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Premises and Central Institutions of Liberalism

            129 - Clairvoyance enables us to examine a much longer section of the earth’s past history than can be reached along ordinary lines; and this fuller study of the past makes it possible to some extent to forecast by analogy some of the steps in the more immediate future. From such a study of the records it appears fairly certain that we are at the moment passing through a transition period, and that instead of representing, as we often fondly imagine, the highest development yet seen on earth, we are in reality in the trough between two waves of progress. The democratic tendency of which some of us are so proud does not represent, as is generally supposed, the ultimate achievement of human wisdom, but is an experiment which was tried thoroughly and carried out to its logical conclusion thousands of years ago, and then abandoned in universal disgust as irrational, unworkable, and leading to endless confusion. If we are to repeat the course of that experiment, it seems unpleasantly certain that we shall have to pass through a good deal of this confusion and suffering once again, before we arrive at the stage of common sense (...)
.” (C.W. Leadbeater, The Hidden Side of Things, p. 591)

            In this text we shall extend ourselves a little more in the analysis of the premises and of the central institutions of Liberalism than of those of Marxism, for the simple reason that in our time, after the dismemberment and the changes occurred a few years ago in the now extinct Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR), the institutions of Liberalism became largely dominant in the world.

            The Fundamental Premise:  Every Man is Man’s Wolf

            Liberalism emerges as a reaction to the absolutist system, and one of the last great theorists of Absolutism was Thomas Hobbes (author of the well-known “The Leviathan”), who conceived the human being to be by nature selfish as well as violent as can be seen in the quotation below:

            130 - To arrive at a justification of the absolute government, Hobbes starts from the description of a natural state that, according to the beliefs of the time, had preceded the social state. There is no doubt that we may find in his description some influence from the first book of history by Thucydides, recounting that in a remote epoch the Greeks lived on the spoils of robbery and violence, and that the only law was that of the stronger.

            Such were, according to Hobbes, the habits of all primitive men. Thus, in the midst of these peoples, neither men nor property had ever enjoyed safety. Every man was obliged to protect himself from the violence of the others, and every man was the other men’s wolf, homo homini lupus.  Fights of every man against all others started everywherebellum omnium contra omnes.

            In order to be free of this chaotic state, individuals had given all their rights to the State.  Every man had placed his power at the service of the State, in order to put an end to the violence of all, and remedy this unbearable state of things. (G. Mosca e G. Bouthoul, História das Doutrinas Políticas, p. 189)

            “Leviathan” is the name of a savage and very powerful animal, apparently the Nile crocodile which is described in the Bible, chapters 40 and 41 of the Book of Job, and about which he writes: Upon earth there is not his like, who is made without fear. He beholdeth all high things: he is a king over all the children of pride.” (Job, 41:33,34) It is obvious that, in using the motif of the Leviathan, Hobbes maintains that a benevolent role is played by such a power (that of the absolute monarch), which, by frightening everyone, is able to “put an end to the violence of all, and remedy this unbearable state of things.”

            In the early days of the current of Liberalism, and following the example of one of its great initiators, the Englishman John Locke, the premise was that of man as a mainly selfish being; however, the resulting conclusion was exactly the opposite and, by the way, much more logical than that of Hobbes.  In other words, if every man is man’s wolf, then a Leviathan is of little use since he will, by logic, be a wolf as well, only concerning himself with his own interests and the interests of those who are dear to him, at the expense of the welfare of the many he will exploit in the interest of the few.  In fact, after so many years of prevailing liberal ideas, hardly anybody associates the Leviathan with a power that plays a socially benevolent role, but rather with a terrifying monster of great malevolence.

            And this is precisely what many of the early liberals denounced and against which they rebelled, because what they were able to observe was a court that was highly ostentatious and full of privilages while those less fortunate grew ever more destitute.  Thus, the early liberals confronted a kind of dilemma:  if there were no higher power, men would soon become savages; however, if this higher power did exist (since it was a wolf as well), it would end by exploiting its fellow men.

The System of Checks and Balances (Mechanical Balance of Forces)

            The answer given to the dilemma by these thinkers gave rise to the fundamental liberal institutions, which, after some refining and much fighting, finally won out and have lasted to our time.  What kind of an answer was this?  It was the creation of what political science calls a system of  “checks and balances.”  In other words, one person would only make the laws, another would be responsible only for their being carried out, and a third for judging whether or not these laws were being obeyed.  As we can see, this is a system grounded in a basic distrust of man and humanity  where the first and second control the third, the second and third  control the first, and so forth, constituting a rational balance, a sort of check and balances.

