(Annie Besant. The Changing World. Chicago, Theosophical Book Concern, 1910. 333 pp. Emphasis ours)

Free online copy: https://www.gutenberg.org/files/57667/57667-h/57667-h.htm

Brotherhood Applied to Social Conditions


Friends: I wish to deal to-night with the question of the principle of Brotherhood as applied to human life; how we may use it to solve some of the problems that we find around us at the present day, how we may use it to make possible the transition from one stage of civilisation to another, so that the transition may come in peace and goodwill, and thereby may last, rather than in anger and revolution, which can only mean a brief period of the new order, and then another struggle, prolonged ill-will, and misery. But if Brotherhood is to be applied to the solution of our difficulties, the first thing that is necessary is to try to understand what is meant by Brotherhood, and what it implies. Now, Brotherhood by no means implies what is called equality, for just as you do find Brotherhood in nature, so do you not find equality; in fact, the very name Brotherhood carries our thoughts to the constitution of the family, implies at once the inequality of elder and younger, of wiser and more ignorant, of those who guide and those who obey; so that if man is to aim at a society in which equality is to be the watchword, then the principle of


Brotherhood must be entirely thrown on one side. The disadvantage of taking the war-cry of equality in trying to make a social system, or even to fight a social battle, is that natural law is against you, and that you are dealing with a fiction, not with a fact. There is nothing more obvious throughout the whole realm of nature than the inequalities of which natural order consists; and if you turn aside from the vaster order of the various grades of living things, and confine yourselves only to the study of man, there the same principle of inequality is perpetually asserting itself. It is not only the difference of age which always comes in, in the question of a family; it is the difference of capacity, of power, of characteristics, of qualifications. What sort of equality is possible between the strong and healthy man and the cripple or the invalid? what sort of equality between the man with eyes and the blind? between the man who is dowered with genius and the man who is weighted by dulness and stupidity? Inequality is the law of nature, not equality; and it is of no use to try to build a social system on that which is only a fiction, thought out in the study of doctrinaires, but breaking down the very moment it comes to be applied to human life. That famous declaration of the American Republic: “Man is born free,” and on that freedom basing equality, is denied by every fact of human life. Man is born a babe, helpless and dependent; and if the babe were left to the enjoyment of freedom, he would have very little chance of growing into youth and maturity. A babe is not born free, but dependent on all those around him for the possible continuance of his life; and if it were not that


he is born into a system of affection and obligation, there would be no chance for the human babe to survive the first hours of his infancy.

It is a remarkable fact, one full of significance, that the two societies in the world which recognise Universal Brotherhood both also recognise a hierarchical order. Take the great fraternity of Masons. They lay down the principle of Universal Brotherhood over the whole surface of the globe, but there is nothing more rigid in its order and in the authority committed to the officers than a Masonic Lodge. Hierarchy is there recognised as the very condition of liberty. If you turn from that proclamation of Universal Brotherhood to the Theosophical Society, exactly the same thing is seen. You have there the recognition of a hierarchy that guides the destinies of humanity, and presides over the evolving growth of man—a mighty hierarchy, where wisdom only gives the right to rule, and where the commands of wisdom are gladly carried out by the less wise, who recognise the authority of those wiser than themselves. And that, in truth, is the condition of liberty. For without that hierarchical order, where wisdom rules and ignorance obeys, there is no possibility of anything that is worthy to be called by the name of liberty. As I shall want to put to you at the close of what I have to say to-night, we have never yet seen liberty upon earth outside the ranks of that great human hierarchy; we have only seen the rule of different classes, the rule of one group over another; but never have we seen liberty, for man is not yet sufficiently evolved to understand the conditions under which alone liberty can exist.


In looking at this strange fact, that the only two societies that proclaim Universal Brotherhood also admit a hierarchical order, let us see how far in the great Brotherhood of man there are any foundations on which a hierarchy can be based. I am coming, now, away from that great occult hierarchy of which I spoke into the ordinary humanity known to us all.

In the family, where the principle of Brotherhood is recognised, and where duty and responsibility go with age and knowledge, there we have, as it were, a rough outline as to what a State should be. But how does the principle of age come in as regards mankind? For unless there be something in the human race which bears an analogy, at least, to the principle of age within a family, we shall find it difficult to vindicate Brotherhood, much less to make it the foundation-stone of society in the centuries to come.

