The Lightning and the Sun
To the godlike Individual of our times; the Man against time; the greatest European of all times; both Sun and Lightning: ADOLF HITLER.The idea of progress -- indefinite betterment -- is anything but modern. It is probably as old as man's oldest successful attempt to improve his material surroundings and to increase, through technical skill, his capacity of attack and defense. Technical skill, for many centuries at least, has been too precious to be despised. Nay, when displayed to an extraordinary degree, it has more than since been hailed as something almost divine. But apart from the incredible feats of a handful of individuals, the ancients as a whole distinguished themselves in many material achievements. They could boast of the irrigation system in Sumeria; of the construction of pyramids revealing, both in Egypt and, centuries later, in Central America, an amazing knowledge of astronomical data; of the bathrooms and drains in the palace of Knossos; of the invention of the war chariot after that of the bow and arrow, and of the sand clock after that of the sundial -- enough to make them dizzy with conceit and overconfident in the destiny of their respective civilizations.
Yet, although they fully recognized the value of their own work in the practical field and surely very soon conceived the possibility -- and perhaps acquired the certitude -- of indefinite technical progress, they never believed in progress as a whole, in progress on all lines, as most of our contemporaries seem to. Whether Hindus or Greeks, Egyptians or Japanese, Chinese, Sumerians, or ancient Americans -- or even Romans, the most "modern" among people of antiquity -- they all placed the Golden Age, the Age of Truth, the rule of Kronos or of Ra or of any other gods on earth -- the glorious beginning of the slow, downward unfurling of history, whatever name it be given -- far behind them in the past.
And they believed that the return of a similar age, foretold in their respective sacred texts and oral traditions, depends not upon man's conscious effort but upon iron laws, inherent in the very nature of visible and tangible manifestation, and all-pervading; upon cosmic laws. They believed that man's conscious effort is but an expression of those laws at work, leading the world, willingly or unwillingly, wherever its destiny lies; in one word, that the history of man, as the history of the rest of the living, is but a detail in cosmic history without beginning or end; a periodical outcome of the inner necessity that binds all phenomena in time.
And just as the ancients could accept that vision of the world's evolution while still taking full advantage of all technical progress within their reach, so can -- and so do -- to this day, in the very midst of the over-proud industrial cultures, a few stray individuals able to think for themselves. They contemplate the history of mankind in a similar perspective.
While living apparently as "modern" men and women -- using electric fans and electric irons, telephones and trains and airplanes, when they can afford it -- they nourish in their hearts a deep contempt for the childish conceit and bloated hopes of our age and for the various recipes for "saving mankind" which zealous philosophers and politicians thrust into circulation. They know that nothing can "save mankind," for mankind is reaching the end of its present cycle. The wave that carried it for so many millennia is about to break, with all the fury of acquired speed, and to merge once more into the depth of the unchanging ocean of undifferentiated existence. It will rise again, some day, with abrupt majesty, for such is the law of waves. But in the meantime nothing can be done to stop it. The unfortunate -- the fools -- are those men who, for some reason best known to themselves -- probably on account of their exaggerated estimation of what is to be lost in the process -- would like to stop it. The privileged ones -- the wise -- are those few who, being fully aware of the increasing worthlessness of present-day mankind and of its much-applauded "progress," know how little there is to be lost in the coming crash and look forward to it with joyous expectation as to the necessary condition of a new beginning -- a new Golden Age, sunlit crest of the next long-drawn, downward wave upon the surface of the endless ocean of life.
To those privileged ones -- among whom we count ourselves -- the high-resounding "isms" to which their contemporaries ask them to give their allegiance are all equally futile: bound to be betrayed, defeated, and finally rejected by men at large, if containing anything really noble; bound to enjoy, for the time being, some sort of noisy success, if sufficiently vulgar, pretentious, and soul-killing to appeal to the growing number of mechanically conditioned slaves that crawl about our planet, posing as free men; all destined to prove, ultimately, of no avail.
The time-honored religions, rapidly growing out of fashion as present-day "isms" become more and more popular, are no less futile -- if not more: frameworks of organized superstition void of all true feeling of the divine, or -- among more sophisticated people -- mere conventional aspects of social life, or systems of ethics (and of very elementary ethics, at that) seasoned with a sprinkling of outdated rites and symbols of which hardly anybody bothers to seek the original meaning; devices in the hands of clever men in power to lull the simpletons into permanent obedience; convenient names, round which it might be easy to rally converging national aspirations or political tendencies; or just the last resort of weaklings and cranks: that is, practically, all they are -- all they have been reduced to in the course of a few centuries -- the lot of them. They are dead, in fact -- as dead as the old cults that flourished before them, with the difference that those cults have long ceased exhaling the stench of death, while they (the so-called "living" ones) are still at the stage at which death is inseparable from corruption. None -- neither Christianity nor Islam nor even Buddhism -- can be expected now to "save" anything of that world they once partly conquered; none have any normal place in "modern" life, which is essentially devoid of all awareness of the eternal.
The exponents of the belief in "progress" put forth many arguments to prove -- to themselves and to others -- that our times, with all their undeniable drawbacks, are, on the whole, better than any epoch of the past, and even that they show definite signs of improvement. It is not possible to analyze all their arguments in detail. But one can easily detect the fallacies hidden in the most widespread and, apparently, the most "convincing" of them.
All the advocates of "progress" lay enormous stress upon such things as literacy, individual "freedom," equal opportunities for all men, religious toleration, and "humaneness," progress in this last line covering all such tendencies as find their expression in the modern preoccupation for child welfare, prison reforms, better conditions of labor, state aid to the sick and destitute, and, if not greater kindness, at least less cruelty to animals. The dazzling results obtained, of recent years, in the application of scientific discoveries to industrial and other practical pursuits, are, of course, the most popular of all instances expected to show how marvelous our times are. But that point we shall not discuss, as we have already made it clear that we by no means deny or minimize the importance of technical progress. What we do deny is the existence of any progress at all in the value of man as such, whether individually or collectively, and our reflections on universal literacy and other highly praised signs of improvement in which our contemporaries take pride, all spring from that one point of view.
We believe that man's value -- as every creature's value, ultimately -- lies not in the mere intellect but in the spirit; in the capacity to reflect that which, for lack of a more precise word, we choose to call the divine, i.e., that which is true and beautiful beyond all manifestation; that which remains timeless (and therefore unchangeable) within all changes. We believe it with the difference that, in our eyes -- contrarily to what the Christians maintain -- the capacity to reflect the divine is closely linked with man's race and physical health; in other words, that the spirit is anything but independent from the body. And we fail to see that the different improvements that we witness today in education or in the social field, in government or even in technical matters, have either made individual men and women more valuable in that sense, or created any new, lasting type of civilization in which man's possibilities of all-round perfection, thus conceived, are being promoted.
Progress? -- It is true that today at least in all highly organized (typically "modern") countries, nearly everybody can read and write. But what of that? To be able to read and write is an advantage -- and a considerable one. But it is not a virtue. It is a tool and a weapon; a means to an end; a very useful thing, no doubt; but not an end in itself. The ultimate value of literacy depends upon the end to which it is used. And to what end is it generally used today? It is used for convenience or for entertainment, by those who read; for some advertisement or some objectionable propaganda -- for money making or power grabbing -- by those who write; sometimes, of course, by both, for acquiring or spreading disinterested knowledge of the few things worth knowing, for finding expression of or giving expression to the few deep feelings that can lift a man to the awareness of things eternal, but not more often so than in the days in which one man out of ten thousand could understand the symbolism of the written word. Generally, today the man or woman whom compulsory education has made "literate" uses writing to communicate personal matters to absent friends and relatives, to fill forms -- one of the international occupations of modern, civilized humanity -- or to commit to memory little, useful, but otherwise trifling things, such as someone's address or telephone number, or the date of some appointment with the hairdresser or the dentist, or the list of clean clothes due from the laundry. He or she reads "to pass time" because, outside the hours of dreary work, mere thinking is no longer intense and interesting enough to serve that purpose.