            It is there we have the origin of the concept of three basically separate powers:  the legislative, the executive and the judicial.  It is also the origin of the concept of a “minimal state,” which delights the liberals to this day.  Since the necessity for a higher power exists, let it be as small as possible.  And, even then, always within a framework of rational balance, or of checks and balances.  All of this, logically, is based on a fundamental distrust which aims at guaranteeing that nobody wield too much power.  The reason for this is that, if every man is man’s wolf, then “all power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely,” which is one of the favorite slogans of the liberals even today. 

            Let us look at another quotation from  História das Doutrinas Políticas, which confirms the synthetic view presented earlier of the beginnings of Liberalism:

            131 -  John Locke was born in 1632 and died in 1704; he personified the liberal tendencies against the absolutist ideas of Hobbes. His Essay on Civil Government was published in 1690, less than two years after the second British revolution of 1688. It is understandable that, writing soon after an event of such importance, a political writer should find it necessary to take a position and to make known his opinion about this matter. Locke justified the revolution.
            The  Essay on Civil Government (Two Treatises of Government, by John Locke) is divided in two parts. In the first one he takes the trouble to refute Filmer. In the second, starting from Hobbes hypothesis, which admits a natural state followed by a social pact (a common idea of various writers of the XVII and XVIII centuries), Locke arrives at conclusions opposed to those supported by Hobbes. (...)
            It is to Locke that we owe the almost complete elaboration of the theory of the three fundamental powers, later on developed by Montesquieu. (G. Mosca e G. Bouthoul, História das Doutrinas Políticas, pp. 191-192)

            Current Liberal Democracy and Mass Suffrage

            It is necessary to point out that throughout history the main change we can see in the practice of models of liberal inspiration, in other words, in the liberal democracies, was the gradual expansion of the franchises originally required for exercising the right to vote until, over time and only in the XX century, we have arrived at what is generally called universal suffrage.  This gradual expansion was largely due to the suffrage movements during the last century and the early days  of this one.

            Concerning its other principal institutions, such as the three fundamental powers, party plurality, an initial constitution generated by a social pact, market economy (granting ample freedom to the economic agents), and the guarantee of other liberties sanctioned by the liberal tradition (personal political rights, freedom of speech, of press, etc.), all these institutions have been preserved and absorbed into our culture without major modifications.

            In our century, we must add to these principal liberal institutions that of universal or mass suffrage.  For many decades thisthe concept that all are equal in rights and duties, and that, therefore, each one’s vote carries the same weight (“one man, one vote”)has become another of the pillars of the models of liberal organization.

            Egalitarianism in a Pattern of Ever Selfish Man

            Although all along their history these principal liberal institutions have deserved the support and the confirmation of somewhat different theories, as can be seen in the most illuminating work, The Life and Times of Liberal Democracy by C. B. Macpherson of the University of Toronto, it is important to point out that all of them, in one way or another, belong to the fundamental concept of man as a selfish being in the last analysis, who will, however high his abilities and his intelligence, always try to pursue his personal gratification, or to follow the dictates of his particular interests.

            This is the concept of man that amply predominates among liberals to this day.  In reality, moving away from this conceptual background, its basic institution of a system of checks and balancesa system based on universal distrustwith its basic powers as independent from each other as possible, as well as with the notion of a minimal state, a minimal central power (because of the idea that “all power corrupts”), these become inconsistent and illogical.  Still, if all power corrupts, this must be because all human beings are corruptible.  And this is possible because in all human beings the preservation of their particular interests prevails over all other values.  Therefore, human beings, however intelligent they may be, are in essence selfish, or, in summary, every man is every other man’s wolf.

            Many liberal thinkers argued that (in view of this natural state which causes everyone to seek to gratify his private interests) a model or social organization made up of these principal liberal institutions would guarantee the attainment of the greatest happiness for the greatest number of people.  It must be pointed out that this model is coherent with its premises and would, in fact, if these premises with regard to the human being were correct, be the best that humanity could expect.

            The Belief in the End of Ideologies

            In view of the above, and of the tremendous ascendancy reached by this liberal model in all quadrants and even more, naturally, of the popularity of its premises among the elite (including the religious elite as otherwise this model would never have reached such hegemony), some liberal theorists of our time even defend the idea that we have reached what we call the “end of  ideologies.”

            In other words, this appears to be the most perfect model for humanity, the one which assures the greatest possible happiness for the greatest number, and, as if this were not enough, also the one used in mostand certainly the most powerfulcountries.  In view of all this, we would appear to have reached a definitive model, and from this point on all future development of humanity would take place within it, which would thus mean the end of the fighting between currents of thought and between alternative models, in other words, “the end of ideologies.”   