Now, it is as true of humanity as it is true of the members of a family that there is a difference of age. Exactly on the same lines by which the members of a family are born one after the other, and in all those different ages make up the family circle, so is it with the great family of man. The human and intelligent Spirits that make up that vast family are not of the same age, have not all been born into individual existence at the same time. Side by side with the idea of Brotherhood comes out the natural law of reincarnation—that there is a difference of age in the individualised human Spirits, and that there are elders and youngers in the great human family.

These differences of age do not go necessarily with any of the distinctions of castes or classes that you find in modern society, although the great caste system


of India was founded upon this principle of the different ages of the reincarnating Egos. Long ago, however, has that passed away, and you have not now manifest on earth that same definite order as in the earlier days of our Aryan ancestors in India. Still, you can tell the younger or the older soul by examining the characteristics that the man or the woman brings into the world at birth; by looking at the character, the marks of the being older or younger leap into sight. The younger soul, unable to acquire any large amount of knowledge, with very little moral faculty showing itself, very selfish and desirous to grasp the pleasure of the moment without any care for what may be the result of grasping it in the time that follows, the trivial, shallow, easy-going way of life, the being carried away by the ever-changing fancy, and with no strong underlying thought or principle or will on which you can reckon, very changeable, very frivolous, easily carried away by every passing whim of the moment—those are marked out as the younger souls, who have little experience of life behind them in which character has been builded, in which will has been evolved. And when you come across those of calm judgment, great capacity for acquiring knowledge, power to turn knowledge into wisdom, steadfast in will, steadfast in principle ready to look to the future beyond the passing attractions of the moment, ready to sacrifice a temporary gain for a larger happiness—in such men and women you have the marks of the older souls, whose past experiences have gradually developed capacities, and who have brought with them into the world the fruits of long-reaped harvests.

That great principle of Reincarnation must ever


go hand in hand with Brotherhood if Brotherhood is to be applied, if it is to be made a working principle of ordinary life. For it is out of these differences of age between us that grow up all the possibilities of an ordered and happy society amongst ourselves. When the young souls come into places of power and wealth, then ill is it for the nation, for then children rule instead of men. But well is it for a people where wisdom is the test of weight and authority, where the wise and the thoughtful and the learned are those who are held to have the greatest claim to social distinction, where knowledge and power go hand in hand, and where experience is the guide of righteousness, the standard of honour. Only as those facts are recognised—and they grow out of the knowledge of reincarnation—only on that stable law in nature can you build securely and strongly the society that shall endure.

But it is sometimes said: If you are going to build a society on these great principles, then you have to change human nature, because human nature is selfish, superficial, readily swayed, and you cannot build a society which is truly great out of trivial and superficial people. The wise are always in the minority; how, then, will you gain for them the right and the power to rule? It is true that human nature will have to change very much from what it is to-day, but then it is changing all the time—it is no new thing to change human nature. Human nature is perpetually changing as century succeeds century and civilisation succeeds civilisation; and when we once understand the law of life, and realise the mighty power of thought in the building of character,


and understand that law of inviolable sequence which Theosophists call karma, working in every department of human life and not only in non-intelligent nature, when we realise the time that reincarnation gives us, and the certainty that that law of inviolable sequence gives us, then we begin to understand that human nature is a very malleable thing; and just in proportion as we understand the law, so shall be the rapidity of the changing. Do you think that human thought is weak as a force to change human nature? Is it not rather true that thought is the power which brings about all mighty changes?—first the ideal, then the action. Let me give you two striking examples of the only two nations in Europe that have attained national unity during our own lifetime; one Italy, the other Germany. I only take them as examples of nations that out of many States and warring interests have reached unity as a nation; and how was it done? It was done by the holding up of the ideal in both cases, the ideal of national unity. Not until German poets had sung of the German Fatherland for many and many a long year, not until that ideal of the Fatherland rose strongly and clearly in the minds of the young, not until the poet had made the ideal was it possible for the soldier to come forward with the statesman and build those States into one. And so also with Italy. Long before there was any talk of revolution or war, long before there was any idea of appealing to the sword, Italian thinkers had spoken of Italian unity, Italian patriots had held up the ideal of a united Italy; and it was only when the ideal had fired the hearts of the young that there was strength enough for the self-sacrifice


