DEMOCRACY IS SELF-GOVERNMENT
Harold W. Percival
What can one really own? Ownership is said to be the exclusive right to property, possessions, or anything which is legally or otherwise credited as one’s own, which that one has the right to have, to hold, and to do with as he pleases. That is the law; that is the belief; that is the custom.
But, strictly speaking, you cannot really own any more than that portion of your feeling-and-desire which you, as the Doer in your body, brought with you when you came into and took residence in the man-body or woman-body in which you are.
Ownership is not considered from that point of view; of course not. Most people believe that what is “mine” is “mine,” and what is “thine” is “thine”; and that what you can get from me belongs to you and is yours. Certainly, that is true enough for general commerce in the world, and people have accepted that as the only way for the conduct of life. It has been the old way, the way of bondage, the way people have traveled; but it is not the only way.
There is a new way, the way of freedom, for all people who want to be free in their conduct of life. Those who really want their freedom must take the way to freedom in their conduct of life. To do this, people must be able to see the new way and to understand it. To see the way, people must learn to see things not only as things appear to be, and as seen with the senses, but they must see and understand things as things really are, that is, to see facts not only from one point of view, but to also see through the facts as the facts are from all points of view.
To see things as they really are, people must in addition to the ordinary senses, use their “moral sense”— conscience—that inner feeling in each human which feels what is right from what is wrong, and which often advises against what the outer senses suggest. Every human has what is called a moral sense, but selfishness will not always listen to it.
By extreme selfishness one can stifle and strangle the moral sense until it is as dead. Then that one lets the dominating beast among its desires rule. Then he actually is a beast—such as a pig, fox, wolf, tiger; and even though the beast is disguised by fair words and pleasing manners, the beast is nevertheless a beast in human form! He is ever ready to devour, to plunder, and to destroy, whenever it is safe for him, and opportunity permits. One who is entirely controlled by self-interest will not see the New Way.
One cannot lose anything that he really owns because all that he owns is of himself. But anything which one has which is not of himself he may lose, or it may be taken away from him. What one loses, never was really his.
One can have and get possessions, but he cannot own possessions. The most that one can do with possessions is to have the use of them; he cannot own possessions.
The most that one can really have in this world is the use of the things that are in his possession or in that of another. The value of anything is the use that one makes of it.
Let it not be supposed that if you cannot own anything of nature, and because ownership entails responsibility, you can give away or throw away what you have, and go through life using the things which other people think they own, and thus escape all responsibility. Oh no! Life is not like that! That is not fair play. One plays the game of life according to the generally accepted rules of life, else order will be displaced by disorder and confusion prevail. The birds and the angels will not come down and feed and clothe and care for you. What childlike innocence that would be! You are responsible for your body. Your body is your schoolhouse. You are in it to learn the ways of the world, and to know what you should do and what you should not do. You cannot give away or throw away what you have, without being morally accountable. You are responsible for what you have, or what you earn or are entrusted with, under the term of ownership. You are to pay what you owe and receive what is due you.
Nothing of the world can bind you to things of the world. By your own feeling and desire you bind yourself to things of the world; you attach yourself with the bond of ownership or with ties of possessions. Your mental attitude holds you bound. You cannot flout the world and change the habits and customs of the people. Changes are made gradually. You can have as few or as many possessions as your circumstances and position in life require. You, as feeling-and-desire, can attach and bind yourself to possessions and things of the world as though bound by iron chains; or, by enlightenment and understanding, you can detach and so free yourself from your bonds of attachment. Then you can have possessions, and can use them and anything in the world for the best interests of all concerned, because you are not blinded by, or bound to, the things you own or possess.
Ownership is at best a trusteeship of what one has worked for, or what one is regarded as owning. Ownership entails upon and makes of the owner a trustee, a guardian, a manager, an executor, and the user of what he owns. One is then responsible for the trust which he takes, or which is imposed on him by ownership. He is held responsible for the trust which is in his keeping and for what he does with it. Everyone is held responsible as an owner; responsible for what he does with that which he has in his keeping. If you see these facts you can see the New Way.
Who holds you responsible for your “ownership”? You are held responsible by that part of your very own Triune Self who watches over you; who is your protector, and your judge; who administers your destiny to you as you make it, and therefore becomes responsible for it,—and as you are ready to receive it in whatever befalls you. Your judge is an inseparable part of your Triune Self, even as your foot is a part of the one body you are in. Therefore your protector and judge will not and cannot administer or allow any happening to you that is not warranted. But you as the Doer are not yet conscious of some happenings which befall you as the result of your own doing, any more than if your right foot would be conscious why it was not allowed to walk about, because it had stumbled and caused the breaking of the left leg, and you were obliged to have the leg set in a plaster cast. Then if your foot were conscious of itself as a foot, it would complain; just as you, who are feeling-and-desire-conscious, complain of certain restrictions put on you by your own protector and judge, because you are restrained for your own protection, or because it is not best for you to do what you would do if you could.
