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Chapter 3
The Universal Law of Soul
Progression
I
t was the limit of his vision, and the misinterpretation of what he did see, that caused man a few
short centuries ago to consider each inanimate object to be a unique thing, specially created,
and subject to a special law, applicable to it but inapplicable to other things. Newton released
the mind of man from this orthodox conception when he demonstrated his law of gravitation, and
proved that the same uniform and universal law operates alike upon every physical object in the
cosmos. Then came Kepler, with his three laws of motion, and demonstrated how this law of
gravitation operates in governing the movements of the planets and other bodies of our solar
system.
What now must be done to release the minds of men from similar orthodox notions regarding the
soul, is to prove and demonstrate that the intelligences manifesting through living organisms are
not unique, not each specially created, and not subject to special laws which are different with
different individuals. Instead, every intelligence in the universe, large or small, simple or
complex, is subject to the same universal and uniform law, which we term the Law of Soul
Progression.
In chemistry, the advance of science has made it certain that substances in their chemical
reactions to each other are not governed by special laws applicable to each, but that all chemical
action in the universe comes under the same uniform and universal chemical law.
Furthermore, in the realm of force where light, radiant heat and electricity are active, these
various energies do not perform differently in different places, but are governed by uniform and
universal laws. The application of these laws reveals to us what metals are present, for instance,
in the gases about a distant star, how hot the interior of the sun must be, and the almost certain
source of the cosmic rays which are now known to beat upon the earth.
Another great stride in freeing the human mind from bondage has been taken by Professor Albert
Einstein. His work is not concerned with biology, and does not embrace the laws governing
intellect. But observing there are laws governing gravitation, laws governing light, laws
governing magnetism, and laws governing electricity, he set about finding the uniform and
universal law which governs all these, until now, special performances of energy. And he
expresses this single law to which light, gravitation and electricity conform in his Unified Field
Theory as a single mathematical equation of eight characters.
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Much experimental work has been done to confirm the conception that mass and energy are
equivalent, and that what impresses our senses as matter is truly a great concentration of energy
into a comparatively small space. Thus those regions in space where the field is extremely strong
can be considered as matter, and those regions in space where the field is comparatively weak can
be considered merely as field. Mass and energy are closely connected; for mass is energy and
energy has mass; and instead of the old laws of the indestructibility of matter and the
conservation of energy, only one law is now needed, the conservation law of mass-energy.
As at present mathematically formulated, Einstein's Unified Field Theory has not been entirely
satisfactory, due to the Principle of Indeterminacy where the Quantum of Action of particles is
involved. The reason of this, no doubt, is that these particles are too close to the border-line where
they partake of astral properties. But Einstein's Special Theory of Relativity has now become
almost universally accepted by physicists the world over, and has become the foundation of the
physics as taught at present in our universities. And while it would seem there are factors yet to be
discovered and included in the Unified Field Theory equation, it marks a long stride toward a
clearer conception of existence. Experiments conducted relative to it, and relative to the Special
Theory of Relativity, have contributed much to the advancement of knowledge; for they have
demonstrated there are not fundamentally different kinds of inorganic energy.
Naturalists also have carried out a comprehensive line of research, which they sum up in the
theory of organic evolution, showing that organic forms of the present day were developed--as
explained in Course 12-1--through uniform and universal laws, from very simple forms of life
that existed on the earth some billion years ago.
But orthodoxy, both east and west, is bitterly opposed to the idea that there is any such universal
law governing the development of life-forms. The self-importance of the orthodox demands that
for themselves there must be a special dispensation. And the power of inflated egos to bias
judgment and ignore evidence was well demonstrated in 1925 at the Scopes Trial in Tennessee.
There the court decided that it was illegal to teach the doctrine of evolution in public schools.
I trust by now I have made it clear, without going into further detail, that each important step
which science has made has been accompanied by the perception that Nature operates uniformly
and not according to special dispensations. And I hope quite as clearly to indicate, in this course,
that intelligence is no exception to this rule, and that, instead of souls being subject to different
dispensations, all the intelligences in the universe, from the amoebae to an archangel, likewise
operate in conformity to a single uniform and universal law, known as the Law of Soul
Progression.