            These highly “optimistic” thinkers cannot but feel a certain malaise at the fact thatalthough we have reached a true (and, therefore, decisive) view of the human being and of humanity, and although we have arrived at a permanent (and therefore good and scientifically consistent) model for our socio-political organizationin spite of all this humanity should find itself in such a terrible state.  This state has previously been described quite clearly in a quotation from Radha Burnier.  But perhaps its saddest facet is the fact that today’s humanity finds itself without any concrete prospect on the horizon for overcoming this picture in the foreseeable future.  In reality, what lies clearly in front of us is the growing exacerbation of colossal problems.

            The Perennial Philosophy and Man’s View of Liberalism

            Let us then confront these premises of Liberalism with man’s view of the Perennial Philosophy, and from this point of view analyze the principal institutions of liberal democracies, which today organize the socio-political life of the majority of countries, and we shall be able to show how their errors and failures cause most of the world’s problems.

            Concerning their fundamental premises, their view of man and humanity, there is an enormous rift between Liberalism and Occultist Philosophy, especially at the point in which the former levels humanity on a plateau of evolutionary development on which, as we have pointed out, all men are seen as having attained the same egoistic psychological state.  Where Liberalism is concerned, all men fit into a very similar pattern or prospect of equality on the evolutionary level described above, which presents the selfish seeking for individual wellbeing as the human being’s fundamental attribute.

            This levelingin other words, this premise which affirms the existence of equality or, at least, a great similarity in the psychological evolutionary and moral level of all human beingsis a central point not only of Liberalism but also, although on a different level and along different paths, of Marxism, as we shall show further on.  Therefore, the idea of the existence of a psychological leveling or equality is an absolutely central premise around which have developedalthough  along different plansthe two currents of thought which dominate today’s scene of world thinking.

            In this regard we can read in the Dicionário de Política [ (by N. Bobbio, et al.) what Hobbes already considered:

            132 -(...) fundamentally, all men have the same physical and intellectual power and the differences are insignificant.” (p. 598)

            In it we also read what Hobbes stated in the “Leviathan” (chapter XIII):

            133 -Nature made men so equal in physical and intellectual capacities that any person can kill another, but cannot surpass another in cunning.” (p. 597)

            As shown before, from its beginnings Liberalism conceived man as belonging to that natural state defended by Hobbes, which was characterized by an equality of capacities.  Within this picture, and since its view of man is similar, it becomes perfectly logical that Liberalism should defend egalitarian political institutions, at least in formal legal terms, because in socio-economic practice we obviously see enormous differences.  Thus, we can return to the previously quoted Dicionário de Política and read this:

            134 -Classic liberalism affirmed that (...) once the privileges were abolished and the Equality of rights was established, there would be no obstacles in anybody’s way in his search for happiness.” (Dicionário de Política, p. 604)

            If we once accept this egalitarian (and, in the case of Liberalism,  leveled in a selfish way) view of the human psyche, we can see with great clarity that from it derive the principal institutions of the liberal model of socio-political organization, in other words, the principal institutions of the so-called liberal democracies.

            It is therefore logical to state that from it derive not only the system of checks and balances of the three basic powers and the search for a “minimal state,” but also the guarantee for an equality of individual rights and liberties and the basic political rule arising therefrom:  the mass vote, the “one man, one vote” exercised on all levels, or even paraliament in the case of parliamentarism.  This also leads naturally to a preservation of the economic liberties, in other words, of a market economy in which the State only serves to maintain the formula for general rational balance (elections, legislation, the police, the courts, etc.).  This economic liberalism arises naturally from the concept that all are equal in discernment and that, therefore, all are fully able to make use of the economic options offered by the market.

            If this system is so logical, as in a general way it really is, its faults must necessarily be found in its basic plans which, as we said before, will always contain in their core a given view of the human being and of humanity.  And it is exactly there, in this egalitarian (and leveled at an egoistic plateau) view of the human psyche, that Liberalism once more differs enormously from the view presented by the Perennial Philosophy.  In the latter, as we have seen, there is the existence of an underlying Unity and thus of an equality in dignity and essential value of the human being, which co-exists with a great Diversity of evolutionary psycho-spiritual levels which result in an extraordinary Diversity of capacities and talents. 

            The Universal Brotherhood Does not Imply Equality in Capacities

            The view of the Perennial Philosophy presented in previous chapters showed us that the preservation of any type of equality of capacities manifested in the human family is far from reality.  In this connection, we can clearly see that with regard to its fundamental premises, Liberalism implies a direct denial of these facts and, therefore, of the law of universal brotherhood of humanity, which can be resumed as “Unity in Diversity.”