It is possible for you to have the use of anything of nature, but you cannot own anything that is of nature. Anything that can be taken away from you is not of yourself, you do not really own it. You own only what is a small but an essential and integral part of your greater thinking and knowing Self. You cannot be separated from the indivisible, irreducible and immortal unit, of which you as Doer are the feeling-and-desire part. Anything that is not you, you cannot own, though you may have the use of it until it is taken away from you by nature’s time periods in circulations and transformations. Nothing that you can do will prevent nature from taking away from you what you believe to be yours, while you are in nature’s house of bondage.
Nature’s house of bondage is a human body, a man-body or a woman-body. While you live in and are conscious of your identity as the man-body or the woman-body you are in, you are in bondage to nature and are controlled by nature. While you are in the house of bondage to nature you are the slave of nature; nature owns you and controls you and compels you to operate the man-machine or the woman-machine you are in, to carry on and to maintain the natural economy of universal nature. And, like the slave who is driven by his taskmaster to toil without knowing why he does what he does or the plan by which he works, you are by nature driven to eat and drink and breathe and propagate.
You keep your little body-machine going. And the feeling-and-desire Doers in their body-machines keep their little machines going to keep the big nature machine going. You do this by being deceived by your body-mind into the belief that you are the body and its senses. You are allowed periods of rest at the end of each day’s labor, in sleep; and at the end of each life’s work, in death, before you are again each day hooked up with your body, and each life hooked up with a different body, to keep on the treadmill of human experience, by keeping the nature machine in operation.
While you work in the house of bondage you are allowed to believe that you own the house in which you are kept in bondage, and you deceive yourself that you can own houses that are built with hands, and that you can own forests and fields and birds and beasts of every kind. You and other Doers in their houses of bondage agree to buy and sell to each other the things of the earth which they believe they own; but those things belong to the earth, to nature; you cannot really own them.
You, we, buy and sell to each other things we may have the use of but which we cannot own. Often when you believe that your ownership is established and acknowledged and secure beyond doubt, they are taken away from you. Wars, unexpected changes in government, may relieve you of ownership. Stocks, bonds, guilt-edged securities of undoubted value may become almost worthless in a fire or financial panic. Hurricane or fire may take away your property; pestilence may blight and destroy your animals and trees; water may wash away or engulf your land, and leave you stranded and alone. And even then you believe you own, or are, your body,—until disease wastes, or death takes the house of bondage you were in.
Then you wander on through the after-death states until it is time to again take residence in another house of bondage, to use nature and to be used by nature, without ever actually knowing yourself as yourself, and as not nature; and to continue to believe that you can own the things which you may have the use of, but which you cannot own.
The house of bondage you are in is your prison, or your workhouse or your schoolhouse, or your laboratory, or your university. By what in your past life you thought and did, you determined and made to be what is the house which you are now in. What you think and feel and do with the house you are in now, will determine and make the house you will inherit and inhabit when you live on earth again.
By your choice, and purpose, and work, you can maintain the kind of house you live in. Or, by your choice and purpose, you can change the house from what it is, and make it what you will that it is to be—by thinking and feeling and working. You may abuse and debase it, or improve and raise it. And by debasing or improving your house you are at the same time lowering or raising yourself. As you think and feel and act, so also do you change your house. By thinking you keep the like kind of associates and remain in the class in which you are; or, by the change of subjects and quality of thinking, you change your associates and put yourself into a different class and stratum of thinking. Thinking makes the class; class does not make the thinking.
In the long, long ago, before you lived in a house of bondage, you lived in a house of freedom. The body you were then in was a house of freedom because it was a body of balanced cells that did not die. The changes of time could not alter that house and death could not touch it. It was free from the changes wrought by time; it was immune from contagion, exempt from death, and had continuous and enduring life. Therefore, it was a house of freedom.
You as the Doer of feeling-and-desire inherited and lived in that house of freedom. It was a university for the training and graduation of units of nature in their progressive degrees in being conscious as their functions. You only, not nature, could affect that house of freedom, by your thinking and feeling and desiring. By allowing your body-mind to deceive you, you changed your body of balanced cells which were kept in balance by eternal life, into a body of unbalanced cells which was subject to death, to periodically live in a man-body or a woman-body as a house of bondage to nature, as a time-server of nature in a body of time, and to be demolished by death. And death took it!