We know that there are also people whose whole lives have been directed to some beautiful destiny by a book, a poem -- a mere sentence -- read in distant childhood, like Schliemann, who lavishly spent on archaeological excavations the wealth patiently and purposely gathered in forty years of dreary toil, all for the sake of the impression left upon him, as a boy, by the immortal story of Troy. But such people always lived, even before compulsory education came into fashion. And the stories heard and remembered were no less inspiring than stories now read.
The real advantage of general literacy, if any, is to be sought elsewhere. It lies not in the better quality either of the exceptional men and women or of the literate millions, but rather in the fact that the latter are rapidly becoming intellectually more lazy and therefore more credulous than ever -- and not less so; more easily deceived, more liable to be led like sheep without even the shadow of a protest, provided the nonsense one wishes them to swallow be presented to them in printed form and made to appear "scientific." The higher the general level of literacy, the easier it is for a government in control of the daily press, of the wireless, and of the publishing business -- these almost irresistible, modern means of action upon the mind to keep the masses and the "intelligentsia" under its thumb, without their even suspecting it.
Among widely illiterate but more actively thinking people, openly governed in the old, autocratic manner, a prophet, direct mouthpiece of the gods, or of genuine, collective aspirations, could always hope to rise between secular authority and the people. The priests themselves could never be quite sure of keeping the people in obedience forever. The people could choose to listen to the prophet if they liked. And they did, sometimes. Today, wherever universal literacy is prevalent, inspired exponents of timeless truth -- prophets or even selfless advocates of timely, practical changes, have fewer and fewer chances to appear. Sincere thought, really free thought, ready, in the name of superhuman authority or of humble common sense, to question the basis of what is officially taught and generally accepted, is less and less likely to thrive.
It is, we repeat, by far easier to enslave a literate people than an illiterate one, strange as this may seem at first sight. And the enslavement is more likely to be lasting. The real advantage of universal literacy is to tighten the grip of the governing power upon the foolish and conceited millions. That is probably why it is dinned into our heads, from babyhood onward, that "literacy" is such a boon. Capacity to think for one's self is, however, the real boon. And that always was and always will be the privilege of a minority, once recognized as a natural elite and respected. Today, compulsory mass education and increasingly standardized literature for the consumption of "conditioned" brains -- outstanding signs of "progress" -- tend to reduce that minority to the smallest possible proportion; ultimately, to suppress it altogether. Is that what mankind wants? If so, mankind is losing its raison d'être, and the sooner the end of this so-called "civilization," the better.
What we have said of literacy can roughly be repeated about those two other main glories of modern democracy: "individual freedom" and equality of opportunities for every person. The first is a lie -- and a more and more sinister one as the shackles of compulsory education are being more and more hopelessly fastened round people's whole being. The second is an absurdity.
One of the strangest inconsistencies of the average citizen of the modern, industrialized world is the way in which he criticizes all institutions of older and better civilizations, such as the caste system of the Hindus or the all-absorbing family cult of the Far East, on the ground that these tend to check the "liberty of the individual." He does not realize how exacting -- nay, how annihilating -- is the command of the collective authority which he obeys (half of the time, unknowingly) compared with that of traditional collective authority, in apparently less "free" societies. The caste-ridden or family-ridden people of India or of the Far East might not be allowed to do all that they like, in many relatively trifling and in a few really all-important matters of daily life. But they are left to believe what they like, or rather what they can; to feel according to their own nature and to express themselves freely about a great number of essential matters: they are allowed to conduct their higher life in the manner they judge the wisest for them, after duties to family, caste, and king have been fulfilled.
The individual living under the iron and steel rule of modern "progress" can eat whatever he fancies (to a great extent) and marry whom he pleases -- unfortunately! -- and go wherever he likes (in theory at least). But he is made to accept, in all extra-individual matters -- matters which, to us, really count -- the beliefs, the attitude to life, the scale of values, and, to a great extent, the political views that tend to strengthen the mighty socioeconomic system of exploitation to which he belongs (to which he is forced to belong, in order to be able to live) and in which he is a mere cog. And, what is more, he is made to believe that it is a privilege of his to be a cog in such an organism; that the unimportant matters in which he feels he is his own master are, in fact, the most important ones -- the only really important ones. He is taught not to value that freedom of judgement about ultimate truth, aesthetical, ethical, or metaphysical, of which he is subtly deprived. More still: he is told -- in the democratic countries at any rate -- that he is free in all respects, that he is "an individual, answerable to none but to his own conscience" ... after years of clever conditioning have molded his "conscience" and his whole being so thoroughly according to pattern, that he is no longer capable of reacting differently. Well can such a man speak of "pressure upon the individual" in any society, ancient or modern!
As for "equality of opportunities," there can be no such thing anyhow, really speaking. By producing men and women different both in degree and in quality of intelligence, sensitiveness, and willpower, different in character and temperament, Nature herself gives them the most unequal opportunities of fulfilling their aspirations, whatever these might be. An overemotional and rather weak person can, for instance, neither conceive the same ideal of happiness nor have equal chances of reaching it in life, as one who is born with a more balanced nature and a stronger will. That is obvious. And add to that the characteristics that differentiate one race of men from another, and the absurdity of the very notion of "human equality" becomes even more striking.
What our contemporaries mean when they speak of "equality of opportunities" is the fact that, in modern society -- so they say -- any man or woman stands, more and more, as many chances as his or her neighbor of holding the position and doing the job for which he or she is naturally fitted. But that too is only partly true. For, more and more, the world of today -- the world dominated by grand-scale industry and mass production -- can offer only jobs in which the best of the worker's self plays little or no part if he or she be anything more than a merely clever and materially efficient person. The hereditary craftsman, who could find the best expression for what is conveniently called his "soul" in his daily weaving, carpet making, enamel work, etc ..., even the tiller of the soil, in personal contact with, Mother Earth and the sun and the seasons, is becoming more and more a figure of the past. There are fewer and fewer opportunities, also, for the sincere seeker of truth -- speaker or writer -- who refuses to become the expounder of broadly accepted ideas, products of mass conditioning, for which he or she does not stand; for the seeker of beauty who refuses to bend his or her art to the demands of popular taste which he or she knows to be bad taste. Such people have to waste much of their time doing inefficiently -- and grudgingly -- some job for which they are not fitted, in order to live, before they can devote the rest of it to what the Hindus would call their sadhana and the work for which their deeper nature has appointed them; their life's dedication.
The idea of modern division of labor, condensed in the oft-quoted phrase "the right man in the right place," boils down, in practice, to the fact that any man -- any one of the dull, indiscriminate millions -- can be conditioned to occupy any place while the best of human beings, the only ones who still justify the existence of the more and more degenerate species, are allowed no place at all. Progress ....
There remain the "religious toleration" of our times and their "humaneness" compared with the "barbarity" of the past. Two jokes, to say the least!
