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Higher Powers of Mind and Spirit

by Ralph Waldo Trine

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XIII

Our Sole Agency of International Peace, and International Concord

The consensus of intelligent thought throughout the world is to the effect that just as we have established an orderly method for the settlement of disputes between individuals or groups of individuals in any particular nation, we must now move forward and establish such methods for the settlement of disputes among nations. There is no civilised country in the world that any longer permits the individual to take the law into his own hands.

The intelligent thought of the world now demands the definite establishment of a World Federation for the enforcement of peace among nations. It demands likewise the definite establishment of a permanent World Court, backed by adequate force for the arbitrament of all disputes among nations -- unable to be adjusted by the nations themselves in friendly conference. We have now reached the stage in world development and in world intercourse where peace must be internationalised. Our present chaotic condition, which exists simply because we haven't taken time as yet to establish a method, must be made to give place to an intelligently devised system of law and order. Anything short of this means a periodic destruction of the finest fruits of civilisation. It means also the periodic destruction of the finest young manhood of the world. This means, in turn, the speedy degeneration of the human race. The deification of force, augmented by all the products and engines of modern science, is simply the way of sublimated savagery.

The world is in need of a new dispensation. Recent events show indisputably that we have reached the parting of the ways, the family of nations must now push on into the new day or the world will plunge on into a darker night. There is no other course in sight. I know of no finer words penned in any language -- this time it was in French -- to express an unvarying truth than these words by Victor Hugo: "There is one thing that is stronger than armies, and that is an idea whose time has come."

Never before, after viewing the great havoc wrought, the enormous debts that will have to be paid for between fifty and a hundred years to come, the tremendous disruptions and losses in trade, the misery and degradation stalking broadcast over every land engaged in the war -- scarcely a family untouched -- never before have nations been in the state of mind to consider and to long to act upon some sensible and comprehensive method of international concord and adjustments. If this succeeds, the world, including ourselves, is the gainer. If this does not succeed, though the chances are overwhelmingly in its favour, then we can proclaim to the assembled nations that as long as a state of outlawry exists among nations, that then no longer by chance but by design, we as a nation will be in a state of preparedness broad and comprehensive enough to defend ourselves against the violation of any of the rights of a sovereign nation. It is only in this way that we can show a due appreciation of the struggles and the sacrifices of those who gave us our national existence; it is only in this way that we can, retain our self-respect, that we can command the respect of other nations while things are as they are; that we can hope to retain any degree of influence and authority for the diplomatic arm of our Government in the Council of Nations.

Every neutral nation has suffered tremendously by the war. Every neutral nation will suffer until a new world-order among nations is projected and perfected.

We owe a tremendous duty to the world in connection with this great world crisis and upheaval. Diligently should our best men and women, those of insight and greatest influence, and with the expenditure of both time and means, seek to further the practical working out of a World Federation and a permanent World Court. Public opinion should be thus aroused and solidified so that the world knows that we stand as a united nation back of the idea and the plan.

The divine right of kings has gone. It holds no more. We hear now and then, it is true, some silly statement in regard to it, but little attention is paid to it. The divine right of priests has gone except in the minds of the few remaining ignorant and herdable ones. The divine right of dynasties -- or rather of dynasties to persist -- seems to die a little harder, but it is well on the way. We are now realising that the only divine right is the right of the people -- and all the people.

Never again should it be possible for one man, or for one little group of men so to lead, or so to mislead a nation as to plunge it into war. The growth of democracy compelling the greater participation of all the people in government must prohibit this. So likewise the close relationship of the entire world now must make it forever impossible for a single nation or a group of nations for any cause to plunge a whole world or any part of it into war. These are sound and clear-visioned words recently given utterance to by James Bryce: "However much we condemn reckless leaders and the ruthless caste that live for war, the real source of the mischief is the popular sentiment behind them. The lesson to be learned is that doctrines and deep-rooted passions, whence these evils spring, can only be removed by the slow and steady working of spiritual forces. What most is needed is the elimination of those feelings the teachings of which breed jealousy and hatred and prompt men to defiance and aggression."