that followed the sword of Garibaldi, and made it possible for Italy to become a united people. For it is out of the ideal that enthusiasm grows, out of the ideal and the longing to realise it that the power of self-sacrifice is generated. What we need to do, then, to change human nature, is to hold up great ideals before the young of our time, and those ideals shall fire their hearts to passionate enthusiasm, until self-sacrifice shall be a joy and not a sacrifice at all, in order that the ideal they worship may become realised upon earth. Along those lines human nature will change; for, never forget that Human Nature is divine, not devilish; that a God is at the heart of every man, unfolding the power of divinity; hence the power of the ideal to fire and the power of thought to mould the lines of character.

Let us pass on from principles to practice, and see which of the social problems shows good hope of resolution by applying this principle of Brotherhood, with its corollaries of reincarnation and karma.

Evidently our first tool is education. In the plastic bodies and brains of the young there lies the greatest possibility of a speedy upbuilding of a noble social feeling. As I pointed out in the first of this course of lectures, the attempt that is being made in many directions now to separate religion and morals, and to give an education from which religion shall be excluded—that, for the reasons which I then gave you, and need not repeat, is foredoomed to failure. Now, it is quite clear why politicians and the public, impatient of the quarrels of many sectarians and denominations, want to throw religion aside altogether, and not bring religious controversies into the


schools. But if you apply the principle of Brotherhood to religion, it surely is not too much to hope that in a country where the vast majority are at least nominally Christian, some sort of agreement might be come to on essentials for the teaching of the young. In India you have sectarian religions as you have here, great divisions in the schools of religious thought; and it was said some dozen years ago in India, quite as strongly as you hear it said now in England: It is impossible to teach religion to Indian boys and girls, for the strife of sects makes unity impossible, and how should you teach the children without deciding on what to teach them? That seemed, as it seems over here, a great obstacle in the way of religious teaching, and yet in four or five years that question was solved in India so far as concerns Hindūism, the religion of the enormous majority of the people. What was done? The principle of Brotherhood was applied. Some of us, in concert with some theosophical Hindūs, gathered together a small committee to mark out what were the essential doctrines of Hindūism, and what were unessential and sectarian. After that sketch had been made, we set to work to get scholars to collect from Indian scriptures passages which bore upon these doctrines characteristic of Hindūism, and, with that material gathered together, a Theosophist sat down and wrote a text-book of Hindūism. Having written it, a hundred copies were drawn in proof, and sent to the heads of all the great Hindū sects and schools of philosophy. They were asked to read it through, to strike out anything they objected to, to mark in anything they thought essential; and when these books had


travelled round in that way the whole circle of the quarrelling Hindū sects, they came back again into our hands with all the emendations and suggestions. Once more we sat round the book, examined the criticisms, adopted the widely supported suggestions, with such success that, when the elementary and the advanced text-books on Hindūism were issued, they were taken up by all the sects over India and adopted as a fair presentment of the fundamental doctrines of Hindūism. They have been taken up in school after school, adopted by prince after prince, so that when the great Mussulmān ruler of Hyderabad in the Deccan wanted to give his Hindū subjects Hindū education in the whole of the State schools, he simply took these books and placed them in every school, so that the Hindūs among his people might be instructed in their own faith. The same thing was done by the English Government in the Princes’ College in Rājputāna, because they found that secular education made princes who were immoral and unfit to rule. During the last eight years these books have spread everywhere, everywhere accepted and everywhere used. Do you mean to tell me that the divisions among Christians are so much deeper that they cannot do what the Hindūs have done, or that you have not more on which you agree than on which you disagree; and that you could not teach the children that in which you are united, and leave them in their manhood or their womanhood to add the sectarian parts of the doctrines for themselves? In India, to show you the effect of this, one of the directors of public education asked me: “Cannot you write, Mrs. Besant, a text-book


for the Christians?” My answer was: “Yes, I could write it, but I don’t think they would use it.” It must come from so recognised Christian authority. I quite grant that a Theosophist would do it better than anybody else, because the Theosophist has no quarrel with any form of religious belief, and because the whole of his study leads him along the lines of recognising the points of union rather than the points of divergence; but it need not be done by a Theosophist, only by some one with the spirit of Theosophy in him, and that only means the spirit of the Divine Wisdom, of which every separate religion is an expression, so that there ought to be no quarrel with any.