Recalling some of the most spectacular horrors of history -- the burning of heretics and witches at the stake, the wholesale massacre of "heathens," and other no less repulsive manifestations of Christian civilization in Europe and elsewhere -- modern man is filled with pride in the "progress" accomplished, in one line at least, since the end of the dark ages of religious fanaticism. However bad they be, our contemporaries have, at any rate, grown out of the habit of torturing people for such "trifles" as their conception of the Holy Trinity or their ideas about predestination and purgatory.
Such is modern man's feeling -- because theological questions have lost all importance in his life. But in the days when Christian churches persecuted one another and encouraged the conversion of heathen nations by means of blood and fire, both the persecutors and the persecuted, both the Christians and those who wished to remain faithful to non-Christian creeds, looked upon such questions as vital in one way or another. And the real reason for which nobody is put to torture, today, for the sake of his or her religious beliefs, is not that torture as such has become distasteful to everybody, in "advanced," twentieth-century civilization, not that individuals and states have become tolerant, but just that, among those who have the power of inflicting pain, hardly anybody takes any vivid, vital interest in religion, let alone in theology.
The so-called "religious toleration" practiced by modern states and individuals springs from anything but an intelligent understanding and love of all religions as manifold, symbolical expressions of the same, few, essential, eternal truths. It is, rather, the outcome of a grossly ignorant contempt for all religions; of indifference to those very truths which their various founders endeavored to reassert, again and again. It is no toleration at all.
To judge how far our contemporaries have or have not the right to boast of their spirit of toleration, it is best to watch their behavior toward those whom they decidedly look upon as the enemies of their gods: the men who happen to be holding views contrary to theirs concerning not some theological quibble, in which they are not interested, but some political or sociopolitical ideology which they regard as "a threat to civilization." Nobody can deny that in all such circumstances, and specially in war time, they all perform -- to the extent they have the power -- or condone to the extent they have not, themselves, the opportunity of performing -- actions in every respect as ugly as those ordered, performed, or tolerated in the past, in the name of different religions (if indeed the latter be ugly).
The only difference is, perhaps, that modern, cold-blooded atrocities only become known when the hidden powers in control of the means of herd-conditioning -- the press, the wireless, and the cinema -- decide, for ends anything but humanitarian, that they should be, i.e., when they happen to be the enemy's atrocities, not one's own -- nor those of one's "gallant allies" -- and when their story is, therefore, considered to be good propaganda, on account of the current of indignation it is expected to create and of the new incentive it is expected to give the war effort. Moreover, after a war, fought or supposed to have been fought for an ideology -- the modern equivalent of the bitter religious conflicts of old -- the horrors rightly or wrongly said to have been perpetrated by the vanquished are the only ones to be broadcasted all over the world, while the victors try as hard as they can to make believe that their high command at least never shuts its eyes to any similar horrors. But in sixteenth-century Europe, and before; and among the warriors of Islam conducting jihad against men of other faiths, each side was well aware of the atrocious means used, not only by its opponents for their "foul ends," but by its own people and its own leaders in order to "uproot heresy" or to "fight popery" or to "preach the name of Allah to infidels." Modern man is more of a moral coward. He wants the advantages of violent intolerance -- which is only natural -- but he shuns the responsibility of it. Progress, that also.
The so-called humaneness of our contemporaries (compared with their forefathers) is just lack of nerve or lack of strong feelings -- increasing cowardice, or increasing apathy.
Modern man is squeamish about atrocities -- even about ordinary, unimaginative brutality -- only when it happens that the aims for which atrocious or merely brutal actions are performed are either hateful or indifferent to him. In all other circumstances, he shuts his eyes to any horrors -- especially when he knows that the victims can never retaliate (as is the case with all atrocities committed by man upon animals, for whatever purpose) and he demands, at the most, not to be reminded of them too often and too noisily. He reacts as though he classified atrocities under two headlines: the unavoidable and the avoidable. The unavoidable are those that serve or are supposed to serve modern man's purpose -- generally: "the good of humanity" or the "triumph of democracy." They are tolerated, even justified. The avoidable are those which are occasionally committed, or said to be committed, by people whose purpose is alien to his. They alone are condemned, and their real or supposed authors -- or inspirers -- branded by public opinion as "criminals against humanity."
Surely modern man does not "uphold" slavery; he denounces it vehemently. But he practices it nevertheless -- and on a wider scale than ever, and far more thoroughly than the ancients ever could -- whether in the capitalistic West or in the tropics, or (from what one hears outside its impenetrable walls) even in the one state supposed to be, today, the "workers' paradise." There are differences, of course. In antiquity, even the slave had hours of leisure and merriment that were all his own; he had the games of dice in the shade of the columns of his master's portico, his coarse jokes, his free chatter, his free life outside his daily routine. The modern slave has not the privilege of loitering, completely carefree, for half an hour. His so-called leisure itself is filled with almost compulsory entertainment, as exacting and often as dreary as his work, or -- in "lands of freedom -- poisoned by economic worries. but he is not openly bought and sold. He is just taken. And taken, not by a man in some way at least superior to himself, but by a huge, impersonal system without either a body to kick or a soul to damn or a head to answer for its mischief.
But more cowardly and more hypocritical, perhaps, than anything else, is "progressive," modern man's behavior toward living nature, and in particular toward the animal kingdom.
Primitive man -- and, often, also man whose picturesque civilization is anything but "modern" -- is bad enough, it is true, as far as his treatment of animals is concerned. One only has to travel in the least industrialized countries of southern Europe, or in the Near and Middle East, to acquire a very definite certitude on that point. And not all modern leaders have been equally successful in putting an end to age-old cruelties to dumb beasts, whether in the East or in the West. Gandhi could not, in the name of that universal kindness which he repeatedly preached as the main tenet of his faith, prevent Hindu milkmen from deliberately starving their male calves to death, in order to sell a few extra pints of cow's milk. Mussolini could not detect and prosecute all those Italians who, even under his government, persisted in the detestable habit of plucking chickens alive on the ground that "the feathers come off more easily." There is no getting away from the fact that kindness to animals on a national scale does not ultimately depend upon the teachings of any superimposed religion or philosophy. It is one of the distinctive characteristics of the truly superior races. And no religious, philosophical, or political alchemy can turn base metal into gold.
This does not mean to say that a good teaching cannot help to bring the best out of every race, as well as out of every individual man or woman. But modern, industrial civilization, to the extent it is man-centered -- not controlled by any inspiration of a superhuman, cosmic order -- and tends to stress quantity instead of quality, production and wealth instead of character and inherent worth, is anything but congenial to the development of consistent, universal kindness, even among the better people.
This is the age in which falsehood is termed truth and truth persecuted as falsehood or mocked as insanity; in which the exponents of truth, the divinely inspired leaders, the real friends of their race and of all the living -- the godlike men -- are defeated, and their followers humbled and their memory slandered, while the masters of lies are hailed as saviors; the age in which every man and woman is in the wrong place, and the world dominated by inferior individuals, bastardized races, and vicious doctrines, all part and parcel of an order of inherent ugliness far worse than complete anarchy; the age which the Hindus have characterized from time immemorial as Kali Yuga -- the Dark Age, the Era of Gloom.
This is the age in which our triumphant democrats and our hopeful communists boast of "slow but steady progress through science and education." Thanks very much for such "progress"!
There are no cruelties in ancient history -- no Assyrian horrors, no Carthagenian horrors, no old Chinese horrors -- which the inventiveness of our contemporaries of East and West, aided by a perfected technique, has not outdone. But cruelty -- the violence of cowards -- is merely one expression of violence among many, though admittedly the most repulsive one. Aided and encouraged by more and more staggering scientific achievements, which can be put to use for any purpose, man has, throughout history, become more and more violent -- and not less and less so, as people fed on pacifist propaganda are often inclined to think!