Humanity and civilisation is not headed towards Ab the cave-man, whatever appearances, in the minds of many, may indicate at the present time. Humanity will arise and will reconstruct itself. Great lessons will be learned. Good will result. But what a terrific price to pay! What a terrific price to pay to learn the lesson that "moral forces are the only invincible forces in the universe"! It has been slow, but steadily the world is advancing to that stage when the individual or the nation that does not know that the law of mutuality, of cooperation, and still more the law of sympathy and good will, is the supreme law in real civilisation, real advancement, and real gain -- that does not know that its own welfare is always bound up with the welfare of the greater whole -- is still in the brute stage of life and the bestial propensities are still its guiding forces.

Prejudice, suspicion, hatred, national big-headedness, must give way to respect, sympathy, the desire for mutual understanding and cooperation. The higher attributes must and will assert themselves. The former are the ways of periodic if not continuous destruction -- the latter are the ways of the higher spiritual forces that must prevail. Significant are these words of one of our younger but clear-visioned American poets, Winter Bynner:

Whether the time be slow or fast,
Enemies, hand in hand,
Must come together at the last
And understand.

No matter how the die is cast,
Or who may seem to win --
We know that we must love at last --
Why not begin?

The teaching of hatred to children, the fostering of hatred in adults, can result only in harm to the people and the nation where it is fostered. The dragon's tooth will leave its marks upon the entire nation and the fair life of all the people will suffer by it. The holding in contempt of other people makes it sometimes necessary that one's own head be battered against the wall that he may be sufficiently aroused to recognise and to appreciate their sterling and enduring qualities.

The use of a club is more spectacular for some at least than the use of intellectual and moral forces. The rattling of the machine-gun produces more commotion than the more quiet ways of peace. All of the powerful forces in nature, those of growth, germination, and conservation, the same as in human life are quiet forces. So in the preservation of peace. It consists rather in a high constructive policy. It requires always clear vision, a constantly progressive and cooperative method of life and action; frank and open dealing and a resolute purpose. It is won and maintained by nothing so much in the long run as when it makes the Golden Rule its law of conduct. Slowly we are realising that great armaments -- militarism -- do not insure peace. They may lead away from it -- they are very apt to lead away from it.

Peace is related rather to the great moral laws of conduct. It has to do with straight, clean, open dealing. It is fostered by sympathy, forbearance. This does not mean that it pertains to weakness. On the contrary it is determined by resolute but high purpose, the actual and active desire of a nation to live on terms of peace with all other nations; and the world's; recognition of this fact is a most powerful factor in inducing and in actualising such living.

Our own achievement of upwards of a hundred years in living in peaceable, sympathetic and mutually beneficial relations with Canada; Canada's achievement in so living with us, should be a distinct and clear-cut answer to the argument that nations need to fortify their boundaries one against another. This is true only where suspicion, mistrust, fear, secret diplomacy, and secret alliances hold instead of the great and eternally constructive forces -- sympathy, good will, mutual understanding, induced and conserved by an International Joint Commission of able men whose business it is to investigate, to determine, and to adjust any differences that through the years may arise. Here we have a boundary line of upwards of three thousand miles and not a fort; vast areas of inland seas and not a war vessel; and for upwards of a hundred years not a difference that the High Joint Commission has not been able to settle amicably and to the mutual advantage of both countries.

I know that in connection with this we have an advantage over the old-world nations because we are free from age-long prejudices, hatreds, and past scores. But if this great conflict does not lead along the lines of the constructive forces and the working out of a new world method, then the future of Europe and of the world is dark indeed. Surely it will lead to a new order -- it is almost inconceivable that it will not.

The Golden Rule is a wonderful developer in human life, a wonderful harmoniser in community life -- with great profit it could be extended as the law of conduct in international relations. It must be so extended. Its very foundation is sympathy, good will, mutuality, love.

