The Word Foundation


Harold W. Percival



Section 5

Group destiny. Rise and fall of a nation. The facts of history. Agents of the law. Religions as group destiny. Why a person is born into a religion.

Group destiny is a destiny which affects alike a certain number of people. Their thoughts have made that destiny for them. Members of a family may have a certain destiny in common. They have the same ancestry, traditions and honor, are related to a locality and share to a certain extent social and cultural connections. Often their common destiny is the lack of all this except locality and ancestry. Sometimes, similar physical features appear among the members of a family and are designated as hereditary. In some families the members continue to be reborn through several lives. They receive what they have given to the family name and standing or have allowed to happen to it. Group destiny may affect the members of a family for one or two generations only, or may extend through centuries. People are drawn into a family and kept there by similarity of thought; as long as that similarity lasts the family is held together. Formerly land ownership with entail, or the mere living in a locality was the means of establishing and perpetuating a family. In modern times the thought has changed and land is no longer the chief means of continuing a family. Sometimes mutually hostile thoughts draw people into the same family and its group destiny.

Persons share in the group destiny, that is, the physical conditions, of their community because their thoughts had or have something in common; these bring them into the same hamlet or town, with common conditions and interests. Though the separate destinies in such communities vary, there is some bond of common thought that draws persons into and keeps them in the locality. There they have a common language, physical environment, neighborhood, customs and pleasures; there they intermarry and there meet a common fate in times of prosperity, adversity, epidemic, fire, inundation or war. What each person receives in a common disaster is an exteriorization of his own past thoughts. If the common fate does not coincide with the cycle of any thought of those present in such a locality, they escape. So it is that there are miraculous exceptions from the general fate when many are brought together and made to suffer, as in a shipwreck, a burning theater, a collapsing building, a flood or in religious or political persecutions.

People are born into a nation or race because their thoughts, and the disposition and character made by them, draw them there. They make the general spirit, character, peculiarities and tendencies of the race, and develop, strengthen or change them. The people make the spirit which is the god of the race, they create it by their thought. It breathes through the representatives of that race; hence comes indifference towards or prejudice against those who do not belong to or who oppose the national spirit. All who think similarly are drawn to the spirit and are eventually born into the race, where they share its group destiny to the extent to which their thoughts can be exteriorized at the time, condition and place.

Generally the people who are of any race belong there naturally, by the degree of development of their doers and bodies. Some, however, are born into a race to get special training; some because they have persecuted the race; some because they are entitled to special benefits from it; and some because they have to do a certain work for it: all share the group destiny.

At the time of an unusual calamity, as in periods of famine, defeat in war, oppression by a hostile nation, uprisings and lawlessness, outsiders are there to share the group destiny. These outsiders are born into a race as naturally as those who belong to it, so as to be there at the time when these disasters happen. They have exteriorized to them through the public calamity what they have attracted to themselves by their own thoughts. The same is true of those doers who come in to participate in a period of achievement, refinement and splendor.

The rise or fall of a nation is due to a particular thought which becomes the national thought. The same thought that is exteriorized in the power and greatest achievement of a nation is often the cause of its decline, fall and disappearance. A set of people generates the thought and develops it. Others are drawn in by the similarity of their thoughts and aid in the building of a nation through the exteriorization of its dominating thought. Some thoughts are powerful enough to keep a nation up for centuries before it is given over to inferior doers or sinks away or is effaced. The complete disappearance of a people like the Carthaginians, the Egyptians or the ancient Greeks is evidence that at the crucial times there were not enough people to give to the national thought a new impetus that would carry the nation through the accumulating exteriorizations of its past thoughts.

There is a time, and its span does not exceed fifty years, in which every nation might have disappeared as a political entity under the weight of its destiny. The thoughts of every nation, whether it be a republic or a monarchy, are the collective thoughts of its people. If these thoughts are, and have been in the past, directed towards individual advantage or public conquest, to deceit or oppression, they are exteriorized in public calamities. These thoughts would make an end of the political entity as a state. But nearly always there is someone who has broader vision and creates a new thought or a new feeling or a modification of those which exist. In this he is assisted by some of the complete Triune Selves who watch and help the world. Thus the nation gets over the critical period. Of course no one man alone could save a nation; there must be a sufficient number of persons who support the regenerating thought, and if they can obtain a preponderance of thought the nation goes on, otherwise it declines.