And, which is more, it could not have been otherwise; and it cannot be otherwise at any period of the future, until the violent and complete destruction of that which we call today "civilization" opens for the world a new Age of Truth; a new Golden Age. Until then, violence, under one form or another, is unavoidable. It is the very law of life in a fallen world. The choice given us is not between violence and nonviolence, but between open, unashamed violence, in broad daylight, and sneaking, subtle violence -- blackmail; between open violence and inconspicuous, slow, yet implacable persecution, both economic and cultural: the systematic suppression of all possibilities for the vanquished, without it showing; the merciless conditioning of children, all the more horrible that it is more impersonal, more indirect, more outwardly gentle; the clever diffusion of soul-killing lies (and half lies); violence under the cover of nonviolence. The choice is also between selfless ruthlessness put to the service of the very cause of truth; violence without cruelty, applied in view of bringing about upon this earth an order based on everlasting principles, that transcend man; violence in view of creating, or maintaining, a human state in harmony with life's highest purpose, and violence applied to selfish ends.
The more disinterested be its aims and the more selfless its application, the more frank and straightforward violence is. While, on the other hand, the more sordid be the motives for which it is in reality used, the more it is itself, hidden, even denied; the more the men who resort to it boast of being admirers of nonviolence, thus bluffing others and sometimes also themselves, acting as deceivers and being deceived -- caught in the network of their own lies.
As time goes on and as decay sets in, the keynote of human history is not less and less violence; it is less and less honesty about violence.
But violence is not a bad thing in itself. True, it set in as a necessity only after the world had become, to a great extent, "bad," i.e., unfaithful to its timeless archetype; no longer in keeping with the creative dream of the universal Mind, that it had once expressed. Yet, violence cannot be judged apart from its purpose. And the purpose is good or bad; worth its while, or not. It is worth its while when those who pursue it do so, not merely unselfishly -- with no primordial desire of personal glory or happiness -- but also in keeping with an ideology expressing timeless, impersonal, more-than-human truth; an ideology rooted in the clear understanding of the unchanging laws of life, and destined to appeal to all those who, in a fallen world, still retain within their hearts an invincible yearning for the perfect order as it really was and will again be.
Any purpose which is intelligently, objectively consistent with the war aims of the undying forces of light in their age-old struggle against the forces of darkness, i.e., of disintegration -- that struggle illustrated in all the mythologies of the world -- any such purpose, I say, justifies any amount of selfless violence. Moreover, as the era of gloom in which we are living proceeds, darker and darker and fiercer and fiercer year after year, it becomes more and more impossible to avoid using violence in the service of truth. No man -- no demigod can bring about, today, even a relative amount of real order and justice in any area of the globe, without the help of force, specially if he has but a few years at his disposal. And, unfortunately, the further this world advances into the present age of technical wonders and human abasement, the more the great men of inspiration are submitted to the factor of time, as soon as they attempt to apply their lofty, intuitive knowledge of eternal truth to the solution of practical problems. They just have to act, not only thoroughly, but also quickly, if they do not want to see the forces of disintegration nip their priceless work in the bud. And whether they like it or not, thoroughly and quickly means, almost unavoidably, with unhesitating violence. One can say, with more and more certainty as the dark age goes on, that the godlike men of action are defeated, at least for the time being, not for having been too ruthless (and thus for having roused against themselves and their ideas and their collaborators the indignation of the "decent people"), but for not having been ruthless enough -- for not having killed off their fleeing enemies, to the last man, in the brief hour of triumph, for not having silenced both the squeamish millions of hypocrites and their masters, the clever producers of atrocity tales, by more substantial violences, more complete exterminations.
From all this it is quite clear that to condemn violence indiscriminately is to condemn the very struggle of the forces of life and light against the forces of disintegration -- struggle, all the more heroic and all the more desperate, also, as the world rushes on toward its doom. It is to condemn that struggle which, at every one of its age-long, varying phases, and even through temporary disaster, has been securing for the world, beyond its deserved doom, the glorious new beginning, which the few alone deserve. Within the bondage of time, specially within this kali yuga, one cannot be consistently nonviolent without contributing, willingly or unwillingly, knowingly or unknowingly, to the success of the forces of disintegration; of what we call the death forces.
As for that violence which is used to forward the war aims of the death forces, it is, and has always been, twofold: directed on one hand against life itself -- first, against the whole of innocent, living Nature, then, against the vital interests of higher mankind, in the name of "the common man" -- and, on the other, against those particular men who, more and more conscious of the tragic realities of a darkening age, put up a stand in favor of the recognition of life's eternal values and of the restoration of order upon its true, eternal basis.
In the attempt to bring about the triumph of the worthless and the slow but steady disintegration of culture, in fact, less and less violence is needed. The world evolves naturally toward disintegration, with accelerated speed. It might have been, once, necessary to push it on along the slippery path. It has no longer been so, for centuries. It rolls on to its own doom, without help. In that direction, therefore, the champions of disintegration enjoy an easy task. They only have to follow and flatter the vicious tendencies of the increasingly despicable majority of men, to become the world's darlings. But in their war against the few, but more aware and practical exponents of the higher values -- the upholders of the natural hierarchy of races; the worshippers of light, of strength, of youth -- they are (and are bound to be) more and more violent, more and more relentlessly cruel. Their hatred grows as history unfolds, as though they knew -- as though they felt, with the sharpness of physical perception -- that every one of their victories, however spectacular it be, brings them nearer the final, redeeming crash in which they are bound to perish, and out of which their now persecuted superiors are bound to emerge as the leaders of the new age. Their hatred grows, and their ferocity too, as the redeeming crash draws nigh, and, along with it, the dawn of the universal new order, as unavoidable as the coming of spring.
They are in a hurry -- not, as the heroic elite, out of generous impatience; not out of any longing to see the age of truth re-established before its time, but out of feverish lust; out of the will to snatch from the world, for themselves, all the material advantages and all the satisfactions of vanity they possibly can, before it is too late. And as time goes on, their hurry amounts to frenzy. The one obstacle that stands in their way and still defies them -- that will always defy them, till the end -- is precisely that proud elite that disaster cannot discourage, that torture cannot break, that money cannot buy. Whether consciously or unconsciously, whether they be, themselves, thoroughly wicked, or just blind, through congenital stupidity, the workers of disintegration wage war upon the men of gold and steel, with unabated, hellish fury.
But theirs is not the frank, unashamed violence of the inspired idealists striving to bring forth, speedily, a lofty sociopolitical order too good for the unworthy world of their times. It is a sneaking, creeping, cowardly sort of violence, all the more effective that it is, outwardly, more emphatically denied, both by the scoundrels who apply it or condone it, and by the well-meaning fools who actually believe that it does not exist. It is prompted by such feelings as one cannot possibly exhibit, even in a degenerate world, without running the risk of defeating one's own purpose: by bare hatred, rooted in envy -- the hatred of worthless weaklings for the strong, for no other reason than that they are strong; the hatred of ugly souls (incarnated, more often than not, in no less ugly bodies) for the naturally beautiful ones; for the noble, the magnanimous, the selfless, the real aristocracy of the world; the hatred of the unhappy, and, even more so, of the bored -- of those who have only their pockets to live for, and nothing at all to die for -- for those who live, and are ready to die, for eternal values. Such is, more and more, the widespread violence of our times, less and less recognized, in its subtle disguise, even by the people who actually suffer through it.
