THE STRUGGLE FOR EXISTENCE
[Lucifer, Vol. IV, No. 20, April, 1889, pp. 104-111]
[It is not definitely known whether this article is from the pen of H. P. Blavatsky. It has been ascertained, however, that she used several pseudonyms in the early volumes of Lucifer. It is possible that the one appended at the conclusion of the present essay is one of them.—Compiler.]
The mother of life is death. Nowhere is this truth more conspicuous than in the animal kingdom; the life of the stronger is prolonged by the lives of the weaker, and the survival of the fittest is proclaimed by the shrieks of the mangled and hapless unfit. Long has the western world sought the solution of this grim riddle propounded to her lord and master, man, by Dame Nature, the sphinx of the ages.
It has, therefore, been found necessary for the continuance of average intellectual contentment to venture some guess which shall decently dispose of this obnoxious problem, and the leading representatives of the mind of the race, proceeding by the methods of the times, have carefully labelled the riddle “The Struggle for Existence,” and having done so, are wisely refraining from further unnecessary explanations, knowing full well that their constituents, the public, who require their thinking done for them, will gladly accept the label as a legitimate answer to the riddle, and, by frequently repeating it with knowing looks, be charmed, and in their turn charm others, with the magic of its sound, and using it as a mantric formula, banish objectors to the limbo of unpopularity.
And yet though the why of this great struggle remains as great a mystery as ever, the attempted answer is of great value from the conciseness with which it formulates the law
of the Ever Becoming. Throughout all the kingdoms it obtains, and especially in Man, the crown and synthesis of all. At this point, however, a new development takes place, and when humanity reaches the balance of its cycle of evolution, and each race and individual arrives at the turning point of Ezekiel’s wheel, a new Struggle for Existence arises, and we have God and Animal fighting for existence in Man. Now, at the close of the nineteenth century, in our enormously over-populated cities and in the accentuated individualism of modern competition, we see this deadly struggle in the white heat of its fury.
Grand, indeed, and magnificent has been the childhood of the white race in which material and intellectual progress have raced on madly side by side; witness the conquest of nearly the whole world’s surface by its spirit of enterprise and adventure, rejoicing as a giant in its physical prowess, the subjugation of the henchman steam, and ever fresh triumphs over the master electricity. But the child cannot be ever a child, and the race draws nigh to its manhood; the God awakes and the Struggle for Existence begins in grim earnest.
First the units of the race, some here, some there, wake dimly to the feeling that they are not apart from the whole, they sympathize with their kind, they rejoice with them. Even in the animal the faint outlines of self-sacrifice have been shadowed forth by nature, as may be seen in the mother love of the females and the formation of gregarious communities. In inferior races, man repeats this lesson of nature, and the animal being dominant, improves on her, but slowly; in races of higher type, however, fresh areas of generous impulse, containing the germ of self-sacrifice, are gradually developed. It must be remembered, however, that the races are here mentioned in this order merely for the convenience of tracing the development of self-sacrifice in a monad, and not according to their natural genesis. Thus far the white race, as a race, or in other words, the average individual of the race, has developed the subtleties of his animal nature to their limit, and now comes in contact with the divine; and it is only by extending this area of interest and sympathy that the individual can expand into the divine
to be at last one with universal love, the spirit of which is self-sacrifice.
From daily life we may take examples which clearly show forth the evolution of this god-like quality. We see the purely selfish man, who cares not if all rot so he have pleasure; the same man married, and an area of generosity developed, but bounded by wife and children; in other cases, the area increased by the extension of sympathy to friends and relations; and still further increased in the case of the fanatic or bigot, religious or patriotic, who fights for sect or country, as the she-animal for her cubs, whether the cause be good or bad. And here we may mention the instruments of national passions and cunning, necessary evils; for the race being in its youth, and very animal-like, not yet recognizing the right of self-sacrifice in the interrelations of its constituent sub-races, requires the individual who serves his country in her wars and political schemes to reduce his moral standard to the race-level. These are types of the evolution of the animal man’s affections, either in his individual development or modified by the development of the race. In most cases such types represent the mere expansion of selfishness or, at any rate, may be traced to selfish causes, or the hope of reward. Ascending, however, in the scale of manhood, we come to those who shadow forth the latent God in man in thoughts, words, and deeds of divine self-sacrifice; the prerogative of their God-head first manifesting in acts of real charity, in pity of their suffering fellow-kind, or from an intuitional feeling of duty, the first heralding of accession to divine responsibility, and the realization of the unity of all souls. “I am my brother’s keeper,” is the cry of repentant Cain, and the divine summons of return to the lost Paradise. With this cry the struggle for animal existence begins to yield to the struggle for divine existence. By extending our love to all men, aye, to animals as well, we joy and sorrow with them, and expand our souls towards the One that ever both sorrows and joys with all, in an eternal bliss in which the pleasure of joy and the pain of sorrow are not.