Einstein has rather successfully, although as yet perhaps not perfectly, brought the various kinds
of inorganic energy into a single formula. To do this he has had radically to change the orthodox
conception of space. And in this course I hope to bring the intelligences occupying plants,
animals, man and angels into a single formula. But to do this successfully I must depart from the
orthodox conception of what constitutes an environment suitable to the expression of a living
form.
A Unified Conception of Intelligence
--A unified conception of the law of soul progression demands that there should be recognized,
as demonstrated by the performance of various types of psychic phenomena, various planes, on
any one of which a life-form can function as actually and as vividly as it functions on earth.
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It must be taken into consideration, of course, that the properties of these different planes are not
the same. The properties of the physical plane, where velocities are low, are widely different than
those of the astral plane where velocities are greater than that of light, and these, in turn, are quite
at variance with the still more remarkable properties of the spiritual world, where velocities are
tremendously higher than those of the astral world.
Within these inner worlds, for instance, there are innumerable levels of existence, on each of
which life functions. But in general the properties of all the levels of each plane are similar, even
as the properties of various regions in the sea are similar, the properties of various sections of the
land surface of the earth are similar, and the properties of the air in various regions above the earth
are similar. Not that the same conditions exist in diverse regions of the globe in any one of these
three realms, but in general the properties of one of these is similar anywhere on the earth.
The properties of the sea where some animals live, however, and the properties of the land over
which other creatures walk or crawl, and the properties of the air, through which other types of
life fly, are not the same. In any of these three realms of the physical world a life-form is limited
by the properties of its environment. And in a similar manner, creatures in any of the three
realms--physical, astral and spiritual--are limited in their expression by the properties of that
particular plane. But it is possible for life to live and function on any one of them, and on the
various levels of the inner planes, just as it is possible for life to move in the water, over the land,
and through the air, in various sections of the globe where the other environmental conditions are
quite different.
Conceptions About Morals
--The greatest obstacle to the wide acceptance of a uniform and universal law of soul
progression, applicable alike to every intelligence in the universe, is the orthodox tendency to
consider any intelligence, outside a very narrow circle of intimates, as being vastly different, not
merely in degree, but also in kind.
As society evolved, the family was at one time the social unit. And those within a family group
considered themselves vastly different from the people belonging to other families. People
outside their family were aliens, to be looked upon with suspicion. It was considered that these
other families had different thoughts, were not subject to the same kinds of pleasure and pain, and
were not under the protection of the same deities. The member of another family group was
considered to be subject to different natural laws, and as different in soul from the members of the
one family as nowadays most people conceive the soul of some lower animal to be.
Moral responsibility, consequently, was restricted to the family group. How an individual
performed the family religious rituals, observed the family taboos, and treated the other members
of the family, constituted his morality. A hen with a family of young has the same type of
morality, so far as the treatment of other families are concerned.
Her responsibility is for her own brood, just as at present the responsibility of each government in
the world seems to be only for its people. She willingly deprives herself of food for her family,
she risks her life in defense of her young, she endures misery while hovering over them in a rain
storm to keep them dry and warm. Where her own family is concerned she has a fine standard of
morals.
But her conception of morality ends at the margin of her own brood. She is not conscience
stricken at depriving other chicks, of a size with her own, of food, even though they die that her
own may wax fat. She does not hesitate to peck such a chick from another family on the head
when it comes near her, and if it dies she suffers no grief.
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Nor in the morals of the early human family group was it a matter of concern to its members that
other families perished when they stole their food. Those other people were a different kind of
creature, and the family traditions, with religious sanction, taught them that any advantage
gained at the expense of such aliens was honorable. It merited praise and a reward to the member
who brought it about. For that matter, the diplomacy exercised at international conferences
during the last quarter century has been merely an extension of this idea to national proportions.
