, according to the intensity of our desire, there comes that which we have thus prayed for.
The things thus gained or achieved may not be what we really and consciously want. In fact, sometimes we may get something we would far sooner be without, something that is a curse and a scourge, but the prayer- act has brought them to us and we must keep them until we can legitimately get rid of them. If we throw a stone into the air, the act is not complete until the reaction has carried the stone back to the earth. In that case the effect follows the cause so speedily that it is not difficult to connect the two.
However, if we wind the spring of an alarm clock, the power is stored up in the spring until a certain mechanism releases it. Then comes the effect--the ringing of a bell--and although we may have been sleeping the sleep of forgetfulness, the reaction or unwinding of the spring took place just the same. Similarly, acts which we have forgotten will sometime or another produce their results regardless, and thus the prayer of action is answered.
However, there is the true mystic prayer--the prayer where we meet God face to face, as Elijah met Him. Not in the tumult of the world, the wind, the earthquake, or the fire, do we meet Him, but when all is still the soundless voice speaks to us from within. However, the silence which is required for this experience is not a mere silence of words. There are not even the inward pictures which usually pass before us in meditation, nor are there thoughts, but our whole being resembles a calm crystal-clear lake. In it Deity mirrors Himself, and we experience the unity which makes communication unnecessary either by words or in any other way. We feel all God feels. He is nearer than hands and feet.
The Christ taught us to say, "Our Father who are in heaven," etc. That prayer is the most sublime that can be given utterance in words, but this prayer of which I am speaking may at the moment of union give itself utterance in the one unspoken word, "Father." The devotee, when he is truly in the mood of prayer, never gets any farther. He makes no requests, for what is the use? Has he not the promise, "The Lord is my Shepherd, I shall not want"? Has he not been told to seek first the kingdom of heaven and all other things shall be added? His attitude can perhaps best be understood if we take the simile of a faithful dog looking with dumb devotion into its master's face, its whole soul pouring itself out through its eyes in love. Likewise, only of course with much greater intensity, does the true mystic look to the God within and pour himself or herself out in voiceless adoration. In this way we may pray without ceasing, inwardly, while we work as zealous servants in the world without; for let us always remember that it is not intended that we should dream our lives away. While we pray to God within, we must also work for God without.