The very essence of Jesus' entire revelation and teaching was love. It was not the teaching of weakness or supineness in the face of wrong, however. There was no failure on his part to smite wrong when he saw it -- wrong taking the form of injustice or oppression. He had, as we have seen, infinite sympathy for and forbearance with the weak, the sinful; but he had always a righteous indignation and a scathing denunciation for oppression -- for that spirit of hell that prompts men or organisations to seek, to study, to dominate the minds and thereby the lives of others. It was, moreover, that he would not keep silent regarding the deadly ecclesiasticism that bore so heavily upon his people and that had well-nigh crushed all their religious life whence are the very springs of life, that he aroused the deadly antagonism of the ruling hierarchy. And as he, witnessing for truth and freedom, steadfastly and defiantly opposed oppression, so those who catch his spirit today will do as he did and will realise as duty -- "While wrong is wrong let no man prate of peace!"

Peace? Peace? Peace?
While wrong is wrong let no man prate of peace!
He did not prate, the Master. Nay, he smote!

* * * * *

Hate wrong! Slay wrong! Else mercy, justice, truth,
Freedom and faith, shall die for humankind.[F]

Nor did the code and teachings of Jesus prevent him driving the money-changers from out the temple court. It was not for the purpose of doing them harm. It was rather to do them good by driving home to them in some tangible and concrete form, through the skin and flesh of their bodies, what the thick skins of their moral natures were unable to comprehend. The resistance of wrongdoing is not opposed to the law of love. As in community life there is the occasional bully who has sometimes to be knocked down in order that he may have a due appreciation of individual rights and community amenities, so among nations a similar lesson is sometimes necessary in order that it or its leaders may learn that there are certain things that do not pay, and, moreover, will not be allowed by the community of nations.

Making might alone the basis of national policy and action, or making it the basis of settlement in international settlements, but arouses and intensifies hatred and the spirit of revenge. So in connection with this great world crisis -- after it all then comes the great problem of reorganisation and rehabilitation, and unless there comes about an international concord strong and definite enough to prevent a recurrence of what has been, it would almost seem that restoration were futile; for things will be restored only in time to be destroyed again.

No amount of armament we know now will prevent war. It can be prevented only by a definite concord of the nations brought finally to realise the futility of war. To deny the possibility of a World League and a World Court is to deny the ability of men to govern themselves. The history of the American Republic in its demonstration of the power and the genius of federation should disprove the truth of this. Here we have a nation composed of forty-eight sovereign states and with the most heterogeneous accumulation of people that ever came together in one country, let alone one nation, and great numbers of them from those nations that for upwards of a thousand years have been periodically springing at one another's throats. Enlightened self-government has done it. The real spirit and temper of democracy has done it. But it must be the preservation of the real spirit of democracy and constant vigilance that must preserve it.

Prejudice, suspicion, hatred on the part of individuals or on the part of the people of one nation against the people of another nation, have never yet advanced the welfare of any individual or any nation and never can. The world war is but the direct result of the type of peace that preceded it. The militarist argument reduced to its lowest terms amounts merely to this: "For two nations to keep peace each must be stronger than the other."

Representative men of other countries do not resent our part in pressing this matter and in taking the leadership in it. But even if they did they would have no just right to. There is, however, a very general feeling that the American Republic, as the world's greatest example of successful federation, should take the lead in the World Federation.

This is now going to be greatly fostered by virtue of one great good that the world war will eventually have accomplished -- the doom and the end of autocracy. Dynasties and privileged orders that have lived and lived alone on militarism, will have been foreclosed on. The people in control, in an increasingly intelligent control of their own lives and their own governments, will be governed by a higher degree of self-enlightenment and mutual self-interest than under the domination or even the leadership of any type of hereditary ruling class or war-lord. In some countries autocracy in religion, through the free mingling and discussions of men of various nationalities and religious persuasions, will be again lessened, whereby the direct love and power of God in the hearts of men, as Jesus taught, will have a fuller sway and a more holy and a diviner moulding power in their lives.