Later on, for various mutual advantages, certain families amalgamated as tribes. When this
amalgamation became completed, the code of morals was broadened to embrace the members of
a tribe. But it extended no further than tribal boundaries. What a Blackfoot Indian did to another
Blackfoot Indian was a matter of serious moral significance. But what a Blackfoot Indian did to a
Crow Indian had no moral significance other than such as derived from the treatment a Blackfoot
Indian gave to some wild animal. If, by deceit, by bravery, or by any means he could think of, a
Blackfoot Indian could gain an advantage over a Grizzly Bear or over a member of any other
Indian tribe, he was considered a hero. Instead of having any compassion at the suffering caused
the member of another tribe, he gloried in being able to devise means to make such suffering
terrible. The members of other tribes were different from the members of his own tribe, just as the
wild animals differed from the members of his tribe. His code of morals was bounded by
responsibility to his own tribe.
As society advanced, to gain still other advantages, chiefly the protection from mutual foes,
tribes united to become a nation. Such a nation, and the expanding moral conception to embrace
its members, is familiar to all through the account the Bible gives us of the ideas and morals of the
Twelve Tribes of Israel.
Jehovah, who became the national deity, through Moses and some of the later prophets, laid
down a rigorous system of taboos. There should be no eating of pork, there should be no work
done on the Sabbath, touching certain things caused defilement for which definite rules of
purification were established. The transgression of any of these taboos was a sin, and apt to bring
punishment from Jehovah on the individual or the nation.
And, of course, because any person not an Israelite must be a very different kind of being, the
people of Israel considered themselves the chosen of God. They had been chosen by Jehovah to
rule the world, because they were a superior type of people. The Gentiles, who embraced all the
other people in the world, were as different from the Israelites as were the cattle in the field.
Consequently, the code of morals of the Israelites applied to their relation to one another and to
their relation with their special deity. The Ten Commandments did not apply to their treatment of
people outside their own nation. Not only did they lie, steal, murder, and commit rape upon the
women of other nations, but sometimes, as related in I Kings 2:42, their God reprimanded them
for not being more severe.
Desiring the land of Canaan, which was already the property of another people, they had no
compunction in practicing any conceivable manner of deceit and violence to obtain it and deprive
its former inhabitants. No more so than during the year 1931 Japan, desiring Manchuria, had any
conscientious scruples about moving in and taking it. Her only worry, like that of the Israelites,
was as to her ability to keep the land she thus appropriated. But, of course, even as the Philistines
were a different kind of people than the Israelites, and God had no interest in them, so the
Japanese regard Manchurians.
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Because all the other people in the world were so vastly different from the Israelites, God was
always anxious that these other people should be destroyed if it would benefit the Israelites. And
He helped the chosen people devise subterfuges, commanded that men and women be slain,
ordered that women be violated, and helped in every conceivable crime. Only, because these
other people were not Israelites no crime was involved, as what happened to these other people,
who were so different, was of no consequence to Jehovah.
And even today I was handed a pamphlet, circulated by an orthodox organization, which pointed
out that the various Swami's visiting Los Angeles have different skins and are totally unlike
white men. This pamphlet pointed out that the Jews were once God's chosen, but that having
disobeyed Him, the Gentiles of the White Race were now ordained to rule the world. It is
therefore, according to the whole tenor of this pamphlet, the duty of White Men to keep all
Swamis and those teaching other than Christian doctrines, from the shores of America, and to
retain the White Man's God-ordained commercial and religious supremacy throughout the
world.
In the town where I was reared there were three Christian denominations. And how well I
remember, as a boy, hearing the discussions as to who would, and who would not, be saved. It
seemed, from the various arguments, that the difference in whether a follower was plunged
entirely under the water, or was merely sprinkled, was so vast that it determined whether he
would sing hallelujah in heaven or roast in hell. Each of these denominations was positive that it
alone was the favored one, and that the members of the other two denominations would have a
terrible time of it shortly after death.
