DEMOCRACY IS SELF-GOVERNMENT
Harold W. Percival
KNOWLEDGE, JUSTICE AND THE PURSUIT OF HAPPINESS
If law and justice rule the world, and if each one born in the United States of America, or everyone who becomes a citizen, is free and equal under the law, how is it possible for all Americans, or any two, to be entitled to equal rights and opportunity of life and liberty in the pursuit of happiness, when each one’s destiny is so necessarily influenced by his birth and by his station in life?
By an examination and understanding of these terms or phrases, it will become apparent that whatever one’s destiny may be, the United States of America, as compared with many other countries, has fewer disadvantages and offers greater opportunities for one to work with or against his destiny in the pursuit of happiness.
Law is a prescription for performance, made by the thoughts and acts of its maker or makers, to which those who subscribe are bound.
When one thinks what he desires to be, or to do, or to have, or, when several think what they desire to have, or to do, or to be, he or they are unaware that what they are mentally formulating and prescribing is the law by which, in the near or distant future, he or they are actually bound to perform as the acts or the conditions in which they will then be.
Of course most people do not know that they are bound by the law of their own thinking, else they would not think the thoughts they usually do think. Nevertheless, by the law of their thinking all things that are done in the world are done by the prescription of their thoughts, and all the unexpected and unforeseen happenings and conditions are brought about by the officers of justice in the world of the unseen.
Justice is the action of knowledge in relation to the subject in question. That is, it is the giving and receiving of what is right and just exactly according to what one has prescribed for himself by his thoughts and acts. People do not see how justice is executed, because they cannot see and do not understand how they think and what are their thoughts; they do not see or understand how they are inseparably related to their thoughts and how the thoughts operate over long periods; and they forget the thoughts they have created and for which they are responsible. Therefore they do not see that justice administered is just, that it is the unerring result of their own thoughts which they have created,—and from which they must learn the art of what to do, and what not to do.
Destiny is the irrevocable decree or the prescription filled: the thing prescribed,—such as the body and family into which one comes, the station one is in, or any other fact of life.
People have indefinite notions about destiny. They fancy that it comes in a mysterious way, and haphazard, by chance; or that it is caused by any other means than by themselves. Destiny is mysterious; people do not know how individual and universal laws are made. They do not know and often refuse to believe that man makes the laws by which he lives, and that if law did not prevail in the life of man, as well as in the universe, there could be no order in nature; that there could be no recurrence in time, and that the world could not exist as it does for an hour. Each one’s life and the conditions in which he lives are the present immense sum of his long-past thoughts and acts, which by all law, are his duties. They are not to be considered as “good” or “bad”; they are his problems, to be solved by him for his own improvement. He may do with them as he pleases. But whatever he thinks and does, that is making his destiny in the inevitable time to come.
To Be Free
To be free is to be unattached. People sometimes believe they are free because they are not slaves, or are not imprisoned. But often they are as firmly bound by their desires to the objects of the senses as any slave or prisoner held fast by his shackles of steel. One is attached to things by his desires. The desires are attached by one’s thinking. By thinking, and only by thinking, the desires can let go of the objects to which they are attached, and so be free. Then one can have the object and can use it the better because he is no longer attached and bound to it.
Freedom is unattachment; unattachment of oneself to the state, condition, or fact of being, in which or of which, one is conscious.
People who learn little believe that money or possessions or a great position will give them freedom, or remove the necessity for work. But these people are kept from freedom by not having these things, and by the getting of them. This is because they desire them, and their attached desires make them prisoners to their thoughts of the things. One may have freedom with or without such things, because freedom is the mental attitude and state of one who will not be attached in thought to any subject of the senses. One who has freedom performs every action or duty because it is his duty, and without any desire for reward or fear of consequences. Then, and then only, he can enjoy the things he has or uses.
Liberty is immunity from slavery, and the right of one to do as he pleases so long as he does not interfere with another’s equal right and choice.
People who believe that liberty gives them the right to say and to do what they please, regardless of the rights of others, can be trusted with liberty no more than a wild madman can be allowed among those who are well behaved, or a drunken pickpocket let loose among the sober and industrious. Liberty is a social state, in which each one will respect and will give the same consideration to the rights of others as he expects for his own.
To be equal cannot mean to be exactly the same, because no two human beings are or can be the same or equal in body, in character, or in intellect.
People who are too insistent on their own equal rights are usually those who want more than their rights, and to have what they want they would deprive others of their rights. Such people are overgrown children or barbarians and are not deserving of equal rights among the civilized until they will have due consideration for the rights of others.
Equality and equal rights in freedom are: each one has the right to think, to feel, to do, and to be as he wills, without force, pressure or restraint.
One cannot usurp the rights of another without invalidating his own rights. Each citizen so acting preserves the equal rights and freedom for all citizens. Equality of people is a misnomer and a fable without sense or reason. The thought of equality of persons is as absurd or ridiculous as it would be to speak of stationary time, or absence of difference, or of one identity of all. Birth and breeding, habits, customs, education, speech, sensibilities, behavior, and inherent qualities make equality impossible among human beings. It would be as wrong for the cultured to claim equality and to have companionship with the ignorant, as it would be for the boisterous and ill-bred to feel equality with those of good manners and to insist on being welcomed by them. Class is self-determined, not by birth or favor, but by thinking and acting. Each class which respects its own, will respect any other class. The impossible “equality” which causes envy or dislike, will not be desired by any class.
Opportunity is an act or an object or an event which is related to the needs or designs of oneself or of another person, and which is dependent upon a conjunction of time and place and condition.
