DEMOCRACY IS SELF-GOVERNMENT
Harold W. Percival
THE ENIGMA: MAN
Intelligence manifests itself in law and order throughout universal nature by the regular succession of day and night and of the seasons of the year. Creatures of the earth, of the water, and the air obey their instinctive promptings, each according to its kind. Order prevails everywhere—except in man. Among existing things, man is the enigma. Every creature can be depended on to act according to its nature, except man. It cannot be said with certainty what man will do or will not do. No limit can be set to his rise to heights of the sublime, and no beast can sink to depths of the depravities of man. He is kind and compassionate; he is also cruel and merciless. He is loving and considerate of others; yet he hates and is rapacious. Man is a friend and an enemy, to himself and to his neighbor. Denying himself the comforts, he will devote his energies to relieving the ills and troubles of others, yet no theological devil can compare with the fiendishness of man.
Laboring in crude beginnings through pain and privation from generation to generation and from age to age with unceasing effort, man builds up a great civilization—and then destroys it. Working through periods of dark forgetfulness he slowly emerges and again raises up another civilization—which, likewise, he blots out. And as often as he creates he destroys. Why? Because he will not unriddle the riddle and make known to himself the enigma which he is. He draws from the unfathomed depths and the undiscovered heights of his inner Self to rebuild the earth and to vault the sky, but he falls back defeated at any attempt to enter the realm of his inner Self; it is easier for him to pull down mountains and build up cities. These things he can see and handle. But he cannot think his way to his conscious Self, as he can think how to build a road through a jungle or to tunnel through a mountain or to span a river.
To know about himself, and to get acquainted with himself, he must think. He does not see any progress when he tries to think what he really is. Then time is terrible and he fears to look through the fortress of his illusions until he is alone with his timeless Self.
He lingers in his illusions and he forgets himself. He continues to draw from his unknown Self the images from which he builds, the blessings and the plagues which he spreads abroad; and he continues to create the illusions which seem so real and with which he surrounds himself. Rather than face the dread task and solve the enigma, man tries to flee, escape from himself into world activities, and he makes it his business to create and to destroy.
Copyright 1980 by The Word Foundation, Inc.