Men are self-indulgent and act with selfish ends in view. To acquire and increase possessions, to have personal comfort and safety and to wield power, are the motives of their thoughts. Treason and evasion of military duty in war, monopolies, tax-dodging and special privileges in peace, are extreme cases. And almost everyone is interested in public matters only to the extent of the personal advantages he expects. Men seek little favors here and big gifts there, knowing that they will profit thereby at the expense of the public or of justice. Almost everyone adds to the general tendency toward corruption in public institutions. Some persons are active under the sting of selfish interest, most are indolent and inert from love of ease. There are many men who would be good officials, but they are not available. The people do not appreciate and will not uphold a just official, but they forsake him and leave him a disappointed man. So they do not get the best men, and if they do get well-intentioned men, they usually force them to protect themselves by complaisance or by corruption.

Therefore public officials in monarchies, oligarchies and democracies, are as bad as they are. They are the representatives of the people; in them the thoughts of the people have taken form. Those who are not in office would do as the present officials do, or even worse, if they had the opportunity. Corrupt officials can hold office and sinecures only so long as the thoughts of the people are depraved. Cruel barons could oppress the people only as long as the majority of the people, if they had been in the barons’ place, would have done as the barons did. Despots have lived only because they embodied the ambitions and desires of the people over whom they ruled. The Catholic Inquisition to suppress heresy existed as long as it expressed the thoughts of the people.

When the thoughts of the people demand a change for the better a man usually appears to fight for it. He expresses their thoughts; but usually they forsake him when his actions need their support. When it is a question of choice between the public interest and their private interests, the private interests prevail. Usually those who complain of misrule, taxes, extortion or other injustice, would themselves be guilty of such wrongs if only they could commit them with impunity. The persons in power, whether in a despotism or in a democracy, are those who can discern and use human weaknesses, and at the same time have more vigor and are willing to take more risks than the multitude.

The actual facts of history are little known. Glorification of their nation and religion in schoolbooks, selection of favorable topics on public occasions, suppression of facts, a catch phrase here and there, are what all who are not close observers of history get concerning it. The weaknesses and misdeeds of individuals, and the inertia, incompetence and corruption of those engaged in public and national affairs, usually remain hidden—from all but the law. Largely from these unobserved facts come the group destiny of oppression, injustice, war, revolutions, heavy taxes, strikes, pauperism and epidemics. Those who complain of these misfortunes are among their contributory causes.

Seemingly unimportant things may be factors in physical destiny. Only a portion of what man eats can be used by him; that which he cannot use belongs to the earth. He should return to the earth, in a sanitary way, the refuse of the body after he has used the food which the earth has yielded for him. A community which conducts its waste and putrescent matter into a river or lake, does a wrong. Such matter befouls the water. Many diseases and epidemics in cities have been caused thereby. This is group destiny.

At critical times certain men arise and accomplish unusual results. Such men are generally unconscious agents of the law. The group destiny of their people calls for an instrument by which the people’s thoughts can be exteriorized. A man appears when the thoughts of his people demand him. To no one man of this kind should be attributed all of what he does. He acts because he is impelled to act and because he is allowed to see the way to accomplish his purpose. Some such men in the last century were Palmerston, Bismarck, Cavour, Mazzini and Garibaldi.

The English spirit of the past made Lord Palmerston, kept him in office and produced during his long rule the results obtained for Britain through him. Bismarck was a Prussian; he was in himself an able and powerful man; but what made him successful was the time, the place, and the conditions, which allowed the thought of Prussian schooling, administration, militarism and power, to be exteriorized as the thought of the whole of Germany. In the same way the Italian thoughts of nationalism and of freedom from Austrian tyranny and Papal misrule, were expressed in the success of Cavour, Mazzini and Garibaldi.

Sometimes the agents of the law are conscious agents. Washington, Hamilton, Lincoln and Napoleon were of this kind. Washington knew that he was to be the true leader of men and the founder of a new nation. Hamilton actually knew that he had to lay truly the foundations of American finance in government. Lincoln knew that he had to preserve the Union, and he acted as best he could with the selfish and fanatical forces surrounding him. He accomplished the purpose with which he was charged by the Intelligence he spoke of as God.

Napoleon’s mission to Europe was to remove the old ghosts of dynasties which had kept Europe in turmoil, bloodshed and servitude for centuries. He was to give these countries an opportunity for a government by the people as a whole. He failed because the French people, though they said they wanted liberty, equality and fraternity, were quite willing to let Napoleon create a new dynasty and conquer the world for them. He received instruction from some of the agents of complete Triune Selves; he was to give France a model government; and Europe was to pattern after it, if the people would. He was to leave no royal issue, so that he could found no dynasty. His ambition overcame him; he divorced his barren wife and married again, so as to have issue. After he had determined on this course, his power began to diminish and he could no longer discern opportunities or provide against dangers. The destiny of the people of Europe exteriorized for him his own weakness and ambition, to bring on the reactionary period which lasted there for nearly a hundred years.