Thus, in every man the mighty battle rages, but the fortune of the fight is not alike in all—in some the animal hosts
rage madly in their triumph, in a few the glorious army of the god has gained a silent victory, but in the vast majority, and especially now, at the balance of the race cycle, the battle rages fiercely, the issue still in doubt. Now, therefore, is the time to strike, and show that the battle is not fought in man alone, but in Man, and that the issue of each individual fight is inextricably bound up in that of the great battle in which the issue cannot be doubtful, for the divine is in its nature union and love, the animal discord and hate. Strike, therefore, and strike boldly! These are no idle words, nor the utopian imaginings of a dreamer, but practical truths. For in what does man differ from the natural animal? Is it not in his power of association and combination? Therefore does he live in communities, and develop responsibility. From whence spring the roots of society, if not from mutual assistance and interchange of service? And if the race offers the individual the advantages of such combination, perfected by ages of bitter experience, do not those at least who are elder sons of the race, and find themselves in the enjoyment of such organizations, owe a debt of gratitude to their parent, and in return for the fortune amassed with tears and groaning by their forbears, repay the boon, by putting the experience of the past out to interest, and distributing the income acquired among their poorer brethren, who are equally the sons of their parent. And in this race family there are many poor, paupers physical, paupers mental, and moral paupers. How, then, shall the richer brethren help? Shower gold among the masses? Compel all to study the arts and sciences? Display the naked truth to the world? Nay, then should these poor children of the race be bound, not free! Let us, therefore, enquire into the problem.
In the evolution of all human societies we find the factor of caste; in the childhood of the race, caste is regulated by birth, an heirloom from the past civilizations of older stocks. Gradually, however, the birth caste wanes before the rising money caste, and hence material possessions become the standard of worth in the individual, in that the race is then plunged most deeply in material interests and has reached its highest point of development on the material plane. But the zenith of the material is the nadir of the spiritual; the
law of progress moves calmly onward with the wheel of time, and nature, who never leaps, develops a new standard of worth, the intellectual, which we see even now asserting itself in proportion to its adaptability to average comprehension and the material standard of the times, and pointing to the development of a new caste standard, to be in its turn superseded by the caste of true worth in which the spiritual development of the race will be completely established. This, however, will be the work of ages and for humanity as a whole cannot easily be quickened, for it is impossible to change the natural law of evolution which proceeds spirally in curves that never re-enter into themselves, but ever ascend to so-called higher planes. At certain periods, however, of these cycles, a forecast or antetype is offered of the consummation, whereby an example of humanity in its perfect state is dimly shadowed forth. Such a period the white race is now entering upon, and the earnest of perfect type humanity will be given by those, whether of the money or mind caste, who, realizing the goal of evolution and capable of destroying the illusion of time, by translating the future into the present, freely extend the benefits of their caste to the pariahs of the race, and approaching them in friendship, gain a practical knowledge of their wretchedness and endeavour to awaken the latent divinity that slumbers within.