And right here I am led to wonder how large a percentage of my readers are willing to concede
that a Negro in the Belgian Congo has a right to the same just consideration as does one's next
door neighbor. How many of you think that a Chinese Coolie should be kept down, exploited, and
given no chance to gain economic independence? Or do you think a Coolie is so different that
God can have no such interest in him as He has in you?
Certainly the Pilgrim Fathers, burdened by the strictness and rigor of their piety as they were, felt
that their moral responsibility did not extend to the Red Man. However honest they might be
among themselves, they felt no twinge of remorse when they cheated an Indian out of pelts or
land worth hundreds of dollars by trading him a tawdry string of beads. They were unable to
expand their conception of the soul to include the aborigines, just as most men today cannot
conceive that plants and animals, although possessing intelligence of a sort, can have souls.
Yet these same Pilgrim Fathers were convinced that both their present prosperity and their
condition in the after-life, were determined by a strict adherence to the Word of God.
Whenever a calamity overtook the Jews, those Jews felt sure that it was due, in some manner, to
disobeying the moral code set before them by Jehovah. This moral code called for the slaughter of
many innocent animals. Bullocks must be slain on special occasions and offered as sacrifices. On
other occasions a sheep must be killed. For lesser matters doves would do. But Jehovah
demanded that animals be killed. The odor of reeking blood was pleasing to Him, and the aroma
of; scorching flesh. And it was a matter of morals that such killings be attended to without fail.
The god of the Aztecs, at a period of their history, demanded, instead of bullocks, sheep, asses
and doves, human sacrifices. To please the God the victim must be placed upon the stone of
sacrifice, and his quivering heart, after a quick incision of the knife, torn from his still living body.
If this was not done the god became angry. It was a matter of morals that this rite should be
performed.
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In another part of the world Moloch must have his human victims; and even now, in spite of
British soldiers stationed to prevent it, people in India throw themselves to be crushed beneath
the wheels of the Car of Juggernaut. Widows in certain regions of the land feel that unless they
burn alive upon their husband's funeral pyre that they have committed an unpardonable sin.
Right In One Locality Is Wrong In Another
--These things are related to show that morals, like everything else, are in a process of
development. What is considered moral, whether it be considered child marriage in India or
another marriage after divorce by a Protestant in America, is a matter of geography, of customs
prescribed by racial needs, and the amount of information possessed regarding other creatures
and people. And in most regions, the priests, or other religious teachers, dictate to all others what
is, and what is not, moral.
When, then, we consider those doctrines held by the orthodox of the West that man's condition in
the after-life is determined by his morality, and those doctrines held by the orthodox of the East
that man's condition in this life is determined by his morality in past lives, the first thing we are
called upon to do is to consider what is meant by morality. And we find that morality is held by the
orthodoxies to be living in accordance with what one believes to be right But what the individual
believes to be right; among such orthodox people, is determined by what the priest, or other
religious teacher, tells him is right.
Thus we might be led to the conclusion that what is right--such as an old man marrying a girl of
three or four years of age--in one locality, is not right in another locality. To eat pork may seem
moral for a Christian, but immoral for a Mohammedan or a Jew. To collect the heads of a dozen
members of neighboring families may seem moral for a head-hunter, but immoral for an Eskimo.
In India, to kill a cow which has been crippled, rather than to permit her to linger on for weeks
infested by flesh-devouring insect larvae, is one of the greatest sins; but to kill such a cow in
America, and thus end its suffering, is a moral act.
Following this doctrine to its logical conclusion, if I kill such a cow, I increase my chances of
getting into heaven, or I establish good karma which will reward me in the next life. But if a
Hindu kills such a cow he increases his chances of landing in hell, or he makes bad karma, and a
fearful penalty awaits him when next he is born in the flesh. Into just such contradictory
conceptions we are forced if we accept the orthodox view of things.
