Universal Brotherhood as a Natural Law: Natural Equality and Inequalities; the Laws of Reincarnation and Karma; the Bases of Just and Competent Government

With Brotherhood is often linked the idea of human equality. And there is a sense in which that equality exists. For what is the root of true human equality? It is the fact that the one Divine life is in each and all of us. That fact is not limited to man alone. It is true also of the animal, the vegetable, the mineral. There is no grain of dust in which God’s life is not immanent.

There is no loftiest Deva in whom that same life is not manifest. There is no other life than His; there is no other consciousness than His; there is no other Will than His; nor is there any Actor save He. There is only one life, one consciousness, and one power, and that is the life, consciousness, and power of Ishvara (God), that are in all that He has emanated. There lies the root of human equality, and that is the only kind of equality which exists.

As the brothers in a family are all of one father and mother, so is the Brotherhood of man, and of all that lives in a universe where there is naught that is dead. Human life is a portion of that one Father-life, whereof we all are offspring.

There then lies the only true equality, namely, that God lives equally in all that exists. All have hidden within them the possibility of rising to the highest perfection; all have the certainty of ultimate perfection.

But in the course of evolution, in the long evolutionary chain of life, there the inequalities come in. That is a fact which is too often forgotten by those who speak of equality. Yet look around you; place yourself in imagination at the gateway of birth, as the thronging souls press in to embody themselves in new forms. One goes into a form healthy and strong; another goes into a form polluted with the germs of hereditary disease. One goes into a form nobly planned and splendidly executed; another into a form crippled and misshapen. One shows the qualities of a saint, another the qualities of a criminal. One is born a philanthropist; and another is born a barbarian.

Are these equal? These from their very birth itself are marked unequal. Oh! what is the use of deluding ourselves with words that have no meaning? what is the use of saying that men are born equal, and talking about a universal equality which nature denies? Of social inequality there is indeed much that you may remove. But that is far less serious. It is natural inequality which is a more serious matter.

And that people forget when they are talking about both nations and individuals. It is the difference of inborn capacity that matters far more than the difference of social position; it is this which separates one nation from another, one man from another. You find one man to whom an opportunity comes, and he goes by it blindly and sees it not. Another man, when a similar opportunity comes, leaps forward and grasps it, or, if it does not come near enough to him for grasping, he cuts his way to it until he holds it in his hands.

Oh! there lies the inequality which no human laws can touch, which no social conditions may avert. Equal opportunity for all that perchance you may make in a far future; but equality of capacity to use it that you cannot make. That does not lie with the men of any generation. And so, we must face the fact, that Brotherhood does not mean equality, but a real Brotherhood of elders and youngers, a great human family in which some are much older than others, and some are very young, very ignorant, very foolish.

But to understand Brotherhood, we must remember that evolution proceeds by reincarnation under the law of karma.

The individual must pass through all the classes assimilating their specialities, else he will be a very lop-sided product; when we have all learned all our lessons, we have become worthy of immortality.

Now most of you believe these two great teachings and in your individual lives they play a mighty part. Why do you not apply them to nations as well as to individuals, to social problems as well as to the helping of your own personal development?

As the ideas of reincarnation and karma make their way in the western world, which has the habit of applying principles to practice, I think we shall find that this Ideal of Brotherhood under the law of reincarnation and karma will solve many of the problems under which the western world is groaning, in our time.

The problem of the moment is how to find the best man, and then to place him in the seat of power. If you say: “What do you mean by ‘best’?” I answer: “I mean the wisest, the most strong-willed, the most resolute, the most unselfish.” Those are the qualifications of the Ruler, and without those qualifications in the Ruler, no happiness is possible for the State.

And in order to give all a share in guiding the matters which most immediately concern them, it seems necessary to begin with a small unit, and to make these small self-governing units the broad base of the wider rule.

A peasant may be wise in the concerns of his village, but his opinion on the complex situation in Persia is not likely to be illuminative. He should have a voice on the one, not on the other.

When organisation is unselfish, instead of selfish, then this labour problem will be solved and not till then.

Now how to find the best? The Ideal is that the best should rule; but how to find them, that is the problem. Every one of us who studies must try to solve this problem, and the suggestions I am here making may perhaps give some hints for the solving.

But you will not try to solve it, until you realise the hopelessness of the present line of ruling or not ruling and accept the Ideal that the best should govern. When that is agreed on, then we shall bring our brains together to devise a means to find and choose the best, and to place them where they may serve the nation. And this must be done for the sake of the people, for the people who “perish for lack of knowledge,” and who can never, in their ignorance, save themselves.

Let us teach and realise that rule means duty, that power means responsibility, that strength means service.

Those are the old Ideals, and if we spread them among the people to-day, and show the example in ourselves, if we share instead of hoarding, if we spread our knowledge instead of keeping it for ourselves, if every power we gain we use for service, and if the more we know the more we serve; if we realise in our lives the truth of that great saying of the Christ, when last He was here: “The greatest amongst you is as he that doth serve;” if to that great Ideal we add our knowledge of reincarnation, which tells us of the younger and older souls and their mutual relations ; if we realise the law of karma, and see the life evolve onwards through generations after generations yet to come; if we contribute our own service, our own self -sacrifice, our own realisation of duty and bearing of responsibility; then to these problems of Government we shall bring the power of a great Ideal, and the application of a long past of experience as well as of present knowledge.

So our Ideal of Government shall work into the life of the nations wherein we live; for it is thought that builds nations as well as individuals; that which the thinker conceives, that which the prophet declares, that which the poet sings, that becomes the life of a nation, and is worked out in social organisation.” (Annie Besant. The Ideals of Theosophy; pp. 16-33. The Theosophical Society, Adyar, India, 1921. 130 pp; emphasis added)