Supposing that to be done for the whole of the Empire wherever Christians are found, see how enormous would be the gain; and it would not be so difficult. There are certain doctrines you all accept if you are Christian at all: you would only have to put those into a rational, intelligible form, and then gather from your own Scriptures the verses which support and give them authority to all who look on those Scriptures as authoritative. I have had in my mind an idea that may possibly be carried out, of trying whether it would not be possible to write a Universal Text-Book of Religion and Morals, with texts from every Scripture of the great religions, from all the Bibles of mankind, drawing the authority in support of the universal doctrine, and in that way making a book that Christian and Hindū, Parsī, Buddhist and Mussulmān could use; for all their Scriptures might be quoted in support of the general doctrine, and each might then add its own specific teachings to that great


broad foundation, showing the real Brotherhood of faiths. That is a dream, but I think it may become a reality.

Along that line, then, in our education we must have religious teaching, in order that we may have a firm foundation for morals. With regard to other teaching, what would grow out of the principle of the State being a great family, with children of many ages and varying capacities that ought to be equally trained? There would grow up a system of education in which one broad common basis would be given to every child alike up to about the age of ten or eleven years, and then there would come a differentiation according to the capacities of the children. You would no longer, when a child has musical capacity, insist that that child shall get a smattering of three or four other arts, so that he is not good in any one, but only superficial in all. If you saw musical ability you would let the other points go, and music would form the predominant part of the education of such a child. If you found power of colour, power of form, then along the plastic or the painting art the child would have developed his natural capacity; and slowly and gradually you would learn that the power of art must pass into the handicrafts of the nation, and that large numbers of your boys and girls should be trained to the handicraft as against the machine-made product; because there you have the possibility of general beauty coming back to life, and there alone will the sense of beauty be cultivated throughout the nation. Where you see the tendency is literary, there you should not insist, especially as you do with girls still, that they should all play a little music, and all do a little drawing, and all


learn a little singing; you would let all that go, and you would cultivate the literary faculty where you found it, and make that the special point of this more specialised education. Where you found the scientific faculty, there you would make that the most important part of the educational curriculum, remembering only that you must add to scientific training something of literature and the ideal, otherwise your science will tend to produce vulgarity and lack of the wider understanding of human life. Where you find mechanical power, there you will cultivate that especially, always remembering that no boy should leave school until he has learned some method of being useful to the State while earning his own livelihood. Unskilled labour should be a thing of the past in every department of human life. It is necessary that you specialise at an age which is early enough to enable a boy to learn effectively that which is to be his livelihood in later life. A good deal of mistake is being made in the education of the day, where, when the boy has to earn his livelihood along some line of manual work, too much of the literary is given to the sacrifice of manual dexterity. You want far more practical training in your schools than you have to-day, and the continual pointing-out that one form of human activity is not inherently nobler than any other form; that the man who uses his hands well is as honourable in the use of them as the man who uses his brain well. What is dishonourable is that either brain work or manual work should be badly done. Your really destructive spirit along all these lines is: “Oh, it is good enough; it will do.” There is nothing that will do unless it is done as well as you


are able to do it; otherwise it is slop work, and degrading in itself. It is not the kind of work you do that makes you either honourable or dishonourable; it is the spirit in which you do it, and the quality of the work that you turn out. Until you can get that through the nation, as it is not to-day—until you can give back to the workman the dignity of the artist, and not want every carpenter to educate his boy superficially so that he may be a clerk instead of a handicraftsman, spoiling your crafts and overloading your offices—until you can bring back that balance of human duty and human labour, there is little hope of a sane and healthy society amongst you.