These contradictions, however, spring into being as the result of opposite conceptions of what is,
and what is not, moral. And these opposite conceptions of what is, and what is not, moral, are
derived from imperfect knowledge as to the nature of the soul, the processes of life, and the
proper interrelations between entities. They are derived from a conception of things that
considers one class or group or nation. It springs from a conception which is so narrow that it
cannot perceive that all souls in the universe, including those of plants and animals, are governed
by a single great law.
Man, in smaller or larger groups, has formulated standards to govern his relations with other
members of his group. These standards constitute the yardstick of his morals. Other smaller or
larger groups have each formulated standards to govern their relations; but because they live
under different conditions, these yardsticks by which they measure their morals are vastly
different.
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As soon as a group has formulated certain standards of morals, by which it governs its relations, it
immediately convinces itself, through its religious teachers, that God has decreed them.
Whatever usages become established, whether torturing heretics, making slaves of other human
beings, eating flesh in religious rituals, protecting a king who has oppressed his people, not
working on Sunday, not eating certain things, taking a bath at prescribed times, and what not;
such soon comes to be taught as divinely decreed institutions.
Furthermore, as soon as some practice comes to be believed to be commanded by divine law, the
people believing this inevitably become convinced that the strict observance of the practice leads
to reward, either in this life or in a future one, and that not to observe the practice is sure, sooner or
later, in some life, to be followed by punishment.
There Is A Universal Moral Code
--Yet just as we have departed from the old orthodox notion that different groups of physical
objects each perform according to a special dispensation, so also are we compelled, by an
expanding knowledge of life, to depart from the orthodox notion that different groups of men are
subject to special dispensations. In any country, and of any persuasion, a man may be given credit
for doing what he believes to be right; but because he believes it to be right does not make it so. No
more so than because he believes, as some people do, that a horsehair placed in water will in time
become a worm, will actually make it so.
There are only two alternatives: Either all those acts, including all the bestial, hideous and cruel
acts which are practiced by savage tribes and pagan peoples under the belief that they are being
moral, are actually moral merely because those doing these things are convinced they are right; or
there must be some universal standard of morality, which is independent of the limited needs and
particular religious prejudices of some specific group of people.
Following in the footsteps of science, which has proved there is a single law which governs all
falling bodies, whether on earth or in a distant globular starcluster; which has proved that
chemical action, under the same conditions, must perform in a uniform manner anywhere in the
universe; which shows conclusively that life-forms on earth have developed according to an
orderly process; and that light, gravitation and electricity operate under one uniform law; I prefer
to believe that in the real sense what is moral in America is moral in China. A principle which is
right for one nation is right for all nations. All conditions being the same, an act which is
honorable for one man is honorable for another man. In fact, I insist that there must be a code of
morals uniformly applicable to every living thing in the universe.
But I admit that few of these living creatures on earth have sufficient information as yet even to
approximately grasp this perfect moral code.
No man ignorant of how objects performed under different circumstances could have formulated
the law of gravitation. No man without exhaustive experimentation with various chemicals could
have formulated any one of the general laws of chemistry. No man who had not an intimate
association with mathematics and physics could have given the world Einstein's Unified Field
Theory. How then, as morals define the relations which should exist between different
life-forms, can some one who knows almost nothing about himself, who has even less knowledge
about the real nature of other people, and who is abysmally ignorant of other life-forms than man;
how can such a person formulate a satisfactory system of morals?
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I am quite willing to grant that those who live according to the laws of God are rewarded, and that
those who violate the laws of God are punished. But I am not willing to permit someone who has
no knowledge of what God does, even in his own back yard or within his own body, to tell me
what God wants me to do. The most ignorant man you meet in the streets is usually most sure he
knows just what God wants you to do.
Instead of following after this person's notion, or that person's notion, I think a better plan is to
make some study of God's actions. If you wanted to know where a man was going, you might ask
the first stranger you met about it. Probably the stranger would know less about it than you did. A
better plan would be to follow the man and watch where he went.