With the sword of self-sacrifice, the rightful possession of the God-man, and with the good of humanity as their watchword, they should march against the forces of individualism and self, and, with this watchword, prove all institutions of the race, especially those fresh from the womb of time, and comparing them with this one ideal, ever asking: “Does this, or this, tend to the realization of universal brotherhood?” If it is not so, the effort should be to turn such forces as act against the stream of right progress, gently and silently into their proper course; but if the thing makes for the common good, they should by all means and at all hazards foster the weakling and watch round its cradle with loving care. Now the path of right progress should include the amelioration of the individual, the nation, the race, and humanity; and ever keeping in view the last and grandest object, the perfecting
of man, should reject all apparent bettering of the individual at the expense of his neighbour. In actual life the evolution of these factors, individual, race and nation, are so intimately interblended, that it would be wrong to assume any progression from one to the other; but since it is only possible to see one face of an object at a time, so it is necessary to trace the course of progress along some particular line, both for its simplification and general comprehension. With regard, then, to the individual, the great sanitary improvements which the money caste enjoys, should be extended to all; public baths and recreation grounds, free concerts and lecturers provided; the museums and picture galleries thrown open at times when the worker can visit them; the formation of athletic and mutual improvement clubs among the poor encouraged. All of which reforms were easy of accomplishment if only a small portion of the enormous wealth of the country, now lying idle, were generously and self-sacrificingly expended. Unfortunately there are few of the money caste who yet realize the latent unity of man, and the promotion of such schemes is left to those who, lacking the most potent power of the times, are unsupported, because there is no “money” in the enterprise. But could such men be found and the superfluous wealth of the country turned in such directions, how great would be the progress of the individual ! Health would improve and taste develop; healthy surroundings would favour healthy thought, the sight of monuments of art and science would bring refinement and both engender self-respect.
But it may be said, if wealth is withdrawn for such purposes, work would be taken from other labour, and so the misery of the workers increased, while the advantages offered to the masses would only increase their demand for greater pleasures, and render them still more dissatisfied. It will, however, be seen that not only the same amount of labour would be required in works and institutions for the public good, but even that such undertakings, being of a plain and sober nature, would give employment to larger numbers, than money spent in finer or more luxurious labour. Nor would dissatisfaction arise among the masses as anticipated; for men large-hearted and -minded enough to
inaugurate such reforms would display the same spirit in all things and offer an example in private life of sober and abstemious conduct; extravagance and display would cease, so that the brilliant toilettes and luxurious habits of the money caste would no longer provoke the miserable emulation of tawdry finery and debasing vices among the pariahs; for the poor copy the rich, and if the fashionable bars of the West End lacked patrons, the gin palaces of the slums would not drive so roaring a trade. It is the debased taste of the rich which has rendered a surfeit of meat necessary for the maintenance of his powers in the eyes of the artisan, and so, at a price far beyond his slender resources, he adopts a diet which wastes the tissues and disquiets the system. And if the advisability of a sudden change of diet is contested, at least moderation in flesh eating should be recommended, and a proof of the possibility of maintaining one’s full powers given by those who desire the physical and moral sanity of the race. Setting aside all argument drawn from not generally accredited sources, such as the codes of the great teachers of the past, and the synthesis of all experience, physical, psychic, and spiritual, we may bring into court the medical faculty who are unanimously of the opinion that a reduced quantity of meat would improve the general health, and that many of the common ailments are due solely to excess in the use of animal food in particular, and to overfeeding in general; while chemical analysis proves conclusively that vegetable food, especially cereals, contain nutritive qualities vastly in excess of animal.
Moreover, if the false feeling of degradation in the performance of so-called menial offices, were removed by the example of the money and mind castes performing such offices themselves, or at least encouraging every invention and supporting every effort for minimizing such labour, many of the troubles which are daily taxing the resources of our housekeepers to the utmost, would be removed, and a solution to the difficult problem of the servant question arrived at; the present absurdity of domestic service would find no place, and instead of one thousand little backs bent over one thousand little kitchen ranges preparing one thousand little dinners, we should have a sane cooperative system
whereby the small worries of domesticity which destroy the harmony of so many homes, would be banished.
If such sanitary measures, therefore, were adopted, we should have physical and mental powers continuing into old age, instead of a general belief that fifty or sixty years terminates the average man’s usefulness and there then remains nothing for him but a life of inactivity and general feebleness. Of course this applies to the average individual; for we have sufficient instances of mental giants who continue their labours till the closing hours of life; these, however, intuitively or naturally practice moderation and plainness in eating, and often give striking proofs of extraordinary abstemiousness.
If, then, such moderation of private life was practised by the accredited leaders of society, no inducement to excess would offer itself to their followers; or even if the animal still rioted in the masses, it would not be shamefully encouraged in its madness by the excesses of respectability.