Pass, again, from that to another thing that is badly wanted in education; but I think that is learned more in the playground than in the classroom—discipline, the sense of duty to a larger life. That may sound rather a grand sort of description to give of the effect of a game on a boy, but it is true. Where a boy is a member of a team—cricket, football, hockey, what you like—that boy will never be a success unless he learns to think of his side and not of himself, and that is a larger self than his own personal claims. It is in the playground that the boys and girls learn many a lesson which makes them better citizens in later life—the sense of order, the sense of discipline, the doing your work in your place, wherever you are put in the field. You may have one place or another in the cricket field or the football field, but the test of the boy is that he does his work well in the place where he is, and does not want to be somewhere else when his captain has placed him there. That moral discipline of the playground is more valuable than the


discipline of the classroom, for it is voluntary, gladly obeyed, and it is stimulated by an ideal, unalloyed by fear. Hence the value of the playground, and the value of teaching boys really to play. For the greatest danger of these so-called democratic nations is that they have no sense of discipline, no sense of order, no sense of obedience; without these no nation can be great. When you get, as you sometimes do get, a thing that happened last time I was in Australia, that an apprentice boy at a mine, because he was reproved for not doing his work rightly, at once left work, and then the whole mine struck in order to defend this young scamp’s liberty—there is not much chance of building a nation out of materials like that; you have only got a heap of marbles with no cohesion, with no binding sense of duty nor sense of responsibility, and out of those materials you can never make a State. Without discipline, order, obedience, no possibility of greatness. But all that has to grow out of the education definitely based on these ideas of Brotherhood, of reincarnation, and law.

Pass from that department of life, and turn to a very important question—Penology, the treatment of criminals. What is the criminal? Criminals fall into two great classes: one class of young souls, and they need to be educated; another class of souls whose development has been lopsided, so that the intellect has grown, but the conscience has not developed side by side with it—by far the more dangerous criminals those, and far more difficult to deal with. Now, the young soul is very largely a savage, the man at so low a stage of human


evolution that earlier in the evolution of our race he would have been guided into some savage tribe in some island or desert, where the rough discipline of that savage life would have begun the hewing of him into shape—rough, hard, cruel, but gradually building up that young soul into a sense of duty to his tribe. Now, as things have changed, and human evolution has gone forward rapidly, there are not places enough in the world where those conditions are available for the gradual training of these younger souls. The civilised nations, as we call them, have been spreading everywhere over the world’s surface, have been driving these miserable people out of their possessions, have taken their lands, largely murdered them, have appropriated the land and dispossessed the earlier possessors into the next world. What has become of all those? They have got to come back, and they tend by natural law to come to the nations who have been most active in sending them out of their possessions. It is quite natural, if you think that we live under law, not by chance; and it is not, perhaps, if I may say it with all respect, very wonderful that the people of Great Britain have a rather extra share of those unfortunate savages to look after. They come into the slum, and there they are born really savages. If you look at them you call them congenital criminals. But they are really young souls, without morality, without much brains, with a certain craft and cunning and cleverness, but fundamentally young. Then you find others who have come out of that lowest condition of savagery, but who are not yet at the point where the restraints of the society that suits the older


souls are tolerable to them. And so you get a great crop of occasional criminals, with the tendency to turn them into habitual criminals. Then you have that other class I spoke of, the lopsided people, whom I said were the most difficult to deal with; men who are really clever, but turn their cleverness to plundering their fellows instead of using it within the limitations of the law. That is a large class. Sometimes they just go over the edge of the law, sometimes they just keep within it, but from the social standpoint, remember, there are many social criminals who always keep on what is sometimes called the street-side of the law—that is, they do not go within the jail—such a man as one I spoke of the other day, who had wrecked the railway system of a whole district in order that out of that wreckage he might build himself up an enormous fortune. He is not a burglar from the technical standpoint, he is not a thief that a policeman might catch hold of, but in the sight of karma, and in the sight of the eternal justice, that man who by legal means has robbed thousands of others of their means of livelihood is a worse thief than the one who has picked a pocket and is thrown into jail. There are a good many things in a civilised country which lie very nearly along the line of legal or illegal theft, a good deal of which goes by the name of company-promoting, where it is just a toss-up whether there is really fraud that can be proved; but with the remarkable fact that while the companies always perish, and the people who took shares are beggared, the company-promoter comes out at the top, and becomes quite a successful person. Now all that,


from the social standpoint, is utterly immoral, but we cannot call them criminals in the technical sense, although now and then they go a little too far, and then the criminal law catches them.