Taking a leaf from the note-book of the scientific man, who when he wants to know anything,
watches closely and performs experiments, rather than asks some one for an opinion, I think the
best way to find out what God wants is to watch His actions. The best way to determine His
probable destination is to observe carefully the direction in which He now is moving.
Because the Jews were a vengeful people, they believed Jehovah to be a God of vengeance.
Because they came to believe in justice, Jehovah was considered a just God. And Christians,
because they believe in mercy, worship a merciful and forgiving God.
What God Wants
--It is hard to conceive of a Supreme Mind Who is different in His motives and actions from what
few consider He should be. First, we theorize what God should be like. Of course, He should have
all the human virtues and none of the human vices. And He should run the universe as we would
run it if we were God. It never seems to enter the ordinary human consciousness that God
probably knows more about how to run His affairs than we do. We cannot successfully run our
own bodies, but we presume to know how a cosmos should be managed.
A much safer way to proceed is to presume that God knows what He is about, and that, after all,
He may have a superior way of handling universal affairs than any we have as yet conceived.
Instead of thinking that God wants certain things because we would want them if we were God,
let us abandon our colossal egotism, and actually observe what God does. The whole manifested
universe is His handiwork, is directed in its activities by Him. Let us, therefore, instead of giving
Him the narrow outlook of some human moral code, actually observe what He does, actually try
to perceive, in the multitudinous activities of Nature, toward what end the whole is moving; how
the various parts coordinate to this purpose, and in what manner the individual can contribute
toward the attainment of it.
As comprehensive observations of life should be made as possible. And to the extent possible,
life should be observed not merely in its various activities on the low-velocity plane of earth, but
on the numerous vibratory levels of the inner planes where the high velocities give different
properties to the environment.
Now, if we were creating a cosmos, our human sense of justice would dictate that every
individual in it should fare about the same. That some life-forms should suffer less pain injures
our yen for impartiality, unless the more injured one deserved punishment by reason of its sins.
That some life-forms are given functions to perform that to our narrow minds seem more
desirable than the functions of other life-forms does violence to our sense of democracy, unless
they are allocated on a basis of what we consider virtue and sin.
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Yet, as in some localities on earth we find almost any act affecting others that we might mention
considered sinful, and in some other localities the same act considered virtuous, it is just possible
that the Divine Mind may have a still different idea of virtue and sin than any of those commonly
held by men.
And as to that human virtue which we call justice, is it measured in the Divine Mind by the same
standards which are applied by man?
This human idea of justice derives from a state of competitive existence, such as is common to all
life on the physical plane. As administered by man it is supposed to prevent the energetic and
more highly endowed individuals from depriving the less energetic and less highly endowed of
the things all desire. These desirable things while numerous, chiefly come under four categories:
The things which pertain to health and length of life, the things which pertain to the family and
affections, the things which pertain to wealth, and the things which pertain to honor. Justice, as
meted out by man, and as commonly considered by man, is in terms of these things.
Therefore, either in the orthodox belief of the West, or the orthodox belief of the East, because
man metes out justice by rewards of wealth, by rewards of things which favor health, by rewards
of things which appease the emotions and by rewards of things which feed the self-esteem; and
punishment by means of pain, by means of affectional deprivation, by means of loss of wealth
and by means of loss of position; it is believed that God, or Karmic Law, provides rewards and
punishments in the same terms.
Either in this life or some other life, the rewards of the holy are in terms of length of life or health,
in terms of wealth, successful affectional relations, and honor. And the punishment of the
wicked, either in this life or in some future life, is in terms of pain, in loss where the affections are
concerned, in deprivation of wealth, and in lack of station. The Western belief is that these
rewards and punishment are administered in heaven or hell. The Eastern belief is that they are
administered under the law of karma, in a future life on earth.
Civilized Punishment
--The orthodox notion of the punishment of crime is that anyone who transgresses the moral
laws should be made to suffer. Our penal institutions are based upon this idea, an idea held by the
orthodox of both Occident and Orient When some other individual has done you an injury; justice
demands that he should suffer, and it is the duty of society to see to it that he does suffer. It is the
application of the doctrine of "an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth."