Thus the necessary physical requirements of all classes would be reduced to a level, and a basis obtained on which to build a firm fabric of national progress towards the realization of human unity. Meantime the mental evolution of all classes would also make vast strides, and the impulses given to study and the development of artistic tastes, would bring the real genius of the nation to the front and not confine the recruiting of professions to the money caste, irrespective of individual capacity. The present false standard of taste would fall out of date as completely as the wonderful cottage ornaments of the near past, and neatness in private decoration would, by harmonious surroundings, induce a harmony of thought and feeling. Who, for instance, could indite a poem or work of inspiration in an over-ornamented drawing-room of the modern style, with its heterogeneous and multicolored collection of bric-a-brac and trifles? But with harmonious surroundings and following such a mode of life, the individual would develop within him the larger instincts of his nature, and the flower of self-sacrifice, then finding a congenial soil, would blossom in the hearts of the many and thus, destroying all narrowness of judgment and begetting an ever widening interest in the
general welfare, would develop new social organizations and institutions; the tone of the nation would be elevated and true worth become the standard of judgment among its citizens.
Moreover, seeing that we have already proof of such an ideal being dimly sensed in all nations of the white race in the increasing discontent of nearly all classes with the existing state of affairs, no nation would stand alone in this, but the wave of progress would sweep simultaneously through all the sub-races of the race and beget a general desire to establish healthy relationships between nations and to foster every effort to unite the larger units of the race into one harmonious whole. Further, a belief in the essential unity of all souls would create stronger dissatisfaction with the existing state of social relations between the sexes, the potentialities of woman would be studied and opportunity given for that development which has previously been denied to womankind. Plain justice would demand the same ostracism of male harlots which is now meted out with so much severity to the female sex alone, and either the same leniency extended to women as is now given to men, or the higher moral standard and wisdom of awakened humanity, would compel the supply in harlotry to cease by the extinction of the demand. To prepare, therefore, a ground in which this consummation could be achieved, it would be necessary to extend the full benefits of intellectual training to women; to encourage and advocate the necessity of athletic exercises for girls and to provide for the same in the schools of the state; to jealously guard the health of the women working classes by sanitary improvements in all manufactories and labour establishments, and to kill out the evil of over-long hours of sedentary occupation in vitiated atmospheres. Moreover, it should be made possible for women in the position of the present daughters of the lower middle classes and of parents with limited incomes to follow a calling in life, instead of being forced, against their wills and finer instincts, into the matrimonial market, to gain their bread and cheese at the price of discontented motherhood.
No doubt the establishment of international leagues for mutual help and on a basis other than that of self-interest
will, at the present time, appear to the majority the acme of folly; but when the race has, in its social institutions, given valid proof of the efficacy of the method, the change of base becomes a possibility. The spread of education and the ability to study original authorities and to get at facts at first hand would rapidly clear away the clouds of national and sectarian prejudice, and the birth of the God within would render it impossible to poison the young minds of the race by inoculating them with the virus of dogmatism and of past national pride and passion as treasured in the orthodox theological and historical textbooks of the times; the past triumphs of the animal in individual nations would be regarded merely as the obscuration of the spiritual and yet so ordered in the economy of nature that the sun of humanity should finally shine forth more gloriously in contrast to the darkness of the past. Thus the necessity for keeping up large armies and fleets would cease, and the enormous wealth so saved could be turned into channels of national improvement, thus pointing the way for the desertion of national forces from the ranks of the animal to the standard of the divine.
It would be long to trace, even roughly, the possibilities of international cooperation which, in its turn, would be extended to racial cooperation of which the potentialities almost surpass description and reach that consummation of which the Theosophical Society has planted the first openly conscious germ, in endeavouring to form the nucleus of a universal brotherhood of humanity, without distinction of race, creed, sex, caste or colour; what the potentialities of this glorious humanity may be, none but the student of the Science of Life can dream, as he alone can sense the labours of the Eldest Brothers of the Race for their poorer brethren.
Let us then, aspiring to the divine, now and within, fight down the animal, that so we may be enabled to tell friend from foe in the greater battle, and, awakened by the cry, “Thou art thy brother’s keeper,” gird on shield and buckler for the cause of the divine Unity of Humanity in the struggle for existence.