How should those be dealt with who are really the young souls? how shall we avoid turning them into habitual criminals as we do now?—for is there anything more miserable and more shameful than that a man should go back time after time till fifty, sixty convictions are registered against him in the police court, and the sentence grows longer and longer because he is a habitual criminal? He has been manufactured into that. You ought not to treat a man who has committed a crime against your legal system by consigning him to prison for seven days, or a month, or a year, growing longer and longer and longer after every return to temporary freedom. You don’t use people who are ill like that; you never find a doctor committing a small-pox patient to a hospital for seven days, nor a fever-stricken one for a month; they are committed until they are cured, and that is the way in which you should deal with anyone of marked criminal propensities. You should not punish, you should only help; and you should take that child-soul and train him into decency of living. For one thing, you should never have in your prisons any form of useless labour as a punishment. The criminal who is really a savage always dislikes labour; he is always idle—that is part of his youth; and if you give him a form of labour that is punitive and not useful, you only increase his natural disgust for every kind of labour, and make him hate it more thoroughly when he


comes out of jail than he did when he went in. Taking up shot and carrying it to one side of the prison yard, and then carrying it back again, or the useless torture of the treadmill, these make criminals, they do not cure them.[1] You want, when the criminal comes into your power, to take him in hand as you would take a younger brother who does not know how to guide himself, and it is your duty as the elder to guide him; you need to train him in some honest trade whereby he might gain a livelihood; you need to discipline him, not cruelly, but firmly and steadily; you need to lay down the very wholesome law that if a man will not work neither shall he eat, and teach him in the prison to earn his dinner before he enjoys it. You need to set him to work at trades whereby he may earn his own living within the walls of the jail; and if, after you have taught him a trade so that he can earn his living, and outside the jail have found him an opportunity of decent livelihood—if then he refuses to work, and comes back again into your hands, then you should keep that discipline upon him until he really is cured, even though it be for many and many a year, for you are training him into better character. You might make the prison life less of a disgrace than it is now; give him rational amusement, amusement that will cultivate, instead of having him deadened by the continual feeling of disgrace within the prison walls. You may restrain him—that may be necessary for the welfare of society; but you should treat him as a younger one in the national household, to


be gradually trained up into decent living; let the willingness to live the decent life be the only key to the door of the jail.

But you may do much before there is any need to send them to prison at all. There is a system which is just beginning here, called the Probation System, one that has been worked in America with very great success, and one that a late member of our Society, Miss Lucy Bartlett, has had the immense privilege of introducing into Italy, so that it has been made the law of the land. Now what is that system? When a young boy or girl commits a first offence, he is not sent to jail if someone, a good citizen, of decent standing and good life, will come forward in the court and say: “I will take charge of that boy or girl, or young man or young woman. I will be his friend and look after him.” Then the sentence is not one of imprisonment; it is a sentence which is over the lad’s head for a time; and if he will not be helped, then it is allowed to take effect. But, as a matter of fact, that is very seldom the case. This man or woman coming forward out of the more leisured classes of society, and becoming a friend to that younger brother or sister, is, in the great majority of cases, a means of redeeming that younger one from evil into good; the older makes a friend of him, takes him out sometimes, talks with him, trusts him really as a brother or a sister, and great is the redeeming power of human love in restoring self-respect, and great the desire for approval. Those are the motives that are brought to bear on one who has only just set his feet on the path of criminality, and that in most cases brings him back to virtue; and the friendship


that began in the probation goes on through the rest of life, strengthening, helping, teaching both the helper and the helped. The system has been in operation for some time now in America, long enough to test it; in Italy only for some two or three years, too short a time; man after man and woman after woman of the leisured classes has come forward to act as friend and helper of the one who has come within the grip of the law. Surely no better application of Brotherhood to criminal treatment could be found than that; it is the realisation of the duty of those who are beyond the temptation to vice to their youngers who have fallen under its power.

I can hardly leave this subject without saying a word on Capital Punishment. That, of course, cannot find defence from anyone who realises the principle of Brotherhood. Some of you may remember the saying of a witty Frenchman: “Que messieurs les assassins commencent”; but it is not from the lower that reforms begin, but from the higher. You cannot expect your murderer to respect human life if you have taught him by your criminal legislation that the right penalty for murder is to murder again. True, one comes from passion and the other from the law; but if the law does not teach respect for human life, how should the passions of the criminal honour that sacredness? It is not only from that general principle that you make human life cheap by destroying it, but from another even more important. You cannot get rid of that murderer of yours; you can only get rid of his body, and his body is the most convenient prison in which you can keep him.