But there is another view, which in spite of orthodox opposition, is gaining ground. It holds that
neither society nor the individual is warranted in demanding vengeance. Society is in error to feel
antagonism and hatred of the criminal. An investigation of the lives of criminals shows that, due
to a wide variety of circumstances, these individuals did not have a normal emotional
development. They have weaknesses or kinks in character. What they need is such reeducation as
will permit them to become, and to find high satisfaction in being, normal citizens.
Only a brutal society finds pleasure in the suffering of any individual. Only uncivilized people
bring hardships upon others for the sake of getting even.
People are criminal, or do lesser wrongs, through weakness or ignorance, or both. No good end is
served by causing them to suffer, unless that suffering conduces to their strength and wisdom.
That is, the progressive view toward all criminals and all sinners, is not that they should pay a
penalty, but that they should be reeducated. Society gains nothing and brutalizes itself in
demanding that those who transgress shall pay a penalty. But it does gain when it is successful in
reeducating a criminal to become a useful citizen.
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If a criminal is dangerous to society, it may be necessary to restrain him in some institution. But
such restraint should be to prevent him from injuring others, and not to cause him suffering for
what has happened. To the extent that pain and misery actually assist in reeducating the criminal
to become a useful citizen they may be employed. But those who know most about criminals find
that brutal treatment causes them to become hard and vindictive. Pleasant rewards, also, to the
extent they assist in the reeducation, are useful. But pain and pleasure should not be meted out as a
matter of vengeance or favor, but only for the purpose, and to the extent necessary, to assist in
establishing a healthy attitude toward others.
In spite of pain and hazard, the criminal is apt to remain a criminal until he perceives how he can
be a respectable citizen, and comes to believe that being a respected citizen is a happier way to
live than living a life of crime. If he is weak, either in health or character, it is the duty of society to
afford him the means of gaining strength, rather than to cause him additional misery because it
hates a weakling.
God should at least know as much about how a weak or ignorant person should be treated as the
more progressive of our prison wardens. Yet these, along with a small, though growing, section
of the public, are convinced that the whole conception of punishment should be replaced by a
systematic study of the most effective way to reeducate those who sin against society, to the end,
not merely of protecting society, but of permitting these misguided individuals to have happy and
successful lives.
In the education of any living thing, pleasure and pain play an important part. As necessary to
education they have a useful function. But aside from this educational function, to wish any
creature pain indicates a lack of spirituality.
Pleasure is useful, not merely to man, but to all forms of life, as an attractive influence. That is,
desire is in the direction of pleasure, and desire determines the line of action.
Pain is useful, not merely to man, but to all forms of life, as a repellent influence. That is, desire is
in the direction away from pain, and desire determines the line of action.
Pleasure and pain, not merely to man, but to all forms of life on all planes, are thus the great
avenues through which education is acquired. But neither in the Western orthodox conception
that the wicked shall simmer in hell in the after-life, nor in the Eastern orthodox notion that the
wicked shall suffer in a future incarnation, do I perceive that pain is used for education. Instead, it
is used for the purpose of punishment; a use for pain that even man, as he becomes civilized, no
longer employs.
According to the general orthodox conception of hell, the individual once there has no chance to
get out. He is not being given pain to teach him how to live in a better manner, for he does not get
another chance.
And according to the Eastern orthodox conception of karma, the individual who has had a hard lot
in one life, and undergoes privation and pain, is not undergoing education; because he has no idea
what it is he is being punished for. Thus he is just as apt to do the same thing over and over again,
because he is unaware that his suffering arises from specific acts. Karma is just a projection of the
orthodox penal system to determine the condition of a future life on earth.
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Projections By Man Of How He Would Run A Cosmos
--The orthodox individual of both West and East projects his own idea of justice into his
conception of God or of Karmic Law. He never stops to think that God may dispense justice in a
more superior way. If this individual were running the cosmos he would see to it that those who
lived according to whatever code of morals had been adopted in his particular community were
rewarded by wealth, successful family life, health and honor. And he would see to it that those
who departed from this arbitrary and conventional code should be punished by being deprived of
health, by loss of wealth, by misery in the affectional life, and by disgrace. As he would handle
affairs in this manner, he assumes that God is equally intelligent.