            This fundamental error was commented on by Annie Besant in these two excerpts we quote:

            135 - 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. (...)
            “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.” (A. Besant, The Changing World, p. 75)

            136 - Are these equal? These from their very birth itself are marked unequal. Oh! what is the use of deluding ourselves with words that have no meaning? What is the use of saying that men are born equal, and talking about a universal equality which nature denies? Of social inequality there is indeed much that you may remove. But that is far less serious. It is natural inequality which is a more serious matter. And that people forget, when they are talking about both nations and individuals. (...) Equal opportunity for all – that perchance you may make in a far future; but equality of capacity to use itthat you cannot make. (...) And so we have to face the fact, that Brotherhood does not mean equality, but a real Brotherhood of elders and youngers, a great human family in which some are much older than others, and some are very young, very ignorant, very foolish. (...)
            “History does not run backwards; but it repeats itself on higher levels, and the main principles may reappear. The problem of the moment is how to find the best man, and then to place him in the seat of power.
            “Now our ideal of Brotherhood applied to Government claims for the wise and not for the ignorant (...) how to find the best? The Ideal is that the best should rule; but how to find them, that is the problem. Every one of us who studies must try to solve this problem, and the suggestions I am here making may perhaps give some hints for the solving.
            “But you will not try to solve it, until you realise the hopelessness of the present line of rulingor not rulingand accept the Ideal that the best should govern. When that is agreed on, then we shall bring our brains together to devise a means to find and choose the best, and to place them where they may serve the nation. And this must be done for the sake of the people, for the people who perish for lack of knowledge,” and who can never, in their ignorance, save themselves.” (A. Besant, The Ideals of Theosophy, pp. 17-31)

            Without Diversity in Capacities There Can Be No Universal Brotherhood

            There is an excerpt by E. F. Schumacher, the author of the best-seller Small is Beautiful, in which he confirms the conclusion we have presented that the faults inherent in the currents prevailing today and which we have inherited from the XIX century, derive from their denial of the diversity in human affairs:

            137 - While the XIXth century ideas deny or obliterate the hierarchy of levels in the universe, the notion of an hierarchical order is an indispensable instrument of understanding. Without the recognition of ‘Levels of Being’ or ‘Grades of Significance’ we cannot make the world intelligible to ourselves (...) It is only when we can see the world as a ladder, and when we can see man’s position on the ladder, that we can recognize a meaningful task for man’s happiness – to attain a higher degree of realisation of his potentialities, a higher level of being or ‘grade of significance’ than that which comes to him ‘naturally’: we cannot even study this possibility except by recognising the existence of a hierarchical structure. To the extent that we interpret the world through the great, vital ideas of the XIXth century, we are blind to these differences of level, because we have been blinded.” (E.F. Schumacher, Small is Beautiful, p. 78)

            Milleniums ago, this general idea of the decisive importance of a clear perception, a fair equationing and the harmonizing of the differences among human beings, was declared by the great classic work of Chinese philosophy, the I Ching:

          138 - Heaven above, the lake below: The image of CONDUCT.
           “Thus the superior man discriminates between high and low, and thereby fortifies the thinking of the people.
          “Heaven and the lake show a difference of elevation that inheres in the natures of the two, hence no envy arises. Among mankind also there are necessary differences of elevation; it is impossible to bring about universal equality. But it is important that differences in social rank should not be arbitrary and unjust, for if this occurs, envy and class struggle are the inevitable consequences. If, on the other hand, external differences in rank correspond with differences in inner worth, and if inner worth is the criterion of external rank, then people acquiesce and order reigns in society.” (I Ching, R. Wilheim, pp. 46-47)

            The Importance of a New Organizational Model in the TS

            In concluding this chapter, it seems appropriate that we call attention to the fact that, incredible as it may seem, these fundamental problems  of the liberal institutions are seldom understood by the spiritualists in general or, even, by the members of the Theosophical Society in particular.

            This is especially startling in the case of the TS since its first object speaks of the creation of a nucleus of the universal brotherhood of humanity.  In other words, of the creation of an institution that is to be an example to the world of an organizational system coherent with the law of universal brotherhood of humanity and in which human differences should and could be harmonized.  Instead of this, the TS usually copies the organizational structures of the liberal world; and its own International President is elected directly through the rule of direct and universal, or mass, suffrage.

            This painful fact, which is certainly a part of the TS’s failure becomes perfectly clear when we take into account the general misunderstanding of its central idea of the universal brotherhood of humanity, which, as we have stated, instead of being seen as a law of Nature, is almost always seen as a virtue, such as is love, to be developed.

           Considering the gravity of this generalized misunderstanding, how is it possible not to call it a real failure of the TS since it endangers the essence of the first and most important of the TS’s objects?  Yes, because this is the object which emphasizes our duty to put into practice a new politico-organizational model that might encourage us toward the building “of new institutions of a genuine, practical Brotherhood of Humanity where all will become co-workers of nature” (K.H., ML, No. 6, p. 23).  In a previous quotation from the Adepts we saw that success in attaining this object is the condition sine qua non for success in the attaining of the others.  We shall return to this question further on as we analyze the general lines of what would be an organizational model coherent with the law of universal brotherhood of humanity.

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