It was during those long, weary years coupled with the horrible crimes of the Thirty Years' War that the science of International Law began to take form, the result of that notable work, "De Jure Belli ac Pacis," by Grotius. It is ours to see that out of this more intense and thereby even more horrible conflict a new epoch in human and international relations be born.

As the higher powers of mind and spirit are realised and used, great primal instincts impelling men to expression and action that find their outlet many times in war, will be transmuted and turned from destruction into powerful engines of construction. When a moral equivalent for war of sufficient impelling power is placed before men, those same virile qualities and powers that are now marshalled so easily for purposes of fighting, will, under the guidance and in the service of the spirit, be used for the conserving of human life, and for the advancement and the increase of everything that administers to life, that makes it more abundant, more mutual, and more happy. And God knows that the call for such service is very great.

* * * * *

And even now comes the significant word that the long, the too long awaited world's Bill of Rights has taken form. The intelligence and the will of righteous men, duly appointed as the representatives of fourteen sovereign nations, has asserted itself, and the beginning has been made, without which there can be neither growth nor advancement. The Constitution of the World League has taken form. It is not a perfect instrument; but it will grow into as perfect an instrument as need be for its purpose. Changes and additions to it will be made as times and conditions indicate. Partisanship even with us may seek to defeat it. There is no question, however, but that the sober sense of the American people is behind it.

One of the most fundamental results, we might say purposes of the great world war, was to end war. It means now that the world's unity and mutuality and its community of interests must be realised and that we build accordingly. It means that the world's peace must be fostered and preserved by the use of brains and guided by the heart; or that every brute force made ghastly and deadly to the nth degree that modern science can devise, be periodically called in to settle the disputes or curb the ambitions that will disrupt the peace of the world.

The common people the world over are desiring as near as can be arrived at, some surety as to the preservation of the world's peace; and they will brook no interference with a plan that seems the most feasible way to that end. The whole world is in that temper that gives significance to the words of President Wilson when a day or two ago he said: "Any man who resists the present tides that run in the world will find himself thrown upon a shore so high and barren that it will seem as if he had been separated from his human kind forever." Unless, he might have added -- he has and can demonstrate a better plan. The two chief arguments against it, that it will take away from our individual rights and that it will lead us into entangling alliances, no longer hold -- for we are entangled already. We are a part of the great world force and it were futile longer to seek to escape our duties as such. They are as essential as "our rights."

It is with us now as a nation as it was with that immortal group that gathered to sign our Declaration of Independence, to whom Franklin said: "We must all hang together, or assuredly we shall all hang separately."

It is well for Americans to recall that the first League of Nations was when thirteen distinct nationalities one day awoke to the fact that it were better to forget their differences and to a great extent their boundaries, and come together in a common union. They had their thirteen distinct armies to keep up, in order to defend themselves each against the other or against any combination of the others, to say nothing of any outside power that might move against them. Jealousies arose and misunderstandings were frequent. So zealous was each of its own rights that when the Constitutional Convention had completed its work, and the Constitution was ready for adoption, there were those who actually left the hall rather than sign it. They were good men but they were looking at stern facts and they wanted no idealism in theirs. Good men, some animated by the partisan spirit, it is true, earnest in their beliefs -- but unequipped with the long vision. Their names are now recalled only through the search of the antiquarian.

Infinitely better it has been found for the thirteen and eventually the forty-eight to stand together than to stand separately. The thirteen separate states were farther separated so far as means of communication and actual knowledge of one another were concerned, than are the nations of the world today.

It took men of great insight as well as vision to formulate our own Constitution which made thirteen distinct and sovereign states the United States of America. The formulation of the Constitution of the World League has required such men. As a nation we may be proud that two representative Americans have had so large a share in its accomplishment -- President Wilson, good Democrat, and Ex-President Taft, good Republican.

The greatest international and therefore world document ever produced has been forged -- it awaits the coming days, years, and even generations for its completion. And we accord great honour also to those statesmen of other nations who have combined keen insight born of experience, with a lofty idealism; for out of these in any realm of human activities and relations, whatever eventually becomes the practical, is born. Divine Living is life filled with love

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