Yet as he looks about him, he is forced to admit that in the present life those who transgress the
codes society has established often have better health, more wealth, less family trouble and more
honor than other individuals who live a life of strict conformity to them. If some misfortune does
overtake a wicked person, according to the conventional standards, he is quite willing to believe
that God has thus punished him for his wickedness. But the cases of wickedness which seem to go
unpunished, and the cases in which the righteous suffer ills, are so common that it is difficult to
reconcile them with his preconceived idea about how God should administer justice.
But he is sure God must be intelligent enough to reward the conventionally good and punish the
conventionally wicked. So he concludes that the rewards and punishments are largely meted out
in a future life, and not in the one in which the virtue or the transgression takes place. In the West,
he believes this future life where rewards and punishments are administered embraces heaven
and hell. In the East, he believes it to embrace still further lives upon the earth.
And by so considering the matter, he can reconcile his belief that God acts in the same manner he
would act if he were God, to the obvious fact that so far as his observations of this life go, God
does not live up to his expectations. As he actually knows nothing about heaven or hell, and as he
actually knows nothing about any future or past human life on earth, observations of realities do
not intrude to upset his good opinion of God's methods.
Civilized Treatment Of Transgressions
--Yet there are men on earth today, in growing number, who have become civilized enough that,
no matter what injury a criminal has done to society, no matter how vicious he is, they hope that
he may become happy and prosperous. They believe that he is a criminal and vicious only
because he is ignorant of the proper method of living to gain happiness. They find it quite
laudable for any individual to seek happiness. But the vicious and criminal, because of lack of
proper knowledge, think they can gain more joy through the course they follow than through
living in a manner more beneficial to others. Therefore, because the malefactor's deeds are
inspired by an erroneous conception of how to get happiness, these civilized men entertain no
desire to punish him. They wish him every joy and happiness. If they restrain him, it is to protect
others from his depredations, and not to cause him misery.
Instead of any desire to punish him, they desire to help him. But to help him they must change his
ideas of how to live. Therefore, instead of punishing him, they set about the work of educating
him to a point where he no longer will find pleasures in acts against society, but will find pleasure
in living a life which, instead, is beneficial to society. For whenever he becomes thoroughly
convinced that a constructive life brings more joy than a criminal life, and is sufficiently helped to
overcome his weaknesses, he is glad to become a useful citizen.
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In the reeducation of a criminal, or in the education of any person, or in the education of a plant,
amoebae, bird or mammal, pain plays a part. Pleasure plays a part also. All living things
experience both pleasure and pain, as has amply been proved by the scientist in his laboratory.
The difference between the pain experienced by a plant and the pain experienced by a man is that
of degree only. All other life-forms also have desires which are parallel to man's desires for
health, for affectional happiness, for wealth and for honor. The difference is in degree only.
Logically, we cannot single man out in relation to his experiences with these things as unique; for
after all, their attainment and loss are but types of pleasures and pain.
If the pain which man experiences is in the nature of punishment, as all other life-forms in the
universe experience pleasure and pain, the illness, the poverty, the failure in family life, and the
unfavorable environmental situation in comparison to other members of the same species, of a
plant, for instance, must be due to its sins.
Yet in our search for the Uniform and Universal Principle which constitutes the Law of Soul
Progression, we will find that, instead of inflicting pain as a matter of vengeance, Nature uses it as
an aid to education. Nature works to bring joy and happiness to all. But such joy and happiness are
only possible to those properly educated to appreciate them.
The Four Terms of Our Formula
--And thus we will find, as we proceed, that pleasure, pain, energy and polarity are the four terms
of the formula--applicable alike to any intelligence in the universe--which expresses the Law of
Soul Progression.