The Word Foundation


Harold W. Percival



Section 7

Fourth Civilization. Governments. Ancient teachings of the Light of the Intelligence. Religions.

At all times and in every one of the four ages of any cycle the people were of four classes: the handworkers, the traders, the thinkers and those who had some knowledge. These distinctions were outstanding at periods of the highest development and obscured in periods of low development. The forms of the relation between these four classes have changed many times.

In agricultural periods the handworkers acted as slaves or as hired laborers or as small landowners working for themselves, or they received a part of the produce or other remuneration as pay from greater landholders, or they worked in large family communities. In industrial periods they worked as slaves or as hired men, owned small manufacturing plants in their houses or worked together in larger shops or in communities. It was so among the people of an earth age as well as among those of the other ages. One class was the handworkers or muscleworkers or bodyworkers; the other three classes depended on them, but the bodyworkers in turn depended on the other classes. The second class was that of the traders. They traded products for products, or for a medium of exchange, metals, animals or slaves. Sometimes they predominated for a while, as they do today, when large landholders and manufacturers, politicians, lawyers and often doctors belong to this class. The third class was that of the thinkers, those who had a profession, supplying information and service to traders and workers; they were priests, teachers, healers, warriors, builders, or navigators, on land, on water or in the air. The fourth class were the knowers among men, those who had a sense-knowledge available from the past, of the forces of nature which the third class only applied to practical ends, and who had some knowledge of the doer and the Triune Self and of their relation to the Light of the Intelligence. At times all classes lived in a rude fashion; at others they lived in simple comfort with art and learning widely diffused; at other times there was great disparity in the standards of living, and poverty, discomfort and disease of the masses were in contrast to the wealth and luxury of a few. Usually the four classes were mixed, but sometimes their distinctions were rigidly observed.

The governments were phases of rulership by knowledge, by learning, by traders, and by the many. The forms in which the phases actually appeared were hierarchies, with a chief as the top of a pyramid of lesser officials. Whether knowledge ruled or learning or whether traders or the many were in power, actually one person was the ruler, with assistants, councillors and numbers of servitors decreasing in authority and importance. Sometimes the head was elected by his own class or by all classes, sometimes he usurped or inherited his position. Those under him would usually draw power, property and privileges to themselves at the expense of those who were not of the class in power at the time. All this was tried over and over again. The most successful governments, where the greatest well-being and happiness prevailed among the greatest number, were those in times when the class that had knowledge was in power. The least successful, those where the greatest confusion, want and unhappiness prevailed, were the governments by the many.

Corruption and trading the general interest for private ends existed as much when the many ruled as when the traders themselves were in power. The curse of government by the masses has been ignorance, indifference, unbridled passion and selfishness. The traders, when they ruled, modified these inherent properties by a thought of regulation, order and business. But the curse was that the practice of corruption, hypocrisy and trading in public affairs still existed in the general order which they outwardly maintained. When the learned were in power as warriors, priests or the cultured, the fundamental qualities, which were unrestrained when the many were in power and only modified superficially when the traders ruled, were often influenced by considerations of integrity, honor and nobility. When those ruled who had knowledge the pyramid of the public servants was free from greed, lust and cruelty, and brought justice, simplicity, honesty and consideration for others with it. But this was rare and only came at the climax of an age, though it sometimes lasted for a long period.

The moral qualities of humanity have been very much the same in every age for long periods. What had varied is the openness with which they have appeared. Responsibility and freedom from sexual immorality, from drunkenness and from dishonesty have been the mark in all ages of those who had knowledge. The other three classes have been governed by their passions. While the learned and cultured have often been restrained by pride, honor and position, the traders have been restrained by fear of the law and the loss of trade, and the fourth class has been restrained by the not seeing, or neglecting to take advantage of, opportunities, and by fear.

This general aspect of the morality of the ages is modified by many exceptions. Exceptional persons are such because they do not really belong to the class of which they for the time seem to form part. In each human is a combination of all classes. Everyone is a worker, a trader, has learning and has knowledge in some degree. His morality is regulated by the predominance in him of one of the four. He is one of the exceptions when the predominance in him of one of the four gives him a moral standard differing from that of the class to which he apparently belongs.