The ancients knew better than our contemporaries who were their friends and who were their enemies. And this is natural. In a world rushing to its doom, there is bound to be increasing ignorance -- ignorance precisely of those things one should know the best, in order to survive. The ancients suffered, and knew whom to curse. Modern men and women, as a rule, do not know; do not really care to know; are too lazy, too exhausted, too near the end of their world to take the trouble to inquire seriously. And clever rascals, themselves the authors of all the mischief, incite them to throw the blame of it upon the only people whose unfailing wisdom and selfless love could have saved them, had they but wanted to be saved; upon that hated elite that stands against the current of time, with the vision of the glorious new beginning beyond the doom of the present-day world, clear and bright before its eyes.
Thousands of well-meaning and foolish people, who take for granted whatever they are given to read and inquire no further, have no idea of the horrors perpetrated by their compatriots in other people's countries as colonists or as members of occupying armies, no idea of what goes on in their own country, behind prison bars, in torture chambers for political investigation, and in concentration camps. Indeed, in England and in other democratic nations, many are under the impression that their government never tolerated such things as concentration camps and torture chambers for human beings. Only "the enemy" had them -- so they believe. Years ago, they would have thought nothing of admitting that "everybody has them"; must have them; that one cannot run a war without those unpleasant but extremely woeful accessories.
But now hypocrisy concerning violence has reached its pitch. Never has there been, in the world, so much cruelty, allied to such a general attempt to hide it, to deny it, to forget it, and, if possible, make others forget it. Never have people been so willing to forget it, in externally "decent" and kindly surroundings -- houses and streets in which no torture of man or beast can be seen or heard -- provided, of course, it is not "the enemy's" cruelty. The only time modern men and women do not try to minimize horrors but actually exaggerate them (and often deliberately invent them) is when these happen to be (or are intended to be presented as) "the enemy's" horrors -- never their own. And that is itself only a further instance of the worldwide characteristic of our times: the general love of lies.
What has set the whole world so bitterly against the frank upholders of ruthless methods both in government and war, is not so much that these were violent, but that they were frank. Liars hate those who speak the unpleasant truth, and who act in accordance with it.
The unpleasant truth is that pacifism, nonviolence, and so forth are, most of the time, just rackets in the service of the forces of disintegration; dishonest tricks to bluff the fools, to emasculate the strong, and to set millions of cowards and hypocrites (the bulk of the world) against the few people whose inspired policy, pursued ruthlessly to its logical end, could perhaps, even now, arrest the decay of man. And when they are not that, then they are nonsense.
As we have said in the beginning, nonviolence can only exist in a world in which the sociopolitical order is, on the human scale, the replica of the eternal order of the cosmos. Any effective preaching -- and any partial practice -- of pacifism in politics, outside such an order, only leads, ultimately, to greater violence; to a greater exploitation of living Nature and a greater oppression of man at the hands of those who work for the death forces.
Unfortunately, most pacifists either do not really want peace at all, but merely pretend to; or else, want it, but only under certain ideological conditions which are incompatible with its establishment now, and with its duration. Any obvious violence directed against human beings shocks them. People who openly support the use of force -- be it in the most disinterested spirit and for the best of purposes -- are, for that very reason, anathema in their eyes. Help them to conquer and to rule the world? Oh, no! Anything but that! The ideals of the ruthless men of vision may well be Golden Age ideals; but their methods! -- their cynical attitude toward human life; their relentless chase and pitiless disposal of even potential obstacles to the rapid attainment of their selfless aims: their "appalling logic" (to quote the words of a French official in occupied Germany, after the war) -- our pacifists could never stand for these! As a result, they stand for far worse -- generally without knowing it. For, through their refusal to face facts and take the only reasonable attitude that a true lover of peace should have, today, they become tools in the service of the forces of disintegration.
For one cannot have it both ways: whoever is not for the everlasting forces of light and life, is against them. Unless one lives outside or above time, one either walks in the sense of the unavoidable evolution of history -- i.e., toward decay and dissolution -- or one stands against the current of centuries, in a bitter, apparently hopeless, but nevertheless beautiful struggle, one's eyes fixed upon those perennial ideals which can be fully translated into material reality only once, at the dawn of every successive cycle, by every successive new humanity. But it is true that the bold minority of men of action who fight, against time, for Golden Age ideals, is bound to become, as time goes on, more and more ruthless in its effort to overcome an increasingly well-organized, increasingly elusive, and increasingly universal opposition. And for that very reason, it will become more and more difficult for the squeamish pacifists to follow it. In all probability, they will continue to prefer identifying themselves with the lying agents of the dark forces.
And thus, day after day, year after year, now and in the future, the conflicting powers of light and darkness cannot but carry on their deadly struggle, as they always did, but more and more fiercely as time goes on. And as time goes on, also, the struggle will more and more be between openly acknowledged and openly accepted violence and violence dishonestly disguised, the former being put to the service of life's highest purpose on earth -- namely, the creation of a perfect, or Golden Age humanity -- and the latter, to that of the enemies of life. It has to be so until, after the final crash, the leadership of surviving mankind falls to that victorious elite who, even in the midst of the long, general decay of man, never lost its faith in the everlasting cosmic values, nor its will to draw from them, and from them alone, its rule of action.
All men, inasmuch as they are not liberated from the bondage of time, follow the downward path of history, whether they know it or not, and whether they like it or not.
Few indeed thoroughly like it, even at our epoch -- let alone in happier ages, when people read less and thought more. Few follow it unhesitatingly, without throwing, sometime or other, a sad glance toward the distant, lost paradise into which they know, in their deeper consciousness, that they are never to enter; the paradise of perfection in time -- a thing so remote that the earliest people of whom we know remembered it only as a dream. Yet, they follow the fatal way. They obey their destiny.
That resigned submission to the terrible law of decay -- that acceptance of the bondage of time by creatures who dimly feel that they could be free from it, but who find it hard to try to free themselves; who know beforehand that they would never succeed, even if they did try -- is at the bottom of that incurable unhappiness of man, deplored again and again in the Greek tragedies, and long before these were written. Man is unhappy because he knows, because he feels -- in general -- that the world in which he lives and of which he is a part, is not what it should be, what it could be. He cannot wholeheartedly accept that world as his -- specially not accept the fact that it is going from bad to worse -- and be glad. However much he may try to be a "realist" and snatch from destiny whatever he can, when he can, still an invincible yearning for the better remains at the bottom of his heart. He cannot -- in general -- will the world as it is.
But a few people -- as rare as the liberated ones, for whom time does not exist, and perhaps rarer can, and do. These are the most thorough, the most mercilessly effective agents of the death forces on earth: -- supremely intelligent, and sometimes extraordinarily farsighted; always unscrupulous to the utmost; working without hesitation and without remorse in the sense of the downward process of history and, (whether they can see or not as far as that) for its logical conclusion: the annihilation of man and of all life.
Naturally, they do not always see as far as that. But when they do, still they do not care. Since the law of time is what it is, and since the end must come, it is just as well that they should draw all the profit they possibly can from the process that is, anyhow, sooner or later, to bring about the end. Since no one can re-create the primeval, lost paradise -- no one but the wheel of time itself, after it has rolled its full course -- then it is just as well that they, who can completely forget the distant vision, or who never had a glimpse of its dying glow; they, who can stifle in themselves the age old yearning for perfection, or rather, who never experienced it; it is just as well that they, I say, should squeeze out of the fleeing moment (whether minutes or years, it matters little) all the intense, immediate enjoyment they can, until the hour comes when they must die. It is just as well that they should leave their stamp upon the world -- force generations to remember them -- until the hour comes for the world to die. So they feel. It makes little difference what suffering they might cause to men or other living creatures, by acting as they do. Both men and creatures are bound to suffer, anyhow. Just as well through them as through others, if that can forward the aims of these people. The aims of these people -- of men within time, par excellence -- are always selfish aims, even when, owing to their material magnitude and historical importance, they transcend immeasurably any one man's life, as they actually do, sometimes for selfishness -- the claim of the part to more place and to more meaning than is naturally allotted to it within the whole -- is the very root of disintegration, and therefore a characteristic inseparable from time. One can practically say that the more a person is thoroughly, remorselessly selfish, the more he or she lives in time.
