We have arrived now at the last of the four Convention Lectures, and I will ask you to recall for a moment the path that we have trodden on these three days.
First you remember we considered the nature, the existence of God, His all-pervading Presence, His all-embracing Love and Power. Then we turned to the study of Man, and we saw that man evolved, grew from a Seed of Divinity into the tree in the likeness of the father-tree, whence the seed was thrown into the world. That he evolved under two great Laws: the “Law of Reincarnation” and the “Law of Causation, or Karma”. Yesterday, we considered the complex problem of Right and Wrong, tried to understand the tangled path of action, and to understand also how, by realising our highest capacities of the moment, we could rise higher and higher in Knowledge, in Power, and in Love. To-day we close our study by looking at the “Law of Brotherhood,” trying to understand what it means, seeing what it implies, endeavouring then, in the understanding, to see the principles on which a stable Society may be builded, and to glance forward into the near future of Humanity, with the changed ideals which will illuminate the Coming Race.
Now, this word, “Brotherhood,” has been used for many ages and held to cover many different ideals. First of all, let us take the fact that “Brotherhood” does not and cannot connote equality, save in blood, in essence; rather does it connote inequality of age and development. As you know, you have the proclamation talked of so much in the French Revolution, “Liberty, Equality, Fraternity,” and it has been taken for granted by many that Liberty and Fraternity imply the middle term, Equality. Now what is meant by the word “Equality”? If it be meant that all men are equal in their origin, that every man is born of the Divine Nature, that every man ultimately will reach the manifested Divinity, in that sense Equality is true. We all come forth from God, we all return to God, bearing with us the harvest of our long evolution, having unfolded potentiality into power. In the beginning and the ending, men are equal, equally divine in their beginning, equally divine in their ending; there all men stand on a common platform. But in the long course of evolution from the seed to the full-grown tree, in the long unfolding of Divinity, of God manifest in the flesh, in the long changing struggle between Spirit and Matter, there the races of mankind stand at different stages of their pilgrimage, and they are not on a common level, but are divorced the one from the other: While in Spirit all men are equal, in the flesh men are radically unequal; for Nature, in her long evolution, knows nothing of equality, and protests continually by facts against the theory of the eighteenth and the early nineteenth century. Where is the equality between the man of genius and the fool? Where is the equality between the stalwart and healthy man and the man who has inherited a terrible disease? Where is the equality between the cripple and the athlete? Between the Saint who has nearly accomplished his pilgrimage, and the savage who stands at the beginning? It is of no use to repeat a phrase that flies in the very face of facts and of Nature. Brotherhood connotes inequality of age, inequality of capacity, and inequality of duty. The duty of the elder brother is not the duty of the babe in the cradle. You do not crush the infant of a year old with the heavy burden of the family that lies on the elder brother, who has passed out into the struggle of life; and you need to get rid of the cant of a phrase and to understand the reality of life. You have to realise that the most that can be asked–because the most that is possible–in the building up of Society, is that no man shall artificially, by a man-made law or custom, be placed at an unfair disadvantage so far as those around him are concerned, but that there shall be equality before the law, equality of rich and poor before the law, equality of every citizen in the face of the law. Moreover, you ought to make it your ideal to give to every man equal opportunities; but you must remember that the radical inequality lies _in the power to grasp an opportunity_ when it comes; there is the radical natural inequality that no human society and no human law can obviate.
But if you realise Brotherhood then you come to a new conception. You imagine the building of a social system, in which every man who is born into it shall have the opportunity of developing every faculty he brings with him into the world. A social system wherein from every member of the Society there shall be demanded social service according to his capacity, and to every member shall be given social helping according to his needs. You change the law of struggle into the law of life; you change the brute law of the struggle for existence into the social law of sacrifice. You begin to realise, as Huxley said, quoting a statement of a Master, an Indian Ṛṣhi, that while the brute progresses by the law of the survival of the fittest, the man progresses by the law of self-sacrifice. There you come to the higher ideal and you see that in an elder brother there is inequality of age, and therefore inequality of capacity, therefore inequality of power, and therefore inequality of duty. By the law of love, the strong exist not for tyranny but for service, and where the weakest members are found there the tenderest compassion protects them, and saves them from being trampled under foot. Therefore was it said by one of the great Prophets of our race, by the Christ of Judæa: “Let the greatest among you be as he that doth serve.” Great is the strength evolved, but for helping not for trampling; and so the inequalities of Nature are redressed by an infinite compassion.