During the Fourth Civilization numerous and widely divergent religions have come into existence, have risen and have fallen into desuetude. Religions represent the ties that hold the doer to nature, from which it came, and the pull that nature has on the doer’s feelings, emotions and desires, through the four senses. These senses are the messengers and the servants of nature. The ties last until the doer learns that it is not a part of nature, not those senses, and that it is independent of nature and the senses. These ties are allowed by the Intelligences and Triune Selves in charge of humanity for the purpose of training it. Religions of some sort are necessary in so far as they are these ties, and advantageous in so far as they tend to advance the doers which are tied. The Light of the Intelligences is loaned, through the doers, to the God or gods to which the thoughts and desires of the human beings go out in worship. The apparent intelligence of the gods of religions is due to the Light of the Intelligences, which they permit to enlighten the gods and the theology of the religions. The more important religious movements were started by Wise Men, a name here used for advanced doers living for a special purpose in human bodies, and by Saviors of a tribe, of a people, or of the world. The fact of the appearance of new religions from time to time is patent, though the personalities that started the movements as Osiris, Moses and Jesus are legendary, even in historical times. In the present earth age a new one appears about every twenty-one hundred years.

The religions of the past of which no known record remains often reappeared in a cyclic order. Some religions were unlike anything that is called a religion today. Sometimes they were identified with science. They were logical and orderly. Their theology met the demands of reason. It was so in periods when the worldly governments were in the hands of those who had Self-knowledge. At those times there existed as distinct from religions a teaching of The Way which led to the Light of the Intelligence, and to the freedom of the doer from rebirth. The Way had to be traveled individually and consciously. There has never been collective worship with feasts and rites and ceremonies to reach the Light of the Intelligence. Religions are on the nature-side. The Way is on the intelligent-side.

At most times there was a chasm between thinking and religion. The theologies were given out as infallible and unchangeable. Usually they maintained their hold on the people by rites and spectacles symbolic of events in nature or of events after death since these appealed to the feelings and emotions. The theologies promised their votaries rewards which they desired, and threatened punishments which they feared. The stories of what the gods went through, their sufferings and adventures, appealed to the sympathy and sentiments of the worshippers. Martyrdom was important in these theologies. Impressive angels, demons and devils existed in hierarchies. All was arranged so as to appeal to sympathy, fear and expectation of reward. A moral code was always injected into the mass of often incongruous, fortuitous and illogical stories. The Intelligences and Triune Selves in charge of humanity saw to that. “Saviors” from time to time gave out teachings concerning the nature of the doer and its destiny, and when the teachings were forgotten or distorted, enlightened reformers sought to re-establish them. The life of the doer after death and its return to earth in a new human body were often revealed and as often forgotten or distorted. The true teachings were obscured and ignorance or fantastic beliefs prevailed.

Today there is in the East a remnant of the great teaching of the Light of the Intelligence going into nature and of its reclamation, hidden under the theology about purusha and prakriti and atma in its various phases. The Conscious Light, once known to ancient Hindus as the Ancient Wisdom, has in the course of time been shrouded in myth and mystery and is lost in their sacred books. In that little book, the Bhagavad Gita, the Light can be found by one who is able to extract the essential teaching of Krishna to Arjuna from the mass of other doctrine. One’s conscious self in the body is Arjuna. Krishna is the thinker and knower of one’s Triune Self, who reveals itself to its conscious doer in the body when one is ready and prepared to receive the teaching. In the West similar teachings are obscured by an elusive and improbable theology with a strange Adamology of original sin, and a Christology which is based on martyrology, as in nature worship, instead of the teaching of the sublime destiny of the doer.

Every teaching requires a body of men to bring it and keep it before the people and to lead in religious observances. All religions, therefore, had priests, but not all priests were true to their trust. Seldom, except at the culmination of a cycle, did those who had knowledge function as priests. Usually not even the third class, those who had learning, but the class of traders furnished the priests of the temples. Some had much learning, but their mental set was that of the traders. Offices, precedence, privileges and tribute were exacted by them, as far as possible. They molded a theology that supported their claims to be the chosen, and to the ensuing authority. They asserted that they had the same power over the doers of the people after death that they exercised over their lives. The farther they got from the true teachings the more they fortified themselves by the ignorance, bigotry and fanaticism which they maintained around them, and the fear they bred. As teachers, priests are entitled to a proper place so as to exercise their high office with dignity. But their power should come from the love and affection of the people whom they teach, console and encourage, and the respect which is due to a noble life. The worldly power of the priests, an expression of their inner nature as traders, finally brought corruption and downfall to every religion which served them.