You can lock up his body and prevent him from committing any further murders, but you cannot lock him up when you have driven him out of his body by the hangman’s noose; you have not killed him, you cannot kill him, you have only killed his body; and you have driven him out into that next world which interpenetrates this world, and whose inhabitants are with us all the time; you have sent him out into that other world hating, cursing, full of anger and revenge against those who have cut short his life. He acts as the instigator of other murders; he stimulates other criminals into the last possibility of crime. Have you ever noticed that a brutal murder is sometimes repeated over and over again in the same community until you get a cycle of murders of one particular kind? I know, of course, that the Press, in reporting every detail of those horrors, adds the forces of imagination to the power of temptation which comes from the man you have sent to the other side. In a civilised country no such details of brutal crime should ever be given; people should understand that that stimulates the faculty of imitation, and so makes repetition of the crime more likely. Another reason why you should never send a man out like that is, that when the criminal is in your hands, remembering the lives that lie in front of him, you should try to give him something to take with him into the other world which he can turn into capacity and moral sense; you should remember he will come back again to a physical body, and it is your duty to make that next birth of his as much an improvement on the present as it is possible for human thought and human love to make it. We have a duty to these young souls around us in order that they


may profit by our civilisation, and not suffer from it as they too often do to-day.

When you turn to economics, what will be the result of Brotherhood there? The detailed working out of that problem will certainly need the keenest intellects in order to devise some scheme of production and distribution which shall make human life less burdened on the one side, less full of useless luxury on the other. But not along the rough-and-ready lines of the Socialism of the streets are these great and difficult problems rightly to be solved. You need to solve them by the most careful consideration of all the problems which are interlinked the one with the other. Some system of general co-operation, of general profit-sharing, or something along those lines, will be the principle on which the changed conditions will go; but while you will make the lot of the toilers far lighter and happier, you will never give to the ignorant the control over that on which their food supply depends; for that means ruin. Let me give you one illustration to show you what I mean. There have been a large number of strikes in this country for years and years past, and there is no doubt that many of those were brought about by the greed of the employing class, and by the unfair treatment of the workers; but none the less they have in more than one case—in fact, in many cases—reduced the workers to a lower condition than they were in before. I was up at Tyneside the other day. Newcastle with its adjoining ports, Sunderland, and the whole coast along there, was once one of the great shipbuilding centres in England. Strike after strike made shipbuilding impossible to carry on, because


the men could not pay their way. The result is that it has ceased to be a great shipbuilding district; that the trade has largely gone away from the Tyneside, and that those parts are falling into decay. You cannot blame the men who struck; they tried to get better conditions for themselves; they did not understand the difficulties of all these large commercial firms, and that they might readily make shipbuilding impossible for the shipbuilder by pressing for a particular rate of wage which was not too much for them, but more than at the time the exigencies of the trade enabled the shipbuilder to pay. And so on and on in endless cases. Careful thought and deliberate judgment are wanted. Many proposals have been made by the trades unions themselves—a sliding scale of wages, arbitration boards, and so on—all steps in the right direction. But your difficulty with arbitration boards is that their decision is not always accepted. When people go to arbitration they hope to get a decision on their own side; when it does not come out, they are not always willing to submit. When I was in New Zealand last year there had been a great struggle between employers and men; at last both applied to the arbitration court, but when the decision was given against the men, the men refused to go back to work. You cannot play that way with these great economic questions; no one trade should ever decide entirely for itself what should be the rate of wage that it is possible for the employers to pay, for the question is complicated by many considerations; it is not one trade, but it is the balance of all trades on which the ultimate decision has to turn. Hence the need of ability, of power to understand,


of wide study of economic questions which no handiworker is able to give. There is where the difficulty comes in, and where there is need on both sides of a spirit which shall seek the common good; otherwise at the end there is only more trouble than before, and the trade vanishes where the conditions for carrying it on are made impossible. Exactly the same thing is going on now in Australia. The men who know conditions of mining and things of that sort are laying down the wages which shipping companies must pay to their sailors. When a P. and O. boat, for instance, goes within the waters of Australia, they will soon be compelled to pay their men at the particular rate of pay which has been fixed on economic conditions in Australia. What will be the result? The P. and O. boats will not go; they cannot ruin themselves to please the Australian working-men; hence the means of communication will be very largely cut off; and when the harm is done, it is too late then to cry out for the remedy. Those are the kind of things that are going on in every direction with the coming of manual workers into power, because the attempt to rule has come before the conditions of rule have been understood.