But, as we have said, that selfishness is manifested in many different ways. It can find expression in that mere lust for personal enjoyment, which characterizes the shameless voluptuary; or in the miser's insatiable greed for gold; or in the individual ambition of the seeker of honors and position; or in the family ambition of the man who is ready to sacrifice every interest in the world to the welfare and happiness of his wife and children. But it can also be brought out in the exaltation of a man's tribe or country above all others, not because of its inherent worth in the natural hierarchy of life, but just because it happens to be the tribe or country of that particular man. It can be, and often is, brought out in the undue exaltation of all human beings, however debased, above all the rest of living creation, however healthy and beautiful -- the passion which underlies the age-old tyranny of man over Nature; the "love of man" not in harmony with the God-ordained duties and rights of each and every species (as of every race and of every individual) according to its place, but in a spirit of mere solidarity with one's kith and kin, good or bad, worthy or unworthy, solely because they are one's own. Men in time only know what is their own and what is not, and they love themselves in whatever is theirs.
As there are men in time, so there are, also, philosophies and religions -- ideologies -- in time; false religions, all of them, for true religion can only be above time. Today, nearly all interpretations of age-old, true religion, and nearly all the "isms" that have replaced religions, are of the type in time. Their function within the scheme of things, at this time of world history, is just to deceive the well-meaning weaklings and fools, the hesitating people, who want an excuse, a justification for living in time without the unpleasant feeling of a guilty conscience, and who cannot find one for themselves. These are only too glad to catch hold of a philosophy loudly professing to be unselfish, which allows them, encourages them, to work under its cover for their selfish ends. The ones who use a really unselfish doctrine -- an originally timeless philosophy -- for that purpose, lie all the more shamelessly to themselves and to others.
But the actual, typical men within time need no justifying ideology in order to act. Their thoroughly selfish attitude is, in all its glaring shamelessness, far more beautiful than that growing tendency of the tiny men to slip down the path to perdition while hanging onto some "noble" ends such as "liberty, equality, fraternity" or "the rights of the international proletariat," or onto some misunderstood religion. Whatever they may tell the people whom they wish to deceive -- whom they have to deceive, in order to succeed -- the real men in time never deceive themselves. They know what they truly want. And they know the way to get it. And they do not care what it costs to others or to themselves. And, specially, they do not, at the same time, want anything else, which is incompatible with their aims.
And so -- whether on an ordinary scale, like the consistent voluptuary or the single-purposed miser, or on a nation-wide or continent-wide scale, like those who stir millions and sacrifice millions of people, that they might impose their own will, they act, in a way, as gods would act. And, both in the grandeur of their achievements and in the beauty of the first-rate qualities of character which they put to the service of their purpose, a few of them really have something godlike -- as, for instance, that greatest conqueror of all times, whose extraordinary career forms the subject matter of a part of this book: Genghis Khan. They possess the awful splendor of the great, devastating forces of Nature; of the roaring sea, rolling out of its bed over the land; of a lava stream, burning its way through all obstacles; of the lightning, that men need to worship, when they still understood what is divine.
Naturally, this can be said only of those men whose action exceeds, by its very magnitude, the limits of what is personal. It is difficult to imagine any mere seeker of physical pleasure, or even of individual riches, attaining such a grim, godlike greatness. The importance of the men in time, as such, depends upon the nature of their action itself and upon the breadth of the surroundings which it influences, no less, if not more, than upon the way in which, and the one-sided, cynically selfish purpose for which, they act. And this is understandable, for reasons other than the sheer aesthetic impression which the true story of a mighty life can leave upon the reader or the bystander. It is the consequence of the fact that, like the great forces of Nature which we mentioned, real men in time are blind powers, serving unknowingly the purpose of the cosmos. The same is true, of course, of the petty seekers after small profits, in their limited sphere of activity. They too are blind powers of destruction. But small ones, at our scale at least. We experience the awe of the divine in the presence of the big ones only -- as we do, for instance, before a storm upon the ocean, while the sight of a pool of water disturbed by the wind leaves us indifferent.
When the ends -- however petty and personal in themselves -- are masterfully served through such action as stirs the whole world when, in order to attain them, a man in time displays, upon the international stage, superhuman qualities worthy of much higher ends, then one feels one's self in the presence not of a man in time but of the divine Destroyer -- Mahakala; Time Itself -- everlastingly rushing the thing that seems to annihilation followed by new birth and then again by further decay and annihilation.
The man in time can have any aim, with the exception of a disinterested one (which would at once raise him above time). He himself is always like a blind force of destructive Nature. (That is the reason why so many thoroughly "bad" characters in literature and in the theater are so attractive, in their forceful evil.) He has no ideology. Or rather, his ideology is himself, separated from the divine whole -- i.e., it is the disintegration of the whole (of the universal) for the benefit of himself, and, ultimately, the destruction of himself also, although he does not know it or does not care. And that is the case in every instance. But under certain conditions, when his action takes, in human history, the permanent importance that a great geological cataclysm has in the history of the earth, then, as I said, the man in time disappears from our sight, and in his place -- but still bearing his features -- appears, in all His dramatic majesty, Mahakala, the eternal Destroyer. It is Him Whom we adore in the Great lightning individuals such as Genghis Khan -- Him; not them. They are only the clay images inhabited by Him for a few brief years. And just as the clay image hides and suggests the invisible god or goddess -- power everlasting -- so does their selfishness both hide and reveal the impersonal purposefulness of life; the destructive phase of the divine play, in which already lies the promise of the new dawn to come.
And just as volcanic convulsions or invading sea tides prepare, in the course of centuries, a new growth, in a reshaped physical universe, so do the great men in time bring us nearer the liberating end and thereby prepare the way for the next glorious beginning. "Scourges of God," in a way, they are also blessings in disguise. Far better their frank, brutal destructiveness for selfish ends than the silly patchwork of the ordinary, well-meaning people who try to "do good" in this fallen world, without having the courage to strike and burn and tear; who have only "constructive" schemes -- all useless! For destruction and creation are forever linked. That is why we adore the lightning as well as the sun, and are overwhelmed by a feeling of sacred awe at the thought of the grand-scale exterminators without ideologies, human likenesses of great Mahakala.
But there are also men outside time or rather above time; men who live, here and now, in eternity; who (directly at least) have no part to play in the downward rush of history toward disintegration and death, but who behold it from above as one beholds, from a strong and safe bridge, the irresistible rush of a waterfall into the abyss and who have repudiated the law of violence which is the law of time.
Of such men, most live a very special life, away from the world; a life of which the whole inner discipline, spiritual, moral, and physical, is systematically devised to keep them in constant union with the great reality beyond time: the thing that is, as opposed to the thing that seems. They are the real ascetics (in the etymological sense of the word: those who have trained themselves to live in eternity). Others -- far rarer -- live in eternity without a particular training, even while living, outwardly, the life of the world; while being husbands and wives, parents and educators of children, manual or intellectual laborers, citizens, soldiers, or rulers.