By doing that you limited and related your thinking to the body-mind and the senses, and obscured the Conscious Light which made you always conscious of your Thinker and Knower. And you as the Doer destined your feeling-and-desire to live periodically in a body in bondage to the changes of nature,—forgetful of your oneness with your immortal Thinker and Knower in the Eternal.
You are not conscious of the presence of your Thinker and Knower in the Eternal, because your thinking has been limited by the body-mind to thinking according to the body-mind and the senses. That is why you have been compelled to think of yourself in terms of the senses, which must be of the past, the present, or the future, as time. Whereas, the Eternal is not, cannot be limited to the changing flow of matter, as measured by the senses and called time.
The Eternal has no past or future; it is ever present; the past and future of time and sense are comprehended in the ever-presence of the eternal Thinker and Knower, of the Doer who has exiled itself to the limitations of waking and sleeping and living and dying according to the changes of matter, as time.
Your body-mind holds you a prisoner in your house of bondage as a time-server to nature. While one is a slave to nature, nature holds that one in bondage, because one whom nature can control cannot be trusted. But when a Doer has by self-control and self-government freed itself from bondage, then nature, so to say, rejoices; because, the Doer can then be a guide and lead nature, instead of serving as a slave. The difference between the Doer as a slave and the Doer as a guide is: As a slave, the Doer keeps nature in ever-recurring changes, and so prevents the uninterrupted progress of individual nature units in their steady advance. Whereas, as a guide, the Doer who is self-controlled and self-governed can be trusted, and will also be able to guide nature in orderly progression. Nature cannot trust the slave, whom she must control; but she readily yields to the guidance of one who is self-controlled and self-governed.
You could not, then, be trusted as a free Doer (free from time and free as a governor of nature in a house of freedom) when you made yourself to be a time-server of nature in the house of bondage to nature, in the house as a man-body or as a woman-body.
But, in the cyclic revolutions of the ages, what has been will again be. The original type of the house of freedom persists potentially in the germ of your house of bondage. And when the deathless “you” decides to end your time-service to nature, you will begin to end the time to which you sentenced yourself.
The time to which you sentenced yourself is measured and marked by the duties you have made for yourself and for which you are therefore responsible. The house of bondage in which you are is the measurer and marker of the duties that lie before you. As you perform the duties of the body, and the duties you incur through it, you will gradually change your body from a prison house, a workhouse, a school house, a laboratory, to a university for the progress of nature units, to be again the house of freedom in which you will be the free Doer and governor of nature, which you and all other Doers now in bondage to nature are destined to become.
You begin to work out your time-service to nature by self-discipline, by the practice of self-control and self-government. Then you are no longer blown by the whimsical winds of fancy and tossed by the emotional waves of life, without rudder or goal. Your pilot, your Thinker, is at the helm and you steer your course as shown by rightness and reason from within. You cannot be foundered on the shoals of possessions, nor will you be capsized or sunk under the weight of ownership. You will be unencumbered and poised, and you will hold true to your course. You will make the best use of the available things of nature. Whether you are “rich” or “poor” will not interfere with your work of self-control and self-government.
Do you not know that you cannot own anything? Then you will use wealth for your own progress and for the welfare of the people. Poverty will not discourage you because you cannot be really destitute; you will be able to supply your needs for your work; and, to be “poor” may be of advantage for your purpose. Your own judge of your Triune Self administers your destiny as you make it. For you there will be no “rich” or “poor,” except as in the understanding of life.
If your purpose is for the accomplishment of your ultimate destiny the work cannot be done in a hurry. The time in years for doing it cannot be stated. The work is done in time, but it is not a work for time. It is a work for the Eternal. Therefore, time should not be considered in the work else you will remain a time-server. The work should be for self-control and self-government, and so continue without letting the time element enter into the work. The essence of time is in accomplishment.
When you persistently work for accomplishment without regard to time, you are not ignoring time but you are adapting yourself to the Eternal. When your work is interrupted by death, you again take up the work of self-control and self-government. No longer a time-server even though still in a house of bondage, you continue your inevitable purpose of destiny, to its accomplishment.
Under no government can individuals of a people accomplish this greatest work or any other great work, so well as in a democracy. By the practice of self-control and self-government you and others can and will eventually establish a real democracy, self-government by the people as one united people, in the United States of America.
Those who are nearly ready will understand, even though they do not at once choose to begin the work of freeing themselves from bondage to the body. Indeed, only a few may wish to begin the work of changing the house of bondage into a house of freedom. This freedom cannot be forced upon anyone. Each one must choose, as he will. But nearly everyone should see the great advantage it will be for him or her and for the country to practice self-reliance and self-control and self-government; and, by so doing, help in the ultimate establishment of a real democracy in the United States.
Copyright 1980 by The Word Foundation, Inc.