It is very much the same when you come to deal with all questions of Woman’s Labour. Woman claims the right to labour, but very often she has forgotten that employers can play upon certain characteristics of the woman that nothing can alter, because they are fundamental and natural. When a woman has taken up the trade of the wife and the mother, and then goes out to work in the mill, leaving the children behind and the


baby uncared for save by hired care, then wages are driven down because she is willing to work for lower wages, knowing the misery of the children she has left at home; then comes the playing-off of the wife against the husband, of the woman against the man; the children are the sufferers from the taking away of the mother to work in the mill, and the man is turned out to walk the streets because cheaper female labour has taken his place. These are some of the complicated difficulties that arise out of what seems the simple thing of allowing a woman to sell her labour. Women and men can never be equal in the labour market, because the woman is the childbearer, and there comes in the difference, and the question of the nation’s health and vigour. She can never command the same wage as the man, because, as I once heard brutally said when I was complaining about the starvation wage of some match-girls: “There is always another way the woman has to increase her income.” That is true, pitifully true; but it puts her at a disadvantage in the struggle of the labour market. That which seemed so promising at first has only increased the stress of economic conditions, has turned the man out into the streets while the woman is trying to do the double work of the mill and the home. That is an impossible condition of things, for which a remedy will have to be found.

And so to deal with these economic questions we want the best brains and the best hearts, the widest knowledge and the deepest sympathy. Those, and those only, can solve these terrible economic problems of the time. You cannot solve them by any rough-and-ready means, nor by


any quick and sudden means. You must solve them by wisdom and by love, and by realising the nation’s interest is a common interest, not of class against class, but of union of all for the common good of the community.

But then it is said: What about politics? On the detail of that, frankly, I have naught to say, for I am concerned only with principles. But one thing I would like to put to you, coming back to that point of liberty with which I started. People have supposed that liberty means a vote. You could not have a bigger blunder. Liberty and the vote have practically nothing in common. The vote gives you the power to make laws, to coerce other people; it by no means gives you necessarily liberty for yourself. We have never yet had, as I said, liberty upon earth. We have had class legislation of every kind in England, but liberty never. Go back in history and you find the Kings ruling, and that built up the one nation of England. Then the Barons ruled, and they did not on the whole do so badly, for England was called Merrie England then, and certainly no one would dream of applying that name to it now. Then there came the England of Parliaments, getting duller and duller, deader and deader; then the England of Commercialism. And who is our ruler now? Neither King nor Lords nor Parliament altogether, but on the one side King Purse, and King Mob on the other. Neither of those is a ruler who is likely to make this nation great. Liberty is a great celestial Goddess, strong, beneficent, and austere, and she can never descend upon a nation by the shouting of crowds, nor by the arguments of unbridled passion, nor by hatred of class against class.


Liberty will never descend upon earth in outer matters until she has first descended into the hearts of men, and until the higher Spirit which is free has dominated the lower nature, the nature of passions and strong desires, and the will to hold for oneself and to trample upon others. You can only have a free nation when you have free men to build it out of—free men and women both; but no man is free and no woman is free who is under the dominance of appetite, or vice, or drunkenness, or any form of evil which he is unable to control. Self-control is the foundation on which alone freedom can be built. Without that you have anarchy, not freedom; and every increase of the present anarchy is paid for by the price of happiness, which is given in exchange. But when Freedom comes, she will come down to a nation in which every man and every woman will have learned self-control and self-mastery; and then, and then only, out of such men who are free, out of such women who are free, strong, righteous, ruling their own nature and training it to the noblest ends—of such only can you build up political freedom, which is the result of the freedom of the individual, and not the outcome of the warring passions of men.

(Annie Besant. The Changing World. Chicago, Theosophical Book Concern, 1910. 333 pp. Emphasis ours)