Of those who live outside or above time, some are saviors. Others just let things and people go their way, feeling that they are not called to intervene in anyone's destiny and knowing that, in the course of centuries, all souls that care to be saved will, anyhow, evolve toward the timeless life of the saints. The distinction between these two types of liberated people corresponds, in Buddhist terminology, to that between the Boddhisatwas and the Arhats. Both these are free beings, outside the law of birth and rebirth -- the bondage of time. But, while the Arhat remains completely aloof from the fallen world, the Boddhisatwa is born over and over again, of his own free will, in order to help living creatures to work themselves out of the ocean of life within time.
But the salvation which the men above time offer the world is always that which consists in breaking the time bondage. It is never that which would find its expression in collective life on earth in accordance with Golden Age ideals. It is the salvation of the individual soul, never that of organized society.
It is true that some -- though extremely few -- men, of those whom we have characterized as above time, have been (or have tried to be) reformers in the worldly sense, by nonviolent means. But none of them were saviors of society, really speaking. The saviors in the worldly sense of the word -- those who set out to perfect not merely men's souls but men's collective life and government and international relations -- are what we call men against time. And they are necessarily violent, although not always physically so. They may be -- in fact, they should be -- personally free from the bondage of time, if they are to act with the maximum of foresight and efficiency. But they have to take into consideration the conditions of action within time; to live in time, also, in a way. The others -- the men above time who appear to have been reformers -- have not really tried to remold the world according to their understanding of eternal truth (otherwise, they would not have remained nonviolent). What they did was to live in the world their own timeless philosophy. And to the extent that they occupied a position of importance -- like that most remarkable of them all, Akhnaton, King of Egypt, who was in his days the most powerful man on earth -- their lives could not but have a repercussion upon those of their contemporaries.
It might seem strange that the founder of a state religion -- for the cult of the "Heat and Light within the Disk" was that, undoubtedly -- should not be counted among the saviors of the world, but rather among those extremely rare men above time who have lived the life of this earth while stubbornly remaining foreign to this earth's grim realities. But appearances are deceptive. And we shall see, further on, in examining the nature of the much misunderstood Cult of the Disk and the life of King Akhnaton, its promoter, that this view is the right one.
The most distinctive trait of the men outside or above time, as opposed to those who live in time or against time, is perhaps their consistent refusal to use violence even in order to forward the most righteous cause. Not that they are at all squeamish about violence, like the weaklings, neither good nor bad, who compose ninety percent of mankind at our epoch. Their action, like that of the sun, lies essentially in their personal radiation of power, beauty, and goodness. What they do is, of course, the integral reflection of what they are, nothing more; nothing different; nothing which is foreign to them, for they are fully conscious of their being. And if they have any substantial influence at all, it is, like that of the sun, an influence from above and from afar, characterized by its absolute impartiality, its indiscriminate and impersonal goodness. They do nothing to compel others -- nothing, at least, beyond certain limits, even if they live in the world. They know they cannot force the evolution of things, nor suppress the part played by time in the lives of those who are still submitted to its iron law. Again, like the sun, they shine. If the seed is alive it will ripen sooner or later, never mind when. Violence would only help to produce an artificial growth. And if the seed be dead? Let it be! There are new seeds, new creations, forever and ever. The people who live in eternity can wait.
We have said: those who remain above time do not resort to violence. This does not mean that all men who abstain from violence are necessarily liberated souls, living above time. First, an immense number of cowards are nonviolent for fear of taking risks. And they are anything but free from the bondage of time. Then, that which one often takes for nonviolence -- that which actually goes under that name -- is, in reality, but a subtler form of violence: pressure upon other people's feelings, more oppressive and -- when one knows, in each case, what feelings to appeal to -- many a time more effective than pressure upon their bodies. The late Mahatma Gandhi's much admired "nonviolence" was of that type: moral violence; not: "Do this, or else I kill you!" but: "Do this, or else I kill myself! ... knowing that you hold my life as indispensable." It may look "nobler." In fact, it is just the same -- apart from the difference in the technique of pressure. It is, rather, less noble because, precisely on account of that subtler technique, it leads people to believe that it is not violence, and therefore contains an element of deceit, an inherent falsehood, from which ordinary violence is free.
Mahatma Gandhi was by no means what we have tried to define as a man above time. He was what we shall call a man against time, aiming now -- far too late or ... a little too soon -- at the establishment of a tangible order of justice (ram raj) on this earth. But, inasmuch as it lacks the frankness of brutal force, his so-called "nonviolence" -- moral violence -- is characteristic of our epoch of dishonesty (however honest and sincere he might have been himself). It is, perhaps, the first instance in history of a disguised form of violence applied, on a broad scale, in a struggle for a good purpose. Its popularity in India can partly be credited to the fact that it was, or seemed to be, the only practical weapon in the hands of a totally disarmed and, to a great extent, naturally apathetic people. But it enjoyed abroad, also, a tremendous publicity, quite out of proportion with its real value (and the late Mahatma Gandhi's tremendous reputation of "holiness" is no less out of proportion with his real place among the great men of India). The foreigners who have done the most to popularize it are people typical of our degenerate age: people who recoil at the mere thought of any healthy and frank display of force, but who cannot even detect moral violence; men and women (especially women) of the Western Democracies, the most hypocritical half of the world. It appealed to them precisely to the extent that it was violence in disguise. Even English people (some of whom had lived in India; some of whom had even occupied a high position within the ranks of British colonial officialdom) could not help admiring it. It was not that hated, brutal force which other great men against time had used in the course of history (or were using at our epoch) to bring about an age of justice, Oh, no!
But it surely was not, either, the nonviolence of the men above time who, if they cared at all to take an occasional stand against the unavoidable fall of mankind, would either use no real pressure at all to enforce their good laws -- and fail, from a worldly point of view, as King Akhnaton did -- or else, exert against time any amount of violence that might be necessary, in the spirit of the god who speaks, in the Bhagavad-Gita, to the fighter for a just cause.
Exiles of the Golden Age in our age of gloom, the men above time, either live entirely within their own inner world, or else live and act in this one also, but as though it were still in its Golden Age. They either renounce this world or ignore it -- or, better, forget it, as a man forgets the scars of sin and sickness upon a once beautiful face, which he still loves, in spite of all. They see the everlasting and unchangeable behind the downward rush of the stream of time; the thing that is, behind the thing that seems. Even when they live in the world of forms, colors and sounds as earnstly and intensely as King Akhnaton -- that supreme artist -- did, still those impressions take on, for them, a meaning entirely different from that which they retain in the consciousness of people submitted to the bondage of time. Men above time enjoy with detachment, as people who know they will never die. They also suffer with detachment, being constantly aware of their blissful, real self, which is beyond pleasure and pain.
And the fallen world can never understand them, i.e., know them, any more than they can understand the fall of man, in which they have no part, as others, who share it, can and do. And yet, untiringly -- like the Sun, far away and omnipresent -- they shed their light; that light which is, in our growing gloom, like a glimpse of all the past and future dawns.
But, as we have said, there are also people with a Golden Age outlook -- fully aware of what a splendid place this world could be, materially and otherwise -- who can, however, neither renounce life as it is nor ignore it; people who, in addition to that, are endowed with what the Hindus would call a Kshatriya nature: born fighters, for whom difficulties exist only to be overcome, and for whom the impossible has a strange fascination. These are the men against time -- absolutely sincere, selfless idealists, believers in those eternal values that the fallen world has rejected, and ready, in order to reassert them on the material plane, to resort to any means within their reach.