Opportunity is always present everywhere, but it does not mean the same to all persons. Man makes or uses opportunity; opportunity cannot make or use the man. Those who complain that they have not equal opportunity with others, disqualify and blind themselves so that they cannot see or make use of opportunities that are passing. Opportunities of various kinds are present always. The one who makes use of opportunities offered by time, condition and events, in relation to the needs and wants of people, wastes no time in complaint. He discovers what people need or what they want; then he supplies it. He finds opportunity.
Happiness is an ideal state or dream toward which one may strive but which he never can attain. This is because man does not know what happiness is, and because man’s desires never can be entirely satisfied. The dream of happiness is not the same for all. That which might make one person happy would make another suffer; what to one would be pleasure to another might be pain. People want happiness. They are not sure just what happiness is, but they want it and they pursue it. They pursue it through money, romance, fame, power, marriage, and attractions without end. But if they learn from their experiences with these they will find that happiness eludes the pursuer. It can never be discovered in anything that the world can give. It can never be captured by pursuit. It is not found. It comes when one is ready for it and it comes to the heart that is honest and filled with good will toward all mankind.
Therefore it is that as law and justice must rule the world for it to continue to exist, and, as destiny is determined for all by one’s own thoughts and acts, it is compatible with law and justice that each person born in or who becomes a citizen of the United States of America can be free; that he can or should have under its laws equal rights with others; and, that one depending on his own abilities has his liberty and is free to use opportunity in the pursuit of happiness.
The United States of America can make no man free, law abiding and just, nor can it determine his destiny and give him happiness. But the country and its resources offer every citizen the opportunity to be as free, law abiding and just as he will be, and the laws to which he subscribes guarantee him right and liberty in his pursuit of happiness. The country cannot make the man; the man must make himself what he wills to be. But no country offers ever continuing opportunities greater than those which the United States of America offers to every responsible one who will keep the laws and will make himself as great as it is in his power to be. And the degree of greatness is to be measured not by birth or wealth or party or class, but by self-control, by one’s government of oneself, and one’s efforts toward the election of the most competent of the people to be the governors of the people in the interest of all of the people, as one people. In this way one can become really great, in the establishing of true self-government, a real Democracy in the United States. Greatness is in being self-governed. One who truly is self-governed can serve the people well. The greater the service to all of the people, the greater the man.
Each human body is the destiny, but only the physical destiny, of the conscious Doer in that body. The Doer does not remember its former thoughts and acts which were its prescription for the making of the body it is now in, and which is its own physical inheritance, its law, its duty, and its opportunity—the opportunity for performance.
In the United States there is no birth so lowly that the Doer who comes into that body may not raise it to the highest station in the land. The body is mortal; the Doer is immortal. Is the Doer in that body so attached to the body that it is ruled by the body? Then, though the body be of high estate, the Doer is its slave. If the Doer is sufficiently unattached that it performs all the laws of the body as duties to care for it and protect it and keep it in health, but not to be swerved by the body from its own chosen purpose in life—then the Doer is unattached and, therefore, free. Every immortal Doer in every mortal body has the right to choose whether it will attach itself to the body and be ruled by the bodily wants, or be unattached to the body and be free; free to determine its life-purpose, regardless of the circumstances of the body’s birth or station in life; and free to engage in the pursuit of happiness.
Law and justice do rule the world. If it were not so there would be no circulation in nature. Masses of matter could not be dissolved into units, the infinitesimals and atoms and molecules could not combine into definite structure; the earth, sun, moon and stars could not move in their courses and be continually held in their relation to each other in their bodily and spatial immensities. It is against sense and reason, and worse than madness, to fancy that law and justice might not rule the world. If it were possible that law and justice might be stopped for one minute, the result would be universal chaos and death.
Universal justice rules the world by law in consonance with knowledge. With knowledge there is certainty; with knowledge there is no room for doubt.
Temporal justice rules for man, with the evidences of his senses as the law, and to accord with expediency. With expediency there is always doubt; there is no room for certainty. Man limits his knowledge and his thinking to the evidences of his senses; his senses are inaccurate, and they change; therefore it is unavoidable that the laws which he makes must be inadequate, and that concerning justice he is always in doubt.
What man calls law and justice concerning his life and conduct is out of order with eternal law and justice. Therefore he does not understand the laws by which he lives and the justice which is meted out to him in every event of his life. He often believes that life is a lottery; that chance or favoritism prevails; that there is no justice, unless it be that might is right. Yet, for all of that, there is eternal law. In every happening of human life inviolable justice rules.
Man can, if he so wills, become conscious of universal law and justice. For good or ill, man makes the laws for his own future destiny by his own thoughts and acts, even as by his past thoughts and acts he has spun his own web of destiny on which he works day by day. And, by his thoughts and acts, though he knows it not, man helps to determine the laws of the land in which he lives.
There is a station in every human body through which the Doer in the human can begin to learn of eternal law, the law of rightness—if the Doer so wills. The station is in the human heart. From there the voice of conscience speaks. Conscience is the Doer’s own standard of right; it is the Doer’s immediate sum of knowledge on any moral subject or question. A multitude of preferences and prejudices, all of the senses, constantly swarm into the heart. But when the Doer distinguishes these from the voice of conscience and heeds that voice the sensual invaders are kept out. The Doer then begins to learn the law of rightness. Conscience warns him of what is wrong. Learning the law of rightness opens the way for the Doer to appeal to its reason. Reason is the counselor, the judge and the administrator of justice in everything concerning the Doer in the human. Justice is the action of knowledge in relation to the subject in question. That is, justice is the relation of the Doer to its duty; this relation is the law which the Doer has decreed for itself; it has created this relation by its own thoughts and acts; and it must fulfil this relation; it must willingly live according to this self-made law, if it is to be in accord with universal law.
Copyright 1980 by The Word Foundation, Inc.