Some of the religions of the past were great in the clarity, singleness and power of their teachings. They accounted for many of the beings and forces in nature and gave to those who followed them power over elemental beings. Their festivals and rites had to do with the deeper meanings of the seasons and the phenomena of life. Their influence was widespread and affected all classes of the people. They were religions breeding joy, enthusiasm, self-restraint. All people took the teachings gladly into their lives. Such times happened only when the government was in the hands of those who had knowledge.

From such heights the religions fell, gradually or suddenly, when the government passed to the traders. The truths formerly revealed were re-stated as absurdities dressed in fantastic garb. Pomp, long ritual, plays, mystic ceremonies, miraculous stories varied with dances and human and animal sacrifices. An interminable and preposterous pantheon and mythology was their theology. The people in their ignorance accepted readily absurd stories. The most miraculous and incomprehensible became the most important. Ignorance, fanaticism and cruelty were universal, while the revenue of the priests increased and their authority was supreme. Lasciviousness and sexual practices were presented and accepted as the worship of many gods or of the supreme God. Rottenness of religions, loss of morality, corruption in government, oppression of the weak and vast power of the great usually came together and led to the disappearance of the religion.

Wars have recurred through all the ages. Between the hostilities came periods of rest. The causes were the desires of persons, classes and peoples for food, comfort and power, and the feelings of envy and hate which started from these desires. Wars were conducted with whatever means were at hand. In crude ages tooth and nail, and stones and clubs were used. When the people had machines for war, these were employed. When they commanded nature forces and elemental beings, they made use of those. In hand to hand fights individuals were wounded or killed, one at a time; in the mechanical and scientific periods, thousands of enemies were maimed or destroyed at once; and in the most advanced stages, when some persons could use elemental forces, it was possible for them to annihilate, and they did annihilate, whole armies and peoples. Those who directed the elemental forces were met by enemies who used the same or opposing forces. Between these individuals it was a question of thrust and parry with force against force until the operators on one side were overcome. They might be overcome by the force they themselves exerted, which recoiled on them when parried, or they might succumb to the force they did not parry. When those who directed the force had so been killed, a whole army or people could be destroyed or enslaved.

The behavior of the people which resulted periodically in small or great wars and revolutions and other general calamities and consequent disturbances, brought with it diseases. The diseases were exteriorizations of the thinking as much as were the other calamities. From the general afflictions many escaped, but very few remained free from disease. There were times when many, in fact most, of the people were free from disease. These were the periods of simple savagery or those when the class that had knowledge ruled completely and there was a general state of comfort, simplicity and joy in work. Otherwise there has always been more or less ailment of the body.

In different periods the prevailing diseases differed because the thoughts differed. Sometimes single persons were affected, sometimes epidemics came. There were skin diseases where the skin was eaten away and left running sores, beginning in patches and spreading till there was not enough whole skin for breathing. In another kind the skin puffed in places, grew like cauliflower, became discolored and emitted a stench. A disease ate through the skull and continued until the bone was so eaten away that the brain was exposed and death followed. Diseases of the sense organs ate away the eye or inner ear or the root of the tongue. Diseases severed the attachments that held the joints, so that fingers, toes, and sometimes the lower leg dropped off. There were diseases of the inner organs which stopped their functions. Some diseases caused no pain but disability, some caused an intense pain and terror. There were infectious sexual diseases in addition to those of today. One of them caused loss of sight, hearing or speech, without any affection of their organs. Another caused a complete loss of feeling. Another an enlargement of the male or female organs or a shrivelling that made them useless.

Most of these diseases have never been cured. Attempts to cure by surgery, by medicine, by charms, incantations, prayers, dances, mental healing and such methods as are used today, have not effected a real cure. At the proper time the disease returns in one form or another. At times the manifestations of diseases increased until a people were decimated, weakened and disappeared.