Group destiny is particularly manifest at times when there are sudden changes in methods of government, as when there is a rising of slaves or a revolution, and mob rule in the wake of such convulsions.

Religions, too, belong to group destiny. They develop out of prior religious institutions, which no longer fit the times and the thoughts of the people. Gradually new views spread, and provision has to be made to allow the former thoughts of coming generations to be exteriorized. Then the subversive attitude of mind spreads until it is so general that the new religion can be supported by it. Upon the scene so prepared appears a founder of the new religion. Sometimes he remains unknown. The new phase of religion succeeds where many attempts had failed because the time was not yet ripe to allow them to take hold.

A theocracy is the rule by priests in the name of their God or gods. The priests rule; if the gods ever do rule by direct mandate, they soon leave all to their priests, who attend to mundane affairs for the benefit of the priestly hierarchy. The priests look after the welfare of the people chiefly for their own prosperity. For backward doers some features of a theocracy permit a good schooling in morals, just as slavery was permitted to let doers get a training. The morals taught are substantially the same in all religious systems, and are no worse in a theocracy than in other systems.

The group destiny of those who live under a theocracy is notable. There all worldly and ecclesiastical power is in the hands of priests. Lands, offices, possessions, revenues and exactions of all kinds are obtained by priests in a measure unnecessary for “spiritual” guides. Their real object is to satisfy their human love of power, luxury and lust. As long as they unite temporal power with their priestly office, they hold the common people in ignorance, credulity, bondage, poverty and fear, and cow powerful nobles. So it was in India, in Judea, in Egypt, with the Aztecs, and during the Dark Ages in countries where the Roman Catholic Church had temporal power. The group destiny of the common people is the exteriorization of their childish thoughts. These keep them in subjection to priests, whom they believe to be representatives of God. However, that is usually the only way in which backward doers can be taught morals and can progress at all.

The persons belonging to such a religion are born into it because they belong to it. They are marked by the God of that religion before birth. They can emancipate themselves only by individual thinking. Aside from the group destiny, the individuals of course have their own thoughts of greed, hypocrisy and oppression exteriorized to them in the events which are their destiny. If they have engaged in persecutions as joint enterprises, it may be that they will be together in groups when the arm of the law smites.

The priests of any particular religion are not exceptional in the desire to maintain themselves in power by whatever means they can. The French priest Calvin, the Scotch Presbyterians, priests of the English Church, the Puritans of Massachusetts, including the witch-killers of Salem, all were eager to stamp out heresies and were oppressors. Everyone who persecutes others and seeks the supremacy of his own doctrines, justifies his atrocity by the claim that he benefits those whom he tortures. However, hypocrisy and the arguments which were a screen in days of theocratic domination, are no protection when payment is exacted, and the lesson of tolerance and broad sympathy with humanity has to be learned in the school of the law. The priests, executioners and mobs meet their destiny singly or in groups. As to any theocracy, monotheistic or polytheistic, none of them is, as far as the persons who live under it are concerned, any better or more lenient than the most brutal of barbarous despots.

Each god is jealous of power, and the priests of one religion declare war on the worshippers of other gods. The gods are not the ones that are killed; the people have to pay with their lives during the cruel religious wars of the priests. The gods at the heads of all religions are nature gods created by men; they are not Intelligences. This is indicated by the fact that they have priests who represent them; by the element of fire, air, water or earth, to which they belong; by the sense or senses to which they are related, as sights, sounds, tastes or odors, which are used in rites and symbols in their worship; and, by the fact that each of the gods is worshipped collectively and is believed to be exterior.

All this may be learned by one or a few in a lifetime, but the majority of the adherents of any religion remain together and experience in groups whatever destiny their devotion, sincerity and honesty, or their prejudice, bigotry and hypocrisy, or their arrogance, fanaticism and cruelty in their religious belief brings to them. Thus religions provide group destiny.

The group destiny of those who live under a clerical oligarchy is governed by the same law as that which affects the group destiny of those who live under other forms of oligarchical government. Oligarchies of aristocratic landowners, of soldiers, of bureaucrats, of money-kings, of political bosses and of labor leaders, all have similar aspects. Sometimes there are hereditary features in these institutions; however, here as well as in the so-called heredity of a physical body, the hereditary feature is merely a means of working out the destiny which is always a precipitation and concretion of the thoughts of those who are affected by these forms of government.