Men outside time or above time, at the most saviors of souls, have, more often than not, disciples who are definitely men against time. (Sometimes even men in time; but we do not speak of these, for they are mere exploiters of religions or ideologies for selfish ends, not sincere disciples of saints.) The true disciples -- and, in some rare instances, the masters themselves -- who are against time, thorough organizers, unscrupulous propagandists, and ruthless fighters, are the actual founders of most of, if not all, the great churches of the world, even when the religions preached by those churches are doctrines originally above time, as they generally are. And this is unavoidable inasmuch as a church is always, or nearly always, not only itself a material organization, but an organization which aims at regulating the lives of thousands, when not millions, of people in this world -- in time.
Apparently, the one exception to that law is Buddhism, the only important, international religion which has conquered over half a mighty continent without the help of men against time and without the use of violence; the one in the name of which persecution of other faiths was never carried on but twice in the whole course of history -- and that, by men in time, and for reasons decidedly political, not religious. But then, we must remember that this creed is, more than any other, dominated by the yearning to escape the bondage of time, and that it is, in fact, not intended at all for life in time. A person who accepts its postulates cannot possibly think of a better world, except if it be outside or above time. But, as a result of this, there is perhaps a more shocking disparity between the high ideals of the religion and the life of the faithful in Buddhist countries than anywhere else. The religions that have spread and maintained themselves partly through violence have had, in spite of many shortcomings and of less high moral standards, a greater practical influence upon the lives of their followers as a whole, strange as this may appear.
One does not always realize this clearly enough when one criticizes the great, active disciples for being inconsistent with the spirit of their contemplative masters. One does not realize that, without the ruthless passion of those men, the organizations that have, one must admit, kept to some extent the spirit alive, would just not exist in many places where they still flourish, and that many "spiritual treasures," that one values so much, would be lost to the world. If one really values those treasures, one should not find fault with the men against time or, more often than not, in time, who recoiled from nothing so that they might be put, and kept, within man's reach. Without the brutal methods of Charlemagne, the Saxon slayer, so obviously anything but Christlike, the Germans would perhaps, to this day, have remained attached to their old gods; so would have the Norwegians, without the drastic sort of evangelization imposed upon them by King Olaf Tryggvesson. Without the equally sincere, equally fanatical, and even more brutal activities of many men against or in time, in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, half Goa, and the whole of Mexico and Peru would probably not be, today, professing the Christian faith. Christianity owes a lot to men against time -- and perhaps still more to men in time.
We, who are not Christians, may -- and do -- deplore it. We are aware of the fact that many spiritual treasures other than those contained in the Gospels -- the truths contained in the old European paganism, or long preserved in the solar cults of Central and South America; treasures of which, today, one knows much too little -- were lost to the world precisely through the impersonal zeal of religious-minded men, by nature against time (or through the wanton destructiveness of men in time) such as those we have mentioned. But we believe that, wherever such losses were suffered, there was something wrong not with the forgotten truth (which is eternal) but with the people who should have managed to stand for it against the new and hostile doctrine; we believe, in fact, that there were not enough men against time among those people -- not enough persons in whose eyes the now lost teachings were, then, sufficiently alive to be made a basis for the organization of human society against the growing current of decay; not enough who, in order to defend them on those grounds, were prepared to be as ruthless and as persevering as the Christians were in order to destroy them.
For no organization can live outside time -- above time -- and hope to bring men back, one day, to the knowledge of the eternal values. That, all men above time have realized. In order to establish, or even to try to establish, here and now, a better order, in accordance with truth everlasting, one has to live, outwardly at least, like those who are still in time; like them, one has to be violent, merciless, destructive -- but for different ends. Therein lies the tragedy of bringing into reality any dream of perfection. And the more perfect the dream -- the further away from the conditions of success in this fallen world -- the more ruthless must necessarily be the methods of those who sincerely wish to impose it upon men, too late or ... too early.
Knowing this, the real men above time are the first ones to understand and to appreciate the wholehearted efforts of their disciples against time, however "awful" these might appear to ordinary people, neither good nor bad. The Christ, in Dostoevski's famous page, says nothing. What could he say? There is nothing to be said which the leader of the militant church could understand. To the Inquisitor, the Christ will always remain a mystery. But the Christ understands the Inquisitor and values his love. Before leaving the prison cell -- and the world of time -- he kisses him.
As we have pointed out above, no man outside time can enjoy any real influence upon human society unless he has such disciples, or unless he is himself prepared to become a man against time. For it is a fact that one can be both above time in one's personal outlook and against time in one's activity in the world. All the really great creative men against time possess these two aspects: they are men of vision aware of timeless truths; but they are, also, men who have been stirred to the depth by the glaring contrast between the ideal world, built according to those truths, and the actual world in which they live; men who, after what they have seen and experienced, can neither remain any longer cut off from time, in their own inner paradise, nor act in life as though all were well, but who must devote their whole life and energy to the reshaping of tangible reality on the model of their vision of truth. One such man is the warrior-like Prophet Mohammed, who dreamed a world theocracy and succeeded in founding a great civilization, lasting to this day. Another one -- whose unparalleled greatness is yet unrecognized, because his followers lost a war instead of winning it -- is the tragic and beautiful figure that dominates the history of the West in our own times: Adolf Hitler.
I have compared men in time to the lightning, and men outside time to the sun. Using the same metaphorical language, one can say that men against time partake both of the sun and of the lightning, inasmuch as they are truly inspired by Golden Age ideals, rooted in timeless truth, and as -- precisely in order to be able to stand for such ideals on the material plane, in the age of gloom, against the current of time -- they are compelled to display all the practical qualities of the men in time; inasmuch as the only difference between them and the latter lies not in their methods (which are the same, and cannot but be so) but in their selfless, impersonal ends. They serve those ends with merciless realism but, to the extent they are above time also, with the detachment preached to the warrior in the Bhagavad-Gita.
Men against time succeed, and are recognized and exalted by millions, permanently, inasmuch as they, or their followers, abandon their spirit and work decidedly in time, compromising with the forces of death; in other words, inasmuch as they have in them -- like the Prophet Mohammed -- more lightning than sun. Otherwise, they are defeated by the agents of the dark forces, broken in their might by the downward rush of history, which they are unable to stem. And such a fate awaits, always, those who are too magnanimous, too trusting, too good; those who put too much confidence both in foreigners and in their own people; those who do not purge their following often enough and thoroughly enough; who love their people too much to suspect ingratitude or actual treachery where it lies; who are not merciless enough, and sometimes spare their fleeing enemies; in one word, those who, like Adolf Hitler, have, in their psychological makeup, too much sun and not enough lightning.
And as we have said, destruction and creation are inseparable. Even the most destructive men in time are creative in their way. Men above time are also destructive in their way -- indirectly, as the former are creative. Men against time are actively, consciously, willingly both creative and destructive -- like Lord Shiva Himself: the divine principle behind all change; the Destroyer, Who again and again creates; and like Vishnu, the Preserver, Who, once at least in every time cycle, comes as Kalki, to destroy completely. In them, the cosmos is forever seeking its principle, against the irresistible law of time, which steadily draws it away from it, from the beginning to the end of every successive material manifestation in time.
Savitri Devi, The Lightning and the Sun, 3rd abridged edn (Wellington, NZ: Renaissance Press, 1994), 3-18. First published in Calcutta in 1958. Devi's Lightning and the Sun is available from National Vanguard Books.